Once, the mathematician Donald Newman(1930-2007) was struggling hard with a problem, but couldn’t resolve it by any means. He went to sleep at night and had a dream. This was not the kind of dream which gives the solution to a problem, but a dream in which he met fellow mathematician John Nash. Newman asked Nash about the problem, and Nash told him the answer. When Newman finally wrote the paper, he gave credit to Nash. (I’m not kidding, read the story in this book or in the Scientific American ).
Centuries ago, Yajnavalkya used the analogy of “the great fish which travels along both banks, the nearer and the farther” while referring to the human consciousness which oscillates between the waking and the deep sleep state (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.17). He wrote that when the Atman “rests in the intermediate state (of dream)”, it sees both states – waking and deep sleep (Brihad. Up. 4.3.9). In the state of dreamless sleep, the Advaita Vedantins saw evidence of the existence of Brahman; they reasoned that if a person feels refreshed after sleep, it must be because the Atman had temporarily united with Brahman .
One of the themes on which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother differ from early Vedantins is “conscious dream exploration”. While Sri Aurobindo claimed that the occult worlds that we enter in our dreams are as “real” as the physical world, the earliest Advaita Vedantins, Gaudapada and Adi Shankaracharya (8th century C.E.) saw all the worlds as illusory. For Gaudapada and Shankara, the highest state was sushupti (deep sleep) because the Atman became united with the Brahman in that state.
36 year-old Lee Hadwin of North Wales, Britain has neither the talent nor training to be an artist. His day job is a nurse. But he wakes up in the middle of the night and creates fantastical works of art, of which he has no recollection in the morning. He began drawing in his sleep in childhood and these drawings became more detailed by the time he was sixteen. Today, his work is displayed in art galleries! The Edinburgh Sleep Clinic has described his case as unique.
In the May 2011 issue of the Scientific American Mind magazine, a reader asked the question “Why do memories of vivid dreams disappear soon after waking up?”. According to current science, clarity of dreams depends on neurochemical conditions in the brain. Dreams are forgotten due to deficiencies in the hormone norepinephrine in the cerebral cortex, and more generally, due to the fact that dreams are not highly conscious activities in the brain. Check the link given above to read the entire answer. In this article, we will examine this question based on the Integral Psychology of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
In the Ask Brains Column of the Nov 2010 issue of the Scientific American Mind magazine, a reader asked the question, “How we can “see” in our dreams when our eyes are closed (since the retina is inactive)?“. The answer given over there was that these dream visions originate either in the visual centers within the brain or in the latent memories residing in the brain which in turn stimulate the visual cortex. You can read the question and the response over here. That answer is based on current model of the brain in neuroscience; it assumes that the brain is equivalent to the mind and that consciousness is the result of brain activity. In this post, we present the answer from the perspective of “yoga psychology”.
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.
As the consciousness becomes purified through regular practice of Yoga, one finds that sleep becomes more active and more real. Dreams no longer seem to be phantasmagoric illusions but resemble what they actually are – excursions into the occult worlds. We possess one unbroken stream of consciousness, which during the day dwells in the physical world and at night interacts with the occult worlds and consequently, the experiences we have in dreams are inextricably tied to the events in the physical world. In this article, we explore a few ways to become more conscious in sleep.
When we fall asleep or go into a coma, the greater part of our consciousness recedes from the surface and plunges into the depths of the subliminal being. But there still persists a life-force within the body which can remember and respond when presented with an external stimulus. Writing in the early part of the twentieth century, Sri Aurobindo had outlined this condition of consciousness in his work The Life Divine. Medical science is now offering experimental validation of his observation as adduced from a couple of experiments discussed in this article.