Dream Reality Check via Gwynne Mayer and Sy Ginsburg

Sy Ginsburg and Gwynne Mayer Collaboration

Gurdjieff and the study of dreams taken from GURDJIEFF UNVEILED authored by Sy Ginsburg with notes attached from Gwynne.



The importance of accessing the subconscious

Woman and Lion
Artwork by Tracy Irizarry





The following are excerpts from a dream class done with Sy Ginsburg, from 2014-2019 for Theosophical Society http://theosophical.org/



Gwynne: One of the main reasons we think dreams are of such value is that they represent the unconscious as well as the soul essence and seem to be, along with meditation, the only access to higher spiritual messages that come to us. It becomes very important to learn how these messages are delivered at a personality level so that the personality can y on the purpose of the ‘soul’ in this incarnation.

(Sy, my mentor and friend, as a Fourth Way advocate and a student of Gurdjieff’s teachings for at least 30 years before his death, November 14, 2019, felt this part of Gurdjieff’s opinion regarding dreams was a mistake.)

Whether the study of dreams is truly a part of Gurdjieff’s teaching is controversial. This is because of two talks Gurdjieff gave in 1923 and 1924, in which he mentioned dreams.48 Confusion about what Gurdjieff meant in these talks have turned many students away from the study of their dreams. This is unfortunate because a close examination of Gurdjieff’s teaching reveals the importance he attached to the need to access the subconscious.

Sy: The most widely used tool for this purpose is the interpretation of symbolism in dreams, and the discerning student will want to avail him or herself of this important tool. The use of this tool is not new, and accounts of dream interpretation go back thousands of years. One need only look at The Old Testament to discover their wide use in biblical times.

Sy: To understand Gurdjieff’s teaching about the importance of accessing the subconscious, we need to understand what he meant by the various terms that he used to describe what is in our ordinary everyday consciousness and what has been suppressed into the subconscious.

Gurdjieff defines a human being as being divided into two primary components: personality and essence.

He speaks of three lower centers: the moving-instinctive, the emotional, and the intellectual centers as constituting the personality. Sometimes he spoke of the moving-instinctive center as itself being composed of three centers: the moving, the instinctive, and the sex centers. These three (or five) lower centers represent the growth, education, and experience of this lifetime.

The two higher centers of which Gurdjieff speaks, the higher emotional center and the higher intellectual center, form our essence, our essential and higher nature. These higher centers are synonymous with two other interchangeable Gurdjieffian terms, objective consciousness and objective conscience. Gurdjieff tells us that the higher centers are always transmitting wisdom to us, only we cannot hear them because, as he explains in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, objective conscience has been suppressed into the subconscious.

Dr Maurice Nicoll was a prominent British psychiatrist and protégé of C.G. Jung, who went to study under Gurdjieff at the Prieuré in 1922. Nicoll is best known for the talks on the Gurdjieff teaching that he gave to groups of students over a 12-year period from 1941 to 1953. These are published in the five-volume set: Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky.

As a psychiatrist, Nicoll was familiar with the use of dreams for accessing the subconscious and particularly with Jung’s work on dream symbolism. 51 Nicoll mentions dreams in five of his commentaries, and he tries to make clear the distinction between mundane dreams and significant dream messages coming from higher centers. Mundane dreams with no particular significance are, as Gurdjieff says, nothing more than one center observing another. These are the lower centers observing one another with at least one of the connections between these centers remaining unbroken during night sleep.

But Nicoll pointed out that there are significant dreams and that these significant dreams come from the higher emotional and higher intellectual centers. In this sense, the higher in us imparts wisdom to our ordinary waking consciousness.

There are intellectual dreams, emotional dreams, sexual dreams, moving and instinctive dreams, and there are also dreams that come from the centers we do not use – i.e. higher emotional and higher intellectual centres … Do you remember what the Work teaches about higher centres? It teaches that higher centres are fully developed in us and are always transmitting meaning to us only we cannot hear them … Very often G. used to say that we must listen  to  ourselves … [but]  we listen to the crudest ‘I’s …yet all the time there are influences, so clearly expressed in the diagram of the Ray of Creation, that are trying to touch us, and make us understand better, and cure us of our life-maladies and so lead us to our own inner development. Sometimes these influences reach us in the form of dreams.52

In listing the highlights of Gurdjieff’s teaching, Margaret Anderson in The Unknowable Gurdjieff, includes the study of dreams about which she writes, “Study your dreams. There is a self-contained energy left over in one of the centers.” 53

Gurdjieff places vast importance on our need to access the subconscious so that we can receive the wisdom of the higher centers. He explains the importance of accessing the subconscious in chapters 25-28 of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, through the saga of Ashiata Shiemash.

Unlike other widely known teachers around whom traditional religions have formed, Ashiata Shiemash is unknown to us. According to Gurdjieff, he took incarnation in a Sumerian boy born in Pispascana, near to Babylon, some seven centuries before the height of the Babylonian civilization. This would be about 2400 B.C. There is no historical evidence for the existence of such a being, so we may assume that Ashiata Shiemash is an allegorical figure created by Gurdjieff to propound a particular aspect of his teaching.

Although Ashiata Shiemash’s teaching was extant for only a few generations and was eventually lost to humanity, he was, according to Gurdjieff, the only “messenger from above” who succeeded in creating conditions through which human beings on earth could live normal lives.

Central to the teaching in the Ashiata Shiemash allegory is the idea that objective conscience has been suppressed into the subconscious. In the Ashiata Shiemash chapters Gurdjieff uses the term objective-conscience as equivalent to objective consciousness, the fourth state of human consciousness, or enlightenment. But, as

Gurdjieff tells us through the words of Ashiata Shiemash, objective conscience has been suppressed into the subconscious.

The factor which ought to engender that being-impulse on which the whole psyche of beings of a three-brained system is in general based, and which impulse exists under the name of Objective-Conscience, is not yet atrophied in them, but remains in their presences almost in its primordial state.

Thanks to the abnormally established conditions of external ordinary being-existence existing here, this factor has gradually penetrated and become embedded in that consciousness which is here called “subconsciousness,” in consequence of which it takes no part whatever in the functioning of their ordinary consciousness …

I … understood … that  if  the  functioning  of  that  being-factor  still  surviving  in  their common-presences were to participate in the general functioning of that consciousness of theirs in which they pass their daily, as they say here, “waking- existence,” only then would it still be possible to save the contemporary three- brained beings here …

I decided to consecrate the whole of myself from that time on to the creation here of such conditions that the functioning of the “sacred-conscience,” still surviving in their subconsciousness, might gradually pass into the functioning of their ordinary consciousness.54

The good news is that because of its suppression into the subconscious, objective conscience is not yet atrophied in us. But because objective conscience, the higher centers in us, has been suppressed into the subconscious, it takes no part whatever in the functioning of our ordinary consciousness. Our work, therefore, is to access the subconscious so that objective conscience or the higher centers can impart its wisdom to us.

Gurdjieff said that his teaching differs from many others in that it affirms that the higher centers exist in man and are fully developed.55 Because the higher centers are objective and not identified with the personality, they can objectively show us the identifications with personality characteristics, which we need to observe in ourself and from which we need to free ourself.

It is identification that blocks us from objectivity, from objective consciousness. Gurdjieff warns us specifically of the tyranny of identification and calls it one of our most terrible foes. He says that it is necessary to see and to study identification to its very roots in oneself.56

Identification, from which we must free ourselves, is the flow of our attention into “desire” and into its counterpart, “fear,” in all their myriad forms. He tells us that we must consciously assist non-desires to predominate over desires.57

Gurdjieff also tells us that freeing ourselves from identification with desires and fears requires cleaning our psyche of those identifications, but in order to undertake this cleaning in a rational way, we need to see what needs to be cleaned and where and how to do it.58

Studying identifying to its very roots in oneself and cleaning our machine of the dirt that has clogged it in the course of our lives is work of a psychological nature. For this reason, it is necessary to use psychological tools, and in particular, psychological tools to access the subconscious so that we can bring the wisdom of objective conscience into our ordinary consciousness.

Psychology has developed a variety of tools to access the subconscious. These include, for example, hypnotism of which Gurdjieff had been a practitioner, psychological probing, and the analysis of dreams.

The analysis of our dreams is especially useful because it is something in which we can each engage without reliance upon an outside analyst or hypnotist. Because objective conscience is suppressed into the subconscious, it speaks to us through dream in symbolic form to avoid censorship by the personality, as is well known in modern psychology. With some textual guidance, based on the principles of modern psychology, and our own good common sense, we can learn to interpret these symbols. When we learn to interpret our dream symbols, we are able to receive objective teaching coming from our higher centers, from objective conscience.

b.  The development of a dream theory

It is known that Gurdjieff talked privately with some pupils, such as Margaret Anderson, about the use of dream symbols to access the subconscious. Other pupils like Maurice Nicoll have come forward to affirm their importance. But we have no published accounts of specific instruction that Gurdjieff gave to particular students about how to go about the study of dreams.

We turn, therefore, to a follower and exponent of Gurdjieff’s teaching, Sri Madhava Ashish (1920-1997) who, together with his mentor, Sri Krishna Prem (1897-1965), developed esoteric dream analysis theory, based on Gurdjieffian teaching and Jungian psychological principles.

Neither Ashish nor Prem are names well known to most western students of Gurdjieff’s teaching, although they are well known to Indian admirers as having been

exponents of Gurdjieff’s teaching. Over the years a surprising number of Western students of the Gurdjieff teaching had made their way up to the Mirtola ashram in the Indian Himalayas to visit these two men, Englishmen who had become Indian Hindu monks. Visitng luminaries have included Olga de Hartmann, Philip Lavastine, Bernard Courtenay Mayor, Ethel Merston, Lizelle Reymond, and Laurence Rosenthal. Jeanne de Salzmann met Madhava Ashish in Delhi and P.L. Travers was a regular correspondent.

We all, Madhava Ashish once said, “drink from the same cup of truth.” He and Krishna Prem always referred to Gurdjieff with great reverence, calling him “the great Russian Boddhisattva” after the country in which he first appeared publicly. Madhava Ashish seemed to know Gurdjieff intimately as did Krishna Prem, although neither had ever met Gurdjieff in the flesh.

Many other lesser known students of Gurdjieff’s teaching including this writer have visited Mirtola or otherwise corresponded. On one occasion, in speaking of dreams, Ashish said:

Your dreams are important. Begin to pay attention to them. Your dreams will tell you things about yourself that you have buried too deeply to uncover directly. It’s another way to “know thyself,” that famous injunction of the Delphic oracle about which Gurdjieff speaks.60

While we may, at the outset, perceive a dream message as coming from someone external to ourselves, whether it appears to be Gurdjieff or Jesus, or we call it the higher centers, eventually we come to understand that the higher centers are us. They are not the collection of tissues and memories that we call “me,” but rather our essential being which Gurdjieff also calls the spiritual body.

Gurdjieff tells us that it is necessary to crystallize or coat the spiritual body. This does not mean that we do not have a spiritual body. It is more accurate to say that we do not stand in the spiritual body or essence, because we do not know who we are.

Coating the spiritual body is the work of changing our viewpoint so that we stand in essence rather than in personality. Gurdjieff refers to this as entering the Holy Planet Purgatory, and of it he says, “only he may enter here who puts himself in the position of the other results of my labors.” 61 Coating of the spiritual body is only possible when we stand in essence rather than in personality, and it is connected with two additional requirements for coating the spiritual body. Gurdjieff enumerates these as engaging in “conscious labor” and “intentional suffering.” 62 All these requirements necessitate intentional effort.

Through this intentional effort, we eventually come to see that in essence there is no separation between any of us. We are ourselves and at the same time we are all each other. In speaking of beings who have already realized this, Madhava Ashish said:

Any one of those beings (if it has any meaning to speak of these being more than one essential being) can look out through the eyes of any existing form that has eyes. There is a series of masks, shaped in the familiar forms of Gurdjieff, Jesus, the Buddha, Maurya, etc., so that idiots like us can recognize them, through which the one power can communicate with us.63

Of our role in all this, he went on to say:

To understand G and his brethren one has to become one of them. How can I understand someone who literally has a dimension to his being that I either lack or have only in an undeveloped form? That won’t stop me from trying to understand, but I should know that the most important part of my effort to understand must lie in the effort to understand myself and to find the “higher Self” in myself. 64

It is because of this that the study of our dreams is so important. The higher centers are always transmitting wisdom to us, only we usually cannot hear it. Through the interpretation of our dream symbols, we allow the wisdom of the higher centers to pass into the functioning of our ordinary consciousness.

c.  Psychology and the use of dream symbolism

There is a distinction between the use by psychologists of the analytical tools of dream symbolism analysis for helping people to deal with their mundane lives, and the use of the same tools to recognize teachings from our higher centers. Madhava Ashish explained the importance of the esoteric use of modern psychology as follows:

The psychological theory of dreaming has, of course, been popular since Freud. This still holds good. What is lacking in most current dream theory, as it is lacking in the current world view, is the presence of a spiritual centre and a universal view to which the personal psychic patterns can be related, and which gives significance to the person and his struggles with his nature.65

Modern psychology (the work of Freud, Jung & company) in general adopts the materialistic standpoint, especially in its psychiatric form, and so denies the real existence of all that is represented by the word soul. Ancient psychology is the science of the soul. In this sense, Buddhism is known as the first psychological religion, because Buddha taught the causes of sorrow and their removal in terms of states of mind and feeling. Thus, every teacher of the inner work has been a psychologist. Our difficulty lies in the fact that modern psychology has achieved

remarkable insights into the working of the subconscious mind-feeling complex and the effects it has on the feelings and thoughts we are conscious of. All this is of immense usefulness to anyone struggling to control his mind, to deal with negative emotions, to distinguish between his essential awareness and the sort of awareness that is present in what G calls “sleep.” But we cannot afford to use this knowledge without distinguishing it from the uses to which modern psychology puts it …

In our field we can treat as fact Freud’s dictum that dreams are the royal road into the unconscious, but we do not therefore have to accept Freud’s theories about ego and id, etc., or to accept the academic flavor that dulls so much of his work. Freud did not discover dreams; he gave some structure to the area of (un)consciousness from which dreams (and much of our compulsive behavior) take their rise. Dreams and visions have provided seekers with data for their search since the beginning of time.

Our work is so difficult that we need every bit of help we can get. It really does not matter where or from whom we take help, provided that we have enough intelligence and a clear enough view of our goal to be able to take help that is consonant with our aim and to reject those components that are contrary to it.

It is obvious that danger lies in any inability to distinguish between the consonant and the contrary. The prestige of the modern psychologists is such that they are thought so profoundly wise that we must either believe them totally or not at all. On the other hand, we ourselves want to use their perceptions but to reject their conclusions …

In respect of modern psychology there are at least three classes of people we are concerned with:

Firstly, there are the pathological cases, people who are so disturbed that they are out of touch with reality and, at most, can be helped to lead “normal” lives. Such people often feel attracted to the inner path, but it is dangerous to have anything to do with them. They should be advised to seek medical/psychological help.

Secondly, there are the people who may have considerable potential for the Work, but who are so tangled up with traumas, compulsions or emotional blocks of one sort or another that they cannot work with any sense of real purpose and joy. If   we ourselves cannot provide the insights to help them, they may benefit from psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, etc. In this case we try to recommend a practitioner who is personally sympathetic to the Work. He will not aim to turn a confused patient into a well adapted moron.

Thirdly, we have the reasonably well-adapted people who appear to be fit for the Work, but whom anyone can see to be tied up in the usual knots of parental “fixations,” inhibited emotions, insecurities and all the rest of the desires and fears which make control of the mind so difficult a task that many of them despair. These are the ones who can benefit from psychological insight, but who should not be sent to professional practitioners. In order to qualify for practice, professionals have had to subscribe to the non-spiritual ethic of their particular schools, and this rubs off on their patients.

We also have to guard against the mistaken assumption that psychoanalysis can be equated with the Work. We want the analytical tools to help us in our work – specifically to help free us from the compulsions which, unless seen and dealt with, control our minds. But the Work itself is something quite different. Similarly, analysis helps us to still the mind, but a still mind is only a step towards transcending the mind. I must also add that there is no reason to suppose that psychological qualifications would be useful to a group leader. Just as wide reading of mysticism, mythology, religion, and other subjects is of value to anyone in this Work, so is a familiarity with modern psychology. But one no more needs academic qualification in modern psychology to help people with their psychological problems vis-à-vis the inner Work, than one needs to be a priest or a professor to be inspired by mysticism and myth.

It also seems to be a fact that modern psychology suits the psyche of modern man; and this is partly because it breaks through the old conventions in much the same way that modern life has broken from the old conventions. However, it is also plain that men have followed this path throughout the ages without the help of this particular set of insights we call modern psychology. Our point, therefore, is not that psychology is a sine qua non, but that it should not be rejected out of hand or its usefulness denied to people who could benefit from it …

While it is very obvious to anyone who has open eyes that the whole of G’s self- remembering, dealing with negative emotions and many other points are strictly psychological in the true sense, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see …

It has to be emphasized that we need the tools, but not the men who fashioned these tools; they use them to help people who are so screwed up that they cannot even manage their daily lives; we intend to use them for liberating our minds from the compulsive forces which act on them.66

d.  Seven principles of dream analysis

Madhava Ashish had developed a list that he called the seven principles of dream analysis, which he distributed privately to students. These principles emphasize the

importance of accessing the subconscious through dream analysis, so that instruction from objective consciousness can pass into the functioning of our ordinary consciousness. Gurdjieff stresses the importance of this in the allegorical teaching of Ashiata Shiemash.

We can all follow these principles of dream analysis. They are tools made up of good common sense, as are the common sense techniques for remembering and recalling dreams. By engaging ourselves in this way, we are following Gurdjieff’s instructions, as he put them into the mouth of Ashiata Shiemash, to access the subconscious so that what is suppressed in our subconscious is brought into our ordinary consciousness.

Abbreviating and reformulating these principles for the Western student, they can be stated as follows: 67

  1. Although on occasion dreams can tell us about others, we need to look at them as if they apply only to us. In fact, almost all our dreams do apply only to us. Even if a dream appears to involve another person, we should mainly take the dream as showing us something about ourselves. The other person in the dream is usually a symbol for a characteristic that we need to see in ourselves.
  2. The Self (which we are but don’t know it) is giving us direction through our dreams and is urging us to growth, maturity, and wholeness.
  3. We should take dreams as giving us useful criticism about ourselves, about things in us that need looking at and changing. Dreams often use criticism in a creative way. They reveal truths, hidden factors that have been inhibiting the fullness of life, but in a way that encourages and affirms, frequently providing help towards the resolution of whatever difficulties they reveal, often in witty and unexpected ways. Dreams can also appear to be complimentary, but when they are, they are not necessarily of therapeutic value. The good stuff takes care of itself, so we need not bother congratulating ourselves when our dreams seem to compliment us. We need to see the negative qualities in us that our dreams are trying to show us.
  4. We need to be ready to look at the lowest and most disgusting parts of ourselves as shown to us by our dreams. Since the Self (the unchanging real), with which we seek unification, includes everything in the universe and beyond, nothing can be excluded from it. We must look at everything with which we as personalities (our lesser self) identify, for example, all manner of anger, rage, sexual problems, fear, greed, and the whole long list of other personality identifications. We can take as a guide to these identifications whatever features there are in us that capture our attention. We need to let go of all these features of our personality.
  5. The purpose of releasing repressed material in us through dream interpretation is not just to help make our lives better here, although it is certainly valuable for that.

These things are blocks to our entering into higher states of consciousness that are the characteristic of unification with the Self.

  • If we take as a hypothesis that our dreams are guided by an intelligence greater and wiser than our ordinary waking state, the intelligence of the Self, we need to honor that intelligence by acting on its guidance. We should not take dreams as ordering us to do something, but if advice is given us through our interpretations, we need to see what the advice is and then act on that advice in an intelligent manner.
  • Everyone dreams. If we claim that we do not dream, it is a question of not making sufficient efforts to remember and record our dreams.

e.  Techiques for remembering dreams

Many people complain about this last principle, insisting that they do not dream. Clinical studies have shown this to be false and that everyone does dream. The rapid eye movement (REM) state that we all experience periodically during sleep has been identified as the time of dream activity. What we need are tools to help us to remember our dreams. These are, for the most part, common sense tools like these:

  1. Affirm your intention to remember and record dreams before retiring. This mindset causes the mind to more easily remember a dream just as the mindset of determining to awaken at a particular hour usually enables one to do so.
  2. Keep paper and pencil or a tape recorder at bedside, and arrange whatever other conditions will facilitate the recording of a dream, a bedside light, for example.
  3. Provide sleeping conditions that are not unduly comfortable. Sleeping on a hard mattress and pillow, for example, seems to enhance dream recall.
  4. If you read before bedtime, read something spiritual, something connected to the inner work. This turns the mind in the appropriate direction for dream recall.
  5. Make the effort to record the dream as soon as you awaken, whether in the middle of the night or in daylight. You can attempt interpretation later. If the dream is not recorded immediately upon awakening, even what appears to be the clearest of dreams will frequently just disappear.
  6. Maintain a journal of dreams in order to note recurring themes. The message being sent to us from higher centers to observe a particular personality identification will often repeat in a different dream story if it is not noted and acted upon when first received.
  7. Every student of dreams goes through “dry” periods. These are periods when dreams do not seem to come. We already know that we all dream all the time, so

we cannot fall back into the complaint that we are not dreaming. The problem is mainly that our so-called “will” is insufficient. We have become lazy. One of the recommended techniques to help restore our attention to and cognizance of the dreams going on in us is to establish an independent and artificial external “will” that makes a demand upon us to remember our dreams. This external will can be provided by consulting with a trusted advisor who then expects us to report our dreams, or it can be provided by participation in a dream-study group. This is a group of people all working together in trust and confidence who meet periodically and who each present their dreams for the group’s help in analyzing them. The periodic meeting makes the demand on us to remember and record dreams so that we have material to bring to the group meeting.

f.  Purificatory dreams and noumenal dreams

Not every dream brings a message from higher centers. Many dreams are mundane, generated, for instance, by the spicy pizza eaten before going to bed. Discounting mundane dreams resulting from unbroken connections between the lower centers, significant advisory dreams offering wisdom from the higher centers can be divided into two broad classes: purificatory dreams and noumenal 68 dreams. The distinction between these two classes can be likened to the differences between the cleaning of a window and looking through it.

Understanding and working with the messages contained in purificatory dreams is the cleaning of the window. These dreams show us our identifications, identifications that we may not have noticed. Observing these identifications, usually identifications with negative emotions, begins the process of freeing ourselves from these identifications. As we free ourselves, our window of vision becomes cleaner and clearer.

Noumenal dreams allow us to see through the window of vision when it has been sufficiently cleaned.

The seven principles of dream interpretation enumerated above are directed primarily at the first class of dreams, purificatory dreams. These dreams are seen as teaching coming from the higher centers, objective consciousness, showing us personality identifications that need to be observed and detached from. This is the work of cleaning the window of vision. The second class of dreams are noumenal in the sense that through them we see and experience what Gurdjieff calls the real world.

In the first class of dreams, we see our own reflection, the reflection of our personality and its identification with all its fears and desires. In the second class of dreams, once the window has been cleaned, the mind is quieted and we are aware that we stand in objective consciousness. This is why Gurdjieff said that a man can develop

his hidden capacities and powers only by cleaning his machine of the dirt that has clogged it in the course of his life.

Lucid Dreaming


When the window of vision has been sufficiently cleaned through work on oneself, metanoia takes place. This is the changing of viewpoint so that we begin to see ourselves not as the personality that has been given one physical body and usually one name. We begin to see ourselves as essence.

In the truly noumenal dream, the dreamer experiences his or her identity with the universal, with Endlessness. In such a dream the dreamer is aware of the dream and is aware of being aware of him or herself in the dream. There is the experience of quiet witnessing by the quieted mind. Metanoia will have taken place and changed the viewpoint of the dreamer.

The object of true meditation in which the ordinary mind is completely quieted is the same as is the experience of the noumenal dream. Just as it is possible to experience what Gurdjieff has called objective consciousness in the meditative state, with our mind sufficiently quieted we can enter into objective consciousness through the noumenal dream. Whether in meditation or in the noumenal dream, the meditator/ dreamer’s viewpoint will have changed. One is no longer dedicated to the inner path only some of the time and following the personality’s own selfish interests at other times. The totality of one’s nature is brought into harmony with one’s perceptions of the nature of the source of being.

One method for entering into the state of the noumenal dream provided, as always, that the window of vision has been sufficiently cleaned, is as follows:

Attempt to carry waking consciousness into the sleep state. There are various ways and the first is to hold the intention throughout the day and while falling asleep.

Do a lot of physical work during the course of a day. Then being exhausted, instead of lying down to go to sleep, quietly remain sitting up. This may allow the body to actually go to sleep while you are in the sitting position, whereas the conscious mind, functioning through the brain, remains awake. These hypnagogic (between waking and deep sleep) and hypnopompic (between deep sleep and wakening) states, … are states in which it is especially possible to experience what G calls “the real world” the objectively conscious state. In moments of pre-awakening, one cannot stop the physical body from awakening, but one can maintain the state of self- awareness so that one is free from identification, and then go further.

It may take many weeks or months of effor…t

G’s relaxation exercises can lead to the same state – body asleep, mind awake. Any real meditation has the same result. Few people recognize this fact, because sleep is a dirty word for meditators.

Don Juan [the teacher of Carlos Castaneda in his books on sorcery] works the other way around, not by carrying waking consciousness through the barrier, but by planning to wake up and stay awake in the dream state – effectively the state of astral projection.69

Modern dream researchers have called the awakening to the realization that “this is a dream” by the term “lucid dreaming.” But the lucid dreamer (and some people seem to have this natural ability), who has not otherwise cleaned the machine of the dirt that has clogged it all its life, will not recognize the free state of the noumenal dream because the mind is not sufficiently quieted. The dream then becomes purificatory because of the identifications that continue to beset the dreamer.

A common failing of naturally lucid dreamers is the tendency to manipulate the dream because of their personality identifications. Dreams are manipulated to produce a story that is satisfactory to the personality of the dreamer.

We must not manipulate the lucid dream to our liking. Such manipulation distorts the state of content-less witnessing awareness and deprives us of the wisdom and insight that is our true nature.

How much sleep do we need?

Students frequently ask the question, “How much sleep to I need?” About this, Gurdjieff said that if our organism is in good order, it needs very little time to manufacture the amount of energy for which sleep is intended. He went on to say that if we could fall asleep at once and awaken from night sleep promptly, we would spend just a third to a quarter of the time that we now spend on these transitional states.70

For a person on the path of inner inquiry, four or five hours of sleep is sufficient, with an occasional 10-minute rest once or twice a day. This is in addition to daily periods of meditation, which are as restful as or more restful than ordinary sleep.

Recent medical studies argue that most of us do not get enough sleep. It is clearly different for people in the Work. We can intentionally sleep deeply and briefly and manufacture the needed energy for which sleep is intended. At the same time we can also, with intention, access our dreams and receive wisdom from the higher centers, from objective consciousness, as we learn to interpret our dream symbols following the principles of dream analysis given here.

Dream Study Group

Students who wish to avail themselves of teachings received through the study of their dreams may want to form a dream study group. Such a group meets separately from the typical weekly Gurdjieff study group, because extra time is required to present and discuss dreams. The primary purpose of the group is to provide the external will to actually remember and record dreams. Again, it is a matter of providing an artificial ‘will’ in substitution for our own lack of real will. Another important purpose is to give the dreamer further insight into the meaning of his or her dreams. Participation with others in a dream study group helps us receive insights. These are not just the dreamer’s own insights, but also the insights of the other participants. These insights often show the dreamer his or her continuing identification with so-called negative emotions that the dreamer may have mistakenly assumed to have been gotten rid of through the Work.

Typically, a dream study group will meet weekly, and as few as two or three participants can constitute such a group. If there are more than 10, the group may become unwieldy. Depending upon the number of participants, dream study groups usually meet for between 1 and 2 hours. The following parameters have proved useful for dream study groups organized according to the principles suggested here.

  1. Each dreamer brings a recent dream (dreamt within the previous week) to each group session. But it is not necessary that every dreamer’s dream be presented at each session.
  2. Each dreamer in turn presents his/her dream giving the facts of the dream, the life- event background that may have stimulated the dream story, the emotions felt both within the dream and upon awakening, and the dreamer’s opinion of what the dream means.
  3. Members of the group may ask questions to clarify the dream in order to understand the content.
  4. Discussion of the dream is then opened up to the other participants who respond: “If this were my dream, … ” and then give a view of what the dream means. It thus becomes clear to the members of the group that such a response is based upon the projections of the member who is speaking and not necessarily those of the dreamer. Often, but not always, the dreamer has an “ah, ha,” a realization that “yes, that really is what the dream means.” In theory, this is possible because at the deepest levels of the psyche we are all one. We are all Endlessness.
  5. Dreams often reveal sensitive personal information. Therefore, the dreamer as well as the facilitator(s) of the group is entitled to cut off discussion of a dream at any time.
  • Many dreams open to sexual keys. Participants in a dream study group should be prepared to give sexual interpretations of their dreams and should realize that others commenting upon the dream may give sexual interpretations.
  • Participants in a dream study group must be prepared to respect each other’s privacy. There is tacit agreement that the dreams of participants will not be discussed with others outside the group.
  • Participants may want to have access to one or more dream-symbol dictionaries. Any dream-symbol dictionary can give the dreamer ideas for the meaning of symbols. But it should be noted that all dream dictionaries with ready-made rule-of-thumb interpretations of the symbols in dreams are not worth very much in themselves. Dreams are symbolic and their symbolism cannot be pigeonholed. Symbols are highly personal, although some archetypal symbols often, but not always,  apply   to larger groups of humanity, i.e. ethnic, racial, cultural, geographic groups. Nevertheless, any such dictionary will give the dreamer some idea of how someone else has interpreted a dream symbol, usually the dictionary writer’s interpretation of his or her own symbol.
  • The book that many students of dream symbolism have found useful is Man and his Symbols by C.G. Jung. This is not a dream dictionary. It is more an explanation of how the psyche of human beings has used symbols in dreams, often the same symbols within groups of humanity, to represent an idea. There are many illustrations of symbols, and many are historic symbols. The principal value lies in an examination of these symbols to understand how they are used by the Self, the higher centers, suppressed into the subconscious, to communicate with the personality.


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