"We are such stuff as dreams
are made of.
-- William Shakespeare
Chapter OneDreams: Mirrors of Growth
""I had the weirdest dream last night. I can't get it out of my mind. I was in my house, but it wasn't exactly my house, and there was this guy who . . . "
Remember that conversation? Perhaps you bad it, or a similar one, just this morning. From the beginnings of recorded history, we have considered dreams fascinating and important. They have figured prominently in our cultural, societal, and religious development.
Dreams were among our first attempts at scientific study and control over our universe. Priests, the scientists of earlier civilizations, believed happenings of nature, triggered by the gods, could, nevertheless, be predicted and organized through dreams.
The first known book on dream interpretation, now called the Chester Beatty papyrus, came from Thebes in Upper Egypt, and is preserved in the British Museum. Recorded around 1250 B.C. by priests of the god Horus, it includes material dating from 2000 B.C. It contains some 200 dreams and distinguishes between good and bad ones. In Babylonia, good dreams were sent by the gods. Bad dreams, sent by demons, often required the enactment of specific protection rituals.
Today we still retain some of that magical feeling about dreams, partly because, for most of us, they are our most unusual, mystifying, and creative productions. Animals speak to us; both we and they possess amazing powers. Surroundings change instantly in ways that defy waking laws of time and space. Within our dreams, we move fluidly between past, present, and future.
Dreams transcend time. Not only are they interwoven with elements of ourpersonal past, present, and future, but, if we are to believe the great dreammaster C. G. Jung, they are interwoven with themes from human experience since the beginning of time, which he called the collective unconscious.
Those of us who work with our dreams regularly, cherish and enjoy them. They are signposts of our inner pilgrimage. We have fun recounting them and playing with them. Those who don't, look upon our wonderful creations as something bordering on hallucination.
In 1992 I was hospitalized for the removal of a tumorous kidney. On my release day I was drowsing while I waited for the doctor. I asked the universe for a dream that would tell me what sense I was to make of my surgical experience, and what I was to do next. (This is a form of incubation dream, which you will learn more about in Chapter 5.)
When the doctor entered my room, I was having the following dream:
"I am merging into the body of a chicken fanner in Arkansas. I am aware that once I am a part of him, he will know what I know about nephrectomies yes, that new word was in my dream awareness and can apply this to his flock. But I'm puzzled about what I am to learn from him.
Maybe she does, and doesn't remember them. Maybe she's right; she doesn't. But she could. When we become more involved in our owndreamwork, we recall more dreams. As we have more varied life experiences, so, too, do our dream symbols expand land take on richer meanings.
I, for instance, cannot recall, and cannot find in my dream log, which I have been keeping since 1977, a dream about snakes. Yet when I began reading about Greek incubation dreams for this book-and discovered the healing meaning of snakes related to those dreams -- I, too, dreamed about snakes.
It was as if my inner dream director, whom I'm sure is French, said, "Mon Dieu. Mais oui. My, God. Yes, of course. Now that I know what snakes are all about, I certainly don't want you to be left out of this healing experience. Snakes! Can we have snakes on the dream set? Immediatement. Immediately. "'
Whether or not you read that same material, your dream snakes will act differently from mine, as will your cast of characters, depending on your own experiences. So what are you and I to do with our respective snake dreams, then? What sense are we to make of them when we look up "snake" in our dream dictionary?
Most of us have been led to believe that each symbol in our dream represents a thing-or worse, a prediction-but, in fact, that group of symbols comprising a dream tells part of the tale of our inner striving toward self-development and fulfillment. Not only does a single symbol, even a single dream, represent only one aspect of that story, but it also may have several levels of interpretation.
Dreams show us our conflicts and ways to resolve them; they chronicle our inner strivings. This book, or certainly this chapter, might well have been titled "To dream, perchance to awaken," because of the potential for insight or enlightenment thatdreams have to offer.
Dreams can nudge us toward a question that needs to be faced or answered in our conscious life, or a growth direction that needs to be respected. Psychologist and dream expert...
Includes bibliographical references (p. 562-572) and index.
Sandra A. Thomson is a practicing psychologist in California, and a licensed marriage, family and child counselor. She is co-author of The Lovers' Tarot and is on the Board of Directors of the Independent Writers of Southern California.