Standing before a universe filled with matter, material scientists face the eternal mystery of explaining where all this stuff came from. We face no comparable mystery, however, over whether the mind has the ability to conjure up a three-dimensional world during dreams and hallucinations. In our world, we know dreams are possible.
Night dreams form part of the world’s fabric. They are the most common instance of the mind’s ability to create a world of its own. Sometimes we know we are dreaming; on other occasions we fold into the dream and fool ourselves into thinking we are not. While in the midst of a dream, we are convinced the dreamed world has an external existence. Its source appears outside of us; we do not usually believe the dream is self-produced. And, importantly, that is the point of dreaming. The mind wants to lose itself in the self-created world—a pail of water thrown into the ocean. The mind wants to mix into the dream world, and the picture it sees expresses its thoughts and desires.
Night dreams have neither the stability nor coherence of the public world. But during a night dream the dreamer knows no better; left with a dark world at night, the first act of the mind is to conjure up a private world. We do not fight off the dream but rather desire it. Dreaming comes naturally.
Material science believes that our experience during waking hours occurs against an external world detached from the mind. But we gain similar experiences at night when the mind creates its own external world. Anyone who has experienced a nightmare and awakened trembling, fearing the horror’s return, knows that night dreams can present a real experience. The mind is perfectly capable of furnishing its own external world; in dreams the mind furnishes both actors and stage.
Night dreams vary in intensity and vividness; some are soft shadows, fleeting images. But others arrive with such convincing presence that they erase the borderline between dream and reality. Sigmund Freud described a thirty-year-old man who distinctly recalled a dream he had when only four, a year after his father died. In the dream, the clerk holding his father’s will gave the boy two large pears, one to eat and one to save for later. The second pear rested on the windowsill in the living room. After waking up, the boy was so sure what he dreamed actually happened, he stubbornly asked his mother to give him the second pear he believed still rested on the windowsill.
According to some accounts no dreams are as real as those involving the sensation of flying. Havelock Ellis, in his book The World of Dreams, relates the experience of the French painter Raffaelli, who often dreamed of gliding through the air like a bird, and was so convinced by the reality of the experience that upon waking he often dove out of bed in the hope of reenacting his dream-flight. “I need not tell you,” the painter remarks, “that I have never been able to succeed.”
Our Mind Creates a Realistic Three-Dimensional World
That night dreams occur and that they sometimes carry the emotional force and presence of waking experience are two facts that few people question. But at night only our mind produces this realistic three-dimensional world. No external scientific force is present at that moment to install a three-dimensional world in front of us. Material scientists believe that the brain at night makes a copy of the real, waking world. But in the Real Dream another explanation is readily available: waking life, too, is a dream, but a dream we all share in. Waking life is the public dream; our night world, the private dream.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
This approach not only avoids the mystery of how the human brain—a supposed chance product of Darwin’s mindless version of evolution—duplicates physical reality, but it also helps explain how our night dreams sometimes connect to the waking world. In a common story theme, Sports Illustrated reported awhile back that:
The night before the woman’s figure skating final, Mary Scotvold had a dream. She dreamed that Nancy Kerrigan, whom Mary coaches with her husband, Evy, doubled her opening triple jump, the flip in that competition. Then, instead of falling apart, as Kerrigan had done in her marred performance at the 1993 world championship in Prague, Nancy pulled herself together to skate a clean program the rest of the way. Mary awoke Evy and related the dream to him.
And, of course, Kerrigan “skated just like in the dream.” Charles Dickens reported a similar dream in his personal journal:
I dreamed that I saw a lady in a red shawl with her back toward me. . . . On her turning around, I found that I didn’t know her and she said, “I am Miss Napier.” All the time I was dressing next morning, I thought—what a preposterous thing to have so very distinct a dream about nothing! and why Miss Napier? For I have never heard of any Miss Napier. That same Friday night I read. After the reading, [there] came into my retiring-room Miss Boyle and her brother, and the lady in the red shawl whom they presented as “Miss Napier!”
Although we can categorize all events such as these as mere coincidences or nature’s oddities, we should remember that drawing a connection between a thought in the mind and a natural event is common not only to the paranormal but also to the way scientists develop theories about the world. Every time a scientific theory is proven valid, such as Newton’s theory of gravity, we might ask how a thought in the mind comes to correspond with an event occurring in an external world supposedly detached from the mind?
How does theory manage to correlate with an independent natural event? Those who have studied how scientists devise theories point out that no systematic rules exist “by which hypotheses or theories can be mechanically derived or inferred from empirical data. The transition from data to theory requires creative imagination.” In other words, scientists commonly connect a theory to a natural event through intuition and insight, not through logical deduction. Professor Hempel relates an account of a scientific discovery that has much in common with precognitive dreams:
The chemist Kekulé . . . tells us that he had long been trying unsuccessfully to devise a structural formula for the benzene molecule when, one evening in 1865, he found a solution to his problem while he was dozing in front of his fireplace. Gazing into the flames, he seemed to see atoms dancing in snakelike arrays. Suddenly, one of the snakes formed a ring by seizing hold of its own tail and then whirled mockingly before him. Kekulé awoke in a flash: he had hit upon the now famous and familiar idea of representing the molecular structure of benzene by a hexagonal ring. He spent the rest of the night working out the consequences of this hypothesis.
The "Eureka" Dream and the Collective Mind
Nobel Prize–winning physicist Niels Bohr is reported to have been inspired to formulate his solar-system version of the atom through a night dream, and Albert Einstein is said to have arrived at his universe-shaking realizations through mystical visions. Material scientists call these episodes “Eureka!” moments, sparks of genius, happy accidents . . . but in them we find a feature common to precognitive dreams: a vision occurring only in the mind is later reflected in the public world. But why does science call one theorizing and the other fantasy?
Material science believes that no connection exists between mind and matter, and surely none between night dreams and the public world. If the world is a dream, however, then we necessarily share the same mind because it is a world common to all of us. At night the individual mind may more easily share in the collective mind of which it is fundamentally a part.
Night dreams say something about our world. During the night we project an external world that makes us believe it has an independent origin; we play a game on ourselves. What makes us believe similar events do not take place during the day? Our dreaming mind at night stands in the same relation to a night dream as our awake mind stands to the public world. Is not the difference between our night dreams and the daily world only one of degree? In the morning after a bad dream, we wake to realize we were only dreaming; the nightmare never happened. In a new morning, we may awaken and realize the greater dream stands before us.
©2013, 2014 by Philip Comella. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission. Publisher: Rainbow Ridge Books.
The Collapse of Materialism: Visions of Science, Dreams of God
by Philip Comella.
About the Author
PHILIP COMELLA is a practicing lawyer with a philosophy degree whose mission in life is to expose the fallacies in our current materialistic worldview and to advance a more promising—and rational—outlook. In pursuit of that mission, he spent 30 years studying the foundational ideas to our current scientific worldview and developing the arguments made in this book.
Watch an interview: The Collapse of Materialism (with Philp Comella)