Sunday, July 4, 2010
Who is doing the dreaming?
A practical psychology of dream experience needs to raise the question: which part of the dreamer is doing the dreaming? The psychic Edgar Cayce suggested distinguishing dreams that reflect the needs or wishes of the body, the mind and the spirit. But the issue involves more than needs and wishes. In dreaming, we get out there. The question is: who is the dream traveler?
In keeping with my recent theme of Eastern approaches to the Imaginal Realm, I want to note that the great Persian Sufi philosopher, Suhrawardi, offers a very clear experiential psychology of dream travel. He distinguished different levels of dreaming – with corresponding degrees of importance and reliability – according to which aspect of self is the traveler.
(1) Clear dreams or “free revelation” [kashf] are experiences of soul [ruh] traveling beyond the body, or having clear communication with a visitor. The territory visited may be a separate reality or a situation in the future. “With the eye of the free soul, by the imagination, a person contemplates in dreams the state of things which is yet in the hidden.” In this condition, the dreamer can have accurate foreknowledge of future events, and true clairvoyance. “After separation from the body, the soul knows even of the small things heard and seen of this world.”
In clear dreams, the dreamer becomes a remote viewer. This is a practice that can be developed in waking states of altered consciousness, or mukashafa. The Prophet Muhammad scouted out the progress of a caravan en route to Mecca in this way. The Caliph Umar, from afar, scouted an ambush that had been laid for his general Sariya (and sent his general a telepathic warning that was received).
(2) Symbolic dreams or “fancied revelations” are dreams in which the lower self [nafs] is dominant. Clear vision is cloaked by the “fancy garments” of appetite and desire. Landscapes traveled in such dreams are “the stages of lust.” Interpretation is required to separate a message from the fancy dress.
(3)“Pure fancy” is when “sensual thoughts” take over completely and higher consciousness [ruh] is “veiled from considering the hidden world.”
Source: H. Wilberforce Clarke (trans.) A Dervish Textbook - Kashani's Recension of Suhrawardi's Gifts : from the 'Awarifu-l-Ma'arif (London: Octagon Books, 1980).