Allegories of Monotheism: The Dream Vision of New Jerusalem
Dreams, Religious Visionary Poetry and Allegory
The word poetry derives from the ancient Greek word poesis, meaning "making or creating". The poet's imaginative vision much as the dreamers, expresses the dramatic mythopoetics of literary periods. From the perspective of religious poetry, all religious theories attempt to visualize and comprehend the Great Chain of Being, which some believe is inseparable from matter. Hylozoists believe that within matter are the seeds of life, nature, mind and consciousness. Towards understanding mind, consciousness and nature from a poetic and literary perspective the visionary landscape of the universe (mind and consciousness) can be explained by the Great Story. This story is a cosmological allegory that uses the mythological root metaphors of architecture. The Bible, and specifically the creation myth provided in Genesis, is one such story.
The term allegory derives from the ancient Greek, meaning "speaking otherwise." Allegories are stories with a double meaning: a superficial narrative meaning, and a deeper significance. Allegories are related to fables and parables, every metaphor is a fable or parable in brief. We all live them. We all contain many different stories such as the epic, the romance, the morality tale and tragedies. Classic allegories include the medieval morality play Everyman, which recounts the journey of Everyman and personifies such moral abstractions as Fellowship and Good Deeds, the allegory was intended as a literary vehicle for spiritual salvation. For John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress, this search is personified by the "similitudes of a dream." Dante's Divine Comedy is an allegorical Dream Vision journey through heaven and hell.
The characters in allegories often are literary embodiments of the mind's philosophical (ethical, aesthetic, logical and metaphysical) qualities. The philosophy of religion speaks the visionary language of allegory. The genre of Dream Vision has served to work as an allegorical visionary medium. The dream creates and destroys worlds built by the imagination, much like building sandcastles on a beach. The artist and poet William Blake alludes to this poetic visionary process:
To see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour.
The Allegory of Dream Vision: From Primitivism to the Postmodern
For Marshall McLuhan War and Peace in the Global Village the visionary story telling of primitive tribal man was a given, since they were ‘people of the dream'. In the earliest examples of Western literature, we can find dreamers and dreams such as Homer's Iliad and the ancient Roman Cicero Dream of Scipio which later inspired other philosophers, writers, and musicians like Boethius Consolations of Philosophy, Chaucer Parliament of Fowls, and Mozart Il sogno di Scipione. The late antiquity literary work of Psychomachia by Prudentius was an allegory of the battle of good and evil for the soul. We find allegorical visionary literature in the Middle Ages including such literary works as Cosmographia, Roman de la Rose, Piers Plowman and The Pearl. In the Renaissance and after, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene embodied the values of Arthurian chivalric romance and acts as a commentary on virtues and manners of 16th century Elizabethan England. Shakespeare used dreams extensively as a function of plotting his stories. Mary Shelley found the figure of Frankenstein in a dream as did Robert Lewis Stephenson who found the characters and the plot for Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, is a visionary tale (of a young girl), as is JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings however it is James Joyce's Finnegans Wake that is the most ambitious modern literary work which attempts to weave humanities bricolage of dream associations into one re-tribalized story.
Dream Vision has always provided a durable literary plot device, a door, a window, a bridge, a poetic path for understanding the mysteries of the mind and humanities relationship to the nature of the universe. A characteristic of them makes the narrator of the story fall asleep and dream. In them, the narrator meets a guide. When I collected the dreams of many people, it became evident that all dreams represent life journeys that require a guide.
Dream Vision in the postmodern Information Age of mass produced art has created a cyber-punk culture that finds it's greatest dystopian expression in the film The Matrix in which we find humanity enslaved by machines, oblivious to the fact that they are living in a "dream world". Others such as Picasso have provided us with other visionary options, Picasso's Dance of Youth shows a bird of peace in the centre of a circle of dancing youth. In such a sinuous, oceanic fashion, the circular ebb and flow of the planet and cosmos is bound by a common dream rhythm. The Dream Visions of past by the likes of Cicero, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante and Mohammed embody this harmonic visionary perception, the cosmic dance of Creation and Being.
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all have their cosmogonic versions of the Great Story that involve the City of Jerusalem. The Hebrew covenant with God negotiated by Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and King Solomon provide us with the secret and mysterious journey to the House of God. We find the House of God in Genesis 28: 11-19 in Jacob's Dream Vision. Jacob's Ladder opens the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven and the House of God.
Many have believed that dreams reveal the work and word of God. Judeo-Christian mythology is clearly evident in the dream work patterns of dreams received at the IIDR. Despite Nietzsche's declaration that "God is dead" and Freud's attempt to replace God with science, the rhetoric of religion and the Good Book still sounds in our nightly dreams. William Blake said that "the Old and the New Testament are the Great Code of Art.", in "The Great Code: The Bible and Literature," the Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye argues that the Bible has influenced Western collective modes of literary thought, poetic figuration and the plotting of our imagination. The scriptural is conceived as a metaphoric textual unity, thus the Bible is a library of universal poetic existential problems. Starting with the narrative of Genesis, and moving on to Exodus, the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John), and ending with Revelations, the Bible provides an existential vision and poetic mythology. For followers of Christ, a path to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is prefigured by the Dream Visions of Jacob and Ezekiel. The conception of the sacred city of New Jerusalem was shown to Ezekiel in a Dream Vision of a cosmic mountain.
As an allegory of monotheism, the Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and the Koran. This literary process established the three monotheistic scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. From a philosophical perspective the story of Monotheism begins with the story of Abraham's definitive moment of his Fear and Trembling and the covenant with God. According to Christ's parables, the Kingdom of Heaven can be only reached by those who become children reborn. For Born Again Christians Christ became the mediator of the climb of the ladder from Earth to the Kingdom of Heaven. The Judaic covenant with God had been transformed into the new covenant with Christ.
The prophet Mohammed, provided a classic Dream Vision tale, which not only organizes the Muslim community and Islamic nation-states, but also serves as a scriptural story similar to that of the philosophical School of Athens. As in Raphael's painting School of Athens, Mohammed's vision, inspired by the archangel Gabriel, gathers all the greater and lesser prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, and Christ, and other Biblical figures, creating the Great Conversation of monotheism and the Biblical School of Jerusalem. Compare the prophets' ideal of this religious vision of a dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the postmodern critical geopolitical reality. What happened to Mohammed's Dream Vision of monotheistic unity? Is the archetypal story and Vision of a New Jerusalem not also an Islamic prophecy?
The Cosmopoetic Soul: Mysticism Embodied
"The ‘soul' is a literary device for transcendence. Emily Dickenson's suggestion for a cultural literacy, based on a love and a desire of the poetic soul, in which people read for a "soul-culture". As such, the poem is like a genie released from the bottle liberating the creative imagination of the soul. Walt Whitman "Song to Myself", tells us; ‘I believe in you my soul', epousing the transcendental flight of the imagination and the mystical experience of the cosmopoetic universe. Whitman's poem "A Clear Midnight", tells us of the dream like poetic quality of ‘night, sleep, death and the stars.' Whitman's poetics work, by romantically transporting our embodied imagination towards associatively linking the night, sleep, death and the lights of the universe, creating a lyrical point-counterpoint harmony of the poetic self and its cosmopoetic universe.
The Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, were intended to enshrine the sacred. The spiritual writing on the wall speaks the language of soul work. James Hillman in The Dream and the Underworld believes that the dream provides a bridge to the soul. Dante's Divine Comedy declares that the soul's road through darkness can lead us to the light. Dante's is a poetic journey from spiritual disorientation, despair and darkness to love, order and light. In our spiritual journey in search of the light, one finds, much as Mohammed did, planes or spheres of the cosmological creation that encompasses the All. The All is found in creation myths everywhere and every time. Ancient Greek origin beliefs recorded by Hesiod conceived of Gaia, a belief that persists into the scientific era.
Religious visionary identity becomes shaped by the philosophy of theology. Believers become indoctrinated into the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhistic doctrines. All propound a liturgical philosophy of religion whose theistic belief system expounds the faith in higher spiritual principles. We find spiritual themes in such films as The Nun's Story (see film trailer) based on the novel by Kathryn Holme which tells the story of a young woman played by Audrey Hepburn (watch film trailer) who enters the church to devote her life to the work of God. Conflict and inner turmoil ensues, reflecting the problems of adopting a devout religious identity. In the film Field of Dreams (see film clip) based on the novel Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, the main character is a would-be farmer who hears a mysterious voice in his corn field telling him, "If you build it, he will come." Kinsella is sent on a journey to heal the spiritual wounds of a failed father-son relationship.
The theologian Paul Tillich What is Religion finds the path for the philosophy of religion is to be found in the communicative process of revelation in which information is reveal by a supernatural or divine source to humans and humanity. (Revelations is also the last book of the Biblical canon). For Tillich, "Faith is always based on revelation.... Mysticism rises above the sphere of particular revelations." The word mysticism derives from the ancient Greek word mystikos meaning "seeing with the eyes closed". Mysticism without a creative rationale to guide the visionary philosophy of mind is just on another malevolent hunter for the white whale. Both the Old and the New Testament are secure in the knowledge that the correct path is to choose a moral and ethical life. The choice however is left to the individual. The search for God provides teleological meaning and a foundation for Faith. In Taoist terms, the path is the spiritual awareness of our deep aesthetic connection to the Great Way and the energetic flow of the self-organizing principles of the universe.
The atheist negates the visionary category of the sacred and erases all reference to supernatural theistic forces at work in the universe. The mind of the atheist, certain that there is no higher power, lends itself to such secular philosophies as materialism, naturalism, and humanism. Such an athestic vision can be evidenced in John Lennon's Imagine (see music video). For the atheist, there is no path to the transcendental , no deep archetypal or spiritual connection, no need for higher truth, no greater wisdom than that provided by nature itself. Yet has the scientific philosophy of nature provided sufficient answers to know how the universe, the mind, biology, and the brain operate?
In fact, nature gave us an intuitive philosophical tool long ago that is part of our genetic make-up and allows us in art, oracular myth, Kabalistic conceptions, philosophy or indeed science, to attempt to understand its mysteries. In this sense there is nothing more visionary and spiritually creative than the medium of the dream. If creativity dissolves all forms of alienation, then it is the dream that provides the vehicle to dispel spiritual alienation. So whether theist or atheist, supernatural or natural, religious or scientific, the dream continues to operate automatically and allegorically, even as we speak, showing everyone and everyday the story of human paths and the poetic soul in search of transcendence and the sublime. At the end of the dreamers poetic path is a unified vision of the philosophy of humanity, mind, religion, science and nature.