What is the experience of deep sleep?

What is the experience of deep sleep?

I especially like your ‘starting point’ of only trusting one’s actual experience and refraining from trusting the manifold underlying concepts that often go along with it. So I fully agree that objects only have their existence in and as consciousness. There just is no ‘chair’ in itself, but only as an appearance in consciousness.

It is therefore confusing for me when you seem to ‘forget’ about this approach when it comes to the appearance of so-called deep sleep in this very consciousness. What more can we say about this mental content than that it’s just a mixture of memories and concepts?

There is the concept of a flowing time from past to future and there is the memory of a seeming gap in that flow of time where there is/was no appearance of the ego. We remember going to bed at midnight and waking up (the appearance of ego and world are there ‘again’) at seven a.m., accompanied by a sensation of feeling fresh and having charged up the batteries. The watch reconfirms my concept that ‘in between’ there has been ‘some state’ of being there without having been conscious of myself.

But haven’t we already left the basis of actual experience here, and aren’t we already constructing some ‘deep sleep in itself’ here? So I don’t understand why you – as so many others – interpret (for lack of a better word) this mental content by characterising it as ‘consciousness knowing its own luminous self’ and ‘consciousness without an object’ (page 215 of your book). I just don’t see the point in bringing this into the context of deep sleep.

There is another reason why I resist. I’m aware of the dualistic character of language. There are just too many ‘I’s in it, but the sentences would become too weird and complex if one tried to avoid this. So in simple words, I once took LSD and had a ‘non-experience’ where there was only being/consciousness: no ego, no world, no time, no space, no doubts, no fear , just peace. This was nothing like any ‘deep sleep experience’! So why equate these two?!

I would be very grateful if you could find the motivation and time to write back.


The problem you refer to arises when we mix the absolute and relative points of view. 

If there were a memory of ‘a seeming gap in that flow of time’, there must have been something present to witness the gap and make the subsequent claim that there was a gap. That something must have been both present and conscious and is therefore referred to as consciousness. If you (consciousness) remember having fallen asleep, you (consciousness) must have been present there as the witness of sleep.

My previous comments were indeed from the relative point of view, which presumes deep sleep to be a state which takes place at a certain time. In other words, it presumes the existence of time. 

If we are willing to provisionally accept this relative point of view (as if we are addressing someone who has this conviction), then by the same token we must provisionally accept that the certainty which enables us to say, ‘I slept well’ or ‘I knew nothing while I was asleep’ comes from the presence of our own self alone during that state.

The reason I say this is that once we are talking of three states, we are by definition speaking from the relative point of view, and from that point of view, the deep sleep state is real. However, you are quite right in saying/implying that the three states are in fact non-existent. There is only consciousness taking the shape of experience, and one of its shapes is a thought that categorises the seamless totality of experience into three separate states.

However, it would be wrong to infer from this that we do not experience consciousness in the absence of objects, or rather that consciousness does not experience itself in the absence of objects. If we ask ourself the question, ‘Am I conscious’? the answer ‘Yes’ comes from an experience of consciousness, from the experience of consciousness knowing itself.

Or when we say, ‘I suddenly became aware that I was daydreaming’, there must have been a moment which was experienced between the end of the daydream and the beginning of the formulation ‘I suddenly became aware that I was day dreaming’ in which we (awareness) became aware of being aware, but during which the mind (that is, the daydream and the subsequent formulation ‘I became aware’) was not present.

That moment musthave been experienced in order for us to be able to say from experience, ‘I became aware’. Likewise, the daydream musthave ended in order for us to have stepped back, so to speak, and ‘looked at’ it. This ‘moment’, which was undoubtedly experienced, was nevertheless timeless and non-objective. In that timeless, non-objective moment consciousness (or awareness) becomes aware of itself.

This non-experience (in the sense that it has no objective qualities) is the very same non-objective presence that takes the shape of thinking, imagining, sensing and perceiving and seems as a result to become veiled. With this veiling, the mind, body and world (which are simply the names we give to the apparent absence of consciousness) appear to be born, and as a result this non-objective experience is conceived to have taken place in time.

This apparent state seems to be triggered by LSD or, under more normal circumstances, upon the fulfilment of a desire or the understanding of a thought, but is (as you say) in fact ever-present.

But if we know that it is ever-present, we no longer need to speak about three states. The point of view of three states is only for one who is convinced that he is a separate entity, not aware of consciousness, travelling through time and space.


You might also like


Is It Necessary To Have Only One Teacher?

Published on 1 June 2021

How do we know that awareness is ever-present?

Published on 1 June 2021

What is the link between intelligence and consciousness?

Published on 1 June 2021