WHEN our thick brains get all heated up worrying life’s complexities, that’s often the best time to kick off our shoes, and give it a rest.
“Ever drifting down the stream, lingering in the golden gleam,” Lewis Carroll wondered: “Life — what is it but a dream?”
At times, when we are faced with a critical decision, or stuck on a complex problem, sleeping or napping on it, researchers find, often leads to the right answer.
The notes of a song, the smell of burning leaves, the babbling of a mountain stream, a day-dream—all can open a door to the the non-rational, poetic mind. They can also arouse unexpected vistas when we are children.
In Wordsworth’s haunting poem “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” those reveries opened for him an unexpected awareness of past lives.
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar …”
There is “a class of fancies of exquisite delicacy,” the poet Edgar Allan Poe wrote in Marginalia, “which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language.”
Dream within a Dream
Researchers are finding that “zoning out may be the most fruitful type of mind wandering,” reports Carl Zimmer (“Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State.”)
The wandering mind, they find, “allows us to work through some important thinking.”
When meeting someone for the first time, why is it we sometimes have an overpowering feeling we’ve met before? The mind really can work in mysterious ways.
Rector of the Dijon Academy and noted French psychical researcher, Émile Boirac, coined the term déjà vu, denoting such feelings as memories of our past.
But are they all explainable in terms of lost memory, of fragments from the past?
Or are they only strange feelings caused by glitches in the brain’s neurochemical network, as many skeptics insist?
Daydreamers are often judged as lazy and impractical misfits, who are doomed to failure. Now it has been shown that…
A report in ScienceDaily reports that daydreamers end up being smarter that those that don’t indulge in fantasy:
“… a new University of British Columbia study finds that our brains are much more active when we daydream than previously thought.”
“Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness,” says lead author, Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology.
“But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream — much more active than when we focus on routine tasks.”
“This is a surprising finding,” Professor Christoff says about the result.
Many famous daydreamers have gone on to make revolutionary contributions to society. Einstein was one. Einstein’s “train ride on a beam of light” taught him–and us–his theories of relativity, which revolutionized physics.
Unconscious at Work
“A dream led Elias Howe to beat Singer to the patent for the sewing machine,” writes Sandra Weintraub in “Cultivate Your Dreams to Find New Solutions.”
“In the dream, Howe was in a jungle surrounded by natives holding spears, with holes near their tips, Ms. Wintraub recounts.
“When he woke, he realized that putting the hole near the tip of the needle would make a working sewing machine.”
“If you’ve ever awakened in the morning and suddenly found the answer to a question you’d been pondering, perhaps your dreams worked out the problem.”
“You may not remember dreaming, but your unconscious was actively at work while you slept,” she says.
In her article, Ms. Wintraub, the principal of a company called Management Resources, goes on to list numerous other astounding discoveries resulting from dreams.
The Creative Impulse in Dreams
Harry Potter Dream
Our friend Reggie Atkinson comments: “Some years ago, JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, was on a train ride when she drifted off to sleep. When she awoke, she had the Harry Potter story in mind.
“Though the review here doesn’t mention falling asleep, in a TV interview JK said that’s how and when Harry et al came to be.”
The Train Ride
“She says she doesn’t really know where Harry Potter came from, but that the stories came ‘fully formed’ into her head, during a train journey in 1990 from Manchester to London.”
Having just spent the weekend apartment-hunting in Manchester, Rowling came up with the concept for Harry Potter.
The idea, she says, “simply fell into my head.”
Having nothing to write with, and too shy to ask, Rowling spent the remainder of the ride day-dreaming about the story, and began to write it down as soon as she arrived home.
“Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake.”
“Those who might have distinguished themselves in medicine or literature, would probably have signally failed in any occupation outside of what I will call their lucid zone,” Blavatskyquotes in her article The Negators of Science.
“…. by comparison with the action of those reflectors, which, during night, throw their light into a zone of luminous rays, outside of which all is gloomy shadow and uncertainty.
“Every human being has his own lucid zone, the extension, range and degree of luminosity of which, varies with each individual.”
Given such discoveries, might there something more we need to understand about the fundamental nature of consciousness? “There are many stories in the history of science of great discoveries occurring to people out of the blue,” notes Carl Zimmer in his fascinating Discovery article:
“The French mathematician Henri Poincaré once wrote,” Zimmer recounts, “about how he struggled for two weeks with a difficult mathematical proof.”
“He set it aside to take a bus to a geology conference, and the moment he stepped on the bus, the solution came to him.”
“Neuroscientists are investigating this paradox by searching for the signatures of mind wandering in the brain,” Zimmer concludes.
Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz discovered the Benzene molecule while dreaming:
“I was sitting writing on my textbook,”Kekulé wrote, “the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes.
“This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion.”
“But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes.”
“As if by a flash of lightning I awoke — and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis.”
& Time Symmetry
Distracted mental states are often discouraged by our parents and teachers. ‘Use your head,’ we are told, and ‘think before you act.’ There seems to be a natural tendency for us to daydream. But dreaming and reminiscing is not always an individual matter.
And, human beings seems to be attracted to group states. This shared dreaming Blavatsky called “floating reminiscences,” (The Secret Doctrine 1:293), which “unite the broken links of the chain of time.” And these form, she wrote intriguingly:-
“… the mysterious, dream foundation of our collective consciousness.”
Row Your Boat
These nursery rhyme lyrics, says Wikipedia, “have often been used as a metaphor for life’s difficult choices, and many see the boat as referring to one’s self or a group with which one identifies.”
The final line, “life is but a dream”, the writer says, “is perhaps the most meaningful. From a religious point of view, life and the physical plane
… may be regarded as having equivalent value as that of a dream, such that troubles are seen in the context of a lesser reality once one has awakened.”
“Row Your Boat”
“Whatever you can do or dream, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The term ‘psychic’ was first used by renowned chemist William Crookes to describe the famous medium and magician Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886).
In 1871, Crookes attended a Fox sisters séance and came away convinced that the rapping noises they produced were genuine spirits.
Crookes’ psychic investigations were largely ignored by his contemporaries, but frequently quoted by H. P. Blavatsky.
While at the Fox home, Blavatsky met newspaper correspondent Henry Steel Olcott, who was to remain a lifelong friend.
Together with the young lawyer William Quan Judge, they founded the Theosophical Society in 1875.
The Astral World
“The only difficulty,” in explaining such phenomenon (spiritualism), Blavatsky said in Isis Unveiled 1:116, her ground-breaking first work, “is to realize the fact that surrounding space is not an empty void:-
“… but a reservoir filled to repletion with the models of all things that ever were, that are, and that will be; and with beings of countless races, unlike our own.”
“Our minds are much more extensive than our brains,” says Rupert Sheldrake in this audio clip. Dr. Sheldrake first popularized the term ‘morphic fields.’ Our minds, he says: “stretch out far beyond the surface of our bodies.”
An Eternal Now
If all this is true, then there is no real separation between past, present and future, and everything represents an “eternal now.” The recovery of what was, or will be, requires only that we tune into its information frequency.
Tuning in is the same way we tune into a particular program on radio or TV, by turning the dial. Only in human life, both the dial and the dialer are within ourselves.
Theosophy asserts that we are swimming in an interactive, impeccably accurate, microfiched universe — which also happens to be identical to the substrate essence of our own being — an intangible substance that ancient teachers called the Akâsa (Sanskrit) — this is “the subtle…
“… supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space.”
This seems to suggest that déjà vu, clairvoyance, paranormal phenomena, remote viewing — or even remembering a past life — are no different than locating a film or book at a library.
It is roughly analogous to invisible matter, akin to what science today refers to as dark matter. This is also what might be called ‘The God Principle’ — it is within and around, interpenetrating and interblended with everything, everywhere, the planet itself included.
We are as inseparable from it, Theosophy says, as the fish is the ocean in which it swims.
The nearest realms, or layers, of this noetic ocean, is termed the “Astral Light“— “the invisible region that surrounds our globe.”
In addition to images and other records, there exist in it “beings of countless races, unlike our own,” Blavatsky says — remarking that it is also the confusing realm of mediums and psychics.
She describes this astral, as being just-below-the-surface level of physical existence, Transactions (64), calling it a “phosphorescent radiation,” and
“…the medium between it, and man’s thought faculties.”
If our thoughts were “inspired and illumined” only by our highest, altruistic Self, she says, “there would be little sin in this world.”
Universe of Duality
Just like thoughts, swarms of bacteria, viruses and other creatures, good and bad, invisibly inhabit our physical world. We take probiotics to support the billions of beneficial bacteria that live in our gut, and antibiotics to rid ourselves of their harmful cousins — yet, science knows very little about either.
There is no separation between
the astral world and this one.
The astral field is the source of memory, dreams and déjà vu, but it can also be the origin of our nightmares, depending on our mental and moral states.
Dance of the Hemispheres
Krishna began to unveil the complex nature of consciousness to his disciple Arjuna in (Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 6). The mind-self functions in a dualistic way, he says:
“Self is the friend of self, and, in like manner, self is its own enemy.”
This five-thousand year old teaching is alive today. One of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in The World,” neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, describes what she calls her “Stroke of Genius,” her book by that title.
The story of her life-and-death ordeal, seems a good place to begin unraveling the psycho-puzzle of mind and brain.
As she recounts her experience, in this brief video interview, we get a picture of the two physical hemispheres of the brain, and how each is a unique vehicle to express the Yin-Yang of “self.”
You can watch Jill Bolte Taylor’s original, complete TED Presentation of “My Stroke of Insight” here on YouTube.
Students of the Bhagavad-Gita point to the fact that the two “selves” in us are two aspects of the universal mind, in Sanskrit our “Dual Manas.”
“Why do we have two hemispheres?”
Both “selves” are necessary — but they are also in urgent need of very rigorous cleansing, balancing and prioritizing by us humans, as Bolte Taylor explains.
My Stroke of Genius
The Double Mind
“The mind is dual in its potentiality: it is physical and metaphysical. The higher part of the mind is connected with the spiritual soul or Buddhi, the lower with the animal soul, the Kama principle.
“There are persons who never think with the higher faculties of their minds at all,” Blavatsky wrote, and
“… those who do so are the minority and are thus, in a way, beyond, if not above, the average of human kind. These will think even upon ordinary matters on that higher plane.
“The idiosyncrasy of the person determines in which “principle” of the mind the thinking is done, as also the faculties of a preceding life, and sometimes the heredity of the physical.
“Only those who realise how far Intuition soars above the tardy processes of ratiocinative thought,
…can form the faintest conception of that absolute Wisdom, which transcends the ideas of Time and Space. Optimism and pessimism depend on it also in a great measure.”
Jill Finds Nirvana
In this conclusion of her presentation, “the morning of the stroke,” Jill Bolte Taylor says she “found Nirvana” through her right brain insights. True Adepts are the “owners” of Nirvana, Blavatsky explains. This is because the Adept or Mahatma’s only concern is for the welfare of humanity, that they have “won the right to Nirvana,” i.e. they have made permanent their spiritual development, while still alive in a human body.
Studies in Occultism
“Because the plastic power of the imagination is much stronger in some persons than in others. The mind is dual in its potentiality: it is physical and metaphysical.
“The higher part of the mind is connected with the spiritual soul, the lower with the animal soul.”
“This is why it is so very difficult for a materialist—the metaphysical portion of whose brain is almost atrophied—to raise himself—or, for one who is naturally spiritually-minded to descend to the level of the matter-of-fact vulgar thought.
“But the habit of thinking in the higher mind can be developed,” Blavatsky declares: “… otherwise would there be hope for persons who wish to alter their lives and raise themselves?
“And that this is possible must be true, or there would be no hope for the world.”
Music of the Spheres
“There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”
(Lorenzo,”The Merchant of Venice”)
“The Higher Mind can be developed, but only with great difficulty, a firm determination, and through much self-sacrifice. But it is comparatively easy for those who are born with the gift.
“Why is it that one person sees poetry in a cabbage, or a pig with her little ones,” Mme. Blavatsky asks, “while another will perceive in the loftiest things only their lowest and most material aspect — will laugh at the ‘music of the spheres,’ and ridicule the most sublime conceptions and philosophies?”
“This difference depends simply on the innate power of the mind to think on the higher or on the lower plane, with the astral … or with the physical brain.”
“Great intellectual powers are often no proof of, but are impediments to spiritual and right conceptions.”