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Levels of Lucidity: A Close Reading © Matthew Thomas. Illustrations by Riko Kusuhara

Author’s Note: This paper was first presented at the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) PsiberDreaming Conference 2018. Special thanks go to my illustrator Ms. Riko Kusahara, with deep appreciation.

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The difference between most people and myself is that for me the “dividing walls” are transparent. That is my peculiarity.

Carl Jung

The conventional scientific sentiment has become that—while we don’t totally understand why dreaming happens—the dreams themselves are meaningless. They’re images and sounds we unconsciously collect, almost at random {…} Which seems like a potentially massive misjudgement.

Chuck Klosterman

I: I awake in a warehouse. The bed is against one wall–on the other is a thirty-foot mountain of cantaloupes. I realize I am dreaming. I get up and run my hands over the cantaloupes. They feel absolutely real—as tangible as in life. I remember that tangibility is not a viable reality test— I’ve made that mistake before. Now fully lucid, I decide to levitate. The room dissolves, and I float suspended in dense, colourless space. Eventually, I feel the need to come back to earth but cannot locate it. I feel something beneath me. This is my bed, and I awake back in the warehouse, relieved yet exhilarated. The cantaloupes are still there, however I don’t question them. I just happen to live in a room full of fruit. Moments later I awake again, this time in diurnal “reality.”

The most common dream experience is of waking from a dream we take to be real, only to understand that it was “just a dream.” However, a subset of dreamers, probably more than we generally imagine, have experienced lucid dreams, dreams in which, to some degree, they are aware they are dreaming. Lucid dreamers may also experience “false awakenings” (1)— the sensation of waking progressively through dream “levels.” False awakenings can be disorienting {Robert Waggoner writes that after seven successive false awakenings he “would accept … any reality … as long as it stayed put” (2)}, or sought after {Daniel Love and Keith Hearne have independently developed techniques to induce false awakenings (3)}. Regardless of the desirability of the experience, the existence of dream levels, far from a simple oddity, provides a potential window into massive metaphysical questions.

First, we need to understand how dreamers use evidence to establish whether they are dreaming or awake.

II: I am in a dreaming contest with another dreamer. The contest begins and slimy amphibians begin to appear. Some resemble frogs; others are in shapes that don’t exist in nature. Their size varies from that of a pinky to that of a fist. All are very colourful. I am not trying to dream them, rather they are spilling everywhere around my feet. I sense this is a dream, and check on the other dreamer. He is standing to my right in empty space, yet to begin his dream.

This dream is non-lucid at first and becomes lucid because of the bright color and absurd number of the amphibians. An awareness beyond the dream senses a non-natural situation.

III: I am picking out fruit at a fruit stand. There are some huge avocados, almost too good looking. I wonder if I am in a dream, and touch an avocado to check. The one I choose is ripe and soft—I squeeze it a little. There is no doubt that I am having a tactile experience, and I conclude I am not dreaming. Of course, I am.

Two dreams, two types of evidence. In Dream II, I correctly identify the amphibians as anomalous, and become lucid. In Dream III, my attempt to test the lifelikeness of the avocado as an indicator fails. Simply put, realistic sensation is not sufficiently indicative of reality. Love agrees: “we are not looking for a qualitative difference in how realistic the experience feels {…} we are {…} on the lookout for issues with stability and plausibility” (4). In Dream I, at first the huge pile of melons in my bedroom appears implausible and triggers lucidity; after moving up a dream level, my mind overrides the implausibility and “justifies” (5) the anomaly.

Because we awake from sleep and dreams every morning, we are very familiar with the experience of awakening. It is therefore unsurprising that when we wake inside a dream we accept the new reality as the waking world, even if it contains anomalous elements.

IV: I am in a huge house where a large group of families on motorcycles arrive. The families are making noise all night. I realize I am dreaming and levitate to where the families are. Later I decide to wake up. I ease myself out of bed, bumping my nose into an ironing board. The room looks and feels exactly like my room. I don’t recall the ironing board being there, but whatever. Moments later I awake again—the scene is identical, only, the ironing board is gone. I feel a pit in my stomach, wondering what is ultimately real.

Dream IV is a good example of how dream levels can become increasingly realistic level by level. An ironing board in front of the bed is (for me) more plausible than a house full of bikers. Dreams such as this beg the question of how we can ever be sure we are awake. I have dreamt of getting up, walking to the front door, opening it, and emerging into the sunshine in my neighbourhood. At every point, this dream felt entirely realistic with no anomalies. After experiences like this, is it wholly unrealistic that we could dream an entire morning? An entire day?(6)

There are different ways to approach this kind of question. The first is to use rigorous reality tests (7). Using reality tests after each fresh awakening can help us filter anomalies in what may be an increasingly realistic dream state. The second is to open ourselves to a wider set of questions. Although space limitations make full exploration of these questions impossible, modern dreamers would do well to recall that throughout recorded history people have speculated on the meaning of the dream state and what it can tell us about space, time, life after death, and the nature of reality.

As dreamers, we know that dreamtime behaves very differently than waking time. Robert Moss distinguishes between Chronos (“linear time”) and Kairos (the “spacious now”). He writes that when Kairos operates in waking life, “ordinary time is {…} suspended or elastic,” and the world can “quiver or shimmer” (8). Moss’ Kairos time sounds a great deal like dreamtime.

Jung in his memoir writes “our concepts of space and time have only approximate validity,” (9) and “there are indications that at least a part of the psyche is not subject to the laws of space and time” (10). Jung makes multiple connections between dreams and life after death, suggesting that our waking world, in which we are “conscious,” may in fact be a projection of a more “real” and permanent, even timeless, unconscious (11).

In the Tibetan tradition of dream yoga, the yogi prepares for death through dreams and meditation, entering death consciously by releasing bodily energy in such a way that the body partially or entirely dissolves into pure light. This “rainbow body” is well documented in Tibet and China, and cases of this phenomenon have been reported across multiple religious traditions (12). Finally, Moss connects dreams with the much discussed Many Worlds theory, as does, in popular culture, Richard Linklater (13).

V: I am among a large group of people on the top floor of a building. We lie down on our backs and form bundles. As the molecular structure of these bundles dissolves we become lighter, then totally empty. This process is dictated by a power outside of us which doesn’t speak. Once empty, we have the choice to become anything we want. I choose to become white light. Suddenly I am transported through space in a burst of pure white light, my old body left entirely behind. This is the most peaceful and thrilling feeling in the world. Then, I am back into a new bundle, trying again to become empty. I make progress, but it is hard and I am over-concentrating. Progress ceases; I wake up.

Although I have thought at length about dreams, I am a normal person, with a normal job, dreaming anonymously night after night. I do not belong to a spiritual tradition, am not a yogi or a meditating hermit. As a lucid dreamer, like many of us, I am self-taught. While we anonymous dreamers are wise to suspend judgement about the particularities of a theory as mind-boggling as dreams as an interface to infinite parallel universes, it is perhaps not by chance that my dreams of ascending to a state of pure white light bear close resemblance to innumerable near-death experiences or the reported manifestations of a lifetime of dream yoga. Although admittedly outside of our normal rational mode of apprehension, the experience of journeying through multiple dream levels, and the energy and amazement which often accompany these experiences, may point toward worlds far above, below, or beyond our own.

Who are we in our trek through life? Are we the maker, or the made? The writer, or the page? The actor, or the stage? The happening, or the happened to? Perhaps our ability to exercise agency in the vastness of forever depends in part on learning to navigate levels of “reality,” however we encounter them. Or perhaps, journeying to the far side of the dream can bring us face to face with that which is actually dreaming us.

Citations:

1 Waggoner, 61

2 Ibid., 63

3 Love, 131

4 Love, 71

5 Love cites “poor reasoning skills” as one common reason for failing to recognize dream signs and achieve lucidity. Love, 73.

6 Cf. Klosterman, 141

7 Love, 78-79; Waggoner, 259. (Wagonner uses the term “reality check” instead of “reality test.”)

8 Moss, 49

9 Jung, 300

10 ibid., 304

11 ibid., 324

12 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, 314; Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche

13 Moss, 74-74; Linklater

Bibliography:

Jung, Carl. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books, 1989.

Klosterman, Chuck. But What If We’re Wrong? Blue Rider Press. 2016.

Linklater, Richard, director. Slacker. Orion Classics, 1990.

Love, Daniel. Are you Dreaming? Enchanted Loom Publishing, 2013.

Moss, Robert. Sidewalk Oracles. New World Library, 2015.

Rinpoche, Gyalwai Nyugu. “About Rainbow Body.” http://www.gyalwai-nyugu.com/about- rainbow-body/. Accessed 24 July 2018.

Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangyal. The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. Snow Lion Publications, 1998.

Thomas, Matthew. “On Coming Through”: A New Meditation on Intention. https://craftfollowsconcept.com/2013/05/13/on-coming-through-statement-of-intent-on-the- approach-of-my-39th-birthday/#more-11. Accessed 24 July 2018.

Waggoner, Robert. Lucid Dreaming. Moment Point Press, 2009.

IASD PsiberDreaming Conference 2018 Matthew Thomas: Levels of Lucidity: A Close Reading

8097150301_48d39d4b9c_bMatthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post was originally published at craftfollowsconcept.com

Introduction: This little piece is a lightly structured meditation on aspects of the past and clarification of intentions concerning the future.  It appends my previous statement of intent from four years ago (posted below).  Although there is some continuity of concern, specifically around the nature of the demands that playing a role or roles in society places on the individual actor, and some continuity of theory through the continued influence of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, hopefully there is some new material and new thinking as well.  I should acknowledge a debt to several writers whom I have read intensively over the past four years: most especially this piece bears the fingerprints of Carl Jung, James Hollis, and Dane Rudhyar, and many of the ideas here would not exist, or at least not be as fully articulated, without their assistance.  I should also acknowledge that I have been experimenting with different means of writing, different approaches to producing a text, and to the extent that anything herein bears traces of the spirit I can claim no credit.

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“I wanna dedicate this to someone out there watching tonight, I know she knows who she is.”

Bob Dylan, spoken introduction to “Oh Sister.”  From the bootleg record “Songs for Patty Valentine.”

Today I feel as if I stand at the edge of a new world.  The journey through early adulthood has drawn itself to a close, in stages, over the past several years, and I am alive to the fact that a new journey must now be set out upon.  In order to face any new journey properly, with intelligence and intention, we are called upon first to recognize the altered nature of the landscape we will make our way across in the new phase.

The longer I live, the more I understand the words of Ecclesiastes, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.”  Each era of our lives, each season, sometime even each week or set of weeks, seems to take on a certain coloring and certain characteristics that differentiate it from what came before, just as each zone of time seems to require different things of us.  The strength of our intention and will, as well as the quality and effectiveness of our reactions and decision making, are forever put to the test in small ways, and large ones, and we are forced to define, if only to ourselves, the nature of our relationship to our surroundings, our community, our dharma, our fate.

When we are young, time seems to stretch on almost indefinitely.  The summer of my eighth year, for example, was experienced as a vast expanse of almost undifferentiated time; two or three weeks would pass in a barely conscious haze of biking around my parent’s property, hiking and collecting stones from quarries in the area, or sitting on the roof in the sun, a child in the flow of nature, without “problems” of his own.  Looking back on such a period today, it indeed has a coloring of a kind, and this coloring is so loaded with low-grade nostalgia and barely remembered circumstances that my memories exist not so much in the form of events, rather in the form of a “feel.”  I have a sense of what it felt like to be eight, a sense of the patterns into which life energy fell or was collected, pooled, also a sense of my budding interests, which would in time round into what we are pleased to call “personality.”  There was nothing specific that I was “up to,” and I never had the need to think more than a day or so in advance.  The expression of my energy was essentially aligned with the desires of my heart as much as at that age we can know these at all–or perhaps that is just the point, in a state of primitive unknowingness we are naturally and effortlessly aligned with the desires of our heart, and only when we begin to have to analyze or ask after these do we begin to lose connection with them.

As we grow, the process of socialization begins to crowd in on us, and no person, no personality, is wholly free from the pressures of socialization, of collective expectation, of the reactive categorizations and projections of the always slightly behind-the-curve zeitgeist.  Depending on our own type and manner of apprehending the world as it appears to us, we react and position ourselves in some relation to, at some angle toward, the categories and projections that surround us.  Indeed, both the conformist and the rebel define themselves in relation to and reaction to “the system,” and in many ways their respective positioning is far more similar than otherwise.  Dane Rudyhar makes this point clearly, as do, in more elliptical and elaborated terms, Berger and Luckmann.  Even those (myself for example) who purport or imagine to be able to live outside of collective expectations, to create their own life and write their own script, yet define themselves primarily through the categories that the zeitgeist makes available–it takes work, huge, lasting work, to even begin to transcend one’s era and circumstance in even the smallest part.

The first part of life is necessarily a struggle to find one’s footing in the swim of society, to demonstrate value, usefulness, and the ability to check whichever boxes one is asked to check.  Occasionally, we meet someone who in significant ways seems to have wrenched herself free of some of this static at an earlier age, but even such persons habitually define themselves in terms of existing categories and remain to some extent still a prisoner of them.  For most of us, the child turned young adult, buffeted by external events and demands, adjusts herself over a period of years by applying her core characteristics, tendencies, and abilities to the game as it seems to present itself, and in the process slowly relinquishes immediate touch with that inner voice that provided direction to the child of nature who knew instinctively what was and wasn’t good for her, what was and wasn’t desirable.

At the same time, the goals that one identifies for oneself in youth are not to be lightly dismissed.  They do often provide a symbol sufficient, to borrow Jung’s phrase, to drive libido up a gradient steeper than nature; one learns to accomplish “work,” and to appreciate both the material and ego-related satisfactions that comes from this accomplishment.  Jung says as much when he tells us that it is essentially heathy and necessary when a young person becomes “entangled with fate” which “(involves) him in life’s necessities and the consequent sacrifices and efforts through which his character is developed and his experience matured.”  This dance with fate leads us into a variety of positions and stances, some of which we may carry out with grace and ease, others of which require contortions which we preform without a clear sense of the relationship between the presented or required form and our ability to functionally engage with that form.

Under the pressure to make something of ourselves, to build a career, a business, an image, a body of work, to make more of time by trying to subdue it, we may come to feel that we have found the game, we are on the fast track, we are properly situated under the stage lights, playing the part as it is supposed to be played. Read the rest of this entry »

maj01Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

Note: This post originally published at jungianintimations.wordpress.com, and introduces our serial investigation of the works of Carl Jung.

I

Toward the end of his life on earth, Carl Jung worked with Aniela Jaffe on a semi-autobiography titled, in English, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” (MDR).  While the exact nature of the origins of the text continues to be a matter of controversy (Shamdasani, 22-38), this work is, by any standard, one of the most remarkable works of self-reflection on record.  As Jung’s work has seduced me, once more, into an extended contemplation of telos as a universal governing principle, and forced me to ask hitherto avoided questions about the nature and possibility of free will, it is only appropriate that we begin with the end, namely the second to last page of MDR, written when Jung was in his mid-80’s.

Looking back over the course of his life, Jung writes/ dictates as follows:
“A creative person has little power over his own life.  He is not free.  He is captive and driven by his own daimon.  ‘Shamefully, a power wrests away the heart from us,/ For the Heavenly Ones each demand sacrifice;/ But if it should be withheld/ Never has that led to good,’ says Holderlin.  This lack of freedom has been a great sorrow to me.  Often I felt as if I were on a battlefield, saying, ‘Now you have fallen, my good comrade, but I must go on.’  For ‘shamefully a power wrests the heart from us.’  I am fond of you, indeed I love you, but I cannot stay.  There is something heart-rending about that.  And I myself am the victim; I cannot stay.  But the daimon manages things so that one comes through, and blessed inconsistency sees to it that in flagrant contrast to my ‘disloyalty’ I can keep faith in unsuspected measure” (MDR, 357).

Here, Jung’s daimon is also his muse, a fickle yet demanding goddess, possessed of little mercy.  Here too we see Jung playing with telos, and also recognizing that creative work never comes without a price.  And yet, Jung is not railing against his fate–while apparent disloyalty, inconstancy, faithlessness, restlessness, and driven arrogance may have plagued his personal relationships, Jung hove true to his inner compass in a manner and to a degree which would have permanently flung most mortals far the other side of sanity, fellowship, and comprehensibility.  When Jung writes that “I can keep faith in unsuspected measure” he is referencing the overarching centrality of intuition as a guide to his life’s work, and building on forty years of reflection on the central orienting elements of personality.  The relentlessness and courage of his six decades of work, even as he came increasingly to fear for the reception of his ideas (pace Answer to Job), attests to his faith, and to his  larger constancy, even as from a smaller bore perspective his alleged lack of intellectual coherence and questionable allegiance to science as commonly understood has led lesser minds to accuse Jung of prophecy, shamanism, and outright oddness (cf Shamdasani, 83).  In order to counteract such limited understandings of Jung, understandings based almost certainly on shallow or incomplete readings of the Collected Works, it behooves us to take an extended look at the textual evidence.  This textual evidence, as we shall see, while voluminous, circular, and even repetitive, signifies in the final judgment nothing short of the most remarkable, daring, and far-reaching bodies of work to issue forth from a single human intelligence since Augustine.  It is our pleasure to place ourselves in the service of this intelligence, to reflect, if even in the smallest way, a sliver of the numinous with which Jung wrestled throughout his life, as Job wrestled with his angel.

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II

One who has no god, as he walks along the street/ Headache envelops him like a garment.

(Cuneiform tablet, late 2nd millennium B.C.  Cited in Jaynes, 225)

An idea is something you have.  An ideology is something that has you.

Morris Breman

It is well known that older people tend toward one of two poles in their attitude toward certainty, and that the degree of apparent confidence with which those in the second half of life hold forth on subjects to which they claim authority or expertise is directly related to the degree to which they suffer from an inflated, runaway, usurping ego.  On the one hand the dogmatists, those in whom opinion has ossified into ideology, whose “conversation” is always monologue ascendant.  On the other hand, those at least somewhat mellowed by time, those who have come face to face with their own limitations, whose ego has been able to absorb the blows apportioned by father time, and to grin in the face of impotence (cf Slater, 115).

There are certain professions, however, where egocentricity in the form of professed certainty is positively rewarded, where the fawning of acolytes, the plaudits of the mass media, and the material rewards issued forth from committees and councils depend in large part on stating and holding a single position, and defending such position against all comers.  The expert industry is ever at work, animated by the simple fact that very few people actually have any real idea of what they should be doing, of what the “truth” is in a given situation, or, least of all, on what basis to make a decision. Read the rest of this entry »

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