Dreams have fascinated humans since eons. They have also been used in divination. Dream interpretation as used by Freud and others, was considered a tool of the psychoanalysis. I have also been fond of discussions involving dreams, especially, the ones which were somehow related to the ultimate reality. I also had a dream journal for a while. The first law of behavioral Psychology suggests that you get more of what you reinforce; therefore, if you reinforce the behavior of recalling your dreams, interpreting them, describing them; you are, reinforcing the behavior of becoming more perceptive of your dreams and vice versa.
There is a boundary between the conscious and subconscious of your mind. The more sensitive and artistic a mind becomes, thinner the boundaries are. For me, the behavior of compulsive scribbling has been associated very highly with the thinning of the boundary. One of the very direct corroboration for the same had been the amount of the details related to dreams recalled, vividness of the same(they both are related you know!) and richness of the details. As I used to scribble of longer hours, there was a perspicuous thinning of the boundary between conscious and subconscious.
A few years ago, a nice noon, I scribbled a lot and then went to sleep for some time. I had a very strange dream then: I was watching a dream and then I woke up and felt great but then after sometime I again woke up(to my present reality)—gotcha! It was a strange perception, a very novel one, really dramatic and eerie and the ground for propounding a new theory. It was the first instance of my recognizing a ‘Dream inside dream’. Not that I would never have had such dreams earlier; not that none of us have such dreams; not that I never had such dreams again;- but that first recognition of the phenomenon was a perception, very original to me, in the sense that I had never read about the same, never read about the same earlier.
So the idea is: we all watch ‘Dreams inside Dreams’ but very few of us recognize them to be so. There are many reasons for the same. Forgetting your dreams being one of them. I have had many dream-inside-dream scenarios since then.
Theory based on Dreams inside dreams
What I proposed using this phenomenon was a brief but pregnant theory; not new at all to eastern mysticism but somewhat new to the researchers on dreams. If you could see, dream inside dream, then, it may reach to any number of levels. Again: just because you were in a dream I and then woke up in a dream II, you came to the conclusion that it was a dream inside dream; likewise, it is very much possible that, you may wake up to another reality and find this reality of yours to be a dream.
A Zen story
Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things. (2, tr. Burton Watson 1968:49) The king Janaka(father of Janaki, Sita in the epic Ramayana) had the similar dream.
The Illusion of Time
Time is an illusion and it is bound to the order of reality you are in. If you have already watched the movie, you may realize well that in the different levels of the dreams inside dreams, the time span differs. It is a common experience that we can see so many dreams within a short cycle of REM(rapid eye movement) of twenty minutes. In fact, there are many REM cycles in which we create our dreams. As you go to bed, your REM cycles are smaller in span. After every ninety minutes you have REM cycles. Only in these REM cycles you are likely to see a dream. As the time in bed passes by, the span of the REM cycles becomes more and more. In the final spans of REM(which are about twenty minutes)you are likely to see the biggest dreams. Since these come usually when you are about to wake up. i.e. near morning; you recall most the dreams seen in morning and you may report the most detail about them. So in a dream of about twenty minutes you may see attending an examination, going on a trip, spending a day and so on. This suggests that our mind functions as a super-genius in the dreams. Can we harness that potential in this reality of ours?
Is It A Dream?
Only when you wake up from a dream, you report that it was a dream(and not while in a dream). It is so because you compare your dream events with those of this reality. The fact is: the events in your dream were fully real when you were in your dream. Similarly, if you wake up to a hyper reality, this reality of yours, will be merely a dream. You say that you can see your friends, your family, your workplace, everyday; that there is a consistency in this universe of yours; therefore, it is not a dream, but rather a reality. Is this a proof? No it is not because you have seen by analogy that until you are in a dream you cannot perceive it as a dream.
Analogy of television Screen
Assume that you are watching television and inside your TV screen you see another TV which is showing another TV and so and so on. This may go on to the infinity. Similarly, if you are in a saloon where there are two mirrors facing each other, then, there will be number of images(perhaps infinite but you will be witnessing only a few of them, as it becomes, impossible to see further images). So effectively, you are(in your reality) watching only one TV screen(or one mirror screen), but virtually it seems that you are watching many. Same stands true for dreams: If you are witnessing a dream, which was, inside another dream, then, in effect, you have seen only a dream and you were involved, in some act(in this case, that of dreaming, but may be that of eating, sleeping, walking, moon-walking, chirping, or whatever echo of waking state possible) –therefore, you had, only a dream.
Can you say, with some emphasis that “you have no right to say that this reality of mine is merely a dream?” You may say: “the very act of dreaming; the way I define it and address it, is dependent upon, this reality of mine, therefore, as I have no hyper-reality against which to treat this reality as a dream, I cannot accept that this reality is but merely a dream.” To be honest-your argument is quite valid and only based on the analogy of the dream inside dream we can propose that this reality is but a dream. Just because of this order of reality, you are able to say that the dream(and dreams further inside dreams) are illusory, therefore, if there exists another order of reality, hyper to this one; you may say that this reality of yours is merely a dream; a beautiful dream, a nightmare, a rut or whatever but a dream only.
[The post was written on July 26, 2010: Exactly five years ago!–The Saturday when I went to watch Inception-a film by Christopher Nolan . It seemed to be one of the best movies I had ever watched and compelled me to write about the same. Hope you enjoyed(and could relate to) some of the ideas presented before you!]
images courtesy: Google Public Images .