To Summon or Not to Summon

Hello dreamers and dreamworkers asleep and awake,

My favorite quote from Carl Jung is the one he had inscribed above his door: “Vocatus atque non vocatus, deus aderit” ….”Summoned or not summoned, the god will be there.”

Wow! Think about it! …summoned or not summoned, the god will be there.”

This is true of the dream life in all its aspects, but it is particularly true of the shadow motifs– the emerging parts of us that we disown and repress and fear. They will come to our door whether we want them to or not.

A woman in her sixties told me the following dream: “I’m inside. I notice there’s a man moving around outside the house. I see that he’s looking to come in. He’s very handsome, with a light suit and unbuttoned tie, bearded. He looks like one of the Bee Gees. I recognize him–he is Prokoviev, the composer. I see him out there but I don’t want to open the door. It was a funny feeling–I’m expecting him in some way, yet I’m not welcoming him.”

The woman, a musician and aspiring composer, immediately recognized that this was about her composing. What is odd and striking is her reaction when he appears outside the house–she doesn’t want to let him in. You would think she would be honored and overjoyed to have such a figure at her door. A handsome Bee Gee Prokoviev coming to pay her a visit…it couldn’t get much better! But instead the dream follows the classic shadow pattern–threatening figure wants to get in, dream ego cowers inside and doesn’t want to open the door. Why? The answer is always some version of: because we are afraid of change. She is not ready to say “yes” to her composing career.

As a dreamworker your job is to help get the door opened. It seems pretty obvious that the dream wants her to let this wonderful man inside as soon as possible. She didn’t summon him but he is now there, unsummoned and trying to get in. This is the time to throw open the door! Help her do it. Imaginally at first (visualize going to the door and welcoming him, perhaps sitting down at the piano together?); then ritually (put a picture of Prokoviev or Barry Gibb on the fridge?); then actually (write a piece of music dedicated to this handsome bearded man?).

What happens when the unsummoned god is at the door but we refuse to answer? Every situation is different, but they all tend to follow the pattern of repetition, then increased urgency, then eventual pathologizing. In other words: the god will continue to knock at the door. If the dreamer cannot find the courage to answer the urgency will ramp up; often the dreams will become more frightening. Finally, if the god is not encountered and welcomed after years of trying, a health problem will take root; an expression of unlived life and frustrated potential appearing now as a disturbance in the body.

It’s usually better to be procative with shadow figures and many of the other gods of the human psyche– imagine venturing out to meet them if you can. Don’t always make them come to you. They will be there whether you summon them or not.

  • Tallulah Lyons Reply

    I appreciate your linking “shadow” figures with the gods that invite us to heal and grow. I also like your suggestions for “honoring” the dream – bringing its energies into waking life. Thank you.

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