Dreaming at the End of Time
For me, one of the most liberating aspects of facing collapse, even amid the grief, is the freedom to wonder again. To experiment. Even to play.
As the colonial project unravels, I’m noticing the cultural conclusions living in my body unravelling as well. In the words of Bayo Akomolafe, we must head for “the cracks” in the dominant stories, to slow down and even stop long enough to hear a rhythm beyond our habitual thinking patterns. As my narrative of ‘saving’ the world falls away, I have been freed to explore my long-held passion in dreams and what wisdom we might find in them for our troubled world.
For about seven years, I’ve drawn on my dreams to understand myself and heal in ways that therapy couldn’t touch. Through dreams, I’ve had serendipitous encounters, been directed toward overdue breakups, witnessed the struggle and eventual end of toxic patterns, encountered my grief and love for the world, and indeed, as Jung claimed, better understood something akin to my ‘myth.’
A while back I came upon a book titled The Third Reich of Dreams by Charlotte Beradt. It is a compilation of potentially ‘prophetic’ dreams recorded in Nazi Germany in the decade leading up to the Holocaust. Secretly collected by Beradt at the risk of her life, the book details the eerie way that we always know more than we think we do (or want to) about what’s happening in the world. In the dreams of those pre-Holocaust years, a reader can see the rising tide of darkness, the potent and sometimes blatant symbolism, and almost feel the ominous energy of the era. For obvious reasons, these days my mind returns often to Beradt’s book as I pursue my growing passion for hearing the dreams of others.
For the past six months, the organization I co-founded with three others, Remembering Earth, has been hosting a monthly online event called Deep Adaptation Dreamwork where we make space to hear and explore the dreams of collapse-aware people. Inspired in part by The Third Reich of Dreams, we wanted to employ the tools of dreamwork to wonder about what’s coming through from the collective psyche at this watershed moment. Although the experiment is young, it feels like we’re on to something.
Each Deep Adaptation Dreamwork session follows a similar rhythm. We arrive, introduce ourselves, and share our perspective on dreams, the collective unconscious, and the big question at the center of our inquiry: are human dreams an expression of what theologian Thomas Berry called “the dream of the earth?” If so, what is earth dreaming, or trying to dream, through us right now? What are we all sensing, and what kind of medicine might our dreams be offering us and the wild world in this existential moment?
From there, each person shares a brief image from a recent dream and then together, we choose one to engage with more deeply. For the next 30 – 40 minutes, we ‘work’ the dream, inviting the dreamer to drop into the living images and their own embodied experience, listening to and exploring the perspectives of the other beings, the setting, the environmental elements, and anything else that stirs our intuition. In the final 15 minutes, we open it up to questions and reflections from the group about what they felt, witnessed, or were curious about, and then we end with a (pre-selected) poem that, thus far, has felt uncannily related.
It’s hard to explain what happens when we do this. We’re finding that despite the distance and the devices, a ‘group field’ phenomenon forms; an intuitive sense of connection and intimacy that settles into our bodies. The dream comes alive, the scene gets more vivid, and the embodied feelings and emotions become palpable. The dreamer softens and opens as the images and their meanings ‘click.’ As we commonly hear from participants, people leave feeling connected to a story larger than themselves.
Naturally, each session opens up different terrain, but I’ve noticed some distinct consistencies in the images and themes: grief and death, sometimes accompanied by a sense of terror; tender immanence as someone crawls on their knees through their garden; a knotted suspense as the moon eclipses the sun and the world starts to shake; an ice wall leading inside a mountain, accessed by a skeleton key which can’t be found; falling from a plane without a parachute.
Often, we have also noticed the dreams bringing, along with the hard stuff, a certain kind of ’medicine’ for the ailment, wound, or challenge they’re evoking: soft, vibrant soil reminding of what really matters; a release of grief after intense tension, feeling like a kind of birth; a community of people willing to help locate the skeleton key; a voice proclaiming “this won’t last forever” to the plummeting skydiver.
While the images are powerful and temptingly symbolic, we’re not trying to interpret them. Rather, we’re creating a space where the dreams can be experienced, where the living images can come further alive and carry us deeper into their mysterious terrain. By doing so, we turn back toward a source of wisdom globally revered by ancestors from every part of the world, listening and communing in a way that feels deeply satisfying.
Nobody really knows where this is all headed or whether there’s a new story waiting for humanity on the other side of collapse. My personal sense is that we stand at a juncture more poignant than we can fathom, and that the same archetypal, systemic intelligence that infuses the river of consciousness, that compelled beings to take the risk of leaving the sea for the land, that grows toward ever-increasing complexity, is still driving our evolution. I think a door remains open for a humbled human presence on earth, and that by turning toward the transpersonal, we may encounter something vitally important. It’s good to wonder about, anyway.
Kristopher Drummond is a writer, poet, and mentor with Remembering Earth, focused on serving the dream of a more beautiful world and cultivating compassion for the deepening challenges we will face in the years to come. You can learn more about his work at www.remembering-earth.com. If you’re interested in joining us for our monthly Deep Adaptation Dreamwork gathering, you can visit https://remembering-earth.com/deep-adaptation-dreamwork. And if you have your own thoughts, questions, or criticism around any of this, we welcome them. Feel free to email email@example.com