This is the text of a paper which I presented recently on Lucid Dreaming. It is an abbreviated form of the extended treatise which appears on my website and in many ways it is more autobiographical.
In this paper I intend to speak about a method of attaining an altered state of consciousness which is almost as easy as falling asleep – literally.
“Lucid Dreaming” is a special type of dreaming in which one is aware that one is dreaming, but without waking-up. This is only a very basic and incomplete definition, because there is far more to lucid dreaming – as I will explain presently.
As a phenomenon, Lucid Dreaming has been known to occultists like Dion Fortune, Ophiel, and more recently, Carlos Castaneda[i] for many years. It is my contention that Lucid Dreaming is actually a form of Astral Projection – and that occultists of the past have recognised it as such.
Speaking personally, it was through Lucid Dreaming that I first became interested in the occult. I was into Lucid Dreaming even before I was into the Golden Dawn. Way back in the distant-past (1995 actually) when I was a student, there I was, reading an interview with ambient musician “The Aphex Twin” in Melody Maker. I didn’t particularly care for the Aphex Twin’s music at that time, although one thing he said piqued my curiosity: he claimed that he used something called “lucid dreaming” to compose his records. He would have all his equipment set up in his studio, and then he would fall asleep and dream lucidly, coming up with a new piece of music which he could immediately record on waking. Apparently he was able to create a lot of material in this way: at one point he claimed that he was able to come up with several albums’ worth of material every week. (Compare this with Kate Bush who is currently averaging one album almost every four years!)
All this talk about Lucid dreaming struck a chord with me: as soon as I heard the phrase, it just sounded as if it were the kind of thing that I could do myself. I therefore read up on the subject and started practising nightly. It took several months of practice for me to get the hang of it, after which I was rewarded with a short dream in which I became aware I was dreaming right in the middle of it, and managed to remain asleep. It was not a particularly interesting dream, and I did not actually do anything with it – it being my first time.
However, after that, as I became used to it, I found I was able to lucid-dream more often: also, the quality of my lucid-dreaming improved. I was able to do quite ambitious things with my lucid dreams, for example: to decide the content of my dream beforehand, whilst awake; to alter details within the dream whilst dreaming, simply by an effort of will; and generally to do all kinds of things like the character Neo was able to do in the movie “The Matrix.”
Around about this time I was becoming interested in the Western Mystery Tradition, and the system of the Golden Dawn in particular. I read Dion Fortune, who claimed that Out of the Body Experiences were just like lucid dreams;[ii] I read Ophiel, who explicitly described lucid dreaming as a means of performing astral projection.[iii] I therefore wondered to myself: can I use my own lucid dreaming to do all the things in the Golden Dawn system, for which astral projection is recommended? The result of my researches was that generally speaking, the answer was yes.
Prior to getting involved with the Golden Dawn system, my lucid dreaming had merely been about self-indulgence. However, as I began to incorporate magick into it, I found I was able to access new dimensions of awareness. I was able to do things like perform rituals such as the LBRP and the Middle Pillar Ritual; develop clairvoyance in the form of tattva-journeys; perform magic spells; commune with angels; and experience heightened states of consciousness. On one or two occasions I even experienced a rudimentary form of pre-cognition, although it did me no good whatsoever – I have never predicted a winning horse or set of lottery numbers, unfortunately.
I also came close to wrecking my health – which is when I discovered that it is possible to do too much lucid dreaming. As a result, nowadays I have cut-down on my lucid dreaming. Whereas when I was starting out I was practising literally every night, nowadays I only attempt to dream lucidly on two or three nights every month. I have found that this is usually quite adequate for all the lucid dreaming which I need to do. I have actually spoken out in public forums, saying that too much lucid dreaming can be bad for you, although I was not received particularly well, as most people in those forums wanted to hear about all the benefits of lucid dreaming, and closed their minds to someone alerting them to the possible dangers.
However, I believe that lucid dreaming, when done in moderation, is fairly harmless and indeed can be quite good for oneself. I also believe it is a very interesting phenomenon because it is one that a complete beginner, with no other talent for psychism, can experience with only a little practice. I myself started out as just such a complete beginner.
I shall now go into detail about what lucid dreaming actually is, the kind of things you can achieve with it, and some practical suggestions which you can take away with you.
Lucid Dreaming: What
Among the types of possible brain-activity in existence, there are four which are relevant when discussing Lucid Dreaming. These are:
· Beta Waves – in excess of 12 Hz i.e. twelve transitions or cycles per second -which correspond to normal waking consciousness;
· Alpha-waves – between 8 to 12 Hz – which correspond to when one is awake, but relaxed, with a stilled mind;
· Delta waves – from 1 to 4 Hz – which correspond to deep sleep; and
· Theta waves – between 4 and 8 Hz – which is between deep sleep (Delta) and relaxation (Alpha).
Researchers have found that phenomena like lucid dreams, out-of-the-body experiences, etc, occur when an individual is in a state of Theta-wave brain activity. In other words, in order to dream lucidly, it is necessary to attain a state of consciousness which is somewhat deeper than deep relaxation, but somewhat lighter than deep sleep.
I contend that the real difference between astral projection and lucid dreaming lies in the way that the individual attains this state of “Theta-Consciousness.” A lucid dreamer will start by descending into a Delta-wave state (i.e. fall asleep), and then ascend into a Theta-wave state. An astral traveller on the other hand would descend into a Theta-wave state from deep relaxation (alpha), without necessarily falling asleep first.
From my experience, there are several different types of dream or non-lucid dream, some of which are easier to achieve than others. They are:
0. Ordinary non-lucid, unmemorable, dreaming – of the kind that most people experience every night.
1. Non-lucid but memorable dreaming.
2. A non-lucid, memorable dream, the topic of which one has successfully “incubated” i.e. decided whilst awake before going to sleep.
3. Basic Lucidity – in which one becomes aware that one is dreaming, but does not necessarily do anything with the dream, apart from observing what goes on.
4. “Wilful Lucid Dreams” – in which one not only dreams lucidly but takes control of the dream whilst it is in progress.
5. Magical Dreams
6. (What I call) “Trans-Lucid Dreams.”
“Non-lucid but memorable dreams.”
Anyone can have an unmemorable non-lucid dream, indeed most people do every night. Even people who claim not to dream probably do, it is just that they forget them. Memorable non-lucid dreams are rarer. People who are not attempting to dream lucidly will only have memorable non-lucid dreams if they are particularly vivid or unusually interesting.
However, it has been found that a necessary first step to lucid dreaming is to be able to remember ones dreams in detail – even the uninteresting ones. This is in fact extremely simple to achieve: it is as simple as keeping a notebook on your bedside table, and writing down everything you can remember as soon as you wake up. This act of making a conscious effort to remember your dreams will in fact have the effect of making your dreams more memorable! You may not be able to write down anything, or anything more than a few sentences at first, but if you keep at it, within a few nights you will be able to fill a whole page or whole pages with the contents of one night’s dreaming.
The next level of mastery is to be able to choose what you dream about. This can be done quite simply – for example, by formulating your chosen topic into an affirmation, and repeating it silently to yourself as you drift off to sleep. E.g.: “I will dream about the Taj Mahal.” Repeated practice increases the likelihood of success. However, if the affirmation can give rise to ambiguity, then your unconscious mind may become unco-operative. For example – if you did try to dream about the Taj Mahal in India, and it so happens that you have a Tandoori restaurant down the road from you with the same name, you may find that using an affirmation like “I will dream about the Taj Mahal” will in fact cause you to dream about the wrong thing! Hence, you might learn from experience to be more specific when formulating an affirmation: alternatively, you could try to visualise your chosen topic, in addition to making an affirmation about it, as you fall asleep.
The next-step up is actual Lucidity, the quality of being aware that you are dreaming whilst the dream is in progress. This can take some time to achieve for the beginner, but in my experience it is like learning to ride a bike: it becomes easier after one has experienced it the first time.
There are a number of different techniques for achieving basic lucidity, but most of them have in common a method for programming your unconscious so that when a certain event happens in your dream, it will act as a trigger to make you realise that you are dreaming.
For example, one can condition oneself to continually look for differences between dreaming and real-life, so that when something strange happens, you realise that you are in the middle of a dream. You could also make it a daily habit to periodically do “reality-checks” whilst you are awake – i.e. deliberately stop and try to work out whether you are awake or dreaming. The theory being that if you make this a waking habit, you will carry on doing it whilst asleep. A third method is to program your unconscious with a suggestion, that you will realise you are dreaming when you see a specific thing or object within your dream – for example, your own hands. There are numerous other methods which I will not go into now.
When I first started practising, it would be the case that when I realised I was dreaming, I woke up immediately. However, after becoming used to the surprise, and a lot of telling myself “I will remain dreaming,” I was able to become lucid, even though I had no control over the dream’s content. So although it is possible with practice to achieve basic lucidity, there is actually very little difference to start-off with between a basic lucid dream and a non-lucid one: although lucid dreams always seem to be more vivid and more memorable than non-lucid ones, and even more important. Note: they only seem more important because your ego is telling you that they are.
“Wilful Lucid Dreams.”
What I have been describing up to now I consider being relatively easy to attain. However, the next logical step is to take control of ones lucid dreams – for example:
· To improve their quality;
· To lengthen amount of time you remain dreaming before waking up;
· To avoid lapsing from lucidity into non-lucidity;
· To change the content of the dream whilst it is in progress;
· To change what you are able to do in the dream;
· To be able to consciously choose one thing or another;
· To be able to play out sophisticated scenarios of your choosing;
· To be able to do all manner of ambitious or creative things with your dreams.
All of this takes practice – years of practice. I myself have to practice all of this. I have found that if I get sloppy, I have to re-practice to get back to a proper standard. However if I am practising regularly, I can usually succeed.
Generally, it is possible to do absolutely anything in a lucid dream – so long as you convince yourself that your dream-self is capable of it. A problem I found, however, is that if I had not prepared myself before going to sleep, I might not realise that I had unlimited powers in the dream-world.
For example, because in waking-life all objects are solid, I had unconsciously accustomed myself to thinking they were always so. However, it was after one lucid dream in which I felt boxed-in by something that I remembered: “Dreams are fantasy. I can do what I want in them. Hence, I can give myself the power to pass through solid objects!”
Incidentally, although becoming lucid in a dream is no guarantee that you will be able to think completely rationally in your dream. This takes some effort as well.
In my experience, training oneself to improve the quality of your lucid dreams will involve a lot of programming your unconscious to remember things, that you can stay lucid, that you can stay dreaming, that you have all manner of super-powers and so forth. In this regard it is probably helpful to also have an understanding of self-hypnosis, so that you are able to control you unconscious satisfactorily.
Everything I have described up to now relates only to the Astral Plane. Non-lucid dreams are in the realm of the lower-astral, whilst lucid dreams are higher up the Astral, so to speak. However if we, as Golden Dawn practitioners want to do actual Magical things in our dreams, it is necessary to reach up and make contact with the forces which lie above and behind the Astral Plane – i.e. the Mental Plane and beyond.
Actually this is not really that much more difficult than attaining the kind of control over ones lucid dreams which I described a moment ago. It is all about practice, training oneself to remember the correct procedures, and being brutally honest with oneself.
You can get a good indication of the standard you need to work to by reading the chapter entitled “Clairvoyance” in the “Black Book.”[iv] Essentially, in order to access a particular magical force, you need to have symbol for that force, which you can conjure before you in your lucid dream. You then project through that symbol as if it were a magic-doorway. You will also need to know the Divine and Angelic names associated with that force, which you then vibrate, and also the appropriate magical signs. The combined effect of symbol, names and signs will serve to attract the actual magical force into your lucid-dream.
The other important thing to remember is to continually test everything you see and experience – and banish everything which tests badly. Spirit guides which do not recognise the Divine names, or give the wrong ones, or make the wrong sign or give the sign with the wrong hand, or which fail any of the other methods of testing – banish them all! Be brutal. And if you only realise there is something wrong with vision after the fact, when you are awake, discount it all, and give it up as a bad job. There is a danger here, in that although your vision might be faulty, it may nevertheless gratify your ego, and you do not therefore want to disregard it. Disregard it! It will hurt you and be a pain for you to think you will have to do it again, but, disregard it! If you start to overlook one little thing in your vision which is out of place, just for the sake of gratifying your ego, you are on a slippery downward slope to self-delusion. Your unconscious will lose all respect it has for you, and your dreams will start lying to you indiscriminately. It is better to have one magical dream which is of an impeccable standard, than a thousand flawed dreams – because the one true dream will always be of a higher quality than any ego-gratifying dream which has a flaw in it.
However, if you do accustom yourself to brutally disregarding false and flawed dreams, you will find that the genuine magical dreams will more than make up for them. It is possible to experience tremendous power and receive genuine insights from bona fide magical dreams. I believe it is possible to use such magical dreams to follow the magical and / or spiritual path, in a manner similar to the way that one would use astral projection to do so. I even believe it is possible for magical dreams to cause effects in the waking world. It is all a matter of years of practice, self-discipline and hard-work.
The final type of dreams, which I will mention very briefly, are what I call “trans-lucid” ones, i.e. lucid dreams in which one experiences transpersonal states of consciousness. I cannot say too much about them because I have very limited experience of them indeed: I merely theorise them to exist.
You ought to be aware that a number of Eastern sources claim that lucid dreams, or astral visions, are most definitely not the highest form of consciousness attainable. For example, in Tibetan Dream Yoga, lucidity, far from being the end-result, is in fact a mere side-effect which arises as one attempts to attain what is described as “clarity” – a state of perfected contemplation.[v]
Furthermore, Ramana Maharshi describes the ideal state of consciousness as akin to dreamless-sleep, though conscious[vi]. Following this line of reasoning, the ultimate perfection in lucid dreaming would be to dream lucidly about absolutely nothing – to hold the mind completely still. Which of course is extremely difficult because as soon as one thinks of something one has broken ones line of consciousness.
As promised I will now describe some practical work which you can undertake in your own time. The magical power of dreams has been known or suspected since ancient times – it was certainly known to Henry Cornelius Agrippa, author of Three Books of Occult Philosophy, a key sourcebook of the Western Mystery Tradition: in fact most of the Golden Dawn knowledge lectures are taken more or less directly from Agrippa.
In that book, Agrippa described a method of “Dream Divination” which has the benefit of being both astrologically and qabalistically sound.[vii] The method is as follows:
· Firstly, draw up your natal horoscope, and make a note of where your ninth house lies.
· Secondly, using a current ephemeris, find out exactly when the Moon transits your ninth natal house. Given that the Moon makes a complete circuit of the Zodiac in a lunar month, it will usually transit your ninth house for a period of two to three days each month.
Agrippa contends that one can attempt dream divination during those two days when the Moon is in your ninth house. This is because your ninth house represents, amongst other things, occult visions; whilst the Moon is the planet of dreams: according to “777” it is associated with the magical powers of clairvoyance and, not surprisingly, dream divination.
Hence, what I recommend is that on the night or nights indicated by your calculations, you “incubate” as a subject for your dream, the question which you want answered. I also recommend that you make a note of the time, date and place where the question occurs to you: that way you can cross-check the results of your dream divination with Horary Astrology.
It would also help if you invoke Luna as best you know how, immediately before retiring. I personally like to use the following Graeco-Egyptian invocation.[viii] It is quite short, but it is meant to be repeated nine times, the effect of which, combined with vibrating the barbarous names of invocation, do lead one into a kind of altered state of consciousness by itself.
Hail, Saks Amoun! Saks Abrasax!
For thou art the Moon, the great one of the stars, he who formed them!
Listen to these things which I say!
Walk thou in accordance with the words of my voice!
Hear me now:
For this is my true name.
Agrippa, H C, Peterson, J H (ed.), 2000, Three Books of Occult Philosophy,Twilit Grotto – Esoteric Archives, http://www.esotericarchives.com/agrippa/agrippa1.htm, accessed 25/06/2008.
Betz, H D, 1986, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation,including the demotic spells – volume one: texts, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London.
Castaneda, C, 2004, The Art of Dreaming,Thorsons, London.
Crowley, A, 1987, 777 and other Qabalistic writings of Aleister Crowley, including Gemetria & Sepher Sephiroth, Weiser, York Beach ME.
Fortune, D, 1987, Applied Magic, Thorsons, London.
Ophiel, 1961, The Art & Practice of Astral Projection,Weiser, New York.
Regardie, I, 1989, The Golden Dawn, sixth edition, Llewellyn, St Paul MN.
Rinpoche, N N, 1992, Dream Yoga and the practice of Natural Light, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY.
Wilber, K, 2000, One Taste: daily reflections on Integral Spirituality, Shambhala, Boston & London.
[i] See bibliography.
[ii] Fortune (1987) – see bibliography.
[iii] Ophiel (1961), chapter 2.
[iv] Regardie (1989), p456 et seq.
[v] See Rinpoche, N N, in Bibliography.
[vi] “That which is not present in deep, dreamless sleep is not real.” Quoted in Wilber (2000).
[vii] Agrippa, Book 1, Chapter 59.
[viii] Betz, pp232-3.