I return to the roots of PlaneTalk and talk about altered states of consciousness. I was surprised to discover that Paul Feyerabend knew how to get to the astral plane!
“Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself…”
While reading Feyerabend’s Against Method, I was surprised to see he knew the basics of lucid dreaming! What I will discuss is not a new revelation to people who have read DO_OBE, or otherwise know how to project, but there it is still some novelty to be gotten.
Very brief background: Feyerabend is a philosopher of science. Against Method argues there is no general method or prescription for doing science. The “what”, “why”, and “WTF??” of all this is something I will likely discuss in future posts because his ideas are interesting, sensible, and have value. In this post however, we will just focus on a small part of the book related to lucid dreaming.
A Tale of Two Cultures
Let me start by giving a little of the context of what he was discussing. At the end of the book, he discusses the mind-set one should take when analyzing science. He suggests one should become an anthropologist and pretend one is studying an unknown tribe by trying to understand their language, culture, and ways of perceiving the world. To bolster this position, he gives a brief anthropological account of ancient Greece.
He compares the more ancient form of Greek culture found in the works of Homer to the later “Classical” period more familiar to school boys and philosophers. He argues that the Homeric Greek saw the world much different from the later Classical Greeks who gave us philosophy and democracy.
His distinction of these two historical periods is illuminating even with respect to our modern concepts. We’ll get into this a bit below. However, what struck me enough to write this post occurred when he discussed how Homeric Greeks interpreted dream experiences.
The Dream Had Me
The crucial idea was that the Homeric Greek did not have an ego or personal sense of “I” the way we think of ourselves now. Instead, people in that culture had a different sense of being. Let’s let Feyerabend explain (this is all on pg 182):
“Actions are initiated not by an ‘autonomous I’, but by further actions, events, occurrences, including divine interference. And this is precisely how mental events are experienced. Dreams, unusual psychological feats such as sudden remembering, sudden acts of recognition, sudden increase of vital energy, during battle, during a strenuous escape, sudden fits of anger are not only explained by reference to gods and demons, they are also felt as such…”
“Agamemnon’s dream ‘listened to his [Zeus’] words and descended’ (Iliad, 2. 1 6) – the dream descends, not a figure in it – ‘and it stood then beside his [Agamemnon’s] head in the likeness of Nestor’ (Iliad, 2.20). One does not have a dream (a dream is not a ‘subjective’ event), one sees it (it is an ‘objective’ event) and one also sees how it approaches and moves away.59”
This is all very interesting. As he states, a person in that culture would not say, “I had a dream”. They would say “A dream happened”. But this is not my main point. The superscript to footnote 59 was left in intentionally. My main point is found by going down to footnote 59 and reading:
“59. With some effort this experience can be repeated even today. Step 1: lie down, close your eyes, and attend to your hypnagogic hallucinations. Step 2: permit the hallucinations to proceed on their own and according to their own tendencies. They will then change from events in front of the eyes into events that gradually surround the viewer but without yet making him an active participant of an action in a three dimensional dream-space. Step 3: switch over from viewing the hallucinatory event to being part of a complex of real events which act on the viewer and can be acted upon by him. Step 3 can be reversed either by the act of an almost non-existent will or by an outside noise. The three-dimensional scenery becomes two-dimensional, runs together into an area in front of the eyes, and moves away. It would be interesting to see how such formal elements change from culture to culture.”
Hello! This is pretty much exactly the “trance method” I describe in DO_OBE!
Obviously, it’s in a much abbreviated form, but all the steps are there. Further, his description of the content is correct. First comes the hypnagogic images. Then comes the “dreamer as observer”, in which the dreamer is outside of the dream looking at it as if watching TV. Finally is the full immersion “dreamer as participant” experience. If you are having trouble sleeping, you can read me discussing this in painful detail in my global workspace and dreams article.
So, that is the main point of this post, just to point out this footnote! It’s like the Grateful Dead said: “You can find it in the strangest of places if you look at it right”.
Who would have thought: Feyerabend knew how to lucid dream (or astral project or have OBEs).
Now, aside from this weird little find, his overall context is novel and I want to say a few words about it.
His comparison of the mind-set of the Homeric vs. the Classical Greek is very interesting. I can’t do it full justice here. Hopefully I can pique your interest enough that you go read what he says. He illustrates how to understand the world-views of the people of these two cultures, while minimizing the tendency of superimposing how we see the world over our interpretation of other cultures.
Since our modern culture is so permeated with Classical Greek influence, we can understand the Classical Greek person easier. We have inherited their perceptions of things and their assumptions.
One such assumption is that “I” exist. The very idea of being an individual “I”, a “soul”, a unique center who acts, makes decisions, to whom “things happen”, was present in Classical Greece, but apparently not present in the Homeric Greek culture.
In an effective manner, Feyerabend gets you to see that the Homeric Greek did not see his or her self as an “I”. The Homeric Greek did not have an individual personality who initiated actions and who was the agent to whom things happened. Instead, the person was, to use Feyerabend’s term a “puppet without a soul”. The Homeric Greek was the subject of a completely predetermined Fate, a cog in a series of processes that just “happened”, and were not initiated by the decisions of individual people, but were the outcome of the actions of Gods and other forces that used humans as puppets, the way the wind blows leaves around.
The very idea sounds repugnant to us today. But such a feeling of repugnance only reveals how strong is the tendency to superimpose our way of experiencing the world on others. It is precisely this Feyerabend is trying to teach us to avoid.
It is a useful exercise to perform. Whether it is literally true with respect to these long dead cultures doesn’t really matter. But he gets us to step out of our comfortable (and often invisible) assumptions and thereby expand our own intellectual and perceptual horizons. No matter how you look at it, that is a good thing in my estimation.
I’ll be back with more on Feyerabend because, frankly, this guy is a trip and his work needs to be better known.