Web of Communication-or-Researching the Sociology of Dreams

Social Web of Affiliation -or- Peace and Conflict Studies of Dreams 

"Conflict & The Web of Group Affiliations" by Georg Simmel provides a sociological perspective of social organization and social order. Using Simmel's ideas about the conflicting factors of human communicative sociation and dis-sociation operating in social networks, we can apply his socially mediated theory to our dreams. Nowhere can we better bring conflicts under the social microscope and into focus, than the communal conflicts and problems found in our dreams.

Thomas M French and Erika Fromm "Dream Interpretation: A New Approach", provide a clinical psychological problem solving approach to the focal conflicts found in dreams. Peace and conflict studies using dreams can sociologically explain everything from domestic disputes to explaining war. Using dreams, we can provide an understanding of the individual and group psychological effects of social conflict. This in turn would allow for more accurate conflict resolution strategies to take a foothold.

Peace building could become a social reality, in social scientific theory anyways. What would be needed is a large number of dreams to test this social theory. I have my own database, sent by people via the Internet, which amounts to over 6000 dreams. I have my own dreams that are found in my note books. I have the dreams of my clients, and the dreams found in literature. All these dreams provide a conceptual foundation for the ultimate development of a grand unified theory and model of dreams, dreaming and consciousness.

Many people keep dream note books, I know a North American dream researcher, who has kept a dream diary since the late 1940's. I was recently informed by another fellow dream researcher that many researchers have there own database of dreams, however there is no central organizing website that housed let's say 100 thousand or 1 million dreams. The creation of such a dream research Mecca would allow for a more diversified everyday perspective of dreams to be developed and practiced. Plans slowly appear to be in the works and coming together to make this real need a reality. What a unified dream research world of dreams it would be.

The World as a Dream -or- Detlev von Uslar's Anthropological Dream World

Between 1975 and 1983 it was my fortune to study at the University of Zürich. Zürich, for those who don't know is the Mecca for Jungian psychology. This "Field Note" however is about the dreams of Detlev von Uslar. Von Uslar was a German academic professor who taught psychology at the University of Zurich and was one of my many Professors. He has written a number of books including, "Der Traum als Welt" (The Dream as a World).

For my final University anthropological psychology department exam, von Uslar had given me three days to write an essay of my choice. The title of my essay, was "Dream and Phantasy" (the Freudian concept of "Phantasy" is discussed by following the link. A similar Jungian concept is found in the concept of the "active imagination"). Many of my thoughts about dreams today, finds psychological expression in that essay written 27 years ago. The essay's contents, discussed such topics as mythology, autobiographical memory, film and dreams, and the psychotherapeutic use of dreams.

In 2003 von Uslar's "Diary of the Unconscious: Adventures in the Realm of Dreams" in which he had recorded 6100 dreams was published, the dream series begins in 1949 and ends in 2001. From my own perspective, his dreams represent a Eurocentric, academic and Germanistic (German studies) vision of what Maurice Halbwuchs called "collective memory".

Reading von Uslar's dreams, did not really inform me about something really new, instead, they just reinforced many impressions that I already had as a student. There were however, some eye opening aspects. What his dreams do enable me to undertake, is to begin to make social communication networks visible via one person's large quantity of dreams. Uslar's dreams take on a more "traditional" perspective, while my own are generally more avant guard in nature. A point I will anecdotally return to later.

A complete review of a cultural paradigmatic dream vision pattern which is latent in von Uslar's series of dreams, is not the aim of this Field Note. Instead, von Uslar's dreams provide pragmatic social scientific evidence of the "six degrees of separation" process at work, paradigmatically shaping and operating on the planet as we speak.

The Small World Experiment -or- Keywords and Text Mining of Dreams

Stanley Milgram conducted what is known as the Small World Experiment. Dreams can be used like a depth psychological fluoroscope, to scientifically illuminate the production and organization of the social images of these "friend of a friend" social networks that are operating on the planet as we speak. Dreams can also show us the real "enemies" of social peace. Von Uslar's dreams illustrate one person's anthropological literary slice of life in the collective "small world" paradigmatic patterns of dream vision's social networks.

This can be easily illustrated by text mining via a key word search of von Uslar's dreams. Such a search reveals one degree of separation in the social network pathways to a number of people that populated his dreams.

  1. A student; Von Uslar had many dreams about students, the one I identify with the most, is a dream that he had in 1978, I would even speculate that I was the student involved in this dream.
  2. Inge Strauch a clinical psychologist,
  3. Ulrich Moser a clinical psychologist,
  4. Dieter Strauli an assistant to Professor von Uslar.
  5. Verena Kast a Jungian psychologist,
  6. Ernest Hartmann; The last person in the social network that I am including in the six, is not part of von Uslar's dreams, however Ernest is directly connected to Inge Strauch who metaphorically and literally creates a dream research social network bridge from Europe to North America.


University of Zurich -or- The Six Degrees of Academic Separation

If as Novalis said that anecdotes are like historical molecules, then dreams can work and serve to connect these epigrammatic molecules to create an epic story. These epic dream vision anecdotal stories circulate in our social networks. Here then are von Uslar's; 

1. Student, Dream #2287 (1978-01-27 - Zürich)

This is a dream that von Uslar had about a student. The student although not identified, certainly fits my description. I have taken the student dream first, because it provides a seguy into the rest of the dreams and the story. Here is the dream;

"A man had completed a doctoral Dissertation with a completely different title page, that read; ‘How does one become like a Hölderlin' after high school. I am indignant, I search for this man in a group and I find him, I want him to call him to the carpet to justify (account) himself. He laughs at me unabashed and disarms me. I awake.

(Ein Mann hat bei mir eine Dissertation gemacht und diese mit einem völlig veränderten Titelblatt gedruckt, das lautet -: "Wie wird man ein Hölderlin" von einem Äbi. - Ich bin darüber empört, suche den Mann in einer Gruppe und finde ihn und will ihn zur Rede stellen. Er lacht mich ungeniert an und entwaffnet mich. Erwachen.)  

As a student, my perception was strongly avant guard and progress directed. I learned the very important cultural distinction of traditional and avant guard, while attending a memorable von Uslar class. In the class, von Uslar caught an error in my logic and thinking about overvaluing the avant guard perspective. He smugly walked towards me, to be face to face, and to point out the academic error of not valuing the traditional forms of thought. I have never forgotten that lesson.

Friedrich Hölderlin represents the German tradition in search of poetic connections back to the ancient Greeks. In part, a philosophical thesis could be made, and it could be argued that Hölderlin's work provided in part, the archetypal poetic background for the Nazi's "Aryan master race" ideology. Whether Hölderlin had intended for his work to be used in such a fashion, is completely another question.

2. Inge Strauch, Dream #2378 (1992-09-04 - Zürich)

There are numerous dreams about Frau Strauch, here is one (which has been translated from the German); "Then Inge Strauch who was also there asked me, if it was like that for me as well." ("Dann fragte mich Inge Strauch, die auch da war, ob das bei mir auch so sei.")

Having officially graduated from the clinical psychology department, I had spoken to Frau Strauch on numerous occasions, in class, as well as in her office. In retrospect, here is a somewhat humorous anecdote; I wanted to register for the final University examinations in 1983, I was told by the philosophy department office secretary that because the clinical psychology paperwork had not been completed and it was well past the deadline, I was unable to register.

I informed the secretary that the clinical psychology department had informed me that the paperwork had been sent in. The secretary apologized, and said it was out of her hands. Immediately I marched up to Frau Strauch's clinical psychology department and emphatically explained the double bind that the situation had created. I'm sure that Frau Strauch had to get involved to resolve the bureaucratic office politics which were resolved within three days. I was allowed to write the final exams.

In Frau Strauch's (with Barbara Meier), "In Search of Dreams: Results of Experimental Dream Research", they mention Detlev von Uslar's book "The Dream as a World".

3. Ulrich Moser, Dream #5419 (1999-11-02, 05:45 - Zürich)

"Then the scene changed. Inge Strauch was sitting on my right side. She whispered in my ear, that this was the room in which Ueli Moser had done his computer investigations into psychological processes. Because of this, the room is now, so to say a historical place."

(Dann wandelt sich die Szene. Rechts neben mir sitzt jetzt Inge Strauch. Sie flüstert mir ins Ohr, dass dies der Raum sei, in dem Ueli Moser seine Computeruntersuchungen zur Psychologie gemacht habe. Der Raum ist jetzt schon sozusagen dadurch ein historischer Raum.)

Unfortunately I have no real anecdotes of Professor Moser, although I know and have seen the room that the dream is speaking about, and its' reported historical significance. As I recall, Moser was trying to create a model of neurotic defense mechanisms using a computer program to simulate the psychological process.

4. Dieter Sträuli #2564 (1993-03-15 - Zürich)

"There were a large number of Masters thesis here. I had let Dieter Sträuli evaluate and grade them, as well as sign the assessor evaluation certificates." (Es war eine grosse Zahl von Lizentiatsarbeiten da. Ich hatte sie von Dieter Sträuli begutachten und benoten und die Gutachten unterschreiben lassen.)

In January 2004, Dieter (who I had known when he was Professor von Uslar's assistant) got together for a coffee, we talked about "the old days", when ethical abuses of students undergoing conformity experiments (much like in Zimbardo's Prison at the University of Zurich was happening). Allan Bloom would complain of similar problems in "Closing of the American Mind". Dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research continue to underscore the harm of the academic indoctrination of students endure to the present day.

5. Verena Kast, Dream #2320 (1981-12-09 - Zürich)

"Meet Mr Israel at Verena Kast's." (Treffe bei Verena Kast Herrn Israel.)

There are many memorable in class student discussions with Frau Kast. However, it was what was said after a twenty year absence (having graduated 1983) from the University, that remains memorable anecdotally. Again, in January 2004, I visited Frau Kast's class on "arrogance" at the University of Zurich. After a lengthy spirited in class Socratic dialogue about the nature and vicissitudes of cultural prejudices, one student in the context of arrogance and prejudice delivered a rather pointed and closed rhetorical question; "you can't love everyone!.. can you?"

Frau Kast did not respond, I felt compelled to retort...after a pregnant silence in the room...responding with another rhetorical question, I said;..."Why not?!" The intended ironic effect was achieved...laughter spontaneously broke out in the classroom.

Verena Kast is a Jungian psychologist and has written many books. Her book, "A Time to Mourn", written while I was a student, has helped me in working through a recent period of personal grief. Her book "Träume:Die geheimnisvolle Sprache des Unbewussten" (Dreams: the mysterious language of the unconscious), uses Ernest Hartmann's model of dreams as related to neural networks.

6. Ernest Hartmann, is the last link in the chain.

In his acknowledgement section of his "Dreams and Nightmares", Ernest cites people that I know and have directly spoken to, such as Inge Strauch, Deirdre Barrett, and Milton Kramer. Others whose books I have read include David Foulkes and Rosalind Cartwright. Many more network connections would be made visible if all the dreams of all these people could be brought into play.

As an anecdote going back a few years (June 2009), Ernest and I were at the International Association for the Study of Dreams annual convention in Chicago, we were listening to a gentleman who was relating astrological ideas to dreams and dreaming. During the discussion, I made a comment about the idea that the centre of the astrological chart was the "navel of the dream". The presenter was somewhat confused. Ernest knew exactly what I was referring to, namely in Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" where he makes reference to the "navel of the dream". Ernest verbalized, what I was thinking. For me it is this psychological navel of the dream, that hyper-connects our social networks, where everyone is connected to everyone else on the planet.

Otto Rank "Art and the Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development", sees the world-navel "as the starting point of the world's creation...." Interestingly enough, the English Professor at the University of Zürich, Elisabeth Bronfen in a similar voice tells us in her book "The Knotted Subject: Hysteria and its Discontents"; "IN THE REPERTORY of western imagery, the navel is the firmly privileged representative for the origin of human existence."



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.