Of temples and dream travels

More often than not I find myself travelling when I sleep. Sunny bays, green valleys, hills and mountains. And last night there were dark clouds over abandoned temples. I do know it’s my mind’s way of sorting through stored information and cataloging it in a story-line which more often than not is nonsensical.

Some dreams carry emotions – like anticipation or dread. But whenever I dream with places it’s just awe. Lovely colours, lovely landscapes, absolutely fantastical merges of modern and old.

Imagine a bay where not only yachts pull to dock but also old viking ships.

There is no cognitive state that has been as extensively studied and yet as frequently misunderstood as dreaming. There are significant differences between the neuroscientific and psychoanalytic approaches to dream analysis.

Neuroscientists are interested in the structures involved in dream production, dream organization, and narratability. However, psychoanalysis concentrates on the meaning of dreams and placing them in the context of relationships in the history of the dreamer.

People’s dreams tend to be full of emotional and vivid experiences that contain themes, concerns, dream figures, and objects that correspond closely to waking life. These elements create a novel “reality” out of seemingly nothing, producing an experience with a lifelike timeframe and connections.

So what’s with the temples?

I’ve never been to Cambodia and I think I’ve seen in passing pictures of temples. But what I’ve dreamt was scaled up to be huge, neck craning immensity. And in the distance, through the camera’s viewfinder, I saw frescoes of Hellenistic descent – representing Minotaurs.

So in my little mind, the desire to travel and explore foreign lands got morphed into a temple exploration and since I wanted to see foreign temples, the Cambodian ones are a pretty good example of as foreign as it gets. But in my mind, the only knowledge about temples that I had present were from my trip to Greece where I was fascinated by the old Olympus legends and especially by the killing of the Minotaur.

The Greeks were well known for relying on myths and legends in order to explain religious, moral, and psychological problems

Minotaur, Greek Minotauros (“Minos’s Bull”), in Greek mythology, a fabulous monster of Crete that had the body of a man and the head of a bull. It was the offspring of Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, and a snow-white bull sent to Minos by the god Poseidon for sacrifice. Minos, instead of sacrificing it, kept it alive; Poseidon as a punishment made Pasiphae fall in love with it. Her child by the bull was shut up in the Labyrinth created for Minos by Daedalus.


So I started dissecting my temple dream more. Was the Minotaur a symbol? A poor creature who had only one purpose and a deadly one at that. Protect the maze and the prize at the center. As I dream-walked towards the wondrous fresco depicting the struggle to the death, I could see death all around me – no other people, grey skies and muddy waters and a bare earth the colour of clay. In comparison, the red colours of the drawing presented a stark contrast.

In versions of this Minotaur story, all ancient Labyrinth have a centrality; they are unicursal with a way in and a way out.

‘The Cretan labyrinth-design…has no blind alleys. Every part of the figure has meaning, and even when a path is apparently going in the wrong direction, it leads to the centre’

With this focus on the center, another type of archetypal symbol came to my mind.  It’s informative to think here of a Jungian psychological understanding of figures that have centres. Figures that conform to this symbolism are called Mandorlas. This symbolism is found across every culture: Hebrew, Tibetan, American Indian, Celtic Irish, it is global in its expression.


The Mandorla or Kylkhor means ‘centre-surround’ in Tibetan. It is a symbol of transformation which encompasses the totality of an individual’s reality around a central axis.

‘Carl Jung recognised the mandala as a universal image of wholeness and a fundamental image of the self that appears in most cultures in many different forms.  He became increasingly interested in the appearance as expressions of wholeness.’

The reflective nature of this thinking is something that can be found in Zen Gardens in Japan

So what started with a dream of a temple is actually a search for the inner self during times of death (thank you #quarantine for allowing me time to meditate even while sleeping)

“Midway in the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, for the straightway was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was, wild, rugged, harsh; the very thought of it renews the fear! It is so bitter that death is hardly more so. But, to treat of the good that I found in it, I will tell of the other things I saw there./ I cannot rightly say how I entered it, I was so full of sleep at the moment I left the true way;…”


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