The Creative Dreamer

Do You Dream

Tony Crisp

Chapter Six

To Use Or Discard

In a sense, no dream in itself is creative. By this I mean that even though a dream may present an entirely new idea, or new energy, it rests upon the person who dreams as to whether they will take up and use the dream contents. Because of this we can liken dreams to the gauges and dials on the instrument panel of a car or aircraft. Despite what the instruments say, the driver can choose to ignore them. While the other extreme is to become so bound up with them, that freedom of will, the sense of experiment or daring is impaired. For if dreams are like the instrument panel, and picture what is going on throughout the machine, and what its relationship with the environment is (altitude, inside and outside temperature, speed, and so on), then each activity by the pilot also changes the instrument readings. The truth of this is easily seen in dreams. Any changes we make through a conscious decision, often entirely change the dream contents and their tone. In other words, the change has not come through doing what dreams have suggested, but following some conscious direction. This is especially true where the outer change influences our feelings, or deals with the basic patterns of our behaviour. Sometimes it is contact with a new friend that triggers this change, or discovery of new ideas in books; or a change forced through the pressure of outer events. For someone who had recorded their dreams but never worked on them, then read and used the ideas in this book, definite dream changes could occur.

Possibly this can be seen in two dreams quoted by G. Heyer in his book Organism of the Mind. The first dream is of a man who was naturally sociable and Outgoing. His interests were in events and outside things. A friend had talked him into practising meditation, however, and he began to look inwards. Here is his dream: ‘I was standing in my house looking out of the window. I saw a garden I had never seen before, and decided to go out and cultivate it. I took fork and pick, and began digging the garden, which was all over-grown. I worked like a navvy. Suddenly I began to unearth live grenades and bombs. I was terrified that these would explode, and I hastily went back into the house.’

This is clear enough. The garden he has never seen before represents his own inner feelings and experience. It is overgrown because he has never ‘cultivated’ that part of his life. He finds that to do so requires a great deal of effort. Also, as the work continues, he becomes conscious of possibly dangerous and frightening emotions within himself that make him wish to give up meditation. This is not a criticism of meditation, merely a description of what we should expect to find and deal with as we progress with inner cultivation. After all, bombs can be de-fused, and grenades let off where they will do no damage.

The other dream is that of a young girl quite opposite to the man. She is shy and introverted. Her life has been much spent in the garden he had never seen her own inner feelings. She decided that she must make a change in her life, and become a bit more sociable and outgoing. She took a holiday at a big hotel, danced every evening, and chatted in the bar. Then she dreamt, ‘I was in the hotel room looking out of the window. As I looked I noticed that the scenery was slowly moving past in a circle. This began to speed up, and I realised it was not the scenery going round and round but the hotel. I became terrified and felt I must get out. I ran down to the entrance, and saw that the hotel was like a huge tree. It was turning round and round being twisted off its roots. I jumped to the ground just before it fell.’

The circling hotel reminds us of the gay whirl of events the girl is now in. It is the merry-go-round, the new ‘circle’ of friends. But this is twisting her off of her roots, her basic character anchorage, her basic self.

These are both dreams critical of the new change or, at least, warning of the stresses it brings. Some outer changes bring the inner self out of the rut it has got into however. A person may be in a constant pessimistic state, which is reflected by dreary dreams. Unexpected outer events like sudden acclaim for their work, or offer of a new job, may make them decide to throw off the pessimism, and their dreams correspondingly change.

From what has been said, and from the analogy between the pilot and his instruments, we can see what the most creative relationship is with our dreams. They are guiding principles; a panel of information about ourselves. This self knowledge can be used constructively or ignored. If it is ignored we must face the consequences, social and internal. For if our speedo shows we are breaking the law, we mustn’t jibe if we get caught. Or if we are out of fuel (energy) we can stop, rest and refuel, or if it is an emergency, press on as far as possible until the car stops. These are decisions the driver has to make. But he can make them a lot more capably and shrewdly if he is watching the instruments.

Therefore, a dream only becomes creative when we take note of it and use its information. The creativity lies in blending our conscious functions of will, decision, focused intelligence, and attention, with the suggestibility, diffused and intuitive intelligence of the unconscious. It is only when the merging of our conscious and unconscious interests take place, that the real creative fire is sparked off. Only the marriage of these two produces the magical infant, or divine child. The dream is only a needle on the instrument panel, reflecting hidden events in ourselves. Will we see them? It is always how we use information that fulfils or dulls us.

Thousands of men had seen oyster shells upon the hills. But it took Leonardo Da Vinci to realise that they showed the land had once been under the sea. The creative spark only comes when consciousness wrestles, struggles perplexes itself with what it sees of the unknown, the hidden, the resistant. It is not enough merely to see. One must also ponder, experiment, suffer confusion. Then the known and unknown mingle and mate, and produce a child. For this very reason, as Blake says, ‘Eternity is in love with the productions of time’, for time reveals the hidden contents of the eternal.


Any attempt and success at interpretation or understanding of dreams is a creative act. I have likened it to the mating of the conscious and unconscious, the known and the unknown. In dreams it is often actually portrayed as a marriage. Sometimes one of the partners is black or dark skinned representing the darkness of the unknown; while the other is white, showing the light of consciousness and the known. Even if we do not do anything with the understanding, the interpretation has yet been creative. The mating has produced a child. In other words, we have become more aware of ourselves through the interpretation. Thus the child is consciousness – we have become more conscious – we have grown in awareness! The thing that we now know, did not previously exist as it now does. It was not known in the unconscious. Neither was it known in the conscious. The dream held it in embryo, but consciousness worked on it and brought it into being. The instrument panel is a record of events. They remain meaningless unless the pilot looks at them and interprets them in the light of his knowledge and circumstance. The blending produces more awareness of the situation and how it can be dealt with.

This blending is different to either of the previous factors. Using this knowledge to help us interpret our dreams, we can look around us and see that since the beginning of awareness as an individual, mankind has been attempting to understand dreams. But here I use the word dreams in its widest possible significance. I mean not only experiences of the night, but all the fragrant, half sensed, stumbles towards knowledge; all the hopes, feelings, misunderstood stirrings and urges man has struggled to clarify. All the great religions, all the myths and legends, the scientific enquiries, the classical literature of the world, are all men’s interpretations of their dreams. Music and the arts, poetry, social struggles, are all an attempted understanding of man’s real nature. For we constantly struggle to be and know what we are. If we wish to fully understand our dreams, then we must see that many of the symbols appearing in our dreams also appear in the religions of the world. They appear in art and literature of all times and all nations. And what is so striking is that when we review Hercules’ labours, or Odysseus’ quest, or Mithras’ slaying of the bull, or Christ’s baptism, or Shiva’s relationship with Shakti, we see that the heroes are struggling with things of our own dreams. The only difference is that in the great legends, myths and religions, the hero has arrived at a conclusion. Hercules procures the golden apples; Odysseus brings home the golden fleece; Christ reaches eternal life, and so on. While in our own dream series, we are still struggling with serpents, or unable to face the lion-headed giant caterpillar, or get past the disgusting man. It is therefore obvious that we can learn how these other heroes (for we are the heroes of our own dreams) have won through. What have they done to pass through their own social and inner difficulties as symbolised by the monsters and trials of their adventure?

The important thing about these religions and legends is that they are dreams plus consciousness. In other words they are the creative expression that arises from dealing with the unconscious or unknown in the right way. The reason I have gone to great lengths in explaining all this, however, is because through proper study of them our own dreams become more understandable. Also, in seeing how difficulties have been met, we find possible means of dealing with our own problems, outer and inner. This is why religions and legends have stood the test of time, much to the consternation and plain disbelief of the purely intellectual, who knows nothing of his own inner processes.

To give two brief examples of what can be gained from such sources, two well known parts of our heritage will be explained from this point of view.

Generally speaking, outside of the Catholic faith, the image of the Virgin Mary is smiled upon. Even where critics point out that many older religions also had virgin deities who gave birth to a holy child, they still often fail to see its significance as far as mankind is concerned. This does not mean, however, that a few with understanding have not openly pointed out that the Virgin Mary represents an active principle in every person. Literally, every person can turn to the Virgin Mary for help. But let me explain. Seen as dream symbols, the members of the holy family keep their historical religious significance, but they also gain a personal, inner significance to the man outside any religious beliefs. Mary is said to have conceived from the Holy Ghost and given birth to Jesus, son of God. Joseph is said to have originally doubted and questioned this. but in a dream was assured of its truth. Now, let us look at this just as we do a dream, and see what results.

MARY She is said to talk directly to angels, and to be a virgin. From this we can see that Mary represents the intuitive, receptive part of our own nature. Our feelings, our own virgin nature (i.e. that part of us not interfered with by thoughts, doubts, fixed opinions, biases and pre-conceived ideas) is open to new ideas, new opinions, new feelings. The Holy Ghost is invisible yet expressive of God. That is, it is an unknown part of us, that yet expresses the energy of our whole nature, or the energies that brought us into being. So Mary conceiving from the Holy Ghost means that our own state of receptivity, of freedom from bias and prejudice, of ‘pre-conceived’ ideas, can receive parts of our nature that are as yet unknown. This is really only common sense. No new idea comes to any man with a closed mind and heart. No discovery is ever made by a person who believes they already know it all. To receive the new, we have to have at least a part of our mind ‘virginal’.

JOSEPH He questions and doubts. So Joseph represents that part of oneself that always questions and doubts the new, the seemingly irrational, the intuitive side of us. He has to sleep and dream (become unconscious) to contact angelic – intuitive wisdom. Therefore we can say Joseph represents intellect, fixed opinions, revealed knowledge. He is a builder or carpenter. This signifies that he uses ‘dead’ or visible – that is, known ideas and facts – to build his opinions with. When men believed it was a fact the world was flat, and united this with the idea of sailing to the West, the result was the opinion that the ship would topple over the edge of the world. Even today we have to admit our knowledge of things is only partial. Therefore we have to beware of only building with the known. We must also be sympathetic to Mary, the receptive and intuitive, that ‘gives birth’ to the unknown and invisible.

JESUS He is not the son of Joseph, the intellect, but of God, the inner Self, the thing behind all creation. He is the creative being who arises from a union between the conscious and the unconscious. He is the Redeemer. That is, the unity between our Source, and our Consciousness, can lead to a consciousness of our source. The energies that make us a breathing thinking being, although changed at death, nevertheless still exist. As science has shown, no energy is ever lost, only changed. The symbol of Jesus suggests that through the union of conscious and unconscious, the products lead us back to an awareness of our source. As this source is eternal, our awareness of it means that we are not lost in death, but our consciousness has now gone beyond the Outer, changeable part of our nature. Christ is therefore a redeemer because it is inherent in his nature, as a son of one’s Source and conscious life, to redeem the limited awareness of self into a realisation of one’s eternal basic nature.

Christianity is for many a huge confusing organisation, to which one outwardly either gives, or does not give, allegiance. I hope it is plain from what has been said above, that as far as our unconscious is concerned, and whether outwardly pledged to a church or not, each one of us has the Holy Family within us.

Turning to a non-sectarian type of reference, however, we see that a similar theme is followed. It is hoped that the story of Sleeping Beauty is known well enough not to need retelling here. To shorten what would be a very long commentary the story will only be dealt with from the time of the Princess’s sleep. Taken as a dream, we see that due to events, a beautiful and sensitive part of us has gone to sleep, or become unconscious. As this part, like memories of early childhood, dropped into unconsciousness, all its attendant faculties, symbolised by the court, are also lost to our conscious knowledge and direction. Being young, beautiful and virginal, the Princess is a similar figure to the Virgin Mary. But in the story she does not conceive from the invisible, but falls asleep due to a self-centred, evil, plotting, malicious attitude represented by the witch. Therefore she has to be interpreted differently due to story content. We see her then, as the beautiful, loving and happy side of our own soul or inner self.

If we have had a reasonably happy childhood, and have been lost in the feelings of timelessness, wonder and intimate participation of simple events that children experience, we see the Princess as representative of this part of us. We also see that this beauty went to sleep when we were about sixteen (or even as early as nine in the face of contemporary cities and standards). Then we could no longer live in timelessness, or see the wonder of a leaf blowing down the road, or enter completely into a stickleback in a stream. All the attendant faculties of this part of us also slept – are sleeping.

Thus the interminable hundred years pass – the great length of time, of living in the world of time, passes, before the Prince hears a legend of the Sleeping Beauty. But what is this legend, and who is the Prince?

If, in reading this book, you have for the first time discovered the ideas relating to an unconscious, hidden part of you, with its promise of greater love, wisdom and beauty, then you have just heard the legend. But you have not heard the legend unless feelings have stirred in you telling you there is a ‘sleeping beauty’ to discover. The legend is the dim, subtle, difficult to prove feelings and hopes within us, that suggest a greater beauty sleeps and can be found. The legend is those hopes that tell us there is more in life if we would only search for it. It is a legend because most people believe there is no truth in it; a story fit only for children. While the prince is our conscious mind, our intellect and worldly experience, that feels incomplete, that knows a longing for this ‘other half. He is more than just our ‘conscious mind’ however. He is a particular state of consciousness; for he dares to search for a Myth. His longing, his incompleteness makes him brave, ready to test the truth or falsity of the Legend. He is certainly not an indifferent consciousness, who stumbles accidentally on the Beloved. He has to cut his way through the terrible briars and thorns surrounding the hidden castle. In these brambles others have been lost and died, for they are all the confusion, pain and ignorance that surround and hide our own ‘Sleeping Beauty’. To reach her we have to face, to experience, to cut through this hedge of ignorance, fear and cynicism that has grown around our own happiness and completeness.

But the Prince breaks through, and stands in amazement at the sleeping court. Then, finding the Beloved of his quest, he kisses her awake, and the court wakes also. So, when we dare to face the attitudes of mind, the events, the pains and fears that have cut us off from wholeness, then we enter our innermost self and find how much of us has remained alive yet asleep; in us yet unconscious. Kissing with our consciousness that which slept and was unknown, it comes into our awareness and awakens in us. Then they marry and live happily ever after. For when consciousness unites with its source, it finds completeness and happiness, and eternal life.

This interpretation may give a slightly false impression unless a further comment is added. Namely, it would appear that the princess has to go to sleep in us so that the critical intellect can develop. When this development has taken place, then the two aspects of self, the rational and irrational can marry.

It may not be immediately apparent how helpful the information hidden in fairy stories and myths is. As one faces the elements of oneself through dream interpretation however, such information is of enormous value. An attempt to understand something of the symbolism of the Greek Myths – The Gospels – Fairly stories such as Beauty and the Beast – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the other classics, can be of enormous benefit. But it is possible that they only begin to make sense when we face similar issues in ourselves.

Some dreams are rather like fairly tales, also, possibly because both arise from the same source. But a fairy tale is usually a worked on’ or ‘interpreted’ dream. A dream seldom carries its issue to such a well worked conclusion as a fairy tale. That is why fairy tales can often help us to see what possible issues our dreams are leading to.


Once we realise that fairy stories, myths and religion are ‘worked on dreams. we can create our own Legend and our own Religion!

Possibly this needs some explanation to avoid misunderstanding. If we accept Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha as historical personalities, their uniqueness rests upon the fact that they demonstrated in their everyday lives what they saw within themselves as truth. They lived and were true to their deepest feelings. As far as dream analysis is concerned, they had completely come to terms with the outer world, and their own world of instincts, feelings, sexual drives and so on. If we think of life as a creative act, like painting, then we see that what a great artist expresses on canvas, these men expressed in everyday living. Their life was their canvas. The heaven that they had found was expressed in their daily life.

What I am trying to say is that what we find and understand in our dreams, we can express outwardly in acts, or in art. This aspect of dream interpretation has already been mentioned, but not in detail. As it is so very helpful, a little more explanation will be given.

Therefore, let us take as a starting point the act of writing our dream. Then let us see how, once we have spent time on interpretation the dream can now be re-written. In the first place it is a product of the unconscious. In the second version it becomes a unity of conscious and unconscious. Here is the dream:

‘It was Christmas morning when I had this dream. I had actually woken up and wondered if I ought to get up and see if the children had got their presents. Then I must have fallen asleep and had this dream. I dreamt I woke up. The light was on in the bedroom, and I looked towards the bedroom door, which was ajar. It was dark out there, but a shaft of light went out from the room through the open door. In this half light I thought I saw a movement. This caught my attention and I stared intently. The door was now open wider and it was no longer dark outside the bedroom. I could now see that it was a small white mouse that moved. It was walking towards the children’s bedroom. We were all staying in a friend’s seaside holiday cottage at the time. I asked my wife what a white mouse was doing in the house, and thought maybe it had been a pet left by a previous holidaying family. Wanting to catch the mouse I got out of bed and went towards it. As I did so I saw that it was not just white, but shining, very beautifully. It also seemed to grow larger. First to the size of a rat, then to that of a cat. I was now close to it and it looked enormous; shining with an inner light, white and radiant. It was a thing of beauty. Its eyes especially struck me; pink but also shining.

‘Turning round to tell my wife about it, I suddenly realised that it was not the mouse that had increased in size, but I who had got smaller. I also saw what at first I thought was my wife, also diminished in size to that of a large doll, sitting on the end of the bed. I waved to her. It was not my wife, but a tiny girl, very lovely with long curly brown hair to her shoulders. She waved back and I woke up:

Without trying to interpret this dream ourselves, we will follow the course of thoughts taken by the man who dreamt it, that led up to his re-writing it. First of all he could not understand any of its symbolism. Yet it was so impressive, almost visionary in impact, that he kept trying to understand. Not getting any ready made answers he tried association of ideas on the symbols. This led him to realise that the waking up meant that he was ‘Waking up’ to something. What he was waking up to was presumably symbolised by the lighted bedroom and the obscure movement. Something was moving in the house – in himself. At first it was only a hint of movement. Was something stirring in himself? He wasn’t sure. The fact that it was a mouse, and shining, he could not interpret at all. His relationship with his wife was changing, maybe it had something to do with that, he couldn’t tell; and that was as far as he got for some weeks. He still persisted in thinking about it, however, and suddenly he saw the meaning of his decrease in size and apparent hugeness of the mouse. He had been pondering it and remembered that Alice in Wonderland had also shrunk. This did not explain anything until suddenly he saw that in his dream the mouse had remained the same size. It had only appeared huge because of his changed relationship with it. He then saw that anything within him could remain unnoticeably small unless he approached it in the right way. Then, what had seemed unimportant could become huge. For instance, one might have feelings of love for one’s wife, but not think them very ‘great’. If she died, however, these seemingly small feelings could assume giant proportions. So he saw that through a different attitude of mind to things within himself, they could be made very big. He had often, for instance, turned away from his own ideas and experiences, preferring to trust greater authorities’ than himself. He now saw that these greater authorities originally had no more experience of things than he had. But each new idea, each new thought or concept they had received had been treated as great or possibly valuable. They had thus expressed their ideas and become accepted, while his own ideas were treated as little inconsequential things.

Again, this was as far as he got with the dream until he talked with his friend Velta Wilson about the symbolism of the shining mouse. She said that a mouse in fairy tales and mythology often represents the soul, or inner feelings. While anything that shines with an inner light symbolised the innermost self, the energy behind our life, the spirit or eternal part of our being. This opened up a whole new world of meaning for him. A mouse is something that often lives in a house unknown. It symbolises a part of himself only glimpsed before. It was tame, not wild, and it connected him with his central being, or spirit. It had been ‘lost’ by a previous ‘holidaymaker’. When one is on holiday, one ‘relaxes’ and ‘lets go’ of the many demands that press upon one. At such times we often glimpse parts of our nature, of desires and hopes, that were previously hidden and pressed back. Very often, we do not wish to return to the workaday world, because it is really something we force ourselves to do. We probably do not really like our work. Or else we do not like it under the pressure with which it is forced upon us. So we glimpse or see other parts of our nature, that on returning to work are lost or forced away. The dream is saying that a previous holidaymaker, or period of relaxation, brought the mouse and lost or left it. He saw a new part of himself that linked with his innermost being, and lost it. Now it is glimpsed again, and re-found. What the mouse represented to the dreamer is difficult to explain outside of his own words in the following story. But possibly we can call it a non-grasping attitude to life. Also a realisation that with all our thinking and striving, does this tell us who we are? In attempting to put it all into words, however, in a meaningful way, he hit upon the idea of the story. This, when it was written, greatly satisfied him. It brought all his inner feelings about what the mouse meant into focus. The story also continued to be a help to him in remembering and living what the attitude, the mouse and his relationship to it symbolised. Here is the story.

The Shining Mouse

There was once a time, and there always will be, when a man lived alone in a little house. He was really quite happy, because the house had most things he needed in it. It had a number of rooms, a cellar, five windows, and all that went with them. He never really went out of his house, but he often watched people out of his windows. This didn’t seem to bother him too much, because he managed to get all that was necessary; but he did feel lonely sometimes.

It was during one of these times of loneliness that he first heard the noise. It was not a noise he could really describe and say, ‘Ah yes, that’s running water,’ or, ‘Of course, it is the fire crackling.’ No, it was just a faint noise that set him wondering what it was, and where it came from. He had just been thinking that he really didn’t know what to do about his loneliness when it occurred. He got up and looked all through the house and out of the windows, but could find no trace, for there didn’t seem to be anything about that would cause such a noise.

After that he began to hear the noise quite often, and he used to make himself quite ill trying to think what it was. Or at least, he would think so hard he would get a headache and not eat his tea.

Well, this went on for a long time, and he was getting headaches all over the place, till one day he thought, ‘This is silly, I don’t know what the noise is. I have looked everywhere and can’t find out where it comes from. And if I don’t know what it is, or where it is coming from, how will thinking about it help? All I get is headaches.’ So he gave up trying to figure it out and began to eat his tea again. The strange thing was though, that the same evening, while he was sitting by the fire darning his socks, and eating his tea of brown bread and honey, he saw the noise.

I know that sounds silly, and one doesn’t see noises, but what I really mean is that he saw what had been making the noise all along. As I said, he was sitting by the fire, really not thinking about the noise, when out of the side of his eye he saw something shining in the corner of the room.

It was a little shining mouse as bright as sunlight, yet not casting any shadows. It was brilliant, yet you could look straight at it without being dazzled. Now, as soon as he saw the shining mouse he didn’t feel lonely any more. He didn’t mind darning his socks; which had always seemed a tiresome job; and he didn’t even mind eating brown bread and honey instead of cream cakes. In fact he didn’t seem to mind anything any more. He even thought of asking somebody in for tea one day. Maybe not straight away, but it was an idea.

You see, this all came over him in a flash. You know, like when you trip over, wonder what’s going to happen, then manage to stop yourself falling, and lots seemed to have happened very quickly. Well, it was like that. Seeing all this very quickly he thought, ‘I must have the shining mouse!’ and he ran to it to catch it. But something very strange happened, for as he ran to it the mouse got bigger and bigger. At first it was the size of a rat, then of a cat. Then it was as big as a house, and then as big as the world. The man was so startled by this that he stopped and looked around, only to see that it wasn’t the mouse that had got bigger, but he who had got smaller. Then he looked back, but the mouse had disappeared, and he was his normal size again in his room.

It had gone – almost as if it had never been there. Not even the noise that its shining made was there. For a little while at least he carried on darning his socks without minding. He ate his brown bread and honey without thinking, ‘I wish I could have cream cakes. I have brown bread and honey every day.’ And he carried on thinking vaguely about inviting someone in for tea. Then it gradually wore off, and he hated darning socks, he longed for cream cakes, and he didn’t think about inviting anybody in for tea, at any time.

So the days passed, and he wondered about the mouse. ‘It must be a magic mouse,’ he said to himself. ‘If only I could catch it I could do all sorts of wonderful things with it. Just think! I would always be happy. I could set my heart on anything and do it without being put off by being lazy, or doubtful or anything, I could show it to other people as well. It would make the troubled happy, the sick well, the unloved lovely; and I would become a very important man, and be thought of as very clever. Just think of that! People all over the world would want to come and see me!’

This time it wasn’t headaches he had, but sleepless nights. All the time he was wondering how he could catch the mouse. It became so terrible for him that he even set traps to catch it alive. Nowadays he often heard it, sometimes even saw it, but it always managed to elude his grasp.

In the end he became desperate. He took his chopper and began knocking holes in the walls, chopping up floorboards, poking about in the cellar, and moving everything upstairs; which made an awful mess, because some of it had got so dirty over the years. He ate hardly anything. He didn’t sleep very much, or wash, he just tore the house apart. But, oh dear, he couldn’t find that shining mouse. He couldn’t even find its nest or dwelling place. And then suddenly he began to cry. He really did cry; and the tears made white streaks down his face as they washed the dirt off. Then he fell asleep and had a long rest.

When he woke up he saw how his greediness and desire for fame had made him almost destroy his house. So, slowly he began to repair all the damage he had done, and clean up all the mess. In the same way that he had given up thinking about the noise, he now gave up trying to find the mouse. He was just so pleased to know it was there at all, and to see it occasionally.

And do you know what? Because he no longer chased it, that little mouse became so tame it slowly began to be about the house most of the time. When I last heard, it had started eating brown bread and honey for tea. He is the happiest man in the world.

So, if ever you are invited to tea by a man who doesn’t mind darning socks, or eating brown bread and honey for tea every day, just ask him if you might have a peep at his shining mouse!

It is interesting to see how such stories follow a similar type to fairy stories. Also, they usually express themselves again in symbols, or at least, in relationships, that amplify the dream, expressing its meaning. In this case the house is the man’s inner self. The rooms are his different feelings or functions. The windows his senses, cellar his unconscious, while the noise is his realisation of something that is missing from his life, realised because of his loneliness, and so on. The difference between this and a dream, however, is that the dreamer is conscious of the meaning of the symbols used in his story; while the symbols of a dream may need a lot of digging into oneself to understand. The story also extends the dream, explains it, carries it forward to conclusions. But it is not suggested that one use this method, or attempt to use it, on all dreams. There are only certain dreams which really lead to this easily. These we can call big dreams; those full of meaning, that do not just cover present difficulties, but offer wisdom about life in general. While some people may never find they can work on a dream in this way at all, if it is possible, it brings into focus things that have a very strong influence on the dreamer’s conscious life.

As for how one goes about writing such a story from a dream, the attempt to explain the interpretation to oneself in simple terms is all that is basically necessary. We then look for symbols we consciously understand, and let the events dictate how these symbols interrelate. Therefore, if I realise that a dream has told me I have been pig-headed for years; and it tells me the cure lies in allowing my sympathy and love to influence my opinions and emotions, a story already emerges. There was once a man who had grown up to be terribly ugly. Adults found him awful to look at, but children would run from him screaming with fear, for he had a head like a pig. The older he got, and the more he saw how people disliked him, the stronger became his desire to look like other people. One day he was walking through the woods in despair, lost and not knowing which way to turn, when he met a little peasant girl. She was dressed very simply, and although plain, was somehow lovely to look upon. But then the man approached her and she saw him, and although she gasped with surprise, she did not appear to be frightened or run away. When he told her his, plight, she took pity on him, and took him back to her house.’ etc., etc. The girl is sympathy, who the pig-headed man meets in his own depression. She is self-sympathy, his own feelings of being sorry for self, taking pity on self because of his plight. But if we continued the story, the man would learn from self pity that others have similar burdens, and his sympathy and pity be extended outwards, and his head become normal in unselfishness.

In writing such stories about what we have learnt from dreams, we clarify our inner situation. Through turning the parts of ourselves into symbols, we can also see how they relate to each other. We can therefore definitely class this as a means of interpretation, and also as an art, an expression of ourselves.


A number of people dream poems or prose. Samuel Taylor Coleridge dreamt his poem Kubla Khan. Unfortunately, he was only able to write down a portion direct from dream memory. He was then called out of the house and forgot what followed, and had to write the rest of the poem in the usual manner.

The following poem was also dreamt by a man, and remembered m full.

My dear, when I am gone think of me sometimes with a prayer. Make that prayer like a homely room that one can enter, full of memories like books against the walls, that one can open and read; with pictures in of things we did together. Carpet the floor with words of love I spoke, like falling leaves to make your pathway easier. For light, sort out the wisdom from my follies and use that. There will be warmth enough; for burning there upon the grate will be my feelings for you, like hot coals. And in that warmth, and in that flickering light, among those books, love me a little and remember, that I gave you the heart of a man.

As can be seen, this does not lend itself easily to interpretation as it is a direct expression of feelings. But usually poems in dreams either instruct one in a new idea, or conjure in a few words the essence of the dream. In the form of instruction, one dreamer had the words, ‘Each life is a gap in eternity,’ which had very deep meaning for her. It was like being told that her conscious life was only a fragment of her total self. The self she knew was but a part of her awareness, lost in time, a short forgetting of her eternal nature to experience the problems of individual life – a gap in eternity. The same woman had another dream that is illustrative of words, poems or prose catching the essence of the dream. She dreamt that a community of people were looking for God. They had decided that someone amongst them should be chosen as a mouthpiece for God. This would mean that the spirit of God would possess the person and talk through them. Therefore they were trying to choose someone who was most worthy and pure for this task. As they were trying to decide, a man amongst them stood up, obviously under the influence of spirit. This was a shock to everyone, as he was not a person they would have chosen, being rather uncouth. Then he began to teach them under the direction of spirit; and the words the dreamer remembered were ‘The vessel God chooses is worthy, the cup God fills is pure.’ In the dream the woman felt that it was God’s choice, not the people’s, while the sentence meant that whoever is chosen is thus purified by the spirit.

But the reason we are dealing with poetry here is not because it is a part of dreams, but because of the manner it can be used to aid interpretation. Just as stories and fairy stories can express more clearly the difficult part of a dream, so also poems and prose can sometimes help to express the incommunicable. In his book The Living Symbol Gerhard Adler quotes the poetry of a woman patient. She suffers from claustrophobia, and is seeking help. In the poem she tries to describe the anxiety and experience of her problem.

She writes:

The lightning strikes the granite peaks;

They cannot writhe, they cannot scream.

Their wounds bleed stones; their helpless rocks

Roll grinding in the glacier stream.

All night a mad, malignant wind

Buffets the ridge with blow on blow, And from the high tormented crest

Draws out a shrieking plume of snow.

The bridge of logs is swept away,

The path stops short on the moraine

At that black gulf where nothing lives

Except the nights’ inhuman pain.

No voice, no face, no living soul –

Only the two of us are there:

The eye looks at the Wilderness,

The Wilderness returns its stare.

The poem is still in symbols, but nevertheless bridges the gap between intellectual understanding and pure feelings. As Gerhard Adler points out, it illustrates the patient’s problems extremely well. Her intellect, represented by her ‘eye’ has only a painful, fearful relationship with the Wilderness of her natural forces, emotions, instincts, etc. The snow and the rock, beaten by the wind and water, can also easily be seen as her hardened or frozen feelings and emotions, battered by nature’s moving forces of growth and continual change.

Some dreams are difficult to interpret. Several factors lie behind this. It may be a preferring not to know these things because they are painful; we may unconsciously resist the forces of change as the woman does in her poem; or we are having trouble in clarifying an understanding of those areas of experience the dream is dealing with. If we take pen in hand and try to put in words the ‘feelings’ of the dream, sometimes the words will come readily and easily.

It must be understood, however, that we are not trying to become a famous or acclaimed poet. One is simply trying to put into words what is cloudy, obscure and unformulated within oneself. Therefore, in setting out to express a dream in prose or verse, we need not stick rigidly to the dream. To do so may prevent the emergence of the interpretation the poem represents. Remember that it was said interpretation is the dream plus consciousness. One often adds something to the dream to properly understand it. One does not alter the dream, because that is like cooking the books, or twisting the truth. But one can say, ‘That reminds me of this,’ which wasn’t dealt with in the dream, but complements it. Therefore, when we try to express the feelings of the dream in poetry, we have to stick to those feelings, but we can include any related material or images that occur to us as the poem begins to take shape. It may even be that the poem ‘comes alive’ as we proceed, and emerges in its own direction, and this is all to the good. It means that parts of us that have sought expression and consciousness are pouring out.

Not all dreams are usefully rendered into poetry. Often it is quite unnecessary to do so. But sometimes there will be a quality about the dream, a hidden content that we long to grasp, a meaning that we grope for, when a natural impulse will arise to express the dream contents in verse or prose. At such times it is well to follow the urge or the haunting idea.


Some years ago, a very interesting book was published on dreams and paintings. It was written by a psychiatrist about a young woman who was his patient. She had a bad skin condition, was painfully thin, and suffered other neurotic symptoms. During treatment she showed the doctor a painting she had done of a dream. It was of a bird, a gate, and a winding path to distant mountains. Neither she nor the doctor understood the meaning or symbolism of the painting at the time. All she could say was that the bird wanted to fly to the mountains, but it could not get past the gate. The doctor encouraged her to paint more dreams, and gradually, working on the changing relationship of bird, gate, mountains, colours, and other intervening symbols, understanding dawned. The bird was the woman, the mountains the freedom from sickness, and the gate represented an event in childhood. An uncle had assaulted her near a gate, and the resulting fears and inner situation, prevented her from getting better. As the paintings went on, the woman dealt with the difficulties, and eventually the bird got to the mountains. She was cured.

This, quite by itself, shows how effective paintings of dreams can be in helping to understand a dream. Most of what has been said about stories and poems also applies to this type of interpretation. But paintings often have an even deeper impact upon us than words, even if the words are poetry. By this I do not mean that paintings are greater than literature. What I mean is that any word is only a description which, due to the quality of limited meaning words possess, effects us largely through our understanding of the word. A German sentence might be quite meaningless to an Englishman, and vice versa. But a German painting is beyond the limitation of words, and is as likely to be understood in England as in Germany. A painting, due to its forms and colours, their positioning and relationship, can make us experience or realise things we might find difficulty in expressing with words. If we see a painting of a man holding his injured child, with tears in his eyes despite the strength of his outer appearance, it evokes in us feelings it might take many pages to express fully in words. Also, the picture would be universal, words would not.

Why this is so, is very revealing. It is because the picture is an extension of the actual dream images. It is because a painting or drawing uses forms and symbols to express, just as a dream does. Therefore, when we paint a dream, we bring it to conscious reality. We bring it out into the open to be examined. We also make it secure, hold its images caught within the colours, or the strokes of the pen. Seeing it outside of us in this way enables us to examine it more carefully, and see what the forms make us feel. Just as on looking at the man holding his child, it would stimulate our associated feelings, and we would know them.

Later in the book, under the subject of mandalas and yantras, the idea of painting dreams is taken up again, and extended in its use.

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