Awakening to the Dream: The Gift of Lucid Living
Awakening to the Dream: The Gift of Lucid Living marked Leo Hartong’s debut as an author and has since received much critical acclaim from spiritual teachers around the globe. This New Age publication about non-duality attempts to dispel myths regarding the nature of spiritual seeking and enlightenment, using supporting statements from Buddhism, Tao Te Ching, Ramana Maharshi, and Wei Wu Wei amongst others. It contains little direct reference to Advaita Vedanta, no Sanskrit terminology, and in this respect may be considered suitable for beginners. According to the Foreword by Tony Parsons, Awakening to the Dream is written with ‘clarity of perception’ and provides a ‘clear explanation of its intent.’ In summary, such intent is to inform the reader that the search for enlightenment or realization is futile once it is recognised that ego is a mental construct since there is no ‘I’ to embark upon a spiritual journey in the first place.
Divided into twenty-one short chapters, printed in large font with 1.5 line spacing, and containing 146 pages, Hartong’s text is easily digestible. The language, like the book’s message, is simple and takes little effort to comprehend. Some readers may appreciate such brevity, which tallies with an underlying emphasis that one really doesn’t need to do very much to transcend a fictional world the mind creates.
A series of rhetorical questions are posed on the opening page: ‘Is there a promise in awakening to what I truly am? Is there something I can get out of this to improve my life? Will it make me a better and more successful person? Page 2 responds: ‘the answer is that you will get nothing out of it because enlightenment is the realization that there is no you to get enlightened.’ Need we read any further? Possibly not.
Should the reader persist, however, there may be some benefit. Hartong’s exposé of the ego’s role in spiritual seeking is worth consideration, especially in relation to a seeker’s attachment to notions of attaining a goal. Generally speaking, logic dictates that labour should have a result. Seekers reading books and actively searching for answers posed in relation to enlightenment are motivated by ego’s desire for a satisfactory conclusion. Yet if ego doesn’t really exist, isn’t this a rather futile activity?
Surely, the answer is yes. Read any book in this genre, listen to any guru or teacher on the subject of enlightenment and a consensus of opinion from diverse faiths, practices and epochs reveals that ego is responsible for our misapprehension of Reality. Ego creates illusion or mithya that is mistaken for reality. Remove ego from the equation and all becomes clear. Only then is comprehension of non-duality possible. Such realization may be termed enlightenment.
As the preceding paragraph illustrates, it isn’t difficult to summarise the process of enlightenment, to strip back to basic nuts and bolts and reveal a schema. Such methodology of revelation is in tune with a modern mindset used to absorbing vast quantities of information through snapshots and snippets in a society geared towards instant gratification. There it is; there’s the answer. No more work needs to be done. Next!
Withholding an egoistic desire to rant upon the topic of ‘dumbing down’ it seems apt to comment that if all is required of seekers is to accept a simple truth about the fallacy of ego, spiritual paths should be of particularly short duration and involve minimal steps to attain realization. Why is it, then, that it takes so many seekers such a long time to assimilate a simple statement of fact?
For some, realization requires direct experience gained through enquiry and self-investigation. The more stubborn amongst seekers find it challenging to accept a stranger’s testimony that appears to lack in substance, as a valid means of legitimisation.
As technically correct as statements leading readers towards ‘realization that the very belief in a progressive path may be an obstacle to understanding’ (p.24) might be, for a beginner this could equate to shutting the stable door before assuring oneself that a horse had ever been present in the first place.
It is recognised that notions of enlightenment are counter-intuitive, and the ego creates a barrier that is difficult to overcome, yet such simplistic handling of complex matter at times seems condescending to the mental faculty and acuity of others.
The approach Hartong takes might be argued as perilous. In chapter 18, ‘Blinded by the Light’, he refers to reading a wide range of texts from Advaita, Taoism, and Zen which led to a situation whereby the ‘missing pieces of the puzzle fell into place’ (p.110). Hartong then meets Wayne Liquorman and asserts to ‘a complete intellectual understanding of the material that was discussed.’ Wayne responds, ‘Yes, but you still say I understand’ (ibid). Liquorman’s statement eventually results in realization that ‘there is no I that understands it. There is simply understanding’ (ibid). The author further remarks ‘Don’t get me wrong: It is not that I didn’t get it before, and now I do. It is now clear that there is no ‘I’ to get it’ (p.111).
Readers might be inclined to question the depth of Hartong’s reading in the subject areas he quotes. To have missed the point that there is no ‘I’ after encountering writings from traditional paths like Advaita, Taoism or Zen, yet to believe that ‘the missing pieces of the puzzle’ had fallen into place seems misguided. This might give rise to other issues regarding the authenticity of viewpoint in Awakening to the Dream.
A metaphysical game of Cluedo that poses tantalising questions like ‘Who is the Author’ including possessive or attached references to ‘my lady’ who ‘as is so often the case […] was right’ (p.7) did little to convince about the reliability of testimony. Similarly, two references on the same page about the inclusion of information that is ‘contradictory to what this book asserts’ and ‘contradicts what this book is about’ did little to ignite flames of receptivity. Chapter four, entitled ‘All you read here is NOT the truth,’ may have some readers relieved by the prospect of Awakening from the Dream of this experience by the final pages.
A further problem with texts such as this is that they appear to appeal towards naivety, to be aimed at beginners, and yet, as pure as the intention might be to reveal the rabbit from the hat, the conjuror doesn’t disclose the process that gives rise to the illusion.’ This is why traditions like Advaita insist on ‘valid means of knowledge’ or pramANa-s that include teachers, scripture, and inference amongst their number. Whilst not suggesting Advaita as a superior approach to the one Mr Hartong advocates, perhaps it might be fair to say that Advaita teachings offer a more comprehensive way of eradicating ego?
Whilst it is noted that Awakening to the Dream receives a five star rating from 35 customer reviews on Amazon, some of which remark on the simplicity of the book’s message, the clarity with which the subject is handled, the ease at which results are attained and express gratitude toward the author for the knowledge imparted; from a subjective point of view (and, of course, there is no subject) one is reminded of the spectacle of the emperor’s new clothes. No offence intended but a body stripped of garments (or subject stripped of substance) doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone.