DREAM DELAY, DREAM DECAY
©2007 Curtiss Hoffman, Ph.D.
Over the past seven years, I have had the opportunity to travel to sacred places in a number of countries, and this provided me with an opportunity for research on the effects of these places upon dreaming. My research suggests that these effects may not emerge at once, not even for several successive nights dreaming in such a place, but that the appearance of the genius loci may be delayed. It also suggests that the long-term resonance of a visit to a sacred place may decay over a long period of time.
This idea was first suggested to me during the course of a ten-day dreaming intensive I participated in during the spring of 2002 under the direction of Robbie Bosnak, which centered upon the Paleolithic caves in southern France and also included visits to Medieval sites. In the course of preparing us for incubation, Robbie explained that it was very likely that we would not begin to dream 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. I later asked him what the basis of this conclusion was, and he replied,
“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 up 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.”
Robbie’s suggestions have inspired this study, for which I have used my own dream journals as a source of data. I have included the texts of some sample dreams in the attached file.
THE DATA SET
In June of 2000, I visited Japan for eight days. During the period of my stay, I had only two dreams about Japan, both on the last night. The number of dreams I recorded about Japan increased in the month following the visit, and continued throughout the following year, declining thereafter.
My trip to India in August and September of 2001 was 11 days in length. Of the six dreams about India I recorded during the trip, five were from the last three days of the stay. Once again, my related dream frequency picked up during the month following and tended to decline thereafter.
My visit to France was the longest of any trip I’ve taken during the time covered by my journals, so it’s not surprising that the frequency of dreams of French locations, and of caves and castles in general, were higher during the stay. Of the 18 dreams relating to caves and castles I recorded during this period, 14 dated after the first week of the trip. As with the Japan trip, I recorded numerous dreams related to the region and to the sacred caves during the subsequent year, with a sharp decline thereafter.
Over winter break in 2004-05, I visited Mexico for ten days, mostly staying in the Valley of Mexico. For the last few days I visited sacred sites in Oaxaca. One of the three dreams about Mexico recorded during the trip occurred on the first night; the other two were from the stay in Oaxaca. The pattern of my dreaming about the country during the month and year following the trip was more strongly marked than in the previous trips, with a decline thereafter.
Spring Break in 2006 brought me to New Zealand. I dreamt about this country not at all during my 12 days there; but the country was strongly featured in my dreams during the subsequent month and has fallen off sharply since then.
Last, during January of this year I participated in an anthropological study tour of Belize, Central America. My main interest in this tour was to visit Mayan sacred sites, however, that is not where my dreaming led me. Instead, I dreamt repeatedly in the coastal Garifuna village of Hopkins, where I spent two days in the middle of the 12-day tour. This time, in addition to tracking my own dreaming, I also asked the students to pay attention to their dreams. No one recorded a dream about Belize prior to our fourth night in country. My five dreams about Belize, typically, were concentrated during the last six days of the trip, but I had an equal number during the following month; since then, the frequency of my Belizean dreams has declined.
One way to look at the pattern I have described here in more detail is to examine the frequency of place-related dreams for these six trips against the general frequency of all dreams recorded for the same period. I chose to examine a six-week period in each case, which provides, for most trips, both the duration of the visit and the month following. / Place Image 8 here / It is possible to look at this week by week, starting with few relevant dreams in the first week, followed by an increase in weeks two and three, and then generally a decline in weeks four and five, and near total extinction by week six. The average delay before the onset of dreaming about the country was 5.3 days. When compared to the rest of my dreaming during this period, there is obviously a lot of fluctuation, but the delayed effect does not appear to be due to insomnia generated by sleeping in an unfamiliar place! I also looked at the month prior to travel. In no case were there any anticipatory dreams of the country during those periods.
This relationship shows up well in line graph form for the six trips. With the exception of the trip to Japan, the frequency of my dreaming about the country was low – never more than two – in week one, peaked in week two or week three, and declined thereafter. Thus, there appears to be a delay factor, just as Robbie Bosnak postulated, prior to the onset of dreaming about a place. This factor should be taken into account when planning dream incubation trips to sacred places, since the morphic field of the genius loci is likely to make itself felt only after the dreamer has become acclimatized to the new surroundings for several days, as much as a week or even more in some cases. I suggest that it takes this long for the new field to override, and overwrite, the dreamer’s existing morphic field. That this can even begin at some point after the dreamer returns to familiar surroundings might be an example of what Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance”.
Finally, there is clearly a decay effect which is marked during the period after the first year following a visit to sacred sites. It is of course to be understood that these graphs are not entirely comparable since the time since the end of the trip to the present is considerably variable, and I have not yet reached the one-year mark for the Belize trip. However, in all other cases, the number of dreams about the place has decayed after the first year, in some cases to zero.
I suspect that after a time the dreamer’s personal morphic field is reestablishing itself, while retaining and integrating some of the resonance of contact with the field of the sacred place. While this study has been anecdotal, I think it may be possible to use its methodology to do a more quantitative study in the future. Perhaps the strength of a sacred place’s morphic field could be calculated on the basis of the three variables examined here: the length of delay in the onset of dreams about the place; the number and relevance of dreams after the onset, and the length of time it takes for signal decay to take place. This would require a good deal of data, but it might provide an objective measure of field strength which could be replicated. Any information from readers about these effects would be welcome!
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