This story is not so much about the fantastic properties of an unidentified flying, multicolored, ameoba like thing; it’s about one human being’s reaction to it.
—Barry Windsor-Smith, “Time Rise”
I have recorded my dreams for the past 25 years. I have not recorded every day, but a good chunk of them—1000s of dreams, which I am currently in the process of cataloging into separate books.
For the majority of human history, dreams have been an important part of cultural, spiritual, and even political life. We have records of dreams from 3000-4000 years ago, inscribed on clay tablets. Egyptian, Greek, and Roman societies placed a lot of significance on dreams—believing they were pathways to divine communication, healing experiences, and augurs of future events.
Chinese, Native American and Aboriginal cultures all thought dreams were actual pathways to other dimensions, and extremely important in terms of their relation to the waking world. And the Bible is chock full of dreams, which were apparently a standard method “God” used to get the attention of others.
Then came the Middle Ages, in which dreams, among other non-Church sanctioned forms of divination and gnosis, were considered “The Devil.” The Enlightenment robbed dreams of their “divine” quality, and the psychoanalytical theories of Sigmund Freud further reduced them to merely repressed sexual desires and neurotic boogeymen.
Which is not to say that there haven’t been prominent dreamers in the past several hundred years. Freud-friend Carl Jung did some really great studies of dreams, connecting them to universal symbols called archetypes.
Albert Einstein claimed to have dreamt the theory of relativity as a young boy, William Herschel dreamt of the planet Uranus before discovering it, and Dmitri Mendeleev “saw” the periodic table of elements in a nocturnal vision.
Beethoven and Wagner, among other composers, “dream-heard” their compositions beforehand, and both Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan have said they dreamt some of their songs before writing them. And director James Cameron attributes the movie Avatar to a very lucid and detailed dream he once had.
But in terms of the function dreams once had as “messages from the other side,” the art of channeling—”receiving” information in a trance-like state—has really replaced dreaming in New Age circles as the oracle of choice. It just looks better on a YouTube video, I guess, than a snoring person in a bed.
II. “OUROBOROS”: I start remembering my dreams
When I was a child and teenager, I never really remembered my dreams; or if I did, it was only for a short period of time, and then falling out of my brain into the abyss. I had a number of nightmares in that early period, and was quite happy to forget my dreams as soon as possible.
But in 1992, I had a rather long science-fiction-themed dream. It was so vivid and detailed—something about fighting robots disguised as human beings—that I decided to write it down. Being a writer, I figured maybe one day it would make an interesting story.
A few days later, I had another long dream; again, with a very elaborate plot and full of vivid details. This one also had sci-fi elements, though a bit more of a dystopia than anything else. It ended with a very specific word, one that I had never heard of before:
I had just started college in 1992, so I the next time I was at the library there I looked this word up—not sure if I would actually find it, or if the word was just dream-gibberish.
But I did find it. It was apparently a very important word/symbol in mythology and esoteric thought.
“Ouroboros” per Jung:
The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which…unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.
“That’s odd,” I thought. “Why was I dreaming something like that? Weird.”
I had read some Greek and Norse mythology as a child (the D’Aulaires illustrated versions) and watched some paranormal TV like In Search Of and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not—but that was the extent of my experience with esoteric information. I was 18 years old. These bizarrely elaborate dreams were opening up this whole new “gate” for me in terms of my personal experience with the unexplained. They just didn’t seem like “normal” dreams.
III. “CARLTON THE PREDICTOR”
Skip ahead to to 1994. There were several more dreams I had written down between 1992 and then, but they are lost now & I remember very little of them. One involved these “sequels” to the Star Wars movies that oddly took place before the original movies, and featured a Jedi character who steadily became more and more deranged as the three parts of the film progressed. You know, random stuff like that.
But in ’94, I had a dream which contained rather dense material—stuff you’d read in a book—which I remembered extremely clearly. It was different from the other dreams in that this didn’t really feel like a “narrative”…but rather, some sort of “school” lecture from which I was
downloading taking notes from.
It concerned a man called “Carlton” who was a “predictor” and UFO researcher living in the late 1800s to early 1900s. “He was concerned with the bizarre.” The rest of the dream concerned some of what Carlton was studying, which was broken up into a series of videotapes. His research involved the origins of humankind and how they involved “winged creatures” with “breathing apparatuses” who came from outer space. These creatures “fell” and “died out,” but not before conducting experiments that resulted in the humans we know (more or less) today.
Pretty messed-up, right? Who the hell dreams stuff like this? And who was “Carlton” the “predictor” and UFO researcher? The name sounded rather specific.
Again, I consulted my college’s library—but to no avail. However, a friend of mine, some weeks later, thought he had the answer:
“That sounds like Charles Fort!”
He lent me a book with information on Fort, who was an investigator of “anomalous” phenomena. The timeline in which he operated checked out with my dream—late 1800s to early 1900s—and among the topics he studied included unidentified flying objects.
I looked again at the name at my dream:
CARL (CHARLES) + OT (FORT) + N (?)
Strange. Did my dream—or my memory/interpretation of the dream—”mash-up” the name of one person into this composite name?
And even if my dream had any connection to Charles Fort (and what he studied) at all—what was the point? I was a junior in college “tracked” for a degree in English Lit. The special program I was in was hopefully going to help me get into a great PhD program, with a career of academics to follow.
But this stuff…this stuff was just plain WEIRD.
Perhaps there wasn’t any point in it at all.
However, I was now writing down my dreams with a greater frequency…and doing research based on what I dreamt. Hence, I cracked open Fort’s Book of the Damned and was exposed to a whole bunch of new ideas and possibilities…new rabbit holes to explore.
Maybe that was the point.
The “Carlton” dream was in January of ’94. In February, I had my interview to get into the aforementioned “special program” in my school. A few days before the interview, I dreamt I was on a date with a man called “Mephisto.” It was a short, fragmented dream & there didn’t seem to be much to it.
Then I had the interview with the man for the program. As we talked, my eyes fell down to his sneakers.
They were “Mephisto” brand sneakers.
It must have been a coincidence. It had to be. I probably only noticed the name on the sneakers because of the dream; or else, it would have never stood out.
Yes, it was certainly a coincidence, but now in my spare time I began reading an increasing number of books on subjects such as dreaming, psychic phenomena, mythology, shamanism and an off-shoot genre of UFO theory about “Ancient Astronauts”—that last one specifically inspired by the “Carlton” dream.
IV: “BIG DREAMS”
In 1995 I had this dream:
An old lady approaches me and invites me to join her for lunch. I hesitantly accept. We eat with a couple of other old ladies. Teenagers stick their heads through the door, come in, and comment to me that it is weird for me to be dining with the old people…She reveals herself as a goddess, her long white hair revealed. She is old but still beautiful. She reveals to me some info in the form of a map, mapping out different states of consciousness. I was in a level of consciousness where the near-future can be determined with the help of ritual.
This was a “Big Dream”—a term coined by Carl Jung to describe those dreams with a heavy spiritual/emotional impact that often incorporate universal esoteric symbolism. I remember waking up from that dream and going:
The “old lady”/”goddess” I related to the archetype of the crone or “Fairy Godmother”—a “wise woman”
What she was offering me was the “wisdom” of another time—not the stuff my contemporaries (the teenagers) were into. By studying this material, I was therefore going to seem a little “weird” to my peers. But what I would get out of it was allegedly “a level of consciousness where the near-future can be determined with the help of ritual.”
While the elements of the dream were certainly interesting, I still didn’t put much “faith” in it in terms of it really meaning anything at all.
But then, following the “Mephisto” incident, I began getting more and more dreams that seemed to comment on future events. Many of these were what I would consider extremely trivial…for example, dreaming of the face of the ticket-seller I would soon encounter at the Port Authority. Dreaming the amount of money I would eventually be charged for something. Dreaming an extremely minor future plot-point of a favorite TV show.
Later in 1995, I had my first truly lucid dream, in which I was awake during the dream. I’ve put these dreams in their own special category, which I will explore more in-depth in a future post.
Instead, let’s skip ahead to early Summer of 1996, when I recorded this dream:
I had a money order written out to go to France, but I was too scared to go, fearing the plane would crash, and the problem was finding the money-order and canceling it. A Frenchman gives me tickets to Great Adventure in New Jersey instead.
I began to believe this was referring to a crash that would actually happen. But I had a fear of flying, so I reasoned that it was really an anxiety dream.
On July 17 of that year, a few weeks after the dream, TWA Flight 800 crashed 12 minutes after its takeoff from JFK airport, on the way to its stopover in Paris. A couple of days after the crash, me and my friend were walking along the shore of Coney Island beach, where numerous artifacts from the crash started to wash upon the shore—luggage, electronic equipment, and clothing. It was horrifying.
I was spooked out of my fucking mind at this point.
Dreams I had after that about various scary incidents made me quite paranoid. Would they happen too? But they didn’t. Because it didn’t seem to quite work that way.
Important point: I had a lot of dreams that were, frankly, just “anxiety” dreams—dreams which featured negative situations and terrifying imagery that were just symbolic about current issues in my life. For example, I graduated college but didn’t follow the academic path that was planned for me…indeed, I hadn’t even applied to graduate school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life! And that was coming out in my dreams in the form of symbols: being lost in an unfamiliar place, my neighborhood collapsing during an earthquake, etc.
And that was all there was to it! There were no “psychic dreams!”
I had a phobia of flying. That’s why I had a dream about the crash.
I was having all these dreams about mythology, esotericism, etc. because I was reading about all that stuff! I was psyching myself out! That’s why this was happening. I was filling my mind with all this wacky X-Files-type business.
Looking back at the period between 1992 and 1997, I have at least 25 recorded precognitive “hits” through my dreams. Many of these were weirdly specific, but trivial:
I dreamt that my mom was now living in a house with a certain door that had stained glass around it—and several months later she moved into such a house, with the same stained glass design around the door.
I dreamt that this guy I knew but hadn’t seen or thought about for a while was dancing with me, but limping like he injured his foot. Within a week he had called me from Florida and said he had broken his ankle.
Others described certain events that would have an impact on my life, but were really unavoidable/preventable:
I dreamt that we had a big cake in the lunch-area of my job, and it was cut in many slices, one for every person who worked in the company. But instead of eating it around the table, everybody just took their piece and scurried away to their own desks. Then strange people entered the place and took things down and rearranged things. When I went to work the following morning, I found out there were massive layoffs in my job, most of the people including me were fired, and the office was going to be packed up and relocated.
And then there were dreams like this:
I dreamt of an Asian girl getting led away across a subway platform by this evil-looking bearded man—within less than a month later I read in the paper that the girl in my dream was missing and then found dead. She was last seen around a subway station, and the sketch of the suspect was of bearded man.
I dreamt that a plane had skidded across a darkened runway, I could see a metal fence and I think it collided with it as it skidded out-of-control. All these people were inside a movie theatre, family members, waiting anxiously to hear if there had been survivors. When I woke up I found out there had been a plane accident and worried family and friends were waiting in an IMAX theatre to find out news about the passengers.
And finally, this one from from 6/24/97:
A newspaper headline with a picture of Fox Mulder’s face, saying how an entire small town in Paris was abducted by a UFO. We stop by the dealer of the paper, this Middle Eastern guy, and he lets us read the article inside. The article is on the left page [of the two-page newspaper spread], on the right-hand side; on the left-hand side of the same page was a picture of an Asian man, and an article about how he got in trouble. The UFO article talks about UFO activity in Argentina, and also France. The newspaper dealer tells us we can rip out the article and keep it for reference—it is an important bit of info to have.
And here is a newspaper clipping from the following day:
As the dream described, the story of the UFO is on the right-hand side, with the story about the “Asian man who got in trouble” on the left; the page itself on the left-hand side of the two-page spread. This was the regular paper I bought every morning, on the second page.
And, just like in the dream…I ripped out and kept the clipping, for “reference.” (But what had more meaning…the content of the dream itself—UFOs, blah blah—or mere fact I dreamt the composition/arrangement of the next morning’s newspaper at all?)
V: I “STOP” DREAMING
By the end of the 1990s, I was recording my dreams almost every morning. Many were long and filled more than 2-3 pages. There continued to be an ever-increasing precognitive aspect to the dreams, mostly regarding extreme trivia (what a co-worker might wear to work the next day)—though occasionally they were about more serious stuff and left me feeling creeped out & even depressed.
Above all else—I was not feeling refreshed from my sleep. That was a huge problem.
By the early 2000s I made a conscious effort to stop remembering and recording my dreams. I literally stopped keeping a pen and paper by my bed. These dreams were not really “helping” me with anything in the “three-dimensional world” I wished to do. If they were truly precognitive…they weren’t giving me picks for the horse racing track. No “insider info” to make a killing in Wall Street. No actionable data with which to prevent a crime.
They didn’t even “warn” me about 9/11! Granted, I had a few vague premonitions that day—but certainly if ever I was to have a Big Dream about something that impacted my world, that would have been it. But it didn’t happen.
I was able to “suppress” my dreaming—as well as esoteric interests—to a large extent. I jotted down a few notes here and there, but tried to stay away from all that jazz as much as possible. I had a serious job! I wanted to start a family. The time for that bullshit was over.
Then, towards the end of 2003, my life started falling apart. My job fell apart and my health completely collapsed. I was so sick I had to stop working.
Suddenly…I had plenty of time to go back to my spiritual interests. Because I was so ill there was nothing else I could literally do.
If there was ever a case of “shamanic sickness”…ignoring the “Call”…this was a doozy. Basically, it literally felt like somebody had attached a jumper cable to my spine and ripped loose my kundalini energy…in like the absolute worst, most painful and messy way possible.
Slowly I reconnected to the Spiritual—and recovered physically—but I largely still stayed away from the dreams. If I wrote them down at all, I’d just keep them in a notebook and never look at them again.
VI: THE RETURN
I put the kibosh on the esotericism again from 2008-2011, triggering off another inevitable cycle of “ignoring the Call” and getting my ass eventually handed to me as a result. Again, my health suffered immensely, and I experienced a string of negativity and bad luck.
But at the end of 2012 I started entering a new phase in my life where the initial “Call” I had experienced in my late teens/early 20s sort of came back. In fact…it almost felt like a replay, or “re-cycle” of that period of time 20 years previously…from 1992 to 2012.
But the dreams never returned with that level of intensity…which was probably, I felt, for the best.
Then in March of 2015, as I started a new job, I had one of those clear-cut “trivial” precog hits again. I dreamt I was at a cafe, with this waiter who had a very particular face. I had handed him my debit card, but was worried about it…like it might not work or something.
The next day, I had an unexpected lunch out at my job. The waiter, of course, had the same face. I didn’t have a lot of money in my bank account at that particular time, because I was in the middle of paying off a few huge bills and waiting for other payment to clear. So as he took my card to pay for my portion of my meal, I sweated bullets. Hopefully, I had enough to cover it.
“Aha!” I thought. “A direct hit!” I still “had” it. If only for something completely dumb and meaningless.
Two nights later, I had a dream that I discuss at length in the post “Anatomy Of A Coincidence.” Long story short, I dreamt that I was informed an explosion would happen the next day in NYC. I telecommuted for work at that time, but I was indeed scheduled to travel into the City that day.
I was really paranoid, but I had also just started this job and I really wanted to do well. I couldn’t call sick. And I was sure it was just an anxiety dream. Then, as my train was making its way out of the City, an explosion did happen. At a sushi restaurant in the East Village.
But it wasn’t just any sushi restaurant—it was one that I used to go to all the time, on a block I used to always visit, when I was younger. It was a place that had a certain emotional resonance for me. And it was gone. A big portion of the block was gone. And people died.
And what purpose did that dream I had the night before really have? It didn’t save the lives of those people. If there was indeed some sort of benevolent “God,” wouldn’t He have sent that dream to warn those who were about to die? I mean…it was fucked up. So instead of saving other people, “God” just sent some bits of trivia to me? Like…that was a better plan?
What was the meaning of these dreams? Was there any meaning at all…or just some automatic “sense” that blindly processes things and gives data on things that can’t be acted upon?
Or was the “point” not the content or symbolic meaning of the precognitive dreams…but rather, the mere fact that they they were possible at all?
VII: DREAMING AS “DIALOGUE”
These dreams, for lack of a better term, seem to be part of a “dialogue.” And it’s not with this concept of a “God” that is “All-Good” and super-moral as we understand morality to be. Because if it was—if it had this essential “moral” quality—it would have warned the people who died at the restaurant in the explosion. This “God” would have sent a specific dream to the pilot of one of those airplanes during 9/11 as a warning…or, heck, sent a dream to the president.
No…how do I explain this “dialogue?” It’s like this:
In 2014, I read a book called Mutants & Mystics by Jeffrey J. Kripal. It is a monumental work, that links the creators of pop-culture such as comic book writers/artists and science-fiction authors with topics in the esoteric. As a person who has worked in the comics industry, it was particularly meaningful to me.
I was just at a part about the precognitive experiences of Conan The Barbarian comic book artist Barry Windsor-Smith, which he recounted in his “Time Rise” series.
Here is a quote from “Time Rise” that specifically brings to mind the writings of the aforementioned Charles Fort:
In recent times I have found that certain people whom I thought I knew well have private worlds of experience they have relegated to the locked chambers of memory that, for want of a sympathetic ear, would never be opened again. I am not referring to “skeletons in the closet” but, rather, the ill-defined, poorly labelled events in one’s life that could be referred to as anomalous experience. Seeing a ghost or a UFO, or hearing a disembodied voice, or having a recurring dream since childhood, the content of which evokes a strange discomfort. Anomalous experience can be defined as that which contradicts common experience. A break in the flow of normalcy that could be thought of as wondrous or marvelous, were it not for the consensus of negativity surrounding the abnormal that leads to descriptions such as bizarre, grotesque, weird, or freakish.
Anyway, as I read about Windsor-Smith’s experiences, I wondered: “dammit…does this stuff really happen or not? Was I crazy all these years? And even if it was/is happening…what’s the point?”
Right after I thought that, my attention turned away from the book and back to that first dream I recorded in 1992. The “robots” dream.
I never really thought much about that dream. It didn’t seem to have any sort of “predictive” or deep spiritual quality to it. It just felt like it was what it was—a sci-fi narrative.
So unlike the other dreams, I never really analyzed it. In fact, I hadn’t read it in many years.
But after re-reading it, something deeply and profoundly struck me.
One of the TV shows I was most excited about that Fall of 2014 was the new Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I was pretty obsessed with Capaldi’s iteration of the character, in fact. And when I re-read that dream, I realized it was a literal “play-by-play” of the climax of the first episode of the season, “Deep Breath.”
The whole climatic scene, from the part in the restaurant to the robots dragging the heroine away, to her fainting, to DW in disguise to save her. And in the middle of the dream, the narrative actually gets interrupted to explain more about the central “character”:
The man refers to the strange rectangular “keyboards” we are holding—many dials and tuners. It has a tracking device so we can know where we each are in the house. They can also shoot laser-circular sonic blasts that can damage the robots.
The dials and tuners were on the “dashboard” of the TARDIS. And the device that can “shot laser-circular sonic blasts” was Who’s sonic screwdriver.
So there is the “dialogue” of me (first) wondering about Windsor-Smith’s experiences as recounted in the book Mutants & Mystics, and then (second…the “answer”) suddenly having the intuition to dig out up a folded-up piece of paper containing a dream I hadn’t thought about in years—a dream that, it turns out, was related to something that only would have had meaning to me that Fall in 2014. Something that would not exist for over 20 years after the original dream!
And “how” do you get “advance info” like that? You “time-travel”…
…like Doctor Who.
Or Barry Windsor-Smith. Or Einstein, Mendeleev, Beethoven, Cameron, Joseph son of Jacob, etc.
VIII: ODDS AND ENDS (AND ODDER)
This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive overview of the more esoteric aspects of dreaming. I’ve barely touched on the topic of lucid, “out of body”-type dreams, for instance. There is a whole trove of lore concerning dreams and what some have interpreted as “alien visitations.” And there is a lot I can say on how to identify potentially “psychic” dreams, as apart from those of anxiety, etc.
Another interesting thing I could write more about: most of my really psychic, lucid dreams took place when I had PMS. Go figure.
There is also the fact that for every precognitive “hit” one may get through a dream, there are lots of “misses.” This is a point skeptics like to make…and they’re right.
In the end, the biggest meaning a dream will have will most likely be to the dreamer, touching upon numerous highly-personal symbols that only he or she would know.
These are things to keep in mind when considering those who have a dream about “God,” Jesus, aliens and angels, Satan, Britney Spears, and other deities—and then interpret that dream as a type of “holy writ” that can be applied to the public at large. Frankly, this is how religions are created. Take John Smith dreaming about the material that would be in the Book of Mormon, for instance.
So while I would recommend that humanity pay more attention to their dreams than they do…I also caution that without a proper perspective, this can become a big neurotic mess. I have indeed made a number of precog “hits” over the last two decades…but I’ve gotten far more wrong. And more often, I’ve interpreted things way way way incorrectly, “seen” through a lens of my own ego, fears, and desires.
Lastly—despite my cautions regarding interpretations, exploring the potential of dreams is something that, I believe, is meant for the whole of humanity. It’s not a “special” thing only a chosen few can realize. All you need to do is “cultivate” that faculty for yourself. And you do that by recording your dreams and taking the time to listen to them.
I hope this post has given you a unique perspective on the topic of dreams.