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Famous people – Dreams of

Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler dreamt he was on a ship travelling to an unknown destination with all the treasurers he had acquired during his lifetime. A collision occurred, the boat sank, and everything he had was lost, but he reached the shore after a long, hard struggle.

He dreamt this the night before his trip to America. It shows him with all the treasure of his work and thought going with him, but it also shows his feelings that it will necessitate a loss and hard work, but success in reaching the shore. Such a dream might even show a while new outlook gained by the trip.

Homer wrote the following:

Friend, many and many a dream is mere confusion,

a cobweb of no consequence at all.

Two gates for ghostly dreams there are: one gateway

of honest horn, and one of ivory.

Issuing by the ivory gates are dreams

of glimmering illusion, fantasies,

but those that come through solid polished horn may be borne out, if mortals only know them. – The Odyssey, Book XIX


Carl Jung had this to say about dreams:

A dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic. From ‘General Aspects of Dream Psychology’, 1948


From Elizabeth Gaskell:

I am just as fond of children as ever, and have a strange yearning at my heart whenever I see a mother with her baby in her arms. Nay, my dear’ (and by a sudden blaze which sprang up from a fall of the unstirred coals, I saw that her eyes were full of tears – gazing intently on some vision of what might have been), ‘do you know I dream sometimes that I have a little child – always the same – a little girl of about two years old; she never grows older, though I have dreamt about her for many years. I don’t think I ever dream of any words or sound she makes; she is very noiseless and still, but she comes to me when she is very sorry or very glad, and I have wakened with the clasp of her dear little arms round my neck. Only last night – perhaps because I had gone to sleep thinking of this ball for Phoebe – my little darling came in my dream, and put up her mouth to be kissed, just as I have seen real babies do to real mothers before going to bed. But all this is nonsense, dear! only don’t be frightened by Miss Pole from being married. I can fancy it may be a very happy state, and a little credulity helps one on through life very smoothly – better than always doubting and doubting and seeing difficulties and dis­agreeables in everything.’


JOHN AUBREY wrote:

When Arch Bishop Abbot’s mother (a poor clothworker’s wife in Guilford) was with child of him, she did long for a Jack, and she dreamt that if she should eat a Jack, her son in her belly should be a great man. She arose early the next morning and went with her pail to the river-side (which runneth by the house, now an ale-house, the sign of the three mariners) to take up some water, and in the water in the pail she found a good Jack, which she dressed, and eat it all, or very near. Several of the best inhabitants of Guilford were invited (or invited themselves) to the christening of the child; it was bred up a scholar in the town, and by degrees, came to be Arch Bishop of Canterbury.


Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in her journal:

Dream that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived. Awake and find no baby. I think about the little thing all day. Not in good spirits.


Carl Jung recorded his earliest memory of a dream:

I had the earliest dream I can remember, a dream which was to preoccupy mc all my life. I was then between three and four years old. The vicarage stood quite alone near Laufen castle, and there was a meadow stretching back from the sexton’s farm. In the dream I was in this meadow. Suddenly I discovered a dark, rectangular, stone-lined hole in the ground. I had never seen it before. I ran forward curiously and peered down into it. Then I saw a stone stairway leading down. Hesitantly and fearfully, I descended. At the bottom was a doorway with a round arch, closed off by a green curtain. It was a big, heavy curtain of worked stuff like brocade, and it looked very sumptuous. Curious to see what might be hidden behind, I pushed it aside. I saw before me in the dim light a rectangular chamber about thirty feet long. The ceiling was arched and of hewn stone. The floor was laid with flagstones, and in the centre a red carpet ran from the entrance to a low platform. On this platform stood a wonderfully rich golden throne. Something was standing on it which I thought at first was a tree trunk twelve to fifteen feet high and about one and a half to two feet thick. It was a huge thing, reaching almost to the ceiling. But it was of a curious composition: it was made of skin and naked flesh, and on top there was something like a rounded head with no face and no hair. On the very top of the head was a single eye, gazing motionlessly upwards.

It was fairly light in the room, although there were no windows and no apparent source of light. Above the head, however, was an aura of brightness. The thing did not move, yet I had the feeling that it might at any moment crawl off the throne like a worm and creep towards me. I was paralysed with terror. At that moment I heard from outside and above me my mother’s voice. She called out, ‘Yes, just look at him. That is the man-eater!’ That intensified my terror still more, and I awoke sweating and scared to death. For many nights afterwards I was afraid to go to sleep, because I feared I might have another dream like that.

Carl Jung said that the earliest dream we could remember gave the key to one destiny. So here is my earliest remembered dream:

TONY CRISP

Tony often tells the story of how as a child of three living in London just before the last war, he sat in his pedal car fascinatedly watching a drain cleaner. In those days the man carried various rods and ladles to clean the street drains. As Tony watched him probing the damp mud and bringing up money and other objects washed there by the rain, an enormous feeling of revelation came over him. He was going to be a drain cleaner when he grew up. Tony feels the drain symbolised his desire to probe into the unknown area of the mind – the unconscious – for what treasures might be found.


R. L. STEVENSON, ‘A Chapter on Dreams’, 1891.

He was from a child an ardent and uncomfortable dreamer, When he-had a touch of fever at night, and the room swelled and shrank, and his clothes, hanging on a nail, now loomed up instant to the bigness of a church, and now drew away into a horror of infinite distance and infinite littleness, the poor soul was very well aware of what must follow, and struggled hard against the approaches of that slumber which was the beginning of sorrows. But his struggles were in vain; sooner or later the night-hag would have him by the throat, and pluck him, strangling and screaming, from his sleep. His dreams were at times commonplace enough, at times very strange, at times they were almost formless: he would be haunted, for instance, by nothing more definite than a certain hue of brown, which he did not mind in the least while he was awake, but feared and loathed while he was dreaming; at times, again, they took on every detail of circumstance, as when once he supposed he must swallow the populous world, and awoke screaming with the horror of the thought. The two chief troubles of his very narrow existence – the practical and everyday trouble of school tasks and the ultimate and airy one of hell and judgment – were often confounded together into one appalling nightmare. He seemed to himself to stand before the Great White Throne; he was called on, poor little devil, to recite some form of words, on which his destiny depended; his tongue stuck, his memory was blank, hell gaped for him; and he would awake, clinging to the curtain rod with his knee to his chin.


JOHN UPDIKE, Couples:

A morning later, Nancy described her first dream, the first remembered dream of her life. She and Judy Thorne were on a screened porch, catching ladybugs. Judy caught one with one spot on its back and showed it to Nancy. Nancy caught one with two spots and showed it to Judy. Then Judy caught one with three spots, and Nancy one with four, Because (the child explained) the dots showed how old the ladybugs were!

She had told this dream to her mother, who had her repeat it to her father at breakfast. Piet was moved, beholding his daughter launched into another dimension of life, like school. He was touched by her tiny stock of imagery – the screened porch (neither they nor the Thornes had one; who?), the ladybugs (with turtles the most toylike of creatures), the mysterious power of numbers, that generates space and time. Piet saw down a long amplifying corridor

of her dreams, and wanted to hear her tell them, to grow older with her, to shelter her forever.

PLUTARCH, ‘The Life of Alexander the Great’, c.AD 100

The night before [the parents of Alexander the Great] lay in wedded bed, the bride dreamed, that lightning fell into her belly, and that withal, there was a great light fire that dispersed itself all about into divers flames. King Philip her husband also, shortly after he was married, dreamed that he did seal his wife’s belly, and that the seal wherewith he sealed, left behind the print of a lion, Certain wizards and soothsayers, told Philip that this dream gave him warning to look straightly to his wife. But Aristander Telmesian answered again, that it signified his wife was conceived with child, for that they do not seal a vessel that hatb nothing in it: and that she was with child with a boy, which should have a lion’s heart.


C.G. JUNG, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

Six weeks after his death my father appeared to me in a dream, Suddenly he stood before me and said that he was coming back from his holiday. He had made a good recovery and was now coming home. I thought he would be annoyed with me for having moved into his room, But not a bit of it! Nevertheless, I felt ashamed because I had imagined he was dead. Two days later the dream was repeated. My father had recovered and was coming home, and again I reproached myself because I had thought he was dead. Later I kept asking myself: ‘What does it mean that my father returns in dreams – and that he seems so real?’ It was an unforgettable experience, and it forced me for the first time to think about life after death.

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