The meaning of the dream symbol: Aircraft

‘Nowadays in dreams we often find that the car and the aircraft have taken the place of the monsters and fabulous animals of the distant past’ (C. G. Jung).

The aircraft supplements the symbolic attributes of the automobile with that of levitation, in the same relationship as that of pegasus to the horse. It might therefore be said that its flight expresses a spiritual aspiration, namely individual release of the Earth-bound ego by escape to the purifying reaches of the upper air. That is to say that flight, with the aircraft climbing - the dreamer is very seldom coming in to land - leads to a state of ecstasy on a plane with the orgasm. Hence psychoanalysts frequently give such dreams a sexual connotation, although their analysis is clearly far more complex than this.

The appearance of aircraft in dreams is a recent but frequent phenomenon. Although it is a feature of the modern world, like the bird it would seem to exemplify one of the major aspirations of the human race - flight through the air. In this sense therefore, the aircraft is to Pegasus rather what the automobile is to the horse. The dreamer may find him- or herself either in an aircraft or floating in space. In the first instance the human is freed from the force of gravity which pins him or her to the Earth on which he or she crawls. In the second flight takes the almost magical shape of forces coming from the beyond. It then conjures up the cosmic power of the collective unconscious, in the face of which the conscious ego measures its powerlessness. The aircraft belongs to the province of the Air and is the material aspect of one of the powers of this element. It is the realm of ideas, of thought and of the spirit.

In addition the aircraft may also be identified with the dragon or with the THUNDERBOLTS Of ZEUS.

When the dreamer sits in an aircraft, then the aircraft assumes an individual symbolism. The personality takes wing into limitless space where it feels completely free, and while remaining within the realm of Earth-Matter it soars towards Heaven-Spirit.

Its speed, its delicate mechanism and its handling difficulties make the aircraft reminiscent of life itself in which each day is a fresh adventure. Airmanship, too, demands capability and self-possession to navigate boundless space.

It restores freedom, independence and speed, allowing the pilot to go wherever he or she pleases freely and almost instantaneously.

Sometimes the dreamer sits in an aircraft piloted by somebody else, an inhibited aspect of oneself. The pilot may also stand for the analyst or even the ego which is effecting the transformation. If the dreamer or the pilot indulges in aerobatics these may perhaps be ostentatious or perilous from the spiritual point of view. They mark indecisiveness or fickleness in the vitality, an overfondness for taking risks and a temptation to take matters to extremes.

To be on board an aircraft when one has no right to be there is a sign that the dreamer has mistakenly followed a course of conduct, subjectively or objectively, which he or she had no right to undertake. It may also suggest favours withheld.

To run out of fuel may indicate a weakness of the libido and perhaps psychic inertia as well.

If an aircraft is so overloaded that it either cannot take off or flies badly, this is because the psychic mechanism is too overloaded with the heavy baggage of illusions, false values, intellectual knowledge, projections, subconscious fixations, pseudo-obligations, anxieties, revulsions, sentimentalism, passion and so on to enable psychic development to begin. We have to throw out ballast to get off the ground.

If the dreamer regards the aircraft purely as a piece of engineering, this will betray, as in the case of the car, a pattern of behaviour too closely governed by the thought process, by the intellect or by the purely mechanical aspects of everyday living or analysis.

Two aircraft colliding or engaged in a dog-fight is indicative of opposing trains of thought clashing in mutual destruction and traumatizing the psyche. It is the clash of opposites.

Aircraft manoeuvring in the sky indicate a perception of spiritual forces or cosmic powers breaking free within our psychic space. When the element is water, they will be seen as fish.

An aircraft crashing to the ground is the indication of too intellectual or too spiritual an attitude of mind, of too utopian a tendency too far removed from the earthly, which shatters when it comes into contact with the material realities of everyday living. The ideal is subjected to the brutal touch of harsh reality. The clash is agonizing. The dreamer, too, may lack a sense of reality (cf. the myth of icarus). There is a clash between intellect and instinct. The poles are too far apart. The original personality lacks the bases for its development and collapses. However, if the situation can be accepted, a fresh departure can be made on a new basis which takes the lower world as closely into account as it does the upper world.

Aerial bombardment: the disregarded, lurking subconscious wings its way to the attack like some menacing bombing plane, to impress with the notion of its power. It stands like Zeus wielding his thunderbolts and lightning. It symbolizes the tendency of the subconscious to free itself from conventional constraints, a determination to achieve freedom.

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