M1. I interpret dream fantasy to mean that realm where strange powers of the mind may be unlocked and a person may experience it taking on a living form and color, that is utterly real, before their very eyes. It is a land, which while it is dreamed, is independent of the conceiving mind and is a realization of imagined wonder.
At least that is my paraphrasing of what I believe the writer and professor J.R. R. Tolkien, who wrote Lord of the Rings, has said.
He also says that the fantasy state of dreams, that he links enigmatically to the Faerie Realm…
“is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold…In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.”
Is Dream Real or Imagined?
I have been challenged many times on the reality of the world of dreams, but I offer the following justifications for considering the what is imagined or dreamed to be just as real as reality:
- If you ask any physicist, they will try to evade the question as to what is the reality that underpins all our perceptions. I think the answer is simply that they don’t know, or it is not their concern, and their best guesses anyway, keep changing over the years, centuries and even millenia.
- If you ask most people on the planet they will tell you that they believe in the devil, or in a god, or in a soul. Almost everyone I speak to has some imaginary being they believe in. And if they don’t believe in imaginary beings, then they do believe in other imaginary stuff like ideas, consciousness, money, honor, compassion, love, etc. So my position is that science is simply not everything in life, and while I may accept it’s enormous value, I am not a slave to it. I have curiosity.
- I note that in the Collected Works of C.G.Jung, he quotes that meditation (albeit with an alchemical twist) is “an inner dialogue with someone unseen. It may be God, when He is invoked, or with himself, or with his good angel… The psychologist is familiar with this ‘inner dialogue’; it is an essential part of the technique for coming to terms with the unconscious”. Again, imaginary beings are invoked here for the use of any practical person.
- Finally, as a mathematician I used to use “imaginary numbers” too to solve physical and real problems. I guess it’s a similar technique that has immense practical value for electrical engineers even though it’s “impossible” and can’t exist from many people’s definitions of reality. I still wonder what the square root of -1 looks like. Of course, it’s imaginary.
Enchantment and Dream Fantasy
“Dreams are real while they last. Can we say more of life? ”
so said the English physician and writer, Havelock Ellis.
My experience of dream is that while the dream is going on it is as real as anything that I experience when I am awake. When I touch, see, hear, smell or taste things in my dreams, it may be a fantasy, but the fantasy is one of reality. I find it very difficult to tell apart, dream and reality.
We are all living in a world of enchantment as I have alluded to above. For example, when we spend money on our credit cards we are using money that only exists as the state variables of computer memories in banks around the world. If you don’t believe me ask yourself the basis for Bitcoin or other internet currencies. All currencies are formed by an ethereal net of gems around the world.
In your dream, where your mind…
“conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into a swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter’s power — upon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world external to our minds awakes. … But in such ‘fantasy,’ as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator. An essential power of Faerie is thus the power of making immediately effective by the will the visions of ‘fantasy’. “
(Again quoted from Tolkien)
Enchantment is all very well, but it is usually a temporary state of affairs as in the dream state. Here while in the dream we are enchanted but when we awake we become disenchanted. Most people dislike being woken up and they often strongly want to continue their enchantments.
Recovery, Escape and Consolation
Professor Tolkien proposed a solution to some of these dilemmas in the form of Recovery, Escape and Consolation. For even in the Waste Land, as the poet T. S. Eliot identified our present predicament of stale familiarity, we should look anew and allow the world to re-awaken our curiosity for it can lead to recovery through flashes of awe and ecstasy. Indeed this sudden glimpse of truth can give some consolation and even joy to our participation in the sorrows of this world.
Recovery means to become clear on man’s place in, and relationship to, the world around him. It means to see things clearly as he is meant to see them and not simply from a materialistic point of view, as they popularly are. As William Blake, the poet said,
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. “
Escape is to do exactly that which we do in lucid dreams and in fantasy too. It is escaping into another world where the rules and laws of the universe can be broken. It means escape from the hum-drum lives that people live in the “real” world. Look around you and ask yourself are you free? Free from obligations, bills, oppression, etc. As Wordsworth the poet says about growing up and taking responsibility,
“Shades of the prison-house begin to close Upon the growing Boy,“
Consolation is the purpose of escape. But here it goes beyond the escapism of modern industrial life for we don’t want to forget the grim possibilities of the human condition stretching to hunger, thirst, poverty, pain, sorrow, injustice, death. In lucid dreams we can explore our curiosities such as travel, the deep sea or the cosmos, or maybe the noiseless, gracious, flight of a bird. But then there are profounder wishes such as the desire to converse with the gods or the dead or other fantastic creatures. Finally there is the desire for the greatest escape, being that from death. So Consolation includes also a happy ending, a conclusion, a re-integration.
Tolkien helps us to remove the uni-dimensional notion that the fantasy is somehow diametrically opposed to the rational. It’s not, and they can co-exist together, again as in lucid dreams we behold dream fantasy.
Even in normal life fantasy is not opposed to reason because they can work together. The better your reason, the better fantasy can be.
When we experience a full life we experience reasoned reality alongside dream fantasy and the two complement each other nicely. Without creative fantasy to imagine what we can do, there is no goal to build anything. Empirical scientists would be lost without imagined hypotheses to test. Between them they create a richer reality. As Napoleon said,
“Imagination rules the world.”