If the doors of perception were cleansed

To round off my blog birthday celebrations, here is ‘the one that got away’ – an article about my spiritual path of dreams which was published on another blog earlier in the year  

When people talk about dreams as spiritual experience, they usually seem to be thinking in terms of what Jung called ‘numinous’ dreams – that is, dreams which have an unmistakably spiritual quality, inspiring awe and wonder, and often bringing revelations.

These ‘big’ dreams do indeed feel like wonderful gifts from outside the self, and they stay vividly with you across the decades, lighting your life. But dreams which feel quite ordinary can also be a doorway to profound changes in consciousness.


For example, I once dreamt I was having coffee with my neighbour. I was fully aware that I was dreaming – lucidity is very common in experienced dreamers.

Normally, in lucid dreams, my waking ‘I’ might be there as an observer or commentator, and occasionally if I didn’t like the way things were going, I might intervene and change the action of the dream.

But this dream didn’t have any action at all. It didn’t have any narrative to distract me – I was just sitting there, drinking coffee, and I was bored. There was a silky cushion beside me, and I ran my hand absent-mindedly across it. I noticed how smooth the fabric felt; I ran my fingers along the hard ridge of the trim.

I thought, ‘Hold on a minute – this is a dream!’ Since nothing much else was going on, I went on testing the evidence of my senses and yes, I really could smell the coffee; I really could feel the crumbly biscuit between my fingers and taste its light vanilla on my tongue. I could hear my neighbour’s voice, talking to me. I knew it was a dream, but it felt exactly the same as ‘real’ life.


When I woke up, I could feel the quilt resting lightly across my body; I could see the light from the gap in the curtains ribboning across it; I could hear my husband’s gentle breathing and smell the warmth of our two bodies. But now I knew that my mind could create a whole different reality which felt as real to my senses as this one. So the senses were unreliable witnesses, and waking life a reality no more substantial than the dream.

When you read back over old dream diaries, you will also find that seemingly ordinary dreams can be precisely predictive, and you may find so many of these that it’s impossible to dismiss them all as flukes and coincidences.

According to our normal understanding of time, it should not be possible to predict the future, but the experience of predictive dreaming shows irrefutably that it is.

So gradually, actively engaging with dreams can dissolve the narrow rational and materialistic viewpoint, through which we normally understand life. In the words of William Blake, ‘man has closed himself up, ’til he sees things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’

The practical, experiential path of dreaming can lead to a falling-away of ideas and illusions, and open you up to the mind-blowing reality. ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’


12 thoughts on “If the doors of perception were cleansed”

  1. Oooh, I love this post, Jenny! These types of dreams do make you question what reality is, don’t they? Are our dreams any less real than our conscious experiences? I get so many de ja vu moments that I think I may have come from dreams, only I didn’t realise this. Mmm! Food for thought!

  2. I’ve thought that about deja vu too, Abi – it’s an exciting thought, isn’t it? So exciting and intriguing, in fact, that I think I might make it my next topic here… hmm… thanks for the idea!

  3. My entirely ‘real’ dreams helped me write my ‘Ghost World’ novels – but I don’t think I’ve ever had a lucid dream. And I’m not altogether sure I’d want the doors of my perception cleaned! – for fear of what horrors I might then see.

  4. I’ve written ghost stories too, Sue – it might be a natural mix with dreams. I think a long discipline such as meditation or dreamwork feels very safe – I imagine you could experience something similar (‘blow your mind’) with hallucinogenic drugs but that would feel scary to me.

  5. I’ve had dreams where I was just tired of it all, a truly boring dream, and just decided to wake up. Although this has happened more than once, it did amaze me each time. Other dreams so terrifying I could hardly bear it, yet was helplessly NOT realizing how easy escape could be, and some of the content continuing into the wakeful moments. That’s amazing, too.
    Lately, though, my dreams have been inescapable lecture. droning, seemingly, all night, like power-point presentations of words, words, words. I wake up tired, as I might feel after 8 hours of lecture. My husband teases me that I really AM a wordnerd, if I even dream about the printed word.
    If it happens again, I’m looking for the “off” button! 😉

  6. Haha – let me know if you find it! Talking about words, ‘amazing’ is exactly the word I use to describe these experiences – some are wondrous, some unsettling, but they add such richness to our experience of life

  7. Have you ever experienced an astral projection type of dreaming? It’s difficult to explain, but for me, it’s where my conscious hovers on the border between being awake and being asleep. I’d always been afraid to fall into the sleep side of it. I don’t know why, but I guess I just had some ominous feeling about it. Then, one time several years back, I just let myself go and fell into a very odd and chaotic state of mind. No, I wasn’t intoxicated! But, the sensation of dropping into it literally snatched my breath, and I felt at first like I was having a panic attack. I managed to take control of myself, though, and breathe normally. It’s really hard to describe, but I’ve come to relish such experiences. I feel it’s helped me with my creative writing and provided some in order to my otherwise complicated life.

  8. What a great description, Alejandro. You completely capture that cross between fear and elation that happens when you consciously ‘cross the border.’ It’s mysterious, but like you, I find my dreamlife feeds my creativity and gives stability in my own sometimes complicated waking life

    1. Thank you, femmevitale – I am too. And looking forward to following your experiences as you train in Jungian dreamwork

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