The most important affirmation about our dreams — whether they are so-called bad dreams or so-called good dreams — is the affirmation of the dream itself.
I used a quote from the Argentine master Jorge Borges as a preface to The History of Last Night’s Dream:
“ Lately I’ve been re-reading psychology books and I have felt singularly defrauded. All of them discuss the mechanisms of dreams or the subjects of dreams, but they do not mention, as I had hoped, that which is so astonishing, so strange — the fact of dreaming.”
This “fact of dreaming” affirms an ongoing process in each of us. Awake or asleep, new images arise within us spontaneously. Often we see them more clearly with our eyes closed as when we sleep, but they emerge within us at all times. This is the fact of dream-consciousness, or dream-mind. You need but close your eyes for a few moments to see this for yourself. At first perhaps faint or evanescent, then gradually clearer and stronger, you are in touch with a growing ongoing process of primary imagination, images growing within you.
The mind is not a blank slate as John Locke proposed, it is not a tabula rasa. Oh no. The mind is a garden of rich soil and seeds and those seeds sprout tiny green shoots, some with the wild extravagant life of exotic plants, some that bear fruit, edible and inedible, and some spindly weeds with loose roots that quickly blow away — you see right in this sentence how images sprout, grow and mature. I believe this image-making mind — dream-mind — is a creative process in each of us. But the process strengthens if we stop to honor and respect this ongoingness of imagery. How sad instead to listen to the waking world that says oh it’s only a dream, it’s only your imagination, it’s mere poetry… what the world always says about what is most precious in you — unless you are very fortunate.
How can dreams be important though — when facing a catastrophe like the coronavirus pandemic? Shouldn’t we drop all this dream nonsense and poetry nonsense and pay attention to what is real? So worldly voices say. So those voices say within us too.
This morning I sent a photo to a friend who wanted to see my garden. He was in grief, he had nursed his wife for a long while with Alzheimers and now she is gone. It was a photo of a delicate flower in bloom.
I wrote underneath, “This too is happening”.
I was thinking of him and thinking of the virus too.
THIS TOO IS HAPPENING.
So I want to say about primary imagination: whatever is going on in the world, however bad the morning news is — this too is happening.
The experience of burgeoning within us is an important aspect of the work with dreams. Through many years and thousands of hours of direct encounter we have learned in Natural Dreamwork how to work with the precise images in our dreams. But anyone can learn to pay more attention. And whatever else you get from spending a few moments a day with images from the night, this ongoing contact with primary imagination is helpful, healing. It is always happening but happens all the more powerfully in a virtuous recirculation — if you pay attention to it. . If you learn to love whatever arises in your imagination, — without judging it as good or bad — whether a scary image or weird or fabulous, north or south — cold or wet — beautiful or terrible — matters not — as long as you remain in touch with the given image, taking the image in, feed on it, learn to contemplate the images in your dreams — then you remain in touch with the most spontaneously creative force within you.
And not to get too theological — oh hell I will get theological and say — this is the “Ever-evolving” which is the new name Moses heard from the burning bush “ “ I will be what I will be.” When Coleridge spoke of the primary imagination as the echo of the eternal I am, this is what he meant: there is an “I will be what I will be” working in each of us.. our own unique native imagination.. an echo of all creative life — if we would but pay attention and value it.
Let me share a dream for this time of the virus.
I dreamed that I was in a classroom , a big class and I was the least of the students, just one among many,. How beautiful to be the student. And someone was talking about mysticism, and I saw a book, and it was called the TWO CORONAS. And in the dream as we often do in a dream, I did not make any waking life association. Simply there was this chart on the cover which showed two spiky crowns, two coronas, and they were bright white light on a sort of stem connecting them, one at the higher level and one at the lower level, and they were both one also.
I think if you thought of an old man dandelion all white and about to blow its seeds away, you’d have a sense of the image. But it was doubled. Instead of one flower head, there were two, one flower on top and bottom connected by a green stem. The image was on a book cover. And the title read: TWO CORONAS.
The highest and the lowest, the loftiest and the most humble were all part of one experience. And that was the teaching of the two coronas.
Corona means crown, in kabbalah there is a concept of the crown [known as keter] which is simultaneously the highest expression of the divine.. it is in fact the same as “I will be what I will be” and at the same time it is also “nothing”. It is also in us the humblest.
Keter the highest divine quality corresponds to the human quality of humility. To learn to be humble with the highest, to learn to be humble with the highest within ourselves, the ever-evolving, to not use it , to not make something else of it, but simply to experience it, to feel it, to know it deep within, and to live from that knowledge of what is creative within each of us.. this is a way of beauty. This is our way of dreams.
[Image of actual coronavirus from NIAID/ NIH lab in Fort Detrick Maryland]
Now what might one learn from such a dream? Perhaps a different way of being with the image of the virus in our minds.
The corona virus is so named because it has a spiky crown and those spikes enable it to implant itself in our cells. The virus is very humble, very low in the chain of life. There is a dispute in science whether a virus is a living thing or not. It is on the border of living and non-living, and for us right now it is very frightening. It is a humble existence — a virus, and yet a virus embodies the ever-evolving also for it is part of life.
It is a part of life and those who think, oh it’s a Chinese problem, it’s an Italian problem, it’s those folks in New Orleans or New York who will get it — they don’t understand the awesome indifference of this form of life. The virus is wonderful that way: it loves everybody, doesn’t care whether you are black or white or Asian or Native American or gay or straight — — it loves us all! If only we could learn to love like this virus does, we could infect everyone with love.
There is also something inherently creative about a virus. In fact a virus is a kind of writer, for it writes its RNA into our cells and forces the cell to copy. So in a sense we can learn from a virus if we stop seeing it from the waking life point of view, and start feeling it in the imagination.
That is what happens in a creative process and it happens also in our dreams — certain images in waking life cross over into the deep primary imagination. We are all blessed to experience primary imagination directly in our dreams. And from that imaginative “take” the dream gives us— a richer and deeper view emerges. Which is why dreams can help us in this time, help us reframe our experience. Help us look for what is beautiful in our experience however difficult that beauty might be.