From Dream to Artistic Vision -or- Wholeness and Fragmentation

Ontological Holism -or- Creative Process of the Mind

As a University student, I had read the physicist David Bohm's book "Wholeness and the Implicate Order". Bohm cogently argues that the creative process of the human mind, thought, the stream of consciousness, existence and reality were intended to develop and work as an "unbroken whole". Bohm conceptualizes, that modern science "is demanding a new non-fragmentary world view...." Bohm believes that the fragmentation of mind and thought is pervasive in our modern society, "causing an endless series of problems". In Bohm's own words; "fragmentation is now very widespread, not only throughout society, but also in each individual...." Bohm sees; "many individuals going beyond the ‘normal' limits of fragmentation are classified as paranoid, schizoid, psychotic, etc." Bohm's philosophy can be seen as a form of ontological holism

This Field Note discusses the art forms of symbolism and surrealism as they are informed by dream vision. 

In his article "From Vision to Dream: The Secularization of the Imagination", Donald Kuspit (1) discusses the dream imagery and art of the symbolists and the surrealists. Kuspit considers Goya's "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" (painted 1797-98, the 1st image in theatre above) the first "modern" art image of dreaming. For Kuspit the symbolist dream vision "grows out of the religiously inspired revelation and is in fact a secularization of it." Kuspit sees; "The symbolist dream vision conveyed the possibility of psychic wholeness in metaphoric form, while the surrealist dream picture signal its impossibility." (p82) Said differently; "The surrealist dream, then, is a dream of disintegration, which follows from the disintegration of the symbolist dream vision." 

Kuspit sees Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" as a revolutionary catalyst for the cultural movement from the symbolist to a surreal societal vision and understanding of the dream; "From being a tower that once reached toward heaven, the dream became a tower of surrealist Babel and finally disintegrated into a pile of idiosyncratic languages, often archly perverse." (p81) The symbolist dream vision was transcendental and mystical, while the surreal dream was secular and material. We can intuit from these philosophical distinctions the "artistic differences" of the dream theories of Carl Jung (symbolist/mysticism/theism/wholeness) and Sigmund Freud (surrealism/rationalism/atheism/fragmentation). 

Kuspit believes, that; "The surrealists used the Freudian idea of the dream machine-Freud, after all, defined the dream in terms of the work that it does...." (p82) " From this machine perspective; "The subject is now also a machine (as it implicitly was for Freud)-usually working badly, as the surrealist dream picture (and also Frued), and for that matter the "surreal" cubist pictures of George Braque and Juan Gris suggests." (p83) What Kuspit does not discuss is that Walter Benjamin had understood the pervasive effects of the machine on art and society. Benjamin in his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" outlined the influence of machines on the ways we visually perceive and experience the world. 

In "Field Notes of a Dream Research: 1001 Nights in the Global Village", I am making these philosophical differences of the surrealist (Freudian demystified thesis) art form and the symbolist (Jungian mystified anti-thesis) art forms found in our nightly dreams visible for you the reader. Ultimately, by the end of "1001 Nights", a new philosophical synthesis and wholeness is envisioned, one that encompasses and moves beyond both. Many of the stock images posted at the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) website point to the surrealist and the symbolist dichotomy. 

While many of the dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website are decidedly Freudian others provide an organic bridge to the mystical experience of the connection the Jungian archetypal ontological self with the universe. 

Here are some of the more Freudian dream interpretations that point to what Bohm calls "fragmentation"; 

Here are some of the more Jungian dream interpretations that point to what Bohm calls "wholeness"; 

Further Reading: 

  1. "From Vision to Dream: The Secularization of the Imagination" in; Lynn Gamwell (ed), "Dreams 1900-2000: Science, Art and the Unconscious"
  2. David Bohm and F. David Peat, "Science, Order and Creativity"


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