Experiment 28 The Nightmare scenario
Lucy was having the most awful nightmare. She was dreaming that wolf-lie monsters had burst throught the windows in her bedroom while she was asleep and then started to tear her apart, She fought and screamed but she could feel their clasw and teeth tear into her.
Then she awoke, sweating and breathing heavily. She looked around her bedroom, just to be sure, and let out a sigh of relief that it had all, indeed, been a dream.
Then, with a heart-stopping crash, monsters burst through her window and started to attack her, just as in her dream. The terror was magnified by the remembrance of the nightmare she had just endured. Her scream were mixed with sobs as she felt the helplessness of her situation.
Then she awoke, sweating even more, breathing even faster. This was absurd.She had dreamed within a dream, and so the first time she had apparently woken up she was in fact still in her dream. She looked around her room again.The windows were intact, there were no monsters. But how could she be sure she had really woken up this time? she waited, terrified, for time to tell.
Source: The first meditation from Meditations by Rene Descartes
The phenomenon of false awakenings is not uncommon, People frequently dream that they have woken up, only to discover later that they haven't really got out of bed and walked into the kitchen stark naked to discover enormous rabbits and pop singers having a cocktail party.
If we can dream we have woken up, how do we know when we have really woken up? Indeed, how do we know we have EVER really woken up?
Some people assume the answer to this question is easy. Dreams are fractured and disjointed. I know I am awake now because events are unravelling slowly and consistenly. I don't suddenly encounter dancing animals or discover I can fly. And the people around me remain as they are- they don't turn into long forgotten schoolmates or A1Gore.
Is this answer really good enough, though? I once had a very vivid dream in which I lived in a little house on a prairie, rather like Little House on the Prairie. Over the hill came someone I immediately recognised as Pastor Green. What is significant about this is that clearly this dream life had no past. I had started to experience it only when the dream began. But that is not how it felt at the time. It seemed to me that I had always lived there, and my "recognition" of Pastor Green was evidence that iI had not suddenly stumbled into a strange new world.
Now here I'm sitting on a train typing on a laptop.I feel as though this is the latest in a series of entries I have been writing for a book called " the Pig that wants to be eaten". And although I am not currently aware of how I got here, a moment's reflection allows me to reconstruct the past and link it to the present. But isn't it possible I that am not RECONSTRUCTING the past but CONSTRUCTIN it? My feeling that what i experience stretches back into my past history could be as illusory as it was when i dreamed i lived on the prairie. Everything i "remember" could be popping into my mind for the first time. This life, which feels as though it is more than thirty years old, could have begum in a dream only moments ago.
The same could be true to you. You could be reading this book in a dream, convinced that it is something uyou bought or were given some time ago, and convinced that you have read some of its pages already. But people in dreams are just as convinced and their dream lives, at the time, do not seem fragmented and disjointed but make sense. Perhaps only when you awake will you realise just how absurd what seems normal to you right now really is.