Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Elephant in the Cave August 12, 2014

Inner work is any practice that helps make the unconscious conscious; for example, dreamwork, art, journaling, psychotherapy, meditation, prayer, yoga, body work, active imagination, ritual, and so on. But the ego’s fear of seeing beneath the surface makes most of us naturally resistant to this kind of work. The ninth dream I ever recorded addressed this issue:

It is night and very dark. I try to lock an elephant in a cave, but when I push on the door to close it, it breaks. I run for help because I am afraid the elephant will get out and do some damage.

This dream is short, sweet, and very much to the point. What could be more frightening to a tiny ego than a massive elephant on a rampage? Who wouldn’t try to lock it in or run away?

In religious practices and literature, the elephant often symbolizes power, wisdom, and happiness. As a mount for Asian royalty, it represents sovereignty. And as an instinctual creature with advanced sensitivity, it symbolizes inner knowing and intuition. Since animals in dreams usually represent our instincts, (Jung said we have five: activity, nourishment, reflection, sex, and creativity), to me the elephant suggested my instinct for reflection because reflecting on our inner lives can activate these positive qualities.

What about the other two symbols in this dream? A cave is associated with birth (the Eastern church depicts Christ’s birth in a cave), the maternal womb, and sacred initiation rites. Like the unconscious, caves are dark places containing hidden potential and spiritual treasures.

A door represents a psychic force which, when closed, keeps us from knowing what lies behind it. But when it is broken or open, we can travel between the outer, conscious world of logic, reason, and objective fact, and the mysterious inner world of the unconscious.

While this dream helped me recognize my resistance to reflecting (elephant) on my personal unconscious (cave) because my ego was afraid of opening (door) to the unknown, it held much more meaning for me than I was capable of understanding then. At the time I thought the unknowns I feared were changing in ways that might be problematic for my family and discovering some hidden unworthy qualities, but after twenty-five years of inner work, I have rooted out a deeper, archetypal source of my fear.

All three symbols in this dream are related to spirituality. Western and Middle Eastern religions traditionally associate spirit with the distant masculine Sky God with whom they connect via mental abstractions: correct words, clear ideas, strong beliefs, and noble ideals. This approach has long devalued the spiritual significance of the soul which is associated with femininity: physical matter, the body, emotion, instinct, feeling, inner knowing, intuition and the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life.

Of what was I so afraid? To what has my religion had such stern resistance for the last 5,000 years? Simply this: The feminine aspect of the Mystery we call God. The Mystery incarnate in matter. The sovereignty, spiritual authority, power and wisdom of our own infinitely beautiful and loveable bodies and souls. The energies of Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom: the sacred spark that indwells us and all creation. Poor little ego.  So terrified of life!

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”~Joseph Campbell

Photo Credit:  Gregory Colbert

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


15 Responses to “Elephant in the Cave”

  1. farid ghahramani Says:



    • jeanraffa Says:

      Or a Dark Night of the Soul. Or a weak and immature ego that had a lot of growing up to do. Or all three. Soul sickness comes in many guises that have been given many names throughout history, but they all arise from the same fundamental issue: the wounded ego’s resistance to evolving. Fortunately, when I had this dream I had found a guide in Carl Jung, who taught me to face my fears and trust my messages from the unconscious as guides to consciousness and wholeness. He discovered that this technique has great healing power for all sorts of psychological wounds, even schizophrenia!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane deGroot Says:

    Dear Jean, I am grateful to receive your blog and honor your insights.

    Please credit Gregory Colbert with the extraordinary photograph you have posted.  I feel certain you will find his exhibit of  Ashes and Snow to be meaningful.

    Namaste, Diane


  3. Hi Jeanie,

    Thank you so much for sharing such a potent dream and your meaningful smybolic analysis.

    I resonate with it deeply.

    It is in overcoming the fear and control, again and again and again that we allow ourselves to receive the wisdom of her as she moves through us.

    Thank you,


    • jeanraffa Says:

      Hi Amanda,

      You’re most welcome. It’s a delight for me to share dreams that can be as instructive about the inner journey as this one was! And yes, the listening and learning never ends. She has enough Wisdom to last for several lifetimes!


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Louise Says:

    Wow!! This is a keeper – the images are rich, powerful and inspiring!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful dream and reflection!! I resonate with it all!


  5. elainemansfield Says:

    What a beautiful post, Jeanie. I read it when it first came, but I was too tired to comment. I love elephants and dreams. As always, I love the way you make your dreams come alive. Amazing how those early dreams lead the way, but we don’t know where they’re going at the time. I resonate with the last sentences: “Poor little ego. So terrified of life!” I try to hold that trembling little me with tenderness and mercy as she grasps for a foothold that can’t be found..


    • jeanraffa Says:

      I love your comment, ” I try to hold that trembling little me with tenderness and mercy as she grasps for a foothold that can’t be found..” Tenderness and mercy toward oneself, especially our fears and vulnerabilities, is essential on the inner journey, yet so rare. It may even be the whole point of it, for as you know, in loving and forgiving ourselves we learn to treat others the same.


  6. Wow awesome post sister!


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