Dreams as Thought Experiments -or- Adventures of Pinocchio

Thought Experiments in Dreaming -or- Dream Visions of the Avant Guard

Having graduated in clinical psychology in 1983, I was trained in the "scientific method". In my education at the University of Zurich, I had to take three statistics courses, which included one course on "quantum statistics". Much of the scientific and psychological work I carried out as a student, are known as "thought experiments". Experiments can establish the validity of a model, an interpretation, an idea, a paradigm. Experimenting with dreams, was one of the first "avant- guard" activities that I undertook, they are now part of my "Field Notes of a Dream Researcher".

The dream as an artistic studio is discussed in the IIDR interpretation The Avant Guard Studio. The interpretation Experiments in Dreaming posted at the IIDR website speaks to the simple early thought experiments I carried out. Today my thought experiments encompass the whole marketplace of thought and the cultural capital of ideas that circulates in the global village. Helping the next generation of dreamers to find their way, is given voice in E-mail to a Young Dream Researcher. It is an important generational task for me, to pass on the received philosophical wisdom of the dream. 

I know, I am not alone as an experimenter of dreams and dreaming. Many dreams sent to the IIDR such as Dream within a Dream speak of such experimentation. As in all "dream vision", one is in need of a guide, if one does not have a guide serious problems can develop. We have seen the results of individuals playing with fire, such as the IIDR interpretation Waking Life of Jared Loughner. We can see how unsupervised dream experiments can lead to terrifying and deadly outcomes. The dream below, shows how indeed the post-modern Internet is leading to what Sam Keen warned of, namely "the cult of the amateur". Many dreams sent to the IIDR such as Thriller can be seen as the product of a "kitch" imagination.

Here are the dreams of a 24 year old North American woman;

"For a long time I have had dreams in which I fall asleep in one dream and wake up to find myself not really awake, but in yet another dream. This layering can go on and on. I have been aware of being the dreamer and have been able to control my dream environment sometimes.

I also have dreams in which I am flying over unfamiliar places . Last week I loss control of the flying and decided to crash, I remember saying "f--k it" and let go, hurling through space, and deciding that since it was a dream it shouldn't hurt to smash into the ground, so I did (and it did hurt, but only briefly).

Well last night, rather early this morning I had a dream that really makes me reluctant to go to sleep again. In it I was lost in the subconscious I guess. I felt trapped and terrified, it was like I was taken hostage and not allowed to get out. There was a thick, slow, heaviness to it, muffled sounds and like being under deep water, far from the awareness of others. I tried and tried to escape, to wake up for real out of this sedative like trap. In the dream I yelled for my husband to help me, and I tried splashing water on my face, anything I could think of to get out of there (to wake myself up) Finally I woke up quite shaken.

Would there be some way to wake myself up is there some other way to deal with it?

In my waking life I have never tried to influence my dreams and I'm not educated about dreams or sleep.

Can you help me.

Mark's Reply: Dream Adventures of Pinocchio -or- Lost in the Funhouse with No Exit

Much like the Adventures of Pinocchio you have become trapped and lost in the "Funhouse" a place from which Jean-Paul Sartre would find "No Exit". The story of Pinocchio is seen as a "novel of education" whose principle mission is maturity. Much of the maturation that Pinocchio must pedagogically learn, is through his experiments and experiences with the human processes of life. His metamorphosing body image, especially the magical growth of his nose when he lies makes it clear that "metaphysical" and ontological lessons are at work. When Pinocchio is led astray by the con artist "Honest John" to go to "Pleasure Island", he experiences the most pathological body transformations to his ears and the growth of a tail. He is nearly completely transformed into a "jackass" as some of the other children are. This literary archetypal theme can be traced back to The Golden Ass by Apuleius.

Pinocchio escapes the island and must endure further trials and tribulations before he can be transformed and become "a real boy". Without a philosophical guide, it is very easy to be led astray, become lost and trapped in the oneiric labyrinth of the Hollywood dream factory and its' funhouse. Seen from a popular culture perspective, the film Inception shows us the archetypal literary work of "Ariadne's" dream within a dream construction of a cultural labyrinth of oneiric landscapes. The Matrix mythology underscores a similar "architectural construct" idea, in that the "Architect" of the Matrix has constructed the Matrix so that the maximum number of people (99%) will blindly accept their neuro-simulation programming as reality.

In a similar fashion in the Star Trek: Next Generation episode Ship in a Bottle, the character Mr Barclay, is questioning his "reality" after Captain Picard states that the crew's reality may be a fabrication generated by "a little device sitting on someone's table." Barclay ends the scene, by saying "end program", without any change or effect taking place. Rene Descartes who is considered by some as the father of modern philosophy and science, was faced with similar scientific questions about reality, in what is known as the "dream argument". In Eastern philosophy we know this problem as "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly". Much of the film Matrix deals with these philosophical problems and questions. As a philosophy student, I had already been asking myself these questions, especially after reading Paul Watzlawick's How Real is Real? Or as Morpheus in the Matrix would ask; "What is Real?" (watch Matrix video). What is real and what is not, is what our dreams ontologically attempt to tell us every night. The dream interpretation Queen of my Post-modern Domain posted at the IIDR website emphasizes this need.

The dream above is telling the dreamer that she is playing with fire and that she needs some expert help and not just from her husband. Dream experiments if you are not careful, can go terribly wrong. Separating and differentiating the dream and reality is a problem and a theme that pervades many of the dreams sent to the IIDR. On a final note, to underscore this idea of confusion, in the words of Jake Sully in Avatar; "Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream."  

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