In my dream, as evening shadows lengthen, I walk along a lonely country road. My companion is none other than His Holiness Pope John Paul II. I am there to watch over the revered patriarch of the Catholic Church, to offer him physical support should the need arise, for he is getting on in years and has many ailments.
|I realise I am an active and vivid dreamer, not only when I am asleep but, according to my wife, during waking hours too. However, the characters I consort with, in my flights from the everyday world, are the same earthy people I deal with in everyday life.
Progress is slow, and out of consideration for a younger man, the patriarch speaks:
“Why do you not go on ahead? I shall follow at my own pace”
“I would not dream of it, Your Holiness”, I reply. “You set the pace and I shall adjust mine accordingly.”
I see a glint come into my companion’s eye, but I put it down to my imagination.
“Are you sure?” he enquires gently, but with an unaccountable eagerness.
“Yes, yes, of course”, I assure him, happy to curb my pace to suit that of the revered personality. No sooner do I utter the words, however, than a singular transformation comes over him. The holy man seems to shed the earthly fetters of old age and infirmity, and with magical suddenness, propels himself with superhuman speed, leaving me standing with my mouth agape.
“Father, father”, I shout after him, when I manage to collect my wits, but he is already a speck in the distance and out of earshot.
That then, is the substance of my dream. I find it enormously funny. I remember the expression on the venerable pontiff’s face, the look in his eye, and the almost school-boyish excitement with which he welcomes my invitation to set his own pace. I ask my wife what she thinks it all means. She is one of those who reads meanings into everything. She counters by asking me what I think.
“Nothing at all”, I reply. “It’s probably my own perverse nature fashioning the dream to give me the surprise of a lifetime. Imagine my aged companion kicking up his heels and taking off like a racehorse, when I expect him to drag his feet and gasp for breath.”
“Well there is another way of looking at it”, she remarks. “As matters stand, the Pope’s sense of duty towards the Church and his millions of followers, makes him a figurehead whose thoughts and actions need to focus on the accepted beliefs and traditions of his religion. Focus, that is, on the ritualistic and doctrinal part of the religion, as advocated by none other than himself, for believers to follow. But, as in every faith, in addition to the ritual part which marks the differences between religions, there is also the secret, very personal part, which only saints and highly evolved souls experience. This is the inspirational aspect that allows the spirit to soar, and taste the freedom and joy of divine bliss. It is not something which is easily communicated, nor does it conform to a set pattern which can be prescribed for others to follow. To try and communicate it to the rank and file who are unprepared for such an experience, is to invite misinterpretation. The outcome would be religious anarchy.”
I interrupt her: “I don’t know how far all this is true, but even if we assume that it is, what does it have to do with my dream?”
“Lots”, says my wife tersely. “You mention the Pope’s need for support, as he walks with difficulty. That means he is growing old and tired with his routine duties of ruling over the Church and bringing the gospel to the multitudes. He needs the help of ordinary people represented, in the dream, by you, to help him discharge those duties which he takes seriously, because he has dedicated his life to the task. But, unknown to him, at the level of the unconscious, there is conflict because, while fulfilling his obligations to others, he is doing so at the cost of his own spiritual progress. It’s like making a brilliant research worker teach undergraduate students instead of doing research in his chosen discipline, which he would find infinitely more satisfying.
Then comes that delightful misunderstanding, when the Pope makes a suggestion out of consideration for you, and you make a counter suggestion out of consideration for him, when actually, both of you are expressing the same idea.
“What are you referring to? What is the suggestion in each case?” I demand.
“Well, the Pope first suggests that you go ahead of him and he should follow at his own pace”, explains my wife; and you, out of politeness, invite the pontiff to set the pace while you adjust yours accordingly. Both of you have the same idea in mind, which is that the Pope should delegate responsibility for routine church matters, to others competent to undertake the task. It is your intention that that he should hand over most, though not all, of his temporal duties, so as to conserve his energies for those essential tasks of his holy office, that he alone can fulfil. In that way, he would still be able to lead the church without sacrificing himself entirely to his duties. But the pontiff takes your suggestion to mean that he is free; free to respond to that deeper urge to unite with his Maker, relinquishing to you, all power and authority, and the tremendous weight of his temporal responsibilities. Free, in other words, to allow his soul to break loose from the fetters of his earthly body, and experience the joy of divine union ; free to lie down and die, without pangs of guilt that there is some immediate, unfinished task that only he can bring to completion. Rejoicing in his freedom, he departs with superhuman speed, and leaves you in a state of shock because you do not expect any such thing to happen.
“It sounds a bit thin”, I object, “that I, a mere nobody, should cause one, as exalted as the Pope, to die.”
“All you did was to inadvertently put the idea into his head that, perhaps, the time had come for him to lay down his responsibilities, once and for all, and allow the normal ecumenical process to take over, in selecting a new leader. He mulls over the idea when he asks : “Are you sure?” In effect, he is posing the question to himself, and when, on reflection, he feels that there is indeed nothing in his line of duty that could not now be delegated to others, he acts accordingly, and departs. The decision is his entirely.
I realise I am an active and vivid dreamer, not only when I am asleep but, according to my wife, during waking hours too. However, the characters I consort with, in my flights from the everyday world, are the same earthy people I deal with in everyday life. Prime Ministers and Popes fall beyond the purview of my normal dream pattern. That puts me in a quandary: do I treat this dream as another of my interesting but inconsequential adventures into other-worldly consciousness, or do I, albeit reluctantly, assume celebrity status and look upon myself as a sort of minor prophet? The question causes me concern ; it perplexes me. I therefore throw the matter open to public debate and await a verdict.
This was written several years before Pope John Paul II died. Hence it has little to do with the author’s ability to foretell the event.