The Interpretation of Reality (and Other Dreams)
I didn't really know how to respond to Penny's query, so I just provided a somewhat flip response off the bottom of my head: "You could say that. Or you could say that he's an angel, bearing in mind Rilke's perceptive crack that Every angel is terrible. Or you could say that he's a vertical courier transferring messages between the celestial and earthly realms. Or you could say that he's an amusing muse. Or you could say that he is the dreamer who dreams the dream. Or you could say that I am a bizarre figment of his imagination."
I couldn't answer Penny's question because it's something I myself have pondered. Let's get something straight at the outset: no, I can't just "ask" Petey. It doesn't work that way, any more than it works like that for anyone else. You try it. Walk over to your wife or kid and ask, "Just who are you? Where did you come from? What's your ontological status? Are you real? And what do you mean by real?" See how far you get. In Petey's case, he might say something sarcastic, like "What do you think, Swami Bobba Rum Raisin? Enlighten us."
As best as I can tell, my "flip" response wasn't too far wide of the mark. To avoid confusion, let's just take the word angel off the table right now. Petey hates the term--he thinks it sounds very "gay," not to mention new age, which he detests. "Rhymes with sew-age," he always says. And he wouldn't like the word courier either. Sounds too servile.
How about Vertical Emissary, Transpersonal Liaison, or Celestial Ambassador? Ah, that's more like it! I don't think he'd object to any of those.
Is it too basic to point out that the physical world in which we live and which we can observe is only a small part of the universe? That most of the universe is spiritual in its essence, and that the material world is simply the "crust" or "epidermis" of the interior cosmos?
Naturally, language can be confusing. We often mistake a deficiency in language for a key to Truth. When we employ spatial metaphors like "inside," "outside," "above" and "below," these are obviously borrowed from the realm of the senses. Forget about spirituality for the moment. What does it mean for something to be "in" the unconscious? For the unconscious to be "below" the conscious mind? To "have" a dream that we are also "in"? To "possess" mental "energy"? To "push" something out of awareness? How can we say that there is no "time" in the unconscious, when we don't know what time is? Perhaps there is only pure time in the unconscious, a sort of non-linear, interpenetrating, co-present "all at once" that is closer to the actual nature of time.
These spatial metaphors are just frames of reference so that we can find our way about the interior, nonmaterial realm. Sometimes words can advance our inquiry, but sometimes they impede things and get in the way of new discoveries. It is no different than in any other field of study. In physics, for example, it was once thought that things were "in" space and time. Now it is understood that material objects are "of" space and time. Light waves do not propagate through a medium, but are the very medium through which they propagate. The "big bang" is not something that only happened "once upon a timeless" 13.7 billion years ago. Obviously, it's happening right now, in that the universe is still banging away and expanding. Etc.
As a result of the limitations of language, the inexhaustible reality of the world can slip through our theoretical fingers, and we can begin to inhabit a self-satisfied, circular world in which we are actually doing nothing more than ceaselessly chasing after our own tail. Facts that don't fit the prevailing paradigm are simply excluded.
Much of what we discover depends upon our frame of reference. In reality, there are no objects in the universe, only events. A "fact" is a relation between two events, but the events are relations as well. This is not to say that everything is relative, for there is an ultimate backdrop on which all of these events play out, a matrix or "container," as it were.
When we dream, we inhabit a multi-dimensional, holographic world with inexhaustible meaning. Somehow--we no not know how--we both dream the dream and are yet a subject within our dream. We create the reality of the dream, from the space in which it takes place right down to the most minute object we encounter in the dream--a red coffee cup, an office building, our childhood home, a beautiful natural setting, another planet altogether--and yet, we are also in the dream. Although we apparently create the dream world, we nevertheless encounter it as a "given" world, absolutely no different than the waking world we confront and with which we must struggle.
Hmm. Perhaps this is an important point. I can't tell you how many times a patient has come to me with a bizarre, elaborate dream that they didn't understand, asking "What do you think, Doc?," only for me to answer, "that wasn't a dream. That was your life." In other words, somehow the internal "dreamer" of the patient totally encapsulated their situation--their essential conflicts, dilemmas, and unconscious problems--in a beautifully scripted and wonderfully acted little play.
What I am suggesting is that the logic of our dream life reveals much more about the nature of reality than reality discloses about the logic of dreams. From an evolutionary standpoint, it has always been difficult to account for dreams--not just the fact that we dream, but the fact that we live within a larger space governed by a "dreamer" who understands us much more thoroughly than we understand ourselves.
Who is this Dreamer?
Ah, now we're getting somewhere.
To be continued tomorrow....
ADDENDUM--What would Joyce say:
In the night of the mummery I have something inside me talking to myself. But I can't recoil it. I'm not meself at all.