Welcome to the Exploration of Dreams
and the World of Creative Dreaming
Dear website visitors,
After many years of online publishing, Dr. Patricia Garfield has
retired from active participation in this website. (Comments,
Questions and Newsletter features have therefore been removed.)
In honor of her many contributions to the psychology of dreaming, the site
now serves as an archive of her scholarly and creative work, maintained by
Dennis Rivers, MA, her friend, fellow dreamer and volunteer librarian.
My website is designed to offer nourishing support for your personal
quest to explore, cultivate and creatively express your dreams.
Whether your goal in relation to creative dreaming is…
- to get inspiration and information for a school report
- to locate or buy one of my books or other works
- to seek a comment or quote from me
- to find out when and where I’m speaking
- to gain deeper insight into a specific dream symbol
- to help yourself or others with a nightmare
- to discuss dreams with like-minded people
- to make contact with dream study groups
- to learn more about other people’s creative use of dreams
- to develop your own creative dreaming skills, or
- to more fully grasp last night’s dream,
I hope that you find helpful material here.
Always remember, listen to your dreams,
because they’re talking to you!
Patricia Garfield, Ph.D.
2012 Award Received:
Patricia Garfield was the recipient of a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association for the Study of Dreams at the June 23rd Opening Ceremony of their annual conference, held this year in Berkeley, California.
[From the Dream News. Three of IASD’s founders were awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from IASD at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Conference: Patricia Garfield, Ph.D.; Gail Delaney, Ph.D.; and the Rev. Jeremy Taylor. All received the prestigious awards, which are granted from the IASD Board of Directors, through selection of the Board’s Executive Committee.]
Recent Books by Patricia Garfield
|Latest Book for Children:
Schmoopie’s Dream When Schmoopie, the runt and sole survivor of a litter, is rescued from the pound, her wish for a new family is fulfilled beyond her wildest dreams. Children’s therapy centers and humane societies use the entertaining and inspirational story of Schmoopie’s Dream as an additional healing tool.Three ways to order Schmoopie’s Dream:
Delfine the Dream Girl
with illustrations by the author.
Now available in paperback and PDF editions.Follow Delfine as she travels into the world of dreams in an adventure of healing, power and discovery. More info
Buy paperback from Lulu
Buy Kindle EBook from Amazon
FREE: You are invited to download and read the first chapter of Delfine by clicking here .
|Mourning Dove: Dream Poems
Numina Books, 2007
Photos, brush paintings, and poetry dealing with dream images, grief, childhood, dating, antique songs and spells.
|The Universal Dream Key: The 12 Most Common Dream Themes Around the World. Every night, all over the world, sleepers are dreaming the same 12 dreams. The details differ but the same themes recur in every culture, as they have throughout recorded history.This much anticipated book presents a detailed analysis of the many possible meanings of these fundamental dreams, creating a skeleton key to the 12 doors of the dreaming mind. more…|
|Winner of a Parent’s Guide Children’s Media Award
The Young Hoosiers Award Nomination
The Dream Book: A Young Person’s Guide to Understanding Dreams
by Patricia Garfield, Ph.D. (2012 reprint) The 2002 Children’s Media Awards are sponsored by Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media, Inc., a non-profit corporation that locates, reviews, and honors outstanding materials for children and teens. more…
|Companion volume for The Dream Book: Dream Catcher: A Young Person’s Journal for Exploring Dreams.
Tundra: 2003.A guide for young persons, 8 to 10 years old, about their most common dreams.Full of fascinating information for ensuring safe sleep and bright dreams
drawn from lore around the world, Dream Catcher also invites readers to begin their own dream quest. more…
Learning from Creative Dreamers
Chapter Three of Creative Dreaming
Copyright 1974 by Patricia L. Garfield — All rights reserved
There are rhythms in the world waiting for words to be written to them.
You can discover creative products within your own dreams. In a manner roughly similar to the way ancients incubated dreams, you can deliberately induce dreams of artistic creations or dreams that solve your problems. You can use a technique in which you plan the general content of your dreams, but in this case you are seeking a creative product rather than advice or healing. Your dreams can become your own muse, your own source of inspiration.
Most creative workers of the past have hit upon dream inspiration by accident. Often, the dreamer is consciously working on a product when his dream life suddenly provides him with a crucial element that he is able to recognize and use. Some of these dream products are famous—for example, Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.” Occasionally, the creative dream image simply appears, without the dreamer being occupied at all with the idea in his waking life. Most creative workers don’t know that it is possible to deliberately evoke creative dreams.
We can learn a great deal about producing our own creative work in dreams by examining the process as it has occurred in past creative dreamers. The process is the same for us. We are able, as will be seen, to present our dream mind with a request for a creative product, draw upon the vast resource of material in our mind that was recorded in our past life, recombine it into original forms, and finally present it to ourself in a dream. Will it be this year’s best seller? A latter-day Rembrandt? A new Moonlight Sonata? Obviously, the more varied and interesting the material we have previously put into our mind (just as in programming a computer), and the greater the conscious skills we have already built into our system, the greater chance we have of coming up with a worthwhile product. But the possibility is always lurking there. As we start the creative dreaming process we greatly increase the probability of tonight’s production.
Ordinary dreamers—those of us who are not already poets, novelists, scientists—can use the same techniques as great creative workers to come up with creative products that use our full resources. We need not be poets or artists. Whatever our work is, we can find creative solutions in our dreams. These products will be far more original, in most cases, than the products that can be devised simply by using thought process in waking life. In addition to the benefit of greater originality in our products, we can gain the value of greater unity of self, of our waking and dream lives. The more we use symbols from our dream life, the more we will be able to develop and express our own unique personality, at its integrated best.
Creative dreaming happens in two ways: In the first, dreamers observe the creative product in its totality in the dream. At other times, the dream provides the mood or idea from which the creative product evolves in a waking state. These creative products from dreams can be the result of deliberately planned creative dreaming as well as the result of unplanned creative dreaming. They can “just happen” to you or you can induce them.
The dreams of the first two writers to be discussed were influenced by opium addiction. This does not mean, however, that opium caused the creative dreams. On the contrary, in these cases, opium led eventually to terror-dominated dreams and inability to work effectively. The power to have interesting dreams comes from the personality of the dreamer. Interesting material must exist in the dreamer before interesting dreams can occur. Creative dreams are quite accessible to the dreamer, as will be seen in later examples, without drugs. In fact, recent experimenters 2 found that writers and scholars who were given LSD produced work far below their normal standard while under the influence of the drug. We are concerned here with the process of creative dreaming. Drug abuse is incidental to the creative dreams, if not to the dreamer.
An important principle for inducing creative dreams is that the would-be creative dreamer occupies himself with the subject he wishes to dream about, often up until the last few seconds before he falls asleep. We shall encounter this principle again and again. Observe it as the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) experienced his famous dream inspiration: One lazy summer afternoon in 1798 3 the young poet whiled away the hours in his thatch-roof cottage in the western countryside of England. He idly turned the pages of a history book called Purchas His Pilgrimmage. His newly found opium habit nipped his gut so he drained the nearby glass of laudanum he had ready. He yawned as he read the words “Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built. . .” Flipping the page, he closed his eyes, his head tipped forward. His dark curls fell across his face and moved gently with his breath as he dozed. The golden rays of the afternoon sun lit his cheek. When he awoke three hours later the stately passages of “Kubla Khan” were firmly in his mind, with their “caverns measureless to man” and “sunless sea.”
In this case, the creative product occurred in its totality in the dream. Coleridge estimated that his original poem was 200 to 300 lines. He said that “all the images rose up before him as things” 4 along with descriptions of them without any sense of effort. Imagine his frustration when, in the midst of recording it, he was interrupted at the fifty-fourth line by someone on business. When he returned an hour later the remainder of the poem had melted away, leaving just the recorded fragment.
Although Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is marked by characteristics of drug imagery—extraordinary mutations of space, the ebb and flow of images—his masterpiece cannot be dismissed as simply a drug experience. Many people have had opium-induced dozes; few have waked with great poems. Coleridge had the necessary conscious skill. Small beginnings of the final poem are found in his notebooks of the previous years. Yet, it was Coleridge’s dream state that provided the special misty images and wove them into a unified whole. 5
When Coleridge’s biographer 8 was making an intensive study of Coleridge’s works, he, too, experienced a dream of the “pleasure-dome” of “Kubla Khan.” Intense occupation with any subject is likely to induce dreams of it. It may happen to you as you read this book.
Another English writer, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859), provides a negative example of what can happen when a person does not know how to positively influence the content of his dreams. In Concessions of an English Opium Eater, De Quincey described changes in his dream life as he became addicted to opium. His dreams became progressively more painful. At the beginning of his serious addiction he found an increase in hypnagogic visions as he drifted off to sleep. What-ever he voluntarily pictured in the darkness prior to sleep was likely to transfer to his dreams, so that he feared to imagine anything. His dreams became accompanied by a “deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy” inexpressible in words. He felt himself “descend, into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless that I could ever reascend. Nor did I, by waking, feel that I had reascended.” De Quincey found that his sense of space and, later, his sense of time became distorted: “I sometimes seemed to have lived for 70 or 100 years in one night. . .” The content of his dreams shifted from palaces and cities to water and then to human faces, “imploring, wrathful, despairing,” by the thousands. De Quincey’s dreams became increasingly paranoid, with a Malay as his pursuing enemy and the Orient as the setting for his tortures, accompanied by sensations of tropical heat and beating sunlight. Moral, spiritual, and physical terrors beset him repeatedly in his dreams, and over all brooded a sense of eternity and infinity that oppressed him so much he declared, “… I awoke in struggles, and cried aloud—’I will sleep no more!”‘ 8
Obviously, these are not changes we would wish to induce in our own dream lives. Much of De Quincey’s dream suffering was directly attributable to his drug intake. Yet, he could have combatted the effects of it had he been skilled in dream control. Dream suffering can be eliminated as you learn to control your dreams. The power to will changes in dream content is a skill that can be acquired and is the secret to mastering nightmares. Both the Senoi (Chapter 5) and the Yogis of the dream state (Chapter 7) develop this skill to a high degree. Their methods would have helped De Quincey deal with his horrific dreams. They can help you deal with frightening dreams now.
Creative workers can obtain the mood and general content of their writing from their dreams, as De Quincey did, or they can receive the creative product itself in their dreams, as Coleridge did. In addition, creative workers sometimes receive imperatives to write in their dreams. Socrates, 9 the great Greek philosopher (c. 470-399 b.c. ), for example, reported such dreams on the day he carried out his death sentence by drinking the hemlock poison. Many other writers’ work was influenced by unplanned creative dreams. 10
Creative dreams are by no means limited to the field of writing. William Blake (1757-1827), 11 the English artist-engraver-poet, produced many works of art with a dreamlike quality. He related that while searching for a less expensive means to engrave his illustrated songs, he dreamed that his dead younger brother, Robert, appeared to him and indicated a process of copper engraving, which he immediately verified and used. Believers in psychic phenomena suggest the possibility of the deceased Robert’s actual visit during this dream, while others prefer an explanation based on the workings of the subconscious. Whatever the explanation, the fact is that Blake hit upon a unique solution in his dream. Notice, again, that he was consciously occupied with a search when the solution appeared in his dreams.
The field of music, too, owes some of its famous pieces to unplanned creative dreams. Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770), the Italian violinist and composer, had such a dream. Tartini related that at the age of twenty-one he had a dream in which he sold his soul to the Devil. In the dream he handed his fiddle to the Devil:
But how great was my astonishment when I heard him play with consummate skill a sonata of such exquisite beauty as surpassed the boldest flights of my imagination. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted; my breath was taken away, and I awoke. Seizing my violin I tried to retain the sounds I had heard. But it was in vain. The piece I then composed, the “Devil’s Sonata,” was the best I ever wrote, but how far below the one I had heard in my dream! 12
In Tartini’s dream the creative product (Trillo del Diavolo, or The Devil’s Trill) is present, yet he cannot recapture its exact form to his satisfaction. Notice his immediate attempt to hold on to it, an action that will be observed in many of these examples. If you roll over to return to sleep thinking you’ll record your dream in the morning, you and posterity may be the loser.
In the field of anthropology, an astounding dream discovery was made by Hermann V. Hilprecht, professor of Assyrian at the University of Pennsylvania.
Hilprecht was working late one evening in 1893 trying to decipher the cuneiform characters 13 on drawings of two small fragments of agate that he thought were Babylonian finger rings found in temple ruins. He tentatively assigned one fragment to a particular period (that of the Cassite period, c. 1700 b.c. ) but he was unable to classify the other. He went to bed about midnight, feeling uncertain about his classification and had this dream:
A tall, thin priest of the old pre-Christian Nippur, about forty years of age and clad in a simple abba, led me to the treasure chamber of the temple, on its southeast side. He went with me into a small, low-ceiled room without windows, in which there was a large wooden chest, while scraps of agate and lapis lazuli lay scattered on the floor. Here he addressed me as follows: “The two fragments which you have published separately on pages 22 and 26, belong together, are not finger rings and their history is as follows: King Kurigalzu (Ca. 1300 b.c. ) once sent to the temple of Bel, among other articles of agate and lapis lazuli, an inscribed votive cylinder of agate. Then we priests suddenly received the command to make for the statue of the god of Ninib a pair of earrings of agate. We were in great dismay, since there was no agate as raw material at hand. In order to execute the command there was nothing for us to do but cut the votive cylinder into three parts, thus making three rings, each of which contained a portion of the original inscription. The first two rings served as earrings for the statue of the god; the two fragments which have given you so much trouble are portions of them. If you will put the two together you will have confirmation of my words. But the third ring you have not found in the course of your excavations and you will never find it.” With this the priest disappeared … I woke at once and immediately told my wife the dream that I might not forget it. Next morning—Sunday—I examined the fragments once more in the light of these disclosures, and to my astonishment found all the details of the dream precisely verified in so far as the means of verification were in my hands. The original inscription on the votive cylinder reads: “To the god Ninib, son of Bel, his lord, has Kurigalzu, pontifex of Bel, presented this.” 14
Hilprecht had been working with drawings of the fragments at the time of his dream. As soon as he was able he went to the museum in Constantinople, where the actual fragments were. They were kept in separate cases since it was not known that they went together. Hilprecht found that they fit together perfectly. In all respects they confirmed the information in his dream. Clairvoyance? Prescience? Magic? Or the vivid assembly in a dream theater of the deductions of a brilliant mind immersed in the ancient riddle?
This unusual dream was first published in 1896 in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research because of the possibilities of a psychic element raised by the accuracy of the dream details. Either conclusion is possible. Whatever the essential verity, the combination that unlocked the 3,000-year-old secret occurred in the dream state. And the dreamer who unlocked it was deep in his subject up until minutes before he fell asleep.
We see the principle of subject immersion again in the creative dreams of two scientists that had powerful impact in their respective fields. The German chemist Friedrich A. Kekule had tried for many years to find the molecular structure of benzene. He reported dreaming as he dozed in front of a crackling fire one cold night in 1865:
Again the atoms were juggling before my eyes . . . my mind’s eye, sharpened by repeated sights of a similar kind, could now distinguish larger structures of different forms and in long chains, many of them close together; everything was moving in a snake-like and twisting manner. Suddenly, what was this? One of the snakes got hold of its own tail and the whole structure was mockingly twisting in front of my eyes. As if struck by lightning, I awoke . . , 15
This dream led Kekule to the realization that the structure of benzene is a closed carbon ring, a discovery that revolutionized modern chemistry. When he reported it to his colleagues at a scientific convention in 1890, Kekule concluded with the remark “Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth.” 16 Suppose he had simply dismissed his dream of snakes as Freudian symbolism! Note once more that Kekule implied he had had similar dreams for some time before the dramatic realization of their meaning struck him.
Some decades later, Otto Loewi, the German-born physiologist who came to the United States, reported a dream inspiration that won him the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Prior to this time it was assumed that nervous impulses in the body were transmitted by an electrical wave. Loewi, in a conversation with a colleague in 1903, got the idea that there might be a chemical transmission of the nervous impulse, rather than an electrical one, but he saw no way to prove his hunch and it slipped from his conscious memory. It emerged again in 1920:
The night before Easter Sunday of that year I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of thin paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at six o’clock in the morning that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at three o’clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether or not the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered seventeen years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory, and performed a simple experiment on a frog’s heart according to the nocturnal design … its results became the foundation of the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse. 17
The fact that Loewi dreamed of the experiment on the frog’s heart on two successive nights may be an instance of recent laboratory findings 18 referred to as “lateral homology.” In this circumstance, a particular dream element tends to occur and recur at a particular time. Note Loewi’s first loss of the dream idea by unclear recording. On its second occurrence, Loewi took no chance on forgetting, and like Tartini seizing his violin, Loewi leapt from bed and dashed to the lab to test his dream idea. My method of dream recording, described in Chapter 8, will help you to retain vital nighttime ideas.
It has been noted 19 that Loewi performed a similar experiment for a totally different purpose two years prior to the dream. This similar experiment probably provided a crucial element that was later combined in the dream state with the hunch he had had seventeen years before his hypothesis-testing dream. What is noticeable in these discoveries of the dream state is the apparently special capacity of this state to combine thoughts or events separated across the geography of a lifetime into a unique gestalt discovery.
You have seen how consistently the element of subject immersion occurs prior to an unplanned creative dream. In planned creative dreaming this immersion is practiced deliberately.
Let’s turn now from “lucky” dreamers whose creative products occurred spontaneously to dreamers who have deliberately induced their dreams of creative products. You will find their procedures even more applicable to your own dreams.
You recall the development of Thomas De Quincey’s opium-influenced dreams from dreams of pleasure to dreams of horror. British author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) described a development of his dream life in the opposite direction: As a child, he was tormented by nightmares; as an adult he nightly entertained himself with fascinating dreams. This happy change appears to have come about as he gained control over his dreams.
Stevenson 20 traced the evolution of his dream life in his memoirs. He related his childhood struggles to keep from falling asleep and having to face his horrendous dreams. He would awake in terror from such dreams, “clinging to the curtain-rod with his knees to his chin.” 21 As he grew older, his dreams became somewhat less terrifying but were still miserable. Later, as a medical student in Edinburgh, he was plagued by nightmares so much that he was driven to consult a doctor about them, after which his dreams became more commonplace.
Ultimately, Stevenson was able to induce a dramatic change in his dream life. He had been accustomed to setting himself to sleep with tales of his own concoction, purely for personal pleasure, dropping or changing the stories at whim. As he turned his amusement of storytelling into professional writing, he consciously sought profitable and printable tales. He found that his nightmares vanished. Whether he was awake or asleep, he, or what he called the “little people” of his dreams, were occupied in making stories for the market. Especially when he was pressed for money, he found that:
… at once the little people begin to bestir themselves in the same quest, and labour all night long, and all night long set before him truncheons of tales upon their lighted theatre. No fear of his being frightened now; the flying heart and the frozen scalp are things bygone; applause, growing applause, growing interest, growing exultation in his own cleverness (for he takes all the credit), and at last a jubilant leap to wakefulness, with the cry, “I have it, that’ll do!” upon his lips. 22
How different is Stevenson’s cry on awakening from De Quincey’s, “I will sleep no more!” 23
Stevenson stated that sometimes he was disappointed on examining the story in a waking state, finding it unmarketable. Often, however, he said his sleepless little “Brownies” did him honest service and gave him “better tales than he could fashion for himself.” He comments that “they can tell him a story piece by piece, like a serial, and keep him all the while in ignorance of where they aim.” 24 Stevenson’s Brownies were his dream state at its integrated best.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a famous example of the tales partially produced by Stevenson’s Brownies. Stevenson explains:
I had long been trying to write a story on this subject, to find a body, a vehicle, for that strong sense of man’s double being, which must at times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking creature. 26
He had written an earlier manuscript on this topic but, dissatisfied with it, destroyed it. Then, pressed for money, he resumed thinking about the theme:
For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterwards 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, although I think I can trace in much of it the manner of my Brownies. 26
Stevenson related that he did the mechanical work of setting tales down in the best words and sentences he could make, held the pen, and did the sitting at the table, “which is about the worst of it,” mailed the manuscripts and paid for the postage, all of which entitled him to some share in the enterprise, but he gave his Brownies credit for the bulk of his writing.
There are many important points for prospective creative dreamers to notice in the evolution of Stevenson’s dream life. In the first place, he was able to successfully confront his fear- producing dream images and transform them into cooperative “little people,” his dream friends. You will see in Chapter 5 how the Senoi accomplish this transformation in a systematic manner. Apparently, Stevenson hit upon this technique himself, as others have occasionally done. You, too, can evolve your own dream friends who will work for you.
Stevenson, like so many of his creatively dreaming colleagues, thoroughly immersed himself in his subject: “For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot …” Note the timing: two days. You will see how this two days seems crucial. Perhaps there is a minimum time interval during which the dreamer must immerse himself in his subject. I have often observed both in myself and in students in dream seminars that certain rules of dream control take time to “sink in.”
Stevenson’s regular success in producing dreams of marketable tales is only partly a result of being deeply involved in his subject. He deliberately planned to have such dreams. He gave himself specific dream assignments. As Stevenson developed skill in dream control, the desired marketable tales became habitual dream responses. The British author Aldous Huxley 27 expressed envy of Stevenson’s Brownies, yet every one of us can set up our dreams to serve us. Of course, we need to exercise our conscious skills. As you develop dream control, you will induce creative dreams well beyond what you now believe possible.
Artists, too, have produced many works based on their dreams. Some artists have deliberately induced dreams of paintings. An anthropologist 28 specializing in eastern Asia suspects that most of the fabulous monsters painted in Oriental art originate in dreams. He cites examples of well-known ancient Chinese paintings 29 that were inspired by planned dreams.
You, too, can call upon your dream state to provide you with unusual images. As you develop skill in creative dreaming, you can occupy yourself with the subject you wish to dream about, present your dream mind with a request for a specific dream, receive it, and hold it vividly in your waking mind until you record it in some form. The Senoi tribe (see Chapter 5) develop the production of creative images in dreams to a high degree. You will see how it is possible to consistently have creative dreams.
Ordinary dreamers are able to train themselves to have creative dreams in the area of their work. The poet dreams poems, the violinist hears violin music, the mathematician dreams equations. The poet does not dream equations (at least not often!). Just as almost all of the dream-inspired inventions and discoveries described above, planned or unplanned, were made by the dreamer in the very area in which he was consciously occupied, the ordinary dreamer can evoke creative dreams in his area of work. You can, by the same processes, hit upon a dream idea for a research project at the office, a new arrangement for the baby’s room, a new advertising slogan, or a new dress design. When an idea is original, it is creative, whatever its field of application. You can evoke creative dreams in your own field of interest, whatever it is.
However, ordinary dreamers sometimes have “artistic” dreams. When this occurs, the dream product has special personal meaning. My own lengthy dream record contains many examples of creative products, most of which were unplanned. Some of these products were astonishing to me for their surprising appearance and unusual character.
I am by no means a poet; the nearest I have come to this occupation is devising an occasional rhyme for a relative’s birthday card. Yet, on a few rare occasions, poems have appeared in my dreams that, so far as I know, are quite original. I am not able to judge their merit (although I readily recognize they do not approach “Kubla Khan”), for the emotional response they evoke in me is exceedingly strong. For example, on one occasion, I was in a melancholy state of mind over a personal crisis. A driving rainstorm outside matched my miserable internal mood. Unhappy, I went to bed. At that moment, I received a telephone call from my beloved man that comforted me as I fell asleep. This is the record of the dream that followed:
A rather strange and lovely dream. I am trying to get some medicine at a drug store, but all the stores seem to be closed. Then I am in the kitchen in my mother’s house (where I spent my teenage years). Everything is coated with a thick layer of dust. I wipe my finger on a plant and am horrified at how dirty it is. I hear someone coming up the cellar stairs. The door opens and it is my man. He has a silver-gray beard (which he did not at the time). He wears a silver-gray silk suit and looks all marvelously silvery-gray. In his hands he has a beautiful Persian cat with shiny, brushed hair. He comes close to me and I have the impression of height. He begins to tell me about a lovely painting he has seen with a girl and a cat like the one he holds. He begins to recite a poem. It seems exquisitely beautiful and as I try hard to remember it, I wake with some of the lines still in my head. I am amazed that midst all the dirt and ugliness and confusion of that house, from the cellar — the worst part of all — came all that beauty:
Through the inundated city, Hear my call;
Through the knife-sharp pain, Hear my call;
Through the strife-torn jungle, Hear my call;
I am your mountain . . .
This poem reaches a level of my emotions so deep it moves me even years after its dreaming. Yet it is probably not the beauty of the poem (as I said, I am incapable of judging), it is a beauty of the relationship, of a need answered from without, of a strength felt from within. What a poet or a potential poet beyond my talents might have done in the same dream with the same feeling is impossible to say.
This dream closely fits the Senoi system (Chapter 5), as will be seen, long before my knowledge of it. In it, possible ugliness from the cellar is faced. The cellar, where dirt, disorder, and cold are at their greatest—the cellar, inhabited by cat-size rats that gnaw holes in the door and creep through in the kitchen at night to steal our food. The dream image emerging from the cellar of that house could be horrendous. But it is faced and found to be beautiful and it bears gifts of still greater beauty. I did not even need to ask, as the Senoi do, for a gift from my dream lover. It is a deeply satisfying dream. Note that, in this case, I was not focused on creating a dream poem, but I was intensely occupied with the emotion out of which the poem took shape.
On another occasion, at the end of a story, I dreamed:
I am with my youngest daughter buying food in a grocery store. We stand in the check-out line and we find that the male clerk is cheating us by charging us extra for things we’ve already paid for. This happened because the person behind us got their order mixed up with ours and we had to move things to a different grocery cart. The clerk is charging us $2.00 and $3.00 an item. I become furious and complain. Then, I grab him and tell him we will tie him up in the bathroom and tickle his naked body with feathers. Finally I pick him up and fly to the top of the room which has become like a large ballroom type of place. I can see the fancy decorations on the ceiling. I swing the guy around by the arm and drop him to the floor from the great height. He splatters into pieces. From my position in the air, I announce:
Anyone who troubles me.
(“Thus be,” 7/10/70)
The source of my anger and complaint was immediately obvious to me upon awakening and, I felt, was quite justified. The verse expressed my feeling of the moment succinctly. Interestingly, I had made a note in my record that I had just read about a verse Dorothy Parker dreamed (quoted later). This may well have triggered the idea to compose my own dream verse without my consciously planning to do so.
There are other dream rhymes in my record, sometimes accompanied by music as well. Now, I am even less a musician than a poet, yet in dreams I sometimes hear singing of such unsurpassed beauty that my dream characters are moved to tears. It is, perhaps, memories of the many operas I have enjoyed. I have no way to know for certain, since I have not the means to hold on to the notes when I wake. They evaporate and are gone with the morning light. Once in a dream, I sang a magnificent aria I never heard of before, “Celia Delwa Fawcett.” Only the echoes remained on awakening. Undoubtedly, if I developed the conscious skill of musical notation I would be able to retain my vanishing dream melodies.
I am not suggesting that the ordinary dreamer induce dream poems and songs (unless, of course, he wishes to), but those poems and songs that spontaneously occur in dreams have special personal value and deserve special attention. Dream songs, as we shall see in the next chapter, were particularly important in American Indian life. The dream songs received during the all-important adolescent vision quest became the dreamer’s personal refrain. They were used throughout his life at stressful times (for example, war parties) and were also used to evoke the power of his own personal spirit. This is readily understandable as a function of the dream song’s strong emotional power for the dreamer. Give special attention to any poems or songs that appear in your dreams. They may help you get in touch with your own internal source of strength.
One of my musically talented students became able to capture her previously elusive dream melodies as she participated in a creative dreaming seminar. Although she still dreamed of discovering an empty staff or of a complete song becoming a forgotten score, she was for the first time able to catch some of the tunes and even compose lyrics. She found that the music in her dreams indicated her various moods; the melodies were often minor (associated with despair), agitated (associated with anger), or nostalgic (associated with longing). In some of her dreams, she became the music while the notes “bounced above me like beads of wine and sweat.” Her songs, recorded to the accompaniment of a guitar and shared with the group, were lovely with a wisp of the strange dreamlike quality of their origin. As your own personal dream songs or verses come to you, you will feel their extraordinary emotional power.
Students in my seminars also create marvelous writing based on their dreams, rather than the dream providing finished creative products. This seems to be an easier accomplishment, yet the work is original and of high quality.
Artistically talented students, especially, were able to reproduce visual imagery from their dreams. Some students reported walking in a dream through art galleries filled with marvelous paintings; they reproduced these dream paintings when awake. Others planned the general content of such dreams—for example, “Tonight I will dream something creative” or “. . . something artistic” or “. . . an unusual design.” They frequently found that the desired element appeared as part of the ongoing dream; these, too, were reproduced on awakening.
My own dream record is filled with unusual artistic forms —I see dream paintings, dream sculptures, illustrated dream books, and strange shapes and symbols impossible to classify. I do possess some small artistic skill, so this subject of my dreams is not surprising, yet the topic is far in excess of my waking attention to art. I should give more waking time to art according to its consistent appearance in my dreams.
Again, the ordinary dreamer may not wish to induce artistic images. Yet, he is likely to find that unusual, idiosyncratic images appear in his dreams without intention. Such images have great personal value, as will be discussed in Chapter 9.
Problem solving was not reported by students so often as artistic creations were. Perhaps the student who elects a course in creative dreaming is one who is more likely to produce an artistic creation. A few students have reported solving mathematical problems in a dream that they were unable to do while awake. Others have reported increased skills as a result of dream “practice.” For example, one student who practiced her tennis stroke in a dream found her actual ability considerably improved in her game the following day. Similarly, professional golfer Jack Nicklaus is reported 30 to have improved his golf swing after a slump on the basis of a dream in which he was hitting the ball well by holding his club differently. By changing his grip according to the dream, his “swing” returned. Thus, dreams can provide very practical creative solutions as well as products of fine art.
In the area of personal relationships, solving problems was frequently reported by students, especially with application of the Senoi system (see Chapter 5, where examples are given).
As a clinical psychologist interested in the effect of consciousness on dreams, I have planned to have specific types of dreams. Whether this effort has been successful can be judged in the chapters of Part II, “How to Become Conscious During Your Dreams.'” To me, it has been a great adventure and a great help.
Students applying the principles presented in this book report similar experiences—a kind of opening of a new world; one that was vaguely known before but not so fully participated in, a world less and less frightening and more and more beautiful; the “acres of diamonds” in one’s own backyard, the “bluebird” in one’s own tree: the fantastic world within.
As you train yourself to remember and record your dreams you, too, make the first step toward being able to use your full range of creative ability. As you learn skills in inducing your desired dreams, you will more and more be able to utilize the talent that lies within every one of us.
The elements of creative products are around us everywhere, especially within us. The material is all there. All we need do is recombine it, find a new combination. What prevents us is our habit of seeing things in the same old familiar way.
While we are children, this ability to see things differently is often squeezed out of us. We learn to behave and to respond in the “proper” way to the extent that our thinking becomes relegated to acceptable categories only; the fluidity needed to make new combinations of ideas becomes solidified. If we are lucky, we keep a few drops.
Creative thinking is still available to us, however, in our dreams. Here, images often and easily combine familiar elements in strange ways (and strange images are accepted as familiar). This is the essence of creativity if we but recognize it and use it. The creativity that has been unlearned or suppressed can be relearned and unsuppressed.
In many ways, the principles of dream control we have extracted from past creative dreamers resemble the well-known steps of the creative process, 31 as indeed they should. The dreamer who is intensely occupied with a subject of interest will already have satisfied the first three steps: (1) he will be motivated for a creative act; (2) he will have gathered relevant information; and (3) he will have made initial attempts to synthesize his material. His dream state mind continues to wrestle with the problem; he feels he is about to solve the problem; and the illuminating solution comes—either during the dream or immediately after awakening (steps 4, 5, and 6).
The fact alone that a dreamer has a “super-dream” 32 does not imply that it will be a correct solution. Dreamers have been sharply disappointed to read their midsleep revelations in the morning light, as Dorothy Parker was after having dreamed that she had the answer to the world’s problems, scribbled it on a pad, and, in the morning, found she had written: “Hoggimous, higgimous, men are polygamous, Higgimous, hoggimous, women monogamous.” All “super-dreams” need the final step of verification.
The wider and more varied the field of the creative person’s experience, the greater is his chance of hitting upon a new combination. In our dreams, as you recall, we have access to the great collection of recording of our life experiences. Our dreams can draw upon the full range of our experience rather than just a portion of it. We should continue to widen our experience, but what we have already within us is infinitely vaster than is usually recognized. From the chaos of our recorded experiences, remembered images, and feelings, we can link together elements that are uniquely ours. Researchers have defined creativity in many ways, but they basically agree that creativity is “the process by which original patterns are formed and expressed.” 33 Your dreams can aid you in this creative process in any field of interest you wish.
Thus, the probability of devising creative products (artistic creations or problem solutions) becomes greatly increased as you draw upon your dream life. As you develop advanced skills in creative dreaming, especially those described in Part Two, you will more consistently have creative dreams. As you produce and use your dream symbols in a waking state, you will do more than create a product. You will also help to integrate yourself. In a very real sense, the greatest creative product of your life may be the creation of your whole, unique self.
summary of what we can learn
from creative dreamers
1. Eliminate fear-producing dream images by building
positive dream images that work for you.
2. Build general experiences of the variation that exists in
the world—travel, read, see art, hear music, study, work,
experience the external, feel the internal. Absorb all of it.
It will be recorded.
3. Immerse yourself in your area of special interest.Expose yourself to all relevant material—books, movies, lectures, direct observation. Try to make your subject make sense to you. Get the necessary material for your product. Deep interest in a subject or intense emotional involvement will lead to saturating yourself in it. Soak up your interest.
4. Build specific conscious skills in your chosen field.
Get the necessary ability to produce a creative product, waking or sleeping. All the elements necessary for problem solution need to exist in your repertoire of knowledge. Your dreams will help recombine these elements into a new order.
5. Intensely focus your attention in your area of special interest for several days at a time (at least two or three). Work on your subject up until time to sleep. This serves as a kind of suggestion to dream about it. You may also wish to give yourself a specific dream assignment as well.
6. After you have your creative dream, clearly visualize
it and record it in some form as soon as possible: write it, paint it, play it, make it. Visualize it while you translate it into a concrete form.
7. Give special attention to your recurrent dreams and
idiosyncratic dream products.
8. Also helpful:
a. Practice creative process skills. See familiar things in strange ways; see similarities between dissimilar things; get free from rigid thinking.
b. Provide yourself with time, opportunity, and privacy for creative work.
c. Produce first; judge later. Don’t evaluate ideas at the same time you’re generating them.
d. Persist in producing and using symbols from your dreams, especially positive symbols and helpful figures. You will both help to integrate your personality and increase the probability of products.
e. Develop advanced skills in creative dreaming (see Part II).