The Next Step – Criticisms
I have met several criticisms of my view of dreams, and the fact that I talk of death, extrasensory perception, out of body experiences and reincarnation as facts. So just to set the scene right I want to describe some of my own personal experiences.
First I want to explain something that I witnessed early in my life, that for me showed a flaw in the argument that the mind, or what one is aware of, is limited to the brain and to what we know through our senses.
One morning my wife Brenda woke and told me she had dreamt about the baby of two of our friends. The friends, who I will call Jane and Bob, were living about 200 miles from us. We knew Jane was pregnant, and about a week or so before the dream we had received a short letter saying their baby, a boy, had been born. We didn’t have a telephone at the time, so the letter was our only means of communication.
In the dream Brenda saw the baby and a voice from behind her told her the child was ill. Its illness, she was given to understand, was serious, and would need to be treated with a drug taken every day of the child’s life. The reason for this illness and the drug use, she was told, was because in a past life the being now born as the baby had committed suicide using a drug.
I didn’t take the dream seriously, thinking it was some sort of personally symbolic dream. But we couldn’t seem to extract any personal meaning for Brenda, so just in case I sent an account of the dream to Jane and Bob. About a week later we had a letter from them saying that the letter and dream had crystallised their already existing anxiety about the baby. It had not been feeding well and was fretful. On taking it to the doctor nothing definite could be found but special tests were made in hospital. From these it was discovered the baby was dying. It lacked an enzyme that was needed to digest calcium. To compensate it was given a drug, which it has had to take every day of its life to make up for the lacking enzyme.
I don’t think there can be any clearer example than that, of the mind having some level of input other that information gathered through the physical senses and therefore what is already known in the brain. I use the example because it is not hearsay. It didn’t happen to somebody else who reported it to me. I witnessed every step of it. Recently I met the baby of that dream again. He is now a man of 35, and still needing the daily drug.
Years before that I had an amazing experience of my awareness leaving my body because I had an extraordinary out of body experience. I was in the RAF living in Germany, and one night I had gone to bed early. I must have fallen asleep when suddenly I felt as if I were shooting upwards and experienced a feeling of coming out of pressure and was now free – like a cork out of a bottle. Then I was awake and looking down at my sleeping body and felt terrified (I realised afterwards it was terror that I was dying). Then I remembered reading about experiences such as this and was laughing uncontrollably through the release from terror. Then I was travelling across the German countryside where I was living, curled up with my knees to my chest, looking down at the countryside beneath me. I noticed as I passed over the rural countryside what looked like radiations emerging from several places; they were a bit like ripples on the surface of water when a stone has been thrown into it. But these ripples were three dimensional, and I wondered it they were emerging from people, perhaps praying.
Then I was over the sea and saw many ships below, but suddenly I was standing in our sitting room at home in London. It was such an astonishing experience I stood in shock looking down at my body, feeling it and trying to understand. My body felt solid and real and I was dressed in outdoor clothes not my pajamas. Then with great enthusiasm I looked up and saw my mother sitting alone knitting, our Alsatian dog lying asleep in front of the gas fire. I felt sure my mother would see me because I felt physically present and absolutely and vitally awake in a way I had never experienced before. So I called out to her, “Mum, look what has happened.” She stopped knitting for a moment but obviously didn’t see me or hear me. So I felt if I shouted this would reach her. “Mum” I shouted, “look it’s me Tony”.
There was no obvious sign that she had heard me, but two things did happen. One was that I saw or realised that she had an upstairs side of her and a downstairs side. Her upstairs (conscious) side had no awareness of me, but her downstairs side (unconscious) gave me a wonderful welcome and I had the awareness of us knowing each other in a formless love.
I learned enormous and important lessons from that. I realised that having no physical body the living cannot usually hear us. They need physical sound to know we are present, but yet another part of her knew and responded. So I saw that if she had thought of me and spoken to me I would know, even though she might not be able to hear my reply – unless she was a medium or learned to listen to thoughts. The reason being that in the body most people cannot communicate via thoughts.
Other great lessons I learned that day was that according to popular teachings about out of the body experiences (OBE), I should have been connected by a ‘silver cord’ to my physical body. Also it was said that the extended body was a copy of the physical. My projected body was in fact different, with different clothes, and in fact was an extension of how I thought of myself. In other words I was in a world of thoughts, and could in fact have been any shape.
Another interesting thing is the sudden shift from travelling across countryside and sea to being at home in London. Again I see this as a manifestation of our thinking. I thought I had to travel to get somewhere. I fact there was not need to. I see the silver cord phenomena as another extension of belief – that we cannot exist without the body. See http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/out-of-body-experiences/
Here is an interesting one that occurred while I was at work. I was working with a friend, John, who owned a hotel. I was mending something for him on a flat roof of his private house. Meanwhile he had driven away to the hotel. About twenty minutes after he had gone I heard him shout my name with great urgency. In fact he called me twice. I was puzzled and thought he must have returned without me noticing. As the tone of voice carried urgency I climbed off the roof and went in search of him. Moments later the telephone rang in his house. It was John, still at the hotel. He had just turned the water on for the first time after a spell of cold weather, and bad pipe bursts were apparent all over the hotel. He had rushed to the phone to call me for help. In some way I had ‘heard’ him call before he reached the telephone.
The hotel was about a mile away on the other side of the town. There was obviously no way I could have heard his voice with my physical ears. So whatever signal John’s anguished desire for my presence created, my mind had turned it into what appeared to be his actual voice calling me. That was understandable to me, while the subtle energies generated by John’s anguish, although obviously apprehended by some part of my mind, were not sensible to me. That John had not actually spoken my name until he reached the telephone is an important detail. Through it we gain some clarity of how this subtle side of our mind works. It was not a sound that I had in some way psychically heard at a distance. It was a powerful emotion and a desire to contact me in John that my mind sensed and presented as the actual sound of my name being called.
One last experience I would like to describe. In 1953, when I was sixteen, and already deeply interested in the possibilities of the human mind, I took a course in deep relaxation. I practiced every day for three months, tensing my muscles, relaxing them, then passing my awareness over and over my body, dropping the feeling of tension. After three months I was quite proficient. One evening, after coming home from dining out with friends, I went to bed thinking I would leave my usual practice, but in the end decided to practice even though it was late. After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and – my whole body. It was like falling through a trap-door into the stars. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless awareness. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.
After that day I could repeat the experience almost any time I sat down and used the relaxation technique. I felt at the time, and still believe it correct, that I had fallen asleep yet remained awake. Waking, critical awareness, had been taken through the magic doors of sleep into a universe it seldom ever sees – deep dreamless sleep. I realised that as we enter sleep all our sense are switched off and we are fundamentally bodiless awareness. See http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/levels-of-awareness-in-waking-and-dreaming/
I realise that what I describe must seem like a strange and even imaginary world to many people – except that it isn’t – the man taking the drug every day is a fact. But many people do not give three months of their life in everyday practice at the age of 16 to break through the barriers of our physical senses.
But the wonder of it is that most of us believe we are male or female because of our body. But fundamentally we are just the wonder of awareness and can be anything we like – obviously it takes an age to change our body, but we can be free of all the strange thoughts and the tension between the sexes. We are dual beings.
As the seventies merged into the eighties I went through some years of constant pain, on top of the pain of depression I was usually in. I had tried everything to find a way out of that pain, psychotherapy, LSD sessions to explore its source, but nowhere could I find any relief. Then I had a dream in which I was walking along on the flat roof of a university building, and in my right hand I was carrying the head of a man stripped of flesh, and in my left hand a bag containing the dismembered body of that man. As I looked from the roof I saw a man draw up in a car park below and I threw the head to fall near him. He picked it up thinking it was plastic, but then dropped it in horror.
I was running dream groups at the time, and in one of them toward the end of the weekend some of the group offered to listen while I explored the dream. I explored it much as I did the seed, opening to what arose within. Quickly I felt the depth of the dream. The man was myself. I had torn myself apart trying to deal with the constant pain. I had even put before other people the awful situation I was in, and they had pulled back.
But the greatest impact came as I went deeper into the dream. I realised with absolute certainty that there was no way out of my situation. It was quite terrible to realise I was forever trapped. But at the same time I realised that love was like breathing. I couldn’t, didn’t want to, stop loving either my children or my wife. As long as I could, I would suffer the pain the conflict produced.
The realisation that there was no escape had a profound effect on me. My whole inner being collapsed. I had completely given up. There was no more point in making any effort. Then everything went quiet. Even my breathing slowed down, until, breakthrough.
Everything fell away and I entered a new relationship with myself that lasted for three days. I recognised it as what the Buddhists call moksha or liberation. During those three days I experience total freedom from pain, total freedom in regard to every choice I could make, and I existed all the time in NOW.
Of course it disappeared after the three days. But I had seen clearly what was creating the pain, and what liberation consisted of. I, like most of us, had created a world, inside and out, made up of habitual responses to events, relationship and situations. These responses were like buttons that were pressed again and again by events and circumstances. When pressed they would play the same feelings over and over again, as many times as the button was pressed.
Some of my buttons were to do with the culture in which I had been raised, a culture full of ideas about guilt, right and wrong, success and failure. In leaving my children to go with my wife I had been guilty of all of those. I was guilty of being a bad father. I was a failure in my first marriage. I was wrong to do what I had done. I was being torn apart by all those feelings of guilt and wrongness.
But the experience had shown me that I was not actually those feelings. My real being was a sort of strange emptiness which was open to everything but held on to nothing. I was not even really a man or woman, or even the body. So, I just got down on my hands and knees, as it were, and started building the life I knew I could have. It was quite hard work, but I have moved a long way into that freedom. Freedom to love, freedom to be loved, freedom to be with or without someone, to be alone, freedom to not tear myself apart with guilt, with feelings of failure; freedom from patterns of response that could play for ever if I kept pressing the buttons.
The strange paradox is that Tony is still so ordinary and human, with all that entails – sex, hunger, longing, love, success, failure. But within that human being is a spirit that moves more easily in and around experiences.
What sometimes puzzles me is how to communicate that to others. Different if I were some sort of enlightened hero. Then I could simply stand up and be recognised. Instead, what I find is that in my ordinary humanness I am able to love a little more fully, fail a little more easily, succeed with less pomp, and enjoy being in the arms and body of those who love me. Oh yes, and the wonder of being in my tiny garden.
Enlightenment is something that never ends in that we continually grow. Permanent enlightenment? Well, I believe there is music, Music and MUSIC.
To be permanently calm is to be permanently calm. Enlightenment, as the Tibetan Buddhists teach, is an evolving thing, for there is no beginning and no end to that mystery. See Jesse Watkins Enlightenment