Learning through Experience -or- Avant Guard Dream Art Studio

Early on, when I was in my three year training therapy from 1984 until 1987, one of the observations that my Professor made during our weekly sessions about my dreams, was that I was learning through "trial and error". In other words, I was experimenting in my dreams. Dreams as I have said in other dream interpretations are "thought experiments" about relationships, thoughts, desires and "reality". 

As such, I have always looked to dreams from an artistic and scientific perspective as an "avant guard" method and means for being on the leading cultural edge of philosophical understanding. The dream interpretation "The Avant Guard Studio" provides an understanding of the virtual artistic space for the testing of philosophical models (theories). 

There are however serious risks which must also be taken into consideration. In the dream interpretation "The Waking Life of Jared Loughner" I have cautioned and warned about those who experiment without direct guidance by trained experts. Unfortunately, some people "throw caution to the wind". 

Since beginning my note books in 1977, I have gained a great deal of philosophical knowledge and experience in the field of dream research, "1001 Nights in the Global Village" provides to you the reader insight into my own experiences. The three words experience, experiment and expert have interconnected meaning. Below are some philosophical ideas about experience, experiment and expert as it relates to our dreams. 

Brainstorms -or- Philosophical Experiments, and Experiences of Dreaming 

"Are Dreams Experiences?", asks Daniel Dennett in his philosophical book "Brainstorms".  Dennett reviews the ‘received view' that dreams "are experiences that occur during sleep." Critiquing this received view and the philosophical arguments found in Norman Malcolm's book "Dreaming" leads Dennett to state; "The fact that one is in a sound sleep goes a long way to confirming that one is not having experiences, as ordinarily understood.  

Dennett's philosophical arguments while interesting, are in "fact", wrong. As stated earlier, the words experience, experiment and expert are in fact related. In their book "What is Philosophy?", the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and the psychoanalyst Felix Guattari state; "To think is to experiment, but experimentation is always that which is in the process of coming about-the new, the remarkable, and interesting that replace the appearance of truth and are more demanding than it is." 

Deleuze and Gauttari also state; "Without history experimentation would remain indeterminate and unconditioned, but experimentation is not historical. It is philosophical." The dream can be seen as the penultimate virtual artistic laboratory for the philosophical experimentation of perception. The IIDR dream interpretation "The Thinker" discusses the philosophical thought experiments which can pave the way to "Know Thyself". 

Many artistic, scientific and philosophical dreams posted at the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) website are based upon "thought experiments" in the "theatre of the dreaming mind". Some dreams represent successful and others represent failed thought experiments and learning. From an emotional perspective, dreams facilitate the learning of empathy. Failure to learn empathy amounts to psychopathy

Failed thought experiments can lead to "neurotic" and "irrational" distortions of "reality" via failed reality testing. In the extreme failed thought experiments in dreams can lead to "thought disorders" and the derailment of the trains of thought

From a cognitive-behavioural perspective, Miller, Gallanter and Pribram, "Plans and the Structure of Behaviour" developed their T-O-T-E model. of reality testing and cognitive-behavioural error-correction. The cognitive plans and structure of reality tested thoughts, feelings and behaviour can be seen developing in our dreams. 

Deleuze and Guttari say that experimentation is philosophical, then we can turn to art for more understanding. John Dewey, "Art as Experience" provides an aesthetic philosophical model for understanding the art and experience of dreaming. We can find art, beauty and taste philosophically inculcated in our dreams. Many dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website speak about the aesthetic failures of dreaming and is understood as the "grotesque body". The grotesque body is discussed in the IIDR interpretation "Off Color Humor". 

The lucid dreaming mind that exists in a virtual reality theatre has been featured in the science fiction films such as "The Matrix", "Inception", and "Source Code". In "Source Code", we find a Dennett type "Cartesian Theatre" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_theater, except that the brain in a vat hero can effect conscious changes outside his own conscious dream theatre. In this philosophical theatre of conscious perception, the collapse of the quantum wave function, will be discussed in a future dream interpretation when talking about the dreams of the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. 

What I would like to ask Mr Dennett is, if the dream is not an "ordinary" experience, then why do people since the beginning of recorded history tell us that "it seemed so real"? How does he explain lucid dreaming? Or, how does Dennett explain, sweating, rapid breathing, heart racing (pounding) when waking up from a nightmare? Why do people have post-traumatic nightmares after traumatic experiences? 

Why did Freud who also was also an atheist, admit that people apparently had spiritual (oceanic feeling) and ecstatic experiences in their dreams? Are these experiences just delusions (according to Dennett)? Why did evolution build the experience of dreaming into the nervous system in the first place? 

Can the evolutionary study of emotion found in dreams be seen as playing a critical role for adjustment and survival? Are dreams nothing more than Darwinian literary studies? I could go on asking more Socratic philosophical questions about dreams and dreaming.... 

On a final note, I have included (below) for you the reader, some of the dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website that discuss the creative aspects of experimenting with dreams; 

Variety of Dream Experiences -or- Experimenting with Dreams 

Further Reading: 

  • Edward S. Tauber and Maurice R. Green, "Prelogical Experience: An Inquiry into Dreams and Other Creative Processes"
  • Wilfred Bion, "Experiences in Groups"
  • David Foulkes "Children's Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness"
  • Montague Ullman, and Claire Limmer (ed), "The Variety of Dream Experience"
  • George Santayana, "The Sense of Beauty"
All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.