We are such stuff as dreams are made on…
August 19, 2011
An interesting article on science and spirituality by Jonathan Camery-Hoggatt, published by The Global Spiral.
We all dream every night whether we consciously remember it or not, and—when we dream— boundaries blend, physical laws break, and imagination combines experiences freely. Emotional potency from dreams often spills over into waking life, too, and haunts us throughout the day. Dreams open windows into the self that often remain closed when we are awake. They force us to face difficult questions every night of our lives and engage imagination in response. Few other experiences can drive us to search ourselves so deeply and detach us from what we think we know so successfully—meditation, prayer, or a particularly moving liturgy, maybe—but the experience of dreaming often feels spiritual whether or not dreamers know about brain cells firing patterns. Now: if we can map the neurological processes correlated with dreaming, do dreams lose their religious meaning along the way? It would be overly ambitious to say that we can comprehensively explain anything relating to the brain at this point, but the need for an answer still seems imminent.
This sort of question is not unique to dreams; it has plagued every area of human experience for centuries. How did humans come to be? God. Until evolution. How did the cosmos come to be? God. Until the Big Bang. When gaps in understanding of physical processes disappear, many people’s God goes with them. Their sense of meaning diffuses like breath in the wind. In the future: if we can map the neurological processes correlated with waking experience, does all of life lose its religious meaning along the way, too?
For Camery-Hoggatt, the answer to this question is no. Read the article to find out why.