Sociology Dreams


Allan Hobson is a leading Harvard neuroscientist who has figured prominently in the breakthroughs which have occurred over the past 50 years in the neurophysiology and neuropsychology of sleep and dreams. Long known within the field for his provocative views on the philosophical implications of sleep research, Hobson in this much-awaited volume addressed himself for the first time to a general audience. The heart of this work is an exposition of the widely-accepted Hobson-McCarley model of dream activity. Dreams, Hobson proposes, are the product of the synthetic, ordering activity of higher cortical brain areas responding to somewhat random internal stimuli generated by lower brain centres in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

In Hobson’s hands, this activation-synthesis model offers a grand vision of the creative power of the human brain, and yet one set squarely in the mainstream of current cognitive science and neuroscience. It is thus the first encompassing alternative modern neurobiology has offered to Freud’s interpretation of dreams. Hobson is knowledgable about and sensitive to psychoanalytic theory, but does not hesitate to declare its shortcomings. The Dreaming Brain may be seen as an attempt, generally successful, to supplant the analysis of dreams that lies at the core of psychoanalytic theory with a radically different neurophysiological vision, a central challenge to the scientific and psychological foundations of the Freudian world-view. For more go to:


Part 1:

"Do we need a sociology of dreams?",  By Montague Ullman, M.D., Dream Appreciation Newsletter Vol. 4 No. 2, Spring 1999.  For sociology, interested only in man awake, the sleeper might as well be dead.” This is a quote from the late distinguished French cultural anthropologist Roger Bastide.  Based on his studies of dreams in transitional cultures in Brazil, he raised the question: “. . .whether the sociologist is right to ignore the other half of our life, to envisage man standing and sitting, but never asleep and adream” These words come from an essay entitled “The Sociology of the Dream” in The Dream and Human Societies, G.E. Von Grunebaum and Roger Caillois, editors, 1966.

In primitive societies in the early stages of transition, there is a unity between the world of myth and the sacred as reflected in the dream and in waking reality with easy passage in both directions. Western society lacks the institutions that foster this exchange. The door to the dream world is closed to society at large. It remains open on a small scale as the container of one’s personal problems to be worked through in private with a therapist. We live in a dream-deprived society.  The failure to recognize the necessity of institutionalizing dreams in a way that makes the function more visible, has led Bastide to conclude that sociologists look upon any such institution as dealing with a “waste product” and would not be “within the competence of a sociology worthy of its name - a kind of social sewer service.”

Part 2:

Dreamers make use of images available to them at a given moment in history. Remolded into metaphorical visual imagery, they convey information of some significance to the dreamer. It seems to me obvious that just as they contain personal referents, they might from time to time contain social referents. That is to suggest that unresolved social tensions also play a role in shaping subjectivity and surfacing in a dream just as more personal tensions do. As Erich Fromm, Trigant Burrow, and others have pointed out, there is a social unconscious at play that takes its toll so long as it remains unconscious. In the following quote, the sociologist Robert S. Lynd describes one over-arching source of social blindness.

“Liberal democracy has never dared face the fact that industrial capitalism is an intensely coercive form of organization of society that cumulatively constrains men and all of their institutions to work the will of the minority who hold and wield the economic power; and that this relentless warping of men’s lives and forms of association becomes less and less the result of voluntary decisions by “bad” or “good” men and more and more an impersonal web of coercions dictated by the need to “keep the system running.” (R.S. Lynd, “Business as a System of Organized Power” in A. M. Lee, editor, Readings in Sociology, 1951.

Part 3:

Some of my internet posts on dreams, not necessarily the sociology of dreams, are found below:


The following two essays were first written at some time in 2004 about five years after I had retired from full-time employment. I revised these 2 essays on three occasions: on March 25th 2005, on February 16th 2008 and, finally, on 31 January 2010, as summer was heading into its final month in the southern hemisphere. By May 2005, a the age of 60, I had freed myself my full-time work, part-time work and most of my volunteer activity. By 2010 I was on two old-age pensions. The edition of these essays below I refer to as their 4th edition. Their 1st edition was written a dozen years after I began to keep organized notes on dreams and dream life(1), a dream-life for me that at the time went back some 40 years to 1952/3. Although I have kept notes and detailed references in my dream file, Journal: Volume 1.3 Dreams(1952 to the Present), no footnotes are found here, just the names of sources.

(1) My first recorded dream was more than 25 years ago on 21 March 1986, but only three dreams were recorded until 19 April 1992. In 1992 I recorded ten dreams, and so it is that I see 1992, the 2nd Holy Year in a 40 year period in the Bahá'í community, as the serious beginning to my keeping of organized notes on my dreams.


Section 1:

After 24 years(1986-2010) of collecting my dream experiences, collecting them episodically, for I collected only a few, some twenty-one A-4 pages; after attempting to recall and write down my dream experiences going back to the first year of my late childhood in 1952/3 when I was eight/nine years old, some fifty-seven years; after 18 years(1992-2010) of attempting to analyse my dream experiences, what I would like to do here is extend the first essay I wrote on this subject in 2004 and which I revised in a second edition in 2005, in a third edition in 2008 and in a 4th edition in 2010.

Lord Byron, the famous English poet, says dreams “look like heralds of eternity” and ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that wondrous Bahá'í writer and leader of the Bahá'í Faith from 1892 to 1921, often refers to the world of dreams to illustrate the existence of the soul, to illustrate that the soul is not dependent on the body, to illustrate the greater intensity of feelings, perceptions and happiness after the release of the spirit or soul from the body. But ‘Abdu’l-Baha also refers to “a confused medley of dreams,” “idle dreams,” and “empty dreams.” Dreams can also be prophetic. For ‘Abdu’l-Baha dreams foretold His own death.

“That truth is often imparted through dreams no one who is familiar with history, especially religious history, can doubt,” so it is said in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian. “At the same time dreams and visions are always coloured and influenced more or less by the mind of the dreamer and we must beware of attaching too much importance to them. The purer and more free from prejudice and desire our hearts and minds become, the more likely is it that our dreams will convey reliable truth, but if we have strong prejudices, personal likings and aversions, bad feelings or evil motives, these will warp and distort any inspirational impression that comes to us. Such in the most general terms is a Bahá'í view and one to which my own experience of dreams supports.

Section 2:

In many cases dreams have been the means of bringing people to the truth or of confirming them in their particular belief systems. We must strive to become pure in heart, `free from all save God' or simply detached to put this idea another way--and this is no easy matter. I have never been particularly impressed with the purity of my mind, my spirit or my soul, so it never surprises me when I have dreams that are confused, complex, bizarre, troubled, even sick and touched with various kinds of despair. My dreams as well as my waking thoughts have often been far from pure and true. "Garbage in and garbage out," as one of the sayings from the decades of my life goes, a saying which I hear again and again over the years, could be said to characterize my dream-life.

We should test impressions we get through dreams, visions or inspirations, by comparing them with the revealed Word of Scripture or some body of wisdom literature we hold dear, hold as a standard, if we have any standard at all. We should check our dream experiences through the sifting mechanism of this wisdom, this literature and see whether our dreams are in full harmony therewith. In another letter in the Baha'i literary corpus in a similar vein we find: "The Guardian would suggest that you study very carefully the statement of Abdu'l-Baha in connection with the question of visions and dreams. ‘Abdu'l-Baha has very fully explained this delicate subject. You will find references to this subject in `Baha'u'llah and the New Era.” Indeed, dreams and their interpretation is a delicate subject.

The Guardian likewise has commented on this matter. "Briefly, there is no question that visions occasionally do come to individuals, which are true and have significance. On the other hand, this comes to an individual through the grace of God and not through the exercise of any of the human faculties. It is not a thing which a person should try to develop. When a person endeavours to develop faculties so that they might enjoy visions, dreams etc., actually what they are doing is weakening certain of their spiritual capacities; and thus under such circumstances, dreams and visions have no reality. Ultimately they can lead to the destruction of the character of the person."

Section 3:

Of course, there are many people I have met in life who would not agree with this quotation. They have a different wisdom literature, a different sifting mechanism. To each their own, I say. But this mechanism is part of mine, a mechanism I have been refining for over half a century now since I became a member of the Bahá'í Faith in October of 1959. It is not my intention to simply quote from the many sources of understanding on this subject, Baha’i and non-Baha’i sources, although I will do so from time to time. I have also developed a file, a two-ring binder on the subject of dreams. This allows me: (a) to try to get some synthesis on the theoretical orientations to dreams; (b) to have a place where I can keep a record of my dreams and (c) to have a file of all my resources in relation to dreams. The internet has begun to produce an immense literature that is available at the press of a few keys and so there is not the need I once had to keep an extensive file of resources. Time does not permit me to finish this essay and the many directions I could take it in at this point. I shall return to this theme at a later date.

Ron Price
31/1/'10 to 16/12/'13. 
4th edition


Part 1:

In The Baha’i Holy Year 1992-1993 I began to more seriously collect my dream experiences. That Holy Year was, as the Universal House of Justice, the globally and democratically elected body at the apex of Bahá'í administration with their seat in Haifa Israel, stated, "an opportunity…for inner reflection on the part of the soul." My dreams before 1992 had virtually disappeared from my memory except for perhaps six major dreams and dream sequences going back to the beginning of my Baha'i life in the year 1952/1953. In 1992 I also started organizing the notes I had collected in the previous six years. I had some notes that I began to collect in the last months while living in Katherine NT, in early 1986 at the age of 42. Spiritual maturity, I have read, can and should begin by or at the age of 40. So perhaps this new venture into dreams was timely. The views of commentators on dreams and dream-theory, essays on dreams and notes from books that I had read, the occasional book that was relevant to the search into my dreams and their meaning had begun to assume a collection niche.

Now, after eighteen years(1992-2010) of recording some of my dreams, keeping notes on dreams and providing a succinct summary of the previous forty years of my dream life(1952-1992), I have established a base of understanding, a base for the integration of my dreams into my autobiography, to the extent that that is possible. My autobiography, my memoir, is now 25 years in the making(1985-2010) and it can be accessed in whole or in part on the internet at many a site. This essay is an attempt at an overview, an understanding, an adequacy of perspective, a context to begin an examination of fundamental questions vis-a-vis my dream life.

What I will actually do with the results from this initial examination, this initial elaboration, of my understandings and those of others I have drawn on, is a question yet to be worked out. Whatever I “do,” it will probably evolve over time, if it evolves at all. Like many thoughts, they remains just that--thoughts and action never results. Perhaps I have already made a start in the realm of action with some of my poems that allude, as they often do, to dreams and my dream life. Three of these poems can be found in my two-ring binder entitled--Journal: Volume 1.3 Dreams 1952/3 to the Present. I have not included them here in this introductory essay. I must say here, as a sort of opening note, that the work of John Davidson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Tasmania and a Baha'i, who taught a course on dreams in the 1980s and 1990s, has been something of an inspiration here. I have known John for more than 35 years(1974-2010) and from time to time have a brief chat with him. I attended one of his dream study programs in Lilydale Tasmania after I retired from FT and PT work. I have always been impressed with his unassuming and quiet manner, qualities I have come to admire in others more and more as I have got older, qualities I did not so much admire when I was young, when I was more impressed with the talkers in the world.

Part 2:

It has been more than a century since Freud published his Interpretation of Dreams(1900) and, of course, the history of dreams in western civilization goes back to both the Greeks and the Hebrews, inter alia, but it is not my purpose here to go into this history. Freud said that dreams were the royal road to one’s inner life, but there is a tangle of thought and feeling in dreams and so that royal road is not a straight and simple path. Jung said he was helped to overcome the egotism inherent in his autobiography and in his life by the dream process. He also felt dreams helped him contact his shadow self. The dream to Jung was like a small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul. That door opened into that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was a conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach. (See: The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man). Adler, in contrast, saw dreams as the antithesis of common sense and reality, indeed, as their arch-enemies. Our life-style often gets out of touch with reality and common sense and dreams can help us see this unreality in context, Adler went on.

Scientifically-minded people seldom dream it is said, although Dr. Davidson told me recently about several examples of prominent scientists who got some of their initial and primary inspirations from their dreams. Both my wife and my son, both more scientific in their approach to life than myself, seem to have much going on in their dream life. My own dream life is not unlike that of my younger step-daughter who is much more on the humanities and arts side of the intellectual spectrum. The hard-nosed realism of the scientist results in an approach to dreams that stands as a sharp contrast to many of the other interpretations that see dreams as glimpses of immortality, fragments of a fable, an archetype, etcetera. For that reason I find this realism attractive as an interpretive system or non-system. A famous quotation from Shakespeare in which he refers to dreams as “the children of idle brains,"supports this view.

Part 3:

But this is not all. The literature on the subject of dreams is now burgeoning and it is not my intention to even provide a cursory overview of that material, not here in this essay nor elsewhere. I feel there is potential in the dream world, a potential I have scarcely fathomed after this sixteen years of study and analysis. Brian Finney, the British essayist, says that dreams arouse “expectations of significance that remain unfulfilled because of their private and indirect nature.” The pages of my dream file will reveal some of these expectations and some of my radical departures from common sense and reality, throwing light, I trust, on the autobiography I have written and whose title is: Pioneering Over Four Epochs: A Study in and a Study of Autobiography.

Many of the quotations and articles now available on the subject of dreams from various sources are relevant to my understanding and experience of dreams. I read them from time to time when I am trying to sort out a dream and its meaning. But I don’t read about dreams that often because the subject is not a main one on my intellectual agenda. The literature now is, as I say above, burgeoning. In the last seven years, 2003-2010, I have begun to accumulate a collection of such articles in my dream file. I must confess, as I say, that the subject is for me a minor key in the great symphony of life, the great symphony of my culture of learning as well as the attainments and achievements of the mind. I rarely come to the study of dreams as a subject; I rarely record a dream. There is just too much else going on in my intellectual life that is of greater interest and value to me in my work.

In my twenty-four years of dream collection and description(1986-2010) and eighteen years years of study and analysis(1992-2010) it would seem I do not often come out of my dream world and put my pen in hand. Only when there is some leftover affect that stays in my mind on waking, perhaps two or three times a year at the most and on average. In the eleven years since coming to Tasmania, 1999 to 2010, I have made only 42 entries or 4 a year. After all these 24 years I have recorded only twenty pages of written and typed notes on specific dreams, less than 1 page per year. If I use the time period 1952 to 2010, fifty-eight years, as my data base, I have about 500 words/page or 10,000 words in total: 360 words/year, 30 words a month, 8 a week and, arguably, 1 word every day.

Part 4:

In the last 32 months, since May 2007 when I began to take the anti-depressant effexor, my dream life has come alive with activity. I recall my dreams every night, but I do not record them. I have only recorded ten dreams in this period of 32 months. This level of recording is a good indicator of the degree of my systematic efforts to study my dream life. I do hope, though, that this brief essay and the material which is set out in my dream file, although not included here in any detail, will be of use to whomever comes upon it. It is only beginning to be of some use to me as I enter these middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80). Perhaps a more serious study of the field of dreams in these years is on the horizon. Time will tell. This activity, this file, these ideas, provide a pleasurable resource and exercise of contemplation from time to time as I play with the stuff of my dreams as they slip into my waking life from REM and non-REM sleep.

REM sleep was discovered in 1953. This was the first empirical breakthrough in dream science. It seems to me, though, that the data I acquire is simply too cursory to be of great value. My scientific interests for the most part lie in other disciplines of life, not dream-study. 1953 was a significant year, with the Kingdom of God beginning as it did that year, from a Baha'i perspective. Of course in the more than half a century since then(1953-2010), there has been a vast increase in the empirical study of dreams, sleep and the associated issues and problems. But it is not my intention here to dwell on this burgeoning literature, the problems of sleep or, indeed, most of the issues that have emerged in the study of dreams. This file is more of a personal retrospective, so to speak. Perhaps in a future, in a follow-up essay on the subject, I will widen the ambit of my study. As 'Abdu'l-Baha says "a most wonderful and thrilling motion appeared in the world of existence in that year, 1953, mirabile dictu. Let it be seen what breakthroughs and insights appear in the years of my late adulthood and old age from the further study of dreams and from the development of the Baha’i Faith with which I have been associated over that same half century.

31/1/'10 to 16/12/'13.
4th edition
3000 words in total
for the 2 essays