The use of alchemical emblems to better understand the characteristics of
the lucid dream state.
Carl Jung famously linked alchemical imagery to the process of individuation in which a person’s outer life becomes more aligned with their inner nature. Dreams, in this case, serve as mini alchemical emblems that mirror the dreamer’s inner state and reflect what the dreamer needs to move towards inner balance. On one level, this way of looking at alchemical images helps us to understand the workings of the psyche and dreams.
On another level, we can also consider alchemical emblems as a way to understand the potential healing power of lucid dreaming. Paracelsus, the great healer of the 15th century, hypothesized that alchemical emblems held secret arcana that were the key to healing. In Old English, the word for healing means wholeness.
My own sense is that the brain state experienced in lucid dreams is primarily intended to provide the dreamer with physical and psycho-spiritual wholeness or balance. Alchemical emblems track this transformational process.
The alchemical emblem featured on this page is the fourth in a series of emblems entitled The Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom, or better knonw as "The Alchemist’s Study", by H. C. Khunrath (1604). To me, the emblem mirrors qualities present in a healing lucid dream experience. I take this emblem as a key to understanding the purpose of lucid dreams and a way to approach such experiences.
Over the arching doorway to which all perspective lines lead, the injunction Awake in Sleep appears written in Latin. We can take these words metaphorically as a prompting to “wake up” in daily life. But, to me, the words literally call us to become lucid while dreaming. Both kinds of wakefulness can open us to new dimensions of consciousness and a deeper awareness of life as well as our part in it.
The alchemist’s study is divided symmetrically into two complementary halves, depicting the qualities necessary for the experience of lucid dreams of surrender: on the left, before the curtained oratory, the alchemist kneels in praise to the Great Alchemist. Here the alchemist assumes an attitude of surrender. On the opposite side of the room, we can see the alchemist’s laboratory, built on the principles of Reason and Experience, words carved on the pillars .
A table in the middle of the room serves as the symmetry axis. Musical instruments and sheets of music on the table indicate metaphorically that the principles of symmetrical proportion and harmony are present. Literally, the musical instruments suggest the importance of music, particularly sacred songs, in the lucid experience.
When the dual aspects of laboratory and oratory come into balance, this leads to a lucid experience of surrender. The new state of consciousness that such an experience reveals is symbolized by the convergence of the perspective lines at a vanishing point that leads to a door opening to a new dimension—the lucid dream state, a potentially healing and transformative experience.