The censor is a psychological mechanism hypothesized by Sigmund Freud in which threatening or socially inappropriate dream material is toned down. Freud describes the censor through the analogy of professional writing.
To be effective, media writers must consider their audience. If words are too strident or suggestive, an editor rejects or possibly edits an article for publication.
With regard to dreams, Freud believed the censor acts like a newspaper editor. The censor disguises an unconscious wish symbolized in a dream. The stronger the prohibition of the wish by the ego, superego or conscience, the more it will be distorted in the dream, or in a series of dreams.
Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) is worth quoting at length here:
A similar difficulty confronts the political writer who has disagreeable truths to tell those in authority. If he presents them undisguised, the authorities will suppress his words…A writer must beware of censorship, and on its account he must soften and distort expression of his opinion…The stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching the disguise and the more ingenious too may be the means employed for putting the reader on the scent of the true meaning. The fact that the phenomena of censorship and of dream-distortion correspond down to their smallest details justifies us in presuming that they are similarly determined.¹
However, Freud’s analogy might not hold up in the 21st century because it assumes a political writer is concerned with telling the truth and not just with making a living, stomping on an opponent, or winning an election.
As for the idea of the censor itself, it assumes that the brain (and person) works like software filters, merely distorting hidden desires before they reach consciousness. The idea that dreams could be symbolic because they point to something far greater than mundane reality is never considered. Why? Well, Freud was a reductionist atheist. So for most of his life he saw just about everything from a sexual, materialist and conceptual bias, which for spiritually biased people is not entirely wrong but definitely incomplete.
¹ Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) trans. James Strachey, London: Pelican, 1976, pp. 223-224.
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A form of art and literature developed between WW-I and WW-II particularly in France.
The groundbreaking surrealist treatise of André Breton (1924) challenged 19th century Realism by advocating humor, dreaminess and the absurd.
Surrealism now refers to any noticeably distorted or enhanced representation or interpretation.
In cultural expression and perhaps as a lifestyle the intent is to explore sublime (or bizarre) realities laying behind the everyday world of conventional perceptions and paradigms.
The art form was greatly influenced by Freud‘s model of the unconscious. And the surrealist works of Salvador Dali depict the shadowy world of dreams. Other important surrealists are Max Ernst and Jean Arp, and its impact extends to Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee.
In literature, surrealism is found in the verse of Paul Eluard, the absurd, ironic plays of Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett as well as in the psychologically charged novels of William S. Burroughs.
» Bosch (Hieronymus)
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In Sigmund Freud’s classic work on dreams and the unconscious, The Interpretation of Dreams (German edition: 1899 & 1900), secondary revision is said to occur whenever we remember a dream’s content.
Freud says the original dream content is usually obscure, incoherent and highly symbolic, and our memory of it is fragmented at best.
On waking the conscious mind fills in the gaps to make some kind of sense out of the dream, even though our waking interpretation doesn’t necessarily fit with the actual dream content.
In his Dictionary of Psychology (Bantam: 1985) J. P. Chaplin calls this secondary elaboration, and says we essentially try to make a better “story” out of the dream content.
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Active Imagination An apparently therapeutic technique developed by C. G. Jung that uses some form of self-expression, such as a fantasy-image, to represent and analyze the contents of the hypothesized collective unconscious.
Active imagination may involve artistic representation but this is secondary to its essentially internal character.
Jung says imaginary changes within active imagination should be carefully observed and noted because they indicate underlying unconscious processes.
In advanced stages of active imagination, Jung suggests a more direct engagement with imaginary contents, where one puts oneself on the stage, as it were, of the unconscious and becomes one of the players.
Here, unconscious attitudes toward a person or situation may be explored by running imaginary trials – e.g. fantasy dialogue or interactions – which Jung says contribute to an overall integration of the unconscious within consciousness.
Jung, himself, practiced active imagination deeply, going as far to say that he was guided by a “ghost guru” called Philemon. When Jung became bored with Philemon, however, he cut him off.
We cannot know whether Jung was dealing with a spiritual being or a mere product of his imagination.
Due to the hypothesized interconnectedness of all things, some depth psychologists and New Age enthusiasts believe that the internal dialogue of active imagination has real effects on other people and the visible world.
The psychologist and philosopher William James similarly wrote in The Varieties of Religious Experience about ‘thought insertion’–where the power of thought apparently influences another person at a distance.
Today the archaic idea of ‘thought insertion’ is sometimes called Remote Influence within parapsychological circles.
Jung mentioned but didn’t emphasize this possibility in his published works, perhaps to avoid negative repercussions from the skeptics and “medical materialists,” as he put it, of his time.
However, Jung did speak of belonging to an alleged “inner circle” of prominent, mystically inclined thinkers such as the novelist Herman Hesse and the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano.
Active imagination is similar to Shakti Gawain’s notion of creative visualization but is more about developing psychological balance instead of achieving external goals. » Channeling
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Aesculapius Possibly a Greek mortal around 1200 BCE who, like Heracles, became deified.
In Homer‘s Illiad he is described as “the blameless physician.”
His cult was centered in Epidaurus and emphasized cure through a prototype of contemporary psychoanalysis.
The poets Hesiod and Pindar speak of Aesculapius as the son of Zeus and Corona.
In the Epiduarian myth, his mother Corona dies while he is an infant.
A Messenian variant, however, says Aesculapius’ mother is Arsinoe and other accounts claim that he is the son of Apollo.
Regardless of his ambiguous parentage, Aesculapius became the god of healing and medicine and, according to legend, was educated by the centaur Chiron.
While in hell he raised a dead person, Hippolytus, to life. This vexed Zeus who retaliated by killing Aesculapius with a thunderbolt.
Although illness in ancient Greece was often attributed to the displeasure of the gods and goddesses, it could nevertheless be cured by divine mercy. The afflicted entered a sacred chamber and allowed visionary or “incubated” dreams to guide them towards health.
The postmodern thinker Michel Foucault saw this as an ancient prefiguration of the psychoanalytic couch.
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