is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep: the hypnagogic state of consciousness, during the onset of sleep. In contradistinction, hypnopompia denotes the onset of wakefulness. The related words from the Greek are agōgos “leading”, “inducing”, pompe “act of sending”, and hypnos “sleep”.
Mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold consciousness” phase include lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.
In such unnerving states, the world of sleep bleeds into the world beyond our senses. It’s tempting to believe that William Blake was a lifelong hypnagogic. Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare, that infamous painting of a lustful looking imp squatting on the chest of a sleeping beauty, appears to depict many of the disturbing sensations of suffocation and malignity that sleep paralysis can induce.
From gothic nightmares to the operating theatre, this inspired exhibition patrols the borders of wakefulness:
The complexity and intensity of hypnagogic imagery can range from vague and fleeting impressions to fully formed images or even hallucinated dreams, and the most common forms of hypnagogic images are visual, auditory, and bodily experiences. […] [O]ther types of hypnagogia may include awareness of sleep onset, distorted perception of space, and time, as well as linguistic alterations.
+Commentary: The dream that comes to life and stalk you through your day. This happened to me as a youth and a few times since. An eerily daunting feeling that lasted well after bolting out of bed and near paralysis. It is unnerving and the memory of which has lasted me a lifetime. Never experiencing night terrors since leaving childhood, it is always with great reverence and interest that these matters are approached. Employing backgrounds in psychology and the human mind as a place to probe the delicate human condition.
Reading Oliver Sacks, which this duo of articles reminded me so ferociously of, and how the interior of the brain operates. From a neuroscientific approach, but straining it through a heaping of Jungian analysis. Following your calling to poetry also gives metaphysical expression to such unknown or unknowable interiors of our mental, physical, and even spiritual spaces. They are almost the very spaces that one has to animate in order to write and be creative. Wholly taking place in between the space of two minds, writing is this weird telepathy we can occupy.
For we could actually write one thing, meaning something specific, but not stating it overtly, and the reader is able to illuminate or animate with their own histrionics. Umberto Eco dying recently had me reading his works, and contemplating literature and all the ways we communicate either via words or symbols in this life. The intention or implication being lost in the inference and range of associations that the reader participates in.
As humans we rarely think about this, contemplating how we pick up a book and inhabit another’s thoughts, get lost in that world to the exclusion of all our other senses. Where this other world is, and how it lives somewhere between two dimensions. Both conscious and unconscious. My favorite writers have thought about this, are heightened in their awareness of these moments, reverent of them. Toni Morrison, Rainer Maria Rilke, or the maddening William S. Burroughs contrasted against the utterly calming Maya Angelou.
Each of these people connects not just on an intellectual level, but in some fashion on a spiritual or metaphysical plane. Not just esoterically but because they each deal in archetypes and the power of words. Almost like a mind-altering drugs that WSB & the Beat Poets took, to in a way capture the Surrealism/Dada automatism. Yet in a thoroughly modern interpretation, we can see through exhibits like this, how modern man, as he did with the 20th century modernists is still in many ways fascinated by the varying states of mind. Then it was a response, you could posit, to the Industrial Age, which had turned humans into machines. Yet today that spirit is alive, but we are being swooped up in the simulacrum of the internet, social media, or drawn into the Matrix.
The information age, has reduced us less to our machines, than a slave to them and their constant need for bits & bytes, their constant desire to know our location, what we’re doing, and who we are doing it with. Tag this, link that, sign away all your rights as you click “Agree” to whatever legalese permissions come with the app. Accept the cookies, accept the idea that a global conglomerate or corporation has your best interest at heart, and will act in your best interest.
Meanwhile being entirely paranoid about what the government is doing with said information. That seems at cross-purposes, but understandably any good-little-consumerist living the capitalist-society-dream needs to trust the corporation with zero accountability, over the nefarious government. When it is the corporation that has no transparency, master of the propaganda machine called advertising, mines the resources of countries with child/slave labor, pays a barely livable wage to people in far away places to assemble them by hand, and then subsidizes the expense of that phone by making you pay for it over two years.
Yes all of that seems legit. The government with its agenda, its set of abuses, its own violations, is not to be let off the hook. But our selective outrage, our vested interest in our rights vis a vis the state, while ignoring the corporations are people too, ones that keep their money off-shore waiting for the winds of change to blow through government so they can repatriate those funds with zero taxes paid. Yep, that is the way it all seems to work. Never mind that our new technology really amplifies the Panopticon principle. Usually it is invoked, in this age, to represent all those cameras and the surveillance we find ourselves under at every second.
Ignoring that the actual point of Bentham’s design for a prison, wasn’t just about surveilling people, but about the fact that this causes them philosophically & sociologically to surveil themselves. That you inhabit the police or carceral state by policing your own actions or thoughts. That power principle and dynamic play out all the time. While simultaneously we take selfies and document every bit of minutia of our mundane existence. All of which, were it in the right hands could prove something, or be twisted to prove something. We the prisoners of this body politic become our own wardens. We do not act upon that desire, because there is always someone watching.
This gives rise of course in so many, of every persuasion, to conspiracy theories. The movements in our current culture that give rise to such wide-spread paranoia. The fact the state is documenting all of this information does not mean anyone is able to access or use it specifically. Neither to prevent a crime or to That they have this power, or our proprietary data & information is what is unsettling. Should they want or need to build a case to persecute you after the fact, the ammunition is there. This is legitimately harrowing. Yet if Apple, or the store down the street also has a sliver of that data, that information, and then in ways you are completely uncomfortable with uses said information to do its business, but does so not only without your knowledge, but without any recourse from you as a user of its product. You must accept and are legally bound to forced arbitration.
This means, in no uncertain terms, that the only place you can find liberation, the only place you can inhabit freedom is in your dreams.