The Right to Dream: Defying a Kafkaesque society

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

Transpeople are a people of dreams.  I’m convinced of that, even if many transpeople I know have shut themselves off from their dreams.  Doing so is a mistake.  Some of us awakened to our trans nature through dreams because, if we listen to them and understand them rightly, they don’t lie.  In fact a Jewish maxim says, “A dream is one-sixtieth part of prophecy.”1

More than that, dreams should be cherished and cultivated.  This may be difficult for some people to understand because most people think that a dream is something you have, not something you do.  But working with dreams can be richly rewarding, offering greater meaning to life as a whole.  As a result, they contribute to our overall health.

Society has long repressed our capacity to dream, delegating them to something laughable.  When Simon and Garfunkel sang, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls,” exactly who were the prophets?  Weren’t they the voices of the inner personae struggling to find expression in a Kafkaesque society that delegates those voices to the most banal and impoverished blight?2  When we ignore that voice, it may surface in a nightmare one may not successfully shake.  How then, should we make friends with this voice and tap into its creative energy?

 

THE DREAM GENERA

Years ago when I wrote The Téssara, I developed my philosophy within a theory of dreaming and priestly practices.  The Téssara was never released to the market in its full form, largely because its esoteric aspects were overly substantive.  But in that book I cataloged 40 species of dream mechanisms in 5 genera:

  1. Hypnagogia: dream phenomena occurring prior to entry into Stage I sleep
  2. REM: dream phenomena occurring during the final stage of sleep associated with Rapid Eye Movements
  3. Trance: dream phenomena when engaged in waking but altered states of awareness with eyes closed
  4. Eidetic: dream phenomena when awake and eyes open
  5. Comatose: a loosely defined genus mostly consisting of phenomena during comatose conditions and at sleep stages not normally associated with dreams.3

Some of these terms may be completely new to some people, especially if they have grown up with the belief that dreams only happen during REM sleep.  They clearly aren’t so restricted.  In fact, Sigmund Freud wrote about hypnagogic (sleep admitting) dreams in his monumental work The Interpretation of Dreams and quoted a series of experiments by F.M.A. Maury pertaining to the incubation of hypnagogic dreams.  Incubation is the practice of inducing a particular theme in a dream through some kind of stimulus.4

Trance states are most commonly encountered through transcendental meditation but also include such phenomena as guided imagery, psychometry, mediumistic and shamanic trance states, and certain forms of pathworking.5

Eidetic phenomena are more widely reported in children than adults, the latter of which only 12% report.  It consists of actually seeing images in the visual field when one thinks a certain way.  Skrying, hypnapompic (sleep dismissing) imagery, visions in ritual work, tulpas, and the “Sorcerer’s Dream” are all eidetic phenomena.6

Those of the Comatose group include night terrors, eroto-comatose lucidity, hyperventilative lucidity, and the near death experience.7

 

FACING THE DREAM

Two things prevent many transpeople from giving attention to their dream lives: (1) a general lack of motivation to dream due to obsession with daily affairs and (2) a basic fear of dreams that they would only be nightmares instead.  Of these, the second is the one less prone to remedy because fear can become the greatest of all obsessions that choke out natural innocence.  The dreamworker is an intrepid soul, one who has learned not to “crap out” when faced with the “shadows of the night.”

A shadow figure may appear for good reason and a dreamer would be amiss to ignore it.  Psychologist M.L. von Frantz described the shadow as representing, “little known attributes and qualities of the ego aspects” belonging to one’s own “personal sphere” that may take a life of sorts.  In other words, it could “just as well be conscious.”8

The shadow sounds like a demon and in a personal level that’s exactly what it is, though not a demon in the same way as one might encounter through a Goetic treatise like the Greater Key of Solomon.9 The shadow personifies one’s dark side that must be faced, at times fight, and at times embrace.  It is, after all, one’s dark side, and in its strange way is close to God.

 

GETTING IN TOUCH

Virtually everyone has dreams and those who think they don’t simply don’t remember them.  Dreams have an effervescent quality that could dissipate into forgetfulness as soon as someone looks for a claw hammer to smash the alarm clock to smithereens in the morning.  Remembering requires attention, even mindfulness.

 Nothing cultivates this better than a simple dream diary assisted with a few pages on a clipboard with some key points of a dream jotted down immediately upon waking and reviewed the next day.  Those jottings jog the memory and aspects of the dream return.  Further details reveal themselves when the dreamer “fleshes out” the story in the dream diary.

The dreams most easily observed are hypnagogic dreams. Encountering hypnagogic dreams are easier than you might think.  This writer became aware of them in 1972 by accident when falling into slumber after returning home from school and noting the time on the clock.  Then, realizing a dream had taken place, I looked again at the clock and saw that only 2 minutes had passed.  If dreams happen only in REM sleep and it takes maybe 90 minutes to get to the point of REM sleep, why did that dream happen in those 2 minutes?

So after repeating the event several times, I compiled a list of 18 such dreams of short duration and brought them to school the next day.  An classmate in Biology class claimed dreams only happen in REM.  I disputed this and produced those 18 dreamlets as examples.  The instructor seized the opportunity and began to coach us in dream interpretation, something that would also assist me in literary interpretation.  After all, our literatures not only begin with experiences in waking and with philosophic perspectives but also begin with our dreams.

Once one learns to recognize a hypnagogic dream, one can go the next step: choosing a dream subject.  This is surprisingly easy to do.  Simply hold a thought about the subject one may choose to dream while entering that “fuzzy state” between waking and sleep and the dream will assimilate the subject the dreamer holds in his thoughts.  This is incubation of hypnagogic dreams and can lead to other methods of incubation as well.

Something else happens when one takes on such exercises.  As one works with hypnagogic dreams, dreams in REM also start to come alive.  Within a couple of weeks, a dream life can reveal its richness even after years of silencing through inattentiveness.

 

MOVING TOWARD LUCIDITY

Of course it’s pointless to simply see dreams happening.  We must also understand and transcend them.

Left to themselves, dreams recall memory traces and resort them based upon emotional tags via the hippocampus.10 This sorting and resorting of information helps to keep the cerebrum relatively compact.  In comparison, the echidna, an animal that does not dream, requires a proportionately much higher ratio than human brains in the size of its cerebrum in comparison with other brain structures.11

Those emotional tags imbue memory traces with energy that become a big factor in why certain memory traces get recalled as numinous dream elements at any stage of life.  If those energies resonate with an emotionally charged issue, even if immediately hidden, it could jar the dreamer into emotional shock.  This return, called “regression” (literally a reversal of synapses from the motor faculties to the perceptual to return memory traces to the Preconscious) forms the core of Freudian theory with respect to dreams.  When Freud described this in The Interpretation of Dreams, he achieved something monumental.  He established a workable theory that still resonates today, a theory that set him apart from the oneirocrits of antiquity.12

But apart from working through issues with a psychiatrist, what can the dreamer do to overcome the issues he faces?  Enter lucid dreaming.

Lucidity is a state in which a dreamer is no longer bound by the dream.  He realizes in a dream that he is, in fact, in a dream and is fully awake within the dream.  The dreamer realizes some starkly exciting changes in the dreamscape.  The dream becomes intensely lifelike, even luminous.  The dreamer is free to consciously explore the dreamscape and dream scenario, doing as he wishes.  He can rationally overcome shadowy elements in his dream.  The experience is like walking through a motion picture screen and living what’s on the other side in stark 3-dimensional clarity.13

Lucidity can be achieved in REM by declaring, “I’m dreaming!”  The dreamer may repeat this, with the clarity associated with lucidity responding accordingly.14

A dreamer can also achieve lucidity from hypnagogic episodes.  In one common technique, the dreamer must quickly find his dream hands.  One may encounter a surge of energy by doing so.  But the dream can also be sustained by taking quick glances to various objects in the dreamscape and back to the hands.  This has the effect of stabilizing the dream in full lucidity and, at the same time, extending the life of the dream to the duration of dreams in REM sleep.  But this happens directly from waking.15

 

BENEFITS OF CONNECTING WITH THE DREAM

For all their zaniness, few things inspire as much as a dream; and as many as embrace their dreams may awaken to the greater Dream.  Dreams not only offer immense creative potential and can promote health, they also raise philosophical questions of their own, questions which address life’s meaning.

One of those questions pertains to the soul.  The soul, beyond being a blend of body and breath as a link to consciousness, can hardly be demonstrated to one lacking experience.  It’s like trying to prove the existence of God with theorems or the blueness of the sky to a man blind from birth: a fruitless exercise.

However, the experience of lucidity and the explorations implied thereby raise the issue of the soul all over again.  When engaging in practices like pathworking, rising through the planes and entering levels beyond astral projection, one encounters states beyond those reminiscent of Alice Through the Looking Glass.16 Different levels seem to operate by different rules.  One also encounters the flow of energy from a higher unity to lower plurality.

It’s reminiscent of Schopenhauer’s unitary description of the noumenon.17 Ever since Parmenides filled the Greek world with the Eleatic idea of everything being an ultimate unity, philosophers have pondered the differences between things that are (noumenal) and things as they appear (phenomenal).18

It also addresses the state of the person whose consciousness penetrates to higher levels.  Kabbalists refer to this differing state in terms of the soul as an inductive realization in 3 basic levels.

The first, a nefesh, consists of the union of a body or a corpse (gūf) with breath or “spirit” (ruach).  At death the nefesh no longer exists.

The second, (ruach), pertains not only to breathing, but the faculties of thought and consciousness which may be expressed or continue in a neutralized state.  In lucidity, thought is cultivated in a fully conscious manner.  By exercising lucidity, the ruach strengthens.

But the ruach, when it faces the unity of the noumenon, must undergo a further change.  This is what Kabbalists call the “neshamah.”  Kabbalah addresses this neshamah in 3 ways:

  1. A lesser neshamah in which the greater neshamah builds understanding of the noumenon;
  2. A chiah in which life faculties become subjugated to a singularity;
  3. A yechidah which alone unites with that noumenal unity and is itself actually that unity because no “one and another” exists in a state of pure unity.19

The yechidah reaches a state that might be thought of as reaching the door of the cave in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in Book VII of The Republic.20 When approaching the soul this way, the realization thereof isn’t deduced from another principle.  It’s an inductive approach based upon powerful experiences.  While experiences don’t prove anything to the next person, it’s a different matter when those powerful experiences are your own.

In the process, issues of ethics become important in ways one may not have previously considered.  Ethics become facilitating energies that enable one to reach higher.  In this context, things like charity, sacrifice, faith, and hope become ethical acts and virtues that do more than just keeping people out of jail.  They’re rewards not comprehended by those who fear their dreams.

For those who pray, those prayers can also become vehicles of transcendence.  The dream with a negative energy will burst when the dreamer prays.  But the dream with a positive energy will intensify instead.  The prayer becomes the teacher.21

 

THE BIRTHRIGHT

Like it or not, humans are dreamers.  It’s our right to dream, not by decree but by birthright.  It’s a birthright full of a sacred responsibility to defy a society that diminishes their import and delegates them to silence.  That’s no less true for transpeople whose dreams awakened us to our gender issues.  We can fear them.  We can cultivate them.  Only the latter yields benefits.

In understanding them we need to respect them as we would any teacher, knowing that the rewards are more favorable than consequences of resistance.  The fountain of creativity lies deep within us all and that fountain must be honored for it to flow freely as a blessed source of refreshment and life.

That also inspires us to honor others with respect.  When anyone dies, an inner universe literally dies with him.  How much could we preserve the enrichment of our people if we honor those who embody those worlds?

But if we should do that, we must first respect our own inner universe and listen to its messages those dreams teach.

 

Honor your dream,

And if you do,

Your dream will be waiting

There for you. 

It will.

It will.

It will.

It will.

_________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  Titania and Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, detail of a painting by Edwin Landseer (Wikimedia Commons) with a lucid dreamscape (Flickr).  The star points toward the white rabbit which has been a symbol of natural innocence since time immemorial and revived by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.

  1. Berachot 57b, Mishnah
  2. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. “The Sound of Silence” YouTube (posted by Jack Lim July 20, 2013 with lyrics, accessed December 12, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–DbgPXwLlM.
  3. Stuart, Lynnea Urania. Hiereika, Ch. 3, Téssara (2008,book not to be released before the death of the author) No ISBN. p. 121, 122.
  4. Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams” com (Online English version, Chapter 1C accessed December 12, 2017) https://genius.com/Sigmund-freud-the-interpretation-of-dreams-chap-1c-annotated
  5. Op. cit, pp. 130-135.
  6. Ibid, pp. 135-138.
  7. Ibid, pp. 138-141.
  8. Jung, C.G. Man and His Symbols (Laurel Books, Dell Publishing, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., NY, 1968) ISBN: 0-440-35183-9, p. 174.
  9. Mathers, S.L. Macgregor. The greater Key of Solomon (Digireads, 2007) ISBN-13: 978-1420928181.
  10. Erin J. Wamsley, Ph.D. and Robert Stickgold, Ph.D. “Memory, Sleep and Dreaming: Experiencing Consolidation” NCBI (March 6, 2011, accessed December 13, 2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079906/.
  11. Robert Kanigel. “Understanding Dreams the Work We Do as We Sleep” Washington Post (February 8, 1987, accessed December 13, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1987/02/08/understanding-dreams-the-work-we-do-as-we-sleep/445125c2-77f2-49f2-9ca4-9812dc2eda68/?utm_term=.39a4df04f639.
  12. Michael, Michael T. Freud’s Theory of Dreams: A Philosophico-Scientific Perspective (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) ISBN-13: 978-1442230453, p. 52
  13. Waggoner, Robert. Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2008) ISBN 1609255399, p. 6.
  14. The author relies upon her own experience, but this is also recorded by various dreamworkers including Le Berge.
  15. A process LeBerge described as “Waking Induction of Lucid Dreams” but is also described in various publications by Carlos Castaneda. Rebecca Turner. “Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (The MILD Technique)” The World of Lucid Dreaming (n.d., accessed August 2, 2017) http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/mnemonic-induction-of-lucid-dreams.html.
  16. Carroll, Lewis. Alice Through the Looking Glass ( Lot 17 Media, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-1537859699.
  17. Beiser, Frederick C. Weltschmerz: Pessimism in German Philosophy, 1860-1900 (Oxford, 2016) ISBN-13: 978-0191081347, p.. 247.
  18. Parmenides 129, 130.
  19. The author relies upon her own interaction with Kabbalists concerning these aspects.
  20. Republic 514-517.
  21. The author relies upon her own experience here.
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Billiards to Astral Flight: The Awakening of the Transgender Soul

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

Author’s note:  this article is related to a previous article here in TransMusePlanet Magazine.  See “A Message in an E-Mail: The Heart of the Struggle for the Transgender Soul” by Lynnea Urania Stuart, posted September 16, 2017.  Click here to access it.

__________________________________

He probably never thought about what billiard balls might eventually set into motion.  David Hume (1711-1776) didn’t care about religion and his probable exposure to anything transgender may have been restricted to socially accepted performances in Scottish theater and talk about molly houses in the local pub.  Ironically, his atheism would spark a re-evaluation of spiritual experience as explored today in laboratories and temples alike.  Just as ironically, the current reassertion of trans spiritualities cannot help but contribute to this exploratory milieu.  This current of re-evaluation represents yet another theater of the struggle for the transgender soul apart from dogmatism:  the crisis within when faced with spiritual awakening.

 

SCIENCE ALMOST DERAILED

Hume came along during a heady time in science.  Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716) had introduced Calculus.  Newton had proposed his Laws of Gravitation in the Principia (1687).  The sciences were beginning to blossom.  But Hume made an important observation, illustrating it through the collision of billiard balls, and this observation nearly turned science completely on its head.

Observe carefully the collision of those billiard balls.  Do we see the cause of the collision?  Look closely.  Newton might have spoken of forces, but did we see those forces in play?

No we didn’t.  Those forces were surmised as a result of theory, even if they may have had predictive results.  Could those actions observed correlate to any knowledge about them before the fact (called “a priori”)?  Do we have the right to call laws of motion “universal laws”?  Or might those observations be skewed at another time?  Hume denied we could know these events for certain a priori.  All we might claim to know must be after the fact, after each time of observation (called “a posteriori”, an idea without sexual implications).  Of course, Hume didn’t have anything spiritual in mind.  He wasn’t even concerned with metaphysics.  His argument was a purely epistemological one as an empiricist.  But it was an argument with far reaching implications.1

Hume’s idea, called Hume’s Fork, divided possible knowledge claims into relations of ideas and matters of fact.  Relations of ideas can be known independently of what’s observed.  Matters of fact can only be known from what’s observed and only in the context of what was observed for that time and could not be relied upon in any other.2

So if we can’t be certain about universal laws, how can we claim to have a science?  That would be answered by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) when he proposed the Transcendental Aesthetic in Critique of Pure Reason after being awakened by Hume’s writings about causation.  He revisited what happens on the side of the human mind past the veil of perception.

The veil of perception, a fundamental concept in philosophy, might be described in terms of a person stuck in an office with an errand runner between him and another office.  The person stuck in his office cannot know what’s happening in the other office except through what that errand runner tells him.  By analogy, the man stuck in his office is like the individual locked inside the confines of his brain with his senses acting like the errand runner.  The office about which the errand runner reports is by analogy, the outside world.  We can’t accept with absolute certainty that we can take those sense impressions at face value.

Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic addressed what we can know a priori, building upon Hume’s relations of ideas, being himself very interested in universality.  He described general affection of the mind (Gemüth – see the diagram in the featured image) that exercises a receptivity of the mind through the senses (Vorstellungen) which in turn supplies intuitions for the mind (Anschauungen), and forms a seed of thought through understanding (Verstand).  These empiric impressions of the world occur a posteriori.  This process also produces forms or conceptions (Begriffe) from thought.  These thoughts are returned to Gemüth a priori.3 As a result Kant claimed that we can reliably know a priori that if we knock the supporting pillars away from a house the whole structure will catastrophically crash.4

Upon this, Kant continued to examine various areas of thought to which this a priori knowledge may be applied.  From this came Categories of Understanding in Judgments5 and the closely related Categories of Pure Concepts of Understanding.6 Through these ideas, science moved onwards and quit feeling the hot breath of logical deconstruction due to extreme empiricism.

 

A GLARING PHENOMENOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE

Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic also provided the grist for the later phenomenological theories of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and his student Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), particularly regarding intentionality (Husserl) and temporality (Heidegger).  But Husserl would understand something subtle but significant about those forms to which Kant referred.  The forms don’t match observation 100%.  He took extra steps to articulate it.

 In the beginning Husserl considered what’s given to consciousness in terms of Kant’s impressions supplied by as a “manifold of appearances” developed from the “thing-in-itself” as received by the affection of the mind.  The “manifold of appearances” for Husserl consisted of objects of consciousness separate from its total reality.7

This difference between a priori forms developed in the mind and a posteriori impressions from empiric observations could be dramatized in an exercise commonly taught in preparation for astral projection from either REM or trance states:

 

Stand in front of a full length mirror, naked, with a strong light behind you (most who do astral projection do so unclothed or “skyclad”).  The image you see will be shadowy.  Use that image to form an image of your body in your mind.  Do this repeatedly for a long while.  Notice the shift between your mental image and the image you see in the mirror.  Notice also shifts in your awareness between the 2 images.8

 

The effect may seem a bit disorienting, and in fact other exercises for these practices get even more disorienting than that.  The important thing in this regard is to recognize the difference between the fact observed a posteriori (the actual view of one’s body in a mirror) and the form returned a priori (the mental image of one’s body).  These differences have been addressed variously by different authors on dreaming practices including Carlos Castaneda who spoke of the synchronizing these disparate images in terms of “completing the energy body.”9 The same disparities also arise when comparing images recalled during episodes of astral travel as a dreaming phenomenon and examination of a target area thereafter.  Few astral experiences resemble fact in beginning attempts.  Even experienced practitioners encounter differences.  Comparable disparities have also been noted for remote viewers who form mental images of a target without any sensation of separation from the physical body, judging by comparisons of sketches with photos of targets.10

For transpeople, the preceding exercise has raised an extra issue specific to gender identity when engaged during early transition.  A transwoman may see a predominantly male body in that mirror, but the initial mental image thereof may be completely female, coming across in a flash till the mind reworks that image (vice versa in the case of a transman).  It could also happen that since that flash of a mental image is perceived as female, the participant may prefer for that mental image to remain so.  That feminine image may become accepted as regular projected image of the astral body before a transwoman experiences any sensation of her consciousness being transferred from her physical body to that energy body.

Episodes like these can accompany a more general spiritual awakening.  The internal image of an astral body, described by various authors as a kind of “soul” impacts that experience of awakening.  It reaches beyond epistemology, entering the realm of philosophical psychology.

 

NOESIS AND LUCIDITY

In Husserl’s Theory of Intentionality, noema consists of content types as ideal and timeless components. Noesis, is an act of thinking and ruminating.  A noematic moment will correspond to a noetic moment.  The 2 always happen in relation to one another.11

But a noematic-noetic moment may or may not happen when you expect it.  Noematic structures develop out of the body of forms derived from impressions.  But noesis pertains to what someone consciously does with noemata. Without such a corresponding moment, intentionality doesn’t happen.

Perhaps a delay in a noematic-noetic moment may be best illustrated in terms of dreams and dreaming, the former as passive experiences, and the latter as an intentional art.  A mundane dream represents a purely noematic action because it goes no farther than the preconscious while the dreamer remains asleep.  The noetic response to that action doesn’t happen till the dreamer wakes up and recalls the dream.  Noesis demands conscious interaction and that doesn’t happen in a mundane dream.

But this changes entirely when a dreamer gains lucidity.  Only through lucidity does the noematic-noetic moment happen within the dream.  When that takes place, the effect can become literally life-changing, generating deep personal inspiration and awakening to natural innocence while forcing a crisis in which the dreamer must think through new modal realities when others may condemn them.

Here’s a description of the lucid dream experience to readers who either haven’t encountered the phenomenon or haven’t known that sleep labs have studied it.  In fact it has become a subject for serious scientific inquiry since the 1980’s:

 

“I run away from a charging dinosaur then realize an incongruity.  Dinosaurs are extinct.  Therefore I must be dreaming.  I declare this realization, saying, “I’m dreaming!”  As I repeat the entire character of the dream changes.  The dream becomes incredibly lifelike and clear.  The dreamscape becomes strangely luminous.  I have greater interest to explore the dreamscape.  I step aside and watch the dinosaur charge past me, knowing I’m no longer bound by the dream.  I do so, freely and rationally examining various components of the dream.  The lifelike clarity of the dream is so intense that it’s as if I had stepped into a 2-dimensional flat screen television and actually live what’s on the other side in 3 dimensions. 12

 

Though many Conservative religious circles condemn lucid dreaming as “demonic”, as they do dream phenomena generally, the vast majority who experience lucid dreaming have no occult ties.  Lucid dreaming occurs with people of all religions, typically by accident, though some prefer to suppress lucid dreams because of learned dogmatic fears of what they don’t understand.  But the perceptions of changes endemic to lucid dreams are really tied to a physiological event in which portions of the brain that had been off line while sleeping switch on during REM sleep.  “REM” refers to the stage of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements and dreams have been most commonly noted at this stage, though dreams do occur at other times.

 

A NEUROLOGY OF SPIRITUALITIES

Of special interest concerning those brain structures coming online during lucid dream episodes is the frontal lobe of the brain.  This area is normally off during REM but springs into activity during Lucid REM episodes.  Elisa Filevich of the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development announced in a January 2015 press release that their MRI scans demonstrated how participants in a study who reported highly lucid during dreams had larger anterior prefrontal cortexes.  This area of the brain also controls conscious cognitive processes and plays an important role in self-reflection.13

Another researcher who noted this action of the anterior prefrontal cortexes is Dr. Andrew Newberg, author of The Metaphysical Mind:  Probing the Biology of Philosophical Thought.  He cited that practices of concentration either through prayer or mantra based meditation tend to activate this part of the brain.  It also has a role in directing attention, modulating behavior, and expression of language.  Conversely, when one surrenders the will as in mediumistic trance or speaking in tongues, activity decreases in the frontal lobes and increases in the thalamus where flow of sensory information to much of the brain is regulated.14

Dr. Newberg noted in a study of Buddhist monks an experiment in which during experiences of high ecstasy in meditative trance they would pull a kite string, triggering injection of a tracer dye for brain scan.  He told the BBC in 2002:

 

“There was an increase in activity in the front part of the brain, the area that is activated when anyone focuses attention on a particular task…  In addition, a notable decrease in activity in the back part of the brain, or parietal lobe, recognised [sic] as the area responsible for orientation, reinforced the general suggestion that meditation leads to a lack of spatial awareness…  During meditation, people have a loss of the sense of self and frequently experience a sense of no space and time and that was exactly what we saw.”15

 

Brick Johnstone, Professor of Health Psychology at the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri, declared in 2012 that many parts of the brain are involved in spirituality.  He noted concerning impairment of the right side of the brain:

 

Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self.  This is consistent with many religious texts that suggest people should concentrate on the well-being of others rather than on themselves.”16

 

This stands as a warning for many transgender people whose construction of the self can swallow them up in self-obsession.  Reasonably, anyone who transitions also needs to balance the experience of reconstruction of life consistent with construction of the self through charitable service to others.

It’s more than just an issue of spirituality.  It’s an issue of health and well being.  It also can build communities.  It would also be a reasonable conjecture based upon that warrant for service to others that those transpeople engaged in such activities should be less prone to suicide.  Future surveys including those on the order of the U.S. Transgender Survey should examine this, and if confirmed, should be made an integral part of regimens designed to sustain mental health.

 

ANCIENT INSIGHT

The link of the anterior frontal lobes to spirituality, lucid dreaming, and higher thinking comparable to the action of noesis upon noemata seems to be more than just a modern consideration.  Consider the work of a genius from long ago.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonorotti Simoni (1475-1564), Renaissance sculptor, painter, and one of the most brilliant artists of all time, painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican.  His work, the subject of many books, articles, and television programs, even the motion picture The Agony and the Ecstasy, features numerous scenes from the Bible.  Perhaps the most inspiring of all is a central depiction of the Creation of Adam (see featured image, upper left hand corner).

In this image, an anthropomorphic depiction of God the Creator, reaches outward to touch the hand of Adam to deliver a spark of life.  But that touch seems to represent much more.  Not a few people have commented about the God figure, wrapped in his shadowy cloak and accompanied by other spirits to witness this crowning act of creation.  To some the cloak and entourage represents a womb.  But to most it vividly takes the form of a brain viewed from the side, the pituitary gland and brainstem clearly visible.  God reaches out through the frontal lobe of a brain to give life to Adam.

He painted this scene centuries before the invention of MRI and PET scans.  How did Michelangelo connect the frontal lobe of the brain with the making of Adam as a living soul?  Or did he connect them?

He may not need to have consciously done so.  Artists often experience very close connections with their faculties of dreaming and meditation.  The detail of Michelangelo’s work suggests that his degree of exact representation of conceived impressions gave him a higher level of technical insight than most artists.  The dynamism of his work suggests enhanced noematic-noetic moments leading to thematic insight, even extending to the underlying geometry that governed his compositions.  But the genius of the Creation of Adam suggests more than technicalities in art, extending to archetypes like those described through the work of Carl Jung (1875-1961).17

Might Michelangelo’s dreaming proclivities have led him, even unconsciously to the dynamism of his composition?  The similarity of God’s cloak to the brain in the Creation of Adam may have emerged through Michelangelo’s dream mechanisms as a structural archetype, the mind unveiling an insight of itself to the world as the inner genius with whom every artist craves to connect.

 

Some of us who are transgender and with Abrahamic connections to our spiritualities may see this creation of Adam with a bit of a twist, following a Kabbalistic belief centuries old.  Kabbalah relies as much upon dreaming proclivities and lore as upon persnickety logic and commentary upon sacred texts.  One of the Kabbalistic texts, The Zohar, makes a claim incredible to many not accustomed to it, but advancing a Rabbinic view concerning Adam:

 

Rabbi Yirmeyah son of El’azar said, ‘When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He created him androgynous, as it said: Male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).’  Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said, ‘When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He created him with two faces.  Then He sawed him and gave him two backs, one on this side and one on that.’”18

 

These aspects of mind pertaining to the interactions of noema and noesis have the capacity to awaken us to life issues including those relating to gender with mechanisms far above those described.  They also have the capacity to interface with the various spiritualities throughout the world and to warn us when we lose balance through obsession as the enemy of innocence.  As such they play a pivotal role in our health, quality of life, and understanding as harbingers and awakeners of insight.

For most of us, unless hampered from antagonistic sources imposed by the dogmatic seeds of noemata sown by others, we can find them worth cultivating, knowing also that by cultivation we also must face social and psychological currents designed to destroy us.  The struggle for the transgender soul is more than a struggle for domination by religious and political parties.  The struggle is internal, one of which we often find ourselves at a loss to grasp.

Our philosophies touch upon them but the bulk remains a deep mystery.  But we can admit one thing:  we’ve come a very long way since Hume’s colliding billiard balls.

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REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  Superimposed glyph of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life with the sephirah of Binah superimposed upon the part of a diagram expressing Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic at the circle pertaining to Verstand (Understanding, also the meaning of Binah).  The spheres representing the sephirot are themselves reminiscent of Hume’s billiard balls.  A graphic limitation exists here because while in Kabbalah, understanding pertains to Binah, the development of forms is deemed to be more a function of Chokhmah.  Beyond is a detail of Michelangelo’s Creation of Man from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican in which not a few have observed the uncanny appearance of the Godhead figure and cloak to a brain.  The Divine appears to reach through what appears to be the frontal lobe at the Ajña Chakra, to give life to Adam (Flickr).  The diagram concerning Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic is by the author.

  1. M. Lorkowski. “David Hume- Causation” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (n.d., accessed September 20, 2017) http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-cau/.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kant, Immanuel. “Critique of Pure Reason” The Basic Writings of Kant (Allen W. Wood, ed, transl.,2001) Modern Library, Random House Publishing Group, NY, ISBN: 0-375-75733-3, pp. 42,43.
  4. 25, ibid.
  5. 57, Ibid.
  6. 59, ibid.
  7. Zack, Naomi, PhD. “The Handy Philosophy Answer Book” (Visible Ink Press, Canton MI 2010) ISBN: 978-1-57859-226-5, p. 275.
  8. An exercise known by the author since the 1990’s as a teacher in various classes on the subject. In settings where the participant does not act alone, clothing is loose-fitting or with the wearing of a ritual robe.
  9. (n.a.) “The Art of Dreaming” Biblioteca Pleyades (Quotations and comments from Carlos Castaneda, accessed September 21, 2017) https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cienciareal/esp_donjuan9.htm.
  10. Observed by the author.
  11. Rassi, Fatemeh and Shahabi, Zeiae. “Husserl’s Phenomenology and two terms of Noema and Noesis” International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, ISSN: 2300-2697, Vol. 53, pp29-34 (2015, Sci Press LTD, Switzerland), pp. 29, 30; referencing Husserl, Edmund. Ideas:  General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (2003, W. R. Boyce Gibson, translator, George Allen & Unwinm LTD, London).  Available through https://www.scipress.com/ILSHS.53.29.
  12. A commonly reported example of awakening within a dream. Scientific inquiry began with Stephen LeBerge of Stanford University when he proved the existence of lucid dreams in the Stanford Sleep Lab.  Much material is available on his work from The Lucidity Institute. http://www.lucidity.com/
  13. Fiona Macdonald. “Scientists May Have Found The Part of The Brain That Enables Lucid Dreaming” Science Alert (January 26, 2015, accessed September 21, 2017) https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-may-have-found-the-part-of-the-brain-that-enables-lucid-dreaming .
  14. Lynne Blumberg. “What Happens to Brains During Spiritual Experiences” The Atlantic (June 5, 2014, accessed September 21, 2017). https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/what-happens-to-brains-during-spiritual-experiences/361882/
  15. BBC Staff. “Meditation mapped in monks” BBC (March 1, 2002, accessed September 21, 2017) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1847442.stm
  16. Brad Fischer. “Distinct ‘God Spot’ in the Brain does not exist, MU Researcher Says” University of Missouri News (April 18, 2012, accessed September 21, 2017) http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2012/0418-distinct-%E2%80%9Cgod-spot%E2%80%9D-in-the-brain-does-not-exist-mu-researcher-says/
  17. Jung, C. G. Man and His Symbols (1968, Laurel Books, Dell Publishing, NY) ISBN: 0-440-35183-9, p. 32.
  18. Zohar 1:13b, from Matt, Daniel C. The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Volume 1 (2004) Stanford University Press. ISBN: 0-8047-4747-4, p. 94, footnote708.
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