Electric Dreamers: You may notice that this essay challenges some
of the most precious assumptions in contemporary dreamwork. The primary one is
that dreams "represent" something. I love representations and working
with dreams and association. I don't plan to abandon this path either. But this
process also needs to be challenged. I often get lost in my representations and
forget about the thing itself. These essays in postmodern dreaming are an
attempt to liberate habitual thinking and allow what is most essential in
dreamwork to emerge and thrive. - Richard
A great deal of dream work involves notions of representation, analogy and
identity. These conceptual frameworks often work in clinical situations to bring
about much needed ego-strengths and emotional comfort, but may impede the
breakthrough into the unknown, hinder the production of novel connections and
impede the liberation of desire in radical forms. The Post Structural work of
Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari may offer some new approaches that undermine
the tendencies of representation to territorialize and dominate a particular
organization or identity and create creative lines of escape. Applying to dreams
forms of theory that avoid notions of similarity, representation and desire as
"lack" may similarly expose repressive forms of identity structuring,
open new avenues of behavior and allow for the radical transformations though
productive connections with the world.
Delirium, Desire and Deleuzioguattarian Dreamwork
"Analysis is paralysis."
Martin Luther King
Richard's Dream: Several photojournalists, including myself, are given
permission to visit at the prison. But the prison is in the desert and we have
to go down an empty water well to get there. The prison below is well lite, and
has the look of an excavated Minoan or maybe Mayan city. But the conditions are
appalling. The prisoners in the adobe cells are underfed, starving, wearing
rags. I secretly turn on the video camera to capture some of this. Soon we climb
back up out of the well. As we exit, a large 30 foot diameter hoop or circle of
glowing light around the perimeters rises out of the ground a few feet and
hovers . We are frozen and terrified. Eventually it sinks back into the ground.
One of the ongoing concerns of those engaged in the practices of freedom and
liberation is that the ideas, organizations (and plans to get there) continually
become just exactly what they set out to overcome. It seems that where-ever
there is a way to organize and represent something, there is soon to follow a
pattern of that organization selfishly organizing itself, and selfishly
representing all things in terms of itself. The thinking among many Postmodern
theorists (and others) suggests that the culprits are organization and
representation themselves. This has lead for many to a shift in world-view. The
traditional view holds that there is a real world out there and we simply have
to find the right representation of it to connect. Here reality is found or
discovered. Another view is that reality is always a social construction and we
connect by sharing in that construction. While the Kennedys studied and analyzed
the problem of civil rights, the Kings took to the streets.
Another way we embrace this struggle is in the liberation of desire. Some
seek to find ways for desire to fit into the narrow channels that culture offers
it in limited expression, while others seek to re-assemble the whole notion of
desire and create a proliferation of unheard-of alternative trajectories
transecting both central and marginal cultural space.
There are a multitude of practices that engage these two concerns, how to get
desire out of prison and how to stay out, and I will be using two somewhat
obscure fish out of this multitude and allowing them to swim together. The first
will be a few of the theories or suggested practices of Giles Deleuze and Folix
Guattari and the second will be the theories and practices of dreamwork.
Dreamwork is the collection of practices and texts that involve forms of
engaging dreams. It needs to be differentiated from Freud's dream-work.
Dreamwork assembles both clinical and non-clinical practices, interpretive and
non-interpretive approaches, cultural and anthropological treatments, dream
inspired art and literature, and a host of other practices in normative and
extraordinary dreaming. It is characterized better as a collage of pieces from
many aspects of life than as a singly defined field. The dream-work of Freud
refers to the wheels and gears that produce the disguised fulfilment of a latent
thought, including visual representation, displacement, condensation,
symbolization and secondary revision. Freud's dream-work may be considered a
kind of subset of dreamwork, albeit an unconscious one.
Giles Deleuze and Folix Guattari (D&G) are most often represented as
poststructural theorists who have collaborated in a mutual project of militant
politics and philosophy seeking the liberation of desire through the overcoming
of repressive forms of organization, from the smallest static partial identities
to the largest authoritarian political organizations. Seeking to avoid
totalizing practices themselves, they have not left a whole coherent theory but
rather a collage of concepts which they suggest others may pick and choose from
like tools from a carpenter's box. If an overall goal has to be stated, it might
be said that D&G seek in applied radical theorizing-practice to liberate the
ways that our desire has been programmed and to proliferate fields of freedom
where we can cross over into the most fabulous and unexpected engagements of
Dreams, Desire and Delirium
Like desire (and madness) dreams have followed a similar history in
overflowing the dominate reality structures, side stepping cultural expectations
and opening new paths. They also share in the process of continually being
re-pressed, re-coded an re-presented in ways that conflict less with the current
power structures. Like desire, finding systems that can contain dreams is not
easy. All the axis religions began with dream sharing and ended up repressing
the sharing of dreams when these night brood began conflicting with the
orthodoxy. Jerome's mistranslation in the Vulgate bible of
"witchcraft" as "dream interpretation" sent more than a few
women during the Inquisition to a flaming death. But perhaps the more insidious
interpretation is mother's whisper in our ear, "Its just a dream...".
Opening the door and stepping out
Though dreaming takes up a quarter of our life we generally, as a culture,
remember very few of our dreams. However, access is a fairly easily learned
skill that involves a few easy steps in preparation and recording. This training
applies to hearing any marginally located dialogue.
The habitual mind hears the same thing every morning beginning with its first
amnesia creating shock treatment, the alarm. We immediately begin to salivate,
excuse me, I mean focus on our tasks; shower, breakfast, clothes, meeting, tasks
for the day, where are my keys? And away we go. Preparing to hear something
different requires a break in this flow. The desire to hear something different
already supplies the break, and in a way, it is the break. The first break needs
to occur as close to awakening as possible. Micro-seconds count here. Seconds
count less, minutes and its all over and too late. Keep the mind as empty as
possible. Bergson has noted about time that the more experiences we have, the
faster time seems to go. People who deal with the issue of not having enough
time by accumulating experiences are simply turning the faucet on high and
causing the condition they seek to escape. Come close to the abyss, the void is
Having the desire or intention to not lose your dream, and making space in
the micro-seconds upon awakening are usually not enough to keep the dream doors
open. Some form of recording, usually vocal or writing, allow us to access the
dream images at a later time. But note that the re-called dream and the
re-corded dream are already doubly interpreted or filtered experiences. Still,
these recordings and rememberings help us to bring forward a host of new
emotional and other connections. They are the placenta of new experience.
Experimentation with recording methods; notepads, lovers whispering in each
others ears and tape recorders will each produce different kinds of results and
Networked computer systems now offer alternatives to traditional recording.
Dreams as texts move in cyberspace at odd angles and produce new social
Boundaries of the dream.
I may have already ruined my project of liberation in even suggesting a
D&G dreamwork. Using the word "dream" is itself a highly
representational move marking off various boundaries and closing down other
potentials. Like a multitude of other states, that dream is an endless weaving
together of other singular states, each of which is itself a collision of other
impulses, each with their own levels of intensity, motives, becomings. Much that
we do before going to sleep alters the dream. Has the dream already begun? With
the discovery of REM sleep in the 1950's, it was thought that all dreams
occurred during REM. Now dreams reports have been elicited from all levels of
And all dreams are not the same. Some seem to be mere snippets of thought,
some titanic nightmares, some common place. Some dreams have characters that
know it is a dream, and take volitional control of the dream. Upon awakening,
the pictorial imagery fades first, but often the heart continues to rapidly
beat, and feelings extend over a lifetime. What is the limit of the dream? Like
desire, dreams continually rise up and distribute themselves over the world.
Mechanisms in the lower brain stem inhibit this distribution to a paralyzed body
during REM, and culture overcodes the left overs, to the point in our culture of
paralyzing nearly a quarter of our life into oblivion.
Yet I feel the project can continue as dreams also form their own plane of
consistency between two large attractors - the deep dreamless sleep and the
waking world. The dream as a system tends towards both of these almost by
chance, lives within a various margin of deviation and eventually ends in
disorder. Each dream is its own world and defines it own existence and has its
own local and global resonance. It is a kind of singularity, it is an
assemblage. It functions to connect things.
Transition: Filiation to Alliance
Ron's Dream: We are driving in the country, there are several orchards. We
come to a tree that Asher wants to show me on one of the dirt road corners. Its
a large leaved tree with dozens of shrunken heads hanging from the branches. I
have the feeling the tree is being used by some local cult involved with
primitive occult practices. A swarm of butterflies pass by. I panic about the
cult returning and begin flying away.
With the history of dream sharing comes the history of dream interpretation.
We might say that when one shares with us something odd, there is reactive need
to contain it. Generally these practices look at the dream as a message that
needs to be de-coded, or re-coded in a system of understanding. Studies in
anthropology note that dream interpretations tend to follow the pattern of
re-orienting the dreamer back into the culture. This is true from the Hopi who
need keep a close eye on all resources in the desert, to the psychoanalytic
milieu that needs to bring the neurotic back into filiation with the modern
family, city, nation. All of these require the dream to be a representation.
Once this move is made, the only question becomes the filiation, to what class
or group does the dream belong? By movements of association and similarity, the
dream and its elements are shuffled into various categories, each category with
its own branch, each branch its own trunk and each family its own tree.
Surrounding each of these movements towards representative capture are
alternative paths, and cooperation and alliance with them lead us into
difference rather than similarity. Freud felt that through free association we
would arrive at something unheard of, completely unknown. Slightly better than
representation is symptom. Still, the symptom's value is in what it refers to,
and shades of representation color the process. Free association turns out to
not be very free at all. Free association would be where the associations of
words could cross over into actions and move off the couch and into the world.
If you stand up in a psychoanalytic office, you will be asked to lie right back
down. It becomes quickly clear where the libido is really being channeled.
There is a form of association practiced in Jungian therapy that is similar,
yet different. At one level it appears even more insipid. Instead of freely
associating, wandering where-ever, there is a circling around a particular dream
image. " I have a blue bird in my dream. Birds, birds, well, flight,
feather, spirit, soaring, freedom, laying eggs. Blue, blue, ah yes, expansive,
sad, deep. How it this all a metaphor for my own life? I am like a spirit that
wants to find expansive yet deep freedom, and I want to pass on this to
succeeding generations and I'm sad this isn't working out...". Again, when
the dream image is a representation for other things, the movements tend towards
the know and the similar. Archetypal psychology can degenerate into
stereotypical psychology. Images get put into specimen symbol boxes, symbols
placed in categories of mythic stories, mythic stories in families of universal
truths. But this isn't what Jung intended, even if the fantasy of future
wholeness looms on all this horizons. To the degree that we are able to stay
with the unfamiliar tensions (in this case, of the dream), is the degree to
which something very different and unique can occur. And so, continue circling
around the dream image as if it were a representation, and keep spewing out more
representations, just keep doing it until it gets very, very intense. Every
representation contains the seeds of its own destruction and the birth of
something real. The alchemists noted that in order to reach the goal, heat must
be applied. Archetypal psychologist James Hillman has (somewhat humorously)
suggested that the very moment we go "Ah, ha - so that's what it
means!" we need our Zen Master to be there to slap us in the face and say,
Much of what follows are suggestions for setting up an alliance with the
unfamiliar movements of the dream rather than finding abstract categories that
they may represent. But both directions are part of the infinity of processes
that envelope the liberation of the dream. Every content and its expression is
being organized at a distance by one abstract machine or another.
Becoming Other: Mutant Trajectories
Like desire (and madness) dreams seem to be the most powerful when they bring
us into contact with radical otherness. Daniel brings Nebruchanezer into contact
with a dream that transforms the religions of Babylon. Joseph brings Pharaoh
into contact with a dream that alters the state of Egypt. Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde is written after a Robert Lewis Stevenson encounters his own Hyde in a
dream. Freud and Jung encounter desire and madness in dreams and create and
alter the course of psychotherapy.
This radical otherness is better characterized as a continual process of
becoming other, which begins in the desire to escape bodily limitations. These
limitations can be both cultural as well as natural. To regress back to
representations for a moment, in dreams we often find ourselves up against our
own cultural and psychophysical limit-expectations. We stop at red lights in our
car in a dream. We open dream doors. We walk upstairs and eat meals. Yet in
other dreams we fly, we breath water, we walk through walls, men become women,
we can be several identities at once, we become animals and crooks, we have sex
with taboo people and inanimate objects.
Let me say this another way. Suppose for a moment you were granted freedom
from all the forces that repress you, with one stipulation: no one told you
about this gift. There are a myriad of forces that keep this from being so, even
in a dream, but the tendency in dreaming is towards this supposition. And so in
dreams we begin to see what we are holding in place despite our freedom, plus we
begin to form in a more malleable medium a myriad of other becomings. Intense
struggles envelop every process. The difference between content and expression
is the that one force dominates (expression) and one force is dominated
(content). The struggle for freedom involves constraints and the desire to leave
Jim's Dream: I walk down a hill in the neighborhood and cross a dirt field.
It begins to rain and I have a harder and harder time crossing.
We begin moving into a becoming of the scene by diagraming the other. This is
not an imitation or acting, but a mapping that moves into the function of the
other: I begin struggling against the resistant muck. The muck was just in my
dream, so how can I really struggle against it without being mere imitator of
the scene? By finding the closest muck that is possible. Fritz Perls would have
a person struggling against a group of people forming, in this case, the muck.
The dreamer might push against other people helping to create a resistance, or a
piece of furniture. The key at this point is to keep making it really mucky.
Less representation, more direct contact. The dreamer tries to diagram the man
in the muck, to step into his shoes without acting, but beginning with a drama
none the less. Perls would say one needs to get past the game-playing and
bullshit to the real. We want to go past play acting and really get the feel of
the muck crossing. Other parts of the dream are brought into this becoming. The
muck that resists Jim is a force that can also be diagramed as well. If this
were Gestalt session, a dialogue between the two might occur, Jim would be the
man in the muck, but then switch and speak as the muddy field itself. That's
fine, but the diagraming here is less interested in the dialogue than a third
force that can emerge in the struggle, a hybrid man-field as the applied
logistics of ways the body can connect with itself and the world. We are seeking
a transformation rather than a resolution.
In ancient Delphi, people would sleep on the steps of the temple of Apollo,
seeking (incubating) the dream that would allow them access to the oracle
inside. Mythically, this access to the truth was a later imposition of Apollo on
a pre-Greek people who practiced dance and rites that were assigned by the
Greeks to Dionysis. Pan is one of his entourage and was said to have taught
Apollo dream work at Delphi. In the Dionysian groups, the questions or problems,
if that is what they really were, were danced along the hillsides and meadows
and involved transformations in ecstasy. This moving-into may be distinguished
from Apollo's seeing-from afar. With the dominance of Apollo, the dramas were
all contained in the amphitheater and the ecstasies relocated to the dream (and
the one oracle, who was imprisoned in the center of the temple and surrounded by
the priests who did all the interpreting of visions and dreams). This same
set-up was found in the cult of Asklepios (Aesculapius in Latin). At these
popular dream healing sanctuaries the amphitheater was ever near the spa. The
patients would be cured when they encountered Asklepios or one of his family or
animals in a dream. The becoming other, so to speak, was limited to particular
containing vessels. Still, Dionysis is seen as Apollo's dark brother and has his
own months where he is still the god at Delphi.
Remaking Interpretation: from Meaning to Function Trajectories
"Their are no data, only interpretations"
The most intense and important movements of freedom emerge continually from
the prisons that unceasingly form around each act. I recall as a kid reading a
series of stories in the pulp Sci-Fi Magazine Analog about a culture who set
their criminals outside the city wall in a land where they were free to do
whatever they wanted. The only restriction was that they had to keep moving. If
they sat down for more than a few minutes, a small ceiling would form above the
head. This ceiling would disappear after some waking. Stay in place for hours
and soon walls would began form as well. Finally, the floor would form and that
was it, no way to walk it off and one would starve, trapped in the box.
Though the focus of a D&G dreamwork will not be on the meaning of the
prison, the way the prison functions may lead to new concepts and tools to
undermine its structures. The meaning of a dream is too often the dominating
force. The expression of the dream is the force that wins the struggle, the
content is the becoming of the dream that is molded. By shifting to the
functions of the dream, interpretation becomes not so much a forcing of life
into a perspective as a revealing or unfolding of the many perspectives that are
currently in play. Tracking these trajectories we can find, diagram and play
with them to determine which can serve as indicators that are capable of
becoming intense enough to change the direction of a situation. In other words,
what parts of the dream function to boost our freedom, our humor, or willingness
to jump from one frame of reference to another?
Prisons: Incorporeal Transformations. Abstract machines are at work
everywhere, and no where are they more apparent than in magical ceremonies where
a person is passed over from one category to another. Let's look at the natural
process where a child is born. "It's a girl!" Only words have been
spoken here, no real corporeal change. But these words indicate what has really
happened, and much of the child's future has already been decided, the status of
the child permanently altered, its legal and sexual avenues and rights, the
force of cultural beliefs and opinions, the attitudes of the siblings and bosses
and workers. The transformation almost goes unnoticed because gosh, all we were
really doing is looking to see if it was a girl or a boy. Yet chances are this
supple being has now irrevocably been inscribed with tattoos so deep they will
probably never be removed nor transcended. Incorporeal transformations. Notice
how the legal and other forms of status change with the words "I Do."
as well. One abstract machine produces little girls and boys, the another
husband and wives.
Yet it is at these very spots that a myriad of alternatives exist. Where-ever
there is prison, there is marked around it an open field. Besides being boys and
girls we can be green eyes and blue eyes and brown eyes. "Its a Green
eyes!" Where ever there is monogamy we have all the alternative outside of
Dreams can help us not only practice locating these false transformations,
but offer alternatives as well. These shifts can happen in both life and dreams
at religious rituals, ceremonies, life transition stages, job interviews, school
tests, and the most personal and intimate of moments. Manipulative people know
how to use these, ("Oh yes, I love you") and so should the dream
traveler. At each of these magical moments, desire is overcoded. That is, the
coding of desire is re-arranged or decoded from one channel and re-coded into
Let us look for a moment at an American beer commercial. To re-code desire,
one must first turn up the heat. Desire is typically coded in the targeted
commercial viewer to flow at the sight of a beer maid who could be from a
Playboy magazine. We might say it has been pre-territorialized by the culture.
But the Beer company would like a little of that desire to flow towards their
product. So they turn up the heat. Desires are allowed to flow, and desire
always overflows its boundaries, so there is some that is deterritorialized. In
other words, the targeted viewers get goofy and juiced. This extra desire is
then re-coded in the beer, or that is the attempt, anyway. Classical behaviorism
at one level, but something else occurs in the process. This all occurs within
the realm of capital society. The medium of exchange itself tends to
deterritorialize all other values and re-code them along lines of capital. Old
alliances and affiliations to tribe, totem, or deity are decoded and
reterritorialized on capital. As tragic as this is for aboriginal people and
medieval society, it give us the chance to enter into this game and begin to do
our own recoding.
Sarah's Dream: An old family of vampires lives in a dusty house in the
country. But now the serenity of their existence is over as smugglers that run
the Micronesia channels have invented a kind of electric box that when stepped
on captures vampires and sends them into an eternal hell. I see the vampire dog
they have caught, they keep it in a small cage. The scene changes as a vampire
is being prepared to be sent into eternal hell. They have him tied to a mining
cart and are about to roll the cart down a dark shaft.
The Theater of Cruelty. Content analysis reveals that more than half of our
dreams are unpleasant. From the viewpoint of liberation, this is a hopeful
statistic that gives credence to the notion that dreams are already engaged in
the practices I am suggesting we might enhance with dreamwork. While we may in
general be seeking a life that is more pleasurable and fulfilling, moving into
rather than away from pain has many benefits. If we continually follow only what
is tried and true to get us off, then the channel becomes more and more rigid
and constricted. By mapping what is wretched we can begin to get alternatives to
the dominant libidinal investments.
Productive Unconscious. I thought I might finish this essay on dreams without
ever using the word "Unconscious". It has come to mean about as much
as the word "American", that is, so much that it becomes a hindrance
rather than a facilitator. But for a moment, I'd like to bring out the notion of
D&G of the unconscious in the same way we have been talking about desire and
dreams. Not as a repository of representations which they are referring to
something other than themselves, nor a lack of some object which they are
seeking, but as productive assemblages of desire. If there has to be any one
thing that they produce, then let's call it connections.
How to attune the ear to productions so we can enter in, diagram them and
begin to experiment? There is the production of all processes of selection,
elimination, generation. There is the producing of the new, of artistic,
scientific, and technical connections. There is the production of relations.
There is the composition of rhythms and the production of the duration and
enduring of moments. There is the production of the enlargement of the scope of
perception and complexity, the production of the immune response, the production
of ecological caretaking.
What is being produced by the dream?
The Dream Subjectivities. While dreaming we say we are in the dream, but when
we awake we forget this and talk about the dream being in us. It seems we could
remember that there is always some perspective or another mediating our
experience. In a dream I may be myself, or myself at another age. But I can also
be other people altogether, other things. One direction we can go is to say that
the ego, the I that tells me who I am in the morning, is simply one of many
structures that envelop the process of becoming and its nature of feeling it is
the central structure of any becoming it (I) participate in is its (my) charm
and its (my) illusion. Rather than becoming so concerned about who and what we
are identified with in the dream, perhaps an acceptance of the I as one of the
many processes will allow us to have more time to diagram and become these
others, or to look at how we sustain relationships. What is our attitude in the
dream to time, to rhythm, to colors, to space, to body, to sexuality? Jung and
Perls like to see the dream itself as a subjectivity. As mentioned, in this
stance, all parts of the dream become lost aspect the "I". Perls would
even have people put the phrase "part of me" after each part of the
dream. The window (part of me) is open (part of me) at the end of the hall (part
of me). However, as James Hillman has noted, this tends to allow the ego the
"I" part of me to gobble up the whole dream. He would rather see the
dream has having its own destiny and the (willful) ego in this scheme needs to
learn how to meet these other dream figures on their own ground. Sticking with
them becomes intense and leads to their unknown. Sticking them to our already
formed identity strengthens that identity.
Sometimes we need to accept our room as ours, other times we need to find the
key and open the door to the cell.
From the couch to culture.
Seeking the functions of a dream, diagraming new becomings and cooperating
with the new and weird may work well in a private setting or improvisational
drama class, but how does the production connect in the politics of the
everyday? My suggestion will seem absurd, but it is a preferable
social-political stance to be laughable than to be hopeful: a new dream each
night may be an assemblage through which one finds the novel mutant becoming of
the following day.
Sarah (vampire dream) might spend the day coming into contact with as many
aspects of the vampire in her life as possible, or some assemblage of
damned-vampire-dog-smugglers. In a traditional dreamwork, this would all remain
metaphorical. How is getting up like a vampire, the day sucking the blood of the
night? How is my boss like a vampire, how am I like a vampire on the bus, and so
on. But a dreamwork of becoming is not just about metaphors but connections that
transform. Here Sarah might seek connection of the vampire assemblage in
bringing her intensity to break directly into the normal flow of her life. There
will be embarrassment, humiliation and failure. There will be the places at
which the vampire assemblage comes up against its connective limits. What are
these and how do these limits react to the new assemblage? How might she bite
directly into the veins of her life and smuggle the marginal desires into the
sectors that warehouse and bind all that makes her vibrate? The vampire
assemblage may or may not find sufficient enough consistency to stand the light
of day nor change the direction of any significant direction. But each becoming
gives us more humor and ability to jump again and to withstand more creative
tension. The process needn't be eternal. For every vampire there is a wooden
stake and each becoming a coming and going. The question for us here is not how
to establish new dictators, but rather how we as vampire assemblages can endure
the wooden stake.
Dreamwork in Cyberspace: The Swarm.
The nomadic subject: the free autonomous subject which exists momentarily in
an ever shifting array of possibilities as desiring machines distribute flows
across the body without organs.
A contraption conjures the notion of something taped together with
heterogeneous found objects, clunking, churning, improvising, working through
Metaphors of space, even virtual cyberspace, tend towards representations
that drain desire. Time may be a better metaphor for becoming. Cyberspace may be
more intensely lived in the new connections and breaks in old connections that
need to be endured rather than distancing spaces it creates between people and
institutions. I've noticed that people who use the Internet to gather
information are less interested in this new field than those who enter to
connect with others. In this sense, the Internet is a becoming. Temporarily,
digitally mediated fields attract various contraptions which distribute the flow
of desire in an array of short lived connected flows. Desire breaks into old
flows and creates new connections. It was only a short time before dreams began
to enter into the play and create their own connections.
Dreamwork online began in dream sharing through e-mail. Sometimes this was a
simple as the kind of dream sharing that occurs at the water-cooler at the
office, "Hey, I had the weirdest dream last night...", and sometimes
the dream would be shared in a group discussion mail list producing new
connections among variety of e-mail routes. Just as the Internet itself formed a
pragmatic case of a D&G subject group (free autonomous subjects that connect
momentarily in a ever shifting array of virtual-potentials), so to did the
online dream group.
The offline struggle between what is clinical and what is non-clinical dream
work continued online. Even as late as 1995, the Internet was still a word that
had to be carefully explained to most clinicians. Though my proposal to bring
the Internet to the 1996 Association for the Study of Dreams meeting in Berkeley
met with great support from the board of directors, the idea that actual sharing
of dreams might take place divided the organization and sent the idea into
meetings, ethic committees and panel discussions. The boundaries of what might
be considered clinical and non-clinical dreamsharing are still in contention.
When is the approach to a dream a clinical intervention and when is it something
altogether different? And where can some of the altogether different forms of
dreamwork be utilized in clinical settings? Meanwhile, online experimentation
Dreams on Usenet began as an experiment by Jack Campin in 1990 to collect
images from the unconscious of late 20th Century Anglo Culture. However, it soon
became a meeting place for those who wanted more than to post their dreams in a
public arena. Grass roots dream groups began forming and experimenting with the
new connections the Net allowed. One of these groups, The Electric Dreams
Community, devoted itself in particular to computer mediated dream
communications. Two of the more interesting experiments included the Swarms,
modeled on the notions of D&G rhizomatic connectivity and the Dreamwheels,
an email offshoot of the work of John Herbert.
John Herbert's approach online has been to create short, temporary groups
that focus first on the non-interpretive aspects of dream image description and
then move on to allow members of the group to wildly project their meanings
within a play fantasy that the dream is really their own. All statements made
about the dream have the implied "In my dream...". Instead of
restricting interpretations, they are multiplied and proliferated. This
technique was borrowed from a portion of Montegue Ullman's dream group
techniques he developed for non-clinical dream support groups. The Electric
Dreams community switched the groups from the public bulletin board style and
tried a varied of email boundaries. Both of these Internet venues challenged the
notions of singular identities, public and private, interpretive authority, and
other ideas of location, space, time and connection.
The Swarm began as an Electric Dreams invitation to the Internet community to
have an Online Halloween dream sharing excursion. The idea was to start enough
movement through the pre-set channels by propelling engaged Halloween beasts to
create a critical mass sufficient enough to sustain new channels and fields of
play. Dream texts, dream inspired art, dream interpretations and dream chat were
to be the beginning connections that would hyperlink the swarm. The project drew
participation from dream oriented web site, cyber-psychologists and groups such
as the Fly-By-Night club, an organization devoted to the idea the dreaming can
The results were less interesting than we had planned, probably due to the
still nascent technology of the Internet. That is, many people were restricted
to just e-mail, others to IRC, others to Usenet and their own Web sites. Many
were unclear as to how to create multiple and anonymous identities with e-mail
and other Net vessels. There was just not sufficient critical mass.
Still, something stronger than possibilities were entertained and the
experimentation continues everywhere online. Dreams continues to produce new
connections and break into the older restrictions that surround them. There are
projects in the works, for example, to connect all the dreams that get typed
into the computer in the morning. These dreams can begin creating global and
regional fields of connectivity as new assemblages become accessible in
Out the text and into the world
Using the Net to break into the flow of normative textual channels is a large
part of the Electric Dreams project. That is, you read this article, the text
enters flows into your body, codes shift into new channels or harden into
arteries. The e-mail list dream-flow receives dreams, comments on dreams and
these are assembled, reassembled, published, distributed and allow the dreamer
to transverse the flow of his or her own inscriptions. Some people set up web
sites and spawn new connections. Over time, the site too may become just another
brick in the wall, and join the hyperlinked rot system of lost URLs, but for now
it may create a 90 degree break in our patterns. If you are not sure what to
come and say, bring a dream.
While the dream will never lose all its representational aspects, nor desire,
we can begin to make room for the dream that plays with everything it comes into
contact with. It plays with all kinds of authority, it plays with all kinds of
taboos and boundaries, it plays with itself. When it begins to play with itself
and its own boundaries, something new can happen. In this sense the dream is
something that gets put into play, something that carries us away, that breaks
into the territorialized flows of repressive authority and creates new
connections and flows, turns us into nomads wandering the field of desire. It is
said of Eros that he sleeps barefoot in the doorway. Desire breaks into the
flows, creates new connections and them abandons them. It always overflows any
boundaries culture imposes and produces more connections than any social
structure can allow. We wake up in the morning with a dream in our eyes. Is this
something to brush away or a doorway into the marvelous?
Richard C. Wilkerson
A. I have chosen in this essay to leave off the references in the text as a
statement of the need to move into a kind of connectivity that avoids referring
and referencing out. I recognize the need to save time by having some linking
addresses and so I have included this Bibliography.
B. Original French versions indicated by second date (1998/1984)
C. Dreams have been reprinted with the permission of the dreamers, though
their names are anonymous. See the publication Electric Dreams volume 1-5,
1994-1998. issn 1089 4284
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Barbara Habberjam (Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
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and Schizophrenia. Rovert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. lane (Trans.).
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-------- . ( 1988/1980). A Thousand Plateuas: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
Brian Massumi (Trans.). London, Athone Press.
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