As I see it, the real function of the arts is to permeate

the environment of the world with a metaphysical

reality so that man is not alone with the ego.

–Cecil Collins

(Or “woman,” I might add, in the case of this story . . . )

So often we wake from a dream thinking, Oh I just dreamt that because that’s what I did yesterday–what a dumb dream! And we forget it in a moment. But even those banal dreams can have beneficent messages. Messages that sometimes may make a difference in a decision or choice our conscious mind is considering. Consider this essay as a significant example.

Twenty-two years ago, on the eve of what astrologers were calling “The Harmonic Convergence,” five other women and I drove out to Cynthia’s mom’s house on Little Sebago Lake in Maine to hang out and relax over the weekend. It was a gorgeous day and we hurried into our bathing suits and climbed into these wonderful lake lounges, our books in dry, protective pockets inside the waterproof chaises. Then we paddled our way out to the free-floating dock. Climbing out, we set ourselves up with towels and drinks and talked quietly or read our books under the perfect warmth of the August sun. There were the usual disturbances of other boats and voices calling from the shore, but the scene was primarily peaceful.

We were talking about a phenomenon sweeping the local feminist community of southern Maine called, vaguely and innocuously enough, “The Artists’ Workshop.” This particular Artists’ Workshop was designed to help “struggling feminist writers and artists.” We had just attended a meeting that had never really specified what was meant by “help” or what skills were to be actualized during the session. Lynn, an old friend of mine with whom I had worked at my bookstore was the woman who had initially invited me to join.

This was 1987 and at the time, I had never heard of a pyramid scheme, such as that one that recently helped bring down the world economy. Guised in New Age language, set up to make money for those who get in early enough, The Artist’s Workshop was said to be a brilliant new way to support independent women. Those who don’t literally do the math could be perfectly charmed by the energy and lured in by the enthusiasm of the group. Although I didn’t really believe Lynn, or any of her friends, thought they were perpetuating a losing proposition, one that would hurt others in the end, I was immediately suspicious.

Usually I was a Pollyanna when it came to trust, but there was something that didn’t make sense to me. Math is not my strong point; it’s one of my right-brain challenges in fact. But I did know some logical left-brained people and consulted them. A pyramid scam essentially grows exponentially at such a quickly multiplying rate that inevitably at some point it has to collapse. This one was to work with an airplane metaphor.

For $1500 you could buy a seat on the plane. You then sold eight other seats and were promoted to a “co-pilot.” Those eight people gave you $1500 a piece and lo and behold, before you knew it, you had $12,000 in cash. Lynn was using this leverage to make a long desired geographical move cross country. And she did move and it served her well. As for the women who gave her their money—they took a gamble but didn’t fare as well. Some of those women were the women on the dock with me that day.

I tried to tell them the probable risks. But everyone in our small city was discussing this thing and in those days I could be so passionately judgmental I’m sure my negativity was a turnoff to others with stars (or dollar signs) in their eyes. The scheme had probably already gotten past the point of any returns. But in entrepreneurial Maine, there were so many young holistically-minded-women trying to break out into their own practice—massage therapists, nutritionists, specialists in herbal flower remedies, what have you—everyone wanted to quit their day job. I had just sold my store and the idea of chance at a secure financial start on a new venture was very seductive.

In our small city people in their mid thirties took risks and you could “do your dream” here more easily than in a larger, more populated area where real estate prices were off the charts. The fact was that, at this point, those who were promoting the Artists’ Workshop show had already invested and were convinced that there were enough people in the world that this thing could keep moving and liberate anyone from the tedium of meaningless job. We found out later it had already been exhausted in Boston and the airplane was flying north to more provincial places with smaller populations and people with less cash to burn.

So I had been considering doing the workshop. I was tempted and I had the cash on hand. I had even confronted Lynn with the ethical problem behind what she was promoting. “What if the women who give you their money with their own good will are left in the lurch when they can’t find anyone else to board the plane?” I asked. “Well, maybe that’s their karma,” she answered.

Her reply didn’t sit right with me in that it misused the spiritual belief system, almost as the Hindu caste system does when it rationalizes that the low-lying “untouchables” have been born to their lowly state as a result of karmic payback, therefore people of higher castes are justified in looking down at them. Despite any reasoning about the cause and effect of karmic balancing, I believed that someone who follows a spiritual path does not knowingly put others at a disadvantage. Then again, we were grown-ups, and Lynn maintained that everyone knew the risks. I claimed that ultimately someone down the line would lose out while I would have benefited from her money. That, I maintained, might be bad karma. Perhaps I was overly self-righteous but I didn’t think, in good conscience I could ask someone to give me money selling her on the idea they’d get it back when I couldn’t guarantee anything of the sort.

We vehemently discussed the pros and cons that sunny afternoon on the dock to the humming motors of outboard boats. The scene was totally peaceful until out of nowhere this whaler full of twenty-something boys came whipping by, throwing its wake like a tsunami over our sacred space. We all stood up, our books falling into the lake, drinks tipping over while towels were soaked. We scolded and hollered, cursing and shaking our fists at the boys, and to our great surprise, they looped around, came back, jumped out of their boat, swam toward us, climbed onto our dock and began throwing us in the water!

This was so outrageous that in between the screaming, we couldn’t help but laugh and fight back. Everyone was either climbing onto the dock or throwing someone else off. Here we were, domestic goddesses in our thirties, and these younger boys were aggressively attacking us. One stayed in the boat of course, and we could see the empty beer cans scattered on its floor.

At one point the dock was full of wrestling women and young men listing one way then the other. Our feet sliding, everyone was grappling and screaming, grunting and laughing as the four corners of the square dock alternately dipped beneath the surface of the lake. Then, as suddenly as they had come, the boys began to swim back toward their boat. We held onto one of them and pummeled him with our fists as he lay on his stomach, reaching with the upper half of his body towards the water. Finally we threw him overboard. They whipped away in their whaler leaving us hysterical. It was a very strange interlude and in the quiet left behind, we turned to each other and howled like schoolgirls.

Later that night we cooked dinner outside and saluted the planetary alignment. I found out the next day that after I had gone to bed, two of the women went skinny-dipping and that the lake had been full of revelry into the wee hours of the morning. Back home a day or so later, my dream took its imagery from the crazy incident at the lake. It was one of those plebeian dreams, a literal playback of the tape of our lake incident a few days before.

But this dream was not only a warning not to dismiss the imagery of the unconscious even when it seems solely connected to “day residue;” the dream turned out to be a response to my query about “The Artist’s Workshop.” Here’s the dream:

I’m with my women friends on the dock at the lake, Suddenly a boat full of young men comes by and sprays us. The boys get out of the boat and swim to the dock, attacking us,throwing us in the water, trying to take over the dock.We fight back and there is a huge scramble of bodies lurching and falling, pushing, pulling and piling onto one another. It seems as though there are more and more people on the dock and the emotional atmosphere in the scene turns scary. Suddenly I notice one corner sinking completely underwater and I am struck with the thought: This Dock Will Sink. Then I awake.

I probably would have dismissed this dream as a nothing but my memory’s image of the exact events a few days previous had I not been a dream junky, training in dream work with a Jungian mentor. Furthermore, I had distinctly asked my unconscious for information about the Artists’ Workshop before I went to bed that night. I must admit, as adamant as I was with Lynn and as hard as I argued against it with my other friends, I too was tempted to try it. The timing was perfect as I was “between” jobs and unsure of where I was going next.

Yet that morning when I thought about the dream, I was convinced I had the information I needed. In the not-too-distant future, that airplane was doomed to crash and sink just like the exaggerated dock in the dream, and I, for one, decided I was not going to be on it.

Although I did tell my friends, several took the risk anyway and guess what? They lost their money. We were exactly one tier too late in the Airplane game. My girl friends, though disappointed, seemed to be good natured about the loss later, admitting it was a gamble but still, none of us were well off and I was relieved not to be out $1500. Naturally this only increased my faith in communing with the unconscious.

* This whole incident brings up some issues about the New Age world of business as opposed to the true workings of spiritual consciousness in the universe. Over the years I have become more suspicious as I’ve consulted with many people and taken many courses and workshops in the so-called spiritual fields of healing and consciousness. What I’ve learned is that human weakness is rife and that in this field, perhaps more than others, one must be one’s own personal guide.

The issue of trust is just as shaky as it is in the traditional medical field where we have looked to Doctors as if they were gods. Our higher selves are our own best guides. There are guru-type charlatans in the New Age business just as there are in any other kind of business. People have unconscious shadows and when it comes to money, it’s easy to go unconscious. I knew from writing poetry and from meditation that an inner world of knowledge exists and that the practice of listening and stillness helps us arrive there.

Despite the mainstream media’s jokes about “The Moronic Convergence” I believed there was a new energy available for spiritual development after that planetary alignment. Many prophetic writings mention the “dispensation” for the human race that was destined to come at the close of the 20th century. As we see our outer reality challenge us more, turning inward to our own guidance may be all there is to rely on.

Our dreams will speak to us if we make the effort to ask. We can incubate a dream by holding a problem in mind as I did that night. Whatever dream comes, no matter how banal, or removed it may seem from our question, if we look carefully, we will find it is relevant.


*quoted in

Harvey, Andrew and Mark Matousek., Dialogues with a Modern Mystic,. Wheaton, IL: Quest, 1994.

Author's Bio: 

Deborah DeNicola’s spiritual memoir "The Future That Brought Her Here," an Best Seller,was released from Nicholas Hays/Ibis Press. A second full collection of poetry, "Original Human," is is forthcoming in 2010 from WordTech Press. Deborah edited the anthology "Orpheus & Company; Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology," from The University Press of New England. Previous books include "Where Divinity Begins" from Alice James Books and three award winning chapbooks, most recently Inside Light from Finishing Line Press. Among other awards, Deborah has received an NEA Fellowship. She won The Packingtown Review’s Analytical Essay Award, and the Santa Barbara Poetry Contest in 2008 and is included in The Best of The Net 2008 Anthology. Her poetry is published widely in journals and online.