Sunday 1 September 2019

Dreaming and Deep Sleep as kinds of experience

There are three types of consciousness we experience: Deep Sleep, Waking and Dreaming.

The relative rate of Time runs differently in each state. While inside each state, time is experienced as if running at the same rate - because our thinking can only be at the speed of thinking. But a huge amount of subjective experience can be fitted into a dream of a few minutes; while hours of Deep Sleep may pass without any awareness of time having passed...

To use an audio analogy; from the perspective of our Waking consciousness, playing a vinyl LP recording at 33 revolutions per minute (rpm); Deep Sleep sounds something like it was recorded at 33 revs per second - so at 33 rpm everything is so slowed-down, that it sounds like almost nothing happening except low groaning noises... Whereas a Dream sounds as if it was recorded at 33 revs per day - so that when played at 33 rpm the audio is so fast as to be incomprehensible gabble.

Or, with a video metaphor - from the Awake state, Deep Sleep is so slow that it is like a still picture, a photograph; while Dreaming is on ultra-fast-forward.

A Being living in Deep Sleep would see our Waking life whizzing past in a blur. (This looks to be what is happening when a waking person tries to interact with a sleep walker - who is in Deep Sleep; the sleep walker stares uncomprehendingly in response to blurringly fast movements and sounds). Whereas a Being in Dreaming time would see our Waking lives in slow motion; every moment 'dissected' into a sequence of tiny sub-components; like the super-slo-mo action-replay, analysing the precise details of releasing a cricket ball from a spin-bowler's fingers...

It is this difference in the relative speed of experience in Deep Sleep, Waking and Dreaming; that probably explains why we cannot recall Dreams, and why nothing seems to happen in Deep Sleep.

If that observing Being was divine, and was intervening to affect our lives; a Deep Sleep Being could only affect the broad outlines and shapes of our lives, and after a delay; whereas a Being in Dreaming Sleep time would be able to affect many detailed things in Waking life, almost instantly.

If we then consider the purpose of our three states of consciousness, in terms of our mortal lives having the purpose of giving us experiences from which we may learn that which we (personally) most need to learn; it seems likely that Dreaming has a very important role in our lives - because in Dreaming we can experience a far greater range of experiences than in waking life.

Since dream experience feels pretty much the same as Waking experience, but we can fit (say) 100 times more into an hour of Dreaming than an hour of Waking; and since furthermore Dreaming is not constrained by material limitations, but can provide any experience that can be imagined; it may be that most of our experience of life is achieved in the Dreaming State.

Perhaps in Dreaming we get the greatest breadth and quality of experience; but the experience is not as powerful as Waking experience - which is narrower, deeper and simpler; and is dominated by external, sensory input.

And then Deep Sleep provides experiences that are extremely simple and relatively few; experienced derived via inner sources - but perhaps the most powerful experiences of all.

Perhaps - in other words - there is a trade-off between the speed of time, and the depth of experience; such that the three states of consciousness - between themselves, and overall - provide each person with what they need to experience, in ways suited to their capacity for learning.

Note: I think that Deep Sleep, Waking and Dreaming all continue all of the time; to varying degrees - and consciousness moves between them. So, as we are awake, as you read this; Dreaming is ongoing, and also the slow motion of Deep Sleep. For instance' when we 'nod-off' to sleep, our consciousness can suddenly 'drop-into' an already on-going Dream, or the on-going process of Deep Sleep.

The sources of experience, the source of 'content' of these states of consciousness, is likely to differ; although probably this is a difference in emphasis rather than absolute. For example it seems likely that Waking States are dominated by the senses, and perhaps especially vision. Dreams seem to be in the universal realm of consciousness - the underworld, the 'dwat' of the Ancient Egyptians, the realm of what Jung misnames the Collective Unconscious (because it is actually as Conscious as we ourselves are conscious in dreams). Deep Sleep probably derives its content from emotion; that is from our inner world of organs and vegetative functions.

So Dreaming, Waking Deep perhaps broadly correspond to our persepctive on universal reality, immediate external environment, internal environment. 


Ron Krumpos said...

Many mystics do claim a parallel between deep meditation and dreamless sleep. In both cases, ego and individuality are forgotten, the sense of self and other are absent, and pure consciousness is actuated.

Few mystics equate dreamless sleep with divine union, yet few would rule it out entirely. Given their assumption divine essence is within every person, but because it is usually unrealized, dreamless sleep might be necessary for us to reunite with our true self, with the source and spirit of our being. Not all mystics would agree and most psychiatrists, physiologists and non-religious persons would not even consider it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@RK - By my understanding, Christians are not supposed to want divine *union* since we are children of God, like Jesus - and our ideal would therefore be that of a divine *family*; joined by love not assimilation.

Jesus offered the gift of everlasting resurrected life; and resurrection is incompatible with union (since bodies separate). A perfectly loving relationship isn't a union (love entails distinction, separation); it is like of a permanent dyad.

The wish for a loss of individuality and self, and reabsorption into the divine (Nirvana) is most associated with Buddhism, Hinduism and the like. I realise that some self-identified Christians have wanted it; and probably attained it (since our loving Father will presumably try to give us all non-malign wishes concerning our eternal disposition) - but it isn't what God wants for us, it isn't why Jesus was incarnated, died and was resurrected.

Ron Krumpos said...

Bruce, Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within you (among you or in your midst).

Some Christian mystics have said that too, albeit phrased differently:

“To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of God and the Ground of the soul are one and the same.” Meister Eckhart

“The soul lives by that which it loves rather than in the body which it animates. For it has not its life in the body, but rather gives it to the body and lives in that which it loves.” St. John of the Cross

“Suddenly God came and united Himself to me in a manner quite ineffable. Without any ‘confusion of persons’ He entered into every part of my being, as fire penetrates iron, or light streams through glass.” St. Simeon [Symeon the New Theologian]

“My me is God, nor do I know my selfhood save in Him. My Being is God, not by simple participation, but by true transformation of my Being.” St. Catherine of Genoa

“The deified person, while remaining completely human in nature...becomes wholly in God in both body and soul, through grace and the divine brightness of the beatifying glory that permeates the whole person.” Maximus the Confessor

stephen cooper said...

If you are right about the concurrent importance of those three phases, there is something to wanting, in each phase, to remember the other phases ... to remember how we viewed the people we care about in those other phases ..... reminds me of George MacDonald and a couple other writers on how eternal life is this life but on a different scale, with no loss of a single good moment ......

I once read (maybe here on this site) that the reason Jesus said "My God why have you abandoned on me" on the cross was not because of anything to do with the fact that at that moment in time He was literally being murdered on a cross by being forced to undergo crucifixion at that particular moment, but because - and who knows, these things are not matters of scholarly record - because on that day at that hour that would be the exact line of prayer He would have been reciting anyway as part of whatever "liturgy of hours" He was following, in that particular year, and He was not going to let a little thing like the evil shenanigans of the justice system of the Roman Empire keep Him from his wonted round of prayers.

Bruce Charlton said...

@RK. I'm familiar with that line of argument, but I am saying it is mistaken - it seeks something less than what Jesus offered. After all, if God wanted us to be absorbed into him, unified; there would be no point in our existence in the first place. Why bother incarnating into earthly life if the self and body are then to be dissolved away, discarded? Why resurrect the body? It doesn't cohere. And it is alien to the Fourth, and most important, Gospel.

Bruce Charlton said...

Stephen. He probably did not actually say it, since the only eye witness account of the events (fourth gospel) gives his last words as: It is finished - and the synoptic accounts overall don't ring true to me.