The Possibility of Liberation
In Non-Linear Dreamtime
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Among other things that Ralph the Seedy Rug Merchant and I talked about, we acknowledged the ancient pact that bound us to each other, and agreed to change it. At a special place on a rock ledge in front of a sprawling juniper tree I called the World Tree for the duration of my dreamwork intensive, I did a ceremony, honoring him, and in a sense welcoming home from the war he had fought so bravely and steadfastly all these years on my behalf. I told him that I had managed to finally retire from my last business – buying and selling college textbooks for 19 years – a month before the dream in which I met him, and that this achievement was a testament to the stellar job he had done. He, in turn, was able to recognize that I no longer needed him to protect me from being down and out, destitute, hungry and homeless – that I could take care of myself, and had in fact, been doing so for a very long time. Now that I was retiring, I told him, he could retire as well.
He seemed to get the message and his gratitude and relief were palpable. In that moment, something shifted – for me, and for him. We were, in a sense, fulfilling an ancient soul contract, across the illusory barrier between worlds. Through the portal that marks the permeable threshold between dream and waking state reality, I was able to recognize that Ralph had a life of his own, enter into dialogue with him, and renegotiate the nature of our relationship, just as I would have were he a flesh and blood denizen of this world.
But what is equally intriguing is the possibility that this permeable threshold is not a one-way street. If I can cross over into the dream world, why couldn’t Ralph cross over into my world?
Had he not appeared to me in my teens as my 8th grade English teacher, the one who sternly admonished me to walk the straight and narrow, lest I wind up in prison? Was he not recognizable in my late 20s as a mentor who, after an unfortunate series of events, literally kicked me into the streets, where I had no choice, but to get the first job that presented itself to me – a painting job that eventually led to my own painting business? Could I not hear his siren call in my 40s, when after experiencing an intense round of financial hardship, I discovered the possibility of developing the textbook business from which I was recently retired through a brief apprenticeship to the brother of a friend?
Looking back, it all feels like a dream. As part of his job as Loyal Soldier, could not Ralph have been making disguised midnight raids across enemy lines, into my day world? Or more intriguing yet, could not Ralph have been dreaming me (or at least my Loyal Soldier) into existence on this side of the line? What if Ralph were dreaming me forward from some vantage point in the future to the point where we could have a conversation that would release us both from the past?
To consider such a possibility requires a leap from the more conventional way of thinking about dreams and about time. But like the independent reality of the dream world, the capacity of dream characters and images to influence our world backward through time is not without some substantiation.
Robert Moss recounts numerous examples from history of prophetic dreams. Lincoln apparently dreamed he saw his own body laid out in a coffin in the East Room of the White House two weeks before his assassination. The sinking of the Titanic, coal mine disasters, earthquakes, wars and other dire events have all been documented by dreams before they happened.
Recently a friend dreamed of a controlled burn that got out of control two days before it actually happened, and regrets not telling his friends – who thankfully were not hurt by the fire, but could have been. Another friend had several dreams about traveling to India years before actually being offered a job there. Although we can often make little sense of them at the time, because we have no external frame of reference, such prophetic dreams – recognized mostly only in retrospect – are quite common.
In considering prophetic dreams, Moss quotes famous dream researchers Montague Ullman and Stanley Krippner, who concluded through scientific studies that “the orientation of the sleeping subject (having a prophetic dream) is not primarily to his own past, but to the kind of situation to which he may awaken” (Dream Studies and Telepathy: An Experimental Approach, New York, NY: Parapsychology Foundation, 1970). He then concludes that, “shamans, of course, would go further. They would say that precognitive dreams are memories of the future that we can explore in dreams because when we are outside our bodies, we are not bound by space-time” (Conscious Dreaming, p. 180).
Conversely, might we not speculate that dream characters - who live in a world not bound by space-time - can speak to us from what we would perceive as the future, calling us forward into more conscious relationship with them?
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