How does one become a conscious participant with
Charles McPhee assists anyone interested in finding out by offering a
step-by-step guide to mastering the techniques of lucid dreaming in his book
_Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. Charles has also offered us a Web site
through which we can discuss the issues of consciousness and dreams with him
directly. He has been visiting with us here for the last few months at Electric
Dreams, answering questions and giving us peeks into his work on lucid dreaming
For previous articles, stop by
Previously we began exploring just what we *are* aware of in dreams and lucid
dreams, a good first step in actually becoming lucid. In Earlier issues we
explored the phenomena of dream sleep and consciousness. In ED 3(11) I continued
to unfold the investigation into whether or not we actually possess
consciousness in dream and what this can mean to our lives, as well as exploring
more deeply what consciousness is and what it appears to be, and how conscious
techniques like journaling can bring about more lucidity and dream recall.
This month we explore the other side of consciousness and ways of coming to
terms with acting as though we are aware while all the while being mostly
CHAPTER 10: "Duality and Unity"
For more than fifty years we have known, or could have known, that there is
an unconscious as a counterbalance to consciousness. Medical psychology has
furnished all the necessary empirical and experimental proofs of this. There is
an unconscious psychic reality which demonstrably influences consciousness and
its contents. All this is known, but no practical conclusions have been drawn
from it. We still go on thinking and acting as before, as if we are simplex and
not duplex . . . It is frivolous, superficial and unreasonable of us, as well as
psychically unhygienic, to overlook the reaction and standpoint of the
unconscious. --Jung, THE UNDISCOVERED SELF
RESISTANCE TO AWARENESS
A third quality of our mind that we want to recognize is that our conscious
and unconscious abilities often exist in a relationship of resistance to each
other rather than in a state of harmony and cooperation. The culprit in this
antagonistic relationship is the error of the conscious element's identification
only with the conscious (the ego). When the ego avoids recognizing feelings and
awarenesses that nevertheless exist within the being, the avoided material is
forced to remain unconscious. This is the failure of the "simplex"
identification process, which both Jung and Freud, in the passages excerpted at
the head of the chapter, are addressing.
In this chapter we will focus our attention on the curious defense mechanism
of repression. What we find is that while repression is often functional as a
tool for coping with difficult feelings and awarenesses, invariably it is also a
two-edged sword. Repression is functional in extreme cases of shock and trauma,
when difficult experiences threaten to overwhelm our ability for comprehension.
It is functional in younger years as well, when psychological sophistication and
more mature management skills lie beyond our grasp. But in almost all other
cases, the use of repression as a coping skill proves itself to be powerfully
dysfunctional. This is because repression succeeds in an individual only by
severely compromising that individual's ability to perceive reality.
It is the negative consequences of repression that cause us to pay it such
careful attention. Repression divides our beings into conscious and unconscious
compartments of awareness. It surrenders conscious management of our knowledge
and awareness to an unconscious mechanism. And repression causes us to
participate in unconscious behaviors of avoidance. This last characteristic is
perhaps the most damaging, as it has an ultimately bewildering effect on our
sense of personal validity. For all of these reasons, a working knowledge of the
defense is desired.
I have one final thought before we embark upon our discussion. Separation
between conscious and unconscious awareness is really an illusion. In all cases
of repression, recall that we already know what it is--what feelings or
awarenesses it is--that we are avoiding. The avoided feelings and awarenesses
are already inside us. We are already feeling them and are already aware of
them--unconsciously. Indeed, all dreams that reflect avoided feelings and
awarenesses show us that unconsciously we are intimately acquainted with the
material. In this light, the goal of self-unification becomes a simple
process--conceptually at least--of training our mind and body to learn to listen
to themselves, and to identify, accept, and resolve nonintegrated feelings and
awarenesses. The knowledge and practice of this simple triad of mental health
skills is the path by which we learn progressively to unify ourselves, to repair
the duality of awareness that exist between our conscious and unconscious minds.
THE THERAPEUTIC PATH
Knowing the stages of the therapeutic process helps us locate our position on
the "therapeutic path." The integration process, we may infer, will
not always be an easy transition to effect. Put another way, there is a reason
why repressed material is repressed. The integration of avoided feelings and
awarenesses into conscious understanding will invariably be accompanied by some
measure of pain. Accordingly, when we are in the midst of the integration
process, knowledge of the process itself is very valuable. When our emotional
moorings are cast adrift by some difficulty experience, our confidence in the
therapeutic process occasionally is our only support. Dividing the process also
is useful because it serves to remind us that all stages are necessary for
successful assimilations of repressed material. For example, it is not enough
merely to be able to identify problem areas in our lives. For integration to be
successful, both the cathartic experience of acceptance and the empowering
experience of resolution must be fulfilled.
CHAPTER 11: "Searching For Consciousness"
Of all of the minds who have attempted the great question of consciousness in
human experience, perhaps no one is more intriguing to read than is the Russian
philosopher Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. His writings are not widely known, but
his discussions of consciousness invariably hold a ring of truth for lucid
dreamers. Indeed, anyone who has worked diligently with the experiential
development of the ability for consciousness within himself or herself will find
an immediate friend in Gurdjieff
Gurdjieff is perhaps most distinguished from other philosophers in that we
was confident that he had identified and understood precisely the meaning of
consciousness, which he described as self-remembering. As we saw in chapter
eight, this concept of self-remembering coincides precisely with the
understanding of consciousness we arrived at through our examination of lucid
Gurdjieff believed that the development of consciousness was the foundation
for all true psychological growth. Gurdjieff measured psychological development
not only by a person's intellectual abilities but also by his or her
experiential abilities--that is, a person's abilities "to be" and
"to do". Both abilities, said Gurdjieff, require fluency and mastery,
experientially, with the ability for consciousness.
The goal of development consciousness, according to Gurdjieff, was to create
a new "center" within oneself, from which one could self-observe
honestly and objectively. It was through continual work at self-observation, for
the "perch" of consciousness created within oneself, that one
eventually could learn how one's "machine" works. Consciousness
afforded its happy possessor self-unification, ever-increasing effectiveness in
all pursuits, and freedom from illusion. Without consciousness, Gurdjieff said,
humans were doomed to "mechanical," "accidental," and
"automatic" living. Life will happen to us instead of our being able
to control and create the events of our life.
I am including in this chapter a lengthy excerpt of Gurdjieff's writing to
introduce lucid dreamers to his work and because his discussion touches upon
some relevant themes. In the second half of the excerpt, Gurdjieff admonishes
his audience to be wary of "charlatans and hucksters" in the field of
self-development--those who promise simple paths to enlightenment. Even though
the excerpt is a transcription of a talk given in 1914, Gurdjieff's words of
admonition seem as applicable today as they were some eighty years ago. Today
our popular culture swarms with "vendors of enlightenment,"
individuals who confidently assure us that "the enlightenment you seek is
just a phone call away" on the Psychic Network Hotline or that by eating
special candy bars and "brain" foods and by adding doses of potassium
to our diets, we will veritably transform ourselves into enlightened beings by
tomorrow morning. No warranty is offered for these techniques, of course. The
psychic hotline, we read in small print at the bottom of the television screen,
is "for entertainment purposes only," and all miracle foods are
ingested entirely at the consumer's own risk.
Sensitives and psychics surely exist, and there is no question but that
informed diets are a foundation of good health. Gurdjieff's admonition, however,
really is directed against the miraculous nature of these "solutions"
to everyday problems. Consciousness and empowerment, says Gurdjieff, are known
processes, but they require work--long work, hard work and consistent work. Work
on developing one's ability for consciousness, development one's ability for
discrimination and uncovering and gaining control over areas of automaticity
within one's being. Woe indeed to the individual who thinks he or she will eat a
candy bar and tomorrow "be" anything--except, perhaps, a bit more
deluded. This, said Gurdjieff, is not the way.
Next month the search will end with suggestions on how to develop a path that
will lead you into conscious living.
If you can't wait, you can stop by my Web site for a Full Chapter Summary of
_Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. If you would like more on this, my book is
published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Publication Date: December 27th, 1995.
0-8050-2500-6 $22.50, cloth. Contact: Robin Jones, (212) 886-9270
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