The following article was published in Dreamtime, Vol 26:3, Fall 2009, the Magazine of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Thankyou to “Dudley” for contributing his prophetic vision for wider circulation.
“Forest Devastation – A Prophetic Vision,” retold by Margaret Bowater
Following is a powerful visionary dream presented in one of my dream workshops by a man I have called Dudley, 48, who went overseas from New Zealand in his youth to earn his living as a logger in tropical forests, before returning to a different occupation.
Dream report: Forest Devastation
In the first scene I am with two old friends from my logging days, one Maori and one European. Pita the Maori friend is holding a chainsaw with an unrealistically long cutting bar. Then I am looking out over a landscape of stumps and debris where an exotic forest has been clear felled.
As a side scene to this, in a kind of parallel dimension, not on the hillside, I’m in a small grove of native trees in dark or dim light, looking out to the clear-cut area in full sun. The trees I feel are special, like a ritual area, as they have missed not only the most recent felling but also an earlier land clearing. There is a sense of some other presence but I cannot see anyone.
I see another old acquaintance Ivan, who trained as a forester and is now in forest management. Then I am out looking at clear-felled areas with an old mentor Max, who was the boss of my silviculture gang when I first started working in the forest service. Then there is a scene with a mixture of chainsaws and rugby, where I am persuading my Maori friend Pita to play for an important game of rugby; eventually he does.
In the next scene I am up on an extremely high podium, unsure why, maybe collecting a prize or waiting for recognition of some sort that does not come. Pita with the long cutting bar on his chainsaw is up there too, but he falls off comic fashion upside down with his chainsaw in one hand. I don’t see him hit the ground, as the next scene comes up.
I am coming over a hill in a clear-felled area to look down at the sea, which is about a kilometre away and presents as a broad panorama. The ground has been clear cut down to the water line. The sea itself is so full of logging debris, stumps, branches, etc, that I cannot see the water at all. As far as the eye can see the whole scene is a silver-grey colour and extremely graphic, surreal. The logging debris is gently undulating as waves move under it – an amazing scene of devastation, like the calm after a storm.
To my left, moving up the area between myself and the beach is an army of male loggers. Zombie-like, hard hats on, no facial expression, moving forwards like an army on the march, with trucks, tractors, etc, among them, also in grey/silver and white, no colour.
The dream ends.
As Dudley drew the series of scenes on the whiteboard it was clear that he was deeply moved by the dream. He explained that the stimulus had been watching a documentary about treading lightly on the earth, produced by an eco-activist who had visited logging areas, sawmills, etc, to raise public awareness about the effects of indiscriminate logging. This had obviously set in motion a parallel review of Dudley’s own life, recalling the men who had been his colleagues in the forests where he had worked. Some of them were still friends, although Dudley had now moved into a different profession, and all of them had since become aware of the need for environmental protection.
What was new and shocking to him was the final scene of total devastation, and the blindness of the army of zombies who kept marching forward with no emotion about what they were doing. The scene was a massacre. Even the sea was choked with death. This wider, surrealistic quality is what marks the dream as a classical prophetic vision. A Biblical prophet might have said something like: ‘I saw in a vision the hills laid bare and the grey seas full of bones, and an army of blind men walking along the shore. Turn back, oh man, before too late!’
Responding to the group’s questions, Dudley gave associations from his personal history. Then, using psychodrama, he gave a ‘voice’ to the grove of native trees. It described itself as a sacred place, preserving the spirit of the forest, like a genetic pool: ‘This can never be lost,’ said the grove. ‘We hold the key, the template for nature. Even if it looks destroyed, it can’t be totally lost.’ Thus it was an archetypal symbol of hope in the midst of despair.
Dudley had already heard its message in his life; he was actively involved in a business propagating native trees, and cleaning up the sea. Asked what he would do to create a new scene in the dream, he said he would stop the army and set them to re-planting the land.
There are many elements of the dream worth noticing. The extra length of the cutting blade seems to emphasise its destructive power. The podium is a manmade stage for some kind of prize-giving, but instead of getting a prize the man with the long chainsaw falls off the podium ‘comic fashion’ as if that way of thinking is just a joke now. Likewise the mix-up between rugby and chainsaws – is it all just a game, a demonstration of macho male prowess? But chainsaws are actually lethal, not to be played with.
The final scene is ‘silver-grey.’ That could be a pun on ‘silviculture,’ using the Latin root for trees. The colour, or lack of it, belongs to twilight, day’s end, approaching death; while the word ‘surreal’ conveys the hyper-reality of many visionary experiences. In archetypal imagery, the sea often expresses emotion; here it heaves gently under its dreadful burden of dead trees ‘like the calm after a storm,’ as if it has given up protesting. And the ‘army of male loggers’ shows no emotion at all, like veteran soldiers simply doing what they are told. Worse than slaves, here they are reduced to zombies, mindless creatures, unaware of their environment. Look, says the dream; this is still happening now!
The dream began like a personal review of Dudley’s career in logging, but suddenly expanded its perspective with shocking clarity, by including the polluted sea. He had of course just seen a film that raised the issue, but the vision that followed adds a greater spiritual dimension, and demands a response from everyone.