The Intelligence of Dreams: Art We Create For Ourselves

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Tom Chambers | Vineyard Blush
Tom Chambers | Vineyard Blush

Dreams: for many of us, sleep offers that precious and all too fleeting opportunity to refuel, a much-needed chance to download and sort through all the surplus of stimuli from the day’s events and interactions. Some believe there’s also a built-in survival component to many of the scenarios that get acted out: a chance to rehearse for what challenges yet may still lie ahead.

And then there are those dreams that can feel like a Shamanic journey. As if we’ve tumbled into an alternative universe in which every nuance has been orchestrated to lead us to a deeper truth ~ some richer understanding of ourselves, our significant others, aspects of our lives that our waking self may have been working hard to avoid.

If they plague us relentlessly enough, we may even seek outside help in making them please go away.

But such dreams are not meant to frighten us or torment us with guilt, say archetype dreamworkers, Christa Lancaster and Marc Bregman, who travel around the country leading retreats and workshops inspired by many of the principles first proposed by Carl Jung in his groundbreaking The Red Book. Rather, these dreams are messages sent to us from a more enlightened version of ourselves, with the goal of helping to bring us closer to living the life we were meant to live: one in harmony with our true nature, a life in line with our inner bliss.

red book carl Young


Deanna Phoenix Selene: In your description of your archetype dream work approach, you state, “Dreams don’t address the conscious mind; they don’t want to be understood.” Can you elaborate on this?

Marc Bregman: Dreams aren’t interested in communicating with the Intellect. The Intellect, or Ego, actually blocks feeling. The Ego cannot be trusted to interpret your dreams. The Ego is actually designed to repress your dreams, which are the vehicle for accessing our true feelings and for going down into our deeper selves. The key is to understand the intentionality of the dream. What does the dream intend to show you? In other words: How does it make you feel?

Carl Young

Marc Bregman: Think of each dream as a part of a journey, and this journey takes place over time, over many nights, and involves a two-step process.

The first is the descent down into what I term, ‘The Desert.’ It is here where the Ego is stripped down. Dismantled. The desert dreams are about deconstructing yourself so you can be like Alice in Wonderland. We can’t go on the journeys we need to go on while we still have our egos intact. We have to have our ego broken down enough so we can open our hearts to our true energies going on underneath the subterranean, the Fourth Dimension, where you meet the Dark Unseen and the Dark Father.

Marc Bregman: Only after the ego is fully broken down and shed are we then at last able to open up to those feelings that you didn’t know you had. Step Two is when you are able to address the old memories of the past as well as what I call the ‘spiritual glory’ of the soul.

Christa Lancaster: Dreams invite us to look at how we are living our lives and ask us how we feel about that. Do we want to make any changes? So after working with your dreams, you might one night get to the place where you have a dream where this enormous anaconda suddenly appears. And in this dream, rather than running away or killing it, you may choose to simply walk away or placate the snake by feeding it a sandwich, and say, “Good snake,” and then walk away to safety. So the dream challenges that person’s way of facing the world.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Photo by Tom Chambers
Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Photo by Tom Chambers

Deanna Phoenix Selene: But how does the dreamer determine what the message of the dream is? Last night, for instance, I dreamed that I encountered a wild creature and tried to tame it. But I was told that some wild creatures just aren’t meant to be tamed.

Marc Bregman: I love it!

Christa Lancaster: (Chuckles) You realize you just got Marc so excited he nearly fell off his chair. That’s like the classic archetypical dream.

Marc Bregman: It is! It’s perfect! If you were participating in a group retreat, I would have you act your dream out in a group. And somebody would play the animal, and you would try to tame it. Or in a one-on-one therapy scenario, we would have you close your eyes and imagine your dream. Then we’d ask you how you felt as each of the characters. My guess is that when you took on the role of the Wild Creature, you’d discover that you actually didn’t want to be tamed. You might discover that this Wild Animal is you. And that you want to be set free.

Marwari Stallion-1 | Tom Chambers
Marwari Stallion-1 | Tom Chambers

Deanna Phoenix Selene: That’s interesting. Because my own interpretation of my dream was that this was my subconscious warning me to stop being so trusting. That someone will very likely turn on me and bite if I don’t practice greater caution. So now how would I know if my initial interpretation or the one you’ve suggested is the correct one?

Marc Bregman: Well let’s say you do the exercise and when you come to taking on the character of The Wild Thing you feel this intense creative energy, and you love it, and you see the situation suddenly very clearly, and you say, “Wow, this is me.”

Christa Lancaster: The point is that this dream isn’t about someone else; it’s showing you that the important stories in your life are about you. What you need. So throw away the interpretation that’s giving you advice to show more caution. We want you to open to yourself. The point of your dream is not to make you “better,” but to allow you to explore all kinds of places in yourself that you may not ordinarily allow yourself to go.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you agree with those who propose that every character in our dreams is really an aspect of ourselves?

Christa Lancaster: In principle, yes. Every character is self. There are archetypical figures, like the anima and animus, the child, the wild animal…they all come and teach us, and they open the way to deeper parts of ourselves.

Marc Bregman: We experience our first archetypical dream usually around the age of eight, beginning with the figure of the boy or the girl who represents The Soul, as expressed by the young heroine in the film, The Whale Rider.

tom chambers
Tom Chambers

Marc Bregman: In our dreams, through the character of the anima, we get to experience becoming this girl who lives in each of our souls.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: And when we dream about those who were close to us but who have now passed? I lost my mother four years ago to cancer, but I still dream of her quite frequently. What would you say she might be representing?

Marc Bregman: Typically, the people who are deceased and who have come back to us in our dreams actually are those persons who want to contact you. And it’s the therapist’s job to help glean why. Sometimes they seek forgiveness, sometimes they come to help. Not knowing your mother, I can’t say in your case what the dynamic was…

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Wow. So you feel that this is my mother who is actually visiting me in my dreams?

Marc Bregman: Yes I do.

Christa Lancaster: Yes.

Marc Bregman: It’s pretty astounding that they’re not just metaphors; they’re actually the deceased person.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: Is it your feeling that our dream life then is just as real as our waking life?

Marc Bregman: Even more real. The real world opens up through our dreams, and what we’re doing when we’re awake is bubbling around in this crazy, lopsided existence.

Tom Chambers
Tom Chambers

Marc Bregman: We’re trying to access the fantastical 80 percent of our brain that we don’t use. The Fourth Dimension or Narnia. That’s where we truly live and move, not only in our dream life.

Christa Lancaster: It’s as they say: “The goal is learning how to be in the world but not of it.”

Tom Chambers
Tom Chambers Photography

Marc Bregman: As Jung would say, “To go mad.” The dream is really such a great guide. The dream has the most intelligence, much more so than I. Me, I just help people see where they stand in relationship to their dreams.

The ego claims to always want to help us grow, but it’s a ruse to keep us from the deeper growing of consciousness, to maintain the selfishness.

We can live the life of our dreams, but it means giving up thought. In your case: allowing yourself to feel what it’s like to be The Animal and to notice how you keep yourself from those feelings or how you may tend to explore those feelings but in a practical sense.

It's Only Natural, Tom Chambers Photography
It’s Only Natural, Tom Chambers Photography

Christa Lancaster: We would invite you to look at what you do in the world, at how you keep that Wild Critter at bay. I would ask you how you manage that animal’s passion in your life.

Marc Bregman: And of course directing your attention back to yourself can make some people feel testy. People don’t always like to look at their own behaviors, at their own feelings.

Deanna Phoenix Selene: We tend to see our dreams, especially our nightmares, as a message from our psyche that we’ve screwed up and need to look at what we’ve done. Atonement.

Marc Bregman: Mmm, yes. Guilt is a great obstruction.

Tom Chambers

Christa Lancaster:  If the guilt is there, then it’s another clue that there’s something there that is blocking your happiness. The dream always comes from a place of love.

Marc Bregman: The dream is never designed to judge you. I like to think of our dreams as good-intentioned art that we create just for ourselves.

Further Notes

Special thanks to Tom Chambers for the use of his photomontages. Read his interview in Combustus magazine here. Visit to see more of his work.

Christa and Bob

North of Eden is an organization founded by Marc Bregman and Christa Lancaster, which focuses on Jungian-inspired archetypal dreamwork. They have published several books including their most recent: Flesh Off the Bone: Dream Descent Through Past Life Trauma. Other titles can be found on

Visit their website for more information about their work, a list of upcoming events around the country and the world, books to read, videos, interviews and online classes.

If you are interested in your own dream, you can submit a dream on the site and receive a personal response.

Combustus Managing Editor | + posts

My dream: to create a unique vehicle for artists and visionaries from all genres and all over the globe to inspire and learn from one another.

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