Friday, September 29, 2023

Dreams belong to the dreamers

Henry Reed, one of the fathers of the American dreamwork movement, has left this world for the Dreamtime. In his honor, I am reposting this blog that first appeared here on July 7, 2010 after Henry and I recorded a conversation for my Way of the Dreamer radio show. 

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. He notes that he has come to look somewhat like the wise old man in his 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.


Arias said...

Thanks Robert for sharing this potent piece. One of my fears about dream work has been getting it 'wrong' when working with others. Yesterday as I was working with my wife on a powerful dream she had, with little effort we had one of those moments when the dream just opened up like a beautiful flower. It was a transcended moment which brought the dream into complete focus. A complete validation that the dream belongs to the dreamer and we don't need a lot of credentials behind our name to be legitimate. Just the willingness to be in the moment and surrender. -- Mogenns

Robert Moss said...

Mogenns - what a lovely account of human, heart-centered dream sharing, letting a dream "open like a flower". That's a great image to carry to other couples who may be missing out in this kind of sharing, which can deepen and enrich relationships.

Worldbridger said...

Some years ago I did an online course through the ARE, designed by Henry Reed. Very enjoyable and informative it was. Nice to hear more about him.

The development of the noosphere, something I too am passionately investigating!

Irène said...

Just in terms of syncronicity, today I took a shaman's walk along a riverside to my left to a recycling bin to dump empty wine bottles & a mayonnaise jar (two unhealthy habits that have too much space in my life today - and the same is true for the potato chips!). My aller/retour along the river today was to lay down the bottles, behind me, in a past that started a very, very long time ago. Alcoholism runs through my family lines especially on the Irish side and now living in a country where wine is an integral part of daily life (I guess much like soda in the States), I developped a certain dependancy that I, in cermonial fashion, today decided to released. And this, because of a dream where a deceased family member that maintained a whisky habit until the end of his life, came and sat on a wall next to me to give me a piece of advise. He did not speak and I wondered, in the dream, when exactly he was planning on getting to the point. (I did not particularly like this man when he was alive and so was rather impatient for him to get out of my dream space asap.) Then, suddenly, he just fell off the wall and when I looked down to see where he had gone, I saw him covered in funeral flowers with a whiskey bottle in the bouquet. ... some dreams just can not be ignored!

Robert Moss said...

Irène - This is a remarkable synchronicity, even by our standards - a vigorous "secret handshake from the universe." I know Henry Reed will enjoy the news that there was such a strong echo between his dream of 1968 and a walk in France today!

Don said...

Dreams certainly do belong to the dreamers. That is one of the objections I have to Sigmund Freud's interpretations.

I was attracted to the work of Edgar Cayce years ago. But I had no contact with members of ARE.

Then, about 40 years ago, I encountered Silva Mind Control. That was when I first made a real effort to work with dreams. I began journaling -- off and on. I tried hard,but my dreams made little or no sense to me.

Shortly after that an owl named Melvin appeared in my dreams and began explaining them to me. That went on for maybe two years.

Since then I have had no instruction until Robert Moss came along with his books and the Dream Forum.

As time went on dreams have helped me more and more, even to the point of saving my life.

I am impressed with the story of Henry Reed. What a belssing it is that he reveals his experience. That post reached me deeply. ~~ Don

Robert Moss said...

Don - Wonderful to have an owl named Melvin as a guide. The Greeks say that the Mother of Animals sends us dream messages in the skins of animals and birds. In my observation, the inner guide will take what ever form is best suited to get our attention and promote our understanding - even (in the case of a person who was taking life much too seriously) that of Garfield the Cat.

Jeni Hogenson said...

Ahh Robert, a dream pioneer who keeps goats! How nice to see that modeled in another dreamer. Having dreamt of my goats as well, I love hearing about it. Although, the work he did was phenomenal and inspiring, considering he had some difficulty with it in the beginning. What rich stories you bring us, thank you so much for lighting up and enriching my life...and reminding me how important my dreams are.

Robert Moss said...

Hey Jen-I - It's grand to find that dreaming & goat-keeping go together outside Scandinavian folklore!

Man from Modesto said...

Like Mr. Moss, I also studied psych (at U Penn in Philly), and also rejected conventional interpretation of dreams. The conventional interpretation schemes of Jung and others has limited value. Basically, if a dream is a forecast of events, such as the finding of a house described above, then interpreting symbolism can only help indirectly: in that changing the individual changes decision making schema and can thereby alter choices at the time of manifest.

However, who approaches dreams as coming from all sources claimed: the mind, corporeal input (such as alarm clocks and sirens), and also external sources, such as the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, then the dream environment can be correctly approached as a place of wisdom and insight-- with the caution of knowing that some (most, sometimes...) is deception intended to lead one into darkness.
Dreaming can be boon or anchor. The knowledge of the dreamer makes the difference.

Unknown said...

That premonitory dreams can not be confirmed until something happens that brings about the co-relation is something I have suspected for some time. I just had a dream of my grandaughter (4 yrs old) being left behind in the busy streets of a big city and as I see it as an omen of something that is about to happen left to the way things are, I want to avoid it but I don't know how to go about it, yet I believe it could happen if left to chance. Ny comments?

Man from Modesto said...


When you have a dream you want to prevent, PRAY.

Before I began to recognize the power of prayer. I have been blessed with hundreds & hundreds of fulfilled dreams and answered prayers... including some prayers which broke undesirable dreams.

The first thing to know is that God promised to never allow anything without first giving a warning.

In this light, we recognize the dream of your granddaughter as warning, not as absolute.

I recommend that you pray to understand what leads to the situation, how you can prevent it, and how you should pray further.

As her grandfather, you have spiritual authority over her. Your prayers and words to her are more powerful than the local pastor... YOU have right & authority granted by God's decree. Most pastors are anointed by no more than man.