I came across this interesting passage today in Carl Sagan’s book “Dragons Of Eden”, which is his take on human developmental anthropology:
The absence of dreams in reptiles would be because there is no repression of the dream state in reptiles; they are, as Aeschylus described of our ancestors, “dreaming” in their waking state.
Now, the interesting part of this phrasing is that the Australian aboriginal people describe their spiritual beliefs as “dreamings” or “dreamtime”. Dreamtime exists as a parallel spiritual reality, which is actually considered more real than conscious reality. This belief even extends to the creation of the universe by figures in the dreamtime realm, and that every living thing exists in the dreamtime before being born into the “waking”, physical world. Animals play a very significant role as well as totems and not just spirit guides but spiritual origins, existing both as dreaming guides and as spiritual equals.
The concept of a spiritual hereafter is by no means unique, as are as animist myths, and I’m certainly not about to expect Australian aborigines had any inkling of being descended from lower mammals and reptiles. But I find it very interesting that the oldest existing culture on the planet, with a surviving mythology dating back some 30,000 years, has parallel imagery to human evolution.
Because of the accretionary nature of the evolution of the brain, R-complex functions could be utilized or partially bypassed but not ignored. Thus, an inhibition center developed below what in humans is the temporal lobe, to turn off much of the function of the reptilian brain; and an activation center evolved in the pons to turn on the R-complex, but harmlessly, during sleep.
The fact that the longest surviving mythology states that our origins are rooted in what they have best described in the adopted English lexicon as an uninhibited dream state is a pretty remarkable coincidence.