'I'd rather be dead than cool. - Kurt Cobain
The richest dream I have ever had was of three ancient men in old, gray robes and wispy beards, kneeling in the pale light of an ancient Christian/Islamic temple, stone with large columns, like the Hagia Sophia or the Church of the Nativity. There was a swirling ball of light before them. I was told to keep my head down because I was in the House of God. (My children have found a very close equivalent in Magic: The Gathering cards drawn by
In days gone by in the West, this journey into dreams was done by shamans, the one person in the tribe who could go into the unconscious and come out alive, bringing with her or him the goods of the psyche to show to his or her people. Anyone else, it should be noted, would risk madness. But without the shaman, the people were lost souls, lost in the material world, without access to the inner life.
Shamans are usually female and in cultures where they are male, they are almost always males that dress as women. The she/male is the link to the feminine ocean; the land of the dead, the Unconscious. The she/male’s female nature allows her into the unconscious without danger and her warrior ability allows him to climb back out. Characteristically, the shaman is the tribe’s soothsayer, healer and dream interpreter. Very often they are called to the position by a voice from the Unconscious, an archetypal deity of the tribe. They also have special roles in ceremony. Winktes, she/male shamans in New World Indian tribes, enter a trance state to find the appropriate name for newborn babies, for example. In rural
Needless to say, this role has disappeared in the West, but at the cost of intimate knowledge of the Unconscious. Not only is this a loss to everyone in the West, but it was also a loss to those who would be shamans. Many traditional shamans, like Tibetan monks and the Taoist hermits of
I have been listening to my own dreams and other peoples for 40 years. In the absence of shamans, here are some thoughts on dreams:
- You cannot have a productive dream life if you drink alcohol. (Daily drinking can short-circuit psychic life and inhibit REM sleep. Alcoholism, says one Zen Buddhist monk, has become a substitute for religion in the West.)
- Dreams accompany life. Coincidences related to dreams are important and are part of the dream and the life.