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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss (New World Library) Evolution, Science, Religion, Literature, War, Politics, Medicine, and Survival — How Dreams Drive the Human Adventure

What do the first major oil discovery in Kuwait, Mark Twain’s fiction, and Harriet Tubman’s success conducting slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad have in common? They were all experienced first in dreams.

Dreaming is vital to the human story. It is essential to our survival and evolution, to creative endeavors in every field, and, quite simplyto getting us through our daily lives. All of us dream. Now Robert Moss shows us how our dreams shape world events and why deepening our conscious engagement with dreaming is crucial for our future. He traces the strands of dreams through archival records and well-known writings, weaving remarkable yet true accounts of historical figures who were influenced by their dreams.

In this wide-ranging, visionary book, Moss creates a new way to explore history and consciousness, combining the storytelling skills of a bestselling novelist with the research acumen of a scholar of ancient history and the personal experience of an active dreamer. With eloquent prose, Moss describes beautiful Lucrecia de León, whose dreams were prized by powerful men in Madrid and then recorded during the Spanish Inquisition, as well as the fascinating dream correspondence between Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli. Building on the foundation of decades of original scholarship, Moss explores the past yet also reveals lessons that can help us create a better future. The Secret History of Dreaming addresses the central importance of dreams and imagination as secret engines in the history of all things human, from literature to quantum physics, from religion to psychology, from war to healing.

You are a former history professor and you say that to research and write this book you had to become a "dream archeologist". What is "dream archeology" and what skills and resources are required to practice it?

While "archeology" is often understood to be the science of unearthing and studying antiquities, the root meaning is more profound: it is the study of the arche, the first and essential things. The practice of "dream archeology" requires mastery of a panoply of sources, and the ability to read between the lines and make connections that have gone unnoticed by specialists who were looking for something else. It requires the ability to locate dreaming in its context - physical, social and cultural. And it demands the ability to enter a different time or culture, through the exercise of active imagination, and experience it from the inside as it may have been. These are the skills we need to excavate the inner dimension of the human adventure.

What is the most important thing you can tell us about your new book, The Secret History of Dreaming?

The Secret History of Dreaming restores a missing dimension to our understanding of what drives the human adventure: the vital role of dreams and imagination in science and literature, war and religion, medicine and the survival of our kind. History without the inner side is as shallow as history without economics, and as boring as history without sex.

This is not another book about dreams. It is a history of dreaming, a term I use in an expansive sense to encompass not only night dreams but also waking visions, the interplay of mind and matter that is sometimes called synchronicity, and experiences in a creative "solution state".

Explain your statement that a dream led directly to one of the biggest oil discoveries in world history.

In 1937, Colonel Harold Dickson, the former British Political Agent in Kuwait, dreamed that a sandstorm opened a crater under a strange tree in the desert, and revealed a mummy that came to life as a beautiful woman who gave him an ancient coin. His wife recorded the dream for him in the middle of the night, and then he consulted a Bedouin woman dream interpreter who gave him the location of the tree in his dream — in the Burqan hills — and told him he would find great treasure there. He was able to persuaded the Kuwait Oil Company (which had been drilling dry holes up to this point) and they struck it rich at the exact place he had dreamed. This was the origin of Kuwait's oil wealth and a major source for the Allies in World War II.

Tell us about the dreams of the Founding Fathers

John Adams and Dr Benjamin Rush — who made a close study of precognitive dreams — were in the habit of exchanging dreams in their extensive correspondence. In 1809, Rush wrote to Adams about a dream in which the doctor's son read him a page from the future history of the United States. The dream letter described "the renewal of friendship" between Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who had been estranged for many years because of their political disagreements. It stated that the later correspondence of the two former presidents would inspire many. And it recorded that Adams and Jefferson "sunk into the grave nearly at the same time." Nearly seventeen years later, long after their reconciliation, the two former presidents died on the same day — July 4, 1826. The predictions on the page of Dr Rush's dream history were exactly fulfilled.

Explain how Harriet Tubman's dreams and visions helped her to guide escaping slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman is an iconic figure in American history — the runaway slave from Maryland's Eastern Shore who went back to the South, braving great dangers, to free her fellow-slaves and became the most successful "conductor" of the Underground Railroad. Yet the secret of Harriet Tubman's achievement has rarely been told. She was a dreamer and a seer. In her dreams and visions, she could fly like a bird. Her gift may have been associated with a near-death experience in her childhood, when an angry overseer threw a two-pound lead weight that laid open her skull. We learn from her how great gifts can spring from our wounds. Harriet herself said she inherited special gifts — including the ability to travel outside the body and to visit the future — from her father, who "could always predict the future" In The Secret History of Dreaming, I examine the evidence that her ancestors were Ashanti, and that she may have inherited something of the Ashanti experience of dream tracking. I also look at the influence of the first, fiercely brave and inspiring, itinerant black women preachers, whose example may have helped Harriet develop the power to transfer her vision. She could sing courage into people's hearts.

Tell us how Freud, tragically, may have missed an early dream diagnosis of the mouth cancer that killed him many years later.

The most famous of all the dreams Freud analyzed was one of his own, the Irma Dream. In The Interpretation of Dreams he gives a lengthy account of this 1895 dream and his work with it. In the dream, he inspects the mouth of a patient called Irma and discusses her condition with several doctors. The tragic irony is that in all his work on this dream, Freud may have missed a health warning that could have saved his life. I report on the exhaustive work of a cancer surgeon who compared Freud's medical records with his dream report and concluded that the contained an amazingly exact preview of precise symptoms of the oral cancer that killed Freud 28 years later.

You write: "Because young Sam Clemens could not find Brazil, he failed to become the first cocaine dealer in North America and instead became Mark Twain." Tell us that story!

While he was working as a printer in Keokuk, Iowa, young Sam Clemens read a book that described "a vegetable product with miraculous powers" that was growing in Brazil. Sam was "fired with a longing" to go up the Amazon, secure a supply of this miracle plant — and make a fortune. He sailed to New Orleans on a riverboat whose pilot was the celebrated Horace Bixby.

When he got to New Orleans, Sam found that no ship in port was sailing for Brazil and no one could tell him how to get there. So he changed his plans, sought out Bixby, and persuaded him to take him on as an apprentice pilot. Working on the Mississippi river, he got many of the ideas for the books that made him famous under a pen-name borrowed from the boatmen's cry "Mark Twain", meaning two fathoms, safe water.

The miracle plant Sam had set out to find was coca. Had he succeeded in his original plan, Keokuk, Iowa would have become the cocaine capital of America. Because Sam Clemens couldn't find Brazil, he failed to become the first cocaine dealer in North American history and instead became Mark Twain.

Tell us about the mystery of the Chinese Woman in Wolfgang Pauli's dreams that Jung could not figure out.

The quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli frequently dreamed of an alluring "Chinese woman" who moved like a snake dancer. Though he found her sexy, she sometimes appeared in situations that filled him with dread, as if his world was being shaken. He was also distressed by a dream in which the Chinese woman had a baby the world would not acknowledge. Paul discussed these dreams with Jung, and Jung talked of archetypes and the anima. Then Pauli's "Chinese woman" stepped out of his dream life and into the world at the center of the so-called "Chinese revolution" in physics. A woman physicist, Dr Wu, conducted the critical experiments that overthrew one of the scientific paradigms (the parity principle) that Pauli had fiercely upheld, shaking his intellectual universe. Yet when a Nobel prize was awarded for this breakthrough in 1957, only the two theoretical physicists — both men — were recognized; the Chinese woman's baby went unacknowledged by the world.

I explore this episode in my investigation of the rich 25-year correspondence between Jung and Pauli. They were giants in their respective fields — depth psychology and physics — who goaded each other, in a 25-year intellectual friendship, to step beyond the boundaries of their disciplines and seek to develop a working model of a universe in which mind and matter are constantly interweaving. But they were capable of missing dream clues!

Tell us about the woman you call "the beautiful dream spy of Madrid".

Ah, the lovely Lucretia de León! When she was a guest of the Spanish Inquisition, one of the investigators told her, "You are so beautiful a dead man would rise up and make you pregnant." Since women are absent from so much of the history written by men, it is remarkable that —thanks in part to the Spanish Inquisition — the record of no fewer than 415 dreams of a young woman of Madrid have survived from the time of the Spanish Armada. They were transcribed between 1587 and 1590, by clerics who listened to her accounts of her night adventures while an armed courier waited in the street ready to gallop to the holy city of Toledo to carry the latest dream installment to the head of the powerful Mendoza clan, second only to the Habsburgs in Spain. The reason Lucrecia's dreams were so prized was that she had a gift for seeing the future and discovering what was going on behind closed doors, in the royal palace or the house of Sir Francis Drake in England. Her dreams were exploited as sources of military intelligence and as political propaganda, in a time when dream visions were still greatly respected. Some of them were painted; others were performed as theatre for high society in the town house of a dowager duchess who may also have been an English agent. Lucrecia's story is a fascinating chapter in the history of women as well as the history of dreaming.

You are the creator of an original approach to dreamwork and healing that you call Active Dreaming. What is Active Dreaming? Will you give us examples of original techniques you have developed, and tell us how they differ from other approaches to dream interpretation or analysis?

Active Dreaming is founded on the understanding that dreaming isn't`just what happens during sleep; dreaming is waking up to sources of guidance, healing and creativity beyond the reach of the everyday mind.

One of the most important original techniques I have introduced is the Lightning Dreamwork Game, a fast and fun way to share inner experiences, get helpful feedback and guidance for action that you can practice with just about anyone, almost anywhere, It's a great inner workout, and when you play it with friends or family or workmates, you'll find you are deepening and energizing your relationships. By simply playing the game, you'll find you can recognize and work with diagnostic and precognitive elements in dreams, and harvest personal imagery for healing and creative projects.

I teach many techniques for conscious dream travel. This goes far beyond what "lucid dreaming" is commonly thought to be. We learn to start out lucid and stay lucid. Using shamanic techniques for shifting consciousness, we embark on intentional journeys — often with partners or a whole group — on agreed itineraries, which might take us on a mission to scout out the possible future, or explore an alternate reality or a location in the imaginal realm, or through the doorway of a previous dream or vision. We learn to travel back inside dreams to dialogue with dream characters, resolve nightmare terrors, bring through healing and guidance, and scout out the possible future.

I love leading games of coincidence and imagination, and am constantly dreaming up new ones. Active dreamers find that the world around us will speak to us in the manner of dreams if we will only pay attention. I teach people how to navigate by synchionicity, how to harvest personal imagery for healing, and how to grow a vision so deep and strong that it wants to take root in the world.

About the Author

Robert Moss was born in Australia, and his fascination with the dreamworld began in his childhood, when he had three near-death experiences and first learned the ways of a traditional dreaming people through his friendship with Aborigines. A former professor of ancient history, he is also a novelist, journalist, and independent scholar. Visit him online at www.mossdreams.com.

Ecstatic Transformation: On the Uses of Alterity in the Middle Ages by Michael Uebel (The New Middle Ages: Palgrave Macmillan) studies the manner in which medieval ways of knowing the Oriental "other" were constructed around the idea of a utopic East as located in the legend and Letter of Prester John (c. 1160). The birth of utopic thinking, it argues, is tied to an understanding of alterity having as much to do with the ways the medieval West understood itself as the manner in which the foreign was mapped. Drawing upon the insights of cultural studies, film studies, and psychoanalysis, this book rethinks the contours of the known and the unknown in the medieval period. It demonstrates how the idea of otherness intersected in intricate ways with other categories of difference (spatial, gender, and religious). Scholars in the fields of history as well as literary and religious studies will be interested in the manner in which the book considers the formal dimensions of how histories of the Oriental "other" were written and lived. More

Teach Me Dreams by Mechal Sobel (Princeton University Press) One day in 1698, Robert Pyle of Pennsylvania decided to buy a black slave. The next night he dreamed of a steep ladder to heaven that he felt he could not climb because he carried a black pot. In the dream, a man told him the ladder was the light of Jesus Christ and would bear any whose faith held strong; otherwise, the climber would fall. Pyle woke that morning positive that he should eschew slaves and slavery, having equated the pot with the slave he wished to buy. In fact, so acutely did this dream awaken him to his sins that he became a dynamic advocate of liberation. This dream literally changed his outlook and his life.

The theme of this study is encapsulated in the startling cover illustration; an 18th-century folk painting of a white Virginian embracing a black woman while another thrashes a black man with a stick. Mechal Sobel, history professor at the University of Haifa, analyzes 200 letters, diaries, and autobiographies from the America of 1740 to 1840, more than half of which describe dreams and visions. Observing, "Today the acceptance of an inner consciousness of self is so widely taken for granted that it is hard to realize how modern this development is," Sobel sees in the dreams a progression from passive to active, and he places the awakening of individual self-awareness during this period. The impetus for this development she attributes to "opposition to an enemy other." Blacks and whites regarded each other as alien, the "enemy other," a concept reinforced by friction between men and women as they struggled with rigid gender expectations. The raw sociological material given is fascinating, the background well drawn, the statistics enlightening: for example, of the 2.6 million population of the Colonies in 1774, half a million were black. The material is viewed through a narrow lens, however, with all social conflicts given either a racial or gender-oriented interpretation. Dreams are prominent in the native cultures of the Americas, Africa, and Australia. One of the contributions of this study is the recognition that Anglo-Americans also turned to them for an understanding of their lives.

Teach Me Dreams delves into the dream world of ordinary Americans and finds that as their self-perception increased, transforming them on a personal level, so did a revolutionary spirit that wrought momentous political changes. Mechal Sobel considers dreams recorded in the life narratives of 100 people, revealing the America of the Revolutionary Era to have been a truly dream-infused culture in which analysis of dreams was encouraged, and subsequent personal reevaluation was striking. Sobel uses a wealth of information--letters, diaries, and over 200 published autobiographies from a wide range of "ordinary" people; black, white, male, female. In these accounts, many previously neglected by historians, dreamers explain how their nighttime adventures opened their eyes to aspects of themselves, or unveiled new paths they should take both personally and politically. Such paths often led them to challenge those in power.

Charting the widely dreamed of opposition between blacks and whites, men and women, Sobel offers astounding new insights into how early Americans understood their lives. Her analysis of the dreams and lives of ordinary Revolutionary-Era people demonstrates links between dreaming, self-reevaluation, and participation in the radically changing politics of the time. Teach Me Dreams is an original and valuable addition to the rich literature on both history and dream analysis and should  appeal to specialists in the fields of American and African-American history, and anyone interested in dreams and self-development.


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