Interview with Robert Waggoner – Lucid Dreaming and psychic abilities
Robert Waggoner is the author of the recently released book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self . An experienced lucid dreamer for more than thirty years, he has logged approximately one thousand lucid dreams. Waggoner is also President-elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
Could you describe to the people not familiar with Lucid Dreaming what it means?
When you consciously realize you are dreaming, while in the dream state, you are lucid dreaming. So, lucid dreaming requires conscious awareness of dreaming while in the dream. Normally it occurs after a sudden insight like noticing an impossible event, and you realize, “This is a dream!”
Once you realize that you are dreaming, you can think about what you want to do, make deliberate choices and act on your decisions. It’s like your own magic kingdom – you can fly around the room, ask the dream figures to explain the dream symbols, make items appear or disappear, and other incredible things.
By contrast in a normal dream, you usually accept whatever happens. If you are riding a horse, which suddenly becomes a bicycle and then a skateboard, you just unthinkingly accept it.
Can anyone achieve the ability to have lucid dreams?
Almost anyone can learn to lucid dream. Scientific surveys of college students around the world have shown that 47% to 92% claim to have become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state at least once. So the lucid dreaming experience seems relatively widespread, especially among the college age population.
Source: The Incidence of Lucid Dreaming within a Japanese University Student Sample
Daniel Erlacher, et.al., International Journal of Dream Research, Vol 1, No 2 (October 2008)
In my book, I provide a number of simple tips and techniques to help people become consciously aware in their dreams. Often people will have a lucid dream after simply hearing about it for the first time. Some people have emailed me about their first lucid dream after reading the first fifty pages of my book.
Children, who suffer from recurring nightmares, sometimes naturally learn how to become consciously aware in their dreams. They realize that the bogeyman only appears in their dream, and so then the next time they see the bogeyman, they conclude, “Hey, this must be a dream” and become lucidly aware. Some of the most prolific lucid dreamers are those who learned it as a child.
What is your personal experience with lucid dreaming?
I taught myself how to lucid dream in the spring of 1975 after reading Carlos Castaneda’s book, Journey to Ixtlan. In the book, don Juan suggests to Carlos that he ‘find his hands’ in the dream state and become consciously aware. So each night before sleep, I sat there looking at the palm of my hands for a few minutes while mentally suggesting, “Tonight in my dreams, I will see my hands and realize I am dreaming.” After a few nights, I dreamt that I was walking through my high school, and suddenly my hands appeared right in front of my face. I thought, “My hands? This is a dream!”
In many respects, this technique reminds me of Ivan Pavlov’s operant conditioning of dogs. Whenever he would bring food, he would ring a bell. Soon the dogs associated the presentation of food with the ringing of a bell, and would salivate whenever they heard a bell ring. In much the same way, I taught myself to associate seeing my hands with the conscious thought, ‘this is a dream,’ and mentally conditioned a lucid response.
In your book you state that through the use of lucid dreaming techniques one can achieve "paranormal" abilities, such as telepathy, clairvoyance etc. This is a bold statement and I’d like to review this subject in more detail.
Actually in my book, I state that 1) experienced lucid dreamers have numerous reports of seeking out and receiving valid telepathic and precognitive information while consciously aware in the dream state, and 2) scientific experiments could be easily set up to test the validity of these claims.
In my book, I show many examples of experienced lucid dreamers (some with PhD’s), who have actively sought out unknown information in lucid dreams, awakened with it and later discovered its validity. In the case of precognitive information, they often had to wait for the information to appear before confirming it.
Lucid dreamers did this to disprove the idea that lucid dreaming involved merely expectation and mental models, while others wished to determine the limits of awareness, when conscious in the subconscious of dreams. In seeking unknown information, these experienced lucid dreamers learned that lucid dreaming provided access to a broader field of awareness. Though Carl Jung proposed the idea of a ‘collective unconscious’ with internalized, biologically based ideas, forms and archetypes, lucid dreaming may allow science to experiment with Jung’s idea and expand it to include much more.
Why do you think gaining such inner abilities in lucid dreaming state is better than in the waking or meditative states?
Since recorded history, much of mankind has experienced precognitive and telepathic dreams. Dreaming naturally seems to ignore ideas of linear time and space. In a dream, we may be in our childhood home with our present day friends, and then hear an odd comment, which someone repeats in the waking world tomorrow. Dreaming may be a natural state of consciousness for the receipt of precognitive and telepathic information. Moreover, when you are consciously aware in the dream state, you have the capacity to pursue telepathic and precognitive information, and actively seek out the Muse.
Not all lucid dreamers will attain the level of proficiency and conceptual openness needed to gather unknown information, however. In those capable, lucid dreaming provides another means to investigate inherent, exceptional human abilities and to do so scientifically. Lucid dreaming may not be ‘better’ than waking or meditative states; rather, lucid dreaming may be another natural state that gives access to extra sensory information and capabilities.
In my book, I recount a story of a lucid dreamer who had a number of painful plantar warts on her feet. For months, she had tried visualizing and suggesting them away, but to no effect. Finally, she became lucid in a dream, recalled her painful plantar warts, and then placed a ball of light on each foot in the lucid dream along with her healing intent. In the morning, her plantar warts had turned black. Within a week, they all fell off and never returned. I read that a Buddhist lama said that a suggestion made in the lucid dream state was nine times more powerful than one made in the waking state. Lucidly aware in our subconscious seems surprisingly amenable to suggestion.
How one would know that what he perceives is not a dream. As I understand this, lucid dreams are still dreams and the remarkable events that may happen during this time are still the results of dreaming.
If a person becomes consciously aware in a dream, seeks out unknown (but verifiable) information, wakes with it, hands it to a scientist or impartial observer, who discovers that the information has validity, then the dreamt information has validity in the realm of waking consensus reality.
A lucid dreamer realizes that he consciously exists in a dream. He or she knows it. The question revolves around the validity of dream information; can a lucid dreamer, knowing that he or she is dreaming, discover unknown but verifiable information about waking reality? In my book, I share numerous anecdotes from many experienced lucid dreamers that show the answer appears to be, ‘yes.’ Now on occasion, the information comes metaphorically, but more frequently it comes literally. Experiments could be devised to focus on non-metaphorical responses.
Is there any scientific proof for this? Many would say that existence of telepathy, precognition or other such phenomena still needs proof. It’s not a widely accepted fact, you know, and one would find it hard to prove these are real phenomena. Why go as far as to use lucid dreaming, which by itself a little known phenomena, to prove the existence of this abilities.
Scientific proof for lucid dreaming dates back to the late 1970’s. Keith Hearne at the University of Hull in England devised a sleep lab experiment in which a lucid dreamer would signal that he was consciously aware and dreaming by moving his eyes left to right eight times in a row.Hearne knew that in dreams, we have REM (rapid eye movement), so he deduced that the REM polygraph pad would capture any intentional eye movement signal. In April of 1975, his lucid dreaming associate, AlanWorsley, became lucid in the sleep lab and moved his eyes left to right to signal that he was consciously aware. Hearne, watching the REM polygraph in a nearby room, deemed the event scientifically and philosophically “mind-blowing.”
Unaware of Hearne’s work, Stephen LaBerge at Stanford, performed a very similar experiment a few years later by lucidly signaling his conscious awareness from the dream state through eye movements.LaBerge published his results in a widely read scientific journal in 1981, and has done much research on lucid dreaming since that time.
In my case, I taught myself how to lucid dream in 1975 before this scientific proof was published. Later I discovered that Buddhists have been teaching lucid dreaming, or dream yoga, for more than a thousand years.
Why use lucid dreaming? Again, the dream state seems naturally conducive for telepathic and precognitive information. Scientific studies of dream telepathy were conducted at the Maimonides Hospital sleep lab by Montague Ullman, M.D. and Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., in the 1960’s and ‘70’s with very significant, positive results. Using lucid dreaming, you can directly seek out the information as part of a scientific experiment, wake with it and provide it to the scientist. Lucid dreaming may be the revolutionary tool that provides the convincing evidence for these abilities.
Could you shortly tell the most compelling evidence you have to back your claims regarding these psychic abilities being gained while in lucid dreaming state?
In researching various books and articles and in talking with a wide range of experienced lucid dreamers, I discovered assorted evidence for lucid dreaming as a means to obtain unknown information that later proved to be valid. Some lucid dreamers would get information, then write it down, date it, seal it in an envelope and show it to others, once the event occurred. They felt convinced in advance that they had lucidly discovered future information.
Because the scientific proof of lucid dreaming only goes back thirty years, and most of the research has focused on the neuro-physiological experience, the ‘compelling evidence’ to date involves personal experiments by talented lucid dreamers.
For example, a college student wrote me to ask if I truly felt a person could discover unknown information in the lucid dream state. I encouraged him to conduct his own experiment and find out for himself. So he and a young woman in his dorm devised an experiment. She told him that she had a “bizarre freckle” on her back, and he should become lucidly aware in a dream to discover where it was. In his next lucid dream, he remembered the goal, and headed off to her dorm room to discover the bizarre freckle. Oddly, acquaintances (that did not believe in lucid dreaming) appeared and told him this was crazy, and he suddenly found it hard to move forward, and woke up. Apparently, these ‘distracters’ represented his own lingering doubts made manifest.
So he tried again in another lucid dream. This time he lucidly intended for the young woman to come to him. Suddenly, she was at the door, and he asked her to show him the bizarre freckle. She turned around and he could see it right above her rump. He felt shocked, since he believed that she had hinted it was on the side of her back – but he saw it right above her rump. He decided to wake and recall the unexpected information. Later, he went down to her room, knocked on the door, and announced that he lucidly dreamt the location of her bizarre freckle. When she turns around, he puts his finger on the spot. She pulls up her shirt, and ta-da, the bizarre freckle is directly under his finger.
Obviously this is not a scientifically devised experiment, but it does show some of the challenges, e.g., overcoming doubts, and some of the promise of lucid dreaming as a revolutionary tool to investigate time, space and unknown non-local information.
Back to your book, who’s the target audience for your book? Whom would you recommend to read it?
Though my publisher would exclaim, “Everyone! The answer is everyone!”, this book is for those interested in the nature of mind and consciousness, serious lucid dreamers who want to become better at lucid dreaming and conduct their own experiments into the far reaches of lucid awareness, and those involved in Buddhism and dream yoga.
Besides the chapters on getting unknown information, I also have chapters on lucid dreamers who have apparently healed themselves in lucid dreams, sought out conceptual information from the ‘awareness behind the dream’ and seemingly encountered other dreamers in the dream state. Most importantly though, I recount what happened when I decided to go beyond lucid dreaming. Years later, I discovered how that experience apparently connected to the Buddhist tradition’s ultimate goal in dream yoga.
Lucid dreaming is a revolutionary tool to explore the nature of the unconscious mind, which Freud called, “the true reality of the psyche.”
My thanks to Robert Waggoner for this interesting interview