ON THE SCIENCE OF DREAMS
Dreaming is generally thought of as the spontaneous self activation of the brain during sleep. But the faculty of consciousness that dreams is different from the brain, as unlike the brain, it cannot be physically seen, photographed or clinically diagnosed. Brain is body matter powered by the heart and lungs pumping blood which continues even in deep sleep, making it always active. Even after the heart stops, the brain may not be dead immediately. Hence this definition of dream may be misleading. Further, the spontaneity implies a trigger. Without this trigger, the brain cannot self activate. This trigger for the heart and lungs (also brain) is set at conception. For perception, the external stimuli carried by the neurons to the brain are the trigger.
At any moment, our sense organs are bombarded by a multitude of stimuli. But only one of them is given a clear channel at any instant to go up to the thalamus and then to the cerebral cortex, so that like photographic frames, we perceive one discrete frame at every instant, but due to the high speed of their reception, mix it up so that it appears as continuous. This happens due to an active transport system against concentration gradient with input of energy. Unlike the sensory apparatuses that are subject specific, the transport system in the opposite direction within the body happens for all types of sensory impulses. The agency that determines this subject neutral channel of active transport is called mind. Without this transport system, we cannot dream, dreams are based on thought and thought is the inertia of mind. It follows mechanical rules.
While mind facilitates the passage of impulse, the interpretation of the state of superposition of various thoughts in memory is done by the intellect, which is responsible for cognition. Hence even after the breath stops, the person may not be brain dead. The difference between perception and cognition is that during perception mediated by mind, we search the memory for alternatives for matching. During cognition mediated by intellect (the ‘I’ part in the perception “I know….”), we zero in on one content. Thus, we have to consider intellect that cognizes separately from mind, which is only the transporting agency.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines mind as: “The collective conscious and unconscious processes in a sentient organism that direct and influence mental and physical behavior”. But this definition does not explain what are conscious and unconscious processes and how the mind directs these. Further, it is difficult to apply in the context of sociology where we speak of the mental qualities of a group or population (the nation’s mind, group mind, team spirit). It is also difficult to apply in the context of religion, where mind and spirit are associated with transcendental concepts such as the way of life including immortal soul, the world mind, etc. In our definition, since memory is most important for processing stimulus and mind is only the transport system, these things are easily explained.
Dreams can be analyzed from various perspectives like psychological, physio-chemical, emotional, cognitive potential, paranormal, etc. Different aspects are discussed in different texts. For example, one text classifies dreams into seven categories: those related to 1) objects seen earlier, 2) heard earlier, 3) experienced earlier, 4) objects of desire, or 5) fantasies. These five types of dreams are meaningless. The other two types are related to 6) extra-sensory perceptions of signals leading to possible future events and 7) physical discomfiture including diseases or impending diseases. The last two types are meaningful. The above has been further classified into different categories. The methods of interpreting the last two categories of dreams have also been discussed elaborately.
Dreams appear as the internal faculties, i.e., the various functions of the mind and intellect, are activated without an external stimulus through the sense organs, as in the wakeful state. This frees the faculty of consciousness from the restraints imposed by the external physical world. For example, we have seen horses and we have seen flights or birds fly. We can combine both concepts to dream of flying horses, which are physically impossible. But we cannot dream of something which is not stored in our memory. The Jungian Dreaming of the ‘collective unconscious’, which are not so much a personal message to the dreamer, but rather a more universal message that becomes less personal to the dreamer and more relevant to the human collective, can be explained only through the thought mechanism.
Any transport system follows the laws of motion that are further governed by the fundamental forces of Nature, which are five in number including radioactive disintegration. They have macro equivalents also. Mind also follows these rules. Lucid dreaming is caused by the equivalent of the weak force, which unites the wakeful state with the dream state. Since both have different causes, the mind has to oscillate between both the states rapidly. But the oscillation is so fast that it appears as two distinct states.
We sleep only when our body exhausts energy and needs to recuperate it like many creatures hibernate. Sleep can be categorized into two types: perception enabled (dream or REM sleep) and perception disabled (deep sleep). In the first case, the mind is receiving inputs/impulses from the agencies of sensory perception and memory, but the later are not receiving outside impulse. In the second case, mind is switched off from the agencies of sensory perception – thus, no perception. Since these are cognitive functions, a brief discussion on perception and consciousness is necessary to remove all confusion. Also, we must prove the transport function and mechanism of mind.
How do we handle the vast sensory inputs impinging on us? The provision of specialized sensory windows specifically geared to receive specific ranges and categories of sensory inputs, the incorporation of directing channels, the provision of load restricting governors in the brain, and the existence of dynamic mechanisms for attention, thresholds and signal detection, have different roles to play. The built-in governors in the brain to prevent a break down due to load (excess or impoverishment) cause us to sleep. Dream is associated with sleep. Lucid dream hampers the mechanism of the built-in governors. Thus, its regular practice is bound to have long term effects of a break down.
While considering the above fact, we must remember that whatever be the varieties of energies that impinge on the body, the sense organs convert all of them into electro-chemical codes, which get processed and then decoded. When we talk of electro-part, we must consider its complement magneto-part. Similarly, the theory of transition states of chemical reaction stipulates a certain temperature threshold for the chemical reaction to take place. Both have a commonality in temperature divide.
The first experience of decoding of the signals is the sensory impression is an impression in isolation. This is uni-modal and the simplest of the transactions that occur between our sensory modes and the observable. A sensation is a combination of such sensory impressions and is multi-modal. Since measurement is a process of comparison between similars, perception occurs when sensation is accompanied by an interpretation with reference to what is already experienced and stored in memory. Measurement is done at a time t, when the result is frozen for use at other times t’, t’’, etc, even though the observed evolves in time. As experience becomes less immediate and more remote, and as the processes of inference increase, cognition enters the picture. Thinking and knowing become predominately operative.
Consciousness is a physical phenomenon and beyond. But mathematics including Tononi’s model, cannot explain conscious actions. The sense organs always reach out to the incoming impulse, whether sound, electromagnetic radiation, or smell, taste, touch. Over the years, views on the mechanism of perception of sound – how the ear perceives the tonality of sound and the frequency range of auditory perception - have changed. There is a reason why the human pinna is not asymmetrical and folded. Experiments by Hero Wit (Spectra of cochlear acoustic emissions – Kemp echos – Journal of Acoust. Soc. Am. 1981) showed the emission of a continual sound from healthy human ears in the range of 1 to 2 kHz. This implies that the ear sends out a reference wave and interacts with the incoming wave to produce an acoustic hologram. This is facilitated by the unique structure of the human pinna (Hugo Zuccarelli, New Scientist, 10th November 1983 p-438). Similarly, our eyes send out a reference wave to electromagnetic radiation emanating out of the object (and not the object which emits these radiation). The form we see is not the same as the object we touch and vice versa. Because when we touch, we cut down the radiation and touch the mass that emits it. The same goes for taste and smell.
At any moment, our sense organs are bombarded by a multitude of stimuli. But only one of them is given a clear channel at any instant to go up to the thalamus and then to the cerebral cortex, so that like photographic frames, we perceive one discrete frame at every instant, but due to the high speed of their reception, mix it up so that it appears as continuous. This happens due to an active transport system against concentration gradient with input of energy like the sodium-potassium pump, which moves the two ions in opposite directions across the plasma membrane through break down of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The concentrations of the two ions on both sides of the cell membrane are interdependent, suggesting that the same carrier transports both ions. Similarly, the same carrier transports the external stimuli in the opposite direction to the cerebral cortex. This carrier is the mind.
In the mechanism of perception, each sense organ perceives different kind of impulses related to the fundamental forces of Nature. Eyes see form by measuring (comparing) the electromagnetic field set up by the object with that of the electrons in our cornea, which is the unit. Thus, we cannot see in total darkness because there is nothing comparable to this unit. Tongue perceives the chemical composition when the object is dissolved in the mouth, which is macro equivalent of the weak nuclear interaction that leads to changing chemistry. Nose perceives the distinguishing characteristics of the mass of the object, when the finer parts of an object are brought in close contact with the smell buds, which is macro equivalent of the strong nuclear interaction. Skin perceives heat and cold when they are in motion leaving the body that is macro equivalent of the radioactive disintegration. Ears hear sound waves that come near or recede from us or stay at a fixed distance (all signifying the relation between two bodies) that is macro equivalent of the gravitational interaction.
Individually the perception has no meaning. For example, what we see is the radiation emanating from out of the body and not the body proper. What we touch is the state of the mass that emits radiation and not the radiation it emits. Since eyes cannot touch or hand cannot see, individually they cannot describe the body fully. They become information and acquire meaning only when they are pooled and stable in our memory. In the lower animals, all the sense organs are not fully developed. Hence their capacity to function in tandem is limited. Thus, they only respond to situations based on memory. In human beings, the sense organs are fully developed. Hence they not only respond to situations, but also plan future strategies. This is the difference between them.
Since all these sensory perceptions are nothing but measurement of the objects in space in time, they are not ghostly, but real. Measurement implies the existence of the Conscious Agent who does the measurement of an object in space in time using an apparatus (of sensory perception). The result of measurement is information about the physical Cosmos of Atoms and organic matter stored for future use. Thus, they are related. All perceptions require energy to reveal the object and take the reading. In fact, energy connects both. But information or perception is not energy, but stored stable data.
The Cosmos appears to be a single field for two reasons: First, as the background structure (a General Field of Cosmae), it is common to all. Secondly, perception of information is common to all. The content of all perceptions is: “I know…..”. This part is common in all perceptions, though the object of perception change. Without this commonality, there cannot be communication. What we express must be understood by others exactly as the same. The gaps are not in the field, but in the non-linear distribution of mass and energy that seem to violate the integrity of the common description (density) and not that of the single field.
We hold that mind (Information-Assumption), which is also an instrument of perception, functions mechanically and thought is the inertia of mind. Once we receive an external impulse, our mind compares it with all stored similar or related impulses due to inertia that we call as the train of thought. Like inertia of motion is destroyed due to air friction, gravitational attraction or impact with other bodies, thought is destroyed by evaluating the impulse with all stored memory (knowing whatever is possible), getting the object of desire or pain that distracts our attention.
Perception is the processing by a conscious agent of the result of measurements of different but related fields of something with some data stored in memory to convey a combined form “it is like that”, where “it” refers to an object (constituted of bits) and “that” refers to a concept signified by the object (self-contained representation or information). Measurement returns restricted information related to only one field at a time. To understand all aspects, we have to ‘integrate’ these aspects.
In communication technology, the mixing is done through data, text, spread-sheets, pictures, voice and video. Data are discretely defined fields. What the user sees is controlled by software - a collection of computer programs. What the hardware sees is bytes and bits. In perception, these tasks are done in the brain. Data are the response of our sense organs to individual external stimuli – e.m. fields by eye, etc. Text is the excitation of the neural network that carries these impulses to the brain. Spreadsheets are the excitation of the neural network in specific regions of the brain. Pictures are the inertia of motion generated in memory (thought) after a fresh impulse, linking related past experiences. Voice is the disturbance created due to the disharmony between the present thought and the stored image (this or that, yes or no). Video is the net response that emerges out of such integration. This is ego. Hardware includes the neural network. Bytes and bits are the changing interactions of the sense organs (string) with their respective fields generated by the objects evolving in time. Software is the operations of mind. Split personality is a malfunction of the mechanism for mixing the fresh impulse with stored memory.
All of these are digital, but none of these are conscious. They act mechanically according to the laws of conservation, inertia, language, command and control like the hardware and software of the computer, where the brain acts like the CPU. The computer can be operated with electric energy. The heart provides this energy through pumping of not only blood, but also oxygen. Consciousness (the ‘I’ part) is the operator, which is beyond all these. It not only switches on the electricity and the computer, but also perceives and uses the information. Like space and time, it is infinite – hence present everywhere – not outside the biological world.
The consciousness of a person is detected only as whether he/she is alive or dead or at best whether he/she is awake or sleeping. Beyond this, whatever is detected is his/her emotions expressed verbally or through non-verbal communication. In the wakeful state, the sense organs receive impulse from the physical world, which are bound by the laws of physics. Like a sculptor making a die, a mirror image of the impulse is carried by the sense organs. The neurons do not interact with the external world, but carry the mirror image from the sense organs to appropriate regions of the brain to make an imprint there giving the proper image. Hence they are not bound by the laws of the physical world. During dream, the link from the external world is cut off, the neurons are still active. Thus, the ego can integrate various stored images in a dream without any constraint. If we have earlier seen horses and some birds flying, we can dream of flying horses or ourselves flying, which is not possible in wakeful state. These two states are causal states. During deep sleep, the neurons cease to act. Though the ego remains active in deep sleep (we get up if someone calls us), it cannot act on its own till some impulse is received by it as its only role is integration of impulses. But consciousness remains the observer as long as the energy circulating system is active in the body.
Since consciousness is infinite, it cannot be enlarged. Perception by the ego or memory can be enlarged. The first time we perceive, we do not cognize it properly, but it gets registered in our memory. The next time we perceive it, we cognize it as “It is like that”. Color blindness is due to defect in our sensory organs either individually or collectively in some geographical location. Sub-conscious learning and subconscious memory are like ordinary memory, where there is a delay in retrieval of the response to the received impulse. Freewill is not an illusion. The basic mechanism of action is as follows: If we feel a deficit of or a necessity for something, and from our memory, if we could find a way to fulfill our requirement, then we have a desire to do that. The appropriate part of our brain issues necessary command to the necessary body parts to act accordingly. When our knowledge is total, our action appears as freewill. Otherwise, we act as if in doubt. It is true that the brain acts as a quantum computer, but it is still an inert body part, as there is no difference between the brain of a person just before and after death. Thus, brain is not conscious.
In lucid dreaming, this process is hampered with attendant consequences. These may appear as affecting thought, perception, emotion, will, memory, and imagination, etc. Further, thought is generated due to previous knowledge, repeated efforts, indulgence, and unusual sporadic experience. By the practice of lucid dreaming, mind is naturally attracted towards it. Thus, the ability to judge reality in all its aspects is seriously restricted making one an expert in a limited field like a frog in the well. Such people with find it difficult to adjust in the society. We treat the body including the brain, the neural network and the mind as inert and go beyond it. Apparently, there is nothing wrong in experimenting with lucid dreams. But it does affect the personality in the long run. Hence the effect will not be evident immediately. In this connection, we have briefly discussed about sleep in our previous post. You can look into the following aspects.
During lucid dream, if research (which is a function of wakeful state as it involves examining objects present physically or as concepts in memory) is conducted, there is a continuous transformation between the unimodal and multimodal sensory impressions. This draws more energy necessitating more rest, which is hampered by the process of lucid dream. Thus, this has double impact. Lucid dreams can be dangerous.