Examples Of Root Metaphors
The latest expansion of my Dreamer’s Toolbox promises to be quite versatile and particularly useful in deciphering these dreams in my favorite subcategory of dreams: Holy Dreams. The tool I am referring to is the concept of root metaphors. In this first article – in a projected series examining its functionality – I take a moment to explain the basic concept. The analysis of one of my own BIG dreams will then show how my dreaming mind, playing with the cultural metaphor that “classified information must be the pure truth”, creates a conflict between the building blocks of this idea to move on. A more open approach to the Dealing with the truth.
What is a root metaphor?
The Root Metaphor is a concept that I found for the first time in Kelly Bulkeley’s revealing work, The Wilderness of Dreams, subtitled Exploring the Religious Meanings of Dreams in Modern Western Culture. Most of us associate the term metaphor with poetry, and we remember how to distinguish it from the parable: like the parable, the metaphor makes a comparison, but puts an equation between two different things. This man is for example a fox.
Webster’s online dictionary explains that a root metaphor “is not necessarily an explicit means of speech, but a fundamental, often unconscious assumption.” This broader use of the term metaphor is used by Bulkeley, who is partly taught by Lakoff and Johnson, the co-authors of Metaphors We Live By. These linguistic philosophers begin by saying that “the essence of metaphor is the understanding and experiencing of one kind of thing in relation to another,” and then develop the argument that “metaphorical thinking is fundamental to all human conceptual thinking.”
These metaphors we live by are not always hidden from our eyes. Sometimes, repeating a metaphor can turn it into a slogan like “time is money”. When we focus our attention on such metaphors, we protect ourselves from the consequences that may unconsciously arise, such as the idea that time spent on things that do not generate money must be worthless.
Metaphors in our dreams
So far I’ve only talked about using metaphors in our waking experience. The prospect of discovering those metaphors that remain unconscious, even as we live by them, is undoubtedly enticing, and fully appreciates Bulkeley’s zeal to apply this concept of root metaphors to dream analysis. After all, is not every one of our dreamers a veteran of his own unconscious thinking? It should therefore be well acquainted with the language of its favorite metaphors, and the isolation of these metaphors should make a great contribution to the revelation of the syntax of the personal dream language.
In the wilderness of dreams, Bulkeley also pays tribute to the work of Paul Ricoeur and emphasizes the philosopher’s concept of the authentic symbol: it is overdetermined and carries both strength and meaning. This force has both a regressive and a progressive vector, and Ricoeur “encourages us to search for root metaphors to gain insight into the past and the future – into both the archeology and the teleology of the self.”
An important point about metaphors is that they are always partial. The metaphor-based equation helps us to understand some aspects of a thing, but always excludes other aspects. For that reason, Lakoff and Johnson state that “the use of many inconsistent metaphors seems necessary to capture the details of our daily existence.” (221) For example, we balance the idea that time is money by talking about quality time.
My feeling is that the dreaming mind knows that single metaphors can not give us a complete overview of a situation. Scientists have shown that people need to dream to function well, whether they have a dream or not, but no one really understands why we need to dream. Let me suggest that a function of dreams is to protect ourselves from our own narrow views: by conducting our habitual metaphors through various thought experiments, our dreams can test their effects in a harmless way. With these foundations, we are now ready to begin with the practical application of this root metaphor concept.
The dream: I get the remains of Christ in a box
In this first dream-others are studied by the same method in subsequent articles-someone from a university brings me a box of the remnants of the body of Christ. The transaction is confidential, as if very few people know about the existence of these remains. The box is not square, but has the shape of my guitar box. It is open, revealing layers of reddish brown meat. I put it in a corner of my bedroom, where my daughter lies sleeping on the bed.
I answer the phone in the adjoining room and let myself be informed about this new responsibility during the call, without stating that the parcel has already arrived. The person on the phone (later known as Comedian Carol Burnett) tries to stop me from accepting it, and goes on and on about germs and bad smells. I am very laconic and say something to end the conversation.
In the kitchen is still potato salad on the counter. there are still a few ice cubes in it. I decide that I will take a risk later and eat something. I’m hungry but have a lot of work to do and I’m confused about the order in which to do it. I enter the bedroom to change and am about to close the curtains to keep the secret of the corpse in the corner. but there will not be enough light in the room if I do that. The big, old-looking window has turned cobalt blue, and it’s getting late. I see that my daughter is still sleeping on the bed.
Now I have a scar on my stomach after undergoing surgery. Does not the scar look like a big smile? I do not want to go to the hospital to get the sutures out but remove them myself.
In the next scene, a valuable document is dipped in a sterile solution and then placed upside down in a white folder. It’s contaminated when put up, but I’m not the one who gets upset. The “file” in question, which the technicians work with tweezers, is a pair of my underwear.
In the last scene, I wonder if I have to label the remains of the body in the box. How can I keep the secret but also leave it to future generations? Will the truth not reveal itself automatically because of its authenticity?
Extract the right metaphor from a dream
Do dreams make any sense? Our watchdogs have the right to look critically at the consequences of jumbled scenarios. One could also ask: Does it make sense to arouse life? For as amusing as that may sound, I find evidence that my dreaming mind thinks it must be just as hard to put my daily metaphors to the test, perhaps to protect me from wantonly gaining space. You see, the dreaming mind also wants the awake life to make “sense”. If root metaphors are the similarities in this dialogue between the waking and the sleeping self, the validity of a dream analysis largely depends on extracting the right metaphor from a particular dream.
Internal and external validation
We will once again refer to Kelly Bulkeley’s book The Wilderness of Dreams and want to make sure that the interpretation of the dream has both internal and external validity. These assessment methods are based on hermeneutic principles. As with the translation of a foreign text, the interpretation to which we arrive must support the coherence of the various parts of the dream and allow internal validation by references to cross-references and repeated motives. One of the many aspects of the root metaphor is that it is expressed in visual symbols that can and can take multiple forms if the dream is not interrupted or forgotten on awakening.
If the chosen metaphor is really a root metaphor, it also supports other knowledge that is available outside the dream: it carries the sign of a past event. it will show evidence of cultural relevance; it will satisfy today’s needs; and it will provide a means to transform energy from the past into the future. All this is an external validation.
If we can express the root metaphor of a dream in the form of a sentence, it can shed light on how it was drawn from the cultural environment of a human being. If the interpretation helps us to find the regressive and progressive vectors Ricoeur has taught us to search for, it will not only provide an external affirmation that we have met with the right root metaphor, but also a long way to explaining the Dreams are reason to be.
Here is the metaphor that I believe has been examined in the remnants of Christ mentioned above, along with an incomplete list of internal and external issues that support this decision:
Root metaphor of the dream: classified information must be the pure truth
The cultural relevance of this metaphor stems from the general assumption that government agencies that make the effort to limit access to specific information must include truthful information.
The dream seems to show that religious beliefs are not suitable for academic classification. Even though classified information ALWAYS contained only the pure truth, the dream points out that the truth can not be kept in a box with a large “T”, the object of one’s faith: the box in the dream has an irregular shape; his cover does not fit; and the “germ” of the idea remains alive and transferable and therefore can not be so easily held back.
The confidentiality of the original transaction (if I am given the remainders) makes it appear as a TOP SECRET and thus as a classified document.
Clothes in a dream can represent the person or the public self. The underwear in this dream could represent the inner self or the soul. The word “file” is an anagram of the word “life”. If this symbol, which represents the soul, is placed in a filing cabinet, it also defies the classification and the keynote appears again. The filing cabinet confirms the association between a box shape and the classification of incongruent elements – this repetitive motive represents an internal confirmation that the dream concerns the elements of classification and purity.
The leftover potato salad, a remnant, represents the remnants of the body of Christ seen in the first part of the dream. The historical presentation of Christ as food in Holy Communion is an external confirmation of this interpretation. In the dream, the offered food does not have a waffle shape, but is forced into a box shape that appears as diced potatoes and is placed on a counter. When we classify things, we often count them. The ice cubes give the box motif again, and since the selected food is not well preserved, the keynote appears again. The color white, a symbol for purity, appears again in the form of the white folder file.
Another external affirmation of the chosen interpretation is the fact that Christ is historically bound to the truth, and this attribute of truth is my most important association with his person.
The term university sounds like it could mean the science of the universe or of space. To make a science of the truth is an attempt to classify it.
The reddish-brown flesh in the box is very disturbing to me (waking up) and testifies to the archaeological vector that gives urgency to the dream: At university, my adolescent belief in God under the onslaught of ordered arguments put forward by mature, well-trained professors, who were out to teach their students their own atheistic beliefs.
But the object of my faith is still there. The university leaves these remains to me because it has no valid means of dealing with them and the germ of the great idea is still alive.
The scar in the later scene is further proof that I was drawn to these events. At the same time, it shows the progressive vector that the dream offers: there are layers of meat here as well, but they have been sewn together and the color of the meat is in order. Something was repaired and the stitches in the form of a smile line up like the bars of a track. Christ, who is the way, was integrated into my person. I do not fear the possibility of inviting germs by dealing with the stings myself, as it is a matter of avoiding a sterile treatment of the matter by authority figures.
The sleeping child represents future generations for whom faith must be preserved, without ever defining it in a restrictive way. It must be believed that the truth, when brought to light, is recognizable by its authentic nature.