Video conversation between Gordon Lawrence and Anthony Blake - January 25, 2001
Transcribed and edited
Blake : This is January 25, in the year 2001 and I’m in the home of Gordon Lawrence in Hampstead, London, particularly to talk about his pioneering work with the social dreaming matrix. Gordon, I’d like you to give us some background of where this came from and the kind of context in which you’ve used it.
Lawrence : Well, it started over 20 years ago. At the time I used to do a lot of group work and I was aware that in the course of the group there would be a dream voice and I never really knew how to deal with that dream. But as I listened I recognized that the dream was always speaking to the situation that we were in but there was no method of working with it at that point and it was just lost in my mind.
Then there were a number of other things which ultimately brought me to the idea—I think, secondly, the anthropological literature about indigenous peoples and so on. For example the American Indians who would go hunting, but they wouldn’t actually start the hunt until one of them had a dream. There was lots of other anthropological literature but I had these bits and I couldn’t fit them together. Then I saw a footnote reference to a book by Charlotte Beradt - I’ve got a copy here - The Third Reich of Dreams. I read this book and it was so stunning because Beradt had invited doctor friends to collect dreams in a normal course of an examination and these dreams which tended to be from Jewish people were actually ‘presaging’ - or some kind of word like that - what was going to happen to them.
Now remember, this was the 1930s and so these people couldn’t talk about things in day-to-day conversation because, after all, they were living in totalitarian regime, and so they dreamt of them at night. As I said, these dreams were enormously stunning and anticipated the future. So she collects these dreams. She then goes off to America. She secreted the dreams in the spines of books and sent the books abroad and then she went abroad—I think she left Germany about 1939 and she didn’t come to write it up until presumably the 50s and 60s so it’s a long time gestation. The book was ultimately published by Quadrangle Books in Chicago and at once I had the idea that it is possible for people to dream about the social context in which they live. I mean the dreams speak to the social context as opposed to speaking to them as individuals. I was just amazed by it.
So I pieced it together and came up with the idea of social dreaming and we ran it at the first social dreaming program in 1982 at the Tavistock Institute. It was the last thing I did before I left. Then I left it for a few years and then I picked it up in Israel when I was invited to do some work with our consultants and therapists and so on and so forth. So Israel also figures largely in this story in that it provided me with the first real opportunity to work at social dreaming which I took and also going back to Israel over the years has kept me alive—no, not kept me alive—it’s kept me thinking. That’s the word I’m after.
But in the meanwhile we were doing work in Britain and Australia and so on and so forth. So that’s the background…
Blake : It’s also an incredibly rich background that would initially appear to be just fragments. When you mentioned Israel in your connection and previously you’d been talking about the Third Reich, there is some sense of a concern with the fate of the people. This idea of being concerned with a people rather than an individual person is something which is still relatively rare.
Lawrence : Yes.
Blake : It must have been part of your deep concerns.
Lawrence : I think the other thing was, obviously I had an analysis and in analysis you know you take your dreams and you speak to your dreams and you interpret the dream in relation to yourself. In social dreaming, one doesn’t interpret in relation to oneself. One interprets in relation to the social milieu in which one is in so that was the first move in my thinking and from that move a number of other things followed. So for example, with this idea it seemed to me that from the very beginning that it would be a mistake to call it a ‘social dreaming group’
Blake : Why is that?
Lawrence : Well the reason for that is—see, it wasn’t my insight. It was a woman called Patricia Daniel and she was the one who first thought of it. She was the one who did the first social dreaming program with me. We decided to call it a matrix. This was an intuitive solution. The reason why I knew I wanted to avoid group was because I felt we’d be back in the world of group and concerned with the face-to-face relations of people in the group.
Blake : That’s about how I feel about you and…
Lawrence : That’s right; all that sort of stuff and it seemed to me that that wasn’t our focus. Our focus wasn’t the dreamer but was the dream and the dream was to be the currency of the matrix.
Blake : Yes, yes.
Lawrence : That was basically our thinking and of course it then meant a whole set of shifts as we did the first one. I mean, what would we interpret to? We knew that to interpret the dream in relation to the person who had dreamt the dream wasn’t really our concern and so we’d listen until there were a few more dreams and then we would start to piece them together and link them together.
Blake : As if they were parts of one story.
Lawrence : That’s right. And then indeed, when you say parts of a story - at first, you know, it just happened. Nobody had ever done a social dreaming matrix before. We were discovering in every session so to speak and afterwards, you realize that yes, the dreams did connect. Indeed somebody in Australia has worked out the formations a matrix would go through—the individual dream right through to dreams which are common and so on and so forth. I mean the various stages. I don’t really want to dwell on that. I just want to dwell on the idea that these dreams were about the social context these people were in.
So we kept to that rule but that meant that issues like transference and counter transference you didn’t pick up on. Obviously I was a bit worried about this but it seemed to us at the time that if we got caught in the transference and the counter transference issues between the participants and us, we would be robbing the dreams so the idea was of having faith in the dream. We decided to leave it and, sure enough, what happened was that somebody dreamt about transferential issues to give it a label and then you could pick it up because the point is that the dream had surfaced it as opposed to the individual surfacing it. Does that make any sense?
Blake : I see.
Lawrence : And indeed I have followed that rule, if you like, ever since. And I know probably that’s one of the difficulties that one has with conventional analysts who think the transference has got to be interpreted in the here and now. I say, in a social dreaming matrix, you don’t interpret the here and now, you wait until the dream produces it. Then of course it becomes, as you say, externalized, and then you can look at it. And you’re not actually looking at their face-to-face authority relations. You’re looking at what they carry in their minds about authority. So that’s basically what happened. I don’t know if that makes any sense to you.
Blake : It certainly makes sense. A lot of very subtle issues are in this. For example the first issue, which I think you hinted at already, is that you began your work in a sort of therapeutically minded people orientation. In some ways what you were doing was antithetical to the way in which they were thinking at that time so you had to face some opposition there.
Lawrence : I think, yes, opposition, yes. I think this meant that I, for a few years, was quite obdurate you know. This is a matrix; it’s not a group. That kind of thing. I had to hold onto that space. Whatever the space was, I had to hold onto it in order that a matrix explore whatever a matrix can explore because it hadn’t been found before; whereas if I had taken the route of group, I think that would have been a cop-out. And it sounds as if I’m being disparaging of the people who do work in groups and use dreams in groups but I think that they’re finding different material from what we find in a search for doing a matrix.
So you have this idea of blinding oneself to certain aspects in order you can focus on other aspects. You put one in shadow in order that it be highlighted the more what it is you’re trying to pursue.
Blake : It’s very much a paradigm, a kind of a scientific paradigm. You feel you want to uncover a certain phenomena so you suppress some phenomena so that phenomena you’re interested in comes to the surface and shows itself.
Lawrence : Have you got a kind of reference for that because that would be terribly useful to me.
Blake : I can’t think of a book reference but it’s essential in doing experiments that, to distinguish the subtle forces which scientists deal with, we have to remove or neutralize the other things we don’t want to deal with. For example, if you want to detect certain phenomena which are not influenced by what’s around us now, such as electromagnetic radiation, then you do an experiment in what is called a ‘Faraday Cage’ which is an ionized enclosure which prevents any electromagnetic wave from penetrating into that region and so it becomes a neutral space in which you can observe the particular phenomena you want to observe.
Lawrence : I’ve actually learned something here.
Blake : You get a lot of metaphors like that. We’ll probably come back to that a little bit more. I just mention in passing that you make a certain very interesting point in your book about how phenomena arise in science which are also a very important cultural social thing which are timely. You make particular reference to the black hole. Isn’t that true?
Lawrence : I don’t make a kind of scientific exact references. I think I make more poetic references.
Blake : But you do mention the fact that because scientists are now enthused about black holes right now, it becomes a social phenomena and it is significant that people do this at this time. It’s in fact arguable that science in its measure is set to reflect a kind of dreaming.
Lawrence : I think you’re absolutely right.
Blake : It just came to me . . .
Lawrence : On the—don’t say it aloud.
Blake : Don’t say it aloud to whom?
Lawrence : To the world.
Blake : Why not? Science is a great tricky subject in itself and all the scientists I’ve actually talked to would appreciate this. They know they are dreamers.
Lawrence : Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. You know that there are examples like Kekule for example, dreaming something that he was thinking about so on and so forth. There’s a man called Polkinghorne. I think he’s a wonderful writer and I saw him being interviewed on television, when I thought he would be a lovely man to meet. And in a way the kind of thing you’re suggesting I suspect wouldn’t be too far from where he’s at.
Blake : You would find a lot of scientists—not all—I agree not all, not the establishment because they are so stuffy— would be sympathetic. It’s introduced into our conversation by accident but still is relevant because I think you are uncovering, like you were saying inside your ‘Faraday cage’, in the matrix group, a phenomenon which hasn’t been manifest before, which hasn’t been noticed before. And so what happened inside? Something which is there all the time. People begin to notice it and it begins to uncover itself in the most extraordinarily rich and unexpected way. This sense of the material, as a set of information which is inherently social as a reality, which one can look at - that is not some kind of secondary product of what can probably be called individual fantasies. It really is a different phenomenon. I want to know if this is the right way to think about it
Lawrence : I fully accept that and you’ve expressed it in a way that it’s more or less impossible for me because I don’t really have a scientific background. I was brought up in ball and ring experiments! You know - you heat the ball and find it won’t fit in the ring.
Blake : That can teach you a lot. The world of physics doesn’t have to rely on complicated machines! I want to ask—I know some thing of what you do and my limited experience of trying to apply this - I had wondered whether if you put people into a context where they are expected to socially dream, they would socially dream. If you put them in a different context they would personally dream.
Lawrence : Yeah, yeah. In other words, to get your analysis you dream for your analyst. That’s a parody but that’s basically what happens. And I think from the very beginning 20 years ago it became clear in the first session, never been done before, that people dreamt socially.
Blake : Anyway.
Lawrence : A space had been created for them and they filled it with social dreams. And in my 20-odd years of experience, I have never encountered a dream which obviously was crying out for treatment. Of course one encounters a dream which you can say it’s psychotic or whatever but I always argue, look, in this context it isn’t psychotic as some of my colleagues said and you have to accept it at face value and also yield to the free association, the amplification and so on and so forth. So I think you see that the categories that we’ve set up are up for grabs, up for questions so to speak.
Blake : It’s so powerful this simple phrase you use—you accept it at face value. Now is it possible for you—I know this is out of context and these things are so contextual—kind of to exemplify taking something at face value because I think this is such a profound principle.
Lawrence : Yes but we also know that the whole world we can accept at face value but we also know that within this bowl there’s another world of quantum reality. Beyond the world that we’re in there’s another world of waves and particles.
Blake : Or so we’re told.
Lawrence : I’ll accept that. Okay I tend to be a bit credible but this fascinates me because I’ll never see it and I have to work on the assumption that it’s there.
Blake : You just hear stories about it.
Lawrence : Hear stories about it. That’s fair.
Blake : I’m the same way myself. I’m trying to dwell on it because I think it more in the sense that you see what is there and this kind of conscious naiveté is a very powerful thing. I’m trying to get you to exemplify it. Say someone has a dream and they see—and this is quite hypothetical here and therefore may be inappropriate—they seem to be walking and a house falls down and collapses beside them. There’s a method that comes into this group: how do you take that—first of all, on its face value. The house is collapsed beside you and I’m trying to extract from you…
Lawrence : The physical fact that a house collapse is one thing but if somebody dreamt about the house collapsing, then you can work with it because any person can provide some free-associated material. Any person could try to amplify it. What does the house symbolize, etc.?
For example, I was in Israel just this summer and we did a social dreaming matrix in a large conference—I forget what it was called—it was for therapists and so on. And we had a terribly good social dreaming matrix and run a number of them in Israel. Now this was in August or July was it—can’t quite remember—it was in August and I came to write it up with a colleague afterwards. But the point is this is in the various workshops that I’d run, there had been different kinds of dreams, what you might term disaster-type dreams, you know: it’s in my house and people rushed in and so on and so forth and at the time, remember this was August, I’d all sorts of fantasies going through my head but I couldn’t piece them together. Well, why are they dreaming that? Why in these different contexts?
Then when we came to write it up in September the political situation had blown up in Israel, then I knew what the dreams were about and it was so stunning, very frightening, but here were straightforward people or some kind of word like that, expressing dreams which they didn’t know where they came from but were all along the same theme.
And the thing was that they were of such a number that they had to be significant and so when we came to write it up we were able to piece it together in that sort of sense. I know we got a little bit away from your collapsing house but it’s something about the dream and what the dream…
Blake : You had these many dreams of people’s houses being invaded, that’s part of what you were saying, now taking this at face value would be we’re in a situation where people’s houses are being invaded. That’s a basic reality but often in that, at that time that people were coming up with this, very few people in that group or even you as a facilitator will take it literally at its face value. You take it at a distance and then later you see that the most immediate meaning was the most powerful one, the most relevant one, because it’s actually conveying information which you can’t bear in any other form. That’s because in a sense you can’t quite grasp it that it’s safe to come in that way. I’m going around the question of the art of taking this information at face value which seems to be an extraordinary power. The house is being invaded. The house actually is collapsing. Let’s start from there, as a fact and let’s see where we get to.
Lawrence : Let me tell you a little bit about Australia because a few years ago I went to Australia at an invitation and we ran a program which contained a social dreaming matrix and the Australian people, they took it on and they ran matrixes for something like a year, 2 years, and people would come, once a week or whatever it was, and they would get their dreams. And what it produced in terms of poetry was quite extraordinary. It’s something about a set of people engaging with their dream life and finding all sorts of surprising elements, synchronous elements or whatever so that’s been very exciting.
Blake : May I interrupt you? You mention poetry, that is you maybe encourage these other forms of expression for people. I want to know what kind of place that might have.
Lawrence : I wonder if it is encourage. Maybe I’m splitting hairs. It’s not as if these people set out to write poetry. They have a dream and the poetry comes. I think there’s a difference there.
Blake : It seemed to me very significant there. Do you find any people using paintings?
Lawrence : Yes, yes, yes. Certainly so they do that but I’m far more interested how do you get people in companies and organizations to dream? Because that creativity, how do you get that into a company? That’s what fascinates me at the present time.
Blake : But, before we leave Australia. Indigenously in Australia you have this kind of society which has based its metaphysics on the dream time. Did you ever have interaction with these people?
Lawrence : Unfortunately no. All I’ve been able to do is collect a few paintings [as you can see on the walls here] because I haven’t been there long enough but, in a couple of months or so hopefully, I’ll be able to go and actually talk with Aboriginals. But I find the dream time—it’s a difference, for example the difference between reading about the dream time you’ll say, 30 years ago, when you’re a student and so on and so forth and you saw dream time . . .
Blake : You mean anthropology and those people.
Lawrence : Then you come to it 30 years later and you see it quite differently. It’s like the Cargo cult. I remember learning about the Cargo cult and so on and the Cargo cult you could put it to bed so to speak because that was a fact—a bit of a bizarre fact but it’s only much later you can start to see the significance of it. Anyway that’s a bit of a digression.
Blake : But not insignificant in terms of one’s own culture. It’s not just for those people in a strange and foreign land. They’re not primitives after all. It strikes me as being very necessary to—as far as possible—re-engage with these traditional societies which I think you know about: the Aboriginals in particular, the Amerindians, the people in Southeast Asia, Malaysia where it’s known—what methods do they actually have.
Lawrence : In many ways the methods have been lost - so for example, with the Aboriginals in Taiwan, going back a long, long way. I have a copy of a piece of work done there which is privately published and the researchers were Japanese researchers, worked out a whole taxonomyof dreams. If you dreamt of this, that meant that and so on and so forth. One began to realize that for these people dreams weren’t something extraneous, something done in the night. They were something that you did every day and you used the dreams to illumine your everyday life which is exactly the same as Lawrence Van der Post, the point that he makes when he’s talking about…what’s the name of the people again, I forget.
Blake : Kalahari Bushmen?
Lawrence : That’s the one. I mean he makes the point that something about the dream and reality, to use these two expressions, that the experiences in reality are taken into the dream or reworked in the dream and taken back into reality. If we had this idea nowadays it would be quite extraordinary.
Blake : I feel it’s your kind of idea.
Lawrence : I don’t know it’s my idea; just the thought comes in working with this material.
Blake : Let us take this little idea and enlarge it. What comes into my mind is that a lot of what traditional society calls dreaming takes the place of what we call thinking.
Lawrence : Absolutely. I was thinking of my own background that is Scottish and sort of reading the sort of professorial text of dreaming which is about faeries and so on and so forth and somehow that took it out of this world so you couldn’t possibly integrate it into your world. Sorry that’s an aside there.
Blake : It’s fun to know one’s background. So we begin to associate with faeries as being unreal. ..
Lawrence : Absolutely, and horses and kelpies
Blake : You mentioned earlier about science. Science can’t advance without dreaming.
Lawrence : I think you are very strongly making this point and I’m delighted, and for me it’s something about being more cognizant of one’s dream life. I think that’s what I’m trying to get at and to recognize that one’s dream life can help one in one’s work. So, for example, I’m sure there are lots of examples in that but if you want to move it to a company or something like that—two of my colleagues in America, they did social dreaming with a company which was undergoing change and so on and so forth and it’s absolutely amazing the content of the dreams because people are dreaming about what they can’t talk about.
Blake : That’s the powerful thing. Absolutely.
Lawrence : You know we can talk about the unthought known which is Kit Bollas’ idea and kind of explain it away but again it’s this idea of the face reality and what lies behind the reality so behind your reality there’s a whole world of dreams which you would use in your work and in your scientific work and so on and so forth. I think that these dreams are worth tapping into. I’m sure I’m not making any false claim in that sense but I think they are. We can learn from them but we’ve forgotten how to learn from them or we’ve never even known or whatever.
Blake : You say we can learn from them. I think this is a very revolutionary thing because it implies, that it’s like a kind of perception. Patrick de Marequotes Freud as saying consciousness is the perception of psychic qualities or something similar. It is something which has always been marginalised in our Western society—the notion that there is a kind of perception, one form of which is dreaming which has been sidelined, neglected and abandoned by people but is a definite kind of perception because implying, like in Israel and the Third Reich and so many people were having presaging experiences. They were reading the signs of the times.
Lawrence : Well I don’t know if it’s any value or not but a few years ago I was sort of thinking about thinking and I identified four kinds of thinking. One of these was dreaming and I put them together in a pyramid. One of them was dreaming and one was the unthought known and one was about thinking about reality as it is and all the rest of it. It’s a bit omnipotent. It gives one a start and in a way I’d like to see far more connection between as it were, conscious thinking about the world as it is and dreaming, and dreaming and the unthought known and so on because I think it could then, as it were, illumine so much of what is around us. We could X-ray perhaps, some kind of word like that, where you could get inside what it is that…
Blake : It’s crazy—it drives you crazy these divisions into different sectors like different people and different kinds of occupations. What’s coming to my mind, Gordon, is that—you probably put aside your main concerns but it may be of some interest is I’m sometimes very occupied myself with how we gain insight—these people have got to see the world in a way which is totally counter-intuitive, that is intuitive in a sense what everybody takes for granted. An English scientist named Barbour has just written a book called The Ending of Time. He creates a whole vision of universe as a ‘Platonia’. How is he able to do this unless he has a kind of inner vision in which the rules of space, time, dualistic logic and so on are suspended? So this must be the world of dream.
Lawrence : You’re absolutely right.
Blake : Like the ordinary picture of a scientist, he’s thinking about space and time and matter and gravity; but where the thinking comes from, I think, about the most impossible things, creative things and it’s like a surrealist dream.
Lawrence : Yeah, absolutely, yeah.
Blake : The average person is not trained, usually, to have such dreams and therefore we treat these scientists as crazy, charlatans. Now, what is this you’re looking at?
Lawrence : I’m just trying to refresh my memory because if you can imagine [holding his tetrahedral pyramid] that one bit is thinking as being and the other bit, the other face is thinking as becoming. The third face is thinking as the unthought known. The fourth face is thinking is dreaming so you’ve got the full face.
Blake : What’s fascinating to me is that how this interesting work you’re doing is crossing boundaries all over the place and you are raising very serious questions. These are only raised because you’re tapping into a process in which people can actually contribute to and learn about and it’s not actually imposing a theory.
Lawrence: I was ruminating around, thinking and so on and so forth, I was trying to work it out for myself, so that my terms, descriptions may not be what are commonly accepted or whatever. And my idea was that we think all the time about our being, our company and what we do and so on and so forth. We go home, we’re with our families and so on so in a sense the whole of that kind of thinking we might term thinking as being.
But the second kind of thinking is thinking as becoming. The company wants to have a future and they get together and they have these massive workshops and so on and so forth. And what it comes down to, what they’re talking about is thinking as becoming. They’ll say, this is the state of the company now and that’s what we’d like it to be. So there was thinking as being and thinking as becoming. They seem to be fairly straightforward.
And then the third phase I call thinking as the unthought known which is a term I borrowed from Christopher Bollas and this has always fascinated me - that we may be born with thoughts and, depending on circumstances, these thoughts will be elicited or not. So in a way you can see this in everyday life, that the people will say something, let’s say a thought, and you realize that they’ve never thought that before so that’s thinking as the unthought known. Maybe not a very good description. And then thinking as dreaming and that’s the link we want to make between thinking and dreaming.
So if you have these four, and it seems to me if you take the base as how it is communicated so that if you write a text, that will be one way of using all the words of being, becoming and so on. But if you’re speaking they’ll be a different set of words. You can get all sorts of examples but there is something about it, there has to be a difference in, if you like, the form of communication and the form of communication it seems to me would influence the thinking. So if you’re talking a lecture as it where you’ve got all the pieces in place but if you’re in conversation you’re exploring things and you’re finding new things. So I think it’s important in a way.
Blake : Yes, and that’s a whole another dimension here that if you have enough variables in the way that you’re expressing things it influences what comes out because the medium resonates with different kinds of thinking. I picked up on you earlier when you were coming up with poems because that would be a natural form of expression. The poetic and the visionary arts would consist of dreams rather than rational discourse.
Lawrence : One of the things that we haven’t touched on—is the fact that we live in a linear rational world. Everything is goal-directed and all the rest of it.
Blake : By ‘those people’.
Lawrence : What I want to hold onto is that free association which was obviously Freud’s idea and which was Jung’s idea is an important method to use in social dreaming because we can take the dream at face value in the way you describe it and we can work through it logically but this is not so rich as free associating to the dream.
So free association in a way blows apart all our rational, logical modes of conduct, observation and what have you. And Christopher Bollas writes very well on this and I want to emphasize it’s a mind-blowing idea. Now we contain it, of course we want to contain it, just do a little free association but only a little. In fact free association is explosive. And then you can have all sorts of things about amplification. . .
Blake : What was that word?
Lawrence : Amplification.
Blake : I’m not familiar with this. Can you briefly…
Lawrence : Well, it’s contained in his text and the idea which perhaps is much the same as free association - and I don’t really want to get into an argument about what belongs where and so on and so forth - but amplification is something about living with the dream and drawing out from the dream what the dream may mean. You notice I’m saying may mean in a way of that expansion which then leads you on to synchronicity. You know that that happens sometimes. It goes against one’s schooling—you notice I don’t say education but schooling—it goes against all that but let me put it this way. Let me turn it around and say if you look at information technology, it didn’t arrive necessarily from logical thinking. Somebody had an idea, put it together and all sorts of things happened and now in 10 years, the expansion of information technology has been phenomenal and now even I work on e-mail. E-mail - one couldn’t even conceptualize 15, 20 years ago. See I’m trying to get that. I think that in a way of course we’re all sober and logical and rational and goal-oriented and so on but behind—I’m sorry within us - there’s this whole other booming, buzzing world of confusion. I think that’s a quotation from Coleridge or whatever. I may have got this wrong.
And so this is going on and people are thinking things and then of course the next set of people, they come along and they trap it and then - it can be an exaggeration - but there’s almost no more thinking. It’s a bit like when we were talking about science and I made reference to balls and rings. I think at the age of 15 I thought this was science – you put balls into a ring. This was the conception of science being put across to me. The rest was a mystery.
Blake : In association with your description of Jung’s amplification - in what little I’ve experienced with the social dreaming matrix there is this delicate process rather like some kind of equivalent to image resolution enhancement. You get a technology applied to a photograph made through our atmosphere and it is a way of cleaning up this image or making it come into better focus. It’s that sense of amplification where you’re distilling out an image from the fog, or shape from the shifting, or something like that which I really would like you to comment on because it strikes me - it just so happened you described these two things, free association and the amplification – that it seems very much of the same kind. It strikes me as being intensely complementary. There is a sort of emergent form aspect to this which is incredibly important.
Lawrence : I couldn’t answer that particular question but I’ll tell you one hypothesis that I’ve had for 20-odd years which is that the first dream that I hear in a matrix will be a hologram—is that the word? A holograph, or whatever, of all the remaining dreams. If one listens to it.
Blake : Come on, this is brilliant.
Lawrence : And I can’t prove it. I haven’t been assiduous or sedulousenough to prove it. Maybe I’m frightened to disprove it - but I’ve always this image of a social dreaming matrix and what would be in the first dream, what would be in the last dream, in the beginning and so on and so forth. . . Within the dream there’s another dream and so on and so on and so on. But where do you stop? But anyway those are the thoughts running through my head.
Blake : It’s great, because obviously anybody involved in using these methods is looking for a pattern without wanting to impose on this material a preconception of what these things should mean. But the simple things you mention are very, very powerful. In any one dream there would be all the other dreams. In particular as you begin, so you finish. It doesn’t matter what the cycle or time period is involved. These are things which seem to belong to the way in which people process information. There’s some general phenomenon here.
Lawrence : I think an example of this would be—I did a consultation with a set of people in South London and the consultation was just a social dreaming matrix and I decided that that was the method I would use. Again, there wasn’t a large number of people but the first dream was about being in a bedroom and looking at a garden and seeing within the garden that there had been another garden before because there were walls and so on. And I listened to the dream, etc., and then as the weeks went by it struck me that this dream was a dream of the consultation because what they were there to do was find what was behind the garden so to speak and this was linked in with the history—the foundation and so on and so forth. It was a bit hard and difficult because there were very few people so there wasn’t that sort of sufficient number of people to give oomph to use a non-technical word. So there wasn’t any excitement. People were presenting their dream and saying how will it be judged as opposed to working with a larger number of people who could give out their dream and couldn’t care less whether they would be judged or not. You see what I’m getting at?
Blake : Yes, there’s safety in numbers kind of thing.
Lawrence : But in a way that illustrated for me something about the importance of dreaming, yes, something about that the dream will contain all that cannot be spoken of, all that belongs to the infinite. You know, it’s beyond our ken and we live in a finite world and we have the infinite world beyond us. I know we can call this the unconscious but all I’m holding onto is Bion, where he says that the unconscious may be ‘won from the void and formless infinite’ - which is a quotation from Milton as you know. And some—maybe it’s just that I’m being contentious or obdurate or some kind of word like that - but I’ve become very dissatisfied with the liberal use of the word unconscious and so therefore I was searching for another word. I may not have got the right one or whatever. And so in a sense it seems to me that people talk about the unconscious as if it were something that had in their hip pocket so they call it—oh, that’s my unconscious.
Blake : It does become reified.
Lawrence : Reified, yes, yes, yes.
Blake : What I find exciting talking now about the description of the dream about the garden and you said this was the key to their own consultation as if there’s something in the information coming through dreams which has some kind of—which has the property of actually incorporating information about how to deal with the information. It’s an extraordinary kind of self-reference. It’s not only the message but also how to read the message. Now this is the property of certain kinds of literature. In Sufism for example they put them into stories and they’re called teaching stories. These teaching stories are constructed in this way so they are about the way you read them. Extraordinarily subtle. They have therefore this illusive, this infinite kind of meaning which you can never pin down. You can never encapsulate them. Every act you make changes what it is. I’m pointing to this because I’ve tried to force perhaps parallels with science in what you’re doing. Now here is a bunch of literature where people have these insights into deep thinking and put them into stories. These stories have something like the nature of dreams.
Another kind of reference I think you’re aware of too, as indicated in your books, to make some more parallels, that we haven’t really gotten around to, is your major concern with organizations. But we’ll delay that a bit if you’ll forgive me because when I hear you speak about this, this free association, amplification, self reference, I get a picture which is very much like David Bohm’s picture of the information field, with its degrees of active information which is itself existing in some manner of existing. It’s not a subject or property at all in which just subjects – people - are engaged and this is one of the most extraordinary features of it and why it would come out in his work in the kind in your dream simultaneously.
Lawrence : I just want to acknowledge that David Bohm has been an important source for me. That’s quite conscious because I think that he—obviously he’s a remarkable scientist - but it’s the way he thought about science and thinking how to explain it and the implicate order and so on and so forth which makes sense to me. To pick up your point of course, it’s a story that makes sense to me and in a way when I think of what the social dreaming matrix is working at is to get at the implicate order behind the explicate order of the dream. And once the implicate is made explicate then the whole cycle goes on and explicate and then so on and so forth. And then that’s the way it works.
Blake : You can’t really do it in the air but you had in your book a diagram about this, the dream translating the implicate to the explicate
Lawrence : Yes, yes. You’re absolutely right so that’s the way one thinks about it.
Blake : Who was that that….
Lawrence : It’s Montague Ulman or however you pronounce it who came to a dreaming matrix in America and was quite an active participant, let’s put it that way. And I like the stuff that he produces, obviously I do.
Blake : When I actually see people putting in pictures describing what they’re thinking, I go back to considering modes of expressions. There’s not enough done in the world for people to draw their thoughts- putting into words it’s so one-dimensional.
Lawrence : Yes, well that’s very true.
Blake : Let’s get to organizations. How is it possible to ask a question, which is bound to be loaded with a point of view or ideology, out of which is to come some kind of information? How is this registered by people, the people you are involved in? Is it a matter of making them feel better? Is it a matter of them affecting the decisions they make? Is it a matter of how they communicate together and form a group? Can I get you to ask better questions?
Lawrence : I think one way of answering you is why does one do consultancy and it seems to me that what one is doing consultancy for is to be engaged in revelation. That’s a rather grand word but is opposed to salvation where you solve that problem for them. So if you hold onto the idea of revelation—finding and expanding and so on and so forth—the evidence is that everybody in an organization dreams and once you listen to these dreams, then you begin to see what is really going on. So dreams of violence will mirror actual violence in the workplace and so on and so…
When I worked in Shell, it always used to amuse me. I used to think there’s 3,000 people work here, suppose they dream five, that’s 15,000 dreams coming into this building every day and they just disappear.
Blake : They don’t quite disappear of course . . . I think it is very powerful to acknowledge the dream and give it voice in the social conscious state. This is something—a very radical step to make which is going to affect how people are together. I’m trying to squeeze and extract something out of you…
Lawrence : If you think of being and becoming, what the company does for the future if it was illumined by dream might make it more rich. As it is, it’s logical and there may be buzz groups and all these terms and I find myself rather bored by them because nobody is thinking anything new. That’s an exaggeration but -
Blake : I’ll go along with your exaggeration.
Lawrence : Just to make the point, yes.
Blake : Behind what you’re doing—you’ve got your pyramid here—is a vision of thinking and meaning for us. You’re not just assuming the hidden categories of these things at all.
Lawrence : At university I studied logic and metaphysics and the only thing I could remember in this lecturer— Bednerowski was his name—who would give his syllogisms and then he would repeat the syllogisms so in effect he gave half a course through the year but basically it was p implies q, q implies r, whatever it was, therefore…and so you had to learn these syllogisms and that I thought was thinking.
Blake : And that became an imprint on our society, the so-called rational side.
Barbour, Julian: The Ending of Time
Beradt , Charlotte: The Third Reich of Dreams
Bohm, David: Wholeness and the Implicate Order
Bollas, Anthony: Free Association
Lawrence , Gordon et al: Social Dreaming @ Work