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The Eye

Dreamed 1948 by Nancy Price

Source: Acquainted with the Night by Nancy Price (1949), selections from an experimental dream journal she kept for one year.

"A pitiless passionate eye,
Yet what power to burn and brand."

I dreamt of a great eye that seemed all-encompassing--everything was clear, horribly clear, there was no substance anywhere, no shadow, everywhere was light caused by the reflected brilliance from that great, relentless eye. I felt desperately afraid, but there was no escape from that pitiless seachlight. I longed in vain for some shelter, some sanctuary. Then I thought I woke, but still that great eye encompassed the earth and sky and I was suddenly aware of being surrounded by innumerable beaks and claws. I knew they belonged to birds, birds of every known species.

"Begin", said a great voice. "Begin upon her eyes with beak and claw," but not a beak or claw moved.

"Begin, I command you."

Again none moved.

"Refusal, does it mean refusal? Then you too shall perish. I command you for the last time, otherwise remember, never another spring."

There was no movement, the birds refused to attack. Then they suddenly all fell as if a gigantic wave of death had passed over them; the great eye glinted.

"Now, cat, do your worst. Cat expand, be great and powerful."

I was overcome by an avalanche of fear, great claws were outstretched and tore my eyes.

"Now draw your claws backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards, lacerate, torture, bend."

I experienced indescribable suffocating pain.

"You have not gone deep enough, your claws are puny, she still lives, the machines are better."

Then I knew that rolling up towards me were gigantic machines. It was conveyed to me (although I could not see them) that they were furnished with cruel prongs.

"Now then over her backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards." Yet I still lived. "She lives, will nothing destroy her ?"

I was indeed conscious, conscious of life though lacerated and beyond sensation of fear, dread or hate. I knew that nothing could destroy the something that was me, though the me as I had been did not exist. I could not breathe, nor see, hear or feel, I had no longer any power of action, still I knew that I lived.

--Nancy Price


Gestalt therapists will recognize this as a full-blown topdog/underdog dream. This inner bully doesn't spell out what he's out to enforce here, but Price's other dreams suggest it's workaholism. In one she's literally "beating a tired horse"--something she says she'd never do in reality. But she did--to herself. So here she learns how it feels when "the I" whips her...

But there's another dimension to the dream, beyond the merely psychological. The Eye resembles the initiatory ordeal Siberian shamans' apprentices had to face: you fly to the spirit land, where cannibals dismember you, eat you, count your bones. If you have the right stuff to be a shaman, they find one bone extra--one beyond human. And from that one bone you reassemble yourself, knowing you can take whatever spirits throw at you.

Am I reading too much into a simple nightmare? Not in context. Price's book is full of dreams of dying--but of survival after death, too. Here, as torture destroys her body, Price appears to be sensing that her core is indestructible--a soul the Eye can't touch. Painful though such preparatory dreams are, they're steps away from simple identification with one's body.

Consider those birds, too. What a generous and brave gesture! Friends indeed! Any shaman would be proud to have such such spirit friends.

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: initiations and ordeals - status and hierarchy - bullies and threats - birds - empathy - ethics - courage - friendship - cats - violence - pain in dreams - robots and AIs - blindness - souls - shamanic dreams - more Nancy Price - Wayan squirms under the Great Eye in: Guilty! and The Circus Humans' Desertion - a second boss hires thugs, in: Praise the Dancing Goons! -

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