This subject has some interesting features in the light of metaphysical thought. It remains a mystery, we spend a large part of our lives in this unconscious state, but without it we soon go to pieces, and so in effect you might say it is a way of recharging our batteries.Some rare individuals resenting this time as wasted have decided to go without sleep, but have always had to recourse to "cat naps"in spite of resistance, which if persisted results in brief losses of consciousness and gaps in concentration.There was one case which springs to mind of a chap who decided that the routine of going to bed each night and the tedium of of rousing and preparing for the day were a waste of time, and determined not to go to bed again and stayed up the all twenty four hours, needless to say he was forced to kip in his easy chair from time to time.Without a reasonable amount of sleep accidents and errors of judgement occur. Prolonged sleep deprivation causes hallucinations and metabolic dysfunction.
Scientific electronic metering has provided some information about the brain during sleep.It is found that a low level of electrical activity is continued during deep sleep, and is enhanced in R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep associated with dreaming, and seems to be a normal sleep pattern and does not happen during drugged sleep.Some recent research suggests that dreamining can occur without R.E.M. and is a function of the brainstem. Occasionally dreams of a numinous and startling character can be related to mythical themes and symbols used in the interpretation of dreams. Sigmund Jung, famed for his work on the subconscious wrote a considerable amount on this. His form of psychological analysis is expensive, long and tedious, very fashionable in the U.S.and particularly in South America in Rio de Janeiro. Most commonly dreams are merely a garbled rehash of the days events, interwoven with elements of fear and desire.On the darker side such dreams may portray the hidden desires passions and violent conflicts which are never to our credit, that is in terms of karmic involvement which applies all 24 hours. During the hours of sleep the mindstuff can travel into the future and be recalled on awakening to predict events, usually of a catastrophic nature. James Dunne in his book "An Experiment In Time", decribed how he recorded his dreams meticulously in order to do this, apparently with some success.
The state of mind and physical relaxation which can precede the sleeping state is a very suggestible one, and is exploited in hypnotism which in essence is a form of suggestion and can be performed by oneself with appropriate affirmations, being a potent method for engaging the power of the subconscious mind.
Twilight sleep is a term for light anaesthesia in which the patient is still sufficiently conscious to respond to questions relating to the effect of a local anaesthetic. An interesting development I am told, is a sedative drug in use which as a secondary effect produces amnesia of the surgical operation under local, the patient being partly conscious during the procedure. The most intriguing idea is that we are all asleep in the sense of spiritual awareness. Gurdjieff based the whole of his teaching on this and instituted a bizarre system of exercises to "wake up" his students, many of whom belonged to the intelligentsia of the time including some well known personalities including members of The Fabian Society. This idea was to become known as "stopping the world", as in the material recorded of the Mexican mystics also. This idea of the "Now Moment" is central to advanced mystical thought. Gurdjieff's method demanded complete immobility on signal, which was by blowing a whistle and causing a number of accidents during gardening activities. It does not seem to have been very effective in "stopping the world". The idea that the condition of the population is one of "waking sleep"was not new, and refers to the lack of "soul consciousness"
and the automatic robot-like functioning of the human unit, a feature which we can all assess in our own lives of routine and individual habits. In its most extreme form it results in what is tantamount to a spiritual death when associated with an obsession for the accumulation of wealth or power. In this condition the tenuous thread of soul communication is severed during the remainder of that life. A reference is to be found in the New Testament : "Let the dead bury the dead", in words attributed to Jesus (Matt.9.v21) Now to turn to what happens during natural sleep. In the normal sleeping state the etheric body is said to remain hovering above the physical. It is the Astral, or Dream Body which sallies forth carrying the sleeper into experiences we seldom recollect.Those who are sufficiently advanced are able to carry healing to the sick,or perform other acts of service on the astral plane and sometimes appear as an apparition in places remote. To be able to move freely in the etheric body requires development akin to that of an Adept.