Dreams and the Architecture of Lichfield Cathedral, UK
“I sail with you on the ocean of my dreams, to a far away Place of great beauty and tranquility. Where suffering and pain do not exist, where we give praises for our joy and happiness, where our Love interwines with Love for all things.” Rumi (1207–1273)
In this article the author explores, using speculation, how Lichfield Cathedral in the UK can help us understand the meaning of dreams, angels, the soul, and how a deeper understanding of these can help us gain a deeper of ourselves and others.
Introduction to the history of Lichfield Cathedral
“Birth after birth the line unchanging runs, And fathers live transmitted in their sons” Erasmus Darwin
Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire, England, is unique in being the only medieval English Cathedral with three spires. It is built halfway up a sandstone hill, with the church of St Mary’s at the lowest point. The first Cathedral built on the present site was in 700 AD when Bishop Headda built a church to house the bones of St Chad (664–672, died 2nd March). The Cathedral is close to many historical sites: being opposite the house of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles; a short walk from the birthplace of Samuel Johnson; and housing a library containing artefacts including some from Elias Ashmole and other priceless ancient texts.
“A dream that is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.” The Talmud
Dreams have fascinated mankind since the beginning of time. Today, neuroscience tells us that they are likely the subjective experience of the mind as it organises the thoughts and memories of the previous day. Psychology uses dream analysis to make sense of the inner subconscious world, an undercurrent that may disturb the conscious mind. Psychiatry uses dreams to help define certain mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brilliant minds have recorded finding some of the most profound scientific discoveries in their dreams, often whilst stuck in their creative thinking: Dmitri Mendeleev (1834–1907) saw the final answers to the periodic table of elements; Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) independently of Charles Darwin conceived the theory of evolution by natural selection; August Kekule (1829–1896) discovered the chemical structure of benzene and aromatic chemistry; Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887–1920) produced nearly 3,900 proofs, identities, conjectures and equations in pure mathematics claiming that the Hindu goddess Namagiri Thayar would appear to him in his dreams revealing the answers to him. Srinivasa (played by Dev Patel) and his life is beautifully retold in the film “The Man Who Knew Infinity”, exploring his relationship with his mentor Cambridge mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy (played by Jeremy Irons).
In many religions dreaming is a state of mind that God uses to allow communion with Him through His angels to send messages. The dreams of others have been interpreted by wise men in the Torah such as Joseph and Daniel, who in turn find prophecy therein. Divine revelation comes in dreams, the best example of this being the Prophet Muhammad. The archangel Gabriel (Jibril) would appear to him in his sleep and then recite the Koran, upon waking he would write down the angel’s words Surah by Surah. And so the dreams of this one man have led to one of the largest faiths the world has ever seen.
Whichever way you look at it, dreams have had an incalculable impact on our civilisation.
Adam sleeps in the Garden of Eden
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” Adam, Genesis 2:23 NKJV
The first time Adam slept in the Garden of Eden is described in Genesis 2:21–25. Here God took a part of Adam, a rib, in order to fashion Eve, because, “It is not good for the man to alone” (Genesis 2:18). Now, we are told there are no errors in the Torah, that every detail has a meaning, and that there is nothing in there that is not so for some reason. Of note in this story is that Adam never wakes from this sleep. Taken literally then, the rest of the Torah is in fact a dream. Should we then treat the stories of the Torah as we might interpret a dream? Does this mean that we are part of Adam’s dream? Is reality just a dream and are our dreams more real than reality itself? If the Bible tells us that we may be visited by angels in our dreams, is it really trying to tell us that they may visit us while we are awake?
Jacob, angels and dreams
“To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.” Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869)
The Old Testament figure Jacob, later given the name Israel after he wrestled with an angel, is regarded as the patriarch of the Israelites and is important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is also famous for his dream (Genesis 28:10–19) and wrestling with an angel (Genesis 32:22–32). There are parallels with Jacob’s experiences of angels and the Prophet Muhammed’s first revelation from Gabriel (Jibril) in the cave of Hira. Jesus had similar ordeals and alludes to this when he says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). Here he declares he has submitted to the will of God and accepted Him through, presumably, the will of His angels.
While on a journey Jacob wrests his head on a stone and falls asleep. In his dream he sees, “a ladder … set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:12) Note here that the angels are ascending first and then descending, this being the mechanism of a prayer, and the higher up the ladder the deeper the state of consciousness. Jacob named that place Bethel meaning ‘House of God’ and the stone he used is believed, by some, to be the Stone of Scone (or Destiny) previously under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey, now in Scotland. This stone has been in the British Isles since c. 841 AD, brought there from Iona and last used in 1953 for the coronation of Elizabeth II.
In Lichfield Cathedral the stone where Jacob rests his head is represented figuratively by the Crossing, and the ladder of the angels is the Choir up to the Lady Chapel. Depending on your view there are seven (plus one) vaults from the Crossing to the Lady Chapel and these represent the musical octave or Major Chakras. Counting up to the Lady Chapel there are eleven (plus one) vaults, representing the octave semitones or Minor Chakras. Alternatively an astrological parallel is the planets and zodiac respectively.
The angels are said to communicate more on an emotional level as they conduct their business in complete obedience to God’s will. This may be why we use music in this part of the Cathedral as a means to communicate the Divine message. Each angel has its own specific mission, no angel can have more than one mission and no two angels can have the same mission. They may sometimes work in pairs, as with the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant.
Angels do not exist in space or time and are believed in Islam to made up purely of light. Thanks to Einstein’s theory of relativity, physics now tells us that light indeed has these properties. In addition light photons are also a pair of different energies, electricity and magnetism, working together in the 6th dimension, like two angels working together. The science of quantum physics and its technological application in data storage in quantum computing show that some types of “[single] photons [in certain quantum (qudit) states] can be used as alphabets to encode information beyond one bit per single photon” (see image below).
When you look up into the night sky you are told that what you see are stars as they were many, sometimes billions, of years ago. However light particles, photons, travel at the speed of light, and so do not experience time. If you are a photon from the outer reaches of the universe and have travelled for 13 billion years, when you hit the eye of an observer on earth it will be as if you had just set out from the outer reaches of the cosmos, no time will have passed for you. In the same way, if you are a photon of light, space also does not exist.
In art angels are sometimes coloured either blue or red, as in William Blake’s Jacob’s Ladder above. This is also the physics of how moving light behaves, such that those angels/photons travelling away from us are red(shifted) and those towards us blue(shifted), as can be seen by the lowest pair of angels in Blake’s image.
The next time you look up at the stars in the night sky, spend a little time meditating on all this physics, and as you look at the light of the stars come to realise that you are literally, not figuratively, at one, in time and space with all of them, the whole universe, throughout all of time from the very beginning.
Dr Nick Stafford
Excerpt from “Eye of Heaven. Lichfield Cathedral a Theory of Everything”, published by Unicordia Forest Publishing UK
All the ideas discussed in this article are pure speculation and the author makes no claim to any truth(s) therein.
With thanks to Chabad.org for various quotes and details of Judaism, in particular related to the Kabbalah.
Cosmic flow of galaxies around the Milky Way galaxy image, with thanks to Nature Videos.
All other photography by the author.