Dream Gates

Thumbnail image for dream houses 001.jpgWhat’s going on in your dream houses? I find that (to spin a famous Bible text) in my dream house, there are many mansions – extra stories and hidden rooms and basements, and wings of possibility.

The state of a dream house may reflect the state of the body. If the dream house is in need of repairs, or there’s a problem with the plumbing or the furnace, I’ll think about whether there are health advisories here.
The dream house may also be the house of the psyche. Different rooms may represent different functions, of body or soul. The kitchen may represent the digestive system, or the state of our family, or of our creativity (since the kitchen is the place where we cook things up and often the hub of family life).
When I’m living in an apartment in my dreams (which I have not done in waking life for 30 years) I ask myself “what am I a part of, or apart from?” 
I love the sense of expanding life possibility that comes when I am in a dream house that has levels or rooms beyond any physical house I know.
I’m intrigued by how life memories help design my dream houses, which are sometimes composites of several past places where I have lived. 
When I find myself moving to a new place in my dreams, I’ll ask myself whether this could be preview of a literal house move (maybe one I haven’t yet considered in ordinary life). I’ll also ask: what changes in my life situation are in store for me in a larger sense?
In dreams, we often find ourselves back in the old place, a childhood home or a home we shared with a former partner. Being back in the old place could be a journey back across time, or into a parallel reality in which a parallel self never left the old situation – and/or an invitation to reclaim vital soul energy and identity we left behind when we made a major life change. 
There are dream houses that are not of this world, places of learning and adventure and initiation in the Imaginal Realm. These may be places of encounter with a second self, an aspect of our multidimensional Self. Over many years, I have found myself traveling in dreams to an old house on a canal in Europe, the home of an eccentric scholar who is something of a magus, with an extraordinary library and collection of working tools of magic. It took me a couple of visits before I recognized that this dream house belongs to me,
Jung’s dream of a “many-storied house” led him for the first time to the concept of the “collective unconscious” (and also to his rift with Freud, who refused to accept the depth of this dream). Jung found in his multi-level dream house a “structural diagram of the human psyche.” In the dream, he became aware that there was a story below the respectable middle-class environment in which he was living. When he went downstairs, he found successive stories below his previous consciousness: a darkened floor with medieval furnishings, and below that a beautifully vaulted Roman cellar, and down below that – when he lifted a stone slab by a ring – a primal cave with scattered bones and pottery and the two skulls.
An artist and active dreamer named Valerie reports an interesting twist on this theme. She had often dreamed of a childhood home. When she returned to this place through conscious dream reentry, supported by a group of active dreamers who accompanied her into the dreamscape as trackers (aided by shamanic drumming) she was able to contact and reclaim the energy and gifts of a younger self, a moving exercise in soul recovery healing. Since then, she tells me, she’s been dreaming of a house that is situated somewhere near the old place but is unknown to her in ordinary reality. In successive dreams, she is looking out the front window at the road. There’s an anomaly. Sometimes the dream house is situated on top of a hill, so she is looking down on the road. Sometimes the dream house it located down the slope of the hill, so she is looking up. “I feel I’m looking at my life road, and the dream is reminding me that I can change my perspective.”
Valerie is continuing to explore this intriguing dream house, with her artist’s hand as well as her mind. The colored drawings are from a series in her journal.


Working to complete my new book – which is on Active Dreaming as a way of conscious living – amidst a constant round of travel and teaching all over the map, I have become a stranger to clock time apart from the schedules of flight departures and workshop sessions. When fatigued, I throw myself down for a couple of hours of industrial sleep or a cat nap, then spring out of bed, with my creative engine thrumming, and get back to writing and editing. When tired but not sleepy, or in need of a fresh view over a theme, I pluck a few books at random from the heaps of new acquisitions in my study or my reading nook upstairs, open them anywhere and forage forward and backward. I eat and drink whatever I feel like at any hour; lunch at midnight is in no way unusual. My best creative time is generally between 2AM and normal people’s lunchtime. 
Someone remarked to me the other day that the pattern of my days is like Edison’s. Leafing through the old biography of the inventor of the lightbulb by Frank Dyer and Thomas Martin, I feel a grand affinity with the work habits of its subject. Edison had a cot in his laboratory at Fort Myers and would throw himself down on it for a restorative nap, at any hour. Sometimes he just curled up inside a roll-top desk with his head on a chemistry text; his assistants quipped that he must be absorbing the books while he napped, given his constant stream of inventive ideas.
He encouraged his staff to have lunch at midnight, washed down with mugs of beer and ending with cigars and bawdy songs, in which he often joined them. He noted in his diary, “I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom. Seventy-five of us worked twenty hours every day and slept only four hours — and thrived on it.”
He was greatly in favor of laughter. “His laugh is sometimes almost aboriginal; slapping his hands delightedly on his knees, he rocks back and forth.” He wrote down jokes and funny stories on index cards that he kept in his pockets, ready to produce when he played host to visiting dignitaries. Laughter was his therapy, as it is for me, and he knew that the best laughs come fresh and spontaneous from an openness to life. 
He said, “My philosophy of life is work”, then defined his work as The Work, which for him was “bringing out the secrets of matter and applying them to the happiness of men.” While engaged in constant work, he also practiced a necessary “oscillation”, taking a break from one line of research by hurling himself into another, and spending time at a fishing hole – with a bait-less hook, since what he was seeking came from the waters of imagination. 
I don’t go fishing with a rod and line, though I like the notion. But as I travel the roads of life, my hooks are always out, ready to catch a fresh story or a laugh line. 
Edison’s laboratory with cot for power naps. Image from Edison& Ford Winter Homes.

elephant dung.jpgAt one of my lectures, an earnest fellow asked me to “bottom-line it” for him; what is my approach all about? Remember to play, I told him. He wrote this down carefully, which suggested that he may not have gotten the message.

I might have said, Don’t pass up any chance to fool around with elephant dung. I’m thinking of what happened in the Laetoli valley in Tanzania in 1976, when a couple of young archeologists in a team led by Mary Leakey were horsing around with dried clumps of elephant dung. Ducking a flying pellet, Andrew Hill found himself prone above three sets of footprints. Closer inspection proved that they had been preserved in volcanic ash, hardened by rain to a cement-like consistency, at least 3.6 million years ago. The way the big toes were set parallel to the others, and the evidence of a “heel-first” mode of walking indicated that the prints were left by proto-humans rather than apes. Mary Leakey was moved by the discovery that the female in the trio had paused in her journey to look towards the left – perhaps to check on the child who was walking in her steps, or to scan for danger, which might include the plume of an active volcano.
So many great discoveries have their origin in play. The best work, by my observation, is done in a spirit of play. This requires us to forget the consequences and do what we are doing for its own sake. You may not find the Laetoli Footprints, now regarded as one of the greatest discoveries in the history of archeology, every time you fool around with elephant dung but – hey – it’s odor free and (nicely dried) a great substitute for a beach ball. 

Thumbnail image for SparkleWater 1 LoRes[1].JPGCarpe diem, goes the old Latin tag. “Seize the day.” My personal mantra is no less proactive, but more conscious: choose the day. By my observation, what we encounter on any day has a great deal to do with what we bring to that day. We draw or repel different events and encounters according to our attitudes and the basic energy we are carrying. We find doors open or closed according to our willingness or refusal to change our expectations and our plans as circumatsnaces change.

We choose every day, whether we are aware of this or not. If we tell ourselves we have no choice, that is a choice we are making. If we tell ourselves that we have no choice because a situation is beyond our control, we forget that we can still choose our response to the world, and that can change everything. Whenever I hear someone – perhaps a voice within myself – bleating or protesting that the world is cruel and can’t be changed, I think of Viktor Frankl in the nightmare of Auschwitz. Reduced to a tattooed number, starved and worked almost to death, liable to be killed at any moment, Frankl chose to project his mind into a vision of an “impossible” future in which the Nazis were an ancient memory and he was again a respected pyschologist, lecturing to an enthusiastic audience on “the psychology of the concentration camps.” In growing the vision of a future beyond the pain and horror, he found the means of survival, as described in his indelible book Man’s Search for Meaning – and throws down the gauntlet to all of us who tell ourselves, under gentler pressures, that we have no choice.

At the close of a beautiful week of soul healing and shared dreaming in my workshop at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, I asked the members of our circle to choose the day, in a personal statement. Here’s a sampling of what they said:

“I choose to be present today with all of my senses.”

“I choose to have Tiger in my heart.”

“I choose to follow my soul’s purpose.”

“I choose to see my waking life as a dream.”

“I choose to travel with the energy of the group.”

“I choose to be compassionate.”

“I choose to be a survivor.”

“I choose to soar with the bird and see my roads from a higher perspective.”

“I choose the fire.”

My own statement for the day: “I choose to live as if everything matters.”


Champagne sparkle in the waters at Hollyhock. Photo by Steve Case.