Dream Time Articles Index




Gackenbach, Jayne (1987). Jungian, Paul Kugler, on Assumptions of Reality. [Interview by Jayne Gackenbach and Harry Hunt], ASD Newsletter 4(6), pp. 8-12,16. 


Picture from ASD Newsletter 4(6), 1987

Jungian, Paul Kugler, on Assumptions of Reality

Dr. Kugler is a Senior Training Analyst with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysis. His most recent Publication is “Child Hood Seduction: Physical and Historical” 
He is also the author of The Alchemy of Discourse. This interview was conducted by the editor and Harry Hunt, author of the forthcoming. The Multiplicity of Dreams: A Cognitive Approach. 1


  Kugler: With certain patients I have seen dreams where the dream-ego is conscious in the dream of dreaming. It is a curious phenomenon.

  Editor: In the dream do they wake up, or do they dream that they are conscious that they are dreaming? There is a difference.

  Kugler: Both. When I was in training analysis in Zurich in the early 1970’s, I had a curious dream. It was a long, complicated dream, but in brief what happened was that I had a dream within the dream. After a long dream episode I woke up (in the dream) and took the dream to an old classical Jungian analyst, a woman in her 70’s, and asked what the dream might mean. I was very dissatisfied with her interpretation. I then went to see another analyst, a young male training candidate just finishing the Institute, and worked with him on the dream. Again I was dissatisfied with his interpretation. The dream scene shifts and I was in an analytic session with the analyst I was actually in analysis with at that time.

  Editor: Is that kind of dream normal?

  Kugler: Whether it is “normal” or not, I don’t know. But it happened to on that occasion and several other times.

  Editor: The dream sounds like a false awakening.

  Kugler: Or an awakening into a sort of “dream consciousness”.

  Hunt: They are all a family of interesting phenomena that constitute lucidity of some sort.

  Editor: Do you mean that when you’re working with a patient and they’re working with their dreams as an ongoing part of therapy, it becomes part of the substance of their relationship with you, or does it become part of their relationship with themselves? In other words, does the dream become an object in the dream? If so, and if there is an awareness of the true state on the part of the dreamer while the dream in ongoing then you are talking about what we call lucidity.

Hunt: Paul, how do you understand this dream phenomena? Are the dreamers excited when this happens? What does it mean to you that they wake up and are aware of the fact that they are dreaming? 

Kugler: To begin with, there is a reflexivity built into dreaming, but normally the time between the act and the refection is longer. Usually we dream, wake up and think about the dream, reflect on it over the next few days or in analysis. And this, in turn has an impact on our conscious awareness and subsequent dreams. It is a reflexive process where unconscious fantasies, feelings, thoughts, memories are re-presented to consciousness. There is no reason why this reflexivity cannot begin to form or appear within the dream itself. 

Hunt: That is would be a circle or a cycling of interaction that the analysis would then impact on the dr4eam and change the dream. So you should have a slow dialogue between, in a sense, analysis and dream resulting in changing the dream. But I think that what you're describing here as lucidity is a kind of importing of that reflexive circle into the dream itself. It should be possible.

  Hunt: I would agree. I think it it’s a much more general phenomenon. It does seem to me that there’s a number of departure points between types of lucidity. I mean, in the nineteenth century some people could take up and interpret, as they understood it, from their point of view, an interpretive attitude within the dream. It seems to me that that’s very different from what a lot of people are now calling lucidity.

  Editor: The term has excess meaning in it.

  Hunt: It’s okay as a term in itself, being aware of the dream within the dream. That’s the bedrock. Then it departs because it seems to me at least that some people, once they’re aware of the dream, seek to encounter the dream more fully in either an analytic spirit or sometimes in a controlling spirit. There’s a big difference between the two. Another group of people are hooked, in a sense, on the feeling of excitement. Within the dream there tends to be a kind of high or exhilaration of special kind of clarity.

  Editor: Like the first time you get drunk. It’s fun.

  Hunt: They cultivate that as an experiential possibility.

  Editor: But it fades. I’m convinced that developmentally you can’t stay with it. It withdraws and with rare exceptions, you can’t maintain the exhilaration. It’s generally no longer with me and I know it’s no longer with other long term lucid dreamers. The consciousness remains, but it’s no longer unique and novel and fun. Sometimes it’s not nice.

  Hunt: But I would see the deepening of that process, as opposed to the deepening of the line which would take you further into, what I would take as an analytic attitude. The deepening of the non-analytic process I think goes into the meditative traditions. I think the proof of that is that the meditative traditions, i.e. the Vedic, the Tibetan Buddhists, cultivate lucid dreaming as the form of meditation that’s available to them naturally. Potentially, they train themselves during sleep.

  Kugler: So the meditative tradition of traditions, that you refer to would take what attitude towards the dream when they become conscious?

  Hunt: They would take the attitude that the dream is an occasion, an opportunity to deepen their meditative practice. The essence of the meditative practice is in some sense that worldly involvements are illusions. The recognized dream, becomes a vehicle to deepen that awareness. So quite deliberately, they might call up very frightening apparitions and try to maintain an awareness of the relativity of this ostensibly absolute phenomenon.

  Editor: On the other hand, in the Vedic tradition, at least as interpreted by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the approach would be that of a quiet, passive, non-involved observer of the dream. If anything, the content of the dream would potentially drop out.

  Kugler: There would be no more dream content?

  Editor: That’s what they argue should happen, dreams without content. The consciousness should maintain and content should fade out. You got consciousness without content.

  Hunt: What you’re really talking about here is sort of diffuse luminosity, diffuse white light experience. In the Tibetan tradition they seem to expect that once you’re meditating within the dream, you’ll have what I think you and I would regard as very powerful archetypal dreams. There’ll be apparitions, strange creatures, powerful encounters with your guru. But gradually as you maintain the meditative attitude in the dreamer over a period of months or years this intensity drops out and what you are left with is the clarity of bare awareness that all these traditions talk about. That is their goal. And that’s where I would see a difference between the meditative traditions and the analytic traditions. The analytic traditions seem to be aiming for, in a sense, the manifestation of depth. To the extent that you’re lucid in the analytic, it would be to go deeper. To go further. As the goal where you move into further analysis. Whereas lucidity also seems to naturally aim towards this meditative attitude, which is in a sense more detached and perceptive. Then you get into Jung’s own ambivalence about the Eastern traditions. If there’s an interface and a potential conflict between what’s being talked about now as lucid dreaming and Jungian approaches to dreaming. It’s in that unease that Jung had about Eastern approaches.

  Kugler: In my reading of Jung, his ambivalence concerning Westerners talking on Eastern religions is that their personality is grounded in fundamentally different modes of thought. The Western personality is grounded in many of the metaphysical absolutes we discussed today in my lecture. When these psychic structures are disturbed or replaced, it can lead to derealization or psychosis.

  I had a discussion after the lecture with a friend. The question he asked me again and again, was: “Isn’t the postmodern problematic just a form of relativity. Isn’t it just radical relativism?” I was trying to explain that there’s an essential difference between relativity and shifting our ontological commitment, the god-term being used to authorize our construction of reality and sense of meaning. Einstein was the father of modern relativity theory. But while he was clearly a relativist, Einstein broke with many of his colleagues over his ontological commitment.

  The distinction still was not clear to him. Later, was were talking about religious fundamentalism, and he questioned how someone could actually believe that a person resurrected or that bread and wine can become body and blood. I noted that it would require an ontological shift in his system of thought to experience the “reality” and “significance ”of these religious events. Its understanding is outside of his belief system and, therefore, he cannot ”believe in” it. A religious conversion would be required for him to experience the religious significance of these ideas. Our ontology constitutes belief itself whether in religion or science. To disturb or alter this level of the personality can result in very dramatic changes.

  Editor: What do you mean by ontological?

  Kugler: One’s functioning definition of reality. If you change your working definition of reality you run the risk of precipitating a psychotic reaction. Psychosis, as you know, is a disturbance of reality. Psychotic episodes are often accompanied by religious conversions. I have known clinical cases where the patient has undergone multiple conversions during a  single episode. Because of the profound psychic disturbances associated with shifts in our belief systems., the bedrock or our personality. Jung was very apprehensive about Westerners taking on Eastern belief systems. When you take on those patterns of thought, you alter your definition or reality

  Editor: There is an experience that precedes the verbalization. An experience that is without verbal labels. I think that in attempts to construct that experience verbally, what’s happening is we are finding that the Eastern constructions fit the experience better than the Western constructions, although I think they’re the same. The experience is fundamental, the origin. The Eastern set of symbols, set of concepts, are a better expressions of experience.

  Kugler: How do you determine what is “better”?

  Editor: It’s the sense of a good fit. I have an experience of lucid dreaming, alright? This is an experiential reality. There’s a verbal element to it: I know I am dreaming, and that it is verbal. It’s quite verbal. It’s a sentence that is said in the dream. But, there’s an experience without verbal labels that is pervasive, deep, profound.

  Kugler: I have a sense of what you are referring to, but I have a lot of questions as to how you are going to escape the bias imposed on our understanding by language. The nature of the relation between lived experience and its representations is very complicated. The representational level has a significant influence on how we construct and speak about “reality”. For example, in the nineteenth century the linguistic metaphors and narrative structures we used to construct our discourse were quite different from today. The master narratives of the past century were influenced by the Victorian novel, on the one hand, and the Newtonian fantasy of cause and effect on the other. Much of science is still modeled on these master narratives: begin with a problem or crime, casually follow the clues backward in time through a series of ups and downs in the plot, the parapetia, until you find the cause of the problem or the person “who done it”.

  Hunt: Freud’s case histories?

  Kugler: Yes, Freud’s case histories. This master narrative dominated 19th and early 20th century literature and science. And in some areas it still is in use today. At the turn of the century James Joyce, almost single handedly, introduced a new form of the novel and with it came a new master narrative. In writing Finnegan’s Wake and Ulysses, he created a novel that could not be read only once. The problem with the Victorian novel was once you know “who done it” the plot was not so engaging. Joyce constructed a novel in which the clues given at the end only made sense at the beginning during the second and third readings.

  Editor: A good movie’s that way.

  Kugler: Also, Joyce plays so extensively with the polysemic quality of language through endless puns, that every time you reread the text there are shifts in the meaning of the novel. The construction of the narrative is not casual, nor does it have a singular meaning of definite perspective. Joyce was beginning to develop what we now recognize as the post-modern novel. In the post-modern novel the narrative line is not characterized so much by causal connections and plot developments, as it is by ontological shifts. For example, the structure of a post-modern novel might be something like this: As the story goes, you are having dinner with Harry Hunt and Paul Kugler, interviewing them for a journal article. The interview focuses on dreams, question of lucidity, self-relativity, the problems associated with Westerners taking on Eastern belief systems and so on. Part way through the interview you suddenly realize that you are actually dreaming and that your interview with Dr. Kugler on lucidity in dreams is itself only a dream. At this point in the dream you are asked by Kugler the following questions: What will happen to your dream people, the little people as Jung called them, if through your meditation practices you succeed in emptying your dreams of all content? What will happen to this dream content? What will happen to this interview? You suddenly awaken, confused and uncertain as to whether you actually interviewed Kugler of whether it was only a dream. As you struggle with this question you suddenly realize that you are still dreaming...

Now, this type of narrative construction is characteristic of the post-modern novel. Ray Federman’s Double or Nothing and Two Fold Vibration are wonderful examples of this style of composition. The self-reflexive structure with its continuous ontological shifts is very different from the Victorian with its causal structure, stable meaning and singular reality. In many ways the post-modern novel is similar to Japanese movies with their de-emphasis on plot and subtle concern with differentiating the various levels of reality.

As we become more aware of the problems of ontology and the difficulties involved in differentiating levels of reality, we see a greater similarity between our lived experience and the philosophical narratives of the East. Whether we understand the lived experience of the Easterner is another question. There are many ground principles in the Eastern systems of thought that are alien to the Western mind.

    We, for example, tend to ground our systems of thought on something while the East tends to ground its belief systems on nothing.  The idea of using   “nothingness” as a first principle  is extremely difficult for many Westerners to grasp.

  There’s a wonderful Sufi story that plays with the tension between the primacy of a known god-term and nothingness. The story is set in a medieval village where the villagers are seated during meetings according to their social rank. The person who holds the highest rank rakes the highest seat. One day the villagers are gathering and the prime minister is setting in his seat when a beggar wanders into the village and takes the seat just above hem. He is, of course, very disturbed by this, and asks the beggar just “ who do think you are to take that seat? Do you think you are the prime minister?” The beggar thinks for a few minutes, and says “No”. So the prime minister asks, “Well, do you think you are the king to take that seat?” The beggar thinks again for a few minutes and replies again for a few minutes and replies. “No”. So the prime minister asks “Well then, do you thing you are the prophet to take that seat?” The beggar looked at him and replied, “No.” This time the prime minister asked if he thought he was God to sit there. And again the beggar replied “No.” At this point the prime minister was very upset and he exclaimed “But nothing sits above God”, to which the beggar replied. “Yes, and that nothing I am.”    

  Editor: I love it.

  Kugler: it’s a very complicated ending because you can sense how language catches us up in its internal tension between referentiality and significance.

  Hunt: In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition I think they’re quite eager, at least now, to press on people the term openness for emptiness or nothing. In other words, if it has a referential sense, it’s a kind of openness. It’s the space that’s filled by structure. The difference, perhaps, between the Eastern relativism and the Western relativism in that in that oscillation between open possibility and the structure that are given birth to the Eastern oscillation would have you end up on the side of the bare awareness.

   Kugler: The Eastern relativity ends up with the unknown, while Western relativity ends up with the known.

  Hunt: So playing with structure, with the accent on structure, rather than the accent on detachment. Although both are necessary.

  Kugler: I’ll tell you two stories which illustrate my point. The first story reflects more of the modernist attitude, which we might call the Western attitude towards relativity. And the second is closer to the post-modern and Buddhist attitude. The first story Jung was very fond of telling as an illustration of his concept of the Self. The story illustrates the function of a transcendental meaning (ref. morning lecture) in relation to relativity. The story is found in the 18th Book of the Koran and begins with Moses meeting Khidr (The “Green One”) in the desert. The two wander together for a while and Khidr expresses his fear Moses will not be able to witness his deeds without judgment and indignation. Khidr tells Moses that if he cannot trust and bear with him, then Khidr will have to leave him. Moses agrees.

  After a short time they come upon a poor fishing village where Khidr sinks the fishing boats of the villagers. Moses is upset seeing this, but remembers his promise and says nothing. A short time later they arrive at a decaying house of two pious young men, just outside the wall of the city of non-believers. Khidr goes up to the city wall which is falling down and repairs the wall, rather than the house of the two believers. Again Moses is disturbed by Khidr’s actions, but says nothing. The story continues in this fashion until finally Moses sees something so intolerable that he can no longer hold back from making a comment. This causes Khidr to leave. But, before his departure, Khidr explains why he acted as he did. In the first instance, pirates were on their way to steal the fisherman’s boats and by sinking them, Khidr actually saved the boats from being stolen. In the second instance, by rebuilding the wall of the city of non-believers, Khidr actually saved the two young men from ruin, because their life fortune was hidden under the city wall and about to be revealed and stolen. As Khidr left, Moses realized that his moral judgement and indignation had been too hasty and that Khidr’s actions, which at first he interpreted as bad, were in fact, not. 

  The second story I would characterize as a narrative representing the Post-modern problematic. It’s an old Taoist story about a farmer who has a son and a horse. One day, the farmer goes outside to find that his only horse has run away. It’s a small town and the neighbors hear about it and come to visit that evening and tell him what a terrible thing it is that happened. The farmer listens to them, thinks for a while, and responds, “I don’t know.” The next week the horse runs up into the mountains and takes up with a herd of thirty wild horses. After running with them for a few weeks, the farmer’s horse leads the wild horses back to the corral. The farmer goes out and finds he now has thirty-one horses and closes the gate. Word gets out and the neighbors come to see him that evening and tell him how wonderful this is. The farmer thinks for a long time and says “I don’t know”. The following day his only son goes out to tame the wild horse. He climbs on the first horse and is thrown breaking his leg, so he can’t work. The neighbors hear about this and come over to the house that evening and tell him what a terrible thing this is. The farmer thinks for a while and responds “I don’t know”. The next day the country breaks out in a war and the man in charge of draft inscription arrives to draft the son to the front line where he probably will be killed. He finds he has a broken leg and tells him he does not have to go to war. And the neighbors hear about this and come over that night and tell the farmer how wonderful it is that his son does not have to go to war. And the farmer responds “ I don’t know”.

  Both stories relativize through recontextualization, but where they differ is that the first story has a personification (Khidr) who “knows” the future, while in the second story there is only “not knowing”. There is only the farmer who questions the neighbors’ tendency to fix a specific interpretation to an event. The two stories present very different ways of relativizing.

  Editor: Do you think that there is a core experience?

  Kugler: What do you mean by  “core experience”?

  Hunt: Well, in the sense that Zen talks about Satori.

  .Kugler: That I don’t know.

  Hunt: How would you juxtapose talk of Satori with talk of realization or circumambulation of the Self in the Jungian tradition?

  Kugler: I wouldn’t.

  Hunt: Okay, why wouldn’t you? You’ve been to Japan, so you’re gotta have a lot of stimulation.

   Kugler: I found being in Japan a very complicated experience. I lived out the problem of taking a Western mind-set.into an Eastern World. While I was there I supervised a number of clinical cases and I had a recurrent fear while listening to the case material that I could not escape my American mentality and would transform their lotus flower into a North American daisy. The awareness of radically different cultural assumptions concern stayed with me for the entire trip.

  My visit to Japan was one of the most stimulating and culturally jarring experiences of my life. I still remember my first evening in Kyoto. I arrived after twenty-six hours of travel and was met by two faculty members from the university. They took me to an exquisite restaurant. They could speak very little English and I could speak no Japanese. We had a fifteen course meal, each portion very small and delicate, garnished carefully with a flower or pickles. The second course was abalone with what looked like a squash flower next to it. I ate the abalone, and when the waiter noticed that I had finished, he took away my bowl. I then noticed that the two Japanese both ate the yellow flower. Interesting, I thought. The next course was a small Kobe steak garnished this time with a little blue flower, which I as a Westerner associate with Keats, Shelly and the Romantics. Remembering what happened to the squash flower, a rather unromantic flower for the Western imagination, and not wanting to appear too out of line with the local culture. I eat the steak and then, very proudly, popped the blue flower into my mouth. The two Japanese look at me with astonishment. When the waiter came over to remove their bowls the blue flowers were still in them. The next day at the university I was having lunch with one of the professors, and he was asking about my reactions to the cultural differences. I began to tell him about and he was asking about my reactions dinner the night before and how I had eaten the blue flower.

  He shook his head vigorously, exclaiming:  “No, you don’t eat the blue flowers”. Where in America you don’t eat the daisies, in Japan you don’t eat the blue flowers.

1. This article was transcribed from the hard copy issue of  ASD Newsletter 4(6)  by Edmund Bussey.


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