Monday, January 30, 2006

Dreams, Jewish Angels, and Vertical Recollection

This is Part 2 of yesterday's post about the structure of dreams and how it might relate to larger metaphysical questions, such as whether I exist as an independent reality or am merely a figment of Petey's overheated imagination.

Okay, bearing in mind the problems with language we discussed yesterday, let's just suppose that there's a horizontal world and a vertical one.

This vertical/horizontal duality is just one of many ultimate antinomies in the universe, in the sense that you cannot have one without the other. Indeed, they cannot be defined except in reference to one other: subject-object, external relations-internal relations, mechanism-organicism, quantity-quality, time-eternity, part-whole, consciousness-matter, form-substance, life-lifeless, etc.

Let us further suppose that each of these antinomies is indeed ultimate--that each one represents a "horizon of knowabilty" for us. And that furthermore, these antinomies are related in an unsuspected way, as follows:

There is a horizontal world of matter, objects, external relations, mechanism, quantities, time, parts, substance, and lifelessness.

And a vertical world of form, subject, internal relations, organicism, qualities, eternity, whole, life, and consciousness.

Let us also stipulate that the causal influence of the horizontal realm operates on the basis of past, to present, to future. On the other hand, the vertical realm operates outside chronological time and has "top-down" causation. But knowledge in either realm involves a type of memory. Horizontal knowledge involves remembering the past so that we may understand the present and predict the future. Vertical knowledge involves remembering the "above" or "below" so that we may understand the now.

The horizontal discloses all sorts of facts. That is the domain of science. But scientific facts only reveal their significance in the vertical.

What is vertical recollection? What does it mean to "remember" what is above?

For human beings, remembering is to forgetting as waking is to sleeping and birth is to death. "Forgetting" the vertical reduces man to animality, just as sleep reduces us to vegetality and death to minerality. To sleep is to forget, to forget is to die.

To awaken to the vertical is to remember and to actually be alive, or "born again" from above.

The mind is an organ of truth. Just as the heart pumps blood and the lungs exchange oxygen, the mind functions to metabolize truth. In fact, human beings would cognitively and spiritually starve and suffocate--do starve and suffocate--without constant exchanges with the oxidized blood of Truth from above. Because of this exchange, the mind grows and renews itself.

(Of course, there are also false vertical words, such as the world of Islam. It is a "made up" vertical world constructed out of the fantasies and mental energies of its adherents. A real vertical world is a priori and antecedent to our discovering it, although it is more of a formless potential until we flesh it out and give it substance.)

In the outstanding little book on Jewish mysticism by Adin Steinsaltz entitled The Thirteen Petalled Rose, he points out that in higher worlds, time becomes "increasingly abstract and less and less representative of anything that we know as time in the physical world." Instead, it becomes something more like "the purest essence of change" or "the possibility of potential change." As one descends in the worlds, materiality and linear causation become ever greater. (Again, don't be too literal here--Steinsaltz points out that these "are nothing more than ways of representing an abstract formless spiritual reality in the vocabulary of human language.")

Steinsaltz notes that the soul should not be thought of as a "point" in space time. Rather, it is "a continuous line of spiritual being, stretching from the general source of all the souls to beyond the specific body of a particular person.... and because the soul is not a single point in space, it should be viewed not as a single existence having one quality or character, but as many existences, on a variety of spiritual levels..."

In the past, I have used the analogy of a lampshade with many pinprick holes in it. From the outside it will look as if there are many individual lights, but in reality, they are all coming from a single "nonlocal" source.

Now, I don't know if Petey is Jewish--he's never said so anyway--but Steinsaltz goes on to a brief discussion of what are called "angels." He says that an angel is "a messenger" constituting a point of contact "between our world of action and the higher worlds. The angel is the one who effects transfers of the vital plenty between worlds. An angel's missions go in two directions: it may serve as an emissary of God downward..., and it may also serve as the one who carries things upwards from below, from our world to the higher worlds."

I ran it by Petey, but he was, I don't know, noncommittal. But that's not unusual. It's more like he's disinterested, or at least pretends to be so. The roll of the eyes, the impatient, audible exhalation, the way his little wings flutter, as if he's got something better to do....


goesh said...

There are dreams then there are dreams, the ones that seem odd and disjointed, that pop into consciousness at night while sleeping. I have the latter about twice a year at most, if even that often. Some folks say our dreams are like arrows we shoot out into the Cosmic, others say they are arrows coming in. I suspect it is a two-way street. I may be but a speck of slime in the grand scheme of things, given my 1-2 dreams a year, I don't know. I've read where that is the case. But I will stand on my head if the notion takes me and I can lie on my back in the grass for long periods of time looking at clouds too. We grope inward and grasp outward, it seems to be our nature but we may be doing it all backwards.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Sorry I can't comment at the moment, got to be careful, I'm still picking up all the ball bearings that you dropped on the floor. Careful! Don't slip on one!

RunningRoach said...

So it is… or is it? Here we are in the exact center, vertically and horizontally, of all that is and all that isn’t, trapped, running in a sphere of our own senselessness…. Moving in all directions but going nowhere….. eternally. Growing as does the cosmos toward infinity without a change in size. One size fits all that is or isn’t. I agree that we “move” within the axis of the horizontal, while the vertical moves within us. And, as you suggest, the only binding force, the essence of vertical growth, is memory, and an open minds’ eye.

That is where I believe dreams are made and made of. Mine are holograms, layer upon layer of what was, what wasn’t and what I dreamed about. Never in “third person”, sometimes in color.

By the way, your analogy with the lampshade brought this memory to the fore.

As a senior in high school, I took an elective course in philosophy. The alternative was to study Greek Mythology. (Not really my thing.)

Without getting into a long description of the course, our grade was based on a “final” exam or project. I chose a “project”. The subject of the project, determined by sticking my hand into a bowl and picking from a bunch of folded pieces of paper, was to Describe Life.

Well, on the day (night actually) before the project was due, I began to give it some serious thought.
While looking in the kitchen cabinet for some construction paper to start to do something still undetermined, I came across a yet to be opened bag of un-ground A&P coffee beans and a light went on somewhere in the upper strata of my mind. I raced around and found an empty peanut can (They were very large back then.) I cut a hole near the bottom of the can, about one inch in diameter, about one inch above the bottom. I also cut 4 half inch round holes near the top of the can, 90 degrees apart. Over these holes I glued four pieces of colored plastic: Blue, Green, Yellow and Red. I also made a round “Base” of window screen material, that stood about two inches or so high off the bottom of the inside of the can sloping toward the one inch hole I made.

The next morning I gathered the can and coffee beans, then bought 4 of those little key chain flash lights, a piece of dry ice and some clear plastic wrap from the corner store and caught the bus to school.

That afternoon, just before the class began, I gathered my stuff from the cafeteria freezer and asked my teacher if I could present my project early in the class.

We all gathered around one of the desks. I placed the dry ice and a little water in the bottom of the can, put the screen over that, put plastic wrap over the top and began pouring the beans into the can through a hole in the plastic wrap. I had 4 volunteers shine the penlights intermittently into the can through the colored plastic “ports” . What I described was that the coffee beans represented people, born at the top, then “passing on” at the bottom through a hole into “nothingness”. (Actually onto the classroom floor.) The subliming dry ice created a CO2 cloud in the head-space of the can and the 4 colored lights illuminated the gas in varying shades of light. This, I claimed was the ever present, unchanging elements of life that existed at the top of the can. Each of the colors represented emotions such as love, rage, fear etc. While the beans passed through, the color above was ever present and constantly changing.

Thus the vertical is and becomes what we are.

Anonymous said...

I have a "Petey" also, but I've only seen him once and we don't have regular conversations and I can't make these encounters happen, (maybe twice, if that was him and he brought a friend to cheer me up, but altho they had "form" I couldn't see any substance to really see what they looked like. In the dream, I was sitting on the ground looking up at the night sky when they appeared out of a spiral galaxy. One of them picked me up and swung me around in the air, like you do a small child when playing - and it was exhilarating, until I realized how high up in the air I was, and the second I felt fear - I was back on the ground. And then the other one told me jokes that made me laugh and laugh - which of course I couldn't remember what they were when I woke up the next morning). And then twice I've been able to see his actions/playfulness in the awake world. Once he kept knocking a can of nuts out of my hand. I thought I was being clumsy and dropping the can until it happened about 3 times - at which point I was just picking up the can and holding it in my hand to see if it would happen again and sure enough, there came the bump on the back of my hand that sent the can flying - til I finally put them back in the cupboard and went to bed awestruck and without snack. In that particular situation - I'd been having trouble with my wisdom teeth and eating nuts made the infection flair up - but at the time my teeth were feeling okay and I was hungry for a snack. I guess my Angel had other ideas about whether I was going to eat those nuts. The other time I saw an actual physical consequence in the waking world - I had just gone by myself to see the Castaway, with Tom Hanks, and there's so many metaphors for life in the movie, it really had me thinking. When I got back out to my car, I noticed that the rearview mirror was turned all the way downward - not like I'd just bumped it or something - and I'd never bumped it before or since, and at first I thought someone was playing a trick on me, there was a little group of young people not too far from my car - but I had locked the doors and they were still locked. I didn't get too excited over it tho, because I thought there must be some "logical" explanation. So I just drove off and didn't give it too much thought, except it was kinda weird - but then I stopped at a convenience store on the way home and when I got back out to the car - same thing with rear-view mirror. Turned all the way downward - and I know I didn't bump it this time. Something other than myself touched that mirror, and the car doors were locked. And I just had the feeling that I was being played with in a loving sort of way, and letting me know everything was going to be okay and I wasn't alone.

I haven't named him tho, because I can't think of anything that suits him. He's really tall, maybe twelve feet, and very slender for his height - and he thinks I'm silly, but not in a cruel way. He brushed a bunch of large white feathers over my face in a playful laughing way - like "oh you humans, you just crack me up" and told me not to worry, I was learning. Not too long after the dream in which he first appeared, I saw an account by someone else who was talking about their encounter with an "Angel" who, right as the seatbelt light went off told her to tighten her seatbelt (which she did instinctively on hearing the voice), that she was in for the ride of her life - in a humorous kind of tone - right before a hole blew in the side of the airplane she was flying in at 30,000 ft. She had looked back to see who had said that and there was no one sitting behind her. The way she described the voice was kind of what I had experienced - only her experience was not a dream. The plane landed safely. It was the piolot's last flight before his retirement, and he almost called in sick, but decided against it.

I've also had a dream featuring Jesus (which I undestand is kind of rare), where he led me out of a graveyard to the safety of the gate and told me something about my future and to hurry toward it and not be late. I felt "other worldly" for several days after that one.

Anonymous said...

I have spent most of my life at war with what I guess Bob would call a mind parasite. (I'm not there in the book yet)It has literally been a life or death fight. I have been in the company of others who dealt with similar issues, and I have seen the consequences of letting it win. Scary. I know I'm being deliberately vague here, but just for the record we're not talking about criminal or evil impulses. Nonetheless, even in the anonymous world of the internet I am circumspect about how much of my stuff I'm going to dump.
But as I look back over the last four decades, I can see many times when I was touched by something greater than myself. Something that steered me toward a life affirming path. Something that stood between me and it. Sometimes this took the form of great upheavals, forshadowed by bizarre lucid dreams. Other times it was probably very much like what Bob calls 'Petey'- a quiet voice that said, "Forget your books and your records. Go to the beach today." "Stay here," as I traveled through a small town in Appalachia, or "Choose life." when I was hesitating on whether I should ask out the woman who is now my wife. The dreams were there too when the parasite was winning. Thick black macabre nightmares so vivid that I sometimes when I came out of them I had to call someone on the phone to find out if I was awake. I don't miss them.
Sometimes, in those 'there but for the grace of God...'moments I try to sort it out. I can't. But I know I am hugely fortunate. All the more so because I have gratitude. I mean-in many ways my life situation is crappy, but that's more stuff not to share on the internet. I am accutely aware of the blessings that I have. Sometimes I feel like I was picked out for something, but even at fifty plus I'm still straining to find out what it is.


LiquidLifeHacker said...

Wow...what a great read today Bob! Gotta love you and Petey for making us think so deeply!

I also love the comments left that everyone has shared.

I agree with Goesh that there are dreams then THERE are dreams! there any insight on those dreams that we have about our loved ones that have already died and sometimes appear in our dreams? Is this a memory of coping or just a memory emerging in our dream?

Runningroach, on contemplating "trapped, running in a sphere of our own senselessness…. Moving in all directions but going nowhere….. eternally" I would only add that the good news is that by choice we do NOT have to be trapped at all. And BTW...I loved your experiment!

As far as today's post, when Bob explained that Steinsaltz said "that an angel is "a messenger" constituting a point of contact "between our world of action and the higher worlds." ... I think its important to also remember how important it is for us to seek the origin of all things...even those origins of angels that we might feel come to us in dreams or into any aspect of our lives. Because remember that not all angels are doing good. There are some wicked angels that are willing to decieve us if we allow it. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

I feel that when Bob explained to us that, "Islam is a "made up" vertical world" ... I think this was the best example of one of these types of angels. Because the birth of Islam is all about an angel that gives muhammed the words from allah. So when we look at the source of this origin, we can then make the decision of it's deception. Paul warned us of this type of angel in Gal 1:6-9

We are also reminded of "Angels gone bad" in the book of Jude. So it's very important to be careful in not being decieved in our search for truth and to always seek the origin of the source going back and forth in "our vertical" or "our horizontal"

When Bob said "To awaken to the vertical is to remember and to actually be alive, or "born again" from above. The mind is an organ of truth." ...I think that we have to then be responsibile and make the choice of what is the truth and the source of that truth that we seek to follow. We have to ask ourselves, "What truth and what source of that truth will we choose to nourish our own minds and what source of truth will our hearts accept? What path of vertical will we take?"

I know that on my own path of where truth is for me and on finding which "vertical" way to "tap into" I found it reinforced for me in John 10, because I don't want to be like a robber or a thief on my journey.

Spiritual Emergency said...
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