Veridical Dreaming: Anomalous Mental Phenomena, IV

In Pt. III, we introduced Marianne George (Cultural Anthropologist, Ph.D, University of Virginia).

The context of that discussion was simultaneous dreaming, and it ended with Marianne deciding that republishing her paper in its entirety would be the best approach. She added that if I were to do so, she’d be happy to receive criticism, answer questions, and/or discuss the paper. Well! I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly glad she’s given us this opportunity, as it’s not everyday we get to talk to the scientists who actually publish the papers we read and cite in our discussions of (a)theism.

Although Marianne saved me the work of having to relay her words to you, which also nicely eliminated the possibility of me getting any of her words wrong, I’d still like to address the relevance of Sleepdream #3 to our ongoing discussion on consciousness. For those who’d like to skip my thoughts and go straight to the source first, please do: you’ll find links to Marianne’s paper (in its entirety) at the end of this post.

Generally, a veridical dream is one where the subject acquires empirically verified or verifiable knowledge that coincides with an unknown, past, present or future reality. If you look at the chart, you’ll see my claim that veridical dreaming constitutes evidence against the sCCH. Though different in the range of phenomena each are willing to permit, both the weak cerebro-centric hypothesis (wCCH) and the strong cerebro-centric hypothesis (sCCH) ultimately posit that consciousness and the full sum of mental phenomena emerge from neurobiological processes. This means they are products of brains and biology meeting in individual heads, which means that consciousness should never be found existing outside of neurobiological components inside individual heads.

Both the wCCH and sCCH compete against what I call the tripartite model (TMC), the basic premise being that consciousness is not an exclusively neurobiological or cerebro-centric phenomenon limited to each individual head. We’ll flesh this definition out more as time goes on, but the basic idea is that three distinct yet interpenetrating arrangements co-vibrate to facilitate human consciousness: spirit, soul, and body. Under the CCH, the brain bears resemblance to an unmoved mover of sorts, in that all activity is purported to proceed from it. Under the TMC, the brain remains an irreducibly vital part of the equation, but assumes a more symbiotic or integrative function in the overall picture.

Echoing Ebonmuse’s oft-trumpeted essay A Ghost in the Machine, some will be tempted to say, “Well, that’s impossible cl, because you can alter consciousness by damaging the brain.” That fact poses absolutely no hurdle to the TMC, which does not deny the need for an intact brain, and in fact predicts that brain damage should alter soulical expression. If the primary claim of the TMC is that three distinct yet interpenetrating arrangements co-vibrate to facilitate human consciousness, then it still follows that damaging any one element could lead to vibrational perturbations that affect the whole. You can dim a light either by interrupting the current or damaging the filament. Similarly, according to the TMC, you can alter soulical expression either by afflicting the spirit or obliterating the brain.

Getting to it, if you read Marianne’s Sleepdream #3, you’ll see that Kalerian not only supplied Marianne with empirically verifiable knowledge in a dream that was again shared with one or more of her sons, Kalerian supplied Marianne with knowledge that Marianne actually empirically verified herself later in her field work – and for the clincher – this dream happened after Kalerian had passed away.

Marianne’s account seems to present very strong hurdles for both wCCH and sCCH. Even with the problems in calling this account evidence for life after death, I see no problem whatsoever with calling it evidence that consciousness is vastly more than a cranially-contained neurobiolical mosh pit. Like Marianne, and like the untold numbers of indigenous and Native human beings who lived before us, I also believe in the “all-encompassing reality,” which spiritual traditions describe on occasion after occasion after occasion.

As the aetheosphere’s endless stream of ancestor-berating comments testifies, atheism asks us to believe that our ancestors were a bunch of weak-minded morons who must have hallucinated or embellished everything they wrote about – but I think it’s arrogant for modern humans to look upon those before us as a bunch of savages, connivers and fools who couldn’t discern “woo” from reality.

Below you will find Marianne’s paper in its entirety, a one-time courtesy for which I think we owe her some thanks.

pp. 17-20 | pp. 21-24 | pp. 25-28 | pp. 29-33

Dreams, Reality, and the Desire and Intent of Dreamers, as Experienced by a Field Worker
The Anthropology of Consciousness Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1995. Copyright, Marianne George. Reprinted with permission.


  1. Dominic Saltarelli says:

    The thing that I noticed were several references to “betel nut”. Not to be too disparaging of the recounting of details, but it is fair to at least ask if the reason that the line between dreaming and being awake and alert is a blurry one among “native” peoples is due to constant drug use?

  2. Gideon says:

    No different than the drug use by a certain infidel by the name of Christopher Hitchens. You think maybe it would be fair to deduce that his judgment might be impaired, him stumbling about in a nicotine/alcohol-induced fog, day in and day out?

  3. Dominic Saltarelli says:

    Don’t see why not. Alcohol kills brain cells, after all.

  4. marianne george says:

    betel nut is more like nicotine than alcohol in that it does not get one drunk or out of control even when used immoderately. Betel nut is not an “upper” like nicotine or caffeine. Nor is it a depressant like alcohol. Neither does it cause hallucinations. It is both very mild and sociable in its effects and use. Especially by habituated adults. I enjoyed chewing betel nut, but whereas I might have chewed it once/day or two the average adult among the Barok would chew it about 4 or 5 times/day. Betel use is proven to have strong anti-parasitic action, which is great in the tropics. There is no effect from betel nut use that involves drowsiness or anything related to dreaming.

  5. cl says:

    Even if betel nut was a powerful hallucinagen, the question of whether the subject experiences real or non-real events remains, i.e., the empirical discovery your experience yielded.

    Not to be too disparaging of the recounting of details, but it is fair to at least ask if the reason that the line between dreaming and being awake and alert is a blurry one among “native” peoples is due to constant drug use?

    Not in mean spirit or anything, but can you see why I see yours as a disingenuous comment that takes the easy way out? Recall that Marianne is not a native who constantly used betel nut that such could explain her experience. Also, even if betel nut was such a strong hallucinagen that Marianne’s reduced and temporary usage could be called into question, we would still need to account for the veridical aspect of the dream. Recall that hallucinations are purported to have no correspondence to reality, yet Marianne’s experience yielded an empirical discovery.

  6. cl says:

    On another blog, an atheist blogger who goes by the name the chaplain posted the following comment in response to your paper:

    ..I’ve read Dr. George’s paper. Let’s deal with it one step at a time. She had the first experience described in her paper under the influence of a recreational drug. In her paper, Dr. George said that the betel nut she was given, “was very strong, and soon I was unusually high.” In her comment on your blog, Dr. George said,

    ..betel nut is more like nicotine than alcohol in that it does not get one drunk or out of control even when used immoderately. Betel nut is not an “upper” like nicotine or caffeine. Nor is it a depressant like alcohol. Neither does it cause hallucinations. It is both very mild and sociable in its effects and use.

    So, was Dr. George high as a kite during her “wakeful but dreamlike reality?” Or did she just have a pleasant buzz going?

    As with Dominic, I argued to the chaplain that betel nut could not account for your multiple experiences, but also said I would append her question here, so you could answer it in your own words. Thanks in advance if can get to it.

  7. marianne george says:

    I apologize for my long silence. I have been traveling and in an intense work period.
    The “unusually high” effect of the “very strong” betel nut I chewed on the occasion noted above was very short-lived – as is always the case with betel nut. On the rare occasions when the effect is strong it only lasts less than a minute. The very effective antidote is a small drink of water. It did not cause things to happen as they happened. Furthermore I was not chewing betel nut during most of my veridical dream experiences … some of which are not described in this paper. I am not a person prone to losing control or doing drugs of any sort, or being hysterical. I have not chewed betel nut for several years between veridical dream experiences and they have still happened. I find cl’s theory very interesting indeed. When my workload allows me, and if I should live so long, I will be writing/publishing more about these experiences. Thanks to all who have offered sincere comments and thought.

  8. Dominic Saltarelli says:

    It was just a thought, did need some clarity since I don’t know the first thing about betel nut.
    Also, largely because I have a family member who habitually tends to dream the days event the night before, I’m not questioning any of the accounts provided, I for one am taking the evidence presented at face value as true. So that’s why I’m largely silent with regard to the content of the paper.
    However, the paper is being presented as evidence for a larger point though, and I think cl is entitled to a more comprehensive response (was going to do it sooner but I got sidetracked and forgot about it). So here goes…

  9. Dominic Saltarelli says:

    The most pertinent portion cited was dream #3, where information of a dig site was delivered, apparently by a deceased individual. This consisted of an image of where to dig that was shared between two people, and details of which were confirmed after the dig took place.
    My point of contention is that this evidence was provided right alongside cl’s own account of a similar experience of receiving information about a future event prior to having it happen (the preemptive vision in the restaurant).
    Accepting both accounts as true at face value, we can establish that knowing something ahead of time so long as you eventually experience it personally is a known phenomenon.
    1) We’ve also established that information can be shared between two people remotely, particularly via dreaming.
    2) Marianne spent the previous day at the site searching for the hearth, so had a clear picture of what the area looked like, which would surely include the tree.
    3) Marianne and Alek have a history of sharing the same dream that involved Kalerian (seeing the same images), and Alek is more practiced and better at recalling details.
    4) Marianne spent the next day searching two different spots for the hearth, one of which contained the hearth.
    5) cl provided evidence that startlingly precise premonitions of subsequently experienced events occur without needing someone to channel the information via some sort of telepathy.
    Given the facts, there are two explanations.
    The first is that Marianne had a premonition of where the dig site would be delivered with the same certainty that cl knew that someone was about to refuse lemon for his water, but had it while dreaming, thus the information had the characteristic dream distortion (where our minds add all sorts of extra baggage to something simple) that all of us who have dreamed before know so well. The sequence was shared with Alek as many of her dreams involving Kalerian tended to.
    The second is that upon dying, Kalerian’s consciousness endured somehow, retaining the ability to communicate through dreams, and was also mystically endowed with the knowledge of where an ancient hearth was located (possibly with obscure geologic knowledge as well, though the safety of the ledge was never tested, with good reason mind you…).
    By now I’m sure you see where I’m going with this regarding the persistence of the wCCH.

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