Thinking About Dreaming

Thinking About Dreaming

(I’ve just attended the Philosophy Festival in London where I asked an eminent Professor of Time about precognitive dreaming and got the elbow from the organiser. This is an email I’m trying to write to the professor, Raymond Tallis, and also to the editor of Philosophy Now. It’s a struggle because either I’m rubbish at organised thinking or the subject simply doesn’t lend itself to such an attempt being better suited to poetry or humour or dancing or love.)

Suppose the rational mind is an illusion, that it really inhabits an irrational mind that it fears and desperately seeks to control. But the irrational is the real and cannot be dispensed with without losing the keys to life. 

Of course it’s only irrational as defined by the rational. It might be better to call it chaos because, in a bald, practical sense, it is rooted in the totality of existence, it is either everything or nothing. The rational is a powerful tool but if a tool is misapplied it becomes a weapon. Philosophy as encountered at the Festival seems dominated by science and to have no room for religion other than as a secondary phenomenon to be kept in a scientistic cage. 

I had a very bad experience of religion as a child so I was extremely grateful to scientific rationalism for killing it off. But the accumulated experience of my life, especially creative writing and dreaming, has put me in a very different place. Writing is potentially a meditation in infinite possibilities, and dreams offer a focussed wholistic guidance which is beyond the conscious mind although once it learns the language, probably unique to each of us, the conscious self becomes a much richer place. cf Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, his personal take on dreaming which he considered to be more universal.

The ways of the dreaming mind can offer real affronts to the conscious mind, such as knowledge of the future. When I mentioned it at the Festival it really brought the dragon out in Anja. I’ve noticed the more educated the person the angrier the mention of precognitive dreams seems to make them, yet my own experience suggests that all dreams have one foot in the future. And this seems to be the result of their real nature and is not really to do with the mechanics of time as described by consciousness. Occasionally a dream will emphasise a future event apparently to catch our attention and broaden our mind. 

For instance, 40 years ago I regularly ran around Finsbury Park and often timed myself. As the seasons passed records became more long standing and were always set in the evening and tended to be reduced by well under 5 seconds. For over six months my record had stood at 8 minutes and 47 seconds. One morning I woke from a vivid dream of seeing black numbers in bright light 8.38. Later that morning I ran a timed lap. I found myself squinting at black figures in bright sunlight, 8.38.88. It remains my lifetime record for Finsbury Park.

A simple rationalistic or scientistic evaluation of this would probably point out the dream was wrong but dreams almost never reflect physical reality but deal in values and meaning of the total being which includes more than my everyday self. It is about revealing a community of meaningful knowledge, life knowledge. For me that .88 is like a joke. Whenever I think of this dream and event I smile. It makes me happy but also filled with wonder. I have apparently just broken fundamental laws of physics and in my life this has happened again and again. 

In fact physics isn’t violated because, in my experience, the conscious mind doesn’t know about the future event until it happens. 

Each event, in terms of the entire ambiance of the story, is unique. It is like a gallery of masterpieces by different artists but on a theme of my life and its inner meaning.

It seems that dreams reflect not me at a point in time but through the whole time of my existence. This is the Real, the soul of me. On any day I have a choice of action but as each day is simply another in my personal and professional life you could say the choice is very limited. For instance tonight I didn’t have to watch a random video about ancient Egypt, which turned out to be about boat burials, and see a relationship with my dream of this morning. If I had not watched the video would I have noticed nothing or noticed something else or would the dream, as the reflection of my Real self, have been different? 

Instead of trying to see this in an either-or fashion it might be better to visualise it as something like Leonardo’s octagonal mirror room in which we see ourselves from a single viewpoint as from all directions. (Thanks to Sofia for this image)

Or we can dismiss it as coincidence but that seems to be utterly the most stupid way of dealing with it and when eminent professors invoke this I wonder how far we are as a society from any sort of natural reality.

It seems to me at the present time the Real has been divided into two minds, the rational conscious and the creative dreaming and to a degree this is natural. When we wake from sleep we need to be as clearly conscious of our physical situation as possible. This is why it must be natural to instantly forget dreams. Or perhaps instant forgetting is a feature of the modern world where the active people are complete slaves to time. Once the bad was to reach for a cigarette, now it’s the mobile. 

In the past we must have been as embedded but it was the whole of nature and we wouldn’t have developed such a fierce rational structure that it excluded information from dreams. In fact, knowing dreams tell a higher order of truth, as other people before me must have discovered, we would have encouraged them. My experience suggests to me that in the past we may have been adept dreamers simply because we were so well embedded in the world. We knew the storm and animals by name and those who learned from dreams survived. And it’s not too late to start again. 

First we have to develop a science which is open to this type of phenomena, which doesn’t invoke coincidence and chance without properly evaluating what they could really mean. Precognition of a moment in time has to be irrational or infinitely unlikely so when it happens something infinitely unusual has taken place which is not reflected in the normal calculations of chance. No doubt card guessing is but 8.38 isn’t. It is a sign of an infinite, living intelligence possessed by everybody, though few are given or take the leisure to find.

To properly define what you’re looking for you have to at least pretend to believe in it. And the first thing you need to know about Nature is that it has a sense of humour or beauty or – many ors – at least as a first gate to go through if you’re going to find anything at all. And a true science would prioritise dreaming above all else. It would build machines to read and process this most revealing aspect of inner space beside which the exploration of outer space is a mere entertainment.

It’s all about the civilisation bird finally making its first flight. I see dreams as a phenomenon to be investigated by as wide a range of science and imagination as possible. Perhaps this isn’t philosophy.

If philosophy doesn’t have a place for this then I fear we are bound for oblivion for all the rational horses and all the rational men cannot stand in for the live intelligence of dreaming

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