The Candle of Vision

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The Candle of Vision

By by AE (George William Russell)


I HAD discovered through such dreams as that of the satirical ape that there is One who is vigilant through the sleep of the body, and I was led by other dreams to assume that in the heart of sleep there is an intellectual being moving in a world of its own and using transcendental energies. Most of the dreams we remember are chaotic, and these seem often to be determined in character by the accident which brings about our waking. Chaotic as these are, they are full of wonder and miracle, for in the space of a second, almost before a voice has reached the ear of the sleeper or a hand has touched him, some magical engineer has flung a bridge of wild incident over which the spirit races from deep own-being unto outward being. Never when awake could we pack into a second of vivid imagination the myriad incidents that the artificer of dream can create to bring us from the being we remember not back to the dream of life. This magical swiftness of creation in dream has been noted by many, and those who have had experience of even the most nightmare happenings before waking must be led to surmise that within that blankness we call sleep there is a consciousness in unsleeping vigilance, and this being, which is unsleeping while the body sleeps, excites us to a curiosity as wild as ever led adventurer across uncharted seas. The ancient seers made earth world, mid-world and heaven world synonyms for three states of consciousness, waking, dreaming and deep sleep. But the dream state of the soul moving in the mid-world of which they spoke is an intellectual state, and its character is not easily to be guessed from that chaos of fancies we ordinarily remember and call our dreams; and which I think are not true dreams at all but rather a transitional state on the borderland. like to the froth on the ocean fringes, where there are buffetings of air, churnings of sand, water and weed, while beyond is the pure deep. I had but slight experience of that loftier life in dream which to others I know was truer life than waking. But none can speak truly of the dreams or imaginations of others, but only of what themselves have known. In intensest meditation I think we encroach on that state which to the waking brain is veiled by sleep and is normally a blank, for in the highest dreams of which I retained memory I was on a plane of being identical with that reached in the apex of meditation and had perceptions of a similar order of things. The black curtain of unconsciousness which drapes the chambers of the brain in sleep, once, for an instant, was magically lifted for me. and I had a glimpse of the high adventures of the unsleeping soul. I found myself floating on the luminous night in a body lighter than air and charged with power, buoyed up above a mountainous region. Beneath me was a wrinkled dusk like the crater of some huge volcano. There were others with me, people with airy glittering bodies, all, like myself, intent on a being mightier than our own. A breath of power poured upward from below as from a fountain, or as if from here some sidereal river flowed out to the country of the stars. We hovered over the fountain from which came that invisible breath filling us with delight and power. While we hung intent there came the apparition of a vast and glowing orb of light like the radiance about a god, and of those glittering ones some flung themselves into that sphere of light, and were absorbed in it: and it faded away, ebbing from us as if it had been a living galleon come to the hither side of being but for a moment, to carry with it those who might go to the heaven world to be partakers of the divine nature and live in their parent Flame. I could not cross with that Charon, and I remembered no more, for the curtain of darkness which was magically lifted was again dropped over the chambers of the brain. But when I woke I was murmuring to myself, as if in interpretation, the words of the Apostle, "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed unto the same image from glory to glory," and I knew there were many at that mystery who would wake up again outcasts of Heaven, and the God of this world would obliterate memory so that they would never know they had kept tryst with the Kabiri.

Once before, not in dream but in meditation, there had broken in upon me such a light from the secret places; and I saw through earth as through a transparency to one of those centres of power, "fountains out of Hecate" as they are called in the Chaldaic oracles, and which are in the being of earth, even as in ourselves there are fiery centres undiscovered by the anatomist where thought is born or the will leaps up in flame. And then, and in the dream I have just told, and in that other vision of the heavenly city where I found myself among the shining ones, there seemed to be little of personal fantasy as there was in the dream of the ape, but I seemed to myself to be moving in a real nature which others also have moved in, and which was perhaps the sphere known also to that spiritual geographer who assured Socrates of a many-coloured earth above this with temples wherein the gods do truly dwell. I do not wish now to urge this but only to draw the deductions any psychologist analysing dream might draw from dreams not mystical in character. I may liken myself in my perception of that dream to a man in a dark hall so utterly lightless, so soundless, that nothing reaches him; and then the door is suddenly flung open, and he sees a crowd hurrying by, and then the door is closed and he is again in darkness. Such a man seeing through the door a procession of people in the streets knows they had a life before they came nigh the door and after they passed the door; and he is not foolish if he speculates on this and how they gathered and for what purpose. So I am justified, I think, in assuming that there was some psychic action in priority to my moment of consciousness. I must seek intellectual causes for events which have logical structure and coherency: I cannot assume that that sudden consciousness of being in the air was absolutely the beginning of that episode any more than I can imagine a flower suddenly appearing without plant or root or prior growth; nor can I think that blind motions of the brain, in blank unconsciousness of what they tend to, suddenly flame into a consciousness instinct with wild beauty. To assume that would be a freak in reasoning. I might with as much wisdom assume that if in the darkness I took my little son's box of alphabetical bricks, and scattered them about blindly, when the light was turned on I might find that the letters composed a noble sentence. I can reasonably take either of two possibilities, one being that the dream was self-created fantasy only, and the other that it was the mirroring in the brain of an experience of soul in a real sphere of being. But whether we assume one or other we postulate an unsleeping consciousness within ourselves while the brain is asleep: and that unsleeping creature was either the creator of the dream or the actor in a real event. Who is that unsleeping creature? Is it the same being who daily inhabits the brain? Does it rise up when the body sinks on the couch? Has it a dual life as we have when waking, when half our consciousness is of an external nature and half of subjective emotions and thoughts? Are part of our dreams internal fantasy and part perceptions of an external sphere of being? If I assume that the soul was an actor in a real event which was mirrored in the brain, why did I remember only one moment of the adventure? To see any being means that we are on the same plane. I see you who are physical because I also have bodily life. If I see an elemental being or a heavenly being it means that some part of me is on the same plane of being or substance. Had I by meditation and concentration evolved in mysel some element akin to that breathed upward from the mystic fountain, and when the soul inhaled this fiery essence a rapport began between free soul and slumbering body, the circuit was complete, and sleeping and unsleeping being became one? On that hypothesis there were journeyings of the soul before and after the moment remembered, but the action in priority and in succession I could not remember because there was as yet no kinship in the brain to the mood of the unsleeping soul or to the deed it did. If the soul is an actor in deep sleep, seeing, hearing and moving in a world of real energies, then we are justified in assuming a psychic body within the physical, for to see, to hear, to move are functions of an organism however ethereal. Is it the shining of the Psyche we perceive within ourselves when through aspiration the body becomes filled with interior light and consciousness is steeped in a brilliancy of many colours while the eyes are closed? Are we then like the half-evolved dragon-fly who catches with the first cracking of its sheath a glimpse of its own gorgeous plumage? Was it this body the prophet spoke of when he said, "Thou hast been in Eden the Garden of God: every precious stone was thy covering . . . thou wast upon the holy mountain of God: thou hast walked up and down amid the stones of fire?" And was this spiritual life lost to man because his heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and wisdom was corrupted by reason of its own brightness?

If we brood over the alternative that the dream was self-begotten fantasy, no less must we make obeisance to the dreamer of dreams. Who is this who flashes on the inner eye landscapes as living as those we see in nature? The winds blow cool upon the body in dream: the dew is on the grass: the clouds fleet over the sky: we float in air and see all things from an angle of vision of which on waking we have no experience: we move in unknown cities and hurry on secret missions. It matters not whether our dream is a grotesque, the same marvellous faculty of swift creation is in it. We are astonished at nightmare happenings no less than at the lordliest vision, for we divine in the creation of both the same magical power. I cannot but think the gnat to be as marvellous as the Bird of Paradise, and these twain no less marvellous than the seraphim. The Master of Life is in all, and I am as excited with wonder at the creative genius shown in the wildest dream as in the most exalted vision. Not by any power I understand are these images created: but the power which creates them is, I surmise, a mightier self of ours, and yet our slave for purposes of its own. I feel its presence in all I do, think or imagine. It waits on my will. It is in the instant and marvellous marshalling of memories when I speak or write. Out of the myriad chambers of the soul where they lie in latency, an hundred or a thousand memories rise up, words, deeds, happenings, trivial or mighty, the material for thought or speech waiting in due order for use. They sink back silently and are again ready: at the least desire of the will they fly up to consciousness more swiftly than iron filings to the magnet. If I am wakened suddenly I surmise again that it is that enchanter who builds miraculously a bridge of incident to carry me from deep being to outward being. When thought or imagination is present in me, ideas or images appear on the surface of consciousness, and though I call them my thoughts, my imaginations, they are already formed when I become aware of them. The Indian sage Sankara says by reason of the presence of the highest Self in us, the mind in us is moved as if moved by another than ourselves. Upon its presence depend all motions of body and soul. Could I embrace even the outer infinitude with the eye of the body, if it did not preside over the sense of sight, infinitude interpreting infinitude? It seems to wait on us as indifferently and as swiftly when the will in us is evil as when it is good. It will conjure up for us images of animalism and lust at the call of desire. It might speak of itself as the Lord spoke of Himself to the prophet: "From me spring forth good and evil." But if we evoke it for evil it answers with fading power, and we soon are unable to evoke it for good, for the evil we have called forth works for our feebleness and extinction. Or is there another and evil genie, a dark effigy of the higher also waiting on us as slave of our desires? I do not know. Was it of the higher it was said, "Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you"? Can we by searching find out its ways? Can we come to an identity of ourselves with it? Again I do not know, but the more I ponder over this unsleeping being, the more do I feel astonished as Aladdin with lamp or ring, who had but to touch the talisman and a legion of genii were ready to work his will, to build up for him marvellous palaces in the twinkling of an eye, and to ransack for him the treasure-houses of eternity.



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