Friday, December 5, 2008

From First, From Within
A column dedicat
ed to exploring the role of dreams, voices, and visions in the integral yoga.

By Douglas McElheny

I must confess that there are many dreams whose significance completely eludes me, and it is tempting to wish petulantly that the unconscious would often have the decency to speak to us in a clearer language. However, on those occasions
when we succeed in making the translation, the message always seems to be one designed to nurture our spiritual growth.1
M. Scott Peck

With this idea in mind, let’s take a look at our first dream which features two characters from the japanese cartoon series Dragonball. They are Master Roshi and Oolong.

As the observer I can see Master Roshi, Oolong, and a few other characters standing on the ground. Up above them high in the sky is Kami’s Lookout which is a floating palace. There is a ladder that comes all the way down to the ground from the Lookout. Master Roshi and Oolong start climbing up the ladder. The other characters follow them.

Then I find myself up on Kami’s Lookout and I see Master Roshi, Oolong, and the others reaching the top. They have however transformed into these rather cute and harmless looking creatures one of which is very cat like.2

Even though this dream is short, it’s chock-full of interesting content. Before I get into it though, I need to talk a bit about the circumstances surrounding it.

The day before I had the dream I had indulged the lower vital by viewing some internet porn and putting to the test Whitney Houston’s assertion that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. Afterwards, I could feel quite concretely how I had lowered my consciousness by this action. I wasn’t angry or disgusted with myself, but I realized that it had been quite unnecessary. As a result there arose in me a firm resolve not to repeat this sort of thing, and I went to bed that night still feeling that resolve.

I guess the seed of that resolution must have germinated during the night because the next morning I woke up with a fire in the vital the likes of which I had never experienced before. It was a good fire though, a strong and ardent aspiration to leave all my little insect joys behind. I could see this movement reflected in the dream, but I didn’t examine it too deeply. Instead, I began my regular Monday morning ritual which includes drawing a few cards from The Eternity Game3 in order to get a reading on the coming week. One of the cards I drew that morning was Sage, whose recommended course of action is Renunciation. Remembering the dream I clearly saw the connection between the card and Master Roshi who is a bearded old man and who very much looks the part of the Sage. Having that kind of synchronicity made me realize that what I was experiencing was more than just a whim of the vital. I could see that the archetype4 represented by this card was active in me at that moment. As the day wore on I could even feel the action of the archetype as a sort of background force that was infusing the being with this drive for renunciation. When I went to bed that night I could still feel that force.

But when I awoke the next morning, the force was no longer perceptible and the vital had lost a fair amount of the previous day’s vigor. There was still a strong will though to carry on with the higher level of renunciation, so continue I did. Now however, it was more of a battle, but during the day I would remember the dream as well as the Sage card to help me overcome temptation. In the process more of the dream’s meaning became clear.

In a nutshell, it shows the process of the previous day, how this force took hold of the different parts of myself and drove them to aspire for something higher. This upward climb is led by Master Roshi, the Sage. Oolong is a humanoid pig, and he is also a pervert whose favorite hobby is collecting women’s underwear. He is thus a fitting symbol for things like the lower vital or the sex impulse etc. The thing is though, Master Roshi himself, while he is very much the wise old man, is also very much a dirty old man. So to me it appears that, in addition to the Sage archetype, he also shows a dichotomy in me between my sage-like inclinations and my dirty old man inclinations.

It is also quite relevant for me to point out that Oolong is a shapeshifter and can assume any form he likes, but only for five minutes at a time. I find this fact to be applicable to my vital in an allegorical sort of way. My vital too is capable of ‘shapeshifting’ from its normal disposition towards the life of senses to an aspiration for the divine life, but only for short periods of time. We see this happen in the dream when not just Oolong but all the other characters as well go through a transformation before reaching the top of Kami’s Lookout.

The other characters in the dream (as they appeared both on the ground and on Kami’s Lookout) are too indistinct for me to say much about them. All I can say with any surety is that they must represent other parts of myself. Kami’s Lookout on the other hand is a very rich and potent dream symbol and bears some discussion. On Dragonball, Kami’s Lookout is the palace where the current guardian of the earth resides and the station from which he observes events occurring on the planet. In my dream it is almost certainly a symbol for a higher level of consciousness and perhaps (since it overlooks the earth) for Overmind itself.

Now I of course didn’t ascend into any sort of higher consciousness on the previous day, so it appears to me that what the dream is showing is that a connection was made between the higher consciousness and the outer consciousness. I do think however that its not completely out of the realm of possibility that the dream also corresponds to an inner event that happened that night while I was sleeping. Perhaps my inner consciousness actually rose up to one of the overhead planes, and the effects of that uplifting spilled over into the waking life the next day. I recently came across a quote from the Mother where she talks about how events during sleep do indeed affect our waking consciousness. She tells us:

First become conscious–conscious of your dreams. Observe the relation between them and the happenings of your waking hours. If you remember your night, you will be able to trace back very often the condition of your day to the condition of your night. In sleep some action or other is always going on in your mental or vital or other plane; things happen there and they govern your waking consciousness.5

That’s all I have to say about that dream so let’s continue with our story. As the week wore on I continued to be vigilant with my renunciation. The two problem areas I was giving the most attention to were the sex impulse (in all its varying manifestations) and wasting time surfing the internet.6 I found however that the strength of my resolve would waver and I would allow myself little indulgences such as a sexual fantasy here, five minutes of compulsive surfing there, etc. When Monday came around again I played The Eternity Game and once again drew the Sage card.7 This gave me renewed vigor so I carried on with the renunciation, but it continued to be punctuated by bite-sized moments of vital gratification. Then I had this dream.

I am walking down a long dirt road through very arid countryside. I know that there is a large man-eating fish with big teeth that is following me. He’s far enough away though that I can’t see him. I am passing by a nice middle class looking home, and I know that there are other such homes spaced out along the road even though no others are visible at that moment. This house has a small goldfish pond in its front lawn, and I realize that the man-eating fish will be able to rejuvenate itself by sitting in the water for a while and will then continue to pursue me. I know that walking through the desert weakens the fish, but I can see that he will refresh himself at each house along the way and continue to follow me.

In this dream we find a very clear and straightforward lesson. I am walking through the desert of renunciation and am being followed by a man-eating fish which represents a vital movement or in this case I think a combination of them. The houses along the way with their ponds are the little ‘oasis’ I was giving to the vital movements which gave them strength and allowed them to continue to seek expression. Now there is of course nothing astonishing about the knowledge this dream gives. In fact it is quite self-evident. The thing is though we’re quite dense creatures, and it seems we have to have even the simplest things pointed out to us again and again and again before we finally learn our lesson.

Anyway, I don’t remember exactly when or how it happened, but eventually my drive for renunciation petered out. Regardless of that I can see that some fundamental progress has been made as a result of this process. The fact is I still haven’t completely learned my lesson and I continue to provide little oasis’ for the lower vital movements. But thanks to the second dream I have crossed what you might call a knowledge threshold, one I can’t seem to cross back over. I see more clearly now what it is that I am doing and the adverse affects of it, and I can’t lie to myself or deceive myself about it the way I could before the dream. The Mother talks about how dreams can help us in this way. She tells us:

It happens that when you need to dream of something, so that it may enlighten you on a point of your nature, give you an indication about the effort you must make, it comes.

It depends perhaps on a consciousness that watches over everyone; and provided one is just a little open, it can guide him and give sure indications.8

So the end result is that I can’t give these movements quite as much play as I did before. So I can see that I have taken a step, however small, in the direction of a full renunciation.
Our last dream for this month is quite noteworthy because it also involves a line I got from the inner voice which reveals the meaning of one of the dream’s symbols. Here it is:

I am in the family room of Tom’s9 house. We’re talking about video games, and I’m telling him about how I’ve been putting together a nice collection of all the old video games we used to play as teenagers. Then we start playing a game ourselves, but it is a very simple board game. On my third turn I roll three sevens for a total of twenty-one. This is the exact number I need to get to the end of the game, so I am the winner.

After I awoke from this dream I passed back into a light trance and I heard the inner voice say

Inadequacy is one partner in crime.

Like many people from my past, Tom has been popping up in my dreams for years but I had never been able to figure out what he might represent. But after hearing the line a light suddenly turned on. “Inadequacy! Yes of course! That’s what Tom means. He’s a symbol for my feelings of inadequacy.”

Tom had an older brother named Bob. Now Bob was the kind of son most parents dream of. He was at the top of his class scholastically, and he was very talented in a number of areas including theatre, music, dance, and journalism. Tom on the other hand (though he was popular and well liked) got average grades, wasn’t involved much in extracurricular activities, and didn’t seem to have much ambition. Though Tom and I never spoke about it, its hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have feelings of inadequacy under such circumstances. In fact, I once heard my mother telling someone that it must be hard for Tom having Bob as a brother. It must be admitted however that only Tom himself could confirm whether or not he did indeed have those feelings.

Looking at my life in light of the dream I could see that under the surface there were indeed feelings of inadequacy that were bothering the vital. Knowing this I was able to address the presence of those feelings and to clear them out. The line I received does suggest that there were other things going on, that there were other partners in crime, but I was unable to figure out what they might have been. I guess they will remain a mystery for the moment.

Now there are two other interesting things worth discussing in this dream. The first is the game I am playing with Tom. I imagine that there could be numerous levels of significance in this, but perhaps on the waking level it previses the victory I had over this part of myself during the day. And of course its quite interesting that the victory came on my third turn when I rolled a triple seven. Intrigued by this I decided to do some research on the numbers three and seven. The only thing I could find that either Sri Aurobindo or the Mother said about it is that “seven is realization.”10 But I also did some googling to see what I could find on the subject. Most of what I found was hogwash, but I did find one interesting entry on Wikipedia called Numbers in Egyptian Mythology. According to the entry “the number seven was apparently the Egyptian symbol of such ideas as perfection, effectiveness, and completeness.”11 I also found another entry entitled Numerology which has a section on the numerology of the Bible. It states that seven “is taken to mean spiritual perfection”12 and that “three is symbolic of completeness or divine perfection.”13 I have to admit I’m not quite sure how to apply these ideas to the dream, but it’s obvious some quite powerful forces were at work. The sort of forces perhaps that help one reach realization and spiritual perfection. I’m afraid I’m not qualified or comfortable to say more so I will leave this as food for thought for the reader.

Moving on, the second and final thing I would like to discuss about this dream is my conversation with Tom about my video game collection. At the time of the dream I actually was putting together a collection of old sega and nintendo games that I was downloading from the internet for children to play. A number of them were games I used to play after school with Tom, who lived just two houses down the street. Now over the years I’ve come to suspect that dreams often show inner communications and inner meetings with people from our past with whom we still have a relationship on some other plane. In the Letters on Yoga Sri Aurobindo indicates that this is indeed the case. He tells us:

These dreams are not all mere dreams, all have not a casual, incoherent or subconscious building. Many are records or transcripts of experiences on the vital plane into which one enters in sleep, some are scenes or events of the subtle physical plane. There one often undergoes happenings or carries on actions that resemble those of the physical life with the same surroundings and the same people, though usually there is in arrangement and feature some or a considerable difference. But it may also be a contact with other surroundings and with other people, not known in the physical life or not belonging at all to the physical world.14

It strikes me as quite possible that on some level (most likely the vital) I told Tom what I was doing. My vital was quite excited about amassing all my favorite video games from my teenage years, and it makes sense that it would want to communicate that to one of its old video game buddies when it was free to roam on the vital plane. So this dream might be a transcript of this inner communication as well as symbolic in terms of my own psychological processes. Here again it is impossible to know for sure given the limitations of the author, but I felt it was important to address this possibility as well as other possibilities I have addressed throughout this article. Which brings me to my final point.

As long as you’re kicking around in normal human consciousness you’re going to have to deal with dreams on the level of possibilities to some extent. Given that I don’t feel it’s inappropriate to address possibilities, as long as it is done with a grain of salt and within the parameters of what has been been said by those with true authority such as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. If we do things in this way we can only benefit because it will serve to widen our outlook not only on the multifaceted nature of dreams, but also on the multifaceted and multileveled nature of our life and being. This is perhaps the most important benefit we reap from getting to know our dreams. They (as well as things like the inner voice and synchronicity) help us to see again and again that we aren’t just this surface self and that our life extends well beyond the confines of waking events. They help us to see that there really is a Consciousness, an Intelligence orchestrating everything that happens ,even down to the smallest detail. And they help us to see these things in a way that is concrete and living and not just something we read in a book. And this is of course useful because it (along with many other factors) helps us to slowly disidentify with this surface self until we reach that critical point where we can break through into another consciousness.15

Well I think that’s a good place to stop. See you next time here at From First, From Within!

Notes and References
1. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, Simon and Schuster, New York, New York, 1978, p. 244-245.
2. For those who know Dragonball let me say that this cat-like creature looked nothing like Puar nor did I have the sense that that’s who he was.
3. For more on The Eternity Game please see the May 2008 issue of The Chipmunk Press.
4. For more on archetypes please see the August 2007 and October 2008 issues of The Chipmunk Press.
5. The Mother, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 3 Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1977, p.14-15.
6. The inner voice gave me a little encouragement in this direction with a very simple line: Browser out.
7. If you consider the fact that the game has 64 cards you’d have to agree that this is quite a synchronicity.
8. The Mother, Questions and Answers 1955, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 7, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1977, p.119-120.
9. Tom was a friend of mine from eighth to twelfth grade.
10. The Mother, Mother’s Agenda Volume 7, Institute for Evolutionary Research, New York, 1981, November 9, 1966.
11. Numbers in Egyptian Mythology,
12. Numerolgy,
13. Ibid.
14. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga–Part 4, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Volume 24, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p. 1487.
15. The Mother has spoken about this ‘critical point.’ In her words she says “This change of consciousness and its preparation have often been compared with the formation of the chicken in the egg; till the very last second the egg remains the same, there is no change, and it is only when the chicken is completely formed, absolutely alive, that it itself makes with its little beak a hole in the shell and comes out. Something similar takes place at the moment of the change of consciousness. For a long time you have the impression that nothing is happening, that your consciousness is the same as usual, and if you have an intense aspiration, you even feel a resistance, as though you were knocking against a wall which does not yield. But when you are ready within, a last effort–the pecking of the shell of the being–and everything opens and you are projected into another consciousness.” (The Mother, Questions and Answers 1951, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 4, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1972, p.18-19.)

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