Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The fear of uncertainty

I've had quite a few dreams that are primarily spiritual in nature. Most of these are left out of my recent book, and some of the ones that were included had large sections left out. This was partly because I had to keep the book to 90,000 words and that meant heavy editing (it started as 116,000). The other reason is that it was difficult to publish certain items because I didn't know how to verify them. In a way, that is the primary reason I organized Dreamer the way I did. By showing the dreams that could be verified first, then how they related to other dreams I hoped to demonstrate how I came to trust the spiritual-themed dreams.

Ironically, I probably now have far more "evidence" to support trusting the spiritual content of dreams than I have ever seen for more common concepts, like the idea that democracy is a better form of government than any other. And yet, I still worry sometimes. The funny thing is that we make decisions based on very little information all the time, but when it comes to spiritual concepts, the amount of evidence required is huge even if the concept comes down to an angelic request that we stop using profanity. That shouldn't be too hard to accept, but then there is the way it is expressed, through an angel, and that can be very distracting. Additionally, and in this case I am thinking of a specific dream I wrote of in my book, there is the penalty of non-compliance. The angel showed me the penalty, and it was a kind of spiritual disfigurement. This wasn't visible physically, but it was there regardless. That is where it suddenly gets difficult for people. The advice sounds good, but that consequence sounds pretty severe, so let's chuck the entire idea without more evidence to back it up.

What about non-angelic, non-human, non-animal nature spirits? I dream of these regularly, though not often. They come across as perfectly real, but associated as they are with childhood fantasy, I left them out of my book altogether. I would have liked more evidence to be comfortable presenting those dreams, and this is despite an incident where I actually saw many of these creatures when I was young. But then, I was young, so it isn't good enough. Best wait for another sighting, and maybe I will, before writing about them in more detail.

Still, how much evidence do I really need before I feel comfortable? I probably have a lot more than other people. Out of over 3,100 records, I have hundreds that are verified in some way. Surely that would lead to a great deal of confidence, and it does, but within carefully proscribed limits. I trust my family to be honest in their dealings with me and do not expect proof of their every statement, but that is sometimes how I treat my dreams--with extreme suspicion. But is this fair? Surely after over twenty years of verified dreams some trust has been earned or is deserved?

This is on my mind right now because I just finished writing a presentation I will give at a conference on dreaming this summer. One of the topics I will discuss is how spiritual psi is verified. Because there are often no physical connections, it is quite resistant to all normal forms of verification. While writing it I realized how much I feared uncertainty. I like to be as sure of myself as anyone else, but sometimes you have to just accept that it is up to you to make your best guess based on what information you have.



  1. Dear Andrew,
    I hope that sometime you get around to telling us what was left out of your book (though, of course, reading your book was challenging enough!).
    I suspect, though, that your understanding of your spiritual experiences/dreams will change a lot as your own religious attitudes change. In your book, you said you were still wary about many religious questions, and this equivocation must have had many direct and indirect effects on the nature of your dreams. (Even if dreams are produced elsewhere, what you receive and retain from them will depend enormously on how receptive you are to the religious aspects.)
    Maybe this receptivity has changed since what you wrote in your book, so (again) I look forward to reading more, when you feel able to tell us.
    Dream on,

  2. Ian,

    I do indeed expect to write more about the spiritual dreams and have already written out an idea for a book that focuses on them exclusively. I am working on a PhD right now though, so that project takes priority.
    Personally I find the spiritual/religious dreams to be more powerful, beautiful, and interesting than any of the rest. This is particularly true of the dreams that include God and/or angels. I was a little surprised when I read through the hardcopy of the book and saw how little of these I included, making me wonder if my attitude has already changed. A colleague at work said something on the subject also. This man, who I really do not talk with very often, had somehow gotten the idea that my position on Jesus had changed since starting this job almost 5 years ago. I have no idea what made him think so because I didn't remember discussing it with him at all. It may have been an offhand comment where I came off as less suspicious. He is Christian, so he would be acutely sensitive to that sort of thing. The point is that he noticed a change and I hadn't.

    We talked about it a little more and I realized that he was right. The process of writing "Dreamer" had changed my views on some things and so I was more willing to express myself confidently about certain things I had been more equivocal about earlier.

    I will say this about the other dreams: at the same time as they support many aspects of the Old Testament version of God, they simultaneously embrace things that the modern Christian church explicitly rejects, and I don't just mean reincarnation. A Muslim colleague once told me that my religious dreams are perfectly compatible with Islam--not that I want to get into a big discussion about that because I have no idea if he is right. I mention it because, like Christianity, I do believe that many of the world's religions are inspired by people who were in turn inspired by the same God, but whose various adjustments to the message and attachments to various parts of it create fractures between them. These make the religions appear to be more different than they really are in the important areas, and emphasize differences on relatively unimportant matters.


  3. Dear Andrew,
    Is your PhD about these things?

    Our challenge is to understand in detail the different ways that people react to the power of God's love. Nothing impure can stand in that presence, so to impure (non-blameless) people God appears angry and frightening. The challenge of any new science is to understand the details of how different people respond differently to God, and then, as you say, how they produce fractured or partial views of religion.

    I hope that your observations can articulate this. However, you will also need to develop some general theory of mind and the spiritual (that is what I am working on myself).


  4. It would be fun to do a PhD on this subject but my employer wants it related to my teaching and their business, so it is a higher education doctorate regarding spatial cognition skills and their relationship with other types of problem-solving skills.

    I have considered doing a second PhD later in theology, or parapsychology or even a medical degree (I teach anatomy also), but that will be some time away if I do it.

    Best regards,


  5. @Ian:

    Not sure I understand the phrase "to impure (non-blameless) people God appears angry and frightening".