INTERVIEW WITH JAMES DAVIS,RELIGION WRITER OF THE SUN-SENTINEL
Tapping into the soul of your dreams
By JAMES D. DAVIS | Religion Editor
October 29, 2007
Life is but a dream, the old song says. Rodger Kamenetz would say, dreams are but a life — yours. And to awaken to your predicaments, even your own soul, he suggests you row your boat gently down the stream of consciousness.
It's the theme of Kamenetz's new book, The History of Last Night's Dream: Discovering the Hidden Path to the Soul. His research into dreams in the Bible led him to seek out dream workers of several religions. And he offers ideas on what dreams may teach.
Kamenetz, professor of English and religious studies at Louisiana State University, will speak this week in Miami Beach and Coral Springs. He offered an appetizer by phone.
Q. You've said that dreams tell the truth about ourselves. How do you mean?
A. A dream shows us our predicament in life, which many times we're not willing to heed. There's always a point in a dream, a feeling or an opportunity for feeling.
As an example: A woman dreams she's chained in a basement, talking to Bob Barker, the game show host. Her son comes down and gives her a kiss on the way to high school. I asked, why didn't she ask her son to let her go? She realized she felt numb, trapped in obligations, doing things for others. And she accepted it. She felt she deserved to be chained. The dream is a warning, trying to get her to feel the predicament and to decide what to do about it.
Q. Your book seems to turn things upside down. You imply that we're somehow more aware when we dream than when we're awake.
A. Yes. A dream is a template that stamps out all kinds of behaviors that play out in waking life. It gives you a vivid image to work with and to feel into the situation.
Another example: A man dreams that a long needle is being inserted into his knee, and he didn't feel anything. And he was proud of it. He's numb to his own pain. That speaks to his relationships. If he doesn't feel his own pain, he can't feel yours.
Q. Who gives us the dreams? Prophets and shamans said it was God or other spirits.
A. I believe dreams connect us to the world of the soul, God, angels or the psyche. The primary dream that tells us that is the [biblical] dream of Jacob's ladder, between heaven and Earth. Instead of saying there's an earthly reality and a spiritual world, that dream says they're all one, and they're connected. You can go up and down the ladder.
Q. So the soul, God, angels, the psyche, they're all the same? Are dreams simply ourselves talking back to us?
A. Dreams give us core experiences, but different religions have different vocabularies. I personally can't say for sure whether it's all "in here" or "out there." All I know is that these numinous figures are a profound experience. People ought to experience dreams for themselves and decide what words they want to use.
Q. Is there a danger in relying on dreams? Many people seem to distrust them.
A. I think the fear is a huge factor, and it's driven the whole tradition of interpretation. I think every dream is a profoundly beneficial message, but we have to understand what it's saying.
Q. How do you think society would change if everyone tapped into their dreams?
A. How would society change if people felt more deeply?
Q. OK, go with that. How would it?
A. I'd like to leave it at that. I believe we're often pushed by our lives to lose track of feelings, of what's most important to the soul. We've seen the result.
It's interesting that a lot of people think it's great to be godless. I wonder if anyone thinks it would be great to be soulless? Dreams enrich the soul, inform the soul, lead us to the soul.
James D. Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4730.