Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dreams and Visions of the Cosmos

One thing I've been wanting to do on this blog for some time now is to make an accounting of a number of “visions” I've had over the years. Many of them have occurred as lucid dreams which took the form of a very elaborate and clear instruction that have stuck in my mind with such detail I can't help but imagine they have some intentional force or meaning. I can't altogether say where the instruction came from, or what it was intended to teach, but I've spent a fair amount of time absorbing and considering them in various ways, and so I might as well share them with others, and see what they might have to say.

The first vision I'd like to present occurred in 1985, while I was in Adidam. It bears a striking resemblance to some of the teachings within Adidam which had just been given shortly before this lucid dream, particularly Adi Da's teaching about the “Cosmic Mandala”. According to Da, the manifest cosmos takes the form - if one sees it in total - of a circular mandala of lights, with the clear white light at the center, a blue band surrounding it, and then a series of colored bands of primarily yellow, and then red, stretching all the way to the periphery of one's vision. This corresponds to descriptions found in various spiritual traditions as well, so we can't claim that it is purely some invention of Da's. The various colored bands are supposed to represent various dimensions of the cosmos. The clear white light represents the core, or source-light, the blue represents the causal or supra-causal dimensions, the yellow the astral dimension, and the red the gross physical dimension. There are smaller bands as well at some of the boundaries of these bands, but the general picture is fairly clear.

In my dream-vision, somehow I found myself, from the very beginning, contemplating this entire Cosmic Mandala from a position beyond my body-mind. I had no sense of being “Conrad” or even a human being at all. That had been left behind entirely. I was traveling slowly through this mandala of lights as bodiless attention, focused solely on the clear white light at the center, all the while engaged in a deep and powerful meditation upon this clear white light. It radiated a feeling of profound bliss that drew me slowly and inexorably towards it, and this seemed the most natural spiritual practice in the world. It was the same feeling I associated with the most profound meditations I have had in relation to the Guru. And that is what the white light seemed to be – the living form of the Guru, drawing me into Himself. The rest of the mandala seemed insignificant to me, merely the refractions and reflections of this clear white light, which was the source of all the other lights, and thus it seemed important to keep my attention on the white light, and not to allow myself to drift away from it.

At one point I became curious about these other lights in my peripheral vision, and looked at them a little more closely. I noticed something that was not in any of the literature I'd ever read on this subject, even in the Daist literature. These bands of light were not, as I had been led to believe, a homogeneous field of pure light. Instead, they were actually composed of trillions upon trillions of tiny dots of light, like a pointillist painting. From a distance, they merged together to form a single field of light, but in detail they were not continuous at all. I couldn't help wondering what these little dots of light were, and let my attention wander go ever so slightly toward the periphery of my vision to see for myself what was going on. As I did, it was as if I were in a spaceship that was veering off from its natural course, and zooming in on these little lights, accelerating with unexpected suddenness. As I got closer, that portion of the mandala expanded, and I decided to let my attention naturally move, almost randomly, towards whichever point of light it wanted to. My attention finally settled upon one particular light at the border between the yellow and red bands, where the colors blended together. (As it happens, it is said that this is just where our earth realm resides, in the yellow-red spectrum of the mandala.)

A strange and amazing thing happened when I focused in on this point of light. It began to expand, with something approaching explosive force, as I neared it. The light it was made of became diffuse and billowy, like a cloud of light that was beginning to take on gaseous form. I was no longer merely looking at this light, but I was being enveloped inside it. The gaseous light began to form into smoky clouds, and these began to congeal into giant galactic clusters, becoming more and more solid as the process progressed. It was as if I was watching in real time the explosion of the Big Bang, and the formation of our universe out of the resultant gases. My experience was not merely as an observer of this, but a participant. In other words, I could feel myself congealing as well, as if my own identity were becoming solidified into this world I had entered. Rather than being a pure form of attention, I was turning into a form myself, more and more tangibly, just as the universe itself was. I wish I could say that this process was enjoyable, but unfortunately it was just the opposite. The process of congealing from attention into form felt deeply uncomfortable and constricting, carrying with it a deep feeling of misery and suffering, at least in comparison to how I had felt previously, while contemplating the clear white light at the center of the mandala.

Fairly quickly the universe formed into solid shapes of stars and planets, with one planet forming right around me. Before I knew it, I found myself sitting on a park bench in a very attractive earth-like setting, with trees and walkways and beautiful landscaping surrounding me. People were walking by engrossed in their own affairs, and all of this seemed perfectly natural to them. Unfortunately, none of this beauty compensated for the intense feeling of misery that was engulfing me. It wasn't that I felt an acute sense of attack or pain, but something far worse, the feeling of simply being limited to a particular form in a particular world. A body was forming around me, as me, out of the light and attention I had previously freely moved through. At one point, I looked around, and I actually felt as if I knew what these things were. The trees were trees, the grass was grass, the park bench was a park bench. And suddenly I instinctively recoiled against this knowledge. It seemed not only false, but it epitomized the state of suffering I was in. And then I remembered the white light and the vision of the cosmic mandala I had been enjoying just a little while previously. I realized that I had forgotten the white light, I had even forgotten how I had gotten here, and I was beginning to accept this world as being real, as being my actual state and condition, as being simply “the way things are”. I became terrified that if I let this process go on any further, I really would be stuck here, I really would become incarnated in this world, and subject to its destiny and logic. I would forget the white light entirely, I would forget that this world was simply a congealed form of light and attention, that it was nothing more than a single point of light that my attention had expanded into a universe, and I would have no choice by to live out a life here as if this were necessary and true, rather than a diversion from what was actually necessary and true, which was to enter into the white light, which I had been moving towards before all this came about.

I realized that unless I did something drastic, I would be unable to retain this awareness. So I began to look closely at every little thing I could, and ask myself, “what is it?” As I mentioned before, the sense of knowing what things were seemed to epitomize my suffering, so it felt as if I had to attack that presumption of knowledge first. So I looked at everything I could, and asked myself “what is it?”, until it became clear that it wasn't at all what I thought it was, it was just light taking on a form. As I did this, the whole process of light congealing into form began to reverse itself. Instead of becoming more solid and real, everything began to get more diffuse and airy. Slowly, the whole world began to dissolve, and turn back into light. I found myself pulling away, the galaxies began to dissolve, and the whole process went in reverse, until my attention simply pulled away entirely, the universe collapsed back into a single point of light, and I turned back towards the white light. Soon I was restored to my former sense of freedom and bliss, moving with great love towards the clear white light.

This continued on until I had passed beyond the yellow realms entirely. As I began nearing the white light, however, wispy blue clouds began to pass in front of it, small and unobtrusive at first, but increasing in size and depth, until they completely enveloped the white light. In short order I found myself completely enveloped in a blue fog. I had entered some kind of formless blue world, with no up or down, no lights or features, no shapes or dimensions, no body or identity, and no memory whatsoever of the white light. It was just as bewildering in its own way as the universe of form I had gotten lost in before. I wandered aimlessly without any sense of the passage of time, since there was nothing to compare my movements to. I had no idea what was happening, where I was, or what I was supposed to find. I just had this sense that something was missing, and I had to find it, whatever it was.

Then, out of this homogeneous blue world, I saw the form of a large Victorian style mirror on a stand. It was rather strange, in that it was perfectly formed out of carved wood, the only object I'd seen in this entire world. However, the mirror was turned away from me, so I could only see its wooden backing. I approached the mirror, and turned it to face me. Looking in the mirror, I saw the brilliant clear white light. This is what I had been looking for, I realized. When I looked into the light, so near to me, my mind simply dissolved. All my thoughts vanished, and I felt the same love and attraction I had experienced previously, when I was floating through the cosmic mandala towards the light. The same attractive force pulled me forward, and I fell into the mirror. I fell, like Alice through the looking glass, right through the mirror, and as I did, everything dissolved. I dissolved. I entered the clear light white, and absolutely nothing remained, not even any ability to conceive or perceive the light. There was simply no experience left, and no dream. Nothing more could even be said about it.

When I awakened from this dream in the morning, I began to realize that the world I was waking into was just like the world I had entered into through the point of light. That this world as we think we know it is just like that point of light, but expanded out and accepted by us as real and true and “the way things are”.

This dream has stayed with me ever since as a reminder of what's really going on in this world, of what reality is really pointing towards, and of where I need to put my attention. I forget this way too often, but somehow, things keep reminding me of it.

So, another way of describing self-enquiry is the reversal of the process of identification with form, the reversal of the process of incarnation, and the knowing of who we really are, of what we actually look like in the mirror, and falling into that, rather than merely assuming that this conventional world is “the way things are”.

No comments: