By Lynnea Urania Stuart
Transpeople are a people of dreams. I’m convinced of that, even if many transpeople I know have shut themselves off from their dreams. Doing so is a mistake. Some of us awakened to our trans nature through dreams because, if we listen to them and understand them rightly, they don’t lie. In fact a Jewish maxim says, “A dream is one-sixtieth part of prophecy.”1
More than that, dreams should be cherished and cultivated. This may be difficult for some people to understand because most people think that a dream is something you have, not something you do. But working with dreams can be richly rewarding, offering greater meaning to life as a whole. As a result, they contribute to our overall health.
Society has long repressed our capacity to dream, delegating them to something laughable. When Simon and Garfunkel sang, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls,” exactly who were the prophets? Weren’t they the voices of the inner personae struggling to find expression in a Kafkaesque society that delegates those voices to the most banal and impoverished blight?2 When we ignore that voice, it may surface in a nightmare one may not successfully shake. How then, should we make friends with this voice and tap into its creative energy?
THE DREAM GENERA
Years ago when I wrote The Téssara, I developed my philosophy within a theory of dreaming and priestly practices. The Téssara was never released to the market in its full form, largely because its esoteric aspects were overly substantive. But in that book I cataloged 40 species of dream mechanisms in 5 genera:
- Hypnagogia: dream phenomena occurring prior to entry into Stage I sleep
- REM: dream phenomena occurring during the final stage of sleep associated with Rapid Eye Movements
- Trance: dream phenomena when engaged in waking but altered states of awareness with eyes closed
- Eidetic: dream phenomena when awake and eyes open
- Comatose: a loosely defined genus mostly consisting of phenomena during comatose conditions and at sleep stages not normally associated with dreams.3
Some of these terms may be completely new to some people, especially if they have grown up with the belief that dreams only happen during REM sleep. They clearly aren’t so restricted. In fact, Sigmund Freud wrote about hypnagogic (sleep admitting) dreams in his monumental work The Interpretation of Dreams and quoted a series of experiments by F.M.A. Maury pertaining to the incubation of hypnagogic dreams. Incubation is the practice of inducing a particular theme in a dream through some kind of stimulus.4
Trance states are most commonly encountered through transcendental meditation but also include such phenomena as guided imagery, psychometry, mediumistic and shamanic trance states, and certain forms of pathworking.5
Eidetic phenomena are more widely reported in children than adults, the latter of which only 12% report. It consists of actually seeing images in the visual field when one thinks a certain way. Skrying, hypnapompic (sleep dismissing) imagery, visions in ritual work, tulpas, and the “Sorcerer’s Dream” are all eidetic phenomena.6
Those of the Comatose group include night terrors, eroto-comatose lucidity, hyperventilative lucidity, and the near death experience.7
FACING THE DREAM
Two things prevent many transpeople from giving attention to their dream lives: (1) a general lack of motivation to dream due to obsession with daily affairs and (2) a basic fear of dreams that they would only be nightmares instead. Of these, the second is the one less prone to remedy because fear can become the greatest of all obsessions that choke out natural innocence. The dreamworker is an intrepid soul, one who has learned not to “crap out” when faced with the “shadows of the night.”
A shadow figure may appear for good reason and a dreamer would be amiss to ignore it. Psychologist M.L. von Frantz described the shadow as representing, “little known attributes and qualities of the ego aspects” belonging to one’s own “personal sphere” that may take a life of sorts. In other words, it could “just as well be conscious.”8
The shadow sounds like a demon and in a personal level that’s exactly what it is, though not a demon in the same way as one might encounter through a Goetic treatise like the Greater Key of Solomon.9 The shadow personifies one’s dark side that must be faced, at times fight, and at times embrace. It is, after all, one’s dark side, and in its strange way is close to God.
GETTING IN TOUCH
Virtually everyone has dreams and those who think they don’t simply don’t remember them. Dreams have an effervescent quality that could dissipate into forgetfulness as soon as someone looks for a claw hammer to smash the alarm clock to smithereens in the morning. Remembering requires attention, even mindfulness.
Nothing cultivates this better than a simple dream diary assisted with a few pages on a clipboard with some key points of a dream jotted down immediately upon waking and reviewed the next day. Those jottings jog the memory and aspects of the dream return. Further details reveal themselves when the dreamer “fleshes out” the story in the dream diary.
The dreams most easily observed are hypnagogic dreams. Encountering hypnagogic dreams are easier than you might think. This writer became aware of them in 1972 by accident when falling into slumber after returning home from school and noting the time on the clock. Then, realizing a dream had taken place, I looked again at the clock and saw that only 2 minutes had passed. If dreams happen only in REM sleep and it takes maybe 90 minutes to get to the point of REM sleep, why did that dream happen in those 2 minutes?
So after repeating the event several times, I compiled a list of 18 such dreams of short duration and brought them to school the next day. An classmate in Biology class claimed dreams only happen in REM. I disputed this and produced those 18 dreamlets as examples. The instructor seized the opportunity and began to coach us in dream interpretation, something that would also assist me in literary interpretation. After all, our literatures not only begin with experiences in waking and with philosophic perspectives but also begin with our dreams.
Once one learns to recognize a hypnagogic dream, one can go the next step: choosing a dream subject. This is surprisingly easy to do. Simply hold a thought about the subject one may choose to dream while entering that “fuzzy state” between waking and sleep and the dream will assimilate the subject the dreamer holds in his thoughts. This is incubation of hypnagogic dreams and can lead to other methods of incubation as well.
Something else happens when one takes on such exercises. As one works with hypnagogic dreams, dreams in REM also start to come alive. Within a couple of weeks, a dream life can reveal its richness even after years of silencing through inattentiveness.
MOVING TOWARD LUCIDITY
Of course it’s pointless to simply see dreams happening. We must also understand and transcend them.
Left to themselves, dreams recall memory traces and resort them based upon emotional tags via the hippocampus.10 This sorting and resorting of information helps to keep the cerebrum relatively compact. In comparison, the echidna, an animal that does not dream, requires a proportionately much higher ratio than human brains in the size of its cerebrum in comparison with other brain structures.11
Those emotional tags imbue memory traces with energy that become a big factor in why certain memory traces get recalled as numinous dream elements at any stage of life. If those energies resonate with an emotionally charged issue, even if immediately hidden, it could jar the dreamer into emotional shock. This return, called “regression” (literally a reversal of synapses from the motor faculties to the perceptual to return memory traces to the Preconscious) forms the core of Freudian theory with respect to dreams. When Freud described this in The Interpretation of Dreams, he achieved something monumental. He established a workable theory that still resonates today, a theory that set him apart from the oneirocrits of antiquity.12
But apart from working through issues with a psychiatrist, what can the dreamer do to overcome the issues he faces? Enter lucid dreaming.
Lucidity is a state in which a dreamer is no longer bound by the dream. He realizes in a dream that he is, in fact, in a dream and is fully awake within the dream. The dreamer realizes some starkly exciting changes in the dreamscape. The dream becomes intensely lifelike, even luminous. The dreamer is free to consciously explore the dreamscape and dream scenario, doing as he wishes. He can rationally overcome shadowy elements in his dream. The experience is like walking through a motion picture screen and living what’s on the other side in stark 3-dimensional clarity.13
Lucidity can be achieved in REM by declaring, “I’m dreaming!” The dreamer may repeat this, with the clarity associated with lucidity responding accordingly.14
A dreamer can also achieve lucidity from hypnagogic episodes. In one common technique, the dreamer must quickly find his dream hands. One may encounter a surge of energy by doing so. But the dream can also be sustained by taking quick glances to various objects in the dreamscape and back to the hands. This has the effect of stabilizing the dream in full lucidity and, at the same time, extending the life of the dream to the duration of dreams in REM sleep. But this happens directly from waking.15
BENEFITS OF CONNECTING WITH THE DREAM
For all their zaniness, few things inspire as much as a dream; and as many as embrace their dreams may awaken to the greater Dream. Dreams not only offer immense creative potential and can promote health, they also raise philosophical questions of their own, questions which address life’s meaning.
One of those questions pertains to the soul. The soul, beyond being a blend of body and breath as a link to consciousness, can hardly be demonstrated to one lacking experience. It’s like trying to prove the existence of God with theorems or the blueness of the sky to a man blind from birth: a fruitless exercise.
However, the experience of lucidity and the explorations implied thereby raise the issue of the soul all over again. When engaging in practices like pathworking, rising through the planes and entering levels beyond astral projection, one encounters states beyond those reminiscent of Alice Through the Looking Glass.16 Different levels seem to operate by different rules. One also encounters the flow of energy from a higher unity to lower plurality.
It’s reminiscent of Schopenhauer’s unitary description of the noumenon.17 Ever since Parmenides filled the Greek world with the Eleatic idea of everything being an ultimate unity, philosophers have pondered the differences between things that are (noumenal) and things as they appear (phenomenal).18
It also addresses the state of the person whose consciousness penetrates to higher levels. Kabbalists refer to this differing state in terms of the soul as an inductive realization in 3 basic levels.
The first, a nefesh, consists of the union of a body or a corpse (gūf) with breath or “spirit” (ruach). At death the nefesh no longer exists.
The second, (ruach), pertains not only to breathing, but the faculties of thought and consciousness which may be expressed or continue in a neutralized state. In lucidity, thought is cultivated in a fully conscious manner. By exercising lucidity, the ruach strengthens.
But the ruach, when it faces the unity of the noumenon, must undergo a further change. This is what Kabbalists call the “neshamah.” Kabbalah addresses this neshamah in 3 ways:
- A lesser neshamah in which the greater neshamah builds understanding of the noumenon;
- A chiah in which life faculties become subjugated to a singularity;
- A yechidah which alone unites with that noumenal unity and is itself actually that unity because no “one and another” exists in a state of pure unity.19
The yechidah reaches a state that might be thought of as reaching the door of the cave in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in Book VII of The Republic.20 When approaching the soul this way, the realization thereof isn’t deduced from another principle. It’s an inductive approach based upon powerful experiences. While experiences don’t prove anything to the next person, it’s a different matter when those powerful experiences are your own.
In the process, issues of ethics become important in ways one may not have previously considered. Ethics become facilitating energies that enable one to reach higher. In this context, things like charity, sacrifice, faith, and hope become ethical acts and virtues that do more than just keeping people out of jail. They’re rewards not comprehended by those who fear their dreams.
For those who pray, those prayers can also become vehicles of transcendence. The dream with a negative energy will burst when the dreamer prays. But the dream with a positive energy will intensify instead. The prayer becomes the teacher.21
Like it or not, humans are dreamers. It’s our right to dream, not by decree but by birthright. It’s a birthright full of a sacred responsibility to defy a society that diminishes their import and delegates them to silence. That’s no less true for transpeople whose dreams awakened us to our gender issues. We can fear them. We can cultivate them. Only the latter yields benefits.
In understanding them we need to respect them as we would any teacher, knowing that the rewards are more favorable than consequences of resistance. The fountain of creativity lies deep within us all and that fountain must be honored for it to flow freely as a blessed source of refreshment and life.
That also inspires us to honor others with respect. When anyone dies, an inner universe literally dies with him. How much could we preserve the enrichment of our people if we honor those who embody those worlds?
But if we should do that, we must first respect our own inner universe and listen to its messages those dreams teach.
Honor your dream,
And if you do,
Your dream will be waiting
There for you.
Featured Image: Titania and Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, detail of a painting by Edwin Landseer (Wikimedia Commons) with a lucid dreamscape (Flickr). The star points toward the white rabbit which has been a symbol of natural innocence since time immemorial and revived by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.
- Berachot 57b, Mishnah
- Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. “The Sound of Silence” YouTube (posted by Jack Lim July 20, 2013 with lyrics, accessed December 12, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–DbgPXwLlM.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. Hiereika, Ch. 3, Téssara (2008,book not to be released before the death of the author) No ISBN. p. 121, 122.
- Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams” com (Online English version, Chapter 1C accessed December 12, 2017) https://genius.com/Sigmund-freud-the-interpretation-of-dreams-chap-1c-annotated
- Op. cit, pp. 130-135.
- Ibid, pp. 135-138.
- Ibid, pp. 138-141.
- Jung, C.G. Man and His Symbols (Laurel Books, Dell Publishing, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., NY, 1968) ISBN: 0-440-35183-9, p. 174.
- Mathers, S.L. Macgregor. The greater Key of Solomon (Digireads, 2007) ISBN-13: 978-1420928181.
- Erin J. Wamsley, Ph.D. and Robert Stickgold, Ph.D. “Memory, Sleep and Dreaming: Experiencing Consolidation” NCBI (March 6, 2011, accessed December 13, 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079906/.
- Robert Kanigel. “Understanding Dreams the Work We Do as We Sleep” Washington Post (February 8, 1987, accessed December 13, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1987/02/08/understanding-dreams-the-work-we-do-as-we-sleep/445125c2-77f2-49f2-9ca4-9812dc2eda68/?utm_term=.39a4df04f639.
- Michael, Michael T. Freud’s Theory of Dreams: A Philosophico-Scientific Perspective (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) ISBN-13: 978-1442230453, p. 52
- Waggoner, Robert. Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2008) ISBN 1609255399, p. 6.
- The author relies upon her own experience, but this is also recorded by various dreamworkers including Le Berge.
- A process LeBerge described as “Waking Induction of Lucid Dreams” but is also described in various publications by Carlos Castaneda. Rebecca Turner. “Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (The MILD Technique)” The World of Lucid Dreaming (n.d., accessed August 2, 2017) http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/mnemonic-induction-of-lucid-dreams.html.
- Carroll, Lewis. Alice Through the Looking Glass ( Lot 17 Media, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-1537859699.
- Beiser, Frederick C. Weltschmerz: Pessimism in German Philosophy, 1860-1900 (Oxford, 2016) ISBN-13: 978-0191081347, p.. 247.
- Parmenides 129, 130.
- The author relies upon her own interaction with Kabbalists concerning these aspects.
- Republic 514-517.
- The author relies upon her own experience here.