Rosicrucian Writings Online
By The Supreme Secretary
[Ralph M. Lewis]
[From The Mystic Triangle April 1929]
THROUGH the kindness of the Editor, I am permitted to use more space in "The Mystic Triangle," than usual in answering two questions in this issue; and it even has been stated that if the questions continue to come in as they have during the past few weeks, for the purpose of being answered in this column, I will be permitted, in the future, to trespass upon the valuable space of "The Mystic Triangle" to a further extent than in the past.
The following question, taken from a recent letter, is typical of many of its kind directed to us: "I have had accounted to me by friends and acquaintances, who were students of metaphysical and occult subjects, certain events which took place while they were asleep and which they placed in the category of psychic experiences. To me they were as but dreams; that is, I have had experiences of a similar nature and readily called them dreams. My question is: How can we definitely, in a practical manner, determine the difference between dreams and psychic experience? I believe it is a common error, on the part of many students in this study, to term unpleasant events of sleep dreams, and those of a pleasant and mysterious nature, psychic experiences. I request a reply to this question."
There are definite principles which distinguish dreams from psychic experiences. Fortunately, the distinction is more defined than calling what is an unpleasant experience, a dream, and one that seems mysterious, a psychic experience.
We will first analyze dreams from a psychological point of view. Contrary to popular and general conception, dreams are not entirely brought about by a mental state of the sleeper; in fact, there is considerable scientific discussion as to whether the mental life is extinguished during sleep or whether it retains a partial form of activity and consciousness. Regardless of whether there is a form of mental activity during sleep or not, experiments and research have proved that dreams are produced by the effect of various forms of stimulation on the brain. The most predominant of these stimulations, is that produced by some of the sense organs.
Let us take sight, for an example. No matter how tightly we close our eyes upon going to sleep, or while in sleep, an "intrinsic grey," or "light dust" remains, brought about by the retina of the eye; and you can trace different patterns and designs on this field of the closed lids. Experimentation has proved, that if, just before finally falling asleep, you particularly notice the patterns or designs, produced by the retina of the eye upon the lid, that that particular design will be so impressed upon your consciousness that it will cause a dream, resembling the fantastic design seen in the eyes before sleep. This is considered sufficient evidence that the brain has received its excitation from the sense of sight. After the stimulation from the eye, the brain naturally associates it with many ideas accumulated and registered in the memory. These ideas produce a fantastic dream when combined.
When you go to sleep, the sense of sight is the first one of the five senses to disappear; and also peculiar to note, it is the last sense that we are conscious of upon awakening. During sleep, the retina of the eye is in a constant state of excitation, impulsations, so to speak, producing many stimulations that are carried to the brain.
Now let us consider organic stimulations and how they produce dreams. For instance, a sharp cramp or intercostal pain, hardly affecting the sleeper, and not sufficient to awaken him, may excite the brain to such an extent as to bring about a unique association of ideas, that would result in the dream of being stabbed by a dagger. In the dream we proceed to see the dagger, and, perhaps even associate with it some hostile party whom we imagine is using it in combat with us. Or, perhaps, the sharp pain causes the dream of a mad-dog bite, and then we associate with it the thought of a certain dog whom we fear, or whom we know, through daily contact, to have an ugly disposition.
A partial exposure of some limb of the body to a cold draft, while asleep, will cause stimulations, produced by the sense of feeling, to release such association of ideas that will result in our having a dream of a blizzard, or of snow and ice. If it is our leg that is cold, from exposure to a draft, we perhaps dream of tramping in a snow drift, bare-legged; and the dream becomes so vivid that we awaken, shivering, to notice that we have been exposed.
The sense of sound also adds to the excitation of the brain, resulting in a dream. The sound of murmuring, and low laughter suggests wind, music, and the rippling of water to the sleeper; and with those suggestions and ideas related, many weird dreams are produced.
We see, therefore, the dream consciousness of the brain is usually started by a stimulation or excitation from one of the sense organs; and then it is developed, in a fantastic way, by the brain, calling upon the memory for various impressions registered there. Very few dreams start from the mental state; that is, from the brain itself.
We now come to some points that make dreams easily distinguished from a psychic experience. Of primary importance, is the fact that only a particular area of the brain is affected by dreams. The arrangement of ideas in a dream are fantastic and disorderly, yet, in the state of dream consciousness, we accept them as being logical and take all incidents for granted; but when awake, we see how unrelated the ideas are. The fantastic nature of a dream is accounted for by the fact that a dream is not affected by our reasoning, and it draws its association of ideas freely, without restriction and without sequence. In a dream, an incident might be an experience of childhood, years and years ago, which seems as though it were taking place yesterday. In our waking consciousness, we confine our thinking, we draw upon our memory only as we will to think, only as we please, so to speak; but in a dream, the stimulation rambles through the brain, associating with any, and every idea. The incidents in a dream may be impressive, but they are connected by irrelevant and trivial ideas, suggesting no motive for the dream itself.
Another point in determining a dream from a psychic experience is that the scenes in a dream appear in single file. We cannot appreciate our connection with a particular scene. We do not have that same form of consciousness that we have when awake; we do not have a "breadth of consciousness." Let me cite an example: In a dream you might find yourself the speaker at a large banquet, being held in a spacious hall. The table before you is laden with a variety of appetizing fruit, which delights you as you glance upon it. On each side of the long table, there are many persons, whose eager faces are turned toward you, awaiting your words. You know, and recognize, among the faces, many friends, some of whom you have not seen for years, perhaps even forgotten about; you show no surprise, however, in recognizing them, and do not seem surprised that they are there. All you are conscious of in your dream is that you are the speaker. Not once do you ever realize how you come to be there; why you are the speaker; where you will be after the banquet--this form of reasoning, and that state of consciousness is not present in a dream. The scenes you see, though impressive, are disconnected, and without cause and a definite result. There is no chain of events, no logical sequence, leading up to the scene of your immediate dream.
At this time I also wish to impress upon you the fact that psychic experiences are not all visual; I mean that you do not always visualize a scene of the events. A psychic experience may be one of sound, only. While in a state of sleep, you will be inspired by some statement, some word or comment, that will be most clear and audible. It will seem as though someone is speaking softly in your ear, and still you will not be able to identify, with the statement, any physical occurrence; that is, the experience will be of sound only.
Psychic experiences may manifest either in visual, sound, or physical forms; but you will always be able to determine the motive or reason for the experience. Your understanding of it may not be instantaneous, but usually within a short time you will fully appreciate the experience. The motive and incidents of the experience will always be logical, and will not be of a fantastic or weird nature. If, for example, it is a visual experience, you will not only be conscious of your surroundings, but fully aware of your relation to the experience. Another ordinary thing to remember is that fear plays no part in a psychic experience, the results are imposing, uplifting, and enlightening. All incidents are clearly impressed upon you, not in a hazy manner, but are as well registered in your consciousness as is some experience of importance during your waking state.
Remember, however, that psychic experiences are not confined to the state of sleep only. You may have greater success in these experiments during sleep, but that is because you have not reached as high in your attainment as you will later. To those who are not well acquainted with, or who have not mastered many of the natural principles, psychic experiences will come through sleep only; because people are most susceptible to the impressions from the psychic realm during sleep. With understanding and practice, you can develop your psychic self to the same state of perfection as your objective, material senses are now. When once that has been accomplished, you can become just as easily conscious of psychic phenomena as you are objectively conscious, through the physical senses, of the material world. At that stage of development, while in a waking state, your psychic experiences will be just as frequent and as understandable as they may have been while you were asleep.
Now, for a conclusion: If I was to describe to you, in a very vivid manner, a scene in some distant oriental land, going into detail regarding the typography of the country, the climate, and the dress and customs of the people, even explaining my experience with a certain group of persons in that country--my discussions with them--could you tell me what this experience, or event, meant, without knowing the preceding and subsequent events? You could only imagine, speculate, or theorize on the significance of the experience I described to you. You might say, perhaps, "From my understanding and experience, I believe it to be ----------"; or you might state: "In comparison with my own experiences, I would interpret your experiences as ----------."
The point I am bringing out, fellow members, is this: Others cannot clearly interpret the meaning and motive of your personal experiences in the psychic realm. The experiences you have are received by you because they are intended for you, and you only. In your particular state of development, you can comprehend principles that reveal to you certain things that you should know. Each experience you have is meant for you, and you only. You will find that your own reaction to the experience, that is your own interpretation, will instill in you more confidence as to the real meaning of the experience than all of the interpretations and comments that are made by others.
* * * * *
This next question is one that apparently needs careful consideration, as it appears quite frequently in our correspondence.
"One of my lectures states that the soul is perfect, and has a complete knowledge when it enters the body at birth. My question is, 'If the soul is perfect in knowledge, why is it necessary for us to study and learn here on this material plane?'"
The lectures have explained that the soul is not a broken-off segment in each individual. It is a Divine force that flows equally through each of us. We understand that this soul energy emanates from a central source, which we call God and the Cosmic. Naturally, since it emanates from the Cosmic, it is a standard of perfection of all that is good. It is mighty in its creative power, and complete in its knowledge. In speaking of the knowledge of the soul, we speak now of the understanding of Cosmic principles of life. The soul in man is God's Consciousness, that permeates each of us; in that sense are we in the likeness of God. We should, therefore, be possessed of Divine knowledge. Why are we not?
There has been given to man an additional attribute besides the soul force, it is called the "ego." Some call the ego personality, or the real self, the you. We are fortunate in having this ego or personality. It is what distinguishes one person from others on this plane; it is that which causes a person to realize that he is not someone else.
There is a difference between individuality and personality. Individuality is a person's outer, physical appearance--his body, physiognomy, dress. A person can change his individuality as often as he can change a hat or cloak. If he dresses like another person, their individualities are identical, but their personalities are different. A person's character, temperament, and spiritual comprehension are the radiations of his personality, and are distinctly his own, and like no one else's.
This personality is not perfect, nor is it Divine. It develops from incarnation to incarnation. When the soul enters the body for its first experience on this plane, the personality which enters with it is crude, primitive, it does not possess the wisdom of the soul. It fails to heed the dictates of the soul, and shuts out the inspirational words trying to come from within. This personality has been given a helper on the material plane, which we know as the organ called the brain. The duty of the brain is to receive all the impressions of the physical world, and store them away in memory; and its object is to gain knowledge of the material world. We learn many lessons on the material plane, and the brain teaches these lessons to the consciousness of the personality, which is called the subjective mind.
Year by year, incarnation by incarnation, this subjective mind or the consciousness of the personality learns more and more. It develops from a crude, profane state to a highly evolved one. The more evolved this personality, or the real self, becomes, the more it permits the consciousness of God, the knowledge of a person's soul to shine through. Gradually he becomes attuned with God and the Cosmic. More and more he listens to the inner voice until finally the personality, the real person, is in perfect harmony with the soul force within himself. At that time, he has attained mastership, and is able to create what seems to be miracles, but which in reality is merely putting into operation the knowledge of his soul, which he has finally accepted.
We have seen, from the above, that the soul is complete in knowledge, because it is the consciousness of God; but the personality which enters the body at birth is crude, coarse. It is in its first step of evolution, and does not respond to the soul force within. But from incarnation to incarnation, this personality gains knowledge on this plane, which is added to the Divine knowledge of the soul, and carried over until finally the personality, the real you, is highly developed. Then Cosmic Consciousness bursts through the veil of man's material mind, in all its beauty and splendor, and man finally sees and knows the works of the universe.
Perhaps some of you now wish to ask, "Why does not the personality enter the body in its first incarnation, in a perfect state?" You wonder, perhaps, why the personality must be compelled to develop from time to time, why it cannot be perfect at once, as the soul is. There is a great law underlying this; if you desire it explained in this column, from the Rosicrucian conception, I would appreciate you writing to the Editor and making the request.
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