Electric Dreams

 The DreamGate Course on the History of Dreams

Richard Catlett Wilkerson

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  Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (2001 Nov). The DreamGate Course on the History of Dreams.  Electric Dreams 8(11). Retrieved Dec 28. 2001 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

The DreamGate History of Dreams class online was originally developed to deepen the level of dream sharing that could take place online in the mid 1990's. It was part of a larger DreamGate project, which included developing dream networks through the Net via the Electric Dreams e-zine, developing dream sharing groups via the DreamWheels, and bringing dream organizations online.

The DreamWheel seemed the perfect vehicle for teaching grassroots dreamwork online. People could join anonymously, they could participate on their own time schedule and they would be led by a moderator through some key moves that are useful in any dream sharing venue. Yet some kind of depth was missing, as if those new to the process picked up the strokes very quickly, but were afraid to swim in deep waters where ideas mutate beyond recognition and radically new forms of interaction emerge. Since this was often a person's first exposure to dreamwork, I didn't want to alter change this process itself to force this kind of situation. Part of this was due to the medium, sharing of text based dreams. As Herbert, Olsen and Bosnak have all noted, the absence of face-to-face, real-time connections that include voice tend to favor reflective intuition over emotional processing. Still, I felt that ideas, notions, concepts and images could find more profound expression in the online dreamwork process.

I had been very impressed with the idea behind Mircea Eliade's _A History of Religious Ideas_ "For years I have had in mind a short, concise work, which could be read in a few days." (xv).(2) I wanted something similar for dreamwork, a way for people to get in a very short time some profoundly intense ways to work with dreams.

The second challenge was to make the course for a wide group of people. Some people are interested in dreams for psychological reasons, others for spiritual reasons, and others for aesthetic and reasons of just plain curiosity. Part of this was handled by offering a wide spectrum of topics, but part of this was also handled by finding a common difference, a thing that mattered to people in all these disciplines. This key turned out to be personal empowerment, becoming the authority of one's own processes. Each of these lessons would hinge on finding in the theory that particular set of techniques and ideas that allow a person the freedom to create their own meaning in value in relation with the world around them. The world would turn out to be the cosmos that includes the dreamworld, the waking world, the potential worlds and many, many other worlds and their inhabitants. In all encounters, there seems to be protocols that allow us to interact, and then something that breaks through, an encounter with an Other at a point of intensity where repetitive habits leave off and new forms emerge.

Each dreamwork that affects us will have some of each. They will have enough protocol and hand shaking to establish a temporary field or territory, and enough deterritorialization for the swarm of novel interactions to emerge. In the primitive night, a circle will be drawn and an autonomous field of dance will emerge from the DreamTime and distribute hordes of multiple beings across the networks of the earth. Freud will establish a whole host of boundaries and confidentialities so that the free associations can emerge from behind the taboos and repressions. Jung will bring all the arts into play to allow the most indefinable elements of the psyche to express themselves in a field beyond what could have beforehand been imagined. Mednard Boss will force us to continue facing the surface until it becomes so intense that the prison door melts and we learn that a dream image is not something we have, but something that has us. Fritz Perls will keep pushing, past the game playing, past the bull, past the fear, to a center so hot it will fuse once disparate fragments of psyche into a fully expressive being. Lucid dreamers have learned this trick. With practice and focus, the dreamer gives birth to him/herself in a temporary autonomous zone of freedom. This improvised universe, or Improverse, allows us the freedom to connect with new worlds, build new relations and multiply their possibilities to infinity.

Thus each module in the History of Dreams course is set up to first establish a protocol of communication and techniques related with that particular dreamwork theory, and then to allow the dreamer to use his or her own dreams to use the protocols find the breakthrough points. These points will be different for everyone, and some protocols will appeal to some and not others. What people break-through *to* will be different as well. Protocols are simply conventions, agreed upon codes, which allow networks of relations to last long enough for a person to cross over and enter into them. If I put my hand out to shake hands with you, and you take my hand, chances are that we have agreed upon a particular network of codes. We can go different directions. We can leave it at that, like two statesmen agreeing to contract which will have future binding powers, or we may mutually use that time to connect more personally, to break-through our distance and enter into a temporary zone of friendship. Either way, we have created a virtual reality, a field that is held together by shared protocol. These shared fields empower us, enable us to take actions within the limits of their range and scope and relevancy.

I have also set the course up so that at some point, at many points, it may become clear that the dream itself is its own protocol and break-through to itself. All fields have this double nature, the to-be-crossed and the place we crossed to-get-to. Some will always see dreams as representations, as referring to something else, be that a reference to how to live one's life better, a reference to the state of one's psyche, a message from God or the Unconscious on how behave, or a image of the past or future. 

These are all parts of the dream, but there is also the dream-in-itself. If I said to my friend, "Hey, thanks for that cup of tea, now I'm going to interpret you and why you gave it to me", then my friend is likely to do more than raise an eyebrow. There is a kind of intrusive offense at missing the point of teatime in referring the special time and my friend who hosted it to be only representatives of something else. 

Every protocol has its own break-through, and when an intrusive break-through is applied to a protocol, the field can collapse, the zone disappears. This is not always a bad thing. Knowing how to subvert repressive zones of protocol is as important to empowerment as engendering connections with creative fields of intensity. 

Still, there will always be the call to things themselves. This is not always just play land. Rather, it's more like how we move in an art gallery, from works of art that represent things, to works of art which don't, or only represent themselves. 

It's not always playful.

 Jackson Pollock is often no less serious than Rembrandt, nor Rembrandt at times less playful than Miro. This history of representation in Art follows very closely the history of dream interpretation. Early cave paintings and early dreams were players in a mythic landscape of ensouled regions. Kinship filiations and tribal alliances marked the body to signal the flows of life and death. Biocosmic gods sent messages through the art marks and through dreams. With the rise of kings and pharaohs, the messages and marks on the art began to refer only to these kings and the gods above them. During the Renaissance they began referring to hu/man him/herself, and in the renaissance of dreamwork (somewhat later) dreams began referring to hu/man and the meaning of his/her life and his/her objects. 

Finally, in modern art, the representations finally give way to pure abstractions that refer to nothing beyond themselves, and dreams to begin to wrap their significations back around themselves. Postmodern art finds itself in a predicament. From representation of an Other to presentation of itself, the theatre of dreams and art in the postmodern world seem destined to be collages and replay and rehashing of previous periods. 

Yet something novel emerges despite the seeming appearance in the day residue of the past. At first we can only see this out of the corner of our eyes. Our peripheral vision can catch glimpses of this new world. It's not something we can control, and so it's not something we can represent. The grand stories that held the world together have fallen apart and there is no single value system that can rise up and cover the globe in harmony. 

Of course, there never was, we all see this now. Each idea that we push past its limit becomes a tyrant at the limit of its deployment. Still we continue to paint, continue to dream. We have each become responsible for that which used to be help up by grand narratives. We are free from any particular representation, but we haven't quite freed ourselves from representation itself. Like a Zen student who casts off the world of attachments and doesn't yet see this casting off is an attachment in itself, the postmodern dreamworker completes the world of representation by coming a full circle and entering back into connection with them in a new way, stopping for a moment having taken them in a full breath, recording the possibilities and blowing them back again across a new world which remain while the dream and the real collide.

- Richard Wilkerson

This six week class is conducted online. Participants will get a full survey of the history of dreams and dreamwork, from ancient Thrace to Cyberspace. All are encouraged to join the Electric Dreams DreamWheel as well. $29.95

Classes start at the first of each month.

Class Syllabus: History of Dreams

Module 1. Introduction and Basic Recall Skills: The Peer-Relations Approach
---- Sign-up for online dream groups.
Module 2. Ancient Dreams: Messages from the Gods
Module 3. Sigmund Freud: The Dream-work of the Unconscious
Module 4. Carl Gustav Jung: Mythic Dreams and Wholeness
Module 5. Other Pre- 1960's Dream Theories (Adler, Boss, Surrealists)
Module 6. Frederick (Fritz) Perls : Gestalt Dream Techniques
Module 7. Mindell and Gendlin: The DreamBody
Module 8. From Couch to Culture: Grassroots & Modern Dreamwork Movements
Module 9. Non-Interpretive Dreamwork: Lucid, Mutual, Paranormal & Pro-active Dreaming
Module 10. Dream Science and Dreamwork: Friends or Foes?
Module 11. Dream Anthropology: How Culture Influences Dreamwork
Module 12. Dreaming In Cyberspace: New Trends in Dream Sharing on the Internet

o Freud's Dream-work - a model of primary process.
o Jung: Me and my shadow, Beyond and through the personal, Jung and dreams.
o Dreams and Health: The Revival of Ancient Dream Healing in Modern Medicine.
o Couch to Culture: Montague Ullman and Walter Bonime.
o Nightmares: New approaches and techniques.
o Dreams and Western Religions: An account of what happened.


(1) Wilkerson, Richard C. (1999). A Brief History of Dream Sharing: Theory, Techniques and Practice. San Francisco, CA: DreamGate.

(2) Eliade, Mircea (1978). A History of Religious Ideas. Vol 1. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. "Alas, that short, concise book has not yet been written." xv

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