Dreams As Astral Travel

Although I may have mentioned this before (the topic of astral travel may come up a lot in theories of consciousness, dualism and personal identity), I have been thinking about it again, thanks to Charles Whiteley and his explorations of the identity.

As a plot used occasionally in literature, dreams as a state of travel and consciousness have been observed over a long while, even when they may have never been scientifically observed in such a way.

Superficially, for myself, the prospect of astral travel has always been theoretically possible. The senseless scenarios played out in front of our eyes are less easy to control, but this might well be because they are a physical state or land to which we have not yet adapted.

It is possible that this ‘form’ we exist in during our dreams – though not clear to remember upon waking – is one of a psychophysical state, which focuses on the ethereal, as opposed to a solid notion we all experience in the same way.

Electroencephalographs show that brainwaves in REM ‘dream’ sleep are paradoxical – that is, they show signs of wakefulness; Beta waves are the closest of sleep-stage brainwaves to waking Alpha waves. No other stage of sleep produces the same waves; Theta waves are a lot slower, emphasising the chance of mental activity when we dream. To me, this suggests travelling, as one would think there is a reason for such brain-activity.

If the form is a construct of consciousness, there are bound to be discrepancies such as the lack of control we experience trying to act our dreams. At least, this lack of control from a disembodied soul or sense provides some evidence for astral travel, as our identity is almost transferred, like the ideas of post mortem existence, from our diurnal life and physical body to the nocturnal spirit-like life; as we are more disembodied than anything else, it makes sense that we find ourselves from the inside of consciousness and struggle with physical, intra-temporal movement.

Descartes provides another thought-experiment to the discussion, of which Whiteley draws on. He points out that consciousness is a secutum[1]; it 'follows on’ as we transition from day-persona to night. Descartes suggested that the soul, the only part of human life of which we can be sure, is always thinking – thus, it is always awake, even when our consciousness (that is, that unity between the physical and the mental) fades.

Here is where Whiteley concentrates on identity; is there a way that our identity and mind in the physical world can be the same once we become unconscious? Well, yes. As the consciousness continues into dreams, so does our same identity. This suggests that there is special-temporal continuity and no need for a body all the time.

Whiteley, even whilst refuting that dream-travel is possible, admits that the evidence (or its exact lack) is what makes the hypothesis theoretically viable.[2] Thus, although our minds may not actually be transferred, the theoretics give the possibility.

[1] (Latin. Literally: ‘having followed thing’)

[2] Mind in Action, CH Whiteley, chapter 8, ’73,

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