On the Horizon of Memory

3 min readJan 4, 2023

Being and Unbeing in Dreams and Death



Inhalation, exhalation, expansion, contraction; life pulses in patterns, in ever increasing and decreasing cycles. The recognisable and coherent throbs of our independent lives are nested into an infinite, pulsating celestial matrix, where existence and non-existence shimmer like scales on the cosmic ouroboros. Individual thoughts and our sense of self rests within the limits of a personal bandwidth of perception, one cultivated by the experiences, interactions, environments and habits particular to our species and cultures. Selfhood is that unportionable portion of the All we identify as I.

Zenaida Gallagher Nampijinpa, Yankirri Jukurrpa (Emu Dreaming), 2019

Dreams take us beyond ordinary waking perception, they take us to the horizon of memory, to a zone that exists between being and unbeing. When we go through the nightly processes of remembering and forgetting everything, we cease to exist in the ordinary world and are reborn to it each morning.

An especially interesting feature of the Near Death Experience (NDE) is the so-called Life Review. This is an experience often described as life flashing before my eyes, quite a beautiful expression I think, and one which is not often associated with the world of dreaming, but none the less - every night in fact - life does flash before your eyes, as you enter and exit and re-enter and re-exit the world of dreams. I can see why ancient people believed the dream realm to be a place to meet gods and ancestors, a chthonic realm to heal oneself or learn the future. Dreaming ushers you toward the brink of consciousness, to the primordial waters where everything is continually coagulating, dissolving, organising and recalibrating, disintegrating and regenerating.

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Tingari Dreaming, 2014

Dreaming sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) initiates the slumberer into the cult of memory. Dreams serve to remember who and where we are in time and space. They weave the sensory impressions, indelible occurrences and utterances collected over our lifetimes into the fabric and material reality of other universes. In these mirror dimensions, we are everywhere, and in everything, reflected back to ourselves as a living oracle. We are never a mere avatar in the dream world, we are the whole dream and the whole dream encodes the psyche. When we relinquish our grasp upon the flotsam and jetsam bobbing on the active surface of our dreams, we sink beneath its slow waves and into the deep dark waters of primeval memory, we dream with the cosmos. Our whole dream dissolves and disperses into the great dream of The All.

Lyn Ward Napangardi, Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming), 2019




Author, researcher, presenter and workshop host exploring the anthropology of sleep, ancient dream cultures and philosophy www.themysteries.org