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  Dreams were believed, by the 19th century Romantics, to be messages from ‘the Beyond’ with personal significance. The Rationalists denied that dreams had any sense at all, while the Materialists claimed that dreams were no more than the results of body activities and sense stimuli during sleep. Freud reasserted the more traditional view that dreams had a personal meaning; he compared them to messages and letters.

In sleep, according to Freud, the mind is in a state of relaxed censorship. Dreams are disguised representations of unconscious wishes which are not accessible in a waking state. What Freud called the ‘dream work’ employs further displacements of direct imagery, condensation of images, representations and concrete symbolism. These are the manifest forms of the latent content (the wishes). Freud called dreams the ‘royal road to the unconscious’.

For Jung, dreams were the main source of our knowledge of symbolism. The individual symbols in dreams are natural and spontaneous products of the unconscious. They are not signs: a symbol is something which stands for more than its obvious immediate meaning, whereas a sign is something that means less than the object it stands for. Many dream symbols are not individual but collective in their nature, and these are chiefly religious symbols. Jung discovered that ancient symbols, of which his patients had no prior knowledge, turned up in their dreams. Dreams, therefore, demonstrated to him the existence of a collective unconscious. MJ

Further reading Sigmund Freud, On Dreams; Jung, Psychology and Alchemy.



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