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« God’s Multiple-Personality Disorder | Main | The Meaning of Ayahuasca Visions »



Where Do Dreams and Visions Come From?

Even a hard-core materialist should be fascinated by the sorts of experiences I describe in my last post. This hard-core materialist certainly is. Whether induced by mental illness, trauma, starvation, sensory deprivation, 3-quinuclidin-3-yl benzylate or electromagnetic stimulation of the left temporal lobe, these visions force us to recognize that, as William James famously said, “our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.”

Of course, we have visions every night when we dream. I often wake up after a particularly strange dream and wonder, Where did that come from? My dreams seem not profoundly, cryptically meaningful in some Freudian or Jungian sense but merely absurd, thrown together by some hurried, hack artist, out of the materials at hand. The result: I’m playing tennis with the surly Sikh lady who owns the deli on Route 9.

The visions I had in 1981 were not absurd and meaningless, like my dreams, but almost too meaningful. They possessed a mythical, archetypal quality utterly lacking in my dreams. They seemed too vivid, finely detailed and artful—too laden with metaphorical and metaphysical significance—to be the products of my puny, personal brain. They seemed to be the work not of some clueless amateur—a 15-year-old kid who just got a digital camera for Christmas--but of a grandiose master director, like Cecil B. DeMille.

Again the question is: Where did that come from? Do these visions “forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality,” as James put it? And should we cultivate these states—even inventing more powerful technologies for inducing them--or do our best to avoid them?

Comments

endless_science

Now you are starting to get interesting.

"Where did that come from?" - Who knows, but why label it a 'religious experience' (your previous post)? You acknowledge that the elements of your dreams are scraps and fragments of things that passed through your mind in waking consciousness, though slightly rearranged. (Indeed theories of dreaming indicate this activation of images may serve to purge information or prioritize connections within the brain. Pay attention sometime and see if you can't recognize the dream images as occuring in the same temporal order as they did while you were awake.) Why attribute the contents of your 'mystical' experience to something outside of yourself? Are you so sure there is nothing within you that could create that experience?

"And should we cultivate these states ... or do our best to avoid them?" - The answer to this probably depends on your character. If you would persist in attributing the content of these experiences to a God, then you should probably avoid them. If you can own the experience and take responsibility for any consequences you may experience, then go right ahead.

nc

Well, we've all seen the episode of the 1950s TV series The Twilight Zone which inspired some drug crazed maniac to devise string theory, leading to the Susskind cosmic landscape of today's 10^500 alternative universes.

The string has Planck length but zero width (at least in the dimensions we know exist), yet string theorists in the 60s were claiming (before gluons disproved it for quark binding and pions disproved it for inter-nucleon binding) that the strong force between nucleons was due to such string having a pull equivalent to a weight of ten tons force!

When that string theory failed to make predictions and was superseded by another theory which did make correct predictions (QCD), in 1974 Scherk claimed that strings with a tension equivalent to a weight of 10^39 tons of force "describe gravity".

You can't get away from these non-falsifiable, non-predictive speculations. Every time they fail (which is really the time that a better theory replaces them), the don't go away. They come back again with a different compactification, number of dimensions (26 was reduced to 10/11 by M-theory replacing bosonic string theory), or whatever.

You can see from the history of the subject that it is like the classical aether. Maxwell wrote a paper "On Physical Lines of Force, part 3" (published Jan 1862) claiming spacetime is an elastic solid. He fiddled the maths to get light speed, later discovered he had used an equation for elasticity which was wrong by the root of 2, and hadn't discovered light speed!

So then he invented another model of the aether, no longer an elastic solid but suddenly a car gearbox full of big cogs and little idler wheels (to allow the big cogs to turn in the same direction). This was in 1865 and it did manage to reproduce Weber's 1865 empirical result where the root of the product of electrical and magnetic force constants equals the velocity of light.

However, Maxwell's 1873 Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, 3rd ed., gives yet another model of aetherial vacuum displacement current, far more like Dirac's sea (actually Dirac borrowed the analogy from Maxwell, although that is obfuscated because Dirac was allegedly unifying special relativity with quantum mechanics - actually he had to modify special relativity to do it by changing the Hamiltonian from that suggested by special relativity, which is why Dirac's equation predicts E = +/-mc^2 whereas Einstein's special relativity doesn't naturally predict antimatter!).

But there is an error in Maxwell's final 1873 aether and Dirac's sea (which is the same thing): it can't polarize below an electric field strength corresponding to the IR cutoff of QFT, about 10^20 volts/metre!

From renormalization in QFT, spacetime is only a foam of particles being created and annihilated within a distance of 1-fm from an electron or quark. Beyond that short range, there are no loops, because the energy density of the field is too small to produce them. (If the entire vacuum was a sea of spontaneously appearing and annihilating charges, then polarization of the vacuum would be able to continue around each electric charge until the radial electric field was completely cancelled, so there would be no observably real electric charges in the universe.)

What is a bit surreal is that the nature of quantum field theory - exchange radiations with polarizable pairs of charges appearing in pair-production/annihilation loops at high energy - is a complete heresy today.

But 10/11 dimensions and 10^500 universes, dark energy, etc., are not heresy but mainstream ad hoc speculations that don't make checkable predictions.

So, I'm all for banning magic mushrooms, LSD, etc.

Andrei Kirilyuk

Yes, cultivate, only cultivate them, John, but different states and in a different way.

There's a problem with that dominating mainstream thinking (and related, now dangerously stagnating level of consciousness). First they try to reduce everything to “Boolean algebra” and multiplication table, i.e. to zero complexity. And when it does not work (surprise, surprise), not only in science but also and increasingly in “ordinary life”, they suddenly become “crazy” and jump just to the opposite extreme of ultimately esoteric mystification of everything, from elementary particles to consciousness. Why can't it become obvious, at least now, that both such extremes are equally empty and destructive, while the truth about all real (and therefore “magic”!) phenomena and “divine visions” we have can realistically emerge just along the “middle way”, far from extreme, mechanistic simplification or blind, irrational complexification?

All most fantastic and “divine” (as well as “absurd”) visions and dreams CAN come, without any problem, from ten to ten to fourteenth power [10**10**14] “bits per second” (or “memory units”) of “technically” available (but almost totally dormant!) power of any “usual” human brain (see also my comment “The End of MECHANISTIC Psi-ence” at https://discovermagazine.typepad.com/horganism/2006/10/the_end_of_psie.html#comment-24204168 ). This million-kilometer long number is “infinitely” greater than the notorious “terrible” number of “multiverse” possibilities of the official mechanicism (the trifle of only 10**500 elements!) and can easily account for really much greater and practically creative (rather than only “dreamy”) results of brain activity. And there is no “hard-core materialist” (=mechanistic!) triviality in that “rational” explanation because those “magic” results involve a well-organised, though “noncomputable”, mechanism of “dynamically multivalued fractal” of the actual brain structure, with its multi-level, permanently changing, “countless” realisations. Details can be properly and “scientifically” specified (e.g. https://arXiv.org/abs/physics/0409140 ), discussed, etc. However, there is the worst brain “drug” that actually kills all these magic (and real!) possibilities, it is that mainstream, mechanistic, “positivistic” simplification stemming from self-complacent and self-restricting mediocrity, and no artificial “chemistry” can fight it or replace the natural development of consciousness.

As to “really magic”, “supernatural” levels of the SAME, universal hierarchy of unreduced dynamic complexity, there will be no problem with them either, but one should laboriously climb along that painful and uneven “middle” road containing no artificial, illusive “jumps to paradise”. Consciousness is like a magic, open staircase (“a staircase to heaven”, it is this one!), which is “miraculously” created when we try to climb it (did anybody want miracles? – here they are, in your head, producing all the necessary “drugs” in real time!). The ladder is uneven, containing both quasi-flat “levels” and almost vertical “walls”, but there is no empty ruptures or irrational “jumps” in it, we should climb and build it ourselves (“with a little help from my friend”, maybe). And the technology for it is included in the starting package (genome, cf. https://arXiv.org/abs/physics/0502133 ). So why not to use it, instead of playing with words and chemical substitutes? Need a TRUE mystery right now? But here you are: already understanding of the ultimate, unreduced ORIGIN of that magic staircase is the evident and deeply rooted mystery...

The expected, closest “practical” result can be described, indeed, as a sort of “mental unification” of reality (including individual brain power) within every single brain, but it is a real and therefore directly creative one, rather than some “supernatural”, “inexplicable”, doubtful and finally useless “revelation” (there is a huge hierarchy of externally “fascinating” but misleading “lights” and “pleasures”). It is quite natural to see the world by billion other eyes, without losing anything of “my” personality (and enriching it instead). Does it seem so fantastic to you? It's another question, how many INTERESTING world visions I can have from other “eyes”... (more than zero, I hope?!) As for now, “humanity” as a whole, including its officially glorified “sages”, still seem to remain on that “primitive”, first, “strictly individual”, childish level of consciousness of “everything mine”: my money, my success, my family, my pleasures, my feelings, my reality, my, my, my... Idiots, none of it is really yours, finally, already because all of it disappears, inevitably. What can be truly “yours”, and simultaneously “ours”, is the WAY to a new, superior level of that magic staircase, and it can only be attained by a nontrivial, strongly interactive, “interdisciplinary” work of those who really want it. It has nothing to do with their “well-established”, mainstream lies, John, really nothing to do with it. Lies and chemical pleasures of a quickly decaying “Matrix” or creative growth to superior consciousness and real, not phantom or mechanistically fixed unification, what would you choose? They were almost exact in the Matrix movie in their metaphor about modern choices we have (blue or red pill, etc.)...

Any more questions, Sir? Any billion-dollar question is answered for free, here and now, within our end-of-science promotion! Come up with your questions and get your free entry to paradise, only here and now!

The comments to this entry are closed.



   
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