The Human Habitat


Our habitat is the space that was important to us ever since our childhood. We have studied this space extensively what makes our habitat the area in which we are able to differentiate best.

The more unusual the situations and surroundings in a dream are, the more important are their symbolic characteristics.


I. Mountains

A mountain is an elevation and as such it stands for a raising of consciousness. What is characteristic for a mountain is, that the ground is striving towards the sky. This symbolic value of the mountain is often used in mythology f.e. the world mountain (Olympus, Horeb, Meru, Fujiyama).

Note from a dream dairy: “As I climbed a mountain I could look around an see the world from above. Then I understood: After the hard climb the longing for clear view, for a clear conscious, can be met."

"I found myself floating around in a mountainous landscape. Everything was covered with a thin layer of snow. I wanted to climb the highest and coldest mountain to gain clearance. So I got on top of the closest mountain. As I got there I saw that there was a mountain even higher. I went to that nearby mountain and tried to get on top of it. The effort it toke was greater than for the first one. The last meters I had to crawl. When I reached the peak of the mountain I realized: There is always a higher mountain." (Seth)

"I climbed some kind of mountain. At first it was pretty easy but then the mountain became steeper and more slippery. The rock was completely white but there was no snow. The last section of the path was hidden behind a wall and I couldn't see it. A voice said: “Only the holy reach the top because they float.” I didn't want to give up so I went on crawling. Then I finally slipped down the glassy hillside and woke up.” (C.)

  • fractured rocky landscape:

It seems like the rocks as symbol for the soil are striving towards the sky. The ground is cracked and the borders between conscious and unconscious begin to fade.


II. Forests

The deep forest (jungle) is an area which no daylight reaches. Here, we have a permanent dawn which lets the paths appear unsafe. There are also some dangerous creatures living in the woods. Darkness and twilight are always a sign for an unconscious area. In comparison to the cave the value of the forest is more of a vegetative nature. (The cave a symbol for latency – like a seed laying in the earth.) We can find the forest symbolism in fairy tales especially.

"I was sitting in a ridable miniature railway. The tracks lead along a riverside and I felt kind of sad. I wanted to leave the railway but when it stopped I couldn't get off. The railway continued its journey and I shouted at an employee to stop the vehicle. The railway stopped in the middle of a dark forest. It already became night and I did not really know how to get to my actual destination. One of the conductors, a young woman, also got off the railway and was willing to walk the path back with me. Her blond hair and pale skin seemed to glow in this gloomy darkness. We went inside the forest and toke a slightly rising and dark path. I recognized a bunch of drunk men behind us and was alerted. I feared that they would want to harass us due to my attractive fellow. I walked slightly behind her so that my dark appearance could hide her shine from the other men. The men soon toke another way and we treat the path through the dark woods together." (Seth)

"I told someone about a dream planet. I said: Not everyone can come to this special place. There are strict entry conditions. Only those who come with inner maturity are supposed to pass the border. The inner qualities of the humans form their surroundings what makes the stay on this planet kind of dangerous. After that explanation I showed two images. The first image was of a man who stood in a dark forest surrounded by creepy, amorphous shadow creatures with glowing eyes. The second picture showed a young man dressed in a white tunic. He held a lyre and stood in a rose bower.” (C.)

The forest can also be interpreted as a symbol for strength and renewal.

"Sacred grove"

Childhood dream: "I lay on my back in warm and soft sand. I am surrounded by the roots of giant trees. I think about nothing and am totally happy. Silently, I look up to the blue sky that shimmers through the tree canopy.” (C.)

The bell temple: “I got into a forest and found a Chinese bell temple. In the middle was a huge metal bell and on the four pillars hang big glass bells. They chime all together – it was a beautiful sound.” (C.)

III. Houses

Houses as dream symbols become important when it is about the own housing. The house stands for the human as a whole or symbolizes a soul aspect that is or becomes important for the personality.

"I was invited to a law firm. The lawyer I met told me that I inherited a house. Me and the lawyer went out to check out my heritage. From the outside the house looked old and rundown but it had this antique charm and must have been a noble mansion once. We walked towards the old building and entered through the heavy oak door. The air inside was a little stuffy and dusty. The interior was old but – as the outside appearance of the house – really charming. We wandered through the old corridors and I realized that the mansion was much bigger then I expected. As we got further into the building the dustiness faded and the surroundings became brighter. We discovered a beautiful chapel with paintings of mother Mary and Jesus.” (Van.)

Here a house dream of a yoga student who wishes to develop his personality through inner progress:

D. and I are invited into the yoga circle by the gurus. They lead us into an allotment garden in which a small cabin stands and we walk through it. After passing through the cabin we recognize other buildings behind this small house. The farther we get the more beautiful and huge they become. The gurus guide us through all these houses which are all build on a hillside. They are connected through paths and staircases and terraces. We climb higher and higher from building to building. In the end we find ourselves standing in front of a palace. We look outside the window there and enjoy a wonderful view over the wide plateau.”

  • Single Symbol Elements of the "House"

basement: area of the unconscious

living rooms: area of the conscious

workrooms: area of working and activities

bedroom: area of recovery and instinctual life

kitchen, pantry: area of nourishment resp. of the renewal and strengthening of forces, also an area of reprocessing

attic floor: area of the imaginations and ideas

window: aspect of “seeing”, recognition in regard to things and happenings in our environment

gate: area of action and interaction with the environment

telephone: mental communication

radio: receiving of information

television: impressions of happenings beyond a threshold of conscious

furniture: These objects are made by mankind and are located in an artificial environment. They stand in contrast to grasses and bushes which are objects of the natural surroundings. These dreams are not broaching the objects as such but what we connect with them. They symbolize the contrast between a self-made world and the naturally grown surroundings.

”With permission of my husband my neighbors deposited their furniture in our garden. They covered the luscious flower beds and the lawn until there was no more sign of the green vegetation. I was not amused.” (A.)

Commentary: “The day before a desperate and crying homeless told me about his life. His tellings really touched my heart. My reaction contained of flight and rejection of the reality because his story didn't fit into my “ideal world”. I think that the furniture symbolizes the artificial thought world of my “ideal world” which covers the reality. My husband represented the mental part aspect of myself and the neighbors were the world next door.

new build: often symbol for a new beginning and a recreation of the personality


IV. Gardens

The garden is artificially styled nature and therefore a symbol for the voluntary intervention of the human (through ideals and moral superstitions) in the needs of body, vital energy and sexuality. This influence, of sports and tolerance or of repression and imbalance, shows itself in the amount of artificiality of the garden.

A french garden is characterized by geometry and accurate pruning of trees and bushes. If it occurs as dream symbol it means that the way of life regarding diet, clothing, exercise and sexuality is dominated by tradition or mind. These attitudes can be in conflict with nature.

The picture above shows a garden painted by a highly intellectual, very moral, inhibited and little explorative person. He tried to comply with all commandments to fulfill the highest ethical and moral values. This often needed a great amount of discipline and force against natural emotions.

In the first painting of a garden – two years earlier – there was a concrete wall in place of the pruned alley of trees.

Often the garden has a holistic character and represents the human as whole. We also find this kind of imagery in mythological and religious gardens. For instance the Garden of Eden. Mostly, we find a tree or a mountain in the center – something that strives towards the sky – which creates a connection (also applies to trees – see shamanism). From this elevated center water sources come, which become rivers as symbols for the believe that the life on earth is fed from this divine focal point. Around the center are various habitats which often can be assigned to different aspects. At the edge of the garden is the ocean or the abyss, as symbol for the chaotic unconscious that surrounds the conscious habitat.

Seth's garden

Ancient cities were build by this scheme too. In the middle of the city lays the church, the sanctuary or the palace of the emperor. The city is confined by a border. Behind the borders lies the terrain that is exposed to the enemy (resp. the chaos).


© Alfred Ballabene (Vienna) translated by Seth