Dreamtime is atemporal. This for me is one of the most important statements that I can make for it is key to understanding the nature of spirit and therefore the divine. For two nights in a row I have had vividly intense dreams involving overtly religious themes involving Christianity.
The night before last I dreamed that I was at a strange sea-side resort that had two beaches. One was open air and looked out onto rocks, while the other had a massive roof that looked out to open sea. The nature of the beach made giant, crashing waves that were fun to surf and play in but made approaching the beach from the sea mortally dangerous. In the dream, I was on the beach when word came that an island some three or four miles away had experienced some horrible cataclysm: an earthquake, volcano or the like. All the inhabitants were suddenly driven into the ocean for survival, and the only place they had to go was the beach where we were.
All of us on the beach, a crowd of maybe seventy or eighty people, knew that boats would be coming in of every variety, but the beach would make landing extremely dangerous. The first boats were just coming into view over the breakers when suddenly I heard a strange sound behind me. Turning, I saw franciscan monks organizing all the people into a massive prayer-group. Shocked, I began shouting that this was not the time for prayer, that we had to get ready to receive the refugees, but no one moved. When I turned to head into the water, a furious voice behind me said, “don’t move a muscle!” I looked around and an elderly, African-American woman in a folding lawn chair was staring at me with a burning anger. I was not sure if she was going to do something, but ended with just turning around and heading into the water.
For some time I was hauling boats up onto the beach, making sure that each got safely past the pounding surf, until I suddenly realized that not only boats were coming in to shore. Among the boats were clumps of swimmers who had found no room on the boats. I was stunned at first that people could swim so far, but I yelled “swimmers” over my shoulder and went deeper into the water to try and help them. One wave slammed me down, and when I looked up I was staring into the face of a drowning child who had made it almost to shore before giving in to exhaustion. I swam up, pulled him above the water and got him in to shore. It was then that I woke up.
I’ve had dreams before about trying to save people in great distress, but I don’t know why on this night I dreamed that monks were interfering or why this woman was so angry with me. I firmly believe that there are purposes behind our dreams — purposes beyond simply giving voice to our inner feelings, particularly when 1) we are active participants making clear choices as to how we behave and 2) the dream is of such vivid clarity — but the purport of this dream still eludes me.
Last night, my dream was more confrontational.
I was back at my undergraduate college, nicknamed Sewanee, though it was not the Sewanee of my waking history. It felt like Sewanee, but it was larger, more magnificent and somehow more real. Through one thing and another, I stumbled upon a mass that was taking place deep uder the campus. Participating in it were students from the college, but they were solemn in a way that was far beyond normal students. Their solemnity and intensity suggested a competency and power beyond simple young adults. They were somehow heroic in stature. The mass was Catholic in appearance — dramatic vestments, high altar, full liturgical structure — but a sign on the door intimated that their worship was categorically different from any other form of Christianity and fully engaged pagan understandings of reality. I went in and lingered by the door, watching the proceeding.
I had come in part-way through a three-fold eucharist, having missed the first, and watched as the celebrant performed the second. Without pausing, and without ceasing his focus on performing the mass, the celebrant somehow turned attention to me and invited me in. I indicated that I would wait and perhaps join after the second mass concluded. Looking over the participants, I noticed a number in the vestments of the Knights Tmeplar and Hospitallers, a fact so striking and singular that I was intrigued.
Soon the second mass concluded and the third began. Again, without ceasing his motions and prayers, the celebrant asked if I was going to come in and join the mass. Painfully aware of everyone’s eyes on me, I walked across the room and asked where I should sit. No one responded, so I said softly “I’ll just sit at the back then.” Still aware of the very Catholic style of the mass, I knelt at entrance to the pew and sat down. Then things became interesting.
I was looking at the immense gold cross up on the altar and thinking about the differences between paganism and Christianity when I became determined to research the diffference between them, looking for synergisms, resonances and disjunctions. I then found myself going into the university’s library and swiftly into a section specifically set aside for this subject. I must stress that I never left the mass, never left the room with the strangely vested worshippers. I was still there watching the mass, but I was also in the library searching for books.
I found the section and a book titled something like Pagan(?) Catelectic(?) Christianity: Christiantiy based on Homer. Opening this up I read a passage talking about the supplanting of the Celtic god of darkness with Christ concieved as a solar deity. Of course I was already thinking how this didn’t make sense what with what I understood of early Celtic religion, but the significant thing was that as I was thinking these things I found myself seeing the sun, seeing an image of the horned god, and thereby recieving a myriad of impressions quickly — all while still reading the book. Then I closed the book and was wholly back in the library. I write ‘wholly’ here but was still in the mass though my attention was more on being in the library.
I then began scanning the shelves again and found some strange books that were not related to what I wanted to find. One book was on the discourse, held in Latin, between a Russian thinker and a religious figure on some convoluted details of Christian theology. The argument was quite involved and considered very significant, but it held little interest for me.
Then I found a book that was in a comic-book format wherein the cast of the Poltergeist movies ran afoul of the ghost of Anne Rice, who had lived almost two centuries before, had died tragically and been bound spiritually to the velveteen rabbit. (I know! Dreams!) It would have been funny had the artwork not been so strangely disturbing. The plot was simple and predictable enough: having awakened this ghost from its long dormancy, the family had to take the rabbit and, on a particular day, burn it in a hole wherein Anne had been slain herself as part of a pagan Celtic sacrifice. Much of the story was occupied with the hauntings that led up to the appointed day, but as I read the book became more and more vivid, occupying my awareness more and more fully until finally I was experiencing the story as a dream within my dream.
In this nested dream, I was present completely — I would say physically but for the obvious contradiction — but watching the events unfold around me. None of the participants seemed aware of me as though I were a ghost myself.
They walked out to the site of the sacrifice, a hole in a very grim and haunted-feeling forest, every step being more difficult than the last because of the increasingly violent interference from Anne’s ghost. Finally, the doll was burned and a carefully arranged set of sigils cast in gold and lain on a mirror were visible at the bottom of the hole. With one swipe, these were cast off the mirror and the ghost was released. I looked up from the hole to find one of the mass’s worshippers — a man with the vestments of a Knight Templar — staring at me.
I then found myself back in the library with the distinct impression that I wanted time to sort this all out as the whole series of events, impressions and ideas were becoming a mixed-up jumble to me. I then woke up and found myself in my bed.
I must reiterate, though, that from the time that I entered that strangely low room with the concrete floor, I was never out of the mass. Many times I have had dreams where the narrative of events seems to shift from one scene to another with a logic only rational within the dream, but this experience was different. I was in multiple places at once depending on where my mental focus was: my reality was determined by my state of mind. I now wonder if this is not the common reality of dreams — the way they work for everybody — and only my perception of them has changed. For the last year or so I have been considering the nature of spirit as being unbounded by space and time, so now with the possibility of an individual essence being in more than one place at the same time (or even multiple times), suddenly this nested dream-structure became sensible.
It would make a great deal of sense with regard to a great many different things, and it has much to say regarding the nature of deity. Many people have written about the nature of the gods and whether gods of different names with the same characteristics are really one and the same or different beings altogether. In my mind, this dream suddenly blows the whole question apart, as the question of iteration (i.e. the ability to count one discrete thing as being distinct from another) does not bear on the gods in the same way that it does on us in this day of this life.
The ramifications are enormous but will have to wait until I’ve had more time to think about them. I will say this, though: the moment immediately preceding my emerging from the dream was enormously significant. It was when I needed the singularity of lived, waking experience that I woke up. I needed then to have one thought after another, almost as though I was becoming confused and spiritually disjointed with my attention going in so many directions.
The ability to focus and its impact on our waking states make much more sense to me now. As we grow, we develop the ability to focus our mind and deliberately attend to one thing after another. Some people who practice meditation are able to then direct their whole focus on one thing for a set amount of time. This ability to deliberately attend and not be unceasingly battered about by their sense perceptions is the same state that allows dreams to be made lucid, under he control of the dreamer. (I have always had much more vivid dreams, for example, when I meditate regularly.) I cannot help but think that, when we are unconscious, we are wholly exposed to the infinite potential of the Oceanus Firmamentorum but wholly unable to make sense of that experience without being able to focus our attention. Our lives, then, give us the vocabulary with which dreams become possible, rendering the infinite potential intelligible and therefore sensible.