Vehicle to the Absolute Horizon of Experience

Below is another extract from the introduction to the Phenomenology:

Questions important to this investigation.

During the process of exploring lucid dreaming and meditation seeking answers to some simple questions may serve at the outset as an impetus to practice; as one progresses, more difficult questions will appear on the horizon. Here we will set down some of the most important of these types of questions; questions which range from the simple ‘how to’ of lucid dreaming, to questions on how lucid dreaming may reveal the true nature of mind. Some of these are practical, some theoretical, and some more difficult to categorize. On the path of meditation some questions begin to define our seeking, they function like mantras, they are posed not in order to be answered, but because even to successfully pose the question our perception must radically shift. All of these questions should be held in the mind as one reads further; perhaps they may exert an orienting influence for the reader as they do for the seeker.

1║     The first question –and one we have already answered- “what is lucid dreaming?” most succinctly the answer is: ‘lucid dreaming is any dream in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that he or she is dreaming while he or she is still within the dream’. A rather simple definition but only the first step in fleshing out one of the most ephemeral, yet trainable, mystical states of consciousness. Moving on from this basic definition we can further differentiate lucid dreams along both 1) the levels of conscious direction of dream phenomena within the dream, and 2) the degree of awareness gained over the structure of the dream. Progress in lucid dreaming, no matter the end of the practitioner, is best defined by the second point -the degree of awareness that one gains over the dream’s structure. It is the intensity and clarity of this awareness that determines the levels of conscious direction that are possible; but, conscious direction does not necessarily follow from increased awareness.

Before going too far in this direction, for we have reserved space in another part of the phenomenology for that purpose, we will introduce a few more questions of a simple nature –questions that we may hazard answers to right away –and then we will ponder some more difficult questions.

2║ The second question: “Why lucid dream?” For the novitiate answering this question may be rather difficult, but with time and practice in lucid dreaming the difficulty becomes how to give a succinct response.

Though there be many answers, at the forefront of my philosophical reasons is the fact that philosophy must begin with studying the mind, and the dream is a state in which the mind is manifest all around one. Not only is the mind manifest in the dream, it constitutes all manifestation. The places, people, and things of the dream as well as the subjective experience and reflections of the dreamer are all products of mind. Lucid dreaming is the recognition of these dream phenomena as the products of mind, and the exploration of the structure and subtleties of experience in this state. Furthermore, the lucid exploration of the dream offers lessons regarding the mind applicable outside dreaming –lessons that would be hard to learn elsewhere.

My foremost regularly unarticulated and spiritual response: ‘I lucid dream for the unmitigated sense of adventure and deep sense of mysteriousness that it opens up’. The mind overcoming its own adamantine illusions and scouring away the most perplexing self-inflicted absurdities is a joy and mystery that cannot adequately be told.

3║ The third question must be: “How do you lucid dream?” Although there are definite answers to this question I cannot begin to sketch out a complete picture here. I can however say ‘through practice’ and furthermore ‘through specific meditative practices’ each of which train one or another facet of realizing a lucid dream.

4║ The fourth question, and one that is the foundation of the theoretical analysis of lucid dreaming: “How is it that the lucid dream inception meditations of the waking day cause a lucid dream?” This is a question that essentially asks, “what is the medium that is shared by both the waking and dreaming state, but is also capable of serving as an impressionable medium that will carry the ‘effects’ of meditation?” the answer to this question is the understanding. It is not the translattion of an idea nor the translation of a habit, but a reconfiguration in the very representing faculty that is translated from waking to dreaming. This could also be termed ‘a change in the ecology of the psyche’. This answer of ours necessitates a revision of the predominant psychological thesis concerning dreaming. The dream is not a translation of thought, it is a translation of the understanding in its entirety.

So far we’ve pondered questions with rather definite answers ones that will be extrapolated in the pages to come. There are more questions to consider, questions that we may explore time and time again arriving with each questioning only at tentative explanations.

5║ How does lucid dreaming disclose the nature of the modes of consciousness? Since consciousness of the dream is the definitive characteristic of lucid dreaming, and since the measure of a lucid dream’s lucidity is made according to the degree to which consciousness is attained, we have already  overturned the notion of sleep as a necessarily unconscious activity and opened it up to varying degrees of consciousness. Since the degree of consciousness attained in the lucid dream is dependent upon the changes effectuated in the understanding through meditation, the unaffected waking understanding must in some important respects be seen as ‘unconscious’ and the mind of meditation as ‘conscious’.

6║ What does lucid dreaming disclose concerning the true nature of thought? Lucid dreaming is effected via a change in the psychic ecology. This change is caused by meditation, which yokes the representing faculty of mind to awareness such that thoughts may be directed or dissolved. Therefore, in lucid dreaming practice the place and role of thought in the understanding and its place in the translation of the understanding into the dream is changed. We may also consider how our habits of thought and representation are effected by social and material forces –how our perception is routinized. This routinization does indeed become a feature of the understanding, it is translated into the dream, and serves as a mediation between the many elements of the psyche.

7║ What are the implications of the void? We may consider this question alongside the two aforementioned themes: the modes of consciousness, and the true nature of thought. Characteristic of the void state is the absence of manifest conceptual, dream, or physical sensation. Dark, spatially undefined, lacking all temporality, the void is a state in which psychic energy abides in its raw undefined condition –in efference.

Paradoxically, a state so radically devoid of phenomena proves to be a wellspring of hard questions and dizzying necessities. In the practice of Sleep Yoga one abides consciously within the void state. This practice proves that the persistence of conscious awareness into the deep sleep cycle (the apparent correlate to the phenomenological void) is possible. The practice suggests that the maintenance of consciousness throughout the entire sleep cycle is possible. It seems that the translation of consciousness from waking, through the dream, to deep sleep, and to waking again is possible. The void state itself demands the unimaginable: that consciousness is not dependent upon an object nor intentionality, and that the self is not the fundamental source of identity.

Observation of the void state in transition provides some of the most striking and fruitful material for analysis. It seems that the void state is a sort of base from which dreams arise and into which they dissolve. This mirrors the state of clarity and quiescence aimed for in waking formless meditation. When abiding in the quiescent mind thoughts may be witnessed arising and dissolving into it. It would be more analytically correct to say that in this meditative state it is not merely thoughts that arise and dissolve but the entire understanding itself. In Division 2 I will argue that the habituation of the understanding of the waking state, meditative or otherwise, is the key causal mechanism in the appearance of the dream (i.e. lucid or non-lucid) . Thusly, the question of how thoughts, the understanding, and dreams mirror one another in their intersection with the void is an essential one.

8║“What are the implications of the hypnogogic state?” Many people may identify the hypnogogic state as an intermediary state between waking and dreaming, but this is not always the case –oftentimes the hypnogogic state will lead directly into the void state, or even back to waking. Nevertheless, this mistakenly simplified definition does convey the readily apparent nature of the hypnogogic state –the perplexing blend of both manifest mental formations and manifest physical sensations.

Observing hypnogogia will help us in solving the more difficult problems that dreaming presents. For instance, to tackle the question of how thoughts and the understanding are translated into dream i.e. how thoughts become reified –that is, how they manifest into sensuous objects with apparent independent existence- one can look to hypnogogia and witness the actual process occurring. ‘How is identity misplaced in a dreaming subject, or various objects, and how does it move around during a dream series?’ This question can also begin to be grasped by looking at that peculiar state between waking and sleep where one may have alien identities and bizarre actions ascribed to oneself, or possess multiple identities and be in multiple fragmented locations –split between physical sensation and reified mental sensation simultaneously. Another curiosity of the dream that hypnogogia can provide insight into is closely akin to the sense of identity –the spatial sense. In the hypnogogic state we may witness multiple, fragmentary, and sometimes contradictory thought-forms become manifest together creating a spatial sense that eventually, along with the various manifest thought-forms, cohere into a single dreamscape –this may be termed the dawning of the dreaming understanding or oneirogenesis.

9║ To finish off this section, we will ponder some of the more intractable questions posed by our endeavor. “What is the dreamlike nature of reality?”The lucid dream requires an entire re-articulation of what we think to be the essential nature of the dream: unconsciousness. Such dreams require us to find a different essential nature and to attempt an understanding at just how mutable the dream actually is.

Just as the dream mirrors waking life, and is composed of a series of direct translations from waking life, an alteration in its expression so radical to change its apparent essential nature must also be traceable back to that state that serves as its wellspring. A state about which we have just as many misconceived notions: the waking state.

It is the quality of waking life, the ambiance and pace of that state that, in its regular translation into dream, does most to prevent the dreamer from recognizing that he is in a different state of consciousness. However, the connections between these two states do not flow one way only –we may be surprised how often, and in subtle ways, we experience the waking world as if we are in a dream. As much as lucid dreaming is the practice of recognizing ‘dreamlike’ qualities while in the dream and counterposing them to the wakeful qualities, it is just as much the practice of recognizing the dreamlike nature of waking life and meditating on this nature such that one would attain recognition of the dream if one were in fact dreaming. Ferreting out this dreamlike nature, in both states is in fact calling forth illusion and the illusory aspect of experience, and in so doing mitigating their capacity for capturing attention. We may put this process in so many simple terms but the actual practice of staring into a fully encompassing net of illusion, beyond which it is anyone’s guess what resides, is quite harrowing.

Questioning the dreamlike nature of reality at first glance seems to be questioning the dreamlike nature of waking life –true this is one of the most compelling and altogether startling questions– but it must also lead into deliberation over the wakeful quality of the dream and what exactly we mean by ‘dreamlike’. Perhaps given the dreamlike and wakeful qualities of both waking and dreaming we would be better to pose the question anew in terms of illusion.

10║“What is the true nature of illusion?” In the case at hand it seems that both the waking and sleeping worlds are laden in a heaviness, an obscurity, a senselessness in form, and a carnivalesque hyperactivity; in short, they are laden in dream; in other words illusion. Non-lucid dreaming and its correspondent in waking life are the results of misunderstanding the true nature of this illusion, of seeing the illusory as real.

Do I then propose to have access to the real? -a removed and holy land, a barren room behind the stage? I’d just as soon posit reality as the quintessential illusion. The thingification of phenomena, the endless delimitation of a perennial fluidity is illusion. Lucidity is a particular phenomenal standpoint from which one may witness this flow, this play –it allows the true nature of mind to announce itself in unity.

11║What is the true nature of mind? What does it mean when one gains consciousness of representation? When one can recognize the manifestations of thought during the waking day and silence them such that a barren yet sensuously felt world remains? -is one not entering the real? Or, more radically, when one recognizes the myriad forms of dreams, maintains sleep and enters the void, has one not encountered the real? –a base state that is contains neither physical nor mental form? In the case of the waking condition mentioned, has one stepped beyond the confines of the understanding? –has one ceased all mental representation such that one has stepped beyond the horizons of human conditionality? Or is physical sensation part of the understanding still? In the case of the void state, has one transcended contingency and crossed over that yawning gap of the human?

-We are forced to consider the true nature of mind in response to all of these questions… May we have experience or knowledge outside of a representation or mediation? –Perhaps meditation and antipodal states are not transcendent, but merely vehicles that take us to the absolute horizons of human experience…

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