Every so often I experience a dream that is a complete tour de force of imagery and symbolism. This is one of those rare examples, almost impossible to translate into paint.
I learn that my ex-girlfriend is presently reading James Joyce's Ulysses. This strikes me as odd, and I wonder if she can fathom such a book (as I certainly can't). Then I remember that I also have a copy of Ulysses, and so I get it down from the shelf.
It is a large book, with hand-written text like the facsimiles of Blake's poems. But, it is illustrated in the manner of Durer's Apocalypse engravings.
I open the book up, and immediately I am struck by the beauty and depth of this work. I flip forward a bit, and the next page is equally profound and revelatory. Then I return to the previous page and look at it in detail. The degree of symbolism in the images and texts is painfully intense, yet so artfully juxtaposed that the whole renders a true epiphany.
I begin translating the imagery, entering ever deeper into the work, as the symbolic import of each image becomes clear to me. Although this is James Joyce's Ulysses, it is also The Revelation According to John. Yet, it portrays the Creation of the world. In the imagery, which is delineated in Durer's style, I see first of all the Hill of Golgotha, which is also the Holy Mountain. It is the 'primal mound' of the Egyptians.
At the top is a figure, who is delineated like one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot. It is a headless woman, a kind of saint, who is holding attributes in her hands. Cradled in one arm is her severed head, and in the other hand she holds the sword with which she has severed her own head.
Beneath her is a male / female figure which symbolizes the 'primal dyad'. It is Christ, the Word (logos), and Maria, the Wisdom (sophia) composed in 'the Coronation of the Virgin', except I can see more deeply that this is also the hieros gamos or Sacred Marriage.
And yet, the composition is showing me, not only the Apocalypse, where these two symbolize 'the Marriage of the Lamb', but also the Creation. And so these two are also Adam and Eve arranged in a composition of 'the Fall from Paradise'. Indeed, it is both 'the Coronation' and 'the Fall' - and he is both Christ-Adam while she is both Maria-Eva.
Beneath these figures are a series of others, who all symbolize further transformations in the Creation. There is John the Baptist, who transformed Jesus into the Saviour through baptism; and there is Judas, who transformed Jesus into the Saviour through betrayal and crucifixion. They are both 'threshold figures', and there are many other besides.
Then I see a serpent which is coiled around the foundation stone of the world. It is like the Orphic serpent wound around the cosmic egg, such as it appears in alchemical engravings, except here the egg is a square stone - the lapis philosophorum, who is Christ - the rejected stone that became the foundation stone of the temple.
I understand immediately that, since this composition depicts the Creation, the serpent is the Demiurge in the Platonic sence, but also in the Gnostic sense of Yaltabaoth.
Beneath the world mountain with the foundation stone at its base is a double or triple curving line, like a stream of water such as depicted in Sumerian reliefs. And below this line, separating 'the waters above' from 'the waters below' lies the plenitude of created things.
As I look further down, I am now reading text (as opposed to symbolic images - though I do not notice the transition in my dream). It is like a Pre-Socratic fragment from Anaximander written in the style of Joyce. Like Joyce's writing, this text is amazingly dense and convoluted, though a profound sense emerges gradually and multi-valently. The fragment of text reads:
"All that exists, existing in form, possesses potentiality, of which the actuality we ourselves do impose and thereby create."
As I read this, each word is experienced and passed through as if it were an image: 'existence', 'form', 'potentiality'... Existence is that which is but, once it exists, it must assume form, in the Platonic sense of a primordial or ideal form, which thus reveals their potentiality (or power) to exist actually, which only occurs through us, who are their actuality and, hence, the creation.
Then, I strangely become aware that there is a world outside of the world that I am presently in, and that this is the waking world and that I am asleep. And I find that the outer world of wakingness is more real. I realize that I really must be dreaming. This was all a dream.
What was a dream?
For several moments, as I become conscious that I was dreaming, I realize that I have forgotten the dream completely.
Then, slowly, the sacred text comes back to me, and I recall it into that part of my memory where I have conscious access.
Then, I remember all the images on the sacred mount, from the headless woman down to the serpent. Try as hard as I might, I cannot remember the second page I saw, though it was as rich in text and imagery as the first.