Thinking and Dreaming and Consciousness
When I fall asleep, darkness is welcome rather than being something fearful. It is as though the night creates a nest of safety, a cocoon of protection. My mind becomes silent, even more silent than the state of mindfulness that I am able to achieve at moments during meditation. And in my hours of sleep I descend into a state of healing nothingness, a non-threatening blankness. Yet, coming from out of the darkness, there emerges images, sounds and other indications that the darkness is a full place rather than an empty place. And I get to be both a spectator and a participant in that alternate reality that comes unbidden during the hours of sleep. This alternate world is a real world as far as my “mind” is concerned during my time spent in that world. But, it is a world that I enter into as though through a different lens, where I see differently and even act differently.
“. . . dreams are not entirely cut off from the continuity of consciousness, for in almost every dream certain details can be found which have their origin in the impressions, thoughts, and moods of the preceding day or days. To that extent a certain continuity does exist, though at first sight it points backwards. But anyone sufficiently interested in the dream problem cannot have failed to observe that dreams also have a continuity forwards – if such an expression be permitted – since dreams occasionally exert a remarkable influence on the conscious mental life even of persons who cannot be considered superstitious or particularly abnormal.” (Jung, CW vol. VIII, par 444)
The idea of consciousness is crucial here. Consciousness is based on thought, on one’s mental activity. We can’t see a thought, measure a thought, use any of our physical senses to prove the existence of a thought. Yet, we all accept the “reality” of a thought. There are some physical indicators that suggest the presence of thought, the way a person looks when thinking and when not thinking, a measurement of electrical activity in the brain are just tow obvious ways of being aware of the presence of thought in others. In our own heads, we have yet more evidence, both physical and subjective. Consciousness is based on this “thinking awareness.” Body presence is not enough to denote consciousness. We all know the expression “the lights are on but nobody’s home,” an expression that indicates that one can move through life instinctively, unconsciously.
Dreams have the same nature of existence as does thought. They are just as observable to an outsider indicating that there is “something” there. Our bias against a dream as a meaningful phenomenon, is based on the fact that we can’t seem to “control” these dreams. If we are honest, we have to admit that we often have great difficulty controlling our thoughts as well. Any beginner in meditative practice quickly learns how “thinking” seems to have its own agenda and will. It takes a lot of self-training to “tame” thinking processes in meditation. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a real connection between thinking and dreaming in terms of consciousness.