FROM THE SYLLABUS OF DAVID VAN NUYS'
SEMINAR ON MYTH, DREAM, & SYMBOL
Don Juan, the Yaqui Indian sorcerer in the mythic tale by Carlos
Castaneda, urges that we should "follow the path with heart."
For the past 15 years or so, I have been tracking my dreams because I find
the process to be a "path with heart." In fact, it is a path that
leads directly to my own innermost heart.
Freud, the great pioneer of dream theories, describes the same idea a bit
differently when he says that "dreams are the royal road to the unconscious."
Dreams are inextricably bound to myth because both spring from the same
source, the creative unconscious. The dream is personal. The myth is collective.
The dream is like a jagged piece of shale, revealing the idiosyncrasies
of the individual dreamer. Myth is like a stone worn smooth by the collective
imprint of many tellers. Just like the jagged and smooth stones, so different
from each other yet sharing stoneness, there is within the dream something
of that same psychic material of which we are all constructed. Thus, the
dream contains not only the personal but also a bit of the collective.
I dream that I am in a rubber raft with a small, tattered sail. The sky
is dark. A gigantic tidal wave looms just ahead. I fear that I am about
to be overwhelmed. At the same time, I notice bright sails just beyond the
wave. I forcefully grab the sheet of the tiny sail on my fragile vessel
and pull hard against the wind. Holding tightly, I sail right up the face
of the great wave.
The dream reveals my personal fear, relating to outer circumstances in my
life at the time. Simultaneously, a collective wisdom tells me I must be
strong and hold my course in the face of great difficulty. Hope beckons
in the bright sails of those heroes who have gone before.
This course involves personal and intellectual exploration of the
unconscious, largely through the vehicle of dreams.
Class meets twice a week. The first meeting of the week will be devoted
to didactic presentations in the form of lectures, discussions of the reading,
films, guest speakers, and the presentation of student creative projects
toward the end of the term.
The second session of the week will always be devoted to dream-sharing and
dream work in various modes. Obviously, this demands some willingness on
your part to explore and share important aspects of your inner and outer
life with others.
In the process, you will learn to keep a journal, with a special emphasis
upon dreams, and you will learn that your dreams are meaningfully related
to other aspects of your life. You will learn skills and concepts which
will enable you to work with your own dreams and you will learn to be a
good, nonintrusive facilitator of others understanding their dreams. You
will become conversant in a number of dream theories. Most emphasis is given
to the Jungian perspective, however. Through the completion of a creative
project, you will extend yourself into unfamiliar terrain and learn to recognize
and affirm your own life-myth and core symbols.
The dream-sharing process is a deeply personal one and at times can
be an anxiety-arousing one. Students who take the course should be in a
sufficiently settled place in their lives that they are willing to undertake
such a voyage of discovery. On rare occasions a student may be asked to
drop this class if, in my judgement, they themselves are not prepared to
take such a journey at this time or they make others in the class feel unsafe
to do so.
An important ingredient in creating a safe environment is the ability to
maintain confidentiality. That is to say, a prerequisite of the class is
your agreement not to talk about other students' dreams or lives outside
I require Junior, Senior, or Grad standing for this class as well as at
least one or two prior psychology courses.
Finally, since so much of this class hinges on dream-sharing, it is important
that you be a person who tends to remember at least one dream a week. Some
people say they hardly ever remember a dream. It is quite difficult to enjoy
this class or fulfill its basic requirements if dream recall is too low.
This class is graded on an A - F basis. Grades are based on (1) your performance
on exams or papers covering each of the five required books, (2) a final
integrative paper on your dreams during the semester, and (3) attendance.
To earn a grade of "A" you must score 90% or above, 80% or higher
for a "B," and so on.
There are a couple of points I should make about grading. First, I tend
not to lecture on the books. I expect you to read the books and get the
significant material out of them on your own. I generally prefer to use
class time to introduce supplementary material rather than go over material
which the author has already presented. However, you have a standing invitation
to ask any questions you wish in class, about the reading or whatever.
The other point I wish to make about grading is that you try not to make
your grade the central concern in this course. The tools that I am teaching
here can make a deep difference in the rest of your life, regardless of
the grade you earn. Some people aren't great test-takers or paper-writers
yet they are capable of great wisdom. Unfortunately, the academic system
doesn't lend itself to measuring or crediting this. My advice to you is
to get involved with the material for your own personal growth and more
or less let the grades fall where they may. I know this is easier said than
done but give it a try.
Each student keeps a dream journal in which they make regular entries of
dreams, daydreams, doodles, drawings, meditations, reflections, and so on.
You are asked to keep a separate volume for your journal; not to just use
your regular notebook. Create a special journal for yourself and your unconscious
will reward you for the effort. Various tips will be given in class about
how to remember your dreams better, if this is a problem, as well as about
Always bring your journal to class with you on Thursdays since you will
need it for various activities. I never collect the journals or ask to see
them. Nor is the dream journal graded. It is your personal, private document.
At the same time, however, the keeping of a dream journal and bringing it
to class on Thursdays is absolutely required.
At the end of the semester, a final "dream paper" is required,
4 - 6 typewritten pages in length. You have a lot of leeway in how you approach
this paper. Basically, it is to be based upon your dreams of the semester,
bringing to bear the analytic tools you have acquired. I recommend you work
with a recurring dream image or with a series of dreams that lay bare some
issue in your life. You will find that your dream journal is an indispensable
aid in doing your dream paper. The dream papers are graded but this is an
assignment that really is for you more than for me. I have found that a
lot of growth and insight occurs for people in the process of writing this
paper. Having to look back through their journals and synthesize what they
find seems to catalyze insights that had eluded them. Believe it or not,
people often thank me for this assignment.
Another required, but ungraded, piece of work is the "creative project."
This is another assignment that is really for the student's deep benefit.
We ask you to take your dream symbols and give tangible expression to one
or more of them through something that you make with your hands and that
you later share with the whole class. This is ungraded in order to try to
take away some of the pressure and anxiety surrounding feelings of artistic
inferiority. The idea is to get closer to your creative unconscious by engaging
in non-verbal, right-brain activity. Typically, the sharing of creative
projects turns out to be a high point of the class, even though it is often
regarded with some apprehension before hand.
All papers should be typewritten. Late papers or exams are graded down 2%
per week or fraction thereof past the due date.
Class attendance is required. You can miss up to three class sessions without
penalty. Anyone missing more than three class sessions can expect to be
penalized 2% for each additional cut. These can add up.
Dream Work-- Taylor
Boundaries of The Soul-- Singer
Man and His Symbols-- Jung et al
Hero With A Thousand Faces-- Campbell
The Sun and The Shadow-- Kelzer or Wisdom of The Heart--
or A Little Course in Dreams-- Bosnak or Men's Dreams,
Men's Healing-- Hopcke
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