FEBRUARY 24, 2011. In this interview, my late friend, hypnotherapist Jack True, discusses dreams. He and I talked about this subject many times.

Q (Jon): I look at dreams as adventures. Cultures have always been fixated on analyzing them and finding the hidden meanings.

A (Jack): Well, when you think about it, trying to dissect things for hidden meanings happens all over the place. The point is, when you arrive at the meaning, what do you have? The whole business falls apart. You’re sitting there with a few sentences of translated meaning, and it really doesn’t help much. I admit it can be an intriguing exercise, and I’m not knocking it, but it makes me yawn.

Q: The most interesting thing about dreams is that people have them. They’re lying in bed, and they’re entering into all sorts of dimensions, and it feels very real. Adventure.

A: Well, you would say that, because you’re an artist.

Q: What would you say?

A: I agree. Many dreams follow the sequence of desire and then manifestation. You want to experience something, and then, bang, it’s there. You’re in a full-blown setting, and there are other people, and you’re feeling what you want to feel. Or you could reverse it. You’re in a setting, you size it up, you see what you desire, and then it happens.

Q: In other words, it’s natural. It’s what people want.

A: They would like their waking lives to be like that. And in the service of that goal, in dreams, all the rules of physical reality go out the window. Dreams are a glimpse into another kind of reality, where the rules aren’t the rigid context. The rules about what can happen with space and time and what can’t happen don’t apply. In that sense, dreams are like art. In art, you can create what you want to.

Q: So there is a general universality in dreams.

A: The universality is, the rules of physical reality don’t take precedence. They don’t determine the outcome. They don’t inhibit the action. You can be in a room talking to someone one second, and the next second you can be up in the clouds flying over a city. This isn’t “a symbol” of something. It’s not about hidden meaning. It’s what it is.

Q: That’s too stark for a lot of people.

A: Well, sure. But so what?

Q: In a lot of cultures, if you have a dream, you’re bound to interpret it by the doctrine of the current mythology or religion.

A: Yeah. One story used to explain another story. If you wrote a novel, would you feel compelled to write another novel explaining the first one? It’s ridiculous. Dreams have inherent magic in them. Whereas, in your waking life, if you want to go from one city to another, you drive, or you book a flight. You go through all sorts of preparation. Those are the rules. That’s the way it works. In a dream, you can just move from one city to another in no time at all.

Q: That’s what I’m saying. That instant travel—it’s part of the adventure. If you want to think about a dream after you wake up, think about that.

A: Let’s say you actually had a person who could do that. He’s standing on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, and then he’s standing on the beach in San Francisco. No time elapses. All sorts of explanations would be given, in addition to all the denials that it ever happened. He’s an alien from outer space. He’s a god. He’s the devil. He’s able to hypnotize everybody and make them think he has this extraordinary power. He was using some fabulous machine to make the space shift happen. It was technology, because otherwise it couldn’t have happened. You see, this is the analysis. The interpretation of the event. In the same way, people have dreams and then they wake up and analyze what happened.

Q: They can’t just accept it.

A: They can’t enjoy it.

Q: You must have patients who tell you about their dreams.

A: Sure. One woman has flying dreams. I finally got her to remember and really feel the sensation of taking off from the ground and how good it was. She decided that was a hell of a lot more important than “what the dream meant.” She was flying! She was showing off! She was a performer with an audience. And she was flying!

Q: When we say people are asleep and they need to wake up, we don’t mean they need to stop dreaming.

A: Dreaming is being awake. Awake to a different kind of reality, where imagination has much greater power. Dreams supply what’s missing in physical reality. There are places all over the world where professionals conduct experiments designed to see whether paranormal events can happen. They run tests, experiments, and so on. That’s fine, but I like to point out that the flavor of the experiments is very bland compared to dreams. Magic isn’t bland. It’s alive. It has color and depth and profound emotion. If you try to leave that out, you don’t have magic anymore. I don’t know what to call it, but it isn’t magic. Do you want to put Merlin in a lab? That would be a joke.

Q: You have some of your patients invent dreams by the truckload.

A: Yes. It’s a natural tendency and deep desire—dreaming—so why not do it more and do it when you’re awake? What happens is you begin to blend different states of mind. You have states of mind while a person is asleep that give birth to dreams, and then you have the states of mind people usually inhabit when they’re awake…so why not blend them? Why not explore that?

Q: You’re saying there is more than one kind of desire. The sort of desire people experience when they’re awake is different from the sort of desire they experience when they’re asleep.

A: It’s a different quality. In dreams, desire produces a scene, an event, an experience just like that. Desire gives rise to fulfillment. In waking life, it feels different.

Q: Is that because waking life is so different from sleeping?

A: Maybe. But I think it’s something else. When we’re awake, we bamboozle ourselves into thinking that our desires carry relatively little power. And we make the excuse, “Well, the world doesn’t work according to desire. It works on its own, like a machine, and we have to plug into the machine and go along with its processes.”

Q: Lots of people have come along and talked about manifesting desire in the world.

A: I know. And usually it doesn’t pan out. Something goes wrong. What I’m saying is, it has to do with state of mind. A person can occupy all sorts of different states of mind—and then different outcomes will result. Dreaming is a state of mind that works when you’re asleep. So what happens when you’re doing something to blend that dreaming state or connect it to waking life in the world? That’s what I’m doing with my patients now. It’s a work in progress.

Q: Any preliminary findings?

A: I’m encouraged. That’s all I can say right now. I have people keeping a book of dreams. Every day, they invent and write down dreams in the book. They aren’t reporting on dreams. They’re creating them. While they’re awake. You see? So in that writing, they’re moving through states of mind they wouldn’t ordinarily occupy while they’re awake.

Q: A similar thing would happen in a play on stage.

A: Yes. An actor is playing a role that doesn’t exist anywhere except on the stage. He’s inventing. The whole play—somewhat like a dream—is taking place on the stage. And the audience is watching a dream unfold. They want that. They want to be awake and watch a dream. They want that experience. They want to blend different states of mind. But most of all, they just want to see a dream while they’re awake.

Q: What you’re doing with patients is like the other side of the coin of lucid dreaming.

A: It seems like it. From what I understand, the practice of lucid dreaming involves cultivating the ability to realize, in the middle of a dream, that you are dreaming—but you don’t wake up in bed. You’re still “in it.” But you know you’re having a dream. And then you direct the rest of the dream according to the way you want it to happen. Well, I’m saying, let’s take people who are awake, and let’s have them invent dreams and write them down. Let’s take it from the other end.

Q: What about nightmares?

A: Well, this goes back to what you were saying. A dream is an adventure. Suppose you could decide to embrace “a bad dream” and not be thrown way off by it. While the so-called nightmare is happening, you’re embracing the whole thing because you want to experience it. And so the dream itself takes on a different character. You don’t retract and shrink back so much. You “wrap your arms around” the nasty creature who is coming at you. I believe then that the dream will take on a different character. It won’t be fearful in the same way.

Q: The ancient Tibetans were very much involved in cultivating extraordinary capacities. Levitating, telekinesis, and so on. For them, universe was a product of mind. If you could fully know that, you could experience it. You could make things disappear and create new things out of nothing.

A: I find something of the quality of dream in their work. The flavor of it. They had a culture that supported that. They were intensely creative. They did very intense exercises over long periods of time. It wasn’t your standard religion.

Q: In the past, we’ve talked about film as dream.

A: Well, I think that was the early impact of films. They were dreams on the screen. It was a bit like being led into your own psyche and desires. Whereas, realism is about the fixation on having things as they are in the physical world.

Q: The early films of Ingmar Bergman had a certain dream quality. And even though the subject matter was, at times, despondent, it was alive.

A: When a person goes to escape depression, where does he go? He looks for any kind of life line. He tries to get back into the world. The everyday world. But after a while, what does he have? He may be somewhat happier, but the “real world” doesn’t give him the sense of really being alive in an intense way. No matter how you approach it, the physical world is missing certain factors. It’s missing everything that lies beyond the boundaries laid down by the rules. It’s missing all those qualities you can find in dreams.

Q: The phrase “inventing dreams.” What does it mean?

A: Just what it says. You make up a dream. Then another one. It doesn’t matter what they are. It doesn’t mean “the one dream you want to fulfill all your life.” Sure, throw that one into the mix. But it means plural. Dreams. Invent dreams. Write them down. Flesh them out. Not just vague general statements. Just keep making them up. Dreams. One after another.

Q: It occurs to me that no one I’ve ever talked to has described a dream in which he was buying and selling something.

A: (laughs) Yeah. That’s the main thing that goes on in the world. But when people sleep, they want to do something else. There is something about the human race—they want to build and envision all sorts of complex machines. It’s fascinating. And the mind sometimes works that way, too. How complex a thought can you lug around? How intricate can you make the processes of mind? How many halls and corridors and rooms can you install in landscapes of the interior? This gives rise to the idea that the mind itself—and everything you want to discover about it—is very complex. It has to be. You see? So the journey of discovery will be a very long one. I have no problem with that, if people want to entertain and amuse themselves that way. Great. But I think there is short-line way of understanding. You see how the physical world works. It has space and time. And so on. You can’t go from point A to B without some amount of time passing. You can’t look at a clock on a table and make it disappear. You can’t conjure up a rock out of nowhere and make it sit on that table. There are things you can do and can’t do. That’s the message of physical reality. People who are conscious know there is something wrong with that. There’s something wrong with that formulation. It isn’t complete. We humans aren’t just another species that fits into the overall framework of physical reality. There are groups who want us to believe that, who want us to make ourselves more stupid, who want us to imagine ourselves as just another kind of primate. But that’s not so. We aren’t. The trouble is, when some people get hold of this idea of the dream, they use it to remain forever adolescent. They use it to become–

Q: Glazed donut heads.

A: Yes. They use it to excuse themselves from having anything to do with the world. In a juvenile way. They don’t really want to think. They just want to get what they want when they want it. They don’t want to work. They want a gift to arrive in the mail that will change them for all time. It’s pathetic. I’m not talking about that at all. I’m talking about something much, much different. Why do we have this capacity to dream when we sleep? Why do we have this capacity to experience a different order of reality full-bore? Do we say it’s just a minor diversion, like a TV show? Or do say it’s a profound clue about the nature of multiple Realities and how we’ve accommodated ourselves to this one type of physical reality, when in fact an infinity of other types of experience are available to us? None of this would be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that we want and desire those wider experiences—and if we don’t reach them or move toward reaching them, we become frustrated and bored and passive.

Q: By “wider experiences,” you’re including the capacity to make paranormal events happen.

A: Of course I am.

Q: You were…[there is a break in the conversation, and then Jack is off on another topic]

A: I once saw a man dance out a dream. It was a very interesting experience. He did it in a dance studio. There were a few of us there. This was a dream he’d had a few months earlier, which he called the most thrilling experience of his life. He was walking on clouds above a forest covered by fog, in the early morning, and birds of strange shapes and colors came up from the canopy and hovered near him. He walked on the clouds and felt green rays shooting up through his feet, all the way up his body into his head…when he danced this out in the studio, the whole thing transformed. There was no music. His dance was obviously about him absorbing and using that energy to be able to fly. The dance went on for close to two hours. He was trying to learn to fly, literally. And the process was an exhilarating struggle. A few days later, he told me several nagging health problems he’d been having went away. He said the whole business about being able to fly had been stuck in his craw since he was a child, and he finally realized it was causing him chronic frustration, for many years. He said it didn’t matter if he never learned to fly, he was “working on it,” and his body was undergoing many changes, as a result. So, in that case, a desire or goal which everybody would say was totally impossible and crazy became the impetus for him to transform himself. He didn’t automatically reject the whole idea. He accepted it as a real desire, and he began to dance it through. He kept at it, too. He did his dance many times after that. It was alchemy in motion.

Q: That’s quite unusual, to say the least. He didn’t reject the desire.

A: He kept expanding on it. I thought it was also interesting that he was a football player…see, the point is, we all have desires which are theoretically impossible. These are kinds of desires that show up and are temporarily fulfilled in dreams. We decide to bury them. And we think it doesn’t matter. But it can matter.

Q: You’re talking about the tension between “the rules” of physical reality and what we want.

A: Right. I could also extend that to the rules of society, but let’s stick to this, because I think it’s far more interesting and less understood. Let’s suppose you have a person who really wants to move a cigarette lighter across a table with his mind. He sits there, every day, and he tries, for an hour or two. Nothing happens. But he wants it to happen. That’s tension. He can’t do it. So he starts to write about it or dance it through or whatever. He’s now giving expression to a desire that runs counter to the limits of physical reality, as these limits are generally understood or accepted. He’s engaging with a desire that “has no basis” in what we call ordinary life. You see? It doesn’t mean he’s gone crazy or he quits his job or he does drugs. It doesn’t mean he leaves his family or grows a beard two feet long or mumbles to himself. This is a straight-out expression of desire. Now, he has to find a way to express the desire. He has to work with this.

Q: In a way, this was what the Tibetans did. They had exercises for this.

A: Yeah. In a way.




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