Dreaming

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Awareness, Concepts, Lessons, The Second Attention 1 comment

The type of “dreaming” outlined in Castaneda’s teachings, is a step beyond what we normally view as “dreams”. It overlaps with a phenomena often referred to as “lucid dreaming”, where the dreamer is conscious of his dreaming, and learns to take control of the content and direction of dreams. It is akin to “waking up” in dreams, and learning to command your attention in dreams, rather than having the dream proceed in a random, unorganized fashion.

Dreaming was one of the maneuvers invented by the sorcerers of ancient times, and although the techniques were taught to modern sorcerers, it was cautioned against because of its inherent dangers. Dreaming opened up a myriad of unworldly possibilities in terms of visiting the realm of “inorganic beings”, but there was the danger of entrapment there, along with the enticing possibilities of extending human life far beyond its normal duration, by choosing to stay in those realms.

Don Juan’s party of warriors were not given to indulge in the dangers of these potential realms. Carlos had a proclivity of visiting the realm of the inorganic beings and tapping into their wisdom and experience, but it had a cost attached to it.

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  1. February, 2020, Denman Island

    I loved Castaneda’s books at about twenty years-old. In fact it seems like meaningful coincidence, now, that I was reminiscing about them and him with someone at our local ‘Free Store’ used book department, just last Saturn’s Day. Let me tell you a story:

    At about twenty-two I was given a paperback titled, I think, “Lucid Dreaming.” I read it for another reason than to learn how to do this; rather, I needed to find a way to sleep less without getting run down, and I’d read somewhere that half the standard eight-hour daily period of sleep was devoted to relaxing about 35 great groups of muscles (that is, changing positions about the same number of times), but that the equivalent mental rest requirement one gets by dreaming is only a few minutes long—or less— leaving, it seemed to me then, almost four hours of unnecessary sleep. Thus, lucid dreaming was coincidental and I did stop exercising it once I’d achieved the shorter-night sleep I was after. Like a muscle, the capacity to dream lucidly atrophies by lack of use, and so it did with me—except, over forty years later, I do retain some basic lucid-dreaming abilities. More than that, it has given me insights I mightn’t have gotten otherwise, and which continue to permutate profitably to my studies.

    Dreams naturally figure narratologically in my studies of the past few years (and relate, naturally, to the above abstract): one knows oneself and one’s circumstance in the cosmos best by knowing observed behaviours and one’s own cognitive habits—to be objectively circumspect even of one’s own physical self which, as most dreamers have experienced, is recognizable as seeing one’s physical body from a distance in the dream world, usually passively from outside oneself. Lucid dreaming rather enables one to become an active agent in the dream world, in this case to become disembodied or re-embodied at will, and generally to control what one does interactively in the dream world in terms of courageousness, acquiring special, particular knowledge, completing a journey, retrieving some thing, and so forth.

    My ultimate goal was to do more with less sleep by encouraging intense REM dreaming each morning for about 15 minutes (when ‘snooze-cruise’ alarm clocks had just been invented—pre-LED display, even): the goal was achieved almost immediately and I’ve lived for almost forty years on an average of four hours of sleep daily (admittedly with the odd ‘coma’ every fortnight or so—but, remember, sleep is not cumulative and these long sleeps, typically twelve hours one night out of a dozen nights or more, probably resulted from my younger propensity to overwork—especially after learning this dreaming technique).

    Briefly, the learning steps prescribed in the book were essentially work from easy to more difficult stages of lucid dreaming. Thus, the first is the simplest step—and one form which no further steps can be made unless it is mastered—is to realize, first, that one is in a dream; the technique suggested is to simply look at one’s hands (this could also be a second phase after simply realizing in one’s mind that he or she is in a dream state); in most dream situations one’s hands attached to the dream body—that is, they’re always available to look at if one practices doing it. The next step is to do something with these lucidly recognized hands, and that is to clap them together, presumably waking-world muscle-memory making this task a little easier to learn. The next step is to interact with something outside of one’s body in the dream state —like grabbing a door handle, say. Each step, even after mastering all of them, gets easier to accomplish: realizing the dream world lucidly happens faster and in a greater variety of situations with more practice; similarly, feeling one’s own ‘physical’ or dream-body strength and capacity becomes easier and quicker; interacting with other things or characters in the dream world becomes almost spontaneously decisive—and this, I found, was the most difficult stage, not in arriving at it, but in terms of defeating one’s compulsiveness—learning to be more reflective, circumspect and wise before acting.

    It all seemed a good introduction to Carl Jung and other investigators of the sapiens mind and, while this was of only side (and waking-world) interest to me at the time, it was abiding enough to resume studying it in another , related context, that of narratology, the study or science of stories and storytelling which is of most recent interest to me in the semi-dream world of retirement from work. In this context, dreams, I think, reveal or illustrate that Narrative —‘Big-N,’ all aspects of all stories—is an important, perhaps the most important, cognitive device we sapiens avail. Dream imagery appears to be sorted into codified and codexed categories or vignettes, these units, be they atomic or molecular compounds, are drawn mostly from ordinary, recent, waking experiences, but also include images from a story one might have read, heard or only heard about and to some unclear extent recycled or ‘redacted’ dream images of one’s own.

    The cognitive importance of dreaming is to sort and file daily experiences into categories of imagery or thoughts in order to filter out excessive information perceived through the waking day, to heuristically make available these unit-like pieces of logic and cogency that result—to rest the mind, relieve it of its burden of too-much-info just like one’s muscles need to rest from the daily chore of physical activity. Once this is done, the new dream images are added to one’s dream “codex,” perhaps under a new heading, where they become available to cognition in general, waking or sleeping. .

    The self-awareness of which Castaneda wrote enhances one’s own behaviour and makes one’s experiences of self-awareness-therefore available as wisdom to roll forward in one’s own life, in achieving one’s own goals, and/or in contributing and to one’s community and intercourse. Indeed, this fount of allegory, analogy and metaphor has been availed by all sapiens societies we know of as the art and vocation of dream interpretation which more-or-less-accurate histories record; and our growing recognition and acknowledgment of ‘oral histories’ seems to further confirm what we all would accept as true from personal anecdote: dreams, like narratives, have meaning, but being so preliminarily filtered and instantly available, require still more sortition and interpretation to yield meaning, usually carried out by initiates who’ve developed their innate capacity to do so by organizing archetypical symbols and time-tested nostrums—much like the I Ching, Ifa, astrological and other auguries or divination systems upon which decisions small and big —some historically significant—have been based.

    It has often been theorized that early humans (the usual but not well-founded context excludes all but Homo sapiens , and often only the post Cro-Magnon cut-off point of sapiens existence—the past 35-thousand years, or so) developed myths and religions out of fear and puzzlement about things seen in dreams. Anybody who’s ever had a dog or cat, or been close to any sleeping mammals, knows that they also dream, but given we can’t understand what these dreams mean to them—and we habitually append, “if anything”—it’s not implausible that dreams amazed or troubled even the humans of very ‘deep history,’ —perhaps two-million years ago—not only sapiens whose creation stories rather diminish or deny human cognition previous to us.

    It remains that dreams are integral to narratology, and this field partly concerns itself with origin—scientifically as well as mythologically, gnostically, or magically —of the Sapiens Narrative (again, usually truncated to sapiens, exclusively and, really, without much warrant). Further it asks if such a topic may be studied in the singular, “Human Narrative”—that is, as if anything like that could exist—and, thence, to whether a first story might have tempered all subsequent ones with indelible, or at least extremely durable prejudices which might be seen today in many religions, especially when contrasted and contradictory with other commonly held beliefs, for example, the teaching of the Biblical Creation Story and conventional science (Big Bang) to high school students in a number of American States today as if both explanations are equally valid, despite the easy refutation of the Genesis myth. Of course it also remains a question as to whether such a thing as a first story could possibly exist: aren’t human traits genetically evolved over very long periods of time? Where and how would one demarcate the point where story begins?

    If there’s such a thing as a first story, then we might conjure something of it out of deep history —which technologies such as CRISPR genetic manipulation and its new capability of genetically reading the DNA of archaic human remains, including sapiens, have significantly plumbed —then Dreams (Big-D, all aspects of dreaming, dreams and dreamers) might have corroborative revelatory value, as well. Certainly Jung implies as much, yet the essential collectiveness of his theoretical social unconscious does allow for this synecology to obscure and possibly erode narrametric evidence of very archaic human provenance, if indeed it could have possibly been passed on in a continuous, custodial way, no matter how long. We do know, however, that narrative and dreams are features at the very horizons of deep history and, if anything is likely to fall or suffer major adjustment upon further discovery, we also know that sapiens intuition, narrative cognition and imagination have bested science before—indeed, continues to do so as science itself expands those frontiers of knowledge. As Hugh Brody’s “Maps and Dreams” showed, other world views may co-exist just like the long dismissed —but since confirmed by science—idea that different species of humans also co-existed for long periods of time—as DNA analysis of well preserved human remains at Denisova Caves proved in 2006.

    As I study these things in my retirement years, my doctor advises that I don’t get enough sleep, and I must admit that, although I’ve been practicing, I now get something more like five and a half hours of sleep per day; but he wants seven or eight. That initial lucid-dream conditioning of decades ago has endured in terms of hours-of-sleep all the while — and I’ve found it a bugger to reverse: it’s like unknowing something, a task that will need, I suspect, a more Taoistic approach than I’m accustomed to. Despite that, I continue to think about narratology and, necessarily, dreaming to explain sapiens history, current behaviour, and possible amendment for the good— here at the beginning of the “Sixth Extinction.”

    Good luck and keep up the good work,

    Geoffrey Donaldson, Denman Island, British Columbia

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