December 17, 2009
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.
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.