I had an unusual dream last night in which I was "selling my dreams" to a company for money. As a consequence of this transaction, I was no longer able to sleep restfully - in my dream. After I awoke, I lay on my pallet, reflecting on the dream about dreaming and of the feeling of not being able to sleep while I was actually dreaming, deeply asleep. I remembered the line from Novalis:
We are near waking when we dream that we dream.
I wrote down the dream and published it on The Empty Forms Between The Ivory Gates, then opened my email. There was an pdf update from the authors to a book I had purchased, Shakespeare's Beehive.
Shakespeare's Beehive is an annotated Elizabethan Dictionary which the authors, rare book dealers, are suggesting was annotated by Shakespeare himself. The fact that it is an annotated Elizabethan Dictionary is interesting in itself. Of course, if it was indeed Shakespeare's personal dictionary, that would be remarkable. They have worked hard to make their case. This sort of obsession, especially in regards to Shakespeare, always attracts my attention.
When the book was first published a few years back, I bought an online copy - primarily to read what they had to say concerning the Sonnets. I signed up on their email list. I haven't received an email from them in a long time.
Upon opening the pdf update, I read this passage:
"The headword slumber is recorded in Shakespeare, in all variations, twenty-eight times. Among eleven of these occurrences, the word sleep, one element from the Baret definition, also appears in the speech. In a single occurrence, slumber combines with the other element of the definition, unquiet. This happens in Act III, scene 2, of Richard III. Lord Hastings is the speaker.
Tell him his fears are shallow, without instance;
And for his dreams, I wonder he’s so simple,
To trust the mockery of unquiet slumbers.
Shortly after Hastings delivers these lines, Richard III emerges, announcing that he has had a long sleep (“I have been long a sleeper”), and, within moments, orders that Hastings’s head be chopped off. Some 250 years later, Emily Brontë wrote of “unquiet slumbers,” with these lines from Wuthering Heights:
I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."
- From the update to Shakespeare's Beehive.
Of course, I was reminded of my dream about "selling my dreams" and the "unquiet slumbers" within. These sorts of synchronicities, co-incidences, echoes between dream and reality, have become much more common of late as I have been increasingly attuned to my creative energies. I believe it is important to make note of them.
In his forward to the I-Ching by Richard Wilhelm, Jung writes (my emphasis):
Thus it happens that when one throws the three coins, or counts through the forty-nine yarrow stalks, these chance details enter into the picture of the moment of observation and form a part of it -- a part that is insignificant to us, yet most meaningful to the Chinese mind. With us it would be a banal and almost meaningless statement (at least on the face of it) to say that whatever happens in a given moment possesses inevitably the quality peculiar to that moment. This is not an abstract argument but a very practical one. There are certain connoisseurs who can tell you merely from the appearance, taste, and behavior of a wine the site of its vineyard and the year of its origin. There are antiquarians who with almost uncanny accuracy will name the time and place of origin and the maker of an objet d'art or piece of furniture on merely looking at it. And there are even astrologers who can tell you, without any previous knowledge of your nativity, what the position of sun and moon was and what zodiacal sign rose above the horizon in the moment of your birth. In the face of such facts, it must be admitted that moments can leave long-lasting traces.
In other words, whoever invented the I Ching was convinced that the hexagram worked out in a certain moment coincided with the latter in quality no less than in time. To him the hexagram was the exponent of the moment in which it was cast -- even more so than the hours of the clock or the divisions of the calendar could be -- inasmuch as the hexagram was understood to be an indicator of the essential situation prevailing in the moment of its origin.
This assumption involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.
The ancient Chinese mind contemplates the cosmos in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist, who cannot deny that his model of the world is a decidedly psychophysical structure. The microphysical event includes the observer just as much as the reality underlying the I Ching comprises subjective, i.e., psychic conditions in the totality of the momentary situation. Just as causality describes the sequence of events, so synchronicity to the Chinese mind deals with the coincidence of events.
What does it mean to the individual, to me, when his attention is arrested suddenly by the appearance of previously unknown co-incidences of meaning?
On an immediate but non-trivial level, it can be accounted for as the byproduct of a widening of attention. For example, when you have a broken arm or are pregnant, you notice a greater number of others in a similar situation. Or when you are memorizing Shakespeare, you recognize his influence on the language every day. There is nothing statistically anomalous about this world. The conditions that brought about your current state of recognition have not suddenly become more mysterious, just the opposite: you are seeing more clearly. The difference in due to your heightened awareness.
But there is another level of synchronistic events: two entirely unrelated spheres of awareness suddenly, and for no apparent reason, have connection. The other morning a little sparrow flew in the house where I am staying. An hour later, with no mention of the event from me, a friend told me about a bird flying into her house. Once when traveling in Morocco, I had a dream about a scarab beetle. The next morning, I found a dead scarab beetle clinging to the curtain of our room. (Only later did I connect this to Jung's example of synchronicity with the golden scarab.) Or the dream of being unable to rest and the email about "unquiet slumbers." Sometimes they hit you over the head, other times they are muted and subtle.
Consider: we each see ourselves in a mirror several times a day. We examine our physical reflection, checking occasionally to make certain we still look all right: hair not messed up, teeth clean, eyes clear, etc. We notice any minute difference in our appearance, attending to the superficial. But there is a psychological component to our reflection. The reflection in the everyday mirror is resistant to this inner face - this more substantial aspect of our selves.
But there are other types of mirrors. These mirrors do offer reflection of our inner faces. When we listen to a piece of music that "speaks" to our inmost emotion and spirit. Or when a poem seems to have been written directly us. Art offers a mirror of this inner dimension. We can often see our selves more clearly as we are reflected or re-presented in works of art.
There are manifold difficulties in expressing precisely why this is so. What is there about a particular passage of music that pulls at our heartstrings? Language is unable to contain it, as a bowl of water cannot contain the river. There are no screws for the tools of logic to unscrew. Imagine logic as the Magician's Hat into which he can reach into it's false bottom and remove a rabbit. But what if the "rabbit" in this case is the Magician himself, the entire stage upon which he stands, the auditorium filled with audience? Here is the white rabbit that leads Alice through the looking glass.
These inner mirrors are not so much illogical as they are hyper-logical, surreal, fourth-dimensional shadows cast into a three-dimensional world. Cause and effect are often turned inside out. The greatest is found in the smallest. Heaven on earth. The fractal rich galaxial spirals of a drop of cream in a cup of coffee. Blake's infinity in a grain of sand. Time is just another trick of the mind. These are dream mirrors, reflecting archetypal figures risen up from the depths of not only our private unconsciousness but of that collective unconscious of human being. And like those monstrous beasts that inhabit the undersea trenches of the oceans, as we look into them, the tiny spark of our luminous inquiry attracts them towards us like a beacon. Nietzsche's Abyss looking back into us.
Plato and Socrates believed in Anamnesis, that we are all born with the memories of all who came before us. There are alignments between this and Jung's Collective Unconscious. Recent studies indicate that our brains remember far more than we are able to actively recall, an implicit memory. Forgetting is a vital survival strategy, a filtering or turning down of the volume on the sensory onslaught of the blooming, buzzing world. The problem is we become used to seeing the world in a particular way, we habituate even to these inner reflections of our deeper self. We cease being able to recognize our faces in the mirror. And, consequently, we stop looking inwards.
Taking notice of meaningful coincidences, remembering dreams, becoming aware of previously occult patterns in the world around us, opening up to the reflective fragments found in the unusual, weird, uncanny and strange are methods whereby we can reawaken our abilities to look inwards. Working with the tarot, I-Ching, astrology, crystal balls, chained spheres, charms and other forms of Questioning the Unconscious are methods to clean and polish those mirrors within us that have grown dark with time and dull with habit. As are the Technologies of Ecstasy used by Shaman and Medicine Men and Women. The intention is to see the world new again, with innocence, the child's mind, the beginner's mind.
“Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth.”
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
The great mis-direction of these arts is in assuming they will show you a specific future. What they show is who you are in that moment, your true face underneath the mask of your personality. And by knowing this, you will better know yourself - in the most profound way. And this knowledge will reveal previously hidden pathways into the future before you. It is precisely this knowledge that will open your eyes to make those changes that will shift you from the direction you are going.
These inner mirrors function in an analogous manner to the compass, aligning themselves to unseen magnetic forces that inhabit the planet. When consulted on a regular basis, they help us to re-orient our way through the world and insure that we will arrive at the destination we seek. There is nothing occult about it - any more mysterious than gazing into a mirror to compose our countenance before we venture out into the world. By checking these internal, deep reflections of self, by remarking the meaningful co-incidences of events in time, re-orienting ourselves to True North, we ensure that we stay on the right path.
Regarding these slightest events, what might be called the "death of a butterfly" moments in one's life that snowball down the mountain of time, gaining a momentum beyond what was ever imagined in the instant of their occurrence, Borges once wrote of the painter, James Whistler:
It is known that Whistler when asked how long it took him to paint one of his "nocturnes" answered: "All of my life." With the same rigor he could have said that all of the centuries that preceded the moment when he painted were necessary. From that correct application of the law of causality it follows that the slightest event presupposes the inconceivable universe and, conversely, that the universe needs even the slightest of events.You, who now read this, most likely someone who knows me, must now wonder how this act of reading will have changed you, slightly shifted your direction or inclined you to pause. The dynamics of our relationship, of me imagining your reaction while reading, has also shaped the creation of the piece. (I also wonder how a future me will be changed by looking back on these words and be yet further changed.) There is a web of mutually interdependent "slightest events" that have brought us here together. A vast network, beyond human reckoning, of provable cause and effect, of hidden magnetic alignments, of intuitive leaps of faith, of seemingly irrational decisions, of unconscious impulses, of irrational responses to the most discrete gestures, a buzzing, blooming field of obstacle and bumper, within which we careen like a silver pinball, passively under what we believe are the implacable forces of fate and actively under the assumptions of free will.
I was driving with someone the other day and she neglected to tell me where to turn. As I took another turn further up the road, she said, "I just changed our entire life." I immediately pulled over to the side of the road. She asked what I was doing. I replied: "Fixing what you just messed up."
|Nocturne in Blue and Silver: The Lagoon, Venice 1879–80|
James Abbott McNeill Whistler