Concerns With the Field of Lucid Dreaming Essays/Letters
Proceedings of the European Symposium on Lucid Dream Research
Churchman, Falconer, Father X
News and Notes
Contributors to Lucidity Association
1988 Lucidity Dreaming Symposium Agenda
Lucidity Letter Staff
Senior Editor: Jayne Gackenbach
Guest Editor: Nick Turner
List Maintence: David Oshel
1987-88 Lucidity Association Steering Committee
Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D. (Chair)
Andrew Brylowski, M.D.
Harry Hunt, Ph.D.
Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D.
Morton Schatzman, M.D.
Lucidity Letter is published by the Lucidity Association, a nonprofit organization devoted to education about and research into the lucid dream and related phenomena. It is edited by Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D. and was formed to enable a dialogue between professionals and sophisticated experients interested in the phenomenon of lucid dreams. These are dreams where the dreamer knows while he/she is dreaming that he/she is dreaming. Lucidity Letter is published semiannually with editorial offices at the Department of Psychology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0505. Manscripts should be submitted to the editor, in duplicate and double spaced. Opinions expressed on the pages of Lucidity Letter are not necessarily those of the Lucidity Association. The 1988 subscription to Lucidity Letter is $20 (US), $25 (Canada and foreign ground mail), or $35 (foreign air mail). Subscriptions, change of address and inquires should be sent to the editor at the address above.
Lucidity Letter 7(1), 1988
I want to begin this letter by thanking two gentlemen who made the production of this issue much easier, Nick Turner and David Oshel. Nick served as guest editor for the issue while David has taken over the management of the mailing lists of the Lucidity Association. Thank-you both for making my life much easier these last six months. I would like to continue to work with guest editors on future issues of Lucidity Letter. If you have an interest in lucid dreaming and editing, no typing or desk top publishing skills needed, please write to me at the University of Northern Iowa. Now that my sabbatical year is over I will be returning to UNI so please address all correspondence to me at the Department of Psychology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0505.
Another beginning with this issue is the change in format. In order to ease the production time for Lucidity Letter we have decided to go to a simpler format. In the last issue and in this issue we have used art work inspired by lucid dreams on the cover and would like to continue this practice. If you have any such work, please send a glossy photograph to the editor, with your name and the title of the work and/or the dream. We can also print explanatory material about the dream so please send it along. Finally, you will see in the display advertisements at the back of this issue that we have added to our book offerings on lucid dreaming from the Lucidity Association. As well as Stephen LaBerge's, Lucid Dreaming, and Ken Kelzer's, The Sun and the Shadow, these offerings now include two classics in the field, the revised edition of Scott Sparrow's, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light and Patricia Garfields, Creative Dreaming as well as the recently released edited book by myself and Stephen LaBerge, Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain. Please be sure to send all orders to the University of Northern Iowa address.
I think you will agree that we have a rich and diversified issue with this the first issue of our seventh volume. The dialogue begun by Stephen LaBerge and myself in the last issue about concerns we may face as workers in the field of lucid dreaming has sparked considerable comment which cover a wide range of perspectives. Six essays and letters are gathered together in the first section of this issue. I encourage further dialogue from you the reader of Lucidity Letter about the concerns highlighted in this section.
In the next section are the Proceedings of the European Symposium on Lucid Dream Research held at Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universitat in Frankfurt, West Germany on October 31, 1987. This was organized for the European Association for the Study of Dreams by Christian Stephen and chaired by Paul Tholey. It was exciting to meet and exchange ideas about lucid dreaming with those working in the field in Europe. Five of the six talks given by myself as well as Paul Tholey, Olivier Clerc, Susan Blackmore, and Alan Worsley are included. The talk by Christian Bouchet will be in the December 1988 Lucidity Letter. By the way the annual Lucid Dreaming Symposium sponsored by Lucidity Association and held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams will be held in London in 1989. This will give us all an opportunity to meet and exchange thoughts with our European colleagues and friends.
Following this section is an interview with the author of The Sun and the Shadow, Ken Kelzer. Including the above we are please to offer you seven articles ranging from an historical piece by Domhoff on the Senoi to recent work on the EEG and lucidity by Oglivie and associates. Also included is Pressman's discussion of the potential of lucidity for phenomenological explorations and Hewitt's hints on inducing lucidity in order to gain ecstatic experiences. An overview of the field with an appeal to analytical psychologists to consider seriously the use of lucidity is offered by Robertson. Articles by Kay and May commenting on the potential drug implications for accessing lucidity close the section.
As always a few book reviews, letters to the editor and lucid dreaming bibliographic updates are included. The agenda for the 1988 Lucid Dreaming Symposium to be held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams is given in the News and Notes Section. The proceedings from this symposium will make up the December 1988 issue of Lucidity Letter.
Jayne Gackenbach, Editor
Lucidity Letter 7(1), 1988
Lucid Dreaming: Ethical Issues
North Humberside, England
My first reaction on beginning to read about ethical issues in connection with lucid dreaming in Lucidity Letter (6 (2), 1987) was, "surely there is not much of a problem." When I read on and began to think about it a number of points did occur to me.
From a personal point of view, during lucid dreams I had already had cause to consider certain ethical issues (as Morty Schatzman mentions in that issue p. 83). In the examples given, it is evident that my thinking processes were a little confused, as they often are in lucid dreams. Trying to resolve ethical issues while dreaming seems likely to suffer from this lack of clarity. However, some of the difficulty may stem from our habitually viewing dreams with the values of the waking state as if this was the only valid way to do it, a sort of wakingism, external-world chauvinism. It may be worth approaching the subject of ethical issues in connection with dreams by initially trying to accept dreams on their own terms. This seems to be a reasonable first approximation to what is appropriate, at least while actually dreaming. Otherwise, it seems likely that the conventions we apply in the waking social world may be applied inappropriately to dreaming, just as naive lucid dreamers attempt to apply their waking experience of light switches to dreams where there is no electricity, only an imperfect behavioral simulation.
Let me offer an example.
Partly in order to avoid this risk of waking through movement I have been experimenting with not moving at all in lucid dreams. The particular type of lucid dream I use for these experiments is one that is entered from the waking state without pre-sleep. I lie on my back, determined to not move whatever happens, and concentrate on relaxing and counting breaths. Sometimes I have to wait 2 hours for anything to happen. This may seem extreme but I have found the results fascinating. The relevance of this to ethical issues is that some of these experiences are quite alarming.
The realism is often significantly greater than that which I normally experience in lucid dreams in which the lucidity begins in the middle of a non-lucid visual dream. Part of the reason for this is that these dreams, which I refer to as on-back-not-moving-imagery (OBNMI) dreams, usually begin with strong body and auditory imagery without any visual imagery. This makes them very difficult to dismiss as "merely dreaming" should one wish to reassure oneself (in the event of the lucidity faltering) that it is not really happening.
I am not given to superstition or believing in 'unnecessary entities' but perhaps the term "dream" is a little too bland to do justice to the ultra-realism of these experiences. For instance, if one "dreams," as I have, in rich tactile and auditory imagery of being examined in the dark by robots or operated upon by small beings whose good will and competence may be in doubt, or abused in various ways by life-forms not known to terrestrial biology, it can be very difficult to keep still. I have found that if I do not keep still this peculiar state of consciousness usually evaporates in a moment. That can be very useful as an escape route, but it can be annoying to lose it when the success rate is not high and each attempt takes 2 hours or more.
I like to regard myself as at least a moderately intrepid investigator, but I have to admit that in spite of being intellectually of the opinion that what was happening was only internally generated imagery, I have flinched during these episodes on more than one occasion. From an ethical point of view, knowing that these potentially terrifying experiences are possible, I would not recommend this particular technique and its results to the faint hearted and certainly not to the weak-hearted. The lack of visual imagery does not prevent imagining the cause of the touch and sound sensations. What is imagined then often actually appears as autonomous self-sustaining visual imagery, which merely confirms one's fears. I suspect that many "UFO abduction" experiences, as well as out-of-body-experiences (OOBEs), are examples of the same kind of thing.
The fact that these experiences and lucid dreams in general can be demanding does offer, at an elementary level, the opportunity to develop one's spiritual mettle. One can understand why those aspiring to spiritual advancement are advised to ignore as irrelevant distractions the fascinating results of attempts to control and still the mind with its incessant concern with trivia and material issues. It may be that the more one tries to divest oneself of worldly thoughts, the more compelling and fascinating they tend to become. The more one tries to keep still, the greater becomes the provocation to movement. At least this method provides material for the progressive exercise of restraint. (The same principle applies in the early stages of OBNMI where minor itches seem to act as the grit round which the pearl of resolve to remain motionless can grow.)
Another ethical point arises in connection with the reporting of lucid dreams and dreams in general. From the point of view of scientific research, it is important that dreams should be reported accurately without censorship. It is important for the dreamer to be confident that dream reports will be treated with respect, and that those with access to the reports shall not publish the content without the dreamer's permission where this could damage (by identifying the dreamer) his or her reputation. If dreamers see their dreams reported and attributed with inadequate regard for propriety, even by professionals, this will not encourage accurate reporting of dreams. This is true even though it may be said that, as far as morals and manners are concerned, it is possible to do what you like in dreams without guilt or fear of punishment since, being internal to the skull, they can harm no one and they are secret.
As to whether dreams can harm the dreamer, in general it seems unlikely that the degree of proficiency commonly achieved in altering states of consciousness at will will lead to any of the three major perils recognized by mystics as possible consequences of interfering with the natural order of the mind: disease, madness and death.
However if one kind of madness is defined as some arbitrary degree of deviance from social norms (for instance the dreamer might begin to prefer his dreams to waking life) then I would guess that that kind of "madness" is quite possible. Whether this is in essence any different from watching endless TV, for instance, might depend on the content. What may be seen as threatening by those with an interest in such things is dreaming as an "escape from authority" which is unobservable, inaccessible, and frustratingly private. The technology currently available (brain scans and brain mapping) allows little more than an informed guess as to whether a lucid dream is even occurring. It seems likely that it will be some time before anyone is charged with illegal dreams. Promoting, procuring, conspiring to induce, being an (awake) accessory to the control of "immoral" dreams may be another matter.
In order to reduce the likelihood of "dreams for pleasure" dragging the whole subject the way of witchcraft, magic, exotic sex and recreational drugs, it might be a good idea for dream associations to establish a professional code of behaviour.
This would apply perhaps in particular to those with a commercial interest in lucid dream induction devices who may promote them as a key to a free-sex playground. In view of the AIDS situation, for instance, this does have a positive side, but emphasis of the sexual dimension is not likely to improve the image of an organization aiming to gain the respect of the academic/political establishment. This applies particularly when the subject is dreams, since there is already a strong association with occult, fay, mystical, psychic, and other 'dubious' areas.
It might therefore be appropriate for the professional dream organizations to set up an ethical committee to which those wishing to promote their "dream machines" with the blessing of the Associations should submit promotional material for approval.
Lucidity Letter 7(1), 1988
Concerns with the Field of Lucid Dreaming Essays/Letters
Virginia Beach, VA
I agree that it's time we tackled the question of the advisability of promoting widespread lucid dream induction. It's somewhat surprising that a more heated debate hasn't sprung up before now. But now that lucid dreaming has been established as a legitimate focus of research inquiry, and has been found to be available to a large percentage of the populace, it's certainly time to ask, "What is the appropriate context in which to encourage lucid dream induction?" In regards to this question, I'm going to share some ideas without going back to arrange them. I know if I try to do that, I'll never find the time to finish a letter to you. So please forgive the disjointed nature of this response.
One reason I haven't participated much in the lucid dreaming field over the last few years is that I ran into some unpleasant experiences in the late 70's following a period of almost nightly lucid dreaming. I didn't want to assume that it was lucid dreaming per se that was acting as a catalyst for these experiences - maybe it was unique to my situation that my pursuit of lucidity had inadvertently thrown me off balance. In any case, I found I had to back off from the pursuit of lucid dreaming until several years later, when I again resumed a more concerted and less ambitious meditation and dreamwork regimen. I realize now that this strange time was a period of growth; but there were times I was quite anxious about what was going on. Fortunately, the whole ordeal left me feeling grounded and seasoned. In fact, it seems to have contributed to my ability to empathize with others who are passing through destabilizing, albeit developmental, periods.
From my reading of the Tibetan literature, which is the only sophisticated historical source I'm aware of on lucid dreaming, there is every reason to assume that lucid dreaming (yoga of the dream state) is a dangerous pursuit, especially when the seeker does not practice meditation. "The expounders of Tibetan yoga emphasize that the Path of Form [the six yogas, including dream yoga]...can be dangerous and is more difficult than its companion Path without Form, the Mahamudra [meditation]. (Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, p. xxxv.)" Further, aspirants without a guide are encouraged to pursue the meditation path, rather than the path of the six yogas. One reason for their concern was apparently due to the powerful energy (kundalini) which was activated through the six yogas (and through Mahamudra to a lesser extent), which has to be managed very carefully if it is to promote development, rather than mental illness.
The Tantric principle of the equivalence of consciousness and energy (prana) is central to the Tibetan system. It implies that when we manage to increase one, the other is sure to follow. My own observation that the kundalini (experienced as powerful electricity-like energy coursing through my body) often awakens during my lucid dreams supports this Tantric principle at least at a subjective level. Gopi Krishna's autobiographical account of his difficulties with the kundalini provides ample reason to approach with great care any consciousness-enhancing technique that arouses this psychophysical force.
Even if we choose to ignore the Tantric wisdom because it presumably bears no relevance to our Western tradition (a highly questionable assumption, considering the universality of various transpersonal experiences), we would still have a hard time justifying our ignorance of the time-tested tenets of psychodynamic theory. Even Wilber, who has gone out on a limb in describing an evolutionary framework leading to oneness with God, places great emphasis on the pre-personal stages of development, and the consequences of repressing the "typon" (the body-self) and the shadow. Freud's contributions actually survive quite well in Wilber's more comprehensive system.
Although I don't think we should try to prevent healthy individuals from discovering their repressed complexes and other pre-personal issues through lucid dreaming (after all, what is therapy if it isn't, in part, awakening to these issues), I strongly believe that we need to inform and prepare individuals for the possible ordeal of meeting autonomous repressed aspects of the unconscious through the widened aperture of the lucid dreamer's awareness.
I believe there is no sure way to obtain informed consent from a prospective lucid dream induction subject. Moreover, I believe the desire for lucidity is, to some undetermined extent, insincere. Why? To the extent that one has continued to repress the awareness of unresolved, possibly painful pre-personal memories and issues (and that probably fits most of us to varying extents), the statement "I want to become lucid," implies a paradox. It seems to say: I am willing to become aware of what I've been unwilling to become aware of. How can we know ahead of time what we will suddenly perceive through our wide-open dream eyes? How can we know if we're ready for it?
It is possible that lucidity alone confers the strength needed to deal with the enhanced awareness of heretofore repressed aspects. Maybe lucidity is another name for the readiness to deal with the unknown. One friend of mine suggested that lucidity arises to the degree that one is willing to tolerate inconsistency in one's life. If this is true, then we need not fear the lucid state. But when I look at the lucid dreams of my clients, as well as many of my own, I have observed that lucid dreams are, on occasion, quite overwhelming.
A client of mine reported that she had to take a day off from work two weeks ago after having a lucid dream. True, it was "wonderful" from my standpoint, but it shook her to the foundations of her self concept. In short, she found an old flattened doll beneath a pile of rubbish, picked it up and pre-lucidly thought, "If I was this doll, I know what I'd like." She began hugging and stroking the doll, and it came to life! As it dawned on her that she was dreaming, she nonetheless felt deeply disturbed to realize that this "doll" was indeed alive in some sense. One can appreciate the significance of her finding out that her abused child (very abused) was still alive, but it was a fact that went against her ego definition. Wonderful facts can be devastating from the standpoint of a well-fortified ego. Knowing this woman, I feel that she was fortunate to be in therapy when such "good" news became conscious to her.
Perhaps not all of us possess repressed pre-personal issues; does that make the lucid dream a comfortable experience? Not necessarily. Even transpersonal reality can be quite disturbing to the ego (e.g. Tart's research on the fear of psi). Once again, Wilber is a help here. If it's pre-personal material, it can be disturbing to the extent that the ego will not include it inside its boundaries. If it's transpersonal material, it's disturbing as long as the ego does not wish to be included in a larger whole. To the ego, these fears feel quite similar!
While the example of my client's dream represents one way that lucidity might leverage an uninformed person (and who isn't, ultimately?) into disturbing, albeit valuable, realizations, I have a more serious reservation concerning the indiscriminate promotion of lucid dream induction. Quite simply, I feel that it is easy for persons to experience the freedom and power it bestows without having to develop a commensurate willingness to surrender old ways. One can easily escape from or destroy a dream figure. Such actions, while far from the endpoint of our growth, often fit into a developmental continuum as intermediate accomplishments (see Rossi's Dreams and the Growth of Personality). As the therapist, I serve as one who encourages the dreamer not to get stuck in such intermediate stages, and to continue working toward dialogue, reconciliation and integration. I'm concerned that many individuals, who do not have someone to urge them onward, may get caught up in the power of the lucid dream, and provoke the "retaliation" of largely autonomous, repressed unconscious content.
Wilber might say that lucid dreaming can easily become an Atman project because of its Eros-potential - its promise as a cornucopia of personally gratifying experiences. As long as we promote lucid dreaming as a blank check for personally gratifying experiences, I believe we hide a greater truth from a person's view - that lucid dreaming is inescapably a form of yoga which demands the most of us, including eventual surrender of power and self-gratification urges. As researchers, do we wish to promote a scintillating but potentially dangerous half-truth, or a less attractive but more complete view?
In my own life, I found that at the height of my lucid dreaming I ran into a brick wall of sorts. Lucid dreaming had become evidence of my evolution, a merit badge of sorts. Of course, I thought I was handling it okay; but I had no idea what I was repressing. Who does? Well, all kinds of very angry people began showing up in my dreams, and turning rather demonic to boot. A black panther walked in the front door and would not go away no matter how much I told him he was only a dream.
Maybe it's inevitable that we all embark on the Path encumbered by adolescent dreams. Maybe we need to fly, then crash, then pick up and pursue the Path with more sobriety. There's a lot of evidence to support the notion that a "dark night" is an unavoidable course correction in our path to wholeness (see Underhill's Mysticism), or that at least it's hard to avoid failure in our early efforts at transpersonal evolution. (e.g. Robert Johnson's analysis of Percival's quest in He). If so, we need to normalize a broader range of experiences so that individuals will not conclude erroneously that they are failing just because they are in pain. How I wish there had been someone around me in late 1977 who could have known enough to say, "This is part of it. Pick yourself up, and you'll make it through okay.? It would have made the path a lot more meaningful (if not easier to tolerate).
Herb Puryear has said that the only thing more dangerous than meditating is not meditating. I believe the same is true of lucid dreaming, psychotherapy and other fertile approaches to growth and transformation. I'm not going to stop pursuing it, and I don't expect others to. Even so, I feel we have an obligation to let others know that lucid dreaming can usher them into the darkness as much as into the Light. And both are necessary experiences, I believe.
I hope these ideas can be helpful in the ongoing dialogue regarding the cost vs. benefits analysis of lucid dream induction.
(Editors Note: Scott Sparrow is the author of one of the classic books on lucid dreaming, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light which has recently been reissued by the A.R.E. Press and is now available from the Lucidity Association)
Lucidity Letter 7(1), 1988
Concerns with the Field of Lucid Dreaming Essays/Letters
San Rafael, CA
The possible dangers of lucidity for the masses are just a small part of a larger, more general philosophical issue. Most of the Eastern and shamanistic traditions include warnings against misuse or premature use of certain abilities or techniques. Don Juan was continuously warning Carlos Castaneda of dangers. Fear and pain have proven to be excellent focusing agents for consciousness and have been used for millenia in initiations and rites of passage. But are fear, danger and pain necessary ingredients in consciousness expansion and spiritual evolution? Are they inherent in the process? I don't think so. I don't know if the masters in these ancient traditions were hyping their followers or were just ignorant.
The problem with such traditions is the same problem that science has, a belief in objective reality. Science believes in a simple cause-and-effect universe. Dangers are either objectively real or they are not. Interestingly enough the esoteric traditions, including Eastern and shamanistic traditions, also believe in objectivity even in the non-physical realms.
Both science and the esoteric traditions believe in external and internal dangers, believe in the possibility of being victimized by outside or inside forces or beings. Science believes in germs, genetics and guns. The esoteric traditions believe in demons, psychic attack and kundalini gone wild. But these interior dangers are objectified. A demon is as real as a germ or virus.
A current example which crosses the scientific and esoteric traditions is Robert Monroe's out-of-body experiences. As a scientist Monroe assumed that because he met some unsavory characters on some of his trips, such characters were actually floating around out there and others might run into them. Now others have indeed run into unsavory characters in their out-of-body trips, but they weren't Monroe's unsavory characters. They "belonged" to those who encountered them.
Edgar Cayce said that Jesus and John the disciple went through initiation in Egypt. Such initiations, depicted in the Tibetan and Egyptian books of the dead, consisted of isolation and sensory deprivation. In this state one would meet whatever monsters lurked within their unconscious, especially if that's what tradition led them to expect. If you were able to overcome these monsters you achieved enlightenment or at least spiritual growth. If you failed, you could go crazy.
One could say that such initiations were dangerous, but they were chosen by the participants and could be stopped at any time. Individuals, then as now, were responsible for their experiences. The fact that these experiences had common elements for the participants does not objectify the experiences. Tribes and communities that agreed upon the meaning of certain waking and dreaming symbols could depend on those symbols to come up appropriately. That didn't make the symbols objectively real. The psyche is perfectly willing to cooperate with such symbolic traditions.
The question is whether the scientific and esoteric belief in cause and effect is correct. My belief is that it is not. To put it in terms of fear and danger, we are not afraid because there is danger. There is danger because we are afraid. Lucidity is a special state of consciousness, but only one among many. There is no inherent danger in lucidity, but if one is afraid of the potential of lucidity or afraid of consciously confronting one's own demons, then one shouldn't pursue lucidity.
If the fear is strong enough, then one shouldn't pursue life. Schizophrenia and suicide are decisions not to pursue life. Unfortunately, such escape isn't workable, at least for the schizophrenic. The demons don't go away - they simply move from the unconscious to the conscious.
If fear is the cause of danger, should those in positions of authority be pushing fear? Where does responsibility lie? Warnings about possible danger in the lucid state are actually powerful suggestions. The suggestion itself makes the state more dangerous to the extent that it arouses fear. Some unstable individuals might use lucidity to go crazy. That doesn't mean that lucidity is the cause of their psychosis. I know a lady who, at age 16, had a tonsilectomy. She came out of the operation psychotic. Did the tonsilectomy and/or anesthetic cause psychosis? Should people be warned about tonsilectomies?
To the extent that there are external causes for cancer (and I don't believe there really are any) what's the single most carcinogenic factor? I would say it would have to be the various cancer societies and associations, those organizations that continually warn us and actually tell us to look for cancer. If you look for something hard enough and with enough emotion, there's a good chance you'll find it. If we talk about the dangers of lucidity long enough and convincingly enough we can make it quite dangerous.
Now, individual teachers or therapists have to make their own judgements about encouraging clients or students into lucidity. If they feel that screening is necessary, then they should do it. But to take responsibility for the subjective experiences of individuals cannot be done. You might not give an hallucinogenic substance to an individual you consider unstable, but if that individual chooses to take an the drug on their own, they're completely responsible for that choice and the consequences.
It's fair to say that some people have had bad experiences in lucid dreams. Lots of people have bad experiences in normal dreams, but my assumption is that those "bad" dreams come with a healing intent. The same would be true of bad lucid dream experiences. It would be fair to tell individuals and the public about these bad experiences, but I think it is essential that it be made clear that the bad experiences are not inherent in the lucid state but are the result of the individual's own unconscious material.
I believe that psychosis itself is the result of the body/psyche attempting to heal itself. The frightening experiences in normal dreams, lucid dreams or initiations are all attempts of the Self to heal the self. To the extent that we back away from such experiences we also back away from an opportunity for healing. We may need therapeutic or spiritual assistance at that point, but the longer we hide from our monsters the bigger they get; the psychosis or serious physical problems are the result of not dealing with monsters while they are still small.
Metaphysical sources such as Jane Roberts' Seth claim that we create our own reality with our thoughts and beliefs. Edgar Cayce made some powerful philosophical statements that are relevant here: "Thoughts are things, mind is the builder and we are always meeting self." Fear creates danger. The thoughts that we put out are going to be accepted by many people. What will these thoughts be building, monsters or mastery?
As therapists and teachers we have to be careful that we don't objectify our own fears and doubts and unconsciously try to get others to take them on for us. What kind of seeds are we going to sow into the mass consciousness about dreams and lucidity?
We also have to be aware of objectifying the purpose for lucidity. Each of us sees everything from the point of view of our own philosophical framework. We believe our framework to be objective. It may or may not be. Each of us has to work within our own framework and our own beliefs about the purpose of lucid dreams and of life. We will teach others the same. We may be right and we may not. The purpose of the lucid dream may be enlightenment or transformation, or the purpose of the lucid dream may be whatever we decide.
Because of our own beliefs and focus we assume that lucidity has a specific intention and that intention is in harmony with our underlying philosophy, which is to be expected. It's just possible, however, that lucidity doesn't have an inherent purpose or, if it does, that it's different from what we suppose; for example, the idea that the state should not be used to gratify frivolous desires such as flying, sex and the magic performances.
It's just possible that such light and joyful uses of lucidity might actually move one closer to enlightenment (lightness, levity) than more ponderously serious and "spiritual" disciplines. I think that God is far lighter that we give him/her/it credit for. Anyway, that's my bias. I'm actually open to a wide range of experiences in normal and lucid dreaming, and I try not to focus too narrowly because I may be interfering, by trying to be spiritual in such a limited way, with transformative experiences that do not fit such narrow definitions.
I'm concerned about all of the warnings I see being promulgated by some sectors of the dream/spiritual/new age community. I agree with Cayce that mind is the builder. Given that, we need to continually ask ourselves what we are building within ourselves and in the mass consciousness.
(Copyright 1988 by Bob Trowbridge)
(Editors Note: Bob Trowbridge, M.Div., is a co-editor of the Dream Network Bulletin)
Concerns with the Field of Lucid Dreaming Essays/Letters
San Jose, CA
It saddens me to realize that both Jayne Gackenbach and Scott Sparrow are operating out a fear mode. The warnings from tradition can be a heavy burden to bear and too often they become self-fulfilling prophesies, especially if one concentrates on the negative and ignores the positive that surrounds us. How different it would be if, instead of flying into a panic in the face of overwhelming experiences of the psyche and throwing out deadly terms like "psychotic break" and "schizophrenia", dreamworkers would instead act as a resource and support system for transpersonal experiences? They'd be cheering on dreamers with "Wow, what a wonderful opportunity and great gift you have!" "What neat adventures you can look forward to!" takes the onus off the current experience.
The gift to which I am referring is not the experience, but the tool of consciousness exploration which, like a match, can be used for "good" or not. But I'm hardly going to refuse to teach my children to light a match because they might get their fingers burnt the first couple of times or even because one of them "might" grow up to be an arsonist! Birthday candles and logs on the fireplace are far more important reasons upon which to concentrate my energies.
When my own fear or selfish mode overwhelms me, I have a built-in grounding experience--it's children, and not just my own. Their lucid dream experiences don't require meditation or any hard work at all. They even have incubated terrifying dreams--on purpose, for the sheer fun and excitement of it.
Instead of fearing the "abnormal'--and I use the term loosely--why not have dreamworkers study what is naturally healthy and alive, and then create an arena that supports it? Then any conscious or subconscious experimentation in transpersonal development will have a model--not for healing, per se which assumes the negative will or must happen, but for prevention of the situation to begin with, by concentrating on and demonstrating the positive. I would include not only experiences of positive lucidity, but experiences of transformation which had a positive result. And they are there, if you would only look for them! Isn't it far better to have those to pull out and show clients, instead of a sheaf of so-called "failures"?
What has been assumed to be a failure, or at least a warning, such as the correspondence published in Lucidity Letter needs to be reevaluated, anyway. I don't consider any of them cause for alarm. Too many questions haven't be asked, the most pertinent of which is "What were the extended circumstances?" Why are we so quick to make LUCIDITY the culprit, and not the overall beliefs and assumptions and expectations of the lucid dreamer? Did the dreamer have a past history of erratic behavior? Was he in therapy? What better chance for the dreamer to try out brave new experiences: there's a built-in expert who could "rescue him" if he dove into the deep end of the swimming pool!
Lucidity is a tool, and like any tool, its use or abuse is the responsibility of the user. Dreamworkers can point out the most productive use. They can also talk about realistic expectations. But it's far different to list cautions matter of factly, than to print neon sign "warning labels" on lucid dreaming.
But all this is jumping the gun. The possible problems have not, I repeat, have NOT been clearly demonstrated. A statistical sample where n=1 is not a verification of any data. Gathering negative experiences, and only negative experiences isn't scientific. It isn't even just! Asking questions that ignore other influences in the process is just plain putting blinders on.
I share these thoughts out of a continuing, deep concern for the present and future of the dreamwork community.
Linda L. Magallon, San Jose, CA
(Editors Note: Linda Magallon is a co-editor of Dream Network Bulletin and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Association for the Study of Dreams.)
Concerns with the Field of Lucid Dreaming Essays/Letters
University of Chicago Divinity School
With the veritable explosion of interest in lucid dreaming in the past few years, important new questions have arisen to challenge those of us who are exploring the values of lucid dreaming. Foremost among these questions is that of the ethical significance of lucid dreaming. Some writers have expressed concern that lucid dreaming may actually inhibit true healing (1), while others have asked whether the pleasures of lucid dreaming may not become a harmfully addictive "drug" (2). Still others have denied any cause for alarm (3)
I would like to contribute some reflections to this much-needed discussion about lucid dreaming and ethics. While the above-mentioned writers have called our attention to some crucial issues, no one has yet considered the relations of lucid dreaming to the process of ethical reflection - to the process of evaluating our needs, our choices, and our relations with others and trying to decide how we should act in given concrete situations.
Even though all of us continuously engage in this process of ethical reflection, it appears that some researchers of lucid dreaming have not thought carefully enough about the significance of ethics in our lives. As a result their portrayal of the values of lucid dreaming has ethical implications which are deeply troubling. This is extremely unfortunate, because I believe lucid dreaming has a great potential here: lucid dreaming may in fact become a powerful new resource for the process of ethical reflection
To illustrate some of the ethical difficulties writers about lucid dreaming encounter, I will look at Stephen LaBerge's pioneering work Lucid Dreaming (4). Despite its many other virtues, I believe LaBerge's book presents a thoroughly confused picture of what ethics is all about.
For example, in one passage LaBerge suggests that ethical decisions are so self-evident that there is really no need to worry about choosing and applying moral principles. He says in one place "of course, decision-making is only a problem when there is uncertainty about the information involved. Otherwise, the optimal choice is clear-cut" (5). In other words, decisions require nothing more than amassing all the relevant data bearing on a given conflict; once this is achieved the best choice becomes obvious. But while we may know all there is to know about, say, what constitutes sexual health, this information is of no help in trying to decide whether it is better to pursue this through a monogamous relationship or through the seduction of other people's spouses.
In this passage LaBerge entirely misses the crucial point that ethical reflection only begins once we have gathered all the relevant information. After we have this information, we then refer to ethical principles to help guide us in deciding which of the many possible options is best. LaBerge, however, implies that ethics is merely a matter of collecting data, with no need to choose, to decide, or even really to think.
Elsewhere LaBerge does seem to say that there are certain ethical principles we ought to follow - but what he says gets him into still worse trouble. Throughout the book LaBerge argues that the greatest value of lucid dreaming is how the positive experiences we have in lucid dreams may be carried over into our waking lives (6). Now if we take LaBerge at his word here, what are we to make of the ethical implications of passages like this:
I have found from experience that the feelings I am left with after a lucid dream reliably indicate my intuitive evaluation of my behavior in that dream. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that 'if it feels good, it is good'. What I am saying is that 'if it felt good afterward, it was good' ... Rather than recommending to my students any more particular course of action in their lucid dreams, I advise them to follow the same general path: "It's your dream. Try it and see how you feel afterward. If you listen to your own conscience, you need no other rule." (7)
Taking at face value LaBerge's premise about the applicability of lucid dream experiences to waking life, the resulting moral philosophy is what is known as ethical egoism. The immediate problem with ethical egoism is of course what to do when there are conflicts in what "feels good" to different people: what do we do in the inevitable cases where one person's intuitive evaluation of what feels good or bad leads to actions which clash with the actions another person takes based upon what he or she intuitively feels is good or bad? The fatal weakness of such an ethical outlook is clear, I think.
Is it fair to assume that LaBerge intends to promote ethical egoism based on what he says about the guidelines for behavior in lucid dreams? Probably not. He does ask us not to "misunderstand" him. But my point is that in the absence of any more clearly presented discussions about moral principles and decision making, LaBerge certainly leaves us free to conclude that this could be his ethical theory. He thus makes it difficult not to misunderstand him. Time and again he points out that lucid dreaming can have direct and positive effects on our waking life, that if we could bring the attitudes cultivated in lucid dreams into our waking consciousness we could enjoy more health, happiness, and spiritual fulfillment; yet these exhortations include no qualifications about whether some of these attitudes, such as the belief that if it felt good it was good, are more or less appropriate for export to waking life.
These problem pale in significance, however, when we consider the nature of LaBerge's most fundamental spiritual and psychological assumptions: We find that they are utterly antithetical to any sort of valid ethical position.
First, his spiritual assumptions. LaBerge portrays lucid dreaming as the Western equivalent of Eastern mystical religious practices. He claims that lucid dreaming can teach us in the West the same spiritual truths about the errors of our subjective perceptions and about the nature of ultimate reality which Eastern mystics have known for centuries. But what LaBerge does not seem to learn from the mystics is that almost all Eastern religions recognize that the doctrine of external reality being to some extent illusory can have devastating effects on ethics: If the world isn't real, why worry if we lie, or steal, or kill? Why try to stop others from doing these things?
The Tibetan Buddhism with which LaBerge claims such an affinity is deeply concerned with these questions and takes great pains to secure a prominent place in its teachings for the ethical principle of Compassion toward all beings (8). LaBerge himself, however, never discusses any of this; in his view, it appears, the achievement of spiritual lucidity carries with it no obligation to help those still suffering in a non-lucid existence, and no moral obligation whatsoever except to promote one's own lucidity.
Things are no better with his psychological assumptions. We can see the difficulties emerge when LaBerge offers the following definition of health:
In the most general terms, health can be conceived as a condition of adaptive responsiveness to the challenges of life. For responses to be "adaptive" requires at minimum that they resolve a situation in a way that is favorable and that does not disrupt the integrity, or wholeness, or the individual. Adaptive responses in some way also improve the individual's relationship to his or her environment. There are degrees of adaptiveness; the optimum is what we have defined as health. (9)
This highly individualistic psychological model is just as destructive to ethics as is LaBerge's appeal to Eastern mysticism. He presents society as something which imposes norms, rules, and roles on us from the outside which are false to our true selves. Our social relations appear to him to contribute nothing of essential importance to our psychological growth and, in the end, to impede our becoming truly healthy.
According to this view, the only thing that really matters is our own "adaptive responsiveness"; our highest ethical obligation is therefore to promote our own health, and by implication to treat others as means to this end. The problem here is that unless we assume a model which recognizes that our social relations are fundamentally and irreducibly involved in our psychological development (10), it is extremely difficult for us to assert that we have any primary moral responsibility to respect and seek the welfare of others.
According to LaBerge's position, the best we can say is that we should help others and treat them with respect because that will improve the conditions for our own health; but this gives us no grounds for refuting the person who says that hurting others, e.g. stealing their money or enslaving them, best promotes his or her own health. Once again, LaBerge leaves us with an ethical egoism that renders us helpless in the face of the tough moral conflicts that come up continually in all of our lives.
All of these problems in the ethical implications of LaBerge's work should not, however, obscure the highly suggestive ideas about ethics and lucid dreaming which we can draw out of his writings. Many psychologists have noted that dreams often present important perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and intuitions which our consciousness has ignored; and further, that dreams may serve as the means by which future actions are "rehearsed," i.e., the consequences of different behaviors imagined in a prospective fashion.
In both of these ways dreams can contribute to our knowledge about those needs, choices, and alternatives we consider in the process of making ethical decisions. With an expanded awareness of both external and internal realities and with an enlarged imagination of what the future may bring, we are in a better position to make specifically moral decisions about how we ought to act in relation to those realities and future possibilities. Insofar as LaBerge is correct in his claim that the achievement of lucidity can further enhance these qualities of ordinary dreams, lucid dreaming appears as a significant new resource for ethical reflection.
Lucid dreaming has something even more important to offer ethics, I believe. Many moral philosophers (11) believe that the core of ethical reflection is the capacity to think reciprocally and reversibly - that is, the capacity to transcend the limits of our own views and to consider impartially what action would be best in a given situation.
Thus when LaBerge asserts that one of lucid dreaming's greatest benefits is its promoting "reflective consciousness," which "allows dreamers to detach themselves from the situation they are in, and reflect on possible alternative modes of action" (12), a potential relevance of lucid dreaming for the process of ethical reflection as those philosophers envision it emerges: Lucid dreaming can help to cultivate just that sort of reciprocal reasoning and mutual perspective-taking that is the essence of ethics.
LaBerge himself never explores this possibility. "Reflective consciousness" is useful to him only as a means for the individual to penetrate through the illusions of self and world to True Reality. But we can see that the reflective consciousness developed in lucid dreaming can also serve to strengthen our capacity to recognize the various competing interests in a given conflict, to evaluate them impartially, and to seek a fair resolution between them.
I want to end with two comments. First, I would like to dispel the notion that moral philosophy is something so abstruse and esoteric that is has no relevance to our lives. On the contrary, ethical reflection is a fundamental dimension of human existence. Moral decisions are often the most transformative experiences in our lives - they force us to reflect honestly on what we value most deeply, to rouse in ourselves the courage to defend what we believe is right, and frequently to discover that other people's values and beliefs are as legitimate as our own. By ignoring the role of ethics in our lives we impoverish our capacities to learn and to grow.
Second, I should emphasize that the ideas I have put forth here are by no means the definitive way of looking at ethics - mine is only one of a wide variety of ethical perspectives. My hope is simply that these reflections will stimulate the important and growing discussion about ethics and lucid dreaming.
1. Williams, S.K., Lucid Dreams or Resolution Dreams for Healing? Lucidity Letter 6(1), 10-20.
2. Gackenbach, J., Lucidity Letter 6(2).
3. LaBerge, S., Lucidity Letter 6(2).
4. LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine Books.
5. Ibid, p. 185.
6. Ibid, p. 279, 184.
7. Ibid, p. 179.
8. Zaehner, R. C. (Ed., 1959) The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 298-300.
9. LaBerge, Lucid Dreaming, p. 171.
10. A model, incidentally, for which much of contemporary social science is providing strong evidence--cf. the works of D. W. Winnicott, Erik H. Erikson, Carol Gilligan, and Clifford Geertz.
11. For example, the whole deontological tradition beginning with Kant and continuing into the recent work of John Rawls and Lawrence Kohlberg.
(Editors Note: Kelly Buckley is a Ph.D. student in the Religion and Psychological Studies department at the University of Chicago Divinity School.)
Reply to Buckley: "A thoroughly confused picture of what ethics is all about ... utterly antithetical to any sort of valid ethical position"
Kelly Buckley (1988) claims that the ethical significance of lucid dreaming is foremost among the questions that face us in the field today. Outside the confines of Divinity School, I cannot see how this can be so. Although some have felt that there exist significant ethical problems regarding lucid dreaming (e.g., Gackenbach, 1987), I agree with others who have doubted that ethics are relevant to the private behavior of lucid dreaming (e.g., Schatzman, 1987). Ethical issues could become relevant, if for example, it were ever shown that lucid dreaming is potentially more harmful than non-lucid dreaming. Then it we might be ethically bound to inform people of these hypothetical dangers. Since no one has shown this, I do not, at present, consider ethical issues paramount. In my view, the most important questions for the field today are how lucid dreaming can be made more accessible and how it can be used most beneficially. However, I have a few comments in response to Buckley's piece.
Ethics refers to "the specific moral choices to be made by the individual in his relationship with others" (American Heritage Dictionary). The word moral derives from the Latin word for custom, which should remind us that the concepts of ethics and morality essentially refer to notions of behavior currently in vogue in a given culture. Of course, these moral standards of good and evil vary wildly with time, people, and place. Moreover, since we rarely know the final outcome of our actions, it is difficult to judge them good or evil, even by conventional standards. As Sir Richard Burton (1880/1974) put it:
There is no Good, there is no Bad;
these be the whims of mortal will:
What works me weal that call I "good,"
what harms and hurts I hold as "ill:"
They change with place, they shift with race;
and, in the veriest span of Time,
Each Vice has won a Virtues's crown;
all Good was banned as Sin or Crime:
Like ravelled skeins they cross and twine,
while this with that connects and blends;
And only Khizr his eye shall see
Where one begins, where other ends.
What mortal shall consort with Khizr,
when Musa turned in fear to flee?
What man foresees the flow'er or fruit
whom Fate compels to plant the tree? ( p. 35)
The reference is to the story of Moses (Musa) and Khidr (Khizr) from the Koran. Khidr, representing the enlightened man endowed with perception of things not available to the ordinary man or woman, allows Moses, representing the conventional moralist, to accompany him on a journey provided that he ask no questions about Khidr's actions. However, Moses cannot keep silent when he sees Khidr perform various acts of apparent evil. Khidr explains all before leaving Moses, showing him how each of his seemingly reprehensible acts could be seen as good in the light of Khidr's superior knowledge. We ordinary people are therefore in an awkward position in regard to ethics. We can only follow the course of action we believe leads to good, as we conceive it. Or we can follow convention. When in doubt, do what others are doing. The guardians of conventional standards tell us we should follow what they believe is right. In any case, it should be clear that the proper sphere of ethics and morals is public, not private behavior. Nevertheless, righteous religionists have always sought to extend this sphere to include a person's private thoughts, and now it seems, dreams.
Mr. Buckley seems to have seen much in my book that isn't there at the same time as ignoring much of what is there. He frequently quotes out of context and takes extreme liberties with interpretation. For example, he claims that "...in one passage LaBerge suggests that ethical decisions are so self-evident that there is really no need to worry about choosing and applying moral principles. He says in one place 'of course, decision-making is only a problem when there is uncertainty about the information involved. Otherwise, the optimal choice is clear-cut.' " (Buckley, 1988, p. 2) In the first place, I did not specifically discuss ethical or moral issues anywhere in my book, which incidentally, as its title suggests, is about lucid dreaming, rather than ethics, politics, or anthropology. Secondly, ethical problems are exactly those which involve uncertainty, as Buckley himself observes. Incidentally, in the sentence before the passage quoted, I wrote, "It is often not so obvious which outlook or course of action is best. Life often presents us with difficult decisions, and as it happens, lucidity may help us to choose wisely." (p. 185)
Yet Buckley feels free to claim, "LaBerge, however, implies that ethics is merely a matter of collecting data, with no need to choose, to decide, or even think." (p. 3) I trust that I am not alone in finding this absurd.
One of the oddest pieces of reasoning in Buckley's piece is the passage in which he argues thus:
1) LaBerge suggests that "the greatest value of lucid dreaming is how the positive experiences we have in lucid dreams may be carried over into our waking lives." (p. 3)
2) LaBerge suggests that we follow the advice: "It's your dream. Try it and see how you feel afterward. If you listen to your own conscience, you need no other rule." (LaBerge, 1985, p. 179).
3) Therefore, LaBerge supports doing whatever you feel like in waking life. The attentive reader will note the leap of faith in the last step of the argument.
Buckley concludes that "in the absence of any more clearly presented discussions about moral principles and decision making, LaBerge certainly leaves us free to conclude that this ["ethical egoism"] could be his ethical theory." (p. 4) Does common sense count for nothing here? Could this really be my "ethical theory"? By the same reasoning as above, one might just as logically conclude that I recommend jumping out of windows while awake because I recommend flying in lucid dreams. How can this not be obvious? Lucid dreams are private, mental experiences, not public behavior.
Buckley, K. (1988). Lucid dreaming and ethical reflection. Lucidity Letter (this issue)
Burton, R. (1880/1974). The kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi. Octagon: London.
Gackenbach, J. (1987). Clinical and transpersonal concerns with lucid dreaming voiced. Lucidity Letter, 6, 4-7.
LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. New York: Ballantine.
Schatzman, M. (1987). Ethics panel discussion. Lucidity Letter, 6, 70-93.
University of Northern Iowa
In recent years the people of North American have witnessed an increase in the value we place on dreams as evidenced by the formation of the Association for the Study of Dreams; the number of dream books being written; grass roots interest as expressed in workshops and classes being offered in everything from churches to community mental health centers; an increase in the number and variety of articles on dreams in the popular press; and stories in literature, film, and television about the potential of dreams. Although virtually everyone has had an interest in dreams, serious investigation into them is still a relatively rare phenomenon.
Recent historical roots to such inquiries can be traced to the work of Sigmund Freud and the publication of Interpretation of Dreams (1). In a count of the professional citations over the last 100 years dealing with dreams Nielsen (2), a Canadian psychologist, observed that following the publication of Freuds classic work there was a significant increase in the number of publications about dreams. This leveled off after 29 years. He called this the psychoanalytic era. Another significant finding about dreaming occurred in 1953 when Aserinsky and Kleitman (3) discovered Rapid Eye Movements and their association to sleep mentation. Nielsen points out that a similar surge in publications occurred after their classic study was published. He identified this as the psychophysiological era. But as with the surge in professional interest following the publication of Freud's book, this also tapered off after a comparable length of time.
Moffitt and Hoffmann (4), also Canadian psychologists, have argued that there is an emerging consensus that the scientific study of dreams has not lived up to the potential that motivated much of the research following the discovery of REM sleep in 1953. Although much had been learned about the descriptive physiology of sleep, the strongest psychophysiological association remained that between eye-movements and dream content in REM sleep. However, the problem is compounded with the realization that reports of dreaming can be obtained from awakenings from all stages of sleep with the likelihood of obtaining a mentation report from stage REM the highest.
Foulkes, of Emory University in the United States, has been a leader in this emerging view, arguing that both psychoanalysis and psychophysiology have contributed very little to our scientific understanding of dreaming (5). The remedy he proposes is the development of a cognitive theory which views dreaming as a unique form of species-specific higher symbolic activity. Other prominent dream researchers and theoreticians have joined Foulkes in his "call to mental arms". For instance, Fiss (6), a clinical psychologist, has claimed:
the fact that sleep researchers have ... emphasized the biological substratum of dreaming and by and large neglected the psychological experience of dreaming has given rise to a curious paradox: despite the monumental achievements in sleep research in recent years, our prevalent notions of dreaming continue to be derived principally from clinical practice and psychoanalysis -- as if REMs had never been discovered. In brief, the technological breakthrough of the fifties and sixties has had relatively little impact on our understanding of dreaming.
That we are now at the dawning of a third era of professional interest in dreams is clear. Some feel that it will be marked with the publication of David Foulkes ground breaking work, Dreaming: A Cognitive-Psychological Analysis (7). In this book Foulkes (5) argues that not only is the psychophysiological approach bankrupt as a methodology for studying these internal nighttime experiences, but that the previous emphasis in the dream literature on interpretation of manifest content of dreams has been fruitless. Dreaming, Foulkes maintains, is a cognitive process which has identifiable regularities.
What is the Process Approach to Dreaming?
The previous emphasis in the dream literature on interpretation of content and act frequency listings of the manifest content of dreams are fruitless according to Foulkes because dreaming is a cognitive process. That is, its primary function is the reprocessing of information which fit highly predictable criteria. These five regularities in the dream process are: dreams always tell a story; are experienced by all senses; integrate recent events into memories of distant ones; are bizarre in that not all dream events have waking parallels; and are perceived as real until we wake up. Further these highly predictable dream qualities have implications for the function of dreaming.
Therefore, according to Foulkes, the actual content of the dream may have implications for the process involved. The manifest content is not the process but rather an outcome of the process. An anology would be in the production of a movie. Although one needs to have a good story to tell in order to be successful, what's more important is how the story is told. What dialogue is used, which camera angles work, how should it be staged, etc. The process of putting together a movie can make or break the actual content of the story. So it is with dreams, according to Foulkes, that the process of putting together the dream is the primary function, the content of the dream story is secondary.
Regarding this view of a cognitive psychology of dreaming, Baylor (7) has argued that "cognitive psychology has been enormously successful during the last few decades, and dream research has much to gain by affiliating itself with the cognitive sciences. Reciprocally, dream research has much to offer since any science of the cognitive that excludes nocturnal mentation must necessarily be incomplete: Nothing less than a 24-hour model of cognition will do". On the other hand Moffitt and Hoffman (4) point out:
The apparent bankruptcy of dream psychophysiology was due in large measure to a collection of unfortunate habits of mind and practice. Chief among these were a single-minded dependence on a nearly intellectually bankrupt dream psychology and on a minimally quantitative approach to the measurement of electrophysiological parameters . . . consequently, it seems reasonable to suggest that the proper intellectual home of dream psychophysiology is as much with the historical and contemporary traditions of experimental phenomenology as with an asemantic, structural, cognitive or neurocognitive dream psychology.
Of course members of the contemporary dream work movement also disagree with the conceptualizations of dreaming as meaningless. The concept that dreams have meaning for day to day personal life really began with Freud and continued with the neo-Freudians (1). The function of dreaming, in their perspective, is to discharge repressed instinctual impulses and to modulate these instinctual tensions so as to preserve sleep. Whereas, the function of dreaming according to the Jungian perspective is to orient the dreamer to unacknowledged aspects of the self, to help achieve psychic equilibrium and to have a guiding influence (10). Research based approaches to dream function tend to focus on the dream as central to information processing of daily residues. For instance, Berger (11) argues that the function of dreaming is to integrate daily residues into old memories.
The "Politics" of the Dream Work Movement
Despite what we have learned about dreaming it seems to some to be wholly inadequate. Some consider dreams as having meaning in a larger framework than ones personal experiences. These perspectives may be considered transpersonal, philosophical, and/or spiritual and draw their impetus from the historical view that dreams hold messages from the gods. Although most contemporary dream workers, both academic and clinical, would conceptualize the dream as a source of personal information, some professionals and some lay people acknowledge that the dream can and does occasionally offer a brief glimpse into the actualization of the "higher" self beyond the limits of the "personal" self.
Sometimes, albeit rarely, dreams offer us a profound view of life. We wake up feeling like we have been in the presence of something much more than ourselves yet intimately tied up with self. We know at some primitive level that what we've just experienced was not just a dream to be quickly dismissed and forgotten but that we have experienced something much more. Something so difficult to describe yet so moving as to transcend our daily personal cares and considerations. We are awe struck, moved to tears, speechless, immobile. To explain such experiences as simply glimpses into our deep unconscious is not enough. It falls short of capturing the profundity of the experience.
Because of the persistence of such beliefs and the emergence of the idea that the dreamer and not the therapist nor the researcher OWNS their dream, we are seeing emerging in North America a grass roots movement valuing dreaming. Likewise a few contemporary dream researchers are also beginning to seriously look at the notion of the higher potential of dreaming.
One of the earliest and probably most influential figures in this popularization of the dream is Montague Ullman (20), who is a New York psychiatrist who in the last 20 years has been teaching group dream work techniques designed to keep the ownership of the dream in the hands of the dreamer. Thus he is essentially deprofessionalizing the process of dream work. In Ullman's method the dreamer shares his/her dream with the group free of associations or context cues. The group members free associate to the concepts in the dream. An interchange between the dreamer and the group members follows where the dreamer is free to give context information. Finally the dreamer decides what of all of this is relevant to his/her dream.
Further sociological signs of the popularization of the dream in North America are the emergence of dream organizations such as the Association for the Study of Dreams and Lucidity Association, dream publications such as Dream Network Bulletin and Lucidity Letter, dream articles in national magazines such as Time and Newsweek, dream features on national television such as the Donahue Show and Oprah Winphrey, and dream movies drawing sellout crowds such as the Nightmare on Elm Street series. A antidote exemplifies this renewed desire to know about the dream. A United States national magazine, OMNI (21), ran an article on dreams featuring it on the cover. The cover read, "Control Your Dreams!" That issue of OMNI sold out nationally for the first time in the history of the magazine, with one million copies sold. Savay New Yorkers, where the magazine is published, even came to the editorial offices of OMNI looking for extra issues but none were to be found.
Clearly there is emerging a need to know about dreams which is unprecedented in recent history. Another factor that has contributed to this need to know is the experience of dream lucidity. I have put aside a discussion of the lucid dream until now for two reasons: first, I have an obvious bias about the topic and second, I feel that more than any other body of work the lucid dreaming literature of the last decade has spearheaded the resurgence of interest into dreaming in America. The reason for the emergence of an interest in dreaming is because it represents a generalized emergence of questions concerning higher states of consciousness. Dream lucidity directly addresses such questions.
Now I will briefly summarize my own program of research into dream lucidity. There are three questions which I have pursued over the last decade since completing my dissertation on dream lucidity in 1978 (22): what is the psychological content of dream lucidity; who is likely to spontaneously experience dream lucidity; and what is the relationship of dream lucidity to witnessing the dream? Before I review this program of research I want to emphasize two methodological issues which were quickly apparent to me. The association between dream recall and lucid dreaming frequency is so robust that one must always control for variance associated with dream recall abilities. Secondly, in mass testing situations we have lost as many as 50% of our samples because we could not be sure that the subjects understood the definition of dream lucidity. Thus we have required that all subjects include a sample lucid dream which demonstrates their understanding (23).
The Psychological Content of Lucid Dreams
Ironically, perhaps, the most noteworthy thing about a lucid dream is how similar it is to an ordinary one (24-26). In extensive content analysis using the Hall and Van de Castle sytem (15) as well as self evaluations of the dream by the dreamer I found that for the majority of the scales there were no lucid/nonlucid differences. The differences which emerged were not spurious. There were more differences when the dreamer evaluated the dream than when independent judges rated the dreams. This indicates that lucid-nonlucid dream differences may be to a large extent in the eye of the beholder. Specifically, lucidity brings with it a larger cognitive or thought-like element. When people experience dream lucidity it typically emerges from an ordinary dream. Suddenly, the dreamer says, "Hey, this is a dream!" Once this fact is recognized, the dreamer usually realizes that he or she can do anything, after all it's only a dream. For instance, a 25-year-old computer operator decided to try to see God. The next time he turned lucid he found himself in a roomful of people. "I closed my eyes and concentrated on the idea of God, repeating the word God over and over," he explained. "Then I had a vision of a long wooden table with food on it, something like a painting of still life. I found I could control the perspective from which I viewed the table: close up or far away, up or down."
Although not exactly the expected vision of God, the man's dream was certainly the sort of distinctive experience lucid dreamers often describe. The captains of their own nocturnal consciousness, lucid dreamers can evidence some dream control. In fact the amount of felt control is one of the most robust content differences between lucid and nonlucid dreams by both judges and dreamers. I am going to take a moment and share some thoughts about dream control. A long sought after dream attribute, Tart concluded some 10 years ago in a review of the dream control literature that it is best found while lucid and sleeping. Yet no one ever took the ability to control ones dreams seriously until the recent explosion of work on lucidity. Ironically, questions of the advisability of controling ones dreams are now often found in the lucid dreaming literature. At a recent lucid dreaming symposium in the United States this question was hotly debated (45).
Other lucid/nonlucid differences have also emerged from my data. For one thing, there tend to be fewer characters in lucid dreams than in ordinary ones: The dreamer is the star in these dreams. Negative emotions are reported less often in lucid dreams although lucid dreams can be nightmares. In fact, when people spontaneously describe the experience a commonly reported feature of lucid dreaming is the feeling of "fun" and "ecstasy". However, in normative data with midwestern college students no differences in positive emotions were identified as a function of type of dream.
Another interesting component of dream lucidity seems to be the central role of balance related concerns. By balance I mean bodily balance, such as perfecting dream flying skills, as well as emotional and intellectual balance. In order to remain lucid one can not get too caught up in the emotions of the experience or the consciousness will fade. Further in the early stages in order to maintain the consciousness it takes a cognitive balancing act. That is, balancing ones statements of awareness with other cognitive concerns of the dream.
Individual Differences Associated With the Dream Lucidity Ability
I have recently summarized this body of research in my forthcoming edited book with Steve LaBerge so I shall briefly highlight this work here (23):
Two variables are the best predictors of the lucid dreaming ability; dream recall and interest in or experience with meditation. Simply and obviously the more dreams you remember the more likely you are to remember a lucid dream. This may simply be because you are paying attention to your internal, sleeping creations and somewhere along the way it occurs to you that they are just that, internal, sleeping creations. Most interesting of all from my perspective is the relationship of meditation practice and the dream lucidity ability. Reed (32) identified this statistical association in the middle 1970's although the obvious philosophical association, see especially in the Tibetian Buddists literature (33), has been there for many years. In fact lucid dreaming researcher and theoretician Harry Hunt (34) maintains that lucid dreams "could be considered as a spontaneous meditation state." In research on this association I have replicated this association controlling for dream recall as well as verifying that the subject understands the concept of dream lucidity (35). My colleagues and I have concluded that the best way to gain lucidity in sleep in through a combination of enhanced dream recall in combination with the practice of meditation.
Another important marker of the person likely to have lucid dreams involves a visual/spatial skill called field independence. Derived from Witkin's model of psychological differentiation (28), field independent individuals can make accurate perceptual judgements about their environment despite distorting cues which tend to confuse field dependent individuals (29).
Lucid dreamers appear to be somewhat more androgynous than other people, that is, they seem to be strong in aspects of their lives in which others of their sex are weak. Female lucid dreamers, for example, tend to be risk-takers, a trait commonly considered masculine, while male lucid dreamers tend to monitor their inner selves, something the traditional male has not been encouraged to do. Despite this androgyny, though, neither the men or women appear to differ from their own sex in other sex specific traits.
Some physiological components predispose some individuals to lucid dreaming. For instance, people who frequently have lucid dreams have an excellent vestibular system. That is, they have a good sense of bodily balance and rarely experience any sort of motion sickness. Conversely, when the vestibular integrity of individuals who have never had a lucid dreams was tested using standard clinical procedures we found that lucid dreamers exhibited borderline pathology (31).
Dream Lucidity and Dream Witnessing: Are They Related?
The reason I began research into dream lucidity and the emphasis of my research program in the last three years centers around the role lucid dreams play in higher states of consciousness. When I moved to Iowa I became aware that the university of the Transcendental Meditation movement, Maharishi International University, was located in Iowa. From my reading on eastern philosophies it occurred to me that they might also be interested in dream lucidity so I contacted them. What has followed is a program of research into the association of dream lucidity to dream witnessing. The latter is a described in the TM literature. On the surface, at least, it seemed that dream lucidity and dream witnessing were the same; both involved awareness of dreaming while dreaming. Yet in extended conversations with my colleagues at MIU and with sophisticated meditators it became clear that there is a developmental relationship between them. Simply, Alexander, Boyer, and Orme-Johnson (36) hypothesize that dream lucidity is an entry point that evolves into dream witnessing. Our preliminary laboratory findings support this model. While both involve conscious awareness of dreaming while dreaming, lucidity seems to be a cognitively and physiologically aroused sleep while witnessing is the opposite. That is, it involves the cognitively and physiologically quiet, passive observer of sleep (37).
In this brief talk I have tried to characterize current research and popular concerns with dreaming on the North American continent. I was especially careful to include Canada as well as the United States because of the central role many Canadians are playing in the development of the field. Clearly dream work is coming again into its own both as a popular movement and as a serious area of research inquiry. I think that this renewed interest in the dream in North America is due to several reasons:
1. the publication of David Foulkes, Dreaming: A Cognitive-Psychological Analysis highlighting for dream psychology what is occurring in psychology in general, a return to the mental experience;
2. the work of Montegue Ullman in deprofessionalizing dream work and returning the dream back to the dreamer after more than half a century of therapist/scientist "ownership";
3. due primarily, although not exclusively, to the work of Stephen LaBerge, the "discovery" and pursuit of the lucid dream as a legitimate sleep phenomenon; and
4. a need on the part of the people of North America, especially the post-World War II baby-boom generation, to be in touch with internal experiences of a spiritual nature for which dreams and especially lucid dreams are ideally suited.
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35. Gackenbach, J.I., Cranson, R. & Alexander, C. (1986). Lucid dreaming, witnessing dreaming, and the transcendental meditation technique: A developmental relationship. A poster presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Ottawa, Canada.
36. Alexander, C., Boyer, R.W. & Orme-Johnson, D.W. (1985). Distinguishing between transcendental consciousness and lucidity. Lucidity Letter (2), 68-85.
1. My Involvement with Lucid Dreaming
With the aim of examining a number of claims about dreaming, I looked for a technique that would allow the scientist to make systematic observations during dreaming with a clear consciousness. This was in 1959, a time when the phenomenon of lucid dreaming was completely unknown both to myself and the majority of psychologists. The main thought underlying my first technique for the induction of lucid dreaming went as follows: If one develops a critical frame of mind towards the state of consciousness during the waking state, by asking oneself whether one is dreaming or awake, this attitude will be transferred to the dreaming state. It is then possible through the occurrence of unusual experiences to recognize that one is dreaming. One month after beginning with this method, I had my first lucid dream.
A short time later I developed a technique for ending lucid dreaming based on psychophysiological findings. By fixing one's gaze on a stationary part of the dream scenery, the latter will become blurred and as a rule one wakes up within about ten seconds. Having used this method for a series of experiments on myself, I conducted experiments with several subjects in order to attain intersubjective results.
The expression "lucid dreaming"
In the course of my experiments it occurred to me that it would make sense to distinguish between 7 aspects of lucidity (clarity):
(1) clarity that one is dreaming;
(2) clarity regarding one's own ability to decide to do something;
(3) clarity with regard to recollecting one's waking life, especially to recollecting what one intended to investigate in the dream;
(4) clarity respecting recollecting the dream (this is the only aspect which is not directly related to the dream itself);
(5) lucidity of the consciousness, as opposed to a disturbed consciousness;
(6) lucidity of perception (being able to perceive everything one sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes, etc. in the dream) and
(7) clarity regarding recognizing what the dream symbolizes.
2. Philosophical Principles
My philosophical principles are based on the critical realism of Gestalt psychology. In this respect, I deviate from esoteric, mystic and behavioral theories, but also from the theories of Freud, Adler, Jung and numerous other writers, none of whom distinguish between the phenomenal (mental) and the transphenomenal (beyond physical and physiological) sets of facts. The empirical principles are not only of theoretical significance for methodology and the scientific classification of experiments, but also of practical importance, because knowledge of them allows a risk-free lucid dreaming. As far as the mind-body problem is concerned, the working hypothesis suggests isomorphism (i.e. a correspondence between the dynamic structures) between phenomenal (mental) facts and their brain correlates.
3.1 Empirical and Experimental Phenomenology
For Gestalt psychology, phenomenology is seen as the observation and description of experiences in as objective a way as possible.
From the viewpoint of critical realism, this method is vital to all empirical sciences, since even physics, for example, must also depend on observations. However, these observations must be made by several people independently of one another in order for them to be viewed as intersubjective. Experimental phenomenology demands in addition a variation of the independent variables. In our lucid dream research we based our work on a special form of this method. The coordinator of the experiments instructed different people in groups of subjects to carry out given activities during lucid dreaming, to observe their effects and to write these up immediately after waking up. This method allows us to investigate not only psychological, but also psychophysiological hypotheses on dreaming and lucid dreaming.
3.2 Methods Using Apparatus
As a back up to the phenomenological method, we also used methods requiring apparatus, which are able to register physiological data (e.g. EEG and EOG) and could also transmit signals - at a level below that required to wake a person - back to the subjects. These methods were used for a variety of very different aims.
4. Techniques for the Induction of Lucid Dreaming
We distinguish between two different kinds of induction technique:
(1) Techniques to induce lucidity in which one attains the lucidity that one is dreaming during normal dreaming;
(2) Techniques allowing the subject to maintain lucidity in which one maintains lucidity concerning one's state of consciousness while one is falling asleep.
The reflection technique which was mentioned briefly in the introduction belongs to the first group. This technique was expanded during the course of our investigations; great care was taken to ensure that as many criteria of lucidity as possible were met. Two problems occurred during implementation of the reflection technique and were subsequently investigated in greater detail. The first problem concerned the critical question of whether one is dreaming or not. In this connection, it proved effective to take into account three factors:
(1) the frequency factor;
(2) the similarity factor and
(3) the time factor.
In other words, when learning how to induce lucid dreams it is important to ask the question:
(1) as often as possible;
(2) as much as possible in situations which are similar to dream experiences and
(3) ideally just before falling asleep (especially in the early hours of the morning).
The experienced lucid dreamer does not need to ask the critical question during the day, since he sees the world in general with a more critical and clearer consciousness.
The second problem concerns the question of criteria for lucid dreaming which allow one to recognize that one is dreaming. Mention should first be made of criteria which occur spontaneously in this connection. They are concerned above all with unusual perception and/or ambivalance between one's knowledge of the waking reality and the present circumstances and events. Since, however, the dream world often appears to be identical to the waking world when one asks this question, it is often useful to conduct so-called reality tests. Both mental or physical activities serve this purpose equally well. In the first instance, one tries to remember what event preceded the present situation. If one then encounters gaps in one's memory or bizarre events, one can speak of a dream state. The turning test can be employed in the context of physical activities. The subject performs a turn of 180 degrees. If he then observes that his body continues to turn, or if the surroundings turn in the opposite direction, we can likewise speak of a dream state.
Induction methods using apparatus can also be used to attain lucidity. In this method special apparatus is employed which registers by means of physiological data that the sleeper is in the REM-phase and then transmits signals to the sleeper after a variable delay period, allowing him to recognize that he is dreaming, without waking him up.
There are a great number of techniques for maintaining lucidity. They can, in some cases, lead to so-called 'out of the body experiences', a state in which one (according to our critical-realistic understanding) does not leave the physical organism, but rather merely the phenomenal (mental) body.
5. Techniques for the Manipulation of Lucid Dreams
The content of lucid dreams can be manipulated or controlled in a variety of ways. For example, it can be done during the pre-sleep phase. If one thinks over unsolved problems before falling asleep, a quasi-need develops which according to Lewin can be interpreted as a system in a state of tension. In the dreaming state, this system is able to relax more easily, which may not only lead to the problem being solved but also help the dreamer to become aware that he is dreaming.
During lucid dreaming, the dream ego can control the dream content in a variety of ways through different mental, verbal and physical activities as well as through the support of other dream figures. Less experienced lucid dreamers cannot manipulate their dreams to the same extent. The restrictions they experience stem from physiological or psychological (cognitive and affective) causes. The main cognitive cause is that inexperienced lucid dreamers find it difficult to bring about experiences which contradict their experiences in the waking state. The affective reasons would seem to derive from psychological resistance, which hinders the contact to one's own unconscious.
Although the many techniques for the induction and manipulation of lucid dreams with the aid of experimental-phenomenological methods were first developed in the course of numerous investigations, we have included them before the following experiments, since they constituted an important aid to a number of the experiments.
6 Lucid Dreaming Research based on Philosophical Principles
6.1 Phenomenological Experiments
In the following experiments we used both the empirical and the experimental methods of phenomenology. We confined ourselves as much as possible to relating a few findings and their interpretations.
6.1.1 Perception during Lucid Dreaming
During lucid dreaming the appearance of the dream world often seems to be identical to that of the waking world. Certain of our perception experiments sometimes (but not always) led to the same results as in the waking state. It was possible, for example, to deliberately bring about double vision, positive after-images, as well as the restructuring of figures. Other highly unusual experiences also occurred, however such as flying or floating, out of the body experiences, panorama vision (360 degree), four-dimensionality of space, the slowing down of time, and cosmic experiences.
We use these widely differing forms of experience to differentiate between different types of lucid dreaming. Some experiences were similar to psychedelic experiences. However, for subjects with experience of drugs, the experiences in lucid dreaming were more intense.
6.1.2 Cognition in Lucid Dreaming
Subjects had very few difficulties recollecting their waking life. However, when it came to remembering the events which had preceded falling asleep, gaps of memory did occasionally occur.
Finally, I would like to mention a significant experiment used to test thinking ability which was important for later investigations. The subjects had to set themselves multiplication tasks during lucid dreaming, to which they did not know the answer in advance. The subjects were able to solve the problems during lucid dreaming, although greater difficulties were experienced in remembering sub-totals than in the waking state.
6.1.3 Investigations on the Start, Course and End of Lucid Dreaming
The start of lucid dreams differed greatly, according to the induction technique employed. The further course of the dreams made more sense and had greater coherence than was the case for normal dreaming, though the quality of the latter improved with practice.
We conducted an experimental-phenomenological experiment on the ending of lucid dreaming, in which the subjects were requested to finish the dream deliberately by staring at part of the dream scenery and at the same time to observe their experiences exactly. They were further asked to vary the posture and position of their dream bodies for each experiment. The following phenomenon emerged:
(1) Only one body was experienced during the transition from the dreaming to the waking state. If the dream body was in an upright position and the waking body in a lying position, the subject did not experience a turning of the body, but an alteration in the space framework; if the posture of the dream body differed from that of the waking body, then the exact contours of the dream body disappeared.
(2) The subject experienced a simultaneous feeling of becoming conscious of the waking body and a slipping away of the dream body. Experienced lucid dreamers succeeded in a visual reconstruction of the dream scenery.
(3) A bodiless dream ego slipped into the waking body.
(4) There was a transition to dream-free sleep.
(5) The lucid dream was not finished, instead there was a complete change of dream scenery.
As soon as we start talking about dreams and lucid dreams mainly, the problem arises to know what we mean by consciousness. As we know now in psychology and in spirituality there are many different states of consciousness, and different names are being given to those various states. We can talk, for example, of unconsciousness,of subconsciousness, consciousness, self-consciousness and supra-consciousness. All those different states we can find in the same human being in different parts of his total being.
What we are interested in doing when we want to have lucid dreams is to bring self-consciousness in dreams. If you look at yourself, if you look at your dreams you will see that you are conscious in your dreams. You are conscious of what is going on, you are reacting to what’s happening, you are doing lots of things, But you are not self-conscious. That means you are not conscious that you are conscious. You are not conscious you are dreaming until the time when you wake up and you say “Oh yes, I was dreaming.” But that is too late. So what you are trying to do is to bring self-consciousness into the dream state.
Now what we see when we study consciousness, is that self-consciousness is related to the intellect. It is something that belongs mostly to mankind, to the human kingdom, and consciousness is more related to a level that is just below. In the esoteric tradition we say that consciousness belongs to animals, sub-consciousness to vegetables, and unconsciousness to minerals. And self-consciousness is something you find only in the human being: the capacity to reflect.
Self-consciousness means that you are conscious of being conscious: something is being emitted and then comes back to you. Some higher animals have the beginning of self-consciousness, but they mentally are not fully developed. They are not able to reflect and think in the way that we do on this.
Now the interesting thing is that consciousness has evolved in man. Take a child, for example, he is not conscious in the way you and I are at this time. His consciousness is very different. I won’t go into too many explanations, that would lead us too far, and you can find that in various esoteric publications. But we see an evolution. We see that consciousness is very physical in the child, at the beginning, and then when he is growing, around the time of adolescence, his consciousness will grow more into the feelings, into the heart, with puberty. He will start to know feelings of love, hatred, and all that is related to that. And then only later on, around the age of twenty-one, to give an average date, we see the full expansion of the intellect and the mental part, and the full growth of self-consciousness.
When we are small, when we are children, our self-consciousness is quite limited. We are conscious of ourselves but not as clearly and precisely as we are when we grow up.
Now what we see is that the evolution of the human being from his childhood to his adult state is the same process as the evolution of mankind through the centuries. And if we look at man 2000 or 3000 years ago, his consciousness was not the one that he has today, and the intellect of man, for example, was not as fully developed as at this time. The development of science today and all the technology and all the wonderful things that science can do now is part of the evolution of mankind with the development of the intellect.
In past centuries man was much more linked with his heart, and all that has to do with feeling. Religion, for example, went into love and into worship and relating to other realities. If you look at history, you’ll see that arts, for example, were much more developed than now - actually they’re deviated - and the greatest musics, and the wonderful paintings and sculpture were all developed some centuries ago.
Now science has been the main point, the main focus of human work in general. So we see that consciousness is developing from centuries to centuries. What I suggest is that this evolution is not finished, and it will keep on going further and further. So if right now it is mostly the intellect which we are using, there are higher faculties in the human being that we can develop and that will give us something higher than self-consciousness.
In the eyes of the initiatic tradition this higher state is called supra-consciousness, a consciousness that is much wider. We are still very much conscious of ourselves, of our little self; we live in a world where our personal consciousness, our ego, is quite valued and precious. We have not yet developed the consciousness of the society, or of the environment to which we belong.
A mother, for example, has a wider consciousness than her own personal one. Her consciousness includes her family, children and husband. What happens to them is as important to her as what happens to herself. Her children’s happiness may even be more important than her own. But often this consciousness stops at the gate of her house, and the neighbors are not included!
Supra-consciousness means a consciousness that includes more and more of our surroundings, things and people, until we reach the divine consciousness of the Whole. If consciousness is linked to our intellect, collective consciousness is rather linked with our solar-plexus. Through our solar plexus we can start feeling what others feel and live, and feel more concerned than we are when we see the world objectively, coldly, through the eyes of the intellect.
This is starting to come, and we hear more and more people talking about ecology, talking about space, fraternity, unity, and about a different way of seeing and understanding oneself, one’s life and the whole world. And I think the more the years go on, the more this state of consciousness, this way of being, will keep developing and developing. So we are moving toward something else.
Now the interesting thing is that right now we start being interested in lucid dreams. And the point that I want to make – I’ll say it right now and then explain how I come to that - is that lucid dreaming will be the normal type of dreams for the more evolved human being. That means that right now, we are self-conscious during the day, okay, pretty much more or less depending on what we are doing. And during the dream we are just conscious: acting, reacting, forgetting our self-consciousness, our full capacity to think and make decisions. But later on if we develop a higher state of consciousness during the day, what we might call supra-consciousness, then in the dream we will have our self-consciousness, the consciousness that we do have right now in the waking state.
I started by working on lucid dreams, on trying to get the lucidity and self-consciousness in my dreams, and then I thought: “This is only a side impact, this is not the main thing.” It is like when you eat: you get pleasure as a side effect. But if you eat only for pleasure you might ruin your health. Okay?
If you develop yourself totally, I mean your whole way of life, your way of working, feeling, thinking, if you change your state of consciousness during the waking life, you will see changes in you dream life. But the opposite is not always true. Changing your dream life will affect your daily life, but not as powerfully. If you treat the cause, you treat the symptoms. If you only treat the symptoms, you will not necessarily have an impact on the cause. If you are bald, you can draw hairs on your image in the mirror or on a picture…but you are still bald!
When I developed my first technique to induce lucid dreams - some of you already know that - I wrote a “C” on my hand, and every time I would see it I would remind myself to be fully conscious. Why? Because I observed that very often we think we are conscious, during the day, but actually we’re not. We are also involved in what we do, think, or feel, our attention is so focused by one activity, that we forget all the rest: the room where we are, the building, the town, the other people, the time, and so on, and so on. So, every time I would look at my “C”, I would take a “breath of consciousness”, and remind myself of the whole context in which I happened to be. You know, it is like in the movies when you get really involved in the film, and suddenly you remember you’re in a room, with friends - safe and secure - watching a story played by actors.
But then, working over the years, I could see that I could go much further than that. I thought that if dreams are just the shadow of our waking life - consciousness is not fully developed in them - then maybe our waking life is also the shadow of a higher type of life. And this is what most sacred writings of many religions say.
We can see ourselves first as spirit, or soul, or energy. And this energy is manifesting itself here on earth through a body. And what happens is that, in the same way as when you fall asleep you lose part of your consciousness and you tend to forget your real life and many things, in the same way when we come here on earth in this body we forget our true, spiritual and united reality. We do not remember where we come from, and we get fully involved in our personal existence. And only when we wake up, that is when we die to this existence, do we get back our full divine consciousness, and we say: “Oh oh, I got a bit too involved in that life!” This is an interesting analogy!
Maybe if we make a small picture it will be easier to understand (see Figure 1).
Self-consciousness is the normal state in which we are now. In the dream normally we would be here, in consciousness. This is below the normal state. Now what we are trying to do is to make a link (1) between those two so that part of it can come here. That when we dream we remember that we are linked with something outside, that we are just the shadow of something else.
Up here is supra-consciousness, where our spirit is. Now, if we manage to work in our waking life to get more and more in touch with our spirit, to try through various ways - meditation, yoga, prayer or whatever - to create a link (2) with our higher Self, and to bring into our daily reality supra-consciousness, Love, Wisdom, and all the qualities of our spirit, if we do this, we create a cliche, a habit that will also happen in our dreams: suddenly, we’ll remember to make a link with something higher, and in that particular case, what is higher is our normal self-consciousness.
So what I started doing was this: in many situations I stop myself and remember that the problems in which I am involved or situations which seem so complicated and so important - and for which I am about to destroy harmony, peace and beauty - are just part of a play in which my spirit is involved.
SUPRACONSCIOUSNESS (spirit, unity)
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS (intellect, waking life)
Situations which seem frightening from the point of view of the dreamer make us smile when we wake up, and in a similar way we can learn to see things from a higher and wider point of view, with a new set of values: I can see others as important as myself and include them in my consciousness, so that their lives, problems, happiness and such are also mine. In this case I can discover new solutions to my own problems, solutions that will avoid violence, disharmony, division, hatred, etc.
If I keep creating that link and developing that higher state of consciousness while awake, then the habit of being linked with something higher will also appear in the dream state, and therefore lucidity happens more and more often. You see? And this is interesting, because a lot of spiritual teaching teachs you exactly that.
We can use another image. Look at a radio or a TV. You turn it on and you get a certain station. But we all know that the radio or TV is just receptive to an emitting station somewhere, maybe miles away. It is emissive towards us only because it is first receptive from the station. Well, the human being, according to spiritual traditions, is built in the same way. Our physical body is a receptor through which our spirit, soul, energy, life, or whatever you call it, is manifesting itself. But the channels are not clear, so the image is blurred and things get changed. So we’re working on improving and improving the mechanism, the machine, until the result is perfect: the source and the image are exactly alike.
I suppose you all have read the Bible, in Genesis, where it says that God wanted to create man in his image and his resemblance. And a few lines later it says, “And God created man in his image, and in his image He created man.” …where is the resemblance? That’s precisely what we’re working on ! Take the seed of an oak, it is made in the image of the oak, but it doesn’t look like it at all. There is no resemblance. Okay, we all agree on that. In the same way we can say that man was made in the image of God, or divinity, or Spirit, but the resemblance is not there. What we’re working on is manifesting here more and more of the perfection, the qualities that are up there in the spirit. That’s the whole work we’re doing, clarifying the channel until one day we can have the perfection manifested here.
We have heard, or maybe met, some people, called saints, yogis, prophets and such, that have worked further on developing those qualities. What they are trying to do is to reach us to do the same thing, to develop a higher consciousness, so that we get more and more in touch with ourselves, and go beyond all the problems we face now.
Most of the problems we face come from the unilateral use of the intellect which separates and divides everything: “I’m here, you’re there, we’re different.”
Now take two bottles of perfume. The bottles are totally separate and different. Maybe one is big, one is small, one is in a green glass, and the other transparent. You open the bottles, the perfumes go out and no one can say which comes from what bottle.
We can see human beings in the same way. You have a body, and I have another body, and we seem to be quite different. But on the other hand, we can see this as only one spirit or energy manifesting itself in different ways. Light, warmth and movement are all various manifestations of electricity. The evolution of mankind is going towards the consciousness of unity and Oneness. Intellect is just part of the illusion. It is a very powerful tool; it is wonderful, but that’s not the end of human evolution. It is just one specific tool.
So the interesting thing is to work toward that evolution. Lucid dreaming, for me, has been a door. I was interested in many different thins, psychology, spirituality, science and so on, and I discovered lucid dreaming and OOBEs, and this helped me to realize and to become aware of this evolution and to enlarge my interest into one thing - evolution, consciousness - that gathered them all. So actually lucid dreaming is not my main point of interest. I’m interested in seeing how we can help man evolve in a general way so that his life becomes better: his professional life, his relations with his friends, with his wife and children, with all life. Maybe by doing this he will get lucid dreams, and clairvoyance, and such, but those will be secondary effects.
Look for example at how people would do wars in the past centuries. Let’s say I’m a general, and I’m going to take over that country. Now I’m not going to use my army and take over that town and then this one, and this other one, because after ten years I’ve taken only one tenth of the whole country, and lost much of my army! I go straight to the capital (caput = head) and I have the whole country. Okay? Why not do the same? Go to the main point, a higher consciousness, and then have all the side effects, wherever that consciousness is, in a dream or elsewhere. In this way we get a development that is much more harmonious.
If you play tennis you develop mostly one arm, certain muscles. There are other sports that develop usefully and in a more harmonious way the whole body.
So what I think would be interesting, when we teach people how to work with their dreams, is to give them this vision of evolution, or to encourage them to study the initiatic and spiritual literature. Tibetan buddhists have been working with lucid dreams for centuries, and they are not the only ones. We will go faster if we trust those that have walked before us on the same path. Why make the same mistakes? Why lose time with problems whose solutions have been found and given long ago? Why do we accept teachers only in math, literature, sports, languages, but not in how to live a better life, how to be more conscious, more loving, wiser…?
I think that psychology has a lot to gain by becoming interested in the ancient and sacred teachings of all countries. Psychology has the point of view of the oak’s seed, looking up and wondering what it’s going to be like, and thinking it is going to be a big oak’s seed. But man is not a big baby! Spirituality gives us the point of view of the mature oak, that knows both the nature of the seed and its own nature. Spirituality sees things from above: it knows that the seed came from the tree, and not from the ground. Psychology has gone deep in the roots, in the subconscious, but it hasn't yet found light, and it ignores the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits, the higher states of consciousness: saints do not visit psychotherapists!
The study of human consciousness and all its various states - dreams, meditation, OOBEs, etc. - is new and old at the same time. New, because it’s only been a few decades since our modern sciences started studying it, with all of its technology and measuring devices; and old, ancient should we say, because if we look at past civilizations from all continents we find that they were quite experienced in that study and had even gone much further than we are now. We are being slowed down by our lack of trust in the knowledge of our ancestors and by our desperate need to see everything objectively, thereby forgetting that Truth is the result of the union of the objective and the subjective, of both points of view, the inside and the outside. Modern science has indeed developed an astonishing objective knowledge through wonderful methods and equipment; but people of the past had done the very same thing for our inner and subjective world, which they had explored in full length: they knew how to work with it, and how to obtain this or that result.
Now comes the time to unite both points of view, to unite science and religion, the Occident and the Orient, the intellect and the heart, the masculine and the feminine. Opposites cease to fight one against another when they realize that they can be complementary and thereby create children. Electricity and magnetism give movement, fire and water make steam. People like Fritjof Capra, O.M. A_vanhov, Jean Charon, David Bohm, Rupert Sheldrake and many others show us that this union is possible, that it opens amazing research possibilities and it widens our understanding of the universe and of life.
Because of its very nature, the study of dreams is perfectly fit for this union of methods, subjective and objective. Let us not miss this opportunity. In the past five to seven years, I have observed a saddening change: less and less experiences, or limited and close-minded ones, and more and more statistics, numbers and figures. Let us beware of self-fulfilling prophecies: if we look at dreams in a limited way then we’ll have a limited dream life.
Science needs water to be in a bucket to analyze it, but let’s not take the bucket for the ocean. Let us keep an open mind, and an attitude of respect, awe, gratitude and wonder, and life will bless us with astonishing discoveries.
University of Bristol, England
I was recently at a conference on vision - real vision that is, not the vision of mystics or lucid dreamers. There, over a few litres of Bulgarian beer, I got talking about lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences (OBEs).
“But why are they interesting?” asked one of the visual scientists. I began muttering about how nice they are; how difficult to induce; how exhilarating if you succeed; about the clarity of consciousness…
The trouble I had answering the question made me realise how unclear is my thinking about lucid dreams and OBEs. So what I would like to do today is to try answer that man’s question more effectively. Lucid dream research will be of interest to other scientists only if we can develop better theories, better integration with the rest of psychology and better experiments to test those theories.
So why are lucid dreams and OBEs interesting?
First, since I mention them together, I had better explain the reasons why the two are linked.
a. The same people tend to report both (see Irwin,1988; Blackmore,1988).
b. Some lucid dreams lead directly into an OBE. In other words a person is asleep and dreaming and then, when lucid, dreams of leaving the body and flying around.
c. In both consciousness is reported as specially clear and vivid.
d. In both the world experienced is more like that of imagination than of perception.
e. Flying is common in both.
On the other hand the major differences are that most OBEs occur during waking while lucid dreams, as far as we know, occur during REM sleep. This division is obscured by the fact that some experiences resembling OBEs occur in sleep. Some researchers count these as OBEs while others do not.
Finally OBEs (perhaps only by convention or definition) occur in a setting closely resembling the physical world while lucid dreams can occur in any imagined setting. In other words if I were having an OBE now I would see the tops of all your heads and be able to fly around this room (or what appeared to be this room) but if I had a lucid dream there might be monsters coming out of the curtains or a gigantic hole opening up in the wall.
It is possible that OBEs and lucid dreams are best looked on as two aspects of the same underlying experience. I prefer to take them as independent, largely because of OBEs occurring during waking activity. But either way I think any account of one must shed light on the other.
So now let me try to answer the question - why are they interesting?
I could think of a few starting replies to offer: either personal ones or general ones.
1. They provide a means of access to ordinary dreaming.
2. They feel wonderful.
3. They are very hard to induce voluntarily.
4. They seem more memorable than ordinary dreams.
5. I feel more “myself” when lucid. (I think this did not go down too well!)
6. They provide insight into the nature of self and its apparent continuity
7. They are relevant to the problem of consciousness.
1. The first of these answers I gave mainly to appease the visual scientists. It is certainly true. The work of Hearne, LaBerge and Gackenbach among others shows that through studying lucid dreaming we can learn important things about all kinds of dreaming (see e.g. Gackenbach and LaBerge, 1988). But I won’t say more about that here, partly because others will do so and partly because it does not, for me, address the real question about lucid dreams themselves. Why are they intrinsically interesting?
2.They are nice! Well this answer didn’t go down too well. Why are they nice and what does that tell us? It is perhaps the hardest question of all and maybe even the most interesting. So I shall come back to it at the end.
3.They are hard to have. Yes they are. To anyone who has not tried to induce them this may seem far from interesting, but to most people who have, the sheer frustration of not being able to bring an intention to bear upon ones dreams is sufficient to inspire either total rejection, or long fascination with lucid dreams.
So let us address this question. Why are lucid dreams hard to have? I would like to simplify it by assuming that the crux of lucid dreaming is to be able to ask, in the dream, “Am I dreaming?” and to be able to answer affirmatively “Yes I am dreaming.”
The following hypotheses suggest themselves.
(a) It is actually no more difficult to ask this question when asleep than when awake. However, it is hard to answer affirmatively whether awake or asleep.
(b) There is something about the dream state which makes it especially hard to ask the question or to answer it. (e.g. low arousal, no opportunity for testing against sensory input).
(c) It is a problem of State Specific Memory - that is getting the intention across from one state to another.
It would be very useful to know this both for developing methods of lucid dream induction and for understanding the nature of the state.
Let us try to test the first hypothesis. One approach is to use Tholey’s method of induction by asking the question, during waking, “Am I dreaming?”
Tholey suggests asking this question about fifteen times a day. Now it is possible that if you do this, and do it at the same rate during dreaming sleep, the chances of having a lucid dream are still quite low. Let us assume that the average night includes at most two hours of REM sleep. If you ask yourself the question fifteen times during the day that is only averaging once an hour. And of course the estimate of two available hours for lucid dreaming is likely to be far too high. So it is possible that the problem is no worse by night than by day. To test this one could train people to ask Tholey’s question either five times, fifteen times, or hundreds of times a day and plot the incidence of lucid dreams and compare the presumed rate of questioning in waking and dreaming.
The high rate of questioning case is particularly interesting. Asking this question so often, indeed eventually making it a continuous questioning attitude, seems similar to the practices of mindfulness or self-remembering. I once practiced mindfulness consistently for seven weeks and unexpectedly found that I started having lucid dreams. They were still only few but I had lots of near-lucid and high dreams. My impression was that the dreaming and waking states were coming closer together.
This proposed experiment might tell us whether the question is harder to ask in waking or sleeping but is complicated by what answer is given.
In waking life you are likely to give the answer “No, I’m awake.” Indeed the tests you might perform, trying to read or to fly etc, are all designed to lead to this conclusion. This habit might carry over into dreaming when in fact you want to answer “Yes”. So perhaps practice is needed in answering “Yes, I’m dreaming.”
If this sounds daft consider the statement from the Tibetan Yoga of dreams “All things are of the substance of dreams” or the notion of the world of illusion. Indeed we know that the perceived world is a kind of mental construction so perhaps in asking the question we need practice in answering “Yes, it is all a dream”. This could also be tested by training two groups to give themselves the different answers. The effects of this can of course be deeper than inducing lucid dreams but I shall not pursue that one for the moment.
My guess (since I haven’t done the experiments) is that the hypothesis will be rejected. It will prove harder to ask the question in a dream than when awake. But why?
One possibility is that of state specific memory. The intention to remember ones dreams comes from waking and has to be got across to the dreaming state. An ideal test would be to initiate an intention in dreaming, to be carried out in waking, but this looks impossible to me. As a next best what if one tried to get such a question across into other states, for example by using hypnosis, or with some kind of intoxication. The subject could try to ask Tholey’s question (or for that matter some other question) in normal waking, and then in the other state. It would presumably (and I have some personal experience to confirm this!) be harder to remember to ask the question in the other state. This could either be because of state specific memory or something to do with the state itself. Now the intention has to be started from the other state and transferred to waking to test which is the case. Two possible outcomes are shown in Figure 1. If the effect is due to state specific memory we should expect outcome A. and if recall is intrinsically better in the waking state, outcome B. Of course what is so for drunkenness might not be the case for dreaming but it would be a start.
4. My fourth question was that lucid dreams are more memorable than ordinary dreams. Certainly they seem to be so but has this been tested?
It could be tested by training people differentially in dream recall and in lucid dreaming (say by asking Tholey’s question). One could start with three groups of subjects all of whom had low dream recall and very occasional lucid dreams - a typical starting point for some 30-40% of people.
One group are trained only in dream recall, by keeping a dream journal etc. The second group is given the same training but also have to ask Tholey’s question fifteen times a day. The third group only ask themselves the question. Of course there will be interference, by the increased motivation, attention to dreams and so on, but the trend should still be clear. If lucid dreams are recalled only as well as ordinary dreams then groups one and two should have equal increase in lucid dreams and group three less. On the other hand if they are recalled perfectly (or at least much better than ordinary dreams) then groups two and three will have far more and not group 1. These possible outcomes are shown in Figure 2.
5. Finally we come to the reasons which make lucid dreams seem very special to those who have them. Perhaps the most impressive thing to lucid dreamers is that in some sense we seem to be more “ourselves” than in an ordinary dream, perhaps even than in waking life. The lucid dreams seems to have more continuity with waking life than an ordinary dream does. Something similar is true for the OBE (or out-of-the-body experience) which is one of the reasons I have long been interested in it. It is also true of certain states induced during meditation and perhaps, prototypically so of mystical experiences. It is these experiences which bring people to say things like “Now I know who I really am (or am not!)” or “Now I know why I am here.” Often afterwards they can only remember that they though it and cannot reconstruct why. The training of the mystic is perhaps one of being able to integrate these insights into everyday life. It may also involve creating greater continuity instead of the fragmentary awareness that most of us have.
From all of this it is tempting to imagine that there may be some hierarchy, or other structured progression, of experiences varying in what we might call “realness of self” or the “continuity with self”. Add this to the fact that in mystical traditions “there is no self” and you have a fine starting muddle! However, I think, with the aid of a little cognitive psychology and a few thought experiments we may be able to penetrate this muddle a little bit.
What makes anything seem real? This is a question well worth asking. By trying to answer it (in many different states of consciousness) I developed a general approach to altered states which casts some light on lucid dreams and OBEs. I think a lot of the work of seeing things this way had to be done in ASCs. This may make it sound like State Specific Science (SSS) but in fact Tart’s (1972) idea of SSS was that everything had to be communicated to other scientists in the altered state. Unless you (and I) are all lucid dreaming now, then I cannot do this. So it is something else, and something I think we shall see more of, that is work which comes out of a knowledge and facility with altered states.
So why does anything seem real? I suggest the following.
Let us take the reasonable assumption that most of the brain’s task is modelling. That is, it constructs models or representations of the world around and the self within it. These models are closely based on perceptual input and information from memory. Indeed the work of much of artificial intelligence, and of cognitive science is to understand the ways in which perceptual systems construct representations of the world. This is what the visual scientists at that conference wanted to understand. During a lifetime the cognitive system learns to produce ever better models.
Of course we have to ask what we mean by better, and generally that means better at predicting. The models of the world constructed by the cognitive systems are very efficient at predicting what will happen next and bringing about actions consistent with those predictions. That is part of the business of living, procreating and surviving.
Now what about the self. Who is that? Is it a little something (a spirit, soul or homunculus) looking at those models? Clearly not, for that would then raise the familiar problem of the necessity for a second perceptual system to perceive the models and so on to an infinite regress.
No, the self cannot be outside of the system. So what is it? I shall make some suggestions?
First it might be the whole system. Now this is important to talk about because we do refer to self and others that way. “This is where I live. Yesterday I met my friend Suzi. She is the one with green hair. We went on holiday last year.” In these statements we refer to the whole system. However, this is clearly not what we mean when we talk about who has pains or emotions.
Second we might say the self was just one of the many models. In a sense this is so. From social psychology we know about the socially constructed nature of the self. We represent self as having lots of attributes. We have a self-image and a body image. Yes the self is a model. But again there is a problem. We must assume that the information for constructing that model is always there in memory. And yet “I” am not really “myself” in deep sleep and sometimes (perhaps in meditation or other ASCs) I seem to be perfectly myself without any of the attributes of a self image and body image. So there seems to be an experiencer which is not identical with the self-model. Again we cannot use a homunculus or spirit or soul to solve this one.
Finally there seems to be a self who takes decisions and initiates actions. Can a model initiate actions? Is the whole system really responsible for “my” deciding to stop work and go out into the garden? Is the experiencer the same as the actor? Clearly not for many recent experiments show that actions are initiated unconsciously.
There seems to be a paradox here, but I think it is only apparent. The paradox is caused by assuming that there is only one self. Rather I think we should listen to those who say “there is no (one) self”. There are, rather, lots of things we mean by self. In the rest of this talk I shall be specific about them. In particular I want to distinguish:
1. I - the whole system
2. I - the self model
3. I - the experiencer.
Now before I go any further I must emphasize that none of these are separate entities. They are all aspects of, or ways of describing, the whole cognitive system and its interactions with the world. I am not talking about three or more things inside a person.
Now imagine the whole system - a brain constructing models. There are lots of them, from the retina up through visual processing in the cortex, in the midbrain or cerebellum, in other parts of the cortex, there are lots and lots of different representations. The funny thing is that “I” am aware of some of these models and not others. For example I am aware of the model concerning what I shall do at dinner tonight, or how I shall answer the questions which follow this talk. I am not aware of the representation of orientations of lines in visual cortex. Why not?
Again we cannot have recourse to any homunculus who sits in some parts of the brain and not others. We have to try to understand consciousness in terms of this whole modelling system.
Note that I have raised the problem of consciousness. This, I think, is ultimately what it’s all about for lucid dreams. The thing which makes them interesting to people who have them is the feeling of being “more conscious” - whatever that means! So we need to tackle this problem too!
I resolve the problem this way (though some of you may not think it resolved when I have told you!).
In a famous paper the American philosopher Thomas Nagel (1974) said “an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism (p. 43)". I do not think we need to restrict the statement on organisms. One might say instead – A thing is conscious if there is something it is like to be that thing.
Nagel went on to ask his well-known question “What is it like to be a bat?” I would ask what it is like to be all manner of things, just to get us going.
What is it like to be a piece of mud in a field? I should say not much. There is nothing which makes that piece of mud even separable from other pieces of mud except that some person might look at it and interpret it as so. Unless one believes in natural kinds this is so of any thing you may choose - like this acetate sheet or this table. It takes someone to think of it as a separate thing before you can even ask the question of it.
Now this gives us a clue. For perhaps it is the very act of representing something which brings about its status as a thing. It is in a representation that qualities and similarities and differences are expressed. And it is similarity and difference which differentiate the world. So I shall ask Nagel’s question again. This time in the form “What is it like to be a mental model?”
This is the whole crux of my argument. For I believe that it is meaningless to ask “what it is like to be stone?” because a stone, of itself, has no qualities, attributes, or (therefore) changes. On the other hand it is meaningful to ask “what is it like to be someone’s model of a stone?” For the very act of modelling something is one which creates or constructs features, attributes, changes and so on. And so I say - it is the fact that human systems build representations which makes it possible to ask “what is it like to be a person?”
Now we can go back and see that it cannot be the whole system which is conscious. Rather it is each of the many representations constructed by that system which can be. But why should some seem to be conscious and not others.
I suggest this too is an illusion. All the models in the whole system are conscious (you can ask what it is like to be them). What makes “me” aware of any of them at any time is only one thing - whether or not they are a part of the model which includes my self-model or self image. Thus we can imagine a system creating multiple models only some of which make sense to, or are part of, the self model. “I” am conscious of those parts and not the rest. Alternatively you could say that they were not conscious of me. For “I” am only another model. So when we talk about a conscious self I suggest we are referring to just one model in the system. I shall call this “I”.
I began with the question “What makes anything seem real?” This is not the same question as what makes things be “in consciousness”. At any time “I” may be aware of all sorts of things, both imagined and “real”. I suggest there is a pragmatic process going on in the system. It needs to know which of its models refer to the external world and which to imagined or constructed things. A safe bet (and a useful constraint for the system) is that there is only one external world. So, I suggest, it takes the best model it has got at any given time and calls that “reality”. Normally the best model will be the most stable, coherent and predictable. It will be that based on sensory input. All other models in awareness will be labelled, by contrast, as “thinking” or “imagination”. So the system always has a good “model of reality”.
Where does this get us with ASCs, and in particular OBEs and lucid dreams? First it provides a theory of the OBE.
In ordinary waking life the input-based model is the one that is real. But what if input is disturbed, or the system is damaged in such a way that a good input model cannot be constructed. What if it is very tired and not up to doing good predictions. In other words what would happen in just those circumstances which tend to favour the OBE? I suggest that the system will lose input control. Then, if it is determined to survive, it will try to reconstruct a decent model of reality on the basis of what information it has available. Since (we have hypothesized) there is not much input, it will have to use information from memory - doing the equivalent of thinking “where am I? Who am I?” etc. One thing we do know about memory models is that often (though far from always) they are constructed in a bird’s eye view. It is a convenient way of representing complex information. If this sort of model is constructed and is the best the system has got at the time then it will, according to my theory, come to seem real. Hence an OBE has occurred. The person is aware and in a world which seems real, but that world is a bird’s eye view from memory.
In the OBE nothing much has changed except for the apparent viewing position. Instead of looking out from the eyes “I” am looking down from the ceiling, but I may seem to be the same self because there has been no great change in self-image. The OBE seems real not only at the time, but when looking back, for a similar self (model of self) looks back on it as the one being used at the time. So the OBE seems more or less continuous with ordinary waking life…
What now of the lucid dream, or for that matter of ordinary dreams?
Sleep is the archetypal situation in which input is cut off. But there is more than that. In most of sleep arousal is extremely low. The system cannot support complex models and there is therefore no good model of self of which to ask “What it is like to be that model?” In other words there is no, or very rudimentary, consciousness.
In REM sleep things change. Arousal is much higher, the system can support some quite complex modelling. One can ask “what is it like to be those models?” and the answer tells us what it is like to be dreaming. Things happen, people come and go, events turn into other events. The models, free of input control, shift about and transmute one into the other. At the time they seem perfectly real - they are the best model the system has going at the time. However, afterwards they don’t seem so real anymore. When you wake up a new model of self is reconstructed. It is similar to the one from yesterday. It allows access to recall of yesterday’s events. There seems to be continuity between now and yesterday, but not between now and the dream. It was a different self (model) who experienced the two times.
But there are other possibilities in dreaming. Let us suppose that arousal is temporarily increased during dreaming and more complex models are built. In this case a model of self may be constructed which is rather similar to the usual waking ones. This model might include things like the person’s name, the day of the week and so on. With this information available the contents of the dream may seem bizarre. The obvious differences from normal life will be more obvious. In other words the question is more likely to arise “What is going on? Is this a dream?” In this same state things will seem real. They might also seem more complex and interesting than in an ordinary dream. But the real difference is afterwards. Because the model of self is similar to the waking model the lucid dream will seem more continuous with waking life. In other words it will feel more like “me”. “I” will remember it as being part of “my” experience.
I am suggesting here a very general effect of state-specific memory. In altered states of consciousness you can recall things better when learning and recall occur in a similar state. I am suggesting that this depends on the similarity between the models of self in the two states. In other words the apparent continuity of life is only because of the similarity of our day to day models of self. Altered states appear to involve other worlds (the dream world, the trip etc) because different models of self are constructed. Most of them happen by force of accident or drug effects on the nervous system but controlled change is possible. Even integration of the different models is possible. The importance for lucid dreams is that they are more memorable than ordinary dreams only because the model of self which is constructed is more similar to the usual waking one.
Looking at altered states this way I think we can gain insight into the nature of lucid dreams and OBEs. However, more than that is needed. If the theory is to be useful it must provide testable predictions.
According to this approach, the OBE involves the construction of the world from a different viewpoint. People who have OBEs should be those who are better able to switch viewpoints in their imagery. This I tested by asking people to imagine the room they were in from a variety of different viewpoints and to switch back and forth between them. The OBErs were better at this switching (Blackmore, 1987). I also predicted that OBErs should be those who tend to remember things using a bird’s eye view rather than eye-level view. This I confirmed for dream recall but not for recall of waking events (Blackmore, 1987). I also predicted that OBErs should be those who tend to remember things using a bird’s eye view rather than eye-level view. This I confirmed for dream recall but not for recall of waking events (Blackmore, 1987). Irwin found the same effect and has argued that it supports his somaesthetic theory of the OBE (Irwin, 1986). So this is providing an interesting point for further testing.
Another approach concerns how the experiences are induced - and this highlights the difference between OBEs and lucid dreams. It is difficult to have an OBE deliberately because you have to get the normal model of self out of the way first. Spontaneous OBEs occur only because an accident, drug or coming close to death, has disrupted that model and made it easy. This leads to the prediction that spontaneous and deliberate OBEs should come about in quite different ways and happen to different people who have different skills. In a survey (Blackmore, 1986) I found that the people who had spontaneous OBEs tended also to have flying dreams and mystical experiences while those who had deliberate OBEs were the ones with good dream control skills; able to stop and start dreams at will, wake themselves up out of dreams or choose dreams.
Having a lucid dream requires something else again. The problem is not to get a solid model of self out of the way but rather to create a good enough one in the first place. Only with a reasonable model of self can you realise that you are asleep and dreaming. This makes clear the greatest difference between the waking OBE and the lucid dream - for all their superficial resemblance. In the OBE the state is constrained by the constant danger of the normal model of self reasserting itself. It will then take over again as “reality” and the world of imagination is lost. In contrast the lucid dream is constrained by the danger of falling back into deeper sleep and losing the tentative model of self which made the lucidity possible.
The potential of the two states is then quite different. The OBEr is really in a deeper illusion. She imagines that the world she sees is the physical world as it would be seen with her eyes open, that is, she is misled into mistaking a memory model for a sensory one. Research which seeks for actual astral bodies or paranormal effects in the OBE is just perpetuating this confusion.
By contrast the lucid dreamer is well aware of the illusory nature of the dream - indeed it is this which defines the lucidity. However the OBEr has the greater potential. If only she can see through the illusion and realize that this is a world of the imagination then anything is possible. Once free of the constraints of the normal self model it is possible to explore everything the mind is capable of from complex scenes to complete openness or emptiness. Meanwhile the lucid dreamer, however lucid, is forever limited by being asleep. The sleeping brain can achieve only so much without waking up. Perhaps what is needed is greater lucidity throughout life, waking and sleeping. Only then can we see through the pervasive illusion that we are unitary conscious beings inhabiting a solid and real world.
Finally, I put off answering the question “why is it so nice?” but the answer should now be obvious. Of course it is nice to be free of input control; to be a model of a self, free floating and exploring the creations of an information processing system. It is a rare chance to feel perfectly conscious while experiencing the contents of your imagination. If you only have the skills to do so you can experience anything you can imagine as real.
In conclusion I think I can now explain better why OBEs and lucid dreams are so interesting. It is because they tell us so much about ourselves, about consciousness and about the illusions within which we live most of our lives.
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Tart, C. T. (1972). States of consciousness and state-specific sciences. Science, 176, 1203-1210.
North Humberside, England
My most important qualification for presenting this paper is an extensive direct experience of lucid dreams. I have had hundreds of lucid dreams in which I have done an experiment or made some observation. In sleep-laboratory work I have had 50 signal-verified lucid dreams. A primary concern of mine is with the philosophy and phenomenology of dreaming and altered states of consciousness and with what they can tell us abut normal consciousness.
Lucid Dreaming Personal History: Development Of Elementary Techniques
As far as I remember, I achieved my first lucid dream by a deliberately developed technique, at about age five. I had discovered I could wake myself from frightening dreams by shouting 'Mother!' Knowing I had this escape route I became more daring, I deliberately allowed a dream of falling to continue, and nothing bad happened. I became even more confident and, having a lucid dream every few months, I gradually learned to recognize that I was dreaming even when the dream was not frightening and I did not have to remember it was only a dream. I also learned that I could wake if I wanted to. I became fascinated by the idea of being free in my own world. As I grew older I began to call these dreams “conscious” dreams.
At about age 12, I planned my first “conscious-dream” experiment. It was to investigate how much detail it is possible to see in a dream. In the first lucid dream I had after planning the experiment I remembered to do it. I was standing in a doorway, the frame of which was made of wood. I decided to look for the grain in the wood. I discovered I could see the fine details of the grain and concluded that visual acuity was good in dreams. I have since realized that detail in dreams is not so much perceived as created. My conclusion should have been that it is possible for fine detail to be created in dreams.
Every few weeks or months I would have one of these exciting adventures. Recently I have performed more sophisticated experiments. One series of experiments explored the properties of television sets in my dreams. I started with simple tasks such as turning a TV set on and off, increasing the sound, changing channels, or adding color. Then I decided it would be interesting if, having selected a particular scene, I could move into it. I managed to do this by expanding the screen until the edges were no longer visible and then walking into the scene.
Another use I found for television sets in dreams was that of obtaining objects which I required for experiments. I would adjust the channel selection, or more specifically the “object display” control, until the desired object was displayed. I would then pretend that the object was three dimensional and that the glass front could be raised to allow the object to be retrieved. On one occasion, while I was trying to obtain an object from a screen, I noticed that on an adjacent screen chocolates were being displayed. On this occasion I allowed my usual single-minded application to the experimental task to slip. Presuming that dream chocolates do not make you fat or spotty I took the opportunity to investigate taste and smell in dreams. Although I have tasted better chocolates the results were quite gratifying.
In another dream, I was looking for a normal TV set to start an experiment when I noticed something like a TV set; an electronic paint system with a horizontal screen and a finger touch palette. I had never used such a device in waking life though I knew it was technically feasible. I played with it for a few seconds, touching the palette colors with my finger and then drawing a trail of color on the screen. It might have been profitable to explore the possibilities of this simulated electronic painting system more thoroughly but on that occasion I did the planned experiment.
Having operated simple controls for an electronic visual display in my dreams, I thought that the concept might be elaborated. Perhaps I could create a virtual-computer, so that I could use the part of my brain that generates visual imagery as if it were a computer controlled VDU. The “interface” would not be a physical keyboard, but a dream keyboard operated by my dream fingers. Then perhaps I could expand the edges of the screen so that they were no longer visible. Eventually, by imagining the scene to be receptive to thought commands, I could dispose of the need for the keyboard. The question then arose, would the resulting dream be convincing?
Suspension Of Disbelief
When one is awake and looking at the physical world, there is no problem in believing it to be real. The problem comes when an apparently physically real world appears in a dream and one wishes to realize that it is not physically real or, having deliberately altered it knowing it is only a dream, to re-establish the convincing reality of it.
In controlling lucid dreams one is trying to do two things at once which seem at odds with each other; to induce imagery and to pretend that one is not responsible for the imagery. The images so created in lucid dreams seem to come with reality built-in.
In lucid dreams, I try to balance the degree of awareness (needed for informed control) that it is “only a dream” with the autonomy and spontaneous unpredictable creativity of dreams. These latter characteristics contribute to the feeling that the reality is authentic. This balancing can be difficult to do when I carry out actions within the dream scene with the full knowledge that I am dreaming and have chosen the whole scene deliberately. I have to suspend disbelief as when watching a play. It is easy to experience a well-produced play or a film as real even though, at any time, one may step back to remind oneself that it is “only a play”
What Causes Dreams?
My impression is that nearly all dreams begin with involuntary imagery after which, if the dream is to continue, it requires attention, and better still, active participation. Dream imagery, unlike a film, cannot continue to run independently of the brain. In non-lucid dreams the attention and the participation are involuntary as I am taken in by the imagery and I do what it seems to demand. In lucid dreaming I can choose to attend to the dream or to some other mental activity such as imagining, calculating, or remembering a dream experiment. In my experience, if attention is focussed on these other activities for more than a few seconds the dream may fade. I may be able to recover the dream state by recalling or imagining the last dream scene or starting a new one, but if the process to which I have been attending is more similar to waking thought than to dreaming I may even wake up. If I lose the dream but do not wake, even though I am still lucid, I tend to become disoriented, perhaps because there is no stable focus or content to be lucid about. In order to carry out an experiment requiring waking-type thought in a lucid dream without losing the dream imagery I sometimes switch attention every two or three seconds between attending to the dream imagery and then to ensuring its maintenance. This seems to allow refreshment of the dream imagery during prolonged non-dream tasks such as communicating with the outside world.
When I am dreaming lucidly, I sometimes believe that I am controlling one part of my brain with another part. The part that I identify as my “self” seems to control to some extent the part which generates dream imagery. In my attempts while awake to understand what is happening, I have compared this process to using a computer with a display screen. In my television experiments I was able to watch a dream - so it seemed - on my dreamed television set. I could change the content using a knob to which I confidently attributed the magical property of “channel-changing”. At first I did not try to influence what the channel-changing would produce. It was sufficient simply to produce a change. Later I developed the ability to influence the specific content of the channel I changed to. Using more elaborate controls, I can control the display on the mind “VDU” Whether this amounts to programming is debatable. A more appropriate phrase from computer terminology might be using an animation software package.
Visual Imagery Control
The dream-imagery generating system seems to be biologically programmed to run at certain times during sleep whether we tell it to or not. If we do not give it specific instructions it will do things on its own which we, as hapless non-lucid consumers of this product, may or may not like. Lucid dream control is about taking control of this process so that it does what we want and not what the system wants.
In some of my lucid dream experiments I have been concerned with what in computer terms would be called the “high-level” language of dream control. In a dream one can track, pan, zoom in on, wipe, scroll, jump, cut, dissolve, rotate, and window dream-imagery. A dreamer can pretend to be a camera which can move within the scene forwards, sideways or even backwards.
Some years ago I was curious to see how a dream scene would develop if I moved backwards into it. Normally in dreams as in waking life I move forward into a scene. When I do this I can see things coming. As in waking life, distant elements of the scene which at first appear small gradually become larger as I move towards them. If I move backwards into a scene, I cannot see anything behind me, and so I see no gradual increase in size as things get nearer. Objects appear full size from behind. As I continue to move backwards the things that were formerly unseen behind me are now visible in front and they get smaller as they recede from me. When I move backwards I have no time to anticipate the effects of encountered objects. When I can see something coming my expectations have time to develop and influence the course of events.
For instance, if I move forwards towards what appears to be a solid wall in a dream, my expectations about the impenetrability of walls sometimes seems to limit further forward movement when I reach the wall. However, if I move backwards towards a wall which I know is somewhere around, but I cannot actually see coming, my expectation about its impenetrability is less effective. The result is that I can pass through the wall easily. Also, despite walls normally being opaque, I find that when I penetrate a wall going backwards the scene does not go dark though it often does so when I move forwards towards it and into it.
As I have grown increasingly sophisticated in managing dream imagery, I have developed the ability to choose whether to regard the imagery as moving in relation to me or myself as moving in relation to it. In connection with this I have shown in the sleep laboratory that not only can I move my eyes at will, as when signalling, but can keep then still when otherwise they might be moving, as between signals. That I am able to keep them still when required helps to make the signals clear. By this means it may be possible to reduce markedly the very characteristic which gives REM sleep its name, thereby making “phasic” REM less distinguishable from “tonic” REM.
Some eye movements associated with scanning a dream scene can be avoided by very simple techniques. In order to look at a different part of a dream scene, I may be able to move it into view instead of moving the direction of my gaze. For instance, if I wish to look at my hand in a dream and my hand is not already in view, I can fix my gaze on the part of the dream scene at which I am already looking and bring my dream hand into line with it. This is an easy alternative.
If the whole scene is a large picture which I am holding in my hand, to look at a different part of the scene I can move the picture instead of moving my eyes, though to forestall the possibility of my eyes making a reflex tracking movement I have to move the picture very quickly. Another way to not move my eyes while dreaming is to stare at a stationary object. If I moved my eyes I would see a different part of the dream scene.
I can scan a dream scene while keeping my eyes still by using a dream mirror. Though a dreamed mirror appears in the dream to be a real object it is only a virtual or dreamed device. If I look straight into the mirror, not changing the direction of my gaze, I can look at different parts of the dream scene by moving only the mirror.
By using these techniques I alter my expectations. I still expect to see different parts of the dream scene, but I do not expect to have to move my eyes to do so. It would be interesting to discover just how much the REMs of phasic REM can be reduced by these techniques.
Delay In Dream Imagery Generation
In some of my experiments I have investigated the delay which occurs between the moment of willing or expecting a change to occur in dream imagery and the moment of its actually beginning to change. The so-called light-switch-phenomenon is perhaps the most familiar illustration of this delay. I have observed many times, as others have, that when it is dark in dreams and I try to switch on a light, the light will not come on, or at least not come on immediately or brightly. The same applies to attempts I have made to lengthen my arm, sink into the ground or to make things appear out of nothing.
In waking life making your arm longer is impossible. Therefore, when I tried it in a lucid dream I had no experience of how it should be done. I tried to stretch it further than I knew it would stretch when awake. After a delay of one or two seconds, my arm started to grow longer and my right hand soon disappeared into the distance. Then I realized I had not been as successful as I had first thought; I could feel another arm at my side. In order to achieve correspondence of visual with tactile and kinesthetic imagery I repeated the arm lengthening procedure while sliding my hand along a rough wall and watching it closely. In this way I generated tactile sensations in my hand while it moved away from me, and thereby I successfully integrated all relevant imagery modes. I am now able to retrieve distant objects using this arm lengthening technique.
The delays which occur when I try a rather unusual manipulation of the imagery, such as arm lengthening, remind me of the delays one observes on a VDU while operating a computer, particularly when the task is complex or not one for which the system is primarily designed. It seems reasonable to presume that the brain is primarily organized to respond to external stimulation. Creating images of new experiences that do not occur in waking life might be expected to take longer than images which simulate external input.
Transfer Of Techniques from Lucid To “Non-lucid” Dreams
I have noticed a tendency for techniques first developed in my lucid dreams to become incorporated into my repertoire of dream experiences generally. For instance I first used the arm-lengthening technique in a lucid dream. Later, in what appeared to be a non-lucid dream, I used the arm-lengthening technique as if I knew it would work, even though the presumption in non-lucid dreams is that one is in the real world where miracles are impossible. Does this mean that though I was not “aware” that I was dreaming, I somehow nevertheless knew that contrary to waking experience I would be able to lengthen my arm?
It appears that my dreaming non-lucid self has the ability to exploit techniques that my lucid dreaming self has developed. If “I” as non-lucid dreamer have a wonderful time in non-lucid dreams by using techniques developed in lucid dreams, but “I”, as the lucid person who would clearly recognize the experience as a dream, am not there, from the point of view of the waking self, whose wonderful time was it?
I have come to realize through consideration of my own dream observations that, like other skills such as driving a car or playing the piano which are initially practiced diligently with great effort and concentration, “dreaming” is a learnable skill.
Having learned by many hours of practice to operate reasonably well in a lucid dream I have found that techniques which once required deliberation have become second nature. This includes to some extent the need to remind myself that I am dreaming. Habitual familiarity with the implications of the fact that I am dreaming now enables me to act quickly and incisively whereas before I would dither and get involved in useless side issues. For instance I remember once many years ago trying to go to a different scene in a lucid dream by hitching a lift. Now I can change the scene by simply closing my eyes and imagining the next scene.
In a sense the lucidity, once it has started, has become, paradoxically, more automatic. In lucid dreams I now engage in “dangerous” activities such as flying, hitting walls and passing through them without stopping, knowing I am perfectly safe. I know very well what I am doing without having to think about it.
If one learns to dream so well, so fluently, that one becomes as a fish in water, in control but not having to think about it, is that still lucid dreaming?
In fact, I have begun to think that many people who would not call themselves lucid dreamers have in fact learned to dream well. They may fly or perform other miraculous feats in their dreams, somehow recognizing that it is safe to do so, though they may never have articulated this recognition. They may in effect be leading secret lives, of which their waking selves are hardly aware if, like most people, they forget their dreams.
Ken Kelzer is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Novato, California. He is the author of the recently released autobiographical book The Sun and the Shadow: My Experiment with Lucid Dreaming published by A.R.E. Press and available from Lucidity Association. He and his wife, Charlene, have one son
EDITOR: You were trained to be a priest?
KELZER: I was studying to be a Roman Catholic priest.
EDITOR: And you were within a year of finishing. What happened?
KELZER: I experienced a sudden and profound doubt, a career crisis, right around the Christmas vacation of my third year of theology. It really threw me because before that it had been smooth sailing for me all the way through the seminary. I had not had any struggles, doubts, or difficulties of any kind. I was almost a model seminarian. But I began to have these awful doubts and talked with my advisor about it as well as my closest friends, priests, everybody. I went into therapy for the first time and worked with a psychiatrist who was a transactional analyst.
In the midst of all that, around March of 1966, I had this very powerful dream which I kept trying to figure out on my own. But my interpretation of the dream never really satisfied me because my mind was still churning. One day I was walking along the grounds with a good friend of mine who was quite astute, and who knew my personal dilemma. I said to him I had this powerful dream and I told him the dream. He said, "The most important thing about a dream is the way the dreamer feels in the dream." I really tuned in. Then he said, "This dream shows that you feel intense disgust for the official hierarchy of the church." As soon as he said the word "disgust" I felt this really powerful electrical flash go from my head to my feet and then back from my feet. It was like a definite current. I just said to myself, "You're right, that is what I'm feeling."
EDITOR: That's how you got started on dreams and also it is the framework of the Christianity often referenced in your book but what about the other religious and philosophical perspectives, that are also so much in your book.
KELZER: I should say it started in the seminary. I was very interested in Protestantism, and I began reading on different areas. I also was interested in Hinduism. I remember reading extensively and doing a special report and term paper on Hinduism in the seminary, probably about two years before I had this dream.
EDITOR: Where does lucid dreaming sit in the East-West dialogue?
KELZER: It has the potential to be a real common area because it does come from Buddhism. As far as I know that's the earliest reference to lucid dreaming as a spiritual discipline. The yoga of the dream state. So I think that Christians have the potential, or even non-christians, any westerner has the potential to work with it as a psycho-spiritual tool if they choose.
EDITOR: How does it fit potentially as a sort of merging point or focal point. I mean it's clear from the Buddhist perspective there's a long history there. What about from the Christian perspective?
KELZER: I think there's a big vacuum. I don't know of any Christian authors, as such, who have addressed the topic.
EDITOR: I don't mean literally, you're quite right about that. When I say East-West dialogue I don't only mean philosophical and religious traditions, I also mean life style, perceptions of reality, personal orientations. Okay?
KELZER: My view on that is from a historical perspective, that western civilization is more structured. The Roman Catholic Church is traditionally, and still today, the most structured religion perhaps in the world. Because of this it is automatically suspect of anything unstructured, such as mysticism. The mystical traditions, lucid dreaming, people who claim to have visions of God, people who claim to have any direct access to spiritual worth.
Whereas in the Buddhist traditions, and especially in the Hindu traditions, they're so unstructured that they're just more open I think to the basic force of life coming through. So it doesn't surprise me that they have a tradition around lucid dreaming and we don't. Or if we have one in the West it's so hidden that most of us haven't found it yet.
EDITOR: As much as the eastern perspectives have things to teach us about lucid dreaming, perhaps the western ones do to. Paul Tholey talks about that in terms of psychotherapy in the lucid dream. You address some of the same kinds of things in your book. I'm interested in the extent to which the active mode, which I think represents the western kinds of traditions, relative to the passive mode, which characteristically represents the eastern perspectives, is the best way to engage the dream. What do you think?
KELZER: I agree with that. I think that we have to be westerners because we are westerners so we have to as Jung would say, honor our own cultural roots at all times and not try to be Buddhists approaching the lucid dream. Rather be ourselves approaching the lucid dream. What kind of more active approaches we're going to take, what kind of research approaches we're going to take, I mean we're already doing this. We're already doing it in our own style.
EDITOR: How, tell me?
KELZER: Well I think Stephen LaBerge's research approach to lucid dreaming is something that only a westerner would think of doing. So I think that's already a unique contribution. Trying to relate lucid dreaming to Jesus or to the Christian myths is something that came up in my book just because of the dreams that I had.
EDITOR: Could you give me an example.
KELZER: Well the dream of the "Gift of the Magi", in which the Christ child is seen as the symbol of the light in the lucid dream is the central story of western civilization in which we think that Jesus is the enlightened one. So in a way, as I look at that lucid dream I say that that dream summarized for me what the Christ story summarized for western civilization. It says we have a vehicle for the light. We have a person who conveyed it to us. And we have a light tradition. Unfortunately, many Christian teachers, ministers and priests, don't focus on that to any great extent. They might focus on Jesus as a moral teacher, or in other ways, but he is a bearer of the light. He says, "I am the light of the world." That's a direct quote from the scripture.
There are mystical teachings all throughout western civilization that say the same thing. We actually do have quite a few mystics in the Christian tradition. I think one of the contributions of my book is I'm trying to say that mysticism is readily available to the average person. That the average person can understand what it is, that it's really not that hard to understand.
EDITOR: It's accessible on a daily basis.
KELZER: It could be accessible, definitely, through the lucid dream state. As well as through other channels. The more we understand this we will look for ways to have our own direct relationship with God. Which is what Scott Sparrow talks about in the introduction to my book.
Jesus' message really was that I and the Father are one, meaning I have my own direct connection with the Father. You're all invited to have your direct connection with the source. You're all invited to understand that you could bypass the middle man in the religious quest, or that you could use the middle man, meaning the priest, the minister, the theologian, the mystic, the writer, you could use him as a stepping stone in your own growth, but not as an authoritarian, an expert.
EDITOR: What have people said that they liked about your book?
KELZER: They liked the personal candor, they liked the personal autobiography. They liked the blending of theory and practice, and they liked the blending of the dreams with the waking life story. They liked seeing how that is woven together. How a person's dreams are reflecting things that go on concurrently in the waking experience, and vice versa. They are like two rivers that flow back and forth and intersect.
EDITOR: What do you think the role of science will be in all of this?
KELZER: I have a lot of respect for the scientific method, and for western science and its roots in Plato and Aristotle. I have no desire whatsoever to throw that out. I think that logic and deductive and inductive reasoning are very important. I'm not interested in the flaky approach to intuition which says now it's time to ignore the left brain and lets focus on the right brain. There's a lot of simplistic swinging of the pendulum from one side to the other right now, in which people in the field of psychology and spirituality are cutting out and throwing away an important aspect of western civilization. I'm very interested in blending reason and logic with intuition, blending patriarchy with matriarchy, or the feminine principle and the masculine principle.
EDITOR: That's a core conflict with me now with the book I'm writing on lucid dreaming. I want it to have as much scientific integrity as it can, but if it doesn't have the excitement and the human element that's so powerful in your book.
KELZER: Well, I think it's important to have a distinction between objective research and subjective research. I am a subjective researcher. I'm interested in looking very deeply into my own self. Or looking very deeply into the client that I'm working with at the moment. So I do see it as a form of research that cannot be done in the laboratory. It has to be done either in meditation or in psychotherapy or in individual dream work. I'm interested in people in the objective scientific research camp developing more respect for the subjective research as being important, not necessarily always being accurate or true, but that profound experiences of an internal nature can to some extent be communicated.
EDITOR: We're running out of time but there's one more thing I want to ask your opinion about. Last night I was talking to a colleague and she said that sometimes she gets afraid of the potential misuse of lucid dreaming. I share her concern. It's so potentially powerful, therefore also potentially powerfully misused. What do you think about that?
KELZER: I agree. I talk about that briefly in my book. Any new form of power that emerges in a culture, or in the life of the individual, has to be assessed for its potential for good or for evil. For creation or for destruction.
EDITOR: Develop that. How can we assess this?
KELZER: I think that people could use lucid dreaming as a status symbol.
EDITOR: It's already happening.
KELZER: People are already saying, "Well I have that." So that's one way in which it could become corrupted. People could use it to deepen their sense of I'm better than you.
EDITOR: I was thinking of personal abuse.
KELZER: I think you could burn out on lucid dreaming. I think there's a danger of too much too fast, as with any spiritual discipline. I think that Scott Sparrow is right when he talks about approaching it with nonacquisitive desire. Acquisitive desire is a clutching, grabbing, desperation type of quality, and so we need to approach it with a sense of letting go as we visualize the goal and work toward the discipline.
Senoi, Kilton Stewart, and The Mystique of Dreams: Further Thoughts on an Allegory About an Allegory.
University of California, Santa Cruz
Senoi dream theory, the idea that we should share and control our dreams for spiritual development, is an attractive theory said to derive from an appealing, non-violent people living simply in the highlands of Malaysia. But the real story of Senoi dream theory can be a painful one for at least two reasons that go beyond the usual academic conflicts over the validity and usefulness of ideas. First, some people in the United States make their living off of it by leading dream groups; they therefore have more at stake than do professors who are secure in their jobs whether their ideas pan out or not. Second, the theory resonates with deeply held cultural and spiritual values that almost compel people to believe it; they therefore become very upset when it is questioned.
So, to say that this essay discusses my book on Senoi dream theory and various reactions to it is to assert that the essay concerns a very touchy subject. Although I will begin by telling about what is in The Mystique of Dreams, on the possibility that some readers have not gotten to it yet, my main point here is to use reactions to the book to state more explicitly what I see as its underlying themes and messages. That the book is an allegory about the study of dreams seems to be lost on some people, as is the fact that it suggests an attitudinal stance for the scientific investigator that has a playfulness to it. Finally, I also will use this occasion to report some new perspectives on the fascinating life of Kilton Stewart, the anthropologist who originally brought us Senoi dream theory.
At the level of appearances, The Mystique of Dreams sets itself four main tasks. First, it brings together all available anthropological information to show that the Senoi do not practice our version of Senoi dream theory in any way, shape, or form - not now, not in the 30s when Stewart visited them. Contrary to popular belief, there is no talk of dreams around breakfast - in fact, there is no breakfast. Nor are there dream clinics during the day; group meetings are about personal disputes that have reached the point where they threaten to disrupt community life. They go on and on, like committee meetings in America, and people dread them. Furthermore, there is no thought of controlling dreams - quite the opposite, spirits choose whether or not to come into dreams, to adopt the dreamer. There is no teaching of rules of dream control to children; Senoi say it is bad to teach children anything. Finally, dream life is not full of gifts, friendship, and sensuality - Senoi usually have dreams of failure, frustration, chase, and falling, just like the rest of us.
Secondly, my book traces the charmed existence of Stewart for clues as to why he said things others didn't. I learned that he happened on the Senoi by accident, had no knowledge of them when he first visited their settlements, never learned their language, and spent no more than several weeks with them on two different occasions that were separated by four years - two weeks during the first visit in 1934 while on a census march from settlement to settlement, seven weeks the second time in 1938. Moreover, some things he says in his famous 1951 article on "Dream Theory in Malaya" are not said in his 1948 dissertation for the London School of Economics, or are contradicted by what he wrote in the dissertation.
The information I gathered on Stewart provides insight into these problems. For a characterization of Stewart, there is no beating the first glance of him in 1937 by a woman on an around-the-world trip who recorded the meeting in her diary. This woman, Claudia Parsons, is alive and well today in England in her eighties, still traveling, and one of my key informants. In what follows she compares Stewart with a young man named Christian she met earlier in her journey:
He had the same attractive air of deviltry, the same stocky figure. But he was broader than Christian and rather older. He wore sandals on his feet, and his linen suit was that of the beachcomber hero in an American film who is either about to reform or is slowly sinking to a living death.... There was more than idle curiosity in that academic forehead, in that Bible history head. One felt that John the Baptist had just caught the bus.
If Stewart was a bit of a character, he was a generous character, as Parsons also reports in talking about their later automobile trip from India to London in a two-seater Studebaker:
Stewart's whole wealth was a rapidly dwindling 60 pounds with hope of another 20 pounds in Cairo, but instead of pondering on the hiatus between here and England, he was concerned only with how to support the beggar population of the countries through which we passed.
In addition, Stewart was a renowned womanizer. Two women mentioned that fact in the first moments of our interview, then said, "But he never seduced me." His brother Omer, a highly productive empirical anthropologist who taught at the University of Colorado until his retirement, explained Kilton's technique: he'd approach up to a dozen women a day and ask them if they wanted to make love. Eleven would slap him away, but the twelfth eventually would say yes. Stewart obviously tolerated rejection better than most men do. More seriously, making love and expounding on dreams, values, and morality were closely intertwined for Stewart.
After my book appeared, I asked Omer to see if any of his many, many Mormon relatives might send me their impressions and memories of Kilton (yes, this carefree wanderer was an elder of the Mormon Church). Of relevance here are comments by two female relatives, one eight years younger than Kilton, the other 22 years younger. It is noteworthy that seduction and spiritual concerns come up together in both reminiscences; the second also shows that even incest taboos were not a barrier to Stewart's love of the chase:
Although Kilton was eight years my senior we were both students at the University of Utah at the same time for a couple of years. He was a source of pride and embarrassment to meÀ"
Àalready controversial and too outspoken. My sorority sisters and girlfriends found him handsome, strange and fascinating, and I never knew how many of them lost their virginity and religion through him. We loved to have all night discussions, Kilton at the center, and the participants not daring to believe him and not quite able to completely disbelieve. He stirred us up and made us think and question. He was a guru who needed followers and found them.
The second relative wrote:
On the occasion of the annual hike, my aunt and uncle and other guests were treated to a sort of hula dance Kilton claimed he had learned in a Tibetan monastery to make him more holy, but it was obvious to us all that he had unholy thoughts on his mind, and when one of the men asked, "Are you sure you didn't learn it to make yourself better in bed?" He just laughed. I can't remember whether that gathering was the night before the hike or the night after, but I do know that when I came down the mountain the afternoon following the hike, Kilton met me and took me to some natural hot springs to bathe, and tried to seduce me. I was only seventeen at the time [he was 39], but his chances of seducing me were so remote that it was my turn to laugh. But I feel sure that Kilton made many, many women happy, if only briefly, with his ardent and uncritical, warm and open, happy-go-lucky acceptance of any pleasures that life might put in his path.
I never saw Kilton after I was out of college, so I never really knew him as an adult. But he was unforgettable, one of the gentlest and sweetest people on earth - if he hadn't had such wicked thoughts he could have been called Christlike. Thank heaven for those wicked thoughts!
More to the point, as hinted in the above accounts, Stewart was widely recognized among those who knew him to be a notorious storyteller. As his brother Omer wrote to me, "Kilton was a great storyteller and I often had the impression that he would not worry about the exactness of details if it might interfere with his narrative." People never knew what to believe. Two different people, one a very old friend, actually asked me, "Did he really get his Ph.D.?" One of his friends from the 30s finally reacted to my persistent request for details by writing in exasperation that he couldn't understand what the fuss was all about because no one who knew Kilton personally had taken his theoretical claims seriously.
I also should say there was a darker or shadow side to Kilton Stewart. In many ways he was maddening for his friends to deal with because he was so disorganized, casual, and unpunctual, and several of the women who loved him said or wrote that they could not think of staying with him. As one of these women, not Claudia Parsons, wrote in her diary in the 30s upon parting with Stewart after several intensive weeks of study and travel:
Life seems very good tonight--sort of stable again. I feel so well, as though I could never be tired again or cross. What is it about [Kilton] that is so disturbing? Why should a person who takes life so joyously and calmly be so provocative of storm?
Since my book is an allegory about Senoi dream theory, and not a biography of Stewart, the underside of his life is not in it. But this underside may be another reason why there can be strong emotional reactions to Senoi dream theory. Maybe no one can really be that nice and happy. Maybe we get very angry when we have to face that possibility. Certainly Senoi are not as nice as Stewart made them out to be, and Stewart hid his dark side in his writings and his dealings with most people.
The third goal of my book is to explain why Senoi dream theory became so attractive to Americans in the 60s and 70s. My first answer is that Stewart was a quintessential American, almost a caricature of American values - optimistic, open-handed, adventurous, a believer in self improvement and spiritual uplift. He appealed to basic American beliefs, and especially the idea that society and people can be changed and controlled. We can become better and better. Senoi dream theory is American can-do. We can conquer inner space as well as outer space. I call Stewart the B. F. Skinner of dreams. Only an American like Skinner could insist that all behavior can be controlled through rewards and punishments, and only Stewart, not Europeans like Freud or Jung, could even begin to think that dreams, of all things, could be controlled through social learning and encouragement by the moral authorities and leaders of a society. It's as American as apple pie, which doesn't make it wrong, of course, but it should never be forgotten that there was a near-obsession with mind control and self improvement at many times in American history before prophets like Skinner and Stewart came along. Furthermore, I think it is a very different kind of mind control from the inward-turning meditational efforts we see in some Eastern religions. From my vantage point, they don't practice improvement and can-do, but self-denial.
But there is more to why Americans came to like Senoi dream theory. After all, the idea sat around from 1951 to 1965 before it began to catch on. There was a new context - the civil rights movement and Kennedy Administration, both of which created the stirrings that made the human potential movement possible. Then, too, Senoi dream theory achieved an institutional base through use at the famed Esalen institute, where much less was done with it than was later claimed. Finally, legitimacy was given to the theory by the various dream experts who wrote about it - the American public tends to trust medical and scientific experts in the way it used to trust preachers. Put more generally, Senoi dream theory is an American allegory about the self-improvement that is possible in quiet country communes like the Senoi seem to live in, and like some Americans tried to live in during the late 60s and early 70s, when the war in Vietnam made the new search for rebirth and authenticity all the more poignant.
Now, these generalizations need to be qualified a bit. Senoi dream theory is only one aspect of the new dreamwork, which in turn is but a small part of a human potential movement that embraces only a minority of the overall population. In that sense, the movement has been confined primarily to the young, the college-educated, the searchers and seekers, and the mind workers of the upper-middle class. Senoi dream theory is not a mass movement.
Senoi dream theory is an American allegory about the search for authenticity and self-improvement that plays on basic American values projected onto the Senoi, but it is not a hoax. Kilton Stewart was not a hoaxer as Carlos Castaneda is, but a true believer, albeit a true believer with more humor and impishness than most. Claudia Parsons wrote me the following pertinent comments after reading the published version of my research. They are not in response to a question by me, but are one of her reactions to the fact that Senoi do not have the dream practices Stewart imputed to them:
To what extent, then, was Kilton a charlatan? With his good looks, charisma, fund of experience and roving eye, one might be forgiven on first meeting him to class him as an attractive rogue, a playboy. I was certainly doubtful of his having the necessary qualifications for practising psychotherapy when I met him on that bus, though he seemed imbued with knowledge of it, and later I was to see instances of favorable results. But one had not to be long in his company to discover that his interest in humanity lay far deeper than sex or profit. He was deeply serious and beyond words charitable. A friend to whom I introduced him described him as "God, gone wrong." And it wasn't a bad description.
As for the several other dream theorists such as Ann Faraday and Patricia Garfield who contributed in one way or another to spreading the allegory of Senoi dream theory, they are decent people who did not realize their comments would be seen as part of a larger mosaic of verification by the reading public; they did not realize their repetitions of Stewart's ideas would give his claims greater legitimacy. None saw it as his or her responsibility to check out the claims before writing them into popular books, and no one else thought Senoi dream theory worth the time and effort of the proverbial "hard look" until it became a growth industry. But once a few doubts were raised in the late 70s, it was only a matter of time until someone like me contacted anthropologists who were experts on the Senoi, or someone like Faraday went to the Malaysian Highlands to see Senoi dream practices firsthand.
The fourth thing my book does is to search the clinical and research literature for evidence on the efficacy of Senoi dream practices in the United States. After all, the origins of an idea tell us nothing about its validity or usefulness. An idea has to be dealt with on its own merits. This I did, presenting all the evidence on both sides of the question, and then concluding that aside from some striking claims by a few people, there is no reason to believe that Senoi dream theory works very well for very many people. I did not say the idea has fared so badly that further study of it should be disbanded forthwith, but I did say that supporters of Senoi dream theory have not brought forth the kind of systematic scientific evidence that it is incumbent upon them to produce if we are to believe their large claims for the power of Senoi dream theory.
So much by way of summary and brief commentary on the four ostensible aims of The Mystique of Dreams. I turn now to how people reacted to it, and I am happy to report that most have found it balanced and enjoyable. However, there are a few critics of two very different types that I would like to call the hard-line scientists and the spiritualists. Hard-line scientific critics disliked the book because they thought I was too easy on Stewart. They felt he had led the scientific community down the garden path with half-baked research, and they wanted him exposed for perpetrating a fraud. Here is one example of this type of reaction from an anonymous reader of the manuscript for the University of California Press:
There is another matter that I feel uneasy about, and addressing it might lead the author to enlarge the manuscript in a different direction. I think most readers will feel that he is far too lenient with Kilton Stewart. The author says that Stewart "misunderstood the Senoi and mistakenly attributed his own ideas to them." But why shouldn't we conclude, rather, that Stewart was a con artist? The excellent detective work in the first part of the book makes him out a genial liar, and I was sometimes bothered that the author refused to say as much.
Well, as I tried to make clear earlier in this essay, I think that Stewart is best characterized as a romantic storyteller who stumbled on to some potentially interesting ideas about dreams. Given the meager stock of new ideas within the area of dream study, and the lack of interest in dreams within the behaviorist and cognitivist schools that predominate in psychology, I thought it more important in this instance that Stewart was provocative than that he mistakenly imputed his own ideas to Senoi. Then, too, I didn't want to fall into what could be interpreted as an indirect attack on the 60s, which expressed some of the best there is in American values. I loved the 60s, at least up through 1968 or 1969 when the Jerry Rubins, Eldridge Cleavers, and Marxists took over.
Spiritualist critics reacted negatively to a different aspect of the book. They saw it as one part of an overall academic attack on both the usefulness of Senoi dream theory and the spiritual rebirth or awakening of which it is one aspect. They said that the testimony to positive results by those who have taken part in Senoi-based dreamwork groups in the United States is quite enough in the way of evidence for its usefulness. This view is symbolized by Strephon Williams' review of The Mystique of Dreams in The Dream Network Bulletin.
In my view, Williams misreads and undervalues the scientific stance. To say "the evidence that dream sharing may be useful or dream control possible is only suggestive at this time," which he rightly quotes me as writing, is not to say the idea is wrong or disproven. However, it does make crystal clear that to believe in Senoi dream theory is a leap of faith. From a scientific point of view, it is not the responsibility of skeptics to disprove a new idea, but of proponents to support the idea. Moreover, that an idea is part of a spiritual movement that makes some people feel good, at least for a time, is no systematic evidence for that usefulness. There are many religious, political, and spiritual movements that make the same claims, and they too judge their validity in terms of personal testimony or their number of followers. But the rise and fall of these movements, and the cycling of people in and out of them, is well documented. There is also the widely-known fact of placebo effects in the investigation of new medicines or therapeutic practices. Given these lessons of history and earlier experimental studies, I do not think there is any substitute for a scientific examination of new ideas, however slow or difficult or annoying that approach may be in some situations.
However, the criticisms raised by the hard-line scientists and the spiritualists do not touch upon the main messages of The Mystique of Dreams, so in conclusion I want to return to the theme of allegory. I earlier said Senoi dream theory is an allegory about the reaffirmation of American values through a search for an allegedly-lost authenticity. That, I think, is a more important conclusion of my book than the truthfulness of Kilton Stewart on the usefulness of ideas about dream control. But beyond that I had an even more important point to make, at least from my perspective. My book is in fact an allegory too. It is not only a story about Americans and their beliefs, but a cautionary tale about the difficulties of studying dreams in a systematic way. In that sense, it is a scientific allegory about a spiritual allegory.
It was not only Stewart who sold us a bill of goods about dreams in the ever-hopeful 60s. He was not the only one who got carried away with himself. We were uncritical in the face of other theorists besides Stewart. The rise and fall of Senoi dream theory parallels the rise and fall of the "new science of dreams," also known as the "new biology of dreaming." That dreams only occur in a stage of sleep called REM, that eye movements track dream content, that there is a need to dream - all these claims and more were fully believed and communicated to an eager public by many people, including me, before they were replicated and carefully checked. And all of them have proven to be false. We dream during both non-REM and REM sleep, eye movements do not follow dream content, and REM deprivation does not have the drastic effects it was first thought to have. Apparently, then (and here is my punch line) it was as difficult for hard-nosed physiologists, physicians, and psychologists working in scientific sleep laboratories to avoid creating myths about dreams as it was for an American adventurer in the jungles of Malaysia. Who are we who created laboratory myths to look down our noses at Kilton Stewart?
Ah, but I do not close now, nor in my book, on a critical note. I claim that both Stewart and the laboratory scientists had the virtue of stimulating new interest in dreams, and of leading to new ideas and findings thereby. After all, Stewart's ideas about dream control seem to work for at least a few people who report fantastic, orgasmic sex dreams and a decline in chase dreams. Thus, I take a stance of gentle, scientific skepticism rather than harsh scientific rejection.
Beyond that, I believe we ought to learn to enjoy our scientific myths once they unravel rather than becoming upset and embarrassed about them. They are fun to believe while we are believing them, and scandalous to read about when we begin to see through them. They tell us about ourselves in a whimsical kind of way. Such a stance puts me somewhere between the two types of critics mentioned earlier, and leaves me wondering which of our current scientific certainties will give us our next chuckle at our own expense.
Robert D. Ogilvie, Kevin P. Vieira and Robert J. Small
We have been interested in the electrophysiological correlates of lucid dreaming (LD) since early work in this laboratory suggested a relationship between lucidity and alpha activity (Ogilvie, Hunt, Sawicki &McGowan, 1978; Ogilvie, Hunt, Tyson, Lucescu & Jeakins, 1982; Tyson, Ogilvie, & Hunt, 1984). Until now, this alpha-lucidity hypothesis had not been tested in our lab on high frequency lucid dreamers who signal while in REM sleep, and LaBerge (1980; 1981) has not observed any changes in alpha in signalled episodes of lucidity.
The present report describes computer analyses of EEG activity obtained during eight laboratory nights from a frequent lucid dreamer. In addition to standard polysomnographic measures, CCTV monitoring with two cameras and a screen splitter permitted simultaneous display and videotaping of the subject's (RJS's) face and concurrent polygraphic activity. This was particularly useful during REM, since RJS had trained himself to sleep on his back and to try to signal from that position. In the month prior to the lab nights, RJS spend over an hour per day meditating. He also used LaBerge's lucidity induction or cognitive self-instruction techniques and reported LD rates in excess of one per night. He practiced signalling (using three blinks/ rapid vertical eye movements) and thought he had successfully signalled several LDs while at home.
In the lab, he was instructed to try to enter the lucid state whenever possible and to signal lucidity when the state was attained. He was told that he would be awakened by the experimenter (KPV) and asked for a mentation report;
A) when KPV saw LD signalling, presumably during REM sleep,
B) During REM without signalling,
C) or from non-REM (stage 2) sleep.
While in the lab, 5 episodes of signalled lucid dreaming were recorded, each confirmed by experimental arousal and taped mentation report. In addition, there were 8 stage 2 control arousals, 3 non-lucid REM arousals, and one prelucid report following a REM awakening.
The signalled LD incidents were quite interesting; in one particularly clear instance, videotaped records show the eye movement signals concurrent with the REM EEG and other polygraphic evidence of sleep. Several seconds later, the experimental arousal and interview could be observed. (We would like to show this tape at the ASD meeting.)
Four-minute samples of EEG data were obtained as follows: (a) immediately prior to the signalled LD arousal (b) prior to Stage 2 arousals, and (c) sampled from REM without signalling and not followed by an arousal. The samples were digitized, subjected to FFT analysis, and analyses of variance were computed. Delta, theta, alpha, and spindle frequencies were examined for power and percent power. Principle comparisons were between LD and Stage 2 arousals and between LD arousals and REM samples devoid of signalling. Each of the four one minute samples of EEG was studied in sequence. (An insufficient number of non-lucid REM arousals prevented use of that condition as another comparison.)
In the REM versus LD REM analyses, the absence of a main effect suggests that within this one individual, no remarkable EEG changes take place within REM to accompany the entry into lucidity. Only the interaction between REM condition and time was significant. There, variable amounts of alpha in the minutes before LD arousal contrasted with decreasing alpha levels in the undisturbed REM data. There were differences between LD and Stage 2 EEG in theta percent (higher theta during LD REM), though alpha percentages were surprisingly similar, differing only in the interaction between time and arousal state.
In sum, there were no important differences observed in the EEG activity of our LD signaller when LD REM and undisrupted, presumably non-lucid, REM samples were compared. As usual, there weren't as many samples (or subjects) as one would like to employ for such comparisons, but these data do not support predictions from our earlier work that alpha levels could be expected to change during lucid dreams. From this limited sample, it seems that the increases in alpha which reach their highest levels during prelucid dreams (Tyson, et al., 1984) do not change in any predictable way during the lucid episode itself. Relating what is known about variations in alpha levels during wakefulness to those observed during REM sleep might prove interesting. During complex mental activity and high levels of arousal, EEG frequency is at its highest; beta frequencies predominate and alpha levels are relatively low. EEG recordings during relaxed wakefulness show the highest levels of alpha, and Rechtschaffen and Kales (1968) define Stage 1 sleep as beginning when alpha levels fall below 50 percent. Perhaps the lucid dreamer moves in the opposite direction along the arousal continuum as s/he ascends phenomenologically from normal, uncritical dreaming, through (in some instances) a prelucid period where the reality of the dream experience is questioned, to a state wherein full lucidity (and signalling) is attained. Perhaps the electrophysiological correlates of the ascent along the consciousness continuum may begin with relatively low levels of alpha (typical REM dreaming), move to higher alpha levels (prelucid dreaming), and end with moderate alpha levels (lucid dreaming), while still in the REM state. More data are needed to refine this viewpoint.
LaBerge, S., (1980). Lucid dreaming as a learnable skill: A case study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 9, 1039-1042.
LaBerge, S., (1981). Lucid dreaming: Directing the act as it happens. Psychology Today, 15, 48-57.
Ogilvie, R., Hunt, H., Sawicki, C. & McGowan, K. (1978). Searching for lucid dreams. (Abstract). Sleep Research, 7, 165.
Ogilvie, R.D., Hunt, H.T., Tyson, P. D., Lucescu, M.L., & Jeakins, D.B. (1982). Lucid dreaming and alpha activity: A preliminary report. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 55, 795-808.
Rechtschaffen, A. &Kales, A. (Eds.) (1968). A manual of standardized terminology, techniques and scoring system for sleep stages of human subjects. Washington, DC: Public Health Services, U. S. Government Printing Office.
Tyson, P. D., Ogilvie, R. D. & Hunt, H. T. (1984). Lucid, prelucid, and nonlucid dreams related to the amount of EEG alpha activity during REM sleep. Psychophysiology, 21, 442-451.
(Editors Note: This is an abstract which was presented at the annual Association for the Study of Dreams conference at the University of California, Santa Cruz and appeared in the May/June issue of the ASD Newsletter.)
Science evolves when its understanding of "reality" is discovered to be too limiting to account for some newly observed or hypothesized phenomenon. This discovery exposes certain hidden assumptions responsible for the limitation, and thereby suggests a less limited understanding which provides a matrix to include the new phenomenon. The continual shedding of limits in this way is the aim of science, in its endeavor to find an ultimate understanding that gives a completely unified and consistent account of all possible phenomena.
Phenomenology proposes a specific approach to this goal based on the premise of a "consciousness-created (perceived) reality". Its philosophy states that "reality" is not simply an objective fact passively received into consciousness. Rather, it is organized (in our experience of it) according to certain phenomenological "essences", the basic structures of consciousness which assign meaning, relation, value, etc., to what is then taken as "reality". To quote Polkinghorne (1983), phenomenologists do not regard experience as "a matter of a thing called 'consciousness' automatically reacting to 'stimuli' whose ultimate cause is supposed to be a given physical reality, unequivocally present 'out there'. Rather, experience is built up through an activity of constitution along the lines of types...or 'essential structures'" (p. 204). Thus, in the phenomenological account, consciousness is free to choose the reality it calls into (our experience of) existence according to the essences it employs as its cornerstone. Science, in its aim to understand this reality, must ultimately refer to some "idea" of consciousness.
With this, the scientific endeavor shifts its emphasis from an understanding of the phenomena we perceive toward an exploration of the way we perceive them. Its first task lies in understanding the nature of the essences, to then gain an understanding of the nature of the phenomena for which they provide the structure. This is precisely the process described above where scientific assumptions are exposed and refined, when challenged by new and discrepant information. Here, we propose that the terms "essences" and "assumptions" are interchangeable. It is important to note that in this view the essences, as the assumptions, are arbitrarily chosen constructs of consciousness, in that they have no prior (causal) referent to give a non-arbitrary reason for their choice. They are but a choice of consciousness's "whim", rather than a studied response to observed, "objective" phenomena independent of consciousness.
An understanding of the nature of dreams can serve as a tool for helping in our phenomenological pursuit of this goal: From a waking perspective, we can see dreams as precisely this consciousness-created reality taken as "objectively real". From a waking perspective, we clearly see their arbitrariness. The following closely parallels our discussion on the phenomenological construction of waking reality: "The apparent separation between ourselves and our dream environments is an illusion.... Within dreams we choose...among alternative ways of structuring the dream and responding to dream events" (Malamud, 1986, pp. 592-593). An additional benefit of such a study of dreams is that as we awaken, we can look back on an already accomplished "lifting of the veil" of assumptions, rather than groping for direction, as when we perform our phenomenological investigation of the waking state and do not know where the assumptions lay.
Let us explore the parallel between dreams as seen from the waking perspective, and waking consciousness as seen from the phenomenological perspective, considering them as two aresults of one process, the creation of (perceptual) reality by consciousness. According to Malamud (1986), we can apply the concept of dreaming to waking life, the sleep-state qualifiers can be omitted, and dreaming can be defined more generally as the act of creating a subjective world of experience and simultaneously misperceiving this personal world as objectively real. Reflection may lead to the conclusion that ordinary experience in the waking state, such as that which you and I are now having, is also in some sense a Dream. That is, when we Dream in waking life, we misperceive our sensory, perceptual, and cognitive/affective construction of reality as if it were reality itself. (p. 593)
To take advantage of this parallel, we ask if it is not somehow possible to bring the waking (phenomenological) awareness of the arbitrariness of the dream assumptions into the dream. That is, we seek a way to get the same contrast between waking and dream assumptions while still dreaming, so that we may directly witness the creation of the seemingly non-arbitrary assumptions, at the same time that we see through their arbitrariness by the contrast. This would combine the effects of the "phenomenological" awarenesses of the arbitrariness of both the dream and waking realities.
Such a state of consciousness is found in lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming may be broadly defined as awareness, during the dream, that one is dreaming. One has "woken up" in dream, and therefore sees the assumption that the dream is a non-arbitrary reality, as arbitrary. Thus, with lucid dreaming, one knows "that one is creating a subjective world of experience and simultaneously misperceiving it as objectively real" (Malamud, 1986, p. 593). (Note that this is the same quote used before to describe the phenomenological awareness of waking reality, pointing out the parallel).
For example, a dreamer who suddenly becomes lucid during a dream of falling can re-create the experience so that he or she starts to fly. Here, the idea that the dream experience is fixed and unchangeable is exposed as an arbitrary assumption. The dreamer is thereby free to re-choose the perception and meaning of "falling", first understood according to the phenomenological structure of "moving through air", to be changed to a perception and meaning of "flying".
Lucid dreaming works as a phenomenological tool precisely because it relies on the confrontation of discrepant sets of assumptions and their subsequent perceived realities, pointing out the arbitrariness by contrast. LaBerge and Gackenbach (1986) have said, "one of the ways in which [lucid dreaming] typically happens involves the perception of inconsistencies in dream content as anamolous (p. 161). Malamud (1986) concurs: "The two most often mentioned triggers [for spontaneous lucidity in dreams] are incongruous events and anxiety. This is not surprising since incongruities and anxieties both can provoke a need to consider alternative realities" (p. 598). These incongruities and anxieties can be seen to overwhelm the otherwise strong resistance to changing our operational definition of "reality". As Malamud says elsewhere, "one probable reason why most dreams are non-lucid becomes obvious: We have an investment in what we've created. Awareness of dreaming, then, depends on willingness to suspend belief in the personal world one is creating" (Ibid.). This suspension of belief highlights, by the contrast created, the hidden assumptions at work in our perception. As such, it represents a fundamental key to lucidity in waking life as well as dreams.
Malamud (1986) extends this line of thinking: "The spontaneous occurrence of lucidity in waking life may be similarly associated with incongruous events and anxiety. Incongruous events in waking life may catch our attention and surprise us because they conflict with our expectations. We feel anxiety when reality as we perceive it seems to threaten us. Both kinds of experience challenge us to question the assumptions by which we dream our lives. On the societal level, unexpected results in science and threatening situations in world affairs (e.g. ecological crises) may lead to revolutions in our consensual Dream by provoking us to question accepted knowledge and to adopt new working models of reality." (p. 598).
All of the above show that the awareness of the arbitrariness of assumptions achieved, in both a phenomenological study of waking reality and lucid dreaming, is one awareness, one process of "lucidity" manifesting in two states of consciousness. This leads us to "a non-state-specific definition of lucidity: ... knowledge that one is creating a subjective world of experience and simultaneously misperceiving it as objectively real" (Malamud, 1986, p. 593). By this definition, phenomenological awareness and the awareness given by lucidity are the same.
Let us retrace the steps which led to this development. First, we discussed a (waking) phenomenological investigation of waking reality, which would observe the difference between the set of assumptions used in ordinary waking reality and the phenomenologically aware waking reality. Then we discussed a (waking) "phenomenological" investigation (the simple observation of assumptions already exposed) of the dream reality, which would observe the contrast between the dream and waking reality assumptions. Now we are discussing a (sleeping) "phenomenological" investigation of the dream reality, where we would observe the contrast between the assumptions of the ordinary dream reality and the lucid dream "waking" reality.
We have a pattern here: We first expose the assumptions of the reality we are experiencing and then expose the assumptions of the reality we experience when we expose the first assumptions. Then we expose the assumptions of this most recent reality, and so on. The next step in our advance toward the exposing and refining of limiting assumptions suggests itself. By doing phenomenological research of the lucid dream in the lucid dream, we may ask, "What assumptions are being used in the reality wherein we are having this lucid awareness of the contrast between the lucid and ordinary dream realities?" Here, we are discovering the possibility of a "phenomenologically aware lucid dreaming", wherein we become (phenomenologically) aware of how the (phenomenological) awareness of the ordinary dream's arbitrariness was achieved.
Using this "meta-phenomenological" awareness channels the lucid understanding of the assumptions " - making progress in a way that "ordinary" lucid dreaming does not, in the service of our search for a unified and consistent "truth". In the phenomenologically aware lucid dream we can ask not only, "How is lucidity, the awareness of hidden assumptions at work and the ability to see their arbitrariness, accomplished?", or "What changes between the ordinary dream and the lucid dream awareness?", but we can do all this in context, in the midst of the process, by asking "How is the lifting of the veil of assumptions happening right now?" We need but simply step back to watch the answer unfold.
More specifically, we can ask in the lucid dream, "What is the phenomenological essence behind a certain symbol in the dream metaphor?", seeking to reveal any compounded meanings which may underlie the symbol, such meanings being constituted along the line of a single phenomenological essence, a specifically chosen assumption. This approach offers an alternative to the other approaches to dream interpretation which are performed from the waking perspective and therefore perceived in accordance with the hidden assumptions of the interpreter's waking reality. The phenomenologically-aware-lucid-dream approach is comparatively free of this problem, as it addresses itself specifically to the discovery of how these hidden assumptions might distort our interpretation.
In "ordinary" dream interpretation, we often confront a defending barrier, keeping us from the insight we seek. With our new method, we can ask in the dream, "What is it that is keeping me from having this answer?" or even more basically, "Is the answer to this question too threatening for me to accept in my present state, and if so, what must I do to accept it?"
Further, we can start our entire investigation (in the lucid dream) from a heuristic approach to generate appropriate phenomenological research questions, and "live" the answers in our lucid dreams. This would help avoid the pitfall where our pre-determined questions, devised in the ordinary or partially-phenomenologically aware waking consciousness, may be limited by hidden assumptions.
We are exploring a methodology which brings us closer to a unified and consistent understanding of phenomena. We must now ask the culminating question of science: Can this approach achieve a perfectly unified and consistent, limitless understanding of phenomena; is there such a thing as "complete lucidity" which accounts for every possible situation flawlessly?
We may argue philosophically that there must be some ultimate referent which allows us to know one state as more lucid than another; again, we have defined this referent as being that which provides a most consistent and unifying description of observed phenomena. This referent implies a conceivable state of complete lucidity by which we compare incremental approaches for measuring our progress. Each such approach may be considered the achievement of a "piece" of this complete lucidity, testifying to the existence of the whole which makes its existence possible.
Malamud (1986) has said, "Maximum [dream] lucidity [exists, and is the state of] knowledge that one is dreaming and full awareness of the implications of that fact" (p. 592). Malamud has researched the literature to find "experienced lucid dreamers have reported that despite achieving a high degree of conscious control over dream content, they never achieve total control" (p. 607). But let us not stop here; taking full advantage of the potential offered by lucidity, we may use our phenomenological awareness to direct the lucid dream asking, "What assumptions are limiting my ability to gain further control over my dreams?" And if, as LaBerge and Gackenbach (1968) have said, "the assumptions...that dreamers hold about what lucid dreams are like or could be like determine to a remarkable extent the precise form of their lucid dreams" (p. 168), we may similarly challenge the assumption that we are inevitably limited by these waking assumptions in our ability to create the lucid dream.
Our final argument on behalf of the existence of a complete lucidity considers that as we expose the assumptions of our experienced reality and recognize their arbitrariness, we are not only free to re-choose assumptions but also to ask if it is necessary to choose assumptions at all. Perhaps the ultimate assumption, that from which all others arise, is that we must make assumptions in the first place. One may protest that a certain arbitrariness is pre-requisite for giving the referent which will organize "reality" in a way we can understand and with which we can work. But the inevitable question must follow: "What is the experience of consciousness 'before' this organization takes place?" Perhaps we have too hastily assumed that the functioning of consciousness necessarily and exclusively depends on an assumptions-based, organizing referent, and the pictures, thoughts and concepts which spring forth from it. As in certain of the Eastern philosophic traditions, let us consider the existence of a non-subjective "world'' of understanding, one which is necessarily "perfect" and limtless by virtue of its denial of all limiting assumptions. Just as the lucid dream shows the assumption of the dream's authenticity to be arbitrary, so this philosophy takes the assumption of the authenticity of assumptions to be arbitrary. As such, it transcends the limits of assumptions by uprooting their source.
These discussions, then, represent two approaches to the goal of transcending assumptions, the limits upon our understanding of "truth", in the pursuit of a complete lucidity. One would uproot all assumptions at once, by addressing their source, the assumption of the absoluteness of assumptions. The other, as we have carefully laid out in this paper, involves a step-by-step process of exposing the assumptions of the reality we are presently experiencing, then exposing the assumptions of the reality from which we exposed the first assumptions, and so on. This, too, approaches the state which is science's ideal: the adopting of "assumptions" which need no further refinement, for they account for all possible phenomena with perfect consistency and unification.
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Natsoulas, T. (1983). Addendum to "Consciousness." American Psychologist, 38, 122-123.
Natsoulas, T. (1978). Consciousness. American Psychologist, 33, 906-914.
Polkinghorne, D. (1983). Methodology for the human sciences: Systems of inquiry. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Daryl E. Hewitt
San Franscisco, CA
In recent years there has been a growing interest in lucid dreams of a "transcendent" or "mystical" nature, with corresponding efforts to develop language for their description (LaBerge, 1985; Tart, 1984). Without attempting to solve the terminology problem, as my main focus is on experience, I would like describe some of my lucid dreams, which I will simply refer to as "ecstatic" - in the sense of joyous intensification of consciousness, their main feature - and discuss elements which I have found relevant to their induction. I will begin with an example:
May, 1986. I suddenly become lucid in the dream as I am walking in the hallway of my high school. I am very glad to be lucid, and to be virtually as aware as in waking life. As usual, I want to get outside, into the light. Walking down the hallway I come to the exit, but my attempt to open the door is thwarted by the hulk of a wrecked truck. Realizing it is only a dream, I manage to get through the door enough to grasp the vehicle with both hands and heave it up and to the side almost without effort.
Outside, the air is clean, the sky blue, the scene pastoral and brilliantly green. I run through the grass and leap into the air joyously. Soaring through the treetops, I become entangled in branches, and have to hover while extricating myself. Finally above the limbs, I continue my flight to a few hundred feet high. While flying, I think, "I've flown so many times before, maybe I'll try a floating meditation in the sky." Having decided on the attempt, I ask for help from the "Higher," saying aloud, "Highest Father-Mother, help me to get the most out of this experience!" I then roll over backwards and cease attempting to control my flight, without fear of falling.
Immediately I begin to float through the sky, upside down with eyes closed, the sun beaming brilliantly down upon me, filling my head with light. I feel like a feather floating lazily through the air. During about five minutes of floating, I gently but firmly push thoughts that arise out of my mind, as in my waking meditation practice. The less distracted I am by thoughts, the more intensely aware and genuinely joyous the experience becomes - what I can only describe as ecstasy. Gradually I become aware of my body in bed, and as I awaken there is a feeling of lightness and well-being which is hard to describe.
I have had lucid dreams for eighteen years, but only learned to induce them at will through my training in the MILD induction technique and association as an oneironaut with Stephen LaBerge's research. In the five years since then, in my lucid adventures I have done a great deal of exploring, signalling in the laboratory by way of eye movements, carrying out experiments, and especially flying. Having learned to make lucid dreams last for up to an hour, there was plenty of time for these activities. Among other things, I learned to fly very fast and very high, to pass through walls, including steel (and to burn holes through them with lasers from my fingertips!), to study the lucid dream environment in exquisite close-up detail, explore other planets, and especially to alter the dream environment at will, as in making things appear, disappear, and change shape and color.
After five years of such truly memorable experiences, I began to be concerned because much as I love lucid dreams, I was running out of things to do! In a typical lucid dream I might go on for perhaps half an hour, exploring, flying and altering the environment. However, although a lucid dream is always very meaningful for me, I began to long for the greater depth I had long believed possible in a lucid dream. I was becoming a little jaded.
In 1985 I began experimenting with meditation in lucid dreams in an effort to discover this depth. These experiments brought profound results. On a half dozen occasions I succeeded in remembering my intention to sit down in the dynamic atmosphere of the lucid dream, and managed to be undistracted by dream imagery long enough to practice deep, rhythmic breathing. In each case awareness seemed to expand into an egg-shaped sphere which encompassed my dream body, with a corresponding dramatic intensification of consciousness. As this happened, colors flowed like pools of neon light in my inner vision, as they sometimes do in meditation and before falling asleep. The state intensified until the dream imagery, through half shut eyes, took on a diaphanous character and finally disappeared. I became a point of consciousness contentedly floating in an intense yellow-orange field of light.
Unfortunately, the state lasted for at most a minute, until I would wake up, a result which may have to do with the lack of dream imagery available (since it was resisted in the meditation) to maintain concretely the brain's constructive model of the dream world. I intend to continue my efforts to meditate in lucid dreams, as others have, but I have since learned another method for achieving a state of very intense consciousness, as distinguished from my "usual" range of intensity of awareness in lucid dreams.
The lucid dream of floating in sunlight illustrates this method, which can be described as (1) a preliminary overcoming of obstacles, followed by (2) intentionally refraining from manipulation of outward dream content, (3) appeal to the "Higher," (4) control of thoughts, and (4) trusting myself to the flow of the lucid dream without fear.
Before I can hope to have an ecstatic lucid dream, I need to maintain lucidity long enough to attain stability and clarity sufficient to remember and carry out my intentions as outlined above. In my experience, for a dream to become really exquisitely lucid requires about five minutes. A number of mishaps can occur to thwart me in this period - an unrecognized false awakening, a fearful or startling event which causes me to awaken, or losing the lucidity and falling back into dream. Recognition of false awakenings depends largely on sufficient daytime practice of reality checks associated with the MILD technique. My method of remaining lucid is to try to move as slowly and deliberately as possible, then to repeat aloud "This is a dream," and avoid interactions with dream characters for as long as necessary to achieve stable lucidity. Further, almost invariably I encounter obstacles in my lucid dream. Along with being entangled in branches, such obstacles have included finding myself lucid inside steel girder cages or rooms with no doors or windows, under restraint by dream entities, underwater and so forth. Overcoming such obstacles and the fear which accompanies them requires deliberate thought, focus of intention and execution of certain acts such as passing through walls. In the process of overcoming fear and obstacles, my lucidity is markedly intensified, resulting in a greater sense of awe and possibilities.
Once these obstacles are successfully overcome, I then appeal to the "Higher," followed by an intentional relinquishing of control of dream content. My attempts at making such an appeal were on LaBerge's suggestion (1985). The importance, I feel, of appealing to my conception of a higher being or a "higher self" for guidance to get the most out of the experience lies in recognizing the limitations of the dreaming self, which after all is only one aspect of the total self. Otherwise the dream self, a reflection of the waking personality, is wont to impose its limited perspective/desires on the lucid dream: flying, exploration, sex, meeting famous people, etc. The relinquishing of control of dream content frees my brain (or unconscious mind, if you will) to devise a broader, different and more inspiring scenario. This paradoxical process of deliberate effort to relinquish control seems necessary because otherwise the brain's productions tend to be more along the random, chaotic lines of non-lucid dreaming.
Once I entrust myself to whatever unfolding the lucid dream will then take, by maintaining a "meditative" attitude, keeping my mind free of extraneous thoughts, and maintaining a quiet, receptive state, whatever occurs will be minimally altered or interpreted by my thinking. As experienced lucid dreamers know, lucid dream thoughts easily become manifest in imagery and sensations.
Essentially, the development of skill in controlling the content of a lucid dream has made it easier for me to deliberately give up control of content while maintaining an intended frame of mind, focusing on clarity of consciousness rather than specific dream content. I am indebted here to the Tibetan exercise termed "transmutation of dream content," the altering of dream phenomena by which one strives to understand the nature of mental phenomena in general, and the applying of that understanding in gaining states of increased awareness (Evans-Wentz, 1935).
The following lucid dream in November of 1986 further illustrates the role of these factors, with dramatic results. Becoming lucid after recognizing an anomaly in the dream,
...immediately I hop into the air to verify by hovering, but the scene changes and I am in a very dark room, feeling vulnerable. I try spinning three or four times to make the scene change again, unsuccessfully. I can sense other entities in the darkness. I calm myself intentionally with deep breaths and assurances to myself that it's only a dream and to not be afraid. Finally after a few minutes I manage to find a door and go outside. It is light and pretty with trees and flowers, a great relief from the dank darkness. As I walk, I repeat aloud every few seconds, "This is a dream," until it no longer seems necessary.
I encounter a man I seem to know. He is pleasant and I ask if he wants to fly with me. We lock arms and leap into the air. Almost immediately we encounter vast, thick tree branches and strips of bamboo like a canopy and have to separate to pass through. I continue alone and encounter very fine wires about eight inches apart which block the entire sky. I force my way through and get above them, then fly out over the vast landscape. I remember that I wanted to meditate and think of going into a floating meditation in the sky. But I continue to marvel at the stability of the perceptions, concentrating on the minute detail of the flowers and moss on the ground as I land. To fly too much would tire me, as I know from past experience.
My friend joins me again and we talk about the world around us. He seems to marvel with me, as I say that this seems like a parallel universe or fourth dimension. I then try to meditate, sitting on the grass, but he keeps interrupting me. I remember Stephen's admonition to me to not always ignore dream characters, and minutes later he seems to dissipate into me. I go on flying and exploring on the ground for awhile, concentrating much of the time on keeping my mind free of thoughts, to simply perceive the dream world around me as deeply as possible. I ask for some help, saying "Highest Father-Mother, help me to get the most from this," and just relax, floating in the sky. Shortly thereafter I experience potent flashes of awareness of extreme clarity - what seem to be glimpses of a higher reality, in some way deeply personal and familiar. One of these flashes is accompanied by an image from afar of an Eastern spiritual master I admire. I feel convinced that these glimpses are indeed flashes of a higher reality, and can honestly say it is one of the most intensely spiritual experiences of my life. Eventually, after about half an hour, I begin to awaken.
Although I did not succeed at spinning in the above dream, many times success has enabled me to maintain lucidity for long periods, sometimes with resulting similar ecstatic experiences. This dream includes many of the factors described earlier: efforts to maintain lucidity, overcoming fear and obstacles, appealing to the "Higher," relinquishing control over dream content, and maintaining a clear, receptive attitude.
In conclusion, I want to encourage others to try the approach described. However, when one proposes a method of doing something, it is easy to fall into assumptions or some underlying ideas about causality, that doing steps A, B and C will cause result D. In my experience of lucid dreaming, there are underlying currents or themes of my spiritual life that have been present for a long time. Sri Ramakrishna once said, "No matter how much you churn water, you won't get butter." My method is a certain way of churning, but the filling of my mind with hopes of contact with a higher love or consciousness represents the butterfat I am now churning. The most important ingredient may therefore be the synergistic interaction of the method with my long searching for the higher life. My hunch is that the approach will interact in a similar way for others, but it may produce different results in conjunction with the materials, motivations and vision of their own inner life. My intention is to suggest possibilities that a lucid dreamer can experiment with and adapt to his or her own development as a way of deepening the state.
It seems that sufficient motivation is necessary to take such steps in a lucid dream, as well as the help of the deepest parts of one's psyche in order to make this process fruitful, and that involves looking inside oneself to try to identify one's own deepest drives or motivations or spiritual yearnings. I am quite excited about the possibilities for this type of lucid dream, and would like to hear of the experiences of others in this regard.
Evans-Wentz, W. Y. (1935). Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. London: Oxford Univ.Press.
LaBerge, Stephen (1985). Lucid Dreaming. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher.
Tart, Charles (1984). Terminology in lucid dream research. Lucidity Letter, 3(1), 82.
Between November 1928 and June 1930, at the Zurich Psychological Club, Jung gave a series of weekly seminars on dream analysis, covering thirty dreams during the course of the seminars. Over fifty of his patients and colleagues attended one or another of these seminars. Happily, a number of those attending transcribed the seminars; these have now been edited and are available as Dream Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984). As always, Jung's extemporaneous remarks are filled with insights not found in the more formal works. To give just a tiny sample, first on the shadow:
The collective unconscious is not a psychological function in your head, it is the shadow side of the object itself. As our conscious personality is a part of the visible world, so our shadow side is a body in the collective unconscious, it is the unknown in things. So everything that possibly can gets at you through the shadow.
In other words, the shadow, which would be seen by most as a product of the mind, is as real (or unreal) as anything we experience in the outer world. Throughout this review, we will return to this issue again and again, presented from many different viewpoints.
Stephan LaBerge's Lucid Dreaming (New York: Ballantine, 1986) examines the reality of psyche explicitly, from the viewpoint of an experimental psychologist specializing in the study of lucid dreams. For those unfamiliar with the term, lucid dreams are dreams in which the dreamer is aware that he/she is dreaming, and is able to exercise some degree of control over the dream process. One of the early breakthroughs in experimental dream research was the discovery that when we dream, we evidence REM (rapid eye movements). This discovery led dream researchers to awaken sleepers when they observed REM and ask what they were dreaming about.
La Berge was fascinated with the concept of lucid dreams and searched for some way, analogous to REM, to demonstrate their occurrence. He asked himself whether a "lucid dreamer" could perform some action in the dream which an experimental psychologist in the laboratory could observe. It had to be some action distinct enough to serve as a clear signal to an outside observer, yet within the actions available to the lucid dreamer lying asleep in bed. LaBerge finally decided on a distinctive side-to-side eye movement. He asked his subjects to move their eyes from side to side when they were asleep and knew they were having a lucid dream. It worked! The possibility of scientifically acceptable communication between someone in the dream world and someone in the outer world began at that point. (I say "scientifically acceptable" because, for thousands of years, shamans have signalled from the "spirit world" to ordinary mortals in the outer world).
What is most interesting and new about LaBerge's work is that his subjects can give a lucid dream signal when they are about to change their inner psychological and physiological experience. During lucid dreaming, for example, some subjects can signal and then turn on a sexual orgasm, and laboratory instruments do record that they are undergoing the real body responses characteristic of an orgasm! Women, it seems, are better at this than men.
In a similar way, many subjects change their breathing patterns while in lucid dreaming, as well as a number of inner emotional and cognitive dimensions of experience. The question now is just how far this extension of voluntary control over psychophysiological responses can go. From this point of view, lucid dreaming seems to be a new avenue for facilitating a relationship between the conscious mind and the normally involuntary processes of the unconscious.
The whole topic of lucid dreaming needs to be addressed by analytic psychology. The experimental psychologists who have done most of the work on lucid dreams to date usually have little interest in even the explicit content of dreams, and even less interest in learning the symbolic language of the dream. On the other hand, many Jungians (I apologize for the term which Jung himself disliked, but some such shorthand seems necessary) are prone to dismiss lucid dream research out of hand. They argue that lucid dreams are an attempt to circumvent the dream's primary purpose of complementing our all too one-sided conscious thoughts and behavior.
But are lucid dreams really so different from Active Imagination (the active form of meditation pioneered by Jung)? In Active Imagination we also attempt to consciously engage in a dialogue with fragments of dreams and fantasies, thereby facilitating communication between the conscious and the unconscious. Perhaps lucid dreams, like Active Imagination, are a natural extension of the attempt by the psyche to restore a psychic balance through dreaming.
In the second edition of his book, Dreams and the Growth of Personality (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1985) [full review of this work in the Fall 1986 Psychological Perspectives], Ernest Rossi takes an initial step toward integrating lucid dreaming research in analytical psychology by pointing out:
Dreams involving self-reflection - and, in particular, dreams wherein there are multiple images of one's self - can be a form of proto-lucid dreaming. The dreamer sees many aspects or images of the self that provide excellent insight after awakening, but the dreamer is not yet quite aware that she/he is dreaming while dreaming (the basic definition of lucid dreaming).
Beverly Hills, CA
Psychedelics and lucid dreaming are doorways in the mind. Each can lead us to larger realities - often answering a deep need to explore the fundamental question: "What is reality?" Each shows us that reality is bigger, more complex, more varied and stranger than normal consciousness can fathom.
With psychedelics and ordinary dreams we often jump into uncharted realms. How can we become adept at exploring these realms, and how can we travel further?
We know we can train our dream-minds. One clue to this is that man has learned to navigate other altered states. In particular, there are maps of many means of meditative progress and many phenomena of meditative and psychedelic realities. And high altered states are increasingly seen to be consistent with each other (psychedelics, dreams, meditation, spiritual emergence, out-of-body and near-death experiences). So exposure to any of these helps us learn the others. In short, all are complementary techniques for delving deeply into our minds, and all are similar enough to confirm that these Other Worlds are larger realities rather than mere hallucination.
Of these modes, dreams and their complements (daydreams and waking fantasies) are the mind's most universal means of creating and experiencing important higher states of consciousness daily (or nightly). In fact, for our mental health we each need to allow our mind to seek its symbolic home by these means, especially by dreaming.
What is the continuum of dreams? Ordinary dreams are known to all. In lucid dreaming you become aware that you are dreaming, and the dream world becomes numinous. If you choose to, you can alter your dream as it unfolds. In high dreams you dream that you take a psychedelic and have trip-like experiences. In high lucid dreams, of course, you combine the "pluses" of lucid dreams and high dreams: You know that you are dreaming, you intentionally dream that you take a psychedelic, and you have a drug free psychedelic trip. Some high and high lucid dreams even continue for a time after waking up. In that state you cannot tell your reality from psychedelia, though you have not actually taken any psychedelic. (These reports complement those from Neuro-Linguistic training that psychedelic states can be induced by micro-modelling.)
Lucid dreaming has been popularized over the past decade, and interest is now burgeoning. Best-known is the work of Dr. Stephen LaBerge, popularized in his book Lucid Dreaming. Dr. Jayne Gackenbach publishes the Lucidity Letter, and lucid dreaming pioneers hold regular conferences which draw people nationwide.
What dramatic realizations and transformations can occur on all these paths? Aldous Huxley expressed them extremely well as the Pure Light, the intensification of perception (especially color), and a deepening of meaning. The Pure Light has gradations from the absolute, intense light of God down throught the spiritual realms reported by mystics and Scriptures. The intensification of color and other senses is well-known to psychedelics users, and is far beyond ordinary experience. The deepening of meaning into ineffability is the subjective but totally unshakable experience that each object or image has absolute significance in and of itself, directly, and not merely symbolically.
Another hallmark of heightened consciousness is the suspension of disbelief. The most bizarre circumstances are accepted without question. While in everyday consciousness we judge things true or hallucinatory by whether they conform to physical laws, in heightened consciousness our minds often generate or receive chains of images that show us deeper connections and laws. Suppose a tree forms itself into a bellowing bullfrog, and the frog becomes a dragon. From higher consciousness we see this as a revelation of the inner nature of the tree, or of "treeness", and its relation to the essence of frog and dragon, rather than as a violation of the law that trees stay trees and do not become frogs or dragons.
But these radically enhanced qualities of perception are not important for rapture or fascination alone. Their primary value is in the permanent qualitative changes they can and do make in people's lives. Through such altered states people have healed themselves of physical and emotional trauma ranging from birth trauma to cancer to violent rape. They have boosted their creative awareness, both in art (gaining inspiration and direction for their creative ability) and science (bringing forth new theorems and inventions).
In dreams we have complete physical safety. With psychedelics there is safety in most contexts, but since the body is awake and mobile, perceptual shifts can cause danger. Thus in high lucid dreams, with an enhanced perceptual field and only our dream body active, we can safely explore otherwise dangerous or even fatal realms of behavior. This can be accomplished either by taking control of the dream and directing its flow, or by allowing it to unfold and teach us as we remain in a passive student role. Both options are valid and valuable in different contexts, dependent on the dream-tripper's psychological state and the nature of the material that manifests.
Another very useful thing to do in lucid and high lucid dreams is to rehearse our behavior and choices in difficult circumstances, and allow our mind to generate possible results. In this way we can pretest our waking choices, much as athletes improve their performance by mental practice.
Because the dream and psychedelic states allow us to see underlying patterns that generate and govern our negative behaviors, all lucid dreams also can be used to recognize and release our fears and negativity and to modify our psychological foundations so that we can choose new and more positive behaviors. In fact a good deal of the denial and hysteria that surround psychedelics and "bad dreams" is rooted in the fear of, and the unconscious recognition of the power of, the psychological and psychic aspects of dreaming. But growth usually comes when we face our fears, and we should welcome any path that offers the opportunity for such work and play.
In addition, it has been suggested by spiritual masters that dreams are an excellent place to work out karmic patterns. There we can deal with our deep negative issues without turning them into violence, disease and tragedy in the physical world. For example, such dreams should allow us to work through grief without turning it into cancer. Such ideas have recently received support from experiments that show brainwave activity to be the same for waking and dreaming a given task. This seems to indicate that, to the human consciousness, the two types of experiences are equivalent. While such theories remain somewhat speculative, we are far better off learning to use them as though they are proven, than waiting all our lives for more proof and perhaps bypassing the chance to grow and transform.
Another advantage of lucid dreaming is that it is one hundred percent healthy, legal and free. Stan Grof has remarked, after having to turn from psychedelics to holotrophic breathing to help people reach high states of consciousness, that at least they can't outlaw breathing. Well, dreaming can't be outlawed either.
You can train yourself to recall dreams, do "dreamwork", and then learn higher forms of dreaming. How do you train yourself? By regular practices which I will describe. And if you have had psychedelic experience, that is a great advantage because it has given you very powerful "track time" in the alternate realities you can reach.
The general techique is to train yourself progressively to recall dreams, to do dreamwork, and then to reach successive states of lucidity.
There are dozens of fine books for self-training in dream recall and dreamwork. Any sizeable "New Age" bookstore is likely to have many of them, and all the current ones are listed in Books in Print for ordering through most bookstores. My suggestion is that you leaf through several and pick whichever feels right to you. And I suggest that rather than "studying" the book or making learning a chore, you read a chapter, or part of a chapter, each evening just before sleeping. Then invite your mind to give you the type of dream you have just read about. You will find that your unconscious mind is eager to communicate with you, and as you invite dreams and begin your dreamlog it will begin giving you many more dreams, and richer dreams. The process of learning lucidity will then be a continuation of this process.
The same pertains to dreamwork. Don't begin with "heavy" interpretations, like Freudian texts, that may bog you down or may emphasize mental illness or pathology. Instead, start with one of the lighter approaches, like Senoi or Jungian-Senoi dreamwork, which emphasize "speaking the dream" by telling it in the first person present tense ("I am") as though you are, successively, each of several major symbols that appeared in the dream. "I am" is a powerful affirmation, in dreamwork, psychology and spirituality.
Keep a dream log, to record at least the most important dreams of each week. Certainly write down all pre-lucid, lucid and high-lucid experiences to further validate these in your mind.
This initial training process will take most people several weeks to several months, depending on their psychological makeup and motivation. Within several months most neophytes will have at least a first lucid dream, and most lucid dreamers will substantially increase their lucidity.
To regularly reach transcendent levels via dreams, psychedelics or other tools, however, also requires long-term psychological and spiritual clearing. If we are not clear we give priority to clearing the issues that dog us, whereas if we are clear we find lucidity far easier and more prevalent. But this operates as a two-way street; lucidity can help us dissolve issues. Dreamwork is therapeutic - at no cost.
Many people reach transcendent states at least once in their lives, but to make the level of ultimate unity one's "home" rather than a one-time gift of divine grace requires sustained intention, clearing and practice. This can be gained via meditation, dreamwork and psychedelics or more easily by a combination of these and other modalities.
Here is a summary of how to learn to have high lucid dreams. It follows the helpful and informative step-by-step instructions in Stephen LaBerge's Lucid Dreaming, which he calls the MILD technique. Briefly the MILD technique consists of two phases: Reality testing and dream programming.
Begin as described above, with dream recall, a dream log, and dreamwork, practicing with ordinary dreams as well as any pre-lucid or lucid dreams you may have. This sets your mind to focus more energy and awareness toward lucidity.
Simultaneously begin reality testing, by developing the habit of checking several times a day to determine if you are really awake or are dreaming. The idea is that what you steep yourself in during the day is eventually transferred to your dreams at night. If you habituate yourself to asking "How do I know I'm not dreaming?" then sooner or later you will ask this in a dream, and the answer will pop you into lucidity. In fact, the ease with which you adopt this reality testing will generally correlate to the ease with which you will learn to dream lucidly.
In addition to asking this question, you must DO something to check it out. Never answer, "I just know". Among the most commonly used tests are: Jumping up and trying to float. Changing the color of something in the environment. Reading something twice (digital clocks are excellent) and seeing if the text changes radically. Seeing if there is anything odd in the environment, such as floating objects or body changes.
The second part of the MILD technique is to program yourself as you fall asleep by using an affirmation like "As I begin to dream I will realize I am dreaming" or "If I can see anything at all, I am dreaming." Repeat this as you fall asleep, and again as you re-enter sleep each time you awaken during the night.
Most people have at least one lucid dream within a few months of doing this practice religiously, and many begin lucid dreaming within two to four weeks. People who have had lucid dreams before training often can have two to four lucid dreams some nights after training. The strongest dreamers can train themselves to dream lucidly on command. There is some correlation between normal dream recall and lucid dreams, in both number and vividness.
Vitamin B6 will greatly increase the frequency and intensity of dreams. It will not necessarily influence the positive or negative content of dreams, however, so you may have both more positive dreams and more nightmares. Nightmares can be especially valuable, though - remember, it's better to have the experience in dreams than in waking life. So do dreamwork with them.
What do you do when you reach the Other Worlds? In my own experience, anything you like. I've found it most valuable to do whatever I would do in a waking psychedelic trip to increase my awareness, achieve new insights, reach spiritual realms, heal myself, and increase my psychological integration. Certainly unlimited free travel is instantly available. On the spiritual path, I seek an ally or guide or teacher and may become their initiate. Several people have reported that killing your dream body leads to transcendence and is free from risk. Looking at one's hands is a favorite "Don Juan" exercise that builds spiritual discipline. Accessing the archetypes and becoming them can be a powerful insight and healing tool.
A particularly "psychedelic" way of programming your choice is to decide which dream drug to take in a lucid state. If you take dream MDMA you will have a heart-level bonding experience, which can be used to clear negative patterns with parents, lovers or friends, or to enhance awareness of the perfection of your self, and every other person. If you take dream LSD you can more easily tune into the unconscious realms and the spiritual channels, etc. You might even try creating your own brand of psychedelic, with attributes of your fancy. If you are really daring, take a totally unknown drug, and let it take you where it will. Everything you learn will mirror your mind! You will reach totally new and uncharted lands, which are yet somehow familiar!
Speculative and science fiction stories also offer good ideas for compounding your dream drug. Just so, in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley introduced Soma, a drug of his invention named after the early Aryan psychedelic soma. This was 23 years before he experienced a real psychedelic. Late in his life, in Island, he introduced Moksha as a utopian drug. Time warpers would be drugs that dilate or contract time, or allow time travel to past and future lives. Or take a stripper drug that peels away layer after layer of whatever you see or feel to reveal its deeper essence - so dream a mirror and fall into your core! Or design a transference drug that allows you to be fully in another's mind, or an alien consciousness. Of course there are all manner of telepathy-enhancing drugs you could conjure, as well as dream tripmates to play with. The list is as endless as your fantasy world, and as deep as your calling.
Here are a few of the high lucid experiences reported by Psychedelic Monographs and Essays readers, with commentary on their applicability to the spiritual path and the mapping of inner consciousness. They are transcribed in the first person, as each was dreamed.
High Lucid Dream #1: Healthiness
I am at a health fair where eight different types of psychedelics are being advertised and sold openly at a booth. I decide to try MDMA. Then I dream that I remember that I tried this substance last year in a similar dream but had forgotten I had it until now. As I get high, I like MDMA's gentle effects, and definitely notice them as I walk around at the health fair for a few hours. I have a very strange, very mellow feeling, different from any other psychedelic.
I awaken in a dreamscape of small buildings, perhaps out in the countryside. It is a schoolroom and also becomes a boat. I ask for a taste of the "Water of Life", and am led to a barrel-like metal cooler. I sit next to a woman as the boat begins to pull out. In the distance is the Golden Gate Bridge, and I tell the woman, "I am from earth" and ask "What is the name of your world?" She replies "Womb world." Or "The Womb Mother".
The "Water of Life" is a very powerful psychedelic drug described in Dune, a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It has strong mystical powers and permanently transforms the taker into a spiritual leader of the society, if she survives. It is only permitted to women. This dream clearly deals with integration of the feminine on the archetypal level. Both the psychedelic and the boat deal with the water element, archetypal representation of the feminine. And of course the alien woman from the Womb World is an even stronger female archetype. The bridge, being golden and numinous speaks of both transformation and spirituality.
In addition to the normal symbolic dreamwork level, there was a strong precognitive aspect to this dream, as the dreamer was planning to attend a workshop by Stan and Christina Grof on holotrophic breathing, which often precipitates participants into birthing and perinatal experiences. In fact Christina is a powerful woman whose first two transpersonal experiences were during the birthing of her children. Perhaps the dreamer was tuning into the imminent potential of a "birthing" into a higher spiritual world. When he attended the actual workshop, he also noticed that the cooler which appeared in the dream was directly outside the building where the workshop was held.
I partake of the Holy Bread in my old room at my parents' house. Moving through a black and white world, I go down the stairs and step out the front door. Color flashes in. I stand at the steps of the porch and feel the air and hear thunder. Lightning flashes and I am high. Mrs. Miller's house vanishes. I can see the river. The colors are all askew. Sheets of neon green rain fall under the irridescent navy blue trees, wildly writhing in the storm-tossed air.
On the ruby red road the rain collects in pearly puddles and splashes dancing pink drops. I run in the warm rain, laughing as lightning bursts brilliant purple. I jump into the middle of the road, where four women, my grandmother, aunt, and two cousins are sitting at a table. I stop to say hello. At first they look normal, but their eyes have a strange inner light. They grab me. The are possessed. Their faces suddenly transform into horrifying apparitions. Their faces shrink and their hair, mouth, nostrils and ears disappear, their skin in the color of light rose marble replete with veins. Their eyes are giant purple raisins.
I become lucid, and know I'm dreaming. I try to twist free and run, but they won't let me go. I say "I can do all things through the power of Christ." I do a backwards somersault and awaken.
In this dream, the dreamer takes the psychedelic before becoming lucid, but it is a nightmare. When he becomes lucid, and still high, he calls on the spiritual power of Christ to free him from the terror, and it works. The dreamer reports that in waking life, his cousins are "born again Christians" while he is Buddhist. A precursor to the religious content can be found in his initial statement that the dream drug taken was Holy Bread, a sacrament and a Christian one at that. Even so, he was surprised to find himself using the Christ symbol to reach freedom (and indeed doing a back-flip - a shift in position). Upon waking he related the dream to an integration of the question of good and evil as portrayed across seemingly incompatible religions.
He also affirms that this was the singularly most powerful psychedelic experience he has had in terms of the color negative shift, although no psychedelic was used in waking life. This indicates that such states can be naturally occurring brain/mind states if we can learn new modalities for accessing them.
Although psychedelics have been widely used for millennia in spiritual contexts, as have lucid dreams, it is only recently that the two areas have come to public attention and public availability on a wide scale. Research into the overlap of these two powerful transformational modalities is in its infancy, and an endlessly fascinating exploration lies ahead.
As more people train themselves to dream lucidly, the foundation for high lucid dreamwork becomes stronger. We hope to build a positive morphogenetic field around the ability to do lucid dreaming, so that more people can easily access this ecstatic state and all the higher states of consciousness it can lead to.
David R. May
My usual reaction to first person accounts of dramatic and/or unusual occurrences during routine stimulus situations is to view them with many grains of salt, but never to entirely dismiss them as they, ultimately, are the basis of most hard scientific inquiry. The phenomenon to be described falls squarely within the anecdotal category, the lowest level of scientific evidence, and should be appraised only as such.
A while ago, I suffered a very painful back injury which left me with an inability to sleep more than 2-3 hours per night. I knew that the amino acid tryptophan had been used successfully both to alleviate pain and to promote sleep (and as an antidepressant). On the advice of my neurologist, I used 7 grams - divided into two equal parts, as I would usually awaken within 3-4 hours after administering the first dose. While this is a large dose, it is not as high as some therapists recommend for depression. (The best popular treatment of the subject I have encountered is Slagel, P., M.D., The Way Up From Down, 1986, Random House). Tryptophan in that amount was most effective in promoting sound sleep. One very prominent effect, though, was that dreaming became very erratic or altogether nonexistent " - an effect not at variance, though not fully explained, by the literature. I reasoned that my lucid dreaming work would consequently have to be placed on the back burner for a time.
After about 2 weeks on this regimen, a wholly unexpected phenomenon occurred: I would invariably fall asleep for several hours in evening, though I was now getting 7 - 8 hours of sound sleep. This phenomenon had never occurred in the past, especially after my back injury, and was quite puzzling. I soon noticed that I was having extremely vivid and prolonged dreams during these "naps." I thought little of this at first, but as the dreams became more and more powerful, I realized that this must be a REM rebound effect due to almost total suppression of REM sleep during the night. To understand physiologically what might be going on, I considered what I knew about the effects of tryptophan. (Actually, its natural end product, serotonin, the neurotransmitter, is the critical psychoactive agent operating here). First, it is well known that serotonin is a natural growth hormone releaser and that growth hormone can only be released during Slow wave, or NREM sleep. Further, the greatest concentration of serotonin-producing neurons is in the midbrain nucleus of Raphe, which is immediately proximal to the locus ceruleus and locus non ceruleus which via the neurotransmitter norepinephrine are antagonistic neurotransmitters, and the extreme over-production of one might easily affect the receptors of the other and thus modulate their action.
It belatedly occurred to me that this profound REM rebound might prove to be an ideal opportunity for attempting lucid dreaming. I found that with strong suggestions and a fierce determination to hold fast to consciousness (a la Ouspensky, I suppose), the waking world would suddenly evaporate and I would find myself fully lucid, often remaining lucid throughout the entire "nap". If lucidity was lost, brief awakenings would often result in its reestablishment. Initially the shift from the waking state to the lucid dream state required great concentration and resolve, but with repetition this transition occurred almost effortlessly. Prior to this time, I typically experienced approximately 1 - 3 lucid dreams per month, but they were very pale in contrast to the power, vividness, and emotional intensity of these regular evening dreams. I cannot report on whether generalization might occur were the tryptophan to be discontinued.
I am only, of course, reporting on these occurrences as being a byproduct of a medical treatment. If anyone is tempted to experiment with this regimen I would highly recommend that he or she seek the advice of a pharmacologist and/or a nutritionist. I do know from my review of the literature that no one really understands the effects of amino acid precursor loading, which could lead perhaps to a radical imbalance of essential amino acids. A more temperate approach than I've described would be to take a single smaller dose soon before bedtime, hoping for a rebound effect during the later and more propitious hours of sleep.
It has been my hope in describing this serendipitous "experiment" to show that we are not wholly slaves to an unfathomable brain stem process. It clearly can be influenced, profoundly, and what has been reported is surely only one of the possible methods. With REM deprivation it may be possible to move directly from the conscious waking state to the REM state with little or no NREM in between. If this is so, lucidity should be far more easily and frequently attained.
The New Biology: Discovering the Wisdom in Nature by Robert Augros and George Stanciu. Boston: Shambhala, 1985
Review by Stanley Krippner
This provocative book takes the point of view that organisms live in harmony with their environment rather than struggling with it, that Darwin's "survival of the fittest" is not a useful metaphor in explaining evolution, and that nature is efficient, economic, and purposeful. Both authors teach in New Hampshire; Robert Augros teaches philosophy at St. Anselm College, while George Stanciu heads the departments of science and mathematics at Magdalen College. Both reject the "mechanistic scheme" they attribute to Marx, Freud, and Skinner - that humans cannot act for a conscious purpose. Further, they claim that this mechanistic scheme cannot explain life in general because living organisms share the capacity for some kind of self-movement. They do not reject the search for mechanisms of behavior, nor do they claim that one need postulate a nonmaterial entity that directs organisms' vital operations. They simply take the position that the hallmarks of life - reproduction, growth, self-regulation, nutrition - are associated with a natural form that acts throughout the physical and chemical properties of matter and is not separable from it.
In their discussion of the consciousness of higher organisms, Augros and Stanciu propose that the root cause of each of the actions of these organisms is awareness of some kind, and illustrate this position with such examples as the "honey dance" of bees and the protective behavior that the male three-spined stickleback fish exhibits towards its nest. However, only the human exhibits intellectual understanding. The authors use dreams as an example of this type of activity:
“If we did not experience dreams ourselves, we would never suspect that dreams occur in animals, no matter what their behavior during sleep, and no matter how much data we collected on rapid eye movement.” (p. 84)
Objecting to the model of nature as "red in tooth and claw," Augros and Stanciu claim that it is difficult to find examples of mutual harm between natural species undisturbed by humans. Instead, they coin the motto "Work smarter, not harder" to describe the efficient, cooperative way in which they see every living thing attuned to its environment (p. 138). They speak eloquently of the beauty that can be seen in a bird's skull, metacarpal bone, and flight pattern. Although not all organisms demonstrate the same kind of beauty, "some show simple charm, while others are elaborately decorated; some please the eye by a stark plainness, others overwhelm it with a gorgeousness of color" (p. 149). Nature, then, is not only a superb engineer but a master artist.
In discussing Darwin's theory of evolution, the authors claim not to find data supporting his notions of unlimited population growth in natural populations, competition between individual organisms, and new species being produced by selecting from natural differences. This "does not mean that natural selection is false. It simply means that we cannot use Darwin's argument ... to establish natural selection as a means of explaining the origin of species" (p. 160). For them, Darwin's description of gradual evolution does not explain the fossil evidence; instead they propose the consideration of such phenomena as "chromosomal doubling" which is "known to be responsible for scores of new plant species both natural and artificially bred" (p. 176). Based on this and other phenomena, they propose as the mechanism for evolution "systematic differentiation," which is an internal cause of change arising from potentialities within the organism itself. It operates by jumps, producing new species immediately, and plays out the possible variations on a theme, acting like a creative artist. Systematic differentiation is economical and efficient, operating with minimum energy, minimum material, and minimum waste.
Finally, Augros and Stanciu discuss the role of purpose, not only in humans but in life generally, claiming that genetic material seems to head toward a predetermined goal, whether in an organism or in the production of new species. They point out how often two or more functions are served by the same organ (tree roots absorb nutrients as well as anchoring the tree firmly in the ground; a whale's blubber stores food, insulates the whale, and provides buoyancy). In pointing out how important the concepts of purpose and will are in understanding human beings, the authors turn to quantum physics; they might also have cited the positions taken by humanistic psychologist who have long advocated the necessity of new theoretical models and novel research methods in studying human beings. Augros and Stanciu echo this concern: "The human sciences are autonomous and cannot take their first principles from physics and chemistry ... Man's understanding and will belong to the independent realm of the human sciences" (p. 15).
In searching for the causes of living forms, genetic codes, and the beauty and purpose seen in nature, Augros and Stanciu conclude: "The artist is God, and nature is God's handiwork" (p. 191). But they give no description of this God-concept, except as a First Cause. When it comes to the problem of human overpopulation, they merely cite "natural population regulation," not pointing out that the mechanism may work for other forms of life but has yet to demonstrate its efficacy with humans. In addressing ethics, they claim humanity can "look to nature" - and that this topic will be described in another book. It is true that nothing prevents both nature and God from being the causes of new species, but one would have expected a more thorough description of the authors' God-concept in a book that otherwise is replete with convincing detail, sound argument, and insightful analyses.
Speaking of Silence: Christians and Buddhists on the Contemplative Way, Edited by Susan Walker. New York: Paulist Press, 1987
Reviewed by Stanley Krippner
This book began as a stack of verbatim transcripts documenting five conferences that were hosted by Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado between 1981 and 1985. The transcripts have been skillfully edited by Susan Walker, an Anglican-turned-Buddhist writer who attended each of the conferences. The book is valuable in that it focuses on Christian and Buddhist meditation, contemplation, and the monastic life, identifying points of congruence as well as areas of divergence. There is agreement that Buddhist and Christian contemplatives are on a similar journey but not the same journey.
Both traditions seem to hold in high regard such traits as humility, compassion, and simplicity. Both value transcendence; both allow the inevitability of death to motivate their actions; and there may even be a similarity between the Buddhist "void" and the Christian "dark night of the soul." Their differences are not so well articulated; sometimes it appears as if a deliberate attempt has been made to mute obvious differences. For example, there is a consensus that sin implies disharmony and disruption -- but the Christian image of sinners cast into hell is never evoked. There is a thoughtful discussion regarding the appropriateness of celibacy in monastic settings, but the Roman Catholic dogma limiting sexual behavior to marriage remains unquestioned.
Dreams are mentioned twice -- both negatively. A Christian spokesperson advises, "if you have a dream, don't follow it.... The voice of the devil and the voice of one's own nature speak all the time, and it is easy to be misled" (p. 57). A Buddhist representative recalls a saying, "All dharmas should be regarded as dreams" (p. 196); in other words, one should beware illusion and delusion. The idea that working with dreams might contribute to a person's spiritual growth is completely absent.
One highlight of the book, for me, was a perceptive differentiation between one's "superego" and one's "conscience," the former representing the punitive voice of externally imposed value systems of authority figures, the latter representing one's basic spiritual nature. I also was impressed by a delineation of the hallmarks of saintly people (which included zest for life, passion, hilarity, contemplation, and human frailty). I enjoyed discussions of the Buddhist emphasis on personal experience as the ultimate authority, and a Christian spokesperson's description of the role emotion can play in spirituality.
The major participants in these conferences included four Roman Catholics, two Eastern Orthodox priests, one Anglican, one Quaker, but no representatives of mainline Protestant denominations. Of the Buddhists, eight were members of Tibetan lineages and two were Zen pracitioners. There were no Chrisian equivalents to the eminent Dalai Lama and Chogyam Trumpa. Only three of the spokespeople were women. Although these individuals can hardly be called a representative sample of contemplatives, they were exceptionally articulate. Their talks, discussions, and dialogues are interesting to read -- and often inspirational. One can conjecture what would occur if a future conference brought together Moslem and Jewish (or Hindu) spokespeople to discuss their spiritual values.
Upon reading the letter to the editor from Vincent MacTiernan (Lucidity Letter, Vol. 6, No. 1, pg. 160) I was struck by the similarity between his experience and that of Oliver Fox as reported in his book, Astral Projection, A Record of Out-of-the-body Experiences. The book bears no copyright date but has a comment by the author dated 1 March, 1938. In pages 34 through 42 Mr. Fox relates his experiences at being unable to break the trance or dream and awaken. He also explains how to return to normal waking state from such a dream easily and without the "dream hangover" as experienced by both Mr. Fox and Mr. MacTiernan.
Mr. Fox coined the term "Dream of Knowledge" for the phenomenon we now call lucid dream. I believe that the difference between lucid dream and astral projection is a matter of degree of focus, perhaps only a matter of semantics.
Astral projection, out-of-the-body experience, near death experience and lucid dreaming are terms coined by the experiencers in attempting to name an experience of the consciousness being outside of or at a different location than the body.
I think another term is coma. I think that a person in a coma is dislocated in time/space and either can't remember how to return to "our here and now" or doesn't want to return or doesn't know that he is in another "here and now" (for example, the dreamer in a non-lucid dream) or has crossed to another of the multiple universes and is living "there" unaware of "here."
In the first instance, Oliver Fox explains in detail how to get out of a coma. He thought of it as a trance. I wonder if he could have gotten himself out of his trance if he had thought that he were in a coma?
Not wanting to return would seem most likely in cases of OBE due to violence to the body. The "person" may be viewing the trauma to the physical body while focused at some point outside of it and not wanting to take on the responsibility of finishing a lifetime in a "mutilated" body but being afraid to "sever the cord" and die. Besides, "it is all so beautiful and peaceful here" and the needs of the body are being cared for by a team of highly trained professionals, so who wants to come back to the body.?!
Whatever his reasons may be for not being here now, I believe that those who are adept at out-of-the-body experience (astral travel, lucid dreaming, remote viewing, soul travel, etc.) can make contact with a person in a coma. Once the comatose person is contacted and communication is established, then he can either be taught to re-establish dwelling in the body (re: Oliver Fox) or, if it is fear or ignorance that is keeping them away, then psychological counseling as with any professional/client relationship is in order.
It would be nice if the "lucid dreamer" were also a psychologist. Any volunteers?
Mountain View, CA
Recently as a part of a larger research project dealing with hypnosis and dreams we (Robert Falconer under the supervision of Carol Erickson) did some preliminary work on post-hypnotically suggesting lucid dreams.
In the ninth session of a series of ten hypnosis sessions we dealt explicitly with lucidity. We tried suggesting La Berge's M.I.L.D. technique; suggesting that the subject look at their hands during a dream a la Castenada; suggesting that the subject could recognize their recurrent dream images as a lucidity trigger; suggesting that the impossibility of certain dream situations could cue lucidity; and we suggested (in imitation of Tibetan dream yoga) that a spark of consciousness could be maintained as the subject fell asleep. In our extremely limited experience many of these approaches showed promise but none were real standouts.
Our most interesting finding about lucidity was a totally unexpected one. Three of the ten subjects had experienced lucid dreams before the study began. All three of these people reported dramatic increases in the frequency and degree of lucidity they experienced in their night time dreams while they were undergoing the first five sessions. These sessions were devoted to Dr. Milton H. Erickson's dream rehearsal technique.
Erickson developed his dream rehearsal technique NOT as a method of therapy or as dream work per se, but as a way of deepening hypnotic trance. The technique consists of (1) selecting one of the subject's dreams, (2) reading the dream to the hypnotized subject and suggesting that they can redream the dream "perhaps with a different cast of characters and perhaps in a different setting but the same dream", (3) this is done recursively (i.e. when a dream is presented it is turn suggested that that re-dream can be re-dreamed) until a series of re-dreams is produced. The results were surprising. All of the subjects produced what they subjectively felt were re-dreams. Despite the fact that we were not trying to do therapy, the re-dream series seemed inexorably to spiral in on the subject's core issues. This technique may have a generalized utility for increasing the quantity and quality of lucidity in subjects who have already experienced lucid dreams. Dr. Erickson described this technique in his 1952 article "Deep Hypnosis and Its Induction" which is available in Jay Haley's 1967 anthology Advanced Techniques of Hypnosis and Therapy. A somewhat longer report of our research will probably be published in 1988 in the A.S.D. newsletter.
Santa Cruz, CA
I had a serious insomnia problem which I believed contributed to my lucid dream/OBE's. I got a brochure listing sleep disorder clinics in various hospitals around the country. One of those hospitals was located in the Atlanta area, so after putting it off for a few years I finally decided to enter their clinic to see if they could help me with this problem.
An essential part of their treatment is that a patient spend two nights in their laboratory hooked up to a machine by an array of wires which monitor various of his brain and body functions. This part of their treatment intrigued me as I was hoping that I might have a lucid dream while hooked up to their machine; or better yet, a W.I.L.D. (Wake Initiated Lucid Dream) with its accompaning paralysis and vibrations, which would surely be picked up by the monitoring machine. Even more intriguing to me was that they also have a videotape camera concealed in the ceiling which photographs the patient throughout the night. I have always been curious about what I looked like in my bed when I thought I was out of my body, so here was a possible opportunity to satisfy my curiosity.
The first night in the laboratory was uneventful as it took me hours to get to sleep, and I only had a vague remembrance of a few non-lucid dreams. But on the second night we hit paydirt. Somewhere between 4:00 A.M. and 4:15 A.M., while I was having an extremely vivid non-lucid dream, lucidity came over me like a bolt of lightning; at that moment I was surrounded by a group of dream-creatures who were congratulating me on having defeated a bully in a fight and thereby winning his girlfriend and a couple of chickens. Even the bully and his girlfriend were in the group congratulating me. When lucidity came over me, I did something which I had trained myself never to do at the onset of lucidty when I am surrounded by dream-creatures, but I was so excited by the thought that finally one of my experiences was being recorded on an electronic machine that I completely forgot myself and shouted out as loud as I could that we were all in a dream of my own creation, that they were not real but only fabrications of my subconscious mind, that the real world was in the hospital laboratory where my body was hooked up to an electronic machine which was recording many of my body and mental functions. As soon as they heard me, the whole atmosphere changed 180 degrees, from one of cordiality and good-fellowship to one of sneering disdain and menace, and I knew I was in trouble. Frantically, as I have done so often in the past in similar circumstances, I made a desperate attempt to break out of the dream world by concentrating on my body lying in the sleep laboratory. Immediately I could sense myself back on the hospital bed, but I couldn't break completely free from the dream world as I could still see the dream-creatures jeering at me and trying to grab me. For what seemed to be an eternity I was suspended in this twilight zone - half in the dream world and half out of it. Thinking that I may never break free, I started yelling for the staff psychiatrist to come and get me out of this dream world; I also made a futile attempt to knock on the back of my bed with my fist so as to alert the technician on duty in the next room, but my efforts were fruitless as I just couldn't seem to break free from this half-paralyzed state. Finally, just before I was about to succumb to total panic, I broke free and the dream world completely dissolved. I immediately called to the technician to come into the room and make a note of the time on the machine print out. It was 4:15 A.M.
As to what was the cause of the reaction of the dream-creatures to my announcement of lucidity, that is the way they always react - or nearly always - whenever I tell them that they are in a dream; they get upset, angry and sometimes quite violent, and I have the devil of a time trying to disentangle myself from them. That is why that over the years I have tried to train myself to stifle my outbursts at the onset of lucidity, but it is easier said than done because the excitement I feel in the present experience is as high as it was for my first experience over fifteen years ago. When the adrenalin starts pumping it is hard to keep a cool head, especially since there are no road maps to tell you how you should act in this strange world. I sometimes feel like a modern-day Columbus exploring a world which few people know exist.
Another problem is how fragile and short my experiences are. It is difficult to measure time in them but I suspect that very few of my experiences lasted more than four or five minutes, which means that the pressure of time is upon you, so just being passive and observant won't get you much information except some visual images which you may have difficulty describing.
What I try to get from these dream-creatures is verbal responses to my questions, and to get them I have to be a bit aggressive. Even when I am fortunate to get a response from them, more times than not it will be so illogical or incoherent that I can barely understand it, let alone try to remember it when I come to write it up in my journal. Just asking simple questions like "Where am I?" "Who are you?" "What year is it?" will bring forth the most astonishing responses from them. On many occasions they will be reluctant to give any response at all and you almost have to drag it out of them. It is like pulling teeth.
When I went over the results with the staff psychiatrist, I was particularly interested in what the machine had picked up when lucidity came over me and prompted my ensuing struggle with the dream-creatures. According to the psychiatrist, he could discern nothing out of the ordinary at that time except for more intense REM activity, which somewhat disappointed me as I was hoping to find some neurons in the brain firing off which shouldn't have been firing off. But when we looked at the videotape for that period, it was pretty evident that I was in some sort of struggle as my face was contorted and I was desperately trying to hit the back of the bed with my hand.