Who is dreaming?

 

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Wise men and women have for millennia wondered if what we have assumed was objective reality was only a dream.

Edgar Allen Poe who once queried, “Is life but a dream within a dream?” What a curious question! Is he questioning whether we can distinguish between what is fantasy or reality? Isn’t this inability to distinguish fantasy from reality part of the very definition of what is considered magical thinking and a component of an obsessive-compulsive thinking disorder?

As I looked into this question I found that the Australian Aborigine thinks that we are continuously within a dream that creates what we call reality.

“I do not believe that I am now dreaming, but I cannot prove that I am not.” Exclaimed the 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell.

The Toltecs believed that we are the dream of God. They suggested that God is dreaming the world into existence. This seems very much like the Australian Aboriginal world-view and not too different in essence to the book of Genesis.

But what happens when God awakens from the dream?

A Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu, Relates that he had a dream of being a butterfly and when he awoke he asks whether he was Chuang Tzu dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Tzu?

He went on to say,

“Someday comes the great awakening when we realize that this life is no more than a dream. Yet the foolish go on thinking they are awake: Surveying the panorama of life with such clarity, they call this one a prince and that one a peasant—What delusion! The great Confucius and you are both a dream. And I, who say all this is a dream, I, too, am a dream.”

 So which is the illusion, the sleeping dream or my waking life? And where does truth lie, in the every day or in the fantasies of my dreams?

The psychotherapist Carl Jung posited the idea of complexes i.e., a core pattern of emotions, images and ideas that influence everything we see or think or feel. Along with these mostly unrecognized complexes there are also ancient archetypes we all share and that are mostly unseen factors that determine our vision of reality as well as our responses to it. These psychic features of human beings show up in both our sleeping dreams and the waking dream we call life.

Many scientists, philosophers, and cosmologists wonder if what we see around us may not actually exist. What we are seeing may only be projections from our psyches. That’s not to say that there is not an object out there to be perceived, but that our relationship to and understanding of it is subjective. The philosopher Schopenhauer stated that there could be “No object without subject.”

 

“There is no one who hears, there is just hearing. There is no one who sees, there is just seeing.”

–C. Beck, Everyday Zen (1989)

 

If I were to carry the idea in the above quote further I might add, that there may be no “I” who is dreaming, there is just dreaming.

When I am dreaming, who is creating the dream and who is observing it? When I talk to myself who is listening? And what about the dreams where I am dreaming that I dream of seeing myself? Is there more than one “I” in there? How many?

Are our dreams like a book that our soul is writing about us? Am I really awake when I climb out of bed and into the waiting day? Is it as Jung once quipped, “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”

 

“The awakening of consciousness is the next step for mankind.”

–Eckhart Tolle

Crossroad to reality: Creation, time,dreaming

 

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For many years I’ve been fascinated by creation stories, probably because of my curiosity for how and why we got here.

It seems as though every culture, extinct or extant, has a creation story explaining how they and their world came to be. To me they all read like a dream. It’s my intention across a number of my Blog entries to touch on the dream states of cultures in some detail.

One of these cultures in particular is very much a “dream”. It’s even called the “Dreamtime” and comes to us from the Australian Aborigine. I choose this group to be first because they come from the land of my birth as well, though I am not Aborigine, but of the Europeans who invaded their land some 250 years ago.

These people have lived the vast land of the Australs* for some twenty-two thousand generations, that’s 40,000+ years. Before the arrival of the Europeans, some 200 different language groups existed. Though there are now only seventy groups remaining with each calling their land something different, they all tell a similar story of the creation of the world–the story of the Dreamtime.

From the Dreamtime, Rainbow Snake and others “Dreamed” the world into being. Areas in their world are named for the Dreaming of that part of creation that took place there. The word “Dreaming” symbolizes another aspect in that it represents the individual tribal beliefs and spiritual understandings. For example, one tribe might refer to themselves as having Kangaroo Dreaming or Honey Ant Dreaming. All that comes into the world such as a painting, or other object, or idea, is still dreamed and is claimed by the person or group that has produced it. To them everything comes from the Dreamtime. Individual lives come from those of the Dreamtime as well and return to it when the body dies. In all the people there is an eternal part borne through the mother in time from the originals of the Dreamtime.

The visions of the early Aborigine and to some extent today do not differentiate between men or their surroundings. They experience an undifferentiated state of mind that makes separation much less common among them than with modern man. I believe the western mans general lack of caring for the world and each other comes from this separation. In the Aborigine there was no separation between their daily living, eating, working, sexual, and religious lives. All were either dreams or waking visions. And all come from the “all-at-once time”** and are born into a “life in time.” In a way the Aborigine lives in a dream within a dream.

Through the waking dream (awake state) and the sleeping dream and various altered states, the Aborigine interacts with his reality–indeed with his soul. To him everything is connected.

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*Variously known as Australische by the Dutch and Terra Australis Incognita (The Southern Unknown Land) and Colloquially since the early 20th century as Oz.

**Known in quantum physics as the super temporal or in metaphysics as time transcendence.