I dreamt I was sitting in a classroom listening to a philosophy lecture. The room had a plank wooden floor and high windows that looked out on winter trees. The desk where I sat was one of those heavy wood and metal contraptions with a hinged lid, and it was too small for me. Toward the end of the class the professor invited me to speak. I got to my feet, went to the front of the class, and continued the lecture. After the class I was pleased with the way I had handled myself and shook hands with the professor and many of the students. But when I left the building, instead of being on a campus, I found myself in a city with yellow brick skyscrapers. I walked along a street crowded with pedestrians and then went down some stairs into a subway station. I knew I had a life somewhere in this city, but I didn’t know where.
On the platform a woman spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand. She wore a light green dress and had blond hair with a tint of red in it. She tilted her head to one side to look at me. Tears sparkled in her eyes. She seemed to know me. My feelings about her were very strong. I knew her gestures, her tone of voice, and I seemed to have an intimate knowledge of her body. It was as if I had held her in my arms and made love to her. I wanted to touch her, to kiss her neck and shoulder, and put my arm around her waist. I spoke to her in French, asking her to tell me the name of the station. She frowned at my French. Then she smiled and touched my cheek with her hand. I was surprised and pleased by her gesture and reached out toward her. She took my hands, pressed them together, and then lifted them up to her lips and kissed them.
Just then a train pulled into the station, and we boarded together. The compartment was crowded, and we had to stand holding straps above our heads. At the next station, when the doors clattered opened, I turned my head. A few people got off and a few more stepped into the compartment from the platform. After the doors banged shut, I turned my eyes to where she had been standing next to me. She was gone. I pushed through the crowd to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. She was on the platform. I saw her face very clearly. She had been crying, and I understood that she hadn’t wanted me to see her weep. Then the train pulled out of the station. It started slowly, but quickly gained speed, so that everything outside the window was a blur.
After that, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I rode the train for some time without recognizing any of the stops. At the end of the dream I got off the train and stood on a platform between two tracks. Trains came into the station from both directions, but I couldn’t decide which one to get on. I just stood, not understanding anything, watching the trains come and go.
When I awoke, it was morning. It took me a long time to shake off the sensation that I was this other man, and that my present life was also a dream, and that I might just as suddenly wake up again and be that man.
On the sleeper between Saint Petersburg and Moscow I dreamt that I was the head of a large family of entertainers—actors, clowns, acrobats, and the like. As a clan we were successful and respected in show business circles. My recommendations were sought after. In many ways my life was very good, but it had one flaw: I had an inexplicable hatred for one of my brothers. I enjoyed my work and my relations with my wife and family, and I should have had a very satisfying life, but it was all destroyed by my hatred. I was consumed by my aversion to this brother. When I wasn’t involved in evil thoughts about him, I hated myself for my lack of self-control. I had no peace of mind at all, and everybody saw it. They said about me: he’s a generous man, except where his brother is concerned. I saw very clearly that this one passion—to hurt this man—ruined every hour of my life, but I could do nothing. I had no enjoyment at all and lived surround by my frustration. I wanted more than anything to change, but I didn’t know how.
In the dream I wake up. I seem to be waking up in a bed, but I have no real sensation of being in a bed or even of having a body. It’s dark, and I can’t see anything, and I don’t know where I am. I call out to see if someone’s there, ‘Hello.’ When no one answers, I call out again, ‘Hello.’ And then a third time and a fourth time. But no one answers back. There is no room, no bed, and I have no body. I am just a presence surround by darkness and complete silence. I call again, ‘Hello?’ and then become more desperate, and cry out: ‘Is there anybody there? Hello! Hello!’
But just at the point where my feeling of being alone in an endless, empty world becomes unbearable, I wake up in bed.
This dream recurred maybe ten times in a period of three or four years. Much later this thought occurred to me. is it possible that I was given a small inkling, a drop of understanding, about the experience of God in darkness before the creation?
I had a dream; it’s a dream I’ve had before,
where I lie sleeping in a deep, soundless night,
but am awakened by a shuddering,
unearthly roar and a sudden flash of light.
I rush from a familiar room to a window
(where I’ve stood looking out many times before)
just in time to hear a murmur of woe
crowded with the screams and sirens of war,
just in time to see the fire of a sun ignite
in clouds of dust and smoke and a deep-red glare,
just in time to see a thunderous sea of light
come riding toward me across the air.
Then, sometimes, with a back-turning glance I survey
what’s lost in this death that seems so premature,
but, at other times, I watch my body fall away
and wonder what new worlds I’ll now explore.
But I always awake (as it is with such dreams)
in bed just as the dying moment appears.
Of course, at first, this vision only seems
the fluttering image of my deepest fears,
but then, with the night shivering all around,
I consider man and his weapons once more,
and wonder how long before our world will resound
with the insidious fire of nuclear war.