My recent poll showed that you want more book reviews about dreams and consciousness – lovely! With so much information in the world, it is helpful to have a guide. With that in mind, I highly recommend Robert Waggoner’s new book: Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self.
Waggoner’s book has already caused a stir in the lucid dreaming blog community – so also be sure to check out Ben’s interview with Robert Waggoner as well as Hatter’s take on Ben’s interview. These articles bring up the most important points of Waggoner’s message about lucid dreams. I will focus on a few of my favorite aspects of the book before leading into my thoughts about how his perspective can be seen as an introduction into indigenous science and the transformational nature of the unconscious mind.
Lucid Dreaming Experts Caught in the Wild!
Rarely do we get to hear from seasoned, expert lucid dreamers about their process. They are like some rare tropical bird that has never been photographed. Usually, lucid dreaming is marketed to beginners, with a focus on how to lucid dream (preferably in seven days or your money back). Waggoner provides what we have been so desperately lacking: a battle-tested road map into advanced lucid dreaming.
My favorite tidbit that sums up Waggoner’s philosophy of lucid dreaming is neatly described here:
“One common assumption…. is that the [lucid] dreamer controls the dream. Yet, any thoughtful analysis shows that lucid dreamers direct their focus within the dream but do not control the dream (as the sailor does not control the sea). Those maintaining the assumption of control limit their experience and understanding, unless they are able to see through this assumption and broaden their viewpoint.” p.100
Waggoner goes on to explain how this promise of dream control may at first seem fulfilled, but as dreamers move deeper into lucid dreaming practice, they will begin to notice this control unravel before their eyes. The roadblocks to greater lucidity are pointed out, with many helpful exercises to help combat them.
A New Model for Lucid Dreaming Development
He then presents a developmental model for lucid dreaming, based loosely on humanistic psychology with a Jungian bent. In other words, the path of lucid dreaming leads us inevitably to our growth and wholeness, even though we may go kicking and screaming, and even though we meet many nightmares, monsters and roadblocks to growth along the way.
I resisted this developmental model at first, but then I had to laugh that part of my resistance is due to the fact that, using Waggoner’s model, I am “only” an intermediate lucid dreamer. Beyond that, my issues with Waggoner’s model are largely academic, having to do with the model’s assumption that the lucid dreamer is a Western person living in modern civilization.
Since then, my inner anthropologist has calmed down, (as well as my egotistical lucid self!) because I realize that Waggoner is making no claims at universality, but rather is addressing his experience as well as other Westerners’.
Indeed, my own experience fits well within his model of lucid dreaming as a movement from focus on dream control and the avoidance of pain, to the ability to lose control in order to meet the dream’s other autonomous characters who have much to tell me, to a focus on transpersonal experiences that are beyond the realm of representational dreaming and more in line with the experiences of advanced meditators. Now I know my resistance: Waggoner has got me pegged! And, like I said, this is just the first part of the journey that he lays out….
Lucid Dreaming and Psi
What also sets Waggoner’s book on lucid dreaming apart from the dozens of other books (most of which plagarize Stephen LaBerge’s 1991 classic the World of Lucid Dreaming), is his integration of lucid dreaming with other anomalous dream experiences such as psi dreams, mutual dreams, and dreams of the dead. Waggoner has plenty of stories that would be perfect to tell around the campfire, but his interest is not on convincing his readers that these extraordinary experiences happen.
Rather, he actively invites readers to use their lucid dreams to help devise rigorous dream experiments so they can swim in these waters themselves. (After all, Krippner and Ullman’s Dream Telepathy has been in print for 25 years, and has plenty of scientific data that test the limits of statistical significance and coincidence in regards to dream telepathy. As they say, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t force a skeptic to read scientific studies that might challenge his paradigm).
The Universe is Alive
But my favorite part of reading Waggoner’s book on lucid dreaming is how he stumbles upon the basic tenets of indigenous science and the world’s wisdom traditions. These are the tenets laid out in hundreds of ethnographies of historic native peoples around the world, and still being taught in the few indigenous societies that have survived the global industrial culture. These tenets include these insights from lucid dreams that have transformed his life and the lives of hundreds of other lucid dreamers:
- The universe is alive.
- The universe is an inter-connected whole.
- The human mind is also unified and harmonious.
- Our senses, dreams, and thoughts are reflections of a reality that extends far beyond what we have so crudely determined as the “material world”
Waggoner didn’t read a book on shamanism to come to these tenets. Nor does he ever use the terms “pan-psychism” or “transpersonal psychology” although his work can easily be seen to reflects these philosophical systems. Instead, these ideas are the fruit of 30 years of experience in the dynamic, shifty, and altogether bizarre world of lucid dreaming.
Always humble, Waggoner suggests that he has much to learn still, and at the end of the day, he stresses that he’s just a guy “from Kansas, far from the centers of world power.” In my opinion, this book firmly locates Robert Waggoner in the center of the lucid dreaming world, and paradoxically, on the leading edge of lucid dreaming self-exploration.