Dreams and Death/Dreams and the Divine
By Winsor McCay (File:Little Nemo 1905-11-26.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- From the article Dream Work with the Dying, by Jeremy Taylor.
- “All the sacred traditions of the world give an especially privileged place to dreams and dreaming as a means of self-understanding and communication with and from the Divine.
- “In addition, every culture of the world reveals some version of the ancient archetypal metaphor: ‘sleep = death’, and ‘dreams = the experience of the afterlife’.
- “Tibetan Buddhists even go so far as to say that what we experience as ‘dreams’ when we are alive and in our physical bodies is exactly what the discarnate entity experiences after death and in ‘the Bardo of Dying and Preparing for Rebirth’.
- “This belief is the primary reason for their focused attention to lucid dreaming; if a person can become proficient in recognizing consciously, ‘Oh, this is a dream…’ while asleep, then that person will also be very likely to be able to do the same thing in the midst of the ‘Bardo of Death and Becoming’, after separation from the physical form. In this way, he/she will be able to traverse the complexities of that post-mortem existence with calmness and clarity, or as they would say, ‘with wisdom and compassion’.”
Lucid Dreaming and the Afterlife
- Excerpt from the Dream Exchange, by Lucy Gillis: Quote from Tenzin Yangal Rinpoche: “If we cannot remain present during sleep, if we lose ourselves every night, what chance do we have to be aware when death comes?…. Look to your experience in dreams to know how you will fare in death. Look to your experience of sleep to discover whether or not you are truly awake.”
- “What happens when we die? Where do we go? Do we go anywhere? What will it be like? If my body is dead, how will I be able to see or hear? Will I be able to see or hear?
- “It was questions like these that occupied the mind of an ancient physician, over 1500 years ago. He found his answers, not in his religion, not in the science of his time, but in a more intimate and immediate way. He received his answer in a dream — a lucid dream. In fact, this particular dream is the first written report of a lucid dream in recorded history. The dream was found within the letters of St. Augustine, a Christian philosopher and priest.
- “In 415 A.D. St. Augustine wrote a letter to a priest by the name of Evodius, in which he described the dream experiences of Gennadius, a physician from Carthage. Gennadius, disturbed by doubts as to whether there was life after physical death, had two dreams. In the first he was visited by a youth ‘”of remarkable appearance and commanding presence’ who demanded that he follow him. Gennadius did so and was led to a city where he could hear singing ‘so exquisitely sweet’ and unlike anything he had ever heard before. He asked his guide what the music was, and was told, ‘”it is the hymn of the blessed and the holy.’ At this point Gennadius woke, believing the experience to be nothing more than just a dream.
- “However, the next night, as he dreamed again, his young guide of the previous night returned and asked Gennadius if he recognized him. Gennadius replied ‘Certainly!’ Then the youth asked him where they had met, but Gennadius could not remember, though he did correctly recall and describe the event of their meeting and what had occurred.
- “The young guide then asked Gennadius if the events he just described took place in sleep or in wakefulness. Gennadius replied, ‘In sleep,’ to which the youth responded with ‘You remember it well; it is true that you saw these things in sleep, but I would have you know that even now you are seeing in sleep.’ The youth continued, ‘Where is your body now?’ Gennadius answered ‘in my bed.’ (Gennadius was then lucid; aware he was dreaming, while his body slept in his bed.)
- “The youth pressed on; ‘Do you know that the eyes in this body of yours are now bound and closed, and that with these eyes you are seeing nothing?’ ‘I know it,’ answered Gennadius. The guide then asked, ‘What then are the eyes with which you see me?’ To this, Gennadius could not respond, he did not know the answer. The young guide then provided him with answers he had been seeking in his waking life:
- “‘As while you are asleep and lying on your bed these eyes of your body are now unemployed and doing nothing, and yet you have eyes with which you behold me, and enjoy this vision, so after your death, while your bodily eyes shall be wholly inactive, there shall be in you a life by which you shall live, and a faculty of perception by which you shall still perceive. Beware, therefore, after this of harboring doubts as to whether the life of man shall continue after death.'”
- “According to St. Augustine, ‘This believer says that by this means all doubts as to the matter were removed from him.’ Gennadius had awakened, satisfied with his answer, and didn’t doubt the existence of life after death again.
- “Gennadius’s ‘youth of remarkable countenance’ or ‘dream guide’ is not the only one to compare the dreamstate to the afterlife. For thousands of years, Tibetan Buddhists practicing ‘dream yoga’ have been instructed in various degrees of (what Westerners refer to as) lucid dreaming as a means of increasing their awareness on the path to enlightenment. Dream Yoga was developed to help train the practitioner to achieve enlightenment during sleep so that at the time of death, he would be prepared for the death bardos. In the Tibetan language, the word ‘bardo’ refers to an interval between two events. In the case of the death bardos, the intervals are between death and rebirth.
- “The Tibetan Book of the Dead, (‘Bardo Thodol’) describes three bardos that the deceased will encounter after death. In these realms of existence the deceased will meet with experiences that are the result of his own ‘inner manifestations’; just like dreaming, these manifestations are projections originating from his mind.
- “If he does not recognize them as projections, he can become trapped within them, believing them to be reality. Unable to attain enlightenment from this stage, he will pass to the bardo of rebirth, to begin the cycle of life and death again.
- “However, if he can recognize the projections as being manifestations of his own mind, and can detach from them, then he has a better chance of achieving enlightenment, after which he will no longer need to be reborn. Here is where the practice of lucidity within dream yoga becomes important:
- “‘The lucidity experience … assists in understanding the unreality of phenomena, which otherwise, during dream or the death experience, might be overwhelming.'” — Michael Katz, Editor, Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light
- “With dream lucidity, the practitioner learns to recognize that all around him is a dream, an illusion. He then learns to detach emotionally from the dream, thereby reducing the likelihood of creating more illusory imagery. Though lucid dreaming is viewed as a necessary stage of development in dream yoga, to the Tibetan Buddhists, achieving lucidity in dreams is not the ultimate goal. It is merely a step along path to enlightenment, it is not enlightenment itself.
- “Besides the dream state being like the death bardos, dream yogis claim that the stages of consciousness experienced during the sleep cycle resemble the stages of consciousness experienced when dying. Since we sleep and dream every night, we have the opportunity to learn to consciously observe our sleep cycle and to become more familiar with these stages of consciousness.
- “According to Rob Nairn, author of Living, Dreaming, Dying: ‘We can have a trial run at death every single night when we go to sleep. We can begin training to fall asleep consciously and to dream lucidly. The process of falling asleep parallels the process of dying, while dreams parallel the bardo of death.’“
- From The 5 Weirdest Things That Influence Your Dreams, by S. Peter Davis.
- “If you’ve ever been in the middle of a dream when you suddenly realized you were dreaming and could actually control what happened, you’ve experienced a lucid dream. The ability to get into the driver’s seat of a dream — to battle monsters, or hang out with celebrities, or (most importantly) have sex with anyone you can imagine — is an incredibly popular hobby on the Internet, with whole communities set up to advise each other about how to do it. Well, the answer may be easier than they think: play lots of video games.
- “Video game players report having more lucid dreams than other people, according to a study. The lead researcher, Jayne Gackenbach, has been doing dream research for over a decade and has been able to reproduce the results time and time again — gamers just have a knack for wresting control of their unconscious mind, which is good news for any gamers who find that they’re not getting laid very often in the real world. Or maybe it’s terrible news. You decide.
- “Gackenbach’s hypothesis is simply that video games train the mind to take control of a fantasy situation. So when you are asleep and enter a dream state, your brain immediately thinks ‘Video game!’ and you find yourself able to take control of the dreamscape.
- “That’s not all, though — according to the research, frequent gamers actually have the ability to ward off nightmares. Apparently, the essence of a scary dream is the dreamer’s inability to respond to threatening situations like zombie hordes or disappearing pants. But gamers are able to fight back in their dreams, which lowers the general threat level. Gamers’ nightmares tend to be more violent, but less frightening.”
Creativity and Dreaming
- This excerpt is from Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness, discussions among Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna, and Rupert Sheldrake.
- Ralph Abraham, to Rupert Sheldrake and Terence McKenna: “You seem to agree that the next moment is created out of the present moment through a process involving creativity, imagination, chaos, and a world of possibilities located somewhere.”
- Rupert Sheldrake: “I think creativity seems to involve a process like the welling up or boiling up of new forms in an incredible diversity. New forms are conditioned by memories of what has gone before and by existing habits, but they are new syntheses, new patterns. There could be a kind of unifying process at work such that anything that emerges above the surface of the unconscious or the darkness or the chaos has to take on a kind of wholeness to come above that surface. It has to take on a unified form. But it could be any unified form.
- “One model for this creative process is dreaming. Dreams involve the appearance of stories and symbols and images that we don’t create with our conscious minds. In fact, we usually just forget this whole wonderful display of psychic creativity that happens for each of us nightly. When we remember our dreams, they’re bizarre and unexected. It seems almost impossible to have an expected dream. This curious feature raises the question of where dreams come from. The Jungians would say that they come from structures and processes in the darkness of the collective unconscious. They’d see them not as descending from some higher world but as welling up.
- “The human imagination obviously works through dreams. It works through language, through conversations, through fantasies, through novels, through visions and inspirations, and it is also revealed through psychedelics in a particularly extreme form. In what sense is this imagination that we know from our own experience related to the imaginative creative principle of nature? Is there a kind of Gaian dreaming? For example, is the Earth, Gaia, awake on the side of it that’s in the sunlight? As it rotates, is the side that’s in the darkness dreaming? At night, are plants, animals, and whole ecosystems in some sense in a dream state, when dreams and spontaneous images of what might be possible come to them? What form would a Gaian dream take? Or what form would a Gaian psychedelic experience take?
- “The idea that we tune in through our own imaginations to the Gaian mind seems attractive, and I think it fits quite well with dreams, psychedelic experience, imagination, and so on. The next question for me is this: How is the Gaian imagination related to the imagination of the solar system, and that of the solar system to the imagination of the galaxy, and that of the galaxy to the imagination of the cosmos, and that of the cosmos related to what we could call the imagination of the cosmic attractor, or the Omega Point, or the Cosmic Christ?
- “There’s a cosmic imagination, the imagination of the anima mundi, the soul of the universe. Within this are the imaginations of galaxies, solar systems, planets, ecosystems, societies, individual organisms, organs, tissues, and so on.”
Spiritual Dreaming: A Nightly Death
- According to Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov Bulgarian mystic Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov:
- “When a disciple follows the teaching of a spiritual master, this teaching does not speak solely to the conscious part of his being. Even at night while he is sleeping, the true disciple goes to join his master with his astral body and continues to be instructed by him. He reads the most sacred books in the libraries of the universe and attends the most magnificent ceremonies. Although his mind is not yet prepared to remember such events, he may retain certain impressions which create such a sensation of peace and light in his heart that when he awakens the next morning he wonders: ‘Where was I last night? What I saw was so beautiful!’ “It is important to understand that sleep becomes something sacred when you enter into it with the intention of going off to be instructed in these spiritual schools, for it is there that you receive true initiation.”
- Wayne Dyer writes:
- “Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov has this to say about your preparation for sleep and what transpires while you sleep: ‘It is the experiences of the last minutes before you go to sleep that are more important, more significant, than everything that happened during the day.’
- “He speaks eloquently on the importance of entering the subconscious mind with a purity of spirit because each night we die — and if we don’t know how to prepare for our nightly death, we will be unprepared for our true departure to the other world. ‘Take care, therefore,’ he urges us, ‘never to go to sleep with negative thoughts in your mind, for they will destroy all the good you may have gained during the day.’
- “Your time while asleep, when you leave this house and yet are still attached to it, is to be thought of as a sacred journey that you take daily to connect to the one universal subconscious mind and experience the bewildering wonder of what transpires there.
- “Once again, Aïvanhov tells us: ‘Before going to sleep, you must get ready as though for a sacred pilgrimage … never go to bed with a negative thought in your head, for it will wreak havoc on your subconscious.’“
Dreams and the Afterlife
- Kevin Williams: “There is compelling evidence in dream research that during our dreams our conscious awareness shifts away from our physical consciousness (physical body and conscious awareness) to our subconscious awareness (what religions call ‘our soul’). This is just a fancy way of saying that when we dream, we have an out-of-body experience into a different level of existence or consciousness (called the ‘astral realm’ by out-of-body researchers — or the ‘soul realms’ or ‘heavens’ or ‘bardos’ of the afterlife by religions — or quantum physics might call it is another ‘dimension’ — consciousness researchers call it another level of consciousness).
- “Whatever you call it, our dreams are actual ‘afterlife’ experiences. Many people are not aware of this and pay no attention to their dreams or try to remember them or learn from them. This is unfortunate because we spend roughly one third of our lives asleep and our dreams are a wealth of spiritual information if we can only transfer it from our subconscious mind into our conscious mind. The fact that we spend so much of our lives asleep is one good reason to believe that we are actually spirit beings having a human experience.
- “…My understanding is that there are many different kinds of dreams. Some dreams are heavily symbolic (the language of our soul) and need to be interpreted to be consciously understood — like the Book of Revelation. Some dreams are ways for us to work out current problems in life on a different level. Some dreams are prophetic. Some dreams are just for fun. According to Edgar Cayce, nightmares are mostly the result of your body warning you about a health problem or about dealing with a difficult problem in life. Some dreams are highly sexual and personal and there are reasons for these as well. The point is this: If you want to know what the afterlife is like while on this physical realm, learn more about your dreams. They are more important than the general public is aware of in general. Perhaps this is the problem with this world.
- “I have many web pages on my website with some good information about dreams. I did a complete search on my website and here are the results. Hope they help.”
- “The dreambody is nonlocal and hyperdimensional in that it is not bound or limited by the conventional laws of third-dimensional space and linear-sequential time. Not constrained by the apparent rules of our physical universe, the dreambody can synchronistically express itself both inwardly and/or outwardly, which is to say that the dreambody collapses the presumed boundary between what is happening inside of us and events taking place in the outside world. The dreambody nonlocally gives shape to our world as well as in-forming our experience of it. An instantaneous feedback loop, the dreambody moment by moment in-forms itself based on our reactions to it, mirroring back to us ourselves in ever new ways.”
- “We all take on a dream body every night; how else could we dream of scaling cliff faces, hugging a friend, running from danger? In a lucid dream, where we know that we’re dreaming, we have the chance of fully experiencing the dream body with conscious awareness. It’s quite something. The lucid dream body is lighter and faster than our waking physical body. It has a tendency to float. It can stretch – we can have ‘normal’ length arms one moment, and Mr. Tickle arms the next. The lucid dream body can transform into an animal or bird. It can fly. It can go through walls without getting hurt. It can grow a new limb if one is hacked off in battle. It can turn invisible. The more thought we give to the capabilities of the lucid dream body, the more it seems that we’re dealing with some kind of superhero.
- “Yet beyond all these abilities, the lucid dream body holds deeper lessons. It can teach us about the way that energy flows through our physical body. It can help us to notice the areas of our physical body that might need healing. The lucid dream body can teach us about being bodiless, because we don’t always need a dream body while we’re sleeping. In learning about how it feels to be without a body, we can learn more about what might happen when we die.”</p
Edgar Cayce on Dreams
- This is an excerpt from the book Cayce on Dreams, by Harmon Bro, more at Edgar Cayce on Dreams.
- “During the dreaming state of sleep, we experience the different levels of consciousness and receive input from the different realms of the spirit world. Through dreaming, we have special access to our spirit within. According to the Cayce readings, there is not a question we can ask which cannot be answered from the depths of our inner consciousness when the proper attunement is made.
- “A dream may be of a physical, mental, or spiritual nature and may deal with all manner of psychic manifestations. These include telepathy, clairvoyance, prophetic visions, out of body traveling, remembrance of past lives, communication with beings in other realms including deceased friends and relatives, spirit guides, angels, Christ, and even the voice of God. Dreams can also give invaluable information on the status of the body.
- “All subconscious minds are in contact with one another. Through the subconscious, dreams may place us in attunement with those in the physical realm or those in the spiritual realm. We may be visited in the night by discarnate entities for many reasons: they may seek to give us assurance about their well-being in other realms of existence; they may come seeking our aid through prayer; they may come to bring us information which may be very helpful or limited; or they may come to influence us with their own desires or perspectives, which may be helpful or harmful. For example, there are dream reports of deceased relatives appearing and giving instructions about where to find a will or a lost object.
- “The events we experience in the third-dimension are, as it were, a ‘past condition’ because this dimension is simply a projection or a reflection of what is being built at another higher level. Therefore, when we tune into these higher levels, as we may in dreams, we become aware of what is being built, and what may be projected into the physical in the future. Nothing of importance happens to us that is not foreshadowed in our dreams. Which is not to say that all dreams are precognitive or that the exact detail of everything we experience is given earlier in dreams. However, the word ‘foreshadowed’ suggests that we may glimpse and be warned of what we are building now which may come into manifestation later. We call these dreams ‘precognitive’ or ‘prophetic.'”
- “Astral projection or travel denotes the astral body leaving the physical body to travel in an astral plane. The idea of astral travel is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife in which the consciousness’ or soul’s journey, or ‘ascent,’ is described in such terms as ‘an… out-of-body experience, wherein the spiritual traveller leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or ‘dreambody’, or ‘astral body’) into ‘higher realms’. It is frequently reported in association with dreams, and forms of meditation…. Some [people] have reported perceptions similar to the descriptions of astral projection, induced through various hallucinogenic and hypnotic (including self-hypnotic) means.”
- “The ‘Astral Body’ (to give it the popular occult term) is a sort of psychic or spirit body, which is the body one exists in during the ‘Out of Body Experience’ (OBE) or ‘Astral travelling’. This body can thus separate from the lower bodies and journey to other worlds and realms, taking the consciousness with it. After death and separation from the physical body, the personality continues to exist for a period of time in the astral body.
- “The Astral body corresponds to the Egyptian Ba, which is the principle able to leave the body and the tomb and also return to it at will, and the Tibetan Bardo body. As well as the imaginal world (corresponding to the world of Asiyah according to Hayyim Vital, and the Ishraki Barzakh or ‘Interworld’), the astral body can attain to the more material heavens, but the higher spiritual realms are beyond its reach. For that it is necessary to move to a more subtle ‘vehicle of consciousness’.”
- Lynne Levitan and Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D.: “The worlds we create in dreams and OBEs are as real as this one, and yet hold infinitely more variety. How much more exhilarating to be ‘out-of-body’ in a world where the only limit is the imagination than to be in the physical world in a powerless body of ether! Freed of the constraints imposed by physical life, expanded by awareness that limits can be transcended, who knows what we could be, or become?”
- “Anything you can conceive of comes true. You can take control of your dream and warp The Matrix like Neo. Fly and soar over cities like Iron Man. Slow down time like the dream levels of Inception. Have sex with celebrities. Fight like a ninja. Re-live childhood memories. Base jump. Survive death.
- “But a lucid dream is not merely a fantasy playground. Dream theories suggest it’s a chance to interact with other parts of your psyche (by talking to different dream characters) and even your co-conscious inner self (by talking to the very fabric of the dream). Once you know how to become lucid in dreams, you will discover a strange new world — an entire universe, no less — of which you are fully aware and can manipulate with the power of thought.”
- Vaughan Bell: “Studies led by neuropsychologists Ursula Voss and Martin Dresler have shown that the brain activity during lucid dreaming bears the core features of REM sleep but is distinct from both non-lucid dreaming and the awake state.”
How to Lucid Dream
- In his article, Better Lucid Dreaming Alex Sumner writes:
- “Lucid Dreaming is the art of becoming aware that you are dreaming, whilst dreaming. When you experience this you find your dream-life instantly becomes more exciting. For some it becomes a new resource of creativity; for others, it is the first step on a new path to spiritual unfolding. Others yet again see it as an opportunity for wish-fulfillment: to indulge in epic adventures, exercise Matrix- or Inception-like superpowers or pursue limitless romantic and sexual pleasures.”
- Sumner has some good simple suggestions for becoming a lucid dreamer. His two main points:
- Remember your dreams.
- Learn to control what you dream about.
- Suggested ways to remember your dreams:
- Write down or draw your dreams as soon as you wake up.
- Meditate: “Before lying down in bed, sit upright with your spine erect,” suggests Sumner. “Breathe slowly and evenly, and allow the events of the day to replay before your mind’s eye in reverse, i.e. starting with the present moment and going back in time, as far as you can go. Practice this every night. This leads to not only an improved dream-memory, but also an improved waking memory as well. It also leads to a curious effect: because the hold which the day’s events have on the mind is released during meditation, the dreaming-mind is then free to explore other more exotic realms of memory during the night.”
- Use affirmations. Repeat to yourself 20 times right before sleep: “I can remember my dreams in detail.”
- To learn to control what you dream about, you can use these methods:
- Use affirmations. Sumner says, “By deliberately impressing a suggestion upon your unconscious mind before going to sleep, your unconscious, which is the source of all dreams, responds by shaping the character of your nocturnal visions accordingly.” You can repeat to yourself, “I will dream about [subject] 20 times before bed.
- Have a picture of what you want to dream about. Stare at it a while before going to sleep.
“Leave it propped up on your night-stand.”
- As you’re heading off to sleep, lie in bed and visualize — like a movie in which you’re the main actor — what you would like to dream about. Be sure to experience the emotions.
- Use an orgasm. According to Sumner, “Whereas the preceding methods take advantage of the natural suggestibility of the mind at the point of drifting off into sleep, there is another method of impressing a desire on the unconscious, which is through a sudden burst of spontaneous emotion.” The easiest way, since you’re in bed anyway, is to have an orgasm. “… Before starting, reduce the subject of your dream to a single word, or a single symbol. Do not attempt to think about this before becoming aroused; but concentrate on it only after you have started, so that at the moment of orgasm it dominates your mind completely.”</p
- Sumner says that once you’ve learned how to control your dreams, you can use the same methods to gain more control in the dreams themselves.</p
- More specific information about controlling your lucid dreams can be found on many websites, including World of Lucid Dreaming, which also has a Facebook page.
- “Dream telepathy suggests that human beings have the ability to communicate telepathically with another person while they are dreaming. This isn’t a new concept, scientific interest in telepathy dates back to the fathers of the psychoanalytic movement. Freud, for example, looked at the implications of telepathy on psychoanalytic thought. He also considered dream telepathy, or the telepathic influence of thought on dreaming, on multiple occasions. Carl Jung believed in the telepathic hypothesis without question, and even developed a theoretical system to explain ‘paranormal’ events of this nature….”