Our dreams and nightmares provide a landscape into another reality. So, are nightmares a non-ordinary reality? Why are we so skeptical about other levels of consciousness and existence?
Many people share the same experiences while in waking consciousness, but we all interpret it uniquely. It is why several people who see the same thing describe it in different ways. It’s the reason witness statements are often inaccurate. However, do we really share the same experience of existence?
What is Non-Ordinary Reality
Many millions of people meditate and reach a state of pure consciousness. This state produces physiological changes that differ from our default states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping.
Some of these markers include an increase in brainwave coherence. It also produces a unique change in brain frequency, with theta brain wavelength between 4 to 7 Hz. These distinctive attributes make it an individual state of consciousness. Some people refer to this partition of awareness as the fourth state, pure consciousness, or bliss consciousness. So, is this meditative partition is another proof of non-ordinary reality?
Another state of consciousness beyond the default settings is the Shamanic Journey. It is probably the first advanced level of consciousness discovered by man. This method opens a doorway to heightened awareness. Mr. Harner is an anthropologist, author, and modern-day Shaman, calls this partition The Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). It uses sound as a gateway. Perhaps it is just a signpost pointing us to a greater understanding of reality?
Our investigation leads us back to our third default state of consciousness, dreams.
What Are Dreams?
Dreams and nightmares are an imaginary landscape of the mind. We don’t have to use any technique to reach this partition of awareness. They are a portal of sorts. Some think it’s more than a link to the subconscious mind. Is it possible this is a window to some level of existence? So, are nightmares a non-ordinary reality? (2)
Dreaming is one of the three primary states of consciousness. Waking and sleeping are the other two default states of awareness. Science tells us we have dreams curs during the stage of sleep where we have rapid eye movements REM sleep.
We can dream outside of the normal sleep stage. Day-dreaming can be just as intense and authentic to the mind. Many people jump straight into the REM stage when they first fall asleep.
People who meditate can fall into the dreaming state from the 4th state of consciousness. Test subjects at Maharishi International University confirm this ability. Those who practice the Shamanic Journey and enter SSC are also prone to transition from SSC into the dreaming state. It seems the mind naturally goes to this state. (3)
“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” — John Lennon
Notice how he qualifies his belief by proof. He accepts everything as a possibility, including fairies, myths, and dreams. However, he rejects those things that are not proven. We know that dreams and nightmares exist. We know they are an imaginary landscape of your mind, but does that mean it is not real?
The fact is, everything we experience happens within the mind. Dreams and nightmares produce measurable changes in our physiology, so they are a shared experiential element of our consciousness. So, are nightmares a non-ordinary reality or just a product of our psyche?
So, dreams differ from the mythologies of religion. Religion is not a construct of experience, it is an assumption that mythology and superstition are real. You do not need to believe in the existence of dreams.
Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths. — Joseph Campbell
Dreams are a partition of consciousness that explores your mind’s imaginary landscape. The symbolism in dreams is controversial. Some, like Sigmund Freud, theorized that dreams represented repressed desires.
So, what is a dream? It is a doorway to the subconscious mind, a separate state of consciousness. Scholars see them as reflections of thoughts and emotions and daily activities. Some sages talk about them as an otherworldly mystical realm.
Are Nightmares A Non-Ordinary Reality?
“The Land of Dreams, that mystical realm, where the oddest of visions appear, come wander through scenes of a joyful peace, or stampeded through nightmares of fear. Dare we open those secret doors, down dusty paths of mind, in long-forgotten corners, what memories we’ll find. Who rules over the Kingdom of Night, where all is not what it seems? ‘Tis I, the Weaver of Tales, for I am the Dreamer of Dreams!” ― Brian Jacques, The Rogue Crew
When you ask, what are dreams, you are also asking, what is non-ordinary reality? We know for sure that everything we experience is an imaginary landscape of the mind.
Most people don’t remember all of their dreams. However, if we have a nightmare and wake up, we can recount the details. If we wake up shortly after dreaming, even if the dream isn’t unpleasant or significant, we may still remember them. It’s why expanding our awareness is so important. It helps us to be aware of more of our dreams.
Lucid dreaming is the easiest way to expand awareness. We use the natural elements of dreaming and a Sutra to achieve greater levels.
“All you have to do is remember your dreams in the first place and write it down.”
— Joseph Campbell
Recording your dreams is an essential step in building awareness as you sleep. When you write, it solidifies your memory, and it can open your recollection of related memories and dreams. Then take one or two of the main images or ideas, and brainstorm on them. Write what comes to your mind, and again what comes to your mind, and again.
You’ll find that your dreams come from a body of significant experiences. You may not be aware of how they influence your thinking and choices. Soon the next dreaming opportunity will come along. Take the images and move your interpretation further. The key is recording your dreams immediately after waking up.
We use the above process to begin our journey into lucid dreaming, where you know when you are dreaming. The more you practice lucid dreaming techniques, the greater your degree of control within the dream.
When we can control our dreams, we can change the outcome of nightmares. So, instead of falling to our death from a tower that is collapsing, we fly away. It brings us back to one of our original questions; are nightmares a non-ordinary reality? If they are, then lucid dreaming teaches us to control reality.
Dream Interpretation & Symbolism in Dreams
The famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, was curious about dreams. We can trace modern psychoanalysis to his fascination with this state of consciousness. He wasn’t the only researcher to look at this state as a key to understanding the mind.
In the 1600s, the French philosopher Rene Descartes wrote the Dream Argument paper. He argues our dreams provide evidence that reality isn’t objective. He makes two excellent observations.
First, when you dream, you create an imaginary landscape of the mind. It’s tangible and as vivid as any experience in the waking state. Because of this, our waking senses may also create a world that is an illusional. How can we trust the judgment of our senses to determine what is real?
Second, most people never recognize they are dreaming, which suggests our waking view of reality functions the same way. We experience as reality the waking state is the same way we experience dreaming, we simply give priority to one over the other.
Many researchers post the same questions about dreams and reality. What are they for, and why do we have them? What is the purpose of dreams? Some people fear asking these questions because there aren’t any answers that fit within their worldview.
If you attribute the experience of dreams to non-ordinary reality, then all experience is non-ordinary. Since we experience everything within the mind, we are constantly recreating reality.
So, what is the purpose of dreams? Well, they are a window of sorts into our subconscious. Sometimes, the window isn’t clear yet they reflect our hopes, fears, and instincts that begs further investigation. Some suggest it is the aperture of the soul or spirit.
The Enneagram Personality Profile can give us a glimpse of the structures of our Ego. It shows us the default programming of our personality and instincts. This way, we can recognize the thought scripts when they appear in the landscape of our minds.
Interpreting the symbolism in dreams isn’t new. It is one of the main functions of the mystic and Shaman. Freud’s dream symbolism draws heavily from the Bestiaries. These books of symbolism and superstition catalog stories that were once oral traditions.
Using both the Enneagram and techniques for lucid dreaming provides some exciting terrain. We recommend learning all the essential spiritual technologies.
The symbolism in dreams comes from many sources. We have a cultural narrative that programs us with specific values, fears, and judgments. Our personality and instincts come with default settings. Our family and our experiences also color the symbolism of our dreams. Our imagination is another element contributing to the process. Imagination colors our memories. Add all these elements together, and you have your meaning of various symbols.
It is why dream interpretation differs for everyone. In times past, people stayed in the same area and shared the same common beliefs. This cohesive cultural narrative no longer exists because we are transient beings. The symbolism of our dreams is also ever-changing. As we progress on the path of spiritual development, we overcome obstacles. We move from a victim to a survivor, then a victor.
What are dreams? We know it is an imaginary landscape created by the mind, but does that make it only a product of imagination? Are dreams like everything merely an expression of everyday existence? We can conclude that our dreams are universal proof of non-ordinary reality. They are a signpost, telling us there is much more to explore.
(1) Virtual Reality for Non-Ordinary Consciousness: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frobt.2018.00007/full
(2) The Science Behind Dreaming: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-behind-dreaming/
(3) Dreaming and insight: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872037/