A DIALOGUE ON DREAMING
By Frater D.R.C.
SHIN: What does dreaming reveal to you?
MEM: Many things - a snapshot of the inner workings of my mind, the dynamics of my psyche at some point; glimpses of the future or past, possibilities other than those I otherwise perceive.
SHIN: When you dream, how do you perceive these things?
MEM: My mind perceives images, sounds, all of the same sensory information that I perceive while awake.
SHIN: Where do these dream perceptions come from?
MEM: I believe that most of them come from my mind, and some seem to come from some other place or being.
SHIN: What is the difference between what is perceived in a dream and what is perceived while awake?
MEM: What is perceived in a dream is not so objective as the material world. What is perceived in the material world is less dependent upon, less influenced by my mind.
SHIN: What do you mean by “my mind?”
MEM: It is my unique centre of consciousness and its specific contents. It might be compared to a specific collection of information, desire and action, as well as a unique perspective of perception.
SHIN: So, when you dream, where is that centre?
MEM: The centre is located in the “I” that perceives the images of the dream. SHIN: And where are the images that are being perceived?
MEM: They are also in my mind. SHIN: What is their substance? MEM: The energy of my mind is the substance of the perceptions, but it occurs to me that the perceptions are mental reflections of things apart from my mind.
SHIN: So, when you dream, you experience yourself as the centre of perception within the mind, and the perceptions are also within that mind, but there may be things outside of that mind that stimulate the perceptions?
MEM: Yes, that is what I think. SHIN: How do you know when a perception in your dreams is caused by something other than your mind?
MEM: I may never be able to answer that question about some of the perceptions. However, there are times when I experience things in waking consciousness that reveal to me that certain perceptions are based on a reality that is not limited to my mind.
SHIN: When you experience things in your dreams that are again perceived in the waking state as part of the material world, then you suspect that those dream perceptions are more likely to have some other source than your mind, that they are reflections of things that are separate from you?
MEM: Yes, that sounds like what I mean.
SHIN: When you are actually dreaming, are you aware of any such distinction between the dream and some other reality?
MEM: Most of the time, I am not. Sometimes I wake up in the dream, knowing that I am dreaming.
SHIN: How does that change your perceptions?
MEM: It doesn’t necessarily change them in sensory terms, except that sometimes they seem even more tangible. That seems a little odd to me right now, that the perceptions would have a more tangible quality simultaneous with my realisation that they are actually illusions.
SHIN: Yes, there is an awakening taking place. What happens to your perception of the “I”?
MEM: It becomes more concrete, more aware of itself and its environment.
SHIN: So when you wake up in a dream, both your sense of self and your sense of what is apart from self seem to become more concrete?
MEM: Yes, indeed they do.
SHIN: And yet you are undeniably aware that your perceptions are illusions?
MEM: Yes, this seems strange to me. It seems paradoxical. I have to admit I’m puzzled, even a little troubled by this.
SHIN: What is it about these thoughts that is troubling you?
MEM: I’m not sure. I can’t quite understand how it is that knowing things are an illusion correlates with them seeming more real. That sounds absurd! But I know it’s true for I have experienced it.
SHIN: You are troubled because you think what your own experience tells you is true is contradicted by what your reason calculates should be true.
MEM: Yes, that is it in a nutshell, but there is more. There is some other implication that I cannot put into words. There is something here about the nature of mind, or of reality, or… I’m not sure. Please help me with this.
SHIN: What causes you to wake up in a dream?
MEM: Sometimes it simply happens, and I am not aware of any cause. Other times, I realise that something is happening that shouldn’t be possible and that wakes me up to the fact that I am dreaming.
SHIN: If dreams are, as you say, for the most part limited to your own mind, what does it mean that uncontrollable and unexpected things can happen in your dreams?
MEM: It must mean that my mind is more than I perceive.
SHIN: Think about what you just said.
MEM: My mind is more than I perceive. Well, it tells me that the notion of an unconscious mind is undeniably true.
SHIN: That is an analysis of what you mean only by the word mind. What does it suggest about the “I” that perceives this mind?
MEM: I’m not sure. What are you getting at?
SHIN: Who or what ultimately controls the dream?
MEM: It must be the unconscious mind.
SHIN: And the “I” that perceives the dream, it does not control the dream?
MEM: Sometimes it seems that I have a little control, but not much, except perhaps over myself once I wake up in the dream.
SHIN: Think about what you just said.
MEM: Well, I am calling myself the “I” that is perceiving the dream.
SHIN: Yes, but you have already said that in so many words. There is more behind your words.
MEM: I’m missing it.
SHIN: Does the “I” control the dream?
MEM: Not really, it mainly perceives.
SHIN: Does it control itself?
MEM: Apparently not very much, but it seems to have more control over itself when it is awake than it does when it is dreaming.
SHIN: Compare what you said about control with what you earlier said about concreteness. How do concreteness and control vary according to whether or not you are awake in a dream?
MEM: When I am not awake in a dream, there is less concreteness to the “I” that perceives, and to the perceptions. There is also less awareness of the whole issue of control or lack of it. The “I” that perceives the dream simply seems to flow along with the dream as just another element of it.
SHIN: What does this say about the “I” that perceives?
MEM: It suggests that it is a function of the mind in which the dream occurs.
SHIN: And what of the notion of control?
MEM: It must also be a function of the dream.
SHIN: So dreaming reveals to you that your sense of self as a separate centre of perception, a thing apart from other things, is really just another part and perception within the dream?
MEM: Yes, it must be so.
SHIN: And what did you say is the substance of all things perceived in dreams?
MEM: I said it is the energy of the mind.
SHIN: Then what is the fundamental reality of dreams?
MEM: It must be the mind, or the energy of the mind, which seem indistinguishable to me now.
SHIN: Do you recall what it was that earlier troubled you?
MEM: Yes, it was that things seemed more real, more concrete, I should say, when I have been more awake and aware of the fact that I am in a dream.
SHIN: Good. Keep that in mind. Now, what is the difference between the “I” that perceives in dreams and the “I” that perceives otherwise?
MEM: I’m not sure. When I am awake in the dream, my experience of it is nearly the same as when I am not dreaming. It seems more concrete, more differentiated from other perceptions, and seems more in control of itself when I am not dreaming.
SHIN: However, you are saying that whether you are asleep or awake, the essential nature of the “I” is the same?
MEM: Yes, it is the same “I”, but perceived differently by itself.
SHIN: But what did you say the “I” is?
MEM: It is a function of the mind that is dreaming, it is part of the dream itself.
SHIN: And this is the same “I” that you only perceive differently when you are not dreaming?
MEM: Yes, I see where you are going, but just because it is the same “I”, that does not necessarily mean that the mind which contains it and the dream is also the source of perceptions when I am not dreaming.
SHIN: How would you know whether that is the case or not?
MEM: In dreams I have become awake and known that I was dreaming, realised that my perceptions were not a part of any separate reality. Although I can think of the material world as being just a dream, I have never yet had any experience of waking up and simply knowing that it is an illusion of the mind.
SHIN: You know it is possible, but you don't think you have experienced it, so you don’t believe it has happened?
MEM: That’s right.
SHIN: Tell me again how you have realised that you were dreaming.
MEM: Sometimes it simply happens and other times it becomes obvious because something surreal has happened. In fact, as I think about it more carefully, it is that quality of surrealism, whether general or of something specific, that always accompanies or stimulates the initial realisation that I am in a dream.
SHIN: And such moments of surrealism never happen when you are not dreaming?
MEM: Well, yes they do, sometimes.
SHIN: Such as?
MEM: Déjà vu is the first thing that comes to mind, and dreams that turn out to be visions of the future. Sometimes I have powerful intuitions and I simply know that something is about to happen, or I spontaneously do the necessary thing in a given situation without even thinking about it. There are occasional events of profound coincidence. There are also times of powerful incongruity between my experience of what is and my convictions about what is supposed to be – paradoxes that send my mind reeling.
SHIN: And are you in control of any of those things? Do you make them happen?
MEM: I would say they usually just happen, though sometimes I may help bring them on by thinking or doing certain things. They seldom seem to happen as a result of my wanting them to happen.
SHIN: What is the difference between these experiences and those that wake you up in a dream?
MEM: I don’t know. I guess they just don’t seem as surreal.
SHIN: Why not?
MEM: I don’t know.
SHIN: You mentioned dreams that turn out to be visions of the future. What do these suggest?
MEM: I’ve thought about this one a lot. Psychic experiences like this suggest that my mind is somehow able to cross the normal parameters of space and time.
SHIN: What does it mean that such experiences happen in dreams as well as out of dreams?
MEM: I’m not sure. I guess it could mean that mind is not limited by dreaming or being awake, that it transcends both of these states.
SHIN: Think about what you just said.
MEM: I’m saying that mind is bigger than these states, it transcends them…. Oh! It contains them!
SHIN: Are you saying that dreaming and wakefulness are both states of mind, different modes of mind?
MEM: Yes! So mind must be the fundamental reality.
SHIN: Your mind?
MEM: No… and yes. The “I” that has been calling itself “my mind” is just a part or function of a greater mind, one that encompasses everything. It is the container of space and time. That mind, THE Mind, is not my mind in that I possess it. It is my mind in the sense that I belong to it; it possesses me.
SHIN: Then, when you perceive that you are in a dream, who or what is doing the dreaming?
MEM: It must be the Mind.
SHIN: How does this understanding affect that troubling paradox of yours?
MEM: It suggests that there are dreams within dreams.
SHIN: What do you mean?
MEM: Well, perhaps there are different levels of dreaming. There is the dreaming where I don’t realise that I am dreaming, and the dreaming where I realise that I am. Perhaps when I don’t realise that I am dreaming, what is really happening is that my little mind is having its own dream within the big Mind’s dream. But I still don’t understand why things would seem more differentiated, more concrete when I know that I am dreaming. Unless… unless it’s because my little dream was somehow getting in the way of perceiving the big dream. When I am wrapped up in my little dream, I am not aware of anything else. Things just happen and my awareness flits around within all of the imagery and action, totally oblivious to the incongruities and absurdities. But sometimes one of them shakes me hard enough to make me question things and suddenly I realise that it is a dream.
SHIN: There was something you said that sounds important. When you stop dreaming your little dream, you perceive the big dream more concretely, including yourself. Is that right?
SHIN: Think about that. What does it say about the nature of the big dream?
MEM: That the big dream is more real?
SHIN: What would make it more real?
MEM: I don’t know.
SHIN: But you do know that the things you perceive, including your own mind, seem more concrete and distinct from each other?
SHIN: What does this say about how you determine what is real?
MEM: That my concept of reality is based upon things seeming more concrete and distinct from other things. The less concrete and distinct, the less real they are to me.
SHIN: And yet when you wake up within a dream things become more distinct and concrete, despite the fact that you know you are experiencing an illusion. Then what is the real problem in your paradox?
MEM: It must be my criteria for determination of reality.
SHIN: What happens if you abandon the idea that concreteness is the basic criteria for realness? What takes its place?
MEM: I don’t know. Can anything else suffice?
SHIN: Without concreteness to be the determining factor of reality, what real difference is there between normal wakefulness and being in a dream and not knowing it?
MEM: I don’t know what it could be.
SHIN: Then of these three states of consciousness – asleep dreaming, awake dreaming, and normal wakefulness – which one is most different from the other two?
MEM: Awake dreaming.
SHIN: Why is it so different?
MEM: I simply know that it is. I know that the things I perceive are not really separate from me, that it is all a dream.
SHIN: Are you saying that in the other two states, you have no immediate awareness of any transcendent reality?
MEM: Yes…. Yes! I get it! I am more aware of reality when I am awake in a dream, more than at any other time!
SHIN: What is that reality?
MEM: It is the big Mind dreaming the big dream, one that includes me as an “I” that perceives the dream, itself and other dreamed things as separate things.
SHIN: And what of your little dreams?
MEM: It must be that the big Mind is dreaming of a little mind that has little dreams, and that those little dreams are what keep it unaware of the big dream.
SHIN: Hmm…. And what of normal wakefulness?
MEM: It is just like the little dreams, only more powerful in its ability to make things seem concrete and distinct. I’m starting to see something. The state of being awake in a dream is a kind of centre for the spectrum of consciousness. It is between the lack of awareness that characterises asleep dreaming, and the concreteness of normal wakefulness. A movement in either direction is what interferes with the realisation of the fundamental reality of the big Mind having the big dream.
SHIN: So when are we really most awake?
MEM: Ha ha! When we know we are in a dream!
SHIN: And what of normal wakefulness?
MEM: It must really be just another sort of asleep dreaming.
SHIN: Are you now awake in this dream?
MEM: I think so, but it doesn’t feel as certain as when I wake up from my little dreams. This is more like wanting to wake up and not being able to.
SHIN: Doesn’t wanting to wake up mean that you know you are dreaming?
MEM: Well, yes, it certainly does. I guess it’s a matter of degrees. I’m not as awake as I want to be.
SHIN: Who is doing the wanting?
MEM: I am.
SHIN: I am? Are you falling back asleep? What are you?
MEM: Oh. I am a part of the big dream.
SHIN: What did you say earlier about whom or what is the source of the big dream?
MEM: It is the big Mind.
SHIN: So whom or what is dreaming that you want to wake up?
MEM: The big Mind.
SHIN: And how do you experience the big Mind waking up to itself?
MEM: I just know that I’m dreaming. What else do you mean?
SHIN: What was your first answer when I asked you whom it was that wants to wake up?
MEM: I said it was me. SHIN: No, your exact words were….
MEM: “I am.”
SHIN: Have you ever heard that before?
MEM: Ah! So “I am” is what the big Mind says when it is becoming aware of itself through the little minds that it dreams in the big dream!
SHIN: So when will you fully awaken to the reality that you are in a dream?
MEM: Only when the big Mind dreams it is so… like right now!
SHIN: Is there anywhere else to go with this conversation?
MEM: It doesn’t appear that there is. Dreaming and normal wakefulness are both functions of the big Mind dreaming its big dream, and so is “I am”, which is actually true wakefulness.
SHIN: Is there no other state of consciousness?
MEM: Well, the only other state is dreamless sleep, but we call that unconsciousness.
SHIN: How does it differ from dreaming and wakefulness?
MEM: There are no perceptions of any kind, no concreteness, no distinctions, no desire, no thought or action, no “I am.”
SHIN: What effect does this state have upon dreaming and wakefulness?
MEM: It completely stops them, severs them, sets them apart.
SHIN: Yet do we not experience some continuity from one period of dreaming or wakefulness to another?
MEM: Yes, we experience the “I” that perceives, and remember it from one period to another. It brings other memories with it, and these memories bridge the gap of dreamless sleep.
SHIN: How can any of these perceptions of consciousness pass through unconsciousness and emerge on the other side? MEM: It must be that the big Mind transcends dreaming, wakefulness and unconsciousness. Mind must still be, even when there is no awareness of it. SHIN: So the big Mind is the fundamental reality, and its modes are dreaming, wakefulness and dreamless sleep?
SHIN: And the difference between dreamless sleep and the other modes is….
MEM: That in dreamless sleep there is no perception.
SHIN: And yet Mind remains?
MEM: Yes, it must be. In fact, it occurs to me that this is a state of pure mind in perfect unity, and that within it there is the unmanifest potential for all that ever was or ever shall be.
SHIN: Potential? An interesting word! What is stored in an electric cell?
MEM: Potential energy, which is then released as electricity when the cell discharges.
SHIN: And when the cell discharges and its potential is released, what do we call that?
MEM: We say that the cell has become weak, or that it is dead.
SHIN: Interesting, isn’t it? Well now, this conversation has taken us late into the evening, and I am tired. Let’s call it a night and get some sleep.
MEM: Very well. Thanks for the chat. Pleasant dreams. See you in the morning.