Dream Interpretation and savage Psychology: Nietzsche's Perspective
In this article we are going to discuss thepsyche of a dreamer from Nietzsche's perspective, and owing to Freud's indebtedness to Nietzsche, we can also assume that this is the only interpretation of dreaming that we have.
So, let us come back to our question. What is the psyche of a dreamer and how does it differ from the waking state? The only difference between the waking and dreaming states is that in dreaming state our critical faculty is no longer operational, while in the waking state our critical faculty works.
But to grasp this phenomenon we have to understand a peculiar ability of our minds. Our mind has a peculiar ability that whenever it receives a message through senses, it immediately does two things:
1. It interprets that message and,
2. It hypothesizes about the cause behind message
So, if you are sitting inside your home and you hear a knocking sound, youinterpret it as a knock at your door, and you also hypothesize about the cause of this knock. You may hypothesize that may be it is one of your friends or it is wind knocking at your door.
So, by interpreting a message received through senses we mean to recognize that message as a particular thing, like a 'knock' , and by hypothesizing we mean that we attribute a cause to this message.
We don't have only five senses , but there is an internal sense as well. So when you hear a sound coming from your stomach , or from your phlegmatic lungs , or you feel some kind of emotion or passion , then these are messages from your internal sixth sense.
This means that a person has five external and one internal sixth sense, and a person receives messages from all these sources.
Nietzsche equates the psyche of savages with the psyche of a dreamer. For in both cases critical faculties are not working at their best. A savage can accept anything uncritically , so as a dreamer does. Even a child in the pre-operational stage, the stage of life between 2 till 07 , has an uncritical acceptance of anything that is told to him, like fairy tales and mythology . The reason may be that that a child has to learn so many things, and if children had their critical faculties working they would have utilized their time in thinking and not in learning.
A savage's mind also hypothesizes about the causes of different things. So a savage mind also needs the reason why it rains, or why winds blow etc. But answers to these questions are accepted uncritically and any cause is assigned to these natural phenomenon. So, for a savage, it rains because of supernatural spirits and winds blow because of other supernatural reasons.
A savage's mind works like the mind of a poet , and anything that he feels intensely , he attributes it as the cause of something else, uncritically. The most recurring passion in savages is that of fear, so they attribute fearful causes to natural phenomenon.
A dreamer's mind also works in the same manner. While sleeping , mind remains awake, though without its critical faculties, and attributes causes to all messages it receives through senses. So, if somebody's bed is shaking , his mind can interpret as if he is on board a ship. If he feels a tingling in his shoulder , his mind can interpret it as if some insects are crawling on his shoulders, and imagination will carve dreams to show these novel interpretations to the sleeping person.
However, there are only a few external messages that break through the spell of sleep to enter the mind, and may be these are the most persistently present messages or stimuli. You don't hear people talking while you sleep. So you don't receive this message. However, at times these voices enter your mind and you immediately start watching a dream that represents these messages in other guise, usually a very creative and artistic one.
So, when we sleep our mind still interprets all the messages that we receive from our six senses, and we see that interpretation in dreams.
As far as true dreams are concerned, dreams that are fulfilled in the waking life ; such dreams are fulfilled because they influence a person so much that he acts in accordance with them either to avoid the consequences or to fulfill the prophecy of that dream.
May be Joseph's biblical dream is an exception to it, for Nietzsche has not specifically denied this possibility of watching true dreams. For instance, let us consider the example of waking life when a person knows that he is about to die. This example is given by Edger Allan Poe, in Tell Tale Heart, when an old man who was about to be killed woke up , while the murderer was entering his room. However, he did not receive any message from his external senses and the impulse that woke him up came solely from inside.
In Eastern medicine, in order to know the condition of internal organs , physicians used to inquire about the dreams of a patient. For dreams at times reveal what messages are received from a sick organ, like a kidney, stomach or spleen.
So, dreams are our mind's interpretation of the messages that we receive from our body.
In enmity between nations, one nation can accuse its enemies for any hardship they faced. Because mind's work is to interpret , to assign causes, and if a nation owing to its vengeance, has turned its critical faculties blind, it can always accuse its enemy for doing the thing which it may not have done. And at times nations weave dream like stories around it as well.
By: Khalid Jamil Rawat