Lucidity Letter - June 1990 - Vol. 9, No. 1

Virtual Worlds

Copyright 1991 by Lucidity Association

Letter from the Editor                                                                                                                         

Divine/Ecstatic Experiences While Lucid

        Three Ecstatic Dreams - Curtis Durrant                                                           

        A Look at Mystic Light - George Gillespie

        Experiencing the Divine in the Lucid Dream State - Fariba Bogzaran         

        The Value of Spiritual Experiences in Lucid Dreams - Daryl E. Hewitt       

        Differences Between Lucid and Nonlucid Ecstatic Dreaming - Elinor  Gebremedhin      



        Mindlessness and Mindfulness in Daytime and Nighttime Dreaming - Charles T. Tart 

        A Comparative Study of Nightmares, Lucid Dreams, and Archetypal Dreams Significance to the Dreamer's Life - Kathy Medbery     

        Lucid Dreaming and Creativity - Alan Worsley                                             



        Conversation Between Stephen LaBerge and Paul Tholey, July, 1989 -  Edited by Brigitte Holzinger         


Book Reviews

        Gackenbach and Bosveld, Control Your Dreams - Reviewed by Kate Ruzycki Hunt     

        Hunt, The Multiplicity Of Dreams:  Memory, Imagination, and  Consciousness - Reviewed by Christophe Trunk

        Feinstein and Krippner, Personal Mythology - Reviewed by Madeline Nold  

        Barrett, Lady of the Lotus - Reviewed by Jane White-Lewis                       


Letter to the Editor

        Lucid Living, Lucid Dreaming - Fariba Bogzaran                                           


News and Notes

        Lucidity Association's Higher States of Consciousness Program             

        Lucid Dreaming Papers at the Association for the Study of Dreams Meeting

        Lucid Dreaming Bibliographic Updates                                                          



Lucidity Letter Staff: Senior Editor: Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.; Associate Editor: Kathy Belicki, Ph.D.; Copy Editor: Elinor Gebremedhin, M.A.; Typesetting: Jayne Gackenbach, Joanne Gazzola and Shelagh Robinson; List Maintenance: Jayne Gackenbach and Shelagh Robinson; Printer: Waverly Publishing, Waverly, Iowa; Publisher: Lucidity Association


1989-1990 Lucidity Association Steering Committee: Harry Hunt, Ph.D. (Chair); Andrew Brylowski, M.D.; Fariba Bogzaran, M.S.; Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.; Gita Holzinger, M.S.; 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) 468-4104. Manuscripts should be submitted to the editor, in duplicate and double spaced. It would be appreciated if, whenever possible, a computer disk with the submission on it could be supplied. 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, $30 (Canada and Foreign ground mail), and $35 (Foreign air mail). All subscriptions are U.S. funds drawn on U.S. or Canadian banks only. For checks drawn on all other banks add a $20 collection fee. Subscriptions, change of address and inquiries should be sent to the the editorial offices.


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Letter from the Editor


        Of all the issues of Lucidity Letter I had the least to do with putting this one out! Aware of the last minute pressures I would be facing mounting the Lucidity Associations Higher States of Consciousness conference in Chicago, readers, friends, and colleagues came to my rescue. As in past issues, Canadians Kathy Belicki and her secretary Joanne Gazzola edited and typeset, respectively, about half of this issue. Two women new to our team really made a difference between working hard on the issue and gliding home with it. Shelagh Robinson, from Edmonton, volunteered many hours to typesetting and list maintenance. The work that will have the greatest impact on the reader comes from that of Elinor Gebremedhin of Philadelphia. Her professional copy editing of the entire issue has ended the many small errors which have plagued Lucidity Letter. A heartfelt thanks to all four women for making this the easiest Lucidity Letter ever to produce.

        The issue opens with five articles in a theme section on the relationship between lucid dreams and the divine or ecstatic experiences while lucid. We start the section with three beautiful dreams from reader Curtis Durrant of Pullman, Washington. This is followed by frequent Lucidity Letter contributor and Sanskrit scholar, George Gillespie of the University of Pennsylvania, in his "A Look at Mystic Light". Gillespie makes us aware of the many questions which need answered in any serious inquiry into the divine/ecstatic experience. Provocative findings on "Experiencing the Divine in the Lucid Dream State" are reported on by Lucidity Association's steering committee member, Fariba Bogzaran. She points out that, "One implication of this research is that it is possible to experience the Divine (the Divine we believe in) through incubating lucid dreams." Then Daryl Hewitt of San Francisco discusses the "The Value of Spiritual Experiences in Lucid Dreams". The section ends with another set of experiences from a Lucidity Letter reader, Elinor Gebremedhin. In a thoughtful piece she points out the "Differences Between Lucid and Nonlucid Ecstatic Dreaming" in her experience, with a number of apparently different types of dreams cited as examples. This section provides a broad look into divine/ecstatic experiences while lucid in sleep from the perspectives of the scientist, theoretician, and experient.

        The three articles which follow this section are led by an article entitled "Mindlessness and Mindfulness in Daytime and Nighttime Dreaming" by internationally known consciousness researcher and theoretician Charles Tart. He explains that his, "... primary current interest is trying to understand and develop the concept of lucidity, especially as it applies to lucid waking." The same idea as Tart's is briefly noted in a letter to the editor from Fariba Bogzaran, "Lucid Living, Lucid Dreaming". The next article in this section is by Kathy Medbery of Vermont College, reporting on her master's research. In "A Comparative Study of Nightmares, Lucid Dreams, and Archetypal Dreams Significance to the Dreamer's Life" Medbery concludes that, "The archetypal dreams were valued as the most significant" by her subjects. The final article in this section is by the first person to signal in the sleep laboratory that he was dreaming, England's Alan Worsley. In "Lucid Dreaming and Creativity" he points out that he sees, "... the world of dreams as an overgrown garden, full of weeds with the occasional beautiful flower.  The potential is there but it needs a great deal of work and understanding for it to be productive."

        Our interview in this issue is a record of an historical conversation in the area of lucid dreaming. In July of 1989 Stephen LaBerge and Paul Tholey met for the first time in London, England at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Lucidity Association steering committee member, Brigitte Holzinger, recorded and edited their conversation for Lucidity Letter readers. Holzinger points out that, "Their conversation focused on the concept of the consciousness of dream characters and Tholey's "mirror technique" for inducing OBE's."

        Four book reviews are then offered. In the first Kate Ruzycki Hunt reviews my recent book on lucid dreaming, Control Your Dreams, which I wrote with science writer, Jane Bosveld. Then Christophe Trunk reviews Harry Hunt's The Multiplicity Of Dreams:  Memory, Imagination, and Consciousness . Both of these books deal at length with dream lucidity and are available for purchase from the Lucidity Association. The other two book reviews are Feinstein and Krippner's Personal Mythology , reviewed by Madeline Nold, and Barrett's, Lady of the Lotus, reviewed by Jane White-Lewis.

        Finally, the News and Notes section starts off with the program for the Lucidity Association's Higher States of Consciousness (HSC) conference to be held July 1 and 2 in Chicago. The eight invited talks will address a wide variety of issues related to HSC. The 22 posters will allow the conference attendees additional opportunities to share outlooks on these important states of being and the two panel discussions should energize dialogue among various groups of individuals attending the meeting. Plans are being made to audio tape all of the proceedings and make those tapes available to the readers of Lucidity Letter. We also hope to transcribe the two panel discussions and publish those in the December 1990 Lucidity Letter. Finally, abstracts of selected posters will appear in the next few issues of Lucidity Letter. We will not be printing the invited addresses, as they are being collected into a separate proceedings volume with an independent publisher. Consequently they may not be available for some time but when the proceedings volume comes out it will be offered for sale to the readers of Lucidity Letter.

        Following the HSC program are lists of the presentations to be made at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Dreams on lucid dreaming and recent lucid dreaming bibliographic updates.

        Several things are planned for the December 1990 Lucidity Letter. As noted above we hope to print the two panel discussions from our HSC conference; "Is Lucid Dreaming Related to Higher States of Consciousness?" and "TM Research and Theory: Current Status". The panel discussion from the ASD meeting, "Should You Control Your Dreams?", will also be transcribed, edited and printed in the December issue. Abstracts from some of the posters will be offered.  Results of the readers survey and plans for the 1991 Lucidity Association conference will be detailed.

        Three new book offerings on lucid dreaming are now available from the Lucidity Association. Patricia Garfield's Pathway to Ecstasy has been reissued with a new introduction. This book was originally published after her best selling Creative Dreaming. The other two books are reviewed in this issue of Lucidity Letter; Harry Hunt's The Multiplicity Of Dreams:  Memory, Imagination, and Consciousness  and a book I wrote with Jane Bosveld entitled Control Your Dreams.

Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.

Senior Editor

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Three Ecstatic Dreams


Curtis Durrant

Pullman, WA


        [Editors' Note:  In our last issue, we encouraged our readers to submit copies of dreams which included ecstatic experiences or experiences of the divine.  These did not have to be in the context of a formal paper, although some of our readers chose to do that.

        All three of the following dreams submitted by one of our readers, show the connection between lucid dreaming and the ecstatic White light" experience that G.Scott Sparrow sees as one of the highest potentials of the lucid dreaming platform.  Interestingly, the dreamer only experiences the divine as a particularized figure in one of the dreams, and he comes away feeling "ill at ease," . . . but we're not going to tell you why because that would spoil your own enjoyment of this whimsical account of a human being confronted by the figure of a God with a surprising message.]


First Lucid Dream (September 30, 1981)

            I was sitting on my bed kissing an older lady who worked at the same grocery store that I did. Suddenly, a salesman walked into my bedroom. I was very annoyed at this man's getting into my house as well as frustrated by his interruption of a particularly pleasant situation. The salesman immediately retreated downstairs. As I followed, my mind continued to question what was going on.

                I walked across the living room towards the front door. As I opened it and looked outside, I became lucid for the first time in my life. I said to myself with great enthusiasm, "This is a dream and now I'm in control." With that, a powerful surge of energy ran through my body. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, emerging from a world of black and white to one of incredible beautiful colors (to borrow an analogy from Stephen LaBerge).

                I immediately leaped from the porch and flew upwards. I reached about 50 feet in height when I felt a heavy weight pulling on my legs. I realized it was the lady I was kissing in my bedroom. I let her fall to the ground and immediately sling-shotted myself into the clouds. As I flew higher and higher, my mind went blank. I was immersed in warm, peaceful, brilliant white light and my dream body tingled all over. I was almost orgasmic when the feelings overcame me and I awoke.

            This was the first lucid dream I ever had. It has remained one of the most powerful and will certainly be difficult to forget.


God (December 19, 1989)

            I was in the attic of an old house with the six other Teaching Assistants (TAs) that I worked with at Washington State University. Suddenly, my attention was directed to a tall, thin man in the room. He had on a white robe, his skin was tan, and his hair was the color of caramel. He had all the classical features of Jesus. He singled me out from the others and said in a commanding voice, "You're an Ass!" This was strong language from someone I was beginning to believe was God. I explained, "I don't mean to be." He replied, "That's OK, you'll be that way while you're here" (meaning while on earth, during this time in the stages of my existence). He was about to leave when I asked him humbly if I could touch him. I thought this might yield divine knowledge or feelings of peace. Just then I accidentally brushed my hand against his. To my disappointment, there was no grand energy or light or feelings of any divine nature at all. He sensed my disappointment. Looking deep into my eyes, he brought his hand to his mouth and blew me a kiss. An incredible surge of energy hit me. My head swirled and my vision went to pure white light and my body tingled all over. I realized I was lucid or at least experiencing something incredibly close to God. I woke up in my bed and began telling one of the TAs about what had happened. I again became lucid, openly realizing I had had a false awakening. Again the surge of energy hit me and I felt "God" all around me, in me, and through me. I was lifted briskly from my bed and thrown around the room four to five times. I was being totally controlled by "God" and I became dizzy, and a little bit scared.

                I came to rest hovering over my own bed with all the energy and godlike feelings gone. I was in a simple lucid state now. I flew through the wall to my roommate's bedroom. I wanted to tell him what had happened. As I hovered over him, I realized I might scare him if he were to awaken, and he probably wouldn't hear me because this was all happening in my dream. I decided to tell him in the morning and drifted back into normal sleep.

                I awoke at 4 a.m. and still felt the lingering energy swirling in my head. It almost hurt; I thought this experience was almost too much for me to handle. I couldn't go back to sleep as I laid there, a little ill at ease. After all, God had just called me an Ass, and I wasn't so sure that it was just a lucid dream.


Superman (February 8, 1990)

            I was in a small, broken-down one room apartment, such as one might expect to find in New York City. The old radiator and a small stove were the only visible objects in the room. My friend, Alex, was with me, but he was somehow crippled. I was forced to realize that the rest of my life would be spent working at a menial job to support the both of us at a minimal existence. I told myself, "This can't be happening to me."

                This frustration was all I needed to kick this dream into lucidity. Extremely happy, I flew out the window with a great sigh of relief at leaving former situation behind. I flew higher and higher until the pure, warm, bright light was almost overwhelming. Knowing that I usually wake up when this happens, I quickly flew down until the feeling subsided and I regained firm control of lucidity.

                At this point, viewing my attire, I realized I was Superman. I immediately felt invincible and flew at a leisurely 100 mph pace over what appeared to be San Francisco. I saw that an Amtrak train was about to collide with another, so I swooped down and picked it up under my right arm. I carried it effortlessly into the sky and marveled at my strength and confidence. The theme to Superman was playing and I laughed thinking how my mind dug up that song to play for me in this dream. In waking life to this day, I have not been able to remember how the music goes.

                Anyway I flew into the country searching for a location to set down the train. I noticed a Billboard alongside a road which said something about a "Dream Workshop." I laughed again thinking to myself, "Hey, that's the class I'm going to teach in a few weeks."

                I sat down the train and with lucidity firmly entrenched, began practicing my flying skills. I flew as fast as I could straight up and coasted to a stop. I looked over my right shoulder and dove straight towards the earth at full speed. I pulled up just above some cactuses and soared across the desert with a wonderful feeling of contentment and power. "It's always so great to fly in dreams," I said to myself with a big smile on my face, and I soon fell back into normal sleep.


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George Gillespie

University of Pennsylvania


        Unusual experiences of light are occasionally mentioned in accounts of lucid dreams in which the dreamer knows that he or she is dreaming.  Garfield (1979) mentions experiencing lines and cracks of light, a sparkling globe, light emerging from a room, sunlight, and light shining on water.  I have reported (Gillespie, 1987) points of light, small lines of light, cracks of light, disks of light, and other forms of light.  I do not suggest that these minor forms of light are mystical.

        But a few lucid dreamers have reported strongly devotional or religious experiences centered around these light forms which have become for them an important part of their lucid dream experience.  Sparrow writes,


Since the inception of lucidity into my dream life, the lucid dream has clearly evolved in a specific direction -- toward a closer relationship to the inner Light....

I have begun to regard lucidity as a platform within the dream upon which I can become receptive to this Light. (1976, p. 10)


Kelzer says,


It is the Light that the lucid dreamer approaches and with which I had been seeking to unite....It is the contact with the Light itself that is the most valuable and important benefit in the cultivation of lucid dreaming (1987, pp. 58-59).


In an account of my own lucid dreaming, I have written,


I did, in fact, slowly reach that point of faith at which I accepted my experiences in the fullness of light to be what they appeared to be -- experience of God....Because of my devotional experiences of light, because of my belief that phenomena described in mystical literature are explainable in terms of dreaming, particularly lucid dreaming, and because I see a relationship between meditation and lucid dreaming, my interest in lucid dreams has become largely religious. (Gillespie, 1988c, p. 350)


        In Tibetan Buddhism, particularly as taught within the six topics of Naropa, the appearance of light within lucid dreams is of great spiritual importance (Chang, 1963; Evans-Wentz, 1958; Gillespie, 1988a; Guenther, 1963; 1976; Musès, 1961).  Tucci says that in all Tibetan religion, great importance is attached to light, "whether as a generative principle, as a symbol of supreme reality, or as a visible, perceptible manifestation of that reality" (1980, pp. 63-64).  Lucid dreaming is a means toward the goal of the experience of the "clear light," by which the Buddhist reaches nirvana.

        I intend to discuss the nature of the light that is experienced in lucid dreams, particularly light that accompanies strongly religious or devotional circumstances.  I will give examples of its appearance from Sparrow's, Kelzer's, and my own accounts.  I will repeat Eliade (1962/1965) in referring to the more numinous experiences of light as mystic light, because the phrase indicates that there is an element to the experience that distinguishes it from other experiences of light.  When I, hesitatingly, discuss the following accounts as mystical, it is not to make a judgement about their transpersonal status, but to recognize that these experiences are reported to be numinous, and they accord with accounts narrated in the literature about mysticism.  Protected, I hope, by these caveats, I will present some examples of mystic light in lucid dreams.


Experiences of Light


My first example is a dream of Sparrow's:


I am walking in my front yard, looking at the stars and hearing music coming from the house across the street.

                Suddenly, what appears to be a meteorite drops out of the eastern sky.  At this point, I become lucid.  The light falls all the way to the horizon.  As it hits the earth, there is a flash of bright light. 

                I drop to the ground and prepare to meditate...Two lights begin to approach me from the area of impact...I wait until the lights are directly overhead.  Then I know it is time to close my eyes and meditate.

                Immediately a tremendous energy wells up within my body.  I try to surrender to it.  As I do, light begins to fill my vision.  There is a tremendous sense of warmth and love, which continues for a good while  (Sparrow, 1976, p. 51)


        Kelzer narrates a long lucid dream, in which he is one of the three magi traveling eastward alone by camel in search of the Christ child.  After leaving Herod's court, he follows the star to a small home where he sees the Christ child lying in a crib near Mary and Joseph.


A beautiful bright light radiates from the child continuously.  I hurriedly dismount from my camel and take my place, kneeling beside the others.

                Suddenly I feel a tremendous rush of emotion within me...I burst into uncontrollable sobbing....All of the feelings of the journey pour through me:  extreme joy, relief, sadness over Herod, courage, determination and many other feelings....

                ....With a flood of tears streaming down my cheeks, I ask, "Will you accept pure gold?"  The child with a delicate little smile simply radiates in silence.....The babe and the Light are priceless beyond compare.  I am completely overwhelmed....

                ....I am totally entranced by the dazzling, beautiful light that emanates continually from his whole body and especially from his loving eyes. (Kelzer, 1987, pp. 40-41).


        Through my years of lucid dreaming, I have planned while awake what I would do when I next realized I was dreaming.  By September, 1982, I had had several unexpected experiences of what I have called (Gillespie, 1987) a fullness of light, which were to me extremely joyful and devotional experiences of God.  I planned that the next time I knew I was dreaming I would ignore the dream environment and passively think of God, repeating "God is love."  The dream for September 2 was:


We were back in Jorhat, India to teach at an Eastern Theological College.  We had just arrived and were moving into a long, low bungalow.  As I stepped into the house, I reflected on my many dreams lately of being in India.  But I was now actually in Jorhat again.  Or was I?  No, of course not; I was dreaming.  I remembered what to do, more or less.  I was already kneeling beside the bed.  I simply placed my folded hands on the bed and closed my eyes to pray.

                I began to pray, saying "God is love" or "Praise the Lord."  Instead of ignoring the dream environment, I imagined pushing away the feelings of touch about me.  The feelings detached.  I floated about, continuing to praise God.  I changed my phrase to "Blessed is the name of the Lord."  As I floated, the sun came from above my head, just slightly to the right, and remained high in front of me.  I saw only the light of the sun as the light increased about me.  The total effect was that I was floating in light.  I had little or no awareness of the lower part of my body.  I still had awareness of my eyes being shut, as I had shut them to pray.  Any contradiction between my shut eyes and my seeing the light didn't occur to me.  I continued looking at the light and repeating, "Blessed is the name of the Lord."  Eventually I remembered my preferred text, "God is love," and began to think that again and again.  I kept being moved about, but gently.  I felt calm.  I woke up in the midst of repeating, "God is love." (Adapted from Gillespie, 1983).


        In Kelzer's account, the light is well integrated with the other visual aspects of the dream.  In Sparrow's, I cannot tell what else is visual other than the darkness.  In my account, the visual environment offered by the dream gives way to darkness as I pray, and then to light only, specifically the fullness of light.

        When I talk about the fullness of light, I do not mean paradoxical light, that is somehow dark and bright at the same time or a "glowing darkness," as mentioned by Hunt (1984; 1985).  Nor do I call the experience "light" for lack of a better word.  Gackenbach and Bosveld (1989) tell of a professor who has experienced a "transcendental state" which includes an experience of what he calls "the light of awareness."  He calls the experience "light" because light seems to be the closest equivalent to it.  I have experienced various forms of darkness and light in lucid dreams.  The closest to paradoxical light or light that is not exactly light has been what I have described as "shiny darkness, such as of black lacquer" (Gillespie, 1987), which was neither paradoxical nor for me a numinous experience.

        The fullness of light is a literal experience of intense light, the very opposite of darkness.  The light fills the visual field and has the whiteness, intensity, and vibrancy of the light that is next to the sun high on a clear day.  It is never difficult to look at.  The experience is never exactly the same.  The circumstances that lead up to or accompany the light vary.  Sometimes I am more aware of my dreamed body, sometimes less.  I may float, spin, or dance.  I may lose body awareness almost completely.  The joy and devotion that accompany the experience have not always been of the same intensity.  Sometimes the outline of a "sun" remains visible in the light and sometimes not.  Once the "sun" seemed farther away than usual, which probably means only that it was smaller.  Once there were "rays" in the light; once the light was more orange-red.  One experience of fullness of light could more properly be called a near death experience, except that, as far as I know, I was not actually near death (see Gillespie, 1985).  The experiences differed so, that at times I had to make waking judgments afterward to decide whether the experience fully qualified as a "fullness of light," or whether I should consider it to be only "contentless light only" or "light with sun only" (see Gillespie, 1987).

        My experiences are priceless to me, but the purpose of this article is not to give my personal feelings and theological interpretations.  I will try to examine the nature of mystic light without allegiance to any personal, religious, philosophical, or academic position.  I will raise questions about the nature of mystic light and the experience of it.  I will not offer many solutions because there is little point in offering solutions to problems before they have been articulated and studied.  In fact, I intend to muddy the water as much as possible, because I believe the mud must be dealt with before the language and thought about mystic light can become more clear.

                                Mystic Light and Ordinary Light


        Eliade, one of our most respected historians of religion, has referred to mystic light as "supernatural light" and "spiritual light" (1962/1965).  But how is mystic light different from ordinary light?  Indeed, what does the question mean?  How is what different from what?  Are we comparing mystic or spiritual light waves with ordinary light waves?  Ordinary light waves occupy three-dimensional space.  They originate from sources such as the sun or a light bulb and they reflect off surfaces.  If we speak of mystic light waves, do we not assume a three-dimensionality in which the light waves must move?  Is that a physical three-dimensionality or a mystic three-dimensionality?  Do mystic light waves necessitate mystic sources of light, mystic or spiritual eyes and retinas for the waves to stimulate, and a spiritual visual cortex to decipher the light waves?  Will spiritual eyes blink if mystic light is too great?  Can spiritual light stimulate physical retinas?  Would we see spiritual light waves themselves or only what they reveal?

        If we are not comparing light waves, are we comparing sources of light?  Can only something mystical be a source of mystic light?  Is mystic light itself mystical or only the source of that light?  Can there be mystical shining without light waves?  If something shines internally, where does it shine?

        Are we comparing a mystical brightness with ordinary brightness?  Can the subjective experience of brightness be different in mystical experience from what it is in ordinary waking experience?  Is not the experience of brightness or light essentially the same whether mystical or ordinary?  Don't we call such varying experiences all by the same name -- "experiences of brightness" or "experiences of light" -- because there is subjectively that same brightness?  If the subjective brightness itself is the same, what makes one brightness mystical and another not?


                         Mystic Light and Dream Light


        In this discussion I am primarily concerned with numinous experiences that occur during or grow out of lucid dreaming.  Is mystic light different from ordinary dream light?  What is ordinary dream light?  Are we talking about three-dimensional dream light waves within a three-dimensional dream?  Is the dream image three-dimensional or does it only portray three-dimensionality?  If the dream image is two-dimensional, can there be light waves of any kind?  Can there be a mystical source of light within a dream image? 

        Is dream brightness part of the dream image or is it caused by the dream image?  Does dream perception of light parallel waking perception?  Is there a mystical perception that parallels or is contained within dream perception?  Will mystic light reflect off dream surfaces and stimulate dream retinas?  When Kelzer (1987) sees the light radiating from the child, is that light dream light or spiritual light?  Dream light from a spiritual child?  Spiritual light from a dream child?

        Does dream light or mystic light differ essentially from dream image?  At what point does dream brightness become light as opposed to bright object?  Is light simply a contrast of brightness with the image around it?  Sparrow tells about an experience during lucid dreaming:


Outdoors, I see a light in the sky.  I am told that I must turn my head away if the light is to descend upon me.  I am aware that I am dreaming.  I bow my head.  The ground around me begins to be illuminated by the brilliant orb (1976, p. 51).


In this example, where does the dream or mystic light on the ground differ from the image of the ground?  Is there possibly a simple continuum from dream object through bright object, to a brightness that may be interpreted as light coming from the object, to a brightness that obscures the object, finally to light only?  Can visual dream environment ever be separated from the light that seems to reveal it?

        Is dream light real light or a portrayal of light?  Is mystic light in a dream only a portrayal of light?  Is the experience of light in a dream like the experience of a lamp in a dream -- just as a dream lamp is not really there, its light is not really there?  Or is it that just as I really experience the dream image, I really experience the light as a bright image?  By what criteria do I determine whether the light I see is dream or something other than dream? 

        In another article (Gillespie, 1989), I suggest some distinctions between lights that appear to be part of an ongoing lucid dream and other lights, which I call "stable intense lights," which appear to be unrelated to dream images.  Must a light be other than dream image to be mystical?  Is all light that is not part of that ongoing dream mystical?


                           Mystic Light as Image


        The dream image and the image of mystic light are both mental images.  So what do they have in common?  There is no agreement on the nature of internal images, nor even on whether there can be such a thing as an internal visual image (Block, 1983; Gardner, 1985).  If we do not know what an internal image is, can we say that dream images are of the same nature as mystic light?  Can we say that they are not? 

        Two rival sides on the question of the nature of mental images are discussed by the philosopher Ned Block.  He calls one side "pictorialism," the supposition that "the mental representations of imagery represent in the manner of pictures" (1983, p. 504).  The opposing view, descriptionalism, "(a popular view, especially in the artificial intelligence community), says that the representations of imagery...represent in the manner of familiar symbol structures such as those in a computer or those in English" (1983, p. 504-505). 

        Is mystic light seen as a picture is seen?  Or at least as some kind of mental "picture" is seen?  Or is light, even mystic light, no more than a transformed sentence?

        The main problem in accepting the presence of mental images or "pictures" has been the problem of the homunculus (Block, 1983; Crick, 1979; Gardner, 1985; Gibson, 1986; Morris and Hampson, 1983; Shepard, 1984), a problem that I see as a false problem (Gillespie, 1990).  If there is a visual image in the brain, who or what is in the brain to see it?  Wouldn't the image or light there need to be perceived by a little man in the head, by means of his own eyes, retinas, and brain?  Wouldn't he need another person in his head to see the mental image created in his head by the light, ad infinitum?  Shepard conjectured that the problem of the homunculus was the reason that Gibson disavowed the term mental image (Shepard, 1984).  Is the mystic light in the brain or not?  And how is it being seen?

        There are questions to ask about mystic light, whether or not it is exactly like other mental images.  Does mystic light differ from the experience of mystic light?  I suggest elsewhere (Gillespie, 1989; 1990) that image is the experience of image, but I cannot go into that discussion here.  If a light is on in another room, I may think of it as having an independent existence from me.  It is there whether I experience it or not.  That light is not the same as my experience of it. 

        Does a dream image or mystic light or brightness exist apart from my experience of it?  Or is the experience of the image or light the only existence of the image or light?  May mystic light, like pain, be the same as the experience of it?  I have no pain if I do not experience it.  

        If the image of light is no more than the experience of it, what are the implications? 

        If it exists only during my experience, it is not eternal.  The Gospel of John (1:9) speaks of the true light that enlightens every person coming into the world.  This light is sometimes called the inner light.  Although the scriptural inner light may be intended metaphorically, mystical experiences of light are sometimes called experiences of the inner light, for instance by Eliade (1962/1965) and Sparrow (1976). But Christian theologians consider the inner light to be eternal and constant. 

        If mystic light exists only while I experience it, how can it be constant? 

        Teresa of Avila occasionally experienced light during her mystical experiences.  She has said, "It should be kept in mind here that the fount, the shining sun that is in the center of the soul, does not lose its beauty and splendor; it is always present in the soul" (Teresa of Avila, 1979, p. 40). 

        Can there be a shining that is not experienced?  What is the light when it is not experienced?  What is brightness when it is not an image?  Is mystic light a temporary dream image that portrays a mystical and constant shining?

        According to Tibetan texts, the clear light is reached with difficulty through waking or lucid dream meditation.  It is the innate light from which everything comes forth and into which all manifested forms fuse (Guenther, 1963; Tucci, 1970; 1980; Wayman, 1980). 

        If light is no more than my experience of it, how can all things come from light?  Can my experience of light be in some sense universal and not individual?  How do we judge which image of light is essentially mine and which is universal?  If light is no more than my experience of it, then how can I fuse with it or dissolve into it?  Am I not already fused with it?


The Extent of the Light


        What is the extent of mystic light?  If I see a shining meteor or a radiant child, I may consider that I see the extent of the brightness.  If I feel that I am floating within a fullness of light, then I am not aware of the boundaries of the light, nor am I aware of the boundaries of the image that I call light. 

        Can mystic light extend beyond what I experience?  Can it reach behind my floating dreamed body where I do not experience it?  (see Gillespie, 1988b, 1989).  If light is limited to the experience of light, would not even a fullness of light be only what I see? 

        Swami Sivananda describes experiences of yoga and says, "You will see infinite light and you will merge yourself in it" (1975, p. 374).  What is infinite light?  Can infinite light be limited to the image I experience?  Doesn't "infinite" seem to mean extending endlessly, three-dimensionally in every direction?  Can I experience only a part of the light which is itself infinite?  Can I experience it all?  Can I even see depth in light?  How do I know the extent of what I see?  Is "infinite" only a judgment that I make about the experience?

        How do I know whether the image of light is two-dimensional or three-dimensional or even non-dimensional?  Is the awareness of depth or distance simply the way I experience what has no depth or distance at all? 

        Matus quotes Symeon the New Theologian as saying, "The spirit [nous] immersed in your light becomes so bright that in the end it is light itself" (1984, p. 104).  Bucke explains that the person who enters cosmic consciousness "has a sense of being immersed in a flame, or rose-coloured cloud" (1969, p. 72).  Does immersion in light imply a real three-dimensionality?  Or is immersion only a subjective experience?  Can one feel immersed in a two-dimensional image?  If light is the experience of light can I enter any further into what I am already experiencing?  If it is a real immersion, what is immersed in what?  What does it mean to float in light?  Can floating and light be simply two separate images?

        In the fullness of light, I feel that God is in the light, unseen.  Where is God?  Among light waves?  In the subjective brightness?  If the light is image, what does it mean that God is in the image?  Can anything other than image be in the image?  How does my being in light differ from God's being in light?


The Light as Mine


        If light is no more than my experience of it, then just as the experience is mine, is not the light also mine?  Is it a part of me?  What is the raw material of this image that is mine?  If the light is mine, can it still be transcendent, that is, not mine?  Just as pain, which is my own, may indicate the presence of someone else pinching me, may light as my own indicate the presence of another?  If there is transcendence in the experience, is it perhaps simply removed one step farther away -- beyond the image of light? 

        Can the light be both mine and transcendent?  Can I ever experience any more than the experience itself, which is mine?  If light is ever transcendent, how will I recognize it as light unless it appears like a non-transcendent experience of light?  If the light is mine, can it still be God as it was at times to Saint Symeon in the Christian tradition (Matus, 1984) and Saint Ramalingar in the Hindu tradition (Annamalai, 1973)? 

        The Hesychasts of Mount Athos claimed to experience the vision of "uncreated light" (Eliade, 1962/1965).  Can light be both mine and uncreated?

        In a dream, I may commune with people or animals that I see.  In the sense that they are products of my own mind, do I really commune with other beings?  As with dream characters, I may commune with the light (Sparrow, 1976), but if the light is my own, with whom do I commune?  Can I commune with my visual image?  Or is the light only incidental to a transpersonal communion? 

        Moody (1988) discusses near death experiences in which "a being of light" is met.  Is the being of light no more than the experiencer's own visual image?  Is a being of light different from a being felt to be in light?  If the being is actually of light, what is it of?  Does it consist of my mental image?  What is it when I don't experience it?

        If every element of the experience of light is mine, or even if it is not, what is my relationship to the mystic light?  Perhaps this question is the same as, "What is my relationship to the visual image?  Where am I, or perhaps even what am I, in the dream or in the experience of light? 

        Do I have a spatial relationship to the light or to the source of light?  Is there a dream body that looks toward the light or that floats in light?  Are my dream eyes or spiritual eyes any different from the little man in the head who is needed, so they say, to see the visual image in the head?  Do I see the dream or mystic light without eyes of any kind?  What is the relationship between experience and experiencer?

        The question of this relationship is essential for understanding those experiences in which one's individuality is lost in the light.  In terms of waking physical experience, becoming dissolved or absorbed in light makes no sense.  Does it make sense in any terms?  Does a relationship between dreaming and mystical experience help to explain how one can be lost in light and even become light? 

        I have suggested elsewhere (Gillespie, 1986) a continuum from dreaming through lucid dreaming to the phenomena of mystical experience.  Is it the body being dreamed that appears to be lost in light?  In the fullness of light, what actually disappears?  A body?  Or my awareness of body?  Is there a difference between dreamed body and dreamed body awareness?  Can there be any more to a dreamed body than what I am aware of?  If I am aware of light while losing awareness of body, where else can I seem to disappear than into the light?

        If I lose awareness of all body image and mental content in the light, does that leave me with pure consciousness?  Isn't the light the object of consciousness while I am the subject of consciousness?  Does not pure consciousness mean that there is no object of consciousness, not even light? 

        Saksena says, "The transcendental consciousness of the Hindus, ...which exists as pure and as just itself is in no relation whatever, either of identity of or difference with any other thinking, for either there is nothing else beside it (as in Vedanta) or there has been effected an absolute separation with the 'other' (as in Yoga)  (1971, p. 210).  Even if I seem to become one with light, I am aware of the light and it is the object of my consciousness.  Can light in some way be my consciousness?  Nothing can be both subject and object of consciousness (Saksena, 1971).

        There must be many more questions to ask.  Some may be annoyed at this approach to mystical experience.  How can I dissect spiritual experience as if it were no more than a frog in a biology lab?  I dissect it because I take it seriously and believe that whatever is transcendent can withstand a search for greater understanding.  Some may wonder how I can hope to understand what is essentially paradoxical and ineffable.  I like what Steven Katz writes:

        The terms "paradox" and "ineffable" do not function as terms that inform us about the [content]1  of experience, or any given ontological "state of affairs".  Rather they function to cloak experience from investigation and to hold mysterious whatever ontological commitments one has (1978, p. 54).




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Buck, R.M. (1969). Cosmic consciousness: A study in the evolution of the human mind. New York: Dutton.

Chang, G.C.C. (Ed. & Trans.) (1963). Teachings of Tibetan yoga. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press.

Crick, F.H.C. (1979). Thinking about the brain. Scientific American,  241 (3), 219-232.

Eliade, M. (1965). The two and the one. (J.M. Cohen, Trans.), Chicago: University of Chicago. (Original work published 1962).

Evans-Wentz, W.Y. (Ed.) (1958).  Tibetan yoga and secret doctrines. London: Oxford University Press.

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

Gardner, H. (1985). The mind's new science: A history of the cognitive revolution.  New York: Basic Books.

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Gibson, J.J. (1986). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gillespie, G. (1983). Dreamer's progress: A record of experiments made while  dreaming. Unpublished manuscript.

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

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

Gillespie, G. (1987). Dream light: Categories of visual experience during lucid dreaming. Lucidity Letter, 6 (1), 73-79.

Gillespie, G. (1988a). Lucid dreams in Tibetan Buddhism. In J.I. Gackenbach and S. LaBerge (Eds.),. Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming (pp. 27-35). New York: Plenum.

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Gillespie, G. (1989). Lights and lattices and where they are seen. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68, 487-504.

Gillespie, G. (1990). The internal image during visual perception: An introspectionist analysis. Unpublished manuscript.

Guenther, H.V. (1963). The life and teaching of Naropa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Guenther, H.V. (Ed. & Trans.) (1976). Kindly bent to ease us: Part 3. Wonderment. Emeryville, CA: Dharma.

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Hunt, H. (1985). Relations between the phenomena of religious mysticism (altered states of consciousness) and the psychology of thought: A cognitive psychology of states of consciousness and the necessity of subjective states of cognitive theory. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 61, 911-961.

Katz, S. (1978). Language, epistemology, and mysticism. In S. Katz (Ed.) Mysticism and philosophical analysis (pp. 22-74). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kelzer, K. (1987). The sun and the shadow: My experiment with lucid dreaming. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press.

Matus, T. (1984). Yoga and the Jesus prayer tradition: An experiment in faith.  Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press.

Moody, R.A. (1988). Life after life. New York: Bantam.

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Saksena, S.K. (1971). Nature of consciousness in Hindu philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Shepard, R.N. (1984). Ecological constraints on internal representation: Resonant kinematics of perceiving, imagining, thinking, and dreaming. Psychological  Review, 91 (4), 417-447.

Sivananda, Swami (1975). Concentration and meditation. Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society.

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

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Tucci, G. (1970). The theory and practice of the mandala. (A.H. Brodrick, Trans.)  New York: Weiser.

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1 The original article had the word "context" here instead of "content".  I have established a personal communication with Dr. Katz (3/26/90) that the word "context" was a typographical error.

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Fariba Bogzaran

California Institute of Integral Studies


        Having personally experienced numerous lucid dreams following incubation tasks centered around wanting to be in the presence of the Divine, I realized that in every lucid dream I experienced the Divine differently. If I were looking for the Divine, my dream ego was actively searching, and usually found a Divine presence; however, if I let go of the control, a Divine presence appeared to me.         Since I didn't have any expectation as to the form of the Divine, when I incubated the Divine in my lucid dreams, the outcome of my experiences were often unexpected. Thus I became very curious how other people experienced the Divine in their lucid dreams.

        I struggled with many different topics when I had to choose a topic for my thesis, but my heart was drawn to this one. Since I had to conduct an experimental study, I knew I would be facing many challenges and limitations How could I objectify people's sacred experience of the Divine? Since I had many doubts about conducting such a project, I decided to incubate a dream to assist me. I prepared myself for a few days and waited for the right time. It happened to be a late morning nap. My incubation query was, "Should I do research about lucidity and the Divine?"

        The following is the account of my dream.

I am standing on top of a mountain looking over a panoramic forest. I see a large hawk swirling around. I tell myself that if this were a dream I could fly like this hawk. As soon as I say this the hawk comes straight towards me. As it comes closer it becomes smaller and changes into a hummingbird flapping its wings fast , smiling at me. I smile back and at the same time I know this must be a dream. I start imitating the hummingbird and start to fly. As I am in the air, my intention comes to me. "Should I write my thesis on lucidity and the Divine?" Suddenly, I see a dot of purple green color expanding in the sky. It keeps getting bigger, filling the landscape and moving towards me, changing into different rings of colors . The space in which this is occurring is so vast that it is beyond my visual ability. As the rings come closer they change into particles of light moving extremely fast , creating lines that cover everything, everywhere. Strong energy starts to move inside me and my body is changing its form into these particles of light. I don't see my body any longer but I know I am still there!

                These particles slowly change into a night sky with stars .The sky moves like a movie screen from left to right with different planets on display. As the planets move they change into different colored bubbles. There is no landscape anymore, just a vast space with giant air bubbles of different colors, with light shining through them. The bubbles transform into halos covering the infinite and vast space. I know that I am becoming a witness to different layers of the universe. Suddenly everything turns black for a few minutes. I don't see anything, I don't feel anything and in the moment of nothing happening , everything happens. Soon, I become aware of my body, I take some deep breaths and slowly the first landscape appears again and I am in the air floating. . .

                I become more conscious of my body sensations but I don't feel I have a body any longer. It is as if my body has dissipated in the experience. Suddenly , I hear noises, I think I have awoken but I have entered into a false awakening. . .[in it] I wake up and write in my journal. Then as I stand up I feel extremely dizzy. I walk out of the door and go on the deck and knock at my housemate's (Tish) office door. She is sitting in her office with a box full of beads on her lap and on the rocking chair in front of her, an old white haired woman is sitting . I tell Tish I am having an important lucid dream and ask her not to come and wake me up. I walk back to my room but have a hard time keeping my balance. I go back to sleep trying to continue with the lucid dream but I woke up.

        I was very confused and disoriented when I actually awoke. I looked at my journal, but it was blank! A good sign indicating that I was in a false awakening. I wrote down some parts of the dream and went outside on the deck. Tish was on the lower deck. I asked her about the event. She said, "You must have been dreaming!". However, she said she had been in her office the past hour looking through some old beads that were given to her by her grandmother. We found out that the time she was going through the old beads corresponded to the time I was in my false awakening!

        I still feel unable to verbalize the experience fully, but it left me with an incredible feeling of focus and purpose. I took the experience as an initiation, a permission to partake in my project. There was no choice but to dedicate my time to explore that aspect of lucidity.


        From ancient times, dreams have been a source of inspiration, creativity and, in some traditions, a way to communicate with God (Genesis, 28.12; Numbers, 12.6; Baha'u'llah, 1945). Lucid dreaming (van Eeden, 1913), a phenomenon in which dreamers are aware in the dream that they are dreaming, has been used as a discipline for spiritual advancement (Evans-Wentz, 1953, Norbu, 1987, Nydal, 1988).

        Reports from many researchers in the field of lucid dreaming suggest the possibility of experiencing the Divine in the lucid dream state (Sparrow, 1976; Gillespie, 1983, 1984; LaBerge 1985; Kelzer 1987; Bogzaran, 1987;1988; Hewitt, 1988; Clerc, 1988, Gackenbach and Bosveld, 1989). The word Divine, in this study refers to concepts such as God, the Great Mystery, True Self, etc.

        The study was designed to investigate two questions:


a. What is the relationship between the dreamer's waking concept of the Divine and the dreamer's experience of the Divine in the lucid dream state? The concept of the Divine may be considered the dreamer's formulation of the Divine, God, or the equivalent.

b. What is the relationship between the nature of the dreamer's incubation phrase and the dreamer's subsequent experience of the Divine in a lucid

dream? More specifically, does the experience of the Divine during a lucid dream bear any relationship to whether the dreamer incubated a phrase involving actively "seeking" the Divine as compared to passively "experiencing" the Divine?




        A total of 250 lucid dreamers were contacted and asked to participate in this study. Seventy-seven subjects (39 female, 38 male) responded to the questionnaire. Thirty-five of these remembered to do the task in their lucid dreams and constituted the sample upon which subsequent analysis were based. Thirty-one did not have lucid dreams related to the task during the experimental time. Eleven subjects returned only previous experiences related to this study.



        The researcher developed a questionnaire specifically for this study. In addition to the general background questions, other items included the individual's concept of the Divine as well as the formulation of the incubation question of seeking, experiencing and seeing the Divine in their lucid dreams.



        1. The following materials were mailed to subjects: Cover letter; Instruction sheet; incubation task information; Instruction for Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (M.I.L.D.) Questionnaire; Dream report form and post questionnaire.

        2. An incubation phrase was formulated by the lucid dreamers as a question or a statement to ask or say in their lucid dreams. The following is a selection of some of the incubation phrases that the lucid dreamers formulated:


"I would like to see how the universe is run"

"I want to give up my power and submit to the higher self"

"I am Divine"

"I will seek the Divine"

"I wish to experience the Divine"


        3. Subjects repeated the incubation phrase during the day so their intention would be clear when they became lucid in their dreams. While lucid in their dreams, they carried out their intention by voicing either their incubation phrase or question.

        4. Lucid dreamers completed the Dream Report immediately after the lucid dream ended.

        The research materials were mailed back to the researcher at the end of the two weeks of experimental time.



        In order to study the relationship between the lucid dreamers' concepts of the Divine and their experience of the Divine in their lucid dreams, the researcher categorized both the dreamers' concepts of the Divine as described in their questionnaire and the reports of their lucid dreams.

        The concepts of the Divine were categorized as either personalized or impersonalized. Those subjects who indicated that their concept of a Divine is that God is manifested through a person, were categorized as personalized. Those who gave a general answer and believed that the Divine is all encompassing, energy, formless, etc. were categorized as the impersonalized Divine.

        Encounters of the Divine during the lucid dream were also categorized as either personalized or impersonalized. When the lucid dreamers encountered a person as a Divine presence, their reports were categorized as personalized. Cases where the dreamer reported encountering light, color, etc. were categorized as impersonalized Divine.

        The following are some examples of concepts of a Divine figure and lucid dream reports which in this study are referred to as the personalized Divine.


My God is my Father.  Though my relationship with my own father is a loving, tolerant one, I see both my father and my Father as authority figures. . .


        The following is the same dreamer's lucid dream report.


                I became aware of the dream. . . I was floating and saw a short way in front of me a large marble block. . . I walked-floated toward it, around to the left, and saw that it was the back of a throne.  A chair arm, solid and massive was cut into the side of the block.  I crept around the side, saw a person's arm on the marble chair arm.  The hand was old, but firm and strong, like a carpenter's.  The sleeve was white and full.  The fingers were curved downward over the edge of the arm--relaxed but full of life.  I couldn't see higher than the elbow from my position slightly behind and below.  I knew it was God without any doubt.


        When individuals did not specify their concept in terms of a person, the impersonal Divine category was selected.  For instance one subject wrote, "Divinity is the animate spark which both gives form to everything and is everything.  God is not a separate being but an all-encompassing Beingness."  The following lucid dream reflects this person's encounter with the Divine.


During a lucid dream I try to maintain lucidity but the scene wants to go blank.  I lie very still and try not to awaken.  Then I recall that I should ask to see God.  I do so and before me appears a moving picture with numerous interwoven cycles -- like the workings of a clock.  It is also like patterns of pulsating light and shadow moving in cycles.  No complete cycle can be seen.


        The incubation phrases were also categorized according to the lucid dreamers formulation of the incubation task. A variety of incubation phrases were formulated. However, the two predominant incubation phrases reported included a seeking/ looking for the Divine or an experiencing of the Divine. Thus, in order to see the effect of the incubation task on the dream experience, two categories of active and passive were developed to classify the task. The lucid dreamers were categorized as either actively looking for the Divine or passively observing the outcome of their incubation phrase in their lucid dream.




        A chi-square was conducted to determine if the paired observations obtained on the two variables of "the concept of the Divine" and "the lucid dream report" were


Table 1

Observed Frequencies as a Function of

Type of Concept and Dream Report


                                                                        Personalized          Impersonalized


Dream             Personalized                                10                                      3

Report            Impersonalized                             2                                 20



related. The result, X2 (1)= 16.688; p < .0001, revealed a substantial relationship between the subjects' concept of the Divine and their encountering the Divine in their lucid dreams.

         As can be seen in Table 1, 83% of the subjects who believed in the Divine as a person indeed experienced encountering a person as a Divine presence while as 87% percent of the subjects who believed in an impersonal Divine experienced the Divine in forms other than a person.

        The second research question was: Does the experience of the Divine during a lucid dream bear any relationship to whether the dreamer incubated a phrase involving actively seeking the Divine as compared to passively experiencing the Divine? A chi-square was also conducted to determine if the paired observations obtained on the two variables of "incubation phrase" and "dreamer's activity in lucid dreams" are independent. The result, X2 (4)= 121.039; p < .0003, showed that the two variables are not independent.  Significantly, 92% of the  persons who

_______________________________________________________Table 2

Observed Frequencies as a Function of

Incubation Task and Dreamer's Response


                                                                                Incubation Task

                                                Seeking    Experiencing    No Set Task    See    Other


Dreamer's               Active      12                         1                    1                  1        0

Response              Passive      1                         8                    6                  3        2



formulated their incubation phrase as "seeking the Divine" were actively looking for the Divine. As can be seen in Tables 2, 88% who formulated the phrase as experiencing the Divine did not look for the Divine, but either passively witnessed or allowed the dream to unfold by itself.


Discussion and Conclusion


        Among the many limitations of this study, perhaps the most important one is that this type of design reduces the participants' concepts of the Divine into categories. This kind of simplification into categories of personal and impersonal, which is required by quantitative research, cannot do justice to beliefs and experience that are sacred and unique to the individual.

        The results clearly indicated a significant relation between the person's report of their preconsidered concept of the Divine as well as the formulation of their incubation task and their subsequent experience of the Divine in their lucid dreams.

        The reports of the concept of the Divine were formulated either towards a belief that God or the Divine appears in a human form (personal concept) or is an all-encompassing energy, formless, etc. (impersonal concept). Individuals who reported their concept of the Divine as a religious figure, e. g., Christ, Buddha, Mother, etc., encountered a person or a religious figure in their lucid dream. On most occasions the encounter was reported to be of a Divine nature or an encounter with a person that the dreamer reported as God.

        This research suggests that our preconception of the Divine has an effect on our experience of the Divine in lucid dreaming. In some cases of personalized concept, the Divine was referred to as He, She, Jesus Christ or to a specific person that the subject believed carried the Divine nature and consequently, in their lucid dream, they experienced this person with a Divine nature.

        In the post questionnaire, subjects were asked to give feedback as to whether their concept of the Divine was validated. In one case of the personalized Divine, the subject responded:


Yes, my concept of God is validated by the sense of [the] power of God's love which I experienced in the dream.  I believe that my experience is real and that I learned subjectively what I only believed objectively before.


        With a few exceptions, the subjects who had a clear image of what or who the Divine is, experienced a Divine figure similar to their concept. This finding supports Garfield's statement that "dreamers who have a clear conception of what to expect of a god or saint in a dream are likely to see their dream image distinctly" (Garfield, 1974 , p. 34). Also the report showed that the majority of people with an impersonalized idea of what or who the Divine is, resulted with impersonalized encounters with the Divine. Additionally, in the majority of the cases, even if the dreamer's concept of the Divine were not so clear, the dreamer's encounter with the Divine in a lucid dream reflected clearly the dreamer's concept of the Divine.

        The following is an example of a lucid dream from an individual who wanted to seek the Divine:


. . .in response to something just previous in the dream, I become lucid. . .I remember my dream task for the Bogzarin study -- to seek God and the divine -- and immediately fall to my knees and assume a praying posture (this would be a very unusual thing for me to do. . .)  Rather than praying, I begin to "seek" in some undefinable manner, reaching out with my mind and trying to contact God out there somewhere in the fabric of the dream.


Another example of actively seeking the Divine:


I become lucid. . .I find myself in another room. . . Then I begin to look around at my own surroundings.  I peek behind a mirror attached to the wall, trying to find a doorway. . .


        In this study it was also found that the formulation of the incubation task has an effect on the dreamers' experience in the lucid dream. When the dreamers' intention was to "seek" the Divine, they actively looked for the Divine. In this active intention of looking for the Divine, some individuals were able to actually "find" the Divine in a human form or felt the presence

of the Divine in other forms or sensations.

        In his book The Sun and The Shadow, Ken Kelzer describes a lucid dream of encountering the Christ Child that he considers one of the most exceptional and powerful dreams he has ever experienced.  He named the dream "The Gift Of Magi".  In this lucid dream, he is travelling by camel across northern Africa in search of the Christ Child.  His journey of seeking the Christ Child takes many days, and finally he arrives at the Jerusalem gate.  After he leaves Herod's court, he writes:


I quickly arrive at a small, modest home where I behold a marvelous scene.  I see the small Christ Child, probably a year old, lying in his crib with Mary and Joseph sitting beside him.  (Kelzer, p. 40)


        Although Kelzer did not choose an incubation phrase prior to the lucid dream to "seek the Christ Child" in his dream, he found himself travelling across Africa in search of the Christ Child.  With that strong intention he actively searches and finally finds Him.  His experience supports the reports of many individuals in this study who are actively looking and find a Being that the dreamer refers to as a Divine presence.

        When their intention was to "experience" the Divine, they passively observed the dream event. In the majority of these cases the Divine presence appeared to them rather than the dreamer looking for the Divine. The following dreams are examples of more passive experiences.


". . . I found myself within a universe of "evil".  I said to myself, "I hope I am dreaming," whereupon I became lucid.  There was still the presence of evil, it was all-pervading.  I was very much afraid and recalled that I wished to experience the Divine.  Having thought, or uttered, the task, there was an explosion of color at the center of this "evil" universe, and I felt a shock wave of all-pervading God that seemed to reach to the core of my being.  I thought to myself, "Good grief", whereupon I awoke.


        In another example the dreamer writes that after he becomes lucid:


. . . My attention is drawn upward.  As I look up I first see a figure quite high in the sky that is slowly descending.  I immediately recognize it as Jesus.  He is wearing a golden robe and there is a golden aura about him.  I lower my head and am in great awe at His appearance.  My first thought is to not move, but wait to see what transpires.  I don't want to do anything that might cause me to lose lucidity.


        In this dream the dreamer again is allowing the experience to unfold without voluntarily looking for the Divine.  Here Jesus appears to him and he remains where he is in the dream while witnessing the coming of Christ.  Later in his dream he has a lengthy conversation with Jesus while remaining lucid in his dream.

        It seems that the intention of wanting to be in the presence of the Divine during a lucid dream can facilitate the occurence of such an experience. Our concept of the Divine, however, might have an effect on our experience of encountering with the Divine. Thus the way in which we set and carry our intention can have an effect on how our dream ego responds in the lucid dream. Individuals who were actively seeking the Divine seemed more likely to exert a certain amount of control over the direction of the dream. On the other hand, when the dreamer allowed the experience to unfold, the dream took charge.

        Although there was a significant relation found in this study between the incubation phrase and dream experience, the words that are used might not be so important as the intention.  In his book Lucid Dreaming, Stephen LaBerge reports his experience of "seeking the highest".  It is a good illustration of setting a task of seeking the Highest and also allowing the experience to unfold.

        In his lucid dream he is driving a car.  While lucid and in control he is confronted with an attractive hitchhiker.  His first impulse is to pick her up, but he decides that he has done that in other dreams before.  He wants to try something new.  He decides to "seek the Highest."  He writes:


As soon as I opened myself to guidance, my car took off into the air, flying rapidly upward, until it fell behind me like the first stage of a rocket.  I continued to fly higher into the clouds, where I passed a cross on a steeple,  a star of David, and other religious symbols. . . (LaBerge, pp. 270-271).

        Although he says he wants to seek the Divine (implying active control), he "opened" himself to guidance, at which point he seems to let go of control and the dream takes charge.

        In the present study reports showed that, in both searching or experiencing the Divine, the Divine encounter occurred in one form or another. One implication of this research is that it is possible to experience the Divine (the Divine in which we believe in) through incubating lucid dreams.



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Bogzaran, F. (1988). Lucidity and meeting the unknown. Dream Network Bulletin, 7(4), 16.

Bogzaran, F. (1987). The creative process: Paintings inspired from the lucid dream. Lucidity Letter, 6(2).

Clerc, O. (1988). Lucid dreaming and the evolution of human consciousness. Lucidity Letter, 7(1).

Evans-Wentz, W.Y. (1953). Tibetan Yoga and secret doctrines. London: Oxford University Press.

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

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

Gillespie, G. (1983). Lucid dreaming and mysticism: A personal observation. Lucidity Letter, 2(3).

Gillespie, G. (1984). The phenomenon of light in the lucid dreams: personal observations. Lucidity Letter, 3(4).

Hewitt, D. E. (1988). Induction of ecstatic lucid dreams. Lucidity Letter, 7(1).

Kelzer, K. (1987). The sun and the shadow: My lucid dreaming experiment. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press.

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

Norbu, N. (1987). The dreamwork book. Amsterdam: Stichting Dzogchen.

Nydahl, O. (1988). Entering the diamond way. San Francisco: New Dimension Radio Station.

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

Van Eeden, F. (1913). A study of dreams. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 26, 431-61.

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Differences Between Lucid and Nonlucid Ecstatic Dreaming


Elinor Gebremedhin

Philadelphia, PA


        In 1976, after a few years of occasionally dreaming lucid dreams which I did not differentiate from other dreams, there came a lengthy dream that announced itself as distinctive while I was dreaming it. Not only did I appear to myself to be distinctly "conscious" but the character of this consciousness was permeated with  an ecstatic feeling of balance which changed my conception of what I could be in waking life, as well as in dreaming. Even though this dream was not the first one in which I made comments that made me appear to be aware that I was dreaming, it was the first one in which my dreaming "I" was initiated into a sharp awareness of a new state, and new possibilities for conscious development. 

        It was the distinctive balanced quality of the ecstatic element which particularly marked this dream as different than all its predecessors. The lucid ecstatic experience  had a holistic clear minded joy that was unlike the vibrant but mindless joy of nonlucid "high" dreams. Since it was new, I had no vocabulary to distinguish this kind of joy from all the other kinds I had thought were the sum total of what was possible.  The following excerpts from the original write-up shows what a challenge it was to explain this experience to myself.


Four Judges In A Ball Court  (August 8, 1976)

                Dreamed I was walking down a corridor into a "basketball court" with tiled walls. There was a narrow walkway above the walls, and no bleachers for an audience, so later, when I  woke, I realized it really looked more like a swimming pool. In the dream I assumed it was a basketball court.

                Abruptly, with a feeling like the pop of a bubble breaking, the nature of my awareness changed from the usual dreaming kind to something like the normal everyday type of awareness, except  that I was still asleep and dreaming.  For some reason, this was delightful. There was a certain unmixed clarity of mind, as if all my thoughts and feelings were in their proper places, and I was conscious in the way I really ought to be in the daytime, all the time. 

                "I'm awake," I said out loud (in the dream) and just  the  clarity of  the sensation of being conscious made me ecstatic. I went and ran my hands over the tiles on the wall; they were very hard, very smooth, and exquisitely cool. I was very interested to see how REAL they seemed. There was absolutely no confusion in my mind that I was dreaming, and yet somehow I was awake without having departed from the dream state. So it was fascinating to me how my mind had conjured up this wall that felt so real to my dream fingers.

                Then I turned and saw four men sitting around a card table, dressed in black robes like judges. [There were a few interchanges, and then the chief judge asked,] "How is she doing?" to one with a book.

                "She must be doing all right, because she is still here," was the reply. Whereupon the chief judge disappeared, leaving his empty clothes sitting there in the chair. . .

                "What's that supposed to mean---that you're full of hot air?" I said, very exasperated. Then the whole group disappeared, card table and all.  This startled me, and I felt as though my consciousness was slipping back into ordinary dreaming, even though I felt I had "passed the test" and would be allowed to stay this way.  (i. e., lucid).  I went unsteadily over to the side of the court and felt the tile wall, still cool and hard. This steadied me, and I said, "I guess this dream is still holding up." After running my hand over the wall a little longer to make sure, and waiting for something to happen, I got bored and decided to explore.

[Several lucid episodes followed]. . . 


        This excerpt from the "Four Judges" dream contained many features characteristic of lucid dreams that were to follow over the next fourteen  years.  Among them was a distinct sense of "shift" (like a bubble popping) or an image of delineation (door closing, window opening, stepping down a stair) that divides the previous sleeping or dreaming state from the lucid state; a leap of joy followed by an intense sense of enjoyment of quite ordinary objects and situations; much conjecturing about everything "without" and "within"; much curiosity and desire to experiment; the exercising of choosing and judging abilities usually associated with waking consciousness; vivid tactile sensations, especially cool sensations; lulls in the plot which required me to take the initiative in order for the dream to get moving again; a strong, relatively effortless grip on my sense of identity, and especially, a struggle to maintain "balance" (sometimes on bicycles or motorcycles) and move with the flow, instead of getting "upset." 

        The most distinctive element, however, was that these dreams often included an ecstatic experience of a new type.  Up to that point, I had always associated ecstatic experience with an opening of the "heart" and a thoughtless kind of merging with something `out there' that was felt to be intensely beautiful. The focus was on the wonderful or beautiful thing that was "out there."  The ecstatic experience that was distinctly lucid combined a similarly heartfelt but somewhat less intense emotion with very clear mental activity and no loss of identity.  or ability to act in a variety of situations. Though less intense emotionally, it felt more exquisite, "higher", and less likely to burn out, and there was a substrata or background of self awareness.

        Both waking and nonlucid ecstatic experiences had always been associated with a passive attitude of taking it all in--to the point where `it' filled me--so plot, action, reasoning, identity, or anything else that required even a partial self awareness tended to destroy the ecstatic state.  Perhaps this is the reason that most of my experiences have occurred while intensely absorbed playing complex music, or during childhood, or while dreaming; at other times, my waking ego has had enough energy to unbalance the merger.  

        In nonlucid dreams something out there seems to be beautiful in itself and I disappear into it, participating in the beauty which "it" has.  It does not occur to me to recognize that "it" is something which I have created in every sense of the word, since it is an image in a dream. In lucid dreams, "I" am ecstatic and all of that "out there" is a dream which I can enjoy no matter what it is, because I have come together in the right way, I know what I am really doing (i.e., dreaming), and it is my dream.

        After the ecstatic experience of the "Four Judges" initiated me into a sense of the lucid dream state as being important, without explaining exactly why it was, I began to notice  these dreams--whether I liked it or not! After a few years passed, I had discovered that lucidity and ecstasy came in several related guises.  First, lucidity itself felt like some type of laid-back ecstatic state so that even if the dream was frustrating, boring, anxious, or even nightmarish, there tended to be a leftover feeling of elation the next day simply because of having functioned in a lucid manner, however briefly. Some dreams just had a wonderfully "clear" feeling to them; only a few rose to the level of being really "high", or ecstatic as the Four Judges dream was.

        Most of the dreams that had distinctly "high" episodes fit a pattern. The "high" most commonly flared up at recognizing that I was lucid, although in the beginning I used other labels for this recognition, like "conscious" and "aware". Since many of my lucid dreams start out with simply realizing my state of mind, rather than deducing it from some anomaly, many lucid dreams started out with the ecstatic peak right at the beginning, or close to the beginning. The intensity might fade after a bit, but, unlike waking life experience, it tended not to completely disappear...that is, as long as I remained lucid.  Furthermore, I did not stand around just being ecstatic, but usually ecstatically participated in the plot which means the ecstatic, but usually ecstatically participated in the plot which means the write-ups don't adequately portray the ecstasy as a background.

        As it turned out, most of the lucid dreams I had over the fourteen years that followed the initiation dream of the Four Judges, were much shorter.  During this earlier period of naive spontaneity, before I had heard about lucid dreaming research, more than half of the lucid dreams started out with or included at least a few moments of the unified ecstatic state of the first dream. It was clear that a lift of the heart combined with a sense of balanced, clarified mental activity was triggered by the recognition that I was lucid, not by something beautiful "out there."

Hanging In There


        What makes me able to remain lucid and ecstatic over a long time in a dream, once it has started?  The answer to this question is still not clear to me, although the dreammaking component of my mind often sets the stage for what will happen at the beginning by means of images of balance.  Intentional review and practice in waking life appears to help with inducing lucidity with its low-level background ecstatic characteristics, but what calls up and maintains the really high highs is a mystery to me. Saying that a heartfelt response combined with clear thinking and steady balance are characteristic ingredients does not help me call up the heartfelt response, or steady me when I feel uncertain.  Compare, for instance, the following three dreams, which are arranged in order of how "high" they went. The first dream collapsed as soon as I encountered my sister, in the second scene whereas the other two continued over a number of apparently unrelated but continuously lucid episodes.


My Sister Has Holes In Her Socks (October 28, 1976) 

                Dreamed I was walking up the walk toward a big Victorian house, with my youngest daughter, age four, following me.  I opened the front door and pop! I was suddenly aware--feeling fully conscious again like in the daytime, but still without leaving the dream. I felt a tremendous lift in spirits, but stepped forward very cautiously, because for some reason my grip on this state of mind seemed fragile.  I  felt that if I didn't walk very carefully. . .I would fall back into regular dreaming... I put one foot in front of another in a line so as "not to jiggle the dream..." [but shortly I awoke in the next scene].


Honored By An Iris (July 15, 1984)

                . . .[after several nonlucid episodes] I stood still and looked down this path [a shortcut through a swamp], listening to the wind in the reeds, and reflected.  Then I backed off and turned around with a sense of patience, so as to take a longer way home where I was less likely to get mired in mud.

                Immediately, I was riding a bicycle down the upper hall of a school. I approached a wide staircase, and heard beautiful music coming up.  I parked the bicycle, and went to hear it.  As soon as I set foot on the stairs, I became fully lucid, simultaneously pervaded with a large, solid happiness.  Everything was so real-seeming  and clear, and there was such a sense of immediate contact with my environment, that for a moment I doubted I was dreaming, and in the next moment wondered if I might be on the verge of physically waking up.  I went down the wide staircase, happily drinking in my surroundings, but at the same time being very very careful not to stumble and fall [because I didn't want to do anything that would wake me up].

                I sat down in the audience and heard an unfamiliar piece of string music.  "I wonder, does this mean I made this piece of music up myself, or have I just heard it once before, so it is in my unconscious memory even though I can't remember it?" I asked myself...[and went on to several more lucid episodes].


Jumping High On the Pier (May 15, 1984)

                Dreamed that I was riding a two-wheeled vehicle like a motorcycle or bicycle, toward a pier, and I had to navigate very very carefully and attentively over a pile of dirt and debris in the way.  I did so, feeling very clear-headed.  I came to a halt, took a deep breath of the lovely clear air, and knew with a deep steady joy that I was dreaming.  I looked around and saw a deep blue sky with a few white clouds, and sparkling water, like a bay at the edge of an ocean, and a quaint waterfront scene, like a cozy New England resort. Everything was very clear; my seeing was completely without effort, and I looked around for a few moments just savoring the sparkling clarity and my own sense of being whole and solidly there. 

                I felt so good to be having this kind of dream that I jumped high, high into the air several times, and landed perfectly balanced, like a dancer.  I felt very sure of my footing, and full of  a solid confidence, the way I feel when doing something I have had a lot of practice in.  Then I was walked into the quaint town...[and several more lucid episodes followed].


        Obviously, the sense of certainty in the second and third dreams was a key ingredient to maintaining length, but this is not saying much.  The initiation dream of the Four Judges had this sense of certainty even though I had never been fully aware in my dreams before, so why would the feeling of steadiness disappear and reappear from one dream to another over the years? I have no answer to this, other than to conjecture that there may be a physical rather than a psychological factor to the issue of "balance".


Nonlucid Ecstatic Dreams


        For a period of a little more than a year before the initiating lucid dream of the "Four Judges," I had periodically had ecstatic nonlucid dreams which were different from lucid highs, and ordinary "happy" dreams.  They were not only intense, but they also included a distinctive "vibrant" sensation, and a sense of merging and resonating with whatever it was that had suddenly seemed so beautiful, which made me feel they were mystical in some sense.

        Regardless, there were only a few of them.  For the most part, they disappeared as a separate type after the onset of lucid dreaming. They probably fit the conventional conception of an ecstatic state better than lucid dreams do. As Table 1 shows, there are a surprising number of differences.


Table 1

Comparisons of Typical Lucid and Nonlucid "High" Dreams


Characteristics                      Typical                                   Typical

of Ecstatic                             Nonlucid                                Lucid

Episodes                                High Dream                           High Dream 


Feeling-Pattern                     Vibrant, burning;  Delicate, lovely

                                                reverberation in                    clarity; "holistic"

                                                "heart" (chest)                      clear from head to toe;

                                                and "throat"                          sometimes steady



Timing of Peak                      Rising to middle or               Surge at beginning of

Experience                             end of dream, then               lucid section of dream,

                                                waking                                   then steady back-

                                                                                                ground or a slow fade


Typical Triggers                   Response to beauty            Recognition of lucid

                                                of objects or en-                   inner state, especially

                                                vironments assumed           when spontaneous or

                                                to be "external"                    due to sense of balance; also,

                                                                                                response to Light


Sense of Identity                  Weak or Irrelevant               Essential


Ego Involvement  Passive, merging  Active, separate, and

                                                with objects                          intentional


Verbal, Thinking   Characteristically Various: can range

Functions                              inactive, but not                   from moderate

                                                a total stop                            activity to total stop



Sparrows Dancing On The Water (May 25, 1975)

                Dreamed I was walking though a hilly wooded green area, and came to a beautiful lake in a clearing.  The day was lovely. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the air was comfortably cool. 

     I looked into the clear waters of the lake and saw a dozen or so sparrows sleeping in the bottom of the lake.  As I watched, one woke up, floated to the surface, and began dancing on its toes.  Instead of there being spread-out bird-like feet, each of the sparrow's feet came down to a single toe, in a shape like that of a dancer's toe slipper.  Although sparrows are pretty drab, and this kind of a foot on a sparrow sounds grotesque, the bird's dance immediately became absolutely exquisite to me.  I was totally caught up in it, so there seemed to be nobody or nothing left that wasn't part of the beauty that vibrated out of the dancing bird. The dance was stately, graceful, very composed; my feelings danced with every movement of the bird.  The luminous sense of dancing seemed to go on for a long time.  It wasn't that I thought of dancing, or knew the bird was dancing, or saw the bird dancing in the dream...it was as if the dancing happened completely everywhere.  Every element of the dream turned into the dance, the trees, the clear lake, and my own feelings.  It's hard to convey this.

                When it finished the dance, the bird sank down and went back to sleep. Immediately, another one woke up and did the same thing. As soon as it broke the surface and began to dance, I was totally charmed again, and my attention, feelings, vision, everything, vibrated in a slow, cool, lovely dance---a kind of steady ecstasy, except "ecstasy" gives the wrong impression of rising to a peak and then crashing afterwards.  The dance of the birds was so quiet and unhurried...


        Sparrows are not usually thought of as images of power, but this is one of the most memorable nonlucid dreams I have ever had.  Like the Eyes In The River quoted later, the sparrows themselves were like the movement of individual thoughts rising up and falling back into unconscious levels of the mind. However, I don't really care what they might represent.  Like most of the ecstatic dreams, it was not the meaning of the dream that remains with me, but the seductive nature of the experience itself. I wanted to relive it, or at least remember its ecstatic flavor, not decode it and dig out a message.  The message is glued to the envelope.

    Two more examples of the nonlucid type follow, both of which have a more deistically-oriented content, but not much difference in flavor. In the second dream, the usual sense of "vibrant" natural imagery was translated into experiences of reverberating sounds.


Into The Boiling Sun   (May 17, 1976)

     Dreamed that...[a transparent] door let me out into a beautiful green countryside in the early evening.  There were rolling hills, lush greenery, farmland, trees all with a kind of shimmering beauty that took hold of me and seemed to flow in and around me.  I walked down a straight road with all this beauty to the right and to the left. Straight ahead was an even more gripping sight: the evening sun had grown huge and red, hanging just above the horizon.  It seemed to shimmer and shift and boil in the sky with great intensity, sending a beautiful but fierce shimmering light down on the landscape, which in turn sent up its own beautiful shimmering waves of beauty.

    I walked with unaverted eyes straight down into the sun.


Glory Song  (June 20, 1988)

                Dreamed I bought school land as an investment, and then thought maybe I should sell it and invest in something else.  It had a day care center on it...[after several changes of mind], I came into the day care center and saw that one of the children was the Christ child.  He was surrounded by a number of other children.

                Then there was a big sound, not like an imagined dream-sound, but like an actually heard sound from the waking world reverberating through the dream, of a HUGE choir of men's voices, singing that chorus that starts "Glory, glory, resounds on high, voices of love, echo above; Choirs of angels their adoration show..." and so on (I forget the composer).  The sound, a huge marvelous sound actually heard in the dream,  filled up my mind, my body, my bones, until it became what I was thinking and feeling, shifting me away from all that think-think-think that had been going on in the beginning of the dream. I was completely ecstatic.


Mixed Mode Problem Dreams


     There have been a number of times where dreams appeared that appeared to give the lie to the tidy differentiations between lucid ecstatic dreams and nonlucid ecstatic dreams.  It is interesting that so far, either probable explanations or specific patterns have emerged for these deviants.

     The first example is a dream which clearly has the nonlucid type of ecstatic episode imbedded in dream which appears to be lucid.  The only problem with this description is that the dream may look that way from the write-up, but there was no felt-sense of a lucid dream.  It preceded the initiation dream in which my dreaming "I" recognized those types of dreams as being something unique. The ecstatic portion of this very long dream is as follows.


Eyes In The River  (August 10, 1975)

                [After several scenes], I was in a room in the upper story of a house... With my arms held over my head, I looked out the window and there I saw something very beautiful.  As soon as I saw it, the nature of the dream changed in such a way that the whole dream seemed luminous and full of a wide eerie atmosphere of beauty.  The image of the outside scene seemed to fill my consciousness, so that the sense of myself diminished to nearly nothing---as if I were the outside scene as well as the inside watcher (which is strictly speaking true since this was a dream).  The way this shift felt is difficult to describe.  In a way I was ecstatic, but without the sense of being individually emotional. Rather, everything expanded so that the beauty seemed to beat, or vibrate, through the whole dream and the dreamer.

                What I saw was a river, misting upwards, much like the Cooper River does on a cool morning, steaming like an elongated  cup of coffee or tea. Hippopotamuses swam underwater, great shadows moving to and fro. One by one, here and there, they would rise slowly to the surface, and their great luminous eyes would rise up and serenely peer through the mist from underneath protective ridges of bone.  Only the eye-ridges and their eyes would break above the surface of the water. After a few moments of gazing about, the eyes and head would tip slowly  sideways, and slide back under. I was entranced.  The misty surface of the river shifted back and forth with the movement of the luminous eyes rising up above the dark shadows of their bodies and then sliding back under the water again.

                But, as I stood looking at them, my forgotten arms still over my head, danger came into the house. People began to panic.  They ran past me, out onto the porch roof and jumped to the ground as if fire had blocked the usual exits.  It didn't occur to me that whatever the danger was, it would also be a danger to me;  I just kept on looking at the eyes in the water, forgetting about all else. They were so very, very beautiful, with a gentle, feminine aspect. Soon I was musing there, alone.  I said to myself, I must remember this when I wake up.

                Then abruptly, the scene changed...


        The second example is clearly a lucid dream, but in addition to the usual steady-state background of joy, there is a section that looks like it is moving toward the type of passive ecstatic merging that goes on once in a while in my nonlucid dreams. There have been several dreams like this, and they share three characteristics. First, the sense of identity is not lost. Second, a sensation of cold, or chill is present. Third, there is an atmosphere of quiet that may include a whispering sound, as well as visual imagery of snow. An example of this follows.


Dancer With a Changing Face (January 12, 1982)

                . . . I woke up in a daze and reached over into my pocketbook, which was next to my bed as usual, and found my bottle of pills.  I sat up with the pill bottle in hand, took off the top, took out the wad of cotton, and started to reach for one of the red and grey pills.  But, before I gripped the pill, I stopped, and looked at the piece of cotton in my hand and said, "Hey, wait a minute, I didn't have any cotton in the top of this pill bottle." 

                Then, with a leap of joy I realized that I hadn't woken up at all. I was dreaming and I was having one of these "fully aware" dreams for the first time in several years.

                "I must be getting better; maybe this medicine is doing me good," I thought.  I experimentally threw the cotton away, and instead of falling to the floor, it went sailing slowly in a straight line outwards, defying the laws of gravity.  I was overjoyed to see this, because I knew for sure that I must be in the land of dreams.

                I looked around at my new world to see what there was to see.  It was very very interesting to me.  The corner I was in was an exact replica of my bedroom...The most interesting feature of the room was the bank of windows opposite the door.  These ran the entire length of the room and were covered by a wooden latticework that was very attractive. I got up and walked across a distinctly cold cement floor in my bare feet and looked out. 

                I was gripped by the sight of a beautiful, luminous, quiet scene: snow falling in the whisper quiet fashion it assumes when the flakes are fat and there is no wind.  Neat houses sat across the way, with a little dip of the land in between. Evergreens here and there were all edged with snow. The snow whispered to me.  I quietly enjoyed this for a while, drinking it in and drinking it in, and then finally let it go to turn to the door...


        The third type of dream that does not tidily fit the lucid pattern belongs to a group that has only arisen in the last six years. This pattern emerged when I started to read more about lucid dreaming per se in the 1983-1984 time frame, and participated in some studies by Dr. G. Scott Sparrow that encouraged more lucid dreaming.  As the numbers of my lucid dreams rose, my dreaming mind wanted to refine its opinion of what state was going on.  (It seemed to do this by itself before I made up my daytime mind that this might be interesting to think about.)  When it would recognize that I was asleep, and must therefore be dreaming, it would sometime object to the "lucid dream" label, because the felt-sense was different.  The lucid "dream" that didn't feel like a dream often seemed to slide into and out of other types of dreaming. The following example is an experience which probably is a mixture of dream and hypnopompic image as far as the research world is concerned, but since my bedroom lacks a sleep lab, there is no way of my knowing how much of which is what. By this time many of my ordinary middle of the night lucid and nonlucid dreams have passages with a lot of verbiage like this one does, so that is definitely no criterion.

        In the past, I could have had more of an opinion as to the type of dream this is, because hypnagogic/hypnopompic images would wink on in full color, and, like a snapshot, lacked the plot or the sense of inherent symbolism that is characteristic of most of my dreams. They could easily be distinguished from dreams.  However, over the years, possibilities have developed to include dream-like "movies" which feel more like hypnagogic images than dreams, lucid-like experiences in which I know I'm not awake but feel like I'm in an altered state that is somehow different than lucid dreaming OR hypnagogic/hypnopompic imaging, sliding scale experiences which move from static images to "movies" to full-blown dreams or vice versa, and so on.

        Whatever it was, it was certainly ecstatic.


Light And The Ivory City (February 22, 1988)

                Shifting abruptly out of dreamless sleep into lucid dreaming, I found myself viewing a static pattern of dusty white lines and rectangles as if looking across the roofs and streets of a deserted Middle-Eastern city. Everything was a soft, clean, white color. . . even the "dust" in the "streets."  Although I knew without a doubt that I was in my bed in the dark night, a soft ivory "daylight," filled the image from end to end.

                As I strained with my eyes, trying to get this picture in better focus, something distinctly in my throat and upper chest region was also breathing in the sense of how beautiful the ivory city was.  This steady taking-in was like a low-keyed ecstasy that just went on and on regardless of what I thought.

                Nothing much happened "out there" at first, yet my mind became very busy-busy, trying to figure out how "I" was related to what I was "looking at." I knew I was not awake in any normal sense of the word, and therefore ought to assume I was dreaming a lucid dream, but this experience didn't feel like a dream. Something seemed to be really "out there" in front of my open eyes...yet I was absolutely convinced I was asleep, lying on my back in bed with my real eyes closed.

                My busy-busy mind then saw matters as even more complex. A faint conflicting feeling in the background said "I" was "really" somewhere else altogether.  According to this faint felt-sense, whatever there was in me that was seeing, was hovering over a real city, but the whatever wasn't focusing it quite right. 

                Regardless, I couldn't quite focus. My busy-busy mind struggled quite a bit to focus better, to see whether this was really an unfocused vision of a real city, or just an abstract pattern that reminded me of a city.

                Suddenly I felt a kind of clenching movement of the upper spine, around shoulder-blade level, a distinctly physical nerve/muscle sensation accompanied by a sense of certainty that at least THIS event took place "out there" in my real physical spine, not "in here" in a mental world. The bodily sensation rose once, then subsided, followed by a wonderful clearing and spreading of my mind space, as if my inner space had suddenly grown much larger and all the mental "dust" and "humidity" had dropped out of the air.

                This change in the sense of mind "size" was a new (and short-lived) experience. Everything grew marvelously wide and "unclouded" all by itself, but the extra capacity didn't help. I still didn't "get it", grasp it, focus, or feel sure about how the pattern/city related to me.

                Suddenly I just gave up grappling with this trying-to-perceive and decided arbitrarily that whatever the lovely thing was, all of ME was still in bed, reacting to an image before my inner vision. In spite of the way it felt, it was NOT "out there."  I asserted to myself that I was NOT wandering about the earth in a second body viewing a real city; the OBE "remote location" idea was just a tiresome idea from a book somewhere. 

                In other words, I discarded these multiple conflicting idea patterns because of some kind of mental tiring, not because of a satisfying resolution.

                While all this busy-busy mental activity was going on, the delicately lit ivory city/pattern still sat before my eyes, and a wonderful, low-keyed feeling-response kept going on and on, not peaking, but just steady, with no burnout.

                After a time, however, the steady glow of the city image itself began to bother me. Its pattern felt like it was burning through the back of my "dream eyes" into real nerves in the real eyes in my real head.

     Then I was seized with curiosity, just FILLED with it, wondering if this so-steady image would remain before my vision even if I opened my real physical eyes. I decided to try it out, reasoning that this would be all right because eyelids are not paralyzed in the dream state.

                When I carefully opened my eyes, the image did stay there clearly for just a moment, then slowly began to fade, until I could see the dim outline of the bedroom window near the foot of my bed. Quickly I closed my eyes and the image instantly came back, just as strong and glowing as it was before. The soft, spreading light and the utterly pure whiteness of everything was so beautiful; I was so glad I hadn't lost it.

     With a feeling of great interest,  I concluded that part of my mind could project an image "that wasn't really there", with such  vividness that the image could block out seeing the real window, even if it lasted only briefly.  I thought this faculty could be stengthened (it didn't occur to me to wonder if I might be dreaming the eye opening, or to wonder why anyone would want to develop such an hallucinatory capacity!).     

                As I continued to inwardly "look at" and "take in" the image of the city in the ivory light, I remembered reading a long time ago about a woman with blood sugar problems.  This woman had gone into her bathroom, and hallucinated four tiny men playing poker while seated around a tiny card table floating in her toilet bowl. She shut her eyes, thinking that this would cause the illusion to vanish, and then grew hysterical when she opened her eyes and saw the tiny men still there playing cards. A feeling of warmth and compassion toward her rose up and filled my chest.  My dream-mind thought to itself how sad it was that she had experienced all that agony because she didn't know how images worked, and especially how they could be retained for a while after you opened your eyes.

                I wondered briefly, dispassionately, whether or not I myself was having blood sugar problems (it didn't seem important).

                As this thought faded away, there appeared to the right of my "visual" field a ball of pure light, purest, purest light, so intense that part of the ivory city was overpowered and blurred. The ball of light, unlike the ivory pattern,  had the atmosphere of being a person; it gave out a healing kind of warmth that seemed both emotional and physical.  My right cheek was distinctly heated by it. Later, this feeling of heat in my right cheek would return when I remembered the dream, but faded after a week or so.

                There was an immediate sense of recognition for this ball of light. It didn't have to do with names identifying who or what it was. It was an overall bodily kind of recognition like meeting  a very good friend unexpectedly in a crowd of strangers.  My whole mind-sense ceased its busy-busy activity and turned itself slowly toward the ball of light in a composed, formal movement, as if all of me were participating in a Japanese tea ceremony. 

                I calmly thought that I was epileptic, so it might be better to do such things in small doses.  [This is true]  Without haste or regret for this brevity, I bent my mind as if it were bowing, and briefly touched the light with my mind. Then I slowly climbed up through layers of sleep into full wakening, still ecstatic.


        This write-up is particularly apt for pointing out the problems of trying to express multifaceted dreams that place their emphasis on an element other than the dream's plot. Language does not work very well, because it doesn't convey the strongest element, which was not the linear stream of ideas and events,  but rather the aura of beauty and ecstasy that remained a steady substrata all the way through. Since this dominating element did not change much and is hard to convey anyway, there's not much to be said after a sentence or two in the beginning.  How many times should I have repeated "By the way, that was still going on while this other thing was happening"?  The preponderance of the description is spent explaining the shifts in visual imagery and ideation, which were the less dominant elements, but are more amenable to expression in verbal language, especially English. Reading this write-up is like watching a film where somebody turned off the sound.     

        This problem is probably experienced by anyone trying to convey how an ecstatic state felt.


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Mindlessness and Mindfulness in Daytime and Nighttime Dreaming


Charles T. Tart

University of California, Davis and Institute of Noetic Sciences


        I have been interested in dreams since I was a young child and discovered for myself that I could become lucid in nightmares and so cure myself of them. Professionally, I was fascinated by lucid dreams when almost no scientists knew that they were "real." Lucid dreamersm, of course, knew they were real, and usually did not need any support forom scientific authorities for the fact that their experience was what it was! I say "usually," as we must not underestimate the power of authority to sometimes talk us out of the reality of our own experience!

        Much of my early research dealt with hypnosis, hypnotic dreams and nocturnal dreams, then I became interested in altered states of consciousness in general. It has been very gratifying to me that my Altered States of Consciousness  book (Tart, 1969), which rescued van Eeden's classic account of lucidity from oblivion, was instrumental in reviving both scientific and personal interest in lucid dreaming. I have kept up my interest in lucid dreams throughout my career, and for the last decade or so the concept of lucidity per se has been particularly fascinating to me. You might say my primary current interest is trying to understand and develop the concept of lucidity, especially as it applies to lucid waking.   

        This paper has a somewhat grand title of "Mindlessness and Mindfulness in Daytime and Nighttime Dreaming."  It is actually a bit grandiose in that I am not too good on the Mindfulness  part, but I will confess to expert status on the mindlessness part.  I have been professionally researching mindlessness and  personally practicing it for many years now and know it in far more detail than I would like to!    

        The idea of communicating with others about the importance of developing lucidity in both waking and dreaming was greatly reinforced by my unconscious mind recently in a way that is particularly appropriate for communicating with dream researchers, namely, by a dream. I had gone to sleep with the "thought" (dare I call it a "prayer" in a scientific paper?)  on my mind that if there are any higher powers in the universe, I could certainly use a little guidance to keep me in mind of what I should be doing with my life. Here are the highlights of the fascinating dream I woke from.

A Dream of Escaping From Mindlock

                Some friends and I were on a journey, driving in our car, and we stopped in a pretty, wooded area to relax, hike, and picnic. As we left the car we took off some of our heavier clothes because it was warm and pleasant outside. We also unspokenly decided that it was a "safe" area, and that we didn't need any kind of weapons. As I left the car, though, I didn't feel too sure that it was safe, so I took a small weapon along. It looked like a golden colored candy cane, an odd look for a weapon. I did not realize I was dreaming or become lucid as a result of this anomaly, however, so in the dream I decided it was some sort of pistol and put it in my shirt pocket.

                A few minutes later a group of people came out of the woods and attacked us. They looked like ordinary people, but they were actually alien in some fashion, either in the sense of being from off planet or having a quite different mind and emotional set from us. Two women came toward me. I thought I would be able to fight them off and rescue my friends since I had had the foresight to bring the weapon, but as the women approached, the one in the rear called out to the one in front that I had some sort of weapon concealed in my pocket, even though I had done nothing to reveal this yet! I was shocked that the woman seemed to be able to read my mind, but I did not make any move toward the weapon, not wanting to confirm her reading. I also wanted to resolve the situation with less force, if possible. As the first woman came close to attack me I jumped and kicked at her, but she nimbly stepped aside. There was no more physical fighting after that, for the aliens got some kind of "mindlock" on me so I was captured, as my friends had been.

                There now followed a period of captivity and slavery to the aliens. My primary role became that of captive/slave/personal servant to the alien lord who commanded the group of invaders. It was he who controlled the mindlock, which kept me in a dulled, constricted state of consciousness most of the time, so I didn't even think about escaping. Once in a while I would come part way out of the mindlock, but part of its power was that when I awoke enough to think of escape I started worrying that the alien lord would telepathically detect my thoughts and increase security measures, so planning for escape would seem futile and scary, and I would sink back into the dulled, constricted state. I didn't think the alien lord was particularly vindictive in doing this, he was just managing his slave property efficiently so he could use it to his ends.

                At one point as we were traveling through the countryside, traveling being part of the aliens' plan for conquering more people with their mindlocks, some real people who hadn't been captured came close to camp to try to rescue me and the others. I was enough out of the constricted state to understand this, but knowing that the alien lord could also read my thoughts and not only frustrate the escape attempt but probably capture my would-be rescuers, I called out to them and explained about the telepathic monitoring and some other bits of information I had figured out about how the mindlock worked. I told them that we weren't strong enough to succeed in getting freedom yet, but if we all kept studying the mechanism of the mindlock we would eventually be able to get free. My would-be rescuers departed so they wouldn't be captured. I went back to trying to not sink too deeply into the mental constriction the mindlock imposed, and to studying how I could both keep more awake and unconstricted. I was trying to learn to think in a way that wouldn't alert the alien lord's mind monitoring defenses.


        Then I awoke to ordinary reality.

        What I have to say in this paper will, fortunately or unfortunately, be a little less dramatic than the dream!   

        To preview, I am going to briefly discuss the nature of consciousness, especially consciousness as a world simulation process, and look at what a dream can be understood as from the perspective of a systems approach to a world simulation process. Then I will discuss the concepts of Mindfulness and mindlessness, and extract from that a dimension of lucidity that can be used across a variety of states of consciousness. Finally I will share a little of my personal experience in trying to apply these ideas in working toward the development of a lucid waking state, and close with another dream about the need for mindfulness.   

        Figure 1 (from Tart, 1975b; Tart, 1983) is what all of us psychologically sophisticated types know that consciousness is not, but it represents our  working,








 operating assumptions 99.999% of the time when we live in and deal with the physical world. We implicitly assume that there is a real physical world out there, containing our real, physical self and other real people, real cats and various real objects. We habitually and automatically assume that there is a "high fidelity" reproduction of the real, external world that just naturally occurs in our head and that takes care of being in touch with reality. Perception (and the functioning of the rest of consciousness) are just taken as "natural," as given.

        Considering the enormous amount of psychological research that shows that perception is actually a complex and biased construction, we know this view is naive, but it is the operating assumption we usually go by. That is, we know from psychological research that perception is not at all a simple, passive perception of physical reality, that we have been trained to perceive in certain kinds of ways and process information in certain kinds of ways. To put in more modern terms, a primary function of consciousness is producing a simulation of reality.

        In talking about consciousness and perception as a simulation process, we commonly (and implicitly) make several assumptions in our Western culture.  Let us make these explicit.

        First, we usually assume that there really is an external, physical reality - a very handy working hypothesis for day-to-day affairs. We usually assume that we can learn about external reality with reasonable accuracy, especially with the aid of instruments to aid our senses and systematic research. 

        Further, we commonly assume, especially in scientific circles, that consciousness itself is totally reducible to brain processes; that when you see this text in front of you, for example, what you are really  seeing, what you actually experience, is an electro-chemical interaction in a certain part of your brain, an interaction that, hopefully, is pretty accurately related to what is actually going on out there. This is what philosophers call the psychoneural identity hypothesis. For many people it is not a hypothesis but a habit of thinking, an ingrained belief. Personally and scientifically, I do not find this hypothesis adequate to deal with all of reality (see  Tart, 1981 for an exposition of a theory of consciousness that is more comprehensive), but it is good enough for our discussion for the moment.


Consciousness as World Simulation Process


        The simulation analogy to an understanding of consciousness got off to a good start during the Second World War with a device called the Link Trainer, developed to start training pilots to fly airplanes. You can train a pilot the old fashioned way by having him read a manual, take some classes and then putting him in an airplane. The problem is that too many of your trainees will crash and you lose both airplanes and pilots.    

        Some of you may have seen pictures of the original Link Trainers. A trainee is sitting in a tiny replica of an airplane that sits in turn on top of a movable set of arms. As he works the controls this will tilt the device back and forth, up and down and side to side, changing the trainee's physical orientation in the world in much the same way that similar controls in an airplane would affect the orientation of the airplane.  You get some "seat of the pants" feel for what the controls do in a airplane, rather than just abstract, intellectual knowledge, and that seat of the pants kind of knowledge is vital for flying a plane. The trainee got a lot of practice at an approximate feeling of what happens to the attitude of a airplane in response to his actual movements of the controls.    

        The Link Trainer was extremely primitive by current simulation training standards. You had to ignore the classroom around you, your instructor sitting at his desk watching you, and the obvious artificiality of the situation and learn some responses that were not really applicable to the "real world" situation you were actually in, viz. sitting in this silly model of an airplane in the middle of a classroom. But nowadays it is much more sophisticated.    

        Modern flight simulators are so realistic you can easily forget you are in a simulator and believe you are in the cockpit of a real airplane. The inside is exactly like the cockpit of the airplane you are learning to fly. Through the windscreen you see a parking bay at the airport. When you manipulate the controls, the response is just like the real airplane. Start the engines, for example, and you hear and feel them start; the cockpit vibrates, as well as the engine instruments reading properly.  Go through the procedure for moving out of the parking bay to taxi to the runway and you see the airplane doing so through the windscreen. Brake suddenly and you feel the deceleration.  Take off and you see and feel yourself accelerating down the runway, pulling up into the sky. Throughout your "flight" the instruments read properly and the airplane responds to the controls as a real airplane would. Crises may occur, like loss of power to an engine, and you get practice coping with them.    

        Modern flight training simulators are "dream machines," in a sense. You can enter deeply into a "dream" that you are flying, although you are in the waking state. After all, you can see the airplane and its environment, you can feel it, hear it, smell it. You feel accelerations and decelerations with the "seat of your pants." Isn't what you sense "reality?"  All you need to do is forget the rather abstract bit of intellectual knowledge that you are actually in a flight simulator, something easy to do when all your senses tell you you are in the cockpit of an airplane.   

        From an outsider's point of view this is all illusion.  The trainee is inside a big box mounted on top of hydraulic pistons and springs. The box is shaking around and rattling and vibrating to stimulate feelings of motion and acceleration.  A rear projection video projector controlled by a computer is creating an illusion of seeing through a windscreen.  Loudspeakers are creating sound effects, etc.   

        This is a much better dream machine than the old Link Trainer. You can easily and totally forget that you are in a simulator. The simulation is not perfect, actually, but beyond a certain threshold of accuracy and total stimulus input in simulating a world, the automatic habits of your mind will do the rest: you identify  with what is going on, and the simulation becomes reality for you.    

        Let me elaborate on how your mind completes the illusion of a simulation with an example. In 1966 my friend Robert Monroe and I invented a simple machine which produced a home light show. We called it a Lori Light, after Bob's daughter.  In a round, domed plastic container we mounted a dozen colored Christmas tree bulbs, the kind of bulbs that have built-in thermal breakers, so they blink on and off. Each bulb differs a little, so some blink on and off every second, some may take several seconds.

        The blinking, colored light from the bulbs passed through a metal shadowing plate with odd shaped holes cut in it, then through a second, similar plate and finally fell on the inside of a translucent plastic dome. The second plate was slowly rotating, so the somewhat fuzzy images of the blinking bulbs slowly changed their shapes as well as blinking on and off, giving an overall display of changing, colored shapes.   

        I usually showed the prototypes to people while music was playing. All thought it was beautiful, and the more technically inclined wanted to know what kinds of electronic circuitry we had used to synchronize the lights with the music. When I told them there was no circuitry to synchronize the lights and music, that the display was quite random and unrelated to the music, they assumed I was lying in order to protect a circuit which had not been patented yet! The lights were obviously  synchronized with the music!   

        Coming back to what our minds automatically and efficiently do, the "job" of the world simulation process is to create meaning, to create a sensible, integrated world. With simple, obviously unrelated events it is hard to do this, but above a (rather low) threshold of complexity it happens automatically, with no recognition that "meaning" is being forced on experience.  Just as an aesthetically pleasing pattern is "obviously" there as we listen to music and watch the Lori Light, the multitudinous stimulation reaching us from the world "obviously" has a certain meaning, determined in accordance with our biological nature, and our needs, hopes and fears.

        Our most sophisticated view of consciousness nowadays, in many ways, is that it is a simulation by the brain of what the external world around you is like.   

        Earlier we discussed the naive view of consciousness and perception, diagramed in Figure 1, in which consciousness and perception were largely taken for granted as natural, high fidelity processes. With our modern knowledge we have to do more than that and begin accounting for the construction and simulation aspects of consciousness. Figure 2 diagrams a variation of an older theory of consciousness, in which consciousness is a kind of homunculus in a box.

        As the figure shows, "you" are in this box, the skull.  You have some video, audio  and other sensory inputs.  By using electronic analogies for the senses, like video, we recognize that sensory input channels have some characteristics, including limits. The skull box has various life support mechanisms and you work the "levers" that control your muscles. The mysterious little "you," the little homunculus in there (drawn in dotted lines to show that it is a less "solid" concept than the brain, given our culture's current materialistic biases) is supposedly what creates consciousness.

        Homunculus theories have always had a common sense appeal. They recognize the inherent difference we experience between consciousness and physical things and the fact that the nature of the senses affects what can get through to consciousness. Unfortunately they do not really explain anything, they simply move the mystery of what consciousness is  to questions about the nature of the homunculus.    

        Moving to modern times, Figure 3 sketches what we know about consciousness and states of consciousness in terms of my systems theory approach to consciousness, an approach that I have been working with for some years (Tart, 1975b; 1983). It does not totally eliminate the homunculus ("awareness" is the final mystery now), but it articulates the concept of the homunculus and of consciousness  in certain ways. In this approach, for instance, we talk about Exteroceptors  for picking up information from the outside, and Interoceptors  for picking up bodily information. Ordinarily there are massive amounts of information coming in from those processes, so the information flow is shown as big arrows in Figure 3. But the information from these receptor processes go through an important subsystem, Input Processing, a subsystem central to the operation of the world simulation

        Input Processing, drawing heavily from memory and our Space/Time subsystem, throws away 99+% of the information coming to us, and transforms, creates a synthesis, a world simulation, from that small percentage of incoming information which our personal history has taught and conditioned us to believe is important. This synthesis, this world simulation, is largely what feeds into our basic awareness, where it is further acted upon and activates our sense of identity, memories, emotions, and subconscious processes.   

        Let us illustrate this process more concretely.     





        Your real world situation at the moment, as an objective observer would see it, consists of, among other things, patterned light striking the retina of your eyes. There is a general surrounding pattern of brightness accompanied by a smaller pattern of whiteness that is interrupted by tiny black figures. These figures in turn consist of straight lines, rounded lines and tiny circles. The exact visual image of these figures on your retina varies considerably in its geometric proportions if you change the angle of the smaller pattern of whiteness accompanied by many tiny black figures, that is the various lines and curves of the black figures undergo enormous geometric variations. Circular patterns, for example, become ellipses.  Your eyes move from one clump of black figures to others.

        This description is correct, but is not a useful description of your experience. You experience yourself as reading  the print  in an article - our tiny black figures (letters) on a small pattern of whiteness (the page), surrounded by a greater brightness (the room you are in). Chances are, however, that you were not even experiencing this breakdown of experience to letters on a page until your attention was called to it just now.  Rather you were taking in the meaning  of the pattern  of the words, having little awareness of individual words, probably almost none at all of the letters comprising the words, much less the geometrical patterning of the black lines that constitute the letters. In spite of the physical reality of the geometrical transformations of the visual stimulus pattern that happens if you tilt the page, you can read just as automatically and easily.  No effect on the meaning you are taking in arises from the physical tilt.   

        Chanowitz and Langer report an interesting observation in this regard:


For example, if a familiar quotation is altered so that it is made nonsensical (but retains sufficient structural familiarity), someone reading it out loud is likely to read the original quote. Even though what she was reading was not on the page in front of her, she is likely to express great confidence that the the quotation was indeed read accurately. (Chanowitz & Langer, 1980).


        Did you notice the double the  in the last sentence? Or did your world simulation process automatically toss it out as you lived in the world of meaning?  I missed it when I first saw it in Langer's excellent book on mindfulness and mindlessness (Langer, 1989).   

        We can usefully say that you are existing now primarily in your world simulation process, that "you" exist "in" your world simulator. And, by and large, it is not a  conscious, willful  act  for the world  simulator  to be your experiential reality: I doubt if you have been consciously attempting to make sense of the lightness and darkness in your visual field or deliberately forming hypotheses about the meaning of the various little black figures. You have been simply reading and understanding, quite immersed in and at home in this automatized, high level abstraction and synthesis of the physical world.    

        Further, this world of meaning you are taking in is not a collection of random information floating about disjointedly in space and time. You are taking it in now. Your world simulation process creates meaning in a framework of space and time, here and now as opposed to then and there. The concepts of space and time are empirically useful for organizing sensation and information for most situations.   

        So our world simulator takes incoming information and organizes it into a space and time framework and a meaning framework, and it does this almost completely automatically most of the time. Our basic awareness is generally of the organized world simulation, with little attention to raw, unprocessed sensory input. We then evaluate things and we finally produce some kind of  motor output  which



has strong effects on the physical world, shown by the large arrow coming out of Motor Output in Figure 3.    

        In ordinary consciousness there are massive amounts of information from exteroception and interoception that the world simulation process must handle, and these constitute important constraints on the freedom of the world simulation process. This information is represented by the two feedback loops in Figure 3.    

        Suppose I am standing in the middle of a room, but I have the idea (or even a strong image) that there is a solid wall six inches behind my left arm. I can reach backwards, and then I get sensory feedback that is incongruent with that idea or image; no matter how firmly I believe the wall is there,  I not feel  anything there. There is no feedback through my sense of touch through the external world (exteroception), and there is no feeling of resistance to the motion of my body in terms of my body mechanics (interoception).    

        So the simulation of the world we construct in ordinary consciousness is constantly being modified and updated to be a good match to the external world by the presence of these two feedback loops, using a criterion of consistency.  The experienced simulation of events must be constantly adjusted so that the consequences of acting on the basis of the simulation are consistent with our ongoing simulation of a moment before, with our stored knowledge about the world, and with the resulting feedback from our external actions.  When this does not take place, we have, in the mildest case, surprise and anomaly and, in extreme cases, psychopathology. The world simulation process, then, is a very intensive, active process.  Although it must consume considerable energy, we are so used to its automated functioning that we do not, without skilled introspection, sense the psychological and physical energy that goes into maintaining the process.

        There is still considerable mystery here. The homunculus has now been reduced to a little dotted box called basic awareness I suspect basic awareness is a given, a fundamental reality, rather than anything we can explain further.  But we have a little more articulation of what goes on as consciousness, (as I use the term in a technical sense in my systems approach) being the systems interaction of basic awareness with more analyzable subsystems like Input Processing, Sense of Identity, etc., an interaction that constitutes the world simulator.    

        Consciousness, then, in a very important if not total sense, is an ongoing simulation of the external world and of our identity, nature and position in that (simulated) external world. Every instant each one of us is creating and then, through the feed back loops of our senses (exteroception) and our bodies (interoception), adjusting that internal simulation to produce what we take to be an accurate representation of what is actually out there and our position with respect to it.  Things are not as shown in Figure 1, where a physical you apparently straightforwardly sees a physical cat. From this systems approach of consciousness as world simulation, what you see is not an external object: what you see is neural activity. What you hear is not external sound: you hear neural activity.  The body you call yours is also a neural, electro-chemical pattern, as are the characteristics you call your self, and so forth.  The external world and your position in it is an ongoing inference, and hopefully you are doing a good job of simulating it. Since you are still alive if you are reading this, your world simulation model obviously works quite well most of the time. There is a bit of delightful circularity in all this, of course. Starting from mental experience we deduce the external world. Articulating and refining our knowledge of the external world we discover the senses and the nervous system, begin to grasp the operation of complex systems in the form of machines, and then talk ourselves out of our direct experience by attributing basic awareness to the brain rather than a non-physical mind, so experience becomes an "epiphenomenon." We shall not worry about this for the time being, leaving it for philosophy.


Dreams as World Simulation Process


        Now let's look at a nocturnal dream from this point of view. From my systems perspective, a dream is basically the same process as your ordinary consciousness is right now; that is, the world simulation process functions in your sleep much like it is functioning right now. I have presented this theory in a more formal way elsewhere (Tart, 1987).

        Figure 4 is a modified version of the systems diagram of consciousness presented in Figure 3. I have drawn some of the subsystem boxes with ripply lines to indicate that there are important changes in dreaming compared to ordinary waking con sciousness, even though the overall arrangement is the same.

        For example, by and large we sleep where it is quiet, so there is hardly any input coming into our external senses.  The massive input arrow to the exteroceptors shown in Figure 3 is now greatly reduced in Figure 4. Similarly your



body relaxes and the interoceptors neurologically adapt out, so there is hardly any input into our internal senses.  The  Input  Processing  subsystem  has  much  less

input to deal with.  Yet we have evidence that there is still some selective selection and rejection of what stimuli do get through, so Input Processing is drawn with a "pinch" in its middle to represent this active rejection of stimuli that might arouse you or be incorporated into your dreams, this narrowing of the information flow channel.   

        In dreaming then, the outside world is pretty much cut off from awareness. The Subconscious subsystem, the theoretician's favorite candidate for determining the content of dreaming, is represented as highly active: "someone" must be there bringing in all that dream scenery and getting the characters to walk in on cue at the right time. Memory is functioning but in a funny way. Almost all theoreticians believe that a dream is made up entirely from memories and modified memories, but, phenomenologically, you do not feel  like you are remembering, as you do in an ordinary state when you remember things. Your sense of identity can also change considerably, as if you were a different person in some dreams, and your emotional reactions to dream events can be different from your waking ones.   

        The Space/Time subsystem is still working just as hard in dreaming as it does in waking, creating a space/time grid for experience. I have almost never heard anyone say anything like, "I had a dream last night; there was a foot over here and a ball point pen there and some reddish stuff...;" dreams are organized into a space and time framework. It just does not happen to be the space/time framework that we think is "real."  If you had "realistic" dreams, you would always dream that "I'm lying in bed in the dark and nothing's happening." It is a good thing that the space/time sense is fairly liberated in dreaming; they would be terribly dull otherwise!   

        The way in which we evaluate things can certainly change and our motor output, like input processing, is drastically pinched off: this is the stage 1-REM paralysis mechanism that keeps night time quite calm, instead of everybody running around acting out their dreams.    

        Now consider two vital characteristics of the dreaming state of consciousness as a system. Because you are having essentially no motor effects on the physical world or on your physical body, and because your external and internal senses are largely cut off, those two feedback loops that are so prominent in Figure 3, representing waking consciousness, are almost totally inoperative. Thus while I am hypothesizing that the world simulation process is still basically the same process in both waking and dreaming, it is no longer constrained in that the simulation has to keep matching incoming sensory data.  There is no feedback constraint.  So there is a much wider range of experiential reality available in the dream state, a freer world simulation.    

        You can dream of hiking up mountains, for example, and there are no sensory inputs from your physical feet telling you, "There are no sensations in my feet as would happen with walking, so I am actually lying still instead of doing any walking." Your habitual belief that your feet should feel tired after a long walk may or may not operate to make your dream feet feel tired.  This lessening of feedback constraint is a major factor that can lead to the "bizarreness" of dreams.   

        This also means that, in both an experiential and neurological sense, dreams are often just as real as waking experience is right now. It is the same world simulation process, the same basic brain processes whether you look at a chair right now in your waking state or look at a dream chair in a dream state.


Mindfulness and Mindlessness


        Now we will consider mindfulness and mindlessness, discussing them first in terms of our ordinary waking state.    

        Given a world simulation model of consciousness, for survival and adaptive purposes we want our simulation to be as high fidelity and as accurate as possible, within the limits of being human. But we know that our world simulation is not always perfect. The most obvious of these are numerous, well-known optical illusions are reversible figures. Psychologically, though, we tend to regard these as "tricks" of the senses, mechanical break downs, rather than drawing the more profound lesson that all  perception is constructed and not necessarily accurate.  There are also many breakdowns that are much more significant.    

        Consider projective tests like the Rorschach or the TAT cards. We say that people project  into these stimulus situations. Drawing from our knowledge of psychopathology and the experimental study of perception, we know that our world simulation, our experienced  reality which we take to be the real physical reality, is strongly affected and altered by our needs, hopes, fears, defense mechanisms, and personality dynamics.  We tend to apply this knowledge mainly to people labeled as neurotic or psychotic, though, without thinking about its implications for everyday life.    

        There is a vital psychological concept originating from Eastern cultures. The Sanscrit word for it in Hinduism is maya, the Buddhist word is Samsara. Both terms mean living in illusion. In a very important and real sense we can say that sometimes we live in illusion, that what is experienced as an obviously real sensory perception is actually a significantly distorted simulation of some aspect of the world.  Living in illusion can have, of course, unpleasant consequences.   

        When maya and samsara get translated into western terms they usually get (mis)translated as the idea that the physical world is not real. I personally do not know whether the world is real or not, but I find its reality a good working hypothesis!  But philosophical disputes about the ultimate nature and reality of the physical world are not the main point of either of those concepts. The main point of the concept of samsara is that because of the distortions introduced by our psychological needs into the process of perceiving reality, we do indeed live in a kind of waking dream; in a set of illusions rather than clearly seeing the world as it is. We walk around in a walking daydream, as it were, that significantly distorts reality. Walking around in a daydream you mistake for reality leads to all sorts of stupid, non-adaptive actions.    

        To put it in the terms of the world simulation model, dreams and many of the internal representations of the external world that we deal with and mistake for accurate perceptions of what is out there are actually badly distorted. Similarly, many of the "perceptions" (simulations) we have about ourselves - our beliefs, talents, weaknesses, worth, etc. - are also quite inaccurate. As a result we draw maladaptive conclusions about external reality, based on our distorted simulations, and so act inappropriately. Such inappropriate action produces reactions from both the physical world and other people that can cause suffering. The suffering resulting from the initial misperception might cause a revision of our world simulation in the direction of more accuracy and consequent reduced suffering in the future.  Or the suf fering in turn might be further misperceived, inaccurately simulated - "He said that because he always has it in for me!" instead of the more accurate, "That was a stupid thing I did, no wonder he is angry!" - so perpetuating and intensifying the process of living in illusion.   

        This Eastern idea that we live in illusion sounds crazy to most Westerners, and even to most psychologists. If you look at the data of psychiatry and psychology, however, we Westerners probably know much more about the nuts and bolts, the specifics, of living in illusion than people do in the East. We have immense numbers of examples both from the annals of psychopathology and from precise laboratory experimentation, of the way people automatically and unknowingly distort their reality perception, but we have simply never put it together into a concept of "living in illusion."

        We usually only apply these ideas to people whose illusions are so obvious (i.e., socially deviant) that they bother us enough to call them neurotic or crazy. Unpalatable as the idea may be, however, my studies have convinced me that we all live far too much of our lives in samsara, in worlds of illusion. But since almost everybody believes many of these illusions, they are not recognized as socially widespread illusions, they are simply implicit "truths." Much of normal life consists of living in illusion. You can find innumerable examples.    

        I want to give you a little wisdom from the mouth of babes about the process of living in illusion. A couple of years ago a friend of mine, Jo Ann Norris, who runs a psychological growth center in Phoenix, called me up to tell me about an experience she had with her four-year old grandson, Tabor.


Watch Out for Illusions!

                Tabor had been visiting her house and had lost one of his toys, so Jo Ann was helping him go through the house looking for it. They went into the living room and there it was, in the middle of the rug. As she started to go over to get it, Tabor shouted, "Stop Grandma! It might be an illusion."

                As you can imagine, that stopped her. But Jo Ann is a very sophisticated lady, so she recovered in a minute and asked Tabor, "Tabor, how do you tell if something is real or an illusion?"     

                Tabor replied that this was easy. You can shake an object and if it's still there after you shake it, it's real. This sounds like a pretty good criterion to me!     

                Jo Ann had to ask him where was he learning about reality and illusion. Tabor replied that he was learning it in school.      

                Four-year olds, of course, don't have much schooling. But Tabor could see right away that Jo Ann didn't get it. Grownups can be real dense sometimes! So he spontaneously explained, "Not in ordinary school; the school in my head."   


        I want to follow this kid's progress!   

        This little story is actually a summary of the essence of this paper. Some of the things we go after or avoid are illusions and we have to learn to shake them to tell whether they are real or not. We can not depend on society's educating us for that, so we had better go to the school in our heads to learn something about how to do that. When you do not know, you live in a low fidelity world simulation, your own and other people's perceptions can be badly distorted, you live in the illusions of samsara, and you create enormous amounts of stupid and unnecessary suffering as a consequence of acting in inappropriate ways.



Mindfulness and Mindlessness in Dreams


        Now we will consider mindfulness or the lack of it in dreams.   

        Recall the basic structure of a dream from the systems perspective: the world simulation process is operating very much as it does in waking consciousness, creating a world in which you experientially live, but you are almost totally cut off from the outside physical world and your physical body and there are no feedback loops to put constraints on the world creation process. By typical, culturally relative Western waking state standards, dreaming is inherently a high state of illusion and delusion. What are those typical waking state standards? I shall outline several salient aspects of the conventional view, although I do not necessarily always agree with them.

        First, in Western culture we usually think the world is dangerous, indeed hostile, so we must  have an accurate map of it, we must have a good simulation just to survive. In dreams we are totally (and dangerously) out of touch with our real situation - lying in bed asleep, hopefully with nothing of consequence happening in our immediate physical environment.   

        Second, we believe that ordinary (culturally approved) rationality is the best possible way for reasoning about things. That is, we engage in operational thinking as part of our world simulation process to make sense of the experienced world and hypothesize what optimal courses of behavior in it would be, but are strongly culturally conditioned as to what is "logical" or "rational" thinking. "Irrationality," "arrationality," are per se  dangerous, yet what passes for reasoning in dreams is frequently "irrational" or "a-rational" by waking state standards.    

        Third, we are generally passive in dreams: we cannot do much, we have little ability to control things.  My wife can seldom make telephones work right in dreams, and I often have trouble with the brakes in dream cars, for example.  Westerners distrust states of consciousness in which we have less control.   

        Fourth, we frequently have a lack of access to relevant knowledge in the situations we find ourselves experiencing in dreams. In ordinary life we have a wealth of knowledge to bring to bear on problems - we are quite skilled in dialing telephones or applying brakes, for example - but in dreams we frequently lack rather elementary knowledge about how to deal with situations.   

        Fifth, we often do not maintain loyalty to our waking state values in a lot of our dreams. We may do things in dreams that would horrify us if done in a waking state.    

        All in all, then, dreams seem quite inferior to ordinary consciousness. We do not really know where we are, we are irrational, we are too passive, we cannot draw on much of our knowledge, we lack control, and we do not always respect our waking state values. Is it any wonder that we usually subrate our dreams, our experiences, immediately after regaining the waking state? "That was just  a dream."


Lucid Dreaming


        The emergence of lucidity drastically changes the world simulation process that produces dreaming.   

        To define lucid dreaming, I will use my version (Tart, 1984) of Van Eeden's  (Tart, 1969, pp. 145-158) classic criteria. By dream lucidity I mean first that the dream thought, "This is a dream," occurs. This is a necessary, but not sufficient criterion for lucidity. Second, this dream thought leads to or is associated with a marked change  in the quality and pattern of experienced consciousness, such that the pattern and quality of consciousness is much more like the waking state.

        That is, there is a transition from one discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC), ordinary dreaming, to another d-SoC, lucid dreaming (see  Tart, 1975b or  Tart, 1983 for a more detailed discussion of transitions between states).  You now find yourself: (a) still experientially existing in the dream world, an existence which is usually just as, if not more "sensorially" vivid, than ordinary waking existence; (b) but you now know your true circumstances (you are lying in bed dreaming); (c) your thoughts can be quite rational by waking state standards; (d) you can be as active in coping with the situation you find yourself in as in waking life instead of the dream just passively happening to you; (e) you can draw on the knowledge about the world available to you in the waking state quite fully; and (f) you can exert much more control over the situation in which you find yourself, a control that can sometimes include actions that would be "paranormal" or "magical" by waking state standards. You can (g) deliberately choose to uphold your waking state values or change them.   

        I have sketched an idealized, full blown lucid dream.  In actual experience there is some degree of variation (Kellog, 1989). Our ordinary waking state, for example, is sometimes not very lucid, and I suspect we can have some moments of waking that are less lucid than many moments of ordinary dreaming.  But, in general, there is a change in the quality of consciousness in the lucid dream state so that even though we remain in the (simulated) dream world, the observable quality of functioning of our minds feels pretty much like it does right now in your waking state.

        From a conventional point of view, then, you are totally taken in by, identified with the world being simulated in ordinary dreams and you are in a rather passive and stupid state. In lucid dreaming your are still taken in by the sensory qualities of the world simulation process, they are as real or more real than in ordinary sensory perception, but intellectually you know they are an illusion and you have "awakened" in terms of conscious functioning. Dream lucidity can be described as an ordinarily awake mind functioning in the dream world.           


The Dimension of Lucidity


        Now we will flesh out this dimension of lucidity, or mindfulness, and make it something that can be applied to most states of consciousness. In my theorizing so far, for instance, this dimension of lucidity can be usefully applied to ordinary waking and to nighttime dreaming, as well as to emotional states, hypnosis, fantasy states, certain drug states that are not too ineffable, such as marijuana intoxication, and perhaps to toxic psychosis.

        Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 1980) defines "lucid" and "lucidity" as follows:


lucid 1: a: suffused with light: LUMINOUS b: TRANSLUCENT  2: having full use of one's faculties: SANE  3: clear to the understanding :    INTELLIGIBLE.


lucidity 1: clearness of thought or style  2: a presumed capacity to perceive the truth directly and instantaneously: CLAIRVOYANCE      


        Consistent with the optical analogy of lucidity, we can also talk about its opposite as (psychological) opacity.   

        What would be the characteristics of being high on lucidity and low in opacity in any state?  That would include, for instance, an understanding of consciousness per se, a general understanding of how consciousness works in any state.  That might include, as a specific example, recalling, in any state of consciousness, that your desires tend to focus and constellate your perception and so may distort your simulation of the world. Lucidity in any state would also include an understanding of the state of consciousness that you are currently in - Am I in a depressed state? Am I in a rage state? Am I hypnotized?  Am I meditating? Am I locked into a state of identification? If so, how is my perception of self and reality being affected.

        Knowing what state you are in, what pattern your world simulation process is generating. is important. If you know what the prevailing organization of your pattern of mind is, you can know what its useful aspects are, what sensible, adaptive things you can effectively carry out given these readily available state qualities, and  what the state's drawbacks are for any particular situation. For example, if you were lucid enough to know that you were intoxicated from marijuana, you might realize as you reached for your bank statement and checkbook, planning to reconcile them, that the altered state typically produced by marijuana intoxication is not a very good state for this task. But if you are planning to look at some paintings in an art gallery, or listen to music, it is a useful state (see  Tart, 1971 for specific qualities of marijuana intoxication).  As a second example, if you were in a state of rage, lucidity would let you realize that a rage state might be useful for fighting off an attack by a wild animal, but not for helping your friends make up after a lovers' quarrel.   

        Another quality of lucidity is that you do not get totally trapped in or identified with the state of consciousness you are currently in because you recall the existence of alternative states. In a lucid dream, for instance, you recall that there is a waking state, so if you cannot accomplish what you would like to in the lucid dream, you have an alternative of transiting into the waking state and using its qualities (assuming they are suitable) to do whatever you want.    

        In any state if you are lucid enough to simply remember that there are other states of consciousness, this memory per se  can modify your actions and reactions. For example, if you are in a state of rage and somebody bumps into you, what is "logical" to the state of rage is to kick and maybe kill the stupid, clumsy idiot and to enjoy your attack and the power of your rage thoroughly! That is the state-specific logic of a state of rage (Tart, 1972). But if you have a certain lucidity that says, "I am in a state of rage. Rage is one of the many ways my mind can be organized. While the logic of killing the bastard seems quite compelling and sensible in this state, I think that, from the perspective of many of those other states, kicking and killing is not going to look so appealing and logical, and I am going to be both very sorry in those other states and suffer a lot from the consequences of my planned, 'logical' seeming violent actions. So I will resist this urge to attack violently."  You have a chance to modify the grip that that state of consciousness has on you.    

        Lucidity also involves understanding what you do not  know about the way your mind in general and your current state of consciousness in particular works. You know your limits.  You might know, for example, that you have a low tolerance for ambiguity and so tend to jump to premature conclusions, so even though you could make things make sense in a particular way, maybe you should hold out and just observe the situation some more.    

        If you value lucidity, you probably engage in certain kinds of mental activities and behaviors designed to promote lucidity. For example, suppose you do realize that you need to actively seek further understanding about the way your mind deals with the world, rather than assuming that your present knowledge is enough. You might look for specific ways to increase the precision of your understanding. You might go into psychotherapy or practice insight meditation or explore altered states or get into structured interpersonal encounters with people designed to provoke insight, or become involved in a spiritual path of some sort. All of these are ways of trying to get a more precise understanding of how your mind works, to increase your lucidity.    

        Now lets jump to the opposite end of the spectrum in any state: what are the characteristics of high opacity and low lucidity?    

        I think one of the most fundamental characteristics is a basic ignorance that consciousness is a semi-arbitrary construction, that it is a world simulation process that is not high in fidelity. There is little understanding that the obvious may need to be questioned, or that what may be "normal" is actually largely an artifact of the culture that you grew up in.    

        High opacity, then, is living in illusion, living in samsara. You automatically accept the appearances of external things and internal reactions instead of examining them mindfully. There is also a kind of dissociation of mental functioning, so that  all your relevant knowledge does not come to the situations you find yourself in.

        We live in a time when there are enormous numbers of psychological self-help books available, when all the profound spiritual teachings of the ages have been available in paperback books for fifteen or twenty years now. There is probably almost nothing really new that we, as a culture, need to discover to become, through application of this knowledge, incredibly intelligent, integrated, organized and efficient human beings.  Yet we slip so often. Afterwards we say to ourselves, "I should have remembered I always do that stupid thing in that situation."  Our knowledge tends to be fragmented in states of high opacity. We do not get all the relevant information we need, which includes emotional information.    

        Opacity is also manifested in specific defense mechanisms that operate in us "normals" as well as in those labeled neurotic. Suppression, reaction formation, repression, identification, introjection, dissociation, rationalization, sublimation, denial, and narcoticization are all ways in which the world simulation process leaves out significant information in the way the experienced world is constructed.   

        Another major characteristic of opacity is that it has been automatized, to use Deikman's term (Deikman, 1966;  Deikman, 1976;  Deikman 1982).  The machinery of mental processing, the overlearned and emotionally protected patterns of the world simulation process can run by themselves, they do not need to have a conscious controller. Going back to Figure 2, there does not need to be a homunculus inside the box; the system can and does run on automatic too much of the time.    

        Here is a typical example of everyday mindlessness from Langer (Langer, 1989):


Once in a small department store, I gave  a cashier a new credit card. Noticing that I hadn't signed it, she handed it back to me to sign.  Then she took my card, passed it through her machine, handed me the resulting form, and asked me to sign it. I did as I was told. The cashier then held the form next to the newly signed card to see if the signature matched (pp. 12-13).


        Opacity is not just passive mindlessness, nor is it just mindlessness with an individual person, whether passive or protected by emotionally based defense mechanisms. We are mindlessly involved in a lot of "mutual defense pacts" with others. There is an unwritten contract guiding much of our social inter action that says something like , "I won't question your illusions if you won't question mine. Thank you, as long as you abide by this contract you are my friend."    

        Of course opacity results in all sorts of stupid, maladaptive and insensitive acts on our part.  The more your world simulation process locates you in a simulation that involves misperception of self and others, the more you compound your misperceptions, and the more inappropriate your feelings, actions and reactions are.  Someone says something to you, you simulate/perceive it a distorted way and react on that basis, then they accuse you of being insensitive, and so on and so on. This is a psychological understanding of the Eastern idea of karma.    

        "Karma" often seems like a very esoteric idea to Westerners, but it basically means that actions generate reactions, even though the reactions may be greatly delayed in time so that we do not see the connection. Negative karma is stupidity: if you are out of touch with reality, you generate eventual negative consequences. The hostile remark you made in obvious self-defense to your supervisor years ago, when in point of fact her anger was not really directed at you, eventually results in her giving you a poor recommendation on a job application.


Lucidity and Models of Man


        The beliefs, the model(s) that you have of what human beings are affect your concept of lucidity, especially, of how far you think lucidity can go. So far, what we have been discussing can fit into (but is not limited to) the materialistic model or scientistic model. By scientistic  I refer to what happens to scientific  knowledge when, psychologically, a philosophy of materialism becomes, in effect, a dogmatic, emotionally cathected faith that needs to be defended against heresy.    

        In the scientistic model of man, what is real  is what is material, is what can be detected by the physical senses and physical instruments. Lucidity would then tend to be equated with the idea that the more you ("correctly") observe reality and ("correctly") understand reality in the same way that physicists, chemists, and other high prestige physical scientists do, the more lucid you are. Anything you experience, any belief you have that disagrees with the models of reality drawn from accepted physics and chemistry, is fantasy at best and probably psychopathology. To automatically dismiss a recalled dream in the morn ing as "just" subjective, as fantasy, as not "real," to observe an apparently psychic event and immediately and automatically dismiss it as trickery or illusion without feeling any need to investigate it more deeply is, in this view, to be realistic, to be lucid.   

        From the perspective of the scientistic model, then, lucidity is a desirable condition, desirable in the sense that, as your world simulation process constructs your experience so as to automatically reflect the believed-in world view, you believe that you will not confuse reality and fantasy. But if you are totally involved in a scientistic world view it is actually a terrible thing from the point of view of genine lucidity or psychological freedom. The concept of lucidity is perverted into conformity with prestigious social beliefs.   

        True lucidity, as I use the term, means a moment-by-moment movement toward clarity as to what is actually happening, distinguishing your immediate experience and perception from your interpretations of what is happening. If you do not make this moment-by-moment discrimination, then these interpretations become automatized aspects of the world simulation process, become falsely perceived as apparent perceptual "facts," rather than the interpretations they are. That is why I speak of scientism, rather than science, for genuine science implies a constant openness and questioning, not a psychological identification with hypotheses, and interpretations, such that they become doctrines (Tart 1975a;  Tart 1989b). Maslow's overlooked study of the psychology and psychopathology of science (Maslow, 1966) brilliantly shows how science can be, on the one hand, an open ended system used in the service of personal growth or, on the other hand, one of the best neurotic defense mechanisms available in our culture.

        Scientism can also have quite negative consequences for your personal life and for our world, as it is a depressing philosophy of life, a point treated at length elsewhere (Tart, 1989a).   

        Now let us consider a second, broader model of what it means to be human, what we might call a possible psychic realities model.

        The materialistic and scientistic model sees dreams as nothing but semi-arbitrary, neuro-chemical actions in the skull, a world simulation process with fewer constraints than in waking consciousness on what can be simulated, but an experience which is, of course, all imagination. Our possible psychic realities model would hypothesize that dreams can be nothing but fantasy much of the time, but they can also be more than fantasy.  They could act as a "doorway," as an induction path into other kinds of altered states (altered subjective world simulations) and perhaps even into other kinds of "objective" realities.  There are many spiritual traditions that have this view.   Rogo (1983), for instance, describes several techniques for deliberately using both ordinary dreams and lucid dreams to produce the altered state of an out-of-the-body experience.    

        If you accept the idea of being conscious in other kinds of realities, lucidity would be just as useful and helpful there as in ordinary consciousness in the ordinary world, or in any other altered state. Because of space limitations, and a desire not to unnecessarily activate automated conflicts about psychic matters not really germane to the bulk of this paper, I will not deal further with model 2 here, but we should note that this second model is often incorporated as a (usually minor) part of the third model.   

        A third model of man, broadest of all, is a transpersonal or spiritual model. Let us call it the transpersonal model, transpersonal in that our ordinary waking self and its physical embodiment is seen as a particular subset of our much wider nature and potentials.    

        Buddhism is a typical example of a transpersonal model.  It hypothesizes that our true nature is that we are inherently all "Buddhas", enlightened beings, inherently at one with the universe and capable of actions and understandings that, from the point of view of ordinary consciousness, would seem like wonders.  Unfortunately we are clouded Buddhas, we live in samsara, illusion: that is our world simulation processe place us in a pathologically inaccurate simulation of our own nature and of the world around us.    

        Man is asleep, as G. I. Gurdjieff put it, we walk around in a kind of waking daydream (an idea explored more extensively in Tart, 1986). Unfortunately, the paralysis mechanism that operates in stage 1 REM dreaming does not work in the waking dream, so we can act out our delusions and create all sorts of consequences in the world! You can sign checks while living in a state of illusion, and the bank cashes them no matter how foolish your perceptions and intentions.   

        From the point of view of the transpersonal models, the task of life is to awaken from the sleep, to develop deeper and deeper lucidity in all our actions, in all the situations and states we find ourselves in. This is not just a matter of reprogramming the world simulation process to embody "correct" views, but of developing moment-to-moment awareness, lucidity,  penetrating insight into ongoing experiences and thus not confusing experience with concepts about experience.    

        I emphasize the importance of developing moment-to-moment awareness, of lucidity, of becoming sensitive to the way beliefs distort our world simulation. The idea of enlightenment, awakeness, or lucidity is usually too easily perverted, in my experience, into the idea that you are awake when you agree with and confirm my world view. This is our automated, emotionally defended world simulation process forcing reality to fit its own models.    

        Speaking both professionally and personally, I am more fascinated by and frightened by the power and automaticity of the world simulation process to organize our lives and our perceptions so as to apparently validate itself. It is a psychological rule that we will often get from our lives what we expect from them. So we had better be careful about what we believe is going to happen and what we want.  Our minds, our world simulation processes are tightly locked in many ways. The lock is alien. Developmentally, much of the locking, the shaping, the conditioning, was done to us by others when we were too young to resist, rather than being our own decisions.


Escaping From Mind Lock


        I want to briefly end this paper with the good news:  there are ways of at least beginning to escape the alien mind-lock. There are ways of increasing lucidity and mindfulness, and decreasing opacity and mindlessness. These escape routes are what my research has been focusing on for many years.

        I regret that this section is much briefer than the preceding sections, but this reflects the reality that personally I am much more knowledgeable about opacity than about lucidity.  It is easier to diagnose the problem than to cure it.   

        I am going to discuss my personal experience here, rather than summarizing the literature, for two main reasons. First, if you are going to look at what happens in the inside world, in your own world simulator, you are your own primary instrument: this has to be a very personal study. Second, I do not believe you can really understand psychological opacity and lucidity in others, in some "objective" sense until you understand it in yourself. To understand the full extent of opacity you must, of course, develop lucidity.


Insight Meditation


        A primary methodology for developing lucidity that has interested me for the last five years has been the practice of formal meditation. I try to do half an hour or so of what is called insight meditation, or "vipassana", as it is called in the Buddhist tradition, every day. Basically this involves sitting still and trying to clearly observe whatever happens, without trying to make experience "good" or "bad," "pleasant" or "unpleasant." It is trying to discover how the mind functions by taking an observer's stance toward it. Excellent descriptions of the procedure and its foundations have now been published by several Western psychologists (Carrington, 1977;  Emmons, 1978;  Goldstein, 1987;  Goldstein & Kornfield, 1987;  Goleman, 1988;  Naranjo & Ornstein, 1971;  Shapiro, 1978;  Shapiro & Walsh, 1984;  Sole-Leris, 1986).   

        One consequence of this practice is that it is now personally clear to me, as well as to many who have written on this, that ordinary consciousness is indeed very dreamlike.  I have very little control over my thoughts and feelings and fantasies, and I am much more passive in the way I take life than I would like to believe. My life is rather dreamlike in this respect.  Compared to a nighttime dream, I am much more active, intelligent and lucid with respect to my experience of life, but compared to the kind of clarity that I believe is possible for a human being, my ordinary consciousness is indeed dreamlike, passive, with little control over what my life.    

        By ordinary worldly standards, of course, I am a successful professional, in excellent mental health, actively pursuing a fulfilling life.   

        I am able to report these negative observations about the quality of my everyday world simulation, of course, because I can sometimes create or experience moments of far greater clarity, but these moments tend to be fleeting rather than stabilized.

        Let me describe what I mean here. These more lucid moments involve an experience of being much clearer than usual about (a) who I am; (b) what my situation is in terms of what is immediately happening here and now; (c) a sense that there is "somebody home," that I am present in a real way that is not typical of everyday life. Everyday life, by contrast, is an experience of my world simulation process running on automatic. There is a sense of (d) sufficiency and happiness that runs through these moments of lucidity. I do not have a strong need to go out and strive to get external satisfactions to lead a happy life when I have these moments of clarity in meditation: it is satisfying simply to exist.    

        Sometimes my insight meditation leads to specific insights. Some of them are  unpleasant,  revealing  the  emotionally distasteful or the repressed, some are of the banal, mechanical ways of my world simulation process: "Ah, this is the 4,298th time I have clearly seen that part of my mind is bored that nothing exciting is happening," or "Gosh, that sore muscle in my leg is acting up again." Sometimes the insights can be quite deep insights into my personality, such as various and quite specific automatized ways in which I try to exercise control over my experience, based on a deep assumption that I and/or the universe is untrustworthy and nothing must be allowed to happen by itself. Occasionally these insights, as well as the more general experience of unconditional happiness carry over into my everyday life.    

        There is nothing profound about my skill at meditation or my experiences, as I am just a beginner, but if I have been able to get some real clarity out of such practice, I am sure people who have practiced meditation longer and more skillfully than I can go much further.


Self-Observation and Self-Remembering


        The other major lucidity practice I have been carrying out for many years is a pair of complementary techniques  brought to the West by G. I. Gurdjieff (Ouspensky, 1949;  Tart, 1986), self-observation and self-remembering. These are techniques you practice in everyday life circumstances, - I can do it right now as I write - a matter of simply trying to be clearly present to what actually is happening instead of getting totally lost in the excitement, in fantasy, of what is going on. 

        The self-observation practice stresses the collection of observations about the functioning of your world simulation process, the self-remembering aspect stresses developing a kind of lucid presence.  Somewhat like moments of lucidity in my meditation practice, the moments of lucid presence in self-remembering practice have an inherent sense of unconditional happiness, of spaciousness for life to unfold in, instead of the typical cramped, rushed quality of life, and of course feelings of clarity about what is going on. The feedback I get from the rest of my life experience suggest that this feeling of clarity usually (but not always) corresponds to my indeed being in better touch with the reality around me. I have described some of this more specifically with respect to the martial art of Aikido (Tart, 1987). Specific ways of splitting attention to anchor it in the present may be used, such as maintaining some body awareness (see  Tart, 1986).    

        Staying present is hard for me to do. I am an intellectual drunkard: I get seduced by ideas, intoxicated with them. When a good idea (and even most bad ones) comes along, it is like a beautiful woman suddenly moving into my view, smiling at me and beckoning me to follow her.  I usually follow instinctively, automatically, pleasurably.

        I like thinking! Almost of all my thinking is pleasurable, and a lot of it leads to productive action.  But in trying to practice self-remembering, to have lucid presence, to try to be as present as possible to what is happening instead of letting my thinking and desires simulate what I would like to happen or what I fear is happening, is difficult. Not difficult in terms of the amount of effort required do it, but in terms of simply remembering to do it.

        Being lucidly present feels like being in much better touch with real world and my deeper nature.  From the perspective of those present moments, the rest of the time I am deeply sunk into the world simulation process with only minimal contact with external reality or my deeper self.

        For me, self-remembering produces moments to minutes of clarity and sufficiency and a great capability of being able to do things. I have found that if I stay lucidly present I can do almost anything, I am a quick learner. One aspect of this is that by staying present, I know right away when I have lost touch with what I am doing, or when I am faking competence and understanding although I have actually lost track of what is going on. Then I realize it is time to go back to the instruction book or ask a question and find out what I am supposed to be doing instead of plowing ahead in a distorted world simulation, trying to appear intelligent instead of being intelligent. Self-remembering also leads to insights into myself, my world, and other people in it.

        So lucidity can be practiced in the waking state as well as in a dreaming state.       

        I have stuck to my personal experience here, but it has been paralleled by that of many people who have followed similar disciplines.


Escaping from Mindlock: The Dream View


        As dream researchers, we are studying dreams.  Some of us are specifically studying lucid dreaming. My main point is that we are not studying just a curious, interesting altered state of consciousness, but doing something even more important, namely beginning to study lucidity per se, one of the most important characteristics of the mind.  Because this quality of lucidity is something that can be experienced and cultivated in any state of consciousness and because lucidity can lead to a greater understanding of who we are and greater efficiency in and contact with life, this research, on both personal and professional levels, is becoming more exciting all the time!

        I will end by sharing a later dream with you on escaping from alien mindlock.


                I am at some kind of group camp on an island, perhaps a spiritual retreat meeting or a more permanent center of some sort. An alien being has visited us. It is friendly. I do not recall what it looked like, but I think it was something like some kind of cute tiny whale or the like.

                Their big (space)ship now comes up on the beach. It looks somewhat like a whale. At one point the ship opens its "mouth" (there is still a little confusion whether this is a mechanical ship in the shape of a whale or some kind of living creature)and a long wicker cone protrudes, pointing out at us. I am a little nervous about it, it looks like a projector of some thing, but we are reassured that it's just some kind of microphone or loudspeaker. This cone then retracts back into the body of the ship.

                A little later the front of the ship swings back revealing a big, open deck. I come down to it bringing a camera, having heard that the aliens would like a camera for a present. I bravely step up on to the deck: I think I am the first to enter. As I walk around on the deck I notice that some other people have come on board. The deck is arranged like the deck of a ship with lots of chairs in rows, like a movie theater. People are sitting and standing about.

                I notice that there is some kind of subtle field in the space on board the ship though, something that induces a kind of pleasant, relaxed lethargy. I am drawn to it, it's influencing me, but I notice it's sapping peoples' wills, they are losing track of their goals and being just content to sit there.

                I "remember myself" in a way, I keep track of my mental condition, not exactly fighting it, but staying awake. The field is no problem as long as I remember myself. I call out and get peoples' attention and explain that they are being influenced by this field, but that they do not have to be if they do not want to be, they can move and leave if they want to. I conspicuously demonstrate that it is possible to move about, and I walk off the ship, out of the field, as an example. A number of people join me in leaving the ship. Again there's no feeling of "fighting" the field on the part of the people who joined me in leaving, they just became alert and realized they had their own goals and didn't want to get trapped in the lazy, torpid pleasure of the aliens' field.

                Later I go back on the ship, worried about others and particularly wondering if my wife Judy is on board and may be caught in the field. I run from room to room shouting her name, but do not find her, so I start to relax and assume she's not aboard, she's safe. I am worried because I know that the ship is going to leave soon, carrying off those humans on board into a life of slavery, a slavery they won't be able to escape from because the pleasant slowness of the alien's mind field will have pervaded their minds. They won't even realize they are enslaved, much less be able to do anything about it. The aliens will use them as laborers on the aliens' plantations, or something like that. I think that the aliens may have been coming to spiritual communities all over the world, as such people will be easily fooled into feeling they are privileged to be allowed on board the ships, not realizing the danger of slavery.

                Suddenly the ship has started moving. It seems like a big sailing ship, except that it's moving over land, not water. I start looking for a way to jump overboard so I won't be trapped, although the ship is already moving fairly fast and jumping will be dangerous. All this time I am working at staying alert and not being trapped by the field itself. The humans on board have been trapped.

                At this point the alien crewmen appear. They look like people. One of them begins taking an interest in me, and I realize I must pretend to be entranced or I will be detected and put under further restraint so it will become much harder to escape.

                A telephone on a bulkhead rings and I answer it. Realizing that such a quick and normal response might be suspect, though, I drawl slowly and incomprehensibly into it and finally let the phone drop to the floor.

                The crewman watching me has initially been alerted to me by my initiative in answering the phone, but now he seems convinced that I am entranced and dismisses my initial alert reaction as a fluke.

                The crewman begins talking to me and I pretend to be deeply entranced, all the while watching my mind to make sure I do not actually get entranced, but watching how I am performing so I can do a good job of faking it. "Faking being entranced" involves moving slowly, seem ing to comprehend only simply and slowly, and giving the alien crewman lots of attention, like he's really important to me and nothing could be better than listening to him and doing what he says.

                While doing this I have conceived a way of getting off the moving ship. There is a roll of some kind of flat wire or something near the stern, and I figure I can hold on to it when I jump and the inertia of the reel will make it unroll slowly, then gradually faster, and this will match my descent speed so I will hit the ground slow enough to not be injured. I cannot get to the reel with this crewman talking to me, though, so I am trying to figure out how to distract him and get some privacy to carry out my plan to gain freedom.

                He shows me some kind of sink and I notice that line #3 is labeled "Waste Disposal Line." I try to ask him if there's one central waste disposal line for the ship, as I have an idea that I might be able to sabotage the whole ship and get everybody off, but I have to be careful to not show too much intelligence and initiative.

                It looks as if his suspicions are starting to be aroused by my question, so I turn it into a primitive, dumb question about needing to urinate. He tells me to go through a door and I will find a restroom.

                The door leads on to the bridge. "Good," I think, "I might be able to learn something about the ship's controls," and go right past the open door of the captain's cabin. This seems dangerous as my presence there might be questioned, but I act very entranced, moving slowly with a dumb smile on my face, and the person in the captains's cabin (perhaps just an enslaved human cleaning it?) does not take more than a moment's notice of me. I go into the restroom, quite large for a restroom, and start urinating in the toilet.

                There is an enslaved human woman, bare-breasted, in the restroom cleaning it. I take no obvious notice of her, for the crewman and other aliens come in and I must maintain my entranced appearance. The crewman takes a liking to the woman, who has a very nice shape, although she also has a peculiarly old, grey-haired, short haircut. He asks her what drug really turns her on sexually, so he can have a good time with her. The woman really likes the idea of getting her drug and tells the crewman what drug she likes. I continue to pretend to be dumb and entranced and not to notice, but this confirms my suspicions about the slavery that the captured humans are in: the aliens use drugs as well as their mind field to keep people compliant and manipulate them as necessary.

                I am still awaiting my opportunity to escape. I notice that the mind field has been subtly getting to me: by pretending to be caught in it, it has started to subtly influence me, so I have to be really careful about remembering myself so it does not slowly creep up and take me over.

                I wake up to ordinary reality.




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Tart, C.  (Ed.)  (1969).  Altered states of consciousness:  A book of readings.  New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1969.

Tart, C.  (1971).  On being stoned:  A psychological study of marijuana intoxication.  Palo Alto, California:  Science and Behavior Books.

Tart, C.  (1972).  States of consciousness and state-specific sciences.  Science, 176, 1203-1210.

Tart, C.  (Ed.)  (1975).  Transpersonal psychologies.  New York:  Harper & Row, 1975.  (a)

Tart, C.  (1975).  States of consciousness.  New York:  E.P. Dutton, 1975. (b)

Tart, C.  (1981).  Transpersonal realities or neurophysiological illusions?  Toward a dualistic theory of consciousness.  In R. Valle & R. von Eckartsberg (Eds.), The metaphors of consciousness  (pp. 199-222). New York: Plenum.

Tart, C. (1983).  States of consciousness.  El Cerrito, California:  Psychological Processes.  (Reprinting of former Dutton edition).

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Tart, C.  (1986).  Waking up:  Overcoming the obstacles to human potential.  Boston: New Science Library.

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

Tart, C.  (1989).  Open mind, discriminating mind:  Reflections on human possibilities.  San Francisco:  Harper & Row.  (a)

Tart, C.T. (1989).  Hidden shackles:  Implicit assumptions that limit freedom of action and inquiry.  In G. Zollschan, J. Schumaker & G. Walsh (Eds.), Exploring the paranormal:  Perspectives on belief and experience.  Bridport, Dorset, England: Prism Press.  (b)

[1] This article is based on an Invited Address to the Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD) at their fifth annual meeting at the University of California at Santa Cruz in June, 1988.

[2] People often ask me where they can buy a Lori Light. Unfortunately we did not have the capital to produce them on a scale that would have made them economical, so they exist only as memories today.

[3] "Now" is not quite right, of course, for drawing your attention to it has made you more aware of being in a world simulation process instead of letting you rest completely in it.

[4] I speak of my own limitations of imagery skills in my ordinary state of consciousness here. A deeply hypnotized person, by contrast, given appropriate suggestions, could feel a wall there, even though there was no wall physically present.

[5]  These considerations have been elaborated on in the basic presentation of my systems approach to altered states (Tart, 1975b; 1983)

[6] I will not deal with the physiological changes associated with dreaming here, preferring to concentrate on psychological and experiential factors, but known physiological changes are congruent with this systems approach.

[7] From this perspective, why some people seem to have non-vivid dreams is a puzzle. My own dreams are usually quite sensorially, experientially real at the time they occur, even if I devalue them in accordance with my cultural conditioning after awakening .

                Sometimes, though, my world simulation process "cheats" in my dreams and does a sketchy, fragmentary job on the scenery that's off on the periphery, a job which won't bear close "sensory" inspection. In the waking state the strength of sensory input may partially force input processing to give a lot of energy to its simulation of a particular object. Yet when our attention wanders in waking, the intensity of our aspects of experience of the world can go down. Perhaps in the dream state such lack of full attention is literally visible as sketchy scenery and objects.

[8] It is possible for lucidity to occur before the dream thought, "This is a dream," occurs, so the recognition of the state is more implicit than explicit.

[9] "Sensorially" is a strange word in this context if we equate it with information actually flowing through a classical sense channel, but a quite appropriate word if we use it to refer to a category of experience. Hearing is hearing in dreams as well as waking in terms of a category of experience, even though the physical ears are not involved in dreaming.

[10] This "doorway" function is possible in the materialistic model also, as long as we emphasize that these other world simulations are subjective, but it is seldom discussed in the context of that model.

[11] The conditioning of the world simulation process is discussed in more detail in Tart, 1986a.


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Kathy Medbery

Chaplin, Ct.

        This study explores when and how people perceive their dreams as significant and creative in their lives by focusing on a comparison of nightmares, lucid dreams and archetypal dreams.  The selection of these three types of dream experiences was based on Hunts's theory of intensified dream forms, which is detailed in his Multiplicity Of Dreams (1988).He proposed that cognitive theories of how dreams are formed, specifically the linguistic-mnemonic models as proposed by Freud (1900/1955) and more recently Foulkes (1985), do not take into account the evidence of creative-imaginative elements in the formation of dreams (Globus, 1987).  Hunt's (1989) research indicated that while the mnemonic model adequately accounts for "ordinary dreams", it does not sufficiently explain the formation of bizarre imagery which is remote from the memories of everyday experience.  These bizarre images are particularly found in nightmares, lucid dreams and archetypal dreams.  He sees these types of dreams as being formed from a more imaginative-creative capacity of the dreaming mind, and as being characterized by a heightened visual, kinesthetic and emotional experience which cannot be explained in terms of nearby memory sources.

        Hunt and Spadafora's studied (cited in Hunt, 1988) were the first to compare these three types of dreams: nightmare, lucid and archetypal.  They proposed that people who dream frequently in these unusual styles are more likely to be creative and imaginative, thus supporting the concept of greater creativity in these types of dreams.  They compared dreamers who were selected and grouped according to predominance of dream style into nightmare, lucid, archetypal, mixed and control groups.  Overall imagination was measured by imaginative absorption, thinness of mental boundaries, creative pursuits, and physionomic cues.  The findings of this study were that only the frequency of archetypal dreams, not lucid dreams or nightmares, were positively correlated with imagination.

        The research presented in this paper also compares these three types of dreams in terms of their significance to waking life as perceived by the dreamer.  Based on Hunt's findings which indicate greater imaginativeness in persons who tend to dream in an archetypal mode, it is hypothesized that the occasional archetypal dreams of "ordinary dreamers" (those who dream primarily in a mnemonic mode) indicate points of greater creativity and thus significance in that dreamer's life.




        This study involved 13 ordinary dreamers who had varying degrees of experience with three forms of uncommon dreams:  nightmares, lucid dreams, and archetypal dreams.  Nine persons were recruited from a March,1989 dream class, submitting their material after attending the eight week class.   An additional four dreamers attended a similar dream class in March of 1988 and have been attending weekly meetings as an ongoing dream group since that time.  Each of these subjects have attended eight weekly, two hour class sessions which are half didactic and half dream work, based on Ullman's and Zimmerman's (1979) description of group dream work.  The didatic portion of the classes included descriptions of the three types of dreams, how to identify them, guidelines for interpreting them (Faraday, 1974), and suggestions on how to incubate dreams according to Delaney's (1979) method.  In this sample there were three men and ten women with ages ranging from twenty to forty-nine.

        Each participant was asked to fill out a six-page questionnaire concerning dream types and frequency and familiarity with meditation.  They were also asked to record a recent or memorable example of each type of dream; nightmare, lucid and archetypal, and comment on the relative significance of each of these to the dreamer.  In addition, they participated individually in a one-hour taped interview during which they answered the following questions for each of the three types of dreams:  1.  When did the dream occur?  2.  What was significant in your waking life at that time?  3.  How did the dream reflect your core issues? and 4.  What significance did the dream have for you?  The interview was concluded with the question, "Which of these dreams is most significant and why?"




        There were 34 dreams reported; 12 nightmares, 11 lucid dreams and 11 archetypal dreams.  There were more archetypal dream examples than I hypothesized.  However, in general, subjects reported experiencing less archetypal dreams than lucid dreams or nightmares.  For example, nine of the thirteen subjects reported a frequency of archetypal dreams to be less than once a year (69%).  Six of the dreamers reported lucid dreams less than once a year (46%) and only four subjects reported nightmares less than once a year (30%).

        Of the eleven reported archetypal dreams, seven (64%) of the subjects considered them the most significant of their dreams.  Four (33%)  of the twelve dreamers reporting nightmares said these were the most significant.  Two persons (18%) reporting lucid dreams (15% of the total sample) considered these the most significant.  Three subjects misunderstood the question of significance and listed a fourth dream; however these dreams each fell into the category of nightmares and were treated as such.  In terms of the total sample, 54% cited an archetypal dream as the most significant, 31% a nightmare, and 15% a lucid dream.


Significance of Archetypal Dreams


        Archetypal dreams were viewed as most significant for  seven of the eleven people who reported having such dreams.  When asked what made these dreams significant they were described as;  changing the dreamer's life, affecting major life decisions, prompting a questioning of moral values, providing a sense of personal validation, and facilitating the setting of a feeling goal.  Some specific comments on the significance of the archetypal dreams will now be pointed out.

        After a nightmarish archetypal dream of confronting a grotesque monster with a Bible and being bathed in blue light that sprang from his severed head, Janet, a housewife, severely affected by her fear of death, said, "It was a turning point in my life.  After that dream the fear of death was gone, absolutely, totally gone."

        After a dream of flying out of a church nude, saying, "Nudity and Christ were both pure," Jim, who had been in an abusive marriage said, "It motivated and encouraged me to get a divorce.  The dream convinced me of needing to feel free.  Now (nine months later) my life feels lighter and easier.  My personal life is on the fly."

        Following dreaming of eating a pear from the Tree of Knowledge, Sharon, who was concerned about her increasing materialism, said, "It made me stop and think about where my values are."

        A beautiful mandala of numinous light and colors in the sky near the moon was Pam's dream.  Pam is a childhood victim of incest who is currently involved in therapy and personal growth.  She commented, "Dreams like this make me feel good, like I'm on the right track.  That, whatever it is I'm doing is the right thing.  It validates what I'm doing."

        After dreaming of a blue land, sea and sky blending beautifully and numinously, Sharon K., who is struggling in her marital relationship said, "This dream provided a very uncommon experience of alignment and satisfaction.  I can now move more easily towards that as a goal."

        Vivian, who struggles with her marital relationship, dreamt of a statue of the Blessed Virgin telling her that she will know what she wants to know rather than what she needs to know.  "I was happy about this information and had a feeling of trust that things would be okay," commented Vivian.

        After dreaming of approaching Jesus Christ on a friend's porch in spite of a friend's expectation that he wait, Bruce, a man struggling with old and new family commitments, said he "felt reassured in following my own inner directions."

        These dreams were archetypal to varying degrees according to Kluger's (1975) description of archetypal characteristics.  While they all had at least three of the four criteria, that is mythological parallel, heightened affect, bizarreness and remoteness from everyday life, the degree of each of these characteristics varied.  For instance, the archetypal rating was high for Janet's dream.  It contained three mythological elements: intense blue light streaming from a severed head, and her husband being the only element common to her everyday reality.  Sharon's, on the other hand, was very low in archetypal characteristics.  It contained no  mythological figure, but did include a numinous feeling around the blueness, and bizarreness in the way the earth, sea and sky blended.

        These experiences do offer evidence that archetypal dreams relate to broader life patterns than personal dreams.  There is also a moral content to them, though not always a conventional morality. Janet experienced the Bible as her protection against fear.  Sharon was warned against an increasing focus on material possessions.  But, Jim was also influenced to go through with his divorce.  Each reported an increase in their balance and functioning.

        Another element stands out about archetypal dreams.  All four of the persons in the dream group had archetypal dreams and considered them most significant.  This was in spite of the fact that for much of the year that they had worked with me, I was primarily interested in lucid dreams and had done several exercises with them to incubate such dreams.

        Meditation was also an element in the dream group.  Brief centering exercises were done at the beginning of each of the dream groups and were not done with the class.  I was afraid that this would be a confounding factor.  Lucid dreaming among dream group members was rare, however, and not considered most significant.

        Another interesting element about the archetypal dreams is that from this very small sample there are examples of each of the three dream types mentioned by Hunt (1989): titanic, mythological and geometric.  Jim's dream of flying out of church was titanic, as it has a vivid, powerful, kinesthetic feeling of flying.  This dream was transformative in his life not only in that it signaled the end of his marriage, but that it also initiated a marked change in attitude, after which he reported experiencing more independence and an ability to stand up for himself.

        The mythological-type archetypal dreams, characterized by contact with symbols of the divine, were represented primarily by conventional Christian symbols.  Of the eleven archetypal images, seven were Christian archetypal images of Christ (2), the Tree of Knowledge (2), the Bible (1) , the Blessed Mother (1), and the Devil (1).  The other four archetypal images were, light and color (2), Loch Ness Monster (1) and a mandala (1).  These were all reported with numinous feelings of contact with the divine.

        The third category described by Hunt is the geometric, and Pam's dream of the mandala in the sky make of lights and colors fits this description.  She experienced this dream as a validation that her conscious attempts at personal and spiritual growth were in the right direction.


Shamanic Parallels


          Shamanism is described by Achterberg (1985) as having three qualities:  the ability to move in and out of a special state of consciousness, a notion of a guardian spirit complex and the purpose of helping others.  The dreams of this study lend themselves to a comparison with shamanism.  Six out of seven people who considered their archetypal dream the most important had been involved in both meditation and imagery-centered therapy for at least one year.  Both of these techniques are altered states of consciousness which are moved in and out of at will.

        The guardian spirit complex is expressed in dreams with a sense of connection with Christian archetypes.  There is a sense of getting knowledge and power from a guardian spirit source, when the Blessed Virgin tells Vivian she will know what she wants to know.  The Bible protects Janet from a monster.  Bruce finds Christ approachable as a friend.  Jim identifies with Christ and freedom.

        The third element in ancient and modern shamanism, the purpose of helping others, is also present in these dreamers.  Six people expressed interest in helping others in the physical level of healing and regeneration.  Four of these people were interested in spiritual healing with imagery.  The emotional healing or positive attitude change is evident in the comments of the archetypal dreamers about the changes in their lives as a result of the experience of these dreams such as, "after that dream, the fear of death was gone," "my life feels lighter and easier," "I had a feeling of trust that things would be okay," and "made me stop and think what my values are."  Thus, there is a strong indication of personal meaning and growth associated with these dreams.


The Significance Of Nightmares


        Nightmares were the next most significant type of dream.  Four of the thirteen dreamers rated them the most significant.  These dreams definitely affected the dreamers even when they were not rated as most important.  The dreams motivated change, prepared for the inevitable, intensified attachments, resolved emotional issues, and increased independence.

        Following are some comments about nightmare significance.  The first four are the comments of those that considered them most significant while the next four are comments from people who considered other types of dreams most significant.

        Bonnie had a recurring nightmare "with sexual connotations that someone was going to hurt me or my sister."  These nightmares began during the stress of her pre-adolescent transition and ended the first year of her marriage. She saw these as her "most significant dreams because they motivated me to go to a seminar on dreams, where I began to learn more about dreams, spirituality and growth as a human being.  Without the nightmare I never would have gone."

        Sharon M. says, "My most significant dreams, which have recurred since adolescence, are the nightmares of my grandparents' deaths.  I see these dreams as my mind's way of easing along the process of accepting my grandparent's mortality."

        Sharon's second reported nightmare was of an intruder who came at her with a gun.  She killed him by stabbing him with a kitchen knife.  She felt very contaminated by the blood but Sharon saw him walk out of a pond as though he were never dead.  This dream occurred as she was struggling with the pros and cons of her present relationship.  She says of the dream, "It shows how I feel like a victim even if nothing's happened."

        Brian's nightmare occurred during his pre-adolescent period.  He dreamed of his father being attacked by a big black bear and Brian's attempts to rescue him.  This dream happened about one year before the breakup of the family due to his father's alcoholism.  Brian reports, "After that dream, I didn't want my father to leave me.  I was the only one to stay with him after Mom divorced him."

        Karen's nightmare included the drowning and body fragmentation of a peace activist and the firing of red missiles which contaminated the environment.  As a psychiatric nurse she was also struggling with the difficult personality of her young son.  Her comments were that it was an indication of "my love of peace and my fear of my anger."

        The next four comments come from people who did not consider their nightmares to be the most significant.  April's nightmare was of three men threatening bodily harm.  She became lucid in this nightmare and changed the men into a handsome soap opera star, but could not keep the attacking men from returning.  This dream occurs as April, a young mother, felt out of control because she got hurt when a household repair hadn't been made.  She said, "It made me realize that I shouldn't wait for things to be done but I should go and do them the best I can."

        Sharon K.'s nightmare, which occurred as she questioned her marriage, was an escape dream.  At first she was trying to get out of her locked room, then realized that unlocking her space let scary people in, and finally she tried to escape by running in front of a raging fire.  She said, "This was the most dramatic in a series of dreams dealing with anger.  It was part of the work towards its recognition and resolution."

        Jim's nightmare was of being accused rather than comforted when he had hurt himself.  This dream occurred at the time of a work transition.  His relationship with his work partner was being recognized as a drain that was hurting more than helping him.  "This dream showed me I can look to myself to take care of me, not depend on someone else to rescue me."

        Clare's nightmare was of trying to help her family escape from an exploding house.  This dream occurred during pre-adolescence and just before the family moved from England to America.  She said, "I didn't realize how much my family meant to me."   

        The nightmares, in general, were consistantly related to stressful transition periods in the dreamer's life.  Three of these were recurring nightmares that started at the stressful transition of pre-adolescence.  Each of these concerned the family's conflicting messages about sexuality, alcoholism and death.  They served to reinforce certain bonds, perhaps in a thinly boundaried, enmeshed way.  Bonnie bonded to her sister, Sharon to her grandparents and Brian to his father.  Clare's dream was not recurring but it happened at the same period, pre-adolescence, and reinforced the bond with her whole family.  The other five were adult transitions.  April and Karen experienced transitions in motherhood.  Sharon K. and Janet had transitions in marriage while Jim was in a work transition.

        Bodily harm to the self or others was threatened or implied in each of the nightmares.  The pre-adolescent nightmares tended to contain threats to others while reinforcing the bonds to the person threatened in the dreams.  Adult nightmares in relationship to the transitions of marriage, motherhood and work, tended to depict threats to the self and most often encouraged independence.  This is in contrast to the pre-adolescents' which encouraged increased dependence.

        It is also interesting that symbols of anger were relatively frequent in these nightmares.  Clare dreamed an explosion injured her family.  Sharon was chased by fire and Karen was attacked by red missiles.  I would suspect from these images that their own emotions were the primary sources of their stress in these dreams. 

        Coincidentally, even though these women didn't know each other, they responded similarly.  They had both experienced schizophrenia in their family, were currently working as nurses, offered a fourth dream as most significant and had images of bodily fragmentation and contamination in the dream they reported as a nightmare.  These fourth dreams fit into the nightmare category because the dreamers woke with the intense emotion of sadness.  The dreams each of them shared as a nightmare, (not as most significant) contained images of bodily fragmentation (body parts torn or cut) and transformation (from dead to live).  They also expressed concern about contamination (from missiles or blood) in these dreams.  These elements were not present in the other nightmares.  This corresponds to the hypothesis that nightmares may be related to schizophrenia (Hartmann, 1984).  However, both of these people were also nurses, and functioning well in a healing profession.  Thus it also appears that these signal the initial states of growth for healing themselves and others.

        Unlike Hartmann's study (1984), none of these dreamers had nightmares more than four times a year.  The occasional adult nightmare appears, from these reports, to move the person towards greater independence and individuation.

        To return to the shamanic theme, those individuals who showed the characteristics of the shaman were familiar with their images, active in a healing profession and concerned with the world (i. e. political contamination -red missiles and AIDS contamination- blood).


The Significance of Lucid Dreams


        Only two of the eleven subjects who had lucid dreams considered them most significant.  The values cited as significant were power, control, personal growth and self-reflection.  Although adventure was present in these accounts, it was not mentioned as significant.  Here are some participants' comments on the significance of these types of dreams.

        Clare described an experience of "waking in  my head while my body remained asleep.  I felt that all of my energy was in my head and I was almost detached from my body."  This experience occurred at a time when Clare was struggling for a sense of control in her life as she worked a physically demanding job, was a full time student and was having a reaction to birth control pills.  She was using meditation before sleep to help her deal with insomnia.  She described this as her most significant dream because, "it showed me the power of my mind or my spirit."

        April considered her lucid dream the most important because, In the dream I was in control and I can be in control in waking life, also."  In this dream she flew, taking off from her parent's driveway, flapped her arms to maintain her altitude and finally landed gently on her feet.  This dream occurred as her infant daughter was put on a schedule.  Thus April felt her ability to plan and control her own life.

        Now to turn to the comments of those who did not consider their lucid dreams to be most significant.  Kathy's lucid dream started as she looked down a deep abyss populated by amusing creatures.  She realized she was lucid, began to fly or float over the abyss and finally skidded into her bed, knocking over her pen.  She interpreted knocking over the pen as her dream encouraging her to write down her dreams.  Kathy is a professional weaver and is just beginning to study her dreams.  Her comments on the significance of this dream is, "It's possible to be aware and change things and do what I want to do.  But I can do what I want to do anyway.  What was most interesting about this dream was that it indicated the need to write it down."

        In Bonnie's lucid dream she is chased by a shadow in the financial district of New York City.  As she turns and faces it, the shadow becomes a friendly, helpful group of oriental men.  In this bizarre transformation, she recognizes a lucid dream, and her excitement woke her up.  At the time of this dream, he was in an unsatisfying job and felt pursued by money fears.  She felt this dream helped her to face her fears and see her choices.  She said, "It was the first time I had a lucid dream.  I felt it was a positive step in personal growth to confront and take control."

        Karen, a psychiatric nurse, had a lucid dream in which she was having a hard time getting observation checks done on patients.  She was concerned about patient safety and then realized that it was "just a dream."  This dream occurred as she began a new job and a busier shift.  Her comment was, "It is an attempt to detach from worry." 

        Sharon M. had a lucid dream where she found herself floating down a store aisle.  She then recognized she was dreaming and knew she could buy anything she wanted.  Her excitement woke her up.  This dream occurred as she was changing her spending habits and establishing a budget.  She said, "It made me want to have more lucid dreams because it didn't influence my spending but had a nice feeling.  It's an incredible feeling of power and you don't have to worry about the money.  Money to me means freedom."

        Jim's lucid dream was of a sexual encounter in which a faceless man interfered.  Jim recognized it was a dream and said to the intruder, "This is my dream.  This woman is mine.  You may leave."  Of this lucid dream he said, "This is the first dream I stood up for myself.  It didn't make a difference that day but has over time."

        Pam dreamed she was in a hallway, recognized she was in a dream, but thinks it is someone else's dream.  She seeks the real dreamer, only to find it is her companion who has lied to her.  This realization transforms him into something dangerous and evil.  This dream occurred at a time of questioning her incest memories and relationship with her current partner.  About this dream Pam says, "It's questioning what's real and what's a dream.  'Am I valid in feeling this anger and frustration in what's going on around me?  Or is it all just stupid shit in my head?'  It's more a matter of self reflection than control."

        All of these dreams were prelucid in the using of the definition for lucidity of dream awareness and control because while the dream state was recognized, control was not exerted and they were awakened by the realization that the dreams were lucid (Bonnie, Karen, Sharon, Vivian).

        There were seven ordinary lucid dreams.  In each, some change or control was initiated by the dreamer without interrupting the dream (Brian, Clare, April, Kathy, Janet, Jim, Pam).  Six of the eleven had some negative emotions and no one described any numinous emotion in these lucid dreams, although several of these same dreamers described numinous feelings in their archetypal dreams.

        Most of the comments on the significance of the lucid dreams dealt with control and power.  This echoes Castenada's (1972) statement in Journey to Ixtlan,  "In dreaming, you can control whatever you want."  Eight people's comments made some reference to control (Brian, Clare, April, Kathy, Bonnie, Sharon, Janet, Jim).  I suspect the emphasis on control and power is related to individual questioning of personal power.  It could be a need to manage and control something in the dreamer's life at a time of change.  The two persons who listed lucid dreams as the most significant considered control very important.

        Lucid dreaming could also occur in response to the growth toward a more flexible attitude and willingness to try new choices in response to recurring problems.  The change seems to entail a movement from the helplessness of seeing oneself as a victim of circumstance to the sense of being in control and capable of self direction.  Seven people's comments could be construed in the light of an attitude change in the direction of personal growth and freedom.  This would correspond to Faraday's (1974) belief that, "ordinary lucidity indicates steps on the way to liberation".  Karen, Sharon M. and Bonnie described the effect of their lucid dream as a relief from feeling they were victims of worry.  Bonnie changed her attitude concerning her job search and financial worries.  Sharon changed her attitude about spending.  Karen changed her attitude toward work concerns.  Jim and Pam's dreams signified a change in attitude toward greater self-validation versus dependence on validation by others.  Jim changed in terms of sexual satisfaction and Pam in terms of personal reality.

        Fox's (1962) perspective that lucid dreams reflect growth in critical self-reflection is also present in seven of the eleven dreams of this sample.  However, only one person (Pam), indicated that this self-reflection was significant.  There were also four responses that correspond to Garfield's (1974) perception of lucid dreaming and adventure:  Kathy's experience of flying over the abyss, Sharon shopping without spending, and Brian and April's experience of flying in their yards.  While the characteristic was present, no one indicated that this element was significant.  This common lucid theme of flying is again reminiscent of the sense of freedom and control associated with lucid dreams, which is in contrast to the theme of anger (fire and explosion) in the nightmares.

        Previous research has indicated (Gackenbach, Cranson, & Alexander, 1987; Gackenbach and Bosveld, 1989; Hunt and McLeod, 1984) that there is a connection between lucid dreams and meditation.  Those that considered lucid dreams most significant expressed interest in and experience with meditation.  April expressed a "moderate interest and some experience" and Clare indicated "high interest and no experience."  Interestingly, Clare reported that she was actively using meditation for insomnia at the time the significant lucid dream occurred.  However, the lucid dreamers who indicated the most interest in meditation also had archetypal dreams and considered them the most significant.  As far as effort or training, the participants from the dream class recognized or incubated lucid dreams more easily than those in the dream group.  While lucid dreamers in both groups found the lucid dreams interesting, they did not all rate them as most significant.

        Perhaps the spiritual disciplines of both Buddhism and Shamanism use meditation and lucid dreaming as training for controlled access to altered states of consciousness and the realms of the imagination that are used for the healing of selves and others.  There is also evidence herein that meditation and lucid dreaming enhance the ability to break out of old, self-destructive patterns by increasing freedom of choice in dreaming and waking "realities".  Thus, lucid dreams may be one of the ways in which discipline and control can be taught in altered or shamanic states of consciousness.




        As expected, these research conclusions are limited by the small number of research participants, which were primarily from a white, middle class, suburban population.  Although there was a mixture of sexes and ages, the small number makes this study valuable primarily as a pilot project.

        The archetypal dreams were valued as the most significant.  Although they were frequent enough to be reported, they were reported as occurring less frequently than the other two dream types.  Nightmares and lucid dreams were seen as significant but to a lesser extent.

        What was claimed to be most significant for the archetypal dreamer was the positive life-changing effect and the experience of personal validation experienced through these dreams.  Those that most valued their nightmares had somewhat conflicting statements of significance.  Some claimed they motivated change, others, that they prepared them for the inevitable.  Some found they intensified attachments, others found they increased independence.  The qualities of the lucid dreams that were most valued as significant were their sense of power and control resulting in personal growth.

        It is also possible to conceptualize nightmares, lucid dreams and archetypal dreams in a shamanic context.  These dreamers, especially the archetypal, expressed some level of skill in altered states by means of meditation and therapy, had numinous connections with the divine as dream encounters with Christian "mythological" figures and expressed some level of healing in waking life.  Nightmares can be conceptualized in a shamanic mode most when they contained images of body fragmentation and transformation which are comparable to shamanic initiations, while the lucid dream association is found in controlled journeying in altered states.




Achterberg, Jeanne (1985).  Imagery in healing:  Shamanism & modern medicine.  Boston: Shamblala.

Castenada, Carlos (1972).  Journey to Ixtlan.  New York: Simon & Schuster.

Delaney, Gayle (1979).  Living your dreams: Using your sleep to solve problems & to make your best dreams come true.  San Francisco:  Harper & Row.

Faraday, Ann (1974).  The dream game.  New York:  Harper & Row.

Foulkes, D. (1985).  Dreaming:  A cognitive psychological analysis.  Hillsdale, N. J.: Erlbaum.

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

Freud, S. (1900/1955).  Beyond the pleasure principle.  London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

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

Gackenbach, J.I., Cranson, R. & Alexander, C. (1987).  Lucid dreaming, witnessing dreaming, and the transcendental meditation technique:  A developmental relationship.  Lucidity letter, 5 (2).

Garfield, Patricia (1974).  Creative dreaming.  New York:  Ballantine.

Globus, Gordon (1987).  Dream life, wake life:  The human condition through dreams.  Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

Hartmann, Ernest (1984).  The nightmare:  The psychology and biology of terrifying dreams.  New York: Basic Books.

Hunt, H.T. (1989).  The multiplicity of dreams: A cognitive psychological perspective.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

Hunt, H. T. & McLeod, B. (1984).  Lucid dreaming as a meditative state.  Some evidence from long term meditators in relation to the cognitive-psychological bases of transpersonal phenomena.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Baltimore, MD.

Hunt, Harry (1988).  The multiplicity of dreams.  Lucidity letter, 7 (2).

Kluger, H. Y. (1975).  Archetypal dreams and "everyday" dreams:  A    statistical investigation into Jung's theory of the collective unconscious. Israel Annals of Psychiatry and Related Disciplines. 13, 6-47.

Ullman, Montague, & Zimmerman, Nan (1979).  Working with dreams.  New York: Dell.

Two of these are nurses

Of the four people who considered nightmares their most significant dream, two have a genetic connection to schizophrenia which was divulged without being solicited. Sharon M.'s father and Karen's brother were diagnosed schizophrenics.

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Alan Worsley

Hull, England


        The  most  important  qualification  for  my presenting this paper is my extensive direct experience of lucid dreaming.  I have been dreaming  lucidly since childhood.  In my teens, until discovering Celia Green's book Lucid Dreams in 1968, I called these experiences "conscious dreams".  Among these lucid dreams are hundreds in which I have done an experiment or made some observation.  Fifty  signal-verified  lucid dreams  and  even  two-way  communication  have occurred while asleep in sleep laboratories.  Lucid dreaming makes it possible for me to alter the physiological characteristics of REM sleep, in particular the frequency and distribution  of  rapid  eye movements.

        Considerable creative power is clearly at work in dreams.  Yet so little of it appears to be useful or relevant to the waking world.  I see the world of dreams as an overgrown garden, full of weeds with the occasional beautiful flower.  The potential is there but it needs a great deal of work and understanding for it to be productive.

        To evaluate this potential by studying only naturally occurring non-lucid dreams seems like studying the culture of primitive men at a stage where their brains had reached the same development as ours but lacked the support of a highly developed civilization and could not benefit from standing on the shoulders of giants as we can.

        I am concerned with the possibility of using lucidity in dreams to gain control of their creative potential.  Dreams with recognized creative value that is of use after waking exist, but they are infrequent.  They are also unpredictable and by no means guaranteed to reveal matters relevant to the waking life of the dreamer.  It would help if we could regularize dream creativity and make it available on demand.  My aim is not primarily to understand ordinary dreams but to change them. 

        There are some who regard the subjective experience of dreaming as a functionless side-effect of a memory-sorting process.  According to a recent version of this theory, which was proposed by Crick and Mitchison, dreams are our experience of the deletion by the brain of undesirable memories.  This theory purports to 'explain' why dreams are useless and it advocates that they are best forgotten.  This view apparently takes no account of the possibility of controlling dreams and thereby making use of them.  The theory is arguably related to ordinary dreams, but certainly not applicable to controlled lucid dreams.

        I do not consider lucid dreaming a waste of time.  For me it is very rewarding, an opinion which seems to be held by most lucid dreamers who have achieved control of dream content.

        Some people have found dreams to be a valuable source of inspiration which also suggests that the Crick/ Mitchison theory has limited validity.  Artists, musicians, poets, playwrights, inventors, chemists, and even doctors, have had dreams that have led to the production of valued works.  Most of the people concerned were deeply immersed in their subject so it is not surprising that they dreamt about it.  These inspirational dreams have been largely non-lucid and the dreamers did not deliberately set out to have dreams that would help them in their work.  The dreams occurred spontaneously.  In fact, the dreamers concerned were often reluctant to admit that their dreams were a source of inspiration.

        As it turns out, using dreams intentionally as a source of inspiration is difficult.  One reason is that by the time one has been asleep for a few hours and has begun dreaming, any pre-sleep intention to exploit a dream state is likely to have been forgotten, distorted or pushed aside by the priorities of spontaneous dreaming.

        A possible strategy is to initiate control of the dream while it is happening by becoming lucid.  But this is not enough.  In order to make use of the knowledge that one can now control the dream one has also to remember the purpose of controlling the dream.  A purpose conceived according to the values of waking-life may, during a dream, not fit in well with the dream and its values, but again lucidity helps.  It is easier to remember waking-life intentions when lucid.  A reason for this is that only if you realise you are dreaming does it occur to you to refer to waking-life existence, and give priority to its values.


How Are Dreams Produced?


        In order to see how the creative potential of dreams may be realized it is useful to know how ordinary dreams are produced.  My understanding of the sequence of events characteristic of most non-lucid dreams is as follows:  The dream starts with an involuntary visual image of a scene or situation:  Not knowing it is a dream, the dreamer reacts to it as if it is real and, accordingly, has certain expectations.  These expectations influence the subsequent evolution of the dream imagery, which in turn leads to further expectations.  The dreamer's movements, which he supposes to be real, indirectly support the dreamer's intentions and expectations but these movement are of course not actually carried out by the dreamer's physical body.  There is therefore no genuine proprioceptive, or tactile feedback, though the system which issues the commands to muscles may assume there is a carry on to the next command as if the first had been carried out.

        In waking-life, sensory input stabilizes our internal model of the world.  During sleep our receptivity to this input is much reduced.  The internal model, unchecked by continuous reference to the external world, runs wild.  Errors accumulate and are compounded.  Each new "false" or unconfirmed prediction, not being limited by accurate feedback, is taken as a starting point for a new round of predictions.  The default values or constancies are amended to unlikely settings and, as a consequence, their processing loses the accuracy achieved with well tested stable values.  The result is a vicious circle.

        If "out of the corner of my eye" I catch a glimpse of something in a dream, maybe a bush, and interpret it as a bear it may well turn into a bear.  This does not happen in waking life.  Bushes stay bushes.  One might momentarily make the mistake but a second glance will soon put it right.  In dreams there is no physical object to refer to.  A spontaneously-occurring dream situation that is threatening may become more threatening because of the dreamer's attention to its frightening aspects.  The dreamer's actions may further reinforce his beliefs, and expectations, and thereby the strength of the imagery.  In the panic of struggling to escape from a confined space, the dreamer may suppose that the walls are solid, rather than take a cool look at the situation and recognize that the wall is not solid or can be rendered not solid.

        A complicating factor can be the intrusion of further spontaneous imagery into an ongoing scene.  A whole new scene may sweep away the previous scene with its accumulated errors and misunderstandings, or may merely introduce a new element into the drama.  Either way it is difficult for the dreamer to understand what is happening, establish some control, and impose order on the situation.  [Editor's Note:  Worsley is presenting one perspective on dream production here.  There are a wide variety of theories.]


Control In Non-lucid Dreams


        To control dreams effectively you have to understand the rules.  Waking-life events are limited by gravity, the solidity of matter, and the speed of light.  These need not apply in dreams unless the dreamer makes them apply.

        Non-lucid dreams are often apparently disorganized not because there are no rules but because the non-lucid dreamer, thinking that he is awake, applies waking-life rules.  There is considerable overlap between waking life rules and dream rules but this is not always obvious because intrusive elements often confuse the situation.

Analysis Into Dream Control Aspects


        One may distinguish those aspects of the dream process which may be controlled from the means of achieving that control.

        As everything that happens or is experienced in a non-lucid dream is said to be "dreamt", then perhaps it is not too misleading to include the dreamer and say that he dreams himself as well as the scene and his body, which makes the dreamed version of himself also in some sense an image.  In a lucid dream I suggest that this scheme no longer applies.  The "dreamer", part of whose brain is producing the images of the dream scene including his dream body and also perhaps a set of "memories", emotions and thoughts, is, in a lucid dream, more "himself".  He can organize his thoughts better.  His understanding of the values of the waking world is more coherent.  The situation is not dominated by the "dream" or, perhaps more correctly by its imagery, but by the dreamer or, better, the lucid dreamer.

        To say that all events experienced in lucid dreams are "dreamt" is misleading.  The philosopher Norman Malcolm has alleged that a dream, by definition, cannot involve consciousness on the part of the dreamer.  He never mentions the possibility of lucid dreaming and maybe was unaware of it.  In an ordinary dream, you misunderstand what is happening and so do not experience it at the time as a dream in the sense of knowing it is a dream.  If you do realise you are dreaming, the imagery is still there but the whole experience is no longer just a dream.  Calling both experiences a dream obscures the basic differences between them.  Knowing you are dreaming changes the category of the experience in a radical way. 

        It can be said that in a sense no one ever experiences a dream.  In a non-lucid dream you experience images but do not know they are dream images.  In a lucid dream, you do know your experiences are dream images, but to the extent you know they are, they are not "dreamed".


Control of the Body


        The dreamer [dream self, or dream-ego] can control the actions of his or her body in much the same way as when awake.  You can walk, stop, turn, look left, look right but, in non-lucid dreams there is sometimes difficulty in, for instance, running.  One may feel that one cannot run fast enough.  This is perhaps because when running from danger one would always like to run faster.  A feeling that one cannot run fast enough may lead to the modification of one's legs to explain this such that one's legs are experienced as being very heavy.  In a lucid dream one could change the image positively  -- my legs are getting lighter, I have no need to run, I can choose a different situation altogether.


Control of the Dream Scene


        The dream scene is harder to influence, at least for the naive unskilled dreamer, because he or she anticipates that the only ways of altering the scene are those characteristic of waking life, which are limited by, for instance, the permanence and solidity of matter.  The dreamer thinks he or she has to deal it with accordingly by physical techniques.

        It is possible to control the dream scene by creative use of waking-life techniques.  There are simple actions that can change the whole scene in a moment.  Turning round to face the other way will reveal a quite different scene in the same way as when awake.  Going through a doorway into another room or going outside can similarly be used to change the whole scene.  By employing the mechanism of expectation these simple techniques can be made more powerful, but this is not easy to do except in lucid dreams.


Control of Lucid Dreams


        If the dreamer is lucid, before going through a door, he can prepare himself with the suggestion that he will find what he seeks on the other side rather than assuming that familiar rooms are arranged as in waking life.  This will often result in the dream changing to suit the dreamer's conscious desires.

        Non-lucid dreams use many principles that can be used in lucid dreams.  For instance, it is likely, in a non-lucid dream, that if one believes one looks into a book about a certain subject, one will find relevant pictures in it.  In lucid dreaming one can use this principle by deliberately selecting a book about a subject one wishes to study.  The subject can be imaginary such as Martian architecture.  One can further reinforce expectations by forming a clear image in one's imagination of the appearance of the book, the markings on the spine, the color of the binding and so on, so that when, as expected, the book is found, one may seize upon it with confidence.

        It is possible, however, to do without these little tricks and simply change the whole scene by wishing it to be some other scene.  The experienced lucid dreamer will know this and that he or she need not be constrained by the habit of passive perception.            

        To change the scene in this way is not without difficulty, however.  It may be preferable to adopt a two-stage process where the image is called up, perhaps on a small part of the dream scene such as on a TV set, and then is expanded and made into the main scene with three dimensions, which the dreamer can then walk into.



Further Examples of Simple Dream Control Techniques


        The many colors of a dream scene may be changed to monochrome by the simple device of looking through a piece of colored glass.  When investigating this kind of instantaneous change I have used colored plastic found in the street in dreams.  Conversely, a black-and-white TV picture can be converted to color by confident use of the color-control knob.  It is important to be confident and clear about what you are trying to do.

        If one is accustomed to using a color-graphics package on a computer in waking life, one can use that means of changing the appearance of the screen to change colors in lucid dreams.  It is necessary merely to believe that the dream scene will respond like the computer.  The commands can be issued mentally or with the aid of some dreamed device such as a dreamed keyboard.

        More advanced techniques involve changing the apparent physical properties of dream objects.  Fingers can be persuaded to burn or blossom, flesh to lose its solidity and melt.  Some parts can be commanded to retain their solidity while simultaneously other parts normally solid, such as bone, become as penetrable as snow.  In a lucid dream I have pushed both hands into my head so that my finger-tips met in the middle.  I have passed one forearm through the other, cut off a hand and replaced it, and removed a finger and grown another one.


More Advanced Techniques: Body Image Changing


        Other techniques I have used involve changing the shape of the body image.  In my dreams the body image generally seems to be stable unless I make an effort to change it.  I have found that I can change its shape dramatically, lengthen my arm or tongue, add extra bits, and perform contortions physically impossible while awake.

        I can choose whether to allow normal expectations to continue to apply -- I think of them as default values -- or can change them at will.  One of the tricks which I have used, when not entirely lucid, to "entertain" other characters in the dream is to carve solid objects with my bare hands; wood or brick can become like butter; a moment later the same object can be solid.  From one moment to the next I can stand on a chair or pass my hand through it as if is was made of smoke.

        These tricks may seem rather pointless, but from these simple examples it can be inferred that if a sculptor wished to experiment with creating new shapes in dreams he could use his normal approach to moulding the material with his hands, having chosen the characteristics again, could regard the work as "set", or fixed.

        It is possible to work with more exotic imaginary materials in the dreams such as luminous "plasma".  Unfortunately the multi-dimensional richness of such explorations is not readily communicable to others.  From the point of view of the lucid dreamer it is all great fun.

        From my experience of dreams I believe that it is not easy to learn to do all this reliably.  Dream objects have a habit of changing spontaneously, particularly if you stare at them.  I think we can expect that learning skills in dreams takes time as it does in waking life, but once the simple techniques of creating a demand for an image has been mastered the creation of the images seems to proceed automatically without effort.

        If lucid dreams are to be used for serious purposes, they must last long enough.  I have often found myself at a crucial point, only to wake up.  Lucid dreams which I have entered by a pre-sleep ritual of relaxing, counting breaths and resolving not to move under any circumstances seem to last longer than lucid dreams arrived at without this preparation.

        Another technique which I have recently discovered seems very promising.  When I feel that I am about to wake, if I move my eyes rapidly at random for about 2 or 3 seconds and avoid thinking about anything, the dream seems to come back again and I can continue for another 3 minutes or so of stable dreaming.  On the 2nd of October 1988 I managed to use this technique for what seemed like about 10 times.  I felt as if I had prolonged the dream-state for maybe 20 minutes longer than it would otherwise have run.  Not being in a sleep laboratory at the time I find it difficult to know just what was happening.  Towards the end of the series the length and clarity of each dream seemed to be diminishing.

      The methods I have described are by no means all of the ones I have discovered.  There are many more that others have discovered.  The use of dreams as a creative tool for both serious and recreational purposes, really begins when dreamers learn to realize that they are dreaming and that the possibilities of the dreaming state are great.

I wish to thank Dr. Morton Schatzman for his help in writing this paper.

This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Dreams in October of 1988 in London.


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Conversation Between Stephen LaBerge andPaul Tholey in July of 1989


Edited by

Brigitte Holzinger

University of Vienna



This interview took place at the 1989 Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD) conference in London. LaBerge and Tholey were already familiar with each other’s work, but met for the first time in person at this conference. Their conversations focused on the concept of the consciousness of dream characters and Tholey’s “mirror technique” for inducing OBE’s. We enter as they are discussing what a polygraph record would show if dream figures other than the dream ego were capable of signalling:


LaBerge:               So you would like to extend all the studies we have done so far on the dream‑ego making eye‑movements while singing, counting and doing other activities. For example, if I were dreaming, I could ask the other characters here to sing, hold their breath, whatever . . . and we would see what happens to my physiology when the dream characters signal or hold their breath or sing. My guess is that only one system at a time can have access to the motor output.


Tholey:   One of my hypotheses is that sometimes one cannot remember a dream because the dream figure conscious of the dream state, is not identical with the dream‑ego. The central dream character does not necessarily have to be lucid, but he or she cannot be totally unconscious! (Editors Note: For a detailed discussion on consciousness in dream characters see Tholey, 1989).


LaBerge:               Unconscious of what?


Tholey:   The dream‑ego, which is identical with the waking ego, doesn’t exist in that situation at all.


LaBerge:               Let’s assume that Paul is asleep in bed right now. A dream is occurring. We know that normally you would see a picture, but we don’t know yet if other dream characters, such as me, actually see something or if we merely look to you as if we were seeing. That’s the question we want to answer. Do dream characters see the world?


Tholey:   The experiments have shown that the other dream character, who sits facing me at the other side of the table, can paint or draw a picture of me. But, after all, this is a metaphysical question which also inspires psychophysiological experiments.


LaBerge:               I think that experiments are necessary, but I think you can explain the same facts by the assumption that there are unconscious processors.


Tholey:   Yes, but you can also experience phenomenologically two egos, two sides with two different viewing perspectives.


LaBerge:               That interests me very much, because I have never experienced having two separate selves. I have had more than one dream body — here is me and there is another Stephen — but "I" was only at one place at a time.


Tholey:   That’s the novel thing. The other experience has often been observed as well. We have had two bodies quite often, two ego‑bodies.


LaBerge:               Oh, ego‑bodies!  Bodies are different. The interesting and novel thing is the two selves, the two perspectives. How easy is it for you to produce that?


Tholey:   Usually that’s only possible in an out‑of‑body‑experience situation. And then it works in only a third of all cases. It happens when in the dream I cut the dream‑self character. If I don’t cut exactly in the middle, I only get one I. I cut the ego‑core vertically and horizontally above the abdominal section. The ego‑core is the origin of sight (Sicht), the origin of the will, of directing attention of thoughts and of speech. The ego‑core can leave the body and can exist as only a point. Although it doesn’t have a mouth, it can still speak.


LaBerge:               Yes, but can it move its eyes?


Tholey:   No.


LaBerge:               That could present a problem. In order to study this one would want to be able to mark when it happens.


Tholey:   So when I leave the body, let’s say in the sleep laboratory, the EEG is nearly normal and the EMG is totally relaxed. I am not paralyzed, though.


LaBerge:               So, what stage of sleep are you in?

Tholey:   It’s a very extraordinary sleep state. The researchers in the sleep lab couldn’t recognize it!


LaBerge:               They would probably call it a “sleep disorder” then.


Tholey:   I remember once when I slept in the lab, I was in a lucid state two times for five hours during that night. I was able to direct all the dreams!


LaBerge:               I am still interested in the stage of sleep you were in. When you say, “I was lucid the whole night,” do you mean that you have some way of knowing that you were lucid for every minute of the night or that it would happen again and again throughout the night?


Tholey:   The physiological data and the phenomenological data prove it. I also signaled in between. There is another important thing that happened. I had the experience that, all of a sudden, I was awake and in a totally different situation and then, all of a sudden, in the dream situation again. I restabilized the dream mainly with eye movements and movements of the body.


LaBerge:               Does that mean, that you had one eye movement every 30 seconds throughout these five hours?


Tholey:   No, during these five hours I wasn’t restabilizing the dream consciously. I know other people in Frankfurt who are also capable of doing that, but only phenomenologically.


LaBerge:               There is a question about this claim — when you say “I know I am conscious during the whole period of time.” The problem is that we are not conscious of the fact that we are not conscious. So we can have blank moments and not know it. And that is where the signalling could answer the question, but not necessarily for your experience!


Tholey:   No, this was not an unconscious state! I have signalled and the people in the sleep lab have told me, that I was so totally relaxed that I couldn’t signal with the fingers. I would have probably been able to signal only with the eyes.


Holzinger: I would like to know more about the state which you called “sleep disorder”before.


Tholey:   I apparently have mixed up all known sleep stages. Therefore, they say, I’m not the ordinary Middle European and I am a champion‑dreamer. They had no idea what was going on.


LaBerge:               As I was understanding it, it was not a normal sleep stage, but what was it close to?


Tholey:   I am sure that I had, before I have learned lucid dreaming, the same sleep stages as everybody else. It was not a pure REM stage. They haven’t shown the records to me because they want to publish it themselves. They viewed me as only a subject. I was angry about that and therefore we decided to set up our own sleep lab.


LaBerge:               Well, I see nothing wrong with publishing it together, that makes sense, but I am surprised that they wouldn’t let you have a copy or see the information.


Tholey:   A student showed me some data briefly, but I wasn’t allowed to go through all the data. The professor hasn’t shown the data to me at all. There is hardly any communication in Germany between the sleep researchers and dream researchers, not to mention the lucid dream researchers.


LaBerge:               Well, just because you can’t say what exact stage of sleep it’s in, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t, for example, record the EEG on a computer and study the amount of different waves in your records and characterize it. If you have a new way organizing your sleep, that would be interesting to study in itself.

        Let’s turn to a different topic. I would like to know more about your “mirror technique” for inducing out‑of‑body type lucid dreams.


Tholey:   The first use of mirror technique is described in an article I wrote — the very first one. There are also some pictures. The pictures aren’t very precise.


LaBerge:               I think I understand the idea. When you look in the mirror and see the back of your head, it is easier to transfer your awareness into the mirror, as if you were there.


Tholey:   It is better to lie down.  You look into the mirror. You are not supposed to see anything except the reflection in the mirror.


LaBerge:               Is this supposed to help enter a lucid dream state?

Tholey:   At the beginning it is sort of an in‑between state, the lights are down. You should just be able to see your reflection in the mirror; it’s the same setup as in the work of Klaus Stich (1983; 1989). Later I close my eyes and imagine my head and the sensation of rubbing the back of my head. These sensations are projected into the mirror.


LaBerge:               That much is described clearly in the article by Nossaek (1989). So I understand that. Are you lying down when you are doing this, so you have the mirror above your bed? Do you rub the back of your head looking in the mirror and projecting the sensation as if it were there? And you do that for how long?


Tholey:   At the very beginning it takes very long, at least half an hour. I want to add, that that article is all wrong — that’s journalism!


LaBerge:               You mean the picture is upside down?


Tholey:   That’s right! There is also another practice. You look at a point in the far distance, then put your two thumbs up in front of you and move them towards you until they merge and you perceive only one thumb.


LaBerge:               What’s the purpose of this?


Tholey:   With this practice I can stabilize the dream. I can keep my eyes from moving. I look into the space around me and not at a figure in order not to wake up. I can see everything, though slightly blurred, the periphery, front and back.


LaBerge:               By doing this in the dream?


Tholey:   By using this way of looking in the dream. I am doing it right now. Can you see it? [Editor’s Note: Tholey looks cross‑eyed.]


LaBerge:               So you are saying that you learned to do that in the waking state.


Tholey:   Yes, and I can do the same with closed eyes.


LaBerge:               You practice in the waking state so you can do it in the dream?


Tholey:   Yes. It is also useful while doing sports. The other day I was snowboarding. I jumped and watched what happened with and under my feet and, at the same time, saw the environment and landscape around me. I saw the whole space, not as distinctly as if I had focused on something, but at the same time I was aware of the entire space. Perception is transferred into intuitive thinking and I am not afraid anymore and the same is true in the dream experience. It can also be done in activities like touching a table. I can concentrate my attention on the sensations in my finger tips, but then I don’t feel the table.


LaBerge:               Which is normally exactly the opposite.


Tholey:   If I look like this, I’m not afraid, the fear is not in me, but I can see the danger outside of me.


LaBerge:               OK. Back to the mirror technique. So you lie in bed looking at the mirror above the bed until you feel yourself as if in the mirror, and then you shut your eyes.


Tholey:   Yes, I shut my eyes and imagine my head in the mirror. The more I do this, the more my imagination becomes like perception and it becomes more and more real.


LaBerge:               But if you have already seen yourself as in the image, it should be relatively easy for that image to be seen as real.


Tholey:   Yes, that is why I do it. This technique has its origin in magic. This is a further development. This technique is described very well by Klaus Stich (1983; 1989).


LaBerge:               Would this be a good technique to do in the morning or during an afternoon nap?


Tholey:   Usually we did it during the afternoon nap or in the morning. But not at night. This technique will be described more precisely in one of the following issues of Bewusstsein. [Editors Note: A journal published by the recently founded CORA, see Dec. 1989 Lucidity Letter for more details.]


 [Editor’s Note: The remainder of the conversation took place the next day.]


LaBerge:               I am familiar with your basic procedure — the idea of integration through facing threatening figures and resolving conflicts. Up to this point you have discussed splitting the dream body in pieces and abstracting the dream‑ego point, and then you alluded to something, yesterday, about destroying the self, the ego point, the ego core. I would like to understand better exactly how this process is accomplished and how you understand the theoretical basis for it.


Tholey:   This can be a very unpleasant or a very pleasant state. It can be very pleasant, when the "I" becomes one with the cosmos. Then there is one world, a cosmos, a phenomenal world, and the self belongs to that. By then, the I can’t be distinguished as a piece apart. Now our cosmos is one piece, identical with the self (I).


LaBerge:               So what about the theory and practice?


Tholey:  It can be done, for example, by immersing the ego‑core or the dream‑ body in fire, the dream fire. This is nothing new. Some time ago I thought it was new, but something like this has been practiced by Shamans, yet for us it was a new thing. This can be very unpleasant because it leads to a total dissolving of the I. On the one hand, the ego becomes inflated and, on the other hand, it disappears.


LaBerge:               Yes, like in Tibetan dream yoga. Take the dream‑body into the fire and the dream‑body disappears. But there is still the ego‑core.


Tholey:   Sometimes it happens that you actually lose the ego‑core completely. There is no point of view anymore from which to look or think. There is only seeing left; thinking without any difference between the object and the subject — no difference whatsoever between the object and the subject.


LaBerge:               This sounds like a dream that I described in my book, a dream in which I decided that I wanted to experience the highest potential in me. I flew up into the clouds, without any other intention than that. My dream‑body disappeared and yet I still existed, in a sense. I could sing, for example, although I had no mouth. Yet I had the sense of a Unity with the space. There wasn’t an I there, yet there was still something I would call a perspective.


Tholey:   In the state I am talking about, the perspective is gone. There is the state with one perspective and there is the state with two perspectives. This is hard to imagine in the waking state. There also is the state of seeing without a subject, without the ego‑core and without seeing. There isn’t anybody who sings anymore, but something like a singing entity.


LaBerge:               Yes, that was exactly the experience! Because, when I woke up and thought about what the words were I had been singing: “I praise Thee, oh Lord,” I thought — but there was no I — there was no Thee — Thee praised Thee, perhaps. So I think I know the state you are talking about. The way I got to that, you see, wasn’t by any action of the dream‑body. It was instead deeper than the intellectual intention to transcend.


Tholey:   There is no action by itself, so that there is nobody who acts, it is much rather acting. There is no way to express that in Western languages because there is always a subject and predicate — it is much rather a Doing, an Acting, like singing or whatever — no subject, no object.


LaBerge:               That is the same state I am talking about, the space was an infinite emptiness, filled with potential. But, in any case, I am interested in the method. I've wondered and thought about the possible consequences of cutting the body in various fragments. Given both the fact that there are studies demonstrating that people with psychosomatic conditions, who have experienced trauma in their dreams, will have psychosomatic problems — and given our own studies on these relationships, I’m uncertain about the wisdom of this and I’d like to see what you think about it. There is an article by Harold Levitan in which he describes case‑studies, for example, of someone being stabbed in the stomach in a dream who later developed an ulcer. Now, the question is, of course, could this be some sort of prodromic syndrome or could it be that the trauma in the dream could have had a physiological effect — just as we have found in our research: a strong relationship?


Tholey:   We have a group of ten or twelve lucid dreamers in Frankfurt that meets every two weeks or so and do experiments just like this. These experiments lead very often to negative effects, like aggressions towards dream figures, cutting the body and fear. We know this fact very well. First of all, all the experiments we do are dangerous. We know about the danger. We are pioneers and we know that this is dangerous. Secondly, we believe that there is nothing more psychosomatic than dream experiments, not even imagination. We also believe that these experiments might lead to psychosomatic disorders. Therefore we have not yet published the experiments about burning in fire.


LaBerge:               It seems there are probably some people that the technique is good for. Others I don’t know. In fact, for NightLight we are interested in techniques that we can offer to a broad audience.


Tholey:   These are the techniques we are trying to check now, but there are many more techniques. We check and publish despite the knowledge that dangers will emerge. We have to know it first, though. If we don’t publish, somebody else will, like occultists and charlatans. Therefore it seems to me to be very important to take these border areas into account as well, because they aim for the essence, the inner part of the psyche. If it weren’t for that, they wouldn’t be dangerous.


LaBerge:               Yes, and people fall into them anyway. Another topic I wanted to ask you about is in this paper (Tholey, 1989). As I interpret it, you are describing the consciousness and abilities of dream characters observed during lucid dreaming. I find it a fascinating series of experiments and a very interesting set of questions about what mental capacities the other dream characters have.


Tholey:   The dream figures are able to do more, if they are dreamt by experienced lucid dreamers and if some dream figures have already been investigated. But there are also some dream figures that are not capable of doing anything.


LaBerge:               I would agree with that from my experience. Indeed, how dream characters act depends largely on my expectations.


Tholey:   That’s wrong! I have had arguments with a colleague about that also. My hypothesis was that dream characters are quite skillful. The doctoral students who had been working on this topic all thought that they weren’t. They were extremely surprised. It can happen that the dream character sits and writes. Yet when I discussed this phenomenon with Krist (1981) and the others they all said that this was impossible. I could name hundreds of cases of unexpected occurrences.


LaBerge:               Certainly, but I said largely. What I mean is that it is possible that if I find you as a dream character in my dream and I expect you to be sympathetic, you’ll be sympathetic and if I expect you to be hostile, you’ll be hostile. How dream characters act, not what they can do, is the result of one’s expectations.


Tholey:   There are examples that dream figures say something that the dream ego cannot understand. I am thinking of the 3ZWG‑example.


Holzinger:             This example was described in Tholey, (1989). The dream‑ego sits facing a dream figure that is writing something on a paper. Reading it, the dream‑ego recognized 3ZWG. In the waking state, the dreamer remembered that he had argued with his fiancee about renting a 3 room apartment (in German this would be called a 3 Zimmer WohnunG, therefore 3ZWG in a newspaper ad). So do you really claim that dream characters have something like a consciousness of their own?


LaBerge:               That’s what the major claim of the paper is.


Tholey:   I don’t want to approach this question from the standpoint of occultism or spiritism. My explanation is very much like split‑brain theory.


LaBerge:               Yes, but we have no evidence that split‑brain patients have a consciousness on both sides of the brain. They only report one consciousness. We don’t know if there is a second consciousness. All we can see are motor responses that might indicate consciousness, but automatic systems are capable of motor responses, too.


Tholey:   You will never be able to really prove that, because this is, as I have already mentioned, a metaphysical problem. But now there are our very precise and practical experiments that lead to the questions: do dream characters have their own perspectives, can they look from there; do they have their own access to memory, perception, thinking, productive thinking? Can they rhyme better than I can do it?


LaBerge:               Sure, all of that, but none of that requires consciousness!


Tholey:   But nothing that happens here proves that Stephen has a consciousness or that Brigitte has a consciousness. Any proof would be metaphysical. You can act exactly the same way as the dream figures, you have your own perspectives, you have your own memory, and your own thinking. Why should I claim that dream figures don’t have a consciousness and, at the same time, claim, that you have one?


LaBerge:               Yes, but the answer is: I have a brain, you have a brain, we each have a brain! But dream figures have no brains, except one, the one of the dreamer!


Tholey:   When I am in a lucid dream I can have all these talks that I have right now.


LaBerge:               Sure, but this does not prove anything about consciousness. My conclusion from the information presented here is that dream characters can do wondrous things, but they cannot do cognitive tasks that specifically require consciousness.


Tholey:   Let me do a drawing. This is the nose, these are the eyes, and now there are the two dream figures. Why should only one figure have an I, the phenomenological I? The dream‑ego doesn’t have a brain!


LaBerge:               It doesn’t have a brain there, it has a brain here, the brain that makes the ego is here. (Editors Note: He points at the head of the dreamer in the drawing.)


Tholey:   This brain includes the entire dream world.


LaBerge:               Yes, yes, exactly; sure!


Tholey:   You have to distinguish strongly that this is the dreamer. Only the dreamer has a brain, of course. But there can be more than one dream‑ego.


LaBerge:               Yes, it could indeed be that way.


Tholey:   Phenomenologically it can happen that you look from two perspectives, from under the table and above the table. You cannot imagine that.


LaBerge:               Let’s step back. How do you do mental arithmetic? How do you compute 5 times 5? The answer simply appears. It’s not conscious, it’s automatic. But when you have to do arithmetic that involves carrying a number, you store that number in consciousness. Consciousness can be viewed as a global work space (Baars, 1988). It is different from the automatic processors. There is only one area of consciousness, at least in ordinary experience.


Holzinger:             It seems to me that there is a misunderstanding between the two of you about the definition of consciousness.


Tholey:   I have given different definitions of consciousness in a German essay with the title “Consciousness”— “Bewusst sein.” I differentiated at first between a phenomenological and an epistemological definition and then, amongst those two. I differentiated further, so that all together I arrived at twelve different definitions of consciousness.


LaBerge:               OK. But we must be using it in a different sense.


Tholey:   So, I mean, a machine is able to do arithmetic, a child is not able to do arithmetic. Still I would say, that the child has consciousness, the machine hasn’t.


LaBerge:               That’s exactly my point. These examples do not prove consciousness! The fact that the mental arithmetic abilities of dream figures are limited suggests to me that other characters don’t have that global space in which we can hold a result while we continue the automatic processes of the computation.


Tholey:   Yes, but the figures did complicated rhymes!


LaBerge:               Yes, but this also could be automatic. Rhymes spring to mind; we don’t know how to do it. It just happens!


Tholey:   The figures have to store something in that work space also in order to form longer poems and rhymes. Those poems are sometimes as long as ten lines.


LaBerge:               Think of Coleridge and the poem “Kubla Khan.” It all just came to him. There is no reason to think that language processes have to be consciously directed. People talk all the time without thinking! See, consciousness and conscious processes can do some things that unconscious ones cannot. Consciousness is not as efficient. It is slow, but it is flexible. And it allows such calculations as 12 times 17. To do this, you have to store

an intermediate result while you do another operation. And we do simple mental arithmetic automatically, as if we had a look‑up‑table. The answer of 5 times 5 is right there. You don’t think about how to do it. You don’t do anything other than set the problem and the answer appears. But there are limits to the number of numbers you can hold in your mind. You can hold about 7, plus or minus 2. There are numerical experiments indicating and demonstrating the limitations of conscious processing and the relative lack of limitations of unconscious processors.


Tholey:   That’s a question of different definitions of consciousness, but if we would start with that it would take a lecture.


LaBerge:               Let’s make a rhyme now and notice how it happens! We start with Goethe’s last words: “Licht, mehr Licht” and then rhyme . . . “Nichts als nichts!”  Not exactly grammatical, but an idea. How did it happen? It just appeared.


Tholey:   I know that. I also know that Stephen knows Goethe fairly well.


LaBerge:               OK. So how can we conclude that dream characters have consciousness?


Tholey:   I have never claimed that! I only claimed that you will never be able to prove it, as you will never be able to prove that another person in waking life has consciousness!


LaBerge:               My impression was that you had concluded that dream characters have independent consciousness.


Tholey:   I have to clarify that misunderstanding now. I have never claimed that dream figures have consciousness. But the idea of whether they have consciousness or not has led us to some interesting experiments. I could tell them to sing or to count and we could see if there are changes in the EEG recordings under these conditions. But even this would never prove that they have consciousness.




    Baars, B. J. (1988). A cognitive theory of consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Krist, H. (1981). Empirische studien uber klartraeume. Unpublished diploma thesis. University Frankfurt am Main.

    Nossack, B. (1989). Klartraeume‑wirklicher als die Wirklichkeit. Das neue Zeitalter, 40(4), 4‑8.

    Stich, K. (1983). Empirische untersuchungen uber den zusammmenhang zwischen klartraumtechniken und magischen techniken. Unpublished diploma thesis. University Frankfurt am Main.

    Stich, K. (1989). Hat die Wissenschaft noch von der Magie zu lernen? Bewusst Sein, 1(1), 67‑80.

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


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"Control Your Dreams", By Jayne I. Gackenbach and Jane Bosveld, New York: Harper and Row, 1989.


Reviewed by

Kate Ruzycki Hunt


        Over the past ten to fifteen years a staggering number of popular books have been written about dreams.  Despite this fact -- or perhaps because of it -- new titles continue to sell well.  People seem especially interested in a phenomenon of which they have first hand experience. They are curious about what goes on "in the mind" or "in the brain" when we dream.

        Many readers who were at first primarily interested in what dreams "mean", have more recently become aware of the actual varieties of dreaming as a process in its own right -- from nightmares to lucid dreaming to dreams of spiritual or psychic healing.

        Unfortunately, however, after whetting the appetite of their readership, popular dream books seem to be at an intellectual standstill.  Although there is a vast store of knowledge about dreaming to be found in the many academic books, research articles and theoretical papers, these generally presuppose a fair amount of background knowledge.

        So it would seem that a large gap exists between the popular "how-to" genre and the more academic treatments of dreaming -- a gap which has not yet been bridged with any real success.  Enter Gackenbach and Bosveld whose book Control Your Dreams may be just what is needed at this point to bridge that gap.

        Written in a style that is brisk and straightforward, Control Your Dreams  is at once engaging and packed with information.  The trendy cover, appealing to the lucrative New Age market, belies the well- organized, carefully researched, and surprisingly detailed work that lies within. 

        Its title, too, is somewhat deceptive, for while Gackenbach and Bosveld certainly examine at length the potential for controlling both lucid and non-lucid dreams, they do not devote most of their 203 pages to the popular advocacy of "control" and indeed offer some needed cautions.  Rather, the theme of control is woven into a smoothly worded fabric that carries us easily from an historical overview of dreaming to contemporary research on lucid dreams and their creative and healing potentials, without overwhelming the reader with dates, technical jargon, or statistics.

        Herein, perhaps, lies a weakness of the book as well as its strength, for in attempting to bridge the gap between the popular and the academic, Control Your Dreams must have a foot in each camp, and so, by definition, can truly belong to neither.  Many neophytes will find the sheer diversity of the research and theories (including Gackenbach's own work) overwhelming while some academics could become scornful of the chatty manner in which their work is depicted.  However, those who value a genuine syntheses of the practical and the theoretical should be delighted.

        Control Your Dreams is divided into two parts.  Part One, "The Journey Begins" consists of six chapters that introduce lucid dreaming in the context of a history of the study of dreaming.  Here are detailed discussions of historical pioneers such as Van Eeden and St. Denys -- two central figures often overlooked in the popular  "how-to" books.  They are treated in sufficient detail such that they can be reintroduced later without a jolt, while alerting the reader to the importance of detailed observational treatment of dream lucidity aside from any contemporary theoretical or applied agendas.

        We also find clear instructions for working with dreams from such notables in the field as Garfield, Ullman, and Delaney, as well as a detailed account of the West German psychologist Paul Tholey's method for inducing lucid dreams.

        There are also examples of Tholey's practical application of this state for training athletes.  His method includes many of the features of waking imaging training but places much importance on "dissolving the established boundaries between the mind and the body" in lucid dreams, such that the individual is at one with the environment.  This state of "single-minded absorption" may also be found in meditators at "moments of intense realization".

        Another example of the practical application of lucid dreams in the waking world is found in the presentation on Fariba Bogzaran, an artist who draws on those dreams for creative inspiration.  Bogzaran was sufficiently impressed by her lucid dreams, in which she "sees" a completed work of art, to change her style of painting.

        The final four chapters in Part Two, "Biology and Consciousness", present the concept of dream lucidity not as an isolated phenomenon but rather as part of a continuum of related states of consciousness stretching into the waking world.  This presentation is what makes the book unique and somewhat controversial.  Gackenbach and Bosveld draw numerous and illuminating connections between lucid dreaming and various other states of consciousness.  There are abundant examples to illustrate the phenomenological similarities among lucid dreaming, out-of-body experience, near-death experience, spiritual healing and especially meditation.  It is the latter that may cause discomfort for some readers, since the key to the comparison is the potential development of lucid dreaming, in the Transcendental Meditation tradition of Maharishi Mahesh Yoga, to what is termed "Witnessing" -- a detached, observational, non-controlling version.

        For many, TM and the Maharishi conjure up thoughts of, at best, a cultish social movement and at worst, opportunism.  Gackenbach and Bosveld have, however, anticipated some negative reaction and in Chapter 7 acknowledge that "Although such criticism is by no means uncommon it has been more often levelled at the movement than at the technique."  Indeed, it is without question the technique and TM sponsored research on waking meditation and dream witnessing that are essential here.  Don't look for an extended apology, however.  The authors make it clear that it is research sponsored by the TM movement that has provided the vast majority of the scientific data on meditation and in turn, on its relation to  lucid dreaming:  "In the past twenty years, TM scientists have amassed more than 300 research studies from more than 160 independent institutions in 27 countries. . ." and while "Initially their scientific studies lacked adequate controls", TM scientists now "are by and large putting out work that is methodologically sophisticated and reputable."  Because meditation is such a personal and private affair, it is extremely difficult to get experienced meditators from disciplines other than TM to take part in scientific research.   In this regard, while the case for the research contribution of TM is well made, the authors by and large manage to avoid a tone of proselytizing.

        Gackenbach's research on the cognitive bases of lucid dreaming and meditation is especially important in establishing a badly needed continuity between these transformative states and the workings of the ordinary mind.  She reports findings that show lucid dreamers and witnessing dreamers to have unusually developed spatial skills.  These include especially good physical balance and an ability to solve embedded figures, block designs and imagery rotation tests.  While in other hands this work would become technical, Gackenbach and Bosveld again manage to appeal to the popular imagination by including several sample test items in Chapter 9.

        In short, while the treatment of TM may offend some and certainly warrants critical attention, this readable integration of a vast range of material should justifiably appeal to the many.


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"The Multiplicity Of Dreams.  Memory, Imagination, and Consciousness", By Harry T. Hunt,  New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 1989.


Reviewed by

Christophe Trunk

(This review originally appeared in Bewusst Sein, 2 (1), 1990.)


        Neuropsychological findings suggest that on the cortical level, apes are able to "translate" visual perceptions into tactile or kinaesthetic patterns, and vice versa, without interference of the reinforcement mechanisms located in the brain stem.  On the other hand, they make less creative use of auditory perceptions, so that their vocal signals remain stereotyped.  In The Multiplicity of Dreams Harry T. Hunt, psychology professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, postulates that in contrast with other primates, the consciousness of humans is based on "translations" including not only visual, tactile and kinaesthetic, but auditory perceptions as well.  That is, for us to perceive, we must break down the patterns of these modalities with fundamentally different and virtually incompatible sensory systems and approach the aspects of a situation, not one after the other like a computer, but simultaneously  on different levels of articulation, which constantly interact to form novel connections. The reciprocal reorganization and rearrangement among the perceptual patterns of the separate senses is the core of symbolic intelligence; the "synaesthetic" tying together of all these simultaneously occurring processes is consciousness.

        If consciousness may be described as a "complex synaesthesia", which image of the dream follows from this?

        Our waking consciousness is dominated by linear, logical-sequential operations closely connected with language.  These are linked up to more sensorial, imaginal and intuitive capacities of syntheses to which, since they are mute, we generally pay little attention.  In dreams, however, our logical-intellectual judgements are derailed so that cross-modal "translations" of, for example, language into images or sensations of motion come to the fore.  Such transformations, says Hunt, reveal the usually hidden centre of the syntheizing operations of consciousness.  Just as Freud and others have stated with regard to psychopathological symptoms, mental processes may be studied as under a microscope in the fantasy and "abnormality" of dreaming.

        According to Hunt, however, dreams are not necessarily, and certainly not always, manifestations of "primitive" mental phenomena or of "primary processes".  Twenty years ago, Heinz Kohut caused a stir by claiming that narcissism in adults does not have to be regressive -- as was common belief among psychoanalysts and psychiatrists -- but may follow its own line of a development independent of relationships with other people and lead, for example, to creativity, empathy, humor and wisdom.  In the same fashion, Hunt assumes, the capacities required for dreaming can develop and increase in abstraction.  He wants to assist in building a cognitive psychology which, instead of trivializing and expelling from the realm of science, dreams and related modes of mystical, "archetypal" or "transpersonal" experience, will offer a model which does more justice to the non-regressive aspects of "altered states of consciousness".  (I would like to add here that he illustrates some of his hypotheses by quoting not only from the literature on dreams, but also from his own dream diary.  Yet while he does expose some quite personal experiences, he never falls into embarrassing "confessions".)

        Hunt not only discusses psychoanalytic dream theories and findings of experimental dream research, but also visits other fields of knowledge, like ethology, anthropology, neuropsychology, and psychopathology.  Occasionally he uses a theory from the humanities to throw light on a scientific one, and vice versa.  He does not believe, however, that it is possible or even desirable to harmonize organismic -- holistic or depth psychology approaches (like that of Jung, for example) with the perspectives of academic psychology.  He insists that on the contrary, they cannot be transposed onto each other; they should supplement one another like a mosaic, because they reflect a fundamental ambiguity of human experience which becomes particularly prominent in dream research.  In his view, the two paradigms currently dominating dream research, the psychoanalytic and the experimental, satisfactorily address only forms of dreaming regarded as trivial in societies which are centered around dreaming.  He tries to demonstrate that in the industrialized societies too, the spectrum of dreaming is broader than the prevailing theories suggest, and that laboratory dreams or orthodox Freudian dreams do not by any means exhaust it.  Instead of declaring overwhelming, portentous or bizarre dreams to be exceptions or even aberrations, he wants to integrate them into a more comprehensive and, as it were, "pluralistic" dream theory.

        The classification at which he arrives is presented in a diagram, his "dream diamond".  On its faces, varieties of dreaming are grouped according to criteria like the degree of their symbolic differentiation and their vividness.  Lucid dreams are found on the faces of the diamond as well as nightmares and "archetypal" dreams, that is, self-referential dreams which are about the modes of cognition itself.  "Ordinary" dreams without self-reference are, as he assumes, centered around the deep structures of language and thus in general remain clouded and delirium-like. On the other hand, lucid dreams, "archetypal" dreams and certain nightmares are marked by intensity and impressiveness for they occur close to the waking threshold, where all  our symbolic capacities, not only those related to language, unfold.  In the sensorial metaphors of such dreams, our cognitive potential spreads out on more channels, so to speak, than at other times and thus can open up new and specific modes of recognition.

        Unfortunately, not all of the book is written in good North American academic style, that is, basically accessible to the lay public.  Hunt simply presupposes many findings of dream research and of cognitive and experimental psychology.  And while he covers much ground in the realm of the sciences in his search for the cognitive structures of dreaming, it sometimes happens that he treats issues quite briefly, or that he strikes connections and starts speculating, when he has not prepared his audience well enough.  Yet looking at a book as full of ideas as this one -- I have touched on just a few -- it is easy to forgive such shortcomings.


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"PERSONAL MYTHOLOGY" by David Feinstein and StanleyKrippner

Reviewed by

Madeline Nold


        How would you like to read a book that would hopefully provide for you the experience of taking a transformational workshop, without actually leaving your house?  David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner have provided such a manual for you, replete with suggestions for guided visualizations, journal writing, for the construction of ritual objects, and a theory about your own personal and family mythology as the overall framework for your inner journey.  It's effectiveness may vary, depending on one's given personal myths and their "severity."  I would not recommend this technique to be followed without ongoing therapy, especially for people who are undergoing extreme distress or have borderline symptoms.  If utilized as a suggestive device for personal growth, and especially by people well worn on the beaten path of workshops and similar transformational growth experience, it can be an excellent ancillary tool.  The style of writing is accessible to any who want to pursue the "written form" of self-actualizing through rigorous exercises.

        The book provides a primer for working with your dreams, a manual of exercises in guided imagery designed to take the reader through an inner rite of passage, deep into the recesses of the psyche.  At the source of the inner reenactment of a primal drama from which you constructed your personal myth, you, the reader acolyte are then led on a gentle journey returning from the depths of self-discovery, with the result of the inner quest, the information which you retrieved from the process as a tool for further self-healing.

        Feinstein and Krippner suggest creating an image of your own "inner shaman" whom you identify as your transcendent sub-personality, or your spiritual guide throughout this journey.  You are assisted in creating the image of the inner shaman by utilizing techniques similar to those used in Native American ritual, such as creating a "protective shield," actually constructing a shield, fashioned according to the shield first created in your imagination.  The "protective shield" is used as a "power object," and imbued symbolically with your personal mythology, with designs and colors representing your hopes and fears.  It is used as part of the healing process, as an aid to healing the wounds which caused you to develop an emotional protection or personal mythology.

        The journey begins by having the individual identify outmoded or unproductive personal myths, "and to experiment with ways of bringing your life into greater harmony with these revised myths."  Ever meticulous in the development of this process, the authors hardly "miss a beat" in the development and execution of their program.  At the start, they advise, "We encourage you to appreciate the resistance and to approach it with an attitude of curiosity and a sense that if you penetrate it to its core, you will gain greater self-understanding."

        Why use "myth" in embarking on this inner journey?  The authors give ample recognition to their predecessors who also advocate the use of myth, such as a quote by James Hillman, "Myths talk to the psyche in its own language; they speak dramatically, sensuously, fantastically."  According to Ernest Kris, myths portray "certain elusive elements of the human psychology that psychoanalysis must account for if the effects of therapy are to be lasting."

        To further validate their approach they periodically quote the late, great Joseph Campbell, "Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations.  It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that move the human spirit forward."

        Their "proofs," examples from other psychiatric lore, including a few quotes from Carl Jung, tend to cross a bridge from the experiential approach to scholarly justifications for the use of myth.  Certain sections of the book tend to lean too heavily on documentation of the basic theory, diverging at times from the fundamental nature of the book which is more an experiential manual than an academic treatise.

        Fortunately, the theoretical documentation is amply fortified with photographs, which restore the mythic image to the reader's consciousness.  The illustrations are aptly chosen and sprinkle the pages with fuel for the reader's imagination at appropriate junctions.

        Illustrations in the form of narratives of people's lives and specific case histories are interspersed amongst technique and theory.  The journeys of certain workshop participants are chronicled in their growth from having had unproductive personal myths to the development of new and healthy transformations in their lives.  The case history approach, approximating clinical case histories, serves as a guideline for the readers, as an encouragement for their own transforming personal myths.

        Some basic premises which operate throughout the "book/journey" are that, (a) "Personal myths are intimately connected with deep feelings," (b) Personal myths do for an individual what cultural myths do for a community, (c) Often your personal myths will be in conflict, as evidenced by the discrepancies between personal "belief systems" or your individual "philosophy of life" and your sense of well-being, (d) The individual's instrument for voyaging through Feinstein and Krippner's system is the "Inner Shaman" who "guides the evolution of your existing mythology...introducing new mythic visions into society" and in this case, to the individual practitioner of this model of personal growth.

        The authors lightly touch upon the meaning for the shaman's role in a traditional sense.  In traditional settings where shamanism exists, as in some Native American instances, we can say, by comparison, that the shaman is the tribal psychoanalyst, listening to the reported ailments of the "patients," and through an intricate process of healing (techniques vary) affecting a "cure."

        In addition, the tribal shaman is considered to be a "medium" who can contact the forces of the underworld, the overworld or realm of the beneficent spirits, and the three dimensional world of the earthly participants.  Traditionally the shaman is spiritual medium, mediator between the forces of this tripartite universe, and expert on devices for healing, gleaned from experiences in these intersecting "realms."

        The worldly shaman sings, dances, "emotes," and assists the individuals, guiding them through experiences symbolized by the underworld, the heavenly realm and their own mundane dilemmas.  In this book the individual's imagined "inner shaman" acts as a medium, a spiritual advisor guiding the reader-accolyte through the labyrinth of his or her own unconscious, superconscious, and emotional conflicts, towards a healthy integration of the self.

        Using Ruth Benedict's criteria from her Patterns of Culture, on a scale from "Apollonian" balance and harmony to "Dionysian" madness of dancing and verbal harmonics, as points of comparison, the Feinstein and Krippner version of the inner shaman is a peaceful prince of moderation.  Although the reader constructs the image and action of the personal shaman according to his or her own fashion, the authors describe this tour leader of the unconscious as more of an angelic priestlike figure rather than the highly emotive, if not at times raucous extremes to which a human shaman might take his histrionics.  The Feinstein and Krippner inner shaman is "nice," sedate, if a bit ministerial, in contrast.

        Of course it is "apropos" to the method of using a book for self-healing, that the inner guide be as balanced a figure as possible, since the art of transformation is conducted without a "live" professional care-taker. The risks of "borderline" reactions to the process are thereby reduced. Emphasis on the individual's "quest" for re-integration and wholeness is consistent throughout the book, which culminates with a focus on "mythic renewal" and "weaving a renewal mythology into Daily Life."  The concept of an individual's innate sense of "Paradise Lost" as well as a meticulously staged path returning to inner harmony which can be described as "Paradise Regained" is the essential course of the mythic journey.  Rather than leave the reader adrift, this work operates as a firm and assiduous entreaty to continue to develop personal growth through continuing the process of "dreamwork," "journaling," and openness to the healing properties which can result from carefully designed visualizations.  The act of "imaging" a part of the "self," as an "inner shaman," a readiness to accept messages from the psyche which include what we would term the "numinous" or "transcendent," also help to produce a richer understanding of the doorways to growth beyond one's traditional "personal mythology," towards a more humane and actualized self.

        The book concludes with a mild exhortation towards applying personal transformation to social issues.  The authors cite Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, as having said that the benefits of her organization "lie not in past service, but in the possibilities it has created for the future, the lessons it has taught; in the avenues to humane effort it has opened."  They also refer to one of Joseph Campbell's designations of the functions of myth, to underscore their final message, that of "the compassionate mode of mythology, which prompts empathy," and which the authors state "elevates it to the level of social action."  One wishes that Feinstein and Krippner had developed that theme further, but perhaps that would be another book.


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Reviewed by

Jane White-Lewis


Originally Published in 1975,  Lady of the Lotus has recent|y been reissued by "The Library of Spiritual  Adventure", a division of Tarcher Press which republishes "classic novels of the quest for human growth, the evolution of consciousness, and the transformation of the spirit".  In this historical novel, William E. Barrett writes about Prince Siddhartha Gautama's quest for truth and final enlightenment, but the author's stated focus is on Yadohara, Siddhartha's wife and the mother of his child.  According  to  Barrett,  hundreds of books have been written about Siddhartha/ the Buddha, but this book is the only work about Yadohara.

        The tale begins with the early lives of Prince Siddhartha and Yadohara, the Princess of Koli.  It is a tender love story.  The Prince  and Princess are married; a son, Rahula, is born.  Soon, however,   Siddhartha becomes increasingly dissatisfied and uncomfortable with his role as prospective Raja and heir to the throne and increasingly drawn to a "spiritual" life, to seeking truth.  Siddhartha eventually renounces the material world, leaves his family and his privileged  status, takes up a mendicant life, and prepares for "enlightenment" as the Buddha.  The Buddha and his teachings impact powerfully on  Yadohara and Rahula.  After struggling to find meaning in their worldly lives, both ultimately choose to follow the Way of the  Buddha. They, too, elect a spiritual and ascetic life.

        In the forward to his book, Barrett tells us that he spent years researching the  book.  As a young man in his twenties he  first  became interested in Buddhism, but he did not feel ready to write this book until years later.  The author was, in fact, seventy-five  years old when the book was finally published.  In the intervening years, Barrett tells us that he talked to many Buddhist  scholars  and  Buddhist  monks, that he built a personal library of "Buddhism Hinduism-India-Nepal" of hundreds of volumes, that he "followed the trails that led outward from the  beginnings to Burma, Thailand, Japan, Malaya, Hong Kong" and that he "walked  where Siddhartha and Yasodhara walked, in Nepal and India". 

        Barrett's deep involvement and love of his material is evident throughout the book and this energy gives  a  certain freshness, vitality, and authenticity  to the simple, engaging narrative.  Furthermore, the portraits of his characters and the descriptions of their daily lives, their joys and conflicts--are unforgettable.

        The dialogues, however, are less successful.  Unfortunately Barrett's characters speak a curious language which is a mix of contemporary  and of stilted speech.  Perhaps the author was attempting to create a timeless, fairy tale quality  but  the net effect is distracting and disappointing. In addition, the felt-sense of much of the dialogue is not authentic. How can a 20th century American male possibly imagine the  thoughts,  feelings and sensations of an Indian woman who lived  many,  many centuries ago?  Perhaps this criticism is unfair and  only reflects my own prejudice against historical novels.  I think, however, that I would be more enthusiastic about an Indian woman telling Yadohara's story.  I would also hope that a female author might be more sensitive and faithful to the depth and value of Yadohara's life.  Although Barrett's  avowed intent was to focus on Yadohara, one gets the feeling that her story becomes a vehicle for praising the Buddha.  Yadohara's name means "companion to fame", and in this book one gets the sense that that is her role once again  and that the main character is really the Buddha.  Throughout the book there is a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, devaluation of Yadohara, of women, of relationships and of life in the world.

        In any case, Lady of the Lotus is a very readable and engaging book.  It is a memorable  account of the founding and early dissemination of Buddhism.


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Lucid Living, Lucid Dreaming


        When I teach classes on lucid dreaming, I always ask students why do they want to become lucid in their dreams?  The response varies from wanting to have an exciting dream life to wanting to control their dreams.  The next question I ask is whether they are lucid in their waking life? The response is usually laughter followed by silence. 

        Can lucid dreaming become an escape from our waking reality?  It can be. However, what I have observed with some of my students and clients is that lucid dreaming enhanced their waking life.  After the experience of lucid dreaming there seems to be a shift in their attitude-- they start to question the quality of their life, work, relationships, etc.  

        One of the many gifts that lucid dreaming offers to us is reflection on our waking life.  I feel, in order to walk the path of lucidity, it is important to spread this awareness throughout our lives.  We may ask the question during the day "am I dreaming?" Can we also ask ourselves, "am I lucid?"  "Am I lucid in my relationship?"  "Am I lucid at work?".... 


Fariba Bogzaran

San Francisco, Calif.

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