There are, and always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself.
~C. G. Jung
Spiritual teachers of every tradition have taught exactly the same thing- that this life of ours is a like a dream. The great teacher Paramahansa Yogananda even goes so far so as to point out that the purpose of our dreams at night is to awaken us to the dream-like nature of the universe. Our dreams at night, in other words, are re-presenting and revealing to us that the nature of our waking life is the stuff of which dreams are made.
Quantum physics itself is pointing out that this seemingly objective universe of ours is more like a dream than we have previously imagined. Upon further inspection, to quote noted physicist, mathematician and astronomer James Jeans, “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.” Quantum physics points out in the Observer Effect that, just like in a dream, in the act of observing we affect and actually evoke the very universe that we are observing.
Being like a dream, we have much more power to creatively give shape and form to our waking reality than is generally realized. The discoveries of the new physics point to the hitherto-unsuspected powers of the mind to mold seemingly external reality rather than the other way around. This God-given power of how we co-create reality with this universe of ours is being shown to us night after night in our night dreams.
I had a dream a number of years ago that revealed this to me. In the first part of the dream I didn’t know that I was in fact dreaming, which is to say that it was just a ‘normal’ dream like many of us have on most nights. By not realizing I was dreaming, I was walking around in the dream and was experiencing the dreamscape as if it objectively existed ‘out there,’ separate from myself. I was experiencing the dream-universe as quite real and solid, which I could prove by, for example, pinching myself and it would hurt. I felt awake and fully conscious- never suspecting that in actuality, I was dreaming. My experience in the dream was very similar, I might add, to how many of us experience the seemingly mundane, ‘real’ waking world.
All of a sudden, the dream somehow reminded me that I WAS dreaming. I became lucid and excitedly began flying through the air in meditation posture. I spontaneously began chanting the mantra OM MANI PEME HUM. Or, to be more accurate, it was like the mantra was chanting itself through ME! I wasn’t feeling afraid at all, but felt victorious, as if I had vanquished an adversary.
OM MANI PEME HUM is the mantra of compassion, which is to say it is the embodiment, in the form of sound, of the quality of compassion. Buddhism points out that awakening to the dream-like nature is always expressed by the conjunction of two factors: emptiness and compassion (OM MANI PEME HUM). Emptiness refers to the realization that this dream-like universe of ours does not intrinsically exist independent of our own consciousness. Realizing emptiness is to become lucid in the dream. In other words, the energetic expression of the experience of becoming lucid in a dream is compassion.
In the dream, as I was flying through the air and chanting, I was overwhelmed with love and compassion for my fellow dream characters, whom I recognized as being parts of myself. It was a truly ecstatic experience in which I felt free. It felt like I was an open vessel and the bliss of the universe was flowing through me. I felt like something deep inside of me was truly healing.
And then, I saw a tree. “Uh-oh,” I thought and began making a bee-line right to the tree, like it was magnetically pulling me towards it. Unlike everything else in the dream, the tree seemed totally real and solid, and it seemed like it was going to abort my magical journey through the sky. As I came to it, I wrapped myself around its seemingly very real trunk and woke up.
When I first woke up, I thought “too bad that tree was there, it stopped my lucid dream.” As I’ve contemplated this dream over the years, though, I have come to realize the gift that the tree was revealing to me. The tree was showing me a process that was going on deep inside of my psyche- it was as if the tree was the instantaneous materialization of my own unconscious, fear-based thought-form of limitation.
While this experience with the tree was happening and I was falling back under the spell of the dream, I was experiencing fear because of something other than myself ‘out there’ (the tree). I was feeling like the tree was the problem. The dream was reflecting back my inner state by instantaneously supplying all the evidence I needed, in the form of the tree, to justify my experience of fear, limitation and victimization. In the dream, the seemingly outer tree was my inner state giving shape and form to itself.
Over time I’ve begun to realize that the appearance of the tree in my dream was exactly the opposite of the problem that I first thought it was. My perception of the tree has gone from “if only it hadn’t been there” to a feeling of gratitude and appreciation for it being in my dream. The tree was revealing to me, in fully objectified form, my own unconscious fear with which I stop myself.
To quote Jung, “Everything unconscious, once it was activated, was projected into matter- that is to say, it approached people from outside.” When the unconscious is ready to be metabolized it gets projected outside of ourselves, which is to say that it gets dreamed up into materialization, be it in our night dreams or waking dream. The fact that in the dream my own inner process of limiting myself was getting projected outside of myself so as to become visible was an expression that this unconscious part of myself was in the process of being consciously integrated. I simply had to recognize what was being revealed to me to make it so.
This is analogous to our situation in waking life, too. Events that seem to obstruct us are actually a revelation of something deeper, and are hence, a disguised or hidden form of blessing. Interestingly, one of the inner meanings of the word ‘Satan,’ is that which obstructs. We are living in a time where the darker, obstructing powers are revealing themselves to us and are becoming visible for all who have eyes to see. The emergence of these darker, obstructing forces is an expression that they are available for conscious assimilation in a way that they had not been previously.
Jung openly wonders whether, “……in this very power of evil God might not have placed some special purpose which it is most important for us to know.” Jung realized that in the manifestation of the dark side was the potential revelation of a higher good, as the emergence of the darker powers could potentiate an expansion in and of consciousness itself. Whether the darker, obstructing forces are on the personal level, or are manifesting as global events that seem to be getting in the way of the highest unfoldment of our species, these obstacles are simultaneously revealing something to us. How these obstructing forces actually manifest depends on whether or not we recognize what is being revealed.
Just like in my dream, things that seem to be obstructing our journey through life are actually getting dreamed up, so to speak, to reveal our own unconscious propensity to limit ourselves SO THAT we can shed light on this unconscious part of ourselves and thereby stop limiting ourselves. Secretly encoded into the fabric of the obstacle itself, whatever form it takes, is the key to its resolution and integration. The obstacle itself is, in disguised form, the very catalyst we need to transcend the obstacle, which is to say that it is initiatory.
If I continue to think about the tree in my dream as something that was an obstacle that got in the way of my lucidity, then, as if a self-fulfilling prophecy, that is exactly how it will manifest in this very moment. And yet, if I recognize that the tree was an expression of my lucidity, as it was waking me up to something asleep inside of myself, then in this very moment that is how it will manifest. To quote the great teacher PadmaSambhava, “As a thing is viewed, so it appears.” To talk about the objective nature of the tree makes no sense whatsoever, for the nature of the tree is not separate from my experience of it in this very moment. And how I experience the tree depends on how, out of the field of open-ended, unmanifest potential, I ‘dream it up’ in this very moment.
This is a ‘dreamed-up’ universe, and it is manifesting in such a limited and problematic way because this is the way most of us have been conditioned, based on fear, to dream it. Fear itself is nothing other than the expression of the separate self. The separate self feels itself disconnected and alien from others as well as the universe as a whole, which it experiences as unsafe, and hence, feels afraid. If we identify with the separate self, by definition there is an ‘other’ who we relate to through fear.
If we have fear in a dream, the dream will just reflect back our fear and manifest in a fear-full way, giving us all the evidence and justification we need for why we should be afraid in a never-ending and self-generating feedback loop which has no “exit strategy.” If enough people are coming from fear, collectively we will dream up a living nightmare, as we will create or dream up the very thing we are afraid of in a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is nothing other than the repetition compulsion of the traumatized soul being unconsciously and collectively acted out on the world stage, as we create the very thing we are fighting against, and dream up the very thing we don’t want to happen.
We are a species gone mad. And yet, secretly encoded within the compulsion to ritually re-create our trauma is the key to its resolution. To say it differently, we, as a species are destroying ourselves as a way of learning how not to destroy ourselves. We certainly haven’t learned any other way, or we wouldn’t be destroying ourselves. What is crucial is whether or not we recognize what is being revealed to us as we act out our unconscious in a self-destructive way.
How are we going to dream up what is playing out in our waking dream? Will we, as a species, destroy ourselves? Or, will we wake ourselves up? Is light a wave or a particle? The answer, of course, depends on how we are observing. Recognizing what is being revealed to us invokes the universe to reflect back this realization, which is to say that it is through the agency of our consciousness that we can literally transform the world.
This dream-like universe of ours is truly a work in progress that we are all moment by moment collaboratively dreaming up into materialization together. How this universe of ours manifests is dependent upon enough of us recognizing what is being revealed. We can then get into phase with each other and put our collective realization together so as to lucidly dream a much more grace-filled universe into incarnation. This is literally within our God-given power. We are the engines, the dynamos so to speak, through which the universe is evolving. Imagine that!
From one point of view, that tree in my dream aborted an incredible lucid dream. From another perspective, however, that tree showed me that the only limitation is nothing other than our own lack of imagination.
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis,which is available on his website www.awakeninthedream.com. (See the first chapter, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis). Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2010