Dreamed 1988/4/20 by Chris Wayan
My sister Miriel has joined a cult she says has helped her a lot. It's an eclectic Hindu mix. I meet her and sit in on a class. It opens with a lecture on the origins of the sect, and distinguishes various Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist types of ecstatic trance. The teacher's a very tall, intense woman, with power crackling from her. She projects what she's talking about as living visions! I also sense benevolent spirits in the room: one manifests as a faint but visible glow, and a couple of others as emotional or psychic glows. My parents are here, and I'm delighted one spirit manifested so physically even our dad will have to face it. He could deny all the rest, but this? I'm also pleased I can see these nonphysical spirits--and impressed so many are here.
Now the leader starts a group practice rather like psychodrama but with twelve-step confessions. I watch peacefully enough till she says "Chris, I want to run you through our basic diagnostic battery." At first I just watch silently, as she summons visions of painful moments from my life, clearly supposed to provoke me into reacting. The audience tosses comments in... She wants an emotional blowout to climax her show, but I feel she's violating my privacy. I don't want to reveal any more by reacting. It's too soon, it's using me for dramatic effect! Ominous for the future of the cult--she's forgotten that the sect is to help its individual members grow; now she's compromising that goal with showmanship, feeding the hunger of her audience, neglecting the individual's rights for the collective.
But rather than say this, I just hide my reactions and distance myself.
Miriel start whispering loudly to me "You're holding your cock tight between your legs to hide that you're turned on by those embarrassing scenes, aren't you!" In fact I'm not, I don't feel turned on... But the spirits I sense are so powerful! And Miriel's teacher read my mind... could I be wrong?
Miriel starts digging some more. "And your so-called activism. I never did learn EXACTLY what causes you worked so HARD for..." her voice is nasty and scornful -- she means this! I accept this too, her voice is my own worst judgment on myself. I never REALLY did anything effective, never even spent much time doing more than learn about political issues. I believe her insinuation that I've been lying about politics as well as sex, all my life!
"And money... how about your stinginess? And how about your art work--or shall we be honest and call it porn? You have your Penthouse magazine, why do you have to add more trapped women to your collection? Controlling them, just... like... our... DAD!"
Now I'm getting mad, but not the way she thinks. Their game is supposed to provoke me, but she whispers this privately, with a clear threat to speak up. It's blackmail! I hiss at her "Just shut up!" The first time we've fought in years.
"And what about Dahlia..." I know she's threatening to tell them I always wanted my cousin Dahlia, and went beyond massage once with her and only stopped with difficulty... "And what about me..." I had even stronger incest feelings towards Miriel herself--though, again, it was a hunger I managed not to act out.
When she brings up incest feelings she half-encouraged, I lose my temper. She's sniping from the sidelines while pretending it's all therapeutic! Clearly Miriel's out to hurt, not heal. Or... not hurt... INHIBIT me! Her teacher wants me mad so I'll get involved, but Miriel is out to shut me up!
Now her teacher evaluates the word association part of their Diagnostic Battery (and I do feel battered). She says "Hmm...'girlfriend: lonely'... I can't imagine what it would be like without a lover so long, can't see how you could get yourself into such a miserable position, where you deny yourself sex, and affection, for YEARS..." she's fairly sympathetic, and I sense frankness--she feels nothing could be worth the pain of loneliness. No lover, no teacher, no community.
But I think "there are worse things--love like Miriel's. Teachers like you. Communities like this!"
I realize only when I wake how much they got to me. I nearly believed Miriel instead of my OWN BODY--just because her teacher had a good spiritual lightshow.
Like thinking a band with a big crowd MUST be good.
There's a big party at work for someone who's leaving. I don't know her, it's just an excuse to take a break for me... Miriel and I run into each other. We work at far ends of the main library complex at Stanford. Kind of cling together, both feeling shy.
But whenever I say anything real, she looks worried and hisses "Ssssh!"and "Someone will hear!" I finally get it--if I mention anything non-work-related, I'm bizarre and unprofessional, and it might rub off! She might get a reputation!
So if she wants to be a nice normal librarian, why doesn't she go talk with them and quit buzzing around me, criticizing me for being who I am?
No wonder Miriel was the voice of my inner critic last night! The dream knew what she'd pull today...
NINE DAYS AND SEVEN NIGHTMARES LATER
Well, maybe I was wrong. At least that party wasn't the whole story. My dreams of betrayal, violation, and false accusations went on and on, all week... I started to get sick from the sheer stress of them.
Until on the ninth day, my boss Lisa gets a phone call from Meyer Library. A woman there says the night supervisor has accused me of causing constant trouble there--I'm not just loud and disruptive, I won't leave when asked, and I'm physically COMBATIVE!
As far as I know, I've never even MET the night supervisor, let alone fought anyone.
I go over to Meyer and find the woman who made the call--the night supe's boss. She's cold and wary, clearly believes her employee's claims without evidence. I'm pissed that she called my boss without even trying to get my side of the story... I'm lucky it's Lisa, who thought it was funny. "You say "CHRIS is combative? Are you sure you have the right person?" Though going to my boss like that probably won't harm me, because Lisa knows me well, it could have. I feel nearly as angry at this women as at my nameless accuser.
Yes, nameless--this woman won't name my accuser, as if I'm some stalker--yet if my accuser's telling the truth we would have met many times! The only way there's any anonymity to preserve is if I'm telling the truth and we've never met. The dates this person accuses me of causing trouble really are the days I've been at Meyer, writing stories in a cubicle.... but no one complained to me, let alone confronted or fought with me! This person has to be watching me, disliking something, and making up stories of confrontations and violence that never happened! Bizarre!
And how would this person even know my name? I finally realize there's only one way: the night supervisor pawed through the trash bin and read a discarded rough draft of some dream-tale of mine! Maybe that's what this is about... this person's been spying on my DREAMS! And been offended. No wonder I've had nightmares all week about spies and false accusations...
The night supervisor's boss grudgingly agrees to set up a meeting so I can confront this person. I show up. My anonymous accuser doesn't.
I feel creepy about using the computer center now, so I plan to buy my own computer and write my stories at home after work. No more is ever said...
I never did learn who it was.
Modern dream-interpretation theory tends to assume dreams are private letters to oneself, so I treated Miriel's critical voice as my own inner critic. I wasted ten days wondering what inner problems were surfacing in all those nightmares... while someone was snooping through trash, trying to get me fired.
In fact, Miriel's extremely intuitive, and I wonder now if she was so nervous and insistent on acting normal at that party because she sensed something was up. The night supervisor could even have been at that party, watching me, pointing me out as a troublemaker--just hadn't yet reached my boss.
Now, fifteen years after the dream, my sister's a follower of Ammaji, the Hindu saint who hugs everyone. My dream-cult's looking less symbolic now! It's true that Amma and her organization are much more egalitarian, open and humane than the confrontational cult in my dream... but still, the similarities make me wonder. Fifteen years ago there were very few female cult leaders of any kind, so I naturally assumed she was a mere symbol for our mom or one of our bosses at the library (80% women, 100% underpaid!)
Pure symbolism? Or, beyond the immediate crisis, was there a long-range prediction, too?
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