"Lucid Dreaming: A Path of Transcendence
or Transformation, or Both?"


Presented at the annual conference of the
International Assn. for the Study of Dreams,
Asheville, North Carolina, July 1, 2010

by G. Scott Sparrow



Introduction

Before I begin my talk, I would like to pay homage to my dreams by sharing one that I believe captures the essence of my presentation. In the dream, I am lucid and looking for the light. Everything around me is glowing, but as soon as I concentrate on a particular glowing object––hoping that the form will dissolve into light––the object loses its luster, and appears in its ordinary physical state. As I was growing progressively frustrated at my inability to see through the forms of the dream, a woman walks up to me and says simply, "You must first learn to love the form in order to see the light within it."

Over 38 years ago, on a sunny day in south Georgia, I sat on the back porch of my apartment near West Georgia College and began writing on a yellow legal pad what may have been the first masters thesis on lucid dreaming. Very little had been written on the topic at the time, and except for a couple of published sources (Faraday, 1972; Fox, 1962; Green, 1968; Tart, 1968), I had only my experience and my enthusiasm to go by. For better or worse, not knowing much about a topic that intrigues me has never stopped me from saying what I think I know about it. In a thesis supported largely by Jungian theory, I hypothesized that lucid dreaming represented no less than an evolution in consciousness in the dream state that paralleled the emergence of ego awareness in the waking state several thousand years ago. I suggested that lucidity conferred the same advantages and vulnerabilities of that monumental achievement.

After Stephen LaBerge and Keith Hearne independently established lucid dreaming as a true REM sleep phenomenon in the early 80s, lucid dream research became a field of its own. There were three main prongs in the initial decade of inquiry: induction studies that explored ways of increasing the frequency of lucid dreams, pioneered by Stephen LaBerge; studies that investigated the relationship of lucidity to a variety of personality variables led by Jayne Gackenbach; and spiritually oriented, personal explorations of lucid dreaming, represented by my little own book, as well as Ken Kelzer's The Sun and the Shadow.

Division in the Ranks


Perhaps the most controversial question in the whole enterprise concerned the desirable or legitimate uses to which lucidity should be applied. To put it simply, there were two schools: a group who espoused a values-free, experimental approach to lucid dreaming, and a group that questioned the anything-goes approach for a variety of reasons. The first group operated under the assumption that the dream was "self created," (LaBerge and Reingold, 1990), and thus concluded that the dreamer alone should decide what to do in the private confines of the dream state. LaBerge and Reingold captured the flavor of this approach in the 1990 book, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming:

If fully lucid, you would realize that the entire dream world was your own creation, and with this awareness might come an exhilarating feeling of freedom. Nothing external, no laws of society or physics, would constrain your experience; you could do anything your mind could conceive (1990, p. 14-15).

This approach has dominated the popular literature for obvious reasons: It offers readers an avenue into greater freedom and creativity in the dream state. Alongside this enthusiastic view, however, there were those who raised questions about the wisdom of promoting lucid dream induction without taking into account a variety of legitimate concerns. For instance, anecdotal accounts circulating in the early 1980s indicated that lucidity could exert a psychologically destabilizing impact, at least for some individuals. From a psychodynamic standpoint, this made sense, because the dream content could be viewed as the embodiment of repressed memories and/or emergent archetypal forces, the direct exposure to which could feasibly shock, if not destabilize the integrity of the ego. From the East, the existent Tibetan Buddhist literature on dream yoga seemed to agree with this conservative view. Treating lucid dreaming as a powerful, accelerated path of yoga, the Tibetan literature asserted that lucidity stirs the powerful kundalini energy to life, thus requiring the seasoned oversight of a guru. Still others believed that lucidity should come into alignment with the ethics that govern behaviors in the waking state. After all, lucidity ushers the dreamer into what appears to be real-time, vivid encounters with other persons whose ultimate natures––subjective, objective, or some combination thereof––can never be conclusively determined. While recent works, such as Robert Waggoner's state-of-the-art Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, offer a multi-leveled, integrated view that regards dream characters on a continuum from mere "thought forms" to beings with independent agency, the controversy was very much alive then, and can still be felt today. In this presentation, I wish to offer a perspective, which may supplement the work of Waggoner and others, and help to cement an integrative view.

So let's return for a moment to the 1980s. This controversy came to head in late 1987 and early 1988. In the December, 1987 issue of Lucidity Letter, letters from Jayne Gackenbach and Stephen LaBerge articulated the differences between these two orientations to lucid dream induction. As a backdrop to this dialogue, there had been some reports of dreamers having unsettling experiences in their pursuit of lucidity. In response to these reports, Gackenbach suggested that lucid dream researchers and authors might provide some information about the potentially downside risks of lucidity upon which readers and participants could make informed choices. LaBerge reacted to such concerns, asserting that Gackenbach was being unnecessarily alarmist. In the following issue, several letters from well-known lucid dream authorities, including Alan Worsely, Kelley Bulkely, Linda MaGallon, Bob Trowbridge, and myself continued the debate. MaGallon chided Gackenbach and myself for operating "out of fear," while Bulkely stated that LaBerge had failed to take ethics adequately into consideration in his promotion of lucid dreaming. LaBerge's fiery response to Bulkely's blistering assessment left an impact that can still be felt even today, 25 years later. This controversy was, in my retrospective opinion, a fertile moment. In my teaching of group dynamics, I refer to such crises as critical incidents which, if negotiated well and understood, forge a closer bond and usher the group into deeper work. But while the principals in this debate have gone on to do other things, and may have resolved the conflict in their own lives, I do believe that it will continue to raise its head as lucid dreamer continue push the envelope. Indeed, just the other day, I was talking to a well-known lucid dream researcher who said to me, "I would like to write a book about lucid dreaming for intermediate and advanced lucid dreamers. But I am afraid that it would not sell." When I asked him "Why," he answered, "Because people don't want to hear that lucid dreaming can precipitate disturbing experiences." "Like real life?" I added. He laughed and said yes.

Establishing a Larger Context for the Debate


Who was right in this debate? I think the only way to make sense of this conflict, and then possibly to resolve it, is first to consider it in the context of a bigger picture. From an evolutionary perspective, lucidity clearly represents a more evolved level of self awareness, representing as much of an advance in the dream state as the ego must have represented in the waking state when it began to emerge thousands of years ago. As such, it is an immensely positive development. After all, the lucid dreamer is not only capable of experimenting with alternative responses in the dream, but is more clearly bounded and distinct as an individual, and able to access "nonsituated awareness," that is, memories and facts usually not available in ordinary dreams, and to pursue creative alternatives to the dream drama. Thus lucidity effectively transcends the ordinary mode of dreamer awareness, allowing the dreamer to challenge the authority of the dream content and to pursue individual goals. Whether one is talking about the waking state or the dream state, various theorists have argued that further differentiation in consciousness such as lucidity, while highly beneficial, also runs the risk of negating or dissociating from the previous dominant mode of consciousness. Drawing on the work of L.L. Whyte, Ken Wilber argues that the ego structure, in particular, has wrecked havoc in Western consciousness, by becoming increasingly dissociated from the body and its immediate, spontaneous feelings. Taking his lead from Hegel, Wilber goes on to suggest that the function of each new level of consciousness is to differentiate from the earlier level without dissociating from it, and then to incorporate the old structure of consciousness into a new inclusive structure rather than leaving it behind. Jung offers another perspective on the dangers of expanding consciousness, saying that the ego may move too quickly, and thus become inflated and destabilized by the powerful forces of the emergent archetypes.

Other voices of caution have weighed in since this initial clash of positions. Most notably, and relevant to our discussion here, Ryan Hurd's recent book, Sleep Paralysis, which shows that there is a high correlation between lucidity and sleep paralysis along with a wide range of disturbing, if not terrifying phenomena. While Hurd shows how embracing tre challenge of the "lucid nightmare" leads to deeper and more sublime levels of consciousness, he soberly acknowledges the compelling realism of the lucid nightmare.

The Dream as the Best Source of Feedback

In addition to the caveats laid out by Jung, Wilber, Tibetan sources, and Hurd, perhaps the greatest evidence that the lucid dreamer should never dismiss the dream content can be discerned in the feedback from dream itself. This was never more true than in my own case. My initial lucid dreams were simply glorious––full of light, ecstasy, and limitless hope. Admittedly, I was less entranced by lucidity than by the light that appeared in the dreamscape, and which I often experienced inwardly as well. I came to see lucidity, not as an end in itself, but as a platform upon which I could consciously seek to experience of light within the dream state. In reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead, I learned that the light is often present in the after-death phenomenal experience, but is usually overlooked or avoided by the deceased soul, who remains in a swoon during the first several days of the after-death experience. Since the same obscured radiance appears in our dreams, learning to recognize the light in our dreams is regarded as a way to commune with the source during our lifetimes, as well as prepare to be fully present and aware in the afterdeath state. Thus I set about on a transcendent mission–– to "pierce the veil" of illusion, and to commune with the radiance that could be found embedded in the dreamscape. However, because some of my lucid dreams were also deeply disturbing, I began to favor a less ambitious approach to lucid dream induction, realizing that lucidity and the quest for higher consciousness can provoke greater awareness of unresolved psychodynamic conflicts and powerful archetypal forces, as well. A Jungian analyst voiced this perspective when, after hearing about my ambitious exploits in the lucid state, she said simply, "I hope you have your circle of fire around you." I thought that she didn't understand, but I soon discovered that it was I who didn't understand. It is a very long story, but one that would raise hairs on the back of your neck. But a couple of examples should suffice to convey what began to happen.

The first evidence that my quest for the light would awaken deep psychodynamic conflicts occurred in what I have called my "coming of age dream." About a week before my 21st birthday, I dreamt that it was time to reveal my purpose in life to my parents. It was just before dawn as I beckoned to them to follow me out onto the driveway of my childhood home. I raised my hands over my head and began to chant. Lightning arched across the dark sky, and when I lowered my arms, it struck the ground nearby. I repeated this dramatic gesture several times, becoming lucid as I did, and all the while wondering to myself what I was up to! Meanwhile, my parents (who bore no resemblance to my actual parents) were cowering behind me, obvious disturbed by the demonstration. Suddenly, my father hurled a lance into my back, and I dropped to the ground dying. They came up and bent over me with fear and alarm in their eyes. I said, "I was really your son. But I am the son of the unborn son, who is still to come."

Years later, I came to see the dream as describing the inevitable fall from ecstasy beautifully articulated in Underhill's classic tome, Mysticism, in which the author describes how the newly awakened mystic inevitably suffers a fall into psychological turmoil and real-life conflict––the dark night of the soul. While it feels like a curse, it actually enable a process of integration, which then precedes a more stable and complete union.

What I have to believe is that there was a paradigm clash in the controversy that arose in the 1980s. To understand the underlying assumptions that divided the community, let us consider a "lucid nightmare" of mine that appeared in Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light, and was quoted in Laberge and Reingold's book, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. I believe that it takes us back to the "scene of the crime," in which two approaches to lucidity clashed. I will use this lucid nightmare, and two more, to develop my thesis, which is as follows: that lucidity as a new level of consciousness confers the immediately capacity to transcend the dream content, but that transcendence is an insufficient, interim solution. The deeper purpose of dreaming is the integration of repressed psychodynamic conflict and emergent potential into an evolving structure of consciousness, and that lucidity can facilitate this through only through relating to the dream content as a legitimate, independent "other" that is not necessarily self-created.

The dream is as follows:

I am standing in the hallway outside my room. It is night and hence dark where I stand. Dad comes in the front door. I tell him that I am there so as not to frighten him or provoke an attack. I am afraid for no apparent reason. I look outside through the door and see a dark figure which appears to be a large animal. I point at it in fear. The animal, which is a huge black panther, comes through the doorway. I reach out to it with both hands, extremely afraid. Placing my hands on its head, I say, ‘You’re only a dream.’ But I am half pleading in my statement and cannot dispel my fear.  I pray for Jesus’ presence and protection. But the fear is still with me as I awaken. (Sparrow, 1975) 

I presented this dream originally to argue that lucidity can be limited in its capacity to deal with powerful, autonomous forces in the unconscious. I said,

This dream reveals that...even lucidity can prove inadequate to cope with the encounter [with threatening dream content]. If the dreamer wishes to avoid such upsetting and possibly dangerous experiences, he must realize that his pursuit of lucidity can set in motion a deep, inner process, but he must then await rather than force the natural unfoldment of his inherent capacity. 

I discovered years later that LaBerge and Reingold quoted this dream, but argued a different point. They said that the problem wasn't in the power of the dream content, but resided in the fear of the dreamer:

Here the dreamer uses his lucidity to try to make his frightful image disappear. There is little difference between this and running from dream monsters. If, upon reflection, Sparrow had recognized that a dream panther could not have hurt him, the thought alone should've dissipated his anxiety. Fear is your worst enemy in dreams; if you allowed to persist it will grow stronger and your self-confidence will diminish.

We all can agree that fear in the dream state tends to escalate the perceived threat, and that using lucidity to deal with one's fears is an interim solution at best. However, the basic assumption from which LaBerge and Reingold operate is that the dream is self-created. This is an assertion that cannot be ascertained. Just because a dream occurs in the confines of sleep doesn't mean that the dreamer is privy only to his or her own subjective creations. From that unsupported premise they go on to conclude that the dream figure cannot hurt the dreamer, which cannot be established.

From another standpoint more congruent with the dreamer's subjective sense of alarm, it is parsimonious to say that the dreamer encountered something more powerful than he was, at least in that moment. Holding this view of the dream respects the dreamer's phenomenological experience, and acknowledges the limits to our knowledge even as we may try to counsel a less fearful and more inquiring response. But more importantly, this view however naive it may seem, permits what Buber would call an I-thou relationship, as opposed to an I-it relationship, to develop between the dreamer and the dream.

Let me say at this point that I believe that LaBerge and I were both initially pursuing a "transcendent" agenda. While he was extolling the virtues of lucidity per se as a path of creativity and freedom, I was more intrigued by the experience of light in the lucid dream state. Regardless of our different goals, both of us were arguably discounting the independent agency of the dream content. We were both guilty of holding a solipsistic view of the dream content, which effectively rendered it unimportant, or at least less important, to our respective transcendent quests. However, since I fell to earth rather quickly in my headlong quest for my transcendent goal, I assumed a more cautious stance in regard to lucid dream induction at a time when LaBerge and his associates were exploring greater heights.

Let us look at another lucid nightmare (that was not one of my own) that develops much further, and provides clues that might help us reconcile the two positions described. I have shared this dream on an earlier occasion at IASD, as it is very important as a centerpiece in my worldview.

I am in a cabin alone, and the door opens. Three figures enter and stand abreast just inside the doorway: Dracula, Werewolf and Frankenstein. I am alarmed, but the strangeness of event convinces me that I must be dreaming. Realizing that they are only a dream, and that I can make them go away, I say, "You are only a dream. Go away!" They disappear immediately. Alone again, I think to myself, "Maybe I should have surrounded myself with light instead." So I call out to them to return. The door opens again, and they come back in. I say to myself, "I surround myself with light." Instantly, a pinkish white glow envelops me. As for the figures, I can barely see them through the bright haze. Then I think, "Maybe I should invite them into the light." So I say, "Please come into the light." As they walk forward, the light fills me, and I experience an overwhelming sense of ecstatic love. Following the dream, I remained in a blissful state for several days.

In this remarkable dream, we can see that this dreamer was immediately prompted to use his lucidity to dismiss the unwanted dream characters. The dreamer reacted as I had reacted toward the panther, but he was successful in dismissing them, perhaps because he was less desperate. From the solipsistic standpoint espoused by LaBerge and Reingold––that the dream is self created––fear is unjustified, but from the standpoint of not really knowing the origin of the images, nor being able to ascertain their threat to him, the dreamer's defensiveness is nonetheless reasonable, even from a lucid perspective. But the dreamer doesn't stop there. Indeed, the successful exercise of power over the imagery gives way to a new consideration––finding a way to coexist with the dream figures by establishing a protective boundary between himself and the original threat.

One can argue that this second solution would not have been possible if the dreamer had held purely to the original notion that the images were "just a dream." Further, the dreamer's decision to invite the figures back, and to erect a boundary between them, continues acknowledges that the dream images are imbued with independent power and agency. It is clear that the dreamer sees this new "solution," which permits coexistence with the threat, as a better one than simply dismissing the dream characters.

Then, the dreamer goes even further: By inviting the characters to come into light with him, the dreamer affirms that they are not just powerful, but possess something of value. One can detect a sense of compassion for the figures that had been previously overshadowed by the dreamer's alarm and self-protectiveness.

The intriguing change in the dreamer's stance toward the dream characters––from a summary dismissal toward a willingness to welcome them––did not come all at once: It came in stages, the first of which is a stark consideration of the independent power and agency of the dream. Let us examine another dream, which reveals the exact same progression––from alarm to lucid dismissal, to defensive coexistence, and finally to reapproachment and integration.

"After my friend Benny's death in 1973, I began dreaming about him on a regular basis. In every dream, he would appear demonic, intent it seemed on hurting me or killing me. I would run from him, and often I would become lucid and try to awaken. I found it difficult to remain awake, as if the dream would pull be back into it. I would finally awaken in terror.

"After several such dreams, I finally became lucid. He appeared in front of me, holding a knife. He said, devilishly, "I want to show you my new knife." Suddenly, I realized that I was dreaming! I knew what to do then. At least, I thought I did. I said, "You are only a dream. May the light of the Christ surround you." Nothing happened, and Benny crept closer. He was obviously amused by my ineffective tactic. Without wondering how I obtained a knife of my own, I began doing battle with him until I eventually disarmed him -- an unlikely outcome, since Benny was much larger and faster than I was in real life.

"Then came the culmination of the dream series. In the final dream with Benny, he had me pinned down, pummeling me with his fists. I knew that he would eventually kill me if I didn’t free myself. I managed somehow to free one arm. Instead of hitting him back, however, I reached up and gently stroked his shoulder. Looking back, I don't know why I thought this would do any good. But he stopped hitting me immediately, and he began to cry. His tears fell into my face, and he said, "I only want to be loved."

The above two dreams support a view of the dream content as essentially autonomous and meaningful, even from the standpoint of lucid awareness. This acceptance of the independent agency and value of the form of the dream seems initially to presuppose a duality between the dreamer and dream. However, by respecting the dream imagery as autonomous, it sets the stage for a meaningful relationship between the dreamer and dream. In contrast, the belief that the dream is self-created, while seeming to offer a way of transcending the myth of the dream's realism, hides a pernicious dualism that idealizes the presumed creator (dreamer ego) and disparages the creation (dream imagery). This is an age-old dilemma. For instance, early Christians who were influenced by the gnostics and disparaged the world as evil were accused by the orthodox fathers as "blaspheming the creation." Regardless of the historic context, the subtle dualism inherent in treating the world as an illusion effectively eliminates an "other" to whom the dreamer can meaningfully relate. On the surface, this frees the dreamer from the constraints imposed by the content; but it leaves the dreamer alone, free to relate only to himself or at best, to his own creations. It also sets the dreamer up for compensatory surprises, as the power of the dream content asserts itself over the lucid enterprise.

Again, the dream that I shared at the beginning of my talk contains, in my opinion, contains the whole story in a single sentence: "You must first learn to love the form in order to see the light within it. Indeed, this "lesson" contains the seed of a complete worldview that honors the form of our experience without accepting that it, in it's present form, represents sometime fixed and final. For centuries, religion has struggled with the question of whether the phenomenal world has any real meaning for the truly devoted spiritual aspirant. Some religions have held that the world is an illusion, even a trap, and that knowledge of this fact can emancipate the wandering soul. But while religious philosophy can tilt toward a solipsistic view that the world is unimportant, the seeker is always brought back to earth if he embraces this viewpoint at the expense of dismissing the important of "real life." My Vedanta professor left class one day only to be knocked to ground by a disturbed and angry student. The student said to Dr. Rao, "This fist is real." While we may abhor such violence, the waking world and the dream realm have ways of reminding us that we can go only so far into a transcendent viewpoint before the characters in our lives assert their agendas.

The dialectic that emerges in all of this is between transcendence and incarnation––or between a solipsism that disallows a full I-thou relationship and a more humble viewpoint that permits an evolving relationship. That is, the quest for lucidity or the light, or anything higher or better, inevitably pivots off of what is considered less desirable. Any quest for transcendence invokes a duality by leaving the lower, the forgotten, or the untouchable behind. This, as many teachers have said, is the self-defeating paradox of the spiritual quest. One can never arrive until nothing is left behind.

Again, we only have to look at our dreams with open eyes to see the solution. When the woman told me that I must first learn to love the form in order to experience the light within it, she succinctly captured the spirit of what has been called alchemy in the West, and tantricism in the East. That is, she conveyed the idea that the highest spirit co-inheres with all forms as energy and consciousness that can be experienced through embracing the forms with respect and compassion. This is a very radical position, but honored in Jungian theory, especially in the concept of "shadow work." Jung's preoccupation with alchemy was based on his concern for healing the split in the Western psyche between spirit and matter. Finding in alchemy the subversive premise that the ultimate substance co-inheres with the grossest forms of matter, he founded a psychology that both respected the apparent dualism in the psyche, but alluded to its eventual synthesis through a willing, somewhat paradoxical contemplation of the irreconcilable aspects of our natures.

Jung was not alone in the West in upholding this alchemical view. Rilke, in particular, espoused a similar view when he stated, in many different poems and prose passages the essential value of all that we normally despise. In Letters from Muzot, he says,

“. . . we should not only refrain from vilifying and depreciating all that belongs to this our world, but on the contrary, on account of its very preliminary nature which it shares with us, these phenomena and things should be understood and transformed by us . . .Within us alone can this intimate and constant transformation of the visible into the invisible take place.”

And again, from Rilke, we have in From Letters to a Young Poet: “Perhaps everything which is terrible is, in the final analysis, only something that wants our love.”

If we return to our dream examples, especially the two in which the dreamer progresses through a series of stages toward the integration of the once-abhorrent dream characters by "loving the form" of them, we see a basic philosophy of non-duality emerging somewhat paradoxically out of an initial dualistic stance of treating the dream characters as real and powerful in themselves. Such dreams promote an alchemical or tantric view of the dream, in which the forms are seen as inbued with independent power and agency, but offering an avenue through which one might experience the highest reality.

In Mahayana Buddhism, this radical truth is expressed in many different ways. We have, for example, the doctrine of the five sheaths, in which the highest spirit is regarded as penetrating outward and downward, as it were, into the progressively grosser forms of reality, leaving nothing beyond its reach. The Psalmist's exclamation, "Lo, though I make my bed in hell, behold, thou are there," expresses this radical philosophy in a form that poetically compels assent, even though it challenges the foundation of much of what is propounded by conventional Western religion.

Perhaps the most sophisticated and refined expression of this philosophy, which has the power to respect the transcendence and creativity of the lucid mind while honoring the agency and value of the lowest critter that crawls across the floor of our dreams, is the Mahayana doctrine of emptiness, or non-duality. This philosophy arose hundreds of years after the life of Buddha, and is reputed to be the esoteric teachings of Buddha. Simply put, it is the belief that everything is ultimately transient, and thus empty. Instead of supporting a nihistic view, however, the doctrine of emptiness promotes a joyfulness by treating everything of equal value in the grand journey. Ultimately, nirvana (which translates as the "blowing out" of karma or attachment) and its customary antithesis samsara (usually translated as the endless wandering of the soul in the world of maya) are considered two aspects of this non-dual perspective, and thus both equally legitimate paths.

As we consider these various expressions of a non-dual perspective, then trying to become more lucid or rack up more experiences of ecstasy carries the taint of a dualistic perspective that dishonors the ordinary form of our dreams, and of our lives. Rather than trying to accumulate more lucid dreams or more experiences of ecstasy, a pursuit that can distance us further from the presumed lower forms of expression, we would do well within this radically encompassing paradigm to concentrate on relating to the particular forms of our dreams with respect and compassion, and to use our lucidity as a platform for making what LaBerge beautifully refers to as "adaptive responses" to the dream. Through this radically accommodating stance, the spirit that inheres in all forms might be revealed, and the forms that manifest can be freed to evolve and transform to more subtle and pristine expressions. Instead of pursuing a transcendent goal, our goal becomes meaningful engagement with ourselves and the world, giving way to a flowering of a myriad of creative forms and possibilities.

In summary, I hope that I have not appeared to create a straw man by taking an old quote from one of LaBerge's books as the counterpoint to my own view. I am confident that neither LaBerge nor I, nor any of the principals who engaged in that early debate are where we were then, or that any particular quote captures the whole persons that we are. However, I do believe that the conflict that we addressed is still alive, unavoidably wrapped up in the quest for lucidity or any higher state of consciousness. Because it is a timeless debate, I believe that we need an antidote that can allow us passage through such conflict to a deeper consideration of the journey.

With that in mind, I believe that the alchemical or tantric paradigm is not only a theoretical stance that can resolve an old conflict, but it also a highly functional model in the dream state. For it supports lucidity as an avenue to emancipation and unattachment, but it also acknowledges the value of the form of the dream as an embodiment of the spirit which may need refinement through our attention and compassion.

The alchemical or tantric model supports an attitude that we can bring to our therapeutic work with dreamers who want our help in understanding their dreams. Most of the dreams that I hear everyday are not lucid dreams, but they do contain the seeds of the highest potential, even in the midst of the very worst dream scenarios--that is, if I believe it, and thus can see it. And through believing it, I can assist the dreamer is "mining" the dream for gold until he or she has a breakthrough in awareness, and can facilitate the transformation of the threatening dream forms through constructive responses to them. For example, after working for several months with a client who had been molested as a child, the client dreamt that she awakened in bed, and saw rats dropping onto the bed through holes in the ceiling. Terrified, she got up and ran out of the room, down the hall to a foyeur, and up the stairs. As she approached the top stair, she turned around to see if the rats were following. One of them was climbing the step just below her. She looked at it closely and was suddenly intrigued by the texture of its fur. Drawn to its beauty, she reached down and touched the fur. At that point, the rat became a beautiful snow leopard. Startled by its transformation, the dreamer awakened with a sense of profound peace, along with a deeper acceptance of her own sexuality.

Greater reflectiveness in general, and lucidity in particular, can lure the dreamer into adopting new and better ways to circumvent the usual claimants who appear with regularity in our dreams. This evasion may be the initial, even necessary response of heightened awareness to the presentation of chronic stressors in the dream state; that is, to assume a superior position in relation to unwanted dream content. This can be a very good thing for someone who has never found his or her authentic voice, nor been able to express adequate personal power in the world. But this demonstration of mastery apparently gives way to a willingness to look again upon at the very thing that once distressed the dream ego, with an eye to its value even in it's homely attire. This acceptant attitude then may precipitate a transformation and refinement of the dream content, making integration all the more likely.

So we can see that the debate that arose in the lucid dream community in the 80s pitted two valuable but incomplete positions against each other, but unfortunately caused considerable dissension among lucid dream exponents. If today we frame the conflict as a meaningful dialectic, in which the opposing arguments are equally valuable positions in the process of living more freely in the world of form, then we may create a bigger tent for the lucid dream community––one that accommodate those who aspire to greater heights of freedom and creativity, and those who advocate using lucidity to forge a more intimate and respectful relationship with the dream content. Both orientations have become very important in my own life. I am reminded of a dream that I had years ago that captured the spirit of these twin paths. I am with my lover, and we both want to get to heaven. For her part, she knows that she must go inward and meditate in order to transcend the attachment to this world. For my part, I must complete a lonely journey through a dark, wooded area, and face a variety of challenges that would soon reveal themselves. As we part, I playfully wager that I will get to heaven first, and that I will be there to greet her when she arrives.

(References to follow in a more formal paper.)