Dreaming and Creativity
My favourite artists have always been people like Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) and Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), artists who seem to be in connection with the darker - in the sense of hidden - repositories of creativity, which is expressed in amazing evocations in paint and ink. For much of his life, Goya was court painter to the Spanish royal family, creating family portraits for Charles III and later on, his son Charles IV, in Enlightenment Spain. However, Goya sensed much wrong with the society around him and secretly expressed his disdain of court life in his engraving series the Caprichos and later on, the Disparates. De Chirico was an Italian-born painter whose work is filled with enigmatic objects placed in mysteriously-deserted urban spaces. His genius lay in juxtaposing the light and humorous with the dark and disturbing, the ancient with the modern. Superficially, their works are very different in style, the robust and brightly-coloured images of De Chirico standing in marked contrast to the darker and more vapid engravings of Goya. What both artists have in common is the manner in which their references seem drawn from the imagery that we all experience in the state between waking and sleeping.
Creative and Prominent
Goya and De Chirico are just two of the creative and prominent people that I discuss in my just-published book, Dreams: Exploring Uncharted Depths of Consciousness. This book has its origins in the dream diary that I began writing up, about ten years ago. As I recorded my dreams, patterns began to unfold, the types of dream that I experienced and the recurrence of certain motifs began to gain significance. With guidance from The Dream Whisperer, a book by a writer named Davina Mackail, I identified my own particular dream archetypes and I developed a meditative technique in which I converse directly with these imaginary guides. The information gained has proved invaluable when I am faced with making decisions about what type of work to take on and other, personal decisions. This methodology raised other questions in my mind, namely, where does creativity come from? The research that I carried out has given me a glimpse of how the great, creative people of this world gain their powers. Ultimately, it all renders down to one topic, the subconscious.
The Great Subconscious
It is difficult to describe the subconscious in few words, but I find the following metaphor a very useful one. Think of a box of treasures to which only you, the owner, have access. Just imagine that you routinely place in it items that are both precious and useful. When you open up the box, you find items of value that you had half-forgotten but that you want to keep; a precious ornament given you by a late relative, a snapshot of a place that you went on holiday, an item of jewellery given you by a loved one, a treasured watch, a ring, a fragment of dried flower - and more. You don't carry the items around with you because of fears that you would lose them and quite simply, it is not convenient. But you value the items all the same and now and again, you take an item out and put it to use.
The subconscious works a little like this, a repository of treasures that evoke memories, emotion and quite often, provide the impetus to spring into action. The dream imagery that you remember when you wake up in the morning is quite simply your subconscious selecting gems that point you in the next direction that you might take. A dream about sitting in a college class could be an indication that you need another qualification if you want to progress in your career. A dream of making a phone call to a former lover could be encouraging you to pick up the threads on an old relationship. The reason that this information is not spelled out directly is because it is precious - remember that chest of treasures? - and is for you alone to interpret. Most certainly, you can reveal your dream when you have acted upon and gained from it.
Levels of Consciousness
But the subconscious is only one level of our consciousness. We have a number of different states, ranging from extreme lucidity to deep sleep. We are all familiar with normal waking consciousness and also, with those in-between states, waking up and falling asleep. In the dream world, these states are known as the "hypnagogic" (falling asleep) and "hypnopompic" (waking up) states. These two states are not unalike; it is only that one is a descent into sleep while the other is an ascent into wakefulness. And even while we are actually asleep, experts have determined that our brains rest - and work - at various levels. Specialists are able to define them in scientific terms, but it might help the majority of us to imagine them as simply different levels of a functional building.
The Ground Floor
The ground floor is the most public area of the building. Here, you will find the entrance/exits, the hallway and staircases to the lower and higher levels of the house. It is this area that guests first see on entering the house. I liken this level to ordinary consciousness, the mindset with which you interact with friends, family and work colleagues. In all situations, the majority of us put on a "good front", being amenable to the needs of the other people, being polite and well-groomed, just as we like the keep our hallways and reception rooms squeaky clean. But this amenability would be very difficult if the hidden workings of the house are not in order.
The majority of grand buildings are outfitted with a basement, which is often the control centre of the building. It is the closest area to the building foundations, and most likely contains conduits for water supply, gas supply, power and drainage. Larger buildings often contain storage areas for food and drink, which supply the inmates on the higher levels. These channels are most likely the least attractive part of the edifice but cut them off and the building ceases to be of use. These "invisible" functions work in the same way as the subconscious, driving our waking consciousness day by day. Most of the time, we are barely aware of the subconscious, yet without it we could not function rationally.
The Bigger Building
But in the context of our own functionality, the basement is so much more than just a control centre. Think once more upon that box of treasures, hidden gems that we air occasionally when we want to remember a loved person or event, or simply to impress others? That casket of treasures also resides in your basement or subconscious. The great creative people of this world - De Chirico, Goya and many others - have learned how to draw upon dreams, memories and current events to make scientific and technological progress, and inspire creative works. In my book, I provide the reader with information and techniques on how to draw upon and use this creative power. Dreams: Exploring Uncharted Depths of Consciousness, (Mandrake of Oxford, 978-1-906958-98-5) is available directly from the publisher, and from Amazon
The Dream Whisperer by Davina MacKail, (Hay House: London, 2010)