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Dreaming and Waking

Author: Bob Makransky
Posted: September 19th. 2010
Times Viewed: 2,985

“The primary evolutionary context for considering the possible adaptive function of dream consciousness is the prehistoric Pleistocene environment in which humans and their ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years. If dream consciousness is biologically functional, it should have adaptive value at least in that original environment, under the conditions in which human ancestral populations lived. Whatever the adaptive role of dream consciousness might have been in that long-gone original context, there is no guarantee that the average dreaming brain today, facing a completely different environment than the one in which it evolved, should fulfill any functions that we recognize as adaptive in the present environment.”
– Antti Revonsuo

In contrast to the foregoing materialistic view of dream consciousness, the magical view holds that waking consciousness only arose (or better said: became primary, since waking consciousness has existed ever since the evolution of meiosis) in the Upper Paleolithic–Mesolithic, i.e. since just before humans invented agriculture. Before that time humans’ normal, everyday state of mind was what we today would consider to be dreaming.

Let us make a thought experiment. Let us imagine what consciousness is like for a one-celled being. One-celled beings do not die – they live forever in the consciousness of all of their ramifications – their antecedents and descendants. A one-celled being is instantaneously aware of any changes taking place in the environments and bodies of any of its ramifications; but it has no way of laying these events out in temporal sequence. Thus although experience is episodic (things happen) , the events do not take place in linear time, nor are they especially focused – they are felt more than perceived in a sensory fashion. One-celled beings are quite capable of responding to events, but these responses are pretty basic chemical reactions rather than reasoned decisions. They can access a surfeit of information, so have no way of compartmentalizing what they are experiencing (laying it out in linear fashion so as to be able to focus on one-thing-at-a-time) .

Forgetting is the basis of the evolution of consciousness. When there is too much information available, action becomes impossible. Everything-at-once is too much. Everything-at-once consciousness is rather like how one-celled beings experience the world. There is no sense of time, everything is happening at once, and while events take place (such as individual ramifications dividing and dying) the overall consciousness of the thing is too NOW, too intense, for much focus or reflection to take place.

Carlos Castaneda describes a two-things-at-a-time awareness, which he terms “silent knowledge”, and which he implies was the everyday awareness of our ancient hunter-gatherer forebears. This sort of telepathic awareness would be especially functional in a hunting / gathering environment to allow a hunter to project his awareness into his prey, so as to anticipate the prey’s actions (as Castaneda himself experienced once in pursuing a jaguar) ; or to permit a gatherer to find food (as Castaneda himself was taught how to find plants outside his field of vision by tuning into the plants’ awareness) .

In The Power of Silence Castaneda described his teacher Don Juan’s first experience of this double awareness as follows: “He could be thoroughly one or the other. Or he could be both at the same time. When he was both, things became fuzzy and neither being was effective, so he abandoned that alternative. But being one or the other opened up inconceivable possibilities for him. … He established that one of his beings was more flexible than the other and could cover distances in the blink of an eye and find food or the best place to hide.” Castaneda’s teacher explained that silent knowledge was the original consciousness of human beings; and that only recently (presumably since the invention of agriculture, which requires a greater consciousness of past and future than hunting / gathering does) has one-at-a-time awareness been the vogue.

The traditional tripartite division of quotidian consciousness into dreamless sleep, dreaming, and waking is misleading. It can be more fruitful to consider the true distinction to be that between intent (feeling) , sensation (mindfulness) , and conceptualizing (mindlessness) . The difference between these three states is a matter of increasingly sharper focus from one state of attention to the next, rather than a hard and fast division. In like manner it can be more useful in describing consciousness to take as base concepts familiarity and importance in place of space and time, respectively.

Nonetheless, it can be convenient, as a starting point for discussion, to follow tradition and divide our quotidian experience into the three categories: waking consciousness, dream consciousness, and dreamless sleep. Magicians, more than most other people, are quite aware that these categories are arbitrary, since they have had experiences themselves that don’t fit neatly into any of the three categories. The materialistic model also distinguishes between these three states of consciousness: dream consciousness is termed REM sleep (for “Rapid Eye Movement”) and dreamless sleep is termed Non-REM sleep.

Current research suggests that while dreaming can occur in Non-REM; and REM can occur without dreaming; nonetheless “NREM reports are far more likely than REM reports to be short, dull, and undreamlike” and the “distinction (is made) between NREM dreaming as a simpler and REM dreaming as a more complex state of consciousness.”. This conclusion is congruent with the magical view that dreamless sleep is pure feeling, thus contains few thought forms (mentation) , and therefore doesn’t provide as much material to consciously remember as do dreaming and waking.

This triune division of consciousness is also found in Carlos Castaneda, who terms the division the first, second, and third attentions: “Seers say that there are three types of attention. … But the three are not just types of attention; they are rather three levels of attainment. They are the first, second, and third attention, each of them an independent domain, complete in itself. …
“The first attention in man is animal awareness, which has been developed, through the process of experience, into a complex, intricate, and extremely fragile faculty that takes care of the day-to-day world in all it innumerable aspects. In other words, everything that one can think about is part of the first attention. …

“The second attention, on the other hand, is a more complex and specialized state of the glow of awareness. It has to do with the unknown. … Having a dream is the forerunner of the second attention.

“The third attention is attained when the glow of awareness turns into the fire from within. … At the moment of dying all human beings enter into the unknowable and some of them do attain the third attention, but altogether too briefly."
< Carlos Castaneda, The Fire from Within>

Contrary to popular opinion, there is not really that much difference between waking and dream consciousness; and there are many intermediate states. Psychedelic tripping and shamanic journeying combine features of both wakefulness and dreaming, although the person is undeniably awake. Similarly, lucid and prophetic dreaming combines features of the two states, although one is undeniably asleep. Thus it is clear that these three categories are not exclusive, but rather shade into one another. However unless we draw distinctions where distinctions don’t in fact exist, we have nothing to talk about.

Dreamless sleep consists of pure feeling (affect) . By “feeling” is meant precisely what is understood by that term in everyday speech. The basic stuff of the universe is feeling. The universe is not made of matter, but rather of awareness. Awareness and feeling are the same thing; mind and intelligence are a subset, or outgrowth, or later evolutionary adaptation, of awareness and feeling.

Dreamless sleep is happening whether we are awake or asleep. In both dreaming and waking we are connected to dreamless sleep whenever we are feeling feelings. In the state of orgasm we are especially close to dreamless sleep because there is very little separatedness in orgasm. Orgasm is the matrix of all sensory thought forms – that is to say, all sensory thought forms are “made of” – or are an evolutionary outgrowth of – orgasm. Orgasm is what dreamless sleep is made of, just as sensory thought forms are what dreams are made of and conceptual thought forms are what waking “reality” is made of.

To psychic vision, feelings can be perceived as fibers of living light which permeate everything and sparkle and glow. Feelings can be perceived visually as fibers of living light; but they can also be perceived aurally as rhythmic sounds (or better said: rhythmic pulses or emanations) . These primordial sensory impressions are the matrices of the sensory thought forms of vision and hearing. That is to say, in the scheme of temporal evolution the senses of vision and hearing arose before there was anything to be seen or heard, or anyone to see or hear it. This is why we say that the eyes and ears are output devices, not input devices. They don’t perceive reality; they create it using whatever software society has installed in their thought form computer.

These light fibers of awareness tend to agglomerate or agglutinate at certain points, and when they do a sentient being is born:

“Your perception unfolded its wings when something in you realized your true nature. You are a cluster. … The nagual is the unspeakable. All the possible feelings and beings and selves float in it like barges, peaceful, unaltered, forever. Then the glue of life binds some of them together. … When the glue of life binds those feelings together a being is created, a being that loses the sense of its true nature and becomes blinded by the glare and clamor of the area where beings hover, the tonal. … As soon as the force of life leaves the body all those single awarenesses disintegrate and go back again to where they came from, the nagual.”

Dreamless sleep is intent (affect) , or pure feeling. It is the executive (decision-making) part of our quotidian self. Intent can be described as the canvas upon which dreaming and waking life are painted. The things that happen to us when we are awake or dreaming are a projection, or symbol, of decisions made in dreamless sleep. Without the decisions exercised in dreamless sleep there would be stasis. All change, all striving (all “Deception”, in W. B. Yeats’ nomenclature) , ultimately arises on the level of dreamless sleep. Dreamless sleep is eternal; or better said, pre-temporal. It encompasses a form of cognition in which time does not exist – an eternal now moment in which everything which ever was and ever will be is happening all at once. Linear time is a way of getting a grip on something that is actually timeless; of providing an orientation for something, which is utterly disorienting; of finding a point of reference in complete chaos.

In the magical view there is no need to provide further definition of dreamless sleep than this. Where the materialistic view sees purpose, order, and its concomitant – intelligence – as the end result of evolution, the magical model – like the Christian model – sees intent as the cause of evolution. However, unlike the Christian model, the magical view sees no reason or purpose in anything.

One difference between the magical and the materialistic points of view is that the former is merely descriptive, asking only the question “how”, whereas the latter asks the question “why”. Materialism seeks reasons why, whereas magic ultimately does not, regarding this inquiry as futile (running around in circles, with answers just giving rise to more questions) . At the interface between dreaming and waking – between light fibers and thought forms – for example, in the flood of hypnagogic images that arise as one is dropping off to sleep, there are no reasons why. Actually, there really are no reasons why in everyday society, either. All reasons why have to be conjured up after the fact, to justify the fait accompli.

In the materialistic view “there is only one sort of stuff, namely matter – the physical stuff of physics, chemistry, and physiology – and the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon. In short, the mind is the brain.” “For us, the cognition production system is the brain.”. By contrast the magical view does not locate consciousness within the brain, which – together with the body of which it is a part – is considered merely a thought form. The physical body, like the body we have while we are dreaming, is just a projection of the mind. The magical view is not predicated upon the linearity of time, hence post hoc does not necessarily imply propter hoc. The fact that e.g. certain types of aphasia arise together with lesions in certain areas of the brain does not imply that the latter cause the former. Or that blood flow in the anterior cingulate increases when novel action must be taken and decreases when the action ceases to be novel < Gazzinaga, Ivry, Mangun, Cognitive Neuroscience, Norton NYC 1998, p 460 column 2>. Rather, the magical model holds that all causality arises in dreamless sleep. According to the magical view there is indeed a connection between what happens in the physical brain and what happens in consciousness, but that connection is not a causal connection per se. Or if one is conceived of as causing the other, then changes in consciousness are reflected as changes in the brain; the changes in consciousness come “first” (are primary to) the changes in the physical brain.

The so-called physical brain is like the scoreboard at an athletic contest. The scoreboard reflects what is happening on the field, but it doesn’t create it. Similarly, the brain reflects decisions that are being made on a feeling level, but it certainly doesn’t create anything. It doesn’t even apprehend anything. It just keeps count, keeps score, keeps tabs on what is really going on. A body – whether in dreaming or waking – is merely a counter: first this happens to it, then that happens to it, then the other happens to it, then it dies.

It’s wrong to place the seat of consciousness in the brain. According to Castaneda, it’s located outside the physical body above the right shoulder blade. The point is that it’s useless to seek a mechanism for consciousness, a link between consciousness and the physical brain, because there is no such mechanism. Not in the sense in which the materialists want to believe. Moreover, since they are hobbled by the notion of linear time, they will always be looking at what causality there may be backwards (post hoc, ergo propter hoc) .

In hypnagogic hallucination we can view the process by which we create our own dream reality; our waking reality is created analogously. In waking life, as in hypnagogic hallucination, there is no reason why this image or situation is chosen and not that one. Reasons why things are have to be cobbled together in retrospect, to provide a post-hoc justification for why things are the way they are. Although causes do give rise to effects, and these effects are even predictable at times, there is in truth no reason why this and not that. In other probable realities it came out that and not this.

Anyone who discerns any purpose in the outworkings of the universe – whether this purpose is conceived of as the will of God, or survival of the fittest and most prolific reproducers, or the selfishness of genes – is looking at things backwards. Both Christianity and materialism are projecting images that aren’t there. Like the cabalistic Gematria, which finds hidden connections in every biblical name and phrase; or like a paranoid who detects sinister plots against him in every chance occurrence; Christianity and materialism project meaning and purpose onto complete chaos. There is no purpose to anything except as in retrospect it can be argued that things are the way they are because that is how they were meant to be. But this is an illusion, the old post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc fallacy, which in turn is predicated on the fallacy of linear time. What we call linear, well-ordered time is an illusion (and thus the mathematical real number system has no actual model in nature) . The universe is not continuous, but rather explodes into being and dissolves into nothingness with every passing instant of “time”. There is no space, there is no time, and there is no reason for anything.

Chance viewed in retrospect appears to be reasonable. But nothing in the universe is reasonable. In the magical view evolution does not favor the individuals and species with the greatest reproductive success, but rather the luckiest individuals and species – the ones who just happened to make all the cuts. The question of why they made the cuts and other individuals and species didn’t is relevant only as long as you are considering one line of probable realities, but says nothing about the future. Actually, it doesn’t say that much about the past, either. It’s all just a matter of opinion.

The question of there being any meaning or purpose in evolution is clearly tied up with the question of self-importance. It is difficult for a certain type of intellect to abide the notion that humans (and themselves in particular) are not the pinnacle of the evolutionary process, who stand in God’s presence with the privilege of naming each species; or, in the sociobiological version, that humans are not the sole possessors of consciousness.

In the practice of magic (as in dreaming) we do not make this mistake because we never ask that question – whether anything has a purpose. We just accept things as given and try to deal with them; we don’t question why this or why that. This question can in fact be considered the definitive difference between dreaming and waking: only when we are awake do we ask: Why? What is the purpose of this? And then we futilely struggle to try to provide and prove an answer. It is not God’s will, or reproductive success via adaptation to scarcity of resources, which revolves the wheel of birth and death that is waking consciousness. Rather it is the “Deception” (in William Butler Yeats’ nomenclature) of trying to find some sort of purpose in existence:

"Without this continual Discord through Deception there would be no conscience, no activity; Deception is a technical term of my teachers and may be substituted for “desire” . – William Butler Yeats, A Vision

Magic assumes that it’s okay if certain matters are beyond human comprehension, ineffable, sacred. The materialistic view, in its insufferable hubris and contempt, rejects the idea that the human mind cannot penetrate to the bottom of the mystery of consciousness: “If dualism is the best we can do, then we can’t understand human consciousness. Some people are convinced that we can’t in any case. Such defeatism, today, in the midst of a cornucopia of scientific advances ready to be exploited, strikes me as ludicrous, even pathetic.” . Note that the magical model is no more dualistic (making a distinction between body and mind) than the materialistic model. In the materialistic model mind is considered merely an adjunct of the body (the brain) , whereas in the magical model the body is considered merely a projection of the mind (a thought form, just as the body we have while we are dreaming is a thought form) .

In the scheme of temporal evolution, dreaming arose together with mitosis and waking arose with meiosis. In other words, in the beginning there was dreamless sleep. Dreaming is the quotidian consciousness of single-celled organisms; waking consciousness arose when multi-celled life appeared: “REM arousal mechanisms, and hence presumably the rudiments of dreaming, are more ancient in brain evolution than the waking circuits of the Extended Reticulo Thalamic Activating System (ERTAS) . … The epicenter for REM sleep is slightly more caudal in brainstem tissues than the epicenter for waking.” < Jaak Panksepp, The dream of reason creates monsters, Sleep and Dreaming, Cambridge U. Press 2003, p201>. “REM arousal may reflect an ancient form of waking arousal that was devoted largely to activating genetically ingrained emotional subroutines, which guided behavioral actions in ancestral species long before the behavioral flexibility provided by higher cerebral evolution. Those ancient, value-coding processes may still provide background operations that help higher brain mechanisms sift and integrate fundamental survival concerns from the Niagara of cognitive information flowing in from newly evolved forebrain regions.” < Panksepp, op. cit., p 201>

Note that from both the magical and materialistic points of view all life on the earth descended from one primordial cell; thus all life on earth can be considered to be a single organism. The consciousness of this single organism is dreamless sleep. As this organism ramified into individual cells its consciousness ramified into a multitude of individual dreamers who are separated in space. When it further ramified into multicellular beings its consciousness ramified into a multitude of awake individuals who believe that they are important beings living their unique lives in linear time. Unfortunately, this is just not true; nor is any belief system, such as Christianity or rationalistic materialism, which is based upon this assumption, true.

(Excerpted from Thought Forms,


Bob Makransky

Location: Coban, Guatemala


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