The Symbols of Dreams
The third characteristic of dreams that Anthony Stevens asks us to consider in his book Jung: A Very Short Introduction is that dreams communicate to us in symbols, not signs, and these symbols serve a transcendent function. What in the world does this mean? It means that dreams have a depth and a life to them. True symbols carry and convey information and emotion beyond that of a sign. A sign tells us one thing – like a stop sign in traffic – and it’s pretty unambiguous. A true symbol may carry conflicting and paradoxical pieces of information. Symbols have an emotional charge that doesn’t have anything to do with logic or analysis. For instance, the symbolism of Snake meets the criteria. Snakes may be linked with sin and Satan as in the Garden of Eden. Or snake may be connected with healing as with the physician Asclepius in ancient Greece which is the source of the caduceus as the symbol of the practice of medicine. Snake may be associated with enlightenment and wisdom as it is in some Eastern religions. And underneath all of that is the emotional response to a snake in our dream – that gut reaction – making Snake a wonderful example of what a dream symbol is.