Halak (Indonesian/non-Kamian): Dream guide. [noun]
"As a member of a scientific expedition traveling through the unexplored equatorial rain forest of the Central Range of the Malay Peninsula in 1935, I was introduced to an isolated tribe of jungle folk who employed methods of psychology and inter-personal relations so astonishing that they might have come from another planet," wrote Kilton Stewart, introducing "Dream Theory in Malaya," surely one of the most remarkable documents in anthropological literature. According to Stewart (a trained psychoanalyst as well as an anthropologist), this tribe called the Senoi had created the kind of utopia that civilizations all over the world had tried and failed to build time and time again throughout history.
The Senoi claimed that their tribe, numbering approximately 12,000 when Stewart visited them, had not suffered a violent crime in several hundred years. Stewart observed for himself that "the absence of violent crime, armed conflict, and mental and physical diseases in their own society can only be explained on the basis of institutions which produce a high state of psychological integration and emotional maturity, along with social skills and attitudes which promote creative, rather than destructive, inter-personal relations. they are, perhaps, the most democratic group reported in anthropological literature."
What was their secret? Who were their leaders? According to Dr. Stewart, the key psychological and political practice that kept this remote Eden running smoothly was a community obsession with dreams, dream interpretation, and creative work or social relations based on messages from dreams. Each morning, the community would gather in a large hut and talk about their dreams of the previous night. The only leaders in the various communities that made up the larger tribe were the
*dream psychologists* known as "halaks" (hah-LOCKS), who educated the children in the art and social system of Senoi dream work, who helped cement social relations by encouraging people to share the gifts and warnings they found in their dreams, and who led a kind of group consensus-gathering process based on dream work.
By drawing the whole community into a recognition of the intuitive, holistic, symbolic mode of consciousness exhibited in dreams, the halaks created what can be seen as a psychological and social counter balance to the overly rational, analytic, instrumental thinking that dominates Western industrial civilization. Maybe we ought to meet in the morning at the local coffee shop, appoint a halak, and start dreaming up our own utopia! Sooner or later, every gathering of friends begins to talk about their dreams, and some pretty amazing things emerge. But people rarely know where to go with such a conversation. That's the time to say, "What we need is a good halak."
When we were children, our mothers were our halaks. Unfortunately, most of our mothers were trained to soothe our fears, not to encourage our explorations. Our society harbors a few false halaks--those who think that dream interpretations can be dispensed like astrological advice. Until our own society begins to adopt some of the features of the Senoi culture, those of us who cannot afford psychoanalysis must each be our own halak. This psychosocial role might become one of the growth industries of the 1990s and beyond, however, as the importance of inner guidance (and the need for psychological services for the broader population) becomes more evident.
~ Howard Rheingold, excerpted from "They Have A Word For It"
Further information about the Senoi is available at: