Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dreams that Matter; Books that Reveal

Dreams That Matter: 
Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination
Amira Mittermaier
University of Califormia Press
Berkeley Los Angeles  London

There are some books which deal directly with Freemasonry and yet are peripheral to Freemasonry's essence, and there are some which do not touch on the subject of Freemasonry directly, but could not be more central to them. Dreams That Matter Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination by Amira Mittermaier 

The official description that the publishers offer states that 

"Dreams that Matter explores the social and material life of dreams in contemporary Cairo. Amira Mittermaier guides the reader through landscapes of the imagination that feature Muslim dream interpreters who draw on Freud, reformists who dismiss all forms of divination as superstition, a Sufi devotional group that keeps a diary of dreams related to its shaykh, and ordinary believers who speak of moving encounters with the Prophet Muhammad. In close dialogue with her Egyptian interlocutors, Islamic textual traditions, and Western theorists, Mittermaier teases out the dream's ethical, political, and religious implications. Her book is a provocative examination of how present-day Muslims encounter and engage the Divine that offers a different perspective on the Islamic Revival. Dreams That Matter opens up new spaces for an anthropology of the imagination, inviting us to rethink both the imagined and the real. "

Mittermaier writes an interesting and connected account of her research on contemporary oneriology* and anthropology in Cairo. The obligatory academic self-insertion in the discourse is in this case sufficiently muted. What does such a text have to do with Freemasonry? Well, it is concerned with dreams in Egyptian society. In spite of centuries of Islamic control, Egypt, is a country with profoundly old cultural roots. Pre-Islamic traditions permeate Egyptian society, from the Coptic language and church to pre-Islamic folk practices including spirit possession. 

Masons who are intrigued by the links to Egypt and Hermeticism must want to learn more about the spiritual traditions of the realm of the Gods on the Nile. Hermeticism, in its current form, modern esoteric orders not withstanding, is essentially a tradition of personal and self exploration. Techniques of self exploration utilizing dreams is foreign neither to modern society, islamic traditions, nor to African traditions. Lest westerners try to forget, Egypt is an African nation. 

While her focus is largely on dreams of Jihadist inspiration, she none the less gives a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual and religious interaction in the realm of dream and dream symbolism in contemporary Egyptian culture. Although her focus is rooted in Islamic traditions, it must be emphasized that nothing in Egyptian culture is solely Islamic in character. When we speak specifically of spirituality as opposed to religion, we find the geography is less well marked than we expect. Islam and Christianity exchange traditions and behind the mask of contemporary folk and popular practices, we may find ancient Egyptian mysticism in a modern form.

Vincent Crapanzano  remarked  about Amira Mittermaier's book that it is a"sensitive, intellectually challenging, indeed a courageous, investigation of the psychological, ontological, and ethical assumptions that lie behind dreams, visions, and dream-visitations in contemporary Egypt-where the dream is a vibrant site of political, religious, and interpretive contest."

Anyone interested in dreams, visions, psychoanalysis, meditation, or Hermetic sciences, will find this book a worthy and thought provoking addition to their library.

from Greek ὄνειροςoneiros, "dream"; and -λογία-logia; the scientific study of dreams

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