We are continuing our course on the science of dreams, the experiential knowledge of awakening consciousness. We talked previously about some common ideas surrounding what people have called astral projection, out-of-body experiences, lucid dreams, awakening, near-death experiences, and we are going to dive very deeply into many practices so that we can augment our perception.
Our consciousness has the capacity, when trained, to be awake even when the physical body is asleep. Even when dreaming during the eight hours we go to bed, we are in an intensified state of awareness. We do not enter into a type of amnesia, unconsciousness, sleep, dullness, but learn to instead verify what religions have called heaven. When one has that experience for oneself, one knows. It is not a matter of belief, of thinking a tradition or institution is true or not. It is rather about testing these realities for ourselves. When we verify what these states are like from experience, we have what is called genuine faith, real knowledge, real understanding.
Theories Regarding Dreams
But what are dreams and visions specifically?
In psychology, Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are the doorway to the unconscious and that by looking at our dreams we can understand ourselves.
He talked about what is known as manifest and latent content within dreams. The manifest content of a dream is its narrative. We can all think of a dream that we had in which there was a form of logic, a storyline, a progression of scenes, dramas, comedies, tragedies within our own consciousness.
The latent content of a dream has to do with its meaning, and this is something that has deeply interested many people, psychologists. The latent content of a dream, according to Freud, could signify how that dream represents something physical. For example, we could have a dream of being assaulted by an animal. We are filled with fear, terror, resentment, agony, and if we carefully examine our life, we can find that these psychological states that we find in dreams reflect something that is going on in our personal life. Perhaps we have a relationship with someone in which we feel that fear, like we are being hunted, persecuted, shamed, and therefore, the animal in the dream could represent how we react to a particular person in our physical existence.
Or perhaps someone has a dream of a serpent, being bitten and attacked by a snake. Obviously, that symbol is prominent in many religions for a good reason, because the language of different religious traditions and mythologies is oneiric. It is dreamlike. It is from the world of dreams.
Carl Jung emphasized how the symbols of dreams are the foundation of all religion because all religious traditions teach symbols, allegories, parables, stories that are processed and have been manifested through dreams, through that language, a type of logic.
Having a dream about a serpent obviously can be something about temptation in one's physical life. We are very familiar with the Genesiatic story of the Bible.
Now other people have posited different ideas about dreams. John Hobson basically described through neuroscience that dreams are a form of protoconsciousness. They are a virtual reality, according to this theory, that helps us to navigate the problems of daily life.
Some have posited different theories, different ideas, like the threat-simulation theory. People have argued that dreams are engrained in our biology from an evolutionary perspective, in that dreams were developed within the consciousness in people, growing humanity, evolving humanity, in which people were trained to confront their fears in dreams. That is one possibility that is described by scientists.
There are other theories too: expectation-fulfillment theory, basically referring to how dreams release built-up tension. Someone can experience emotion in a dream that is a form of release because those desires in daily life can be repressed. That is very known within psychoanalysis and Freudian psychology. This also explains, according to some scientists, how when those types of dreams are fulfilled, they are forgotten, because the energy related to that emotion is released. That is one perspective.
There are many theories about dreams, many beliefs, and they all offer some type of perspective in relation to why this occurs. In our Gnostic tradition, we have very different approaches to the study of dreams, not just merely limited to a biological component or the study of the brain, such as in NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement), or REM sleep in which we dream. Those are valuable in their level, but they have a very limited utility. Merely looking at the biology of a person when approaching dreams, this often delimits or cuts off any type of mystical, experiential, divine component.
Now Carl Jung was very interesting because he risked his reputation by declaring the spirituality of dreams, often to the denigration of his colleagues. So much of the knowledge that he taught was very ciphered because the type of wisdom he was expressing about how to experience dreams and how to understand them is often very much misunderstood or condemned.
Now what is interesting about Carl Jung's theories about dreams is that he talked about what is known as a collective unconscious. He believed that humanity inherits, through lineages, biology, and ancestry, different religious symbols. That would explain, according to this idea, why different religions across the world, different cultures, shared the same symbols or what he called archetypes.
Archetypes are basically parables. They are codes. They are an intuitive, spiritual, and divine grammar. A symbol can carry multiple dimensions and levels of meaning, which is why dreams are so powerful. They do not merely just communicate on the level of a type of logical analysis of our common current everyday intellect, but instead, they reveal a type of logic that is beyond our current level of cognition. It is something that has to be developed and practiced with in order to deepen, in order to be worked with and effective.
Carl Jung and Freud had very different opinions about dreams. They came into many conflicts and it would seem that the collective unconsciousness of Carl Jung would contradict Freud's interpretation that dreams are merely just a personal expression of your own daily life. So there was that apparent contradiction between theories according to scientists.
Now what is interesting is that despite this difference, they are both revealing different aspects of a very nuanced problem. Dreams are often a reflection of our daily life, our habits, our actions, our drives, our impulses, our desires. But also according to Jung, there is something spiritual that can be experienced within that state. It does not mean that our desires, conditions of mind, mental projections, fears, anxieties, and worries that manifest in dreams are somehow sacred. In fact, there is a duality within our perception that we study very deeply in this tradition.
There is a conditioned self: pride, fear, anger, lust, envy, jealousy, hatred. There is also a part of us that is not conditioned by any element of that nature. It is spontaneous joy, freedom from pain, compassion. We call that the soul, or in our tradition, consciousness, the Essence of a person, their true nature. It is this Essence that we seek to develop because the Essence, the soul, which right now is in a very undeveloped, latent state, can be awakened. It can be free of all types of distractions of mind: paranoia, hatred, wrath, vanity, defects. It is that part of us that is not conditioned. It has the capacity, as we said previously, to communicate with divinity, our own inner truth, reality, what religions have called God in their original essence.
But the problem is that our consciousness is very much trapped and limited. So, often for most people, our dreams seem to be just a personal reflection of our daily life. We feel fear. We are worried about our jobs. We are insecure. We are proud. We are hateful, whatever it may be, whatever our particular idiosyncrasy, psychological crutch, or limp that manifests within dreams. But also Jung is pointing out there is something more here that is possible for individuals to experience and to understand, to not only initiate, but also to sustain and to perfect at will.
Dreams and Visions
So we make a very clear distinction in our studies between dreams and visions. This is where you find that distinction between Carl Jung and Freud in relation to whether dreams are collective or whether they are personal.
Dreams are merely projections of our own minds. Think of your experience like a film projector in which reality is a screen. Often times, rather than looking at what is there, we are always projecting ourselves onto reality. This not only occurs within the eight hours when we go to bed at night, but also even physically while we are awake. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they are talking and then you are thinking more about what to say next? We do not even hear what they are saying. It is because we are projecting our mind, our desires, onto the impression of this person who is talking with us. That is a dream.
There are many types of dreams. We dream all the time, not only when we physically go to bed. We are dreaming in our waking life by distractions and afflictions of mind. We are going to go very deep into this very nuanced problem, how we dream all the time.
But a vision is different. That is when the projector stops projecting. When you are physically at rest, your consciousness is active but the mind is perfectly still, in a state of calm, peace. Then instead of churning with affliction, in the stillness and the perfect quietude of being, images from our internal worlds emerge. They reflect within our consciousness and then we live those dramas within the internal worlds. You can experience astral projections. You can experience dream yoga, lucid dreaming. We are awake in that state and then you can see what is actually there.
A vision often includes a type of symbol. It is a drama that is living, in which you are both a participant and a witness. Those dreams have a very allegorical character. They are very sacred, and they teach something very practical about how to live our daily life. Divinity always wants to teach us through visions, when the mind is calm and receptive, so that we can learn how to be better people, how to be more ethical, how to bind our communities, how to make people strong, to help others no longer suffer. But of course, this requires training. It is a type of work in which we are going to didactically explain through each lecture. We will study different practices so that we train the consciousness to be alert, aware, mindful.
This in itself is genuine mysticism. The word mysticism comes from the Greek mysterion. It originates from the root word myein, “to close the eyes,” and relates to mystikos: an “initiate,” or someone who initiates a different lifestyle, what religions have defined as the sacred mysteries of communicating with the divine, like Moses on Mount Sinai, Arjuna talking to Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, Prophet Mohammed receiving the Qur’an from the Angel Gabriel.
Many of these stories bear a type of unifying element, and that is the science of dreams. These are all dream symbols. These are all visions in which, instead of having a mind that is clouded and obscured, driven by problems, by negative habits, mechanical desires, instincts, we instead have a crystal clear, sharp, open, receptive, intuitive mind, a mind that is not always churning with thoughts, but instead knows how to put thoughts in their place in order to understand.
That is a very distinct and different quality that meditation teaches us, not to be so caught up in rationalization, because that is a type of obscurity. As I said, we could be thinking about something, perhaps a friend, a family member, a relative, or something else, while we are with someone having a conversation. That is a dream. That is not being awake, even while physically being in the body.
Learning to become a mystic means becoming a meditator. Silence the mind. Let it relax, calm. Be clear. Be sharp and alert, not distracted, so that we can receive insight, intuitions, and understandings from that intelligence that religions have called God.
Again, God is not some anthropomorphic figure in the clouds, but is presence, formlessness, Being. That is how you learn to see the heavens, not just some physical place in the atmosphere or some temple someone goes to on pilgrimage. Instead, that journey is within. That understanding and experience is personal. But to do that requires we learn to comprehend how we dream. We must understand the path that leads to the cessation of dreams and leads to the awakening of consciousness.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky stated in the scripture she transcribed known as The Voice of the Silence:
Before the soul can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to all illusion. ―H. P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence
So that consciousness can perceive in the superior worlds where we go every night. When we dream, we go to sleep at night for eight hours. We astral project and enter that region, but without awareness. If we learn to overcome our own illusions, psychological habits, and conditions that trap us, we can learn to see and know these realities for ourselves. That is a form of harmony, real harmony, real integrity, the perfection of the soul, in which we end pride. We end hatred. We end fear. We stop laziness. We end lust. We end all these passions of mind and defects that we often very much cling to. When those cease and are perfectly still, then we can know something superior. That is a form of harmony in which we integrate consciousness that is usually very much dispersed in many different habits, right?
We can be at home, obviously, many people are working from home now. Hopefully, that has changed. We can be at the computer desk doing a project, but then think of something else, thinking of a friend, a fiancée, a partner, a spouse, a relative. Or we feel hungry and have the instinct to get up, to get something to snack on. Or we have the emotional feeling that “I want to listen to some other type of music now because I want to relax.” We have many elements in our psychology that are always going all over the place. We are very distracted. That in itself is the origin of many problems, because we are not really addressing the necessities of life with full consciousness, directed attention, awareness, focus―in which we finish a task, give it all of our depth, and soul, and being, so that it can be something magnificent―and really create something superior, instead of just multitasking, because that is the mind and desires going in many places. We lack integrity.
This is why consciousness, when it is trained, can be focused and sharpened so that when we practice that skill in the day, physically, when you go to bed at night, your consciousness is already trained. It is exercised. It knows how to work. Instead of falling asleep and after eight hours, waking up in the morning without any remembrance, we enter that dream world with lucidity, with intentionality, with focus.
The Fifth Dimension
So what is the dream world? This is something that has fascinated a lot of people for as long as there has been recorded history and scriptures.
We mentioned in the first lecture how the world of dreams is the same place as the world of the dead. This is why in Greek mythology, Hypnos and Thanatos, sleep and death, are brothers. If you want to know how conscious you will be when you die, look at how you are when you go to sleep. Do you remember anything? Or do you just sleep eight hours and nothing? That is a barometer of how conscious you are.
While this can be a very disturbing realization, the truth and reality are that there is the potential to develop something truly profound. That is something that is learned. It is a gradual skill.
I know some people like to think of astral projection as given to only the few who are graced by divinity. It was just given to them at birth. The reality is that is not true. At some point in the development of that individual soul, that person had to work. It is acquired. It is a form of self-mastery, in which by training oneself, one can go into what is known as the fifth dimension. Some people call it the astral plane, the world of dreams, heavens, jannat amongst the Sufis and the Muslims. Whatever name we want to give to that reality, it is the fifth dimension.
Now, in terms of dimensionality, we are all familiar with three dimensions: length, height, and width, the physical plane. But scientists have also talked about the fourth dimension, which is time. Einstein is very famous for talking about relativity, the space-time continuum, which is basically a form of development and temporality in which all experience at our level is processed.
But the astral world is beyond time. The world of dreams, the world of the dead, is beyond time. That is why if you awaken consciousness within that state, you can see things happen there that are going to come true physically later. The fifth dimension is beyond time, things you can witness that are from the past, the present, and the future. That is why in the Book of Daniel in the Bible, prophets such as Daniel were able to interpret events that were going to come true later through his dreams. This is the essence of prophecy.
But also one can see the past in a very visual form. It is like watching a movie, in which you are witnessing events but also participating in them. Some people have called this the Akashic Records, the memories of nature in which every action is recorded and imprinted within nature. That is known as eternity. Eternity is also a circle, but it is also a loop, because past, present, future meld into an eternal now―something very beautiful, mystical.
If you want an example of that, I remember, a long time ago, walking in the astral plane. I was in some city. I was just looking at the billboards because I was curious. I was practicing my mindfulness and being in remembrance of myself and not losing my attention, just observing the things going on there.
When I am talking about that type of experience, I do not mean it is something vague or unclear or amorphous. There is more color, lucidity, crispness, depth than even being physically awake. We have that potential.
So I remember looking at a billboard and I saw an advertisement for a movie that had not come out yet. I believe it was one of the Indiana Jones films: “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” or something like that. I woke up, and then, I do not know, six, seven years later they announced that they are making this film. So I just found that interesting. Whether or not it has some utility is another thing, but it is interesting. I saw something that existed in the internal world before it became physical.
That is what inventions are like. People imagine or conceptualize or have an idea for something. It exists within the astral world before it becomes physical. That is just the way the universe and the mind work. Things kind of just trickle down from more abstract realities into more manifest reality―so, something timeless, but because it is beyond time, you can see things that are going to happen, that have happened.
In this dimension, you can fly. You can teleport. You can walk through walls, because that dimension is governed by very different laws: elasticity, plasticity, levitation. This is why people report dreams of flying. Perhaps we have had that experience ourselves, levitating in the air, going places.
But for most of us, we do not really see what is there objectively. We tend to just interact with our own mind, because our mind, as I said, projects its dreams onto the screen of that dimension. So we do not really, in our current state, see the objectivity of that plane. But if you turn the projector off, quiet the mind, enter meditation, concentration, awareness, you can enter that state with vigilance, with awareness, and then actually see what is going on. That is the real joy and beauty and mystery of that type of science.
So the question becomes: who dreams?
As I said, or hinted at, we often like to think that because we go to bed for eight hours and we do not see anything, that we do not dream, but the truth is that we are dreaming all the time.
We dream when we are washing the dishes. We are remembering or recalling something in the day or projecting an idea about the future, like what we are going to do later, but not actually watching what we are doing.
We can be driving our car, having a conversation, or listening to the radio, thinking about it, trying to analyze a podcast, perhaps, but we are not paying attention to the road and we get into an accident. It is because we are dreaming.
People get on the train and while reading a book, get lost in revelry, thoughts, fantasies, daydreams, recollections, and then we realize that we missed our stop. It is because we are dreaming. We are not awake.
Of course, even at a very basic level, it is easy to understand that there are certain problems to this. Perhaps we are at a job where we have to pay attention to learn new skills, but if we are thinking of something else and we get distracted, we are losing something essential and that we have to ask again for help, and perhaps that could be annoying to an employer. We are dreaming all the time.
So what is important to remember is that the dreamer can awaken. It is a very famous trope you find even in movies like Dune, or Frank Herbert's book. “The sleeper must awaken.”
All religions teach the need to awaken consciousness. “Awake, awake, Deborah, arise Barak," says the Old Testament, I believe in the Book of Judges, the story of the Prophetess Deborah, made the declaration saying "you need to awaken consciousness," because we have the illusion that we are awake, that we are present, that we are mindful, that we are aware.
Often times, if we are very serious and analyze our daily state, we find that we are usually very distracted. Our thoughts are in one place, our feelings are in another, and our desire to act is conflicted. We are split. But by learning through training to focus on what we are doing at all times, to be aware, to be observing ourselves, our thought processes, our emotional reactions to life, our sentiments, and also our will to act, our impulses, we start to discover that we are something much deeper than thought, feeling, and will―something much more profound.
Consciousness exists even before thought. I know in our Western culture we like to idolize thinking quite a bit, but in truth, it is actually a very slow machine. It is a processor of energy and matter and perception at its level. We need the intellect and to know how to use it, but it is not really the defining factor of an individual.
We can touch a hot stove, burn our hand, and retract our hand in pain. We have the instinct, the impulse, to first get out of danger. Perhaps we feel frustrated and angry. We feel that visceral pain of having been burned, and then we think right after that, “that really hurt!” It shows us that thought is actually a much slower process than many other aspects of our psychology.
The reason why I am mentioning all of this is that if we want to understand what awakening consciousness is within the dream state, it is important to understand how we process information and experiences in life in different ways. We will go into a lot of depth into this, specifically when we talk about “How Do We Dream?” But by understanding our own thinking, our feelings, and our impulses, we no longer let those habits and desires simply run amuck. We understand them.
Instead, we can respond to life with intelligence instead of just reacting to someone when someone criticizes us or when we feel anger or fear or depression or whatever it may be. All of those are forms of dreams, different thoughts perhaps, but also many times different types of emotions which we often indulge in, in life.
Sushupti: Profound Sleep
We explain that there are different types of consciousness, different states.
There is Sushupti, which is profound sleep. That often is associated within Hinduism and Yoga as physically going to bed, and when eight hours pass, we do not remember anything.
But also on a more practical level for us, there is profound sleep when we look at mobs, lynches, crowds propelled by violence, war, because those people, even though they are physically active doing things, they are not really conscious of their neighbor. They are driven by fear, instinct, self-preservation, the desire to kill. That is a profound state of sleep, in a spiritual sense, in a conscious sense. If we were really conscious of other human beings, we would feel love and compassion for them, because we understand that we all have the natural inclination to avoid suffering and find happiness. Everyone has that ingrained within the substrate of their very being.
So Sushupti is profound sleep. Basically, people who are murderers, who kill, who commit violence in any form, are very unconscious. It is important to dissociate from the assumption that sleep is merely just related to the physical body, because the physical body, in truth, could be doing things, but yet we are not aware. This is very well known in Yoga and Buddhism especially.
Swapna: Dreaming Sleep
Let us talk about Swapna, dreaming sleep. What is dreaming sleep?
As I said, we dream in the day, often. We can argue with people, wanting to assert our beliefs, political ideas, religion, culture, race, doctrine. All these things that our modern world often adulates and worships are in fact a form of dreaming. It is an illusion. These such things are very temporal. They do not last. They are not eternal.
The soul, the consciousness is eternal. It does not have a beginning and an end in its ultimate sense. We adopt different beliefs and ideas and cultures and habits and ways of thinking whenever we lose that connection with our true origins. We are often very much distanced from our true nature, but we can see glimpses of it day-to-day. We find selfless acts of heroism, compassion, love, sacrifice, benevolence, patience, kindness, in which we are not really thinking for ourselves. We are doing for others. But those types of experiences tend to be very minimal―if we are honest―very limited.
What we have instead are a lot of dreams: “I am a republican.” “I am a democrat.” “I am a capitalist. “I am a socialist.” “I am a philosopher.” “I am a scientist.” We have a lot of ideas about who we are. We often cling to things―our name, our culture, our habits, our beliefs―as something substantial, as something permanent. But the truth is that these things always change, right? There are always perhaps different circumstances that happen in our life. To use a very silly example, maybe we are a republican, then something happened in the media, especially in this past year, and then we change our beliefs. We change our ideas. But the truth is that even those ideas do not necessarily have a type of eternity. There are conditions. They do not really reflect the type of values that we call the divine. So knowing that distinction is very challenging. It is very difficult because of attachment, because of the type of hypnosis of identifying with our own conditions of mind, habits, etc.
Jagrat: Waking Consciousness
This is why we study Jagrat, which is waking consciousness. Notice we are not just talking about the wakeful body, that the body is awake. This does not just refer to the physical body being active and doing things, because we can be, as I said, driving our car but not paying attention. It has to do with consciousness that is perceptive, that is alert, that is understanding, that is seeing the impressions of life, but not necessarily just labeling experiences with the intellect or judging a person based on our emotions.
Perhaps we feel aversion to someone based on their race or their caste, their culture, their language, their beliefs, their politics. We feel perhaps negative emotions about them, resentments, pride―whatever it may be. Or certain relationships, we feel conflicted. We do not know how to act around certain people and we kind of get stuck between this clumsy deliberation.
But the reality is that waking consciousness knows how to intuitively respond to any situation with lucidity, with compassion. It does not necessarily mean complacency, like letting a person walk all over you. Consciousness can be firm, but loving, kind, patient. It does not identify with problems in life. It does not suffer. The consciousness knows how to act. It is the intuition of knowing what to do at any time. You do not have to think about it. It is beyond thought.
I know in one example, I remember I had a conflict with a person from years ago and I was in a situation where, years later, I had to speak to her out of necessity. I could not avoid her. I felt that conflict in myself, that fear like “I do not want to talk to this person,” the thoughts, and the logic, and the reasoning, and the resentments, that were stewing there. But then I was observing all that process in myself and I understood that, just by looking at that defect within me, that it was wrong. I intuitively knew that this person is suffering, therefore, “I am going to act.” Putting my prejudice and self behind me, I went up to the person and had a conversation with her, and it turns out that she was very grateful for me, for showing that olive branch and making that connection. That is one example of really being awake. I just saw myself, my own defects, observing that. That is waking consciousness.
We have a practice in our tradition called self-observation in which we learn to understand the origin of thought, feeling, and will, even before they emerge, because we are activating that sense and skill within us that is often very atrophied.
Turiya: Spiritual Illumination
It is in that way that we can access what is known as Turiya. This is spiritual illumination. This is what all the diverse religious traditions have called ecstasy, samadhi, spiritual states in which there is no distortion of mind there. In terms of dream yoga, you can be physically in bed, have an astral projection, and there is no type of obscuration in your perception. You are seeing what is there. You are fully lucid. You are clear. You are in control, and you can investigate and you can navigate those regions with competency.
It also has to do with the type of perception relating to a divine being like a prophet. We call them masters. We call them buddhas, angels, gods. They do not have pride, laziness, fear, calumny, gossip. They are perfect―no fault. We can access a state like that in a temporary sense, but obviously, it is something that has to be gradually developed through discipline. But there are beings, prophets, angels―whatever you want to call them―who did it. This is why we study their teachings very profoundly, in their original sources, not what institutions say they say, but what are they actually saying from experience. In that way, we have no doubt.
The Line of Life
We talk in our studies about the line of life.
It is very important to analyze where we have come from and where we are going. That is why many people study religion and spirituality in general. They have a yearning to understand the origin of the soul, the origin of the world, the meaning of faith, the meaning of compassion, where we came from and why do we suffer. Perhaps that is the most compelling reason why anyone goes to any church or school or religion or community.
We study the line of our life very diligently because our own life is a book. It has many chapters. If we want to have self-knowledge about higher realities, it begins by knowing ourselves, knowing where we came from physically, but also psychologically, our habits, our ideas, our personality, our culture. These are the things that come to us. Or better even said, we come to it. I think that is even an more accurate description.
We are born in this world, and as children, we are very innocent. If we look at any child, we see the beauty of the soul there that has not been tainted or contaminated by defects. But with time and through gradual exposure to parents, school, family, language, culture, customs, that initial brilliance of a child is dimmed. It gets swallowed by pride, anger, hatred, defects. We call that ego, self, egotism, desire.
Most people tend to go through their life, from that initial state, acquiring and acquiring more experiences, accumulating more and more―family, job, reputation, income, retirement, whatever it may be. While there are necessary components of life that we need to work with, it is not the definition of a person. There is something more. There has to be something more than being born and going through adolescence with all of its turmoil and suffering, its pain, its uncertainty, its abuse, becoming adults who are trying to piece together their lives, and then getting married, having children, and then dying, and then… what then?
Why be so caught up in that? It does not mean that we reject all these things and live like hermits. That is another extreme to life that does not offer a very long-term solution.
The Line of Being
Instead, we begin where we are at. Fortunately for our spiritual life, there is something more. There is a point that intersects with our daily existence. We call it the vertical path. On the horizontal beam, we have the line of life, but here vertically intersecting in the form of a cross, we have a line of being. This has to do with the quality of our life, the quality of our states.
Of course, as you see here, there are inferior qualities of life and psychology and also superior states of mind. I have named some of them for you. In the inferior levels, you have ego, selfishness, more attachment, more aversion, more craving, more desire to accumulate more and more, many ideas, theories, beliefs, philosophies, doctrines. The mind just wants to saturate itself and acquire more and more information, because it thinks by feeding that desire, we are going to be happy.
Knowledge is useful in its place, but it is not fundamental for a person to be spiritual. There is a balance there. We have to make that distinction.
We often go from birth to death dreaming. We dream while we drive our car. We dream on the train. We dream while married. We dream while making love. We dream and have many desires and beliefs and habits that we invest our energy into. Wherever we direct our attention, we expend energy. We often find in life that we are very depleted, which is why as we approach our elder years, we are decrepit. We are sick. We are old. We are weakened. That energy that can fuel our spirituality is often very much wasted, invested in the wrong things, identified with the wrong things.
When we die, most people go to the grave, they enter the dream world, but are not aware that they are dead. Personally, I met my grandfather in the astral plane. He died a long time ago. I was in a room with my family who were still alive, talking with them, and then I realized, “why am I talking to my grandfather here? He is dead!” As I was talking to them, they did not know where they were.
So it is a pretty alarming thing, and something that should not necessarily fill someone with fear, but with urgency. It is a very different, nuanced principle, to have urgency. To want to awaken consciousness is different from being fearful: “Oh, if I go to the grave, then what?” Fear is another condition of the mind. It is an inferior state of being, something that we can overcome by looking at it. By learning to understand ourselves in the moment, we can access superior states of consciousness and then we stop dreaming. We are no longer filled with fear, with agony, more problems.
The superior line of being is developed in us where we ascend vertically in the moment. It has nothing to do with time. Spiritual development, in a conventional sense, occurs gradually, obviously, because we are in physical bodies. We are in this physical world and we are subjected to the laws of nature, time especially, the fourth dimension. But the consciousness does not belong to time. It is eternal. But unfortunately, because we dream physically, we are not aware of it. We do not realize it from experience.
Anybody who has had an astral projection obviously has tasted some glimpse of that and knows for themselves that it is real, and that we are more than just our physical body. So this pushes us to want to know ourselves, know our defects, our faults, so that we cease dreaming.
We are aware of the moment, because every moment we advance towards death. We progress in this line of life towards an inescapable end. But this should not be a source of morbidity or shame, anxiety. Obviously, these are emotions that are very common for people, because we do not understand where we came from or where we are going. But if you awaken your consciousness, you will know. You know where you came from, where you are, and where you are going, what your trajectory is.
We follow the trajectory of our actions through life, consciously or unconsciously. By making conscious decisions, we are learning to develop our perception so that, physically, when we die, we welcome it―not out of some quirkiness, being dark. Instead, it is born out of acceptance and understanding. For me personally, I know what will happen when I die. I have been able to awaken enough consciousness within the internal worlds to be shown what it is like after the body is dead. Therefore, why be afraid? You do not have to be afraid. It is a natural process.
What one could be afraid of instead is not living one's life ethically, taking advantage of this precious time that we have, moment by moment, to make changes, small changes, gradually. In that way, we do not necessarily become victims of life. We do not react to problems. Instead, we can comprehend our situation and learn to respond with intelligence.
Kabbalah: The Tree of Life
We talked briefly about this image in our previous lecture, something that we will go back to periodically. It is known as the Tree of Life. It is a Jewish symbol, but also a universal one.
In Jewish mysticism, they talk about Kabbalah. This is the Tree of Life within the Book of Genesis. Rather than constituting a literal tree in Mesopotamia that existed however long ago in the physical Middle East, it is really a symbol. It is a map of consciousness.
It depicts the inferior states of consciousness and the most superior, ascending towards a higher and more elevated spirituality. These are not spheres or levels of being that are mapped out in physical space. It is not like there is some sort of verticality to this. It is a symbol. It is an allegory. These spheres, known as סְפִירוֹת sephiroth in Hebrew, are known as emanations. They are qualities of consciousness. They are also dimensions. This is a map of us as a psyche, but also of divinity, and also where we go when we sleep, when we dream. There are different levels of matter, energy, and consciousness.
Right now we are in the bottom sphere. This is known as מלכות Malkuth in Hebrew [the Kingdom], the physical world? It is our physical body.
Above that, we have our vitality, our creative energy. This is known as the fourth dimension. So the third dimension is below and the fourth dimension is above. This is time. It is known as יְסוֹד
Yesod, the foundation, because how we work with our energy is the foundation of spiritual life. As I said, wherever we direct attention and energy, we spend it. So if we spend it within our consciousness, we can conserve that force and learn to awaken our potential.
What people call the astral plane is known as הוד Hod, meaning “splendor” in Hebrew. It is this sphere at bottom of the left pillar, as you see here. We call that the astral plane. This is typically where people go when they have superior astral projections.
To the right of that, we have נצח Netzach, which means “victory.” This is known as the mental world. So there is a mental plane and an emotional plane, mind and heart. These two spheres constitute what is known as the fifth dimension. This is eternity. יְסוֹד Yesod is the fourth dimension. מלכות Malkuth is the third dimension.
But we have inferior dimensions as well, what religions have called hell or the hell realms. Those states are experienced through nightmares. That is hell in a direct way. It is a type of experience that is real, but not in physical matter, energy, and perception, but it is in a more subtle form of experience. This is why we often interact within those states within dreams but do not realize that it is not physical, because the internal worlds reflect the physical and vice versa.
Above we have more superior states, which I will not go into depth here. We have a future lecture that we will talk about called Where Do We Dream? But I want to just summarize this because it is a very beautiful graphic, a very practical tool.
We can use it to understand our experiences, but also when we travel within those dimensions, we can know how to navigate it, because this is the map so to speak. It is important to know and learn this glyph with time because just as one would not travel to another country without knowing its language, its geography, its culture, its goods and bad, in the same way, it is reasonable for dream yogis, practitioners of this science, to understand the structure of that inner reality, so that when you experience it, you know how to navigate. It is a very gradual process which we will talk about in detail.
So we will conclude with an exercise that you can use in order to develop what is known as concentration. As I said, by learning to develop concentration, awareness, mindfulness throughout the day, the ability to focus on one thing without being distracted, we no longer dream. We teach the consciousness to not dream. We teach it to be awake. In that way, that skill will transition from visible life to dreaming life.
So every day, develop self-observation from moment to moment. At the end of each day, reflect on how you did. So this has to do with learning to observe our psychology. It is like being a director in a movie, in which you are the actor, but you are also viewing the scene. Consciousness has the capacity to observe, to intuit, to understand, and this skill has to do with whenever a thought emerges, look at it. Observe it.
You may know that you are seated in this chair listening to me, but are you observing the fact? It is a different skill. Then as we are learning to self-observe throughout the day, obviously it is going to be very challenging. You might realize even before coming here that learning to be mindful and aware throughout the day can be difficult because there are just so many distractions, whether externally or even our own emotional reactions, our thoughts, etc.
At the end of each day, just take five minutes. Reflect: how mindful were you? How observant? how aware? Then, every day perform this preliminary meditation exercise:
Carefully relax your body, heart, and mind. Observe an object such as an image or a lit candle flame without preoccupying yourself in thought, memories or distractions. If you forget yourself, return to the object of the practice.
Practice ten to fifteen-minute sessions at least two or three times a day.
So, we are going to practice this together―if you like―we can stay after. We have a candle here. You just take the candle and observe it. If your mind starts thinking of something else or labeling ideas or talking about it, just become aware of it. Do not try to repress, push it away, or try to get lost in it. Instead, just return to the candle. It is a beautiful exercise in which we learn to understand the distinction between knowing what is going on but also observing it. As I said, you can know something is going on. By sitting in a chair, you can know that you are in the chair, but observing it is active. Knowing is passive―different quality.
At this time I would like to invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: I am a little confused about the self-observation practice. So you are saying that if I am thinking about something that I can not be self-observing? Or is it possible to be both thinking and self-observing? In my job I am thinking a lot. It is an intellectual job, and how am I supposed to be self-observing during the day when I need to also think in my job?
Instructor: That is a good question. The latter is the answer. You can be thinking and doing intellectual things, but observe that. Some people think of self-observation as like “I have to stop thinking.” In the higher degrees of understanding, we do not need to think. But we begin with where we are at. If we have a job that is very intellectual where we are thinking, or teaching, perhaps reading a book, reading something about our job that we have to do―read, but observe that. It is difficult, but it is a skill that is acquired. It comes with patience.
Question: I have seen people who are yogis and they sit still. Is it normal or is it an indication that something is not right if you are not still? There are some actions of the body, which while sitting for a long time that suddenly happens, and I get that feeling that it is not right. Does it show a lack of attention or concentration? How do I realize that? Am I in the moment or not in the moment?
Instructor: Great question. For most people who are not training in mindfulness, it is not a problem because they are not really interested in learning about being conscious of themselves. But as we are learning to self-observe or do a meditation practice, it is important to understand even our involuntary movements―like, perhaps, scratching, or twisting our fingers, or moving a leg, or whatever it may be. Tapping your foot, you know, is a very common thing.
But we have to become aware of that. If you find that you are doing that, observe yourself and then reflect: where is that impulse coming from? It is not necessarily an intellectual question, but it is a perceptive one. You are just analyzing and being mindful of why you are doing that. I think oftentimes, at least for me, when I have observed that in myself, I have come to understand that there is some type of psychological defect in me that is perhaps impatient, or bored―or whatever it may be―agitated. Something psychological is going on in a deeper sense that I am not aware of.
So it does not necessarily mean to have to force your body to be still, but it is better if you just observe it and understand it, because if you understand it, then your psychology is quiet, right? All physical actions are a material manifestation of our internal reality. So things that happen physically come because, psychologically, there is something there.
One thing I wanted to mention is that in one of the earlier slides about the fifth dimension, I mentioned that things happen internally and then manifest physically. The same thing happens with our psychology. So this proves to us that we are in truth very multidimensional. Our thoughts are one thing, our emotions are another dimension to ourselves, and our instincts are another. The more understanding you have of your own psychological impulses, the more you comprehend why you are tapping, and you will stop.
It does not have to be something like, “I cannot tap my foot,” right? That is kind of the mind fighting the mind, and that is not what we are advocating. Instead, it is something about observing yourself, understanding where it comes from, and when you understand that impulse, it quiets, ceases. I believe even Gurdjieff mentioned quite a bit about the need to no longer be doing movements of our body involuntarily, carelessly. It means that we are very unconscious. In fact, one of the best ways to learn self-observation is learning about your posture. Learn about your breathing. Learn about your habits. It is a very simple way to begin. You may notice that perhaps you crack your fingers, or whatever it may be. Begin with that, and as you get more confident, understanding those impulses, then the more relaxed you become. That is really important for meditation, having a relaxed mind, heart, and body. When you have that, meditation is open to you when you are concentrated, when you are aware.
Question: Is there a difference between waking in a dream versus allowing your body to fall asleep and maintaining consciousness?
Instructor: Yeah, it has to do with when you enter the astral world. You might fall asleep physically and unconsciously project and then you wake up in a dream later. That happens all the time. Then other times, obviously, the goal is to learn to fall asleep consciously, so that you enter that state with awareness. So it has to do with how attentive you are.
Oftentimes you can wake up in a dream later because, even though you were not conscious in the beginning, suddenly you start to expand your perception, where you are seeing your surroundings in the astral plane. Maybe you are walking down a street of your old neighborhood wherever you grew up, and then you realized, “Oh, what am I doing here?” For me, I tend to have dreams where I will be at my old house where I grew up as a kid, and I will recognize my surroundings and question, “What am I doing here? How did I get here?” I remember where I came from. I am living in the city now, not out in the suburbs.
So then you can learn to question that and develop that inquiry. That is something you can only develop by learning mindfulness throughout the day. You are self-observing. You are becoming aware of your different thought processes, feelings, impulses, and when you train your consciousness to do that during the day, even when you physically go to sleep, even if you are not aware of an astral projection, you can suddenly start to see things in your dreams where you are getting more lucidity. The consciousness is being trained, is being strengthened. So learning to concentrate and develop those skills helps to see more clearly, awaken more perception. So you can wake up later in the night too. It is different from a conscious astral projection. We are going to talk about how to awaken in dreams later on, specifically.
Question: So earlier you were talking about how Sushupti is a sign of that most profound state of unconscious sleep. You mentioned that some murderers are in a state of profound sleep of consciousness because they do not feel compassion for other people. But can some people be awakened in evil, because some murderers are very conscious of what they are doing you know, like serial killers? It is not like they are asleep. I see what you are saying that they are identified with, like anger or violence or something like that. Could you explain that distinction?
Instructor: Sure! It has to do with the individual. As we mentioned before, we can be aware that we are killing someone. I know a lot of people talk about mindfulness and awareness as sometimes the end-all and be-all of spirituality, but it is just the beginning. Being aware of yourself, so that you can be understanding of where you are at, is the initial step of learning to be a conscious and ethical person. The next step is learning to transform situations with compassion, learning to transform the impression of a situation with awareness, with understanding, better said.
But there is also another flip side to that coin. I mentioned to you and showed you that image of superior states of being and inferior states. We can awaken positively within our consciousness or we can awaken within desire, within hatred, within anger, within pride, because awakening is dual. It does not always end up positively. Now, awakening negatively has to do with giving one's energy to one's desires. So one can be very awake, but through hatred or pride or vanity, and therefore they develop a lot of power in that element. They tend to be very dangerous individuals because they are very influential. They can even be charismatic, influential people.
The difference between the type of unconsciousness I was referring to is for most people. People who have never really trained in any type of spirituality tend to just go with the flow of life. If there is a crowd, they get attracted to it and they go to it. It is kind of a collective hive mind so to speak. But there are people that learn to train themselves to awaken within their own defects, and that is something we do not teach. It is a negative thing.
Question: So the first step is to be awake and be conscious of what I am doing? Then you are saying later on that I have to learn to discern between if what I am doing is driven by pride, or anger, or revenge, on someone? How do I know that it is not that and I am awakening in a good way?
Instructor: Follow your heart. Look at your heart. Your conscience is the best guide. Unfortunately, there are people in our society, in our world, that do not even have a conscience anymore, and therefore those people tend to be very lost causes. But if you look in your heart and examine in a moment an action you performed where you felt pain; your heart will tell you what is right and what is wrong, in most normal people, but not psychopaths, so to speak.
For example, you get into an argument with someone and you are telling yourself, “I want to be patient with this family member.” Then you start to observe in yourself that they start pushing your buttons, because family members know how to do that―resentment, pride, fear, anger, whatever comes up. You are aware of that. Now, just because you are aware of that does not mean that you are going to act ethically, transforming the situation, transforming your consciousness.
The way that you do it is by following the different precepts of different traditions, religions, like kindness and selflessness. If someone insults you; understand the insult, understand where it is coming from and why. Understand that we are not perfect, so why be offended? It is really nothing stable there. Then follow your heart about how you should act, because your heart knows. That is conscience. That is intuition, knowing without having to think about it.
But of course, the difficulty becomes that our mind wants to devour us: anger with its logic says: “They offended me. I am going to get back at them!” So when you observe that process in you, that is great. You are starting to see and understand how you are dreaming. The anger is dreaming. It is projecting its desires. It thinks it is being offended and insulted and it is seeing the situation through a lens. Is it not true that when we are angry, we only see through anger? You do not see through any other way. Every situation becomes interpreted through a false door. That is one way that we sleep. So observe that.
The beginning of change is to stop dreaming. But just because you learn to stop dreaming, in the beginning, does not mean that you are going to be successful, because you just have to really work at it. See what is happening. Be aware of it, and then act appropriately. That is the next step.
Question: We are about to do the practice with the candle and I know there are other techniques that you can use to awaken in dreams. What would be the best method to awaken consciousness here and now?
Instructor: So, there is a lot of things that complement this, right? There is a lot of facets. We will talk about it in a lot of detail. I will explain this to you now, but in the future, we are going to go really in-depth about different ways to do it. Working with all of them together is like building a puzzle.
Now as you said, the primary method is to be aware of yourself in the day. That is why at the very beginning of this course, we are just talking about p, “what are dreams, who dreams, how do we dream?” Be aware of it because that is the foundation. Be aware of how you get distracted in the day and learn to curtail that, not with a type of militant despotism, but with recollection. Remembering yourself is how you start to really use the tools in this course. It is like, for example, if you learn to work with a machine. You have to be aware of yourself first to work it. Children obviously can not operate difficult machinery and that is why you get trained physically. First, you let them grow up. In the same way, we learn to grow up spiritually as a child by learning to awaken our consciousness. Then we start using these different tools and techniques to kind of augment that.
So one of the techniques we use is called the Key of Sol. We have a whole lecture that is going to be about that, where it is an acronym: subject, object, location.
Subject: who am I? What are my thoughts? What are my feelings? What are my actions?
Object: what is in front of me? What am I seeing? Not necessarily questioning with the intellect, but just being inquisitive, the way that a child is inquisitive when they are growing up and looking at a toy or creating something from the imagination. It is a very innocent quality. It does not assume that there is anything there, or merely just projects memories onto reality, but looks at it.
You know, we can be in our house oftentimes, our home, and we do not really observe where we are at, because we just have things in our memory, right? It is easy to get into an accident even in your own home. A lot of people get hurt in their own homes because they are not paying attention. They think they know what is going on or what is around them. Instead, we are not observing. Object has to do with what is in front of us. Subject―ourselves.
Location: where are we? Inquire. Where am I? What am I doing? It might seem silly, obviously, being physically here in this world, but if you learn to train your consciousness in that way, you will eventually start to see things in your dreams because you are observing your thoughts, your feelings, your actions. You start to see objects in front of you and then a location in dreams. Maybe you are not in Chicago in a dream. That is a big alert. Question yourself: “I live in Chicago. How did I get here?” And then you start to realize, “I think I am dreaming. How did I end up in Spain? How did that happen to me?” I found myself in Spain in the astral plane and I am like, “people are talking Spanish. Why are they talking Spanish? What is going on? Where am I?” I realized that I was dreaming.
Then if you want to test yourself, you pull your finger. In the astral plane, the matter of your astral body is ductile. It is elastic. Pull it with the intention of making it stretch. If you are intentional enough and gentle enough, obviously, physically, you do not want to do this too hard. You do not want to hurt yourself. In the dream, it will stretch. Then you will realize, “I could not do that physically. I am dreaming. I am in the astral world! “ That is something you can do physically where you are just training yourself, and then you just get in the habit of questioning, “where am I?” Then physically, discretely, when no one is watching you―thinking you are perhaps weird or unusual―just pull your finger.
In dreams, you can also jump in the air and see if you are going to levitate, right? See if you fly. You can do it physically too, but I like to be more discrete because I am not going to be jumping around and my co-workers looking around at me like, “something strange is going on.” Instead, pull your finger. That is one method, a very good one, very effective.
Or try something else: you can put your hand through a window to see if you are going to pass it through. I have done that many times and it works too. The only reason that it works is because we learn to question our dreams. Be self-observant moment by moment.
Question: In the questioning of daily life when we are not sleeping, is that what helps us to wake up when we are sleeping?
Instructor: Exactly. It is the questioning. It is the inquiry.
Question: Is this an intellectual kind of labeling like, “Ok, location. You are in the studio―me, my name?” Or how can I make this conscious and not just in the intellect?
Instructor: Practice. Just do it. Then you find in time that it is not an intellectual thing. In the beginning, you can question yourself. It is easier that way, right? It becomes more of a habit. The beauty of the practice is that it teaches us how to start from being mechanical to how to be conscious. So you are learning to take something that is very mechanical like just walking in the street, or even pulling your finger, or jumping in the air, right? It is a common thing you can do, but with time and practice, you learn to start doing it with awareness. It just takes acclimation, getting used to it, to the point that you may even have times where you have trained yourself so well that suddenly you become vivid in a dream and you know you are dreaming, and then you jump in the air and fly away and go and investigate something.
Question: You talked about the two kinds of dreams you can have, the self-projecting kind and then the fifth dimension kind. Can you lucid dream in both of those?
Instructor: Definitely. Great question. Both. You could be lucid in a dream where you still do not realize you are dreaming.
For a lot of people there is a big step or hurdle there, where suddenly you may have the experience where you see a lot of different colors, and images, and landscapes, perhaps, but you do not really question that you are dreaming. The first step is awareness. The second step is discernment. That is a very delicate skill that comes about as we learn to be more aware physically but also learning to discern our own psychological states. This is the same skill that you use to comprehend how whether or not you are seeing things clearly through the lens of fear, or anxiety, or anger, or whatever it may be. Instead, we are learning to see life without egotism. We need to discern our own psychological states.
It gets easier to discern our surroundings, so that when you are lucid dreaming, you see things more clearly, you can start to question things and then make the leap. When you recognize, “Ok, I think I am dreaming here,” where you even make that first declaration to yourself. That is a big step, just recognizing and questioning, “Am I here?” That is the starting point.
Sometimes it is possible to have visions where you are receiving a divine symbol from your inner divinity through a mystical experience. It can be happening and you are kind of just taking it all in, but you are not necessarily fully aware that you are dreaming, or that you are in that experience, and then you wake up and then suddenly realize, “Whoa, I think I just got an experience from my inner God!” So there is that reality too. But with enough training, you start to learn to be in that state and then suddenly make the discerned judgment of what is actually going on, and then you can say with confidence that “I am dreaming.”
Question: So can you be lucid during a projection of your own mind? Like how you dream at night is a projection of my fear. Can I wake up in that?
Question: Or I can only wake up in the objective in the fifth dimension?
Instructor: Both. In the sense that you can be having a very lucid dream in which your ego is projecting things and you are just seeing your own desires, and even in the middle of that, even if it is very intense and vivid, you can start to realize that “This is kind of crazy,” like “why am I seeing this action film playing out in front of me, and all this weird logic going on?” You can discern, “There is something going on here,” and then you realize, “I think I am dreaming!” It is possible, but usually, with those very intense egotistical dreams, we tend to just go along with it because we are very sleepy.
But visions that are more objective, relating to our own inner divinity, occur within the superior fifth dimension, you could say. We call it the heavenly realms, the heavenly world. It just takes practice and a lot of meditation. You have those experiences and maybe you do not understand them at first, but you know, with patience you learn to discern between them.
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