Sunday, May 5, 2013

Thoughts on God, Dreams, Perception, and Reality

Lately, I've made a few connections between god, dreams, perception, and reality.
Hopefully I'll be able to articulate these ideas well enough to get them across, enough to give you something to think about.

First, let me take you back to sometime in late 2008 in downtown Cairo. I was helping an Egyptian friend cram for an English exam. That same day, about thirty minutes before his exam, we started making our way to his school. We passed in front of a mosque along the way, and he asked me if I could wait a few minutes while he went inside to pray.

When he was finished, he explained that praying brings him total inner peace, relaxes him completely, and that with that, he was in the perfect mindset to take his exam. That thought stuck with me until a few years later when I was asking another friend about what praying does for him. He said, that praying makes him feel like he's in the presence of god, with similar feedback on feeling relaxed and zen.

Another thought that recently struck a chord with me came when I was watching a movie called "Waking Life" (which I highly recommend). This movie can be viewed here, and the particular scene that I'm interested in is at minute 47:30 of that Vimeo video. Basically, the important idea is mentioned at the very end of his rant:
"...see, this allows dreams to appear real while preventing competition from other perceptual processes. This is why dreams are mistaken for reality. To the functional system of neural activity that creates our world, there is no difference between dreaming a perception and an action, and actually the waking perception and action."

Basically, what this means to me, is that, in our brains, there is no chemical difference between what I perceive in my dreams, and what I perceive when I'm awake.

This makes me think about what makes things "real". If the chemical processes in my brain are the same when I'm dreaming of diving in the Red Sea, and when I'm actually diving in the Red Sea, then what's the difference? For my brain and the way it processes perception, both were neurologically the same. (this is why I find dreams so entertaining, and why I'm fascinated with the possibility of controlling my dreams).

Yea, so with that in mind, let's come back to the idea of praying and being "in the presence of god". I think the link I'm about to make should already be pretty clear; If we follow the aforementioned logic of perceptions that originate inside the brain (i.e. dreams, or feelings of being with god) are just as real as perception that originate outside of the brain (i.e. when we're conscious, perception that we get from our 5 senses), then a neurological perception of "being in the presence of god" achieved through prayer is just as real as an actual perception of god in "real life". Right?

Obviously, very few people have ever perceived god with their five senses (most of us do it through prayer). And, if you were to perceive god while you're "awake" (i.e. with your 5 senses) then you'd probably be considered a prophet.

But anyway, I'm not saying that god does or doesn't exist. I would just like to draw some attention to way we "perceive" god, or in other words, achieve some kind of connection to god. 

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