THE SECOND QUESTION THAT NEEDS AN ANSWER: WHO AM I?

There can be no life without answers to the first question that needs to be answered; yet the question is so primordial, so fundamental, that no organism can even wonder about it! Evolution has ways to take this question in charge and let the species find appropriate and often remarkable answers to this crucial question: “How to live?

Long ago enthusiastic naturalists discovered the wonderful creativity of life whenever it faces challenges; even the most primitive organisms can show astounding adaptations. Relations between populations of different species, interactions with their natural habitats, research for food or shelter, reproduction strategies… and resourcefulness when conditions change, all these behaviours are so well adapted that naturalists were convinced for a long time that they had been wilfully created with specific goals.

Living seems so natural that it’s difficult to imagine how arduous it is really. Myriads of interactions between innumerable different molecules have to integrate to form one well adapted organism that behaves in a characteristic way of living and as a unit in a specific environment. After the germination of a seed or the hatching of an egg, each living organism is able to thrive in spite of the tremendous complexity of the process, and mostly without any help. Whatever scale we look at, beginning with intracellular molecules through populations and societies, everything seems to work according to highly successful and smart plans. It’s only when something looses its sophisticated regulations that we begin to become aware of what we lost. In a normal state, everything runs so smoothly that we’re not aware of it.

1: SMART BACTERIA.

After the naturalists’ discoveries about whole species, molecular biologists in the 20th century’s discovered the subtle adaptations of primordial life mechanisms to physical and chemical laws. Life creates highly improbable molecules that build and animate organisms, yet it obeys exactly the same laws that govern the inanimate material world.

Even very primitive bacteria are able to actively look for nutrients and express smart behaviour when they have the choice between more or less profitable ones. Microbes can even regulate their mutation rate to accelerate evolution when needed. Stress in harsh environments triggers molecular mechanisms that let more mutations appear; some of which could, by chance, be helpful in hard times. Some species can live alone or, when conditions deteriorate, choose to build communities of different species that share genetic properties to increase their potential adaptability. They can even change completely their physiology, fix on a surface and interact tightly with other species to form a new supra-specific entity: wastes from one species become nutrients for another… a poison to one is detoxified by another… Biologists working in the microworld are as amazed by these adaptations as naturalists by the ones they describe from the macroworld.

These discoveries are discussed at school and Darwin showed elegantly and convincingly how to answer questions related to amazing species’ adaptations. We can even understand how intelligent behaviour appears in ants’ or termites’ nests and actively adapts to a changing environment; we can make models that explain how bacteria choose the best answers to difficult situations without any brain.

We begin to understand how each organism answers the first crucial question since birth. And the human species with its specific faculties becomes able to understand why and how the first crucial question is answered.

2: THE SECOND CRUCIAL QUESTION: THE MOST IMPORTANT FOR PSYCHOLOGY.

Surprisingly – but sadly – it isn’t the subject we’re trained to work on at school. When we think about it, it becomes obvious that nothing could be more important than the answer we should thrive to find: this answer has great effects on ones life and behaviour. The question is: “What are we? »

Our behaviour would be drastically different if we perceive ourselves as made of matter only, inexorably subject to decay, or as part of an entity that transcends matter. Biology already replaces us in a larger context than the individual organism. Each living entity is nothing outside innumerable interactions that gave it life nearly 4 billions years ago; interactions that participate every second in its existence. Is our consciousness linked only to the matter we’re made with, or is it able to transcend it?

3: FROM DOGMA TO EXPERIMENT.

Religions or cosmologies from different cultures often try to impose an answer without inviting each one to enquire for oneself. Here we’re taught that we’re created by God who gives us a body which is made out of matter and a soul which isn’t. But since the beginnings of Science we learned to put dogmas in question and try to find rational and understandable answers to our questions. For four centuries Science has shown the power of its tools to convince every one who gives oneself the necessary material and intellectual means, to become personally and rationally convinced of the pertinence of answers to questions arising from the world and life; questions that are specifically relevant to us as human beings. We aren’t like other animals who build their world’s image from instincts and experience, but we modify our views through our cultures and reflections. Science invites us to take ownership of a culture without buying passively its dogmas. Unfortunately, Science can itself become dogmatic when it is inappropriately applied; this danger was especially great at the end of the 19th century, but the revolutions in modern physics revitalised the Scientific Methodology and the philosophical reflections induced by its results.

4: MATERIALISTIC REALISM

Are we made out of matter only? Four centuries of outstanding scientific successes led our western culture to give a positive answer to this crucial question! But it is maybe a collateral damage of Science rather than a reality. The great majority of scientists forget the prejudice chosen by the creators of the Method: they built tools specific to give answers to questions on MATTER and on matter only; questions linked to the spiritual realm were confined to philosophy and theology. With time and the immense successes of this pragmatic philosophy, philosophers became scientists and convinced themselves that only matter is real. Due to working only on matter, due to stunning results accumulated for so long, due to outstanding practical applications coming from researches on the nature of matter, it is not surprising that the people responsive for transforming the world for four centuries convinced themselves they could answer every question by questioning matter only! And we all forget that it is only a postulate that originated well after the beginning of Science!

But this postulate is no more compatible with last century’s physics: its results continuously show that the intimate nature of matter isn’t understandable with common sense: the other pillar on which physics stands, besides mathematics. Modern physics sometime leads one to imagine that even consciousness could mysteriously influence the results in experiments defined to reveal what is matter. The Universe isn’t anymore this immense meaningless and cold object imagined by 19th century’s positivists. Since the beginning of the 20th century It becomes “participative” according to John Wheeler and “begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine” according to Sir James Jeans.

5: BACK TO THE ORIGINS.

Why not follow many physicists on their way back towards the original philosophy that gave birth to Science? The road is to find personal answers when interested, either by doing experiments or by replicating the ones done by others. It is not only about analysing and learning from results described by others: it is about doing the actual experiment whenever possible. This is the best road to a rational and personal conviction which is the major goal of Science. It is not always necessary to access a heavy technology: sometimes thought experiments are sufficient to reach surprising results.

Too often today rational conviction is acquired through critical analysis of material created by others and sometimes, unfortunately, this confidence can be lazily accorded to dogmatic personalities. When confronted by complex questions, it becomes necessary to delegate one’s own work to experts able to master specialised domains. But it isn’t always simple to assess the objectivity of such experts who should remain sufficiently open and able to re-evaluate their own convictions. That’s why personal experience is the best way to acquire knowledge, as long as it remains affordable of course.

So how could we look for the answer to the question: « What are we? » and the related ones: « Are we only flesh and bones? »; « How could I know what I am, if part of it is unconscious? »

6: CAN WE DO WITHOUT MATTER?

If we’d like question the postulate that gives reality to matter only, we should obviously work with something that is immaterial, like information: we could, for instance, look if information can be transmitted without the help of matter-energy, through mechanisms that use neither atoms, nor waves. If we could be rationally convinced that we’re able to receive informations that isn’t related to matter as we perceive it, then we could make some progress towards a better understanding of our true nature.

In an ideal experimental protocol we should try to receive informations that is linked neither to matter nor to our memory, whether conscious or even unconscious. With these restrictions in mind, an ideal choice would be an information that comes from the future and that couldn’t be related with whatever we know about past and present: in this way we could be sure that our memory can’t be responsible for it! It is maybe worthwhile to open a little parenthesis here for an important fact about time: in every mathematical formula physicists discovered, time remains reversible! In other words, when mathematics only are analysed – not our common sense – physicists find that their formulas don’t forbid informations going in both directions: towards future OR past! Therefore, even if receiving informations from the future seems a crazy idea for common sense, it isn’t completely so according to physics’ formulas!

The information presumably coming from the future should be clear, precise and free (without a goal other than a philosophical one), in order to become rationally convinced that it isn’t explainable only by coincidence, subconscious deductions or buried memories.

Several protocols could be imagined for this quest. Intuition – the mysterious source of emotions without conventional sources of knowledge – is probably too difficult to work with for this experiment. But we could adapt the works of a British engineer in aeronautics who published in 1927 An Experiment with Time where he describes his views on time and his personal experiences that led him to work on the nature of time.

7: EXPERIMENTING WITH TIME.

dunneJ.W. Dunne – a renowned engineer in aeronautics – worked for some years on dreams after he had several perplexing ones that seemed premonitory. He decided to analyse thoroughly his dreams as a scientific minded person. The trigger was a moving dream made a few days before a great disaster in a French island of the Caribbean: the eruption of Mount Pelée, on the 8th of May 1902 which killed 28,000 people living in St Pierre de la Martinique, the town down the volcano.

Dunne dreamt he was on a volcanic island beginning to tear apart; gas and smoke leaking from the soil. His dream-body felt anxious as if he was walking on a huge pressure cooker that was about to explode. He tried to alert the French authorities governing the island, without success: the mayor was absent for lunch and his secretaries asked him to come back on next day! His dream-body was looking how he could avoid the 4,000 victims he anticipated when Dunne woke up shouting “Look mister mayor! Four thousand people will be killed unless…”

Dunne’s analytical mind understood it couldn’t be a simple coincidence when he read, a few days later in the newspaper, what happened in this French colony. Too many specific details like the nationality of the authorities, the reluctance of the mayor to evacuate the island (the true reason was that an election was taking place on the 11th, 2 days after the eruption)… The engineer took advantage of his scientific training to elaborate a protocol and find out if he could really experience premonitory dreams. He created a theory about the nature of Time that didn’t survive until today but his protocol is still useful.

8: PREMONITORY DREAMS.

As for Dunne, some of my dreams seemed awkwardly premonitory. I decided therefore to apply Dunne’s protocol and registered many ones that confirmed their reality: much too many “coincidences” to explain, if premonition isn’t possible! (see below for some illustrations)

There are many difficulties to overcome; some are discussed below with the way Dunne resolved them.

But one shouldn’t forget we don’t know what is the purpose of dreams! It probably doesn’t try to convince us of its premonition capacities, but rather to trigger emotions. Maybe Dunne’s dream about the eruption took advantage of images taken from his future memory that were able to arouse the same emotion the dream-organiser (whoever it is!) wanted Dunne to feel. Therefore it is difficult to share precognition experiences in dreams: they won’t trigger the same emotions in everybody! And personal experience becomes necessary to be really convinced about their reality.

I followed Dunne’s protocol and became absolutely convinced our dream- consciousness can take advantage of our future mind states to transmit whatever it looks to. I registered 48 clear premonition dreams on a decade. It is an underestimated number because I recognised their premonition features only if the recognised event happened in the following days. Many could be classified as precognitive while reading old registered dreams. But I avoid doing so to minimise coincidence as explained below.

Obviously the first step in the protocol is to learn how to remember one’s dreams. A learning period is usually necessary. One has to be genuinely interested to remember one’s dreams. Each night, just before sleep, one should forcefully remember this intention and prepare some items (notebook and pencil) at hand’s reach.

Usually dreams fade out on awakening, more so when the body moves. To remember dreams one should remain motionless and repeat them to oneself, reordering the images that are remembered as some of these trigger the remembering of new ones. In doing this it seems that we could transpose the memory of dreams from a region in which they can’t be accessed by our awakened consciousness, to another one from which they can. One should avoid any interpretation of the dreams since imagination could severely interfere. If interested in their significance, one should do that later, while reading the accounts made on awakening.

Once the key images are remembered, one should take the notebook prepared at hand-reach, in the dark, with as few movements as possible. A spring-type notebook is a good choice since turning pages is easy and a pencil can be tied to the spring.

The notebook in the left hand (for right-handers), place the left index up the spring then reach it with the pencil. One can write a first line whilst the right-hand’s little finger senses the end of the page. When it’s reached, the left index should go down a few centimetres to write a second line that won’t mix with the first, and so on.

One shouldn’t write a novel of course! Just a few words that would trigger the remembering of the dream’s images and their associated sceneries; details are very important since it’s them that are usually precognitive. Once finished, the page should be turned and the notebook prepared for an eventual other record.

The next morning the dreams should be written in great details; this is not very difficult if the intention to remember them is powerful. While experimenting with time, one should avoid trying to find interpretations of the dreams and shouldn’t compare them to real scenes experienced in the awakened life. The description should be completely separated from interpretation to avoid unconscious interferences with memory.

9: EXPERIMENTAL PROTOCOL.

When dreams are regularly remembered and recorded, it is time to begin the experiment. One should choose a period covering a dozen days or so in which, preferably, your normal routine would be broken: holidays, trips… are good choices. New and unusual dream images become more easily recognisable.

Each night you should read all the records taken since the beginning of the defined period for the experiment, and analyse them in order to find situations or images that our personal dream-organiser could have borrowed from our life’s experience. After experimenting, Dunne was convinced that our dream’s-organiser could present us images taken from our past OR FUTURE life! in order to communicate whatever message it chose to share. Ask yourself if the dream’s situations read each night could have been picked from the past or from the days that follow the dream. Are they sufficiently rare and detailed to be significant and not just coincidences?

For this experiment to work, one has to tackle some problems that Dunne has well described and answered.

As stated before you should not try to link real events with dreamed ones. It seems that dreams use only mental states and not the precise events that happened. Dunne took fifteen years to discover that he made in his life-changing dream exactly the same error that he did some days after his dream when he read the article in the Daily Telegraph. He confused ” 40,000 victims” as it was written in the newspaper with ” 4,000 victims” and his dream took the latter in his precognition. Dunne found in many instances that the dream- organiser used mostly mental states induced by events (emotions, feelings, memories…) rather than the objective situations. But it is not stopped by time and can choose past or future mental states as well without being bothered by what really happened: only the subjective world seems to be important for the dream-organiser!

While reading your notes you should therefore look for mental states that could arouse dreamlike images from the past and… for the near future after the dream.

One should keep in mind that a dream can integrate details originating from different events, in one image only. If you followed some sport event with a friend, you could dream of your friend wearing this sport’s kit, even if s/he never practiced it! To look for a hit, you should analyse details separated from each other and not the integrated mixture.

10: COINCIDENCE OR PREMONITION?

Our limited perceptions are at the core of our common sense. There is therefore a danger to unconsciously keep oneself unable to accept experiences that could be destabilising for our world’s image. When this happens, one simply doesn’t see the precognitive images! To avoid this problem, Dunne recommends to read your records each night while imagining that you’re discovering the dreams that you WILL dream about the events that happened in the day you just lived.

Next, you should limit the experiment to a few days only. This is meant to diminish the interference with coincidences, the effect of chance only on what could be a precognition. If for instance, you dream of an airplane crash without many details, it’s very probable that one would happen in the year after your dream. But if you dreamt it the night before it takes much more importance of course.

When finished with the time period chosen for the experiment, it’s a good idea to ask a friend to read your notes with a critical eye, just to see if you didn’t forget an interesting event or, on the contrary, if you tend to take simple coincidences for precognitions. You should then try to estimate the probability that the event that was dreamt before happening could be a mere coincidence. Unfortunately in most cases this is very difficult if not impossible. In these situations one should rely on one’s feelings to appreciate the power of the dream’s-organiser to forecast future mental states.

11: AN ANSWER THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING!

Suppose that you earn from this experiment a personal and rational conviction on the reality of precognition! What important changes in your philosophy of life you could expect from this! What important reflections in your world’s image and your image of yourself could you deduce!

So we could have access to informations coming from the future, without engaging our physical perceptions, without interactions with inert or living matter as physicists or biologists described it until the beginning of the 20th century. Part of ourselves could be outside space and time then interact, at least through dreams, with our mind, which is the result of our brain’s working according to the laws of classical physics, chemistry and biology.

At first sight it seems that Descartes was right when he described the world as dualistic: material and spiritual. But the discoveries Science made since the beginning of the 20th century show that it may be possible to build a bridge between these two realms: but this is another story!

To experience our own spiritual nature puts into question the profoundly materialistic cosmology we inherited from the 19th century. We’re no longer made of matter only; matter that wears out, cells that age; our core personality isn’t only derived from this reality that is perceptible by our physical senses. It has the needed properties to detach from it, to situate itself outside space and time. We’re led to conclude that the soul is real; we must only learn how to communicate with it!

APPENDIX:

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ON PRECOGNITIVE DREAMS

Maybe some of them could be useful to others than me, even if they can’t trigger the “Wow” impression I lived. The dream-organiser doesn’t seem interested in objective events, but on subjective emotions, and therefore a dream can’t be shared with the emotions it triggered.

Below is a translation of some paragraphs of my book in which one of the characters – Matt – describes a dream I had and was part of the ones that convinced me.

– Dunne’s protocol has the merit to give a clear frame to ideas, to create a rigorous structure necessary when one works with subjective psyche.

– So you were able to obtain interesting results? asks Axel with interest.

– Yes, many times. But please remember they are difficult to share because I can’t transmit the emotion, the shock felt when one discovers this faculty. Feelings should be part of the experience.

– Try nevertheless!

– Ok then. I’ll choose one: an experience full of emotions and significance. I don’t know how it will affect you but I ascertain I was deeply stricken and convinced of the interest the phenomena deserves.

“Here it is… My mother passed some months ago, after a long and disabling illness difficult to live for both of us. Because of her independence, her strong personality, she couldn’t live outside her home. But she needed help, she was obliged to rely on others.

“One afternoon her nurse called me because she was very tired. Her physician was on vacations and his substitute clearly explained to me she was far from agonising, even if very disabled. This remark was important because my mother was tired with this life and her faith only forbad to actively put an end to it. Her nurse who knew her well, confirmed the physician’s diagnosis. Therefore I went back home to look after my family, relieved to know that a nurse was staying with her all night.

“In the middle of the night, at three a.m or so, a physician phoned and told me she passed, though nobody thought it could be probable. Stunned, I took rapidly some clothes without choosing them and rushed to sit with her for the rest of the night.

“While sitting near her I was overwhelmed with different feelings, one of them being culpability because I wasn’t near her when she died. After some hours I discovered I had my notebook on my knees; I must have taken it unconsciously. I found it weird because I usually take it only when attending lectures or when I think I could have time to work…

“I opened the notebook and was shocked! In front of my eyes were some notes taken four months ago while on vacations in Italy. It was a registering of a dream made according to Dunne’s protocol. In the dream, an unknown person was coming in my room to announce my mother’s death.

– You should admit there’s nothing very weird about it since your mother was very ill! Florian says in agreement with his critical mind, and even if he promised to trust us.

– That’s true! I felt culprit being on vacations, far from her as she wasn’t in good shape! But that isn’t all about the dream. In it, I wore rapidly beige trousers and a polo shirt of the same colour and, in a logic characteristic of dreams and perfectly illogical in the real world, I felt I was responsible of her death because of my choice of the polo shirt!

– I’m in admiration of the details you remember but they don’t convince me at all! mutters Florian.

– Wait! While reading my notebook I realised I was wearing exactly the same clothes than in my dream, four months ago!… And I was feeling culprit, as in the dream!

Florian seems pensive. “I understand why you said the experience should be personal. It could be understood like a series of coincidences, except if you live it yourself.”

This happened in reality, followed by many synchronicities. While going back home, in my car, a singer with the name of my mother – actually a rather rare one – was on radio, followed by a concerto with choir, orchestra and harpsichord written in the 17th century and that caused scandal because it introduced music instruments in a church and was joyful instead of sad. It was meant to bring about comfort after funerals because it was seen as the beginning of a new life. The concerto’s name: “Lessons of Darkness”!… Other synchronicities as powerful as these were experienced at the funerals…

Here are some other dreams registered while experimenting Dunne’s protocol.

Eastern 1996:

Dreamt of an artificial hen on which a man sticks real feathers.

The following day I discover this hen in a baker’s shop window.

Dreamt of a train accident.

The following day I read about a train accident in the newspaper.

April 23th 1996:

Dream. The late French president François Mitterrand is wearing black clothes and a black hat. He walks along my village’s cemetery. It is night. A beautiful woman with some grey curls comes in and bring documents assembled to increase Mitterrand’s power after his death.

Next morning the radio and the newspapers announce the publication of the president’s posthumous memoirs by a woman: Odile Jacob.

September 2000:

Dream. A helicopter fell on a tennis yard near a commercial centre: many injured.

The following day the newspaper show pictures of a helicopter that fell on a football yard.

August 29 2001:

Dream. I’m part of a group of people unknown to me, somewhere in the Swiss Alps. We admire the valley when a huge cloud of dust rises in the air: The left part of the mountain in front of us just collapsed! Some people are afraid but don’t move. Sometime later the right part of the mountain collapses in turn. This time everybody is afraid and rush for shelter.

Some days later: 9.11.2001!

September 9th 2001:

Two terrorists rush in the hall of a skyscraper. They are heavily armed.

A couple of days later: 9.11.2001!

I never dreamt of terrorists neither before nor after!

February 3th 2006:

Dream. I put some clothes on to visit a geriatric hospital. I’m not at ease because I wear trousers with braces on a naked torso. Would have preferred a T-shirt!

Encounter with an old lady with blue hair; she seems mentally abnormal. Her daughter comes to visit her; she has red hair.

The following day I watch a video where a woman with blue hair explains she is alcoholic. The newspaper publishes an article about 2 physicians that made an error in a geriatric hospital where an old man died. In the same newspaper there is a picture about an opera – Don Giovanni – in which the main character wears trousers with braces and his torso is naked!

Finally I’m convinced that coincidences only can’t explain all these facts! They can’t explain synchronicities either! But this is another story!

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