by Roger A. “Pete” Peterson
I experienced this terrifying nightmare for the first time around the age of eleven. Every year or two after that, into my mid-forties, I would relive it. It was like watching the same movie or living the same day, over and over again, like the actor, Bill Murray, in the movie, Groundhog Day. It always ended the same way, with me waking up in bed to escape the monster as it reached up to grab my ankle.
It always begins the same way. Darkness is falling and I’m running just a few feet ahead of my own unique version of the Frankenstein monster. I was normally capable of flying but not now. Why? Because a thick, seemingly endless rope, 2-3 inches in diameter, was tied around my waist*. I knew the other end of the rope was tied to something but I didn’t know what it was. Fear was too busy trying to save me from my hulking pursuer. All I knew was that the weight of the rope around my waist kept me from flying. It also made it harder for me to run.
* The rope tied around my waist reminded me of the “silver cord,” people often describe during near-death and out-of-body experiences. It supposedly keeps our wandering souls attached to our human bodies like an umbilical cord keeps a baby attached to its mother.
As always, I wake up running through the same park and across the same city street to escape my pursuer. Thinking I can elude him by climbing the side of the same tall office building, I prove myself wrong, again. The monster reminds me of Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein, although my monster looks more monstrous, is faster, and seems far more powerful. He, like the original Frankenstein monster, is cobbled together with many body parts from different sources.
Climbing up the side of the building always increases the weight of the rope tied around my waist. It not only slows me down, it makes me worry about losing my grip and falling to the ground. As usual, about a third of the way up the side of the building, the monster catches up to me. Sensing his presence, I turn to look down at him just as he reaches up to tighten his fingers around my ankle. Panic-stricken, I wake up in my bed to escape capture.
One day, in my mid-forties, I decided that if I ever did have this nightmare again, I wouldn’t panic; I would fight back! Whether I sensed the dream about to repeat itself or I felt the need to prepare for it just in case it happened again, I didn’t know. However, right after I made my decision, it reoccurred. This time, instead of letting fear control my actions as the monster reached up to grab my ankle, I turned around and began punching him with a strength I didn’t realize I had. He quickly lost his grip and fell to the ground below.
After defeating my Frankenstein monster, I could feel new strength and resolve surging through my body. The rope around my waist no longer felt heavy and I easily flew out from the building. To my surprise, there was a large crowd of people below. Were they there every time my nightmare played itself out? I don’t know.
As I continued to look at the scene, my attention was drawn to a man a short distance away. He was tall and well-dressed; a large number of people surrounded him as he stood on the grass at the edge of the park. Respectfully, the crowd maintained a small circle of empty space around him. He wore a stylish gray Fedora with a thick, black velvet cape wrapped around his shoulders. When he moved, one edge of the cape fell open revealing a bright red velvet lining inside. He wore a light gray suit beneath the cape and beneath his suit jacket, he wore a priest’s black shirt with a white collar around his neck. Resting both hands on the gold handle of a beautiful black cane, he stood still for a moment and looked up at me. Uneasily, the crowd looked from the priest to me to see what would happen next.
The priest, who reminded me of the actor, Christopher Plummer, looked up at me with a slight, twisted smile, almost a smirk on his face, and after what seemed like a thoughtful moment smiled broadly as he reached up and brushed the brim of his hat with the fingers of his right hand. Was he saluting me as the one who got away or perhaps the one who woke up to the realization that we are far more than we currently give ourselves credit for? After clicking his heels together, the priest turned and left. Following him with my eyes as he moved through the crowd, I knew he was responsible for sending “Frankenstein” after me. Why?
What Did This Repeating Nightmare Want Me to Understand?
Put your thinking cap on and ride along with me as we try to figure out what the symbolism in this decades-long drama was, and still is, trying to teach me. The drama of thought and action, whether it plays out in imagination and dreams through the use of our inner senses or in material reality through the use of our outer senses, is the language of the soul. What is my soul or larger self trying to teach me? What do I want to learn?
- What do the priest and the church represent in this nightmare? To me, in earthbound terms, they represent the exercise of control over the individual through the institutionalization of fear and oppression. Is it done in the name of love or for the love of power*? I sensed it was priest’s job, as a religious leader, to subdue and harness the energy of the masses to satisfy the ambitions of those who would be powerful, those who require an endless supply of bodies in their pursuit of empire-building and wealth accumulation. It sounds cynical doesn’t it? But, is it really?
- What did Frankenstein mean or represent? Years after my recurring nightmare came to an end, many questions still remained, so, on June 6, 1993, I asked my inner or larger self what it meant. This is what it said: “Your Superman dream serves as a metaphor for your feelings about life in its physical expression. ‘”Frankenstein”‘ symbolizes your perception of physical reality – a “mishmash” of various and questionable source components (belief systems?) forced together and trying to act as one. The result, of course, is a mostly angry, vengeful entity trying to find a victim, who, in this case, is you!” Why is it looking for “victims”; to justify itself and validate its power?
- Why did I have a thick rope tied around my waist? What was the other end connected to? What did it mean? Here’s what I think: As I floated in the air above the crowd, my eyes inwardly followed the rope from my waist to the ground. Suddenly, I knew that it was connected to earth and what it meant. It symbolized my commitment to live an earthly life. Here’s what my inner self said: “There are two “‘unseen”‘ forces holding each end of the rope. One is the earth and your commitment to live an earthly life. The other is you and me. We’re holding our end of the rope by letting it remain tied around our waist and not thinking to untie it. This “hampered” superman represents your ambivalent feelings concerning your commitment to be in your current reality with its particular array of values and the magnitude of the challenge you chose for yourself (my relentless desire to understand the reality behind reality).
- Why was I so frightened? Why did I find it so hard to face my fear? Again, from my inner self: At the end of each Superman/Frankenstein dream you would turn around, see the monster and wake up from the dream in terror. This dream portrayed you as an individual with limits, but a Superman, nonetheless. Repeated many times, it served to wake you up to your power. It also provided you with the willingness to endure the more difficult learning times in your life. Now you know who I am, who you are, and what we can do together. You also learned that Frankenstein isn’t such a bad character after all. He is simply a device to help you learn. By waking up and using your inner resources you have become the super man you sensed you were all along.
- Why did it take so long for me to confront my fear and stand up for myself? Maybe I’m just slow or dense.
- Why did I see myself as a superman bound? Why not? When we refuse to look beyond the obvious, aren’t we limiting ourselves? A rope holding me back is a great metaphor to represent self-imposed limitation!
- What did the people watching this drama represent and why were they so interested in watching it play out during, what seemed to me, to be all those years? Aren’t we all affected by religious beliefs and aren’t we all interested in living, loving, learning and evolving?
- Did they hope to see me pulled down from the building in defeat? Maybe some did. It would certainly justify the overwhelming fear some people have of the angry, vengeful God portrayed in the Old Testament of the Bible. What do you think?
- Did some of the people present secretly wish to see me defeat “Frankenstein” as a sign of hope for themselves, even though the expressions on their faces revealed little of what they were thinking? I think so. If you were there, what would you feel?
* See What I Learned in Catholic School and how a class in catechism made me feel less worthy and less powerful. It left me feeling like my legs had been cut out from under me. Is that a good thing to do to children? The unspoken question in my mind was: Who would do such a thing to children, and why would they do it? Here are several examples of things that troubled me about Catholicism.
- Original Sin: It is not just being told by the church that all of humanity is sinful and can’t be trusted because Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil against God’s command*, which seems manipulative to me. It seems more likely to me that it was a setup by a God that wanted Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so they would grow up and become like Him. The fact that he made clothes and provided them with foreknowledge of what to expect from life before kicking them out of the Garden of Eden was the act of a loving father. How else can we grow and evolve without challenge?
- The Crucifixion: As a young boy, when I looked at the crucifix, Christ nailed to the Cross, I didn’t like the idea that Christ died for my sins because I don’t want someone else to suffer the consequences of my actions. It doesn’t seem fair to me. Instead, it makes me feel little and weak. To me, the image of Christ nailed to the cross with a crown of thorns cruelly pushed down around his head seems more like a warning. It says to me: “If you question or challenge the authority of the church, or authority of any kind, instead of Christ slowly and painfully dying on the cross, this will be you! When you look at the crucifix, what do you see? From my reading of the bible, it seems more likely that unhappy business, religious, and political leaders of the day (Mathew, Chapter One, in The New Testament), who felt threatened by Christ’s worldview of service to all, were looking for a way to stop him, to destroy his power and influence. Given the world as it is today, is it too hard to believe that people who value money, power, and privilege over life and relationships, throughout history, would be able to concoct a story to justify Christ’s murder? Is the story of Christ dying for mankind’s sins and his ascension three days later,enough to keep the knives and pitchforks from coming out? I’m speculating here; however, short of being on the scene at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, isn’t there something to learn from possible and probable outcomes as well as actual ones? Each choice we make is one road taken while discarding others. There’s no way for us to know what really happened back then. All we can do is speculate about what happened in the past to see what we can learn from it. In my universe of Being and Creation, it all seems to be about living, loving, learning and evolving. What’s your take on life or Being and Creation?
- The Sign of the Cross: Performing the Sign of the Cross before taking a seat in church was another ritual of Catholicism that disturbed me. Performing it made me feel left out in the cold, even though, as a young boy, I couldn’t explain it in words. While kneeling and moving the fingers of my right hand from my forehead, to my heart, to my left shoulder and my right, while repeating the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen,” I felt like a nobody. It felt like I and every other person taking a knee was being left out in the cold and only those in authority were valued. As defined by the Catholic church, “the Father is God, the Son is Christ, and the Holy Spirit is their relationship as Father and Son.” To my mind, despite all the good that comes from people when they come together out of a desire to emulate Christlike behavior, there is a dark side to religious power.
* According to the Vatican version of Genesis: Chapter 2: Verse 16: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;” Verse 17: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Chapter 3: Verse 3 (Snake talking to Eve): “but God said,” “‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die. ‘”
© Copyright 2007, Roger A. “Pete” Peterson
Pete – https://realtalkworld.com
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having (creating) a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
What we believe about ourselves and All That Is, forms our intent, which, in turn, forms our reality.
In other words, we create reality from what we believe about ourselves and All That Is.
If we don’t consciously choose our beliefs, we unconsciously absorb them from our surroundings.
If our beliefs, attitudes, values and expectations create reality, can we afford not to question them?
The more we love, understand, and appreciate ourselves the better we treat ourselves, each other, and the world.
The secrets of the universe lie hidden in the shadows of our experience. Look for them
Affirm what you believe! You can always change your mind. 🙂