The Phenomenon of Light and Darkness on the Lucid Dream Journey G. Scott Sparrow, EdD, LPC, LMFT Associate Professor of Counseling University of Texas-Pan American Atlantic University faculty Founder, DreamStar Institute www.dreamanalysistraining.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Phenomenon of Light and Darkness on the Lucid Dream JourneyG. Scott Sparrow, EdD, LPC, LMFTAssociate Professor of CounselingUniversity of Texas-Pan AmericanAtlantic University facultyFounder, DreamStar Institutewww.email@example.com
The Man with the Golden Hammer Dreams of Darkness • Five years ago...I am walking along a sunken cobblestone arena. I realize that the arena is ancient, and has recently been rebuilt for the third time. There is a cave in a hillside at the end of the expanse of paved stone, so I go inside. Looking up, I see a man with a golden body crouching on a ledge atop a stone wall. He leans over the edge and hurls a hammer toward the stone floor beside me. It hits the ground a few feet away with a resounding blow, and the earth begins to shake. I know that an earthquake will soon crack open a hidden chamber in which some treasure has been hidden for a very long time, but I leave the cave, hoping to avoid the collapsing walls. As I walk away, I encounter a being who is half deer and half man. I skirt him respectfully, feeling his power, and pass through a doorway into a pitch-black setting. I grope forward blindly, and awaken.
Dreams of Darkness and Dimming • This dream was the first of dozens of non-lucid and lucid dreams in which I have found myself trying to find my way through darkness, or experiencing the dimming of light in lucid dreams when trying to meditate on it. • At first the darkness/dimming concerned me. I thought that it might signify • a physical problem, even a foreshadowing of death. • a metaphor of depression or of turmoil. • Since I have not yet died, nor fallen into terminal depression (emphasis on terminal ), I prefer to see the darkness/dimming as a transitional state of unknowing leading to a new phase in my life. • “In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in a dark wood, and the true way was wholly lost.” (Dante)
A Return to Practice • I have recently resumed the practice that had been a regular, almost nightly practice when I was in my 20s--that is, the practice of meditating in the middle of the night, and then returning to sleep. • I soon found that, once again, middle-of-the-night meditation began to catalyze frequent lucid dreams. • I also discovered that the combination of galantamine and middle-of-the-night meditation results in an experience of lucidity nearly 100% of the time.
Galantamine Galantamine... • is an over-the-counter supplement derived from the snow drop lily. • is a cholinesterase inhibitor, which increases the availability of acetylcholine, a necessary neurotransmitter that facilitates cognitive processing. (I take it when I play in bridge tournaments. ) • is used as a non-prescription treatment for mild to moderate dementia. • catalyzed a five-fold increase in lucid dreaming (Lemarka & LaBerge, 2013). • has received very little research interest to date.
Recent Developments • I will recount a series of experiences that began about a year and a half ago. • These particular experiences followed the ingestion of 8 mg. of galantamine and 30+ minutes of middle-of-the-night meditation. • It my hope that these experiences may contribute to mapping out of some of the universal elements of the extended reality experience. • While these experiences surely bear idiosyncratic features, I think that there are common elements and themes that may assist others in understanding their own journeys into extended reality.
The Spectrum of Phenomena • the arousal of energy and sound in the state between waking and sleep, • a felt sensation of separation of from the body and passage into a fully conscious state, • movement or flight through total darkness, • contact with a companion who holds me as we pass through the darkness, or appears as I emerge from it, • the exploration of a vivid and brilliantly lit phenomenal realm.
The Gift Waves Return • Beginning about a year ago, when I turned my head upon awakening, or as I walked to the bathroom, I would hear a “whoosh.” • It was a sound that I’d heard a lot as a young man. • It was the precursor to my out-of-body experiences. • It is probably the same phenomenon the Tibetan Buddhist literature refers to as “the gift waves,” which is associated with the presence of the guru.
The Gift Waves Return • The sound of hissing or wind that initially comes in waves but may become a sustained flow when meditated on. • It is probably related to the vestibular system of the brain, which is involved with one’s bodily proprioceptive awareness in space, and with balance. • When it becomes an even flow, it becomes difficult to remain in my body. • Robert Monroe--in Journeys Out of the Body--said that this energetic phenomenon was a necessary prerequisite to his OOBEs. • I knew that something big was beginning to happen.
#1 Dream–A Companion Emerges • I had taken galantamine, and then meditated for over half an hour. • I heard the gift waves and began to meditate on the energy. The energy intensified to a roar. • I felt someone or something grab me from behind, and hold onto me.
#1 Dream–A Companion Emerges • I said, “I am not afraid of you,” but could not understand its reply through the sound of the energy. • I then grabbed the presence, and pulled it over my shoulder onto the floor beside the bed. • I saw the vague outlines of a furry black creature in the darkness, who immediately disappeared.
#2 Dream–The Experience Evolves • In retrospect, this encounter seemed to represent a test of sorts, because my absence of fear seemed to permit the experience (and the companion) to evolve further. • About a week later, I was again meditating on the “gift waves,” but lost consciousness and entered a nonlucid dream, • I entered an abandoned castle, and finding no one, I passed through the walls and found myself in green-tinted total darkness.
#2 Dream–The Experience Evolves • I couldn’t see an inch ahead of me, but I flew into the darkness, feeling warm wind as I moved speedily ahead. • I held my arms out in front of me, praying for the master’s presence. Again, I felt no fear. • Suddenly, I felt someone holding my hands. The darkness receded, and I found myself face to face with a woman dressed in a blue jump suit.
#2 Dream–The Experience Evolves • I asked, “Who are you? Why are you here?” • The woman said her name, and then told me that she was from another star system, and had come to earth to make sure that robots did not take over the world. • I asked her if I could go with her and visit her home. • She said, “Your work is here, and it’s best to stay here for now.”
#3 Dream–The Veiled Companions • I was in a completely dark space, laying beside a woman in the darkness. We said nothing to each other: all we did was to lie quietly side by side. I felt an immense love and knowing, as if we’d known each other since the beginning of time, and would be together for all eternity. • The darkness receded, and I saw that she was wearing a black leather mask that was molded to her face. I could not tell what she looked like, but I didn’t care, because the feeling of non-sexual connection was so profound.
#3 Dream–The Veiled Companions • Another woman, who was wearing a blue veil appeared, and she guided me from one scene to the next. I felt deeply connected to her, as if we are companions on the journey. • At one point, she led me into a room that was filled with beautiful lights and radiant sculptures. She left me there to meditate on the light, but whenever I focused directly on a source of the light, it dimmed; so I turned away and meditated without looking directly at the light. I could see with my peripheral vision that the light was growing brighter. Eventually, I felt it against my head, infusing me.
#3 Dream–The Veiled Companions • Later I was alone, sitting among many people, thinking that the experience had gone on for at least an hour. • The veiled woman reappeared, standing over me. I asked her if her veil got in her way. She laughed and said, “No, I can still eat and I can still kiss!” • At that point, the people around me began singing a dirge-like song, and they became pale and gray. I knew the experience was coming to an end. • The veiled woman leaned down and kissed me, as if saying goodbye. I then became aware of my body in bed.
Who are they? • One might ask, who are these companions? And why are they veiled? Are they an extension of the dreamer--the anima, or a sub-personality? Or are they persons in their own right?Or some combination thereof? • I have long thought that we conclude too quickly that the characters that we encounter in extended reality are merely “parts of ourselves.” • Taken to the extreme, believing that the dream is “self-created” denies the independent agency of those characters whom we encounter in extended reality, and we might fail to learn what they have to give us, and to experience the intimacy of a true “other.” • But the other extreme also has its hazards. That is, believing in the independent agency of dream characters can lead to a disavowal of responsibility, and an idealization or demonization of the dream characters.
Who are they? • My current position, expressed in a chapter I’ve written for Ryan Hurd and Kelley Bulkeley’s upcoming lucid dreaming anthology (Sparrow, 2014), is to integrate the two positions. • On one had, I see them as aspects of myself, but... • If I cannot verify that the dream character is only a part of myself, then I must allow it the possibility of personhood, and treat it accordingly. This is ethically, morally, and psychologically sound. • Allowing for the autonomy of lucid dream characters without ruling out their ultimate identity as parts of ourselves has been referred to as “psychological dualism” that is, it respects the dreamer’s experience of duality while also allowing for the possibility of eventual union. • This position is not only true to the dreamer’s subjective immediate experience, but it optimally facilitates deep experiences of dialogue, integration and wholeness.
Who are they? • If we allow for the external, independent status of the dream characters, the dream itself will “balance” for us whenever necessary. • The darkness, the veil over the companion, and the dimming of the light in the lucid state, are related to a counterbalancing mechanism that prevents the over-externalization of the goal. • “The light is in your eye.” This seems to support the idea that the phenomenal realm of the dream is a projection of the soul, which is valuable whenever the dreamer has over-externalized the source of meaning. • But in my dreams of the companion, the felt sense of love and intimacy has been nearly overwhelming at times.
#4 Dream–The Mystery Unfolds • I was meditating on the energy, and once again became aware that a woman was lying behind me. • I turned in the darkness, and a complex array of subtle scents told me wordlessly all about her, and the felt-intimacy was profound. • When I tried to see her, I could tell that she was hesitant to be revealed, as if her function as my guide or companion had little to do with a personal relationship. • Then she seemed resigned to be seen, and the darkness receded to reveal an unknown dark-haired woman. • We went on to spend about an hour in extended reality with a group of people beside a beautiful swift river. • The experience was so stable that I had to separate from the group and meditate alone in order to reconnect with my physical body.
A Jungian View • If Jung were alive and reviewed these experiences, he might marvel at the intensity of the encounters with the unknown feminine presence, but he might also caution me about forging a too-intimate relationship with her. Hence the importance of the darkness, the mask, and the veil. • Robert Johnson builds on this cautionary theme in his explanation of the Tristan and Isolde myth in his book, We. Johnson argues that the relationship with the anima (or animus for the woman) must remain “chaste,” or otherwise the ego will betray its commitment to incarnated life.
The Daemon • It is probably true that our other half, referred to by the Greeks as the daemon is, as Plato believed, a spiritual being who watches over each person, and is his/her higher self. • In some primitive myths, the unborn soul is split into the incarnated half and the daemon, who remains in the realm of spirit. • Just prior to birth, and the incarnated half touches the tree of life and immediately forgets the daemon. • The incarnated soul thereafter has to recover this awareness through the journey of life by balancing two agreements--one in which the soul is committed to restoring its wholeness, and the second in which the incarnated soul has to adjust to the constraints imposed by family and culture.
#5 Dream–A Companion’s Answers • I flew into the warm darkness, and after a few moments, I felt the companion take hold of me from behind. • I turned and saw her face--again, an unknown woman of mid-length black hair. We flew out of the darkness into a beautiful blue sky, and below I could see green hills and lush fields. We went down to the ground, and sat on a bench in a crowded village square. • I finally turned to her and asked, “Are you part of me?” She nodded, and said, “Yes, kind of.” • Then I asked, “Are my soul mate?” Again she nodded and said, “Yes.” • But I could tell from her hesitant response to both questions that my words were inadequate to define her and the nature of our relationship. I then said goodbye and flew in the direction of my body.
#6 Dream–A Companion’s Answer • After meditating on the energy, and moving out of my body, I flew into darkness. • The darkness receded and I found myself standing in a brightly lit room before a woman. • I asked her, “Are you a real person?” • She laughed and turned into a little girl with a white dress on, and with flowers in her hair, and she ran away with another little girl, laughing. • Perhaps a fitting answer to perhaps a stupid question.
Yeats’ Song of Wandering Aengus • I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head, • and cut and peeled a hazel wand and hooked a berry to a thread. • And when white moths were on the wing, and moth-like stars were flickering out, • I dropped the berry in a stream, and caught a little silver trout. • And when I had laid it on the floor, I went to blow the fire a-flame, • But something rustled on the floor, and someone called me by my name. • It had become a glimmering girl with apple blossom in her hair, • who called me by my name and ran, and faded through the brightening air.
What Next? • The sense of mystery remains unbroken and unresolved in these experiences, and I consider that good. • The energy, the darkness, the light that dims when sought, and the companions whose often-veiled nature cannot be fully ascertained--all seem to be a stable part of my experiences in extended reality. • But it’s all worth it, in my opinion; for where else can you find genuine mystery today that will lure you beyond the known horizons.
Yeats’ Song of Wandering Aengus • Though I am old from wandering through hollow lands and hilly lands, • I will find out where’s she’s gone, • And kiss her lips and take her hands; • And walk among long, dappled grass, • And pluck ‘til time and times are done, • The silver apples of the moon, • The golden apples of the sun. • I cannot say it any better than that. Thank you!
References • Sparrow, G. S. (1976). Lucid dreaming: dawning of the clear light. Virginia Beach, ARE. • Sparrow, G. S., Thurston, M. A., Carlson, R.. (2013). Dream reliving and meditation as a way to enhance reflectiveness and constructive engagement in dreams. International Journal of Dream Research,6, 2. • Sparrow, G. S. (2014). A non-dual approach to the questions of dream control. Refereed chapter for publication in Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep, Hurd, R. and Bulkeley, K. (eds.). New York: Praeger. Accepted, 10/13. • Yeats, W. B. The Wind Among the Reeds. New York: J. Lane, The Bodley Head, 1899; Bartleby.com, 1999. www.bartleby.com/146. [downloaded 5/9/2014]
The Phenomenon of Light and Darkness on the Lucid Dream JourneyG. Scott Sparrow, EdD, LPC, LMFTAssociate Professor of CounselingUniversity of Texas-Pan AmericanAtlantic University facultyFounder, DreamStar Institutewww.firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!