We claim ourselves to be awake while we read.  But what is the nature of wakefulness?


We distinguish wakefulness from dream; and in turn, we distinguish dream from deep sleep.  Deep sleep is clearly of the form of absolute ignorance: for in deep sleep, there is nothing known, while in the states of dream and waking, there is knowledge.

But what is it that distinguishes between dream and waking?  Only that, in either state, the other appears false.  This is the same as the belief of one man falsifying the belief of another.  Who is correct: the theist or the atheist?  As we reasoned above, belief is by nature fallible: it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, else it would be called knowledge.  So what are we to believe: that dream is true, or waking true?

The wise unanimously declare that neither the state of dreaming nor the state of “waking” as normally called is the true state of things.  Their reasoning is that both states are falsified by the other.  What is true in the dream is false in the waking world; similarly, what is true in the waking world is false in the dream.

By the rules of the dream, the waking world is an illusion; by the rules of the waking world, the dream is an illusion.  It can’t be claimed in either state that the rules of the one should apply to the other: thus both are seen to exclude the other, and neither can be taken as truth.  The truth must permeate both states and be unaffected by their coming and going.

This brings us to the question of true wakefulness: for the mark of waking as opposed to dreaming is always claimed to be the wakefulness of the wakeful.  “I am awake now; what I experienced last night was a dream.”  We say that our world is true now because we are awake.  Wakefulness seems to be the accepted measure of the reality of our experience.  What is this wakefulness that distinguishes between dream and waking?

Both dream and waking are in turn distinguished from deep sleep by the relative wakefulness of both compared to the other.  The dream is a more wakeful state than deep sleep, even if true waking is more wakeful than dream.  Even if dream is held to be a less wakeful state than waking, it is still more wakeful than deep sleep, where there is no wakefulness whatsoever.


Angela Lemaire

What is it about sleep that is not wakeful?  It’s the veil of ignorance that turns the entire experience into one of knowledgelessness.  In deep sleep, we know nothing, not even a semblance of something; in dreaming and waking, at least we seem to know something.  This much marks the difference between sleep and wakefulness: for to know a thing requires wakefulness, whereas absolute ignorance can only be achieved in the absence of any wakefulness at all.

Wakefulness is thus tied in with knowledge – or, at least, the capacity to know.  In the deep sleep state, knowledge is impossible: there is no wakefulness.  In the dreaming state, knowledge is possible – but we claim it to be of a lesser order, since we awaken from dream into the waking world.  In the waking world, knowledge seems even freer, brighter, less “dreamy” and more concrete (though this is a judgment made in the waking world, not in the dream world, thus doesn’t actually apply beyond the confines of waking – the dream is just as real within the dream as the waking state is while awake).  As wakefulness increases, so does (the capacity for) knowledge – at least as far as we experience it.

What then is absolute wakefulness?  Just as the absolute lack of wakefulness is the absolute lack of knowledge – the deep sleep state, unconsciousness, death – the state of absolute wakefulness must be the state of absolute knowledge.  But what is absolute knowledge?

We have spoken before of the distinction between knowledge and belief.  What I know, I need not believe.  This is clear.  What, then, is the relationship of belief to knowledge?

Belief is actually an obscurant of knowledge.  Belief is a thought-form that imposes non-existence upon a possibility inherent to the reality of things.  In truth, it can never be claimed that a thing is absolutely one way or another; rather, all things hold all possibilities within them at all times.

To claim anything other than “it seems that…” is to hold a belief that is ultimately untenable – for, at the very least, our experience of the matter might be misled, and we might be given over to illusion or hallucination.  The possibility of our experience being wrong is always present.



Thus, belief is a form of ignorance: for rather than going to the truth of the matter and knowing, we allow an assumption – a thought – to take root in the mind and thus block out not only the direct knowledge we might have, but even the possibility of knowing directly.  Most of us, when we believe something strongly, don’t even think to challenge that belief to reach true knowledge on the matter: we remain satisfied with our mere belief.

Belief of this kind is thus of the nature of deep sleep.  In fact, this is what renders the dream and waking states unreal, untrue: for in fact, they are not true wakefulness, either of them, but are each a mixture of wakefulness with sleep.  The dream, according to the waking, is more sleep-ridden than the waking state; but according to the wise, the waking state is still ridden with sleep.

Every belief is a small sleep.  Every thought is a small sleep.  Whatever it is in the mind that maintains that something is one way and not the other is a small sleep.  At the very least, it is an absence of wakefulness, which we’ve understood to be of the nature of absolute knowledge.  Knowledge is revealed in the absence of belief: it is not reached through belief, nor is it ever a product of belief; belief is only ever an obscuration.

Thus, we come to see something quite clearly: in order to know the state of absolute wakefulness, which is the same as the state of absolute knowledge, we must know the state of absolute belieflessness.  Deep sleep appears to be a state of absolute belieflessness – for there is nothing there, not even a one to believe anything – but there is no wakefulness at all there.  We must discover the state of absolute belieflessness while in the waking state.

In a way, we must allow the wakefulness of the waking state to consume the sleep that is present therein: thus coming into a state of absolute wakefulness, absolute knowledge will be recognised to be the truth of all reality, only temporarily obscured by the appearance of ignorance in the form of sleep, belief, thought etc.  This is the goal which the wisdom-seeker is after.

Woden self-sacrifice

Corpse Cafe


Self and Wakefulness

In the deep sleep state, I am ignorant even of my own existence.  I know that I was existent while I slept; but while I slept, I did not know that I existed.  I didn’t know anything; I simply was, but all knowledge was absolutely obscured.

In the dreaming and waking states, however, I am aware of my existence: I know that I exist.  Wakefulness is thus intimately tied in with self-knowledge.

The cultivation of self-knowledge is thus the principle means of attaining absolute wakefulness.  The two are not different, in truth.

In other areas in this site it will be shown how thought and belief, in obscuring natural self-attention and self-understanding, are the causes of misery, illusion, confusion, and darkness of experience.

For now, we will rest content in the understanding that wakefulness and self-knowledge are the same thing: for that which is awake is “I,” and the nature of “I” is to be “awake” (inasmuch as the nature of “I” is to know – especially to know reflexively, to know “I know I am”).

Raedwald 2

Stefano Dupré

Thus it stands to reason that to cultivate wakefulness is to cultivate the sense that “I am,” or the sense of knowledge of my existence.  The more I am aware of my existence as awareness itself, the more I am aware of the absolute reality of things: for the absolute reality, being absolute knowledge, can’t be different from my own absolute self-knowledge, which is only temporarily obscured by ignorance (thought/belief/sleep etc.)

In fact, it will be seen through investigation that the only thing fit to be called “knowledge” is self-knowledge; all other forms of claimed “knowledge” are beliefs and thoughts, thus not ultimately true (and thus unfit to be called “knowledge”).

The only thing I can truly know is that I exist.  The more wakeful I am, the more aware I am of my own existence.  Furthermore, the more wakeful I am, the more viscerally I experience what I’m experiencing: the more powerfully I experience myself within what I’m experiencing.  The light of reality is bestowed upon the changing forms of the universe to ever greater degree until all form is consumed within that universal light: this light is the light of true knowledge.  This is the illumination spoken of by the wise.

Hereward The Wake At Ely, 1902. Artist: Patten Wilson

Patten Wilson

The cultivation is simple: know thyself.  Attend to your own being.  Get to know what you are; pay attention to your reality.  Whatever works is what the doctor ordered; whatever method gets you more firmly in touch with your own being is the means by which wisdom will be made apparent to you.  The means builds momentum.  Eventually, it’s unstoppable; the truth is revealed as your own being, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Once the initial effort is put in, it will carry itself through.  Put the effort in: know yourself as you truly are, and reap the benefit of absolute knowledge.  All blessings and gifts are conferred upon the one who knows himself: the Gods themselves are at the beck and call of the one who knows himself, for they are as much in love with him as he is with them.  He alone has recognised that he is them, and that they are he; he has ceased to claim a small part of the universe, and has given himself over to the entirety.  He has ceased to be a limited being, and has recognised his nature as universal being.  In a word, he is wise; more profoundly, he is wisdom.

All are lovers of wisdom; all love the wise.  There’s nothing more worthwhile in life than to reckon this wisdom and to fall in love with it.  All joy is here; all love is here; all that is good and right is here.  This alone is worthwhile.  As little as you can, and more as and when you can, give yourself over to this – like Woden on the tree.  The result is indescribable.

Words will always fall short.