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Dream as reality

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”Reality is a word without opposite”, said Pierre Mabille1. If a phenomenon exists, if it manifests itself, it cannot be unreal unless it was made before a more or less arbitrary effort in order to catalogue the phenomena through a series of assumptions that can not be but biased in some of its parts. Everything that is is being stated in its existence. And by existing, it automatically enters in dialectical relationship with the whole and its parts, as this and nothing else is the way in which this assertion is developing. The dream could not be less. By manifest itself in reality it cannot but affect directly and regardless to the whole. The dream intervenes, struggles with the existing, first on the individual level explicitly, then on the social level in more subtle but equally significant ways. Today this existence is being hidden by the forces of day and confined, at best, to a non-complete existence, to a shadowy existence in which its powers have come to be quarantined. In this hidden dialectic our desires have been resolved.

From the moment that reality can be understood as a human construction in which the series of phenomena that constitute it are being discovered as consciously chosen among others that, although existing, do not seem to be part of it, the problem of the dream as reality re-emerges on its own as a source of daily concerns. For what we know is not only reality, it is something more than reality since we know the real but also what has been decreed, out of previous needs, as unreal. Thus reality is coercive, it is an imperative that dictates its limits. Its exclusive nature can not go unnoticed by anyone. And I am not referring here to the reality principle, ie to the struggle of man against what prevents him from achieving the realization of his desire, but to the determination by the same man of what exists and what doesn't.

From this point of view: Who still dares to declare that dreams are not part of reality? It is about understanding that the relationship of man with his dreams is also included in the reality principle, and that this relationship has a determinant value and determinant consequences. Even further, that in the burning fountain of life that springs from the dreams and from their relationship with wake there is a reserve of freedom and possibilities of liberation of the actual life of every one of us that turns it, and I am weighing my words, into a weapon. The dream is reality to the extent that it is real. The attempt to create us a life that is commensurate with what we are for sure can not overlook  such a decisive part of existence as dreams are.

For the time of sleep is part of our life, we know it well, as are the hours of work or the time of rest, only infinitely more important (as is the time of love) as being determined by our initial aspirations. We go through our dreams every day, and only the betrayal of memory prevents us from absorbing the heavy water of the dreams during the day. Well, everything happens eight hours a day, every single day of our lives. Eight hours of work, eight hours of life, eight hours of sleep. Eight quotidian hours that we pass in the landscapes of awe and wonder and which are the night life that we experience. It is almost a tradition that any study on dreams includes a formula similar to the one that I just used, mixed with a more or less pronounced strangeness. It is a healthy habit that I refuse to betray. The word quotidian can not have a more convincing expansion than when referring to the constant and daily period in which life goes into the uncertain territory of dreams.

However, and here I need to anticipate, if I use the word uncertain I do it with the intention that the adjective will be transitory in the history of mankind. The barrier that separates the worlds must fall, or at least be permeable so that the transfer can occur effectively and in both directions. It is time to overcome the depressing idea of the separation of wakefulness and sleep. Each time that we go to sleep, we are being buried under mountains of sand. Every time that we wake up, we do it with a stone in our hand.

And it is of course possible to also do it in another way, for the dreams have been studied from different angles through the centuries, and modern psychology in particular has reached far  in the study of the oneiric world. However, these studies and these practices have sinned, in our opinion,  with a very strict partitioning of the nocturnal space, causing a stiffness in them, their inevitable  specialization from the moment they were exclusively taken and assaulted by the specialists in human psychology. The dreams have become an isolated compartment, and and in their tendency to immobility, modern analysts have made the dream a place where relationships tend to reverse inevitably on themselves. The aims of the therapists were impressed in them and in their study, making the natural center of gravity of the dream vacillate towards the discovery of the patology.

However, what is often forgotten is that this (undisputed) relationship of which we speak is not exclusively the only one that takes place, and that there is a condition of the dreams on top of it as an essential part of life, not only as a mirror of the events of wakefulness, as a mental theater which represent events and the desires of the individual, but, above all, as an actual experience of human life. The dream, viewed from this perspective, claims its own presence without needing to be exclusively subject to the well known world of permanent darkness. This world in which, to start with, Freudianism finally enclosed it, / the dream / is a world where everything means something else in preferential relationship with the secret. In this view it is obviously the dream that always is losing. But human life does not work that way. All that happens to us is related to the totality of what we are, and it is in its totality that it acquires real significance. In its polymorphism, the dream has a generating capacity of the poetic and of the marvelous that deserves to be fully recognized. And this circumstance is what allows it to manifest itself and be understood by us as human experience of freedom.

The reality of the dreams comes from its presence. It is thus through this physical presence that the relations and the consequences that these dreams have for life can be verified. It is thus through this physical presence that the relations and the consequences that these dreams have in life can be verified. It deals, as I said, with a constant transfer that occurs in both directions, in a flow that sometimes works through subtle manifestations, but that daily extends its paths back and forth to a broader and deeper reality, a reality in which the weapons of the dream manifest themselves in the often mysterious directions that our lives take on so many occasions. It is too easily forgotten that everything that happens to us has consequences precisely because they occur. Dreams do not crash into the wall of open eyelids. The dreams spill into our life modifying it and making it what it really is.

It is clear, however, that the actual experience that the dream gives us is not interchangeable with that of wakefulness, as it has its own characteristics and a certain intensity that often produces an effect of diffuse presence. This constation, however, is less definitive than it might seem at first. Because in fact the intensity of dreams is, most of time, much higher, at least emotionally, than that of most of the daily wakefulness. It may be so that the degree of reality of the dreams, its specific weitht as experience, is sometimes very weak, but the fact remains that wakefulness, most of the time, presents itself to the individual in our society as equally diffuse, equally brief, to the point of being able to lead the same individual to ask himself where he has been throughout his day, what has happened during all those passed hours of which he only keeps a thin layer of memory.

Therefore, the answer concerning the status of the reality of dreams can not be determined by the degree of intensity of that same reality that the dreams activate, but above all for its significance. The dream has its own place in reality that in many cases is more important in regard to the specific consequences than that of daily wakefulness. If we have an oneiric conversation with someone close, and if that person tells us things of importance or something we dislike in that conversation, does not mean that this person will behave in the same way in wakefulness, and that this fact would allow us to follow a pattern of behavior of the kind that we follow in waking life. However, it cannot be denied that this conversation can be taken, in its meaning, as probably more important to the individual than any other that he may have had with that person when awake.

The experience of the dreams, as not participating in the constraints of reality, or of all constraints of reality, cannot totally be reduced or completely violated by these. The experience of the dream has its field of action above all in the imagination of man and in the behaviors that follow from his passing through it. It is therefore in this field that it acquires its importance and its necessity as a phenomenon of reality.

For the reality of the dreams is neither based in fantasy nor in its abstract relationship with thought, as dreams really do occur. Did we experienced it or did we dreamed it? Yes, we experienced it, we always experience it, either in dream or in wakefulness. It is at our fingertips that the dreams stop every morning. They have crossed us so during the night that our own shadow is formed by them. They expand in our arteries and surround our brain as a monotonous and powerful flow. There is reality. There are the important aspects of our life understood as a whole being solved. There is life being deepened in itself. A new organ will eventually grow out of our chest: the third arm, made of dreams, and with it we will act.

First chapter of the book by Julio Monteverde, De la materia del sueño (Pepitas de calabaza, Logroño 2012) 

  • 1. (1) Pierre Mabille: Egrégores o la vida de las civilizaciones, Octaedro, Barcelona, 2007. page 25.