“When I reflect on the fact that I have made my appearance by accident upon a globe itself whirled through space as the sport of the catastrophes of the heavens, when I see myself surrounded by beings as ephemeral and incomprehensible as I am myself, and all excitedly pursuing pure chimeras, I experience a strange feeling of being in a dream. It seems to me as if I have loved and suffered and that erelong I shall die, in a dream. My last word will be, ‘I have been dreaming.'”—Madame Ackermann quoted from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.
The Greek mythological character Narcissus never engaged in actual life as he could not see or feel anything beyond his own reflection—he never transgressed beyond his personal mirror. The spring flower, narcissus, is named after him due to its narcotic properties, meaning to numb or put to sleep. Narcissus, the man, was unable to awaken from his own very personal dream.
We all share the fate of Narcissus, as our very personal lives are dreams projected upon the people and things on the outer world. Perhaps the greatest challenge in this life is to recognize the mirror we place in front of everything, as we, like Narcissus, live life as in a state of narcolepsy, fully asleep, actively living out our personal dreams upon the backdrop of the outside world.
Interestingly, there is evidence that even on the astral plane, though we might meet familiar others beyond the self, we remain locked within our personal dream, asleep to life beyond the self. We awaken from these encounters completely unaware of where we’ve been and who we’ve been with. Out-of-body explorer, Preston Dennett, concludes, from his own astral experiences as recounted in his book Out-of-Body Exploring:
“Most of my family members do not recall these visits. Only Christy has been able to recall one meeting. However, this appears to be normal. Most people are unable to recall their dreams, much less their OBEs…” [Out-of-Body Experiences]
“Many times I have found my extended family visiting each other on the astral plane. As we are sitting at a table, my mother [deceased in this world] is looking at me. She knows that I am lucid and that I will remember these meetings, while everyone else in the room thinks they are already awake, or they know that they are not at the point where they are able to remember. How somebody can know that they won’t remember is beyond me. However, when I’m there, I know I will remember.”
How does this play out in the world of everyday life—a world where we are utterly convinced that we are interacting and making real contact with others?
Our lives in this world are largely waking dreams interspersed with brief moments of awakening. For instance, our collective world dream of safety now—Osama is dead—lulls us back into complacency. Global warming, environmental catastrophes, contaminated food supply, rampant greed, all slip away into yesterday’s forgotten dreams. Mother Nature will stir us awake again with some new dramatic alarm clock and, in that moment, we will awaken and lift the veil of our collective dream. But, the challenge is whether we will stay awake long enough and remember—hold onto the truth—so we can move into a new, sustainable dream.
On an individual level, our lives are marked from birth, perhaps from before birth with our own personal life dream. Our mission in life becomes one of waking up to the encapsulated dream we are in, to the world outside that dream. Until that time, the world and all its players serve as our personal mirrors, reflecting the drama of our individual dreams.
This proposition may seem preposterous as we reflect upon the relationships we are in, the people we genuinely communicate with and love, the people we touch and who touch us as well. But even our most intimate connections are but impressions on the outer surface of the personal bubbles that encase us. When we touch we are still pressing upon the contours of our personal dreams, our personal mysteries.
Perhaps my dream is one of core inadequacy and unlovability. In that dream, I crave to be loved, to be worthy; yet, everywhere I look, I see rejection and disdain reflected.
The characters in my dream are cruel and abusive. I cannot drive my car without feeling that I am offending someone. Clearly the truck behind me is angry, that I am too slow. I don’t have the right to take up space in this world or even to slow down to make a turn.
There is someone I deeply love, someone I pine for. But I am so beneath her; I shiver to look at her. How could she ever be interested in me? I am utterly compelled to be near her glow in my thoughts, fantasies, and interactions as well, but I know I lack the beauty and skill she would require. I am destined to loneliness.
I am surrounded by men far superior to me. They dismiss me, they don’t even see me. They are reflections of everything she needs, mirrors of everything I am not. In this dream, my golden princess is beyond my reach; at best I might be her lowly servant.
The characters of this dream project themselves powerfully upon the world screen of waking life. So who really are these characters within the self, within the personal dream, that I am utterly convinced exist outside of me?
In this dream, the golden princess is my anima—she who holds the place of my deepest value; she who lures me to complete my dream, to enter a new dream of fulfillment and wholeness. She is projected so powerfully on a character outside of me that I am compulsively attached to HER as my salvation, unattainable that she might be. I am convinced this is not a dream. In this reality she is outside of me, not me. Without her, I am doomed.
The truth is, if I had her, I wouldn’t know what to do with her. I could never trust that she was really wanting me, the unlovable, the unwantable. I’d be terrified; I’d surely enter the triangle dream.
In that nightmare, I am haunted by other men—worthy men, real men who will steal her away. In that dream there is always the third character; he who reflects all that I am not, all that she wants. Am I a real man or simply a boy in the nursery, seeking mother’s comfort, fantasizing about becoming a knight and winning the fairytale princess?
The men in that dream are all mirrors of my personal shadow: reflections of conflicts, complexes, and potentials I’ve yet to discover within myself. Can I awaken to the truth that the real work is in lifting the inner veils of old beliefs within myself to discover who I really am? Can I take full possession of my shadow self, slay the dragon of the nursery, and enter a new dream, individuated, fully owning the gold of my inner princess; perhaps ready to fully awaken from my old dream, to have an amazing relationship with a real person outside my personal dream.
This imaginary dream is but one in a thousand personal dreams we find our lives encased in. We are all Narcissus, narcotically staring at our reflections in the pools of our personal dreams. We spend our lives fully acquainting ourselves with the dramas of those dreams, painted on the faces of the world. We are all offered moments of awakening: opportunities to discover our truths and our personal myths. Can we claim our full stories, our full selves and move into amazingly new possibilities—new dreams, new lives?
Hopefully, not asleep at the wheel,