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Reply To: Dream a Little Dream . . .



Never any need to apologize for a “late response.” Fortunately, this is not social media, but a discussion board, where conversations unspool at their own pace. I definitely need time after reading a post, especially those as lengthy as you and I tend to write (I am cursed with excessive verbosity) to let the ideas encountered there simmer and percolate on a back burner in my brain before I’m ready to share my thoughts. It’s wonderful if someone replies in minutes, which is more a function of being in the right place at the right time when a post lands – but if that takes days, or weeks, no worry.

And sometimes I’ll reply a couple of times to a single post, maybe focusing on just one idea, then coming back later to address another, rather than try to work everything into just one post. Not this time though . . .

As for James Hillman claim that dreams have no meaning, I don’t necessarily see that as an either/or –but it does explain why dream dictionaries are wholly inadequate. They can help us amplify some of the symbolism in a dream image, which can give our own thoughts and associations a nudge, but there is no objective, independent meaning to, say, losing a tooth in a dream. For a male struggling with erectile dysfunction (or, say, inadequacies on the job), freudian variations on a sense of impotence might be relevant; for someone facing retirement, lost of a tooth could relate to failing faculties and the sense of one’s own mortality; but to a six year old, might represent a new, exciting stage of life.

I am reminded of Joseph Campbell declaring he doesn’t believe life has a purpose (“Life is a lot of protoplasm with an urge to reproduce and continue in being.”). When Moyers challenged him, saying “Not true–not true,” Joe replied, “Wait a minute. Just sheer life cannot be said to have a purpose, because look at all the different purposes it has all over the place” – indeed, the fox and the hen are pretty much at cross-purposes.

Or, as Campbell asked (I’m paraphrasing here), “What’s the meaning of life? What’s the meaning of a flea? or a baby? or a sneeze?”

Elsewhere he observes, “What’s the meaning of life? You bring the meaning to it.”

So it is with dream. The Dream has no meaning, in and of itself; meaning is a function of the Dreamer, not the Dream.

That’s a bit of a simplistic condensation of Hillman’s thought, in contrast to others. I embrace all perspectives on dream, even those seemingly at odds (when one is working in the field of mythology, it helps to be willing to accept paradox) .

When I work with a dream, I find it often contains important information and insights relevant to my circumstances, my life (small wonder – so much is going on in any dream – but the little bits and pieces I bring back with me into consciousness I remember because of how they resonate with what is happening in my life, revealing feelings I’ve stuffed, possibilities I had not considered)

. . . but I also treat a dream as I would any work of art – incredible, mysterious, and beautiful all on its own.

And then there’s another level – the precognitive dream. Sometimes that can be quite specific (such as, back in the day when I was broke and thumbing my way around the country, waking from a dream where the right lens in my spectacles broke – and then, curious about that image as I was writing down the dream, pulling the glasses off my head to take a look and the right lens falls out in my palm – instead of, as it would have minutes later, shattering on the sidewalk; tending to that dream saved me from a disaster, as there is no way I could have afforded to replace my glasses at that point in my life. Did that dream have meaning? would it for anyone else? if I had not written it down and pondered it, still would have been the same dream, but would it have meaning then? Can’t really say, but sure felt like it held a message for me).

And sometimes the pre-cognitive aspect is an intense feeling-tone related to what’s to come. Here’s one such example from January 13 of this year:

Dream Journal entry

In this dream, there is smoke, and then a huge explosion to the southwest, across a body of water (a little creek). Despite being some distance away, I can see the smoke turning dark, then dramatic explosion, followed by debris blowing up into the air, and realize there is nothing I can do to control where it comes down, no place I can hide – it’s all going to be random luck, one way or another.

This was just about the time we were starting to catch wind of a mysterious virus killing people in China. Six weeks later, when people in the United States started dying, same sense of nowhere to hide stuck when the coronavirus hit the United States – no control over whether or not we are exposed. I immediately looked up this dream: same intense anxiety, sense of trauma, near panic, powerlessness, and then resignation, in waking life as in this dream – but having had that dream helped me process what I experiencing inside about Covid.

Is that the meaning of the dream, it’s purpose? I certainly found relevance in it, and it did make a difference in my life, and hw I related to these energies, but I can’t say that was the dream’s intent.

Nevertheless, that happens for me a lot!

One final thought regarding the animal breathing the other side of the door in the dream I mentioned above. I didn’t make this connection until you asked the question, but a few nights later there was a dream where I opened a door and a huge (HUGE) cockroach or beetle came in. It’s body was about the size of a Ford Escort, but with a tiny head. I remember thinking this was strange, definitely Other, but neither threatening nor scary – no anxiety at all; rather, I was entranced.

The anxiety and fear only seem apparent in those dreams where I can’t bring myself to open the door.

Forgive this scattershot approach, tossing out some brief reactions. Don’t feel the need to respond – only reply to what intrigues you, a trail in the woods you want to explore.