Lucidity Association Symposium Proceedings
Mental Models in Sleep: Why Do We Feel More Conscious in Lucid Dreams? ‑ Susan Blackmore
A Buddhist Perspective on Lucid Dreaming ‑ Tarab Tulku XI
Eastern Psychological Association Dream Symposium Proceedings
Dream Recall and Content as a Function of Defensiveness ‑ Deirdre Barrett
The Phenomenological Use of Dreams in Psychotherapy ‑ P. Erik Craig
Clinical Applications for Consciousness in Sleep ‑ Jayne Gackenbach
Problems in the Historical Research of Lucid Dreaming ‑ Robert Rooksby
Mapping Territories: A Phenomenology of Lucid Dream Reality – E.W. Kellogg III
What is Possible in a Lucid Dream? Results of the April, 1987 OMNI Experiment ‑ Jayne Gackenbach and Stephen LaBerge
A.H. Almaas and the Synthesis of Transpersonal and Psychoanalytic Psychologies ‑ Review Essay by Harry Hunt
"Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming", Edited by Jayne Gackenbach and Stephen LaBerge, New York, Plenum, 1988 ‑ Reviewed by Deirdre Barrett
John Layard's "The Lady of the Hare: A Study in the Healing Power of Dreams", Originally Published in London in 1944 and Recently Reprinted by Shambhala Press" ‑ Reviewed by Jane White Lewis
Letter to the Editor
Reflections on Gackenbach's Conception of Pure Consciousness as Related to OBE's and NDE's ‑ Judy Palen
News and Notes
Lucidity Association's "Higher States of Consciousness Conference" Is Taking Shape
New West German Consciousness Organization and Journal
Lucid Dreaming Bibliographic Updates
Lucidity Letter Staff: Senior Editor: Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.; Associate Editor: Kathy Belicki, Ph.D.; Typesetting: Kathy Belicki, Jayne Gackenbach, Joanne Gazzola; List Maintence: Jayne Gackenbach; Printer: Waberly Publishing, Waverly, Iowa
1988‑1989 Lucidity Association Steering Committee: Harry Hunt, Ph.D. (Chair); Andrew Brylowski, M.D.; Fariba Bogzaran; Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.; Gita Holzinger; Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D.
ISSN: 0847‑2688; Copyright is held by the Lucidity Association; Printed in the United States. 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 was formed to enable a dialogue between professionals and sophisticated experients interested in the phenomenon of lucid dreams and related states of consciousness. Lucidity Letter is published semiannually and receives mail at 8703 109th St., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2L5. The editorial offices can be reached through the mail or by calling (403) 468‑4101. Manuscripts should be submitted to the editor, in duplicate and double spaced. Where possible it would be appreciated if a computer disk with the submission on it could be supplied as well. All disks will be returned to the author. Opinions expressed on the pages of Lucidity Letter are not necessarily those of the Lucidity Association. The 1990 subscription to Lucidity Letter is $25 (US), $30 (Canada and Foreign ground mail), and $35 (Foreign air mail). All figures are US funds. Subscriptions, change of address and inquires should be sent to the the editorial offices.
The reader will be immediately struck upon receiving this issue with its improved look. We have received several letters about the difficulty readers were having with the small type and thus, with the help of Stephen LaBerge, we have redesigned the layout to "breath". Another difference may not be as apparent. That is the editorial contribution of Kathy Belicki of Brock University. She will be continuing with Lucidity Letter as the associate editor. Thanks to both Steve and Kathy for helping us produce a more readable Lucidity Letter.
In a continued effort to address the wants of our readers we have enclosed with this issue our first reader survey designed by Lucidity Association steering committee member Andrew Brolowski. Please take a few minutes to tell us what you would like to see on the pages of Lucidity Letter. Would you like it to come out more or less often? Is it too scientific or not enough science? Should we include more case studies? These are the sorts of questions which will better help us to serve you the reader as well as the growing field of consciousness in sleep.
In this issue we are pleased to offer you two symposium proceedings. The first are three of the talks from the annual Lucidity Association Symposium held this year in London, England in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Three of the four one hour talks are presented in this issue. We were unable to bring you Stephen LaBerge's talk due to technical difficulties but hope to be able to offer it to you in a future issue. The symposium started with an "Overview of the Development of Lucid Dream Research in Germany" by West German psychologist Paul Tholey. Tholey is probably the first western psychologist to systematically examine dream lucidity. His large body of research and theorizing has only begun in recently years to be translated. In this paper Tholey talks in more detail then ever previously available in English about his phenomenological work with dream lucidity.
This talk was followed by Susan Blackmore's, "Mental Models in Sleep: Why Do We Feel More Conscious in Lucid Dreams?". Psychologist Blackmore is best known for her research on the out‑of‑body experience and her skeptical position on paranormal phenomena. In an amusing yet thought provoking tone Blackmore answers her question. Following her talk is a fairly extensive question and answer session.
The third paper from the symposium is by Tibetan Lama, Tarab Tulku XI. Educated in Tibet he is currently head of the Tibetan section of the Royal Library and of the Tibetan department of Copenhagen University. His Buddhist perspective on lucidity is fresh reading. The reader should be aware that some of the techniques discussed by both Tholey and Tulku are of a very sophisticated nature.
We are especially pleased to bring you the proceedings of a symposium on the clinical applications of dreams which was held at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Boston in the spring of 1989. By presenting the abstracts of the three papers and an integrative discussion we hope to move to a broader base of articles for Lucidity Letter. After all lucid dreaming is about dreaming and about the nature of consciousness. Clinical psychologist Deirdre Barrett of Harvard Medical School starts off by reexamining the dream recall ‑ defensiveness hypothesis of Freud. This is followed by existential psychotherapist P. Erik Craig's "The Phenomenological Use of Dreams in Psychotherapy" and my own "Clinical Applications for Consciousness in Sleep". Finally, Lucidity Association steering committee chair, Harry Hunt, offers an integrative analysis of our papers in "Some Relations Between Clinical and Transpersonal Approaches to Dreams".
Three articles follow these two symposia proceedings. The first by Robert Rooksby, a graduate student at the University of Exeter in England, details "Problems in the Historical Research of Lucid Dreaming". In it Rooksby points out the hidden assumptions of anyone trying to speak to the historical antecedents of current lucid dreaming work. E.W. Kellogg III, of the Aletheia Foundation in Ashland, Oregon, presents another phenomenological paper entitled, "Mapping Territories: A Phenomenology of Lucid Dream Reality". After stating his assumptions and methodology, Kellogg considers lucid dreaming definitions as well as a series of lucid dreaming phenomena. The third paper is by Stephen LaBerge and myself. After two years of data processing we summarize our findings from the experiment and questionnaire which we developed for the April, 1987 issue of OMNI magazine. In "What Is Possible in a Lucid Dream?" we talk about how people fly and spin while lucid. We also consider problem solving, healing, dream control and types of lucid dreams. The appendix following our article contains extensive tables of descriptive statistics on this large data set.
The interview in this issue is with one of the most historically significant figures in lucid dreaming work, Englishwoman Celia Green. She wrote the classic 1968 Lucid Dreams which has served, and continues to serve, as a basic reference work on the phenomena. She talks about how she got interested in dream lucidity and the relationship of it to other "metachoric" experiences such as the out‑of‑body experience. Order information for all of her institutes books is available at the end of her interview.
A very rich book review section follows the Green interview. Leading it is a review essay by Brock University psychologist Harry Hunt on three books by A.H. Almaas, Essence: The Diamond Approach to Inner Realization, The Void: A Psychodynamic Investigation of the Relationship Between Mind and Space, and his most recent The Pearl Beyond Price: Integration of Personality in Being. Hunt considers how this "extraordinarily original integration of psychoanalytic object relations theory with a discipline of transpersonal self realization (closet to the fourth way tradition of Gurdjieff/Ouspensky) [is] relevant to our 'new science' of lucid dreaming?" Hunt's essay is followed by two reviews of a scholarly book on lucid dreaming edited by Stephen LaBerge and myself, Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming. In the first, by Deirdre Barrett, the strengths and weakness of the book are highlighted. In the second, reprinted with permission from CORA's Bewusst Sein, Jack Reis places the book in some historical context as well as commenting on it. The final review is by Jungian psychotherapist Jane White Lewis on John Layard's The Lady of the Hare: A Study in the Healing Power of Dreams. This reissued Jungian approach to dream work is, according to the reviewer, a bit dated but raises an important question, "What is it in therapy that heals?"
We end this long issue with a letter to the editor and the news and notes section. In the latter we update you on the forthcoming Lucidity Association conference on higher states of consciousness to be held in Chicago on July 1 and 2, 1990. The new West German based "CORA", International Association for Consciousness Research and its Applications, and its journal Bewsst Sein are introduced. Finally a call for research proposals for the research award is made and the lucid dreaming bibliographic updates are listed.
You will find several enclosures with this issue, beginning with your 1990 subscription renewal. Ecstatic and divine experiences in lucid dreams will be the theme of the June 1990 issue. Along with several articles planned around this theme, we would like to have a section on the experiences of our readers with ecstasy or the divine in their lucid dreams. Please send your experiences for possible inclusion in this section to Lucidity Association, 8703‑109 St., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2L5 by April 1, 1990. Also planned for this issue is a discussion between two of the most prominent figures in lucid dreaming, Stephen LaBerge and Paul Tholey. This was coordinated and edited by Lucidity Association steering committee member and Austrian psychologist Gita Holzinger. The December 1990 issue will have some of the proceedings of the Lucidity Associations "Higher States of Consciousness" meeting. A call for posters is enclosed as is a preliminary conference brochure and housing registration form. We are returning this year to a completely independent format for the Lucidity Association meeting. Although our conference is on the two days following the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams all details of our meeting are completely independent from ASD's. Thus we encourage you to return your conference registration material soon as possible as seating and housing is limited.
Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D., Editor
Johann Wolfgang Goethe‑Universit_t
As in other countries there were various reports of lucid dreams recorded through the centuries by German philosophers, poets and occultists. But these, as well as the investigations carried out by serious researchers, were completely ignored by scientists because they were based on personal experiences (see Schriever, 1935; Moers‑Messmer, 1939).
It wasn't until 1959 at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University that an effective technique for inducing lucid dreams was developed and the first systematic investigations involving several subjects took place. In this article I will discuss the beginnings of this research as well as its further development. Aside from the purely chronological ordering of the individual steps of the development of the research, I would also like to provide a basic outline of the inner connections of the particular areas within the overall research program. This will require analyzing the development of individual branches of research abstracted from their actual chronological order.
In Figure 1 the important areas of lucid dream research in their chronological and logical contexts are summarized. Clearly not all individual branches can be listed and many spheres can only be sketched. Those points which I already published in English will receive only brief mention. In this connection, I would like to point out that a much briefer version of this overview appeared in Lucidity Letter last year (Tholey, 1988c). Unfortunately, only the first part of a more comprehensive abstract was translated and published at that time and more recent research was entirely omitted. Thus I would like to speak to some of the research themes not mentioned at that time and especially highlight two of the more current and somewhat related focal points of investigation: the different forms of lucidity and non‑ordinary ego‑experiences.
Epistemological Model of Critical Realism
I would like to treat it in some detail the critical realistic model given the fundamental significance of it to the development of our lucid dream research program and the interpretation and application of our findings (see also Tholey,
1986b). This model postulates the distinction between the physical world (physical body and physical environment) and the phenomenal world (phenomenal body ego and phenomenal environment). In a waking state, the physical world is represented ‑ more or less accurately ‑by sensory and memory processes in the brain. This was illustrated in a somewhat simplified way in the example of perception in my 1986(b) article (p. 45). It was a simplification because I didn't make a strict distinction between the phenomenal facts and the brain correlates. In fact, we are inclined to adopt a view of psychophysical identity, isomorphism or parallelism. This is not a purely philosophical question, rather, it is a matter of working hypotheses which can be subjected to empirical testing and are not dependent on exact phenomenal/brain distinctions (for details see Tholey, 1980a; 1989c).
We most emphatically distinguish ourselves, however, from naive‑realistic conceptions (e.g., Gibson, 1979) and from the idealistic and similar radical constructivist conceptions. The radical constructivists confuse the critical‑phenomenal conception of the physical world with the physical world itself. The former is constructed on the basis of perception and thought, and frequently changes; whereas the latter obeys unchanging natural laws. A naive‑realistic model has especially negative consequences with respect to research and practice in the field of lucid dreaming and the related field of out‑of‑body experiences. It not only hampers research, but for people who misinterpret such experiences it can have very dangerous consequences, possibly leading to serious mental disorders.
Just as the perceived world can provide us with information about physical reality despite the many deceptions and illusions, the dream world can present us with information about our psychological reality (the psychological person and his or her psychological situation) despite symbolic distortions. In general, we take the term "reality" to mean simply anything that has an effect. Accordingly, we understand psychological reality to mean the totality of that which can have an effect on our experience and behavior (see Lewin, 1936). This would especially include the so‑called unconscious facts which we can conceptualize as psychological constructs and which can basically be replaced by physiological concepts at a later time.
Here we are in agreement with Freud that dreams are the "royal road" to the unconscious. But this is of little help when, in the orthodox psychoanalytic sense, normal dreams are experienced with a hazy consciousness and the absence of an ability to act. Or after waking when we report to a biased psychotherapist about our even more hazy and distorted observations and the associations connected to them.
In order to gain insight into our psychological problems and resolve them, it is much more important to interact with the symbolic world in a way enabled by lucid consciousness and the consequent greater freedom of action. Just as we can interact with physical reality in a waking state by means of the sensory‑motor feedback system, we are capable of taking action in the psychological reality of lucid dreams due to the reciprocal reactions between the symbolic events and the underlying psychological processes. These fundamental principles have provided the basic underpinnings guiding our investigations into lucid dreaming. The results of the research have shown them to be extremely sound in practice.
But now let's turn to the epistemological considerations described in the article written for Lucidity Letter in 1986, in which I focused exclusively on the process of perception. I also emphasized that it was an understanding of the critical realistic model which first brought me to the idea of developing a method for inducing lucid dreams, a method I will only briefly describe.
Techniques for Lucid Dream Induction
The Reflection Technique
When I recognized that the objective and intersubjective appearing perceptual world was merely a phenomenal world, it occurred to me to compare this phenomenal waking world with the dream world through systematic observation. The dream world is, in fact, a phenomenal world. But, being less dependent on sensory stimulation, it is possible for events to transpire which are not possible with normal perception in a waking state. Such unusual events made it possible for me to recognize the dreaming state.
On the basis of these ideas, I developed my first technique for inducing lucid dreams in 1959. I called it the "Reflection Technique." Using this technique, the subject asks him or herself several times during the course of the day: "Am I awake, or am I dreaming?". The purpose is to achieve a generally critical attitude towards one's state of consciousness thus when confronted with unusual experiences this facilitates recognition of the dreaming state.
After four weeks I had my first lucid dream. I recognized that I was dreaming because I saw an aunt whom I knew to have been dead for some time. Since I wasn't at all acquainted with such phenomena at that time, I was at first fascinated by this new experience. Later, however, I was seized by a kind of claustrophobic feeling because I didn't know how or whether I would be able to get out of this dream world. I finally woke up after staring at a flower in the dream environment until the flower and the entire surroundings became blurred.
Price and Cohen (1988), who refer to only one of my articles translated into English, have referred to the reflection technique as the development of an active attitude. With respect to the early application of the technique this is correct. A process of active questioning, however, ultimately gives rise to a passively receptive focus on current experience which, in turn, makes the posing of critical questions a superfluous matter. In other words, increased practice helps develop the disposition making it possible to recognize the dreaming state when triggered by unusual events.
A first important goal in improving the effectiveness of the reflection technique was finding the appropriate criteria for recognizing the dreaming state. These criteria make it possible to spontaneously recognize that one is dreaming: particularities of dreamlike perception and/or the contradiction between knowledge of events in a waking state and momentarily experienced dream events. It is also possible to test whether one is awake or dreaming through a series of physical and mental activities. For example, the subject turns himself approximately 180 degrees and then attempts to stand still. In a dream state, as a rule, the body continues to turn in the same direction or the surroundings begin to revolve in the opposite direction. However, the subject may hesitate to conduct such a test in the presence of other people because of the possibility that he/she is awake. After all most of us shy away from carrying out such unusual activities in front of potential on‑lookers. Thus mental tests may be preferable.
One of the most effective tests is trying to remember what has happened during the immediately preceding period of time. Should one experience bizarre events or a lapse of memory, this may indicate that one is dreaming. However, this test is useless if the subject wakes up since it could be a "false awakening". Therefore, turning a light on, for example, is recommended upon waking up. If the light does not go on, this may signify a dream state.
We have found countless examples that suggest the apparent existence of various forms of psychological resistance which appear to hinder or prematurely end dream lucidity (Tholey, 1981; 1988b).
For instance during one of my own dreams I saw houses, trees and other objects all standing upside down. I immediately thought that I was dreaming. Shortly thereafter it seemed as if I had a pair of glasses on. It occurred to me that the glasses might have been equipped with reversing lenses such as those used in psychological experiments dealing with perception. When I proceeded to take off the glasses I saw my surroundings in a normal, upright position and I no longer believed I was dreaming. We have collected hundreds of such examples suggesting that various forms of psychological resistance apparently seek to hinder lucidity during dreaming.
The Expansion of the Lucid Dream Induction Technique
The expansion of the original reflection technique, resulting in the combined technique, was accomplished by incorporating elements of intention and auto‑suggestion (Tholey, 1982; 1983b). Several researchers outside of our group have shown the effectiveness of our methods (Bouchet & Ripert, 1986; Levitan, 1989). Relatedly, a new combined technique developed by Klippstein (1988) should also be mentioned. We have recently attempted to isolate and investigate the effectiveness of certain factors within the overall technique (Utecht, 1987; Schlag, in preparation).
To understand the further development of our induction technique, it is important to point out that the actual clarity about one's state of consciousness is not by itself a sufficient criterion for defining a lucid dream. Additional factors also have to be distinguished. To illustrate this we have listed six different criteria in Table 1 which are not only relevant to the dream state, but (all other conditions being equal) also to the waking state and various intermediate states as well ‑ above all, the "state of imagery." Consequently, during the further development of our induction technique, we have placed a high value on practicing as many aspects of lucidity as possible during the waking state so that they will be ready for application in the dream state.
Next we want to bring to the readers attention the second criterion of lucidity, "lucidity about individual freedom in decision and action". We consider this aspect to be especially important because it is indispensable for experimentation in lucid dreaming and because the fulfillment of this criterion completely changes the quality of the dream. That is with the second aspect the other aspects of lucidity simultaneously appear, with the exception of the sixth aspect. The sixth aspect of lucidity can be practiced more easily in a "state of imagery" or in a state of waking fantasy (see also Malamud, 1979) than in a waking state, which is usually characterized by a lack of symbolic facts.
Our techniques are somewhat aimed at the same goal as Charles Tart in his book Waking Up (1986). Tart's book is based on the teachings of Gurdjeff and assumes the validity of the hypothesis found in many older spiritual teachings that we are in a kind of psychological sleep or dream state, even during our waking hours. In metaphorical terms, Tart says that we have to pull up the weeds (transform unconsciousness into consciousness) in order to be able to enjoy the flowers. The techniques described by him are in reference to the waking state and include some which are similar to our methods (e.g., "self‑observation" and "self‑remembering").
Our method, however, is more involved. As noted, we also begin with waking techniques. But, we want to arrive at lucidity in a dream state as quickly as possible because it is there that we can come face to face with Tart's "weeds" __________________________________________________________________
From Lucidity to the Evolution of Consciousness
I. General Aspects of Lucidity
(a) in Dream (b) in Imagery (c) in Waking Life
1. lucidity about one's state of consciousness (I`m sure that I'm in dream, imagery, or waking life),
2. lucidity about individual freedom in decision and action,
3. lucidity of consciousness (wakefullness in contrast to consciousness disturbances, eg. narrow or cloudy awareness),
4. lucidity of perception (in a phenomenological sense),
5. lucidity about one's own person, situation and activity, and
6. lucidity about what the dream or the imagined world symbolizes, respectively lucidity about the distortions of defense mechanism in the waking world.
II. Full Lucidity in Sleep
7. lucidity of all dream characters, and
8. lucidity during total sleeping state.
III. Evolution of Consciousness
(a) in Dream (b) in Imagery (c) in Waking Life
in unadulterated forms. In this way we can directly confront the unconscious and thus free ourselves from it by a continuous feedback processes. Eventually, we hope to reach ever higher levels of lucidity in various states of consciousness.
Phenomenological Research on Lucid Dreams
Since, according to the critical realistic model, the phenomenal (waking or dream) world is the only immediately accessible world, empirical phenomenology (in the sense of the observation and description of phenomena) is indispensable for all sciences. The criteria of objectivity and intersubjectivity, which are often used to characterize a science, cannot be maintained, in a strict sense, by the critical realists because they can ultimately be established only through subjective means and thus one can be fundamentally in error. This can be confirmed by anyone who has considered himself to be in a waking state, while, in fact, he was dreaming. This is because the world in a dream state can have the same objective and intersubjective appearance as in a waking state. The possibility of making such a fundamental error, however, does not mean that we have to adopt a completely skeptical position. Conviction does not always lead to objectively and intersubjectively valid observations, but it does so as a rule. Given that empirical phenomenology, by definition, does not seek to investigate objective facts, we demand only intersubjectivity as a criterion for something's scientific character. Indeed, no single particular fact can be tested (e.g., that someone has dreamed in color at a particular time). But more general facts, such as the actual occurrence of dreaming in color, for example, can be subjected to testing (for details see Tholey, 1980b).
Experimental phenomenology was the basic and most often used method in our lucid dream research (for details see Tholey, 1986a). With this method, the researcher instructs the subjects or groups of subjects to carry out various specific activities during lucid dreaming, to observe their effects and record their observations independently of each other immediately upon awakening. For judging the subjects' memory capabilities, it is important that they remember not only immediate phenomenal facts, but also the conclusions and judgements made about these facts (see Tholey, 1981). An interview technique developed by Reis (1989b), which is based on a detailed recording of dream experiences, allows for even more reliable and valid information on dream content than one normally finds with the usual analytical methods. With the help of phenomenological experiments, it is possible to test psychological hypotheses about functional dependencies on phenomenal facts, as well as psychophysiological hypotheses about the relationships between phenomenal and physiological facts.
Objections to the control of dreams have recently emerged in the lucid dream literature. To these objections we can only reply that in our research and clinical work, we have obtained numerous results through the control of dreams making it possible for us to help many people. The subjects of pilot studies always participate voluntarily in our investigations and were always made aware of potential dangers. It is also understandable that the content of our subjects' lucid dreams would differ extensively from the reports of spontaneous lucid dreamers. Above all, our experimental‑phenomenological findings are distinguished from the results obtained by an analysis of spontaneous lucid dreams by a significantly greater diversity of experiential possibilities.
Phenomenological Research in Dream Perception and Cognition
In these experiments we tested a vast number of hypotheses in the area of perception and cognition during lucid dreaming which I have lectured on in detail since 1973 and which, in part, are only to be found in the unpublished reports and dissertations of my students. From among my German publications, I would highlight my review article of 1981.
The phenomenological experiments on perception were first modeled on the usual perceptual experiments in the waking state. We determined if double images, after images and reversible phenomena appeared during lucid dreams under appropriate conditions. These experiments also helped in identifying criterion for distinguishing between a waking and a dream state (see above). We found that all of these phenomena were sometimes, if not always, observed. Although we can frequently recognize the fact that we are dreaming, thirty years of research has still not given us an absolutely reliable test for determining this. This applies especially to the most effective dream criteria discussed earlier.
During lucid dreaming we can sometimes consciously produce perceptual phenomena which differ completely from perception in a waking state ‑ for example, a panoramic field of vision extending 360 degrees in both horizontal and vertical directions. In general, this has occurred only when the dream‑ego was in an asomatic or disembodied state (see below). We also succeeded in deliberately defying gravity and slowing down or speeding up time through the use of various techniques (see Tholey & Utecht, 1989).
In the area of memory, we discovered that subjects in a lucid dream state could not only remember their waking state but also their previous dreams. We were able to establish this by comparing the notes recorded after their earlier dreams. The latter is most assuredly connected to the problem of state‑specific memory. Long‑term memory appears to function somewhat better than short‑term memory during lucid dreaming.
In the sphere of logical thinking, we found that the dream‑ego was capable of solving double‑digit multiplication tasks. In addition, some subjects were able to solve problems of logic which they had unsuccessfully attempted prior to going to sleep. Artistic creative ability was also shown in varying areas, especially during hypnagogic dream phases (Lirzer, 1981).
The abilities of other dream characters were also examined in a way similar to the abilities of the dream‑ego. We saw that the cognitive and artistic performance of other dream figures equaled or surpassed that of the dream‑ego, but were less capable of solving arithmetic problems (Krist, 1981; Tholey, 1985; 1989a).
Phenomenological Research on Dream Figure Interactions
We devoted a great deal of attention to the "internal" (emotional and motivational) and "external" (verbal and behavioral) activities of the dream‑ego during interaction with other dream figures (Tholey, 1981; 1982; 1984; 1988b). We found that in general, positive effects on both the dream and waking life of the dreamer accompanied interactions of a peaceful nature. With regard to this, we mainly want to make some comments which supplement already published material (see especially the English article, Tholey,1988b).
We have indicated that some of the dream characters form sub‑systems of the personality. Even though exact distinctions are not necessarily possible, these sub‑systems can be of a more inner‑personal or psycho‑social nature, on the one hand, or of a more habitual or immediate nature, on the other. We have previously pointed out that dream characters can be altered through changes in our emotional attitude and that we can even create other dream characters.
For example, when I am angry or afraid in a dream, I can blow out the anger or fear through my mouth and thereby create a dream character which takes on an appearance corresponding to the emotion. An indirect way of creating dream characters consists in taking certain actions which trigger strong emotions, such as a guilty conscience. Aggressive actions in dreams are frequently met with punishment meted out by avenging figures. One of my own dreams illustrates this:
I knocked down a dream figure in an enclosed room in order to see if I would be punished. I was seized by the feeling that I would be confronted with something unpleasant, as had happened in previous cases. Tense, but calm, I waited a moment. But nothing happened. Innerly triumphant, I then wanted to leave the room. There, before the door, stood a huge person with a hood over his head who immediately lunged at me causing [me] great fear.
Whether such figures appear or not (above all, in response to socially taboo actions of an aggressive or sexual nature), varies from subject to subject. This seems to offer proof that the appearance and possible changes of the other dream characters is dependent on the dreamer's current emotional state, while this emotional state, however, is dependent on the habitual attitudes or sub‑systems of the personality.
Learning processes probably play a large role in communication with other dream characters. Inexperienced lucid dreamers frequently have difficulty conducting a rational dialogue with other dream figures. This is because most of these figures play word games involving hidden or multiple meanings which the dream‑ego can not initially understand. Thus, it is not surprising that the dream‑ego considers the other dream figures speech to be pure nonsense ‑ although it can later often be shown to have a logical meaning.
Phenomenological Research on the Lucidity of Dream Characters
In addition to the lucidity of the dream‑ego, the "lucidity" of the other dream characters also plays an important role in their communication. In order to avoid misunderstanding, we can never empirically prove whether or not other dream characters are lucid, only that they speak and behave as if they were. Elsewhere I have argued that many dream figures seem to perform with a "consciousness" of what they are doing (Tholey, 1985; 1989a). Some of our unpublished work on the lucidity of other dream figures (in the sense just described) includes examples which seem to indicate that the dream‑ego becomes lucid first. This is followed by the other dream figures attaining lucidity. On the other hand, we have many examples of reverse order. We can illustrate this by means of an example in which another dream character not only becomes lucid before the dream‑ego, he also possesses a higher degree of lucidity than the dream‑ego later achieves. This abbreviated form of the dream was reported by a woman and can be found in Reis (1989b):
I dreamed that I had forced myself through a grey and slimy mass. I didn't know then and I still don't know what it was. It was unpleasant, but for some reason I had to force myself through it in order to advance further. Then, in the midst of this grey slime, I came to a brightly lit place with a person standing in the center. I could see that it was Mr. Spock, the scientist of the Enterprise (the spaceship of the television series 'Startrek'). He told me, 'There is no reason to worry because you are dreaming!' I did not believe him and I asked him what it was that I had just passed through. He answered that I had just passed through my own brain, or my own mind. I did not believe him, but he knew so much more than I did and he told me he would jump up and then remain in mid‑air, just so that I would be able to see that we were part of a dream. Only after this actually took place was I convinced that I was in a dream. Then I said that I would never have found out by myself that I was dreaming. He replied that he knew that and that was why he was there. He also said that he knew much more than me anyway and that was the way it should be right then. He explained the meaning of my path in a very plausible manner... He also explained why it was not necessary to know all this right from the start and that he only explained it later on so that I wouldn't be afraid anymore. Anyway, he told me all kinds of things and showed me things that I did not believe right away. I think it was great to have someone acting in a dream who knew much more than I did.
The dream character of Mr. Spock may be characterized as standing for the so‑called internal self‑helper (ISH) who gives important advice to the dreamer for her dream and daily lives. Our previous findings suggest that one can arrange a meeting with an ISH by means of a suitable pre‑sleep suggestion. While lucid dreaming, one can also arrange meetings with the ISH for a dream in the future.
One often finds an ISH at a place which is difficult to reach and which can be brightly lit (as in the example with Mr. Spock), or which is situated high up. There are examples in which one has to climb to the top of a mountain where one meets an ISH who calls himself a monk, a guru, or possibly a psychotherapist. Others pass themselves off as guardian angels or helpful ghosts (for an example, see Tholey 1984). We also have examples of cases where an ISH knows certain things from the dreamer's past ‑ things which the dreamer himself is not aware of even after waking up, but which further investigation has shown to be true. Suitable phenomenological experiments are necessary to achieve further clarification concerning this important component of lucid dreaming.
In view of the fact that literature in the field of lucid dreaming almost exclusively refers to the lucidity of the dream ego, we have, in fact, consciously chosen an example in which the other dream character becomes lucid earlier than the dream‑ego and is superior to it. Naturally, there are many other examples in which the reverse is true. In such cases it is helpful if the dream‑ego tries to convince the other dream characters that they are in a dream. The quality of the dream can then change completely and communication between the dream characters can take place which may lead to much greater insight than is found in the typical lucid dream. For this reason we consider the "lucidity" of all dream characters (see Table 2) to be a higher form of lucidity. The verbal, or possibly even "telepathic", communication no longer takes place on a symbolic, but rather on a direct level. It has already been possible to confirm this in preliminary phenomenological experiments. I have recently (Tholey, 1989a) indicated that it was possible to enter the body of another dream character with the ego‑core and, in this way, gain more information than was possible with normal verbal communication.
Techniques for Ending, Prolonging & Manipulating Lucid Dreams
We can draw a whole series of practical conclusions about the ending, prolonging and manipulation of lucid dreams from the results of our phenomenological experiments. Just as a dream can be ended by fixing a gaze, a lucid dream can be prolonged when it threatens to end by rapid eye or body movements. As we have already dealt extensively with the possibilities and limits of manipulating lucid dreams (Tholey, 1988), we will only briefly comment.
The control of a dream through the dream‑ego's action in the dream world (similar to the waking‑ego's actions in the waking world) is not what we mean by manipulation. Rather, we mean intervention in the dream world which would more likely be considered a supernatural occurrence in a waking state; e.g., journeys into the past, transformation of the dream‑ego or dream scenery, etc. Just as lucid dreaming has been associated with defense mechanisms, so too has dream manipulation been thought to be a kind of defense mechanism. Lucidity can, indeed, be used in the sense of a defense mechanism for escaping problems and conflicts. But, on the other hand, it also offers the unique opportunity (not possible in normal dreams) to face personal problems and conflicts, to confront threatening people and situations and even to seek them out, rather than fleeing from them (see Tholey, 1988b).
Phenomenological Research on Hypnopompic Phenomena
The fact that lucid dreams can usually be ended by fixing one's vision on a stationary spot makes it possible to closely observe the phenomena which appear during the transition to a waking state. Given that we have already dealt with such phenomena in an earlier article (1981), we will limit our remarks here to a few observations connected with bodily experiences which provide some important background for the remainder of this article.
Only one body was experienced during the transition from the dreaming to the waking state. Of special interest to us here was how the transition took place from an upright, standing dream body to a horizontally lying waking body. This transition is never experienced as the dream body falling into a horizontal position. Instead, there is a sudden change of the spatial reference system. This is comparable, while awake, to when a person wants to go to the door of a completely dark room and suddenly discovers he is at the opposite side of the room. In this case, it is only the sudden change of the spatial reference system (constituted by the room) which is experienced, not the changing of the position of the body through turning and shifting. In further experiments, we tested to see what happens during the transition from a dream to a waking state when the dream body is consciously situated in a way not common during sleeping, e.g., the head and torso bent forward and almost touching the knees, or the arms and legs extended in a spread eagle fashion. Neither a straightening of the body in the first case, nor the drawing in of the limbs in the second case, is actually experienced during waking. Rather, before waking, the body loses its clear contours and sometimes its solid character. We have applied the metaphorical term "cloud‑like ego" to such an occurrence. Upon fully awakening this "cloud‑like ego" stabilizes into a solid body ego with definitely defined contours and is experienced as lying in bed.
A dream ego and a waking ego have also been experienced simultaneously. For example, the dream body gradually faded out (as in a film), while the waking body became more and more clear. The dream body slipping into the waking body was also experienced, particularly during flying dreams. When a cloud‑like ego or a disembodied ego was experienced, it also frequently slipped into the waking body. Occasionally the body was not immediately mobile upon waking, a situation which was very unpleasant for inexperienced lucid dreamers. Practiced dreamers, on the other hand, use this condition to return to a lucid dream state (see Tholey, 1989c).
Hypnagogic Techniques for Inducing Lucid Dreams and OBEs
The above mentioned hypnopompic experiences were used to develop hypnagogic induction techniques which were then employed in an effort to reverse the above sequence. This sometimes occurs as quickly as with the reversing of a reversible figure. We have already outlined other hypnagogic techniques in some of our earlier articles (Tholey, 1982; 1983a) and later described them in more detail and illustrated them with suitable examples (Tholey, 1989c). In many respects, I personally consider the hypnagogic induction techniques to be more appropriate for advanced subjects than other techniques because they allow lucid dreams (1) to be attained at a particular time, (2) can easily be prolonged and (3) can be resumed after short interruptions.
Finally, only hypnagogic techniques made a 24‑hour period of lucidity possible including the total sleeping state (see Table 2 in Section 8). Indeed, only a few people have succeeded in accomplishing this in our experiments. I have personally twice experienced 24 hours of lucidity with approximately a five‑hour period spent in a total sleeping state. EMG measurements showed that my muscular system was completely relaxed during this time. Upon awakening I showed no signs of either physical or mental fatigue. A feedback relationship seems to exist between sleeping state lucidity and waking state lucidity.
So‑called OBEs of the most varied sort frequently arise with the application of hypnagogic techniques. In the following section we will deal with them in more detail from both the conceptual and phenomenological points of view.
Phenomenological Research on Non‑ordinary Ego Experiences
For the description of non‑ordinary ego‑experiences we want to explain certain terms in more detail (including some already used), and also introduce some new ones. This is not easy given that many phenomenological distinctions which are made in the German language can only be expressed in English by employing metaphorical language. In addition, many terms are used ambiguously. We are thinking of such terms as "ego", "I", "me", "self", etc. Sometimes the term "ego" indicates a part or sub‑system of the personality (e.g., in psychoanalysis). By contrast, we attach a phenomenological meaning to this term, as well as the others, in the following discussion.
By the expression "total self" we mean the phenomenal "body‑soul unity" of a subject which comprehends the subject's phenomenal body (in our terminology, the body‑ego) as well as mental facts (in a narrow sense) ‑ above all, the emotions and motivations of the subject. These mental facts frequently appear to be bound up with the body in a fuzzy way as a kind of vessel. They can also transcend the phenomenal body. One thinks, for example, of love or hate with their characteristic connections to other subjects.
There is a particular point within the total‑self, however, which is sometimes referred to as the "center of the self", "center of consciousness", or "center of the ego." "Ego in a narrower sense" or something similar is also used (for details see Kohler, 1938, p. 188) Due to the ambiguity of these terms, we prefer the expression "ego‑core", in accordance with the German term "Ichkern". The ego‑core is less an extended part of the phenomenal field than it is a place or point in the phenomenal world determined by its position and functions. Let's first consider its position in the usual waking condition.
This point can be localized surprisingly well during normal observing or thinking. It is located within the phenomenal body, namely in the frontal area of the phenomenal head, a short distance behind the bridge of the nose. Many authors claim that the ego‑core (or whatever term they prefer for this concept) is located behind the eyes. But in the pheonomenological sense this is wrong because in the phenomenal world we only see by means of a single eye. (The physiologist Hering had described it as the "cycoplean eye" in the 19th century.) This eye includes the frontal area of the phenomenal head. Based on that, we can also say that the ego‑core is located behind the center of this cyclopean eye. To avoid any misunderstanding, it should be emphasized that this localization of the ego‑core only concerns the phenomenal head, not the physical head of the physical organism. Beyond that, the ego‑core should not be confused with either a fictitious homunculus (which suggests information), or with an idealistic epistemological subject which creates or constructs the world. The terms "homunculus" and "epistemological ego" are metaphysical concepts which have no meaning from the standpoint of critical realism (see earlier discussion). The ego‑core can experience phenomenal objects and participate in phenomenal events, above all through visual perception (in a phenomenological sense), imagination, memory and thought. As a rule, the ego‑core is also the phenomenal origin of voluntary activities, including voluntarily focusing attention.
We would consider all experiences which deviate from the described phenomenal facts to be non‑ordinary ego‑experiences. In such situations, for example, the ego‑core can change its position in the phenomenal body or leave the phenomenal body (as with so‑called OBEs), slip into other phenomenal bodies, duplicate itself, or completely disappear. In addition, the described functions of the ego‑core can distribute themselves in various places. There are so many non‑usual ego‑experiences that we can only consider a few of them.
During lucid dreaming, it is possible to experience one's own body or the body‑ego in extremely diverse ways ‑ especially OBEs. We consider OBEs to be experiences during which a second body or a disembodied ego (in our terminology: the ego‑point) leaves the first (experienced as physical) phenomenal body (Tholey, 1966c). The first body is frequently experienced as immobile or rigid; the second as mobile. As a rule, the ego‑core is to be found in the latter. The second body can have the same distinct contours as the first, or it can be a "cloud‑like body." The second body can also usually pass through solid objects, such as walls. In rarer cases, the second body is tied to the first body by a kind of cord. What we have described here is interpreted differently and described in other terms by occultist literature. Table 2 shows a rough outline of the differences between the anthroposophical concepts of Rudolf Steiner and our own.
Anthroposophical Versus Critical Realistic Concepts
Anthroposophical Concepts Critical Realistic Concepts
1. the physical body 1. the (experienced as body
2. the astral body 2. the subtle image of first body
3. the mental body 3. the cloud‑like body
4. the ego 4. the ego‑core or the ego‑point
Naturally, there is also a physical body or organism within the framework of critical realism. It isn't, however, immediately experienced. In occultist literature, the cord between the first and second bodies is also called the silver cord; its destruction is supposed to lead to death (see e.g., Fox 1962).
Research on OBEs
Most investigations of non‑ordinary ego‑experiences refer to OBEs. We have already pointed out the hypnagogic techniques which were used most of the time in our OBE induction experiments. During lucid dreams we can also induce OBEs in various ways (for details see Tholey, 1989c). Finally, we have also used various mirror techniques for the induction of OBEs which are more or less patterned after magical practices. [Editors Note: More on these in the discussion between Tholey and LaBerge to appear in the June, 1990 issue of Lucidity Letter.] The first successful investigation of a mirror technique in our research at Frankfurt University was by Stich (1983; 1989). A method I developed involving two mirrors has been described by Nossack (1989).
An important goal of our phenomenal experiments was to determine whether the same functional dependencies between phenomenal facts are to be found in an OBE state and in a lucid dream state. Aside from the beginning phase directly following the induction of these states of consciousness, we found no substantial differences. In particular, we tried to find techniques for prolonging, manipulating and ending OBEs which were similar to those used during lucid dreams.
Interestingly enough, it was possible for a subject (as an ego‑point) to end a dream by staring at his or her own (experienced as physical) phenomenal body still lying in bed (Stich, 1983). This body would begin to become blurred in the same way as a particular point in the dream scenery of a lucid dream. With regard to manipulation, it was possible for practiced subjects to arbitrarily give the second body (in occultist terminology: the astral body) first a solid quality and then a subtle quality. In this way, the subject could pass through walls at will. The so‑called astral body could also be transformed into animals and plants, among other things. The so‑called silver cord could be cut (without harmful results), although this was a fairly rare event (see Tholey, 1989c). All of the findings of our phenomenological experiments (especially the blurring of the seemingly physical body and the arbitrary transformation processes of the second body) indicate that OBEs are merely a particular form of lucid dreams, with the possible exception of OBEs occurring during a waking state (e.g., during the practicing of certain sports ‑ see Tholey, 1989c).
And now a final important observation in this area, which was also described by Schriever (1935) vis‑_‑vis lucid dreaming. If the ego‑core is actually a pure point of view from which one's own body can be observed, it is also true that particular exertions and pain in this body can be felt as neutral events without affecting the ego‑core. Through practice, some people are able to transfer this ability to a waking state in which the ego‑core is found in the phenomenal head, i.e., not outside the body. It might even be possible for these people to be operated on without anaesthesia.
Entering the Body of Other Dream Characters with the Ego‑core
The previously mentioned mirror techniques can be used as a helpful preliminary exercise for entering the body of another dream character with the ego‑core. In the hypnagogic state, however, one can use imagined mirrors in order to enter one's own imagine in the mirror (Muldoon & Carrington, 1974; Hillman, 1985). In this state, the "image‑ego‑point technique" for inducing lucid dreams (Tholey, 1983a, p. 85) can also be used for entering the body of a dream character.
When entering the body of a particular dream character with the ego‑core, it is advantageous to look directly at the dream character. The ego‑core is often very quickly transported along the line of sight towards and into the body of the dream character. Naturally there are still several phenomenological experiments to be carried out to clarify the effectiveness of particular techniques for this process.
We would like to illustrate this process with two examples. In the first, the subject (an artist) used the above mentioned "image‑ego‑point technique" for inducing a lucid dream in a hypnagogic state. Even though he had never experienced a lucid dream before, he had the following experience the first night after being instructed in this technique:
I paid attention to visual phenomena while falling asleep. I got to the point where I could see a complete scene even though I was still lying in bed as a spectator, not as an actor. Several Indians were kind of hanging out on the beach. Among them was a friendly boy whom I selected in order to enter his body. I quickly succeeded in 'riding on' my line of sight to him. Immediately afterwards I started to see the beach through the boy's eyes; I heard the ocean waves beating against the shore through his ears; I moved with the boy's body. Shortly afterwards, my ego left the boy's body, shot up and then floated above the beach. I thought to myself: 'It did not quite work out yet.' Then my ego slipped into the body lying in bed.
Another example is provided by a student who had already had many experiences with the mentioned mirror technique. His ego‑core entered the bodies of several other dream characters, but he became lucid only at the end of the dream:
I am dreaming that I am married and have a daughter (neither of which was actually true). First, I see the kid playing around and I am very proud of her. Later on, I am lying in bed (person A = dreamer) with my wife (person B). She tells me that we have to separate. I am stunned by that. She leaves and my ego enters her (person B) at that moment. After some time has passed, I (still person B) conclude that I (person A) am not that bad a person after all and I (person B) decide to return to myself (person A). I find myself (person A) in bed with a stranger, a man (person C), and I (person B) get extremely mad and jealous. I (person B) accuse myself (person A) of being a 'queer son‑of‑a‑bitch'. Then my ego slips out of person B and into person C, and now, being person C, I explain to person B why it is alright this way and succeed in convincing B of this. Finally, all three of us are lying in bed making love. I leave all three of them at the moment I am no longer sure which one of them I actually am and then discover that I am sleeping because everything seems so dreamlike. Seeing that, I explain to them (the three people) that I am dreaming and that they are all parts of myself. They turn around, looking at me sheepishly and unbelievingly. Wondering how I manage to talk even though my ego has no body at all. I wake up.
The dreamer interpreted the dream as a psychological conflict in which the ego‑core took over the various sub‑systems of his personality. While this dream obviously symbolized an internal psychological conflict, we also have examples of psychosocial conflicts being clarified and resolved by entering the body of another dream character (for a detailed example, see Tholey, 1988b, pp. 283‑284). Indeed, it is not always possible to make a strict distinction between these two kinds of conflicts because of their closely interrelated nature.
Dream Ego Duplication
The following technique for duplicating the dream ego was developed by psychotherapist Norbert Sattler. He discovered that it is possible to not only pass into another dream character over the line of sight, but that a person can be transported to a different place entirely. The following example from Sattler explains how the dream ego can be duplicated at the same time as this transporting takes place.
Standing in front of a high tower during a lucid dream, I clearly experienced the tower's power. This gave rise to a desire to look down from it. I accomplished this by gliding in desultory fashion to the top of the tower along my line of sight. I then looked downwards and was overcome by a feeling of dizziness. In a similar way as before, I changed my perspective several times until I seemed to be standing on top of the tower and at its base at the same time, while simultaneously looking upwards and downwards. In this way, I experienced the power of the high tower and the dizziness caused by the long vertical drop in one conflicting moment.
A second method, which I developed, for dream ego duplication consisted in cutting one's body into right and left halves (see also the following discussion for the more general method of severing body parts). The two halves can then complete themselves into two dream bodies with differing points of view. As a rule, this method can only be applied successfully by experienced lucid dreamers and the phenomena are generally of an unstable nature. In this connection, it should be noted that the dream‑ego, according to Chang (1963), can be "multiplied into millions and billions to fill the entire cosmos" (our terminology: the total dream world).
Movement of the Ego‑core Within the Dream Body
The above mentioned technique for dividing the dream body into two halves is patterned after a more general technique developed by Norbert Sattler (see preceding section) for cutting through or cutting off various parts of the dream body with a knife. With this method, pain can be felt and resistance can be encountered if the subject hasn't learned to transform the solid dream body into a subtle body. The ego‑core also becomes mobile by means of cuts made through the head and can be moved arbitrarily within the uninjured dream body with further practice. In this way, it can inspect the entire dream body and internal organs much like the Guided Affective Imagery (GAI) technique described by Leuner (1978). This could ultimately be of great significance for the diagnosis and treatment of psychosomatic illness.
Destruction of the Dream Ego
If a subject not only severs various parts of the body, but also tries to completely cut it up into pieces, burn it up or destroy it by other means, then the dream body as well as the dream ego‑core disappear. This is similar to the techniques used by shamans (e.g., see Kalweit, 1984) who are considered by many researchers to be pioneers in consciousness research. The vanishing of the ego‑core can lead to different states of consciousness. Relatedly, Dittrich (1985) argues, on the basis of factor analysis of numerous experiments, that there are only three main dimensions (independently of pharmacological and psychological causes) within the various forms of altered states of consciousness: 1. oceanic self boundlessness,
2. anxious ego dissolution, and 3. visionary restructuring.
As a rule, only hallucinatory events take place during a lucid dream. Whether the vanishing of the ego is accompanied by peak experiences of type 1, or unpleasant, fearful experiences of type 2 depends, above all, on the subject's epistemological point of view and the emotional attitude flowing from it. Otherwise, we see no decisive difference between these forms of experience. Those of the first type were the only ones encountered by our experienced lucid dreamers who carried out the experiments without any anxiety or fear. They can sometimes be described as cosmic experiences with a holographic structure in which the self and the (phenomenal) cosmos form a single unit.
The Evolution of Consciousness
A series of phenomenologically differentiated experiences can be distinguished in which the opposition of the ego (or self) to the world is eliminated. This is discussed in chapter 10, "The Evolving Soul", of Gackenbach and Bosveld's Control Your Dreams (1989).
We are of the opinion that such peak experiences, above all in the Indian culture and subsequently in many western cultures, are too dependent on meditation techniques and frequently lead to a passive condition marked by withdrawal from the world. But similar states can also be reached while physiologically awake. Numerous Japanese Zen Buddhists, whose outlook is close to German Gestalt theory, are able to reach such states of consciousness by means of the "outer way"; for example, through artistic or physical exercises. Zen Buddhist philosophers (see Itsutsu, 186, p. 35) also speak of a "supra‑consciousness". In both Zen Buddhism and Gestalt theory (which is itself supported by countless empirical investigations), the vanishing of the ego (or at least its receding into the background) is the most important prerequisite for unprejudiced perception, productive thinking, free and creative action. Given, however, that we adopt an egocentric attitude as part of growing up in our western culture, the road to creative freedom is not easy. By eliminating certain impediments in the form of psychological resistance or defense mechanisms, lucid dreaming can provide a key to the successful traversing of this road (for details see Tholey, 1989c). It is not possible to describe this road in more detail within the context of this article; nor the many diverse applications which we have only been able to touch upon.
In conclusion we would like to point out that reaching creative freedom in perception, thinking, and artistic or scientific activity, shares a similarity to "enlightening" or "waking up" from the robot‑like sleep of our day to day existence as described by Tart (1986). But we are also of the opinion that there is a lot of investigative work remaining. We have merely made a single excursion from which it is only possible to point out new research perspectives, rather than report final conclusions.
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University of Bristol
Why do I seem to be more conscious in a lucid dream? I mean, that's what happens, isn't it? There you are dreaming away, ridiculous and quite unaware that it is a dream and suddenly you seem to be there. It's as though you've woken up in the middle of a dream, only of course the body hasn't. What has changed?
I realize that I can't come to grips with what this question means. To ask, "why am I more conscious in a lucid dream?", begs a whole load of questions about consciousness, about "I", the nature of self, and about what it could possibly mean for something to be more or less conscious. It's a horrible question. Nevertheless I will have a go at answering it.
First, what's interesting about lucid dreams is not their content. We know that the content differs a little bit, but as Jayne Gackenbach has pointed out, lucid dreams are more like ordinary dreams than they are different from them. Second they are not interesting because of when they happen. They occur during REM sleep. So so far as we know you can't pinpoint when one's happening from knowing something about the stage of sleep that the person's in. Third they are not particularly more vivid, not in any very dramatic way that makes you say that is what the difference is. The only thing it seems to me that makes a lucid dream interesting is this peculiar thing that I seem to be more conscious.
Now it may help, (and it may not), that there are other experiences in which you get this same sense of being acutely conscious while not apparently having a normal physical world. These include near death experiences (NDEs) and out‑of‑body experiences (OBEs). We know a lot about the similarities between OBE's and lucid dreams. The same people have them, they feel very similar and so on. But there is a very interesting difference in the limitations on lucid dreams and on OBEs and NDEs. In them all, you are in a world of the imagination. Out‑of‑body experiences happen when you are very relaxed, when you are meditating, when you are going to sleep, when you are so exhausted that the system can no longer build up good models of reality, or when for any other reason you are unable to construct a view that says that that table is there and I'm here looking out through the eyes. If you are awake and you have an out‑of‑body experience, you are in this imaginary world and yet most people having out‑of‑body experiences think they are still in the ordinary world.
We define the out‑of‑body experience as an experience in which you seem to perceive the world from a location outside the physical body. And people jump, as Stephen LaBerge said, to the assumption that they are out of the body and looking at the world down there. Now this is the limitation in the OBE, because if only you could say "I know, it isn't real, it's just the world of imagination," then you could go off and do anything, because you are wide awake and you've got all your waking faculties but people rarely do that. By comparison in the lucid dream you are aware that it is a dream. You know that this is not the ordinary world which has all of the limitations of say, "if I bash it it hurts". But the trouble is, you do have the limitations of the fact that the brain being asleep. The brain can only build certain kinds of models while asleep. The near‑death experience has features of all of this. When people get very close to death, many seem to go roaring down a tunnel with a bright light at the end: off you go into the tunnel, and into the light, and there may be a being of light. There you may immediately find yourself out of the body or you may go on to other worlds. In terms of these limitations, again people assume that this world is "real." They are going down a "real" tunnel and going to the afterlife. So they are not only constrained by all the assumptions they are making, but also by the fact that the brain is dying, and therefore it is really in trouble, it's in even worse trouble than when you are asleep.
So we can compare these experiences. We know that they feel somewhat similar, but they are bounded by different conditions and therefore the potential in the experiences is rather different. In all of these I think what makes them interesting is this quality of seeming real, and therefore when I've tried to understand them, I've always tried to be true to that knowledge that it feels absolutely real. Yet I have also to be true to a lot of other things. For example, I cannot make any sense at all of the idea of astral bodies. I just don't think they hold water logically, and all the evidence seems to suggest that when people see things in out‑of‑body experiences they are seeing them as they appear in imagination not as they are in fact.
At the moment I'm trying to understand the tunnel. I think we can understand how the tunnel comes about in terms of the physiology of the visual cortex, because the way the cells are organized is such that there are far more cells representing the center of the visual field and far fewer on the outside. As the brain is dying and there is not enough oxygen there is an increase in random firing of cells. This is greater in the middle and much less towards the outside. In fact it looks like a dark tunnel with a bright light in the centre. This might explain the tunnel form but why does it seem real? Unless we can answer that, we can't begin to answer questions like, "Why am I more conscious in a lucid dream?" I want to tackle that question. I'll keep deviating and coming back to this question, and I hope you'll see why the deviations are relevant in the end.
So what makes this question so difficult? First, as I mentioned is the problem of consciousness. Second is what is meant by "I"? Now this is something that Stephen nicely skirted around in his talk, but I'm not going to. I'm going to face it head on. What on earth is this "I" who is more conscious, and what do I mean by "more conscious?" We have no framework within psychology or in fact within any other field of science to come to grips with any of these but let me have a go at them very briefly and try to reject some views that I think won't work, before I go on to give you a framework of my own which will allow me, to my satisfaction at least, to answer the question.
Let's take consciousness first of all. It is a horrible problem. Why? Because it isn't like anything else. The problem of consciousness is something like this: Here I am. There's the room. I can't say anything more reasonable about consciousness than that there is this awful quality of being here now.
Any theory of consciousness which tries to solve the problem fails if it says something like, "consciousness is a fluid", or "consciousness is a kind of special stuff", or even "consciousness is a level of activation". It may be related to any of those things. But to say that it is any of those things misses the point. Rather, it is what it is like to be here now. Similarly, you may say that consciousness lives in the DNA, or consciousness is enfolded in the structure of the universe but any of these attempts, interesting as many of them are, miss that very point about what it's like being here.
The closest anyone has come for me, at getting at the problem was the philosopher Nagel who asked his famous question, "What is it like to be a bat?" He said you can only say that something is consciousness if there is something it is like to be that thing. And yet if you ask what is it like to be a bat, there is a problem, because what counts as the bat? You may think this is a niggly question, but it is the sort of question that makes me think there is something wrong here. I mean, do you count the little fingernails on the end of the bat? Do you count the skin of its wings? Do you count the hair stuck to its skin? Where does the bat begin and end? There is something not right. I can't really make sense of the idea that there could be anything it is like to be a bat. Well I'll come back to that.
Now what about me? What am I? I am going to take a step on from what Stephen talked about (and I'm delighted that he has said a lot about mental models and the way perception works by constructing mental models and schema, because I don't have to say anymore about that). I can simply add that I am also a mental model. I mean, what else could I be? I'm not some little homunculus in there looking out through the eyes, am I? That just doesn't fit with what we know about perceptual processing. It doesn't fit with the assumption psychology makes that we are information processing systems building models of the world. Here is a system which builds a model, says this is Sue Blackmore and she's standing up there on the stage and she's so important, my God she's important, and the whole world revolves around her, and there's the world out there, and I'm in here. It's a model that makes me think I'm in there looking out. But it is only a model.
What then could we mean by "more conscious?" Now, it's very easy to attack any kind of a scheme that says things are more conscious when they are bigger, or better, or more. How could there be more consciousness? And yet, if you look at the nature of experience, particularly as you develop experiences as you go along, there certainly is a sense in which some experiences, for want of a better word, seem "higher" than others. I would like to feel that in trying to answer this question I'm in some sense addressing that question too.
Now what I've said so far has been rather negative. So let me have a go at explaining what I think and answering the question.
If there isn't anything it is like to be a bat, I'm going to make an alternative suggestion. I'm going to make one suggestion only, from which everything else follows. And it may be a completely ridiculous suggestion, but you may have some fun as I have had playing about with it. I don't think there can be anything it is like to be a stone, or a book, or a bat, or a computer, or even a human being. I think there can only be something it is like to be a mental model. You can never answer the question, "What is it like to be this bat here?" because you could always argue about where its wings finish and whether its tooth is part of the bat. I don't even know if bats have teeth‑‑ yes they must, they are mammals. But if you took the idea that the bat is an information processing system building models of a bat, I think you could then say what its like to be that model of a bat. Because if that model includes the fingernails, then fine, that's what it's like to be the bat, and if it doesn't include the fingernails, that's fine, that's what it's like to be the bat. It's internally constrained. You can always ask, "What is it like to be a certain mental model?" by looking at the way the system has built it.
Basically I am saying "Consciousness is what it is like being a mental model," and some truly ghastly things follow from that position. After all, here is this amazing information processing system churning out models all over the place. It's not just churning out one model that says there is a load of people out there on red chairs, it's churning out models from the retina‑‑the retina in the back of eye has three layers of cells that are producing representations of the world, so I'm saying they're conscious, am I? Yes, I am. But if you ask what it is like to be the representation constructed by the ganglion cells in the retina, the answer is it's not much. It's fleeting, comes and goes, and doesn't have much stability. It's not very interesting. But what we know about most human systems is that they have this whopping great representation of self, me, here, now, and it's a big model. And I can ask, "What is it like to be that model?" I suggest that is what it is like to be me, here, now, being this construction of this brain.
We might say the same about computers and robots. My personal PC sitting at home on my desk doesn't need a model of self, so I would suggest that being the models it creates is pretty boring, but a robot in order to pick up this cup, which some robots can do, needs to have a model of its arm and therefore a rudimentary model of self. And I would therefore say that there is something it is like to be that model of that robot picking up that cup. It does away in one go with the whole problem about where consciousness begins and ends. It doesn't begin and end, it is simply a by‑product of anything that represents anything else. So you can answer some of the most interesting questions about consciousness. For example it doesn't really evolve, I mean there isn't any sense in which there has been any selection pressure for consciousness because it's just a by‑product. If it's just what it's like being the models created. The selection acts on the modeling but not on consciousness itself. It's not there for a purpose, it doesn't have any meaning, it just happens to be the case that as soon as you get complex organisms like this tumbling around in the world building models of themselves that they think are so important they have is this sense of what it is like to be here now. And we just have to get on with it.
Well, what then of the self? We like to think that our self is a conscious thing making decisions and responding. But there are plenty of good reasons for supposing that that's just an illusion. For example you may think you pulled your hand away from that fire because it's burning hot: you've felt the burning heat and moved your hand. In fact, it's very easy to demonstrate that the hand moved, and some time later came the impression of awareness of the hand moving and of the heat. The awareness is in no sense instrumental in the response; it's purely a by‑product. But you may say, "Oh well, I initiate my actions, I'm a conscious being going around in the world deciding what to do, aren't I? I'm in charge, I'm the big me." But let me describe the experiment that Libet did. People were asked spontaneously whenever they felt like it to clench their fingers, go like this, whenever they liked. They didn't have to respond to any stimulus or do it to any time, just completely spontaneously. He also measured electrical activity in the brain which can be shown to come before the physical movement readiness potentials. Now he wanted to find out whether the decision to act came first, or the readiness potential came first, because if it's the decision to act that's in charge of the whole thing you'd expect that to happen first, then the readiness potential, then the movement. Now of course it's very difficult to time the moment when you decide to act, but what he did was to have a clock with a quite fast moving hand on it, and the person had to say where that hand was at the moment they decided to act. There has been a lot of argument about that technique. I think I'm happy with this technique at any rate. What he found by this method was the readiness potential comes first, the decision to act comes next, and the action comes last. It looks again as though the conscious awareness of deciding to act is just a by‑product. That's not the only interpretation of that experiment, but it's the one which fits nicely with what I'm trying to say, so I'll peddle it. You can read the arguments in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences from 1985 if you want to find some alternatives, but I think it's tricky to get around that one. At the very least this demonstrates that if we think we are something very important in charge of things, responding to things consciously, acting consciously, we have to realize that there are very, very severe limitations on that.
So, I would suggest then that we are just models of self and models that seem to be aware of a world. But if it's all a model, and the experience is just what it's like being a model, there is no sense really in which there is a separate me and separate world. It's all just part of the construction, and whatever the brain constructs, that's what we have to put up with being. Now, what this leads me to is the very obvious point that if consciousness is what it's like being a mental model, then the way to understand altered states of consciousness is by asking, "What are the models constructed in different states of consciousness?" And then we can begin to make some progress with our question.
Let's look at the out‑of‑body experience first. Why should somebody suddenly construct a model of themselves as though from on the ceiling? I think actually once you ask the question in that way, the answer becomes fairly obvious. I can think of two reasons. Firstly, I think the brain has to make some decisions about which of its models constitute the model of reality, the model of the external world, and it's reasonable for the brain to make the assumption that there is only one. And I suggest for the sake of argument that it chooses the most stable model in the system and calls that the external world. I think that's a heuristic that would work quite well. So the brain says, o.k., those chairs stay there. They don't go away, they behave like chairs. If one falls over, I see the foot that kicked it as well. That is the external world, and all this other stuff going on in here I'll call imagination. But what happens when you haven't got a stable input‑driven model, when you haven't got enough sensory input coming in consistently? I think the system will hunt around for a model that's good enough. And where is it going to look? How is it going to find a new model when it's only got memory and imagination to go on? And we know something quite interesting about memory, that memories are often constructed in bird's eye views. Try a little exercise yourself. Try and remember when you were looking for this building. Now try and remember this, you were walking on the street, looking for the building. O.K.? Now are you seeing that from eye level or are you seeing it from above? According to this idea you who saw it from above should be the people who are more likely to have OBE's, because you habitually use those kinds of representations.
An alternative reason why you might have an out‑of‑body experience is because facing up to the impact of what's coming in on the input is too terrible. And I think when people are falling off cliffs, or the lorry is about to hit them, they just cannot take it, and will therefore shift to a view in which it's not so horrific. It doesn't really matter why the system does it. All I suggest is that the system switches to a simplified bird's eye view when it can't, for whatever reason, construct the eye level view. And the eye level view is tricky to construct. I mean, shut your eyes and try to construct this table in proper perspective. Any of you who are artists will probably be able to do it, but it's not that easy. In my art classes I am constantly being told off for not getting the ellipses right. It's not that easy. It's much easier for the brain to do it from up there where they are circles.
To summarize, I am saying that if the system has lost input control, it's going to try to get back to a stable model of reality. And a bird's eye view may be the only one it's got. If that's the most stable, I think it will be treated as real, and that's why it seems real. It's just as real as anything ever is real, because it's the best model the system has got, and there isn't anything else.
So what about sleep? What I'm trying to do now is to ask, "What are the mental models constructed in altered states of consciousness?" Let's look at what happens as you go to sleep. As the system starts to go to sleep, processing capacity drops. Input is suppressed. It is not possible any longer for the system to build the sort of model of reality we're used to, with a self and an external world. Now if I'm right, and what it's doing all the time is saying, "Well the most stable model I've got is real," you may have this stage that all the models are dropping down, lots of them sort of simmering down, as it were, when any might momentarily be above the others in stability. And I think that is what you get in very vivid hypnagogic imagery, when suddenly something can seem real, and then it is gone. Once the models have all settled down you go into deep sleep, with very little processing. We can ask what is it like to be those models? Hardly any models at all is not like anything much. There may be rudimentary thoughts churning away, of the sort that we've already heard about, schema just ticking over, not much activation, but nothing much else. Now then, what happens as you get towards REM? The whole system is activated, but paralyzed, suppression of reflexes, suppression of input, but there is a large processing capacity. The capacity to build models of the world. Now what are those models going to be? I'm very grateful to Stephen who has done a good job of saying what sort of models those will be as you come into dreams. But, you have not got good access to memory. It is not easy for the system to dredge up a model that says, "My name is Sue Blackmore, it's Thursday night, I went to bed at 2:00 in the morning, and here I am asleep." There isn't enough access to memory, there isn't the capacity to build that kind of a model. So what kind of a model is built? If it has a self at all, it's an extremely rudimentary self that doesn't remember much, can't do much, can't take many decision, or partake in many complex things. Everything is confusing. But what then, if arousal gets higher? And one of the greatest, most important discoveries I think in the lucid dreaming work is that lucid dreams occur in times of higher arousal, because this implies they're occurring when there is more processing capacity and better models being built.
I think what happens then is that a model of self is constructed which is similar enough to the waking model for me to suddenly think, "Here I am, folks! This is me!" Of course there isn't a me saying that, I mean this is just a part of the model, but if you ask what is it like to be that model, what it's like is pretty similar to what it's like to be me in the day. Whereas if you ask what it's like to be that model in an ordinary dream, it's not very similar at all. No wonder we can't remember it very easily.
So I think now we can answer my question. The reason I feel more conscious in my lucid dreams is because I, the mental model, have been constructed by the brain in such a way as to be more similar to my waking self. So I, the model, feel more conscious. And it's all just a by‑product of all that processing going on.
Well, what next? It's tempting when you have lucid dreams think, "Wow, it's a lucid dream, now I can do anything‑‑what shall I do, shall I fly?" What shall I do? I could do anything. I think, for myself, there is only one answer. What I want to do when I think I can do anything, and that's to meditate, to take no part, but that's another story.
Questions and Answers
Stephen LaBerge: Could you say more about that 'other story'?
Blackmore: The other story? I don't know which other story. I'll just pick one. Another story would be if you want to understand any state that you can be in, you have to start by saying, "What are the mental model's constructed?" And if you take meditation as an example, what are the mental models constructed in meditation? They all depend on the technique that you use. But a lot of them are towards simplification. If you use a technique which is always letting go of thoughts, you sit there, you have this impression that there is a self letting go of the thoughts. Now on the view that I have expressed, there really isn't any self looking at the thoughts. But I think it's a necessary stage that you have to go through; to convince yourself to believe that or you're never going to get anywhere with persuading the system (which after all isn't you) to do the hard work which is very unpleasant for you. You've got to trick it. And the only way you're going to trick it is by taking on board the idea that there is a higher self or something, which I think is just an illusion, but you've got to take that on and say, "O.K., I will let go of every thought that comes up," and for a long, long while there is you and there are the thoughts coming up. And you can see that in terms of the mental model being constructed by the system. It's still constructing a self, it's still got the thoughts that come up. But after awhile, with a lot of practice, the models change, and I think it's quite possible‑‑this is telling the story in sort of three leaps from beginning to end‑‑that the system can stop building a model of self. And once the system has even a few times got into a state of not constructing a model of self, it's like you were saying about lucid dreaming. You said, I think, if I understood you correctly, you now have available a new schema which says this is a lucid dream. I think it's a lot harder for the system to have available the schema that says there is no self. That's a really tricky one. Nevertheless it does arise. And having arisen the system is somewhat different.
I think this is (to tell a completely different story) why near‑death experiences transform people in the way they do. By the brain's very dying process, by the fact that it can no longer build a model of self, it's gone that far, and got dragged back, but it has been just once to a selfless state. That is enough to change the person who's reconstructed afterwards. He, the model, is somewhat different. Is that enough of a story?
Morton Schatzman: This is the first time I ever heard anyone talk about the bird's eye view in memory. I once asked a number of people to recall their earliest memories, and found that everyone's earliest memory is always remembered from a bird's eye view.
Schatzman: They saw themselves in the schema, but from outside the schema.
Blackmore: That's very interesting. Have you got data on that?
Schatzman: It is just from few people, anecdotally.
Blackmore: I'll go and try it myself. That could be because some people's first memories are not in fact memories, they are things they have been told, and we often construct things from stories we are told in bird's eye view. It doesn't matter which it is for the purpose of what I am talking about. The bird's eye views are easier to construct in some respects, but that's very interesting. Thank you for that. I'll go and ask a few people.
Question: I'm interested to know how you can deal with cases where a person was having an OBE and could see things which they couldn't possibly have seen from where they were or could recall things that happened when they were unconscious.
Blackmore: I would divide them into two categories. There are the sort where what the surgeon said and the events going on in the room, can be constructed from auditory information. I think what's happening is that you may be more or less unconscious, unresponsive, apparently unconscious, but you still have auditory input getting in. You can still hear what the people are saying, and you can easily re‑construct auditory input as though from a bird's eye view. I mean, you hear what the surgeon is saying and then imagine them. Also sound is not as directional as vision. If you open your eyes in an out‑of‑body experience you usually come straight back. I have in fact had ones where you get the dual view and it's very confusing. But on the whole if you open your eyes you're straight back. But it is not the same with hearing. Our directional sense in hearing isn't that good. So I think it's quite plausible that we can be constructing a view from up there and incorporating into it what we hear.
Now there are a few cases which cannot be explained that way, and I've discussed these with Ken Ring and Ray Moody and people like this who are working on it. There are very, very few. There was the famous case of the tennis shoe on the hospital ledge which the patient allegedly saw. She went out of her body and went outside the building and then someone later checked and the tennis shoe was there. This has gone through so many versions that I'm not really sure, and various people have tried to go back to the original. Really, I don't know, it might or might not be so. More important probably is Sabom's evidence on people looking at visual details that they couldn't have known, for example, the exact shape of the paddles which were used to resuscitate them, or the behavior of needles on the dial. I'm suspicious about this business about the behavior of needles on the dial only because medical records don't say, "The dial went up and then twiddled around and then went back." They give a general description. So when they say, "It was exactly what happened," I would need more detail on that. But those are the sort of things which if they turn out to be right, and if they're repeatable, then I'm wrong.
A problem in finding out is that there is no money. You can't get grants to do this research. I'm sort of struggling along with no grant, as usual, trying to do bits and pieces. If there were a whole load of people doing research on near‑ death experiences we'd find out soon enough, but I guess it might take us ten years, or twenty years, but we'll find out. I mean either they'll be replicable or they won't. If they come thick and fast in the end, then I have to rethink it.
Jayne Gackenbach: Susan, I'd like to take you back to our earlier discussion on meditation. If you're in meditation and the task is to reduce the model, to simpler and simpler forms, and then eventually the model that is built is a model of no self, then essentially you've still got a model. That's not the end. From what I understand about these systems there are other stages in the sequence that go beyond no self. There is an apparent developmental sequence. What drives that sequence? Why that sequence? I mean what you're talking about in sleep is your internal needs as Stephen pointed out in waking the sensory bombardment is driving the system. What's driving non‑self?
Blackmore: First of all, I wouldn't say that there is a model of non‑self. If you have a model of non‑self, that's just another model of something. The point is not having a model of self, which is rather different. The system may still be constructing models, but they're not models which say there is a self and there is another world. They are not making a distinction. Now any model that is made at all must be based on a distinction. Always as soon as there is a distinction, there is a model, and then there is experience. So that's one thing I wanted to say. But I can't answer your second question, what drives the process away from the way the biology ought to be driving?
Gackenbach: Why is there a sequence? There is apparently a certain set and this comes first, and then this, and then this.
Blackmore: That's a different question. The first one, I would say it's very difficult to understand what could be driving it, because after all biological necessity is driving us to have this self‑ model in order to behave, and to carry on and have babies and everything else. So it's hard to see what could be driving against it. Why is there a sequence? There is a sequence because I think if you de‑construct any complex system you have to de‑construct it in a certain way. I mean if you take apart a car, you are going to have to get the shell off first before you get into the gearbox.
Gackenbach: There is a reconstruction as well, as far as I understand it. Did you read the Lucidity Letter (June, 1989) issue that I gave you where I went through the five stages? The long term meditator that I interviewed got to a certain point of deconstruction but then he started to reconstruct.
Blackmore: Yes, I guess I don't know. Well, we can have many more fruitful days discussing it!
Question: If who we think we are is a model that we construct, sometimes when we sleep at night we don't remember that we slept. We go to bed at midnight, we wake up at 8:00 in the morning or whatever, and it's as if we had just laid down, and we have no recollection of what happened for eight hours. Would you say that that is also a model of unconsciousness, that when we don't remember what we've done or we have no perception, that is a model and that that model is different than what you're talking about?
Blackmore: Yes. Fair question. But first of all I want to take you up on the way you phrased it, because you said "I am building this model and I'm doing‑‑" I always say "the system", because it is the whole system that is doing this: it's creating me.
The difference I would suggest is one where there is no capacity for any model building, and so there can't be any models. That's like the table, or anything, just a lump of flesh. The sorts of states that I'm talking about now, which I hadn't intended to talk about particularly, because I was asked to talk about lucid dreams, are ones in which there is the capacity for enormous model building and yet no model is built. It's sort of emptiness. Spaciousness, because there is all that capacity, and it's not being used. That's what makes it somewhat strange. And you can say, "What is it like to be that?"‑‑that nothing model, where there is all that capacity, is quite different from a system which just doesn't have any capacity and can't do anything.
Question: I would like you to clarify something for me if you could. If I understand you, the lucid dream is so real because there is a re‑activation of a model of the self, let's say similar to the waking state.
Question: If that's true, first of all why are lucid dreams so often associated with very exceptional kinds of experience, like flying, for example, which seems very real. Nightmares often seem very real. Other kinds of dreams seem very real. Those reality models don't seem to correspond very easily with the waking model of the self. And the second part of that question would be, why wouldn't you make that kind of argument for REM sleep in general, because in REM sleep it seems like the body is acting very much like the waking state. The phenomenological studies seem to suggest that REM dreams are very ordinary, very much like reality. What is the difference between the lucid dream and the ordinary dream?
Blackmore: There are about five questions embedded in there. I'm not sure if I can remember them all. Let's start with the flying. I think flying is a good reason to get into lucidity because you can't do it normally. That's all, it's just a kind of trigger because you can use your logic and say that it can't happen. But your more important question is about‑‑let's take the nightmare. I don't think it seems real in the same way as a lucid dream does. It doesn't have this quality of "I'm being awake" in it. I mean that's the horrific thing about the nightmare. It arouses all these ghastly emotions because it is constructing a really good model of the monster. I used to have a recurring dream of vats of molten metal and I was on a tightrope above and going to fall into them. But there was never any quality of being aware at the time. It was only when I woke up I would think, "Oh God, why didn't I realize?" It was frightening because it seemed real but when I woke up I realized it was only a dream."
What I am saying is very simple really. The system takes the most stable model it has got at the time to be real, so it seems real. But if it hasn't got a convincing representation of self, with all the details that it normally has it is not "I" to whom it seems real. You've got to have not only the realness but the "I" as well to get this quality that you have in a lucid dream, and that you have sometimes in waking life if you are mindful.
Gackenbach: There are moments of wakefulness when we are hyper‑aware that we are real, there is an extra‑special sort of presence and awareness and you are there with it, as in the lucid dream. In much of dreaming you are asleep, in a waking sort of way, and the same sort of thing when we're awake, we're asleep. I think she means there are moments while waking that are similar to moments while sleeping. She's not saying all waking is like that moment when you know you're dreaming. Not at all.
Blackmore: Yes, most of waking is a process of a similar model keeping on being constructed to the point where it seems like a continuous self. If you're more mindful you realize that it's just another model, and another model, and another one, and "Oh God, I forgot. Here I am again," and there isn't that continuous self.
Question: I've been wondering about this model that says that lucidity is a matter of self‑consciousness. I know I'm here. I used to have lucid dreams that were initiated by my dropping a contact lense, and then looking for it, and then it doubles. There are two of them. And that knowledge would tell me, "Yes, it's got to be a dream." It had nothing to do with, "Oh, here I am!"
LaBerge: But didn't the quality of the dream somehow change in making that recognition. The knowledge in the boundary was I couldn't believe it was dream, but I knew it had to be. I'm saying that I think you're right that it has to have that clear representation, but that can be there and not be explicit knowledge that it's a dream. That's another kind of consciousness, so that we can be conscious of many things, from a pretty low level of consciousness to an abstract knowledge of the fact that you know it's a model that you're seeing. You see, that's a different kind of consciousness. I'm seeing lucidity is an abstract consciousness, it's understanding, not a seeing.
Gackenbach: It's still a construction.
LaBerge: Of course it's a construction, and it's another functional system, maybe the left hemisphere, for example, that's relatively activated. What Susan's trying to answer with the "what's it like" question is referring to your conscious experience of looking around and seeing things. I think the best way to approach the question of consciousness is not as consciousness but as conscious behavior.
Blackmore: Well, I don't think you can do that. I don't think you can talk about conscious behavior versus not conscious behavior. Give me a paradigm for doing it.
Can I just go back before I ask that, to this thing about modules. Because the implication of what I've been saying is that for any of the models constructed by any of those modules, there is something it is like to be it. In other words it's conscious. But it's not necessarily conscious to me. So for the person with blind sight, their self model is quite cut off, because of the brain damage, from the models produced by the orienting system. So I am not aware of it. It also is not aware of me. I mean it's a reciprocal thing. Just because I happen to be the biggest and best model, so I suppose, in the system doesn't mean I'm the only one who can be aware. The rest of the system is also.
LaBerge: Well sure. Now awareness is a different thing from consciousness. To answer your question of what's the difference between conscious and consciousness behavior I can show you. If you can put your hands together with interlocking fingers, which thumb is on top? One of the two thumbs is on top. Now do it another way. That's the difference. The first time you didn't consciously direct where you put those thumbs. It was an automatic pattern that you had no awareness of. Unless I'd asked, "which thumb was on top?", you wouldn't have known. Where in the second case you used a different mental mechanism to direct your behavior.
Blackmore: I think I could turn that inside out. Take skilled behavior, if I paid attention to it, and therefore were conscious of it, I would do it very well, whereas if I did it in a hurry while the kids are shouting at me, I would do it very badly. You could almost draw the opposite conclusion.
LaBerge: No, I didn't say that consciousness or conscious behavior was efficient. It's not. It's inefficient, it's slow, it's a serial processing. But it's flexible. It can do things we've never done before. Automatic behavior, unconscious processing is well integrated, fast, effective for doing what it's always done, but not conscious behavior. So that's why you have two kinds of systems. You've got most of it automatic, but if you start paying attention to it, it starts breaking down. That's what we're referring to. Consciousness is useful for reorganizing the system and making it creative. I think there is an adaptive function of consciousness. In philosophical traditions there is not. In the psychological literature there is. I'm agreeing that consciousness is a model.
Blackmore: If you say that, please don't say to anybody that Sue Blackmore says that consciousness is a model. I would never put it that way because it's extremely misleading. The only way that I'd ever say it is that "being conscious is what it is like being a model". This is because consciousness can't be a thing. There just can't be a thing labeled consciousness. It doesn't work and it doesn't make sense. So I wouldn't say that consciousness is a model. There are models all over the place. Consciousness is what it's like being one of them. I mean I'm not saying that you couldn't say that. I'm just trying to clarify the problem with that statement and pointing out that I wouldn't put it that way.
Gackenbach: Can I continue this and ask you both, then, what would you do with the experience of pure consciousness? As I've spoken with you both about it I believe you both know what I'm talking about. [Editors Note: see Gackenbach article on pure consciousness in the June 1989 Lucidity Letter and the Alexander one in the December 1988 issue.]
LaBerge: First, I would call it pure "awareness." My understanding is that, first of all, I would not agree there is nothing what it's like to be a model. There is a certain number of states. To me awareness has to do with the number of different states of entity. What we have in terms of consciousness is a separate thing, that is a representational model of our awareness. So it's something added on top of awareness. Now awareness may be just here. Everything may be aware, we don't notice because it always is, and of course our brains are evolved to notice what changes. That's why it's biologically adaptive. We've got biological brains. So from that perspective I can't rule out the possibility that there is another truth here now and always that we just don't see because it's always here. That we would expect. So I have an open mind about that kind of possibility that there can be an underlying awareness to everything that doesn't have anything to do with the brain. But the brain obviously has got to do with consciousness.
Blackmore: Do you want me to say something about pure consciousness?
Gackenbach: Oh, you know I do!
Blackmore: I had a great argument with Jayne about pure consciousness because I think if you take pure consciousness as a thing or a stuff or a power or the ground of the universe or something which has causal properties, I can't make sense of that idea at all. It doesn't seem to me to have anything to do with consciousness in the sense of what it's like being anything. On the other hand the experience of pure consciousness is something quite different, and I'm not going to stand up here and say I know what that is.
TARAB TULKU XI
Within the Buddhist tantric tradition there is great emphasis on using the dream state of being for developmental ends. There exist a special practice called Dream Yoga, which in the West has been presented in one of the "Six Doctrines of Naropa". The Dream Yoga is a high meditation practice which is performed by the adept within the so called lucid dream state.
However, working directly and consciously in the lucid dream state is not accessible to very many people as the dream yoga methods are very strong and direct methods for development. I have committed myself to developing ways of dealing with dreams, which on the one hand is a training towards the actual dream yoga practice ‑‑ the practicing within the lucid dream state ‑‑ and on the other hand can fruitfully be used to more effectively confront and dissolve problematic psychological structures than by dealing with these in the ordinary waking state. Therefore, in my way of dealing with dreams it is appropriate to talk about different levels of purposes: 1) a surface level of psychological observance, and 2) a more subtle level of spiritual observance.
The psychological observance level is the practice level concerned mainly with changing our general psychological structures with the purpose of decreasing our everyday problems in relation to self and others. In contrast, the spiritual observance level, is a practice level mainly concerned with changing our existential existence with the purpose of decreasing the distance between, and thus unite, our rational and non‑rational abilities or our feminine and masculine energies or our body and mind or substance and consciousness. By healing the gaps and finally uniting subject and object we break the dualistic determination and encagement of our existence. This is done by entering into the nature of existence, the essential nature of the universe.
It should be noted that the distinguishing these two practice levels is provisional. The two levels follow each other sequentially. One must solve one's major problems on a psychological level before being able to successfully enter the more subtle spiritual level where changing one's existential structures in relation to reality occurs.
One of the main concerns on a psychological level is to obtain a balance between our ordinary coarse, rational contact with and/or interpretation of reality and a non‑rational relation with reality. This balance can be obtained, and has traditionally within Buddhism been obtained, from two alternately used angles: 1) one can use methods to awaken and train the non‑rational contact, whereby the coarse rational contact naturally will be softened, and become less rigid and projective and thus more open and clear, 2) or one can use methods to directly reduce the coarse, rationally created reality. In the second to touch upon and be able to perceive and appreciate a more direct and non‑manipulated relationship with reality, a step which in itself will further a non‑rational contact with reality.
During the process of establishing a balance between our ordinary, coarse rational and the non‑rational contact with reality our psychological problems change as they are part and parcel of the coarse rational creations. In dealing with dreams, in the dream state in particular, we initially train the non‑rational way of contacting reality, using our dream body/mind abilities. With this basis we deal with the dream object ‑‑ and later again with the dream subject ‑‑ in different ways, slowly breaking the coarse rational beliefs as well as many other layers of our dualistic way of existence.
Before I talk about the way I work with dreams, I will briefly be concerned with the creation and dynamism of our ordinary way of being, i.e. the ordinary course, rational way in which we contact reality. The foundation of the Buddhist psychology of perception/cognition, characterized by "the five skandhas" is useful. This system describes our psycho/physical dynamic being from the perspective of the meeting of subject and object, in other words it is a detailed breaking down of the moments of perception. We also need to concern ourselves with the question of why the dream state is particularly useful for our purposes: that is, the nature of the dream state. Finally, I will present how I find it useful to deal with dreams within the dream state and within the imaginary dream state ‑‑ methods based on the traditional dream yoga practice.
The Coarse Rational Way of Contracting Reality Illucidated Through a Presentation of the Five Skandhas
The first skandha relates the corporality of the object in terms of the qualities of form/color, sound, smell, taste and tactility, and, the corporality of the subject, in terms of our body and especially in terms of the physical sense organs and faculties. The first moment of contact or perception of the object/reality, within the ordinary waking state, is through the functional dynamism of the first skandha, our physical body, i.e. our five senses individually contact with the related qualities of the object. From the senses the sense impressions go to the five respective sense consciousnesses. Neither the senses nor the sense consciousnesses have intellectual abilities.
Immediately after the sense contact, the second skandha, the basic feeling which differentiates attraction from rejection sets in. The middle part of the "wheel of existence" refers respectively to lack of intrinsic awareness and to this basic feeling differentiating attraction and rejection.
The third moment of perception can roughly be described as the "taking in" of the sense‑impressions by consciousness (which belong to the sixth sense consciousness, the aggregate pertaining to notion/conceptualization). In the ordinary waking state the sense‑impressions are not just "taken in" but, especially within our modern, Western, highly materialistic cultures, the sense‑impressions are almost simultaneously "taken over" by a consciousness dominated by a coarse‑rational approach. This leaves the person with very little if any conscious awareness of the pure sense‑impressions. The coarse‑rational consciousness refers to the consciousness which establishes that the perceived object is in accordance with the stored image, and with the name/connotations of similar, already perceived, objects. All this is created within a certain complex cultural/individual view of reality.
The image we create of an object has first been singled out of it's natural interconnectedness with the whole and given a name. This image, when it is first created, will most often come between oneself and future similar objects' "perceived". Therefore, instead of actually perceiving the object, in the ordinary waking state, we mainly perceive our already created image of a similar object, and seldom meet the object more intimately than that.
The naming/language part in itself is most useful. However, in the coarse rational approach the name/language has a tendency to take over reality, i.e. we denote the language more meaning than reality itself ‑‑ ontologically we exchange reality with the map of reality. Due to the prejudiced creation of the coarse rational way of contacting reality, which we automatically and more or less subconsciously superimpose on the actual sense perception of the object in focus, we create our own reality, which in general is alienated from and most often not incomparable to reality as such.
Following the "taken in/taking over" of the sense‑impressions by consciousness, feelings based on the coarse rational interpretation, arise to a more coarse level of pleasant/unpleasant feeling evaluation. Pleasant feelings arise when the object in focus seems to nourish and/or protect our image of ourself, and unpleasant feelings arise when our image of ourself is endangered. The coarse‑rational contact gives the direction for the feeling/evaluation of oneself and the feeling/evaluation increases one's belief in the coarse‑rational perception/cognition. In general, the feeling/evaluation has the last word in reality proof and in decisions.
When the feeling/evaluation of oneself in relation to the object thus arises, it enhances the further building of a coarse‑rational interpretation of the object/reality. For instance, if one first evaluates the object as good/supportive of oneself, one naturally approaches it and contacts more or less solely it's "good" sides. If, however, one first evaluates the object as negative, confronting, or undermining for oneself, one's interpretation and contact is skewed toward it's negative aspects. How trivial this description may sound, but it has a great impact on our perception/cognition of reality.
Due to the dynamism between the coarse‑rational contact/interpretation and the feeling/evaluation of the object/reality, the different emotions accordingly arise. Here we enter the domain of the fourth skandha, the skandha pertaining, among other things, to mentation/emotion. When the emotions have first arisen, often that which we so passionately "love" and "hate" does not actually exist as such, apart from own self‑created image of the object/reality.
The fifth skandha, the aggregate pertaining to our basic, very subtle consciousness energy refers to the main essence of being. The rnam‑shes is underlying and gives energy to any psychological/mental function. That is, any kind of perception depends on the rnam‑shes ; the sensing, the coarse‑rational perception/cognition, the feeling/evaluation, the emotions etc. If we take away all the above mentioned psychological/mental functions of the first four skandhas, the rnam‑shes such is still maintained, continuing in and throughout all other states of being. Any of our mental/physical acts pertaining to the first four skandhas leaves bag‑chags, imprints, in our basic psycho/physical energy of the rnam‑shes. These are carried through into any other states of being, for instance into the dream state of being, from where they again emerge, being part of the manifest dream.
The coarse rational/emotional, perception/cognition of reality is thus, as pointed out above, not "pure", but gives us a projected view of reality, which always is mixed up with our beliefs, fears and self‑protective tendencies, emotional states etc.
When in the beginning of this paper, the importance of first obtaining a balance between the coarse‑rational and the non‑rational relation with reality was stressed. I referred to "a state of being in relation with reality", which is not so corrupted by the coarse‑rational/emotional approach, but is in closer connection to the basic psycho/physical energy of the rnam‑shes. That is, closer to the actual nature of being.
In order to diminish and break the coarse rational creations, we have to use an appropriate kind of consciousness, which works in a different manner. For our purpose we have different natural states: the deep meditation state, the dream/bardo state or deep sleep/death state of being.
Why the Dream State Is Particularly Useful for Psychological As Well As Spiritual Observances
The dream state is useful for our purposes due to it's different manner of functioning, it's different nature. In psychologically changing ourselves it is stronger and more effective to work with our difficulties from a level of being. This transgresses the coarse, rational domination and also transgresses the limited contact with reality we ordinarily have, due to our bondage within the rough physical body. If we want to progress in spiritual direction, change ourselves existentially, change the relation between subject and object towards their unity, then one must transgress both the coarse, rational domination and the limitations and bondage of the physical body.
As we have just shown our ordinary perception/cognition has a limited relationship to the object/reality. This is manifest in different ways. First of all, the perceptive/cognitive process of our ordinary waking state is strongly dispersed. The actual perception through the five distinct senses, though they can have direct contact with the five object qualities correlating with the senses, have no unity in themselves and no intellectual abilities. Further, the coarse, rational consciousness, belonging to the sixth sense consciousness, has no direct perceptive tools by itself, but has to rely on the sense impressions of the five physical senses and the five sense consciousnesses. This has a strong tendency to create it's own individual reality, which might differ radically from the ordinary "surface reality" as such. Secondly, the perception/cognition is bound within the physical body and limited accordingly, i.e. it is space and time limited.
In the dream state, as well as in the deep meditation state, perception and cognition are united. The sense‑impressions are not functionally distinct. They are not dependant on the physical sense organs, but operate directly from within the sixth sense consciousness, i.e. the fifth sense consciousnesses and the sixth sense consciousness operate naturally in union in the dream/meditation states of being ‑ implying a natural basis for uniting body/mind and subject/object. This doesn't mean that the dream state and the deep meditation state are purely mental states. In general, within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, body and consciousness always need to work together. A body doesn't work without a consciousness, and a consciousness doesn't work without a body.
In the dream state and deep meditation state, we also do have/are a body. However, the dreambody and the body in the deep meditation state, often named the subtle body, are not of physical nature, but are energy bodies, and have therefore the ability to go beyond the limitations and bondage of the physical body, and beyond the space and time fixations.
An energy body can be characterized as the basic energy of our physical body, which is in close connection with the basic mental energy of the rnam‑shes. In the ordinary waking state we naturally also have/are an energy body, but we are normally not aware of it. In general, we only use our rough physical body with our coarse rational consciousness. In such a state our physical and mental aspects of being are strongly separated.
In any Tantric meditation we try to awaken and train the energy body ‑‑ for example, through awakening the energy in the chakras etc. In the Six Doctrines of Naropa there is a specific Tantric practice where you train the sgyu‑lus, translated to "the illusionary body". The illusionary body is a very subtle energy body, which can be established through deep meditation. Through the sgyu‑lus practice one can leave the rough physical body, enabling one to use the subtle body without interference. However, it takes a long time and is very difficult to be able to awaken and train the sgyu‑lus from the waking state of being. In general, when we try to awaken and train our energy body from the waking state, the physical body constantly interferes. It is very difficult not to take notice of the physical body as we are used to identifying with and greatly caring about it.
However, in the dream state we have already parted from the rough physical body and we naturally have an energy body (the dream body) and because this state is much more closely connected with our ordinary state and our life situation in general, the Tantrics are often using the dream state in order to develop and practice the subtle body.
However, though our more subtle abilities are naturally awakened in the dream state, we are ordinarily, in this state, still dominated by our normal, coarse, rational and dualistic views and beliefs of separation between body and consciousness. So in order to be aware of and be able to use the abilities of the dream state, we need to train our dream body and dream consciousness. The training to which we will now turn.
How I Find It Useful To Deal With Dreams Within the Dream State and Within the Imaginary State of Being ‑‑ Methods Based on the Traditional Dream Yoga Practice
The first stage is "holding the dream". This stage involves the training to both remember dreams and go consciously into the dream state. That is, having lucid dreams, knowing the dream is a dream while dreaming.
For psychological reasons it is very important to remember one's dreams. In the waking state we reject the repressed conflicts and fears, which we find difficult to deal with. However, these conflicts and fears, among all acts pertaining to the first four skandhas, leave imprints, bag‑chags, in our basic psycho/physical energy of the rnam‑shes, and reappear in the manifest dream in order to be lived through in this level of being. I find that to live through psychological difficulties is the natural psychological function of the dream.
However, when the dream state is at rest and the will power created, the adept should move into the active energy in order to 1) create a clear dream (a dream which is clearly remembered in details afterwards, leaving a strong impression on the adept) or in order to 2) consciously be aware in the dream state, knowing the dream is a dream, i.e. having a lucid dream. But if the adept gets too much into active energy, he/she will wake up. He/she therefore needs to hold a fine balance between the non‑active and the active energy, using the chakra energy of type 3 above, in order to stay in the lucid dream, neither waking up nor falling back into the ordinary dream flow.
The second stage is "mastering the dream". In this stage, knowing the dream is a dream while dreaming, the adept develops his/her own power of using his/her dream body with volition. This enables him/her to deal actively with the dream object in a way, which is similar to the way we deal with it while awake.
The first step of obtaining the power of mastering his/her dream body, is to consciously be the dream body, as ordinarily we are being our physical bodies. Being the dreambody still requires the adept to train how to use it. He/she needs to get all the senses to work properly and to be able to move the dream body at will.
Next the adept trains the use of his/her willpower through the dream body in order to further investigate that which captures his/her interest. When this step is mastered he/she has the ability to acknowledge disturbing psychological structures emerging in the dream, and further he/she has the ability to work directly in the dream state with them.
In this context, I will mention some methods the adept can use to work directly with fear when confronted with negative aspects in the dream scene (the dream object), and discuss how/why these methods work. The adept is advised never to flee the negativity, but to either fight it, or better still, to let the negativity destroy him/herself. In other words, unite with the negativity. In order to understand how these methods work, we must understand the dynamic between the negativity and the subject being confronted by it. Here we have to reach back to the basic psychology presented earlier under the third skandha, where we found that pleasant feelings arise in contact with the object, when the object seems to nourish and/or protect our image of ourself, and unpleasant feelings arise, when our image of ourself is endangered. Thus, within my interpretation and experience the negativity frightening the adept in the dream is a picture/representation of the adept's fear of having his/her self‑image destroyed.
If the adept flees the negativity he/she misses the opportunity to work with his/her self‑image and with the fear of having it destroyed. Instead, through this action he/she manifests his/her self‑image even further. Secondly, if the adept fights that which will destroy his/her self‑image, he/she creates a feeling of being protected in him/herself, and he/she will therefore feel stronger both in the dream, and also, it seems, in the waking state reality. Thirdly, the adept can let the negativity destroy him/herself in the dream, i.e. he/she can unite with the negativity. When the negativity destroys the dream subject, it destroys that which the adept identifies with and therefore wants/needs to protect, his/her self‑image. However, when this is destroyed the adept goes beyond this image of him/herself and reaches a more authentic layer of his/her being. No longer identifying with the image, there is nothing to maintain the game of fear and negativity, which is why there no longer is any fear or negativity. The adept has united him/herself with his/her fear and negativity. Through this act, it seems to me, he/she has solved the underlying psychological problems.
Having obtained the ability of "mastering the dream" it is possible for the adept to do many different and possibly unusual things within the dream. If, for instance, the adept wants to understand certain things, it could be within the sciences or within philosophy, psychology, the arts, he/she can ‑‑ through various methods ‑‑ contact or tune into "energy‑lines" of the knowledge he/she wants to acquire. The dream state gives special possibilities to do so, due to it's special nature of a stronger unity between body/mind and subject/object.
The third stage is "changing the dream". Above I mentioned that the core point in the dream yoga was to break or go beyond our dualistic way of existence. In this stage the adept is supposed to start directly breaking some of our strongest beliefs: the belief of solidness and absoluteness of the object, and the belief of our separateness from the object, the belief of time linearity and space fixation. Thus, in order to change the dream object the adept has to train him/herself to go the will power of his/her dream body/mind, contacting his/her basic structuring energy, through which he/she can contact the dream object of the same energy level. On this very subtle structuring level of being there is a correspondence between the energy of the subject and the object, through which the direct contact is possible. Through this direct energy contact the adept can change the object, and/or can create objects at will.
In order to train to go into this subtle structuring level of being, the adept is traditionally instructed to use different deity‑meditations in the dream state. However, to use these certain initiations are required. When the adept can tune into this subtle structuring energy of the subject and the object, and use it for changing the object, he/she is breaking the ordinary natural laws of separateness. After obtaining this ability the adept is able by his/her will power and unity abilities to transgress ordinary space and time limitations.
When the adept was working with the dream object, he/she had to work from his/her more rational/active chakra energy side, still keeping a balance in order not to awake from the dream state. But approaching the training of the unity abilities of subject/object the adept is advised to work more through the non‑rational, non‑active, feminine energy side.
As I have mentioned before, different levels of imprints, bag‑chags, of more or less problematic observances, give rise to the main part of the dream. Having sufficiently mastered the dream the adept naturally and spontaneously does seem to know which method to use in successfully dealing with the dream appearances, and through these with the underlying bag‑chags. These needed to come out, that is to be lived or worked through. After having mastered the methods of changing the dream appearances, the adept can now change the unwanted, unpleasant dream situation or his/her dream being. This act seems to have a direct healing impact on the underlying psychological difficulties associated with his/her waking life.
The fourth and last stage of the dream yoga is to "merge with the unity of the subtle body/mind". Here the adept is no longer working with the dream object/appearances. He/she now works directly through the unity of the subtle feminine and masculine energies of his/her dream subject, going beyond the dream appearances. From this state of being, which is closely connected with the above mentioned state of "the illusionary body", the adept works directly with his/her relationship to the waking state reality, also breaking the ordinary natural laws of the reality of the waking state.
However, as mentioned in the beginning, it is not so easy to traverse the step of knowing the dream is a dream, to be able to create lucid dreams at will, or to go consciously into the dream state of being.
Instead of working directly in the dream state, I have found it useful for the adept to work with the same methods in the imaginary‑dream state of being. The imaginary‑dream state is a deeply relaxed state from which the adept enters a prior recalled dream, with which he/she wishes to work. It is much more effective to work with the dream from the dream state is than to work with the recalled dream from the imaginary dream‑state. The dream state is more subtle than the imaginary‑dream state. The imaginary‑dream state is more easily influenced by the view of the coarse, rational consciousness. However, psychologically speaking, if the adept is able to enter the imaginary state and not be disturbed or influenced by the coarse, rational view then it seems fruitful for him/her to apply the dream yoga methods in the imaginary dream state.
For advancement on the spiritual levels, i.e., existentially changing the dualistic way of existence, breaking the natural laws, it is, of course, difficult to work from the imaginary dream level due to the possible interference of the ordinary coarse rational dualistic view. However, some progress takes place when the methods are properly used.
In general, it should be clear, that any practice towards awakening and developing the subtle energies of body/mind, whether through the imaginary dream state, training the imaginary dream state, training the chakra energies etc., has a great impact on the abilities of the adept in creating clear dreams, and in furthering his/her dream power necessary for creating lucid dreams at will, and for working directly with the dream appearances in the dream.
Selected references concerning 'Du‑shes, the rational/coarse rational consciousness and concerning the mNgon‑sum, the non‑rational consciousness in respect to direct perception of the yogi mind:
1) Tibetan Tripitaka D.G. ed.,
No. 4210: Tshad‑ma rnam‑hgrel gyi tshig‑lehur byas‑pa (the Tibetan translation), Pramanavarttikakarika,
Written by Dharmakirti
'Du‑shes in chapter 1, and mNgon‑sum in chapter 3.
2) Tibetan Tripitaka D.G. ed.,
No. 4204: Tshad‑ma kun‑las btus‑pahi hgrel‑pa (the Tibetan translation). Pramanasamuccayavrtti,
Written by Dignaga.
'Du‑shes in chapter 2, and mNgon‑sum in chapter 1.
3) Tson‑kha pa's Collected Works,
Volume Ca: Rnam‑hgrel gyi bsdus‑don, Thar‑lam gyi de‑_id gsal‑byed,
Written by, rGyal‑tshab dar‑ma rin‑chen.
'Du‑shes in chapter 1, and mNgon‑sum in chapter 3.
Selected reference concerning Rmi‑lam bsgom‑pa, the "Dream Yoga":
4) Tibetan Tripitaka D.G. ed.,
No. 2832: Rmi‑lam dri‑ma med‑pa bsgom‑pa (the Tibetan translation).
Written by Ajitamitragupta.
Selected reference concerning Rmi‑lam bsgom‑pa, the "Dream Yoga" and the sgyu‑lus, the "Illusionary Body":
5) Tson‑kha pa's Collected Works.
Volume Ta: Zab‑lam na‑rohi chos‑drug gi sgo‑nas hkhrid‑pahri rim‑pa, yid‑ches gsum Idan & Na‑rohi chos‑drug gi dmigs‑skor lag‑tu len tshul bsdus‑pa. Written by Tsong‑kha pa.
Harvard Medical School
Freud's theories about repression and defense grew to maturity alongside those about dreams. In The Interpretation of Dreams, he wrote, "The forgetting of dreams depends far more upon resistance than upon the fact, stressed by the authorities, that the waking and sleeping states are alien to each other" (p. 559). Repression as a prime cause of the forgetting of dream content continues to be an evident fact in the eyes of psychodynamic clinicians but the repression hypothesis of dream forgetting has not been regarded as having much merit by researchers. Singer and Schonbar and Domhoff and Gerson did find a mild relationship between dream forgetting and the Welsh R. Scale, the latter measuring repression. However, Wallach and Bone, Nelson, and McAllister failed to find any significant relationship between dream recall and the "reversal" scale of the Defense Measuring Instrument (DMI). This scale is designed to measure repression and denial, and thus this finding is opposite those predicted by Freud's repression theory. In a major recent review of the causes of dream forgetting Cohen concludes the repression hypothesis should be discarded.
There are a number of reasons owing to various methodological shortcomings to believe the repression hypothesis has been prematurely rejected. First, the "repression" measures employed have not always matched Freud's use of the term. Also studies have usually examined dream recall by subjects' estimates which have been shown to be unreliable compared to dream diaries.
The purpose of the present study was to explore again the relationship between repression and dream recall while taking into account the problems noted above, and to explore the role of other defenses closely linked to the concept of repression.
Subjects, 88 male and female undergraduate students, were predominantly sophomores (70%).
In order to measure defensiveness, Welsh's second factor scale R was employed along with the Repression scale of the Marshall Personality Measure, with the latter thought to be truer to Freud's original conceptualization of repression.
Subjects were asked to keep home dream diaries, and four measures of dream recall were derived from these. First, the number of days on which a dream was recalled was obtained along with the actual number of dreams. The total length‑in‑words of each subjects' dream reports was also counted. Finally, a mean length score was calculated for each subject by dividing total length by the number of dreams.
Though not consistently, the repression measures did correlate with some of the dream recall measures. With the exception of a separate scale comprised of items pertaining to dream experiences, the Welsh R was uncorrelated with any of the dream recall measures.
The relationship of the Marshall Repression scale with the dream measure was somewhat more systematic but still limited to extremely low magnitude correlations. Marshall Repression scores correlated negatively with the length of dream reports from long‑term memory for the total sample as well as for females, but not for males. With respect to the diary dream recall, only in the third week did The Marshall Repression Scale correlate significantly with the length of dream reports after steadily increasing from week one to week three. The correlations of the Marshall Repression measure with the number of days and dreams recalled were in the predicted direction and exhibited a similarly increasing pattern over the course of the study but failed to reach significance in any case.
The results of the study represent support for the hypothesis that repression accounts for at least some instances of dream forgetting. These findings are generally consistent with earlier findings of low magnitude significant negative correlations between dream recall and measures of repression and indicate that as repression measures become truer to Freud's original concept, this effect is becoming more readily detectable.
P. ERIK CRAIG
Center for Existential Studies and Human Services
Worcester and Cambridge, Mass.
This paper focuses on the application of phenomenological perspectives, principles and methods for the use of dreams in the psychotherapeutic situation. Upholding the appeal of the European philosopher and "founder" of phenomenology Edmund Husserl "to return to the things themselves," existentially oriented psychotherapists (e.g., Binswanger, 1963; Boss, 1958, 1963, 1977; Craig 1987a, 1987b, 1988; Stern, 1972) seek to illuminate the meaningfulness of dreams by inviting patients to explicate in detail the concrete episodes of their manifest dreamt existence. As the two partners of inquiry, the therapist and the patient, continue open‑mindedly to observe the specific events and elements of a particular manifest dream, the once obscure meaningful forms and structures of that dreamt existence gradually reveal themselves directly. Such an "unambitious reading" of what dreams themselves disclose does not require symbolic interpretations which rely more on the authority of the clinician's theory than on the authorship of the dreamer him or herself. Indeed, for phenomenologically oriented clinicians theoretical‑symbolic interpretations are in general highly suspect with reference to their existential validity for the patient.
But, it may be asked, what is it that is seen with this kind of unpretentious, phenomenologically discriminating observation? The answer is simply those possibilities of existence, of being‑there‑in‑one's‑world, to which the dreamer was him or herself open while dreaming. The critical and clinically significant point with this perspective is that while dreaming individuals tend to be more open to certain of their own existential possibilities than they are while they are awake. Thoughtful observation of dreams usually reveals that during dreaming individuals seem to select certain, typically fairly limited, domains or topics in their lives and then examine these relatively defined areas under microscopic light. Although the sequestered domains under consideration often appear magnified in such bold, vivid relief that the original concerns are barely recognizable, the intensive microscopic seeing of the dreaming eye offers a paradoxically wider and richer vision of things than is usually possible in waking when an individual cannot afford the luxury of such close‑up laboratory‑like investigation.
The first challenge for the clinician is therefore simply to discern the particular meaningfulness of the individual's dreaming existence precisely as it was given to the dreamer. The second challenge is to identify those features of this dreamt existence that announce the dreamer's own existential constraint as well as his or her heretofore unclaimed possibility. Psychotherapeutic readings of the dream therefore trace the ever changing borders between freedom and constriction in the existence of the dreamer, pointing always to both sides of the existential frontier: retrospectively to the ways in which the individual has lost touch with his or her own inheritance as a human being and prospectively to ways in which he or she might still lay claim to a more fully realized authentic existence of his or her own.
Binswanger, L. (1963). Being‑in‑the‑world. New York: Basic Books.
Boss, M. (1958). The analysis of dreams. New York: Philosophical Library.
Boss, M. (1963). Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis. New York: Basic Books.
Boss, M. (1977). I dreamt last night... New York: Gardner Press.
Craig, E. (1987a). Dreaming, reality and allusion: An existential‑phenomenological inquiry. In F. van Zuuren, F. Wertz and B. Mook, Advances in qualitative psychology: Themes and variations (pp. 115‑136). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger; Berwyn, PA: Swets North America.
Craig, E. (1987b). The realness of dreams. In R. Russo, Dreams are wiser then men (pp. 34‑57). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Craig, E. (1988). (Ed.). Psychotherapy for freedom: The Humanistic Psychologist , 1(1)
Stern, P. (1972). In praise of madness. New York: W.W. Norton.
University of Alberta and Athabasca University
A bit more than ten years ago a new wave of systematic research began into dream "consciousness". The experience of knowing one is dreaming while the dream is ongoing left the quagmire of parapsychology and gained scientific respectability. Interest in "lucid dreaming" has since mushroomed beyond the few dissertations of the late 1970's to a body of work most recently organized and presented in Gackenbach and LaBerge's Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain (1988). From a sleep researchers perspective several key lines of inquiry have been pursued in investigations of dream lucidity. These include, its psychophysiological bases, the content of the dream experience, who spontaneously experiences these dreams, how to induce lucidity while asleep, and clinical applications of dreaming lucidly. It should be noted that other disciplines also take this dream experience seriously with lines of discussion emerging in philosophy, religion, and anthropology.
This surge in interest began on opposite sides of the Atlantic when both Keith Hearne, at the University of Hull, and Stephen LaBerge, at Stanford University, were independently and completely unknown to one another working on the problem of how to verify that when one was conscious during a dream while one was in fact asleep and dreaming. Both came up with virtually the same procedure, an eye movement task. That is, their subjects were instructed prior to falling asleep that they were to signal with a prearranged set of eye movement signals when they knew they were dreaming. In both studies these researchers were able to establish that first the dreamer could provide such a signal, second that the sleep laboratory technician could read the signal as distinct from normal REM and third that independent judges could accurately pick out the signaled REM episodes. With these two ground breaking studies the area of lucid dreaming research was launched.
One of the best theoretical conceptualizations of dream lucidity is Harry Hunt's conceptualization which is put forth in the Multiplicity of Dreams (1989) of lucidity in sleep is a form of spontaneously emerging meditation. There are several lines of converging evidence which support the lucidity‑meditation link which will be briefly summarized herein (for a more complete summary see Gackenbach and Bosveld, 1989) before the clinical implications for working lucidly in sleep can be considered. This is necessary because the tie between psychotherapy and meditation is gaining considerable currency in contemporary Transpersonal Psychology.
Hunt based his theory originally on the phenomenological and philosophical parallels between the states of meditation and lucid dreaming and the fact that several meditation traditions directly talk about this state of consciousness in sleep. However, there are also now several studies of meditators and lucid dreamers which reveal important psychological and physiological parallels as well. Specifically, Hunt's theory is bolstered by Gackenbach's work on individual differences associated with lucid dreamers and the individual difference literature on meditators. Both lucid dreamers and meditators exhibit the same pattern of personal characteristics. Perhaps more interesting are the results from five studies, which have found that the waking practice of meditation increases the frequency of experiences of consciousness in sleep.
Physiological parallel's between lucidity and meditation also exist. Supporting the meditation‑lucidity link is a finding with a muscle reflex as well as with two measures of electrical activity of the brain (for details see Gackenbach, in press). Further, based on their work with lucid dreamer type differences in vestibular sensitivity Snyder and Gackenbach (in press) hypothesize that REM sleep and especially lucid REM sleep might be best characterized as internalization of attention. Meditation has most often been conceptualized as a process of internalizing attention.
It is quite fair to conceptualize dream lucidity as a form of sleeping meditation and thus the clinical concerns relating psychotherapy to meditation become relevant to any discussion of psychotherapeutic applications of dreaming lucidly. Two perspectives seem to be emerging in the Transpersonal Psychology literature. One has argued that westerners who are practicing eastern traditions are running into troubles which their eastern teachers are at a loss to deal with and characterize as narcissistic problems which serve to both draw an individual into such practices and to stop their growth in such practices. This implies that one needs to have a self first in order to lose or transcend the self. Applied to lucidity this perspective would argue that one might use the lucid dream to work through normal day to day problems before undue focus is placed on lucidity as a vehicle for seeking the spiritual highest.
In a slightly different perspective it has been pointed out that it is hard to separate forms of pathology from forms of transpersonal experience. Spiritual pathologies can look psychotic but the difference between these and truly psychotic individuals lies in the history of the individual. The apparent spiritual psychosis may be reactive and state specific and the eastern traditions offer guides to getting through it. Applied to dream lucidity this perspective points out that when lucidity is used to only seek the highest spiritual ideal one may still experience problems. A case in point is that of psychotherapist Scott Sparrow who recalls the development of his lucidity, which he always framed as a spiritual quest:
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.
Although dream lucidity is probably not the most developed form of sleep consciousness, the characteristic of active involvement in the dream while it is ongoing offers a unique opportunity to the dreamer to consciously engage, experience, and encounter his/her dream. That is, to be actively involved with the dream experience while knowing that one is fully engaged in a self created world. This apparent dual nature of the experience allows the introduction of volitional states not normally available while not lucid in sleep.
Working with your lucid dreams in one sense is classically Freudian in the sense that dreams are the "royal road to the unconscious". But lucidity allows working with your dream material while you are experiencing it. In that sense you are not working with remembered material as while awake and in therapy rather you are living fully the experience. You don't lose your sense that you are in a "real world" when you become lucid in sleep. This paper will give guide lines to work within the dream while lucid while also providing some cautions.
Therapy in Sleep
Gayle Delaney, a San Francisco based dream psychotherapist, notes that "if you look at what is uncomfortable in dreams you'll begin to get lucidity as a by‑product." After all, she goes on, "psychoanalysis is like the witness ‑ your taught to watch your thoughts to see where they go." Ernest Rossi, author of Dreams and the Growth of Personality, details a sequence of stages that his patient, Davina, went through in her dreams while in psychotherapy which moved her to lucid dreaming. He explains:
The developing lucidity of Davina's dreams up to this point suggested three stages in the process of evolving consciousness and personality transformation. First there was a process of many divisions in her state‑of‑being, manifested by different images of herself in the same dream, that led to the hypothesis that a process of psychological change was in progress. Second, a process of self‑reflection then mediated her shifts from certain states‑of‑being to new dimensions of awareness. Third, she then began a process of actively participating in using this new awareness to (a) remove blocks hampering her self‑development, and (b) resolve the old hurts to her child‑self...Davin's constructive use of the process of lucid dreaming is in striking contrast to the rejection of lucidity by other dreamers who are not oriented to self‑development. When an individual is lacking in a certain level of self‑awareness, developmental blocks are experienced and the dreamer rejects the process of lucid dreaming. This was indicated by the Ph.D. dreamer....as follows: I got more and more confused in the dream until I said to myself, "Damn it! This is only a dream and you had better wake up. So I did and I threw the whole damn image away.
Defensive Techniques for Dealing With Nightmares
Confronting and conquering fearsome dream characters or situations, which was originally recommended by anthropologist Kilton Stewart, is a very common response to nightmares when becoming lucid. Clearly aggressive responses to the fearsome qualities in our dreams is adaptive in that it relieves the immediate stress of the nightmare. This can teach us mastery in our dreams. Even when dream control fails we can still be left with a sense of mastery by simply waking up.
Further, and more importantly, such mastery lessons translate to waking behavior. Clinical psychologist Gordon Halliday describes how a client who was convinced she was unable to make any change in her life was greatly encouraged by changing a recurrent nightmare. After conquering her dream aggressor, the woman made significant improvements in her waking life. Halliday points out, however, that lucidity training was less useful for people who had secondary benefits from recurrent nightmares, such as a workman who was receiving disability payment and a woman who could control her husband by her "prophetic dreams from God."
However, when that remains our dream style or when it allows us to engage in counterproductive behaviors in the dream then such mastery behaviors can be excessive and perhaps maladaptive. Scott Sparrow, a Virginia Beach based psychotherapist, points out that, "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. 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."
Another technique which needs to be mentioned is a variation of attaining mastery in our dreams which also can be useful in the short run but if overused can be maladaptive. That is turning nasty things into sweet things. Again these allow us to confirm that we can have control over this fantasy setting but if any of these "defensive" techniques are used excessively we may be left with the emergence of consciousness in sleep functioning as yet another defense mechanism.
Existential psychotherapist Erik Craig warns that "one can work at becoming more lucid at the expense of becoming more aware." That is, attention focuses on lucidity "in order that the meaningfulness of ones dreams may be avoided." Further, Craig voices a concern, as have many in the field, that lucidity may become a fetish, "psychic objects for self gratification or even self‑congratulation." Lucidity in sleep can serve as a "narcissistic flight from one's fuller, though perhaps less appealing possibilities."
Cope Rather Than Escape
Delaney urges clients to "try to cope rather than escape." Our coping strategies in our lucid or nonlucid dreams are direct reflections of our coping strategies while awake. Lucidity offers us the unique opportunity of realizing it is just a dream and therefore gives us a comfort zone to work with our problems.
Most clinicians working with lucidity argue that a better strategy is to try to engage the dream character in a dialogue. By posing questions to the characters or to other aspects of the dream we are able to get in touch with and try to work through our issues. This dialogue should be done with a receptive mental attitude while engaging aspects of self in the dream. If the dialogue is productive you may see the dream character change shape, become less fearsome, get smaller, disappear or merge with your "self" in the dream. West German psychologist Paul Tholey stresses speaking with dream characters but Delaney points out that if one is not prepared fully for such an interaction it might be difficult. In other words, the responses you get may not make sense. Ideally, reconciliation should be the outcome of such dream dialogue. [Editors Note: see Tholey's article in this issues of Lucidity Letter for more on this.]
Understanding Not Needed
As with the classical behaviorist approach to changes in behavior, one can resolve an issue in a lucid dream, not necessarily understand why and still reap the benefits of the dreamed action. An extreme "behaviorist" position on this is Canadian Peter Fellows who says that he never teaches "dream interpretation" while lucid. He notes:
Time in a lucid dream is a precious commodity and I do not like to waste it. If, as I am dreaming, I become lucid at a point in the scenario where someone is sitting on my head, I do not begin to question him of her on the symbolic meaning of the experience. I act, and quickly. When symbolic dreams "work" for us, a waking life conflict is acted out in symbolic guise and resolved. Somehow, that resolution is translated back into real life with real effect. What lucidity enables us to do is to ensure that the dream conflict gets resolved and to reap the benefits in self‑confidence that come from doing so consciously. Interpreting the dream, knowing exactly what area of one's life the dream conflict was related to, is fine, but when the work is actually done, the result will be experienced whether or not the interpretation was correct.
This view is not unique to the lucid dreaming clinical literature, Milton Erickson used hypnotic techniques which distracted the conscious leaving him free to "talk with the unconscious." He emphasized that the conscious self did not need to remember what had been suggested to the deeper self‑that the changes would eventually arise "spontaneously" as a natural self governing process.
Cautions and Concerns
Due to the emergence of lucidity considerable concern has come up about whether one should control their dreams. Although there are instances when dream control is desirable (i.e. Overcoming victim stance in life; Recognition/exertion of one's own power to create one's personal reality; Enhanced assertiveness, self‑confidence) there are also circumstances when it is not desirable (i.e., When it interferes with the "corrective" function of dreams; Avoidance of productive anxiety and self‑confrontation). However, most agree that dream control meaning wholesale conscious manipulation, is not possible.
Sparrow notes, "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?" Sparrow goes on to note that "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 psy) . . . . 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!"
Psychotherapist Ken Kelzer speaks of the potential of "lucid dream burn‑out" for the dreamer using lucidity as a self growth vehicle. "What I am referring to here is a mental state of exhaustion that comes from overdoing a good thing, from exposing oneself to too much mental‑emotional intensity for too prolonged a period of time." He recommends down time to balance out the emotional intensity possible with lucidity. Further Kelzer recommends "the close tutelage of an experienced guide" when working lucidly in sleep as well as a safe environment.
As well as the cautions noted above and because of the potential power of lucid dreaming to deal with our "stuff" some experts have also expressed concerns. For instance, Gackenbach points to the addictive potential of lucidity. Another clinical/experiential concern is that extensive exposure to dream lucidity might, in some individuals, lead to questions of the nature of reality both while sleeping and while awake.
The point is that we really are on the ground floor of our experiences of consciousness in sleep and need to proceed cautiously. The traditional Tibetan literature points out that the Yoga of the dream state (lucid dreaming) is a dangerous pursuit, especially if waking meditation is not practiced. The author of Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines notes that, "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]."
Existential psychotherapist Erik Craig argues that the essential question for the psychotherapeutic uses of dream lucidity is, "how may we best acquire and use the knowledge of this human territory in a way that respects and conserves its essential structure and nature as premeditated experience."
Gackenbach, J.I. & Bosveld, J. (1989). Control your dreams. NY: Harper & Row.
Gackenbach, J.I. & LaBerge, S. (1988). Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. NY: Plenum.
Gackenbach, J.I. (in press). Interhemispheric EEG coherence in REM sleep and meditation: The lucid dreaming connection. In J. Antrobus (Ed.), The psychophysiology of dreaming sleep, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Hunt, H. (1989). The multiplicity of dreams. Conn: Yale University Press.
Snyder, T.J. & Gackenbach, J.I. (1990). Vestibular involvement in the neurocognition of lucid dreaming. In J.I. Gackenbach and A. Sheikh (Eds.), Dream images: A call to mental arms. N.Y.: Baywood.
The complex relations between clinical (more or less psychoanalytic) and "transpersonal" approaches to dreams can be clarified by the notion that there are natural varieties in dreaming experience and that these may suggest appropriate ways of using dreams. In other words we can use and/or interpret dreams with or against their own natural gain.
I'll start with the existential approach of Erik Craig and his colleagues (as exemplified in Psychotherapy for Freedom, a Spring 1988 special issue of The Humanistic Psychologist). It's strength is its emphasis on dream experience as such ‑‑ prior to any different dream forms or interpretive strategies. The dream exemplifies our mode of being‑in‑the‑world, as oneself, with others, and ahead of ourselves in the curiously open dimension of lived time. For Heidegger there are two ways we can "face" within our being‑in‑the‑world ‑‑ although since each is complementary and implied by the other the present separation will have its artificialities. First we can locate a mode of everydayness, where our embeddedness in daily projects shields us from the openness of time, at the price of a forgetfulness of our sense of Being. Then there is the mode of openness, our potential to sense being‑as‑such. Heidegger implies that such "being experiences" are the spontaneous core of mystical experience. They confer a powerful sense of presencing ‑‑ a feeling of "being real".
Already we can see that Deirdre Barrett's approach to dreams, based on Freud's views of disguise and repression, is dreaming within the mode of everydayness and that Jayne Gackenbach's descriptions of the immediate subjective power of lucid dreams mark them as potential experiences of being in Heidegger's sense.
Following Craig, each of these ways of facing might be said to have its own "constraints" and its own specific "potentialities" ‑‑ which indeed may help to understand how the attitudes of everydayness and transcendence are ultimately complementary and necessary to each other. I mean this in Kierkegaard's sense, where the despair of finitude is the lack of infinity and the despair of infinity is lack of finitude. The psychoanalysts Kohut and Winnicott distinguish between two forms of conflict which would show the negative or constrained side of each of these " ways of facing" ‑‑ and which more generally show more than an analogy with Hartmann's distinction between thick and thin boundaries. Thus, Freud's unconscious and repression point to the mode of conflict within the heart of everydayness, where we defend ourselves against the dilemmas of love and work. Narcissistic dilemmas and self pathologies would correspondingly appear as the conflicted side of what D.W. Winnicott termed the "dimension of being", where grandiosity, idealization, and withdrawal block a potential for feeling real, alive, and present.
We can illustrate this dialectic through a brief look at the actual dreams of Freud and Jung, where very different methods of using the dream are a natural outcome of the kind of dreams each had. Freud's own dreams are clouded, fragmented, and vague, with numerous sudden changes in scene. No wonder he used free association to further deconstruct what was already in process of dissolving into a complex of everyday memories, hopes, and fears. Consider his dream of old Brucke. He dreams that his first physiology teacher has set him the task of dissecting his own pelvis. He sees it eviscerated, fishes out bits of tinfoil (that later in his free associations remind him of his early study of the nervous system of fish). His friend Louise N. helps him (later he is reminded of her challenge to him to produce his own book). Abruptly he finds himself in a cab being driven into a house and out again. Then he is being carried by a guide into mountains, where he sees Indians (later reminding him of Rider Haggard's She, which he loaned to Louise N.). Finally, there is a house on the other side of a chasm and he realizes he is supposed to cross over to it on the bodies of children.
Freud's free associations take him, as ever, into his intensely political world of scientific recognition, reputation, and would‑be fame. He largely ignores what later psychoanalysts like Richard Jones and dreamworkers like Delaney or Ullman would see as the dream's positive potential for emergent metaphors expressing on‑going life issues, beyond issues of disguise, showing the dream's inherent possibilities of disclosure. Here we can see self dissection as a marvelous metaphor for the rigors and limitations of Freud's self analysis (which he mentions), and the bodies of children as the text of psychoanalytic discourse ‑‑ or Craig's treatment of Freud's Irma dream as a poetic depiction of his later concepts of transference and resistance.
There is even less hint in Freud of that dimension of dreaming filled out by Jungians and lucid dreamers, where we find an openness to an immediate sense of totality and wholeness. Although we could follow Grinstein's approach to Freud's dreams and (in Freud's associations only) find some distant allusion to his identification with Moses or even see some hint within this dream of his later preoccupation with narcissism and thanatos, as precursors of notions of self pathology.
Jung's dreams are as coherent and subjectively powerful as Freud's are fragmented and allusive. We find vivid detail, numinosity and ineffably significant encounters. No wonder Jung stayed with and amplified dreams already so full of felt significance and portent ‑‑ although this approach may be ultimately as one‑sided as Freud's transpersonal blindspot.
Consider Jung's dream of being with his deceased father in the court of Sultan Akbar the Great, in a vast hall shaped like a geometric mandala pattern ‑‑ Jung's symbol of wholeness of self. His father indicates the room above, where lives the "highest presence", Uriah, the Hebrew general betrayed by David. Jung tries to bow his head to the floor, along with his father, but he can't quite manage it.
For Jung this dream has a directly given archetypal or transpersonal significance. It also anticipates, he says, his later Answer to Job, where he discusses how a creature can surpass its creator by virtue of the capacity to doubt. Jung totally ignores what leaps out if one knows anything of his life ‑‑ his potential guilt over his relation with his father and later with Freud, as the betrayed Hebrew general. Indeed, Winnicott suggests that a mark of those persons where the dilemma of being and feeling real predominates is failure to experience or recognize guilt.
It is within these very different modes of dreamt being‑in‑the‑world that we can locate Barrett's and Gackenbach's recent research.
Clearly, each form or dimension of dreaming would have its own characteristic constraints and potentialities for genuine development. Barrett concentrates on the constrained end of ordinary normative dreaming, with its clouding, confusion and hallucinatory intrusions. She manages to locate experimentally the defensive constellation at the core of Freud's theory of dreaming. One of her measures of repression correlates with low dream recall and shorter length. What needs defending against here becomes clear if we follow Van de Castle and Hall on the typical "Oedipal" structure of dreams ‑‑ negative relationships with members of the same sex, positive with the opposite sex, and for male dreamers considerable aggression from older men. It is interesting that Barrett reports higher sexual and aggressive content from the dreams of high repressors ‑‑ typically initiated by the dream others. Craig might see this as part of the thrown‑ness or facticity of the everyday mode. (Certainly it is also of interest that Hall found an inverse or negative Oedipal pattern in Freud's dreams, perhaps hinting at the later necessity of developing a model of narcissism and the barriers Freud would face in that attempt. Meanwhile, the dreams of Jung show the more typical Oedipal configuration that he may not have faced as fully as his more personally compelling path of individuation).
There is of course a positive, expressive pole of "dreamt everydayness", where defensiveness is minimal and dreamworkers look for creative metaphoric insights into specific dilemmas. Here we might find, in Barrett's terms, those subjects with higher manifest anxiety and capacity to tolerate imaginative absorption at least in some contexts.
The dimension anchored by Barrett's research is very different from the form of dreaming studied by Gackenbach, where lucid dreaming is a subjective "empowerment" directly conveying a sense of openness and feeling real. Here an experiential impact predominates over specific personal insights to be gained from the dream.
Gackenbach concentrates first on the positive potentialities of this dimension ‑‑ its own "freedom". She places lucid dreaming in the context of meditation, in terms of cognitive psychology, physiology, and phenomenology. We see the same development in lucid dreaming and meditation of a contemplative, receptive attitude and the same vividness and sense of immediacy that Heidegger called "presencing" and Maslow termed "peak experience" or "being experience". Gackenbach has also located the cognitive factors associated with lucid dreaming ‑‑‑ imaginative absorption, vivid imagery, visual‑spatial skills, and physical balance. I found the same measures associated with subjects who dream in an archetypal form and, indeed, the same nonverbal visual‑spatial skills predict responsiveness to meditative techniques and proclivity to spontaneous mystical experience. These states, dreaming and awake, seem to entail a symbolic intelligence that falls outside the linguistic construction of everyday social existence. And for Heidegger our most direct expressions of sense of Being‑as‑such are "presentational", not representational.
However, Gackenbach also calls our attention to some unintended consequences of an exclusive absorption with lucid dreaming that involve much of what Kohut and Winnicott term self pathology and narcissism. Indeed, we can start to see a parallel between miscarriages of lucid dreaming and the self dilemmas that can constrain long term meditative practice. Engler has shown how grandiosity, lack of a sense of self, and/or withdrawal can be mistaken by some for the goals of meditation, while Wilber has suggested that the experience of the numinous ‑‑ with its fascination and power ‑‑ can actually create similar narcissistic vulnerabilities.
Gackenbach shows how lucid dreaming can miscarry in these same ways. Thus we find the potential sense of openness and releasement that can come with lucidity deflected into inflation and grandiosity. Craig has located something like this in the over‑emphasis in some lucidity research on control, perhaps demonstrating the inability of such researchers to accept the thrownness and limitation inherent in any developmental path. In addition some experienced lucid dreamers begin to report panic attacks and grotesque nightmares, as the dread denied by defensive idealization and grandiosity breaks through ‑‑ not despite, but because of exaggerated efforts at control. Finally, preoccupation with the "powers" of lucidity ‑‑ what Kastrinidis in Psychotherapy for Freedom in another context calls the premature "being one" with beauty and wholeness ‑‑ can be associated with a narcissistic flight from the real complexities of everydayness, masking despair and futility.
We can locate from the present perspective two dimensions of dreaming and methods of using them ‑‑ a dimension exemplifying pragmatic relating and doing, and a dimension of openness to Being. Each would have its own developmental stages and forms of relative constraint and pathology or fullest expression and realization. Dreaming, like much of living, would be a developmental dialectic across these dimensions.
Freud's own dreams and Barrett's research show the first dimension, Jung's own dreams and the research of Gackenbach and myself show the second. With regard to Freud and Jung the blindspot of one is the special strength and open possibility of the other. Jung misses the dilemmas of love and work that pervade Freud's dreams and dream interpretations, Freud misses the possibility of an open self‑validating dimension that intuits wholeness and Being.
With respect to dreaming in both the therapeutic and transpersonal traditions, dreams will be encountered which in their disorganization, confusion and brevity ask to have their defensiveness and disguise undone. At the other extreme of this dimension there will be dreams whose direct presentation of creative metaphors in the manifest dream offer new insights into specific life issues. There is another dimension of dreaming where we find "self‑state" expressions of narcissistic dilemma ‑‑ whether in terms of overly rigid idealizations and illusory perfections or persecutory and grotesque horrors. Here dreams split apart the fusion of uncanny dread and open releasement in Heidegger's version of "Being‑experiences". At the other extreme from dreams thus caught in narcissism there are those spontaneous dreams ‑‑ often lucid ‑‑ where a "calm abiding", receptivity, and resulting sense of energy and clarity become temporary approximations to the goals of the Eastern meditative traditions. Of course, the same dream may shift across these forms of expression.
Finally, at times reports of no dreaming will reflect that dimension whose pole is anchored in Freud's repression. On other occasions, it will not be a lack of recall of probably existent dreams, but an actual inability to stand the tension and dilemma in sense of self involved in having any dream experience at all ‑‑ leading to those blank and stuporous states in place of REM dreams that would be the true opposite of lucid dreaming, just as they are the ultimate failure of meditative practice.
Craig, E. (Ed.). Psychotherapy for freedom: The daseinanalytic way in psychology and psychoanalysis, special issue of The Humanistic Psychologist, 16(1), Spring 1988.
Hunt, H.T. (1989). The multiplicity of dreams: Memory, imagination, consciousness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
University of Exeter
The historical dimension to lucid dreaming (and dream research in general) is one that has been sadly neglected. Recent writings have not given an adequate account of the development of lucid dreaming, even limiting such an account to within the historical context of this century alone. As an opening to what is hoped will be a fruitful area of debate, there are some issues which need to be raised and discussed further. The four points that I want to cover in this article concern: the limited explanatory power of describing the history of lucid dreaming purely in terms of "events"; the validity of using the term "lucid dreaming" in a retrospective manner; the problems associated with evaluating any text that has undergone translation; and the potential problems associated with the changing meaning of certain "key words" within the lucid framework which need to be highlighted.
The history of lucid dreaming (and dream research in general) has not been adequately dealt with in the literature to date. Histories either describe isolated events or they just point to lucid‑type literary references. What is lacking from both of these types of approach is that neither explains the "hows" or "whys" behind the events/lists given. There are many points and issues requiring some critical comment in the history of lucid dreaming which have not been discussed. For example, why did the idea not take root in 1913 but has done so today? What were the conditions at that time which prohibited interest developing, and why did these conditions change? Perhaps the importance of this kind of questioning can be shown by the following discussion.
It cannot be said that lucid dreaming has been embraced by mainstream dream psychology (or psychology in general) with any great enthusiasm, and the concept still effectively remains on the fringe of orthodox research. There is almost an air of "quiet reluctance" by mainstream researchers to really take the concept seriously ‑‑ note the absence of any real critical comment against the topic. Without any definite indications to the exact nature of this "reluctance" some speculation is, perhaps, justified.
It might be the case that the relatively slow development of interest in the subject by mainstream researchers is due to the curious and to date unexplained history surrounding the idea of lucid dreaming. If we try and view the concept as if we were completely new to it, the point about its history may become clear. It simplifies things if we ignore any recent historical work since this is not relevant to the way the concept has been presented over the last two decades or so.
The concept first appears in 1913 by name but effectively disappears from the literature until 1968/69 when van Eeden"s article (or at least parts of it) is re‑printed in Celia Green's anthology Lucid Dreaming (1968) and in Charles Tart's book Altered States of Consciousness (1969). This second appearance does not achieve immediate and widespread attention, and interest slowly develops over some twenty years. Now to a person who is new to the subject and has, perhaps, a slightly cynical attitude, these events might imply that something "funny" is going one. After all, why does it take several thousand years of dream research to "suddenly" discover such an interesting phenomenon? Why didn't Freud, one of the most powerful forces in dream work of this century discover it, or at least why didn't he mention it in his book? Why are people now claiming to be lucid dreamers as opposed to the silence before 1913? Why has virtually every major dream researcher over‑looked this phenomenon in their works, leaving it for a few to become the concept"s champion? and so on. Without a proper history that can answer these types of questions, what is the most likely conclusion? It has to be that the concept was made up by van Eeden. Perhaps, and it is only speculation, but perhaps this is the type of conclusion that orthodox researchers arrived at or at least felt was the safest conclusion to reach in the absence of any proper answers to the type of question that I have illustrated. It has to be accepted that lucid dreaming's history as it has been traditionally presented is pretty suspicious; this is why the historical dimension to the subject must be dealt with in a thorough and careful way. The immediate task, therefore, is two‑fold: a proper history of lucid dreaming must be mapped out which includes a credible explanation for its curious history (at least in this century); and a history of dream research in general must be outlined which deals with the major developments, and the assumptions, beliefs and circumstances that contributed to those events (within which lucid dreaming can be located and related to as well).
The second area for discussion concerns the validity of using the term "lucid dreaming" in a retrospective manner. That lucid‑type references appear in Classical Texts (i.e. Aristotle) should not mean that we are necessarily justified in talking about Classical writers knowing about "lucid dreaming" ‑‑ how could they when the term did not come into existence until 1913? The reasons for not using it in this way are two‑fold: it is not just a term that we are applying retrospectively; it is also all the assumptions and beliefs that we currently hold about the concept, including the way we view our psychological make‑up, that get applied retrospectively as well. The Ancient Greeks not only had a very different view of a person's psychological make‑up, but it also changed over time. It must be borne in mind that when they were discussing phenomena like dreams, it was done within their belief system and not ours. The very real danger is that we will read their writings according to our belief system and in consequence be led into making false and inaccurate deductions about what they actually meant. This is not to say that it is wrong to suggest that they might have been aware of lucid‑type phenomena, the point being made here is that this particular aspect of historical research is not a simple matter of taking Ancient Texts at face value. Secondly, getting into a habit of using the term retrospectively will hide whatever terms may have existed for the phenomena prior to 1913. For example, based on comments made by Freud (1900) and Jones (1956), it is likely that lucid dreaming was known as the "dream within a dream" (a term likely to have been coined by Synesius of Cyrene ‑‑ I make this suggestion since this is the earliest use of this term that I have found), and so it is terms such as this that we will need in our historical investigations, not modern terms which, we know before we start, we won"t find in the literature prior to 1913. However innocently we may adopt this habit, it is tantamount to re‑writing history in an inaccurate way.
The third area of discussion concerns the correct methodology that should be adopted when conducting historical research, especially connected to the Ancient Texts already mentioned. Leaving aside the points that have already been made concerning relative belief systems, etc., any Ancient Text or any text that has been subject to translation should be treated with great caution. This is not to suggest that all translators are incompetent, far from it, but because of the inherent contradictions that are present in the lucid dreaming concept, that might make the process of translation that bit harder.
Under normal conditions a translator must constantly make decisions on the "true" meaning of the work being translated. Any passage, sentence or word that appears ambiguous will be translated according to the translator's knowledge of the topic or subject at hand. Lucid‑type references might prove especially difficult to handle if the translator concerned is ignorant of the concept itself. It is under these conditions that a key passage or phrase may become distorted either to create a lucid‑type reference where one does not exist, or to hide a genuine one. Over time and because of the process of re‑translation the problem may become compounded. Hence there is a need to treat lucid‑type references with some caution. Wherever it is practicable the earliest translation should be consulted and preferably re‑translated by someone sensitive to the issues involved. Certainly "modern" translations of Aristotle (or any historical text) should be treated with further caution because these translations involve another distortion in themselves, because such works re‑write the text in a style which is more accessible to the modern mind. Not only is this then a translation from the Greek into (eventually) English, but it is an actual re‑working of the text to make it more "readable". In my own investigation of these references I used the Loeb edition which carries a page by page Greek into English translation. I had several of the more interesting passages re‑translated orally by one of the Classics lecturers here at Exeter University. This allowed us to explore the passages with continual reference back to the lucidity concept and the Greek view of a person's psychological make‑up. Dr. Seaford was able to confirm with some measure of certainty that one of the passages I had given him did refer to what we would call today lucid‑type phenomena. But this does not mean that it is safe to conclude that the Greeks knew about lucid dreaming; further research into the Loeb translation and any older ones that exist must be a basic requirement before we can start to say with any real measure of certainty that lucid dreaming was known about during this time. Furthermore, without a proper consideration of the Greek psychological make‑up, any conclusions would be out of context and thus premature.
If it is felt that I am being over‑cautious and a little extreme in my warnings, this last section should demonstrate that taking references at face value and not paying attention to the kind of issues that I have attempted to highlight can cause real problems. Already we have a similar problem developing at present in the way we view writings from earlier this century. Arnold‑Forster, in her book Studies in Dreams (1921) describes how she developed her "dream consciousness"; it might be tempting to conclude that by this she meant that she had developed some sort of "lucid" state. However, she makes it clear on page 174 that in sleep there are two minds at work: the "normal" mind and a "dream" mind, but they are not the same thing. They may work simultaneously; the normal mind may influence the dream mind and whilst they are different parts of the same psyche this difference is a very real one. I do not believe that fragmentation of a person's psyche into different psychological parts is what under‑pins the modern view of lucid dreaming. But what lies at the root of this confusion is the meaning of the word "consciousness".
Earlier this century (and this requires further research and verification) this word (consciousness) was used in a more simplistic way to merely refer to a particular frame of mind ‑‑ not necessarily one that was self‑aware (which is how it tends to get used today). Hence the article in the American Journal of Psychology (1895‑97) "Studies of Dream Consciousness" by Weed, Hallam, and Phinney, is only concerned with different types of dream experience, none of which are actually concerned with anything "lucid" (whilst there are some interesting dream reports mentioned which are are ambiguous related to lucidity, they do not form the major concern of the article as reflected in the title). Without fully appreciating the way in which the usage and meaning of "consciousness" has changed it is all too easy to be drawn into making false assumptions about what people were writing about.
Obviously this whole issue requires greater consideration than I have given it here but it should show that the subject of historical psychology is not one that can be treated lightly ‑‑ there are some potentially very dangerous traps that need to be carefully avoided, otherwise costly and time consuming mistakes might be made.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive exploration of the problems of historical research into lucid dreaming but it does try to highlight a few of the more important issues that can be raised. Certainly it is hoped that this article will stimulate some further thought and discussion. We have only just begun to investigate and question the development of lucid dreaming and dream research in general, and there are many questions and issues that remain unexplored. In the past many writers have adopted an almost glib attitude to the whole historical dimension of dream research and most have not attempted to explain or question its development. Seen against this background, the lack of historical work in the field of lucid dreaming is not unusual ‑‑ the problem exists throughout the field of dream research.
For those interested in this dimension to the subject (and I would be pleased to hear from like‑minded individuals), we should be concerned with asking questions, not trying to arrive at definitive answers. We are far from knowing who were the most important writers in the field, simply because we do not as yet appreciate the full extent of research that has been carried out. Anyone viewed as important can only be judged so when they are seen in relation to their fellow researchers, and this is something that we are far from being able to do. We can view researchers in isolation at present, but the lack of surrounding historical context into which they fit is missing. Any final conclusions about a person's "importance" must be premature until we have the missing context.
From my own limited research into this area I am confident that if we remain objective and open‑minded the historical investigation of dream research in all its forms will prove to be a rewarding and worthwhile area of study, as relevant to the present as any research currently underway.
Arnold‑Forester, M. (1921). Studies in dreams. Unwin and Allen.
van Eeden, F. (1913). A study of dreams. Proc. Soc. Psych. Res., 26, pp. 431‑461.
Freud, S. (1900). Interpretation of dreams. George Allen and Co. (1946).
Green, C. (1968). Lucid dreaming. Oxford: Soc. Psych. Res.
Hett, W.S. (1935). Aristotle on the Soul Prava Naturalia on breath. London: Heinneman (Loeb Collection).
Jones, E. (1986). Sigmund Freud life and work, Vol. 1 1856‑1900. London: Hogarth Press.
Tart, C.T. (1969). Altered states of consciousness. New York: Wiley and Sons.
Weed, Hallam & Phinncy (1895‑1897). A study of dream consciousness. Am. Jnl. Psych., 7, pp. 405‑411.
E.W. KELLOGG III
The Aletheia Foundation
Recently, I've found myself both delighted and disappointed as dreamworkers have increasingly applied the term "phenomenological" in describing their research in lucid dreaming. Delighted, because I haven't found a more useful approach to dream research than that involved in phenomenological methodology; and disappointed because few dreamworkers seem to have any clear idea about what a formal phenomenological approach actually involves! In this paper I hope to make clear the essence of such a phenomenological approach, and to clarify its application by presenting some of my own findings in the role of a lucid dream phenomenologist.
Before beginning, let me describe my background in both dreamwork and in phenomenology: I normally recall 3 to 5 dreams per night, and have over the past decade or so written down and indexed over 5,000 of my dreams. Of these dreams I have had several hundred that I characterize as fully lucid, meaning that within the dream I had at least the same degree of consciousness and free will (the ability to make conscious decisions) as in my physical reality waking state. I first discovered Edmund Husserl's work in phenomenology in 1970, and since that time I've made a continuing effort to work through, and to extend for myself, his studies into the nature and structure of consciousness. In the self‑observation of processes of consciousness of myself both "awake" and "asleep", I have found no other discipline as valuable ‑‑ or as difficult to do well. One can not understand the phenomenological method simply by reading about it, but must practice and apply it in daily life.
The Phenomenological Method
The phenomenological movement derives chiefly from the work of one man ‑‑ Edmund Husserl ‑‑ although many others continue this work today. Many existentialists, including Martin Heidegger and Jean‑Paul Sartre, based much of their work upon the foundation that Husserl established (Wilson, 1966). In essence, one could describe phenomenology as a method (not a "philosophy") that aims at clearly seeing, and rigorously describing the essential structures of one's life world, including all aspects of consciousness and experience. In effect, Husserl worked towards the development of a presuppositionless philosophy that goes to the bedrock of experience, and which eliminates assumptions (especially hidden assumptions) to the greatest extent possible.
To accomplish this, Husserl developed the transcendental phenomenological reduction (or epoch_) which involves a fundamental shift in perspective by suspending judgement in the "thesis of the natural standpoint". Basically, the natural standpoint describes our ordinary every‑day attitude towards the world. For example, the judgements that we live physically as human beings in "objective reality", that physical objects exist independent of our awareness of them, and that no difference exists between objects as experiences and the "actual" physical objects themselves. Thus, the epoch_ requires a radical suspension of belief in this ordinary, deeply ingrained and usually unconscious attitude towards the world in which we live.
The epoch_ (from the Greek, meaning "to bring to a halt") should sound familiar to lucid dreamers, as they need to have performed at least an approximation of it in order to have attained lucidity. In the ordinary dream state we continue to hold onto the usual assumptions inherent in our every‑day attitude towards the physical world. In lucidity or "knowing that we dream" we bring at least one of those assumptions to a screeching halt ‑ that our experience occurs within an objective, physical world. However, this major insight only begins the task involved in a true epoch_, as the "lucid" dreamer still operates through a residuum of unquestioned beliefs and assumptions left over from the "natural standpoint". The phenomenological epoch_ allows one to go deeper and further towards greater lucidity, by bringing to bear a rigorous and defined method aimed at reducing assumptions and mis‑identifications to the greatest extent possible.
The method of accomplishment of the epoch_ lies beyond the scope of this paper (Husserl spent a lifetime describing pathways to its accomplishment), but as a very crude approximation one can look at the method of Descartes, in which he tested the certitude of fact by seeing if he could doubt it. Husserl also called this operation bracketing (indicated by [__]), through which one sets aside and makes overt the covert assumptions about experience.
For example, at this moment I might say "I sit in a chair", by which I mean an objective chair existing in physical reality. Can I doubt this? Well, perhaps I hallucinate due to hypnotic suggestion, or find myself caught up in a very realistic dream. Neither of these possibilities seems likely, but I recognize their essential possibility and can, in fact, doubt. However, after the epoch_ I might state "I experience myself sitting in a chair" and this statement I can not doubt at all. Bracketing reduces the assumed physical chair to the experienced phenomenon ‑ [chair]. It doesn't matter whether a physical chair exists or not ‑ my experienced [chair] exists apodictically. In this context, apodictic means expressing necessary truth or absolute certainty. The [chair] exists apodictically because I perceive it directly and immediately. Please note that the epoch_ does not cause me to disbelieve in the existence of the physical chair, but to relegate this belief to its proper place as one of the assumptions or inferences I (usually unconsciously) make on the basis of experience. Phenomenological work can only begin after the epoch_, in the apodictical realm.
The second major tool involved in phenomenological work Husserl called the eidetic reduction, by which one grasps the essential structure of experience after the epoch_. Again, I can not adequately describe this process here (see Husserl, 1973b), but it involves a direct "seeing" for each eidos (or "essence"), through a testing for the congruent and truly identical in all of the variations of experience to which that eidos belongs. For example, for me increased freedom of choice, and of awareness of assumptions, make up a fundamental part of the eidos of lucidity, as all of my experiences of lucidity involve these factors in an integral way. One can describe an eidos in words, but the eidos does not consist of words but of pure meaning susceptible to immediate examination. In making sense out of the world of experience each of us by necessity performs something like the eidetic reduction, but without normally achieving the clarity and rigor involved through the phenomenological method.
As a phenomenologist I understand that a map, no matter how useful, must never take precedence over the territory that it can only represent. After the epoch_, the so‑called objective world loses a naive a priori validity, and the so‑called subjective world (the world of pure experience) gains a priori validity. For the purposes of this paper let me define reality as "that which certainly exists". By this definition, the term "objective reality" has an internal contradiction, as "objective reality" for me as an individual exists only as a hypothetical map within my subjective experience which I may use to make sense of subjective experience. On the other hand, "experiential reality" belongs to the apodictical realm (susceptible to direct examination), and must have priority in all phenomenological work. Thus, through the epoch_ one loses a naive sense of certainty about the "objective" and instead finds certainty an inherent property of the formerly questionable "subjective".
This shift in perspective may sound deceptively simple, but it involves a fundamental change in attitude that goes against deeply ingrained habits and prejudices. The epoch_ suspends belief and disbelief, taking what one might describe as an agnostic position. To those interested in studying phenomenology further, I recommend Husserl's Cartesian Meditations, Natanson's Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks, or Zaner's The Way of Phenomenology as useful introductions to this work.
E‑Prime and Phenomenology
Unfortunately, even those who attempt to rigorously hold to a more phenomenological attitude quite frequently find themselves tripped up by the habitual structures and assumptions inherent in language. To minimize such distortions, I use a more phenomenological language called E‑Prime (E'), that more accurately reflects my experience while minimizing hidden assumptions (Kellogg, 1987). E' refers to an English language derivative that eliminates any use of the verb "to be" (basically am, is, was, are, and were). The use of E' has clarified many aspects of my scientific and phenomenological work, and made obvious many inherent assumptions that ordinary English usage had concealed.
In his book, Language, Thought and Reality, Benjamin Lee Whorf (1956) gives numerous examples of languages and cultures that support his "principle of linguistic relativity." This principle states that the structure of our language influences the way we perceive "reality," as well as how we behave with respect to that perceived reality. Although one could describe E' simply as English without any use of the verb "to be," such a definition misses the profound changes in personal orientation resulting from such a change. In essence, E‑prime consists of a more descriptive and extensionally oriented derivative of English, that automatically tends to bring the user back to the level of first person experience.
For example, if you saw a man, reeking of whisky, stagger down the street and then collapse, you might think (in ordinary English) "He is drunk." In E' one would think instead "He acts drunk," or "He looks drunk." Each of these statements more accurately describes the actual experience, and involves fewer covert assumptions than the English original. After all, one might have encountered an actor (practicing the part of a drunken man), a man who had spilled alcohol on himself during a heart attack, etc. The E' statement still leaves these possibilities open, whereas the "is" statement does not. Although E' usually reduces hidden assumptions, it does not exclude them (for example, you may have seen a woman who looked like a man and acted drunk). E' also greatly encourages one to use the active voice ("I did it", "he did it", etc.) rather than the often misleading and information‑poor passive voice ("it was done").
E‑prime fosters a world view in which the user perceives situations as changeable rather than static, and where one's language indicates possibilities rather than false certainties. I have found it a very useful language for dreamwork, in that dream experiences translated into E' usually suffer far less from distortions and hidden assumptions then they do when set into ordinary "is" English. This can lead to some interesting discoveries, and I hope that other dreamworkers will find the idea of E' interesting enough to experiment with it themselves.
Basic Maps and Observations
Before describing what I've observed in lucid dreaming, I first need to establish a baseline on how I ordinarily experience myself. In Figure I I've attempted to diagram a relevant two dimensional section of my four dimensional consciousness‑process. For present purposes, "conscious", "subconscious", and "paraconscious" each corresponds to a different depth in intentionality. By intentionality I mean the fundamental act by which consciousness directs itself at something within experience. By "conscious" I mean that aspect of myself that thinks, and labels; by "subconscious" that aspect of myself that feels, that attributes meanings and significance to things; and by "paraconscious", that aspect of pure creativity and knowing that forms structure. I experience these three "levels" in a hierarchical order, with thinking as the most superficial, feeling occurring at greater depth, and with pure knowingness occurring at the greatest depth, closest to the functioning of my essential source‑self.
Let me try to make this clear by example. "About to cross a road I see a car coming towards me, a Dodge Caravan. I stop and let it pass before crossing". In perceiving the car, I see it first as a particular shape or form, and differentiate it from my experience as a whole; I impose meaning on the form, and see it as a motorized, and potentially dangerous human directed vehicle, made of metal, running on gasoline, etc. I understand this at a glance without words. Finally in my thinking I may label this object a "car" or more specifically as a "Dodge Caravan". All of this occurs automatically and routinely, and with little "conscious intent". We take this tremendous activity for granted, and even talk about consciousness as "passive"! In a very demonstrable sense each of us creates, or more specifically intends, our own reality. For after all, what would an Indian from the depths of the Amazon jungle have seen? Certainly not a "car" or a Dodge Caravan! Husserl termed this automatic, and many layered making sense out of the world "functioning intentionality". As I will describe below, the operation of "functioning intentionality" changes dramatically in ordinary and in lucid dreaming.
With this as a necessary prologue, let me briefly compare some self‑observations in three different categories of my overall experience:
In "waking physical reality" (abbreviated WPR), I usually have my identity focus and "center of gravity" in the conscious/thinking levels; e.g. feelings happen to me, and I have little direct conscious control over them.
In "dream reality" (abbreviated DR), my center of gravity has shifted to the subconscious or feeling level. In ordinary dreaming I experience a "horizontal split", by which I mean that I have little or only limited use of my thinking aspect, thinking and labelling occur automatically and without conscious intent.
In "lucid dream reality" (abbreviated LDR) the breadth of my consciousness increases to include the functions of my thinking and knowing aspects; although my "center of gravity" remains in the subconscious and in feeling, my identity focus has expanded to include both thinking and knowing aspects. In fact I feel much more myself when fully lucid in LDR than I do ordinarily in WPR. And as self‑consciousness expands into these areas of self‑function, so also does the possibility of choice.
Although I characterize a fully lucid dream state as one where I have the same degree of conscious awareness as in my waking physical state, I want to make clear here that my conscious self in LDR functions differently from my conscious self in WPR. Specifically, the quality and accuracy of the labelling of my "functioning intentionality" markedly diminishes in the dream state. Thus, I will far more easily jump to faulty conclusions in LDR than I would in WPR. For example, if I saw a hybrid fruit halfway between an apple and an orange in WPR, I would immediately identify it as an "odd" fruit. However, if I saw such an object even in a fully lucid dream I would most likely automatically identify it as an apple or an orange, without noticing the discrepancies. I would have to make a conscious intentional effort to actually perceive the object correctly.
Hence, even in lucid dreams I have to make an effort to compensate for a loss of function of my "automatic object identifier". I've learned from experience that this particular mental function works far less accurately and reliably in LDR than in WPR. In a relative sense however, my "functioning intentionality" works markedly better and more accurately in LDR than in ordinary dream reality, where it scarcely works properly at all.
Lucid Dreaming Definitions
Before proceeding further, it seems important to establish more concretely exactly what I mean by lucidity. In general I agree with Tart's (1984) definition of lucid dreaming, as dreams where I not only know that I dream, but where I clearly recall my physical reality waking life and have command of my intellectual and motivational abilities. However, like Tart (1985) I also experience lucidity along a continuum.
To make this clear let me say that I see lucidity as a variable aspect of consciousness that roughly corresponds with freedom of choice. For me this corresponds with a widening of consciousness (see Wren‑Lewis, 1985), and with a functional integration of aspects of self (see Figure 1). Thus, in a fully lucid state I function as a "knowing‑feeling‑thinking", rather than primarily as a "thinking‑self" (as in WPR) or a "feeling self" (as in DR). Many dreamworkers simply define a lucid dream as one where you realize, however vaguely, that you dream, but I have not found this very useful. To briefly define my own scale:
PRE‑LUCID ‑ in the dream, I notice some sort of bizarreness as unusual for physical reality. Or I don't consider myself in ordinary physical reality at all, although I realize almost none of the implications and still mis‑identify the actual situation.
SUB‑LUCID ‑ realize that I dream, but continue to follow the dream "script"; no conscious choice.
SEMI‑LUCID ‑ still follow the dream script (knowing that I dream), but I can make minor choices in keeping with dream reality e.g. I might choose to fly rather than walk.
LUCID ‑ I have the choice of following the dream script or not, can make major choices based on awareness of my potentialities in the dream state e.g. might choose to try a dream experiment instead of continuing the dream scenario, etc.
FULLY‑LUCID ‑ fully aware that I dream and of the location and state of my physical body; also remember any lucid dream tasks that I had earlier decided to try (lucid dream healing, intentionally changing body form, precognition, etc.)
SUPER‑LUCID ‑ aware of self as an integrated whole: self‑remembering. Thinking, feeling, creating aspects of self working as a unified whole (conscious, subconscious, and paraconscious). Extraordinary (even for dream reality) abilities and experiences often manifest.
Similar criteria would also apply to lucidity in the physical waking state ‑ for example, I would not consider myself fully lucid if I went to the grocery store and forgot to pick up the items I'd originally gone there for. You might characterize a drunk as semi‑ or sub‑lucid for example.
The Substitution Phenomenon
In 1974 I had a lucid dream that led to my discovery of what I call "the substitution phenomenon". In a rather dull dream, I woke to full lucidity while having a conversation with [my family in our living room in Connecticut]. Rather than leaving, I decided to carefully investigate the dream scene. I immediately noticed that although [the people] in the living room looked somewhat similar to members of my family, that they had enough differences that I would never have mistaken them for family members in WPR. I also noticed that the dream setting, [the living room], also had a number of obvious differences from the WPR living room with which I had earlier identified it. Let me try to make this clear. Neither the people nor the living room appeared to change when I "woke up" in this dream ‑‑ only my ability to critically perceive them had changed.
Since that time I have routinely encountered this same "substitution phenomenon" in both my lucid and ordinary dreams. For example I dream of a friend, but when I wake up to a more critical awareness, I usually find that my dream [friend] does not really look like, or "feel" like my WPR friend, and I encounter instead a substitute who plays his part in the dream. Similarly, I often dream of my family home, yet on attaining lucidity I notice that [my dream family home] has gross discrepancies to my remembered physical home. I find the same "substitution phenomenon" in my non‑lucid dreams, in that I routinely find that my interpretation of the characters and events of a dream in the dream does not correspond to the more critical identifications made later in WPR based on a clear memory of the dream. For me, recall of dreams has two obviously different levels. First, a verbal interpretation of the dream events and characters as identified (or mis‑identified) during the dream experiences; second, the non‑verbal dream experience itself.
Even accomplished dreamers distort their dreams when they try to describe them, simply by boiling them down into simplified verbal descriptions. Indeed, a first approximation approach seems the easiest, and sometimes the only way to "make sense" out of a dream. Still, without applying the epoch_ a lot of square pegs get rammed down round holes when one uses this approach. Until the lucid dream about [my family] described above, I routinely ignored the "substitution phenomenon". However, looking back I know that I had an underlying awareness of its occurrence in many of my earlier dreams, although I did not really give any importance to the phenomenon at the time.
Since I first published my observation (Kellogg, 1985) I've had many discussions with other dreamworkers about it. They have agreed that the "substitution phenomenon" does occur to a greater or lesser extent in their dreams, so the phenomenon does not seem peculiar to me alone. After my initial discovery, I noticed that it occurred not as the exception but as the rule in my dreams. However, after a number of years, my critical awareness of the phenomenon has substantially reduced the occurrence of the more obvious mis‑identifications of characters and locations even in ordinary dreams.
All lucid dreamers have experienced at least one blatant example of the "substitution phenomenon", when they realized while dreaming that they had mistakenly identified a dreamed [physical reality] for physical reality. But the discovery of this mis‑identification only begins the process of unmasking the pervasive nature of "substitution phenomena" even in the most lucid of dreams. As I learn to increasingly suspend judgement in LDR the incidence of such mis‑identifications decreases. In this respect any approximation to the phenomenological epoch_ increases lucidity, as lucidity itself inversely correlates with the incidence of mis‑identifications. In fact, in a practical sense I use the incidence of mis‑identifications to characterize the degree of lucidity attained in LDR.
Lucid Dream Incubation Technique. In a lucid dream in May of 1985 I finalized a lucid dream incubation technique (LDIT) that has worked quite well for me, as well as for others, in obtaining clear and easily understandable information on a variety of topics (Kellogg, 1986).
"In a lucid dream I demonstrate an incubation technique using a silver bowl to a group of other [dreamers]. Basically the technique consisted of the following: First the lucid dreamer decides on a question, in which he or she asks for the information most needed at that time. After deciding on a specific question, the dreamer inverts the silver bowl and consciously focuses on the question. After waiting a few seconds for the answer to materialize, the dreamer then turns over the bowl to find a materialized note with the answer written on it. I took a number of my fellow [dreamers] through this incubation technique, each received a clear and discrete answer. For myself I asked for a message from an official in a government agency about the possibilities of future research grants, and received the answer "Goodbye!", which I clearly understood meant that I would receive no further funding from this agency [note: which incidentally, proved quite true]."
Since that time I've experimented with variations of the LDIT. The essential principle behind this technique involves finding a medium for the materialization of the answer (such as a closed drawer), asking the question, waiting a few seconds, then opening the drawer and looking at a written or symbolic answer. And as for reading, I need to read it clearly the first time through, as re‑reading messages usually doesn't work very well for me. Some mediums work far better than others, and the best give discrete, specific answers, easily remembered in the transition from LDR to WPR. In order to use the LDIT I need to maintain a clearheaded lucidity throughout the incubation process, and then consciously retain and clearly recall the answer on returning to WPR.
As an oracle of unconscious information I've found the LDIT very useful, and the information so received of a very high quality. This does not mean that I always get usable answers to the questions I ask! In one case, where I had requested investment information, I got my answer on a clay tablet in what looked like cuneiform! As I've had a number of seemingly precognitive ordinary dreams, I decided to try the LDIT on a precognitive task, where I tried to see the six numbers (from 1 to 42) that would come up on the next day's Oregon lottery drawing. I found this task extremely difficult and could only clearly recall the first two numbers that I saw. However, both of those numbers did appear in the lottery drawing the next day.
Healing. As I normally enjoy excellent health, I've had little opportunity to try the effect of healing in a lucid dream on myself. However, on one occasion (Kellogg, 1989) I experienced a dramatic healing of a severely infected tonsil in WPR after performing a healing in LDR. This, and other experiences have convinced me that my [bodies] in WPR and LDR have more than a casual relationship to one another. My brother, also a lucid dreamer, after reading my article decided to try it on himself. At the time he had suffered for over a week from a painful inflammation of the shoulder due to bursitis. He succeeded in performing a lucid dream healing, and this effect translated over to his body in WPR, as all inflammation and pain disappeared before awakening the next day. Now over six months later, this healing has remained largely in effect.
Multiple Personalities. In WPR, clinically defined multiple personality disorders seem fairly rare and bizarre. But during ordinary dreaming I find such phenomena in myself a commonplace event. My dream‑self often uses a body and personality markedly different from the matched set I take for granted in WPR. I might identify myself with a warrior wizard or an Indian maiden. My sex and temperament can change from human male to female or to something altogether different and alien to the human species. Usually however, my dream‑self at least crudely approximates my WPR‑self. In LDR my dream‑self corresponds much more closely to my WPR‑self than it does in ordinary dreams.
Time. In DR I ordinarily experience a sort of "upside down" consciousness, as in that state I find my "center of gravity" in the feeling rather than the thinking aspect of mind. Time flows differently there, and I'll try to make that difference clear.
Time, as I experience it in WPR, seems roughly one dimensional, which you might visualize as a time flow limited by a straight line moving in one direction with "now" comprising an interval ranging from a fraction of a second to a minute. (See Husserl, 1964 for a far more complete treatment). Through the intentionality of retention I carry the immediate past as a fading presence in the present moment, and through protention I intend in the present an expectation of future events.
"Dream time" has both one and two dimensional components. Instead of likening time to a straight line, in DR it occurs more like a two dimensional plane with the forward edge corresponding to the future, and the backward edge to the past. However, within this two dimensional plane, I also experience a personal and sequential time line, not usually straight but curved, that defines the events of a dream as they happen to me, even though this may not correspond with (and may even contradict) the more "logical" order of events in the two dimensional time‑plane.
Thus, I'll often experience dream events out of (logical) sequence, and may even experience the "beginning" of a dream at the "end"! My personal experience of the dream remains largely one dimensional even though the events and logic of the dream operate in two dimensions. In WPR I routinely "make sense" out of a dream, arranging the events so that they occur in some sort of logical order, even though I realize, upon unprejudiced reflection, that the events did not take place for me in that order in DR itself. The apparent contradiction in time sequencing of events largely disappears in lucidity, where one and two dimensional time lines seem to parallel each other.
The Phenomenal World. My sense of time also depends to a great deal upon the stability of the experienced phenomenal world. This applied to both WPR and LDR, where the greater the environmental flux, the faster time seems to pass, and the greater the stability, the more time seems to slow down. In WPR I take it for granted that if I can look at an object once, I can usually look at the "same" object in the same way repeatedly without perceptible changes occurring. Not so in DR or LDR, where objects often change even as I observe them, somewhat like the effect of high speed photography in WPR. This may well contribute to the effect where on one level a dream experience seems to last for
hours, while on another it occurs in an instant. To a large extent my experience of the passage of time correlate with the phenomenal flux of events.
I'd like to note here that although in general phenomenal stability decreases in LDR, that stability can vary markedly up to a very reasonable simulation of the solidity and permanence of objects taken for granted in WPR. To put it concretely, sometimes I can read the same page twice. LDR and WPR do not in this respect seem qualitatively different in the stability of their phenomenal world, only quantitatively different to a greater or lesser degree.
My Dream Body and Senses. For the most part, my body in LDR looks similar to that of WPR, although it shares in the general lack of stability found in the dream environment. If, before waking up in DR, I perceive myself as a character not much like my physical type (say the Incredible Hulk, or an alien being) my body type automatically shifts to one much more like my WPR one. I usually create a body similar to my WPR body, including clothing and accessories. Unless I make a deliberate effect (as in Gurdjieffian sensing exercises), my proprioceptive and kinesthetic sense of my body parts usually remains vague and incomplete compared to WPR, although I find it easy to reestablish these senses. However, I usually have a very strong overall sense of myself in a body distinct from the environment, and do not confuse the two. Lucidity enhances my perception of embodiment. Incidentally, spinning has helped to prolong my stay in LDR (LaBerge, 1985).
I usually see vividly (though often out of focus) in LDR, and in general my sense of touch seems comparable, but somewhat less complete than in WPR. Hearing, smell, and taste often seem vague or non‑existent. However, on occasion even these latter three senses come in loud and clear. For example, usually dream foods lack flavor and texture, tasting sort of like flavored cardboard. Still, several months ago I ate a slice of pizza in LDR that I would rate at about 9 on a 1 to 10 flavor and texture scale ‑ all that flavor, and no calories! Communication usually occurs "mind to mind", without sound or talking in the usual meaning of the word. To a large extent, I've found the acuity of each sense to relate to my intention, and to the degree of lucidity and maintained integration of self in LDR.
Magic. Through the centuries mankind has continued to believe in magic, that mind can directly control matter and that one can reshape reality as one desires. And this, despite the fact that in today's modern age legions of parapsychologists have proven that in physical reality "magic" on the whole works poorly, when it works at all. I don't mean to say it doesn't work in WPR but only that it doesn't appear to work very well.
However, "magic" works very well indeed in lucid dream reality and as any lucid dreamer knows, in LDR mind can and routinely does directly affect dream [matter]. With the proper focus, intention, and self‑integration I have performed many of the feats attributed to the most famous magicians and wizards in fact and fiction, and with special effects that would make George Lucas or Steven Spielberg envious. Teleportation, telepathy, levitation, conjurations, materializations, and transformations of one's body and environment seem almost routine after a little practice. And yes, I have found spells and incantations to work quite nicely, if sometimes unpredictably. After all, where else does Einstein's "observer effect" make such a spectacular showing!
OBEs. A lot of controversy has arisen on the nature of lucid dreams as compared to out‑of‑the‑body (physical) experiences (OBEs) (see LaBerge, 1985, Mitchell, 1987, & Salley, 1986). Of course, by definition OBE's fail to meet the most basic criteria of lucid dreaming, that you realize that you dream while you dream. Even afterwards, most subjects will vehemently deny the very idea that they could have dreamed the experience. From a phenomenological point of view, the question of "what really happens" in a hypothetical "objective reality" seems beside the point. Do out‑of‑body experiences exist? Of course, and so do in‑the‑body experiences (IBE's)! But do OBEs constitute a category of experience distinct from lucid dreaming or not? To me, OBEs differ from lucid dreams in a number of ways.
First, environmental stability in out‑of‑the body reality (OBR) seems much more like physical reality than dream reality. When I take a second and even a third look at objects in OBR, the objects stay very much the same. I generally find myself in a very close counterpart to my physical body, sort of a semitransparent white color, that can feel very light or very dense depending upon how much I speed up, or slow down my "vibrational rate". I feel a very strong and defined sense of embodiment, directly comparable to that felt in my "physical" body. Unlike LDR most "magic" does not seem to work very well here. My body shape seems relatively immutable, and although I can fly (and go through walls) if I speed my vibrational rate up sufficiently, I've had very poor success with psychokinesis, materializations, etc., tasks which I can routinely perform in LDR. I generally go about naked and have had little success in generating clothes, which simply appear automatically in LDR.
Although my state of consciousness ("center of gravity" in the subconscious) seems just about identical to that of full lucidity in dream reality, my memory of an OBE after the fact in WPR has an exceptionally clear and vivid quality. This stands in marked contrast to my memory of even fully lucid dreams, which tend to fade unless I make a conscious effort to remember them in WPR. I experience time very much as in WPR, as a "straight line" without the ambiguity of two‑dimensional time present in LDR. OBR has a very strong reality tone much like WPR, solid and convincing with much less of the flux that makes even LDR "dreamlike".
To further confuse the issue, just as one can delude oneself with dreams of WPR, so can one delude oneself with dreams of OBEs. Although this may confuse the issue for dreamworkers in general, it no longer confuses the issue for me. Until I noticed the differences, I only considered an OBE genuine, if I maintained a continuity of consciousness from WPR to OBR, experienced leaving my physical body and maintained full lucidity throughout. Whatever "really" happens, for me OBEs belong to a category of experience distinct and easily differentiated from lucid dreams. Neither "fish or fowl" OBR has similarities to both WPR and LDR, while having characteristics different from both.
The phenomenological method has allowed me to observe and discover facets of my dream life that would have remained hidden without it. The pervasive nature of the hidden assumptions and prejudgements inherent in even the simplest act of ordinary perception can boggle the mind, and has special importance to anyone attempting to unravel the nature and characteristics of even ordinary dreaming. In this respect, a properly applied epoch_ can have extraordinary value to the dreamworker in reducing such covert assumption. However, lucid dreaming itself poses an existential challenge to our most basic beliefs, as evidenced by the fact that until recently most people saw "lucid dreaming" itself as a contradiction in terms. At this point I'll abandon the phenomenological epoch_, and speculate as to the implications of the information I, and others, have gathered as to the nature of lucid dream reality. In my role as a phenomenologist, I have realized that my own prejudices and limitations have biased my reporting of many of the phenomena observed, which may have only personal, rather than general significance. Still, I would hope that the results of my work have at least illustrated some of the potential benefits of applying a formal phenomenological approach to lucid dreaming.
If dreams consisted only of a hodgepodge of replays of stored memory images one wouldn't expect the "substitution phenomenon" to occur. Instead, clearly identifiable overstocked memory images would predominate, and in my experience this rarely, if ever, happens. An adequate model of dream reality must explain the discrepancy between the two different levels of dream recall, of the interpretation, and of the non‑verbal experience. In this sense one can liken a dream to a play. At a superficial level one can "suspend disbelief" and see [Hamlet] as Hamlet, or one can see [Hamlet] simply as an actor playing the part, and the [castle] as a stage setting with props. By this metaphor lucidity involves a removal of the automatic "suspension of disbelief" inherent in ordinary dreaming.
I do not ascribe to the solipsistic dream theory espoused by LaBerge (1985) and others, that portrays dreams as essentially nothing more than the subjective projections of one's own mind. Oddly enough, as LaBerge points out, current findings in neurophysiology could lead one to make a similar judgement about physical reality. To quote LaBerge:
"The dream body is our representation of our physical body. But it is the only body that we ever directly experience. We know, by direct acquaintance, only the contents of our minds. All of our knowledge concerning the physical world, including even the assumed existence of our "first", or physical bodies, is by inference." (p. 219)
Just as I do not assume a solipsistic orientation towards physical reality, I do not make such a judgement about dream reality. My ethical code of conduct applies equally to me in WPR or LDR. I very much disagree with the cultural bias inherent in the phrase "only a dream", or "just a dream". Aside from my own experiences, Tholey's (1985) work presents evidence that other dream figures can possess a consciousness independent of the dreamer. Usually, when we talk about "objective reality" we actually mean "consensual reality", and for the special case of dream reality we require not a consensus among "dream people" but among people in WPR who also have participated in DR together. Imagine if consensual verification of WPR required a consensus among people in DR!
Nevertheless, good evidence for mutual dreaming does exist. LaBerge quotes (p. 223‑224) a remarkable example in his book, but backs off from calling it mutual dreaming, because the accounts differed in several details. I would like to remind those who investigate mutual dreaming of the fallibility of eyewitness accounts. Witnesses to an accident in WPR, usually do far less well in matching details than did the two dreamers in the "mutual dream" event referred to by LaBerge. Given the inconsistent nature of human observation, one can no more expect an exact agreement in description for two participants in a dream event than one could expect it for a physical event.
On a more practical note, lucid dream healing may have widespread implications for the now burgeoning field of psychoneuroimmunology. The physiological changes‑of‑state documented in multiple personality cases may prove applicable to what one might expect to see in dream healing phenomena, as all of us seem to experience multiple personalities in dreams. Perhaps clinically defined "multiple personalities" have simply transplanted a dream state phenomenon over to the waking state as well. Dramatic physical changes can take place within minutes, and point to the dramatic healing effects (both good and bad) potentially available to all of us, through mental changes‑of‑state leading to physiological changes‑of‑state. In dream reality "magic" works, and this may explain the continuing fascination with dreams often found in even the most hardened skeptic. I look forward to future explorations in this area with fascination, and with the sense that we have only begun to tap the potentialities of the lucid dream state.
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RESULTS OF THE APRIL, 1987 OMNI EXPERIMENT
Jayne Gackenbach* and Stephen LaBerge
*University of Alberta/Athabasca University, Stanford University
About a 1000 people from across the nation responded to us about an experiment we designed for OMNI magazine on lucid dreaming which appeared in the April, 1987 issue. In the experiment we suggested that the participants do the tasks as often as possible over a two week period before they filled out the accompanying questionnaire (a copy of the questionnaire is available in Table 1 of the Appendix to this article). It was also pointed out that some people may need to practice the technique for weeks before getting results, while others may succeed on the first night. Finally we asked the OMNI readers to fill out the questionnaire whether they managed to have a lucid dream or not. We asked the readers to try four exercises: inducing lucid dreams by waking suggestion and dream reliving; flying in lucid dreams, spinning while lucid in order to stabilize it and/or reach a target and creative problem solving. The exact instructions for each exercise are given in Table 1 in the appendix of this article.
Who Answered the Questionnaire?
Respondents returned completed questionnaires (656 data analyzed) and/or letters, dreams or dream diaries (837 data analyzed). We will focus on two types of information from this wealth of information. The first are responses to the questionnaire from all who filled it out and from 145 individuals who sent verified lucid dreams (see Tables 2 and 3 in the appendix for descriptive statistics). That is, we clearly identified them as lucid due to the inclusion of a recognition phrase or comment such as "and then I realized it was a dream". The second set of data comes from independent judges evaluations of the dreams. In this latter set of data our discussion will focus on results from 314 lucid dreams provided by 192 individuals that included a recognition phrase. Data on all categories scored by judges is provided (e.g., descriptive statistics on both data sets are provided in Table 4 of the appendix). From these sources of information we will not only comment on how the experiment went but also on some characteristics of the lucid dream/dreamer. Descriptive statistics on the OMNI questionnaire and the judges evaluations for all scored respondents and for the clearly identified lucid dreamers are presented in three extensive tables in the appendix of this article.
We will start by describing who responded to the OMNI dream experiment. First and foremost 85% said they had had a lucid dream within the last year. This is far above the general population incidence (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988). In other words, it appears that lucid dreamers answered the survey questionnaire. Well, so they claim ‑ of the 371 subjects who sent a dream which were scored by independent judges only 192, or 52%, sent a lucid dream which could be clearly identified as such because of the inclusion of a recognition phrase. This 48% drop out rate due to ambiguity in dream report is typical of such research (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988). This does not mean that those who sent dreams and labeled them lucid but did not include a recognition phrase or comment were not in fact lucid dreams or dreamers. We simply don't know. Those dreams labeled as lucid without a recognition phrase tend to be one of three types: 1) dreams which included a point of recognition which was not explicitly stated in the report, 2) lucidity which was constant or implicit and either never became explicit or was not referred to beyond the label or 3) dreams that were not lucid but were sent because the dreamer misunderstood the definition of lucidity. Of the 525 dreams for which the category recognition phrase/label was scored 60% included the recognition phrase while 34% were labeled as lucid but had no such phrase or comment.
There were some differences as to the demographics of individuals likely to include a recognition phrase. Chi‑squares on phrase/label as a function of sex of subject, marital status, education, family income, ear problems, motion sickness and general health were computed and a t‑test on number of drugs used as a function of phrase/label was also calculated. The chi‑square's for sex (X2(1) = 4.65, p = .031) and marital status (X2(2) = 7.46, p = .024) were significant. Essentially marrieds and males were less likely to include the recognition phrase.
Incidence of Phrase/label Dreams
as a Function of Sex of Subject and Marital Status
Sex of Male 57 43
Subject Female 75 30
Single 73 33
Marital Married 42 35
Status Div./Wid. 16 3
This seems to imply that we can rely a bit more on the testimony of current singles and females. The incidence of lucidity in females relative to males has been discussed by Gackenbach (in press) but the marital status finding is surprizing and may simply reflect the magazine readership (primarily singles) whereas sex does not as males primarily read OMNI.
In terms of demographics, those 145 who included a lucid dream transcript with a recognition phrase tended to mirror the population as a whole (see appendix Table 2). About the same number of males as females responded half of whom were or are married. They are a well educated group with 56% reporting college or graduate work. Further, 40% make over $30,000 per year with only 17% in the less than $10,000 household income bracket. The majority were under 30 years of age with 37% falling in the 31 to 50 years of age bracket. As for their health, 65% said they were in very good to exceptional health. The largest employment categories were blue, collar, clerical and student followed by the creative fields and engineering/science.
Results of the Dream Experiments
As noted subjects were given four tasks to do in the dream over a 2‑week period. They were: 1) attempt to become lucid; 2) try dream flying; 3) try dream spinning to either travel or stabilize a dream; and 4) try to solve a problem in the dream.
Regarding the attempts to become lucid for those we could be sure understood lucidity it took an average of 5 days to become lucid. This group experienced between 2 and 3 lucid dreams over the course of the 2‑week experiment. But other types of dreams were also recorded and were on average 10 nonlucid dreams including one nightmare, one false awakening and one prelucid dream. The message here affirms other research (Snyder & Gackenbach, 1988; LaBerge, 1985), you have to be a high dream recaller in order to attain lucidity in sleep.
As to the tasks to be undertaken in the OMNI readers lucid dreams all three (flying, spinning and problem solving) were successfully accomplished, but the extent to which they were attempted rather depends on who and how you ask. According to the questionnaires of respondents who demonstrated lucidity understanding, about an equal number said they tried flying and spinning during the 2‑week experiment (67% said they tried each). There was no direct question on the questionnaire about who tried problem solving during the experiment but there was a question asking if the subject ever tried problem solving during dream lucidity. Thirty‑one percent of the verified lucid dreamers said yes. From this it would seem that flying and spinning are a bit easier to do than problem solving in lucid dreams.
But if we look at the judges data a slightly different picture emerges (see appendix Table 4). Of the 314 recognition phrase lucid dreams sent by 192 individuals 40% mentioned flying, 23% mentioned spinning and 12% mentioned problem solving. Again problem solving is most infrequent but here a difference in incidence of flying versus spinning in a population told to do both emerged. This could be because flying is more "natural" to the state and thus appeared more frequently or because this sample of recognition phrase lucid dreams included all dreams sent and not just those from the experiment. Thus we divided lucid dreams with recognition phrases into those during which there was clearly an experiment being tried versus those with no apparent experiment occurring. A total of 273 dreams, 213 nonexperiment lucids and 60 experiment lucids, provided by 171 subjects, 112 provided nonexperiment lucid dreams and 33 provided experiment lucid dreams while 26 provided one or more of each. In the experiment dreams subjects were equally likely to try flying or spinning (see Table 2). But twice as many of the nonexperiment lucid dreams sent contained flying than contained spinning. Thus flying may be more "natural" to the lucid state but that may only be a function of expectation. Tell someone to spin and they do! It can be seen in Table 2 below that for virtually all the flying and spinning variables assessed by the judges the incidence was the same.
But what of the techniques and successes for each of these three dream tasks. As indicated all but a third who tried were able to fly in sleep and the vast majority of these dream flights occurred while lucid. Most said it took little or no effort. As to techniques, three flying maneuvers were most popular; 1) head first, 2) face down and parallel to the ground and 3) standing perpendicular to the ground. These three accounted for 70% of all dream flight maneuvers. Uncharacteristic body positions while awake, such as upside down and perpendicular to the ground, were also rarely seen while asleep and dreaming. Interestingly, if one wanted to argue that dream flight takes its cue from the real sleeping body either lying on ones stomach or back then we would have expected an equal incidence of these
Flying and Spinning in Two Types of Lucid Dreams
Nonexperiment Lucidity Experiment Lucidity
Fly‑Spin/Categories Sum Percent Sum Percent__
A. Flying type 70.00 39.00
1. Independent of support64.00 91.43 34.00 87.18
2. With vehicle 3.00 4.29 2.00 5.13
3. Other 3.00 4.29 3.00 7.69
B. Flying purpose 70.00 37.00
1. Enjoyment 37.00 52.86 20.00 54.05
3. Other 8.00 11.43 3.00 8.11
C. Spin Style 31.00 36.00
1. Like a top 20.00 64.52 25.00 69.44
2. Somersault 2.00 6.45 3.00 8.33
3. Other 9.00 29.03 8.00 22.22
D. Spin Direction* 30.00 33.00
1. Clockwise (top) 10.00 33.33 14.00 42.42
2. Counterclockwise (top) 12.00 40.00 17.00 51.52
3. Forward (somersault) 0.00 0.00 1.00 3.03
4. Backward (somersault)0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
5. Other 8.00 26.67 1.00 3.03
E. Spin Purpose 30.00 29.00
1. Stay in dream 15.00 50.00 13.00 44.83
2. To travel 8.00 26.67 13.00 44.83
3. Other 7.00 23.33 3.00 10.34
F. Spin outcome state 28.00 30.00
1. Lucid 17.00 60.71 21.00 70.00
2. Nonlucid 4.00 14.29 1.00 3.33
3. Awake 7.00 25.00 8.00 26.67
G. Spin outcome setting 24.00 25.00
1. Same dream 13.00 54.17 16.00 64.00
2. New dream 4.00 16.67 6.00 24.00
3. Other 7.00 29.17 3.00 12.00
H. Spin arrive at target** 24.00 27.00
1. Yes 6.00 25.00 12.00 44.44
2. No 4.00 24.00 10.00 37.04
3. Does not apply 14.00 58.33 5.00 18.52
two forms (parallel to the ground with face up or down) but instead we found 26% in the face down parallel to the ground position and only 4.4% in the face up parallel to the ground position. Perhaps, as suggested in the instructions, we are modeling superman in our dream flight.
As for the speed of flight, car and bicycle speeds were most favored (50%) while the slowness of walking (10%) or floating (10%) rarely emerged. Here is an example from a lucid dreamer in Corpus Cristi, Texas:
Dream flying was achieved only once but it was like never before. I never took a step ‑ just started floating a few feet off the ground and starting gradually gaining speed. It was as though I was on a cable [which ran] through my belly [and] pulling me along. I was mildly tilting during the ride but I had control of my balance . . . . [Later I was] half running ‑ half flying. Sort of bouncing. I start out by running slowly and gradually pick up speed.
As for heights attained, these OMNI readers were about equally likely to report flying between a few inches to airplane height (20 to 30% each) but rarely went as far as outer space (2%). These speed and height findings from the questionnaires tend to point to the dream modeling the real world. Yet in the dreams themselves, judges reported that dream flying rarely involved a vehicle (5%) and was predominantly done for the fun of it (52%) rather than for travel (33%), not common characteristics of flight in the real world.
Perhaps a better way to conceptualize dream flight is not as "flying", as we think of it while awake, but rather as a change in perspective; taking the birds eye view. Blackmore discusses the relationship of this perspective to lucid dreams and out‑of‑body experiences (OBE) by arguing that as in waking imagination, in the mental model [imaginal world] of dreams and OBE's we are likely to place "self" in the birds eye view [Editors Note: see her article in this issue of Lucidity Letter]. So indeed dream "flight" models waking "imaginal" reality.
As for the spinning task, again the general thrust was that the dream world modeled the real world. Targets chosen tended to be real and in the present. People wanted to visit everyone from their deceased sister to a boyfriend to the "weirdo at work". In both subject pools (see Table 2 in the appendix) the target person was not famous and tended to be a friend. The next most frequent categories in both populations were lovers (past or present) and relatives. The most often stated target location was the name of a city including Joplin, MO and Paris, France. Also frequently mentioned were places in nature. These included a "beach" and the "Moorkench Mountains".
If using spinning to visit a target, 30% of the verified lucid dreamers reported success, 45% said they were unsuccessful while 26% were uncertain. If spinning was used to stabilize the dream environment the results were a bit better, 40% reported success while 28% were unsuccessful and 32% were uncertain. From the judges readings of 73 spinning dreams with recognition phrases we found that most spun like a top. More used the spin to stay in the dream (48%) than to travel (36%) and the majority found themselves in the same lucid dream after the spin (63%). According to the dreamer, and to a lesser extent the judges reports of the dreams, spins were equally likely to be clockwise as counterclockwise. But at least one dreamer, from Burlington, Iowa, got dizzy. The dream takes place in Old Williamsburg, VA where he is on vacation with his mother. While touring in the dream he writes:
We have to step down, as the store is in the basement. The building is brick with white lattice covered glass windows. The steps down are stone and feel cool. While in the shop I realize I am dreaming. I have to spin, counterclockwise, to stabilize. It works. I go outside and find my mother waiting with my sister.
Later he writes, "I start loosing the dream, I try spinning but remain in a colored mist. I can feel my physical body but am not in it. It feels like it needs to belch from gas in my stomach. I okay the belch and when I do I am shocked awake when puke comes up into my mouth and nasal passage!"
In these two types of tasks does the dream model the real world? The answer is yes and no. The ease of flying would seem to clearly not be a model of the real world. Yet as LaBerge (1989) has recently pointed out perhaps it is. After all when we expect to pick up a jug full of milk and find it empty it "feels" like it "flys" up in our hand. So too in sleep if our mental model of our body is heavy with weight which precludes flight, but when we unexpectedly find it weightless upon recognition that we are in an imaginal world (dream) we may naturally "fly". Preferring head first and standing positions are real models. But the relative incidence of face down versus face up (parallel to the ground) positions is not a real world model. Speed and height of flight on the other hand are within normal experience while awake. Although infrequent, we can and sometimes do experience extraordinary worlds such as flying in outer space.
As for the spinning task the real target in present time models the real world but the direction of the spin does not. As the population tends to be right handed, we would hypothesize a tendency to move in space in an rightward (clockwise) direction. Yet both directions for the spin were equally likely to occur. For that matter the entire concept of spinning to stay in a "dreamt reality" is an odd idea by waking standards. Although recent dream function theories hold that the dream world primarily models the waking world it does, however, have it limitations.
More on the Problem Solving Results
Now lets turn to the final task of the OMNI experiment. Although we can't discuss the results of dream problem solving during the two week experiment we can talk about it in general. As noted it is an infrequently attempted activity which may be because its difficult or because it simply never occurs to most dreamers. Types of problems attempted include:
how to write a book on art sales (22 year old female)
name for a baby (26 year old male)
high school physics problem (female high school student)
I wanted to write a script for Magnum P.I. (33 year old female)
researched life in the 1890's for a book (22 year old male)
It can be seen from Table 2 in the appendix that the types of problems attempted varied from the entire population to those individuals who provided a recognition phrase. As recognition phrase inclusion may not be relevant to what problems people want to solve we will highlight the populations reports. Creative problems were the most frequent (36%) followed by spatial/mathematical problems (26%). An illustration of the latter is a "design for electronic counter circuit." When categorized into spatial, verbal, creative, logical/mathematical or other by the judges, we found no difference in the dream problems with recognition phrases in terms of the success of solving problems (t(34)=‑.151, ns) or in the dreamers or the judges evaluation of the interest of these dreams (t(35)=1.50, ns).
The majority (64%) of dreamers felt they had been very successful in solving their problem in their lucid dream. Here is an example from Melanie:
For days I had been drawing stick figures on paper to try to come up with new mounts (pyramids) for my cheerleading squad. Almost every night I went to sleep thinking of people climbing on top of one another into different positions. One night I woke into a dream and I was building pyramids. (I was the coach and telling others what to do.) I built a bunch but the physics was all wrong. Finally I came up with a configuration which was stable, different, and ascetically pleasing. I woke all the way up. I was so excited ‑ but I of course immediately lost the design. I tried for awhile to get back into the dream but was trying too hard and I couldn't relax enough. But the next day in the shower I was able to recover it and we used it for the cheerleading squad.
But most telling is this comment from a homemaker, "that's like asking me what I use my hands for!" The very function of dreams has been recently characterized as creative, problem solving (Globus, 1988).
Lucid Dreaming Healing Results
We looked in more detail at the healing types of problems. Again few thought to use dreams as healers (23% of recognition phrase lucid dreamers) but when they did 77% said they were successful. In the questionnaire we asked, "Have you ever tried to mentally or physically heal yourself in a lucid dream, curing an illness or overcoming a phobia or fear?" Eighty‑nine dreams labeled "Lucid Dream Healing" were examined. The healing analyses were conducted separately and earlier and thus all reports were not available for the judges evaluations (see Table 4 appendix). The original analyses are discussed in more detail by Gackenbach (1988). Of those available to the judges there was no difference in success (F(2,11)=.288, ns) or interest to them (F(2,11)=.497, ns) as a function of type of healing (psychological/physiological/other). The 89 healing dreams analyzed by Gackenbach (1988a) were of a wide variety. The types are detailed in Table 3.
Types of Healing Dreams
Vague/unclear ‑ 15 (17%)
not a dream ‑ 8 (9%)
nightmares ‑ 22 (25%)
sports ‑ 2 (2%)
phobias ‑ 8 (9%)
get sick and heal self/other in dream‑ 8 (9%)
nonlucid healing ‑ 5 (6%)
healing the body ‑....... 8 (9%)
other ‑ 13 (15%)
The largest response category was healing nightmares using lucidity as is illustrated in this from Peoria, Ill.:
It had such an impact on me that I was really happy and felt 'accomplished' when I woke up. I was in a small town in the country. There was also a boogey‑man type person after me. I can remember that he wanted to kill me with a large knife. So he was chasing me all over town, when finally I opened up a manhole and climbed in. So this man got out of the truck he was driving and was looking down into the manhole at me. The manhole was dark. I remember looking at the man's face and seeing the sunlight reflecting on the ladder that lead down to me. I was afraid that there were "monsters" or other creatures down in the manhole with me. So I said to myself, "Enough is enough, I've had enough of this shit." So this is the part where I realized I was dreaming and my will power was strong enough to control it. I literally flew out of the manhole and zapped the man (who wanted to kill me) with bolts of electricity emanating from my right hand. Then he exploded and I woke up.
[Editors Note: For a more detailed discussion of the possible psychotherapeutic uses for lucidity see Gackenbach's paper in this issue of Lucidity Letter.]
A category of particular theoretical and clinical interest were cases of bodily healing. A clear case of bodily healing with the lucid dream was identified as one where the individual had a physical discomfort prior to falling asleep. When they slept they had a dream where they knew they were dreaming and recalled the physical discomfort. They tried to do something about the discomfort and when they awoke either immediately or in the following weeks or months (depending on the case) the dream was reported as affecting the resolution of the discomfort. Eight such cases were from four men and four women with an average age of 34.4 yr (range 21 to 57). Six of the eight were married and all but one had a college education. Their average family income was about $30,000 with three skilled laborers and two managers among the occupations represented. All claimed to be in good health with no reports of the sleep disease called narcolepsy. Related to individual differences association with lucid dreaming ability, ear problems and motion sickness were infrequently reported in this sample.
In terms of their dream history, although they were by and large (5 of the 8) frequently lucid dreamers (1+ per week), their normal dream recall history over the past year was a bit more varied. Further they showed a mixed pattern of nightmares, false awakenings, and prelucid dreams over the past year. Consistent with research on frequently lucid dreamers this set claimed to control in general both their lucid and nonlucid dreams. Further flying while lucid was also quite common in this group.
Here are a couple of illustrations, a married woman from Sedona, Arizona tells an amusing tale about napping in order to rid herself of a headache. She writes:
Because of a terrific headache, I took a nap. While sleeping I found the solution to the headache. I would chuck my head up in a lathe and turn the top of my head off. Solution found, I couldn't wake myself up. I was thinking I had to wake up so I could solve the headache problem. Of course, when I did awaken the solution was ridiculous ‑ but the headache was gone!
Twenty‑one year old photographer, Carl Paoli, from Mt. Prospect, Illinois writes of an incident with a severely sprained ankle:
About a year ago I sprained my ankle worse than I ever did before. It was very swollen prior to going to sleep and made it very difficult for me to walk. I remember dreaming I was running but having this sprained ankle really bothered me. It must have really been on my mind because while running I realized I can't possibly be running, I must be dreaming. At this point I began to come out of my dream, the pain of my ankle started to fade in. But then I reached for my ankle with my dream hands causing my self to tumble in my dream. This kept me dreaming. As I held my ankle I felt that vibration feels similar to electricity. Amazed with the electricity I decided to throw lightening bolts around in my dream. I awoke with next to no pain in my now unswollen ankle and was able to walk with considerable ease.
None of the cases we examined can be characterized as miraculous cures. They do, however, fit into the waking imagery literature. Specifically, they demonstrate that during the enhanced state of mental imagery called dreams one can potentially impact the well being of the body. Further these results can be conceptualized in terms of the model proposed by Tholey [Editors Note: See Tholey's article in this issue of Lucidity Letter]. for training athletes. That is, develop a waking model of what you want to accomplish, become lucid with recall of waking intent, engage in behaviors to satisfy the goal, and then upon awakening observe the results.
There are commonalties which we can observe in these cases:
1. There is a history of dreaming lucidly as well as lucid and nonlucid dream control.
2. There is a definite presleep intent to lessen the physical discomfort.
3. This intent is recalled upon awakening in the dream.
4. Action is taken either by the dreamer or by a dream character to rid the dream body of the discomfort.
5. The dreamed actions are, with one exception, nonharm inducing although not necessarily passive (i.e., relaxation, laying on of hands, belief in a healer dream character, and prescribed exercise). A common strategy recommended in the waking imagery literature is one of aggressive attack of the illness although more recently suggestions have been made that this strategy may not be universally functional.
6. The positive results of the dreamed action are apparent in the dream.
7. Upon awakening the results of the dreamed action are often apparent shortly after the dream experience.
In terms of these communalities it should be pointed out that the same ones hold for the nonlucid healing cases. In other words, you don't need lucidity to have control over the dream. In some people waking suggestion is sufficient. But it has been repeatedly shown that lucidity dramatically and significantly increases dream control (LaBerge, 1985; Gackenbach, 1988b).
Finally, we must stress that although there is some persuasive theoretical reasons for presuming that dreams can be functional in healing and that lucid dreaming offers a unique opportunity to access this healing potential due primarily to the enhanced dream control the evidence for such healing potential in dreams and in lucid dreams is, as yet, highly speculative. None‑the‑less, we have chosen to present it here because of the moral imperative to provide information which may be of help in healing so long as one is reasonably certain that engaging in the proscribed activities is not harmful. [Editors Note: For more on this potential see Tholey's article.] Clearly problem solving and healing remain an untapped potential of the lucid state in sleep.
Dream Control: The Controversial Aspect of Lucidity
A term that has become almost synonymous with lucid dreaming is dream control. It is illustrated in this from Shawnlinda from Salt Lake City, Utah:
In my lucid dream I started out in the house I was living in at the time. My brother‑in‑law came into the room where, for some reason, I was writing a letter to my best friend who lived down the street, about my colt, who we were co‑training. When I realized I was writing a letter to someone I saw almost daily, I thought that this is really stupid, and I tore it up. Meanwhile, Joe, my brother‑in‑law, came in and started to tell me about his deer hunt. When he told me he got one, I said, 'I must be dreaming.' but he said no, I wasn't. I listened to him rattle on a bit and then I glanced down and saw the letter I'd torn up was whole and then I knew I was dreaming. Then, I figured since it was my dream, I might as well do something I've wanted to do a long time. I wished that Joe would turn into a very large, ugly frog and he did! Then I wished I was aboard Riddle my colt, and I could take him over the jumping course and do the exercises perfect, and we did!
Although by the minimal definition a lucid dream is not necessarily one that is controllable, and visa versa, none‑the‑less the potential for controlling ones dreams while lucid in sleep has repeatedly been demonstrated. This demonstration has caused considerable dialogue in the dream community as to whether or not one should control one's dreams. None‑the‑less so too in this survey among the recognition phrase lucid dreamers 72% reported often or sometimes controlling their lucid dreams compared to only 37% of them reported often or sometimes controlling their nonlucid dreams.
The judges were also asked to evaluate this dimension of control but in more detail. They were asked to evaluate the lucid dreamers success at controlling awakening from the dream, the dream ego, the dream characters, the dream environment and the dream plot (see Table 4 in the appendix). Of the 33 to 117 dreams evaluated along one or more of these dimensions all were evaluated as more than moderately successful at the specific control attempt. Even though all of these forms of dream control were moderately to highly successful some were easier than others. According to these judges reports controlling awakening was harder than most of the other forms (control awakening versus control dream self t(44)=‑2.064,p<.05; versus control dream environment t(44)=‑1.693, p<.1; versus control dream plot t(44)=‑2.764, p<.01). We found no difference in success, as evaluated by judges, between the other forms of dream control. Particularly important is the lack of a superiority in controllingof the dream self. The common wisdom in the lucid dreaming literature is that it is easier to control the dream ego than other aspects of the dream, just as it "appears" to be easier to control ourselves in waking life (sometimes call "free will") than to control others or events. But we found no such differences, at least from the point of view of independent judges. Perhaps as in waking to some extent self control is an illusion which is at the mercy of environmental and biological states and stresses. Indeed Gackenbach (1988b) has warned of the "eye of the beholder" effect when doing content analyses of lucid dreams ‑ lucid dreamers evaluate their lucid dreams differently and generally more intensely than independent judges.
Types of Lucid Dreams
The judges were asked to identify how interesting they found several types of lucid dreams. Nine distinct types were asked about. They were:
1. Healing ‑ psychological or physiological healing in the dream
2. Problem Solving ‑ spatial, verbal, creative, logical problem solving in the dream
3. Nightmare ‑ a frightening or anxiety provoking dream
4. Sexuality ‑ Sexual content
5. Peak/Transpersonal ‑ specific religion, abstract experience of God or nature or some "natural phenomenon"
6. Out‑of‑Body ‑ experience in the dream of the 'self' being located outside the body
7. Recurrent ‑ a repeated dream
8. Entity/Force ‑ an unseen but felt entity or force in the dream
9. Child ‑ a dream from a child or from an adults memory of being a child
When the judges were asked how interesting they found these types (all recognition phrase lucid dreams) a pattern of differential interest emerged. Paired comparisons on the interest of each of these nine types are portrayed in Table 4 below. The most interesting were those with an entity or peak experience while of least interest to the judges were the recurring and sexual dreams.
Comparisons of Judges Interest in Types of Lucid Dreams
Dream type Mean/N* 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. Healing 4.07/14 x x x x x
2. Problem Solve 3.44/36 x x x x x
3. Nightmare 3.90/49 x x x x
4. Sexual Arousal 3.00/30 x x x x
5. Peak 4.09/11 x x x
6. OBE 3.42/12 x
7. Recurring 2.90/10 x x
8. Entity 4.80/5 x
9. Childs 3.65/17
* Comparisons markied with an "x" are significantly different at the .05 level using
a one‑tailed t‑test.
Although the vast majority of people who wrote to us said they enjoyed the experiment and would like to participate in a future research project on lucid dreams a few had other experiences. For instance, a gentleman from La Mirada, Calif. wrote:
Shitty, Yes, that certainly would describe the past fourteen nights. I guess it's kind of like asking a golfer which leg he leans into more when he's making a difficult putt. All of a sudden he doesn't know "how to" anymore. I mean I really TRIED to have a flying dream, a lucid dream, a spinning dream, on some night ‑ ANY DREAM! Nothing, nada, zip! What's more I never, ever, ever, have "nightmares." During this time I had two. And to top it off I got a cold during the first week of this test and my left ear is still bothering me. I think I was eight last time my ears bothered me!
We wonder if a vestibular disorientation with the ear ache might not have caused both the nightmares and inability to do lucidity as indicated by the research of Gackenbach et al. (1987) and Snyder and Gackenbach (in press).
Other than affirming what we have found in previous research, i.e., high dream recall is associated with the lucidity skill, we also have some hints of unexpected things. For instance, the lack of a superiority in the dream ego in terms of dream control. We appreciate the cooperation of OMNI magazine and its readers in participating in this experiment which has provided new information about the exciting dream experience which includes consciousness, the lucid dream.
Gackenbach, J.I. (1988a). The potential of lucid dreaming for bodily healing. Lucidity Letter, 7(2), 28‑34.
Gackenbach, J.I. (1988b). the psychological content of lucid dreams. In J.I. Gackenbach and S. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. NY: Plenum.
Gackenbach, J.I. (in press). Is lucid dreaming naturally female? In S. Krippner (Ed.), Language of the night, Los Angeles: Tarcher.
Gackenbach, J.I., Snyder, T.J., Rokes, L. & Sachau, D. (1986). Lucid dreaming frequency in relationship to vestibular sensitivity as measured by caloric stimulation. In R. Haskel (Ed.), Cognition and Dream Research: The Journal of Mind and Behavior (special issue), 7(2&3), 277‑298.
Globus, G. (1988). Dream life, wake life. NY: SUNY Press.
LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. Los Angeles: Tarcher.
LaBerge, S. (1989, July). The world of lucid dreaming. Paper presented at the annual Lucidity Association Symposium, London, England.
Snyder, T.J. & Gackenbach, J.I. (1988). Individual differences associated with lucid dreaming. In J.I. Gackenbach and S. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. NY: Plenum.
Snyder, T.J. & Gackenbach, J.I. (1990). Vestibular involvement in the neurocognition of lucid dreaming. In J.I. Gackenbach and A. Sheikh (Eds.), Dream images: A call to mental arms. NY: Baywood.
Editor: When did you become interested in lucid dreaming and how were other people instrumental in the cultivation of your interest?
Green: I first became aware of lucid dreams when I was writing my Oxford post‑graduate thesis on unusual states of consciousness with Professor H.H. Price as my supervisor. I was aware of them from the start as something that was closely related to OBEs and they were just one among a very wide range of special states which I included in my thesis. I knew one or two people who had had quite a number, but they were not talked about much in those days.
I found when I talked to academics and experts on sleep and dreaming that there seemed to arise in them some profound resistance. It was very difficult to get anyone to talk coherently about them, even if they did not flatly deny the possibility and assert that if people knew they were dreaming and could think fairly rationally, they really must have been awake. With the more ostensibly tolerant people who open‑mindedly accepted my description of what a lucid dream was, I then found that within a few sentences they seemed to have forgotten the definition and muddled lucidity up with something different. They started to talk as if what was being discussed was precognitive dreams or narrative dreams or something else. This started to give me a kind of idea that lucid dreams must cut across some quite important implicit assumptions of their world‑view, although they did not cut across anything in mine and seemed only a mildly interesting variant of possible experience.
When I was quite young, in my teens, I had formulated the idea that the greatest advances in science arise where there has been resistance to progress. This is not so much due to the intrinsic intellectual difficulty, but rather the fact that it might threaten the current ideology, whatever it might be. Most of the research which is done is determined by the requirement that it shall, in a fairly obvious and predictable way, reinforce the approved or fashionable theories. This does not mean that the research that is done is exactly wrong, only that a great deal of research that might be done is discriminated against, and the reason for this are not explicitly stated. Lucid dreams provide a good example. People did not go around saying "I dislike the idea of lucid dreams because...", it was simply very difficult to talk to about lucidity.
Editor: Why did you write your book Lucid Dreams? How did it come about and what do you think of the response to it?
Green: The first book on lucid dreams was written as a companion volume to our book on out‑of‑body experiences (OBEs). When we founded the Institute we were dependent on obtaining financial support, and we thought the best way of finding it was to start doing what work we could, albeit on a very small and restricted scale. After a few years we were lucky to obtain the support of our first really wealthy benefactor (and still unfortunately our only substantial one), who was Cecil Harmsworth King, the late newspaper magnate. In many ways he was an ideal supporter. He did not try to dictate at all what we should do with his money, and that was really very lucky, particularly as so many of the areas we were opening up were so uncharted. It would have been difficult to convince anyone else that a particular thing was worth doing. In many ways our work was quite speculative, even to us! For example, when we made our public appeal for OBE cases we had no idea whether we would receive any useful responses. Now it is pretty well established that such appeals receive a substantial and fairly consistent response.
Part of Cecil King's approach, which made him so congenial a sponsor, was that he regarded his giving us a certain level of financial support for seven years as "priming the pump". He saw that there was scope for a much larger scale of research than we could do even with his money. King thought he was providing us with the opportunity to demonstrate that there were, previously neglected areas where research could be done and also that we at the Institute had the ability to do it. He hoped that this initial work which he was financing would lead to an increasing flow of financial support to the Institute. So we used the money for what we regarded as sighting shots or pilot investigations in as many different fields as possible, and these included lucid dreams as well as OBEs and apparitions.
As it turned out, his hope about priming the pump was scarcely fulfilled so far as the financial response was concerned. Since the end of the seven year covenant we have not had financial support to speak of. Thus it has been an effort to keep the Institute in existence and to maintain some level of contact with the fields of research which we have opened up.
I couldn't say that I foresaw that Lucid Dreams would be the best received of our books. Now that it has happened I suppose one can see that it is particularly easy for research on lucid dreams to be expanded because lucid dreams have the rather unique attribute that they are fairly easy for people to develop. It is easy to train subjects for laboratory work and also for people who are interested in developing their lucid dreams. No other metachoric experience is so readily trainable. It is difficult to study apparitions or waking dreams except from the reports of those who have had spontaneous experiences of them. In studying OBEs in the laboratory you are to a large extent limited to subjects who happen to have a particular aptitude for them, and who may be a special class.
Editor: What do you consider the relationship between lucid dreams and OBE's? Are they the same, how so or how not?
Green: All metachoric experiences have obvious similarities in that they provide a person with a substitute environment which entirely replaces the physical world as normally perceived. In all cases it can be strikingly realistic as an imitation of normal perception, and in all metachoric experiences, except lucid dreams, it can be entered with no perceptible discontinuity in the subject's perceptual experience. Lucid dreams and OBEs seem to be more closely related than other metachoric experiences because a very positive emotionality is reported in connection with both types, with feelings of liberation and an exploratory curiosity. This is not found to the same extent with apparitions or waking dreams.
Other reasons for supposing them to be related are that some habitual subjects have had techniques for transferring themselves from a lucid dreaming state to an OBE one or at least believed they had. Also intermediate experiences are reported which are not easily classified as one thing or the other.
On the other hand, there are certain statistical differences. The majority of lucid dreams start from normal sleep, and the majority of OBEs from a normal waking state or, at least as they are reported, from a state of physical unconsciousness caused by anaesthesia or accident. In a way it is not too helpful to set oneself the question whether they are the same or different. You could certainly set up a definition which include everything one would like to regard as a lucid dream and exclude what one thinks of as OBEs, and vice versa. For myself, I tend to think of these things as a continuum with clusters of characteristics which correspond to various typical forms. The most typical lucid dream is certainly different in some respect from the most typical OBE. The OBE usually commences in a way that is apparently continuous with the subject's environment, but is more likely to develop in a way that includes spectacular "traveling", e.g. intercontinental or back into the past. On the other hand the most typical lucid dream provides a convincing imitation of physical reality but not of any location particularly well known to the dreamer, and is less likely to include "traveling" which is regarded as long distance, although flying is fairly common. There are, of course, a number of other similarities and differences, which we can only continue to study.
Editor: What is the cause or source of metachoric experiences?
Green: I think the answer to this probably depends on the relationship of metachoric experiences to normal perception, and part of the answer may be that they don't require much to be triggered.
Students of perception have for a long time accepted the idea of an ordinary hallucination, by which they meant some extraneous image superimposed on what was being perceived in the normal way, but hallucinations of even this kind were regrettably seldom studied. There was, and still is, a prevalent attitude that we only want to know about normality, and if a thing is associated with mental illness that is good enough to write it off. However, one can take the view that studying extreme and unusual cases could very well give us insights into the mechanisms of normal perception.
You have to realize that the concept of metachoric experiences, and the recognition that a person can enter a substitute environment without realizing that a discontinuity has taken place, is really quite recent. There now seem to be several different characteristic types, and they seem to be a fairly constant part of normal human experience. I think of them as forming a continuum, because you can find intermediate forms which are not easy to classify. We should also be aware that there may be sub‑classes which might have different clusters of characteristics. As one studies these phenomena one is constantly having reported to one quite small and dull experiences which people have had, which might not be memorable enough for them to send in response to an appeal, nor perhaps even remembered if they are answering a yes/no questionnaire. So I think the first part of an explanation of metachoric experiences may be that the metachoric mode is really quite close to that of normal perception. It does not take that much for a person to flip into it for a short time, although it seems very likely that there are individual differences which facilitate it.
A fair proportion of OBEs (that is, the dramatic type of OBEs which people tend to report in response to appeals) are associated with obviously traumatic and life‑threatening situations. We must mention that a considerable proportion of these, as reported, seem to occur while the subject is actually unconscious as a result of the accident or anaesthetic. Furthermore, we should make a distinction, or at least be aware that there may be a distinction, between those that happen in a highly stressed state of waking consciousness and those that happen when the physical body is completely knocked out for normal purposes, although both of these situations may be viewed as stressful. Thus it appears that high arousal can be a trigger to set off the metachoric mode. But fairly clearly, individual differences play a part in determining whether the trigger works in this way because there is no kind of traumatic experience that can be confidently expected to produce an OBE in everyone.
OBEs are probably the most dramatic in appearance of the metachoric experiences, and they happen in a very wide variety of circumstances. There is a definite group which happens in situations which you might expect to be fairly high in arousal, but though you would expect a person in these to be adrenalised they would not normally be excessively stressful. For example, a person giving a lecture, a dentist extracting a tooth, a person taking a driving test or getting married. We have cases of people watching themselves from the outside in all of these circumstances and several similar ones. Then there are the OBEs which happen in circumstances which do not appear to be states of high arousal at all, when a person is just walking along the street or strolling in the country. Of course you may say that even when there is no particular sign of stress in a person's life there may be some present. It would be a fairly difficult exercise to compare the level of unrecognized stress in the lives of apparently unstressed OBE subjects and a control group of people who also believed themselves to be living stress‑free lives and had not had OBEs.
It has been suggested that stress also facilitates lucid dreams but I am keeping an open mind on this, because some of our subjects have told me that they have to be really tranquil in their lives to feel free enough to focus their attention on having lucid dreams. But I think that being in an intellectually stimulated state might help, or at least not being excessively bored.
Waking dreams and apparitional experiences show no sign at present of being associated with any form of stress, even adrenalisation. So the interesting question is, how close is what goes on in metachoric experiences to the normal perceptual process?
Editor: Have lucid dreams or any of these types of experiences been important to you in your own life cycle? If so how?
Green: I never had any metachoric‑type experiences until I actually started studying lucid dreams. Then I occasionally had lucid dreams. I would not say they were terribly important to me, but they were certainly interesting. At least in my own case I think of lucid dreams a quite different from ordinary ones, both in perceptual clarity and in emotional tone. I sometimes met people who have OBEs and who told me mental techniques for trying in induce them, but none of these ever worked for me. I certainly have an impression that individual differences have a much more determining role in influencing who is able to get OBEs, while lucid dreams could probably be induced by deliberate training in most people. Further lucid dreams arise fairly spontaneously as soon as somebody knows about them. I think this is illustrated in the people who presently work with me at the Institute, none of them including myself have ever had an OBE but about 50% of them have lucid dreams although they did not before they started to study them. This has arisen without any very deliberate efforts being made, just as a result of people being exposed to the idea and perhaps thinking about lucid dreaming as they fell asleep.
Apart from my fairly small population of lucid dreams, I have never had metachoric experiences and I tend to think of myself as a sort of person who would not be easily induced to have any kind of hallucination.
Editor: I understand that you are currently writing another book on lucid dreaming. Will it be significantly different from your last book? If so, how?
Green: My colleague Charles McCreery and I are writing another book on lucid dreams. It will be a completely new book as so much work has been done in this field since the first one, and since we have so many new cases. It will cover the same ground as the first one, but of course it will include a survey of the work to date in each of the areas covered. We are planning to follow this with a similar follow‑up book on OBEs, which will also up‑date our earlier book in the light of work that has been done since then.
Editor: Do you have other writings and/or research projects planned for the future? If so, what?
Green: Of course I have an effectively unlimited quantity of research and writing projects planned for the future. The extent to which they can be carried out will, unfortunately, continue to be almost entirely determined by the financial resources which are available. As I mentioned we have had virtually no financial support since the Cecil King money ended. The scale of work which we are able to carry out, and indeed have ever been able to, should certainly not be taken to indicate that we don't have plans for working on a larger scale. We will implement them as soon as we are able to obtain the money.
At the time I wrote Lucid Dreams no laboratory work on lucid dreams had been done and I hoped that I and my associates would be regarded as suitable people to start it. However, even though other people have started to work on lucid dreams in laboratories, we are still trying to raise money to set one up, which, by the way, would not really require an inordinately prohibitive scale of finance. Once we had it we would use it not only for lucid dreams but for work on other metachoric experiences and possibly other things as well, depending on the volume of work the laboratory could handle and the money available to us for running it. Even the writing of books in our present circumstances is a slow and difficult procedure. None‑the‑less we continue to collect cases and will always be pleased to receive cases from your readers to add to our files which they consider illustrative of any particularly interesting points. We are especially interested in those associated with the relationship between lucid dreams and other metachoric experiences.
From time to time people from all over the world write to us, including several from the USA and Canada, wishing to come and join us in our work. So perhaps I can give this much of a preliminary answer to anyone who may be thinking of doing this. Of course everyone is welcome to come and augment our efforts, but I am afraid we cannot offer a salary at present to anyone, although we might be able to give them some help in living fairly inexpensively. As our problems are so largely financial, we hope that anyone who comes will be prepared to divide their time between helping with business activities designed to generate income to support the Institute's work, the background work of the Institute, and work on the actual research projects. [Editors Note: If interested you can write to Ms. Green at the Institute of Psychophysical Research, 118 Ganbury Rd., Oxford, England, OX2 6JU.]
REVIEW ESSAY BY
Books by Almaas discussed:
Essence: The Diamond Approach to Inner Realization, Samuel Weisen, York Beach, Maine, 1986.
The Void: A Psychodynamic Investigation of the Relationship Between Mind and Space, Diamond Books, Almaas Publications, Box 10114, Berkeley, Calif., 1986.
The Pearl Beyond Price: Integration of Personality into Being: An Object Relations Approach, Diamond Books, Berkeley, Calif., 1988.
How do I convey the potential importance of this material? First, then, how is this extraordinarily original integration of psychoanalytic object relations theory with a discipline of transpersonal self realization (closet to the fourth way tradition of Gurdjieff/Ouspensky) relevant to our "new science" of lucid dreaming?
Lucid dreaming has rightly been compared to a spontaneously emerging state of meditative realization. When their potential is not narrowed by over control, lucid dreams show the same development of the detached "witnessing" attitude that is sought in meditation and its tenuous co‑existence with ongoing participation in the dream situation. Correspondingly, an explicit goal of some Buddhist, Taoist, and Sufi practices is the progressive extension of the "observing self" of meditation into all aspects of one's everyday social life. It is noteworthy that the euphoria and kinesthetic "rush" characteristic of lucid dreaming often grows into the powerful sense of presence or "being" that Maslow termed peak experience. The content of such lucid dreams can also include involves the mandala/chakra patterns and "light of the void" experiences described in deep meditation. Indeed, just as transpersonal psychologists like Wilber and Engler have called attention to the way that experiences of felt transcendence can create or exacerbate narcissistic/self pathology, Gackenbach has been calling our attention to the way that an overly narrow fascination with the "high" of lucid dreaming can give rise to self inflated grandiosity and/or schizoid isolation.
The transpersonal potential of lucid dreaming now seems clear and raises the more general issue of lucidity per se ‑‑ "lucid wakefulness" as a goal of personal development that involves this same ability to be fully present and "here now" in the midst of waking activities. To experience when awake the same sense of "being" that characterizes the most powerful lucid dreams would indeed entail a realization experience very similar to successful "self remembering" in the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky system. Gurdjieff taught a "fourth way" practice, apparently derived mainly from Sufism, in which the classical, more impersonal, experiences of transcendence ("objective consciousness") were deemed less important than the difficult and gradual realization of I‑am‑ness or felt presence within daily activities. (See also Charles Tart's Waking Up, New Science Library). Self remembering is a this ‑ worldly meditative practice that seeks to transmute "false personality" into "Essence". Gurdjieff's description of those to whom these teachings were directed anticipates to a remarkable degree the recent psychoanalytic formulations of self pathology: the sense of having a lost or underdeveloped "true self" (unrealized Essence) defensively masked by a multiplicity of false identities; a largely mechanical (schizoid) way of "sleepwalking" through everyday life, lacking genuine will and lost in "identifying"; and "unconscious paralysis by one's chief feature". The role of chief feature in Gurdjieff's work is strikingly like M. Balint's account of the curative acceptance of "basic fault" in deep psychotherapy. Full self remembering gradually renews our lost attunement to Being, also a major theme of the psychoanalysts Winnicott and Bion.
Enter Almaas, with his astonishingly detailed approach to the realization of Presence or Essence that integrates the "fourth way" tradition of spiritual development (predominantly Sufi) with Kohut, Kernberg, Mahler, and especially Winnicott and Guntrip ‑‑ in other words, with the major developments in clinical psychoanalysis over the past 25 years. This synthesis is effected by means of a further development of Reichian bioenergetics, in which typical relationship conflicts and felt deficiencies of self are experienced as contractions in specific parts of the body. With sustained, open awareness (which will also entail anxieties over disintegration and dissolution), each contraction gradually comes to be felt as a hole or opening in the body image. Continued contemplative awareness allows these holes, or concrete realizations of felt deficiency to open outward into attunements to Being. It was this sense of Being (felt as open, clear space) that was given up and then defended against in early childhood. The areas in which these contractions and openings are felt are linked to yogic chakras, as well as to the more subtle bodily energy centers discussed in Sufism as lataif.
A great strength here is Almaas's refusal to treat transpersonal experience and dynamic conflict as inherently separate realms or as necessarily separate phases of realization (as in, first fix the container, then receive higher teachings). In a way reminiscent of Angyal on the "universal ambiguity" (reversible gestalt) between health and pathology, he states:
The old idea is that the personality is the barrier and must be removed before there can be a recognition of our essential beingness. Our findings indicate that essence can be realized in steps or in degrees, simultaneously with work on the personality. Each essential aspect or facet has a psychological constellation associated with it .... Understanding and resolving the relevant psychological constellation (which is only a sector of the personality) will allow the associated aspect of essence to emerge in consciousness. It is not necessary to resolve the personality as a whole. (Essence, p. 59)
After first teaching this system in small groups and individual therapy for a number of years in California and Colorado, Almaas has now published, Essence (his most general introduction), The Void, and The Pearl Beyond Price (his most systematic and detailed presentation, like The Void with copious case history vignettes). There are also shorter books of lectures (Diamond Heart, Books One and Two, The Elixir of Enlightenment,) and a collection of tapes. It becomes apparent that in addition to the traditions he explicitly synthesizes in these books (which also include key references to Buddhism, Vedanta and Taoism), his work is congruent with Jung (whom he critiques as overly imagistic), Eugene Gendlin on inter‑sensory "felt meanings" within the body (which one could argue he extends into transpersonal experience), the philosophy of Heidegger (with Essence equivalent to Dasein as our primordial presence in‑the‑world and space as the "lighting" of Being‑as‑such). His work is also consistent with some of my own writings (Hunt 1989; 1985) positing the cross modal synaesthetic bases of the mystical experience of the void and of the sensations of body hollowness and internal "streaming" experienced as chakras in meditation and as body mutilation in schizophrenia. Finally, there is an intriguing similarity with the most recent books of Carlos Castaneda, especially in the latter's description of "subtle energy emanations" felt as dents, crevices, or black spots in the body image.
Like Gurdjieff/Ouspensky, Almaas carefully distinguishes the more impersonal attunements to Being ("Space is the experience of" reality with no boundaries at all, with no sense of separate identity whatsoever, with no sense of individual experience." The Void, p.154) from what he terms the Essence realizations of will, value, compassion, joy, peace, and, especially of strength. Strength is basic to Personal Essence (the sense of oneself as embodiment of Being). It is Personal Essence that must replace the hopelessness and despair that comes from experiencing the inevitable falsity of ego structure. Personal Essence also forestalls the defensive grandiosity and isolation that can result from premature transcendent awareness. The more impersonal side of mystical states can operate as a defense against the more personal dilemmas of relatedness and autonomy. "Transcending a situation is not necessarily the same as resolving it "(The Pearl Beyond Price, p. 15). The facets of Essence (will, etc.) that are the potential openings to the direct experience of Being are termed the Diamond approach, while Personal Essence ‑‑ the realization of I‑am ‑‑ is referred to as the Pearl.
As with Winnicott, "feeling real" is contrasted with defensive identifications based on false accommodation.
"Self‑image itself is the barrier...against the experience of space. It is what fills space, what structuralizes it; so only an individual who can let go of identification with the self‑image will be able to experience space" (The Void, p. 85)
With the object relations theorists and Kohutian self psychologists, self representations are based on internalized interpersonal relations and so ultimately on the child's early symbiotic‑mirroring relation with the mother. These residues of early constructions of self and other are identical with "personality structure" and thus are the deepest barriers to presence and openness. Almaas is especially tied to Winnicott here who similarly posits a primary attunement to Being and its inevitable slide into the sense of having a lost "true self" ‑‑ the isolated, non communicating or "unfound" core of the self that did not or could not receive empathic mirroring.
Like Fairbairn, Almaas hold that "identification" always results from "bad" experience. It is the most basic defensive contraction, reflecting the failure to fully "metabolize" or "digest" experience ‑‑ owing to its strength and/or our vulnerability. This contrast between presence and "self representation" is also nicely captured by the psychoanalyst Bion.
The belief that reality is or could be known is mistaken because reality is not something which lends itself to being known. It is impossible to know reality for the same reason that makes it impossible to sing potatoes; they may be grown, or pulled, or eaten, but not sung. Reality has to be "been"... Is it possible... to affect a transition from knowing the phenomena of the real self to being the real self? (Transformations, p. 148).
Bion similarly distinguishes between undigested residues of experience ("beta elements") and the "alpha function" that would assimilate our experience without "structural" trace.
To experience the Essential attunements to Being involved in strength, will, compassion, peace, etc. requires a re‑experiencing, with the original sense of anxiety and emptiness of the early defenses that came to either deny their absence or fake their presence, by ages three to four. With sustained open awareness these feelings will turn into "holes", "gaps", or sensations of "emptiness" in the stomach, genitals, chest, and head. These holes would constitute concretized expressions of psychic pain, I would suggest, in a creature in whom a metaphoric capacity must re‑use the expressive patterns of body sensation as the symbolic vehicles of self reference. Almaas states that since Essence is naturally attuned to the openness of space, or light‑of‑the‑void, as its most inclusive expression, while "personality" rests on chronic psychosomatic contractions, a phase of partial transition in essential development will have to involve just these sensations of gap and hollowness. As Almaas points out, these holes ‑‑ which can also be sensed as mutilations ‑‑ indicate that we are tapping into borderline or narcissistic regions of personality. (He reserves judgement on how useful his methods will prove with overtly borderline or psychotic patients). Finally, with a sustained attitude of openness and surrender these holes will be spontaneously filled and replaced by initially subtle sensations of Essence ‑‑ as facets of the experience of Being (space). Each facet (will, joy, love, etc.) will be seen to have its own characteristic physiognomy, involving feelings of fullness, expansiveness, roundedness, melting, flow, etc.
More specifically, realization of Personal Essence, the key step in essential development, is understood as the transmutation of the defensive residues of Mahler's symbiotic/individuation phases of infancy. Strength, the essential manifestation or metabolism of early autonomy, emerges as a felt meaning or physiognomy of power, body fullness, roundedness, heat and peace to replace a sense of weakness and emptiness centered in the stomach. The full experiencing of defensive dependency (Mahler's symbiosis) re‑appears as "merging essence" or compassion, with its physiognomy of sweetness, honey‑like flow, melting, and golden colour sensed as filling a hollowness centered in the chest. The existential or intrinsic aloneness entailed by Personal Essence is balanced by the replacement of the internal image of the symbiotic mother with merging essence. The chief defense against such essential strength (and aloneness) is "negative merging" ‑‑ the vicious circle of negative symbiosis between contracted images of self and other.
Something of these transitions is reflected in the following case vignette:
I am beginning to see how much I identify with my mother. We discussed my dream of not being able to breathe...I see men as able to breathe and get away from mother. That is one of the reasons I had the hard masculine defense.... Now... I enjoy being a woman and that means I am like my mother, and I become afraid to breathe.... Part of the reason I sell myself short is to try desperately to get her love; she did not want me to be me and do well..... I felt a large gaping hole around my heart and lungs as you spoke. I kept trying to fill it in various ways, one of which is trying to be my mom.... I have a gigantic wound where my mother continued to emotionally stab me as an infant every time my strength and love came out to her.... She has the love and warmth, and I am nothing without her. As we worked Saturday night I felt at some point a juicy, honey‑like feeling or presence in my chest, where the wound is. It was sweet and warm and like nectar... I feel strong and more myself than before. (The Pearl Beyond Price, p. 229‑230)
The final step in this sequence of developing Personal Essence is the metabolizing of Mahler's practicing subphase, in which the young child extends its sense of personal initiative. Almaas terms this the realizing of Essential Self. This is a sense of presence originating from the head cavity, with a physiognomy of definiteness, singularity, luminosity, and preciousness ‑‑ a highly distinct sense of "alive presence", or we might say "lucidity". From there, Almaas offers a sketch of the more impersonal levels of the experience, of Being that is quite congruent with Buddhist accounts of the void.
The most startling of Almaas is recontextualizing of classical psychodynamics, however, comes with his discussion of castration anxiety (the defensive sense of passivity and helplessness at the core of the oedipal dilemma) as the blockage of Essential will. This deficit is experienced as the "genital hole" ‑‑ a felt absence of sensation and presence in the genital regions for both men and women. This could be Almaas's transpersonal reading of Freud's controversial discussion in "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" of castration anxiety in men and penis envy in women as a common "repudiation of femininity". For Almaas, however, such conflict is actually against the genital hole as felt deficit. With the beginning shift from contraction to open space in this region, men will report the fantasy/sensation of possessing a "moist, juicy vagina" (which Almaas points out is especially upsetting for the macho). There is a compensatory penis in women (equally dislocating for militant feminists). Personifications of femininity in terms of weakness and passivity are based on a confusion of the vagina with the incipient sense of genital hole as metaphoric deficit.
The genital hole is the impacted and so distorted experience of the opening at the top and bottom of the hollow column sensed as running vertically down the center of the body and which is basic to the phenomenology of the yogic chakras and the release of Kundalini. I have suggested (Hunt, 1985) that this open column would be the inevitable result of a cross modal, synaesthetic translation between the open circular shape of the visual field and lack of differentiated tactile sensitivity in the body interior (also noted by the classical introspectionists). When cross modally based felt meaning is developed for its own sake (i.e., contemplatively) and no longer subordinated to pragmatic reference, such complex visual‑kinesthetic synaesthesias would help embody a correspondingly abstract felt significance. For Almaas these holes at the top and bottom of the body column are the most common and direct openings to the experience of space.
By way of some critical reflection: Almaas's descriptions may seem at times like overly literalized metaphors (i.e., guts for strength, heart for melting love, etc.). This is a potential problem if he wants to substitute a directly sensed presence for all "mental constructs". However, if the human symbolic capacity does rest on a capacity for cross modal or synaesthetic translations across separate sensory realms ‑‑ such translation being the animating factor behind felt meanings ‑‑ then it does make sense that such an imagistic re‑use and emergent synthesis of the structures of tactile‑kinesthetic perception should fuse felt meanings with the expressive potentials of muscle groups. There would then indeed be a continuum between incipiently metaphoric body sensations and the most abstract, inclusive felt meanings.
From an admittedly more cognitive perspective (which may indeed not do full justice to the phenomenology of unmediated directness and reality in these experiences), some clarification of Almaas's enterprise may be gained from Langer's distinction between the representational and presentational organizations of symbolic experience (Langer, 1972). In representation, medium is subordinated to discursive intentional reference. In presentational symbolism meaning emerges precisely from experiential immersion in the synaesthetic properties of the medium of expression, as in aesthetics and most directly in "altered states of consciousness". Accordingly, we could consider the phases of Almaas's essential realization as involving a transmuting of self and other representations into directly felt presentational states ‑‑ released as such and independent of their ordinary embedding within practical reference. The unfolding of such immediate presentational states would be based on increasingly "abstract" fusions between the basic structures of the separate senses ‑‑ the more diffuse and "open" the patterns involved, the more all encompassing and powerfully unitive the resulting felt meaning.
Almaas seems to imply something very much like this way of conceiving pure consciousness as a dynamic synaesthesia in his account of the full experience of Essence:
Essence, when experienced directly, is seen to be some kind of substance, like water or gold, but it is not physical substance like physical water or gold.... Imagine that this water is self‑aware, that each molecule is aware of itself and of its own energy and excitation. Imagine now that you are this aware substance, the water. This is close to an experience of essential substance.
Connecting the various capacities [for subtle perception] with different energetic centers does not mean that it is only in those locations that the capacities are exercised. In fact, such capacities can be exercised, when developed, at any location in the body; indeed they overlap. Texture (belly) can be discriminated by taste [heart], even by seeing [head], as can density and viscosity.... The phenomenon points to a very deep truth, that of the unity of senses, or capacities of perception. At the deeper dimension of essence, the centers lose their importance.... It is possible to say that essence is consciousness, pure consciousness....
Essence is self‑aware. It knows itself, intuits itself, sees itself, hears itself, smells itself, tastes itself, touches itself. But all this is one act, one unified perception. (Essence, p. 50, 80, 132‑133).
I have suggested that a full translation of kinesthesis into open visual space will entail a correspondingly synaesthetic opening out or evanescence of body image ‑‑ i.e., its phenomenal disappearance (Almaas's space). Where anxiety and contraction still exert an effect, the result would be a negative absorption by black emptiness, in contrast to the positive and full dissolving into the open luminosity of classical mysticism.
This more cognitive formulation may help to address a question that Almaas ultimately leaves open: Is essential realization primarily a matter of development in later life or an uncovering of something lost in childhood? Generally he writes from the latter perspective. He repeatedly calls attention to our intuitive sense that very young children are "special" in having just those spontaneously expressed aspects of strength, will, love, joy, etc. and he offers a normative schedule for their gradual disappearance and distortion by the age of four. He also points out that the later opening of these dimensions of essence is often accompanied by the recovery of early childhood memories of these aspects of essence, and there are indeed widespread adult memories of transpersonal‑numinous experiences from childhood. Yet Almaas also points out that such children embody essence without the self awareness that is critical to adult realization. Consistent with suggestions that transpersonal awareness entails an abstract cognitive development, he states:
...we are not suggesting here that the neonate experiences itself as space in the same way an adult experiences his mind as space; we are only pointing out the qualities of spaciousness and openness in the concept of the undifferentiated matrix. Most likely the perceptual apparatus of the neonate is not developed enough to experience the undifferentiated matrix as space. (The Void, p. 37).
Indeed, it may from a developmental perspective, be most plausible to suggest that essential realization is an adult "presentational shift" of infant "structures" embedded in the representations of self and other in ordinary relatedness. It may even be that the deepest levels of these patterns do not become truly symbolic until finally reached by synaesthetic translation ‑‑ as in the deep, inner body coenesthesis that only proves "hollow" on introspection/meditation. More specifically, the patterns of mother‑infant interaction and their internalization as psychic structure are, in Jung's sense, the diffuse "building blocks" of our symbolic capacity. Their shift from embedded phases of representation to direct presentational awareness would be correspondingly abstract and all‑inclusive in felt meaning. In other words, those experiences become symbolic only when released as the potential metaphoric vehicles of essential realization. What is truly uncovered here is the child's lost spontaneity and expansiveness, which were freely and openly expressed precisely because they were outside of the very self awareness whose later incomplete development was the source of their inhibition. Certainly both "presentational shift" and the appearance of more abstract spatial synaesthesias could also appear sporadically and precociously in children ‑‑ much as we find occasional precocity in more specific frames of intelligence like music, mathematics, and visual art.
By way of conclusion, none of these minor reformulations or extensions can in any way obscure Almaas's extraordinary achievement in taking the next and long awaited step in the dialogue between Eastern spiritual traditions and Western psychotherapies. Somehow he has synthesized recent psychoanalysis, "fourth way" and other spiritual practices, and something like a guided imagery version of Gendlin's focusing by way of Wilhelm Reich ‑‑ and all this with intellectual rigor and clarity!
There is also a message here of real hope for those both drawn to and frustrated by the transpersonal traditions. The opening out of space (whether taken as metaphor or reality) is right there within our personal anguish, and most especially within our most chronic body tensions. Our attunement to the sense of being and feeling real would be found precisely where it seems most irretrievably lost.
Angyal, A. (1965). Neurosis and Treatment. New York: Wiley.
Balint, M. (1968). The Basic Facult. New York: Brunner/Mazel
Bion, W.R. (1962). Learning from Experience. London: Heinemann.
Bion, W.R. (1965). Transformations. New York: Basic Books.
Gendlin, E. (1981). Focusing. New York: Bantum
Hunt, H. (1984). A cognitive psychology of mystical and altered state experience. Perceptual and Motor Skills, Monograph no. 58, pp. 467‑513.
Hunt, H. (1985). Relations between the phenomena of religious mysticism and the psychology of thought: A cognitive psychology of states of consciousness and the necessity of subjective states for cognitive theory. Perceptual and Motor Skills, Monograph no. 61, pp. 11‑61.
Langer, S. (1972). Mind: An essay in feeling, Vol. 2, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.
Winnicott, D.W. (1965). Communicating and not communicating leading to the study of certain opposites. In D.W. Winnicott, The maturational processes and the facilitating environment. New York: International Universities Press.
"CONSCIOUS MIND, SLEEPING BRAIN: PERSPECTIVES ON LUCID DREAMING", EDITED BY JAYNE GACKENBACH AND STEPHEN LABERGE, NEW YORK: PLENUM, 1988.
This is the most through summary on lucid dreams to date. The editors have been very successful at the monumental task of gathering the major modern works on lucid dreams from across many disciplines and nationalities. For a basic introduction to lucid dreaming, two other books by these authors ‑‑ Gackenbach and Bosveld's (1989) Control Your Dreams and LaBerge's (1985) Lucid Dreaming ‑‑ would be more appropriate. However, most readers of Lucidity Letter will already be well enough versed in the field to appreciate the amount of depth in Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain.
The book starts with Stephen LaBerge's history of lucid dreaming in western traditions beginning with Aristotle and including references to dream lucidity by major writers such as Thomas Aquinas, Charles Dickens, Fredrich Nietzsch, and Thomas Mann as well as the classic lucid dreamers such as Saint‑Denys, van Eeden, and Arnold‑Forster. The next chapter by George Gillespie traces Tibetan Buddhism's attention to lucidity.
The second section of the book covers empirical approaches to lucid dreaming including a chapter by LaBerge summarizing the evidence that lucid dreams occur predominately during REM sleep and outlining the specific correlates of when during REM sleep lucid dreams are likeliest to occur in terms of CNS activation, temporal distribution, and EEG alpha. Another delight for researchers is a chapter by Morton Schatzman, Alan Worsley, and Peter Fenwick documenting a clear correspondence between actions in lucid dreams and actual events as recorded by such objective measures as EMG. The section concludes with a comprehensive review by Thomas Snyder and Jayne Gackenbach on individual differences associated with frequent lucid dreamers including personality, visual, intellectual, equilibratory, and ocumotor studies.
For the less empirically inclined, the third section of the book provides a rich variety of accounts of personal and psychotheraputic uses of lucid dreaming. Patricia Garfield's chapter segment on creativity gives examples from her own and her clients' experience with using lucid dreams to generate inspiration for everything from visual art to book titles. Gordon Halliday describes using lucidity to banish nightmares, Paul Tholey provides case histories of using lucid dreaming to treat a wide variety of complaints in psychotherapy, and Alan Worsley ‑‑ arguably the most prolific and meticulous documenter among the lucid dreamers of our time ‑‑ give his most detailed account yet of the variety of phenomena which he has explored in lucid dreams. The book concludes with a section on theoretical implications of lucid dreaming, including its relation to other phenomena of consciousness such as meditation and out‑of‑body experiences.
The book does contain a few disappointments. Robert Denten's chapter on the Senoi is perfectly good anthropology but unrelated to the topic of the book; it takes 27 pages to tell us that the Senoi have nothing to contribute to the lucid dreaming literature. Instead, more useful inclusions related to the myth of Senoi dream control might have been a summary by Bill Domhoff or Ann Faraday on their investigations of Kilton Stewart's fabrications and American "Senoi dreamwork" or anthropological studies of cultures that did practice lucidity‑related dream control such as some Native American tribes.
Jayne Gackenbach's otherwise excellent chapter on the content of lucid versus nonlucid dreams contains 23 pages of statistical tables testifying to the frequent reluctance of editors to edit their own work as effectively as they do that of the other contributors, and Charles Tart's review of dream control experiments was only slightly changed from an earlier version of the same chapter that was published in Wolman's widely read 1979 Handbook of Dreams. Despite these minor shortcomings, Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain is the most comprehensive book ever published on lucid dreaming. It is one which many Lucidity Letter readers will want for their own shelves and also the type of serious reference work which one might want to encourage your local city and university libraries to order.
JOHN LAYARD'S THE LADY OF THE HARE: A STUDY IN THE HEALING POWER OF DREAMS, ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN LONDON IN 1944 AND HAS BEEN RECENTLY REPRINTED BY SHAMBHALA PRESS
JANE WHITE LEWIS
Layard's work is actually two short books ‑‑ one about the "The Lady" and the other about "The Hare". In the first "book" entitled "The Dream Analysis", Layard presents the case of "Mrs. Wright". A devout Christian and "hard‑working country woman", Mrs. Wright sought therapy for her extremely introverted sixteen year old daughter Margaret. After one unsuccessful session in which Layard was unable to "reach" Margaret, he suggested that the mother come to see him and discuss her own dreams in an attempt to "get at" Margaret's problem. He felt that an examination of Mrs. Wright's dreams might reveal the unconscious family dynamics and the source of Margaret's difficulties. In the book Layard describes twelve analytic sessions and reports 25 dreams and "visions", as well as associations and interpretations of the imaginal material. According to Layard, a turning point in the treatment was marked by the appearance of a dream which Mrs. Wright was sacrificing a hare.
Picking up on the Hare motif of this "crucial" dream, Layard considers the Hare as an archetype in the second section, "The Mythology of the Hare". Exploring the symbolism of the hare, he recounts numerous myths, folk tales and customs that relate to the Hare from India, China, North American Indian, Ancient Egypt, Africa, Europe, and Classical Antiquity.
From an historical perspective, the book is interesting. As the author writes in his introduction, his work is the first Jungian case presentation in which any "serious attempt has been made to record in any detail the analyst's own part in the process as well as the patient's". The book does, however, seem dated in both language and technique and it is easy to criticize the analyst's interpretations as being simplistic, incomplete or narrowly Christian. The simplicity of the case material is both a weakness and a strength. One soon discovers that one has been drawn into the therapeutic process and is very engaged in the interactions between the therapist and analysand. The freshness of the images and the straightforward presentation of the interactions between the analyst and the analysand invite one to imagine other interpretations and therapeutic interventions. To take the Hare dream as an example ‑‑ this startling image irresistibly captures the imagination regardless of one's approach to dreams.
The Lady and the Hare raises an important question. What is it in therapy that heals? Clearly there was some change in Mrs. Wright's self‑awareness as she reflected on her collective attitudes and "shadow" qualities which had interfered with Margaret's capacity to lead a fuller less restrictive life. Is it healing just to tell our story to an important Other regardless of the insights, interpretations and theoretical stance? Is it healing just to take one's imaginal life seriously? Is it the relationship that heals? Although Layard denied any "transference", this comment reflects more a lack of understanding of the phenomenon than the actual experience (there is ample evidence in both the dream material and the interactions and dialogues to suggest a strong positive transference). The subtitle of the book suggests Layard's (and Jung's) position. According to the author, there is a curative value in the release of symbolic activity and in a "redirection of attention". By attending to our dreams, we can tap into the natural healing process of the unconscious.
The value of the mythology section lies in the richness of the stories and material about hares/rabbits. If one has a special love for or has ever dreamed about rabbits, this book will have a special appeal. I suspect that any reader will feel compelled to check out the "Hare in the Moon" (the Indian and Chinese equivalent of the "Man in the Moon") after reading Layard's book.
From the rich and complex mythological material that is presented, the author focuses on those examples which support his interpretation of the hare dream as an expression of a spiritual and psychological rebirth experience and the "transformation of an untutored instinct through sacrifice into spiritual value". Unfortunately material which suggests other interpretations ‑‑ such as the hare as a symbol of love or lust and its association to Aphrodite, Eros, and the Bacchic ritual cycle in classical antiquity ‑‑ are virtually ignored. By overemphasizing the "spiritual" and Christian interpretations, Layard missed deeper levels of transferential dynamics in the analytic process. This dimension of the experience was indeed sacrificed.
REFLECTIONS ON GACKENBACH'S CONCEPTION OF PURE CONSCIOUSNESS AS RELATED TO OBE'S AND NDE'S
I recently finished Gackenbach's article in 06/89 issue of Lucidity Letter (re: your linkings of OBE's/NDE's/UFO abductions/lucidity) and am now excitedly playing with viewing various of my own experiences through her proposed framework. I had my first OBE (that I remember) when I was 10. My grandmother (who lived with us and to whom I was very close) was dying (cancer) in our home. "Something" drew me to her and I crawled up onto her as she died. She began chanting in Cherokee (I'm 1/2 Indian) and I had the sensation of both our bodies slowly floating up to the ceiling. At this point, she "spoke to" me ("passing on a legacy"), then drew her hands away from me at which point I found myself "back in my body", lying on her corpse in the bed. I didn't feel as if I were asleep/dreaming, as I was so acutely attending to what was happening to my grandmother.
My next group of OBE's followed by NDE when I was 17 (auto accident...My NDE seems "typical" of others I have read, e.g., flying down a dark tunnel toward a light at the end, hearing music, seeing people I knew, then feeling "pulled backward" into my body, becoming semi‑aware that I was riding in an ambulance, on my way to the hospital). For the subsequent week, I was, clinically, in shock, plus was pumped full of Demerol. My friend, Donna, in the same auto as I, was killed instantly in the accident, but I was not consciously aware of her death until several days later...(I was having NDE at time of accident, then no one told me for 4 or 5 days). I won't spend a lot of time here trying to describe the perceptual state(s) I was in during those few days, but, basically, I was seldom aware of waking, normally‑experienced time and space. And, what's really interesting to me is that I had several "escapades" with Donna during this time (e.g., we "flew around" the universe, "visiting" other planets and stars, we'd "look down" at my body, lying in the hospital bed, then snicker about our "sneaking out" of the hospital without anyone's knowledge... Then, the last time I "saw"/spent with her, she told me to tell "everyone" she was "OK" and was going to a "nice place". Obviously, I was later quite confused when I learned of her death (as I'd assumed she'd been in the same state(s) as I). It took me several days to "clearly understand" that she was dead and I was alive...
At this point in my life, I had not regularly practiced any type of meditation/visualization, although I had attended some Indian powwows and participated in some related rituals (e.g., medicine circles, sacred hoops, vision quests). I had been more frequently and deeply involved in the Southern Baptist Church doctrine (which was fairly "fundamentalist", my Oklahoma home being in the "Bible Belt"). The following year, however, I began undergraduate study in Music Therapy and was exposed to guided imagery (Helen Bonny's), which I began practicing regularly. While my use of imagery/visualization has evolved quite a bit over the years, it is still an important and impactful practice for me. If we slice "meditation" into two gross categories, I suppose my practice has been/is a bit more similar to the "concentrative/one‑pointedness" (vs. "insight/mindfulness") one, although I can identify certain aspects of each in what I do...
At age 23, I had another OBE during my father's death. I knew he was "going" and was kneeling beside his hospital bed, holding his hand. As with my grandmother, I had the sensation that we were floating upwards; this time, however, the scene I "saw" was not in the room, but one of beautiful clouds and lights. It was so euphoric that I "asked" my father to take me with him, but he gently denied my request, "saying" it was "not my time." Again, I did not feel as if I were sleeping/dreaming, due to the intensity of the moment. And, again, I "found myself back in the body", holding the hand of his body.
As I read Gackenbach's "postulating that at two points the system is forced to create a new mental model of its experience" (resulting in OBE's), I can say that my system was "on sensory overload...with extreme...emotional stress" during the deaths of my grandmother and father. Likewise, following the auto accident, my system was under extreme physical stress (as some "part of me" my have realized Donna was dead); I can also say that, subsequently, parts of my system were "denied sensory inputs" (due to physiology of shock and receipt of Demerol).
About one year after my father's death, I underwent some intensive hypnotherapy with a very skilled therapist. Among other things, I learned how to better recall and work with my dreams, mostly on a personal/egoic level (although I "met" several "dream teachers/guides", two of whom are still in my dreams, lucid and not, these seven years later).
Last September, I began a doctoral program in Transpersonal Psychology which heavily emphasizes integrative (emotional/physical/mental/spiritual) work. Last January, as part of a Psychology of Meditation class, I began regular practice of various insight/mindfulness meditations (in addition to my old, favorite visualizing). Also, as part of a Dream Interpretation class, I read Stephen LaBerge's Lucid Dreaming, then, BANG!! I had my first lucid dream (without really trying "that hard"; I was somewhat open to and somewhat skeptical of their "power"...until, of course, I experienced one...)
Over the past months, I've continued developing my lucid dream skills along, I suppose, the usual lines (flying, sex, visiting places/people from waking, psi skills). Two mentions, however, in Gackenbach's article relate to some of my most recent lucid dreaming shifts. I have recently experienced a qualitatively new (to me) type of dream bizarreness (especially when looking at my hands; now they often look mutilated and/or as if they are hands of another creature, not human, not like my waking hands at all). Also, in considering her thoughts on the witness perspective, I've recently experienced splits of my consciousness in dreams, sometimes watching myself and acting in the dream, other times looking/seeing in several directions simultaneously, and sometimes being two simultaneous actors (my usual dream ego and another or animal). This, also, feels newly bizarre.
All this is so new for me that I'm presently only taking in various research/theoretical suggestions from others' proposals (and am not nearly prepared to begin formulating my own with much conviction). And, this a very fascinating and fun time for me.
Mtn. View, CA