Friday, April 13, 2012

Primitive Dreams

Just some notes from Lucien Levy-Bruhl’s Primitive Mentality (1923)

1966 Beacon Press edition, eng. trans.

[For the Primitive Mind] “What is seen in dreams is, theoretically, true. To minds which have but slight perception of the law of contradiction, and which the presence of the same thing in various places at one and the same time does not perturb in the least, what reason is there for doubting these data more than any others. …Since nothing seems more natural to him than the communication between the seen and the unseen worlds, why should he mistrust what he sees in dreams any more than what he sees with his eyes wide open?” (And these things are even more valuable to him because of their mystic origin.) (p101)

It may happen that what the primitive sees in dreams are circumstances which are to occur later; these circumstances are both prospective, because he foresees their happening, and they are also retrospective, because he has seen them take place. Such a thing is an impossibility to minds governed, as ours are, by the law of contradiction, for they have a clear representation of time unfolding in a unilinear series of successive moments. How can the same event occupy two different places in this series, at a distance from each other, and thus belong to the past and the future? Such an impossibility, however, puts no strain upon the prelogical mentality…. …Their simultaneity of data, as well as their ‘multi-presence of a person’ cannot coexist in time and space with us… (p105)

Regarding a native’s dream about the theft of some of his pumpkins by a white man, and even though the white man had never even been to this native man’s property, the native says, “If you had been there, you would have taken them”. And so the character of the white man in the dream was actually the will of that person. It doesn’t matter what you do… (p106-107)

Also see “Consciousness and Dreams”, by Marcel Kuijsten in The Jaynesian: Newlsetter of the Julian Jaynes Society, 2010, volume 4, issue 1

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