Monday, January 25, 2010


One of the things that causes many psychiatrists and psychologists to become convinced that their peer C.G. Jung was a madman is Jung's belief that dreams can sometimes foretell future events. "(D)reams can have an anticipatory or prognostic aspect," he wrote in "Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams" (Ch. 5, p. 117), "and their interpreter would be well advised to take this aspect into account, particularly when an obviously meaningful dream does not yield a context sufficient to explain it. Such a dream often comes right out of the blue, and one wonders what could have prompted it."

And he gives examples of what he believes were such dream portents, of which there are also numerous historical or mythological examples, such as Joseph's interpretation of the Pharaoh's portentous dream of years of plenty followed by years of famine in Genesis.

I've told the story elsewhere of how I once accurately divined the future in a card reading I did for myself, whose analysis I wrote down at the time it occurred. This was the prediction of my separation and divorce from my wife of 25 years, and the disturbing, and, to my mind, frightening reading took place four years before the event. Now a card reading is not a dream, of course, but I've long believed that the cards can serve as a bridge between the conscious and subconscious minds.

Until now I had not been aware of any accurate predictions I may have dreamt, but I now realize that I once dreamed a premonition of death which came true. I didn't recognize it for what it was at the time, or or even for years after the death occurred. Even though I wrote it down when it happened, my conscious expression of its symbolism and images misses their meaning. In this dream:

I was at the old Spanish mission church at San Miguel, California, which has one of the best preserved early 19th-century churches on the continent. While there I visited a side chapel of the type so common in the old mission churches, which I said was at "the back of the church," near the rear of the nave and the front entrance to the building. I referred to it in my account as "kind of a storage room or cloak room" and observed that "Numerous people" were "milling around" in there.

Now I had been to side chapels in mission churches before, and knew that they were often crowded, but not with the living. Many of these small chambers at any given time contain photographs and other memorial artifacts of any number of the departed, along with dozens of burning candles that have been lit in their memory. Those were the people who were "milling around" symbolically in what I mistook for a "storage room," and after noting that "I don't know any of them," I saw "a cardboard box with V.J.'s name written large on its side."

V.J. was one of my favorite students, a lovely and intelligent girl enrolled in one or another of my classes for three of her four years in high school. I dreamt this strange, ominous, and completely unrecognized portent of her coming death, which I clearly saw boxed up with her name on it and waiting to be opened, on November 20, 1997, which was the year she graduated, in early summer 1998.

V.J. met her death in a Saturday night head-on collision on a two-lane rural road in Tulare County, an all-too frequent occurrence in those parts whenever weekends and alcohol combine to victimize the innocent. That happened either the year I retired or the year immediately before that -- I can't remember. She was in her mid-twenties by that time, and left a daughter and the rest of her family behind.

I find it neither surprising nor alarming that I saw this beforehand, nor am I surprised that I misinterpreted this fairly straightforward sequence so thoroughly.

Painting: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonitions of Civil War) by Salvador Dali.


Monday, January 18, 2010

furniture mover

According to the ancient Norse and Germanic peoples, thunder and lightning were spectacular celestial effects produced by the great god Thor smiting enemies with his short-handled hammer, Mjolnir. The strength he needed to wield this instrument with enough force to produce the atmospheric pyrotechnics was generated by his special belt, called Megingjord, and his pair of iron gloves, Járngreipr.

Thor had a very long career making war and thunder, well over a thousand years, until finally the Vikings surrendered to the spread of Christianity, the last western Europeans to adopt the one new God who drove out the many old gods, about 1000 C.E. For a while the fireworks and sound effects that come with thunderstorms were still divinely ordained, but as rational and logical modes of thinking and science came to prevail, thunder and lightning were diminished to fairly pedestrian and scientifically legible occurrences -- electricity, and and air rushing into the vacuum produced by the sudden discharge of electricity into the air.

Except at my house. When my sisters and I were very young, we lived in Ohio, where there are lots of storms. My sisters when they were still small told each other, and firmly believed that thunder was caused by God moving furniture. My own infantile conception of those awesome events was more generic than theirs -- I thought the sky was angry, and in his anger produced the dangerous lightening flashes and the frightening thunder. It wasn't that far from believing in Thor.

Who's to say which explanation is the "right" one, or which is the most accurate? I do know that the angry sky is a more satisfying and emotionally healthy way to think of those things than analyzing them in terms of depersonalized electrons and emotionally sterile vacuums. Can anyone categorically deny that the sky is angry, or that the universe and all its parts are sentient?


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

repeat offender

I dreamed I was back in the high school classroom again last night, a recurring nightmare that I'm hoping will eventually go away now that my true feelings about the fifteen years I spent there are out in the open.

And the truth is, when I was in the actual classroom, as opposed to the one in my dreams, I usually didn't encounter anything even close to the extreme hostility and resentment exhibited by the students in my nightmares. What I'm seeing in my dreams, then, is my own feelings projected onto the people I was supposedly teaching, many of whom were quite attractive and likable in real life. Sadly, however, as personable as they were, they mostly had no interest in learning anything.

The sorrowful fact is that anyone who teaches high school has to be ready for a wrestling match every hour of every day. The classroom is a test of wills that never ends, since we want to see our students' best effort and they, or most of them, want to get away with doing as little as possible in exchange for whatever grade they think they deserve. And my anger grew out of that endless bashing of foreheads, a perpetual contest in which the only goal becomes winning, and surviving to fight another day, a strategic objective which replaces the learning objectives to which we pay lip service.

Up until now I had managed to repress and bury these sentiments, in spite of having an aversion to ever going back into the classroom verging on phobia. But now that these insistent messages from the subconscious have surfaced, I'm at last forced to acknowledge my real feelings, even though others may find them offensive and politically incorrect.

But social disapproval is nothing of any consequence to me, and the only real problem I have with all this is that it's a very superficial use of the subconscious. When we repress our true feelings, we're pushing them down below the conscious level, and using the subconscious as a garbage can. Dr. Jung explains it this way in his "Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams:"

If (the subconscious mind) contains too many things that normally ought to be conscious, then its function becomes twisted and prejudiced; motives appear that are not based on true instincts, but owe their activity to the fact that they have been consigned to the subconscious by repression or neglect. They overlay, as it were, the normal unconscious psyche and distort its natural symbol producing function.

Therefore it is usual for psychotherapy, concerned as it is with the causes of a disturbance, to begin by eliciting from the patient a more or less voluntary confession of all the things he dislikes, is ashamed of, or fears, This is like the much older confession in the Church, which in many ways anticipated modern psychological techniques.

Clearly, then, I have not yet even launched the voyage into the deeper parts of the mind. I'm still engaged in the process of making the vessel seaworthy and clearing away the debris in the harbor.

There's a lot more to come.

Illustration, "Nightmare" by Daniel Montuoro.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

twice the trickster

Last night in a dream I met the trickster in two different personifications. The trickster is an archetype who appears in the myths and legends of every culture, and lives immortally and eternally in the deeper layers of every human psyche.

First he appeared as a singer. I had returned to my lapsed musical career, and my old partner Carrie and I were the backing musicians for a new and exciting young singer appearing at a big outdoor music festival. I had never head this guy before, as he had recently arrived from his homeland in Africa, and I only knew his name (wait for it) -- Barack Obama.

Carrie and I happened on this young man as he was rehearsing a capella in his tent, with the flap open. His voice was amazingly smooth as he crooned a jazz standard with great feeling, but at the same time not overdoing it. He had complete command over that wonderful voice, which was enchanting and hypnotic. When he had finished, I began to enthusiastically praise his performance; "You might be the best singer I ever heard," I told him. But I didn't see what his reaction was, because I was watching Carrie, who was fuming with jealousy. She was, after all, the lead singer in our old group years ago.

There was nothing in the dream that indicated at my extreme disappointment with the real Barack Obama in the "real world," although that may have been implied by the dream Obama's identity as the trickster.

Then I found myself in a bar, talking with a youngish fellow in his mid to late thirties. He had very long, curly dark hair and sported the tight striped trousers the trickster often wears. He was friendly enough, and asked me if I wanted to go outside for "a treat," and I eagerly accepted.

Just outside the bar he pulled out a long glass tube with multiple spouts, all emitting streams of clear liquid. "If that's alcohol," I said, "I don't want any. I never drink alcohol. Have you got any of 'the other?'"

"As it happens, I do," he said. The gin-spouting glass tube went back under his shirt (or wherever he produced it from) and was replaced by another one, a complicated contraption in which the smoker ignited a stream of vodka, then sucked the flaming liquid upward where it ignited a charge of the green herb. The smoke then passed through a cork filter into the smoker's mouth and lungs. It was a wonderfully mild blast, and the magic molecules immediately refreshed the brain.

I awakened to ponder this strange dream, and was at first baffled by it, and unable to discern any connection between its two parts. But by concentrating on the content and the "pictures" repeatedly, I finally unlocked it when I realized I am now traveling through the trickster's realm. You have to watch the trickster all the time, for as the dream shows he can lend his talents to either providing pleasure or making mischief.