I searched for this image this morning after my grandmother recounted a dream, one which evoked a remarkably similar feeling. After finding the image, I read the corresponding section of translation in Jung’s Red Book for the first time.
The section, entitled Nox quarta — The Fourth Night — begins like this:
I hear the roaring of the morning wind, which comes over the mountains. The night is overcome, when all my life was subject to eternal confusion and stretched out between poles of fire.
My soul speaks to me in a bright voice:
“The door should be lifted off its hinges to provide a free passage between here and there, between yes and no, between above and below, between left and right. Airy passages should be built between all opposed things, light smooth streets should lead from one pole to the other. Scales should be set up, whose pointer sways gently. A flame should burn that cannot be blown out by the wind. A stream should flow to its deepest goal. The herds of wild animals should move to their feeding grounds along their old game paths. Life should proceed, from birth to death, from death to birth, unbroken like the path of the sun. Everything should proceed on this path.”
Thus speaks my soul. But I toy casually and terribly with myself. Is it day or night? Am I asleep or awake? Am I alive or have I already died?
Is it just a coincidence that my grandmother recounted to us her own journey, reminding me of Jung’s image, after the fourth night following her stroke? Now home on Hospice, following the nox quarta after she moved abruptly into what appears to be the final phase of her life, my grandmother described her dream: a knife was in her hand, a big creature, a stomach cut, a battle for truth undertaken.
What sense do we make of her image? What insights can we gain from her journey?
While listening to her whispered story, her family was reminded of (or introduced with surprise to) the archetypal psyche. She told us a story from in-between realms, from the bridge between the conscious world of health care and family, and the unconscious world were mythical battles are fought and won. We can never know what exactly her story and journeys mean, nor interpret them for psychological purposes alone. A story as rich as hers, one that evokes some of the most ancient tales ever told, can neither be reduced to simple “fantasy” nor concrete “psychology.” But it is my sense that, like Jung described in the passage that corresponded to his own image of battle, my beautiful grandmother is wondering lately, when her eyes open: “Is it day or night? Am I asleep or awake? Am I alive or have I already died?”
Blessings to my grandmother, one of the most beautiful souls I will ever know, or love. May you battle in your dreams, sort through all that must be sorted through, and find safe passage to wherever we all will journey when our time in these bodies, and on this earth, ends.
Te quiero mucho, abuelita mia. Eres una maravilla.