Powers of Horror-or-Tapestry of the Nightmare of History: Pt 1


"O horror, horror!" Aeschylus "The Persians"

The nightmares (1,2,3), horrors and terrors of everyday life pervade the social dream world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_world_(plot_device) fabric of recorded history. At the cultural dawn of what we now call the Western world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_world, the Greek ancient playwright Aeschylus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeschylus"The Persians" speaks of the remembrance of the vision of the horrors of war. Thousands of years later and in a different contextual imaginary world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_universe, Joseph Conrad "Heart of Darkness" would use a very similar archetypal vision and expressive phrase, "The horror! The horror!"

If as James Joyce tells us; "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake", then the recorded collective mimetic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis (4) unconscious history of dreams can help us to pave the road to collective consciousness http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_consciousness of the past http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past. Said differently, the artistic canvas of our collective memory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_memory is infused with the collective nightmares http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightmare of humanity's mimetic transformational http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformational_Theory_of_Imitation history, and as Edmund Burke has wisely stated; "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

The Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Frye in "Educated Imagination" observes that "Art according to Plato, is a dream for awakened minds, a work of imagination withdrawn from ordinary life, dominated by the same forces that dominate the dream, and yet giving us a perspective and dimension on reality that we don't get from any other approach to reality.... This is the myth-making power of the human mind, which throws up and dissolves one civilization after another." In "Anatomy of Criticism" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatomy_of_Criticism Frye lays down his literary psychodynamic blueprints for understanding and criticizing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_criticism the literary deep structures of collective memory which "imitates the total dream of man." (Read Field Note; "Menu of Dream Vision" http://www.dreamresearch.ca/articles.php?articleID=31). 

Is it a small wonder, that the modern genre of horror http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction is found haunting the cultural mimetic geneology http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy of our art, theatre, music, literature, films, and dreams? Gothic romance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_fiction features a nostalgic melancholic longing for a dark sentimental dream vision http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_vision journey, one which ruminates http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumination_(psychology) about the ruins of the past http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past. The art work of Casper David Friedrich http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspar_David_Friedrich especially "The Dreamer" is expressive of the gothic romantic sentiment of the hyperthymesia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperthymesia of our collective art of memory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_of_memory (5,6).  

A Gothic reading of the collective memory of the mimetic history (7,8,9,10) of Western literature can be viewed as a romantic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism dialectical structural http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuralism process of death and life (11), alienation and restoration, dismembering and remembering, rivalry and cooperation, dystopia and utopia, nightmares and dreams. Gothic romance can be seen as representing a secularized version of Moses monotheistic "Torah" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah myth and dream of the Biblical fall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_man and return http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redemption_(theology) (12).

The peddlers of gothic nightmares have often found the muse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse of literary inspiration in their dreams. "The Castle of Otranto" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_of_Otranto by Horace Walpole considered as the first Gothic novel, was reportedly incubated in a dream.  By a similar literary suasion, Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Case_of_Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde, Shelley's "Frankenstein" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein, Stoker's "Dracula" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula, are just some of the dramatis personae http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramatis_person%C3%A6 characters who haunted the dream vision of their creators. Edgar Allan Poe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe reworked the plotting of Gothic fiction stories, paying attention to the exquisite detail of the manufacture of irrationality http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrationality, madness and the character's descent into insanity (13,14). Poe's "The Raven" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Raven features the conflict of the desire to forget and the desire to remember.

Stephen King, while on his amusing historical guided tour of the "Danse Macabre" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danse_Macabre_(book), searches for the archetypal literary structures and devices http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_technique of "Dionysian" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysus horror. Devendra Varma "The Gothic Flame" sees the Gothic castle as a psychological symbol of neurosis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurosis, a prison, a psychological torture chambre from which one attempts to escape http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escapism. Neuroticism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism is a personality trait http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trait_theory that finds expression in everyday life and our neurotic nightmaric dreams. Right now on our planet there are hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, who may be suffering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffering from physical, psychological and emotional pain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_pain. Just look at their dreams!

The German's have given a name to this suffering, they call it "Weltschmerz" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weltschmerz. Emil Durkheim in "Suicide" calls it "anomie" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anomie. Many walking wounded hide behind masks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persona that they have learned to wear. By masking our suffering during the day, the return of the repressed is almost guaranteed to find expression in our nightly dreams. At night in the sanctuary of our dream world, our character personae fall away and the true feeling self http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_self_and_false_self  is revealed. Transparency, openness, self disclosure http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-disclosure and authenticity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authenticity_(philosophy) of our thoughts, feelings, values, needs and behavior, become contrasted everyday by the opaque, close minded, self concealment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-concealment and self deception http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-deception in inter-personal face to face http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face-to-face_interaction communication. 

From a psychopathological http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathology perspective, this schizotypal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizotypy dialectical motor of repression http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_repression of memory and the return of the repressed past is found at work in our individual and collective dream vision patterns. The schismogenesis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schismogenesis of dream work http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamwork  creates oneirophrenia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneirophrenia (15,16,17), providing the psychophysical http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychophysical foundation for generating the historical mimetic repetition compulsion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repetition_compulsion of individual and collective states of neurotic and psychotic anxieties. These mimetic anxieties are found circulating in the angst http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angst  ridden nightmares of the gothic night life of history. These schizotypal processes are found at work in our symbolic consciousness (18), and in our dreams. The dark inter-personal process http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_process is discussed in the Field Note; "The Dark Side of Visual Culture -or- The Schizotypal Masks of Sanity" http://www.dreamresearch.ca/interpretations.php?interID=354 (19).      

Leslie Fiedler http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Fiedler"Love and Death in the American Novel" sees in gothic novel the "cheapjack machinery" of the "hidden blackness of the human soul and human society." The symbolic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbol process of the light and darkness http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-and-white_dualism (20) of historical romance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_romance (such as Margaret Mitchell's"Gone with the Wind" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind) are seen as the literary anthrological http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_anthropology binary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_opposition structures of opposites http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_Opposites at play. This ontopoetic logic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology shapes the work of the cultural categorization of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorization individual and collective imagination's dream world. Angela Carter "The War of Dreams" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Infernal_Desire_Machines_of_Doctor_Hoffman provides insight into the media driven dream factory which mimetically influences http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_influence and produces the gothic landscape of our modern dream world, (Read Field Note "Understanding Media" http://www.dreamresearch.ca/interpretations.php?interID=441).  

In our epic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_(genre) dream vision frame story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_story of "One Thousand and One Nights" (Read Field Note, "Field Notes of a Dream Researcher" http://www.dreamresearch.ca/interpretations.php?interID=198 ) we discover the oneirophrenic dream world machinery that generates the gothic phantasmagoria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantasmagoria of schizotypal character and plot propulsion of dark romance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_romanticism. Said differently, projected onto the historical mimetic dream screen (21, 22, 23) is humanity's epic journey of dream vision, featuring a traumatic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_trauma trans-generational collective memory. 

Collective memory starts anew with the liminal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality rites of passage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rite_of_passage (24, 25,26,27) on the journey of life, beginning with childhood (28,29,30). Our dual mimetic inheritance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_inheritance_theory of nature and culture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysian_imitatio shapes the unity of the ritual http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritual developmental process. This evolutionary psychological http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology (31) mimetic and ritual process can be understood by researching the cultural patterns (32) found operating in dream vision. Children usually experience their developmental http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_development milestones and coming of age http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_of_age rites via their family's psychodynamics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychodynamics (33,34,35,36). 

We mimetically receive http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reception_theory and culturally inherit the collective memory of the dark oneirophrenic ritual impulses which lurk in dark gothic dream spaces of the imagination. We then reproduce the dangers, traumas, anxieties http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anxiety, nightmares and neuroticism, thereby renewing children's fears (37,38), nightmares, suffering and Weltschmerz. For those who then live on the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" http://www.dreamresearch.ca/interpretations.php?interID=98 (read Field Note), they experience only the gothic horrors of romantic agony (39,40) and alienation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_alienation from the labors of love's religion, lost. 

In humanity's museum (41) of dream vision, we find a cultural archeology of the symbolic base and superstructure http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_and_superstructure of our dream world, our collective memory and our philosophy of history http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_history (42). These cultural artifacts of the recorded history of literature http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_literature have romantically driven our trans-personal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpersonal dream space activities, reaching back to our ancestral dream world.

This growing romantic genealogical weight of abjection http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abjection (43,44) found in our museum of dream vision, features the historical theatre  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_theatre of Earth's "Inferno" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferno_(Dante). From an epic theatre perspective, in this "Society of the Spectacle" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Society_of_the_Spectacle, we see the gothic spaces of physical and psychological torture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_torture chambres, "Now Playing". In the modern media driven global gothic theatre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_village_(term) of human tragedy (45), abject nightmares are perpetrated and perpetuated by the "Killers of the Dream" http://www.dreamresearch.ca/interpretations.php?interID=535 (read Field Note). We are now, as we were then, dominated by the gothic machinery of "The Powers of Horror" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_Horror (46,47), with its ever growing technological potential on our planet, for the total annihilation of life. O horror, horror!


Footnotes: Killers of the Dream 

  1. John E. Mack, “Nightmares and Human Conflict”

  2. Ernest Hartmann, “Dreams and Nightmares”

  3. Jeff Belanger, “The Nightmare Encyclopedia”

  4. Jean Piaget, “Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood”

  5. Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek, “Tiefe: Über die Faszination des Grubeln” (Depth: About the Fascination of Rumination”)

  6. Peter Homans, “The Ability to Mourn”

  7. Erich Auerbach, “Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis:_The_Representation_of_Reality_in_Western_Literature

  8. René Girard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Girard, “Deceit, Desire and the Novel”

  9. Victor Turner, “The Anthropology of Performance”

  10. Elisabeth Lenk, “Die unbewusste gesellschaft” (The Unconscious Society)

  11. Norman O. Brown, “Life Against Death” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Against_Death 

  12. Northrop Frye http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Frye, “The Great Code: The Bible and Literature”

  13. E.R. Dodds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._R._Dodds, “The Greeks and the Irrational”

  14. Michel Foucault, “Madness and Civilization” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madness_and_Civilization

  15. Ladislas Meduna, “Oneirophrenia: The Confusional State”

  16. Gregory Bateson, “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind

  17. Silvano Arieti, “Interpretation of Schizophrenia” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretation_of_Schizophrenia

  18. Ernst Cassirer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Cassirer, “Philosophy of Symbolic Forms”

  19. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Capitalism and Schizophrenia”

  20. Ernst Bloch, “The Principle of Hope” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Principle_of_Hope

  21. R.T. Eberwein, “Film and Dream Screen”

  22. Abram Kardiner, “Psychological Frontiers of Society”

  23. Joyce McDougall, “Theatre of the Mind”

  24. Victor Turner http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Turner, “The Ritual Process”

  25. Victor Turner, “From Ritual to Theatre”

  26. Victor Turner, “Drama, fields and metaphors”,

  27. Victor Turner, “The Forest of Symbols”

  28. Llyod deMause http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_deMause “History of Childhood”

  29. Alice Miller http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Miller_(psychologist), “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence”

  30. Horst Richter, “Eltern, Kind and Neurose” (Parent, Child and Neurosis)

  31. John Maynard Smith http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Smith,  “Evolution and the Theory of Games”

  32. Ruth Benedict http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Benedict, “Patterns of Culture”

  33. R.D. Laing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._D._Laing, “Politics of the Family”

  34. Murray Bowen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Bowen, “Family Therapy in Clinical Practice”

  35. Salvador Minuchin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Minuchin, “Families and Family Therapy”

  36. Theodore Lidz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Lidz, “The Family and Human Adaption”

  37. Ben B. Wolman, “Children’s Fears”

  38. Patricia Garfield http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Garfield, “Your Child’s Dreams”

  39. Mario Praz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Praz, “The Romantic Agony”

  40. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “The Sorrows of Young Werther” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrows_of_Young_Werther

  41. Gaynor Kavanagh, “Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum”

  42. Georg Lukács,”The Historical Novel”

  43. Louis-Ferdinand Celine, “Journey to the End of the Night” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_End_of_the_Night 

  44. Jean-Paul Sartre, “Nausea” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausea_(novel)

  45. Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Birth of Tragedy” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_Tragedy

  46. Julia Kristeva http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Kristeva, “The Powers of Horror”



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.