In Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri there’s a series of cantos where the heroine, Savitri, journeys inside of herself to reach her soul. This, however, is more than just a story, but Aurobindo’s presentation of a significant step in the process of the integral yoga. A few years ago I started aspiring to try and remember to use my instances of lucidity in dreams to try and reach my soul. Though I have not yet succeeded in doing so, along the way I have had dreams where I think I have made some progress toward that goal. I want to share my most recent example of a dream like this, but I need to physically describe where the dream started which was in the driveway of the house I lived in during high school.
I was able to find this picture of that driveway on the internet. What you don’t see that’s important is a descending terraced path that runs along the left side of the driveway down to the back yard. The path was gravel and each terraced step was about five to ten feet long or so and ended in a railroad tie turned sideways to hold the gravel and that particular step in place. There are also railroad ties running along the side of the driveway all the way to where it meets the house. Where the latticework fence is there’s about a 12 foot drop to the back yard. That fence was not there when I was living in this house. There was also a basketball hoop over the middle garage door, and we often played basketball in the driveway.
So having set the scene let me share the dream:
I’m in the driveway of my old house in Richmond, and I am looking at some improvements the new owners have made. The rail ties that run along the edge of the driveway are covered with something smooth and white like the cement in a skateboard park and decorated with rows of something like painted stones or pottery. The pieces are circular and of all different colors. The path that goes down to the yard is also paved and decorated like this. The whole thing is very beautiful to look at. Right at the curve of the driveway a piece of the rail tie has been removed, and it’s possible to go down a step and reach the path here rather than where the path starts. In the dream though it was only a foot or so down to the path at this spot, whereas in waking reality it’s almost the full 12 foot drop. I walk back up the driveway toward the street, and I’m with a couple of other guys. Then I realize I’m dreaming. I jump up into the air and start being taken up by a force. I ask the Mother to take me, and I’m going up fast as things fade to black. I move through the blackness for a long time and see some different vague images and patterns. I remember some five pointed stars and also a sun either setting or rising. There’s one part where the space I’m in seems constricted like I’m moving through a tube or something. Then I notice I’ve come to a stop, and I open my eyes and I’m lying in a bed. The bedspread has been pushed back and is rumpled at the end of the bed. It’s a light blue color if I remember right. Lilo, our yellow Labrador, is at the end of the bed, but it’s strange, like she’s melded with the bedspread. I’m still lucid, but I start losing the dream and have a false awakening.
So what I believe happened here is, as in other dreams I’ve had, I was journeying toward the soul and reached a waypoint, a deeper level of dreaming. Some of these deeper levels of dreaming can be kind of weird like this one with the dog strangely melded with the bedspread. I’m not sure what that might mean, but on one level maybe it’s showing something about my relationship with the dog who sleeps in my room frequently, though I don’t allow her on the bed. The light blue color of the bedspread, if I’m remembering the color correctly, would probably have some spiritual significance since blue, according to Sri Aurobindo, can represent the spiritual consciousness that lies above the normal human level of consciousness. It’s possible I was actually in my bed in the cataleptic state, but I don’t think so, as the usual sensations I have of a sort of numbness in the body and difficulty moving were not present.
Regarding the events of the dream before I went into the blackness, I would guess that the beautifully decorated descending path to the backyard represents the journey towards the soul since that’s where I went as soon as I became lucid. Donny suggested though that the path might also show the light getting down into the lower levels of my being as part of the process of sadhana. I think it may have that meaning as well for reasons I’ll explain later. The gap in the rail tie with the step down at the curve of the driveway (basically a shortcut) is maybe showing a way is open to some of these deeper levels of dreaming, showing that if you reach there once, the way is clear to get there again, though you may not find yourself there frequently. So maybe in this dream I reached a level I’d already been to before and didn’t actually go any further. It’s hard to say because I’m quite far from being any kind of expert on how to differentiate between these different dreaming levels.
Now in the first part of the dream I only observed the beautiful downward path but didn’t actually go down it. Everything I did took place in the driveway, and before this dream I’d never given any thought to what a driveway might mean as a symbol. Though I think there’s much of dubious value in dream dictionaries, I do consult them online frequently because I’ve found they can be quite insightful at times. So when I looked this time I found a couple of sites saying a driveway represents the end of a journey. That interpretation would make sense and fit in this case I think, even though I didn’t reach the end of the journey and actually arrive at the soul. And a driveway of course leads to a garage or in this case a three-car garage. Donny has come to believe that a garage1 represents your dream life and if that’s right that would fit into things too, even though I never went in the garage, nor were the garage doors up. All of this would be enough to explain why my dream builder chose this particular location to represent where I am in the process of completing the journey to the soul, but I think there may be another reason why this particular driveway was chosen, and it relates to something that happened there in waking life, something that was a manifestation of a major character flaw of mine. Let me explain.
As a child and a teenager I was basically skinny and a wimp as well as fairly unathletic, though not to the point where I had the unenviable distinction of being last kid picked for kickball. But I more or less always found myself on the losing end of any individual contests in sports, video games as well as the wrestling matches that boys often engage in. You could imagine that was very frustrating in a culture that places so much value not just on athletic prowess, but also being strong and tough. What made matters worse though were some things that had to do with my brother who was fourteen months younger than I. Despite the age difference Rick, who was very strong and a star athlete, could basically whup me from the time we were small children, and that was a bitter and humiliating pill to swallow, since the big brother is supposed to be able to whup the little brother. In addition to that, since he was my brother there was sibling rivalry, and the fact that he was so much better than me at sports was very frustrating for a couple of reasons. One was just competitiveness. I wanted to be as good as him at everything and got very angry about the fact that I wasn’t. The other was the fact that his athleticism won him the approval of my father, who wasn’t so interested in the things I was good at like theater. Another thing about me I should mention is that I didn’t like losing in general, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to do something like flip a board game over in frustration if things weren’t going my way.
So with that as the psychological backstory let me tell you what happened in that driveway in Richmond, Indiana. It was a winter day, but it wasn’t too cold, and there was no snow on the driveway. I was sixteen or seventeen. I was playing one on one basketball with my friend Jeff. As usual I was on the losing end of things, and there was some roughhousing on both our ends, though nothing unusual for boys playing sports. As Jeff continued to best me, I got more and more angry and frustrated. At one point on the crest of it Jeff and I were both going for the ball near the edge of the driveway, but near the top of the downward path where the drop was only a few of feet. As we went for the ball I didn’t outright shove him, but leaned hard into him knowing that that would be enough to send him over the edge. And it was. I’ll never forget the utter horror I felt as I saw Jeff fall back flailing over the edge as the more reasonable part of me kicked back in. Fortunately as I said, the drop was only a few feet, and Jeff landed flat on his back on snow-covered gravel, his fall further cushioned by the winter jacket he was wearing. So he jumped up unhurt to my great relief, and we continued playing. The way I had done things had been quite sneaky, and just appeared like normal roughhousing. If Jeff had noticed or sensed that I had purposely tried to hurt him he didn’t give any indication.
Now while I had had plenty of tantrums and outbursts over losing, I had never done anything quite like this. And unlike a lot of descriptions of people’s reason being unseated by the vital, I didn’t have the sense that I was watching myself do it or that it was like I was another person. It was more subtle and insidious than that, but it was still an act that went beyond my normal ethical boundaries. Fortunately it didn’t end in a way that would have haunted me for the rest of my life, because even though it was a short drop, Jeff still could have been seriously hurt or killed if he had landed on his head or hit one of the railroad ties. I think there may be more people out there than we realize who could relate an instance like this and who through luck or grace were spared a lifetime of regret or even imprisonment. And then there’s the cases where things didn’t turn out so well, people who, even if they’re not sitting in a prison cell over what they did in the heat of a moment, are sitting in an inner prison of guilt and regret wondering how in the world they could have acted that way and wishing very much that they hadn’t.
One thing it seems obvious we’ll have to do in order to evolve as a species is we’re going to have to start bringing these sticky and unsightly things into the light of day and start talking about them. If enough otherwise ‘good’ people came forward and admitted they’d been temporarily taken over in the way I’ve described here, we could perhaps start to realize that we aren’t the masters of ourselves that we think we are, and that in the right conditions many of us are open to what for a lack of a better word you could call temporary insanity. And it’s not just on the level of the individual, but also in groups, as the examples of angry mobs and Nazi Germany will attest. Understanding this would be one of the things that would get us on the way to a right way of dealing with harm and wrongdoing, forgiving others for the hurt done to us, and forgiving ourselves for the hurt we do to others. Punishment would eventually be taken out of the equation, but that wouldn’t mean you still wouldn’t have to try and take responsibility for harm done even if it was done in a genuine moment of temporary insanity. There couldn’t be any fixed formula though for how you would take responsibility, since for whatever reason it might not be possible or appropriate to help the person you wronged. If you were open to it though the universe would present you with opportunities and situations to balance the harm done by helping or being involved with other people that had nothing to do with the original harm, or even just having to endure a difficult trial or situation as a way of balancing things out. It would take a very plastic society with spiritual growth as its aim to implement this sort of thing, and it would be hand in hand with many other changes. The time where we’re doing this as a global society seems to still be a ways off, but a beginning could be made now on a small scale in small organizations or communities. This was a bit of a digression here, but one that I think was worth taking the time to make.
Getting back to me though, how does this event from my teenage years relate to the dream. Well as I said earlier Donny suggested the dream was showing the light getting down into the lower parts of my being. That interpretation makes sense since this competitiveness in me is a major stumbling block. Perhaps this particular locale was chosen to show not only that this character flaw is something blocking me from finding my soul, but also that I’ve made progress with it. Some aspects of this weakness I let go of many years ago. I no longer get really bent out of shape about losing for example. The only area it really comes up is with the only thing I really value or have a strong interest in anymore and that’s spirituality. And it’s mainly something that comes up in my relationship with other seekers I’m around which most of the time is just Donny. With all the spiritual experiences he’s had and the mountains of muse he’s had come down on him, it’s hard not to feel that I don’t measure up, since I’ve no ‘big’ spiritual experiences I can talk about, and what I get from the muse is hardly a trickle, which I often can’t interpret. And while my mind can see that all Donny’s grace is one level a sort of compensation for a difficult issue in his vital, my vital, like everyone’s, is an irrational creature and has more difficulty grasping that. Nor could my vital grasp when I was a boy that I had talents and abilities that were more developed than Rick and be content with that. Ultimately I think feelings in the vital of inadequacy or lack or not measuring up are what usually underlie most movements of competitiveness or jealousy, and it’s also a lower movement, though perhaps it’s more legitimate because it’s emotional pain. It’s still egoism though and has to be dealt with. One thing too about competitiveness I’ve found, is it breeds on proximity, and if I didn’t know Donny and wasn’t close to him, and just read about his experiences online or in a book, and never saw him or had anything to do with him, it might still hit that painful inadequate spot and produce jealousy, but it would be much less significant. But because he’s close to me I compare myself to him, and also since our work is side by side online I don’t like feeling like I look like a second fiddle.
Some people might be shocked at what I’ve divulged here or wonder why I’d be willing to admit to such a thing. As I said though we need to start talking about these things so I’m talking about them. What it boils down to is that all of us still living in ego consciousness are dysfunctional to one degree or another, and that’s a key truth to see: that ego consciousness itself is intrinsically flawed. The other key and complimentary truth is that there’s the possibility of getting out of ego consciousness2. Understanding these two truths can provide a framework in which, as I’ve suggested, small groups and communities and eventually all of society can safely talk about and work on integrating our darkness. This is what Donny and I are trying to do on a very small scale here at Harm’s End, with basically just the two of us at the moment, though other people live here. We hope though that in the future more like-minded people will join us here and take part in the endeavor, and that eventually we’ll have a little model here that other people can use as starting point for similar undertakings. Anybody interested?
- Dream symbols often have a simple logic to them, so I asked Donny what he thought might be the logic behind a garage representing your dream life. He said that a garage is where you store things, and also where you work. He also said it’s not where you live. You don’t spend as much time there as you do in the rest of the house.
- I don’t know this from personal experience, but I’ve read a lot of accounts of people who’ve made this leap, and in a few cases even spoken to people who had had glimpses or permanent realizations beyond ego consciousness. So I’m convinced enough that I feel comfortable saying the potential to go beyond ego consciousness is a truth.