Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dream interpretation, An excessive preoccupation with content; Part 3 of Freud and the Scene of Writing

"Give me your money and I'll tell you things you want to know about yourself little by little."

Derrida finds Freud as a breaking with many traditional schemes of classical philosophy. In the last post we found it in reestablishing "originality" as something that's contingent upon difference. In a prior post to that it was the questioning of the metaphor itself as the machine process that makes writing itself possible. As we continue on in the text, Derrida finds Freud's greatest break with traditional philosophy in his criticism or deference to dream interpretation. If I have choosen this theme specifically within the text to elaborate on, then it probably resonates with me as did certain texts of Freud's upon Derrida. What resonates is what one writes about, and the subject of dream interpretation in general resonates with me loudly in terms of Freud's "breakthrough" on it. This post will not simply be an elaboration on this specific Derrida text, but an emphasis on the ambiguity that Freud throws into dream interpretation. Why would this resonate with me? It resonates with me for reasons that would easily make this writing space into a "blog", which to be sure, it is. But as I admit that this is unfortunately a "blog", I obviously admit it with a sense of dejection. This dejection gives me the luxury of being able to write regardless of the the problems I have with "blogs". Yes, a luxury I seek in guilt. What I can do, is state as quickly as possible the reason why throwing dream interpretation into ambiguity is something that I really love and resonates with me: Because it's an easy way for someone to interpret their life...too easy. And as that one statement goes, it will go no further, and the elaboration will begin on this text with the thought in mind that a personality will inevitably have it's say in a piece of writing.

Derrida states "God, the Egyptians believed, had made man a gift of writing just as he inspired dreams. Interpreters, like dreams themselves then had only to draw upon the curiological or tropological storehouse". Dreams were given to man by God. It had to have been the case for Egyptian antiquity that these dreams were for us if they were given to us by something like a God. Because of this luxury that God bestowed to the Egyptians, there were the "job-openings" for interpreters of these dreams. Surely, everyone could believe in what the interpreter had to say if they believed that dreams could be interpreted in the first place; The curiosity and temptation of man to see what was happening to him when they were not thinking, when they were dreaming. This would lead us to the real truth, the real purity. Afterall, God had given them to us, so it was just matter of a sage being able to interpret what was being reported in a dream. There was a storehouse for interpreting what was being reported, an archive of signs that represented these "original signs" in a dream. Tropological, because it would seriously be considered as a practice to interpret figurative meanings as being literal; Curiological, because everything being reported was using Egyptian Hieroglyphics to represent the things and sounds that were being reported. "They would readily find their the key to dreams, which they would then pretend to divine". Interpreters of dreams who were held in esteem because the idea that God had given man dreams to easily be interpreted had keys to these dreams, ways of taking what was being reported as a dream and turning it into something else, into something that the "wanter of dream knowledge" wanted it to be turned into. The interpreters would come as sources of divination and would be held in esteem for the ease of being able to interpret the reports of a dream. Freud states "if a man dreams of a dragon, the Interpreter assured him it signified majesty; if of a serpent, a disease, a viper, money; frogs, impostors." Here was the key to interpretation. The taking of something being reported by one person to another person held in esteem because of their power to consult a "stored house" of significations that could easily be transposed into to a super-meaning. This super-meaning would have greater significance than the writing in the dream, of the psyche operating on it's own without a need for transcription until the idea of dreams meaning more than their own operation, where God was seen as giving dreams to men, and where God gave the keys to certain people to use other significations to attribute super-meanings to these "original" significations of the dream. Freud states "Their customers would look to find a known analogy, become venerable by long application to mysterious wisdom, for the groundwork of their deciphering; and the Decipherers themselves would as naturally fly to some confessed authority, to support their pretended Science. But what ground or authority could this be, if not the mysterious learning of symbolic characters?" Freud will have no problem calling those who went to dream interpreters, customers. Their customers, already ahead of time, would be looking for a known analogy, a transcription from one place to another. From the original meaning, de-privileged, to the super-meaning that would give them the presence, the purity of what they were seeking, the divine word of God would bestow itself to the interpreter for the customer. The customers would believe in what was being given to them as the word of God by repetition. Those who wanted their dreams interpreted would allow themselves to be guided by "long applications" of "mysterious wisdom". Long applications; the duration of a dream interpretation session, the semblance that work was going on, work that the interpreter was doing that would bring the customer to the idea of what the true meaning of their dream was. Long applications; the repetition of sessions that would fully embody a trust in the customer that the length of the session would first enable. Mysterious wisdom; a knowledge, an intuition, that was only meant for certain people to understand. It wasn't for everyone. It was only those with the divine trust of God where people were found who could speak the word of God through other peoples dreams. But even those who were given the divine trust of God; they would "naturally fly" to a confessed authority in support of their science. So then, the interpreters weren't intuiting the meaning of dreams during their sessions, during their work. They were "naturally flying" to another authority, deferring their ostensible authority to another authority, where they would stop and accept this authority. Was this how a dream session would occur? Would this be how the dream session would work? The customer would come into the dream session, tell the interpreter of dreams about their own dreams, and then the interpreter would go to another "confessed authority" to do their work. Were dream interpreters references upon references? Was their work like a living lexicon? If so, how could there be lengthy sessions if the interpreter was merely a reference to another lexicon? How could they convince their customers to trust them if they appeared to only be consulting other texts when doing their work? "The Egyptian priests, the first interpreters of dreams, took their rules from the species of divination, from their symbolic riddling, in which they were so deeply read: A ground of interpretation which would give the strongest credit to the Art; and equally satisfy the diviner and the Consulted: for by this time it was generally believed that their Gods have given them hieroglyphic writing. So that nothing was more natural than to imagine that these Gods, who in their opinion gave dreams likewise, had employed the same mode of expression in both revelations. " The interpreters were seen as being deeply read. So on command, when given the picture or representation being reported in a dream by the customer, by the consulted, they would have at their disposal a "deep reading" of "symbolic riddling". Interpreters were deeply read on riddles. They would tell customers "riddles". They were used to telling customers riddles, and learned to be good at telling riddles to their customers. The length of a session then can be inferred as the telling of riddles to a customer which the customer found appropriate, which would keep the customer coming back for more. If you told the customer exactly everything they wanted to hear in one second, not only would the work of the interpreter be extinguished, but the customer would be dissatisfied. Even as God gave dreams to man and interpreters to man in order to interpret mans dreams, certainly it couldn't be the case that it was as easy as seconds to be able to interpret a dream. Instead, there would be lengthy sessions where no clear cut answer were ever given to the customer, where the customer instead would be told riddles that would vaguely signify a meaning to their dream. And this wasn't just the riddling of the interpreter, the riddling that they were so "well read" on, but it was the riddling of the customer who actually didn't want to be told the immediate truth of their dreams. Instead, meaning had to be surrounded by a long riddling process, that always would be deferred to another session. Both the interpreter and customer were satisfied. The Customer kept coming back for more and satisfying the interpreter, and the interpreter kept deferring the meaning of their dreams, not-so-ironically to the satisfaction of the customer. But beyond this, how important is the idea of God giving man not just dreams, but hieroglyphic writing? This was the grounding stabilizer of the dream interpretation session. Gods gave man dreams. It was only appropriate that if God was going to be this accommodating to man, that the Gods also "employed the same mode of expression in both revelations". If when I dream I see pictures, and dreams were given to me by Gods, then it has to be the case that the interpretations happen in the same mode of expression, in this case, the pictoral graphic, the hieroglyphic. The Egyptians didn't have Descartes. They didn't have someone saying that it was possible for the Gods to deceive them. The God's superseded reason, they superseded whatever "experience" was in Egyptian antiquity, because personal experience wasn't privileged as form of authority for "reality". Instead all authority was giving to invisible divination. It wasn't personal. Authority was open to everyone not through their own personal experiences, but through going to dream interpretation sessions where they would be told their meaning by someone else who was chosen by God to refer to another authority. For interpreters weren't the Gods themselves, but arbiters of his word, by referring to a text, a text that is not accounted for as being self-referencing to it's own authority.
"It's here that the Freudian break occurs". What is this break? "He makes of psychical writing so originary a production that the writing we believe to be designated by the proper sense of a word-a script which is coded and visible in the world-would only be the metaphor of psychical writing.". In the statements made above, the underlying sentiment was that what was "written to psyche" was not graphic, written, or hieroglyphic, but something even more original than these modes of expression. The use of pictures and eventually words to represent a dream were metaphors, meaning a difference from an originality that Freud thought enveloped the psyche. A metaphor is only in the world, and by this, Freud wants to designate dreams as happening outside of the world. And because they operated outside the world, no interpretation inside the world could account for what a dream was about, let alone how it would be possible for dreams to happen in the first place. Many breaks happen here actually. First, Gods are no longer privileged as the arbiters of truth or the word, the "psyche" is. The psyche, specifically in a dream, is something different from what any interpreter could represent it as, in this case, hieroglyphics. The interpretation itself is a metaphor for something that was original. Being stated as "original", it naturally earns for itself a privileged place over any signifiers that were always going back to some originality in order to understand this originality. The signifiers, the hieroglyphics, were only at the service of "originality". Signifiers are "visible in the world". They are literally "hard-coded". The visibility of interpretation, of the metaphor, strips itself of the authority to be the original mise en scene of the dreamer. Visibility takes away the authority it wants to understand what it wants to understand, the invisible (Merleau-Ponty). What is this primary writing of the psyche that Freud privileges, which inevitably de-privileges the signifiers that want it to mean it's originality, its invisibility? "It works, no doubt, with a mass of elements which have been codified in the course of an individual or collective history. But in its operations, lexicon, and syntax a purely idiomatic residue is irreducible and is made to bear the burden of interpretation in the communication between unconsciousnesses." There are a "mass of elements" that have been "codified" to individuals and to their collective history (I.E. a collective unconscious. Again, as an open question, what is the difference between this Freudian pyschologistic concept of a collective unconscious and Husserl's Transcendental Ego?) but the way in which the operation happens to this individual and collective history is "purely idiomatic" and henceforth, irreducible. Additionally, and for our case, most importantly, this operation that can't be represented but by a "contaminated metaphor" is nonetheless made to bear the burden of a "contaminated metaphor". For us to be able to communicate to each other, about our dreams, we have no choice but in being able to use the metaphor in our communication. "No meaningful material or prerequisite text exists which he might simply use". By "rights" of the irreducibility of "psychic writing", there is nothing in the psyche that could represent itself. Only by always deferring to a metaphor can interpreters have their lengthy sessions of riddling. This is the limitation of the Traumbuch (the Dreambook). "As much as it is a function of the generality and the rigidity of the code, this limitation is a function of an excessive preoccupation with content, and an insufficient concern for relations, locations, processes, and differences". Does content here mean anything else other than an immediate understanding? A word, maybe 2 or 3 words, that signify to the customer that the images that they had dreamed of had an immediate meaning that would nonetheless take a lengthy session to reveal. What is my dream about? What does it represent? These are the questions the customer puts to the interpreter which satisfies both. This is an "excessive preoccupation with content". But what about the context of the dragon? Where was the dragon? What was next to him, even if it was empty space? How did it first come onto the scene as a focal point? Why was the dragon the focal point of the dream and not the cloud in which it hovered over? When a dream is remembered, how come none of the context is of any importance? Why is there an "insufficient concern for relations, locations, processes, and differences?" According to Freud, to put it briefly, because customers wanted to be riddled with immediate meanings by interpreters who could provide these sessions. There was a demand for this satisfaction enjoyed by both the customer and interpreter. In Freud's own words, "I, on the contrary, am prepared to find that the same piece of content may conceal a different meaning when it occurs in various people or in various contexts". And so herein lies the "Freudian break" with classical philosophy. No longer was anything to be found immediately with reference to an authority that itself had to defer it's authority ad infinitum. Instead, content's depended on contexts, and different people. This isn't just a break with "classical" dream interpretation, but a break with how thinking would happen: To no longer look at the possibility of an immediate truth, but to look at all the circumstances that surrounded this initial desire that privileged a presence, that privileged one thing in a dream. Herein is the place not only where dreams become more ambiguous, but reality becomes more ambiguous. And because both dream interpretation and philosophy are not so easily defined, this doesn't stop an interpretation of dreams nor an interpretation of reality. It simply doesn't make it so easy as referring to some Dreambook to interpret your reality and dreams for you.

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