In this dream I was running the kind of drama class I used to facilitate over thirty years ago: strange drama, dream drama, mirroring the assumed ‘reality’ that went on outside the room we regularly used for an evening; the virtual question was always, ‘Which was the drama—outside or inside the dream?’
In this particular dream I was deep into, people kept on coming & going so that I was constantly having to bid sad farewell to those who disappeared, letting go, and bring those who suddenly arrived up to date with what I might have been saying & dishing out in the way of ideas for action.
Bringing them up to speed resulted in my having to invent new details, put things in a different way, use a different set of words. The result was that my résumés always turned out to be a clarification for myself of all the things I thought I might have meant in the first place. I came to understand what I was talking about in a much more complex way.
Reminds me of Hermann Hesse, in Demian—something like: ‘when somebody sets out to tell you something you ‘know’ already, or something they’ve told you before, never interrupt them because you’ll always learn something else from what they say—they’re sure to use a different vocabulary…’
In this five minute wonder small-bite universe, there’s a tendency to imagine that having said something once that’s the end of it; if you weren’t listening the first time round, tough.
The dream happened vividly after watching a performance of The Tempest—one of my favourite Shakespeare plays—in St Giles, Cripplegate, which made it seem like no other Tempest I had ever seen before. The people in my dream, myself included, could have been the players.
I was saying that we exist in our own bubbles of time and place; that life—the way we have been (or chosen to be) programmed—results in our defending our patch by wrapping ourselves in a metaphysical bubble. The nature of the bubble varies: for some it might be one that ‘gives’ as it meets other bubbles; for other players it might be a toughened glass bubble; and all grades of bubbles in between.
The Objective of the Lesson
I asked the players to define the nature of their own metaphors for the space around them—time and place—for their own bubble—cast iron with spikes and a spy-hole, as it might be, or floppy teddy bear—and then begin to explore what happens in reality when one metaphor brushes up against another.
What is it like, for instance, when a person dressed conceptually as an old-fashioned light-bulb meets up with a colleague who is dressed in conceptual tatters, just the dozy remains of a soap-bubble? The hard-edged, well-defended & full of light meets up with the broken down and seemingly ashamed of self. This kind of thing was to be explored by the class in a huge dusty old hall in an old part of town surrounded by empty warehouses and dead docks.
I think my dream was precipitated by the vivid image developed by the designer of this Cripplegate version of The Tempest—an assault on my beliefs about how the play ought to be done—who had arranged that when Ariel is given her freedom she finally goes head to head, face to face, with Prospero as though to merge completely with him. I had a sense of there being nothing around either of them—no bubble—to prevent a complete merging of their beings, soul & body. Only at that point of total merging could there be a letting go.
But this Prospero was too young for me and I found his cadences quite alienating; his speeches were not done in a flowing manner; on the other hand, as is befitting, Ariel was hugely energetic, creature of the air, with a beautiful singing voice. At the moment of merger, I became a proper old Prospero, so that any discrepancy I saw on stage became of little consequence. This was intellect and feeling and movement—Gurdjieff’s three Centres—becoming suddenly a Unity, a wholeness.
Two Further Details Contributed to My Dream
On the train down to London that same morning, I was reading John Middleton Murray’s Heaven and Earth. He says of Shakespeare that ‘he doesn’t leave things out’ which informs his ‘faith that a way of life is possible which does not leave things out…’
…Shakespeare is one of the chief of those who keep alive, or keep articulate in me that faith in a way of life more comprehensive than any I have achieved or encountered. I do not know how to describe it and the word which for me, by long association, has been chiefly charged with the meaning I cannot formulate, is unlikely to convey anything of that meaning to others: it is the word ‘spontaneity’. I can imagine a world of men and women who acted by impulse alone, yet whose impulses were so educated and purified by Love that their enaction created not chaos but harmony. That such a world is very far ahead, if indeed it is certainly ahead of us at all, I know quite well; just as I know how far away I am from being a fit member of such a world. Nonetheless, it seems to me that human nature can never be at peace if it ceases to strive after the creation of such a world for itself…
What would life be like if nothing were ‘left out’? If there were no barriers to the expression of ideas, no hedging round of relationships; if our active metaphors for the space around us were of the category ‘fluid and merging, watery’, the waters at the beginning of the universe, something washed up by a great tempest?
Then there was a taxi-ride in the dark back from St Giles, Cripplegate, through post-Blitz, space-age glass buildings which reminded me of another passage in John Middleton Murray how, in opposition to any watery metaphor, ‘…the Machine has knit the human race together; the Machine is a living web of humanity which has been, in the tiny space of a mere hundred years flung over the terrestrial universe… [so that] instrumentality has become the human environment…’
Readers of this sentence will no doubt apply the word ‘web’ to http://www.etcetera.con , but John Middleton Murray was writing in 1937 when people (‘drowning and clutching at straws’), millions of them were ‘genuinely horrified by the steadily advancing menace of international world war…’ But it’s even more true now that we are enmeshed in a web of machinery which is considerably more menacing than Hitler’s bombs; it is taking over the collective brain.
What is Consciousness When It is Lost in Identification with Machinery?
It becomes the plaything of I-pads & Blackberries & Blogging and a million TV channels, millions of impossible deliberate choices. We are the victims of the hugely mistaken idea that the more channels of communication there are the more we will be able to communicate with others.
We do have something we call ‘consciousness’ but we are incapable of extracting ourselves from the web of Machinery, soft and hard until we determine to make a stand against it. We could decide to look objectively at the Machine—put it on a brightly illuminated stage and notice that it is a mirror of our own machine-like qualities—but, instead of doing so, we spend our time simply rushing around, mobile to ear, or flicking through the emails, in an impossible endeavour to make the Machine we are caught up in, and, we imagine, ourselves, more efficient—hardly more effective. ‘The blind process goes on. Consciousness without consequences, what is that?’ asks John Middleton Murray…
…The only consciousness that counts, the only consciousness that is effective, is the consciousness which has objective consequences, and changes action. In the biological crisis in which humankind is now involved, consciousness, in order to be real, must have the effect of retarding that universal movement towards destruction. For consciousness can validate itself as a universal human reality only if it can secure that the major adaptation now demanded of homo sapiens is not achieved by the bloody evolutionary way. Nature is prodigal. Her method of producing a race of men capable of living with the Machine is to kill off all those who can’t and most of those who can as well. She is preparing that method to-day . Every hour, every day, every week sees her preparations intolerably advanced. And every one of us is the blind instrument of Nature’s blind design…
And Every One of Us is the Blind Instrument of Nature’s Blind Design…
Going back to the hotel by taxi I wondered how one could replace the consciousness of those awful palaces dedicated to the multiplication and defence of Money with the consciousness of the fall of a leaf in the centre of a forest. How to create and modify one’s metaphors?
That would do it.
And so what’s your bubble? How are you dressed? What is the aura that exists around you? More questions from out of my dream.
What effect does your exterior representation of consciousness have on other people? Are you a hard-edged box that nobody can get into? Are you a box that’s difficult to get into but once people are inside they find nothing much in it at all? Are you a machine with polished surfaces and well-oiled moving parts creating the sound of repeated formula phrases?
What happens when your—let’s call it ‘aura’, for that’s the word I suppose I was looking for in my dream—your aura brushes up against the different ‘aura’ presented by another person?
Are you inside a rubber ball (with peephole) that simply bounces against another and makes no mark? Are you a mechanical hedgehog? Are you some wave-like substance that can easily flow into another?
In my dream, I began to test people’s reaction to being approached by others. This was what I wanted them to do. Just before I woke from this long dream, behavioural objectives accomplished, I put my hand towards the face of a young girl, expecting her to flinch or move away but she stayed put. Ariel & Prospero had demonstrated just such total openness towards one another.
When I awoke I suddenly remembered a time back in 1981 when, during a big anti-Thatcher protest rally addressed by Tony Benn in Hyde Park, a young woman from the crowd rushed up to me and threw her arms around me, “Colin!” I did not flinch. On reflection, I realised that my text-book response ought to have been to find it intimidationg to have my personal space thus invaded, no matter by whom. But I was not dressed in text-book garb nor was I in a box or defended by well-oiled machinery… I had known her briefly in the sixties—she was in a drama class I ran then.
What is Your Conceptual Rigout? How Does it Affect Others?