17 Jun 2014

Can You Do Mental Arithmetic... In Your Dreams?

How good are you at mathematics? How good do you think you’d be at doing mental arithmetic while in a dream? Moreover, how good do you think your dream characters would be at doing similar calculations? This may sound like trying to interrogate a ghost, but such questions are being investigated by researchers in lucid dreaming.

In lucid dreams, not only is the dreamer more conscious of what is taking place, but the characters met in the dream also appear to act as if they too had some form of consciousness or volition and, perhaps more mysteriously, they sometimes impart knowledge not known to the dreamer. This doesn’t mean that dream characters are actually conscious beings from another realm. Before investigating that possibility, researchers are looking at what the behaviours of dream characters may tell us about our own brain function and consciousness. If dream characters can manifest as preternaturally wise, how good are they at more mundane tasks?

30 May 2014

Sam Harris and the Language of Spirituality

Sam Harris recently wrote a short blog piece entitled “The Path Between Pseudo-Spirituality and Pseudo-Science.” Sadly, given the magniloquent title, it is primarily another announcement for his forthcoming book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion”. However, the title also serves as a reminder of Harris’s position on the subject.

“Few scientists and philosophers have developed strong skills of introspection [meditation] — in fact, many doubt that such abilities even exist. Conversely, many of the greatest contemplatives know nothing about science.” That just about sums it up! How many people can stand with one foot in each culture and converse knowledgeably, with experience of both?

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