Synopsis & Meeting Salvador Dali in a Lucid Dream
For this article, I employ the umbrella term "phase state" to refer to experiences of a high degree of consciousness and self-awareness during sleep which are interpreted by its experiencers in a number of ways, eg. lucid dreaming, out-of-body experience, astral projection. To learn more, visit this link: http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/ ... state.html
The fact that phase state (LD/OOBE/AP) environments can differ greatly has often led me to speculate, as a novice, the possibility that my individual consciousness was tuning into other dimensions or different frequencies of reality. Early in my practice, such hypotheses arose from having certain phase state experiences and were perhaps a little biased by what I might have read and heard from others who adhere to Spiritualist and New Age beliefs.
Practitioners must try to be as pragmatic as possible in their analyses. To illustrate this, whenever I had experiences that felt like my conscious essence really left the physical body to encounter, as far as I could tell, an accurate representation of the real world, I thought about it carefully whilst considering all the factors involved. In such OOBEs, my awareness seemingly remained in the physical realm, or what could be interpreted as an accurate simulation of the waking world upon separation, and, therefore, I was able to view what I often took to be my physical body (autoscopy experienced).
There is, of course, the likely explanation that one never really leaves the body and the experience is nothing but an illusion created by the brain every time it happens. In this plausibility, while dreams, imagination and surreal phase state experiences could be products of abundant activity in the right brain hemisphere, the rare and seemingly real OOBEs would largely be a product of the left hemisphere and hence the reason why they are more “true to life” so to speak. (Indeed, special effects artist Benjamin Phillips, aka Bedeekin in online forums, who often claimed to have many accurate OOBEs, also gassed about having a photographic memory.)
The environment encountered could be regarded as a succinct version of the physical universe (or a localised portion of it) and the experience itself tends to be brief and often occurring in the early stages of practice. There is probably a correlation here in that the novice often feels that a real separation from the body has taken place and the expectation of finding the bedroom as they remember it is strong. The ephemeral duration of the experience can be explained by the fact that the novice does not have much practice in prolonging the phase state - this in turn could also contribute in not allowing the experiencer enough time to spot inconsistencies in the surroundings.
It is also worth considering experiments conducted with split-brain individuals, where dreaming is concerned. Such experiments strengthen the feasibility of the brain hemispheres and their differing roles coming into play as their dreams were found to be unimaginative and often tied to reality. The other view is that consciousness is capable of acquiring a viewpoint outside the physical body as the mind may extend beyond it - however, this remains unsubstantiated. It is also easy to fall into the trap of identifying other elements as indicative of a real OOBE.
For example, when I first entered the phase state via the separation technique and encountered what I thought was the physical world, I began to think that in such experiences you had to always be a floating point of consciousness or a shadowy/transparent entity and that movement was always constant and gradual - as though moving through “frames of space” or “mouse-trailing” - before realising that I was overlooking the possibility of such being a mere peculiarity of perception in the phase state. Once this movement subsequently became more fluid, I was surmising that my awareness was shifting from the physical realm to the metaphysical whilst being out of my body for real.
With experience in the phase state and some research in psychophysiology - as my interest and inquisitive mind demanded - I soon realised that the human brain is quite capable of simulating any experience (including the perception of the aforementioned stroboscopic motion). I also noticed that if I didn’t wake up, the pseudo-reality of the phase state could progressively become more surreal. It was like I was transitioning into those inaccurate emulations of the real world that are usually encountered immediately upon separation. Every time I encountered an inaccurate replica of my bedroom or a surreal environment upon a separation, I assumed the experience to be an astral projection rather than an OOBE in the real world. I thought I was really projecting my consciousness into another plane of existence, a metaphysical realm that some liked to call “astral plane.”
Initially, I thought that perhaps Spiritualists and New Agers had some substance to back up their claims. Soon I realised, however, that the experience could very well be hallucinatory in nature (just like the seemingly real out-of-body state in the physical world) and that it was all a product of the phase state. Familiar objects may be out of place or absent, sometimes unfamiliar objects are present, and other structural anomalies may be observed. For me, this was also the realm of lucid dreams even though I initially assumed there was a fundamental difference between astral projection and autoscopic OOBEs.
The naïve conjecture was that astral projection and lucid dreaming were the experience of the same metaphysical plane of existence and that there were apparently several frequencies of reality or subsets within it. I often imagined that the phase state could provide access to an objective limbo where concepts are not yet physical or actual but manifest nonetheless. (This occurred at a time when mystic Robert Bruce’s mumbo jumbo, whose treatise on astral projection I read, biased my reasoning from the supposition that such so-called expert already had all the scientific evidence required to support his theory.) This limbo, I presumed, was where we, as a consciousness, could “sketch” ideas for actuality so to speak. In this vein of thinking, I considered that the phase state could allow us to travel extra-dimensionally, allow practitioners to sketch possible worlds and events, and possibly access not only the personal but the collective too.
Indeed I saw that I could visualise an environment of my choosing and some of my experiences even suggested the visitation of what appeared to be the worlds of others, the latter being that which I believed I hadn’t imagined. Such experiences seemed to indicate the perception of what was on the minds of people who were awake at the time, and I revelled in the fantasy of having had the taste of untapped superpowers. The phase state seemed to enable a sort of predominantly visual “telepathy” if I intentionally tried to peruse the minds of the visited. This notion became even more convincing when later, in waking life, the visited made associations or verified what I had experienced in the phase state.
Looking back now, I can tell that confirmation bias had a strong role in such situations. Hypothetically, phase state telepathy (if indeed real) could be an aspect of the quantum entanglement (where particles such as electrons develop the same quantum mechanical properties no matter how far apart they are) of minds, and, in this case, the original physical interaction of all things in our local universe could have taken place at the start of the Big Bang (indeed an intriguing possibility). Slightly inaccurate replicas of what the “visited” person was doing in actuality were perceived and I’d reason that even as we think during the day, we are constantly projecting thought forms in that frequency of reality which I deemed as yet undetected by science. I was almost convinced that the phase state indicated another objective reality capable of uniting individual subjectivities. Such mystical reality enabled individuals to share thoughts or “mind stuff” directly and such view just shows how powerful and impressive the phase state experience can be in filling one with wonder.
As I began to evolve my pragmatism and the more I experienced the phase state, however, the more implausible the hidden extension of reality notion became. Evidence began to weigh more in favour of the phase state content being largely governed by the subconscious, whose expressions come into focus in such hybrid condition, thus, being nothing but virtual worlds of the mind which tend to exceed our expectations. To illustrate, I present you here with a surreal OOBE which, like a dream, reflected my state of mind at the time:
"I had woken in the morning, around 5am, after having had a dream where people slammed doors in my face. After using the loo, I returned to bed to intentionally reach the phase state. My plan was to visit a lucid-dream workshop (previously imagined in the waking state), enter its art gallery, meet Salvador Dali, and have the surrealist introduce me to a vividly manifest idea for the composition of a painting in real life. (The painting, themed “The Cat City,” is intended to depict a metropolis of feline architecture which I visited in a lucid dream on the morning of my wedding day.)
It wasn’t long before interesting images and sounds popped up in my head and I subsequently made the effort to separate from my body. It was dark at first but I intensified the environment using sensory amplification techniques. Soon there was a realistic, albeit slightly inaccurate, home interior surrounding me. Having stepped into the hallway, a mirror much larger than the one in the real world confronted me. My reflection was fatter than me, a vision which, I would later realise, was concomitantly patent with my underlying concerns about overindulgence and self-image. On the previous day, I had remarked to my wife that I felt like I was putting on weight and suggested a curtailment of meals, as well as incrementing exercise, to prevent it. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the obvious indications that the world perceived in the phase state is subjective and, on occasion, extremely personal.
Expecting to access my lucid-dream workshop, I used the large mirror as a portal to get there. Inside the mirror, I found a mere extension of the hallway under darker conditions. It seems strange that such phantom world could defy me in this manner, but, apparently, my mind opted for a scenario which made more sense, or was more readily available, and in tandem with the already manifest environment (a mental construct largely based on the memory of a real and familiar home interior). This could mean that what represents the familiarity of my abode is far more stable in my mind than the imagination of a workshop that has never been adequately visualised, much less observed to have a real world counterpart. Its art gallery is, on the face of it, of the same tenuous mental state, for, when I tried to access it by passing through a wall from the hallway extension inside the mirror, I ended up in a replica of my daughter’s bedroom (something that would have made sense in the real world in terms of spatial relation).
I should have known better: going through a wall implies trying to get to what is immediately behind it, and, since it is attached to the manifest environment that so closely resembles the real world, the act also has a tendency to predetermine a logical extension. Again, the real world model in the mind, having been well-established, appears to be more perceptually influential, namely what is to be perceived in the phase state, than imagination. Perhaps I should have just employed the spinning technique as a means to disassociate myself from that mental construct - which was so closely related to the real world - and to simultaneously channelise my point of emergence in the desired location. I didn’t. From the burlesque version of my daughter’s bedroom, and undaunted by the fact that memory of the home interior had overridden the wish to attain a wholly new location, I plunged into the next wall.
Passing through the second wall was accompanied by a chill and a strange hum. The environment on the other side was dimly defined and duskiness prevailed. I rubbed my hands together and an illumed doorway came into view in the background. Deciding that the depth of my surroundings was insufficient, I knelt down to touch the floor in the hope of haptically quickening the lucid dream world. Now here’s a doubly aberrant oddity: despite having turned my attention to the floor, and even clearly perceiving bodily movement and my head hanging low, I still had the vision of gazing at the doorway as though I was standing. To be clear, my perceived body was kneeling and positioned in a way that I should be observing the floor, but, what was experienced was the literal turning of my gaze on the doorway. For the sake of reinforcing description, it was like wearing a temporary virtual-reality visor whereby what is visually perceived is independent of bodily movement. The doorway vision simply lingered on in spite of the implications and it’s ironic that my mind permitted this so easily against the conceivability that a desired environment could be found behind a wall without any serious recourse to the illogical.
I felt like I was sluggishly pushing boundaries with the objective of trading in what was perceptually (and readily) procurable for something vague and imaginary. Building something fancy was proving to be a slow mental evolution on that occasion. Finally, a crisp floor and something like a murky picture gallery began to emerge. There was a light source to my left and I perceived a humanoid figure standing at the entrance to a brightly-coloured room. “It must be Dali,” I thought. Not quite. Insofar as the surrealist painter was conveyed, the dream character’s moustache was as far as accuracy went, and the overall figure was ludicrously resemblant to Tin Man from the Land of Oz. “Here it is,” the parodic Dali said in a baritone, gentlemanly voice, as he motioned to a wall partially concealed by an open door. I rushed to the wall expecting to find an intricate painting of “Cat city,” marvellously composed, only to be met by a disappointing canvas sploshed with red and blue blobs of paint. The dream world evanesced as I stood there swept over by letdown.
What followed was the ultimate mockery of a dreaming mind in the form of a false awakening. On hearing strange noises in the house, I got out of bed to find objects moving by their own volition, and a frightened wife accused me of facilitating the transition of poltergeists (noisy spirits) into our world by practising astral projection. Under normal conditions I would have riposted to Stacey that there is no such thing as astral projection, but I was frightened and confused myself. I remember thinking that what was occurring must be rare, undoubtedly strange, but eventually explainable after a scientific investigation. There was a modicum of scepticism that still survived under those extreme conditions: it must be something other than poltergeist activity because I accidentally left the gates of hell open by unwittingly astral projecting.
Occam’s Razor couldn’t have come sharper when I woke up for real, and it taught me, or reminded me of, an important lesson: when under extraordinarily uncanny conditions, one is most likely dreaming. Furthermore, to those who believe in astral projection and think there are perceptual ways to tell the difference between a dream and a trip to the astral plane, I can only respond in this manner: your supposition is not a viable way to conclude a discrimination between dreaming and the belief-centric astral projection affair. One must take into account that the dreaming mind has an infinite potential to concoct any credible and incredible scenario, from the mundane, to the abstract, and the truly profound. This factor alone dismisses the premise set forth by the phase state practitioner who believes in astral projection. What they submit upholds a very weak a priori judgement. There is no reason to underestimate the human brain, in all its complexity, and credit should be given, in my opinion, where its due. After the level of understanding begotten by nearly two centuries of neuroscience, we can conclude with great certainty that the working human brain generates consciousness.