Dream and Semblance: The Play of Art and Life

  • Brian Grassom
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 119)


There are two kinds of dream: one is illusion, and one is vision. We do both from a state of relative ignorance: one dreaming seems to bind us, while the other is the harbinger of liberation. But perhaps both belong to a larger dream that is dreaming in and through us. This is the ancient philosophy of the East, and has its roots in the oldest cosmologies of humankind. Implicit to this philosophy is the idea of ‘play’: the whole of creation is perceived as a vast and eternal cosmic play. This idea is foreign to most Western thought, which values individual freedom and purposiveness. However, this play is not described as arbitrary, childish, or recreational. It is profound, and possessed of a stunning beauty.

The idea of play is also present within the discourse of art. It is arguably at the core of what we in the West have come to know as the ‘aesthetic’. Play here plays with the outer and inner worlds, which art brings together, transmutes, and transposes. Within that play, art also plays with its own presence and absence, its own identity as art.

In this paper I will attempt to show how this play of art channels and reflects the nature of life as profound play: how its dream and semblance can teach us the uncertainty of what we take for reality, and point to something higher and deeper; and how the play of ambiguity at the heart of art leads not to confusion, but to certain delight.


Art Life Semblance Cosmic-play Phenomenology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gray’s School of ArtRobert Gordon UniversityAberdeenUK

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