Where do you go and what do you do when you’re sound asleep?
How long have you got ???
Right now I am reading a book by Ray Kurzweil “How to create a mind”. There are 98 Episodes to “The brain science podcast”, all of which I have listened to, I spent several months working in a neurophysiology lab in 1975, and have read thousands of articles since, and a few dozen books since. My Kindle in sitting atop a bookstack on my beside table that includes “The Oxford companion to Philosophy” and “The Oxford companion to Consciousness”.
It seems that what happens in brain is that our brains create a model of the world that is informed and entrained by sense data, and by past experience and by the percepts and concepts we have (most of which we adsorb unconsciously from “culture”).
It seems that what we experience as reality is not actually reality, but is rather the model of reality that our brains create. Under normal circumstances that model is slightly predictive in nature, being between a tenth and a third of a second ahead of reality, to allow for all of the delays in firing of nerves and processing of information and sending out instructions to body to move.
When we sleep, several things happen.
When we are awake, our internal model is kept entrained with reality by input from our senses, and the outputs of our choices are sent to our muscles etc.
When we are asleep, there is no input from the senses to keep the model entrained to reality, and the outputs are normally disconnected from our muscles (but sometimes that inhibition doesn’t stop everything, and sometimes we “twitch” to our dreams – our dogs do this frequently).
Without input from the senses, our internal model of reality is free to go where-ever our subconscious processes send it. Thus, in our dreaming, we are able to explore any of the scenarios that are of concern to us at a subconscious level. Dreams can give us very powerful insights into many aspects of our subconscious reality, and through that to the wider reality in which we live.
So what we get to experience in our dreams is very much related to the schemas or modes of interpretation that have available to us. Thus if we have beliefs about things like gods and angels, then those things are part of our experience. They can be a part of our personal reality, without ever being in the objective physical reality, and as none of us have any direct connection to physical reality, there is no way to be completely certain about anything.
The thing to get, is that there is no direct experiential difference between dreams and reality from the perspective of awareness. From the perspective of our personal awareness, all we have of reality is the model that our brains produce for us. The only way we can judge between dreams and reality is by our ability to find consistency in experience.
It seems that the reality of being human is far stranger than any fiction of ages past.
If you can think of a sort of dream scenario, I have probably experienced it, or something close to it. My subconscious seems to have few boundaries. Fortunately, I don’t remember most of the dreams, and am able to maintain reasonable confidence about what in my memories are the result of dreams, and what is the result of real experience.
And there is another aspect of brain that adds confusion to the mix. It seems that when we recall a memory, we destroy it, so we have to lay it down again. Thus our memories can change in subtle and not so subtle ways over time. This seems to be in large measure why the retelling of highly emotionally charged experiences allows us to lessen the emotional attachment with the retelling, as there is always aspects of the current context of being that are laid down when the memories are re-lain. (Freud was onto something, just not even close to what he thought.)