Dreams by Derrick Jensen


Dear Derrick,

Over the past several months, I’ve read your book Dreams not just once, but twice. It has been more than an intellectual foray. It has been an experiencing, a journeying, a nightly rendezvous for communications from “other sides.” I didn’t want theseopportunities, these openings, to stop.

Each evening I’d climb into our RV’s cabover bed to read before sleeping. Partway through your book, I began reading in parallel Timothy Scott Bennett’s new novel All Of the Above. I’d read some Derrick, then some Timothy. It felt like my tiny space capsule of a bedroom became a container in which those on other sides communicated through both books.  On several goose-bumpish nights, questions you posed were promptly answered by Timothy’s characters — some of whom are aliens, definitely from other sides.

I especially wanted to read Dreams because dreams have long been important in my personal journey. I hadn’t quite thought of them as communications from other beings (rather than just reflective of my inner workings), but I’m trying on your perspective and rather like it.

You got me thinking about my experiences with beings on other sides, even if I didn’t think of them that way. Sometimes while I’m creating art I feel supportive presences whom I call “angels.” Robyn and I feel we’ve entered into a relationship with the local “rain goddess” during our two decades living in the Sierra foothills. She has a trickster-like sense of humor, preferring to sprinkle when clothes are on the line outdoors or the firewood is uncovered.

I like that this isn’t theoretical: “I’m writing [this book] because I don’t believe in other sides, and I don’t trust other people’s beliefs in other sides. I experience other sides, and I do trust (some) people’s conveyed experiences.”

Dreams is a courageous and vulnerable expansion on your previous writings. You take us along in some of your personal encounters with other sides while you wrote the book. We get a sense of your muse, who insisted this long-considered bookbe written now, not later (thank her for me). You introduced your “gambling god”, who may or may not influence your winning small wagers more frequently when you are writing than when you’re not. (Maybe the “gambling god” gets progress reports from your writing muse?)

You speak of many on other sides: the ancestors, animal spirits, plant spirits, spirits of place and of natural phenomena. Whoever responds to our questions of the tarot or I Ching or tea leaves. Whoever sends us strong intuitions. Perhaps othersare the “still small voice,” crop circle makers, extraterrestrials, angels, daemons and demons (I like your term “those who do not wish us well”). I expect the list could be quite long, with so many who’ve been expelled by the highly rational, “scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial” culture which “devalues and dismisses dreams and, more broadly, connections to other sides.”

Devalued and ignored because they can’t be controlled and manipulated, as the dominant culture does with everything it can get its hands on. You dissect neuroscientist Sam Harris’s assertions about science, including his notion that through science and technology, this culture can make everything on the planet “jump through hoops on command, and … predict what willhappen and when.”

Dreams is not only a journal of experiences. You continue your legacy of deconstructing the premises and practices of this culture that is “murdering the planet.” And it’s fed by your deep love and awe for the “other [natural] communities buzzing with vastly different intelligences, vastly different experiences, vastly different relationships, vastly different voices.”

I was fascinated by research indicating that

“if you deprive a person of both dreams and food, the person will die sooner from a lack of dreams than food. As necessities of life, dreams come third, after air and water.” I valued numerous insights from indigenous cultures, like Iroquois dream theory in which “the dream represented the only divinity.”

Barbara Alice Mann’s speech contrasting Iroquoian Mother-Right with western patriarchy inspires me to read more from her.

My favorite is Dr. Felicitas Goodman’s conclusion after studying five hundred small societies that

“non-consensual realitythat is, the experience of things and events not necessarily perceived by others at the same time and place— span>is accepted as normal. indeed it is those individuals who are not capable of altering their consciousness to perceive an alternate reality who are considered psychologically defective.”

You inspire me to actively engage in communicating respectfully and humbly with those on other sides, even though many of the traditions for doing so have been destroyed or abandoned. I think it’s a skill worth developing to navigate industrial civilization’s collapse. Those on other sides may provide us an edge, so we’re at the right place at the right time doing what’s needed. Thank you for modeling such a journey and, as you always do, enlarging the space well beyond the narrow blinders of the dominant culture.

[Purchase book from Derrick. For more on Derrick’s work, visit derrickjensen.org.

On Janaia’s Journal: Notes from Derrick Jensen’s Earth at Risk 2011 conferenceAbove collage by Janaia.]


  1. sharing this cosmic perspective on human place in the cosmos… http://vimeo.com/6248423 Dark Cosmos, NASA photos of galaxies and star formations, set to beautiful ethereal music — messages and perspectives from other sides, indeed…

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