The Lucid Dreamer – Malcolm Godwin

by Sophie on

The Lucid Dreamer appropriately begins: “this book is not, like most dream workshop manuals, concerned with the content, interpretation, analysis, or symbolism of dreams, but rather with the very stuff dreams are made of.” This opening sentence sets a precedence for the work to follow. The Lucid Dreamer explores not only what dreams are made of but also what our waking experiences are made of. It attempts to identify and locate the creator or creatix of dreams. Who or what is it that dreams and why? In Godwin’s explanation of dreams, he ends up identifying reality itself.

Godwin does a superb job in exploring and detailing the psychological, mystical, cultural, and scientific understandings of reality. While doing so, he provides the reader with mental exercises to experience what he is describing. The book is very well laid out into three parts. The first third of the book explores what sleep is and why we dream. The second part deals with realms of dreaming identified by Godwin and the last third concludes with the interrelationship between dreams and reality. The text is thoroughly illustrated with ancient pieces of dream-related art, photographs, paintings, and graphs.

Godwin believes as one explores lucid dreaming and many other states of consciousness, he or she ultimately compares that state of mind with the waking state. This can lead to discovering that the dream state may not be as different from the waking state as we may think. Many cultures dispersed through time and place have believed that our normal perceptions of the world are quite distorted and that we may in fact be living a dream. Central to this belief is the practice of lucid dreaming by these cultures. Many Eastern cultures view lucid dreaming as a vehicle or step to enlightenment. Although not all of us may experience enlightenment, we all have the ability to dream lucidly and explore that state between waking and sleeping, giving us a glimpse at enlightenment and a taste of what being truly awake is like. Godwin supplies the reader with a quick history of lucid dreaming in all cultures up to the present day research of Dr. Stephen LaBerge and other dream researchers. The reader is also given an update on how the mind and body operate while sleeping.

Godwin continues presenting several theories on why we dream. Some researchers feel dreaming is purely physiological. Our dreams are meaningless debris and serve as some sort of biological upkeep of our brain’s neural pathways. Other researchers, including Sigmund Freud, believe dreams serve a psychological purpose. Dreams supposedly are meaningful images of our inner health and well being. Godwin proposes that dreams fall somewhere between physiological and psychological and presents several new theories on how the brain operates. Out of these new theories we learn that dreams process memory, updating strategies of behavior necessary for survival. In addition, aminergic neurons, used for tasks involving critical attention and learning, are conserved during sleep. This explains why our dreams appear bizarre and lack any type of critical consciousness. The activation/synthesis theory then suggests that other neurons fire, while sleeping, to keep the brain circuits open and operative. Lucid dreaming occurs when the aminergic neurons somehow get switched on while asleep.

Godwin classifies lucid dreaming as “the four gates into the realms of dreaming.” Each realm represents a different type or experience of lucid dream. The first realm he entitles “Dreams of Power.” This realm is most used by the Native American shaman, sorcerer, or medicine man. A shaman acts as the intermediary between the primordial world and his tribe. He carries the culture of his waking world into sleep and projects it upon his dream realm. He is able to create worlds of substance and matter around him. If our dreams can become actualized, then we can influence the world around us. To a sorcerer, reality appears not just as matter, but as energy and consciousness. Consciousness is centered at a focal point of energy, known as the point of awareness. By shifting of the point of awareness, reality is seen differently. This may be what happens when we dream. Anyone aware of Carlos Castenada’s experiences with Don Juan will be familiar with the point of awareness.

Godwin’s second realm of dreaming is known as “Dreams of Wholeness.” These are best described as therapeutic dreams and may involve some inner change. These dreams explore what the inner self is. They provide psychological value through inner growth. Godwin proposes an advanced Gestalt therapy in which one may play the part of each dream element in a lucid dream, feeling its emotions and history, in an attempt to learn more about the inner self.

“Dreams of Death” compose the author’s third realm of dreaming. These dreams are concerned with the psychic force left behind at death and the “bardo” or gap which exists between dying and being reborn. These dreams explore existence and life and after death.

The last realm of dreaming is known as “Dreams of Awakening.” These dreams deal with the road to true awakening, or enlightenment. This state deals with the fourth state of consciousness as described in the Mandukya Upinshad. This state is a combination of the previous three states, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Godwin believes lucid dreaming is a signal that one is on the path to awaking, or enlightenment.

Upon completion of covering the mystic understanding of reality and dreams Godwin explores in part three of The Lucid Dreamer what modern physicists have discovered. He begins with the neurophysiological theories that suggest reality is a holograph-like universe. What we think of as a stable universe is really a kind of illusion, similar to a hologram. Actual reality is similar to a frequency domain in which our brain acts as a encoder that converts these frequencies into the world of appearances. The frequency domain describes “the interference patterns that possibly compose the deeper order of reality.” The brain edits out everything from the frequency domain that does not fit into our preconceived notions of reality.

Major discoveries in quantum physics has led to some findings about reality that seem to correlate to what mystics have known for years. Godwin summarizes these findings as the following:
Consciousness appears to alter the physical universe. It has been discovered that sub-atomic particles cannot be measured without altering the properties of those particles. The observer affects the observed.
Our description of the world and how we think it works is confused with how it actually works.
The concept of a past, present, and future does not seem to work at sub-atomic levels.
Our universe is not based on cause and effect but rather casual relationships by statistical coincidence.
If consciousness alters reality, multiple realities could exist.
Consciousness could be the only phenomenon that exists.
Consciousness could be a field like gravity.
Godwin continue with the implicate/explicate order model of the universe proposed by David Bohm. This theory suggests that we live in a hologram like universe (explicate order) in which everything is enfolded into everything (implicate order). It is impossible to categorize the universe and by doing so we are only deluding ourselves. It is this delusion that has become a way of life.

Godwin manages to equate these modern scientific theories with ancient mystic ideas covered in part two. Both the theories of the psychics and mystics allow for a less filtered view of reality. This unfiltered reality, or actual reality is composed of light-consciousness. Humans appear as strands of light accumulating in a globe or egg. This is describe in Bohm’s implicate order, the Hairs of Shiva, and Carlos Castenada’s teachings from Don Juan. Don Juan describes this egg as the assemblage point, Indian tantric as the Third Eye. This egg, or center point of light fibers, is the conscious attention of an entity.

Godwin concludes then, that our understanding of reality is wrong. He theorizes our reality is based on our cultural conditioning, descriptive programming, and social indoctrination we have been receiving since birth. Our view of reality is based on memories and habits. Our brain seems to construct our view of reality. The mind may not be located in the brain at all but in the energy field of the person. By changing the focus of attention, or assemblage point, within this energy field, we can experience reality as it truly is. However, many of us do not shift the assemblage point and therefore, as Godwin appropriately states, “are imprisoned within our own description of the universe.”

Godwin believes that the qualities found in lucid dreaming are similar to those found is mystics and enlightened people. “Lucid dreaming appears to be a fragile balance between being an identified participant and a detached observer.” Initially lucid dreamers exert control over their dreams but as they tend to become more of an observer and exert less control, Godwin believes they will witness deeper states of conciseness. Godwin proposes simply witnessing the dream, which is actually composed of just thoughts. Eventually, for lack of attention, these thoughts and mental screening of reality slips away and we are truly awake for the first time.

Written by: Sophie