Dream-Midwife and Dreamer
By Nobuya Teraoka
What is the role of the midwife of a dream? The best way to answer this is to examine the part the midwife plays in the whole process. But such an answer presupposes that one has undergone or watched enough dream explorations that one recognizes the far-seeing, intelligible and beneficent power of exploring dreams.
Reflection on that power leads to the conclusion that its existence must have a cause and upon further reflection that such a cause is best characterized as divine and providential. If one accepts such a conclusion, then the dreammidwife is an intermediary between the Mind of a god, which Pierre calls the Dream Master, which crafts and communicates the dream on the one hand, and the mind of the dreamer who experiences the dream on the other.
The midwife enters the dreamer’s experience through the dreamer’s recollection of the dream, which I call the dream text. The dream text is a recording of the dream immediately after waking and is the dreamer’s sincerest attempt to represent as fully as possible the total dream experience. Recollection is a return into the Dream Master’s Mind, in so far as it has been offered to the dreamer. Now, the need to include a midwife in the process of dream analysis is not obvious.
For example, Synesius in his work On Dreams believes that it is shameful that at the age of 25 years an individual is still unable to understand his own dreams. Socrates shares dreams that are meaningful to him, as well as their meanings, but never the process of dream analysis. For Socrates, as portrayed in Plato’s Dialogues, the process of understanding dreams is done without dialogue…
Five Dreams One Night
Complete dream and dream exploration transcripts are included at the end. Gender of dreamers is uniformly changed to the female.
All five dream explorations begin by inviting the dreamer to share her view about her dream. It is an opportunity for the midwife to ascertain the kind of interpretation that blocks the dreamer’s understanding.
In all five cases, the extent to which and manner in which the dreamer is blocked points to the the central drama or issue of the dream, which the dreamer herself may come to recognize through the process of exploring the dream. But at the outset, the dreamer does not suspect the nature of the interpretation in her statement, nor can the midwife predict the particular language in which the interpretation is cocooned in the dreamer’s logos.
A clear case is Dreamer B’s evaluation of her dream:
Pierre: What do you find curious about it?
B: The start is a regular kind of trip that we take in our family. A regular kind of outing. There’s some drugs involved. I don’t know. Nothing really stands out, to be honest. I like the way I was dealing with R. He has been affecting me a lot recently.
In the analysis that followed, the dreamer discovers that the dream that is “regular” and did not “really stand out” is filled with a goodness and beauty that she failed to appreciate.
Her interpretation is subtle: She will not call the parts of the dream negative, but by undervaluing it, her judgement functions as a negative criticism. In the process of judging, she hesitates and struggles against her recognition of her own excellence. In her initial statement, she mentions the drugs, but not their wondrous nature.
She tells us she likes her interaction with R, but does not express the full importance and success of the interaction. And she altogether neglects to mention the way she successfully functioned with her parents. Every positive aspect of the dream is under-appreciated or is not mentioned.
By Nobuya Teraoka
The role of Love as the middle term between the mortal and the divine is an interesting contrast to the midwife’s role between the dreamer and the Dream Master. If the midwife is like Love, then she somehow “elucidates and communicates… from humans their requests and sacrifices to the gods, and from the gods their commands and compensation for sacrifices to humans.”
A dreamer, of course, may make a personal request to the Dream Master, but the midwife communicates the dreamer’s requests and sacrifices to the gods through the very act of dream exploration.
I have experienced dream explorations with Pierre in which I am blocked from exploring a particularly significant point, but during the following night I receive a new dream that, after exploration with Pierre, elucidates the very problem which had blocked me. Thus, since the Dream Master is aware of our midwifery progress, being blocked during a dream exploration often functions as a request to the Dream Master for another dream.
Furthermore, since the midwife assists the dreamer to put words on the false belief that blocks her seeing, the dream exploration functions as a kind of sacrifice, a giving up of some of the beliefs that make the dreamer loyal to a centrally significant and destructive false belief about the nature of Reality, which Pierre calls the pathologos.
In compensation for such sacrifice, the Dream Master sends more dreams. But the dreamer has no direct control over the kind of dream she will receive. Though the dreamer may think there are several issues in her life that could benefit from the Dream Master’s attention, the dreams function as commands, forcefully turning the dreamer’s soul toward an examination of what the Dream Master deems worthy to see.
To force a dream to fit the dreamer’s desires and fears is to miss excellence in midwifery and become what is abhorred by every true philosopher, an interpreter. Yet a midwife’s function is, for souls, more helpful than that of Love’s. For without the midwife, she who yearns for the Beautiful and the Good could not rise beyond her pathologos.
The contrast may become clearer through the myth of Love’s birth: Poverty, who is excluded from the gods’ celebration of the birth of Aphrodite, or Beauty itself, approaches and begs at the doors of the divine feast. There is no indication that she shares in the feast. When Poverty spies Plenty drunk on divine drink entering Zeus’ garden and falling deeply asleep, she, in her poverty, plans to have a child from Plenty. Laying down by his side, she conceives Love immediately without any doings of Plenty. But Poverty’s plan does not benefit herself, for Love becomes the follower and servant of Aphrodite and does not relate to Poverty.
Love shares his mother’s nature, being always poor, and is neither tender nor beautiful. But he also shares in his father’s nature, always weaving devices and being a philosopher all his days, seeking the good and beautiful. Love therefore gets new life from Plenty, but he always loses whatever he has due to Poverty.
Suppose that I am like Poverty and the Dream Master is like Plenty. I live my days always of poor understanding and am neither beautiful nor able to enter into and celebrate the vision of divine beauty. I approach the threshold of Mind. The Dream Master, full of the celebration of the birth of Beauty, enters into the garden of Mind, and I, traveling through Mind’s realm, approach the Dream Master. Without effort and as if by myself, I conceive a dream, whose double nature is like Love’s.
For the dream is both incomprehensible and unhelpful to me who am blocked from understanding, yet is full of a certain charm and attraction which persists in my memory for a long time and draws me to want to understand it. The dream is specifically appropriate to my state of ignorance, yet is an anagogic doorway to wisdom.
Yet while the dream, with the help of the midwife, becomes a way to greater self-understanding for the dreamer, in the myth Love provides nothing beneficial to Poverty. The myth lacks an element that functions like a midwife to Poverty, bringing her the understanding to escape ignorance and share in the divine feast. But this is because the function of the myth in the dialogue is to help the reader understand Socrates’ particular path from ignorance to wisdom, which needed no midwifery because he had no blocks. Love shows the way and Socrates follows, straight out of ignorance to wisdom. In contrast, Agathon begins from a similar state of ignorance, but he cannot follow Love like Socrates. He is more like one of us, blocked from pursuing the love of Beauty, because of a pathologos. Therefore, it is not in the scope of the myth nor the dialogue to deal with the dialectic of midwifery.
Thus, for the pathologos-ridden, the midwife is more beneficial than Love. The midwife functions as a middle term between the dreamer and the Dream Master, but unlike Love, when the dreamer is stuck, the midwife can draw the dreamer’s attention to the difference between the dream text and her interpretation that blocks her from going farther in philosophy. Clearly, the dream is a priceless gift. The dream is not by you, but it tells you about you better than you. You may hide your beauty, but it will reflect it back like a flawless mirror. You may deny it, but the midwife will point to it in the dream text.
Is the dream-midwife a midwife? If so, who is pregnant and with what is she pregnant? Diotima discusses a range of pregnancies in her speech. Among them is the individual who is pregnant from youth and seeks in his adulthood to beget and procreate in someone whose soul and body is beautiful. With such a person he “has plenty of talks about excellence and what the good person ought to be and to practice and he tries to educate him. For by attaching himself to a person of beauty [...] and keeping company with him he begets and procreates what he has long been pregnant with; present and absent he remembers him, and with him fosters what is begotten, so that as a result these people retain a much closer communion together and a firmer friendship than parents of children, because they have shared between them children more beautiful and more immortal” (trans. Rouse).
What immortal children does the individual, the philosopher, who is pregnant from youth and begets and procreates in a beautiful soul beget? What children could rival the works of Homer and the laws of Lycurgos and Solon? It is in respect to this question that the remainder of Diotima’s speech is directed. For in describing the higher revelations for the initiate who enters the mysteries of Love, which culminates in seeing Beauty itself with Mind itself, giving birth to true excellence, nurturing and bringing such excellence up, and finally becoming a friend to god and as immortal as may be granted to any person, she describes the children of such a relationship.
With some alteration the passage about the philosophical lover can be adapted to the midwife: “with a dreamer like that, the midwife has plenty of talks about the excellence and good that the
Dream Master wove into her dream and about how it functions in the dream and she tries to educate the dreamer by reflecting on and appreciating the meaning of the dream in itself and in terms of her waking world.” The midwife, like the lover, is pregnant through the love of wisdom and seeks explorations with dreamers who desire to understand their dreams. Through that dialogue the midwife communes with the Mind of the Dream Master. She must not add anything mortal nor foreign to the dream text, nor fail to appreciate its richness. The dreamer, on her part, drops her interpretation and returns to a purer experience of the dream. Their pure state of openness as they receive the divine communication of the Dream Master is the child of their dialogue. Excellence in understanding and reflection through analogy is nurtured into maturity.
In turn, they become friends of the Dream Master’s Mind and in that friendship taste of the immortality of the gods.
Post-Script: This study calls for a subsequent study regarding Pierre’s dream explorations of higher level dreams: it is important to share dreams that are purely positive, which take the dreamer into states of mind that are astonishingly simple, blissful, and one. Or dreams that function as an anagogic allegory. Or dreams about Providence. There are also those dreams that are full of humor, that playfully play on language, on ideas from Hellenic thought, or Zen koans, or the mystical experiences of Muktananda. Finally, this study needs a comparison of dream-midwifery to Parmenides’ midwifery of Socrates through the Forms, as discussed in Proclus’ Commentary on the Parmenides of Plato.
Note: For a copy of the complete transcriptions of each dream, or the complete PDF of this paper, please email: donations(at)noeticsociety.org