Lsd – Hypnosis – Meditation – The Dream
There has always been a great deal of criticism aimed at dream interpretation. It has been called many things. Those who have not investigated it have denied any truth in it. Others have said that most dream interpretation was in the head of the analyst, and dreams were meaningless. This has been due to the various interpretations one can give to a dream, and the difficulty of arriving at any interpretation in the case of some dreams. Like an ink blot one can see all sorts of faces in it. But the ink blot is really just a blot, and depicts no face at all, or if it does it is pure coincidence.
When one begins to attempt an interpretation of one’s dreams, especially if doing it alone, these criticisms become important. To start with, dreams present a shifting phantasmogoric world in which one is a stranger, and cannot find the way. It is a world of changing shapes and shadows; a land of hinted meanings, where nothing holds still long enough to determine its real character, and a snake can slip into the form of a frog as easily as a man can become a stone, or learn to fly. It would be unusual then, in this land for which there can never be a fixed map, due to its changing contours, if one did not suffer serious doubts about finding one’s way, or arriving at meaning. This is because different values apply in this world than those of the outer world. To get somewhere in the dream world, we cannot simply follow a road as in the outer world, for the road may quickly become a trackless bog or change into a seashore covered with ferocious lettuce leaves which threaten to eat all the hair off one’s body. It is the world of Alice in Wonderland, of Hercules and the Heroes, it is Fairyland, where one gets somewhere ‘because’, and not by walking at all. Therefore, if we judge this land with our old ideas based on outer, conscious life, we shall certainly be dismayed. If we persist in the face of such difficulties, however, then gradually we shall develop new senses, new values, and the ability to move around in this strange world. We will then be able to converse with the natives of this land, and understand what they are saying. For the natives are symbols and allegory, and their language is not usually in words.
It is fortunate, therefore, that to help our doubting mind in its persistence to understand, evidence does point to the feasibility of dream interpretation. What has already been said about symbols and imagery being an early type of thinking is a part of this evidence. We can test it for ourselves. In the same way, our experiments in active imagination also demonstrate to us personally, that dream images do arise from our psychic values. They can, therefore, through analysis, be traced to these underlying emotions, and thus be understood. When we arrive at an interpretation of our own dreams that thoroughly explains us to ourselves, this too constitutes personal evidence. There are other sources of evidence, however, and because these throw light on another method of interpretation, they will be mentioned.
During the early part of this century, investigators set out to test some of Freud’s conclusions regarding dream symbols. Three men, Gaston Roffenstein, Karl Schroetter, and M. Nachmansohn, used hypnosis for this aim. They hoped in this way to throw light on three dream factors; the dream censor, the symbol making process, and whether dreams help us to stay asleep.
For one experiment, Schroetter used a 24 year old female pharmacist he calls ‘Miss E’. Having put the subject into a ‘deep hypnotic sleep’, he then told her she would dream of having homosexual intercourse with her female friend L. Schroetter comments that Miss E is Aryan, while L is Jewish. The dream that followed during the night was of Miss E sitting in a small dingy cafe’ holding a huge French newspaper. Talking with a strong Yiddish accent, a woman twice asks her, ‘Don’t you need anything?’ Miss E doesn’t answer, but the woman comes a third time, and is recognised as her friend L. She is holding a worn suitcase with a label that reads, ‘For ladies only!’ Miss E goes out of the caf with her, and walks along an unfamiliar street, while L hangs on to her. She doesn’t like this, but does not like to be rude by telling her to stop. They arrive at L’s house, where she pulls out a huge bunch of keys from a rag. She chooses a key and gives it to Miss E, saying, ‘I trust only you with it, it is the key to this case. You might like to use it. Just watch that my husband doesn’t get hold of it.’ L then leaves her with the key.
As, according to Freud’s symbology, a case is a woman, a key the male organ, and walking up a strange street, new sexual conquest, this dream is very interesting. It can be seen how a forbidden idea is hidden within the symbols, and how the symbols express the hidden idea. As Miss E had no knowledge of Freudian concepts these symbols are spontaneous products of her own dream state.
Roffenstein, because he wished to be quite certain of the subject’s ignorance of formulated dream symbols, chose a 28 year old nursemaid. She is described as of sub-average intelligence, totally uneducated, and quite innocent of his proposed experiment. She was likewise hypnotised and told to dream, amongst other things, of having sexual intercourse with her father. The dream was of her father. He gave her a large bag, and with it a big key. It was a very big key, like the key to a house. She felt sad, but opened the bag. Then a snake jumped out of it against her mouth, when she screamed and awoke.
Once more, the bag and the key, and one other classic sex symbol, the snake as male penis. If there were not other evidence but this, we still have to admit that they do not suggest dreams being meaningless. Unfortunately, because Freud’s ideas were being tested, which reduce most symbols to male or female, we cannot see how the dream expresses religious feelings, concepts of life, or ambitious drives, but we can see this for ourselves in our own dreams.
Although the two dreams mentioned are full of information and evidence they were nevertheless induced. Another source of evidence helps us to see dreams from a different direction. In the hypnotically induced dreams, the dreamer does not interpret them. But there are cases where dreams are interpreted spontaneously without conscious attempts; or intervention by an analyst to inject their opinions. The most evidential of the ways in which this spontaneous interpretation or understanding takes place, is during the dream itself. While one may not have a lot of dreams where the understanding takes place during the dream, it is by no means uncommon. Most people have such a dream at one time or another, and some people have a whole batch of dreams that are understood while they are taking place. Below is a description of a dream, and the spontaneous interpretation that arose with it.
‘A young girl kept coming up to me and placing my hand on her breasts. She was just developing her breasts, and they felt so very beautiful. Then, while still dreaming, I asked myself what it meant, and an answer came without any effort. The girl represented my desire for sexual satisfaction. That is, not just physical, but also the mating of emotions, mind and soul. I caress her breasts due to the fact that my sexuality is still developing. This means that the other levels of union, such as mental and spiritual, develop out of the physical. So I have to allow this stage to go on being experienced so that the other levels can unfold from it. The girl also represents the Divine Mother, or the female, unconscious counterpart of my outer, male nature. She herself develops as my feelings mature, and this suddenly threw a new light on all my sexual dreams in the past.’
Not only can we see how the interpretation beautifully fits each aspect of the dream, but it is also interesting to see how much longer the interpretation is than the dream. This shows just how much information a small dream can contain. The example gives us the ideal of interpretation as well. It should arise out of the dreamer as understanding, and fit each part of the dream.
Another way in which dreams can be interpreted spontaneously is during hypnosis. The hypnotic state is similar to sleep in some respects, the most obvious being that critical sense, full reasoning powers and conscious judgement are to some extent less active. This is possibly why one can solve the riddle of dreams more easily, and also why they are so fully understood. As we have seen with memory, or active imagination, preconceived ideas, or moral judgements, prevent ideas or inner contents from surfacing. We can see exactly the same process at work in our conversations with others. Certain events in our life we may easily be able to talk about to one friend, but find it impossible even to mention to another. This is very often because one friend is sympathetic, interested, broad minded, does not ridicule, judge or criticise; while the one we cannot tell misunderstands such things, thinks less of us for them, ridicules or criticises. We do exactly the same to ourselves. Because of our attitude to parts of ourselves, they can never ‘talk’ to us or tell us about themselves. In sleep or hypnosis, many of these attitudes are put aside, and a more direct contact made with these parts of us. Also, because, with an ultra conscious attempt to understand dreams we may hold the wrong idea in mind, the right one cannot come through. Or else our doubt may press back what we need to know. In fact, what was said earlier about memory is worth reviewing in the light of spontaneous interpretation. In hypnosis, the association of ideas to symbols and dream structure, are also easier and more certain. This is because there is less interference from our reasoning faculties. Even a light hypnotic state, or deeply relaxed condition aids this process.
In the book Three Faces of Eve by Thigpen and Cleckley an example is given of this. The patient, Eve White, has told of a dream which she cannot relate to any of the events or details of her life. The dream is of being in a huge room, in the middle of which is a pool of stagnant green water. Eve is in the pool with her baby, Bonnie. Her husband and uncle stand on the edge of the pool. She tries to get the baby out, because they both seem to be drowning, but tries to avoid putting the baby girl near her husband. Despite this she eventually puts her in her husband’s hands. Then her uncle, whom she loves, pushes Eve’s head under the water. The psychiatrist treating her suggested trying hypnosis as a means of interpreting the dream. During the hypnotic condition it was suggested she Would be able to explain the dream on being wakened and this in fact she did. The room was her existence, the pool was the religious associations of her husband, who was Roman Catholic. She was trying to escape from being drowned in this Church, and to prevent her baby from being educated as a RC. As in life, her husband refused to help her in this struggle. Her uncle had in life suggested she fulfil her promise and have the child brought up as a Catholic, and this is seen as a pushing under.
Further proof of this type of interpretation is shown in recent use of LSD for therapeutic purposes. C. Newland, in her book Myself and I which describes in detail the course of her analysis under LSD, experienced spontaneous interpretation under the drug several times. The analysis was not concerning itself with her dreams. It simply occurred that she knew her dream meanings several times while using LSD. This happened despite the fact that during normal consciousness she had not the vaguest idea what the dreams meant. One of the dreams she mentions is as follows.
In this dream a primitive, powerful country had invaded the United States and I had found refuge, together with friends and relatives, in an underground shelter so well provisioned and camouflaged that we could survive the duration of the war there comfortably. Unexpectedly, enemy shock troops attacked the shelter. My friends and relatives scattered but I was captured and forced above ground, where I was ordered to round up those who had escaped. As soon as I did, I realized, these barbarian shock troops would destroy us all.
Her spontaneous understanding of this is as follows:
About fifteen minutes after having taken the drug, this dream which had been incomprehensible spontaneously revealed its meaning – The underground shelter was obviously meant to be a symbol for my unconscious mind which existed below the surface and had been so well camouflaged that it could survive indefinitely without being discovered. My friends and relatives in the shelter were symbols too – of my symptoms and neuroses which could have survived the duration comfortably had not those barbarian shock troops discovered the underground hiding place. Those barbarian shock troops, I quickly realized, were symbols again – and very apt symbols – for Doctors E and M who were using the barbarian (experimental) shock therapy of LSD. They had already forced my unconscious above ground, and were now asking me to round up those friends and relatives (symptoms and neuroses) that had escaped. As soon as I did round them up, we were to be destroyed. As this interpretation unfolded, the nightmare lost its terror and became instead an encouragement: unconsciously I might be frightened at losing my neuroses but consciously I was delighted.
The more we consider these dreams, and how understanding of them was arrived at, the more it is seen how necessary it is to have the right state of mind. This method of interpretation (the open state of mind) may not be possible for many people, but some people on trying it, will find it comes naturally to them. It will be as if they have a ‘gift’ for it. Others will be able to develop it with some practice. For what can be induced by sleep, hypnosis or drug, can also be arrived at through discipline. Which brings us to the other method capable of giving spontaneous understanding. This is the intuitive method, or meditation. With this method, one consciously tries to take up exactly the same state of mind described in the chapter on remembering dreams. If one analyses carefully the state of mind necessary for one to fall asleep, then this is it. There is no effort to go to sleep. One waits without worrying when sleep will overtake you, without trying to control the thoughts. It is an open, relaxed state of being. If we introduce the dream into this; ask ourselves what it means, and simply wait without trying to dig out the answer, ideas may begin to naturally collect around the question. It can be likened to fishing. The conscious mind is rod and line. The dream is the bait, the question the hook. These are lowered into the waters of the unconscious by becoming quiet and passive, letting the question and dream sink into lower levels of consciousness by stilling the upper levels. Then, like the fisherman, one has to be patient. One waits for the line to pull. It is no use thinking.
The following dream and interpretation is an example of this. ‘I dreamt I was courting an Indian girl. We were on a beach, and I was making love to her. All her family knew this. Then we wanted to get married, but now tremendous formalities began, and a banquet was prepared, and my question of worthiness brought up.
In trying to find an answer to this dream I sat and just wondered about it. I didn’t try to find answers for it. Then suddenly it all fell into place. The day before, I had gone for a walk, and had thought about an experience I had the year before. I had seen deeply into myself at that time, and found it very beautiful, often wishing I could reach the same level again. Now I saw that the dream showed me on the beach, representing the borderline of consciousness between unconscious and conscious. It was because I had found a way to this borderline state that the previous experience had happened. As the dream shows, I merged, or made love to, this dark part of myself at the time, but now I wished to reach that level of experience frequently. I wanted to own it, marry it, but this requires the formalities of enquiring into my worthiness. Can I “maintain” the girl by my life. Can I deliberately produce the state of mind that made our former liaison possible ?’
While this type of interpretation may be difficult for us, it is at least worth trying when other methods fail. And one may even find one has an aptitude for it.