Virtual Worlds

Copyright 1991 by Lucidity Association


Part V: Historical Perspectives

1. Introduction Jayne Gackenbach

2. An Historical View of Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them: Practical Observations by Marie-Jean-Leon Lecoq, Le Marquis d'Hervey-Saint-Denys C.M. den Blanken & E.J.G. Meijer

3. Freud, van Eeden and Lucid Dreaming Robert Rooksby & Sybe Terwee

4. Senoi, Kilton Stewart and The Mystique of Dreams: Further Thoughts on an Allegory About an Allegory G. William Domhoff

5. The Selling of the Senoi Ann Faraday & John Wren-Lewis

6. Techniques and Antecedents: A Response to Giesler Robert Knox Dentan

7. Overview of the Development of Lucid Dream Research in Germany Paul Tholey

8. Interview with Celia Green, Author of the 1968 Classic, Lucid DreamsCelia Green & Jayne Gackenbach

9. Patricia Garfield's Pathway to Ecstasy Re-Released: An Interview Patricia Garfield & Jayne Gackenbach

10. Keith Hearne's Work on Lucid DreamingKeith Hearne

11. Alan Worsley's Work on Lucid Dreaming Alan Worsley


Back to Top

Back to Lucidity Letter 10th Anniversary Issue

1. Introduction


Athabasca University and University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Many historically significant papers have appeared for the first time on the pages of Lucidity Letter. We have defined this section primarily as investigations of lucid dreaming prior to and including the first sleep laboratory studies by Hearne and Worsley in Great Britain and Stephen LaBerge in the United States. Their work was basically the turning point; an explosion of experimental, theoretical, and clinical work into lucid dreaming followed. Until the mid-1970's individuals such as Marquis d'Hervey-Saint-Denys, Frederik van Eeden, Paul Tholey, Celia Green, and Patricia Garfield worked in virtual isolation in their considerations of this remarkable dream experience. Then with the ground-breaking work of Stephen LaBerge the "field" of lucid dreaming took off (see several papers in the Empirical Work section). Now there are numerous books out on the topic as well as a reference list that numbers well over 100 sources (see past issues of Lucidity Letter for all the bibliographic citations). Also included in this historical section is a series of three papers on the Senoi controversy.


Back to Top


2. An Historical View of Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them;
Practical Observations by Marie-Jean-Leon Lecoq,
le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys


Utrecht, The Netherlands

In 1867, Librairie d’Amyot at Paris published a book entitled Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger; Observations pratiques (trans.: Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them; Practical Observations.) Henceforth we will refer to it as Les Rêves. Originally the work appeared anonymously but eventually its authorship was attrib-uted to the famous French scientist, le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys. With its publication, for the first time in Western history, a detailed personal report on lucid dreaming over a 32-year period was available. Among other things, in this book, Saint-Denys describes his interest in dreams from the age of thirteen, how he devel-oped lucidity in them, and how he partially mastered the direction of his dreams.

Almost every book on lucid dreams refers to Saint-Denys’ work (e.g. Patricia Garfield (1974), Celia Green (1968), and Stephen LaBerge (1985, 1988)). Although we may consider the author of Les Rêves the father of modern lucid dream research, very little information about the book or its author has been available. Thus the purpose of this article is to present new information as a result of a search for the original publication of Les Rêves.

The Original Work of Les Rêves

The original work may have only been available to a few, as copies were scarce. Sigmund Freud (1900) states, "Maury, le sommeil et les rêves, Paris, 1878, p. 19, polemisiert lebhaft gegen d’Hervey dessen Schrift ich mir trotz aller Bemühung nicht verschaffen könnte" (trans.: Maury, Sleep and Dreams, Paris, 1878, p. 19, argues strenuously against d’Hervey, whose book I could not lay hands on in spite of all my efforts). Others like Havelock Ellis (1911), Johann Starcke (1912), and A. Breton (1955) refer to the fact that the original was very hard to get.

We have been able to trace original copies of Les Rêves to:

1. University Library, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Ex Libris 171. F.30;

2. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France. Ex Libris Res. p.R. 774 (R.71436 micro-film);

3. Yale Medical School Library, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Ex Libris; EBL 175;

4. New York Library, New York, New York, USA. Ex Libris; no data available; and

5. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Ex Libris; no data available.3

Description of Les Rêves

The information concerning Les Rêves presented here has been based upon the original copy of the University Library in Utrecht. This copy was probably rebound by the Institute. It contains 496 pages; the content is as follows:

Part 1. (Four chapters): Ce qu’on doit s’attendre à trouver dans ce livre et comment il fut composé (trans.: What you can expect to find in this book and the way it was composed).

Part 2. (Six chapters): Ou, tout en rapportant les opinions des autres, l’auteur con-tinue d’éxposer les siennes (trans.: Information on the opinions of others. The author continues to explain his own).

Part 3. (Eight chapters): Observations pratiques sur les rêves et sur les moyens de les diriger (trans.: Practical observations on dreams and the ways to direct them).

There is also a summary, an index, and an appendix entitled, Un rêve après avoir pris du hatchich (trans.: A dream after I took hashish).

On the frontispiece there are seven color pictures with references to them in the text (pages 381, 421, 422). These have been reprinted with the kind permission of the University Library, Utrecht [Editor’s Note: See the front cover of the December, 1988 issue of Lucidity Letter for these illustrations.] Six drawings of hypnagogic images, derived from the personal dream notebooks of the author of Les Rêves, have appeared as reprints in books by Coxhead and Hiller (1975) and Mackenzie (1966).

You can see that above these hypnagogic pictures there is a drawing of a dining room into which a painter and a completely nude young woman are entering. Al-though the text refers to this picture, it is not clear if this one is drawn by the author of Les Rêves. However, we are inclined to think so.4

The original work had a cover with allegorical color drawings. [Editor’s Note: See the back cover of the December, 1988 issue of Lucidity Letter for the original Les Rêves front and back covers.] The back cover has geometric maze patterns on grey paper with the publisher’s name, Librairie d’Amyot, Éditeur, 8, Rue de la Paix, Paris. It also contains a printed list of their titles. In contrast to the alphabetical order of the other author’s names on the back cover of Les Rêves, the first name is "Hervey Saint-Denis (Marquis d’),"5 and refers to two of his works: Histoire de la Révolution à Naples depuis 1793 (trans.: History of the Revolution at Naples Since 1793) and Poésies chinoises de l’époque des Thangs (trans.: Chinese Poetry from the T’ang period).

In his book Le Sommeil et les Rêves (trans.: Sleep and Dreams) Vaschide (1918) gives a description of this cover and suggests that the drawing is by the author of Les Rêves. We don’t know on what information Vaschide has based his assumption, because we could not find any reference to it in the text of the original Les Rêves.

The original cover is not available at the University Library of Utrecht, or the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, or the New York Public Library. With regard to the copy from the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, we have no in-formation. Fortunately, the Yale Medical School Library possesses this cover, but it is in poor condition. Although in the right corner of the cover, there is a signature with the name (A. Danyou?, A. Darjou?, or A. Dayay?), this library could not vouch for the signature. We assume that A. Danyou (?) may be the designer of the cover.6

Likewise, on the original we did not find an author’s name. The main clue of the writer’s wish to remain anonymous is found on page 339: ". . . L’autre me fut communiqué par un mathématicien illustre que je ne saurais nommer dans un livre ou je garde moi-même l’anonyme" (trans.: I was informed by a well-known mathe-matician whose name I shall not reveal in a book in which I remain anonymous myself.) On page 48 the "anonymous" writer refers in a footnote to "le Marquis d’Hervey-Saint-Denys"7 as translator of Chinese poetry of the T’ang period. Also on page 457 the author writes that he is in possession of an original Chinese book. We know that Saint-Denys was a sinologue, so he probably had a copy.

A number of writers (e.g. Harald Meder, 1982) suggest that Les Rêves is an ac-count of 1,946 dreams, gathered in 22 notebooks (cahiers) during a period of more than five years. Although the author of Les Rêves describes these cahiers, complete with color drawings on page 13, it is erroneous to think that Les Rêves was based only upon these. The author quotes dreams other than those from the cahiers and also presents dreams of others (e.g. pages 323, 420, & 435). We have not been able to trace these cahiers.

The Term Rêve Lucide (Lucid Dream)

Morton Schatzman writes in his shortened English version of Les Rêves (1982) that the author uses the expression rêve lucide (trans.: lucid dream) several times. But, according to Schatzman, we should not conclude that this expression has been used in the same manner as we use it today, i.e., for a dream in which the dreamer is aware of dreaming while dreaming. The current meaning of the expression was used for the first time by the Dutch writer/psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden (1912–13), who refers also to "Marquis d’Herve."8 Indeed, the author of Les Rêves uses the term "lucid dream" as we define it today in the sentence, "aware of my true situa-tion." On page 287 he writes: "C’est-a-dire le premier rêve lucide au milieu duquel je posséderais bien le sentiment de ma situation" (trans.: That is to say, the first lucid dream in which I had the sensation of my situation). With the last part of this sentence, he states that he knew that he was dreaming.

Role of A.F. Alfred Maury

As noted earlier, Freud stated that Maury argued strenuously against d’Hervey. The mentioned work Le Sommeil et les Rêves appeared originally in 1861, six years before the publication of Les Rêves. The author of Les Rêves discusses many times the ideas of Alfred Maury, with whom he disagrees. In the fourth edition (1878) of Le Sommeil et les Rêves, Maury takes issue with the ideas of d’Hervey.

On page 1 of the 1878 edition there is a footnote in which Maury writes: "De-puis que j’ai écrit ces lignes, M. le marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis,9 aujourd’hui professeur de chinois au Collège de France, a publié sous le voile de l’anonyme, un livre intitulé ‘Les Rêves et les Moyens de les diriger’" (trans.: Since I have written the above lines, M. le Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis,10 today the Chinese teach-er at the College de France, has published, under the cover of anonymity, a book entitled Les Rêves et les Moyens de les diriger.) This is the first time, to our know-ledge, that the authorship of Les Rêves became publicly known. Because Maury was, like Saint-Denys, allied to the College de France, and because of the other indi-cations mentioned in this article, we assume there remains little doubt Saint-Denys was indeed the author of Les Rêves. Although Maury disagrees with d’Hervey-Saint-Denys’ ideas, he writes on page 49: "Nous avons parfois des rêves très lu-cides, le matin, peu avant le réveil" (trans.: Sometimes in the morning we have very lucid dreams just before awakening.)

The Contribution of N. Vaschide and W. Leertouwer

In 1911 Vaschide published Le Sommeil et les Rêves, in which he summarizes and reviews the works of Maury, Freud, Mourly, Vold, and Saint-Denys. One chap-ter (pages 136–175) has been dedicated to d’Hervey-Saint-Denys, entitled Les re-cherches sur les rêves, du marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis11 (trans.: The Investi-gations of dreams, by the Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denis.) Those interested in this work will find an adequate description of Les Rêves.

The Dutch psychologist, W. Leertouwer, also reviews the Saint-Denys book in his book, Droomen en hun Uitlegging (pages 53–60). He indicates the author is "the French Marquis d’Hervey." Because this book has no publication date, we are not certain in which year it appeared. The old-fashioned Dutch language suggests it must be from the beginning of this century. No further clues can be found in either book concerning the author of Les Rêves.

Secondary Sources

It must be noted that Freud got his information on Les Rêves from the publica-tions of Alfred Maury and N. Vaschide. In his Traumdeutung he quotes Vaschide, who describes the ideas of d’Hervey concerning the coherence of dreams. We emphasize that Vaschide paraphrases d’Hervey. It is not, as Freud believed, a literal quotation. In fact, information used by many authors on Les Rêves does not come directly from the original publication (e.g., Freud refers to Maury and Vaschide and Johann Starcke refers to Vaschide). More recently a similar reference style appears. (e.g., Schatzman refers to the editor of the reissue from Les Rêves, Claude Tchou, and Tchou refers to no one.

1964 Reissue of Les Rêves

In 1964 editor Claude Tchou published a reprint of Les Rêves in Paris. In this issue the author was indicated as "Hervey de Saint-Denys"12 and the title has been shortened to Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger (Tchou, 1964). This reissue is also difficult to find. We found a copy at the University Library Leiden, Holland (Ex Libris B43). This edition seems to be an exact version of the original, but it is not. No indication of the frontispiece drawings or the appendix have been included, for example. This appendix is interesting because the author reveals not only that he has been ill for a long period of time but that he has been administered strong doses of opium and that for a while he was very afraid of going mad. Further, he describes a horrible dream under the influence of hashish. [Editor’s Note: See the appendix of this article for the first English translation of the appendix of Les Rêves.]

Furthermore, we found that the editor of the 1964 reissue, in some cases, mixed his own footnotes with the original ones, again without acknowledgement (e.g., on page 50 of the original you read "1. Diodore Lvl.ch XXV." The editor writes the same sentence on page 383, adds seven lines, and indicates that the entire footnote is his). Changes have been made in the text, again without appropriate indication (e.g., on page 339 from the original we read "L’anonyme" whereas, the reissue contains the word "l’anonymat").

The reissue contains an extensive foreword by Robert Desoille, author of Le Rêve Éveillé en Psychothérapie (1945) (trans.: The Induced Dream in Psychother-apy). Desoille discusses Les Rêves; his contribution is worthwhile reading. Also a short Essai de biographie d’Hervey de Saint-Denys13 (trans.: Essay on biography of d’Hervey de Saint-Denys) is included.

We were surprised to discover that the reissue was not an identical version of the original, not only because this edition (on pages 306, 316, & 343) contains references to the color drawings and Appendix, but also because a lot of authors referred to the reissue without indicating it was not complete.

We asked Tchou about this in March of 1988. He stated that he could not re-member this reissue of Les Rêves because he has published thousands of books, and he had no time for research on a publication that appeared nearly 25 years ago. Christian Bouchet (personal communication, August, 1988) informed us that Jacques Donnars was responsible for the Tchou edition and that the omission of the appendix was not a mistake, but a deliberate act due to its contents. If you read this appendix you’ll discover that it is indeed not stimulating reading.

Other Editions of Les Rêves

In 1982 Schatzman edited an English version of Les Rêves which is a shorter version of the 1964 reissue and thus does not include the drawings or appendix (nor does it refer to their existence). Although a shortened version is better than none at all, we conclude that this version should not be considered a translation, but rather an adaptation. Complete parts have not been included. In addition, the whole atmo-sphere of the original—almost totally a "flowery" text—has vanished in the short, dry English sentences.

This edition contains misleading and/or erroneous information, e.g. contrary to what was written on page 166 of this version, the original did not appear in 1869, but in 1867. The Marquis did not marry in 1870, but in 1868. Schatzman refers on page 3 of his version to an Italian edition of Les Rêves, edited by Laura Forti. Upon fur-ther discussion we were informed by him that the Italian publisher decided not to publish the book, after having contracted the translation.

In the bibliographic list from the German edition of Patricia Garfield’s Pathway to Ecstasy (1981), there was an announcement that a German version of Saint-Denys’ book was in preparation. To our knowledge no such publication has appeared yet. We were informed by F. Maissan (Amsterdam) and C. Bouchet (Paris) of the exis-tence of a reprint in French of Les Rêves. It appeared a few years ago at Éditions d’Aujourd’hui, but we have no further information about it at this time. In Decem-ber of 1987, we were informed by a spokesman of Elsevier Science International in Amsterdam that their organization prepared a complete English reprint. A few months later, however, the same spokesman withdrew his statement and said he knew nothing about it.

One wonders if a reprint of Les Rêves means "trouble" for publishers! As the area of lucid dreaming grows there is clearly a need to issue a more complete version of Les Rêves.

Biographical Details on Saint-Denys (1822-1892)14

In the Essai de biographie d’Hervey de Saint-Denys, the editor describes how he searched for biographical data on the author but was surprised to find so little information on such an erudite person. An interesting chapter: it seems almost as if d’Hervey Saint-Denys erased his personal history.

Hervey was a respectable member of his society. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, and was president of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, pro-fessor at the College de France, sinologue, ethnologue, and author of several books.

He was born on the 6th of May, 1822, in Paris. We know little of his childhood and adolescence except that he had a private tutor. d’Hervey’s original name was Marie-Jean-Leon Lecoq, Baron d’Hervey de Juchereau, who became, due to adop-tion, Marquis de Saint-Denys. At the age of 19, the Marquis went to a school for oriental languages, where he studied Chinese and Tartaro-Manchu. At the age of 22, he started a literary career by translating a Spanish play into French—Le poil de la prairie (trans.: The Bareness of the Prairie). Other works include: Recherches sur l’agriculture et l’horticulture des chinois (trans.: Investigations of the Agriculture and Horticulture of the Chinese), La Chine devant l’Europe (trans.: China Before Europe), Poésies chinoises de l’époque des Thangs (trans.: Chinese Poetry from the T’ang Period), Histoire de la Révolution à Naples depuis 1793 (trans.: History of the Revolution in Naples since 1793). Five years before his death on November 2, 1892, he published a work on the Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

One year after the publication of Les Rêves, at the age of 46, the Marquis mar-ried a 19-year-old Austrian orphan, Louise de Ward. They had no children. From the text of Les Rêves, we can conclude that he had at least one sister.15

We believe that the available information on the book Les Rêves and its author is still limited. Nearly 120 years after its publication, we are still not even sure of the correct spelling of the author’s name! This is indicative of the many unanswered questions concerning Les Rêves and its author.

Appendix: Dream After I Took Hashish16

English Translation by C.M. den Blanken

I have voiced the opinion—which has been shared by a lot of physiologists—that the somnabulistic and magnetic dreams, the ecstatic visions and hallucinations, as well as the dreams which are provoked by any sort of poison or narcotic, are more or less morbid modifications of the natural dream. But, in a book17 which has been exclusively dedicated to the study of natural sleep, I would be remiss by not includ-ing any observation on the psychological phenomenon of normal sleep. As an ap-pendix, a complementary document, the experience which follows shall not be without interest. You’ll find in it, I think, elements of analytical comparison. I will show that a cerebral overexcitement which exaggerates and precipitates the move-ment of ideas, does not change at all the habitual laws of association.

The vividness of the illusions which bombard us when we are under the influ-ence of narcotics like opium and hashish, cannot be ignored. A point which is probably not well-known, is that on taking those substances for the first time, you will seldom experience those delightful feelings which are reserved for those who have regular recourse to it. I suppose it is in this case a little like the first cigar; the physical unpleasantness gets the upper hand. Because I have been frequently ad-ministered strong doses of opium during a long illness, I have noted that gradual transition from gloomy and awkward dreams to those of idealism and excitement. As far as hashish is concerned, I had the rare opportunity to experiment while in ex-cellent health. Here is my first dream:

It seemed to me that something had left my brain, like a spring in a defective watch, and that the chain of my memories wanted to unroll with an incoherent and unprece-dented rapidity. In a faintly lit, uneven street I saw an interminable suite of marching people, dressed in black or brilliant uniforms, thin waifs, horrible street Arabs, women crowned with flowers seated on coffins or walking with the hearse. Next came carriages that stopped in front of me with their doors half-opened, as if they wanted to encourage me to make use of them. A mysterious attraction came over me, but, at the moment of stepping in, I shrank back with an inexpressible horror. I did not know which instinct told me that the carriage would take me to something horrible. I decided to go on foot. Bumping against passers-by, I headed quickly to a spot which I felt an urgency to arrive at yet not knowing where this place should be. I dared not ask the numerous people who bumped against me, because I was convinced they were my enemy. Finally I arrived at the unknown place and found I was with a young lady in an apartment belonging to someone else, whom I feared would be back any moment.

From there I am transported, I don’t know how, to a magnificent and splendidly lit salon. I am dressed in a ball costume. Evidently, I am to assist at a great feast. I regard my dress and notice it is smeared with a strange foam. I raise my eyes. In front of me is the image of the woman I love, but twenty years older and dressed in monastic clothing.

While at the salon, an elegant crowd enters. I notice that chandelier is about to extinguish, but I realize at the same that if I look at the candles one at a time, they will relight. Within a short time, fire lights up everywhere my eyes look. The gowns of the most charming ladies seem to become consumed with fire at my glance. Ashes fall, and now, horrible skeletons, purple mummies, or monsters eaten away by ulcerations, take the place of their ravishing bodies. Only the head remains charming and casts sad, wraithlike glances at me. What has not been set on fire by my eyes takes the most fan-tastic and unreasonable forms. A sofa elongates itself and becomes an extravagant lad-der. I want to flee. The stairs change into an open wall. However, I escape from that evil place. I jump into one of those half-open door carriages of which I spoke. This time I refuse to return to the mysterious destination from which I wanted rapidly to flee.

I sit down, and the carriage departs. Horror! It is filled with blood. I want to leave, but it is too late. We drive at an incredible speed. Where am I going? I don’t know. I only see on the road thousands of horrible indefinite things which fill me with great fear. I imagine that I hear a friend’s voice in space. It seems as if he is with me but doesn’t realize his morbid state. He curses me when he dies. I would rather have died myself in order to be rid of that pool of cruel thoughts; but a voice shouts at me that this despairing wish shall not be answered.

At rare moments I know this is not real. I understand that I have "brain troubles," but don’t know if this is momentary or forever. A terrible thought comes to my mind that my family, because of their blind concern for prolonging my life, would prolong my torture in that infernal shadow-play. I would never be able to express what I felt because I was, so to speak, isolated from the real world.

One moment I remember that I have seen myself before in an analogue state and that I have discovered a way to escape from it. I make an enormous effort to keep that thought, to make it clear, to remember. But such an effort causes me horrible pain in my brain. In another bizarre twist, I then imagine I see that thought as some kind of leech that tries, in vain, in a bloody way, to attach to the interior cavities of my skull, while an irresistible force reaches it and forces it to roll along with others in a general whirlpool.

Now there are some gaps. Humiliating images and scenes occur (e.g., I see myself with decorations and a uniform, at a dirty place, overcrowded with road-sweepers and drunken people who cover me with sarcasm and mud). Or, I imagine I have stolen, under the influence of some inexplicable hallucination, something insignificant. They drag me away to prison. All the folks whom I thought I could cling to seem to have an appoint-ment to watch me pass by. Somehow I succeed in moving away by walking. I have cre-ated an enormous road. I arrive at the gates of a town, where I hope to find safe refuge. I have troubles with a strange customs-officer. They shoot just above my head, because they want to investigate my thoughts and not my luggage. An inner revelation comes over me. I have been transported to a world where the ideal replaces the real, where intellectuality is a contraband, where you are provided thoughts rather than acquire them [Editor’s Note: Literal translation reads, "where you are provided with thoughts like on earth with comestibles."]. I tremble and hope that the customs-officers will not discover something wrong with me. I believe I have committed a crime, although I don’t have the slightest idea what it is. However, I enter. They compel me to leave my body behind at the gate. I notice they put it in a box with a label carrying my name. I wander around town as a shadow, hearing voices of invisible people like myself. I perceive thousands of strange impressions from the real world. Whether it was intellectual affairs which were locked up in golden or lead boxes, or whether it was essential material objects which moved by themselves, they came to talk to me. And I understood it all completely.

Soon I see myself carried away to an amphitheatre-theatre where a terrible surgical operation will take place. It will be performed on a prisoner who had tried to filch his body from customs. I am moved by the victim. Afterward, when the surgeon pricks his scalpel into the patient’s flesh, I feel a deep grief. I recognize that it is me who must endure all the suffering from those cruelties. I want to flee, but they have tied me up. The condemned joke terribly about the transition of sensibilities.

The violence of that situation takes me out of that critical atmosphere. I don’t know how, but I undergo a new series of internal surprises. First, I am absorbed by a vague and sudden fear. I find myself in a marvelous boudoir with several entrances. I see sinister apparitions arriving. As soon as I half-way open a door, some heart-rending sighs are emitted. Several friends come to embrace me. They are covered in a repulsive mud, but I don’t dare resist. I hear them laughing derisively, and then they leave. Next, I see my stomach swelling out of proportion. I remember I have swallowed an unknown reptile which is now developing itself. It makes a hole in my chest and puts its stinking and horrible head in front of my face. Then everything is over.

I return to my thought of investigating my own brain. I notice admirable hidden treasures, and I have the feeling I will never be able to retrieve them. I recognize also several abominable instincts, and I shiver at the thought of what they could bring. I ig-nore, by the way, how to handle those indescribable instruments of that immense labo-ratory. By accident I touch one and a formidable noise emits. I have the conviction that my brain-pan will collapse under the pressure of some unheard vibration-hurricane if I don’t open some part as an escape. Can I trepan myself. . . ?

In this manner that crazy dream went on. Several times I tried in a violent attempt of willpower to combat the tyranny of those disheartened illusions. But I was without a force to wake myself, and the dream returned with doubled intensity.

Mocking heads appeared from all sides. Finally, from time to time, the idea that I was killing myself travelled through my troubled mind, like a lurid flash of lightning in a stormy night. I asked myself if what I experienced was not a moral disorder of agony, or if that state was not Death itself, and as a consequence, the eternal rest which I had searched for.

These are the impressions I can remember. Probably, it is only a thousandth part of what went through my mind. The exaltation of the moral sensibility was violent; but, in the nature and lapses of thought I can’t discover anything that would not affirm my opinion that the analytical study of natural dreams is sufficient to explain the most varied morbid phenomenon. The awakening arrived gradually. At the same time that my visions lost their clarity, they became more relaxed. I had a rather slight somnolence period filled with fleeting impressions, several of which were graceful, and I opened my eyes five or six times without really seeing, before my real life took definite possession of me.

I found myself in a state of physical and moral numbness on the day that fol-lowed that agitated night. My memory was especially poor. However, convinced that this situation was very favorable for the analysis of the particular disorder of my mind, I took pen with a very heavy hand and made, with half-closed eyes, notes of my impressions. If this other fragment is not as interesting as I supposed on writing it, it offers, however, as an intermediate state between waking and sleeping—some significant indications which have made me decide to present it here fully. It is as follows:

It’s an uncommon state of mind in which I find myself. It seems to me like an induced dream which I see develop, like a fog which expands through my thoughts, a series of closely related reminiscences. I am aware of myself, but I don’t perceive any clear distinguishing ideas. I feel that if I could stop one, it would become the key to the preceding and succeeding ideas. But, apart from some vague extractions which don’t say anything to me, all of them escape before I’ve been able to catch them. Is it not so that a dream without images shows the same incoherence, the same spontaneous overflow of reminiscences?

If I make an effort to break through the fog which enwraps this daydreaming, I immediately feel a rather vivid pain in my head. If I want to return to reality, instead of letting my thoughts run by themselves, I have for a moment lost the memory of my own existence. The things which I know best, escape me. Every fleeting impression evapo-rates with such great rapidity, that not more than one sentence which I want to write down on paper arrives there. The sentences that I do scribble at this very moment write themselves mechanically, so to speak, by the instinctive correlation which is formed between the words that come into my mind and the letters which correspond to them. I haven’t enough liberty and mind to think it over.

If I want to preserve some recollection of this strange chaos, it’s necessary to let my pen write as quickly as possible, without re-reading those fleeting impressions and without understanding why it was spoiled. The domain of my thoughts seems to me like a white curtain on which, without letting a trace behind, the images of a magic lantern pass by.

The stenography itself is not able to record certain observations which strike me instantly by their precise lucidity, but demands other sentences which hardly remain present one second in my mind. Soon my hand is very tired. Regarding those elusive thoughts, I suppose there are resemblances to the images of the magic lantern. They are only reflections and not new conceptions.

The concatenation of thoughts which produce themselves this very moment, start almost always by an indefinite notion, which I try in vain to clarify. That in-definite notion directs me to a second impression which is no less fleeting. And that second one guides me to a third and so on, without becoming more clear. I suppose that if I was sleeping, those incomplete ideas would precisely form some horrible and indescribable dreams, of which the images escape even logical analysis.

Having an opportunity to take hashish again, and this time influenced by gay music and suitable circumstances by which I could direct my thoughts in a more agreeable direction, I had a dream very different from the one described. Concern-ing my state of mind the next day, it was exactly like the first time.18

Fin (Written in 1867)19

End (Translation in 1988)

Note on the authors: Dr. Carolus M. den Blanken was born in Utrecht (The Nether-lands). He works as a psychotherapist in private practice and as a free-lance man-agement trainer. Dr. Eli J.G. Meijer was born in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). He works as a psychopathologist at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Utrecht University and as a psychotherapist at RIAGG Institute, Utrecht.

18 Translator’s Note: For those interested in the relationship between narcotics and (lucid) dreams, I refer you to: Roos, M. (1984). Vergleichsstudie zwischen Klartraumerfahrungen und Erlebnisse unter dem Einfluss psychodelischen Drogen (trans.: Comparative study be-tween lucid dream experiences and experiences under the influence of psychedelic drugs.) Doctoral Dissertation. Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe Universität, Frankfurt a/M, Germany.

19 Original year of publication: 1867 by Librairie d’Amyot, Paris. Les Rêves et les Moyens de les Diriger; observations pratiques avec appendixe Un Rêve apres avoir pris du hatchich. Published anonymously.


Anonymous (1867). Les rêves et les moyens de les diriger; Observations pratiques. Paris: Librairie d’Amyot, Éditeur, 8, Rue de la Paix.

Breton, A. (1955). Les vases communicants. Paris.

Coxhead, D. & Hiller, S. (1975). Visions of the night. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Desoille, R. (1945). Le rêve éveillé en psychothérapie. Paris: Les Presses Universitaires.

Ellis, H. (1911). The world of dreams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Freud, S. (1900). Die traumdeutung. Wien: Deuticke.

Garfield, P. (1974). Creative dreaming. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Garfield, P. (1981). Der weg des traum-mandala. Interlaken: Ansata-Verlag.

Green, C. (1968). Lucid dreaming. London: Hamish Hamilton.

LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.

LaBerge, S. (1988). Lucid dreaming in Western literature. In J.I. Gackenbach & S. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. New York: Plenum.

Leertouwer, W. (n.d.). Droomen en hun uitlegging. Amsterdam: Uitg. Schors.

MacKenzie, N. (1966). Dreams and dreaming. London: Aldus Books.

Maury, A.F.A. (1878). Le sommeil et les rêves; études psychologiques sur ces phénomènes et les divers états qui s’y rattachent suivies de recherches sur le développement de l’instinct et de l’intelligence dans leurs rapports avec le phénomène du sommeil. In Didier et Cie (Eds.), Quai des Augustins, Paris (originally appeared in 1861).

Meder, H. (1982). Träume bewußt machen. Wien/Freiburg/Basel: Herder- Verlag.

de Saint-Denys, Hervey (1982). Dreams and how to guide them. Translated by N. Fry and edited by Morton Schatzman. London: Gerald Duckworth.

de Saint-Denys, Hervey (1964). Les rêves et les moyens de les diriger. Edited by Jacques Donnars. In Claude Tchou (Ed.), Bibliothèque du Merveilleux. Paris.

Starcke, J. (1912). Nieuwe droomexperimenten in verband met oudere en nieuwere droom-theroieën. In Psychiatrische en Neurlogische Bladen, Maart–April, Nederlandsche Vereniging voor Psychiatrie en Neurologie, Amsterdam: Uitg. F. van Rossen.

van Eeden, F. (1912–13). A study of dreams. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 26, 431–461.

van Eeden, F. (1978). Dromenboek. Edited by D. Schluter. Amsterdam: Uitg. Bert Bakker.

Vaschide, H. (1918). Le sommeil et les rêves. In E. Flammarion (Ed.), Bibliothèque de Philosophie Scientifique, Paris (originally appeared in 1911).


Back to Top


3. Freud, van Eeden and Lucid Dreaming


Exeter University, UK; Leiden University, The Netherlands

Editor’s Note: Although only a small portion of the original article is presented here, Freud’s letter is reproduced in its entirety.

Fredrik van Eeden, who is credited with coining the phrase "lucid dream" and publishing the first serious research into these dreams [has been] remembered more as a poet, essayist, and social reformer than as a psychopathologist. . . . However, with recourse to van Eeden’s diaries and several of his biographies, with the know-ledge that he is something of a major literary figure in the Netherlands, and with the discovery of a letter written by Freud to van Eeden, [a more pertinent] historical sketch can be drawn.

. . . Fredrik Willem van Eeden (1860-1932), . . . after completing his medical training and Ph.D. work, . . . pursued both a literary career [as] one of the founders of the literary-political journal, De Nieuwe Gids, and a medical career . . . as a physician in Bussum. In 1887, he opened the first psychotherapeutic institute in The Netherlands, in collaboration with the seemingly practically-minded A.W. van Renterghem (van Eeden was the theoretician of the two). By 1893, van Eeden had lost interest in this "experiment in hypnosis" (Liebault method) along with psycho-therapy. Until 1892, he did publish frequently in Dutch, English and French journals on psychotherapy, hypnosis and related subjects (Bulhof, 1983; Fontijn, 1990; Wentges, 1976).

. . . It was probably not until Freud’s star rose at the beginning of this century that he seriously attracted van Eeden’s attention, which at first was very nega-tive. . . . Yet something occurred which apparently made him begin to rethink his attitude towards psychoanalysis. We do not know the nature or cause of this change, . . . one of the most interesting of the questions yet to be answered about van Eeden.

If September 1913 represented the beginning of van Eeden’s intellectual turn-around, then it seems likely that his "conversion" to psychoanalysis was completed in February, 1914. At this time, van Eeden was on a lecture tour. On January 29th he was in Vienna and amongst his audience on that night were several psychoanalysts —including Freud. A meeting took place after the lecture, with Hugo Heller acting as "host," which appears to have led to van Eeden being invited to Freud’s house for lunch on February 1st. This meeting seems to be the real point of full conversion. After this date van Eeden would never say anything against Freud himself, although he never lost his skeptical attitude towards some aspects of psychoanalysis. With this new attitude, van Eeden wrote an article on Freud in the German Daily, Frankfurter Zeitung (May 29, 1914). From this there is evidence that shortly after the lunch meeting an exchange of letters had occurred. . . .

Freud’s Letter To van Eeden

The following letter [which had not been published prior to the December 1990 issue of Lucidity Letter], would appear to be Freud’s response to a request by van Eeden for several points of clarification regarding dreams, and in particular, lucid dreaming. The full text of the letter reads:

1 March ’14

Dr. Freud

Vienna 1X Berggasse 19

Dear Dr. van Eeden,

It is of great and valuable interest to me that you will be writing an essay on my work and I am happy to give you the information you request, although I cannot add any more to what has already been written in my "Interpretation of Dreams." I secretly hope, however, that you have not read it properly and that I can induce you to re-examine a few points.

To your First Question: My "Interpretation of Dreams" is not based on dreams by neurotics, but largely on my own dreams. The assertion that one does not judge nor appraise in a dream, nor speak, cannot contradict your experiences, for it is derived from the distinction between manifest and latent dreamthoughts—which is a fundamental one—yet one which is so rarely being taken seriously. Analysis shows, that all thought, judgment and suchlike stem from the latent dreamthoughts in which, of course, our entire psychic activity is reflected. One must not, however, confuse the dream with the latent dreamthoughts, like the Swiss do now. The dream is, correctly perceived, the result of dream-work, a process that converts the latent thoughts into the manifest content. This dreamwork does not know judging, appraising, dialogue-forming and suchlike. Wherever something like this occurs in a dream it has been taken over from the dreamthought either dark or distorted, and reshaped.

Read again the relevant examples of my dreams in which manifest content as well as judgments and suchlike may appear just as in yours (Section Dreamwork). There is thus no contradiction between our experiences, but a misunderstanding, which is based on the fact that you neither accepted nor applied the premise, in every dream interpretation, of the distinction between manifest and latent dream content.

To your Second Question: I think you are being unjust by saying: for me there is noth-ing else psychic than what is conscious. This can only be said as long as one has not taken any notice of the facts of dream analysis, observation of parapraxes, study of neurosis.

Of course, every one of us knows only conscious processes in oneself and may conclude that those of some other person, unconscious to himself, are known to that person. But whoever analyzes must learn by necessity that he has erred in this quite natural premise, and that he can find psychic acts in himself that have remained unknown to his conscious awareness which he must, however because of certain consequences, deduce in the same way as reliable circumstantial evidence without a confession. Finally, analysis provides him with the means to raise to consciousness these, initially unconscious processes, similar to photography that makes visible otherwise invisible ultraviolet rays. I cannot understand, however, that the unconscious should mean a loosening of the relationship between our psychic life and our individual body.

My unconscious thought is my individual property in the same way as my conscious one. At this point we are not threatened by a radical change. I now have two copies of your work. Jelgersma’s talk surprised and pleased me. Thus the Interpretation of Dreams has been recognized in an academic setting in your little Holland of all places. It was in fact particularly on this point, that Bleuler did not follow me. Your visit has left us with the most pleasant memories. The ladies still often speak of you and your so informal and charming companion, and the boys regret not to have seen you, because of the change of your initial plans. My kindest regards to you together with the request to continue sentiments of friendship regardless of our theoretical disagreements.

Yours Faithfully


The translation of the German transcript of this letter has been made to conform to current translations of Freud. Strictly speaking, the word Seelische means "soul" or "soul-based." In the version above it has been left to read "psyche" and "psychic" because of the implications of the translation problems . . . with respect to our cur-rent understanding of Freud.

It would seem that the exchange of letters between the two men was not abundant, though it may well be that there are a few others in existence. It is obviously of great interest to find the van Eeden original which led to this reply. . . .

Overall, Freud’s letter offers three main points:

1. It supports the claim made in van Eeden’s diary that the two men did meet, at least on one occasion;

2. It alludes to the article . . . which appeared in the Frankfurter Zeitung; but most importantly of all:

3. It offers Freud’s basic attitude towards what we can call in retrospect the "lucid dreaming concept" (although it is not mentioned by that name in the letter itself).

The Limited Importance of Manifest Content

A central point in Freud’s dream theory is his distinction between the manifest dream and latent dream content. . . . On a practical level, this meant that it was not so important how a person experienced the manifest dream, but rather what the sym-bolic content of a dream actually related to in the unconscious. It is only by breaking the person’s symbolic code that the analyst can trace the source of the dream, hidden in the person’s unconscious.

This distinction between the two parts of an individual’s psyche is applied by Freud to the difference and function of the person’s conscious awareness of the dream (as suggested in the lucidity concept) . . . as far as the general idea of lucidity in dreams goes, Freud indicates in the letter that he is basically happy with it. "The assertion that one does not judge nor appraise in a dream, nor speak, cannot con-tradict your experiences. . . ." Where he takes issue is in the interpretation of this activity and the importance that may be attached to it. Since, according to Freud, the conscious mind is the less important part of a person’s total psychological activity (the bulk of which lies in constant flux in the unconscious) it is of little real importance how dreams are experienced—especially so in the context of the therapeutic process. In the final analysis, we can say that it is Freud’s devaluing of the manifest dream (a point which contributed to the split with Jung) that naturally led him to "devalue" the idea of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming posed no threat to his major thesis. . . .

. . It would appear that shortly after van Eeden’s article on Freud and the related exchange of letters, van Eeden dropped out of the psychoanalytic scene. Exactly why is not known at present. However, since . . . Freud did know about the concept of lucid dreaming, a new area of research has presented itself. New [topics might include] the tension between lucidity and psychoanalytic notions (e.g., the manifest dream, wish-fulfillment, and Freud’s denial of judgment in dreams), or van Eeden’s ideas as expressed in the Diaries or any of his other written work in relation to psychoanalytic ideas in general.

Selected References

Bulhof, I.N. (1983). Freud en Nederland. Baarn: Ambo.

Fontijn, Jan (1990). Tweespalt. Het leven van Fredrik van Eeden tot 1901. Amsterdam: Querido.

Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams.In Standard edition of the complete psycho-logical works (S.E. Vol. 4 & 5). London: The Hogarth Press.

Nunberg, H. & Federn, E. (Eds.) (1967). Minutes of the Vienna psycho-analytic society (4 vols.). New York: International University Press.

Rooksby, R. and Terwee, Sybe J.S. (1990). Freud, van Eeden and lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 9(2), 18–28.

Rooksby, R. (1989). Problems in the historical research of lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 8(2), 75–80.

Terwee, Sybe J.S. (1990). Hermeneutics in psychology and psychoanalysis. New York: Springer.

van Eeden, F. (1913). A study of dreams. In Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Re-search, 26, 431–461. (Reprinted in: R.L. Woods (Ed.), The world of dreams. New York: 1947, pp. 309–321 (partial); in Celia Green, Lucid dreams, Oxford: 1968 (partial); and in C.T. Tart (Ed.), Altered states of consciousness, New York: 1969/1975, pp. 145–158).

van Eeden, F. (1971). Dagboek 1878–1923 (Diary, 4 volumes). Culemborg: Tjeenk Willink-Noorduijn.


Back to Top


4. Senoi, Kilton Stewart and The Mystique of Dreams:
Further Thoughts on an Allegory
About an Allegory


University of California, Santa Cruz

"Senoi" dream theory, which is centered around the idea that we should share and control our dreams for spiritual development, is an attractive theory said to derive from an appealing, non-violent people living simply in the highlands of Malaysia. But the real story of "Senoi" dream theory can be a painful one for at least two reasons that go beyond the usual academic conflicts over the validity and usefulness of ideas. First, some people in the United States and elsewhere make their living off of it by leading dream groups; they therefore have more at stake than do professors who are secure in their jobs whether their ideas pan out or not. Second, the theory resonates with deeply held cultural and spiritual values that almost compel people to believe it; they therefore become very upset when it is questioned.

So, to say that this essay discusses my book on "Senoi" dream theory and vari-ous reactions to it is to assert that the essay concerns a very touchy subject. Although I will begin by telling about what is in The Mystique of Dreams, for those who have not gotten to it yet, my main point here is to use reactions to the book to state more explicitly what I see as its underlying themes and messages. That the book is an allegory about the study of dreams seems to be lost on some people, as is the fact that it suggests an attitudinal stance for the scientific investigator that has a playful-ness to it. Finally, I also will use this occasion to report some new perspectives on the fascinating life of Kilton Stewart, the anthropologist who originally brought us "Senoi" dream theory.

At the level of appearances, The Mystique of Dreams sets itself four main tasks. First, it brings together all available anthropological information to show that the real Senoi do not practice our version of "Senoi" dream theory in any way, shape, or form—not now, and not in the 30s when Stewart visited them. Contrary to popular belief, there is no talk of dreams around breakfast—in fact, there is no breakfast. Nor are there dream clinics during the day; group meetings are about personal disputes that have reached the point where they threaten to disrupt community life. They go on and on, like committee meetings in America, and people dread them. Furthermore, there is no thought of controlling dreams—quite the opposite. Spirits choose whether or not to come into dreams, to adopt the dreamer. There is no teaching of rules of dream control to children; Senoi say it is bad to teach children anything. Finally, dream life is not full of gifts, friendship, and sensuality—Senoi usually have dreams of failure, frustration, chase, and falling, just like the rest of us.

Secondly, my book traces the charmed existence of Stewart for clues as to why he said things others didn’t. I learned that he happened on the Senoi by accident, had no knowledge of them when he first visited their settlements, never learned their language, and spent no more than several weeks with them on two different occa-sions that were separated by four years—two weeks during the first visit in 1934 while on a census march from settlement to settlement, seven weeks the second time in 1938. Moreover, some things he says in his famous 1951 article on "Dream Theory in Malaya" are not said in his 1948 dissertation for the London School of Economics, or are contradicted by what he wrote in the dissertation.

The information I gathered on Stewart provides insight into these problems. For a characterization of Stewart, there is no beating the first glance of him in 1937 by a woman on an around-the-world trip who recorded the meeting in her diary. This woman, Claudia Parsons, is alive and well today in England. She is in her eighties, still traveling, and one of my key informants. In what follows she compares Stewart with a young man named Christian she met earlier in her journey:

He had the same attractive air of deviltry, the same stocky figure. But he was broader than Christian and rather older. He wore sandals on his feet, and his linen suit was that of the beachcomber hero in an American film who is either about to reform or is slowly sinking to a living death. . . . There was more than idle curiosity in that academic forehead, in that Bible history head. One felt that John the Baptist had just caught the bus.

If Stewart was a bit of a character, he was a generous character, as Parsons also reports in talking about their later automobile trip from India to London in a two-seater Studebaker:

Stewart’s whole wealth was a rapidly dwindling 60 pounds with hope of another 20 pounds in Cairo, but instead of pondering on the hiatus between here and England, he was concerned only with how to support the beggar population of the countries through which we passed.

In addition, Stewart was a renowned womanizer. Two women mentioned that fact in the first moments of our interview, then said, "But he never seduced me." His brother Omer, a highly productive empirical anthropologist who taught at the Univer-sity of Colorado until his retirement, explained Kilton’s technique: he’d approach up to a dozen women a day and ask them if they wanted to make love. Eleven would slap him away, but the twelfth eventually would say yes. Stewart obviously tolerated rejection better than most men do. More seriously, making love and expounding on dreams, values, and morality were closely intertwined for Stewart.

After my book appeared, I asked Omer to see if any of his many, many Mormon relatives might send me their impressions and memories of Kilton (yes, this carefree wanderer was an elder of the Mormon Church). Of relevance here are comments by two female relatives, one eight years younger than Kilton, the other 22 years young-er. It is noteworthy that seduction and spiritual concerns come up together in both reminiscences; the second also shows that even incest taboos were not a barrier to Stewart’s love of the chase:

Although Kilton was eight years my senior we were both students at the University of Utah at the same time for a couple of years. He was a source of pride and embarrassment to me—already controversial and too outspoken. My sorority sisters and girl friends found him handsome, strange and fascinating, and I never knew how many of them lost their virginity and religion through him. We loved to have all night discussions, Kilton at the center, and the participants not daring to believe him and not quite able to completely disbelieve. He stirred us up and made us think and question. He was a guru who needed followers and found them.

The second relative wrote:

On the occasion of the annual hike, my aunt and uncle and other guests were treated to a sort of hula dance Kilton claimed he had learned in a Tibetan monastery to make him more holy, but it was obvious to us all that he had unholy thoughts on his mind, and when one of the men asked, "Are you sure you didn’t learn it to make yourself better in bed?" He just laughed. I can’t remember whether that gathering was the night before the hike or the night after, but I do know that when I came down the mountain the afternoon following the hike, Kilton met me and took me to some natural hot springs to bathe, and tried to seduce me. I was only seventeen at the time [he was 39], but his chances of seducing me were so remote that it was my turn to laugh. But I feel sure that Kilton made many, many women happy, if only briefly, with his ardent and uncritical, warm and open, happy-go-lucky acceptance of any pleasures that life might put in his path.

I never saw Kilton after I was out of college, so I never really knew him as an adult. But he was unforgettable, one of the gentlest and sweetest people on earth—if he hadn’t had such wicked thoughts he could have been called Christlike. Thank heaven for those wicked thoughts!

More to the point, as hinted in the above accounts, Stewart was widely recog-nized among those who knew him to be a notorious storyteller. As his brother Omer wrote to me, "Kilton was a great storyteller and I often had the impression that he would not worry about the exactness of details if it might interfere with his narra-tive." People never knew what to believe. Two different people, one a very old friend, actually asked me, "Did he really get his Ph.D.?" One of his friends from the 30s finally reacted to my persistent request for details by writing in exasperation that he couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about because no one who knew Kilton personally had taken his theoretical claims seriously.

I also should say there was a darker or shadow side to Kilton Stewart. In many ways he was maddening for his friends to deal with because he was so disorganized, casual, and unpunctual, and several of the women who loved him said or wrote that they could not think of staying with him. As one of these women, not Claudia Parsons, wrote in her diary in the 30s upon parting with Stewart after several intensive weeks of study and travel:

Life seems very good tonight—sort of stable again. I feel so well, as though I could never be tired again or cross. What is it about [Kilton] that is so disturbing? Why should a person who takes life so joyously and calmly be so provocative of storm?

Since my book is an allegory about "Senoi" dream theory, and not a biography of Stewart, the underside of his life is not in it. But this underside may be another reason why there can be strong emotional reactions to "Senoi" dream theory. Maybe no one can really be that nice and happy. Maybe we get very angry when we have to face that possibility. Certainly Senoi are not as nice as Stewart made them out to be, and Stewart hid his dark side in his writings and his dealings with most people.

The third goal of my book is to explain why "Senoi" dream theory became so at-tractive to Americans in the 60s and 70s. My first answer is that Stewart was a quintessential American, almost a caricature of American values—optimistic, open-handed, adventurous, a believer in self improvement and spiritual uplift. He appealed to basic American beliefs, and especially the idea that society and people can be changed and controlled. We can become better and better. "Senoi" dream theory is American can-do. We can conquer inner space as well as outer space. I call Stewart the B. F. Skinner of dreams. Only an American like Skinner could insist that all behavior can be controlled through rewards and punishments, and only Stewart, not Europeans like Freud or Jung, could even begin to think that dreams, of all things, could be controlled through social learning and encouragement by the moral author-ities and leaders of a society. It’s as American as apple pie, which doesn’t make it wrong, of course, but it should never be forgotten that there was a near-obsession with mind control and self-improvement at many times in American history before prophets like Skinner and Stewart came along. Furthermore, I think it is a very dif-ferent kind of mind control from the inward-turning meditational efforts we see in some Eastern religions. From my vantage point, they don’t practice improvement and can-do, but self-denial.

But there is more to why Americans came to like "Senoi" dream theory. After all, the idea sat around from 1951 to 1965 before it began to catch on. There was a new context—the civil rights movement and Kennedy Administration, both of which created the stirrings that made the human potential movement possible. Then, too, "Senoi" dream theory achieved an institutional base through use at the famed Esalen institute, where much less was done with it than was later claimed. Finally, legitimacy was given to the theory by the various dream experts who wrote about it —the American public tends to trust medical and scientific experts in the way it used to trust preachers. Put more generally, "Senoi" dream theory is an American allegory about the self-improvement that is possible in quiet country communes like the real Senoi seem to live in, and like some Americans tried to live in during the late 60s and early 70s, when the war in Vietnam made the new search for rebirth and authenticity all the more poignant.

Now, these generalizations need to be qualified a bit. "Senoi" dream theory is only one aspect of the new dreamwork, which in turn is but a small part of a human potential movement that embraces only a minority of the overall population. In that sense, the movement has been confined primarily to the young, the college-educated, the searchers and seekers, and the mind workers of the upper-middle class. "Senoi" dream theory is not a mass movement.

"Senoi" dream theory is an American allegory about the search for authenticity and self-improvement that plays on basic American values projected onto the Senoi, but it is not a hoax. Kilton Stewart was not a hoaxer as Carlos Castaneda is, but a true believer, albeit a true believer with more humor and impishness than most. Claudia Parsons wrote me the following pertinent comments after reading the pub-lished version of my research. They are not in response to a question by me, but are one of her reactions to the fact that Senoi do not have the dream practices Stewart imputed to them:

To what extent, then, was Kilton a charlatan? With his good looks, charisma, fund of experience and roving eye, one might be forgiven on first meeting him to class him as an attractive rogue, a playboy. I was certainly doubtful of his having the necessary qual-ifications for practicing psychotherapy when I met him on that bus, though he seemed imbued with knowledge of it, and later I was to see instances of favorable results. But one had not to be long in his company to discover that his interest in humanity lay far deeper than sex or profit. He was deeply serious and beyond words charitable. A friend to whom I introduced him described him as "God, gone wrong." And it wasn’t a bad description.

As for the several other dream theorists such as Ann Faraday and Patricia Garfield who contributed in one way or another to spreading the allegory of "Senoi" dream theory, they are decent people who did not realize their comments would be seen as part of a larger mosaic of verification by the reading public; they did not realize their repetitions of Stewart’s ideas would give his claims greater legitimacy. None saw it as his or her responsibility to check out the claims before writing them into popular books, and no one else thought "Senoi" dream theory worth the time and effort of the proverbial "hard look" until it became a growth industry. But once a few doubts were raised in the late 70s, it was only a matter of time until someone like me contacted anthropologists who were experts on the Senoi, or someone like Faraday went to the Malaysian Highlands to see Senoi dream practices firsthand.

The fourth thing my book does is to search the clinical and research literature for evidence on the efficacy of "Senoi" dream practices in the United States. After all, the origins of an idea tell us nothing about its validity or usefulness. An idea has to be dealt with on its own merits. This I did, presenting all the evidence on both sides of the question, and then concluding that aside from some striking claims by a few people, there is no reason to believe that "Senoi" dream theory works very well for very many people. I did not say the idea has fared so badly that further study of it should be disbanded forthwith, but I did say that supporters of "Senoi" dream the-ory have not brought forth the kind of systematic scientific evidence that it is incum-bent upon them to produce if we are to believe their large claims for the power of "Senoi" dream theory.

So much by way of summary and brief commentary on the four ostensible aims of The Mystique of Dreams. I turn now to how people reacted to it, and I am happy to report that most have found it balanced and enjoyable. However, there are a few critics of two very different types that I would like to call the hard-line scientists and the spiritualists. Hard-line scientific critics disliked the book because they thought I was too easy on Stewart. They felt he had led the scientific community down the garden path with half-baked research, and they wanted him exposed for perpetrating a fraud. Here is one example of this type of reaction from an anonymous reader of the manuscript for the University of California Press:

There is another matter that I feel uneasy about, and addressing it might lead the author to enlarge the manuscript in a different direction. I think most readers will feel that he is far too lenient with Kilton Stewart. The author says that Stewart "misunder-stood the Senoi and mistakenly attributed his own ideas to them." But why shouldn’t we conclude, rather, that Stewart was a con artist? The excellent detective work in the first part of the book makes him out a genial liar, and I was sometimes bothered that the au-thor refused to say as much.

Well, as I tried to make clear earlier in this essay, I think that Stewart is best characterized as a romantic storyteller who stumbled on to some potentially inter-esting ideas about dreams. Given the meager stock of new ideas within the area of dream study, and the lack of interest in dreams within the behaviorist and cognitivist schools that predominate in psychology, I thought it more important in this instance that Stewart was provocative than that he mistakenly imputed his own ideas to Senoi. Then, too, I didn’t want to fall into what could be interpreted as an indirect attack on the 60s, which expressed some of the best there is in American values. I loved the 60s, at least up through 1968 or 1969 when the Jerry Rubins, Eldridge Cleavers, and Marxists took over.

Spiritualist critics reacted negatively to a different aspect of the book. They saw it as one part of an overall academic attack on both the usefulness of "Senoi" dream theory and the spiritual rebirth or awakening of which it is one aspect. They said that the testimony to positive results by those who have taken part in "Senoi"-based dreamwork groups in the United States is quite enough in the way of evidence for its usefulness. This view is symbolized by Strephon Williams’ review of The Mystique of Dreams in The Dream Network Bulletin.

In my view, Williams misreads and undervalues the scientific stance. To say "the evidence that dream sharing may be useful or dream control possible is only suggestive at this time," which he rightly quotes me as writing, is not to say the idea is wrong or disproved. However, it does make crystal clear that to believe in "Senoi" dream theory is a leap of faith. From a scientific point of view, it is not the responsi-bility of skeptics to disprove a new idea, but of proponents to support the idea. Moreover, that an idea is part of a spiritual movement that makes some people feel good, at least for a time, is no systematic evidence for that usefulness. There are many religious, political, and spiritual movements that make the same claims, and they too judge their validity in terms of personal testimony or their number of followers. But the rise and fall of these movements, and the cycling of people in and out of them, is well documented. There is also the widely-known fact of placebo effects in the investigation of new medicines or therapeutic practices. Given these lessons of history and earlier experimental studies, I do not think there is any substitute for a scientific examination of new ideas, however slow or difficult or annoying that approach may be in some situations.

However, the criticisms raised by the hard-line scientists and the spiritualists do not touch upon the main messages of The Mystique of Dreams, so in conclusion I want to return to the theme of allegory. I earlier said "Senoi" dream theory is an alle-gory about the reaffirmation of American values through a search for an allegedly-lost authenticity. That, I think, is a more important conclusion of my book than the truthfulness of Kilton Stewart on the usefulness of ideas about dream control. But beyond that I had an even more important point to make, at least from my perspec-tive. My book is in fact an allegory too. It is not only a story about Americans and their beliefs, but a cautionary tale about the difficulties of studying dreams in a systematic way. In that sense, it is a scientific allegory about a spiritual allegory.

It was not only Stewart who sold us a bill of goods about dreams in the ever-hopeful 60s. He was not the only one who got carried away with himself. We were uncritical in the face of other theorists besides Stewart. The rise and fall of "Senoi" dream theory parallels the rise and fall of the "new science of dreams," also known as the "new biology of dreaming." That dreams only occur in a stage of sleep called REM, that eye movements track dream content, that there is a need to dream—all these claims and more were fully believed and communicated to an eager public by many people, including me, before they were replicated and carefully checked. And all of them have proven to be false. We dream during both non-REM and REM sleep, eye movements do not always follow dream content, and REM deprivation does not have the drastic effects it was first thought to have. Apparently, then (and here is my punch line) it was as difficult for hard-nosed physiologists, physicians, and psychologists working in scientific sleep laboratories to avoid creating myths about dreams as it was for an American adventurer in the jungles of Malaysia. Who are we, who created laboratory myths, to look down our noses at Kilton Stewart?

Ah, but I do not close now, nor in my book, on a critical note. I claim that both Stewart and the laboratory scientists had the virtue of stimulating new interest in dreams, and of leading to new ideas and findings thereby. After all, Stewart’s ideas about dream control seem to work for at least a few people who report fantastic, orgasmic sex dreams and a decline in chase dreams. Thus, I take a stance of gentle, scientific skepticism rather than harsh scientific rejection.

Beyond that, I believe we ought to learn to enjoy our scientific myths once they unravel rather than becoming upset and embarrassed about them. They are fun to believe while we are believing them, and scandalous to read about when we begin to see through them. They tell us about ourselves in a whimsical kind of way. Such a stance puts me somewhere between the two types of critics mentioned earlier, and leaves me wondering which of our current scientific certainties will give us our next chuckle at our own expense.


Back to Top


5. The Selling of the Senoi


Clovelly, New South Wales, Australia

It has been said that when religions are faced with new discoveries challenging their authority, they react in three predictable stages: first, "It’s not true"; second, "It’s wicked"; and third, "We knew it all along so why make a fuss about it?" A remarkably similar process is currently taking place amongst True Believers in the religion of so-called "Senoi dream control."

Their first protest, when reports began to appear in the late 1970s denying that the Senoi tribe of Malaysia really practice dream manipulation, was to accuse the "militaristic Malaysian government" of suppressing both the gentle aborigines and their secret of non-violence. It was even seriously suggested that all visitors, includ-ing professional researchers, were ushered into jungle "concentration camps" where brainwashed Temiar, speaking through government interpreters, denied all know-ledge of a dream control culture. Great care was taken, so the story went, to see that outsiders never penetrated to the hidden remnant of Temiar/Senoi who had escaped from government surveillance to keep their traditions alive in the jungle depths.

When all such wish-fulfillment fantasies had been exposed as nonsense—and we can personally attest to the fact that there are no brainwashed Temiar living in concentration camps, and that anyone who is seriously interested can visit the deep-est jungle villages without finding any trace of dream control—the armchair roman-tics progressed to Stage 2. It is wicked, they now argue, to impugn the scientific rep-utations of these two great anthropologists, Pat Noone and Kilton Stewart, and their classic research of the 1930s; if contemporary Temiar don’t practice dream manip-ulation, it must mean that their ancient culture has been destroyed by modernization.

Well, we have now spent over a year in Malaysia, living and working in Temiar villages without any government interpreters to distort the record of officials whose presence might have imposed inhibitions, and it would be hard to imagine a people more dedicated to preserving their traditions intact despite all the changes going on around them. We spent night after night listening to tales of olden days or joining in their frequent trance/dance sessions in which dream-inspired songs are used to call spirits, and our welcome would have been short-lived had we not scrupulously observed their time-hallowed rituals and taboos. We made a special point of talking to elders who could recall the 1930s, and one of them, who actually told his dreams to Noone and Stewart, became a key informant in our investigations. We also sought out the dreamers named by Stewart in his Ph.D. thesis, finding two of them still living and interviewing the families of others.

Sadly, we must report that not a single Temiar recalled any form of dream con-trol education in childhood or any such practice amongst adults; in fact they vehe-mently denied that dream manipulation has ever been part of their culture. And dreams play such an integral part in their whole religious life that we cannot con-ceive of a major dream-practice being allowed to fade into oblivion when the reli-gion itself is so very much alive. There is an elaborate Temiar lore for interpreting dreams as warnings or omens (though only the shaman’s interpretations have ever been given serious credence), and great heed has always been paid to anyone receiv-ing a song or dance in dreams, for this indicates the emergence of a new shaman to invoke spirits for healing or protection of the village.

But no-one, absolutely no-one, would ever have presumed to ask for, still less demand, such a gift from a dream-character, as Western "Senoi dream theory" advo-cates. This would be high heresy for Temiar religion, in which the gunig or protec-tive spirit always chooses its human vehicle and would be repelled by any hint of coercion; in fact the Temiar abhor coercion of any kind, dreaming or waking. They dismiss as nonsense the idea that children can be trained to confront hostile dream-characters, and boggle at the idea of converting such a figure into a gunig by fighting or killing it. On a more mundane level, they deny any tradition of offering gifts the next day to neighbors who have threatened or attacked them in dreams, and they can make no sense of the notion that sex dreams "should" always end in orgasm. For some Temiar, indeed, succumbing to sex in a dream is interpreted as seduction by a bad spirit, and all our informants insisted that incestuous dream sex portends disas-ter. Normally a good sex dream is either taken literally or interpreted as a kill in tomorrow’s hunt.

Another point we took special pains to probe was whether Temiar culture had ever given any place to what is now in the West called dream lucidity, awareness within a dream that one is dreaming. We framed our questions very carefully (an essential precaution in any investigation like this) and were interested to find that many Temiars, and notably all our shaman informants, understood at once what we were asking. In other words, they had no difficulty in grasping that one might have such awareness in a dream—but they emphatically denied that it played any part in their tradition. As one old and reputedly powerful tiger-shaman put it, when a dream character speaks or touches you in a song, it seems at the time like an ordinary per-son or animal (and as we all know, there is nothing odd about animals speaking in dreams). Only on waking is the figure interpreted as a spirit guide, and waking inter-pretation—dismissed as irrelevant by many Western dream advocates—is central to all Temiar dream lore.

As more and more evidence along these lines reaches Western literature (and there is plenty more still to come), True Believers are moving to Stage 3—"Why all the fuss? Does it matter what these little people in Malaysia do or did? They have served, through the writings of Stewart and others, to provide an inspiring myth of noble savages from whom the West might learn the art of self-improvement through dream manipulation. Now that we’ve gotten started, and have found that the tech-niques work for us, we can conveniently dump the real Senoi."

Perhaps, if you’ve no qualms of conscience about committing intellectual geno-cide—but in any event we must put a ban on the misuse of their name, which pro-ponents of dream control seem reluctant to do. Just enclosing the word "Senoi" in inverted commas isn’t good enough, for the real Senoi have a real dream culture of which they are very proud, and they become quite indignant when they hear their name identified with concepts utterly alien from their own. Some smart leaders even suggested to us that their newly-formed tribal association could sue, or perhaps insist on a royalty from every book or workshop that takes their name in vain! Meanwhile, writings are already in the pipeline, from ourselves and others, which will bring real Senoi dream culture firmly into Western literature, so nothing but confusion can come from retaining the name for psychological techniques invented in America. Howard Revic’s term "American Senoi dreamwork" must surely be the ultimate confusion and the deepest ethnic insult, for the values of the real Senoi dream cul-ture are poles apart from the self-improvement cults of the contemporary West.

The argument that the word "Senoi" is so firmly entrenched in the literature as a synonym of dream control that it will have to stay is sheer evasion. There is still time to set the record straight, and we shall see that it is done in the new editions of Ann’s books Dream Power and The Dream Game—in fact this was the main rea-son why we took time out to visit Malaysia. Meanwhile perhaps readers of Lucidity Letter could suggest an alternative term. "Stewart dreamwork" has already been suggested, but this too could be misleading, for many ideas found in modern so-called "Senoi" dream workshops have little connection with his writings. (The puz-zle of how Stewart reached his conclusions is another fascinating story, to be told elsewhere in due course.) Probably the only truly honest way out will be for every group leader to take personal responsibility for whatever techniques he or she wishes to promote, and let them stand entirely on their own feet.

As for real Senoi dream culture, we believe it will be of far more than academic interest in the West, precisely because it involves concepts quite different from those of contemporary psychology. While we ourselves do not yet understand fully the experiential meaning of the communion with nature-spirits which the Senoi claim to enjoy in their dreams and trances/dances, still less what these spirits "really" mean in psychological or theological terms, there seems no doubt that the shaman, and through him the rest of the people, can tune in to the natural environment in subtle ways quite unknown to most Westerners. (A notable exception seems to have been William Blake, who anticipated Senoi shamanism in his vision of nature’s "fearful symmetry" as a tiger burning in the forests of the night.) We both had many dreams of strange mystical intensity while living in the jungle, convincing us that these gentle people and their strange religion had touched off some long-neglected faculty for "spiritual communion" with nature. And is it not just some such faculty, rather than more techniques of control, which is essential to save our planet from destruction?


Back to Top


6. Techniques and Antecedents: A Response to Giesler


State University of New York at Buffalo

Editor’s Note: In this validation of Faraday and Wren-Lewis by an anthropologist and ethnographer, Dentan refers to "Comments on ‘The Selling of the Senoi’" by Patric V. Giesler. Giesler wanted to know if Faraday and Wren-Lewis were cog-nizant of certain fieldwork pitfalls, since they were not ethnographers. He gives as an example a difficulty he himself had when studying Jurema shamans’ beliefs about psychokinesis. When interviewing them about tales he had heard on a pre-vious trip, he kept getting nothing but "No" answers to the question, "Have you ever seen an object move by itself?"—until he realized he had to reframe the ques-tion because of conflicting cultural assumptions. His informants didn’t believe objects moved "by themselves"—spirits moved them.

The editor [Jayne Gackenbach] has asked me to respond to Giesler’s insightful comment on Ann Faraday’s and John Wren-Lewis’s (1984; henceforward F&WL) "The Selling of the Senoi." Giesler’s comment falls in two parts:

1. Questions about research methodology; and

2. An explanation about what a "yes" answer to the questions might mean in terms of the reliability of the Senoi data.

Correspondingly, my response:

1. Stresses how vital these questions are in matters of this sort, since psychologists in general are unfamiliar with the vicissitudes of ethnographic fieldwork; but

2. Concludes that, in this particular case, only an ellipsis in the original note by F&WL makes their conclusions seem debatable on these grounds.

Anthropologists who read and write ethnographies evaluate ethnographic re-ports by reference to two sets of criteria: the duration and conditions of fieldwork, and the way in which authors handle problems of context and translation. In the first area, ethnographic fieldwork should be intensive and holistic (Firth, 1963: 17–18). An ethnographer should reside in the community long enough, usually about a year, to become familiar at first hand with both the language and the pattern of daily life. Living elsewhere, e.g. at night, and commuting to the people ("motel ethnography") or traveling through an area without settling down ("tourist ethnography") works against the personal rapport and sense of the quotidian that mark good ethnographic writing (Marcus, 1980; Marcus and Cushman, 1982). People’s accounts of their lives and dreams simplify and generalize, and often idealize or mystify, what they actually do. Deeds are as important as creeds, but an ethnographer must be on the spot to observe how people deal with their dreams in the humdrum of daily living as well as how they talk about dreams. A knowledge of quotidian life is vital if an ethnographer is to avoid the sort of faux pas question Giesler so accurately describes. Therefore a good ethnography conveys a holistic sense of daily routines extensive enough that a reader can infer how the particular data on which an author focuses fit into people’s ordinary activities.

Anthropologists also expect translation and its attendant problems to be in the foreground. This requirement entails that an ethnographer be familiar enough with the local language to put native terms into their contexts; for meaning is context. Just how true that linguists’ axiom is becomes clear when one is trying to learn an unwritten language in the absence of bilingual speakers. Getting imperfectly bi-lingual informants to give one a rough gloss produces a parodic pidgin whose in-adequacies may not at once be clear. I have argued elsewhere (Dentan, 1983c) that one reason for Stewart’s errors is that he failed to attend properly to conceptual categories in Temiar, a language which he did not speak. My correspondence with F&WL urged that they attend to such considerations. Giesler’s comment thus seems in the best tradition of constructive criticism, the cautionary suggestion made before a report assumes its final form. It is to be hoped that F&WL will address these issues.

Extensive Ethnographic Fieldwork on the Senoi

In fact, however, the conclusion that Stewart’s "Senoi dreamwork" bears little relation to what real-world Senoi, past or present, do or did, does not rest solely on the adequacy of F&WL’s field techniques. Ethnographers have done extensive Senoi fieldwork which does meet these criteria: Benjamin and Roseman with Temiar; Dentan, the Fixes, Gomes, Williams-Hunt and the Robarcheks with Semai. [Editor’s Note: The "Senoi" generic includes both Temiar and Semai peoples.] We were aware as early as the mid-1960’s that Stewart’s account of Senoi dreamwork was erroneous but were unaware of how widely it was to be disseminated. Such pro-fessional boundary-keeping and other interests kept us from publishing a detailed refutation until my short article, comment and monograph of last year (Dentan, 1983a,b,c), following our discovery of American-Senoi dreamwork. It’s a type case of the evils of professional specialization.

Nevertheless, anyone reading the voluminous literature on Senoi could have noticed that no mention of anything like "Senoi dream therapy" occurs. Moreover, in 1976 Peter Bloch visited Temiar and filmed their current dream praxis and found no trace of the complex Stewart described. Dreamworks disseminated this informa-tion informally, and a number of popular authors picked it up (Rainwater, 1979: 127). F&WL, however, point out that few dreamworkers paid any attention to Block’s discovery and the response followed the pattern F&WL quite properly condemn (see, e.g., Williams, 1980: 281; Randall, 1983; Garfield, quoted in Spiller, 1983: 7–8; cf. Dentan, 1983b, Faraday and Wren-Lewis, 1983; Howell, 1983).

Finally, ethnographic hermeneutics is tricky business; a wide range of interpre-tations are possible in many instances; but, if Giesler intends to suggest that, since disagreement is possible, anything goes, he would be mistaken. Factual statements like Stewart’s assertions that dream "clinics" occur or that Senoi talk about dreams in certain ways are "falsifiable" in the sense that it is possible to imagine events which would prove them false. To the extent that Stewart’s statements about Senoi dream praxis are falsifiable, F&WL, like their predecessors, have apparently found them false; and the interpretation F&WL have so far offered accords with the con-sensus of ethnographers. Stewart’s account, I think, resembles more his imaginative reconstruction of his communitarian, dream-based Mormon childhood (Stewart, 1954: 17, 20–21). Even the dream narratives in his doctoral dissertation do not match his generalizations about Senoi dreams (Stewart, 1948). Unconstrained by formal techniques, these mingled memories and desires led him to see things that were not there. All the earlier evidence supports F&WL.

F&WL’s conclusions seem correct, then. Moreover, I endorse their condemna-tion of the defensive tactic of describing Senoi as a "mythic" people. Senoi are more real to me than are most American Senoi dream workers. I’ve laughed with Senoi, quarreled with some, hugged a few, carried dead Senoi babies to the grave. When the lives of weaker peoples become part of a powerful people’s mythology, it be-comes impossible to tell truth from fiction or fact from mythology.

Experts paint us as they would like us to be. . . . The American public feels most com-fortable with the mythical Indians of stereotype-land . . . To be an Indian in modern American society is . . . to be unreal and ahistorical (Deloria, 1970: 9–10; cf. 83–104).


Deloria, V. Jr. (1970). Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. New York: Avon.

Dentan, R.K. (1983a). Senoi dream praxis. Dream Network Bulletin, 2(5), 1–3, 12.

Dentan, R.K. (1983b). Hit and run ethnograph [sic]: reply to Alexander Randall. Dream Net-work Bulletin, 2(8), 11–12.

Dentan, R.K. (1983c). A dream of Senoi. Council on International Studies, State University of New York at Buffalo, Special Study.

Faraday, A. & Wren-Lewis, J. (1983). Reply to Randall. Dream Network Bulletin 2(8), 10–11.

Firth, R. (1963). Elements of social organization. Boston: Beacon.

Howell, S. (1983). Kilton Stewart failed to understand what he saw. Dream Network Bulletin 2(11), 8.

Marcus, G.E. & Cushman, D. (1982). Ethnographies as texts. Annual Review of Anthropol-ogy, 11, 25–69.

Rainwater, J. (1979). You’re in charge! A guide to becoming your own therapist. Culver City, California: Peace Press.

Randall, A. (1983). The terrible truth of the Temiar Senoi. Dream Network Bulletin 2(2), 1–3.

Spiller, N. (1983). Children’s adventures in dreamland. CalToday, 2 October, 4–9.

Stewart, K.R. (1948). Magico-religious beliefs and practises in primitive society—A socio-logical interpretation of their therapeutic aspects. Doctoral thesis, London School of Economics.

Stewart, K.R. (1954). Pygmies and dream giants. New York: W.W. Norton.

Williams, S.K. (1980). Jungian-Senoi dreamwork manual. New revised expanded edition. Berkeley: Journey Press.


Back to Top


7. Overview of the Development of Lucid Dream
Research in Germany


Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Germany

As in other countries there were various reports of lucid dreams recorded through the centuries by German philosophers, poets and occultists. But these, as well as the investigations carried out by serious researchers, were completely ignored by scientists because they were based on personal experiences (see Schriever, 1935; Moers-Messmer, 1939). It wasn’t until 1959 at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University that an effective technique for inducing lucid dreams was developed and the first systematic investigations involving several subjects took place. In this article I will discuss the beginnings of this research as well as its further development. Aside from the purely chronological ordering of the individual steps of the development of the research, I would also like to provide a basic outline of the inner connections of the particular areas within the overall research program. This will require analyzing the development of individual branches of research abstracted from their actual chronological order.

In Figure 1 the important areas of lucid dream research in their chronological and logical contexts are summarized. Clearly not all individual branches can be listed and many spheres can only be sketched. Those points which I already pub-lished in English will receive only brief mention. In this connection, I would like to point out that a much briefer version of this overview appeared in Lucidity Letter in June, 1988 (Tholey, 1988c). Unfortunately, only the first part of a more comprehen-sive abstract was translated and published at that time and more recent research was entirely omitted. Here I would like to speak to some of the research themes not men-tioned at that time and especially to highlight two of the more current and somewhat related focal points of investigation: the different forms of lucidity and non-ordinary ego-experiences.

Epistemological Model of Critical Realism

First, I would like to treat in some detail the critical realistic model of the per-ceptual world, given its fundamental significance to the development of our lucid dream research program and the interpretation and application of our findings (see also Tholey, 1986b). This model postulates a distinction between the physical world (physical body and physical environment) and the phenomenal world (phenomenal body ego and phenomenal environment). In the waking state, the physical world is represented—more or less accurately—by sensory and memory processes in the brain. This was illustrated in a somewhat simplified way in the example of percep-tion in my 1986(b) article (p. 45). It was a simplification because I didn’t make a strict distinction between the phenomenal facts and the brain correlates. In fact, we are inclined to adopt a view of psychophysical identity, isomorphism or parallelism. This is not a purely philosophical question, rather, it is a matter of working hypothe-ses which can be subjected to empirical testing and are not dependent on exact phe-nomenal/brain distinctions (for details see Tholey, 1980a; 1989c).

We most emphatically distinguish ourselves, however, from naïve-realistic conceptions (e.g., Gibson, 1979) and from the idealistic and similar radical con-structivist conceptions. The radical constructivists confuse the critical-phenomenal conception of the physical world with the physical world itself. The former is con-structed on the basis of perception and thought, and frequently changes; whereas the latter obeys unchanging natural laws. A naïve-realistic model has especially negative consequences with respect to research and practice in the field of lucid dreaming and the related field of out-of-body experiences (OBEs). It not only hampers re-search, but for people who misinterpret such experiences it can have very dangerous consequences, possibly leading to serious mental disorders.

Just as the perceived world can provide us with information about physical reality despite the many deceptions and illusions, the dream world can present us with information about our psychological reality (the psychological person and his or her psychological situation), despite symbolic distortions. In general, we take the term "reality" to mean simply anything that has an effect. Accordingly, we under-stand psychological reality to mean the totality of that which can have an effect on our experience and behavior (see Lewin, 1936). This would especially include the so-called unconscious facts which we can conceptualize as psychological constructs and which can basically be replaced by physiological concepts at a later time.

Here we are in agreement with Freud that dreams are the "royal road" to the unconscious. But this is of little help when, in the orthodox psychoanalytic sense, normal dreams are experienced with a hazy consciousness and the absence of an ability to act. Or after waking when we report to a biased psychotherapist about our even more hazy and distorted observations and the associations connected to them.

In order to gain insight into our psychological problems and resolve them, it is much more important to interact with the symbolic world in a way enabled by lucid consciousness and the consequent greater freedom of action. Just as we can interact with physical reality in a waking state by means of the sensory-motor feedback system, we are capable of taking action in the psychological reality of lucid dreams due to the reciprocal reactions between the symbolic events and the underlying psy-chological processes. These fundamental principles have provided the basic under-pinnings guiding our investigations into lucid dreaming. The results of the research have shown them to be extremely sound in practice.

But now let’s turn to the epistemological considerations described in the article written for Lucidity Letter in 1986, in which I focused exclusively on the process of perception. I also emphasized that it was an understanding of the critical realistic model which first brought me to the idea of developing a method for inducing lucid dreams, a method I will only briefly describe.

Techniques for Lucid Dream Induction

The Reflection Technique

When I recognized that the objective- and intersubjective-appearing perceptual world was merely a phenomenal world, it occurred to me to compare this phenom-enal waking world with the dream world through systematic observation. The dream world is, in fact, a phenomenal world. But, being less dependent on sensory stimula-tion, it is possible for events to transpire which are not possible with normal percep-tion in a waking state. Such unusual events made it possible for me to recognize the dreaming state.

On the basis of these ideas, I developed my first technique for inducing lucid dreams in 1959. I called it the "Reflection Technique." Using this technique, the subject asks him or herself several times during the course of the day: "Am I awake, or am I dreaming?" The purpose is to achieve a generally critical attitude towards one’s state of consciousness. When confronted with unusual experiences, this facil-itates recognition of the dreaming state.

After four weeks I had my first lucid dream. I recognized that I was dreaming because I saw an aunt whom I knew to have been dead for some time. Since I wasn’t at all acquainted with such phenomena at that time, I was at first fascinated by this new experience. Later, however, I was seized by a kind of claustrophobic feeling because I didn’t know how or whether I would be able to get out of this dream world. I finally woke up after staring at a flower in the dream environment until the flower and the entire surroundings became blurred.

Price and Cohen (1988), who refer to only one of my articles translated into English, have referred to the reflection technique as the development of an active attitude. With respect to the early application of the technique this is correct. A process of active questioning, however, ultimately gives rise to a passively receptive focus on current experience which, in turn, makes the posing of critical questions a superfluous matter. In other words, increased practice helps develop the disposition making it possible to recognize the dreaming state when triggered by unusual events.

A first important goal in improving the effectiveness of the reflection technique was finding the appropriate criteria for recognizing the dreaming state. These crite-ria make it possible to spontaneously recognize that one is dreaming: particularities of dreamlike perception and/or the contradiction between knowledge of events in a waking state and momentarily experienced dream events. It is also possible to test whether one is awake or dreaming through a series of physical and mental activities. For example, the subject turns himself approximately 180 degrees and then attempts to stand still. In a dream state, as a rule, the body continues to turn in the same di-rection or the surroundings begin to revolve in the opposite direction. However, the subject may hesitate to conduct such a test in the presence of other people because of the possibility that he/she is awake. After all most of us shy away from carrying out such unusual activities in front of potential onlookers. Thus mental tests may be preferable.

One of the most effective tests is trying to remember what has happened during the immediately preceding period of time. Should one experience bizarre events or a lapse of memory, this may indicate that one is dreaming. However, this test is useless if the subject wakes up, since it could be a "false awakening." Therefore, turning a light on, for example, is recommended upon waking up. If the light does not go on, this may signify a dream state.

We have found countless examples that suggest the apparent existence of various forms of psychological resistance which appear to hinder or prematurely end dream lucidity (Tholey, 1981; 1988b).

For instance during one of my own dreams I saw houses, trees and other objects all standing upside down. I immediately thought that I was dreaming. Shortly there-after it seemed as if I had a pair of glasses on. It occurred to me that the glasses might have been equipped with reversing lenses such as those used in psychological experiments dealing with perception. When I proceeded to take off the glasses I saw my surroundings in a normal, upright position and I no longer believed I was dream-ing. We have collected hundreds of such examples suggesting that various forms of psychological resistance apparently seek to hinder lucidity during dreaming.

The Expansion of the Lucid Dream Induction Technique

The expansion of the original reflection technique, resulting in the combined technique, was accomplished by incorporating elements of intention and auto-suggestion (Tholey, 1982; 1983b). Several researchers outside of our group have shown the effectiveness of our methods (Bouchet & Ripert, 1986; Levitan, 1989). Relatedly, a new combined technique developed by Klippstein (1988) should also be mentioned. We have recently attempted to isolate and investigate the effec-tiveness of certain factors within the overall technique (Utecht, 1987; Schlag, in preparation).

To understand the further development of our induction technique, it is impor-tant to point out that the actual clarity about one’s state of consciousness is not by itself a sufficient criterion for defining a lucid dream. Additional factors also have to be distinguished. To illustrate this we have listed six different criteria in Table 1 which are not only relevant to the dream state, but (all other conditions being equal) also to the waking state and various intermediate states as well—above all, the "state of imagery." Consequently, during the further development of our induction tech-nique, we have placed a high value on practicing as many aspects of lucidity as possible during the waking state so that they will be ready for application in the dream state.

Next we want to bring to the readers attention the second criterion of lucidity, "lucidity about individual freedom in decision and action." We consider this aspect to be especially important because it is indispensable for experimentation in lucid dreaming and because the fulfillment of this criterion completely changes the qual-ity of the dream. That is with the second aspect the other aspects of lucidity simulta-neously appear, with the exception of the sixth aspect. The sixth aspect of lucidity can be practiced more easily in a "state of imagery" or in a state of waking fantasy (see also Malamud, 1979) than in a waking state, which is usually characterized by a lack of symbolic facts.

Our techniques are somewhat aimed at the same goal as Charles Tart in his book Waking Up (1986). Tart’s book is based on the teachings of Gurdjieff and assumes the validity of the hypothesis found in many older spiritual teachings that we are in a kind of psychological sleep or dream state, even during our waking hours. In meta-phorical terms, Tart says that we have to pull up the weeds (transform unconscious-ness into consciousness) in order to be able to enjoy the flowers. The techniques described by him are in reference to the waking state and include some which are similar to our methods (e.g., "self-observation" and "self-remembering").

Our method, however, is more involved. As noted, we also begin with waking techniques. But, we want to arrive at lucidity in a dream state as quickly as possible because it is there that we can come face to face with Tart’s "weeds" in unadulter-ated forms. In this way we can directly confront the unconscious and thus free our-selves from it by a continuous feedback processes. Eventually, we hope to reach ever higher levels of lucidity in various states of consciousness.

Phenomenological Research on Lucid Dreams

Since, according to the critical realistic model, the phenomenal (waking or dream) world is the only immediately accessible world, empirical phenomenology (in the sense of the observation and description of phenomena) is indispensable for all sciences. The criteria of objectivity and intersubjectivity, which are often used to characterize a science, cannot be maintained, in a strict sense, by the critical realists because they can ultimately be established only through subjective means and thus one can be fundamentally in error. This can be confirmed by anyone who has considered himself to be in a waking state, while, in fact, he was dreaming. This is because the world in a dream state can have the same objective and intersubjective appearance as in a waking state. The possibility of making such a fundamental error, however, does not mean that we have to adopt a completely skeptical position. Con-viction does not always lead to objectively and intersubjectively valid observations, but it does so as a rule. Given that empirical phenomenology, by definition, does not seek to investigate objective facts, we demand only intersubjectivity as a criterion for something’s scientific character. Indeed, no single particular fact can be tested (e.g., that someone has dreamed in color at a particular time). But more general facts, such as the actual occurrence of dreaming in color, for example, can be sub-jected to testing (for details see Tholey, 1980b).

Experimental phenomenology was the basic and most often used method in our lucid dream research (for details see Tholey, 1986a). With this method, the research-er instructs the subjects or groups of subjects to carry out various specific activities during lucid dreaming, to observe their effects and record their observations inde-pendently of each other immediately upon awakening. For judging the subjects’ memory capabilities, it is important that they remember not only immediate phe-nomenal facts, but also the conclusions and judgements made about these facts (see Tholey, 1981). An interview technique developed by Reis (1989b), which is based on a detailed recording of dream experiences, allows for even more reliable and valid information on dream content than one normally finds with the usual analyti-cal methods. With the help of phenomenological experiments, it is possible to test psychological hypotheses about functional dependencies on phenomenal facts, as well as psychophysiological hypotheses about the relationships between phenom-enal and physiological facts.

Objections to the control of dreams have recently emerged in the lucid dream literature. To these objections we can only reply that in our research and clinical work, we have obtained numerous results through the control of dreams making it possible for us to help many people. The subjects of pilot studies always participate voluntarily in our investigations and were always made aware of potential dangers. It is also understandable that the content of our subjects’ lucid dreams would differ extensively from the reports of spontaneous lucid dreamers. Above all, our experimental-phenomenological findings are distinguished from the results ob-tained by an analysis of spontaneous lucid dreams by a significantly greater diver-sity of experiential possibilities.

Phenomenological Research in Dream Perception and Cognition

In these experiments we tested a vast number of hypotheses in the area of per-ception and cognition during lucid dreaming which I have lectured on in detail since 1973 and which, in part, are only to be found in the unpublished reports and disser-tations of my students. From among my German publications, I would highlight my review article of 1981.

The phenomenological experiments on perception were first modeled on the usual perceptual experiments in the waking state. We determined if double images, after images and reversible phenomena appeared during lucid dreams under appro-priate conditions. These experiments also helped in identifying criterion for distin-guishing between a waking and a dream state (see above). We found that all of these phenomena were sometimes, if not always, observed. Although we can frequently recognize the fact that we are dreaming, thirty years of research has still not given us an absolutely reliable test for determining this. This applies especially to the most effective dream criteria discussed earlier.

During lucid dreaming we can sometimes consciously produce perceptual phenomena which differ completely from perception in a waking state—for ex-ample, a panoramic field of vision extending 360 degrees in both horizontal and vertical directions. In general, this has occurred only when the dream-ego was in an asomatic or disembodied state (see below). We also succeeded in deliberately defying gravity and slowing down or speeding up time through the use of various techniques (see Tholey & Utecht, 1989).

In the area of memory, we discovered that subjects in a lucid dream state could not only remember their waking state but also their previous dreams. We were able to establish this by comparing the notes recorded after their earlier dreams. The latter is most assuredly connected to the problem of state-specific memory. Long-term memory appears to function somewhat better than short-term memory during lucid dreaming.

In the sphere of logical thinking, we found that the dream-ego was capable of solving double-digit multiplication tasks. In addition, some subjects were able to solve problems of logic which they had unsuccessfully attempted prior to going to sleep. Artistic creative ability was also shown in varying areas, especially during hypnagogic dream phases (Lirzer, 1981).

The abilities of other dream characters were also examined in a way similar to the abilities of the dream-ego. We saw that the cognitive and artistic performance of other dream figures equaled or surpassed that of the dream-ego, but were less capable of solving arithmetic problems (Krist, 1981; Tholey, 1985; 1989a).

Phenomenological Research on Dream Figure Interactions

We devoted a great deal of attention to the "internal" (emotional and motiva-tional) and "external" (verbal and behavioral) activities of the dream-ego during interaction with other dream figures (Tholey, 1981; 1982; 1984; 1988b). We found that in general, positive effects on both the dream and waking life of the dreamer accompanied interactions of a peaceful nature. With regard to this, we mainly want to make some comments which supplement already published material (see espe-cially the English article, Tholey, 1988b).

We have indicated that some of the dream characters form sub-systems of the personality. Even though exact distinctions are not necessarily possible, these sub-systems can be of a more inner-personal or psycho-social nature, on the one hand, or of a more habitual or immediate nature, on the other. We have previously pointed out that dream characters can be altered through changes in our emotional attitude and that we can even create other dream characters.

For example, when I am angry or afraid in a dream, I can blow out the anger or fear through my mouth and thereby create a dream character which takes on an ap-pearance corresponding to the emotion. An indirect way of creating dream charac-ters consists in taking certain actions which trigger strong emotions, such as a guilty conscience. Aggressive actions in dreams are frequently met with punishment meted out by avenging figures. One of my own dreams illustrates this:

I knocked down a dream figure in an enclosed room in order to see if I would be punished. I was seized by the feeling that I would be confronted with something un-pleasant, as had happened in previous cases. Tense, but calm, I waited a moment. But nothing happened. Inwardly triumphant, I then wanted to leave the room. There, before the door, stood a huge person with a hood over his head who immediately lunged at me causing [me] great fear.

Whether such figures appear or not (above all, in response to socially taboo ac-tions of an aggressive or sexual nature), varies from subject to subject. This seems to offer proof that the appearance and possible changes of the other dream characters is dependent on the dreamer’s current emotional state, while this emotional state, however, is dependent on the habitual attitudes or sub-systems of the personality.

Learning processes probably play a large role in communication with other dream characters. Inexperienced lucid dreamers frequently have difficulty con-ducting a rational dialogue with other dream figures. This is because most of these figures play word games involving hidden or multiple meanings which the dream-ego can not initially understand. Thus, it is not surprising that the dream-ego considers the other dream figures speech to be pure nonsense—although it can later often be shown to have a logical meaning.

Phenomenological Research on the Lucidity of Dream Characters

In addition to the lucidity of the dream-ego, the "lucidity" of the other dream characters also plays an important role in their communication. In order to avoid misunderstanding, we can never empirically prove whether or not other dream characters are lucid, only that they speak and behave as if they were. Elsewhere I have argued that many dream figures seem to perform with a "consciousness" of what they are doing (Tholey, 1985; 1989a). Some of our unpublished work on the lucidity of other dream figures (in the sense just described) includes examples which seem to indicate that the dream-ego becomes lucid first. This is followed by the other dream figures attaining lucidity. On the other hand, we have many examples of reverse order. We can illustrate this by means of an example in which another dream character not only becomes lucid before the dream-ego, he also possesses a higher degree of lucidity than the dream-ego later achieves. This abbreviated form of the dream was reported by a woman and can be found in Reis (1989b):

I dreamed that I had forced myself through a grey and slimy mass. I didn’t know then and I still don’t know what it was. It was unpleasant, but for some reason I had to force myself through it in order to advance further. Then, in the midst of this grey slime, I came to a brightly lit place with a person standing in the center. I could see that it was Mr. Spock, the scientist of the Enterprise (the spaceship of the television series Star Trek). He told me, "There is no reason to worry because you are dreaming!" I did not believe him and I asked him what it was that I had just passed through. He answered that I had just passed through my own brain, or my own mind. I did not believe him, but he knew so much more than I did and he told me he would jump up and then remain in mid-air, just so that I would be able to see that we were part of a dream. Only after this actually took place was I convinced that I was in a dream. Then I said that I would never have found out by myself that I was dreaming. He replied that he knew that and that was why he was there. He also said that he knew much more than me anyway and that was the way it should be right then. He explained the meaning of my path in a very plausible manner. . . . He also explained why it was not necessary to know all this right from the start and that he only explained it later on so that I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. Anyway, he told me all kinds of things and showed me things that I did not believe right away. I think it was great to have someone acting in a dream who knew much more than I did.

The dream character of Mr. Spock may be characterized as standing for the so-called internal self-helper (ISH) who gives important advice to the dreamer for her dream and daily lives. Our previous findings suggest that one can arrange a meeting with an ISH by means of a suitable pre-sleep suggestion. While lucid dreaming, one can also arrange meetings with the ISH for a dream in the future.

One often finds an ISH at a place which is difficult to reach and which can be brightly lit (as in the example with Mr. Spock), or which is situated high up. There are examples in which one has to climb to the top of a mountain where one meets an ISH who calls himself a monk, a guru, or possibly a psychotherapist. Others pass themselves off as guardian angels or helpful ghosts (for an example, see Tholey 1984). We also have examples of cases where an ISH knows certain things from the dreamers past - things which the dreamer himself is not aware of even after waking up, but which further investigation has shown to be true. Suitable phenomenological experiments are necessary to achieve further clarification concerning this important component of lucid dreaming.

In view of the fact that literature in the field of lucid dreaming almost exclusive-ly refers to the lucidity of the dream ego, we have, in fact, consciously chosen an example in which the other dream character becomes lucid earlier than the dream-ego and is superior to it. Naturally, there are many other examples in which the reverse is true. In such cases it is helpful if the dream-ego tries to convince the other dream characters that they are in a dream. The quality of the dream can then change completely and communication between the dream characters can take place which may lead to much greater insight than is found in the typical lucid dream. For this reason we consider the "lucidity" of all dream characters (see item II.7 in Table 1) to be a higher form of lucidity. The verbal, or possibly even "telepathic," communica-tion no longer takes place on a symbolic, but rather on a direct level. It has already been possible to confirm this in preliminary phenomenological experiments. I have recently (Tholey, 1989a) indicated that it was possible to enter the body of another dream character with the ego-core and, in this way, gain more information than was possible with normal verbal communication.

Techniques for Ending, Prolonging and Manipulating Lucid Dreams

We can draw a whole series of practical conclusions about the ending, prolong-ing and manipulation of lucid dreams from the results of our phenomenological experiments. Just as a dream can be ended by fixing a gaze, a lucid dream can be prolonged when it threatens to end by rapid eye or body movements. As we have already dealt extensively with the possibilities and limits of manipulating lucid dreams (Tholey, 1988), we will only briefly comment.

The control of a dream through the dream-ego’s action in the dream world (similar to the waking-ego’s actions in the waking world) is not what we mean by manipulation. Rather, we mean intervention in the dream world which would more likely be considered a supernatural occurrence in a waking state; e.g., journeys into the past, transformation of the dream-ego or dream scenery, etc. Just as lucid dream-ing has been associated with defense mechanisms, so too has dream manipulation been thought to be a kind of defense mechanism. Lucidity can, indeed, be used in the sense of a defense mechanism for escaping problems and conflicts. But, on the other hand, it also offers the unique opportunity (not possible in normal dreams) to face personal problems and conflicts, to confront threatening people and situations and even to seek them out, rather than fleeing from them (see Tholey, 1988b).

Phenomenological Research on Hypnopompic Phenomena

The fact that lucid dreams can usually be ended by fixing one’s vision on a stationary spot makes it possible to closely observe the phenomena which appear during the transition to a waking state. Given that we have already dealt with such phenomena in an earlier article (1981), we will limit our remarks here to a few observations connected with bodily experiences which provide some important background for the remainder of this article.

Only one body was experienced during the transition from the dreaming to the waking state. Of special interest to us here was how the transition took place from an upright, standing dream body to a horizontally lying waking body. This transition is never experienced as the dream body falling into a horizontal position. Instead, there is a sudden change of the spatial reference system. This is comparable, while awake, to when a person wants to go to the door of a completely dark room and suddenly discovers he is at the opposite side of the room. In this case, it is only the sudden change of the spatial reference system (constituted by the room) which is exper-ienced, not the changing of the position of the body through turning and shifting. In further experiments, we tested to see what happens during the transition from a dream to a waking state when the dream body is consciously situated in a way not common during sleeping, e.g., the head and torso bent forward and almost touching the knees, or the arms and legs extended in a spread eagle fashion. Neither a straightening of the body in the first case, nor the drawing in of the limbs in the second case, is actually experienced during waking. Rather, before waking, the body loses its clear contours and sometimes its solid character. We have applied the metaphorical term "cloud-like ego" to such an occurrence. Upon fully awakening this "cloud-like ego" stabilizes into a solid body ego with definitely defined con-tours and is experienced as lying in bed.

A dream ego and a waking ego have also been experienced simultaneously. For example, the dream body gradually faded out (as in a film), while the waking body became more and more clear. The dream body slipping into the waking body was also experienced, particularly during flying dreams. When a cloud-like ego or a disembodied ego was experienced, it also frequently slipped into the waking body. Occasionally the body was not immediately mobile upon waking, a situation which was very unpleasant for inexperienced lucid dreamers. Practiced dreamers, on the other hand, use this condition to return to a lucid dream state (see Tholey, 1989c).

Hypnagogic Techniques for Inducing Lucid Dreams and OBEs

The above mentioned hypnopompic experiences were used to develop hypna-gogic induction techniques which were then employed in an effort to reverse the above sequence. This sometimes occurs as quickly as with the reversing of a re-versible figure. We have already outlined other hypnagogic techniques in some of our earlier articles (Tholey, 1982; 1983a) and later described them in more detail and illustrated them with suitable examples (Tholey, 1989c). In many respects, I personally consider the hypnagogic induction techniques to be more appropriate for advanced subjects than other techniques because they allow lucid dreams to be

1. Attained at a particular time;

2. Prolonged easily; and

3. Resumed after short interruptions.

Finally, only hypnagogic techniques made possible a 24-hour period of lucidity that included the total sleeping state (see item II.8 in Table 1). Indeed, only a few people have succeeded in accomplishing this in our experiments. I have personally twice experienced 24 hours of lucidity with approximately a five-hour period spent in a total sleeping state. EMG measurements showed that my muscular system was completely relaxed during this time. Upon awakening I showed no signs of either physical or mental fatigue. A feedback relationship seems to exist between sleeping state lucidity and waking state lucidity.

So-called OBEs of the most varied sort frequently arise with the application of hypnagogic techniques. In the following section we will deal with them in more detail from both the conceptual and phenomenological points of view.

Phenomenological Research on Non-ordinary Ego Experiences

For the description of non-ordinary ego-experiences we want to explain certain terms in more detail (including some already used), and also introduce some new ones. This is not easy given that many phenomenological distinctions which are made in the German language can only be expressed in English by employing meta-phorical language. In addition, many terms are used ambiguously. We are thinking of such terms as "ego," "I," "me," "self," etc. Sometimes the term "ego" indicates a part or sub-system of the personality (e.g., in psychoanalysis). By contrast, we attach a phenomenological meaning to this term, as well as the others, in the fol-lowing discussion.

By the expression "total self" we mean the phenomenal "body-soul unity" of a subject which comprehends the subject’s phenomenal body (in our terminology, the body-ego) as well as mental facts (in a narrow sense)—above all, the emotions and motivations of the subject. These mental facts frequently appear to be bound up with the body in a fuzzy way as a kind of vessel. They can also transcend the phenomenal body. One thinks, for example, of love or hate with their characteristic connections to other subjects.

There is a particular point within the total-self, however, which is sometimes referred to as the "center of the self," "center of consciousness," or "center of the ego." "Ego in a narrower sense" or something similar is also used (for details see Kohler, 1938, p. 188) Due to the ambiguity of these terms, we prefer the expression "ego-core," in accordance with the German term Ichkern. The ego-core is less an extended part of the phenomenal field than it is a place or point in the phenomenal world determined by its position and functions. Let’s first consider its position in the usual waking condition.

This point can be localized surprisingly well during normal observing or think-ing. It is located within the phenomenal body, namely in the frontal area of the phenomenal head, a short distance behind the bridge of the nose. Many authors claim that the ego-core (or whatever term they prefer for this concept) is located behind the eyes. But in the phenomenological sense this is wrong because in the phenomenal world we only see by means of a single eye. (The physiologist Hering had described it as the "cyclopean eye" in the 19th century.) This eye includes the frontal area of the phenomenal head. Based on that, we can also say that the ego-core is located behind the center of this cyclopean eye. To avoid any misunder-standing, it should be emphasized that this localization of the ego-core only concerns the phenomenal head, not the physical head of the physical organism. Beyond that, the ego-core should not be confused with either a fictitious homun-culus (which suggests information), or with an idealistic epistemological subject which creates or constructs the world. The terms "homunculus" and "epistemo-logical ego" are metaphysical concepts which have no meaning from the standpoint of critical realism (see earlier discussion). The ego-core can experience phenomenal objects and participate in phenomenal events, above all through visual perception (in a phenomenological sense), imagination, memory and thought. As a rule, the ego-core is also the phenomenal origin of voluntary activities, including voluntarily focusing attention.

We would consider all experiences which deviate from the described phe-nomenal facts to be non-ordinary ego-experiences. In such situations, for example, the ego-core can change its position in the phenomenal body or leave the phe-nomenal body (as with so-called OBEs), slip into other phenomenal bodies, duplicate itself, or completely disappear. In addition, the described functions of the ego-core can distribute themselves in various places. There are so many non-usual ego-experiences that we can only consider a few of them.

During lucid dreaming, it is possible to experience one’s own body or the body-ego in extremely diverse ways—especially OBEs. We consider OBEs to be exper-iences during which a second body or a disembodied ego (in our terminology: the ego-point) leaves the first (experienced as physical) phenomenal body (Tholey, 1966c). The first body is frequently experienced as immobile or rigid; the second as mobile. As a rule, the ego-core is to be found in the latter. The second body can have the same distinct contours as the first, or it can be a "cloud-like body." The second body can also usually pass through solid objects, such as walls. In rarer cases, the second body is tied to the first body by a kind of cord. What we have described here is interpreted differently and described in other terms by occultist literature. Table 2 shows a rough outline of the differences between the anthroposophical concepts of Rudolf Steiner and our own.

Naturally, there is also a physical body or organism within the framework of critical realism. It isn’t, however, immediately experienced. In occultist literature, the cord between the first and second bodies is also called the silver cord; its de-struction is supposed to lead to death (see e.g., Fox 1962).

Research on OBEs

Most investigations of non-ordinary ego-experiences refer to OBEs. We have already pointed out the hypnagogic techniques which were used most of the time in our OBE induction experiments. During lucid dreams we can also induce OBEs in various ways (for details see Tholey, 1989c). Finally, we have also used various mirror techniques for the induction of OBEs which are more or less patterned after magical practices [Editor’s Note: More on these in the discussion between Tholey and LaBerge in the June, 1990 issue of Lucidity Letter]. The first successful investi-gation of a mirror technique in our research at Frankfurt University was by Stich (1983; 1989). A method I developed involving two mirrors has been described by Nossack (1989).

An important goal of our phenomenal experiments was to determine whether the same functional dependencies between phenomenal facts are to be found in an OBE state and in a lucid dream state. Aside from the beginning phase directly following the induction of these states of consciousness, we found no substantial differences. In particular, we tried to find techniques for prolonging, manipulating and ending OBEs which were similar to those used during lucid dreams.

Interestingly enough, it was possible for a subject (as an ego-point) to end a dream by staring at his or her own (experienced as physical) phenomenal body still lying in bed (Stich, 1983). This body would begin to become blurred in the same way as a particular point in the dream scenery of a lucid dream. With regard to manipulation, it was possible for practiced subjects to arbitrarily give the second body (in occultist terminology: the astral body) first a solid quality and then a subtle quality. In this way, the subject could pass through walls at will. The so-called astral body could also be transformed into animals and plants, among other things. The so-called silver cord could be cut (without harmful results), although this was a fairly rare event (see Tholey, 1989c). All of the findings of our phenomenological exper-iments (especially the blurring of the seemingly physical body and the arbitrary transformation processes of the second body) indicate that OBEs are merely a par-ticular form of lucid dreams, with the possible exception of OBEs occurring during a waking state (e.g., during the practicing of certain sports—see Tholey, 1989c).

And now a final important observation in this area, which was also described by Schriever (1935) vis-à-vis lucid dreaming. If the ego-core is actually a pure point of view from which one’s own body can be observed, it is also true that particular exer-tions and pain in this body can be felt as neutral events without affecting the ego-core. Through practice, some people are able to transfer this ability to a waking state in which the ego-core is found in the phenomenal head, i.e., not outside the body. It might even be possible for these people to be operated on without anaesthesia.

Entering the Body of Other Dream Characters with the


The previously mentioned mirror techniques can be used as a helpful prelim-inary exercise for entering the body of another dream character with the ego-core. In the hypnagogic state, however, one can use imagined mirrors in order to enter one’s own imagine in the mirror (Muldoon & Carrington, 1974; Hillman, 1985). In this state, the "image-ego-point technique" for inducing lucid dreams (Tholey, 1983a, p. 85) can also be used for entering the body of a dream character.

When entering the body of a particular dream character with the ego-core, it is advantageous to look directly at the dream character. The ego-core is often very quickly transported along the line of sight towards and into the body of the dream character. Naturally there are still several phenomenological experiments to be carried out to clarify the effectiveness of particular techniques for this process.

We would like to illustrate this process with two examples. In the first, the subject (an artist) used the above mentioned "image-ego-point technique" for inducing a lucid dream in a hypnagogic state. Even though he had never exper-ienced a lucid dream before, he had the following experience the first night after being instructed in this technique:

I paid attention to visual phenomena while falling asleep. I got to the point where I could see a complete scene even though I was still lying in bed as a spectator, not as an actor. Several Indians were kind of hanging out on the beach. Among them was a friendly boy whom I selected in order to enter his body. I quickly succeeded in "riding on" my line of sight to him. Immediately afterwards I started to see the beach through the boy’s eyes; I heard the ocean waves beating against the shore through his ears; I moved with the boy’s body. Shortly afterwards, my ego left the boy’s body, shot up and then floated above the beach. I thought to myself: ‘It did not quite work out yet.’ Then my ego slipped into the body lying in bed.

Another example is provided by a student who had already had many exper-iences with the mentioned mirror technique. His ego-core entered the bodies of several other dream characters, but he became lucid only at the end of the dream:

I am dreaming that I am married and have a daughter (neither of which was actually true). First, I see the kid playing around and I am very proud of her. Later on, I am lying in bed (person A = dreamer) with my wife (person B). She tells me that we have to sepa-rate. I am stunned by that. She leaves and my ego enters her (person B) at that moment. After some time has passed, I (still person B) conclude that I (person A) am not that bad a person after all and I (person B) decide to return to myself (person A). I find myself (person A) in bed with a stranger, a man (person C), and I (person B) get extremely mad and jealous. I (person B) accuse myself (person A) of being a "queer son-of-a-bitch." Then my ego slips out of person B and into person C, and now, being person C, I explain to person B why it is all right this way and succeed in convincing B of this. Finally, all three of us are lying in bed making love. I leave all three of them at the moment I am no longer sure which one of them I actually am and then discover that I am sleeping because everything seems so dreamlike. Seeing that, I explain to them (the three people) that I am dreaming and that they are all parts of myself. They turn around, looking at me sheep-ishly and unbelievingly. Wondering how I manage to talk even though my ego has no body at all, I wake up.

The dreamer interpreted the dream as a psychological conflict in which the ego-core took over the various sub-systems of his personality. While this dream ob-viously symbolized an internal psychological conflict, we also have examples of psychosocial conflicts being clarified and resolved by entering the body of another dream character (for a detailed example, see Tholey, 1988b, pp. 283–284). Indeed, it is not always possible to make a strict distinction between these two kinds of con-flicts because of their closely interrelated nature.

Dream Ego Duplication

The following technique for duplicating the dream ego was developed by psy-chotherapist Norbert Sattler. He discovered that it is possible to not only pass into another dream character over the line of sight, but that a person can be transported to a different place entirely. The following example from Sattler explains how the dream ego can be duplicated at the same time as this transporting takes place.

Standing in front of a high tower during a lucid dream, I clearly experienced the tower’s power. This gave rise to a desire to look down from it. I accomplished this by gliding in desultory fashion to the top of the tower along my line of sight. I then looked downwards and was overcome by a feeling of dizziness. In a similar way as before, I changed my perspective several times until I seemed to be standing on top of the tower and at its base at the same time, while simultaneously looking upwards and downwards. In this way, I experienced the power of the high tower and the dizziness caused by the long vertical drop in one conflicting moment.

A second method, which I developed, for dream ego duplication consisted in cutting one’s body into right and left halves (see also the following discussion for the more general method of severing body parts). The two halves can then complete themselves into two dream bodies with differing points of view. As a rule, this method can only be applied successfully by experienced lucid dreamers and the phenomena are generally of an unstable nature. In this connection, it should be noted that the dream-ego, according to Chang (1963), can be "multiplied into millions and billions to fill the entire cosmos" (our terminology: the total dream world).

Movement of the Ego-core Within the Dream Body

The above mentioned technique for dividing the dream body into two halves is patterned after a more general technique developed by Norbert Sattler (see preced-ing section) for cutting through or cutting off various parts of the dream body with a knife. With this method, pain can be felt and resistance can be encountered if the subject hasn’t learned to transform the solid dream body into a subtle body. The ego-core also becomes mobile by means of cuts made through the head and can be moved arbitrarily within the uninjured dream body with further practice. In this way, it can inspect the entire dream body and internal organs much like the Guided Affective Imagery (GAI) technique described by Leuner (1978). This could ultimately be of great significance for the diagnosis and treatment of psychosomatic illness.

Destruction of the Dream Ego

If a subject not only severs various parts of the body, but also tries to completely cut it up into pieces, burn it up or destroy it by other means, then the dream body as well as the dream ego-core disappear. This is similar to the techniques used by shamans (e.g., see Kalweit, 1984) who are considered by many researchers to be pioneers in consciousness research. The vanishing of the ego-core can lead to different states of consciousness. Relatedly, Dittrich (1985) argues, on the basis of factor analysis of numerous experiments, that there are only three main dimensions (independently of pharmacological and psychological causes) within the various forms of altered states of consciousness:

1. Oceanic self boundlessness;

2. Anxious ego dissolution; and

3. Visionary restructuring.

As a rule, only hallucinatory events take place during a lucid dream. Whether the vanishing of the ego is accompanied by peak experiences of type 1, or unpleas-ant, fearful experiences of type 2 depends, above all, on the subject’s epistemo-logical point of view and the emotional attitude flowing from it. Otherwise, we see no decisive difference between these forms of experience. Those of the first type were the only ones encountered by our experienced lucid dreamers who carried out the experiments without any anxiety or fear. They can sometimes be described as cosmic experiences with a holographic structure in which the self and the (phenom-enal) cosmos form a single unit.

The Evolution of Consciousness

A series of phenomenologically differentiated experiences can be distinguished in which the opposition of the ego (or self) to the world is eliminated. This is dis-cussed in chapter 10, "The Evolving Soul," of Gackenbach and Bosveld’s Control Your Dreams (1989).

We are of the opinion that such peak experiences, above all in the Indian culture and subsequently in many western cultures, are too dependent on meditation tech-niques and frequently lead to a passive condition marked by withdrawal from the world. But similar states can also be reached while physiologically awake. Numer-ous Japanese Zen Buddhists, whose outlook is close to German Gestalt theory, are able to reach such states of consciousness by means of the "outer way"; for example, through artistic or physical exercises. Zen Buddhist philosophers (see Izutsu, 1986, p. 35) also speak of a "supra-consciousness." In both Zen Buddhism and Gestalt theory (which is itself supported by countless empirical investigations), the vanish-ing of the ego (or at least its receding into the background) is the most important prerequisite for unprejudiced perception, productive thinking, free and creative action. Given, however, that we adopt an egocentric attitude as part of growing up in our western culture, the road to creative freedom is not easy. By eliminating certain impediments in the form of psychological resistance or defense mechanisms, lucid dreaming can provide a key to the successful traversing of this road (for details see Tholey, 1989c). It is not possible to describe this road in more detail within the context of this article; nor the many diverse applications which we have only been able to touch upon.

In conclusion we would like to point out that reaching creative freedom in perception, thinking, and artistic or scientific activity, shares a similarity to "enlight-ening" or "waking up" from the robot-like sleep of our day to day existence as described by Tart (1986). But we are also of the opinion that there is a lot of in-vestigative work remaining. We have merely made a single excursion from which it is only possible to point out new research perspectives, rather than report final conclusions.


Aserinsky & Kleitman (1953). Regularly occurring periods of eye movements and concom-itant phenomena during sleep. Science, 118, 273–274.

Blackmore, S. (1962). Beyond the bodies. London: Granada.

Bouchet, C. & Ripert, R. (1986). Contributions to a panel discussion on the problem of induc-tion. Roger Price (Chair), Stephen LaBerge, Christian Bouchet, Roger Ripert and Joe Dane. Lucidity Letter, 5(1), 205–228.

Chang, G. (1974). Teachings of Tibetan yoga.Secaucus, New York: Citadel Press.

Dittrich, A. (1985). Ätiologie-unabhängiger Strukturen veränderter Wachbewußtseins-zustande. Stuttgart: Enke.

Falt-Schriever, C. (1981). Selbstheilung durch Traum. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universi-tät Frankfurt am Main.

Fox, O. (1962) Astral projection. New York: University Books.

Gackenbach, J. & Bosveld, J. (1989). Control your dreams. New York: Harper & Row.

Gackenbach, J. & LaBerge, S. (Eds.) (1988). Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. New York, London: Plenum Press.

Gibson, J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Green, C. (1968). Lucid dreams. London: Hamish Hamilton.

Hillmann, D.J. (1985). Entering the mirror. A note on out-of-the-body experiences and lu-cidity. Dream Network Bulletin, 4(1), 5–6.

Izutsu, T. (1986). Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus. Reinbeck: Rowohlt.

Kalweit, H. (1984). Traumzeit und innerer Raum. Die Welt der Schamanen. Bern, Munchen, Wien: Scherz.

Kern, H. (1981). Theorie und Praxis des Klarträumens. Unpublished diploma thesis. Uni-versität Frankfurt am Main.

Kern, H. (1983). Akustische Induktion von Klartraumen. Unpublished diploma thesis. Uni-versität Frankfurt am Main.

Klippstein, H. (1988). Hypnotherapy: A natural method of learning lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 7(2), 79–88.

Köhler, W. (1938). The place of value in a world of facts. New York: Livering Publishing corporation.

Krist, H. (1981). Empirische Studien über Klarträume. Unpublished diploma thesis. Univer-sität Frankfurt am Main.

LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. New York: Ballantine Books.

Leuner, H.C. (1978). Principles and therapeutic efficacy of Guided Affective Imagery. In J.L. Singer & K.S. Pope (Eds.), The power of imagination: New methods in psychotherapy (pp. 125–166). New York, London: Plenum Press.

Lewin, K. (1936). Principles of topological psychology. New York, London: McGraw-Hill.

Levitan, L. (1989). A comparison of three methods of lucid dream induction. NightLight, 1(3), 3, 9–12.

Lirzer, H. (1981). Empirische Klartraumstudien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung schöpferischer Prozesse. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universität Frankfurt am Main.

Malamud, J.R. (1979). The development of a training method for the cultivation of "lucid" awareness in fantasy, dreams, and waking life. Unpublished dissertation available from University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.

|Moers-Messmer, H.V.(1939). Träume mit der gleichzeitigen Erkenntnis des Traumzustandes. Archiv für Psychologie 102, 291–318.

Muldoon, S. & Carrington, H. (1974). The projection of the astral body. New York: Samuel Weiser.

Nossack, B. (1989). Klarträume—wirklicher als die Wirklichkeit. Das neue Zeitalter, 40(4), 4–8.

Price, R. & Cohen, D. (1988). Lucid dream induction. In J. Gackenbach & S. LaBerge (Eds.) Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming(pp. 105–134), New York, London: Plenum Press.

Reis, J. (1983). Biofeedback-Induktion des Klartraums. Unpublished diploma t hesis. Univer-sität Frankfurt am Main.

Reis, J. (1989a). Entwicklung einer Biofeedback-Technik zur Induktion von Klarträumen. Bewusst Sein, 1(1), 57–66.

Reis, J. (1989b). Affektive Verlaufsphänomene des Klartraums. Entwicklung einer inhaltsanalytischen Methode zur Erfassung affektiv-szenischer Verlaufsphänomene in Klar-traumprotokollen. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Universität Frankfurt am Main.

Roos, M. (1984). Vergleichsstudie zwischen Klartraumerfahrungen und Erlebnissen unter dem Einfluß psychedelischer Drogen. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universität Frankfurt am Main.

Schlag, C. (In preparation). Die unterschiedliche Bedeutung der kombinierten Klartraum-induktionstechnik von Tholey. Diploma thesis. Universität Saarbrücken.

Schriever, W.V. (1935). Einige Traumbeobachtungen. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 134, 349–371.

Stich, K. (1981). Empirische Untersuchungen zur akustischen Induktion von Klarträumen. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universität Frankfurt am Main.

Stich, K. (1983) Empirische Untersuchungen über den Zusammenhang zwischen Klartraum-techniken und magischen Techniken. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universität Frankfurt am Main.

Stich, K. (1889). Hat die Wissenschaft noch von der Magie zu lernen? Eine t heoretischer und empirischer Vergleich zwischen Wissenschaft und Magie. Bewusst Sein, 1(1), 67–80.

Tart, C. (1986). Waking up. Folcano: Independent Service.

Tholey, P. (1973). Die überprüfung psychophysiologischer Traumtheorien mit Hilfe der Klartraumtechnik. Unpublished lecture manuscript. Universität Frankfurt am Main.

Tholey, P. (1977). Der Klartraum: Seine Funktion in der experimentellen Traumforschung. In W. Tack (Ed.): Bericht über den 30. Kongreß der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psycholo-gie in Regensburg, 1976, 376–378. Göttingen: Hogrefe.

|Tholey, P. (1980a). Erkenntnistheoretische und systemtheoretische Grundlagen der Sensumo-torik. Sportwissenschaft, 10, 7–35.

Tholey, P. (1980b). Klarträume als Gegenstand empirischer Untersuchungen. Gestalt Theory, 2, 175–191.

Tholey, P. (1981). Empirische Untersuchungen über Klarträume. Gestalt Theory, 3, 21–62.

Tholey, P. (1982). Bewusstseinsveränderung im Schlaf. Wach’ ich oder träum’ ich? Psy-chologie heute, 9(12), 68–78.

Tholey, P. (1983a). Techniques for inducing and manipulating lucid dreams. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 79–90.

Tholey, P. (1983b). Relation between dream content and eye movements tested by lucid dreams. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 56, 875–878.

Tholey, P. (1984). Der Klartraum—Hohe Schule des Traums. In K. Schnelting (Ed.), Hilfe ich träume (pp. 100–118). München: Goldmann.

Tholey, P. (1985). Haben Traumgestalten ein Bewußtsein? Eine experimentell- phänomeno-logische Klartraumstudie. Gestalt Theory, 7, 29–46.

Tholey, P. (1986a). Deshalb Phänomenologie! Gestalt Theory, 8, 144–163.

Tholey, P. (1986b). Letter to editor. Lucidity Letter, 5(2), 45–48.

Tholey, P. (1986c). Lucid-OBE Comment. ASD Newsletter, 3(4), 15.

Tholey, P. (1988a). Gestaltpsychologie. In R. Asanger und G. Wenninger (Eds.): Hand-wörterbuch der Psychologie, 4th Ed. (pp. 249–255). Weinheim, Basel: Beltz.

Tholey, P. (1988b). A model for lucidity training as a means of self-healing and psycho-logical growth. In J. Gackenbach & S. LaBerge (Eds.): Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming (pp. 263–287). New York, London: Plenum Press.

Tholey, P. (1988c). Overview of the German research in the field of lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 7(1), 26–29.

Tholey, P. (1989a). Consciousness and abilities of dream characters observed during lucid dreaming. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68, 567–578.

Tholey, P. (1989b). Bewusstsein, Bewußtseinsforschung, Bewusst Sein. Bewusst Sein, 1(1), 9–24.

Tholey, P. (1989c). Die Entfaltung des Bewußtseins als ein Weg zur Schöpferischen Freiheit. Vom Träumer zum Krieger. Bewusst Sein, 1(1), 25–56.

Tholey, P. (In preparation). Heilendes Träumen. Selbstheilung und Selbstenfaltung durch Klarträumen. Freiburg: Herder.

Tholey, P. & Utecht, K. (1989). Schöpferische Träumen: Der Klartraum als Lebenshilfe, 2nd Ed. Niernhausen, Ts.: Falken-Verlag.

Utecht, K. (1986). Einige Voraussetzungen zum Erlernen des Klarträumens. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universität Frankfurt am Main.


Back to Top


8. Interview with Celia Green, Author of the
1968 Classic, Lucid Dreams


Institute of Psychophysical Research, Oxford, England;

Athabasca University and University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Gackenbach: When did you become interested in lucid dreaming and how were other people instrumental in the cultivation of your interest?

Green: I first became aware of lucid dreams when I was writing my Oxford post-graduate thesis on unusual states of consciousness with Professor H.H. Price as my supervisor. I was aware of them from the start as something that was closely related to OBE. They were just one among a very wide range of special states which I in-cluded in my thesis. I knew one or two people who had had quite a number, but they were not talked about much in those days.

I found when I talked to academics and experts on sleep and dreaming that there seemed to arise in them some profound resistance. It was very difficult to get any-one to talk coherently about them, even if they did not flatly deny the possibility and assert that if people knew they were dreaming and could think fairly rationally, they really must have been awake. With the more ostensibly tolerant people who open-mindedly accepted my description of what a lucid dream was, I then found that within a few sentences they seemed to have forgotten the definition and muddled lucidity up with something different. They started to talk as if what was being dis-cussed was precognitive dreams or narrative dreams or something else. This started to give me a kind of idea that lucid dreams must cut across some quite important implicit assumptions of their world-view, although they did not cut across anything in mine and seemed only a mildly interesting variant of possible experience.

When I was quite young, in my teens, I had formulated the idea that the greatest advances in science arise where there has been resistance to progress. This is not so much due to the intrinsic intellectual difficulty, but rather the fact that it might threaten the current ideology, whatever it might be. Most of the research which is done is determined by the requirement that it shall, in a fairly obvious and predictable way, reinforce the approved or fashionable theories. This does not mean that the research that is done is exactly wrong, only that a great deal of research that might be done is discriminated against, and the reasons for this are not explicitly stated. Lucid dreams provide a good example. People did not go around saying "I dislike the idea of lucid dreams because. . . ." It was simply very difficult to talk to about lucidity.

Gackenbach: Why did you write your book Lucid Dreams? How did it come about and what do you think of the response to it?

Green: The first book on lucid dreams was written as a companion volume to our book on out-of-body experiences (OBEs). When we founded the Institute we were dependent on obtaining financial support, and we thought the best way of finding it was to start doing what work we could, albeit on a very small and restricted scale. After a few years we were lucky to obtain the support of our first really wealthy benefactor (and still unfortunately our only substantial one), who was Cecil Harmsworth King, the late newspaper magnate. In many ways he was an ideal sup-porter. He did not try to dictate at all what we should do with his money, and that was really very lucky, particularly as so many of the areas we were opening up were so uncharted. It would have been difficult to convince anyone else that a particular thing was worth doing. In many ways our work was quite speculative, even to us! For example, when we made our public appeal for OBE cases we had no idea whether we would receive any useful responses. Now it is pretty well established that such appeals receive a substantial and fairly consistent response.

Part of Cecil King’s approach, which made him so congenial a sponsor, was that he regarded his giving us a certain level of financial support for seven years as "priming the pump." He saw that there was scope for a much larger scale of re-search than we could do even with his money. King thought he was providing us with the opportunity to demonstrate that there were previously neglected areas where research could be done and also that we at the Institute had the ability to do it. He hoped that this initial work which he was financing would lead to an increasing flow of financial support to the Institute. So we used the money for what we regard-ed as sighting shots or pilot investigations in as many different fields as possible, and these included lucid dreams as well as OBEs and apparitions.

As it turned out, his hope about priming the pump was scarcely fulfilled so far as the financial response was concerned. Since the end of the seven year covenant we have not had financial support to speak of. Thus it has been an effort to keep the Institute in existence and to maintain some level of contact with the fields of re-search which we have opened up.

I couldn’t say that I foresaw that Lucid Dreams would be the best received of our books. Now that it has happened, I suppose one can see that it is particularly easy for research on lucid dreams to be expanded because lucid dreams have the rather unique attribute that they are fairly easy for people to develop. It is easy to train subjects for laboratory work and also for people who are interested in devel-oping their lucid dreams. No other metachoric experience is so readily trainable. It is difficult to study apparitions or waking dreams except from the reports of those who have had spontaneous experiences of them. In studying OBEs in the laboratory you are to a large extent limited to subjects who happen to have a particular aptitude for them, and who may be a special class.

Gackenbach: What do you consider the relationship between lucid dreams and OBEs? Are they the same? How so or how not?

Green: All metachoric experiences have obvious similarities in that they provide a person with a substitute environment which entirely replaces the physical world as normally perceived. In all cases it can be strikingly realistic as an imitation of nor-mal perception, and in all metachoric experiences, except lucid dreams, it can be entered with no perceptible discontinuity in the subject’s perceptual experience. Lucid dreams and OBEs seem to be more closely related than other metachoric ex-periences because a very positive emotionality is reported in connection with both types, with feelings of liberation and an exploratory curiosity. This is not found to the same extent with apparitions or waking dreams.

Other reasons for supposing them to be related are that some habitual subjects have had techniques for transferring themselves from a lucid dreaming state to an OBE one, or at least believed they had. Also, intermediate experiences are reported which are not easily classified as one thing or the other.

On the other hand, there are certain statistical differences. The majority of lucid dreams start from normal sleep, and the majority of OBEs from a normal waking state or, at least as they are reported, from a state of physical unconsciousness caused by anaesthesia or accident. In a way it is not too helpful to set oneself the question whether they are the same or different. You could certainly set up a definition which would include everything one would like to regard as a lucid dream and exclude what one thinks of as OBEs, and vice versa. For myself, I tend to think of these things as a continuum with clusters of characteristics which correspond to various typical forms. The most typical lucid dream is certainly different in some respect from the most typical OBE. The OBE usually commences in a way that is apparent-ly continuous with the subject’s environment, but is more likely to develop in a way that includes spectacular "traveling," e.g. intercontinental, or back into the past. On the other hand the most typical lucid dream provides a convincing imitation of phys-ical reality but not of any location particularly well known to the dreamer, and is less likely to include "traveling" which is regarded as long distance, although flying is fairly common. There are, of course, a number of other similarities and differences, which we can only continue to study.

Gackenbach: What is the cause or source of metachoric experiences?

Green: I think the answer to this probably depends on the relationship of meta-choric experiences to normal perception, and part of the answer may be that they don’t require much to be triggered.

Students of perception have for a long time accepted the idea of an ordinary hallucination, by which they meant some extraneous image superimposed on what was being perceived in the normal way, but hallucinations of even this kind were regrettably seldom studied. There was, and still is, a prevalent attitude that we only want to know about normality, and if a thing is associated with mental illness, that is good enough to write it off. However, one can take the view that studying extreme and unusual cases could very well give us insights into the mechanisms of normal perception.

You have to realize that the concept of metachoric experiences, and the recog-nition that a person can enter a substitute environment without realizing that a discontinuity has taken place, is really quite recent. There now seem to be several different characteristic types, and they seem to be a fairly constant part of normal human experience. I think of them as forming a continuum, because you can find intermediate forms which are not easy to classify. We should also be aware that there may be sub-classes which might have different clusters of characteristics. As one studies these phenomena one is constantly having reported to one quite small and dull experiences which people have had, which might not be memorable enough for them to send in response to an appeal, nor perhaps even remembered if they are answering a yes/no questionnaire. So I think the first part of an explanation of meta-choric experiences may be that the metachoric mode is really quite close to that of normal perception. It does not take that much for a person to flip into it for a short time, although it seems very likely that there are individual differences which facil-itate it. A fair proportion of OBEs (that is, the dramatic type of OBEs which people tend to report in response to appeals) are associated with obviously traumatic and life-threatening situations. We must mention that a considerable proportion of these, as reported, seem to occur while the subject is actually unconscious as a result of the accident or anaesthetic. Furthermore, we should make a distinction, or at least be aware that there may be a distinction, between those that happen in a highly stressed state of waking consciousness and those that happen when the physical body is com-pletely knocked out for normal purposes, although both of these situations may be viewed as stressful. Thus it appears that high arousal can be a trigger to set off the metachoric mode. But fairly clearly, individual differences play a part in determin-ing whether the trigger works in this way because there is no kind of traumatic experience that can be confidently expected to produce an OBE in everyone.

OBEs are probably the most dramatic in appearance of the metachoric exper-iences, and they happen in a very wide variety of circumstances. There is a definite group which happens in situations which you might expect to be fairly high in arous-al, but they would not normally be excessively stressful, though you would expect a person to be adrenalised. Examples are a person giving a lecture, a dentist extracting a tooth, a person taking a driving test or getting married. We have cases of people watching themselves from the outside in all of these circumstances and several sim-ilar ones. Then there are the OBEs which happen in circumstances which do not appear to be states of high arousal at all, when a person is just walking along the street or strolling in the country. Of course you may say that even when there is no particular sign of stress in a person’s life there may be some present. It would be a fairly difficult exercise to compare the level of unrecognized stress in the lives of apparently unstressed OBE subjects and a control group of people who also believed themselves to be living stress-free lives and had not had OBEs.

It has been suggested that stress also facilitates lucid dreams but I am keeping an open mind on this, because some of our subjects have told me that they have to be really tranquil in their lives to feel free enough to focus their attention on having lucid dreams. But I think that being in an intellectually stimulated state might help, or at least not being excessively bored.

Waking dreams and apparitional experiences show no sign at present of being associated with any form of stress, even adrenalisation. So the interesting question is, how close is what goes on in metachoric experiences to the normal perceptual process?

Gackenbach: Have lucid dreams or any of these types of experiences been impor-tant to you in your own life cycle? If so how?

Green: I never had any metachoric-type experiences until I actually started study-ing lucid dreams. Then I occasionally had lucid dreams. I would not say they were terribly important to me, but they were certainly interesting. At least in my own case I think of lucid dreams as quite different from ordinary ones, both in perceptual clar-ity and in emotional tone. I have sometimes met people who have OBEs and who have told me mental techniques for trying to induce them, but none of these ever worked for me. I certainly have an impression that individual differences have a much more determining role in influencing who is able to get OBEs, while lucid dreams could probably be induced by deliberate training in most people. Further-more, lucid dreams arise fairly spontaneously as soon as somebody knows about them. I think this is illustrated in the people who presently work with me at the Insti-tute. None of them, including myself, have ever had an OBE but about 50% of them have had lucid dreams although they did not before they started to study them. This has arisen without any very deliberate efforts being made, just as a result of people being exposed to the idea and perhaps thinking about lucid dreaming as they fell asleep.

Apart from my fairly small population of lucid dreams, I have never had meta-choric experiences and I tend to think of myself as a sort of person who would not be easily induced to have any kind of hallucination.

Gackenbach: I understand that you are currently writing another book on lucid dreaming. Will it be significantly different from your last book? If so, how?

Green: My colleague Charles McCreery and I are writing another book on lucid dreams. It will be a completely new book, as so much work has been done in this field since the first one, and since we have so many new cases. It will cover the same ground as the first one, but of course it will include a survey of the work to date in each of the areas covered. We are planning to follow this with a similar follow-up book on OBEs, which will also update our earlier book in the light of work that has been done since then.

Gackenbach: Do you have other writings and/or research projects planned for the future? If so, what?

Green: Of course I have an effectively unlimited quantity of research and writing projects planned for the future. The extent to which they can be carried out will, unfortunately, continue to be almost entirely determined by the financial resources which are available. As I mentioned we have had virtually no financial support since the Cecil King money ended. The scale of work which we are able to carry out, and indeed have ever been able to, should certainly not be taken to indicate that we don’t have plans for working on a larger scale. We will implement them as soon as we are able to obtain the money.

At the time I wrote Lucid Dreams no laboratory work on lucid dreams had been done and I hoped that I and my associates would be regarded as suitable people to start it. However, even though other people have started to work on lucid dreams in laboratories, we are still trying to raise money to set one up, which, by the way, would not really require an inordinately prohibitive scale of finance. Once we had it we would use it not only for lucid dreams but for work on other metachoric exper-iences and possibly other things as well, depending on the volume of work the labo-ratory could handle and the money available to us for running it. Even the writing of books in our present circumstances is a slow and difficult procedure. Nonetheless we continue to collect cases and will always be pleased to receive cases from your readers to add to our files—anything which they consider illustrative of particularly interesting points. We are especially interested in those associated with the relation-ship between lucid dreams and other metachoric experiences.

From time to time people from all over the world write to us, including several from the USA and Canada, wishing to come and join us in our work. So perhaps I can give this much of a preliminary answer to anyone who may be thinking of doing this. Of course everyone is welcome to come and augment our efforts, but I am afraid we cannot offer a salary at present to anyone, although we might be able to give them some help in living fairly inexpensively. As our problems are so largely financial, we hope that anyone who comes will be prepared to divide their time between helping with business activities designed to generate income to support the Institute’s work, the background work of the Institute, and work on the actual re-search projects.

Editor’s Note: If interested, you can write to Ms. Green at the Institute of Psycho-physical Research, 118 Ganbury Rd., Oxford, England, OX2 6JU.


Back to Top


9. Patricia Garfield’s Pathway to Ecstasy Re-Released:
An Interview


San Francisco, California;

Athabasca University and University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Editor’s Note: Here, Jayne Gackenbach interviews Patricia Garfield about her recently re-released book, Pathway To Ecstasy, originally published right after her best-selling Creative Dreaming.

Patricia Garfield: Spirituality and lucid dreaming were the things I was most ex-cited about when I finished Creative Dreaming. They seemed like the future and thus where my writing should go. In 1974, before Creative Dreaming came out, I put together a book proposal and submitted it to Simon and Schuster. They felt there was not enough interest in dreaming to warrant another book, and particularly one devoted primarily to this weird aspect: lucid dreaming. I mean, nobody knew what that was. They wouldn’t take it. I had the option of just submerging it into something much larger, making it a very minor part of a book, or sticking with it and trying to get it published elsewhere. I think I hadn’t clearly developed how I wanted to pre-sent the whole of the material, other than the lucid aspects of it.

Eventually it was picked up by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, who were not terri-bly interested in the lucid dreaming aspect either. They were much more interested in the personal elements. At the same time this was going on, I was undergoing very intense forms of meditation. Suddenly there was the realization that these medita-tion experiences were connected to the lucid dream experiences. That’s where they intersected. I became so excited when this happened.

Jayne Gackenbach: Would you talk about that moment of realization?

Garfield: It’s in the chapter of the book called, "The Magical Land of Breeze And Light." You know the characteristic feelings that accompany lucid dreaming are, by now, quite well known. But at that time, very little was spoken about them. Fre-quently people who had lucid dreams would talk about the rush of wind in their face, and the intensification of colors and the other things that are now common know-ledge. What I experienced I didn’t quite know how to describe. I called it a "sound-feel," or a "vibration-buzz." To me it was kinesthetic, as well as auditory. It was not just wind in the face, the entire body seemed to "buzz." So when I practiced this Taoist meditation, and when I had, what would probably be called in other cultures, a kundalini experience, these inner sensations became very perceptible to me while awake and meditating. Then they would occur spontaneously at other times once I had aroused them in meditation. This was then a very conscious force in my body. After I got some help with it, particularly by a Taoist meditation teacher who taught me methods of controlling it and calming it when necessary, then it became much more regulated.

The metaphor that flashes into my mind to describe these sensations is that it was like being pregnant when the baby’s kicking you and you’re sitting talking to someone, trying to be normal. The baby is kicking away inside, tickling you under the ribs, while you’re saying, "Well yes, that’s right." The effects of meditation can also have that inner life that is so strong that it makes it difficult to focus on the external. It’s definitely a live quality once it has become aroused.

I found that it was a kind of barometer in the sense that certain things made it stronger, other things made it weaker. Certain foods that I ate stimulated it. Certain rooms, certain atmospheres. In any case, when I underwent an acupuncture treat-ment, I was amazed to feel this buzzing kind of line along the acupuncture channel, and I’d never heard anybody describe this or speak of it. When I talked with my acupuncturist about it, he said, "That’s your chi. Most people don’t feel it this quickly." It was probably that my body was already very aroused in certain areas, and this became perceptible to me in quite a vivid way.

This all came together in a dream.

Ordinary kinds of things were going on, and then suddenly I became aware that something was happening in the next room. I hurried around the corner, and entered a very spacious room. All the windows were open, with sunshine streaming in every win-dow. There was a very high ceiling and sheer curtains on the windows that were being lifted up by a breeze that was pouring in along with the light. I said to myself, "The mag-ical land of breeze and light!" I lifted up into the air with the excitement of realizing that I was dreaming. That was my clue. By then I’d had enough lucid dreams to know that when I experienced certain imagery, then this was dreaming. I felt myself lifted up by the buzzing in my legs, a "vibration-sound." In the dream I said, "My God! The buzzing vibration from acupuncture is the same as the feeling of lucid dreaming. It’s identical."

That brought together a whole disparate number of experiences.

Gackenbach: So the felt experience plugged you into a wide range of other experiences.

Garfield: The connection came in the dream, while I knew I was dreaming. This integration that occurred in my thinking combined the meditation experience, the acupuncture experience and the lucid dream experience.

Gackenbach: So there was an experiential element as well as a theoretical integra-tion going on?

Garfield: Yes. How to frame what I was trying to express about lucid dreams began to make more sense. I was also at that time reading a great deal, and undergoing some training in Tibetan Buddhism. The concept of a mandala occurred to me as a possible framework. I began taking some of the most powerful images from my dreams and trying to make a mandala composed from my lucid dream images. For example, we know how common flying is in prelucid or lucid states, as a vehicle for moving up and out. I wanted flying in my mandala. I’d had a very powerful lucid dream that began very ordinarily, as so many of them do.

I was standing on a street corner talking to some people about a book I was going to get published. They were going to the publishers, and I said, "I’ll meet you there in a while." I had to run home and pick up some notes. I hurried to where I seemed to live in the dream and opened a little iron gate that led to an alleyway. I was barefoot in the dream. I went into this little alleyway, and I was suddenly across it. I’m never barefoot outside on the sidewalks, and I don’t live in an alleyway, so these are discrepancies that might have clued me to the incongruent aspects of the dream. But it didn’t happen until I got into the alleyway and I saw this beautiful tree across the street. It was covered, not with leaves, but with blue feathers. On this feathered tree were sitting many, many blue-birds, and I looked at the tree and said, "Ah! I’m dreaming! You know, this has got to be a dream tree! Suddenly one of the birds was on my finger and I began stroking this little creature. And I started to say "Oh you pretty. . . ."

But I began to feel tired. For me, when a dream becomes lucid or right after, there’s often a change in consciousness that can take the form of going to sleep. It can take the form of waking up. It can take the form of going into a trance. It can be being light-headed, but there is some kinesthetic feeling in my head that says, "Oh, you know. . . ." And I go into another state.

In this case I suddenly felt very tired, and I lay down on my right side and I could feel this buzzing vibration, but in this case it had the actual form of light. It was a buzzing light that travelled in my legs and around my buttocks and I just lay still in the dream watching this buzzing light knowing perfectly well I was dreaming, just waiting to see what would happen. And suddenly it occurred to me that my husband actually turned over in bed, so the whole bed jiggled, and my dream snapped into the ordinary. It continued, but now there was this little child, a little boy lying in his cot on his right hand side and his mother had just opened the door to ask him what he wanted for dinner. In the lucid part I was trying to decide what to do with the lucidity and here was this little boy being offered a choice of all kinds of wonderful things. Then she looked at him and said, "Oh I’m sorry. Did I wake you up?" And then I actually awoke.

The bluebird that was in my dream became an important figure representing the ability to fly, so I condensed my many, many flying images from lucid dreams into one blue feather that had a place on the mandala.

Passionate dreams are a very consistent part of my lucid dreaming, not always, but often. In one of the dreams which became lucid:

I was lying on the couch in a beautiful room, and I looked out the open window, and saw that the moon was full. I suddenly realized that I was dreaming and said, "Fly me to the moon." I lifted off the couch, out the window and into the night sky with the wonder-ful streaming of the wind against my face and hair. There was an exhilaration of moving toward the light, this wonderful luminous light, and suddenly I was there, on the moon, and everything was red. There was a bare-breasted woman in a red dress that was in the shape of a strawberry. The whole dream scene was infused with this strawberry red light.

So from this dream I then took the symbol of the strawberry, almost like a nipple, a female succulent symbol that became my image for the passion of lucid dreams. So I had the flying element, and I had the passionate element. I call these figures "deities" in the framework of the mandala because they were, it seemed to me, to be the images that brought a supernatural kind of experience.

You know how sound in lucid dreams can become very crystal clear. Often there is music, pulsation and rhythm going on. Another compelling image from my dreams was a woman who spoke in musical tones which I called in the dream "bell tones." When she opened her mouth to speak, what came out was a musical bell tone, so I used the bell as a symbol. This is the way I built the mandala. There were four major deities and there were the "temple walls" which were the walls of my childhood where negative dreams used to take place. I likened this to the sacred space in which the dreamer’s power is encapsulated if you can get in touch with it, rather than being frightened by it and scared away by the fear.

The central figure of the mandala became the deity of the branching woman, which was another one of these revelations from an accumulation of dreams. I had a dream once in which I was at a conference. I described this in Creative Dreaming.

I stood up and . . . nobody was paying much attention to me. (It was long before I had written Creative Dreaming, and there wasn’t any response to my work.) I said, "I’ve had a series of dreams in which there were women that had growths coming from their head. They were branches or antlers, I wasn’t quite sure, but many, many reaching out in all directions. I’m fascinated with this."

And in the dream, people just started talking and not paying any attention, and going on with their thing and my husband leaned over and said, "Oh, you did that very well." And he kissed me on the cheek. I wandered over to the table where people were eating and there wasn’t any food left for me.

I woke up and thought, "What a weird thing to say! Have I ever dreamt about women with things growing out of their heads? I don’t remember it." I often draw little sketches in the left hand column of my dream journals, so I went back through the journals, years back, and I found that, indeed, that was true. There was a whole series of such images. They were characters in the background. One for instance was a woman in a hat that just had branches coming out of it. All the way through the years there had been a series of images that I never consciously noticed. And then finally this branching woman. It became a numinous symbol for me, I mean, what is this? It was the arising of an archetype. I wondered, "What is this coming from?" I sculpted it and I painted it and I thought a lot about it and it finally occurred to me that this was upward moving energy, from my point of view, that referred to my own creativity that was branching, that was growing, that was reaching out in many directions.

This too, I saw was related to meditation. If you look at any form of esoteric knowledge, all systems have some symbol that has to do with the head, and the ra-diance coming from that. In Christianity you have the halo. In Buddhism you have the thousand-petaled lotus. In many of the groups a piece of hair is at a particular point on the head. In acupuncture this point is called the "thousand crossroads." There is, again in Chinese acupuncture theory, a spot at the top of the head at which all the channels cross, and it is this point that becomes active in meditation, when there is a kind of kundalini experience. I somehow came to the realization that my branching woman was my personal version of all of these images in different sys-tems that come up with a different image, but that the energy was in the same place. And so this became the central image in my dream mandala.

Gackenbach: What were you were trying to say with Pathway?

Garfield: I was trying to integrate the experience of enlightenment. Regardless of whether it took place within a dream or in a waking meditation, I was trying to trace that experience within the visual form. There is a certain path that you follow within the mandala. You enter in a certain place and you move around it. And each of the images were signposts of what was happening within the dream.

Gackenbach: It wasn’t just dreams though. It was within meditation as well.

Garfield: Yes, it was paralleled. Higher states of consciousness and lucid dreaming share many characteristics. Many of the things that are happening in lucid dreams also happen in intense meditation sessions. There is a parallel between the two states. One could have created a mandala based on meditation experience. I chose to make a visual pattern that was based on my lucid dream experiences.

Gackenbach: What’s nice is that the dream is better able to offer you clear visual images. In meditation that can happen, but it’s more rare.

Garfield: And it’s considered distractive by many disciplines, so that you might almost suppress it rather than welcome it. In the dreams visual imagery is so much a part of the experience that it helps you to retain it. It helps you to stay in touch, I think, with the energy and the feeling and the emotion of the dream, and gives you the handle to get back into it.

Gackenbach: Have you ever had experiences of what I would call "pure conscious-ness?" Just awareness, not witnessing. Where there’s no second thing, yet you’re very clear. You are all awareness, not just awareness of something.

Garfield: Yes I have, but more in waking meditation, or even just lying asleep in bed at night awakening in the night, probably fresh from the dream, when I am awake, but just extending. There is no limits to the body, and I can actually feel waves of pulsation, extending out from some center.

Gackenbach: You don’t necessarily call it, "me, me."

Garfield: Of course in dreams one has this sometimes, or something like it anyway. Have you never dreamt you were a point of awareness in the dream, just a tiny speck? You’re not a thing.

Gackenbach: Or it emerged out of pure awareness to a point and then it became structured, and then a "me" got put on it. Like geometric forms came before "I" came, but awareness came before the geometric forms.

Garfield: Mine would be more perhaps the opposite, just like this tiny crumb, some-times going between being one little focused point, somewhere in the dream, just watching, and then to a giant, I call it "God-like." Suddenly you’re above and you’re not in a dream body. You’re omniscient somehow. You see and know everything.

Gackenbach: When you read such accounts there are certain themes that reverberate through them.

Garfield: I’ll just conclude by saying, Jayne, that I’m really pleased that Pathway has a second life because the first was very short really. It was in print for one year, and it was the year that the government imposed a tax on inventory. The publishers were panicking right and left, and they were taking any book that wasn’t moving fast enough to suit them and chopping them up into paper towels. If you want a nightmare, picture the book of your heart being chopped up into paper towels. So it was rather traumatic, extremely distressing. But as time went on. .

Gackenbach: So why the second offer, do you think?

Garfield: Because, although Pathway didn’t have a broad audience at the beginning, it did have a very devoted one. The people who read it and understood it were lim-ited, but they were absolutely passionate about what it meant to them. People kept it by their bedside, and said, "It was the best book I ever read. This book changed my life." That kind of thing. It was much more extreme than for the first book, which was generally liked. This was at a much deeper level. I began getting letters from libraries saying that their copy had been stolen again, so please, please could I re-place it? It was one of their most popular books. People began hunting for it. I got passionate letters asking if they could please buy a copy from me, they’d put searches on it. So there was a whole stream of people to whom it did speak. Finally, ten years later, after it had come out in seventy-nine, one of the publishers said, "But this is a New Age book. You know, you were ten years too early, and now we want to publish it." They asked me to write a new introduction, and said that the time is right for it now. Now people can understand it. So many people now know what lucid dreaming is—it’s almost a household word. And the dreamwork movement is very broad. The bodywork movement is very developed, but at the time that this was originally written, it was all embryonic. Way ahead of its time. I know a lot of people who say, "I was so glad to see that in print again." So I think it has a new life and has something to offer to a certain segment of aware dreamers.

Gackenbach: I think it would be nicer to be able to say something deeply to a few people than something cursory to so many.

Garfield: Well, one would like to be able to do both.


Back to Top


10. Keith Hearne’s Work on Lucid Dreaming


Hull, Northumberside, England

Many hundreds of people in the U.S. and other countries have written to me asking about my research into lucid dreaming, so let me summarize it thus. My ini-tial knowledge of the phenomenon came from reading Celia Green’s little book Lucid Dreams, and van Eeden’s paper given to the Society for Psychical Research (1913). Having completed some research into the modification of evoked responses by visual imagery (Hearne, 1976; 1978b), my thoughts turned to the question of whether a suitable channel of communication could be established between a lucid dreamer and the outside world, so permitting the dream to be studied "from within" for the first time. A method using ocular signalling, which circumvented the general bodily atonia of REM sleep, was found to work beautifully with a subject on the morning of 12 April 1975 at 8:07 in the Department of Psychology at Hull Univer-sity. That breakthrough enabled me to define the basic characteristics of lucid dreams in a three-year study for a Ph.D. (Hearne, 1977; 1978a; 1980a,b; 1981a,c; 1982c) after transferring to Liverpool University. That thesis was lodged in May 1978, and copies are obtainable from the Librarian.

Essentially, that early research found that:

1. The lucid dreams were indeed genuine dreams occurring in Stage REM sleep, and not some form of waking imagery (although I think some may be);

2. They had a duration of several minutes and usually happened towards the end of the sleep period—on average some 24 minutes [sic] after the start of a REM period;

3. A prelucid REM burst, averaging 22 seconds, invariably preceded lucidity—indicating, perhaps, prior cortical stimulation;

4. The quality of sleep on lucid dream nights was no different from control nights;

5. The emotional level in the dream might be predetermined;

6. The reported events corresponded closely with information signalled from within the dream (it had never been certain how far one could trust dream reports).

Further items of research conducted at that time included a simulating control study—in which subjects attempted (unsuccessfully) to produce similar eye signals by cheating; questionnaire data; personality and intellectual capacity in relation to lucid dreaming; lucidity-induction methods; and description of various devices.

By the way, I was greatly encouraged in my research by Allan Rechtschaffen of Chicago University, with whom I corresponded and sent my early results to in 1975.

The Need For A "Dream-Machine"

The early work was inefficient because I had no idea when a subject would have a lucid dream—in one study, only eight lucid dreams were monitored out of 45 nights of continuous polygraphic monitoring. This problem caused me to ponder on the possibility of artificially inducing lucidity in subjects. Some form of external stimulation seemed a likely technique for producing an internal perception within the dream which might trigger lucidity by acting as a cue. To make an automated unit, some form of dream detector would also be required. Much effort went into developing both aspects of the "dream-machine." All sorts of stimulation methods were tried, including sound stimuli, sprinkled water, pungent odours, etc. However, a method of electrical stimulation to the median nerve at the wrist was found to be effective.

Different methods of dream detection were investigated. The first technique was to monitor REMs but this electrode system proved to be unsatisfactory in opera-tion. Eventually, the method of using a nasal thermistor was chosen—providing an artifact-free method of monitoring the respiratory rate differences between SWS and REM sleep. That device was patented, but another patent covers many other ways of detecting dreaming sleep (including monitoring penile erection!) and forms of stimulation. In a sleep-lab study the technique was found to induce lucidity in half the twelve subjects, in just one night each (Hearne, 1982d). Another function of the "dream machine" is its ability to wake (using an audible tone) the user from REM sleep, so increasing the amount of dream recall. That option might be useful for "dream interpretation" groups. Nightmare sufferers (Hearne, 1980c) and sleep-paralysis sufferers (Hearne, 1982e) could also use it to good effect. In connection with a TV programme here recently, the device induced lucidity in about one third of the users. One person entered the lucid state three times on one night. Hopefully, the units will become available in the U.S. later this year. (By the way, the unit which a student at Newcastle used—see last Lucidity Letter [Steven Venus, 1982, Early Results with Hearne’s Dream Machine, Lucidity Letter, 1(2), 7]—is not one that I have tested, and it lacks certain new elements.

Another discovery I made was that the respiratory rate could be altered volun-tarily in the lucid state. That gave rise to a further invention (Hearne, 1982a)—a unit which enables the lucid dreamer to participate in a dream-telepathy experiment. On becoming aware of dreaming, the subject makes a sequence of rapid breaths (de-tected by a simple nasal thermistor) which triggers an automatic telephone-dialing device. The other person in the experiment is thus contacted and can attempt to send or receive telepathic information—if such a thing is possible. The dreamer’s ac-counts are compared with the "target" information. The dream state has long been considered to be conducive to telepathy, and lucid dreams are particularly useful for research in this area because the dreaming subjects knows full well that he or she is taking part in an experiment and can concentrate on the task. The apparatus has been tested and found to work satisfactorily.

Over the years I have heard and read many dream accounts. I began to notice that the inability to switch on an electric light in the dream (lucid or ordinary) scen-ery was mentioned quite a lot. I therefore gave the task to eight lucid dreamers (Hearne, 1981). All reported back in isolation so as not to bias the reports. Six subjects found that the light would not work properly, one person could not find a switch, and the lights did switch on for one person—however that was just after she had "covered her eyes" in the dream and so abolished the imagery. It would seem that perhaps there is a "ceiling limit" on visual imagery-brightness and that an attempt, using dream control, to exceed that limit has to be dealt with (by the central dream-directing process) by rationalized avoidance of the intended situation. A follow-up study (Hearne, 1982b) found similar results, but one subject reported switching on a light with no prior decrease in brightness level. Conceivably, on those odd occasions when it does work [see also Tart’s report, last issue], the event might correspond with spontaneous phasic activity which might at that moment in-crease the ceiling limit. Clearly, further research is required here. I have a feeling that the "light-switch phenomenon" might also be observed in waking imagery, using good visualizers. They must, of course, be naïve subjects.

The second study also indicated that the various imaging modalities may be loosely linked in dreams and that "substitution" of imagery may occur in other mo-dalities. The forms may have different priority of effect over others at any one time. Schools of dream "interpretation" have failed to consider the possibility that there might be natural limitations in dreams; therefore many "analyses" could have been highly erroneous. On "closing" or "covering" their eyes in the lucid dream state, all six respondents reported that a scene shift occurred. In two cases, a rerun of the dream happened. Oneironauts (Hearne, 1981c) need to learn about these techniques in order to make the most of their lucid dreams.

In response to a questionnaire about lucid dreams printed in a British national newspaper in 1980, much information was acquired (Hearne, n.d.).

Lucid dreams are without doubt an important new avenue of research because, apart from insights into the dreaming process that we are sure to discover, I think we shall be able to learn something about consciousness itself. The "switching on" of consciousness in the unchanging physiological state of REM sleep can be sudden. A study of the brain’s activity at that moment could be most rewarding. In addition to such knowledge, the induction of lucidity by suggestion or electronic techniques could open up a limitless "inner universe" of experience to many people, and the undoubted creativity aspect of dreaming sleep could be harnessed so that man may research new heights of artistic and scientific invention.


Green, C. (1968). Lucid dreams. Oxford, England: Institute for Psychophysical Research.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1976). Visual imagery and evoked responses. M.Sc. thesis, Department of Psychology, Hull University         

Hearne, K.M.T. (1977). Eye-movement communication from lucid dreams: A new technique and initial findings. Paper given to 11th Post-doctoral Conference in the Behavioural Sciences, Hull University, April 15-18.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1978a). Lucid dreams: An electrophysiological and psychological study. Ph.D. thesis, University of Liverpool.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1978b). Visual imagery and evoked responses. Psychological Research, 40: 89–92.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1980a). Insight into lucid dreams. Nursing Mirror, March 6: 20– 22.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1980b). Lucid dreams, a new area for psi investigation. Paper given at An-nual Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, Brighton, April 21–23.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1980c). Terror lurking in the dark. Nursing Mirror, August 14: 18–20.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1981a). Control your own dreams. New Scientist, 91(1272), 783–785.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1981b). A ‘light-switch’ phenomenon in lucid dreams. Journal of Mental Imagery.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1981c). Lucid dreams and ‘ESP’: An initial experiment using one subject. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51(787), 7–11.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982a). An automated technique for studying ‘psi’ in home lucid dreams. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (June).

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982b). Effects of performing certain set tasks in the lucid dream state. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 54: 259–262.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982c). Eye-movement communication from lucid dreams: A new tech-nique and initial findings. Perceptual and Motor Skills.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982d). Lucid dream induction. Journal of Mental Imagery (Fall).

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982e). Trapped in sleep. Nursing Mirror, January 13: 34–35.

Hearne, K.M.T. (n.d.). Features of lucid dreams: Questionnaire data and content analyses. (unpublished.)

Tart, C.T. (1982). Switching on a light while lucid. Lucidity Letter, 1(2), 8.

van Eeden, F. (1913). A study of dreams. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 26(47), 431–461.


Back to Top


11. Alan Worsley’s Work on Lucid Dreaming


St. Thomas’s Hospital, London, Great Britain

I have had lucid dreams since I was a child and first carried out experiments in lucid dreams in my early teens. I did not have access to an EEG machine operator to obtain hard evidence of my findings until, in 1975, I persuaded Keith Hearne that we should use his expertise with the EEG machine at Hull University to investigate some of the more accessible physiological correlates of lucid dream activity. By this time I had a first degree in psychology and six years’ post-graduate research as a student and member of staff at Hull University.

It is one of the ironies of lucid dream work that the experimenter in the lucid dream state cannot operate the EEG machine himself (although progress has now been made on this). Without Keith I could not have proceeded further with my lucid dream experiments in a way that would produce acceptable results, and I was very pleased to have Keith’s help in this way. Then, after our initial exciting success with eye movement communication, Keith was so enthusiastic about this new technique and the whole subject of lucid dreams, that he arranged, with my cooperation, to make lucid dreams the subject of his doctorate thesis.

In consequence of this agreement all the early work went into Keith’s thesis, but this was not intended to be a permanent arrangement. I continued to work with Keith until 1980 when publicity for Keith’s version of the lucid dream machine reached a peak. Since then, I have been working with Dr. P. Fenwick and Dr. M. Schatzman in the EEG Department of St. Thomas’s Hospital in London on the electrophysiological aspects of lucid dreams, and at home on those aspects less accessible to current physical techniques.

Some of this latest electrophysiological work has been written up. . . . We have shown, among other things, that it is after all possible to operate a hand-switch in a lucid dream, provided the switch is suitable. The switch can also be foot-operated.

An interesting recent demonstration at St. Thomas’s is that it is possible, by appropriate manipulation of dream imagery, to achieve smooth, controlled move-ments of one eye while the other eye remains still. This is perhaps the best evidence yet of the close relationship between dream imagery and physiological activity.

In the same dream I performed a light switch phenomenon (LSP) experiment in circumstances of low illumination, which followed "opening the eyes." Before "opening the eyes" only haptic imagery was present. I switched the light on and the low illumination became normal illumination smoothly, over a period of about three seconds. From previous personal instances this appears to be a regular pattern and may well be the same for other lucid dreamers also, provided they do not alter their expectations to correspond to "light not working" when it does not come on sud-denly as intended and expected. Therefore, perhaps a more important limit than that of brightness proposed by Keith Hearne (some limit on brightness is unavoidable) is a limit on the rate at which a change in the imagery can occur. The EEG record in this instance shows no obvious change in relation to the LSP. It has not yet been subjected to spectral analysis.

I am at present carrying out a series of experiments on myself, at home, to ex-plore a number of aspects of the LSP. One of these is to arrange to view the dream scene through a coloured filter (for example, plastic or glass, or whatever you can find in the dream). Points to observe are: What is the effect? How long does it last? Does it go when the filter is removed, etc.? It is also important to distinguish be-tween instances of:

1. Low initial illumination;

2. No illumination; and

3. Whether the imagery is active or static.

It seems, again from a rather small number of personal experiences, that dream imagery in different sensory modalities is not necessarily well integrated (I have, on rare occasions, had experiences where I seemed to be having different dreams in dif-ferent modalities—seeing one thing but feeling another). The initiation of imagery in an inactive modality, especially vision, by manipulation of imagery in an active but different modality, for example, operating a light switch in the dark, may be harder than trying to achieve effects within an active modality, for example using colour filters over the eyes or the light source.
This experiment is intended to reveal the imagery dynamics relating to attempts to affect the appearance of the visual imagery as a whole. Another way of doing this would be to vary the source of the light and the means of control, for example, sun-light and a blind.

Another experiment in this LSP group which I have tried several times is the "gun" experiment. This is designed to investigate the production of sudden effects within the context of the otherwise unchanged dream scene. Is there a bang, a kick, a flash? Does the bullet hit the target? How long does it take to reach the target?

Perhaps one point I should make now is that as the above experiments are likely to be carried out in "full" dreams, that is, with active imagery, whereas in the nature of the situation the LSP tends to be associated with an initial situation involving either no visual imagery or static visual imagery, the single dimension comparison experiments I have proposed are not one hundred percent comparable, even though the typical LSP situation may be followed by a classic lucid dream.

I am pleased to hear that Keith Hearne’s dream machine really works. As [at the time this article was written] his latest publication giving evidence for this (Lucidity Letter, Volume 1, Number 3) [was] not yet available, I refer to the previous one in the New Scientist, as follows.

From this article it is not clear what method Keith, in attempting to induce lucid dreams by electric shocks, used to verify that lucidity had in fact occurred. "Eight out of twelve subjects, each run for one night only, reported becoming lucid on those occasions," (my emphasis). While dreaming, I have demonstrated, as has LaBerge, the ability to signal the message that lucidity is occurring. One excellent technique for doing this, which Keith and I devised in 1975, is communicating by eye movements. Is this the technique he used with his eight allegedly successful subjects? Were any of these "reports" of lucidity made while the subjects were still asleep and in REM? If they were, it would seem appropriate for him to have said so instead of using the ambiguous term "reported."

If it is the case that these reports were made verbally after waking, then it must be pointed out that because of the demand characteristics of the situation (namely the subjects’ knowledge of the desired result—lucidity induced by electric shock), there must be serious doubt about the value of such reports.

Furthermore, he fails to report instances in other experiments he carried out in which lucidity was reported as having been induced by shocks when there were no shocks but the subject, expecting shocks, dreamed that there were. This control data diminishes the significance of the eight out of twelve positive "reports" even fur-ther. Subjects in experiments concerning dreams and altered states of consciousness are so sensitive to suggestion that twelve individual trials is a small sample upon which to base an important scientific claim.

Let us see a continuous polygraphic record showing by EEG, EOG and EMG:

1. That the subject was in REM immediately before the shocks;

2. The point at which the shocks occurred;

3. The eye movement signal denoting that lucidity was achieved; and

4. The continuance of REM after the lucidity signal.

Such an example would be more interesting than the one shown which, in fact, does not show a lucidity signal in response to electric shocks, as the context might seem to imply, but is a record of a spontaneous lucid dream that I had in July 1976.

Incidentally, contrary to what Keith Hearne seems to be claiming, the "dream machine" described in Lucidity Letter (Volume 1, Number 3), using a nasal therm-istor, is not yet (to 16 June 1982) patented, at least not in Britain.

Editor’s Note: A document issued by the British Patent office 17 June 1982, was en-closed with the preceding letter.


Hearne, K.M.T. (1981). Control your own dreams. New Scientist, 91(1272), 783–785.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982). Lucid dream induction. Journal of Mental Imagery.

Hearne, K.M.T. (1982). Keith Hearne’s work on lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 1(3), 15–17.


Back to Top

Back to Lucidity Letter 10th Anniversary Issue

VirtualWorlds   |    Lucidity Letters   |   Consciousness  |   Bio   |   Contact   |    Links   |    Acknowledgements