Imagine for a moment that everything we see and hear is but a dream a waking dream if you will where all seems real and following a rational and very linear approach to the world around us. Unlike this waking dream* what if the sleeping dream were to present a reality that was the mirrored image of the waking dream where everything seems real but seemingly irrational and non linear? The experience of the reality of both worlds comes from the individual experiencing them and is projected by the dreamer and is an effect of the inner world of their psyche. In either world as experienced the dreamer cannot be sure they are awake or dreaming.
It is said that if one pinches themselves and it hurts then they are not in a dream but what if feeling in a linear dream world feels like pain and in a nonlinear dream world feels like sadness or the color red? One world follows linear rules of cause and effect while the other does not. Are these worlds any the less real because one does not look like the other?
In a linear world we sleep and then we wake up. It is said that we are becoming conscious from a state of unconsciousness. But could it also be that we are becoming conscious of the unconscious? But perhaps they are mirrored forms of one consciousness.
While pondering this little thought experiment I settled down to meditate on it when a question formed in my mind that wouldn’t go away and shanghaied my focus (this happens more than I like). It went something like this: If a person were living within a waking dream, what would happen if they actually woke up?
As I sat upright I began to imagine what might happen. If most of what drives our vision of the waking world is effected by our personal and collective unconscious material that includes many archetypal symbols shared by all humans both in dreams and in what we call consciousness, what if we were to awaken from this shared symbolic vision and find ourselves functioning with a different symbology? This would probably affect our linguistic system, visual and mental interpretation of everything around us.
Those around us who were still living in the world and asleep would see us behaving in a most peculiar way and we might be confused what with not being able to communicate adequately with those around us. Even our experience of objects and people around us might be altered and our relationship to these might look somewhat delusional to others.
Looking closer at the possible behaviors of this theoretical “awakened” person, I noted the similarity with the diagnostic pattern of schizophrenia. I also remembered an article I’d read years ago that discussed the similarities between those with schizophrenia and shamanism. The seemingly bizarre philosophies and insights of many religious mystics also come to mind.
R.D. Laing, a Scottish psychiatrist during the 1950’s through 1980’s, suggested that Schizophrenia was triggered by what is known as a Double Bind situation, what is sometimes called the “Incompatible Knot” caused by extreme and prolonged different, or incompatible messages and an attempt of the psyche to resolve these**. Laing also suggested the possibility that when experiencing this double bind situation the ego and the self cannot express themselves and that can cause a very personal symbolism that is meaningful to the individual and incomprehensible to all others—diagnostic of Schizophrenia. He also reasoned that quite possibly the actions of those identified with Schizophrenia may actually be in the process of trying to avoid the losing of the self.
For Laing Schizophrenia may be a transformative process like the Shamanic Journey where one might enter a state where they encounter insights which make them more grounded perhaps in an expanded reality.
Might also some of those who experience schizophrenia be on a shamanic journey and among the “awakened,” or they who have experienced a shift in perception? This is hard to tell especially when some doctors use a medical model, or even a behavioral model based on biologics. Dr. Laing suggested that behaviors such as those exhibited by those with Schizophrenia, can both conceal or expose experience. Is it possible that the Schizophrenic is trying to communicate the experience of the shift in awareness, but have lost their connection with the world around them?
But this connection of which I speak between awakening and schizophrenic behaviors is only rumination on my part, or at most, speculation in that there is no evidence for a connection nor for that matter is there any evidence for the Waking Dream as a reality. If the connection is true, I’m not sure I want to be awakened though the prospect and mystical promise is tantalizing.
There does seem to be some experiential evidence, however that society has created a context for behavior that may be antithetical to normal, or natural behaviors e.g. where there is encouraged and unnatural split between inner and outer experience—we are, generally speaking, not aware of our inner selves and thus most of us experience a pervasive alienation from one another and a general misunderstanding of reality. Under extreme cases this may lead to extreme forms of alienation e.g. Schizophrenia.
“For without the inner the outer loses it’s meaning, and without the outer the inner loses it’s substance.”
R.D Laing, The Politics of Experience, 1972
“For nature, as we know, is at once within and without us. Art is the mirror at the interface. So too is ritual, so also myth. These, too, bring out ‘the grand lines of nature,’ and in doing so, re-establish us in our own deep truth, which is one with that of all being.”
Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p. 132
*see also 1) https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/waking-up-from-the-dream/ 2) https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/dreaming-wakefulness/ 3) https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/awakening-from-the-darkness-of-mere-being/ 4) https://darkknightofthesoul.blog/2018/03/09/dreaming-yourself-into-existence-become-lucid-within-your-waking-dream/
**Laing, R.D., The Politics of Experience, Ballantine Books, Inc., N.Y., 1967