Amidst the flood of news articles that vied for my attention these past few months, the one which made the most profound impression on me was also perhaps the least likely. It described the very short story of a cave salamander which, although alive, had stayed in one place, and indeed had not moved, for seven years straight. How incredibly boring his life must be, I thought to myself. But gradually a new thought began to arise. Although I am no biologist, I imagine to some extent that, like other animals, a cave salamander could potentially dream. Whether or not this is the case, the point of the example still remains. Imagine you were a creature which lived in total darkness. You only used four of your five senses, since sight was not an option. In such a simple life as a cave salamander’s, how would one draw the line between the waking and dreaming state? For all we know, this salamander may be a powerful dreamer, so much so that he is having a far more diverse and interesting life in his mind than he would otherwise be in the waking world. I believe that under these circumstances, it would be quite difficult to tell the difference between the two types of one’s reality.

We have five physical senses. Now imagine a higher being that has more than five. If this theoretical being could observe us, it might have exactly the same thoughts as I had about the salamander. We think we know clearly the boundaries between dreaming and waking, but often in lucid dreams, all of my five senses still work just as tangibly as they do otherwise. The lines between waking and sleeping become far more foggy with out-of-body experiences. It’s obvious to me when I leave the body, but right before that, when my spirit is still in my body, I often cannot tell the difference whether I am using my physical or my spiritual senses. For example, is it my physical or spiritual sight? Which dimension I am perceiving is nearly impossible to tell right before I leave the body. I am often observing very meticulously, trying hard to figure it out, but usually I cannot say for sure.

This blurring of the lines between reality for myself and, I suspect, even perhaps this salamander, causes me then to ask one final question. Is what I call “waking life” as real as I imagine? Because if in dreams my perceptions are just as real, and in out-of-body experiences I often cannot tell which dimension I’m in just before I leave the body, then why should waking reality not just be another, though certainly more long and stable, dream state? If this speculation were indeed the case, then can we learn about our more stable reality from the dream world? Can its “laws” be manipulated? And are we simply lying still for years upon years in some other higher reality while our minds go on this wild journey we call “life” until we eventually awaken and remember that it was all just the result of a good night’s sleep?

I once heard a rabbi explain that God put Adam into a deep sleep in the garden, but the text of Genesis is curiously silent when it comes to Adam ever waking back up.

If all is experienced equally in the mind of the conscious observer, then perhaps the dream state can provide a treasure trove of wisdom about the nature of reality and the endless possibilities inherent in our everyday lives.

This article was released in issue from

June 2020

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