An Effort to Understand the Fundamental Pattern of Illusion

Below is an extract from the Introduction to the Phenomenology:

Phenomena of Lucid Dreaming

This investigation focuses on describing and analyzing the phenomena surrounding lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is the practice of consciously recognizing the dream as a dream. In this experience, a certain revolution of the mind is undeniably manifested –it is a clear expression that the dreamer has overturned the regularity of their perception and gained a window into the structure of experience. In this revolution everything is thrown from its comfortable place -the habits that shackle the mind are broken, the transparent prison that previously formed the horizon of all possible experience is shattered, and a new horizon opens beyond its confines. Although lucid dreaming is the clearest expression of this phenomenological revolution, it marks neither the beginning nor the end of it.

Regular dreams appear as independently existent spaces. At the onset of a lucid dream this space transforms and is perceived as a dependently existent space. This means that what once bore the appearance of a world with its own preexisting and impinging logic is revealed as a world that is recursively related with the subject. Even within lucid dreams there is a great variability in the gross manifestation and clarity of phenomena. The ecology of the psyche as a whole, but primarily the placement of awareness within the psyche, determines the lucidity of the dream. When the dream is seen as an independent phenomenon, awareness, control, and consciousness are quite limited. When the dream is understood dependently, awareness, control, and consciousness expand greatly. Therefore, we must think of lucid dreaming as disclosing a truth and ridding us of an illusion. As we continue, we shall find that the distinction between dependent and independent existence is the clearest insight into the nature of illusion in general.

Lucid dreaming is the undeniable and manifest expression of a revolution in one’s perception; meditation plays an integral role in this revolution. The path of meditation is the concerted effort to see beyond not only the provincial illusions of one’s time and place, but to understand the fundamental pattern of illusion. One may set out to practice general meditation as well as lucid dreaming in order to understand the true nature of mind. However, meditation may have a different role for other explorers of the mind. Some people catch irregular and unsolicited glimpses of the mind. Individuals that may not on the surface of things seem destined for such insight. For these people meditation may be a means to stabilize and make familiar what is fleeting and visionary.

Sitting meditation along with lucid dreaming practice has established the means for the gathering of the primary observations of this investigation. There are many forms of specialized meditation, and some are particularly suited for making special types of observations. Lucid dreaming is one type of observational meditation, one in which consciousness is translated into the dream. It is the only practice that allows for the observation and testing of the dream while still within the dream. Other methods of working with dreams rely upon remembering the dream state, and from this memory drawing conclusions. While lucid dreaming may be used in this manner to test theses, it also allows for an immediate evaluation of the structures of consciousness and not merely a proximal one.

Practically, lucid dreaming is the center of this investigation, however it must also be the theoretical center. A simple, and as it so often happens, accidental lucid dream, if reflected upon at length may cast very ominous doubts over our general assumptions concerning the mind. The most important theoretical questions concerning lucid dreaming emerge when it is reflexively applied to waking life. For example, if we are bound by a dream unconsciously, that means that we are trapped within an illusory realm of our own making. This realm bears the character of waking life so well that we mistake it for the real waking world. If this is the case, then how much do we know for certain concerning this waking state? If we know in principle that within the dream our minds are capable of creating a fantasy –a fantasy possessing the sensuousness and clarity of the waking state- then how much of this waking experience may we consider real, and how much might we consider a dream?

Thinking about lucid dreaming quickly leads to dramatic changes in how we see and experience reality. Firstly we will be led to rethink the nature of dreaming, then we will be led into thinking of the waking world as being either partially a dream, or totally a dream. Before long we will begin to wonder what mind actually is. We will wonder at our encasement within it, at its appearance as both mediation that communicates and illusion that obscures. Before long we will have rethought our entire experience and if we endeavor to organize our reinterpretation we may use philosophy to do so.

Phenomenology is the philosophical discipline best suited to exploring the theoretical implications of lucid dreaming. Phenomenology is the study of phenomena. Phenomena are what constitute experience. They are states, objects, thoughts etc. that together create the totality of any given moment.

‘To the things themselves’, is one of the most important maxims of phenomenology. Yet in nearly every phenomenological investigation hitherto this maxim has not been understood deeply enough, and because of this discrepancy the entire edifice of ‘phenomenology’ as it currently stands, should be regarded by us with great suspicion. For ‘phenomenology’ as you the reader encounter it, is anything but ‘the thing in itself’ or ‘things themselves’, it is descriptive, theoretical, more an investigation in articulation than one in actual phenomena.

At the margins of some phenomenological works –hermeneutical jungles and spurious analyses the majority of them- one may intuit a sort of methodology to the madness, a kind of ‘gathering of the phenomenal facts’ that must have occurred beforehand. Yet, phenomenology remains overwhelmingly identified with theory –which is necessarily reading, writing, and thinking – none of which will reveal the true nature of mind nor the true nature of dreams. Phenomenological theorizing deals in appearances: it makes deductions from them, it finds the best way to represent them abstractly, it attempts to uncover their structure. Here we have a trafficking in ephemera –appearances and representations of appearances. In meditation, superfluous mental representations are quieted, and whether or not it is possible to peer over that impassable gulf of the horizon of human experience, meditation at least promises to bring one to that antipodal place. Meditation then, holds faster to the phenomenological maxim: ‘to the things themselves’ than phenomenology itself.

A true phenomenological investigation must include what has hitherto been called phenomenology as well as meditation. True phenomenological investigation brings these two together and in so doing cures the many problems of each in isolation. Meditation reveals phenomena, but it does not speak of them, and empty theorizing does nothing but fill shelves in libraries. -To be phenomenologists we must first be meditators!

Primary observation of the mind must be our first end, and theory, a secondary option useful only if one feels the need for careful articulation. In this way, phenomenology truly begins in experience and in methods to experience. Starting thusly, we may put that conspicuous absence of ‘a phenomenology of phenomenology’ to rest.

We must remember that herein one will only find words, both descriptive and analytic. The meditation and lucid dreaming that furnished the primary material for this work has already occurred -even true phenomenology can only be partially represented.

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