Ramon y Cajal: Father of Neurology and his Vision on Dreams

Today's blog is dedicated to Jordi Borras, one of the best dream workers in Spain.
A Book review of The Dreams of Santiago Ramon y Cajal by Benjamin Ehrlich Oxford University Press 2017 $37.95  ISBN 9780190619619
By Dutch psychologist Susanne van Doorn

 

ramon y cajal
Santiago Ramon y Cajal self-portrait 1870

 

SANTIAGO RAMON Y CAJAL: introduction

Do you think dreams have a deeper, psychological meaning? Or do you think dreams are the result of the brain activity at night?

The International Association for the Study of Dreams, of which I am a board member, says that a dream can not be interpreted by anyone else but the dreamer. This is a very elegant, sophisticated way to balance between the two opposite views.

What are your experiences? Do you think that dreams are random chatter? Or have you had a dream that changed your life? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear your take on this.

SANTIAGO RAMoN Y CAJAL: THE Doctor – Artist

The nice guy in the picture is Santiago Ramon y Cajal, born in 1852. His father, Justo Ramóny, made his own way to wealth by becoming a doctor. He wanted his son to do the same. In order to teach Santiago about the human body, they went to graveyards to dig up and analyse corpses…

His father did not want to have anything to do with the romantic soul of his son. Santiago had to learn, not play.

ramon y cajal
© Antony Smith – 2014

During his life Santiago made sure he had an outlet for his creative side: he made drawings of his laboratory-findings and he was an excellent photographer, see the self portrait at the top of this article.

If you live in Minneapolis: there is an exhibition about his artwork in the Weisman Art museum until May 21, 2017.

Santiago Ramon y Cajal: the cel as hero

The book consists of two parts. the first part is composed out of 10 chapters that give the reader background information about Cajal, Spain in the beginning the 1900’s, and how Spain became Freudian – oriented.

The first part of this book convinced me that Cajal was an incurable romantic. In his eyes, the cell was a hero. He studies the nerve cell with Golgi technique. Tragically, he and his opponent Golgi had to share the Nobel Prize…

 

Buy the book using this link and support the good work of Mindfunda

According to Santiago, the cell was a hero, in the quest for the adventure of life.
“The probing ends of growing fibers are battering rams, and the fateful meeting between two communist neurons, later termed the synapse, he likened to a protoplasmic kiss” (page 7).

 

ramon y cajal
Purkinje cell by Santiago Ramon y Cajal
1899; Instituto Cajal, Madrid, Spain.

 

SANTIAGO RAMoN Y CAJAL and Freud

Cajal and Freud were celebrated scholars in the 1900s. Cajal became the father of neurology, while Freud became the father of psychoanalysis.

Cajal did not agree with Freud.  In 1911 Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote about “The Secret of Dreams”, and introduced Freud his ideas to Spain. Six year later, Ortega acquired the rights to publish the translated works of Freud.

Spain started warming up to Freud. Influential artist Dali was a great admirer of Freud. He visited Freud one day and made a fool of himself in his nervousness.
Freud allegedly said about Dali: “That boy looks like a fanatic. Small wonder that they have civil war in Spain if they look like that”.

ramon y cajal
Painting of Freud by Dali
Copyright Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation

 

Cajal writes to his friend Gregorio Marañón (1887–1960), in relation to Freud’s approach to dreams:

… I consider as collective lies both psychoanalysis and Freud’s theory of dreams; nearly all the findings of the wise Viennese scholar can be explained by individual or collective suggestion. Of this I shall speak if I manage to live long enough to write another book on dreams, in which I summarize thousands of self-observations contradicting Freud’s theory (Durán and Alonso, 1960).

The book about dreams that Cajal refers to in this quote is an article called “Los sueños” in the Revista Cajal de Medicina y Cirugía in 1908.

RAMoN Y CAJAL and dreams

Santiago Ramon y Cajal considered Freud’s way of exploring the brain as unscientific. In his mind, dreams are random chit-chat of brain waves.

In our day and age, exactly the same intellectual battle is going on between Alan Hobson and Mark Solms.

“Hobson argues that dreams are ad hoc frameworks for meaningless signals, whereas Solms uses psychological evidence to argue that dreams are indeed the expressions of wish-fulfilment” (page 50).

RAMoN Y CAJAL AND His Daughter

A very tragic event appears in Ramon y Cajal his dreams: the loss of his daughter.

“I take a walk by the bay (Santander?) and I fall into the water with one of my little daughters in my arms. I fight the waves, I am almost drowning, despite touching the seawall. The nightmare awakens me” (page 90).

One of his children, his daughter Enriqueta, died of the consequences of a bacterial disease. According to is biography (see literature) he stayed in his laboratory while he did not hear, or chose to ignore the cries of his wife who was holding her.

RAMoN Y CAJAL AND HIS Duality

Santiago Ramon y Cajal had a very interesting dynamic in his life and in his work. He wanted to be an artist but became a scientist. He was charmed by hypnosis, but attributed dreams to the neurological activity of the brain.

When he got his Nobel Price in 1906, he had to share it with his opponent Golgi. He used the method of Golgi to make neurons visible. Camillo Golgi proposed that every neuron in the brain is a network on its own: this is called the rectangular theory.

ramon y cajal
Artwork Scott Hilburn

 

Cajal showed, using the technique of Golgi that nervous tissue, like other tissues, is made of discrete cells.

After winning the big Nobel Price which he had to share with his opponent, Cajal summarised this never ending duality in his life with these words: “What a cruel irony of fate to pair, like Siamese twins, united by the shoulders, scientific adversaries of such contrasting character.”

 

CONCLUSION

PRO

  • This book will give you  nice overview of the history of neurology and dreams;
  • It is written in a very readable way;
  • You will get to know Santiago Ramon y Cajal as a very romantic soul who had an interesting life;
  • The opposition in his character of being a tender romantic soul as well as a scientists who only looks at facts speaks clearly in his dream about his daughter.
 CON
  • The book is given its length of 144 pages rather expensive:
  • I was a little bit disappointed that the dreams of Ramon y Cajal were rather short and that there was no further information available. The first part of the book gives this information, but the dream-part would have been juicier when there had been a certain form of analysis.

Mindfunda verdict:
7/10

Here is an link to buy on Amazon if you enjoyed this review,
and like to support our work. We appreciate your help!

Literature:

Durán, G. and Alonso, F. Cajal Vida y obra 2nd edition (Barcelona: Editorial Cientifico-Medico 1983).

 


THIS CONTENT IS CREATED BY SUSANNE VAN DOORN, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF MINDFUNDA; MAKING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY EASY TO USE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE!

What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Brainfunda
articles and relevant information about the brain about how you can use this in your everyday life. Neurology, the brain all the fascinating things we find out in current research.

Read more about Mindfunda here, or visit our Courses Page.


Ready for more free Mindfunda content on ‘NEUROLOGY‘?

Ramon y Cajal: Father of Neurology and his Vision on Dreams

Today's blog is dedicated to Jordi Borras, one of the best dream workers in Spain. A Book review of The Dreams of Santiago Ramon y Cajal by Benjamin Ehrlich Oxford ...
Read More

How to Analyse a dream with an Archetype in 4 Easy Steps

This dream is part of a series of four blogs. How to Use A Dream as a Tool For Self Development; How to Analyse a Dream with an Archetype in ...
Read More

Aging and Becoming: A Roadmap Towards Authenticity

Aging & Becoming by Susan Scott & Susan E. Schwartz CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, Kindle $9.94 ISBN 1541164016, Paperback $12.99 ISBN 978-1541164017 Reviewed by Susanne van Doorn, MSc. Aging and Becoming, ...
Read More

Comments or suggestions? Share your thoughts:

We hate Spam as much as you do, your information is safe with us and we will not provide your data to others. To authenticate you are human, you are kindly asked to opt-in on periodic updates as the Mindfunda Monthly.

Please check the appropriate boxes below.

keep me posted on newsno mail please

 

Problem Solving using the Committee of Sleep

Life is about problem solving. You just conquered a problem. Before you have a chance to lay back and enjoy your peace of mind, another problem is calling to be solved. Deirdre Barrett Ph.D, who teaches at Harvard, wrote a book about how dreams can be used as tools for problem solving.

problem solving
Buy the book using this link to support the good work of Mindfunda

Continue reading Problem Solving using the Committee of Sleep

3 ways of being creative like van Gogh

Mndfunda about van Gogh @ Cultura Ede (NL)
Mndfunda about van Gogh @ Cultura Ede (NL)

Mindfunda was invited by Cultura to give a presentation about dreams and art. Cultura is the municipal art gallery and theatre in the Dutch town of Ede.

To remember the death of one of the most famous artists in the Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh, who died Juli 29th, 125 years ago. All over Europe, art galleries are organizing expositions around this memorial so Mindfunda was honored to be given an opportunity to shine a light on how dreams are a gateway into creativity.
Mndfunda about van Gogh @ Cultura Ede (NL)
Mndfunda about van Gogh @ Cultura Ede (NL)

 

Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo: “The sight of the stars makes me dream”. It is commonly accepted that dreams are creative so the fact that van Gogh got his inspiration by looking at the pictures of his dreams makes common sense. But in 2009 there was scientific proof (Mednick et al) that dreaming induces creativity.  In a research people had to do a creative test: they had to couple three words with a fourth that matched. For instance: the words heart, sixteen and cookie had to be matched with the word sweet. In the research only the group that had enjoyed REM sleep improved their scores on the creativity test.

Pianist, writer and painter David Dubal talks about how he uses his dreams as inspiration. He uses dreams to solve problems and to get inspiration. He even had an exhibition from paintings that had been inspired by dreams. In this film you can hear him talk about the importance of dreams for creativity.

Vincent van Gogh
photo from nswcourtscom.au

There is one very important thing David Dubal says in the YouTube film. One thing that defines creativity. Sitting in the subway, I break the unwritten rules by looking at people”. Breaking the rules. Looking at things from a whole different perspective. Let’ s explore the life of Vincent van Gogh to see how many times he broke the rules….

  • He started working for the art company of his uncle. His uncle washed his hands of Vincent after seven years. van Gogh did get the chance to visit London and Paris (this is why his brother Theo was able to live in Paris: he kept on working for this uncle).
  • van Gogh worked in a bookstore to earn money for the government examination for a study Theology. Like his father he wanted to become a preacher. He stopped because he was not able to pass for Latin.
  • He went to Missionary school were he was sent to Borinage. This is one of the poorest areas in Belgium. He got his inspiration for his famous painting The potato eaters. He used to cry himself to sleep each night because he could not bear the suffering he was surrounded with.
  • van Gogh went to art school in Antwerp, convinced that he was meant to be a painter. Unfortunately he was ridiculed by his professors. Humiliated, he dropped out of school.
  • He started painting on the streets of Antwerp, selling his sketches to the tourists. Living a life of poverty, bad health and debts he fled to Parish.
  • The “famous” ear incident happened when Gauguin and van Gogh lived together. Van Gogh cut off a part of his own ear. A very interesting vision is given by researchers Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans. They wrote a book: Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence. After analysing the letters of van Gogh they assume that Gauguin got a sword and injured van Gogh. Van Gogh agreed to keep this a secret so Gauguin was kept out of jail.
  • Vincent van Gogh had himself admitted to the mental hospital Saint-Paul Asylum, in Saint-Rémy

Well, we can all agree that Vincent van Gogh broke a lot of rules. His creativity was key in finding new ways to explore when things fell apart.
In one of his letters to his brother Theo he wrote: I dream my paintings, and then I paint my dreams”. Given that research has indicated that REM sleep enhances creativity, let’s interpret Van Gogh’s Starry night as a dream also read my Mindfunda about Starry night.

strarry night - van gogh
starry night – van gogh

Since the seventies of last century we are used to see a dream as a representation of one’s own mind. It is perfectly reasonable how that assumption came into being. A new generation wanted to get rid of the bearded professors telling people what their dreams meant. They successfully seized power: a dream is about you and only you. I disagree with that because I think human beings are social people who are custom-made to live in tribes. So dreaming about another tribe member is natural (also see my experiment in mutual dreaming described in my e-book). But if this painting is a dream of van Gogh, what does it tell us about van Gogh?

Mndfunda about van Gogh @ Cultura Ede (NL)
Mndfunda about van Gogh @ Cultura Ede (NL)

What is the first thing that stands out in this picture? The Nebula that seems to divide the painting in two. If you look at your dream, first look at its day residue so you are able to explore pure symbolic things more in depth. Things you do during the day get into your dreams.
Looking at this painting, the brilliant piece of Albert Boime gives a hand at distinguishing the real facts from the symbolism in the painting. Albert Boime carefully esearched the sky and found out it was an almost accurate representation of the night sky in Saint-Rémy. Accept for two things. Two things we can interpret symbolically. One is the spiral nebula that divides the painting in two parts. Vincent had not seen this in 1889. In 1880 this picture, taken by Henry Draper of the Orion Nebula was published and caused quite a sensation. Astronomers at that time assumed that a star was born in the middle of the nebula.

van Gogh
Henry Drape Orion nebula
source Wikepedia

A star being born…. It is not a surprise that Vincent van Gogh got his first exposition nine months after this painting. The time it takes for the star being born to mature. And one month later he got his second exposition in Antwerp. That is where he sold the only painting he ever was going to sell while he was alive.

But there has got to be a better way to use the creativity in your dreams. We don’t want to break the rules the way van Gogh did. And we don’t need to. Salvador Dali was very succesful while alive using his dreams in a completely different way.  Let me tell you how he did it.

Dali’s method involved a chair that was not too hard, but not too comfortable either. (It had to be a Spanish chair, off course). A plate, a key, and olive oil. Dali rubbed his wrists with olive oil. He held a large key in his left hand, between his thumb and his forefinger. He relaxed, closed his eyes and when the key hit the plate he was awake. Using this method he made the most extraordinary paintings.

 

Vincent van Gogh
Dream caused by the flight of a bee

 

Once a month he took out a whole afternoon to get inspired by dreams and he had a special menu. He ate 3 dozen sea urchins that had to be selected two days before the moon was full. He drank a glass of young white wine, and did not leave his room untill he had an inspiring dream.

You can see the chair he used for his daily dream routine in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. In this film he got the opportunity to demonstrate how important dreams can be as a tool for creative problem solution.

There is yet a third way to use dreams to enhance creativity. Where van Gogh used ways to explore other options and Salvador Dali used dreams as a way to guide him through his career path, artist Brenda Ferrimani uses dreams in a third way. She dives into the confrontation van Gogh walked away from. She used dreams to dive right into the conflict (Read a Mindfunda blog by Brenda Ferrimani here).

I compiled all the above information in a vivid Prezi to show the audience the coherence of it all in an attractive way. The organization had a nice touch to their thank-you-bouquet:  Sunflowers off course, like van Gogh!

Sunflowers, like van gogh

Do you like this post? Feel free to share!

Please sign up for my YouTube channel to enjoy all the beautiful Mindfunda interviews with inspiring people. People like Jean Benedict Raffa, Anne Baring, Connie Kaplan, Ralph Metzner and Stanley Krippner. I will be doing an interview with Catherine Wikholm about her book the Buddha Pill very soon so be sure to sign up!

Twitter: @susannevandoorn

Neurology newsflash: new neurons trained in sleep

In today’s Mindfunda I want to dedicate a blog to the brain. To neurology to be more specific (see here for a more detailed description of the brain). In this Ted Talk Paul Roossin discusses the history of sleep, the history of sleep science and leads us through a voyage through the brain.

neurology
Paul Roossin

Trained as a neurobiologist, Mr. Roossin’s broad knowledge base and accomplishments led him to be featured as one of the 100 smartest individuals in the greater New York City area in a 1995 New York Magazine cover story. Mr. Roossin holds an B.S. and M.S. in Biology from New York University.

The Ted Talk of Paul: on the neurology of dreams discusses the use of the frontal lobe in dreaming (we recently found out that lucid dreamers have a greater pattern of activity in their frontal lobe during sleep), about the Red Book, Salvador Dali who used to sleep in a chair holding a metal spoon. As soon as the spoon dropped, he would be awake and write down his dream. it inspired some beautiful paintings.

At the end of his talk, Paul reveals that the buzzing of the brain during sleep helps new neurons to adapt more quickly to its tasks. This hypothesis needs to be tested but is very promising, Neurology is one of the most interesting topics of interest around. Mindfunda will keep you posted! Meanwhile you can read some nice neurology facts in this Mindfunda.