In this instalment of our series, Hazrat Inayat Khan begins to explore different states of consciousness, commencing with what we call ‘waking’ and ‘sleeping.’ The previous post in the series may be found here.
THE WORDS ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’ are very familiar to us, as we use them in expressing different states in life. But in reality, when we look at it from the point of view of the soul, we are asleep and awake at the same time. For instance, when we are looking at a certain thing, when our mind is fully absorbed in it, we do not hear anything at that time. And when we are listening to something and are absorbed in what we are hearing, when our sense of hearing is thus focused, though our eyes may be open yet we are not seeing. This shows that when one sense is fully awakened the other senses are asleep. In the same way, the mind is absent while we are experiencing a sensation through the body; and when we are experiencing something through the mind, the body takes no part in it. The more we look at sleeping and waking from the psychological point of view, the more we will find that they are not what we commonly understand by these words, but that every moment of the day and night we are both awake and asleep at the same time. Also, when a person is asleep and experiencing a dream he is awake to something and yet asleep to the outer things. To one world he is asleep, to the other awake.
According to the mystics, there are five stages of consciousness. One stage is our experience through the senses. In this condition, our eyes are ready to see, our ears to hear, and we are awake to the outer world. This is the only aspect of wakefulness which we recognize as such, but there are four other aspects besides this one. The second aspect is when a person is asleep and yet is experiencing life exactly as he does on this plane of the physical world. This is the dream state; we call it a dream when we have woken up and have passed from that stage. At the time of dreaming, that state is as real as this state in the physical world, and nothing is lacking in the dream that we find here. While dreaming we never think that it is a dream, but many things which we cannot find here on the physical plane we can find in the dream state. All the limitations and all that we lack in this life are provided for in the dream state. All that we are fond of, all that we would like to be, and all that we need in our life, are easier to find in a dream than in the wakeful state. When we wake up and return to this life, we call it real and the other a dream, and we say that it was imagination, without any reality; we think that only on this physical plane are we awake, that only this is real. But is yesterday as real as today? Everything that has happened from the moment we came to earth, all that is past, is all yesterday; only just now is today. If it is not a dream, then what is it? We only recognize that which we saw in the dream as being just a dream; but all that is past is in reality nothing but a dream. It is ‘just now’ which gives us the feeling of reality, and it is that which we are experiencing which becomes real to us, whereas that which we are not experiencing, of which we are not conscious, does not exist for us at this moment.
Thus everyone has his own life and his own world. His world is that of which he is conscious; and in this way everyone has his heaven and his hell made by himself. We live in the world to which we are awakened, and to the world to which we are not awakened we are asleep. We are asleep to that part of life which we do not know.
Another experience is that of the man who lives in the world of music, whose thoughts and imaginings are about the composition of music, who enjoys it, to whom music is a language. He lives under the same sun as everybody else, and yet his world is different. Beethoven, who could no longer hear music with his ears, enjoyed the music he read and played, while perhaps another man with excellent hearing did not hear it. Beethoven’s soul was in it, and the music was in himself.
Thus there is the kind of experience we have through our senses, our five senses; but this is one world, one plane of existence, and there is the other existence which we experience in the dream, and that is a world too, a different world, with different laws. Those who consider the dream only as a dream do not know the importance, the greatness, the wonder of it. The dream plane is more wonderful than the physical plane, because the physical plane is crude, limited, and poor, and is subject to death and disease; the other plane which one experiences in the dream is better, purer, and one has a greater freedom there.
To be continued…