I'm a regular reader of the alt.dreams.lucid usenet
newsgroup. Its an interesting forum where kooks and scientists collide and the
messages range from boring to stimulating concerning the subject of lucid
Lucid dreams are shifty sorts of things and as a discipline we're in the
early stages of trying to sort out the rules about how to proceed with
discussing them with each other. There is still a lot of argument about matters
which are not strictly related to lucid dreaming but which attempt to stake a
claim at being important.
The first matter relates to essentially philosophical discussions of the
"nature of consciousness" and the "what is reality" flavor.
Another is a distinctly mystical perspective on the whole matter, in which lucid
dreams are perceived to be evidence of other "planes" of existence or
First I thought I would tackle the purely philosophical angle. The study of
dreams brings out the philosopher in many people. A lucid dream, for those who
have experienced it, is a conscious experience involving a significant chunk of
our daily self awareness. It does not involve all of it because we do not
readily have access to all of our normal daily memories and associations.
The fact that so much makes sense in dreams that isn't part of our daily
world is a testimony to the way in which we are separated from our daily
memories. Occasionally when I have been lucid I have been unable to remember my
address nor have I been able to remember what my house looks like as well as
many other ordinary details of my life.
There are huge holes, and when we dream we seem to draw upon a different set
of memories and associations. I call these different memories and associations
the "dream brain". Its an intuitive handle, not meant to imply an
actual organ of any kind.
Nonetheless it is a conscious experience containing the essential
"I-ness" with which we identify as being ourselves. Its us in there,
in other words. Now, I had to suffer through freshmen philosophy in college as
I'm sure many others did and I know I speak for many others in recalling the
complete sense of futility I felt at the discussions that took place, many of
which took the form of "prove you exist" or something equally inane. I
apologize to anyone who takes it seriously but its just impossible for me to get
anything out of it.
The discussions on the net continue in this great tradition by trying to
define what "I" means in the phrase "I think, therefore I
am", for instance, or worrying about whether reality exists outside of
ourselves, which of course leads to an argument about what "we" are
and what we mean by "reality". Its so tedious.
They go into great detail with lots of big words but the discussions
essentially come down to bickering over semantics and are marked with a complete
inability to even establish a common frame of reference in which to have a
The reason that they're doing this is because this conscious experience
implies something about the nature of consciousness, the nature of
"us-ness" and they, in a well meaning way, want to define what this
However, this argument has been going on as long as there has been language
before lucid dreaming even came onto the scene.
I do not question the fact of my existence, nor do I use language to justify
my presence here, nor do I bother to define "here". The casual
everyday use of the words have an obvious intuitive meaning and I will take no
time in defending the use of them.
My efforts at learning more about lucid dreams have been an exploration of
the transition between wake and sleep. I believe that this fringe area is the
place to study because it readily contains elements of both states. Learning the
transition has been difficult and has taken a lot of time and is an ongoing
project. I do make progress, though.
It has never been the case that learning about this transition required that
I question the nature of "I-ness". It has meant learning new skills,
learning to sort of catch yourself in the act of thinking for the purposes of
learning to be more quiet but this was not a philosophical effort guided by
ideas and concepts, it was an in-the-trenches effort at finding and learning a
discipline, a discipline not unlike the discipline of learning a skill or a body
of knowledge, pure application of self towards a goal in the way that everyone
already knows how to do and has done in other areas of life.
When lucid in the dream environment we are aware of ourselves just as surely
as we can be aware of ourselves in the daily world. This is an experience in
life, a life experience, just as surely as going to a wedding is or reading the
paper is. It does not occur in the daily physical world, though, and this sticky
matter is what causes a lot of problems for people. The question "where do
dreams occur" hints, to the philosopher, that "place" and
"I-ness" may perhaps be intertwined.
For me its enough that the images and scenes and dream events do occur. I
have found that simply accepting this without concern for a model of where or
why is really quite easy, as easy as the fact that rolling out of bed every day
to face the world does not require that I have a model either.
While the philosophers argue about terminology, many people post with a
religious or mystical bent, seeking to associate the experience with their world
view, world views which seem to invariably involve self denial or submission to
their authority. These mystical legions insist that dreams are a link with
something else, a path to God perhaps.
Lucid dreams are even farther "up" on the scale but of course these
posts come frequently with warnings that there are dangers lurking which can
only be warded off by (guess what) following their beliefs or rituals.
Many religions and systems use these experiences as part of their world view.
There is actually a Eckankar center here in Nashville which I drive by on the
way to a recycling center. The sign out front says "Religion in the sight
and sound of God".
The logic behind that, I suppose, is that because lucid experiences are not
physical they MUST, by process of elimination, be closer to God, where God is
the remotest non-physical part of the picture and where the physical world is
the lowest of the low in the universal pecking order, a place to get far away
from, to hear them and their ilk talk.
Eck is but one of many systems which take advantage of the relative rarity of
the lucid experience and cloak it in a mystique, keeping it tightly reigned in
as a part of a whole package which, as you can expect, has as part and parcel
rituals and beliefs and complete world views which you must adopt in order to
have the experience.
Here I'll talk some about myself and my own approach and history because I
think I can make a better point by talking about my own experience rather than
simply critiquing what others say.
In some ways I could be called a fundamentalist New-Ager, if the essence of
the New Age seeks a direct relationship with the life experience and its
mysteries with no intervening systems or beliefs. I won't have any that nonsense
of certain beliefs, rituals, writings, or ideas interfering with me and life. No
crystals, no spacey music, no drums, no books, no kooky ideas outside of my
personal experience, no meetings with others of a like mind, no nothing. If its
true in my personal experience then its true, period. I am very careful about
inferences or interpretations but my experiences are my guide. The life
experience says it, I believe it, and that settles it, to paraphrase my
fundamentalist Christian brethren, and I smile as the irony of the comparison is
not lost on me.
I do not belong to any religion or follow any teachings because I've always
been resistant to the idea that any formal body of ideas could be considered
correct and exclusively true. That does not diminish my sense of wonder about
life, though, it just keeps me from shaving my head and wearing orange or giving
my possessions to some kook.
For me life is wonderful and mysterious but I'm a rugged individualist when
it comes to my relationship with life or God, if you will. I don't let anything
in between me and it, and I do not seek to contain it or define it with my own
set of ideas and beliefs about things I don't directly experience.
With that as an introduction, I used to interpret my lucid dreams as
mystical. When I say that I interpreted them as mystical I mean that they were
not part of my daily life, they were a hint at the "something greater"
aspect which we all feel from time to time. In that regard I was no different
than the Ecksters or others. I assigned to lucid dreams the role of mystical
experience and therefore when I would have lucid dreams I would have very deep
and very strong feelings. I would frequently experience what can only be termed
religious ecstasy after these experiences.
Now, religious ecstasy is a part of the life experience. I'm glad that I've
had a chance to get my fill of it. You would think that this is a sort of state
that one would seek out all the time, being bliss and all, but believe it or not
that's not the case. Its very sweet as it occurs but its difficult to make the
transition back from bliss into daily affairs, its distracting and leads to
"bliss hangovers". You think I'm joking and there is a humorous aspect
to it which is not lost on me but this was a real phenomenon and became a
problem for me.
I would have lucid dreams frequently on the weekends when I could sleep
later. Especially on Sunday mornings a few years ago in the fall they were
becoming more prevalent and I would take long walks in the park alone just
filled with joy and sweetness. It was so intense, though, that when I got back
to the house it became very difficult to just sit down and watch football,
something I enjoy, because I was drained in a way. This could last for a couple
of days and extend into work where it was difficult to make the transition back
into the workaday world. As I said the experiences became more frequent and this
was occurring more and more.
It finally came to a head when I realized that in order to begin making real
progress with dreams I was going to have to "un-mystify" them, to stop
treating them like mystical experiences. I simply couldn't function in a healthy
way being blissed out or recovering from it so frequently.
Isn't that interesting? I learned something from that. By overdosing on bliss
I came to see it as a part of life, and something that can be part of a good
life, but nonetheless something which could be overdone. It was NOT the case
that this state was where we were supposed to all end up, it was just one of the
life experiences laid out on the table for us to sample from. I learned in a
very deep and profound way that the best of life is NOT a state of bliss. It is
NOT the place we should all be trying to get to. Its like being high, and when
you get high you must come down again. Its a great high, but its still a high.
Of course, in moderation it can be very enriching.
Anyway, I had several long talks with myself in which I realized that
something was going to have to change, that I was going to have to start
treating lucid experiences as being more ordinary if I was going to learn more
about them. The act of having these conversations and being honest with myself
was all it took, a lesson I've since seen repeated. By simply focusing on and
being sincere about the desire to de-mystify the experience I simply began to
not treat them that way and so I stopped reacting to them in that way.
They lost their mystical quality, and I gained. I gained because I saw that
treating them as casual everyday , things is ok, their function or nature did
not change a bit. In fact I could really start a more earnest effort because the
whole effort became less emotional, more casual, more of a hobby. I still had to
make the same efforts as before, they did not all of a sudden start happening
with greater frequency but I removed one of the roadblocks which I had placed
there and I could now pursue them with more efficiency.
That transition was an important building block. Now I work with dream
material every day and it isn't a big deal to me. Its just part of the same
mysterious and wondrous life I lead every day, just as casual and frustrating
and rewarding and painful. Part of the same thing. Not different. Not alien. Not
part of another dimension. Not another "plane of existence". Part of
this place. Part of the same place where we worry about amperage ratings on air
conditioning units and are surprised and frustrated by the actions of our family
members and are gleeful about how deliciously bad-to-the-bone Clint Eastwood is
in "For a Few Dollars More".
The same place where we wake up and find that we're out of coffee so we drive
to the store before work just to get some. The same place that we watch our
friendships deepen over time and become so easy. The same place where we watch
the first few leaves fall from trees as the summer draws to a close and find
renewal in the never ending cycles in this place, this life.
I talked about all of that to show that I'm not dry and serious but also to
show that we have a choice about how this experience can be treated. The
experience itself is not affected by our view of it, just as the stars didn't
care when we stopped seeing them as holes in the firmament and started seeing
them as burning balls of hydrogen.
When I read posts by people pushing a mystical perspective on lucid
experiences I remember my experiences and history and I think "they're
missing out on something". They think that they're being respectful but
they're placing something on a pedestal which does not ask to be there, and as
we know things on a pedestal are harder to reach. Why not just keep it here on
the counter next to the flour and sugar?
It is so sweet to have these experiences be just part of the daily mix, not
tagged as requiring extra mental effort to process or deal with. Not things
which take away from our lives and require an emotional price but which instead
add to our life, experiences which become dependable and counted upon and form a
new leg to stand upon.