The Word Foundation
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Copyright 1915 by H. W. PERCIVAL


How is it that problems which have baffled all efforts and seem impossible of solution during waking hours should be solved during sleep or immediately on waking?

To solve a problem, the thought chambers of the brain should be unobstructed. When there are disturbances or obstructions in the thought chambers of the brain, the process of solving any problem under consideration is hindered or stopped. As soon as the disturbances and obstructions disappear, the problem is solved.

The mind and the brain are factors in working out a problem, and the work is a mental process. The problem may be concerned with a physical result, as what materials should be used and what method of construction be followed in building a bridge so that it may have the least weight and greatest strength; or the problem may be of an abstract subject, such as, how is thought distinguished from and how related to knowledge?

The physical problem is worked out by the mind; but in considering size, color, weight, the senses are called into play and help the mind in solving the problem. The solution of a problem or a part of a problem which is not physical is a mental process in which the senses are not concerned and where the action of the senses will interfere with or prevent the mind from solving the problem. The brain is the meeting-place of the mind and the senses, and on problems concerning physical or sensuous results the mind and the senses work well together in the brain. But when the mind is at work on problems of abstract subjects, the senses are not concerned; however, objects of the outside world are reflected through the senses into the thought chambers of the brain and there disturb or obstruct the mind in its work. As soon as the mind can bring its faculties to bear sufficiently on the problem under consideration, outside disturbances or thoughts which are not concerned are excluded from the thought chambers of the brain, and the solution to the problem is at once seen.

In waking hours the senses are open, and irrelevant sights and sounds and impressions from the outside world rush unceasingly in to the thought chambers in the brain and interfere with the work of the mind. When the senses are closed to the outside world, as they are during sleep, the mind is less hindered in its work. But then sleep usually cuts off the mind from the senses and usually prevents the mind from bringing back knowledge of what it has done while out of touch with the senses. When the mind does not let go of a problem, that problem is carried with it if it leaves the senses during sleep, and its solution is brought back and related to the senses on waking.

That one in sleep has had solved a problem which he could not solve in the waking state means his mind has done in sleep what he was unable to do while awake. If he dreamed the answer, the subject would, of course, be concerning sensuous objects. In that case, the mind, not having let go of the problem, had carried on in dream the process of thought with which it had been concerned while awake; the reasoning process was merely transferred from the outer waking senses to the inner dreaming senses. If the subject is not concerned with sensuous objects, the answer will not be dreamed, though in sleep the answer may come instantly. However, it is not usual for answers to problems to be dreamed or to come while in sleep.

Answers to problems may seem to come during sleep, but the answers usually come during the moments while the mind is again making contact with the waking senses, or immediately after waking. Answers to problems of an abstract nature cannot be dreamed, because the senses are used in dream and the senses would interfere with or prevent abstract thinking. If the mind in sleep and not dreaming solves a problem, and the answer is known when the man is awake, then the mind seems to wake instantly as soon as the answer has been reached by it.

The mind is not at rest in sleep, even though there is no dream or remembrance of mental activity. But the activities of the mind in sleep, and while not dreaming, cannot usually be made known in the waking state, because no bridge has been built between the states of the mind and the states of the waking or the dreaming senses; yet one may get the results of these activities in the form of impetus to action in the waking state. A temporary bridge between mental and sensuous states is formed by one who holds in sleep firmly the problem on which his mind was focussed while awake. If he has exercised his mind sufficiently in his efforts to focus on the solution of the problem while awake, his efforts will continue in sleep, and the sleep will be bridged and he will awake and be conscious of the solution, if he had reached it during sleep.

A Friend [H. W. Percival]