The Living Symbol and OniroTarology

The living symbol of Adler in a reading of Onirotarology.

I started reading a wonderful book: “The living symbol”, written by Gerhard Adler. Adler is one of the leading figure of analytical psychology founded by Carl Gustav Jung. It is a precious work, as it describes the therapeutic process of a patient suffering from claustrophobia through the interpretation of her dreams.

My “tarological deformation” always leads me, when I come across the description of a dream, to look for correlations with the symbolism of the Tarot. This can lead to arbitrary interpretations if the history of the dreamer and his associative context is not known. But in this case, thanks to the details offered by Adler on the patient, it is possible to get to “oneirotarological” interpretations very similar to those provided by the analyst.

Adler’s Living Symbol: the first dream of the patient

I would like to offer you a reading of OniroTarology of the first dream of the patient described by Adler. As you will see, we will find in this dream an amazing consistency with the symbolism of the Tarot.

The dreamer had this dream following a frightening panic attack while she was on a mountain trip. Here is the description of the dream:

“Inside a dark oval blur there is a metal rod, white-yellowish in color; at one end a monogram appears with the numbers 1 2 4. “

The associative work with the therapist inspired the dreamer a connection with the insignia of Constantine’s vision containing the famous motto “in hoc signo vinces”. Her spontaneous associations linked the metal rod to a magic wand, a kind of “key” to solve her unconscious conflict. In fact, we know that the first dream of a therapeutic path already contains an “in nuce” anticipation of the healing process.

OniroTarology reading of the dream of Adler Living Symbol

If we think of an oval with a magic wand inside, it is immediate for those who know the Tarot to evoke the image of the World.

The World Tarot card and the living symbol of Adler
The World Tarot card

In the World Tarot card we are facing a mandala, a central element inscribed in a circle. It is a re-balancing image that typically appears in the presence of a profound unconscious conflict: it is a symbol of the Jungian Self.

In the dream vision the oval appears as a dark blur. The unconscious forces risk overwhelming the dreamer at this stage. But inside it appears, as compensation, the mysterious “key” for her healing. The darkness transmits the symptomatology of the indescribable sense of emptiness and oppression experienced by the dreamer. This is what alchemists call “Nigredo”. This vision took place in the mountains, a high place dominated by spiritual energies, a place far from the “roots” of the earth. Well, the World has the “topographic” conformation of a stylized mountain: that is a point (the top) inside a circle (the mountain slopes).

Numbers meaning in dream

Let’s proceed with the analysis of that particular numerical sequence: “1 2 4”.

Adler recognizes in this monogram the development of the mandala symbol. First of all, 1 represents unity, the totality that exists in the preconscious. 2 is the division of this totality into two polarities, two opposites (consciousness and unconscious). With 4, the Quaternary construction of the circle is accomplished.

By reformulating this intuition with the World Tarot card we can think of the 1 as the unity of the Androgynous and 2 as the masculine and feminine principle (the wand and the circular element). The 4 instead is connected to the four symbols of the evangelists. The quaternity recalls the four psychological functions harmonized by the reunificating center of the Self. For those wishing to learn more, I talk about it in this article.

The lack of the 3, a masculine and spiritual number, is striking in this progression. This omission is symptomatic for the dreamer. The unconscious tells her that the key to her recovery consists in neglecting her emphasis on the paternal masculine energy and in favoring the feminine and maternal nature of 4. It will be discovered in fact during the analysis that the dreamer had developed a unilateral attitude based on thinking function. The patient identified herself with the father, diminishing the female component, due to a negative relationship with the mother.

It is also for this reason that her terrible claustrophobic attack took place precisely on a mountain trip. It is in the high places that the rarefied air of the spirit prevails and one is further away from the “earthly” roots below. But the female element that fell into the unconscious returned violently to reclaim its role, symbolizing the asphyxiation of a life caged by thinking and uprooted from matter.

Number one and the Magician Tarot card

I also want to emphasize that the 1 recalls the Magician Tarot card, who is about to begin the “Opus” of putting the various parts of himself back together. Just as the dreamer was preparing to undertake the therapeutic process with this first dream.

It is extraordinary to observe that the Magician clumsily grabs the same magic wand that will prove to be the key to healing after twenty successive Arcana. And again the 1 is linked to the twenty-first Arcanum, which is precisely the World.

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