“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day.
A conversation about Dreams with Machiel Klerk
by Susan Mann
One often comes across the thinking that everything we need is within us. I tend to file it quietly but squarely in a mental box I have called ‘Nice Ideas.’ After all, if that were the case why would intelligent people pay so many other intelligent people to help them run their lives?
But after the privilege of meeting Machiel Klerk – psychotherapist, founder of the Jung Platform, a being who combines soulfulness and charisma with disarming grace – I have a different view. I now file it in the ‘Why don’t we learn this at school?’ box, which incidentally, is getting quite crammed.
Machiel was born in Bloemfontein South Africa, raised in the Netherlands and now lives in Utah. His deep resonance with Jung led him first to the Jung Institute in Zurich, and later across to Pacifica Graduate School in Santa Barbara, where he trained to become a psychotherapist. Some years later, back in Cape Town and later on Skype we spoke about his work with dreams and he introduced me to a level of seeing that is both subtle and revolutionary.
Be prepared to step into a fascinating world of possibility as I share a small taste of his thinking:
Being asleep does not mean you are not awake
Machiel differentiates daily reality from dream reality by referring to the former as dense reality and the latter as porous or dream reality. His view is unlike most Western psychologists’ approaches to dreams, in which the value of dreams is based primarily on interpretation and analysis. For Machiel, analysis is only one aspect of working with dreams. He believes that neither dense nor dream reality has more validity or credibility than the other. They are simply different.
The terms dense and porous go far deeper than semantics though, and serve to explain how our (porous) dream worlds enjoy a flexibility that we do not have access to while in dense reality. But why is this relevant? Why would we need our dreams to be flexible?
Our dreams are not fixed and two-dimensional
Being porous and flexible, our dreams do not serve simply as mini pastiche movies or one-sided letters from another world to us, designed to be forgotten or deciphered then forgotten, when we wake. It’s far more personal than that. Dreams are a channel for a bi-directional communication to your Highest Self. They open the door to a creative exchange, an opportunity to co-create the world by accessing your hidden wisdom.
Dreams are a form of dialogue
Like Jung, who called it ‘The Individuation Process’, Machiel agrees that the Self is deeply interested in helping and educating us to be the optimum version of ourselves. Learning to dialogue with dreams is an accessible and intriguing way that we can ask our Higher Selves about issues that confront us daily, or nightly. Is this vocation correct for me? Should I live closer to the sea? It is surely the most intimate form of divination we can seek out.
The art of dream dialogue is called dream incubation. It includes the process of asking your dreams a question to elicit a response from your Higher Self, from God if you are religious, or from Mystery itself, however you prefer to see it. It involves skill and nuance, such as knowing how to ask in such a way that when the answer comes, you will understand it. Machiel tells me of a man he knows who asked whether he should marry his sweetheart. That night he had a dream of the sweets that were handed out to wedding guests in his tradition. Many years later the same man reports back that his marriage has remained a source of sweetness to him up until today.
Machiel has studied a wide variety of cultures, from the ancients to contemporary dream facilitators such as Robert Waggoner and Robert Bosnak, exploring how different people dream, how they relate to their dreams, and how we can learn valuable dream incubation skills from them. Out of this fascination for and commitment to dreamwork, he has teased out the most valuable insights and skills through the ages, and adapted them for nightly use in our contemporary Western lives.
The distillation of this research and experience will be presented as a lecture on Feb 21 and a workshop on February 24-26 in Cape Town hosted by the Southern African Association of Jungian Analysts. Participants will learn how to navigate their dream experiences, and the ways they can unlock a mysterious but accurate two-way exchange that infuses their lives with beauty and inspiration.
I close with an excerpt from one of Machiel’s favourite poems about dreams by 13th Century Persian mystic, Rumi. It confirms his view and celebrates the mystery of our nightly reality.
A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived, and he dreams he’s living
in another town.
In the dream, he doesn’t remember
the town he’s sleeping in his bed in. He believes
the reality of the dream town.