Gatekeeper to the Unconscious

Last Sunday Nancy and I hosted a performance, On the Road with Orpheus, in our home. It was a mix of poetry, story and music that explored the Orpheus myth. When you host a performance you are often too busy to sit back and enjoy it. I was stationed near the front door and this meant I guided late arrivals to a seat and helped those who decided to leave early to slip quietly out the door. In addition to being the gatekeeper, I was shooting video for a record of the work. After the performance, when others were sharing thoughts and ideas about it, I realized I had missed a lot of the artists’ communication.

That night I went to bed with a good feeling that we had facilitated a gathering of friends to hear and see a group of artists share their perspective on life—even if I was too busy to share it. And sometime in the night, this dream came to me. I found myself listening to a black man telling a story. He was standing in the shadows created by a dark entrance to something. When he finished his story, I wanted to ask a question, but he disappeared back into the shadows. When I woke up the dream was still strong in my partially conscious mind. My first thought was that the visitor to my dream world was standing at the entrance to a sailing ship’s hold and he disappeared back into the bowels of the vessel.

Dreams are like light on a bank of clouds at sunset. If you want to capture a picture of them, you have only a fleeting moment of brilliant light and then all turns to gray. Unlike the clouds at sunset, the dream world is nurtured by the gray of night and there is only a fleeting moment to record the dream before the light of day destroys it. I often keep my eyes half closed as I take up a pen to record a dream in the dark room of early morning. Only after the dream is recorded, then I turn on a light to write a rational reflection on the message from the unconscious.

That morning I reflected on the experience by the light of a sunny fall day. I made a connection between the black man of my dream and the character of Orpheus from the performance in our home. I thought: maybe he was not on a sailing ship; maybe he was Orpheus at the entrance to the underworld! But what connection does this have to me? Then, I remembered my role as the gatekeeper at the performance in our home. I am Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the entrance to the underworld in Greek mythology! Yes, I have always said that I am a dog, and now I know why! But Cerberus was a monster who kept the dead from leaving the underworld.

The last couple of days I have reflected further on accepting the role of gatekeeper to the underworld. I do know that my serious reflection on the unconscious, the world of dreams, does open the gate between the conscious and unconscious for me. Maybe I am a bit of Cerberus, who guards the gate to the underworld, and Hermes the guide or mediator who helps our transitions between these two worlds—as I helped people to come and go at the performance. I hope that I can be mythically involved, fulfilling an archetype, one way or the other!

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