Sunday, January 31, 2016

An invitation to recount our dreams here


By Bob Boldt

One of the ways many so-called primitive cultures strengthen their communal bonds is through the telling of dreams. I like to think of the diverse group of individuals involved in Moristotle & Co. as a kind of community, albeit a virtual one. Accordingly, it might be fun – and productive – for the members of this community to share some of their dreams. Consider this an invitation.
    I find in my own dreams an inexhaustible supply of ideas for poems and other works of literary and visual art, and I personally find dream recording a wonderful source of reflection and information. The use of Moristotle & Co. for dream sharing might inspire me and others to be more inclined to write down and share dreams. Anyway, it’s worth a shot. [The editor supports this invitation, and already feels challenged to remember and record some of his own dreams.]
    Here is a dream I had just this morning [of the day of writing, January 11, 2016].

First a bit of background: Some years ago I was introduced to the practice of Santería. In the great living traditions of the African Diaspora – Vodun, Candomble, and Santería – the dead are incredibly important in influencing the lives of the living. Six months ago, Tony, a dear friend, passed away. His life was worthy of a great novel in itself. He served as a Roman Catholic priest in West Africa, left the priesthood, married an ex-nun, had two kids, and became a community activist. At 83 years of age, he was one of my few friends older than me. Now, officially, I do not believe in an afterlife. Why then do I still feel his presence guiding and informing me in death as he did in life?
    In my dream, my friend Tony was driving me at breakneck speed down a country road. The farm houses and cornfields were just flying by. He paused only briefly before running through a stop sign, saying, “There’s never any cross traffic here anyway,” and proceeded on apace. In order to mitigate my concern, I meditated on the distance where the road’s perspective met its vanishing point. I was thinking to myself that this distance was the real, calm present, not the near present that I was flying through. This perception produced a sense of peace and a relaxed tranquility.
    We finally arrived at a large university campus, where I found myself in an oversized living room. In chairs around the perimeter were the seated heads of the various departments of the school. All along the fireplace mantle were quite realistic stuffed heads of former heads of departments. I was appalled when the center head opened its eyes and began making movements with its mouth as if to speak. I hadn’t noticed, but there was an old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock immediately to the right of the head. As I bent forward for a closer look, the clock face became a simian face and began to chatter like a monkey. I stepped back, afraid that I might be bitten by the angry critter.
    The morning session began. My friend Tony was leading the seminar. In the center of the room sat Truth in the form of an indiscernible, smoky mass. Extending out from Truth were grey fabric ribbons leading to the hands of each of the department heads: Philosophy, Physics, Biology, Mathematics, etc. Tony was expounding on the ontological connection to Truth that each of these exact disciplines had. He was trying to demonstrate that the dodgy ideas put forth by mysticism, shamanism, and indigenous cultures could never have such a sure, positive connection to Truth. As if to demonstrate this, he piled up a bunch of books in front of an Australian aborigine. He then walked across the room and set a similar pile of books in front of the chair where Truth sat. He asked with obvious satisfaction whether it might be possible for the ideas represented in one pile of books to somehow magically transport themselves to the other pile. Proudly he exclaimed, “No. It is not possible!”
    Then he shifted into the costume of a Yoruba shaman and began to shake his rattles at the face of a large African woman dressed in a colorful, decorative Kente cloth. He was muttering something in Yoruba. Suddenly he turned and looked in my direction. I say “looked,” but he couldn’t have seen anything because his eye sockets were covered with light purple, round paper cut-outs. At first I thought he was addressing the person in the chair to my left, but it soon became obvious that he was talking to me directly. Before he was able to deliver his message I awoke with a start.

Copyright © 2016 by Bob Boldt


  1. During a certain period in my "therapeutic past," I recorded dreams and shared some of them with a therapist for their potential to unlock some issues I was having. This seemed useful in that context. But, in general, I have never given my dreams much consideration, beyond remarking one occasionally for its striking images or for coinciding with something that it might (or might not) be "commenting on." My dreams have never (that I remember now, at any rate) been a source for my writing or problem-solving. If they have been relevant to those things at all, I suspect they revealed my unconscious's "chatter" in the process of "thinking." The results of the chatter has always come, for me, in the early-morning hours as ideas to write down. That is, there has been no apparent need for me to attend to the chatter literally, but just to skim the cream off the top, so to speak.
        Nevertheless, Bob's challenging invitation does ignite my interest, and I am going to try to remember and jot down notes about my dreams now, to see whether anything interesting develops.

  2. I've been dreaming a lot lately...and remembering nothing beyond a vague image or two. I'll see if I can lime the bird next time.

  3. Bob's report has raised my awareness to the extent of having more fleeting impressions upon waking of having been dreaming, but so far with no memory of their content. I'm going to try to auto-suggest at bedtime that I awake remembering whatever I was dreaming.

  4. I asked novelist Peggy Payne*, whose husband is a psychotherapist (from whom I learned about auto-suggestion), what he might recommend for remembering our dreams.
        She replied: "He says write the dreams down in the morning. 'The more attention you pay to them, the more likely you are to remember them.'
        "I add to that: Write them down immediately; I wind up forgetting dreams that were vivid when I first woke. (As I write this, I re-remember last night's forgotten dream.)"

    * We have featured posts from Ms. Payne's blog, Peggy Payne: Novels of Sex and Spirituality.

  5. Tonight could be the night. For I think three nights I have gone to bed auto-suggesting that I would immediately, upon awaking, try to remember whatever I was dreaming, if anything. For the first two nights, it was only several seconds after waking - in the bathroom - that I thought to try to remember. I had only a vague sense of having heard some "chatter," but no specific images or conversation. But last night, for the first time, I was still in bed after awaking when I remembered to try to remember. And I did recall a small narrative of a dream. I didn't write it down, because I had forgotten to leave out writing material the night before, unlike the previous nights, although I had nothing to record those nights. Tonight might be the night.

  6. Indeed, last night showed improvement in the timing of my remembering to try to remember - I was triggered two or three times - but only the faintest traces of memory manifested - nothing I could describe. Plus, I was very sleepy. Should I be remembering "to remember," rather than "to try to remember"?

  7. Proficiency in remembering dreams is growing gradually. I have more and more often begun to be aware of dreaming right upon waking rather than seconds later - for example, after walking to the bathroom. I have over the past few days remembered fragments of scenarios seeming to involve meetings in pursuit of a project. And I even wrote down a little bit of one, but without enough context to give it significance. And last night, finally, I had a dream whose import was so striking that, even without writing anything down, I remembered it later. My wife and I were in Paris, and we had gotten into a "bad section of town," so to speak. We were attacked by a mugger and I was knocked down and was being kicked. I realized that "this could be it" if I didn't do something. So I marshalled my strength and lunged at the attacker's knees, dragging him down, and began to struggle with him. His hands were at my throat and I had my hands at his. I needed to do something. So I began to gouge his eyes with my thumbs. At this point I woke up.


  8. In the introduction to Hamlet's Mill" (1969) Giorgio de Santillana (At the time a professor of the history of science at MIT) suggests the heretical contention that what we regard as our society as the pinnacle of civilization may indeed be a de-evolution from and even higher more spiritually advanced pan-global terrestrial culture 4,000 BCE.

    I have always found ancient myths to be a trove of knowledge and insight.

    "It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.” Joseph Campbell

    Through dream interpretation, oracular divination, the partaking of consciousness altering substances and practices, man has sought to sustain his connection to the preternatural. While there is no discounting the contribution of psycho-active "sacraments" and mystically induced altered states in informing our concept of Reality, for most mortals, the dream state is the most common gateway to nether regions that they will ever experience. In point of fact, most piratical people give little regard to understanding their dreams and no attention to recording and remembering them.

    There is an interesting myth concerning dreams that some will recognize from Homer and Virgil. It is the story of the two gates.

    "Ivory Gate Of Dreams
    Graeco-Roman: when a dreamer leaves the realm of dreams, there are two gates he can use to exit to the waking world (though it's usually not up to the dreamer to decide which gate to take).

    Ivory Gate of Dreams. Dreams which delude pass through this gate, those which come true pass through the Gate of Horn.

    This fancy depends upon two puns: ivory in Greek is elphas, and the verb elephairo means “to cheat with empty hopes;”

    The Greek for horn is keras, and the verb karano means “to accomplish.”

    E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
    Lucid dreams might be compared with the ancient Horn- gated dreams, whereas everyday dreams, the ones fraught with the joys and concerns of the subject's conscious and unconscious drives, goals, and fears are the passers through the Ivory Gate.

    "Jung also differed in a similar manner between everyday dreams and big dreams. While the former reflects primarily our everyday life with the smaller and larger needs, desires and hopes, Jung characterized the great dreams as rare dreams that occur only a few times in one's life. They usually include very archetypal symbols, can resonate the fundamental human issues that are central to the dreamer."

    Carlos Castineda has a whole book on dreaming. It has many useful tips on how to induce lucid dreams.

    The Art of Dreaming: Carlos Castaneda: 9780060925543 ...

    "So I suggest all dreamers to integrate the goals from Horn in their dreams by suggesting to before going to sleep, to have true dreams from the gates of horn. What kind of effect have these suggestions on the dream life? Follow it, the usual dreams, or they are somehow different? Are there strange dreams, or unpleasant dreams?" Gassman Ibid

  9. Bob, thank you for this interesting spur to my continuing "to suggest" prior to sleeping that I shall dream – and, I see, not only dream, but dream lucidly, dream big, dream with accomplishment, and never mind that I may already have dreamed my allotment of only a few such in my life, for maybe I haven't yet....

    1. Well, I trust there may be one or two lucid dreams inside me still, but "The best is yet to come" sounds too much like religious people's hope for eternal life for me to give it credence.

  10. The tapestry of my life is such a lose weave of so many seemingly disparate fibers:

    The Gate of Horn was an integral part of my early aesthetic and cultural development. A couple of friends of mine, Spike and MaryBeth Flanders lived across Dearborn Street from The Gate in those days. I would take the train into Chicago, catch a set or two at The Gate and spend the night at the Flanders'. Spike worked for the railroad but was a true working class hero, steeped in radical, and classical philosophy--all self-taught. After my session at The Gate I had long philosophical discussions with Spike.
    The Gate was a funky little dive holding at most 100 patrons gathered close up to the stage. My favorite acts were Odetta, Josh White and Will Holt. I regret I never heard two of the greatest patriarchs of comedy, Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce. They were regular headliners at The Gate.

    It was only years later I discovered the meaning of the gate of horn from Greek mythology

    For the Greek myth involving a gate of horn, see Gates of horn and ivory.
    The Gate of Horn was a 100-seat[1] folk music club, located in the basement of the Rice Hotel on the southeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Dearborn Street, on the near north side of Chicago, Illinois, in the 1950's and 1960s. It was opened by Albert Grossman in 1956[2] and was where Odetta, Bob Gibson, Roger McGuinn and others made their name. Also appearing at the club were Will Holt,

    Theodore Bikel, Josh White, Jo Mapes, Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry and the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Hoyt Axton and Bonnie Dobson.

    In April 1961, Gibson and Bob Camp recorded their folk album Bob Gibson & Bob Camp at the Gate Of Horn at the club.
    The Gate of Horn was also one of the clubs at which stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce played, in December 1962, before his arrest and trial for obscenity.

    Singer/songwriter, Roger McGuinn later wrote the song "Gate of Horn", about the venue and the way it affected him.

    There is also and homage to Gate's owner Bud Grossman's legacy in the Cohen Brothers'. film "Inside Llewyn Davis."

    This clip sums up my memories of The Gate of Horn.

    1. Bob, I started out interpreting your comment as asserting a substantial connection between the Graeco-Roman understanding of dreams and the arts club, but I finally realized that the only connection seems to be the mere coincidence of the phrase's being used for both. Isn't that the size of it? I do gather, though, that you personally have injected much significance into the coincidence.

    2. I believe there is no such thing as coincidence (Most of the time)

  11. Crap! I just lost the long post I just wrote to some authenticating Google glitch. Does this happen often around here?

    1. It happens often enough that I have many times here advised commenters to save their text before clicking "Preview" or "Publish," as I will do now, prior to attempting to publish.

    2. Color me stupid. It's my one rule too. Ha ha
      It's a rule I always follow on less than familiar sites. You know, with a site I almost consider my own, I get kind of sloppy. Like not just doing the simple act of 'save' when getting off the page for any reason.

  12. I'm not going to revive it. As Kerouac said "first though best!"
    I retrieved the last part of it that I saved over and would have made the post too long.

    Students of the art of non-coincidence (Jung called it Synchronicity) might enjoy this review of the Cohen Bros. film "Inside Llewellyn Davis" that will interestingly sew up the relationship you mentioned between Homer, The Cohen Bros, and the Gate of Horn.

    "...the place where reality and art harmonize is none other than the Gate of Horn, the Chicago folk music club where countless folk luminaries – including Bob Gibson, Roger McGuinn, Odetta, Shel Silverstein, Sonny Terry, Bob Dylan, and Brownie McGhee – began their careers. Roughly halfway through the film, Llewyn, having exhausted the patience of his friends, sojourns out to Illinois in hope of scoring a gig at the Gate; it’s a feat he accomplishes mostly by being present, so that owner Bud Grossman can’t brush him off without hearing him play."