The Religious Reality of Dreamworlds in Traditional Indigenous Cultures





Volume 1, Issue 2 2003 Article 2

pp. 179-210 Fernando Santos-Granero : "Pedro Casanto’s Nightmares: Lucid Dreaming in Amazonia and the New Age Movement"

p. 197 "Garfield herself. In

her book she obviates the important issue that for the Ojibwa and the

Senoi dreams are real, and the actions that take place in dreams are true.

Nowhere in her description of the dream beliefs of these peoples does

Garfield state that for them the cosmos and the self are composed by a

multiplicity of tangible and intangible worlds and entities, or that they

consider dreamworlds as coexistent with our tangible world and dream

characters to be as real as the tangible people that surround us. Likewise,

there is no mention of the fact that the Ojibwa and the Senoi believe that

what we experience in dreams is real, because it is experienced by one of

p. 198 "our spiritual essences or vitalities. . Thus, Garfield secularizes indigenous

dream experiences, stripping them of their more mystical or magical aspects ... . ...

This decontextualized and secularized view of indigenous beliefs,

frequently based on imaginary ethnographies (see Brown 1997:163 for

similar use of ethnographic texts by channelers), has carried over to the

New Age cyberspace. As a result, even the most radical New Age websites

adhere to the Western vision of dreams as "illusions" (,

"entirely illusory" (, or "an illusion created by the mind"

( ...

p. 200 "Garfield’s representation of Ojibwa and Senoi dream beliefs falls into

the category of simulation. This is so, first, because it is based on the

production of fictionalized recreations, in the Ojibwa case of a dream quest,

in the Senoi case of a morning session of dream sharing. Next, it strips

native beliefs of those aspects of the supernatural that would be more

unpalatable for Western tastes. But then there is a third reason that suggests

p. 201 "that the indigenous dream beliefs and practices disseminated through New

Age literature and websites should be considered not only simulations, but

also simulations of simulations. As Garfield (1995:9–12) herself notes in

the preface of the revised edition of her book, after the publication of

Creative Dreaming in 1974, the authenticity of the Senoi materials she

used as re-elaborated by Kilton Stewart on the basis of Herbert Noone’s

ethnography was called into question.

In his book, The Mystique of Dreams, William Domhoff (1985) examines

the anthropological literature on the Senoi and suggests that the Senoi

never performed some of the practices—dream sharing in community

councils, the carrying out of dream-inspired collective projects, and dream

shaping—that Stewart attributed to them. After a compelling detective-like investigation of Stewart’s personal and academic life, Domhoff

concludes that Stewart was "a well-meaning charmer and story-teller"

(1985:96). This position is supported by other dreamworkers, such as Anne

Sayre Wiseman, who says that a friend of Stewart asserted "he created his

Senoi dream approach out of a mélange of ideas he took from American

Indians, the Senoi tribe, and from the Mormons" (1989:5). However, not

everybody agrees with this criticism. Some, e.g., Rev. Jeremy Taylor, a

renowned dreamworker, suggest that the Senoi practiced all of the

techniques mentioned by Stewart but that after the Second World War

their society experienced such disruptions that many practices were lost

(Garfield 1995:10)."


Garfield, Patricia

1995 [1974] Creative Dreaming: Plan and Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity,

Overcome Fears, Solve Problems, and Create a Better Self. New York: Simon &


Brown, Michael F.

1997 The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age. Cambridge,

MA: Harvard University Press.

Stewart, Kilton

1972 "Dream Theory in Malaya." In Altered States of Consciousness. Charles Tart,

editor, pp. 161–170. New York: Doubleday.

Noone, Richard and D. Holman

1972 In Search of the Dream People. New York: William Morrow

Domhoff, G. William

1985 The Mystique of Dreams: A Search for Utopia Through Senoi Dream Theory.

Berkeley: University of California Press.



pp. 2-15 Janet Wall Hendricks : "Symbolic Counter-Hegemony among the Ecuadorian Shuar".

p. 5b "Everything they see in dreams ... is real, since what they see in encountered by their souls."