Dream as a constitutive cultural determinant – The example of ancient Egypt

Gotthard G Tribl

Abstract


Since the discovery of REM-sleep, modern empirical dream research has made considerable advances in making dreaming a subject of scientific interest. To allow for quantification and interpretation of dream material, it is necessary that at first the dreamer him or herself is able to reach an optimal notion of the experienced dream. This means predominantly seeing and memorizing dream imagery. This individual experience is mainly preverbal and is secondarily converted into speech to become communicable. The dreamer’s capacity to observe dream imagery and the question as to whether there is a possibility to improve dream imagery perception, have been themes of minor interest in modern dream research. Among Ancient Egyptian texts there are a number of dream reports, which document an interest in observing dreams. Even larger is the corpus of the night literature that deals with themes of an otherworldly, nighttime reality, the so-called Duat. There are etymologic and textual hints that these assertions on a complex, nightly meta-reality in the Egyptian culture are especially related to the hours of the late night, the peak of REM-sleep and the phase of highest dream recall. This paper develops the hypothesis that the Ancient Egyptian culture appreciated dream experience as a reality deserving high attention; and that the Egyptians deduced cultural knowledge from dream experience, intended for individual and collective, cultural application. Raising the perception of pictorial logic in dreams may be of interest for dream research as well as for improving cultural capacities, inasmuch as a dream-wake-continuum may be realized.

Keywords


Dreaming; Morning; Late sleep period; Freud; Ancient Egypt; Netherworld; Duat; Amduat; Dream-Wake-Continuum

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11588/ijodr.2011.1.9075