Siouxland Observer


Sunday, December 21, 2014


In a studio apartment a guardian stands on the other side of a partition.  Behind the partition a man is sleeping.  His bedroom is not a bedroom though, for it can only be “secured” by a door curtain (and there is no curtain).  Thus awakened, the man gets up to greet the stranger.  They shake hands.  The man, now wide awake, walks over to his desktop computer and sits down.  The guardian walks over too, but he is no longer friendly.  Instead, he has become a jihadist; he leans in for a beheading.

Awakened (this time for real), the man chides himself for being so foolish.  He must be more careful.  How can a stranger be guarding against nightmares?  The nightmare that awoke him in the first place?

The "guardian" was guarding against that dream; the dream that forced the sleeper to the edge of his bed (a flimsy air mattress no less) screaming in a long, loud continuous scream.  That was the first time he woke up "for real."  It was just after finishing his research on the  black forest (this reporter).  In the dream the reporter cum dreamer cum writer discovered anew that perhaps there was more to Europe’s old-growth forests than clockworks and cautionary tales.  “In the Forest" missed part of the story.  

Sigmund Freud would not have believed in "ghosts" (or at least from research gleaned in this writing).  Freud is famous, or infamous, depending on the person, for his research into dreams and symbolism.  To best understand the problem, “Dreams in Folklore,” a small book with its roots in Freud's base symbolism, sees procreation in everything.

When he read a folk dream, sent him by Professor Ernst Oppenheim, Freud saw base symbolism everywhere.  The dream was about a man fearful a thief might steal his money.  “Now he dreams on further,” Freud said, “(about) how he goes right out and comes to the place where he wants to dig up the earth so he can put the big pot in the hole.  But when he looks for a tool to dig with he finds nix roundabout…”

“Nix” means “zilch," which, of course, implies a lack of ability–or a repressed Oedipus complex, perhaps.  But there is more to Freud than this simple, easy understanding.  He believed dreams could only be understood by empirical observation, and took detailed notes, just as a scientist would.  

Askay and Farquhar, in their book, “Apprehending the Inaccessible: Freudian Psychoanalysis and Existential Phenomenology,” said Freud adamantly rejected the belief that consciousness, in and of itself, was “mental life.”

Freud argued that this kind of understanding assumed "a priori" consciousness (knowledge hardwired in the womb before life experience).  Thus, Freud would probably not see a visit by a spirit in a dream (or in the forest), or anywhere, as having to do with anything independent of the dreamer's life experience.  He would search for the Shakespearian play seen by the dreamer.  Simply, the brain could not be “hardwired” with anything outside its own experience.

Carl Jung had a problem with this.  A YouTube video shared here explores his belief, of not only "a priori" existence, but of a the scientific nature of this understanding.  He even talks about the afterlife, but it is the first half of the video he really explores his understanding of  "a priori" knowledge, which is linked to understanding the collective unconscious. 

In “Memories, Dreams, Reflection,” this is made clear.  Jung believed there are forces at work that can harm us, independent of corporeal existence.  He talks of a fantasy where Philemon (an unconscious entity he knew and named) helped him realize “there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may be directed against me. … where the existence of an unconscious psyche is admitted, the contents of projection can be received into instinctive forms which predate consciousness.”

The “dream-image,” as Jung called it (say, of a dreamer aware of his screaming), could be archetypal: A conscious realization of an "unconscious" reality, where in the dream, say, of someone with long, gray hair, caressing a body, lying in repose, did not come from personal experience, but from beyond a dreamer's personal experience.

The dream that opened this post, manifested itself in an awareness to the dreamer (in the dream itself), and this reporter sensed the image as archetypal (outside personal experience); only when the hair touched the dreamer's face in the dream, did "psyche," as Jung called a priori knowledge, allow this reporter sight independent of the body lying in repose. 

It was here the screaming started, and it filled the studio.  This reporter often wears earplugs because of a noisy space heater, and it was unclear if the screaming was in the dream, or real, but it woke the sleeper.  It was after returning to sleep the guardian appeared.

Jung believed, according to "Depth Insights," that  “A dream…is a product of the total psyche. Hence, we may expect to find in dreams everything that has ever been of significance in the life of humanity.” 

A famous example of the differences between Jung and Freud highlights the problem of "a priori" knowledge in dreams. Doug Dillion reported a strange meeting between the two men.  Jung’s ideas of psyche, or even a collective unconscious, can not be proven empirically and, according to Dillion, Freud ignored him. Suddenly a loud noise erupted from a bookcase next to the two men (making them both jump).  This was seen by Jung as proof he knew what he was talking about.

Psychology students everywhere, and especially those who believe in God, often find joy in this story.  Freud was a frump, and Jung believed in the possibility of the divine, or at least its archetypal reality.  But Freud, ever the scientist, went about looking for the source of the eruption, and wrote Jung in a letter April 16, 1909 (published in the appendix of “Memories, Dreams, Reflection”) explaining what had happened.  

Freud, after hearing the noise again, independent of the emotional encounters with his wayward protégé, concluded: since it happened again, it was, in fact, nothing. "(The eruption experienced by us both, when we were together, has been heard again, but) never in connection with my thoughts and never when I was considering you or your special problem," Freud wrote in the letter.  " (Not now, either, I  add by way of challenge.)  The phenomenon was soon deprived of all significance for me by something else.  My credulity….”

In his life, Freud went out of his way to show how people dreamed dreams only from personal experience.  “The Interpretation of Dreams,” for example, tracks (in great detail), the empirical link of dreams, and their source.

The “dream-day,” for example (Freud’s belief there are always experiential links in our dreams), could easily explain the jihadist in the second dream (I had seen news of a beheading earlier in the day). 

But Freud went deeper. 

Something that happened during the “dream-day,”Freud said,  could trigger a dream thought from an earlier experience in a person’s life. But the endless controversy in what became Freud’s base understanding clouded his hard, detailed work in mapping, empirically the source of the dreams themselves.

“It may happen,” he said in 'The Interpretation of Dreams,' “that a piece of material occurs in the content of a dream which in the waking state we do not recognize as forming a part of our knowledge or experience.  We remember, of course, having dreamt the thing in question, but we cannot remember whether or when we experienced it in real life.  We are thus left in doubt as to the source which has been drawn upon by the dream and are tempted to believe that dreams have a power of independent production.”

They do not, according to Freud:

“Dreams can select their material from any part of the dreamer’s life," he said, "provided only that there is a train of thought linking the experience of the dream-day (the ‘recent’ impressions) with the earlier ones."  
When I researched the black forest, and the old-growth forests in general, the earliest stories (and especially in Krapf's book) seemed more cautionary, than frightening.  Put in context, even some of the more frightening tales seemed to serve as a warning, or a signpost.  There where tales, however, of people being so frightened that their hair turned gray, and this could explain the gray hair in the dream.  But it seemed more real than that, and even ancient.  It was unbelievable.

On YouTube, and in numerous books, the thoughts about ghosts, spirits and the unknown in the ancient, old-growth forests, and especially the “Black Forest,” are everywhere. 

Meryl Streep, who will be playing the Witch in the fairy-tale-based movie, “Into the Woods,” was recently asked in an interview how she liked playing a heightened character like the Witch.

“’…The first scene,’ Steep told Rebecca Keegan, of The Los Angeles Times, ‘when I climbed up to Rapunzel and I give her blackberries and then I come down and I see that she’s seeing this dreadful man … all I’m doing is trying to keep her safe.  That was something that … didn’t feel heightened or weird.’” 

Streep also said: “’…you can’t play an archetype.’”

Are realities "out there," (psyche, for example), that have everything to do with corporeal beings and our experience throughout history (and perhaps beyond)?  Jung says yes; Freud says no.  Simply, the greatest minds will continue to search until humankind can no longer search for anything. 

It's worth noting, however, that the hair was gray, and very very long. Perhaps it was a reminder; an uplifting dream (incognito, of course), about the water, the trees and the forest creatures of the silva nigra today, tomorrow and forever.  Simply, there is more to Europe’s old-growth forests than clockworks and cautionary tales.

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