Grimes - Oblivion
You hear a lot about holism these days. They say every thing is one organism, and yes, while that maybe true, unless we come to understand how things function together we really don't comprehend holism. Granted holism will always conceals most of it's mystery, to understand holism is to grasp the absolute... which is imposable, but some thinkers do get closer then others. Henry Bergson is among the most integrative thinkers of the western philosophical tradition. Dreams have long been investigated for hidden treasures of esoteric meaning, so it seems to me that Henri Bergson's book 'Dreams' would be a great place to start in a revaluation of his thought.
Henri Bergson’s 'Dreams'; unlike most books on the topic, is not psychology, nor is it some other type of inductive investigation into the meaning of dreams. It is a phenomenology of sleep; this means it’s the reported findings of some one that simply pays close attention to the experience of dreaming. This does not mean how ever that it is undisciplined or prejudiced against other types of methodology, there is psychological information in this book, as well as neurological explanations. Contrary to what many philosophers and scholars claim, Bergson is not in any way opposed to these kinds of methods of inquiry, on the contrary he simply seeks to understand, and explain how our human bodies produce meaning from/of our interactions with the world, and like all phenomenologist he uses an appeal to our basic experiences to do this. What really sets Bergson apart from other thinkers is the way he considers a topic from a middle point. When considering the mind and the body, Bergson presents the way our actions draw on experience stored in the mind as images(memory); the circumstance calls for an action, the body searches its past memories(images) for a possible course of bodily action, when is selected and the image(memory) has its baring on the circumstance through bodily movement. There you see, it's all one, continues whole, mind body, thiught action, pretty cool, hu!?
Memory has a different function when we rest, because a resting state is not the kind of circumstance that calls any particular action or image(memories) from our minds, so when our minds relax the images start floating around freely connecting in wild new ways, than we start to dream.
You can see how this differs from a Freudian type psychological account of dreaming, in that there isn't really any one thing lurking in the sub-conscious mind trying to manifest it's self the way Freud’s sub-conscious does, instead dream images get there meaning from how our waking bodies might interact with them. Only when we no longer need the memories for any particular purpose do our bodies stop trying to call up the necessary images and the images start to float free. Of course this doesn't mean that dreams can't tell us something about ourselves, just not exactly the same sorts of things the Freud supposes they will. Dreams will tell us something of the nature of image and even the mind and body they just won’t tell us some secret about our mothers, or other such soup opera none sense.
Bergson’s theory is really set apart from other theories of consciousness in that for him no pre-existing set of psychological figures need exist in order for us to make sense of the world or our dreams. For Bergson we make sense of the world through learning, and we learn through connecting actions with past images, so for him we don't need an 'id' to represent our desires, or a Platonic form to make sense of learning. For Bergson Reason is pattern recognition; taking the sense of varies memories and matching them with proper action, it's that simple.
That might sound boring, "what no creepy esoteric knowledge which only doctors have access to, by which they lord over us, high priests and true authorities over our deepest selves!!!" but this also means that our dreams are free from the bounds of a narrow catalog of possible interpretations, because there simply drawn from life. This doesn't mean that there total chaos, ether, just that their meaning and potential is not entirely disconnected from our lived experience. This is good news for 2 reasons: 1 because we now have an intimate relation to the meaning of our dreams, and 2 because dreaming is now a creative process of invention; it isn't just a specimen to be dissected and studied by the elite doctors of the world. Dreams are now the building blocks of creativity and action.
For those wonderful, earnest, individuals among you that find this topic intriguing and would like to do some further reading of your own I have included a beautiful excerpt from Henry Bergson's book 'Dreams' in which the personified Dream introduces himself with ease and candor, a link to the full copy of the book at internetarcive.com, as well as this link to the Daniel Coffeen lecture by which I first heard the good name of Henry Bergson.
Now for Page 43 to 50 of "Dreams!!!"
But, then, what is the essential differ-
ence between perceiving and dreaming?
What is sleep? I do not ask, of course,
how sleep can be explained physiolog-
ically. That is a special question, and be-
sides is far from being settled. I ask what
is sleep psychologically; for our mind
continues to exercise itself when we are
asleep, and it exercises itself as we have
just seen on elements analogous to those
of waking, on sensations and memories;
and also in an analogous manner combines
them. Nevertheless we have on the one
hand normal perception, and on the other
the dream. What is the difference, I re-
peat? What are the psychological charac-
teristics of the sleeping state?
We must distrust theories. There are
a great many of them on this point. Some
say that sleep consists in isolating oneself
from the external world, in closing the
senses to outside things. But we have
shown that our senses continue to act dur-
ing sleep, that they provide us with tjie
outline, or at least the point ojf departure,
of most of our dreams. Some say: "To
^ 44 DREAMS
go to sleep is to stop the action of the su-
perior faculties of the mind," and they talk
of a kind of momentary paralysis of the
higher centers. I do not think that this is
much more exact. In a dream we become
no doubt indifferent to logic, but not in-
capable of logic. There are dreams when
we reason with correctness and even with
subtlety. I might almost say, at the risk
I of seeming paradoxical, that the mistake ol
the dreamer is often in reasoning too much.
He would avoid the absurdity if he would
remain a simple spectator of the proces-
sion of images which compose his dream.
But when he strongly desires to explain
it, his explanation, intended to bind to
gether incoherent images, can be nothing
more than a bizarre reasoning which
verges upon absurdity. I recognize, in
deed, that our superior intellectual facul
ties are relaxed in sleep, that generally the
logic of a dreamer is feeble enough and
often resembles a mere parody of logic.
But one might say as much of all of our
faculties during sleep. It is then not by
the abolition of reasoning, any more than
by the closing of the senses, that we char-
Something else is essential. We need
something more than theories. We need
an intimate contact with the facts. One
must make the decisive experiment upon
oneself. It is necessary that on coming out
of a dream, since we cannot analyze our-
selves in the dream itself, we should watch
the transition from sleeping to waking, fol-
low upon the transition as closely as pos-
sible, and try to express by words what we
experience in this passage. This is very
difficult, but may be accomplished by
forcing the attention. Permit, then, the
writer to take an example from his own
personal experience, and to tell of a recent
dream as well as what was accomplished
on coming out of the dream.
Now the dreamer dreamed that he was
speaking before an assembly, that he was
making a political speech before a political
assembly. Then in the midst of the audi-
torium a murmur rose. The murmur aug-
mented; it became a muttering. Then it
became a roar, a frightful tumult, and
finally there resounded from all parts
timed to a uniform rhythm the cries, "Out!
Out!" At that moment he wakened. A
dog was baying in a neighboring garden,
and with each one of his *Wow-wows"
one of the cries of "Out! Out!" seemed to
be identical. Well, here was the infinitesi-
mal moment which it is necessary to seize.
The waking ego, just reappearing,
should turn to the dreaming ego, which
is still there, and, during some instants at
least, hold it without letting it go. "I
have caught you at it! You thought it was a
crowd shouting and it was a dog barking.
Now, I shall not let go of you until you
tell me just what you were doing!" To
which the dreaming ego would answer, "I
was doing nothing; and this is just where
you and I differ from one another. You
imagine that in order to hear a dog bark-
ing, and to know that it is a dog that barks,
you have nothing to do. That is a great
mistake. You accomplish, without suspect-
ing it, a considerable effort. You take
your entire memory, all your accumulated
experience, and you bring this formidable
mass of memories to converge upon a sin-
gle point, in such a way as to insert ex-
actly in the sounds you heard that one of
your memories which is the most capable
of being adapted to it. Nay, you must ob-
tain a perfect adherence, for between the
memory that you evoke and the crude sen-
sation that you perceive there must not be
the least discrepancy; otherwise you would
be just dreaming. This adjustment you can
only obtain by an effort of the memory
and an effort of the perception, just as the
tailor who is trying on a new coat pulls
together the pieces of cloth that he adjusts
to the shape of your body in order to pin
them. You exert, then, continually, every
moment of the day, an enormous effort.
Your life in a waking state is a life of la-
bor, even when you think you are doing
nothing, for at every minute you have to
choose and every minute exclude. You
choose among your sensations, since you
reject from your consciousness a thousand
subjective sensations which come back in
the night when you sleep. You choose, and
with extreme precision and delicacy, among
your memories, since you reject all that do
not exactly suit your present state. This
choice which you continually accomplish,
this adaptation, ceaselessly renewed, is the
first and most essential condition of what is
called common sense. But all this keeps
you in a state of uninterrupted tension.
You do not feel it at the moment, any more
than you feel the pressure of the atmos-
phere, but it fatigues you in the long run.
Common sense is very fatiguing.
"So, I repeat, I differ from you pre-
cisely in that I do nothing. The effort
that you give without cessation I simply
abstain from giving. In place of attach-
ing myself to life, I detach myself from it.
Everything has become indifferent to me.
I have become disinterested in everything.
To sleep is to become disinterested. One
sleeps to the exact extent to which he be-
comes disinterested. A mother who sleeps
by the side of her child will not stir at the
sound of thunder, but the sigh of the child
will wake her. Does she really sleep in
regard to her child? We do not sleep in
regard to what continues to interest us.
"You ask me what it is that I do when I
dream? I will tell you what you do when
you are awake. You take me, the me of
dreams, me the totality of your past, and
you force me, by making me smaller and
smaller, to fit into the little circle that you
trace around your present action. That is
what it is to be awake. That is what it is to
live the normal psychical life. It is to bat-
tle. It is to will. As for the dream, have
you really any need that I should explain
it? It is the state into which you naturally
fall when you let yourself ^o, when you no
longer have the power to concentrate your-
self upon a single point, when you have
ceased to will. What needs much more to
be explained is the marvelous mechanism
by which at any moment your will obtains
instantly, and almost unconsciously, the con-
centration of all that you have within you
upon one and the same point, the point that
interests you. But to explain this is the
task of normal psychology, of the psychol-
ogy of waking, for willing and waking are
one and the same thing."
This is what the dreaming ego would say.
And it would tell us a great many other
things still if we could let it talk freely.