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Hardcover | $36.95 Trade | £25.95 | ISBN: 9781935408147 | 576 pp. | 6 x 9 in | August 2011

A Dream Interpreted within a Dream

Oneiropoiesis and the Prism of Imagination


Dreams have attracted the curiosity of humankind for millennia. In A Dream Interpreted Within a Dream, Elliot Wolfson guides the reader through contemporary philosophical and scientific models to the archaic wisdom that the dream state and waking reality are on an equal phenomenal footing--that the phenomenal world is the dream from which one must awaken by waking to the dream that one is merely dreaming that one is awake. By interpreting the dream within the dream, one ascertains the wakeful character of the dream and the dreamful character of wakefulness. Assuming that the manner in which the act of dreaming is interpreted may illuminate the way the interpreter comprehends human nature more generally, Wolfson draws on psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and neuroscience to elucidate the phenomenon of dreaming in a vast array of biblical, rabbinic, philosophical, and kabbalistic texts.

To understand the dream, Wolfson writes, it is necessary to embrace the paradox of the fictional truth--a truth whose authenticity can be gauged only from the standpoint of its artificiality. The dream, on this score, may be considered the semblance of the simulacrum, wherein truth is not opposed to deception because the appearance of truthfulness cannot be determined independently of the truthfulness of appearance.

About the Author

Elliot R. Wolfson is Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He is the author of Venturing Beyond: Law and Morality in Kabbalistic Mysticism, Luminal Darkness: Imaginal Gleanings From Zoharic Literature, and other books.


"For his fiftieth birthday Elliot Wolfson has offered himself a dream-book, dazzling and rich, poised against finitude's charge. What an extraordinary gift for readers of poetry and philosophy, for the psychoanalyst companioned by theory! Dropping into intractable regions of thought, Wolfson explores with enthralling precision the edges of asymmetry, prophesy, the alternate logic of dream archeology and often blinding illumination that such a venture implies."
Avital Ronell, author of Fighting Theory and The Test Drive

"Over the last two decades, Elliot R. Wolfson has produced a most remarkable body of scholarship on the Kabbalah. Here, in his new book on the mind-bending paradoxes of the dreamscape and its actualizations in the acts and arts of interpretation, he applies his thought to that mysterious space of the imagination where the dreamer dreams and is in the process dreamt. Understanding, like his rabbinic and kabbalistic sources, the dream as a self-creating text that 'always follows the mouth,' that is, that requires acts of interpretation to become real, Wolfson employs a whole range of interpretive tools to reveal what is concealed within the dreamscape: quantum physics and neuroscience, hermeneutical theory, psychoanalysis, and literary theory, the 'mythologic' or coincidence of opposites, even the philosophy and transcendence of time within Mind as we have it in Buddhist and Hindu idealism. It is in this way that the dream becomes in Wolfson's vision a kind of spontaneous poetry or, as the Jewish sages had it, one-sixtieth of prophecy itself."
Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Authors of the Impossible: The Sacred and the Paranormal

"The book's characteristic Wolfsonian achievement is to open to the non-philosopher the significance of philosophical thought without reducing its complexity. The lucidity of the exposition and the clarity and brilliance of Wolfson's thinking is what makes this happen. Equally characteristic is to show how earlier traditions have been engaged in asking these questions. Although much of the text draws on Wolfson's main expertise in Jewish mystical thought, the analysis extends far beyond the confines of that discipline, engaging questions both ontological and epistemological. A book for everyone interested in the phenomenon of dream consciousness."
Daniel Boyarin, author of Socrates and the Fat Rabbis