Big dream 4 Kathleen Raine


The writer and poet Kathleen Raine records a series of big dreams she had about life after death. She doesn’t analyse them, but they deepen her spiritual searching, and her sense of other realities and dimensions beyond the merely rational surface level of life.

The first vivid dream was of her friend whose rented house Raine had moved into following the friend’s death, and at the friend’s request:

‘Very often I would hear the door-bell ring, usually at night, when there was no one there. I thought nothing of it, not even that it was odd; I used to suppose I had simply been mistaken. It was, all the same, very persistent.’

Raine believes that her friend ‘visited’ her old house on these occasions, although she never saw her; but a few years after her death Raine had a vivid dream of her:

‘In my dream she was in a charming garden-house or arbour; and, as in life, full of humour, and at the same time happy with a kind of serene gaiety; she reproached me saying “you have not remembered me for a long time, have you?” – which was true. The flavour, the atmosphere of the dream was indescribable yet unmistakeably that of her; but this quality, which convinced me that this was no ordinary dream, I cannot communicate.’

A second dream with the same unearthly quality was of a friend who had died firm in his belief that there was no life after death – when alive he would regulalrly say: ‘when we’re dead we are dead’, very bitterly and passionately. In the dream the friend appeared, dreadfully unhappy and convinced of being dead: ‘I am dead,’ he said in the dream, and with this belief Raine writes that he was confined within this terrible fantasy.

The third lovely dream of the after-life Raine had was on Christmas Eve, almost a year after the death of fellow poet and friend Edwin Muir:

‘I was a child in a village, wet and wintry … I had in my dream, to guide Edwin across intricate footpaths and low wire fences, and other small foot-entangling obstacles; but then he began to lead, and I followed him to a stone building, a broch, or fort, or perhaps only an old stone barn; yet ancient, with a quality of anonymous ancestral dignity. Edwin now climbed with ease the stone wall, to enter the upper floor; and with an effort, I followed him. In front of me he went on into a great empty loft, without windows or doors, and in darkness. From the far end of this great hall or loft there blew towards us a warm gentle wind of indescribable fragrance, and I exclaimed, “it’s the breath of the spirit,” Edwin went on before me in the direction from which that sweet wind was blowing, until he came to the far wall which was not, like the others, of stone, but a thin partition. This he merely touched, and it fell away, and then he was no longer there; but beyond lay the fields of spring radiant in the rising sun. I looked into that far-distant sunrise with the knowledge “there I must also go”; but my time had not come.’