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Poe-try for Halloween

18 Oct

To inspire some Halloween dreams, why not visit Poe Park in the Bronx? Edgar Allan Poe Poe rented the white farmhouse that’s there for a few years, and it’s conveniently located along the Grand Concourse. The visitor’s center keeps a full schedule of creative-arts events. Or take the walking tour of Poe’s Publisher’s Row. We all know about the famous, scary stories Poe wrote. But there’s his poetry, too—and yes, “A Dream” and even “A Dream Within a Dream.”

The cottage at Poe Park in the Bronx

The cottage at Poe Park in the Bronx

Jews and Dreams

2 Apr

Having been absent from this blog for quite a while, I’m grateful to Ira Barouch for this guest post. My getting online at the end of Passover with a post inspired by a Chanukah workshop may seem out wildly out of sync, and I do apologize to Ira for my slowness (I’m still distracted by preparing for my upcoming move).

On the other hand, the timing has continuity: Around Chanukah, as Ira notes, the Jewish cycle of reading the Torah in small sections lands on the story of Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharoah—a biblical event that facilitates the survival of Abraham’s descendents during widespread famine by bringing them to Egypt. Passover celebrates the Jews’ subsequent exodus from Egypt, the beginning of 40 years of miraculous survival in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.

Jews and Dreams

by Ira Barouch

For thousands of years the Jewish people have been fascinated by the notion of extracting valuable messages from dreams. Jewish culture has been in the forefront of the study and practice of dream interpretation, beginning with the ancient biblical prophesies of Jacob and his son Joseph in Genesis, to the “mysticism” of the medieval era’s berekhat (tractates, or sections of the Talmud), to the sexually charged instinctual wishes of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory that boldly ushered in the 20th century, and continuing all the way up to the trendy contemporary “Kabbalah” practices popularized by Madonna and other celebrities.

On a Saturday in early December my wife, Helen, and I attended a Chanukah retreat in White Plains, sponsored by Westchester Jewish Community Services. In addition to workshops that practiced mindful meditation, chanting, and yoga, the program included two fascinating presentations that illuminated the long Jewish tradition of dream interpretation. As a psychoanalyst, I was intrigued.

“Pharoah’s Dream,” digital pop art giclee print by Israeli artist Mike Darnell

 

Rabbi Molly Karp, religious school principal at Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, CT, led a workshop entitled “Spirit Dreams: The Joseph Cycle,” referring to the section of the Torah traditionally studied around Chanukah. Our group, which included a few other local rabbis, sat around a large table and took turns reading and discussing portions of this ancient text. The narrative follows the spiritual development of Joseph through his uncannily insightful interpretations of his own and others’ dreams. The cycle features the two universally recognized dreams that so troubled the Egyptian Pharaoh, in which he envisioned “seven fat calves followed by seven lean calves.” Joseph had gained a reputation as a keen interpreter of dreams while falsely imprisoned in an Egyptian dungeon, and when he was summoned to interpret the Pharoah’s two dreams, he immediately understood them as a divine prophecy from God and warned that seven abundant years would be followed by seven extremely lean years. Continue reading

Color quest, fall edition

23 Sep

The leaves haven’t turned yet, but I’ve recently been encountering echoes of some of the images I found, during this year’s sometimes drab spring, in my quest to incubate some vivid color into my dreams. The spring quest took a lot of tries before I got dream color: I wrote three posts about my multiple efforts.

Bel Borba aqui

One of those posts mentions a DVD titled Colors of a Creative Culture, about street artists in and around the city of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, engaged in community art projects: Continue reading

Spring color quest (2): Pluralistic color

1 Jun

(Read the first installment, “March flowers brought May showers.”

My next ventures in search of color tended toward more pluralistic sources than Macy’s or Merriam-Webster, 3M Post-it Notes or an educational institution the size of New York University.

For a more heartfelt depiction of Brazilian color than the Macy’s flower show could offer, the next day (March 31) I finally checked out of the library a DVD I’d been seeing on the shelf for many months, Colors of a Creative Culture, by David Zucker.

Continue reading

Montague Ullman’s influence lingers at publication parties

11 Mar

On what’s probably the last day of vaguely winter weather of 2011–2012’s vaguely winter season, I’m getting back to work here by writing about a holiday party I attended at the other end of the season, in December.  More to the point, about the books I received from the party host, Cosimo.

Appreciating Dreams, by Montague Ullman

Cosimo, a specialty publisher in New York City (whose owner is a Dutch expat),  does “publishing on demand” in several categories. In 2006, Cosimo republished Appreciating Dreams,

in connection with a seminal 2005 talk by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Montague Ullman (1916–2008). The Ullman Method of group dreamwork has widely influenced how people work together to understand their dreams. Appreciating Dreams is the “manual” for the Ullman Method.

Montague Ullman, on his site maintained by Markku Siivola

Montague Ullman, on his site maintained by Markku Siivola's

Understanding Dreams, by Markku SiivolaCosimo gave out gift bags at the party, and some of the bags included a just-published book by Finnish psychologist Markku Siivola, a friend and student of Monte Ullman’s. That book is a restatement and introduction of the Ullman Method, titled Understanding Dreams: The Gateway to Dreams Without Dream Interpretation. Markku and I met at one of the weekend-long dream group dream leadership trainings that Monte used to conduct in his home in Ardsley, New York. That weekend afforded a convincing demonstration of the Ullman Method’s ability to be just as insight-inducing and satisfying for group members as for the person whose dream they’re working on: at some point in using the Ullman Method on a dream I’d brought, both Markku and I were deeply affected, each for our own reasons. So I’m particularly looking forward to reading his take on the method. Continue reading

The mystical meaning of Jacob’s ladder

12 Dec

"El sueño de Jacob," by José de Ribera [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“El sueño de Jacob,” by José de Ribera [Public domain]

Dr. Eitan Fishbane is a prolific professor (three books published in the past month or so) at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His specialty is the history of mysticism, including medieval Kabbalah.

In recent months I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about JTS, which is how I became aware of Dr. Fishbane’s December 8 article in The Huffington Post,From Darkness to Light: Entering Holy Time.” It’s a powerful and lovely commentary on “Divinity as Light . . . an idea that has been developed extensively in the history of religion and in the history of mysticism in particular. Mystics of many different religions (including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism) have described God as a radiant Being, a force that shines and illuminates all of reality.” Thus the fall and winter festivals of light—such as Hannukah, Christmas, and Diwali—have implications of our inner struggle against darkness as much as our primal, physical fear of daylight’s disappearance.

This concept played a pivotal part in my own opening to other dimensions of consciousness many years ago, before such topics had their own huge sections in the  average bookstore—an openness that allowed me eventually to accept the possibility of psi dreaming, and later to experience dreams of seemingly paranormal origin extensively. I was taking an undergraduate, rocks-for-jocks–level undergraduate course on the theory of relativity, and I wrote my final paper on the theory’s epistemological implications—a process that shook up my understanding of reality so drastically that I was physically shaking the whole weekend I worked on it. What I realized was that if two points in time can coexist, as suggested by Einstein’s thought experiment of two clocks showing valid but different times, then all points in time can coexist. It was true only at the speed of light—and according to the mystics, God is Light. Or (And?), some say: Consciousness. Continue reading

Perchance to dream

24 Jul
Movie poster - Ethan Hawke in "Hamlet"

Movie poster - Ethan Hawke in "Hamlet"

The indie movie on last night’s Reel 13 (on Channel Thirteen): Ethan Hawke as Hamlet (2000), set in modern NYC.

I loved it. Glad I hadn’t read the reviews on IMDB first, although I’m gaining more discernment from them. That’s the prelude to a second watching.

Because of my very limited experience of European travel, Denmark has a special place in my heart: I was there for the 2004 annual conference, in Copenhagen, of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

Elsinor Castle in Denmark

Elsinor Castle in Denmark

Given that this version of Hamlet is set in New York City, the state of Denmark becomes the Denmark Corporation. Much of the action takes place in the Hotel Elsinor. The post-conference event in 2004 was a trip up the coast for the summer solstice / Sankt Hans celebration . We stopped for a few moments at the real Elsinor Castle, which we could see only from the outside. (Shakespeare, reportedly had never been there, or to Denmark). Continue reading

Sinter Klaas comes to New York

18 Jan

Coming in a little late for Christmas, but we’ve had our jillionth snowstorm this morning, and my Christmas lights are still up. (Shh — so’s the tree.) Rather than hold this post for next Christmas, I want to include it now for its Dutch theme, and I was waiting until I’d be anywhere near Moore Park to get some photos.

“Sugar plums dancing in their heads” is the dream hook to this post—but the post’s not entirely about Christmas, either.

According to All About Christmas, by Maymie R. Krythe (1954), Santa Claus was brought to New York by the Dutch as Sinter Klaas. Before that, Krythe writes, “Dutch seamen were the first to carry to western Europe [from Asia Minor] tales of the bishop’s generosity; as a result, children in Holland got their presents on December 6” (Nicholas’s feast day, the anniversary of his death).

Sinterklaas (on Wikipedia)

Sinterklaas

When the Dutch settled Nieuw Amsterdam—now New York—they brought along their traditions of St. Nicholas, and named their first church for him. In fact, a figurehead of the saint adorned the vessel, the Goede Vrouw, which brought them to these shores in 1630. The image wore a broad-brimmed hat, and had a long Dutch pipe. In the New World, the bishop laid aside his official, churchly robe, and was transformed from a pale ascetic into a tubby character in short breeches.

Continue reading

Saint Nicholas’s dreams

27 Dec

Away for Christmas week-plus, I’ve been reading a 1954 book, All About Christmas, by Maymie R. Krythe.
“Good Saint Nick” was a real person in the early centuries A.D., quite different in original form from his permutations in various countries in later periods. And the book tells two stories in which dream were important to Nicholas’s real-life development as a saint.
The only child of Christian parents, the book says, Nicholas was born around 280 at Patara, a port in the province of Lycia in Asia Minor. Both his parents died in an epidemic; he inherited their wealth—and was anonymously generous in using it to help others.
According to Krythe, a dream helped elevate Nicholas in the church:

Young Nicholas dedicated his life to God’s service and moved to Myra, chief city of his province. There, after the death of their bishop, members of the Council balloted unsuccessfully, for some time, trying to choose a successor. Finally, in a dream, the oldest official was told to stand next day at the cathedral door and select as the new bishop the first man named Nicholas who entered.
When the young Christian went to the church as usual for morning prayers, he was asked his name; and soon afterward he was selected by the Council  and consecrated to high office.

The second dream the book tells is that Nicholas, on his way to the Council of Nicaea, stopped at an inn where the innkeeper had robbed and dismembered two rich young men. (Such hospitality!) A dream informed Nicholas of the crime. “He forced the wicked man to confess; then Nicholas made the sign of the cross over the casks, prayed earnestly to God, and immediately the three boys were restored to life. Therefore, it is not surprising that the good saint became the patron of children.”