A friend recently asked me this question...
I gave the following answer to help him form a platform from which to answer his own question. I was trying to help him see that there is no real, clear split between the physical and spiritual - we ARE always spirit, but we forget and believe we are something separate.
If you are in a dream that feels real, then you could call the "real" life the "spiritual" side. The term "spritual" is just a label, and although it appears as a clear cut division, there really is no division - only a different state of your mind.
So... you are in this real-seeming dream, and for some reason you start noticing glitches in the dream that are making you think, "Could this be a dream?" Little bits here and there, little problems, stories, myths about ghosts, mediums, etc. All these "abnormalities" and "bleed throughs" of the "real" world have an affect on you deep deep down - to your CORE. They stir something in your deepest mind. You start to desire to sleep no more. You want to know what you really are.
However, the character you are playing in this dream - your false self - is quite content to continue dreaming. So it creates new parts of the dream to help maintain the integrity of this illusion. For every step closer you get to waking up, the dream throws a counter-measure, a new distraction.
The question is, which part do you want to be? Are you happy to dream, or do you want to wake up and experience the next stage? Neither option is right or wrong, good or bad, as you can only do what is right for your stage of development. You are where you are meant to be. But what you WANT to be is what shapes the reality of the dream.
If ghosts appeared saying "We are ghosts!" on the ten o'clock news, do you think people would suddenly wake up? No, they would just incorporate it into their dream, and it would make it even harder for them to wake themselves up. You know when strange things happen in your dreams, how many times do you think "Wow, that was strange - I must be in a dream?" - probably never. We are just happy to rationalize everything that happens.
So are you really waking, did I make that vital connection to your "true spark"? Or are you just still dreaming? Only you can know for sure.
Religious fanatics are very often the ones dreaming that they are awake. They dream of a "God," yet they are further asleep and further away from "God" than they could possibly imagine. They are well and truly engrossed by the illusion: they are BOUND to the illusion (this is where Karma comes in).
Balanced Karma means your chains are off. But it still doesn't mean you are free, it means you are free to go if you choose, or just create more Karma to rebalance another day. It's your choice. Sooner or later you will get fed up with the chains and maybe - say in 1000 lifetimes - you will decide you have had enough. Maybe THIS is that time?
Out of 100 things we hear, watch or read - say ghost stories, mediums, pyramids, etc., about 3% will actually make it through to our higher selves. All we can do is keep searching, keep asking. Gradually a snowball effect will take place and you will see more and more "truth" in everything.
Coincidences are one great tool that will strike home a great deal more often. The coincidences happen when your higher/real self adds it's influence to your dream.
The question is, how conscious are you? How far can you go? Will you make it all the way? Is there a limit?
Just because it's a "dream" doesn't mean it's not real. And just because it's real doesn't mean it's not a dream...
People can and do rationalize in order to maintain their sleeping habits. What are dreams anyway? Only dreams! But maybe these are the biggest clues we have. But because they've been rationalized away by "experts" then we sleepingly accept and incorporate their views into our own realities so the benefits of these dreams are just thrown aside and ignored.
The most common thing people say is, "It was just a dream." They speak as if they KNOW what a dream is, but they don't, they just rely on what they have been told and blindly accepted.
Obviously dreams COULD be nothing more than a brain firing randomly, but I feel - and trust - that they are more than this.
This is a true story: a man was hypnotised to act like a chicken. When he was asked why he was acting like a chicken, he had a perfectly rational explanation - he completely made it up! Nothing about hypnosis, completely a self-made rationalization. But he believed it. He made it fit into his own belief system. He was in a state, and rationalized it till he was comfortable. However, the audience knew the truth and found it very funny.
But that demonstrates the scary nature of humans to only question deep enough till it gives them an answer they are comfortable with.
If you create a piece of beautiful art or poetry in the dream, that beauty will still be just as valuable, no matter whether dreaming or "real" - it is the value of the beauty, the effort which went into creating it, the appreciation of it, which is eternal... and TRULY REAL.
If I loved somebody in this physical "dream," say my brother, and then it turns out that I actually dreamt up my whole life, it doesn't meant that the love was worthless. That feeling of love was REAL and eternal. It was "God" creating, expressing, and experiencing - in this case love... truly eternally real.
Nothing is real, but everything is. Life is the creation AND the creator - The truth and the illusion. The grand contradiction.
I also asked Peter Shepherd to answer this question more directly, and this is what he replied...
Dale describes his personal spiritual experiences on his trans4mind site My Spiritual Experience.