¡A rant!...
On current theory of dreams...
Inspired by Lucid dream...
For JerboaKolinowski...
...!A rant¡

The three registers of human reality are the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real, according to Lacan. I take this terminology from him.
  • The "imaginary" register is the domain of images and ideals. This is the domain of the ego, which is an essentially falsifying agency that gives a sense of unity to a body that is, in reality, fragmented and uncoordinated. The ego provides an image that is a unified, ideal, glossed over/false reality. This image is part of the so-called imaginary domain.
  • The "symbolic" register is that of semiotics. Symbolism gives "meaning" to the world. (By definition, the definition of meaning is signification.) The symbolic is composed of signifiers and signifieds. One's relation to the image is structured by the symbolic. Language belongs to the symbolic register. The texture of our world is symbolic.
  • The "real" register is that which resists signification, that which we cannot situate or explore.

Now, the interesting thing about dreams is that symbolic register is totally missing while the dream is occurring. Only afterwards, when one wakes up, is symbolism imposed upon dreams. This is not to say that dreams have no substance. Merely that their substance is "meaningless", in the literal sense of the word. Everything is immediate.


While dreaming, I see someone whom I know without any equivocation is my father. This person's form is unclear but unneccessary to the dream. Without any sort of signification, I immediately, directly know that the person is my father. Hence, the substance of the dream (that the person is my father) is immediate.

But when I am awake, I may remember the person as my father (perhaps with difficulty), but only through association and signification of my memory of the form of my father. My memory is subject to the symbolic order.

It also appears that dreaming's lack of symbolism is intimately connected with forming/restructing/playing out signification according to some (logical) laws.

Symbol-blindness is what gives one the strange sense of tunnel-vision when dreaming.

One could insert an interesting tangent about the different psychoactive mechanisms of LSD and Ketamine here. LSD causes attention to detail and texture, and is thus in the analytic domain of the symbolic. Ketamine is at the opposite end of the spectrum: it causes disassociation (i.e. mutes the symbolic), increased attention to archetype (which is the domain of the imaginary), and thus a feeling of tunnel-vision.