The following is a modified excerpt from Paul and Charla Devereux’s book Lucid Dreaming: Accessing Your Inner Virtual Realities (Daily Grail Publishing, 2011). Available from Amazon US or Amazon UK now.
You enter the cinema. The lights dim and you put on your 3D glasses. They look deceptively like simple sunglasses. The film begins. Suddenly you are thrust into another world, a world with three-dimensional vision and sound. You are transported into a virtual reality, usually one of extreme fantasy, like the 2010 pioneer of modern 3D movie technology, Avatar. With the recent flood of 3D movies, and, increasingly, 3D television, this will happen more often to more people. In a similar vein, the dramatically effective virtual realities of computer games take their players out of their actual, physical worlds into cyber otherworlds. But in the way that audio and visual digital technologies are mimics of our natural senses, so too are these movie and cyber otherworlds merely technological versions of natural virtual realities we can access through our own minds. These are not mere pale acts of imagination, but altered states of consciousness, other realities so vivid and seemingly tangible that they make the fanciest digital technology fade in comparison. These inner virtual realities are far beyond simple dreams, but dreaming is the gateway through which they can be accessed.
A third of our life is spent asleep, and it has been calculated that in an average lifetime we experience about half a million dreams. Yet for most of us in modern societies that part of our existence is like a closed book. We might remember an occasional vivid dream, but usually our dreams are just vague, fragmented shadows that evaporate in our minds as soon as we open our eyes, or are extinguished by the raucous sound of our bedside alarm. Some people even believe that they do not dream at all. We take the loss of this part of our lives very calmly, but think how shocked we would be if we were suddenly told that a third of our lifespan was to be taken from us! Yet that is effectively what happens, especially in our modern culture, which does not place a very high value on dreams – not officially at any rate. One of the reasons for this loss is that dreaming represents a discontinuity in our mental lives: when awake we can barely remember any of our dreams, and when we are dreaming, we forget that we are not awake. It is as if a broad, dark river of forgetfulness, a moat of amnesia, separates the waking and dreaming parts of our lives. Yet we can reclaim the night-side of our existence by taking specific actions to increase the vividness of our dreams and make our recall of them much more effective. Our newly-released book Lucid Dreaming will enable anyone to do that, but it will also explain that such actions can be merely the prerequisite for achieving something much more remarkable – namely, how to stay awake while we are having our dreams.
Living Our Dreams
Train ourselves to be awake in our dreams? It sounds an utter paradox. Up until the late seventies, even most scientists studying sleep and dreaming dismissed the notion as nonsense. But as we point out in Lucid Dreaming, two enterprising dream researchers, Keith Hearne in England, and Stephen LaBerge in the United States, devised experiments that scientifically demonstrated that people can be fully conscious in a dream, while monitoring equipment shows them to be physiologically sound asleep. This remarkable mental state, in which a person becomes fully conscious inside a dream, is known as “lucid dreaming”. This is the natural condition of virtual reality, in which a new, separate space now seemingly surrounds you. You stand in perfect three-dimensional surroundings that dazzle your vision. No matter however sophisticated and advanced virtual reality technology might be, it is puny compared with what is available to you in this state. This is because no artificial virtual reality technology can match the power of the human brain, the most complex object we know of in the universe. Even conservative estimates say that the brain has twenty billion cells, each of which has ten thousand connections or synapses. And you have one of the latest models of this biological computer inside your own head and ready to use. There is a galaxy, a whole cosmos, between your ears. You are free to explore the infinite variety of worlds inside your own mind. Not limited, pre-programmed cyber-scenery, but an inexhaustible range of vividly-coloured, three-dimensional scenes proliferating in endless configurations recreated from your own memories, dreams, and perceptions. You can walk, float, fly, jump, and your body feels as if it is physically moving in these ways through the mental scenery. You can touch and handle objects in your virtual worlds – the waxy texture of a leaf, the silky smoothness of a dream-lover’s skin. Men, women and children can populate these virtual worlds of the mind who are no different in the reality of their appearance to people you meet in waking life. These are not stiff, jerkily-animated figures but seemingly living human beings and animals and, perhaps creatures from mythology and other worlds and dimensions. Some might even be friends or relatives who have died, now standing as if alive before you. You can talk; you can hear. You can smell, touch, taste. All your senses are seemingly active. You can roam freely among Earthly scenes or those of other planets, and even float through the cosmos itself. There are no limits.
Our book exists to show you ways in which you can learn how to switch on this magical theatre we call the brain, and which we experience as the mind.
Because a person experiencing a lucid dream is mentally awake and alert, capable of making choices and exerting wilful action, he or she is able to react to dream events in the same way as if they were happening in waking reality. All the senses have their lucid dream equivalents, and the sensation of free movement, often in the form of flying, is totally convincing. Surroundings in a lucid dream are seen in brilliant detail and clarity, with vibrant colours. It is not mere vivid dreaming, but a whole other mental reality in which we can draw on the deep wisdom of the mind. The veils of forgetfulness are torn asunder – even though the dreamer is asleep, even though the body’s physical senses are closed to the outside world, the person can fully remember waking life while in the lucid dream state, and on opening one’s eyes to waking reality everything that happened in that state can be recalled. One does not “awake” from a lucid dream, one merely switches mental channels from one form of perceptual reality to another.
A Natural Process
This revelatory state of consciousness can occur spontaneously, so it is obviously natural and essentially safe. But because lucid dreaming can be learned, one doesn’t have to rely on its rare, chance occurrence. As with anything else, however, one has to be responsible and disciplined in order not to become psychologically dependent on it. Also, anyone who has everyday problems distinguishing between fantasy and reality, inner and outer states of consciousness, should avoid the deliberate practice of lucid dreaming. But for most people it is a wonderful and natural means of extending and deepening their experience of being human in a variety of ways. We explore these at length in Lucid Dreaming, but here we can note such benefits as using lucid dreams for problem-solving, for in this state one has direct access to the remarkable creative resources of the human mind. Lucid dreams also offer excellent opportunities to rehearse situations one may be about to confront in real life. Again, lucid dreaming can be used to seek peak, mystical experiences, possible means of psychophysical healing, and general self-development. Over and above all these benefits, of course, is the simple fact that lucid dreaming provides an opportunity for sheer fun, adventure and excitement. This is true for any lucid dreamer, but think what wonderful possibilities this remarkable mental state offers those confined to wheelchairs, and who are otherwise disabled or incapacitated.
This is the valuable, exciting topic of our book, which will provide you with important background knowledge together with the richest selection of practical techniques we believe to have ever been presented in one place to get you started on a road that can literally take you beyond your wildest dreams.