This week, a new series was released called Sandman, based on graphic novels written by Neil Gaiman from many years ago. The story circles around the main character – Morpheus – who is Dream. I read the Sandman graphic novels many years ago and feel curious about the show.
But, Gaiman, in an interview last week with a New York Times writer, said this:
“Because it’s still true that every night, we close our eyes, fall asleep and go mad. We meet people who are dead and encounter people who never existed and wind up in places where we have never been and never will be.”
It stirred me up….let’s go!
Where is the “Madness” in Dreaming?
The idea that every night when we dream, we go mad is not an entirely new sentiment. In many early religious teachings, dreams were often seen as the work of some evil entity – like the devil – and that how we responded was about our spiritual and moral selves. That the devil could come into our dreams and cause us to go mad in our waking lives.
And even in our “modern” times. A famous neuroscientist named Dr. Allen Hobson said this about dreaming: “Dreaming, then, is not like delirium. It is delirium. Dreaming is not a model of psychosis. It is a psychosis. It’s just a healthy one.” [Hobson, J.A., 2009. REM Sleep and Dreaming: Towards a Theory of Protoconsciousness. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 10, 803–813.]
For me, there is an assumption that feels turned around. Here’s the assumption – that our waking and conscious minds are the reference point for what is “madness” and what is “sane” and so we enter into the study of dreaming and even into dreaming itself with this assumption.
The assumption that we know what is going on.
What if, instead of entering a dream and going mad, the opposite happens. We are in a “mad” world, in a “mad” set of narratives and beliefs and circumstances. We are in a place of imagination that is limited to our learnings and understandings as a species. Limited and bound.
The dream, which brings a different kind of reality, a different way of “seeing” and “understanding” than our waking consciousness, therefore seems mad.
But we are the ones who are mad.
We enter the dream and the dream reflects the ways that we are mad, that we are lost, that we believe things that make no sense to the dream reality.
We enter the dream with stories of ourselves and the world based on other people’s stories of people and the world. Other people’s imaginations.
We enter the dream with our confusions about who we are. We enter our dreams with narratives that, often, have seeds of violence against the soul.
We enter the dream already in a state of being gas-lighted by the world. The dreams reflect the “mad” stories and show us how we are living those stories.
I had a dream last year where I realized I was living, with millions of people, in a big bubble that felt like it was a whole world. But I realized it was just a bubble and that there was another reality outside of the bubble. The bubble and the reality in the bubble was created and controlled by a man who did not want anyone to know that it was not reality. But I knew, and I could travel in and out of both realities.
What I love about this dream is that it shows the bubble of reality that we live in – how there has been a reality created by the imagination of somone else. In the dream, it was one man, but in our waking reality, our “bubble” has been created by the imaginations of many, many people – especially men, since we live in a culture that is still very patriarchal. There is a “madness” to living this way, in this kind of bubble. And the dream shows there is another whole realm of reality outside of it.
The dream is not a place of madness or psychosis or delusion. It is a place that shows and reflects how we are deluded by the narratives of the world, how we are lost in the madness of some of those narratives. And more. They show us how to leave the psychosis of the waking world, to see the gas-lighting, to find who we are underneath all of the “mad” narratives of the world, of history, of our families, of our own beliefs.