The Axis Mundi: a case where the remedy is found from a dream
Marie, 53-year-old woman. Artist/photographer. She is married and has three children. She has very low energy; tired all the time. A general sense of not feeling successful in life and a great sense of internal emptiness. She has trouble learning and thinks she may have ADD: “I don’t metabolize information that comes into me. I don’t feel enough in my body.”
Although she has three grown children, she has not been an active participant in raising them. Her mother dominated the early training of her children.
Aside from low energy, she presently has no physical pathology. There is a history of rickets as a baby.
She looks much younger than her age. She is small and has a childlike look and demeanor. She is very pleasant; she has a beautiful smile.
She does photography, calligraphy, sculpture and installations.
She shows me photos of her installations. Some are beautiful cloth hangings hung from hemlock trees in a forest. Others are twigs wrapped with colored wire.
Dream from childhood:
“The house that I lived in would never be lived in by anyone else and there were flames all around it.”
Now, this is indeed a very short dream and we
might wonder: What could we do with this dream. Do we use the symptoms dreams
of burning houses? Or dreams of fire? Not necessarily. The first step is to ask
the dreamer what the dream means to her. I now proceed with the analysis of the dream and ask:
“What does this mean? What is the flame?” Her associations: “A protective flame – slow, steady. I probably needed to do that
because I was terrified out there. When I was little, somebody told me there
was a boogie man in my house; it
terrified me. Trust in the world was cut off at that point.”
Now, as often happens in dream analysis, she slips into another association. It relates to the feeling of not being safe that has been stimulated by the association of being terrified. Now she tells us why. At times, these associations can be very helpful in finding the remedy. At other times, as in this case, they help us to understand the underlying emotions.
“At 4 or 5 I wet my pants. Mom was so furious – she set me on the hot radiator. It wasn’t safe! She was a loose cannon – she would erupt.”
I let her speak and then bring her back to the actual dream by asking again about the specifics. I ask her to tell me more about the flame because I feel that it is an essential aspect to understand. Remember that I have very few other symptoms to go on in this case. The fact that she has remembered this dream is a door that may lead to the remedy. “It’s the burning bush – the presence of God; the flame that isn’t consumed, the Axis mundi. I pray a lot that’s how I can bear the situation, particularly with my youngest child; someone will watch over her. I get relief from prayer. But it’s … I didn’t finish this job either (with my daughter) and I turned it over to God.”
The house represents her psychic structure; it’s empty, the void, surrounded by the presence of God.The hole or emptiness, however, is also the gap to the other world. This is why she has this sense of emptiness and as we can see from her associations, she is very spiritual. The flame of god protected her but she needs human comfort as well. This sense of emptiness is a very important symptom. The feeling of emptiness is in a dream that she remembers from her childhood and she tells about this sense of emptiness in the very beginning of her anamnesis. It is a spiritual issue: she must to come to grips with the presence of God in her life and with the void or emptiness in a different way. So, our first symptom is emptiness. Then, she associates the flame of God with the Axis Mundi. Here, we have something very interesting: an archetypal symbol. For a symbol to be archetypal means that it has existed in human consciousness in pretty much the same form for hundreds or thousands of years, and its meaning is greater than the meaning that can be understood through one individual. Because of its universal context, we need to understand the universal meaning of this symbol in order to find its significance in the case. It is my experience that when an archetypal symbol found in a dream pulls the whole case together, it is very related to the actual substance of the remedy. Our second symptom is Axis Mundi- a symptom from the archetypal realm. Finally, she associates all this with her connection to God and to praying. And what does she say about these prayers? She says she turns her responsibilities for her children over to God through prayers but she is aware that she personally needs to finish this job. Using this statement coming from the association in the dream and adding the fact that even though she has many skills as an artist, she does not find deep satisfaction and success in her work, I choose the third symptom: undertakes many things, perseveres in nothing.
Now, we have three symptoms, emptiness, Axis Mundi and undertakes many things, perseveres in nothing. The first symptom – emptiness – is in the repertory in several forms: Mind, emptiness, Mind, Delusions, emptiness, and Generalities, emptiness, hollow sensation.
For Axis Mundi, I look up the universal meaning of this archetypal symbol to see if anything in it responds to the whole of this woman’s story. I often use The Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier because it is a compilation of information from many traditions. In looking under axis, I find what I am looking for. (If I had not, I would have resorted to the internet, which has practically become my second repertory.) Under axis is found: “The axis around which the world revolves, links the dominions or hierarchical levels together by their mid-points. If the junction of Heaven and Earth is taken, then it is the precise center of Earth to the precise center of Heaven, symbolized by the Pole Star.” Is her remedy the Pole star? Let us not stop just yet and continue to investigate this archetype. It is very important to use information that we find on archetypal symbols with the same care that we use when selecting other characteristic symptoms in a case. The information must fit into the whole case and help connect the totality of symptoms that will direct us to the choice of a remedy. If we use books that interpret dreams we can make some big mistakes. The interpretation of the symbol must make sense in terms of the whole picture.
Even if we make a big mistake, however, we are not totally lost; the next dreams will often tell us that we made a mistake and try to correct us. Of course, we must be willing to listen! The definition continues: “In space, the Axis Mundi is the polar axis in time of the solstices. Its symbolic representations are numberless, but it is seen most often as the tree and the mountain, but also as lance, staff, pillar lingam, a chariot pole or axle or columns of light or smoke. The idea of the Axis Mundi, the cosmic Pillar, recurs, from America through Africa and Siberia to Australasia.”
Now that we know a little more about the Axis Mundi, we move to the next symptom: “undertakes many things, perseveres in nothing,” a symptom found in the repertory.
Finally, we have one more symptom that does not appear in the dream: she had rickets in childhood. It is especially important because it is a physical symptom and rounds out the otherwise one-sidedness of the repertorization. We cannot specifically repertorize Axis Mundi.
Undertakes many things, perseveres in nothing
Hurry, haste, desire to do many things at once but cannot finish
Mind, dull, unable to think
In our repertorization, we see Pinus sylvestris as the ninth remedy. This is very interesting because suddenly, the case makes sense. Pinus sylvestris or Scotch pine fits in beautifully with the idea of the world tree – the Axis Mundi. It is a pine tree that is often used as a Christmas tree, which, incidentally, is often topped by a star – the Pole star. All trees can symbolize the Axis Mundi but the Christmas tree is a traditional representative of the tree in relation to the Pole star. Notice that the major symptom, emptiness, is not covered in the repertorization. In Asa Hershoff and David Warkentin’s research on tree remedies, we know that the feeling of emptiness is a symptom that belongs to remedies in the conifer family. Finally, with the exquisite elegance that only comes from an organizing power greater than ours, the client makes art in conifer trees.
Prescription: Pinus sylvestrus 200c split dose (evening and next
morning) and 12c 1x a day
One month after taking the remedy, Marie reported having better energy. The sense of emptiness as begun to decrease. She says it feels like a thin tube of energy growing inside. She continues to improve and I have been following her progress through her dreams for the last five months. So far, Pinus sylvestris has continued to guide her on her path.
The remedy: Pinus sylvestris
Doctrine of Signatures (from Bach)
Scots pine, native to the Scottish highlands, a land known for high morals and introversion. It is grown for Christmas trees. The tree’s crown has a tendency to grow in irregular branches and appears crooked. In the pine state, the personal “crown’ of pride in oneself is damaged or out of line.
Developing the ability work with dreams
To get reliable information from dreams we need not only to learn technique but prepare ourselves for the adventure. One way to understand deeply hidden symptoms found in dreams is to be connected to our own dreams. One can achieve this by keeping a dream journal. When I teach, I ask my students to keep a journal of their dreams for several weeks before the seminar begins and we use some of this material during the course. The journal is a very important part of learning dream analysis because a dream is a living entity, one that transforms and creates transformation as we work with it. In order to engage in dream work, we must be open to and prepared for that type of encounter. The dream often shows the relationship that the client has to the homeopath, positive or negative, and we must be ready to see that.
It is also helpful to have someone to tell your
dreams to. A professional who is trained in dream analysis is the best choice,
but if it is not possible, any attentive ear will be better than doing it on
your own. We tend not to be able to see what our own dreams are telling us
because it is “behind our back” and therefore out of sight. Jung did not have
anyone who could analyze his dreams professionally and he would use anyone who
came along. Even though they did not necessarily get it right, it was
nevertheless enough to stimulate his thinking.
Who is dreaming?
I would like to end by telling a story about a dream that was dreamt by the 4th century philosopher and mystic Chuang Tzu. He once dreamed that he was a butterfly. This dream left him wondering if he was a man who dreamt that he was a butterfly or whether he was a butterfly who dreamt that he was a man. Dreams are not static symptoms; they are living impulses that come from the very center or matrix of the individual, that inner circle of our psyche that acts as a compass to guide us on our way. Who is the dream maker?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris, Sgurr na Lapaich, Glen Affric, Scotland; Erik Fitzpatrick
Keywords: dream analysis, Axis Mundi, emptiness, archetypal symbol, undertakes many things, perseveres in nothing