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.”