Art and Science of Dreams and Dreaming

Art and Science of Memory, Sleep and the Dreaming Mind 

In 1979, I had a hypnogogic vision in which I saw how memory operates. Comparing the rudimentary neuropsychological understanding that I possessed to the actual process of memory in the vision, I saw that the then current theories in the academic literature were primitive to the extreme. In the dream, I realized the so-called experts were using bearskins and stone knives to understand a process that is an artistic marvel, an amazing work of nature. 

Rene Descartes is considered to be the founder of modern science and philosophy, an architect of the modern world. On the night of November 10, 1619, Descartes had three dreams. His meditation and interpretation of the dreams led to the dream argument and the scientific method revolutionizing the way Western man thought about himself, the cosmos he lived in, and his dreams. In the dreams, Descartes found two basic books: one of learning, and one of poetry, and this led him to attempt to unify philosophy as both an art and a science. Descartes dream of a unified philosophy of art and science has remained unrealized, with film and the internet we have moved closer to the realization of this dream. 

          You Tube: The Science of Dreams and Dreaming 

Finnigan's Wake: The Artistic Doors of Perception 

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." Many dreams received at the IIDR speak of the artist's desire for growth and development. 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 is 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 loss of the artistic soul. The artist attempts to create a consciousness that reintegrates the dream. In totalitarian societies, this freedom is replaced by a theatre of marionettes. 

The art of dreaming has been explored and experimented with through a variety of ways, one more modern path was that paved by the artist Salvador Dali's lucid dreaming techniques Slumber with a KeyPart 1 Part 2 . In Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold tell us that we can be empowered by knowing that we are active perceivers, and that what we experience is created by our imagination. Thus we can wake up in our dreams and influence unfolding events. Lucid dreams can provide a vast artistic stage for transforming the familiar objects, people, and situations of everyday life into a "saturnalian festival." 

In the 1950s, Huxley's The Doors of Perception explored the use of drugs in which perception is altered because the nervous system filters reality and conveys a "reduced reality." Aldous Huxley (see video) Doors of Perception (video Part 1) Part 2. Huxley's book predated such popular treatments as Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I do not advocate drug use except for medical purposes. Most of us self-medicate, as is our right, but drugs are usually, though not always, used to escape reality and can only add to the person's alienation. The expense of drug use and the risk to one's health must also be considered. Natural ways to stimulate such biochemically produced drugs as endorphins in your body, by techniques of meditation and yoga, can allow you to move more freely through various states of consciousness, producing greater awareness of consciousness itself. 

In Joyce's Finnegans Wake, we find a Tower of Babel of mother tongues, cultures, mythologies, and words that meet, collide, and merge into one river, one ocean, one cosmic dream. So it is with Dream Vision, which looks, sounds, and feels like someone privy to the nightly mentations on the planet. If it seems strange, is because it is strange to our waking awareness. The stream of consciousness method informs the text and reader using the literary and cultural storehouse of language, metaphor and puns, created out of the dream fragments of the images of philosophy, theology, history, astrology, sociology and alchemy. 

In Finnigan's Wake, literary cycles of metaphors, allusions and puns are dramatic plot devices used to underscore the nature of cosmic jokes and facilitate laughter in the fish out of water plotline. Finnigan's Wake is the ritual comic side of the celebration of the artistic whole of history as a dream in search of redemption. Wake provides an endless epic cycle of reading and dreaming, it is the stuff history and everyday Dream Vision is made of. Each of us partakes in the cosmic dreamscape of Finnegan's Wake and the literary storehouse of the cosmological codes of language. 

The Moveable Feast: Dreams, Nightmares and Dreamscapes  

Dreamscapes help to absorb the poetry of life, death, and survival. In Western culture, rites of passage structure and regulate the acquisition of knowledge, summarized at the end of life by such forms as elegies, eulogies, epitaphs, and obituaries. Life-writing (and creative writing) enables the writer to present life in all its states as, in Ernest Hemingway's phrase, "a moveable feast." We are all diners at the feast, and the dream is our menu. 

In his essay Sociology of Dreams, Roger Bastide believes that the study of dreams should ask two interrelated questions. First, what is the social function of the dream? Second, how does the sociological framework of dream thought operate? Freud had already shown that even the most absurd dream was part of mind and personality. Bastide suggests that Freud's definition of dream-work should be extended to include a civilization's heritage and its social system. Just as Freud repersonalized the dream, Dream Vision resocialized it. Society furnishes the communication framework for the dream's thought, emotion, sensation, and memory. Bastide believes sociology should study the life cycle to follow how social structures influences mind and body. 

The You Tube videos presented in this section provide a variety of narrators such as Freud, Jung and Lenard Nemoy (Star Trek fame). As a pioneer of modern dream research, Freud entered the world of dreams armed with scientific tools of thought, submerging himself into this world below the surface of the conscious mind. 

Freud and Jung 

Dreams and Nightmares 

  • Leonard Nemoy narrates Dreams and Nightmares Part 1 Part 2 Part 3                       

Varieties of Dream Interpretation             

          The videos in this sub-section provide numerous perspectives on dream interpretation.   

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