TIME AND DREAMS
In María Zambrano’s essay on Dreams and Time, she argues that time in dreams is an ambiguous element because it doesn’t really exist, and that the time we experience in our waking lives is a creation of consciousness – an integral aspect of thinking. From this she comes to a very interesting conclusion, that time is a liberating force for consciousness.
Within this thought lies a profoundly humanistic proposal: the consciousness we are endowed with as human beings is a liberating force in itself, but only when that same consciousness is able to process time.
Of course, we are so immersed in time that this seems like a tautological statement: how can we not be in time? And isn’t time an oppressive rather than liberating force? Haven’t we heard so many artists and poets complain about the tyranny of time on our lives; the great dictator over existence, from which it is impossible to ever free ourselves. Yet, Zambrano’s point is that we do escape time. In fact, we escape it every time we dream, and that happens daily. Yet where we are truly free is not in the time-liberating dream, but in the time-controlled waking world.
Freedom lies in the power to decide and that is what is denied us in our dreams. The dream world is imposed on us, we have no choice unto where it will take us; we cannot make real decisions there. It is a prison-world, in which the mind seems to play cruel games on the ego-subject that slips into it. Decisions are not made, and problems are never properly resolved in dreams. Things just occur randomly, in a world with an absurd logic in which the subject experiencing the dream is essentially powerless.
Freedom lies in an ability to make decisions and all oppression resides in the power that can nullify any expression of such decisions or squash any acts of realization that may be regarded consequential of those decisions. To exist only in the dream world, would literally mean to be trapped in a nightmare.
But more importantly, the essence of being human, which lies in our conscious, sapiens mind, is also wrapped up in this freedom to make decisions, and time is therefore an integral element in that freedom. A: I am human because I can decide; B: I can decide because I am in time; C: I am human because I am in time.
Zambrano’s argument, however, is that we are both in time and out of time: in time when awake, and out of time whenever we dream. But we would take this one step further, we are also in time while we are alive, and out of time when we die.
LIFE AND DEATH
Let’s assume that life after death exists: what then is it? If our individual consciousness can exist after our corporeal state has perished, where would that consciousness be?
In trying to imagine such a state, the best approximation we can make is to imagine death as something like an existence in the timeless space of dreams. “To die; perchance to dream” – or more precisely, not to dream but to live in the dream: perhaps in death we dream of being alive; of being in time.
But this idea of the dream-state of consciousness in death applied to Zambrano’s reflection on the totalitarian experience of consciousness within the timeless, turns all religious optimisms on their head. Death is not a release from the nightmare of life, but an immersion into the nightmare itself. The idea of reincarnation is therefore not a Buddhist notion of spiritual learning and evolution into the state that no longer needs to be reincarnated, but a yearning from the prison of death to return to the freedom of life.
The essence of modern religions, lies in the hope they offer of the after-life and their narratives that mitigate our fear of death. For the religious, death is a liberation from an imperfect, inharmonious world of constant suffering – but it is in fact quite the opposite of liberation. A consciousness in death would be drowning in the freedom-less dimension beyond time-space, in which every subject exists in an ambiguous reality, with no decision-making power and no control of the reality they float around in at all.
But what the religious lose here is humanity’s gain. Hope lies here, in this dimension of reality. Plato’s cave may lack the light of God, but it has the time-space that allows those within it to feel the power of freedom. A liberating force which has always been mitigated and undermined by all world religions and the civilisations and cultures that those same religions have architectured around their anti-human narratives directing all hope unto death.
Our greatest hope in death can only be that it is not a permanent condition: that from the time-less space of the dream of death we will reincarnate again back into time and the freedom of the deliberating, decision-making endowed consciousness.
 María Zambrano, EL SUEÑO CREADOR, Turner, Madrid,1986