Behold, this Dreamer!

"Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world, 
A boundary between the things misnamed 
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world, 
And a wide realm of wild reality, 
And dreams in their development have breath, 
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy; 
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts, 
They take a weight from off waking toils, 
They do divide our being; they become 
A portion of ourselves as of our time, 
And look like heralds of eternity; 
They pass like spirits of the past -they speak 
Like sibyls of the future; they have power - 
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain; 
They make us what we were not -what they will, 
And shake us with the vision that's gone by, 
The dread of vanished shadows -Are they so? 
Is not the past all shadow? -What are they? 
Creations of the mind? -The mind can make 
Substances, and people planets of its own 
With beings brighter than have been, and give 
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh". 


From 'The Dream' by Lord Byron

I read this at an evening gathering at Schumacher college recently, having found it in Walter de la Mare's wonderful anthology, 'Behold, this dreamer'.

I was asked, rather directly and publicly, by one of the participants why I had chosen it? I cannot recall my reply with any precision but thinking about it now I would say that it beautifully evokes what dreams and dreaming mean for me. They are another world that is enfolded in this one that carry meaning, not simply in the prospect that they may be interpreted (though that can have its value as I discovered in my own Jungian analysis) but as bearers of what the poet, Edwin Muir, would call 'The Fable': the woof of myth onto which is woven that unique and particular story that is you or me. I find that certain motifs recur unerringly even as they develop with time, need and insight. I carry a certain element of the Fable that is my own and it resonates with Muir's - of the Fall, paradise lost, and the long journey back from darkness into light, paradise regained, glimmering with moments of foretelling transfiguration on the way.

I love Byron's image of dream as both leaving a weight on one's waking thoughts - dreams that a friend described as those that 'push you into the mattress' with their pregnancy - and those dreams that lighten waking thoughts - illuminating some problem of daylight hour and, more often than not, dissolving it. 

Once I thought I might take my analysis further and train as an analyst but that faded away as I realised that 'analysis' is so often 'reductionist' - the potential egotism of learning how to read your dreams for your self is not helped by granting your self a capital 'S'! It too has become 'professionalised', no longer a magic practice undertaken by a sage (Jung's protestations of 'science' notwithstanding) but a therapeutic transaction. I think I would rather listen to mine and dream them forward in a dancing dialogue where the dream usually has the upper hand, has the wisdom, and hear their wider amplification in the stuff of story and myth that are our communal inheritance rather than crucify them for their 'usefulness'. 

One thing I have been sure of to date is that I have never been short of a bedtime story...


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