The Dream Society and The Global Brain

Earlier, I asked you to imagine yourself as being suddenly thrown into a Kafka novel, a Dali painting, or an Escher print, as though these mind-bending scenarios had suddenly become the context of your life — the absurd and the surreal, like Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy in Oz.  Aporia, a sense of bewilderment, perplexity, or sense of chaos, is most likely the feeling you would have within those contexts.

And this is, ironically, not far from the truth of things, already partially realised in and as “the Anthropocene”, and in connected themes like Rolf Jensen’s The Dream Society and Howard Bloom’s The Global Brain. The dreamy quality in Kafka, Dali, and Escher were anticipations of the imagined world made “real”, of the breakdown of the subject-object differentiation that underlies themes like “New Normal” and related issues of “post-rational” or “post-truth” society. Bloom’s “Global Brain” and Jensen’s “Dream Society” are corresponding issues which, together, make for “the Anthropocene”. Accordingly, as William Blake put it, we do not see things as they are, but as we are, for, in effect, the “global brain” corresponds to Blake’s “Urizen” and “the Dream Society” to Blake’s “Ulro”.

We now live inside the matrix of this “global brain” — the thick network of global information and trade flows — and that matrix is the “dream society”. This “new within” is the essence of the New Normal, of “the Anthropocene”, or what Adam Curtis also describes as “hypernormalisation“.

In effect, we are now resident inside what Jung referred to as “the collective unconscious”, for that also is an aspect of this global brain which pretty much accounts for Jensen’s “dream society”, and in that context the magical and the mythical are as “real” (or “effective” in Gebser’s terms) as the logical. This, too, belongs to that process which he calls “the concretion of the spiritual”, but which is not yet transparent or “diaphainous” as such. But this “new within” or matrix is “real”, as much as anything may be said to be real, and is probably the reason why the movie The Matrix resonates, however vaguely, with so many people.

In those terms, “collective unconscious” is not something that is inside us, but rather that in which we are inside. In those terms too, Blake’s “four Zoas” — and especially his mad zoa Urizen — and their conflicts are not so much inside us as we are inside them. It’s for this reason, also, that distinctions of public and private are also beginning to break down, as exemplified in Jensen’s “dream society” and in exploitative issues like “under the radar” “archetypal branding” or “spiritual marketing”, as examined in this blog early last year, and which largely inform Jensen’s notion of the dreaming of “the dream society”.

What happens, though, if this “global brain” goes mad or runs insane and “dream society” becomes, rather, nightmare? In fact, that’s the fate that Blake described for his zoa named Urizen (who is Jean Gebser’s “mental-rational consciousness”, and who for all practical purposes, corresponds to what we mean by the present Zeitgeist).

Jung’s “collective unconscious” can be compared to a great sea, and we are, individually and collectively, the denizens of that sea. And all the strange creatures, entities and archetypes of the “unconscious” (including the fearsome “Shadow”) are once again becoming our contemporaries in this new “within”, even if, in many cases, in the form of technologies or brands. That’s the subject of books like Technology as Magic, The Enchantments of Technology, or Technology as Symptom and Dream, or Algis Mikunas’s “Magic and Technological Culture”.

Now, if you were inside a story by Kafka or inside a Dali painting, probably nothing would make sense and certainly the “common sense” would not serve you very well to find your way around. This is the state that Varoufakis describes as “aporia” in his book on The Global Minotaur. That’s pretty much the current situation in our “chaotic transition”. But if you were to extricate yourself from the setting, and acquire the transcendental view or “overview”, you begin to perceive the pattern in it. There is a beautifully consistent and admirable pattern in a Kafka story or a Dali painting or an Escher print. That “overview” is what Gebser refers to as the “leap” towards a “universal way of looking at things” — holism. But as long as you are immersed within that pattern, the life-world of a Kafka novel, a Dali painting, or an Escher print is nightmare. This overview or transcendence is called “waking up inside the dream”. The dream is Blake’s “Ulro” — the shadow world — and Blake’s art and poetry is his attempt to get us to “cleanse the doors of perception” in order to “awake inside the dream”, which is actually Urizen’s dreaming, but which is now the “Dream Society” of the “Global Brain”.

There is a logic to the dream or nightmare — the logic of chaos. It’s just not a logic we are familiar with and which offends our “common sense”.

But, in principle, it’s all quite simple. Waking up inside the dream is called “enlightenment”, and this corresponds to Gebser’s “integral consciousness” and “diaphaneity”.

We are, collectively, inside the “Global Brain”, and that Global Brain is Urizen. The dreaming of that Global Brain is Urizen’s dreaming, and that dreaming is called “Ulro”, the shadow world of the “collective representations” of the collective unconscious, and the Ulro, for all practical purposes, is Jensen’s “Dream Society”. Altogether they are “the Anthropocene”, which is a bit claustrophobic.

Waking up inside the dream can be apocalyptic. It’s what we mean in speaking of a “shattering truth” or “the scales fell from my eyes”.


10 responses to “The Dream Society and The Global Brain”

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes. Very good. That’s part of the teaching of the Sacred Hoop. Little Bear also makes an appearance in F. David Peats’ Blackfoot Physics as someone who Peat had long discussions with concerning western physics and indigenous science.

        There is very much more to the Sacred Hoop, too — the need to interpret the meaning of “the Sacred Hoop is in language” and “to speak from the centre of the voice” as the centre of the Sacred Hoop. Here we are approaching Blake’s “fourfold vision”, and gaining insight into the Sacred Hoop also grants insight into Blake’s often cryptic poetry, mythology and art.

        Good link. Thanks.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It sounds like Young is reaching for the same kinds of insights as Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy. I was going to contact him about that until I realised he died in 1995. And then there’s his apparent linkage to the Sacred Hoop.

      I’ll have to explore his stuff further.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ve ordered Young’s “The Reflexive Universe” — his take on the evolution of consciousness, which looks quite promising. We’ll see where he and Gebser might converge in that.

    • mikemackd says :

      Once again, Steve, you have introduced me to an interesting new view (rather, new for me, even though Arthur M. Young wrote decades ago).

      Naturally, with my myside biases, at this early stage of my understanding I see his reflexive universe as dovetailing neatly with my Star Key. I will see how those assumptions mature.

      However, I also see it as possibly dovetailing with some works of Andreas Weber, yet another new discovery for me from this blog, a result of my following up upon abdulmonem’s mentioning of biosemiotics Other works of Weber’s include “The Enlivenment Manifesto: Politics and Poetics in the Anthropocene” (with Hildegard Kurt), “The Biology of Wonder: Finding the Human in Nature”, and “Enlivenment: A New Bios for our Relation to the Natural World and to Ourselves”.

      Recently most of my spare time, however, has been spent following up on an earlier conversation between abdulmonem and me, concerning the arrest of psychosexual development caused by the sexual abuse of a child. It set me to wondering about how many other developmental lines can be similarly arrested/ stalled/ fixated by that and other forms of child abuse.

      A couple of days after that, a study was shown on my facebook page confirming that parental corporal punishment of children can be dreadfully counterproductive along different developmental lines, particularly those requiring trust to flower.

      Recalling that there are levels of us that accept our (individual and social) imaginings as real, and the inhaling of a social identity often also includes the inhaling of that identity’s historical trauma, I wonder how much those processes at the individual scale dovetail with the processes described by Gebser at the global scale? It seems to me they have a major role in shaping, and in particular mis-shaping, the values through which we extract information from reality in the reciprocally causative way Weber and Varela describe (Varela at

      It seems that many of these new roads lead back to good old Gregory Bateson. McGilchrist too, such as at Albeit not specifically mentioned, McGilchrist hemispheric observations are supportive of the statement there that “code-duality” [digital and analogue] “is probably a necessary condition for evolution (cultural as well as biological).”

      So, right now at least it seems to me there may be a string from the Star Key’s point/line/circle/sphere through Young’s reflexive universe through biosemiotics to enactive identity construction, and the sooner we gain an awareness of those processes at all scales, and an ability via such insights to value them appropriately in the contexts we encounter, the better.

      Is that, perhaps, a path trod by Blake’s Albion?

  1. Steve Lavendusky says :

    The Reflexive Universe is one of my favorite books of all time.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    This may or may not be signficant as regards a “New Renaissance”

    During the old Renaissance, depression was also epidemic, only then it was called “black bile” or “melancholia”. I’m not sure if these are coincident phenomena or not.

  3. Dwig says :

    Young’s work is definitely worth exploring. Is there a a relationship between his Theory​ of Process and Whitehead’s process philosophy?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Apparently Whitehead was a big influence on Young, although Scripture is a bigger one, it seems. Young’s attempting, in The Reflexive Universe at least, ro reconcile physics with Genesis, which is a dubious approach to things. Of more interest to me, in that respect, is F. David Peat’s Blackfoot Physics. Relying too much on the “authority of Scripture” to direct one’s thinking about physics can be a fool’s errand because origination myths are quite varied.

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