Dream as an Art Form–or-The Dream of the Marquis de Sade: Part 1
History of the Philosophy of Art -or- The Petrarchan Tradition of Love
From the beginning when I was a student and began my dream notebooks, my researches and philosophical interests into the trans-generational process of dreaming led me to many questions about the aesthetic nature of the dream. That branch of philosophy which is interested in the creation and appreciation of art, beauty, sentiment and taste. For Freud, the dream was a plastic art form, where life and living were creatively sublimated or not. The art history of Western civilization from the ancient Greeks to the present has been an Odyssey and Metamorphosis of Dream Vision and the philosophy of mind. For Elisabeth Lenk in Die Unbewusste Gesellschaft (The Unconscious Society), the dream is a theatre that expresses the artistic currents circulating within the mind of society. Lenk believes that the theatre of consciousness and the dream no longer commune, leading to the communal loss of the artistic soul. The artist attempts to create a communal consciousness that reintegrates the dream. Many dreams received and posted (interpreted) at the IIDR speak of the artist's desire for creativity, growth and development.
Bettina Knapp in Dream and Image tells us that; "The unconscious as a helping device in man's artistic and scientific quest may be looked upon as a function of the mind or as a new world-a kind of fourth dimension in which a new space-time orientation comes into existence." For Knapp, it is possible to trace the artistic movement of the creative and psychological impulse of French writers from the 17th to the 19th centuries which include Corneille, Racine, Diderot, Voltaire, Balzac, Baudelaire, Hugo, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé who were impelled by their nightly dreams to forge the epochal imagination of their time. They were French oneironauts exploring the oneirosphere.
As is evidenced in many interpretations found at the International Institute for Dream Research website, another Frenchman, Eugene Sue's Mysteries of Paris plays a prominent role for understanding the literary and social context of many dreams. In my notebooks, I have explored and traced the origins and evolution of Dream Vision, each nation developing their own distinct cultural expression, taste and idiom. This is the aesthetic essence, the message of my book Mysteries of the Dream in the Global Village. In terms of the French canon of literature and dreaming, there are three other men that particularly stand out for their social philosophical influence on collective dream patterns, the first is Jean Jacques Rousseau, the second is Charles Baudelaire and the third is the Marquis de Sade. I will discuss the influence of Rousseau and Baudelaire in other interpretations and concentrate on a dream that de Sade reported while in prison.
De Sade's legacy is still playing on dream screens everywhere, most likely his thoughts existed long before he, de Sade gave his own dreams literary expression. In How to Read Sade, John Phillips tells his readers that; "On the night of 16 February 1779, in his prison cell in the fortress Vincennes, Sade had a vivid dream." De Sade had fallen asleep while reading the biography of the fourteenth century poet Petrarch. In a letter to his wife, Donatien de Sade described his dream to her thus;
"It was around midnight, I had just fallen asleep, his Memoires in my hand. All of a sudden she appeared to me...I saw her! The horror of the tomb had not impaired the spendour of her beauty and her eyes had the same fire as when Petrarch sang of them. She was completely swathed in black mourning crepe, over which spilled her lovely blonde hair. It seemed as if love, in order to make her more beautiful, sought to soften the lugubrious array in which she offered herself to my gaze. ‘Why dost thou groan on earth?' she asked me. "Come join me. No more sufferings, no more wars, no more sorrow, no more trouble in the endless space where I dwell. Have the courage to follow me her.' Hearing which, I threw myself at her feet and said to her: ‘Oh my Mother..." And sobs stifled my voice. She held out a hand to me, which I covered with my tears, and she wept too. ‘I took pleasure in seeing into the future,' she added, ‘when I lived in this world that you detest. I looked at each generation succeeding me until I came to you, and did not imagine you so unhappy.' Then, overcome by my affection and despair, I flung my arms around her neck to hold on to her or follow her, and to bathe her in my tears, but the ghost vanished, and I was left alone with my sorrow."
Sade contemplates Petrarch's Memoires, and the poetic feminine figure of Laura as his aesthetic muse of loving. Much as Dante's gazing at Beatrice and his unrequited love, de Sade's gaze is best described by what Mario Praz called "The Romantic Agony". We find at the end of de Sade's dream, that he is left alone with his inconsolable "lugubrious array" of suffering, despair and sorrow. The dream has an allusion to what Praz termed "horror vacui", showing us the mental instability of de Sade due to the psychological effects of his imprisonment and isolation.