Dreams and Creation

The Philosophy of Art & Aesthetics.

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Dreams and Creation

Post by e_dog » October 5th, 2004, 2:34 pm

The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, some thirty years ago, wrote a brief essay entitled 'Dreams are the Universal Language'. He noted that everyone is creative in their dreaming, that the stories and symbolic manifestations in the dreams of persons -- who in their waking life would never dream of, say, doing creative writing -- are every bit as creative and rich in meaning and imagery as the greatest of artworks. We are all artists in our dreams, according to Fromm. The difference that constitutes the work of those whom are ordinarily regarded as 'artists' is that they are able to do also in the conscious waking state what all can do in the unconscious, dream state.

Though he is better described as a post-Freudian, Fromm still takes Freud as his starting point; as a psychoanalyst, he believes that dreams are the products of the unconscious. We might ask, then, whether the artist who creates in their waking existence is able to bring what would otherwise be unconscious to consciousness, or whether the unconscious mind is able to break into the artists everyday waking state. Is it ego or id?;day dreaming, as it were?

A common theme of religious, literary and philosophical thinking is that of 'awakening,' emerging from a state of being that is perceived as akin to being asleep. This assumes that the mind is less alive when asleep. Fromm's suggestion invites us to reconsider this imagery. Perhaps, un-awakening is what allows the creative potential to emerge?

The Taoist sage Chuang-Tzu famously recounted a vivid dream in which he was a butterfly, fluttering through the air. Upon awakening, he wasn't quite sure whether he was a man who dreamed he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

Surely there are many ancient cultural traditions in which the myth of creation involves dream or is inspired by dreaming. (I seem to recall listening to Alan Wats discussing an Indian story acording to which all of the universe is a dream of some sleeping deity.) So, though Fromm takes the secularized cultural form of ART as his paradigm of creativity, we can also broaden the spectrum to consider religion as another form of creativity, albeit one whose social and potentially ideological or repressive function is much more transparent (to some of us).
Last edited by e_dog on October 22nd, 2004, 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by mtmynd » October 9th, 2004, 12:14 pm

An interesting thing about dreams is that when one is dreaming there is no question about what is going on, i.e., we accept the dream state as being "more real" than our awakened state.

When we are not sleeping we are full of questioning, asking what, when, where, why and how, but while we dream those questions do not come into play... everything just is, no doubt, no questions, but only a state of our 'nowness'. We have fear, we have joy, we lust, we love, we hate, we experience without question during the dream.

Is this not what the essence of the religious experience is..? A return to the state of no-mind, where we feel most at home, a comfort in and with our full being... some describe as 'soul', our heart of existence.

I once wrote (and shall write again :) ) -

"art is not choose or lose

but an exploration

in self-expression

divining the soul

to become whole

Art is a divided medium, like most things in life, into subjective and objective, the objective being the most common form of art expression. The vast majority of artists express themselves thru the objective path - where the material world is the object of the art. It becomes their own signature, but it is easily identifiable as a landscape or still life, a portrait of a person or people, of animals or other life forms that inhabit our material world. Whereas the subjective approach to art does not concern itself with the material world but rather an expression of "a place beyond matter", so to speak... various schools of art have come about using this technique, but by and large they (the Western world) are called "abstract", apart from concrete existence... even tho the paints or other materials are part of concrete existence.

Abstract art is (in part) the art of the dream state, the place where no mind exists, but purely instinct and the immediacy of now is captured without question... the 'channeling' of heart beyond mind and its logic and reasoning - not always succesfully done, of course, but the same could be said for the objective artist. :wink:


Thanks, e_dog, for the inspiration! Looking forward to more of your board.


Inspiration translated thru music, paint, dance or any of the expressive activities can be said to derive from the dream state, or the state of non-questioning, where the person is tuned into the 'soul of being', channeling the energy of the experience thru the tools that are they are most accustomed or comfortable with to translate this oneness of being, i.e., the union of soul and mind, where art becomes the expression from that union - the bastard child of soul and mind.

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Post by e_dog » October 12th, 2004, 2:46 pm

great response!

the lack of questioning, critical, reflective attitudes in dreaming state is a very important observation. but, actually this causes me to reconsider my previous enthusiasm for dreaming, since i value critical thinking quite highly.

but i wonder whether the 'no mind' and 'oneness of being' is consistent with the presence of fear in dreams. are not fears within dream a way that the unconscious portions of mind call into question the illusions of security and safety that some of us have in life or of reinforcing and amplfying those insecurities that we encounter in the waking life?

it is also interesting that mtmynd identified abstract art and dream consciousness. for me, surrealist art is the paradigm of dream -related art. some of the members of the surrealist movement even saw themselves as unleashing from repression the power of unconscious desire through art. and, further, rather than seeking to attain a state of oneness with being, they sought to disrupt the false unity of the social order through a revolucion surrealiste.

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Post by mnaz » October 15th, 2004, 3:02 am

good point, e_dog.... the idea of 'reaction', in general, in dreams.
It's almost as if the natural 'state' of dreaming is that of 'no-mind' flow, interrupted by flashes of conscious behavior. I could swear I've made something approaching 'rational' decisions in my dreams, such as choosing an escape route or a hiding place while being chased.

And what about recurring dreams? Or dreams reflecting anxiety over current waking life situations? I'm currently out of work, and I have been for awhile now. Just the other night I had a dream where tried to go back to my old office, but it had been completely transformed into a warehouse-type setting, and I didn't recognize anyone there. In my dream, I was confused and disoriented, which is perhaps a 'no-mind' type of reaction, but I remember peering over the shoulders of these strange new people and watching them draw building plans (what I used to do) and wondering to myself if I could still remember how to do that, and questioning myself over being out of work. I wasn't necessarily just "being" in this dream scene. Back closer to my university days, I used to have similar (recurring) dreams about missing classes or exams, along with the attendant sense of guilt inside the dream, as it happened.

The dreams I find the most peculiar are the ones where I move around a place that I'm seeing in fairly vivid detail; a place I've seen before, but only within the dream context. Usually, nothing much happens.... I'm just moving around, observing. Often I recall the look and feel of these places when I awaken, but they are no longer familar places that I've seen in real life. Very odd....

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