Friday, 19 February 2016

Dreams and visions of lives past?

Lent 2016: Day Ten

At that twilight time between wakefulness and sleep comes that sublime moment as we drift off. Catch yourself doing this lucidly. It's instructive. The mind is unwinding from the day's cares, and as it does so you can teach yourself to look over your train of thought and ask - "what was all that about?" Strange trains of thought, that seem familiar at first. And then you stop yourself, as you're worrying about some matter or other... What was it? Pulling yourself back towards wakefulness, you realise - this is entirely invented. There is no such matter bothering you. It doesn't exist! Your subconsciousness has made it all up.

More often than not, those twilight trains of thought are pleasant. On Wednesday evening I was travelling back from Birmingham. I'd had an early start, waking at 04:45. So I was tired after an intensive day chairing a conference. As the train rumbled south from the industrial Midlands, I found myself dropping off, waking up as we hit points, so I was in and out of this semi-dreamlike state. I was carried away to another time, but the same place - a century ago? Edwardian England flashed by outside.

Provincial station hotels clad in shiny tiles, tramlines through the wet cobbles; the towns gave way to countryside. Gas-lit halts through which rushed steam-hauled express trains headed for London, steam whistle shrieking, as dusk fell.* My reverie continued until I fell fast asleep, to be wakened as the train reached Solihull.

Full-blown dreams, achieved while fast asleep in the REM phase when slumber is deepest, have sometimes been so realistic in the historic sense as to make me wonder whether these are something more than the usual 'house-keeping' of the human brain

I have mentioned many times on this blog those sensations of anomalous familiarity, as flashbacks occur to moments that are not of this lifetime. These I have felt since childhood. [A detailed account of dreams and flashbacks here.] Perplexing, puzzling yet not at all unpleasant, they happen in an instant, are gone, yet leave a lingering after-taste, leave me hungering for more.

Could this be a split-second insight into a past existence/s? I don't know. A life-long quest to find out, to learn more, and I feel at the age of 58 that although I've come a fair way in being able to define this phenomenon of consciousness, I can neither identify what it is, nor where it comes from.

And although I have spoken of this phenomenon with many people, it scarcely resonates with any at all. So this is not something usual. But it is, I firmly believe, part of what it is to be me.

But what about you? Have such feelings of anomalous, anachronistic familiarity ever befallen you? Even rarely?

* Just had such a flashback - once again, Edwardian railways, clerestory coaches, milk churns by a wooden fence, moonlit night.

This time last year:
Monist or dualist: which are you?

This time This time last year:
Grim prospects for Ukraine

This time three years ago:
Wrocław's new airport terminal

This time four years ago:
A study in symmetry: Kabaty Metro station

This time five years ago:
To the Devil with it all - a short story

This time six years ago:
Waiting for the meltdown

This time eight years ago:
Flat tyre

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