- “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”– Lao Tsu
- The Paradoxical Nature of Understanding
“The whole secret of mysticism is that a person can understand everything with the help of what he does not understand. The logician seeks to make everything clear, and only succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows a few things to remain mysterious, and everything else becomes clear.”
- For whom enough is too little – nothing is ever enough.
Quotes from James Balwin’s 1962 essay “The Creative Process,” part of the anthology The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction
“A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”
“Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone. That all men are, when the chips are down, alone, is a banality — a banality because it is very frequently stated, but very rarely, on the evidence, believed. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”
‘we have an opportunity in moving beyond the Old World concepts of race and class and caste, to create, finally, what we must have had in mind when we first began speaking of the New World. But the price of this is a long look backward when we came and an unflinching assessment of the record. For an artist, the record of that journey is most clearly revealed in the personalities of the people the journey produced. Societies never
know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.’
Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true for everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.
The state of birth, suffering, love, and death are extreme states – extreme, universal, and inescapable. We all know this, but we would rather not know it. The artist is present to correct the delusions to which we fall prey in our attempts to avoid this knowledge…
How do I achieve emotional detachment from someone?Kasey Lofty, lives in Huntsville, AL (1978-present)Answered December 6, 2014
Healthy detachment does not mean complete disengagement as other answers have suggested. It’s just less ENTANGLED and dependent. It starts with the realization no matter how connected the relationship may be, people are still going to make their own choices for their own reasons.
What is detachment?
Detachment is the:
* Ability to allow people, places or things the freedom to be themselves.
* Holding back from the need to rescue, save or fix another person from being sick, dysfunctional or irrational.
* Giving another person “the space” to be his/her self.
* Disengaging from an over-enmeshed or dependent relationship with people.
* Willingness to accept that you cannot change or control a person, place or thing.
* Developing and maintaining of a safe, emotional distance from someone whom you have previously given a lot of power to affect your emotional outlook on life.
* Establishing of emotional boundaries between you and those people you have become overly enmeshed or dependent with in order that all of you might be able to develop your own sense of autonomy and independence.
* Process by which you are free to feel your own feelings when you see another person falter and fail and not be led by guilt to feel responsible for their failure or faltering.
* Ability to maintain an emotional bond of love, concern and caring without the negative results of rescuing, enabling, fixing or controlling.
* Placing of all things in life into a healthy, rational perspective and recognizing that there is a need to back away from the uncontrollable and unchangeable realities of life.
* Ability to exercise emotional self-protection and prevention so as not to experience greater emotional devastation from having hung on beyond a reasonable and rational point.
* Ability to let people you love and care for accept personal responsibility for their own actions and to practice tough love and not give in when they come to you to bail them out when their actions lead to failure or trouble for them.
* Ability to allow people to be who they “really are” rather than who you “want them to be.”
* Ability to avoid being hurt, abused, taken advantage of by people who in the past have been overly dependent or enmeshed with you.
If you are unable to detach emotionally for physically from something or someone, then you are either profoundly under its control or it is under your control.
How to Develop Detachment
In order to become detached from a person, place or thing, you need to:
First: Establish emotional boundaries between you and the person, place or thing with whom you have become overly enmeshed or dependent on.
Second: Take back power over your feelings from persons, places or things which in the past you have given power to affect your emotional well-being.
Third: “Hand over” to your Higher Power the persons, places and things which you would like to see changed but which you cannot change on your own.
Fourth: Make a commitment to your personal recovery and self-health by admitting to yourself and your Higher Power that there is only one person you can change and that is yourself and that for your serenity you need to let go of the “need” to fix, change, rescue or heal other persons, places and things.
Fifth: Recognize that it is “sick” and “unhealthy” to believe that you have the power or control enough to fix, correct, change, heal or rescue another person, place or thing if they do not want to get better nor see a need to change.
Sixth: Recognize that you need to be healthy yourself and be “squeaky clean” and a “role model” of health in order for another to recognize that there is something “wrong” with them that needs changing.
Seventh: Continue to own your feelings as your responsibility and not blame others for the way you feel.
Eighth: Accept personal responsibility for your own unhealthy actions, feelings and thinking and cease looking for the persons, places or things you can blame for your unhealthiness.
Ninth: Accept that addicted fixing, rescuing, enabling are “sick” behaviors and strive to extinguish these behaviors in your relationship to persons, places and things.
Tenth: Accept that many people, places and things in your past and current life are “irrational,” “unhealthy” and “toxic” influences in your life, label them honestly for what they truly are, and stop minimizing their negative impact in your life.
Eleventh: Reduce the impact of guilt and other irrational beliefs which impede your ability to develop detachment in your life.
Twelfth: Practice “letting go” of the need to correct, fix or make better the persons, places and things in life over which you have no control or power to change.
Steps in Developing Detachment
Step 1: It is important to first identify those people, places and things in your life from which you would be best to develop emotional detachment in order to retain your personal, physical, emotional and spiritual health. To do this you need to review the following types of toxic relationships and identify in your journal if any of the people, places or things in your life fit any of the following 20 categories.
Types of Toxic Relationships
* You find it hard to let go of because it is addictive.
* The other is emotionally unavailable to you.
* Coercive, threatening, intimidating to you.
* Punitive or abusive to you.
* Non-productive and non-reinforcing for you.
* Smothering you.
* Other is overly dependent on you.
* You are overly dependent on the other.
* Other has the power to impact your feelings about yourself.
* Relationship in which you are a chronic fixer, rescuer or enabler.
* Relationship in which your obligation and loyalty won’t allow you to let go.
* Other appears helpless, lost and out of control.
* Other is self-destructive or suicidal.
* Other has an addictive disease.
* Relationship in which you are being manipulated and conned.
* When guilt is a major motivating factor preventing your letting go and detaching.
* Relationship in which you have a fantasy or dream that the other will come around and change to be what you want.
* Relationship in which you and the other are competitive for control.
* Relationship in which there is no forgiveness or forgetting and all past hurts are still brought up to hurt one another.
* Relationship in which your needs and wants are ignored.
Step 2: Once you have identified the persons, places and things you have a toxic relationship with, then you need to take each one individually and work through the following steps.
Step 3: Identify the irrational beliefs in the toxic relationship which prevent you from becoming detached. Address these beliefs and replace them with healthy, more rational ones.
Step 4: Identify all of the reasons why you are being hurt and your physical, emotional and spiritual health is being threatened by the relationship.
Step 5: Accept and admit to yourself that the other person, place or thing is “sick,” dysfunctional or irrational, and that no matter what you say, do or demand you will not be able to control or change this reality. Accept that there is only one thing you can change in life and that is you. All others are the unchangeables in your life. Change your expectations that things will be better than what they really are. Hand these people, places or things over to your Higher Power and let go of the need to change them.
Step 6: Work out reasons why there is no need to feel guilt over letting go and being emotionally detached from this relationship and free yourself from guilt as you let go of the emotional “hooks” in the relationship.
Step 7: Affirm yourself as being a person who “deserves” healthy, wholesome, health-engendering relationships in your life. You are a good person and deserve healthy relationships, at home, work and in the community.
Step 8: Gain support for yourself as you begin to let go of your emotional enmeshment with these relationships.
Step 9: Continue to call upon your Higher Power for the strength to continue to let go and detach.
Step 10: Continue to give no person, place or thing the power to affect or impact your feelings about yourself.
Step 11: Continue to detach and let go and work at self-recovery and self-healing as this poem implies.
* To “let go” does not mean to stop caring; it means I can’t do it for someone else.
* To “let go” is not to cut myself off; it’s the realization I can’t control another.
* To “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
* To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
* To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another; it’s to make the most of myself.
* To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.
* To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.
* To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
* To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.
* To “let go” is not to be protective; it’s to permit another to face reality.
* To “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.
* To “let go” is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
* To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
* To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
* To “let go” is to not regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.
* To “let go” is to fear less and love myself more.
Step 12: If you still have problems detaching, then return to Step 1 and begin all over again
Johann Hari – Causes of Depression
9 factors causing depression (7 are psychosocial, and 2 are biological)
Psychological reasons and upsets give rise to the physical symptoms of depression.
Disconnection from work that gives meaning and purpose (little control or autonomy in your work).
Disconnection from people (feeling profoundly lonely). Not sharing any meaningful experience with any other people.
Disconnection from meaningful values. Focusing on materialism, and doing things purely for extrinsic rewards instead of intrinsic reward.
Disconnection caused by childhood trauma. For every traumatic experience, you go through as a child it significantly increases the likelihood of a later diagnosis of depression.
Disconnection from respect. Modern life cultivates the view that status, celebrity and wealth are what denote success and anxiety over the loss of financial security and status often are underlying constant stress in people.
Disconnection from the natural world. Faced with the vista of the natural world we feel ‘small’ not ‘big’, and we feel like we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Animals in captivity rock, lose interest in sex (why they are so hard to breed in captivity) and show other compulsive and depressive behaviors they don’t exhibit in the wild. We are animals. We need to be outdoors. Rates of depression when exercising in the natural world, and spending time outdoors all reduce in comparison to time spent outside. We often feel ‘more alive’ when outdoors in nature. Grounded.
Disconnection from loss of hope for a better future.
The role of genes and biology in depression. Neuroplasticity means the brain is continually growing and changing and does not stay the same. This means the concept of a ‘broken’ brain that cannot be fixed is not supported by current scientific evidence. However, distress from the external world and brain changes occur together which lead to depression. Johann Hari in his book “Lost Connections” on page 146, says that these changes in the brain can then “acquire a momentum of their own that deepens the effects from the outside world.”
Scientists have discovered that for depression there is a 37% genetic inheritance, BUT for those who carry the gene and are born with it — the inherited gene HAS to be activated by your environment.
It is WHAT happens to you in life that determines if that gene for depression is switched on or not.
Biological factors can influence depression as it has been proven that suffering either glandular fever or underactive thyroid can significantly increase the rates of depression in people who are vulnerable.
Some forms of bipolar are seen by some (not all) scientists as having a greater biological component, but psychosocial factors are still seen as influencing and affecting all forms of depression.
When I studied psychology at university, I learned about the bio-psycho-social model about mental health. However, when I went to the doctors with acute symptoms, not one doctor has ever asked me:
“What happened to you?”
What has happened in your life?
What happened in your childhood?
What happened to you in the last year that has been a major trigger?
What support systems do you have in your life?
Do you have friends?
Do you have a family? Do you have a supportive family?
How is your marriage?
How are your children? What is happening to them?
How is your job? Are you fulfilled at work?
A psychiatrist that I was referred to 20 years ago when I had attempted suicide asked me all these questions over the period I saw her. I do not think I would be alive today if it were not for her superb care and attention to help me create new meaning rebuilding my life.
But the doctor gave me a prescription for some pills, and I was out the door in 10 minutes. I was given a chemical solution.
None of them ever fully worked. I increased the dosages to the maximum each time.
I stayed on the medication for over five years the first time.
I lost my sex drive.
I put on weight.
I felt flat and numb.
But I felt I could not exist without the medication. At least I was alive. That is how I felt.
It felt like my emotional pain increased too much when I tried to come off the tablets.
I went back on medication nearly a year ago. This new antidepressant does not affect libido and is meant to have no side effects when you come off it (no withdrawal symptoms). I tried to go off it a few months ago and started to get panic attacks and so started it again.
I then started to see a therapist who does body somatic therapy based on the work of Dr. Peter Levine on healing people from complex PTSD.
I can feel huge changes within my body and my ways of thinking since I have been exploring this healing modality on a regular basis.
I was told by my doctor to stay on the antidepressant for a minimum of one year before I tried to come off it. So I am going to do that.
What do I make of all this research as put together and researched by Johann Hari?
It all makes complete sense to me.
What is mind? No matter!
What is matter? Never mind!
Professor Ashok Sharma feels that science fails to understand consciousness as an independent entity. He says, “Science cannot integrate a non-physical entity, like consciousness, into its conceptual framework, and views human personality as a non-conscious physical system.” Consciousness, according to Prof Sharma, is a non-physical entity, which is essentially different from the four basic entities of space, time, energy and matter of the conventional science. Consciousness does not have any physical attribute or property or action.
“There is an urgent need to reinterpret the Vedic texts in modern terms – a task which is now possible with the availability of computers and the recent developments in the fields of cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence and theories of knowledge representation”, says Prof Sharma
Prior to the age of reason, mysticism and revelation served as the primary source of knowledge and wisdom in the western world. With the advent of the Enlightenment, however, a schism would emerge between the comprehension of physical realities through religious thinking and the drive to understand the material universe through empirical reasoning. Though the tension between these contrasting approaches has taken on many different forms since then, it has essentially continued to this day.
One of the barriers to reconciling these dichotomous positions has been the relative lack of reliable scientific data to explain the nature of the “self” and the phenomenon of consciousness. Where, for instance, does the “self” originate? Does our consciousness have an objective reality, or is it purely an epiphenomenon of our neurobiological processes? And is it indeed plausible to speak of an atemporal, nonlocalized mind that exists independently of the physical body?
While Buddhism has a rich contemplative tradition for the first-person exploration of states of consciousness, it never developed the sciences of the brain and behavior that we have in the modern West. So the integration of the first-person methodologies of Buddhism with the third-person methodologies of the cognitive sciences may lead to a richer understanding of consciousness than either Buddhist or Western civilization has discovered on its own.
‘It is easy to view consciousness as a kind of magic, either in the name of religion and souls, or by how alien it at first appears to science. But many fields, such as the study of life many years ago, have their popular magical states eroded by careful scientific study. I will be robustly arguing here that consciousness is in the midst of a similar revolution.’
Consciousness is in many ways the most important question remaining for science, says Daniel Bor. he continues, ‘Whether I’m revelling in a glowing pleasure or even if I’m enduring a sharp sadness, I always sense that behind everything there is the privilege and passion of experience. Our consciousness is the essence of who we perceive ourselves to be. It is the citadel for our senses, the melting pot of thoughts, the welcoming home for every emotion that pricks or placates us. For us, consciousness simply is the currency of life. Although some philosophers and scientists suspect that consciousness is a pointless side effect of thought, I believe the opposite, that our consciousness might indeed be responsible for our greatest intellectual achievements, both in the arts and sciences. Whether our creativity and insight originates in our unconscious mind or not (I believe that the role of the unconscious has been over-estimated here), at the very least, our consciousness is the conduit to inspect these gems of inspiration, and the driving force for turning them into reality.
‘I happen to believe that it is only a matter of time before we generate real consciousness in computer form, and if we assume that a mouse, say, is conscious, then I think so will computers be within 10 or so years. Human consciousness may take far longer to artificially manufacture, but this is merely an engineering issue, rather than something that is in principle impossible in any being that isn’t a human with its biological brain. Most of us, I think, share this intuition at times.’
The only instrument humanity has ever had for directly observing the mind is the mind itself, so that must be the instrument to be refined.
‘Characters like Data in Star Trek, or the replicants in the film Bladerunner, are utterly believable as robots with human-like consciousness. And both these characters help us explore the difficult future ethical decisions we may face surrounding beings we manufacture, who may match us in awareness, intelligence and possibly also the capacity to suffer
Will science be able to come up with some consciousness meter that works not only on other animals, but even other robots as well?’
‘Strangely, although many of us have no problem believing that Data is conscious, we carry conflicting beliefs that our own awareness is quite different to the biological computer in our own heads, even though many neuroscientists (including me) cold-heartedly claim that consciousness is entirely supported by our brains, and will disappear when we die…’
‘Francis Crick, one of the giants of 20th century science, with an untamed curiosity, and a first-rate intellect to accompany this, dissented from this meek view. He decided after a long, sparkling career in genetics, which included the discovery of the structure of DNA, to spend the last period of his life to cracking the science of consciousness. Although he sadly didn’t live to see a clear solution to the problem, he made some critical progress. More important than this, though, he helped make consciousness an acceptable field for science to study.
So how does science get a foothold on such a difficult topic as consciousness? Actually, it’s not really as difficult as all that. Most of science breaks down to exploring some process by manipulating it as much as possible and observing the effects. Consciousness is no different.’
“Mind has fixed compartments. Fixedness is the nature of mind and fluidity is the nature of life. Mind is a choice. Life is not logic.” Osho.
‘If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinion for or against.
The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes
is the disease of the mind.’ Sosan
The eyes may be wide open during sleep. They do not see anything, because the mind is not there!
This post has taken direct influence, and to begin with, words, from http://timeforchange.org
This post is about how we perceive everything, as human animals.. Specifically the question of Objective and Subjective reality.
‘If we assume that the subjective influencing of the neutral picture happens in our subconscious, we can imagine there is a large collection of different pairs of glasses there. According to which pair of glasses is held in front of us by our subconscious state, we interpret the picture in a different way which then moves us for example to feel fear, anger, consternation, apathy, joy or sadness. Our perception is determined by the respective glasses.
This is not all about always wearing rose-coloured glasses, so that everything is felt to be «good». It is of course possible to be tempted to outwit our subconscious by some kind of technique so that we see everything through rose-coloured glasses. However in the end we would be deceiving ourselves to the extent that we would be fighting the symptoms and not the causes.
Earlier we have described how the objective of all human beings is to live the basic rights of existence in every situation in order to attain a permanent state of harmony within ourselves. With the «glasses model» and subjective perception we could also describe this as a state in which our perception is no longer impaired by glasses, in which we no longer judge but we can accept everything calmly as it is.
We must emphasize once again however that this calmness must not be confused with the wearing of rose-coloured glasses which allows everything to appear cheerful and good. The rose-coloured glasses would also be a judgement which – it is true – would normally appear to us to be pleasant. However we would then judge everything in life to be good and go through life like a lunatic with a fixed smile.
Subjective perception (perceptive reality) is a very powerful aid to personal development. So that it can function properly it needs only one – but very important – precondition: Of our own volition and without conditions we must want to respect the basic rights of existence in every situation. This development does not take place of its own accord.
Our subconscious helps us with subjective perception (glasses model), the activation of our objectives (tuning bowl model) and additional mechanisms permit us to interpret things such that we can efficiently train for the abovementioned goals. We develop our awareness and accept the full responsibility for our life (self-responsibility). This is our personal path to harmony and inner peace.’
Jürg Rohrer is from Buchs, Switzerland, Graduate in Engineering from the ETH (Technical University) Zürich, was initially active as Development Manager and Crisis Manager both at home and abroad, since 1991 he has been a self-employed entrepreneur in the fields of environmental technology and IT. These companies have already been presented with several international awards for their innovative technologies and ideas. His main concern is the integration of high ethical values into the everyday commercial world. He is the author of the book series “Time for Change”.
In addition he has been working as lecturer for renewable energy systems and efficient use of energy.
The following is from http://www.lifehack.org
‘Change Your Story, Change Your Perception, Change Your Life
We all get caught up in our stories. Most of us think we are our stories. It’s when those stories take on a life of their own, and that life isn’t the one we want, that things start to suck.
Think about the story you’re living right now. Who wrote it? Did you consciously decide to create the reality you’re living now, or was it mainly shaped by your parents, friends, spouse, school, or the media? If you don’t like the story your living, then change the perception. Envision how you’d write the next chapter of your story. Better yet, actually sit down and write it. Focus your perception on creating a new reality, one where you are in charge of the story. Take back the job as screenwriter and director, and stop just being an actor
Everything begins with a decision – decide now to be in charge of your own perception of reality. Because if you don’t, there are plenty of folks whose sole purpose in life is to craft that perception for you. Do you trust them to have your best interest in mind…?
Tony D. Clark writes, draws cartoons, designs software and websites, and spends a lot of time talking others into working from home, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest focuses on helping parents who want to do meaningful work from home and have more time for their families, and their dreams.‘
‘Divine Calling!’ Does such a concept really exist? Mohammed was an illiterate before he heard God talking to him, giving him a task on this earth, a mission to follow through. I will be exploring some more on this topic and finding other referances to similiar stories of humans claiming direct dialogue with God, or a higher being..
The Golden Rule of Dream Work
Before embarking on the adventure of engaging your Dream Oracle, there is one rule that must be heeded: even when attempting to incubate a question for others, ninety-nine percent of the time, the dream is for the dreamer. As simple and obvious as that sounds, too many dreamers assume their dreams of friends or family are urgent messages for those people, rather than messages coded in symbol and intended for self. While eventually you will learn to distinguish a true precognitive dream involving another person, in the beginning the tendency is to mistake typical dream content as information you need to pass on in real life, to those in the dream.
Vaticinium Ex Eventu:
The Fallacy of Prophecy
Vaticinium ex eventu is a famous Latin dictum that when translated into English means prophecy from the event. That is to say a the results of an event (i.e. a battle) are attributed and alluded to a prophecy made previously that at the time of documentation did not have a meaning attributed to it. Throughout history, there have been many prophecies which when looked back upon, seem to accurately describe and predict future events. Often times these prophecies come via dreams and in that case the maxim in somnis veritas, in dreams there is truth, comes into play. For centuries, before the technology and the scientific approach of today was used, prophetic dreams were taken to be truth; vaticinium ex eventu would only further prove the theory. Are these prophetic dreams fate, or simply just mere coincidence. In examining three famous premonitions: Calpurnia’s dream of Julius Caesar’s assassination, Joan of Arc’s vision of being captured and killed by the English, and Abraham Lincoln’s prophetic dream of his own death, two critics, Lucretius and Ethan Allen provide an alternate explanation to the nature of prophecy and dreams. Dreams that seem to be of prophetic nature are in fact interpreted in such a way that vaticunium ex eventu is the cause or influences from waking life are found in the dreams, and therefore in sonis veritas plays a role.
In the article “Lucretius on the Gates of Horn and Ivory: A Philosophical Challenge to Prophecy on Dreams”, the author Mark Holowchak examines Lucretius’s stance on prophetic dreams and elaborates on them. Holowchak states that Lucretius’s main theory is that “…dreams, like mirrors, reflect our waking personality” (Holowchak). He goes further to state that “…dreams have no divine character and are not at all prophetic…they originate from the influx of certain images” (Holowchak). Lucretius establishes first off that dreams are the result of images and experiences from out waking lives. The content of our dreams is neither unique nor divine. Continuing with this thought, Holowchak writes, “…he [Lucretius] notes that we tend to dream about our daily deeds and thoughts. Barristers dream of law. Generals dream of fighting battles. Sailors dream of waging war with the wind” (Holowchak). Advancing Lucretius’s point he states that, “The reservoir of images from which dreams would certainly contain a predominance of images related to a dreamer’s daily thoughts and experiences” (Holowchak). Dreams are a random images and thoughts influenced by one’s daily waking life. Because “Generals dream if fighting battles”, it is therefore no surprise that they might dream of a victory against a foe. It is not prophecy but mere coincidence combined with previously conceived thoughts and influences from daily life that in the dream the general foresaw prophecy and it happened to come true. Therefore, prophecies are simply just coincidences based off of experiences, pre-conceived thoughts and ideas, and images from waking life, and are not visions of the future.
Likewise in chapter seven of Ethan Allen’s book Oracles of Reason, Allen states his opening argument on the nature of prophecy by saying
Prophecy is by some thought to be miraculous, and by others to be supernatural and there are others who indulge themselves in an opinion, that they amount to no more than mere political conjectures. Some nations have feigned an intercourse with good spirits by the act of magic; and most nations have pretended to an intercourse with the world of spirits both ways (Allen, 51)
Here, Allen suggests the idea of prophecy is of a supernatural nature or if that not be the case, that the idea of prophecy and prophecies in general are a political tool used to advance a particular agenda. He furthers his opening argument by saying that “…prophecy, as well as all other sort of precognition must be supernaturally inspired, or it could be no more than judging of future events from mere probability or guess-work” (Allen, 52). Allen argues that one could “have a prophetic dream” about tomorrow’s weather conditions and be able to predict them. However, if one is already proficient in field of meteorology, than it was not so much as prophetic as it was good guesswork. Additionally, Allen states
…provided some of the prophecies should point out some particular events, which have since taken place, there might have been previous grounds of probability, that such or such events would in the ordinary cause of things come to pass…” (Allen, 55)
Similarly to the previous argument, Allen argues that prophetic dreams are not premonitions if there are “…previous grounds of probability…” that events predicted would be likely to happen. He sights an example from the bible to help support his argument. Allen provides the example by saying, “…it is in no ways extraordinary that the prophet Jeremiah should be able to predict that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, should take Jerusalem when we consider the power of the Babylonish [sic] Empire” (Allen, 55). Parallel to how it was considerably easy to come to the conclusion that Babylon was going to take over Jerusalem ante facto, many prophecies “are dreamt” according to the same fashion.
In conclusion, both Lucretius and Ethan Allen both argue the invalidity of prophecies. Lucretius argues that dreams are reflective of waking life, and therefore if you’re waking life gives you reason to believe an event will come to pass, it could arrive in your dream. In that case, the dream would be recognized as “prophecy”. Likewise, Ethan Allen argues that prophecies could and tend to be more of an “educated hypothesis” nature, rather than divine intervention, as is the case with Jeremiah and the Babylonian invasion.
In applying these two theories to historical accounts, the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE is one of the most famous. According to historical sources, including the famous historian Plutarch as well as many others, the day before Caesar’s assassination, Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, had a prophetic dream that predicted Caesar’s death. The account goes as follows
…the night of 14 March [44 BCE] Calpurnia suffered a nightmare in which she is variously claimed to have seen either the pediment of the house collapsing or that she was holding his [Julius Caesar] murdered body in her arms. Then the morning sacrifices on the 15th were repeated several times, but the omens were always unfavorable. Caesar is suppose to have been surprised because his wife was nor normally given to superstition… (Goldsworthy, 507)
According to the source by Plutarch, Calpurnia had terrible nightmares and when she recounted them to her husband they all mentioned his murder. As one can see, multiple sources confirm Calpurnia’s premonition regarding Caesar’s assassination. To the untrained eye, it would seem that Calpurnia’s dream was in fact prophetic, for the next day, Caesar was found on the senate floor with “…twenty-three [stab] wounds to his body” (Goldsworthy, 508). However, upon closer examination of the context of Rome in March of 44 BCE, the word “prophecy” and “premonition” might be unfound.
At this time in Rome, it was not unknown that Caesar was not popular among all citizens. In fact, “there is little reason to doubt that in the weeks before his death the atmosphere of Rome was somber in the extreme” (Bradford, 286) and furthermore, “…small groups of men were known to be meeting behind closed doors in private houses, and the air was full of rumors” (Bradford, 286). With these ideas in mind, it is not so unusual that Calpurnia dreamed of her husband’s death. According to Lucretius, experiences in Calpurnia’s waking life i.e. rumors of an assassination plot would have lead her to her premonition in her dream. Similarly, according to Ethan Allen, Calpurnia’s dream of a collapsing house, if we take it in the more symbolic approach, could be hypothesized to have meant Caesar’s death, especially if educated guesswork was involved due to the political environment at the time. In that case vaticinium ex eventu would be an appropriate conclusion. As one can see, Calpurnia’s dream, although accurately predicted Caesar’s death, is most likely the result of influences from waking life and other factors that would lead her to draw the conclusion and have a “prediction” when in fact it is merely coincidence.
Another example of a prophetic dream is that of Joan of Arc. During the latter part of the Hundred Years War between England and France, France was in desperate need of a hero, or in this case a heroine. Driven by her visions and prophetic dreams of saints and other Christian figures, Joan of Arc went from an unknown farmer’s daughter to the general of the French armies. Joan of Arc died on the 30th of May 1431 sentenced to burning at the stake. Before her trail and execution by the English, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians and later sold to the English.
In a prophetic dream Joan had in March of 1429, she foresaw her own capture and death by the hands of the English. Recounting her dream as well as her interpretation to her king Charles VII, Joan of Arc tell him, “ ‘I shall last a year, and but little longer. We must think to do good work in that year.’ Later, she elaborated by saying that she would be captured by mid-summer day…” (Sullivan, 152). Only fourteen months later, as predicted, Joan was captured by Burgundian soldiers. During that year, she was sold to the English and put on trial, the affirmative argued that “
the accused [Joan of Arc] had performed, composed, participated in, and enacted numerous sorceries and superstitions not only this year but from childhood…she prophesized the future… (Hobbins, 125)
On one hand, it would seem that Joan’s dream was indeed prophecy especially considering that throughout her life Joan of Arc claimed to have visions and prophecies. Additonally, “During the late Middle –Ages, when Joan of Arc claimed to have voices speak to her, women visionaries were increasingly prominent…” (Sullivan, 21). However, in view of Lucretius and Ethan Allen’s critiques of prophetic dreams, perhaps it was mere coincidence. Like the context surrounding Julius Caesar and the political and social atmosphere engulfing the city of Rome in 44 BCE, France during the Hundred Years War was also in an unstable setting. Due to this atmosphere, it would not be unusual for people to dream of their own demise in some fashion, particularly those of high rank and of great importance, like Joan of Arc. Furthermore, it was not a hidden truth that the English and the Burgundians despised Joan of Arc, as she was the one who had turned the war around. Therefore, because of this knowledge and experiences in Joan of Arc’s waking life, it is not surprising that she had a dream of her capture and death and moreover that she could have easily hypothesized such events. In conclusion, when taking in account the events surrounding Joan of Arc’s waking life, it is clear that it was influential in her having a dream where she prophesized her death and therefore the fact that she was captured and killed post facto is a coincidence.
A final example of prophetic dreams as mere coincidence is the story of Abraham Lincoln prediction. According to a source, “Lincoln accurately forecasted his own death only a few days prior to his actual assassination on Good Friday, 14 April 1865” (Brennan, 51). In his dream, Lincoln recounts that
…he heard sobs…I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight…where were all the people who were grieving…I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered…[there] rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments… ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded… ‘The President…he was killed by an assassin!’… (Brennan, 52)
It is clear, similar from the other two dreams of Calpurnia and Joan of Arc , that the message behind the dream is the ultimate death of Lincoln .Three days after he prophesized his death in a dream, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilks Boothe on April 14th 1865.
In examining the context of Lincoln’s life and the atmosphere of 1865, it seems quite plausible that the environment and waking life influenced this dream. First off, Marcia Brennan in her article “Tragic Dreams and Spectral Doubles: The Metaphysical Lincoln”, Brennan states that
viewed aethetically, Lincoln’s apparitional visions can be seen as expressions of memento mori, or remainders of death as projected through the prism of an overarching fatalism (Brennan, 52)
From this, one can see that Lincoln had a taste for works of a dark nature. Taking that into account combined with the background knowledge of the era, the Civil War, where there undoubtedly countless threats from Southerns against Linocln, it is not surprising in the least that Lincoln dreamed of his assassination. As Lucretius would say, influences from waking life attributed to Lincoln dreaming his assassination. In conjunction with Ethan Allen’s view that hypothesized guesses and the situation that Lincoln found himself in (i.e. enemy of the South, subject of distaste by the South, etc.), it is clear that Lincoln’s premonition is chance and not fate.
In conclusion, although prophetic dreams seem to foretell future events, and as the past three examples have shown, accurately predict the future, there are other forces at work. Two philosophers, Lucretius and Ethan Allen, both have presented alternate views to prophetic dreams, other than the obvious prophetic dreams predict the future. Waking life experiences, combined with other factors such as educated guesses and understanding the context of the socio-political environment, directly influence dreams. Perhaps therefore, dreams are not fate but just mere influxes of images which in a strange occurrence of events are manifested in a vision that seems to be of the future.
Allen, Ethan. “Chapter VII.” Reason. the only oracle of man; or, a compendious System of natural religion, by Col. Ethan Allen; to which is added, Critical remarks on the truth and harmony of the four gospels, with observations on the instruction given by Jesus Christ, and the doctrines of Christianity, by a Free Thinker. 51-68. New York, NY US: G W & A J Matsell, 1836. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 28 Apr. 2011.
Bradford, Ernle. Julius Caesar: the Pursuit of Power. New York: Morrow, 1984. Print.
Brennan, Marcia. “Tragic Dreams and Spectral Doubles: The Metaphysical Lincoln,” PN Review 188 (Manchester, UK: Carcanet Press, 2009), pp. 49-53.
Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Haven: Yale UP, 2006. Print.
Hobbins, Daniel. The Trial of Joan of Arc. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2005. Print.
Holowchak, Mark. “Lucretius on the Gates of Horn and Ivory: A Psychophysical Challenge to Prophecy by Dreams.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 42.4 (2004): 355-68. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.
Sullivan, Karen. The Interrogation of Joan of Arc. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999. Print.