Electric Dreams


with D.R.E.A.M.S. Foundation Director and Lucid Paddling Adventure Trip Guide:

 Craig Webb

Richard Catlett Wilkerson 

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Webb, Craig (1997 May). Interview: with D.R.E.A.M.S. Foundation Director and Lucid Paddling Adventure Trip Guide: Craig Webb. Electric Dreams 4(5). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  


D.R.E.A.M.S. Foundation


Richard Catlett Wilkerson (RCW): Craig, you seem to be involved in just about every aspect of dreaming from the high technology of cyberspace and the lucidity dream-mask development to the natural ecologies of dream focused canoeing/outdoors trips to the establishment of research foundations. Is there a central thread in all this, or are you more like a dolphin who just pops up where there seems to be some action happening?

The central thread, if there is one, is following my dreams - both the nighttime ones and the daily life ones - and there may not be any difference - the waking effect of which has been to follow my bliss, like Joseph Campbell would say. Early in life, I latched onto the idea from author Richard Bach that nobody was going to make an adventure out of my life unless I did it myself, so I might as well get to it. I never looked back. My interest is in truth, and I've explored wherever I thought it might be found - from high technology to people to the wilderness. My variety of interests has also been a central theme throughout my life, and I feel very grateful that I have natural ability in many different areas. It is my belief that the goal of the technology and consciousness revolutions now taking place is basically ecological. That is to say that, our dreams, increasing awareness, and all our technological tools are here for us to learn to live more in harmony with the natural environment, which of course includes other people, and ultimately for us to re-integrate our natural or what you might call instinctive knowing in a conscious way.

(RCW): What got you interested in dreaming in the first place?

Well, I would say that dreaming got me interested in itself. I was going to a French university in Quebec City, swimming on a swim team over 20 hours a week, doing a B.Sc. in Physics and Electrical Engineering when all of a sudden, Wham! During Christmas break, I started remembering 8-10 dreams a morning. Being the scientist I was, I was intrigued enough to record them, just to see what might happen. I also happened to pick up Richard Bach's newly published book "Bridge Across Forever" in which he and his new wife did something akin to lucid dreaming. I thought this was a fun idea and decided to try with the girl I was seeing at the time. Without ever having heard of Stephen LaBerge, and hence without knowing that he was pioneering it at the same time, I spontaneously used the MILD technique (which at the time I called setting off "memory bombs"), and had a lucid experience the first night I tried, much to my utter amazement and shock at the time. The rest of that year was a very powerful inner awakening with numerous dream and spiritual experiences. I had no idea what the heck was going on, but it was fascinating, so I went with it. The best way I can explain what happened is that I went so deep into the academic/intellectual way of being that, just like going through the little circle inside either half of the Chinese yin yang symbol, I swung right into the other side and was guided (or forced is what it more felt like at the time) to explore the whole dream/intuitive side of life. Fortunately, since then I've understood much better what happened and have integrated these two polarities to a much greater extent, so that this may explain my interests in the opposite yet complimentary realms of science and spirit. All in all, dreams chose me to discover them.

(RCW): How did you get involved with the development of the lucid
dream technology?

In the Spring of that year at University, I fell upon LaBerge's newly published first book, "Lucid Dreaming", and was excited to find that other people were learning about this too. I would say that LaBerge's scientific approach was probably very timely for me too, because I as very quickly becoming disillusioned with the education in science that I was going through since there wasn't even the slightest talk of any of the experiences that I was going through, except for maybe a passing reference to Freud or Jung. I had quite a number of lucid experiences that summer, and have probably clocked over 1000 lucid dreams since that time. I became a member of the newly formed Lucidity Institute, and stayed a member for quite some time. I remember phoning them once to see if LaBerge was doing any research on automated lucid state recognition using EEG signals, which I wanted to do as my thesis. At the time, whoever answered the phone told me that he wasn't (though I much later found out that he was - I guess the time for us to meet wasn't yet ripe). I ended up doing my thesis on computerized recognition of epileptic seizures (which is quite closely related). A couple years, later, I had finally let my Lucidity Institute membership expire, yet by interesting coincidence, I'd done more than three newsletter research experiments and someone at the Institute (Jennifer Dole - the same one I'd spoken to when I first phoned) spontaneously decided that anyone who'd done three experiments or more was entitled to a free subscription, so I continued receiving the NightLight newsletter. It was in the Spring issue of that year that I saw a job offered at Lucidity Institute for office help. I was interested enough and applied, hoping that some of my engineering and lucid dreaming skills might also find a home there. The rest is history, and I moved from Montreal to work at Lucidity Institute and at Stanford with LaBerge. The timing was impeccable too, because the Institute was struggling financially and had just finished designing the DreamLink, a cheap DreamLight - flashing lights on a timer without any smarts. Well, it seemed like my life experience had been designed to bring me exactly to that place and time, and I designed the NovaDreamer, a smart, cheaper lucid dream biofeedback device. I had started leading dream workshops before I moved, and now continued alongside LaBerge. It was a time of tremendous challenge and growth for me, since although I was in a very exciting position, using almost all of my abilities alongside a brilliant man such as LaBerge, working with him proved very difficult at times.

(RCW): Do you use the Lucid Dreaming technology yourself?

I must say that even though I designed the NovaDreamer and had a part in the conception of its add-on peripherals, I don't support the device, nor do I really encourage anyone to use it. In the year that I designed it, I learned a lot, and one of the things that I learned from my experience in using, giving workshops with and providing customer service and support for this new technology was that, for the most part, it wasn't making that much difference for most people after the first few weeks, and if anything, it was disempowering people by having them transfer their own innate ability to successfully have lucid dreams onto a technological device which then soon stopped helping, if it even had in the first place. I know that most of the DreamLights, DreamLinks, and NovaDreamers out there are sitting unused in drawers along with many people's reduced motivation and faith in having lucid dreams. Sadly, in a way, the technology is like the lucid dream microwave oven, and by the nature of the way it's marketed and also due to the quick-fix thinking in our culture, it ends up doing a disservice to lucid dreaming rather than helping it. In my times of deep personal questioning about its effectiveness, I incubated a dream, asking what overall effect it was having out there in the world at large. The dream was simple and to the point. In it, a dear friend and wise, shaman woman that I knew simply left the room - her name (in waking life) is Joy. After that, though it was a great personal challenge for many reasons, I left LaBerge and the Lucidity Institute because I no longer agreed with important aspects of the framework and thinking there. I do see the devices as being useful in some regards to some people, especially as research aids
in lab or home lab settings with the computer interface connected.

(RCW): Is there a "Next Step" in lucid dream technology?

The next step would be one that plays a much more tutorial role, and also one that empowers the user to a much larger extent by offering a rentable, training device, that comes along with an appropriate training program. It's feedback would also be more inclusive of the waking aspects of the users' life. My general feeling is that people are on the average better off learning various principles and techniques from a good teacher or even a book and having their skills and awareness develop naturally and "organically", rather than purchasing a device when it comes to expanding consciousness such as with lucid dreaming. However, I have seen and experienced various technological methods, some aspects of which look very intriguing and promising.

(RCW): Many people are still quite suspicious that lucid dreaming is just another exercise in the kind of willful egoic muscling that has brought our planet to the brink of destruction. What's your take on all this?

A very good question. In terms of having more lucid awareness, either in dreams or in life, I am generally for it, though my position has shifted somewhat since I was first a gung-ho promoter of as-much-lucidity-as-possible-as-soon-as-possible for everyone. I have learned through personal experience that there is a healthy time for people to begin to experiment with consciousness (such as lucid dreaming) and a healthy, organic rate of learning too - which many people don't recognize. Conscious awareness brings responsibility - literally, the ability to respond knowingly - so too much too fast will be far less than the fun that it initially seems to be. The time to begin and the rate of learning are different for everyone, so it's a very personal thing. As one grows in awareness, this predisposes change as one's thinking and hence the framework and waking symbols of the person's life die and then evolve to form new structures. This is the natural process of creation. The change, however, is scary to many people, since they do not recognize it as an evolution - the dying of the old and the birth of the new. The changes that comes into our lives is generally designed by our larger selves (often in our dreams), and hence it's guaranteed to lead us directly towards our greatest fulfillment and by definition, this usually involves facing our fears. Even with those people who know what's going on, if change comes too fast or too big, it's like biting off more than we can chew at once. I know.
As for those people who are afraid of "controlling" dreams because they don't want to meddle with what they consider to be a source of divine or intuitive knowledge, I would have to say a couple things. First, that such a perspective stems from fear-based thinking, a fact which I would advise anyone who follows it to look into. I would also suggest that the same divine source of dreams also must know what is best for each person, and knowing this has encouraged many people towards lucid awareness in their dreams, and also, as a natural by-product, in their lives. It also knows if they're "controlling" their dreams too much and it will guide them to such a realization. Second, among other numerous examples of creativity, healing, problem-solving and useful, practical guidance, lucid dreaming has also helped many people to resolve recurring nightmare themes along with their related waking issues once and for all. There is a delicate balance of experience and understanding to be kept however. Lucid awareness is one thing, and what each person does with it is quite another. I personally haven't and professionally don't encourage people to become "control" freaks in their dreams, but rather suggest that they keep a curious, open approach to the situations that present themselves. If there is anyone who wants to try out my favorite lucid dream experiment, which has brought me truly, truly incredible and often very surprising and fulfilling results, then try this: The next time you go lucid, say to the dream (or think out loud), something like "Please bring me whatever experience and/or knowledge that would bring me the greatest fulfillment right now" (note: sometimes I leave off the "right now" part). I find this to be about the best balance between guiding and letting go that I've discovered to date.

(RCW): Dream work seems to have now slipped off the couch and into the culture at large. Do you foresee a widening gap between clinical and grassroots dream work?

Generally, I see the opposite. With internet, and all the various books and viewpoints being offered to the public, I see people in our culture becoming far more in tune, not only with dreams in general, but with their won (interesting Freudian finger- slip there, I consciously meant "own") personal power and best way to work with their dreams. This is an ongoing process and will likely continue at least over the next few decades, but that is precisely the mission of the D.R.E.A.M.S. Foundation which I founded here in Canada - to spread the awareness of what being in touch with one's dreams has to offer, and to show people how to do it and that there are many great teachers out there, but that, in the end, they are really their own best teacher, as most dream workers would agree.

(RCW): Do you have a theoretical stance or bias yourself in approaching dreams?

I would have to say that I have a number of them. I have grown up with the Seth philosophy which is a framework for viewing experience in general, and by extension, dreams. I also would say that a large aspect of my personal stance is intuitive in that I draw from a tremendous base of insight and experience from over ten years of focused personal dream work, training in many widely varied models of thinking from lucid dreaming to yoga and meditation to ecology and the truths of nature, and from having worked with, trained with or interviewed a number of who I consider to be the great teachers of our times, including Ram Dass, Shakti Gawain, and Hal & Sidra Stone, among others. The intellectual framework which I have personally found to be the most powerful in the last few years comes from the work of psychologists Hal and Sidra Stone, whose work is a powerful extension of the Jungian model and Gestalt techniques. I have also gained much insight into dream symbolism from Philadelphia dream worker James Villareal, who is not only an incredible master of symbolism, but also now a personal friend.

(RCW): There hasn't been much done to bring dream interpretation and dream science together since Harry Hunt's work in the late 1980's. As a matter of fact, dream science seems to be losing funding in general. Have we reached a wall or limit in dream science, or do you see new horizons opening up?

"Dream science" per se, is definitely not as up and coming as it was at the times of the discovery of REM sleep or at the scientific proof of lucid dreaming. As for it's future, I would say that the science and art of dreams will likely become more integrated as more scientists work with their dreams, and as more dream workers realize that the religion of science, which is basically what it is in our culture, is one of the large present day frameworks which people trust and through which many people can initially come to experience more subjective states, as I personally did. Likely, there will be a few more watershed scientific experiments that grab media and academic attention to bridge the present gap. Dreams for me, are the most fascinating personal science there is. There are plenty of principles and laws to be learned, but nobody can hand them to you gratis, you have to go discover them for yourself. And how fun and freeing that is!

(RCW): How did the idea for D.R.E.A.M.S. foundation come about?

The summer that I moved to California to begin work at the Lucidity Institute, another summer student at the Sacre-Coeur sleep and nightmare lab got inspired enough to create a non-profit foundation on paper, though that's all that ever happened. I found out about it by chance, a couple years later, after I had my split with Lucidity Institute, while I was sleeping at the Sacre-Couer lab a couple years later to record some lucid dreams. It was just another one of those right-place-and-right-time experiences that I've come to know so well. So with great support from the lab director, Dr. Tore Nielsen, I took the Foundation on as my new career, and have been slowly getting it established ever since. (RCW): Is the D.R.E.A.M.S. foundation planning any activities in coordination with the Global Dreaming Congress 2000?

We are on the mailing list to be informed of any events that come about, and are quite interested, though at the moment, nothing is planned. It would be great to hear from Jeremy Taylor and the committee there if there is one.

(RCW): With all this activity, do you still get a chance to run the rivers?

Most certainly. I'm off for a white-water canoe trip this week-end as a matter of fact, though it's a private vision quest/fun trip with friends, not a publicly advertised trip. The lucid paddling adventures (see www-sca.PSY.UMontreal.ca/dreams_foundation/dumoine1.html) that I've been running for the past few years are offered later in the summer and anyone interested in having a powerful dream and lucidity training in the grounded setting of a canoe-camping trip may contact me by e-mail at lucid@magnet.ca, [as of 07MAR09 info@dreams.ca ]or through the D.R.E.A.M.S. Foundation at 514-488-0347.

(RCW): Can you tell us a little more about this program, how it started, what its about?

I've always loved the water and was a national level competitive swimmer, and lifeguard. Over the last seven years, I've guided numerous river and flat-water varying-length canoe trips at first for a couple other organizations, but four years ago, I started my own business and have run vision quest adventure trips during the summer ever since. Early on, I realized I had a lot of different interests and hence directions going, so this is one of my attempts to integrate as many different aspects of my life as possible, share my skills and knowledge with others, and have a great time doing it - and it worked great from the start. Like Thoreau says, if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. Life is meant to be like that.

(RCW): So Craig, what are your favorite dream books?

I've appreciated various ones at different times. Patricia Garfield's "Creative Dreaming" is a good lucidity introduction book, as is LaBerge's original "Lucid Dreaming", though it's a bit more scientifically geared. I also like Dr. Harmon H. Bro's "Edgar Cayce on Dreams", Jane Roberts/Seth's "Dreams and Projections of Consciousness" & "The Nature of the Psyche", as well as the screenplay "Groundhog Day" which is really all about lucidity, in my opinion. Other great movies include "Excalibur" and "LadyHawk", which are packed with great symbolism, and nothing beats the good ol' Wizard of Oz.

(RCW): What do you foresee as the role of the Internet in the future of Dreams and Dreaming?

I see the internet as the physical extension of dreams, and I joke about it as the waking counterpart of the "innernet" (but there's no "t", since dreams can be "t"ime independent). Practically, I see the internet getting more multidimensional in terms of better input and output systems such as virtual reality, and becoming the way that we can break down all barriers of race, age, sex, and even remove the limits of geography, as dreams can. I also see it being prime soil for all types of global dream experiments, dream work and dream-sharing. I even have a pet project that I'd like to see developed of regional dream "weather" maps, which would process and group dreams from various parts of the world and warn of impending natural disasters, or of political or social upheavals before they occurred physically. For example, Quebec, the province I live in, had a referendum over a year ago to see if they were going to separate from Canada. They didn't, but it was ever so close, and the psychological implications are phenomenal, though somewhat invisible to the general public - it's almost like this region was hit with a huge psychological plague that can be transmitted by word of mouth and the media as people's attention is focused on the tension of the situation here between French and English cultures. There really was no big split going on, but the whole referendum began creating one. After the referendum, many people were suffering from nightmares about earthquakes and splitting earth and I myself was at a few "dream" rallies where the issues were being worked out on the dream level. I'm sure there were hints of all this in the dreams of people connected with this area before the event. Imagine what the a communal dream view of the gulf-war or of the dissolution of Russia would be like? It would be fascinating to watch the dreams of different regions for trends such as this and I could actually see you heading up such an intriguing project, Richard. It would surely get plenty of media attention for dreams in general and specifically for dreams and the internet.

(RCW): What kind of projects are you planning for the future in dreams and dreaming?

I'm presently finishing my book about applying lucidity and dream principles practically in life, and planning various events through the D.R.E.A.M.S. Foundation such as taking lucid dreaming and dream incubation to high schools for teens as an alternative exploration and rebelliousness outlet over drug and alcohol abuse. I've also started working with dying patients at the invitation of a dream work student of mine who is a doctor there, to see how dream work and related skills may help with the terminally ill, and especially with cancer and AIDS patients, possibly even providing insight into their cures. As for other projects or directions, only my future self knows, so I'll tell you when "I" awaken.

"Believe you can, believe you can't. Either way you're right." -H. Ford