This month, Arthur Gillard interviews author Robert Augustus Masters.
Robert Augustus Masters lives and works near Vancouver, British Columbia. He
specializes in cutting-edge integral psychotherapy, counseling, spiritual
deepening, and awakening work. Robert describes himself as increasingly
finding freedom less through transcendence than through intimacy with all
that is, a perspective which illuminates his deeply transformative workshops
and therapy sessions. Some of his recent books include Darkness Shining
Wild: An Odyssey to the Heart of Hell and Beyond: Meditations on Sanity,
Suffering, Spirituality, & Liberation, Divine Dynamite: Entering Awakening's
Heartland, Freedom Doesn't Mind Its Chains: Revisioning Sex, Body, Emotion,
& Spirituality, and The Anatomy & Evolution of Anger: An Integral
For more information, please see his bio at Integral Naked -
http://in.integralinstitute.org/contributor.aspx?id=120 where you can also
listen to an informative and entertaining audio dialog (to listen to the
dialog you simply need to join free for one month). Integral Naked also
hosts a Question and Answer thread with Robert which continues to cover a
lot of territory including dreaming and lucid dreaming:
Robert's website includes essays, poetry, a free online newsletter and
descriptions of his workshops, therapy and apprenticeship programs:
Of particular interest is his essay on "An Integral Approach to Healing" -
Arthur: Do you remember your first lucid dream? How old were you?
Robert: I don't remember what was probably my first lucid dream -- in large
part because in my early years I had trouble separating waking state and
dreaming state phenomena -- but I do remember becoming lucid during two
types of dreams that started when I was about 5 or 6. In the first, I would
find myself at the top of a tree or standing at the edge of a cliff....I'd
leap off, feeling ecstatic, totally unafraid of hitting the ground below
(which invariably received me the way that a pillow receives a weary head).
The other type of dream in which I'd become lucid was far from pleasant: In
it, I'd be in my bed, tucked under the covers, feeling a strange chill in
the air (and here I would become lucid), a grey-lit iciness that was very
familiar -- for I had this dream hundreds of times -- and into the room
would come my mother, initially looking like herself, but soon mutating into
a hideous, malevolent creature bearing down on me, trying to tear the covers
from me, at which point I, in heart-thumping terror, would wake up. The fact
that I was lucid did not seem to make any difference; I felt consistently
powerless. Not until I was 8 or 9 did I free myself from this lucid
nightmare: One night, as my monster-mother drew near me, I got up and
attacked her; she fought back, but I persisted, and she faded into the
background. It was the last time I had the dream.
Arthur: Has the nature of your dreams changed over time?
Robert: My dreams have changed as I have changed, and I have changed as my
dreams have changed. My dreaming self and my waking state self have been,
and are, inseparable. Looking at, into, and through what's arising with
undreaming eyes, whether waking or asleep, continues to be both grace and a
discipline; the actual process of selfing (that is, of animating, occupying,
and reconstituting "me") has been and is an object of awareness, however
infrequently, both in dreaming and waking states.
During times of intense dream exploration, I have had an abundance of deep
and amazing dreams. When I became interested in lucid dreaming as a young
adult (23 or so), such dreams arrived quite often; for a while, I'd exploit
their possibilities, but eventually I tired of such adventuring, and more
often than not simply let them go their own course. Sometimes dreams have
arrived that have dramatically altered my life course. For example, when I
was 22, unhappily immersed in a doctoral program that didn't really interest
me, I had a dream of drowning -- a deeply surrendered, blissful drowning --
that led me to, in a matter of just a few hours, to leave my doctoral
studies for good.
Mirror dreams come to mind... As a child, I had a recurring dream of looking
into a mirror and seeing my reflection slide and eddy into freakish
contortions. The face I'd see looked terrified, its horror eloquently
expressed with bizarre flourishes borrowed from whatever had most recently
frightened me, be it an ad for a Frankenstein movie or the witch scene from
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarves". I knew what was going to happen before I
stared into the mirror, and yet I always looked. The mirror, usually
outlined with a compelling brilliance, dominated whatever room in which I
found it. Only in these dreams did I truly face my fear; in the daytime I
did whatever I could to avoid it.
I had no such dreams (as far as I can recall) as an adolescent, but had
further variations of them arise once I got a bit older. When I was 22, I
had the following dream:
I'm at a party, moving from room to room,
socializing. Someone offers me some LSD; without any hesitation, I take it.
Soon the party is blazing with hypervivid colour, crawling with archetypes,
seemingly bursting with untranslatable significance. The walls melt and
writhe. An acid trip. Finally, I move or am moved toward the bathroom. The
ten-foot journey is as hilarious as it's weird; before I complete it, I
realize that I am dreaming. My experiencing seems to be concentric rather
than sequential. The bathroom. As I close the door, I feel very excited and
almost painfully alert. There's a mirror on the wall. I immediately recall
my childhood dreams of looking into a mirror. The mirror beckons, widening.
Looking into it, I see my wide-eyed reflection. Its features wriggle and
shift into a series of faces, some of them incredibly hideous and far from
human. But I'm not afraid, for I know that these visions are LSD-induced. I
continue looking, as my ancient fears parade by, showing their faces. I
relax, settling more and more deeply into my seeing.
Three years later, I had another mirror dream:
I'm in a dimly lit house,
feeling very uncomfortable. The mood is both sluggish and sinister. I go
into my room, and lock the door, then enter its bathroom, and look into the
mirror over the sink. My eyes seem to be extraordinarily close together; in
fact, there's no gap between them. I realize that I am dreaming. In the
mirror there is one large eye, between and slightly above the place where my
eyes ordinarily are. Dread and fascination fill me. The eye is a glowing
blue, unblinking, unwavering, and of immense though unexplainable
significance to me. I feel as though I'm drowning in its gaze, which I very
dimly intuit is my gaze. I force myself to look below the eye, at the smooth
pink flesh where my everyday eyes ought to be. For a while I see only skin.
Then, as if through a poorly focused lens, I see my two eyes. They are
firmly and tightly closed. I leave the bathroom. My room is too small. I
decide to leave the dream, and it immediately shatters.
It took me a while to understand why my lucidity in the dream had not
lightened or freed me. Though I'd become aware of the overall dream, I had
been utterly unaware that the self ("me") of the dream was also part of the
dream. My identification with that fearful, isolated "I" kept me feeling
afraid and isolated. My lucidity in the dream had been like a vast moat,
surrounding but not touching the role I had assumed in the dream. The mirror
gave me an opportunity to see what I was doing; the eye in the mirror was an
"I" that saw through me. When I finally noticed my two "regular" eyes in the
mirror, I saw only skin-deep, not seeing that I was asleep to my situation.
Here's another mirror dream, from when I was 48:
Becoming aware that I'm
dreaming, I leap up to fly, but fall back, twice. Then I surrender, inwardly
asking to be taken where I most need to go. I'm in the air, a few feet above
some pavement. Suddenly I'm pulled backward and downward at a tremendous
speed, my body almost totally vanishing during my "flight." I land in an
underground, poorly lit room. Its walls are all floor-to-ceiling mirrors,
all equally sized and all bizarrely distorting my reflection. Though fairly
large, the room feels quite compressed. I'm in the middle, afraid but not
Slowly, I walk toward one wall, seeing all sorts of mirrored "fragments" of
myself. A dark, eerie, heavy feeling saturates the room. Everything is
sickeningly greyish. I gaze into my reflection's eyes, seeing less of the
hallucinatory than I expected. Then I walk into and through the mirror,
finding myself in an even more compressive space. It's extremely
uncomfortable; if I wasn't still aware that it was a dream, I would surely
escape as quickly as possible.
No exit in sight, though - just claustrophobic greys, amorphous and
hideously alive. I keep moving, as if through jelly - fatly quivering, ever
denser protoplasm - existing both as a dreambody and a disembodied observer.
Finally, I can barely move.
In despair and helplessness, I drop down on my knees, crying and wordlessly
praying, aching for release. As the observer, I see my eyes turned up, my
hands in prayer position in front of my chest, my face deathly pale.
Surrender. Suddenly, I am vaulted into another world, vaguely sensing that I
am in a hospital, watching a group of doctors tending a covered-up patient.
A series of events transpire [which I cannot recall], ending in joy.
In many lucid dreams, I have moved or have been pulled toward places of
luminosity, often dissolving in their radiance. Sometimes, though, I have
gone in the "opposite" direction, going deep into the Earth, into mineral
and dense dark. In the preceding dream, I'm being pulled below the surface.
Let's permit the image of being in the grey, underground room to unfold
itself, to "speak":
When underground, I don't appear to myself as I usually am. When I see
myself reflected all around, I don't appear to be myself.
Wherever I look, I see my reflection, so long as I remain in the centre of
the room. Though there is a lack of illumination when I am underground
looking at myself, there is enough light to see. The ceiling and floor are
the same; above and below are the same underground. I am mirrored from all
around when I am below the surface.
My surface appearance is broken into many components when I am below the
surface. When I remain in the middle, I can see, but am distant from what I
see. Wherever I turn, there I am.
When I leave the middle, thereby decentralizing the space, I can more
clearly see particular reflections. When I no longer occupy the centre, I
can pass through what I am looking at. Stepping through one self-image puts
me behind them all, and this happens when I am below the surface, and am
willing to "face" myself, however unpleasant that might be. When I remain in
the centre, when I am the centre, I am encircled by what I fear.
[Note: I have no explanatory summary for all of the above - its insights are
intrinsic to its totality as an image. It speaks not of one meaning for me,
but of many, from prenatal to transpersonal, each of which could be mined
for more significance.]
Once "I" am through the mirror, things get worse - but did I not ask to be
taken where I most needed to go? Only when I am "decentralized," down on my
knees, no longer fighting my helplessness, does "release" occur. I haven't
so much given up - submission being but a kind of collapse - as surrendered
(surrender being more expansion than collapse), opening to a sacrifice of
self that's anathema to the usual me.
Arthur: What do you see as the nature of dreams - are they models of reality
constructed by a brain unconstrained by sensory input and interaction with
the environment? Are they visits to a subtle energy realm or astral plane?
What do you think of the view, held by some spiritual traditions, that the
dreaming process is similar to what we experience when we die?
Robert: What a question! To me, dreams are the mind's contents made visible
through three-dimensional story-like formats while the body sleeps.
Psychoemotional theater fleshed out and broadcast by the mind, constellated
around and expressive of certain feelings, urges, intentions, pulls.
Self-made, self-starring, self-revealing private motion pictures. The
original home movies, usually forgotten before they're really seen.
Like movies, dreams range from the banal to the sublime. Some films can open
us to unsuspected or dormant dimensions of ourselves; so too with some
dreams. There are movies that can make us look deeply at ourselves while we
watch (and also indirectly participate in) them, just as there are dreams
that serve the same awakening function. Dreams may just be internal noise
(like most of the thoughts we have, or that have us, while "awake"), and
they may also be profoundly relevant harbingers of needed changes. Dreams
can simply be hangovers from the previous day's activities (both outer and
inner), no more meaningful than the random thoughts creating mini-logjams
behind your forehead on a busy day, and they can also be doorways into
unimaginable vistas of being, portals to and from What-Really-Matters.
Dreams don't so much tell us about ourselves, as they are our selves (our
multi-selved selfhood), all dressed-up for the part; various aspects,
dimensions, qualities, elements, and action tendencies that constitute us
intersect and interact with each other, as if they are in fact discrete
entities/things independent of each other. We ordinarily identify with one
of these, dreaming that we are indeed that. This is true not only of
everyday dreams, but also of most lucid dreams.
Prior to truly awakening, we are simply dreaming (including dreaming that we
are not dreaming), whether physically awake or not. This, however, does not
mean that dreams are not real; they are just as real as the self-sense about
which they are arranged. A dream is a real mirage, just like us. The more
real things get, the more dreamlike they seem.
A dream is a story (ranging from simple cartoon to complex myth) that we are
telling ourselves, a story through which we are constructed and
reconstituted. Becoming aware of the actual story doesn't necessarily end
it, but rather simply allows us to participate in it in the best possible
Let's now go into more detail regarding body, self-sense, and dreaming. The
sense of literally being inside our physicality can be extremely convincing.
Not surprisingly, our dreams generally display much of the same sense of
"within-ness." In dreams, our waking-state body is perhaps most commonly
represented - besides as itself - through the metaphors of dwelling-places
and vehicles, with the dream's "I" (or what we might call the dream-ego)
usually appearing more or less as a replica of our waking-state "I,"
ordinarily located inside somewhere, whether in a long-ago living room or
behind the wheel of a suddenly brakeless car.
In our dreams, our body is a perceptual convention, a bit of theater, as
much a prop as anything else in the dreamscape. We could, while dreaming,
view our dream-body as a metaphor, a choice, a creation, but instead we
usually just identify with it in the very same way that we identify with our
physical body in the so-called waking state.
"I," now taking stage as the dream-ego, is still preoccupied with being at
the helm of the body, while at the same time being lost in the dramatics of
the dream, taking everything therein as real. While dreaming, we may engage
in activities that would be impossible or extremely unlikely in the waking
state, yet we - while dreaming - rarely see anything unusual in this. We
look, but usually don't look inside our looking.
As in the waking state, all that will usually alert us - or snap us out of
our trance - is some sort of crisis, a not-to-be-denied intensity of
perceived danger, as perhaps best demonstrated by full-blown nightmares. We
may awaken for a few moments within a nightmare, but ordinarily not so as to
explore and make good use of it - rather, our common intention then is still
to flee, to escape, to get back to sleep or at least into a more comfortable
or secure circumstance.
Even in lucid dreaming we still generally take ourselves to be the "I" of
the dream, regardless of "our" apparent freedom of choice. Much of the
appeal of dream lucidity lies in the possibility of having more power and
control in our dreams. Such power or control can be very useful when
"fleshing out" the intention to turn around to face a dream adversary or
difficult situation we have been fleeing, but not so useful when it merely
reinforces the dream-ego.
In fact, the very desire to be lucid during a dream, to be a somebody who
can lucid-dream, creates the same difficulties as the desire to be awake
during the so-called waking state, to be a somebody who can meditate or be
The "I" who stars in or centres a lucid dream is actually just part of the
dream, no more than a convincing personification (and embodiment) of the
witnessing or self-reflective dimension of the dream. However, when the
dreamer becomes the object of awareness in the midst of his or her dream,
then the dream itself, at least in my experience, usually can no longer hold
its form, and all its contents dissolve into unmappable, space-transcending
Short of such dissolution, there is usually some sense of embodiment in
lucid dreaming (although there sometimes may be a sense of being a self
without any body, existing as a point of attention in the dreamscape, a
point that may or may not be personified).
For many years, I experimented with intentionality in lucid dreaming:
jumping from great heights; flying far and wide; dissolving my body;
suffering lethal injuries; traversing space instantaneously; diving deep
into solid earth; passing through walls; letting my body be as malleable as
plastic; meeting various spiritual teachers; having archetypal encounters;
facing adversaries with violence, love, shapeshifting suddenness.
Nevertheless, however unusual or thrilling my lucid dream-doings were, they
were still mostly centered by the very same sense of self around which my
daily activities were generally organized.
After a while, it became more interesting to leave the dream alone, to
simply abide in the midst of it, and see where it took me. Dreaming or
waking, lucid or not, ecstatic or depressed, the work was basically the
same, to simply be as present as possible, uncommitted to - and unidentified
with - the intentions of any particular "I." And what did this do to my
dreambody? Freed it, at least to some extent, from what I "normally" took it
to be, thereby permitting it to more fully be a medium for simply
maintaining relationship with my environment.
Arthur: Do you see consciousness as continuing in some form in deep,
dreamless sleep? Have you ever experienced lucidity in that state, and if
so, what was it like?
Robert: Consciousness continues in deep, dreamless sleep, but without any
form. No objects, no appearances, no self. In this state, we are almost
always unconscious of being conscious. Nevertheless, we can be awake during
deep, dreamless sleep, as various sages have taught. I've had direct
experience of this, though it was not the "I" of everyday discourse. The
phenomenology of this is without sensation, feeling, cognition, or any
temporal or spatial sense, bearing no discernible characteristic other than
that of unbound, featureless, effortlessly sentient presence. No-thing-ness.
Here is what I have experienced as the state of deep, dreamless sleep
spontaneously metamorphosed into the state of dreaming sleep: First, out of
nowhere and nothing, there arose colour and movement, without any
discernible shape. Then vague forms began appearing, diaphanous and softly
swirling, taking on a bit more solidity. When I - in the form of alert,
undivided attention - "entered" this nebular fluxing of colour and
shape-making, it almost immediately became more densely three-dimensional
and vividly real in a conventionally sensory manner, literally taking on
substance all around me, including as a dream-body closely resembling my
Arthur: What role have lucid dreams played in your spiritual life, or your
life in general? Have you, for example, had insights or spiritual
breakthroughs in dreams? Has a lucid dream ever anticipated developments in
your consciousness or understanding which occurred later in your waking
life? Have you had shifts in perspective or values as a result of lucid
Robert: Lucid dreams have played a big role in my life. Being in them and
experimenting in them taught me firsthand that I am more than my body, more
than my mind, and more than my sense of self. Facing difficulties and
challenges while lucid dreaming has deepened and stabilized my ability to
face difficulties and challenges while in the waking state. Deep insights
and realizations have often arisen during lucid dreaming. I remember a dream
I had when I was 34:
I'm lucid and flying to meet a spiritual teacher I
love. I am being knowingly propelled by my desire to see him, my movement
being so fast that I cannot see any scenery. A few seconds later I find
myself sitting in a room in the upper floor of an unknown stone building. I
am waiting, but without any tension. There's a window in the room, and the
air is very fresh, and the colours remarkably bright. I feel something
touching my lower torso, and look down. To my surprise, I see a baby body,
no more than a month or two old. I am holding him, cradling him, already in
love with him. He meets my eyes, and I leave the dreaming state in ecstasy.
The next morning, I told my partner at that time that I'd met our son; prior
to this, we'd had no desire whatsoever to have children, but within days had
mutually and easily arrived at the decision to conceive him. A few months
later, she was pregnant. Six months into her pregnancy, I had the following
I'm in a unknown yet very familiar room. A boy, perhaps six
month old, is sitting on the floor gazing at me. As I look into his eyes, I
say, "Hi, Dama." Before this we had not considered any name for our
baby-to-be, and nor did we know that that little one would be a boy. Three
months later Dama arrived. He did not cry once during his delivery and
arrival; a short time later, he was in my arms, gazing at me as he had in my
Arthur: Could you tell us how you incorporate dreamwork into your therapy
sessions or workshops? How does your approach relate to the various schools
of therapy (gestalt, Jungian, etc.?) Are there any examples you'd like to
Robert: I frequently incorporate dreamwork into my session and groupwork,
using a number of approaches. I may use Gestalt, having you act out the
relationship between various parts of your dream; I may use psychodrama,
having you act out a part of your dream; I may use bodywork, having you
deeply experience and openly express different emotions and states that
arose in your dream; and I may use all of these, and more, in working with
one dream at one time, making room for you to really "get" your dream, and
not necessarily in just one way.
An example: A woman in a group for women with cancer describes a dream in
which she is being pursued by a very large bear. She is clearly frightened
by it, and awakens before it reaches her. I talk with her a bit about her
dream -- she is nice to the extreme, meek-voiced and energetically small --
then ask her to get on all fours and act like she's the bear. She is
embarrassed, but goes ahead. Move around, I say, and let some sounds emerge.
Again, more discomfort, but she does as I ask. She continues this for a bit,
then I ask her, as the bear, to immediately speak to the frightened woman
(her) in the dream. Without hesitation, she says, "Don't run away from me, "
and says it with considerable emotion. I ask her to say it again, and she
starts to cry. Now, I say, imagine you are that frightened woman, and
respond to the bear. She does, and goes back and forth for a while between
the two positions. Finally, she doesn't need to move anymore, for both
positions are now coexisting easily within her, and she, on her own, is
starting to realize what the bear actually is -- an expression of her own
disowned power, enlarged by her fear of embodying such power. Her voice is
fuller now, her presence much stronger. As she reclaims her "bear" energy,
she fills out more, laughingly saying that she wants to give all the women
in the room big bear hugs.
Another example: A young man (in a group session) is describing a dream in
which he is prone, seemingly limbless, struggling to move forward. Limbs do
eventually materialize, but only as flimsy, stick-like things viewed as from
a distance. His voice is low and monotonous, tinged with a remote sadness.
He sits as though defeated. I listen closely, noticing no intention in
myself to speak. We gaze at each other in a not-uncomfortable silence.
Breathing in, breathing out. There's a subtly increasing warmth in my belly
and chest, then a sudden image of a terrified baby.
His eyes are a bit more open now, still distant but seeming to call from
somewhere behind the distance. There's increasing movement in me now,
amorphous but gathering momentum. I don't feel any desire to talk about the
dream nor to "interview" him - something far more compelling is inviting me
to act. My breath is a little fuller now, my belly looser; the feeling of
presence in the room is getting stronger.
Now the waiting-time is over.
I ask him to lie face-down on the carpet, and to attempt to move forward
without using his limbs. He struggles in silence, and cannot move forward.
Breathe more deeply, I whisper in his ear, and let your struggling have a
sound, a sound that expresses the actual feeling of it. He groans and
writhes with great intensity, looking as though he's pinned to the spot. Or
stuck. His back appears rigid yet oddly soft, his spine like a suffocating
serpent. My own back is subtly writhing, my hands tingling. My intuition to
touch him suddenly intensifies, and I begin to massage his back, loosening
the muscles on either side of his spine.
Soon he is crying very hard, his sounds both adult and baby-like. I have him
reach out in front of himself, but he still cannot move forward. Then I ask
the group, all of whom are very moved, to make a kind of tunnel over him,
everyone on hands and knees, alternatingly positioned (shoulders next to
neighbor's hips), pressing down on him, but not so heavily that movement is
impossible. Everyone knows what to do; there's an unspoken link between all
of us, centreed by an obvious caring for him.
He starts to panic. I have him exaggerate his sounds for ten or fifteen
seconds, then tell him to move forward, using his legs, his arms, everything
he's got. For a minute or so, he struggles, moving ahead very slightly,
wailing like a newborn, and then suddenly he explodes with strength, lifting
up the bodies curled over him, screaming very loudly. Adrenaline races
through me, not in fear, but in readiness.
I make a triangle-shaped opening with my hands and press it against the top
of his head, encouraging him to keep coming. He pushes mightily, still
screaming, moving forward, pushing and surging, his movements serpentine,
his body feeling to me more like cascading rapids than solid flesh. Another
minute or so, and through he bursts, spilling into my arms. I hold him
close, while he cries uncontrollably. At this moment, I am both mother and
father. And the newborn I am holding is not only him, but all of us,
including me. My interpretations of what has happened pale beside the raw
presence of his pain, his need, his sheer bareness of feeling, and - when he
at last opens his eyes - his love.
He didn't move; he was movement. Birthing-movement, ancient and yet so
nakedly now, messily precise, eventually unclouded by amniotic or
psychosocial shrouding, eloquently transparent to Being. Nothing special in
all this - just a few trembling petals of the everfresh,
hyperbole-demolishing Wonder of being here.
Arthur: In many of your books you mention dreams in the context of the
spiritual path of awakening. What do you see as the connection between our
experience of dreaming and lucid dreaming, and our experience of life while
physically awake? Or our experience of death, for that matter?
Robert: Our dream-life reflects our physical waking life, and our physical
waking life reflects our dream-life; the two realities may seem very
different, but in fact they are remarkably similar, and share considerable
overlap. The mind I have while dreaming is basically the same mind I have
while physically awake. The bodies in the two states may seem to be very
different, but at the level of body-image -- where we spend a lot of our
mental time -- they are very similar. The "I" at the centre of our dreams is
pretty much the same "I" that's at the centre of our physical waking
experience. Dreaming is what the mind tends to do when it's disembodied --
daydreams while "awake" and sleep-dreams while, well, asleep.
At death and after death, no longer anchored to the body at all, the mind --
and this is just my intuition -- doesn't do much else other than dream, and
it's not the kind of dreaming we can pinch ourselves out of, for there's no
body to which to return; what's called for is real lucidity, the capacity to
recognize that what's happening is dreaming, on whatever scale. The content
doesn't really matter; a dream is a dream. Given that what happens after
death is what is happening right now, we might as well stop flirting with
awakening practices, and really get into them, regardless of the state we're
in, doing whatever work is necessary so that such practices can take deep
root in us. Lucid dreaming, lucid waking, lucid living, lucid being...
Arthur: In Darkness Shining Wild you describe the following dream as taking
place shortly after the 5-Meo-DMT experience in which you almost died:
"I spent most of that first post-5-Meo night sitting up in bed (Nancy slept
on and off beside me), helplessly absorbed in extremely gripping,
three-dimensional replays of the horror I had experienced, now and then
trying to comfort myself with the thought that this wouldn't, couldn't, last
for more than a few nights. The waves of remembrance did not come gently. I
was throbbing, shaking, struggling to find some semblance of calm in the
psychospiritual riptides that were tossing me about like a piece of
shore-bereft driftwood. A hellride minus an offramp.
Hour after hour I endured, feeling as though I would never return from the
madness that was infiltrating me. Finally, just before dawn, I fell asleep
and very soon found myself in a lucid dream.
I had often had such dreams, frequently using them as portals for all kinds
of adventure and experimentation. As such, they were normally quite pleasing
to be in; I would know that the body I "had" in the dream was not my actual
physical body, and so could then freely engage in activities that would mean
disaster or even Death in the "waking" state. If I was afraid in a regular
dream and then became lucid during it, I could usually face the fear,
interacting with it's dream-form until some kind of resolution or
But not now. Yes, I knew I was dreaming, but I could not work with the fear
therein. The dream was saturated with an enormous, otherworldly terror which
was coupled with savagely hallucinatory disorientation. In the midst of this
I stood, my dreambody but a ghostly sieve for its surroundings. I knew that
if I left the dream, I would still be in the very same state.
At last, I let myself go fully into the dream, despite my conviction that I
very likely would not return. Now I was completely inside it, utterly lost,
immersed in an edgeless domain of look-alike, spike-headed waveforms, each
one sentient and subtly scaly, moving protoplasmically in endless procession
in all directions. Just like my 5-Meo setting, but without the speed.
Suddenly, I was overcome by a completely unexpected, rapidly expanding
compassion. All fear vanished. A few moments later, I somehow cut - or
intended - a kind of porthole in the bizarre universe that enclosed me, as
cleanly round as the shrinking aperture of my consciousness at the onset of
my 5-Meo journey.
Through this opening the countless alien forms spontaneously came streaming,
immediately metamorphosing into flowers, birds, trees, humans: Earthly life
in all its wonder and heartbreaking fecundity. Then the dream faded, and I
lay radiantly awake, deeply moved, feeling as though the hardest part was
It had, however, just begun."
- Robert Augustus Masters, Darkness Shining Wild, pp.22-24
When I first read this dream, I felt puzzled as to why this didn't resolve
the crisis for you. Upon further consideration, it seemed that in a way it
reflected in miniature form your course through the dark night described in
that book. Would you agree with that? How do you see this dream as fitting
into your Darkness Shining Wild experience, and did dreams play any role in
your healing process?
Robert: I would agree. This dream also foreshadowed my eventual emergence
from my crisis roughly nine months later (on my birthday). I had many lucid
dreams during those nine months, and none of them liberated me from my
crisis. Did this mean that they were not helpful? No. They helped me to stay
wakeful during that hellish time. In one, for example, my compassion for my
agony (in the form of a man going insane) arose, supporting and paralleling
my fledgling compassion for my agony during waking times. In hindsight, I
recognize that it would not have served me to have had an exit from my
suffering before my nine months were up; I needed to stay with it until I
was no longer capable of resurrecting who I'd been before my 5-MeO-DMT
Arthur: You have some familiarity with entheogens/psychedelics and much
experience with the naturally occurring "altered" states of dreaming and
lucid dreaming, as well as vast experience with states of consciousness
reached through meditative and other spiritual practice. How would you
compare lucid dreaming with entheogens and meditative experiences as tools
for exploring consciousness or to promote growth or awakening?
Robert: Where entheogens tend to dynamite the gates, lucid dreaming and
meditative practice help open them, the key being in our hands. Once we're
through the gates, we're usually presented with an abundance of experiential
possibilities, ranging from the merely sensory to the ineffably revelatory.
With entheogens, we're mostly just awe-filled spectators, however intimately
connected we are to what's going on, at an impossibly rich banquet of
sights, sounds, feelings, and perspectives; with lucid dreaming, we're much
more likely to be participants in what is unfolding, seeing it alter in
accord with what we are doing; with meditative practice, especially deep,
stable meditative practice, we are neither spectators of nor participants in
what is happening, but rather clearings of consciousness at once apart from
and profoundly intimate with what is occurring. Such meditative practice may
also occur, albeit rarely, during lucid dreaming (you might, for example,
try closing your dream eyes during a lucid dream and letting yourself rest
in Being) and entheogenic intoxication. There's no substitute for meditative
practice and meditativeness, which can be accessed during any state or
experiential possibility, even if we dream otherwise. Entheogens may
catalyze some degree of awakening, and lucid dreaming may give it a stage,
but meditativeness gives it the ground it needs to truly take root.
Arthur: In a Q&A thread on the Integral Naked forum, you mention an upcoming
book on "dreams, dreaming and the dreamer." Could you elaborate a bit on
what subject areas you'll cover? Are you planning to include exercises for
Robert: That book is some years away, and so I haven't made any plans
regarding its subjects areas, other than the very general topics of dreams,
dreaming, and the dreamer.
Arthur: Thank you for a fascinating interview, Robert. Do you have any
parting words of advice for those pursuing lucid dreaming in the context of
personal or spiritual growth?
Robert: Experiment. Take risks while you are lucid. Pay attention to the
role or roles you are playing in the dream; notice what hooks or attracts
you, but don't forget to examine the you who is feeling hooked or attracted.
Remain aware of the dreamer as much as you can, whatever state you are in.
Experiment some more. Move from lucid dreaming to lucid being, letting
awakening's alchemy get so far under your skin that you have no choice but
to fully participate in it.
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