Part IV: Theoretical Approaches
1. Introduction Jayne Gackenbach
2. The Multiplicity of Dreams Harry Hunt
3. Single-Mindedness and Self-Reflectiveness: Laboratory Studies Alan Moffitt, Sheila Purcell, Robert Hoffmann, Roger Wells & Ross Pigeau
4. Dreaming: Lucid and Non David Foulkes
5. Reply to Foulkes Stephen LaBerge
6. From Lucid Dreaming to Pure Consciousness: A Conceptual Framework for the OBE, UFO Abduction and NDE Experiences Jayne Gackenbach
Back to Lucidity Letter 10th Anniversary Issue
Athabasca University and University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Recently, the major psychological and psychophysiological frameworks for understanding lucid dreaming were reviewed (Gackenbach, 1991). In that review it was noted that several of the psychological approaches take an information process-ing view of lucid dreaming. Such perspectives range from conceptualizing lucidity in sleep as a cognitive tool through more fully developed approaches which include a model of "self." This view of lucidity in sleep as one form of intensified dreaming along a self-reflectiveness dimension is an aspect of most frameworks. Lucid dreaming is also thought of as a bridge to post–formal operation functioning within dreaming sleep and thus related to the meditative traditions.
Psychophysiological perspectives on lucid dreaming have shown that lucidity is a significantly more aroused REM sleep experience then nonlucid REM sleep. The EEG and lucidity work is based on the association of lucidity to meditation fo-cusing on alpha power and coherence. This sleep experience is also viewed from the framework of spatial skills especially as implicated in vestibular system function-ing. Finally, the connectionist view of neural nets is another explanatory vehicle touched upon in this review.
This section of the commemorative issue of Lucidity Letter has a small segment of the theoretical perspectives which have arisen in recent years to account for the experience of knowing you are dreaming while you are dreaming. It will enable the reader to get some glimpse of how social scientists are beginning to understand lucid dreams. In addition, other sections of this special issue have papers which are of considerable theoretical interest.
Gackenbach, J.I. (1991). Frameworks for understanding lucid dreaming: A review. Dream-ing: The Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams. 1(2), 109–128.
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2. The Multiplicity of Dreams
Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada
What I’d like to do today is to try to place lucid dreaming within the context of overall dream studies and dream research—and within the multiplicity of dreams. I want to show how a cross-comparison of the different forms or types of dreaming might give clues to the cognitive processes that may be involved in all dream forma-tion. And in that context I want to look especially at the place of lucid dreaming, namely the special relation of lucid dreams to nightmares and so-called archetypal-mythological dreams. I will try to show, both descriptively and in terms of a small research study, that these three kinds of dreams seem to be the points where the process of dreaming is maximally intensified. Such maximal intensifications may help to show fundamental dimensions of all dreaming that get crystallized in these relatively infrequent special forms.
Now the idea that dreaming is a kind of conjoined multiplicity is not new. If you look back at the nineteenth century dream phenomenologies or at dreaming as un-derstood in the ancient Greek and Roman world, or the dreaming of tribal peoples, you find this idea that dreaming isn’t one thing. It is a kind of multiple collection of forms and sub-forms. And if you put all of what I’d loosely call the phenomeno-logical tradition together, most of these sources—nineteenth century, descriptive phenomenologies, ancient world, tribal societies—roughly agree on the following forms of dreaming.
You can certainly find reference to so-called "ordinary dreaming." Some tribal people call these "little" dreams. They seem to largely be based on reorganizations of personal memories, and they may be relatively bizarre or relatively mundane. There is also some agreement that there is something like a somatic medical form of dreaming. Most of these sources would also want to distinguish a so-called prophetic-telepathic kind of dream. If one wants to talk naturalistically, I think we could talk about these as dreams of maximum intuitiveness, and put to one side the ultimate question of scientific reality. Certainly as a form such dreams have oc-curred in all peoples at all time.
Then we come to the so-called "big" dreams in tribal peoples. Jung used this term as well for dreams that phenomenologically and subjectively are a point of con-tact with the sense of the sacred. These kinds of "big" dreams, as I’m sure all of you know, are extremely prominent in tribal societies. They are dreams where the indi-vidual may make direct contact with the mythic archetypal beings of that society. And there is quite a bit of evidence from cultural anthropology that dreams like this are part of an ongoing cultural maintenance in that they are a source of direct renew-al in mythological stories and art forms. The nineteenth century Romantic tradition of dream studies would see this so-called big or sacred dream as a point where dreaming is taken over by a kind of autonomous imaginative factor, having much less to do with memory, much more to do with an intrinsically creative imagination. And of course, this is the point of departure for Jung’s own approach to dreams.
Then again, most times and societies and peoples have talked about a nightmare form of dreaming, and here we might want to follow recent distinctions, and dis-tinguish fantastic, bizarre nightmares of monsters and strange creatures from post-traumatic nightmares that tend to repeat, often seemingly endlessly, an actual trauma that has been suffered. We might want to separate both of these in turn from night terrors.
Finally, and very much to the point today, most of these sources identify some-thing like a lucid-control dimension of dreaming. Whatever the hoopla about dream lucidity in the last ten or fifteen years, this is not a new phenomenon historically or cross-culturally. Aristotle mentions lucid dreams. The shamanistic traditions of trib-al people, by strong implication, seem to be talking about a lucid control dimension of dreaming, because the classic forms of sacred or big dreams are very often in-duced and guided by the trained shaman. There is an element of lucidity in reaching a kind of launching point for these uncertain mythological encounters. Similarly, if we look at the Eastern meditative traditions we find what we are now calling lucid dreaming, identified in both the Buddhist and the Hindu traditions as the natural form of meditative state available during dream consciousness. In other words, the Eastern traditions present techniques for developing what we would call lucidity or a form of lucidity as a means of meditative growth.
Well and good. Dreams are a multiplicity. But what is worth pointing out is how much this idea goes against the fundamental assumptions of both the Freudian and the experimental laboratory tradition of dream studies. Freud, as many of you will remember, was after the essence of dreaming. For Freud, dreaming was primarily one thing. The Jungian James Hillman is quite eloquent in describing the way that Freud brilliantly synthesized the different multiple strands of nineteenth century descriptive dream studies. He points out that Freud took the Romantic tradition of dream studies, the ides that dreams were an extension of creative imagination, and relegated that to the dream-work proper, the mechanisms of visual representation, condensation, and displacement. He also took the rational line of thought in nineteenth century dream studies, the views that dreams were delirious nonsense and "froth," and said "yes" for the manifest dream, but "no" for the underlying latent structure. Finally, the idea that dreams could express somatic states was relegated to his notion of biological instincts driving the process of dream formation (Hillman, 1979).
A brilliant synthesis, but the price was the exclusion of the natural varieties of the dreaming process. In fact, Freud had to take the variations of dreaming we are talking about today and redefine them as somehow not really dreaming. The most instructive example comes from his 1922 paper on telepathy in dreams. Near the end of that paper he says, in effect, well after all telepathy really has nothing to do with the essence of dreaming. He says that the essence of dreaming has to rest in his pro-cesses of dream work. If we find a dream that seems to be telepathic, ". . . let us in-stead call it a telepathic experience in sleep and not a dream, because a dream without condensation, displacement, wish fulfillment (etc.) hardly deserves the name." Sim-ilarly Freud takes dreams that are mundane and true to daily life, and which we now know from laboratory research are the average form of dream, and says, well those aren’t really dreams either. Since there is no dream work in them, let’s call them fan-tasies instead. Jung’s archetypal-mythological form of dreaming, which I will talk more about later, is understood by Freud as the reappearance in the dream of fairy-tale motifs from childhood.
Lucidity, of course, becomes for Freud a defensive version of secondary revi-sion. He knew about lucidity, and about St. Denys. But what we would call lucid dreaming becomes the ability of the dreamer to dismiss the dream and defend his or her self against threatening content by saying, "It’s only a dream." You could wake up. You could ignore it. This certainly misses the subjective power of many accounts of lucid dreaming.
I think we find the same monolithic attitude to dreams within the laboratory experimental tradition. Here again we find dreaming considered as a single process. The interest is predominantly in the average or norm of dreaming. Since only ten percent of dreams by some reckonings are markedly or strikingly fantastic and imag-inative, these researchers feel they can ignore such dream transformations, even though it is fantastic, imaginative dreaming that has historically been the source of fascination with dreams. Similarly, one finds in the laboratory tradition what I in-creasingly would have to see as a curious suspicion and discomfort with respect to lucid dreaming. What one ends up with then from the laboratory tradition is a similarly monolithic approach, now increasingly centered on cognitive approaches and on the idea that dreaming must involve some sort of memory reorganization or memory consolidation.
Now even if it is the case that truly imaginative dreams are rare, and that lucid-ity is only open to some people as a natural form of dreaming, we know already from the clinical, neurological and psychiatric traditions that you study the excep-tions, the extremes of a phenomenon, in order to get at its underlying dimensions of construction. Such dimensions are hidden within the norms, hidden within the aver-age, and get crystallized out in so-called special types. That brings us to an attempt to talk more systematically about the multiple forms of dreaming, before we get into some recent research on them. For this purpose I’m going to inflict on you my dia-mond of dream forms (see Figure 1), which hypothetically represents some of these dream forms in terms of systematic dimensions that would underlie all dreaming. These dimensions have nothing to do with frequency of dreaming, but more to do with underlying principles of dream generation. So, initially, we have a vertical dimension representing the vividness or intensification of dreaming. At the minimal level of vividness, on the bottom, we have dreams that are either predominantly mun-dane or relatively clouded and confused. These may very well be the most common form of dreaming, at least in the lab, and here perhaps we are dealing with dreams that are predominantly understandable in terms of memory models, as reorganiza-tions of recent memories. At the maximum level of intensification, at the top of the picture, we have the dreams that I’ll talk about in much more detail in a moment and which probably reflect some sort of principle of formal or abstract self-reflection of the kind that interested Jung and Herbert Silberer and that may also be involved in the meditative traditions. Now along this vertical dimension there is a hypothetical point, a point at which memory models are insufficient and we need models of crea-tive imagination metaphor, and intuition to make sense of the dreaming process.
In terms of the diamond structure there is also a horizontal dimension intended to represent the degree of symbolic integration or differentiation among these dream forms. The more integrated around one function, the narrower the pyramid. So ordi-nary dreaming, at the bottom, represents an integration and organization of the dream-ing process largely in terms of the principles of semantic memory and language. Here of course we find Foulkes’s model of dreams as diffuse mnemic activation with the imposition of narrative structure (Foulkes, 1982). At the points of maximum differentiation, which it is not really my intention to talk about today, we find dreams that may be based on relatively separate imaginative-intuitive frames of mind: the somatic-medical form of dreams, dreams predominantly based on creative visual metaphors, and dreams based on various sorts of word play, some of it quite intricate and creative. Freud often dreamt in this form when his dreams became relatively fan-tastic. One would also need a panel for so-called telepathic-intuitive forms of dream-ing. This would be the point where dreaming is in some sense directed towards con-ditions in the objective world. It might also include problem solving dreams in the context of scientific investigation.
What I really want to get at is the top of the pyramid, representing the points where the dreaming process is maximally intensified. Here we see the dreaming process integrated predominantly in terms of a visual spatial intelligence, rather than a linguistic one. These forms would be based on metaphoric visual kinesthetic fu-sions. This top section of the diamond, which includes lucidity, nightmares, and archetypal dreaming, is sufficiently intensified to be transitional to waking. This is something that both lucid dreams and nightmares have in common. They usually wake you up. You are right on the edge of waking. And as we’ll see, both lucid and nightmare dreams are about equally open to turning into the more archetypal form of dreaming. In fact the dreams at the top of the diamond occur in a kind of transi-tional or trance state that can probably be entered about as easily from certain waking conditions as it can from the dream state. Here we are addressing an overlap between dream phenomena and so-called altered states of consciousness, where dreaming becomes a potential transpersonal process.
Each of these forms of intensification would exaggerate a fundamental dimen-sion of dreaming that would run through, albeit usually invisibly, all dream formation. Along these lines, we can take from Alan Moffitt the suggestion that lucid dreaming is one extreme on a dimension of self-reflectiveness, also heightened in meditative traditions, and which calls attention to the general human ability to be self-conscious —not very well and not very completely, but at least the potential to be relatively self-aware Moffitt et al., 1988). Nightmares might highlight a dimension of affect and kinesthetic sensation that is probably usually suppressed in most dreaming. Archetypal dreams with their subjective qualities of awe and sense of the uncanny, parallels with classical mythological stories, and encounters with mythological-spiritual beings, and their tendency to resist free association of the usual sort may show a visual metaphoric ability to self-present the total life context. Certainly both lucid and archetypal dreams easily develop towards experiences of geometric forms, of the sort described with psychedelic drugs, and experiences of white light similar to the mystical meditative traditions. This does imply that they have something to do with a visual-spatial form of intelligence.
I’ve added another category for the sake of completeness that we can term titan-ic dreams, a name adapted from Herbert Silberer for a form of dreaming closely related to archetypal dreams. I think Jung would have called them "archetypes of transformation." These dreams can involve vivid, powerful kinesthetic feelings of flying, falling and spinning, sex and aggression (not just ordinary sex and aggres-sion, but really perverse, nasty, driven forms of sexuality and aggression), and lots of forceful nature imagery—storms, seas and caves. Roheim called this the "basic dream;" I think these are very similar to what Kohut, the psychoanalyst, called self-state dreams. They often seem to function as kinesthetic metaphors, for general ex-istential features of one’s own life. So at points of crisis one dreams of crashing to earth, or soaring over difficulties, or spinning in confusion. These may also call attention to what a number of cognitive psychologists have hypothesized as a kines-thetic core or aspect to human metaphorical thinking.
Hopefully having made some case for dreaming as a multiplicity and for certain forms as intensified dreaming, I would like to talk to you about recent research, at Brock and elsewhere, on these dreams of maximum intensification. Here we get more into the relation of lucidity to other dream forms. One thing that lucid dreams have in common with nightmares is that they are both transitional to waking. They also have in common a dimension of affective enhancement. Lucid dreamers often mention a peak experience-like quality to lucid dreams, a sort of rush of bliss and euphoria. But in nightmares you get a very similar kinesthetic rush of dread. I think that is quite striking in really good nightmares, the way they can sit you up in bed with really strong bodily sensations. Another thing that lucidity and nightmare dreaming has in common which again suggests that there is something common un-derlying them, is considerable sensory detail and vividness, especially kinesthetic. Jayne Gackenbach has brought that out with respect to lucid dreams, and Ernest Hartmann has mentioned it with respect to nightmares. And in fact the most com-mon form of lucid dreaming occurs in the context of nightmares. Celia Green made this point years ago. It may be the least interesting kind of lucidity, but many, many people in the midst of stressful anxiety dreams suddenly realize, "My God, this couldn’t be happening. Oh, it’s a dream, I’ll wake up." Similarly I would suggest that when we look carefully at Hartmann’s descriptions of intense nightmares, we find the subcategories of lucidity and prelucidity according to Celia Green. Hartmann mentions the tendency in nightmare dreams to question whether this could really be happening (Green’s prelucidity), to suffer false awakenings, and there is the tendency for nightmares to show Green’s apparitional pattern. In the latter, your dream is actually in your bedroom, maybe with an ominous feeling or bizarre intrusion (Gackenbach, 1988; Hartmann, 1984; Green, 1968).
As I mentioned before, I think one can make a good case from the descriptive literature that lucidity and nightmares are clearly transitional and lead in to this idea of archetypal and titanic forms of dreaming. Certainly some of the worst nightmares seem to involve pretty horrific occurrences of bodily mutilation, of the kind that you find described in some accounts of early schizophrenic onset and in shamanistic initiation dreams. Lucid dreaming seems to be transitional to so-called archetypal dreams as we have seen and is itself a form of meditative state. Certainly meditative states and lucid dreaming have in common the same heightening of a detached obser-vational attitude—which, as Charles Tart rightly said, is very similar to Gurdjieffian self-remembering. They also have the same quality of peak experience in the sense of Maslow, and there is the same potential in both meditative states and lucid dream-ing to unfold into experiences of vivid bright light, with feelings of sacredness, geometric forms of the kind that Jung called mandala patterns, and encounters with mythic half-man, half-beast beings. I reported last year on a study we did at Brock, of the dreams of long-term meditators, in which we found that the longer they had been meditating the more likely they were to report lucid-control dreams, and that their lucid dreams were characterized by archetypal categories (Hunt, 1987). In other words, there were accounts of light, geometric forms, flying, feelings of awe, and mythological beings. Jayne Gackenbach and Charles Alexander have extended these findings considerably, showing parallels in content and physiology between meditative states and lucid dreams (Gackenbach, Cranson & Alexander, 1986). Anecdotally we know from people like George Gillespie and Ken Kelzer that lucid dreams do seem to have this potential to transform themselves in a Jungian direction (Gillespie, 1988; Kelzer, 1986).
Up to now each of these dream types have been researched separately, although there are some implications of experimental overlap. We know from the research of Ernest Hartmann and Kathy and Denis Belicki that nightmare sufferers tend to test as highly imaginative and creative on various measures (Hartmann, 1984; Belicki & Belicki, 1986). We know from Hartmann’s studies of what I think turn out to be rather unusual nightmare sufferers, that these dreamers are hypersensitive to stress. Lucid dream research, almost entirely based on the work of Jayne Gackenbach, has shown lucid dreamers to be similarly highly imaginative and creative, and to have unusually developed spatial skills: abilities in things like embedded figures and block designs, and the mental rotation tests that torture so many people in college admission tests. Lucid dreamers also tend to have a highly developed sense of phys-ical balance. Jayne Gackenbach has shown that lucid dreamers are quite responsive in terms of the vestibular system, and that they can walk a balance beam better than people who don’t lucid dream (Gackenbach et al., 1986). Now that may sound very strange, but it is quite similar to research on mystical experience. Paul Swartz at the University of Alberta, using the Hood questionnaire, measuring the tendency of people to have spontaneous mystical type experiences when awake, showed that the higher you scored on the Hood test, the better visual-spatial coordination you had. His measure was pin the tail on the donkey (Swartz & Seginer, 1981). We replicated that at Brock. The least research has been done on archetypal dreaming, although Kluger developed a scale to measure it and Cann and Donderi have used it to show that people who dream in this archetypal style are highly intuitive and low on neurotic tendencies (Kluger, 1975; Cann & Donderi, 1986).
All this brings us to our own study at Brock, done with Aurelia Spadafora. This was an experimental attempt, the first as far as we know, to compare lucid dreamers, archetypal-mythological dreamers, and fantastic nightmare dreamers. On the basis of all the information I’ve given, we hypothesized that lucid dreamers, archetypal dreamers, and nightmare dreamers would be highly imaginative. The lucid and arche-typal people would have good spatial and balance abilities, and be high on the Hood scale of mystical experience. The nightmare people would correspondingly have poor balance, poor spatial abilities, and high stress. We advertised in school and town newspapers for people who dream in a lucid style, people who have fantastic nightmares as opposed to post-traumatic nightmares, and people who dream arche-typally, which we defined for them much in the way I’ve done today. Since all of the subjects had very high levels of dream recall, we developed a control group simi-larly high on recall but as low as possible on the special types.
We started with a hundred subjects. Archetypal dreams in this first hundred were the most infrequent, with a mean of eight per year. Lucid dreams had a mean of 36 per year and fantastic nightmares had a mean of 24 per year so we did not do too badly in getting subjects with unusual dreams. All three of these estimates were sig-nificantly correlated with recall and with each other. Thus one can conclude that they are common or overlapping expressions of an intensification of the dreaming process, as also indexed by their high degree of recall. Yet they were different enough to permit some differential testing, and this is what I will describe to you today. We went after relatively pure groups. This was hard to do because we want-ed people who were well above the mean on nightmares, but at or below the mean on lucid and archetypal. We ended up with ten nightmare sufferers in the pure night-mare group, eleven lucid dreamers, only four archetypal dreamers, and five who were mixed dreamers. The latter were unusual people. They were all respondents to the newspaper ad. They were almost twice the mean on nightmares of the pure nightmare group, almost twice the mean on the archetypal, and very high on lucid. They also had unusually high dream recall. Their average was ten dreams a week. The rest of the sample recalled five dreams a week. We now had three pure groups, the mixed group, and a control group of eleven. Apart from the mixed group they were all matched on dream recall, so dream recall can’t be an explanatory variable (except of course in the mixed group).
We then set about looking at group differences. (I want to emphasize here that this is an exploratory study, and I will be reporting some individual and group tests where overall group differences failed to reach significance—although most had F’s less than .10. At least I would argue that this study is suggestive of a way that dream research should go in the future.) With respect then to our measure of overall imagination, we used combined Z-scores from tests of imaginative absorption, thin boundaries, creative pursuits, and physiognomic cues (see Table 1). What we found was that the archetypal dreamers—even though there were only four of them—were significantly greater than both the pure nightmare and the control group. Now this is somewhat contradictory to Hartmann’s findings that nightmare sufferers are highly imaginative, but interestingly enough the mixed group—which I’ll try to show is probably very much like Hartmann’s intense nightmare group—was also significantly greater than both the nightmare and the control group on the imagina-tion measure. We then looked at the Hood questionnaire for spontaneous mystical experience, which by the way correlated with all our measures of imaginativeness quite strongly. It probably measures, within an imaginative capacity, the ability to let go and undergo a positive alteration of consciousness. Here what we find again is that the archetypal group is significantly greater than the nightmare. The lucid is also significantly greater than the nightmare, while here the mixed group is in a level similar to the nightmare group. In other words the mixed group may be highly imaginative but they do not have positive experiences when they let go. Next we can consider the spatial ability measure. This was a combination of scores on the block designs and mental rotations. The lucid group was the highest and the night-mare the lowest of the pure groups. Only when the mixed group is added do we get significant differences, in that the lucid group was now significantly better on the spatial measure than the mixed group.
The balance measures were more complex. First of all we looked at the balance beam, and there we found, to our surprise, that the archetypal group was signif-icantly greater than the lucid group, which is basically the lowest in balance. The archetypal group was also significantly greater than both the nightmare and the con-trols as well. Now that doesn’t fit with some of Jayne Gackenbach’s findings (Gackenbach et al., 1986).
On the other hand, we had another measure of balance, body sway with eyes closed and feet one behind the other. We took sway primarily as a measure of vestib-ular responsiveness, which I think makes some sense since we didn’t have anybody who had enough vestibular problems so that they actually fell, which would indeed have been nonadaptive. But within the normal range if you sway your vestibular system is responding, whereas lack of any sway may indicate nonresponsiveness. Here more as predicted, we found the archetypal group swaying the most, the lucid group next, and the nightmare least. The lucid and archetypal group were significant-ly greater than the nightmare group on the T-tests. The mixed group was generally in the middle in balance.
The least successful group comparisons were with the stress measures. What we found was that the nightmare group was the highest, the archetypal, control, and lucid were lower, but only the mixed group produced statistical significance, being significantly greater than the control group.
This brings me to the question, why were the nightmare people low in imagina-tion, when previous studies have found them to be high? It could be a subject selec-tion factor, in that if we compared with average dreamers who don’t recall that much a week, they might have been comparatively high on imagination. On the other hand, their Hood scores were quite low. I would suggest that we may have some indication of a defensive self-inhibition of imagination in the pure nightmare group. In other words, it is possible that what nightmare research has really been measuring is the extent to which nightmare sufferers also have lucid and archetypal dreams. Hartmann, in fact, went to the extreme of the nightmare phenomenon, and in doing so selected people who are extremely artistic, sensitive, and imaginative. It is likely that they had lucid (or prelucid) and archetypal dreams, as implied by his own ac-counts. In that case they would be like our mixed group: very imaginative, but with negative experiences when they let go, especially poor spatial abilities, and lots of stress. In other words, these are people, in contrast to the pure lucid and archetypal dreamers, who are in some sense victimized by their imaginations. It looks as though if you intensify the dreaming process and if you have poor spatial abilities, what you are in for is a disorganizing negative experience rather like a bad trip with LSD and perhaps on the same model.
A similar picture emerges with the correlations from the entire special sample of 41 (see Table 2). What we find is imaginative measures correlating with stress, the Hood, ordinary dream bizarreness scores from home diaries, and archetypal dream categories. The nightmare and the lucid subject estimates were not in fact significantly correlated with imagination; only the archetypal estimates were. I think the implication is that future research on any one of these dream types had better ask about the others, since they have hitherto been confounded. There is a negative relation between nightmare estimates and both spatial abilities and the Hood, again reflecting the individual group comparisons. Finally subjects with good balance tended to have the most imaginatively transformed or bizarre dreams. An implica-tion, consistent with Jayne Gackenbach’s work as well, is that good balance allows dreaming to develop. Perhaps you can tolerate better the different places the dream may take you if you have good balance.
With respect to some conclusions, each of the forms I was talking about today —the archetypal, the lucid and the nightmare—can be defined as positions on relatively independent dimensions. The archetypal and the lucid are closest. They are high on imaginativeness, spontaneous mystical experience and spatial abilities. The relationships are less clear with respect to balance, but certainly the archetypal had very good balance, and the lucid on one measure. Nightmare sufferers on the other hand were low on imagination, spatial abilities and balance. Again, intensified dreaming in the context of poor balance makes for trouble. An implication might be tai chi as a potential therapy for nightmare sufferers!
Intensified dreaming comes in two forms: one relatively organized and the other more disorganized. Vivid imagination combined with spatial abilities and balance allows the dream to unfold towards its archetypal, "big" form—the most imaginatively transformed development of dreaming and its point of maximum cultural impact as witnessed in the shamanistic and meditative traditions. On the other hand, poor balance may be part of the organismic "mechanism" of repression, self-inhibiting imagination in the form of low levels of dream bizarreness. Inten-sified dreaming in such a context would be associated with panic.
What is the place of lucidity in all this? In our findings it was midway between the archetypal and the nightmare measures. On the basis of this work, and on previ-ous work that both Jayne Gackenbach and I have done, lucidity offers a stable access to the archetypal-transpersonal form of dreaming. The true significance of lucidity, its importance in terms of dream research, is as a gateway to this culturally signifi-cant form of dreaming. Here dream research approaches a natural transpersonal growth process, overlapping with the meditative traditions and based on a visual-kinesthetic imaginative capacity. This conclusion requires of cognitive psychology an account of creative imagination that goes well beyond its current preoccupation with memory and language.
Jayne Gackenbach: Let me clarify our findings on gross motor balance of lucid dreamers. Stabilometer performance was powerful in favoring lucid dreamers, while the balance beam was not. Stabilometer performance seems to be essentially the same as your body sway measure.
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Cann, D.R. & Donderi, D.C. (1986). Jungian personality typography and the recall of everyday and archetypal dreams. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 1021–1030.
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3. Single-Mindedness and Self-Reflectiveness:
ALAN MOFFITT, SHEILA PURCELL, ROBERT HOFFMANN,
ROGER WELLS, and ROSS PIGEAU
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Rechtschaffen (1978) has suggested that dreams are categorically single-minded and isolated. The phenomenon of lucid dreaming, however, suggests that his con-clusion is overstated. Furthermore, the empirical status of Rechtschaffen’s claim is uncertain. The data on which his claim is based are personal and impressionistic. We view single-mindedness and lucidity as related along a continuum of self-reflectiveness, as suggested by Rossi (1972) and as operationalized in a scale of self-reflectiveness we derived from his work. In order to examine his assertion we conducted two laboratory experimental studies to examine the distribution of self-reflectiveness and single-mindedness in the dream reports of high and low frequency dream recallers awakened from Stages REM, 2 and 4. Self-reflectiveness of dream reports was quantified using the nine-step scale presented below.
In Study One, 16 male subjects slept in our laboratory for three nights, with ex-perimental awakenings occurring on the first and third nights. On the experimental nights, subjects were awakened from Stage 4 at the beginning of the night and from counterbalanced early and late REM and Stage 2 awakenings in addition to morning awakenings. In Study Two, the same awakening protocol was followed (initial Stage 4 awakening followed by counterbalanced early and late REM and Stage 2 awaken-ings prior to the morning awakening), except that subjects slept four nights in the laboratory and awakenings occurred on each night. There were 24 subjects in this study, 12 males and 12 females, half of whom were self-reported high-frequency dream recallers and half low-frequency recallers.
Results indicated that Rechtschaffen’s claim is correct if it is interpreted distri-butionally rather than categorically. In both studies reports from Stage REM were significantly more self-reflective than from Stages 2 and 4, which did not differ. The reports of high frequency recallers were significantly more self-reflective than low frequency recallers across all stages. The interaction of stage and subject type was not significant. Single-minded dreams, falling at or below Level 6 on the scale of self-reflectiveness, accounted for 80–90% of all reports. Higher levels of self-reflectiveness, up to and including spontaneous lucidity accounted for 10–15% of the dream reports. The correlation of self-reflectiveness with length of the dream groups, but much stronger in the high recallers than in the low recallers. Frequency of recall from experimental awakenings did not differ among the self-reported high and low frequency of recall subjects.
We suggest that Rechtschaffen (1978) and others (Hartmann, 1973; Koukkou & Lehman, 1983) have overstated the single-mindedness of dreams by ignoring the dis-tributional character of the organization of consciousness during the dream state and focusing on only one end of a self-reflectiveness continuum. Stage effects appear to truncate the upper end of the continuum, primarily in Stage 4. Low frequency re-callers show lower average levels of self-reflectiveness, including spontaneous lu-cidity. These data imply a dynamic but inertial organization of consciousness during dreaming.
Hartmann, E. (1973). The functions of sleep. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Koukkou, M. & Lehman, D. (1983). Dreaming: The functional state-shift hypothesis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 221–231.
Rechtschaffen, A. (1978). The single-mindedness and isolation of dreams. Sleep, 1, 904–921.
Rossi, E. (1972). Dreams and the Growth of Personality. New York: Pergamon Press.
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4. Dreaming: Lucid and Non
Georgia Mental Health Institute, Atlanta, Georgia
I restrict my comments to two areas where LaBerge’s remarks have implica-tions for the study of ordinary (nonlucid) dreaming (which must comprise at least 99.44% of human dream experience). The first area is the potential of lucid dream techniques in addressing problems in mainstream dream psychology, and the second is where LaBerge discusses ordinary dreaming per se.
1. LaBerge indicates that lucid dreamers can solve the deficiencies of prior attempts at correlating sleep physiology and dream psychology: unlike nonlucid dreamers, lucid dreamers can be trained to remember to perform and to signal specified actions during the dream, thus making it possible to correlated dream events with their physiological accompaniments in a highly precise way. Now, it’s not surprising to me that if someone remembers that she’s supposed to hold her breath and then signals that she has in fact done this, the intervening recording would indicate a respiratory pause. But does this have anything to do with mind-body relationships during ordinary dreaming, which has, on the face of it, a different organization of mental functions than lucid dreaming, and in which people aren’t remembering or otherwise trying voluntarily to manipulate their real and/or imagined body state?
One answer might be that what is surprising is that people can remember that they’re supposed to hold their breath, can voluntarily attempt to do so, and can sig-nal their accomplishment to the experimenter while asleep and dreaming. Well, yes and no. Yes, they’re asleep in the sense that LaBerge’s data indicate all this can hap-pen without EEG "signs" of wakefulness and in the surrounding context of dream-like imagination. But both "sleep" and "dreaming" are defined by sets of convergent indicators, ideally by the convergence of all members of these sets. At least one member in each case is psychological—e.g., to be asleep is to be unaware and un-reflective in specifiable ways. If someone gives you "The Power of Being Awake and Aware in Your Dreams" (LaBerge’s subtitle), then it’s by no means clear to me that we’re still talking about sleep and dreaming in the usual way, nor that observa-tions from awake-aware sleep and dreaming necessarily generalize to ordinary sleep and dreaming. Put another way, when a major component of any system such as sleep or dreaming is altered, it’s a different system. The kind of dream-content protocols LaBerge uses to illustrate lucid dreaming are sufficiently different from laboratory REM dreams (and from the remembered content of my home dreams) to lead me to believe that lucid dreaming is indeed a different animal than ordinary dreaming (and if it weren’t, why would LaBerge so enthusiastically be urging us to change our style of dreaming?). But he can’t have it both ways; if lucid dreams are different, their immediate general relevance is problematic.
How are they different? Here, it seems to me is where the most interesting im-plications for ordinary dreaming lie. Theoretically, the issue is this: when you change ordinary dreaming by adding a self which intends and reflects, what else changes alongside this change? This is one way of evaluating the role played by the absence of self in ordinary dreaming, and is perhaps the point at which lucid dreaming data could be most relevant to ordinary dream psychology. However, at present, there seem to be no systematic data comparing the REM-monitored lucid vs. nonlucid dreams of the same dreamer. Lucid dream research seems to be repeating the same mistake ordinary dream researchers made a couple of decades ago: namely, it’s doing all kinds of research but the most basic kind: good phenomenological descrip-tion and comparison. LaBerge himself notes that not all lucid dreamers agree on the nature of lucidity, which further suggests the need for standardized data collection and evaluation—in the laboratory.
2. At several points, LaBerge’s account comes to focus on ordinary dreaming. I take exception to the following of his assumptions about such dreaming.
Dreaming is more like perceiving or living life than like imagining. This assumption justifies attempts to make dreaming lucid—if this is what dreaming is, why not be fully aware? Dreaming no doubt simulates waking experience, and far better than waking imagination or mental imagery generally can. Moreover, this simulation is accomplished through recruitment of systems and processes used in perception and real world adaptation. But these facts do not refute the key observation that dream-ing is symbolically instigated—that it is imaginative hallucination rather than per-ception. That dreaming is different from perception and life is just this way raises interesting questions for lucid dream advocates. Is it necessarily as adaptive to be self-aware in dreaming’s kind of cognitive reprocessing as it is in waking sensory processing? If so, why is nonlucidity so pervasive during dreaming?
"Perceptual vividness is probably the main criterion we use to judge how real something is" (p. 89). Thus, waking mental imagery is typically not hallucinatory because it is "pale," and dreaming is hallucinatory because it’s vivid. On the evi-dence, and on some of LaBerge’s own arguments, this assumption must be false. Some people can have highly vivid episodic recollections or waking imagination experiences without hallucinating, and many people have "pale" and sketchy non-REM imagery which they take to be "real." And, the distinction between lucid and non-lucid REM imagery is not so much in the quality of its imagery as in the inter-pretation given the imagery. LaBerge’s (and others’) suggestions for inducing lucid-ity are techniques for altering not image quality but the quality of the interpretation or comprehension supplied to imagery. LaBerge’s "levels" of lucidity are levels of comprehension, specifically, degrees to which the dreamer has access to her or his full mnemonic repertoire.
REM sleep = dreaming. For LaBerge, if chickens and human infants have REM sleep, they dream, and the function of dreaming is formally identical with the func-tion of REM sleep. It’s surely clear by now that dreaming can and does occur in the adult human in other states than REM sleep. There also are both data and conceptual considerations suggesting that dreaming may have cognitive prerequisites making it much less pervasive phylogenetically than is REM sleep. Thus, REM sleep is nei-ther a necessary nor a sufficient condition of dreaming. LaBerge’s own account makes it clear that lucid dreaming occurs at sleep onset, and his observations in fact suggest that sleep onset may be a more appropriate reference point than REM sleep for lucid dream phenomena. At sleep onset, as in lucid dreaming, various features of a standard (nonlucid) dream-production system can be altered in interesting ways with instructive consequences. Because altered (or defective) operations of a system often are most revealing of its components and their functions, lucid dreaming has the same potential for elucidating REM dreaming as do extra-REM forms of dream-ing. But, lucid dreaming’s value won’t be the sort that LaBerge promises—where observations from lucid dreaming can be generalized immediately and directly to nonlucid dreaming. Rather, it will come from the kinds of inferences we can draw from reliable differences between the two phenomena.
LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid Dreaming. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.
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5. Reply To Foulkes
Stanford University, California
David Foulkes is quite correct in noting that when it comes to lucid dreaming we are no longer talking about sleep and dreaming in the "usual" way. Dream lucidity is a paradoxical phenomenon: to resolve the paradox requires a broadening of our understanding of the varieties of dreaming experience and a clarification of our usage of such terms as "sleep," "awareness," and "unconsciousness." For example, Foulkes asserts that "to be asleep is to be unaware and unreflective in specifiable ways." Thus he finds it problematical to hear lucidity described as "being awake and aware in your dreams." How could this be sleep?
The answer is that to say "X is asleep" is vague; what this is probably intended to mean is that "X is asleep with regard to the external world," i.e., not in sensory contact with it. In one sense lucid dreamers are aware of the external world: they usually know where they are sleeping. But as LaBerge et al. point out, "this know-ledge is a matter of memory, not perception" (1981, p. 731). As for "convergent indicators," both subjective reports and physiological evidence indicate that lucid dreams typically occur during sound sleep (with regard to the external world).
Foulkes objects that the reports I used to illustrate lucid dreaming seem differ-ent enough from ordinary dreams to suggest that the two are "different animals." Of course, these lucid dream reports don’t sound like the "usual" nonlucid dreams (75% of which according to Snyder, 1970, make very dull reading). They were selected precisely because they were interesting. Lucid Dreaming was written with the gen-eral reader in mind; there was no room for dull examples (LaBerge, 1985). As for prosaic lucid dreams, I have hundreds of examples in my personal record. For quantitative comparisons of lucid and nonlucid dream reports, see the work of Gackenbach and colleagues (i.e., Gackenbach & Schillig, 1983).
Foulkes takes exception to what he regards as an "assumption" on my part: that "dreaming is more like perceiving or living life than like imagining." LaBerge (1985) presents evidence showing that physiological reactions to dreamed actions were greater than those to imagined actions, and concludes, rather than assumes, that "this suggests that lucid dreaming (and by extension, dreaming in general) is more like actually doing than like merely imagining" (p. 88). Speaking of assumptions, Foulkes appears to regard the notion that "dreaming is symbolically instigated" as an observation rather than hypothesis. As I explain at length in Chapter 8 of Lucid Dreaming, this is at best a debatable point.
Foulkes further suggests "that sleep onset may be a more appropriate reference point than REM sleep for lucid dream phenomena." However, no clear basis for this claim is provided: although lucid dreaming has on occasion been observed at sleep onset, this is in no way typical. In fact, the great majority of lucid dreams appear to occur in the context of the REM state.
"Is it necessarily as adaptive to be self-aware in . . . [the dream] . . . as it is in waking. . . ?" and "if so," asks Foulkes, "why is nonlucidity so pervasive during dreaming?" This reminds me of a question that one might have overheard in the not so distant past: "If writing were really useful then why is illiteracy so pervasive?" As for the question of whether consciousness is as adaptive in the dream as in the wak-ing state, I refer the reader to LaBerge (1985, Chapter 1, especially pp. 6–7), where the argument is developed that the special usefulness of conscious, deliberate action is that it permits more flexible and creative response to unexpected, non-routine situations. Thus, consciousness appears to offer the same advantages to the dream as it does to the waking state. Note that this does not mean that it is always desirable to act deliberately whether asleep or awake.
Foulkes gives the impression that he considers lucid dreaming to be valueless except insofar as it elucidates the features of ordinary nonlucid dreaming by its "defective operations." Leaving aside the odd notion that lucidity is a cognitive defect, why in any case, should the importance of lucid dreams derive solely from their similarities or differences with nonlucid dreams? Creative thinking may not be very much like ordinary thinking: does that make creativity unimportant? I believe that the relative rarity of lucid dreams has led some researchers (including Foulkes) to dismiss the phenomenon as "insignificant." True, nonlucid dreaming "must comprise 99.44% of human dream experience." But that doesn’t make lucid dreams nonexis-tent or unimportant. To say that dreams are essentially non-reflective is as misleading as the parallel claim: "mammals do not speak." This later assertion is true of the vast majority of mammalian species with only one exception in 15,000—Homo sapiens. Whether this singular exception appears significant or not may depend upon one’s scope of vision and research interests. But in any case, we would miss the essence of what a mammal is to say they are creatures that do not speak (or swim, fly, etc.) even if most of them do not. Let us not make the same mistake in regard to dreams.
Gackenbach, J.I. & Schillig, B. (1983). Lucid dreams: The content of conscious awareness of dreaming during the dream. Journal of Mental Imagery, 7(2), 1–14.
LaBerge, S., Nagel, L., Dement, W. & Zarcone, V. (1981). Lucid dreaming verified by voli-tional communication during REM sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 52, 727–732.
LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.
Snyder, F. (1970). The phenomenology of dreaming. In H. Madow & L.H. Snow, The psy-chodynamic implications of the physiological studies on dreams. Springfield, Illinois: C. Thomas.
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6. From Lucid Dreaming to Pure Consciousness:
A Conceptual Framework for the OBE,
UFO Abduction and NDE Experiences
Athabasca University and University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
In order to gain a theoretical understanding of the lucid dream, out-of-body ex-perience (OBE), unidentified flying object abduction experience (UFO), and near-death experience (NDE) it is necessary to place things in their series, as William James, author of the 1902 classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, empha-sized. That is, identify the similarities and differences between experiences in order to understand their nature. The goal of such an inquiry is to identify a common state from which they derive and/or common mechanisms or structures. In this paper lucid dreaming will be framed with the apparently different but related phenomena of three of the cases presented in the June, 1989 issue of Lucidity Letter: the OBEs of Father "X," the UFO abduction described by Felicia Payne and the NDE of Mark Block. A fourth case from the same issue, the witnessing experiences of Anja Savolainen, is also relevant later in this discussion.
The most obvious set of experiences which lucid dreaming should be consid-ered alongside of are all other dreams, ranging from the mundane true-to-daily-life to the highly bizarre, archetypal, life-changing sleep experiences. These com-parisons are considered at length elsewhere (Gackenbach, 1988; Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989). Essentially, lucid dreams at the lowest level of consciousness in sleep, are dreams with few content differences from the nonlucid variety. However, I (Gackenbach, 1991; Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989), as well as others (Alexander, 1987), have argued that entry-level lucidity is only the beginning of the develop-ment of consciousness in sleep.
Less obvious but still frequently mentioned in association with the lucid dream is the OBE. During an OBE one has the feeling that one’s "self" has left the body and is "viewing" it. People who dream lucidly are also more likely to report having had OBEs (Irwin, 1988). Further, the lucid dream has been frequently presented as a jumping off point for the OBE. Related to OBEs and lucid dreams, are NDEs and UFO-abduction experiences. Experients of the latter two often report OBEs in asso-ciation with their experiences. Some preliminary work has also shown a relationship to lucidity for NDErs.
Some of these associations are seen in the three cases in the June, 1989 issue as well as in the OBE, NDE, and UFO abduction literatures. To begin with Father "X": over many years and many experiences this Catholic monk clearly concludes that his apparent OBEs are lucid dreams. Then in the UFO abduction of Bill, as told by Felicia Payne, the contextual material given after the case clearly shows that not only has Bill had OBEs at will since childhood but he also is frequently conscious in sleep. Of course the most obvious link is that throughout his "abduction" experience he himself attributed it to a dream and thus it could be conceptualized as a lucid dream. Finally, the NDE case of college student Mark Block is an example of con-sciousness in the deepest form of sleep, coma.
The thesis I will be presenting is that although these experiences (OBEs, UFO abductions and NDEs) are misattributions of "reality," they are related in some way to lucid dreaming, an experience which by definition is an accurate "reality" attribu-tion. Further, I will show that lucid dreaming is closely related to the practice of meditation and thus to the experience of pure consciousness or contentless aware-ness that is sought by the meditative traditions. It is in tracing this line from three misattributions (OBEs, NDEs and UFO abductions) to an accurate attribution (lucid dreaming) and on to pure consciousness that we can grasp the role each experience plays in the development of higher states of consciousness. I will begin this discus-sion by briefly examining each misattribution and its relation to lucidity. I will then show that lucidity is closely related to meditation and further serves as a bridge to higher states of consciousness such as pure consciousness.
Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs)
Immediately prior to the current work on lucidity western references to this nocturnal experience were almost exclusively found in the literature discussing the OBE. OBEs have been known to occur in deep meditative states and while under the influence of psychedelics. They are commonly associated with NDEs, and occa-sionally while engaged in some other activity. The majority of OBEs, however, arise at or near sleep with the next most frequent precipitator being periods of extreme waking stress. Of those associated with sleep, Hunt and Ogilvie (1988) explain, "it is as if a dreaming sequence starts but, atypically, awareness of one’s actual setting in time and space is not dislodged as in most dreams." Rather, the dreamer integrates "the imaginal participations of the dream with a detached self-awareness that knows one’s actual context for what it is."
Another perspective is that of LaBerge (1985) and colleagues (1988) who argue that OBEs are misinterpreted dreams. They point out that the REM sleep hypothesis has been rejected by most OBE theorists based largely on the failure of the few physiological studies of OBEs to identify REM sleep phenomenon associated with the OBE. However, in a recent study LaBerge et al. (1988) content-analyzed 107 signal-verified lucid dreams (i.e., presence of consciousness in sleep verified by a prearranged eye movement signal executed by the dreamer from REM sleep). Ten of the reports were identified as OBEs based on phrases in the report such as "I . . . felt that I had left my body" or "I was floating out of body. . . ." They concluded through subsequent analyses that the activation of body schema was important in these cases, and that "because of the discrepancy between the remembered state of the physical body and the current experienced state of the body image, the subject constructs a perception of a mobile body leaving an immobile body."
Rogo (1985) counters LaBerge’s arguments by pointing to the wide variety of physiological characteristics that have been identified with the OBE. Outside judges, he points out, typically cannot classify them as clear-cut sleeping or waking experiences. Nonetheless, LaBerge’s data clearly suggests that the REM state hypothesis needs to be more seriously considered in accounting for at least some OBEs.
To return to the more classic OBE theories, Blackmore (1988) points out that there are two types of theories of the OBE, ones that postulate the "soul, astral body, spirit, or whatever leaves the body temporarily in an OBE and permanently at death," and "psychological theories of the OBE that deny that anything leaves the body and posit that the experience is one of the imagination." Most current theorists favor the latter and note the multiple parallels between lucid dreaming and OBEs, thus postulating a common cognitive mechanism for both (Blackmore, 1988; LaBerge, 1985).
Irwin (1988), however, argues that lucid dreams and OBEs are neither "phe-nomenologically or neurophysiologically equivalent." Nonetheless because of their strong association, they reliably occur in the same people and he too has searched for common mechanisms. Blackmore, on the other hand, argues that both are due to the same sort of mental model building. Irwin points to the arousal/stress factor in the initiation of both. These may be collapsible by postulating that at two points the system is forced to create a new mental model of its experience thus resulting in the reorientation of the perception of the locus of "self" as "outside" the physical body.
The most frequent condition is one where the system is denied sensory input, as when one is near or during sleep. Without sensory input as to the appropriate loca-tion of "self" the system is more able to locate "self" elsewhere. Although in the case of sleep mentation "self" is still most frequently "located" in the dreamed body, dual self, flying selves, etc. are much more common in this state than while awake.
The second condition is one where the system is on sensory overload, as with extreme physical and emotional stress. Due to the negative consequences of such overloads "self" relinquishes its identification with body and "locates" elsewhere. So in the first case the system lacks a referent (sensory input) to locate self whereas in the second case the referent (sensory/emotional input) is overloaded and thus abandoned. My one and only waking OBE illustrates this relationship. After 32 hours of labor with my first child I was, needless to say extremely fatigued, and in enormous pain. A fantasy kept running through my mind, in between screams of pain, that I wanted to jump off the birthing table and run away from all this. Quite suddenly I found my "self" viewing from above and behind my body on the birthing table with my husband standing at my side. I remember thinking to myself, "This is more like it!" while feeling a great sense of relief—but alas! I quickly found myself back in my body with my daughter eager to exit!
After the extreme physical and emotional overload of 32 hours of labor I recon-structed my mental model of "reality" by placing my self "outside" of a body with which I was singularly displeased. Such a model of sensory detachment due to under or overload has also been proposed by Fisher (1971) with regard to mystical exper-iences and meditative states and will be discussed in more detail later in this paper.
Near-Death Experiences (NDEs)
Hunt’s (1989) description of lucid dreams and OBEs as experiences of "inten-sified self-reference" (a detached observation maintained with a dreamt or lived participation)—also applies to several other states. NDEs, which occur during per-iods of the severest biological stress, combine intensified self-reference with image-ry common to the OBE such as the tunnel through which one travels and the white light of the void. Further, the OBE is one of the most common features of the NDE.
One way to view the relationship of the NDE to lucid dreams is nicely illus-trated in this lucid dream following an NDE of retired physicist John Wren-Lewis (1985). Concerned that drinking too much wine would disrupt the mystical con-sciousness he seemed to have attained following an NDE, Wren-Lewis dreamt:
He seemed to have a special responsibility for instructing me in how to handle this strange post-mortem existence, and when he mentioned wine I suddenly became lucid. I knew this was a dream, in which my ghostly invisibility symbolized my post-NDE state and the dream-characters who could see me were the people who in waking life recog-nized that I was living in heaven here on earth, dead to "this world." I also knew I was creating this dream to explore my concern about drink and mystical consciousness, and I became aware of lying in bed in our apartment overlooking Sydney Harbor Bridge with my mouth dry from mild alcoholic dehydration.
Wren-Lewis continues with a key realization in the dream:
With a flash I saw that the real threat to mystical consciousness lay not in drink itself but in getting caught up into an internal dialogue about drink, and to celebrate this "breakthrough" in dream-terms I walked straight through the wall of the dream-room. As I emerged into the street by the harbor my dream was flooded with mystical con-sciousness, and not as something new, but as a simple recognition of what had actually been there all along, the exact same sense I have been having when I click back to the [mystical] consciousness in waking life. I flew over the water, borne by a wind I knew to be the breath of God on creation’s first morning, and fainted at the beauty of it all—to wake in bed, my eyes brimming with tears of gratitude.
On more empirical grounds two survey studies have looked directly at the NDE/lucid dream relationship. Kohr (1982) identified three groups of respondents, who differed in whether or not they had had an NDE. The experiencing group indicated they had come close to death; had a deep, moving personal experience, and had one or more of the six types of experiences described in the research on NDEs. A second group indicated that they had come close to death and may or may not have had a moving personal experience. The third group was referred to as the non-experiencing group, composed of persons who had never come close to death. In terms of dream states the experiencing group reported a greater frequency of unusual dream states, including lucidity.
Greyson (1982) also looked at this relationship and writes:
I have already asked about the occurrence of lucid dreams in one questionnaire (a short-ened version of John Palmer’s Survey of Psychic Experiences) administered to self-selected members of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS). Among the "controls" (i.e., IANDS members who have not had NDEs), 83 out of 155 respondents (54%) reported having had lucid dreams, which is roughly what Palmer found among his sample from the general population. Among near-death experiencers, 13 out of 62 respondents (21%) reported having had lucid dreams prior to their NDEs, and 33 (53%) reported having had lucid dreams since their NDEs. Thus, a fairly low percentage of near-death experiencers had lucid dreams before their NDEs, while after the NDE, this percentage rises to the level among the IANDS controls and the population Palmer sampled.
Of course, this correlational data should not be viewed as causal. Although Greyson’s data suggests that an NDE experience may increase the frequency of lucidity an alternative explanation would be that NDErs had a tendency to perceive and/or report more of any type of extraordinary experience since their NDE. None-theless both studies point to the possibility that there may be a common mechanism or state which relates both experiences.
Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) Abduction Experiences
It may surprise the readers that the UFO abduction experience is another wak-ing experience which can be conceptualized as related to the lucid dream/OBE/NDE range of phenomenon. Of course the problem with these experiences is that many who have had them claim that they do not lie in the mental realm but rather are physical, and thus real experiences. Let’s put physical considerations aside for the moment and consider the mental aspects of these experiences as several contem-porary psychologists have done, starting with Carl Jung (1964).
Probably one of the most psychologically-based explanations for the UFO ab-duction experience is offered by Bird (1989). She points to confabulation as "the simplest psychological mechanism fueling UFO accounts." Confabulations are something we all do in storing and retrieving memories. Bird explains that UFO stories "may well be confabulations, tapestries stitched together from actual exper-ience, the stories of others who were there, events that have happened since, and perhaps a dash of wishful thinking." However, those with fantasy-prone personal-ities, she argues, are especially prone to such memory distortions. With the appro-priate cue, such as the current fascination with science fiction, horror and space travel, an experience which 100 years ago might have been attributed to then fash-ionable creatures is today attributed to an alien abduction.
As with the OBE, many, but not all, of the abductions occur during or near sleep. Again hallucinations from hypnagogic (presleep), hypnopompic (postsleep) and incomplete arousals during sleep can be brought to bear to explain these exper-iences. As we fall asleep and wake up and for those momentary intrusions of wakefulness into sleep we are all much more prone to hallucinate and are more suggestible. As described by Payne, Bill himself attributed his entire UFO abduc-tion to a dream while it occurred. Furthermore he had a history of extraordinary sleep experiences.
Calls to fantasy-prone personalities and sleep-related hallucinations no doubt account for some of what occurs in these experiences. However, the often-found attitude of those offering purely psychological explanations, i.e. "rational people view the stories with amusement" (Bird, 1989), does a major disservice to both the experience itself and those having it. These sorts of condescending attitudes to extraordinary but not psychotic experiences are a hindrance when trying to come to an understanding of them. There is an assumption inherent in this attitude, that con-sensus reality is not really a mental model created by us (Yates, 1987). Further some current models of physical reality from quantum physics argue that consciousness, and not matter, is the stuff of the universe (Hageline, 1984).
Let’s consider another perspective while remaining in the realm of the mental. Grosso (1985b) notes,
The UFO mythology is a mythology of science, gussied up in ideas of extraterrestrial civilizations, future worlds and higher technologies. . . . Compared with ancient and prim-itive societies, modern scientific culture offers few inlets to the healing powers of the col-lective unconscious. This archetypal model came originally from Jung (1964) who saw UFO phenomenon [sic] as signs of the end of the era. He writes, "Apparently they are changes in the constellation of psychic dominants, or the archetypes, or ‘gods’ as they used to be called, which bring about, or accompany, long-lasting transformations of the collec-tive psyche."
Relatedly, the most well-known UFO abductee, Whitley Strieber (1988), hits the nail on the head about the potential of these experiences. He explains that he is:
|. . . a thinking person who by no means buys the extraterrestrial explanation. How-ever, I don’t feel that a simple psychological explanation is in order, either. Something else is going on, something akin to the transcendental, visionary experience that has always been with humanity. I myself try to make use of this experience the same way that a shaman on the steppes of Central Asia two thousand years ago made use of his startling vision of the world of the dead—by telling my story and bringing my dreams back to society. Perhaps we had better try to stop laughing at this state and start trying to describe it, because an awful lot of people believe they are experiencing contact with higher beings and another world. If we don’t stop imposing interpretations and narra-tives on the experience, we may find ourselves in the grip of the most powerful religion the world has ever known.
Whether his prediction of these experiences as a potential "powerful religion" comes true, his advise to not ignore them should be taken by those interested in the range of conscious experience.
Let’s return to our analysis of the UFO abduction experience in the context of other experiences. Strieber (1988), among others, has pointed to the OBE exper-ience as associated with the UFO abduction. Further, Ring (in press) found in an informal poll of UFO experients that more than half had also had an NDE. Arguing that the UFO abduction (UFOE) and the NDE are both contemporary shamanic journeys he notes, "At the phenomenological level, NDEs and UFOs are of course quite dissimilar, but it is in their ‘deep structure,’ as it were, rather than in their surface contextual manifestations that important commonalities can be discerned." By placing these experiences as shamanic initiations Ring puts them squarely in the "world of imagination." His understanding, however, of this world is that "persons and places are fully real; they are as real in that domain as our physical world is to our senses," and as are dreams while we dream them. But why, Ring asks, does one go on a shamanic journey? To educate the Soul is his answer. The soul is imagina-tion (Avens, 1980).
Integration of OBE, NDE and UFO Abductions with Lucidity
These three experiences, OBE, NDE and UFO abduction, are some of the few imaginal realms that are more "real" than dreams but like dreams they carry the same inaccurate attribution. For most of us dreams are the strongest experiences of the mind that appear to occur "outside" of consensual reality. When we dream, while in the dream, it feels real. Even if we know it to be a dream while still in the dream (lucid dream), it still feels real. But in the vast majority of dreams we suffer a peculiar "singlemindedness" (Rechtschaffen, 1978) in that we are sure we are awake. We have no idea that we are dreaming while we dream. So too, in the "waking" dreams of OBEs, NDEs and UFO abductions, we are certain that what is occurring is "real" in the sense of loosing its felt sense of reality or object of permanence. And so, too rarely might an experient of these experiences accurately attribute the true nature of his or her state. Accurate attributions are the exceptions, not the rule.
This experience from Worsley (1988), the first lucid dreamer to signal from sleep that he knew he was dreaming, illustrates my point. In speaking about the lucid dreaming which he directly enters from the waking state by lying for up to two hours on his back and not moving Worsley comments:
I am not given to superstition or believing in "unnecessary entities" but perhaps the term "dream" is a little too bland to do justice to the ultra-realism of these experiences. For instance, if one "dreams," as I have, in rich tactile and auditory imagery of being examined in the dark by robots or operated upon by small beings whose good will and competence may be in doubt, or abused in various ways by life-forms not known to terrestrial biology, it can be very difficult to keep still. I have found that if I do not keep still this peculiar state of consciousness usually evaporates in a moment. That can be very useful as an escape route but it can be annoying to lose it when the success rate is not high and each attempt takes two hours or more. I like to regard myself as at least a moderately intrepid investigator, but I have to admit that in spite of being intellectually of the opinion that what was happening was only internally generated imagery, I have flinched during these episodes on more than one occasion. . . . I suspect that many "UFO abduction" experiences, as well as out-of-body-experiences are examples of the same kind of thing.
Let me reiterate that the felt reality of these experiences, be they OBE, NDE, or UFO abduction, is profound and should not be understated. Because of it a relatively unsophisticated observer, which probably includes most of us, often concludes that such experiences are "real" in the sense of consensual waking reality. Only in the case of the lucid dream does the experience feel real while we experience it even though we are fully aware at the time that it is not "real." Thus I would argue that lucid dreaming represents a breakthrough for these types of experiences, in the sense of "waking up" called for in the meditative traditions. Further, this "waking up" represented by lucidity in sleep is only a transition or beginning point to higher states of consciousness and especially to pure consciousness. This state of "pure" consciousness occasionally occurs spontaneously, that is, without mental prepara-tion, as in the NDE case of Block. However, more commonly the practice of medi-tation allows a reliable and integrated access.
But why, you might ask, should we want to train ourselves to pure conscious-ness? As Wallace (1986) explains:
Contemporary physiology over the last three hundred years has come to the basic understanding that life and consciousness evolved from matter and energy. The property of consciousness, in particular, is considered by many to be an epiphenomenon of living systems—that is, property which occurs as a by-product of the functioning of a complex nervous system. . . . In the Vedic perspective of physiology, as brought to light by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the understanding and experience are quite the opposite. Con-sciousness is not an epiphenomenon; rather, consciousness is the primary reality from which matter and life emerge.
In other words, by going to pure consciousness we go to the source of all being, of all experience whether ordinary or extraordinary. I will now track our way to pure consciousness via the lucid dreaming–meditation link.
Hunt (1989) warns that the lucid dreams are not reducible to only a mental wak-ing up unique to the sleep state. First the "conscious" faculties brought forth are only partial. Second although spontaneously occurring lucid dreams in normal popula-tions are quite realistic relative to nonlucid dreams, in more sophisticated experients, such as long term meditators, bizarreness reasserts in unique ways. According to Hunt, "lucid dreaming is not merely (or even primarily) the intellectual awareness that one is dreaming (‘Am I? Oh well, I guess so. Isn’t that quaint?’)." The "realism" often spoken of as associated with lucidity is not only of the real life type but also "real, clear and somehow present" reminiscent, according to Hunt, of the peak ex-periences described by Maslow (1962).
The facility for self-reflectiveness, of recognizing self in the midst of a dream says Hunt (1989), is strikingly similar to the development of self-reflective consciousness in "mindfulness" or "insight" meditative traditions such as Zen, Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism. Furthermore, according to Alexander (1987) it is developmentally prior to obtaining the witness set sought in Transcendental Medita-tion. Especially in meditation and lucid dreaming (and it can be argued in the OBE, NDE and UFO abductions), once a detached but receptive attitude has been inte-grated into the waking or dreaming consciousness, strong feelings of exhilaration, freedom and release occur. There is, Hunt explains, "an unusually broad sense of context and perspective, a ‘balance’ of normally contradictory attitudes, and the felt sense of one’s own existence (that especial ‘I am’ or ‘being’ experience. . .)."
Without this heightened sense, most of us become consumed by everyday living, untouched by the "awe" of life and the stark inevitability of death. This, explains Hunt, is "the full human context to which on rare occasions we spontaneously ‘wake up.’" In the same way we remain unaware that we are dreaming, until the moment we turn lucid. Both moments of awareness "can have quite an impact," Hunt says. But both are also frequently short-lived.
The theoretical and empirical association of lucid dreaming to the practice of meditation was first identified by Hunt (1989) and has been further developed by Gackenbach and Bosveld (summarized in 1989). From virtually every level of analysis, parallels, and in some cases potential causal agents, can be identified sup-porting the association of dream lucidity to the practice of meditation and thus on to the experience of pure consciousness. There are also now several studies of medi-tators and lucid dreamers which reveal important psychological and physiological parallels.
Historically, lucid dreams are specifically spoken of in classic Tibetan Buddhist texts (for a review see Gillespie, 1988a) where lucidity is presented as a form of meditation available during dreaming. For a critical phenomenological discussion of this, see the papers of Gillespie (1988b; 1987a,b; 1986; 1985a,b,c,d,e,f,g) as well as books by Sparrow (1976a), Kelzer (1987), Garfield, (1976) and LaBerge (1985).
Before I consider the specific phenomenological characteristics of dream lucid-ity relative to waking meditation, two points should be noted. First, the "eye of the beholder" phenomenon is apparent when analyzing these phenomena. That is, over-all, dreamers reliably evaluate their lucid dreams as quite distinct from nonlucid ones whereas independent judges do not (Gackenbach, 1988). Secondly, the charac-teristics typically follow a developmental relationship with high impact occurring in both novice and sophisticated lucid dreamers and moderate to no impact in the mid-ranges. With bizarreness, Hunt and McLeod (1984) have argued that the nature of bizarreness in the lucid dreams of long term meditators is qualitatively distinct from bizarreness apparent in prelucid episodes of nonmeditators. This qualitative distinc-tion is true with some but not all content categories (Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989).
Regarding the visual nature of lucidity, more advanced practitioners as well as those who have had an initial exposure to lucidity report a rich visual quality that seems to stand out and sparkle (Green, 1968; Hunt, 1989). As with bizarreness, and consistent with the meditation model being proposed, this visual richness habituates with some exposure to lucidity, thus the lack of a difference in visual quality re-ported by Gackenbach (1988). Yet with long term exposure this same quality may reemerge particularly when associated with dream experiences of a transpersonal nature.
This is illustrated by Gillespie (1987a) who examines the range of experiences of light while lucid in dreams. He points out that light moves from ordinary dream light, which has the same visual quality as ordinary dreams, through unique exper-iences of light—like disks, or patterns of light such as "versions of lattices, lines, dots and colors constantly changing"—to the "fullness of light." The latter he notes is overwhelming in its brilliance and transpersonal in his felt interpretation. "The fullness of light is accompanied by intense spontaneous feelings of joy and devotion."
Many of the individual difference variables associated with the practice of medi-tation have also been found to be true of individuals who frequently dream lucidly while controlling for dream recall frequency. These include field independence (lucidity: Gackenbach, Heilman, Boyt & LaBerge, 1985; meditation: Pelletier, 1974; Jedrczak, 1984), creativity (lucidity: Gackenbach, Curren, LaBerge, Davidson, & Maxwell, 1983; meditation: Orme-Johnson & Haynes, 1981); lower anxiety (lucid-ity: Gackenbach et al., 1983; meditation: Alexander, 1982); absorption (lucidity: Gackenbach, Cranson & Alexander, 1986; meditation: Alexander, 1978; 1982); and private self-consciousness (lucidity: Gackenbach, et al., 1983; meditation, West, 1982). The meditation findings are reviewed in Alexander, Boyer and Alexander, 1987 while lucid dream findings are reviewed in Snyder and Gackenbach, 1988. A strong finding in both the lucidity (for review see Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988) and meditation (Reed, 1978; Faber, Saayman & Touyz, 1978) literatures is that both are associated with enhanced dream recall despite decreases in REM time as the result of meditation (Banquet & Sailhan, 1976; Becker & Herter, 1973; Meirsman, 1989).
Finally, and particularly noteworthy, is that the waking practice of meditation increases the frequency of experiencing lucidity in dreams (Sparrow, 1976b; Reed, 1978; Hunt & McLeod, 1984) even when dream recall differences are controlled (Gackenbach et al., 1986; 1989). Further, reports of consciousness during deep sleep are related to clear experiences of transcending during meditation (reported in Alexander, Boyer & Alexander, 1987) as well as to breath suspension during medi-tation. The latter is thought to be a key physiological indicate of the experience of "pure" consciousness (Kesterson, 1985).
Physiological parallels between lucidity and meditation also exist. Except for the fact that the individual is awake, the depth of somatic arousal during meditation is equivalent to that of light sleep (Kesterson, 1985) but is not the same as light sleep (West, 1980). However, REM sleep shows increases in oxygen consumption and heart rate over Stages 1 and 2 NREM and lucid REM is significantly higher on these dimensions than nonlucid REM (LaBerge, Levitan, & Dement, 1986; LaBerge, 1985; 1988). This lucid somatic arousal would seem to argue against the lucid dreaming–meditation parallel. LaBerge (personal communication, June, 1987) has pointed out that the continued somatic arousal which he has found after the required eye movement signal could be an artifact of demand characteristics. That is, his subjects are typically told to signal when they know they are dreaming and then to do a predesigned task; active engagement in a dream task with consciousness could keep the system somatically aroused.
A study by Gackenbach, Moorecroft, Alexander and LaBerge (1987) sheds some light on this apparent discrepancy. They had a long term meditator who during meditation showed physiological signs of transcending that correlated with his self reports. This individual claimed that he was conscious of his true state throughout his sleep cycle. That is, he knew he was sleeping and sometimes dreaming during the entire night. The stabilization of this ability, called witnessing sleep, is thought to be a result of the regular practice of meditation (Alexander, Boyer & Orme-Johnson, 1985). In the sleep laboratory this meditator was able to signal with pre-arranged eye movements that he knew he was dreaming/sleeping during REM, Stage 1 and Stage 2 sleep. Interestingly, and in line with the present hypothesis, he showed physiological arousal around the eye movement signal but contrary to the data of LaBerge et al. (1986) he rapidly returned to quiet somatic levels shortly thereafter. With at least this one subject, signaling was somatically arousing but his self-reported continued consciousness in sleep was not. This study tentatively con-firms that as lucid dreaming unfolds into witnessing dreaming, somatic arousal de-creases and the equation of consciousness in sleep with states desired by the practice of meditation becomes firmer.
Further supporting the meditation-lucidity link is a finding with the "Hoffman" or "H"-reflex, an electrically evoked monosynaptic spinal reflex which has been viewed as an indicator of the flexibility of central nervous system response. Brylowski (1986) found greater H-reflex suppression associated with lucid REM sleep than with nonlucid REM sleep. H-reflex suppression is thought to be a key indicator of the presence of the REM state of sleep, as one is paralyzed from the neck down. This type of body paralysis does not occur during any other time of the sleep cycle, nor while awake. This finding is conceptually in line with studies by Dillbeck, Orme-Johnson, and Wallace (1981) and Haynes, Hebert, Reber & Orme-Johnson (1976). Dillbeck et al. found greater H-reflex recovery indirectly associated with an advanced form of meditation practice while Haynes et al. note positive cor-relations between H-reflex recovery and clarity of experience of the transcendental state while meditating. Enhanced H-reflex suppression in REM and recovery in waking both indicate a nervous system which is functioning maximally in accord with the needs of the state of organism.
A physiological individual difference variable further supports the lucidity– meditation link. Based on our work with lucid dreamer type differences in vestibular sensitivity we (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1991) hypothesized that REM sleep, espe-cially lucid REM sleep, might be best characterized as internalizing of attention. Meditation has most often been conceptualized as a technique for internalizing attention.
The EEG work with dream lucidity is unfortunately fairly limited at this point in time [Editor’s Note: June, 1989] with the bulk having been done by Ogilvie, Hunt and associates (Ogilvie, Hunt, Sawicki & McGowan, 1978; Ogilvie, Hunt, Tyson, Lucescu & Jeakins, 1982; Tyson, Ogilvie & Hunt, 1984; Ogilvie, Vieira & Small, 1988; Hunt & Ogilvie, 1988). In this series of studies they sought to demonstrate the lucidity–meditation connection by examining alpha waves in lucid and nonlucid REM. Reviews of the EEG and meditation literature have fairly consistently pointed to the association of alpha with meditation (West, 1980; Taneli & Krahne, 1987; Wallace, 1986). The Ogilvie and Hunt group found, consistent with the meditation literature, variations in alpha as a function of stage of lucidity. Specifically, they found increased alpha in prelucid REM periods and early in lucidity and have likened this to the access phases of waking mediation. Similarly, West (1980) and Taneli and Krahne (1987) have summarized the EEG and meditation literature for power mea-sures and note changes as a function of stage of meditation. Both reviewers agree that at the beginning and at the end of meditation, increases in alpha are observed. Later theta occurs, often intermixed with alpha, and at the "transcending" or "samadhi" phase, bursts of beta occur.
West (1980) has pointed out that a more sophisticated examination of EEG changes in meditation should include the investigation of EEG coherence (COH). The relationship of this variable to meditation has been investigated in the Transcen-dental Meditation research literature (for a review see Orme-Johnson, Wallace, Dillbeck, Alexander & Ball, in press; Wallace, 1986) and offers a unique potential for identifying EEG associations to types of consciousness during sleep—as ex-tended alpha or beta bursts would mitigate against sleep.
REM has been identified as interhemispherically coherent in the theta range relative to NREM, thus making it the state in which meditation-like experiences (including lucidity) would be most likely to occur. Several investigators have shown that lucidity primarily emerges out of REM (see LaBerge, 1988, for a review). For a theoretical review of the coherence literature in meditation and sleep and its rela-tionship to REM sleep consciousness see Gackenbach, in press.
Armitage, Hoffman and Moffitt (in press) report that high dream recallers show a greater continuity of rhythmic EEG (in a measure conceptually similar to EEG coherence) in transition from sleep to waking. Thus individuals who frequently remember their dreams are accessing information from a coherent state of brain functioning by remaining in some sense in that state. One of the most robust find-ings in both the individual difference (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988) and content analysis (Gackenbach, 1988) literature on dream lucidity is the association of high dream recall to lucidity. Lucid dreamers in general are high dream recallers so they should show more COH at the state transition to waking.
But will lucid dreams themselves be higher in COH? In Gackenbach’s (1988) work with self evaluations of the recallability of lucid versus nonlucid dreams, the former are continually perceived as significantly easier to remember. Although one might argue that the phasic nature of lucid dreams might be responsible for their increased recallability, Pivik (1978) points out that dreams recalled from phasic versus tonic REM do not differ in recall. Indeed the "tonic" consciousness of the dreams reported by Gackenbach et al. were rated as highly recallable by the subject, if phenomenologically quiet (Gackenbach & Moorecroft, 1987).
Most directly, in pilot data LaBerge looked at EEG coherence twice. In his dis-sertation (LaBerge, 1980) he had only central EEG leads and found no COH differ-ences as a function of lucidity. More recently (LaBerge, personal communication, June, 1988), he compared a five-minute lucid dream during REM to the 15 minutes of REM prior to the onset of dream consciousness in one subject. Looking at the in-terhemispheric EEG coherence measured at the parietal lobes, he found an increase in COH in the parietal lobes. This is interesting as the central role of visual-spatial functioning, associated with this area of the brain, has been strongly implicated in the work of Gackenbach’s group for both lucid dreamers (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988) and lucid dreams (Gackenbach, 1988). Further, this was the location of inter-hemispheric alpha COH reported by O’Connor and Shaw for field independent individuals, a perceptual style characteristic of high dream recallers, lucid dreamers, and meditators.
Clearly on several levels of analyses, dream lucidity parallels waking medita-tion. Although lucidity can and does emerge spontaneously in nonmeditating popu-lations, the average frequency of such experiences is considerably less than in medi-tating adults (Gackenbach, Cranson & Alexander, 1986; 1989).
What is Meditation? A Technique to Access Pure Consciousness
If lucid dreaming is a form of meditation and/or the result of meditation, the question is, "What is meditation?" For the past two decades, as western scientists have been addressing the question of meditation, several models have been emerg-ing. Most frequently cited is meditation as a stress reducing mechanism. Often pointed to are meditation as a form of psychotherapy, as enhanced self awareness, as a finely held hypnagogic state or as a form of self hypnosis. More recent models focus on meditation as an attention-enhancing procedure. (For a recent review of the meditation literature see Murphy & Donovan, 1988.)
But these models do not answer the "what is meditation" question. They only describe what it does; that is what the potential products of its practice are. All of these "takes" on meditation really miss the essential point. Meditation is a proce-dure, a technology, a method and as such it is not causal; rather it facilitates out-comes, such as stress reduction and consciousness during sleep. These outcomes are a natural part of the biological and psychological systems but the application of the "technology" of meditation increases the likelihood of attaining them.
These perspectives on meditation are reductionistic. Such reducing to the com-mon denominator is the meat of the scientific method, but it can also strike a death toll for complex, holistic procedures designed to work with the entire self system. Reductionism, when investigating a complex phenomenon such as meditation, strips it of its full meaning and potential. As Deikman (1982) recently noted:
Ironically, although the power of meditation to affect physiological and psycholog-ical functions has been substantiated in many different laboratories, we have paid little attention to what the originators of meditation have said about its intended purpose and the requirements for its appropriated use. . . . Focusing primarily on the experiences and bodily effects of meditation is like collecting oyster shells and discarding the pearls. Such ‘spiritual materialism’ inevitably interferes with the real potential of meditation.
If meditation is somehow more than its component parts or products, what is it? Virtually all systems of meditation contextualize the procedure in some way, mak-ing it part of a spiritual path—a seeking—for union with the higher self-God-nature. Here I will focus on one of these systems because it is not only comprehen-sive but is the most empirically supported theoretical position. It comes from the founder of the largest meditation group in the West, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The Maharishi conceptualizes meditation as a tool for the development of con-sciousness. In other words meditation, in this case Transcendental Meditation, is a technique which serves to enliven an individual’s experience of the common denom-inator of being, pure consciousness. Pure consciousness, according to Alexander, Chandler, and Boyer (1989), is "described as a silent state of inner wakefulness with no object of thought or perception." Furthermore, they note that "pure conscious-ness is conditioned not by cultural or intellectual conditions, but by fundamental psychophysiological conditions which are universally available across cultures."
Alexander et al. offer several descriptions of pure consciousness. For instance:
After about two years, my experience of the transcendent started to become clearer. At that time, I would settle down, it would be very quiet . . . and then I would transcend, and there would just be a sort of complete silence, void of content. The whole awareness would turn in, and there would be no thought, no activity, and no perception, yet it was somehow comforting. It was just there and I could know when I was in it. There wasn’t a great "Oh, I am experiencing this," it was very natural and innocent. But I did not yet identify myself with this silent content-free inner-space. It was a self-contained entity that I transcended to and experienced.
Alexander et al. reviewed the empirical correlates of the experience of pure consciousness. Physiological correlates of this "subjective" experience during med-itation include: attainment of a deep state of physiologic rest during this experience is indicated by significant reductions, relative to simply relaxing with eyes closed,in minute ventilation, forearm muscle O2 consumption and CO2 elimination, red blood cell metabolism, plasma lactate, plasma cortisol, and thyroid stimulating hor-mone; and significant comparative increases in basal skin resistance, plasma pro-lactin, and serotonergic turnover. On the other hand, simultaneous enhancement of alertness associated with experience of pure consciousness during TM practice is suggested by a more efficient auditory evoked potential response, faster H-reflex recovery, increased blood flow to the brain, and higher levels of plasma arginine vasopressin (associated with enhanced learning and memory) in comparison to con-trol subjects simply sitting and relaxing with eyes closed.
Two physiological variables are markers of experiencing pure consciousness: breath suspension and enhanced EEG coherence. These two, these scientists explain, "were the immediate correlates of specific subperiods of reported experience of pure consciousness, indicated by button press, and were greater than those occurring during the remainder of TM practice."
As for behavioral effects they note that "exhaustive meta-analyses of over 100 separate studies indicate that repeated experience of pure consciousness during TM produces significantly greater reductions in trait anxiety, depression, hostility and other symptoms of mental stress than simple or stylized forms of relaxation." Fur-ther "regular experience of consciousness during TM is associated with develop-ment of personal identity as operationalized by improvement on such measures as self-actualization, self-concept, self-esteem and field independence" including ego development. They summarize,
Whereas deep sleep is characterized by physiologic rest (e.g., a decrease in several metabolic functions) and ordinary wakefulness by alertness (e.g., faster H-reflex recov-ery response), pure consciousness is characterized by both co-existing in a simple uni-fied state.
By way of methodological refinement Alexander et al. point out that:
Although experience of pure consciousness occurs with far less frequency in the general population, our research (and that of other researchers) indicates that its behav-ioural correlates are similar even among subjects who have received no exposure to meditation or the concept of pure consciousness.
This enables us to go beyond the prevailing understanding of pure consciousness as an inaccessible, ineffable or "mystical" experience. Rather, we come to realize that the experience of pure consciousness is a natural consequence of unfolding the latent poten-tial of human consciousness to fully know itself, that has profound utility for improving the quality of human life.
Access to pure consciousness due to the purification of the nervous system in response to the regular practice of meditation is exemplified in the development of a "passive witness," a silently observing part of the self that witnesses all other states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, and dreaming) without trying to change them. A male long term TM meditator describes witnessing dreamless sleep:
It is a feeling of infinite expansion and bliss and nothing else. Then I become aware that I exist but there is no individual personality then I become aware that I am individ-ual but no details of who, where, what, when, etc. Eventually these details fill in and I might come awake.
How do you describe an unmanifest experience? It has only happened a half dozen times in 15 years, but when it occurs, its crystal clear. [It is] like an amplifier turned on, but no sound. The experience fades as boundaries of dreams or waking state gather, gain definition and overshadow.
While witnessing dreaming sleep is described, "I watch it as it is going on sep-arate from me. . . . There are parts, me and the dream, two different realities."
With the formal operational dreams of adults, differing degrees of self-awareness are evident prior to its full emergence in lucidity. Moffitt et al. (1986), based on the work of Rossi (1972), designed a nine-point scale culminating in lu-cidity. At the lowest level on their Self-Reflectiveness Scale the dreamer is not in the dream. This moves to Level 3 where the dreamer is completely involved in the dream then at Level 5 the dreamer thinks over an idea. At Level 7 the dreamer has multiple levels of awareness simultaneously participating and observing. Finally, at Level 9 the dreamer consciously reflects on the fact that he is dreaming.
But I have argued (Gackenbach, 1991) that lucidity is only the beginning and that consciousness in sleep, when it arises as part of the natural growth cycle, is both psychologically and biologically a developmentally advanced form of dream-ing. This is in line with current cognitive perspectives of sleep mentation. Foulkes (1982) argues that the development of mentation in sleep parallels that during wak-ing so that dreams of young children are preoperational whereas those of adults range from concrete to formal operations. Furthermore, cognitive models of sleep mentation stress the continuity of waking-type mentation into sleep (Foulkes, 1985). Recent theorists in developmental (Alexander & Langer, 1989) as well as transper-sonal psychology (Wilber, 1987) have postulated stages of developmental beyond the traditional Piagetian endpoint of formal operations. Alexander, Davies, Dixon, Dillbeck, Oetzel, Muehlman, and Orme-Johnson (1989), in characterizing one such stage, maintain that "the Self becomes de-embedded from and hierarchically inte-grates (‘witnesses’) all previous, representational levels of mind" (p. 33), including dreaming. In other words, consciousness in sleep, or the lucid dream, is an early manifestation of postformal operational functioning in sleep.
Physiological Analysis of the Lucidity–Witnessing Relationship
I shall first consider the relationship of meditation to REM sleep on a physio-logical level of analysis. Meirsman (1989) studied six advanced TM meditators (TM-Sidhi techniques) who reported witnessing sleep on the average of half the night. He argued that the practice of the TM-Sidhis results in the "maintenance of . . . alertness even during the inertia of deep night sleep" and that further "‘witnessing’ of one’s own sleep during the night seems to be the subjective experience of a physiologically more efficient (REM) sleep." Meirsman examined the incidence of an eye movement ratio (high frequency REMs/low frequency REMs [HF/LF]) from uninterrupted REM sleep (no prearranged eye movement signals were required). HF/LF had been shown to be "associated with cerebral maturation (age, second half of ovulatory cycle, second half of pregnancy)." Meirsman points out that this measure can be "defined as the capacity of the brain to structure ‘order’ from the ‘noisy stream’ of information." This researcher found that the REM sleep of the meditators who were conscious during it was more order-creating (higher HF/LF ratios) than that of the "unconscious" nonmeditators. He describes this as "a reflection of the higher inten-sity of the assimilation of information in the brain during REM sleep." This finding was further supported by the shorter REM sleep time among the meditators in his study when compared to his controls.
Unfortunately, meditation practice in this study is confounded with reports of witnessing. According to the teachings of this meditation practice, a result of the practice will be sleep consciousness. Although spontaneous occurrences at this fre-quency (half the night or more) may occur, they are so rare as to be virtually non-existent, whereas Gackenbach, Cranson and Alexander (1987; 1989) have shown that such high rates are not infrequent in groups of TM meditators. Thus it may be nearly impossible to separate sleep consciousness at this rate from the practice of meditation.
I will now fold the Meirsman study back onto the physiological analysis of lucid dreaming reviewed earlier. The most reliable physiological finding in the lucid dreaming literature is the association of high REM density to the lucid state in REM. Likewise, Meirsman reported that the total REM density regardless of frequency, was also significantly higher for the TM-Sidhi group when compared to controls. LaBerge (personal communication, March, 1989) compared the REM density of twelve lucid dreamers to that of Meirsman’s six meditators. Although the means were the same, variability among the lucid dreamers was quite high whereas it was virtually nonexistent among the meditators. In other words, both lucidity and witnessing (as a product of meditation) evidence the same increase in REM density, but the meditators were more stable, on the physiological level of analysis, in their experience.
Further in terms of the work of the Ogilvie and Hunt group who reported alpha in prelucid and early lucid episodes, so too Meirsman reports a large amplitude and lower frequency of alpha activity as associated with a higher HF/LF ratio and thus witnessing sleep. LaBerge (1985) to find this alpha presence as did Ogilvie et al. (1988). However, in both cases the failure was associated with the disruption of REM sleep by the eye movement signal. When no signal was demanded or before a signal it seems that alpha is associated with consciousness in sleep of both the lucid and witnessing varieties.
I cannot say if Meirsman’s subjects also evidenced more somatic arousal (respi-ration and heart rate) as has been shown with LaBerge’s lucid dreaming subjects. The single witnessing and signalling subject of Gackenbach et al. provides mixed data. On the one hand he was somatically less aroused but on the other hand his eye move-ment density was significantly less than two lucid dreamers who did not signal in the lab. Furthermore, when his heart rate, respiration and eye movement density were compared for pre- and post-eye movement signal differences, we found no signif-icant pre-post signal differences. Eye movement density went up after the signal while respiration went down which would be indicates of the classic restful alertness claimed to occur as a result of the practice of TM.
Work on physiological associations of these states of consciousness in sleep is just beginning but early data show some physiological similarities. Thus delineating the association of lucidity to witnessing consciousness in sleep becomes important. Some understanding of this relationship can be found on a psychological or phe-nomenological level of analysis.
Psychological Analysis of the Lucidity–Witnessing Relationship
Gackenbach, Cranson and Alexander (1987; 1989) have conducted several studies examining the relationship of dream lucidity to pure consciousness. The latter as expressed in the witness set during dreaming or dreamless sleep. They found, as predicted by the Alexander (1987) model, that although meditators reported exper-iencing more of all three types of sleep consciousness experiences (i.e., lucid dream-ing, witnessing dreaming and witnessing dreamless sleep), across samples, lucid dreams were experienced more frequently than either witnessing dreaming or wit-nessing deep sleep. This finding favoring the higher incidence of lucidity relative to witnessing also held across level of dream recall. It supports the notion that lucid dreams are easier to access no matter what one’s training or personal skills and that therefore they may represent a developmentally prior state of sleep consciousness leading eventually to the experience of pure consciousness.
As reported by Alexander (1988), in order to examine differences between these three forms of sleep consciousness, this group of researchers did content analyses on sleep experience reports collected from 66 males who were very advanced in their TM meditation. In fact, they could be characterized as TM monks, as they have devoted their lives to their meditation practice. These were selected because it was believed that their training better equipped them as a group to be able to distinguish these subtle states of mind in sleep. This assumption was somewhat validated when it was determined that only 17% of the 66 subjects’ lucid dreaming reports could not be used because they were either blank or questionable. This is compared to the Rusual loss of about 50% of nonmeditating subjects for the same reasons reported in Gackenbach’s work (for a review see Snyder and Gackenbach, 1988).1
Nine content categories were then developed based on a reading of the reports with the first seven scored for presence or absence of the quality in the description:
1. Sleep/wake/dream state transition;
2. References to real physical body;
3. Dream body flying;
4. Dream body running;
5. "Lightness" of experience;
6. Control of the experience;
7. Sense of a feeling of separateness;
8. Emotions (extreme positive, positive, negative, no reference) and
9. Trigger for consciousness (none mentioned, just knew, oddity, and anxiety).
The 55 lucid dreaming descriptions, 41 witnessing dreaming descriptions, and 47 witnessing deep sleep descriptions were characterized in the main by different components although a continuity between states could also be seen. Most revealing of these categories was the one on feelings of separateness. In only 7 percent of the lucid dream cases did people report feeling separateness, whereas 73 percent of the witnessing dream cases spontaneously reported that the dream went on, but they were separate from it. These reports are consistent with Alexander and colleagues conceptual descriptions of witnessing as involving the complete differentiation of pure consciousness from the dream state. In other words the silent witness functions as completely distinct from or outside of the dreaming state.
Another interesting category is that of emotion. There were positive emotions associated with all three states, but extremely positive emotions, described most often as "bliss," were reported more frequently for witnessing dreaming and wit-nessing deep sleep. This was also true for feelings of lightness.
On the other hand, dream control was much more frequent during lucid dream-ing experiences (47%) than during witnessing dreams (5%). This finding is consis-tent with the claims that dream lucidity typically involves active information pro-cesses and manipulation of dream content. The "will" or volitional capacity of the individual ego can act on its thoughts and desires. This is in contrast to the experience of pure consciousness, which is said to be one of complete inner fulfillment or con-tentment. The Self does not act, but silently observes the changes occurring within waking, dreaming, and sleep.
Also, over half the lucid dreams were triggered by mental events in the dreams that appeared to stimulate or awaken intellectual or discriminative processes typical of the waking state. On the other hand, witnessing dreaming and sleep were virtually never triggered by such mental events. The most unambiguous criterion of witness-ing is maintenance of pure consciousness even during deep sleep. Because lucidity involves active thinking and deep sleep is generally, although not always, without mentation, it is not surprising that lucidity (as typically experienced) drops out dur-ing deep sleep. However, after long-term practice, TM practitioners gradually begin to report experiences of "witnessing," or maintenance of pure consciousness, even during dreamless sleep.
Although each form of sleep consciousness was, in general, differentially char-acterized, there were some characteristics which weren’t so individual. For instance, as previously mentioned, all were emotionally positive. Also, in both lucid dream-ing (11%) and witnessing dreaming (12%), experiences of flying were reported. Likewise state transitions were mentioned in both lucidity (20%) and witnessing deep sleep (55%) but rarely in witnessing dreaming (2%). Finally, although it was rare (7%), feelings of separation were on occasion mentioned in the lucid dreaming reports of this group of elite TM meditators.
The work of Gackenbach, Cranson and Alexander supports the notion that these three states of consciousness in sleep are qualitatively distinct but nonetheless prob-ably exist along a developmental continuum, with lucid dreaming emerging prior to witnessing dreaming. This view is endorsed by practitioners who make comments likening witnessing dreaming to "a clearer experience of . . . [lucid dreaming]. The sense of self is more full and transcends the dream completely. It is large Self."
Alexander (1988) explains that:
The significance of the experience of pure consciousness is that it provides the foun-dation for the development of stable higher stages of consciousness or "enlightenment." Witnessing of deep sleep indicates that the inner wakefulness of pure consciousness is now beginning to be maintained even during the most extreme conditions of mental iner-tia—dreamless sleep. Indeed . . . the first stable higher stage of consciousness termed "cosmic consciousness"—is defined as the maintenance of pure consciousness through-out the 24-hour cycle of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.
A Potential Stage Model for the Lucidity–Witnessing Relationship
A descriptive level of analysis comes from interviews Gackenbach (Gackenbach, 1991; Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989) has conducted with several long term TM meditators. From an especially clear individual, five basic stages were delineated in the movement from lucidity to witnessing. These stages were further illuminated by comments from a meditating petroleum engineer and a Sanskrit scholar who is not a TM meditator. In order to understand these stages one must think of the progression, at least in part, as the dreamer shifts from being an "actor" in the dream to the "ob-server" of it.
Stage One: Initially in lucid dreaming, the actor is dominant. The only role the ob-server plays is to recognize, however briefly, that the self is dreaming. Despite this recognition, the feeling is still that the dream is "out there" and that the self is "in here." As the dreamer becomes more familiar with lucidity, it may occur to him/her that he/she can manipulate the dream. In this form of lucid dreaming, the meditator comments, one has
this clear degree of wakefulness inside, but still one is tied into the figures of the dream. It’s a matter of accent . . . it’s more that you’re an object in the dream and less so that you are a witness to that dream.
Stage Two: At some point it may occur to the dreamer that what is "out there" is ac-tually "inside." At this point two paths seem open to the dreamer: The dreamer may either become actively engaged in the dream events all the while recognizing that it is the self as well as the dream ego that is involved; or, shift his/her attention to the "inside I," allowing the "outside I"—the dream scene—to fade. The meditator comments, "the predominance is on the observer; the action, the observation I don’t really much care about; in fact I don’t really remember many of those with con-tent. . . ." The petroleum engineer from Canada remarks that during these prelim-inary stages one flips easily back and forth between witnessing the dream with a quiet detachment to being lucid in the dream, in the latter case aware of the dream but also caught up in its activity. A graduate student in Sanskrit writes,
There is little in lucidity itself that will disrupt the production of dream images and sense effects. But because I know I am dreaming, I can proceed to do things that I would not do in ordinary dreams, and it is these actions or non-actions that disrupt the dreaming process. My interaction with the dream keeps it going normally. If I become passive, by stopping to watch what happens, or just to try to think of something, the activity in the dream environment diminishes or stops altogether.
Stage Three: Lucid dreams in this stage tend to be short. The meditator describes it as a thought that arises which you take note of and then let go. He says,
The action of the dream is not dominant. It does not grip you so that you are identi-fied with it as opposed to the first step in which the focus was more on the active [parti-cipation]. In this case it’s just a state of inner awareness that’s really dominant. Aware-ness is there very strongly. The dream is a little dust flying about so to speak.
This is, he says, analogous to when "I’m just sitting while awake and doing nothing and thoughts pop up, like an involuntary knee jerk. I’m not caught up [in the dream] there isn’t much intensity to them." The scholar explains that the meditator in sleep, "knows that he is not to interact with or be tempted by anything that may happen phenomenally. He is not to desire or anticipate anything."
Stage Four: In this stage an "inner wakefulness" dominates. "You don’t have dreams or in any case you don’t remember having dreams," says the meditator. You are absorbed not in dreams, but in the witness. This sort of sleep awareness can be so continuous that one may go for months without recalling a dream; one loses aware-ness even of the passage of time. This might be said to be dreamless sleep with awareness, or, as the scholar notes:
When all waking and dream imagery and all mental content are eliminated, there is dreamless sleep. Each night, I, the dreamer, move into dreamless sleep. Here I desire not desire and see no dream. There is only an ocean of objectless consciousness. The inner Self still sees, because the Self is imperishable, but there is nothing distinct from it to see. Likewise there is not second thing from the Self for the Self to smell, taste, speak, hear, think, touch, or discern. The Self is conscious of nothing within or without. This is the home base from which the Self moves out into dream and waking image and thought, the home to which the self, like a tired bird, returns from waking and dream experience to rest.
At this point it is very difficult to distinguish further stages but the clear medi-tator seems to go further.
Stage Five: Once the dreamer has moved into this transcendental state or pure con-sciousness, she/he moves into the experience. Now the "dream" will characteristic-ally take symbolic forms not generally found in nonlucid or lucid dreams of an earlier stage: They will be much more abstract and have no sensory aspects to them, no mental images, nor emotional feelings, no sense of body or space. There is a quality of unboundedness to them. "One experiences oneself to be a part of a tre-mendous composite of relationships," the professor explains. These are not social or conceptual or intellectual relationships, only "a web of relationships. I am aware of the relationship between entities without the entities being there." He says there is "a sense of motion yet there are no relative things to gauge motion by, it’s just expansiveness. There are no objects to measure it. The expansiveness is one of light—like the light of awareness."1
The case in the June, 1989 issue of Lucidity Letter of Anja Savolainen points out that the smooth sequence taking one from lucidity to witnessing may not be true for everyone. In her experience she had to let go of lucidity, move through nonlucidity before she developed the witness set in sleep. This points out that although there is a relationship between these states of consciousness in sleep, the exact nature of it may vary considerably from individual to individual.
The development of these capacities of consciousness lies at the root of many meditative traditions. Not surprisingly, some traditions view lucid dreaming as a form of sleeping meditation, a necessary precursor to the development of the wit-ness. Hunt points out that in Tibetan Buddhism once a disciple has "attained a rela-tively stable dream lucidity, he [or she] may practice confronting fearsome deities or use the opportunity to deepen his [or her] meditative absorption in preparation for ‘lucidity’ during Bardo."
Could the contemporary form of "fearsome deities" be aliens?
Back to the OBE, NDE, and UFO Abductions
In this paper I started with descriptions of three experiences, OBEs, NDEs, and UFO abductions, and argued that these are generally inaccurate (although strong) in felt reality-attributions of the state of the organism. Interestingly most, but not all, cases of these three types of experiences occur under circumstances of sensory de-privation (i.e. near or during sleep or near great physical trauma which is associated with unconsciousness) or during extreme sensory overload of either a physical or emotional type. These two extremes allow for a reorganization of the mental model of reality.
Although all of these experiences are associated with dream lucidity, they lack in the main the "waking up" inherent in lucidity. Not that it is not possible. One could have any of these experiences and attribute the state while it is ongoing to a restruc-turing of one’s mental model of reality. But more commonly the face value presenta-tion of "reality" is accepted during the experience (i.e. "I am outside of my body" or "I have been abducted by aliens" or "I am dead"). It is the extremely sophisticated observer who, while in the throes of these experiences, can further de-embed from the experience and conclude that "although I appear in all sensory modalities to be on a space ship I am actually living fully while awake in an ‘imagined realm.’" Yet in sleep while we dream, such accurate attributions seem to be easier to arrive at.
After showing that these experiences of mind are related to lucidity to greater or lesser degrees, I then undertook to contextualize lucidity in terms of the meditative traditions and especially pure consciousness. With the concept of pure conscious-ness as the ground of reality, matter and energy emerging from it was also proposed. Thus phenomena as diverse as the physical reality of UFO experients to the other but real worldliness of the demonic in Father "X"’s lucid dreams to the transcen-dence of beings of light when near death can all emerge from and yet collapse into the void of being.
The emphasis on a psychospiritual interpretation of these experiences is not new. The UFO abduction experience Jung (1964) originally saw as a sign of the end of an era. Grosso (1985b) and Ring (in press) both argue for a close association be-tween the UFO abduction and the NDE experiences beyond the obvious link vis-à-vis the OBE (both experients report OBEs associated with their experiences). Where-as Ring views both in the context of the shamanic journey, Grosso emphasizes them as characterizing a "collective psychospiritual process." Furthermore, Grosso (1985a points out about the NDE that, "deeper layers of this remarkable experience seem to be phenomenologically similar to the mystical experience." Likewise, Ring (in press) points out that the aftereffects of the UFO abduction, despite their grueling nature, are "often striking resemblances to those characteristic of NDEs." Based on the extensive NDE literature Ring concludes that NDErs
. . . return with apparently enhanced psychic sensitivities; quite a few claim to have ac-quired healing gifts as a result of their NDE and most of them report an increased con-cern with the welfare of others and indeed with the welfare of all life on this planet.
By way of specific illustrations of the mystical, transcendent or pure conscious-ness potentials of these types of experiences, let’s turn to the three cases in the De-cember, 1989 issue of Lucidity Letter. The Block case of consciousness in coma was, in its final "shelter," a classic illustration of pure consciousness. Recently, Mindell (1989) has shown that many patients with metabolic coma, when revived, report experiences of ecstasy, prophetic insight and self-knowledge. As for the UFO abductee, Bill, Payne points out the many experiences of psychic or transcendent nature he has had, including OBEs, ESP, conversation with a loving being and con-sciousness in sleep. Finally, the demonic experiences of Father "X" certainly point to the realm of the transcendent if apparently, paradoxically so. Relatedly, Ring (in press) points out when comparing UFO abduction and NDE:
It is clear from the literature of abduction cases that the appearance and behavior of the cosmic shaman in UFOEs tend to be disturbing and indeed frightening to most of those who encounter him. This is in marked contrast, of course, to the loving and benign qualities of the cosmic shaman in NDEs. Once more, it seems, we have an antipodal relationship between these two categories of experience at the phenomenological level but one that again obscures an important functional similarity. The point here is this: it doesn’t matter what the cosmic shaman looks like or how he behaves. His function is simply to educate the soul. Whether he does this by acting out the role of the trickster, the masked demon or the sage is irrelevant. His ways are protean, but his objective is the same through a thousand disguises.
The OBE is important according to Grosso (1985b), "because it sheds light on the shamanic roots of religion." He then goes on to argue that the separatist view of OBEs should not be taken literally because all perceptions of reality are out-of-body. In other words, we are always working from a mental model the difference is simply where "I" is placed, behind our eyeballs, in our elbow, or on the ceiling of the room. Grosso notes that "going out of the body is just ‘going’ more deeply into the mind." Like Hunt, Grosso points to the OBE as another model of
creating psychical distance, becoming a spectator, becoming a witness—all these meta-phors for spiritual discipline speak of methods of deflecting attention from the tasks of bodily survival. In place of these tasks, we are invited to raise anchor and sail forth into Mind at Large.
Ecstasy (Active) Versus Void (Passive) Perspectives
The active (sensory overload of OBE, NDE, or UFO abduction and ecstasy experiences of some lucid dreams)/passive (sensory deprivation of OBE, NDE, or UFO abduction and the witnessing/void experiences of sleep) distinction made earlier as potential determinants of each of the three types of experiences can also be applied within the lucid dream as well as to mystical states. In terms of lucid dreams Kelzer (1987) points to the devotional intensity available to the religious seeker in lucid dreams. In "The Gift of the Magi," the "most powerful and astounding lucid dream" he has ever had, Kelzer dreamt a long detailed sequence of being one of the three wise men in search of the baby Jesus. At numerous points in this dream Kelzer had various mystical/religious experiences. For instance, when he reaches the Christ child in the dream he says that:
Suddenly I feel a tremendous rush of emotion within me, welling up from my stom-ach and chest so strongly that I burst into uncontrollable sobbing. I sob and sob and sob, heaving my chest for a long time as all of the feelings of the journey pour through me: extreme joy, relief, sadness over Herod, courage, determination and many other feelings.
Experiences of spiritual ecstasy as well as movement toward the void are both possible from the lucid dream state. The ecstasy experiences are like those of Kelzer in his "The Gift of the Magi" dream and an experience of the Void is manifest as an experience of pure consciousness in sleep. Gillespie (1988) has struggled with at-tempts to reach the state of "dreamless sleep," consciousness with no content during sleep (pure consciousness), as spoken of in the classic Indian texts, the Upanishads. He notes that:
Dreamless sleep, according to the Upanishads, is the state in which the delusion of both waking and dreaming is eliminated. In dreamless sleep the experiencer desires no desire and sees no dream. He knows nothing from within or without, for there is no sec-ond thing for him to experience. Dreamless sleep is the state of nonduality, the exper-ience of brahman, ultimate reality.
He has attempted to attain this state by systematically removing the content of his dreams while lucid. Of his first attempt he writes:
I closed my [dream] eyes. It became dark. I remained very much aware of sitting on a chair with my feet on the floor and leaning on the table. I wanted to remove these per-ceptions also. I pushed the table away, then raised my feet off the floor. I was hesitant to push the chair from under me. I willed the chair away. I remained with my legs raised and became unaware of the chair. I was first floating, then spinning, very much aware of my body. Charlotte came along and thought we should leave. So I got out of the chair.
Eventually, he was able to eliminate his awareness of all objects including his dream body. He notes:
I reached the point where nothing was left except my own consciousness in dark-ness, though I have no memory of maintaining that state. I was satisfied that I had reached the point of dreamless sleep, but I saw the state as literally only that—sleeping with no dreaming. I did not see the religious or philosophical meaning inherent in the experience.
This ecstasy/void distinction is also noted by Fisher (1971) for waking exper-iences. He conceptualized these as waking ergotropic versus trophotropic trans-personal states. Hyperaroused ergotropic states such as the peak ecstatic rapture experiences of the mystics fall at the top of a continuum of arousal states. The void of yoga samadhi is the peak hypoaroused (low arousal) type of trophotropic states. He points out that at these peaks, "the ‘Self’ of ecstasy and the ‘Self’ of samadhi are one and the same ‘Self.’" Specifically:
In spite of the mutually exclusive relation between the ergotropic and trophotropic systems, however, there is a phenomenon called "rebound to superactivity," or tropho-tropic rebound, which occurs in response to intense sympathetic excitation, that is, at ecstasy, the peak of ergotropic arousal. A rebound into samadhi at this point can be conceived of as a physiological protective mechanism; Gellhorn was among the first to notice that the rebound of the trophotropic system is not confined to the autonomic branches, but also causes significant changes in behavior. Thus, repetitive stimulation of the reticular formation in the midbrain increases the arousal level in awake cats, but this phase is followed by one in which the animal yawns, lies down, and finally falls asleep. This rebound phase is associated with the appearance of theta potentials in the hippo-campus, just as the corresponding human trophotropic rebound—samadhi—is charac-terized by theta potentials.
This "rebound" from ecstasy to void is illustrated in this sleep experience of Hewitt’s (1988):
In 1985 I began experimenting with meditation in lucid dreams in an effort to dis-cover this depth. These experiments brought profound results. On a half dozen occasions I succeeded in remembering my intention to sit down in the dynamic atmosphere of the lucid dream, and managed to be undistracted by dream imagery long enough to practice deep, rhythmic breathing. In each case awareness seemed to expand into an egg-shaped sphere which encompassed my dream body, with a corresponding dramatic intensifica-tion of consciousness. As this happened, colors flowed like pools of neon light in my inner vision, as they sometimes do in meditation and before falling asleep. The state in-tensified until the dream imagery, through half-shut eyes, took on a diaphanous charac-ter and finally disappeared. I became a point of consciousness contentedly floating in an intense yellow-orange field of light.
Other behavioral scientists have also considered the nature of ecstasy versus the void. For instance, Goleman (1972) spoke of a "threefold typology of meditative techniques." Based on the work of Claudio Naranjo, Goleman spoke of the first two as representing the two major forms of meditation, concentration and insight, which lead to meditation-specific states of consciousness and eventually the "void" or "pure consciousness." The third technique, "The Expressive Way," "includes vi-sionary and prophetic experiences; possession states; artistic, shamanistic, and psy-chotherapeutic surrender; and openness to impulse and intuition. This category in-cludes experiences from the domain of discursive thought and represents, according to Goleman, "a maximal expansion of normal consciousness into altered states, but do not overleap its bounds into the realm of jhana or nirvana, where discursive thought stops." In contrast to Fisher’s concept of a "rebound" from ecstasy to void, Goleman argues that:
It may be, in fact, that the Expressive Way is inimical to the attainment of medita-tive specific states, since by acting out every impulse one may reinforce patterns of thought and desire, strengthening these habits of mind so as to enhance their power to hinder transcending the sphere of thought.
A third perspective is that of Hunt (personal communication, January, 1989) who explains that this "rebound" from ecstasy to the void as the "actual processes becoming invisible." It’s similar, he says, to learning to talk. Initially the child is caught up in the sounds of words and how to make them but eventually such con-cerns habituate and the child’s focus is on the meaning of the words. Likewise, when a child initially learns to ride a bike she is caught up with the feel of the cycle and sensations associated with balancing. Eventually, she "gets it" and enjoys the thrill of a fast ride down a steep hill. Hunt points out that there are limits to sensate mysti-cism which sort of habituate out when we "get it"—experience pure consciousness. In other words, we focus on the content of the experience rather than its meaning. Although, as was pointed out earlier in this paper, once we pass the point of con-sciousness the experience "opens up" again but it is of such a profoundly different quality that equating it to experiences with sensory, emotional or intellectual content would be too reductionistic.
I have considered a range of experiences or states of consciousness which point to the very fragility of our hold on "reality" and tried to relate them to pure con-sciousness as a source point in not only mind but all matter and energy. As Chopra (1989) notes of the converging points of view of physics and mysticism:
The known world of our senses, of atoms and molecules, does not just break off abruptly; it shades imperceptibly into a different reality. At some point, however, one reality flips into another. Time and space acquire a different meaning; the neat divisions between inner and outer reality disappear.
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