Dreams and Dreaming

Henry Fuseli (1741 - 1825) The Nightmare 1781 Detroit Institute of Arts

The challenge with Dreams and Dreaming is the disorderly vastness of their importance in our lives. Even with as seemingly simple a Question as

What parts do/have Dreams and Dreaming play/played in your life?

there's so much to consider, explore, curate, and package for sharing...

So what this page takes on is sorting out of an omnium gatherum of aspects that might inform our search for things to say in the hour or so of Convivial discussion.

I begin with the notions that Dreams and Dreaming are

Some of the BIG Questions, in each of which one can get lost/beguiled: What's the neurobiology of Dreams? The psychopathology? What are the contributions of the cultural components of Dreaming? (viz. do girls dream of Disney princesses? of Barbie?) To what degree do Dreams bubble up from the subconscious, or the unconscious? Can we [learn to] control or command (e.g., in lucid dreaming, and shamanic dreaming), or are we just the cave walls upon which shadows are projected?

This page will continue to accrete stuff as I figure out what to do with material encountered and collected on pages of the yellow pad, but the process isn't as orderly as I could wish. And the emerging Narrative bristles with digressions and distractions and tempting rabbit holes.

  1. The first 3 minutes of The Dreaming Mind are an excellent on-ramp to the subject:

  2. Genesis of the Question
    Wende's birthday gift of Rick Bass's The Lives of Rocks had this in the eponymous story:
    Despite the depth of her fatigue, she dreamed: as if the mind or spirit requires no energy, or, rather, feeds from some source other than the body, flowing almost continuously... there was something about the dream, some synchronized in-the-moment aspect to it, that made it seem extraordinarily real, vibrant, and refreshing. It was almost as if her spirit was trying to heal or repair itself, even where her body could not or had not yet... (pg 83)
    That started me thinking about the phenomenon of Dream Worlds (Swedenborg [1743-1744 Dream Diary], Strindberg [1901 A Dream Play] both sprang to mind). From the Introduction to Lars Bergquist's Swedenborg's Dream Diary:
    In dreams, commonplace matters and questions of vital importance run together in a continuous phantasmagoria that are at once both clear and obscure. For the modern reader of the Dream Book, it soon becomes obvious that the well-known thesis of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams —"dreams are absolutely egotistical"— to some extent applies here. Likewise applicable is Freud's basic view that dreams are expressions of "wish fulfillment" or that dream phenomena primarily "mean" just what they suggest to the dreamer... (pg 5)

    Swedenborg the scientist finds himself undergoing certain changes, a process he regards as part of his mission to report... he had already come to realize that dreams are a form of knowledge and that dream images are a reflection of higher truths. The same applies to visions or things seen in waking or half-waking states... (pg 10)

  3. The lexicology of Dream
    I knew the word semantics from when I was quite young, and had at least a basic understanding of its domain as including meaning and interpretation of words and signs. Semantics was at the core of what my mother was studying and writing about in the early 1950s, and I was a collector of fancy words (cybernetics was another that I absorbed early on, from the same source).

    The notion of lexicon as a mappable territory of relatable concepts was obvious and fundamental for me from when I started to read, but it wasn't until I participated in writing workshops at Bard in 1986-87 that the idea of mind-mapping came home to roost, when I re-encountered the work of my mother's colleague Ann Berthoff and realized that I had been /speaking prose/ all my life: that lexicology was a lifelong interest of mine.

    If you write Dream at the center of a sheet of paper and then start to collect related terms and concepts, you are exploring a semantic domain. Such clouds of terminology quickly become very complex in their interrelationships and allusions, and many hares are started in a landscape of rabbit holes.

    Here's some of what I'd include in that semantic mapping: Imagination, Precognition, Fantasy, Visions, Vision Quest, Subconscious, Clairvoyance, Delirium, Superorganic, Hallucination, Portents, Augury, Oneiromancy... just a beginning.

    see also 5 of Humanity's Best Ideas of What Dreams Actually Are By Drake Baer

  4. An Anthropology Perspective, via Notes and Queries, a fieldwork guide from mid-20th century
    Dreams may be regarded as an activity of the soul... (pg 176)
    ...may be treated as omens, and there may be a recognized method of interpreting them. They may be considered as communications from the dead or other spirits. There may be cults in which special dreams are sought. (pg 187)
    (much to say about Iban dreaming. Iban Woman is one tip of THAT iceberg...)
    Dreamweaving with the Iban (Piecework magazine)

    The Rev. William Howell, Anglican Rector at Banting


    From the earliest times dreams were regarded as presaging the woes or foretelling the joys or good fortune of mankind. It was looked upon as almost impious to disregard a vision or dream for they were supposed to be sent by the Celestial Power for the guidance of man, and as such belief lingers even now amongst educated persons in civilized countries, how much more should we expect to find it among the uncivilized barbarians. So the lives of the Dyaks are strongly influenced by such hallucinations, dreams being looked upon by them as either the imperative commands of the gods or else warnings sent by them presaging good or evil, and their daily life and pursuits are necessarily guided by them to a great extent.

    We look upon a dream as a slight and ill arranged action of the thinking faculties during a state of partial sleep.The dream or thought is merely a momentary impression perfectly natural in its operation, the state of mind which causes it being produced by temporary functional derangement, the stomach being usually more or less out of order, and no dreams can take place during a sound sleep.

    The Dyaks affirm that the gods or spirits are instrumental in bringing about dreams and one can only come to the conclusion that they are not aware that they or their imaginations constitute their gods.

    The following are instances of the effect of dreams on the Dyaks:

    1. If a medicine man (manang) has a dream ordering him to change his sex he must do so at once as in the case of Manang Bali in the chapter of Manang.

    2. It often happens that when Dyaks are accused of theft their defence is that they are the recipients of imperative commands from the gods. Once a man was fined six times for theft and he announced that he intended to steal once more in order to complete the number of times ordered by the gods, as after the last theft he would be a wealthy man.

    3. A woman was known to have committed adultery several times, saying that it was not her fault as she was only carrying out the instructions of the gods conveyed to her in dreams, and should she fail to do so she would come to an untimely end or else become a raving lunatic.

    4. Newly married couples often divorce as the result of bad dreams, and the same reason is put forward to account for the breaking of engagements or pledges.

    5. Cases are known of Christian Dyaks turning apostates and of heathens being converted as the result of dreams.

    6. If dreams are often the cause of houses being deserted and of farming lands already cleared being given up. It is not at all rare to hear either a man or woman relating a dream to the effect that the spirits have told them that they are hungry and are in want of food, with the result that the whole house at once organizes a feast with offerings for the spirits.I think that I have said enough to show what effect dreams have on all transactions amongst Dyaks, and though this subject would fill many volumes it is more or less confused, and I may draw my conclusion that the Dyak belief in both dreams and omens is most detrimental to the teaching of Christianity and that it is important to teach them to disregard both of these.

    Helpful context: Vulnerable Mission: the use of local language and resources, in the work of the Anglican Mission in Borneo

    A brief history of Eurasians in Sarawak mentions RevWilliam Howells (1856-1938)

    Rev William Howells standing on the left, with some of his children

    (I'm pretty sure that I met the youngest one in Banting in 1966)

    from An Encyclopedia of Shamanism

  5. Physiology of Dreaming
    from Cerebral Hygiene by Gavin Francis (London Review of Books Vol. 39 No. 13 29 June 2017)

    Different phases of sleep seem to have different functions. In slow-wave sleep, the brain's EEG tracings show deep co-ordinated pulses in neural activity. Without adequate slow-wave sleep we may wake feeling unrefreshed. REM sleep, in which the majority of dreaming occurs, is important for memory consolidation, or perhaps the systematic forgetting of useless information. (REM stands for 'rapid eye movement'; though the body is paralysed the muscles around the eyes continue to move.) We experience REM every ninety minutes or so while asleep — most adults have four or five episodes of it each night.

    Much about the detail and the mechanisms of sleep remains mysterious. Newborn babies spend about half their sleep time in REM sleep, and adults about a quarter. The deepest phases of slow-wave sleep diminish as we age — some elderly people don't engage in slow-wave sleep at all. REM is triggered by a tiny bunch of neurons with roots deep in the brainstem, which flow into a region at the core of the brain called the thalamus. Only mammals and birds have REM; if you wake someone during it, 90 per cent of the time they'll say they were having a dream.

    From the 1950s until the 1990s it was widely assumed that to be in REM sleep was to be dreaming, but more recently that's been shown to be wrong. If you wake someone during slow-wave sleep, there's a 10 per cent chance they will report a dream, though the dreams tend to be more conceptual and less vivid than dreams reported during REM. If you're prevented from drifting into deep sleep (through exposure to sounds in a sleep lab for instance) your chances of reporting a dream when awoken from non-REM sleep rise above 70 per cent. No one can agree on the purpose or meaning of dreaming, but it looks as if Freud's theory — that dreams are the guardians of sleep — is at least partly right: they convert external stimuli such as lights or sounds into dreams rather than waking awareness. If you suffer brain damage that prevents REM sleep you will still dream, but if you sustain damage to an area called the ventromesial quadrants you will retain the capacity for REM sleep, but it will be dreamless....

    When Brains Dream Kindle Notebook

  6. Dream-like states

    Hypnagogia and Hypnopompia (Wikipedia) are respectively 'drifting off' and 'waking up', both non-ordinary waking reality. I have enjoyed many pompias

  7. Dreamtime and The Dreaming and other appropriations
    The Dreaming, also referred to as Dreamtime, is a term devised by early anthropologists to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal beliefs. It was originally used by Francis Gillen, quickly adopted by his colleague Baldwin Spencer and thereafter popularised by A. P. Elkin, who, however, later revised his views.

    The Dreaming is used to represent Aboriginal concepts of Everywhen, during which the land was inhabited by ancestral figures, often of heroic proportions or with supernatural abilities. These figures were often distinct from gods, as they did not control the material world and were not worshipped but only revered. The concept of the Dreamtime has subsequently become widely adopted beyond its original Australian context and is now part of global popular culture.

    from Emma Gattey in London Review of Books 2022:

    Songlines, also known as Tjukurpa, Dreaming tracks, creation law, are the sung pathways of First Australian ancestors. These invisible tracks were created by the totems, or ancestral beings, of Aboriginal creation myths as they wandered across the continent naming everything they saw and leaving a trail of words and musical notes in their wake. Songlines chart critical sites and resources, linking stories to landscape: they are both map and compass. They provide practical signposts such as the location of rivers and caves — survival knowledge essential to desert life — but also describe the origins of the universe as well as moral codes and their consequences. For generations, the songs allowed First Australians to re-enact ancestral exploits on the sites where they occurred — not in a place called Australia but 'Country', a term that encompasses the spiritual connections of specific peoples to land, water, memory, custom and law, and which links hundreds of ancient languages. As access to these sites has diminished, painting, along with other artforms, has become an important means of preserving the Indigenous knowledge bound up in songlines.

    Knowledge of the songs and stories that constitute this collective worldview (known as 'the Dreaming') is a birthright — it can't be acquired or appropriated — and access is restricted according to gender, kinship and place. This means that the artists on show at Songlines, the National Museum of Australia's exhibition of First Australian art, have story rights only to the sections that traverse their bit of Country. (The exhibition is on display at the Box in Plymouth until 27 February before travelling to Paris and Berlin.) A songline might begin in land belonging to one Indigenous group and move through another and another: there are more than four hundred distinct groups and languages. The many collaborative works in the exhibition therefore required 'everyone to know what they can and can't tell ... a precise knowledge of how ... kinship, Country and story fit together'. The proper communication of knowledge is central to them all, regardless of medium or style. The paintings of Tjapartji Kanytjuri Bates — massive canvases of acrylic, hectic with colour and code — are accompanied by a note that tells us 'iconographic details [have been left] intentionally elusive, except for those with the seniority to read them.' This isn't a gesture of hostility or exclusion, but self-determination. Despite the artists' desire to create works that travel between cultures, these paintings have not been made for us. The viewer is a guest; any pretence of disclosure or easy understanding would prevent us from experiencing the vertigo of Country.

    Another instance of appropriation can be found in the Carlos Castaneda Saga of his [supposed] instruction in the Yaqui Way of Knowledge by don Juan Matus, enormously popular in the 1970s, and now generally considered a bogus fabrication (despite the UCLA PhD in Anthropology). Castaneda's 1993 The Art of Dreaming may be tailored from the same cloth:

    The Art of Dreaming describes the steps needed to master the control and consciousness of dreams. The Toltecs of Don Juan Matus' lineage believed that there are seven barriers to awareness, which they termed The Seven Gates of Dreaming. In The Art of Dreaming Castaneda describes extensively how a state called Total Awareness can be achieved by means of dreaming.

    According to Castaneda there are 7 Gates of Dreaming, or obstacles to awareness, which when overcome yield total awareness. Four of the Gates of Dreaming are discussed in The Art of Dreaming. What follows is not so much a technique in achieving lucidity, but rather the practical application of lucid dreaming. By acting a certain way while dreaming, one can cause psychosomatic changes in one's being, including an alternate way of dying.

    There's a vast literature dealing with Lucid Dreaming, and Dreamwork is another popular rubric (see Ethics in Dreamwork). The New Age-y whiff is hard to miss...

    Lucid Dreaming Music

  8. Freud and Jung and...: of Interpretation
    It's hard to know where to begin, and where to end under this rubric.

    Oneiromancy (Wikipedia)

    A Comparison of Keywords in the Dynamic Psychology of Jung, Swedenborg and Freud (Leon James)

    There is visible overlap between all three writers in the intensity of focus on certain key concepts. The overlap is greater between Jung and Swedenborg than between Freud and the other two. An interpretation of this finding is presented in terms of the attitude of each author regarding the existence of a psychic "world" that is distinct from the physical world. Freud's individual unconscious is contrasted with Jung's collective unconscious and Swedenborg's collective conscious...

    ...Although Freud and Jung collaborated together in the early phases of the development of psychoanalysis, it is known that Freud broke off the relationship when Jung began writing and lecturing about the "collective unconscious" as a supernatural realm distinct from the physical world. Freud was a passionate reductionist who vigorously denied that "psychic" and "mental" are immaterial entities existing separate from the physics and chemistry of the brain and its neural action. Freud held himself up as a materialist scientist who treated psychic activity in human beings as brain activity.

    Jung on the other hand was intensely focused on the inner process of individuation that was happening to him. This experience included visions and discussions with people from the psychic realm who themselves were once people on earth. Gradually over his long writing career Jung was able to present a coherent psychological theory of how mental health and disorder operate simultaneously in two distinct realms or worlds in which every patient lives. The ordinary everyday consciousness by which people do their work and maintain a social life, is a materialistic consciousness, such as Freud promoted throughout his life and career as a mental health practitioner. The work of Jung and Swedenborg develop the thesis that mental health disorders and dysfunctions plaguing people's materialistic consciousness cannot be permanently eradicated using materialistic methods alone, as Freud was doing. The cause of the dysfunction is in the psychic world, and so is the solution...

    ...Using his dual consciousness, both natural in this world, and supernatural in the psychic world of the afterlife, Swedenborg was able to confirm by direct and repeated observations that our individual consciousness is indeed sourced in the collective unconscious of humanity....

    ...Jung was intensely interested in characterizing the movement of objects in the non-spatial psychic world that could be accessed by spiritual consciousness only, which many have referred to as "visions and voices".6 Jung discovered that traveling in the psychic world called the collective unconscious is distinctly different from ordinary thinking and memory. Jung formulated the concept of synchronicity in order to study the connection between the material ideas of natural consciousness in ordinary thinking, and the immaterial ideas of spiritual consciousness in supernatural thinking.

    ...Jung like Swedenborg clearly saw the superiority of collective consciousness based in non-material ideas over individual consciousness based on material ideas. This is the fundamental reason that Jung and Swedenborg are important to the continued development of depth psychology. They both held that what lies in the depth of the human psyche is objective and collective, and far more sophisticated and psychologically powerful than what lies on the surface of socialized personality structures, which involve material ideas and limits.

    ...Swedenborg's idea was that the experience of consciousness is always collective. Individual consciousness is merely an illusion of the private world of self. If the psychic interconnection between people were broken no individual would be able to think anything or be aware of anything in the surrounds or in memory.

    ...Swedenborg proposed that all consciousness and meaning reside in the cognitive organs of the psychic-body, and none of it in the organs of the physical-body. He specifically rejects the usual psychological explanation that the incoming sensorimotor stimulus, such as the sight of a tree, flows into the cognitive system and produces there the consciousness of that tree. This would be impossible since what a physical stimulus belongs to the physical world, while a mental or cognitive operation belongs to the psychic world of the collective unconscious and conscious. Swedenborg's psychological explanation is that the physical-body and the psychic-body are functionally interconnected by the laws of correspondence that synchronize the physical and psychic worlds. Cognitive activity in the psychic-body is activated by correspondence when the electro-chemical operations are active in the eyes and brain of the physical-body. When our physical sight detects a tree there is produced a particular neuro-chemical operation in the brain that becomes the synchronous occasion for the activation of a corresponding cognitive operation in the psychic-body. This dualist relationship between sensory input and cognitive activity defines all consciousness and the meanings that it is based on.

    The Lost Dream Journal of Santiago Ramon y Cajal (Benjamin Ehrlich)

  9. Historical Dreaming

    30 Causes of Dreams and Nightmares (According to World Mythology) (Rose MacDowell)

    Gilgamesh Dream tablet
    The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest recognised epic poem... The Dream tablet recounts a part of the epic in which the hero describes his dreams to his mother,
    who interprets them as announcing the arrival of a new friend, who will become his companion... (ca. 3600 years ago)

    A Babylonian Dream Tablet on the Interpretation of Dreams by Stephen Langdon

    Interpretation Of Dreams In The Babylonian Epic Of Gilgamesh

    Babylonian Dream Beliefs (Tony Crisp)

  10. Strindberg's A Dream Play A Dream Play (Wikipedia)
    Agnes, the daughter of the Vedic god Indra, assumes a human form and descends to Earth to investigate the human experience. On her quest for knowledge, Agnes meets nearly 40 characters, each giving her a better understanding of humanity. She experiences poverty, cruelty, and family life, gaining a better understanding of the suffering that plagues humanity. Agnes decides that humans are meant to be pitied and tries to find a solution to all of the suffering she sees on Earth. A Dream Play by August Strindberg is considered to be an important play in the Expressionism and Surrealism movements in theatre. This show provides a great opportunity to feature a large cast, or to have actors double up on many roles. Ideal for community and professional theatre companies alike, A Dream Play is an excellent addition to any theatre season.

    Strindberg's Reminder:

    the author has tried to imitate the disconnected but seemingly logical form of the dream. Anything may happen; everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist. On an insignificant background of reality, imagination designs and embroiders novel patterns: a medley of memories, experiences, free fancies, absurdities and improvisations.

    The characters split, double, multiply, vanish, solidify, blur, clarify. But one consciousness reigns above them all—that of the dreamer; and before it there are no secrets, no incongruities, no scruples, no laws. There is neither judgment nor exoneration, but merely narration. And as the dream is mostly painful, rarely pleasant, a note of melancholy and of pity with all living things runs right through the wabbly tale. Sleep, the liberator, plays often a dismal part, but when the pain is at its worst, the awakening comes and reconciles the sufferer with reality, which, however distressing it may be, nevertheless seems happy in comparison with the torments of the dream.

    English text

    The Onomatopoeia Theatre Company's production

    Ingmar Bergman's Ett drömspel
    (play by August Strindberg, 1899)

    (1:53 is the length)
    [click CC for subtitles]

  11. A Musical Interlude
    Everly Brothers

    In My Dreams (Jorma Kaukonen)

    on Jeanine's Dream

    Stampfel & Weber version

    Last Forever version

  12. Dreaming in Graphic Arts
    Are 1970s headcomix the most eloquent images of Dreams?

    Let's go! Let's dance the Ténébreuse...
    (Max Ernst, from A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil)

    (Max Ernst, from A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil)

    This Place is a Dream and Wakeful Dreaming and Two Worlds (Andy Ilachinski)

  13. Neil Gaiman's The Sandman
    ...is a world of Dreaming that I've explored avidly, including the TV series (Netflix). Where do we even begin? There's a Sandman Wiki, a Beginner's Guide, a fine Audible reading, an interesting Guardian interview, and many many books and articles and image collections.
    Neil Gaiman himself:

  14. Tuesday Morning's Haul
    First-coffee questions (Not questions to which I'm expecting answers, more wonderings that have arisen)
    • Are dreams always IMAGES? [no] Do some people have SOUND dreams? [yes] The default form seems to be a projection onto an (imagined) screen, but is that because we have the EXPERIENCE of movie narratives? Or does it go back much further, to the experience of dramas enacted on stages, or to storytelling settings? To what degree are dreams primed by images seen or imagined? And what are the dreams of the blind? (see Do blind people dream in visual images? and Do congenitally blind people have visual dreams?)

    And adventuring with google brings us:

  15. Some fragments
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ==> Bladerunner
    ?Do AIs dream? or is that all they do?

    Dreamcatcher (Wikipedia)

    Why We Dream

    (52 minutes)

    What The Fuck Did I Dream Last Night: Dream Journal
    (Notebook And Diary For Recording Dream Interpretations: Compact Bedside Table Size, 100+ Lined Pages)


below this line, seriously under construction and only semi-coherent

the line will move downward as material is organized/tamed