Comparisons between Dream and Waking Life

There are other comparisons that can be made between the dream state and the waking life, and they all show the lack of correspondence between the analogy of dream and the reality of life in the universe, which reduces the value of this illustration for the purpose of condemning all life to an illusory status. Dreams, for the most part, do not provide continuity but appear to be unconnected, jumbled and chaotic in relation to one another. While a specific dream may appear to have significance, the dream does not generally pick up where the former dream left off with a sense of continuity. Waking life, on the other hand, appears to have continuity and consistency; while specific details may seem meaningless to us, the larger picture, and particularly the sense of continuousness, and the larger framework pattern of life and death, of organisation shows that the waking life clearly cannot be compared to the dream state on any kind of basis of equivalency. Sri Aurobindo points out “If our dreams wore like our waking life an aspect of coherence, each night taking up and carrying farther a past continuous and connected sleep-experience as each day takes up again our waking world-experience, then dreams would assume to our mind quite another character.” and “Again the evanescence of a dream is radical and one of the waking life is of details,–there is no evidence of evanescence in the connected totality of world-experience. ”

Dreams also do not generally exhibit the sense of self-awareness and at least partial control that we experience in our waking consciousness. Sri Aurobindo also discusses this point: “For in dream the coherence given by an observing inner consciousness is absent, and whatever sense of sequence there is seems to be due to a vague and false imitation of the connections of waking life, a subconscious mimesis, but this imitative sequence is shadowy and imperfect, fails and breaks away and is often wholly absent. We see too that the dream-consciousness seems to be wholly devoid of that control which the waking consciousness exercises to a certain extent over life-circumstances; it has the Nature-automatism of a subconscient contruction and nothing of the conscious will and organising force of the evolved mind of the human being.”

Thus, while the poetic imagery of the comparison between dream and waking life is attractive, on deeper reflection it can be seen to not adequately and accurately reflect the nature of waking life in a way that can guide us effectively.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 5, The Cosmic Illusion; Mind, Dream and Hallucination, pp. 420-421

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