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. I'm impressed so many are here--this teacher's apparently a draw on both sides of the line.
I'm also pleased I can see these nonphysical spirits. Progress!
My parents are here, and I'm delighted one spirit's manifesting so physically even our dad will have to face their reality. He could deny all the rest, but not that streak of light flitting through the crowd, hovering to listen...
Now the leader starts an exercise like Psychodrama / Encounter, but with twelve-step confessions. I watch peacefully enough till she says "Chris, I want to run you through our basic diagnostic battery." I reluctantly sit in the center. 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... I think she wants a big emotional blowout to climax her show, but I feel she's violating my privacy. I don't want to reveal any more by reacting. I didn't consent to being used 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 voice my objections, I just hide my feelings, 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! You LIKE humiliation, don'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... am I in denial?
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 believe her too, she's voicing 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?" Can't dispute that. Worst tightwad in California.
Her next dig gets me mad. Encounter's supposed to be public, but she whispers this bit privately, with a clear threat to speak up--it's blackmail! "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!"
I hiss at her "Just shut up!" The first time in years we've truly fought.
"And what about Dahlia..." That's all she needs to say. She's threatening to tell them I always wanted my cousin Dahlia, and massage with her once turned sexual, and I 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--but she knew.
When she brings up incest feelings that 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. Wait. What if she's not out to hurt but INHIBIT me? She's successfully distracted me from challenging her guru. The teacher wants me mad so I'll give a good show, but I think my sister's 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, recalling I didn't ask for her pity, "Oh, 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's claim I was a masochist turned on by humilation, against the evidence of my OWN BODY--just because her teacher had a good spiritual lightshow?
That's 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 uncomfortable at office parties. But whenever I say anything unrelated to work, she looks worried and hisses "Ssssh!"and "Someone will hear!" I finally get it--talk about anything real, and I'm bizarre and unprofessional. It might rub off. She might get a reputation!
No wonder Miriel voiced all my self-criticisms in my dream! It somehow 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. Nightmares of betrayal, violation, and false accusations went on and on, all week, till the sheer stress of them started to make me sick.
On the ninth day, my boss Lisa gets a phone call from Meyer Library, the campus branch with a computer center. 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!
I've never fought anyone on campus, let alone in a library, and I don't even recall MEETING this night supervisor. How would s/he even know my name?
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 proof. I'm pissed that she called my boss without calling ME to get my side of the story. I'm lucky my boss is Lisa, who thought it was funny. "You say "CHRIS is combative? Are you sure you have the right person?" Going to my boss like that won't harm me, because she knows me well; but it could have. I feel nearly as angry at this woman as at my nameless accuser.
Yes, nameless--her boss at Meyer won't name my accuser, as if I'm a stalker! Yet if my accuser's telling the truth, we would have met and FOUGHT, repeatedly! The only way my accuser has any anonymity to preserve is if I'm telling the truth and my accuser's lying. Now I'm even more annoyed with this Meyer boss. Be consistent at least!
The dates the night supervisor accuses me of causing trouble really are the days I've been at Meyer, typing up stories in a cubicle... talking to no one, let alone being loud or FIGHTING anyone! The night supervisor had to be watching me, disliking me for some reason, and making up stories of fights 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!
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 my accuser.
I show up. My anonymous accuser doesn't.
I feel creepy about using the computer center now, so I speed up my plans 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's style is 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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