Osphene is a series of short essays and photography examining the subjective experience of dream architecture. Focused more on the structural implications of dream construct than the symbolic, metaphorical value of their content, the project deconstructed dreams derived from my 8 year practice of recording dream upon waking.
Over the course of 4 years, Osphene discussed a range of themes observed and experienced in dream that offer insights into the nature of mind relevant to waking state: Autonomy, Signs, Space, Encounters and Intelligence.
On Focus: Mental Ropes & Pulleys
JOURNAL ENTRY: DECEMBER 3RD
TYPE: REM SLEEP, LUCID DREAM
This is a fascinating one. It is about learning through doing in the dream environment, and more specifically, the ability to sharpen mental focus to achieve a goal.
Recollection begins walking outside in open space. I am with a Guide archetype: he is a combination of two friends, S--- and J---, though identity here seems unimportant, other than we sometimes discuss very specific aspects of topics we are both interested in, such as music production and language.
He walks ahead and to the side slightly, looking at me wordlessly as if to follow. There is no verbal dialogue in the dream at all: in these dreams there is a particular space, or scenario, in which I have to do a particular task, or learn a particular skill or lesson.
We walk for some time, details of landscape are unclear, only that is is open ground, light and warm, sparse vegetation, the occasional tree.
He moves ahead slightly. I look away for a moment and when I look back he is no longer in front of me: instead, the landscape has shifted. He is now fifty feet below me at the bottom of a gully, which I am standing at the top of. It is a sheer drop, with no way to get down. He looks at me wordlessly and it's clear I have to follow, but how?
As I consider a solution, a large grey stone lowers down from the sky just above and in front of me. It is rectangular, tapering up to narrow slightly at the top, from which a metal ring protrudes.
As I keep my eyes on it, it continues to slowly lower down in front me, almost to eye level. As it nears I notice there is a thick rope attached, from which it is suspended. It is made from a very hard wood, like a vine that has been varnished or lacquered. I shift my attention to this and the stone immediately begins to rise back up, away from me. Surprised, I look back at the stone, and the ascent slows until it begins to hang in the air, swaying slightly. It looks like a counterbalance in a pulley system.
It's clear I must use the weighted rope to get down, and to do so I need to bring the rope to me by controlling the stone. I bring my full attention to the stone and become aware of a sense of mental focus, almost like a beam, projecting out from the centre of my forehead. The sensation is similar to contracting and relaxing a muscle, though far more subtle than this, more of an energetic quality as could be experienced in a practice like Tai Chi. With focus, I am able to draw the stone down: if I relax the focus, it begins once more to ascend away from me.
It's a curious sensation, but quite simple to master. After playing with the motion briefly, I draw the stone down towards me until it is at chest height. I reach out and grip the rope, or vine, and there is a clear sense of its density, and the pressure of its smooth hard surface against my palm. I begin to descend to the floor of the gully and the dream moves on to another scene.
- On the level of mental process, mental focus can be trained and strengthened, almost like a muscle. That curious sensation of focused mental attention, an energetic quality. To what level can this be tuned and directed?
- On the level of metaphor: Simply, the law of attraction. When a goal or object is in sight, you can draw it towards you with attention and focus.
- The focal point of attention emerging from the pineal gland, suggesting this focus arises from intuition rather than, or perhaps as well as, rationalising the need to move towards a goal.
- The ancient imagery of a stone pulley/ counterweight, rather than more recent technology, implies some deeply rooted wisdom at work, or the influence of deeply ingrained evolutionary cues. This correlates to 'The Law of Mechanical Disorder' observed in LaBerge's research and others, where mechanical devices don't function properly in dream.
As noted by Jeff Warren in The Headtrip: Adventures in Consciousness: 'LaBerge thinks this reveals something about the evolution of the mind: no motors or delicate moving parts on the savannah.'
This is really quite amazing to consider. If this were to be the case, the intelligence present in the mind's ability to structure such events and experiences is truly ancient: a faculty of consciousness present for milennia.
JOURNAL ENTRY: OCTOBER 14TH
TYPE: HYPNAGOGIC (MOVING INTO SLEEP)
Early evening. I begin to drift asleep on my left side. I have a light blanket over me, room is warm but not hot.
Suddenly aware of being behind the wheel of a car, left-hand drive, lying on its side. From the interior and the thin moulding of the steering wheel it is quite old, probably around 30 years or so. My hands lie in my lap, but i am in a more alert state in this space, able to look around, though i don't turn to check the back, or remember anything about the passenger seat next to me.
The windscreen is almost completely obscured, either very dirty or coated with a film, but I can sense that I am on a desolate, dusty highway, and the car is pointing in the general direction of the road ahead. There is a sense of muted calm, an enclosing silence.
A Crossing Point.
My mind registers this. I sense the push and pull, almost like being between magnets, of the two states: by simply observing, there is a gradual pull towards sleep, but with conscious awareness I find I can gently pull myself back towards the waking polarity. By playing with the two I get a sense of a subtle energetic quality, flowing between and through me.
Pulling back from sleep becomes more challenging and I allow myself to drift forward (energetically). As I do so, the murky windscreen is suddenly gone, opening up to the landscape outside, yet there is nothing but a deep, inky blackness, so dense it seems to spill into the car itself, and stretches out, vast, without form, yet without end. This is all sensed in an instant, but it is quite clear that this is a deeper consciousness, towards which I drift.
The next day, I consider the windscreen, and its smooth, slightly curved surface. It represents a demarcation, a seemingly immutable division between spaces: with its removal, I gain access to a space beyond the one I am in now, and become party to its laws.
It occurs to me that our experience of reality, our 'reality tunnels', are shaped and directed by our perception of such surfaces and walls, both physically and metaphorically: invisible, immovable, yet with closer inspection more pliable, or membraneous than would first appear.
Unconscious Framing, or Stage Windows
JOURNAL ENTRY: 20TH NOVEMBER
TYPE: LUCID DREAM
The clearer the picture of the dreamstate becomes, the structures and rules of the space, the more the environment and the state itself become apparent.
At the macro level exists what might be termed the intelligence engine, that constructs and shapes the environment. At the level of experience, this construct is usually in the moment indistinguishable from reality, or is so captivatingly hyper-real that the experiencer is unaware of being in dreamstate.
With the ability to observe from some sense of ‘distance’, or detachment, comes a viewing, or perception, of the parameters or outer reaches of the dream environment: literally, the experienced reality of the dreamer, and where it stops.
The parallels of this construct with video game graphic engines are striking (the possibility that this too is constructed by prior experience of gaming is something to discuss). The core experience of the dream narrative is dense, richly layered, as reality or close enough to be perceived as it in its richness, cohesive narrative and linearity, depth, colour, texture and sensory information. Without the ability to step back, some further subtlety of awareness, there will be no cogniscence of this as dream. With sensitivity, however, comes a free-ing, an ability for movement within the experience, even as a passive spectator, as if watching events unfold, mind alert but body paralysed.
As this awareness increases, an ability to move through the space emerges, and this is where the dreamer can begin to observe the constructs of the dream state: the parameters of the environment. This is manifest in a ‘thinning’ and gradual loss of density of information of the above sensory input at the very outer edges of the construct, and it is this observation which allows the dreamer to recognize that it is in fact a construct in the first place.
Like moving to the wings of a theatre stage, or stepping back from a painting or mural to see for the first time the edge of the canvas, and the edge of the frame: the tape and pencil lines that identify it as a creation or expression, not a definitive or absolute.
More specifically, this is perceived as the density of the construct thinning in depth, in layers, in visual continuity: I’m reminded of the ‘glitch in the Matrix’, a sudden discrepancy in the fabric of the construct revealed. It appears as a digital scaffolding: the beams and lines of the construct extending out into a void, a nothingness; and with further observation, watching the drama of the dream experience unfold from a distance, an awareness of the dream content de- and re-constructing as the focal point of the narrative shifts, creating a cohesive experience for the dreamer at the apex, unaware of this thinning, shifting scaffolding at the outer edges.
This is something experienced on several occasions, with considerable clarity. It is not impossible that this in itself is simply part of the dream, ‘a dream within a dream’, but the consistency and circumstances at the time- considerably heightened sensitivity brought about by 6 weeks of daily 2 hour meditation and pranayama, and several hours of yoga a day, during a yoga teacher training course, which was also experienced in other ways (the cogniscence of the body stirring from sleeping state, the shift in movement and warmth in the internal organs, spreading out through the body upon moving into waking state, as I woke just before ) would suggest that there is something more significant in the recurring observation.