dream-and-prophecy 

For Torah, prophecy is the highest form of knowledge. Or, perhaps, the highest source.

In the modern world, based on Humanism and the application of Des Cartes’ “scientific method” of investigation, the highest source of knowledge is the human mind itself.

“The method of scientific investigation is nothing but the expression of the necessary mode of working of the human mind.” [2]

and

“Science is simply common sense at its best–that is, rigidly accurate in observation and merciless to fallacy in logic.” [3

It would then seem that there are two, mutually exclusive ways of knowing, however parallel they might be: the “rational” and the “intuitional.” The motto of Yeshiva University, for example is “Torah u’Mada” — “Torah and Science.” Both are taken as sources of truth.

But the dichotomy might not be as inviolable as it appears. Many “scientific discoveries” have actually resulted from something other than a purely rational, empirical investigation. In these cases, “knowledge” came from a source that the scientist or mathematician him/herself could not explain:

A. Dmitri Mendeleev, The Periodic Table
Dmitri Mendeleev (1834–1907) wanted to organize the 65 known elements somehow. He knew there was a pattern to be discerned, and it had something to do with atomic weight, but the pattern remained elusive. Then, Mendeleev later reported, “In a dream I saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper.”
Mendeleev’s words were quoted in “On the Question of Scientific Creativity,” by Russian chemist B.M. Kedrov.
 

B. “Niels Bohr [1885–1962] reports that he developed the model of the atom based on a dream of sitting on the sun with all the planets hissing around on tiny cords,” according to a paper titled “Pillow-Talk: Seamless Interface for Dream Priming Recalling and Playback,” by Edwina Portocarrero at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-authors.

C. Elias Howe (1819–1867) is often credited with inventing the sewing machine, though in reality he significantly improved previous designs and received the first U.S. patent for a sewing machine using the lockstitch design. It was a major development in creating the modern sewing machine. Before a breakthrough came to him in a dream, however, he was stuck on the problem of where to place the eye of the needle. His dream is recorded in a family history titled, “The Bemis History and Genealogy: Being an Account, in Greater Part, of the Descendants of Joseph Bemis of Watertown, Massachusetts:”
“He almost beggared himself before he discovered where the eye of the needle of the sewing machine should be located. … His original idea was to follow the model of the ordinary needle, and have the eye at the heel. It never occurred to him that it should be placed near the point, and he might have failed altogether if he had not dreamed he was building a sewing machine for a savage king in a strange country.
Just as in his actual waking experience, he was perplexed about the needle’s eye. He thought the king gave him twenty-four hours in which to complete the machine and make it sew. If not finished in that time death was to be the punishment. Howe worked and worked, and puzzled, and finally gave it up. Then he thought he was taken out to be executed.
He noticed that the warriors carried spears that were pierced near the head. Instantly came the solution of the difficulty, and while the inventor was begging for time he awoke. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. “He jumped out of bed, ran to his workshop, and by 9, a needle with an eye at the point had been rudely modeled. After that it was easy.”

D. Albert Einstein, The Speed of Light
“Einstein said his entire career was an extended meditation on a dream he had as a teenager,” explained the Rev. John W. Price in an interview with John H. Lienhard, pro- fessor emeritus of mechanical engineering and history at the University of Houston, on the radio show “Engines of Our Ingenuity.”
“He dreamt that he was riding a sled down a steep, snowy slope and, as he approached the speed of light in his dream, the colors all blended into one. He spent much of his career, inspired by that dream, thinking about what happens at the speed of light.” [4]

E. Thousands of New Mathematical Ideas
Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) had negligible formal training in mathematics. He died tragically young, aged 32. In his short lifetime he produced almost 4,000 proofs, identities, conjectures and equations in pure mathematics.
Although he died in 1920, the richness of his ideas and conjectures in fields such as Elliptic Functions and Number Theory – nearly all of which were correct – were ahead of his time, and continue to inspire and direct research carried out by mathematicians today.
The Cambridge University mathematician Godfrey H. Hardy, who worked with Ramanujan, expressed the thought that if mathematicians were rated on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100, he himself would be worthy of 25, J.E. Littlewood 30, David Hilbert 80, and Srinivasa Ramanujan 100.
Ramanujan said that the Hindu goddess Namagiri would appear in his dreams, showing him mathematical proofs, which he would write down when he awoke. He described one of his dreams as follows:
“While asleep, I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood, as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.”

F. Discovery of the Scientific Method
René Descartes built much of the framework of the modern scientific method. He wrote down this framework in his work Discourse on Method.
One of his main lines of thought was skepticism – that everything should be doubted until it could be proved.
His four main ideas for scientific progress were:
1. Never accept anything as true until all reasons for doubt can be ruled out.
2. Divide problems into as many parts as possible and necessary to provide an adequate solution.
3. Thoughts should be ordered, starting with the simplest and easiest to know, ascending little by little, and, step by step, to more complex knowledge.
4. Make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that nothing is omitted.

Descartes wrote that the basis of the Scientific Method came to him in dreams he had on November 10, 1619.

G. Proof that our Nerves Transmit Signals Chemically
In 1903, Otto Loewi had the thought that nerve signals were possibly transmitted using chemical instructions. He could not think of how he could prove his new idea.
In 1920 Loewi had a dream about the problem. He woke excitedly during the night and scribbled notes about the dream.

In the morning, he could not remember the dream, and he could not read his nocturnal notes either!
The following night, he dreamed about the problem again. The dream was about an experiment he could use to prove his idea, and this time he remembered it.
He carried out research based on his dream and published the work in 1921, establishing that signalling across synapses was indeed chemical, as he had suspected.
It’s ironic that it took 17 years for subconscious thoughts to come to the surface in the man often called the father of neuroscience!
Ironic or not, in 1936 the great man was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for work that came to him in a dream.

H. The Fossil Fish

Louis Agassiz was the world’s foremost expert on fish species – both current and extinct.
He had been trying to understand the structure of a fossil fish for two weeks, but could make no progress.

Agassiz’s wife wrote about how the solution came to him in the form of dreams over three nights:
He had been striving for two weeks to decipher the somewhat obscure impression of a fossil fish on the stone slab in which it was preserved.
Weary and perplexed, he put his work aside at last, and tried to dismiss it from his mind.
Shortly after, he woke one night persuaded that while asleep he had seen his fish with all the missing features perfectly restored. But when he tried to hold and make fast the image it escaped him. Nevertheless, he went early to work, thinking that on looking anew at the impression he should see something which would put him on the track of his vision.
In vain the blurred record was as blank as ever. The next night he saw the fish again, but with no more satisfactory result. When he awoke it disappeared from his memory as before.
Hoping that the same experience might be repeated, on the third night he placed a pencil and paper beside his bed before going to sleep.
Towards morning the fish reappeared in his dream, confusedly at first, but at last with such distinctness that he had no longer any doubt as to its zoological characters. Still half dreaming, in perfect darkness, he traced these characters on the sheet of paper at the bedside.
In the morning he was surprised to see in his nocturnal sketch features which he thought it impossible the fossil itself should reveal. He hastened to work, and, with his drawing as a guide, succeeded in cutting away the surface of the stone under which portions of the fish proved to be hidden.
When wholly exposed it corresponded with his dream and his drawing, and he succeeded in classifying it with ease. [5]

If there were only one such story, we might dismiss it as the scientist’s own misinterpretation of his/her own experience. So many repeated incidents, however, from so many different eras and locations, form what used to be called “anecdotal evidence” (today called “qualitative evidence”) of a phenomenon in which the answer to a problem comes not from the “human mind,” as Huxley posits, but from an unidentified source, at those times when the “conscious” or “human” mind is in a relaxed state.

“[Rebbe Nachman of Breslav] said, ‘All scientific discoveries and inventions come from on high. Without such inspiration, they could never be discovered. But when the time comes for an idea to be revealed to the world, the necessary inspiration is granted to a researcher from on high. A thought enters his [or her] mind and it is thus revealed.
Many people have previously sought this idea but it still eluded them. Only when the [Divinely chosen] time comes for it to be revealed can the inspiration be found’.” [6]

But when Rebbe Nachman says “…on high,” he doesn’t mean a place separate from the essence of Creation or the essence of the mind. The central thrust of Hasidic thought is about God’s immanence: The wave is never separate from the ocean; the human mind is never separate from its Divine Source.

“…although these two minds [i.e. two levels of mind: human and Divine] have separate functions, fundamentally the human mind is an offshoot from the Divine.” [7]


The suggestion, then, is that even “scientific” thought has, at its base, Divine Inspiration, accessed and expressed through the human mind.
 

Even science, then, could have prophecy as its Source.

 Almighty wisdom Job 32-8

                                                       [8]
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[1] Talmud; Berachot 57b
[2] Huxley, Thomas; Our Knowledge of the Causes of the Phenomena of Organic Nature; (1863).
[3] Huxley, Thomas
[5] https://www.famousscientists.org/7-great-examples-of-scientific-discoveries-made-in-dreams
[6] Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov, ed. and Kaplan, Rabbi Aryeh, trans.; Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom; p. 111 (my copy lists no publisher or copyright date)
[7] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris; Jewish Science and Health; © 1925 by Jewish Science Publishing Co.; p. 33
[8] Ayov/Job 32:8