A Dreamer’s Notes: Playing Detective with Old Journals

I have been keeping a journal, off and on, since my teens, and as a dedicated daily practice for nearly 40 years. My first entry every day is usually a dream report, sometimes many of them. I like to go back to old journals, open one at random, and see what pops up. This simple act of bibliomancy produces intriguing results. Sometimes I notice that an incident I dreamed long ago is just starting go play out in ordinary reality.

A favorite example: I was hurrying to get into my car and drive to a retreat center 90 minutes from my home where I was scheduled to teach for the first time. I paused to pull a binder from the shelves housing printouts of my dream reports, intending to see what I would find when I opened it. A loose-leaf report - three legal-sized pages of single-spaced text - flew out of the binder. I had written the report 11 months earlier. I glanced at the first lines:

74 people are registered for my workshop. I am given this information at reception by a bald man with a big beard.

I skimmed the rest of the report. There was weird stuff there, material for dark fantasy and scifi. I had no time to study the details. I folded the report and put it in my pocket.

When I got to the retreat center, I was greeted by a man with a big beard, wearing a hat. I asked him t remove his hat. When he did, I saw he was bald and a match for the man in my dream. "How many people do we have for the workshop?"


This was already interesting, as a clear case of dream precognition. Eleven months ago, when I recorded my dream, I had not yet been invited to this retreat center; indeed, I had never heard of it. The three-day workshop I was bout to lead was not in my calendar. 

In my cabin, I read through all of my dream report carefully, wondering how all the dark drama and special effects might relate to what was unfolding now.

I did not have an assistant for that workshop. Seventy-four people is a rather large group to handle alone, in a huge drafty barn with bats flying - literally - up among the roof beams. Naturally, there were people there who had come hoping to heal deep wounding and get relief from nightmare terrors. As the workshop progressed, I realized that what I had seen in a dream eleven months before had prepared me for things that were going to be shared and sometimes acted out in the group. I had dreamed the dreams of others. And received a p[review not only of a registration number but of various personal situations that would need to be handled with care and sensitivity. Over that long weekend  my dream report was my counselor, whispering in my ear, Be prepared for what's coming next, giving me a context for understanding and sometimes a path resolution.

My Bald Man with a Beard dream is more than an example of how we dream the future. It's a prompt to look at how an "old" dream can provide navigational guidance when a situation it previewed starts to manifest.

Sometimes digging in old journals brings up a dream I could not fathom at the time but may have been illuminated by subsequent discoveries. I may now have a new way to investigate what I left as a cold case when I failed to solve a mystery. One of the characteristic features of my style of dreaming is that I read a great deal and read and receive messages in  many languages. My dreams are full of obscure names and phrases from languages ranging form Mohawk to Japanese to medieval French, from Farsi to Georgian to the Greek of the Neoplatonists. In the pre-Google days I was not able to run down some of the odd names and phrases I recorded from my dreams. It's so much easier now.

There are mysteries in the dream life I have recorded that continue to elude explanation. I suspect that some of these are related to the adventures of my traveling dream doubles. They get out and about in  other realities near or far from the one in which I am writing this piece. I am looking right now at a report I entered in my travel journal in 2019. My handwriting in pencil is almost indecipherable, and slightly smudged. I did not transcribe this short text in my digital data base. I did make a sketch, and that is what made me take another look at these journal pages.

Here is my attempt to reconstruct the text:


Showing Aubrey His Body

In the Cévennes. A little blue Fiat 500 has crashed. A man in a light blue parka is sprawled on the snow. I go through the door of a house where a party is in full swing. I approach a man drinking eggnog, telling him there is something he needs to see. I guide him to the door and show him the body in the snow. He doesn't realize for a moment that he is looking at his own body, dressed in the same light blue parka. I know that his name is Aubrey. I reassure him that someone is coming to get him on the right road. 

My feelings, then and now, are of curiosity rather than high emotion. It seems that my dream self is performing a service, a little psychopomp work to held a soul with the first stage of his bardo: recognizing that you are dead in the sense that you can't use your physical body any ,more.

I have traveled and taught in the general region of the Cévennes but haven't used that term - which may be of Celtic origin - outside the dream. 

I don't think I know any man named Aubrey. Not an Aubrey Beardsley fan. I might go back to the Brief Lives compiled by John Aubrey, the 17th century English biographer and antiquary, and take a look at Ruth Scurr's recent novel about him disguised as his intimate journal. Always happy to find pretext to acquire another book....

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