“A dream un-interpreted is like a letter unopened”- The Talmud
As we shift in the seasons, and get ready to enter the New Year , (or back to school, as the case may be) I thought it might be a good time to look through this dream lens. (as an aside, did you know that Chinese medicine has a fifth season – that “not-really-still-summer-but-not-quite-yet-fall” season that most of us recognize in our gut).
Anyhow, a few years ago I put together a system of looking at the layers of a dream as one would examine the four layers of Kabbalistic mystic thought (and represent the four levels at which the Torah may be read) called the Pardes (the Orchard). We had just received our referral from China that we would be able to go and receive our daughter in the next few months. As I got ready to become a first time mom, I started going to the gym and working out, to get some more physical strength on board, as well as emotional preparation. As I walked on the treadmill, I often listened to CD’s to help pass the time. I alternated between listening to a set by David Cooper on Kabbalah, and one by Robert Moss on dreamwork. I think that the alternating learnings, as well as the bilateral movements of walking on a treadmill (left, right, left, right, which mimicked the method of EMDR– Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) created this cross-fertilization in my brain, and thus this system of understanding dreams. I criss-crossed my neural networks between Cooper and Moss, and came up with this synthesis.
The word Pardes is both an acronym and a word meaning “Orchard”. The letters (P, R, D, S) spell out the word “PaRDeS”, which means orchard in Hebrew; and is an allegory for the Garden of Eden. Additionally, in the acronym each letter stands for a word: P’shat, Remez, Drash, and Sod. While each level may be understood and appreciated on it’s own, when explored all together, the dreamer has the potential of receiving insight or advice about daily life and about how the recent and/or distant past may still be affecting them, as well as spiritual connections and directions for themselves, for others, for their community, and to a larger life purpose.
Here are the four levels and what they mean:
1. P’SHAT (SIMPLE)
This is the baseline or literal level, the story that is spelled out by the dream narrative itself. It contains the dream landscape and characters, as they appear in the dream. “What you see is what you get” here. The dream story can be explored completely on the level of the dream narrative itself, without interpretive or associative elements. The content at this level can be looked at from outside or inside the dream, but it is not added to or changed, simply journeyed through and appreciated for what it is. Here is the dream’s story to enjoy on it’s own merit. (One member of my dream group who is an author of children’s books frequently finds her themes and opening story lines directly from the dreams she has, sometimes full blown and ready for print.)
2.REMEZ (HINTED AT)
This level contains our first mind and body associations to the dream material. This material is not contained directly in the dream itself, but as we ponder the meaning of the dream, these associations begin to jump out at us; they have been “hinted at” by the dream material. This is the “Oh, I know what that means/symbolizes” layer. It may contain influences from things that happened in our lives yesterday or recently, and the events in our lives that show up only slightly disguised or encoded in symbolism. We see beneath this veil rather quickly, the meaning for us is embedded just below the surface of the words and dreamscape itself. Our response may be cognitive (“oh, I get it”), or may be an emotional or physical reaction as we address this layer (i.e. we get cold, angry, a stomach ache, giddy, tingling in our fingers, etc.) but may not yet know why.
3. DRASH (REVEALED
This layer is from the word Lidrosh, which means to chase after or pursue. This is the layer that is “revealed” to us when we work on the dream material through a variety of techniques that allow us to go beyond what we know consciously, or even beyond what we think we know when we begin to work with the material. We often must “pursue” this deeper meaning to get to the gifts of the dream. This is the symbolized layer, the layer of insight, of correlation, of deeper associations. It is the “unraveling” of the dream, and we pursue here associations that may take us past the material actually contained in the dream itself, but that the dream material pointed us towards. Here we may use a variety of techniques including active imagination, re-entry into the dream landscape, using energy techniques with the dream content, use of the Gestalt, and use of a variety of expressive modalities to reach the deeper layer.
4. SOD (SECRET)
This is the deepest layer; it may contain mystical or spiritual guidance. It may be analogous to what Jung called “Big” dreams, the understanding of which may have profound significance for our lives, and possibly the lives of others around us. It can often be accessed through dream re-entry, and may provide us with passageway to other realms and alternate ways of knowing. This is the transpersonal, the mystical, the “secret”, our connection with other worlds, other time, other space, and our connection with the divine. It can be a remembering of ancient wisdom from our spiritual ancestors that can show us a path, a vision, a hope. Sometimes this layer is in the manifest content of the dream; and of those dreams, we may just want to “sit” with them, rather than work with them further, and bask in the glow that is already manifest. (For example, a friend dreamed that she was wearing a white flowing robe, and was surrounded by heavenly beings similarly garbed, and felt a sense of peacefulness.) The initial work we did on this dream was to say—enjoy—just bask in it! Only later on did we work with the layers of meanings.