Lucidity Letter - December 1987 - Vol. 6, No. 2

Lucidity Letter

Letter from the Editor - 2


Concerns with Lucidity Essay - Jayne Gackenbach - 4

Response - Stephen LaBerge - 8


Proceedings from the 2nd Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium - 10


Session 1: What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations - 10

Manifest Content Analysis of Sleep Laboratory Collected Lucid and Non-lucid Dreams - Jayne Gackenbach - 11

Dream Content Within the Partially Lucid REM Period: A Single Subject Content Analysis - Robert Price - 22

Flying Dreams and Lucidity: An Empirical Study of Their Relationship - Diedre Barrett - 33

Varieties of Experience from Light Induced Lucid Dreams - Stephen LaBerge and Richard Lind - 38

EEG and Other Physiological Findings - Stephen LaBerge and Andrew Brylowski - 40

Commentary - Ernest Hartmann and John Antrobus - 50

Session 2: Applications of Lucid Dreaming - 60

The Creative Process: Paintings Inspired from the Lucid Dream - Fariba Bogzaran - 61

Potential Effects of Lucid Dreaming on Immunocompetence - Andrew Brylowski - 65

Ethical Issues for Applications of Lucid Dreaming - Joseph Dane, P. Eric Craig, and Morton Schatzman - 70

Session 3: Transpersonal Implications of Lucid Dreaming - 94

Lucidity about Lucidity - Robert Dentan - 95

Lucidity as a Meditative State - Harry Hunt - 105

Dream Lucidity and Dream Witnessing: A Developmental Model Based on the Practice of Transcendental Meditation - Charles Alexander - 113

Distinguishing Between Phenomenon and Interpretation: When Does Lucid Dreaming Become Transpersonal Experience? - George Gillespie - 125

The Physics of Dream Consciousness: Is the Lucid Dream a Parallel Universe? - Fred Alan Wolf - 130

Concluding Comment - Stephen LaBerge - 135



Research Reports - 137

"Consciousness" During Sleep in a TM Practitioner: Heart Rate, Respiration, and Eye Movement - Jayne Gackenbach, William Moorecroft, Charles Alexander and Stephen LaBerge - 127

Induction of Lucid Dreaming by Luminous Stimulation - Stephen LaBerge - 146


Phenomenology: Personal and Theoretical Considerations - 147

The Dream-Art Scientist: A Sethian View of Dream Lucidity - Linda Magallon - 147




Book Reviews - 150

Paul Tholey and Kaleb Utecht's Schoepferisch Trauemen: Der Klartraum als Lebenshilfe  - Norbert Sattler - 150

Charles Tart's Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential - John Wren-Lewis - 154


Letters to the Editor - 156

Mark A. Barroso - 156

Vincent MacTiernan - 157

David R. May - 160

Linda R. Reneau - 160


News and Notes - 161

Lucid Dreaming Bibliographic Update - 161

1988 Lucid Dreaming Symposium - 163


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Letter from the Editor


Jayne Gackenbach

Editor, Lucidity Letter


It is with great pride that we bring you this issue of Lucidity Letter. Not only will you find the proceedings of the second Lucidity Symposium, which was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams, but also several research articles, book reviews, and letters to the editor. Further the bibliographic updates number 30 citations. Clearly lucid dreaming is emerging as a field of inquiry in its own right.

Leading the issue is an essay by myself voicing my concerns regarding the potential wide spread access to dream lucidity. This is followed by a response to my essay from Stephen LaBerge. As more individuals are involved with working within their lucid dreams questions of what to do in the lucid dream have been emerging. Because of the potential clinical applications as well as the transpersonal/transcendent nature of dream lucidity, issues concerned with the relationship of clinical psychology to transpersonal psychology are relevant to working within ones lucid dreams. These issues have been receiving considerable attention in the last two years in the pages of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology and of course are the meat of the matter for the popular Common Boundary newsletter.

I feel the central issue in working within ones lucid dreams is the degree to which one uses them in a psychoanalytic, creative, training modality or in an effort to transcend normal states of consciousness. Clearly there is a common boundary between these applications of the state. We need to be sensitive to the boundary as well as the distinctions in the applications.

Two perspectives seem to be emerging in Transpersonal Psychology with regards to the clinical/transpersonal issue. Jack Engler has argued that westerners who are practicing eastern traditions are running into troubles which their eastern teachers are at a loss to deal with. He characterizes these as narcissistic problems which both draw an individual into such eastern practices and stop their growth in such practices. Essentially Engler maintains that one needs to have a self first in order to lose the self. To put it more simply, one needs to clear away personal junk and then worry about transcending. Applied to lucidity this perspective would argue that one needs to use the lucid dream to work through normal day to day problems before undue focus is placed on lucidity as a vehicle to transcending.

On the other hand, Ken Wilber and Mark Epstein point out that it is hard to separate forms of pathology from forms of transpersonal experience. Spiritual pathologies, they point out, can look psychotic but the difference between these and truly psychotic individuals lies in the history of the individual. The apparent spiritual psychosis may be reactive and state specific and the eastern traditions offer guides to getting through it. Applied to dream lucidity this position would seem to point out that when lucidity is used to seek the highest spiritual ideal you can still experience problems.

It seems to me that both of these views are correct and fall along a developmental continuum. That is most of us probably should spend time both in and outside of our lucid dreams working with personal junk before we wholehearted embrace the transcendent qualities which may also be available in the state. Further even when we seem to be witnessing dreaming, in the sense of transcending ordinary states of consciousness, we can still run into problems.

This is a simplistic summary of very complex and important issues regarding the use of dream lucidity. I strongly encourage you as the reader of Lucidity Letter to write to the editor (Department of Psychology; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) about your reactions to and experiences with the question, “What to do in the lucid dream?” I suggest you read the essays, as well as the panel discussion in the symposium proceedings and the letters to the editor in order to get some flavor of current thinking on these concerns.

The bulk of this issue is devoted to the proceedings of the June Lucidity Symposium held outside Washington, D.C. There were three sessions in the symposium beginning with “What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations.” The first four talks in this session dealt with content analyses of lucid dreams while the last talk considered new physiological data. I began the day reporting on the manifest content analysis of lucid and non-lucid laboratory collected REM dreams. Robert Price presented single subject data from the sleep laboratory comparing pre-lucid, lucid and post-lucid dream scenes. The next paper by Diedre Barrett considered the relationship of dream flying to dream lucidity while the last content analysis paper by Stephen LaBerge and Richard Lind compared light mask initiated lucid dreams to spontaneously emerging ones. These four talks were followed by a presentation of the first brain maps while lucid in sleep by Stephen LaBerge and Andrew Brylowski. The session ended with lively comments and discussion by two noted dream authorities, Ernest Hartmann and John Antrobus.

The second session, called “Applications of Lucid Dreaming”, contained three papers which considered wide ranging applications of the state and potential ethical considerations which may arise from said applications. Fariba Bogzaran lead the session by showing slides of her art work which was inspired within her lucid dreams. Her talk was followed by Andrew Brylowski who reported pilot data about his efforts to impact the incidence of natural killer cells in the blood while lucid in the dream. I consider this to be some of the most exciting pilot data available today on lucid dreams because it points to the promise of “real world” applications for dream lucidity. Finally, the thoughtful panel discussion by Joseph Dane, P. Eric Craig, and Morton Schatzman considers the ethical issues of working within the lucid dream.

The last session started with a presentation by anthropologist, Robert Dentan and ended with a talk by physicist, Fred Alan Wolf. Entitled “Transpersonal Implications of Lucid Dreaming”, these five talks were from experts in divergent fields and points to the interdisciplinary interest that lucid dreaming is engendering. Dentan outlined pertinent ethnographic considerations for studying dream lucidity in other cultures while Wolf postulated that lucid dreams may represent a parallel universe. The three talks sandwiched between the anthropologist and the physicist considered lucidity as a meditative state (Harry Hunt), the relationship of lucidity to witnessing (Charles Alexander) and distinguishing between phenomenon and interpretation (George Gillespie). The symposium closed with comments from Stephen LaBerge.

Following the proceedings are two research articles which originally appeared in briefer forms in the ASD Newsletter. The first by myself, two Iowian colleagues (William Moorecroft and Charles Alexander) and Stephen LaBerge, presents sleep laboratory pilot data from a single advanced TM meditator. This pilot research is important as it brings into question the arousal model of lucidity which most physiological research to date has supported and/or points to the existence of different forms of dream consciousness. The next research article is from Stephen LaBerge and reports on early findings with his light mask which is a lucid dream induction devise.

Following these research reports is an article by Linda Magallon on the Sethian perspective of dream lucidity. Two book reviews are then presented. First is the long awaited book on lucid dreaming by West German lucid dream researcher, Paul Tholey, and his former student, Kaleb Utecht. It is reviewed by clinical psychologist, Norbert Sattler, a colleague of Tholey’s. Although the review is in English, unfortunately for those of us who only speak English, the book is in German. But efforts are afoot to have at least sections of it translated. The second book review is of Charles Tart’s, Waking Up. Reviewer, John Wren-Lewis, examines this widely received book in the light of its relevance to those interested in lucid dreaming.

The Letters to the Editor section starts with two letters from individuals who have had problems with their experiences of dream lucidity. These are followed by a comment on the previous issue and a semantic point in asking the critical question while awake. Finally, in the News and Notes section a long list of bibliographic updates are given as are details for the 1988 Lucid Dreaming Symposium. The steering committee of the Lucidity Association has decided to make these symposiums an annual affair and for the time being to hold them in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams which this year will be in Santa Cruz, CA. Information for attending the Lucidity Symposium can be obtained from ASD at P.O. Box 3121, Falls Church, VA. There will be a limited attendance for the ASD conference.

Finally, I want to encourage all readers of Lucidity Letter to send their personal experiences with dream lucidity, research findings, clinical observations, and/or theoretical positions as well as comments on issues at hand for this emerging field of interest. By communicating with each other through the pages of Lucidity Letter I believe that we can all grow together in our understanding the state of consciousness called dream lucidity.


Jayne Gackenbach, Editor


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Concerns with Lucidity Essay Clinical and Transpersonal Concerns with Lucid Dreaming Voiced


Jayne Gackenbach


Because the phenomenon of dream lucidity has become a field of inquiry for both scientists, clinicians, philosophers, and dreamers, I would like to highlight a few concerns which have been mounting in my mind with regards to wide spread access to lucid dreaming. We so often experience the lucid dream as pleasant and so seldom hear about "bad" experiences therefore it is easy for those interested in dream lucidity to gloss over potential problems. During this my sabbatical year from the University of Northern Iowa, I have had the opportunity to talk to many people both in the United States and abroad about lucidity. Although there is much excitement about its potential those which voice concern for its abuse are also being heard. This excitement is normal and often accompanies the "discovery" (in this case re-discovery) of any new state of consciousness. However, it is incumbent on the leaders of this emerging field to also voice concerns. My concerns with this field are twofold, including clinical or personal experiential applications of working with parts of the self in the dream as well as issues regarding the transpersonal nature of the experience.


Clinical/Experiential Concerns?


It seems to me that clinical and experiential concerns center around issues of dream control, dream interactions and questions of the fabric of reality. (Several articles and letters address these concerns in this issue of Lucidity Letter as well as in past issues.) Should one have control over ones dreams? Some would say no that you should leave the content of the unconscious untouched as it appears in the dream. Most, however, agree that some control of the content could be beneficial (full control is probably impossible). Dream control is clearly tied to expectations but we may not always be conscious of the nature of our expectations either while awake or while asleep.

I would particularly bring to the attention of the reader the work of the West German Paul Tholey for advice as to the nature of applications of dream control in both clinical and normal populations. I was fortunate to meet and visit with Paul in West Germany this fall where he continually stressed that in their research/clinical program they have found that the dream provides its own safety mechanisms. That is, he claims that the dreamer will only experience and change the lucid dream to the degree that he/she is able to cope with the outcomes. The reason I point so strongly to Tholey's work is that our clinical/experiential work in the United States lags far behind his even though we have provided the major psychophysiological and psychological research foundation for dream lucidity. Unfortunately, much of his work is still in German but an English summary of the clinical/experiential applications of lucidity can be found in the forthcoming Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming (Gackenbach and LaBerge, editors; Plenum, June, 1988).

A second concern about working with lucid dreams is the extent and quality of interactions with dream characters/situations. Tholey specifically addresses this concern in the chapter referenced above. Further, while visiting him he pointed out that the question "Who am I?" should be posed to other dream characters/situations while lucid.  This notion of a receptive attitude to the dream experience rather than an aggressive manipulative one has also been pointed to by clinicians in the United States.

Are lucid dream interactions relevant to waking state behaviors? This question of the transfer of information from lucid dreaming to waking life is crucial to the potential applications of the state. Tholey's work clearly shows that such transfer is not only possible but desirable. Relatedly, I would caution against taking an attitude toward the lucid dream state of it being unrelated to waking life. This could result in undue absorption in lucid dreaming leading potentially to addiction (see letter by Barroso in this issue of Lucidity Letter for an excellent example).

Another clinical/experiential danger is that extensive exposure to dream lucidity might, in some individuals, lead to questions of the nature of reality both while sleeping and while awake (see the last issue of Lucidity Letter for an excellent example). The question "What is real?" has always intrigued philosophers and appeals to the philosopher in us all. But such questioning either as induction of lucid dreams and/or as a result of extensive, premature exposure to lucidity may in some people lead to quasi-psychotic splits with reality. This is illustrated by Bruce Marcot’s comment in the last Lucidity Letter about his lucid dream experiment "...I was beginning to become confused as to various states of mind (sleep, awake, dream-conscious). I dropped the experimentation shortly thereafter (p. 72)."

Norbert Sattler, a West German psychologist in private practice in Frankfurt, acknowledges that he screens all his patients for reality testing problems and if they seem to have such problems he does not introduce the concept of dream lucidity. To his remaining patients he introduces dream lucidity and with about 1/3 works with lucidity as the therapy technique of choice. However, for persons simply picking up LaBerge or Kelzer's books, reading the April OMNI article or hearing about lucid dreaming from a neighbor, such screening does not occur. Dare we so wholeheartedly recommend lucid dream induction practices which require reality testing?

However, is it the moral responsibility of the leaders of the field to withhold information because of potential misuse and/or misunderstanding by a few? Perhaps not, but it is their responsibility to caution their audiences for the benefit of those for whom such advise may cause a slower unfolding of lucidity in dreams. The MacTiernan letter in the Letters to the Editor section is a case in point; his experience was based on reading the article in OMNI by Steve LaBerge and myself. Are we at fault for what happened to him, clearly no. But we are at fault if we do not routinely caution audiences about abuse or even dangers in accessing an incredibly powerful state of mind.

After hearing about Tholey's training of an Olympic athlete with dream lucidity, a colleague spontaneously remarked, "dream lucidity is really the ultimate drug!" Yes, the state has that potential.  But so to comes the potentiality of abuse through ignorance of proper use and possibily addiction.


Transpersonal Concerns?


I have found in my reading, research, and personal experience with dream lucidity that it is indeed fertile ground for truly transpersonal glimpses into the nature of being. However, I have become aware that there are different approaches to the transpersonal experience of consciousness during sleep. This happened initially in my work with colleagues at the Maharishi International University and later as I talked to others more widely about the transpersonal aspect of lucidity. And I began to be confused...in fact, I am still confused!

It seemed to me on the surface that central question here too was with dream control. It became clear on closer inspection that the attitude towards the dream is the key question. Should one engage in an active, involved attitude of dream consciousness or should one engage in a passive, uninvolved attitude while conscious one is dreaming? A third option might be that one could use either attitude interchangeably as the demands of the state require?

What does all of this have to do with transcending ordinary consciousness, albeit dream consciousness? This question centers around the relationship of dream lucidity (active attitude) to dream witnessing (passive attitude). Essentially, dream witnessing is claimed to represent a fourth state of consciousness which is "higher" than waking, sleeping, and dreaming. One is said to have "transcended" these ordinary states of consciousness (see especially talks by Harry Hunt and Charles Alexander and a research report by Gackenbach, Moorecroft, Alexander, and LaBerge about these questions in this issue of Lucidity Letter). So what is the concern?

Two concerns have struck me thus far in my thinking about the transpersonal aspects of lucidity. First, if one finds a natural passive consciousness during their dream and then hears that they can manipulate their dreams, should they? Or if one naturally tries to manipulate the dream should they force a passive attitude? It seems to me that we should honor what comes naturally to each individual and not try to force unfamiliar styles on each other during dreaming any more than we should during waking.

Of even more concern to me is the possibility of pursuing the "spiritual highest" with lucidity as a sole end. If this occurs to the exclusion of all other dream activities might we not miss the value of lucidity for helping us work out our daily problems. Might not such "spiritual egocenteredness" serve as another form of denial of waking problems?


What is the Proper Attitude/Behavior?


How do we find out what is the proper attitude/behaviors to engage in while lucid in sleep? We go SLOWLY. We ask other lucid dreamers what works for them, we consult other colleagues, whether scientist, clinician or philosopher, and we consider models from both ancient literature as well as from contemporary clinical practice. An excellent example of a blend of these approaches is Ken Kelzer's recent book, The Sun and the Shadow. By combining the spiritual and the clinical, the mundane and the sublime, Kelzer offers a tour de force of the proper attitude we should have in working with both our lucid and our non-lucid dreams.

I don't think any of us can stop the increasing interest in and experimentation with the state of dream lucidity. But what we can do as pioneers in the area is to advise caution when we hear of someone who has discovered their lucid dreams. Bad examples do exist, read the first two letters to the editor in this issue of Lucidity Letter as well as the panel discussion on ethical issues in the symposium proceedings in order to arm yourself with specific illustrations.

Finally, write to Lucidity Letter about your own experiences with dream lucidity, BOTH GOOD AND BAD.  We can all benefit from each other’s accounts. Only if we share our experiences, thoughts, reflections, research results, clinical insights, and philosophies can we all learn about this exciting "new" state of consciousness.



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Concerns with Lucidity Essay – Jayne Gackenbach

A Response


Stephen LaBerge


Jayne Gackenbach reports that in recent conversation with many people in the United States and abroad she has heard voices expressing concern about the potential for “abuse” of lucid dreaming. Gackenbach feels that it is incumbent upon the leaders of this emerging field to also voice concerns, and claims that “we are at fault if we do not routinely caution audiences about abuse or even dangers in accessing an incredibly powerful state of mind.”  While I share some of my colleagues concerns, if not apprehensions, I believe it is premature and inappropriate to “routinely caution audiences” about supposed “dangers”­ that have not yet been convincingly demonstrated.  I do not really believe that there is cause for alarm. I have already discussed my own concerns regarding the proper use of lucid dreaming in my 1985 book, to which I direct readers interested in my views. Here I will limit myself to a few comments on the issues addressed by Gackenbach.

Gackenbach asks, “Should one have control over one’s dreams?­” An important question, but this formulation seems to me too broad to be useful, as can be seen by parallel questions such as  should one have control over ones thoughts? actions? life? I believe the more useful questions regarding dream control are first; how much is possible? and second; what kind is desirable?­  Before answering either question, of course, we need to ask; for whom? For people interested in using lucid dreams for personal growth I have recommended control of the dream ego rather than dream content control (LaBerge, 1985). The reason for this is that what we learn when we learn to control our responses to dream characters and other content  “applies to our waking lives as well--thus we dream in order to learn how to live better both by day and by night.” (p. 106)

Gackenbach quotes with apparent approval the statement that “dream lucidity is really the ultimate drug!­” and warns of the concomitant abuse and addiction potential. Really? Is lucid dreaming a drug? and if so, what kind? antibiotic? narcotic? psychotomimetic? Assuming that narcotic is the metaphor intended, is there any reason to believe that lucid dreaming is more “addictive­” than any other pleasant experience including sleep, non-lucid dreaming, or sex? If all that is being claimed is that people enjoy lucid dreaming, and like any other pleasurable experiences, will want to experience them again, do they really have to be warned about this?

As for the issue of whether “reality testing”­ is dangerous for some, I have two comments. First, the proper question for inducing lucid dreams is not “what is real?” but rather, “is this a dream?” or “am I dreaming or not?” (see Tholey, 1983, and techniques summarized in LaBerge, 1985). Practice with this questioning should lead people to an enhanced understanding of the difference between dreaming and perception, not a confusion of the two. The formulation, “what is real?” on the other hand, seems to lead people to the kind of problems reported by MacTiernan (1988). While on the topic of the MacTiernan letter, Gackenbach seems to regard this as an example of the dangers of lucid dreams. What exactly is the danger? Yes, MacTiernan experienced extreme panic in his dream, but it sounds to me that by that point his lucidity had failed, otherwise the apparent realism of his surrounding would not have caused him to question whether or not he was still dreaming. “Dreams are more readily distinguishable from waking perceptions on the basis of their instability rather than their vividness” (LaBerge, 1985, p. 112).  In any case, MacTiernan states that after he woke up, “I felt a new outlook on my life. I felt more good to be alive than I ever did before.”

The other comment I would like to make on the question of whether “reality testing­” and lucid dreaming in general is dangerous for some is that, as the proverb puts it, “nothing is without danger for the foolish.” This is probably even more true of the mentally unstable, but to put things in proper perspective, we have to ask whether lucid dreams are more dangerous than non-lucid dreams, out-of-body experiences, horror movies, and everyday social life. My impression is that anyone who is likely to get into trouble with lucid dreaming is just as likely to get into trouble with almost anything else. As Idries Shah has observed, “People are always being driven off their heads by something or other, however respectable the creed, and nobody has yet found any method of preventing this.” (1978, p. 263).

I would like to make one final comment on the issue of the  ethical­ use of lucid dreaming.

Gackenbach ends her essay with the question “how do we find out what is the proper attitude/behaviors to engage in while lucid in sleep?”­ The answer she proposes is that “we ask other lucid dreamers what works for them, we consult other colleagues...and we consider models from both ancient literature as well as from contemporary clinical practice.” Gackenbach promotes Kelzer’s book as an excellent example of what she thinks is “the proper attitude we should have in working with both our lucid and non-lucid dreams.” I cannot say that I agree with her assessment, but I have a different point to make here. Gackenbach’s principle for determining the right thing to do seems to be social proof: “look around and see what your neighbors are doing.” While there is nothing wrong with observing what others are doing, I have proposed (LaBerge, 1985) that dreamers listen their own consciences in determining which courses of action to follow in their own lucid dreams. Dreams are, after all, private, not public experiences.




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

Shah, I. (1978). Learning how to learn. New York: Harper & Row.

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


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Manifest Content Analysis of Sleep Laboratory Collected Lucid and Nonlucid Dreams


Jayne Gackenbach

University of Northern Iowa


I have addressed two questions over the last 10 years in my research program into lucid dreams: who is the individual who spontaneously experiences the lucid dream, that is to find out if there is something unique about that person, and what is the psychological experience of sleep consciousness which is unique beyond the awareness itself.  I'm going to be talking about the latter today.  Specifically, I'm going to be comparing sleep laboratory collected rapid eye movement lucid and non-lucid dreams.


In these content analyses we used Hall and Van de Castle's (1966) system of analysis of the manifest content of the dream focusing on a count of the act frequencies.  We basically counted the number of elements.  This is a simple kind of conceptualization of the psychological content of dreams but one we have used in the past because it allows comparison to normative samples and can be simplified for computer entry of the data.  With this first look at the content of these dream experiences we can compare the data to both the classical literature on the psychological content of dreams as well as to the previous content analyses of questionnaire and dream diary collected lucid versus nonlucid dreams (Gackenbach, in press).


The lucid dreams analyzed here are signal verified, that is with judge, technician and dreamer concurrence.  For those of you who might not be familiar with the phrase "signal verified" it means that the subjects signaled from rapid eye movement sleep with a pre-arranged set of eye movements when they knew they were dreaming.  Sleep laboratory technicians "read" the signal which was further verified by a concurrent report from the dreamer and examination of the record by an independent judge.


Table 1 lists the specifics of these two samples of dreams which were collected from three different sleep laboratories, although the majority of them are from the laboratory of my colleague Stephen LaBerge.  These 50 dreams are all from the REM sleep of twelve individuals.  The nonlucid dreams are collected from two sleep laboratories, the majority from a sleep laboratory study we conducted in Iowa.  These 28 nonlucid dreams are also all from REM sleep.  They are provided from seven people, all but one of whom had experienced dream lucidity.  The major procedural qualifier that I would like to bring to your attention is that the majority of the nonlucid dreams were collected from lucid dreamers.  We have preliminary indications from dream diary data that lucid and nonlucid dreamers may dream somewhat differently while nonlucid in sleep.

We computed 135 analyses of covariance with the number of words in the dream transcript as the covariate.  Word count is thought to provide a rough estimate of dream recall but of course it is contaminated by verbal skills.  However, because of the consistent superiority of recalling lucid versus nonlucid dreams (Gackenbach, in press; Snyder & Gackenbach, in press) one should always control for dream recall differences.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Hall and Van de Castle system of dream content analyses I shall briefly summarize each of the scales before talking about our findings.  The significant and conceptually interesting findings are summarized in Table 2.




Hall and Van de Castle list five emotions which are looked for as expressed in dream transcripts: anger, apprehension, happiness, sadness and confusion.  There were no differences between lucid and non-lucid dreams.  This is somewhat surprising given the popular conceptualization of lucid dreams as joyful.  In fact, we have data from self reports of emotions during lucid and nonlucid dreams which support this joyful aspect of lucidity (Gackenbach, 1978; in press)  What this finding points out is that the degree of joyfulness may be in the eye of the beholder, in this case the dreamer, which is not necessarily communicated vis-a-vie the written description of the dream.


Next are the four types of character scales identified by Hall and Van de Castle: number, sex, age and identity (see Table 3 for details of each character subscale).  You can see in Table 2 that for most of the character subscales there were no dream type differences but that where there was a difference lucid dreams had fewer characters.  This is consistent with previous analyses on non-laboratory collected lucid versus non-lucid dreams (Gackenbach, in press).

The next set of scales are achievement and environmental press, where achievement is scored for success, failure and total achievement while environmental press is scored for, misfortune, falling, threat, accident, injury, death and good fortune.  As can be seen in Table 2 there were two differences with regards to achievement, more success and total achievement imagery in lucid than in non-lucid dreams.  Again, with regards with success, this is consistent with the non-laboratory or home dream diary collected lucid dreams which also tended to have more success imagery.


Next let's look at the activities subscales which include:  physical activities while being still, movement by the self, and location change, as well as verbal, expressive, visual, auditory and thinking activities.  Here we found a difference favoring lucid dreams (see Table 2) in physical (still) which I think is largely accounted for by the task.  You've got to move your eyes in order to have a signal verified lucid dream!  Usually there is some reference in the dream transcript to the signaling procedure which would be scored as physical (still).  Interestingly this is consistent with the non-laboratory lucid dreams where the demand characteristic was not present.  Probably the magnitude of the difference is accounted for by the demand characteristic but not the entire finding.  With regards to location change, which was also consistent with the non-laboratory data, there was a small and marginally significant difference favoring non-lucid dreams.  However, in the non-laboratory dreams we  also found differences for auditory and cognitive activities.  That is, lucid dreams collected from home diaries and from questionnaires showed more cognitive and auditory kinds of activities than nonlucid dreams.  This failure to emerge in the laboratory dreams is problematic as these findings have been some of the most robust to date (Gackenbach, in press).  Perhaps the absence of a large enough sample of nonlucid dreams from nonlucid dreamers accounts for this lack of a difference.

In Table 4 we have a series of social interactions: sexual, friendly and aggressive.  Let me point out that for the aggression subscales I summarized what I considered to be the relatively physical range, not all physical but more aggressive, and the relatively less physical range, into two sum scores.  We found two dream type differences:  friendly assistance and covert aggression were higher in nonlucid than in lucid dreams.  If you don't have many people in a dream you are less likely to get interactions of any kind.  I would like to bring your attention to the lack of a difference in the sexual activities subscales.  Contrary to what has been proposed by a few individual lucid dreamers as characteristic of lucid dreams in general (Garfield, 1974; LaBerge, 1985) in this sample of laboratory dreams and in the dream diary and questionnaire data we found no differences in sexuality (Gackenbach, in press).  Further, in personal communication with Paul Tholey, who has been working with dream lucidity for 30 years, he concurs that sexuality is not naturally inherent to dream lucidity.  This isn't to say that it isn't possible it's just not a knee jerk reaction to dream consciousness.

Table 5 lists the dream element subscales for which we totaled positive modifiers and negative modifiers for two further subscales.  Also found here are references to time as well as the number of negative and positive words in the dream.  We found lucid dreams had significantly more positive modifiers.  This is certainly consistent with the notion that lucid dreams are experientially more joyful dream experiences.  However, these findings are inconsistent with the non-laboratory data where nonlucid dreams were found to be more achromatic than lucid dreams.  These findings are complex and perhaps are best conceptualized in the context that most of the elements subscales failed to evidence a dream type difference.  Finally, I have listed three marginally significant findings with regards to time.  Lucid dreams from this sample of laboratory dreams had fewer old, young and event date references than nonlucid dreams.  These findings are consistent and support the commonly held notion of the felt timelessness of the lucid dream experience.

Let's consider dream bizarreness next.  There are four basic conceptual ways in which we have looked at bizarreness:  Animate Characters, Inanimate Environment, Transformations, and Metamorphoses (see Table 5 for the details of the subscales for each).  You can see in Table 2 that three of the subscales from Animate Characters, one from Inanimate Environment and one from Transformations approached or reached conventional levels of significance.  In terms of the magic subscale (i.e., impossible acts or magic by animate characters such as animals or babies talking or people flying) from Animate Characters we found a difference that was consistent with the non-laboratory findings as well as for the Transformation sum score.  However, for the most part we found no bizarreness difference as a function of dream type.

Finally, I am going to speak about three scales which I find particularly interesting and are not part of the Hall and Van de Castle system:  palpable or body sensations, control of dream content and emotional, physical and cognitive balance.  In this sample of dreams we found that there was more dream control in lucid dreams, which is consistent with self report and dream diary non-laboratory dreams.  Despite the sensitive issues surrounding dream control while lucid individuals reliably report being able to evidence this dream characteristic.  There was also more balance in lucid than in nonlucid dreams.  This is a characteristic of dream lucidity I initially identified in factor analyses of lucid dream content in my dissertation (Gackenbach, 1978) and have since shown is an individual difference variable related to the ability to dream lucidly (Gackenbach, Snyder, Rokes, & Sachau, 1986).

Summary and Conclusion


As with the non-laboratory content analyses by independent judges, the most important point to keep in mind is that lucid dreams are more like non-lucid dreams than dissimilar.  The nature of the difference does not seem to be due to chance.  By chance we would expect seven out of one hundred and thirty five analyses to be significant.  We've got 17 at the .05 level.  Consequently we conclude that there is a difference which is meaningful but perhaps not substantive.  Interestingly if one looks at dream type differences as evaluated by the dreamer both from dream diaries and the laboratory, large dream type differences have consistently emerged (Gackenbach, in press).  It can be seen in Table 7, in a new set of this type of data which have been previously unreported  that the results of a brief questionnaire which was given to four individuals to fill out both at home and in the laboratory after they had awaken from a dream support this self evaluation trend.  Of the 183 dreams evaluated along 12 dimensions 11 showed dream type differences.  Many of these scales are essentially the same ones that the independent judges were asked to evaluate the dream along.  So the extent to which lucid and nonlucid dreams differ may be largely in the eye of the beholder.


While we are looking at Table 7 let me say more about it.  We are not only looking at lucid/nonlucid dream type differences here but you can see that it is further broken down into the nonlucid dreams of lucid (n=2) versus nonlucid (n=1) dreamers and the lucid dreams of a single sophisticated TM meditator. This data is drawn from a study examining the differences between dream lucidity and dream witnessing (Gackenbach, Moorecroft, Alexander, & LaBerge, 1987).  (Editors Note:  See elsewhere in this issue of Lucidity Letter for the specifics of that study.)  Please note two things beyond what I have already mentioned.  First the nonlucid dreams of the two lucid dreamers differed from the nonlucid dreams of the one nonlucid dreamer in three ways.  They were more recallable which may be due to their greater bizarreness and novelty.  We distinguished between these two concepts in the questionnaire.  Regarding bizarreness we simply asked the dreamers how bizarre they found the dream to be whereas with novelty we asked them to evaluate the dream in terms of how different from ordinary waking experiences they found it to be.  This dreamer type difference in novelty for nonlucid dreams has also been found by Harry Hunt and myself in a larger sample of students who participated in a two week home dream diary study.  The bizarreness question was not asked in that study.  It would seem in order to have the propensity to dream lucidly one must dream oddly in general!

(Regarding the dreams of the single TM subject, the conceptual framework for these findings can be found in the June, 1987 issue of Lucidity Letter and in the article in this issue.)


We did one last set of analyses in order to try to account for dreamer type differences in both lucid and nonlucid dreams.  Specifically, we split the laboratory collected dream samples into five groups.  These are delineated in Table 8.  We compared three types of lucid dreams under three different circumstances to two types of nonlucid dreams under two different circumstances.  Keep in mind that the dreams of three of these groups are from one subject each and that the number of dreams available for analyses were very small for two of the groups.  For these reasons these analyses must be approached tenuously.  As before 135 analyses of covariance were computed on the five groups manifest content subscale scores with number of words in the dream as the covariate.  Fewer scales reached conventional levels of significance and in fact the differences could be accounted for by chance factors.  The differences which did emerge were largely accounted for by the lucid dreams collected from the lucid dreamers.  Most noteworthy is the dream control difference is accounted for by the difference between the lucid dreams of lucid dreamers and the nonlucid dreams of the one nonlucid dreamer.  The lucid dreams of the TM subject and the nonlucid dreams of the lucid dreamers did not differ from these two extremes.  This suggests that dream control of lucid dreams may be a function of individual difference variables.  That is, of the style of dreaming regardless of the state of dreaming.



Gackenbach, J.I.  (1978).  A personality and cognitive style analysis of lucid dreaming.   Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Gackenbach, J.I.  (in press).  The psychological content of lucid dreams. In J. I. Gackenbach and S. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain:  Perspectives on lucid dreaming.  N.Y: Plenum.

Gackenbach, J.I., Moorecroft, W., Alexander, C. & LaBerge, S. (1987).  Physiological correlates of "consciousness" during sleep in a  single TM practitioner.  Sleep Research 16, 230.

Gackenbach, J. I., Snyder, T. J., Rokes, L. M. & Sachau, D.  (1986).  Lucid dreaming frequency in relation to vestibular sensitivity as measured by caloric stimulation.  The Journal of Mind and Behavior: Special Issue: Cognition and Dream Research. 7 (2&3). 277-298.

Garfield, P.  (1974).  Creative dreaming.  N.Y.: Ballantine.

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

Snyder, T.J. & Gackenbach, J.I.  (in press).  Individual differences associated with lucid dreaming.  In J.I. Gackenbach and S. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain:  Perspectives on lucid dreaming.  N.Y.: Plenum.



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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 1: What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations

Dream Content Within the Partially Lucid REM Period: A Single Subject Content Analysis


Robert Price

University of Texas at Austin


Despite ten years of increasing research attention to lucid dreaming, quantitative content analysis is almost nonexistent. Most research describing their content has dealt almost exclusively with those qualities of the dreamer's consciousness that by definition serve to differentiate lucid dreams from their non-lucid counterparts. But aside from obvious differences in self-awareness and cognitive ability, in what ways do lucid and non-lucid dreams differ? While discussing the relevance of findings on lucid dreaming to dreaming in general, Foulkes asked:


When you change ordinary dreaming by adding a self which intends and reflects, what else changes alongside this change? This is one way of evaluating the role played by the absence of self [-awareness] in ordinary dreaming, and is perhaps the point at which lucid dreaming data could be most relevant to ordinary dream psychology. However, at present there seems to be no systematic data comparing the REM-monitored lucid versus non-lucid dreams of the same dreamer.


Prior to Jayne [Gackenbach]'s presentation, I was prepared to state that no studies have yet compared laboratory-collected lucid versus non-lucid dream content. However, in her presentation Jayne described a content analysis of lucid versus non-lucid dreams of seven to twelve sleep laboratory subjects. Studies such as hers analyzing laboratory-collected dreams can protect us from the dangers of an over-reliance on survey research. Although the survey method does provide a quick and easy way to collect a great deal of data from many subjects, it suffers from poor reliability of delayed dream recall and uncontrolled interpretation of questionnaire items. The survey approach must therefore be complemented by studies examining more reliable dream descriptions from smaller groups of subjects within the sleep lab.

This study utilized a repeated measures single subject design. The subject of this study was a 23-year-old right-handed Caucasian male. He was selected for this study on the basis of his strong interest in dreams and highly detailed dream recall. He had experienced only occasional lucid dreams in the past, the first of which occurred during his childhood.

This individual slept in the sleep laboratory approximately once a week over a period of 28 nights. During the initial 21 laboratory nights, an auditory biofeedback procedure was introduced during his REM sleep. I have reported elsewhere on this individual's development of lucid dreaming, and will concentrate here instead on the dream content associated with lucid dreaming.


One Dream or Many? The Dream "Scene"

Most previous dream content studies have used the individual REM period as the unit of content analysis. Can we safely assume however that the dream report of a typical REM period represents a single dream? Any one REM report may be composed of several segments which vary greatly in content, making its analysis as a single unit very misleading.

What is conventionally referred to as a "dream" may actually represent several dreams that happen to occur during the same REM period. By most conventional definitions, we experience four or five REM "dreams" each night. However, we may actually experience several times that many in a typical night because each so-called "dream" may actually be composed of several segments. We might expect the various segments occurring in a particular REM period to be related in content because of their temporal proximity. By assuming these segments to be separate entities rather than a single experience we are able to test the degree to which they are truly related.

What criterion best lends itself to subdividing the REM experience into separate segments? Dream reports often include sudden shifts to new locales. Because a change in location generally involves a change in content, the boundaries of a segment may for research purposes be delineated in terms of its physical setting. In these terms, dream experiences bear a resemblance to films in that they are composed of various setting-based scenes from several seconds to several minutes in duration. Because of the above delineated practical and logical advantages involved in this method, the setting-based scene will be treated like a discrete dream, and has been adopted as the basic unit of analysis in the present study.


Dream Interview


Following awakening from each REM period a tape recorded dream interview was conducted with the subject. The interview began with a period of free recall in which the subject was encouraged to recall any dream material from the preceding REM period. The dream material was then subdivided into individual scenes which the subject arranged in order of occurrence. After giving a brief synopsis of each scene, the subject responded to a series of 18 questions on a five-point Likert scale. These addressed a variety of characteristics of each scene including level of physical and cognitive activity, affective intensity, bizarreness, speaking, and quality of recall.


Statistical Analyses


The 18-item dreamer-rated questionnaire data from scenes of the 26 laboratory nights were subjected to various analyses. Several stepwise discriminant analyses were conducted on various subgroups of the questionnaire data. Because the data used in the discriminant analysis are the product of a single subject, the observations are not independent. That dependency among observations allows the use of discriminant function analysis for descriptive purposes, but prevents its use to actually test hypotheses. Therefore, this study yields overall classification success rates as compared to change rates but not significance levels.


Results and Discussion


During each of the 28 laboratory nights the subject reported dream content from two to five REM periods, the mode (36 percent) being three (Figure 1). The total number of recalled scenes per REM period dream report ranged from one to nine, the mode (22.3 percent) again being three (Figure 2). More than two-thirds of REM reports consisted of between three and six scenes. The total number of recalled scenes per night ranged from 3 to 20, producing a grand total of 274 scenes.


Content Analysis: Lucid Vs. Non-lucid Scenes


Aside from obvious differences in the dreamer's cognitive state and abilities, can we distinguish the content of lucid from non-lucid scenes? If so, how are they different? Which content dimensions best discriminate the two types of scenes?

Out of a total of 92 REM dream reports, the subject reported being lucid during at least part of the REM period for 30 of these (involving 36 lucid scenes). All but two of these lucid experiences were verified by ocular signals on the EEG. For the initial analysis, all 36 lucid scenes were compared with all scenes from REM periods without lucidity.

The discriminant function correctly classified lucid and non-lucid scenes at a rate of 85.2 percent, compared to a 50 percent success rate expected by chance alone. Lucid scenes tend to be rated substantially higher in terms of clarity of recall, bizarreness, positive affect, vividness of imagery, dreamer activity, and control. Non-lucid dreams, on the other hand, tend to be described as more verbal.

The most certain conclusion of the current study is that for this subject at least, lucid and non-lucid dream scenes are indeed radically different experiences.

The lucid dreamer perceives vivid and often bizarre imagery. He experiences intense, generally positive emotions. In fact frequently, his level of positive affect during a lucid dream and even upon awakening from one can only be described as euphoric. His dream-self is quite active physically, and he exercises an elevated degree of problem solving and cognitive control over dream events. Not surprisingly, these intense lucid experiences tend to be better recalled upon awakening than non-lucid ones. In contrast, his lucid scenes tend to be somewhat less verbal than his non-lucid ones.

How then might we answer Foulkes' question: "When you change ordinary dreaming by adding a self which intends and reflects, what else changes alongside this change?" It appears that when the dreamer realizes that his perceptual world is illusory, his experience of it suddenly intensifies perceptually and emotionally as well as cognitively. Knowledge that the dream is unreal makes it seem more vivid. The dreamer's realization that he is not actually experiencing the dream events in waking reality frees him to become more involved in it cognitively, emotionally, and physically.

It may be the sense of detachment gained through self-reflection that frees the dreamer to participate more fully in the dream. Thus, the dreamer's inner conviction that "This is all a dream", while flying over an unfamiliar landscape fills him with a sense of awe regarding his own creative powers which is balanced by a calm sense of detached observation. A similar experience occurs when we allow ourselves to become terrified during a frightening scene from a horror movie, comforted by the knowledge that "It's only a movie."


Content Analysis: Scenes Within Lucid REM Periods


The use of the scene as a unit of analysis allows a comparison of all scenes from within only those REM periods in which lucidity occurred. All scenes occurring in REM periods containing at least one lucid scene were assigned to one of four categories: (1) pre-prelucid: scenes occurring before those which immediately precede lucidity; (2) pre-lucid: scenes immediately preceding lucidity onset; (3) lucid scenes; and  (4) post-lucid: scenes following lucid scenes. A distinction was drawn between pre- prelucid and pre-lucid scenes in order to explore dream precursors of lucidity. The small number of scenes immediately following lucidity made this same distinction impractical for post-lucidity; hence, all post-lucid scenes were grouped together. After excluding variables which define lucidity, can we successfully distinguish these four types of scenes?

The discriminant functions correctly classified scenes into the four groups at an overall rate of 73 percent as compared with a chance rate of 25 percent. Several trends are evident within the partially lucid REM period (Figures 4 and 5). Scenes coming before those immediately preceding lucidity are most like scenes from REM periods without lucidity. They do however contain elevated levels of dreamer activity, gaze shifting, negative affect, and vividness. Pre-lucid scenes display slightly elevated levels of positive affect and dreamer activity, and rival lucid scenes in visual vividness and recall clarity. That is where the similarity between pre-lucid and lucid scene content ends however, as speaking and scene movement which are somewhat elevated during pre-lucid scenes decline with the onset of lucidity. Furthermore, pre-lucid levels of negative affect, bizarreness, gaze shifting, attitude inconsistency, control, and problem solving all remain consistent with that of non-lucid REM period scenes. Lucid scenes can generally be easily distinguished from other scenes within their REM period by their extremely elevated levels of positive affect and bizarreness. Finally, post-lucid scenes retain some of the qualities of lucid scenes, particularly in their levels of attitude inconsistency, control, problem solving, vividness, and recall.

Do pre-lucid content characteristics "trigger" lucidity?  At least three dream conditions have been suggested to precede a majority of lucid dreams: (1) heightened anxiety or stress; (2) detection of incongruities within the dream; and (3) recognition of a "dream-like" quality. Although these three conditions occasionally appeared to trigger lucidity, many other dreams included heightened anxiety, bizarre incongruities, and dreamlike qualities, yet never became lucid. In fact, raters judged that only twice did lucidity appear to be triggered by incongruous content, and only twice by a frightening situation. As mentioned above, pre-lucid scenes showed weak elevations on only positive affect and dreamer activity, and rivaled lucid scene levels on only vividness and recall. Thus, the pre-lucid qualities found here, specifically the nonelevated levels of negative affect and bizarreness, offer no clear support for the notion that conditions in dream content such as heightened anxiety or bizarreness trigger lucid awareness.



Like previous studies, we found lucid dreaming to be a radically different experience than non-lucid dreaming. When the dreamer recognized his phenomenal realm to be a dream, his experience of it intensified perceptually, cognitively, and emotionally. Not surprisingly, these lucid experiences were recalled with great clarity. Controversy exists over whether lucid dreaming represents a fundamentally different and discontinuous state from ordinary dreaming. While the present study demonstrates widely divergent qualities between the two states, we cannot infer with certainty a discontinuity beyond the emergence of reflective awareness.

The current study has provided a detailed and reliable close-up description of one individual's dream content while developing lucid-ability. It is impossible to determine how many of these findings are unique or can be generalized to all dreamers. In order to answer this question, the dreams of many additional subjects must be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as those presented here.


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 1: What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations


Flying Dreams and Lucidity: An Empirical Study of their Relationship.


Diedre Barrett

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill


A common observation in the lucidity literature is an association between lucid dreams and flying dreams. In Van Eeden's paper in which he introduced the term "lucid dream", he wrote, "Flying or floating in all forms of dreams... is generally an indication that lucid dreams are coming" (Van Eeden, 1913, p. 449). Patricia Garfield also noticed that flying dreams tended to occur in close proximity to lucid dreams and suggested that one can make use of this relationship to cultivate lucidity: "Induce dreams of flying and you are on your way to lucid dreams," she wrote (Garfield, 1974, p. 133).

Celia Green (1968) reported that all her lucid dreamers refer to flying dreams, several of them describing that the flying prompted lucidity, while one intentionally used the occurrence of lucidity to initiate flight. Lucid dreams accounts in LaBerge's (1985) and Sparrow's (1976) books also seem to have a high rate of flying.

The purpose of the present study was to determine in a general college population of dreamers: 1) what was the rate of lucid and flying dreams, 2) whether they occurred in some relationship to each other, 3) if they were related, whether the two elements occurred to the same dreamers, on the same nights, and/or within the same dreams, and 4) when they occurred in the same dream, which element preceded the other.

A large number of dreams (1180) compiled from three previous experiments were examined. These experiments had involved asking fifty-six volunteer undergraduates to keep dream diaries for periods of time ranging from two to six weeks. Two readers rated the dreams as to whether they contained content of flying or floating, and fell into three lucidity related categories. The first of these was the "pre-lucid" dream which was defined as any dream in which the dreamer showed some faint awareness of the dream state but did not become fully lucid. An example of a dream placed in this content category was one in which the dreamer was watching an elaborate Kabuki theater performance and at one point remarked, "I thought I had better leave and go back to my dorm room to write all this down in my journal for the experimenter, but instead I stayed and watched the rest of the play."

The second lucidity-related category were false awakenings. These not only imply a covert acknowledgment of the sleep state, but they have been reported by lucid dreamers from Van Eeden on to have an intimate relationship with lucidity. The third and final category was dreaming about sleep. This is a mirror image of the false awakening. I could not find any discussion of dreams of sleeping in adults. The only accounts of dreams of sleeping I have found in previous literature is Foulkes' study with children (1983) in which he found this was a content category present only in 3-5 year olds. The accounts from his children are simply of sleeping in another place such as "I dreamed I was sleeping at a cocoa stand" and "I dreamed I was in the bathtub asleep." Since these bypass of dreams were occurring occasionally in my sample so I made them a separate content category. An example of one of these is a rather long dream which concludes as follows:


...At that time I approached an old Indian contortionist who lay on his back in a lioness' cage sleeping. I petted the lioness and lightly stroked the Indian man's face while they slept. I awoke the Indian man accidentally and he requested that I stay with him, so I did. I fell asleep with my hand lying on his chest and my arms around his shoulders. I slept peacefully for a long time.


All totaled, there were 11 dreams of flying or floating from 9 subjects. That's almost exactly 1% of the dreams from 16% of the subjects. The only previous study I could find that gave a figure for flying dreams in a general population was one by Fisher (1928) with children. He found 3% of dream accounts were of flying; he remarked that he believed these dreams to be more common for children than adults, which my data would support. Brink et al. (1977) examined the cumulative lifetime incidence of flying dreams and found that 30% of young adults reported having had at least one such dream.

Moving to lucidity-related categories, there were 7 lucid dreams, 16 pre-lucid dreams, 8 false awakenings and 4 dreams of sleeping from 10 subjects. That is a bit less than 1% for fully lucid dreams but about 4% counting the other 3 lucidity-related categories from 19% of the subjects. Even though I started with a rather large pool of dreams, this became a very small number in terms of these specialized content categories. This small number narrowed my statistical choices. Therefore I did T-tests looking at whether, for each of these content categories, those subjects with a dream in that category had a higher rate of other target category than the rest of the subjects. I used p<.05 as a criteria for significance level.

Six of these ten subjects with lucidity-related dreams were among those also dreaming of flying or floating. This was a statistically greater than chance overlap between the subjects to whom these categories of dreams occurred. There was also a significant overlap of flying dreams with the other three lucidity related categories combined; separately the trend was for flying to overlap each of them, but they did not achieve statistical significance. These findings clearly support the basic premise of a relationship between flying dreams and lucidity.

There was also a significant and even larger overlap between lucid dreamers and subjects with the other three lucidity-related content categories combined. This does seem to justify the term pre-lucid, to support the longstanding assertion of a close relationship between false awakenings and lucidity, and to suggest the new "dreams of sleeping" category has a similarly strong relationship to lucidity.

For the subjects who had both flying and lucidity-related dreams, there was a trend toward a greater overlap of the nights on which they occurred but it did not achieve significance. On a given night, they were slightly likelier to occur within the same dream. In the dreams in which both flying and lucidity occurred, the lucid state consistently preceded the flight.

These results support most of the suggestions about relationships between lucidity and flying dreams except one: this last finding lends no support to the idea that the act of flying will commonly trigger lucidity. It obviously tends to prompt lucidity for a few individuals who have reported so in the previous literature and may for those who have such an expectation from reading those accounts. However for most, the pattern is clearly that flying is a very pleasurable act that comes to mind once they realize they are dreaming and can defy the usual laws of nature.

There are several ways to examine this empirical relationship between flying and lucid dreams for what its causes and significance may. First, in terms of what psychological themes or interpretations these types of dreams may share. Freud wrote:


...In dreams the wish to be able to fly is to be understood as nothing else than a longing to be capable of sexual performance. This is an early infantile wish... Whenever children feel in the course of their sexual researches that in the providence which is so mysterious but nevertheless to important there is something wonderful of which adults are capable but which they are forbidden to know of and do, they are filled with a violent wish to be able to do it, and they dream of it in the form of flying, or they prepare this disguise of their wish to be used in their later flying dreams.


Other analytic interpretations such as Krishnan et al. (in press) or Jane Lewis, in a talk here at the ASD conference earlier this week, stress the metaphor for "Flying away" as an escape.

Jung interpreted flying dreams in terms of what he called "inflation"-- euphoria and grandiosity--and he thought they warned of manic trends. Other interpretations stress this commonly euphoric tone more positively and see flying as symbolic of freedom and mastery.

All of these interpretations resonate with characteristics of lucid dreams. Lucid dreams are frequently euphoric, a sense of escaping usual laws of nature is often stressed, and an emphasis on feeling very free and a sense of mastery are typical. As Patricia Garfield (1979) and Stephen LaBerge (1985) have both emphasized in their books, there seems to be a high rate of sexual content in lucid dreams. So we might think of them as filling similar psychological needs as flying dreams.

Then there is the possibility that lucid and flying dreams share some distinctive physiological state, which would probably involve a higher level of arousal, denser REM's and/or more overlap of activation of waking cognitive patterns superimposed on the REM state.

Suggestions that flying dreams are induced by some greater than usual consciousness of the body during REM have been around a while. Havelock Ellis, in his 1913 book on dreams, suggested that sensations of flying are initiated by awareness of the lack of pressure on the soles of the feet during high activation in balance and movement centers. Scherner (1861) believed the rising and falling of the chest in breathing was the stimulus for flying dreams. There were some hints of more awareness of incongruent sensory information about the body in all categories of dreams in my study. For example, one of the dreams in the sleeping category began: "I dreamed I was walking in my sleep," and proceeded to describe the dreamer's body moving in ways she could not control and repeatedly being unable to remain standing and "melting" and sliding down walls, while friends tried to get her back to bed. So it may be the greater awareness in flying dreams shares something in common physiologically with that manifested in the lucid dream.

Another fact to suggest a physiological link is that a very high incidence of flying dreams occurs in patients with narcolepsy. Sours (1963) and many of the other major reviews of dreams of narcoleptics remark on how striking this content category is, and in a study by Krishnan et al. (in press) they found that 100% of his narcoleptic patients reported flying dreams and that for most of them it was a very frequently recurring dream. Narcolepsy is basically a disorder in which REM overlaps waking consciousness in terms of many of the symptoms, and I think it is reasonable to talk about lucidity as an unusual case of overlap of waking-type reflection and some secondary process thought with REM's typical level of hallucinatory imagery and primary process thinking. Also narcoleptics are reported to have REM periods of unusual density of eye movements and in a recent examination of the physiological concomitants of lucid dreams, Stephen Laberge and his colleagues (1986) found them to be likeliest to occur during the parts of REM periods characterized by the densest eye movements and other indicators of greater CNS activation.

A last point I want to mention in examining the relationship of lucidity and flying is that it may not be entirely specific to flying dreams. Instead it may be that lucid dreamers have a higher rate of vivid, unusual, and surreal content in their dreams in general of which flying is only one example. Their high rate of dreams of sleeping would also suggest that. I also found them overrepresented in the parallel study on the same data which I presented earlier this week. They were many of the same subjects who reported dreams of dying; the example I included in that talk of the dreamer being shot in the face and then enjoying dying came from the subject with the most lucid dreams. It may be that there are all kinds of unusual dream categories likelier for lucid dreamers although I believe there is probably some special relationship to flying dreams such as the psychological interpretations and physiological factors which I have mentioned.




Binswanger, L. (1963). Being in the world. New York: Basic Books.

Brink, T., Brink, G., & Hunter, K. (1977). Flying dreams: Four empirical

studies of manifest dream content. International Journal of Symbology, 8, 73-76.

Ellis, H. (1913). The world of dreams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Fisher, E. (1928). Kinder traume: Eine psychologisch-pedagogische studie, Stuttgart: Puttmann. (As summarized in N. Parsifal-Charles' The dream, 1986, West Cornwall, Ct: Locust Hill Press, p. 143).

Foulkes, D. (1982). Children's dreams: Longitudinal studies. New York: Wiley & Sons.

Freud, S. (1953). Standard edition of complete works of Freud. London: Hogarth Press.

Garfield, P. (1974). Creative dreaming. New York: Ballentine Books.

Garfield, P. (1979) Pathway to ecstasy. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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

Krishnan, R., Volow, M., Cavenar, J., & Miller, P. (in press). Dreams of flying in narcoleptics. Psychosomatics. Reprint requests to Dr. Volow, Durham V.A. Medical Center, 508 Fulton Street, Durham, N.C. 27705.

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

LaBerge, S., Levitan, L., & Dement, W.C. (1986). Lucid dreaming: Physiological correlates of consciousness during REM sleep. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 7, (2&3), 251-258.

Scherner, K. (1861). Das leben des trames, Berlin. (As cited in Freud above.)

Sours, J. (1963). Narcolepsy and other disturbances in the sleep-waking rhythm: A study of 115 cases with review of the literature. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 137, 525-542.

Sparrow, G. S. (1976). Lucid dreaming: The dawning of the clear light. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press.

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


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 1: What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations

Varieties of Experience from Light Induced Lucid Dreams


Stephen LaBerge – Stanford University

Richard Lind – East Palo Alto, CA


This will be fairly brief for reasons you will hear shortly.  I was planning to report on two content analysis studies: one on a single subject, and one on a larger group recorded in the laboratory.  However, there are some problems with the group study that I will discuss later.

First of all, I'd like to say that these studies were done using the Hall and Van de Castle content scales.  What both studies had in common was a comparison of lucid dreams induced without a light stimulus and lucid dreams induced by the light mask (Editors Note: For a report of early results with LaBerge's lucid dream induction device see his article later in this issue of Lucidity Letter).  We were looking for any differences in dream content, other than the obvious existence of light in one set of dreams, that would tell us whether or not light-induced lucid dreams differ from spontaneous ones.

The overall impression gathered from the single subject data was that out of 120 some scales there were 2 or 3 significant differences, which is really to say that the two categories of lucid dreams are very much alike in content.  Outside of the initial lucidity stages, or the induction stages, you don't see any striking differences. 

I think there is a relation between these induction differences and the kinds of differences we have found in the past comparing wake-initiated lucid dreams to the dream-initiated type.  There are two distinct forms of spontaneous initiation of lucid dreaming.  The first is: you are in the middle of a dream and something about the dream tells you that it's a dream, but there is no discontinuity, and, if you look at the physiology there is no indication of awakening at that point.  This is the dream-initiated type.  The second type involves an awakening during a REM period.  There is a brief awakening that lasts from two seconds to, at most, two minutes, and the person returns directly to REM sleep and then has a lucid dream, often maintaining continuous awareness as he reenters the dream state.

If you look at the first scenes of the dreams, you find very striking differences in the content of the wake-initiated lucid dreams versus the dream-initiated.  You'll find, for example, in the wake-initiated variety there are many more accounts of floating and flying, body image distortions, and reports of out-of-body experiences.  Whereas, if you do the same kinds of analyses in any scene other than the first scene, there is no difference between the two types.  So, it doesn't seem to matter how you get started being lucid, because you build up a context from whatever you are doing in the dream, and soon leave the initiation scene, going somewhere else entirely, and there are no remaining large differences between the two types of dream.  And this is the same as what we have observed with the light-initiated versus non-light-initiated lucid dreams.

However, there were a few apparent differences that may be worth thinking about.  For the single subject, the data consisted of 18 lucid dreams induced by light over a period of a year and a half versus a random sample of 18 of her lucid dreams out of 60 that were not induced by light over the same period of time.  For some reason, which I can't say I understand, there was more flying in her non-light induced lucid dreams--we'll call them spontaneous, although that's probably not strictly correct.  If it was typical for her to recognize she was dreaming because of flying, then you can see that if light is not causing the lucidity, there will be more occurrence of flying in the non-light induced lucid dreams.  This could be tested by doing a scene by scene analysis comparing, say, the first scenes versus other scenes, and I would predict that there would be no difference between the two induction types in that case.

There were also some significant differences in the scales of sex and friendliness.  Unfortunately, these scales are somewhat mutually exclusive.  You have an interaction that might be a friendly interaction, but if it's got sex in it is scored as sex and not friendliness.  What we found is that the light-induced lucid dreams had less friendliness and more sex.  How much sex did they have?  Well, 17 out of 18 light-induced lucid dreams, and 8 out 18 spontaneous ones included sex.  Now that sounds to me like quite a lot of sex.  Indeed, I was somewhat surprised that nothing like this emerged in the study Jayne talked about.

To continue now, in this single subject study, there was also a difference in the amount of social interactions in light-induced versus spontaneous lucid dreams.  And there was a difference in the amount of social interactions with females.  This is a female dreamer, and there were about twice as many interactions with females in the spontaneous lucid dreams.  This finding also turned up in the second study, in which we compared 34 laboratory light-induced lucid dreams to 34 laboratory non-light induced lucid dreams.

I'm not going to go into detail on this study because I think it's fairly confounded by sex differences.  The two groups were unbalanced with something like 65 percent females in the light-induced and only 18 percent in the other, so I believe most of the differences found are probably sex differences.

There were two other elements in the findings that I thought were interesting, and even if they did include sex differences, the scores were in the opposite direction from what would be predicted by sex differences alone.  There were 16 versus 5 occurrences of aggression, combining physical and non-physical aggression, in the light-induced versus non-light-induced lucid dreams.  I have a feeling that this has something to do with people's experiences with the light.  People sometimes describe it as painful, that this light flashes and it represents something they have to do something about, and perhaps it gives them an aggressive impulse. Now, since the group with the largest amount of aggression was the one with the largest number of females, and since this is the opposite of what you'd expect from sex differences, it may be a real difference.

I would predict, by the way, that there is going to be a sex difference for sexual activity of females and males in lucid dreams.  I don't think sex in 17 out of 18 lucid dreams is typical of males.  I've seen similar accounts for four females, but I haven't seen any males for whom every lucid dream includes sex.

A remaining difference in this laboratory sample is flying; there is less flying again in the light-induced sample.  This is perhaps again for the reason that in the light-induced dreams there are no cases of initiation by flying, so I think these differences will disappear if the initiation scene is disregarded.


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 1: What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations

EEG and Other Physiological Findings


Stephen LaBerge – Stanford University

Andrew Brylowski – University of Texas, Houston


LaBerge: The basic question we had in mind was, "What is happening in the brain when people become lucid?" We have had some ideas about this for many years. Earlier work that we had done indicated that lucid dreams are initiated during periods of cerebral (and autonomic) activation. It can be seen in a typical polygraph example of a lucid dream initiation that on the EOG channel, just a few seconds before the eye signal there is a striking suppression of finger pulse amplitude. It is like a switch is suddenly turned on--sympathetic activation. Likewise, you see a change in the respiration pattern; it changes from a regular rhythm and high amplitude to irregular and low amplitude with an increased rate. Also the top EEG channel will show a large skin potential artifact at the onset of lucidity. All of this indicates that when lucid dreams are initiated there is an activation of the brain. However all examples of the same process may not be identical. For instance the change in respiration may not be as clear.

Another indication is the H-reflex, which we have found is suppressed during the initiation of the lucid dream. It is more suppressed, statistically speaking, during the entire lucid dream than it is in REM sleep on the average. It is probably not more suppressed than it is in phasic REM, so basically we see that lucid dreams happen during periods of increased activation. There is greater eye-movement density, more autonomic variability; therefore, higher activation of the brain.

The data shown in Figure 1 represents standard scores averaged over 76 lucid dreams and 13 subjects. For each of these lucid dreams we drew a line at the onset of the lucid dream and divided the REM periods up into thirty second epochs before and after lucidity onset. The black line running through the center of each of these histograms indicates the onset of lucidity. Each histogram bar, then, is a thirty second average grand mean of standard scores. The top panel shows eye-movement density. You'll notice that there is a significant elevation of eye-movement density in the thirty seconds before the lucid dream starts. Likewise, there is a significant elevation of respiration rate; there is an elevation, but not significant, of heart rate, and there is skin potential activity. Also, you see in the first thirty seconds of the lucid dream, there's the same kind of activation, in fact, even a larger one. This activation is maintained at a higher level throughout the lucid dream. However, I wouldn't want to say that the high level of activation that you find later in the lucid dream is because of lucidity. We don't really know that; it could be due to dream content. But it seems clear that there is an association between lucidity and activation, especially if you look at eye-movement density, which may be the best measure of CNS activation up to this point. In something like 78 out of 80 of the lucid dreams, eye-movement density in the thirty seconds before the lucid dream was above median. What we conclude from this is that there is a necessary condition for people to realize they are dreaming, and that is sufficient activation of the brain. It seems that the lower levels of activity you get with, say, tonic REM, when there is not a lot of eye-movement activity, is not sufficient for people to become reflectively conscious.

This is all background information, and what we have known for several years about the initiation of lucidity. Clearly, the brain must be activated, and especially it must be activated in the first thirty seconds of the lucid dream and the thirty seconds right before it. Something is obviously happening in the brain and we would assume that the cortex would show it. But we had little idea, other than from this autonomic data, about what exactly was taking place, whether the entire brain was equally activated or whether some specific areas were more activated than others.

There is a use for this information beyond the obvious research interest. Since we know that lucid dreaming never takes place unless there is a sufficient level of eye-movement activity, for example, we know that when we're trying to induce lucid dreams by external stimulation that we don't want to apply a stimulus during a period of low eye-movement density. But we could probably improve on our induction technique if we were to find that there were certain areas, that is if the left frontal cortex, or the left temporal lobe, or some other area was reliably activated in the thirty seconds before a lucid dream emerged. We could then watch for when that activation occurred and apply a stimulus, or a reminder just at that point and perhaps get much better results than we are currently.

So, we were interested in finding out which parts of the brain would be more activated in lucid dreams. Technology has developed in the last several years to the point that it is possible to do extensive cortical brain mapping. You can now collect data from, say, twenty-eight, or thirty electrodes on the cortex, and then make maps showing the distribution of the brainwave activity in various states. This is what we have done. Dr. Brylowski is going to describe to you how the data was collected.


Brylowski: One of the considerations in doing this study was the time it would take to apply the electrodes and collect the data. Further we felt it was necessary to do this consistently over a period of time. That is to have the electrodes applied to the same place consistently over time and to be able to do it in the future in a relatively rapid manner so that any people who would participate could be monitored with relatively little inconvenience.

One of the more recent technologies relevant to these concerns is the electrode cap, which is basically like an expandex kind of hat with electrodes in it. One of the criticisms of this hat is that it slides around and is not a very good tool except for short term recordings, of perhaps five or ten minutes. So one of the initial technical obstacles was to be able to put this on and record and have impedance, or resistance at the electrode, which was consistent and low through an eight hour recording of a nights sleep.

We found that this cap could be adapted by taking the little styrofoam doughnut that came with this cap for absorbing sweat on the forehead, and putting them all over the cap. Further we took regular electrode cream and put it on the electrodes around the periphery and around the center where the wires actually come off the cap so that when the subject roles around in bed or tosses and turns the electrodes are not displaced and a quality recording can be obtained for the whole night.

The other problem with this type of technology is that it’s very difficult to calibrate the actual spot on the scalp where the electrode is, beforehand. There is a product called omniprep, which electroencephlographic technicians like to use, which helped solve this problem. A little wooden Q-tip stick that could be dipped in the omniprep beforehand fits perfectly in the little holes of this cap. So this cap could be applied and all twenty eight electrodes put on the scalp in about twenty minutes.

The technique is basically very simple. Once the scalp is abraided and is ready to be injected with electrode paste the rest of the electrodes can be put on very quickly. The impedance can be checked. Most of the electrodes were either four ohms or lower in impedance and that was maintained throughout the night and in the morning.

Then the subject could easily go to bed and be hooked up. This whole process would take between twenty and forty minutes. I'm sure it could be done even quicker with added practice. The subject was a twenty eight year old fourth year medical student who was a frequent lucid dreamer and had very good dream recall. I'll turn it back over to Stephen who will interpret some of the results. 


LaBerge: Yes, well, you can get medical students to do almost anything, you see. Now, Figure 2 displays some of the data we have analyzed. What we did corresponds to the histogram of Figure 1 which you saw earlier. The records were divided at the point of the start of the lucid dream, and this shows four thirty second periods, two before and two after the moment of initiation. The first thing we did was average together across lucid dreams all of the two and a half second intervals of digitized data, the 256 point FFT's, and then we computed standard scores. This maps we are seeing are of standard scores, so you see, if you look at the grey scale on Figure 2, the values for all of the shades displayed in the maps add up to zero, which is represented by the black.

We looked at five different frequency bands of EEG. You can divide any complex wave form into a set of simpler waves, and brain waves are usually divided up into certain frequency bands, which are the ones we used in this analysis. Our results for some of the bands were hard to interpret, mostly due to the presence of eye-movement artifact in the frontal areas. One of the next things we're going to have to do, of course, is to separate out the eye-movement activity in order to see whether there is anything else going on in these bands besides that. Unfortunately, the particular commercial machine that we were using did not allow us to save the raw data or the EOG or eye-movement activity, so we couldn't do that in this case.

The bottom four maps, labeled -2, -1, +1, and +2 are 30 second epochs with +1 being the first 30 seconds of the lucid dreams as marked by the signals the top three maps on this figure show t-scores of the difference between the minus two condition and each of the other conditions. The N's in this case are five for each map because we have combined together five lucid dreams. Once we had standardized them, transformed the data into z-scores, we averaged the dreams together. The minus two condition is our control condition, and is supposed to represent a random selection of REM sleep not necessarily associated with a lucid dream.

If you look at the histograms in Figure 1 you'll notice that if you go back to minus two minutes or so before the lucid dream you are at the mean level of activation. There is no reliable significant increase or decrease of activity at that point. This is what we are using for comparison in the EEG analysis. One limitation of this study is that in the case of the autonomic analysis we had averaged entire REM periods, or at least thirty minutes of REM before the lucid dream, if there was more than that. So, we had a more reliable estimate of the overall mean for the entire REM period in that study than we do in this case, where we may have only something like ten or fifteen 256 point FFT's averaged to make our reference. Therefore, there is a bit of added variance in our comparisons here, which simply makes the probabilities a bit larger than we'd find with a better average. The particular patterns seen would be the same.

The picture you are seeing in Figure 2 did not come from the NeuroScience Brain-Mapper that the data was collected with. Instead, this is a program written by Romana Machado in my laboratory for an IBM AT for plotting the data that was rather laboriously copied from a print-out from the NeuroScience machine by Lynne Levitan, who typed approximately twenty-five thousand numbers into a computer, and then we read it again. This was just in order to get this analysis done this week so that we could show it to you. It's not the best way to transfer data!

Now, let's look at the most interesting frequency band--alpha, or 8 to 12 Hertz. Alpha seems to be one of the few sets of brainwaves for which there is some consensus about it's interpretation. Its presence is generally interpreted to tell something about the activation of the brain--that when there is less alpha in a region, the brain is more activated in that particular region. Because of this inverse relationship between alpha power and brain activation, we have the scale reversed on this figure. At the top of the scale we have black, representing higher levels of alpha, and at the bottom is white, again representing higher levels of activation and, in this case, lower levels of alpha.

Now, there is some relative activation apparent in the minus two frame, which I think is due to the fact that the sample is poorer than we'd like. It actually has more variance than the other frames. The variance is smaller for frames minus one and plus one, because the activation is reliably higher at the onset of lucidity. In the earlier frame, minus two, there's a lot of random variation. Anyway, you'll see that in the first frame of the lucid dream there's a significant elevation of activation in the left hemisphere, especially in the left parietal and posterior temporal cortex. This is consistent with what we found with a few other lucid dreams we had analyzed at Stanford, where, essentially, the only difference was in the ratio of alpha power in the left versus right parietal lobes, just like this data shows.

I'm not going to tell you what this left-parietal activation means now, for two reasons. One is that I hope our commentators might have something to say about what it might mean, and two is that there is one other problem with this data, in terms of the spatial distributions. Now, what we're seeing here does not tell us what the absolute levels of any of these powers are at any particular electrode sight because they have been converted to z-scores before averaging. At any one point, we are only looking at the difference in power. So, it's a little hard to say if this is relative left parietal activation or if left parietal activity has actually been low and is simply coming up to a normal level at the beginning of lucidity. We cannot tell which is the case from this data. A further problem is that this particular brain mapping machine uses linked ears as a reference, causing distortions in the field, and making it difficult to determine absolute levels. This is a direction for future research.

We also looked at the total power of all the frequencies excluding the delta band. I think this is also contaminated with eye-movement activity, because it includes theta power. We found apparent activity in the right frontal cortex which is probably eye-movement artifact. It is interesting, however, that it was found on only one side of the brain. One thing that has not been looked into is whether or not there is a difference in eye-movements to the right or left at the initiation of lucid dreaming. We would expect that lucid dreaming is a primarily left hemisphere process, that it seems to require more left hemisphere style cognition than ordinary dreaming. To attain full lucidity, you have to spell out to yourself, "This is a dream," which is a specifically linguistic, and therefore, left hemisphere, task.


Question: Was there any specific activity that the lucid dreamer was doing after he became lucid in these particular dreams?


Brylowski: That's a very interesting question. One of the reasons I had for doing this analysis was to move towards developing a model of lucid dreaming by which we may be able to predict where lucidity occurs without having to mark lucidity onset with, for example, eye-movement signals. Another reason I had was to see if a task performed in waking, such as fist clenching or moving a finger, would produce similar EEG activation as the same task performed in the dream state. That data hasn't been analyzed yet.

Most of these maps, since they cover the first minute after the initiation of lucidity, did not contain any specific task beyond the spontaneous dream activities occurring at that time. In some of the dreams, after a period of lucidity, I did perform certain tasks or pre-planned dream-imaged activity, but they do not appear in these maps. Again, this is an area of future research, to look for any differences between the grand averaged maps of lucidity initiation and the various types of tasks that could be performed in the dream state.


Question: Could you explain in more detail exactly how you are ascertaining when the lucid dream begins?


LaBerge: We determined where the lucid dream began primarily from an eye-movement signal: the left-right-left-right signals. In some cases, if a few seconds before the signal there was a very clear autonomic activation that accompanies a person realizing, "Aha! This is a dream!", we drew the line there instead of at the eye-movement signal. If there wasn't a better indication than the eye-movement signal, then that is what we used.


Question: First, when in the night do lucid dreams occur? Do they occur in all REM periods or do they concentrate in the morning? And, are there changes in the sleep architecture with lucid dreaming? For example, are there changes in stages three and four, or changes in total sleep time, or total REM time?


LaBerge: To take the last question first, changes in architecture: we looked into sleep architecture of this same sample of eight lucid dreams we have described here, and found no particular differences in stage two or three sleep. The major distribution of lucid dreams is towards the end of the night, but you find lucid dreams in all REM periods. I have a paper in which I describe finding a linear relationship between the REM period number and the likelihood of lucid dreams. This is probably related to a circadian rhythm, the fact that the REM activation cycle reaches a maximum at about 10 to 11 hours after sleep onset, meaning that as the night goes on lucid dreaming becomes easier. The results I have just mentioned are, of course, confounded by the fact that they are not really based on REM period number, and may be strongly affected by this time of night effect.


Hunt: Jayne and I were just discussing two points regarding your findings. One is that some of your evidence of dual-sided parietal activation may be consistent with findings of increased kinesthetic sensation in lucidity in general. The other is that I think Bob Ogilvie and Paul Tyson will be very pleased because together we found, with more standard filtering for alpha, an alpha effect. Although we had very few really good lucid dreamers, and most of our episodes were pre-lucid, meaning questioning reality in the dream, but not being certain, we found a similar enhancement of alpha.


LaBerge: Well, actually, if we return to the slide on alpha activity (see middle map of top row of Figure 2), what we're seeing is less alpha, a decrease of alpha at the initiation of lucid dreaming. It's a different question whether there's a global difference in alpha power in a REM period that has a lucid dream in it. Your measures were of global alpha power, but these are a measurement of relative differences in the amount of alpha at different periods. What we have found is a decrease in the relative amount of alpha at the initiation of the lucid dream, whereas what your studies showed was that if you looked at the magnitude of alpha in the lucid or pre-lucid REM period, not the relative change at initiation, it was higher than for non-lucid REM periods.


Question: I want to ask you how the lucidity was initiated. If it was initiated from waking, clearly this would have made a big difference in terms of alpha. My second question is about the subject signaling lucidity with eye-movements. How do you think the data would have been different if he were to have signaled in some other way, such as by a change in respiration rate, or a clenching of muscles in the hand?


LaBerge: In answer to your first question, this sample did not include any lucid dreams initiated from waking. As for your second question, I don't think the eye-movement signals should make that much difference for the alpha maps, because most of the eye-movement artifact occurs in the delta band. That, of course, seriously confounds the delta maps and to a certain extent the theta maps. In future work we plan to have our computer system automatically compensate for eye-movement artifact.


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 1: What is a Lucid Dream: Psychological and Physiological Considerations



Ernest Hartmann – Shattuck Hospital

John Antrobus – City University of New York


Hartmann:  Thank you very much for inviting me to this symposium.  I will do you people a favor by saying very little and leaving time for discussion. I'm very fascinated by this phenomenon. I am not a lucid dreamer myself, at least not a good lucid dreamer, maybe just a touch. I do want to make just a few comments and ask a couple of questions that maybe those of you who presented data this morning or those of you who have done a lot of lucid dreaming could help me with.  One general comment.  The link to various kinds of pathology is important.  For instance a link to narcolepsy has been mentioned.  I thought of that and actually asked two of my narcoleptic patients whether or not they had lucid dreaming, as I defined it to them.  They did not but they had so much of everything else, they had flying dreams, they had nightmares, they had tremendously vivid dreams, that I think they could have learned lucid dreaming.

Related to that, another comment dealing with something which I do know a little about, nightmares, as opposed to lucid dreams, which I know nothing about.  This relates to a hypothesis which I believe Stephen made that out-of-body experiences are, perhaps, lucid dreams or misperceived lucid dreams.  I don't believe that because of my experience with about one hundred people with very frequent nightmares, who described a lot of dissociative experiences of many kinds.  Many of them described spontaneous out-of-body experiences.  But none of them, at least as far as I have been able to tell from my notes, described lucid dreams.  In fact, if they were really good lucid dreamers, you'd think maybe they wouldn't have that many nightmares.  For what it's worth, I looked informally for that relationship.  I thought, here was a group of people who are describing a great many out-of-body experiences, many very different kinds of descriptions of OBE's, but no lucid dreams.  I am interested in some discussion on that. 

And now one final point which really intrigues me.  I could put it in terms of "why the wow?",  "whence the euphoria?"  Well, maybe there is none.  Jayne said there wasn't as much as we think.  Certainly in talking to lucid dreamers, one hears about a sense of elation and euphoria while having a lucid dream.  I would like to contrast that with the fact, as I understand it at least--the cognitive condition of the lucid dream is really a partial dream.  Part way from waking, let's say waking consciousness to dreaming consciousness.  We're more in control than usual.  In those terms it sounds as if a lucid dream would be like a vivid daydream.  We are in control of the image.  I can have very vivid day dreams.  I can fly, have sex, all sorts of things.  Yet apparently that is not a lucid dream either physiologically or psychologically.  The people who have lucid dreams frequently assure me it's nothing like a daydream. Yet I still would like to ask the question, why, for those at least who have the wow, why the wow?  Isn't is something, at least looking at it from the outside, isn't it something that is partly waking and partly dreaming? You would think there would be less surprise since you are at least partly in control.  Maybe the wow is just a matter of, "here is something new and interesting that I haven't experienced before."  In that case it should habituate, adapt out with time.  Maybe it's something else.  Maybe endorphins are being released or whatever.  But for me, at least, this seems to be a serious question.  How come this elation.  Or to put it a different way, I haven't heard a single person say, "I had a real dream and then later I found myself in this dull halfway state where I was part way in control.  Ho hum."  Lucid dreams just are not spoken of in that way and yet cognitively you'd think they might be.  So let me leave that as a question and just stop there.


Antrobus:  I second your comments.  It's an interesting point about the "wow". It may have something to do with the fact that the lucid dreaming interest came out of the popular culture, to some extent, more than it did from the laboratory to start with.  The interest in dreams came that way too.  To some extent it's just something different to experience and the fact that it is different is partly what all the problem is about really.  And why I think the solution is so hard to come by is because we start to handle this analysis by using classes of cognitive and physiological phenomenon that are available to us to start with.  A lot of those come to us from the vernacular.  The concepts of sleep and waking are first defined by vernacular use long before any of us even go to school.  And the concept of arousal and activation is similar.  Generally we use those terms before we have a professional or scientific definition to them.  Then we find lucid dreaming seeming not to fit the usual definition of dreaming because dreaming means you are asleep but being aware means you are awake so that's basically the original argument. Actually I think Stephen and I exchanged words about this back in Palo Alto fifteen years ago.  I think we still have the same problem here. Now we are relating the concept of lucid dreaming to activation.  A good part of what we have here shows the brain in sort of a twilight state.

The alpha state, by the way, that you said was associated with greater arousal, was associated with greater arousal in the context of sleep.  But if you are awake, alpha is associated with a drowsy state.  So it's a transition state, or at least that's one of its characteristics.  One of the things that we have to look out for is the issue of whether activation is really a unified concept or whether really there are all kinds of separate patterns of activation.  The obvious first question is to look at it in a general way and then see if that's getting us into trouble.  Then we may have to break things down into separate kinds of activation.  As they get harder to measure, a lot of us I'm sure, will lose interest and walk out.  It's like the young child who asks a question and wants a simple answer and once you get to the fourth sentence their asking for ice cream.  They've forgotten the question and aren't interested anymore.  I'm old enough to remember the days when we had our, I think, third sleep meeting in Chicago back in, it must have been '62, '63, and everything was very simple then.  There were simple explanations for the whole thing.  It looked like it was practically all sewed up and there were no more questions to solve.  Then gradually everything began to get more and more complicated.  Everything had five subdivisions and everything was so complicated that a lot of people got discouraged and basically left the scene.  I think that may happen with lucid dreams if you want to pursue it until we truly understand its neurophysiological basis.  You've got the concept of arousal here but let's have a look at it.

You've got arousal in terms of alpha but you have the H-reflex indicating that you're in almost a strengthened REM state.  But the alpha suggests that you're out of REM moving towards waking.  So those two measures would appear to be in conflict.  What I think that we've got to do is realize that the class of REM is a working definition of a state.  It's not a God given definition of a physiological state.  It is simply an interim definition of a physiological state.  The processes that define REM are primarily initiated in the brain stem and we don't have access in them in the human being.  We can only infer them from what the brain does to the cortex and that's quite a few legs away from what's happening in the brain stem.  The activation starts in the brain stem and moves up to the thalamus and then to the cortex.  And the process by which you get rid of the alpha's is not well understood at this point.  If it's similar to the mechanism of theta suppression, it's a process of hyperpolarization of the neurons in the outer edge of the first layer of the cortex.  The cortex is made up of five layers, all of which can make up no more than about two millimeters of thickness.  The outer layer has a hyperpolarizing process which has to with the permeability of the individual neurons that make up that layer of the cortex.  They prevent discharge of the neurons and the polarization builds up and all of a sudden it breaks down.  It breaks down synchronously with a whole lot of cells at one time and gives a pulse.  Then this hyperpolarization builds up again, there's no output, and then there is this big discharge.  When you get this happening with a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand neurons simultaneously in synchrony, you get a synchronous pulse appearing at the superficial layer of the cortex.  That synchronous pulse, then, is broken down when there's discharge from the mesencephalic reticular formation which moves up through the thalamus.  It changes that hyperpolarization in another complicated way and breaks it down so that the cells, now show independent activity.  So the synchronous behavior goes away and those cells and this is only theory, then begin to send more individual activation down to the cells lower down in the outer layers of the of the cortex.  That's, presumably, where all of the cognitive work goes.  It's that basis that we use to infer that disynchrony is associated with more activation.  That's the way it goes with some synchronous wave forms, but not necessarily with others.  The idea that synchrony is associated with less activation has been with us since Sherrington's day.  It's sort of a foundation of a lot of neurophysiological thinking.

The suppression of alpha would fit somewhat with the work on the H-reflex.  That could indicate an intensification of the actual REM process.  That's happening in the temporal lobe.  And that's where, of course as you all know, you're linguistic material is coming from and that would be why the sleeper would construct the actual verbalization of the experience, which is the essence of calling it a lucid dream.  But to the extent that REM is like waking in many of its characteristics, that distinction still has to be worked out.  It may be that I think we should give up, for this work the distinction of calling it REM sleep and look at the individual variables because so many of them are exactly the same as waking that trying to force something into waking versus a REM category, it seems to me, would not be productive.  There is an advantage to using more measures rather than just sticking to one.  That you have used the H reflex, I think is a brilliant idea. 

By the way, I just want to add a word about the autonomic system.  The autonomic system is normally inhibited in REM.  That's another one that is going in the opposite way in lucid dreaming. If you're really in a REM state the afferent feedback from the autonomic system should be inhibited.  So we have the notion that autonomic activation which should be distinguished from mesencephalic reticular formation activation. The activation pattern of normal REM sleep is associated with the inhibition of the autonomic system.  So, again, just to conclude, I think it's important to see that the things here don't match any of the usual patterns and that instead of trying to force them into REM or waking, or even sleep versus waking, we should try to describe them in terms of the individual variables, both the cognitive and the physiological ones, and we may find that we've got a new kind of state.


Gackenbach: The work that I'm doing with the Maharishi International University is toward that end.  They are arguing that dream witnessing, which may or may not be the same as dream lucidity, is a new state of consciousness, transcendental consciousness.


Hunt:  I'm going to abuse the role of the chair and just ask a direct question.  You asked, both of you in different ways, why the wow?  I think that is a very important point in lucidity research. It's our impression in terms of some of the research I'll be reporting later today as well, that the wow isn't just because it's a different state and it strikes the subject as curious.  There seems to be a quality of emotional expansiveness and elation that comes with lucidity.  Our suspicion is that whatever the wow is, it's akin to the similar feelings described in long term meditative practice.  There seem to be both physiological and psychological similarities between lucid dreaming, especially when it's highly stabilized, and meditative practice.


Antrobus:  Well, I got the impression from Jayne's paper the other day  (Editor's note: This paper is presented elsewhere in this issue of Lucidity  Letter) that in the TM  experience you have more of an inhibition of the autonomic response, it's not a wow experience at all.  I don't see it.


Gackenbach:  We feel that there may be a developmental relationship.  Lucidity is a precursor to witnessing, and with the lucidity you have the wow.  It's new, it's novel, the idea of new and novel, Ernest, I think captures it.  It's new, it's novel, but that with practice, with this development of consciousness, it quiets.  The wow quiets.  The wow is gone.  It's not that it's unpleasant in any sense or form.  But it's like with the near-death experiences, the verbal reports are of, "Oh, I'm dead." in a matter of fact but not unpleasant sense and not, "Oh!  I'm dead!!", in either a horror or elation sense.


Antrobus:  You don't know though.  Because those were different kinds of preceding experiences.  The TM experiences, the whole history of the training is quite different than it is in the lucid dreaming.


Gackenbach:  Yes, there is training involved.  I'm talking about the spontaneous emergence or dream consciousness.


Hartmann:  Jayne, you are saying that the wow dampens out.  As I see it, that would be quite different from what Harry just said.  Meditators routinely report that as they get into it, as they learn, it becomes more and more that way.


Hunt:  I think with long term meditative practice, at first when the person is really able to meditate very well, there is a quality of elation and wow and it has quite a bit of intensity. Years ago in a content analysis of ecstasy reports, a researcher described a kind of shift over time into what she called withdrawal ecstasy.  It's a kind of calming out of the process.  You could say there is still a characteristic, if you want to call it euphoric state, but it's broader, more diffuse and calmer. 

The other point that I'll make very briefly, is that there should be important exceptions to all of this.  Over the last few years I've run across three subjects I've encountered three subjects who have lucid dreams and hate them.  These are people who are relatively controlling, relatively obsessive people, certainly not clinically so but on that side, and their complaint is that what they value about their dreams is a quality of release and an unselfconsciousness and suddenly, if they know they are dreaming when the dream is going on, they're deprived of what they like  about dreams.  So it does happen the other way.


Hartmann:  That's interesting and very good to know.  Some of the people who maybe aren't here at the ASD conference anymore, would be very glad to here that.  They would like the completely unpushed, spontaneous emerging from the depth quality.  Their feeling is that lucid dreams ruin that.  So I'm glad to hear that that at least occasionally happens.


La Berge: I'd like to respond to a couple of the issues brought up and thank you both for some very provocative and interesting comments.  To take a more complex issue first, is what is the state of lucid dreaming.  The point that John makes is that instead of saying this is REM sleep and that's all there is to it, we really have to say, "Well what are the precise properties of this state.  What does it have in common with REM, with wakefulness, with whatever other states that we know of."  And then really to define a state for this.  Maybe it's going to turn out to be REM One A or something.  We just need more distinctions.  Because there is clearly a difference in a state like lucid dreaming from the usual dream state.  My picture of it is that it's a paradoxically, highly actively REM state where for some reason the person doesn't wake up.  I call it sleep still, because the person is not in sensory contact with the outside world.  So in other words, subjectively, if this were a lucid dream right now, I would say, "Here I am, in this world.  Now, I know my body's in bed, with covers on me.  I can't feel them!  The clock is there but I don't hear it!"  So it's not that I'm not paying attention, it's that I'm not in sensory contact.  That's the only reason I would want to call it sleep at all.  It's a loose term, but I think that is the general meaning of sleep.  It's sleep in regard to some area.  The activation of the H-reflex and actually all the autonomic measurements that we measured are pretty much in common.  They are all activated.  That also happens in association the phasic REM.  In other words, if you have a lot of eye movement activity you also have activation of the autonomic nervous system, although you have, generally, a strong parasympathetic tone compared to non-REM sleep.  So I don't think that the effects are outside of the definition of REM, as has been found so far.  It's merely that it's an uncharacteristic combination at one time.  The odd thing is how does it persist?  Why, when you become awake in a sense inwardly, why don't you wake up?  I would guess, it is because of the same phasic processes that are suppressing sensory input.  The more actively you're involved in the dream the less likely you are to wake up.  But it's certainly something we have to look at and see what are the differences.


Antrobus:  Stephen, could I ask if you would run waking controls in your studies in the future?  We've been putting people in the sleep room for thirty minutes at a time, interrupting them at random, about six to seven minute separation between intervals, and getting a standard report just as though they were asleep.  The vividness of the imagery is just as sharp as a REM, and there's bizarreness.  They're not that distinguishable from REM reports.  They are very very similar.  If you have that kind of control that might also be a worthwhile.  Now you have been trying to compare it to non-REM and other REM periods that are not lucid, but if you had a real waking control you'd have another handle on this thing.


La Berge: Thank you for the suggestion.  In fact we are about to do something like that.  We are going to do studies of hypnogogic lucid dreaming, and certainly that's part of what we are going to do, sample from clear wakefulness as well as sleep onset. 

Two other points I had to make in response to Dr. Hartman's comments.  One, let's take the out-of-body experiences.  I don't think that what you said that people who have nightmares have out-of-body experiences and don't have lucid dreams contradicts my concept of what an out-of-body experience is or how it takes place.  Let me just ask all of you.  If you had never heard about lucid dreams and didn't really know what an out-of-body experience was either and you had the following experience, what would you think happened?  You're lying in bed, apparently awake and the next thing know your body may be paralyzed and then you float out of your body.  That's what happens.  It's not that you dream that you float out.  It feels like you float out of your body.  So what do you call it?  You say, "I left my body!"  That's what it feels like.  It takes a sophisticated person to say, "Well, that isn't what really happened.  What really happened is that I was dreaming that it happened because sensory input was suddenly cut off as I went into REM sleep."  Now in the laboratory in say ten percent of the eighty lucid dreams we've collected they said, "Well I left my body."  Well what do they mean by that?  That's what it felt like. So we talk like that, although they understand and they signalled as they would in lucid dreams.  So if you have a concept of the lucid dream you can understand, "Oh yes, I'm having the dream of floating out of my body," which happens under lawful circumstances, mainly when you have just awakened from REM sleep and then go back into it.  So you have a piece of that bad word, day residue, right on hand which is a body.  So naturally you represent that body, I think that it's also because the sensory input is cut off that there is some differences in the weight.  I mean, I think it's no accident that people typically float up.  I think it's that same thing.  You're lying in bed, you've got the weight of your body, and then suddenly you're asleep.  There's no sensory input anymore.  You have no sensation of weight.  It's, maybe like picking up a milk carton that you thought had milk in it but it's empty and it flys upward.  It may be a phenomenon similar to that. 

The second point is, whence the wow?  Well you put it another way too. I think Harry has already given an idea of whence the wow.  I'll say it doesn't really habituate that much because after about a thousand lucid dreams, if I were to have a lucid dream right now it would be a feeling of some excitement.  It's not regular.  I mean if you're having a lot of lucid dreams it's, "Oh yes, another lucid dream."  So certainly it loses the surprise factor.  But there is something of a feeling of freedom, but why the surprise?  Let's just try it this way. Suppose right now, Ernest, you were to discover that you're dreaming.  Now, right now!   Wouldn't you be astonished?  That's what it's like at times. "What!?  This is a dream?"  Because it seems so real and vivid, nothing like a daydream.  It's just astonishing.


Hartmann:  Well Stephen, what I had in mind was not the astonishment, which is certainly there, but 'wow' in the sense of ecstasy or elation.  If I were to discover that now I was dreaming, sure there would be a 'wow' of surprise but it would not be especially happy.  I would be kind of befuddled or disturbed.  I would not have a feeling of ecstasy, as far as I know.


Hunt:  Excuse me, we are running short on time.  Are there one or two questions from the floor that we could take briefly.


Question:  I just had a quick question that I wanted to address to Dr. Hartmann.  Given what we've described about lucid dreaming and your research on nightmares, I know you haven't gone a lot into the nightmare treatment, but I wonder what you think of the possibility of trying to train nightmare sufferers to lucid dream, not necessarily suggesting it in any way, but what do you think is the potential for treating nightmares?


Hartmann:  Well, sure, I think it is certainly worth trying.  I have not tried myself.  If you remember my work with nightmares, one of the surprising things was that these people who had frequent nightmares, were creative, artistic, open, vulnerable people, they had awful sounding nightmares, but they were not, as a group, attempting to get rid of their nightmares.  So I agree with several papers given at the conference a few days ago that I don't think the approach to nightmares should be, "quick, let's do something to dispose of it!"  That would depend very much on the person.  There are certainly people who want to reduce or get rid of their nightmares, and if they do I think this is valid and I've suggested to people, in fact I would love to have someone do a careful study on whether or not this can help.


Question:  Is there one really brief question that could call for an equally brief answer?


Antrobus:  Harry, I have a brief comment I'd like to make.  This has not too much to do with what we're talking about actually.  But it's interesting and since I've got you here, those of you who are doing research on lucidity might be interested in a new method we've developed for measuring the brightness of the imagery and the clarity of the image that is non-verbal.  It's a neat technique and it gets rid of some of the problems with the number of words recalled and so on.  And it's a four by four matrix of photographs that are reproductions of one single color photograph and they're scaled along one dimension in terms of brightness to extremely dark on one side and normal bright photograph and then they're scaled the other direction in terms of focus.  And when you wake the subject up you say, "Just point to the photograph that is most like that image."  In other words, if you're dreaming of a horse running across a bridge, say horse for the horse and then which photograph was most like the horse and then for the bridge, which one was most like the bridge?  So when you point to the photograph you can get a scale value that is relative to waking perception.  It's on that basis that we've been able to find that our waking imagery and our REM imagery is scaled just about the same, so you can actually separately distinguish these things without any verbal report at all, other than just the naming of the nouns that they're looking at.  And I could probably arrange to have these things duplicated.  They would be reasonably expensive.


Hartmann:  Could I make a quick comment that is very much related to Stephen's work that we were talking about?  I want to pose a question.  I'm very impressed with the light induced lucid dreams and the very high percentages and I'd wonder whether or not all or maybe a lot of spontaneous lucid dreams are light induced lucid dreams.  At least as I read the data, lucid dreams are far more common after seven or eight hours of sleep, at six, seven, eight in the morning, than at other times.  We are in the process of rolling over a lot in the night, especially during late hours, during REM sleep.  When dawn has come we are constantly giving ourselves light stimulation at that point and maybe that's involved in more lucid dreams than we know.


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Proceedings of the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 2: Applications of Lucid Dreaming


The Creative Process: Paintings Inspired from the Lucid Dream


Fariba Bogzaran

California Institute of Integral Studies


Creative endeavors often arise from seemingly ordinary everyday experiences.  In may own life, my artwork received a considerable boost through an initial encounter with a lucid dream which I transformed into an occasion for self-expression.  This type of self-expression, which I have explored more fully in the past few years, highlighted the following examples.

One noteworthy occasion of personal creativity owes its source of inspiration to a lucid dream, which I have titled "Conscious Dreaming." (August 18, 1981)


... I stand by the door in a gallery staring at a painting on the wall.  It is my painting, however it looks unfamiliar to me.  As I step forward to look at the detail of my work, I become aware that I am dreaming...

... The painting, approximately six by seven feet in size, displays an image of a wall destroyed in the middle but with the four corners still intact.  An imprint of a triangle and circle are inside it.  Inside the circle, a figure of a nude man and woman stand. (See Figure 1.)


This image may be interpreted as the "symbolic alchemical concept of the squared circle symbol of wholeness and the union of the opposites" (Jung, 1964).  Besides many personal and interpersonal meanings that arose from the dream, the most important aspect was the inspiration to explore a new art style: a dream art.

Soon after that dream, I decided to explore the image that had appeared in a lucid dream.  Instead, however, and inexplicable to me in logical terms, I started painting an image of a brain which contained different symbols that I had encountered in my nightly dreams for many years (Bogzaran, 1986).

I will describe here only one of the many important personal insights I received as a result of the dream: the profound transformation of my painting style.  I cite the dream as one important reason that I changed my style of painting from a predominantly realistic style to a surrealistic and abstract one.  In effect, this transformation helped me cross the gap which existed at the time, as a teetering, hesitant approach to personal creativity.  Once I followed this new path, however, my arrival in this new territory seemed very natural, as if my unexplored, hidden, creative side was now able to merge with other important aspects of my life.

One of these aspects, lucid dreaming, has become especially vibrant.  I discovered that I now recognize the onset of lucidity by recalling the scenario of the above dream.  This occurs because, like the neuron which fires an impulse in response to the transmission of a neurotransmitter across a synapse, I successfully ignite lucidity each time I view a gallery, studio, or room with art work displayed.

As a result, in the past few years, I have experienced more than 45 dreams on this theme that trigger lucidity.  The typical setting usually includes an art piece hanging on the wall or sculptures located in various patterns throughout the room.  I usually try to stay calm once I become lucid so that I can experience the texture, colors and medium of the artwork.  The experience becomes ritualistic and sacred.  I honor the gift of the artwork by a deep inner appreciation.  I spend some time with the creation by touching (if painting) or embracing (if sculpture), and feel myself merging with the piece.

Sometimes I focus on the artwork to wake myself up.  I call this technique "Intentional Focusing".  It helps me remember the artwork so I can later create the actual piece.  Sometimes, however, I cannot recreate the images because in the act of recreating them, I have lost the initial experience.  In a way, it's like trying to explain the unexplainable. 

The curious yet significant personal challenge I face in working with these lucid dreams has been the variety of art media which I have begun to use.   Sometimes I incubate a question before falling asleep.  It is important for me to remember the question, because when I experience a lucid dream that features the image of an art piece, the artwork can often provide insight that helps me work with my incubation question. 

To illustrate this approach, I cite the following practical example from a lucid dream I had when I was living in Canada.  The incubation question is:  "Should I go to California or stay in Canada for my graduate school work?"


Oct 13, 1985

Title:  The Healing Hand


My husband and I are driving across Canada to go to California.  In Alberta, on our way near Calgary, we encounter a gigantic ancient Greek building that resembles the Temple of Concord at Agrigento (West Doric hexastyle temple dated 430 B.C.).


We stop to look inside the building.  People around the building look very pale and sick.  Many homeless people sleep around the building.  Inside, the building is dark and smelly.  There is also a large door inside this building. I walk close to the door; the room looks like a gallery.  I suspect that I am dreaming, so I do a reality check.  Soon I am convinced that I am dreaming because the walls start to change.


I walk into the room slowly, noticing a gigantic hand in the middle of the room.  The hand must be ten feet tall.  As I walk around the hand, my incubation question comes into my mind:  "Should I go to California?"

Now I am standing in front of the hand on the palm of the hand a radiating light is glowing; I decide to walk inside the hand.  The answer to the question seems obvious to me as I am walking into the hand.  I feel a force pulling me inside the hand. (See Figure 2.)


I woke up feeling overwhelmed, content and joyful.  I took the symbol as a positive sign that, yes, I must move to California!  Later I decided to recreate the sculpture that I had dreamt.  First I fond a pyrite mineral stone that gave me the feeling of the inside of the hand.  Later, I made the hand as a sculpture and painted it with the appropriate colors.  I named it "The Healing Hand".  (One day I plan to create the hand in its actual size, producing a beautiful environment inside the hand so a person could actually walk inside it and enjoy its tranquility).

The dreams I have discussed here are just two examples of lucid dreams which relate to my studio/gallery perspective.  While it is important for me to note that I have developed a strong association with studios and galleries as the catalyst which assists the onset of my lucidity, not all my lucid dreams occur in a gallery.  The onset of lucidity also occurs many times when I am outdoors and almost every time I attempt to seek the Highest, God or the Unknown while lucid.  Obviously, I never encounter the old man with the beard or get any concrete answer to my request but I have witnessed environmental changes moving from form to formless and have felt an incredible sensation in my body that is difficult to describe.

At times I enter a gallery in my dreams, but there are no paintings or art works in that space.  At these special moments, I stay mindful of the feelings of lucidity and remain unattached to whatever happens.  Often the empty space I encounter reflects the silence, emptiness and formless nature of my inner being.




Bogzaran, F. (1986). The message from the inner world. Dream Network Bulletin, 5(1).

Jung, C. (1964). Man and his symbolism. New York: Dell Publishing.


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 2: Applications of Lucid Dreaming


 Potential Effects of Lucid Dreaming on Immunocompetence

Andrew Brylowski

University of Texas Southwestern Medical School


(Stephen LaBerge: There have been anecdotes and suggestions that lucid dreaming might be of some value for healing.  Based on experiments conducted in the past showing a very strong correspondence between tasks performed in the dream state and effects on the brain and to a lesser extent the body, the suggestion that specific lucid dreams could facilitate the healing processes of the brain has been made.  Dr. Andrew Brylowski has made a first pioneering step in developing a procedure for studying what may happen to the immune system during a lucid dream.  Unfortunately a poverty of information on the immune system during sleep has required a very basic approach.)

The concept of lucid dream healing is not a new one, and anecdotal reports abound.  In my own experience, I have had one lucid dream opportunity to practice adjunctive physical healing.  I had some minor surgery and the bleeding would not stop.  I decided that this would be an opportunity to try a lucid dream imaged healing.  I made the suggestion while awake and in the dream state that I would affirm that area of the body finally heal.  In a complex lucid dream I was able to lay my hands on that area and essentially affirm my intention for healing.  I awakened with the oozing continuing, but it stopped approximately 10 to 14 hours later.  Whether this would have happened without the lucid dream I don't know.  Another interesting report is from an intern at a hospital in New York.  He had a cough that seemingly would not go away for about three months, and made plans to have it investigated.  He had a lucid dream and apparently in part of it saw "Psychosomatic Asthma" written on a board.  The next day his problem cleared up.  It should be noted that the full report took ten to twelve pages and this is an oversimplification.

The physiologic basis of why lucid dreaming may be related to healing can be extrapolated from the psychophysiologic parallelism that LaBerge, Fenwick, Worsley, myself and others have shown.  Experiments where, for example, respiration patterns follow dream imaged patterns, dream sexual activity can parallel body autonomic activation, and obviously lucid dream eye signal parallelism have laid the ground work for postulating the possibility of psycho-immunologic parallelism to lucid dream imaged activity.  A brief reflection on evidence linking psychologic, neurologic, and immunologic disciplines is in order before the rationale for lucid dream psycho-immunologic parallelism is discussed.

A recent development in medicine is the field of psychoneuroimmunology, Which assumes that the psyche, nervous and immune systems can be understood integratively in addition to independently.  For example, a maximum innoculum or a minimum innoculum consistently produce disease or not, respectively, in lab animals.  With a moderate amount of innoculum, though, the development of disease or not is dependent on a stress level reproducibly generated.  Since lucid dreaming is in essence a multi-perceptual phenomenon, how could it be that perception somehow effects the immune system?  A third year medical student, who is an asthmatic patient, taught me that the perceptual and immune systems could be related.  She would have her reactive asthma whenever the pollen would start coming out in the spring.  The interesting thing she said to me was, "you know, sometimes I can just look out the window and I will have a reaction to just seeing the plants out there beginning to bloom".  Was this just psychogenic?  My feeling was that it sounded like a wise process to evolve because if you actually have a genetic predisposition which makes you sensitive to a particular allergen, your body could clue into the fact that you are headed for trouble before you actually come in contact with that allergen.  If you see it and it registers as sensory information and you elicit an immune response, you may avoid a full blown allergic response by modifying your behavior.  A sort of psycho-immunologic defense mechanism.  The complicating factor, though, seems to be discriminating a genetic predisposition versus developmental conditioning or both.  Evidence suggests that conditioning of immunity can take place.  Experiments pairing saccharin with immuno-suppressants or with substances that activate the immune system, visa-vie classical conditioning, have shown suppression or activation of immunity with saccharine alone when the active substances are removed.

The hypnosis literature also suggests psychoimmunologic mechanisms.  The primary factor in producing physiologic changes in this work seems to be the ability to modulate blood flow, essentially through partial volitional control of autonomic activity.  This is important because delivery of white cells, platelets, coagulation factors, tumor necrosis factors etc., are all in part dependent on getting the products there through circulation.

It is at this juncture that one can postulate how lucidity may help in healing.  The physiologic activation of lucid dreaming may allow for targeting specific body areas in the subjective experience, with the resultant biologic enhancement potentiating the healing process.  Whether or not lucidity in and of itself could have an impact would also be of interest.  With the autonomic activation and probable cortical activation of lucidity documented, and with animal studies showing that the neocortex and hypothalamus may modulate immunity, parallel reasoning linking lucidity and immunity seems sound. 

In developing a monitoring system to assure relative accuracy of objective data gathering, multiple parameters will need evaluation.  One important variable is obviously the subjective experience.  Since brain cortical activation and hypothalamic activation are important in lucidity and immunity, these will need to be monitored.  Brain electrical activity mapping as described earlier in the symposium, may give clues to any subtleties between lucid dreams with and without attempted healing activities.  Polysomnography with temperature, respiration, pulse amplitude, heart rate etc. will monitor autonomic variability, or hypothalamic changes.  A difficult question is what part of the immune system are we going to monitor.

The whole field of immunology is relatively new.  It's only been in the past fifty or sixty years that the field has taken off.  Classically immunology is viewed as an independent system.  Descriptively we find two populations of cells: the T cells and the B cells.  For both of these cells, in the adult, the precursors are derived from the bone marrow.  The T-cells migrate to the Thymus where they undergo maturation, and the B cells migrate to different Lymphoid organs in gut, spleen, lymph nodes etc. where they reside.  What both of these systems need is to have an antigen, a foreign protein, presented to them by another part of the immune system, the macrophage.  A simple analogy is thus; there is this policeman that brings in the foreign body and it presents it to these other immune products and they go ahead and destroy it through different mechanisms.  Both of these descriptive systems require some sort of time frame to develop.  One of these systems, the B cell system, has memory of foreignness analogous to nervous system memory, that is why we get immunized as children, to remember what to fight.  We get a little bit of harmless antigen that is similar to the foreign protein that would actually do us harm so that the B cells that produce antibodies to these antigens can remember what the antigen looks like.  If you ever become exposed to the harmful antigen, lets say polio virus, the B cells can very rapidly expand, produce antibodies, and control the invasion of the polio virus.  It takes time for these immune systems to work so in order to see if lucidity can effect immunity, we need an immune system parameter that can respond almost instantaneously without priming.

In the early 1970's, researchers noticed another type of immunity that is still controversial.  Whether it can be described micro-anatomically, as an actual cell type or line, or whether it is solely a functional property in a lot of different sub-types of cells in the immune system, thereby a functionally heterogeneous immune phenomenon is an ongoing question.  It's called natural killer (NK) cell activity or function.  The NK cells are white blood cells, or apparently, they can be other cells, that have the ability to recognize foreignness or non-selfness without any type of previous overt immunization or priming for memory as in the above example.  In other words, you don't need apriori exposure to a foreign protein to stimulate this type of activity.  It appears to automatically recognize what is not supposed to be there and then kill it. 

There is a lot of evidence with animals and NK cell activity that structures of the brain modulate this type of activity.  For example, left neo-cortex ablation decreases activity, whereas right neo-cortex ablation does not; sham operation does not.  Also, ablation of various structures of the hypothalamus decrease NK cell activity, actually eliminate it.  The parallels here to lucid dreaming can be made by linking various structures in the brain involved with lucidity to those involved with immune modulation.  We saw evidence earlier that there is some left hemispheric activation in lucidity, and we know that the hypothalamus is important in modulating many autonomic variables, temperature, and sleep, is also activated in lucidity.  Now it appears that these areas of the brain are important in modulating NK cell function as well.

What was needed to begin to explore possibilities of lucidity and healing, was to develop a multidimensional approach that could be used, not just for lucid dreaming, but for other psycho-techniques that may potentiate healing processes.

What we did in addition to brain mapping, monitoring rectal temperature, and multivariable polysomnography, was to draw blood.  An intravenous (IV) catheter was inserted into my arm and every hour throughout the night, starting at 10:00 p.m. and ending at 10:00 a.m., we drew 10 cc's of blood which was put on ice, walked over to the immunology lab where technicians began processing immediately. The white cell population and plasma were saved for analysis.

We looked at NK activity with sleep, and particularly with lucid dreaming.  To the best of my knowledge, there has only been 5 nights run where the NK cell cytotoxicity parameter was evaluated.  These researchers found that NK activity decreases with sleep paralleling cortisol levels.  So we also measured cortisol.  In addition, other hormones fluctuate with brain state, sleep and immunity.  Therefore we measured Growth hormone, known to surge with sleep onset, and endorphins, known to affect immunity.




There are two general conclusive statements to be made about this exploratory work.  The first is a technical one.  It appears that it is entirely feasible using existing technology and the protocol in this pilot effort, perhaps with some variations, to begin integratively investigating lucidity at a psychologic, neurologic, endocrinologic and immunologic level. 

The second statement is a discussion of my impression of the data, refinement of hypothesis and qualification that is highly speculative without statistical analysis or an adequate sample size and controls.

Natural K cell function is expressed as a percent cytotoxicity.  This means a percentage of a clone of leukemic cells killed by a given population of my white cells.  I found great variability in my sample results; from approximately 28% to 58% in one of the 13 hour sampling periods.  This could be due to technical error.

Another interesting observation, consistent with the previous study mentioned, is that NK activity decreased during the night and surprisingly remained suppressed even with periods of wakefulness up to an hour.  It seemed, and this was only on one night, that NK activity increased to waking levels following lucidity, and decreased to sleep levels before returning to awake levels in the morning.  This seems to necessitate a refinement of a simple hypothesis that NK activity will increase with lucidity to one more congruent with the limited information.  I postulate that NK cell activity will decrease with sleep and the implicit inactivity of lying in bed, or with lying in bed without sleeping.  And that NK activity will increase with movement, whether real physical movement, or with the perception of real movement as in lucid dreaming.  What this purely physiologic hypothesis leaves out though, is the subjective experience of what you do in the dream state to effect healing.  On the given night I mentioned above, not only did I move about a lot in the dream environment, but I laid my hand on the dream site corresponding to the actual site of the plastic catheter; my forearm.  In addition, a person I associate as impacting me in a very special teaching and healing way, also placed his hand over mine and affirmed the healing in unison, of the plastic catheter site.  By association, recollection and reflection, it seemed that this particular lucid dream was subjectively different in some subtle way than the 2 or 3 other healing experiments I attempted while participating in this study.

Realistically, although a technical approach has been successfully worked out to investigate lucidity and a component of healing, any improvements, stasis, or detriment reported about lucid dream healing experiments needs to be treated at strictly on an anecdotal level.  Definitive, conclusion though not yet possible, should most certainly be available within the next 8 to 16 years or so, given adequate technical, financial, and psycho-spiritual support.


 (Editors Note: Healing the body within the lucid dream is one of the most exciting potential applications of this dream state. I encourage readers to send any anecdotal evidence they may have as well as their thoughts about this potential of the lucid dreams for possible publication in Lucidity Letter so that others interested in the question can draw on these experiences.)


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 2: Applications of Lucid Dreaming

Panel Discussion: Ethical Issues for Applications of Lucid Dreaming


Joseph Dane – University of Virginia

P. Eric Craig – Center for Existential Studies and Human Services

Morton Schatzman – St. Thomas’ Hospital, London


Dane: I'd like to start out by acknowledging a couple of things. One is thanks to Stephen and Jayne for allowing me to participate in this. I feel a little bit like an interloper. It's been a number of years since my original work, back in 1980, with lucid dream induction on non-lucid dreamers, with hypnosis, personal symbols and waking suggestion. But since that time I've shifted over, to a medical setting using hypnosis with medical conditions. None-the-less, I was originally trained as a psychotherapist and in that context, given that that's still my main identification, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this. I should indicate, by the way, that since I'm out of the lucid dream and dream research areas, there may well be developments or attitudes that are current and of which I am not aware. I have to acknowledge that right away and apologize right in the beginning, just in case. Again, thank you.

The two general areas that seem to me a good place to start are: 1) dream control and, 2) is or is not lucid dreaming "dangerous." What I'd like to do is go ahead and begin with a couple of general observations on those two topics and then hand it back over to Eric. You can follow along on the handout (see appendix to panel discussion) if you'd like. The first observation is a curiosity and the second will be a bit of a clinical caution. First, I'm curious as to whether or not it's really just the popular press that's pushing for the idea of what sounds like total dream control. Now I wonder about this because I have yet to talk directly with anyone who clearly believes that total wholesale control of dreams by waking consciousness is a desirable goal. I'd welcome being corrected on this but I would like to ask now just for a show of hands, and this is with all due respect, is there anyone here who believes that total waking control of dreams is the way to go?...(Discussion clarifies that no one does). Well we'll probably end up in the same place then from what I'm hearing. My concern is in response to seeing in the popular press lots of "dream control". That is what gets touted. As a matter of fact, Stephen, I saw your audio tape entitled "Dream Control." There is a problem with the position of, "total dream control," which seems to suggest that dreams have nothing positive to offer in their uncontrolled state. I'm not sure that's the implication but it would seem to be that to me.

My suspicion is that the seeming differences in opinion about dream control are really based in lack of clarity, or at least specificity, in what we mean by control. Given our presumably mutual enthusiasm for dreams here, I suspect that we really all basically agree that in some cases, yes, conscious control of the dream content is highly desirable, and I've listed some of those on the third page of the handout for possible discussion. At the same time, however, the dream may have a corrective agenda, or a message of its own which needs to be respected, which I think gets back to the point of balance or mutual control.

If we do basically agree on these points, and I again welcome being corrected, then it just may be that the goal of wholesale conscious control of dreams is more a product of media hype than considered clinical opinion. If that's so, I wonder if we don't have an ethical obligation to actively oppose such "misverbage" in the press about the desirability of dream control, or rather, total dream control. I wonder if the ethical imperative isn't to clarify that we're talking more about conscious control in dreams, not necessarily conscious control of dreams. Not to clarify this seems logically inconsistent with our touted respect for dreams. It's also contributes by omission to the very dismissal of dreams that we all claim to oppose.

At the same time, the realities of dealing with editors and Madison Avenue types, may make such clarification difficult, if not impossible. I would be interested to hear of any accounts of that kind of problem in dealing with this literature.

My second general observation is a clinical caution and a concern having to do with lucid dream training. This may be specific to my own experience, so I'd be interested to hear from others on this topic. My own experience is that such training can be psychologically challenging or even disruptive to some individuals who otherwise seem well adjusted. This may be due to the use of hypnosis in my study, and/or the use of personal symbols. In any event, the experience was clearly disruptive for some of the subjects despite my having screened out subjects for psychological vulnerability. I am disturbed to consider the outcome for these individuals if there had not been adequate follow-up of their experience during and shortly after the study.

I am aware that my comments may be dismissed by some as alarmist and even proprietary - the old "Only the experts can deal with dreams" argument. I do not mean that. I simply find that my own experience suggests that it's useful to ask: "Is lucid dream induction ever dangerous?" "Are there psychologically vulnerable individuals in whom lucid dream induction might be disruptive or inadvisable?", "If so, when? to whom? and how does one know ahead of time?" These are types of questions which all workshop leaders probably face with any sort of psychologically oriented material. But they seem especially pertinent with respect to lucid dreaming where rigid boundaries between waking and dream consciousness literally seem to no longer exist. And they are all the more relevant if one adds the component of hypnosis to the induction procedure. I add this simply because hypnosis was a major component of the induction study that I did.

Again, my biases show. I was recently working in the pain clinic with a radicular sympathetic dystrophy patient for alterations in blood flow. During our second hypnosis session, she said "Gee! I know why I'm so good at this (i.e. hypnosis). This is what I used to do when my mother beat me!" With that she spontaneously regressed to age three when she was hiding in the closet from her mother. Over the next two or three weeks that person decompensated as she became increasingly overwhelmed by memories of physical abuse by her mother and sexual abuse by her father. She lived several hundred miles away. Fortunately, there was an excellent in-patient setting in her area with an excellent treatment program for sexual abuse, and this person recovered very nicely. She has gradually been able to separate the spontaneous state dependent recall of the original abuse which was stimulated by the state of hypnosis (I am assuming here that her hypnotic capacity was used as a child to separate herself off from the trauma), and can now use hypnosis for controlling the pain and swelling without eliciting these memories. The point is there was a very significant clinical reaction to that particular state identified as hypnosis.

I'm not sure if "hypnosis" is as much the mediating variable of these types of reactions as it is the person's expectations for what hypnosis can do (e.g., uncover painful memories and make one reveal them). My concern is that I have had several psychologically untrained people writing to me that they would like to use hypnosis, and that they would like to get transcripts of the hypnotic induction that I was using because they would like to use it with high school students. I think there are some cautions to be had here. While most people never experience difficulties with hypnosis, the hypnotic state can, especially with any sort of age regression, elicit highly unexpected but clinically significant reactions. Those using hypnosis should be equipped to respond appropriately and the hypnosis should be done in a context that provides genuine opportunity and expectation for redress and follow-up in the event of any untoward reaction. I thought I wouldn't have time to go into examples but there are others that we could talk about.

For now I would like to shift gears and simply establish some background for our later discussions. It seems useful to remember that ethics, in general, implies a host of variables, all of which may be different for different individuals. Ethical decisions imply consideration of value systems, goals, ends, means, purposes, intent, context, et cetera. In addition ethics involves, typically, a continuum from absolutism to relativism -- difference between asking, "Is it good or bad?" versus, "When is it good or bad?" In short, ethics reflects one's basic philosophical stance and perspective on a host of issues.

With respect to the ethics of dream control, however, the fundamental issue would appear to involve one's beliefs and attitudes about the so called unconscious. More specifically, does the unconscious exist, and if so, what is it's relationship to the conscious ego? If one accepts that the unconscious ego exists, then the next question becomes, "To what degree do I accept the somewhat anthropomorphic formula: waking consciousness = ego consciousness, dream consciousness = the unconscious? In short, the ethics of dream control can depend heavily on ones view of the relation between waking and dream consciousness, and this in turn, on ones view on the so called unconscious.

My own bias is that something like the unconscious does exist, although I'm more likely to call it the unaware rather that the "unconscious" dimension. My further bias is that the ethics of attempting control of dreams are the same as those of attempting to "control" the unconscious in waking life.

            Those who believe the unconscious is basically Freud’s seething snake pit of repressed id might well favor total conscious control. However, others, including myself, believe the unconscious has both positive and negative aspects. It is both a pit of snakes and a source of creative inspiration and vision. From this perspective the goal is to foster the positive and minimize the negative. The question then becomes, what are the ethics of control in this process of fostering the positive and minimizing the negatives.

Further, I wonder if by "control", don't we really mean "influence", "guide", "teach", "encourage", and even "cooperate"? For example, when we look at the history of mankind, conscious control of the unconscious seems laughably impossible, yet we attempt it every day when we "work" on ourselves and our "bad habits." We say, "I must not let myself do that," as if some part of us could control, prevent or gain permission for certain behavior. To me the ethics of dream control is precisely the ethics of interaction between these so called parts of the individual.

Another major form of attempting to control the unconscious in daily life is called psychotherapy. It's precisely here, I believe, that we have a ready made model for ethics concerning dream control. That is the ethics of doing dream control are the same as the ethics for doing psychotherapy. Of course that raises all of the old questions about who knows best, the therapist or the client, about respect for the client versus therapeutic manipulation, and about overt control versus influence and cooperation. All these questions come back to haunt us in the context of ethical lucid dream induction.

I would further like to suggest that lucid dreaming itself can be seen as intra-personal psychotherapy, where waking and dream consciousness constantly shift back and forth between the roles of client and therapist. I would like to suggest that the question, "Which knows best, waking consciousness or dream consciousness," is more like a zen Koan than a valid question, because the answer is, "both". The solution to conflict between waking and dream consciousness is resolution and integration, not, "I win, you lose." So when we talk about the ethics of dream control and lucid dreaming, I believe that we are talking about the ethics of enhancing cooperation between waking and dream consciousness, not about the imposition of one will upon the other. We are talking about the ethics of Yoga, if you will, in the sense of beneficially yoking waking and dream consciousness in the service of a common goal. That goal is wholeness.

As a way to expand and flesh out the notions that I've been talking about, I would like to suggest that the process of individuation, as described by Jungian psychologists, is perhaps the best model available of what healthy ethical lucid dreaming really is. In discussions between waking and dream ego, James Hall, whom you probably know as a union proponent, states, "The waking ego is like a gate keeper which can permit or deny entrance into the boundaries which he guards, but who is helpless to command the appearance or disappearance of a particular entrant (content), however much he might desire it." To my understanding of it, this is quite analogous to the type of limits during lucid dreaming on, "control" of dream consciousness by waking consciousness.

Consider, for example, the following account of an attempt to use dream lucidity for complete control over the dream.


Now I realize that I can control the dream sequence. I decide I want the rain to stop. It doesn't. I wonder to myself why it's so important that it keep on raining, and what the rain could represent. I come to a platform where there are some people standing around. I go from one to another asking them, “what time does the next train leave?” But they all ignore me. It's as if I'm not even there. I begin to feel angry and frustrated but I stopped myself and think, the next one I speak to won't be like this.


Well the next character with whom the dreamer speaks not only answers her question but also provokes her to further self analysis about the true source of her frustration and anger by responding, "Well, that depends on where you want to go." And with that the dream ends. It's as if the dream has permitted some sort of alteration or control but simultaneously maintained its own control over the presumed agenda of increasing the dreamers self awareness.


With respect to the process of individuation itself, Hall notes,


Individuation might be described in terms of the complex theory, Jungian complexes, that is - as the gradual reshaping of the ego under the pressure of the self so that it becomes more inclusive, and more comprehensive. In such an individuation process the contents of the ego continually shift, gradually incorporating certain non-ego complexes, such as the shadow. The reworking of the specific contents on which the ego tacitly relies constitutes the point at which the unfolding of the self through the time bound ego, generates the observable individuation process. The point at which this process can be most clearly observed is in," Hall says, "dreams." I would suggest lucid dreams would be an even clearer example, which may be thought of, to again quote Hall, as the, “metabolism of the ego”.


As an example of such a metabolic processes within the lucid dream state I'd like to consider, Stephen, your very fine example that appeared in the original in Psychology Today in 1980.


I am in the middle of a riot in the classroom. Everyone is running around in some sort of struggle. Most of them are Third World types and one of them has a hold on me - he is huge with a pockmarked face. I realize that I am dreaming and stop struggling. I look him in the eyes and, while holding his hands, speak to him in a loving way, trusting my intuition to supply the beautiful words of acceptance that flow out of me. The riot has vanished, the dream fades and I awaken feeling wonderfully calm.


Here the nightmare has been controlled by confrontation, resulting in spontaneous resolution. It seems plausible that the reported waking sense of calm was a direct result, or at least reflection, of the dreamer's internal reconciliation with presumably formerly unacceptable tendencies toward hostility and aggression. Consistent with Jungian concepts about resolution through juxtaposition of seemingly irreconcilable opposites, the dreamer's lucidity has enabled him to, "metabolize" or transform the dream from one more instance of unconscious projection into a genuine integration of basic impulses.

The unique contribution which dream lucidity adds to this metabolism of the psyche is the degree to which it can facilitate and enhance this process through active conscious cooperation and participation of the waking ego. The basis for this enhanced facilitation is precisely the ability to consciously influence lucid dream content while not being able to control it completely. This atmosphere of enforced autonomy and mutual respect permits an enhanced level of therapeutic encounter between waking and dream consciousness enabling them to achieve a new level of cooperation and integrative negotiation. The ethics of such negotiation, I would contend, are the ethics of dream control.

Just to sum up my argument in simpler words, I think the most desirable and most ethical type of dream control is enhanced control over the dreamer's response within the dream, and not over the dreamer's response to the dreamer. I would like to add one other question that we might want to address here, and that is, if we except the idea that dreams have an agenda, that they're corrective or whatever, to what degree does the health of the dream's agenda depend on the waking psychological health of the dreamer? In other words, to what degree can we trust the dream to guide us and direct us? And does psychopathology, as classically defined, suggest that some individuals have something so askew that even their self corrective processes are out of line and that, in fact, to induce lucid dreams in those folks would be likely to result in self-defeating phenomena? What are the implications of this anthropomorphic view of the dream's agenda, and of its own source of self-censure, self-correction? Thank you. Eric?


Craig: I also want to thank Jayne Gackenbach for inviting me to participate in this symposium. She presented the idea as a possibility for a friendly and evocative chat and that is the spirit in which I would like to follow Dr. Dane's thoughtful opening, mainly in the manner of raising some questions for those who are involved in the study and application of lucid dreaming. I hope those of you in the audience will also raise your own ethical concerns here today since you are the people who are most deeply involved with lucid dreams.

It probably should be noted that my own involvement with lucid dreams primarily grows out of some modest but worthwhile personal experience as a lucid dreamer as well as from teaching forty undergraduates each semester in a course on the psychology of dreams in which students attempt at least one lucid dream experiment. This is relatively limited exposure to lucid dreams compared with the experience of many of you in this room. Nevertheless, as a somewhat well informed "outsider" and as a philosophically concerned psychologist in private practice, I would like to touch briefly on two of Dr. Dane's interests before going on to some concerns of my own.

To begin with, Joe Dane raised the question of whether lucid dream induction is ever dangerous. I suppose we should first ask what he means by dangerous but, assuming a rough appreciation of his meaning, I can say that at this early stage of our study I have not yet seen nor heard of any instance in which the induction of lucid dreams has been blatantly harmful to an individual. Although it must be said that we haven't even begun to get the kind of evidence we would need to make an informed and reliable judgement in this regard. Of particular interest would be some good feedback on the outcomes of unsupervised experimentation with lucid dream induction by members of the public who have read or heard about this work and decided to try it out on their own. (Editors Note: See Letters to the Editor for such examples.) Although I have heard some anecdotal evidence of significant anxiety during lucid dreams it is not clear how or even if this anxiety is different from that of an ordinary or non-lucid nightmare.

At this point, we still need much more information as well as, of course, a way to reach or at least make ourselves available to people who read our literature unbeknown to us. So the jury is still out and, in fact, hasn't even heard the case with reference to any potentially serious consequences which may grow out of experimentation with lucid dream induction, particularly when this experimentation is conducted without professional supervision or support. Although there is no immediately apparent reason for alarm, it would not hurt at all to proceed cautiously and with our eyes wide open.

Taking up another aspect of Dr. Dane's question, however, it seems much more difficult to know if lucid dream induction is at all "disruptive" or at times "inadvisable", for this touches the conundrums of the nature of the "greatest good". In this case, is the "greatest good" best served by permitting a person's dream life to occur with the least possible interference from waking or is the "greatest good" most likely to be realized through some waking-life influence? Naturally, in any single instance of an individual's life we can never know the answer to this question because only one course may be taken. An individual gets only one opportunity to sleep through any given night of his or her life and must finally accept this one night's "yield" - whether that be from unmodified, precipitant dreaming or from induced lucid dreaming - without ever knowing whether the other course, the path not taken, would have improved or diminished its value.

However, from my point of view as a clinician I can clearly see at least one potential danger with lucid dream induction for patients in psychotherapy or for persons concerned with profound personal growth and it is this: that the induction of lucid dreams may serve the resistance to self awareness and personal growth. Self knowledge and personal changes are necessarily at times quite unpalatable and/or precarious projects. In such unpleasant times, our creativity for devising means to avoid our "own-most" truths and possibilities is quite remarkable and the induction of lucid dreaming is an ideal device for such avoidance since it appears on the surface to be such a so-called "healthy" or "self-actualizing" activity. There are at least two ways in which this kind of "cloaked resistance" may occur.

First, the induction of lucid dreaming, being the intrinsically appealing project that it is, may come to have a priority over the "larger project" of self knowledge. In other words, there is a danger, when there is cause for resistance to awareness, that the lucidity of one's dreams may become the focus of attention in order that the meaningfulness of one's dreams may be avoided. So, ironically enough, one can work at becoming more lucid at the expense of becoming more aware. Even though this may be the exception rather than the rule it seems to me to be a danger worth noting.

A second way the induction of lucid dreaming may serve the resistance to authentic self knowledge and personal change is in its potential for creating an illusion of health and well-being. I have observed individuals for whom, during certain periods of time, lucid dreams become a kind of fetish, "psychic objects" for self gratification or even self- congratulation, much in the same way that "peak experience" became a fetish for human potential revelers of the sixties and seventies. Certainly lucid dreaming is an important breakthrough to a different quality of awareness while dreaming. And certainly this kind of dreaming awareness has a value in and for itself, as did the "peak experience" of the previous decades. However, it may be costly - clinically, therapeutically, developmentally - if, when there is a tendency to resistance, this admittedly remarkable human capacity is understood only as a special psychic achievement and not also considered in terms of its equally significant potential as a narcissistic flight from one's fuller, though perhaps less appealing possibilities. I personally become especially wary when I hear dreamers speak repeatedly in a language or tone that implies that a lucid dream is some kind of "Medal of Health and Self- Actualization". I would hate to see this kind of enthusiasm, however well intended, result in a new Hollywood production of "Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice" about the "Esalen of Lucid Dreams". Nevertheless, and more to the point, as a clinician I can easily imagine instances where individuals may use their skill and accomplishments in lucid dreaming as evidence of their arrival in the house of psychological well-being and as justification for not returning to those precarious and uncertain paths in the wilderness of self knowledge where ultimately we must all humbly wonder if we are to achieve any substantial acquaintance with our own unique being-in-the- world.

A second and related problem which Dr. Dane raised has to do with the potentially implicit value judgement in lucid dream induction. This has to do with the question of whether any one capacity or way of being while dreaming (or for that matter while awake) is or should be deemed preferable to others. Does or should any one kind of awareness have a moral or psychological priority over any other? In this case, is or should lucid dreaming be considered a "better", "higher", "more important" way to dream or to be than any other? I'm very clear about my own answer to this and that is, I hope not! Human existence is an extraordinarily rich phenomenon and I would never want to grant any one of its capacities priority over any other. In fact, human history (in all of the meanings of this term: social, political, personal, etc.) seems bent on revealing and, fortunately, to some extent correcting the distortions, imbalances and ill-effects of such one-sided and reductionistic thinking. Lucid dreaming may be enchanting and exciting as well as scientifically significant but I doubt it is the gateway to enlightenment that some practitioners and, unfortunately, the press have occasionally made it out to be. I suppose one could suggest that we should beware of lucidity's siren's song, not so much because of any inherent potential to destroy but rather because of her ability to intoxicate and keep an individual indefinitely moored off her enticing shore when there are many other equally important shores to discover and understand. Still, if we ultimately believe in human growth and in the human tendency toward wholeness I don't think we have too much to worry about. And a bit of dallying, even to excess, on an especially beautiful and informative isle is far from the worst one can do on an odyssey, regardless of whether one's quest is therapeutic, scientific or strictly personal.

There is another aspect of this second concern of Dr. Dane's, however, that merits further consideration and that is the use of lucid dream induction and lucid dreaming to control one's experience. He pointed out, too, the two kinds of control involved: control over one's dreams (lucid dream induction) and control in one's dreams (carried out in the "throes" of lucid dreaming). Even though I agree with him that complete control over or in one's dreams is not possible (nor will it ever be!), we still have the question of whether or not some control is desirable or preferable. We have always had some control over and in our waking existence (actually, both more and less control than we tend to think we have!) but what the scientific study of lucid dreaming is showing us is how much more control we have over and in our dreaming than we had previously believed. So we have both of these human capacities: to permit what is and to influence what is' to accept reality and to change it; to witness life and to participate in it. These two kinds of capacities exist in both waking and dreaming. The question is, is one more valuable or desirable than the other? Again, on the same grounds as stated above, that is, out of regard for the wholeness of human existence, my own answer is, I hope not!

But this now brings me to some thoughts about the existential significance of the practice and study of lucid dreaming and about some of the ethical questions which this perspective might raise. I will be drawing here on some of the views of the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, especially with reference to the question of technology for, in essence, the study and application of lucid dreaming has become a technology. I would like, therefore, to inquire into the essential meaning of technology and to see how this inquiry may eliminate some ethical concerns in the study, application and practice of lucid dreaming.

Of all of the human modes of being-in-the-world, being technical is only one. And yet in our time this mode of being is a very important one. In the study and application of dreams and dreaming we now have a number of technologies (physiological, biological, neurological, psychological, educational, clinical, etc.) and the effort to understand and make use of lucid dreaming is only one of the areas in which these technologies have been brought together to enhance human knowledge and development. But all technologies have one basic characteristic in common: that they are, in essence, a way of revealing. Thus the technology of lucid dreaming is a way of revealing something of the nature of this phenomenon of realizing that one is dreaming while one is dreaming.

But now we have to ask "What kind of revealing is technological revealing?" and immediately we see that technology is essentially a "kind of revealing which is an ordering" (Heidegger, 1977, p. 17). Technology gives us a sense of ordering, controlling (predicting), and objectifying. And, incidentally, I say "a sense of" here because I don't think there is any such thing as absolute order, control or objectivity, for as Percy Bridgeman was fond of pointing out, ultimately science and technology are as subjective and "private as my toothache". Nevertheless, in technology we take up a way of revealing that is ordering. And in the study of lucid dreaming what does this ordering involve?

The first thing it involves is a kind of distancing. For example, upon becoming lucid in a dream, we "step back" and recognize that what we are doing is dreaming. On the one hand, this kind of distance frees us for many possibilities. For example, we can reconsider our world from the point of view that it will soon "collapse" and that we will likely wake up quietly resting in our own beds or we can reengage this immediate dream world knowing we can do whatever we please. However, on the other hand, we also lose a degree of freedom for as long as we are lucid we may no longer be completely absorbed by or unselfconsciously abandoned within this world of precipitant experience. Likewise, as scientists studying or applying lucid dreaming our technological distance frees us to consider the phenomenon in new ways, to manipulate certain variables and to observe our results. And likewise, as technologists we lose a certain freedom to know this thing directly, to be spoken to, to be the one spoken to, to be at one with that which speaks. Hopefully, our awareness of both the gains and costs in freedom which are ours as dream technologists will alert us to the importance of continually acknowledging the unique values as well as limitations of this distantiated manner of revealing what is.

A second aspect of technology as a way of revealing is, for lack of a better term map making. What is observed is described, categorized, conceptualized, measured, and assessed. In other words, approaching the lucid dream in a technological manner we become cartologists. Certainly you have seen more than a few examples of such "maps and charts" in this very room this week. Again, there is a certain kind of freedom that is gained when we have such measured, mathematical maps of a phenomenon. They, our "maps", reveal a kind of order of which we could never otherwise be aware. But also, again, there is a certain loss of freedom since staring at a map, a detailed topographical map of the Grand Canyon for instance, is quite different from standing "there", immediately, one dark cold morning and witnessing that first stunning display of sunlight and shadow as the canyon appears red and golden before one's very eyes. Likewise, all of our measuring, categorizing, conceptualizing and hypothesizing as technicians of the lucid dream "state", as valuable and important as these are, do not give us that wealth of once-in-a-lifetime meaning which can only be revealed by listening in complete surrender to the living world of the dream itself. The so-called "danger" here is, of course, that we unwittingly replace our immediate engagement of the phenomenon itself with an increasingly lifeless and repetitious review of our maps of the phenomenon much in the same way that we no longer see what surrounds us on our drive to work but rather follow the various signs and markers that direct our commuter's itinerary from home to work and back home again.

We have already discussed the third aspect of the technological, ordering way of revealing lucid dreaming: the aspect of control. I would like to return to this briefly again. Actually, dream control is not a very recent discovery. Going back to the nineteenth century, we find Maury's experiments with influencing dream content, for example, which show that we have known for some time that we have a degree of control in relation to our dreams. Today, such technical advances as, for instance, Delaney's phrase focusing technique of dream incubation, LaBerge's MILD technique and the whole remarkable wave of recent research on lucidity have shown us that we have a much greater degree of control, both over and in the dream, than we had previously imagined. Once more we see how this capacity for control, for ordering, for being able to predict, to say in advance what will appear or happen in our dream, gives us an enormous amount of freedom for revealing, for fulfilling the essence of technology as a way of revealing which is ordering. On the other hand, this very freedom, denies us the opportunity to realize another freedom, that is, the freedom to "let be", to observe and understand what is, with the least degree of interference possible. Certainly there is something to be said on behalf of both ways of revealing. But my concern today is with the fact that in the pursuit of technological control we can easily fall into making the assumption that progress is more important than preservation, productivity more important than protection, and pre-diction more important than the thoughtful understanding of immediate human presence. We must not forget that control is only one way of caring for things whether those "things" are dreams, children, friends, or forests and that letting go of control is an equally important form of attention and concern. The danger here is that we fall into the trap of thinking that control is our most important manner of soliciting knowledge and of caring for things and that our dreams therefore become objects for he same kind of disregard we have witnessed with some of our national forests. Indeed dreaming is one of the few remaining "natural wilderness areas" of human behavior. The question is how we might best acquire and use the knowledge of this human territory in a way that respects and conserves its essential structure and nature.

Now you may be asking what all of this has to do with ethics in the study, application and practice of lucid dreaming. The answer is that these reflections, growing out of Heidegger's phenomenological understanding of technology, are grounded in a philosophical and ethical concern, first, for being faithful to and respectful of what is in each instance of this human behavior which we call lucid dreaming and, second, for being faithful to and respectful of the wholeness of human existence with the hope of honoring and preserving all of our uniquely human ways of revealing, including and especially our primordially receptive and permissive manner of seeing and understanding directly that which reveals itself to us in immediate experience.

I hope, however, that this is not understood, in any way, as a kind of judgement or condemnation since I also concur with Heidegger in his understanding that "What is dangerous is not technology" (p. 28) for technology is, in itself, nothing but a way of revealing. In fact, today, technology is a way of revealing upon which our very survival as a species and as a "planet" depends. And certainly in the realm of dreams we owe much to technology. Consider, for example, how much has been revealed and understood simply on the basis of what may be considered our two major technological breakthroughs: first Freud's discovery of free association as a scientific method for revealing the context of meanings which come as yet unrevealed with every dream and Aserinsky's discovery of REM periods which provided a previously unimaginable power for revealing the very appearance of the dreams themselves. Perhaps some day the more recent "discovery" of lucid dreaming will come to be seen as a technological development of the same magnitude. I don't know.  Only time will tell.

So if technology is not dangerous in itself then what is the danger in technology in general and in the specific technology of dreaming and lucid dreaming? In summary, it is simply the danger that human beings, with lucid dream researchers among them, could take up technology, this special manner of "revealing that is ordering", in such a way that, as Heidegger (1977) put it, it "threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth" (p. 28). In drawing our attention to this particular threat, however, Heidegger also reminds us of an essential paradox with which we must steadily contend. He recalls the words of the German poet Holderlin (ibid.):


But where danger is, grows

The saving power also.


Thus Heidegger's understanding of technology may help us to appreciate the wealth of revelations which have been made in the manner which he calls "a more original revealing... of a more primal truth", and which owe their very appearance in the first place to our technological way of revealing which is ordering. Freud's discovery and use of free association and Aserinsky's discovery and investigation of REM sleep are two obvious and prominent examples of technological advances that have made other more "original revelations" of "primal truths" possible. And so these are two ways of revealing that are called for in the acquisition of human understanding, one being "technological" and "ordering" in nature and the other being "original" and "meaning-full". The danger and, in my mind, the unethical possibility is that either of these ways of revealing would be denied to us in the myopic pursuit of the other. I will close with a poem by Walt Whitman (1980) which touches on both manners of revealing and puts them in their existential perspectives:


When I heard the learn'd astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much

applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Looked up in perfect silence at the stars.


Schatzman: Upon hearing the title of our panel discussion I felt puzzled. "What ethical issues," I pondered, "are involved in lucid dreaming." Alan Worsley, who is the lucid dreaming subject with whom I've had all my research experience, has told me of certain ethical problems he has faced in lucid dreams. He'll find in a lucid dream, for instance, that he has a desire to urinate and is by a river. Should he pee into the stream? "Well," he reasons, "someone downstream might drink from the stream or wash their clothes in it. It wouldn't be fair to them. On the other hand," he reasons, "as it's a dream the urine is dream urine and no one will really drink it. But," he reasons further, "if he is worried about such a matter, maybe he isn't dreaming at all, but is awake." Another sort of ethical issue he faces is whether to make love with young girls, girls under the legal age, in lucid dreams, that is. In one case he was with a girl, unbuttoning her blouse. He had decided that as it was only a dream, it was all right. In this case, the trouble was that she was resisting. He thought, "Oh, that's typical. They always say no when they mean yes." But she continued to resist. He finally said, "Look, it's only a dream, and I'm going to wake up soon. So if we're going to get anywhere, we'd better get on with it." So these are some of the sorts of ethical issues involved.

In a lucid dream an attractive patient says to me, "Oh, come on. Let's make love on your office floor. No one will know. It's only a dream." I've never actually had such a dream. I'm just wondering if that's what's meant by ethical issues. Or, in a lucid dream, can one ask a wealthy patient to donate venture capital for ones favorite research project. We've heard in various other presentations that so called archaic tribes believe that a deed in a dream must be atoned for as if it were real. Is that what's being referred to?

It wasn't until a few days ago that Jayne Gackenbach explained to me what she meant by ethical issues and as I then understood it, it had to do with whether or not it was dangerous in a spiritual sense, possibly, to encourage people or patients to have lucid dreams, who might not be ready to have them. In a sense, the question was, can a lucid dream precipitate psychopathology in a vulnerable individual? At least that is another version of the question. My own experiences in this matter are limited to the experiences of one practitioner, myself, of psychotherapy in private practice seeing no more than about ten people at any one time, that is in any one week or month. The people I see vary widely in diagnostic classification. Some have no psychopathology at all and are simply in therapy because they are training to be therapists. Others are neurotic. Some suffer from personality disorders and some are psychotic. Among these people, some recall no dreams and some have never had a lucid dream. And of course, most of dreams reported to me aren't lucid. I can say that no one has reported to me a lucid dream that they regretted or which I regretted their having dreamed. As a result, the question about ethics had never occurred to me before I was asked to appear on this panel. If the question is should we avoid telling a certain group of people or suggesting to a certain group of people to have lucid dreams, my guess, and it's only a guess, is that those people who would suffer as a result of having lucid dreams might not have them in the first place or might wake up before they preceded very far with them.


Dane: Stephen, you had some comments. Do you want to make them now?


LaBerge: Sure. I guess now is as good a time as any. Thank you all for your intriguing comments. In many ways, I share your concerns. I want to say, first of all, how close I am to the view that Joe presented. Since the topic has come up, I would like to point out that although I have a tape entitled "Controlling Your Dreams," if you actually listen to the tape you will hear the advice "control yourself, not your dreams." Further, I make the same point in my book, which is that I am not advocating manipulative control of dreaming; I'm not advocating forcing dreams to follow the whims of the ego.

I'm advocating a more sensitive responsiveness to what's going on and how to deal with it. So, for example, suppose in a dream you are running away from something. That's the point where consciousness can say, "Wait a minute. Let's not run. Let's see what I'm doing. What am I running from?" So it's not a global control in which you try to control everything in the dream like was implied by the dream Joe quoted. There may be just one moment where conscious control is important, for example, as when I stopped struggling with my ogre and stopped trying to get away and remembered what I was trying to do. What I remembered then was that I was trying to accept--not reject--this shadow figure. The rest of the dream was intuitive, it flowed unconsciously. It's a question of balance.

Having expressed my personal view of the control issue, I think it might be helpful to take a devil's advocate position, since nobody else seemed to do this, about total control. Let me give you an example of how our concern with dream control might sound to some ears. Let's consider total control of waking thought. I want to know if anybody thinks that this is the way things should be done. We all have had the experience of trying to think about some particular topic when an intrusion occurs. Some other thought pops into our heads. Is it wicked to suppress that other thought and go on with what you were trying to think? I should say not. What I would say is that the question ought to be, should we be able to have total control over our dreams in the sense that we could dream anything we wanted. Now I think that there is nothing wrong with that. The problem comes up, if we had that power, would we use it to suppress dreams about things that we would otherwise have to deal with? The approach that I took to this problem was to make an agreement with myself in the very beginning. Whenever I became lucid there are two questions I agreed to ask myself: 1) is there anything I'm running away from? if so, face it; 2) is there any conflict going on? if so, resolve it. Beyond that I was free to do anything I wanted, but I wouldn't use my lucid dreams to avoid those kinds of issues. I think that is the kind of policy we each have to work out for ourselves. What am I going to do with my lucid dreams? The lucid dream state itself doesn't necessarily help your waking consciousness. It depends on what you're doing with it, whether or not you're learning lessons there. It isn't the experience that is important, but what you make of it, as the proverb puts it, "Two reeds drink from the same stream, one is hollow, the other sugar cane."


Ted Rockwell: These questions are part of a bigger question of what in research or science or technology should be kept safe. I think in America right now we're seeing a mood that we must never do anything that's unsafe. So we keep insisting that the FDA prove that a new drug is safe before they release it and meanwhile people continue to die from the non-use of the drug. In any new thing I think we have to balance the alternatives. To imply that we might be better off by not understanding more about how our mind works, I think is dangerous and fallacious thinking. I think that we always have to try to understand more and to look at the alternatives of ignorance because you don't have the option of no danger or no action. Anything that you do or don't do has to be balanced against the alternatives.


Question: I think what you were saying, Steve, suggests that if there is power in lucid dreaming that you can learn from it. But I think that there is also power to make mistakes. I think that that may be a question that people haven't considered.


LaBerge: It might or it might not. We don't know how serious a problem this is. We haven't seen a case where someone has persistently done that sort of thing, other than the case quoted in my book of Ram Narayana who got into a very inflated position of thinking that he was the God of the dream world and had all of his creatures bowing down, until he got his comuppence from a dream Yogi who said he was in the same boat with the rest of them. I think that for those who do that sort of thing, the dream characters react to the more inflated ego.

For example, if this were a dream and I, as the dream ego, were to say to you, "You're all just figments of my imagination," I would be wrong because I'm a part of the dream just as much as any of you are. How do you think you would all respond to that? Not well! So you find that it doesn't work in the dream either.

This is the importance, I think, of giving people plenty of information on the topic. You've got to be able to tell people about what to do and also what not to do. So you just shouldn't say, "Here is a lucid dream machine. Have fun with it." We don't intend to do that either.


Dane: Well that's my concern, not with your's, but the popular press's use of, or way of conveying this material. And again, I doubt we are going to cause any world wars doing this but it does smack of something and conveys an attitude towards dreams that I think is totally opposite of what we would intend, particularly those of us who would attend a conference like this.


Question: I would like to ask something of the panelists and Stephen and the audience. Has anyone or does anyone actually know of a case of someone who has been harmed as a result of a lucid dream?


Brylowski: It was actually a reverse situation. When I was working at the Harris County Psychiatric Hospital a young gentleman about thirty years old was committed. Upon extensive interviewing I recognized that he was different than the rest of the patients. I didn't think he was schizophrenic. What had happened was that he had been telling some people about his out-of-body experience, a misinterpreted lucid dream, and his family had him committed. So it was a reverse effect. The therapist and the psychiatrist had been indoctrinated into the belief that anybody who had out-of-body experiences is a provisional schizophrenic and needs to be committed and put on anti-psychotic medications. He was harmed by the falsehoods.


Dane: Let me give a quick answer. This was an experimental situation and there were varying degrees of this sort of thing. A female who had never had a lucid dream before, very eager to have one, and who also associated lucid dreams with out-of-body experiences, got into the laboratory and had what seems to me, not having had an out-of-body myself, a classical pro-dronal kind of experience. Buzzing, the bed began tilting up and down, spinning, et cetera. resulted in her becoming very disoriented and panicky each time she tried to drop off to sleep, and, as confirmed by the polygraph, she would reawaken. It became very disturbing for her. I ended up turning off the polygraph to confirm that anything that she was doing was for herself. There was no demand characteristic within the situation (i.e., no demand to produce evidence of a lucid dream via eye signals through the polygraph). This ended up with her having two very brilliant lucid dreams, neither of which were records on the polygraph but which were a very nice demonstration of a resolution of the initial competitive edge that she came in with. The conflict went back to conflict with a brother, and the dream content confirmed that. That's a mild version of psychological disruption caused by lucid dream induction.

A heavier version was a woman who, when she came into the study, reported a seemingly long resolved psychiatric history. In the process of the study, she began responding to lucid dream induction, but this was very disruptive to her because it was also associated with out-of-body states, which she had never before experienced, and it wakened earlier memories of what she experienced as a psychokinesiology, telepathy and telekinesis.


LaBerge: Joe, are you saying that she had a lucid dream that caused this as opposed to your trance induction . . . .


Dane: No. I'm not at all clear what the precipitant was. I am only clear that there was a correlation between the occurrence of the lucid dreaming, the experimental situation, the demand characteristics, and this subject's own personal and intrapersonal situation. I was throwing this out simply because there were several such instances. In one instance with another woman, it took me about two and a half hours to get her calmed back down after her initial experience of becoming lucid. As you know, I had done some psychological screening. I don't know if it was the setting or what. There were a number of variables that might help account for what happened, but it seemed an intriguing question to ask if others had seen the same sort of thing.


Comment: I don't know if this is going to come out coherent or not but I think when we're talking about warnings and caution in teaching people about lucid dreaming, we have to be very careful not to bring in trappings that may come from our particular belief system about dreams and lucid dreams. I think it has to do with whether or not we believe, for example, that dreams are fictional experiences or whether or not they are nonfictional experiences. We warn people about what may or may not be an appropriate behavior. We caution them not to use this to ignore messages from the subconscious that might have something important or integrative to bring to us. To me that still presumes that this is a kind of fiction or symbolic making experience. When Stephen encounters a monster in a lucid dream and flies away from it, is he ignoring something that he had better confront? I think that tends to come from a certain interpretation of what dreams are for. On the other hand, if I don't necessarily presume that lucid dreams are fictional experiences, if I encounter a monster right here in this waking hard physical reality I will avoid it. If I encounter a monster in my lucid dream and I avoid it, am I avoiding some important message or am I avoiding a monster? If I see a purple person in my lucid dream it could just be a purple person. It may not be an internally generated or symbolic phenomenon.


LaBerge: Can I respond to that? Yes, I think that is a very good point because people who view lucid dreams as astral projection, for example, have great difficulty with those "unpleasant" characters. For example, after van Eeden's beatific lucid dreams in which he floated in heaven, feeling as holy as can be, he would be plagued by demon dreams in which classical devils with horns and pitchforks would follow him around mocking his holiness. He would always try to get rid of them because he considered them beings of a low moral order. You see, if the attitude is that these things are objectively existent and that you don't have anything to do with them and then you always have problems. So it's a matter of, I think, experimenting. Find out what happens when you do make friends with one of those monsters. Then if it transforms I think you'll learn that it's better to treat them as if they are a part of yourself and subjective and symbolic than objectively existing characters that you don't want to deal with.


Craig: I think in line with that last question, an important point was made that not only is escaping or confronting figures in lucid dreaming a method of dealing with the unconscious, I think that it also establishes behavior patterns that might be carried through in waking life. For example, when an athlete visualizes a race before actually going out and running the race to improve performance. In so far as we can exercise consciousness in lucid dreaming any of our habits or our behaviors may shape future behaviors, right now or in lucid dreaming. There is an ethical question along those lines. If we permit ourselves all kinds of freedom and excess as a conscious behavior in lucid dreaming that may carry over, just as any other behaviors do.


Schatzman: Well, I'd like to know if anybody has some data about that. You would probably know more than any of us about this. I mean do experiences that people have in lucid dreams affect their behavior in waking life? (Editors Note: Paul Tholey, of West Germany, has extensive data on this question. His psychotherapy program with lucid dreams is summarized in a chapter in the forthcoming [June, 1988] book edited by Gackenbach and LaBerge, Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming.)


Dane: I have some "soft" data on that from one subject. This is a thirty-five-year-old woman who had a lifelong history of nightmares involving male figures pursuing her. To make a long story short, this is a subject in a one night study who had never had a lucid dream before. The techniques used to induce lucid dreaming worked for her. She developed the skill at home and over a period of several lucid dreams did encounter that nightmare figure but became more and more playfully confrontive. At first she merely scared the intrusive figure away. Then she gradually began to materialize popcorn balls to shoot at it, put on a crash helmet when they shot at her, et cetera. What she reported in waking life was no great bells and whistles and revelations other than a gradually increasing sort of playfulness, in her experience anyway, towards what she had earlier perceived as great trauma and victimization in her life. Whether or not that is a cause and affect, I don't know, especially since she was in ongoing psychotherapy at the time. However, she had not been able to control her nightmares in several years of therapy prior to learning lucid dreaming, and still has no trouble with nightmares four years later. It's an interesting correlation.


LaBerge: Well, I think there can be a process of generalization. It's observational learning. In one sphere (the dream) you find out how to deal with a situation, let's say, for example, facing your fears and dealing with them in some way. You find out you get very positively reinforced for doing that in the dream when you manage to overcome your fear and make friends with the monster and you feel wonderful afterwards. You are going to tend to think that in other spheres (say, waking life) it might make sense to deal with your fears instead of avoid them.

I'd like to raise one final point about this whole question of should we be controlling our dreams, as if in any dream, lucid or not, the ego is not always controlling to a certain extent what is happening, namely the interpretations of it. Because we don't interpret perceptions without some kind of script or ideal of what's going on. The unconscious mind may present some elements, but how the conscious part of the mind takes it is going to determine what happens next. For instance, say there is a shadowy figure. What is my ego attitude about shadowy figures? "That's interesting," or, "Shadowy figure! I'd better get out of here?" You see, that's going to make a new dream. When I decide I better get out of there the next thing that happens is that that shadowy figure, of course, will follow me. In the dream account that you gave, Joe, about the person who went around asking people all this stuff, getting no answer until thinking "The next person that I talk to is going to answer." That expectation now caused a change in the dream. Expectations of the dream ego are always playing a role. There is always an interplay between the conscious and the unconscious minds. I think it's wise for us to educate the dream ego to the point that it makes the best kind of responses for the overall benefit of the conscious and the unconscious mind, the whole psyche. That is where I see a potential for lucid dreaming if it's used wisely. Obviously it's something that can give you problems if you don't know what you're doing with it and so obviously more education is what we need. We're running out of time here, actually, so perhaps if any of the panel have any last words on this...


Dane: The only thing that I wanted to say is I thought it was really important, the difference between what's going on and what's getting reported to the press. I think that's something that really needs to be considered quite seriously.


LaBerge: You mean reported "by" the press? Of course, the press over-simplifies everything. You know, you tell them things like "control yourself, not your dreams" and they write "control your dreams."


Comment: Controlling the press is no easier than controlling your dreams. [Laughter.] Any time for more questions?


Dane: Ok, we've got two. We'll take both of you.


Question: I've got a question for the panel. It seems that there is a possibility that people with past traumas could potentially have more problems with lucid dreaming and also the possibility of people who have frequent nightmares. On the other hand, it also seems logical, at least with people’s experiences with lucid dreaming, that it could be potentially therapeutic as well. Joe Dane gave an example with the hypnosis and the spontaneous regression leading to hospitalization. That brings up the issue, is that person better off now that they have dealt with that problem than they were before.


Dane: Definitely. She is better off, but only because she had access to appropriate assistance in dealing with the problem. That's a good point.


Question: So even that, though not a pleasant way to go through it seems that it may have been beneficial. I don't know. On the other hand, bringing up another point, as happened with you with one person who had psychiatric problems and didn't tell you. If people are giving workshops on lucid dreaming and people lie to them to what extent would the facilitator be responsible? I think that a key thing here is responsibility. If participants are not, how can facilitators be responsible for them?


Dane: Thank you. I'll offer one brief comment and then turn it over to anyone else. Every opportunity, every difficulty, every problem is an opportunity, both for patients, for workshops leaders, et cetera. I think that all of this that we are talking about today is basically intended as a reminder of, "be aware, it works both ways."


Question: I have an interest in the issues that you raised concerning hypnosis and control. I'm sympathetic to the ones that you raised also concerning the FDA. I also thought of a parallel case, in terms of radiation. We really undercontrolled it early and have just, through the decades realized the importance of control of radiation. The point is that there are models of control some which have worked and others which I would certainly hate to see adopted. One would be the model of the actions that we've taken sociologically with regard to certain psychoactive drugs. LSD is a major example and MDMA a more recent one. I think there has been some really destructive control exercised there. Another is the current model of control in hypnosis by the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis and the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. I'm sympathetic to their motivations. However, the ways in which they exercise control over who can and can't practice hypnosis, having had experience with that, I've found really lacking. So the general thrust of the comment is, if there is going to be any control exercised by a body let's be careful.


LaBerge: Yes. Thank you. Get your lucid dream machines now while they're still legal! [Laughter.] Thank you very much!




Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other essays. New York: Harper Colophon Books.

Whitman, W. (1980). Leaves of grass. New York: New American Library.



Appendix (Dane Handout)

Ethical Issues for Applications of Lucid Dreaming


Curiosity: Is it really just the popular press that is pushing dream control?

Who at this conference believes that wholesale conscious control of dreams is desirable, let alone possible?

What, exactly, is meant by "control?"

Is there an ethical obligation to not foster or even to actively oppose inappropriate media overemphasis or "misverbage" on dream control?

Having control in one's dreams vs. control over one's dreams.


Caution: What are the responsibilities of ethical trainers in lucid dream induction?

Is lucid dream induction ever "dangerous?"

Are there psychologically vulnerable individuals for whom lucid dream induction might be disruptive or inadvisable?

When? To whom?

How does one know ahead of time?

What are dangers of one shot work shops on lucid dream induction, especially if using hypnosis?

Who is qualified to claim use of "hypnosis" as part of induction technique?

"Hypnosis," especially with regression, can elicit unexpected, clinically significant reactions.

Persons using hypnosis should be equipped to respond appropriately.

Context should provide genuine redress/follow-up for untoward reactions.



Implies value system, goals, ends, means, purposes, values, intent

Absolutism vs. relativism

"Is it good or bad?" vs. "When is it good or bad?"

Reflects one's basic philosophical stance/perspective

Belief or disbelief in the unconscious

Beliefs about the unconscious


Ethics of dream control depends on one's view of the relationship between waking and dream consciousness.


Ethics of attempting dream control equals ethics of attempting control of the unconscious.

Laughably impossible

Yet attempt it daily in waking life

"working" on ourselves

"I mustn't let myself do that" (as if some part could control, prevent, give permission)

equals doing self-therapy/psychotherapy




When it enhances personality functioning

--Optimal dream "control" equals resolution and facilitation of the conflict/anxiety being processed

--Overcoming victim stance in life

--Recognition/exertion of one's own power to create one's personal reality

--Overcoming waking neurotic tendencies

--Enhanced assertiveness, self-confidence




Productive versus debilitating anxiety


demonstration of personal competence

exerting conscious creation versus "co-"creation

--Exploration of human potential





When it interferes with the "corrective" function of dreams

Avoidance of:

productive anxiety


Pure "egomania"

Crushing the initiative of intuitive, right brained processing


The most desirable control is over the dreamer's response within the dream, not over the dream's response.




Assuming that dreams can be said to have an agenda, does the "health" of the dream's agenda depend on the dreamer's waking psychological health?


What are the ethical implications of this for who should be encouraged to pursue lucid dream induction independently?


Most agree that unconsciousness has both positive and negative aspects

Freud's pit of snakes versus source of creative inspiration and vision


Goal: foster positive and minimize negative


Question: What are the ethics of "control" in this process? (Semantic problem?)

Are "foster" and "control" incompatible?

Does "control" really equal influence, guide, encourage?

When does "control" equal Control

 (equal wholesale conscious manipulation of dream to conscious ends)

Is Control even possible?


Ethics of psychotherapy as model

Who knows best, client or therapist?

Need for mutual respect

Therapeutic "manipulativeness"

Cooperation/influence versus control


Proposed model:

Lucid dreaming as intrapersonal psychotherapy

Which is the (best) therapist: waking or dream consciousness?


Interactive versus directive

Cooperation versus manipulation

Yoga ("yoking") of waking and dream consciousness


Jungian individuation process as model of ethical lucid dream application:

Total control not possible -- Dream maintains own agenda

Health of dreams agenda depends on dreamer's waking psychological health?

Individuation as "metabolism of the ego"

Lucid dreaming facilitates/enhances this metabolism

Atmosphere of enforced autonomy and mutual respect

Fosters mutual influence/cooperation not control

Leads to enhanced level of therapeutic encounter

Achieve new level of cooperation and integrative negotiation

Exact outcome is unpredictable


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Proceedings of the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 2: Transpersonal Implications of Lucid Dreaming


Lucidity about Lucidity


Robert Dentan

State University of New York at Buffalo


This paper explores ways to study lucid dreaming cross culturally. The basic problem is how to tell whether or not a particular report refers to lucid dreams. I want to start by suggesting the problems involved in identifying lucidity in the field. Then I'll go on to the problems armchair anthropologists face when trying to figure out which ethnographic reports refer to lucidity.

In some ways ethnographic methods resemble those of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists (e.g., Devereux, 1951; 1967; Kilborne, 1981; Kracke, 1979; Herdt, 1981; Levine, 1981). Good ethnographers strive to be like Kirkegaard's "psychological investigator" in the epigraph. The crucial test of research in all three fields is its "capacity to develop an understanding of human phenomena which is both human and objective" (Hanly, 1970, p. 679).


Field Problems


I'll mention three overlapping field problems and one interpretive one. The three field problems are becoming familiar, becoming fluent and becoming flexible. Most students of dreams do not face these problems at home, so that describing them in some detail may be worthwhile, if only to ensure that stay-at-home researchers read ethnographies critically.




Ethnographers traditionally study away and down. That is, they often travel thousands of miles away from home. There they tend to work in regions remote from urban, westernizing centers. Moreover, even at home they often work outside their neighborhood with members of social categories different from and less powerful than their own: poor people, drug addicts, lumpenproletarians, Polish Americans, African Americans, etc. Thus they typically stand out from the community in which they wish to work.

That difference, never completely eradicated, can be an asset. It may be easier to talk to a huge, blanched sojourner with "a beak instead of a nose" (as Btsisi' children used to describe my daughter) about some things than with one's own people (1). Han Chinese friends said they could talk with us more freely about personal problems and worries than with their Han friends, because as "outsiders" (wai guo ren) we were immune to the next convulsion of the Chinese body politic, which could turn their Han friends into tattletale enemies.

Usually, however, it creates problems to be an incredibly rich outsider with presumptive ties to a power structure which often excludes and oppresses the people with whom one works (e.g., Dentan 1979; p. 121- 129). The best defense the poor have against the powerful is to manipulate the truth (Gwaltney, 1976a; 1976b). People lie to anthropologists regularly, wittily and with relish. Since dream accounts are nonfalsifiable, that is, not subject to empirical verification, anyone who wants to learn anything about dreams needs to escape from alienness, to move from being a "stranger" towards being a "friend" (Powdermaker, 1967). Being an intimate outsider is important where people are reluctant to talk about dreams, as among Btsisi' (cf. Foster, 1973; p. 110; Herr, 1981; p. 333 & 336). Otherwise one may wind up thinking that dreams are unimportant to the people or that they have trouble recalling dreams, when the problem is talking, not dreaming or remembering (e.g., Spencer, 1937; p. 200).

One therefore needs to reside long enough in the community to become familiar, perhaps to be adopted. Moreover, one needs to participate, as much as people and one's abilities allow, in daily life. Anthropologists rationalize this procedure as "participant observation," which allows one to check what people say both by direct observation and by making errors that they correct. One way ethnography differs from clinical psychology or psychiatry, is that feedback is continuous. Participation gives ethnographers "the added advantage of firsthand knowledge of social contexts in a way rarely possible for psychoanalysts in our own society" (Kennedy & Langness, 1981; p. 252). As unfamiliarity wears off, ethnographers typically become more and more comfortable, taking fewer and fewer notes, until after a year or so they are at least partially acculturated.

These procedures make ethnographers identify strongly with the people who tolerated them. The identification is easy to parody (e.g., for Senoi, Burgess, 1964; p. 444-456). It can also reduce scholarly productivity (e.g., Cushing, 1979). Nevertheless, it remains a defining characteristic of good ethnography.

This requirement seems stiff, if not snobbish and mystifying, to many non-anthropologists, even those who recognize that you can't talk to someone with whom you don't share a language. Somehow, not sharing a culture doesn't seem as big a problem. But it is. For example, Kilton Stewart and I both worked with Senoi peoples and talked with them about phenomena which resemble lucidity. At all times, Stewart was with an amateur anthropologist friend who spoke some Senoi. But, because Stewart was unfamiliar with the people, he got his facts wrong (Dentan 1978a; 94 &135; 1983a; 1983b; 1983c; 1984; 1985; 1986: p. 319- 321; i.p.; Domhoff, 1985; Faraday & Wren-Lewis, 1984; Stewart, 1948; 1972).




Another reason for participation is that ethnographers need not only to talk with people, but also to understand lexical and cognitive categories implicit in the local language (Spradley 1979; Werner & Schoepfle, 1987). Many languages sort what we call dreams into subtypes (e.g. Dentan, 1986; p. 326-331). Conflating what people say about one sort, with what they say about another, can produce a garble, as in Stewart's case. This problem is particularly severe where, for instance, the term for the type of dream people most value is linguistically "unmarked" like the terms for many culturally valuable entities (Brown & Chase, 1981; Brown & Witkowski, 1980; Witkowski & Brown, 1983). Unmarked terms are both generic and specific, like "he" and "man" in English. Senoi words for the most valued sort of dream are also generic for "Dream," so that a listener needs to know the context to understand what people say. Thus dreams in general are not lucid: but, under certain circumstances may be (Dentan, in press). If one uses the unmarked term to ask whether lucid dreams occur, people might answer "no" on the more inclusive taxonomic level, since the vast majority of dreams are not; or "yes", on the specific level, since a few valued dreams are.

Besides, "dream" itself is a culture-bound concept. The Senoi terms refer to the unseen cause of any sleep disturbance: somnambulism, talking, tossing and turning, moaning, apnea, bruxism, etc. People therefore use it for the dream semblance of spirits and also for familiar spirits. Many languages do not distinguish dreams from other ASCs (Endicott, 1979; p. 145; Her, 1981; p. 334; Kracke, 1986; Peters, 1982; p. 35-38). It's hard to find out about lucidity unless researchers and people cooperating with them have a clear idea what they are talking about. Moreover, the English dichotomy between dreams and other ASCs may be arbitrary.




Once fairly familiar and fluent, ethnographers can converse with people who like them on a more or less equal basis. The equality is complex. Ethnographers remain relatively rich with putative ties to alien power structures, although local friends may realize how tenuous those ties are. Conversely, local people retain control over information the ethnographer wants. My experience is that people are more forthcoming in familiar and egalitarian relationships than when "scientist" dominates "subject" (Aki, 1987; but cf. LeVine, 1981; p. 227).

This sort of contextual determination may play a role in the fact that reports of home dreams are less boring than reports of lab dreams (Domhoff, 1969). The difference may also reflect selective recall and elaboration of dreams (Foulkes, 1979; 1985; p. 4 &16n) (2). That question, short of ESP, is imponderable. For ethnographers, the important dreams are the ones people spontaneously recall, as they recall the, selected, elaborated or not. A major difference between ethnography and sleep lab psychology is that the former takes as significant what seems significant to the peoples with whom they work, while the latter (e.g., Foulkes, 1985) rejects dream interpretation and thus the question of how dreams work in people's lives.

Because they deal with unfamiliar phenomena, ethnographers must resist the temptation to sort out what they see and hear into familiar categories. The ethnographic equivalent of the analysand has an equal say in the analysis. Ethnographers are wary of their own prejudices, unlike the social psychologists who "came under such pressure that we felt the need to withdraw at least once a day in order to reaffirm our own world view" (Harder, Richardson & Simmonds, 1972; p.112). Observer bias, a danger in the most empirical and quantifying sciences, is especially threatening when dealing with phenomena like lucidity which one cannot directly observe. (e.g., Gould, 1981; Kamin 1974).

Reciprocally, the people's own biases may befog the issue. Just as analysands tend to report the sort of dreams their analysts want, so, one might reasonably expect, do the people the ethnographer talks with (Calestro, 1972; Munroe, 1959; Witman, 1963). In many places, contradicting someone is so rude that people assent to the silliest propositions of ignorant ethnographers. Moreover, most peoples cast narratives, including dream narratives, into set forms which stress some elements and elide others. Furthermore, most peoples have what I have called loosely "culture pattern dreams"; claiming to have had such a dream is more prestigious than having an ordinary dream, so that people are more likely to recount them. (Dentan, 1986; Lincoln, 1935; Tedlock, 1981; p. 322-326).

For example, I remain unsure whether Semai Senoi ever dream lucidly because they say that only great adepts remain conscious during trance (Dentan in press). Since Semai often interpret dreams in self-serving ways and being a great adept is prestigious, (3) evaluating the veracity of Semai accounts of lucidity involves knowing dreamers and dream contexts, just as the happy ending of St. Augustine's famous description of a lucid dream by a Carthaginian physician (LaBerge, 1985; p.19-21) seems too good to be true. Conversely, I am sure that Han university students occasionally dream lucidly, because lucid dreaming is of no particular value among modern Han gentry (Walters & Dentan, 1985a; 1985b), and Han therefore have no reason to fake it. Thus, accounts of lucidity seem most reliable precisely where the phenomenon of lucidity is least significant. This conclusion is disquieting for an ethnographer, although lab psychologists unconcerned with the question of significance may find it unproblematic.

Finally, the relationship between ethnographer and people is itself problematic. Transference, projection, semiconscious manipulation and ethnocentric perceptual set all muddy ethnographic relationships and even affect people's dreams (e.g., LeVine, 1981). Although ethnographers supplement their work with standard social science impedimenta (see, e.g., Bernard et al., 1986), they tend to mistrust the apparatus of social science research: questionnaires, surveys, etc. Instead, they stress open ended, unstructured interviewing, which allows flexible investigations. This flexibility extends to trying to get the context of an answer which, taken in isolation, might seem unequivocally to affirm or deny the presence of a phenomenon like lucid dreaming.


Reference Problems: Reading


The great obstacle to scientific psychological anthropology is the difficulty of comparing phenomena that are not directly observable in the field, like intelligence or neuroses (e.g., Nowak & Dentan, 1984). As noted, there are several reasons to distrust people's assertions that they are conscious while asleep: problems of definition, context, motivation and so on. Now, I want to suggest abandoning the English language distinction between dream and trance in order to talk about lucidity in both interchangeably.

The reason for doing so is that lucid dreams resemble shamanic experiences more than ordinary dreams do. For example, auditory and cognitive phenomena are more salient in lucid dreams than in nonlucid ones (Gackenbach ,1987) as is the sensation of flying (Barrett, 1987). Shamans also report flying, auditory phenomena, especially melodies (Dentan 1986) and cognitive phenomena like diagnosing disease or solving problems in their dreams or trances.

Like "dream", "trance" is a vague notion, covering "dissociation, fugue, loss of consciousness, physiological collapse, hallucinations or visions, obsessive ideas and/or compulsive actions" (Bourguignon, 1982; p. ix). The equivalent Semai notion seems to involve dissociation, unconsciousness (for all but "great adepts"), and physical collapse (for novices), hallucinations (although not necessarily visions) and, for east Semai novices, twitching and a brief compulsion to escape to the rainforest. Bourguignon usefully distinguishes between "trance" without spirit possession, "possession" without trance and "possession trance." "Spirit mediumship" refers to a situation in which trancers are unconscious and allegedly possessed by an entity which speaks through them; in "soul-leaving shamanism", the trancer's soul departs from the body (e.g., Endicott, 1979; p.149; Karim, 1981; p.157-161, p.179-180; Hood, 1979; p.116-120). For purposes of studying lucidity, the interesting trances would be those in which trancers reports remaining in control of their vision, e.g., travelling through the layers of the cosmos.

Furthermore, the distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness may be overdrawn in post-Enlightenment societies. "Waking dreaming" and waking trance merit more investigation than they have had in recent years (Foulkes, 1985; p. 71-77). Freud (1938; p. 455-467) treats lucidity as an aspect of a more general process, secondary elaboration, which occurs during both sleeping and waking. Secondary elaboration occurs unconsciously during most dreams, is by definition involved in lucidity and routinely shapes recalling and recounting dreams. That is, lucidity is not sui generis but part and parcel of a process that seems to operate throughout human life.

I suspect that explicitly denying that lucidity refers only to dreaming and extending the term to all other forms of lucid trance may have theoretical consequences. The ethnographic evidence strongly indicates that, although lucid ASCs do occur spontaneously, most are learned behavior. LaBerge (1985) has shown how people can learn lucid dreaming. Maya dream experts urge people to do so (Tedlock, 1981). But it's much more common cross culturally for people to learn to trance lucidly (Dentan, 1986).  Demonstrating that people can learn to be lucid in all ASCs suggests a common explanation of all, which concentrating on sleep alone might obscure. At any rate, redefining lucidity opens up an enormous wealth of ethnographic material to the investigator. What we need to do, perhaps, is concentrate less on dreams per se and more on what the secondary elaboration of dreams means in the lives of particular peoples.




1. Currently, most anthropologists are "white", so that this sort of stereotype is appropriate. Senoi, a people prominent in the literature on lucid dreaming refer to "whites" as Pale People (Maay Biyeek, Maay Byuuk), and urban Han youngsters yell "Big nose! Big nose!" (da bizi) at Europeans they think ignorant of Chinese. Anthropologists from outside the "white" caste have different experiences during fieldwork (e.g., Banks, 1976; 1983; p. 43-44; Charnley, 1987; Dentan, 1987; Gwaltney, 1976a; 1976b; Kim, 1977; Ortiz, 1971). Although both "inside" and "outside" perspectives are useful in different ways (Merton, 1976), investigators must make a special effort to dig out local researchers and their reports, which for historical reasons are sometimes less readily available than angloamerican ones (Hsu, 1973). For instance, a lucid dream researcher in Malaysia should contact Prof. Hood Salleh, a Semelai-Malay anthropologist at the Universiti Kebangsaan; in China, Qiu Pu, president of the Chinese Association of Ethnology (Zhongguo Minzuxueuihi huizhang), both of whom have published throught-provoking studies of altered states of consciousness (e.g., Hood, 1979; Qiu, 1986).


2. A tacit assumption is that elaboration of dream narratives is distortive rather than, as Freud argues (1938; p. 455-467), the same symbolizing as the dream itself. The suspicion of lit'ry values which continues to haunt postbehaviorist psychology may explain why lab psychologists feel that working on getting the words and details correct makes narratives incorrect, while not worrying about correctness produces it. They don't apply the same judgement to lab procedures.


3. In Semai culture pattern dreams, a seductive spirit gives the dreamer a melody singing which will summon it to help. Another Semai dream category subtends simple with fulfillment fantasies, which are "useless". Slewaan, an east Semai adept, was deeply infatuated with a beautiful girl upstream, who spurned his advances. Like many rejected east Semai lovers, he slept often and finally dreamt she came to him in a dream. "Sounds like a [wish fulfillment fantasy dream] to me", I said. "No", he said, laughing.  "She gave me a melody. Now the other guy has her body, but I have her dream soul".




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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 3: Transpersonal Implications of Lucid Dreaming

Lucidity as a Meditative State


Harry Hunt

Brock University


What I'd like to talk about this afternoon are some relations between lucid dreaming, meditation and what I'll be calling archetypical forms of dream experience. This is based on a study done with Barbara McLeod on lucid dreams in long term meditators, first published as an abstract in a Lucidity Letter in 1984.

First let's deal with the idea that lucid dreaming, or at least some lucid dreaming, could be considered as a spontaneous meditative state.  Lucid dreaming should not be considered just as a mental waking up within the dream. I think one indication that this is only a very partial way of characterizing lucid dreaming is that many lucid dreamers, at least at the beginning of stabilizing their lucidity, report a lot more of the confusions of thinking and clouding of memory, that are typical in non-lucid dreams.  What I'm suggesting is that lucid dreaming shows the same, or highly similar, patterning of consciousness that is sought in long term meditative practice. Both meditative states and stabilized lucidity show the same special development of a detached receptive attitude common to many alterations of consciousness. In meditation and lucid dreaming this attitude of receptivity is tenuously balanced with the more active controlling attitude of everydayness. Secondly, both lucid dreams and meditative states have the same subjective sense of expansiveness, exhilaration and clarity, highly reminiscent of Maslow's descriptions of peak experience. There is some interesting converging physiological evidence along these lines from Gackenbach, Moorecroft, Alexander, and LaBerge (1987). Most powerfully and convincingly, something very much like lucid dreams is sought in meditative traditions, particularly in Tibetan Buddhism and Vedic practices, as the form of meditation that is naturally available during sleep and dreams.

In the Tibetan Buddhist context this form of lucidity leads to encounters with mythical and spiritual beings and ultimately is used as a platform to deepen ones meditation, to become aware of the so called white light of emptiness, waking meditation. This brings me to a first caveat. What I'm emphasizing here are formal parallels between the two states, particularly in terms of implications about underlying cognitive bases. I'm trying to avoid a valuative or ideological stance in presenting this data. This issue comes up particularly because of a letter from Ann Faraday last year in Lucidity Letter. What I'd like to stress about this parallel between meditation and lucidity is that we're not necessarily talking here about whether one should or should not meditate, or whether or not meditation is the only path to the deepening of lucidity. Obviously people who don't meditate and dislike it intensely can develop lucid dreams. Indeed, I would suggest that nothing happens in long term meditation that may not also happen spontaneously, albeit more fortuitously. The point here is twofold. First, there has been much more research on meditation, on all levels of psychological and physiological analysis than there has been on lucid dreaming. So if there is a major parallel between the two then our theory and research on meditation are potentially transferable to lucid dreams. Second, there may be some indication that the development and particularly the long term stabilizing of lucid dreaming can develop towards the spiritual and transpersonal traditions of self awareness.

The second introductory point that I need to make is with respect to the relationship between lucidity and what is usually in this research area called dream bizarreness. This brings me to a second caveat. "Dream bizarreness" is a horrible term that has lots of historical currency. In fact it's the only available term in the content of dream research for strikingly unusual transformations of consciousness in the dream. However, most people who use the term attach a value of mental disorganization, regression to primitivity, etc. What I'm trying to suggest is that while some forms of "bizarreness" are clearly negative, clouded and disorganized, other forms seem to show the activity of creative, insightful, metaphor. I'm more interested here in the latter.

            The question of a potential relationship between lucid dreaming and dream bizarreness is important because the receptive attitude of meditation seems to operate on waking consciousness by releasing, what I would term the deep structures of imagistic intelligence: synaesthesias, out-of-body states, geometric mandala patterns, and white light experiences, with a corresponding felt significance. So we can ask whether lucid dreaming might operate on dream consciousness in the same way. I’m going to present some evidence that says maybe it does.

The first research on dream bizarreness in relation to lucidity by my colleagues and I at Brock seemed to show the following relationship. It was pre-lucid dreams, those dreams where you question whether or not you are dreaming or experience a false awakening that were the highly bizarre dreams. These were more bizarre than in our normative samples. Pre-lucid dreams had vivid visual intrusions into the dream narrative and considerable clouding and confusion of consciousness. Indeed if you're trying to find out whether or not you're dreaming you can get into some very interesting cognitive puzzles which are confusional from a waking point of view. Fully lucid dreams tended to be relatively mundane in form and content. Yet Gackenbach and Moorcroft (1987) have recently reported that certain lucid dreams can be highly bizarre, highly transformed from the normal everydayness. Certainly anecdotally this is what you'd expect from the Tibetan Buddhist literature, since their descriptions imply some rather unusual dreams.

This brings me to a final caveat or concern. Bizarreness is not a simple continuum. It's very important to distinguish different forms or types of dreaming. Particularly here, in addition to lucidity, I'm concerned with what we could call a Jungian-type archetypical dreaming. Now I mean archetypical, here, in a descriptive sense; I'm not making any assertion about the existence or non-existence of a biologically based collective unconscious. Rather what I'm trying to index is dreams which are characterized in the following way. First negatively: They don't seem to be reorganizations of personal memories. This was very much the style of Freud's own dreams. They reorganized, recombined, condensed, displaced and fragmented recent and distant memories. Instead, what we find in Jung's own dreams, as you can see in his autobiography, are powerful cohesive experiences. They are not disorganized. There is little mental clouding. They are accompanied by powerful feelings that you could call numinous-uncanny emotion, such as feelings of awe, fascination, wonder. There are also parallels with various mythological tales. And most importantly, there is a vivid sense of felt meaning within the dream. It's as though the dream itself carries a kind of charge or impetus of inherent significance, even though the subject may not be able to verbalize that fully on awakening. Indeed, these dreams are very similar to the so called "big" dreams or "culture pattern" dreams of classical shamanism. Another feature of such dreams is that they tend to stay with the person over time, often over may years. I think all of us at times have dreams that we remember for ten, twenty years. And relatively speaking they resist free association. You can try to do what Freud does with such dreams, but it doesn't work very well. You keep circling back to the sensation, the impact, the sense of meaning or self.

There have been various attempts to measure archetypical dreaming.  The Jungian psychologist Kluger in 1975 developed a scale of archetypicalness in dreaming. This has also been used in a recent study by Cann and Donderi at McGill in 1986. They showed that people who score as highly intuitive on the Myers-Briggs Jungian type indicator tend to have archetypical dreams. Earlier another Jungian psychologist, Fabor (1978) showed that long term meditators tend to have archetypical dreams, as rated on Kluger's scale. That measure consists in multiple ratings on dimensions of irrationality, everydayness, affect, and mythological parallels.

The present data are based on my own considerably more specific system for categorizing dream bizarreness. What we went after were changes of consciousness in dreams based on the changes in thinking, perception, and feeling that occur in waking altered states (Hunt et al, 1982). In our system, the potentially archetypical or transpersonal categories were as follows, and by the way, these are almost never rated in normative dream samples. So when we found them in the sample of long term meditators, it was a striking and qualitative departure. First there is what I term transformations of visual form as opposed to visual content. These are the phenomena of geometric mandala patterns, experiences of white light or diffuse color in the dream, and changes in size and shape. Somatic form included flying, floating, and changes in the body image. Going further down the first column of the table we find feelings of uncanny, numinous emotion, including descriptions of weirdness, eeriness, fascination, awe, wonder, bliss. Then there is the occurrence within the dream of mythological or metaphysical preoccupations. And finally "bizarre personification" covers all encounters with unusual or mythological beings. It would include monsters, talking animals, as gods and demons. When we asked normative subjects to give us the most fantastic dream-like dream they could recall, interestingly enough, their dreams were more archetypical, transformed, and bizarre in general than even Jung's own dreams. In other words, even though there is a consistent style of dream bizarreness, and we've shown this in individuals, any given person will oscillate across the range of dream types and come up with some pretty astonishing dreams. The more ordinary categories that we rate very commonly in normative home and laboratory samples, are intruding on the generally plausible dream setting, generally visual and ranging in degree of improbability from 1 to 3, and clouding of consciousness effects that include sudden changes in scene, confusions in thinking difficulties in remembering within the dream, and unclarity of recall after awakening (see table). In this study we looked at the home dreams of long term meditators. There were 307 dreams from eighteen subjects, fourteen females, four males, with an average continuous meditative practice of 5.1 years, ranging from seven months to about seventeen years. Ten of these subjects were from the Karma Kargyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhist practice.  All subjects were Westerners and were not attempting nor had they been instructed in dream yoga. They kept a thirty day dream diary, rating each of their dreams with respect to whether it was in whole, part, or momentarily lucid, controlled and pre-lucid, or non-lucid. That allowed us to create a seven point scale for lucidity. We also included Gackenbach's measures of felt body movement in the dream and verbal and nonverbal sounds.

With respect to the findings, we first compared the meditators with a control group of people who had a similarly high dream recall. The meditators had significantly higher estimates of dream control than this comparison group, consistent with Gackenbach, Cranson, and Alexander's more recent finding of elevated lucidity in meditators. Second, with respect to the sample as a whole, forgetting lucidity for now, we start with the first column of numbers, showing the percentage of dreams with one or more bizarreness category (the parentheses show the percentage of dreams with two or more of these effects) meditators have very unusual dreams, something also found by Faber. They show archetypical transformations in their dreams, particularly visual and somatic form. They also show elevations in the more ordinary forms of dream bizarreness, to an unusual degree when compared to normative dream samples. Thus there are lots of content intrusions of varying degrees of likelihood and considerable mental confusion and clouding of consciousness during the dream.

However, when you separate lucid, and non-lucid dreams in this sample, you get a much more specific picture. The archetypical categories of dream transformation now gravitate to the lucid dreams. In other words, it's the lucid dreams of the meditators that are archetypical. And in all instances the archetypical categories are greater in the lucid than the non-lucid. Their non-lucid dreams, in the fourth column, are also highly bizarre compared to our normative home recall sample, but in a more traditional way: confusion, sudden changes of scene, content intrusions, etc.


The following sample dream shows how strikingly imaginative these lucid dreams could become:


I am in my bedroom, it is scary and dark (uncanny emotion). I am talking to a female acquaintance about prescription drugs (auditory 1). Between us is a dark scary hole (visual form, uncanny emotion) which I know (confusion in thought--i.e. intuitive knowing without basis in previous dream events) to be full of demons (archetypal personification). My husband, asleep behind me, starts babbling loudly in his sleep in a voice that sounds like a teenage school girl gossiping about school work (auditory 3). My fear of the demons starts to grow (uncanny emotion, personification) and I float over to my husband (somatic form) to wake him, but it doesn't work. I almost wake myself instead and the dream starts to repeat (memory within). However, approaching me from the side of the hole is a very beautiful young girl (visual 3) who looks like a more appropriate owner for the voice. I sense the demons (confusion in thought, personification) coming up through the hole but there is no escape and my fear is rising (uncanny emotion). Then I clasp the jewel at my heart (somatic form, visual form) within my other two hands (somatic form, visual form) and am repeating the mantra of Chenrezig (mythic thought) and rising up in the air as I do so (somatic form). I rise higher and my fear starts to subside as I lift my first two arms up towards the sky (somatic form, visual form).


In addition to those dream comparisons, a factor analysis of average dream ratings for each subject, including the other major variables, located two clusters. The first, accounting for 46% of the variance, was organized around the amount of time spent meditating each day and included nonbizarre sensory detail from the dreams and ratings of kinesthetic sensations and dream sounds. The second factor was defined by years of meditative practice, lucidity in the study, lucidity estimates over the past year, and somatic form. In general the lucidity measures and years of meditation were significantly positively correlated with the archetypical categories and negatively with content intrusions and confusions (Pearson r's), especially striking since all bizarreness categories are positively correlated in normative samples.

Of course correlational findings cannot establish an identity between lucidity and meditation. Yet it is of interest that the degree of lucidity in this sample was statistically unrelated to subjects' estimates of prior attempts to change or control their dreams, implying at least that lucidity might follow as an automatic result of long term meditation. Also some subjects could not tell whether some of their dreams were "lucid" or whether they had actually awakened and were spontaneously meditating.

Given the significant relations between length of meditative practice and the occurrence of both lucidity and archetypal dreams, it seems reasonable to conclude that lucid dreaming is a close analogue to the waking state sought in meditation. Lucidity operates on dream consciousness in much the way that meditation can transform waking consciousness - images and enhancing an open receptive attitude. Lucid dreaming is a spontaneous meditative state.




Cann, D.R., & Donderi, D.C. (1986). Jungian personality typology and the recall of everyday and archetypal dreams. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 1021-1030.

Faber, P.A., Saayman, G.S., & Touyz, S.W. (1978). Meditation and archetypal content of nocturnal dreams. Journal Analytical Psychology, 23, 1-22.

Gackenbach, J, & Moorecroft, W. (1987). Psychological content of "consciousness" during sleep in a TM subject. Lucidity Letter, 6 (1), 29-36.

Gackenbach, J., Cranson, R., & Alexander, C. (1986). Lucid dreaming, witnessing dreaming, and the transcendental meditation technique. Lucidity Letter, 5 (2), 34-40.

Gackenbach, J., Moorecroft, W., Alexander, C., & LaBerge, S. (1987). Physiological correlates of "consciousness" during sleep in a single TM practitioner. Sleep Research, 16, 230.

Hunt, H.T. (1987). Toward a cognitive psychology of dreams. In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Sleep and dreams: A sourcebook (pp. 251-281). New York: Garland Publishing.

Hunt, H., Ogilvie, R., Belicki, K., Belicki, D., & Atalick, E. (1982). Forms of dreaming. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 54, 559-633.

Kluger, H.Y. (1975). Archetypal dreams and "everyday" dreams. Israel Annals of Psychiatry, 13, 6-47.

Ogilvie, R.D., Hunt, H.T., Tyson, P.D., Lucescu, M.L., & Jeakins, D.B. (1982). Lucid dreaming and alpha activity. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 55, 795-808.


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Dream Lucidity and Dream Witnessing: A Developmental Model Based on the Practice of Transcendental Meditation


Charles Alexander

Maharishi International University


I will briefly review what we said yes­terday at the symposium on lucid dreaming during the ASD meeting. Harry Hunt has been doing research on meditation and its relationship to lucid­ity. Jayne Gackenbach and I began a collaboration, at MIU and UNI in Iowa, to look at the same question. We have thousands of advanced meditators practicing the TM program at MIU in the Advanced TM Sidhi Program. Lucid dreaming, as it’s typically de­scribed, is, in my opinion, in a direction which has been classically described for thousands of years in various East­ern traditions, especially the Vedic tra­dition of India, as something called ‘Witnessing’.


Ordinary waking and sleeping is a cycle: you’re awake, you’re asleep, you’re dreaming, you’re in deep sleep, you’re dreaming again, and eventually waking again. One experiences active changing states. The Vedic tradition proposes that underlying these chang­ing states of consciousness, and from which they arise, is an unchanging continuum of pure consciousness. It’s sort of like a unified field of conscious­ness from which the diverse changing states of consciousness arise. This unified field of consciousness is de­scribed as transcendental conscious­ness or a fourth state of consciousness, distinct from waking, dreaming and sleeping.


It’s said to have the character of restful alertness. That the individual is, at the same time, very settled, as he or she would be in sleep or dreaming, includ­ing deep sleep. On the other hand they’re increasingly wakeful and alert within. So that it also shares the attrib­ute of enhanced alertness, as in the waking state. This fourth state of con­sciousness combines these dual charac­teristics in one state by being increas­ingly awake and aware and yet in a very settled, silent state, both metabolically and phenomenologically/ psychologi­cally.


This state is said to be purely content free. That is there is no mental content to it. All that it is is a simple experience of ‘Self’ or ‘am’ness; an experience of ones inner being. It’s a state of being. It’s a state of knowingness, rather than a state knowing particulars, like I am a boy or I am a girl, or I’ve done this or I will do that. All that is transcended and all that’s left is consciousness as a field, aware of itself, alone without anything else in that awareness: no thoughts, no feelings, no perceptions.


This is the theory that meditation, for instance transcendental meditation, facilitates a process of transcending the active state to experience this transcen­dental foundation state. What happens as a long term consequence of repeated diving to this transcendental state and coming out into activity is that this settled, silent, fourth state of conscious­ness begins to be maintained at all times along with the active states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. When this silent settled state of pure awareness devoid of mental content, unbounded in space and time, is maintained it be­comes a silent witness or observer to the active changing states of waking, dreaming and sleeping.


That’s the theory and that defines what’s called a fifth major state of consciousness, or what’s often called cosmic consciousness. It’s inclusive of the ordinary changing states plus this fourth state, which is without boundary in time and space. This is what’s con­sidered the first classical state of en­lightenment in a variety of Eastern systems.


Where Does Lucidity Fit?


So, where does lucidity fit in with this Eastern conception of cosmic con­sciousness or of transcendental con­sciousness? What we were looking at yesterday was some empirical research on an advanced meditator from the MIU community who claimed to be experiencing this witnessing state twenty four hours a day, non-stop, along with the changing states of wak­ing, sleeping, dreaming. (Editors Note: See article in the June1987 issue and in this issue of Lucidity Letter for specif­ics of this research.) We examined if this person’s experience psychologi­cally, phenomenologically, and psy­chophysiologically, was different from subjects who had experienced lucid dreaming. Is this a different animal? Is it along a continuum with lucid dream­ing? Our own predilection is that there is a continuum of degrees of lucidity. We feel that typical dream lucidity represents a step beyond ordinary dreaming and that this experience of witnessing represents a step beyond ordinary dream lucidity, and if you took dream lucidity to its ultimate state, then it would be synonymous with the expe­riences I just described. Basically what we found was that this subject claimed that he was inwardly awake in a silent state of awareness during dreaming and sleeping. We found that he could signal through lateral eye movements of the type described in LaBerge’s work (LaBerge, 1985). He could voluntarily act from within REM sleep and also from within stage one and stage two sleep. This was a very interesting find­ing, that he could signal from Stage two sleep, which although there is some mentation in stage two sleep it is, rela­tive to REM sleep, a deeper state of sleep. Yet he was able to voluntarily signal from that state and not just from a dreaming state.


This is interesting to me because typi­cally lucid dreaming involves, in some ways, an activated mental condition. It’s as if you’re waking up in the dream. Suddenly you have your waking mentation and you can think and act. You can act upon and observe the dream world from which you’re now partially de-embedded. But it’s an active state of mentation. “Oh! I’m lucid!” Sometimes you wake up because it’s kind of a state of arousal. You can think about it and process the dream and do things like, “I’m going to change the dream.” You get the goodies of being awake and being asleep. Hopefully you’re doing good things, but you can do anything you want.


This state of somatic arousal, which would presumably be somatic (LaBerge, 1985) as well as cognitive, should look different than the state of witnessing. The latter is defined as a state of silent awareness separate from any active changing state of waking, dreaming and sleeping and therefore would include lucidity as well. You would be stepping back, not just from dreams, but from lucidity, and you would be back, as it were, at the source of awareness, observing all the chang­ing states as they go on. In other words, when the subject was in a deeper state of sleep and there was no mentation at all, that silent inner awareness was still turned on so it was observing dreaming and it was observing absence of any mentation in sleep, and that’s why the subject could voluntarily signal. Now beyond that, we found that, in terms of his heart rate and his respiration rate, that the subject had a lower level of both than the lucid subjects to whom we compared his data and to the non-lucid subjects. Again there was this notion of low somatic arousal.


Relevant TM Research


This is consistent with a lot of research we’ve done on transcendental medita­tion about experiences subjects have during TM of this state of pure con­sciousness (without thought in just pure awareness). After they come out of this state we ask them to press a button. We look at the button press in terms of those periods when they were supposedly transcending. We found that there was a very high probability that they would be having apparent respiratory suspen­sion, where they wouldn’t breathe at all for anywhere from fifteen seconds to about a minute, which was associated with what the subjects called tran­scending (Farrow & Herbert, 1982; Kesterson,1985). There would be, essentially, a period of silent physiol­ogy.


Also, during those times, there was a maximization of what we call EEG coherence, or synchrony, especially in the alpha and them bands (Dillbeck & Bronson, 1981; Orme-Johnson & Hay­nes, 1981; Orme-Johnson & Gelder­loos, in press). So it seems that this phenomenological experience of transcending




during TM is associated with metabolic silence and with some sort of enhanced alertness ac­cording to the EEG record. What we think is happening is that through repeated repetition over time this silent state of restful alertness begins to be maintained even outside of meditation throughout the cycle of waking, dreaming and sleeping. When it does, it takes the form of witnessing which enables a person to witness his dreaming and sleep which is a step removed from the changing states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. Our pilot data on one subject for sleep seems to support this model. That’s a brief overview of what we covered yesterday.


Developmental Context of Witnessing/Lucidity


Now I would like to place these concepts in a developmental context. I’m a developmental psychologist by training. I think by relating lucidity, and especially witnessing, to a devel­opmental context in western psy­chology it helps to demystify our understanding. I feel like I could say, especially in Iowa, but in general, that very few people have an under­standing of their potential higher states of consciousness. Most con­temporary psychologists simply re­ject it out-of-hand as silly-willy.


Similarly lucid dreaming has had its own row to hoe, it has its own similar dilemma of trying to describe to psy­chologists and indeed to everybody, a state which they typically don’t have access to. That’s a dilemma. How do you convince someone of something they haven’t experienced? What I want to do is turn the tables on the people who just reject out-of-hand the possi­bility of higher states of consciousness and/or lucidity. I’m going to be espe­cially talking about higher states of consciousness like the slate of cosmic consciousness. I would like to enter­tain, and will entertain until proven otherwise, that in fact higher states of consciousness, possibly lucid dream­ing as a step to them, actually represent the natural and normal continuation of development into adulthood. That they are not odd, they’re only mystical in that they allow us to go outside of our ordinary range of experience. Essen­tially people who experience higher states of consciousness are grown-ups and everybody who doesn’t, isn’t. That’s what I’d like to momentarily maintain just for the sake of being feisty!


I’ve been doing a lot of research to determine whether or not people who have these experiences seem to be us­ing more of their potential, whether measured in cognitive terms, personal­ity terms, perceptual terms, or relation­ships, and whether or not they score higher on developmental scales than other people. I want to present to you an example that has always fascinated me once I realized what was going on.

Piagetian Analogy


Most people have heard of Jean Piaget, the modem founder of Developmental Psychology. In a funny way, he had a similar task to my own, or our own, in that he was trying to show that young children viewed the world in a qualita­tively different way than adults. That may be common knowledge now but when he began it wasn’t. People thought that young children didn’t re­ally view the world in a qualitatively distinct way. They just weren’t as good at it as adults. His essential challenge was to show that young children have a different state of consciousness.


Think back to when you were four years old or to when your children were that age. They do, in fact, view the world in very different ways. They have a different perception of time, space, causality, self and world. Piaget had to demonstrate empirically that these young children were different than adults. Our task, on the other hand, is to demonstrate that there are higher states of consciousness beyond formal operations. So we are at a similar point where he was but on opposite sides of the life span. He had a hard time show­ing that children were younger devel­opmentally. Being a reasonable person in a reasonable world, which is being able to perform science, it’s also a challenge to show that there may be people who are developmentally higher than formal operations.


4-Year-Old vs. 7 Year-Old Science


Piaget’s critical experiment, which for the last thirty years has been done numerous times, has always fascinated people. This is his conservation experi­ment. If you had two beakers that had the same amount of water in them and poured water from one beaker into a tall skinny beaker and asked a four-year-old, “Is there more water in this one or that one?”. The four-year-old would say there was more water in the tall skinny beaker. Then if you poured it back and said, “Wait a second. Is there the same amount of water in these two?”, the four-year-old would say, “Yes.” Then pour it into the tall thin beaker and say, “Now what?”. The four-year-old would say, “I already told you there is more water in this one!” Four-year-olds have a particular way of viewing the world. We could say it is one dimensional because their perspective is that the beaker is taller therefore there is more in it. The four-year-old didn’t take account of the fact that it was also skinnier. When you bring a seven-year- old into the room, he sees that there is actually just an apparent transformation but nothing’s really changed. There is the same amount of water in the two beakers.


My claim is that to the four-year-olds of our world, seven-year-olds are, essen­tially, mystics. They don’t make any sense, If you had a bunch of four-year­ olds in a room they would come out and measure this and they would say, “Of course there is more in the skinny beaker.” They would be able to do four­ year-old science. They’d hold up a measuring rod and say it’s taller. They’d have perfect reliability that there was more water in the skinny beaker. Then if you brought in a seven-year-old who looked like a four-year-old so the four-year-olds didn’t think, ‘Oh, he’s big and tall and must be right or he’ll beat me up,” the seven-year-old’s conclusion just wouldn’t make any sense in terms of the four-year-old’s perception of reality. There are only a few choices for the four-year­ olds of our world. Either the seven-year-old is hallucinating, he can’t see right because there is something wrong with his perceptual mechanisms, or maybe he’s just immature, kind of childlike. The four-year-old might conclude “when he gets older like me, he’ll see that there is more in this one. Because he certainly isn’t scientific or he could do science and see that there is more in this one.”


But four-year-olds who are in transition to becoming seven-year-olds, and this is an empirical fact, begin to see that the seven-year-olds logic has some com­pelling things to it. I mean, after all, when you pour it back into here there is the same amount so it’s kind of a para­dox, “How could there be the same amount and now there be different?” So the four-year-olds who are begin­ning the transition to seven-year-olds or to concrete operational thought are beginning to realize that maybe there is something to his view. Those four-year- olds may generously label the seven-year-old a mystic. Because after all the seven-year-old understands, and this is the criterion of higher develop­ment at every level. From the way the four-year-old sees the world but he can’t understand the way the seven-year-old views the world.


Asymmetry is always typical of devel­opment. The more developed stage incorporates the prior stage as a sub­part and can access it freely but the prior stage has no access to the higher stage and therefore it’s mystical to that per­son. It’s not mystical. Piaget was show­ing that seven-year-old logic is a higher form of logic than four-year-old logic. Similarly that’s the situation that we find ourselves in.


Vedic Developmental Psychology


I’d like to, briefly run through a devel­opmental sequence that I’ve worked out by comparing Vedic descriptions based on the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s theory of development of higher states of consciousness to contemporary de­velopmental psychology models. (A fuller discussion of this model can be found in Alexander et al., 1988). These are graphically represented in Figure 1. It turns out that Piaget described four stages: a sensory motor stage domi­nated by action; a preoperational stage, between two and five years of age, dominated by immediate desire or simple representation, kind of a pre-­logical period; concrete operations, where you begin to think logically but about things you can observe outside you; and formal operations, where you get to do adult science and understand about false arguments and philosophi­cal discussions. These were his stages, as far as they went.


It turns out that in Eastern philosophical systems, especially in the Vedic sys­tem, there is a description of a hierarchy of levels of mind. Its range is action and sensation at the surface. Deeper than that is representation, where sensations are represented. Deeper than that is the mind which thinks about the represen­tation. Deeper than that is the intellect which discriminates about the contents of mind. Deeper than that are delicate feelings and intuitions which guide our intellect. Deeper than that is the struc­ture of the individual ego which orders all of the other levels of the mind and deeper than that is this state of pure consciousness that I described initially which is said to be the source of all these excited states of the mind.


It turns out, and I think that this is quite striking, that Piaget’s four stages actu­ally correspond to the first four levels of the mind described in Vedic psychol­ogy. I think that’s because the unfoldment of these deeper levels of the mind actually underlies the cognitive behaviors which Piaget observed. It’s just that this system of development doesn’t end with the intellect as Piaget’s does and Western science does.


The great scientists often admit that there own theories are guided by deep feelings and intuitions. Actually if you look at the two deeper stages (see Fig­ure 1) they correspond to higher stages of development. I call these dialectic and synthetic operations, which are essentially guided by feelings. Then the final representational (synthetic) stage essentially corresponds to Maslow’s self-actualization, where the individual is aware of his own individuality and ego boundedness and his relationship to the world to a very developed degree. Although this occurs empirically, it is less than one percent of the population. Beyond that is this experience of pure consciousness, which when stabilized along with the changing states of wak­ing, sleeping and dreaming provides the foundation for the development of cosmic consciousness.


The way these stand in relationship to each other is quite simple and are repre­sented along the left side of Figure 1. This is action, the sensory level. This is thought, varying degrees of thought, pre-logical, concrete, abstract logical and then what you could call post-logi­cal but still representational levels of thinking, like feelings and intuitions. So we’re going from action to thought to what I would call being or purely post-representational ways of know­ing. This pure consciousness state is purely post-representational. There are no mental contents to it. It’s called a state of self-referral. It is just aware that it is. It’s a state of pure knowingness without content. It’s not mediated by thoughts and feelings in the typical sense. It’s just a state of am-ness. When you transcend even the subtlest state of the ego you arrive at this state of pure consciousness which then provides the foundation for cosmic consciousness which is this state where one is a con­tinually witness to the changing states of waking, dreaming and sleeping.


De-embbing of Ego While Sleeping


What I think may be happening in lucid dreaming is similar to the waking state. In waking many people end up at about the level of concrete operations, maybe fifty percent of the population! I’m being very crude, but it turns out, and it may be a measurement error, that about half of the population tends to be con­crete. It gives people a headache to be abstract! So most people may even prefer to stay concrete but none-the-less formal operations is the generally the dominant level. This is during the waking state.


Dreaming, on the other hand, tends to have a different character. In a certain sense it shares qualities with the earlier stages of development: mind, desire and representation. Now, obviously, when an adult dreams it’s not the way a child dreams, but it shares certain fea­tures, for example, dreams tend to be dominated by desires and representa­tions, It’s an imaginistic world. There doesn’t tend to be strong reality testing or sense of the ego. Essentially what happens is that your ordinary intellect, waking state feelings, intuition and ego go to sleep when you’re dreaming, and you’re immersed in, what I would call, mind or representation. That’s your dream reality. There is no ego at a deeper level that’s further away that’s commenting upon the dream reality. That occurs in the process of lucidity. You wake up, as it were. Your ego wakes up during the dream and has access to ordinary discriminative wak­ing state processes and can reflect upon the dream content. It’s more a process of going to deeper levels of the mind. The de-embedding of awareness starts generalizing beyond the ordinary wak­ing state to dreaming. In the ordinary process of development, you begin to de-embed and go further down. No longer are you embedded in your dream world but your ego is outside the dream and your intellect may be outside the dream and you can process the dream as the content of the mind rather than being unable to differentiate these things from the mind. In that sense, witnessing would simply be the next step down, where you would transcend the individual ego entirely and from a silent state of unbounded awareness observe changing waking, sleeping, and dreaming, including lucidity.


I’ll end on what this advanced subject told me. I was asking him, and have asked several people in order to go beyond my own experience, “In your experience, is lucidity as typically de­scribed,” and I read a description (I call this anecdotal, not science), “is this your experience of witnessing? Are they really the same thing?” He said was that no, they were very different, and several other people have told me this as well. He said that ordinary dreams are on the surface of the mind and that the lucid activity of reflective thinking and discrimination and acting upon that content is in a more settled state of mind, but that witnessing is at the source of the mind. Awareness is identified with the state of being and these other things are relative degrees of excitation above this silent state of awareness. He did say that he thought the duality of lucidity, the reflection on the content of dreams, was more abstract, more de-embedded than ordi­nary dreams, which of course it is. Lucidity is relatively liberating. You realize it’s only a dream and step out­side of a constrained reality. Then witnessing would simply represent, I think, the next step outside of that, to the source of thought entirely. This is, of course, a highly tentative and theo­retical framework. Jayne and I and others are going to continue to do re­search to test some of these Vedic hypotheses and fit them with related Western hypotheses.


Hunt: I’m very intrigued by this ap­proach, and challenged by it. It bears some resemblance to Ken Wilber’s discussion of a spectrum of conscious­ness. I would make a slightly alterna­tive suggestion because although I’m very interested in the meditative tradi­tions and I practice meditation myself within a tradition it occurs to me that the danger for some of us doing “transper­sonal psychology” is that we end up proposing a sort of absolute goal for all human development. We are thereby risking the fact that there may be very distinct, what Howard Gardner would call, frames of mind for psychological types each of which has their own sort of line of unfolding. Certainly, I think that when you look at any of the medi­tative groups you see that some people take the training very fast and enter fairly deep states of attainment within whatever tradition they’re practicing and others of us just struggle along at times.


Now what I was going to suggest was a slightly different alternative. Rather than conceptualize in a linear way stages beyond formal operation, what I was going to propose or suggest as a developmental conceptualization of these higher states of consciousness would be that they represent formal operations attained within what Piaget started to call but never investigated, the affective schemata. In other words, formal operations as Piaget studied it, pertains to logical relationships, logical abilities, precisely the kind of things done in the physical sciences and mathematics but affective schemata pertained to intuition, feeling, self knowledge, knowledge of others.


There is a fair bit of evidence, both in Eastern traditional societies and many primitive, especially Shamanistic cul­tures, that we in our society (our educa­tional system and our culture) are led through with painstaking care formal operations. However, we are more or less left to wallow with respect to affec­tive schemata. Even Piaget, who wasn’t very interested in any of these kinds of things, felt that the affective schematization lagged way behind the logical relations.


If you conceptualized these higher states as the very rare and difficult at­tainment of formal operations within the affective schemata it scorns to me that it would be consistent with people like Dikeman who talk about the crys­talizing of an observing self. One of the things that the observing self can do is watch predominant forms of emotive reaction, typical moods or emotive reactiveness of oneself and others in a situation. See various myriad alterna­tive reactions that could have occurred and see none of those as superior neces­sarily or inherently to any of the others. In other words, you’re talking about a kind of capacity for increased receptiv­ity and observation of the affective emotive life. I propose it as a possible different chart.


Alexander:     That’s very interesting and Heinz Werner, who is one of the founders of developmental psychol­ogy, along with Piaget, had a similar notion of a branching tree and that dif­ferent cultures may branch along a certain line and may therefore be more developed along one branch but not along another. It seems, you might be, in a certain sense, missing the point to hierarchalize them. My feeling is that I’m not overly attached to this concep­tualization as it currently appears but I do think that it’s not formal operations in the affective domain, whatever that would mean. It’s inconceivable, tome, what that would mean. Whatever it is, it probably isn’t that I do agree that there are vast individual differences which I would rather cast developmen­tally.


I may doubt all this stuff in the middle of Figure 1 hut that the higher states of higher than formal operations I have no doubt. They are not a parallel universe. They’re developmentally higher. They are developmentally higher than the affective equivalent formal operations, they transcend that domain entirely. They are post representational and they coexist hierarchally with any kind of representationally system, be it affec­tive or logical. When you experience this transcendental self you experience this liberation and unboundedness and you experience a differentiation of this universal self along with the changing smaller active self; be that self engaged in action, thought, affective, intuitive, any kind of processing in the typical sense.


I think that is how TM works and is the reason it enables you to go beyond formal operations. It can be conceived of as a post-language system. All of our formal education, reading, writing and arithmetic, are essentially ways of engaging us in these domains of think­ing. They get us out of the sensory motor domain by getting us involved in thinking, reading, writing and arithme­tic, and that to go beyond that you also need post-conceptual technologies that enable you to transcend thinking in the same way thinking enabled you to tran­scend action. Meditative practices, especially some of those like TM, are focused entirely on transcending the thought process in order to come to the source.


Consequently, I’m very friendly to your suggestion on the one hand because I do think that there are individual differences and cultural specificity but ultimately I think that the stages on the higher end are just plain higher. If you say that affect filling out means the experience of the self, with a capital S, then the answer is yes except it’s not at all parallel to formal operations. It’s not just a different line. It transcends affect and thought so it’s different from both of those lines, I think, and lies at the source.




Alexander, C.N., Davies, J.L., Dixon, C.A, Dillbeck, M.C., Oetzel, R.M., Muehlman, J.M. & Orme­Johnson, D.W. (1988). Higher stages of consciousness beyond formal operations: The Vedic psychology of human development. In CN. Alexan­der, E.J. Langer, and R.M. Oetzel (Eds.), Higher stages of human development: Adult growth beyond formal operations. NY: Oxford University Press.

Dillbeck, M.C. & Bronson, E.C. (1981). Short-term longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation tech­nique on EEG power and coherence. International Journal of Neuroscicnce, 15, 151-157.

Farrow, J.T. & Herbert, J.R. Breath suspension during the Transcendental Meditation technique. Psychosomatic Medicine, 44(2), 133-153.

Kesterson, J. (1985). Respiratory changes during the Transcendental Meditation technique. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 1144, 334.8.


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 Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 3: Transpersonal Implications of Lucid Dreaming

Distinguishing between Phenomenon and Interpretation: When does Lucid Dreaming become Transpersonal Experience?


George Gillespie

University of Pennsylvania


Discussions of the transpersonal implications of lucid dreaming are already a firmly established part of the lucid dreaming literature.  Patricia Garfield suggests that, "lucid dreams are microcosms of the mystic experience." (1979, p. 213)  Stephen LaBerge describes certain types of lucid dreams as "instances of transcendental experiences, experiences in which you go beyond your current level of consciousness." (1985, pp. 242-243)  Scott Sparrow concludes that the experience of light and energy in a lucid dream is what is "universally recognized in the literature on meditation and contemplative prayer as actual communion between the individual and the Divine."  (1976, p. 51)  A number of articles in Lucidity Letter (e.g. in Vol. 4, No. 2) have dealt with the close association between lucid dreaming and what are called out-of-body-experiences (OBEs).  A religious "near-death experience" (NDE) has been seen to duplicate lucid dream phenomena (Gillespie, 1985).

For those interested in what is called transpersonal psychology, such discussions can be exciting.  Lucid dreaming appears to be a doorway to experiences that transcend normal awareness.  But for those who are wary about mystical speculation, it may seem already too late to rescue the reputation of lucid dream research.  We cannot avoid the fact that religious feelings and supposed mystical experiences are occasionally part of lucid dreaming experience, but we can avoid looking at such phenomena uncritically.  We can separate the basic description of a lucid dream from its transpersonal interpretation.


Describing the Phenomena


All lucid dreaming experience, including what seems to be transpersonal, happens individually, and we have to depend on individual introspection for our information.  Someone may describe a lucid dream that has supposed "transpersonal" aspects in the language of a metaphysical system, or of scripture, or of a teacher to whom the experiencer is committed.  But the dream researcher or cognitive psychologist who studies the material would find an uncommitted objective description of the phenomena more informative.

The basic elements of a dream report are: descriptions of sense experience, including all aspects of dreamed body awareness; mental experience, including thoughts, assumptions, and feelings; urges and intentions; and actions, including speaking.  Negative elements are also important to report--darkness, silence, the degree of body awareness, passivity.   Every part of a suspected "transpersonal" experience can be broken down to its parts.  For instance, the feeling of passing through a tunnel to another level of existence can be broken down to: the feeling of speed and rotation, supposed direction of movement, the touch of arms or legs against the side of the tunnel, the visual effects of light, the assumption about where one was going, the emotions felt, and so on to what one saw and assumed when the tunnel experience was finished.  No religious or "transpersonal" content should be omitted, only its interpretation.  “I felt that I was on another astral plane” would be interpretation.

There are words that are inappropriate in an uninterpreted description.  The word "Self", particularly when capitalized, may convey either the Hindu concept of the experiencer of dreams and waking experience who is not identified with any physical or mental aspect of the person, or the Jungian concept of the wholeness of the person.  The word "void", particularly when it is preceded by the word "the", is highly suggestive of the Buddhist concept of an emptiness that underlies all worldly manifestation.  As long as there is no agreement by psychologists on the definition of "dreamless sleep", it is probably better to avoid the term.  The term may carry the Hindu meaning and be tied to verses in the Upanishads that describe the state, or it may be understood in the Tibetan Buddhist context and indicate the experience of a number of visual signs.

Light plays a prominent part in unusual lucid dream experiences.  This is surely a light that I see within myself, but if I speak of it as the inner light, and particularly if I capitalize the L and maybe the I, I give the light a religious interpretation.  The primary candidate in Western culture for the title "inner Light" is Christ, the light that enlightens everyone, as is taught in the first chapter of the Gospel of John.  If I speak of the light as the "clear light," I presume its identification with the "clear light" experience of Tibetan Buddhism.  The word "clear" for the Tibetans is not simply descriptive.  It has non-visual meaning, at least in part.  If I believe it is the Tibetan "clear light" when I see it, then I should describe the light impartially and mention what I thought at the time.

Even when using non-sectarian language we need more precision in our description.  Often discussions of light in lucid dreams give the impression that there is only one kind of light.  But the light may be formless, or round, or in streaks, instantly gone or stable, soft white or a blazing white, or even orange-yellow.  Darkness also has variety.  Such concepts as merging into the light or feeling a buzzing light could be explained more in detail.  Then there are phrases that seem to describe but tell us little; for instance, "I felt mystical" or "I entered a higher state of consciousness."

We also need to recognize the distinctions between what actually occurs and what seems to occur, between real presence and image.  For instance, I may say, "I saw a great light coming in through the window and I flew joyfully over to it."  I really was joyful.  And I really saw light.  But I did not see a window.  I saw an image of a window, defined by the appearance of light.  I did sense flying, but I didn't really fly.


The Dreamer is Part of the Dream


The dreamer is the observer of the dream, but the dreamer is also a part of the dream.  All my experience of myself in the dream is intimately tied to my being in the dream state--my body awareness, my thoughts and feelings, my assumptions and certainties, my limitations of rationality and memory, my observations, and the conclusions I draw about the dream.  All is part of the data of the dream.  To understand what happened I must first wake up and observe the one who has observed the dream.  Some lucid dreamers believe they have their normal intellectual abilities while dreaming lucidly (Tart, 1984).  Others report that they do not reason clearly and remember freely in a lucid dream (Gillespie, 1983; 1984).  Obviously, if my judgment is impaired while dreaming, I cannot judge to what extent my judgment is impaired.  Only when I am awake can I reflect critically on the observations and judgments I made while dreaming.

While dreaming, I may draw conclusions with transpersonal implications-- that God is in the light, that I have left my body, that the figure in the doorway is Jesus, that I have died, that demons are attacking me, or that I have reached dreamless sleep.  These conclusions are interpretations of the experience that arise during the experience, and thus are part of the data to be examined upon awakening.  An interpretation may come through minimal reasoning.  I see only light, so I conclude that the light is surrounding me.  But it appears to me that a large part of interpretation or understanding in a dream or in "mystical" experience happens simply spontaneously, without true recall, recognition, or reason.  I see a great light and I "know" that God is in the light.  I "know" that I have died, with no apparent basis for that knowledge.


Non-transpersonal Interpretations


"Transpersonal" means extending beyond the individual person.  "Transpersonal experience" may mean two general types of experience.  I may transcend the experience of my own physical and mental self, whether or not I experience anything beyond myself.  Or I may experience another reality beyond my normal experience--the Self, brahman, God, the void, or nirvana--with or without transcending myself completely.

It is when I am awake that I (or others) decide on the basis of the data to what extent an experience was transpersonal.  I may be inclined to accept without doubt my intuitions as a dreamer.  Or I may never feel an obligation to agree to a transpersonal interpretation of my experience.

Any "transpersonal" experience in obvious continuity from dreaming could surely be suspected of being "only a dream."  This is the simplest explanation of "transpersonal" phenomena, no matter how open we are to more complex explanations.  Visions are dream images.  Levitation and flights-of-the-spirit are dreamed sensations.  Light, however spectacular, is seen as dreams are seen.  Religious feelings and knowledge come as feelings and knowledge come in dreams.  Feelings of timelessness, ineffability, and paradox are not unusual in even ordinary dreams. 


Transpersonal Interpretations


We can examine the dream data to see to what extent the dreamer has transcended awareness of his own physical and mental self.  Total transcendence would be the complete elimination of all body awareness (physical and dreamed) and all mental content--that is of all phenomena.  The elimination of all dreamer-related phenomena results in object-less consciousness.  A lucid dreamer says, "If conditions permit me to concentrate for long . . . I gradually lose body awareness and approach the total elimination of objects of consciousness.  Mental activity ceases."  (Gillespie, 1986)   The reporter describes the gradual elimination of phenomena and thus the gradual transcending of himself.  But he does not imply that any transpersonal reality, such as the void or brahman, was experienced beyond himself.  A conclusion that the experience of objectless consciousness is in fact the experience of the void that underlies reality or is brahman would be an interpretation that reaches beyond the data.

The description may note that there was an "awareness" during the dream of some transcendental reality.  Wren-Lewis (1985) was aware of being "flooded with mystical consciousness."  Gillespie (1986) mentions experiences of brilliant light in which, "there remain no images.  I become aware of the presence of God and feel spontaneous great joy."  In both these cases, the belief in the reality of the transcendental experience is part of the phenomenon.  During the experience the dreamer is certain of the transcendental meaning.  But when we are awake, as Steven Katz says (1978, p. 8), "We can never be certain that any of our experiences have their source in a transcendental reality."  I can believe that my experience reflected reality beyond myself, because the experience fits the description found in the teachings I am committed to, or because I find the experience convincing.  In a sense, experience of transcendental reality begins when I believe it begins.

I do not intend to rule out transpersonal interpretations.  I only intend to show the need for a distinction to be made between the description of phenomena and transpersonal interpretations.  To describe analytically is not to be committed to disbelief.  There is certainly a place for transpersonal psychologies and I believe that an objective uninterpreted description of dream and "mystical" phenomena contributes to a proper understanding of them.




Garfield, P. (1979). Pathway to ecstasy: The way of the dream mandala. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Gillespie, G. (1983).  Memory and reason in lucid dreams: A personal observation. Lucidity Letter, 2, (4), 8-9.

Gillespie, G. (1984). Can we distinguish between lucid dreams and dreaming-awareness dreams?  Lucidity Letter, 3 (2&3), 9-11.

Gillespie, G. (1985). Near death, near dream. Lucidity Letter, 4 (2), 30-33.

Gillespie, G. (1986). Ordinary dreams, lucid dreams, and mystical experience. Lucidity Letter, 5(1), 27-31.

Katz, S. (1978). Editor's introduction. In S. Katz (Ed.), Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.

LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming: The power of being awake and aware in your dreams. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Sparrow, G. S. (1976). Lucid dreaming: Dawning of the clear light. Virginia Beach, VA: A. R. E. Press.

Tart, C. (1984). Terminology in lucid dream research. Lucidity Letter, 3 (1), 4-6.

Wren-Lewis, J. (1985). Dream lucidity and near-death experience--A personal report. Lucidity Letter, 4(2), 4-12.


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium

Session 3: Transpersonal Implications of Lucid Dreaming

The Physics of Dream Consciousness: Is the Lucid Dream a Parallel Universe?


Fred Alan Wolf

San Diege, CA


I realize that we have only about twenty minutes to be together so I'm not going to overwhelm you with the number of years of research that I've been doing on the nature of consciousness itself and in particular the connection between physics and consciousness.  I want to give you the bottom line first so you know where I'm coming from. I would like to suggest that all cognitive experience can be related to a model which has currently been circulating in psychological research called the Holographic Model, and I would like to strongly suggest that the mental hologram referred to is constructed in the brain and nervous system via a mechanism of quantum wave interference.

If you’re interested in this hypothesis, I would suggest my book Starwave.  Its subtitle is Mind Consciousness and Quantum Physics. Anyone doing research into consciousness should look at Starwave.  Most of what I'm going to talk about today can be found there. 

There are a number of things from Starwave that I want to discuss.  First of all, you probably want to know why the parallel universe in the title and what that has to do with the holographic model.  The parallel universe idea enters because there is interference of wave patterns from different universes and it's this interference of patterns that constructs what we call ordinary reality.  Now I know I can't explain that to you in the short time we have together.  So I will just give you some highlights and indicate to you why I think this model is important and how I think it relates to a number of questions that you might have.  First of all the real hint for this came about from some work that was done by Karl Pribrum.  Maybe many of you know about his work.  To quote Pribrum:


Clinical neurological experience tells us that the localizing of a perceptual image is not a simple process.  The paradoxical phenomenon of a phantom limb after amputation, for example, makes it unlikely that our experience of receptor stimulation resides where we are apt to localize it.  Even though it appears that we, for example, feel with our fingers or toes, the evidence seems now overwhelming that the location of those feelings is not taking place there.  In a similar manner we see light impinging on our retinas from different places and we create the 'out there' reality from what we see in here.


There is a double process going on.  There is a process of input information from the "out there" and there is a process of "in here" information that we generate ourselves projecting it all onto some screen. There is an interference that takes place and that's what we call ordinary reality.  So called distorted realities, mental illness, aberrations, have really more to do with the projection mechanism than they have with the actual input of data.  So we project and receive experience, in the holographic model from and to our brains and nervous systems.

Let me present more data about this from the work of physiologist and Nobel Laureate,  George Van Bekesey.  He has done some remarkable research concerning the sense of touch.  When I tell you about this I think you will see immediately the connection to lucid dream experience. After describing some preliminary experiments using vibrators to

simultaneously stimulate two fingertips, thereby generating a feeling of vibration between the fingers, not at the fingertips, but in the space between, Van Bekesey wrote: 


even more dramatic than this experiment is the one in which two vibrators are placed on the [touching] thighs, one above each knee.  By training, a subject can be made to perceive a sensation that moves continuously from one knee to the other.  If the subject now spreads the knees apart, he will get an experience of at first a jumping of the sensation from one knee to the other.  In time, however, [and this is the interesting part], the subject will become convinced that the vibratory sensation can become localized in the free space between the knees. 


Now think about that for a moment.  He's creating an experience of something in space, where essentially the stimulation is coming from two separate places.  That this strongly suggests that what's happening is a wave interference phenomena.

Now as you might be able to guess, I am also a lucid dreamer.  I've had a number of lucid dreams.  They are all transpersonal.  They are all spiritual.  They are all symbolic.  In other words, I fit into several of the categories you named.  But I sometimes have trouble differentiating this reality from that dream.

What is the physical mechanism of a lucid dream?   As we go through life, we experience a certain amount of data and that data is recorded, I believe, in wave patterns.  They're not necessarily recorded in certain localizations in the brain.  As you can tell from Von Bekesey's research and the research that I mentioned to you that Pribram has been doing, you can see that localization is a phenomena which can be created by wave interference patterning.  In other words, two waves interfere with each other and they create the experience that something is solid and out there.  I would like to suggest that the same thing is happening here and now in this room. This so-called tangible, physical, hard reality, is also created in a similar way. 

The hologram is a remarkable model for dream research.  In order to understand it we need to look at how a hologram is generated. The simplest thing I can tell you again is that it is always generated from two waves interfering.  One wave contains information and the other wave containing a drone or a reference wave.  The reference wave, which is a very simple vibrational pattern and the information wave interfere with each other and construct an interference pattern which is registered in a medium possibly the glial cells of the brain.   Now what's very significant is that once a record has been made and a reference wave is played back through the recording medium you reproduce the information wave.

You all may know that, right?  Well, what you probably haven't been taught, is that really a multitude of images gets reproduced, not just one.  You don't just reproduce the information wave but you really reproduce a number of parallel possibilities.  If you actually look at the mathematics carefully you'll see there's an infinite number of images. It is like looking at your reflection in an infinite hall of mirrors. You get a number of localization points where there is information. There are two major points or foci.  The one that we normally see when we look at a hologram is something that we call the virtual image.  It's the image that we project in our minds as being out there. Now the interference between information coming from the outside world and the projection mechanism from our inside world gives us everyday experiences so we don't go around getting hit by cars, most of the time, or don't walk through red lights.  That provides our sense of survival. 

When we go into a dream state, we may enter one of two types of dream states.  There are the ordinary types of dream states that are usually totally confusing-and the major reason that they are confusing is that the reference wave being played back is incoherent.  In the second type or lucid dream state the reference wave being played back is a coherent wave.  As a result, what happens is, if the reference wave were the same reference wave you use for ordinary 'out there' experience, you would experience a virtual image and see it out there.  But the reference wave being played back can be a wave reversed in time and space.  This is called the starwave.  This may sound a little far out right now, but again, you can read Starwave to see where I'm coming from.  In a lucid dream state, where you are not receiving input from the outside, the Starwave reference wave is played back in a reverse sense.  So what it does is that it recreates instead of the series of virtual images in the mind, it recreates real images in the brain!!  These are real images so you have the experience in the dream of being in those images. 

If you've ever seen a magician do a trick, it's very similar to an optical illusion.  You know this trick where there is a mirror and you reach up and there is a rose floating in space and you try to reach out and touch it and it's not there?  That's a real image.  You can make one with a lens or any kind of reflecting mirror.  A hologram does the same thing.  A hologram will make both real and virtual images.  It all depends on which direction the reference wave shines through.  So what I'm suggesting is that the reference wave is a time space, reversed wave in the brain when the mind is in a lucid dream state.  At that moment, what is recreated is information which has been stored and also time-reversed. 

That's why lucid dreams have an unusual character to them.  That's why things seem out of time sequence, often, and often you will find information coming in that wasn't necessarily coming from the outside world.  It could be deep seated information.  It could be information that has nothing to do with your normal space time awareness.  It could be something having to do with awareness of things that you aren't aware of in this outside world.  I call it parallel universe awareness because I believe that parallel universes arise as other images in the hologram. 

Well, that's a very quick run through.  I think I've got about another five minutes and I'd rather answer your questions than tell you more about the model.  I'm currently working on a number of papers extending the model.  One is a paper on the quantum physics of the unconscious, which deals with this question of lucid dreaming and normal dreaming and will be published in a journal called Integrative Psychiatry. In conclusion I suggest to you that there is now a development in which I think there will be a physics of consciousness in which the dream state can be explained based on a parallel worlds model which is essentially a holographic model.  The two hologram and parallel universes model are really the same thing.


Question:  What happens in a normal dream?


Let me repeat the question.  The questioner wants to know, in a normal dream what is happening.  How does that differ from a lucid dream? Why is there any difference?  What I'm suggesting is that, you were talking about how a dream playback occurs?  In a normal type dream where you're not present in the dream, the reference wave being played back is not a coherent reverence wave.  It's incoherent.  [In physics the word incoherent means that a number of sources are producing light but the relative phases between the light waves is random.  That's called incoherent.  Coherent means that the relative phases are in phase.] Now that doesn't mean that you necessarily have a dream that's totally rambling and crazy.  You can have an ordinary experience in the normal dream with incoherent starwaves just like you can use a light bulb and make interference patterns from the light from that light bulb.  Light bulbs will make incoherent interference patterns but lasers do it much better, coherently.  The important distinction is the idea of the real image.  The ordinary dream doesn't come to a focus.  The real image is where the lucidity comes from.  It's the fact that there is a real image forming and you don't have that in your ordinary dream. That's why you're not normally in your ordinary dream.


Question:  What is the frequency of the waves making the hologram?  


What is the frequency?  I have no idea.  Yes, it has to have a frequency.  I would like to suggest a research technique for this.  You put people into a mode where you can use different frequencies, touch, eye and ear, and see which one might be inducing a visualization.  Then you'll be able to tune, close to the frequency.  I don't think it's the same frequency for everybody.  There is also some indication that the frequency could be very high.  Did you follow my answer?  The frequency may not be the same for every person. 

What kind of wave is it?   It's a quantum wave vibration, it's not electromagnetic.  It has to do with a wave interference in the quantum wave probabilities associated with locations, probably, of neurogate proteins in the neuro wall.  For further detail look at my paper on the quantum physics of consciousness published in Integrative Psychiatry in 1985, and read Starwave.  One of the things I want to comment on in reference to you question about frequency is that if you vary the frequency of the reference waves in viewing a hologram, it turns out that you can magnify the size of the image or reduce the size of the image.  Let's say you record the image with one reference frequency and then playback with another reference frequency.  If the reference frequency you're playing back with is bigger if the wave-length is larger, the image turns out to be magnified.  If the wavelength is smaller, the image turns out to be smaller.  So there might be a number of reference waves involved depending on the mechanism that we're looking for. For example, the reference wave in DNA encoding might be very different from the reference waves from, say, learning how to walk.


Question:  Do you think everything is a hologram?


Well, that gets into too much for right now.  I don't disagree with that viewpoint.  Physical reality can be explained, although it's difficult to do so, as a hologram.  I'm using a very important principle in science which is that you can compartmentalize something and apply techniques to study it and say, "Well, how does that behave?"  So I'm going to say let's just look at the brain and nervous system first and see if we can understand as much as we can just from that.  This doesn't wipe out any extra, extraordinary experiences at all, but maybe it will help explain what is going on.  I'm trying to characterize feeling and thought as quantum vibrations of protein gate molecules in the neuro wall.  Now, you may ask, is it really true that that is really where feelings and thoughts lie?  I have no idea.  But I think that's true.  I think that feelings and thoughts may indeed lie in the neuro protein gate molecules.  And it's important to at least research it and see if we can test the hypothesis.  Now I can't test the hypothesis that the brain is a hologram.  I don't know what to do with it. But I certainly might be able to test the hypothesis that changing reference waves through stimulus might cause resonance with quantum reference waves which could stimulate holographic dreaming.  So I'm looking for tests. As a physicist, I want to know, how do you test it?  We can philosophize all we want to but if we can't test it, what good is it?


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Proceedings from the Second Annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium Concluding Comment


Stephen LaBerge

Stanford University


I suspect we all share the impression of what a rich presentation we have had here today and what a wide range of approaches to lucid dreaming.  Personally, I am delighted to see how this has been developing over the years.  There has been more and more interest, and more people taking all sorts of different approaches, and I'm really looking forward to the next time we have a symposium like this and what answers we'll have to, for example, the fascinating questions raised in the ethics panel discussion. It seemed to me that we just don't know yet where the real pitfalls of lucid dreaming might be.  We don't have any examples yet, with the possible exception of what Joe mentioned, of clear cases where people have been harmed by lucid dreams.  But, perhaps it is possible, and we are going to have to find out whom it is good for and for whom it is not, how best to make use of it, and so on.  

Obviously, there is a lot more that we're going to learn about the psychotherapeutic applications of lucid dreaming, once people start really applying it to nightmares, and collecting more cases of how lucid dreaming can facilitate the healing process. The work that Andrew is doing is very interesting.  He just told me it was going to cost him a half a million dollars to do the rest of the study, so I hope he will be able to find some funding sources.  Of course, the brain mapping we showed you was just one subject, only a few lucid dreams, and really just the beginning of the possible analyses.  We are going to need a lot more data.

We're beginning to understand the content of lucid dreams in a more sophisticated way, beginning to notice that there are styles of lucid dreaming, different kinds of content.  I'm sure we'll be hearing more about that.  There are a number of unresolved questions that came up, for example, the question of dream sex, and why it is anecdotally so prominent, and yet doesn't show up in some of our dream samples.

I found the last presentation very intriguing. It showed a very different way of looking at perception. I think one of the questions we'll have to address is what kind of models we're using for understanding what a dream state is. I really wanted to ask Skip Alexander what kind of brain-mind model he had behind that nice diagram about the mind, whether or not God was in the brain, or prior to all brains, or whether the "state of unity" was a brain state, or a state in some other sphere.  It's a similar sort of question to what Fred was asking; where is all this taking place? [gestures, indicating the environment] If something is "mixing", is it in the brain, or is it "projecting out" into physical reality or some other reality.  I think we have to keep an open mind about that, because we don't know what the nature of the world is at all; our idea of physics is primitive.

I was also quite intrigued by the ideas of creative applications of lucid dreaming.  I think we'll see more examples of this as people make more attempts at it.  Indeed, the "notorious" OMNI article that was mentioned earlier, "Controlling Your Dreams", has a benefit for research. Namely, we've gotten about a thousand questionnaires filled out by people answering such questions as, "Did you ever try to solve a problem in a dream? If so, what happened?" and, "Did you ever heal yourself in a dream?" and things like that.  So, soon we will begin to have a clearer idea about what people have actually been able to do with their lucid dreams.  Further, I think there is a step beyond that, since, of course, that's only what people have done so far. 

You all know that many of the boundaries that limit us are simply mental.  What we think impossible we do not even attempt.  This is sensible enough, when applied to the truly impossible. But you have all probably heard the example of the "four minute mile", and that when it wasn't thought possible to do, no one could do it, until one person succeeded, and then others found it wasn't a real limitation.  I think we're going to discover that there are many more applications of lucid dreaming as we have more examples, as more people show how it's done, and this is part of the excitement of it all for me. Thank you all for your participation.


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Articles: Research Reports

“Consciousness” During Sleep in a TM Practitioner: Heart Rate, Respiration and Eye Movement.


J. Gackenbach, W. Moorecroft, C. Alexander & S. LaBerge

U. of N. Iowa, Luther College, Maharishi Inter. Univ., Stanford U.


Reports of consciousness during dreaming or lucid dreaming have been verified by having the dreamer signal from the dream that he/she is dreaming with a prearranged set of distinctive lateral eye movements (LaBerge, 1985). This basic methodology has subsequently been replicated in other sleep laboratories.  Relatedly, a continuation of consciousness from the waking state into the sleep state is claimed to be a key aspect of the experience of "Transcendental Consciousness", which is developed by the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM; Banquet & Sailhan, 1974).

Research suggests that a distinctive psychophysiological state of restful alertness, referred to as Transcendental Consciousness, may be produced during subperiods of practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program (e.g., Orme-Johnson & Haynes, 1981). In this state, the subject-object relationship is said to be transcended, including all representation structures; knower, known and process of knowing converge in one unified field of pure (content-free) consciousness. Reported episodes of Transcendental Consciousness (button press are highly correlated with bilateral and homolateral alpha and theta EEG coherence and with apparent periods of respiratory suspension for 15-60 seconds duration and lower heart rate (e.g., Farrow & Herbert, 1982). Vedic psychology (Maharishi, 1969; Alexander et al., in press) predicts that repeated experience of the least excited state of Transcendental Consciousness during TM can give rise to a stable higher stage of consciousness in which pure consciousness is maintained as a silent, uninvolved "witness" to the changing states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. In contrast "lucid dreaming" is associated with an increase in autonomic arousal indices suggesting an increase in active cognitive processing (LaBerge, 1985). It is predicted that the temporary experience of restfully alert, Transcendental Consciousness can be stably maintained as a higher stage of consciousness throughout the 24 hour waking, dreaming and sleeping cycle.



This study investigated the electrophysiological correlates of sleep and dreaming in a single advanced practitioner of TM who reported maintaining the experience of "Transcendental Consciousness" throughout the 24 hour cycle.  This 28 year old male had been meditating for 5.8 years and received one of the highest scores thus far recorded on an inventory designed to assess self reports of the attainment of higher states of consciousness (Stage of Consciousness Inventory, SCI; Alexander, Davis, Dillbeck, Dixon, Oetzel & Muehlman, in press).  Further, he received low scores on the SCI scales which assess psychopathology and tendency to endorse misleading, grandiose sounding statements.  During TM practice he displayed exceptionally high amplitude alpha spindles across all EEG channels and periods of respiratory suspension (Kesterson, 1985).

As noted the state produced by TM practice is characterized by low levels of autonomic arousal (Orme-Johnson & Haynes, 1981).  Since the possibly related state of "lucid dreaming" is associated with increased autonomic arousal (LaBerge, Levitan & Dement, 1986), we addressed the question of whether experiences of "Transcendental Consciousness" signaled by eye-movements during sleep would show physiological correlates distinct from lucid dreaming.

The TM subject (TMS) and three others, two who reported frequent by experiencing lucid dreams and one who had never had a lucid dream, were studied in a sleep laboratory for 2 to 7 nights.  Standard polysomnograms (EEG, EOG, and EMG as well as pulse and respiration) were recorded.  Only eye movement, heart rate and respiration data will be reported here. 



Initially we looked at REM differences between this TM lucid dreamer and two dreamers who reported frequently experiencing lucidity, were able to accomplish the eyemovement signaling task at home but not during their two nights in the sleep laboratory (LDS) and one dreamer who reported never having had a lucid dream and was unable to do the signaling task at home when instructed to try (NLDS).  The resulting one way analyses of variance on all three dependent variables were significant (eye movement, F(2,993)=60.68, p<.00001; heart rate, F(2,784)=295.409, p<.00001; respiration, F(2,787)=185,37, p<.00001).  The Duncan's a-postori test showed, as expected by the low arousal model for Transcendental Consciousness, the TMS's heart rate and respiration were significantly lower than the LDS or the NLDS (mean heart rate/minute, TMS = 7.14, LDS = 7.32, NLDS = 9.11). However, for eye movement density, the picture was less clear. That is, the LDS's had significantly higher eye movement density per 30 second epoch (mean = 6.07) than either the NLDS (mean = 2.69) or the TMS (mean = 2.20) who did not differ.

To determine if there were any REM differences as a function of the different demand characteristics associated with the REM episodes of the TMS, we also looked at four types of REM episodes from this TM lucid dreamer and compared them to the REM episodes of the other two dreamer types. Specifically, we compared eye movement density, hear rate and respiration rate within the REM episodes of the two lucid dreamers (Group 6, Table 1) to those of the non-lucid dreamer (Group 5) and to four different types of REM episodes from the TM subject. These included REM epochs after he signaled (Group 4) and before he signaled (Group 3). Group 2 consisted of REM episodes where he did not signal nor was he instructed to signal and, finally, Group 1 consisted of REM episodes where he did not signal but he had been instructed to signal. As before, these one way  analyses of variance were significant for all three dependent variables (eye movement F(5,993)=25.47, p<.00001; heart rate F(5,784)=118.054, p<.00001; respiration F(5,787)=77.60, p<.00001). The means and a-postori results are given in Table 1.

The results of these analyses are clearest for heart rate. That is, across types of REM and types of people the TM subject showed significantly slower heart rates. The picture is less clear for eye-movement density and respiration. For the former the significance was clearly accounted for by the high eye movement density of the lucid dreamers who did not signal in the laboratory but who were instructed to do so. For respiration, the non-lucid dreamer showed higher rates that the others. This is surprising if one assumes an arousal model as an individual predisposition for lucidity to occur (Snyder & Gackenbach, in press).

            Next, following LaBerge et al, mean Z-scores per 30 second epoches counting from the prearranged eye movement signals were computed for REM density, heart rate and respiration rate. The TM subject maintained that he had been continuously “conscious”; the signals represent the times he “remembered to signal.” T-tests comparing, on the average, 10 epoches following the signal to, on the average, 30 epoches preceding the signal were computed on each dependent variable for each stage in which he signaled. These data are illustrated in bar graphs where z-scores from just prior to and just after the signal are graphed for all three dependent variable occurring during REM, Stage 1 and Stage 2 (see Figures 1, 2 and 3).


Again, as predicted with the lower arousal model for Transcendental Consciousness attained through Transcendental Meditation, no significant pre-post signal differences were found for any of the dependent variables from stages 2 or REM.  However, for stage 1 eye movement (t(79)=-2.85, p<.006; see Figure 1) and respiration (t(92)=2.03, p<.04; see Figure 2) showed significant pre-post signal differences.  Eye movement density went up after the signal (mean pre=-0.14, mean post=0.62) while respiration went down (mean pre=.10, mean post=-.40).  If you look at the bar graph of Figure 1 you can see that the eye movement finding is probably an artifact of the high density of one epoch.  The low respiration finding was consistent with the low arousal model.

Figures 4, 5, and 6 portray the z-scores from LaBerge et al.'s REM normative data and the TMS's REM data from signaled epochs. With regards to stage REM, as per LaBerge et al, eye movement density (Figure 4) and heart rate (Figure 6) showed elevated levels just prior to and/or just after the signal. It should be noted that the 30 second epoch just prior to the signal is considered part of the signaling process as generally one must think about signaling before one does it.  Where these figures differ from those reported by LaBerge et al is that this subject seemed to recover more quickly from the momentary "arousal" caused by the signaling.


Interpretation of these data is speculative as it involves only one TMS. However, with this limitation in mind, one could say that just as the experience of Transcendental Consciousness during Transcendental Meditation tends to be associated with a lower state of arousal so to the reported experience of Transcendental Consciousness during sleep tended to be associated with a lower level of arousal than during lucid or nonlucid dreaming in other subjects.  The finding that the TMS was able to voluntarily signal from REM, Stage 1, and Stage 2 indicates that this deep state of restfulness was combined with an inner state of alertness or wakefulness.  Further, these findings suggest that the restfully alert state of Transcendental Consciousness was only momentarily disrupted during the signaling task and then quickly returned to the low arousal, silent, wakeful condition.  In contrast, lucid dreaming appears to involve a high arousal active state of information processing that corresponds to and is maintained after the signal and apparently during the remainder of the lucid dreaming period.




Alexander, C.N., Davies, J., Dillbeck, M., Dixon, C., Oetzel, R. & Muehlman, J.M. (in press). Higher stages of consciousness beyond formal operations: The Vedic psychology of human development.  In C.N. Alexander, E. Langer and R. Oetzel (Eds.), Higher stages of human development. New York: Oxford University Press.

Banquet, Jean-Paul & Sailhan, M. (1974, April). Quantified EEG spectral analysis of sleep and Transcendental Meditation. Paper presented at the second European Congress on Sleep Research, Rome, Italy.

Farrow, J.T. & Hebert, J.R. (1982). The psychophysiology of advanced participants in the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosomatic Medicine, 44(2), 133-153.

Kesterson, John (1985). Respiratory changes during the Transcendental Meditation technique. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 1144, 334.8.

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

LaBerge, S., Levitan, L. & Dement, W. (1986).  Lucid dreaming: Physiological correlates of consciousness during REM sleep. The Journal of Mind and Behavior: Special Issue: Cognition and Dream Research. 7(2&3), 251-258.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1967). On the Bhagavad-Gita: A new translation and commentary (chapters 1-6.) Baltimore: Penguin.

Orme-Johnson, D.W. & Haynes, C.T. (1981). EEG phase coherence, pure consciousness, creativity and TM-Sidhi experiences. International Journal of Neuroscience, 13, 211-217.

Snyder, T.J. & Gackenbach, J.I. (in press). Individual differences associated with the lucid dreaming ability. In J.I. Gackenbach and S. LaBerge (Eds.), Consciousness mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. New York: Plenum.


This research was supported by grants to the first two authors from their respective institutions. A shorter version of this paper appeared originally in the ASD Newsletter and was presented at the 1987 annual conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams


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Induction of Lucid Dreaming by Luminous Stimulation


Stephen LaBerge

Stanford University


Lucid dreaming, is a learnable, but difficult, skill (LaBerge, 1980). Consequently, we have sought methods for helping dreamers to realize that they are dreaming by means of external cues applied during REM sleep, which if incorporated into dreams, can remind dreamers that they are dreaming. We have tested a variety of stimuli, including tape recordings of the phrase "This is a dream", (LaBerge, Owens, Nagel & Dement, 1981), musical tones (Kueny, 1985), conditioned tactile stimuli (Rich, 1985), olfactory stimuli (LaBerge, Brylowski, & Levitan, 1985) and light.

 Here we report on laboratory experiments using light as a stimulus for inducing lucid dreams.  The light stimuli were flashing extra bright red light emitting diodes mounted in a pair of goggles, applied for varying lengths of time either by a technician or a computer while the subject was in REM sleep. Twenty-eight subjects (reporting a median of one lucid dream per month) were polysomnographically recorded for one to four nights, and stimulated with flashing light during REM sleep.  Seventeen subjects (61%), had one or more signal-verified lucid dreams, although for five subjects lucidity lasted only a few seconds before awakening.  Six of the thirteen (46%) subjects reporting less than one lucid dream per month had at least one lucid dream compared to eleven of the fifteen (73%) reporting one or more lucid dreams per month.  Of the four subjects who reported never having had lucid dreams, two had their first lucid dreams stimulated by light.

Content analysis suggests that lucid dreams triggered by light stimuli can be equally intense and transcendent as those which occur spontaneously. One subject reported five lucid dreams in one night in the laboratory with the stimulus, and claimed that his awareness was elevated for the entire next day.  Also, light-induced lucid dreams of over thirty minutes in length have been recorded.  Further research is in progress to develop an optimally effective method of lucid dream induction.




Kueny, S. (1985). Auditory cueing in REM sleep for the induction of lucid dreaming. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, Menlo Park, CA.

LaBerge, S. (1980). Lucid dreaming as a learnable skill: A case study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 51, 1039-1042.

LaBerge, S., Owens, J., Nagel, L., & Dement, W. (1981). 'This is a dream': Induction of lucid dreams by verbal suggestion during REM sleep. Sleep Research, 10, 150.

LaBerge, S., Brylowski, A. & Levitan, L. (1985). [Unpublished data.]

Rich, R. (1985). Lucid dream induction by tactile stimulation during REM sleep. Unpublished Honors Thesis, Department of Psychology, Stanford University.


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Articles: Phenomenology: Personal and Theoretical Considerations

The Dream-Art Scientist: A Sethian View of Dream Lucidity


Linda Magallon

San Jose, CA


The experiential reports of lucid dreamers are often a clue to the underlying psychological, scientific or metaphysical biases that each dreamer incorporates into his nightly reveries.  Such opinion can be the result of long-term philosophical commitment or new belief experiments.  The phenomenon of the client who conveniently dreams Jungian dreams for the benefit of her Jungian therapy is an example of the latter case.

It is less easy to pinpoint the belief system of the dream researcher unless he or she provides evidence through the sharing of personal dream records.  Yet, personally and culturally held beliefs and opinions bias content, process and even the structure that dream study will take. 

In contrast to those dream researchers who view lucid dreams as objects of study apart from the dreamer, Jane Roberts' Seth material advocates the creation of a new subjectively involved dreaming professional called the dream-art scientist.  This is a model that I've found practical, appealing, and continually challenging since I began to study lucid dreams.

The Sethian view sees dreaming as an art that involves personal style, originality of expression and inventiveness.  Learning to become lucid, maintaining a focus, creativity with dream images and landscapes, incubation of dream topics, obtaining specific information, understanding dreams, and mutual dreaming are skills of the dreaming arts (Reneau, 1988).

Dreaming is also considered a science requiring objectivity in such outer activities as recording, analysis, and determining correlations between dreams and waking life.  However, a dream-art scientist is also one who is skilled enough to study the nature and principles of dreaming from within the dream state. 

The study of dreaming can be specific to the individual: "What do dragons mean to Sue and how does she handle them in her dream state?" or it can seek to establish general creative principles: "Does a change in consciousness result in a change in the dreamscape?"

Thoughts, emotions and intuition provide data for study provided an appropriate methodology is applied: inductive/deductive reasoning to logical/rational thinking processes; direct/emotional cognition to emotions and intuition.  A hypothesis is not considered a rigid assumption to be proven true but serves as an lightly held idea for exploration, allowing new and unexpected material to emerge (Reneau, 1988).

To develop objectivity both within and without the dream state, self-knowledge becomes crucial.  Acting alternately as observer and participator, continually reflecting on and questioning his basic assumptions, the dream-art scientist begins to see around and beyond his intellectual and emotional biases.  Such an approach allows debate to go beyond the issue of lucid control and its use, for example, to resolve symbolic conflicts or confront nightmare figures.  It moves on to a deeper level of questioning.  Why have a nightmare in the first place?  Are dreams useful only for therapeutic treatment or is there any other purpose to be served by understanding and interpreting dreams (Roberts, 1986)?

To be a dream-art scientist requires the development of specific talents.  Lucidity is a prerequisite.


...A practicioner of this ancient art learns first of all how to become conscious in normal terms, while in the sleep state.  Then he becomes sensitive to the different subjective alterations that occur when dreams begin, happen, and end (Roberts, 1977).


Lucidity includes experience of hypnogogia, imageless dreams, out-of-body and initial awakening states, mental and aural dream periods, and other dream states which have yet to find commonly accepted nomenclature (Roberts, 1986). "He familiarizes himself with the symbolism of his own dreams... (Roberts, 1977)." 

Sethian lucid dreamers don't have to wait until waking to understand a dream symbol, they can ask while in the dream state.  "Who are you?"  "What do you represent?"  "What message have you for me?"


...and sees how these do or do not correlate with the exterior symbols that appear in the waking life he shares with others (Roberts, 1977). 


Dream dictionaries become inappropriate to the Sethian who realizes that the meaning of her own dream symbols are primarily personal in nature, and furthermore, that they change over time (Roberts, 1986).


There are inner meeting places, then, interior "places" that serve as points of inner commerce and communication...Our dream-art scientist learns to recognize such points of correlation (Roberts, 1977).


Secondarily, symbols can serve as correlating elements between dreamers, providing evidence for mutual dreaming and shared life issues.


...he or she then begins to recognize the fact of involvement with many different levels and kinds of reality and activity.  He must learn to isolate these, separate one from the other, and then try to understand the laws that govern them (Roberts, 1977).


Is there a level of dreaming in which, for example, it is not possible to go through walls because one's body sense is too dense, too close to the waking state?  Or does every lucid dream level have the same laws (Roberts, 1986)?


Current scientific thought holds objectivity in high esteem and this approach is valid for objectifiable data.  But until we invent a dream machine that holographically depicts dream images, feeling tone and the myriad sensational, emotional, intuitive and cognitive components of dreams, we are left with written or oral reports, often self-selected.  How can we even know what data to look for, what questions to ask, what subtle distinctions to define if we aren't dreamers experienced in a wide variety of lucid skills? 

There is more than one dream state, more than one experience of lucidity, more than one approach to dream study and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better chance we give ourselves to explore the frontiers that we have just begun to discover.





Reneau, Linda (1988). A Manual of Dream-Art Science. Metamorphous Press, OR.

Roberts, Jane  (1986). Seth, Dreams and Projections of Consciousness.  Stillpoint, NH.

Roberts, Jane (1977) The Unknown Reality, Vol. I.  Prentice-Hall, NJ.


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 -sible to the layman.  However, it was not until almost 10 years later that Tholey's work founded on numerous theoretical and empirical studies, was - with the help of co-author Kaleb Utecht - compiled and presented, with innumerable examples and illustrations in book form.

In the introduction, the authors ask the reader how they put to use the 4 years or so of their lives which are given to dreaming.  If merely staying in a foreign country can alter people by furnishing them with new views about their own selves, what benefit could be had from a journey into one's own strange dream world?  The dreamer is led to a better comprehension of the dream content through an explanation of various physiological and psychoanalytical (Freud, Jung) methods of observation.  This is followed by initial advice on how to gain access to one's own dreams. Then an explanation is given of lucid dreaming.  To begin with six aspects of lucidity are distinguished.  Tholey differs from other authors in that he does not view the first aspect, i.e. the knowledge that one is dreaming, to be sufficient evidence of a lucid dream.  The dreamer must, he argues, also be aware that he can make his own decisions during dreaming and that he can change aspects of the dream at will.  Only then, according to Tholey, does the dream take on a completely new quality.  The final requirement is that the dream ego is able to recall the waking life. 

I consider these two final criteria to be important, for only when these two criteria are also fulfilled, is it possible to carry out the experiments described in the book and to exhaust the manifold application of this type of dream.  In my experience as a psychotherapist, these two criteria are just as vital for the use of lucid dreams in self-healing and therapy.

Chapter 1 is characterized above all by its practical slant, and begins with a technique for the induction of lucid dreams.  The technique in question is the reflection technique developed by Tholey beginning in 1959.  It is based on the following principle: What occupies my thoughts in my waking life will also occupy them in my dream life.  If one asks oneself several times a day, whether one is awake or dreaming, this question will at some stage also crop up during dreaming.   Generally, one will then become aware that one is dreaming due to a bizarre event in the dream.  However, the world we experience during dreaming and that which we perceive in the waking state sometimes appear to be identical.  For this reason, it is suggested that reality tests be carried out, i.e. tests which allow the subject to differentiate between the two worlds.  For instance the authors suggest the turning test which involves turning the entire body 180o.  In the dreaming state, this usually results in the body appearing to continue to turn, or in the surroundings turning in the opposite direction to one's self.  I find the underlying principle of this technique (here merely outlined) to be very important, because the question about one's state of consciousness requires a playful attitude which alters the perception of the world in both the waking and dreaming state and therefore creates a situation in which powers of self-healing can be released.  It is clear that if not for the development of the reflection technique, as well as other techniques employed to induce lucid dreams, the many experiments discussed by the authors in their research into lucid dreaming would not have been possible.

Following the description of the reflection technique, an important use of lucid dreaming is explained.  It is shown how it is possible, through confrontation with figures appearing in nightmares to rid oneself of these completely.  The authors further stress that there is no risk involved in this.

Chapter 2 provides the reader with more theory.  For a better understanding of both the dream content and for dealing with the dream figures in lucid dreams, methods of observation from the world of psychoanalysis (Freud, Jung) are included as well as expressions from Gestalt therapy (Perls).  The expressions, "topdog" and "underdog", for example, which were coined by Perls, are referred to, in order to explain one of the lucid dreams.  Moreover psychoanalysis - at least traditional psychoanalysis is criticized, as are theoretical weaknesses in Perls' work as a whole.  In my opinion, the discussion of these theories could have been conducted in more depth.

Chapter 3 deals with the problem of psychological resistance which is encountered during confrontation with one's own unconscious.  Examples are used to illustrate how this resistance can prevent the dreamer from recognizing his/her state of dreaming, but also serve to show how this resistance can be circumvented, in order to attain lucidity in the dream and alter one's behavior accordingly.

Chapter 4 contains an in-depth description of how to deal with other dream figures (friendly or hostile) encountered during lucid dreaming.  In dealing with hostile dream figures, the most important principles mentioned are confrontation, dialogue, and reconciliation with these figures.  The application of these principles often results in a seventh aspect of lucidity, not mentioned in the introduction, the recognition of what the dream symbolizes.  This recognition allows the subject to discover psychological conflicts during actual dreaming and contributes to a dreamer's healing.  This chapter also contains a description of a series of techniques which allow the dreamer to maintain lucidity about his state of consciousness while falling asleep.  The authors point out that the use of some of these techniques can lead to so-called 'out-of-the-body experience'.  They also mention that directions on how to include lucid dreams have existed in some cultures for thousands of years as amount the Tantrists, the Tibetan yogis, magicians and American Indian tribes.  These directions are similar to some aspects of Tholey's empirically tested techniques, but seen as a whole contradict each other and are too encumbered with mythological and ideological thought to make them very effective.

In chapter 5, attention is once again directed towards theory.  The authors show how lucid dreams and 'out of the body experiences' can be easily incorporated into the critical-realistic view of the world of Gestalt psychology.  This view of the world is described and illustrated using numerous illustrations.  It is founded on the strict differentiation between the phenomenal (mental) and the transphenomenal (physical or physiological) set of facts.  In my opinion, these empirical discussions derive their importance from the fact that they allow calm and fear-free contact with one's own unconscious during lucid dreaming.

Chapter 6 contains a wealth of examples of lucid dreams.  They illustrate the diversity of experiences which occur in lucid dreaming and various types of lucid dreams together with their possible applications.  The authors show how lucid dreams can be used to gain knowledge about one's own person and situation, for scientific research, for mental training in sport and, finally, for one's own pleasure.  I am acquainted with the enormous amount of lucid dream material Tholey has collected and cannot help feeling that more appropriate examples could have been chosen for this book.

Chapter 7 is devoted solely to lucid dreams which involve the performance of creative tasks.  In this connection, it is underscored that not only the dream ego, but also other dream figures are capable of performing amazing cognitive tasks.  This is followed by an explanation of a series of lucid dreaming experiments, some using apparatus.  Experiments by LaBerge are described, in which he shows that it is possible for the dream ego to transmit information to the 'outside world' using various 'Morse code signals', i.e. the signals are transmitted first to a specially designed apparatus and then to the observing scientist.  Mention is then made of the fact that certain types of apparatus can be employed to induce lucid dreams, although such apparatus does not as a rule prove to be very effective when compared with other methods.

                The book concludes with a bibliography which not only contains somewhat older literature on the subject, but also includes more recent scientific works on lucid dreaming.  This is a highly useful book and deserves a special place among the many self-help books available on the market.  Without wishing to raise false hopes, the authors have succeeded in providing their readers with a means - in a form easy to understand, yet not just of interest to the layman - of tapping the potential inside each of us, a potential which can be used to change our lives in a decisively positive way.



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Charles Tart’s Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential


Reviewed by John Wren-Lewis

Department of Religious Studies, University of Sydney, Australia


Perhaps the most interesting thing about lucid dreaming is its Janus-character, allowing us to experience simultaneously both the fascination of the mind's inner dramaturgy and our capacity to witness it from outside.  The social cultures of waking life almost always emphasize one aspect of this duality at the expense of the other, and Charles Tart's new book reflects a major pendulum-swing in this respect on the part of psychologically-oriented Westerners.  Nearly two decades ago, his Altered States of Consciousness played a pioneering role in persuading Western public opinion to take dreaming seriously as a creative human potential instead of dismissing it as nonsense.  Now in Waking Up, he describes his experience in using the techinques of that eccentric turn-of-the-century genius G. I. Gurdjieff, for whom (as for traditional Eastern thought) dreaming served only as an analogy for the human mind's proneness to live in a world of fantasy, from which we must somehow "wake up" to be really sane.  Not that Tart himself has had any change of heart about the positive value of paying attention to dreams, but in his book he chooses to say almost nothing on the subject, sensing that for a substantial public in the 1980s the priority is "enlightenment" in the sense of transcending mind, even mind at its most creative.  He carries this self-denying ordinance to the point of omitting all mention of his own considerable work on “waking up” to lucidity in the literal dream-state, simply referring readers to Stephen LaBerge's Lucid Dreaming if they wish to pursue this question for themselves.

Yet I would urge that this book be required reading for all serious students of dream lucidity, as a very practical program for gaining more experience of what "waking up" actually involves, in any state of consciousness.  On the same ground I would commend it to anyone with a really serious concern for spiritual "awakening," even though Tart has chosen to present Gurdjieff's ideas almost wholly in terms of gaining greater clarity in the mundane affairs of everyday live and relationships, with minimal reference to religious concepts.  Here again, he makes only very brief reference to topics on which he is well known as a pioneer, such as parapsychology and transpersonal psychology, preferring to get readers actually working on "waking up" in day-to-day living, without risking distraction into controversial speculation.  (Buddha, I seem to recall, took the same line.)

This essentially practical concern explains, I believe, a feature of the book which might put off Lucidity Letter readers at first sight.  Throughout the early sections Tart adopts a very basic, almost pedestrian approach suggestive of an elementary psychology text, with detailed nuts-and-bolts explanations of concepts like repression, projection, identification etc. which any psychologically sophisticated reader might be forgiven for thinking were common knowledge.  But "I already know all this" is a trick the mind often uses to evade taking ideas really seriously in one's own life.  It is even possible to get very turned on by a life-changing concept and remain quite oblivious to the fact that one isn't applying it personally.  Tart relates, with a disarming frankness which is one of this book's main virtues, how he caught himself out doing this when his interest in Gurdjieff was first aroused by reading P. D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous in 1965.

He tried the exercise which Gurdjieff called "self-remembering", a continuous effort to widen consciousness beyond whatever concern one happens to be pursuing at any moment, by stopping and taking note of the whole penumbra of surrounding thoughts and feelings, of the sights and sounds and smells form the environment, and, most important, of the sensations in one's body.  (It is, as Tart remarks, a case of literally "re-membering" oneself, in the sense of consciously reclaiming all one's members instead of allowing awareness to remain sunk in the mind's current preoccupations.)  The result was a new sense of aliveness and clarity which he found such a turn-on that he plunged eagerly into further study of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.  Three months later he "woke up" to the fact that he'd never actually done the self-remembering exercise again after the first day, although he'd been reading and talking about it with great enthusiasm!

My hunch is that he has deliberately adopted something of a kindergarten style to try to outwit such mental slipperiness.  He is prepared to risk being found boring because he wants to "bore in" Gurdjieff's basic principles with minutely detailed step-by-step exposition and down-home illustrations, showing at each stage how later psychological research has confirmed what for Gurdjieff were only brilliant intuitions.  I certainly found that all kinds of psychological ideas I thought I knew already were getting properly through to me for the first time, at the kind of practical level which made all the difference when I came to try out the self-remembering and self-observation exercises described (with equally necessary pedestrian detail, and equally telling illustrations from the author's personal experience) in the later parts of the book.

In fact this is not a book to be judged by ordinary reviewing standards.  Its real value will become apparent only when readers who have the humility to take it seriously begin to feed back, with honesty and frankness equal to Tart's own, the results of following out its practices.  For those who feel they need group support in such efforts, Tart has some very sensible advice to give about how to find it, emphasizing that group membership also brings pitfalls of its own, especially the temptation of exchanging our ordinary social conditioning for conformity to Gurdjieffism (or whatever system the group is following).  In this connection, Tart tells how he himself has found some of Gurdjieff's cosmological speculations more of a hindrance than a help, and also how the long-term practice of Gurdjieffian disciplines have led him to seek beyond them, firstly in Tibetan Lama Sogyal Rinpoche's exercises for developing compassion, and most recently in A Course in Miracles.

If just a small percentage of Tart's likely readership are inspired to try out his exercises and give honest, factual reports on the results, he will once again have proved himself a pioneer - in this case, of a new era in which real evidence replaces confessions of faith in humanity's age-old quest for enlightenment.  Meantime, I personally look forward to hearing further from Tart himself, particularly if he has anything to report about effects of his exercises on his own or his students' dream life.  If there is anything in the hypothesis that lucidity in waking life is a trigger for lucid dreaming, the results will be of direct interest to this journal!


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Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor:


I would like to comment on how lucid dreaming became counter-productive.  Like most everything else I've enjoyed, too much of it could be very destructive.

Living in the dream world became preferable to reality.  I would lay in bed, miss work, and wrap myself in a catatonic state in which to spin dreams, dreams, dreams.  I would sleep in public places to use various stimuli for my lucid dreams: a park, a downtown bench, the beach, park the car near a school yard of children playing.  If you have mastered lucid dreaming, you should try this, it really is incredible.  Real and random sounds factor in the dream.

Basically, all I did was lucid dream and nothing else.  With a life like that it could be hard to pay the rent.  So I just stopped.  Over time I lost the ability to lucid dream.  Actually, I didn't even try until the experiment which appeared in the April 1987 issue of OMNI magazine.  I must admit that I had the apprehension a reformed alcoholic has for taking one drink.

I never had a word for what I did until I read the OMNI article by you and LaBerge.  Although I never regarded myself as having a special ability, it never occurred to me that others did this as well.

I finally "O.D.'d" on lucid dreaming when I stayed in bed for 4 or 5 days, only rising to drink and use the bathroom.  I was a hermit with no other ambition.

I got a job where people were counting on me to show up and found within me the motivation to shake the cobwebs from my eyes.There's a downside to everything.  I hope you remember this as you research lucid dreaming.


Mark A. Barroso

Tampa, FL


Dear Editor:


I wish to tell you a dream that might be of some importance to the study of dream lucidity as it points out a potential danger of experiencing this state unguided. This dream occurred sometime in September of 1987 and will stay in my mind forever. The following is my morning after dream report:

I found myself inside a large hallway with plain white walls and no windows. The hall contained many doors to my left and to my right was another hallway. At the end of the hallway in which I was standing I noticed an old wooden desk and chair. Confused and not knowing where I was, I started to walk down [the hall], I was then approached by a couple of young boys of about thirteen years of age. They both were dressed in ragged clothing. They kept asking me for something; I do not remember as to what they wanted. (I think they wanted money but I am not sure.) I yelled at them to get away from me for they were hindering me from trying to get a bearing as to where this place is. Cursing under their breath and disappointed, they went away.

Looking down the hall, I saw one of the doors open up. To my surprise, I see the two boys come out, but they were not alone. They were followed by at least fifty other youths. The oldest of them looked to be 18, and they all looked like they were looking for trouble. They were dressed in cut-off denim and leather jackets with spikes and chains. When they saw me they started to race down the hallway after me. They were after me because I had yelled at the two boys. They shouted that they were going to kill me. I became really nervous and frightened.

Quickly, I opened the door closest to me, stepped in and locked the door behind me. No sooner did I lock it when their banging on the door was heard...I turned and looked around the room, which was plain barren like the hall, for any means of escape. I found it odd that there was no furniture at all here. At the far wall was a window. I began to gain confidence; I might just get out of this, I thought, alive. Next to the window was a chair identical to the one outside. I quickly walked over to it, but as I walked I heard the sound of running shower water and singing. I looked into the adjacent room and saw my roommate taking a shower in the corner. This struck me as very odd for I did not know what he was doing here. I felt concerned for him; I didn't want him to get hurt by the gang of kids. The banging became louder. Not having time to warn my roommate, I quickly picked up the wooden chair and threw it at the window. (The window was 6' X 3' and was on the ground floor for I saw a green hill a tree and a sidewalk.) It just bounced off, leaving the window quivering like it was made of plexi-glass. This seemingly impossible event left me with the conclusion that this could only happen in a dream. Just the fact that my roommate was taking a shower in a corner gave further evidence to this. It was at this point that I became lucid.

Knowing that I was dreaming, and knowing that I could not be hurt, I opened the door to face the gang. To my surprise they did not attack me but instead clapped me on the back and became my friends. It felt as if they were glad that I realized I was dreaming. Their sudden friendliness made me happy but cautious. After being introduced I was escorted down the hallway. I felt great joy that I was lucid. The kids and the hall had better clarity and detail. As I walked, a thought occurred to me; now would be a great time to do an experiment, to take advantage of this lucid state before something happens to awaken me. I tried an experiment with math problems. It seemed simple enough and not too complicated. I was curious to know if solving math problems was possible at all in a dream. I walked over to the wooden desk, took out a piece of paper I found in the drawer and wrote down a couple of math questions (8x7, 4x2, 3x2, and I think 9x3). By now most of the gang had dispersed, leaving me alone to solve the problems. There was one kid standing by the wall watching me.

The problem I tried to solve was 8x7. It was extremely difficult to concentrate, and I got the answer wrong. I tried again, but this time I got it right (56). I felt excited. I actually got a math problem right in a dream. The youth next to me approached and asked me if I would join him and the others. I said no and that I wanted to be alone. I then tried another problem. Again it was difficult to concentrate on the answer, but I got it right. Now most of my attention was on solving the math. I began to feel great pressure in my eyes. It felt like the feeling you get when you spin around many times and get that slight headache or when you read in a moving vehicle. I wasn't too concerned though. The funny thing about the whole thing was, and the most unusual, was that with each correct answer, I felt my mind expand.

The dream became more lucid and my peripheral vision was greatly enhanced. I also felt my dream body become more solid, I saw my hands and feet with much greater clarity.

What happened next scared me more than anything I ever experienced in my life. I found my consciousness so expanded that for a moment I could not tell if this was just a dream or reality. The feeling was overwhelming. I became very frightened. Everything around me had become too clear to be just a dream, and it felt as if my physical body, and mind, was converging together with my dream body. It was very frightening. Something in the back of my mind told me that if I didn't stop with the math problems and awaken soon, I will not be able to awake at all and die. This last word stuck heavy on me. I became very, very nervous and started to panic. I immediately dropped the paper and pencil and walked away from the desk. But walking this time was different from any I had experience in a dream. This time I seemed to feel the weight of each foot as it hit the ground. Actual weight. It was like I was there; my physical body. I began to tremble, what was happening was too much for me to comprehend, I just wanted to wake up. When I tried, I found out that I could not. This scared me very badly. The youth confronted me a second time and asked if I was all right. I told him that I was and that I must go. Despite my efforts to wake up I found I still could not.

Out of desperation I tried something else; I tried to focus my mind on my physical body. (I found it much easier to do.) It worked. For an instant I saw my face, in bed, overlap my vision like a double exposure. I then felt my dream body (or more accurate my mind) being sucked up into a vacuum and into a tunnel. The feeling was most unusual; I had never felt it before. This tunnel feeling was the closest thing I could think of to describe the experience. I then felt I was jerked into my physical body. When I awoke I had that pressure in my eyes still and it lasted most of the day. During the course of the day, by now that frightened feeling I had was gone, I felt a new outlook on my life. I felt more good to be alive than I ever did before.


Vincent MacTiernan

New York, New York


Dear Editor:


I was particularly pleased that you chose to include Katrina Machado's most eloquent rebuttal to Strephon Williams' article.  His repeated pleas for "evidence" from LaBerge, when of course he can offer none himself except for his client's subjective reports, and his call for "professional" guidance in genuine dream work - guidance of course from persons who could in no way have participated in the actual drama and nuances of any particular dream experiences they propose to "interpret" for all us "non-professionals".

For someone who represents himself as a professional therapist involved in an organization calling itself the Jungian-Senoi Institute, his position is most curious.  Jung quite emphatically stressed that the second half of any successful analysis must be undertaken and concluded by the patient.  Any intermediaries, he felt, could only stand between the individual and his/her achievement of total fusion of the conscious psyche and the unconscious, which would result in a full realization of the Self.  He is most clear that there is no place for self-delusion in this process; this theme is repeated over and over in his writings.  Today, "Active imagination" in Jungian psychology is considered by some to be frank lucid dreaming (e.g. Mindell, A., Dream Body, 1981).  If Jung himself was only partially aware (as it often seems to me) from his prehensive intuition, that lucid dreaming could be achieved without the rigors of Tibetan training it seems abundantly clear from his first principles and from the corpus of his work, that he would have embraced it as probably the most important tool in the armamentarium of psychoanalysis.


David R. May, Ph. D.



Dear Editor:


I do not believe it is psychologically sound -if one wishes to develop dream lucidity- to ask oneself, "Am I dreaming or am I awake?"  This question implies that when one is dreaming one cannot be awake.  This implication acts as a subtle mental suggestion.

Instead, I ask myself, "Am I awake physically, or awake in dreaming?"

To be lucid is to be awake to the nature of one's present experience.  In a basic sense, to be lucid is to be sane: Oriented as to what is actually happening, and not deluded by appearance.

I don't think we should underestimate semantics.  Words and the definitions we give them not only reveal our beliefs.  They also structure our experience and our interpretations of experience.  And then, because we often take them for granted, so does the subconscious.  They are like hypnotic suggestions. 


This may seem nit-picky, but I believe it is vital.



Linda R. Reneau (Ravenwolf)

Peterborough, NH


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Bibliographic Update


Thanks to Robert Wessel of West Germany, and Lynne Van de Bunte of California for bringing to my attention some historical references on lucid dreaming.  I'd like to encourage all readers to send along references on lucid dreaming, either recent or historical, so that I can pass them along to other subscribers of Lucidity Letter.


Alexander, C. N.  (June, 1987). Beyond waking, dreaming and sleep: A developmental model of higher states of consciousness.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Arlington, VA.

Anderson, W. (1983). Traumanalyse und traumyoga.  In Der tibetische Buddhismus als religion und Psychologie. Stuttgart: G. Umbreit & Co., (Original work published 1979).

Blackmore, S. J. (1983). Birth and the OBE: An unhelpful analogy. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77 (3), 229-238.

Blackmore, S. J. (1986). Spontaneous and deliberate OBE's: A questionnaire survey. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 53 (802), 218-224.

Blackmore, S. J. (1987). Where am I?: Perspectives in imagery and the out-of-body experience.  Journal of Mental Imagery, 11 (2), 53-66.

Braet, H. (1985). Dream, reality, writing: From the referential to self-reference (French).  In T. Gregory (Ed.), Dreams in the middle ages (pp. 11-24).

Brunton, P. (1971). The wisdom of the overself.  New York: E. P. Dutton.

Brylowski, A. (1987). The role of lucid dreaming in the treatment of narcolepsy and nightmares: A case study. Sleep Research, 16, 319.

Brylowski, A. (1987). H-reflex suppression and autonomic nervous system activity during lucid REM sleep. Sleep Research, 16, 227.

Dane, J. R., & Van De Castle, R. L. (1987). A comparison of waking instructions and posthypnotic suggestion for lucid dream induction. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 35 (3), 192.

Dane, J. R. (1987). The clinical utility of lucid dream induction via waking instructions, hypnosis and personal symbols. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 35 (3), 192.

Dane, J. R. & Van de Castle, R. L.  (1987, Oct.). A comparison of waking instructions and posthypnotic suggestion for lucid dream induction.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Los Angeles, CA.

Dane, J. R. (1987, Oct.). The clinical utility of lucid dream induction via waking instruction, hypnosis, and personal symbols. Paper presented at the symposium Hypnosis and Dreams at the annual meeting of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Los Angeles, CA.

Gackenbach, J., Moorecroft, W., Alexander, C. & LaBerge, S.  (1987, June).  "Consciousness" during sleep in a TM practitioner: Heart rate, respiration, and eye movement.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Arlington, VA.

Gackenbach, J., Moorecroft, W., Alexander, C. & LaBerge, S. (1987). Physiological correlates of "consciousness" during sleep in a single TM practitioner. Sleep Research, 16, 230.

Grant, J. (1956). Far memory. New York: Harper.

Grant, J. (1975). Winged pharaoh. Columbus OH: Ariel.

Green, C. & Leslie, W. (1987). The imagery of totally hallucinatory or "metachoric" experiences.  Journal of Mental Imagery, 1 (2), 67-74.

Halliday, G. (1987). Direct psychological therapies for nightmares: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 7 (5), 501-523.

Hearne, K. M. T. (1987). A new perspective on dream imagery. Journal of Mental Imagery, 11 (2), 75-82.

Hunt, H. T. & Popham, C. (1987). Metaphor and states of consciousness: A preliminary correlational study of presentational thinking. Journal of Mental Imagery, 11(2), 83-100.

Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa. (1976). Dreaming. In kindly bent to ease us  (H. V. Guenther, Trans.).  Emeryville: Dharma Publishing.

LaBerge, S. (1987, June). Seeing the light in dreams: Induction of lucid dreaming by luminous stimulation during REM sleep. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Arlington, VA.

Nadon, R., Hoyt, I. P., & Kihlstrom, J. F. (1987). Reports of night dreams and hypnotizability.  Paper presented at a symposium, Hypnosis and Dreams at the annual meeting of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Los Angeles, CA.

Slap, J. W. & Trunnell, E. E.  (1987). Reflections on the self state dream. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56 (2), 251-262.

Struny, F. (1986). Lucidity in dreams. Zeitschrift fur klinische psychologie, psychopathologie, und psychotherapie.  34 (3), 234-248.

Tart, C. T. (1987). The world simulation process in waking and dreaming: A systems analysis of structure. Journal of Mental Imagery, 11 (2), 145-158.

Tart, C.T. (1986). Consciousness, altered states, and worlds of experience. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 18 (2), 159-170.

Tholey, P, & Utecht, K. (1987). Schopferisch Traumen: Der klartraum als  lebenshilfe.  Niedernhausen/Ts. : Falken Verlag.

Wu, K. M. (1986). Dream in Nietzsche and Chuang-Tzu. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 13(4), 371-382.


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