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…….perchance to dream…………

by on June 27, 2016

                                                ….perchance to dream….

                                                        by Marco M. Pardi

“Rather than be confronted with an overwhelming proof of the limitations of our understanding, we accuse the dreams of not making sense.” Erich Fromm (1900-1980) The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales, and Myths. 1951

All comments welcome.

Most of us are familiar with Prince Hamlet’s soliloquy in the opening of the “Nunnery Scene” of Hamlet.  In contemplating death and suicide he opens with, To be or not to be….and nine and ten lines later says, to sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub.  For in that sleep of Death what dreams may come.   

Taken together, these statements are confusing.  At first there seems an uncompromising distinction between his waking, conscious state and nothing – non-being.  But he then proposes death is sleep, infused with uncertain dreams.

Although by Shakespeare’s time (1554 – 1616) many hundreds, if not thousands of philosophers, scientists (to use a later term), religious figures, military commanders, artists in various media, and inventors had cited dreams as the inspiration (in spire: to breathe into life/mind) of their subsequent actions, creations, or discoveries,  it was Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), wrestling with a Pythagorean concept  who, in reading the Latin poets came across the line, Quad vitae sectabar iter? – What path of life shall I pursue? and dreamed a visitation from a stranger who answered him, Est et non – To be and not to be.  The Cartesian and fundamentally altered the equation, leading to Cartesian Dualism and the subsequent centuries of the mind/body problem.

For most of my life I had no compelling interest in the phenomenology of dreaming, considering it a simple fact and occasional curiosity.  I met people who claimed they never dreamed.  Of course, Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman (U. of Chicago) produced breakthrough research on REM – Rapid Eye Movement, in 1953 ( E. Aserinsky and N. Kleitman, “Regularly Occurring Periods of Eye Motility, and Concomitant Phenomena During Sleep,”  Science 118 (1953): 273-74. Their work demonstrated clearly the association of REM and dreaming throughout humans, and later in most mammals. So the claim of not dreaming is mistaken; it should be a claim of not remembering dreams.  But how sad.  These people are living their lives with approximately one third missing.  I was more startled in college when I read of the large percentage who dreamed in black & white.  My first thought was, way back then, they watch too much television (black and white for most people then).  But that made no sense.         

As I began to formalize my interest in the study of Mankind the importance of dreams and dreaming emerged as both a cultural engine and a tool for understanding cultures.

Reading Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and others I came across ideas of pan-cultural symbology, issues in interpretation, and “pre-cognitive” dreaming.  I remembered a dream I had at age five in which I was playing with and being in (this must sound familiar) an open Jeep with a green body and red fenders.  My only experience with a Jeep to that point was the wild ride from Roma to the port of Ostia with (then) Captain James Angleton – “Uncle Jimmy” at the wheel. We boarded a Swedish ship bound for the U.S.  Obviously, no military Jeeps were painted that way. But about two weeks after the dream my grandfather brought me a toy Jeep, exactly like the one I had dreamed.

In the military, I dreamed I was sitting at breakfast in the mess hall with some of the guys in my unit – something I had never done, and having a conversation. It was what I would later learn was a “lucid” dream. Then, some few mornings later, I found myself at that exact table with the exact individuals and I “came alert” during the conversation such that I knew who would say exactly what and when they would say it. I even sat quietly somewhere inside me while I spoke my parts.

Checking my daily mail in graduate school I realized one day I had, the night before, dreamed exactly what was in the mail right down to the junk mail. And, I had been doing this for about two weeks.  The realization seems to have stopped it; it never recurred.

But later I had a lucid dream of a commercial airplane crash and it happened a couple of days later.  Another such dream happened and I mentioned it to a couple of my staff and also told them of the first dream.  The second plane crashed soon after.  Since all of us (eleven staff and myself) were frequently hopping flights for somewhere, my staff were soon coming to me before flights with inquiries about my dreams. But as soon as it was out in the open and discussed it stopped. 

Even in early years my realization of mysticism grew strongly.  A Buddhist saying is, One does not convert to Buddhism; one realizes one is Buddhist. So I came across narratives of and about “incubation” dreams: a process wherein a specific result is desired and the dreamer performs certain actions before sleep to bring it about.  Commonly, these include such things as sleeping in or outside a place regarded as significant to the belief/philosophical system to which the sleeper subscribes.  Extending probably long before recorded history, this practice can still be found in remote villages throughout much of the Old World. To my knowledge I’ve never done such as thing, at least as far as I know. And given my native openness to all of Gaia at large, I’m unlikely to ever do so.  When I go to bed at night my last conscious thought is usually: Entertain me.

But I have examined various books purporting to provide you with the power to control your dreams. The methodology seems as varied and as “woo-woo” as the market will bear. In the same vein, books claiming to explain the meaning of your dreams seem just as contrived and nonsensical. I scanned through the catalogued images and continually asked myself, Who dreams this stuff? I dream everyday, rational – albeit often tedious imagery; the only monsters are people I have known and I dispose of them in realistic and appropriate fashion. But apparently just about anything sells.

One of the more attractive systems of science based thought, divulged after many chapters of brain physiology and related arcana, is that dreaming is simply the mind acting as an in-sinkerator, grinding and flushing the billions of bits of data and partially formed impressions we take in daily, mix with stored memory images, and do not meaningfully process. This makes the Control Your Dreams vogue rather meaningless. Or maybe I’m just lazy. But, I have had nights when I disliked the dream on that “channel”, turned over and began dreaming something else, only to return to the first channel and pick up where I left off.  That seems to weaken the in-sinkerator position.

Many of the people I cited very early in this piece kept dream journals.  As age advances I’m up more frequently at night so should have easy access to doing so.  But, with as little sleep as I now get I’m not keen on turning on the light to scribble bits and pieces through the night.

And speaking of getting up, I went through a spate of “flying dreams”.  Quite exhilarating, these were usually so lucid I wondered if they were Out of Body Experiences.  My “test” was, if I’m asleep dreaming at night and I’m “flying” in daylight over local terrain it can’t be real. Maybe that’s simple minded.  No doubt some amateur quantum physicist would remind me Time is irrelevant.  For now I’ll stick with William of Occam’s Razor: If it looks like night, it’s night.  

There are more categories of dreams than I have listed. But I suggest logical caution when examining them.  Some metaphysical bookstores have very occasional books of value amid the groaning shelves of New Age clap-trap. You have to know your subject.  My position is that books purporting to provide dream interpretation, whether in bookstores or grocery check-out lines are fantasies.  Perhaps with the exception of pre-cognitive dreams, dreams are intensely subjective experiences, cobbled together by elements pertinent only to the dreamer. Should I ever decide to enlist outside assistance in such interpretation it would be from a Board Certified mental health professional deeply familiar with my reality, not some charlatan hawking books at a psychic fair.  Publishers of these book do have one dream in common: Get your money.

Ah, bedtime draws nigh.  So I will leave you with this refrain, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” And if you encounter an obstacle on your cruise, it’s only me – up the creek without a paddle. Not to worry. I’ll resolve it. I always do.

       

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23 Comments
  1. My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

    Thanks, Marco! This is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I feel the same as you about the books and information out there. When I have read the books about dream symbols, they always seem to be symbols which I have never had in my dreams. I feel dreams and their meanings are as unique as the individual having them. I feel it is up to the dreamer to interpret their own dream, should it require doing so.

  2. Thank you, MJ. I’m glad you found it enjoyable. You obviously have a very curious, but logical no nonsense mind and I look forward to your comments. Marco

    • My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

      I definitely have a curious mind; however I am not so sure about logical and no nonsense! I imagine that depends on your definition! It is difficult for me to remain grounded with two feet on this side of veil. I do, however, require my own experiences before I can accept what others say and what I read. I need to KNOW it, not just believe it. I can’t do the blind faith thing.

      • Absolutely, MJ. I’ve heard people say knowledge strengthens their belief. Actually, it replaces belief. I’m betting you have always been a knowledge person, and uncomfortable in earlier years when people may have insisted you believe.. Good for you

      • My Journey Out of Darkness permalink

        This is very true! Thankfully, my boys inherited that trait also.

  3. Hello Marco. It was all a dream anyway… if you can believe that 😛 So yes, I used to try to focus my dreams to what I wanted. It usually worked. Now I just don’t care what channel comes on. If I don’t like it, I turn the channel, if it’s stressful I blow it up with munitions I have planted in my dreams. Always handy in a pinch 🙂 Of course, that is when I know it’s a dream or I’d wake up to blown up parts of town.

    • Thanks, PM. Rather dreading your dreams on the wide screen. I’ve had small successes, of short duration, in controlling dreams. Likely I wasn’t fully asleep.

      Interesting shirts. Too bad I never drink. Life is interesting enough without messing it up with alcohol. Marco

  4. Marco, these stories about some of your dreams are fascinating and a little chilling.

    I’ve often thought about keeping a dream journal, although I did throughout both of my pregnancies. Most of my dreams at that time were that I had given birth, but then left the new baby alone in the car while I went into stores.

    As you know, I have an interesting dream life. When I was in your lectures, many of my dreams centered around the two of us on various adventures as a dynamic duo. I miss those dreams much like I miss your lectures.

    In the majority of my dreams, I speak not only assertively to others, but I am also borderline rude when I need to stand up for myself. This probably springs from a lifetime of being too timid to do so, although I’ve never had any trouble speaking up for or defending others.

    Can’t say I’ve ever had a dream that was even remotely pre-cognitive. When I am having a nightmare though, I’m always aware it’s a nightmare and can awaken myself at any point.

    When something really extraordinary happens in my favor in a dream, I also always know I’m only dreaming. In the dream I always prepare myself for disappointment upon awakening.

    Forgive any typos; I’m posting on an iPhone with a cracked screen.

    • Thank you, Dana. You’ve told me of some of your dreams, and your adventures would have me exhausted. Good thing we don’t need the physical body to carry us through dreams.

      I have very little interaction with others in dreams. Probably a reflection of my real life. I’m generally searching or wandering. And, yes, I’ve had those in which I said, “This has got to be a dream.”

  5. Dreams have fascinated me for the greater part of my life. I’ve had just about every kind of dream which one might imagine: repeating, lucid, precognitive, nightmares, and some which were just plain strange. I do believe in dream analysis, but also that the symbols in our dreams are very much our own. (I think I have a copy of Freud’s dream book around here somewhere, but I haven’t read it.) Like so many, my mind thrashes out its worries while I sleep; who hasn’t had that “naked and unprepared” dream?

    Right after reading this post for the first time, I had a dream that my car had broken down. I was walking back up toward a light, and three times cars stopped to give me a ride, which I refused, stating that my destination was close. When I reached that destination, the light was out, and a menacing clown was waiting for me. It doesn’t take a genius to know that this was just my writer’s block laughing at me.

    To quote Freud, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Most of the time, a dream is just a dream; our mind’s way of entertaining itself. I will admit that you have had cameo roles in a few of my dreams, but I usually find you sitting in a secluded spot, reading a book, or perhaps petting a dog. I suspect reality would be much the same. Rose

    • I’m sorry, that last bit must have been confusing. The dreams in which you have had a cameo role were of social events (chaos, things out of my control), and I believe you represented my point of calm reason. In any case, it is always good to see you.

    • Thank you, Rose. Your vision of me reading a book or petting a dog had me wondering if you were clairvoyant, not dreaming. It pretty much sums up my life now.

      Had to laugh at the naked and unprepared dreams. Have had those, and wondered if I actually did that.

      I rarely dream of people I know. Must be a message in there somewhere.

  6. Jessica Smith permalink

    Thanks for sharing Marco.

    Dreams have always been a big part of my life. As I have the tendency to over analyze everything, I’ve done this with my dreams as well and come to the conclusion they don’t mean much unless I attach a meaning. Dreaming in color. Dreaming of water…a lot. Swimming deep down and running out of air, panic, thinking of death, taking a deep breath and then suddenly having the ability to breathe water. Now that’s an amazing feeling. Dreaming of watching fish swim. Dreams of houses. Huge lovely plush houses with deep colors and rich decorations. Dreams of feeling like I was an observer and not in the dream at all. Dreaming and dreaming within the dream. That’s interesting. Dreams of free falling from huge heights thinking I’m going to get hurt and then landing so softly. I’m always surprised at this. Some dreams stay with me for days as they feel so real. The dreams I have are usually very vivid.

    I can’t say I’ve had any precognitive dreams. I agree with Dana, sounds a little chilling. I have remote viewed once, that I remember. It felt pretty natural and lasted only a few seconds. I viewed my partner reading a book. We were about 100 miles apart of each other. I was hovering over his shoulder and as I looked at the book the pages were greyed out.

    When I lay down to sleep I say “okay, bring it on!”
    Jessica

    • Bring it on, indeed! I was deeply into the images you provided and am motivated to see if I can dream them – especially in this heat. I’m assuming your remote viewing was while you were awake, perhaps relaxing. A wonderful experience. I played a part in an early remote viewing program I may describe sometime (It was in the mid to late 1970’s, if that’s any clue).

      So, thanks so much. I’m looking forward to a cool “dip in the pool” tonight. Marco

  7. Gary permalink

    I am not much taken with the notion of symbolism in dreams. It is much too easy to attach them to the dream state and conclude that they are like reading tea leaves.

    There are two kinds of dreams that interest me The first is the recurring dream, when you are experiencing the same problem, over and over, but in different forms. My mother used to tell me that she constantly dreamed that her teeth were falling out. I had that dream just once. My recurring dream is that I have to get somewhere by a certain time and I seek assistance along the way. However, the people who agree to help me get distracted by different things and time marches on and I begin to feel panicky. They actually begin to appear as obstacles to my progress and I wonder why I bothered with them in the first place.

    Sometimes I am trying to get to school for a test (high school) and sometimes for a critical examination (university). As the time slips away I begin to realize that I have not kept up my studies and don’t really know the subject and am hoping to find a couple of hours before to cram and that opportunity is disappearing. I haven’t set foot in a high school since 1964 and a university since 1974. Go figure. This dream of failure to complete occurs so often that I being to recognize while I am asleep that this is the “obstacle dream” and I immediately relax. Sometimes it occurs to me in the dream that I have already graduated so what am I doing? Recently, my sister confided that she too experiences this dream.

    The other one that occurs to me is one that involves people from my past that I did not like very much. I find myself interacting with them in strange but not hostile ways. I remember waking up from one that had a boss I hated and I recall feeling revulsion. I thought, “That SOB won’t even leave my dreams alone”

    Intersting post, Marc, thanks.

    • Thank you, Gary. I completely agree that “symbolism”, always applied retroactively, is an entirely subjective matter even when it seems reasonable. I suppose someone could say you are driven, but that would only be speaking after the fact of knowing the successful career you’ve had. Valid, yes, but not to the credit of the interpreter.

      I’m fortunate in rarely dreaming of people with whom I’ve interacted. I hope it stays that way.

      Thanks again, Marco

  8. Marco, I have two recurring nightmares. One is of a tidal wave that is tall enough to cover the tall office building in which I am working. I have this dream once every few years, and in the dream I always prepare to drown, but awaken prior to that happening.

    The other is about my high school geometry course – one I needed to complete in order to “graduate” (I used that term loosely given my dismal education). Algebra was a breeze for me as a self-taught home school student, but geometry was quite another matter. I would be interested to see the “A.C.E.” (School of Tomorrow) curriculum today.

    Somehow I completed the geometry course on my own, but it was extremely difficult, and from what I recall it took me far longer than I ever expected. The dream about this occurs about once per year, and I have little doubt it isn’t merely about geometry, but also encompasses the trauma and turmoil in my life at the time. To my recollection, I finally finished the course in Louisiana (I’ll leave it at that).

    • Thanks, Dana. I’m sure I, and other readers, could dive into these and come up with meanings. But knowing you as I do I’m confident you have already done so.

      Your education may have been dismal, but it didn’t diminish or impede your brightness.

  9. Hi Marco, thanks for sharing this post, it was thoroughly enjoyable. This part in particular made me chuckle, “When I go to bed at night my last conscious thought is usually: Entertain me.”

    Your writing is really superb, there were so many things laid out here (and in other posts) which just fascinated me to no end. I hope to become such a prolific writer, one day. Thanks again.

    • Thank you, Psy. I’m glad you have joined in. I find your posts informative and enjoyable, a too rare combination. Marco

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