In this on-going series of teachings about the awakening of the soul, Hazrat Inayat Khan has begun to describe five levels of consciousness. Here he speaks of the third level, which most know only as ‘deep sleep.’
The third stage of consciousness is situated between spirit and matter. It is this which we experience as sleep, that condition which one calls deep sleep, when one does not even dream. There is so little said about it, and very few think about it. Once a person studies this question of sleep, he will find that it is the greatest marvel in the world. It is a living phenomenon. The rest and peace, vitality and vigor, intelligence and life that come to man during the time of sleep are beyond explanation. And yet man is so ungrateful, he is never thankful for this experience which is given to him every day; he is only unhappy when he has lost it. Then nothing in the world can satisfy him; no wealth, no comfort, no home, no position, nothing in the world can replace that experience which is as simple as sleeping, which means nothing and yet is everything.
It is a great pity that the mechanical and artificial life that we live in this world today is depriving us of that natural experience of deep sleep. Our first fault is that we congregate and live in one city, all crowded together. Besides, there are motorcars, trains, and tramways, and houses of twenty stories shaking every moment of the day and night. Every vehicle is shaking; and we are a race at the present time which is unaware of the comfort, the bliss, and the peace known to the ancient ones who lived simply with nature, far from our mechanical and artificial life. We are so far removed from the old ways that it has become our habit. We do not know any other comfort except the comfort we can experience in the kind of life we live; but at the same time this shows that the soul is capable of attaining to greater comfort, pleasure, and joy, to greater peace, rest, and bliss only by living naturally.
These three stages of consciousness – physical, dream, and deep sleep – are each nothing but an experience of the soul in an awakened state; but when a person is awake outwardly, he is asleep to the inner world, and when he is fast asleep, he is awakened to that particular plane and asleep both to dreamland and to the physical state.
When we have been looking at a bright light, and then that bright light is shut off, we see darkness. In reality there is no darkness, it only seems so; if there had not been a bright light before, there would not be darkness but some light, for it is the contrast that makes it seem dark. Thus the experience which we have in our deep sleep is an experience of a higher and greater kind, and yet it is so fine, so subtle, and unusual because our consciousness is so accustomed to the rigid experiences of the physical world, and when we are in that other state the experience is too fine to perceive and to bring back to the physical world.
Every experience can be made intelligible by contrast. If there were no straight line we could not say high and low, or right and left. It is the straight line which makes us recognize them as such. If there were no sun we could not say south, north, east, or west. Therefore with every conception there must be some object to focus upon, and with which to check our conception. With regard to deep sleep we have nothing in physical existence to compare it with, and therefore the experience of deep sleep remains only as a great satisfaction, joy, and upliftment, and as something that has vitalized us and created energy and enthusiasm. This shows that there is something we have received from it. We do not come back empty-handed from there; we have gained something we cannot obtain from the physical plane. We get something we cannot interpret in everyday language, more precious, more valuable and vital than anything from the physical and mental planes.
To be continued…