Sunday, 11 July 2010


Some of us have partial control over how we direct our waking lives. Dreams can add new dimensions that, with practice, add pleasure, variety, excitement, and knowledge. But, untrained, they can be far more frustrating and with greater frightening dangers than our awake life. The two worlds are one, but the current awake world dismisses the dream world which actually is more amenable to behaving in accordance with our desires. It may be our most under-exploited resource.

I believe that I had, and have, the same range of dreams as you. I still remember a few, pre-kindergarten and scary, dreams that caused me to seek protection in my parent's bed - just as our children have done to us. I had the normal range of dreams during my school years, my 3-year banking career during which I trained with the Militia (Infantry and Artillery), and my training time in the RCAF.

My dreams changed after I started my nightly forays of flying through the greatest fireworks displays of all times and grieving the ever-mounting loss of valued friends. I experienced my first nightmares and even a bed-whetting experience. After I found myself in POW camps with time on my hands and amid many great minds from a score of countries, I would lay back on my straw mattress at night, analysing various discussions I had lost and being annoyed that my arguments had lacked effectiveness because I invariably thought of good points long after the topic had changed. Also, constantly in my thoughts were longings for my home in Canada and for my second home in England. Before falling asleep I would spend an hour or more mulling over all this , seeking improvements and escape.

In Stalag Luft III, Sagan, it took many weeks of this until I found that I could set up a situation in which I would like to be and spend what seemed to be the entire night there to the point that I dreaded waking up. Most of these dreams were with my wife and family but many had me giving detailed talks, writing skilled essays, and solving intricate mathematical problems.
Others also seemed to have developed this skill. In Nurnberg my hut had no beds but hundreds of bed bugs. One cold March 1945 night over a hundred of us were huddled together on the floor when I awoke to scratch my numerous bites. Beside me was Harry Wardle of Liverpool with a look of utter bliss on his face. Soon, I watched his eyes opening and seeing in disbelief stars shining through broken windows and holes in the roof, courtesy of Bomber Command. "God damn it!" he muttered. I laughed, "Yes, Harry, you are still in Deutschland. Go back to sleep."
After the euphoria of being freed and back with my families had worn off due to the harsh reality of creating a post-war career, I lost the ability to control my dreams although some vestiges remain. In 1960 I began recording my dreams. It has been intermittent. I may go months without bothering, then record for many consecutive nights. It does necessitate maintaining a pad of paper and a pen within reach to scrawl key words while still sleepy to aid memory when fully awake. I still have numerous recurring dreams.
They include: It is easy for me to fly. A special hop, that I tell myself I must remember when I awake, gets me airborne over people and endless landscapes. I am in the homes of friends, past and present, but they are larger with more rooms and objects than in "real" life. I am often with friends who died decades ago and they are still young, free of any blemishes they may have had. I tell them I can return to the land of the living and I ask them if they have any messages for me to take back. Always they answer, "No, it does not matter." Today, I have to write a final exam for a course I forgot I enrolled in, never having attended a class. I badly need to urinate but I am in a muti-storey building with no toilets. I am often in crowded public places in the nude, but no one notices. I often return to previous occupations, knowing that I have retired from them and can no longer perform as I used to. For many of these I have been recalled and posted to command remote military units. I still in my dreams write beautiful essays, give sparkling talks, and solve problems in mathematics and physics. Many such dreams have permitted me to improve my waking essays and talks.
One dream during my Sagan nights remains vividly with me. I was questioning life. Answers were coming in with lucid, logical steps. Suddenly a huge wall with a tiny door sprang up before me, and a voice said: "You may go on, but if you do there is no turning back. The choice is yours." I was curious to go on but I knew I could not desert my families so I forced myself to wake up - in a cold sweat. I often feel that that dream is still waiting for me. So far I have lacked the courage to return to it.
I would be grateful for some insight into your dreams. They conceal a beguiling mystery.

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