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June 11, 2024 36 mins

The wonders and terrors of the dreaming mind do not always flee completely with the dawn. At certain times and places in history, it seems that dreams suddenly ascend to new heights of cultural fascination. In this classic Stuff to Blow Your Mind series, Robert and Joe explore periods when the eye of culture fixes on the dream world. (originally published 06/15/2023)

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Speaker 1 (00:06):
Hey, welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind. My name
is Robert Lamb. We're doing some vaults this week as
we are on a little bit of a summer break,
so we want to give you the dream Fall into
the Dark series. This is going to be part one
and it originally published six fifteen, twenty twenty three. Enjoy.

Speaker 2 (00:27):
If dreaming really were a kind of truce, as people claim,
a sheer repose of mind, why then, if you should
waken up abruptly, do you feel that something has been
stolen from you? Why should it be so sad the
early morning? It robs us of an inconceivable gift, so
intimate it is only knowable in a trance which the

(00:50):
night Watch guilds with dreams, dreams that might very well
be reflections, fragments from the treasure house of darkness, from
the timeless sphere, that it does not have a name,
and that the day distorts in its mirrors. Who will
you be tonight in your dream Fall into the Dark?
On the other side of the wall.

Speaker 3 (01:14):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (01:24):
Hey, welcome to Stuff to Blow your Mind. My name
is Robert.

Speaker 4 (01:26):
Lamb and I'm Joe McCormick.

Speaker 2 (01:29):
That was, of course a dream by Jorge Luis Borges,
an author that we cite and refer to with some
degree of regularity on the show, because he was fascinated
with many of the things we're fascinated with on Stuff
to Blow Your Mind, Mirrors, dreams, strange creatures, stabbings sometimes

(01:51):
that sort of thing. And in this episode we're going
to be discussing the dream world a bit more. This
is a topic that we also come back to with
some regularity on Stuff to Blow Your Mind, and for
good reason, right because there is a universality to dreaming,
and it constitutes an altered and highly subjective mental state

(02:11):
that runs the gamut from the mundane and the frankly
boring to the other worldly, from the specific to the ineffable,
and from the comforting to the just absolutely terrifying. It's
at once entirely shut off from the waking world and
yet can greatly impact it. And we've spent a considerable
portion of our conscious history as a species trying to

(02:33):
make sense of it and to figure out to what
extent these two worlds are connected or to what extent
they're disconnected, and the enigma in many respects still remains now.

Speaker 1 (02:43):
Rob.

Speaker 4 (02:43):
When you first told me you wanted to talk about this,
it was in the context of looking at a specific
mythical monster, I believe one from Japan, right, Yeah.

Speaker 2 (02:53):
That was kind of I guess the White Rabbit that
I followed into all of this because it's an interesting
monster and it ties in with so of practices and
superstitions concerning the manipulation of dream on our side in
the Waking world, and I think we are going to
get back to that monster, perhaps in a forthcoming episode.

(03:14):
But as I was reading about this creature from Japanese tradition,
I started reading more about how some of these ideas
extended back through Chinese tradition as well, and so I thought, well,
I should maybe go a little broader and looking at
the larger slice of Sino Japanese thought concerning dreams, and
I ended up picking up this really fascinating book titled

(03:36):
The Dreaming Mind and the End of the Ming World
by Lynn A. Struve, published in twenty nineteen by the
University of Hawaii Press. It's an incredible book, and I
was particularly taken by Struve's discussion early on about the
mystique of dreams in various global cultures across time, with
particular times and places in which the focus of intellectual

(04:00):
and or theologic sections of the populace are just particularly
focused on the dream world and what is going on
in dreams, and what we should draw from dreams, and
how much of our waking effort and time and thought
should be dedicated to dreams.

Speaker 4 (04:16):
So you mentioned in the title of the book, it
makes reference to the end of the Ming world. She
seems to draw attention to the especially the late Ming
period in China, as a time when there was a
lot of writing produced about dreams and focus on the
meaning of dreams, compared to maybe the same region of
the world in earlier or later times.

Speaker 2 (04:37):
Exactly. Yeah, And this is something I had never really
thought about before, because obviously, to some degree, it's like
everyone is fascinated with dreams. If nothing else, you're going
to be interested in your own dreams, and then any
given culture is going to have some degree of ideas
about what they mean or what they don't mean, and
then you know, there's going to be sort of a
global trend towards you know, modernization and rational interpretation of dreams.

(05:01):
But I'd never really thought about this idea that there
are going to be times and places where if you
are looking at I don't know, some sort of a
mechanism that was giving you the readings. All right, this
is what dream fascination is looking like. Oh we have
a spike. Why is it spiking it certain? Or does
it seem to spike at certain points? And so Struve
is making a point largely for this period of time

(05:23):
at the end of the Ming dynasty and it's decline,
as it's about to fall an end and another dynasty
is about to come to power. But this argument that
there are some other places as well where all the
elements are just in proper place to sort of push
people inward, and particularly to push intellectuals of the day inward,

(05:47):
those who have more time to devote to these matters,
and then also you know, the ability to write about
them and have their words passed on to subsequent generations.
So in the book she naturally discusses the subjective nature
of dreams, their wide variety, and how the quote deficit
of logic and rationality unquote in dreams has inspired both

(06:09):
suspicion and celebration, which is this duality will come back
to several times in this episode. Also key to all
of this, of course, is that dreams arise unbidden. Certainly
we have no power over what other people may dream,
but generally we lack control over what our own dreams
are going to consist of. And this can prove again

(06:31):
a source of great inspiration, even divine inspiration. You know,
look what the dream world has given to me, Look
what the powers beyond the dreams have given me. But
in some cases and some worldviews, it may also be
seen as threatening or truly terrifying, especially within worldviews where
rigorous control of thought, desire, and emotion are key. You know,

(06:53):
it's like, perhaps you're a person and in your religious
devotion you spend a lot of time denying yourself say
lustful thoughts, and then you enter into the dream world,
and there are no guarantees that those lustful thoughts will
not arise there and take on forms that may seem
at odds with what you're trying to do with your

(07:13):
waking self.

Speaker 4 (07:14):
Yes, and of course that can be threatening and unsettling
to people. But coming back to the first half of
what you said about dreams being an inspiration and having
a kind of power or authority. I think that is
linked to the fact about them seeming to be unbidden,
the fact that they seem to come from somewhere other

(07:35):
than your own thoughts. I mean, you could say that,
we'll wait, where do your waking thoughts really come from? Those,
if you examined them more closely, might come to seem
as unbidden as dreams. But at least we have a
sense more like our thoughts in our waking state are
more under our control, and our thoughts in the dream
world are not, And because they feel like they're not,

(07:57):
they're less under our control than thoughts in the way state.
They can take on a kind of third party authority.
So it's like you can report the contents of your dreams,
or even just contemplate the contents of your dreams, without
the sort of self doubt and anxiety that you might
have about if you were just, say, like, offering your

(08:18):
personal opinion about something. When it's a dream, it's like
you're reporting something you read in another source. It has
a kind of third party authority. And often because dreams
are ascribed to gods or literal powerful figures or ancestors
or other you know, beings that have senses and information
and powers beyond what we have in waking life. The

(08:39):
contents of dreams can be interpreted to have power and
authority over other people like you, I can tell you
my dreams, and that might have a message that you
think you should pay heed to, because I'm not just
saying my opinion. I'm reporting what was revealed to me
in a dream.

Speaker 2 (08:57):
Yeah, it's it's interesting to sort of self analy over this,
Like if either of us were to tell our spouses
to report in the morning, Hey, I had a dream
in which I was wearing this green suit. It's weird.
I don't own a green suit, and then you kept
reporting this same dream over and over again, Like how
would they interpret it? How would you interpret it? Like

(09:18):
at some point would you just be taking it apart,
trying to think of what does green mean to me?
And like where is this coming from? Or they might think, well,
maybe my spouse really needs a green suit. Maybe that's
what the root of this is, like deep down they
desire it. Like there's so many ways to sort of
tease it apart and try and make sense of it
when ultimately, like the signal itself is irrational.

Speaker 4 (09:41):
Of course, it gets even more complicated when the dream
is interpreted to include an exhortation or some kind of
guide to action, because consider the contrast between a couple
of other things. What if, on one hand, I just
say to my family, I think I'm going to shoplift
a green suit out of the clothing store, and I
just present that as my idea. It seemed like a

(10:02):
good idea to me. Versus I say, I have a
dream in which I take a green suit out of
the clothing store without paying for it, and I keep
having this dream. Well there, it kind of seems like, look,
it's not It wasn't my idea. You know, it came
to me from the dream. So it's like somebody else
is telling me I need to do it.

Speaker 2 (10:22):
Yeah. This idea that there's something about the dream that
does not seem to fully originate in ourselves. This is
a This is a theme that we'll return to again
and again here, and something that various interpreters of dreams
and sort of dream theorists over time have latched onto. Now,
coming back to Lynn A. Struve's book, she says that

(10:43):
while in some rare cases, dreams have allegedly and allegedly
is important because the nature of other people's dreams is
always alleged, and even our own accounts of dreams that's
subject to interpretation, remembrance and reporting and so forth. In
some cases you have dreams of allegedly directly informed history,
but otherwise, like what does it matter that people are

(11:06):
having dreams and reporting them and focusing in on them.
There's sort of like two major areas that she looks
out at here. One, as we'll explore, is like what
happens when you're fascination with dreams kind of like bubbles
over into making decisions about the waking world. But the
other one that she touches on has to do with

(11:28):
ultimately with like how a given society viewed consciousness, how
a society views its dreams, Especially in highly intellectual and
authoritative cultures. You know, you can look to the surviving
writings on dreams dream journals, and they can ultimately reveal
much about that culture and the individuals doing the dreaming

(11:48):
and the writing, as well as the inner workings of
the mind. She writes, I submit that dream writing can
indirectly contribute to a history of consciousness, not in the
sense of what people were conscious awe of over time,
such as class identity, but in the sense of what
people thought consciousness was and how they experienced it. Delving
into this can illuminate how they felt and understood themselves existentially,

(12:12):
which underlay other actions and endeavors. Consciousness at its most
primal is a sense of being an observant entity, and
it builds and modifies selfhood by the agency of narrating
what is observed. Attempts to narrate that most ineffable kind
of observation of what occurs to us in dreams expose
this process at the most elemental level that is accessible

(12:35):
to others and therefore on which self interacts with society.
So dream talk can give us valuable information on how
people probed awareness itself, under what circumstances they were moved
to do so, and how their evolving selves negotiated narratologically
with their sociocultural milieu.

Speaker 4 (12:55):
Okay, this is interesting. So Struve is making the argument
that even if you don't have people, say, writing philosophical
treatises on what they believe the nature of consciousness to be,
you can infer a lot of things about what certain people,
at certain times thought believe the nature of consciousness to be.

(13:16):
By reading their reports about dreams and how they talked
about dreams, because in a sense, dreams are a dreams
are relating an experience of consciousness separated from action and
waking life.

Speaker 2 (13:30):
Right right, Yeah, it provides this this sort of distance
on inner thought process. That's and again I never really
really thought about this either. It's easy to sort of
think of of accounts of other people's dreams as either
you know, interesting or boring, or interesting only to them,
or perhaps interesting in terms of like exactly how it
is interpreted based on everything else and all that's valid,

(13:53):
but this added level of like, yeah, to some degree,
these are accounts of people thinking about their own consciousnes. Now.
In this book, Struve ultimately dives into the particularities of

(14:14):
Late Ming Dynasty China during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
but she also highlights other times in places that seem
particularly focused on the power of dream So, you know,
it's all interesting, I think, coming from our current place
in the consideration of dreams, sort of the tail end
of what she classifies as an accelerating Western decline in
the belief of prophetic and oracular dreams. And she argues

(14:39):
that this decline has been accelerating, at least among the
educated since the seventeenth century. I mean, we're still obsessed
with our dreams. We still talk about our dreams, right.
They still have the power to fascinate us, terrifies and
all that, but we're generally more inclined it seems to
me anyway, to dismiss them as nonsense or the scrambled
remnants of waking experience, thoughts and feelings. I remember David

(15:03):
Eagleman when I initially interviewed him the interview before last,
he said that he mentioned the he always thought of
it as sticking his head in the night blender, which
I thought was rather apt. You know, this idea that yeah,
this is what you this is what you get. You know,
these are just the mental leavings from the previous day,
and you can pick through them. You can, you know,

(15:24):
maybe you'll find something useful that is, you know, you know,
provide some inner reflection. But ultimately the thing itself has
no meaning. It is like a waste product that is
extruded from the mind.

Speaker 1 (15:33):
Well.

Speaker 4 (15:33):
Yeah. Eagleman's particular theory about the adaptive function of dreaming
was that it is a defensive action of the visual
center of the brain to prevent takeover of that tissue
in the brain by other senses during the dark period
and the night, so that when you know it's nighttime
and you have your eyes closed so you're not using

(15:53):
the visual centers of your brain, those brain cells don't
start to get recruited too much by other functions of
the brain because our brains are very plastic. And part
of the evidence he produced for that was that there
seems to be across the human life span and across
different animals, there appears to be a negative correlation between
the plasticity of brain tissue and how much dreaming you do.

Speaker 2 (16:18):
Yeah, so it was an interesting hypothesis that he came
to after initially seeing it as the night blender. But
you don't hear someone like David Eagleman talking about dreams
being the vehicle or the instrument through which God is
speaking to him or to us, or to random people.
I mean, you will find it in the modern world,

(16:38):
but for the most part, we don't really lean into
that on the whole.

Speaker 4 (16:43):
I mean, I guess technically, I want to say those
are two separate scientific questions. One would be what is
the adaptive function of dreaming in the first place, Like
why do we dream? And I think that's the main
question that Eagleman was answering when we talked to him
about that. The purpose of dreaming is to prevent the
nighttime takeover a visual tissue by other functions. But there's

(17:05):
a totally separate question, which is what determines the actual
contents of dreams. And you could have a you know,
in a way that's kind of unrelated to the other theory.
You could just say, well that you know, the fact
that we need to prevent the takeover of that brain
tissue means you've got to have something going on in there.
What's going on in there? What kinds of stuff you

(17:25):
see and imagine in a dream? I mean, it could
be anything. So why do we see the things we see?
And that's an interesting psychological question that seems somewhat separate.

Speaker 2 (17:34):
Yeah, I see what you're saying. Yeah, I mean, certainly
you could have a situation where if the Eagleman's hypothesis
was correct, that you could still have God speaking through
the content of the dreams, because it's like the brain
just needs something to keep the to keep things visually
powered up, but it doesn't particularly care what is in there,

(17:55):
and then yeah, you could have God or God's slipping
a message in to the stuff. In the same way
you might be able to cut up open the entrails
of an animal and supposedly determine the future based on
what they contain.

Speaker 1 (18:07):
Ah.

Speaker 4 (18:07):
Yes, so it's technically there's no conflict between you being
able to read the future in the in the guts
of a chicken and the fact that the guts of
a chicken are used for digestion by the chicken.

Speaker 2 (18:19):
Yes, all right. Coming back to these different periods in
times where there's been an uptick in interest in the
contents of dreams and this idea that there's something meaningful
there to really latch onto. One of the periods that
Struve touches on is the Romantic period in Europe, particularly
late eighteenth through early nineteenth centuries. Truve writes that the

(18:42):
quote felt limitations of an Enlightenment rationalism and mechanism, especially
as a concerned the human body and the inner workings
of the mind, led to a kind of increased interest
in the non rational and the mysteries of the self
consciousness and the unconscious mind. She writes, quote with growing
interest in dreaming as a medium through which to link
these compulsions. Dreams came to feature prominently in natural philosophy,

(19:06):
medical thought, the budding field of anthropology, art in art theory,
personal notes, and especially creative writing and literary criticism. This
occurred as intellectuals responded with elan and or anxiety, hope
or dismay to the epical French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars,
rising nationalisms, and socio environmental changes attendant on the Early

(19:27):
Industrial Revolution.

Speaker 4 (19:29):
If I understand Struve's argument correctly, this seems to fit
with the pattern of the late Ming period in that
I think she understands an increased focus on dreaming among
the people producing writing as a common feature of periods
where there is a lot of where there is a
lot of strife and rapid change.

Speaker 2 (19:51):
Yeah, yeah, I think so. And I think that's one
of the main reasons that the Romantic period here is
such a nice parallel exam Now, in bringing up Romanticism,
the mind instantly goes to particular authors of that period,
say Samuel Taylor Cooleridge, who lived seventeen seventy two through

(20:11):
eighteen thirty four, whose work often explored dreams, as well
as those visions brought about through the use of opium.
So I wanted to look at like another text that
dealt with this topic, and I ran across a very
interesting book from nineteen ninety eight titled Coolridge on Dreaming
by Jennifer Ford, and it explores this naturally in the
specifics of the poet's work, but also in the larger

(20:33):
context of eighteenth and nineteenth century dream fascination in the West.
You see examples of this in the work of other
notable Romantic authors as well, like Lord Byron and Thomas
de Quincy, who of Cose, of course, also famously imputed opium.
Ford writes that there was no consensus concerning the nature
of dreaming at the time during the Romantic Romantic period,

(20:54):
with opinions are really centering on the big three interpretations.
So one potentially vine visions you know, could be could
be God sneaking in a voice or a message there
or some you know, supernatural entity with our interests at heart.
I guess you could also look at that is too,
a font of creativity and inspiration, a natural place for

(21:16):
the poets in the writer's mind to go, in the
artist's mind or three dreams as residue or byproduct, which is,
you know what, We've been discussing this idea that maybe
dreams are nothing but just sort of the reassembled contents
of things we thought about or observed, et cetera during
the course of our day. Now, Coolridge was much inspired
by the writings of Antiquity on the matter, considering the

(21:38):
idea of prophetic dreaming especially, but he also consumed contemporary
writings that included both serious attempts to understand dreaming from
the vantage point of of current medicine and physiology, as
well as magical and mystical strains of thought. Now this
is kind of an aside here, but one of the
things that Ford points out is that one of the

(21:59):
off is that he would have, of course read from Antiquity,
would be Homer, and who in the Odyssey describes the
two gates from which dreams may arise quote four. Two
are the gates of shadowy dreams, and one is fashioned
of horn, and one of ivory. Those dreams that pass
through the gate of saun ivory deceive men, bringing words

(22:22):
that find no fulfillment. But those that come forth through
the gait of polished horn bring true issues to pass
when any mortal sees them.

Speaker 4 (22:30):
Well in a way that belief is not very helpful.
So it's like some dreams could contain prophetic content and
other dreams are there to deceive and misguide you, but
you can't you can't know which or which.

Speaker 2 (22:43):
Yeah, it reminds me a little bit of the ideas
presented by the gomork and the Never Ending Story, you know,
the idea of this link bit and creative creativity and
deception between dream and creations of imagination and lies. And
I guess this get touches on like one of the
real problems of value you wing the content of dreams
is that like, sometimes dreams are just stupid. I mean,

(23:05):
there are gonna be maybe some there's some versions of
it where you're like, okay, there's always something there might
be cryptic, but there's something there that might be your
viewpoint regarding dreams. But at times you're gonna have an
uphill battle because you're gonna have that dumb dream where
you're what like in the the the words of Mitch Hedberg,
you know, had a joke about a dream in which
he had to build a go kart with his old
boss or something like that. You know you're gonna have

(23:27):
dreams that you're really gonna have to have to try
hard to find some sort of prophetic interpretation or meaningful
interpretation of what's there. So easier to say, well, you know,
sometimes they come through this gate and they mean something.
Sometimes they come through the other gate and it's just
complete crap. Now Ford has a section here where she
briefly goes through mentioning. You know what other writers of

(23:49):
antiquity had to say about it, like Hippocrates and much
later Gallan, both agreed that dreams mattered and they were
connected to health. They also wrote that Galen and the
Roade that they could contain divine messages of healing contained
in dream symbols and so forth. But for both of
these individuals, however, food and digestion were deeply linked with dreaming.

Speaker 4 (24:11):
Hmmm, yeah, you might be an undigested bit of.

Speaker 2 (24:14):
Beef for cheese exactly. Yeah, it's exactly the example I
thought of as well from a Christmas carol. Now, Plato, Aristotle,
and Cicero, for the most part, and with some notable exceptions,
argue that dreams were not prophetic. Apparently, Cicero kind of
was wishy washy on this. Aristotle, however, was pretty firm

(24:36):
on the matter, Ford writes, quote, he explained sleep as
the rising to the head of vapors from digestive processes.
Dreams could be explained by their relation to the material
world and to waking thoughts, and not as a result
of prophetic messages from gods totally in the Potato camp.

Speaker 4 (24:53):
Here, there's more of gravy than grave about you.

Speaker 2 (24:56):
That's Aristotle, yeah, now, But still idea of prophetic dreaming
cast a long shadow across Western history. And of course,
you know, outside of what's going on in the like
intellectual realms of it in given culture, obviously you have
kind of deeply rooted folk traditions and so forth as well,
which you know, none of the Don't Think's authors particularly

(25:16):
get into that as much. But with the Christian tradition,
Ford points out, there was always a lot of back
and forth on the matter, because the Bible itself seemed
to be of two minds on prophetic dreaming, sometimes championing
the prophetic power of dreams and other times denouncing it,
in fact casting out the dream observers with the soothsayers
and the wizards. In the Book of Deuteronomy.

Speaker 4 (25:38):
Well, I feel like this, this is a repeating pattern,
and I think this will come up again in some
stuff we'll we'll talk about later, either in this episode
or in the next one in the series. But there's
always sort of a tension in the practice, in the
reception of the practice of receiving revelations, whether that's through
divination or whether that's visions and dreams and so forth,

(25:59):
because many religions will have that type of content in
a sanctioned way, like maybe some of its orthodoxy or
its history, its stories, its current priesthood will practice things
that involve some methods of knowledge of that form, and

(26:19):
that will be the sanctioned version. But then there is
sort of an unsanctioned version that is not promoting orthodoxy
or is subverting the power of the priesthood or whatever,
and well, you don't want to allow that stuff. So
it's kind of like, you know, well, there were some
there were some visions and dreams that were legitimate, and
that's part of what we believe now. But if somebody

(26:42):
is telling you new information from visions and dreams, then
you've got to be careful about that.

Speaker 2 (26:47):
Yeah, that's not canon. But anyway, during the time of
the Romantics. A lot of this increased interest and confusion
about dreaming had to do Ford stresses with quote the
perceived unsatisfactory factory, mechanical and associationistic explanations of dreams offered

(27:12):
by John Locke, David Hartley, George Berkeley, and others. Interest
in the forces and features of psychic life began to increase,
and a concept of the unconscious mind began to emerge.
So it seems like a lot of these unsatisfactory ideas
involved digestion. So I guess, you know, ultimately it's not
very romantic to for someone to say, look that dream

(27:33):
you had. I know it was really inspiring, but it
was essentially like you passing gas in the night. You
shouldn't give it a lot of attention unless it is,
you know, interfering with your ability to sleep. But it
also comes back to what you said earlier about like
a time of change, a time of like changing ideas
and emerging ideas, and sometimes this kind of feeling of like, well, no,
that that can't be right. That's not how I feel

(27:57):
about it. That's not what these voices from the asked
have necessarily agreed with. Now Coolidge himself wrote that he
thought much of these discussions were too dismissive of the personal, psychological,
mysterious nature of dreams, as well as their overall value
to the dreamer. But he also read the writings of

(28:17):
Scottish metaphysical rationalist Andrew Baxter and was particularly taken by
his arguments that dreams did not originate in one's own soul,
but were brought on by external beings. So dream spirits
were to blame, because otherwise, how could we dream something
that we had never witnessed or thought or felt in
the waking world. How could we meet someone in dreams

(28:38):
that we had never met in reality.

Speaker 4 (28:41):
This seems like an odd thing for Coleridge to be
enticed by, because, like, he was a writer, so you'd
think he'd be more familiar with the concept of creative imagination.
And how like, yes, a character can start talking back
to you in your mind and you haven't met them.
You made them up. This is part of the creative process.

Speaker 2 (29:03):
I yeah, it's a good point. I kind of interpreted
those being like again to her point, like recoiling a
little bit from this. You know what the rational world
is saying about dreams? You know that it's it is potato.
And then on the other hand, you know, wanting this
idea that's more in keeping with the muses, that dreams

(29:24):
are overpowering, that they that they are are coming to
us and giving us something, giving us a creative gift
that we might run with. And apparently this was this
is the kind of thing that Baxter was talking about.
You know, the idea that the dreamer is visited during
sleep and that quote dreaming may degenerate into possession.

Speaker 4 (29:45):
Oh okay, So you could imagine it being attractive for
Coleridge and other romantic writers to think like this in
the same way it might have been attractive for writers
who literally believed in the muses as entities, because it
gives that same kind of third party authority to what
you're writing that I was talking about with dreams earlier,
Like you know, if oh I didn't just make this up,

(30:07):
this was given to me by a divine being.

Speaker 2 (30:10):
Yeah, I mean it reminds me a bit of some
of our past discussions about the bicameral mind hypothesis. You know,
it's sort of like, Okay, there's the idea that a
god might speak to you, but here's this other idea
that kind of gets you to a similar place, but
through a different, different strain of more rational thinking. Though
I guess at the end of the day you're still
talking about some sort of entity outside of your own

(30:31):
being in the case of Baxter's writing. So I don't know,
but I guess I tend to sort of interpret it
here as being like you know, it's the irrational in
the rational insight any given person's mind, and certainly you're
able to hold on to and be attracted to conflicting ideas,
but still from that idea, it's a short walk to
pre existing concepts of dreams brought on by demons and

(30:53):
the like. Believe Baxter wrote about the incubus and the
succubists a bit at least the general concepts. The link
is made between nightmare and madness, and Ford makes special
mention of this quote. The notion of dreams as possessing
the dreamer provides a rich source of anxiety and thoughtful
deliberation for Coleridge and many others who ventured into the
often hostile territory of the dream. Dreams were involuntary events

(31:17):
and could not be controlled. Often, the dream itself was
perceived as the controlling force.

Speaker 4 (31:23):
Yeah, I know.

Speaker 2 (31:24):
In my case, oftentimes I will sort of think, you know,
vaguely about like there being something that is programming my dreams,
Like there's a little person in my head that makes
a lot of programming choices, like it's a TV channel
and often makes just illogical programming choices, like like I'll
look at it and'll be like, well, think of all
the things that I did yesterday, that I read about,

(31:46):
or experienced or watched on television, and this is the
dream you gave me. This was the programming that was
selected for my night's entertainment.

Speaker 4 (31:55):
We're rerunning transfers five, five times in a row.

Speaker 2 (32:00):
I would love transfer five dreams, but no, it's generally
a lot more boring. It's like, I don't think you
know the target audience here, But anyway, one sees this
idea of dreams possessing the dreamer and the works of
Coleridge to Quincy, Wordsworth and others. But Coleridge again also
kept abreast of modern medical writings as we as the
writings of people like the physician Erasmus Darwin who's stress

(32:23):
quote the terror of involuntary thoughts, sleep and dream as
a sub human state in which we cannot fully exert
our will. So, you know, I guess this seems to
be just a common theme that everyone who's thinking about
dreams has to come up against. Is that there we
can't fully control it. And what does that lack of
control mean?

Speaker 4 (32:41):
Well, again, when I really think about it, the question
it raises is what does it mean when we do
feel like we're in control of our thoughts? What causes
that sensation? Because again, like I feel like the closer
you look at the moment to moment functioning of your
waking mind, the more mysterious the origin of your thoughts becomes,

(33:01):
and it can start to feel like a dream. We're like,
wait a minute, why did I just think about that?
Did I? Did I really have control of thinking about that?
What made me say transfers five? Where did that come from?

Speaker 1 (33:14):
Yeah?

Speaker 2 (33:15):
Though I know what you mean, though, I guess at times,
so there are waking thoughts, and you know, if we
have a really active, you know, default mode network, we
can kind of self analyze and we'd be like, oh, well,
this is why my mind went here, and then you know,
we can sort of try and trace it. But dreams
often are more difficult to interpret along those lines like
they they're less easy to interrogate.

Speaker 4 (33:36):
Well, I guess sort of what I'm getting at is
that it seems like maybe the difference is that in
dreams we have less of the illusion of control over
the direction of our own thoughts that we feel we
have during waking states.

Speaker 2 (33:49):
Yes, absolutely so. You can see a number of these
ideas reflected in a poem by the romantic author Lord Byron.
This is a This is a piece at Ford also
references in the book, but I thought it might be
nice to read just a portion of it here. Again,
this is from Lord Byron's The Dream. Joe, do you
do the honors? Since I read the Borets at the beginning?

Speaker 4 (34:11):
Oh sure, let's see. So this is an excerpt from
the Dream. They pass like spirits of the past, They
speak like sybols of the future. They have power, the
tyranny of pleasure and of pain. They make us what
we were, not what they will, and shake us with
the vision that's gone by, the dread of vanished shadows?

(34:33):
Are they so? Is not the past all shadow? What
are they? Creations of the mind?

Speaker 2 (34:40):
All right, Well, on that note, we're going to go
ahead and close out this episode, but we'll be back
in part two and we'll continue to discuss this idea
of the mystique of dreaming these different places where in
time where there seems to have been a surge and
interest in the power of dreams and the like the
practicality even of dreams. So we'll look at a few
other different cultures, including the Ming dynasty example that Struve

(35:04):
is directly mentioning, and eventually we'll get to that monster.
I don't know that may be even further along. But
at the end, there's a monster at the end of
this book, is what I'm saying.

Speaker 4 (35:13):
Will it steal my dreams?

Speaker 1 (35:15):
It might?

Speaker 2 (35:16):
It meant very well, might, or it might just help
you build ikea furniture for all night long?

Speaker 4 (35:22):
Will it steal a green suit for me?

Speaker 2 (35:25):
Ooh, one would hope, One would hope that monster has
connections all right.

Speaker 4 (35:29):
Well.

Speaker 2 (35:29):
In the meantime, if you want to write in about
your dreams, hey, We're always happy to hear them. Our
listener mail episodes published on Mondays, Core episodes on Tuesdays
and Thursdays. On Wednesdays we do a short form monster
fact or artifact episode, and on Fridays we set aside
most serious concerns to just talk about a weird film
on Weird House Cinema.

Speaker 4 (35:47):
Huge thanks to our excellent audio producer, JJ Posway. If
you would like to get in touch with us with
feedback on this episode or any other, to suggest a
topic for the future, or just to say hello, you
can email us at contact Stuff to Blow your Mind
dot com.

Speaker 3 (36:09):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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