09/16/2010 07:37 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are Dreams an Extension of Physical Reality?

You spend a third of your life sleeping. What if your dreams are real? Perhaps our dismissal of dreams as "just dreams" is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of consciousness and physical reality.

"I am real" said Alice (in Wonderland). "If I wasn't real, I shouldn't be able to cry."

"I hope you don't suppose those are real tears?" Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.

We take for granted how our mind puts everything together. Everything we experience is a whirl of information occurring in our heads. Biocentrism -- a new "theory of everything" -- tells us that space and time aren't the hard objects we think, but rather tools our mind uses to put everything together. They're the key to consciousness, and why in experiments with particles, space and time -- and indeed the properties of matter itself -- are relative to the observer. During both dreams and waking hours, your mind collapses probability waves to generate a physical reality, replete with a functioning body. You're able to think and experience sensations in a 3D world.

We dismiss dreams because they end when we wake up. However, the duration of the experience doesn't mean it has any less basis in physical reality. Certainly we don't think day-to-day life is less real because we fall asleep or die. It's true we don't remember events in our dreams as well as in waking hours, but the fact that Alzheimer's patients may have little memory of events doesn't mean their life is any less real. Or that individuals who take psychedelic drugs don't experience physical reality, even if the spatio-temporal events they experience are distorted or they don't remember all of the events when the drugs wear off (certainly, anyone they had sex with would confirm this).

We also dismiss dreams as unreal because they're associated with brain activity during sleep. But are our waking hours unreal because they're associated with the neural activity in our brain? Certainly, the bio-physical logic of consciousness -- whether during a dream or waking hours -- can always be traced backwards, whether to neurons or the Big Bang. But according to biocentrism, reality is a process that involves our consciousness.

In contrast to dreams, we assume the everyday world is just "out there" and that we play no role in its appearance. We think they're different. Yet experiments show just the opposite: day-to-day reality is no more objective or observer-independent than dreams. The most vivid illustration of this is the famous two-hole experiment. When you watch a particle go through the holes, it behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave and can pass through both holes at the same time. This and other experiments tell us that unobserved particles exist only as waves of probability.

Critics claim this behavior is limited to the microscopic world. But this "two-world" view (that is, one set of physical laws for small objects, and another for the rest of the universe) has no basis in reason and is being challenged in labs around the world. Last year (Nature 459, 683, 2009), researchers showed that quantum behavior extends into the everyday realm. Pairs of vibrating ions were coaxed to entangle so their physical properties remained bound together when separated by large distances ("spooky action at a distance," as Einstein put it). "Such situations are not observed in nature," stated the authors. "This may be simply due to our inability to sufficiently isolate the system of interest from the surrounding environment -- a technical limitation." Other experiments with huge molecules called "Buckyballs" also show that quantum reality extends beyond the microscopic world. And in 2005, KHC03 crystals exhibited entanglement ridges one-half inch high, quantum behavior nudging into the ordinary world of human-scale objects.

Whether awake or dreaming, you're experiencing the same bio-physical process. True, they're qualitatively different realities, but if you're thinking and feeling, it's real. Thus, René Descartes' famous statement Cogito, ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am").

Biocentrism (BenBella Books) lays out the full scientific explanation of Lanza's theory of everything.