Facing off with Ourselves: Atlas’ Murder


Hi, I thought I`d try to submit a dream. It was quite disturbing, so I`d be grateful to get some help with the interpretation.

My old dog, Atlas (like the Titan), was lying in a dog’s basket, minding his own business. He was mostly black, with a white chest, throat and tip of the tail. Apparently he had to die, and his head was supposed to be smashed by a hammer. I couldn’t do it, so my severe uncle smashed the poor dog’s skull with a hammer (black and red, I think).

As his head was smashed, black water splashed out of his left eye, and he seemed dead. I was shocked, but quite surprised and relieved that he died quickly. Then the poor dog woke up, and I had to put him out of his misery. I think I tried to smash its head in, but it felt so incredibly wrong. I lay next to the blinded and wrecked dog, crying on the floor. Screaming for help.

My uncle pulled the dog up on the couch (two or three seats, I think. A 3+2 or 2+2 section). He started to slowly hammer the bones in the dog’s face. It screamed and eventually started to attack him, but my uncle had this martial art skill of pushing the dog’s face away.

I was devastated by the whole thing, and grabbed the hammer, while wishing he’d just been euthanized in the first place. I felt like I had to smash the dog’s head out of desperation.

The dog then went for me, and I stood up on the floor. The poor dog then stood up like a man (not like a dog), blind, and following my noise. My uncle didn’t help.


ATLAS / TITAN – Burden holding up the world as the way it is.

A dog in a dream is a representation of the instinctual aspect of life that is emerging to guide us and wants to be paid attention. Just as a dream has many interpretations, the dog in a dream has multiple symbolic meanings from faithfulness, guarding and even as a companion for the dead on the “Night Sea-Journey.” His name, Atlas (like the Titan). Note: the dog is lying in a dog basket minding his own business. This indicates that the issue the dreamer is violently confronting is buried in a deep instinctual layer, a Greek-Roman version of the collective modern psyche.

The dream describes a fierce battle with the early giant Titan, an instinct that is immortal and has incredible strength and stamina. This masculine instinct was once the creative ruling principle that was part of the legendary Golden Age of Greece and the beginning of Western culture. This previous creation principle has become an “old” ruling principle that is no longer serving contemporary culture as it once had.

Atlas is an archetype, a primordial image of the collective unconscious psyche that we inherit. Personal experience serves to activate and develop the archetypal potential already present in the psychic-physical organism. Ultimately you cannot define an archetype, you can only experience it. The dream also shows archetypes are eternal and cannot be defeated. Instead of being able to defeat an aspect of the psyche, the end of the dream shows us that we need to engage in a non-warrior battle and follow our instincts since the warrior path does not work.


Nude Atlas (inscription: Athalax), bearded, long-haired, broad chested, holding up universe.

The dream is about a dog named Atlas (Titan) who is minding his own business who apparently needs to die. The dreamer and his uncle viciously attempt to murder the dog Atlas but find it impossible. Instead the dreamer end up crying on the floor is “screaming for help.”  The help ironically comes at the end of the dream from the dog that  “stood up like a man not a dog, blind and followed my nose.”

Just as a dream has many interpretations, dream symbols also have multiple meanings. Here Atlas represents faithfulness, guarding, as well as a companion for the dead on their “Night Sea-Journey.”  We will see the multiple layers of meaning within this dream.

The Titans, in Greek mythology, also known as the elder gods, were the first pantheon of gods and goddesses that ruled the earth before the Olympians overthrew them. They were immortal giants of incredible strength and stamina as we can see symbolized by the dog Atlas in the dream. This masculine instinct was once the creative ruling principle that was part of the legendary Golden Age of Greece and the beginning of Western cultures evolution. The titans as the “old” ruling principle primitive instinct where overthrown by the Olympian Zeus patriarchal principal that has been in dominance for 2500 years..

Can the processes of Alchemy guide us to find the Universal Medicine necessary to heal us as a species? The first task in using alchemical imagery as a model for dream interpretation is to find the “prima materia,” our patriarchal shadow (black and white or binary thinking, such as the color the dog). The prima materia needs to be subjected to a number of alchemical operations that will transform this “old ruling principle” into its next evolution stage.

The stage of psychological transformation to which the alchemical processes of mortification or putrefaction refer indicates the death of a conscious attitude, resulting in the unfolding of a psychological center in the Self. Edinger writes that such symbols of the extinguished conscious standpoint as “king, sun, and lion refer to the ruling principle of the conscious ego and the power instinct. At a certain point these must be mortified in order for a new center to emerge.”

The dream shows the alchemical operation mortificatio is necessary for transformation.  Mortificatio (killing) has to do with darkness, defeat, torture, and mutilation and is the most negative operation in alchemy. Ironically, it is the patriarchal ruling principle of ego-consciousness, the inflated power instinct itself, that needs to die. The dream shows that using the power instinct on the power instinct does not work. In fact at the end of the dream even though blind, after repeated attempts to be beaten to death, it still  “stood up like a man on its back feet.”

Death is the ultimate change agent. It is about transformation, a disillusionment of matter, and a transformation from one stage of life to another. Change needs a structure in which to happen. In alchemy, the change structure is symbolized as a vessel. It is in this vessel that the prima materia is placed as the context in which the forces of change take place

In our dream, the head is the locus to which the murderous instincts are directed—“…his head was supposed to be smashed by the dreamer with a hammer who say, “I could not do it, so my severe uncle smashed the poor dog’s skull with a hammer (black and red, I think).” And later in the dream “I tried to smash its head in, but it felt so incredible wrong.” And finally with the dream lying next to the blinded and wrecked dog, crying on the floor, screaming for help his uncle “slowly hammers the bones in the dog’s face.”

In the times of Greek/Roman period, it was often the blacksmith that was often also the alchemist. For the smith the hammer is an instrument endowed with the mystical power of creation. In the mortificatio operation the hammering is to attenuate the matter to release the creation “spirit hidden from the old dying matter” preparing it for the transformation of rebirth. For the prima material after it has gone through the When mater and spirit are intermixed in a state of unconscious contamination, by must be separated. Hammering weakens or diminishes by hard and repetitive forces of the old ruling principle and opens the path to new neural pathways. And by releasing the spirit from undifferentiated matter the alchemist then put the “prima material” into a vessel for the further states of transformation. A hint that the hammer is not just for destruction is that the dreamer described the hammer as “black and red, I think.” In alchemy red represents the principle of rubedo. To make the matter come alive it must be reanimated into consciousness. It is this potential that makes the hammer a potential life force not just a force of death and destruction.

As an archetypal image, head or skull is often symbolically used in alchemy as the vessel for transformation. Correspondingly, the fact that the head or skull is the object of the murderous impulses in the dream reflects the inflated logic or thinking function that Western culture has elevated over other sources of wisdom, such as intuition and emotional and body wisdom. Ironically, it is the head (including the nose) that is the object of the old ruling intellectualization of life. The head is the vessel that now needs to be returned to its “original undifferentiated state,” to be rebirth to the consciousness necessary for the crisis of these times.

Throughout human history the head as been hunted, preserved, venerated and offered as sacrifice and even eaten. Most ancient people located the soul, vitality, power, and genius in the head. In alchemy, the sprit and matter are one. To return to this animating force, the secret of life, its vital principle, is the next instinct that is needed to guide us during daytime consciousness and nighttime consciousness.

The death of the solar inflated patriarchal logical principle and the return of the soul leads to a potential dialogue about consciousness with the head or skull being, not only the vessel for change, but also that which needs to be transformed to include emotions, intuition and body wisdom in the dialogue as part of our evolutionary future. The dream reinforces this further: “as the head is smashed a black water splashes out of the left eye.” The left eye in mysticism signifies the “watery” lunar principle of emotions and intuition as opposed to the solar principle of logic a necessary for a complementarity of the solar and lunar modes of consciousness.

The “black water” is also an aspect of the prima materia needed for transformation. As an alchemical text says about the importance of water, “Until all be made water, perform no operation.” For it is the water in its undifferentiated state that was thought to be the womb and necessary for rebirth. Although the dream does not explore the specifics of evolution, the rebirth will include the lunar principle as part of reorientation of consciousness.

Right, Prometheus chained to pillar; eagle feeding at his bleeding breast; figure at left identified as Sisyphos carrying the rock of his eternal torment in Hades (Gerhard) or Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders. He was compelled to bear the world on his shoulders for his part in assisting the giants in their wars against the gods. Prometheus by his deeds of invention of sacrifice and theft of fire from Zeus established the separation between the divine and human spheres and the creation of the human mode of existence.

The etymology of the name Atlas suggests that it is an adjective to explain the “hard enduring” nature of the task of holding up the celestial sphere. Atlas sided with Titans in their war against the Olympians. When the Titans were defeated Zeus condemned Atlas to hold the Sky on his shoulders. As such he became the embodiment of the celestial axis around which the heavens revolved. We could look at this dream as informing us that we in 2012 are in a parallel “war” to the one that the Titan were in at that time with the Olympians. As a result of the Patriarchal Olympian model of Western culture we are in a  global economy and  Malthusian like explosion of population with limited resources. We are challenged by the dream to find a new ruling principle and as the dream says “nose to nose” and follow its scent to a new evolution. Personal experience serves to activate and develop the archetypal potential already present in the psychic-physical organism. What is the archetypal potential of the olfactory function”?

Let’s take a look at the olfactory sense of mammals. Olfaction is among the oldest sense in vertebrates. Also, it is the only one that establishes a direct connection between the brain and its environment. Two-hundred-million years ago, a keen sense of smell drove an explosive growth in brain size that pushed mammals out from the shadow of dinosaurs where they began to emerge in their evolution. This sense of smell was vital for these early mammals to navigate the world at night, which was a huge survival advantage. Much later in evolution, early humans developed ever-bigger brains but ironically lost their delicate sense of smell. In its place diurnal humans and other primates developed superior vision use to for plucking fruit and scanning the horizon for predators. In the context of ancient Greek mythology primal powers such as Atlas are assigned planetary spheres Atlas is assigned the planetary power of the moon. Is it in this lunar realm of relatedness, emotions and intuition that Atlas guides at the end to “follow the nose.”  In other words is this dark period of the global crisis similar to the earliest period of mammalian survival where their olfactory sense guided them them in the darkness to the lunar world can now find the principle of relatedness rather than dominance as the solution.

Who is his “severe uncle” in the dream who emerges with the hammer to continue the death sentence on the dog. We also learn that the uncle is no ordinary part of the collective unconscious psyche in that he has martial art skill. The uncle represents the potential alchemist within the dreamer.  As Jungian analyst Edinger Edinger says, “the individuated ego is destined to be born.”  It is this complementary twinning aspect of the dream that the dreamer has the potential to heal his primitive one-sided Atlas, this dying principle and learn the art of alchemy by follow the his nose to the “lunar” creation principle and bring it to manifestation using his authentic solar resources.

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