Dreaming Integral Consciousness


Bronte Bogey Hole


Last night (7/12/14), I had a night of dreams about getting supplies. There was a box of electrical equipment – flexes and plugs and multiple sockets – and some kind of Tarot cards. I woke up thinking how one of the functions of dreams, as mentioned at the Dream Alchemy conference (see http://www.dreamnetworkaustralia.com.au/2014-conference), is to integrate at the unconscious level what we do at the conscious levels of our lives. Dreams allow us to relive moments of our life. They also allow us to integrate images from our unconscious into our conscious life, when we wake up and remember our dreams. We may remember just moments in our dream or a dream image, as I did in the dream about swimming in the pool of black water.


What at first appeared to me as quite a simple image with a few mysterious elements like the black water and the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere, turned out to be quite a significant dream when presented to the morning dream group on the second day of the conference. Through a process of meditation, reflection and insightful questions by members of my dream group, skilfully facilitated by Elaine Kennis, this dream enabled a process of integrating a number of experiences in my life. At first these had appeared as separate unrelated random events. However, in the course of the group process, these experiences related to my work with alchemy, with ayahuasca[1], with indigenous people, with the Dances of Universal Peace[2] as well as my connection to the Bronte Bogey Hole.


In the dream I’m swimming in a rock pool, which on further exploration in the morning dream group turned out to be the Bronte Bogey Hole, a place I was very familiar with from my childhood growing up in Waverley, an eastern suburb of Sydney. The Bogey Hole has been claimed by locals to be a sacred Aboriginal women’s dreaming place. It has a very protective womb-like feeling. One can swim there even in a big surf. The dream also turned out to be related to my connection to Aboriginal people in Australia. Over the years this relationship has deepened more and more, especially through teaching at a predominantly Aboriginal high school and researching my doctorate in social ecology on anti-racism with youth and youth workers through drama education[3]. Several of the youth and some of the youth workers involved were from Aboriginal or Pacific Islander backgrounds.


In the dream I was a child of around 8 years old with black hair swimming in the black water, however, in the dream I was also present as an adult watching the scene from above. On further questioning I remembered that it was around the age of 8 that I first personally discovered Aboriginal people living at La Perouse, a southern suburb of Sydney on the shores of Botany Bay. Then some 20 years ago, which corresponded to the age of myself as the adult watching the boy, I began teaching on the indigenous arts program with the Adult Migrant English Service as part of a youth migrant/refugee class called Circuit Breaker. This was documented more recently as a chapter in a book: Radical Human Ecology, edited by Lewis Williams et al. (2012). The chapter was called Migration, Aboriginality and Acculturation. It showed how effective the process of including Aboriginal studies and excursions to the bush were to accelerate the process of acculturation to Australia for these youth.


My realization this morning after my dream about receiving the electrical supplies and the Tarot cards was about how dreaming is a process of integration. The electrical supplies related back to my days as a theatre lighting technician, which led to my returning to university to study the arts, especially Drama, English, Sociology and French. During that time in my life I also worked in bookshops, which is the association I have with the Tarot cards as I was buying esoteric books as part of that work.


If dreams are about the process of integration, then it males sense that we entered the age of integral consciousness with Freud and Einstein in the early 20th century. Sigmund Freud pioneered the psychology of dreams, that later was consciousness was then expanded from the mental conscious mind to include the unconscious mind with Freud. Around the same time Einstein had a seminal dream of sliding down a snowy mountain in a sled[4] that triggered his whole theory of relativity as he also imagined himself riding a light beam at the age of 16[5].


Thus dreams and imagination, that was already in the field of the 18th and 19th century romantic poets and artists, began to complement and challenge the rational mental world of science that was initiated by Newton and Descartes and that led to the European enlightenment. The latter was the age of the mental structure of consciousness according to the profound work of Jean Gebser as documented in his classic tome, The Ever-Present Origins (1985[6]). “Romanticism, a philosophical, literary, artistic and cultural era which began in the mid/late-18th century as a reaction against the prevailing Enlightenment ideals of the day (Romantics favored more natural, emotional and personal artistic themes)”[7].


All this was further developed by Carl Jung and his idea of the collective unconscious, with its archetypes, as well as his study of alchemy. Then Wilhelm Reich, brought in his focus on the body and the orgone energy and Jacob Levy Moreno explored psychodrama and spontaneity training which was inspired by Creative Evolution of Henri Bergson and his theory of the Elan Vital as the lifeforce flowing through all of nature.


Meanwhile artists like Salvador Dali and the surrealists painted dreams inspired by the work of both Freud and Einstein, and cubists like Picasso began to paint time and space. Thus the 4 dimensional aperspectival space-time of integral consciousness began to replace the 3 dimensional perspectival mental consciousness.


The rational world of the mental consciousness was already deficient in the industrial revolution with the exploitation of workers in the factories, especially women in sweatshops and children, who were sent down the mines. This inspired Marx and Engels to propose their Communist Manifesto and the various revolutions of the early 20th century. However it was the world wars that showed the very limited and destructive nature of the mental consciousness in its deficient form. Artists like the Dadists, Existential philosophers and writers and playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd were all drawing attention to this deficiency.


As were the movements like the Theosophists and the members of the Golden Dawn, who began to explore non-ordinary states of consciousness, which could not be explained in the rational terms of the mental consciousness. This also related to people like Jung studying Shamans, both in Africa and later in the mountains of Switzerland and artists Picasso to what was called the primitive art of Africa and other indigenous cultures.


All these ideas influenced my own reading and research that led me to social ecology as the discipline that flowed most naturally out of my studies that began with chemical engineering as my first university degree. This was followed by an arts degree, a Diploma of Education in Secondary Drama and English as a Second Language and a Masters in Theatre Studies. Thus my scientific studies were complemented and balanced by my arts studies as well as my exploration of the meditation traditions of yoga, Zen, Shamanism, Kabbalah and most recently Universal Sufism. All these were my introduction to an integral consciousness long before I had a name for it that later came first from Ken Wilber and then from Jean Gebser.


Looking out my bedroom window I can see a giant gum tree, that on the morning of the dream of receiving supplies was full of rainbow lorikeets, chirping away and breaking the stillness of the morning air. These colourful birds reminded me of the rainbow era of the 60s and 70s. The rainbow itself can be regarded as a symbol of integral consciousness as it includes all the colours of the rainbow, rather than focusing only on the black and white world of the mental consciousness. My master’s research in theatre studies focused on the radical theatre of the 60s and 70s, with its critique of the war in Vietnam as well as the absurdities of modernity. In this movement Freud and Marx were integrated in the New Left, as well as leading to the rise of the Women’s Movement, the Ecology Movement, the Peace Movement and the struggle for the rights of the indigenous peoples or First Nations of the world.


Through my masters research I connected with a group called IRAA[8], who practiced theatre anthropology, and this really appealed to me as it differed from the mental consciousness approach of academic anthropology as a study of the ‘other’. Theatre anthropology was about cultural exchange, where we learn from the indigenous peoples and share our experience of our culture. Once again this can be regarded as a form of integral consciousness.


It was the focus on the collective dreaming of indigenous peoples that led to my first presentation at the dream conference organized by Susannah Benson PhD, of 2 years ago where I presented my work with the Pachamama Alliance and the symposium that focuses on Awakening the Dreamer and Changing the Dream[9]. However, in the dream alchemy conference, which she organized this year, I focused my two sessions on integral consciousness and spiritual ecology.


The first session was a Saturday evening program of Dances of Universal Peace, where I led a series of dances that related to the 5 alchemical elements and their relationship with the first 5 chakras. This evening was very well received as an experiential introduction to integral consciousness and spiritual ecology.


Then on the Sunday afternoon I presented a more theoretical session of the ideas involved in my understanding of integral consciousness, spiritual ecology and the Dreambody. The latter was primarily focused on the chakra body of yoga, with the elements and qualities of each and how they relate to structures of consciousness and the cultural/historical periods of the emergence of modern anatomical humans like us from some 200,000 years ago in Africa. Other Dreambody models were also considered like the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah and the Lataif of the Sufis.


The session led to a conclusion with the quote of William Irwin Thompson, who like Ervin Laszlo, Stanislov Grof, Joanna Macy, Jean Huston, Peter Russell and others are all part of this emergent movement of integral consciousness, so needed at this time.


The quote by Thompson, which also acknowledges the work of Gregory Bateson (1975) and his Steps to an Ecology of Mind brought the idea of integrality into sharp focus:


         Unconsciously, the world is one, for global pollution spells out a dark integration that does not honour national boundaries of nation-states. Thus we see that industrial nation-states in their fullest development have contributed to their own end.

Collectivization, then, must mean that the future is some sort of collective consciousness in which the completely individuated and conscious ego becomes surrounded by the permeable membrane of an ecology of Mind and not by the wall of civilization (p. 53)[10].


PS: On Susannah’s recommendation I’m now reading Integral Dreaming, A Holistic Approach to Dreams by Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers (2012). This is proving to be a useful extension of my research into integral consciousness.




[1] see http://www.ayahuasca.com

[2] see http://www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org

[3] see chapter 26 in Social Ecology, edited by David Wright et. al.

[4] see http://www.worlddreambank.org/S/SLEDNEAR.HTM

[5] see http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/Goodies/Chasing_the_light/

[6] while written in German in 1949 and 1953, it was only translated into English in the 80s

[7] see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_poetry


[8] IRAA stands for the Institute of Research of the Anthropology of the Actor, who were form Rome University and had been working with Mapuche people in Chile prior to their fits trip to Australia in the 80s. They also incorporated work with Dervishes in Turkey, Dionysiac rituals in Southern Italy and forms of eastern martial arts.

[9] See http://www.pachamama.org


[10] from Thompson, W.I., 2001, Transforming History, A Curriculum for Cultural Evolution, Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne

 Posted 24/12/2014

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