Doors within Doors ~ deciphering the dreaming
Last year I found myself taking lots of photographs of doors and doorways, some open, some closed and some even bricked up.
The best ones (visually anyway) were ones that were taken from the inside looking out. The view is framed by the doorway and the view is enticing.
The real reason I am fascinated by doorways is not merely aesthetic but symbolic. I dream a great deal about doors; often in the dream I try to exit a building only to find that the doorway is somehow far too narrow to squeeze my bulk through. Or I dream that my door to the world will not fully shut and remains stubbornly open and vulnerable to intrusion by the exterior world. Or that I am unable to open a door to escape from a house. Many of my dreams see me exploring, often fearfully in darkened rooms and corridors, a great house, vast in size and packed with rooms full of wonders and terrible things. I go up stairs that never end, trying to find a way off the exhausting ascent. Often stairs are for the trigger for realising I am dreaming and then I can take some control and enjoy “lucid dreaming”.
A common door dream I have at regular intervals is one where I find a secret door in my home, that has been there all along but I have forgotten about, and which leads to a series of rooms that are hidden but somehow familiar. I discover what amounts to a second house, annexed to the main one, and I explore that avidly. I wake feeling disappointed that these extra rooms are not really present. The extra rooms have the feel of having been recently inhabited but I never meet anyone there.
But the dreams that end up haunting me most are the ones where I am trapped within a building and cannot find a door that takes me out into the open air, and into nature. Sometimes I go through doors that seem to take me outside but in fact they turn me back to the inside. I often wake distressed and claustrophobic from these.
About a week or two back I had one of these dreams but it had a rather interesting twist. I was in a caravan and I wanted to go out. The door was there so I opened it. Behind it was another door. I opened that. It went on, opening door after door without ever revealing the way out. A voice, just off camera, said to me, “This is a spirit door, it is there to confuse the spirits.” It made perfect sense and within the dream I seemed to remember some Tibetan practise of putting in fake doors to trap evil spirits. I lost the dream a moment after that but I do recall I may have tried to exit via a window and the dream went elsewhere.
I woke with a sense of having been given a clue. A door is not always a door; sometimes it is a trap. In the last novel I wrote (not yet named or published) the main character ended up in a catatonic fugue state, as a result of extreme stress and trauma but the final straw was moving through a gateway in his own garden. Now previous to this, he had experienced a deep shamanic trance state where he had met and talked with his dead mother herself stuck in between worlds, and captive by her own choices in a moment frozen in time in that same garden. Their conversation finally freed her from this self-imposed imprisonment and the son acted as a kind of psycho-pomp for the dead by allowing her to pass from the garden into the next world via a seldom-opened gate in the garden wall. His own desire to escape from the travails of his life meant that the next time he passed in reality through this gate, it sent him back into a limbo world like that timeless night-garden and trapped him in a non-responsive state.
I’ve battled with this desire to escape, escape from myself and my life and who I am for a long time. I think this is what fuels these dreams of doors and doorways and why my unconscious plays these tricks on me.
I somehow feel that perhaps within my dreaming I have been so focused on going through doors I have not considered (like the hero in my novel) where they actually lead. Do they lead to the open air, the wide skies and freedom or do they lead like the gateway in my hero’s journey to a limbo land of nothingness and waiting?
I do not know.
Last night though I dreamed a slightly different dream. Without conscious action I moved within a dream from an interior setting to an outside one. I had no awareness of the transition from being at a computer holding an instant messaging conversation with someone who will probably never communicate with me again, to being outside and at the foot of an impossibly steep hill. Others (I don’t know who) were with me and while I thought the hill too steep to ascend, someone showed me that it was only the first six feet that were hard, and suddenly, I was hauling myself up onto a path that was far higher up than I expected to be. It was a hill that seemed to have been a sort of ancient hill fort that had been built upon and used for a long, long time and once I was past a certain point, I was able to stand at the low walls and look out across a vast and brightly lit city below me. I wasn’t at the top, but I was a good halfway and the rest of the climb didn’t look that hard at all.
The following lines are from T.S Eliot’s East Coker, in the Four Quartets
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
It seems to be about a form of conscious unconsciousness. Maybe like my hero in that novel, I need to go through a form of dispossession of self.