'Dreaming' vs. Dreaming
By Corey Donovan

Having consciously abandoned, for at least a year now, Castaneda's "practical instructions with respect to 'dreaming,'" it is increasingly apparent to me that the man didn't really know much at all about the true value and beauty of dreams.

I now realize that I learned worlds more about dreams, mine at least, from four and a half years of Jungian psychotherapy (which I ended after a year and a half of hearing Castaneda's rantings against therapy) than I ever did from Castaneda himself. And this makes perfect sense to me now.

Like most narcissists, Castaneda abhored therapists, since such professionals, and their philosophies, are incredibly threatening to the narcissist's most precious yet fragile creation: their superior persona. Castaneda was only concerned about controlling dreams, by becoming aware in them, looking around, then making them "super real" by performing particular dreaming tasks. He was expressly not interested in the content or psychological nature of dreams--the rich and varied messages that our subconscious sends us about our lives, our personalities, our relationships, our emotions and our fears. He didn't want to be pestered by doubts or insights from his subconscious, and only wanted his conscious mind in control at all times. This meant having to control his dreaming to the same extent that he tried to control everything else in his life.

In my experience, this approach leads, after awhile, to such an impoverished use of our nightly periods of unconsciousness as is only enough to sustain a persona, not the rich depth and wholeness one can gain by giving full attention to the messages that one's subconscious mind cares to intimate and, occasionally, reveal.

While learning to "dream" Castaneda-style was exciting for a time--the first few times I became aware in "dreaming" following his prescriptions, and was able to extend those dreams by using techniques I learned from Lawton, were an incredible rush--ultimately there is something quite juvenile and limiting about dreaming that way all the time. It's a very driven, ego-based view of dreaming, where the content of dreams is discounted and ignored in favor of perfecting the process--which amounts to preserving control of the dream at all times, at all cost. This is hardly the way that a mature individual learns hidden truths about themselves, their relationships with others, and their relationship to life. It is not a way that learns to make use of the rich and powerful imagery of the temporally unbounded dreaming world for personal discovery and enlightenment. "Dreaming" is not even all that fun or interesting after awhile, being limited, as it is, to the perfecting of a process rather than permitting a growing respect for what is being seen each night, and what these scenes can and do mean.

Carl Jung himself explored active imagination--in essence, the waking dream--which I believe was the source for Castaneda and company of many of their fantasy stories about themselves and their grandiose lives as sorcery apprentices. It was also symptomatic of Castaneda's narcissism that he wrote that everyone who practiced "dreaming" would eventually have the same recurring dreams of the tunnel world of the inorganics that he did, because for narcissists, other people are simply viewed as extensions of themselves. For Jung, however, these experiences of "dreaming awake" were a powerful tool for individuation and becoming more aware of one's hidden self. Whereas Castaneda was looking for perceptions that could be used to help inflate his self image and persona, to help make it superior and indestructable, Jung used these experiences--at times painful and deeply disconcerting--to open new doors of awareness, not only about his subconscious drives and motivations, but also about the ways in which we are all interconnected--since, in his view, our dreams carry images that arguably arise from a collective unconscious.

In the past several weeks, I have had no "dreaming" experiences (and have not been trying for any), but I've had dreaming experiences that have knocked my socks off. Rather than ignoring this content, as Castaneda advised, I have delved into it and tried to work with it, letting its meaning slowly bubble to the surface in my daily life. This is, of course, a life-long process, but it's one that is already giving my life more purpose, and a richer, deeper sense of connection--not only with my own unconscious and past, but also in terms of connections with my fellow beings, human and otherwise, and my planet--than I ever experienced in dozens of sessions with Castaneda or hundreds of weeks of following his advice about "dreaming."

I'm very thankful for these dreams, I'm deeply thankful for the new lease on life they've helped to engender, and I'm even thankful to Castaneda for his negative example. I've seen now where the life of a narcissistic control freak leads. Giving loving and respectful attention to the content of my dreams can, in my opinion, help direct me in the ways that a mortal man can derive as much meaning, understanding and awareness as he is capable of clearing and maintaining the space for.

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In closing, here are two brief excerpts from C.G. Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The first sums up for me the trap that Castaneda and Cleargreen have fallen into around "dreaming." The second addresses dreams as an endlessly rich and fruitful personal question.

1. "Since the unconscious, as the result of its spatio-temporal relatitivity, possesses better sources of information than the conscious mind--which has only sense perceptions available to it--we are dependent for our myth of life after death upon the meager hints of dreams and similar spontaneous revelations from the unconscious. As I have already said, we cannot attribute to these allusions the value of knowledge, let alone proof. They can, however, serve as suitable bases for mythic amplifications; they give the probing intellect the raw material which is indispensable for its vitality. Cut off the intermediary world of mythic imagination, and the mind falls prey to doctrinaire rigidities. On the other hand, too much traffic with these germs of myth is dangerous for weak and suggestible minds, for they are led to mistake vague intimations for substantial knowledge, and to hypostatize mere phantasms.

2. "The meaning of my existence is that life has addressed a question to me. Or, conversely, I myself am a question which is addressed to the world, and I must communicate my answer, for otherwise I am dependent upon the world's answer. That is a suprapersonal life task, which I accomplish only by effort and with difficulty. . . . . I also think of the possibility that through the achievement of an individual a question enters the world, to which he must provide some kind of answer. . . . . The inner images keep me from getting lost in personal retrospection. Many old people become too involved in their reconstruction of past events. They remain imprisoned in these memories. But if it is reflective and is translated into images, retrospection can be a reculer pour mieux sauter. I try to see the line which leads through my life into the world, and out of the world again.