Dream Delay, Dream Decay by Curtiss Hoffman, Ph.D.


As we examine the effects of sacred places upon dreaming, one of the things we need to take into account is the possibility that these effects may not emerge at once, or even for several successive nights dreaming in such a place, but that the appearance of the genius loci may be delayed, for any number of reasons.  As well, we should consider that the long-term resonance of a visit to a sacred place may decay over a period of time.  After presenting some anecdotal evidence of these factors, I will attempt to fit this concept into the larger ideas of morphic resonance and implicate order which are the themes of this issue.

The idea that dream delay might be the case was first suggested to me during the course of a 10-day dreaming intensive I participated in during the spring of 2002 under the direction of Robert Bosnak, which centered upon the Paleolithic caves in southern France (Bosnak, 2002).  While we did not actually have the opportunity to sleep in any of the caves, we visited them by day and were directed to incubate dreams about them at night.  We also spent three nights in a Paleolithic rock shelter in the vicinity of the caves.  We also visited Medieval castles, and after the conclusion of the tour my wife and I continued to tour both caves and castles in southern France for another week.

In the course of preparing us for dream incubation, Robbie explained that it was very likely that we would not begin to dream about Paleolithic images for the first several days, since it would take most of us some time to process through our own personal agendas before the archetypal imagery took hold.  He also asked us to keep track of our dreaming for a month after the end of the intensive, since he considered it likely that the images would continue to resonate in our dreams for some time thereafter.  My experience, as you will see, confirmed this.  I later asked Robbie about the origin of this idea, and he replied (quoted with permission) that:

“My statement to you was based on personal experience with the yearly incubation journeys I have undertaken with groups since 1989.  Early on in the experience the average dreamer will keep on dreaming in their personal vernacular.  This does not mean that spiritus loci themes are not present, they are however couched in individual dream display.  After a few days this begins to slowly switch.  I have been keeping an eye on it because of Jung's statement that he didn't dream of Africa while there.  It was one of the great incubation moments in his life and he said his soul was trying to avoid 'going native' (sic!)  So I followed this Giyomizo Temple, Kyotoup carefully and found that in the early stages this is so, but that the more open dreamers begin to have an influx of local themes rather quickly.  This is particularly visible in the dreamers who dream locally right away, since they are the blatant exceptions”  (personal communication 2003). 

Over the past 10 years, my wife and I have had the opportunity to travel to a number of foreign countries, in most cases including visits to some sacred places.  Since my dream journals cover this period, I have taken the opportunity to use them to do some research on this subject.  The results do indeed confirm the effects that Robbie observed.

A Study of Nine Journeys:

1. Trip to Japan

In June of 2000, we visited Japan for 8 days.  During the period of our stay, I had only 2 dreams about Japan, both on the last night of our stay.  This dream was one of them:

I see a Japanese policeman wearing a necklace of large dark wooden beads.  He is the only one who has one.

The dream relates directly to a sacred shrine at this site we’d visited the day before.  The shrine is underground, below the Buddhist Giyomizo temple complex in Kyoto (see Figure 1), and one proceeds in total blackness, guided by the same wooden beads, until one comes to a place where a single shaft of light illuminates a horizontal sandstone bas-relief inscribed with the sacred word Om.  The number of dreams I recorded about Japan increased in the month following our visit, and continued throughout the following year, declining thereafter (see Figure 2).

Dreams of Japan

continues on page 21

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Volume 3, Issue 1, 2011