A Sitting In The Lake

swan-on-a-lake

By Douglas McElheny

On Easter Sunday this year I woke up feeling like I’d actually rested during the night, which is abnormal for me since I usually wake up feeling quite the opposite to varying degrees. I also felt clear and still on the inside for lack of better words, and with a little bit of enthusiasm and positivity for the day. That clear feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day, though it got covered up at times when I would get absorbed in doing this or that. It was pretty slight to begin with, and was even more slight throughout the day, but it stayed until the evening if I remember correctly, maybe even up until I went to bed, but I can’t recall for sure. I think the experience is connected to this dream I had Easter morning:

I’m driving down Montvale Road in Maryville, TN to Briarcliff Circle, where my family used to live.  I’m with Trent and at least one other person. I know my family and I are staying as guests at the Bailey’s, and I joke with Trent asking him if he wants to go and see my dad (in waking life my dad did not like Trent). I turn into Briarcliff, but don’t get far before I turn the car around and go back out on Montvale Road towards town. Now we’re on foot though, and on the other side of Montvale Road is a large lake with pretty light blue water (in waking life there is a large expanse of farmland there). I’m saying to the others: “Why weren’t we coming to the lake and swimming every day when we were kids?” I just can’t believe we weren’t doing that. We all get in the water and are sitting in it next to the shore. The bottom has soft mud though, and I don’t like the feel of it so I get out and am now sitting on the road. A man and a little boy are here now with a big rectangular chocolate birthday cake. I tell them today is my birthday also, which, in the dream, it is. It says Happy Birthday Jennifer on the cake, and I assume that’s the boy’s mother. Then Jennifer, who is Latina, shows up and isn’t very friendly. So my friends and I go on the other side of the road to a small house that seems to be just one big room that has a garage door on it which is open. The family comes in too, and I find out that Jennifer is from Bolivia and start speaking to her in Spanish, telling her I went all over Bolivia over a period of about 10 months. As we talk she starts to warm up a little bit. My friends and I decide to go, but we have to get our car out of this room so we start moving the furniture and things that are in the way of the car. I move some small items, not wanting to hurt my back. There is no car now though, just a big bed, but that is what we’re planning to move out once we clear the other furniture out of the way.

 In his Letters on Yoga Aurobindo states that ‘water is the symbol of a state of consciousness or a plane’.Now when I told Donny about the dream he pointed out that in his experience a lake with its expansive yet bounded condition (as opposed to say the ocean which is limitless and would represent an even higher condition) represents the state of mental silence and loss of ego denoted by terms such as realization, enlightenment, silent mind or in the case of the integral yoga ‘the spiritual consciousness’.  The fact that the water was a pretty blue supports this idea since Aurobindo says the levels of the spiritual consciousness can be symbolized by the that color.2

I will say though that for me the real proof of the meaning of this blue lake is ‘in the pudding’ as they say. For millennia sages have testified to the peace and stillness of the spiritual consciousness and that was what spilled over into my waking life albeit in a very diminished form. So what I think happened here is I must have had a unrecalled brush with the spiritual consciousness in some way during sleep that was transcribed by the dream and also produced an effect on the waking consciousness. In a sense it was a very strong effect since it remained for the whole day even though the actual change in consciousness was very slight.

Looking at other elements in the dream, the appearance of the birthday cake is something that gives weight to this theory since, as Donny pointed out, it could be a symbol for a permanent transition from ego consciousness to the spiritual consciousness. That transition seems to be such a radical reversal it can be likened to dying and being reborn. The cake was also rectangular, and in his letters Sri Aurobindo also says that in visions a rectangle “indicates something partial and preliminary”3as opposed to a square which “indicates that the creation is to be complete in itself.”4I imagine squares and rectangles could have the same significance in dreams, and Aurobindo’s interpretation makes sense here since it appears all that may have happened was a fleeting immersion in the spiritual consciousness. There was no permanent change of station to that level.

I’m not sure what the muddy bottom of the lake might mean. Perhaps it’s some obstacle coming between me and the spiritual consciousness or maybe something that was difficult or disorienting about the encounter with the state. Apparently a lot of people require some time to adjust when they enter the spiritual consciousness permanently. It’s certainly worth noting though that I had a vision later on that morning after the dream where I was being encouraged to swim in that blue water.

Most of the rest of the symbols in the dream are hard for me to interpret. I don’t really know what to make of the room at the end of the dream and trying to get my ‘car’, that had turned into a bed, out of it.  The fact that the dream took place in Briarcliff Circle where I used to live is interesting though because two days before Easter I received news that the Bailey’s, who are mentioned in the dream and who are close family friends, had suffered a very devastating loss. So Maryville and the Bailey’s had been on my mind, and in a manner of speaking I really had ‘been in Maryville’ on the level of thought and emotion in the days preceding the dream.

So is the fact that I was giving the Baileys a lot of thought the reason Maryville was the setting of my dream, and it was a more or less reflexive element woven in with other more obviously symbolic and meaningful elements? Or is there something more significant going on? I honestly can’t say. Perhaps the birthday woman from Bolivia who was in the glum mood represents the Bailey’s since there was Latino blood on Mrs. Bailey’s side. It would seem though that it would have something personally to do with me too, with the tendency for glumness in my vital which was being represented by this woman.

Having finished my attempt to analyze this dream, there is still one interesting question left to address. And that is: did my dream and experience have anything to do with it being Easter?  I have to admit that, while I’ve had experience with the effects of things like solstices and full moons, if I’ve ever had a dream or experience like this on Easter, I can’t remember it. As it turns out Easter was on April 1 this year, and the night of March 31stwas the night of the full moon. For me the full moon alone would be enough to account for my dream and subsequent experience, but perhaps Easter, even though the date moves around every year, is a day with spiritual power in the same way the darshans of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram are for myself and many others.5

Now in conclusion, while the potential impact of things like full moons and days like Easter on sleep experience is no doubt interesting, what I feel is most important here is the idea that experiences that happen in sleep, even when we don’t remember them, can give rise to a dream transcribing the event as well as have a noticeable effect on our waking consciousness. It’s fair to point out too that, in my experience, you can experience and remember an altered state of consciousness in a dream that leaves no effect whatsoever on the waking consciousness like a number of dreams I’ve had over the years where I smoked marijuana and got high in the dream, but woke up feeling completely normal.  Donny also recently recounted a dream to me where he was feeling a blissful ecstatic bhakti from which he woke up directly, and yet nothing of the experience carried over. I’m sure there are reasons for all this, but I could only guess at the moment what they are, so I’ll refrain from doing so. I’ll just leave all this as food for thought.

Notes and References

  1. Sri Aurobindo, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo Vol. 30: Letters on Yoga III, pgs 150.
  2. Sri Aurobindo, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo Vol. 30: Letters on Yoga III, pgs 127-28.
  3. Sri Aurobindo, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo Vol. 30: Letters on Yoga III, pg 102.
  4. The spiritual effect of the darshan days here at the ashram was the subject of my last post for those who are interested.

The Shuttle Has Landed

By Douglas McElheny

In this post, I have a dream I want to share mainly because of a strong synchronicity between it and an outer event that happened the morning after the dream. I think it provides a good example of how these meetings between the inner and the outer can happen even though I’m not sure what it all means. Here is the dream:

 I’m watching the space shuttle come in for a landing on TV, but then I notice I can hear the sound of its engines coming in the window from outside. I figure Cape Canaveral must be close enough that I can hear it coming in. When I look outside however, I can see the shuttle has actually landed here on the runway of the airport in Pondicherry. It’s nighttime and it’s trying to turn around to go to the terminal. I try to walk closer to it to get a better look, but I don’t get much closer before someone’s is yelling at me about not getting too close.

The morning after this dream I noticed our Harm’s End Facebook page had a notification, so I clicked to see what it was. It turns out it was a ‘like’ for a post Donny did on someone else’s facebook page nearly fourteen months before. The post contains a long poem and a video clip of the space shuttle Atlantislanding after a mission. Donny and I were both impressed by the synchronicity, but what might the wholething mean?

Going up into space via the space shuttle or otherwise would seem to indicate a very high spiritual flight and the space shuttle landing would indicate coming down from that. As it turns out this dream happened on December 1, 2017 right in the middle of three darshan dayshere in Pondicherry. These are special days here at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, when people are allowed to pass through either Sri Aurobindo’s room or the Mother’s or sometimes both.  Most of these darshan days were celebrated when Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were still alive, and were noteworthy because they were days when the sadhaks were able to appear in front of Sri Aurobindo (who spent the rest of the year secluded in his room) and the Mother together for a silent blessing. People however were not permitted to speak to him.

Over the years I’ve noticed perceptible effects on myself on the darshan days, though often nothing noteworthy happens, or I’m too clouded to receive anything. Usually if something noticeable occurs it’s some peace or detachment, though I have also had some powerful and obviously significant dreams on these days as well. The other thing I’ve noticed, unfortunately, is that difficulties tend to increase both inwardly and outwardly in the days leading up to a darshan. That doesn’t always happen though, but I’m guessing that when it does happen it’s because of a combination of hostile forces trying to throw me off track so I’m not receptive on the darshan days as well as blocks and resistances in me.

Donny has noticed these effects as well of the darshan days, both the good and the bad, and I’m sure there are many other people, who are either sadhaks or devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, that have also. As far as the time period around the dream goes, I do recall feeling inwardly quiet and settled throughout the entire day on one of those three darshans, and it may have been the one on December 5th.  I seem to remember it was. And if it was, then the dream could be showing the coming down from that experience the next day on the 6th. Regardless though of when it happened, that experience didn’t seem to me at first to be powerful enough to fit with the symbolism of going into space. Donny disagreed though saying he thought experiences of peace like that are more significant than I might be giving them credit for. After some thought, I can see his point especially when you consider the experience lasted throughout an entire day. Hopefully with more experience I’ll be able to say for sure if something like this could be symbolized by going into space.

But as I said in my introductory paragraph, what is really noteworthy about this dream is the synchronicity with the ‘like’ on Donny’s Facebook post. That would put some emphasis on the whole thing I would think. What’s interesting though is the emphasis is on the shuttle landing, not the shuttle going up into space. Why the emphasis would be placed on that, on coming down from a spiritual height, I don’t know. There was also nothing I recorded in my dream journal before or after this particular dream of going up into space. There was however a dream I recorded on November 26th where my best friend from college, Nick, (who’s deceased) was flying in an X-Wing fighter and blew up the Death Star. Perhaps the two dreams are related.

An interesting thing Donny pointed out is that my inability to get close to the space shuttle in my dream is metaphorically speaking a lot like the way I’ve had to approach this article. I haven’t been able to ‘get close’ in the sense of being able to draw any definite conclusions about what all this means, just put out some ideas and possibilities. I will say, however, that the simple occurrence of any really strong or blatant synchronicity can still have beneficial effects even if you can’t draw any conclusions from it.  Having grown used to synchronicities over the years I often just shrug my shoulders at them, but this one impressed me, and Donny as well. It evoked, the way synchronicities can, a sense of a something wonderful and meaningful, of a guiding hand behind the seemingly mechanical workings of the universe.

One thing I’ve considered, and will throw out here as some food for thought, is the possibility that the dream isn’t referring just to me personally, but referring to what was going on in the atmosphere of Pondicherry itself with the triple darshan. Perhaps the dream was showing or also showing how the general vibration in the area would be coming down from that heightened state afterwards. I’ve noticed darshan effects even when living in Florida and also at the Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham ashram in Lodi, CA., so it doesn’t seem implausible that my dream is referring not just to me, but also to the general atmosphere of Pondy which was uplifted by the three darshans. It makes sense that here in Pondy the effect would be stronger than anywhere else.

There is one more thing that happened as part of all this which is worth mentioning as I close. While putting the finishing touches on my last article I was thinking about what I would write next. This article was one I was considering for my next one, though I seem to remember I was leaning more towards another. In the midst of that, and roughly two months after the dream/Facebook synchronicity occurred, we got another notification on Harm’s End of a ‘like’. This ‘like’ was also for Donny’s poem with the clip of the Atlantislanding, though it was another posting on a different Facebook page.So I took this as a nudge from the universe, which prompted me to write this particular article in lieu of some others that I was considering.

Notes and References

  1. These three darshans are on November 17th, November 24th and December 5th. November 17th is the day the Mother died and December 5th is the day Sri Aurobindo died. November 24th is known as ‘Siddhi Day’ and marks the day that the ashram was founded.
  2. Donny posted this particular poem and clip on a number of Facebook pages all having to do with debunking conspiracy theories. There were no other ‘likes’ received on any of these space shuttle Atlantis posts in the time between the two mentioned in this article.

Dream Experience With Franklin Merrell-Wolff?

Tuttle Creek Ashram
The Tuttle Creek Ashram

Image Source

By Douglas McElheny

About a year ago I had a series of dreams in the same night with the deceased American spiritual teacher Franklin Merrell-Wolff. I wanted to share these dreams for a couple of reasons, one of which is simply to get his name out there on the internet for someone who might be interested in him and his work, which has the obvious stamp of someone who attained a spiritual realization or ‘recognition’ as he preferred to call it. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea because of his strong intellectual bent, but if you have the kind of mind that can get into his writings, I think you’ll find him as rewarding to read as anyone in contemporary spiritual literature.

The second reason I want to share is because I feel these dreams might be indicating an actual contact with Merrell-Wolff during sleep on another supraphysical plane, and I wanted to use these dreams as a means to explore the possibility of such encounters. In a letter to one of his sadhaks, Sri Aurobindo calls this sort of dream a ‘dream experience’, which he defines as a “record direct or symbolic of what happens to us or around us there (on other supraphysical planes).”1 Now I honestly don’t know how to infallibly distinguish when a dream is a dream experience according to this definition. I wracked my brain trying to see if I could come up with some kind of criteria, but realized I’m just not at the place yet where I have that kind of knowledge and discernment. So this article is going to be more hypothetical than most that I write, and more about presenting possibilities than answers.

I think however we can still expand our horizons through exploring the possibility that this was indeed a dream experience with Merrell-Wolff , while at the same time being honest that I don’t know for sure. To give this idea some plausibility however, and not just build a house of cards, I will support it with some relevant quotes from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Let me also say that I feel that if these dreams were indeed of the dream experience variety, they were a symbolic record and not a direct one. Overall there was nothing really remarkable about the dream environment or the dream substance that would lead me to believe I was bringing back a direct record from something that occurred on another plane. And while there was one beautiful scene in the first dream, it wasn’t the kind of breathtaking beauty I’ve seen in dream environments that I suspect are peering into the subtle physical.2 I have to admit though, that there are many, many things I still don’t know or understand about dreams, so I may be wrong, but since Sri Aurobindo makes the distinction in his definition, I thought I needed to give my opinion on the matter for the sake of clarity throughout the rest of this article.

So with all this in mind I’ll now share the dreams.

Dream 1
I’m with Franklin Merrell-Wolff in a truck in the front seat and he’s driving. There’s also if I remember correctly another passenger and I’m sitting in the middle. We’re driving through some low rolling green mountains. There really isn’t a road though, and at one point the car is almost sideways driving along the side of one of the mountains. I know we’re going to reach a point where we’ll have to go more or less straight up and I’m nervous about this. We stop first though at Merrell-Wolff’s house. I join with a group of people and he’s giving us a tour. At one point we reach a place where there’s a staircase going up, and a staircase going down, and a room can be seen at the end of each staircase. One by one we have to go to the staircases and choose which way we want to go, and some people choose to go up and others choose to go down. When it’s my turn I can see that downstairs there are some chairs and the people there are watching a video presentation. I don’t now recall what was going on upstairs. My first inclination is to go upstairs, but then I change my mind and go downstairs, because I think that’s where Merrell-Wolff is. He’s not there though, and I realize he’s off somewhere else outside with a few other people and that I didn’t get to go. I find my way outside and can see a wide desert plain below that has some rock formations in the distance like something you’d see in the badlands in South Dakota. It’s a very beautiful scene. After that I find myself in a bigger room like a theater watching something on TV. I don’t remember now what it was about.

 Dream 2
I’m with Merrell-Wolff in a truck again and he’s driving. We’re talking about spiritual realization, and how you get there. Something in our conversation (I don’t remember what) prompts me to say, “Well maybe I’m a weak person.” But he tells me that on the contrary I’m a very strong person, and he tells me why, but I can’t remember now what he said. Also during the conversation I asked him if surrender was the most important thing for gaining spiritual realization, and I seem to remember he answered in the affirmative. I also asked him if it’s just a matter of letting go, and I don’t remember now how he responded.

Dream 3
We’re back at Merrell-Wolff’s house in the mountains, and an airport taxi has come to pick me up though it looks like a trolley. Merrell-Wolff comes to say goodbye, and I’m feeling emotional because I don’t want to leave him. For our parting he reaches out to shake my hand while I try to give him a hug, which results in a kind of awkward embrace. He gives me a kiss on the cheek, and then he points his index and middle fingers of one hand at my eyes, but not directly, as his hand is a little bit on the left side of my head. He says reassuringly something like “You’re gonna get it. You’re gonna figure it out” or I may have just understood that that was what he meant by the gesture and he didn’t actually say it. I can’t recall for sure. I’m feeling very emotional because I figure I’ll never see him again.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff died in 1985. In a video interview I saw of him that took place near the end of his life, Merrell-Wolff states his belief that it’s possible to make the transition to death consciously and without falling into a swoon from which one would have to regain consciousness later. He also voiced his desire to accomplish this during his death.3 I have to admit I don’t have any idea what would be the benefits of entering death without losing continuity of consciousness, but I will say that I feel a realized being has a lot more control over what happens to them in death than your average joe, though I obviously can’t prove that.

merrell-wolff headshot
Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Being familiar with Merrell-Wolff’s writings and having a sense of the stature of the man, I would guess he was developed enough to achieve his goal of entering death consciously. Developed enough also I would guess, to still be active on the other side guiding and helping the living, especially those people who are directly under his spiritual care—assuming of course that sort of thing is possible, and in my case I assume that it is. And if it is possible and this dream is transcribing an encounter with Merrell-Wolff, and if it’s a fairly accurate transcription in its basic details, then perhaps I actually went to his abode on the other side, his inner ashram you might say, somewhere where he meets and mixes with others. Now I don’t know where his abode might be on the other side, but the Mother said more than once after he died that Sri Aurobindo was dwelling in the subtle physical plane and that “you can meet him when you sleep, if you know how to go there.”4 She also made reference to a world on the subtle physical plane she visited during sleep “where the living and the dead intermingle without feeling any difference.”5

If you’ve read a lot of other blog posts of mine you know that I focus mainly on trying to show how dreams connect to actual occurrences in waking reality. So one could ask: what makes me think this dream isn’t just showing what was manifesting in my waking life at the time? Maybe, you might argue, it was showing a day or span of days that I was ‘up in the mountains’ spiritually so to speak, maybe feeling some peace or detachment. Unfortunately, I don’t recollect now what my waking life was like at the time, so I can’t refute that possibility by saying I was struggling with something then, but even if I had been uplifted at that time that wouldn’t necessarily invalidate for me the idea that this was a contact with Merrell-Wolff. That encounter might have been the thing that helped me to get clear. I should also point out that dreams have a depth and multi-dimensionality that’s hard for our waking consciousness to fathom, and this dream could very well have been showing both a personal uplift in waking consciousness and a contact with Merrell-Wolff at the same time.

One of the things that leads me to believe that this was a contact with Merrill-Wolff is years of dreams of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and my strong conviction that they’re my teachers, and that they are consciously active and guiding people from the other side.6 And while I don’t know of any examples with Merrell-Wolff, there are scores of stories of people encountering Sri Aurobindo and/or the Mother in their dreams (both while Aurobindo and the Mother were still alive as well as after their deaths) and receiving help or guidance from them. In one of his letters, Sri Aurobindo pointed out to a sadhak that encountering the Mother on the vital plane is an experience “all the sadhaks have in their sleep and dreams, if they are a little conscious there. Even those who are not sadhaks or others who do not know her come, but they are not aware of it.”7

Another question the reader might ask, and which I asked myself, is: could Merrell-Wolff be representing someone or something else I encountered in sleep and the dream just used him as a symbol because its one I would know and recognize? I recently came across an instance in Questions and Answers where a child tells the Mother a dream she had where “you took me in your arms and embraced me for quite some time.”8 The Mother then tells her that during sleep the child had entered into contact with Forces “which are full of love and tenderness, which help and welcome all those who come,”9 and “when you woke up, this was translated through images you know, that is, that you come to see me, receive blessings, and then as there was a new feeling —that of contact with this Force which envelops and helps— this gave you the impression that I was taking you in my arms and embracing you. It was translated in this way. The fact is there; the translation is that of your brain.”10 Based on this it certainly seems quite possible that Merrell-Wolff could have been a symbol for a Force like the Mother describes here, but it also seems possible to me that the dream does indeed record a contact with Merrell-Wolff.

While he’s not my primary teacher, and he admittedly doesn’t enter my dreams often,11 I have a tremendous admiration for Franklin Merrell-Wolff and his incredible mind, as well as a great enthusiasm for his written works, which I regard as some of my most prized possessions. That by itself seems to me would be enough to open up the possibility of a contact during sleep, but I’ve also reached out to him to a small extent over the years, asked him for his help. It’s only been in small spurts whereas I’m reaching out to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on a daily basis, but when I think of him it sometimes drums up a little bit of bhakti along with the enthusiasm I feel for his books. So I think there’s enough here for there to be an inner connection between he and I, and I think a spiritually realized man like Merrell Wolff is going to give his help to anyone who sincerely asks, even if its just in a small way, and even if for the most part he leaves that person to the care of the people directly in charge of his or her sadhana. I think also that the element of Merrell-Wolff giving me guidance in the dream as well as my desire to be with him and the emotions I felt at our parting could indicate that this was indeed a contact with him, and that the bhakti and enthusiasm I feel for him in my waking life are perhaps the outcome of a deeper inner connection. How you distinguish infallibly though between a dream experience that shows an actual encounter with someone like Merrell-Wolff or Sri Aurobindo, and one that uses them as symbols for helping Forces or other beings, is something I don’t know, and I have to wonder which of my many dreams of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother over the years were actually showing a contact with them and not just using them as a symbol.

I think after having hashed all that out, it’s appropriate now to briefly look at some of the movements in the dreams in the context of a dream experience and under the assumption that this was in fact a contact with Merrell-Wolff. Now as I said previously, I think that if this was a dream experience, it’s a symbolic recording and not a direct one. Given that, going up into the mountains might just be symbolic of rising up through the planes and in the scale of consciousness to Merrell-Wolff’s abode. According to Sri Aurobindo’s descriptions of other planes in his epic poem Savitri however, other supraphysical planes can have features like mountains, lakes etc.12 So it wouldn’t seem to me to be impossible that Merrell-Wolff, who loved the mountains and even built a small ashram in the Eastern Sierra Nevada during his lifetime,13 would set up his abode in a mountainous setting. This however is admittedly pure speculation.

Moving on, I have to say I have no idea what the choice between going up and going down in the first dream might mean, but the TV screen that was in the room downstairs and also the one at the end of the first dream perhaps indicate being given information or knowledge. It’s interesting I wasn’t included with the group that went outside with Merrell-Wolff. I don’t know what that represented, but for whatever reason I wasn’t invited. Maybe that’s because I’m not fully his student or maybe it was something for the more spiritually advanced people. I seem to recall that in the dream I understood that I wasn’t spiritually advanced enough to go, but since I didn’t record that in the dream’s description in my dream journal I can’t rule out that that’s a false recollection my mind has tacked on to the memory of the dream.

Looking at the guidance given in the dream, it’s of course nice to be told by someone like Merrell-Wolff in a dream that you’re a strong person, and that you’re going to figure it out. That gave me a little confidence boost after the dream that I can still recall, and one I must have needed though, as I’ve said, I can’t remember what my general state was at the time. The fact that I asked Merrell-Wolff if surrender was the most important thing for spiritual realization was prompted I feel by the memory of one particular part in his work Introceptualism that discusses the importance of self-giving to the sacred. That particular passage really resonated with me and has stuck with me more strongly than anything else I’ve gleaned from Merrell-Wolff’s books.14

 So in conclusion, though this is all hypothetical, my feeling on the matter is that this was indeed a dream experience with Franklin Merrell-Wolff. Of course, that’s admittedly what I want to believe, but if you’re willing to take Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as authorities, I think I’ve presented a plausible argument that this was a dream experience, and that these sorts of supraphysical encounters with other people, be they dead or alive, are possible in sleep. But then there’s still the question of whether or not I actually encountered Merrell-Wolff in sleep that night or if my dream was just using him as a symbol for someone or something else I encountered. Regarding this I must be honest and admit once more that this is a question I can’t answer at this time, and one that almost got me to shelve this article before it was finished hoping that at some point in my life I’d have the knowledge and discernment to answer the question one way or another. It makes sense though that it really was Merrell-Wolff for the reasons I’ve stated previously, and I think my belief that it was indeed him can be presented as a reasonable, even probable possibility by the reader if you’re willing to admit the existence of such dream encounters with a spiritual teacher with whom you have an inner connection. It was this, along with Donny’s encouragement that convinced me to carry on with the endeavor and finish the article. Dreams are still a largely unexplored frontier, and some amount of hypothetical speculation is inevitable as we attempt to map this territory, or re-map it perhaps since past civilizations may not have been as in the dark about dreams and other occult phenomenon as we are. So if this inquiry has broadened anyone’s ideas of what’s possible in sleep and dreams and done it in a credible manner, that I feel is sufficient, and it’s served a useful purpose. And if it further prompts a reader or two to take a closer look at their own dreams for evidence of such dream experiences or even for just a deeper understanding of their dreams in general, so much the better.

Notes and References

  1. Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Vol 30: Letters on Yoga III, pg 260.
  2. The subtle physical is Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s term for another world of physical matter like ours, but one of incredible beauty in comparison to the gross physical world we inhabit in waking consciousness.
  3. Those interested can watch the interview here https://youtu.be/39kZf72LlE4
  4. The Mother, CWM Vol 13: Words of the Mother I, pg 12.
  5. The Mother, CWM Vol 10: On Thoughts and Aphorisms, pg 147.
  6. For what I think is a good clear example of a dream experience with the Mother, please read this article on my old blog The Chipmunk Press. Scroll down to where it says ‘From First, From Within’ to find the article.
  7. Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Vol 32: The Mother With Letters On The Mother, pg 290.
  8. The Mother, CWM Vol 6: Questions and Answers 1954, pg 143.
  9. pg 147-148.
  10. pg 148.
  11. In my dream journals, which I’ve got on Word docs back to the beginning of 2013, Merrell-Wolff’s name only comes up twice, and in both dreams I was reading something he’d written and wasn’t actually with him. I have a vague recollection of another dream where I was actually with him, but that could be a false memory.
  12. Please refer to Book II Canto II and Book XI Canto I in Sri Aurobindo’s
  13. Merrell-Wolff built the ashram in Tuttle Creek Canyon near Lone Pine, CA with the help of a group he and his wife Sherifa founded called the ‘Assembly of Man’. This building still stands and is known as the ‘Tuttle Creek Ashram’ by the U.S. Forest Service.
  14. Here is the quote for those who are interested:
    ‘Sacredness implies self-giving, while secularity implies self-withholding. In the transformation process, everything else is incidental to the attainment of the pure self-giving attitude. For the most part, one attains this attitude only after a desperately painful crisis, but if the individual can accept it without waiting for the crisis, he or she simply avoids a great deal of discomfort.’
    Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Transformations in Consciousness, pg 150

 

 

 

Transformation

This is another song my soul wrote. Below are the lyrics. It came via the muse, inner voice and vision, over a period of months, usually around dawn one or two sung lines at a time, accompanied by at least the guitar but often with a whole band or orchestra, but not every day and not only at dawn. Often lines are in the voice of a particular famous singer or band, but just as often they’re in my own faulty voice. Sometimes weeks went by without anything for the song, although lines are sung to me in my muse almost daily. I have to center a song and only choose lines that fit. It’s not a cut and dried process, most especially the melody, which, like in this song, evolved over the time it was completed. Characteristic of the multifaceted nature of the inner voice, these lines were not only for the song but were also what I needed to hear and muse over the day they came, things my soul had said, which matched the needs of my sadhana. May the song help you with yours.

Transformation

(Hear the song here: https://soundcloud.com/donny-lee-duke/transformation)

Adam used to tell his name unto his soul.
Suddenly transformation.
Bid yourself in your mirror.
There are you who you are.

And I know, and I know, and I know
it’ll be my soul.

I am just so tired of crowding around.
Not a single access program of watching process rise.
Feeling sorry for myself living without you
process rise.

And I know, and I know, and I know
it’ll be my soul.

Getting wrapped by you.
Getting wrapped by you.
I find my religion is all is waking up.
Just strokes and takes my pressures.
Cause I’m livin’ down connected to the world.

And I know, and I know, and I know
it’ll be my soul.

Upon the stone of fortune’s wrath
I live and die a fattened calf.
Here is everybody show ‘em what you’re made of.

And I know, and I know, and I know
it’ll be my soul.

Every second every hour of the day,
Every second every hour of the day,
Every second every hour of the day,
it’s beautiful.
You see touch my soul.
How can I help you do the same?
And I know
I can feeling in your soul.

And I know it’ll be my soul,
transformation, transformation,
on the conscious world, on the conscious world.
And I know it’ll be my soul,
transformation, transformation.
And I know, and I know, and I know
it’ll be my soul.

Dad Dyes His Hair

By Douglas McElheny

It’s possible there are exceptions to the rule, but I would wager that 99.9% of people who have an active dream life dream often of the person or persons who were their primary caretakers growing up. For most people that will be a person or persons labeled ‘parent’. And for most of us growing up with a two-parent situation, one parent was more likely the authority figure while the other was more maternal and indulgent. If you were raised in a traditional family it was probably dad who was more the authority figure, and thus he could represent, among other things1, the authoritarian part of oneself. I think that’s case with me and in that context I wanted to share and then discuss this dream.

 I’m with my Dad and he’s dyed his hair black to cover up the grey. I tell him, “You finally decided to do it huh?” His mustache has been shaved off too and he looks a lot younger. I open the freezer and there’s some kind of cake inside but it’s flat like it collapsed while cooking in the oven. It has little light brown chocolate chips on it. Dad tells me, “Why don’t you pick the fruit off?” I tell him, “No I’m just looking at it.”

For the first few years of my life my dad was clean-shaven and that’s how he appears in pictures from that time of my life. Then when I was about four or five he grew a mustache that he’s had ever since. My mother told me when I was still a child (but old enough to understand these things) that for the first few years of my life, my father was warm and indulgent with his sons, but there reached a point where a shift occurred and he became more distant, controlling and authoritarian. The trend increased the older my brother and I got. She said it was something she found baffling and never could understand why it happened. I’m not going to postulate about why it happened, just state that it did.

Now here at our house I’m more the authority figure and always have been. The youths we have with us now were not with us in their most formative years, but if they were to dream of Donny and I in the context of parents there’s no doubt I would appear in their dreams as the authoritarian part of themselves and Donny as the more nurturing and indulgent part. At the time of the dream though I was experiencing a noticeable lessening of the authoritarian part of my nature, which in some ways was also a letting go, particularly about things regarding money, because one thing that’s difficult for me is our charges are almost completely bereft of any practicality or sense of sacrifice. They are for the most part only interested in wringing as much pleasure out of life as they can with the minimum amount of effort. That’s par for the course for people in their age group, but I feel it’s exacerbated in them by the stamp they got from the poor village environment in which they spent their earliest years.

When I had the dream I thought it was reflecting this lessening of my authoritarian streak that I was experiencing, since it depicted my Dad going back physically to what he looked like at the time in my life when he was more indulgent. I was noticing at the time that it was like something heavy was gone from me, and I felt a clearness and a lightness inside as well as a heightened sense of goodwill. For me this is proof that my authoritarian streak is exaggerated to the point of being a painful manifestation of egoism which, I suppose when you get down to the foundation of it, is a desire to control and impose what I feel is the right way to live on others. It goes beyond money to other areas but as far as money goes there’s also an attachment to it, a clinging to it. I will say however that I don’t think the attachment to money and where it’s going would be so hard if I was living with and supporting a houseful of people who were spiritual aspirants or at the very least interested in some kind of self development or improvement. That’s not the case here with anyone other than Donny.

So this clearing in the vital lasted a couple of weeks. Then something one of our charges did or wanted provoked a reaction. I don’t remember exactly what now, but I seem to recall it was Mugu wanting money for something. I’d had a dream the night before where I’d found myself lying on my side in bed, probably in the cataleptic state, looking at a small picture hanging on the wall in front of me. I had at least one other dream after this one before awakening, so I can’t clearly recall anything about it other than it was showing a pretty and colorful outdoor scene, but one that, if I remember correctly, had a lot of autumn like colors such as yellow, orange and red. There was also at least one building in the dream as I recall. The dream ended with a line which was something to the tune of “I knew at some point my dad would enter the picture.” I feel that line was addressing the fact that this authoritarian dad part of myself had reseated itself in me with that reaction, and I haven’t felt clear of it since to the same degree that I did for those couple of weeks after the first dream. During that time it was much easier to let go of these reactions if they arose at all. Perhaps the picture in the dream was showing my emotional state at the time, which was something pretty, but also perhaps near the end of its span because of the autumn like colors.

Regarding the deflated cake in the freezer, that would suggest to me some kind of vital indulgence that had been ‘put on ice’ so to speak at the time. Perhaps it’s not necessarily some kind of material indulgence like eating a lot of sweets or smoking cigarettes or sexual desire, but rather the lower vital feelings that get indulged when I’m in authoritarian mode, such as anger, obsessive control etc. which give the vital a perverse pleasure. I don’t know if that’s the case, and perhaps it did have to do with some more material indulgence. I’m just throwing this out there as an idea.

In closing, if I had to take a guess as to what was going on during those clear weeks, I would postulate that my psychic being was able to exert an influence over the vital throughout that time. It was temporary of course, but like many other experiences that come and go, it’s a promise of something that can become stable with the right development.

Notes and References

  1. It seems to me your dad in a dream could potentially represent any strong trait or tendency you picked up from him that manifests often in your life, as well as the big authority figure in your life.

Modern Mythos

Skipper and Professor
The Skipper and the Professor of ‘Gilligan’s Island’.

By Douglas McElheny

Recently, after I posted my latest blog, I was thinking about what my next post might be. I had two ideas and started writing a little bit for each one. Then one night as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I heard a voice say loud and clear, “Modern mythos.”

This is a theme I’ve touched on over the years in my writings, how all the different characters we’re exposed to in modern media serve as a modern mythos for our dreams to draw on for symbols. And since there can be a lot of variation in the characters we’re exposed to, because of what part of the world and what generation we grew up in, the modern mythos can be quite customized you might say per individual. When I grew up I was steeped in not just movies and television, but was also an avid comic book collector and know a lot of comic book characters, particularly Marvel comic book characters my dreams can use to show what’s going on with me the same way Greek and Roman gods and heroes would have been used by the dreams of people in those times.

Since the line ‘Modern mythos’ seemed like guidance I decided to write a blog post sharing and exploring a couple of these types of dreams. There was nothing really recent though in my dream journal that I could use, so it seemed possible to me that perhaps the dreams for this new post were yet to come. That proved to be the case, and two nights later I remembered two suitable dreams, both of which I will share as an examples of this type of dream. I’ll start with this one:

I’m with Darth Vader, but he’s actually my ally and we’re going to attack the Emperor. I’ve done something that has gotten the Emperor on the ground face down, and he seems to be unconscious. I want to stab him through the heart and kill him, but I have to leave for a moment to get someone to do something for me. When I come back the Emperor is awake. I stab him in different places with my lightsaber, but I can’t get him in the heart, and my attacks don’t seem to be doing anything. But then the Emperor changes into something like a big piece of plywood, and I’m smashing it with a hammer and telling people to take the pieces and burn them. While this is going on someone is organizing all the comic books that are here in the room in order to store them somewhere. The only one of the comic books I remember seeing was an issue of Daredevil, who’s on the cover dressed in a suit as his alter ego Matt Murdock. He’s with a woman who’s his girlfriend and who has stretching powers like Mister Fantastic.

The main part of this dream I think could be viewed as showing something universal in the sense that it demonstrates the plight of anyone struggling with their nature, shows how the spiritual warrior is dogged by hostile opposition in the process of purifying and converting all the parts of himself. The Emperor would seem to be some kind of hostile or anti-divine force opposing the spiritual endeavor or maybe the vital part or parts of us that are subject to that influence or perhaps all of those things. Darth Vader, in this dream at least1, would stand for a part or parts of one’s being that are in darkness, but are turning toward the light, a part that is being converted. That makes sense because Vader turns back to the light before he dies. Then there’s the character I play, the hero in the sense of the spiritual warrior, fighting the battle against one’s own nature and the forces of darkness that oppose.

Since this first part of the dream does seem to show a universal situation you can see how the three main characters could be swapped out with others. For example someone who was growing up in the first part of this century when Harry Potter was all the rage could have this same dream using Severus Snape in place of Darth Vader, and Lord Voldemort in place of the Emperor. The dreamer might also regard himself as Harry Potter or perhaps just play himself like I did in my dream: I didn’t regard myself as Luke Skywalker. And of course in the Harry Potter scenario the hero would be wielding a magic wand rather than a lightsaber. Here though we’ve reached a point where my dream steps outside the Star Wars mythos and starts using more mundane objects for symbols. My lightsaber, with which I was fighting ineffectively, becomes an ordinary hammer and the Emperor becomes something like plywood. Now what could that mean?

Donny feels that wood in a dream often represents something vital. That certainly fits here and would confirm that the Emperor is showing something in my vital that is under the influence of or has its buttons pushed by hostile forces. I’m not sure what a hammer might represent as opposed to a lightsaber, but a hammer is usually used to do work so maybe it signifies a labor I have to undertake. It’s also a very blunt instrument and certain types of hammers are used to break and destroy things. In this dream I used it to destroy the plywood, and then the pieces are taken to be burned. Donny said this movement suggested to him the idea of destroying something utterly, of burning it down to ashes, and that that could represent thoroughly rejecting whatever the Emperor/plywood represented, of giving it no quarter. Fire might also represent the fire of spiritual aspiration and tapas being used to burn up this particular wrong movement.

It’s interesting that the Emperor was vulnerable and seemingly unconscious at the beginning of my dream. Maybe whatever he represents could have been completely defeated at that time in my life, but the opportunity was missed. I wouldn’t bet on it though. It’s not easy to get rid of these things.

So now let’s examine the last piece of this dream: the comic book cover. Daredevil’s epithet is the ‘The Man Without Fear’, and rightly so since he literally has no fear and can resist fear toxins used by super villains. The other thing that makes Daredevil cool is he’s blind, but has enhanced senses including an additional radar sense he can use to negotiate the world. Given this Daredevil could perhaps represent occult powers or senses that can perceive beyond our normal five senses. I could see how a dream might highlight that feature of the character, but in this dream we find him as his alter ego Matt Murdock whose profession is a trial lawyer. This seems to me to be the key to interpreting the symbol at least as far as this dream goes.

Now a lawyer’s weapon is his mind and not his fists, and Donny also pointed out that a lawyer is an advocate, someone acting on your behalf for your wellbeing. Now at the time of this dream I was having a particularly rough go of it with the chronic pain I’m afflicted with in both my lower back and my knees. One problem I have regarding the chronic pain is the fear about it and the gloom and doom thoughts and feelings that can come up in reference to it, especially during a difficult period. So perhaps the dream is urging me to be ‘The Man Without Fear’ in the sense of being my own advocate and combating the fear, not just by rejecting it, but also by using my mind to reason with the vital and calm it down the same way a lawyer uses reason to present his arguments and win a trial. Or maybe the dream was showing me that some helpful force or entity was acting on my behalf to bring me courage, an intervention that might have been represented in the dream of an ancient Greek as the goddess Athena or perhaps by a hero like Perseus. I don’t think though that these two ideas are mutually exclusive, if you’re being guided to do something that would indicate the power or capacity would be there to help you do it.

So with that idea in mind we can take a look at the character of the girlfriend with the same elastic stretching powers as Mister Fantastic. This could simply be showing the capacity of being flexible, and since this character was a woman maybe it’s in the vital that I need more flexibility. What that might mean though in terms of some kind of action or effort on my part I’m not really sure. Maybe it has something to do with not resisting the fact that there’s chronic pain since resistance is something inflexible and unyielding that just creates more misery. That’s admittedly just a guess though, but not one that seems totally ludicrous. I’d add that fear and resistance do go hand in hand a lot of the time.

*****

The second modern mythos dream I had that night features the iconic American television show Gilligan’s Island. This was a show that was getting a lot of airtime in reruns when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s and one I would watch frequently. Here is the dream.

I’m with the Skipper and we’re on Gilligan’s Island. We’ve managed to get a hold of a working radio and have called for help and are talking to someone. Just as we’re about the give our coordinates, we lose the connection, and we figure we’ll have to try again later. The radio has changed into a book now, and we want to put it in the Professor’s hut for safekeeping because we know there’s one castaway that’s a bit crazy and doesn’t want to leave the island and who will try to sabotage our efforts. I’m trying to put the book in between some other books under the Professor’s desk. The Professor doesn’t seem too concerned about this crazy castaway, but I am.

This dream also seems to me to depict something universal about the human condition, and that is that we’re all basically marooned consciousness-wise in a small, cramped, miserable type of existence. And while we may have the aspiration to get out of it, there are still parts of us that don’t want to change and are sabotaging our aspiration at every step.

So from this outlook the radio suggests to me the idea of one’s call or aspiration to the divine as well as one’s receptivity to the divine power and influence, but it’s not easy to keep that call and that receptivity going all the time. The crazy castaway seems to be illustrating the fact that we’ve all got parts of us that sabotage our efforts whether consciously or unconsciously. The Professor would seem to represent the mind or something mental and perhaps is showing in the dream how we can be unconscious of these things that are sabotaging us. I’m not sure what the Skipper might represent, but he’s to some extent the de facto leader of the group as well as a good-hearted mama bear who takes the care and safety of the other castaways very seriously. Given this, could he represent the higher vital, or as Donny suggested, due to the fact that he’s the leader, the ego? It’s hard to say.

The fact that the radio turns into a book is interesting. Perhaps as Donny suggested it simply has to do with my daily reading of spiritual literature, which for the most part is the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and the effect that has on the consciousness. At the time of the dream I was noting how reading Aurobindo’s The Life Divine would sometimes noticeably raise my consciousness and elevate my thinking for short periods of time.

One question I have, since I had both these dreams in the same night, is do Darth Vader and the crazy castaway represent the same thing or part of me? If that’s the case that would show how this part is still pretty mixed up, still stuck in a middle ground between conversion and following its lower bent. I often see swings in my dreams regarding Darth Vader where sometimes he’s my enemy and sometimes my ally. In fact while writing this article I had a dream where Anakin Skywalker was fighting with Yoda and other jedi masters. So because of this and also because I had these two dreams on the same night it seems logical to me the two symbols could be connected. And I think together these two dreams compliment each other in terms of painting a complete picture of where I was at and what I was facing at the time.

Before I wrap up here I’d like to point out that like with my Star Wars dream you can see the potential with this Gilligan’s Island dream to swap the main characters with different ones from other tv shows or movies and the dream would still carry the same message. For example, if you were a fan of the show Lost, that aired in the first part of the century and which also featured a group of people marooned on an island, your dreams could use those characters. The same essential scenario could also be shown using the storyline and appropriate characters from shows like Lost in Space or Star Trek: Voyager since the characters in those two shows are lost and trying to find their way home.

Now in closing I’ll admit there isn’t really anything earth shattering or unusually revelatory in these dreams, but they are good examples of modern mythos dreams and show how our dreams can take these cultural figures and use them to communicate with us. I hope to have more to say on this fascinating subject in the future.

Notes and References

  1. I think it’s possible Darth Vader might just represent a hostile influence in some cases, such as the dream I shared on my post ‘The Emperor Has A Scheme’.

Forecasting A Facebook Phenomenon

By Douglas McElheny

Recently I had a dream that I feel foreshadowed an interaction that took place on facebook two days after the dream. The dream and the facebook event both revolve around my friend Angelo with whom I lived for nearly a year twelve years ago when I was residing at Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham a.k.a. the Lodi Ashram near Lodi California. Angelo and I haven’t communicated with any kind of regularity over the years, but he’s a frequent figure in my dreams, often in regards to the Lodi Ashram, but also in regards to Auroville of which he recently became a member. This dream had the flavor of Auroville though it didn’t take place there and is a excerpt of a longer dream. Here it is:

Donny and I are in a busy part of a city, and there is at least one other guy with us. We stop in front of a counter that is selling pieces of cake, and the guy with us wants me to buy him a piece. Some other people show up who are trying to get me to buy them things too. Donny and I go into a restaurant to get away from them. Inside is a table with 8-10 people sitting at it, and Angelo is sitting at the head of the table. Most of the people have the look of Aurovillians (permanent residents of Auroville). I call out to him and run over and give him a hug. Donny and the others head to another part of the restaurant to find a table and leave me to talk to Angelo. We talk for a few minutes, and then I tell him I’ll let him get back to his party. There is a girl there with dyed purple hair. In the dream we’ve met online but never in person, and she tells me it’s nice to finally meet me in person. I tell her I feel the same.

This dream took place on the morning of August 26, 2017. On August 27th Angelo updated his profile picture on Facebook, and a number of people including me liked the post. Many of them were people involved with Auroville and also the wider community of those connected to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. Angelo doesn’t post frequently on Facebook, but I clicked through to his timeline to see what I may have missed if anything. I didn’t see any posts I’d missed, but one of the people he was friends with caught my eye because of the name she used, which obviously wasn’t her real name. We’ll call her Barbara. So I clicked through to Barbara’s timeline and when I got a better look at her I was pretty sure she was someone I had briefly met before, first in Auroville eleven years ago and then not long after that at a retreat center near Tiruvannamalai. I wasn’t 100% sure though since back then she had long hair.

So, a few hours passed and I went back to look at Angelo’s post to see who had liked it etc., and I saw that Barbara had left a comment on the post. Then, in one of those sweeping ‘aha!’ moments, I remembered the girl in my dream with the purple hair, and it struck me she might represent Barbara, and that the dream was representing this Facebook interaction on Angelo’s post. As I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. Angelo was at the head of the table like the guest of honor, and all these people had gathered for him in the restaurant just like all of us gathered together around him on his Facebook post. And many of the people who liked the post were Aurovillians, just like many of the people at the tables in the dream were Aurovillians. I can see the logic too of why the Facebook interaction was represented by being in a restaurant and also perhaps by the cake at the beginning of the dream. Restaurants are places for social interaction as well as eating, and looking at things on Facebook is sort of like having a meal for the vital. It’s something the vital can sink its teeth into for a moment’s or hour’s diversion, something that scratches the itch of desire. But also something that gives a very real social interaction by way of the comments, likes etc. and thus entails an exchange of vital forces the same way a conversation at a party does despite the fact that the person or people aren’t right there in front of you.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Facebook phenomenon could be forecast in a dream, but I guess since things on Facebook occur online they seem somehow less real than a party or gathering you actually to go to physically. So as a result I was initially ‘wowed’ by this realization. Now that I’m awake to the possibility, perhaps I’ll find more examples in the future to share.