Record of Dreams
by Peter Meyer
Preliminary Note, Added January/February 2016
This page contains a record of 23 dreams among the thousands I had during 1973-2007 (almost all of which I forgot upon awakening or did not find impressive or could not be bothered writing up). Most people have little interest in the dreams of others, because the associations of dream content are entirely personal, but some may care to read these reports as literary sketches.
At this time (January 2016) I continue to have a rich dream life (although unfortunately I am not a lucid dreamer) and upon awakening I can usually remember the last or second-last dream of the night just passed, though the memory fades quickly. Often my dreams are bizarre, and it is the bizarre-ness of dreams that is the great mystery to me and almost everyone else.
I recently came across an article by Eric Wargo, Dreams and the Art of Memory: A New Hypothesis About Dream Bizarreness. He notes that dreams are usually regarded either in the Freudian manner, as wish-fulfillment, or in the reductionist manner, as essentially meaningless and due to random firing of neurons. Wargo writes:
There is however another way of seeing the dreaming mind: that dreaming directly reflects the process of memory construction — indeed, that dreams are the associative links of memory as they are being forged. ... [Dreams encode] our most pertinent day-to-day experiences in all their sensory and emotional richness. The byzantine networks of association in dreams reflect the richness of daily life and the complexity and paradoxes of our priorities and longer-term memories, such as memories of childhood. ... The bizarre objects and places in dreams, if you unpack them, connect to multiple things we did or thought about in recent waking life as well as to long-term preoccupations and things in our past. ... So I suggest that dreams are probably mnemonic devices, but taken to a higher degree of complexity than the conscious mind of even the most highly trained mnemonist could achieve. ... The genius of mnemonic devices and dreams is that every person’s individual experience gives them a completely unique and vast set of associations readily usable for fastening new experiences and newly learned facts to older, more firmly fixed images in our memory. Many or even most of these associations are highly personal, and not the sort of thing you could or would ever explain to someone else. ... The distortions and apparent symbolic “disguises” in dreams are really just the hooks whereby events of the previous few days are connected to each other as well as to more longstanding themes, and those themes inevitably include lots of embarrassingly personal memories and feelings. Their idiosyncratic nature also causes dreams to be boring when told to other people. ... It is important to be clear on the ontology of dreaming. Dreams, in the mnemotechnic view, do not cause memories to be created. Rather, they are the experience of new memories being created. It’s a fundamental difference. There is an axiom in neuroscience of learning: neurons that fire together wire together. That is, new neural connections are reinforced by firing. I suggest that dreams are the experience of this firing, the experience of the forming of new mental associations, the rewiring of the brain. Dreaming is the experience of neural rewiring, the experience of memory formation. ... Far from reflecting the sad inaccuracy of the dreaming brain (the literalist-scientist view), dream distortion in the mnemotechnic view instead represents the genius of a system honed through billions of years of evolution to fasten life experiences onto the core of our deepest priorities, thereby retaining and contextualizing them nightly as we sleep. In dreams, old and new, present and past, come together, merge, and forge something subtly different from either, a third thing, and this “third thing” is really what memory is. ... The mnemonic hypothesis, I think, is the most parsimonious hypothesis of dreaming’s nature and function, and it accords with the most strange aspects of the dreaming experience: Dreams are extended mnemonic puns whose wit and complexity exceeds our strongest conscious interpretive acumen. The unconscious, as any writer or artist knows, is much cleverer than the conscious mind.
This is an ingenious theory as to the nature and function of dreaming, which is acceptable to orthodox scientists. Although it attempts to account for the bizarreness of dreams, in this writer's opinion it does not quite succeed in this. If the function of dreaming were to facilitate the formation of memories based on puns and associations, this could be done without dreaming being a consistent story, but rather just a succession of puns and associations. An interesting dream is like a play, drama or narrative. Experiencing an interesting dream is like watching an interesting movie. The characters maintain their character for the duration of the dream, and there is consistency between one part of the dream and other parts, even though what occurs may be quite inconsistent with what we believe is possible in the 'real' world. I suggest, therefore, an alternative account of dreaming, one which does not exclude the theory put forward by Eric Wargo, or rather, is not an alternative to it but rather is an extension of it.
An experience that everyone has is of lying awake in one's bed before going to sleep (perhaps after having awakened from prior sleep). One may wish to sleep, but thoughts keep coming, which prevent sleep, especially if one has unresolved problems in daily life. At some point one's conscious ego disappears and one enters dreamless sleep for some time, after which dreams usually appear. This poses a real problem for philosophers, namely, who, what or where is 'one' during dreamless sleep? One is not the conscious ego, since there is no consciousness. After some time one awakens to the world, and one's ego consciousness returns, with memory of one's experience of the world last night or yesterday (thus providing a continuity of identity — or rather the illusion of a continuity of identity). But what of the time when 'one' was not awake and not dreaming? Where was 'one' then?
A possible answer is that during dreamless sleep the conscious ego ceases to exist (which we know directly) but 'one' is something other than the conscious ego, something which does not cease to exist when the conscious ego ceases to exist, and which is not normally known to the conscious ego, and actually cannot be known without a major effort to obtain awareness of it. There are several words which could be used to refer to this 'something', but all have associations with religion, spirituality or some psychological theory (such as Freud's and Jung's 'unconscious'). We may call it simply 'the beyond-ego'. This possesses, at the very least, intelligence, and I suggest that the beyond-ego is the author (or playwright) of our dreams. It creates our dreams, partly for the purpose of memory formation, as Eric Wargo claims, but also because it is an artist who likes to create, and, as Eric Wargo says, “as any writer or artist knows, [it] is much cleverer than the conscious mind.”
We can thus see that Eric Wargo refers obliquely to the beyond-ego, but apparently prefers not to speak of it explicitly, presumably because this would alienate orthodox scientists (that is, physicalists), who refuse to accept the existence of anything other than neurons, brains and physical objects, even if they grudgingly accept the existence of conscious experience.
Very few humans are conscious of this beyond-ego (which is why it is called 'the unconscious'). One (difficult) path of spiritual development leads to consciousness of this beyond-ego. For more on this See Nisargadatta's Difference Between Consciousness & Awareness
The appended comments were written when the dreams were recorded.1973-05-30
I am a member of some kind of order for men, possibly a religious order, but I am not entirely happy about it. I go for a walk early in the morning to where there is a landing beside a lake or river or sea. In a large open space on this landing there is some kind of religious ceremony about to be performed, but I do not wish particularly to be involved. It seems a traditional rite, perhaps Buddhist. I am standing looking over the water when a deep chant begins, performed by four men (possibly in Tibetan costume). Although I am not particularly interested, I become inwardly involved in the chant, and accept it in my inner being. Even though I have acknowledged something within me, I still have no great respect for the outward ceremony. I turn to go, and wonder whether to show sufficient respect for the ceremony to walk behind the four monks rather than in front of them. I decide to walk behind them, and as I am about to cross the open space a Catholic nun appears before me, indicating that I should walk around the edge of the open space. I feel far less respect for the nun than for the monks, and do not comply (feeling mild contempt for the nun). Back at the men's order I meet someone in the order apparently in authority, who remarks with disapproval that I went out before dawn. I care little for this person. Apparently I am to be asked to leave the order. That is fine with me, since I know that the important thing is inward, and I care little for the social trappings.
I'm in my present little flat. Apparently an aunt of mine (T.) has died [she was still alive in 1980], and the wake is to be held at my flat. Soon there are lots of people, mainly relatives, a slight burden, but I don't mind much. My mother is also there [she died in 1970], although somewhat subdued. The place is fairly full, and I remark to someone that it has never been so lively. My uncle (the bereaved) arrives, and he is rather quiet. I receive a phone call from another uncle (D.), but there's so much noise that I have trouble hearing him. He seems upset at the news of T.'s death, which surprises me because I thought they were only remote acquaintances. Since I am having trouble talking to him over the noise, I call to my mother to come and talk to D., but she seems not to hear me. Comment: This phone call from D. is curious, because in 1971 I dreamt I was in Calcutta and received a phone call from him but had trouble in communication.
I had written something of importance in a manuscript of some length, and I resolved to go out to observe the sunset so as to write about it. I am in a tall building similar to the Arts building at my university, and there is considerable activity among the students, a kind of carnival frenzy. I am looking out from a high window; there is a ledge about 3-4 feet wide; one of the students is to try to ride a small motorbike along this ledge (about nine floors up). He is unsure, and makes one or two false starts, then falls off, nine stories down to the grass. Now there seems to be a rush of students risking their lives on the ledge, with about 50/50 chance of their falling to their deaths. There is a kind of carnival insanity to all of this, which amazes me. I seem to get caught up in the queue of students going out onto the ledge, but I resist and extricate myself. Apparently the students go out on the ledge and dance around, and if they haven't fallen off after a while they came back in temporarily. I see W. and G. (school friends) coming in. Everyone is merry — it is insane. A girl appears, probabably under the influence of the collective frenzy; I think I bring her to her senses. We are cavorting about on the floor and she says something like "I could fall in love with you", presumably connected with my bringing her to sanity. I don't particularly wish to get too involved so I reply something like, "That's OK, but I'm not going to be around long." It seems (in the dream) that I've read of this whole thing in a story by Zelazny, and I'm looking through a book trying to find it, without success. Comments: When I woke I was very impressed by this dream, but I don't see why. The day before I had looked through a book on suicide (without feeling even slightly suicidal) and then in the dream there are these mad students falling from ledges. I seem to have been the only sane person in the dream except for the girl. Don't know why this dream was impressive. But I remember thinking that I would be mad to risk myself with the rest since I had to be whole for the work I am to do in the future (i.e., the Kant/Jung/Paracelsus/Tantra thing).
I am in a hospital bed in a large hall like in a swimming stadium. There are nuns and priests about, and one nun is descending a system of stairs (catwalks, etc.). She is quite beautiful, and I see that her dress has slipped so as to reveal her right breast (very pretty). She reaches the floor, and goes to a priest, who fondles her breast, and whom she kisses. She then returns up the various stairs, and I watch her admiringly, and she knows I am admiring her, and enjoys that. Then three young people arrive at my bedside. I don't know them but from what they say it emerges that I have been unconscious for two weeks after a road accident (in C.?). It feels good to have returned to life. My mother, I am told, was often by my side, but all knew that I would recover. I am unfamiliar with the place I'm in, as if it was a new city. I reflect that my bed is on the 1st floor of the hospital, directly over the south entrance to it. Comment: Three days ago I decided not to stay to do a PhD but to go off to India and long travel. This has been a bit like returning to life again. C. associated with Academia, so it's as if I had crashed in Academia and reawoken to life.
Listening to a quasi-Joycean flow of words but continuous and meaningful but not like in sentences but rather ever-changing meaning. I recognized that I was hearing it for the second time, so it seemed to be like a repeatable thing. It eventually became pure mantra and thereupon the outer world began to dissolve away. My mother was beside me experiencing this also, and I took her hand to reassure her that she wasn't going insane, and then reflected that even sense of touch would soon dissolve into nothing, which happened; then came the all-encompassing golden light dissolving away one's limited self, at which point I reflected that it was an incredible experience in itself and how much more so it would be on acid — apparently a profane thought because thereafter I found myself half-awake (though this could perhaps have resulted from an involuntary resistance to ego-loss).
Important dream. A girl at last arrives at my house, like a bride come to the house of her husband. This is my Sophia. We are to learn Tibetan together (the first task together). I am in charge of what we do, but there is no dominance, for we each know that there is only fulfilment of each in and with the other. Deep snow, on the morning we are to set out. I become aware that there is in me an inner ground, which vastly transcends my empirical ego. This inner ground is my true nature, but I am not initially conscious of it. It manifests itself in me in four modes, corresponding to the directions of space (East is forward, North is to the left.) These four modes have a single ground, but at first I am aware only of the four, not of the one. By means of meditation and mantra I may abide in the inner ground (i.e., realize consciously my true nature) through all the vicisssitudes of empirical life, acting as usual, but aware that my real nature transcends my empirical life, and is beyond the space and time of empirical existence.
I have to go to a place where the chöd rite is practiced, as a test, but it does not occur. I walk along a path, and meet two Tibetan or Chinese Buddhists (in light pink garments) who look at me with interest. I continue along the path, and it becomes steeper and more difficult, and darker. Suddenly I am in an underground railway station. I think it is a London tube station, and I look at the route map trying to find out how to get to some place I know, but the map is not as I remember it. Two Irishmen appear, and offer to take me to where I'm going. Then we are above ground, crossing a kind of plaza with cobblestones. It is dawn, with some mist still about, and still chilly. I feel that I am at last in Europe, the genuine European culture of several hundred years ago, a Europe which perhaps no longer exists, but which I yearn for. The sun is rising over the roof of a house, a beautiful golden sun. At this, and at the feeling of really existing in the old European culture, I feel a great joy.
There are several groups of people, each bent on exterminating the others. Much cold-blooded pursuit and murder, using whatever is available. Eventually all are killed except three, who are seeking to escape. They are cut off by the police, and the three dash to a muddy pool, and drown themselves. So in the end all were killed. Comment: Destruction of obstacles.
A long and strange dream. I am in an apartment with a friend (later there are one or two other people). It is very late, time to go to sleep, but I hear music, and at first cannot find its source. I then discover that this music is coming from a speaker mounted high on the wall. I want to turn it off, but cannot find out how. I try by various means, for a long time, to disconnect the speaker, which is giving out a mindless kind of muzak. Tiring, mysterious. Nothing I do stops the sound. Then there is a curious development. I discover that this speaker is some kind of connection to something; my unconscious, God or something. A voice is heard coming from it. I recognize this as a source of profound advice, an important discovery. It's as if I have only to think of a question and the answer emerges from the speaker, the source of the voice being something like one's true self, divine in nature. But it's very late, already dawn, and I am tired and must sleep. My friend has gone to bed. I see a huge lizard crawling up her bed; it crawls beneath her pillow, with its long tail sticking out.
I am walking with two others — a man and a woman? We enter a narrow lane, paved with cobblestones, in a kind of defile, with steep sides. The way is completely blocked; there is a kind of wicker fence across the path, behind which is a huge dump of boulders and large rocks, extending up each side of the defile and a long way back. A seemingly impassable barrier. But the other two and I bend to the wicker barrier and push against it, and somehow, magically, it moves back. We continue forward, and somehow are causing the boulders to disappear. Finally the path appears before us, free of any obstruction and we are through.
I am in an open space and see water gushing forth from the earth. This water also runs in a pipe and this pipe leads into large pipes, a whole system — it's a waterworks. I am a child, with my father [who died many years earlier]. We are looking over the waterworks (large tanks, etc.). We climb upon a narrow upward-sloping path and look out over a vast system of water pipes and containers, stretching off into the distance. I am delighted, like a child. My father and I return down the sloping path. There is a sheer drop on the right, and my father gently places his hand on me to ensure that I do not fall over.
I am inside with a group of people, apparently Europeans. It is a sort of European Lifespring group, and I was somewhat unwillingly present (being slightly disdainful of Lifespring groups), but decided that I would participate since it would be interesting to see how these European Lifespringers compared to their American counterparts. I am sitting with a few other people, and a small number of couples are dancing. A man comes up to me, indicating the group of dancers, and says something like, "Do you want to dance?" I reply, "Yes, but not with you!" Thereupon I rise and seem to move very quickly around the room, seeking a partner. I collide with a woman. She is pleasant but not especially attractive, and although at first I was inclined to take her as a dancing partner simply because I had bumped into her, I decide not to. I then come into bodily contact with another woman, a full-bodied woman who clearly delights in our physical contact. We move together, very much in physical contact, and she is clearly overjoyed. I hug her, conscious of her full breasts, and feel very close to her. She swoons with joy, and as she drops to the floor declares that she will stay with me forever. Comment: Jungians will say that this dream portrays a union with my anima — whatever that means — and I will not deny it.
I am somewhere in a forest, in a large, multi-level house with several other people. I am involved in some investigation or research, perhaps involving the solution to some intellectual problem. At one point, with (part of) the solution in mind, I descend from an upper level to a dark basement room, filled with muddy water. I am under the water, exploring a hole in the wall, near the floor, trying to clear a passage through the mud. Suddenly there are two persons on either side of me, black menacing figures, covered with mud, who are trying to capture me. I see there is no escape by going back, and my only hope is to go through the hole; all this is happening underwater. Suddenly it occurs to me to go feet-first, so I insert my legs down into the hole. Entering the passage I find that I am covered above by a long, narrow pane of mirrored glass. This protects me during the transition. When I am halfway through I am pulled the rest of the way by some beings on the other side. I emerge into a well-lit room, still underwater. There are several persons (elf-like beings?) with me under the water; there is some mud on the floor from the passage, but the water is generally clean and light, and I am amazed and happy to have made the transition and escaped. Comment: I was astonished by this dream. Only now do I realize that it was a birth-dream.
I am in Amsterdam. I'm in a large building, in a room like an artist's studio. There is a table with several art books. I am looking at a couple of them. One in particular impresses me greatly. It shows a bipartite picture spread over two large pages, a reproduction of a painting, in rich colors. On the left side is "the world", showing Nature, with people, trees, sky, waterfalls, etc. On the right is "the after-death state" (for some anyway), which shows the progress of souls in their post-mortal existence. There is a succession of figures (of elderly men), forming an arc (in a counter-clockwise direction), which shows them moving from the world and back again to the world. Just after death they are confused, but then (to their astonishment) they are illumined by the divine illumination, their souls open up to be filled with the white light of the divine presence. This passes as they return again to enter the world.
I was sleeping and woke about 3 a.m. Knowing that I had to get up at 6 a.m., I went back to sleep, then dreamt that I had got up and was getting breakfast. I was in a large, old house, in a large kitchen. My mother and father were present (getting breakfast also?). There were two or three other people present, and they seemed to have some special significance or knowledge. One of them was going to teach me something. I was shown a long panel, maybe 3 feet by 30 feet, containing 87 pictures, arranged in three rows of 29 each. The first three and the last three were special. The first panel showed a man under duress, possibly torture. The second showed a man hobbled by some contraption like a V-shaped cross, or stocks, which he carried. All pictures were detailed, but I could not attend to them. After showing me this panel, one of the people performed some kind of body therapy upon me. I was lying down and he was touching some place on or in my back, on the right side. It was quite painful, and hard to bear. When this ended, I lay (still dreaming) in a kind of reverie. Upon coming out of this the inside of the house had turned into some kind of garden, or forest. Comment: I thought later that perhaps each of the 87 pictures corresponded to one year in my life. During the following day I had a pinched nerve in my left shoulder/neck which gave me considerable discomfort.
I spent much of the dream with a woman, engaged in some quest. At the end I discovered a gold locket, square or rectangular, with an engraved front containing an emerald in the center. (It reminded me of a locket my mother had, except that had a sapphire.) I opened it and found another gold cover inside. I opened this and found sheets of paper. Upon examination these appeared to be letters printed on some nice stationery but seemingly old routine business correspondence, with perhaps some connection to actors in Hollywood. Sort of disappointing.
I was lying in or on my bed at night (in the dream), looking at a big window. I noticed a bright light pass slowly from left to right. A UFO! I went to the window and looked out and, sure enough, it was some kind of vehicle moving through the clouds in the night sky. It circled around and I saw it looked like a minibus with rocket exhausts. It came right up to the window and the driver leant forward to part the curtains, as if looking for me. I recognized the driver as the Baba I had known in India. Delighted, I went outside and clambered on board, and was taken away. I talked a lot with the Baba, and at the same time I was observing some kind of slide show or computer-generated display. This was entirely text, produced by some special kind of word-processor. It contained highly interesting information but I can't now recall it. The screens went by quickly and the Baba was commenting on them. Apparently I was expected to learn to use this word-processor and to contribute toward the creation or development of whatever I was seeing on the screen. Whatever it was was quite amazing, with connections among diverse and disparate topics. Later I found myself talking with an old friend from my days in India. I had the impression that he had died [though he had not], and that the other people around (in the vehicle) had also previously been alive but had died, although in this dimension of reality (in the dream) they seemed quite alive. I wondered if I had died also, and my friend said No, that this body I had was my Earth body. On this level apparently the distinction between physical and spiritual was not straightforwardly simple.
I'm travelling with several people. We're in a boat, like a gondola, and in a city like Venice where the houses are built opening onto water. We come out of a side canal into a huge area of water, like a central square in a city. It's four-sided with multi-storey buildings on each side, European-style. There's a structure at the center, something like a tower, but wide enough to be a building. The façades of the buildings are all decorated in the same style and colors (white, black, blue, mauve) and ornamented in elegant style. At many places on each building are what look like marble statues of angels and cherubs — they're all over the buildings. I'm very impressed by all this; it would cost a fortune to build. I'm also aware of music, singing, it's the angelic choirs. I'm not sure if the singing is recorded or live, but it certainly sounds good. As I'm marvelling at all this I gradually awaken. Comment: Upon reflection it seems to me that this is a mandala-structure, four-sided as in Tibetan Buddhist mandalas. The angels are deities in Western, rather than Tibetan, form. This was a glimpse into the hidden nature of the world.
In recent weeks a lot of strange dreams. Last night again (it happened once last year) I dreamt of a talking cat. In the dream the cat (which looks like a normal cat) is speaking in English to me, and I'm aware that this is amazing, and I say so to the cat. I want to understand how the cat learnt to speak English (but it does not tell me).
I often have remarkable dreams but don't bother to record them. This morning a couple of strange ones: First dream: I'm discussing with someone how to erect a simple 1- or 2-room structure in a forest. Later it seems I have died and my body is in that structure. I think that I should retrieve it, but don't like the idea of getting my corpse. I reflect that it would be unpleasant to see this dead body looking exactly like me, my face, etc. Comment: After waking I thought that this shows how "I" inhabit bodies, act through them, but persist beyond the death of the body. Second dream: I'm at the place where I work, and I enter the lift (elevator) and go up. It's normally just a few floors, but the lift keeps going up, then goes down, many floors, finally it moves horizontally, and becomes a train. The train pulls into an open-air station, and the name is "Berlin" or similar. I alight upon the platform. Several people are walking by, and I step over a fence and join them. I'm completely amazed that a few minutes ago I was in the country where I live and now I'm in Germany. I have little money with me and I realize I must get to a cash machine and get some. I feel confused. I look for a telephone cabin, thinking I can withdraw cash. I find a phone in a building, but can't seem to find an ATM card that works with it. I go into a bank and stand in a queue with others. A woman behind me asks, "Do they have police here in banks?" I say, "No, but maybe security guards." I come to the teller's window, and I realize that I really want an ATM. Others point out that there is one in the wall. It works strangely. I can't remember my PIN. The other people in the bank are amused.
I arrive in a town in a foreign country, which I visited before, long ago. It's early evening, I have maybe a couple of hours before getting the train back. I wander through the streets and enter a restaurant to have dinner. It's sort of a Balkan restaurant, the waiters have white aprons. I pass through to a second room and am waiting for a waiter to seat me when one waiter comes in and deliberately pushes another waiter into a table, causing him to fall down. Then ensues a big fight among all the waiters, moving from one room to another, crockery broken, tables overturned. Across the room something made of glass is smashed, and fragments fly across the room, with numerous small pieces of glass becoming embedded in my hand. I have to pick them out one by one. I then leave the restaurant and wander along the street. It occurs to me to go visit a girl whom I had met here when I was last in this town, and I do. Comment: Several dreams lately which are quite bizarre. No relation to waking life, just art for art's sake.
I'm sitting in the large foyer of a cinema, and I think I have my slippers on my feet — embarrassing in public. I'm trying to remember where I left my boots. I can't remember. Then I look at my feet and I see I have my boots on. A lot of people come out of one cinema and are going into another. It seems to be a porno movie. I'm not much interested. Seems I'm more concerned about something else.
In the dream I was with various people. Part of it was that I was shown a sort of icon, symbol or representation of spiritual development: a glass or crystal sphere. The left hemisphere is opaque and white, the right is transparent. A path begins at the left pole and spirals around the sphere (clockwise if viewed from the right), converging on the right pole. At the halfway point the nature of the path changes. Before that, the path of spiritual development is blind or unconscious, and after it is clear or conscious. Viewed from the front the path still goes up and down, but progress on the second half is assured. I understood that I am — or perhaps, rather, humanity is — at the halfway point. This seemed to me (in the dream) to be such a profound illumination that I wept tears of joy at having been shown this.
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