Introduction to Lavender by Montague Ullman, M.D.
In Lewis Carroll’s wonderful parable, Alice is hurtled down a rabbit hole into a very strange environment where everything is quite the opposite of her safe and secure waking life.

The protagonist in this book is a bright young woman, Penelope Peacock. Presumably, she has fallen through a “wormhole,” a tunnel that connects this universe to another universe. In this realm, she finds herself in a heavenly abode peopled by humans and other life forms that have passed on.

Penelope feels quite at home in this place and happy to meet old friends, relatives, and her pet cat. Her trip was prearranged by four remarkable historical figures who, over the centuries, made ground-breaking contributions to science: Galen, on the neuroanatomy of the optic nerve; Ptolemy on astronomy; Steno on establishing the foundations for the science of geology, and Marie Curie, the French scientist who was awarded two Nobel Prizes, through her discoveries related to radioactivity. These four figures collaborated in a tutelary arrangement to impart their knowledge to a bright and eager student. They had an ultimate motive in mind, not known to Penelope until the very end.

Penelope turned out to be a serious and devoted student. She did extensive research on her own to keep up with the subject matter she was learning. Tu-whit, a wise old owl, came in on occasion as a heavenly archivist to elaborate on the data. It was not all serious study. From time to time, she made contact with relatives and friends who had passed over and who lightened the atmosphere.

A word about the setting at this point: This is not an ordinary classroom nor is the author an ordinary dreamer. Judy Gardiner has long and colorful dreams practically every night and awakens with excellent recall. She not only conscientiously records the dreams; they are accompanied by stick figures displaying the action taking place. In ferreting out scientific matter from personal matter, she has found that her dreams fall in two categories. In one, the personal, the dream is focused on private issues. In the other, the cosmic, the content goes beyond the personal and relates to large-scale natural events like earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and supernova explosions, events she could have no direct knowledge of. It is these dreams that Penelope and her four teachers focus on in her effort to identify the environmental references. Excerpts from her dreams, precisely as she dreamt them, were the homework she brought to the classroom. At times, Tu-whit helped to bridge the gap between dream and reality. The range of the external referents of the dream imagery includes the makeup and dynamics of the earth’s crust as well as the stars and their constellations. Included in a series of dreams is the sinking of the Titanic, where her tutors hint at geological activity that may have played a role in that tragedy. Penelope is an apt pupil. Her teachers, aware of her lack of a scientific background, worked with her in small steps. Her dreams provided the raw material of the lessons. Her mentors helped her translate dream images into the various components of the earth’s crust and their interactions. Tectonic plates bump into or slide over each other. Undersea volcanoes come to life. All impact the water above, and tsunamis are born. By the end of the book, she becomes quite an expert on undersea geology. She also learns a good deal about the movement of the stars and the formation of the galaxies. Somewhere between Heaven and Earth, she discovers the radioactive element uranium, quite by accident.

Her teachers are very thorough. In addition to connecting dreams to geological events, they also inform her of where to go to find substantive evidence for the existence of geological referents in her dreams. They cite two places in Canada: Newfoundland and Vancouver. The author is quick to follow through on this, and with a companion, she visits both. She does, indeed, find artifacts in each location that have a striking resemblance to specific images in her dreams. In some dreams, the color lavender was very prominent. They traveled to a small town in Newfoundland where all the fire hydrants were painted lavender. On another occasion on a walk through a small fishing village, they came upon a number of large rocks that were splashed with lavender paint. Her companions, knowing the purpose of the trip, were just as excited as she was. I was, too, when I learned about it. It soon became apparent to her that there was a distinct difference between the cosmic dreams and those focusing on personal issues surfacing in her life at the time. In contrast to the personal are the dreams noted in the book where the words or images seem strangely out of place, more impersonal and, when decoded, outwardly and environmentally oriented. Her mentors, living in a world outside of time and space, as we know it, continued to give her hints on where to discover the corroborative artifacts.

This book is a lengthy parable rooted in facts that suggest two possible directions our dreams take. The first is based on the fact that dreaming consciousness is a natural healing system. There is observational and laboratory evidence that dreaming is characteristic of the entire mammalian species and that dreams serve a survival function of some sort. In humans, our dreams serve a healing function by confronting us with hidden truths about ourselves, good or bad, that we have not yet acknowledged. Since we are creatures capable of abstract thought, we are able to capture feelings in metaphors made out of words in poetry, and while we are asleep and dreaming create images that tell the story. Both the poem and the dream capture truths about ourselves that we are not ordinarily capable of acknowledging in ordinary discourse. What is unique in this parable – pointing in the second direction – is the consistent way certain dreams confronted the author with direct hints about environmental events that involve us as members of a species. Thus, our dreams confront us with personal internal tensions that need resolution; as members of a single species, nature confronts us at times with an awareness of external environmental catastrophes.

In short, her dreams took two divergent paths. When the dreamer focused on personal data, the communication was rooted in the way feelings are either overtly felt or as embedded in metaphorical imagery that captures feeling residues both current and past. They have to do with the dreamer’s life in the present, past, and expected future. When in waking life this exposes its meaning to the dreamer, there is a definite “Aha” feeling, a gut reaction that a hidden truth has been revealed. Dreams are creative events. We create pictures that talk to us, disturb us, puzzle us, but once their mystery dissolves, they speak to us very simply and truthfully. The strange involuntary images arising out of an environment unbeknownst to the dreamer do not carry a personal emotional charge and generally seem incomprehensible. This unfamiliar terrain can often be described as a cosmic dream where oceanic feelings of oneness and gratitude consume the dreamer.

In my writings, I have regarded dreaming consciousness as serving the unity of man as a single species by helping individual dreamers face issues that limit their sense of unity with each other. They do this by exploring the depths of the individual psyche that require attention. The message of this parable describes the way the dream has a wider purview of potential dangers to the species.

The story opens another door, namely, the relationship of dreams to the paranormal. Louisa B. Rhine noted that telepathy occurs more frequently in our dreams than when we are awake. The records of the British Society for Psychical Research have for over a century recorded impressive accounts of the paranormal which include telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. Beginning in the second decade of the last century, the American Society for Psychical Research has done the same thing. Scientific studies continue in laboratories in this country, England, Holland, and Sweden. William James, as well as Freud and Jung, each took an active interest in psychic phenomena (the older term for the paranormal). Jung wrote his doctoral thesis on the mediumship of a young woman. Freud was a corresponding member of the British Society.

To the extent the imagery of a dream in Lavender is initiated by external natural ecological events about which the author could have no firsthand knowledge, such a dream, would be paranormal. Just as Alice in Wonderland is more than a fairy tale, so is this book. When the eternal giants of Science have delivered a message to us mortals, there is no question that they are expressing their deep concern about Mother Earth. This book’s fateful message is one that centers on the extent to which humans as a species have, ever since the Industrial Revolution, exploited and corrupted the physical environment that sustains them.

What is of special interest to me in Lavender is the realization that dreaming consciousness is bidirectional, pointing both to our inner and to our external environments. Dreamwork is generally assumed to be a voyage into the depths of our being and exposing the truth, good or bad, about ourselves. The author has described another direction our dreams take in facing not only the natural disasters but also the extent to which we have selfishly exploited nature. Her experience has taught her the difference between dreams, calling attention to outer realities and dreams focusing on inner realities. More than that, she spent a good deal of time searching for objective evidence that linked the imagery to an external reality.

At story’s end, she learns what the message was and why she was selected to carry it out. What brought her four mentors together was their common concern about the future of humankind because of the degradation of its own sustaining ecosystem through exploitation and corruption. Penelope validated their omniscient view that dreaming consciousness could serve as an early warning system not only for natural disasters but also for man-made ones. Just as dreams in pointing inward ferret out flaws in our individual character structures (as well as assets that we are not using), our dreams can point outward to environmental hazards. If Penelope is in touch with this feature of our dream life, probably all dreamers have this Janus-like bidirectional potential. The message is clear: dreams can reach a broader domain in monitoring our ecosystem.

Steno has taken the lead in this unique classroom that spans two different universes. He urges Penelope to go on to a postgraduate program they have planned for her. This throws her into a complete panic since his appeal threatens to shift her from the personal future she planned for herself to a task she is not sure she can handle. She ultimately registers in the postgraduate program with hopes that her readers will join her in unraveling the many loose ends of her cosmic mystery.

Reading Lavender is a voyage into a range of our dreaming psyche that reaches beyond the mundane, calling attention to the corruption of our environment, which has gathered speed during the nuclear age. The author has done with the intrinsic honesty of dreams what Al Gore and others have done with hard scientific facts. Gore’s dedicated commitment has exposed one aspect of the dangers we face because of global warming. In its own way, this book complements his effort by calling attention to other environmental hazards.

The story is unique in both content and style. The bidirectional nature of its dreaming suggests the existence of a collaborative unconscious that alerts us to dangers both personal and global. It reminds us that our dreams are private events, but that we are also members of a single species and have a role to play in its survival. The seriousness of the message of Lavender is buttressed by the intensive research the author engaged in to verify her very rich and fascinating supply of dreams. This somewhat nonlinear adventure story of spiritual-scientific proportions becomes a refresher course in understanding the challenge we face both from nature and our failure to fully understand what nature expects from us.

Finally, the story is written in a lightly personal and eloquent style that gathers many threads together, piquing our curiosity about a universal unconscious and leaving us with a greater awareness of the role of industrial society in fueling the dangerous outbursts of nature.




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Cosmic Dreaming Updated: 08/26/14

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