Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Dreams belong to the dreamers
I had the pleasure this week of talking to Henry Reed, one of the pioneers of the American dreamwork movement. "Forget psychology," said this PhD in psychology with winning bluntness. "Dreams belong to the dreamers, and dreaming is an experience, not a text or a theory. Dreams are natural experiences, and there are natural ways to honor and unfold them."
I asked Henry to describe how he was drawn to dreaming and dreamwork, and he recalled a time back in the late 1960s when he was a postgrad student in psychology and estranged from his dreams. He was greatly impressed by a friend who not only dreamed a lot, but was able to follow his dreams on interesting paths of manifestation. The friend dreamed he was living in a big, beautiful house in Santa Monica, and the dream led him to a wealthy couple who were willing to rent him that dream house cheap if he worked on fixing it up. When Henry asked him, "How did you learn to dream like that?" he spoke of the work of the psychic Edgar Cayce, who received messages in his sleep and taught the importance of dreams.
Henry made it his intention to start remembering and using his dreams, but it took him several months before he managed to catch even a broken fragment from the night. He was drinking hard at the time, he recalled with candor. Then one morning, after waking, he remembered he had seen a flying goat. He was able to use that surreal image, and his excitement about it, to pull back more of a dream in which he was with a wise old man in a rural location. There was also a drunk in the scene, and the evidence of his drinking and poor diet - an empty wine bottle, a crumpled potato chip bag and mayonnaise - were littered around. Coming out of his impromptu dream reentry, Henry felt a keen desire to be more like the wise old man, and less like the drunk he recognized as a version of himself.
Several decades after that dream, living on a rural property in the mountains of Virginia where he raises goats, Henry saw his dream enacted when a goat - leaping over a gorge - appeared to be flying. And he has come to look somewhat like the wise old man in his dream (see his drawing from that dream) that he agreed might have been his future self, looking in on his student self, to help pull him through.
Working with Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) Henry conducted many experiments in group dreamwork, starting in the 1970s. He improvised and revived rituals for dream incubation and dream sharing, and a "dream helper ceremony" in which a group of dreamers were encouraged to dream on behalf of one of their number.
More recently, Henry has encouraged a form of "memory divination". I recall experiencing this, under his guidance, in a workshop at a conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams in Oakland in the late 1990s. Henry invited us to sit with a partner and notice what personal life memory rose into our consciousness in the presence of that other person. Then we would swap dreams and see how our personal memories might illuminate the other's dreams. I use a stripped-down version of this approach in intuition games in which I simply have partners notice what life memory of their own comes to mind in the presence of the other. This tends to confirm that we know more about each other - perhaps through our overlapping energy fields - than we consciously realize.
Henry Reed has collected many of his essays and papers in Dream Medicine, from which I'll give some of my favorite quotes:
"It is difficult to continue to recall dreams if you do nothing with them."
"Dreams...have healing power; but that power is, believe it or not, independent of our ability to understand them."
"Perhaps the most significant development concerning dreams in the latter decades of the twentieth century is returning them to their rightful owner, the dreamer."
The final quote is the best:
"Our culture is opening to public discourse on another dimension of reality until such time as we can consensually inhabit non-material realms of experience."
Henry and I agreed that, for both of us, this is the heart of the matter.
Henry's dream of a flying goat led him to kick the sauce. Ironically, a flying goat is also on the label of an excellent pinot noir.
My interview with Henry Reed will air on my "Way of the Dreamer" radio show at 12:00 noon Eastern on July 13, and can be accessed via the show archive after that time.