Calderón's La vida es sueño has often been studied as a play about kingship and political order, but of late its relation to metaphysics, wisdom literature and spirituality has tended to be diminished or even denied. By focussing on the epistemological and ontological questions raised by the central status and role of dreams in this play and its neglected sister, En esta vida todo es verdad y todo mentira, we can glimpse concerns shared by Descartes, and indeed stemming back to Platonic and Aristotelian thought. Yet the notion of engaño and desengaño, suggesting blindness and illumination, hint not only at the depth of Calderón's Catholic vision, but of profound connections to other world wisdom traditions, such as the maya of Hinduism. By applying the insights of the sophia perennis, implicit in these wisdom traditions and articulated by modern scholars such as Coomaraswamy and Nasr, Calderón's views of the dream's role in spiritual enlightenment are clarified through a constellation of close parallels in Buddhist, Taoist, Hopi, Hindu, and Muslim traditions. Against this background, Calderón's plays are seen to transcend the narrow ideological confines in which they are often studied and presented.


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pp. 35-54
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