Dream Tribes

Could it be possible that dreams contain a level of knowledge not available to our conscious awareness? Who then, is the dreamer, and what is the dream? How can we enter into the dream’s perspective with the demands of our busy, techno-crazed day world where our sense of self as a separate body, by necessity, dominates, taking precedence over the seemingly distant and elusive night-time experience of who we are?

Before Hillman, Jung, and Freud, there were the beginnings of what we might recognize today as modern dream researchers, but their ideas have been over-shadowed or ignored because they didn’t produce a school of followers, a program of therapy, or get much recognition from those who came after them.

Frederic William Henry Myers, born February 6, 1843 in England, was a classicist, philologist, and founder of the Society for Psychic Research. Much of his psychic research is questionable, but his essays on dreams and states of consciousness as quoted by Sonu Shamdasani below interests me. Perhaps the quote below is disturbing or ridiculous enough to some to not warrant much thought. Call me crazy, but this resonates deeply with me:

“One may even say that with the first touch of sleep the superficial unity of consciousness disappears, and that the dream world gives us a truer representation than the waking world of the real fractionation or multiplicity existing beneath that delusive simplicity which the glare of waking consciousness imposes upon the mental field of view.”

Sonu goes on to say that Myers believed that dreaming went on all the time, but our day world awareness, acting as a filter, narrows our sense of self to an illusory, unified whole that aligns more properly with the individual nature of our body. Could it be that the psyche is so fluid as to adapt to the circumstances of the life forms it inhabits? If so, this may help us to understand the group behavior of other species, such as ants, bees and birds, who clearly know at a distance their roles within the context of the needs of the group. Are we just different from them, or, have we lost the ability to dream, think and share a common, or public mind, as perhaps our ancestors once experienced.

In a very unusual statement to modern ears, Meyers gave credence to the possibility that he was more than his waking self, as dreams and other transpersonal states suggest:

“Our habitual or empirical consciousness may consist of a mere selection of thoughts and sensations, of which some at least are equally conscious with those we empirically know. I accord no primacy to my ordinary waking self, except that among my potential selves this one has shown itself the fittest to meet the needs of common life.”

He goes on to say:

“I hold that it has established no further claim, and that it is perfectly possible that other thoughts, feelings, and memories, either isolated or in continuous connection, may now be actively conscious, as we say, `within me’, – in some kind of coordination with my organism, and forming some part of my total individuality.”

Perhaps – or perhaps too, these vagaries suggest that there is communication going on between us and members of our group, or as Jungian Analyst Tess Castleman, in her book, Threads, Knots and Tapestries, How Tribal Connection is Revealed Through Dreams and Synchronicities, prefers to call it, our tribe. By tribe she means a group of people, known to each other or not, but part of a web of relationship which experiences an entanglement on a level below awareness, in her words, “the part of the human psyche where intersection lies within relationship.”

She believes, as did some preliterate cultures, that dreams not only carry personal meaning, but are given to an individual for the sake of the group, or tribe that one belongs to. The message of a dream is not only for you, but in response to your relationship within a group. As a modern though she does acknowledge that this public aspect of the dream does not suggest that we should run out into the street and tell the world our dream. As she so wonderfully puts it:

“Telling a dream is like undressing.”


Freedom of mobility and technology make bonding within a group difficult as people once did. She suggests that dream groups and other purposeful gatherings of people may become places where the telling of our dreams can once again find both shared meaning and a transformative process for each of the participants.

I recently heard about Tess’ work from a co-worker and look forward to participating in one of her dream groups in early December. Her book is quite good and puts a slightly different slant on the subject of dreams for me. I often feel that I am connecting with people through my dreams, whether they be people I know, deceased friends, relatives, or strangers, their otherness is compelling for its stark difference to my day world sensibilities.

Her book describes her experience with both analysands and dream groups. The many complexities of blending and sorting the smeary, or as she says, gooey aspects of interactions between the participants, often includes a bonding where synchronous and meaningful events become commonplace.

For skeptics, at the very least, it may be important to remember that if the dream world seems so foreign as to lack any meaning, or too ridiculous to warrant thinking about them, it is that very strangeness that may be inviting us to consider the mystery that lies within them.

“The questions dreams bring to consciousness, the curiosities and the imagination needed to receive them, opens a territory within oneself that enlivens and restores the modern soul.”

For me, the beauty of dreams is that they continue to open up my deficient day world perspective, night after night, faithfully presenting to me new images, places, people and events in strange settings beyond the limits of my waking self’s choosing.

As noted, quotes by:

Castleman, Tess (2004-08-01). Threads, Knots, Tapestries. Kindle Edition.

Sonu Shamdasani. Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. Kindle Edition.

37 thoughts on “Dream Tribes

  1. theburningheart

    Great post Debra, and good comments, in fact I got to say a lot about dreams, since from early child hood I was fascinated by them, and their meaning.
    In fact I will write a future post about it, just let me say the subject its endless, and those few who are interested, are the ones who reap its benefits.

    Thank you Debra.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Brigido. Agreed, dreams still make me wonder how it is that we can so vividly wake up with the feeling that we truly were somewhere besides sleeping! Endless, as you say, for reminding us that there are mysteries about human nature that remain.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Another wonderful post deb thank you for sharing, poking our consciousness and expression of it…. Our life today is so much different than how it used to be and how we were connected to our dream state… our perspective was so much narrower even separate from our other lives, peoples lives.. Our consciousness today is so much expanded as we have naturally integrated with so many of our ‘other lives’ already.. that in turn we can grasp in our dreamtime. Messages from ourself… We have always been the dream and the dreamer, we just didn’t know it. Take care, Barbara x


    1. Thank you Barbara! Yes, there is a cooperation and an exchange between waking and dreaming, and it’s much more fun being aware of the very different ways in which both contribute to a making of who we and others are.


  4. “Could it be possible that dreams contain a level of knowledge not available to our conscious awareness?”

    Uh…yeah? In Raja yoga it is called a “vicara”, the type of information conveyed in the dream state. It is very close to how Jung described it, but there is more to it than Jung described. Vicara can easily be translated by the term “archetypical”.

    According to yoga tho, it is not a fragmented knowledge like what Myer described. He is not incorrect, but he is still referring to the same type of information that waking consciousness provides, which is called “vitarka” in yoga. Vitarka means “specific”.

    There are a few levels between our normal waking state and the usual dream state. These levels are subtler physical levels, and are vitarka in their nature.

    Once in the dream state however, there is a greater unity of the information. Archetypes are perceived, not specific items. It’s just that when we bring the archetypical perceptions back and remember them through the waking mind, they get interpreted as vitarka, as specific items.

    So, these cheesy dream books that say “water means this or that” and “seeing a friend means this or that” are closer to the truth of the type of information being conveyed in the typical dream state.

    Of course, vitarka and vicara are still surface level perceptions in consciousness. The deeper one goes, the more unified is the quality of the perceptions.

    Nice post! Thanks for sharing!

    Best wishes,



    1. Dear Don,

      Thanks so much your kind words and thoughtful note. I love your correlations to Raja yoga which I am not that familar with. They make sense to me as my understanding tells me that before language is image and the source and forces of the cosmos are expressed in many different ways according to culture, time and place. At some level there’s a unity that cannot be articulated into language, but hinted at.

      I am really enjoying your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts.



      1. Dear Debra

        Very nice to meet you. Thank you for the reply and kind words as well.

        I have been studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for the past couple years now as well as the many essential commentaries on this work. The understanding embodied in yoga sheds so much light on intellectual and spiritual problems. It really is quite amazing. I am sure you are very busy, but it might be something you would like to study as your time allows. Many of my blog posts are meant to be primers on it and also provide links to additional information.

        Feel free to leave comments at my blog too! And I look forward to more of your very interesting and insightful posts!

        Best wishes,


        Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on The Dream Well and commented:
    Could our dreams really be much more than a subjective experience occurring in our own heads, and actually connect us in profound ways to those around us? Interesting ideas explored in this article about “the part of the human psyche where intersection lies within relationship.”


  6. Just wanted to say thanks so much for the post! I was just thinking I need to contemplate synchronicity more, and lo and behold! Also wanted to add that the idea of dreaming being a constant is being explored in science now. Stephen La Berge (he of lucid dreaming fame) has said we are constantly dreaming, but just not aware it as sensory input overwhelms our awareness of it while awake. It can be accessed through various states of consciousness, and not simply REM sleep as previously believed. Neuroscientists RR Llinas ans D Pare conclude from their research that “consciousness is fundamentally a closed-loop property” and not an exclusive by-product of sensory input, which supports this view. I personally very much enjoy when cutting edge science challenges paradigms that are upheld as “real” or “true” because they in fact based on science and logic, especially when said new findings validate a personal, subjective direct experience (never proof enough for the scientists), or support ancient wisdom that has been saying such things all along!


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  8. “Could it be possible that dreams contain a level of knowledge not available to our conscious awareness?”

    Have I misunderstood what you are saying Debra? To me, it’s quite clear that dreams are indeed present in our consciousness, or awareness; otherwise, we would not know of their existence of course. Perhaps you are making a distinction between ‘awareness’ and something you call ‘conscious awareness’? If so, is it that the latter incorporates memory – all the narrative we hold about our being and its place in the world? Therein may lie the apparent mysteriousness of what dreams present, do you think? As you say “Who then, is the dreamer, and what is the dream?”

    Many thanks for yet another fabulous and probing article Debra.



    1. Dear Hariod,

      I wouldn’t say that all of my dreams are accessible to my conscious awareness, would you? Dreams are present to us in ways that we do not have access to. They certainly don’t seem to have the feel of thinking or even fantasying in day world states. Dreams have an autonomy to them that seems inexplicable. Even lucid dreams in which some autonomy is the main feature, are still experienced in a way that hardly resembles waking states.

      What I am asking in the question you quoted is, can dreams tell us something about ourselves, other people that we are not aware of in waking states. Do you think that’s possible?

      Thanks as always for probing my probing. 🙂


      1. “I wouldn’t say that all of my dreams are accessible to my conscious awareness, would you?” I am afraid I cannot answer until I know what you mean by the phrase “conscious awareness” Debra. As I said above, this phrase seems to imply the running application of memory, or if you like, self-reflection, or again, an introspective element. In dreams, it seems to me, these factors are largely absent, though awareness remains, as it must in order to know of the dream’s occurrence in real-time (as content, if not as a condition of dream or sleep).

        “Can dreams tell us something about ourselves, (and?) other people that we are not aware of in waking states. Do you think that’s possible?” Oh, certainly this must be the case Debra. Then again, what is to say that this same information cannot be discovered by deep introspection in an awake state? As you will know very well, in any deeply concentrated state of introspection, what was sub-conscious may become an object of full consciousness.

        If you are asking as to whether I think dreaming in sleep may confer some special privilege to knowledge, then I cannot say I think this is so Debra. I would say it only appears to be so, due to the fact that we so rarely access deeply concentrated states of awareness when we are awake. Once we enter such states, then all sorts of things are revealed that we had never previously become aware of, or even conceived of.

        See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.028.than.html

        Hariod. ❤


      2. No Hariod, I am not suggesting that dreams have a privileged position in some sort of heirarchy of access to knowledge or worlds unknown. I was not making a comparison between dream states and other non-ordinary states of awareness. I apologize to you if it seemed that I was. That being said, the idea that there are many ways to access insight, should not be a deterrent for discussing the specific nature of dreams and dreaming.

        It may be true to say that some people rarely access deeply concentrated states of awareness when awake, but I wouldn’t go as far as to quantify the amount of people who have experienced deep and lucid dream states in anyway as to conclude that they only appear to gain insight because they do not experience concentrated states elsewhere. I prefer to limit judgment on such things to the personal stories of individuals.

        Thank you for link Hariod.


    1. Thanks for letting me know Monika! I’m so glad it could be saved. There’s nothing more disappointing on WP then taking the time to write a comment only to lose it! This happens to me occasionally, primarily when using my mobile phone. 🙂

      The last day has been full of synchronicities for me, thanks for mentioning that. I was not going to write yesterday and am so glad that I did as I so enjoy the conversation about this topic with the WP community. I’ll respond as time allows. I am so busy at work these days….

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Debra,

    It is such a marvellous coincidence – your post. Good for stationary Neptune of course. I am thinking of St John of the Cross and this beautiful vision he had:
    http://essene.com/B'nai-Amen/j-ecstasy.htm I mean – this is the essence of the divine experience that some of us experience while dreaming, some while awake.

    I had never heard of Myers but he seems like someone it is worth bringing back to light from obscurity.

    And finally, just a few days ago I received a book as a gift from a woman I befriended via my blog. She is not on wordpress – her website is http://www.WakingDreamWisdom.com. The book is “Life as a waking Dream” by Diane K Pike. I hope to find some time to read it soon. Is waking self a dreaming self? – I bet! I thought it is amazing how many synchronicities are occurring right now. I love the idea of us dreaming together. I vaguely remember you once had a dream involving me and Linda?

    Lots of love



    1. Hi Monika,

      Yesterday was a strange day for me. The writing of that post was not planned, and especially the Myers quotes and discussion. I thought I opened up a completely different book on my kindle, browsed for awhile and came right to the section on Myers. Because I had signed up for the dream retreat and just finished Tess’ book, I was immediately prompted to write about both of them, obviously because their ideas are related.

      Later that evening, a ran across a post on facebook by a friend of mine which included a link to a lecture by someone who has done some research on Myers too! No matter how many times I experience these odd synchronicities, they still strike me with an amazing force. It seems like they are saying, “yes, you’re on the right track, keep going.” So, yes, we are dreaming together… I do sense that, when reading some of your posts. It’s as if we’re looking at very similar topics from slightly different perspectives and different stylings.

      Thanks so much for the link! I look forward to reading Diane’s blog.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, yes, I experience the same thing – once I am on a path synchronicities start abounding – it is extremely exhilarating at times. The website I linked is actually not Diane’s but Rebecca’s, who designed the cover for that book on the waking dream… She contacted me, not Diane. I have not read her website I must admit. In one of her emails to me she said she was on a reading marathon. That was funny because it is exactly happening to me, too. There is so much to read right now, isn’t there? And trying to keep up with all the other blogs and comments is often extremely overwhelming. Well, enough of the whining. Do not feel obliged to reply haha – I know you are super busy right now.


        Liked by 1 person

  10. CosmicDrBii

    Great post Debra. I know you read my blog about my experiences with ayahuasca in the Peruvian Amazon (http://conversationswithdonmachingaandotherbeings.wordpress.com) which show me and many others that what we think of as normal, everyday consciousness what Graham Hancock calls our everyday, alert problem-solving mode of consciousness (or ego in shorthand) is very highly limited.

    My recent experiences with ayahuasca are allowing me to enter the spontaneous stream of images which I see as underlying (or is it alongside? or even above?) this normal, rational consciousness and which Jung, and then Hillman following him, saw as the basis of psyche. I can see that this stream holds many possibilities – it is where I think dreams, myths and the Gods lie as well as the possibilities for connection at a distance and for synchronous happenings. What interests me now is what, if anything, lies beyond this stream. This was always the question I was hoping to ask James Hillman but sadly he died before I had the opportunity

    As Jung said, the ego is like a “cork bobbing on the vast ocean of unconsciousness”. I really the quote from Myers. Nearly any psychedelic experience will confirm this. Interestingly too, brain scanning experiments with people who have taken psychedelics are also showing this – even if the neuroscientists want to reduce these phenomena to the level of brain functioning.

    On the subject of the social dimension of dreams, a good while back in the UK I did some workshops on social dreaming where people sit in a more or less chaotically ordered space and start to tell their dreams and associate with the dreams of others. Its a very powerful experience which often generates synchronicities and is another way of entering into a different state of consciousness. See: http://www.socialdreaming.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dear Cosmic friend,

      I’m always happy to see a note about your experiences here. I am truly fascinated by what I hear and read about Ayahuasca. The documentary you recently suggested on your blog was quite helpful for getting a taste of at least the ritual and physical aspects of the experience. My husband asked me if I ever had the opportunity to take ayahuasca, would I? I suppose I would under the right circumstances.

      “My recent experiences with ayahuasca are allowing me to enter the spontaneous stream of images which I see as underlying (or is it alongside? or even above?) this normal, rational consciousness and which Jung, and then Hillman following him, saw as the basis of psyche.”

      Wow! I have often sensed this, but it’s hard to sustain a state of consciousness in which other things don’t interfere with such a stream with all of the distractions of the waking world. Hillman was fond of saying, as you probably know, image is primary. So it seems to me too. I have very limited experience with psychedelic drugs, but I do believe that even my limited experience opened a door that can never again be closed. Once you take that dive, not only do we remember the experience of the deep, but it seems to me that the channels opened during the experience remain potentially available to traverse again. I can’t put my finger on it, but something in my awareness changed during the use of psychedelics. The experience for me was very much non-verbal, full of imagery in which everything seemed alive, breathing and sometimes full of light.

      The water analogy is so helpful when thinking about states of consciousness, I would only add that the psyche, or anima mundi, or the source, is perhaps fathomless – to us anyway. Perhaps there is a bodiless realm in which we are more free to explore the source.

      Thanks for the note and for the link too!


  11. Don

    I remember doing a Dream workshop with Strephon Kaplan-Williams in San Francisco, a very moving time for me. In one session he spoke at length of the social implications of dreams, that they were not simply the property of individuals, but belonged to the community as a whole. However, I’ve never forgotten how he described so beautifully the relational dimension between the individual or personal story and that of the community. Sometimes dream symbols on the personal level were distinct in meaning from those shared by the community because of the unique story behind it, and in a sense fed the community. On the other hand there is a commonality of meaning deposited in the community that has to be taken cognisance of in the interpretation of the dream. Both commonality and individuality, he felt, dance together in union in the exploration of meaning in dreams. I found this aspect of individual history or story, and the community history and story in his work rather fascinating, because he seemed to be more Buddhist than anything else, although it seemed to me he hated labels. Just thought I’d share that Debra, for what it’s worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Don,

      Your dream workshop sounds wonderful and makes me even more excited about the upcoming retreat.

      “Both commonality and individuality, he felt, dance together in union in the exploration of meaning in dreams. ”

      This makes sense to me too…thanks so much for sharing your experience here. Dreams are endlessly fascinating, never quite losing their mysterious nature.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The Castleman book looks really interesting and I hope you get to join a group. I have noticed that in many group dream sessions that one participant’s material had relevance for others and vice versa. I may have suggested this here before, but, if dreaming consciousness was not useful, we would simply sleep to restore ourselves without dreams. In my view, anything brought to awareness has meaning, simply because we experienced it.
    Remember you are a member of the WP tribe 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Linda,
      I did sign up for the retreat. It’s 3.5 day adventure. I’m not sure if there will be a followup or not. I would think so though. The book was very good, I highly recommend it. She’s a good writer, includes lost of anecdotes from her dream groups and analytical practice.

      Yes, I agree with all you say about dreams being useful or we might not dream and bringing things into awareness. Thank you for the note!

      I love the WP tribe! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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