“What are Dreams?” – OSHO

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY DREAMS?

We have seven bodies: the physical, the etheric, the astral, the mental, the spiritual, the cosmic, and the nirvanic. Each body has its own type of dream. The physical body is known in Western psychology as the conscious, the etheric body as the unconscious, and the astral body as the collective unconscious.

The physical body creates its own dreams. If your stomach is upset, a particular type of dream is created. If you are unhealthy, feverish, the physical body creates its own type of dream. One thing is certain: the dream is created out of some dis-ease.

Physical discomfort, physical dis-ease, creates its own realm of dreams, so a physical dream can even be stimulated from the outside. You are sleeping. If a wet cloth is put around your legs, you will begin to dream. You may dream you are crossing a river. If a pillow is put on your chest, you will begin to dream. You may dream that someone is sitting on you, or a stone has fallen on you. These are dreams that come through the physical body.

The etheric body — the second body — dreams in its own way. These etheric dreams have created much confusion in Western psychology. Freud misunderstood etheric dreams for dreams caused by suppressed desires. There are dreams that are caused by suppressed desires, but these dreams belong to the first body, the physical. If you have suppressed physical desires — if you have fasted for instance — then there is every possibility that you will dream of breakfast. Or, if you have suppressed sex, then there is every possibility that you will have sexual fantasies. But these dreams belong to the first body. The etheric body is left out of psychological investigation, so its dreams are interpreted as belonging to the first body, the physical. Then, much confusion is created.

The etheric body can travel in dreams. There is every possibility of it leaving your body. When you remember it, it is remembered as a dream, but it is not a dream in the same sense as the dreams of the physical body. The etheric body can go out of you when you are asleep. Your physical body will be there, but your etheric body can go out and travel in space. There is no space limiting it; there is no question of distance for it. Those who do not understand this, who do not recognize the existence of the etheric body, may interpret this as the realm of the unconscious. They divide man’s mind into conscious and unconscious. Then physiological dreaming is called “conscious” and etheric dreaming is called “unconscious.” It is not unconscious. It is as conscious as physiological dreaming, but conscious on another level. If you become conscious of your etheric body, the dreaming concerned with that realm becomes conscious.

Just as physiological dreams can be created from the outside, so too can etheric dreams be created, stimulated. A mantra is one of the methods to create etheric visions, etheric dreams. A particular mantra or a particular nada — a particular word, sounding repeatedly in the etheric center — can create etheric dreams. There are so many methods. Sound is one of them.

Sufis have used perfume to create etheric visions. Mohammed himself was very fond of perfume. A particular perfume can create a particular dream.

Colors can also be of help. Leadbeater once had an etheric dream of blueness — just blueness, but of a particular shade. He began to search for that particular blue all over the markets of the world. After several years of search, it was finally found in an Italian shop — a velvet of that particular shade. The velvet was then used to create etheric dreams in others as well.

So when someone goes deep in meditation and sees colors, and experiences perfumes and sounds and music absolutely unknown, these too are dreams, dreams of the etheric body. So-called spiritual visions belong to the etheric body; they are etheric dreams. Gurus revealing themselves before their disciples is nothing but etheric travel, etheric dreaming. But because we have only searched the mind at one level of existence, the physiological, these dreams have either been interpreted in the language of the physiological or discarded, neglected.

Or, put into the unconscious. To say that anything is part of the unconscious is really just to admit that we do not know anything about it. It is a technicality, a trick. Nothing is unconscious, but everything that is conscious on a deeper level is unconscious on the previous level. So for the physical, the etheric is unconscious; for the etheric, the astral is unconscious; for the astral, the mental is unconscious. Conscious means that which is known. Unconscious means that which is still not known, the unknown.

There are also astral dreams. In astral dreaming you go into your previous births. That is your third dimension of dreaming. Sometimes in an ordinary dream, part of the etheric or part of the astral may be there. Then the dream becomes a muddle, a mess; you cannot understand it. Because your seven bodies are in existence simultaneously, something from one realm can pass into another, can penetrate it. So sometimes, even in ordinary dreams, there are fragments of the etheric or astral.

In the first body, the physical, you can travel in neither time nor space. You are confined to your physical state and to the particular time it is — say, ten o’clock at night. Your physical body can dream in this particular time and space, but not beyond it. In the etheric body you can travel in space but not in time. You can go anywhere, but the time is still ten o’clock at night. In the astral realm, in the third body, you can travel not only in space but also in time. The astral body can trespass the barrier of time — but only toward the past, not toward the future. The astral mind can go into the whole infinite series of the past, from amoeba to man.

In Jungian psychology, the astral mind has been called the collective unconscious. It is your individual history of births. Sometimes it penetrates into ordinary dreams, but more often in pathological states than in healthy ones. In a man who is mentally diseased, the first three bodies lose their usual distinction from one another. A person who is mentally ill may dream about his previous births, but no one will believe him. He himself will not believe it. He will say it is just a dream.

This is not dreaming on the physical plane. It is astral dreaming. And astral dreaming has much meaning, much significance. But the third body can dream only about the past, not about what is to be.

The fourth body is the mental. It can travel into the past and into the future. In an acute emergency, sometimes even an ordinary person can have a glimpse of the future. If someone near and dear to you is dying, the message may be delivered to you in an ordinary dream. Because you do not know any other dimension of dreaming, because you do not know the other possibilities, the message will penetrate your ordinary dreaming.

But the dream will not be clear because of barriers that have to be crossed before the message can become a part of your ordinary dreaming state. Each barrier eliminates something, transforms something. Each body has its own symbology so every time a dream passes from one body to another it is translated into the symbology of that body. Then, everything becomes confused.

If you dream in the fourth body in a clear-cut way — not through another body but through the fourth body itself — then you can penetrate into the future, but only into your own future. It is still individual; you cannot penetrate into another person’s future.

For the fourth body, the past is as much the present as the future is the present. Past, future and present become one. Everything becomes a now: now penetrating backward, now penetrating forward. There is no past and no future, but there is still time. Time, even as “the present,” is still a flowing of time. You will still have to focus your mind. You can see toward the past, but you will have to focus your mind in that direction. Then the future and the present will be held in abeyance. When you focus toward the future, the other two — past and present — will be absent. You will be able to see past, present and future, but not as one. And you will be able to see only your own individual dreams, dreams that belong to you as an individual.

The fifth body, the spiritual body, crosses the realm of the individual and the realm of time. Now you are in eternity. The dreaming is not concerned with you as such, but with the consciousness of the whole. Now you know the entire past of the whole existence, but not the future.

Through this fifth body, all myths of creation have been developed. They are all the same. The symbols differ, the stories differ a little bit, but whether they are Christian or Hindu or Jewish or Egyptian, the myths of creation — how the world was created, how it came into existence — are all parallel; they all have an undercurrent of similarity. For example, similar stories of the great flood exist all over the world. There is no historical record of them but, still, there is a record. That record belongs to the fifth mind, the spiritual body. The fifth mind can dream about them.

The more you penetrate inward, the more the dream comes nearer and nearer to reality. Physiological dreaming is not so real. It has its own reality, but it is not so real. The etheric is much more real, the astral is even more real, the mental approximates the real and finally, in the fifth body, you become authentically realistic in your dreaming. This is the way to know reality. To call it dreaming is not adequate. But in a way it is dreaming, because the real is not objectively present. It has its own objectivity, but it comes as a subjective experience.

Two persons who have realized the fifth body can dream simultaneously, which is not possible before this. Ordinarily there is no way of dreaming a common dream, but from the fifth body onward, a dream can be dreamt by many persons simultaneously. That is why the dreams are objective in a way. We can compare notes. That is how so many persons, dreaming in the fifth body, came to know the same myths. These myths were not created by single individuals. They were created by particular schools, particular traditions working together.

So the fifth type of dreaming becomes much more real. The four preceding types are unreal in a sense because they are individual. There is no possibility of another person sharing the experience; there is no way to judge the validity of it — whether it is a fantasy or not. A fantasy is something you have projected; a dream is something that is not in existence as such, but which you have come to know. As you go inward, the dreaming becomes less fantastic, less imaginary — more objective, more real, more authentic.

All theological concepts are created by the fifth body. They differ in their language, their terminology, their conceptualization, but they are basically the same. They are dreams of the fifth body.

In the sixth body, the cosmic body, you cross the threshold of conscious/unconscious, matter/mind. You lose all distinctions. The sixth body dreams about the cosmos. You cross the threshold of consciousness and the unconscious world also becomes conscious. Now everything is alive and conscious. Even what we call matter is now part of consciousness.

In the sixth body, dreams of cosmic myths have been realized. You have transcended the individual, you have transcended the conscious, you have transcended time and space, but language is still possible. It points toward something; it indicates something. Theories of Brahma, maya, theories of oneness, of the infinite, have all been realized in the sixth type of dreaming. Those who have dreamt in the cosmic dimension have been the creators of the great systems, the great religions.

Through the sixth type of mind, dreams are in terms of being, not in terms of nonbeing; in terms of positive existence, not in terms of non-existence. There is still a clinging to existence and a fear of non-existence. Matter and mind have become one, but not existence and non-existence, not being and nonbeing. They are still separate. This is the last barrier.

The seventh body, the nirvanic, crosses the boundary of the positive and jumps into nothingness. It has its own dreams: dreams of non-existence, dreams of nothingness, dreams of the void. The yes has been left behind, and even the no is not a no now; the nothingness is not nothing. Rather, the nothing is even more infinite. The positive must have boundaries; it cannot be infinite. Only the negative has no boundaries.

So the seventh body has its own dreams. Now there are no symbols, no forms. Only the formless is. Now there is no sound but the soundless; there is absolute silence. These dreams of silence are total, unending.

These are the seven bodies. Each of them has its own dreams. But these seven dimensions of dreams can become a hindrance in knowing the seven types of realities.

Your physiological body has a way to know the real and a way to dream about it. When you take your food, this is a reality, but when you dream that you are taking food, it is not a reality. The dream is a substitute for the real food. So the physiological body has its own reality and its own way of dreaming. These are two different ways in which the physiological functions, and they are very far apart from one another.

The more you go toward the center — the higher the body you are in — the nearer dream and reality are to one another. Just like lines drawn from the periphery toward the center of a circle come nearer as they approach the center, and are further apart as they go toward the circumference, so too dream and reality come nearer and nearer as you go toward your center and they become further and further apart as you go toward the periphery. So as far as the physiological body is concerned, dreaming and reality are far apart. The distance between them is great. Dreams are just fantasy.

This separation will not be so great in the etheric body. The real and the dream will come nearer, so to know what is real and what is a dream will be more difficult than in the physiological body. But still, the difference can be known. If your etheric travel has been real travel, it will happen while you are awake. If it has been a dream it will happen when you are asleep. To know the difference, you will have to be awakened in the etheric body.

There are methods to be aware in your etheric body. All methods of inner working such as japa — the repetition of a mantra — disconnect you from the outside world. If you fall asleep, the constant repetition can create a hypnotic sleep. Then, you will dream. But if you can remain aware of your japa and it does not create a hypnotic effect in you, then you will know the real as far as the etheric is concerned.

In the third body, the astral, it is even more difficult to know the difference because the two have come even closer. If you have known the real astral body and not just astral dreaming, then you will go beyond the fear of death. From here, one knows one’s immortality. But if the astral is a dream and not real, then you will be crippled by the fear of death. This is the point of distinction, the touchstone: the fear of death.

A person who believes that the soul is immortal and goes on repeating and repeating it, convincing himself, will not be able to know the distinction between what is real in the astral body and what is an astral dream. One should not believe in immortality, one should know it. But before knowing, one must have doubts about it, uncertainty about it. Only then will you know whether you really know it or whether you have just projected it. If it is your belief that the soul is immortal, the belief may penetrate your astral mind. Then you will begin to dream, but it will just be a dream. But if you have no belief, just a thirst to know, to seek — without knowing what is to be sought, without knowing what will be found, without any preconceptions or prejudices — if you are just seeking in a vacuum, then you will know the difference. So people who believe in the immortality of the soul, in past lives, those who accept them on faith, may just be dreaming on the astral plane and not knowing the real.

In the fourth body, the mental, dream and reality become neighbors. Their faces are so alike that there is every possibility that one will be judged to be the other. The mental body can have dreams that are as realistic as the real. And there are methods to create such dreams — yogic, tantric and other methods. A person who is practicing fasting, loneliness, darkness, will create the fourth type of dreams, mental dreams. They will be so real, more real than the reality that is surrounding us.

In the fourth body, the mind is totally creative — unhindered by anything objective, unhindered by material boundaries. Now it is totally free to create. Poets, painters, all live in the fourth type of dreaming; all art is produced by the fourth type of dreaming. A person who can dream in the fourth realm can become a great artist. But not one who knows.

In the fourth body, one must be aware of any type of mental creation. One should not project anything; otherwise it will be projected. One should not wish anything; otherwise there is every possibility that the wish will be the fulfillment. Not only inwardly, even outwardly the wish can be fulfilled. In the fourth body, the mind is so powerful, so crystal clear, because the fourth body is the last home for the mind. Beyond this, no-mind begins.

The fourth body is the original source of the mind, so you can create anything. One must constantly be aware that there is no wish, no imagination, no image; no god, no guru. Otherwise they will all be created out of you. You will be the creator! It is so blissful to see them that one longs to create them. This is the last barrier for the sadhaka, the seeker. If one crosses this, he will not face a greater barrier. If you are aware, if you are just a witness in the fourth body, then you know the real. Otherwise you go on dreaming. And no reality is comparable to these dreams. They will be ecstatic; no ecstasy is comparable. So one must be aware of ecstasy, of happiness, of blissfulness, and one must constantly be aware of any type of image. The moment there is an image, the fourth mind begins to flow into a dream. One image leads to the next, and you go on dreaming.

The fourth type of dreaming can only be prevented if you are a witness. Witnessing makes the difference, because if dreaming is there you will be identified with it. Identification is dreaming as far as the fourth body is concerned. In the fourth body, awareness and the witnessing mind are the path toward the real.

In the fifth body the dream and the real become one. Every type of duality is cast off. There is no question of any awareness now. Even if you are unaware, you will be aware of your unawareness. Now dreaming becomes just a reflection of the real. There is a difference, but no distinction. If I see myself in the mirror, there is no distinction between me and the reflection, but there is a difference. I am the real and the reflected one is not real.

The fifth mind, if it has cultivated different concepts, may have the illusion of knowing itself because it has seen itself reflected in the mirror. It will be knowing itself, but not as it is — only as it is reflected. This is the only difference. But in a way, it is dangerous. The danger is that you may become satisfied with the reflection, and the mirrorlike image will be taken as the real.

As far as the fifth body itself is concerned, there is no real danger if this happens, but it is a danger as far as the sixth body is concerned. If you have seen yourself only in the mirror, then you cannot cross the boundary of the fifth and go to the sixth. You cannot pass any boundary through a mirror. So there have been persons who have remained in the fifth. Those who say that there are infinite souls and each soul has its own individuality — these persons have remained in the fifth. They have known themselves, but not immediately, not directly — only through the medium of a mirror.

Where does this mirror come from? It comes through the cultivation of concepts: “I am the soul. Eternal, immortal. Beyond death, beyond birth.” To conceive of oneself as the soul without knowing it is to create a mirror. Then you will not know yourself as you are, but as you are mirrored through your concepts. The only difference will be this: if the knowledge is coming through a mirror it is a dream and if it is direct, immediate, without any mirror, then it is real. This is the only difference, but it is a great one — not in relation to the bodies that you have crossed, but in relation to the bodies that are still to be penetrated.

How can one be aware whether he is dreaming in the fifth or living the real? There is only one way: to drop every type of scripture, to take leave of every type of philosophy. Now there should be no more guru; otherwise the guru will become a mirror. From here on, you are totally alone. No one can be taken as a guide or the guide will become a mirror.

From now on, the aloneness is total and complete. Not loneliness but aloneness. Loneliness is always concerned with others; aloneness is concerned with oneself. I feel lonely when there is no link between me and anyone else, but I feel alone when I am.

Now one should be alone in every dimension: words, concepts, theories, philosophies, doctrines; gurus, scriptures; Christianity, Hinduism; Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Mahavira…. One should be alone now; otherwise anything that is present will become a mirror. Buddha will become a mirror now. Very dear, but very dangerous.

If you are absolutely alone, there will be nothing in which you can be reflected. So meditation is the word for the fifth body. It means to be totally alone, free from every type of mentation. It means to be with no mind. If there is any type of mind it will become a mirror and you will be reflected in it. One should now be a no-mind, with no thinking, no contemplation.

In the sixth body there is no mirror. Now only the cosmic is. You have been lost. You are no more; the dreamer is not. But the dream can still exist without the dreamer. And when there is a dream without the dreamer, it looks like authentic reality. There is no mind, no one to think, so whatever is known is known. It becomes your knowledge. Myths of creation come; they float by. You are not; things are just floating by. No one is there to judge; no one is there to dream.

But a mind that is not, still is. A mind that is annihilated still exists — not as an individual, but as the cosmic whole. You are not, but the Brahma is. That is why they say that the whole world is a dream of the Brahma. This whole world is a dream, maya. Not a dream of any individual, but a dream of the total, the whole. You are not, but the total is dreaming.

Now the only distinction is whether the dream is positive. If it is positive it is illusory, it is a dream, because in an ultimate sense only the negative is. When everything has become part of the formless, when everything has come back to the original source, then everything is and at the same time is not. The positive is the only factor remaining. It must be jumped over.

So if, in the sixth body, the positive is lost, you penetrate into the seventh. The real of the sixth is the door of the seventh. If there is nothing positive — no myth, no image — then the dream has ceased. Then there is only what is: suchness. Now nothing exists but existence. Things are not, but the source is. The tree is not, but the seed is.

Those who have known have called this type of mind samadhi with seed — samadhi sabeej. Everything has been lost; everything has returned to the original source, the cosmic seed. The tree is not, but the seed is. But from the seed, dreaming is still possible, so even the seed must be destroyed.

In the seventh, there is neither dream nor reality. You can only see something real up to the point where dreaming is possible. If there is no possibility of dreams, then neither the real nor the illusory exists. So the seventh is the center. Now, dream and reality have become one. There is no difference. Either you dream of nothingness or you know nothingness, but the nothingness remains the same.

If I dream about you it is illusory. If I see you it is real. But if I dream about your absence or I see your absence, there is no difference. If you dream about the absence of anything, the dream will be the same as the absence itself. Only in terms of something positive is there a real difference. So up to the sixth body there is a difference. In the seventh body only nothingness remains. There is an absence even of the seed. This is nirbeej samadhi, seedless samadhi. Now there is no possibility of dreaming.

So there are seven types of dreams and seven types of realities. They penetrate one another. Because of this, there is much confusion. But if you make a distinction between the seven, if you become clear about it, it will help much. Psychology is still far away from knowing about dreams. What it knows is only about the physiological, and sometimes the etheric. But the etheric too is interpreted as the physiological.

Jung has penetrated a little deeper than Freud, but his analysis of the human mind is treated as mythological, religious. Still, he has the seed. If Western psychology is to develop, it is through Jung not Freud. Freud was the pioneer, but every pioneer becomes a barrier for further progress if attachment to his advances becomes an obsession. Even though Freud is out of date now, Western psychology is still obsessed with its Freudian beginning. Freud must become part of history now. Psychology must proceed further.

In America, they are trying to learn about dreaming through laboratory methods. There are many dream laboratories, but the methods used are concerned only with the physiological. Yoga, tantra and other esoteric training must be introduced if the whole world of dreams is to be known. Every type of dream has a parallel type of reality and if the whole maya cannot be known, if the whole world of illusions cannot be known, then it is impossible to know the real. It is only through the illusory that the real can be known.

But do not take what I have said as a theory, a system. Just make it a starting point, and begin to dream with a conscious mind. Only when you become conscious in your dreams can the real be known.

We are not conscious even of our physical body. We remain unaware of it. Only when some part is diseased do we become aware. One must become aware of the body in health. To be aware of the body in disease is just an emergency measure. It is a natural, built-in process. Your mind must be aware when some part of the body is diseased so that it can be taken care of, but the moment it becomes alright again you become sleepy about it.

You must become aware of your own body: its workings, its subtle feelings, its music, its silences. Sometimes the body is silent; sometimes it is noisy; sometimes relaxed. The feeling is so different in each state that it is unfortunate we are not aware of it. When you are going to sleep, there are subtle changes in your body. When you are coming out of sleep in the morning, there are changes again. One must become aware of them. When you are going to open your eyes in the morning, do not open them right away. When you have become aware that sleep is over, become aware of your body. Do not open your eyes yet. What is going on? A great change is taking place inside. The sleep is leaving you and the awakening is coming. You have seen the morning sun rising, but never your body rising. It has its own beauty. There is a morning in your body and an evening. It is called sandhya: the moment of transformation, the moment of change.

When you are going to sleep, silently watch what is happening. The sleep will come, it will be coming. Be aware! Only then can you become really aware of your physical body. And the moment you become aware of it, you will know what physiological dreaming is. Then in the morning you will be able to remember what was a physiological dream and what was not. If you know the inner feelings, the inner needs, the inner rhythms of your body, then when they are reflected in your dreams you will be able to understand the language.

We have not understood the language of our own bodies. The body has its own wisdom; it has thousands and thousands of years of experience. My body has the experience of my father and mother and their father and mother and so on, centuries and centuries during which the seed of my body has developed into what it is. It has its own language. One must understand it first. When you understand it, you will know what a physiological dream is. And then, in the morning, you can separate the physiological dreams from the non-physiological dreams.

Only then does a new possibility open up: to be aware of your etheric body. Only then, not before. You become more subtle. You can experience more subtle levels of sounds, perfumes, lights. Then when you walk, you know that the physiological body is walking; the etheric body is not walking. The difference is crystal clear. You are eating. The physical body is eating, not the etheric body. There are etheric thirsts, etheric hungers, etheric longings, but these things can only be seen when the physical body is known completely. Then by and by, the other bodies will become known.

Dreaming is one of the greatest subjects. It is still undiscovered, unknown, hidden. It is part of the secret knowledge. But now the moment has come when everything that is secret must be made open. Everything that was hidden up till now must not be hidden any longer or it may prove dangerous.

In the past it was necessary for some things to remain secret, because knowledge in the hands of the ignorant can be dangerous. This is what is happening with scientific knowledge in the West. Now scientists are aware of the crisis and they want to create secret sciences. Nuclear weapons should not have been made known to politicians. Further discoveries must remain unknown. We must wait for the time when man becomes so capable that the knowledge can be made open and it will not be dangerous.

Similarly, in the realm of the spiritual, much was known in the East. But if it fell into the hands of ignorant people it would prove dangerous, so the key was hidden. The knowledge was made secret, esoteric. It was passed on from person to person very guardedly. But now, because of scientific progress, the moment has come for it to be made open. Science will prove dangerous if spiritual, esoteric truths still remain unknown. They must be made open so that spiritual knowledge will be able to keep pace with scientific knowledge.

Dream is one of the greatest esoteric realms. I have said something about it so that you can begin to be aware, but I have not told you the whole science. It is neither necessary nor helpful. I have left gaps. If you go in, these gaps will be filled automatically. What I have said is simply the outer layer. It is not enough for you to be able to make a theory about it, but enough for you to begin.

– OSHO

[The Psychology of the Esoteric]

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