The Four of Swords, Sigmund Freud, and the Case of the Disappearing Clitoris

The role of Sigmund Freud in removing magic from our dreams.

Do you feel safe when you go to sleep at night?

Do you really look forward to getting a wonderful, full night’s sleep and waking up feeling restored, refreshed, and re-created?

Do you actually look forward to going to sleep because you know there’s a good possibility that you’re going to have wonderful, magical dreams that will put you in touch with Spirit World and give you greater guidance, understanding, and insight in your life?

And, if not, why not?

For most of human history, sleep has been seen as a deeply restorative, healing process.  We still recognize that fact in many of our behaviors.  If you’re sick, stay in bed.  If you’re really upset, get a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning.  

And, for most of human history, sleep has also been recognized as a spiritual experience.  Dreams weren’t just dreams, they were omens, portents, messages from the gods or the angels.  Dreams were a unique path to the realm of the divine that ALL of us – each and every man, woman and child – possessed and no one could take them away from us or claim ownership of them.

The Four of Swords in the Tarot deck points toward that truth.  The individual in the card is so profoundly, deeply asleep that he almost looks as if he’s dead.  The definition of the card is one of intense healing through the vehicle of resting the mind and body.  His hands are clasped in prayer and there is a stained glass window above him, reminding us of that spiritual connection with the divine that we achieve through sleep.

Yet, over 60% of Americans report that they’ve fallen asleep with their cell phones in their hands.  That’s not exactly preparing for a spiritual, rejuvenating experience is it?

So what happened?  Why have we lost that connection with the higher dream realms in our modern culture?  One might argue that Sigmund Freud happened.  Here’s how Arianna Huffington expressed it in The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

“With the work of Sigmund Freud, dreams went from being a unique way of accessing divine knowledge to being a unique way of accessing self-knowledge.  Dreams were still a journey, but they became less of a sacred journey.”  

To really get the significance of that shift in thinking we have to consider the word, “permeable.”  Permeable means, “porous,” or something that will allow other things to pass through it.  Humans had always considered the subconscious space that we experience in our dreams as being permeable.  Other beings, gods, angels, spirits could pass in and out of our dreams, communicating with us and leaving messages, symbols, and lessons.  Our dreams, then, were a sort of a royal road to the divine, to regions that we were unable to access in our daily lives.

Freud, however, saw the subconscious mind as an impermeable, closed system.  It didn’t contain or allow access to ANYTHING but the content of our own minds.  Even more significant, the content that was stored in our subconscious minds and came out in our dreams were the worst parts of us, the parts of us that were so horrible, so primitive, so nasty that we couldn’t even deal with them on a conscious basis.

You know . . . sex.

Freud was, after all, a Victorian, and Victorians were probably the most sexually repressed, puritanical beings who have ever walked the earth.  When you boil down Freud’s views to their essence, they are ALL about sex.  We want it, we can’t have it, we feel guilty about it, we repress our desires into the subconscious, and then the repressed desires bite us in the ass and make us crazy.

Now, in that context – where EVERYTHING is about sex, the very character and quality of our dreams are changed.  If everything is about sex, then our dreams MUST be about our repressed sexual desires.  And if they appear to NOT be about our repressed sexual desires, that’s because we haven’t really INTERPRETED them right.

“I dreamed I was on a train, Doctor Freud.”

“That’s actually a penis.”

“Oh . . . um . . . alright . . . it sure SEEMED like a train, though.  It had a dining car.”

“That’s your sexual appetite.”

“I had scrambled eggs.”

“You want to fertilize your wife’s eggs.”

“And I had a biscuit.”

“The biscuit represents your wife’s buttocks.”

“Oh, my . . . couldn’t it just be a biscuit?”

“No, no, NO!  I’m telling you, you weren’t having breakfast, you were having sex with your wife and you got her pregnant with your giant train penis!”

“Oh, dear . . .”

And so, if an angel appears in our dreams, that’s just someone we want to have sex with.  Or a demon.  Or a horse or a dog or a doughnut or a tortilla.  We pretty much want to fuck all of them.

Kind of takes the magic out of dreams, doesn’t it?

In historical perspective we can look back at Sigmund Freud and realize that he was pretty much of a nut case.  In his book,Freud: The Making of an Illusion, Frederick Crews points out that Freud was a lifelong cocaine addict, that he cheated on his wife with his wife’s sister,  and that at one point he was thoroughly convinced that women had a pleasure center in their noses that caused them to masturbate uncontrollably when it was malfunctioning.

Nonetheless, the man cast a LONG and evil shadow.  Freud decided at one point that he wanted to have sex with his mother and so he posited that every male must also want to have sex with their mothers and – shazam! – the Oedipal complex was born and analyzed and analyzed and analalyzed. 

At another point, he decided – without the benefit of being a woman or talking to women about it – that only vaginal orgasms were REAL orgasms because only they had to do with reproduction.  Clitoral orgasms, on the other hand, were somehow fake or immature orgasms and so clitorises were pretty much ignored until Masters and Johnson, “rediscovered,” them decades later.

In very much the same sense, we are STILL suffering from his staggeringly wrong interpretation of the subconscious.  It is entirely possible to have a dream about a train and have it just be about a train.  It’s also possible to have a dream about an angel, and actually have it be about an angel.

Let’s sleep on it.

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The High Priestess, Affirmations, and Writing Your Own Story

I realized many years ago that I was an absolute genius at manifestation . . . with one big problem.  My problem was that my genius was hitched to my unconscious programming instead of what I consciously wanted to create.”  Gay Hendricks, “Attracting Genuine Abundance,”  DailyOm

I grew up in one of those families from hell.  Alcoholic, abusive father, detached, depressive mother, a military family so we were constantly moving and never growing roots.  

And, as Melody Beattie said in, “Codependent No More,” one of the real curses of that is that you accept the insanity you’re living in as, “normal.”  Being beaten, screaming fights, drunks passed out on the floor – it’s all perfectly normal in YOUR household.  Doesn’t everyone live like that? Hell, you’re just a kid, how are you supposed to know the difference?

Someone once said that your parents always know how to push your buttons because they installed the control panel.  There’s a lot of truth in that – on a primal, cellular level no one knows you better than your parents. And, in addition to installing the control panel, they also installed the programming.

If you were raised in a less than benign household that programming can be pretty awful.  You probably grew up hearing things like:

“You’re a very, very bad girl.”

OR

“Why did you do something so stupid?”

OR

“I don’t like hitting you but you don’t leave me any choice.”

And your poor little subconscious, your subconscious that was too young and too trusting and too inexperienced to know any better just soaked that shit up and believed it, the same way that you believed that drunken, crazy parents were normal.  And – voila! – you end up as an adult who believes that he’s very, very bad, stupid, and deserves to be abused. After all, your parents told you so, didn’t they?

I was talking with a therapist about all of that subconscious, self-defeating programming and I asked if affirmations and visualizations were a way to sort of short circuit it.  She looked very thoughtful for a minute and said, “No, I think of them more as a way of writing your own story. Who do YOU want to be in your story? How do YOU want to live and feel in your story?”

That’s a wonderful distinction that we miss too often.  Affirmations and visualizations aren’t just ways of overcoming negative beliefs that we absorbed in the past.  They’re also ways of consciously creating what we want our futures to look and feel like.

A great deal of The High Priestess is about the deep mind, the subconscious and unconscious part of our minds that holds both our creativity and our self-defeating beliefs.  Too often it’s like a one way door. Magic, symbols, dreams emerge from the Right, feminine, side of the brain, but we don’t consciously interact with it, we don’t, “input,” data, we just passively receive content.

When we dream or meditate that realm of magic that resides in the Right Brain flows into our lives.  When we visualize or do affirmations, we’re talking directly to the Right Brain. We’re dropping what we want our lives to be, what we want our stories to be, into our subconscious and then it performs the magic and makes it real.

In my original definition of The High Priestess, I wrote this about what happens when the card is reversed, when we’re ignoring that interactive process with our subconscious:

The creative, intuitive, feminine right side of the brain is being overpowered and held hostage by the logical, sequential, male left side of the brain.  Intuition and creativity are being ignored in favor of so-called rational thinking. There is a need here to reconnect with your primal self. Take the time for meditating, long hot baths, dancing, art.  Get back in touch with your creative energy.

We need to take the time to visualize, to affirm what we want in our lives, to have a nice, quiet talk with the High Priestess.   We need to take the time to write our own story or someone else will write it for us.

“Just the Tarot,” by Dan Adair, a book of basic Tarot definitions available on Amazon.com.