Dreams are a stairway to what’s beyond our ordinary awareness. That’s true of daytime dreams—aspirations that become more achievable as we help each other make our wishes come alive. But here I mean dream dreams, you know, ones the dictionary defines as a “series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.”
Some of us more easily recall dreams than others. Apparently this has to do with reactivity in certain regions of the brain, although experts insist we can train ourselves to more effectively remember dreams.
No matter the facts, I like to talk about dreams. I’m fascinated by cultures where dreams are discussed and used as a way of tapping into a stream of wisdom that’s forgotten in so-called advanced societies.
And I love to get together with friends for dreamwork sessions where we share and investigate our dreams, something we do far too infrequently but always find illuminating.
If I had better follow-through for this passion I’d be one of those people who keep illustrated dream journals where the guidance found in dreams is recognized. Alas, I’m not. I only write down dreams when they linger in my head long after I’ve woken, in a not-remotely-arty Word doc. Though I started this particular doc back in 2000, I’ve recorded only a few dreams each year. Most of the time they ramble along in weirdly disjointed anti-logic, as dreams tend to do. But several feel like teachings. Here’s one from August 2007 that stays with me.
A dark-haired child in medieval dress, somewhere between five and eight years old and with a wise aspect, was my guide in this brief dream.
She showed me a number of different paintings. They rose up before me from nowhere with complete darkness around them. Most were icons or close-ups of religious paintings, all with halos around people’s heads.
I thought to myself that the halos seemed like auras, trying to notice which were painted with solid lines and which were more diffuse. The moment I tried to apply logic the pictures stopped.
The child explained. She used words that were simple, beautiful, and had the resonance of the ages behind them. I cannot recall most of what she said, as it was well beyond my understanding, but I’ve retained the following meaning.
The accepted beliefs and worldview of an era form a sort of perimeter around each person. This is the way of people. Those who have been called mystics and saints are people who perceive what’s beyond these boundaries. This perception, this apprehension of something greater, causes the perimeter itself to glow. The breaching of what’s closed is powerful energy.
I wish I could express it better. In the dream I could feel what pulsed at the juncture of small human reality and larger Truth as a kind of electricity or creative force. It emitted light. The energy was generative and alive with possibility. I was awed to glimpse it, even as dream material.
The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach. Carl Jung
Resources for those of you fascinated by the dream wisdom accessible to us all.
Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff
anything by Carl Jung, such as The Essential Jung
anything by pioneer of Active Dreaming, Robert Moss
The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis
The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream by Andrea Rock
The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant (sci-fi world where reality is shaped by dreams)