Dreamwork Psychology

This website is dedicated to the research and thinking of Strephon Kaplan-Williams

Senoi Dreamwork, Facts and Fictions: A Reply to G. William Domhoff


I have read Professor Domhoff’s reply to my critical article of his challenge to Jeremy Taylor’s stated remarks about Senoi dream theory*.

I do appreciate that Dr Domhoff has considerably toned down his style of arguing his case. This is one of my main criticisms of his previous style, and in my challenge article to Domhoff I decided to use his attacking style also, medicine for medicine. So with the new style of his last article I can myself reply rather mildly.

I will say that it still defies logic to add up several little bits of evidence, as Domhoff lists again in this latest reply, to create one big conclusion. I say again that his personal anecdotal evidence does not fit scientific standards and so he should not put himself across on the Senoi dreamwork issues as any more scientific than Jeremy Taylor.

Domhoff has not won his case on either logical or scientific grounds, as far as I am concerned. Which character is his article? A diatribe? Or somewhere in between a diatribe and a scientific argument? Or is he just a good writer and critic, also of value in American culture?

If Professor Domhoff is being a critic, where almost any kind of argumentation goes, I don’t think he should set up a website sponsored by a university but should be on his own. The website being connected to the university implies for argumentation sake that he is not only a professor but scientific in his articles.

This I question.

As far as any claim I have to being scientific, it comes not from arguing the Senoi dreamwork case one way or another.

I am one who has taken the concepts from Stewart and reused them in the American culture of the seventies and eighties. My published dreamwork methodology The Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual, owes its roots to a number of sources, including “Senoi mythos”, if we can use a term from cultural anthropology, the underlying belief structures of a culture.

I don’t argue whether the Senoi practiced special dreamwork or not. I simply say that there is not inconvertible evidence that they did or did not in the Stewart period in the 1930’s and no amount of argumentation in either direction can be scientifically conclusive in my mind.

But I do say that the Senoi idea worked quite well in its implementation in American culture with myself and with others.

Where Professor Domhoff errs in his little, well-written book, is that he did not research the American dreamwork movement of the time before making his pronouncements on its ineffectiveness. Domhoff went to great lengths to challenge around the Senoi peoples issues but lives in America and has not given us nearly as much research for our own culture of dreams and dreamwork. Why not? I don’t know.

Probably another logical fallacy on his part. Argument by misdirection and diversion. If you want to destroy a certain premise don’t attack it directly. Attack a side issue as if you are attacking and destroying the main issue.

Main issue: Does American dreamwork work as developed in the sixties and seventies, and how do you indicate its effectiveness in an objective manner?

Side issue: One of the key concepts of the American dreamwork movement was the Stewart-Senoi dreamwork concept that seems to have launched hundreds of dream groups at the time. Did the Senoi practice the Stewart dreamwork or not?

Fallacy by misdirection: Attack and “prove” that the Senoi did not practice dreamwork as described by Stewart. Declare yourself the winner on “scientific grounds.” Then from the high ground you have declared yourself to have gained, declare a generalization that there is no basis to the claim that American-Senoi dreamwork works.

Note: please note that Domhoff never did a good job in his little book of destroying the effectiveness of the American-Senoi dreamwork movement. But he did a hell of a job in his attack on Stewart, quoting tons of here-say evidence from Stewart ex-friends, ex-wife, members of the family, and so on. What makes this other than gossip I cannot understand. Read the little book yourself. It’s great reading.

Note: I had published the Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual before Domhoff and his book. In this book are many valid dreamwork methods used by hundreds of people to positive effect, according to them. This is not just a statement by me, but I use their own examples written by dreamwork participants in my trainings. This is not hear-say evidence but direct evidence, witness evidence, from the people involved in using the techniques. Professor Domhoff never contacted me for an interview, or to interview a large number of my students using American-Senoi techniques. Instead, he tells us, his readers, that dreamwork failed at Esselen, a rich people’s center at Big Sur, California, hardly representative of long term commitment to growth and development using dreams and dreamwork. Domhoff knew of me and my work because he mentions in his book that I took out the name, Senoi, from my original Jungian-Senoi Institute. I did so from a lack of clarity and weakness. I changed the name to Jungian Dreamwork Institute, then to Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Institute. Now, many people use the name Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork for what I collected and refined of dreamwork techniques, including discovering, Objectifying Dreams, Following the Dream Ego and modifying Jung’s active imagination to do Dream Reentry into the dream itself to change the dream ego function in new interactions with original dream content reexperienced in the meditative state and usually leading to a deep sense of resolution.

Note: Domhoff refers to his work on the Hall scales for evaluating dream content objectively, but I have not found that this kind of labeling and generalizing does much good for understanding dream content. The fallacy of the Hall approach, from what I know of it, is that the so-called objective panel that labels dream content as to aggression and so on is not objective but culturally biased from their own cultural attitudes and reality pictures. And again, using college students all the time for their studies. What do such young persons know? I worked with real adults in the real world where the action is. I needed dreamwork techniques that worked for people into life and effectiveness, not hanging out in the ivory towers of the university where Domhoff still is, I believe. (for readers here, I am sure you can recognize a certain polarization between Domhoff and I. He represents academia and I represent people of the working world who must run this civilization as a whole. Imagine ivory tower people looking at the real world dreams of real world people and trying to classify them according to their university labels. Talk about the Senoi culture, and what was it. How about the American culture and what it is?)

So my best to Professor Domhoff at my age of seventy-one. I have moved on myself from schools of psychology into what I call functional dreamwork. How do various parts of a dream function in the dream and in the personality? I have also put out a call to found a separate branch of psychology called Dreamwork :Psychology. Let the different psychology’s, and the different university sciences, have their own views on the human condition. I am most interested now in dream and dreamwork psychology in itself. This is where the discoveries and developments are to be made.

* The Senoi Do Not Practice Senoi Dream Theory: A Reply To Strephon Kaplan-Williams, G. William Domhoff, Ph.D., Electric Dreams 12(4), April, 2005. This article can be found at domhoff_2005_apr_senoi_reply.html

by Strephon Kaplan-Williams

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