When I first began writing about “keys for the future of dreams,” I had reached four key words when I had a dream that told me I had to add afifth word. Furthermore, the dream insisted, it had to be a fifth “C-word.”
Having learned that there is more wisdom in obeying the orders of dreams than in refusing them, I consulted the I Ching “dream gourd” that has become part of my daily practice.
The dream-gourd answered my query with Hexagram 3 (Zhun, tr. “beginning”). From the etymological pictograph, I discerned that the best C-word to convey the sense of this image was “cultivate.” This led to my question: What do we do in our own lives and in relation to the lives of others to cultivate dreams?
In this post I intend to explore this question, as I promised.
One way to deepen any exploration is to begin with an analysis of the etymology of the words one is using. In the previous post, I showed how tending to the etymological image in the I Ching produced the idea of “cultivate.”
So, now, let’s look at this English word. Most of the time, a word’s dictionary definitions do not add much to the word itself that one already knows. For example, one definition of “cultivate” is “to improve or prepare land, as by plowing, for raising crops.” But another definition, “to nurture, foster,” when applied to dreams, adds a nuance: to nurture and foster dreams. So does another definition: “to seek the acquaintance.” “To seek the acquaintance of dreams,” is likely a phrase one has not heard of before. We might even put these two ideas together: To nurture and foster dreams, seek their acquaintance.
The Indo-European root from which cultivate (as well as culture and many other rich words) derive is kwel-, which has the basic sense of “circling with.” (imagine oxen turning, back and forth, ploughing the field). Circling with a dream. Note the “with” here, the sense of something done together. None of these phrases carries the idea of something “done to” the dream. Nor is there any sense or emphasis on possession, as when we say “my” dream. The dream is of something “other,” and our proprietary clutching is not warranted. This otherness may be experienced as threatening, pleasing, numinous, nonsensical, shrouded in mystery, or a hundred other such cognitive and emotional sequalae that follow awakening from the dream. If one is interested in dreams at all (probably a different kind of 1%), one’s interest seems to focus primarily on what does this dream mean and how can I profit from this meaning? I don’t believe that this common mode of relating to dreams is what is meant by “circling with a dream.”
How then to cultivate dreams in ourselves and in others?
At this point, I’d like to ask each of you reading this post to read the chapter entitled, “The Dream Wants a Dream,” in Psyche Speaks. Just mentioning the chapter’s title is sufficient to give a sense of this cultivation: a dream wants a dream. This idea itself came from a dream, and to take it seriously is to seriously consider that dreams themselvesdesire. Freud developed the idea that dreams mask and hide our true desires and that this hiding and masking helps us to maintain some degree of sanity. Jung rejected the idea of masking, but accepted the idea that dreams are expressing our desires in plain sight. But my dream (“A dream wants a dream/A poem wants a poem”) asserts something else: that dreams themselves (as well as poems) desire. This echoes Baudelaire’s assertion that the only proper “criticism” of a work of art was anotherwork of art.
As I argued in Psyche Speaks, this wanting, this desire on the part of dreams, poems and art (and, of course, much else as well), is eros in waiting, waiting for us to act in return.
In Jung’s most important letter, written to Herbert Read in 1960, Jung writes:
We have simply got to listen to what the psyche spontaneously says to us. What the dream, which is not manufactured by us says is just so…It is the great dream which has always spoken through the artist as a mouthpiece. All his love and his passion (his “values)” flow towards the coming guest to proclaim his arrival…What is the great Dream? It consists of the many small dreams and the many acts of humility and submission to their hints. It is the future and the picture of the new world, which we do not understand yet. We cannot know better than the unconscious and its intimations. There is a fair chance of finding what we seek in vain in our conscious world. Where else could it be?
Just about everything that is important to me in Jung’s psychology is embedded in this letter and its implications. Some implications: everydream is carrying the future, every dream is an aspect of the coming guest, every dream desires us to act on the “hint” of the dream.
Yet, look at the present world, so devoid of being informed by the unconscious and its intimations, so demanding of everyone’s consciousness to be focused on and tethered to “out there.”
Pokémon Go, in a few days’ time, has already “captured” the attention, the frenzy, and the actions of more people than are relating to their dreams. Think about what this future portends.
…to be continued…