Electric Dreams

John Herbert and the Internet Group

Richard Wilkerson and John Herbert

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Wilkerson, Richard Catlett and John Herbert (1995 April 15). John Herbert and the Internet Group. Electric Dreams 2(6). Retrieved July 31, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  

I had heard about the work John Herbert last year through the grassroots dream grapevine, but hadn't been able to track him down on the Net. Finally, he found me and I had a chance to go through two of his groups, one as a commentator and the other using one of my dreams. I feel John's work, both at the Seniornet on AOL and his many other projects in the last few years, provide a core model and background support for the emerging communities of concerned dreamers on the Net. The background support comes from his research on CMC (computer mediated communications)vs Face-to-Face dream groups and his findings suggesting that many aspects of dreamwork work just as well with CMC and some aspects are even superior. The point here is not to set up a competition between the two. John has a great deal of experience with face-to-face groups and highly values them. What I see as valuable in his project is the process of differentiating just what *is* better mediated by CMC and Face-to-Face and building on what we learn.

While I want to describe my experience with this kind of Net group dreamwork and compare this to Face-to-Face and other Net dreamwork, my main goal here (beyond giving John Herbert's work some exposure and attention) is to stimulate our imaginations and inspire ever new forms of experimental dreamsharing. But first a short history I asked John to provide for us

From John Herbert:

Most of my professional life has been associated with aviation, but my introduction to group dream work started with an Edgar Cayce group in New York in the 1960's. I later attended one term at the C.G.Jung Institute in Zurich, which started my serious work with dreams. My desire to learn more about dreams and research led me to back to school, first at San Francisco State Univ. (M.A.Psychology, 1970) and recently to a Doctoral program in Psychology at Saybrook Institute (San Francisco), where I was introduced to Montague Ullman's "If it were my dream" approach by Stanley Krippner, who has been my major mentor. Progressively, I became more active in face-to-face group dreamwork; I have studied under Ullman and have moderated FTF groups for several years.

I became aware, however, of the changing modes of communication available to the electronic community and I wanted to find out if it might be possible to conduct group dream work on electronic BBSs. As part of the research for my dissertation, I have done test groups on the Internet (alt.dreams), Delphi, Compuserve, the WELL, and America OnLine. Group Dreamwork is currently being conducted on AOL in the Seniornet sector\Communities Message area\Group Dream Work topic. I have over 3500 of my own dreams stored in electronic format, and I have been able to use them for research, documenting how dream metaphors have commented on various life situations. J.H.

Reflections on the Seniornet Dreamgroup & Ideas - by Richard Wilkerson

I enjoyed both of the groups I participated in and as I mentioned I was a commentator in one and a dream sharer in the other. The process is much like alt.dreams, only much more intimate. If you are not familiar with the alt.dreams newsgroup, you can subscribe to that via Usenet. In John's version there were about 5 participants in each group who signed up anonymously and the group lasted under two weeks. The group was guided through the steps of the process by a mediator who chose the dream from the list of submissions and the process generally ran as follows: After the dream was posted, the participants were asked for clarifications only. The dreamer responded, but didn't have too. The next phase began with the participants being encouraged to comment in the "If this were my dream" style originated by Montague Ullman, and made popular and developed by Stanley Krippner, Jeremy Taylor and others. The dreamer chose to limit the replies, but was encouraged to the comments as he or she wished. End group.

There was a subtle but delightful shift that occurred in me emotionally that had to do with the reflective process, the give and take, question and answer. I often feel this in Face-to-Face (FtF) groups too, but there is a difference in that I get a chance to reflect longer before I respond in the CMC groups. Which is the better mediator of skills and insight over time? There is something about the CMC experience that is "light" and ephemeral. I've had to look up responses to my dreams over and over, as I keep forgetting things I wanted to remember. With FtF groups, things stick a little better for me personally. But this may indicate that CMC may have and inherent, excellent self regulation valve. One of the mutual projects John and I share with dreams as well as internet is the valuing of self-empowerment, and the lightness of the medium allows for more personal self regulation.

What this experience has led me to is the possibility for using Electric Dreams as an experimental ground for miniature groups that meet and organize on Electric Dreams and then go off to conduct a more private and personal experiments and then return to the EDreams community with a report or summary and suggestions for new mini-groups. We are trying one of those now and will have some results for you next issue. If you are interested in being in one of these groups or would like to suggest and mediate your own, feel free to send in a request. We are trying a Round Robin approach now, but I can think of many interesting variations. What, for example, would happen if we, as a small group, began visiting other realms and domains on internet? We could conduct a group on alt.dream, going about our process, but allowing other in too. We could sign up on mail list, like Imagination or Gestalt, and do a small workshop with them. Perhaps we have a Telnet expert who could help link us together at a specific time, or use the IRC on internet for a real time meeting. Send me some ideas and requests.

 Lets play. -Richard


For more on John Herbert's Seniornet group or other work, see


Herbert, J.W. (1991) "Human Science Research Methods in Studying Dreamwork: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Face-to-Face and Computer Dream Work Groups" Unpublished Manuscript, Saybrook Institute, San Francisco.

Sample Session - Herbert