architecture of a dream

I have failed in my purpose if I have not made it clear that in the actual architecture of dream and vision there is a mystery which is not explained by speaking of suppressed desire or sex or any of those springs which modern psychologists surmise are released in dream. A mood may attract its affinities but it does not create what it attracts, and between anger and a definite vision of conflict there is a gulf as mysterious as there was between Aladdin’s desire and the building of his marvellous palace. I desire a house, but desire does not build it. I design a house, but every line is drawn with full consciousness, and when I give the plan to the builder every brick is placed with full consciousness by the masons. No coherent architecture in city or dream arises magically by some unreason which translates bodiless desire into organic form. However swift the succession may be, in that second of time between desire and its visionary embodiment or fulfilment there must be space for intellectual labour, the construction of forms or the choice of forms, and the endowing of them with motion. A second to my brain is too brief a fragment of time for more than sight, but I must believe that to a more intense consciousness, which is coworker with mine, that second may suffice for a glimpse into some pleroma of form for the selection of these and the unrolling of a vast pageantry. Something there is, a creature within me, behind whose swiftness I falter a hopeless laggard, for it may be a traveller through the Archaeus and back again with the merchandise of its travel before my pulse has beaten twice. As an artist who has laboured slowly at the creation of pictures I assert that the forms of dream or vision if self-created require a conscious artist to arrange them, a magician to endow them with life, and that the process is intellectual, that is, it is conscious on some plane of being, though that self which sits in the gate of the body does not know what powers or dignitaries meet in the inner palace chambers of the soul. When we have dreams of flying and see all things from an angle of vision of which we never could have experience in waking, we know that to speak of the moving pictures of dream as memories or unconscious recombination of things seen when waking, is to speak without subtlety or intellectual comprehension. I criticize the figures I see in dream or vision exactly as I would the figures in a painting. Even if I see a figure in dream I have seen when waking, if the figure acts in a manner differing from its action when seen with the physical eye, if it now walks when it then sat, or looks down where before it looked up, and if these motions in dream appear authentic so that face and form have the proper light and shade and the anatomies are undistorted, that dream change in the figure of memory is itself a most perplexing thing. We must suppose that memory as memory is as fixed in its way as a sun-picture is fixed or as the attitude of a statue is fixed. If it fades it should be by loss of precision and not into other equally precise but different forms and gestures. Now we could not without cracks or distorting of anatomies or complete remodeling change the pose of a statue even if it was modelled in some easily malleable substance; and the plastic change from stillness to motion in a figure, which we presume to be a memory, is wonderful when we think of it, as wonderful as if the little Tanagra in clay upon my shelf should change from its cast solidity and walk up and down before me. For myself I think man is a protean being, within whose unity there is diversity, and there are creatures in the soul which can inform the images of our memory, or the eternal memory, aye, and speak through them to us in dream, so that we hear their voices, and it is with us in our minute microcosmic fashion even as it was said of the universe that it is a soliloquy of Deity wherein Ain-Soph talks to Ain-Soph.

We can make such general speculations about all pictures moving before the inner eye, and it is always worthwhile investigating the anatomy of vision and to be intent on what appears to us, for if we have intentness we have memory. A mental picture which at first had yielded nothing to us may be followed by others which indicate a relation to the earliest in the series so that they seem like pages read at different times from the same book. When I was young I haunted the mountains much, finding in the high air vision became richer and more luminous. I have there watched for hours shining landscape and figures in endless procession, trying to discover in these some significance other than mere beauty. Once on the hillside I seemed to slip from today into some remote yesterday of earth. There was the same valley below me, but now it was deepening into evening and the skies were towering up through one blue heaven to another. There was a battle in the valley and men reeled darkly hither and thither. I remember one warrior about whom the battle was thickest, for a silver star flickered above his helmet through the dusk. But this I soon forgot for I was impelled to look upwards, and there above me was an airship glittering with light. It halted above the valley while a man, grey bearded, very majestic, and his robes all starred and jewelled, bent over and looked down upon the battle. The pause was but for an instant, and then the lights flashed more brilliantly, some luminous mist was jetted upon the air from many tubes below the boat, and it soared and passed beyond the mountain, and it was followed by another and yet others, all glittering with lights, and they climbed the air over the hill and were soon lost amid the other lights of heaven. It must be a quarter of a century ago since I saw this vision which I remember clearly because I painted the ship, and it must, I think, be about five or six years after that a second vision in the same series startled me. I was again on the high places, and this time the apparition in the mystical air was so close that if I could have stretched out a hand from this world to that I could have clutched the aerial voyager as it swept by me. A young man was steering the boat, his black hair blown back from his brows, his face pale and resolute, his head bent. His eyes intent on his wheel: and beside him sat a woman, a rosecoloured shawl speckled with golden threads drawn over her head, around her shoulders, across her bosom and folded arms. Her face was proud as a queen’s, and I long remembered that face for its pride, stillness and beauty. I thought at the moment it was some image in the eternal memory of a civilisation more remote than Atlantis and I cried out in my heart in a passion of regret for romance passed away from the world, not knowing that the world’s great age was again returning and that soon we were to swim once more beneath the epic skies.

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This entry was posted by Tournapin.

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