Below is a segment from my paper on imageless lucid dreaming that I”m presenting next week as part of the online Psiber-Dreaming Conference. I use visual art to help describe these lucid spaces that are difficult to put words to.
Growing up with Imageless Lucid Dreaming
Since I was a child, I have had conscious dream experiences that take place in immense, spacious realms devoid of light or objects. Sometimes these spaces are truly voids, and my own dream body does not exist. Other times, these spaces become filled up with abstract geometric patterns, or multi-colored buzzing particles that resembles the “snow” from a television set. I call this the “cosmic snow” because it is literally the stuff dreams are made of.
Lucid Dreaming Inquiry
For me, I often become lucid in an imageless dream due to its bizarreness, or by disturbing an ongoing scene by, for example, walking through a mirror or sinking through the dream ground. Then what typically happens next is I experience various geometric shapes and bizarre bodily feelings of flying or drifting, and finally “re-emerge” into a normal dream.
Sometimes a vortex emerges and I (the ego core without a dream body) enter the swirling lights, travel through a twisty-turny tunnel, and am then spilled out into a dream scene with a normal dream body.
In this paper, I”m interested in the larger patterns of how my “self” reconstructs after beginning in the imageless lucid void and moves into representational dreaming. To help counter-act my conscious expectation (or at least account for it), I developed a method that I call “lucid dreaming inquiry.” My method, inspired by the Eastern witnessing traditions, as well as Ed Kellogg’s explorations, follows from the Western method of phenomenology, within the dream itself.
Phenomenology in the Dream
Phenomenology can be considered a Western tradition of meditation, and at its most basic the method is about centering on the present moment, noticing thoughts and assumptions, and being open to what reveals itself in the here and now. I find phenomenology to be a natural for all lucid dream states, considering that lucid dreaming has long been practiced as meditation in Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu Yoga and Transcendental Meditation.
Some Western studies also suggest that lucid dreaming can resemble a spontaneous meditative state. After all, the exterior world has already been effectively shut out, so all we are left with is Mind (which is still a whole lot of something).
Letting Go of Control
The founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, called the meditative practice at the center of his philosophy the poch (pronounced “e-pock-ay” with a short “e”). So “lucidity” in this sense is not the action-oriented control that many people associate with lucid dreaming, but receptivity and an openness of heart.
In a sense, it’s about using volition to let go of control. And that’s when things can get interesting.
My entire paper, and more lucid dream art, goes live on October 2 at the PsiberDreaming Conference. Hope to see you there!
Some online resources to check out until then:
Kellogg III, E. W. (1989). “Mapping Territories: A Phenomenology of Lucid Dream Reality.” Lucidity Letter, 8(2), 81 – 97.
Magallon, L. (1991). Awake in the dark: Imageless lucid dreaming. Lucidity, 10(1&2), pp. 46-48.
Moss, K. (1991). Experimentation with the vortex phenomenon in lucid dreams. Lucidity, 10(1&2), pp. 49-51.
I’ll be there! I’m looking forward to reading your full paper.
Denice Cull says
I have searched the web to find something similar to the thing that happened during a dream last night. I experienced death of a conciousness that was non-human, not in this world. Time that was not the same, it was not me, there was no outside images or emotions or material things. I am not a well educated person, but something dark and heavy and it felt inverted or stuck and it was aware that it was to be terminated. There were seconds like ours but as if ours were broken into so many more. This experience happened three times while I dreamed, would stop my dreaming and this would be happening. I woke feeling just awful and the feeling won’t go away and was very frightening. If I had to say it was a human experience, the closest I could guess, in our words, would be if someone was in a tragic accident and the soul was removed before the body went through death. The brain may go through a concious death. That would fit what it was like.
If anyone can help me find information on this, or what terms I should search, please e-mail me. NDE and OBE doesn’t seem to be it. Thank You
Thanks for checking in, Denice. Sounds like an intense experience. I recommend taking a look at the sleep paralysis thread, especially the comments that offer resources for this sort of experience.
Also, besides possibly being sleep paralysis, your experience may have been a lucid awakening during deep sleep, also known as stage four sleep, or slow wave sleep. I’m not trying to reject your interpretation (the alien feel), but provide some framework for the biological basis of the encounter, because knowing when these thing occur can provide some relief.
Feel free to email me if you want to continue this in private!
Taylor Martin says
I don’t know if this is what I’m looking for but it’s probably the closest I’ll get to actually finding an answer about this dream I had. All the dream had was sound and no image. It was also a nightmare, I know that much. I’ve been having this dream every night for the past 2 weeks and I don’t know if it’s trying to tell me something or what but it’s scary. I’m only 14 years old and there’s nothing bad going on in my life that this could’ve accumulated from. I just need answers is all…..
Ryan Hurd says
Taylor, these kinds of dreams are common for men your age. sounds like you could be remaining aware during hypnagogia (moving into stage 1 sleep) or coming out of sleep (hypnopompia). the key is to relax in these moments with whatever inner resources you can manage – you are not in danger. check out my post on dealing with lucid nightmares: http://dreamstudies.org/2008/10/13/lucid-nightmares-fear-initiation-and-beyond/
George Gillespie says
I’m so glad I’m connected up with your web site now.
I’m reacting to the term “imageless lucid dreaming.” I’m wondering whether there is any general agreement on what the word “imageless” means. To some it might mean no visual image. As I would use the word, it means no image of any kind–visual, hearing, taste, smell, or any form of body imagery. If I use the word that way, then there is nothing to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. For example, no floating and no geometrical image.
Following up on that, what defines dreaming, as in lucid dreaming? For if there is no image, is there a dream? What is being dreamed? There we get into the question whether every experience while asleep is dream. For me, I do not see all sleep experience as dreaming, and not all sleep imagery as dream imagery. This takes us into the concept of dreamless sleep.
I think you have described an experience that I have sometimes had, in which I desrupt an ongoing lucid dream, and the result is that I see quickly moving geometric imagery, which seems to swirl around me. This moving imagery is very different from the waking up kind of geometric imagery.
Thanks for your well-conceived web site.
Ryan Hurd says
Hi George, thanks for coming by! Your questions of definition are important. i agree that “imageless” refers to lack of any sense modality in the dream. my experience seems to be close to what Robert Waggoner has called the “gray place” in his recent book on Lucid dreaming. it’s momentary, occurring in disruption of a lucid dream, but can last up to a minute or longer. we really need to hook someone up to an EEG to see what the corresponding brain signals are doing – ie make sure this is not a micro-awakening.
as for the “cosmic snow” and the “swirl” of geometrics that come out of this state – I also agree that they are different that hynogagic or hypnopompic imagery (in my experience).
but as for your larger questions – what is dreaming ?…. that is a big can of worms! In my essay “what is dreaming” I define dreaming very loosely, fitting with the cross-cultural evidence that these states of mind are culturally flexible and may even be culturally entrained: “We can consider dreaming to be an experience of imagination that occurs in a number of states of consciousness: not only the sleep states of REM, non-REM, and the threshold states of hypnagogia, but also as waking dreams, near-death experience and shamanic reverie.”
I just ran into you Ryan,
I was googling about geometric patterns/dreaming, etc. A similiar thing has happened many times to me and didn’t realize others have seen this.
I awake from sleep and I am conscious but half asleep. My body seems to be still sleeping technically but I know I could wake up so I am not in any sleep paralysis, etc. The point is I am in a state where all type of geometric shapes and patterns are flying by, whether eyes closed or not. I still saw them with my eyes half open. What is your take on my experience?
To my spiritual side, it feels like an an energy stream is being transferred via symbols. Perhaps maybe the visual translation of what happens every nite as memories, etc are stored or downloaded in the brain? It all seems very Jungian or something.
Ryan Hurd says
Chris, sounds to me like you are one of the lucky ones who can hover in hypnogogia. lucky you! you can find more than you’ll ever want to know about this classic “reverie” state of consciousness here: http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/consciousness-and-hypnagogia.html
I personally think that viewing and being intertwined with the spontaneous geometric imagery in this state is healing. you mention Jung -yes – this state leads to the endogenous mandala, a spontaneous vision of wholeness and integration. some visual psychologists also think that this geometric imagery is the root of conceptual/abstract thought, which goes along with your idea of energy/memory transfer. it’s an area of research that’s been completely neglected, except of course by mystics, healers, and meditators!
Thanks Ryan, I will check out the link. SOmeone in science needs to pursue this.
I tell you what it is really awesome when you are seeing all this geometry flying and swirling by you. I think I did this one time and was able to speed it up too.
Another thing that strikes me about the Geometric patterns is this….What is the symbol of Freemasonry?
It’s the G with the carpenter/masonruy tool symbols. G is for God or Geometry.