Here is what dreams have to do with mysticism
There is basically no difference between the waking state and that of dream, except that one seems more stable than the other. Only after there is awakening in the form of enlightenment is it realized that the waking world itself is indeed nothing but a long dream resulting from mental disposition - a movement in Consciousness in which what seems a solid body and its sufferings are really an illusion.
By Ramesh Balsekar
This chapter is dedicated to readers who have proven to themselves that dreams are more than just dreams, that they are indeed “tools” teaching us to look at ourselves in an impartial and impersonal way.
Dreams are tools of transformations
Dreams are tools of transformation. Moreover, at a certain level of inner work, dreams stop being dreams and instead become spiritual levels of consciousness. But, in the meantime, dreams open invisible doors to subtler levels of spiritual growth, awakening in seekers of truth and wisdom, our permanent witness or soul within our conscious selves.
Let us first introduce the symbol of the trident, the logo of the sea-god Poseidon/Neptune. What connection does that have with the process of dreaming? Poseidon, the god of seas and oceans, holds the trident as a mark of his command of the waters. In the context of dream work, he represents the king of the subconscious levels of the psyche. In fact, with his trident, Poseidon also commands the monsters of the deep, which reminds us of the deep waters of the subconscious and its own monsters and shadowy figures. The subconscious can therefore be compared to the abysmal depths of the ocean; the bottomless deep waters symbolize the subconscious and unconscious parts of our psyche where emotions and instincts mingle and mix without purpose or direction.
The three menacing elongated prongs of the trident look like weapons and are used for penetrating, scratching and wounding, so in the symbolic context of dream work, the trident is a penetrating device, effectively “wounding” and scraping what is useless and needs to be separated and removed from the virginal aspect of the psyche. But this wounding opens three deep holes that allows the penetration by the spiritual light of the soul that nourishes and illuminates the unconscious part in us. Through this purification, our unconscious becomes conscious of itself. Thus the trident symbolically opens these three “gates” to higher levels of enlightenment. Let us examine these three “wounds” and three “gates.”
The three wounds have the power of transmuting our self-consciousness from its dualistic awareness to its source, Cosmic Consciousness. In piercing and perforating our “self-conscious” aspect, the prongs transmute the egotistic and lower psychic character traits into their spiritual perfect ideals. Thus the trident is an awakening device a powerful symbol for our purification and spiritual advancement through dream work.
From a religious aspect, the trident and the net represent two symbols of Christ as “Fisher of Man.” Furthermore, the trident’s prongs are of an equal length, symbolizing the Trinity. Hence, the trident is an effective instrument of purification and purgation for awakening the inferior parts of the psyche and sensitizing them to higher spiritual impulses coming from the psyche that are influenced by the permanent witness.
Moreover, the trident, as a symbol of Trinity, impregnates and penetrates with its triune spiritual energies the lower and higher aspects of our self-consciousness. In Christian tradition, the trident is placed in Satan’s hands as an instrument of punishment. However, esoteric tradition and spiritual psychology tell us that we need to go deep within ourselves to discover the blocked energies, and then, “fish” them out, as it were, so as to bring them into the light of consciousness. Turning our attention within subtly develops the intuitive faculty of our sixth sense to help us understand who we are and what we need to do to reintegrate our perfect model.
The symbol of the Tiratna
In Buddhism, the trident is taken as a symbol of the Tiratna, or triple jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, meaning the Awakened One, the Truth expounded by Him, and the followers living in accordance with this Truth). It may also be regarded as the triple current of energy in man. And in our own spiritual context, the trident represents the instrument moving these same energies within our psyche.
Dreams help us look deeper within our own psyche, to discover the Mystery of Man. But unless we devote ourselves and allocate time to work with the energies and meaning of dreams, they will always remain unsolicited and strange phenomena. That is why our psyche needs to dream, since dreams are a source of knowledge helping us in the process of releasing unwanted garbage. Dreams are given to us to rescue us from lethargy and unconsciousness.
Previous chapters have compared the psyche to a mirror reflecting whatever preoccupies it. What is reflected in dreams are the thoughts and emotions of our good and bad intentions and experiences. It is in the mirror of our psyche that real purification and understanding take place, since we must become conscious of what appears on the surface of our psyche. The conscious impressions coming from a dream have an important role to play in the awakening process as a whole, and each dream, each symbol enriches this process, since spiritual dream work takes into account the subtle purification process of the whole man. Dreams about purification are given to those of us who want to awaken our permanent and spiritual witnesses. To do that, we must unite them in our “ordinary” level of self-consciousness. Therefore, we must become aware of our unconscious traits that need transformation. Without this, our ego cannot continue on this journey.
This kind of spiritual work in itself exposes the psyche to the influences and intuitions pouring in from the permanent witness (see About the Mystery of Man, parts 1 – 4). This is the first important means of access, the “key” opening the door of Poseidon’s mysterious palace in which are gathered all the past and present experiences, all the fears and stresses imprisoned since time immemorial. Those unconscious doubts and worries linger hopelessly in the depth of darkness awaiting the right moment for the thunderbolt of consciousness to penetrate them and bring them to the light of understanding. As a consequence of these delicate operations, the retrieved or “fished out” blocked energies float on the surface of dreams captured by our self-conscious ego. To help us understand their meaning, they take, in dreams, the shape of potent personal and universal symbols and archetypes. The ego must process these with subtlety, intuition and sensitivity, so that their meaning becomes clear and illuminating.
Different levels of dreaming
At first, these types of dreams are usually experienced as nightmares since our consciousness has to reorganize and focus its attention on the inner dynamics of dream work. With phantasmagoric, incomprehensible, and senseless dreams, we must try to focus our attention and use our intuition to grasp the irrational within ourselves. So, we should not ignore dream sequences that might have nothing in common with each other or appear nonsensical. It really doesn’t matter if the beginning of a dream doesn’t match what follows it. Analogous to a jigsaw puzzle, we should use our intuition to retrieve the “seed idea” and meaning of each part of our dreams. The expansion of the “seed ideas” and “meaning” is important, and it doesn’t matter if our intuition reveals different symbols or meanings to the dream. What counts is the effort exerted by our psyche to unravel a new dimension. Our ego must turn its attention to within itself, in the silent space within Being, where the impelling magnetic presence of the intelligence of the heart reigns.
Thus, if dreams first appear confusing, it is because these types of dreams release the pressure and stressed energies blocked in our psyche. To release stress in dreams, the symbols are magnified so as to make an impact and emphasize certain aspects of a problem. Another reason for disturbing dreams is to help us become conscious of the nature of our stress or anxiety. We should use our intuition to look at the incongruous symbols in our dreams, trying to “respect” their meaning. Intuition assists us in “reading” what goes on in our psyche, since like a mirror, it reflects what goes on within us. This is how, from our permanent witness, we receive some practical solutions and interpretations. However, the exchange of intuitive ideas and feelings between our psyche and ego occurs only if our ego is open to change. If we are willing to work with the symbols, then a special flow of energy streams from our permanent witness, allowing us to understand what we must do to remove the problem, and transform what needs to change.
Spiritual psychology looks at the esoteric and intuitive aspect of dream work, and is based on inner guidance. However, psychology is based on the interpretation and analysis of psychologists or facilitators. These two approaches may sound and even look the same, but they are not. The first is solely based on inner revelation and the second on feedback and outside guidance. The first is used by mystics, those guided by their soul, who seek a closer relationship with their permanent witness. The second is used by those who are only interested in finding solutions to problems, new directions and meaning in times of crisis.
Both are useful and important dream work tools to purify and transform the psyche. If we want to know who we are, then we should start with the psychological approach, either alone, in a group, or with a therapist. We should also seek the guidance of the inner master, or presence within. Whichever way we choose, our first step should always be with the psychological approach before starting any other kind of spiritual work, since, this approach takes us to the depth of our psyche and is part of an alchemical process. This is our descent into the world of Poseidon where our unconscious self waits. The quest to awaken our spiritual awareness can begin only after a certain amount of purification and transformation of the psyche. Our consciousness, having taken the downward journey, is eventually drawn towards an ascending path. Then, what we receive becomes more subtle and enlightening since it comes without distortion directly from the soul.
If we are serious in our work with the spiritual level of dreams, we must also realize that dreams are like seeds containing potential whole trees. Dreams, therefore, contain the seed ideas coming from the permanent witness. Their purpose is to transform our ordinary levels of consciousness to higher spiritual ones, since some dreams are in themselves examples of spiritual planes co-existing in our psyche that are the seeds waiting in our subconscious to be recognized and awakened by our ego. In other words, they are our spiritual levels of consciousness that permeate into our everyday consciousness. This is the grounding aspect of the whole process of dreams since, if we need to fathom the Mystery of Being and experience our own harmony and unity with it, then the nature of our dreams changes. Moreover, the essence and meaning of our dreams take a more abstract and irrational quality that cannot be shared with anyone, since they come directly from our permanent witness as a language of our soul, a language that can only be understood only intuitively. .
The spiritual dimension of dreams could be described, at best, as delicate and subtle experiences given directly by our permanent witness to our consciousness in order to foster a healing and purifying, leading to a new level of consciousness in us, which we must allow to unfold in our ordinary lives.
What really matters here is our wish for inner transformation, since strong desire to unfold a higher level of consciousness is an illuminating catalyst that energizes our psyche. This is an important element in dream work. The power of concentration and a strong desire to work with dreams as tools for our own transformation opens naturally and directly the inner path to the permanent witness.
Dream work is comparable to learning a new language. First we must learn the alphabet. Dreams are a new symbolic world opening up in our self-consciousness. Why do we say “self-consciousness”? Because, unless our self-consciousness awakens whilst dreaming, our dreams will have no impact and we will not remember anything of great importance. Thus we must gradually stimulate and awaken our self-consciousness during dreams so that they can be something more than mere stress release.
Later, when our ego or self-consciousness “awakens” to its true nature—the impersonal Cosmic Consciousness—then dreams and the inner process take a new direction, and we see, understand and experience them in a totally different way since, from then on, our ego or self-consciousness realizes that it is just a vehicle for Cosmic Consciousness. We then perceive all kinds of dreams and astral projections differently, since the veil separating them from Cosmic Consciousness is no more. Our ego knows that it is just a reflection of the blazing light of the presence of God or Pure Being. When the veil is torn, and ego and soul meet and merge, the true identity of the Creator and initiator of our inner process becomes even clearer. The impersonal Cosmic Consciousness within us is the sole creator of dreams, and its limited self-conscious counterpart, our ego, it is seen at the other end of the process as the receiver of dreams.
The mission of Cosmic Consciousness within man is to enlighten man’s ego. In other words, Cosmic Consciousness actively guides the process of awakening the ego to its true nature, hence it directs the inner world of dreams and astral projections during sleep. Cosmic Consciousness takes over and creates whatever is necessary for our self-consciousness to understand and experience our ego. That is why prophets, saints and disciples of all religions and philosophies have been enlightened and have received knowledge and wisdom through their dreams, visions and astral travels. The ways that our soul carries out its initiatory course of action to awaken our ego and open up the “rainbow bridge to infinity” is a source of great gratitude and awe.