Partially updated 2010
I have mentioned elsewhere that if we had stayed in touch with the truth of dreams over the past few centuries, unimaginable horizons of knowledge, such as the abolition of the space-time limit, would have opened up before us. I wish, in this premise, to add some information, which may be of minor importance, but nevertheless should make us reflect on our lovingly cultivated limitations, on capital squandered. It is of the eyes that I speak. I refer you back to a previous article on this topic, again quoting Liebermann: although the eyes account for only 2% of the total weight of the body, they absorb 25% of our overall nutritional intake (“blind with hunger”), use up one third of the oxygen required by the heart to function, and a single eye is made up of more than a billion “pieces”, against, for instance, the five million of Space Shuttle Columbia. Not bad. But this is of marginal relevance as far as what is mentioned above with regard to our potential is concerned.
Stimuli are not the source of dreams, as they mediate a pre-existing situation; they therefore either mediate nothing at all, or in a different manner entirely. What one remembers upon waking up depends on the degree to which the subject knows itself (Venge). It is important to note that what cannot be interpreted at the level of dreams (which mirrors the state of wakefulness) is not interpreted subjectively when awake. In other words, energetic representation and its representation are one and the same. Nothing, therefore, is unreal, and everything is the expression of the matter-energy continuum. This has been demonstrated to me time and again in my work as a psychoanalyst, in the evidence of descriptive evolution and the quality of dreams, according to the level of development of the patient and the degree to which they know themselves.
As for symbols in dreams, they embody the same meanings during wakefulness, and their significance and interpretation depend on the level of neuropsychic energy deployed. The symbol is a cosmic principle. When we speak of repression, censoring or latent meaning, we refer again to a situation that concerns us both in our dreams and during wakefulness. The therapist’s interpretation, therefore, aside from the fact that it too is subject to pre-existing limitations, including those of the therapist, is not an interpretation of the dream, but the more economical interpretation of the state of wakefulness.
That said, and modestly leaving aside the nocturnal erections mentioned in Part One, let us see how stimuli can influence dreams (note: influence, not be the source of). Concerning the pre-sleep viewing of films, it is estimated that elements drawn from the films account for only 8% of the dreams. Regarding colours, it has been observed that people who are sensitive to colour when awake naturally tend to dream in colour. Comparative studies carried out on students of art, science and engineering report respectively 50%, 16% and 0% of their dreams in colour. As if to say that those who see things in black and white see the same when dreaming. Equally for the two sexes, colour clearly dominates in those for whom feeling is more important than thinking. I have noticed, during my experience as a psychoanalyst, that the elderly are less prone to dreaming in colour than the young. The reasons should be obvious.
As for stimulation during the REM phase, it has been noticed that pleasurable stimuli are incorporated more frequently than the unpleasant ones. Hearing one’s own voice has a significant impact on the dreaming process, whereas the same words uttered by another person have little or no impact on the oneirical process. Naturally, my comments stem from a very large body of work and therefore present all the faults of something which has been cobbled together.
After 1960, the REM-dream equation underwent further exploration, and became somewhat less absolute as a result. There can in fact be dreams outside the REM phase, and the differences may be broadly summarised as a deeper level of overall involvement, physically and emotionally, in dreams in the REM phase. So-called hypnagogic dreams indicate something more similar to thoughts, but there are plenty of analogies. Nevertheless, they show that there is no period during sleep in which our mind is at rest. Researchers have concluded that hypnagogic dreamers tend to possess greater social stability and they are more accepting, less rigid in their standards of behaviour. It has also been noted that there is a strong connection between the lack of hypnagogic dreaming and the so-called “authoritarian personality” syndrome.
As previously stated, all significant signs of mental activity cease during the delta phase of sleep. Remember, also, that it is primarily during this phase that we reconstruct the immune system and regenerate the cells. In non REM thought-episodes the left, or verbal, hemisphere of the brain appears to predominate (it is logical that it should), while the opposite occurs during REM dream activity. Note: I think our ancestors must have had few, if any, hypnagogic dreams if (as seems to be the case) during this type of dream activity it is the left side of the brain that predominates. Man has in fact been displaying activity in this sphere for only approximately 5,000 years. Or so we are told by the experts of the “left” – of the brain, that is – perhaps by way of explaining its inadequacy when facing the truth.
To conclude, I come back to the finding that there is an increase in fatty acids in the blood during stressful dreams. As for the organs, it would be mistaken to say that they all respond in the same way to emotion: the same emotion can increase cardiac activity, raise the breathing rate or cause sweating.
Summing up the body of dream research, Dement (who clearly was not a dement) said: “Never before in the history of biological research has so much been known from a descriptive standpoint, yet so little about function”. Phrases such as “we dream to forget”, or to free the brain from an excess of memory or parasitic models, offer no explanation whatsoever about function. They would be suitable for my computer, when talking about available cache memory, or the presence of viruses.
While reporting studies, deductions, analogies, I wish to stress the fact that they are all nevertheless opinions, despite being defined as scientific, and as such they have the limitation of being a way of seeing things. Never become overly attached to these idea-prisons, and not only with regard to dreams, because you will find yourselves in a mental coffin, which, however comforting, is the death of all knowledge. This recalls to my mind something Epictetus (Stoic philosopher of the 1st century AD) said, which I knew for myself and was transmitting to my patients long before I discovered it: “It is not objects themselves that worry me, but the opinions we form about them”. Hunt has said that there are so many different ways of dreaming that it would be difficult to discover a common physiological denominator. Hobson points out that even after thirty years of dedicated scientific research, physiologists still accuse psychologists of being dualists and mystics, whereas psychologists accuse physiologists of being reductionists. The reason is that our ideas about the human mind are far from clear. Our dreams are creations rather than the residue of our waking life, and our creative capacity is infinite, and upon waking we re-enter our limited and armoured world.
The first systematic studies on the contents of dreams date back to Heermann in 1838, who examined the dreams of approximately one hundred blind people. Images were missing for the 14 people who had lost their eyesight before the age of five, variable for those who had become blind between the ages of five and seven, and present for all those who had lost their eyesight after the seventh year. Visual dreams continued in some cases for over fifty years after the blindness occurred. An interesting point about contents, but this time not in connection with the blind, is that the percentage of aggressive dreams grows for both sexes in accordance with the presence of animals in dreams. In males, in 73% of cases the presence of animals is linked to sex and age, in the sense that they are more frequent in less mature groups. A personal note: could animals, images of ourselves, be the mask which allows a disturbing aggressiveness to be expressed? Or the alibi offering moral absolution (behaving like an animal)? At any rate, the contents of a dream is invariably more or less determined by the personality of the dreamer, their age, sex, social class, level of education, living habits, and all the events and experiences of life. Very like the words I am now writing. Nevertheless, on average, the contents of unpleasant dreams has nothing to do with socio-economic conditions, contrary to what may be thought. As I have already said elsewhere, more than two thirds of dreams have unpleasant contents. We could say that in such cases the disturbing elements in our dreams tell us what we need to know in order to function better during waking and inform us regarding the conditions requiring remedial action. This is particularly true for recurring dreams. Physiological theorists state that dreams are simply a random neural firing, but I think they run into trouble when it comes to explaining dreams that repeat themselves over months and years, to which I would add also those dreams which are interrupted by waking and resumed at the moment of falling asleep again. There is a consensus among clinicians that recurring dreams cease when the underlying problem has resolved itself. Its cessation may therefore provide a useful indication of an improvement in the ability, or lack thereof, to face up to waking reality. As psychotherapists, we observe this regularly among our patients (see ‘The Improbable, The Possible’). Terrifying dreams, on the other hand,which disturb people even when awake, but of which there is little or no recollection, are often related to acute physical, such as respiratory or cardiac, sensations, and are most common among children. It is worth remembering, however, that a dream never expresses itself negatively, because it has no need to protect itself from the truth. Erotic dreams will continue to occur for a long time, even in elderly people.
Important studies by the Russian Kasaktin indicate that many lives could be saved by a correct and timely interpretation of dreams as messages arising from extremely subtle physical modifications, or highly precocious intercellular communication. Recurring dreams about wounds are the most serious ones, as they invariably point to extremely dangerous diseases such as cancer, cirrhosis, heart and kidney disease, often well in advance of the results of clinical tests. In antiquity, too (Aristotle, Artemidorus, etc.), diagnostic dreams presaging the onset of disease were recognised. More recently, Daniel Schneider, neurologist and psychoanalyst, wrote a book called Forewarning Cancer Dreams and the Bioplasma Concept, complete with graphs, tables and so on, on the theory of bioplasma and analogies with modern physics. I recommend you read this book, also for its implied connections with radionics. Schneider states that the bioplasma of every cell sends chemical signals and other codes to the mental paraconsciousness, and that this communication system provides the basis for warnings about disease, as well as naturally including physiological states such as menstruation and pregnancy, which I will not dwell upon here. My question is rather whether it is not in fact the “errant thought” of the Veda (the source of all suffering) and its “intention” which lies at the heart of the communication itself, along with what follows: universal energy creates thought, thought then creates substance, first subtle substance, then dense substance.
Mention must also be made of paranormal dreams, which pose a serious challenge to the concepts current in science. In 1957 in the USA, the Parapsychological Association was created as an international association of researchers who employ scientific methods to understand paranormal abilities. The PA tried for many years to become a member of the American Association for the Progress of Science, finally succeeding in 1969. I must say, I don’t envy the PA, both for the contradiction of applying the “scientific method” to “understanding paranormal phenomena” and the immense undertaking of selecting from the vast population of paranoiacs and visionaries those who are worthy of serious investigation. The debate surrounding the paranormal and so-called science, often informed by cultural expectations and prejudices, is ongoing. It was back in 1897 when Thomas Edison (himself no fool) said that aeroplanes would never be more than toys (equivalent to today’s stunts); or 1945 when the president of the prestigious Carnegie Institution wrote a report on the atomic bomb for President Truman stating unequivocally that “the atomic bomb will never explode, and I say that as an expert on explosives.” (If only he had been right!) In spite of the evidence, such treatment is reserved not only for premonitory and telepathic dreams, but also lucid dreams (along with practically anything that the left side of the brain cannot control). As regards so-called “prodromic dreams”, or predictive dreams that diagnose in advance our state of health, I shall mention the Russian Kasatkin, the oncologist Siegel and Candace Perth (of the IADS E Study Group). The latter, a biophysicist and researcher in physiology, confirmed in 1980 the existence of an intricate network of communication between body and mind based on neuropeptide receptors (or molecular messengers), which she calls “molecules of emotion”. This is all closely related to the immune system. It means that when I am sad my lymphocytes perceive the sadness, with inevitable consequences for their defensive capabilities. It is clear from what we have said that the interpretation of the symbols and the imagery of dreams during wakefulness may suggest changes to a course of treatment or provide information on the seriousness of a situation. Another acquisition of science is worth mentioning at this point: the epigenome (molecules ‘above’ the genome). It has been discovered that our genes, widely blamed as they are for countless misdeeds and credited with precious few favours (we have even been told that there is a misfortune gene!), but important nonetheless, are practically innocent, because they too jump to the orders of the epigenome and its histones. They, in turn, are closely related to the emotions, just like neuropeptides. The choice to activate or not the genes thus lies with the histones of the epigenome, which are deeply influenced by context, including the emotional context. Rod Dashwood of the Linus Pauling Institute ascribes to “histonic modifications” also tumours and cardiovascular diseases, which may however be profitably tackled by diet (e.g. crucifers). But I have heard a distinguished oncologist say that stress plays no role whatsoever in tumours. There must be good reason for stating this, but it is a case of seeing the truth (which is always only partial) through a keyhole. This is the case with everyone, though: the Nobel laureate E. H. Blackburn (2004) demonstrated the negative impact of emotional stress on the shortening of telomeres with obvious consequences (see ‘Old Age Against Senility’). Among the many related studies, I wish to recall those of the Department of Clinical Studies of the Sapienza University of Rome, where we read that 70% of deaths are the result of stress-related diseases.
Here are some thoughts and documents (from the IADS E Study Group) relating to dreams imagery and visualisations:
1) Increased white blood cell count and levels of thymosin alfa 1, a hormone used by T helper cells (Nicholas Hatl, neuropsychologist at the George Washington University Medical Centre),
2) Impact on the neutrophyl function (the first line of defence against infectious agents or “non self” substances) in in highly specific ways (Dr. Frank Lawlis and others at the University of Texas),
3) Reduced negative response to chemotherapy (Jeanne Lyles and her group, Vanderbilt University),
4) Reduced surgery stress and post-surgery recovery (Carol Holden-Lund at the Southeastern Louisiana University School of Nursing).
Thoughts on the work done on visualisation:
1) Our bodies do not distinguish between sensorial images in the mind and what we call reality (thanks to the amigdala and “limbic logic”),
2) In a state of relaxation, we are capable of more rapid and intense levels of healing, growth, learning and change (owing to all those neuropeptides),
3) Dreams show us emotions we are not in contact with when awake,
4) Dreams show us how we participate in the stress of our lives through our reactions to them,
5) Dreams show us where in our lives we are ill and put us in touch with our conflicts,
6) Dreams point us in the direction of possible change,
7) Changing perception can change reality.
On prodromic or prophetic dreams, they are recognised by medical science. The head of the Sleep Laboratory at the Barvikha Sanatorium, Roman Bazunov, a doctor in medical sciences, says that there is nothing mysterious about prophetic dreams. Cerebral cortex activity slows when we sleep. The subcortex that responds to internal stimuli from the organism represses. Doctors know that the influence can be “predicted” one or two days before the disease appears, in the case of pneumonia 3-5 days beforehand, in the case of cancer 1-6 months before the disease progresses (not before it starts, since the signs of its inception are there much earlier). People are unaware that they are ill, but the blood and the infected cells already contain this information. There is also thought to be a connection with the phases of the moon, with many vital functions slowing with the waning moon, only to pick up again with the waxing moon.
Lastly, regarding prophetic dreams, the eminent Russian physiologist Natalya Bekhterva says that the brain draws conclusions from information received during the day, and such conclusions appear in dreams.
An important study by Dr. Deidre Barrett of the Harvard Medical School has found that “Approximately one half of subjects remember a dream they think was related to a problem, of which 70% believe that it contained a solution to the problem.” Therefore, in the light of our considerations about the body, and of the fact that each sensation is reflected in the body, the phrase “to sleep on something” seems wholly appropriate.
This was more or less my argument when I wrote on Tantrism and the practice of “entering” into dreams as an actor. When lucid dreaming, the dreaming subject is conscious of the fact they are dreaming and can participate in the events as they take place. Joe Dane made a particular study of this experience using appropriate methods and obtaining excellent results. We know for instance that women and meditators are more likely to experience lucid dreams. Some will recall that Don Juan advises Castaneda to focus on the hands when dreaming in order to develop powers inside dreams. In my experience, the method of wanting to be conscious during dreaming, as the last thought before falling asleep, also works; however, I have been successful only on rare occasions voluntarily, but often when, in a critical situation in a dream, I have escaped by saying “I must get out of this dream now and wake up” (sometimes then moving into another dream, without waking), as if it were all real, despite being aware of the fact that it was all just a dream. LaBerge has developed a device called the DreamLight consisting in a mask which registers the movements of the eyes by means of an infrared system and emits a light signal when the sleeper enters the REM phase. This adds to the lucidity of the dreamer. That aside, and aside from the enormous technical changes there have been since 1996, when these notes were written, 58% of the population have experienced lucid dreams, and lucid dreams are more frequent in children. Although we know little about the abilities of Tantrics, there is widespread consensus about the fact that the phrase “dream control” is not entirely accurate, because the conscious mind cannot control the subconscious mind.
As Jeremy Tayer says: “The dream remains autonomous and is not under the control of the conscious will. The archetypal elements which lie at the basis of dreams are so old, so wise, so much stronger and subtle, that even the most tested and habitual lucid consciousness which controls the dream is entirely inadequate. At most it can increase the conscious influence in dreams.” Such statements should suggest numerous parallels with Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields, to which I refer you.
There is one particular topic with which I would like to end this second part about dreams.
Lucid dreams are the ones that concern spirituality. And spirituality light. Light is often associated by humans with the divine. I have no familiarity with the divine, but acknowledging the facts is an inescapable duty of my work. People who speak of near-death experiences often have contact with light. The experiences that are described, about which much has been written, are connected with an “entering the light”. Further, the experience of enlightenment is widely described as walking between the individual and the Divine. Be it or not an “objective” truth, it is nevertheless an object of knowledge of inestimable importance. Thus the appearance of light in a lucid dream is always associated with an evolution of consciousness or a high degree of awareness.
For the moment, may the light be with you, now, and not only in the dark hour of death.