Our Dreams Will Never Be the Same Again
International bestselling author Rodger Kamenetz believes it is not too late to reclaim the lost power of our nightly visions. He fearlessly delves into this mysterious inner realm and shows us that dreams are not only intensely meaningful, but hold essential truths about who we are. In the end, each of us has the choice to embark on this illuminating path to the soul.
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About the Author
Roger Kamenetz wrote the landmark international bestseller, The Jew in the Lotus, and the winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Stalking Eljah. He is a Louisiana State University Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies and a certified dream therapist. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, fiction writer Moira Crone.
Read an Excerpt
The History of Last Night's Dream
Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul
The Descent into Dreams
New Orleans, January 2007
A whole world inside us is asleep. We wake to it but rarely.
We glimpse and barely remember. Or we don't understand what we've seen.
A third of our time on earth we've spent sleeping, with little to show: an image, a face. Only rarely does a dream come that wakes us to ourselves.
Will our lives someday be forgotten as we have forgotten our dreams?
I know there is a conscious mind and an unconscious. But I don't always think about what that implies—that more than half of who I am and what I am is completely unknown to me, except in fragments and glimpses, images and dreams.
Is it possible that all we don't know about ourselves includes also the most important thing? That our self-knowledge is trivial by comparison, and yet we use only our conscious awareness to guide our lives? And so we miss receiving great gifts that have been waiting for us all along.
To receive these gifts, we must learn how to dream, which sounds easy enough. But I mean dreaming with a purpose, learning to use dreaming as a way to depth. That proved difficult, at least for me.
I had to make a wayward pilgrim's progress to the dream because I had so much to unlearn—and I am a slow unlearner. The progress falls into three parts, which I've titled "Images," "Interpretations," and "Dreams."
First I had to learn the true power of images. Then I had to unlearn the ancient reflexes of interpretation. Only then could I explore the world ofdreams.
In part one of this book I introduce my first teacher, an eighty-seven-year-old Algerian-born mystic living in Jerusalem whom we students called Colette. My encounter with this powerful personality was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure full of strange, hilarious, and sometimes harrowing incidents, like the time she tried to lengthen my arms an extra inch. But she taught me the valuable ancient practice of directed waking dreams. This practice reverses the flow of ordinary thought, taking words back to images. By this reversing, I understood for myself, as she often said, that "images are sovereign in the mind."
Part one, then, deals with one obstacle to dreams, which is the habit of thinking in words; part two concerns the habit of interpretation, which is another barrier. I introduce Marc Bregman, my teacher of dreams as Colette was my teacher of images. We struggled together over a puzzling dream about reading a book, a huge blue book that seemed to be a commentary on Genesis. Before I could fully enter the realm of dreams, it seems, I had to unlearn the habit of interpretation. This habit is so thickly and deeply rooted in ancient history and religion and modern psychology that it feels like the only and natural response to dreams. But there is another approach to dreams, and this is what I needed to learn.
So in part two of my wayward progress, I dig up the roots of interpretation in Genesis and follow them where they lead: to the influential dream theories of the rabbinic sages and Church Fathers, all the way to Freud. I learned for myself how in every age, interpretation has repressed the power of the dream.
Only then could Marc Bregman teach me to undo interpretation and enter directly into the world of dreams, the journey explored in the third part of this book. Here he proved as shamanic a master as a contemporary American can be who wears red flannel shirts and hunts moose and drives a Chevy Avalanche.
What I experienced in dreams became not only real for me, but the touchstone for what is real.
But to explain that paradox more clearly, I have to back up and give a brief spiritual and personal history of who I was when I met him.
To all appearances I was awake the summer afternoon I first met Marc Bregman. But I was also unconscious in important ways. I had no awareness of my true predicament in life, though my dreams would soon demonstrate it vividly.
All I knew was, I needed a fresh start. Three frustrating years of work on a book project had ended in failure. It was a book about religion, and a major impasse was that I no longer felt sure in the truths I was writing about. The gap between what I wanted to believe and what I felt inside was wide; the empty space between belief and feeling troubled me.
I am very comfortable with words and metaphors, with books and ideas. I enjoy explicating religious doctrine. I love the stories and the stories about the stories, the commentaries and the traditions. But in the back of my mind, disquiet whispered: What if all this talk is about nothing? What if it isn't real?
I was not raised in a religious home. My extended family were good people; we loved our roots and tradition. The rituals we did were all about family, and warmth, and being together. Our grandparents had traded the Old World for the New, and they'd brought with them the warmth and the family closeness but had left the piety behind.
My family did not pray in a crisis; we worried. Our faith was in ourselves: in what we could see with our eyes and touch with our hands, in hard work, and, for the children, in school. Education was everything: with education you could become a doctor, a lawyer; you could be somebody. We were striving to fulfill the American promise: it was a story our grandparents began by immigrating, and we were completing it with our little triumphs. It was all very practical and obvious. This was how we lived.
I don't recall God being taken seriously in anyone's mouth.
I wasn't gifted with a simple faith, like the man my father told me about once who never prayed in the community: while others worshipped, he walked in the park and talked to God.The History of Last Night's Dream
Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul. Copyright © by Rodger Kamenetz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
The Descent into Dreams: New Orleans, January 2007 3
The Gate of Heaven in Newton, Massachusetts: Newton, November 1995 15
Colette and the Waking Dream: Jerusalem, Summer 1995 27
Kitchen Kabbalah and the Vault of Images 37
The Little Shocks 42
The Case of the Disappearing Dream 50
A Convention of Dreamers: Berkeley, June 2003 54
Marc Bregman and a Punch in the Gut: Morrisville, Vermont, June 2001 63
The Book of K de G 73
You Are a Dead Man: Dumuzi and Abimelech 80
Jacob, the Hero of the Revelation Dream 86
Joseph the Dreamer and Joseph the Interpreter 92
The Untimely Disappearance of the Dream: Numbers and Deuteronomy 98
The Rabbis Ameliorate the Dream 102
Peter Sees a Dream, and Jews and Christians Part Ways 108
The Gnostic Heresy and the Mystical Dream Journey 114
Sigmund and Irma: The Secret of Dreams Revealed 122
The Two Belly Buttons 129
Blind Spots Removed While You Wait, and the Book of K de G Speaks 139
How Dreams Abolish Time, and the Secret of K de G at Last 148
The Three Gifts of the Dream 157
Lost and Wandering Dreams: The Predicament 161
The Opposition: Gravel Grandma 166
The Opposition: Freud's Staircase Dream 174
The Orphanage Dream: The Situation of the Soul 182
Becoming the Boy: The Pins and the Desert 189
A Very Important Person 198
The Male VIP: The Second Gift of the Dream 205
Jung's Descent into the World of Dreams 211
Marc Bregman Meets the Animus 220
Return of the Orphanage Dream: The Father Archetype 225
North of Eden 230
What People are Saying About This
“Kamenetz’s fierce honesty and unflinching self-revelation inspire both admiration and awe [...] [A] smart, funny, and revolutionary book...”
“Kamenetz’s new book brilliantly combines dream and soul and offers an accessible understanding of both. I highly recommend it.”
“[A] powerful and beautifully written book.”
“An enchanting and provocative book exploring a subject with profound implications about our very humanity.”
“A profound, affecting and deeply rewarding book from a charismatic teacher.”
“Kamenetz has written a manual for living the dream of life through the real dreams of an individual.”