In Dreams Begin Discoveries
The Aha! in Dreams -or- Intuition, Invention, Innovation and Creative Problem Solving
Most of us had to study mathematics in school. In grade thirteen, I had to take three math classes calculus, algebra and functions. At University, three statistics courses were required learning, in order to graduate. The first two courses were about classical statistics and logic. The third course was about "quantum statistics" and non-linear system dynamics. There was real enjoyment in the quantum stats course, because quantum logic and non-linear dynamics stretches the imagination, doing seemingly weird and strange things, like the "butterfly effect".
In comparison to the thinking required in classical statistics, which is very mechanical, and boring, quantum stats almost seems magical. In classical stats, 2 + 2 is invariably = 4, in quantum stats this invariance may not necessarily be true. I always questioned the reason that an inordinate number of students would come to me, whenever they were experiencing difficulties in understanding quantum stats and non-linear systems? One day it came to me, "I know nothing, but the other students knew less". In all fairness though, as a University student, I also had the added advantage of having a physicist as a friend.
This "Field Note" is not about mathematics per se, it discusses instead what mathematicians discovered in the 20th century. Without going into a long drawn out formal explanation, the work of such mathematicians as Henri Poincaré "Value of Science", David Hilbert and Kurt Gödel among others, has shown us that new discoveries and progress, will always depend on experimentation, intuition and creativity.
Taken in this mathematical light, the idea about intuition and creativity does not only apply to the field of mathematics, instead it applies to all fields of human knowledge. Numerous discoveries have been made while dreaming. The dream is a evolutionary creative problem solving channel that drives innovation and invention. These creative solutions often have presented themselves full blown, or in what has also been called the Aha! or Eureka effect.
Friedrich Kekule reportedly discovered the physical structure of benzene in a dream like reverie. Dmitri Mendeleev the discoverer of the periodic table of elements are said to have first seen the idea in a dream. One of the most interesting thaumaturical tales of such creative in-sight in dreams, is the story that the University of Pennsylvania Assyrian scholar Hermann V Hilprecht tells.
"The problem passed yet again through my mind that March evening before I placed my mark of approval under the last correction in the book. Even then I had come to no conclusion. About midnight, weary and exhausted, I went to bed and was soon in deep sleep. Then I dreamed the following remarkable dream;
A tall thin priest of the old pre-Christian Nippur, about forty years of age and clad in a simple abba, led me to the treasure chambre of the temple, on its south-east side. He went with me into a small, low-ceiling room, without windows, in which there was a large wooden chest, while scraps of agate and lapis-lazuli lay scattered on the floor. He addressed me as follows: ‘The two fragments which you have published separately upon pages 22 and 26, belong together, they are not finger rings, and their history is as follows. King Kurigalzu (circa 1300 BC) once sent to the temple of Bel, among other articles of agate and lapis-lazuli, an inscribed votive cylinder of agate. Then we priests suddenly recieved the command to make for the statue of the the god Ninib a pair of earings of agate. We were in great dismay, since there was no agate as raw material at hand. In order to execute the command there was nothing for us to do but cut the votive cylinder into three parts, thus making three rings, each of which contained a portion of the original inscription. The first two rings served as earrings for the statue of the god; the two fragments which have given you so much trouble are portions of them. If you put the two together you will have confirmation of my words. But the third ring you have not yet found in the course of your excavations, and you will never find it.'
With this the priest disappeared. I awoke at once and immediately told my wife the dream that I might not forget it."
Hilprecht went on to prove that the priest in his dream had told the truth.
The report and dream is found in Gardner Murphy "Personality" (p428).
For those that would like to read more about the problem solving abilities of dreams such as Hilprecht's, here is a link to Dennis Drabelle's article; "In Dreams Begin Discoveries". Enjoy.