Monthly Archives: April 2014

A beast with many eyes

On Friday night (actually, very early Saturday morning), I dreamed that I was watching TV and saw an image of what I interpreted as being a whale with many eyes, though I only saw its face. It was blue in color, with a row of eyes on the left and a row of eyes on the right — perhaps eight eyes in all. It also had feelers on the sides of its mouth like a catfish. I dreamed that, after seeing this, I got on Wikipedia to do some research, trying to find out if whales with many eyes actually existed. I found information about a particular gene (with a Latin-sounding name which I no longer remember), rare but not unheard of (comparable to albinism), which manifests sometimes in whales and other animals and causes them to have several pairs of eyes. Now that I knew the name of the gene, I ran a Google image search on it and found several pictures of animals with it — several blue whales, killer whales, and other cetaceans, as well as a couple of tigers. As I did this online research, I had the feeling that I had learned about this gene once before but had forgotten about it. My reaction was, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That gene.”

So much for the dream.

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On Saturday evening, I watched the DVD of the film “47 Ronin” — a fantasified version of the Japanese historical incident, with monsters, demons, a fox-spirit “witch,” and Keanu Reeves thrown in.

In an early scene in the movie, Reeves and a group of samurai are chasing down some sort of giant beast — think qilin-meets-gigantelope. For most of the sequence we don’t get a clear view of its face, but then it stops, turns to face Reeves, and opens its eyes — of which we now discover for the first time that it has six. Here is a screenshot:

47ronin-beast

This image jolted me with a shock of recognition. Aside from the fur, horns, and nostrils, it looks exactly like the many-eyed “whale” I saw in my dream.

This is one of the clearest instances of apparent dream-precognition I’ve experienced yet. The dream even correctly portrayed the beast as being something I saw on TV. And after watching the movie, I did go online (using Wikipedia and Google image search, among other resources) to try to find out whether the beast was based on some actual Japanese legend — but that’s something I chose to do after experiencing both the dream and the movie and recognizing the connection between them, so it can’t really be counted as a “fulfillment” of the dream.

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I enjoyed “47 Ronin,” by the way, despite the uniformly negative reviews it has been getting from critics. It undeniably has its awful aspects, the most obvious of which is the concept itself. Imagine if a Chinese studio made a King Arthur movie in which Lancelot had some made-up Chinese sidekick who was actually Guinevere’s true love and the greatest knight of them all — and in which the rest of the cast, all British, had to speak their lines in Chinese — and you’ll get some idea of how ridiculous and even insulting this movie must seem to the Japanese. (Also, the 47 ronin actually lived in the 18th century — more Queen Anne than King Arthur — far too recent for monsters, demons, and other fantasy elements to be appropriate.) I also admit to groaning when the fox-spirit unaccountably transformed into a dragon — which looked like the seraphic Chinese/Japanese variety but behaved like the evil fire-breathing Western version.

I’m not Japanese, though, and have no particular attachment to the original story they were butchering, so I was able to enjoy the movie on its own terms. It was visually engaging, and I thought it did a good job of communicating the stern, stoical samurai spirit (or, at any rate, what this relatively uninformed Westerner imagines to have been the stern, stoical samurai spirit).

One of the most provocative aspects of the movie, to me, was the portrayal of the tengu — forest-dwelling bird-demons of Japanese folklore — as Buddhists.  Not as bird-demons who also happen to be Buddhists, mind you, but as Buddhists plain and simple. Although they do look very slightly different from humans (no ears, strange nostrils), their religion is their chief distinguishing characteristic. They’re still demons, to be sure — cold, cruel, nihilistic, and possessed of magical powers — but their demonic nature is portrayed as being part and parcel of their Buddhism. I thought it was a pretty gutsy move to literally demonize a major world religion other than Christianity, but oddly the filmmakers don’t seem to be getting any flak for it. Although Buddhism obviously has its good aspects like any other religion, it does certainly have a very strong current of inhuman/anti-human “demonic” nihilism running through it — something that becomes more obvious to me the more practicing Buddhists I meet — and I thought the portrayal of the tengu was brilliant and rang true. Since the samurai ethos can also seem superficially cold and inhuman, the tengu provided a very effective contrast which helped bring out the essentially human, noble nature of bushido.

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Filed under Anecdotes, Buddhism, Coincidence / Synchronicity, Dreams, Movies, Precognition / Prophecy

Sin! Sin! Sin! Help! Help! Help!

The anonymous author of the Middle English mystical work The Cloud of Unknowing advises his reader that the best prayer is a single word, and that a one-syllable word is best of all. After all, “Fire!” and “Help!” are undeniably our most sincere “prayers” to our fellow human beings, and the ones most likely to get a response. We instinctively rush to help a man who shouts “Help!”, the author of the Cloud explains, even if he should be our worst enemy — while a longer, more discursive request for assistance may well be turned down. And if even enemies are moved by monosyllabic calls for help, he reasons, how much more so must God be; we should therefore never cease to pray, “Sin! Sin! Sin! Help! Help! Help!”

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I do not feel qualified to comment on this appropriateness of this form of prayer, except to note that it sounds an awful lot like the “vain repetitions” warned against by Christ. However, I have found it to be surprisingly effective  psychologically.

I never consciously decided to try following the advice in the Cloud. However, once I had read the passage summarized above, the machinery of association saw to it that whenever I found myself thinking or doing something that I ought not to think or do, it would pop up automatically in my mind: “Sin! Sin! Sin! Help! Help! Help!” — and then I would find it quite impossible to go on with whatever it was I had been thinking or doing which had prompted the association.

In a previous post (qv) I discussed the inadvisability of trying to reason with oneself in the heat of temptation. Reasoning is an invitation to argue back and rationalize. Commanding oneself, while more effective than reasoning, is also suboptimal because it triggers instincts of independence and rebelliousness. If, on the other hand, some part of your soul is shouting “Help! Help! Help!” — well, what can you do but rush to help the poor guy?

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I should make it clear that the author of the Cloud did not intend for his prayer to be used in this way. His purpose was not to help people control their behavior or to sin less often, but to make them constantly aware of their sinful nature and thus motivate them to draw closer to God. He did not intend it as a prayer for deliverance from some specific sin one was committing or being tempted to commit; on the contrary, he instructs his reader to think of sin “as a lump” and to avoid analyzing it or thinking of any specific sin. Nevertheless, despite the author’s intentions, I have found it to be useful for quite another purpose, and I post this in the hope that others may find the same thing.

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Minor precognitive dream

A couple of days ago, my morning alarm interrupted a very vivid dream in which I had taken a small bucket of water and splashed it out onto the dining room floor. Muddy cat footprints had appeared in the water, though no cats were visible.

Upon awakening from the dream, I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and that sort of thing, and while I was in there I heard a loud clattering sound downstairs. When I went downstairs, I found that one of my cats had upset his water dish and spilled water all over the dining room floor. There were muddy pawprints, but the cats, presumably having been spooked by the sudden noise, were nowhere to be seen.

The noise made it clear that the water was spilled a few minutes after my dream, ruling out the explanation that the dream had been inspired by sounds I heard while sleeping. (I suppose it’s conceivable that cats knocked down the dish while I was sleeping and then later bumped it again and made another sound. However, I don’t think this is likely. The clatter I heard was very loud and was clearly the sound of the dish falling from its stand to the floor, not just moving around on the floor.)

I’ve been keeping cats for about four years now, but they’d never knocked over their water dish before.

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Filed under Anecdotes, Coincidence / Synchronicity, Dreams, Precognition / Prophecy