It is necessary before going farther to make some allusion to the strange world in which man passes nearly half his visible life--the world of sleep. Nearly three centuries ago the delightful poet Herrick wrote these lines:
[paragraph continues] Wonderful insight!--Yet he would have been amazed indeed if anyone had told him that his poet's instinct had revealed to him the existence of that strange world behind the Looking Glass of which I have written so often in these chapters. Yet it is so. The poets, the philosophers, those whose wisdom and instinct alike draw them to what in India is called Realization have always understood that through dreams is a very direct way to the World As It Is--not as it appears in waking moments when earth-bound Reason stands at the helm of the many-peopled ship which a man calls "myself."
Of course there are foolish little dreams also, mere bubbles on the surface of memory of the day's doings, but these are easily known for what they are and nobody marks them. Sometimes, however, and often to those who least expect it, comes a dream marching with the certainty and assurance of a god, or the profoundly disturbing enigmatic questioning of the Sphinx, or the terrifying fore-vision of a prophecy, and all life is changed and deflected for the dreamer. In other words, the dreamer has for a moment stepped through the Looking Glass, or, in the Indian phrase, he has realized with a sudden shock of truth that life is not as he has thought it--but far otherwise. That man is fortunate, for to most people such knowledge comes only in the act of what we call death. It may then be guessed by the look of helpless surrender, of awful recognition on the faces of the dying as their true Selves look into their hearts. Very happy are those who have seen glimpses already through the eyes of Death's younger brother, Sleep. And this is one of the many reasons why some knowledge of the world of dreams is desirable.
So strongly were the Greeks impressed with the haunting mystery of this state of consciousness
that they offered divine honors to the Triad of brothers, Hypnos, Oneiros, Thanatos, or Sleep, Dream, and Death; and looking upon their dark brooding faces yearned for the Knowledge to which each is in turn a gateway.
One of my own first steps through the Looking Glass of early perception into the true world behind it was in the revelation of a dream. I can tell it only in part, and it is inherent in the mystic nature of dreams that they can never carry the conviction to others that they do to oneself. That is inevitable, springing as they do from roots deep-set in long-past experiences of personality.
I was going on a very long journey, full of doubts and loneliness, leaving much behind. It was hard to go. I think death must have that same bitterness on the cup's edge from which all must drink excepting those who know that death is nothing--a mere link and by no means the most important in the chain of psychic evolution.
But one night far out at sea, a dream came walking the water. Dewy twilight and an old garden at home, flowers tall in the borders, fading into forgetfulness of color and light, the mouse-angels (as I was taught to call the bats)
weaving magic circles about them under a dawning evening star. So far, all familiar, but in the shadows a Personality not to be bound in any earthly words I know, unseen but in the deepest sense of the word absorbing my being into what was far beyond my understanding. I found myself (it was long ago) pleading for the right to grief. How could it be otherwise when the cup of bitterness is thrust into one's hand and the Angel of the Darker Drink invites the soul forth to the lips to taste it?
"It is so far--to the other end of the world," I said, and much more that cannot be told. The answer was--but whether spoken or not I never know: "You are ignorant indeed. All such grief is self-pity. And furthermore in the real world there is no far or near--only states of mind. Step out from it into the light. Even here, when you know a very little, everything is just round the corner. If you try with all your might you cannot lose touch when you know the truth. Everything is Here and Now." And suddenly I knew, and the shock of delight which woke me forever destroyed in me the fetters of "far and near" or any vestige of belief in parting made by time, distance or death. There was
more than that, and how conveyed I cannot tell for I despair of repeating the assurance which freed me from one of the most painful maladies of ignorance.
India has always recognized three planes of consciousness connected with sleep: Waking, Dreaming, and Deep Sleep. The first they class as the Gross, the second as the Subtle, the third as the Pure. From deep sleep are brought back the incommunicable dreams--often completely forgotten by oneself--which bring us in touch with the Eternal Self. The subtle states of consciousness with the one hand lull and numb the obstinate perception of the senses and with the other free that huge submerged subconscious self, in relation to which man's everyday consciousness has been compared with the vastness of the submerged area of an iceberg in comparison with that part which appears above the surface.
When this takes place many very singular things may and do happen. Men may easily remember acts and scenes of experiences in former lives. Not infrequently the strangest, most educative type of dream springs from this source, and it should be regarded with deep interest for obvious reasons. That has been a subject often
dealt with in fiction but never, so far as I know, in the fullness of certitude with which it comes in reality. It is a state very difficult of investigation because dreamers are naturally shy on such a subject, but I may say it is almost a test of truth that when such experiences are revealed they are natural and simple. They seldom are connected with violently dramatic experiences or the arrogance which claims great place or position in former lives for the dreamer, and they bring conviction to those who experience them because they reveal the secrets of development and arrest, and throw light on the way that still remains. I have never heard of one in which the whole life was remembered except when perfection of perception is attained, and such instances come rarely to the world's knowledge.
There are happily few cases where homesickness for the beauty and verity of the dream-life extinguishes all desire for the Mirror of the Passing Show as revealed by the senses, and the dreamer pines through the long inhospitable unrealities of the sunshine for night and the truths hidden in darkness. This is a state as wholly undesirable as the paradises revealed by drugs and drink. It is a psychic narcotic and should be combated
manfully, especially as it is invariably associated with a diseased condition of body which reveals it for what it is and marks a failure in discipline. And there are the strange dreams which I call "fusing dreams" where one personality meets another in sleep and a dual life is lived, for a time becoming a reality and remembered in daytime but out of reach except in sleep. This appears to be a foreshadowing of the intimate communication and absorption in store (when psychological matters are more clearly understood) for lovers or the highest forms of friendship. Of this state I have no personal knowledge though I have based a story ("V. Lydiat") on knowledge gained elsewhere, which attracted interest from those who knew it was true in essentials.
I myself had at one time the very strange experience of a connected story which I dreamed nightly. It was, so to speak, serialized, in that it went on for many nights, beautiful, dramatic (as I thought) in conception and development, springing and branching as a tree does from its seed. But the singular thing was that a friend one day brought to my house a visitor supposed to have unusual perception in such matters, and
when my dream-serial was mentioned he said, "Yes, I can see it," and forthwith began to describe with perfect accuracy the terraced lawns and clipped box hedges which were always the beginning when the mists of sleep rolled aside and the stage was set. I think this was a case of mind-reading, startling in the extreme, for I had never given a detail to a living soul. I had the impression that he could have told me the whole story as easily, and regretted afterwards that I had shut down the subject. For I never knew the end though I believe it is still latent in my own perception. The experience ended as suddenly as it began.
I find that many of the subjects of my stories come to me in sleep in the form of dramas which I see clearly acted before me; sometimes also in the form of stories told dramatically after the fashion of story-tellers in the bazaars of Asia. But I have never succeeded in catching more than a flashing glimpse of the story-teller, and I know he is not always the same. I have a belief that to come face to face with him in dream would open the measureless stores of wisdom and beauty lost in the past. Is art a recovery as well as a prophecy?
The titles almost always come in the state between sleeping and waking when reason and thought lie on the threshold of consciousness like dogs on duty but still dormant. When they take charge the connection is broken and I must remember as I can. Daily events blunt the impressions very quickly except in some remarkable cases.
I had lately a dream of extraordinary beauty and perception which I shall not forget. It began in Kensington Gardens and a meeting with a little middle-aged woman there, leading up to the discovery of a strange boarding-house in London for people who had died with unfulfilled lives which apparently came to nothing, but who were now directing themselves along ways of fulfilment, absolutely unconscious that they had undergone the experience of death. I dreamed the name also: "The House of Fulfilment." That title I have been compelled to steal for an "occult" novel which nothing else would fit, but the story abides and I shall write it one day. There were such strange people in it, and the singularity was that, belonging to the World behind the Looking Glass, they were obliged to work with tied hands in the conditions of this until they
could make good. The house was in one of the little old-fashioned Georgian streets of Kensington . . . running up the hill from noisy Kensington High Street, very quiet, with yellowing poplars looking over the wall and bushes of Michaelmas daisies in the borders. I see it all.
I hope I shall not be suspected of any arrogance in telling these experiences. I think those things told quite simply and truly are helpful in the deciphering of a difficult subject and I should be glad to know if other writers also dream many of their stories. It is interesting, because quite undoubtedly the gift of creative art in its differing degrees is one of the roads to the Land behind the Looking Glass. There are reasons for that too long to enter into here but irrefutable, and it is a singular fact that while the saints appear to enter in great flashes of cosmic consciousness, the artist seems to take the winged way of dreams. But there can be no fixed rule in such matters, nor would one expect it.
There is one amazingly interesting fact in true dreams. It is that the dreamer goes free. He regains his birthright and is no longer the slave of the miserable dimensions of length, breadth and height which control all our waking doings. Nor
is he bound by time as with a tether. Observe that in dreams time is no more. It may be to-day and tomorrow at the same moment. You may be a child, yet with all the memories and experiences of old age. You may drift composedly down the street never touching it with a footfall. You may melt through walls and doors like Christ after the Resurrection. You may talk fearless and unamazed with friends who cross the river of death to meet you, and know they never died. You may easily meet two personalities of people you know, fused into one, and find it quite comprehensible and natural until you wake and it blurs as the darkness of the prison-gates closes on you; you may be in two places at the same moment. Things can be absolutely simultaneous which in ordinary life are consecutive. One great thinker has suggested that death itself may be a passage from the consecutive to the simultaneous. This is very likely. He had had in dreams a glimpse into the World behind the Looking Glass.
Profoundly beautiful subconscious revelations sometimes take place in dreams. Here is one which carries a meaning not negligible.
I knew two men who had once been close friends. The one had done the other a terrible injury and its consequences had completely estranged them. People did not even speak of either in the other's presence. All was ended. But one day the injured man suddenly said to me: "It's a strange thing. I hate the man. Heaven knows I have reason to. But I dream of him constantly--can't get away from him; and always in my dreams the old friendship is there and to be together is good right through. Those are the happiest dreams I have. And yet waking, I would run the country sooner than meet the fellow. I could kick myself for being such an ass in my sleep."
As you will see, the submerged self he met in dreams knew best. It knew that love is in its nature real and eternal and hatred a darkness, a nothingness, which dissolves in the light of truth. I would give much to know the dreams of the other man. Would they complete the story? I have often wondered that. The first was, at all events, compelled in the dream-world to Reality. Such a case is well understood in Indian teaching. India asserts that the infinite tide of perfection
behind all of us flows in by such inlets as the different planes of consciousness in sleep.
"For in the animal lay hidden and possible the man, and when the door of consciousness was opened, man rushed out. And in man lies hidden perfection barred and locked away by ignorance. With Realization he comes in touch with the Hidden Treasure."
Milton was right in his almost miraculously perceptive assertion that high revelations are made "in clear dream and solemn vision."
For in sleep we move on much more subtle and permeative planes of action than in waking, and the more we are daily disciplined in opening up the channel of communication with the untrodden continent of our submerged self--the lost Atlantis hidden in us all--the more wonderful and illuminating are our dreams. This may be seen in the dreams recorded in the Scriptures of the great Faiths. They would form a book of profound psychological interest if analyzed and compared.
Yet, striking through apparently very commonplace personalities come sometimes singularly revealing dreams, thus proving that in truth no one is commonplace, that it is only the commonplace
of ignorance in ourselves which so sees it. For below the dwarfed nature of which our senses make report lies the submerged and marvelous self of which the man himself is wholly unconscious except in the strange visitings of dreams which he is unlikely to reveal to any human being except in most unusual circumstances. Very often also, his everyday self entirely fails to interpret them. He will say in bewilderment, "I knew when I was asleep, but now it all seems nonsense." And I fancy most of us have had the experience of dreams extraordinarily lovely and revealing which the awaking sense clutched at for a moment and then let go helplessly, drifting away shapelessly as mists at dawn. One may see the dream-flowers wither in the hot clasp of our sense-perceptions, see the dream-pageant fade and dissolve like sunset clouds, leaving nothing behind but the gathering gray of loss.
That dream of being in two places at once--places that melt into each other and are absolutely one--I have had often. Each is each, yet there is no overlapping. I walk through the one and know no surprise. Waking, I remember it perfectly but cannot intellectually understand how it was possible, though I know well that is how
things are in the real world behind the Looking Glass, where the logic and rules of the game are entirely different from those we know in front of it. Because, as I learned in a dream already quoted, places there are not solidarities but states of mind.
I have heard many people express the wish that they could control their dreams and enjoy what they most desire in sleep. But that is a foolish wish, for dreams would lose all significance if our everyday selves took charge. It is precisely because they are off duty that the unexpected, the illuminative, come through. This is the flaw in Du Maurier's beautiful book, "Peter Ibbetson." The hero and heroine, divided in life, meet nightly in dreams. The dream is a duet--but of the senses exalted to the highest pitch. They dream together of exquisite jewels and toilettes, of dinners at the choicest restaurants and wines of the costliest vintages, operas, plays, by the most celebrated performers, and so forth,--opiates for the sorrow of parting. Such dreams are earth-bubbles. The senses are awake and guardant though the body sleeps. They are a fairy story of the reasoning, clutching mind.
No. Let us rejoice that in the true dream the
close guard of the senses is off duty and we go out free in the dark to revelation. Very different is the wish that we could unfailingly meet the hidden self and, joining hands, walk straight into the Real World, and that wish can be gratified by patient discipline. And there the disciplined body may receive its share, for it may be said with truth that there is no sleep so deep, tranquilizing and profound as that which is called "The Opener of the Gates."
The Greeks and Romans both believed in the healing power of dreams, and in ancient Rome the College of the Inspired Dreams was a place of gathering for those who were sick or sad. It was dedicated to Æsculapius the Healer, and it was believed he was the inspirer of these dreams. Those needing help slept in the quiet of the sacred cloisters and seldom without result. One sees exactly why that should be and wishes such help could be given now, and without human intervention, to those who need it. But it is a true saying that we can participate in heaven and its gifts only in so far as heaven is within ourselves. How can people empty of heaven realize the possibilities of dreams or the meaning of that little known saying of Christ's, "When the outside becomes
the inside then the Kingdom of Heaven is come." It means that when for any man the deceptions and distortions of the outer world are swallowed up in realization of the inner, the hidden world,--when the outer and the submerged selves have joined hands and are one,--then he has touched on immortality and has drunk of the wine of eternal joy.
It is a strange thought that all round us, hidden in every recurring night, lie these silent fields of harvest in which so few are reapers. Yet they lie, ripening in sunshine. In the words of Professor James:
"One conclusion was forced upon my mind, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there are potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence, but apply the requisite stimulus and at a touch they are there in all their completeness."
With the last four words I disagree, for it is impossible for the uninitiated to say what their completeness is when we know of cases ranging
from the mere glimmer to the conflagration of revelation. But the statement is true and striking and it is gladdening to see the distinguished thinkers of the West gradually awaking to facts known and taught for millenniums in the Orient. Professor James added:
"The whole drift of my experience goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness which exist, and that these other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our lives also."
That statement is clear and concise, but how far does it fall behind the statement of St. Paul (with direct experience to back it) struggling with the futilities of words to express what eye has not seen nor ear heard, but nevertheless what he had known for truth in ways far beyond mortal senses. (I condense.)
"I knew a man above fourteen years ago (whether in the body I cannot tell; God knoweth!)--such a one caught up into the third heaven; How that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words which it is not possible for a man to utter."
In our version "possible" is translated "lawful,"
but the former is said to represent the meaning more closely. And again he says, using the very illustration of the Looking Glass which I have used so often, "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face."
Yes, there are indeed many states of consciousness and such a man could have taught, can teach, modern investigators much about the varying degrees of consciousness in dream and trance.
In India is the well-spring of knowledge of these states and their powers and it is clearly stated by those who know that there are dangers. In the World behind the Looking Glass are no guides. There a man must depend upon the essential in himself and on nothing else. I have written a story about that side of the world of dreams which came to me so actually as a dream that though my hand wrote it I could never say my objective self created it. It sums up more than I knew of the subject at the time, but I have since learned its truth.
One of the characters says:
"We recognize a strange force, a very powerful dynamic. We consider it a manifestation of the primal energy. It lies all round us for the taking and in itself is neither had nor good. The
result depends on the person who uses it. The rules we call The Rules of Detachment. Certainly this force may be used for a very high kind of spiritual adventure, but in itself it is neutral. It is a sword. Now a sword may be used by a god or a devil or any of the grades between." The Rules of Detachment are given.
This force is of course related to the world of dreams, and the hero persists in projecting himself into this state of consciousness without knowledge of where safety lies. The story is concerned with his neglect of the Rules of Safety and the terrible consequences and final extrication. The point is that what you will meet in that world is what you deserve to meet and what your own thoughts and life have invited.
"With a thought you may be in the horror of the Desolate Country, with another in the Shining Land, for every man creates his own universe until he can perceive it as it is in truth."
Indeed one must not walk unguarded among dreams. There are many people whose degradation, slow but complete, has been consummated by what they have met there. There are people in mad-houses who could testify to this and more, and would not be believed if they did so. We do
not understand. We play with the Unknown and wreathe it with flowers and one day it rises and petrifies us with a deadly stare. There are thoughts and deeds which should make any man who is their slave fear to sleep. Shakespeare knew this as he knew most other things. Look at his Lady Macbeth crawling against the castle wall and shuddering at the very thought of night and what it brings in hidden hands.
Sleep is so imminently near to the reality which brushes away illusion and reveals our true selves. Does any man of that order need a more burning hell than to meet himself and see the truth? It has been said that the most appalling experience in ghost stories is that of the man who meets the doppel gänger--his own double; and I recall a terrible picture of Rossetti's--"How They Met Themselves"--where fear stares at you from two ravaged faces. But what is the experience of meeting one's outward semblance to that of meeting one's inward verisimilitude?
Many dreams visit us of which we miss the importance. The waking self has not the knowledge to interpret them. The counsel is needed then of one instructed who can "divine" as it says in the Bible. The Old and New Testaments are
very wonderful dream-books, as they are also in all the psychological matters in which the West begins to explore. It will be remembered in Joseph's adventures in Egypt--that land of ancient mysteries--how the two servants of Pharaoh and Pharaoh himself dreamed dreams which they knew instinctively were important but could in no way decipher until Joseph "divined" for them. If an adequate study were made of these and the many allied cases of abnormal consciousness we should realize the treasures of knowledge hidden for the seeker. Many thousands might be helped to realization if their dreams could be divined for them, not indeed after the methods of the modern psycho-analyst but by one who understands something of the conditions of that world where the subconscious meets us with face unveiled according to our capacity of understanding.
Let it be understood that the enjoyment of life as presented to us in the Mirror of the Passing Show is by no means hurt or hindered by comprehension partial or complete of its illusions, and is neither stilted nor highbrow, nor tinged with Puritanism. We can afford to love what can no longer deceive or hurt us and every step
onward reveals more and more of the joy that is based on this understanding.
Do we enjoy the theater less because we know the show is only a shadow and reflection of life as it seems to us? Is it of less interest because we know that presently the actors will have laid aside their assumed characters with their dresses, and the lights will be extinguished and the stage remain empty and echoing until the next troupe of actors bounds on in the glitter of lights and watching intent faces? Eyes that are unblinded perceive all the more clearly the beauty, irony, and pathos of the show because they know that it must pass, that it dances before them veiling from its actors and most of its spectators the Utterly Lovely, the Wholly Desirable, which at times it attempts to shadow forth.
In India they call this glittering, shifting, changing spectacle the Lila or "Sport of God"--a conception that has meanings too profound to be touched on here, though some minds will see the implication for themselves. And of these implications one of the deepest is the meaning of sleep and dreams, and the state of consciousness into which each one of us is nightly thrown. It
is as though the evolving power within cried to the most crass and materialistic of us all:
"You shall not wholly forget your true self and its origin. You bury it in the day with schemes and fancies that heap the earth above it, blinded, deafened and dead. But the night is mine and yours. Then, be you what you will, sot, dollar-chaser, prostitute, thief, blinded with frivolity or with earthly wisdom, drunken with the pleasures of the Passing Show, I take you by the hand and lead you into the Ancient Dark, forcing you to the sight of things lovely, terrible, grotesque, deadly, foreshadowing, and thus compel you to remembrance of that which abides when the fashion of this world passes away."
It is well to take the reminder of sleep and dreams. In that world those who know carry the Lamp and Sword, and the universe is theirs.