The Dream: In Search of a New Abode
by Montague Ullman
Presented at the
twenty-third Annual Meeting of the
for the Study of Dreams, July 22, 2006
am going to begin with a parable.
In the current era dreams have come to us as a
psychiatric heritage. Mention the word “dream” and
two names come to mind, Freud and Jung. In the
unique home Freud built for our dream life, the
energy source came in the form of the personal
unconscious and was located in the basement. Jung
came along a bit later and built a quite different
style home with a dual energy system in the form of
both a personal and a genetically determined
collective unconscious. Besides, it was not hidden
in the basement but was built into the very obvious
facade of the house. These two geniuses took us
quite far in explaining the healing potential of the
dream. Freud’s instinctual theory has been
extensively remodeled over time in the direction of
a more adaptational model. Jung’s home for the dream
is still pretty much the way he built it. Both homes
provided shelter to people who were in need of it.
Two problems emerged from this architectural parable
of our dreams. Both homes were available only to
those who mastered the two very different
metapsychological keys to the front door. Thus did
our dream life become institutionalized. Mastery of
design (theory) and maintenance (technique) were
essential for those who sought to live there. What
was necessary but strange about this was that it
became more like a hospital setting rather than a
normal home. Dreaming is a universal feature of our
existence serving a natural healing function and as
such should be universally available. The fact that
dreams deal with our emotional life does not relieve
us from our individual responsibility to make the
best possible use of them. Of course if our
emotional life gets too askew we need more than our
dreams to regain our balance. By way of analogy,
babies came into the world before there were
obstetricians. Midwives often sufficed. If there is
danger to the mother it’s good to have an
obstetrician nearby. We are all midwives to the
dreamer in group dream work.
The professionalization of our dream life left the
public to flounder in its ignorance until fairly
recently. In the recent decades professionals and
laity joined together to stimulate the public’s
interest in and knowledge about dreams and how to
work with them. The message was that everyone had
the energy source to manage their own dream house.
Not enough such homes have been built but compared
to the situation that existed for most of the last
century, there has been a relative real estate boom.
Many years ago a book appeared, “Mr. Dowling Builds
His Dream House.” That’s something every human being
on this planet can do and perhaps someday will. Only
in the last thirty years has a concerted effort been
made to return dreams to the people who dream. There
are two lessons to be learned from this. Dreams are
as helpful to us to the same extent as any other
bodily system. The second is that analytic theory is
a limited container for our dreams.
Dreaming is characteristic of all mammals. Just as
each of our bodily systems serve as maintenance and
repair, so do dreams. Their task is to deal with the
changing scene in the way we live out our lives.
Awake we have a range of authentic and unauthentic
emotional responses. Asleep and dreaming we each
have an incorruptible core of being that confronts
us with who we are rather than who we think we are.
It ferrets out the truth as current emotional
residues surface in their link to our past (when
relevant) in an effort to alert us to predicaments
that vary from the mundane to the momentous, from
joy to tragedy.
We are better off for discovering the truth about
ourselves in any of the four dimensions of our life.
In the biological dimension dreams remind us of
bodily needs. On occasion, organ pathology appears
in a dream before waking awareness. In the
psychological dimensions, where most of the subject
matter of our dreams comes from, we explore our
vices and our virtues. In the social dimension there
is both negative and positive fallout from the
various “isms” that are swept into our unconscious
like sexism, racism, ageism and I might add
dreamism, a derogatory attitude toward dreams,
prejudging them from the point of view of the waking
state as silly, unimportant, or meaningless. There
is a fourth dimension that has no generally agreed
upon designation, e.g. transpersonal, cosmic,
spiritual. This has to do with the many unanswered
questions about our place in a universe not of our
own creation. Religion has attempted to fill in this
gap but has not had a good track record in uniting
us as the single species that we are.
Despite the advances in our psychological study of
dreams and the current experimental and
observational studies, there are many unanswered
questions about the nature of dreaming
consciousness. Here are a few of them.
In seeking answers to these questions I have sought
help beyond my own field of psychiatry. The last ten
years of the twentieth century was known as the
“decade of consciousness.” Quantum physicists, in
concert with many other disciplines, began to focus
on “the hard problem” (Chalmers, 1995), namely, the
connection of consciousness to its underlying
neurophysiological substrate. With only few
exceptions, however (Wolf, 1994; Walker, 2000;
Eccles, 1953), the focus was exclusively on waking
consciousness. Quantum theory was so successful in
the light it shed on all its applications to the
world of matter, perhaps it could bring us closer to
an understanding of the relationship of mind to
matter. The problem was that no one understood the
strange features that came with it. These included
its indeterminism, the wave-particle duality, the
jump an electron makes in going from one orbit to
another without being in between, the measurement
problem where all aspects of the experiment
including the observer influence on the end result,
and finally the reality of the impossible, namely
non-locality, where a signal goes faster than light.
- Where does the inexorable honesty of our dreams
come from? It is as if we have a magic camera with
an ethical aperture that opens wider while dreaming
than in the waking state.
- What is the source of the creativity that shapes
very original imagistic metaphors in our dreams that
embed our true feelings and do so in a way that is
oblivious of time, space and causality?
- What is it that so instantaneously links our
remote past memories in their relevance to the
current source of feelings that instigated the
dream, something we can’t do consciously?
- Where do the occasional “big” dreams come from
that Jung referred to with imagery that evoke
feelings far beyond our ordinary range?
- Why do paranormal events such as telepathy occur
more often in dreams than in waking life?
- Why are we more acutely aware of all four
dimensions of our life while dreaming than awake?
There was something about these puzzling features of
quantum theory that suggested an analogy to the
nature of dreaming consciousness. My comments will
be limited to complementarity, the contextual
linkage of the observer and the observed,
non-locality and interconnectedness.
Bohr (1961) sounded a clarion call when he wrote of
the relevance of the general concept of
complementarity to quantum mechanics and how it
might apply to disciplines other than physics,
including the life sciences and the mind itself.
The use of apparently contrasting attributes
referring to equally important aspects of the human
mind present indeed a remarkable analogy to the
situation in atomic physics, where complementary
phenomena for their definition require different
We do not know what an electron is when it is not
being measured. What we do know is that it has a
dual nature depending on how we go about measuring
it. Under one set of circumstances it becomes
manifest as a particle. Under another set of
circumstances it appears as a wave. This hidden
unity of opposites is known as complementarity. It
is also an apt term to describe the dual nature of
consciousness. Awake we are in the particle mode
facing a world of discrete objects. Asleep and
dreaming we are coping with the internal resonant
wave-like feelings seeking to embed themselves in
symbolic imagery. Both states, while experienced in
qualitatively different ways, are derivative of a
unity. They are complementary. Both are necessary
for a complete description of the individual. To the
extent that one is in focus the other is not.
More specifically, the two different forms of
consciousness reflect the unique and paradoxical
predicament we are in. We are one with the material
fabric of the world and at the same time capable of
observing that world, reflecting on it and
interacting with it. Awake we function in a world
characterized by its discreteness and patterning.
Asleep and dreaming we shift to a more diffuse
imagistic portrayal of residual feeling tones.
Awake, the feeling tones that later surface in
dreaming consciousness are dimly felt in a manner
akin to a Greek chorus. The latter registers the
background dissonance between a particular conscious
response to a given experience and the seeming
unawareness of its actual felt impact. Asleep and
dreaming there is a figure-ground reversal
highlighting the feelings involved while the waking
ego is assigned to a more reactive role.
The Observer and the Observed
Quantum mechanics has brought to the fore the
inter-relatedness of the observer to the phenomena
under observation. This is known as the “measurement
problem” and is still a very mysterious aspect of
quantum theory. We become, as Wheeler has noted,
participatory observers in the world around us. The
quantum features of an experiment are determined by
all the aspects of the experiment including input
from the observer in determining the end-result.
There is something quite analogous to this when we
are dreaming. Awake our observing egos, taking our
discreteness as a given, interact in ways that are
at times coherent with the underlying reality of our
situation and at times are not. By this I mean we
are either emotionally engaged or not. Asleep and
dreaming there is a radical shift in the observer
role. The reality that now comes into view is
spontaneous and unsummoned. We remain an observer
but are now observing a scenario not of our own
conscious making. It is as if the dreamer
experiences herself at the onset of a dream as a
member of an audience in a theater witnessing a
drama about to ensue as the curtain goes up. She has
no awareness that she herself has written the drama
about to unfold, cast the characters, arranged the
props, and reacts to what is going on, on the stage
as a novel experience.
There is, in effect, an actual merging of the
observer and the observed as the dream context
unfolds. Freed of temporal and spatial constraints,
having a causality of its own, the feeling residues
of the waking context come into full view in a
metaphorical narrative. By changing our focus asleep
we change the “measurement” arrangement and arrive
at different views of a unitary entity.
The term non-locality refers to the instantaneous
transfer of a signal from one place to another
through no known physical means. Non-locality at the
quantum level has been subject to experimental proof
but still remains a baffling mystery. Non-locality
at the macro-level, as cited in dreams, has been
supported by the experimental work in parapsychology
and also remains a quite mysterious happening.
Whether we are catching glimpses of one mystery or
two different ones remains to be determined.
My own interest in telepathy began in the course of
psychoanalytic practice when a patient of mine would
report a dream containing striking and
non-inferential information of concordant events in
my own life. This eventually led to experimentally
controlled studies using the REM sleep-monitoring
technique resulting in statistically significant
findings with regard to both the occurrence of
telepathic and precognitive dreaming (Ullman,
Krippner, Vaughan, 2002).
We do strange things with time and space in our
dreams as we impress them into metaphorical service.
In the case of time the instantaneous condensation
of past and present might be looked upon as a kind
of subjective non-locality. The paranormal dream, on
the other hand, suggests the possibility of an
objective non-locality by spanning across space in
the telepathic dream and across time in the
precognitive dream. The information picked up is
literally or symbolically depicted in the dream. At
an anecdotal level Louisa E. Rhine (1961) noted that
dreaming seems to favor the occurrence of telepathy
over waking consciousness.
Here there are three strands that seem to fit
together, if only by analogy. The first is the
assumption that quantum connectedness applies to the
universe as a whole. This view has gained support
with the experimental proof of the general
acceptance of non-locality as a basic feature of
The second is the view of Barlow (1980) who wrote,
“Consciousness is not a property of a brain in
isolation but is a property of a brain that is and
has been in communication with other brains.... I
shall suggest that consciousness ... is Nature’s
method of making humans behave cooperatively.” (p.
This implies and I believe correctly that
consciousness, awake or dreaming, is contextual in
nature and that we lose sight of this in our
assumption that it is our unique gift to do with as
we want. Awake the capacity to love is the most
coherent way of relating to a given context. When
that capacity is impaired, efforts at healing are
set in motion in a way similar to the efforts at
repair when a bodily system is damaged in any way.
It is in this sense also that dreaming consciousness
as a natural healing system exposes impediments to
connectedness and explores the coping resources
available. Just as we are not in control of our own
natural healing potential in response to trauma,
infection or other sources of impairment, dreaming
is an unconscious effort at healing in the realm of
feelings, biologically enforced and spontaneously
set in motion. Dreams shed light on unresolved
tensions and in so doing pave the way to a truer
sense of connection to one’s past and to others in
the present. Awake we are the beneficiaries of a
biological adaptive mechanism that arose in
connection with sleep. Once dream content became
oriented to social existence in the human sense, the
value of that content found its way into waking
life. A prime example is the way preliterate
societies have made use of their dreams (Eggan,
Towards a New Abode
What kind of a home is needed for that very special
entity known as the dream? As the parable continues,
the needs of that occupant are briefly summarized.
The parable ends here.
- The dream needs an abode that is safe, warm and
supportive regardless of the emotional weather
outside where we encounter the occasional “slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune."
- Like all our organ systems, it is a functional
system operating in its own way. In this sense it is
part of an extended family that at times visits this
house because of functional needs such as the need
to urinate. In a recent dream of mine I was building
my own water supply system. I caught on and managed
to get to the bathroom in time. There are times when
a particular organ gets into trouble and it may move
into the dreamer’s house until recognized and the
needed help arrives.
- In this new house there has to be sufficient
space to accommodate the special furnishings of the
dreamer. These include the following:
- Creativity: Dreaming, in a sense, is a very
personal art form. Our waking life is full of dead
metaphors. “Full” is used metaphorically as its
concrete meaning has to do with volume. “Dead” is
used as a metaphor as its ordinary reference is to
actual death (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980). Dreams, as
the major occupant of the house, spend a good part
of the night churning out brand new metaphors.
- Memory: The dream has the key that opens up our
remote memory bank and links relevant memory to its
role in the dream. Waking consciousness does not
have the key. The dream connects us to the personal
past and orients us to the social future.
- Imagination: This is a remarkable aspect of the
dream that is called upon for the manufacture of
metaphors. It is the source of their uniqueness.
- Honesty: This is the most important tool the
dreamer has. It is concerned with house maintenance
and repairs. It does this by ferreting out flaws in
the structure. Honesty connects. Dishonesty
disconnects. Life is full of traps for the unwary
that lead at times to expediency instead of
- The dream has an extended family who also inhabit
the abode and contribute toward its maintenance.
They come from different regions already noted --
the biological, the psychological, the social and
the fourth or cosmic dimension.
The new abode owes its origins to the work of a
distinguished theoretical physicist, the late David
Bohm. I want to say in advance I cannot, in this
presentation, do justice to the range and depth of
his argument in setting forth a new theory of the
nature and origin of matter. Nor can I ask him to
shoulder any responsibility to the way I have
applied it to the origin of our dreams. In my
personal meetings and in his writings, he has never,
as far as I know, referred to dreams or dreaming.
My interest in the possible relevance of quantum
theory to dreaming was awakened in 1974 when I had
the good fortune of attending a week long dialogue
between David Bohm and Krishnamurti. Twenty-three
years before this meeting Bohm wrote what was and
still is a classic text on quantum theory. There was
an interesting sequella to this book. He wrote it to
deepen his own understanding of quantum mechanics
but instead it left him with the feeling that a
major shift in perspective was needed to go beyond
the mysterious gaps in the then and still current
Copenhagen indeterministic view of quantum theory.
His scientific curiosity was also fueled by his
sensitivity to and deep concern with the level of
fragmentation that exists among the peoples of this
earth and the precarious state we have arrived at in
our current efforts of civilizing ourselves.
Encouraged by Einstein and Pauli, Bohm began to move
in two directions at the same time. He developed an
algebra to resolve the anomalies of quantum theory
and a metaphysics that addressed the origin of
matter and ultimately the source of the generalized
fragmentation (Bohm, 1980). Bohm posed the need for
a new order to supersede quantum theory just as the
latter superseded, but included, the Newtonian
Bohm set forth a fundamental order, the implicate
order, an order of wholeness that included all that
exists and does so in a state of interconnectedness.
It is structured holographically, the entirety
manifest at every point. Bohm preferred the term
holomovement to emphasize that it is a generative
order in flux. This order of what he refers to as
enfolded wholeness is not only the source but also
the maintenance of all that exists. All matter
unfolds out of the implicate order to form the
explicate or unfolded order in a continuous
equilibrium of enfoldment and unfoldment.
The contents of the implicate order no longer exist
as discrete elements. They retain their
individuality but not in the form experienced in
waking life. They exist in a form that reflects
their intimate contact with the whole. An analogy
would be of a flowing stream where all the
fundamental elements of the stream are in contact
with all others. There is a continuous and
sustaining exchange between these two orders. All
matter in this sense is regarded by Bohm as
temporary abstractions from the implicate order. He
cites as an example of this what is known as a
standing wave. In a flowing body of water
interacting eddies may throw up a wave that appears
to be stationary but exists only as long as the
eddies support it. In a sense we are all standing
waves existing as apparent entities that sooner or
later fall back into the underlying matrix, the
implicate order from which we came.
What now follows is an exploration of the possible
relevance of Bohm’s work to a deeper understanding
of the nature of dreaming.
In the beginning there was Freud. Whether you agree
with his metapsychology or not, he realized the
importance of an unconscious domain that made itself
felt mainly through our dreams. Then came Jung along
with a broad interest in other fields such as
psychic phenomena and quantum physics. He enlarged
the unconscious to include inherited archetypes. We
now had a collective unconscious in addition to a
personal one. The unconscious was safely ensconced
in the new profession of psychoanalysis.
Then came Bohm who worked out an overarching
metaphysics that addressed the basic issue of
wholeness and fragmentation. What I am focusing on
from the point of view of dreaming is that in the
implicate order all matter, inorganic, organic,
sentient, exist in their interconnectivity. If we
were to consider the implicate order as a Universal
Unconscious, what would it contribute to our
understanding of the nature of dreaming? Broadening
the unconscious in this way extends dreaming to a
much wider range of content than we usually
consider. Dreams point outward² as well as inward.
This would include events usually considered outside
the range of our dreams such as the cataclysms of
nature as well as telepathic and precognitive
dreams. In short, Bohm’s implicate order, considered
as a Universal Unconscious, links us more
authentically not only to ourselves but to all forms
Just as we described standing waves as formed and
maintained by an invisible energy source giving it
the appearance of permanence, so are we. We are all
standing waves existing as temporary entities that
sooner or later fall back into the underlying
matrix, the implicate order from which we came. Just
as standing waves can be buffeted about in the ocean
by outside forces that may impinge upon it, we are
buffeted about by social and material forces that
impact us. Depending on the nature of those forces
they can deepen or limit that sense of connectivity
with others and with our environment that is our
heritage from the implicate order. To the extent we
honor that gift of connectivity to others and to our
environment* we end up as either saints or sinners
or somewhere in between. At one extreme is that rare
occurrence of cosmic consciousness where the
individual feels profoundly connected to all that
exists if for only a fleeting moment. It is as if
the individual catches a glimpse of the implicate
order while in the explicate order.
Bohm’s approach to wholeness in the framework of the
implicate and explicate orders suggests a more
felicitous appreciation of the role our dreams play
in our life. Dreaming consciousness is situated
between the two orders. As such it could be
considered as a relay-station with input from both
orders. The contributions from the implicate order
would include the capacity to open up our remote
memory bank, the freedom from space and time,
contiguity based on feelings rather than the logic
of waking life, the wide range of imagination and
memory, a prevailing quality of truthfulness and
finally the creative energy of the implicate order
(Bohm refers to it as generativity) prepare this
remarkable brew for the dreamer.
The dream acts as a relay station receiving input
from both orders. What does it need from the
explicate order? Dream content itself is triggered
by recent residual feelings that have been stirred
up and not yet resolved. Those feelings include what
Freud referred to as the day residue. I prefer to
include a larger time span which I refer to as
enduring emotional residues that evolved over days
or even weeks before the dream. What the dream needs
from the implicate order are the remote memory
sources of the current issues and the creative
dynamic that characterizes the holomovement. The
feeling tones then find their way into the dream.
As a relay station between the two orders dreaming
enriches both Bohmian orders. It makes its own
unique contribution to the implicate order, just as
any other experience does and it makes its
contribution to the explicate order by infusing it
with a bit more honesty and authenticity. The dream
presents a fresh supply of authentic feelings, the
true source of our connective tissue. Inauthentic
feelings maintain disconnection. Authentic feelings
do not let our ego get in the way. They serve to
save ourselves from ourselves when we need to.
Dreaming consciousness thus integrates input from
the implicate order making it available to the
explicate order. In its unfoldment from the
implicate order it may be regarded as explicate to
that order. As it, in turn, unfolds its message to
the explicate order it may be regarded as implicate
to that order. This form of consciousness has its
own unique language made up of feelings embedded in
metaphorical imagery and arranged in narrative form.
In its development differs from the logical
causality of waking life in that it evolves by
feelings generated by the successive transformations
of the metaphorical imagery. This projectory follows
a dialectic path much as a playwright hints at the
theme in the first act followed by a second act
which develops the source of the tensions initiated,
followed by a third act, conveying the way the
tensions have been resolved. For the dreamer the
extent to which the tensions are resolved are, of
course, dependent on the inner resources available
at the time they are occurring.
The dream is a creature of the night and may or may
not readily find its place in the explicate order.
If interested, we find that place in our own way.
It’s in the order of a dream, if remembered, for the
dream to be socialized to fully communicate what it
has to say. The form this socialization has taken,
and properly so, is the experiential dream group.
Such groups have been organized in various ways. My
own groups are atheoretic, following the dream as
the only guide necessary to fully disclose the
dreamer’s predicament at the time it occurred.
Eschewing B priori theoretical formulations the
members of the group, including the leader, are all
midwives creating the conditions for the safe
delivery of the dreamer’s own personal creation --
the dream. Self-disclosure is the analogy to labor
pains prior to the end result justifies the means.
The baby’s first cry gets a new life going; the
dreamer’s “aha” has the same effect. The dream has
found its rightful place in the world.
We do have to learn a new language to reap these
benefits but that is not so bad. We all learned the
language of metaphors in grade school when we
committed our first poem to memory. The poet
rearranges words to express feelings. The dreamer
rearranges imagery to tell a story.
I began with a parable and I’m going to end with
one. The dreamer who lives in this new abode gets up
in the morning, leaves his new abode and goes to
work with his dream safely ensconced in his
briefcase. His workplace is a very unusual building.
It’s a building in progress. It is a skyscraper³
with no roof leaving room for a limitless supply of
additional “stories.” The interior is also unusual.
There are no private offices for CEO’s, managers,
etc. There are only large rooms which can
accommodate a small group. The chairs are arranged
in a circle. One briefcase is opened and dream work
begins in a process controlled by the dreamer.
Four banners are draped over the facade of the
The first was designed by Sigmund Freud.
“The dream is the royal road to knowledge of the
unconscious attributes of the mind.”
The second was designed by Carl Gustav Jung. It
flower-like in its candor and veracity that it puts us
to shame for the deceitfulness of our lives.”
The third is from the abstract impressionist artist
Robert Motherwell. It reads:
“Oppression in art, as in life, is when the
conclusion to be reached is predetermined by inner
or outer a priori notions of how art ought to be.”
The fourth is a somewhat changed rendering from a
well-known call to arms by Karl Marx in the
nineteenth century. It reads:
“Dreamers of the world unite! You have nothing to
lose but your theories.”
1. Inauthentic feelings, such as neurotic guilt,
which is a defensive maneuver to mitigate a
situation. Genuine guilt, on the other hand, results
in regret and remorse.
2. My colleague Judy B. Gardiner has been exploring the
environmental aspects of dream content.
3. The skyscraper image was suggested by Judy B.
• Barlow, H.B. Nature’s joke: A conjecture on the
biological role of consciousness. In B.D. Josephson, and
V.S. Ramachandran (eds.), Consciousness and the Physical
World, Pergamon Press, New York, 1980, pp. 81-94.
• Bohm, D. Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge
& Kegan Paul, London, 1980.
• Bohr, N. Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, New York:
Science Editions, Inc., 1961.
• Chalmers, D. Facing up to the Problem of
Consciousness, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 2,
No. 3, 1980, pp. 200-219.
• Eccles, J.C. The Neurophysiological Basis of Mind,
Oxford: Clarendon Press, Chapter VIII, 1953.
• Eggan, D. The Manifest Content of Dreams. A Challenge
to Social Science, 54: 4, 469-485, 1958.
• Lakoff, G. And Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By,
University of Chicago Press, 1980.
• Rhine, L.E. Hidden Channels of the Mind, Time Life
Books, Alexandria, VA, 1961.
• Ullman, M., Krippner, S., Vaughan, A., Dream
Telepathy, Experiments in Nocturnal Extrasensory
Perception, Hampton Roads Publishing Co.,
Charlottesville, VA, 22902, 2002
• Walker, E.H. The Physics of Consciousness, Perseus
Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000.
• Wolf, F.A. The Dreaming Universe, Simon & Schuster,
New York, N.Y., 1994.
Copyright © 2006 by Montague Ullman from a forthcoming
book by the same title.