what is dream and what is reality?
Is the reality of my life real? Or am I in a dream I cant wake up from?
One of the understandings arising in the film is the recognition that reality is made of layers upon layers. The Sages called it “Higher above high guards”. Meaning – the world is built in a gradient form, a kind of reality on top of reality, starting from the most material level, ascending until the infinite whole unity. Every reality has a set of rules, a reason and special laws of itself.
Similarly, man's mind also has several levels of concousness that are parallel to the different realms existing in the world. A man in touch with the different aspects of his mind can “live” in an active way on different realms of existence.
A nice expression of this complexity is shown in the beginning of the film where Neo passes through a number of layers of existence in a sequence:
He wakes up to a strange reality, seeming in the beginning like a dream but then turns out as normal.
Eventually, the meeting with Morpheus confronts him with the questions: How do you know if the reality you wake up to is the true reality? Maybe the reality you live in is also a dream? At this point Neo reaches the right maturity to break out of the world of dreams – to the reality beyond the Matrix, Beyond the illusion.
The film tries to give us the message that the ordinary reality of our lives (compared to the true reality) is also a kind of dream. And the dream (compared to the true reality) is not less real than what we call wakefulness.
As man climbs up the ladder of his consciousness to the truth, he finds out that the reality he lived in up to that point was a kind of dream. In Hassidic books it is said that as the mind grows, time shrinks, and they bring the example from the dream state. In the dream, a man can feel as if he went through a whole life time but when he wakes up and returns to a conscious state, he finds out it has only been fifteen minutes. This way, when a greater mind will be revealed in the world, everyone will wake up to discover that their lives up to that point were like a dream. “When G-d returned us to Zion we were like those who dream” (בשוב ה' את שיבת ציון היינו כחולמים).
The Sages taught us that what hides the true spiritual reality is the material body. As man is more identified and is more controlled by his physical body, so in a direct ratio his spiritual essence is hidden from him. This is why in sleep, when the physical, material consciousness weakens, there is a better chance to touch and know the spiritual components of existence. The sages called sleep “one by sixty of death” and dream: “one by sixty of prophecy”. In a dream there is a possibility for man to touch his spiritual roots. This is why many inventors say their invention came to them in their sleep.
There is a story about the Ari (one of the greatest Kabbalic teachers). Once, one of his disciples saw him mumbling something in his sleep. He wanted to hear what he was saying and so went closer. The Ari immediately woke up and asked him what he wants. He replied that he wanted to hear what he was saying in his sleep. The Ari answered by saying that in his sleep he went up to “Yeshiva Shel Maala” ( a higher level of reality) and studied there. The disciple asked to be teached too. The Ari replied that what he learned there in a few minutes, will take him more than eighty years to teach in this world.
A good example for this we see in the dreams of Josef and Jacob. The soul sends a person messages that manage to penetrate through a time in which the body is still and the ordinary mental consciousness is in idle mode. Man's greatness is measured by his ability to screen, remember and internalize these messages in order to become stronger and progress towards a place beyond the world of dreams. Of course there is also a lot of static noise in dreams, reflecting the turmoil of the material world, but beyond this noise lie deep and meaningful messages.
The essence of sleep in itself derives from the inability of the soul to hold on for long periods of time in the Matrix. The skins of the material world stick to it and dim its light. This is why man has to sleep. In sleep the soul releases itself from the material restrictions of the body and rises to renew and rejuvenate in the spiritual world In order to remember its role, blurred as a result of the meeting with the agents of this world. The first words that come out of a warrior of Zion every morning are “I thank you, o living and eternal king, for you have returned my soul within me, abundant is your faithfulness (מודה אני לפניך מלך חי וקיים שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה, רבה אמונתך).
Dreaming is the impressions managing to return to our simple minds after the spiritual journey of the soul in higher realms. This is why it is so important to sleep. The soul has to rejuvenate itself to have strength for another day of war in the Matrix.
The subject of imagination, or as the sages call it – the imagining force, is an important tool in spiritual work. It also bears tremendous risk being one of the main instruments used by the agents of illusion. Imagination uses the agents in order to seduce man under false pretense that surrendering to sensory pleasures will bring him the satisfaction he longes for. In a simple observation we can see that physical pleasure derived from the five senses in their many expressions usually lasts several seconds if not less. Most of the world invests the large part of their precious time conducting this irrational chase.