How does one become a conscious participant with the dream?
Charles McPhee assists anyone interested in finding out by offering a
step-by-step guide to mastering the techniques of lucid dreaming in his book
_Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. Charles has also offered us a Web site
through which we can discuss the issues of consciousness and dreams with him
directly. He has been visiting with us here for the last few months at Electric
Dreams, answering questions and giving us peeks into his work on lucid dreaming
In Electric Dreams November 3(10) We began exploring the phenomena of dream
sleep and consciousness. In ED 3(11) I continued to unfold the investigation
into whether or not we actually possess consciousness in dream and what this can
mean to our lives. In this issue we will explore just what we *are* aware of in
dreams and lucid dreams, a good first step in actually becoming lucid.
CHAPTER 6: "Consciousness in the Dream Lab"
Dream study has always been criticized for its flawed scientific methodology,
concerned as it is with an experience that is, by nature, subjective. Indeed,
this is a fact of dream experience. Dreams are completely private experiences,
and there is no way to circumnavigate this feature. As a result, the field is
criticized because its raw data are irreplicable - that s, it is impossible for
anyone else to directly experience, examine and evaluate a subject's dream. By
extension then, all dream reports given by subjects are necessarily of
questionable validity. Specifically, who really knows what went on in a dream?
There is no way to externally corroborate the interior experience of a dream,
and until some high-technology device comes along that will allow us to
videotape our dreams, the field of dream study remains helpless before this
obstacle. And while the EEG has helped to make the study of dreams more
credible, the instrument can still yield only surface and exterior
characteristics of the dream phenomenon. An EEG can tell us whether or not a
person is dreaming, and it can tell us when and for how long a person dreamed.
But for the real, inner experience we seek, we must rely on the subjective
reports of dreamers.
Now add to this initial distance from the data the enormous difficulties that
people characteristically have in recalling their dreams, and a researcher is
faced with an equally troubling set of questions. What do dreamers remember and
what do they forget? What do they invent and what do they confuse with other
memories and experiences in their lives? Do dreamers modify their accounts to
please themselves or the researcher? Do they leave out certain parts that they
are embarrassed about? Do they fill in gaps in dream plot lines with new parts,
so that the dream has better continuity and makes more sense?
Lucid dreaming, or lucidity, as it came to be called, was a newborn child on
the horizon of research into the conscious-unconscious interface. Many in the
scientific community began to speculate as to its significance. Lucidity was
intriguing precisely because it broke down that barrier that had seemed to exist
for so long between two discrete states of mind, of waking and dreaming. There
now were so many questions to ask and answers to be found.
For instance, if an individual can consciously interact with his or her
unconscious mind, as represented in the creation of the dream, is this a new
level of communication between the two elements of the mind? F the ability can
be harnessed, can it be a tool for increased awareness and understanding of the
unconscious mind and of dreams? Will consciousness, in turn, learn more about
itself? Can lucidity harmonize relations between the ego and the unconscious.
Are there hazards to be avoided? Is it advisable to open up - to conscious
interference - what up to now was an unconscious process? How broadly
distributed a phenomenon is lucid dreaming in the general population? Can lucid
dreaming be learned or taught? Who are these lucid dreamers, and what have they
CHAPTER 7: "Myths and Truths About Dreams"
Empirical research into sleep and dreaming has rapidly invalidated many old
"pop" theories that enjoyed debate for so long among dream
enthusiasts. Recently even a few of Freud's theories have taken some hard hits.
Before looking at what is now known to be true of dreams, let's review some
DREAMS ARE ONLY IN BLACK AND WHITE
In the 1950s in Europe and the United States, it suddenly became popular to
debate whether people dreamed in color or only in black and white. Some
contended that we dream in black and white but remember our dreams in
color--that is, we "paint them in" afterward. What is interesting
about this debate is not the question itself but rather the time that the
question came to be asked. The debate was popular in the late 1950s. Prior to
this time, however, in all of the literature that exists that pertains to
dreams, the question of color never came up. Freud did not raise it, nor did
Jung or any other psychoanalyst of the early twentieth century.
If you have never seen a black-and-white world, it would be hard to imagine
one - wouldn't it? The cause for this debate appears to be the widespread
diffusion of black-and-white television in the United States and Europe in the
1950s! It is true that people can dream in black and white; for that matter,
there is no reason to discredit anyone's claim to occasionally dreams in black
and white--or purple, or Technicolor, or Day-Glo. Much as our brains
effortlessly recreate our outside world with all of its vivid colors. so too can
they recreate the black and white world we see in films, on television and in
photographs. No one hears much about the black and white theory today. Most
people have color TV sets. Now the only time we might dream in black and white
is after spending long weekends watching old movies on cable.
SEX IN THE DREAMSCAPE
When lucid dreamers become aware they are dreaming, their orientation to the
dreamscape naturally changes. Usually, whatever tension or immediacy which was
present in the dream dissipates, and lucid dreamers are able to relax in the
knowledge that the experience, after all, is only a dream. In this state of
relaxed awareness, a playful curiosity inevitably develops. Lucid dreamers
compare dream objects against waking experience. They strike up conversations
with dream characteristics to see how these characters of their own creation
will respond. Lucid dreamers fly and explore their dreamscapes. They pray,
meditate, and ask for spiritual guidance with problems in their lives.
Camouflaged representations are asked to identify themselves. Lucid dreamers
also try to share dreams, to "leave their bodies" and enter into the
world of astral projection. And, of course, lucid dreamers explore fantasies in
It probably comes a little surprise to learn that many people, upon becoming
lucid in a dream, seize the opportunity to act out sexual fantasies. (Freud is
smiling in his grave.) But for many people, lucid dreaming represents an unique
opportunity to act out, and to fulfill, some heartfelt sexual desires. In the
dreamscape, we can be an uninhibited as we dare in our sexual explorations. We
can have sex with abandon and without consequences. The dreamscape is a place
where we can all attempt to consummate some of our most private sexual
The fact that dream sex is widely reported to be great sex--that is, that the
experience or orgasm in dreams is widely reported to be especially intense--adds
an intriguing dimension to lucid dream sex. The ability for people to achieve
powerful orgasms in dreams probably is due, at least in part, to the fact that
our bodies during dream sleep are profoundly relaxed--far more relaxed than
during any "quite" or resting awake time. Psychologically, one must
also consider that: Is there anything in life more private than a dream? The
truth of dream experience is that we can do whatever we want in our dreams, and
no one excepting ourselves will ever be the wiser. This freedom from inhibition
coupled with the relaxation of the body most likely explains the powerful
orgasms of dream sex adventures.
WE BECOME AWARE OF THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND
Perhaps better than any other experience, lucid dreaming illustrates the
fundamental dichotomy of human experience--that we possess both conscious and
unconscious abilities. Nowhere is the unconscious mind more powerfully tangible
than during a lucid dream, where the creations of the unconscious are
dramatically represented for us to touch and feel, to spend time with, to
interact with, to engage in dialogue, and, as our memory for the experience is
restored, to reflect on. Lucid dreams bring home the verite of the unconscious
mind like no other experience.
Recognizing that there are unconscious processes is a large first step for
most of us. People are inherently resistant to attributing processes of the mind
to anything other than ordinary awareness. Lucid dream experience, however,
illuminates the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind. This fabulous
display liberates us from a fundamental ignorance of our own nature. It is the
first psychological significance of lucid dreaming.
We have now observed that lucid experience with dreams challenges many of the
familiar habits of self-identification. Once we acquire conscious experience
with the dreamscape, the real mystery is who is responsible for creating the
dream and how to be more conscious.
If you can't wait, you can stop by my Web site for a Full Chapter Summary of
_Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. If you would like more on this, my book is
published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Publication Date: December 27th, 1995.
0-8050-2500-6 $22.50, cloth. Contact: Robin Jones, (212) 886-9270