November 2011

This is an experiment in using the Social Dreaming methodology ‘in the mind’ to move around Occupy Tent City at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. The site itself became the matrix. Working in this way was inspired by Charlotte Beradt’s work on gathering dreams published as ‘The Third Reich of Dreams’.

I wandered round the site, in something of a dream state and approached, usually small groups, and asked permission to inquire about their dreams. I passed on the dreams and associations already offered thus embodying and holding the thread.

29th November

A police officer said he couldn’t do his work if he remembered his dreams. A man having his lunch speaks about a quote from Elizabeth Bowen’s book, ‘The Last September’, ‘There’s a chilly wind from the future’. He is also keen to talk about Arthur Koesler’s book, ‘The Ghost in the Machine’.

A lady wrote her poem and gave it to me.

As we stand on this plain
Beneath the setting sun
Between what has been
And what is to come
It is time to re-evaluate
What is being done
See through eyes of old
Listen to the motions in
The rhythm of the beat
See beyond yourself
Let life form beneath your feet


My later association to this is to hear the quotes as communications about the psyche of Occupy. There is indeed a very chill wind blowing through the camp and people are huddled against it. I feel cold and I am distressed and hungry.

Another man says he is a vegan and had been shocked to dream of frying a tiny little egg. He had found out that there can be traces of egg in a food used by vegans.

Was this referring to unwanted invasions on a micro level? Nothing is what you expect.

While we are talking a man in black begins shouting through a loud hailer, making it difficult to hear. Drowning out others seems to be an aspect of this community.

A man is handing out leaflets for the Pentecostal Church and begins to lecture me on God. The man with him says he has dreams that people (I think he is referring to women) are much more friendly and nice than they are in waking life. He, too, begins to rant at me about the Christians who are all Jews and he begins another, competing lecture about the tribes of Israel.

It is difficult to get away.

I go into the information tent and speak to a man who is interested in social dreaming. He tells me of all the events going on in the Tent City University and shows me a space where these events happen. A lecture/seminar is taking place about the ‘Failed Economy’. The young man says he is a bio-medical student and speaks about some research about a system to the brain that can be identified with levels of empathy. Higher status people’s don’t pulsate in the way others might. He tells me how to go about booking a slot there for a SDE.

Overall this is a much more fraught experience than the last two times. I wonder what I might have been experiencing of the splits and conflicts inside Tent City. Was it, indeed the ‘cold wind of the future’?

I tried to run for a bus back to Moorgate and the warmth on an office, but found, as sometimes happens in dreams, I had no power in my legs. The boundary between dreams and waking life felt particularly permeable.

Jacqueline Sirota

Sunday 20th November

Seven dreams

Sunday morning and the cathedral doors were closed until the service ended and the bells pealed out so noisily that it was almost impossible to think let alone talk.

Most dreams expressed some danger and vulnerability but also something new or rediscovered. There were dreams of being stuck at the top of a steep hillside with no way back up if you go down, walking on thin ice and falling in but being able to breathe under the water, a construction site that’s also a quarry and a derelict ship where the singer Johnny Cash is providing music and is in charge. The name ‘Cash’ suggests references to the banks that are ‘calling the tune’. The construction site is a place where things are built and a place of activity and the quarry where raw material has to be dug out but can also means the hunted and the possibility of eviction.

A dream from young woman who’d come from the Occupy in Dublin was of a baby boy and all her friends appearing as little boys. Almost at the moment she had finished telling it a man came over to us and asked if she’d seen his little boy who was missing (and soon after found). This brought into play something of the fragile boundary of the dreamlike quality of the place where so many said they were not dreaming because this was like a dream.

I asked two police officers who walked swiftly away and a man in a ‘city’ suit who held his iphone between us and said he never had dreams.

Friday 18th November

5 dreams

The people I approached largely welcomed the question about their dreams. Several said they hadn’t had any dreams since joining being at tent city and offered a number of explanations: they were already ‘in a dream’, that there was a ‘psychic shield’ in place to protect their vulnerability: sleep was continually disturbed by the bells of St. Paul’s chiming every hour, emergency service sirens and late-night ‘pissheads’.

The first dream was offered by one of the ‘organisers’ about to begin a ‘general assembly’ and waiting for the ‘amplifier’. He reported a dream about being on a motorbike that was too powerful and he kept falling off. A dream about a pyramid was reported (‘he has lots of dreams’). The pyramid was described as one where the top 1% was under attack by the next 10%. It was only when this 10% realised they had to relinquish their hold on a desire for power in order to undermine the top 1% and nourish the lower layers. This seemed to be a clear reference to the Occupy movement in relation to the wealthy 1% and its physical presence in the City of London. An association from another part of the site was to the dollar bill which has a pyramid with the Masonic ‘all seeing eye’ on the back and a Latin reference to a ‘new order’ linking with the aims of Occupy.

Other references to power and powerlessness were present in dreams about a magic carpet and teeth falling out and a feeling of being lost but glimpsing ‘something beautiful’ so feeling compelled to go on. A man I’d seen making a film said he could only dream about his dead father, a reference to an order that is dead or dying?

Jaqueline Sirota