Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Interpretation of Reality (and Other Dreams)

A while back, reader Penny asked, "So is Petey the voice in your head? The one that comes from the background processing going on in your brain, in your subconscious? The one that some people call intuition?"

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.


LiquidLifeHacker said...

Well, last night I dreamt that I had some really new gadget type cell phone that you could actually flip up and fry an egg inside it! I was multitasking alot of things and cooking breakfast and talking on the dang thing at the same time! How weird is that? Could it be that I had fallen asleep without talking to someone last night? Could it be that I fell asleep without eating dinner?

Answer: BOTH

I agree...dreams, well the one that you remember that you probably have seconds before you wake up and are yawning into morning, definately are something that relates to our desires and needs or the ones that our bodies missed within the last 24 hours!

Wow Bob, can we have an open thread here where we tell a dream that we have had and Petey could "off record" give us some insight into?

Gagdad Bob said...

Hmmm, a cell phone... An egg is a cell... The egg is maternal.... You were sleeping....

You're a female terrorist in a sleeper cell!

Bro. Bartleby said...

When Jesus speaks of the advocate, or even of the Holy Spirit, I believe He is speaking of the 'little voice in my head' or 'the little guy' or the Petey, or what every folks call it, but for most, the 'spirit' is drowned out by the fluttering of random thoughts, or more than likely, the deluge of daily life thoughts that have only been haphazardly been processed during our actual living and experiencing of all that which created those daily life thoughts. And of course dreams are but the only way 'the little voice in my head', the Holy Spirit, the Petey, get to have some serious quality time with the gray matter. And I can't accept the idea that all this is pure mechanical interaction of bits and bytes withing the brain, for I frequently dream elabrately staged dreams, sometimes the 'stage' is all the world itself, with oceans and surf and mountains and I often pick up objects and inspect them and view them in minute detail, even leaving through books and reading the print, and of course all in the grandest wide-screen Cinemascope with grand sound and out of this world 3-D effects and more and more and ... and where on earth does the computing power come from, let alone the needed hard disk space? I've watched on DVD the effort required in both manpower and computer power to create just 'five seconds' of special effects. Yet, my dreams are complete life experiences whipped together between the time I hit the sack and the first wee-wee break! What gives!!!
Bro. Bartleby

Gagdad Bob said...

what gives?

Indeed. We we will be discussing what gives in future posts. The mysterious existence of the Dreamer Who effortlessly Dreams the holographic Dream tells us something about the structure of the cosmos.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

"You're a female terrorist in a sleeper cell!"


Well, my stomach was growling and I was craving an egg sandwich! Nobody better in get in between me and food when I am low on blood sugar!

But let me ask you this if I may...

Most of my dreams on the norm are me watching it like a movie. I am watching it usually in third person and it is always in color and very detailed. Even if I am in the dream itself it is always me "watching" from a distance although I do get a front row seat. My favorite dreams are the ones that I can manipulate as I am falling asleep...its a control thing and its great when you can "set it up" and then go for the ride.

Does that mean I am a "control freak?"

jwm said...

I'm curious about archetypal dreams. Most people seem to have dreams that recur from the same basic set of dreams and nightmares: the flight dream, the falling dream and the snake dream come to mind. Others might include the quagmire (slow motion) dream, the naked dream, or the searching dream (can't find something, someone, or someplace). Is this just the brain recycling primal fears or are these occurrances warnings or messages from our higher (deeper?) selves? I know you can't go around saying, "Well I had a falling dream last night so I better not climb anything today." But if you get the same dream over and over, wouldn't it seem to point to some specific cause?


Gagdad Bob said...

"Most of my dreams on the norm are me watching it like a movie. I am watching it usually in third person and it is always in color and very detailed."

--That strikes me as an unusual achievement to a have accomplished without effort. Do you feel at all as if you're detached in waking life, or only in dreams?

Either way, isn't it remarkable that you, the "subject," are the same you in your dreams. And yet, there is a larger "subject" that orchestrates these coherent and detailed dreams for your viewing pleasure. And it IS a subject--it is as if our own subjectivity is derived from this larger subject. Could the ego be a little cork on this ocean of pure intelligent and creative subjectivity?

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Do you feel at all as if you're detached in waking life, or only in dreams?

I have dreamt like this my entire life, even when I was a child. I have always struggled with a funny type of insomnia which I think my grandfather also suffered from as he could go for days without sleep and still remain unbelievably cheerful, so when I finally ever did or do fall asleep I think I got alot of deep REM type sleep. Although I am always in third person watching my dreams, for those dreams where when I am "one of the characters and part of the script so to say" I still am watching myself inside the dream, however, many of my dreams I am not in at all. Its very much like being entertained at the movies.

I guess the best way to really describe it is as a multi process all happening at once, in that I get to be the actress sometimes and part of the audience always and perhaps the director if I am lucky. But all the dreams are third person for me, with the only exclusion of those dreams where I might be flying and then the view and the feel is all in one. Those are the dreams of great pleasure as I jump or bounce up and soar like a bird. I have actually felt wind on my face and hair in those dreams to only wake up later and it actually be a reality because of a draft or a window open.

This third person gig is something that I also can do in "awake" times also. For example, I can be in a social setting and my "third person" is always active. I wouldn't call it "detached" but more of an added "attachment" or awareness. I think many people do this...its just more fine tuned for those that tweek it!

The most amazing thing about some dreams are when what is going on in the environment of your sleep is something that is going on at the exact moment with your body physically and your senses. For example if you left the tv on and it is subliminally weaving into your dream or you might be in actual physical pain and that point of targeted pain is actively being tortured or suffering in some abstract part of your dream and is so forcefully sharp that it will wake you up right then and there!

The worst dreams for me and I am sure many have had these, are the ones that have started out with the visual of me falling asleep in the bed...for example, the opening of the movie is the girl in the bed...just getting cozy and falling asleep and so if it manifest into a negative or nightmarish type dream and I suddenly wake up, its very hard to get over the fear of that moment because there I am in my bed exactly as the dream started out! Its a scary moment because my mind is asking myself is it starting or is it over? I have had those where I have had to overcome the paralyzation of fear in order to move and realise that it was just a dream! I hate those!!! Those are the worst!!!

Gagdad Bob said...

Isn't it interesting how the Dreamer just takes whatever material you throw at him and still manages to seamlessly weave it right into the program--like a great improv artist.

All I can say is that I work with my dreams to remain conscious within them, something you seem to have mastered without effort.

I'm not sure, but it's probably unusual to be so detached that you're just watching the dream like a movie. Occasionally I can do this, but it's like a walking on a knife edge--the dream is always trying to pull you back in.

Gagdad Bob said...


"Most people seem to have dreams that recur from the same basic set of dreams and nightmares... Is this just the brain recycling primal fears or are these occurrances warnings or messages from our higher (deeper?) selves?"

--No, I don't think they're just recycled brain activity. Normally, they refer to some primordial conflict that one has failed to address and resolve. As soon as you get to the bottom of it, the recurring dream will usually disappear and free up your dream life.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

_ I'm not sure, but it's probably unusual to be so detached that you're just watching the dream like a movie.

I don't think its that unusual...because I have a hunch that some of the best movies and books out there are written from this very thing. Remember that some people dream when they are awake. (wink) So I would bet ya, they are out there, some authors; those that are brilliant at meshing and defining their characters so articulately into their stories, and that it makes them some of the best story tellers ever, because they are capable so easily to communicate in detail the story as a whole unit, each character with equal attention, because basically its just retelling the story... if it was dreamt up in the first place and if viewed in third person scope!

_Isn't it interesting how the Dreamer just takes whatever material you throw at him and still manages to seamlessly weave it right into the program--like a great improv artist.

It is more than interesting because I really do believe that God can use your dreams when He wants to... to get you to do his will. Even if you don't realise it.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Thomas Edison was a nonsleeper, in the traditional sense of sleeping, he cat napped. Early on he found that when suddenly awaken by some sort of noise or other, he would be in a state between dream and wake for a short time, and in this moment his creativity was at a heighten state. Being what he was, an inventor, he devised a method to take advantage of this discovery. He would seat himself in a chair, and in each hand hold some steel ball-bearings, directly beneath his hands were placed pie tins. Then he would allow himself to catnap, and he found that when he reached that creative dreamstate, his hands would relax, thereby allowing the ballbearings to slip out and drop into the metal pie tins with a clatter. Suddenly awakened, he often found solutions to problems fresh in his mind.

Gagdad Bob said...

Very good point, Bartleby. They say "dawn is the friend of the muses." Since I started this blog, I'm discovering that that is true. I had never thought of myself as a morning person before, but now, out of necessity I get on the computer first thing in the morning to write my post, and it just flows out. I often don't even know where I'm going with it, so it does have some resemblance to a semi-dream state--as if I'm somehow being guided.

Perhaps that is also why some of my posts don't make as much sense in the harsh light of day. Have you ever noticed that? That there are certain concepts and ideas that make perfect sense at 3:00AM, but not in the wideawake and cutandry world of the day?

Of course, in Finnegans Wake, Joyce was trying to write an entire book from that hypnagogic standpoint.

Goesh said...

I suspect Petey was a water witch in a past life. My late father was one. He found a number of wells for people using a forked willow branch. He never used the same branch. He always got a fresh, forked branch and left the branch at the spot where he told people to dig for water, and they always found water. He never talked about it and people never asked about his 'talent'. Just as some people can sing and others draw and others fix cars well, Dad could find water. I had thought about getting up a petition to request that Bob start an "Ask Petey" column, sort of like Ann Landers, where confused and disgruntled and lonely and wandering people could querry Petey directly, but then thought better of it. I think Petey drops his forked willow branches and keeps on trucking, never looking back.

Bro. Bartleby said...

"Of course, in Finnegans Wake, Joyce was trying to write an entire book from that hypnagogic standpoint."

Which brings us to quarks! Any particle physicists on board? As I understand we are all constructed of organs and systems which are constructed of specialized cells, which are tiny factories doing all sorts of things, which are made up of other specialized components of which one contains a long and tangled bit of 'stuff' which is in fact the software for the entire factory, of which these various bits of matter are composed of atoms of which both the material and the seemingly immaterial about the cell is composed of, and within these really tiny fellows are the subatomic and the really, really tiny stuff of which we reach the frontiers of both our sight and knowledge, where dwells the really, really, really, really, extremely tiny building block, Mr. Quark (and friends). Way down (up?) here our particle physicist are scratching their collective heads, referring to some 'things' as simply 'points' without matter, and don't forget the 'anti' of each and every tiny guy. And then here we are, ever dreaming humans existing within this infinite collection of 'stuff' and not only existing within, but made of the very same stuff. Okay, I have to stop for now and pick up all those ball bearings that are scatter about the floor.
Bro. Bartleby

Gagdad Bob said...


Joyce was right. It's all just information. The world isn't made of atoms, quarks or strings. It's made of language. So no matter how low one goes, one always encounters the logos.

Bro. Bartleby said...

"In the beginning was the Logos ..."

Gagdad Bob said...

In the end is the logos. And the middle. Also before the beginning. And after the end.

jwm said...

"Everything in the universe is composed of one element which is a note. Atoms are really vibrations, which are extensions of the BIG NOTE."

Frank Zappa
(from the Lumpy Gravy album)


Dilys said...

Dreams...An unexpected aspect of my recent conversion to a Very Big Box iteration of Christianity.

As long as I can remember, if I was ill and uncomfortable while sleeping -- migrane, stomach ache, fever, etc. -- I would dream of being chased, humiliated, in terrible danger. I notice that has changed, to neutral things like preparing for a meeting, or something similar. The tone is different, from threatened-and-guilty to merely ordinary tasks, even with an equally intense headache.

My working hypothesis is that repeated close encounters with age-ripened liturgies access far-reaching psycho-spiritual genius that drain the subconscious swamp.

I too have fancied Petey as Agony Aunt (Gladsome Uncle?) advisor. However, my hitherto favorite spiritual mentor stopped healing and solving problems for people, in favor of offering a method to unravel their own, inasmuch as otherwise they just went out and re-created the problems.