FROM THE SYLLABUS OF DAVID VAN NUYS'


SEMINAR ON MYTH, DREAM, & SYMBOL

Personal Statement



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.

Structure



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.

Prerequisites



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 of class.

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.

Grading





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 journal keeping.

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.

ASSIGNED READING

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-- Signell or

or A Little Course in Dreams-- Bosnak or Men's Dreams, Men's Healing-- Hopcke


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dvn 9/16/96