Strange Realms and Where to Find Them

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Up front note: I was not aware that moving into a house is a task that can require literally all of your spare time, and not just for a few weeks.  I’m talking months of adjustment, especially when you throw the holiday season into the mix.  I apologize for being away for so long, but in the interlude I have acquired a fantastic new desktop PC setup, and I am ready to begin diving back into the realms of the esoteric once again.  Speaking of which…

Having just returned from the theater from a viewing the recent Doctor Strange movie (yes I am lagging behind a bit on current movies, as in many things), I found myself mesmerized and intrigued by many factors of this movie.  Aside from the jaw-dropping visuals, of which there are plenty, there is a theme mentioned in this article of Christian Today analyzing the juxtaposition between the concreteness of science and the realm of faith in things beyond those that can be proven by current science.  This tends to be where my curiosities fall most of the time in general, as a Christian who believes we just don’t understand many things as of yet.  I hope to use this as a branching point for my perspectives, which I will elaborate on below.

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Neither science nor religion has all the answers to every question we face in this modern age.  Certainly many Christians will follow the ideal that the Bible has all the necessary guidelines for how to conduct ourselves regardless of era, and to an extent I agree that this is true.  Treat others the way you want to be treated, honor the commandments, love your neighbor; these are basic tenants that we can all agree upon and follow in a just society.  There are some things that are not covered in the Bible or any other religious text, however, and yet they are questions that we face today with much uncertainty.  I often jest, partly as an example, that there are no WiFi passwords in the Bible or other sacred texts, are there?  Any descriptions of x-rays, modern energy production, or propulsion methods?  That doesn’t mean that these things are witchcraft or of the devil, though, as they may have been deemed in the not-so-distant past.  We are just in the process of understanding how our amazing universe works, and we have so much left to learn.  Just because we don’t understand something now, doesn’t mean it has to be relegated to the realm of the supernatural or occult.  We are currently capable of so little in comparison to our potential, and it simply takes time, very much time, to fathom achieving the extent of that potential.

Let us consider the concept of astral projection.  Many religious viewpoints would consider this either a product of some alternative religious philosophy, or a dangerous practice that can leave a person open to invasion by malevolent influence if not understood.  The first point is one of debate, as there are several non-religious philosophies that accept the practice of astral projection as a normal part of existence.  Religion, including Christianity, tends to see this practice as something not of God, and is therefore risky and undesirable, as you may be opening yourself up to attack from dark forces.  Once again, I’m somewhere in between these viewpoints.

The first consideration is the idea of the soul existing outside of the body without death being involved.  Haven’t there been numerous examples of this in all sorts of literature and even scientific studies?  The Bible cites many examples of the soul continuing on after death, and even instances of individuals being brought back from the dead with their same soul (Lazarus) days after expiring.  In fact, the general underlying premise is that our souls will continue on after death in order to experience our earned place, whatever that may be.  In science, myriad instances of near-death experiences (NDEs) have been recorded, after which many of the patients possess knowledge they could not possibly have without having traveled beyond their physical body during the NDE.  Examples include numerous instances of patients being able to recite things that were spoken around them when they were considered brain-dead, having knowledge of items in strange places that they had never physically been (a patient correctly identified that there was a pink shoe on the roof the hospital where they were being treated, which was locked and inaccessible), and many similar stories.  There are event the scientific studies conducted in the early 1900s that concluded the weight of dying patients consistently decreased by 3/4 of an ounce upon the moment of death; the weight of the soul.  Something of substance evacuated those bodies and continued existence in some other form.

Is it therefore, then, so extreme to consider the possibility that we might have the capacity to push beyond our corporeal selves in some state aside from the brink of death?  Dreams are an excellent example here, and one that you may know I hold in high regard.  I know I have personally obtained astral projection, albeit unintentionally at first, through my usually heightened state of dreaming.  While I do permit that it is a realm where caution is prudent for the inexperienced, it does not strike me as something to be forbidden or condemned.  My instinct tells me that existence beyond our physical shell is merely the next level of consciousness yet to be understood, and that before long it will no longer be quite so empty of a place, sojourned by many more who will come to understand.

Returning to the analysis of the movie, however, I found that the visualizations of the astral world and its manipulations to be as accurate as I could imagine them in reality, and they mirror the fractal distortions of my lucid dream experiences in an all too familiar manner.  As an example, in a dream I had only two nights ago, I found myself fully lucid, and enthralled with testing the capabilities of my powers.  With basic gestures of my hands, I willed two massive buildings to trade positions, then a tree to grow forcefully upward hundreds of feet, then lastly I simply took flight, and traveled swiftly of the landscape of that current world.  All of these actions were nearly effortless and entirely exhilarating, and they felt akin to what those practicing the same things as Dr. Strange might experience.  This may be a bit of a reach, but as someone who has successfully lucid dreamed more frequently and vividly over the years, I feel like I am progressing towards something that I cannot yet quantify or explain, and it’s almost as if this movie offered me a glimpse of what could be possible with dedication.

All of this may sound silly, and I wouldn’t necessarily fault you for opposing my perspectives, but the point of this blog is taking commonly held opinions, religious or secular, and challenging them based on legitimate possibilities.  I welcome everyone’s input, regardless of how my viewpoints may or may not jive with your current outlook.  My central focus is the admission that no matter what belief system you hold, there is still a literal abyss of unexplored information yet to be understood about our own existence, and dozens of unknown frameworks as to how we fit in with the rest of the universe.  It is foolhardy and even arrogant of us to assume understanding of any significant portion of creation at this point, or at any point in the foreseeable future.

I hope that you will return as I continue to delve into more topics of fringe science, religion, the paranormal, and much more.  As my tagline says, keep smashing ideas together to see what might be possible!

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Altered States: Really the Devil’s Playground or just the Next Misunderstood Magic?

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Some fascinating new research has emerged recently on a subject that occupies a station of great controversy in my own mind and also in that of many folks who might be reading this.  For the uncertain: “An altered state of consciousness (ASC), also called altered state of mind or mind alteration, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking beta wave state.”  I hope that tonight I can offer some cogent point-counterpoint comparisons that will at least get you thinking, since I know I can’t stop.

In some of the previous articles where I cataloged the points presented at Bible Study,  I referenced a general aspect of Christian beliefs that considers altered states of consciousness to be dangerous and something to be avoided at all costs.  Typically, the reason for avoidance is the fact that the participant is willingly leaving themselves open to various types or influence or attack, namely on the spiritual, in some cases demonic level.  Often opponents of the practice will reference hypnosis as an example, where a person relinquishes their will to another individual entirely, without knowing what might be asked of them or to what humiliation they might be subjected.  There are significant factors regarding hypnosis, however, that are contrary to popularly held impressions of the act.  I personally feel that while it isn’t something to be taken lightly or played with, there is a place for hypnosis in a controlled, professional environment, for the purpose of uncovering repressed memories and the like.

So what is the emerging research that has prompted my exposition on this matter?  Imagine, if you will, the implications of being able to “untangle” your brain via the act of removing previously established neuronal connections, essentially returning your brain to the hyper-receptive state that you enjoyed as a newborn.  Doesn’t that sound interesting?  Sounds like it could be used for a myriad of options, like the following:

  • Perhaps learning multiple languages, something that is simple for a child’s brain to adopt, but adults vainly struggle with because their brains have already assigned all the appropriate language pathways in the brain and associated them with familiar sensations.
  • How about being able to think more creatively, having a more uninhibited imagination, or just being able to connect the hypothetical dots more easily?
  • Here’s a tough one: how about being able to once again see or sense something as an adult that you had once seen as a child, but had successfully convinced yourself of its fantastical nature?

Would these shake your perceptions a bit?  I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest, but perhaps a good shaking is exactly what our perceptions need.  By the way, the drug in this case is lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD or acid.  Yep, acid, the big bad wolf of hallucinogens, when its effects are observed and measured scientifically, can actually demonstrate profoundly positive effects.  As stated by Dr Carhart-Harris here: “Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialized functions, such as vision, movement and hearing – as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.”  This is one of the major reasons why experimenters with hallucinogens cite a profound connectedness with the world/universe as a major component of their experiences.  Existence as a whole is so incredibly complex and intimidating that our brains have evolved (or been designed) in such a way that they adapt to only the more important and often used types of stimuli.  Rewiring, then, can offer incredible new opportunities in cognition, creativity, and open-mindedness at the expense of some very brief confusion.  Even micro-doses of LSD have been shown to dramatically increase creativity in professionals by intensifying the connection between the visual cortex and other parts of the brain, essentially making the brain more agile and flexible.

LSD isn’t the only method of achieving these types of altered states, however.  There are of course other chemicals, such as psilocybin (found in “magic” mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), and DMT (dimethyltryptamine), a naturally occurring compound found in the human body that is theorized to play an important role in thought processing, dreaming and near-death experiences, as well as meditation and out-of-body experiences.  Altered states of consciousness can also be brought about by physiological factors, such as extreme lack of food or sleep, or even chronic conditions that effect mental state, such as epilepsy.  Lastly, dreaming is regularly considered an altered state of consciousness, and lucid states are often linked with subsequent experiences of astral projection (personal experiences here abound, I will expand another time).

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My question then, spurred not only by this but myriad other concerns as well, becomes this: if altered states can occur so readily, either via naturally occurring chemicals or regular physical changes or simple dreaming, why is the assumption of negativity so prevalent?

I want you to stop, just for a single minute, and consider just how little you and I know about everything.  By everything I mean EVERYTHING.  Be honest with yourself about it, this is important.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had no idea what wifi or even electricity was, and just a short stint before that society was burning witches for damn near everything they didn’t understand.  So as smart as we may feel in this enlightened age, this may just be another example of us thinking we now know everything when really we’ve only reached the next step on an endless upward climb.  Perhaps our assumptions about the unknown these days are yet another representation of Arthur C. Clarke’s most poignant words: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

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Here’s a unicorn.  Could be magic, could be a robot, who knows.

Okay, now perform the imagination test again, yet this time consider these things when you do:

  • Perhaps chemicals are a naturally occurring way for us to reacquire the cognitive abilities we once had, and utilizing them might enable us to attain levels of spiritual connection that we have long since lost
  • Maybe abilities such as lucid dreaming, astral projection, remote viewing, and other such frowned-upon things are simply a next step in the evolution of our mental abilities.  Even in the Bible we were promised gifts such as dreams, visions, discernment, etc.; couldn’t these be something of God that we simply don’t fully understand yet?

Biblical scriptures give us incredible wisdom and numerous answers to our everyday quandaries.  Most Christians need to admit, though, that there are questions arising these days to which the Bible may not have exact answers, only guidelines.  As long as I continue to observe this marked divide between spirituality according to Biblical scripture and the scientific understanding of our universe and its quirks, I will continue to pursue evolving answers with my God and understanding of the new tools that might be at our disposal.

In other words, JARED SMASH! 😉

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My Heart in Infinite Places: Another Dream Discussion

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Normally I would not be inclined to return to a previous topic so soon after initially sharing on it, but it happened again this morning, and I can’t keep it all in.  It is now the following night, and I have yet to emotionally detach myself from the dream world I inhabited at this day’s beginning.

What struck me most profoundly upon first waking this morning was the crushing impression that I was being pulled from another entirely real and legitimate existence, just as tangible and important as this one.  Imagine living your daily life as you do now, assuming and oblivious, only to one moment have your consciousness irresistibly displaced into a completely different and unconnected life.  Memories of your newly awakened mind coincide with that reality, and yet a cascade of glimmering recollections remain from the world you just left, the world you had thought was real.  Imagine the desperation, the helplessness, the mourning of leaving behind all you loved, while you envision that those you left are in turn wracked with confusion and guilt over your mysterious absence.  Almost worst of all, this is just another in a string of precious lives you’ve abandoned against your will, most likely to never resume again.

That is what I felt this morning, returning to this state of perception.  Are those I left behind waiting for me, wondering to where I departed?  Or am I perhaps still there somehow, still living on in a manner wholly disconnected and unaware?  I struggled between the crashing, coalescing realities dueling in my mind, pleading for a way to somehow inhabit both at once.  Squeezing my eyes shut in an effort to return to the waning vision, I eventually overcame the disorientation and found sleep once more.  Incredibly, I returned to that exact existence so recently departed.  Minimal time had passed there, wherein no one seemed to have noticed my absence.  As with many non-lucid dreams, I immediately resumed my blissful ignorance of the higher plane in which my body lay, fully settled into comfortable acceptance of my current reality.  However, after another considerable (perceived) length of time there and much endearing interaction with that world, I was once again plucked from my reverie and deposited back into my pillow-supported head.  As you may imagine, a wave of doubly overwhelming melancholy washed over me, and left me there to saturate in despair.

I wanted to be as descriptive as possible when relating this experience, because as melodramatic as it might seem now (even to me somewhat), at the time when this occurs it feels so impossible to describe or contain.  As I related in my previous post about dreams, the emotions connected to them are almost irrationally powerful, to the point of feeling remarkably crippling at times.  After my second passage from the dream world this morning, I was really struggling with what to do next.  I wanted to continue feeling that intensity, even if it was negative in some senses.  The thought came to my mind of what comedian Louis C. K. once said about our tendency to bury those acute emotions, distracting ourselves with technology or some other comfortable diversion.  It isn’t healthy to live like that; we need the catharsis of just letting it cascade out of us sometimes.  I worried about upsetting my wife, though, both with revealing my level of discomfort at the time and with relating my emotional attachment to these other realms.  There was an honest concern in my heart that it be known that my sorrow regarding leaving the dreams was in no way a reflection of any hidden dissatisfaction with the present reality.  She was wonderfully understanding and comforting, though, a blessing as always.

I reached for my headphones, as nothing helps to un-stopper the floodgates of emotion like the right song.  I knew exactly what I wanted to hear in that moment, a recently discovered, beautifully melancholy arrangement by the band Shiny Toy Guns, called Wait For Me.  Even the opening whispers of the song seemed to speak just to me in my present situation, burrowing into me as though they were the words of those I had left behind:

It’s like everything turns into a dream
A dream without an end
I can’t remember what happened
I just remember you
And how you made me laugh out loud
When you decided to go,
I wish I could have gone with you
I don’t like it here anymore
And I don’t like being alone
And when I cry,
Who’s going to make it okay?
When I fall, who’s going to carry me?

I don’t think I have it left in me to describe the effectiveness of this exercise in embracing the flood.  Over the remainder of the day, I’ve been able to recover fairly well, inevitably distracted by other commitments and opportunities.  In the bits of downtime that I’ve had, though, I’ve played this song again and again, as it has helped keep many of the memories fresh and unfading.  Music is incredibly powerful in so many ways, even enough to keep me tethered to alternate realities.  I can only hope that over the course of this life’s duration, I’ll be able to revisit them all.

One final note on music, as I would be very interested to hear other stories relating to the following: the experience of which I just wrote is at least the second time I can recall having woken up with an entirely new and unfamiliar song playing in my head.  Notes, lyrics, everything put together, yet I can say with utmost certainty I have never heard them before in this world.  I’m familiar with stories of famous musicians receiving inspiration for some of their greatest songs from their dreams; perhaps they found a way to share a piece of those faraway worlds with the rest of us.

Thoughts on Dreams

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There is something incredibly intriguing, and yet equally as troubling, about the fleeting wisps of hard-remembered events that occur in our minds during the sleep state.  Why is it that I can wake to the crushing denial of leaving behind what feels like an entirely different life, only to have my mind purposefully and methodically squeegee the memories of it away at a moment’s notice if I’m not careful?  It is an honest admission to say that the emotions I’ve felt in dreams have been more visceral and pervasive than almost any I’ve felt in “real life”, and yet our minds are conditioned to just ignore and forget them, if they even store any transient image of them to begin with.  The fact that I can recall infinite pieces of dreams over my entire life, but not reconstruct the entirety of a single one, just seems so unfair.  The dreams of just last night have spurred me to record my thoughts on this matter, since as with many, I awoke with such distress at my departure that my entire day has been effected by it.

What are some truly strange or unique things that you have discovered in your dreams?  In what way to they stand apart from simple phantasms of your imagination, fueled by daytime stresses and poor evening food choices?  An example from mine would be that I can map out an entire system of roads in my dreams that are consistent across a myriad of nighttime adventures.  If in my waking state I trace one of the dream roads in my mind’s eye, I can watch as snippets of dozens of different dreams flood my mind.  Take a right at this intersection, a new series a dreams appears.  Take a left, an entirely different cascade of memories begins.  Does this happen simply because as a child I was always very aware of roads and directions and how everything connected in my waking life as well, or is there actually a road map for many of my dreams?  Granted I quite often have dreams completely removed from the expectations of standard reality, where roads wouldn’t do much good at all, but those that somewhat mimic the waking life do all seem to follow this trend.

This observation is a prelude to one of my favorite theories, and one that is most definitely not mine alone.  Another observer such as myself remarks on the consistent state of these realities (such as a traceable road map), even so much as retaining the changes we ourselves make there.  Time travel is another layer to this already perplexing onion; are we permitted some excursions to points already printed on our timeline?  One article I found relates a story quite similar to one of my own, where I traveled back in time to meet my mother when she was pregnant with me and see my older brother as a toddler.  She smiled and wept to know that I was a healthy and purposeful man, but refused any conversation beyond that for fear of possible consequences.  What purpose could by brain have possibly had in concocting something like this randomly?  Another form of time travel dreams (of sorts) are those of marked, almost debilitating time dilation, with many of the accompanying psychological effects endured upon waking.  One such dream I experienced seemed to last that entirety of 60+ years, which found me to be a very old man who had lost so much, only to awaken to a passage of less than 8 hours.  I actually cried that morning, so shaken by the experience and unsure how to process returning to this state of existence.  One of my favorite manga artists, Itou Junji, depicts the experience with such accuracy in Long Dream, which I highly recommend reading.  It can be a little unnerving, as many of Junji’s works are, but it is also profound and insightful.014

Only one factor of dreaming that I have not yet discussed dissuades me, if only slightly, from the idea of dreams being alternate realities.  Have you ever experienced the magic of “waking up” within your own dream?  Of not only becoming aware that you are indeed dreaming, but going as far as being able to enforce your will on the world around you?  I would recommend investigating sources like Lucidity.comWorld of Lucid Dreaming, or the Lucid Dreaming community on Reddit for more information on this subject for the uninitiated.  My question then becomes, if I can bend and shape the world around me with only my thoughts, is it really anything that exists beyond the bounds of my own psyche?  The likely answer seems to be no, but that is just my mentality operating under the assumption that all other realities must follow the same rules and quirks to which this one adheres.  Many times I have found myself lucid but completely powerless to alter the world around me, save for normal interactions as one would expect in the conscious state.  I am at a loss for a definitive answer in this respect, but part of me loves that about this whole topic, that it is something we as humans still haven’t come to fully grasp.

With my 30th birthday only a week away, I find myself ever more anxious for a technology to arise that allows us to record and review our dreams as the actually appear (say what you will about Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but that sequence always stuck with me).  Apparently some rudimentary version of the tech is already in the works, but is limited to only matching your possible dream vision with existing topics and images, and with meager accuracy at best.  If the Lord decides to come back first, I’m all for it, but otherwise I sincerely hope I’m around long enough to see this become a reality.