By E. W. Kellogg III, Ph.D © 2016
The American mystic and esoteric philosopher Franklin Merrell-Wolff contributed some of the clearest and most insightful accounts of ‘Transcendent Consciousness’ I‘ve yet to come across. Majoring in mathematics, he earned a degree from Stanford in 1911, studied philosophy at Harvard, but then returned to Stanford to teach.
Soon thereafter though, he gave up a promising career in academia choosing instead to focus on transcending the limits of egoistic consciousness. Over a long lifetime (1887-1985) he shared detailed records of his own experiences in his lectures and books, as well as his observations and conclusions with respect to the characteristics of higher consciousness.
In 2008 I reread Franklin Merrell-Wolff‘s ground-breaking book, Pathways through to Space (1), in large part because I wanted to find out what part the study of pure mathematics played in his awakening process. To my surprise Chapter 49, “On Sleep and Death,” included notes where he clearly embraced what we now call lucid dreaming. I found that FMW‘s views in large part agreed with my own in respect to lucid dreaming‘s potential importance as part of the process of spiritual development. For example he wrote:
“A man goes to sleep to be active in dreams, or occasionally to enter the dreamless state. Ordinarily, while dreaming the man does not know that he has gone to sleep. This means that he has not mastered the cross-correlation self-consciously, and in this case, he has a foretaste or what happens in ordinary death. But it is possible to dream and to know that one is dreaming at the same time, holding in the mind a memory of the waking state. In this case, self-consciousness has made the cross-correlation. Now to have done this once in a lifetime is sufficient to supply a means whereby the after-death state of dream can be broken by the man who has departed from his physical body. It is most certainly a definite step towards Recognition.”
“The dream-state is so important that something more should be said concerning its nature. Just as it is true that man can be essentially dreaming while active in the physical body – and most life here is in this state – it is likewise true that some of the states entered while the body sleeps are far more truly waking-states than any which are possible while in the physical body.” “So, all in all, it should be quite obvious that for him who would attain the Higher Consciousness one of the first necessities is the mastering of dreaming tendencies.”
As I see it lucidity requires a kind of “individuation”(2), similar to what Merrell-Wolff termed ‘crosscorrelation,’ in that for a lucid dreamer, two disparate “selves,” the “waking self” and the “dreaming self,” integrate to a greater or lesser extent to create the “lucid dreaming self.” Full lucidity brings a third self into the mix – the “Spiritual Self.” The more truly lucid I become, the more I’ve integrated these three aspects of self, and the more Beingness the lucid dreaming “I” represents.
The waking self brings in my thinking aspect, the dreaming self my feeling aspect, and the Spiritual Self my knowing/creating aspect. I see the continuing enhancement and deepening of lucidity in essence as a spiritual process towards fullness. Similarly, FMW wrote this with respect to cross-correlation:
“The crux of the whole problem in achieving individualized immortality is the learning to integrate while still embodied the outer and inner levels of percipience. This is, in fact, the mystic process symbolized by the squaring of the circle. The relationship between the square and the circle is incommensurable, and this means that ‘circular‘ relationships or values are not comprehensible in ‘square‘ terms. Embodied man is a square while the Inner Man is a circle.
The mass of human beings shift from level to level through unconsciousness, and thus in these cases the one level is to the other like dreamless sleep. The two states are discrete instead of continuous, and, therefore, we are faced with a condition where we have, as it were, two distinct men instead of one self-conscious Being. The circle is birthless and deathless and consequently immortal, but the square is generated in time and in the course of time subject to dissolution.
But by ‘squaring’ the circle, or more correctly by ‘circularizing‘ the square, the latter kind of consciousness is taken up and blended with the immortal Consciousness of the circle. This gives to the individual consciousness immortality. It should be clear that the cross-transference in sleep or during the trance state is not enough. Man must win the power to be awake here and There at the same time.”
In 1996 I had a superlucid dream in which I observed/experienced a consciousness that has characteristics in common with FMW‘s description of the ‘High Indifference.’ In the first part I experienced the afterlife of a disincarnate man, trapped in a sort of Earthbound limbo, who had just “woken up” some 29 years after dying. The situation resolved, but then unexpectedly I suddenly and spontaneously “jump up a level‖ to become fully lucid and a functioning part of a Greater Entity, my ‘Oversoul'”:
“He/I now sits at a large desk or an impressive table. He/I seems in charge of a group of incarnates and disincarnates, a sort of Oversoul. He/I feels extremely competent, self-confidant, and powerful, but He/I still takes orders from an even Higher Level. . . . He/I feels a sense of having Eternity to work in. . . .”(3)
In my dream report, I used the term “He”” in “He/I” to indicate the Oversoul part of our overlapping consciousness, but as a pronoun “He,” even emphasized, doesn‘t quite fit, as this consciousness did not seem masculine in the usual sense, just immensely powerful. Although awkward, “He/It” makes a better fit. His/Its attitude felt benevolent in a purely non-attached way. The Oversoul lived in Eternal time and could not view the physical situations of his/its charges as they did. Unless the physical condition of their bodies had to do with the greater purpose or pattern, it simply had no relevance or importance. In a 1973 lecture on the “High Indifference,”(4) Franklin Merrill-Wolff made these key points:
“At the level of the High Indifference the key word is neither affection or knowledge, but power.”
“Thus, this level is a place of great dispassion, hence indifference. But since one can so turn, he can invoke, he can bless, and he can curse. It is a place of power, preeminently. None of the other Realizations which I have known contributed anything to the power sense, but here, in this Realization, it was strongly emphasized.” [boldface added]
This dream made an indelible impact on me, in the form of a Realization. After this dream I Realized that the purposes of this “Deeper Me” had very little to do with my own temporal and physical concerns. And I did not understand this in a theoretical or abstract way – I knew it experientially and with deep certainty.
In both my case and that of Merrell-Wolff, “the relative consciousness remained as a witness.” However, for me the personality did not shrink to “a point like insignificance” as it did for him. However, even in FMW‘s case, he reported that on the subject-object level, he remained free to choose as he saw fit. His subject-object personality aspect simply had no desire to do anything. In my case, I not only had such a desire, I acted on it (which ended my experience in a rather dramatic way, 3), so it seems that while I observed/experienced something similar to the state of High Indifference, my ego did not become “subdued”, to anywhere near the same extent FMW‘s did. Still I find that his description of the High Indifference has a number of elements in common with my experience of the consciousness of my “Oversoul.”
Although Franklin Merrill-Wolff made some very insightful comments with respect to dreaming as such, and strikingly positive comments on the value of lucid dreams, in Pathways it did seem clear to what degree these derived from his own experiences. After all, in 1935 Evans-Wentz published his Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, which includes a chapter on “The Doctrine of the DreamState” which FMW probably read.
However, this passage from FMW‘s article “Concept, Percept, and Reality,” published in The Philosophical Review(5) in 1939, provides clear evidence that lucid dreaming did play an important role in his transformational process:
” . . . From my studies of the subject I am led to the conclusion that, while the experience of awakening in a dream is not a common one, yet it is not extremely rare. I have personally had this experience on different occasions, with varying degrees of completeness, and find it as satisfactory an illustration of what is meant by the „return‟ as is available. Perhaps a description of my experience would help to make the significance of the illustration clearer.
At the time of my first awakening within a dream I was already familiar with the description of a similar experience on the part of a medical friend. This suggested the possibility and aroused in me the desire for a similar experience. But I could find no way for directly and consciously effecting it.
However, several months later, at a time when my interests were centered upon physically objective concerns and consideration of the dream-state was occupying no place in my conscious thought, so far as I can recall, the event did happen quite spontaneously. While in the midst of the series of events of a quite ordinary dream during sleep, suddenly I awoke within the dream without interrupting the continuity of the dream, although I knew that I was dreaming. By this awakening I mean that the ordinary relative consciousness, with the familiar consciousness of my own identity, combined with the usual memory of the events and thoughts of waking life, plus the capacity for intellectual analysis and purposive determination, all became suddenly active within the dream-field.
I began experimenting and found that I could, with my imagination, direct the course of the dream, at least within certain limits. Soon after this I awoke to my physical environment. I found then and since that it is not easy to maintain the dream-consciousness in the face of the waking consciousness. The dream-consciousness is a sort of twilight with respect to which the waking consciousness is like a light or it will quickly obliterate the twilight completely. I find this act to be far from easy, but possible for brief periods.
Now I have discovered that, at the point of awakening in the dream I had been accepting the dream as a reality in the same matter-of-course way that we commonly accept and assume the reality of the physical environment of ordinary consciousness. But from the moment of awakening I knew the dream to be no more than a dream. Within limits I could permit it to continue and even mold its course. This simply had the effect of reducing it from a seeming-reality to a mere drama, creatively produced.
Clearly Franklin Merrill-Wolff had lucid dreams and highly valued them. Furthermore, in line with my own experience(2), he considered the process of awakening in a dream, to becoming lucid, as analogous to the process of awakening from ordinary consciousness into more enlightened states. I suggest that those interested in the expansion of consciousness might find his insights of value not only for the development of lucid dreaming and lucid waking, but for a better understanding of the “Awareness behind the Dream” as well.
- Merrell-Wolff, F. (1944), Pathways Through to Space: A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness, Richard R. Smith, New York.
- Kellogg III, E.W. (2012) ―Lucid Dreaming, Psychic Development, and Spirituality,” The Lucid Dream Experience, pp 19-22, Vol. 1 #3, December, 2012.
- For a more complete account see Kellogg III, E. W., and Waggoner, R. (2005) ―DreamSpeak: An Interview with Ed Kellogg, Ph.D.‖ The Lucid Dream Exchange, pp 2-8, Number 35, June, 2005.
- Merrell-Wolff, F. (1975), “On the High Indifference,” a lecture given at Lone Pine, Ca. 4/30/1975.
- Wolff, F. (1939), “Concept, Percept, and Reality,” The Philosophical Review pp 405-406, Vol. 48 #4 July, 1939.