The sleeper must awaken June 11, 2017

Dune, a science fiction novel written by American author Frank Herbert, was originally published in 1965. In 1984 it was released at the cinema to a worldwide audience. The statement, “The sleeper must awaken” is part of a conversation which takes place during a scene featuring two of the main characters, Duke Leto Atreides and Paul Atreides, his son.

It is the eve of what eventuates into death, betrayal and an epic battle for control of a valuable resource found only on the desert planet Arrakis. The two are standing on a rampart of sorts talking about the future when turning toward his son the Duke says, “Without change, something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

I’m reminded of this because in May I joined a Work exercise group and as it so happened, the fact that I am psychologically asleep (in the Work sense) was brought home to me yet again, vividly and starkly, as was the reality of the human condition, and in particular of my condition as a member of the human race. Charles Tart captures it as follows:

We are dreaming. We are entranced. We are automatized.
We are caught in illusions while thinking we are perceiving reality …
We need to awaken to reality, the reality of the problems
caused by our fragmented selves, so we can discover our deeper selves and the reality of our
world, undistorted by our entranced condition.

Charles Tart, Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential, 1987.

In attempting to undertake the exercise I learnt a valuable lesson; I had to be awake while being awake. The task of completing the exercise served as a two-way mirror which enabled me to see aspects of the Sleep State and to experience the reality of the profoundly blinding nature of what the Sleep State is, of how its cloying nature seduces the mind and obscures the vision without our even being aware of it.

It seems to me that Tart has captured the intensity and sense of urgency that accompanies all work on oneself – death constantly stalks us and we never know when or how it will strike. Will we die without having awoken to the possibilities of our soul growth and evolution, in the Work sense, or will we die as robotic automatons, always thinking we’re awake yet never realising we are not.


Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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