A Phenomenology of Lucid dream Reality (by Ed Kellogg III)

Mirrored from spiritwatch with kind permission from Jayne Gackenbach.
This article originally appeared in Lucidity Letter December, 1989, Vol. 8, No. 2

The Aletheia Foundation
Ashland, Oregon

   Recently, I've found myself both delighted and disappointed as dreamworkers have increasingly applied the term "phenomenological" in describing their research in lucid dreaming.  Delighted, because I haven't found a more useful approach to dream research than that involved in phenomenological methodology; and disappointed because few dreamworkers seem to have any clear idea about what a formal phenomenological approach actually involves!  In this paper I hope to make clear the essence of such a phenomenological approach, and to clarify its application by presenting some of my own findings in the role of a lucid dream phenomenologist. 

  Before beginning, let me describe my background in both dreamwork and in phenomenology:  I normally recall 3 to 5 dreams per night, and have over the past decade or so written down and indexed over 5,000 of my dreams.  Of these dreams I have had several hundred that I characterize as [u]fully[/u] lucid, meaning that within the dream I had [u]at least[/u] the same degree of consciousness and free will (the ability to make conscious decisions) as in my physical reality waking state.  I first discovered Edmund Husserl's work in phenomenology in 1970, and since that time I've made a continuing effort to work through, and to extend for myself, his studies into the nature and structure of consciousness.  In the self‑observation of processes of consciousness of myself both "awake" and "asleep", I have found no other discipline as valuable ‑‑ or as difficult to do well.  One can not understand the phenomenological method simply by reading about it, but must practice and apply it in daily life.

The Phenomenological Method

  The phenomenological movement derives chiefly from the work of one man ‑‑ Edmund Husserl ‑‑ although many others continue this work today.  Many existentialists, including Martin Heidegger and Jean‑Paul Sartre, based much of their work upon the foundation that Husserl established (Wilson, 1966).  In essence, one could describe phenomenology as a [u]method[/u] (not a "philosophy") that aims at clearly seeing, and rigorously describing the essential structures of one's life world, including all aspects of consciousness and experience.  In effect, Husserl worked towards the development of a presuppositionless philosophy that goes to the bedrock of experience, and which eliminates assumptions (especially hidden assumptions) to the greatest extent possible.

  To accomplish this, Husserl developed the transcendental phenomenological reduction (or [u]epoch_[/u]) which involves a fundamental shift in perspective by [u]suspending judgement[/u] in the "thesis of the natural standpoint".  Basically, the natural standpoint describes our ordinary every‑day attitude towards the world.  For example, the judgements that we live physically as human beings in "objective reality", that physical objects exist independent of our awareness of them, and that no difference exists between objects as experiences and the "actual" physical objects themselves.  Thus, the [u]epoch[/u] requires a radical [u]suspension of belief[/u] in this ordinary, deeply ingrained and usually unconscious attitude towards the world in which we live.

  The [u]epoch[/u] (from the Greek, meaning "to bring to a halt") should sound familiar to lucid dreamers, as they need to have performed at least an approximation of it in order to have attained lucidity.  In the ordinary dream state we continue to hold onto the usual assumptions inherent in our every‑day attitude towards the physical world.  In lucidity or "knowing that we dream" we bring at least one of those assumptions to a screeching halt ‑ that our experience occurs within an objective, physical world.  However, this major insight only begins the task involved in a true[u] epoch[/u], as the "lucid" dreamer still operates through a residuum of [u]unquestioned[/u] beliefs and assumptions left over from the "natural standpoint".  The phenomenological [u]epoch[/u] allows one to go deeper and further towards greater lucidity, by bringing to bear a rigorous and defined method aimed at reducing assumptions and mis‑identifications to the greatest extent possible.

  The method of accomplishment of the [u]epoch[/u] lies beyond the scope of this paper (Husserl spent a lifetime describing pathways to its accomplishment), but as a very crude approximation one can look at the method of Descartes, in which he tested the certitude of fact by seeing if he could doubt it.  Husserl also called this operation [u]bracketing[/u] (indicated by [__]), through which one sets aside and makes overt the covert assumptions about experience.

  For example, at this moment I might say "I sit in a chair", by which I mean  an objective chair existing in physical reality.  Can I doubt this?  Well, perhaps I hallucinate due to hypnotic suggestion, or find myself caught up in a very realistic dream.  Neither of these possibilities seems likely, but I recognize their essential possibility and can, in fact, doubt.  However, after the [u]epoch[/u] I might state "I [u]experience myself[/u] sitting in a chair" and this statement I can not doubt at all.  Bracketing reduces the assumed physical chair to the experienced phenomenon ‑ [[u]chair[/u]].  It doesn't matter whether  a physical chair exists or not ‑ my [u]experienced [chair][/u] exists apodictically.  In this context, apodictic means expressing necessary truth or absolute certainty.  The [[u]chair[/u]] exists apodictically because I perceive it directly and immediately.  Please note that the epoch_ does not cause me to disbelieve in the existence of the physical chair, but to relegate this belief to its proper place as one of the assumptions or inferences I (usually unconsciously) make on the basis of experience.  Phenomenological work can only begin [u]after[/u] the [u]epoch[/u]_, in the apodictical realm.

  The second major tool involved in phenomenological work Husserl called the eidetic reduction, by which one grasps the essential structure of experience after the [u]epoch[/u].  Again, I can not adequately describe this process here (see Husserl, 1973b), but it involves a direct "seeing" for each[u] eidos[/u] (or "essence"), through a testing for the congruent and truly identical in all of the variations of experience to which that [u]eidos[/u] belongs.  For example, for me increased freedom of choice, and of awareness of assumptions, make up a fundamental part of the [u]eidos[/u] of lucidity, as all of my experiences of lucidity involve these factors in an integral way.  One can describe an [u]eidos[/u] in words, but the [u]eidos[/u] does not consist of words but of pure meaning susceptible to immediate examination.  In making sense out of the world of experience each of us by necessity performs something like the eidetic reduction, but without normally achieving the clarity and rigor involved through the phenomenological method.

   As a phenomenologist I understand that a map, no matter how useful, must never take precedence over the territory that it can only [u]represent[/u].  After the [u]epoch[/u], the so‑called objective world loses a naive [u]a priori [/u] validity, and the so‑called subjective world (the world of pure experience) gains a priori validity.  For the purposes of this paper let me define reality as "that which certainly exists".  By this definition, the term "objective reality" has an internal contradiction, as "objective reality" for me as an individual exists only as a hypothetical map [u]within[/u] my subjective experience which I may use to make sense [u]of[/u] subjective experience.  On the other hand, "experiential reality" belongs to the apodictical realm (susceptible to direct examination), and must have priority in all phenomenological work.  Thus, through the [u]epoch[/u] one loses a naive sense of certainty about the "objective" and instead finds certainty an inherent property of the formerly questionable "subjective".

  This shift in perspective may sound deceptively simple, but it involves a fundamental change in attitude that goes against deeply ingrained habits and prejudices.  The [u]epoch[/u] suspends belief and disbelief, taking what one might describe as an agnostic position.  To those interested in studying phenomenology further, I recommend Husserl's [i]Cartesian Meditations[/i], Natanson's [i]Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks[/i], or Zaner's [i]The Way of Phenomenology[/i] as useful introductions to this work.

E‑Prime and Phenomenology

  Unfortunately, even those who attempt to rigorously hold to a more phenomenological attitude quite frequently find themselves tripped up by the habitual structures and assumptions inherent in [u]language[/u].  To minimize such distortions, I use a more phenomenological language called E‑Prime (E'), that more accurately reflects my experience while minimizing hidden assumptions (Kellogg, 1987).  E' refers to an English language derivative that eliminates any use of the verb "to be" (basically am, is, was, are, and were).  The use of E' has clarified many aspects of my scientific and phenomenological work, and made obvious many inherent assumptions that ordinary English usage had concealed.

  In his book, [i]Language, Thought and Reality[/i], Benjamin Lee Whorf (1956) gives numerous examples of languages and cultures that support his "principle of linguistic relativity."  This principle states that the structure of our language influences the way we perceive "reality," as well as how we behave with respect to that perceived reality.  Although one could describe E' simply as English without any use of the verb "to be," such a definition misses the profound changes in personal orientation resulting from such a change. [u]In essence, E‑prime consists of a more descriptive and extensionally oriented derivative of English, that automatically tends to bring the user back to the level of first person experience.[/u]

  For example, if you saw a man, reeking of whisky, stagger down the street and then collapse, you might think (in ordinary English) "He is drunk."  In E' one would think instead "He acts drunk," or "He looks drunk."  Each of these statements more accurately describes the actual experience, and involves fewer covert assumptions than the English original.  After all, one might have encountered an actor (practicing the part of a drunken man), a man who had spilled alcohol on himself during a heart attack, etc.  The E' statement still leaves these possibilities open, whereas the "is" statement does not.  Although E' usually reduces hidden assumptions, it does not exclude them (for example, you may have seen a woman who looked like a man and acted drunk).  E' also greatly encourages one to use the active voice ("I did it", "he did it", etc.) rather than the often misleading and information‑poor passive voice ("it was done").

E‑prime fosters a world view in which the user perceives situations as changeable rather than static, and where one’s language indicates possibilities rather than false certainties. I have found it a very useful language for dreamwork, in that dream experiences translated into E’ usually suffer far less from distortions and hidden assumptions then they do when set into ordinary “is” English. This can lead to some interesting discoveries, and I hope that other dreamworkers will find the idea of E’ interesting enough to experiment with it themselves.

Basic Maps and Observations

Before describing what I’ve observed in lucid dreaming, I first need to establish a baseline on how I ordinarily experience myself. In Figure I I’ve attempted to diagram a relevant two dimensional section of my four dimensional consciousness‑process. For present purposes, “conscious”, “subconscious”, and “paraconscious” each corresponds to a different depth in intentionality. By intentionality I mean the fundamental act by which consciousness directs itself at something within experience. By “conscious” I mean that aspect of myself that thinks, and labels; by “subconscious” that aspect of myself that feels, that attributes meanings and significance to things; and by “paraconscious”, that aspect of pure creativity and knowing that forms structure. I experience these three “levels” in a hierarchical order, with thinking as the most superficial, feeling occurring at greater depth, and with pure knowingness occurring at the greatest depth, closest to the functioning of my essential source‑self.

  Let me try to make this clear by example.  "About to cross a road I see a car coming towards me, a Dodge Caravan.  I stop and let it pass before crossing".  In perceiving the car, I see it first as a particular shape or form, and differentiate it from my experience as a whole; I impose meaning on the form, and see it as a motorized, and potentially dangerous human directed vehicle, made of metal, running on gasoline, etc.  I understand this at a glance without words.  Finally in my thinking I may label this object a "car" or more specifically as a "Dodge Caravan".  All of this occurs automatically and routinely, and with little "conscious intent".  We take this tremendous activity for granted, and even talk about consciousness as "passive"!  In a very demonstrable sense each of us creates, or more specifically intends, our own reality. For after all, what would an Indian from the depths of the Amazon jungle have seen?  Certainly not a "car" or a Dodge Caravan!  Husserl termed this automatic, and many layered making sense out of the world "functioning intentionality".  As I will describe below, the operation of "functioning intentionality" changes dramatically in ordinary and in lucid dreaming.

  With this as a necessary prologue, let me briefly compare some self‑observations in three different categories of my overall experience:

In “waking physical reality” (abbreviated WPR), I usually have my identity focus and “center of gravity” in the conscious/thinking levels; e.g. feelings happen to me, and I have little direct conscious control over them.

In “dream reality” (abbreviated DR), my center of gravity has shifted to the subconscious or feeling level. In ordinary dreaming I experience a “horizontal split”, by which I mean that I have little or only limited use of my thinking aspect, thinking and labelling occur automatically and without conscious intent.

In “lucid dream reality” (abbreviated LDR) the breadth of my consciousness increases to include the functions of my thinking and knowing aspects; although my “center of gravity” remains in the subconscious and in feeling, my identity focus has expanded to include both thinking and knowing aspects. In fact I feel much more myself when fully lucid in LDR than I do ordinarily in WPR. And as self‑consciousness expands into these areas of self‑function, so also does the possibility of choice.
Although I characterize a fully lucid dream state as one where I have the same degree of conscious awareness as in my waking physical state, I want to make clear here that my conscious self in LDR functions differently from my conscious self in WPR. Specifically, the quality and accuracy of the labelling of my “functioning intentionality” markedly diminishes in the dream state. Thus, I will far more easily jump to faulty conclusions in LDR than I would in WPR.

For example, if I saw a hybrid fruit halfway between an apple and an orange in WPR, I would immediately identify it as an “odd” fruit. However, if I saw such an object even in a fully lucid dream I would most likely automatically identify it as an apple or an orange, without noticing the discrepancies. I would have to make a conscious intentional effort to actually perceive the object correctly.

Hence, even in lucid dreams I have to make an effort to compensate for a loss of function of my “automatic object identifier”. I’ve learned from experience that this particular mental function works far less accurately and reliably in LDR than in WPR. In a relative sense however, my “functioning intentionality” works markedly better and more accurately in LDR than in ordinary dream reality, where it scarcely works properly at all.

Lucid Dreaming Definitions

Before proceeding further, it seems important to establish more concretely exactly what I mean by lucidity. In general I agree with Tart’s (1984) definition of lucid dreaming, as dreams where I not only know that I dream, but where I clearly recall my physical reality waking life and have command of my intellectual and motivational abilities. However, like Tart (1985) I also experience lucidity along a continuum.

To make this clear let me say that I see lucidity as a variable aspect of consciousness that roughly corresponds with freedom of choice. For me this corresponds with a widening of consciousness (see Wren‑Lewis, 1985), and with a functional integration of aspects of self (see Figure 1). Thus, in a fully lucid state I function as a “knowing‑feeling‑thinking”, rather than primarily as a “thinking‑self” (as in WPR) or a “feeling self” (as in DR). Many dreamworkers simply define a lucid dream as one where you realize, however vaguely, that you dream, but I have not found this very useful. To briefly define my own scale:
PRE‑LUCID ‑ in the dream, I notice some sort of bizarreness as unusual for physical reality. Or I don’t consider myself in ordinary physical reality at all, although I realize almost none of the implications and still mis‑identify the actual situation.

SUB‑LUCID ‑ realize that I dream, but continue to follow the dream “script”; no conscious choice.

SEMI‑LUCID ‑ still follow the dream script (knowing that I dream), but I can make minor choices in keeping with dream reality e.g. I might choose to fly rather than walk.

LUCID ‑ I have the choice of following the dream script or not, can make major choices based on awareness of my potentialities in the dream state e.g. might choose to try a dream experiment instead of continuing the dream scenario, etc.

FULLY‑LUCID ‑ fully aware that I dream and of the location and state of my physical body; also remember any lucid dream tasks that I had earlier decided to try (lucid dream healing, intentionally changing body form, precognition, etc.)

SUPER‑LUCID ‑ aware of self as an integrated whole: self‑remembering. Thinking, feeling, creating aspects of self working as a unified whole (conscious, subconscious, and paraconscious). Extraordinary (even for dream reality) abilities and experiences often manifest.
Similar criteria would also apply to lucidity in the physical waking state ‑ for example, I would not consider myself fully lucid if I went to the grocery store and forgot to pick up the items I’d originally gone there for. You might characterize a drunk as semi‑ or sub‑lucid for example.

The Substitution Phenomenon

In 1974 I had a lucid dream that led to my discovery of what I call “the substitution phenomenon”. In a rather dull dream, I woke to full lucidity while having a conversation with [my family in our living room in Connecticut]. Rather than leaving, I decided to carefully investigate the dream scene. I immediately noticed that although [the people] in the living room looked somewhat similar to members of my family, that they had enough differences that I would never have mistaken them for family members in WPR. I also noticed that the dream setting, [the living room], also had a number of obvious differences from the WPR living room with which I had earlier identified it. Let me try to make this clear. Neither the people nor the living room appeared to change when I “woke up” in this dream ‑‑ only my ability to critically perceive them had changed.

Since that time I have routinely encountered this same “substitution phenomenon” in both my lucid and ordinary dreams. For example I dream of a friend, but when I wake up to a more critical awareness, I usually find that my dream [friend] does not really look like, or “feel” like my WPR friend, and I encounter instead a substitute who plays his part in the dream. Similarly, I often dream of my family home, yet on attaining lucidity I notice that [my dream family home] has gross discrepancies to my remembered physical home. I find the same “substitution phenomenon” in my non‑lucid dreams, in that I routinely find that my interpretation of the characters and events of a dream in the dream does not correspond to the more critical identifications made later in WPR based on a clear memory of the dream. For me, recall of dreams has two obviously different levels. First, a verbal interpretation of the dream events and characters as identified (or mis‑identified) during the dream experiences; second, the non‑verbal dream experience itself.

  Even accomplished dreamers distort their dreams when they try to describe them, simply by boiling them down into simplified verbal descriptions.  Indeed, a first approximation approach seems the easiest, and sometimes the only way to "make sense" out of a dream.  Still, without applying the [u]epoch[/u] a lot of square pegs get rammed down round holes when one uses this approach.  Until the lucid dream about [u][my family[/u]] described above, I routinely ignored the "substitution phenomenon". However, looking back I know that I had an underlying awareness of its occurrence in many of my earlier dreams, although I did not really give any importance to the phenomenon at the time.

  Since I first published my observation (Kellogg, 1985) I've had many discussions with other dreamworkers about it.  They have agreed that the "substitution phenomenon" does occur to a greater or lesser extent in their dreams, so the phenomenon does not seem peculiar to me alone.  After my initial discovery, I noticed that it occurred not as [u]the exception[/u] but as[u] the rule[/u] in my dreams.  However, after a number of years, my critical awareness of the phenomenon has substantially reduced the occurrence of the more obvious mis‑identifications of characters and locations even in ordinary dreams.

  All lucid dreamers have experienced at least one blatant example of the "substitution phenomenon", when they realized while dreaming that they had mistakenly identified a dreamed [[u]physical reality[/u]] for physical reality.  But the discovery of this mis‑identification only begins the process of unmasking the pervasive nature of "substitution phenomena" even in the most lucid of dreams. As I learn to increasingly [u]suspend judgement[/u] in [u]LDR[/u] the incidence of such mis‑identifications decreases.  In this respect any approximation to the phenomenological [u]epoch[/u] increases lucidity, as lucidity itself inversely correlates with the incidence of mis‑identifications.  In fact, in a practical sense I use the incidence of mis‑identifications to characterize the degree of lucidity attained in [u]LDR[/u].

Other Phenomena

Lucid Dream Incubation Technique. In a lucid dream in May of 1985 I finalized a lucid dream incubation technique (LDIT) that has worked quite well for me, as well as for others, in obtaining clear and easily understandable information on a variety of topics (Kellogg, 1986).
“In a lucid dream I demonstrate an incubation technique using a silver bowl to a group of other [dreamers]. Basically the technique consisted of the following: First the lucid dreamer decides on a question, in which he or she asks for the information most needed at that time. After deciding on a specific question, the dreamer inverts the silver bowl and consciously focuses on the question. After waiting a few seconds for the answer to materialize, the dreamer then turns over the bowl to find a materialized note with the answer written on it. I took a number of my fellow [dreamers] through this incubation technique, each received a clear and discrete answer. For myself I asked for a message from an official in a government agency about the possibilities of future research grants, and received the answer “Goodbye!”, which I clearly understood meant that I would receive no further funding from this agency [note: which incidentally, proved quite true].”
Since that time I’ve experimented with variations of the LDIT. The essential principle behind this technique involves finding a medium for the materialization of the answer (such as a closed drawer), asking the question, waiting a few seconds, then opening the drawer and looking at a written or symbolic answer. And as for reading, I need to read it clearly the first time through, as re‑reading messages usually doesn’t work very well for me. Some mediums work far better than others, and the best give discrete, specific answers, easily remembered in the transition from LDR to WPR. In order to use the LDIT I need to maintain a clearheaded lucidity throughout the incubation process, and then consciously retain and clearly recall the answer on returning to WPR.

  As an oracle of unconscious information I've found the LDIT very useful, and the information so received of a very high quality.  This does not mean that I always get usable answers to the questions I ask!  In one case, where I had requested investment information, I got my answer on a clay tablet in what looked like cuneiform!  As I've had a number of seemingly precognitive ordinary dreams, I decided to try the LDIT on a precognitive task, where I tried to see the six numbers (from 1 to 42) that would come up on the next day's Oregon lottery drawing.  I found this task extremely difficult and could only clearly recall the first two numbers that I saw.  However, both of those numbers did appear in the lottery drawing the next day.

Healing. As I normally enjoy excellent health, I’ve had little opportunity to try the effect of healing in a lucid dream on myself. However, on one occasion (Kellogg, 1989) I experienced a dramatic healing of a severely infected tonsil in WPR after performing a healing in LDR. This, and other experiences have convinced me that my [bodies] in WPR and LDR have more than a casual relationship to one another. My brother, also a lucid dreamer, after reading my article decided to try it on himself. At the time he had suffered for over a week from a painful inflammation of the shoulder due to bursitis. He succeeded in performing a lucid dream healing, and this effect translated over to his body in WPR, as all inflammation and pain disappeared before awakening the next day. Now over six months later, this healing has remained largely in effect.

Multiple Personalities. In WPR, clinically defined multiple personality disorders seem fairly rare and bizarre. But during ordinary dreaming I find such phenomena in myself a commonplace event. My dream‑self often uses a body and personality markedly different from the matched set I take for granted in WPR. I might identify myself with a warrior wizard or an Indian maiden. My sex and temperament can change from human male to female or to something altogether different and alien to the human species. Usually however, my dream‑self at least crudely approximates my WPR‑self. In LDR my dream‑self corresponds much more closely to my WPR‑self than it does in ordinary dreams.

Time. In DR I ordinarily experience a sort of “upside down” consciousness, as in that state I find my “center of gravity” in the feeling rather than the thinking aspect of mind. Time flows differently there, and I’ll try to make that difference clear.

  Time, as I experience it in [u]WPR[/u], seems roughly one dimensional, which you might visualize as a time flow limited by a straight line moving in one direction with "now" comprising an interval ranging from a fraction of a second to a minute.  (See Husserl, 1964 for a far more complete treatment).  Through the intentionality of retention I carry the immediate past as a fading presence in the present moment, and through protention I intend in the present an expectation of future events.

  "Dream time" has both one and two dimensional components.  Instead of likening time to a straight line, in [u]DR[/u] it occurs more like a two dimensional plane with the forward edge corresponding to the future, and the backward edge to the past.  However, within this two dimensional plane, I also experience a personal and sequential time line, not usually straight but curved, that defines the events of a dream as they happen to me, even though this may not correspond with (and may even contradict) the more "logical" order of events in the two dimensional time‑plane.

  Thus, I'll often experience dream events out of (logical) sequence, and may even experience the "beginning" of a dream at the "end"!  My personal experience of the dream remains largely one dimensional even though the events and logic of the dream operate in two dimensions.  In [u]WPR[/u] I routinely "make sense" out of a dream, arranging the events so that they occur in some sort of logical order, even though I realize, upon unprejudiced reflection, that the events did not take place for me in that order in DR itself.  The apparent contradiction in time sequencing of events largely disappears in lucidity, where one and two dimensional time lines seem to parallel each other.

The Phenomenal World. My sense of time also depends to a great deal upon the stability of the experienced phenomenal world. This applied to both WPR and LDR, where the greater the environmental flux, the faster time seems to pass, and the greater the stability, the more time seems to slow down. In WPR I take it for granted that if I can look at an object once, I can usually look at the “same” object in the same way repeatedly without perceptible changes occurring. Not so in DR or LDR, where objects often change even as I observe them, somewhat like the effect of high speed photography in WPR . This may well contribute to the effect where on one level a dream experience seems to last for hours, while on another it occurs in an instant. To a large extent my experience of the passage of time correlate with the phenomenal flux of events.

I’d like to note here that although in general phenomenal stability decreases in LDR, that stability can vary markedly up to a very reasonable simulation of the solidity and permanence of objects taken for granted in WPR. To put it concretely, sometimes I can read the same page twice. LDR and WPR do not in this respect seem qualitatively different in the stability of their phenomenal world, only quantitatively different to a greater or lesser degree.

My Dream Body and Senses. For the most part, my body in LDR looks similar to that of WPR, although it shares in the general lack of stability found in the dream environment. If, before waking up in DR, I perceive myself as a character not much like my physical type (say the Incredible Hulk, or an alien being) my body type automatically shifts to one much more like my WPR one. I usually create a body similar to my WPR body, including clothing and accessories. Unless I make a deliberate effect (as in Gurdjieffian sensing exercises), my proprioceptive and kinesthetic sense of my body parts usually remains vague and incomplete compared to WPR, although I find it easy to reestablish these senses. However, I usually have a very strong overall sense of myself in a body distinct from the environment, and do not confuse the two. Lucidity enhances my perception of embodiment. Incidentally, spinning has helped to prolong my stay in LDR (LaBerge, 1985).

I usually see vividly (though often out of focus) in LDR, and in general my sense of touch seems comparable, but somewhat less complete than in WPR. Hearing, smell, and taste often seem vague or non‑existent. However, on occasion even these latter three senses come in loud and clear. For example, usually dream foods lack flavor and texture, tasting sort of like flavored cardboard. Still, several months ago I ate a slice of pizza in LDR that I would rate at about 9 on a 1 to 10 flavor and texture scale ‑ all that flavor, and no calories! Communication usually occurs “mind to mind”, without sound or talking in the usual meaning of the word. To a large extent, I’ve found the acuity of each sense to relate to my intention, and to the degree of lucidity and maintained integration of self in LDR.

Magic. Through the centuries mankind has continued to believe in magic, that mind can directly control matter and that one can reshape reality as one desires. And this, despite the fact that in today’s modern age legions of parapsychologists have proven that in physical reality “magic” on the whole works poorly, when it works at all. I don’t mean to say it doesn’t work in WPR but only that it doesn’t appear to work very well.

However, “magic” works very well indeed in lucid dream reality and as any lucid dreamer knows, in LDR mind can and routinely does directly affect dream [matter]. With the proper focus, intention, and self‑integration I have performed many of the feats attributed to the most famous magicians and wizards in fact and fiction, and with special effects that would make George Lucas or Steven Spielberg envious. Teleportation, telepathy, levitation, conjurations, materializations, and transformations of one’s body and environment seem almost routine after a little practice. And yes, I have found spells and incantations to work quite nicely, if sometimes unpredictably. After all, where else does Einstein’s “observer effect” make such a spectacular showing!

OBEs. A lot of controversy has arisen on the nature of lucid dreams as compared to out‑of‑the‑body (physical) experiences (OBEs) (see LaBerge, 1985, Mitchell, 1987, & Salley, 1986). Of course, by definition OBE’s fail to meet the most basic criteria of lucid dreaming, that you realize that you dream while you dream. Even afterwards, most subjects will vehemently deny the very idea that they could have dreamed the experience. From a phenomenological point of view, the question of “what really happens” in a hypothetical “objective reality” seems beside the point. Do out‑of‑body experiencesexist? Of course, and so do in‑the‑body experiences (IBE’s)! But do OBEs constitute a category of experience distinct from lucid dreaming or not? To me, OBEs differ from lucid dreams in a number of ways.

First, environmental stability in out‑of‑the body reality (OBR) seems much more like physical reality than dream reality. When I take a second and even a third look at objects in OBR, the objects stay very much the same. I generally find myself in a very close counterpart to my physical body, sort of a semitransparent white color, that can feel very light or very dense depending upon how much I speed up, or slow down my “vibrational rate”. I feel a very strong and defined sense of embodiment, directly comparable to that felt in my “physical” body. Unlike LDR most “magic” does not seem to work very well here. My body shape seems relatively immutable, and although I can fly (and go through walls) if I speed my vibrational rate up sufficiently, I’ve had very poor success with psychokinesis, materializations, etc., tasks which I can routinely perform in LDR. I generally go about naked and have had little success in generating clothes, which simply appear automatically in LDR.

Although my state of consciousness (“center of gravity” in the subconscious) seems just about identical to that of full lucidity in dream reality, my memory of an OBE after the fact in WPR has an exceptionally clear and vivid quality. This stands in marked contrast to my memory of even fully lucid dreams, which tend to fade unless I make a conscious effort to remember them in WPR. I experience time very much as in WPR, as a “straight line” without the ambiguity of two‑dimensional time present in DR. OBR has a very strong reality tone much like WPR, solid and convincing with much less of the flux that makes even LDR “dreamlike”.

To further confuse the issue, just as one can delude oneself with dreams of WPR, so can one delude oneself with dreams of OBEs. Although this may confuse the issue for dreamworkers in general, it no longer confuses the issue for me. Until I noticed the differences, I only considered an OBE genuine, if I maintained a continuity of consciousness from WPR to OBR, experienced leaving my physical body and maintained full lucidity throughout. Whatever “really” happens, for me OBEs belong to a category of experience distinct and easily differentiated from lucid dreams. Neither “fish or fowl” OBR has similarities to both WPR and LDR, while having characteristics different from both.


The phenomenological method has allowed me to observe and discover facets of my dream life that would have remained hidden without it. The pervasive nature of the hidden assumptions and prejudgements inherent in even the simplest act of ordinary perception can boggle the mind, and has special importance to anyone attempting to unravel the nature and characteristics of even ordinary dreaming. In this respect, a properly applied epoch can have extraordinary value to the dreamworker in reducing such covert assumption. However, lucid dreaming itself poses an existential challenge to our most basic beliefs, as evidenced by the fact that until recently most people saw “lucid dreaming” itself as a contradiction in terms.

At this point I’ll abandon the phenomenological epoch, and speculate as to the implications of the information I, and others, have gathered as to the nature of lucid dream reality. In my role as a phenomenologist, I have realized that my own prejudices and limitations have biased my reporting of many of the phenomena observed, which may have only personal, rather than general significance. Still, I would hope that the results of my work have at least illustrated some of the potential benefits of applying a formal phenomenological approach to lucid dreaming.

  If dreams consisted only of a hodgepodge of replays of stored memory images one wouldn't expect the "substitution phenomenon" to occur.  Instead, clearly identifiable overstocked memory images would predominate, and in my experience this rarely, if ever, happens.  An adequate model of dream reality must explain the discrepancy between the two different levels of dream recall, of the interpretation, and of the non‑verbal experience.  In this sense one can liken a dream to a play.  At a superficial level one can "suspend disbelief" and see [Hamlet] as Hamlet, or one can see [Hamlet] simply as an actor playing the part, and the [castle] as a stage setting with props.  By this metaphor lucidity involves a removal of the automatic "suspension of disbelief" inherent in ordinary dreaming.

  I do not ascribe to the solipsistic dream theory espoused by LaBerge (1985) and others, that portrays dreams as essentially nothing more than the subjective projections of one's own mind.  Oddly enough, as LaBerge points out, current findings in neurophysiology could lead one to make a similar judgement about physical reality.  To quote LaBerge:"The dream body is our representation of our physical body.  But it is the only body that we ever directly experience.  We know, by direct acquaintance, only the contents of our minds.  All of our knowledge concerning the physical world, including even the assumed existence of our "first", or physical bodies, is by inference."  (p. 219)

Just as I do not assume a solipsistic orientation towards physical reality, I do not make such a judgement about dream reality. My ethical code of conduct applies equally to me in WPR or LDR. I very much disagree with the cultural bias inherent in the phrase “only a dream”, or “just a dream”. Aside from my own experiences, Tholey’s (1985) work presents evidence that other dream figures can possess a consciousness independent of the dreamer. Usually, when we talk about “objective reality” we actually mean “consensual reality”, and for the special case of dream reality we require not a consensus among “dream people” but among people in WPR who also have participated in DR together. Imagine if consensual verification of WPR required a consensus among people in DR!

Nevertheless, good evidence for mutual dreaming does exist. LaBerge quotes (p. 223‑224) a remarkable example in his book, but backs off from calling it mutual dreaming, because the accounts differed in several details. I would like to remind those who investigate mutual dreaming of the fallibility of eyewitness accounts. Witnesses to an accident in WPR, usually do far less well in matching details than did the two dreamers in the “mutual dream” event referred to by LaBerge. Given the inconsistent nature of human observation, one can no more expect an exact agreement in description for two participants in a dream event than one could expect it for a physical event.

  On a more practical note, lucid dream healing may have widespread implications for the now burgeoning field of psychoneuroimmunology.  The physiological changes‑of‑state documented in multiple personality cases may prove applicable to what one might expect to see in dream healing phenomena, as all of us seem to experience multiple personalities in dreams.  Perhaps clinically defined "multiple personalities" have simply transplanted a dream state phenomenon over to the waking state as well.  Dramatic physical changes can take place within minutes, and point to the dramatic healing effects (both good and bad) potentially available to all of us, through mental changes‑of‑state leading to physiological changes‑of‑state.  In dream reality "magic" works, and this may explain the continuing fascination with dreams often found in even the most hardened skeptic.  I look forward to future explorations in this area with fascination, and with the sense that we have only begun to tap the potentialities of the lucid dream state.

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