Sigmund Freud's Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams), published in 1900, was probably the first scientific attempt to study and interpret dreams heretofore left for soothsayers and wise men to decipher. It was this great book that eventually paved the way for psychoanalysis that has influenced modern thought in one way or the other. I feel its importance is sure to increase in the current age of cyber-sex and virtual reality and it appears to be, with appropriate changes, the best way to study virtual society.
The greatest events in history have been ideas, not wars; and it is the former that have led to revolutions of a more permanent kind. Since the advent of the printed word, books have been responsible for the dissemination of cogent views among the intelligentsia. These intellectuals have changed the thoughts of people and consequently the course of history. Die Traumdeutung was one such book that influenced the people who matter. It put forward the important idea that the recollected parts of dreams are symbols of the unconscious mind during sleep when there is no conscious self-control.
Freud compared the symbolism of dreams to that of mythology and religion. From his observations he concluded that religion was infantile (with God as the father figure) and neurotic as it was a projection of repressed desires. The revolutionary nature of the theories expressed in this book and in the ones he wrote thereafter aroused great hostility since to assert that nearly all cases of neurosis are due to the repression of sexual desires shocked a public who was not ready for such sexual explicitness. Today psychologists do not accept all of what Freud said but his psychoanalysis is still not outdated. Its importance will increase in this millennium with the coming of cyber-sex and virtual sex.
Virtual reality just proves the point Freud had made about repressed desires. It is these dreams or desires which computer scientists aim to satisfy through virtual-sex, virtual-chat and other forms of virtual reality. They are already being catered to, to some extent, through cyber-sex and the Internet. However, how far will this actually help people and how can it possibly harm them? This is the question psychoanalysis has to decide so we can develop proper safeguards and check suicidal and other harmful tendencies in society as a whole.
The analysis of modern society will be much easier and a lot more comprehensive as people in cyberspace conceal their identity but do not usually bother to hide their true feelings. Anonymity gives them complacency and all their repressed desires tend to come out into the open once they feel secure. It is something akin to a kind of self-hypnosis that convinces them they are totally safe, with no need to hide anything. This is precisely why psychoanalysis can play a role as never before, as it will not be difficult to find the hidden desires of people as a social group.
Individuals are more and more likely to lose conscious control over their minds when anonymity provides them cover, which means cyber-sex- maniacs, 'virtual' sadists, 'virtual' masochists and 'cyber-murderers' will emerge from both the sexes and may become more common than such people have ever been in real life. This is likely to provide a huge database for the psychoanalysis of 'virtual society': a kind of 'dream' analysis of cyber-humanity where dreams will, for the first time in human history, be actually lived--in virtual reality and cyberspace.
It is only this analysis, based on Freudian techniques and ideas, which may provide some hope to solve both the cyber and conventional social problems of the future. Virtual reality is to be basically just an extension of the actual mind and society, set more free than ever before to do all the things people want to do and to 'virtually' get all they desire.
Another Freudian idea worth considering for the present time is that of God being the father figure in religion, which, on the whole, is nothing but the infantile expression of repressed desires, according to Freud. Most 'consumerist societies' are already disillusioned with organised religion, a fact that is clear from the ever-diminishing number of people going to places of religious worship. Millions claim not to believe in God as they feel He has nothing to give them. These people think all pleasures and pains are possible only in this world and they feel that anyone can obtain what he covets if he works for it.
Virtual reality will soon satisfy most latent desires; the advances in medical science are making the individual more powerful than ever before and the human need for the Almighty is diminishing. This is where the idea of spirituality comes in. Spirituality transcends all religion and does not need a faith in God but just requires a belief in the Self or the Spirit. The neo-Freudian may accept this or, if he feels the deathless Self is a suppressed desire, may even discard it and just use the tools of spirituality (e.g., meditation and mercy) to lead a fuller and better life.
Thus, we should see a renewed interest in the works of Sigmund Freud. His methods, coupled with some form of spirituality that transcends religion, seem to offer a big hope for both the actual and 'virtual' societies of the new millennium. Of course, it will mean Freudians will have to change their rigid adherence to Freud and move with the times, or others will have to become Neo-Freudians.
Copyright © 2001 Deep Inder. All Rights Reserved.