What are dreams? Could dreams be proof of non-ordinary reality? Is there proof for other higher levels of consciousness? Let’s see if we can find the answers to these questions.
Several people can witness the same event but give different accounts. Our senses don’t record what happens, they just provide input into the process of perception which happens in the mind. It’s the reason witness statements are often found to be inaccurate. What does this tell us about our perception of reality? What is your experience?
Before we get to dreams, we need to see if we can define non-ordinary and ordinary reality.
What is Non-Ordinary Reality
The cultural narrative wants us to believe that ordinary is what is obvious to the senses, but is this a good way to define ordinary or normal reality? No. We don’t think so either. We already talked about how our senses are yield different results for the same experience.
Guess what? The dominant cultural narrative gets to make the rules. Ordinary reality is whatever the narrative tells us is acceptable and normal, and everything outside of the range of normal is extraordinary or non-ordinary experience. Who ever is in charge of the cultural narrative gets to decide what is normal. (1) Is that an accurate representation of reality? No, it is not. However, most people don’t question it. Does it do any good to question it? Yes!
Do We Need Proof of Non-Ordinary Reality?
Yes, we need proof, and I think we have it. Millions of people meditate every day using a mantra to reach a state of pure consciousness which produces physiological changes that differ from waking, dreaming, and sleeping. These markers include increased brainwave coherence. It also shows theta brain wavelength activity between 4 to 7 Hz. This partition of awareness goes by several names including the fourth state, the ground state, pure consciousness, or bliss consciousness. So, is this partition proof of non-ordinary reality?
Another state of consciousness beyond the default settings is the Shamanic Journey. It is probably the first method of consciousness exploration developed or discovered by man, which opens a doorway to another partition of awareness The Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). Mr. Harner is first to use this term to describe this state. He an anthropologist, author, and modern-day Shaman.
How you answer the question, what is non-ordinary, reality depends on several factors. Your mental and physical health, the diversity of your life experiences, your level of awareness, your intelligence, the beliefs and values of your worldview all contribute to the answer. When you mix all these ever-changing factors together and you come up with a unique concoction that defines our worldview. Sounds messy. Let’s start our investigation of these questions by unraveling our experience with the third state of consciousness, our dreams.
What Are Dreams?
Dreams and nightmares are an imaginary landscape of the mind, and We don’t need a special technique to reach this partition of awareness. 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)
When you ask, what are dreams, you are asking about the intersection between the boundaries of consciousness, imagination, and memory.
“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 are imaginary a landscape of the mind, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real.
The fact is, everything we experience happens within the mind. Dreams and nightmares produce similar 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 an accurate representation of history or reality, it is the assumption that myths and superstitions are accurate and 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 creates an imaginary landscape, and that is proof of non-ordinary reality. The symbolism in dreams comes from many different sources. Some, like Sigmund Freud, theorized that dreams represented repressed desires, but we know there is more the repressed desires that influence our dreams.
Others think dreams go beyond the subconscious consciousness mind. This makes the symbolism of dreams a message from the universe. Are these messages from our spiritual self we call the soul, or is this the same as the universal consciousness?
So, what is a dream? We know it is a doorway to a separate state of consciousness. Exactly where it opens is a mystery. Scholars see dreams as reflections of thoughts and emotions and daily activities. Some sages talk about them as an otherworldly mystical realm that is a concrete as our experience of waking consciousness.
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, that includes dreams, nightmares and what we know as normal reality. Eek! Everything is non-ordinary in our reality.
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 essential for building awareness. When you write, it solidifies your memories, and it can open your recollection to other related memories and dreams. Once you have a history of dreams recorded, you can take one or two of the main images or ideas, and brainstorm. Write what comes to your mind? It will start to open doors to other memories and dreams you’ve forgotten. It’s a very interesting investigation.
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 for lucid dreaming. It is learning to be self-aware, 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, and 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 pose the same questions about dreams and reality. What is the purpose of dreams and nightmares? Where does the symbolism of dreams come from? People hesitate to ask these questions because they fear the possible answers.
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 is a tool to help us understand the structures of our personality and instincts. This helps us to see how the programming of our default preferences affect thoughts and values.
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.
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? We think there is convincing proof that dreams a universal proof of non-ordinary reality? Are our dreams signposts, telling us there is much more we need to explore? What do you think?
(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/