All Things Dreamable

The story of Sundance and the  Dream Helper  Ceremony is summarized here…

The Sundance Experiment: Dreams and the Myth of Community

[Dream Medicine, Chapter 6 – By Henry Reed]

Summary by Susan Parcheta

Dreams can benefit us as individuals and, as demonstrated by the Dream Helper Ceremony [Henry Reed], they can reach out into the community. Our dreams can involve and affect others. We don’t necessarily dream alone.

Research of the dream story that influenced the founding of Sundance: the Community Dream Journal inspired the exploration of this new dimension of sharing dreams, and thereby creating community.

Sundance Journal’s articles about the dreams of ordinary folk separated dreams from psychotherapy, and brought them back into the realm of the dreamer.

The journal became a forum for dreamers and explored ideas about dream work. For example, what could happen if the general population knew more about the dreams of others? Perhaps we’d rediscover that common ancient mystery within our contemporary dreams.

What new version might be revealed by dream sharing in our current society? Maybe we’d find the transpersonal community we’ve been looking for, sparked by the energy of our dreams.

The story began years ago with the manifestation of an imagined experiment, designed to reveal the spiritual pattern of the oneness of all things – in all creation. Participants in the experiment would experience this oneness and the connection to the whole, yet also the awareness of their singular identity within it.

The Sundance experiment became a reality through the research team of the Association of Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) at Virginia Beach, Virginia. An inspired dream, known as the “research dream,” became the foundation for subsequent exploration of the role of dreams and intuition within our society.

In the “research dream” the group is convening for research and enlightenment, but looking for the right protocol. Standing together in the dark, they begin dancing in a circle. Each person holds a unique symbol. Recognizing that it’s the dancing that represents the method, they dance and celebrate each other. The dancing creates a fountain of sparks from center that lights up their space.

Expanded to the context of a larger community, the dream symbolized a way to research together. It also revealed the possibility that a group of people could share in someone’s dream quest incubation.

Beyond sharing the dream with the others in the community, a connectedness was occurring, and a communal kind of experience – revealing that a community can dream together in sort of vision quest for the common good, much as the Native American Sun Dance.

This seasonal rite, considered a community enactment of a dream, revolves around a pole around which dancers (attached to leather straps and adorned with dream symbols) dance until they receive a vision.

The similarity in form and purpose of the Sun Dance and the “research dream” became apparent, with both revolving around an energetic center and the dancers wearing symbols. Both are meant as sources of personal and community revelation.

Personal dreams had provided clues as to the potential for a dream sharing program. Several dreams involved a group of people dancing around a tree, wrapping it with ribbons, like the archetypal May Pole celebration.

For the A.R.E. research project, the idea of a shared dream experience via mail turned up some thoughts on the Sundance theme of universal symbolism.

This “Universal Idea” of the Sundance motif may be pictured like a gyroscope – a self-sustaining system of balance of a central axis, the motion around it, and the forces between.

Symbolically, the axis may represent the Tree of Life (creation, growth), usually portrayed with people dancing around it. There may be a sun and a winged figure. The theme of community, fertility, regeneration and the arrival of springtime marked such festivals in ancient Greece. The May Pole celebration of the British Isles exhibited a similar theme of spring and blossoming forth. Summer festivals include the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, also involving a tree.

Regeneration is a key component in the Sun Dance: re-energizing the imagination and creative spirit of the participants, both personally and as community.

The Tree of Life may be pictured as a center point, or still point, around which creation revolves. The dancing, encircling the tree, depicts the constant transformation and movement through time, yet the movement is circular…therefore, eternal, present and unchanging.

Sundance dreamers manifested dreams rich with dance symbolism, including Jesus dancing. Jesus dancing is depicted in the Acts of John from the Apocryphal New Testament: the apostles dance around Jesus, dancing around the One.

This could be the image of the Wheel of Life, another symbolic reflection of the cycle of creation… found in the Zodiac, the Knights of the Round Table, and even sacred geometry of 12 spheres fitting around the central 13th sphere.

The Many and the One represents the balance in our gyroscope image between the axis and whirling circle — the round dance that, to Jesus, called us to the mystery in suffering. Besides Jesus on the Cross, there are other depictions of suffering — such as the Norse God Wotan, hanging in self-sacrifice in the tree, and Ixion bound to the Wheel of Life which he both creates and maintains.

Suffering appears in the Sun Dance via the straps gouging the dancer’s chest as he moves. Balance must be maintained to avoid the pain. At the point between suffering and non-suffering, the vision is revealed. The dancer transcends, then, this duality, experiencing the mystery of the many and the one.

For community, the lesson is the discovery of this creative tension – being ourselves and at the same time, one with all. The Sundance Experiment revealed this mystery through dreams. The research project shed light on contemporary dreams, providing evidence for community dream work possibilities.

The mythology of Sundance is timely today, for the exploration if offers through contemporary dreaming in matters of global cooperation. It is relevant for our time. The Sundance principle provides a bridge to creating a new mythology – a new dimension of healing and transformation for today’s world – our “World Tree.”

Humanity is incubating a new dream. What new dreams will we enact?

One telling dream from a Sundance subscriber expressed a vision of a natural catastrophe, an ocean of water, a deluge enveloping the people. The dreamer is in a group of 12 powerful dancers moving counter-clockwise, calming the wind for awhile longer. The dream suggests the collective unconscious flooding, inundating humanity. The counter-clockwise motion is indicative of a shadow power.

During the round dance, Jesus said that those who are not dancing do not know what will come to pass (Verse 95).

Like a gyroscope spinning, maintaining its creative stability despite outside forces, the Sundance principle may serve as a pattern for withstanding this pouring in from the collective unconscious, enabling humanity to know what is coming, or not.

The possibility of evolving supra-conscious ability on the part of a group of people, who are connected synergistically, is suggested in a dream [Henry Reed] about a dream dance. The group spins faster and faster, whirling into space as if a flying saucer, connecting with a wondrous intelligence. The dancers never leave earth, but realize they are that intelligence.

Always, self-knowledge and our attunement with our authentic identity as individuals must balance community consciousness to avoid a mob mentality. If we participate in dreaming with others, we need to fully understand what our personal dream symbols mean for the best possible outcome for community projects and endeavors.

Images of the Motif

The Universal Idea or archetype of the Sundance imagery (Out of the One came the Many. The Many are One) may be understood on a personal level… when we recognize that we are unique individuals who can also experience awareness of being inter-connected with others.

Expressions of the Sundance motif include several images conforming to the pattern of the Maypole and the Sun Dance. The image of the gyroscope fits a general form.

The question for our time is: What method can we use in order to experience the Sundance principle in our contemporary society?

Besides the archetypal form of the dance, the process of the origin of the ceremony is important. It began as a dream with a native community, with symbols understood by Native Americans.

We’d need our authentic version.

A Dream Wheel

Writer Hallie Mountain Wing described an overnight dream sharing event, in an article for the magazine Womanspirit. Twelve women met to share and explore their dreams. They slept in a wheel formation around a central pole. Ribbons attached their sleeping bags to the pole, forming a “dream net.”

Sundance participant Linda Magellon explored the idea that a dream party could result in a shared, common dream in her book Mutual Dreaming.

Early group dream experiments that were conducted [Henry Reed] revealed a collection of dreams that, in further discussion, fit together like puzzle pieces. They also served as a shared experience of Oneness when acted out.

May Day: Synchronicity and Photosynthesis

A May Day painting [Henry Reed] and accompanying story depicts a merry-go-round with 12 people whirling around it – the center shaft drilling down into oil. Twelve flowers burst from center. The merry-ground stops. Each person eats the crystalline seed from their flower, leaving to spread the fruit abroad.

Later a similar dream came in from a Sundance participant – about sitting on a flag pole, surrounded by people. The dreamer calls out the names of flowers that each person is carrying, telling them where to plant them.

The synchronicity of the story and similar dream provides a powerful example of how events tended to unfold during the Sundance experiment.

Regeneration of plant life is paramount in the Sundance theme. Sundance participant Robert Stives realized its resemblance to the carbon ring chlorophyll molecule, the foundation of life on Earth. If we follow the theme As Above So Below, perhaps a process like photosynthesis might unfold within the human psyche and community.

What kind of process might generate energy that those in the community could use?

The Swastika and the Shadow

A dream by Peggy Specht suggests the psychokinetic power aspect of Sundance. The dream image of the Swastika came up in her twisted paper sculpture of the dream image.

Something can be created in a quick twist or a “snap.” Joseph Campbell writes of the Apache creation myth in his book Mask of God. Black Hactin creates the world by whirling a bird at a dizzying speed. The bird hallucinates images that create the world.

Campbell relates the whirling bird motif to the symbol of the Swastika, the first geometric symbol in the history of human kind. We have mixed feelings about this symbol – which represents harmony to the Hopi, yet is negatively associated in recent history with the power grab by the Nazis.

The archetypal form of the spiral offers several complementary and opposing meanings in its rotation — whether clockwise as Hactin spinning the world in to place, or counter-clockwise for The Buddha meditating, withdrawing consciousness from the outside world.

The paradox is that the direction of the apparent rotation of the spiral seems to depend on the observer. The potential of the Sundance Experiment rests on our perspective and ideal.






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