Brian Nuckols: Ontology of Dreams, Pt. 1 | Who Shaves the Barber? #9

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What are dreams? A popular contemporary view says there isn’t much to them – they must be something like the brain’s defragmenting of the day’s loose associations. Whatever the merits of this deflationary view, there’s no question that they feel like much more – like events we undergo in some other realm, perhaps some different layer of reality. After a powerful personal experience with lucid dreaming, Brian Nuckols became fascinated by the many theories of the ontology of dreams. In this first part of this interview, Brian recounts how dream analysis and lucid dreaming affected his own life. He then dives deep into the interpretation of dreams held by the Runa – indigenous people living in the forests of Peru. Finally, he takes us through a survey of the history of major theories of the ontology of dreams – from the pre-Socratics all the way through to Nietzsche.



Next week: Brian Nuckols on Dreams, Pt. 2: Freud and Jung
Special thanks for Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Topics discussed

0:20 – Introduction to Brian Nuckols
1:23 – Brian’s intense lucid dream
9:18 – The ontology of dreams (against the deflationary view and shared dreams)
15:18 – The Runa people’s interpretation of dreams
22:34 – The source of ayahuasca
25:57 – The hero’s song
30:27 – Intro to history of interpretations of dream ontology
31:49 – Pre-socratics (Parmenides)
33:13 – Plato
34:59 – Aristotle
36:56 – Christianity – Monastics and Gnostics
40:00 – Francis of Assisi (weather and prayer)
42:45 – Witches, dark ages, and Satan
45:01 – Bruno and Derren Brown
49:50 – DaVinci & polyphasic sleep
50:55 – Wordsworth & Coleridge: the sublime
54:05 – Nietzsche, Zarathustra, and the birth of psychoanalysis


How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human by Eduardo Kohn

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