"Whoever wants to be creative in good and evil, he must first be an
annihilator and destroy values." - Friedreich Nietzsche
For many of us, when Surrealism is mentioned the image that generally come to
mind is the liquid melting clocks of Salvador Dali. But In Europe, Surrealism
was also a social , political, and poetic human liberation movement that
championed the dream.
"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." -Rousseau in
Like the Romantics before them, the Surrealists saw that the reasonable and
rational held out a limited view for mankind, and that rationality, reality and
religion had so choked our options for experience that all the marvels and
significance of being were missed. Andre Breton, the father of Surrealism within
the Modernist movement, drew together this Romantic spirit with the new leftist
politics and the discoveries of psychoanalysis. "(Reality) revolves in a
cage from which from which release is becoming increasingly difficult." (Brenton
as quoted by Kelly, 1994)
The solution was the development of practices that challenged the old order
and offered the new in the cast out forms of madness, social anarchy,
disobedience, the shocking and the absurd. However, this anarchy was never
anything more than a temporary technique for merging the social and the
aesthetic, the dayworld and the nightworld the sane with the insane. Waking and
dreaming reality were to come together in Surreality.
In Surreality, the role of dreams was to usher in the astonishing and open up
to new possibilities. As Breton once said considering the amount of time we
spend in dreams and waking like, that there is "disproportionate attention
to waking life." (Kelly, pg 37) The dream is seen as offering a challenge
in ushering in the marvelous. The search was to be a synthesis of dream and
waking in Surreality, neither a compliance to conventional reality nor a retreat
Sadly, Surrealism itself went the way of many Modernist movements, it became
formalized and choked in its own institutions. Breton's contacts with Freud were
not particularly productive and Breton's analysis of his own dreams fail to
bring to bear the wonderful spirit of surreality offered in other realms.
But the spirit of the movement has endured and has widely influenced not only
postmodern philosophy and practice in Europe but offered itself as a kindred
spirit of the human potential movements in the Americas in the 1960's that also
began to see the reality being served by the mainstream culture as limiting,
repressive and dangerous.
How then can we approach the dream so as to liberate the marvelous on one
hand without sinking into complete unreality on the other? Akhter Ahsen, a
contemporary proponent of Surrealism, offers some modern perspectives and
techniques on dreams and imagery that may begin to give up a clue to the
From Ahsen in _New Surrealism, The Liberation of Images In Consciousness_ :
"One gets up in the morning and the eyes are still heavy with sleep. One
opens up the eyes and the light comes in so strong that one dives back into
sleep to avoid the traumatic impact of impassive reality.
The impassive reality can be so traumatic that the mind learns to withdraw
from it. The passivity of an unmoving reality is anti-mind. When you look, the
things stay there, nothing moves. But the mind wants to move. That is the
contradiction. And if the mind has already been bombarded and constrained by
replicas of immovable mental objects, dogmas and frozen belief systems, then
where is the original movements of the mind manifested? Where is the original
face of reality and its strength revealed? Where is the original face of reality
and its strength revealed? How can we get there?" (p118-119)
Exercise: Let us see how some of Ahsen's imagery exercises might be applied
to dreams to bring up back into contact with surreality and contact this
A. Look at something static in your room, a bookcase or door. Watch it for
about a half a minute and return your attention to it if you drift. Note the
dullness and umovingness of this outer reality.
B. Now pick a dream.
1. Pick an image in a dream and hold it in your mind. If you begin to wander,
bring the image back again and again for about a half a minute.
2. Locate the part of the image that pleases you the most and repeatedly
bring this part of the image back into you mind.
3. Note the place of the image within your awareness, and how the image seems
to be inside the mind.
4. Compare the image to the outer image you had. Which is more pleasurable?
The outside boring world or the new freshness of the inner image?
5. Which part of the dream image gives you a feeling of beauty? Explore for a
moment the beautiful aspects of the image.
6. Which part of the image gives you a feeling of power? What is the source
of this power and how does the dream image reflect this power? How might it be
7. Now hold this dream image again in your mind a few seconds and them look
at the outside world. Has the outside world now brighten up as a result? Note
how attention on the inner imagination can make the outer world look more
8. Experiment with bringing into your dream image various people in your
waking life. Note how bringing them into the image, looking at them in detail
and then viewing them again in the outer world changes the way we view them.
Though Ahsen sees to miss the point that we are in the imagination as much as
the imagination being in us, his delightful array of imagery techniques (this
being but one of hundreds he offers) still work to bring out the idea the we can
valorize dreamland imagery without getting lost it in, and that there is place
of exchange between the waking and dreaming world that offers us tremendous
sources of creativity and new possibilities in creation of our own Surreality.
Surrealism is popular on the Net, probably due to the cross-categorical
rebelliousness and free spiritedness. Here are a few starter sites
The Web Directory:
Usenet: Newsgroups: alt.surrealism alt.postmodern
+Ahsen, Akhter (1992a). The Method of prolucid dreaming. Journal of Mental
Imagery, 16(1&2), Spring/Summer, 3-13.
+--------. (1992b). Prolucid dreaming: A content analysis approach to dreams.
Journal of Mental Imagery, 16(1&2), Spring/Summer, 15-84.
-+-------. (1992c). Prolucid perspectives: Alternate physiologies, myths as
filters, and essences. Journal of Mental Imagery, 16(1&2), Spring/Summer,
+--------. (1991). Imagery and consciousness: Putting together poetic, mythic
and social realities. Journal of Mental Imagery, 15(1&2), 63-96.
+--------. (1986). Prologue to unvividness paradox. Journal of Mental Imagery,
+--------. (1986). New surrealist manifesto: Interlocking of sanity and
insanity. Journal of Mental Imagery, 10(2), 1-32.
+Alcuaz, Marie de (1985). Contemporary idioms of surrealism. Dreamworks, 4(1),
+Bulkeley, Kelly (1994a). The Wilderness of Dreams: Exploring the Religious
Meanings of Dreams in Modern Western Culture. Albany, NY: State University of
New York Press.
+--------. (1993). Dreaming is play. _Psychoanalytic Psychology_, 10:(4),
+David, Fredereick B. (1973). Three letters from Sigmund Freud to André
Breton. American Psychoanalysis Association Journal, 21(1), 127-134.