This semester one of my classes is called “Dreams, Visions, Myths,” and at our last class we learned about how dreams were “incubated,” or induced, in ancient Greece in temples of Asclepius, the god of healing. People visited these temples hoping to be cured of various ailments. After a ritual bath and sacrifice, they were led into the temple to a stone slab where they would sleep that night. The hope was to receive a healing dream and leave the temple cured the following morning. An inscription at an Asclepieium in Africa reads, “Go in good, come out better.” (See Healing Dream and Ritual by C.A. Meier for more.)
So I was sitting there in class, taking notes as fast as I could because it was all so fantastic, and next thing I knew the teacher said, “We’re going to incubate some dreams now and see what happens.” She had us push back all the chairs, and we each got a blanket to spread out on the floor, just like in kindergarten. Then she turned out the lights, and led us — single-file and silent — out the room by one door, around the building, and back into the room by another door. We lay down, each on our own blanket, and she talked us through a guided meditation where we were to imagine we were on stone slabs in a temple. Then she stopped talking, and the room was quiet for half an hour.
I lay there thinking, This is fun, but come on, are we really supposed to dream? In half an hour? Lying on a hardwood floor somewhere in California? And so on and so forth, and next thing I knew, right over the mental chatter, something happened. I don’t know whether to call it dream or vision or imagination, but it was definitely visual, it occurred in the realm of the inner eye, and it wasn’t consciously willed. Here’s how I scribbled it into my notebook right afterwards:
I’m in a dark area. Behind me someone reaches forward and hands me something. Without turning around I reach back and take it, like a baton in a relay race. But it’s not a baton, it’s a stoppered vial. I open it and a pale blue mist rushes up and takes the shape of a beautiful woman. She smiles at me, leans down, cradles my jaw with both hands, and kisses my lips. Then she envelops me, the mist is all around my body, then it flows in through my skin. I exhale into the vial, exhaling the pale blue mist. I put the stopper back on the vial, and hand it forward, to another hand, this one reaching back toward me out of the darkness.
In my memory, the mist tingled inside my body, and the blue woman was really happy to see me. It felt fantastic, and it was clear that it was to be shared. So, here you go. Yours can be the hand that receives the vial next, if you’re so inclined.