Know all things to be like this. A mirage, a cloud castle, a dream, an
apparition, without essence but with qualities that can be seen.
(the Buddha - Samadhirajasutra)
If the Buddhist metaphor of life-as-dream is
taken seriously, life itself may be seen as a significant dream. Jung had a
significant dream about this after an illness. "I was on a hiking trip. (I
was walking along a little road through a hilly landscape; the sun was shining
and i Had a wide view in all directions. the I came to a small wayside chapel.
The door was ajar, and I went in. To my surprise there was no image of the
Virgin on the altar, and no crucifix either, but only a wonderful flower
arrangement,. But then I saw that on the floor in front of the altar, facing me,
say a yogi- in louts position, in deep meditation. When I looked at him more
closely, I realized hat he had my face. I started in profound fright, and awoke
with the thought: "Aha, so his is the one who when he awakened, I would no
longer be" (pg. 323 Memories, Dreams & Reflections.)
Besides touching the significance of life itself, significant dreams may also
reach into a parallel universe . The DreamTime of the Australian Aborigines
tells of the universe coming into being as a dream of the Great Spirit. For them
and others, dreaming contacts not the maya illusion but a parallel universe that
feeds our own. Jacob's dream of the ladder with angels ascending and descending
speaks to the opening from one world to another and how contact with this realm
may change our life.
Sometimes the significant dream is not so much a shocking vision of reality
in total, but an insight into a more specific reality.
The structure of benzine had been alluding the scientist Kekule until he had
a dream which allowed him access to the answer.
"During my stay in London I resided in Clapham Road....I frequently,
however, spent my evenings with my friend Hugo Mueller....We talked of many
things but most often of our beloved chemistry. One fine summer evening I was
returning by the last bus, riding outside as usual, through the deserted streets
of the city....I fell into a reverie, and lo, the atoms were gamboling before my
eyes. Whenever, hitherto, these diminutive beings had appeared to me, they had
always been in motion. Now, however, I saw how, frequently, two smaller atoms
united to form a pair: how a larger one embraced the two smaller ones; how still
larger ones kept hold of three or even four of the smaller: whilst the whole
kept whirling in a giddy dance. I saw how the larger ones formed a chain,
dragging the smaller ones after them but only at the ends of the chains....The
cry of the conductor: "Clapham Road," awakened me from my dreaming;
but I spent a part of the night in putting on paper at least sketches of these
dream forms. This was the origin of the "Structural Theory.6 Of course I
wasn't ready to publish at that time--dreams need to be practically tested in
the real world--but I had the beginnings of my theory. "
[A dream of a dream actually -From: FRIEDRICH AUGUST KEKUL S.F., A SCIENTIST
AND DREAMER http://iip.ucsd.edu/step/projects95/chem.in.history/essays/kekule.html
(September 19, 1996)]
These insights may also change one's life in a more subtle way. Robert Louis
Stevenson is famous for using his dreams to come up with stories. He *had* to be
creative since he was only getting a few pennies per page of material at the
beginning of his career. What pushed him into the limelight? It was a dream
inspired story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
"I had long been trying to write a story on this subject...For two days
I went about wracking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night
I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which
Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the
presence of his pursuers. All the rest was made awake, and consciously. " A
Chapter on Dreams" 1892
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein followed from a nightmare as did many other books
that have made significant impact on the authors and readers.
For an online version of the book:
Another writer whose dreams played a significant role was Samuel Taylor
Kubla Khan: Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Autumn of 1797
To rest of poems :
How we interpret the significant dreams may be as significant as the dream
itself. Here is a dream that Socrates had the struggle with the interpretation
that led him to be who he was...
"Upon this Cebes said: I am very glad indeed, Socrates, that you mentioned
the name of Aesop. For that reminds me of a question which has been asked by
others, and was asked of me only the day before yesterday by Evenus the poet,
and as he will be sure to ask again, you may as well tell me what I should say
to him, if you would like him to have an answer. He wanted to know why you who
never before wrote a line of poetry, now that you are in prison are putting
Aesop into verse, and also composing that hymn in honor of Apollo.
Tell him, Cebes, (Socrates) replied, that I had no idea of rivalling him or
his poems; which is the truth, for I knew that I could not do that. But I wanted
to see whether I could purge away a scruple which I felt about certain dreams.
In the course of my life I have often had intimations in dreams "that I
should make music." The same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and
sometimes in another, but always saying the same or nearly the same words:
Make and cultivate music, said the dream. And hitherto I had imagined that
this was only intended to exhort and encourage me in the study of philosophy,
which has always been the pursuit of my life, and is the noblest and best of
music. The dream was bidding me to do what I was already doing, in the same way
that the competitor in a race is bidden by the spectators to run when he is
already running. But I was not certain of this, as the dream might have meant
music in the popular sense of the word, and being under sentence of death, and
the festival giving me a respite, I thought that I should be safer if I
satisfied the scruple, and, in obedience to the dream, composed a few verses
before I departed. And first I made a hymn in honor of the god of the festival,
and then considering that a poet, if he is really to be a poet or maker, should
not only put words together but make stories, and as I have no invention, I took
some fables of Aesop, which I had ready at hand and knew, and turned them into
verse. Tell Evenus this, and bid him be of good cheer; that I would have him
come after me if he be a wise man, and not tarry; and that to-day I am likely to
be going, for the Athenians say that I must." (Phaedo)
The oracle at Delphi decided the fate of the world for centuries. The
procedure included dreaming on the temple steps and then having the dreams
interpreted by Apollo's priests. If the dream was deemed significant enough,
one's concerns were presented to the oracle who interpreted and advised on them.
Not only were individual fates decided upon, but whole nations. What wars were
to be fought, what lands were to be colonized and how to spend the national
budgets. The dream and the oracle have been silent as mediators of significant
cultural experience for two thousand years in Western Culture. Now we move into
Cyberspace and the collective space of dream sharing, significant dreams may
again return as dreams and their meaning are shared on a global, instantaneous
basis. News projects that include taking in millions of dreams a day and giving
a weather forecast of what people are dreaming about are coming into being. Will
it be an opportunity to fold into the collective mix a creative ingredient or
just become part of the buzzing averaging of statistical numbers that promote
the collective Borg mentality?
The first indications are in favor of the personal. Cyberspace is seen more
as a place were the individual is valorized, and the weirder and more unique the
better. Mass marketing still drives the economy of Cyberspace, but Mass
mindedness is regarded with suspicion and continual comment and review. The big
search, it seems, is for one another and ourselves in equal partnership. In our
search for the unique and marvelous, the dream will continue to be a vital
source and significant dreams a fountain for us all.
- Richard Wilkerson