REMEMBERING MONTE

Deborah Hillman

 

                      Monte meant a lot to me—more than he knew, I'm sure, as self-importance was not within his purview.  Over the twenty-nine years that I knew him, he played many roles in my life: mentor, collaborator, colleague, and finally dear friend.   He was a person of warmth and charm, as well as quiet reserve; a man of gentle wisdom and true humility.  He worked devotedly to hone and share the themes he most deeply believed in, shedding light on our human capacity for wholeness. With generosity, humor, kindness, and a steadily supportive spirit, he showed me the way to a life of greater integrity.  His contributions to the fields of parapsychology and dream work are immense, and during these times of tremendous planetary turmoil and human suffering, they offer an inspiring and hopeful means toward healing our disconnects.

                      Late in his life, when Dream Network1 published a special issue in his honor, I offered a list of what I thought were his main contributions to dream work.  Below is a somewhat edited version of the piece that appeared in Dream Network, in hope that others will be inspired to explore these avenues further.

 

Twelve Contributions of Montague Ullman

To the Field of Dreams

 

                      In the 1980s the term “dream work movement” gained some prominence, in this country, to designate the growing social trend toward making dreams culturally important.  It’s now an international movement with a grassroots and academic following, as well as having its own publications (including Dream Network).  Montague Ullman was among the movement’s earliest pioneers, and one of the first clinicians to advocate public dream awareness.  His gifts include a remarkably effective method of working with dreams, as well as profoundly original thoughts on the link between dreams and healing.  Here are twelve of his most significant contributions, as I see them, each embodied, in various ways, in the dream work legacy he left us:

 

  1. Describing the nature of dreaming consciousness and how it compares with waking.

  2. Envisioning dreaming as a “metaphor in motion” and clarifying the nature of dream language.

  3. Helping to liberate dreams from the clinical context to which they’d been relegated, and educating both clinicians and the public on the meaning of “deprofessionalizing the dream.”

  4. Highlighting the important contributions, as well as limitations, of Freud and Jung.

  5. Calling attention to the social, as well as personal, roots of the dream, and encouraging greater awareness of the dream’s “social referents.”

  6. Developing a richer, more nuanced perspective on the healing potential of dreams.

  7. Underscoring the role of dreams in strengthening our “species connectedness.”

  8. Exploring the link between dreams and various kinds of psi phenomena (including groundbreaking studies of dream telepathy, with Stanley Krippner).

  9. Casting a wide conceptual net to help illuminate dream life, and including the work of such innovative thinkers as Trigant Burrow2 and David Bohm3 (both of whom were concerned with matters related to human wholeness).

  10. Creating a carefully structured method for appreciating (“working with”) dreams, and training others in the principles and techniques of leading experiential dream groups.

  11. Facilitating the spread of experiential dream groups throughout Swedish society (where a member of parliament even proposed that the government encourage group dream work4).

  12. Fostering an interest in dream work in a variety of disciplines and fields, and  inspiring the dream work movement, in general, in its effort to teach dream awareness.5

 



NOTES

 

1 Vol. 25, No. 2, Summer 2006.

2 Burrow, a psychiatrist and early pioneer of the American psychoanalytic movement, founded an organization called The Lifwynn Foundation.  His interest in social pathology led to a method of group analysis, enabling direct observation of behavioral patterns that lead to conflict.  By studying the symbolic self (or “I-persona”) through group interaction, the workings of the “social neurosis” are made more manifest.

3 Bohm was a physicist who wrote about the nature of reality and human consciousness.     He felt that the visible (explicate) world derives from a deeper realm—an implicate order of fluid, unbroken wholeness.  Monte viewed the implicate order as that from which dreams arise, and he often acknowledged his strong affinity with Bohm.

4 Monte wrote in a letter of January 3, 1992, "I had an opportunity to discuss this [idea] with a number of members of parliament.  It couldn't happen here [in the U.S.]!  Or could it?"

5 Monte responded with characteristic modesty to this list.  He wrote, "I would like to frame it and have it available whenever the road takes a few bad turns" (personal correspondence, June 12, 2006).  He lived for two more years, however, in which there were no untoward turns.  (He quipped, in fact, that "life begins at 90.")

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deborah Hillman has worked as a cultural and clinical anthropologist, and currently paints in her studio in Vermont.  She first met Monte when she was a graduate student in New York City, and over the years she attended many of his leadership training workshops, and spent some time as a participant observer in one of his weekly dream groups.