Dreams, Visions and the Gifts of Galadriel by Darielle Richards
Down a long flight of steps the Lady went into a deep green hollow, through which ran murmuring the silver stream that issued from the fountain on the hill. At the bottom, upon a low pedestal carved like a branching tree, stood a basin of silver, wide and shallow, and beside it stood a silver ewer. With water from the stream Galadriel filled the basin to the brim, and breathed on it, and when the water was still again she spoke. Here is the Mirror of Galadriel. I have brought you here so that you may look in it, if you will. –Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
It has been said that it takes hundreds—and possibly thousands—of years for the poets of an Age to gain the ability to translate into verse the spiritual insights brought by a teacher of great magnitude. Thus we can find, to name only a few examples, the poetry of the Christian mystics, the Rubiyat of the East, the poetry of Rumi and Attar—all “stepping down” or putting into language that addresses day to day living—what was brought long before the poets found the words to express the higher thought. In this way the poets give “new eyes to see” the great truths, and provide humanity with a means of bringing higher consciousness and its expression into everyday life. A further “stepping down” comes in the form of myths—where the great precepts are translated into the landscapes, figures, and events in stories—stories that bring perennial wisdoms even more into the vernacular of life.
This is certainly J. R. R. Tolkien’s sense of story—that because we are each the offspring of a Maker, the stories we create, especially mythological or fairy-stories, contain a spark of divinity, or fragments of truth. As Tolkien believed, through literary creation, these “fragments” become a valid source of insights into universal patterns and truth, as well as being a contribution to life that we can each make personally. At least Tolkien told us that he hoped, as every storyteller has hoped, that some measure of truth would reveal itself through his stories. He would no doubt be surprised at just how much his legends continue to resonate with the consciousness of millions of people, stirring the imagination of the entire Western world—and while he has entertained his readers as he intended to do, he also brought the gifts of Middle-earth’s high teachers, whose influence continues in our lives with life-enriching application. Tolkien often spoke of what Gandalf might say about a this-world situation, as if Gandalf were walking about and talking with him. Yet, no one ever saw Tolkien as mad, for he never claimed that Gandalf was “actually” present; he did assure us, however, that “beyond the fantasy real wills and powers do exist…” Thus, Gandalf brings a mythic or archetypal level of wisdom to those who “know” him. Tolkien introduced us to another guide from Middle-earth, the elven Lady Galadriel, whose penchant for gifting life-saving tools to Frodo and Sam at the beginning of their perilous journey made their task and safe return possible.
There were gifts for each of the Fellowship. But the gifts given to Frodo and Sam are especially meaningful for a well-lived life—the Mirror of Galadriel, the Lady’s Star-glass, and the small golden box of earth from Galadriel’s orchard for Samwise.
The Mirror of Galadriel After filling the silver ewer with water from the stream, Galadriel invites Sam and Frodo to look into the Mirror she had created. “What shall we look for and what shall we see?” asked Frodo, filled with awe. Galadriel answered, “Many things I can command the Mirror to reveal, and to some I can show what they desire to see. But the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold.” Both hobbits, in turn, look into the Mirror, and both are moved and frightened too. For they see images that threaten them from beyond the beautiful land of the elves. The Lady calms and counsels them, knowing that the special mode of seeing provided by the Mirror is important to the success of the hobbits’ mission, and to her ability to assist them.
What “magical source” acts like the Mirror of Galadriel in our lives—reflecting meaningful images both sublime and at times frightening that we cannot see directly? It is our own dream world of course. The ancient Greeks tell us that the images and stories of dreams are woven by “Psyche”, the archetypal being of the soul herself! Thus this inner work with images, giving us a different kind of eyes with which to see, has often been called “soul work.” Borrowing then from the Greeks the image for the soul personified, Psyche represents the unknown aspects of the self, a part of being that contains both the “superconscious” (connected to higher dimensions) and “subconscious” (connected with the earth and physical universe). C. G. Jung found that it was through the guiding help of inner sight that a person’s life is made better. He writes about those who pursue the inner images of dream and visions, “Such a person becomes a more complete being.”
“Do not touch the water,” Galadriel softly warns Frodo as his head almost touches the surface of the pool. In his own deep journeys into the unconscious, Jung learned how delicate the psyche becomes in its process. Because of the dynamic quality of psychic energy, one’s energy field becomes fragile when Psyche’s images are opened to the light of day. Jung practiced giving non-directive and intuitive guidance, allowing the images and figures to be what they were, carefully avoiding over-intellectualizing or analysis. As Jung wrote, “ Consciousness if forever interfering.” Innerwork is the place where intuition must be given full reign without suspending personal reason and responsibility.
Though Galadriel cautions that the Mirror is often not a good guide of deeds— many innovations in science and the arts have come directly from dreams along with intuitive and life-enhancing insights. Even when specific empirical answers and solutions to the often unsolvable issues of life do not come forth in dreams, Jung found that patients who engaged their dreams would simply grow bigger than the life problems they faced.
Jung alluded to challenges to looking into the water, “Whoever looks into the water sees his own image, but behind it living creatures soon loom up. Fishes, presumably harmless dwellers of the deep, harmless if only the lake were not haunted.”
To tend our inner images can mean addressing the “haunting” Jung has spoken of, both personal and collective. “At first we cannot see beyond the path that leads downward to dark and hateful things—but no light or beauty will ever come from the man who cannot bear this sight.” The hobbit Bilbo knew well that if the dragon was down in his lair he would have to go down to deal with it. As Tolkien wrote, “The spirit of Isengard, if not Mordor, is of course always cropping up.” There will always be the dark corners of consciousness to tend, personal and in the world. Yet all is not what it may seem in the world of dreams. Mythologist and storyteller Joseph Campbell gives the key to the descent into the dark when he said in The Power of Myth, “Behind the horror is a wonder.” This is the promise of Psyche as well.
In Man and His Symbols, Jung writes that failing to do the innerwork can lead to serious problems. He found that if the unconscious and the conscious are not integrally connected and moving on parallel lines, then a split or “dissociated,” psychological disturbance will follow.
As in the vision-tending granted to the hobbits by Galadriel—with the Evening Star above sparkling brightly in the Mirror of Galadriel below—the life of Nature, our own nature, and aspects of the greater story can be glimpsed through the images of Psyche. This is especially true if the “pool” of our soul is still, so that both heaven and earth can be reflected clearly in it. Jung describes this “stillness” as the Tao, a concept of wholeness and fulfillment that he gained from the teachings of Lao Tse.
Prior to the turn of the last century and the work of Freud and Jung on dreams, Western culture had ceased to value the inner images. From the time of St. Augustine in the fourth-century AD, dreams were seen as separate from the dreamer. Moreover, they were identified as works of the devil! Previously, and in highly complex indigenous cultures all over the world, dreams had been seen as messengers and guides with an oracular value—offering meaningful signs from beyond the personal waking self. We need only to recall the pre-Christian Mystery traditions, the dream temples, the Oracles of Delphi, and today’s Dreamtime of the Australian aborigines to recall just what a central role dreams and inner vision play in many cultures. The reason why dreams and visions fell out of favor in Western civilization is a long (and disturbing but interesting) story that we will take up at another time.
In the early nineteen hundreds, Freud was just rediscovering the power of dreams again in the West. And though he saw the unconscious—with its dreaming—as a dangerous and deceitful thing—deeming it the Id—he is not to be blamed. For it would be years later before more was known and the old fears and taboos would be overcome. (Those old dark habits die hard). Fortunately, in the next decade, Jung continued dream research personally and with his patients. He attributed his breakthroughs in great part to the wisdom of the 13th-century German theologian Meister Eckhardt. Meister Eckhardt explained that the way we approach the sacred is the very way that the sacred will approach us. “The eye with which God sees me is the eye with which I see him; my eye and his are one.” Jung took this insight as guide to developing the most fruitful relationship with one’s dreaming soul, or Psyche. He found that whatever face we give to Psyche—how we approach her—is the face with which she will greet us. In other words, if we look to her with quiet enthusiasm, curiosity, and positive expectations, she will be a sponsoring guide. In fact, Jung’s approach to working with the inner images has been called one of “utter reverence and gentle receptivity.” Jung believed that, far from ignoring or even distrusting the soulful weaver of our dreams, she should be seen as friend and helpmate. Like a muse, one may well woo her.
Plotinus, founding Neoplatonist of the third-century AD, puts it this way, ‘When the imagination is in the right place, when it is functioning correctly, it works like a mirror that by means of it the reflection of consciousness takes place.” Further he found that when we are in right relation to the inner images, there is a functional correspondence between the dreaming self and conscious ideas and concepts so that the latter may be corrected by the images of the soul.
I can’t leave a discussion of dreams without sharing my own story of Psyche and inner sight—for one morning when I awoke, lingering in that half-asleep, half-awake place, I saw a beautiful lady standing in the garden next to a rose bush. It quickly dawned on me that this was Psyche herself, the great weaver of dreams. She seemed to understand I was suddenly uncomfortable, believing that I was a “peeping Tom” of sorts, as I knew Psyche does her work unobserved. But the look she gave me was one of welcome, so for another few seconds I saw Psyche at work. She appeared to be “tending” the rose bush. With each of her thoughts and feelings, changes took place in the flowers. They opened or changed colors; her every movement brought about a manifestation. As Tolkien would point out, her manifesting was a “direct creation” from thought, real elf magic. And then she was gone, though I will never forget her.
If we hold Psyche and Galadriel together in our thoughts, it is hard to miss the resemblance between them—both in appearance and function. For both are surely beautiful wise women and guides of other dimensions, or Other-worlds as Tolkien would tell us. Both provide a platform—not unlike the sandpaintings of the Navajo and Tibetans, or the altars of the faithful around the globe—where God and the divinities are invited to visit, to enter into our lives to heal and guide us.
The Lady’s Star-Glass Galadriel had prepared a very unique gift for Frodo, the Ring-Bearer, for he would need help of a special kind. In a small crystal phial the Lady had caught some light from Eärendil’s star—whose light came from a silmaril that had first lit the world. Galadriel’s prayer went with it, “May it be a light to you in dark places, where all other lights go out.” In The Two Towers Tolkien describes how “like a star descending into the very earth,” the Star-glass lit Shelob’s impenetrably dark lair for Frodo and Samwise, blinding the eyes of the hideous spider before she could kill them.
Yet Frodo would not have remembered the Star-glass if Sam hadn’t reminded him. Such is the nature of carrying such a gift. We all have the eyes to see in the dark, but we are apt to forget and lose heart if we are not reminded. Tolkien again writes true to universal patterns; we often need our friends to remind us of our task and our ability to fulfill it. So it is with dream work; if we have someone to help us carry the intent and the vision to penetrate into the deepest layers of Psyche’s stories hidden in metaphor and mystery —by trusting the divine within that person to simply help carry the intent (not try to uncover the dream itself)—we may discover a dazzling wonder at the bottom of it all.
The Golden Box of Galadriel The small box from Galadriel had remained tucked inside Sam’s things all the way to Mt. Doom and back. After returning to the Shire—only to find it devastated—Samwise’s use of the precious silver grains of dust placed at the root of each tree and plant offers an experience as powerful and transformative as a most numinous dream. Tolkien suffered at the destruction of the English landscape, not unlike the destruction of the land we feel from such violations as the polluting and damming of the waters, the slaughter and caging of the wild creatures, and the clear-cutting and killing sprays used on our forests. Yet surely, as Samwise planted Galadriel’s seed and spread the enchanted dust, and as the trees and gardens sprouted beyond the hobbit’s wildest hopes, Tolkien himself found a healing, in part, of his grief for the land, giving him the heart to go on creating his life-enriching mythology.
Can healing for this world come from other dimensions, Other-worlds, dream worlds? What do you think?
A healer for nearly two decades, Darielle Richards, Ph.D. is a holistic psychologist, counselor, and teacher of self-healing through dreamwork and energy medicine. She has offices in Salem and Dallas and offers on-going dream circles and training seminars for professionals. A new women’s dream circle begins enrollment in September. Learn more about Darielle at DreamOracle.net.