The Dream of the Water
A Quest for the Numinous


Seminars Main Page



Previous Page



I have included some of my lectures in this section:
(See also 'Seminar' pages)

Lecture 19
The Dream of the Cosmos
The Lunar and Solar Hero
The Great Work: Healing the Wasteland
The Myth of the Solar Hero
Voices of the Ancestors
A Unified Vision of Reality
A Metaphysical Revolution? Reflections on the Idea of the Primacy of Consciousness
Lecture 12
Click here
Rebalancing the Psyche: Integrating the Feminine Principle Body, Soul and Spirit
Lecture 11
Click here
Love as the Pulse of the Cosmos: Reconnecting With the Divine Ground
Lecture 10
Click here
Seeing through the Veil: Reuniting Three Dimensions of Reality
Lecture 9
click here
Unexplored Dimensions of Consciousness
and The Visionary Experience
Lecture 8
click here
An Alchemical Quest
Lecture 7
click here
Healing the Heart: An Alchemy of Consciousness
Lecture 6
click here
The Sleeping Beauty - The Awakening of Instinct into Consciousness
Lecture 5
click here
Rebalancing the Masculine and Feminine
Lecture 4
This page
The Dream of the Water: A Quest for the Numinous
Lecture 3
click here
The Evolution of Consciousness
Lecture 2
click here
Jung's Septem Sermones ad Mortuos 
Lecture 1
click here
The Relevance of the Visionary Experience to Culture  



New Vision

Contact Me

Next Page


Lecture 4


Oxford, Jupiter Group, April 2000

Copyright © Anne Baring


There are three questions I put to myself many years ago:

----- What am I doing on this planet?
Where am I going?
What is required of me?
It has taken me many years to answer these questions.

----- I would like to begin with this beautiful quotation at the end of Jung's book Modern Man in Search of a Soul:

"The living spirit grows and even outgrows its earlier forms of expression; It freely chooses the men [and women] in whom it lives and who proclaim it. This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind. Measured against it, the names and forms which men have given it mean little enough; they are only the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree."

----- In a letter written in August, 20th 1945, Jung said that the main interest of his work was not concerned with the treatment of neuroses but rather with the approach to the numinous. In his experience, it was the experience of the numinous, at first veiled and difficult to perceive, and often manifesting in a frightening or unrecognised form, which ultimately heals, restores and illumines the soul.
----- How can we define the numinous? In his book, The Idea of the Holy, Rudolph Otto describes it as the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. It is what powerfully fascinates and attracts us. Yet we fear and defend ourselves against it because it is altogether beyond the range of our normal experience. It is wholly "other." Because it is wholly "other" it can arouse in us unusual and intense feelings of awe, dread, terror, rapture, ecstasy and wonder. The entire religious history of humanity has developed from the experience of these unusual feelings in individuals. We would not respond to the numinous with these feelings unless there was something in us that recognised it and fell back in awe before it. This picture is 12,000 years old - an image of an encounter with the numinous - from the original Lascaux cave. A shaman flies like the bird on his staff to another realm where he will encounter the soul of the slain bison. Recently, palaeontologists have interpreted the hand prints on the cave walls of Palaeolithic man as images of reaching through the stone wall of the cave to touch the invisible reality that was sensed to lie beyond it. The hand, so to speak, reached through to touch the beyond. The role of the shaman, like that of the hand, was to connect the tribe with the unseen "other" side. From at least 35,000 BC. the cave was the focus of elaborate rituals of connection. Today the church or cathedral or the therapist's room may serve exactly the same purpose - to connect us with something we may neither know nor understand. The original meaning of the word therapist is "one who serves the gods."
----- The story of the Dream of the Water begins with an experience that happened to me in 1943 when I was eleven years old. Lying on my bed one day after lunch, I saw an intense purple light in the room. Abruptly and without warning I was expelled from my body. I felt my eyes closed by an irresistible power, and the bed beneath me opened as if it were cut by a knife. I was pushed down through the opening and the bed closed over me. In terror I struggled to shout for help, to move my arms and legs, to open my eyes but my body refused to respond. A rushing and roaring like a waterfall pressed on my ears. I soared through a tight channel or tunnel, and was spewed out into the vast silence of space. I waited for what might come next, terrified and bewildered by the shock of losing touch with the only life I knew. As I waited in that dark immensity, I heard two words: "I AM." I don't know, shall never know if more words were to follow. Overcome with terror at being alone in space with this disembodied voice, I found myself re-entering the channel and was plunged once more into the roaring, deafening vortex of sound, emerging from it to find myself lying in my bed, thankfully alive in a familiar world.
----- My life has been a quest to understand the meaning of that encounter with the numinous. Looking back now, I can see that this event precipitated me into another category of experience I might never have discovered if it had not happened to me. Through that experience I knew that another dimension of consciousness existed which other people did not know about. This secret knowledge became the foundation of my own individual myth - what throughout my life has held supreme meaning for me.
----- Years later, I discovered that there have always been men and women who have had similar encounters with another dimension of reality. Now I know that these shamanic experiences are common to all cultures and that the shaman or the great artist or poet is an intermediary between two dimensions of consciousness, someone who creates a bridge between them. Certain people are 'called' to be shamans by the kind of experience I had - the shocking birth into another dimension of reality.
----- Soon after my own experience my mother told me about channelled messages she had received with two friends of hers. These messages began suddenly in 1943 and continued for some twenty years. They warned of a future catastrophe in preparation for the earth and said that this warning should be passed on to anyone who could hear it; if enough people could become aware of the danger and respond to the guidance trying to reach them from the other side, the full force of the catastrophe could be mitigated or even averted. Repeatedly the messages urged them to follow the "Dream of the Water," and find their way to the Holy Mountain. They also told them to look for a stone that was buried at the foot of a particular tree. What was the Dream of the Water? Where was the stone, the Tree, the Holy Mountain? These were the questions that preoccupied me for years.
----- When, some thirty years later, I began to study Alchemy in Jung's work and read of the "divine water" and the "water of wisdom" - the aqua sapientiae - I realised these images might be related to the "Dream of the Water" of the messages. In this decade, I came upon the image of the Tree of Life in the mystical tradition of Kabbalah, and realised with a shock that this was the Tree the messages were referring to. The stone buried at the foot of the Tree was an image of an aspect of spirit buried in the depths of manifest life - a divinity that was unrecognised needed to be rescued. Over fifty years had passed between the first mention of the Dream of the Water, the Tree and the Stone but I had never ceased to carry these images in my heart and to search for their meaning. I have wanted to tell you this story because it shows how deeply and surely the soul is guided if only it can learn how to listen and respond to this guidance.
----- I discovered that many other men and women had had an awakening experience similar to mine which had influenced the course of their lives. For thirty or forty years, we had followed our individual quests until suddenly we began to meet others with whom we could share our experiences, and to realise that something greater than ourselves had been guiding or directing us for decades. It gradually became clear that we were being drawn to do something together, something which concerned the awakening of humanity, the creation of a direct relationship with the divine ground and the redemption or recovery of the lost feminine aspect of spirit. There was an urgency to this awakening because the life of the planet was in danger. More specifically, the human species was in danger of destroying itself. Fifty years ago this risk of destruction was inconceivable. Now it is a reality.
----- Today, it is generally believed that God is dead. But as Jung pointed out and I'm sure you are aware, we have identified the deity with an image of God constructed by us. It is not God who has died but rather the image we had of Him, an image which has endured for nearly three thousand years but is now outworn and in need of renewal. The mythic process of the death and regeneration of the supreme value embodied in a sacred image arises from the deepest recesses of the soul. The process is stronger than we are, yet it depends on us for its fulfilment. I believe that the tumult and horror of the ravaged century we have just emerged from is largely due to the disorientation caused by the death of an outworn concept of God, the collapse of the old moral values associated with it and the struggle to bring into being a new God-image and the new values which would reflect a radically different vision of reality.
----- A huge vacuum was left by the loss of God and into this poured the secular ideologies that have torn the world apart. These ideologies were numinous to millions of individuals and they brought enslavement and death to millions of others. They express the dark side of the numinous, the terrible temptation of power. Totalitarian leaders claim for themselves the numinous power of the missing archetype with catastrophic results for humanity.
----- Yet, over the past fifty years a gradual restoration of a sense of the sacred has been taking place beneath the surface of our culture. A deep instinct is restoring balance and wholeness in us by defining a new image of the transcendent which includes the feminine value. We are awakening to awareness of our relationship with the greater organism of the planet in which our lives are embedded and beyond that, our relationship with the cosmos. The great split between spirit and nature which has so tragically flawed Christian civilisation is beginning to heal. But because both our religion and science are rooted in this split neither can adequately address the immense challenges we face today. Something deeper than either has to come into being if our species is to survive - a new vision of reality, a new sense of relationship with the life of the planet that we have become so separate from.
----- In the past fifty years, the feminine archetype has become numinous to many people - among them Jung. Jules Cashford and I were drawn to explore the history of this archetype in the West but as we worked on it, I realised that I needed to look beyond or through the image of the goddess to something she represented - the idea of cosmic soul. So, in the second part of my talk, I would like to move on to the concept of soul in a far wider sense than that word has usually been interpreted. Over 100 years ago, Richard Jefferies, a great English mystic, wonderfully describes this greater vision of soul in a book called The Story of My Heart:

"There is an Entity, a Soul-Entity, as yet unrecognised.…There is an immense ocean over which the mind can sail, upon which the vessel of thought has not yet been launched. there is so much beyond all that has ever yet been imagined…"

-----Centuries ago, Meister Eckhart said that the soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul. And, in a beautiful metaphor, William James said that we are islands on the surface, but connected in the Deep. Can we imagine the universe as a great Web of Life, a cosmic internet of incredibly complex interdependent relationships; networks within networks; shining filaments of light flowing like an unfathomable sea through the galaxies and the starry fields of space as well as through our bodies and the life of animals, plants, trees and the landscape of the earth? Can we comprehend that this invisible Web in which our lives are embedded, this immeasurable Sea of Being is alive with consciousness and that this consciousness longs for us to awaken to relationship with its "unutterable existence"?
----- We are connected to this unseen dimension through our instincts, our feelings, our intuition and our imagination. These precious faculties are not "ours", so to speak, but have their origin in this greater dimension of soul. They connect us instinctively to the matrix of the planetary biosphere and the still greater matrix of cosmic life about which as yet we know almost nothing. This unity of seen and unseen is saturated with the dynamic energy of spirit which cannot be separated from any part of itself.
----- There are three different ways of imagining the relationship between the invisible and the visible, the divine world and the manifest or phenomenal world we experience through our senses. We can basically imagine three worlds or dimensions although there may be further subdivisions within these:

1. The divine ground, unknowable to our present consciousness.
2. An intermediate and limitless connective dimension of cosmic soul.
3. A reality we perceive and experience as "the world".

The Great Mother in ancient civilisations represented the great web of life - not just the life of the earth but the life of the stars, galaxies and planets, the vast, mysterious, invisible life of the cosmos. The thread of the idea of cosmic soul runs from the Great Mother or Great Goddess of the Bronze Age, through the anima-mundi of Plato and Plotinus, to the sixteenth century images of Robert Fludd and the work of kabbalists and alchemists, Jewish, Arabic and Christian. Plotinus speaks of a universe that is alive, ensouled, where not only the stars are alive, but the earth also is a "living part of the living All." "We are," he said, "within a reality which is also within us." He gives us an image of the structure of life that is like a many-levelled organism, each level interwoven and interacting with all the others.
----- You can see Plotinus's ideas re-animated in the Romantic Movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the work of the great visionary poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Goethe, and the work of philosophers in Germany who developed the idea of the unconscious which deeply influenced Jung. What comes through all of them is the message that, in Blake's words, "everything that lives is holy." There is no essential separation between nature and spirit. The German philosopher Schelling wrote that "Nature is visible Spirit; Spirit is invisible Nature." The great Indian sage, Aurobindo echoed his words in his book, The Life Divine, when he said that hidden nature is secret God. Listen to the clarity of a kabbalist text which summarises this vision of the unity of life:

"The essence of divinity is found in every single thing - nothing but it exists. Since it causes every thing to be, no thing can live by anything else. It enlivens them; its existence exists in each existent. Do not attribute duality to God. Let God be solely God. If you suppose that Ein Sof [God] emanates until a certain point, and that from that point on is outside of it, you have dualized. God forbid! Realize, rather, that Ein Sof exists in each existent. Do not say, "This is a stone and not God." God forbid! Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity." (Daniel C. Matt, The Essential Kabbalah, p. 24)

-----I have always felt the need for a diagram because a diagram is like the hand on the wall of the Palaeolithic cave. It can connect us to the numinous. I have finally found what I was looking for in Kabbalah. For me, Jung's concept of the collective unconscious, the unus mundus and the self, have taken on new meaning when related to this tradition.
----- The roots of Kabbalah go back to the great temples of Egypt and the Babylonian observation of the stars. Its fundamental teaching is the doctrine of emanation. Divine Spirit is both beyond creation and within it, accessible to us in this dimension through ritual and imaginative contemplation. The aim of the kabbalist was to unite the Above with the Below, the invisible divine world with our manifest world.
----- The primal centre or root or divine ground is defined as the innermost Light, of an unimaginable luminosity and translucence. Can you close your eyes and imagine this primal point expanding as a ray of light into a dimension described in some texts as a sea of glory, in others as a womb which acts as a container for the light; from this womb or sea it emanates as a fountain of living water, a radiant cascade, pouring forth light and love to sustain and permeate all the worlds or dimensions it brings into being and sustains. All life on earth, all existence is the creation and the manifestation of that Light, and is therefore utterly sacred. The Zohar, the principle text of medieval Kabbalah describes nature as the garment of God.
----- In this teaching, the transmission of light from source to outer, manifest level is also imagined as an inverted tree, the Tree of Life, whose trunk and branches grow from its roots in the divine ground and extend through four worlds or dimensions.
----- The Tree of Life is an image of cosmic soul as a great web of life - the matrix or vehicle of spirit. There is no essential separation between the energy of the source, the web that is the expression and vehicle of the source and their final physical manifestation as the manifest world we know. All this can be seen and experienced as the numinous, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.
----- The four worlds shown here are related to the four elements: fire, air, water, earth. When the alchemists said "visit the interior of the earth" I believe they were referring to the act of imaginative communion with the deeper, inner dimensions of consciousness symbolised by water, air and fire.

1. The World of Emanation = divine world = Fire is its property or symbol. This world is the divine or eternal and unchanging world - the Divine Ground of Being is perhaps the closest definition one can reach.

2. The World of Creation = world of the archetypes (blue-print, patterns of life) = Air is its property and symbol. This world is where distancing from the divine world and imperfection and evil begin, where the "dark side" of God comes into being. These are of necessity woven into the fabric of the further emanation into the next world or level of becoming. In this world time begins. This is the level of the archetypal laws of life, the blue-print of all possible universes. Occasionally we can receive a vision or a dream from this world.

3. The World of Formation = first manifestation of the forms of life. Collective Unconscious/morphogenetic fields = Water. This world is where the archetypal or soul-forms of life are given form. The Garden of Eden. Place of origin of myths, fairy-tales and dreams. The memories of all of humanity's experience are held here. Also the "Treasure House of Souls" where souls "live" between incarnations. In Egypt this dimension was called "The Fields of Ra"; in Greece "The Elysian Fields". Ideas, images, feelings, emotions, instincts flow from the world of Formation into our consciousness.

4. The World of Manifestation = our physical, material world = Earth = humans and animals, nature as we see it. In taking on bodies or coming into incarnation we move from the unmanifest level of the soul to the manifest physical level of life on this planet. Embodiment is experienced as a constriction for the soul, a crucifixion in time and space; a narrowing of focus.

----- This mystical, largely oral, tradition rooted in very ancient civilisations is deeply connected to Alchemy. Many alchemists were kabbalists. Both taught the direct path of communion with the Divine Ground. They taught that our actions in this manifest world affect all other worlds and vice-versa. They taught the inter-connection of everything, visible and invisible. The soul becomes enlightened over many lives through search for and growing communion with the invisible "matter" of the inner worlds. We cannot bear the radiance of the light of the divine ground all at once. As the relationship with the divine deepens, so our consciousness expands to include awareness of deeper dimensions of being and we gradually begin to radiate the light and love of the source which responds to us with its help and guidance.
----- The image of the Self as carried for example, by the Buddha or Christ reflects an enlightened consciousness- one that is in union with the divine ground while incarnated on this planet. The great teachers of humanity have embodied the archetype of the Self for us so that eventually, we too could reach that state of wholeness and enlightenment. The place of the Self on the diagram of the Tree of Life is where the three lower worlds meet. For us to reach still deeper dimensions of consciousness, we need to become receptive to the guidance of the luminous ground of our own consciousness and this can be achieved by contemplation and meditation, above all by creating a space for it in our busy lives. The great teachers of humanity taught from a still deeper centre where the three higher worlds meet - where they were in direct communion with the creative fire of the Divine Ground. So Jesus said: "I and My Father are One."
----- Alchemy is the language of the soul. One of the fundamental keys to kabbalah and alchemy is the immense creative power of the imagination. Paracelsus said that Imagination is the star in man - the celestial and super-celestial body. It is through constant work with the imagination that one makes the connection with the invisible dimensions of being - hence Jung's recommendation of what he called Active Imagination.
----- Coleridge in the 13th book of his Biographia speaks of what he calls the Primal Imagination: "The Primal imagination I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception and a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM."
----- Imagination in his definition is an active and unifying and connecting power that draws us back to our source in the divine ground. The primal imagination is that faculty in us that communicates with the creative power of the universe, taking us beyond intellect and our capacity to reason and bringing us ultimately to the direct experience of the numinous.
----- I would call it the visionary imagination. Alchemy tells the story in vivid images of how the soul is gradually transmuted by its quest for relationship with what to begin with is beyond, other, unknown to us. Jung called this process of transmutation the individuation process. At first, we may understand nothing. Little by little, however, the darkness will disperse as we surrenders ourselves to the quest. We cannot know the end at the beginning. We can only trust our heart to take us as far as longing can reach.
----- Alchemy was the secret tradition which taught that the priceless treasure spoken of in so many myths and legends of the ancient world lies within our own human nature - unrecognised, despised, neglected. It transposed the images of mythology and in particular the myth of the sacred marriage and the divine birth to the human soul. The alchemist descended into the depths of his soul to experience a death and rebirth, to be transmuted from lead into gold, to redeem the treasure buried in the primal matter of his instinctual life and to be reunited with the divine ground of the Soul personified by the feminine image of Divine Wisdom. With the help of divine grace, he brought forth the treasure, variously named as the quintessential stone, the living gold, the divine water and the flower of immortality.
----- The major themes of alchemy derive from the great myths of the ancient world:

1. The theme of death and rebirth

2. The theme of a journey and the quest for a priceless treasure.

3. The theme of a descent into the underworld and the struggle with a fearsome adversary.

4. The theme of transformation.

5. The theme of the sacred marriage.

6. The theme of the birth of the divine child.

-----Alchemy is about creating the treasure of relationship with the invisible dimension of spirit. Spirit longs for this relationship. As we long for understanding and insight, so it comes to meet us with its own longing. The longing for relationship with the numinous has to be acute, sustained and integrated with everyday life as well as lived in the imagination. It involves the immensely difficult task of maintaining a focus of attention in both worlds at once, excluding neither spirit nor matter. Matter slowly becomes transparent to spirit.
----- The whole alchemical process is about the spirit becoming embodied in the human soul and the long preparation needed for the soul to be able to sustain the tension of this incarnation of the numinous. The alchemists likened the final stage to the resurrection and to the reddening of the sky at dawn as the sun begins to rise, irradiating and warming the earth. Red-gold is the colour of the Rubedo and the red rose and the red stone are symbols of the completion of the Greater Work. In the image of the phoenix life is regenerated from the ashes of the old, unconscious life.
----- The Rubedo signifies the experience of the awakening of the receptive soul to the presence of divine spirit. The Rubedo signifies the awakening of the heart, the awakening of the feeling of immense compassion for the whole of life. Body, soul and spirit are united and transfigured in this experience. As a triune whole, they in turn are united in the sacred marriage with the divine ground. "No-one," the alchemists said, "may accomplish this work except through affection, humility and love, for it is the gift of God to his humble servants."
----- As they watched the matter of their own psychic life transform in the mirror of the alchemical retort, the alchemists experienced the immense mystery of what they were witnessing. They realised that they were assisting spirit in the evolutionary effort of bringing itself to consciousness over aeons of earth time, leading its creation back to the source. They had revealed to them in a gradual process of illumination, the innate divinity of life and all life processes; they saw that one divine spirit was at work in all forms of life and in human consciousness as well. They sought to bring to birth in themselves the awareness of the hidden spirit that longed to be rescued from its buried state. In accomplishing this act of redemption, they became the sons of Divine Wisdom, inheritors of the true philosophical gold. They became the ministers, not the masters of the stone, their lives illumined and guided by the Holy Spirit.
----- Every mystical tradition says that at the core of our being, we are one with the divine. And it teaches that the eye of the heart can open only gradually to the experience of this divine reality. The ground has to be well prepared to hold the radiance and ineffable power of this vision and this preparation requires much time for contemplation as well as integration with other human beings and life in the world. No aspect of life may be excluded. Each person's path is unique. There is no one way that is right for all. We can all help each other to reach this vision. Each person's tiny contribution adds to the emergence of the new understanding in the wider soul of humanity. The friendship, encouragement and love of others is essential to each one of us.

References to books Rudolph Otto - The Idea of the Holy
Richard Holmes - Coleridge - Darker Reflections (Flamingo)
Warren Kenton - Kabbalah (Thames and Hudson) and his other books
Richard Jefferies - The Story of My Heart (very difficult to find)

Home page ------ Back to Top ------ Next Page