Dream and Dreamlessness
Theosophical Forum, November, 1898
“What is he Soul? The Soul is consciousness among the powers of life. It is the inner light in the heart. And this spirit moves from one world to the other, remaining itself unchanged. It only seems to form imaginations. It only seems to enter into delights.
“And when sleep comes, the spirit rises beyond this world, and the forms of death. For when the spirit descends into birth, and enters into a body, it comes forth in the midst of evils. But when it rises up again at death, it puts evil away.
“The spirit of man has two dwelling-places: this world, and the other world. And the third is the border land, the world of dreams between the other two. And while in this border land, the spirit views the other two: both this world and the other world. And whatever power he has stored up in the other world, he rests in that, and beholds both terrors and delights.
“And when he sinks to sleep, taking with him his material from this all-containing world, felling the wood himself, and himself the builder, he dreams, with the Soul as his radiance, with the Soul as his light. Thus the Soul is the light of man.
“There are no chariots there, nor horses for chariots, nor pathways. He creates for himself chariots, and horses for chariots, and pathways. There are no joys there, nor delights, nor rejoicings. He creates for himself joys, and delights, and rejoicing.
“There are no streams there, nor lotus-lakes, nor rivers. He creates for himself streams, and lotus-lakes. and rivers. For the spirit of man is the Creator.
“And so having found delight and wandered forth in dream, and having beheld both good and evil, he hurries back again to the waking world, according to his law, according to his place. And whatever he may behold, it does not follow after him. For nothing adheres to the spirit of man.
“Then having found delight, and wandered forth in waking, and having looked on both good and evil, he hurries back again to the dream-world, according to his law, according to his place. And whatever he may behold, it does not follow after him. For nothing adheres to the spirit.
“And as a great fish swims now along one bank of the river, and now along the other, so does the spirit of man pass between these two: dream-life and waking-life.
“And as a falcon or an eagle soaring to and fro beneath the sky and growing weary, folds his wings and sinks to rest; so, verily, the spirit of man goes to that home where he enters into rest, dreaming no dream, and desiring no desire. And whatever terrors he beheld in the waking-world, he knows now that it was through unwisdom. And like a god or a king he knows: I am the All. This is his highest world.
“This is his highest joy. He is clothed in fearlessness, and has put darkness away. And as one who is wrapped in the arms of the beloved, remembers naught of what is without or within; so, verily, the spirit of man, wrapt in the Great Soul’s inspiration, remembers naught that is without or within. Then has the spirit reached its goal. The Great Soul is its goal. It has left desire behind. It has passed beyond sorrow.
“And wrapt in the Great Soul, the father is father no more, nor the mother a mother, nor the worlds, worlds. There the gods are gods no longer, nor the murderer a murderer, nor the thief a thief; there the outcast is outcast no more, nor the barbarian a barbarian, nor the priest a priest, nor the saint a saint. They are followed neither by good works nor by evil works. The spirit has crossed beyond all the sorrows of the heart.
“This is the world of the Eternal. This is the highest path. This is the highest treasure. This is the highest joy. And all beings live only on the substance of this joy.
“And if there be one amongst men who has gained success and wealth, a lord over others, and richly endowed with all the good things of the world, this is the highest joy of men. But that joy is a hundredfold, and a thousandfold higher. It is the supreme bliss of the Eternal.”—Brhad Aranyaka Upanishad.
What we need more than all this is to realize the presence and power of the Soul. And not we only, but everyone. And if, after the manner of the old seekers after wisdom, I were offered one wish, and one wish only, I think I would choose this: to put on record, so that all men might understand it, something of this truth of the nearness of the Soul in life.
This is what we all are seeking, day by day, and year by year, but without knowing it; and when the hour strikes for us, and we go down into the darkness, we know that we have not found it. And when our time of rest is over, and we come forth into life once more, we are doomed to begin our weary search again, in restlessness, in longing, and desire.
For the presence of the Soul is peace. And we have not peace. There is no deep peace and power in our eyes but only fear and unsatisfied desire, and greed, and cunning. And so we are pursuers ever, tirelessly toiling toward a nameless goal, seeking and finding not, weary and not finding rest.
Yet we are the immortals. And such is the power and presence of the Soul, that all men, whatever be their knowledge whatever be their desires, whatever be the foulness and evil, the petulance and pain, that wrap their waking lives like a garment—all men and all beings do day by day, or night by night, enter into the hall of the Eternal, and find rest for their souls.
The passions of day, feverish and sordid, or full of sadness and sorrow, give way before the dreams of night—broken images of the dreams of day, or images of what never entered into the daylight, or long has left it; shadowy things of the borderland between waking and sleeping. And for a while the spirit of man mingles with these fancies, dreaming dreams, and desiring desires. Then the fancies cease and the dreams fade. The weary spirit folds its wings and sinks to rest. The lonely soul of man is wrapt by the Shining. It is wrapt by the Real. It is full of the inbreathing of the Great Soul. And for a while the soul of the meanest and basest that breathes, the soul of the thief, the murderer, the outcast; the doer of innumerable foul deeds and cruel wrongs, enters into the joy of the Eternal, and bathes his soul in living water, in immortal peace.
And the mean, the cruel, the vile, enjoy this perfect peace and solace for their souls on equal terms with the saint, the sage, the seeker of the soul, overshadowed by their divinity.
And were it not for this entry into peace—day by day, though they know it not—all men must go mad. Our weak human justice might deny the right of the evil and the outcast to enter into that hall of peace, and keep it only for the pure and clean. But the justice of the Great Soul is better than ours, and brings its benediction to all, to the murderer’s cell, as well as the monk’s, to the palace of the king, and the hut of the savage. For to the Great Soul none are evil or unclean, none weak and insignificant, but all are immortals, though some of us dream evil dreams. The Soul is in all and all are alike the soul.
And between man and man, between sage and sinner, between clean and foul, between weak and strong, this is the only real difference: how much memory they can bring back to their waking, of that overshadowing Soul, and bringing it back, hold it consciously in the hours of their lives. Those who bring back something of that vision are heroes, strong and exultant, poets of fire-kindled speech, clear-eyed sages, strong lovers, full of joy. But all men are haunted by the Soul.
Then comes waking, and men go forth again to their desires, driven hither and thither by the scourge of unrest, tortured by longing, shadowed by fear. And in their eyes are passion and pain, not peace. For they have forgotten utterly the power and freshness of the Soul whose life enfolded them, when they were sunk in sleep.
With the fading of desire, with the victory over fear, comes something of fuller memory. And to remember something of that vision is to feel once again the overshadowing wings of the Soul descending like a benediction: a great peace, a mighty and exultant power. It is to remember how the overshadowing soul took the individual life, and covered it with its wings, putting away from it all loneliness and isolation, soothing the pain of everlasting want, merging the one in the All, full of throbbing power, tremulous joy, and warm waves of Life. In that deep rest, the soul has no boundaries, but enters into limitless Being, the swelling tide of an immortal sea, full of power, and full of peace. There is no longing nor loneliness; for all that lives is one in the Soul, and feels its oneness. The sweetness of the lost is found again, and there is peace. There is no desire there, for the spirit is all things, and there is nothing left beyond it, that it should desire. There is no fear, fur fear is of the darkness, and here is infinite light, in warm waves of radiant consolation. And yet there is a quiet might, like the rest of perfect darkness. There is the security of safest seclusion. There is the conscious delight of exultant individual life.
And when after deepest draughts of living water, the spirit of man descends again to the world of waking, through the borderland of faint dreams, the whole of his lifetime to the grave seems but an hour, with no very weighty matters in it to be settled, before he enters into his rest. It is as though the far horizon of life were lifted up, and brought suddenly close, so that we can see the whole of life in an instant, and look into the clear sky of immortality rising from the horizon. And for a moment we realize that whatever terrors life beholds, come but through unwisdom; that its fever and weariness are the mists of the morning, soon to melt away beneath the sunlight.
Then the spirit of man goes forth again into waking life, and passions and desires weigh once more heavy upon him, and he is driven onward again by the scourge of longing, by weariness, weakness, and fear. And the thief is a thief once more, and the murderer a murderer, and the outcast an outcast. But hidden away in the heart of each, in the heart of all, is the memory of that Shining, at the back of the heavens. And that haunting vision will give their hearts no rest, till they find the resting-place of the immortal.