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More on Dreams…

The regular readers of this blog know that I have an emerging interest in dreams with a focus on the relationship between religion (particularly the phenomenon of inventio) and archaeology in Greece.  Even more specifically, I’ve thought a bit about the different (but related) roles that predictive dreams played in disciplines influenced by the early 20th century modernist discourse.   For example, religiously inspired dreams appear occasionally in otherwise highly “scientific” archaeological reports and seem to have led the discovery of specific artifacts (relics!), buildings, or features.  This intersection of religious dream and scientific archaeology allowed the scientific discourse of archaeology to bridge the gap, if just momentarily, and create a space where it was possible to reconcile long standing religious phenomenon and “empirical” arguments.  This space, in turn, played a part in the creation of nationalist discourses which typically accommodated by mystical and scientific bases for national identities.

I’ve also suggested that the role of predictive dreams in anthropological discourse (as well as the scientific discipline of laography (or folklore studies)) was similar, although these dreams tended to be stripped of religious power and transformed into artifacts of continuity between Greek folk and their ancient and Byzantine predecessors.

Finally, I have noted that dreams have a significant place in the field of psychoanalysis and in Freud’s works, most notably his Interpretation of Dreams.  Freudian thought was, of course, characteristic of modernism and sought to place the unconscious mind of firmer “scientific” footing.  It appears that Freudian ideas first circulated in Greece during the third decade of the 20th century and among the first generation of Greeks to explore Freud’s ideas was Angelos Tanagras (P. Hartocolis, “A Letter from Greece,” Journal of American Pschoanalytic Association 48 (2000), 675). 

I spent yesterday afternoon reading through A. Tanagras, Psychophysical Elements in Parapsychological Traditions (New York 1967) on the recommendation of a colleague.  Originally published as La Destin et la Change in 1930, this book sought to integrate Freudian psychological analysis and research into the parapsychological phenomenon ranging from telekinetics to telepathy and clairvoyance.  Dreams feature prominently in his book — including dreams that lead to the discovery of lost objects.  Tanagras, following much early 20th century parapsychological research, attempts to argue that the mind can control the material world through not only the power of suggestion but also the manipulation of subatomic particles.  His arguments are based upon numerous interviews and sworn testimony of members of the Greek bourgeoisie (doctors, lawyers, newspaper editors, bankers and the like) and interlaced with a strongly Freudian understanding of mind.  In fact, it appears that the unconscious was every bit as powerful — if not more so — as the conscious mind in its ability to manipulate and influence the material world.  It is worth noting that Tanagras makes an effort to apply the principles of parapsychology to “evil eye” — the practice of cursing an individual through a jealous gaze and a common phenomenon in Greek and Eastern Mediterranean folk traditions. 

While Tanagras does not deal with archaeological dreams specifically, his research follows a now well-trod path of attempting to explain and accommodate “supernatural” or even religious phenomena within the emerging (and expanding) scientific discourse.  Efforts to validate scientifically the “folk” traditions in a Greek context — whether by categorizing them as persistent remnants of ancient practices or through juxtaposing religiously inspired dreams and empirical discoveries or establishing a scientific basis for supernatural phenomenon — worked to create the foundation for a modern society which stood close to the center of the emerging discourse of nationalism in a Greek context (for a more subtle reading of this complex process see : J. Faubion, Modern Greek Lessons: A Primer in Historical Constructivism.  (Princeton 1993).)

For more on Tanagras, check out Kostis Kourelis excellent post!

Update 2:
Kostis has contributed more to the link between Tanagras and archaeology including the relationship between the renowned archaeologist A. Philadelpheus and Tanagras.  Philadelpheus apparently dedicated his Monuments of Athens to Tanagras.  Even more interesting is that Tanagras has an autobiography with a copy at the Elliot Garrett Parapsychology Foundation Library.

Update 3:
More brilliant blogging by Kostis Kourelis on Tanagras, parapsychology, and archaeology

Categories: Books, Byzantium, Religion, Science
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