Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yeats on image sending and interactive dreaming

Minds reach to minds across time and space. Dreaming is not only individual; it is social. In dreams, we get out and about and meet other people. Sometimes the people we encounter turn out to be aspects of ourselves, including shadow selves we have ignored or denied. However, quite often the characters we encounter are transpersonal. We make visits and we receive visitations. When we are in the habit of sharing dreams, we sometimes discover that we have been together with another dreamer in the same story or setting. This happens spontaneously. We can also make it a theme for mutual lucid dreaming.
     The great Irish poet and magus W.B.Yeats became very interested in the phenomena of interactive dreaming and staged experiments in "mutual visioning", the conscious attempt to put two or more imaginations or traveling selves into agreed scenes. These experiments began with the boyhood practice of "symbol-sending" in games with his psychically gifted uncle on the coast of Sligo, games I described here.
     I have come across a most interesting note by Yeats on what he calls "complementary images". This appears in the original 1925 version of his most difficult and ambitious book, A Vision, in which he tried to set out a whole magical philosophy of life and death and reality. This version was almost unobtainable until the recent publication of an annotated scholarly edition as Volume XIII of Yeats' Collected Works.
Yeats observes: 

"When two people meditate upon the same theme, who have established a supersensual link, they will invariably in my experience, no matter how many miles apart, see pass before the mind's eye complementary images, images that complete one another."

He noted that this function is at work in dreams: 

"I put an experience of the kind into the poem that begins -

Was it the double of my dream,
The woman that by me lay
Dreamed, or did we halve a dream
Under the first cold gleam of day."

      From my experience of interactive dreaming, I would say that it does not have to be either/or. The answer to both of Yeats' suggested scenarios may well be Yes. Our dream doubles do get around, and we can halve the work and play of reality creation when we meet dream partners. I recently had the marvelous experience of a dear friend (who I would trust with almost anything) entering a dream of my own whose mystery I had not fathomed and whose challenge remained unresolved - and dreaming it onward in a way that brought wonderful clarity and resolution. She brought me images that completed my own, just as Yeats suggested we can do for each other.
     If we are connected to others by mutual affection and interests, it is surely not strange that we should be able to exchange "complementary images" and even to picnic and play together within the realms of those images.

Drawing: "Yeats in the Magic Cottage" by RM.

For a full discussion of shared and social dreaming, please see Active Dreaming, chapter 6. For my own experiences of Yeats' "mutual visioning", see The Boy Who Died and Came Back, chapter 37.

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