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February 1995, Volume 2 Nr 6, Issue 18

Dreams

I once had a vivid, powerful dream where I lay in some remote cobblestone street in Boston. I was severely cut up, bleeding and completely immobile and non-vocal, yet conscious. All around me were the rubble of the inner-city in decay, demolished brick and cinder-block homes, lots strewn with glass. Off in the distance I could see my wife, JeanneE, bicycling door-to-door to whatever houses were still standing and occupied. She was handing out literature, leaflets and fliers. I kept hoping that she would come by and notice me. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, she did. Then she leisurely bicycled over to a phone booth and made an emergency phone call for help.

Within minutes, sirens were blaring, getting ever louder and louder, more numerous and closer. What appeared to be every fire truck, hook-and-ladder, police car, ambulance, first aid vehicle and police cruiser was heading my way. Even the ham radio and CB operators were out in force talking and coordinating on their radios. I felt relieved that help was on its way. Then, as they approached closely, they all passed me by, ignoring me as if I was not there. All alone, I awoke.

In what we perceive as reality or time, I was in a hospital bed in the adolescent wing of Boston Childrens' Hospital. I had my second night's sleep after the surgeons harvested my left kidney and transplanted it into our son, Dylan. The vividness and intensity of the dream might have been a side effect of pain relievers: percocet, morphine. Regardless, the dream did, in some ways, relate to my present moment situation. In both my dream and my non-dream state, I was immobilized and hurting from the use of a blade. In both cases, JeanneE was somewhere else (she was with Dylan).

I have often wondered the purpose and usefulness of dreams. To obtain an insight into dreams, it might be useful to describe the sleep cycle. Once we fall asleep, we enter into four successive phases of non-rapid eye movement or nonREM sleep. Stage I is the lightest level of sleep where we are easiest awakened. Interestingly enough, we feel as though we are daydreaming. Stage I lasts a few minutes and when we do not awaken, we quickly enter Stage II. Characterized by deeper sleep, this period lasts 10 - 20 minutes and makes external influences less noticeable. We then enter stage III lasting 15 - 30 minutes where we are truly in a deep sleep with little body movement. Our heartbeat and respiratory rates then become significantly lower as we enter Stage IV, a period of 15 - 30 minutes of the deepest, body revitalizing sleep.

The sleep cycle then reverses itself from Stage IV through II and then enters REM sleep, with rapid eye movement and increased heart rate, blood pressure and basal metabolism rate. Although we may have dreams during any of these stages, they are most prominent during REM sleep.

Categories

Sigmund Freud suggested that dreams serve as a type of house-cleaning releasing psychological tensions. Nightmares may actually help us cope with the traumas and dramas of our physical or psychic state of affairs both present and past. In Basic Nursing, Theory and Practice, Patricia A. Potter and Anne G. Perry state that "some theorists believe that people dream in order to forget." This is an interesting notion and acceptable as long as we do not remember our dreams. When we are awake our dreams are similar to memories. As time goes on, while maintaining the basic essence of our dreams, do we not, like memory, add layer upon layer of extra detail, intensity, interpretation, significance and importance onto them?

We do not seem to be as affected by our daydreams. Maybe it is because daydreams are dreams while we are awake and usually entail a gratifying event of our choice. Daydreaming may occur as an unconscious escape from a boring situation, or a conscious diversion from an unpleasant circumstance.

Then, there is fantasy, which has been described as an attempt to make the unreal real. Our fantasies are self-induced indulgences taking place in a supposed safe setting. Fantasies are creations of our imagination, a fanciful entertainment or deception. We would like to make our fantasies real yet we may realize that might not necessarily be a good idea.

When we exaggerate, we participate in a fantasy. When we walk about with anger in our heart we are involved in a daydream of our own making. When we are afraid, lacking in love, we are functioning in a dream state. When we are in a depression, we are in a nightmare.

Mind Creation

Just as it is possible to increase the frequency and alter the content of our sleep cycle dreams through various pre-sleep techniques, it is possible to change our waking state fantasies and daydreams. This leads us to the interesting question of the differences between our sleeping and waking dreams and fantasies. We operate from the assumption that our sleep state is an interruption of our awake state. We go to bed in order to rest up for the next awake state. What if our awake state is an interruption of our sleep state? Better still, consider the possibility that, aside from the physical manifestations that differentiate sleep and awake cycles, our dreams are the same except for their forms. Both the sleep dreams and awake dreams are created by the mind. We are the orchestrators of and the performers in all our dreams. Our interpretation of events seemingly outside ourselves make up most of our daydreams.

The chaos in our lives, the fear, anger, jealousy and judgment are awake dreams we chose to have. A Course in Miracles says, "Dreams show you that you have the power to make a world as you would have it be, and that because you want it you see it. And while you see it you do not doubt that it is real...Your wish to make another world that is not real remains with you. And what you seem to waken to is but another form of this same world you see in dreams. All your time is spent dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same." There is little to distinguish sleep and awake cycle dreams. The word dreams can refer to both.

Although we easily accept that we create our sleep dreams, we seldom consider that we are responsible for our awake dreams. Abrogating our responsibility for our awake dreams is the ego's way of trying to convince us that the dream is a reality that we want. If we are clear as to what we are and what we want, then we awake to a world where love is what we are and love is everywhere, and it is for giving away. All the fantasies of anger, fear and terror fade away. We no longer substitute our ego-desired dream of guilt for awareness.

When I was a young child, I remember watching the science fiction movie, The Eleventh Commandment. Planet Earth, upon establishing communications with a supreme intelligence in the universe, discovers that it is doomed if it follows its present course of behavior. Earth will be destroyed unless the eleventh commandment is followed. This unwritten commandment is: love your brother as yourself. This is the essence of waking up. It is putting aside our thoughts of separation and specialness. Our chances of survival on Earth diminish as our awake dreams of hatred consume us. Consider the deadly awake dreams that play out in the world's violent encounters.

I opened this issue with a description of a very vivid disturbing dream. I could easily dismiss it as, well, just a dream, induced by medication. Years ago, I had what might be called an ongoing walking sleep, an awake dream state called depression. There was little respite from the depression through physical sleeping. This was my encounter with dreams that did not end over a prolonged period of time. Why are we so willing to examine and evaluate one dream (sleep) while so unwilling to deal with the other dream (awake)?

Our notions of sin are a dream. Sin is a mistake open to correction. It is a mistake of lack of love and an investment in ego-based separation. Condemnation is a nightmare chosen by the ego to convince us that we or others are no good, not good enough or inherently bad. Being awake is the recognition that we (and everyone else) are neither of these. Being awake is undoing our mistakes by letting go of the past and seeing all our relationships as holy, that is, as forgiven.

While many seek enlightenment, few claim to achieve it. Enlightenment and being truly awake are the same. Enlightenment is a higher goal of consciousness attainment. It is being awake or absent of ego dreaming in the ever present moment-to-moment. It takes very little effort to wake from our dreams. We merely have the desire to do so, and we wake up.

Controls

There are controls which we give up when we dream. During physical sleep dreaming we set aside the rational mind and along with it (for the most part) the empire of the ego. Although our neural network firings produce emotions as real as any when we are awake, we are at the mercy of random synaptic activity based on the remnants of both our rational mind and ego constructs. We are not capable of consciously choosing forgiveness during sleep even though we are not under the ego's control.

While awake-dreaming, we most often, consciously or unconsciously, give control to the ego, which is in essence a creation and a part of our mind. Our disease with events, others, or our perceived life situation, can be a signal that we are awake-dreaming. This dis-ease can be the alarm that allows us to take control back from the ego. It is at this point, the place of accepting the opportunity and possibility of forgiveness, that forgiveness takes place.

Dilemma

The dilemma of Chuang-Tzu (Third century BC):

One night I dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, content with my lot. Suddenly I awoke and I was Chuang-Tzu again. Who am I in reality? A butterfly dreaming that I am Chuang-Tzu or Chuang-Tzu imagining he was a butterfly.

In The Understating of Dreams, Raymond de Becker, a French journalist and television personality, a pupil of Carl Jung and specialist in psychiatry and psychology, writes an extensive analysis of dreams throughout history. He writes "To me the most remarkable thing about dreams is the fragility of the frontier separating the dreams from what is conventionally called reality."

We might say then that awake dreams, sleep dreams, daydreaming, fantasy and ego-dreams, chosen consciously or otherwise along with our moment-to-moment perceptions are, in total, our existence.

Our dilemma is the dilemma of Chuang-Tzu and it is not. If our world is a bad dream or a nightmare then we are trapped not knowing whether we are Chuang-Tzu or the butterfly. We do not know who we are. Our willingness to forgive creates an awake state dream where we are both Chuang-Tzu and the butterfly, enjoying the duality from the vantage point of both actor (or participant) and audience (or observer). The show just goes on.

Death as a Dream

In 1975, Dr. Raymond Moody published a book, Life after Life. Dr. Moody introduced the phrase near-death-experience. Thousands of people have claimed near-death-experiences. Nora Underwood writing in Macleans magazine April 20, 1992, Between Life and Death, says that "one in three people who recover from coming close to death or becoming clinically dead report having a so-called near-death-experience. This experience is described as leaving and rising above one's body, entering a tunnel, pleasant unfearful sensations, choices as to whether to stay or come back, angels, music, the presence of loved ones, etc.

Underwood writes that the skeptics see the experience as the "brain's dreamlike response to distress." She says there is a connection between those who remember their sleep dreams an those who recall the near-death-experience. To the skeptics, this is further evidence that the near-death-experience is another form of dream.

Underwood reports on Rev. Albert Moraczewski of the Dominican Monastery of Contemplative Nuns in Texas. Moraczewski suggests that the near-death-experience may represent a person's coming face-to-face with his spirituality. "This may be the means for them to wake up to themselves." We often wake up when faced with a crisis or trauma. What if, like Chuang-Tzu, we can never know whether we are the butterfly or Chuang-Tzu? Are we awake occasionally dreaming about dying or are we dreaming about dying occasionally awake?

Our ego attempts to link our existence with the body. It teaches that we should see death as our complete end. Thus, we accept the dream of death as finality. We can, however, see our perception as mistaken, that we are more than the body. Then death as the dream disappears.

Regardless of what we believe about the near-death-experience, whether fact or neurophysiological response to physical termination, there is some support for consciousness existing independent of the body. Love exists independent of the body and if love is what we are then there we have it.

Samplings

Examples abound throughout mythology and history where dreams affected the course of events, revealed insights into our existence or provided clues to the mysteries of the universe. Examples include:

  • Mary, to whom the angel Gabriel, coming in a dream, tells Mary that she is with child and that the child will save the world.
  • Constantine, who just before the battle at the Mulvian Bridge over the Tiber against Maxentius in 312 AD, sees a flaming cross across the sun with the Greek words that say, "In this sign you shall conquer." The following morning Constantine "heard a voice in a dream commanding his soldiers mark upon their shields the chi rho - the monogram for Christ."
  • Abraham Lincoln who, "Just a week before he was assassinated...had a dream that he discussed with several people. It seemed that he was walking through the silent White House toward the sound of sobbing. When he entered the East Room he was confronted by the sight of a catafalque covered in black. He asked the guard on duty there who was dead. 'The president,' said the soldier."
  • "Sir William Johnson had ordered some suits of rich clothing from England. When they were unpacked, the Mohawk chief Hendrick admired them greatly. Shortly afterward he told Sir William that he had had a dream in which Sir William gave him a suit. Sir William took the hint and presented Hendrick with one of the handsome outfits. Not long after that when Sir William and Hendrick were again together, Sir William said that he too had had a dream. Hendrick asked him what it was. Sir William explained that he had dreamed that Hendrick had presented him with a tract of land on the Mohawk River, comprising about five thousand acres of the most fertile terrain. Immediately, Hendrick presented the land to Sir William, remarking as he did so that he would dream no more with him. 'You dream too hard for me, Sir William,' he observed."

While sitting in my car waiting for a colleague to pick me up for a long professional drive to Burlington, Vermont, I pulled out a copy of Hyperspace written by Dr. Michio Kaku. Hardly a book about a topic as esoteric as dreams, I was struck by the serendipitous nature of what I read.

Srinvasa Ramanujan was a mathematical genius. His genius was without advantage or access to western mathematical thought. By the age of ten, Ramanujan had completed deriving on his own the relationships between trigonometry and exponentials. Although he died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-three, Ramanujan completed three notebooks containing self-created theorems filling four-hundred pages with four-thousand formulae. Ramanujan said that these came pouring out of his dreams. He used to say "that the goddess of Namakkal inspired him with the formulae in dreams." Neither Ramanujan or his British colleague Godfrey H. Hardy (who finally paid notice to this exceptionally gifted Indian mathematician) took much notice of or explored what Michio Kaku calls "the psychology or thinking process by which Ramanujan discovered these incredible theorems."

String Theory

Then, there are the dreams of the visionaries. After all, visionaries have visions. They imagine what could be, through their waking dreams. They fantasize possibilities. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed, "...that one day men will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Albert Einstein dreamed of the unified field theory bringing together all the forces of nature, matter and energy, into one simplified fundamental explanation. Unfortunately, after decades of research, he died without achieving his dream. His dream lived (and lives) on through the pursuits of other dreamers such as Kaluza, Klein, Yang, Mills, Hawking, Witten, Schwartz, Nanopoulous, etc. These dreamers entered Einstein's fantasy world where a substance such as marble can explain all the properties of wood through the superstring theory in hyperspace.

"According to this theory, matter is nothing but the harmonies created by" point particles such as electrons or neutrinos that "if we could magnify" them, "we would actually see a small vibrating string." Recall the buzz phrases of the late sixties and seventies. A few include, "We're on the same wavelength" and "good vibes" or "good vibrations." Is it Chaung-Tzu or is it the butterfly?

While proctoring my last midterm examination in general math class, an idea crossed my mind. What if the superstring theory offered insights into what we are? Thus, I conjured up the Analogous Essence Super string Theory (AEST). It states that the fundamental basic stuff of what we call being is the vibrating string of love with all the notes, harmonies and symphonies that it can produce. You would be impressed with the melodies and symphonies that DNA strands play when a simple formula plots the amino acids as musical tones.

As dreamers and manipulators of the hyperspace consciousness that is us, we can alter the ever present dream we are in. We can let the love vibrations create the harmonious symphony of a loving world or, we can distort through discord so our world resounds with the chaos of sinister orchestrations.

As the Buddhists say, the world is an illusion and we should not get too excited about it. As A Course in Miracles teaches, we are often in a dream chosen by the ego. As Hinduism states, everything is Maya, or provisionally real. The illusion, the dream, the provisional reality can be not only manipulated, but chosen. I suggest the Analogous Essence Superstring Theory further states that we are responsible for and creators of our conscious universe through conscious quantum choices. We direct our energy at the fundamental superstring essence of what we are. We pluck the essence strings and create the symphony we wish rather than have the strings plucked for us by the ego.

Since our existence can be thought of as a creation of our multidimensional or higher dimensional consciousness, or our chosen Maya if you will, we possess the capabilities of oscillating the strings, producing overtones resonant with the analogous essence of everyone and everything around us.

The Debate?

In a conversation with Muslim children, Robert Coles in The Spiritual Life of Children writes, "In response to further questions about their dreams, Ramzes stressed Allah's capacity to shape dreams. 'He will send us His words. He will tell us what to do. If you wake up and you remember a dream, it could be a message from Allah. He could be telling you something.' "

Helen Schucman, scribe of A Course in Miracles, had at least three dreams that profoundly affected her. In some of the dreams, Helen is a priestess. In others, she is having a conversation with Jesus. Helen's dreams, visions and voices became dictation taken by her friend and colleague Bill Thetford. The almost seven year process became A Course in Miracles.

Does God exist? The seeming inherent contradiction between science and spirituality may in the end be the catalyst for the synergy of the two, each adding evidence for the existence of the other. As a young Roman Catholic, I often heard that God is love. Perhaps our scientific attempts to discover what the material universe is made of, superstrings, will lead us to the discovery that it, and love as the essence of our conscious universe, is one and the same thing. We then reach the obvious conclusion: God is love. Love is all. We are love. God is us.

Meditation (Buddha)

Know all things to be like this:

A mirage, a cloud castle,
A dream, an apparition, Without essence, but with qualities that can be seen.

Know all things to be like this:

As the moon in a bright sky
In some clear lake reflected,
Though to that lake the moon has never moved.

Know all things to be like this:

As an echo that derives
From music, sounds, and weeping,
Yet in that echo is no melody.

Know all things to be like this:

As a magician makes illusions
Of horses, oxen, carts and other things,
Nothing is as it appears.

1995 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

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