Exploring the Mystery
A presentation given on the history
of the dream movement,
the publication Dream Network and a brief personal history
at the Association for the Study of Dreams Conference, Berkeley, CA 1996
by Roberta Ossana
It is truly a pleasure and a privilege to be here
tonight. This is a very new experience for me, so please be patient as
I get adjusted to being up here.
Before I begin, I'd like to thank all of the people who have encouraged me. I'm not going to mention names, but you know who you are. I also want to thank all of the dreamers, writers, artists, poets, previous editors, everybody who has helped to keep the spirit that manifests as the publication Dream Network alive over the past 14 and a half years.
Quite honestly, I'm feeling overwhelmed a bit right now. I have ?as has been true with Will?known many of you for so long and yet am just tonight meeting you in person for the first time. Additionally, I've never done anything like this before. This is a first time, initiatory, trial-by-fire experience, and I ask your patience and your good energy. And if you give that to me, you may be in for a little show, because I have a tendency to speak as much with my hands and my body as I do with my voice. So c'mon, I'll provide you with some entertainment!
I want to begin tonight by sharing a piece that was given to me by a poet friend some years ago. It was a piece read at a meeting of the New Latin American Poets in Mexico City some time ago. The author is unknown. But it's a piece that I believe holds the essence of the spirit of the dream movement, and is a credo that we've adopted among those people who are networkers within the context of the Dream Network. I then want to spend the majority of the time introducing those of you who aren't familiar with the publication and its history... to Dream Network by introducing previous editors and sharing a little bit about what we've been doing over the past 14 and a half years. I will conclude by sharing a piece that I've written about dreams and exploring the mystery. So to begin, I will read, if I may,
"A Message to Poets and Dreamers
"We who are poets and dreamers know that the reason for a poem is not
discovered until the poem itself exists. The reason for a living act is
realized only in the act itself. This meeting is a spontaneous explosion
of hopes. That is why it is a venture in prophetic poverty, supported and
financed by no foundation, organized and publicized by no official group,
but a living expression of the belief that there are now in our world new
people, new poets, new dreamers, who are not in tutelage to established
political systems or cultural structures, but who dare to hope in their own
vision of reality and of the future...
"This meeting is united in a flame of hope whose temperature has not yet
been taken, and whose effects have not yet been estimated, because it is a
new fire. The reason for the fire cannot be apparent to one who is not
warmed by it. The reason for being here will not be found until all have
walked together, without afterthought, into contradictions and possibilities...
"We believe our future will be made by love and hope, not by violence or
calculation. The Spirit that has brought us together, whether in space or
only in agreement, will make our encounter an epiphany of certainties we
could not know in isolation...
"The solidarity of poets and dreamers is not planned and welded together
with tactical convictions or matters of policy, since these are affairs of
prejudice, cunning, and design. Whatever our failures, the poet and
dreamer is not a cunning person. His or her art depends on an ingrained
innocence which he or she would lose in business, in politics, or in too
organized a form of academic life. The hope that rests on calculation has
lost its innocence. Let us band together to protect our innocence!" (end ‘Credo’)
That is called again, "A Message to Poets," author unknown, but very relevant, I believe, to the challenge that stands before us as we create new ways of recognizing that so many of the ways that we've been taught are not working for us any longer.
History of Dream Network/Past Editors
Now I want to talk about what I know of the history of the Dream Network. There are many details that I don't know. I was fortunate to be able to make contact with most of the previous editors and get statements from them and I'll be sharing those. But, in essence, I do know that the publication was started with an intention to bring dreams back to dreamers, to acknowledge the fact that we've learned that we all dream every night, and that we have a right to learn, to understand, the symbolic and metaphoric language of dreams. It was begun in the spirit of being a grassroots publication and it's remained that way over the past 14+ years. And it couldn't have happened without, as Will said, the dedication and effort that so many people have put into it over the years. At this point, if we could have the house lights out, we'd like to show a few slides to show the evolution of the publication over the years.
Dream Network was begun in January 1982 by a very fiery and compassionate young man by the name of Bill Stimson. And I'd like to read... That's his picture there and that's the first issue of Dream Network. And, in that issue he published an article that he wrote called, "Armed with our Dreams." I'd like to read just the last paragraph of that article:
"Armed with our dreams, we have a weapon that can
turn this society upside
down by turning our lives around. The greatest battles waged throughout
history have been within the souls of a few brave men and women. To work
with dreams in the deepest sense is to be a leader in the revolution of
Recently, I wrote Bill and asked him if he'd be
willing to share a few words and he was aware that I was going to be making
Here's what he had to say:
"The Dream Network is not the publication; the enterprise proper isn't a publishing one. To speak the truth of what the Dream Network is about for us is to find our myth -- where else but among our dreams? -- for us to use our dreams in a way that enables us to come together honestly and deeply, for what was broken to be rendered whole again, our community with one another, our connection with our deeper selves, our oneness in purpose, our ability and our resolve to embody the light itself. What makes the Dream Network special is that it's fundamentally different. People sense this somehow and so they've helped the energy and unfoldment move forward."
During Bill's time (and if you'd please show the next two slides, Will)... I don't understand the dynamics that were behind this, but there were different publications coming out in different parts of the country that were called Dream Network affiliate publications. One of them was called Fusion. I believe it came out of Seattle. And there was another called DreamCraft, which came out of somewhere in the northeast. I'm not certain about that, however. There was a big stir of energy happening at that time. One of my advisors and a very, very good friend, who is one that I've not yet had the pleasure of meeting in the flesh, is Barbara Shore. And she was a part of the original New York dream community. I wrote her and asked if she'd share some of her experiences from those early days. I think this might sound familiar to a lot of you because, I know in my own experience, when I first began having these incredible dreams, I didn't have too many places to turn and there wasn't a lot of information available to help me understand what was happening. What Barbara has to say is,
"In my mind's eye is Bill Stimson's small, walk-up
flat on a hot summer's
night...the beginnings of the New York dream community. We never formed a
tight-knit group because the people kept changing too often for that. The
room was usually crowded...15 to 20 people. Essentially, we knew nothing
about dreams, but Bill's enthusiasm and passion for dreams was contagious.
It was a dream whose time had come, like the classic dream of finding
yourself in your own home but entering a new room that you've never been in
before. We were electrified. This group was the core of the New York
dream community and the New York dream community was the core of the early
dream movement in the United States. Although we couldn't articulate it at
the time, I think we realized that we now had a mission in life. We were
converts to dreams. Was it Bill's vision of a global network of dreamers
we were envisioning or did it arise spontaneously among us? I don't know,
but it was powerful. When Bill got an idea, he didn't rest until he got it
out there. He was the prototype of the populist networker, the Trotsky of
the dream revolution. It might have happened without him, but it never
would have been so fast, so intense, so like a prairie fire in a season of
drought. Maybe this was the next step after the revolutionary 60's. That
world-changing vision hadn't fully worked, so maybe we had to go back to
the inner drawing board, and remake the world from the individual psyche's
infrastructure inside out, instead of the other way around."
Bill did the Dream Network; he was at that time
putting it out monthly. It was a four to eight page bulletin. And
he did that for approximately two years, at which time it came into the
hands and heart of Chris Hudson.
Unfortunately, I couldn't contact...I couldn't locate Chris, so I don't have anything to share with you directly from him. But I did meet him in my early days of work with the Dream Network, and want to share some of that meeting with you a little later on. For this purpose, I'll say that I did get letters from people who have been long-time readers who made a lot of comments about their appreciation of Chris's willingness to share his own process, to share his own dreams during the years that he was editor and publisher. And they also appreciated the very lively Letters to the Editor section that he introduced into the publication.
Chris was in Brooklyn and Henry and Bob Van De Castle
are the people who took responsibility for the publication next, in Virginia
Once again I don't know any of the dynamics that occurred when the publication was making its moves around the country. But Henry and Bob have shared that even before the Dream Network appeared on the scene, Henry had published several issues of the "Sundance Community Dream Journal," which was the precursor to the Dream Network. It was the first published journal declaring that dreams belong to dreamers. The Sundance Journal and Henry's early efforts have had him dubbed "The Father of the American Dream Movement" in many circles. Henry and his wife, along with Bob Van De Castle, took responsibility for the Dream Network in 1985, and during that time, Bob conducted a very successful dream telepathy experiment through the publication. And Henry did a real interesting study on shoes as symbols in dreams. Articles and his findings were published throughout the time that he and Bob were doing this. I'm a little embarrassed and self-conscious because both Henry and Robert are sitting right here in front of me. And I know that there are probably many things that I'm not saying. Would either of you like to make comments about your time? (Henry and Robert signal ‘no.’)
Okay. ... During the period of time that they were co-editing the publication, Bob was also serving as the president of ASD.
From their hands, in approximately 1987, it traveled into the hands and heart of Linda Magellon, here in nearby San Jose. Linda, who I don't believe is here tonight, (she said she had responsibilities elsewhere), had this to say,
"Dream Network Bulletin is a communal project. It couldn't happen without the help of family, friends, and colleagues, without the assistance of volunteer staff, contributors, and subscribers. Under my tutelage, the most important goal was to assure that new voices would be heard, new visions seen, especially those dreamers who'd not been previously published. They were nurtured and encouraged to dare to dream in the public forum."
Linda had a great deal of support as well from Bob
Trowbridge and Jill Gregory, whom I know many of you are familiar with.
It was during Linda's time that the publication first began to take on
color. I think that if the right slide's up there, you're seeing the first
issue that appeared with color on the cover.
My Own History with Dream Network,
including a brief Dream autobiography
In 1989, literally on summer solstice, I was informed that the Bay Area Dream Workers had accepted my "bid," so to speak, to take responsibility for the publication. And I'd like to go on kind of a diversionary path here for a moment and share a little with you about my history with dreams and my history with the Dream Network, because I recognize that I'm a stranger to most of you. This is kind of a labyrinthical tale. I hope you'll be able to follow along with me:
It starts back in 1975-76. I was in a very, very busy part of my life, living in the Pacific northwest and working full time, raising my family, in a new marriage. One afternoon on a weekend, I took a nap and had the most extraordinary dream that I'll probably ever have in my life. It is the first dream that I ever recall as an adult. I remember dreams from my childhood but this one was like going to a full-length movie. When I awakened, I went, "My goodness, what on earth was that?" I'd been keeping a journal for several years and I immediately wrote down every detail of that dream. In the dream...
I found myself going into the community center
where I was, actually where I actually worked, where my office was located.
It was a multi-service community center. And rather than the typical
kinds of activities that were taking place there on a day-to-day basis
in waking reality, there were... Oh, as I was walking down the hallway...
In this room there'd be dancers dancing, and in this room there'd be musicians
playing, and in this room there'd be artists drawing... And it was
totally full of people who were doing all kinds of creative activities.
And as I went to the back of the building, into the area where (in daytime
reality) there's a basketball court, there were groups of people working,
constructing. I couldn't tell you what they were constructing, but they
were using hammer and nails. And every time, they were hammering
in unison, and every strike of the hammer was in concert with music that
was playing in the background.
It was just a lovely sight to see.
That's a part of the dream; that's the tone of the dream.
That particular dream must have carved some new
pathways in my psyche, because it was at that point in time that I began
dreaming and recalling my dreams prolifically. I didn't know what
was happening. I was seeking out everything I could find. That
was not long after Patricia Garfield's and Ann Faraday's books had come
out, and I found those, and found a Jungian who lived in the community
and went and spoke with him, learned a few things from him, continued to
Time went on, and in the fall of 1981, I was reading our local, weekly paper. We had just elected a mayor in our community of Port Townsend who was a jazz pianist, and his wife was a flautist, and they were both very environmentally-conscious. It was a very extraordinary and wonderful era in that community. He wrote a weekly column in the paper, and in August of 1981 his column said, "Is there anyone out there who'd be interested in coordinating an event to honor the 35th anniversary of the United Nations?" For a number of reasons, which I won't go into now, I was compelled to respond to that call.
I called together a group of my colleagues.
We had a meeting, literally at the office where I worked in the community
center. And as we were brainstorming ideas about what would we do in our
small little backwater town to acknowledge the United Nations anniversary,
I began getting a full-blown memory of the dream that I'd had back in '75-76,
and I said that to the group. I said, "My God, this reminds me of
a dream I had five years ago!" And one man said, "Well, we've got
to do it then." Thank God! I mean he just picked right up on
it. There wasn't a beat that was skipped before he said that.
Each of us took a piece of the work away from that meeting and proceeded
to coordinate this event, which occurred on October 11, 1981.
The entire event, itself, was like walking through the dream that I'd had five years ago, step by step by step. There were no details missing. I was existing for that time, at that intersection between the dream reality and this reality, off the ground. It started at noon and continued until two or three o'clock in the morning.
In some of the rooms we had arranged that artists would be there drawing portraits. We had arranged in other rooms that there would be international foods available.
In other rooms, we arranged that there would be information booths sharing news from countries in which there were concerns like apartheid, and so forth. And, in the back room, we had a program later in the evening that went on and on and on. It just did not want to end until it finally did at two or three in the morning with Sufi dancing. It was just an absolutely wonderful and very successful event.
It was at that time that I knew something of extraordinary significance had just taken place and, on some level, a commitment was made in my soul to learn more, to understand more.
At the same time, I'm still in this busy part of my life where there wasn't a lot of opportunity to seek out information.... and there wasn't a lot of information available.
Well, not long after that event happened, I had a visit from a friend -- a woman poet -- by the name of Christina Pacosz. She had been published a few times in the publication. And she came to me to ask, to tell me that she had just received a letter from a man in New York City who had just started a publication called the Dream Network Bulletin. And he had asked her to find someone in the northwest area to, what her words were, "to focalize dreamwork." And she said, "You're it." And she gave me the letter and encouraged me to write him. I sat down immediately after she left and wrote Bill Stimson a letter and sent a picture of myself off to him in New York. Fortunately, I kept a copy, I don't know why, but I made a copy of that letter before I sent it off. But I never got a response. It just felt, after two or three, four months went by, like it had gone off into a black hole in space.
So once again back to the, you know, 8 to 5. I'm back to work. This event that I just talked about, the poet coming to me, happened in the fall of '82, and I don't remember much, because I was still in that hurricane of work and family and so forth until the fall of 1987, when the harmonic convergence occurred on August 17. I'd been carrying that date forward in my journal for about 20 years, because I thought it was going to be the magic moment, you know, the ‘blink of an eye’ that we’re all waiting for. And I was invited to a number of different events that were happening to acknowledge that occurrence, but decided to go to a place nearby Boise, Idaho, to an event that was called, "Dancing the Dream Awake." It was sponsored by Brook Medicine Eagle, and it was an all-night dance/ritual around the fire to acknowledge and celebrate the beginning of this period that we're in the midst of right now.
After returning from that event, I can only say
that things began to change very rapidly in my life. It wasn't very
long before I decided to let go of a 20-year career as a public servant,
in a wide variety of very interesting jobs. I was very fortunate,
but it was time to let go. I wasn't certain what I was going to do,
but I knew that it had to have to do something with dreams. I needed
to learn more. And so what I did was apply to a graduate degree program
that I had found that would allow me the opportunity to co-create, with
my committee and faculty people, a study plan that met my needs.
And I found that program and was accepted.
It was Vermont College, at Norwich University. In the early stages of that program, one of my first responsibilities was to meet with my committee and faculty people for the purpose of designing the study plan. That process took place in California, in the spring of 1989. I went to Southern California and developed the plan. We worked over a period of two or three weeks. I got my study plan approved.
At that time, I had moved back to my home state, Utah. When it was time to leave California, which is a two-day trip, I took a different route than I normally do, and stayed on the west side of Hopi land. I was on a Navajo reservation, that night staying in a Navajo-owned motel. I want to back up just one minute and tell you that, while I was in the process of developing this study plan, I had relocated the Dream Network. I had found out it was being published out of San Jose and subscribed while I was in California. So the night that I'm staying at the motel on Navajo land, west of the Hopi reservation, I had a dream.
In the dream, I saw papers hanging from the branch of a tree, blowing in the wind, and heard a voice say, "If you don't do it, somebody else will." I woke up and wondered, "What on God's green earth could that possibly mean?" I had no idea.
I made my way home to Moab, Utah, which is where
I've been off and on for the last 40 years. Shortly after I got there,
now with this new project, this new adventure before me, this new challenge
of the graduate degree program, I was all ready to launch in it...
But not long after I got there, something occurred which is very typical
in that part of the country, and it was a period of seven to ten days of
absolutely relentless winds, 24 hours a day, just stirring up all of the
sand in the desert, and making it virtually impossible to feel like you
could complete a task in the way that you normally would, because it was
After two or three days of trying to accomplish something and being unsuccessful, I decided to stop trying and threw a few books and my journal in the day-pack, and walked up a canyon, a very beautiful canyon that I live near, and spend the day in a cave, a beautiful cave...In fact, a cave that I was guided to in a dream some years before.
On my way up the canyon, I stopped at my mailbox and, lo and behold, there was my first issue of the Dream Network Bulletin! It had just arrived and so I put it in my day-pack, headed up the canyon, got about half way up the trail (it was going to be a mile, mile and a half, before I got to the cave)and I heard a voice say, “You’re going to see a snake.”... then immediately, a snake slithered across the trail. I said thank you to the voice, hello to the snake and went on my way.
When I got to the cave... (it's a beautiful
cave. If you ever come to Moab, please look me up. I'll take you
there. You won't believe it. It's absolutely gorgeous!) ...and
I took everything out of my day-pack.
The first thing I did was grab the new issue of Dream Network, open it at random, and the first thing I saw was the graphic image of an eye with a snake coiled in the pupil, and it just...goosebumped me! Ah, I'll never forget that moment. I knew something was about to happen, and when I turned just inside the front cover, the words that my eyes fell on were,
"This publication is seeking a new Editor/Publisher."
Well, I threw everything right back in my day-pack, ran back home, called Linda, and began communicating with her -- a communication that took place over a two or three month period of time, both by phone and letter. As I said earlier, on summer solstice 1989, I was called by Linda and told that the Bay Area dreamworker’s group had agreed to pass the responsibility, the torch, and the beauty -- and what an adventure it is! -- on to me.
Not long after Linda informed me, she put out her
last issue from San Jose. In it, she introduced me. Shortly after
that issue came out, I got a call from Chris Hudson, and here's where I'm
going to go back to my story about Chris, because he had just moved from
Brooklyn to Bellingham, Washington, very nearby where I was living, and
was very excited that the publication was going to be happening so nearby
him. At that time, I was again in the northwest doing my graduate
By the way, I know that part of my tale has got to be confusing because I was literally like a pinball, bouncing back and forth between the northwest and the southwest during this period of time. So don't get too confused. I was on the Olympic Peninsula and back in Utah quite a number of times during that period.
Chris called and wanted to come over and meet me. So we agreed on a weekend, he came, and it was a very beautiful day. I had decided to suggest that we go to a beautiful park in Port Townsend to have our talk. He was agreeable.
So we went to Chetzemoka, got out of the car, began walking into the park, and Chris stopped in his tracks and said, "My God, I've got a picture of you sitting right over there in that flower garden." And I said to him, "How could you have a picture of me sitting over there in that flower garden? We just met 15 minutes ago!" And he proceeded to tell me that when responsibility for the publication was handed to him by Bill Stimson, that there were a good number of unopened pieces of mail. Among them, the letter that I had sent to Bill back in 1982, which contained my picture.
One gets a feeling of a certain amount of destiny when these kinds of things happen.
Evolution of Dream Network in current years
The next few slides are some pictures and images
of the issues that have come out over the seven years that I've been doing
the publication. During this past several years, we've evolved, naturally,
a few new dimensions to the publication.
• One of the first steps that I took was to develop a Council of Advisors, and I'd like to just name those people. Many of you know some of them, and some of these people may be completely unfamiliar, but I really want to acknowledge them because they've been an incredible help and aid to me on so many occasions: Kelly Hunter, she's from the east coast; Stanley Krippner, most of you know; Marcia Lauck, who is here in San Jose and co-author of "At the Pool of Wonder"; Will Phillips, who you all met a short while ago; Bill Schuman, from Fort Wayne, Indiana; Barbara Shor, from New York City; and Graywolf/Fred Swinney, from southern Oregon.
There have been other individuals who have served during my time that include Montague Ullman, Jeremy Taylor, Deborah J. Hillman, and all of whom really taught me a lot and helped a great deal during the period of time that they served in that capacity. We also made a decision to focus each issue around a question or a theme and that seems to have worked very well. It narrows the focus so that we aren't wandering too far over creation.
• We've developed a statement of purpose. I'd like to read just an excerpt of that for you:
"Our purpose is to raise individual and cultural
appreciation for the value
of dreams. We seek to disseminate information that will assist and empower
us in taking responsibility for our cultural, emotional and spiritual
well-being, with the help of dreams and mythology. Our goals are to unite
and serve those who respect dreams, to empower dreamers in demystifying
dreamwork, and to assist with the integration of dreamsharing in our
culture, in whatever way of integrity is shown and given us.”
• In the last couple of years,
we've activated the title of the publication by encouraging committed and
knowledgeable dreamworkers around the country...and in Canada, France,
Germany, South Africa... to become listed in each issue as Networkers/Contact
Persons. Over 50 individuals are listed in each issue of the
Dream Network, and are there to respond to your calls, your questions,
your needs, to point you to resources, to point you to existing dream groups
or help you form dream groups. So those individuals are listed, and
willing to share and make the path a lot smoother for new seekers than
it was for us.
• We've also evolved from what was a 24-page publication to 52 pages.
• We've currently developed a presence on the World Wide Web - that's been an incredible experience to say the least.
• We've begun just recently accepting advertising.
• We created one subject-specific booklet that's composed of articles drawn from our very rich archives. The one that is now published is, "The Art of Dreamsharing and Developing Dream Groups." And we hope to publish a series of booklets bringing forth so many of these beautiful words of wisdom and experience, and articles that have only really been seen by a small handful of people over this last 14 and a half years.
• And lastly, we're being distributed nationally on a relatively small basis, but nevertheless, being distributed nationally.
I'd like to close by reading and sharing some of what I've learned over this past seven years, and something else that I believe that we all have in common:
Exploring the Mystery of Dreams
Together we have learned that dreams
constitute a field of meaning and
purpose as vast and complex as our knowledge of the known universe. We
know that, although we're just becoming reacquainted, other cultures and
civilizations in the world have valued, cherished, utilized, and manifested
dreams and visions for centuries. Many have been persecuted over the past
20 centuries for doing the work we share today. Like mercury, the field of
dreams is elusive, a mystery, expansive, ever evading definition,
description, categorization, and forever earning our respect...
I believe we all agree that dreams
are meaningful and purposeful.
We know that we all dream every night, in fact many dreams each night.
Not all of our dreams are recalled, and not all that are recalled can be readily
comprehended or shared with another.
We know dreams are essential and vital tools in therapy,
still they can be engaged in silence,
in our journals, with our spouse, our children, our neighbors,
in dream groups, because we know we all dream every night.
We have learned that dreams can be incubated to solve problems,
answer questions, provide guidance.
Dreams often give timely warnings for ourselves or for another.
Dreams provide insight, bring darkness into light.
Dreams awaken us, frighten us, shake us up, puzzle and perplex us,
allow us to waken within them. And, if we're inclined, to control them.
We can meet together in the dreamtime reality,
a time and space beyond time-space.
In dreams, we can fly or die, and be reborn.
Dreams show us the future, shed light on the past, even past lives.
In dreams, we're often prepared for the death of a loved-one,
and there is provision of ground for contact with them from the other side.
Dreams are known to have been the catalyst for authoring books,
creating new inventions,
creating art and sculpture.
Dreams are spirits' way of speaking to us.
Dreams heal. In one word, dreams Reveal.
Joseph Campbell said, "The terrain of dreams is the interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered, because it's a mystery transcendent of all human research."
I look forward to continuing to explore the mystery
with all of you, and thank you again for inviting me to be here tonight.