I am laying down on my bed just as the moment before, only now,
There is a forest.
As my eyes fall, I am plunged into another world.
there is a fence by the trees, keeping the wilderness out, only there is a hole,
I watch the opening, and I know, I understand something is coming,
A creature. And as this thought emerges, a coyote appears.
He stares into my eyes. He approaches me, so calm and quiet.  I can hear the stillness.
The outside kind of stillness, an eternal din, muffled by the
night.
Then he is there, In my bed. 
He is so content, so happy in my lap.
I am talking to him, only we aren’t speaking.
Now we are the same, I have become the coyote on the bed.
Just for a moment.
Suddenly his head jolts upright and his nostrils flare as he breathes out heavily. 
I can smell him in a deep inhale. I feel the bed shake as he runs away.
A moment later a wolf appears.  This wolf is female, and she is beautiful. She comes to sit next to me.  I understand I can no longer be friends with the coyote, it is not wise.  The wolf’s head and neck stretch out and she for a moment becomes human and wolf simultaneously.
And then I awaken.
Quite suddenly my senses return, I had been dreaming.
But this is how it always is.
You shake your head a bit as traces of the dream whisper fading images into your eyes, and fleeting feelings drain down into darkness.
You forget the feeling of those animals, them breathing next to you, being them.  A thing you have never done in your waking physical reality, and could have no knowledge of.

Then you adjust your clothing, you brush your teeth and head out to engage in conscious activities with many other human beings, who have also just arisen from the myriad insanities that crept into the electron clouds of the things that are dreams within the brain.

All are completely nonplussed at existing for a while in a momentary alternate reality.

The fact that people can just walk around like everything is normal and rational all the time, and yet fall asleep to become a unicorn flying through the air, and then awaken to drive to work like nothing ever happened, is an accomplishment of composure that deserves some recognition.  Dreams remain perhaps as mysterious as the bottom of the ocean or extreme outer space, because we can traverse those places within them.

Albeit, not every human being is graced with unusual dreams of such a fantastical nature, but what does happen is that everyone does dream. Everyone, even if they do not remember it.  As far as science is concerned, all the eyeballs of the earth dance of REM.   Even if they do not recall soaring through the air as a unicorn, it still happens at a point in time and space. 

An enraging situation occurs when one contemplates just how many of these dream experiences each of us has had in our lifetime that we have no memory of and never will. These are events that happened only in our own minds and we can not know them. I find this hilarious.  Imagine if you could not remember half your life.  Imagine it, and then understand how much of your dream life you have forgotten.  All those moments where you existed upon the earth, and yet… did not, kind of.   Human beings half exist on the earth during the night while the other half has departed joyfully to somewhere else.

How miraculous, that it is accepted as a normal state, to lay motionless for hours while experiencing DEEP hallucinations and disassociation from reality.  A disassociation that is so radical, the physical body participates by partially paralyzing itself.  For those who have ever been the poor devil to experience sleep paralysis, the physical body is entirely suspended and you are trapped within your corpse as a nesting doll.  Try and make efforts to suspend your body in a state like that while you are awake, you cant make it even if you try your hardest, hardest ever.  We can’t force ourselves to dream, it would seem we are taken by dreams into submission in an unstoppable inevitability.  Each night as the moon rises, the Dream stalker comes to take us into its net.

A human being can completely disassociate from reality every evening of its existence and essentially hallucinate new realities within a motionless state.  It has been discovered that the brain is more active at night than it is during the day.  Our brains are like Dracula, creatures of the night.  More active at night!  That means what ever it is that is going on within our minds to provide the disassociation from reality requires more effort than managing to move around and do stuff in the physical world of “reality.”

And yet, if there is any disassociation from, or hallucinations contained within a WAKING state, this is considered a mental illness.  What sad creature is mankind, how can it be that we know so little of mental illness, when we spend so much time napping in its bosom?  We all attain such states on a nightly basis, only to promptly forget and discard them upon awakening, and then seem to be at a loss as to how to contain mental illness.

We can place our concentration upon the fact that people become mentally ill when they stop sleeping and dreaming for some clues to the nature of this psycho phenomenon.

For you see, the simple act of not sleeping can make one hallucinate and disassociate from reality.  Now this is odd because those are the very things which occur in sleep itself.  It is as if the dream is going to happen one way or another, whether we close our eyes or not, we can not stop the dream from overtaking us in a compulsive possession.  Our minds go into Hallucinations of their own accord if we do not get them delivered by dreams every night.

The most astounding evidence of this was found, believe it or not, in a man named Mr. Tripp. Mr. Peter Tripp was a famous DJ in 1959.  He decided to try and stay awake and raise money for charity.  He lasted 8 days and 8 hours.  Several psychologists and doctors were there to study his behavior, which wound a path to psychosis in about three days.  Amazingly enough, one of the doctors on the team was named Mr. Dement.  This “Dr. Dement” as it were, noticed that Mr. Tripp’s experience was evidence to support Sigmund Freud’s theory that if taboo thoughts or desires were not expressed through dreams, psychic pressure would build up and lead to psychotic hallucinatory episodes.  Mr. Tripp became belligerent with everyone, and completely paranoid, exhibiting symptoms of mania, depression, and fear.  His hallucinations included people, animals, and inanimate objects.  Dr. Dement concluded from the experience that dreams are the safety valve of the mind.[1]  But what does that mean exactly?  Safety valve implies our minds are dangerous if left to their own dreamless devices.  

There have been many cases and studies since Mr. Tripp, including some claims of people who have not slept in 30 years, although not scientifically verified.  Most studies show death results with lack of sleep within a year.

One disease that causes total insomnia, fatal familial insomnia, usually brings death within several months.   Aside from a few errant claims here and there, many studies find it is only a matter of time before we die if we stop sleeping entirely.  The mind degenerates into doldrum dementia until it becomes completely inoperable without its beloved dreams.

The relationships between sleep and psychiatric disorders have mostly been studied in patients with mood disorders.  They have noticed manic episodes are usually triggered by insomnia in people with chronic conditions.  For a sufferer of mental illness trying to keep it together, a night of lost dreams might push them over the edge into mania.

In these studies they also noticed the opposite effect to hold true.  If someone is suffering from severe depression, they discovered a technique to keep the patient awake all night.  This is called “wake therapy.”  They find this usually snaps them out of the pit of despair momentarily.  The patient will loose their depression simply by staying awake. Now, it can return after sleep, this isn’t a permanent cure, the method is used more like a slap in the face type of strategy.

If it is true, that any human being can get symptoms of mental illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia, mania and disassociative disorders, simply by not sleeping, it begs the question, how thin is the veil between these states to begin with?  

And why is it even possible (or what is the mechanism) that the flesh within a physical body disassociates from reality? How can a consciousness remove itself from the “physical” world, and where exactly does it go?

Some people would say, of course, it doesn’t go anywhere, the computer is only on power save mode, so to speak.  Some theories suppose that your brain is generating all of the imagery based on memory data banks. That explanation might make sense if all you dream about are your day-to-day experiences, but not if you are a unicorn flying through the air.  Obviously there are lots of visual influences, art, movies, etc, but imagery in some dreams exists outside any of these influences with seemingly no explanation.  Where do those dreams come from?

Then there is the whole nightmare thing.  That special occasion when the dark comes rising and all those nasty fears you shackled to your dungeon come to get you like a boogey man.  Nightmares, particularly nightmare disorders, kind of don’t fit theories of dreams in terms of just being a mind dump, or restful cleansing.  Nightmares make sleep the opposite of restful, sleep is torture and terrifying.  This type of destructive behavior by the mind in a time meant for restoration would seem akin to an intense autoimmune reaction where the body is attacking itself.  It seems like your body choosing death for eating a peanut, a kamikaze reaction that smacks of drama and makes no sense in terms of a biological organism trying to survive.

If the nightmare is just for psychological work by the subconscious, then the subconscious mind is purposeful and can think, reason, and have conscious intention towards our conscious mind, using dreams as an attempt to communicate with ourselves.  This would logically indicate there is another “you,” literally, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  A hidden Fugue, that is you but not you, that can talk to you.  Somehow your subconscious mind can give you a shout out in your brain’s most active stage, but the you that is awake, can’t get in there to get a proper look at who is down there yelling at you from your basement.

Nightmares tend to be linked with psychiatric disorders.

Obviously everyone can have a nightmare once in a while, and more so if they have experienced real trauma in their waking life, although not always, which is strange, really. Scientists attribute nightmares with no apparent traceable mother to “stress.”  Now the fact that “stress” can induce a dream of something like, say, getting drawn and quartered by horses, is fascinating and bizarre.  The ability of the mind to construct such a story as a result of stress is amazing and speaks to the fathomless ability for creativity our minds hold.  To have dreams of horrible realities not your own, triggered by no outside source (movies books etc) requires a question as to the source of such information and imagery. 

Which brings us to examine the nature of the hallucinations themselves.  The word “hallucination” means wandering mind.  An interesting etymology, for anyone familiar with philosophy finds that all cultures discourage mind wandering vehemently.  The Zen chastise this as “monkey mind,” it is the ruminating, pensive, cunning mind. It can not distinguish real from unreal, it is deluding itself, it has wandered off and makes us see things that aren’t there like a desert mirage. 

How do we see something that isn’t there? The very idea of seeing something that isn’t there implies that our eyeballs are projectors as well as receivers, like lasers, pushing and pulling light waves all over the place. Technically in fact, our eyeballs are rarely involved in hallucinations.  Even though we experience the shadow forms within our vision mechanisms, the “seeing” of a dream or waking hallucination all happens within the brain.   Although, the eyeballs are excessively active during dreaming, they aren’t even being used, the perception information is all coming from the inside, deep in the brain.  And that is really creepy.  This means, we do not need our eyes to see, we are capable of “seeing,” or making up “sights” in our brain.  Sure, they may or may not be real, but we see things in our minds, that much is certain.  Unless you are a blind person, according to data, blind people do not have visuals in dreams, it is feeling, sensory, hearing, smelling and other senses, but no sight.  So this means there is some connection to visual hallucinations and our sight history, or else technically blind people would see those things too in dreams, regardless of their eyeballs.

There are many variations and levels of hallucinations, you can be awake and be in reality and see things that aren’t there, for example.  Or you can be awake (or asleep) and be in a totally different reality, this is called dissociative.  Scientists say hallucinations are sensory reactions to stimulus that does not exist.  Like some kind of haywire system.  This is the predicament of the schizophrenic, too much stimulation that isn’t there.  Schizophrenia can be diagnosed by certain dream behaviors, and some researchers feel the schizophrenic is trapped in a waking dream state, unable to wake up.

It also deserves mention here that certain plants, when ingested, can chemically confer to our brains the experience of such dreamy mental illness states of mind.  You can become exactly manic bipolar by taking crystal meth, for example.  Or if you would like to disassociate from reality and go to another world, this can be accomplished by smoking DMT.  People seek these states out and eat plants on purpose in order to go into waking dreams, and yet no one seeks mental illness.  Why are there plants on the earth that make our brains go into dissociative dream states? It would seem logical to assume that if a plant is riddled with chemicals that induce a dream state, surely it must live in that state also.  Or is it more like a viper, who carries the deadliest venom, but never dies from it.

They suppose this false, or deceptive stimulus all comes from memories of input we have already received at some point in our life.  That the weird menagerie of smells sights feelings and sounds that have already entered us are now are just kind of banging around in there.  Again, this is all fine and good, until you dream of something completely foreign. Like say, dreaming you are the sun, or abducted by aliens.  Or you take DMT and see dragons floating everywhere, and everyone else who takes DMT sees the same dragons.  That has to either be sheer creativity on the part of the brain, or it is coming from some other source, rather than just our memories.

If it is coming from some other source, some unifying consciousness feeding it to us, how could that be?  To examine the unifying experiences of dreams and how we can find universal dream experiences we can look at mythology and religious views on Dreams.  

There have been many maps made of the dream-lands, the Bardo, the land of the dead, purgatory, the fourth dimension, or the place between places.  Almost every culture around the globe has these places named and described. They are the “other” lands.  The Book Of Legendary Lands by Umberto Eco affords a unique perspective on many of such places. The Egyptian and Tibetan books of the dead are both instruction manuals for operating in these locations, along with the Divination system known as the I Ching, the book of changes.

If we do go to a destination when we disassociate from this physical reality, we must pause for a moment and acknowledge this feat as miraculous.  In Judaism, they view the departure arrival and return from this destination as a nightly soul journey, dangerous and serious. In their view, it is by the grace of God the soul is returned to the flesh each morning.  They have special prayer thanking God for returning them every morning called the Modeh Ani:

“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”

Some dreams have a “realness” to them. Like you are living, breathing, being, and there is no different than waking.  I myself don’t have these HYPER dreams every time, but when I do, I can feel and smell and sense things in the same manner I am doing now.  The place where the dream occurs is so real it is messed up how real it is.  These are the kind of dreams that can create an acute existential crisis due to their veracity.

The reality of these places, visited by our wandering night souls, has been felt by many humans throughout history. What about everything else on Earth?  If there are “real” dream-lands, are we the only ones who get to go?  Who is invited to the dream party?  

In Nature, in the animal kingdom, we find that many animals dream. A recent finding showed Dolphins in captivity in France were talking in their sleep, but please be advised, they were talking in humpback whale language.[2]  That would be like if you sleep-talked in Spanish, but you didn’t know Spanish.  These dolphins were captive born.

At what point does this activity, this dreaming hallucinating disassociation end?   With mammals? With birds? With fish? Plants? Even insects are being shown to at least sleep, or go into a state of torpor.  Invertebrates such as nematodes have sleep-like states, does that mean they also dream? Does the Ocean dream? Do atoms sleep and dream as people do? Is it only things with BRAINS? According to scientists, only things with nervous systems can dream and it is seen as a brain activity specifically.

What we can answer with all certainty is that atoms and molecules appear in our dreams and even communicate to us.  In ways other than words, they have participated in an expression of their real reality and beingness within the dreams of human beings.  Perhaps the most incredible example of this is the case of August Kekule, who dreamed of Benzene with 100% accuracy, although at the time, no one could see Benzene.  He saw its structure in the dream-land.  How could this be as a result of excess images streaming through his resting mind? And he is not the only one.  The most famous of these types of dreams is certainly James Watson’s dream of a spiral staircase that showed him the structure of the DNA molecule.

So we could chalk this all up to the delicate chemical balance in the flesh of our marrow, and say its all biological.  We can see other earthly organisms (with nervous systems) gripped by the same embrace.

But what still does not get explained satisfactorily in those circumstances is the biological ability and need to disassociate to begin with.  Biologically, if you think sleeping and dreaming is to “clean up” or “rest” the fact that the brain exhibits more activity at night hardly seems restful in terms of energy.

Additionally, descriptions of similar locations people are visiting in dissociative states that have consistencies in common is definitely unusual. The fact that accurate scientific data can be received in dreams, like the shape of DNA, is severely incredible.

Even if you see the entire phenomenon as purely biological, The feat remains that a mass of cells sort of organizes itself to die every night.

If you do not see the whole situation as biological, What will you do now to discover the truth?

Will you remain uninterested, the next time your hidden Fugue, Mr. Hyde, reveals to you a dragon in your basement?

While I am afraid to report that I do not have the answer to reveal to you here and now, in this moment we are sharing why it is we sleep and we dream, all I can offer are these questions.  I hope that you will receive these questions and allow them entry to your dreams.  Wonder at your dreams.  Revel at them.  Help us dream up the destination that we all may arrive at the answer.

___

 1. Gievskaya, Maria. The Men Who Didn’t Sleep. The Story of Peter Tripp.

2. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/01/dolphins-reported-talking-whale-in-their-sleep/

 

Image by martinak15, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.