by Donny Duke
In my mid twenties to early thirties the inner doors were flung wide open. Especially intense were the 3 and a half years immediately following a spiritual experience that happened when I was 28, and I was able to consciously explore not only dream and transition states between waking and sleeping (hypnagogia and hynopompia) and the trances such as the cataleptic (sleep paralysis) that sometimes accompany them, and consequently too the out of body experience often resulting from such a trance, but also dreamless sleep. There in the deepest most hidden place inside me, in my center, way beyond or behind dream, I entered into the realm of soul, just a short baptismal shock, but in that journey, a very involved inner journey that took a number of stages and a week or so, I took my conscious, that part of me that thinks and feels and dreams, down into my center and connected it to the soul, and why I call it the soul is the spirit of this article.
I understand now that such an opening of the inner consciousness is unusual, where you can consciously explore the inner life with as much conscious awareness and will as you have in waking life, where you have lucid dreams most every night, or frequent cycles of that, can learn to go from waking to dreaming consciously, from dreaming into the states between sleeping and waking (twilight I call them), from twilight into the cataleptic trance, and from there out of the body, but my list isn’t to suggest OBE is the direction of the exploration. For me this opening was temporary, and it slowly closed, not completely, but the unusual degree of opening I’m describing, especially the last two items, cataleptic trance and OBE, were the first things to go and in the ensuing years to become rare events.
I suspect in a future humanity such a metaphysical opening to our inner consciousness will be the norm, a spiritual opening as well, but for now it’s rare to experience even a short period of this, more common to have a smaller opening, where things like lucid dreams and OBE’s happen a couple of times a week, using those two inner experiences because they are now the most talked about net-wise, interest in sleep paralysis notwithstanding, but even this more common smaller opening is not yet common in humanity.
If you find yourself experiencing such an opening, large or small, and many are today, though not enough to light an inner revolution in humanity, not even enough to make the nightly news, you have a rare opportunity to experience firsthand what most everyone else does secondhand. You can know and not only believe that consciousness transcends material process, a knowledge that can transform your life if you understand what it means. To see it firsthand, however, involves conscious inner exploration, which is more than awakening within dream and trying some technique like looking at your hands or some trick to manipulate the dream more. In other articles, such as “The Epic of Man”[i] and “You’re like Wow, That Really Was Enchanted With a Rock”,[ii] I try and give a sense of what inner exploration is and where it can lead to in relation to its transcendence over material process. Here my direction isn’t towards the outer world or inner worlds but inside to the well of soul, our center.
The following inner journey took place around 1989 when I was 28 I believe, some months after the spiritual experience I mention above, before the net I might add, and before I aligned myself with any spiritual tradition or teachers, when I was exploring on my own and not a part of any group involved with spirituality or dreaming. It took place over the course of a week.
It’s night, and I’m alone on the football field I played on in junior high school, and I become lucid. Since I have an avid practice in waking life of meditation and pranayama, I decide to try it in dream, and so I begin to sit down in a meditative posture, but as I do a monster jumps at me out of nowhere, it’s eyes wide gyros spinning madly. It scares the hell out of me, and I wake myself up.
During the next day I got the suspicion that the monster was trying to prevent me from meditating, and so I resolve in my next lucid dream to follow through with it no matter what I may encounter to try and prevent me. I was just exploring dream and didn’t even have a destination in mind, at this point just trying to find doorways of dream to go deeper.
I’m in a huge motor pool, in a part of it where there aren’t many vehicles parked, and I see in the distance the buildings of the motor pool change colors, one color just following another, and the anomaly triggers lucidity, as an anomaly in dream often can. I remember my intention and sit down to meditate, but as I do I hear a blaring horn and seeing coming directly at me a mac truck. I settle into my resolve not to be scared out of the sitting and continue to settle into meditating. When the truck gets to me, up until that point being everything that looks and sounds real enough to run me over, it vanishes, doing that over me, its form rapidly turning into nothing as my eyes close and I see nothing. Instead of going into another dream or waking up in my bed as often happens when a dream goes blank, I remain in the blank but have a sense of falling. This blank falling state I’ve known many times, since it so often occurs in transitions from one dream to another or to waking consciousness. The difference here is that I see I can stay there, am not being captured by another dream image or by waking. I remain in that falling place for perhaps a minute or more, and then I open my eyes and am awake in bed, the falling state itself being so close to waking all you have to do is open your eyes.
I thought about that falling place for a couple of days or so, during which time I encountered a phrase in an English translation (prose) of Hesiod’s Theogony that speaks of a hammer that takes nine days to reach Tartarus, and while I didn’t believe that falling place I had found led to Tartarus, I believed Hesiod talks about inner journeys in-between the lines sometimes, using symbol imagery to describe it. The phrase led me to the idea that the falling place led to a destination, but what that was I had no earthly idea. I made the determination next time I became lucid in dream to get into and remain in that falling place until I arrived somewhere.
I don’t remember the context of the dream the next time I was lucid within one, only that I get into the falling place via meditation and remain there, knowing if I just open my eyes I’m awake in bed. Something happens to my sense of time, and I don’t how long I’ve been falling in that blank space. I almost reflexively open my eyes, and become cross with myself for not continuing onward. I decide next time to count as I travel in that blankness.
The next lucid dream, which doesn’t happen that same night but does the next night, I again get into the falling place and began counting the seconds like I learned to do out loud parachuting out of aircraft in the army, counting then to only 4 seconds until the chute opened, or was supposed to. I count to know how long I’m falling, but here the counting goes on and on, and again I lose the sense of time, losing count as well, and, though I resist the strong sense to open my eyes, I cannot shake the growing sense of terror that’s welling up inside me, like I’m falling into a bottomless pit from which I shall never again return. Then I hear both my mother and sister as though they’re standing over me, pleading with me in voices I know are their most fearful and most sincere, to open my eyes because I’m being tricked, and I’m in the hospital in a coma. The sense is that if I don’t listen to them I will never return to them, or the outer world either for that matter. It so happens that my greatest attachments at that time are my mom and sister, and my greatest fear is going into a coma during inner exploration, not to some never ending dream-state experience but to a blank alone like this darkness. I open my eyes and am not in the hospital in a coma but am simply awake in bed, nobody there but me. I see quickly that I’ve been fooled and resolve next time to go all the way until I get there, still not knowing where there is but more assured it’s somewhere significant because something very smart is trying to keep me from getting there.
Whether it’s the next night I fall again I’m not sure, but it’s very soon after the above dream, though it’s not exactly a dream but inner travel, and I don’t remember the process of becoming lucid or getting into the falling state, only that I’m there and determined to go all the way. I lose sense of time again, but there is no welling terror, or any real fear, and no intelligence trying to stop me. I have no idea how long I fall, but it’s a long time to my notion of time. Suddenly with a great shock I arrive somewhere. It’s like I’m immersed in a limitless ocean of a whole other order of existence, one formless save for identical small objects sparsely floating around that appear somewhat like half-notes or arches, and though they appear to be objects, I feel them as beings. Outer space would be a way to give some picture of what this ocean is like, but there are no celestial bodies or blackness, though it is dim. It’s lit but with a different kind of light than we know here, giving the space a glow that’s now glowing in me, and I feel the warmest and safest I’ve ever felt, and this place is so familiar to me, like I’ve been here many times but only have forgotten about it. An immense force is rushing through me, and I feel its intense vibration in every part of me, but it’s so comfortable I only want to bask in it. It seems there’s a sound to the place, which I feel in me as well as without, but it’s not sound as we know it that you hear with your ears. It’s like the sound silence would make if it made any sound if that makes any sense. I see myself floating towards one of the little arches, and I unwillingly go through it, hoping I don’t harm it by doing that, but I see it on the other side of me unchanged. Then, as abruptly as I found myself there, I find myself out, and I come awake in my bed and marvel at how I could come up immediately from such a deep place, although I am still glowing from its warmth and power.
This experience did not change my life, was only significant in that I knew I’d reached some place of spirit in me because the experience there was so different than anything else I’d ever experienced in existence, making spirit the only word that fit. At the time I didn’t think of it as the soul or its well within us, was not at the time even considering the soul as something that existed in us a destination I might explore. That interpretation was to come years later when I read both my teachers, the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, describe the journey down to our soul center as a journey downwards through a long, dark tunnel and as a journey very difficult, and very rare, to accomplish. This is that journey in my own personal terms, an inner journey that has come to be more important and singular to the results of my inner exploration over the course of time, not because my teachers have said such and such, but because it was the moment when my conscious connected with my soul, and that’s revealed itself to be its importance, and that in itself, the strengthening of that soul connection, or really what you’re doing, surfacing the soul, has been and continues to be a journey much like this one to the well of soul, which took stages, days, to complete, wasn’t somewhere I got to in one go, was somewhere I had to overcome my greatest attachments and greatest fears to get to, where there was something[iii] very intelligent that knew me like a book, something hostile and tricky (a hostile being, a demon in common parlance, attached to my life), trying to stop me from going to, which was a destination where I went out of this material existence into another kind of being, into Spirit.
What put this experience, and others I was to have that followed, into a context of finding of the soul is, as I’ve described, the teachings of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, which I was to encounter and immerse myself in, starting on a visit to Auroville, India, in 1995. And I’m not speaking of just the writings and talks they’ve left behind, but of inner contact with them and with my soul (or psychic being, who they point you to more than they point to themselves as your guide) when I’m speaking of their help in putting this inner journey into a context of a stage in the journey of finding the soul, help I’m getting in the writing of this article[iv], which has gone through a major rewrite based on their criticisms of the first draft, which had to do with, among other things, not clouding this journey over with descriptions here of experiences that didn’t happen during it but relate to it, things I’ve written about elsewhere or will write at some point.
In an earlier article, one actually published and not just posted on my blog, I describe other experiences in relation to the soul and put the above journey in the cosmology of the Supramental Yoga and as well the cosmology of science if it would ever consent to see beyond the material envelope and the cosmos, but the article’s not just a regurgitation of their teachings. It’s based on descriptions of personal experience that confirm, for me at least, the yoga’s cosmology.[v]
If in this inner journey I describe I did indeed reach my soul center, I by no means experienced its full scope and depth, and I imagine we can go much deeper into it than I did in that very brief baptism. It’s the way with me; I get a taste usually and not a full course dinner. Be that as it may, I didn’t go anywhere anyone else can’t if they have the inner opening to make such journeys, and not everyone does, probably not even most. Though we all have the right to be treated as human beings equally, we are not equal in everything, especially in the most essential thing, which is the development of our soul, and we are all at a different stages of soul development, something too personal and ineffable to set as any standard whereby someone with a more developed soul would be considered more important or superior than someone with a less developed soul or would be treated better or even afforded more respect. These are things of soul, not ego. It depends on how developed your soul is, your psychic being, as to whether you have an opening of the inner consciousness to make such journeys as I describe. If you don’t, you probably aren’t too interested in making them anyway, since your soul isn’t at that place of contact with your surface self, your ego, and pushing you to.
I will speculate though, whether your soul’s nudging you some from behind the veil or not, whether your psychic being is mature enough to do that, that you’ve made this inner journey many, many times, especially when you were a child, make it now though more rarely, but have no recollection of it at all. It’s difficult enough just to remember our nightly dreams. How much more so what we experience in dreamless sleep. You’ve made the journey when you wake up feeling like you slept like a log, like you’ve been replenished, like you had your batteries recharged. It would stand to reason that, if it’s true we are souls that have put on this material envelope akin to the way a deep sea diver dons a diving suit, or however you want to look at it, we’d need to come up to the surface every so often to get more air and sustenance, what we do when we go down into our center, the well of soul.
When you make journey consciously, however, you connect your conscious with the inmost deeps, make the hard link whereby your soul can come out more from behind the curtain of thoughts and dreams and be your guide on the way. On the way to God the soul would say.
[iii] I had met this ‘personal’ demon some weeks before, not its true form but one it wore in its manipulations of me as a small child. That experience I describe in an article posted on our blog: https://harms-end.com/2015/11/19/breaking-silence/ I’ll only mention here that it was on that first visit to Auroville that I met its true form, a story I have yet to write.
[iv] Writing this I was reading Notes on the Way, a compilation of talks by Mother. Though perhaps only a disciple would see this as a synchronicity, I feel it’s no accident I read the following immediately after making the revisions: “The other day when Z read to me his article, it was neutral (vague gesture at mid-height), all the while neutral, than all of a sudden, a spark of Ananada; it was this which made me appreciate it.” It might add to the possibility of synchronicity if I said that Douglas had just bought me the book that morning in our weekly sitting at their Samadhi. Notes on the Way, courtesy of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1980, 2002.