Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Christopher Nolan's 2010 Inception movie is about a group of espionage agents who use state-of-the-art machinery to extract industrial secrets from the dreams of unsuspecting victims. In an age of increasingly sophisticated encryption methods, or so the story goes, the one place where personal data can still readily be obtained is in the human sub-conscious mind.
However, as we will see, even this solution has its pitfalls.

To give the 'mark' a framework in which to 'spill the beans', as it were, the architecture of their dreams must be manipulated to make him feel either completely secure, or sufficiently threatened, to do so. Change the environment of the dream too much, however, and the mark's own sub-conscious takes note of you, recognises you as a foreign entity, and expels you.

The film attempts to blur the line between reality and dreams, by implying that life is a dream from which we never really wake up. In this way, the movie directly tackles the underlying paradoxes inherent in the mind-world interface, we call life.

In what way does the mark's mind become aware of an interloper's presence and how does it go about expelling the interloper from the dream-space?

I will answer by way of example. Lets suppose you are in a mark's dream and the dream takes the form of a bustling city. You have meddled too much with the physics of the dream, and have stupidly attracted the attention of the dreamer's sub-conscious. Now all those people who were hurriedly walking around, minding their own business, have stopped and are focusing their attention on you. As for what happens next, I will quote from Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Arthur, when he says they literally 'rip you apart'.

In Carlos Castaneda's book The Art of Dreaming, a very similar situation occurs. In this story, Carlos is accompanied by his teacher Don Juan, to a place known as the second attention, to a dream that is no longer just a dream, but a world that is at least as real as our own.
I dreamt that I found myself walking with him on a wide avenue lined with trees in some unknown city. It was such a vivid dream, and I was so aware of everything, that I immediately tried to orientate myself by reading signs and looking at people. It definitely was not an English- or Spanish speaking city, but it was a Western city. The people seemed to be northern Europeans, perhaps Lithuanians. I became absorbed in trying to read billboards and street signs. 
 Don Juan nudged me gently. "Don't bother with that," he said. "We are nowhere identifiable. I've just lent you my energy so you would reach your energy body, and with it you've just crossed into another world. This won't last long, so use your time wisely.
"Look at everything, but without being obvious. Don't let anyone notice you."
We walked in silence. It was a block-long walk, which had a remarkable effect on me. The more we walked, the greater my feeling of visceral anxiety. My mind was curious, but my body was alarmed. I had the clearest understanding that I was not in this world. When we got to the intersection we stopped walking, I saw that the tree on the streets had been carefully trimmed. They were short trees with hard-looking, curled leaves... I tried desperately to watch the people that milled around us, to discover something about them that would explain my anxiety. As I stared at them, they stared back at me. In one instance a circle of hard blue and brown eyes had formed around us.
It is highly likely that our reality is a equivalent to a shared dream-state. Therefore, it is possible that everybody in the world could express the same unilateral intent towards a single person, as seen in each of these two examples. At present our reality, is stable, for the most part; everyone treats everyone else with the same general level of regard. If, however, we were to alter our reality, through a sustained shamanic practice, for example, there is the possibility that you would encounter the hive mind of the collective unconscious. This is realm that Don Juan referred to as non-ordinary reality, and that the Buddhist refer to as Bardos.

From experience, I know that this realm can take one of two forms; either an agreeable form, or one that is extremely confrontational. In the agreeable form, people respond to you as you would generally like them to respond to you, with a sense of warmth and acceptance. This is characterised, as the "Where everybody knows your name" scenario, taken from the American sitcom Cheers. However, it may take the newly arrived soul some time to adjust to his new serendipitous environment, particularly if they have been abused by or are harbouring resentments towards sections of society. This level of reservation  towards the 'happy-go-lucky' entities of the Cheers Bardo, is natural and to be expected, and may even be advised; when you consider that an ordinary drinking bout can quickly turn into a twisted affair.

A related tale comes from the Irish Folkloric Tradition, during Bran's sea voyage to the Island of Women. Along the way he passed by the Island of Delight, whose inhabitants were in a continuous state of revelry. Seemingly intoxicated, these men gesticulated wildly and shouted madly with laughter. One of Bran's men went ashore to greet them and started behaving in the same way. Bran had no choice but to go on without him.

Folk tales, such as Rumplestiltskin, often include instances of time distortion. Unwary travelers who stray into Fairy Rings on moonlit nights, report having danced with the fairy troop for only a short time, but when they emerged they found that they were haggard and grey. Interestingly, this type of time dilation is a key - if somewhat laborious - plot element of the Inception movie. Dangers, like these, abound in the non-ordinary realities, and for this reason should be engaged under extreme caution.

The second scenario (or bardo) is, by all accounts, far more dangerous. It is the one that the living Gods, Jesus, Bacchus and Osiris all encountered; namely the Hell dimension of being ripped apart, limb from limb. In the case of Jesus, he was like a dreamer who entered the collective sub-conscious of the human mind and started to alter its reality e.g. the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. It wasn't long before the unconscious mind recognized his presence, and we all know what happened after that.

As we can see, the Hell dimension is extremely unstable. The emotional, spiritual and physical parametres of this realm can all change at the drop of a hat. In comparison, the realm of Gods, is spiritually much more stable, while encompassing a more enlightened frame of mind. As discussed in the Gateway Solid post, each of these realms is separated from our own dimension by a series of geometric intervals, known as the Platonic Solids. For a more in depth description of the God and Hell Bardos, see; The Bardo of the Real.

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