On science and dreams
Alfred Maury (1817–1892) was a French physician and scholar known for his work related to the interpretation of dreams and the effect of external stimuli on same. His theories pre-date those of Sigmund Freud, and he coined the term “hypnagogic hallucination.” He was born at Meaux, a commune in the metropolitan region of Paris, France.
Meaux is at the same time a village in the unincorporated area of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. Although undocumented, one can deduce that somewhere nearby was born Huey P. Meaux (d. 2007), an American record producer born in Louisiana in 1929. At the age of 67, he was charged, sentenced and jailed for 15 years for committing a variety of pedophilic acts, none of which are legal in any country on Earth. Nicknamed “The Crazy Cajun,” he produced popular songs such as “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” by Freddy Fender.
De deux Meaux, il fait choisir le moindre.
It Takes Two (to Tangle)
Maury believed external stimuli to be the catalyst to dreams. It was a particular dream Maury dreamt that suggested to him dreams came about so quickly they occurred almost simultaneously with the stimulus that had produced them. Maury was a contemporary of Marie-Jean-Léon-Lecoq, le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys, also a researcher of dreams.
Maury’s inspiring dream was that he had been condemned to the guillotine. As the blade fell, he woke up to find the top of his bed had fallen and hit him in the spine at the exact time the guillotine would have struck him. Although the guillotine, it should be pointed out, would have struck him in the neck.
Physical unpleasantness gets the upper hand, admits the Marquis.
Maury’s pioneering studies of the psychology of the unconscious mind remain important not only because they cast doubt on the reliability of Catholic ideas, but also for the way they refracted growing bourgeois anxiety about the escalating threat of revolution from France’s “dangerous classes”.
Because of the logical line of dream action, Maury hypothesized
that the dream is generated backwards by the arousing stimulus.
The Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys believed the exact opposite: that is, that dreams are the product of internal experience, and the dangerous classes were therefore the only classes worth considering. He was not, however, at all in disagreement with sending Maury to the guillotine.
According to Maury–but not the Marquis!–dreams are created only upon wakening.
Id est, one dreams one’s dreams.
The two dream researchers spent many years in bitter disagreement.
De deux maux, il fait choisir le moindre.
The Kekulé Ring
The German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé was, by many accounts, neither a particularly good practical chemist nor an inspiring teacher. He is known for his solution to the problem of the structure of benzene (C6H6). Kekulé suggested that the structure of benzene contained a six-membered ring of carbon atoms with alternating single and double bonds.
The Berichte der Durstigen Chemischen Gesellschaft, a parody of the Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, ran a humorous depiction of benzene. This was back in a time when the sciences were as viciously competitive as politics today.
Kekulé twice shared the process by which he came to his discovery. He had earlier told of a ‘waking dream’ on a London bus in which he had seen atoms grouping themselves in space. In a second recount of the story, however, he mentions a daydream of a snake eating its own tail.
The Berichte der Durstigen Chemischen Gesellschaft parody had monkeys seizing each other’s tails in a circle, rather than Kekulé’s Ourobouros. The Berichte der Durstigen Chemischen Gesellschaft was Kekulé’s nemesis, as Maury was the Marquis d’Hervey de Saint Denys’. But who among this monkey ring is the dreamer
and who is the dreamed?
Apart from his benzene discovery, Kekulé’s remaining contributions to chemistry were mostly theoretical and speculative, born of reverie, or hypnagogia.
The Borderland of Sleep
Hypnagogia (Greek ὕπνος, húpnos “sleep” + the root found in ἄγω, ágō “to lead away, conduct, convey”, ἀγωγεύς, agōgeús “conveyor”, ἀγωγή, agōgḗ “abduction, transport, leading away” etc.) is the mental state of someone who is moving towards sleep or wakefulness but has not yet completed the transition.
To be carried away on the current of dreams, of reverie perfum’d and soft
the pillows of my vessel heave by waves of fantasie carried aloft.
Hypnagogia can be induced by a Dreamachine, which emits light pulsing at a frequency close to that of alpha waves to create this effect. Descriptions of exceptionally vivid and elaborate hypnagogic visuals can be found in the work of the Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys.
In his De divinatione per somnum, Aristotle states,
“dream presentations are analogous to the forms reflected in water.”
Among the more commonly reported, and more thoroughly researched, sensory features of hypnagogia are phosphenes which can manifest as seemingly random speckles, lines or geometrical patterns, including form constants. They may be monochromatic or richly colored, still or moving, flat or three-dimensional.
A body of water never moves; waves are not the build and collapse of oceans,
the entropy of seas. Rather, energy moves through bodies of water
– tiny waves in a single human cell are the same tides of energy that travel the seas.
A form constant is one of several geometric patterns which are recurringly observed during hallucinations and altered states of consciousness.
What has not been set on fire by my eyes takes the most fantastic and unreasonable forms.
— the Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys
It is believed that the reason these form constants appear lies in how the visual system is organized and, in particular, the mapping between patterns on the retina and the columnar organization of the primary visual cortex. Concentric circles in the retina are mapped into parallel lines in the visual cortex. Spirals, tunnels, lattices and cobwebs map into lines in different directions.
The space in between dreams, like the space in between the organs of a body —
at once tiny and vast, dark and light, concentric mazes of circles
heat the red of light the weight of dreams at night.
The diversity of conditions that provoke such patterns suggests that form constants reflect some fundamental property of visual perception, similar to the way water expands in rings.
Hypnagogia Again, but Really: Eigenlicht
Hypnagogia has been described as an in-between state; that is, a state of being in between. Researchers refer specifically to that period when in which a dreamer moves from fractal imagery, or form constants, to dreaming narratives, i.e., from simple “eigenlicht” to whole imagined scenes.
The cities and fields of our semi-conscious minds are called into being by a sacrifice to light, the ancient and futuristic ritual of calling forth the dark to wander through half-illumined alleyways, dusk-filled streets, wild velds of half-night that exist
just beyond the border that reality patrols.
Eigenlicht (“intrinsic light”), dark light, or brain gray, is perceived as to be lighter than a black object in normal lighting conditions because contrast is more important to the visual system than absolute brightness. For example, the night sky looks darker than eigenlicht because of the contrast provided by the stars.
Magnetic Systems in Time and Brainspace
A possible physical explanation for hypnagogia is rooted in the discovery of magnetite crystals in cells of the brain and meninges. It has been found that there are five million magnetite crystals per gram in the human brain and twenty times that number in the meninges. These ‘biomagnetite crystals’ are oriented in the brain in a manner that maximizes their magnetic moment, thus allowing the crystals to act as a system, and marking the ability of the brain to sense energy fields.
In quantum physics, unitarity means that the sum of probabilities of all possible outcomes of any event is always, has always been and will always be, 1.
Einstein showed that if time and space are measured using electromagnetic phenomena (like light bouncing between mirrors, or phosphenical movement) then, due to the constancy of the speed of light, time and space become mathematically entangled together in a certain way which, in turn, results in the entanglement of all other important derivative physical quantities (like energy, momentum, mass, force, etc.).
Wo Es war, soll Ich werdern.
In short, all of time and space, both within the brain and without, is tangled up in itself.
The Grand Tangle
In link theory, a tangle is an embedding of n arcs and m circles into R2 x [0,1]– the difference from an alternate mathematical definition is that it includes circles as well as arches and partitions the boundary into two (isomorphic) pieces, which is algebraically more convenient — allowing one to add tangles by stacking them, for instance.
In ancient Greece, dream pilgrimages were a common route to curing bodily ailments. What is the route of a pilgrimage of dreams?
Is it straight, narrow, wide, circular?
Does each turn touch upon another,
fecklessly entangling the paths of dreamers
like a scribble on a wall?
In common speech, tangle finds its roots in the mid-14th century and is a nasalized variant of tagilen “to involve in a difficult situation, entangle,” from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Swedish taggla “to disorder,” O.N. þongull “seaweed”). The meaning “to fight with” is American English, first recorded in 1928.
De deux mots, il fait choisir le moindre.
Water expands in rings that kiss the next one into being,
carrying its reflected forms to the farthest shores,
touching light and dark, phosphenes and eigenlicht
each to the other and the other to all,
like a vast and undulating mirror,
like a tangle of dark and light.
– Susie Kahlich, Paris 2011