Working with dreams almost invariably leads to explorations of consciousness, identity and reality. Many of my articles (such as “Humbling Dreams,” “When the Dream-Ego is Slippery or Sleepy,” and most recently, “Dreaming and Anatta: Non-Self”), demonstrate that these big themes are particular favorites of mine. I’m fascinated by questions about the nature of the self, waking and dreaming—but although I ponder these questions endlessly, my pondering tends to lose itself in the complexity of the subject (or else becomes poetic and misty, rather than concrete and complete).
Reading Evan Thompson’s remarkable book, “Waking, Dreaming, Being,” I find myself longing for an intelligence as sparklingly clear and lucid as his. In this book, he systematically investigates the intricacies of the very mind that is doing the investigating. With great care, and perhaps some tricks with mirrors, he examines every dancing dust mote in the shaft of sunlight that is consciousness itself. (See, I’m going for the poetry again…)
Although, as the book’s title suggests, Thompson uses straightforward language and addresses basic concepts here, I found that following the unfurling skeins of his reasoning gave my brain a good workout. It’s exhilarating to participate in such hard mental exercise, with the satisfaction of knowing it’s all about the process rather than the product: there are no easy answers to the big questions. Continue reading