Dream Interpretation and Metaphysics M Msc Term Paper

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Given that archetypes appear consistent across dreamers, the impact that culture has on the meaning of archetypes and dreams, and the fact that mourners consistently have the four types of grief dreams, it seems logical that culture would impact the appearance and interpretation of archetypes in dreams. For example, given that, culturally, the mother plays a more central role in the African-American family than the father, it would seem that archetypal appearances of the Mother and the Father would have a different meaning for African-American dreamers than for non-African-American dreamers. One of the unique aspects of the United States is that, while people may have similar day-to-day experiences, they are influenced by a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, which suggests that the dream experience of Americans may be non-homogeneous. It is the intent of this paper to examine the role that archetypes play in the grief dreams of members of three Americans with different cultural backgrounds, to determine what role, if any, culture plays in the dreamscape.

Chapter Two: Review of Literature

The first issue faced by dreamers is determining what is a dream and what is reality. In order to do this, the dreamer must first understand the nature of existence and being. Not coincidentally, these issues are also central in the study of metaphysics. In fact, Taylor (1963:1) believes that, "To think metaphysically is to think, without arbitrariness and dogmatism, on the most basic problems of existence. The problems are basic in the sense that they are fundamental, that much depends on them." However, being is more than existence. To most, the concept of being implies an awareness that may or may not be present in those who merely exist. Furthermore, this awareness is the hallmark of humanity.

According to Heidegger (1960:22), "Man and Being are allocated to each other. They belong to each other." Dreams are one of those elements that elevate humans being mere existence and into being.

The second issue faced by dreamers is understanding the symbols in their dreams. While some dreams are straightforward and simple, with clear meanings, others are opaque unless one understands the symbolism in the dreams. To truly understand the symbolism in dreams, one must familiarize oneself with the archetypes found in the dreams.

Without understanding the symbolism meanings of archetypes, it might be impossible for a dreamer to understand the messages found within their own dreams.

At least in the Western tradition, understanding dreams can be the key to understanding oneself. While Plato believed that the body was a prison for the soul, those who believe that dreams are a way of connecting bodies to the soul are more likely to agree with Taylor (1963:12), who believes that, "The connection between oneself and his body is far more intimate and metaphysical than anything else we can think of." Furthermore, those who believe that dreams can connect the individual to something greater and more powerful than the self may find proper dream interpretation to be even more important and essential than those who only believe that dreams connect the soul to the body.

Though an understanding of dreams is central to an understanding of metaphysics, that does not mean that dreams are easy to understand. Since the dawn of human civilization, man has been intent upon interpreting dreams. In fact, Policoff (1997: xvi) makes it clear that dream interpretation is nothing new. On the contrary, "Virtually every ancient culture had men and women whose task it was to act as dream interpreters: priests and priestesses, shamans, oracles, and prophets." In more recent times, the major luminaries in the social sciences, such as Freud and Jung, have attempted to explain and interpret dreams.

However, not all dreams are so easily interpreted. McPhee (1995:142) makes it clear that "Some dreams, even after we have applied free-associative technique, remain elusive." According to McPhee (1995: 143), "In disguised dreams, the meaning of the dream- or rather the identity of the unconscious feelings and awareness that gave rise to the construction of the dream- remains obscured." McPhee believes that repression is the source of disguise in dreams, and it stands to reason that cultural influences would have an impact on what people repress, and therefore what people dream.

Because different cultural groups have different views regarding the connection between the mind and body, as well as the connection between the body and the other, it stands to reason that different cultural groups would have different views regarding the role that dreams play in these relationships. In fact, one interesting aspect of dreams is that cultural reality can have a profound effect on how one can interpret dreams. This reality is highlighted by Shafton (2002:3), who stated that "While the dreaming process is humanely universal, people can learn to be sensitive- or insensitive- to various dimensions of the dream life. Cultural groups develop their own distinct ways with dreams, seen in how they talk about dreams, in what they expect from dreams, and also to some extent in the content of their dreams." While a culture's view of metaphysics helps shape its view of dreaming, a culture's view of dreaming also helps shape its view of metaphysics.

In the United States, the emphasis has been on the study of dreams and dreamers from the Western tradition. However, this study ignores a vast proportion of Americans, and presupposes a universality that does not seem to exist across cultures. This dichotomy is most dramatically highlighted by examining the African-American community. Though the majority of African-Americans can trace their time in America to a more distant time than many non-African-Americans, the reality is that the African-American cultural experience differed vastly from the experiences of other ethnic groups. From the fact that the original Africans were forced immigrants, to the lives of African-Americans under slavery and the Jim Crow South, many African-Americans were denied access to the American dream. Needless to say, these experiences helped paint a cultural landscape that differs greatly from the stereotypical version of America. In addition, it is a gross oversimplification to assume that these differences have arisen solely as the result of how African-Americans have been treated in America. On the contrary, many of these differences can be attributed to the basic differences between African and European culture. As Shafton (2002:9), "Africa does in fact survive in the African-American way with dreams, in spite of the centuries and the changes separating the Millennium from the Middle Passage. At the same time, the African-American affinity for dreaming is also a distinctly American adaptation, an adaptation to oppression- a survival for survival."

While there is documentation that the African-American dream experience differs from the non-African-American dream experience, there is little documentation or theory to explain these differences. However, the very fact that there is a tremendous amount of emotion connected to the experience of being African-American may account for some of the differences in dreaming, in addition to accounting for some aspects of the racial cultural disconnect in American society. It is no secret that emotion can play a pivotal role in shaping dreams, despite the fact that these dreams may not reflect the reality that helped create the emotion. For example, Hartmann (1998: 62) explains that those suffering from post-traumatic stress are often plagued by nightmares, but that these nightmares are not necessarily directly associated with the even causing the stress. On the contrary, the dreams "contextualize the emotional concern." Therefore, differences in dreaming, even those differences that do not reflect racial bias or concerns, may be reflecting the reality of racism and bias in America. However, there is not enough research regarding non-white dreamers and dream analysis in America to support this theory and to provide non-white and non-African-American controls for the dream analysis.

Regardless of culture, it appears that all human beings have grief dreams, which are focused on a person who has died. Grief dreams serve four major purposes, many of them targeted at facilitating the relationship between the dead and the living. When one examines these dreams, one oftentimes finds that the dreamer expresses remorse of guilt about something he or she did or failed to do regarding the deceased. This aspect is interesting and has its own impact on the study of metaphysics because of its reflection on morality. Where do morality and moral impulses come from. Do they, as suggested by Taylor (1963:5), "presuppose the existence of moral agents who have responsibilities and are capable of incurring guilt?" It also brings to mind an interesting conundrum, which is whether the guilt in grief dreams comes from the dreamer or is placed there by the deceased. The author was unable to uncover any prior researched aimed at determining how different cultures interpret guilty feelings that are the result of grief dreams.

Some grief dreams contain elements of prophecy; the deceased person appears to the dreamer with a message,…[continue]

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