by Peter Nagels
In Dreams - the intelligent universe I proposed a theory to explain the process of dreaming. Here I take those ideas further and look at how they apply to the function of dreams.
Dream and sleep researchers, a hundred years after Freud and fifty years after the discovery of REM sleep, are still no closer in forming a consensus as to why we dream.
Contemporary wisdom has rejected Freud as unscientific. Personally I see the internal logic of psychoanalysis as a significant literary achievement, which has completely reconceptualized our approach to meaning in the arts. Freud may not have written fiction himself, but his theories permeate every modern narrative work, be it a novel or a film or for some, life itself.
So why do we dream? Are dreams the dustbin of the mind into which we cast the things that have upset us during the day as proposed by Francis Crick and Graeme Mitchison?
Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley developed the activation-synthesis hypothesis which suggests that dreams reflect the brain's efforts to attribute meaning to the incredible multitude of random internally generated signals in the brain.
These and other theories may have some truth to them, but I suspect there are bigger things happening. Things which cannot be tested or explained by research in a sleep lab.
Our activities in dreams are the building blocks for the unity of the multiverse. Multiverse is the name given to the totality of all parallel universes.
Sleep researcher Craig Heller has found that prior to the onset of periods of REM sleep "there are brief and subtle patterns of activity which look like aborted transitions into REM.. the pressure builds up through a bout of non-REM until the brain can no longer hold it back". (New Scientist 28/6/03)
There appears to be a compulsion to enter REM sleep - to be part of this other form, the grand design of the multiverse. Different versions of ourselves (from all the parallel worlds of which we are a part) take turns, at different times or simultaneously, in representing us in dreams. We are compelled to sleep and to dream to keep this bigger form existent.
Many researchers believe that the function of sleep is restorative, be it the topping up of glycogen in the brain (Craig Heller) or Terrence Synowski's hypothesis that during non-REM sleep the brain replenishes proteins, strengthens synapses, etc. These activities occur during non-REM sleep when the mind is apparently unconscious. REM sleep becomes a recovery period, where the changes are paused and tested.
These theories are looking at the chemical and earthbound elements of sleep and dreaming. What if the restorative work being done during non-REM sleep is actually priming us for the real action which occurs during dreaming. Non-REM sleep, after all, precedes dreaming - the brain making sure its batteries are fully charged for the main event.
The similarities in brainwave patterns between waking life and REM sleep imply that on certain levels the brain may be functioning in similar ways, the most notable similarity being that we are conscious in both states. In both states we are receiving sensory input, though in the case of dreams, the origin of this input and the organs involved in its reception remain cloaked.
In dreams (as explained in "Dreams - the intelligent universe") we migrate to the multiverse and go on an incredible journey. As the world turns, billions of people and perhaps also animals make these interdimensional journeys.
These journeys produce traces, be they electrical or of some substance we cannot physically measure. All combined, the traces our journeys make as we pass through billions of parallel universes create a form, a collective shape, giving the multiverse existence.
We are compelled to dream so that we can be part of this other much greater world which spans and in some way bonds all parallel universes.
Researchers have shown that in early childhood - even in the womb - infants have a very high proportion of REM sleep. Perhaps our consciousness originates from this other existence. That may explain why consciousness is the most elusive and ethereal of forms. An understanding of the chemical and electrical processes occurring in the brain does not add up to an understanding of the nature of consciousness.
Dream research will produce more data to hypothesize about, but it will never give us an insight into the astounding multiverse of which our dreams form a part. For a deeper understanding, the disciplines will have to unite.
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