Jean Baudrillard is a cultural theorist who, like Carl Jung, became
concerned about Western Culture's abandonment of the symbolic and over-
involvement with the sign. Unlike Jung who responded by developing an individual
psychology for exploration of the *symbolic* in the personal realm, Baudrillard
took on a McLuhanian like media probe and analysis of the *sign* in contemporary
culture. His startling results take us into a hyperreal world where models
of reality dominate and reality itself has given way to simulations of
the real, and eventually to simulations of simulations that have no anchor,
nor interest, in the real whatsoever.
" We used to live in the imaginary world of the mirror,
of the divided self and of the stage, of otherness and alienation. Today
we live in the imaginary world of the screen, of the interface and the
reduplication of contiguity and networks. All our machines are screens.
We too have become screens, and the interactivity of men has become the
interactivity of screens." Jean Baudrillard, Xerox & Infinity.
o Can Cultural Analysis be Applied to Dreamwork?
The extension of humanity into computer mediated communications,
as well as the general rise of technology & media has brought out the
ever increasing importance of the technological interface and extension
of our species. Not only will we extend the practices of dreamwork into
new area, but we will continue to observe the effects and transformations
in dream imagery that these organic-digital combinations produce.
Although the dream resists direct commodification & digitalization,
(just try to sell a dream, or even get someone to listen to your dream
with interest), the transition from symbol to sign is an essential turning
point according to Baudrillard in our culture becoming sign dependent.
There is some marketing around dreams and dreamwork, but it is a very insignificant
part of the economy of the sign, money or politics. Even Freud remarked
with sadness late in this life that psychoanalysis had abandoned dreams
and had added nothing to his original theory in over 40 years, an this
was for the sake of the capital that could be made from developing long
term transferencial therapies (I included the capital reasoning here).
James Hillman might have developed a way to see commodification in dreamwork.
He has warned against turning dreams into objects for use in the dayworld,
but this would be a very metaphorical use of commodification. Generally
speaking, dreams resist being quantified, and in doing so may offer us
an alternative to being swept up in the endless march of mass media, consumer
advertisements and what Marx called primitive accumulation that dominates
capitalist societies that focus on the exchange and use value of objects
rather than their deeper meanings.
Perhaps more interestingly we might look at our dreams for clues
to our own cycles of consumption. A kind of Marxian Dreamwork that exposes
the places in our life we have turned into objects and been turned into
objects, were we are the repressed workers and where we repress the worker.
For Baudrillard, himself once a Marxist theorist, the world has moved past
both Capitalism and Marxism into a Fractal economy where all meanings and
options have fully extended & played themselves out and now just circulate
the pieces around by means of a code that no one controls. The use we make
of the dream relates to capitalism as much as the exchange value might.
In this sense, the symbolic goes beyond the uses we can make of the dream,
and any dreamwork that favors the dream over the function we make of it
needs to gather this sense to continue. Still, we need to begin somewhere.
o How Far Have You Personally Moved into the Hyperreal?
Baudrillard offers us an image of the 4 revolutions that he sees
having occurred in the shift from real to hyperreal. These 4 Orders can
be applied to the dream world as well as waking cultural horizons. By reading
our dreams for the dominate order, we may be led to insights about our
relationship with the signs and symbols that make up our world and inner
world. When are we more like a feudal caste society were any variance in
the interpretation of an event is considered a transgression? When are
we so involved in the simulatory experience of the dream that its relationship
to the rest of the world is no longer important? When is our desire shifted
and manipulated by the objects in our environment and where do we rebel
and consider creative, subversive alternatives?
o Sign Revolutions: A Sound Byte
The fixed and referential symbols of the Feudal/caste societies were
shaken by the Renaissance theatrics which put their meaning(s) into question.
Just what signs were suppose to refer to anymore was up to debate. The
industrial revolution made possible the serial replication of these signs,
exterminating any reference, producing an explosion of referents.. In the
post-industrial era, metaphysical models of the code create a world of
simulation without any reference to the real, an order of simulation that
has no interest in the real whatsoever. Finally, in the fractal order,
the simulations implode into a viral proliferation infinity extended and
exhausted in all directions. All distinctions and differences are interwoven,
cross-bred and played out to an extreme.
o Levels of Image
Level 0. Aboriginal symbolic exchange cultures. The image is a reflection
of basic reality. Note dream imagery in aboriginal cultures where the image
is like almost a sacrament. Even in our de-sacralized society, dreams are
often vaguely see as reflecting reality. Jung was interested in returning
the dream image to this level, though he often wanted to bring it up into
the dayworld for our personal use. In aboriginal culture, the dream can
completely undermine the exchange value system, shifting the flow of gifts
and counter-gifts, marriages, taboos and status.
Level 1. The image masks and perverts reality. Here is more a level
of Freudian dreamwork level, with the dream functioning to both express
the basic reality of desires in a disguised form just enough to let off
steam, but not enough to wake the dreamer.
Level 2. The image masks the absence of a basic reality. The dream
masks the fact that it is a dream and that there are things we don't want
to dream about. "...Power is no longer present except to conceal that there
is none." (181 S&S). In dreamwork, we teach people who are haunted
by specters of power - shadows, bears, wolves, muggers, monsters - that
these figures are involved in scenarios of empty power and can be confronted.
Level 3. The image bears no relation to any reality whatsoever, it
is its own simulacrum. Here we have moved into lucid and proactive dreaming
where the dreamer doesn't care that there is any connection with reality,
the event itself has become the reality of concern.
o Portrait of a Dreamworker:
When she was young, her dream interpretations carefully reflected
the life and reality of the dreamer, almost like she was a landscape artist.
Later, her own versions of reality began to appear in her interpretations.
Some saw this as her distortion of reality phase, others as drawing the
world through her own reality. The interpretations often seemed to mask
and pervert the reality of the dreamer. Then a desperation began to emerge,
and her interpretations masked the absence of reality, as if to protect
herself and others from a flaw at the center of the universe. Finally,
her interpretations bore no relation to any reality whatever and reproductions
of images that had no original began to proliferate.
o Dreamwork and Levels of the Sign
A way we might use these ideas in dreamwork is in recognizing the
different levels of power scenarios that play themselves out in dreaming.
Baudrillard speaks about the orders of appearance of simulation: pre-simulation
feudal/caste societies, counterfeit pre-production societies, production
societies and re-productive simulation society.
societies - signs and their meanings are pre-determined
o The Feudal/Caste Society
Ever have a dream that felt like you were at the Round Table? Or
how about another type of cast of class society where everyone's roles
were set and fixed? Typically we like to romanticize the symbolism of such
a dream. Perhaps we might see our dream knight as an indication of our
relationship to the Higher Self, pre-figured as the king or head lf the
society. Our knight and his or her behavior becomes a symbolic singular
indication of our ego's relationship to wholeness. Baudrillard's work may
offer an alternative view.
In these caste/feudal societies the representational systems; the
codes, the symbols, the signs carry clearly marked, commonly held and limited
numbers of meanings. One knows immediately another's caste or rank by the
garments one wares. The status is clearly indicated and there is little
hope of changing one's class. Anyone who tries to change the meaning of
a sign is risking punishment for the transgression. Signified and signifier
are fixed. Transgressors of this reality, dragons, heretics and infidels,
must be hunted down and slain. All unstable reference must be punished
and free interpretation is prohibited. In our dreamland we may find concerns
about taboos and transgressions. Concerns about one reality dominate. Dreams
in this style may indicate a part of personality that runs a very rigid
yet meaningful game.
o The Counterfeit Renaissance
There is a period of time before production society sets in and after
the feudal/caste society which we often refer to in the West as the Renaissance.
Now the signs begin to loosen and what they signify are more arbitrary.
Does the bible mean this, or that? Protestant movements demand that each
man must make his own interpretation of the bible. But why stop there?
Everyone begins to have his or her own interpretation of everything. The
particular meaning of a sign is freed, and an abstract code analogous to
money is born. Theater is born and there is a destruction between a thing
and what it represents. Psychology can begin as we can now question who
we really are. Nature becomes important because it is lost. In the Renaissance
we find stucco floral outpourings everywhere, in fountains, in buildings
in paintings, in clothes, in books and on weapons. Stucco was the first
plastic. The sign is stripped of its original meaning, but still refers
dimly to a time when it did mean something. Too late. The natural world
unfolds in every form, but it is all on stage. It is the theater of appearance
and disappearance and changing forms. I am reminded of the movie "Interview
with a Vampire" where the vampire's stage a show, a parody of their life
which unfolds endless "real" scenarios against the background of vampirism,
but unable to refer to anything outside of the play itself. Their reference
to the real world was cut by their condition. So too this early production
society feeds on the real but is really cut off from it.
In dreams, we often encounter these worlds as well. Sometimes they
are joyously filled with creative and theatrical energy, oddly meaningful
and yet free from meaning. Strange forms evolve, masks and mistakes in
identity trick us and make us laugh. Reversals and getting back to where
we once were becomes more difficult. We find ourselves marrying people
we don't know, making alliances with strangers and creating art forms we
never imagined. On the darker side, this world can be uncomfortably unstable.
Pets turn into insects, chairs are haunted with ghosts, hospitals become
prisions. Mom just ain't what she used to be. Reality refuses to stabilize.
This is the first order of simulation, the corrupt symbol that no longer
refers to what it used to refer to. At one level this validates the living
symbol that evolves and wants to grow out of its old form. But what Baudrillard
is suggesting is that these images that have outgrown their original reference
will never be able to find a happy home to live. Desire has become grandeous
and swirls upward in Baroque productions of a Heaven in process, cupids
arrow spiraling ever upward and outward.
o Modern Production Society
Here the sign produces neutral values can be exchanged in an objective
world. Just like the free worker who is now free to make what he or she
wants, but there is little meaning in the work. There is a nostalgia for
ancient meaning, but it is all appearance. The Marlboro Cowboy is a billboard
commodity used to sell cigarettes. The real meaning of the sign easily
There is an expansion here of the production of goods, science and
technology. There is an explosion of transportation, products to buy, and
services as commodities. There is an explosion of science and technology,
of national boundaries, of different social spheres, topics to discuss,
money and value. In the Modern society there is a constant proliferation
In dreams we find modern images in the factory, the conveyor belt,
the assembly line. But this is also the world of the Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Duplication proliferates. Dreams of serial duplication, hordes of animals
without a queen or leader, clones and eternal returns may appear. The simulation
begun in the previous stage now accelerates and a great deal of energy
is put into covering up the loss of reality. I recall a Gaham Wilson cartoon
where a group of scientists were in discussion in a large astrolab, above
unnoticed, a piece of space had torn and several angels were trying to
quickly pull it back together. Dreams where maps and territory are confused
speak to this level. Baudrillard sites Borges' story where the makers of
a map had it laid out so perfectly that it covered the real territory,
except in places where there were tattered corners. The busy activity of
hiding the fact that reality has disappeared may take simple and less harmless
forms like going to Disneyland, or stronger forms like Auschwitz where
death is produced and reproduced.
Since the surface of things is now suspect and devoid of meaning,
one Barbie doll as meaningful as another, the Modern turn was to Depth.
If the Real can no longer be found on the surface, then in it must be found
beneath the surface. Once the unconscious is revealed, then what you really
feel, what you really meant, is re-discovered. Look for dreams where you
feel that what is "really" going on, where is it "really" happening is
somewhere else. We can say that psychoanalytically the self is in projection
in this Order. It is in the group that won't let your in, in the party
that is just over when you arrive, in the gift and prize given to someone
else. Just not quite "here". Detective dreams, an inability to find your
way home, all lost and found dreams are of this order. As are all equivalences,
such as dreams of balance, or weighing and measuring. What is it worth?
If there is even a hope of answering this questions, we are still in the
Modern Order of Signs.
o Post-Modern Hyperrality
"The real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices,
and memory banks, models of control-- and it can be reproduced an indefinite
number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because
it no longer measures itself against an ideal."
from Simulacra and Simulation
Had the truth been that we remained in a production reality, Marxism
may have continued to be a viable theory in the world. But Baudrillard
sees that what Marx called the "nonessential" sectors of capital to be
what the global process of capital is founded upon. Fashion, media, publicity,
information & communication networks, cybernetic control systems, computerization,
cyberspatiality, digitalization and genetic code proliferation. The organizing
principle is no longer production but re-production. In this society of
simulations where it is more interesting to be involved with a simulation
of reality than reality itself, a new social order establishes itself.
With the collapse or implosion between image/simulation and reality, the
ground for the real disappears. People write in to Robert Young, an actor
who played Dr. Welby, for medical advice and Raymond Burr who played the
lawyer Perry Mason& Ironside for legal advice. Now doctors and lawyers
are expected to act like Dr. Welby and Perry Mason. The models are the
pivot point of reference rather that reality itself. Simulations now determine
The continual solicitations to buy, to consume, to work, vote, give
opinions, and participate in social life consume meaning and value as distinctions
Simulations have devoured reality, and models have taken over. The
production of reality in the Modern phase resulted in saturation and explosion.
Now we have implosion. Reality and meaning melt into a nebulous mass of
self-reproducing simulation. Simulations have taken over for reality, and
now generate nothing but more simulations.
The boundaries between entertainment and news collapse. The news
becomes spectacle, entertainment. Politics and entertainment implode. Polls
turn the elections into image contexts, a war of signs.
We still consume, even more feverishly. But now we buy status and
presence instead of objects. Here in San Francisco, my neighborhood has
filled with four-wheel drive wagons. We used to call them jeeps. I doubt
most of these all-terrain vehicles have even been anywhere off the road
beside perhaps a sidewalk. There are hills here, but never any snow nor
weather that would warrant a 4-wheel drive. It is very cool to be part
of this urban safari. In hyperreality what is produced and consumed are
signs. The pressure on the individual is to be socialized. Production is
irrelevant and secondary.
In a surreal mode, we find pleasure in finding the unnatural in the
natural. Eruptions of moments of surreality break into the course of everyday
In the hyperral, the real and imaginary collapse together everywhere.
Any moment might be a media event and we have a kind of sixth sense for
this. We scan for fakery, montage and overlay. Absolut Vodka ala the latest
artist, Absolut Mc Glynn, Absolut Philip, Absolut Goodman....
A kind of non-deliberate parody clings to everything. No one believes
it is real, nor cares. Do you have political concerns about the integrety
of the politicians? Get with it, its cool that Newt brings his laptop to
In dreamwork, we cover the full spectrum. Some people use dreamwork
to patch up the holes in their reality - or gaps in their illusion of reality
- places where meaning and value have dropped out of their lives. Much
of therapy is about patching up holes in the ego. Deeper work is statistically
rare. Dreamwork can go the other extreme as well and be a vehicle for promoting
a particular singular reality. Here, the interpretations will always be
the same, and the interpretive process determines reality. Just as vexing
can be the dream as god approach, where the dream reality is determining
all the reality and dreamwork becomes a kind of religion, the dream an
object of worship.
o An Alternative to Signs - The Improverse
While Baudrillard exposes very well the simulated reality we are
moving so rapidly into, his alternatives are somewhat lacking and under
theorized. The gist is to enact scenes that return us to the symbolic and
burn the sign. But his suggestion of becoming more real than real, more
the worker than the worker, more the consumer than the consumer, seem to
have little or no effect on culture and quickly play out to exhaustion
in avante-gaude art scenes. Big History may truly have ended and in our
postmodern world all we can do is play with the pieces. While this may
cause sadness for dictators, nationalists, classists and others desiring
massive changes, for most of us exploring dreamwork in cyberspace it offers
the opportunity for play and experimentation.
A personal alternative is the Improverse, the intrusion of a symbolic
exchange into sign value and exchange. In the improverse, reality is created
out of the interaction of two or more singularites (dream, person, mood,
sound in the distance..) intruding into the exchange value and signs. One
might say that reality is co-determined by the participants on a local
level. Avens once said about the dream, we give it meaning, then it reveals
to us its significance. If we can hear it. Listening is as important as
signing in this universe. Having an ear for the other and being able to
play off of the song that comes from neither but from the relationship
is much like the old technique of impovisational music. In blues and folk
rock jams, the musician is called upon to listen while playing. Improvisations
lead to a temporary reality or song/jam world that includes all that are
listening, musicians and non-musicians alike. Thus the subjective-objective
world is crossed. On a Social-Political level, subversive activities often
erupt in the same manner. On a larger scale we can see the effects in such
events as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall coming directly from grassroots
cultural exchange programs. On a more local level, Bikers, sick of Auto
dominated streets began erupting into spontaneous Critical Mass bike-a-thons
in the Bay Area in the late 1990's durning rush hour traffic. In dreamwork
we approach the dream without a sense of knowing, but of interest - we
try a note. This boy in my dream is my own undeveloped boy. We listen and
maybe we hear yes, maybe we hear no - but usually a whole intuition appears
that leads us on. The improverse comes into being.
References and More on Jean Baudrillard: www.dreamgate.com/pomo/
Hyperreal: A phenomenon where one can no longer tell the difference
between real and reproductions of the real. Reproductions even become more
real than real and experiences of hyperreal more satisfying than experiences
of the real.
Image: Sometimes a visual presentation, but not always. In a larger
way, more as an understanding, as in "Let me give you an image of what
happened the other day."
Sign: Something that usually points to something else. It can be
a part of language or an event as well as a traffic sign or dream image.
The sign has parts, the signifier - like the word "couch", the signified
or concept it is referring to like the idea of couch and the referent,
a concrete object like my couch in my livingroom. In Postmodern theory,
there is more and more emphasis on the material signifier and less on the
concept to which it refers. The actual object in the real world, the referent,
often seems to disappear altogether.
Simulacra: In Plato a false copy. But in modern thought were the
distinction between appearance and reality are challenged the simulacrum
has more value as a critical idea and becomes a copy without an original.
The idea here being reproduction without interest in first causes or reference.
Simulation: The process by which something real replaces the thing
being represented. Language does this in being able to transform something
specific and concrete into something abstract and universal. This brings
up notions of map and territory. For Baudrillard, the transformed "map"
may be more real than the original territory. I might enjoy a film on sky-diving
more than actually doing it. Baudrillard sees history as sliding from attention
to the land to the map leading to the disappearance of meaning. "simulation
is . . . the generation by models of a real without origin or reality:
a hyperreal" (Baudrillard, 1983: 2).
For references and books, see