For the 80th birthday of Detlev von Uslar

Christoph Gassmann, 2006

March 17, 2006 Professor Detlev von Uslar will celebrate his 80th birthday. I would like to use this occasion to introduce him here, because he examined the theme of dreaming intensively and thoroughly, theoretically as well as practically, because among other things he wrote down his own dreams and worked with them. In the course of his many decades of life a collection of over 6000 dreams resulted, that was published, by the way, as a CD-ROM accompanied by a book. (“Tagebuch des Unbewussten” [Journal of the Unconscious], see below). This shows that the dream was for him not only of theoretical value but a matter of the heart.

Detlev von Uslar was born in Hamburg, Germany. First he studied philosophy, theology and psychology in Göttingen, among others under Nicolai Hartmann, followed by studies in philosophy and psychology in Freiburg im Breisgau under Martin Heidegger and Robert Heiss. After his diploma in psychology in 1960 he worked first as a traffic psychology expert in Freiburg and was called in 1967 to the University of Zurich as an extraordinary professor for theoretical psychology and for the philosophical foundation of psychology.  In 1974 he became professor, co-director of the psychological institute of the University and head of the department of anthropological psychology. Today’s professor emeritus is still publishing intensively in his field.

In the following passage I would like to introduce his book “Der Traum als Welt” [The Dream as a World]. In it he examines the being and the reality of the dream, while also going into the theorem of Descartes.  Subsequently he describes the process of waking up, causing a disappearance of the dream world, which is then followed by a dissociation of the dream. With hindsight that is now remembered as Von Uslar some kind of movie and experienced in the light of the waking world as less real. Further on von Uslar deals with dream interpretation, which associates the dream to the waking world. He finishes the book by going into the meaningfulness of dream series, which can be understood as a dreamstory commentary about life in the waking world.

For me, as an occasional lucid dreamer, von Uslars examination of the nature of dream experience - of the dream as a world - touched me because he realized philosophically what I and many other lucid dreamers are impressed by: the conscious experience that the dream is a world and exhibits as much reality as the waking world. This is an important discovery that cannot be sufficiently stressed because it is often not understood. But his other philosophical-psychological investigations about dreams also seem to me to be important because, as far as I know, there is hardly another philosopher who has given us his views as thoroughly and systematically on that theme. Some publications of Detlev von Uslar can be found below, which deal with the theme of dreaming or in which the examination of dreams have a prominent place. Unfortunately, none of them has (as yet) been translated into English.

It remains for me to warmly congratulate the man who is celebrating his 80th anniversary and to wish him significant, fascinating and “true dreams from the gates of horn”.

Christoph Gassmann, Horgen, Schweiz

Books of Detlev von Uslar:

Articles of Detlev von Uslar: