Two dreams told in a 1983/2/18 talk by psychologist R.D. Laing at the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
R.D Laing certainly pulls them in! CITP, the small school hosting this lecture, is overwhelmed--the parking lot's jammed and so's the hall. I squeeze my way in and never do find my friend Jade, who told me Laing was coming to town...
Most of Laing's lecture isn't on dreams; but he does say that dreams, despite their supposedly private nature, have a transpersonal side--that is, our sleeping minds do talk to each other, or else we're really all one big mind putting on masks and delusions of individuality during the day; take your pick. Increasingly, he prefers the latter model, for some of these dreams do seem to have a strange humor as if one great mind were teasing us.
His example of a transpersonal dream, and just how playful they can be:
One night, a dream researcher told a subject, as an experiment in directed dreaming: "Dream you win first prize in something."
But the next morning, the woman reports quite a different dream:
"I dreamed of the house of a friend I haven't seen in thirty years. A man came out and said 'He doesn't live here now; I'm his son.'"
That evening, the woman goes to the opera and meets a friend who's brought along her new boyfriend. He looks like the man in her dream. So she asks, and yes, he's the son of her old friend!
She explains she saw him last night in a dream. He says "Funny you mention dreams. I NEVER remember my dreams, but I did have one last night..." No, no, he didn't dream that this woman came to see his house, asking for his dad. That'd be straightforward telepathy [!!!]. Instead:
"I dreamed I won first prize." (laughter)
For an encore, Laing tells a transpersonal dream of his own. Well, at least transcanine...
Laing dreamed the doorbell rang. He woke up, but not because the bell had really rung--because his dog, who'd been sleeping on his bed, suddenly leapt off and ran downstairs to the front door. Laing got up to check, as long as he was awake anyway, but no one was there. He says:
"I think my dog heard the bell in my dream."
Later, my friend Jade, who invited me to go hear Laing, who so admired his books on family dynamics and the double bind, says she was embarrassed he'd sunk so far into New Age froofiness. And that shaggy dog story's where he lost her.
Funny, though. I thought then, and think now, that Laing's dog story was as plausible, or implausible, as his earlier all-human example. If we share dream images (and the sheer number of such dreams I've personally had convinces me some dreamers do. I have no explanation; I collect data. You explain it), then I can't see why animals that dream, and plenty do, should be out of the loop. I'd expect spill-over both ways; seems like it'd have survival value to get glimpses into how your predators, prey and neighbors think and feel. Like the psychological equivalent of bacterial gene-swapping, which occasionally leads to disease but often just spreads helpful data. A spill-over of experience, while we sleep! If so, others' worlds, even other species' worlds, aren't as unknowable as Euro-American philosophers like to claim. We may visit the neighbors nightly--though we won't admit it by day.
One more thing: Laing doesn't just assume this was a shared dream. He ALSO assumes HE dreamed it and his dog just picked it up. But if you accept the premise at all, why couldn't Laing be picking up his dog's dream of the doorbell, and dutifully getting up to check, like any well-trained pet human?
And if Pavlov was in the audience that night... would he laugh?
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