The alchemy of dreams: Nightmare!


“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens into that primeval cosmic night”

Carl Jung.

I’m in the deepest darkest dark, blacker even than the inside of my eyelids.  There’s no light here. No shadow.
I am lost, abandoned.  I call out, then spit and heave as slime fills my mouth.  An eerie echo mocks me, and I cringe, trembling.
Blind, I try to move forward, slowly, in the thick black tar, cloying and sticky. Clammy mud pulls at my feet, disturbing a smell so putrid, that I gag; my stomach heaves. I hold my hand over my mouth, pinch my nose, try not to breathe.
Where am I? Who am I? Terror rises through my body, tightening my chest.  I feel a scream in my throat, but I’m too scared to set it free, for fear of the filth.
What if this is never going to change? My energy implodes, and I take another desperate step. The squelch of mud closes over my foot, freezing wet. A weight presses on my shoulders, an unbearable burden, pushing me down.  I try to lift my foot, as heavy as lead, and the mud sucks it back, pulling me down. It’s up to my knees now, and I can’t move.  
I reach out with my hand and touch something slimy and I stifle a shriek. I sink lower, feeling the cold, insistent pressure around my chest.  I’m going to die here in this filthy cavern of stink and slime, where no one will hear me screaming.

Nightmares originate in the black world of the nigredo, the very beginning of any stage of alchemical transformation.  In the beginning, everything is bitter and rotten: the primal filth.  The future is dark and confused. Here, death is the only reality, and transformation the only possibility.

Carl Jung interpreted the nigredo in two main psychological senses: firstly, the initial human baby state of undifferentiated unawareness, an unconscious state between consciousness and the unconscious: a primal connection to the instincts.

Later, the nigredo is the start point for the process of becoming oneself brought about by the growing awareness of one’s shadow self, a true dark night of the soul, when there seems no way forward.

The alchemical way forward will be via the white world, the albedo, to be discussed in the next blog.



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