I will get to interesting, concrete and lurid cases, yea unto brimstone and such, but it is very important to have a proper background to make real sense of such things. What I say about dreams here will reflect the best understanding we have from real systems neuroscience – which goes ‘way beyond what policy makers in Washington THINK we know about the brain. And yes, I’ll also get around to the Book of Revelations and the great dream of Mohammed, which were not really written for unprepared babies. And a few of my own. And mysteries of time.
Context: brain science and one of the great risks in our future
This week, I heard the director of the Presidential Commission on Bioethics give an update on the Great Brain Initiative, and what they are doing to keep it from becoming another great disaster like the discovery of cocaine and the discovery of frontal lobotomies, which were also touted as great wonders in their time. It looks like a real global disaster in the making. What I heard this week confirmed the worst fears I felt when I listened to the whole day of their hearings in 2013:
The Director today strongly echoed what one of the smiling nonscientist PR people said in 2013, roughly:
“Don’t worry about deep stimulation of the brain leading to mind control. It will be decades before anyone has or even develops THAT kind of technology, and it is totally speculative. We really have no idea what these things do to the brain, so we need to experiment and find out. The real priority is to be sure that ethicists have jobs in every project, and that they do not stand in the way of actually doing that science.”
Stand in the way of science? Does it have to be so complicated? In actuality, when I was at NSF, I led a group activity which was FAR more focused than the present stakeholders’ pork barrel nonsense in trying to give us a better real understanding of how brains actually work in a functional way (how real intelligence emerges from brain activity):
There was no “extra cut” for the modern bureaucratic version of ethicist... but there was a simple rule: no funding for developing technologies for direct stimulation of whole brains. Not needed. It generated ever so much bitching and moaning, but it didn’t really cost anything – and it ENHANCED productivity to keep out that kind of waste. When it comes time for major health plans to pay for “treatments and enhancements” (a possible market which has people salivating, maybe as big as the market for cocaine) – we don’t need a complex process. Just don’t fund it. That’s not the whole answer, since there are very serious threats of certain employers developing that technology and making it part of a job description –
which I believe should be outlawed as it violates INALIENABLE rights, like the right to think for oneself and not turn into
Is this all wild speculation? Laughing ignorant PR people, who think their job is to reassure the public (so that the stakeholders can get on with extracting more money from the rest of us, just as drug dealers do), would say that of course it is wild speculation.
But in fact, anyone who has any right to claim to be a systems neuroscientist should be deeply familiar with the work of James Olds senior, many decades ago. Probably on U-tube you can see one of those videos of mice who had wires inserted unto the primary reinforcement centers of their brains. You can see them pumping away at the lever which generates that stimulation all day, furiously, obsessively and unrelentingly, to the point where they neglect everything else and simply die. That is exactly what cocaine does to the brain, except that it’s stronger and worse. And it is far from speculative and unknown how to do it – how to turn any mammal into a machine whose whole personality is focused on how to get more of that stimulation. No one should claim to be an authority on bioethics of the brain without knowing the full history of Delgado and his followers.
In truth, neuroscience has spawned a lot of specialities who often seek to advance their speciality, even at the cost of the larger enterprise of understanding how the brain works. I am very grateful that I have had a chance to collaborate in the past with great systems neuroscientists like Karl Pribram and Walter Freeman... who often complained about the way in which narrow subspecialities (from ion gate genetics to forms of neural modeling as divorced from systems neuroscience as superstring theory is from experiment) sometimes lobby themselves in ways which get in the way of understanding how things really work. We actually know a lot about how brains really work, by now, if you read the right stuff and get past the vested interests, and we know a lot more about how to stimulate the brain than we did at the time of Delgado. But today, I do not intend to do an expose of the scariest technologies people are developing and planning to get through the FDA (God help us!), and will not get into a general overview of what we really know. Freeman and Kozma have a new book out this year from Springer, and my chapter there would be a good starting point for those who want to go deeper.
I was very upset in some ways when the FBI recently indicted Chakka Fattah, ranking member of the House Science Committee, a key champion of the present version of the Great Brain Initiative. But if that, plus the turnover in the White House, save us from just this one massive threat, perhaps it may be for the best. But there are other even more massive threats out there, and it would be very sad to lose the other more positive things Fattah was trying to protect.
More Context: Systems Neuroscience of Dreams (Mundane Prerequisite)
For today, I will start by reviewing what we know about dreams from systems neuroscience and functional modeling. In general, “”functional modeling” means the kind of thing discussed at that NSF URL above; today, I will resist saying more.
Is it really interesting to real humans and even mystics what neuroscience can tell us about dreams – which logically includes the dream which is presented in the Book of Revelations and Mohammed’s famous journey on a white horse?
Yes, but let me give you a quick example.
There are many important books and articles which a systems neuroscientist should know about... but if you want to understand about dreams from a functional viewpoint OR A MYSTICAL of viewpoint, there is just one truly must-read book: Lucid Dreaming by LaBerge. That book is a unique and beautiful work of art, connecting real experience and credible science in a seamless way, and also beautifully written.
When he wrote that book, LaBerge was both a professor at Stanford and President of the international society for sleep research. So now, this is not some offbeat viewpoint. It’s as credible as it gets. The book is full of real experiments, told as menaingful stories, with a lot of depth in the explanation.
LaBerge’s “main theory” (validated by experiment) is that dreams are SIMULATIONS... efficient efforts by the brain to analyze scenarios which it has not encountered yet in actual experience, used to help it learn how to cope with important possible scenarios, both good and bad. In fact, I published a paper of my own back in 1987 (IEEE SMC, “... brain research) which discussed how important that kind of simulation capability is in any real intelligent system, and gave lots of equations for how to build such a system. Since then, that kind of mathematics has advanced a huge amount; see my chapter in Freeman’s book for citations. It is amusing that two leaders of reinforcement learning, Sutton and Barto, saw that paper, which led to the book Neural Networks for Control, where Sutton gave an example (“sarsa”) of how this kind of simulation leads to better capabilities in machine systems that perform reinforcement learning. He cited the 1987 paper , but not the details of how we discussed “dreaming” while walking in grass next to GTE (where he worked at the time) or how that is where the idea for “sarsa” came from.
Of course, these words don’t tell you how the brain actually does the simulation. There is a special kind of stochastic system involved in creating scenarios to think about, and in filling in the details. Crudely, the system involves two key steps – deciding on key assumptions, and filling in other details based on how other aspects of life correlate with the key assumptions. Some people do not even bother to fill in color, because color is such a small part of how they live, but many of us do dream and live in color.
Dreaming and Scientific Mysticism I: Basics of the Soul
Please forgive me for inventing a new term here. For me, “scientific mysticism” is a short hand for the “first person scientific method” explained in some detail in my paper published in Russia, posted at www.werbos.com/Mind_in_Time.pdf. One key idea is that we each are a kind of union of “body” and “soul,” where I see “soul” as basically just another body, most likely made up of what we now call “dark matter.” It took me a long time to get used to that concept, but I have really exhaustively looked into lots of other possible explanations of the full range of experience available to us. I still try to do justice to alternative possibilities (see below), but more and more that model seems to work, in all the areas I have considered. I was very happy this year to see how the famous psychiatrist, Eric Ericcson, adopted and explained the first person approach in his classic book Ghandi’s Truth.
In some ways, the soul really has the upper hand in these interactions. I have seen parapsychologists try to imagine how someone’s pineal gland might reach out and extract the thoughts of someone else by some kind of electromagnetic force. (A lot of the early Russian work on parapsychology had such a flavor.) But for folks who really understand how electromagnetic systems work in practice, and how hard engineers have worked to get the most that can be gotten... it doesn’t work. It’s true that quantum mechanics now lets us do things with electromagnetism which seemed impossible before; I have a paper in press at Quantum Information Processing which discusses how to push that frontier well beyond what has seemed possible in the past even to the most advanced people with real knowledge of this technology. But even so, it would not be enough to let brains do what parapsychologists say they can do. To reach out and learn things about desired places or people far away, in space or in time, it is necessary to have a kind of network and signal processing which brains alone simply could not do. And so, I would claim that the key work of interface between body and soul is done by the soul part itself – a kind of “psychokinesis” as it perturbs the brain, and probes the brain, and learns what it can from it. I have never concluded that I should just give up what my mundane brain wants from life, but I have worked for an “Alchemical marriage”, a partnership and integration of the two sides of myself aimed at a “win win” outcome for both sets of values. The survival of the human species on earth is a goal both sides can agree on, and work together for.
How does this affect dreams?
Formally... the soul can perturb the stochastic mechanism which sets up scenarios for the brain to look at. And then the brain can fill in what the core assumptions mean for aspects of life (like color, sometimes) which are not part of the core of those scenarios. The distinction between the “core” of the dream and the “fill in” is crude... but immensely important when we try to understand practical experience, either mundane body-only dreams or dreams perturbed by the soul. Because dark matter is not so strictly localized as ordinary matter, the “soul” has had more time to evolve across the galaxy than the body has, and has developed a higher level of many capabilities, such as an ability to “see the future” as now seems more definitely possible in advanced quantum information processing. (I am thinking right now of “ghost imaging” implemented via three photons entangled in momentum, a simple extension of the triphoton experiment discussed in my new paper.)
Revelations and Kundalini: What Opened My Mind in 1972
So now it goes to first person. Before 1972, I did have some experiences which convinced me that “paranormal” experience is real and cannot be ignored. (See the detailed story given in my paper “Why space?” in the book Beyond Earth, cited at www.werbos.com/space.htm ). But 1972 is when new experience pushed me to take dreams of the future very seriously and personally.
The first big event for me in 1972 was the Republican convention in August 1972. No, I didn’t make it there, but a very good friend at Harvard, Geoffrey Keppel, offered to drive me with him to the convention. (Such a long story in itself!). On the way from Harvard to Florida, he decided to stop at the apartment of his girl friend in Dupont Circle, to have a heart to heart talk with her. And so, I was locked up in her apartment while they went out, for longer and longer time. Of course, I could have just walked out of the apartment if I chose, but I had no key to get back in and nowhere else to go short of a real crisis. So I suddenly needed to find SOME way to spend the hours. There were only about twelve books there, on one part of a narrow bookcase in the living room, and I looked very closely. I liked to read science fiction and many types of nonfiction, but I couldn’t see any of THAT in her few books. The closest I could find was the Bible. I remembered how a classmate at Harvard, a mathematician named Kubert in Perkins Hall, had talked a lot about then book of Revelations, so I decided I could spend the time looking at that one.
By the way, just a few weeks BEFORE that, I had written a long letter to George Mueller of NASA, in my capacity as President of the Harvard Committee for a Space Economy. George was a really great guy. I covered a lot of topics in that letter, such as a review of the latest technologies being developed by GE Aerospace in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, which I had had a chance to tour in detail.
So as I read the Book of Revelations... it really made me sit up and take notice. Yes, I read it a bit as science fiction, and a bit as an inspired dream... the kind of dream you get when real things come into the brain, even if some details are filled in by mundane brain associations. But it was “more than six sigmas away from mundane.” It begins with a city floating in the heavens... just like the large space habitats we were talking about the previous week! (In ancient days, “the heavens” did most commonly refer to stuff up there in the sky.) It discussed a vitally important “ark in the heavens” – hey guys, we really do need to build that kind of RLV! No joke! (I even know a pious world class Mormon aerospace engineer who could build it... IF ONLY we were not falling into a bad path... but that was later.)
And then it talked about twelve types of precious crystal... Fortunately, there was also a dictionary among the twelve books, so I looked up the crystals. Eleven of the twelve were all on the list of things that GE wanted to manufacture in space, a great way for the space habitat to earn money, but what of the twelfth? I later asked my GE contact whether they could see any use for that one, and he instantly look shocked. “How did you find out about that? That really should not be discussed out there in the open?” Me: “Well, I just read it as part of a book in someone’s apartment.” Him: “Please let us know the name of the book, so we can get it pulled from circulation.” Me: “No, sorry, I don’t think that would work...”
By the way, McMoneagle had a picture of a future aero vehicle remarkably like Chase's unique and surprising design, mentioned above, in his book on remote viewing the future. That book also says some of the important things about the COGNITIVE aspect of the mental discipline needed here, but the EMOTIONAL half is just as important.
There were at least three other unique veridical things in there that amazed me, one which played out just this past month... but that’s enough for now.
The other key event for me in 1972 was from my own experience, when I lived in a slummy apartment on Hillside Street in Boston late that year. It had veridical detail, but that detail is very personal, and I won’t get deep into it now. In general – after some preparation, I tried an exercise to “raise the kundalini,” which worked the first time, much better than I had expected. It was the one experience in my life which best fit the specifications given by Greeley and McReady in their important paper “Are We a Nation of Mystics,” reprinted in Goleman’s book (another important resource!). It would qualify as some kind of “out of body experience,” where, among other things, I observed Harvard faculty.... but not “on my own steam.”
Out of Body Experience
At the start of 1973, I returned to Harvard graduate dorms – more precisely to a wonderful coed dorm near Brattle Street, where I lived on the first floor but higher floors were occupied by women. I had a relatively easy job at first as a lab instructor for electronics, but migrated soon to a very strenuous full-time job at MIT through the summer of 1975, building new capabilities into a big user-oriented application aimed to provide data mining tools for large scale databases in the social sciences. Endless learning of new methods, and endless debugging, on an unbreakable operating system also used in the Pentagon. As I also worked at breakneck pace to finish my PhD thesis, I had less free time than ever before or since; if I did not have the option to walk down to the cafeteria for most meals, maybe I could not have handled that! But even so, I was still obsessively curious about how the brain and the soul actually work, and I made time to try to expand my base of experience. I would read and then listen to music as winding down to sleep, for example, and had some discussions with friends who had similar interests. How could I expand my base of personal experience enough to get a better fix on how such a thing as the soul could exist, and how it works? And on what we should be doing about it?
Among the books which stimulated my curiosity and my imagination (and also skepticism of course) were a then-famous book by Robert Monroe on out of body experiences (OOBE), and follow-up books by Steiger (“In My Soul I am Free”) and Fox. It seemed clear that performing OOBE would open up lots more evidence and information, which sounded a whole lot clearer and more definite than the usual limited and fuzzy stuff from parapsychology. (As I think back,, during those few months on Hillside Street, I had frequent visits to the library of the Harvard Medical School, only about a mile walk away. I spent most of the time there reading books in neuroscience, but I also ploughed through all the issues they had of the main journal on parapsychology, doing my best to extract whatever might help me really understand. There was stuff there.. and more stuff since then.. but “limited” is fair, no, for such a big subject?) So how could I do that?
I made up a few exercises on my own, groping and seeing what works, based in part on knowledge of functional neural networks as in my 2012 paper in Neural Networks. It became a nightly ritual to turn on an excellent new age radio station we had then (after turning lights out and getting to bed). And then I would try to raise and focus tangible energy, and observe and move it in the dark. I recall an image of seeing a glowing image of my arm moving... different from the mundane arm, only loosely synchronized... and then, one day, the classic experience of feeling and seeing myself standing in a glowing from, looking down at my body. Several times, that. The first instant issue: do I rise or do I fall?
No longer anchored to the floor...
I learned I could inject a kind of heavy energy into my hand, which would interact enough with the side of the bed (as I stood next to it but tried to hold on) that I would stay there... that was fascinating for a few minutes, as I looked down at myself and the pattern of glow from me and other sources... but then it became boring. (Boredom is ever so important in moving the soul!) So... I lightened up a little... which resulted in my rising up through the floor. Both times that happened, I met friends who lived one floor up... and that ended up being about as veridical as it comes! Yes, I spoke later to both of them, and one of them was more than slightly shocked. (No, I did not misbehave. I don’t think I COULD have misbehaved... short of... well, stuff I didn’t know how to do then which I would not do now.) The details were quite interesting, but perhaps I shouldn’t go too far. Neither of those women were just casual, indifferent acquaintances, but... again, let me not elaborate. Many neoplatonists talk a whole lot about “laws of attraction,” and that certainly is also part of what moves the soul. One detail, though: in one case, it was crystal clear that my friend met me in that state a week AFTER the time I did the experiment; time slippage was a standard aspect of every experiment I ever did in that realm.
And then: I have always been interested in The Future, in part because the value of what we do in the present depends a whole lot on the outcome in the future. So I decided: floating around on dark streets gets old very quickly; why not try to wander much further in time, to take a peek ahead, and maybe even learn what future science might learn as well?
I did lots and lots of experiments in that spirit, while I was at Harvard and later, until Christmas 1978 when I stopped abruptly. But now, it’s time for me to get back to a bit of analysis and explanation.
Analysis: Dreams Versus OOBE I: Basics
In that period from 1973 to 1978, I also spoke to others who had experimented with OOBE in many serious traditions, and read lots and lots of stuff. For example, I spoke to one old Roscicrucian guy who talked about how his father had OOBE all the time. “He would just sit down in that chair, close his eyes, and away he went.”
I then realized: How do you know when you are having an OOBE versus when you are just dreaming? Operationally, you “feel” conscious and full of free will (lucid) and you see images of something far away, but where is the sharp dividing line?
I read some fascinating books by Annie Besant and others (see my previous post on shamanism) theorizing that we humans have multiple “sheaths” of bodies, an etheric body inside or over the mundane body, an astral body, a mental body, and so on. I learned to “feel” and respect the experience which lies behind those theories, without agreeing with the theories. In the end, our “soul” is not really another physical body (I apologize for oversimplifying a bit above); rather it is a kind of cluster of thought, similar in a way to a virtual machine, within the “noosphere,” the true physical other body here, embodying most of the biosphere of the earth, including humans, and active throughout the entire earth to some degree. And so, during OOBE, there is no second physical body wandering around. Rather, the focus of attention of our personal soul (an information entity) moves around to some degree. It is NOT such a simple yes/no “turning of a switch,” as the frothy advertisements seem to suggest; rather, it is a matter of degree (“a fuzzy variable” in the sense of fuzzy logic), just as mundane attention is. As the Roscicrucians say “As above so below” (or vice-versa). We can split our attention to the inputs from our body and to selected inputs from the soul, and our degree of wakefulness in both is also variable.
In Fox’s classic account of HIS OOBE, it is really fascinating to see the mix between inputs from a far place as it exists now, and as it existed at earlier times. And also to see how his mind “fills in” details like the great more or less imaginary “silver cord,” helping him remember the cognitive path from one focus of attention to another. I am tempted to say more about the ways that Rosicrucians train people to do OOBE, but even though I let that connection lapse around 1980, I feel a duty to respect confidentiality. Let me just say that is 100% consistent with this analysis, and that it worked well enough for me (in part because I had trained myself to control my focus of attention in relevant ways and not get hung up as many do on irrelevant theories and distraction and expectations). I remember my first strict implementation of the Roscicrucian OOBE exercise circa 1977.. which led to another very intense unmistakable veridical shock (a third party witness, witnessing one day before the exercise)...
And so, it does not surprise me at all that the Book of Revelations and Mohammed’s great dream were a mixture of core content and fill-in. There are many other inspired pieces of literature which we should respect more which do the same, even though the fill-ins can be very dangerous if taken as complete literal truth. This week, I think of some novels by Orson Scott Card, and “Stochastic Man,” by Silverberg, which have unmistakable real inspiration in my view... even though some of what Card writes is the very worst sort of fill-in!!
One extremely important book for folks who want to know how OOBEs really work is the “Oversoul Seven” trilogy by Joan Roberts, who writes like someone who has really been there. I remember images of a hallway where dozens of people are floating by, having OOBE “in the astral plane,” who might wake up later and only wish they could have such an experience as an OOBE. The problem is NOT that their soul lacks the ability to wander! It is that they have not developed the ability to REMEMBER and PROCESS and ENGRAVE ON THE BRAIN. And so, to have memorable OOBE experiences, development of the consciousness and the memory (eg as in some of the Gurdjieff exercises) may be more useful than futile attempts to do it by brute force. The SPECTRUM between dreams and true OOBE is just a spectrum, a matter of degree. Those who look very carefully will see how their LEVEL of consciousness varies a lot, and escape the illusion that “I’m always just me, and always just as aware.” (Even at a mundane level, try doing hard puzzles at different times of day!)
Oops... maybe I owe a couple of examples, just to make the theory more vivid.
Once, while at Harvard, I met a woman who seemed attractive enough, and very interesting to me as a possible future wife, who also experimented a bit with OOBE stuff, who was a bit more conservative than I was by then. I met her one day “on the astral plane” and it was very friendly at first, and calm. But then... certain thoughts began to surface pretty energetically in her mind.. her full mind..and she started to feel very, very bad and very embarrassed. I was startled to see her appearance change very dramatically from her normal form.. to vivid ebony black... clearly a total “fill in” projection based on HER association with the state of more basic variables coursing through her mind (where mind covers both body and soul, presumably working together at that point). Let me emphasize that this fill-in (her skin appearing to turn black) was based on HER mental associations, not mine; mine are quite different.
Well.. maybe one example is enough for now ...
Analysis II: Travel Through Time
OK, enough for now on general OOBE. What about time?
When I tried to do OOBE or dreams through time, I found myself more and more confronted with a key question: “Is there only one future?” This is also an extremely important real question in real quantum physics. Unfortunately, it is also an attractive nuisance in the theological, hermeneutic and superstring worlds, where only a small fraction of the people seem to be in touch with real third-party scientific physics. I have worked hard to unify my understanding across the realm of real physics and personal experience... and maybe I have gone further than others on this little planet so far... but I too still have a lot to learn.
The first real, realistic theory of physics fitting the basic facts of quantum physics experiments was the great many worlds theory, developed by Everett and Wheeler, disseminated in a classic book edited by DeWitt. David Deutsch later wrote the Fabric of Reality, the other of the two great classics. Philosophers call this “MWI” – the many-World Interpretation, but it is NOT JUST an interpretation; it is a theory of how the cosmos actually works, and it leads to different predictions. I have seen some philosophers deeply lost in hermeneutics of interpretation – when what we need are well-defined theories and real experimental tests to find out which theory is true. (My 2008 or 2009 paper in IJTP explains some of that for the MWI theory.)
According to MWI, there is not just ONE future. There are MANY futures, all real! This fit well with my own personal experience, where I seemed to visit not just one future (when I pushed it) but a kind of structure or cluster of “time-tracks.” I especially remember a short hop (just a decade or so) into a future where I met a beautiful Chinese-American woman I was unhappily married to... and my shock later (still at Harvard) when I actually met her, in a situation where it seemed nearly impossible NOT to marry her! With effort, not just mundane effort, I was able to bend the course... and had a long talk later with Daoist master in the Cosmos Club in DC, where he talked about multiple futures in Daoism. Later I understood that I should not have taken that unhappiness in the future as seriously as I did (people often broadcast their most unhappy moments, which are often exaggerated)... but still, I also now see how unique my wife Ludmilla is and how it was still better not to be on that course. I think. One never knows how many tracks lead where...
But in fact: “oops, I don’t believe MWI.” Sure, it SEEMS a bit credible, but there are better models out there. Just for the experimental regime of electricity, magnetism and charged particles... my paper in press (with Luda, who actually wrote the published version) suggests we should sooner believe a “scenario” based model, in just four dimensions, just one dimension of time. And so, for years I have struggled with the question: how do I reconcile as time-track experience of the future versus a one-track best modelof physics? When can the two streams be reconciled, and how? For years, it was just too early for me, and the rational course was to hang loose, and do justice to the realms separately. As of now (see my two recent papers cited above), I understand that OUR consciousness, BOTH mundane and spiritual, is attached to SCENARIOS, not to “the true outcome;” that reconciles the two to some degree. It FEELS like many worlds, even if a model in three dimensions of space and one of time works much better than I ever imagined (before I worked out more of the math).
There is one other aspect here. When I thought of that woman... I thought that perhaps that realistic,veridical dream... was just an experience of the noosphere, which can predict and reconcile and create future possibilities more completely than we do as individuals. That seemed a bit lame as an explanation... but objectively, experience of dreams of multiple futures are a COMBINATION of that noosphere effect AND of physics effects, even if my 3+1-D model is the true “law of everything.” It is not a case of either-or, any more than OOBE themselves are.
One corollary: the core of the future given in the Book of Revelations might happen (minus fill-ins), OR NOT. Based on what I see now, that Book is a much more optimistic scenario than many which lie on the path ahead of us. (Hey guys, PLEASE build that Ark! Just as one example... And don’t try to fill in with moldy wood, cubits and other such fill-ins.) Death by fire and brimstone (H2S) is another quite possible scenario, equally real and equally inspired and equally Biblical.
Some Dreams of the Future
There are many to choose between, some happy and some not.
Let me mention just a couple from old Harvard days.
A relatively short time in the future (21st century), there was a nuclear war in Asia (maybe India-Pakistan or something that feels like that – one of my own fill-ins). The horror of that war was orders of magnitude greater than the horror after the Chernobyl incident we now remember, an incident which was already enough to massively change the deployment of nuclear power in places like Germany and Scandanavia. This time, people were shocked into a sense of reality enough to see the imminent risk of “nuclear kembi,” a chain event where everyone could say “I had to, the other guy started it,” and people could rightly see that THEIR lives were at risk.
And so, in the dream, an international group of people called “the ecologists” (a cross between the Greens and the Millennium Project group I am part of, and was in the dream, long before it existed)... set up a kind of new deal, as governments were overturned gently all over the world. Baseload energy came in part from space solar power and other space technology, rigidly limited to safe things, while technology R&D on earth (especially nuclear technology) was VERY rigidly limited on an international basis. (Remember “The Man From UNCLE”?)
But because of the sheer energy of folks limiting technology.. after a few thousand years... it settled into a kind of equilibrium, which was a bit feudalistic, but not SO bad...
And then, maybe 5000AD or so, in came a group not unlike Card’s formics or Cosmonaut keep (enough that I suspect a common source of the image, which Hawkings and Reagan also echoed)... and humanity was then so weak that that was the end of that. A world full of billions of dumb-founded faces in rigor mortis... billions upon billions of faces I saw, with expressions easy to see... and image I will never forget since I believe by everything I know that it really is a possible future. After that first bad nuc goes off, BOTH paths – kembi and ultracontrol – may lead to extinction. IF WE GET TO THAT POINT... the tightrope exercise, the struggle to “weave a path between Scylla and Carybdis,” gives not so much hope of survival. In fact, we are ALREADY on a tightrope to try to avoid that very powerful attractor state, one of the two greatest threats of human extinction. Logic says that; it’s not just dreams. For several years, I was the lead cooridnator for the NSF-DHS research initiative on research to cope with nuclear terrorism.. and if anyone imagines we are secure, there is a very mjndane real world out there which is already enough to terrify. In some ways, that trap is like the legendary Chinese finger trap; many people who struggle he hardest to save us from nuclear terrorism, like Cheney and Hayden, are actually making the risk far worse through their approaches to the problem.
OK, that’s “one mother of a bad dream.”
But I had another dream in that same sequence, which seemed like what Rosicrucians might call “assumption.”
As I wandered into the web of time tracks... I was pulled into a future person, a man much older than what I was then, circa 10,000 AD, who really wanted me to come and see... in a world where humans did survive after all. He lived in a very nice house.. the kind Luda would really like, with a giant open main room downstairs containing a big marble (or other stone) rising up to a high second floor....
He was aware of my presence inside him, welcomed me, but stayed there, and could send a few thoughts gently to me. He suggested I might want to see The Book – which for him was a summary book of history, for me a book of the future. It was on a special podium in a side alcove near the base of the stairs. The book basically had one page for each century, over at least 10,000 years – about four entries, for example for the twentieth century. World War II and Apollo made it. One entry I forget; probably physics. There was one entry for “rheostatics,” which he drew my attention to, as it involves several streams of my own work going back that far. But then I looked ahead.
Sure enough, a few thousand years from now, the same bad guys showed up as in the other dream, but this time we had the technology to muddle through, somewhat as in Card’s pictures. (Minor note: Card’s Ender series came out many, many years later.) Those key streams WERE developed further.
It was entertaining to continue... but not relevant to this too-long blog entry.
To this day, I feel deeply divided. As of this month, I have a much better sense of actual physics and technology which could be crucial to survival in some scenarios... but could really help us kill ourselves well before that! World politics today, including the power of entities like The Third Caliphate, Cheney, the John Birch society satellites, tribalism in intellectual groupings, and just plain corruption and mindless extremism... make the second consideration ever so compelling... but doing without is also scary. I do not know, but I sure do wonder.
Many years later, I mentioned a few gross aspects of that dream to someone much more sensitive/receptive than me, who had been trained to take over a psychic practice but chose a PhD from a lead scientific university instead. As an experiment,
We sat and relaxed and meditated in his living room as he tried to reach out to that experience and I tried to connect him to it. He said: “I don’t see one person there as you saw. I see it as an effort by more than one future mind to pull you in and show you that image. Why? Maybe certain computer minds are more the real threat to the human species, and maybe that image (of formics) is an illusion meant to distract.” That reminded me of Volume II of “The Forbin Project.”
Again, I do not claim to know. I sense that Terminator II and the Winter Soldier and the Hyperion series are also truly inspired, based on possible futures more verdically established than that old dream of mine. Given a choice, I’d go for Dan Simmons’ scenario.
And maybe we have a choice...
But this is so long, I will not go on to speculate about alternative models.