Sleep disorders : somnambulism and somniloquy

In this article, we discuss sleep disorders such as somnambulism and somniloquy from an occult perspective.   There are supposed to be five concentric sheaths in our consciousness and during sleep, the subtle sheaths eject themselves from the gross physical sheath to travel in their corresponding subtle realms, as was discussed in an earlier article on Explaining out-of-body and near-death experiences.  Some sleep disorders can be attributed to the irregularity in the manner in which these sheaths interact with each other during sleep.

Photo by Rad el Baluvar. Click image for source

Somnambulism (sleep-walking)

Based on empirical scientific evidence, sleep-walking is said to be precipitated by sleep deprivation, fatigue and fever and intake of drugs, especially sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotics, stimulants and antihistamines.  It  is most prevalent amongst children and decreases with age.  It has been observed to occur during the slow-wave sleep stage; this is the stage of sleep in which mental performance is most impaired and no dreams are said to occur.   There even seems to be a genetic component to this disorder.  Medical science has developed various theories regarding sleep-walking and preliminary information regarding these theories can be obtained in [1, 2].

Now onto the occult perspective.  According to the Mother Mirra Alfassa, somnambulism occurs when the astral body, which has gone out of the physical body during sleep, drags the physical body along with itself.   Normally, when we fall asleep, the astral body (subtle body) ejects from the physical body and travels in its corresponding subtle world.  There is a silver cord which maintains the bond between the astral and physical bodies.   What happens during sleep-walking is that the physical body consciousness, enfeebled due to fatigue, is incapable of resisting the astral body’s influence and consequently, involuntarily moves along with the latter.

Photo: Sleepwalking. Courtesy BBC. Click image for source

Question: At times when one goes out of the body, the body follows the part which goes out.

Mother Mirra Alfassa: You are speaking of a somnambulist? But that is quite another thing. This means that the part which goes out (whether a part of the mind or a part of the vital) is so strongly attached to the body, or rather that the body is so attached to this part, that when this part decides to do something the body follows it automatically. In your inner being you decide to do a certain thing and your body is so closely tied to your inner being that without thinking of it, without wanting to do so, without making any effort, it follows and does the same thing. Note that in this matter, the physical body has capacities it would not have in the ordinary waking condition. For instance, it is well known that one can walk in dangerous places where one would find it rather difficult to walk in the waking state. The body follows the consciousness of the inner being and its own consciousness is asleep – for the body has a consciousness. All the parts of the being, including the most material, have an independent consciousness. Hence when you go to sleep dead tired, when your physical body needs rest absolutely, your physical consciousness sleeps, while the consciousness of your subtle physical body or your vital or of your mind does not sleep, it continues its activity; but your physical consciousness is separated from the body, it is asleep in a state of unconsciousness, and then the part which does not sleep, which is active, uses the body without the physical consciousness as intermediary and makes it do things directly. That is how one becomes a somnambulist. According to my experience, the waking consciousness goes to sleep for some reason or other (usually due to fatigue), but the inner being is awake, and the body is so tied to it that it follows it automatically. That is why you do fantastic things, because you do not see them physically, you see them in a different way. [4]

Question: How can one be cured of somnambulism?

Mother Mirra Alfassa: Quite simply, by putting a will upon the body before going to sleep. One becomes a somnambulist because the mind is not developed enough to break the inner ties. For the mind always separates the external being from the deeper consciousness. Little children are quite tied up. I knew children who were quite sincere but could not distinguish whether a thing was going on in their imagination or in reality. For them the inner life was as real as the external life. They were not telling stories, they were not liars; simply the inner life was as real as the external life. There are children who go night after night to the same spot in order to continue the dream they have begun – they are experts in the art of going out of their bodies. [4]

Somniloquy (sleep-talking)

Sleeptalking is said to be prevalent amongst children and also found to occur in fatigued adults.   According to the Mother Mirra, this occurs because the mental sheath does not travel out of the body as it normally would during dreams.

Question: Sweet Mother, At times I talk in my sleep. It is a sign that the mind lacks control, isn’t it? So what should I do to keep it quiet at night?

Mother Mirra Alfassa: Generally when the body is asleep at night, the mind goes out because it is difficult for it to remain quiet for a long time; and that is why most people do not talk.

But your mind seems to remain in your body, so you must ask it to remain perfectly quiet and silent so that your body can rest properly. A little concentration for that, before going to sleep, will surely be effective. [3]

Related (and unrelated) Posts

  1. Towards more conscious sleep and dreams
  2. Perception of Time changes with the concentration of consciousness
  3. The existence of vital signs during sleep or coma
  4. Why one should not hate the sinner?
  5. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Astrology
  6. Sri Ramakrishna’s occult contact with Sri Aurobindo
  7. Ramana Maharshi on World War II
  8. Silviu Craciunas has a dream of Sri Aurobindo
  9. Spirituality : between morality and immorality
  10. Hermeneutics: how to read holy scriptures

References

  1. Why Do Some People Sleepwalk? in the Ask the Brains column of the Scientific American Mind »February 2008 (accessed Dec 15, 2010)
  2. Sleepwalking wikipedia .  (accessed Dec 15, 2010)
  3. Collected Works of the Mother, vol 16, p 400.
  4. Collected Works of the Mother, vol 4, pp 127-128.
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16 thoughts on “Sleep disorders : somnambulism and somniloquy

  1. Pingback: World Spinner

  2. Srikanth

    Does the gross physical in any way constrain the movements of the vital, mind, and the subtle physical during somnambulism?

    “What happens during sleep-walking is that the physical body consciousness, enfeebled due to fatigue, is incapable of resisting the astral body’s influence and consequently, involuntarily moves along with the latter.”
    Did you mean that the astral body unintentionally tugs the physical body (which normally tries to resist) while trying to “eject” itself during the decoupling/separation or that it intentionally tries to take the physical along with it (and is resisted)?

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      I am just interpreting the Mother’s words given in the article 🙂

      > Did you mean that the astral body unintentionally tugs
      > the physical body (which normally tries
      > to resist) while trying to “eject” itself
      > during the decoupling/separation OR
      > that it intentionally
      > tries to take the physical along with it (and is resisted)?

      I think it is unintentional

      The physical body has an elemental consciousness of its own. During sleep, this elemental consciousness continues to reside in the body and animate it while the other sheaths are “outside” the physical.

      Under normal circumstances, the elemental consciousness is developed enough to resist the pull of the astral body but in cases where it is weak (due to fatigue) or ill-developed (as in children), the astral body unintentionally tugs the physical body along with itself.

      Reply
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  8. Sandeep Post author

    This is research by neuroscientists which needs to be incorporated into this article at some future point.

    From http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2011/03/27/study-finds-that-sleepwalkers-learn-by-going-through-the-motions/

    By videotaping sleepwalkers as they got some shut-eye, French and Swiss researchers caught on tape what other studies have deduced through brain recordings and memory tasks: As we sleep, our brains seem to replay what we learned during the day.

    * The researchers recruited 19 sleepwalkers and 20 people with sleep behavior disorder, who physically act out their dreams, plus 18 people without any sleep disorders.
    * All the subjects learned a physical skill: hitting particular buttons arrayed around them in response to different prompts from a computer.
    * The researchers then videotaped each person as they slept. One of the sleepwalkers lifted her arms during REM sleep and started moving her hands in a familiar pattern: an “obvious and accurate re-enactment of a short fragment of the recently learned sequence of movements,” the researchers wrote.

    According to the paper, “this study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence of a temporally-structured replay of a learned behavior during sleep in humans. Our observation also suggests that the study of such sleep disorders may provide unique and critical information about cognitive functions operating during sleep.”

    See http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0018056

    Reply
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