four lights

The Red Bowl

Red Bowl Dream of May 12, 2016: I pick up a beautiful red bowl. I’m aware that this is one of four bowls arranged in a square. This bowl occupies the upper right corner of the square. The color is very deep, as if many layers have been applied to a surface (as in oriental lacquerware) but I can see down through the layers into an almost-blackness. I immediately remembered the white bowl containing broth with leaves of grass in the bottom offered to me by an Asian woman in a previous dream. At one point while awake I note the time (3:13) and when I go back briefly to dreaming I see this bowl is also the lower left corner bowl in another arrangement of four bowls, the two squares forming a stair-step pattern up and to the right and which I associate with the number sequence 313. (I thought later that the bowl could have been mistaken for a cheap plastic bowl, it was only by holding it and inspecting it closely that I realized how remarkable it was.)

In retrospect, this dream seems to point toward The Grail Mandala, but also—in it’s black depths—harkened back to The Quatrefoil Mandala, which has a black void at the center on this web page.

I remember three previous dreams involving cups or bowls that seem significant.

The first was my dream of the grail on January 12, 1987, in which I achingly reached for the golden chalice. I drew a sketch in my Sacred Circles book in June of 1995 of this dream (the image above and left).

In the next, from April 18, 2000, an Asian woman shows me a white round cup, handleless. She is going to serve me “green tea.” This has something to do with me being or becoming a writer. In the cup are some green plant cuttings, like herbs (dill maybe) and chives or green onions, something green and edible and used for flavoring food. Perhaps this is what will make the tea green. When I noticed the plant cuttings, the cup seemed bigger, more of a bowl.

This was the last dream I had recorded in my journal before my wife, Lesa, used the journal to write down the terms, “multiple myeloma,” “lytic lesions,” and “monoclonal gammopathy” during her conversation with the doctor who was finally able to diagnose her cancer.

And a dream from April 9, 2004: A large black square soup bowl filled with a brown soup, mushroom I think, with bits of mushroom in it. Very full. I wanted to carry it somewhere, but I set it down first so I could sip some of the soup, so I wouldn’t spill it as I carried it.

This dream came at the end of a long period of creative inactivity, and shortly before I attended a workshop which helped get me writing again.

The golden chalice, the round white bowl, the square black bowl, and the red bowl felt like the elements of the first square of four bowls. As I consdered these four bowls, I associated their colors with the alchemical terms nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, and rubedo. And it seemed to me that the red bowl’s black depths connect it to the next square of four, as the nigredo element of a new set.

There was one other cup dream I had, however, just nineteen days after I received my own cancer diagnosis and seven months before Lesa died.

Dream of January 18, 2011: I’m holding a cup and say something like, “This is the perfect cup of (coffee maybe?)” and start to drink it. As I drink, I notice a funny taste; and as the scene starts to go black, I realize I have just drunk poison and I’m dying—I wake up.

Dream of March 1, 2016: I put something in my mouth (it seems round, although I do not see its shape and there is a connection with mandala, which perhaps is the source of my sense of round) and it tastes bad, and I fling it away, realizing that it is moldy and I see an image of it moldy, as the movement of my arm acting out the flinging motion wakes me up. On waking, I thought of the moldy object as a communion wafer.

This dream preceded the Red Bowl Dream, and strikes me as a via negativa moment that creates the conditions for the empty rubedo bowl with its nigredo depths to appear. The next bowl appeared in the dream below.

Soup with Clare Dream of October 7, 2017
: Sharing a bowl of soup with a woman. (Who I immediately recognize as Clare upon waking. My sense of this is that I have come “face to face” with Clare.) The bowl is white and square shaped with slightly rounded corners, exactly like bowls which I use every day. My sharing of this soup is a way of offering comfort, the soup is chicken noodle—quintessential comfort food. The soup is finished as I drain the last of it by drinking from one of the corners of the bowl. Now the question arises concerning what else I can offer to provide comfort in this situation, and I lean over the bowl and we share a long, full, wonderful kiss. As we kiss I clasp her arms with my hands affectionately—I cannot get close enough to embrace her as I am leaning over the bowl. This scene offers a solution to a dilemma or problem presented in an earlier dream sequence (which on waking I can’t recall). In this scene we are sitting on stone or marble steps in a public place, people are passing back and forth. And as I remember this I think these are steps that lead to the temenos.

I was reminded of my Water Is a Circle Dream of June 24, 2017: In Paris a man approaches a fountain, a woman standing opposite him says, “Water is a circle,” then she leans over the fountain of water, and he responds by doing the same, and they kiss. The shape their silhouettes makes reminds me of a circle.


The drawing of a mandala during December 2017 was the next step.