Electric Dreams

Consistent Clues:
Go Get a Picture and Gather Some Dreamers...
(Excerpted from
"How To Fly")

Linda Lane Magallón

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Magallón, Linda Lane (2003 May). Consistent Clues: Go Get a Picture and
Gather Some Dreamers... (Excerpted from "How To Fly"). Electric Dreams 10(5).

We've seen that a dream can look like its counterpart event in the waking world, but it doesn't have to. And it's not likely to. Although the obvious visual reproductions are easy to spot, there aren't very many of them. What about all the variations and transformations? Are they just jumbled data, a bit of this with a peck of that, forming a new recipe that has no relationship whatsoever to the fruits of the waking state? Do we merely classify dreams as "delirious" when they contain elements seemingly inconsistent with physical reality? Well, believe it or not, even the wildest sleep-time fantasy might be a response to waking life. Good thing, too. We can use the information gleaned from wake-inspired nocturnal productions to help incubate flying dreams. Despite obvious differences, certain corresponding elements tend to stay the same. I call them "Consistent Clues."

New Tools For The Treasure Hunt

The "Clues" actually have a fairly long history. Although there were attempts to compare dreams and material reality as far back at the Classical Greek period, researchers weren't very methodical until the late 1800's. The researchers began the comparison process with an already-produced dream, that is, a report of a dream after it had happened. Then they attempted to link the dream elsewhen, such as a portent of things to come, or backward, to the distant or recent past.

This approach is, at best, a game of speculation. Sometimes the speculation can be pretty wild! Which of the kabillion little events or aspects of your physical life might the dream talking about? And don't forget all the events that "happen" to you while you are watching TV or day-dreaming about Tolkien's Middle Earth. Sometimes dream theorists throw up their hands and declare that dreams have nothing to do with waking life. Or if they do, it's a crap shoot. I'd rather the theorists put their hands down and start counting the Clues. To discover clues, it's far more fruitful for a researcher to begin with a waking event, then link it FORWARD, to dreams that may follow. It's quickly apparent that not every waking event has a dream reflection. Some dreams will ignore an event entirely. Dreams do not react to every moment in our lives. They respond to only some of them.

Finding links in this new direction can still be a guessing game, unless you add one more element. INTENTION. When you intend to dream about something in particular, your chances of doing so increase rather dramatically. To deliberately dream of flying will produce more flying dreams than if you wait around for them to appear. Researchers used subjects that intended to dream for them in order to track the visual components of dreams. Along the way, they discovered a couple of new tools. These have worked well for over a century.
  • The picture target. An image on paper, that stays still long enough for several folks to view and analyze it, is a lot more practical than an event that's here and gone. To use a picture target, you might stare at it just before you go to sleep, wondering if any of the target elements will be incorporated into your dreams of that night. If you are experimenting with the psychic aspects of dreams, you could get someone else to "send" the target to you telepathically. In either case, you have something lasting and concrete with which to compare your dream report.
  • Multiple dreamer attempts. A single dream is like a dot on a piece of paper. Even if you were able to reproduce the picture in your dream, you really couldn't see the full "picture" of how dreams work unless you added more dots, then stood back to find if they created a pattern. Consider when a video scene begins with the camera lens so close to an object that you can't see its edges. You probably have no idea what the object is until the camera pulls back and you finally get to see the entire object plus everything surrounding it. Dreams are like that. One dream doesn't show what many dreams will, when viewed together. Researchers could have collected several dreams from a single dreamer. But they found it was more revealing to use several dreamers and their many dreams gathered from a single experiment. So take one picture target and several dreamers dreaming several dreams to that one target and what do you get?
Subliminal Research and Free Association

The first to have some success in specifying the Consistent Clues weren't the researchers inducing regular, lucid or psi dreams. Actually, it was the subliminal researchers.

In 1917 the Viennese neurologist Otto Pützl presented the results of a study that used a tachistoscope. This device presents pictures on a screen at 1/100th of a second. At that rate most of the scene can't be recognized by the conscious mind. Pützl was able to demonstrate that the unseen parts of the briefly flashed picture can nonetheless be smuggled into dreams. Drawings of the dreams made by dreamers during the night or early the next morning may show traces of this subliminal imagery.

The "Pützl Phenomenon" highlights a very important finding. It's not only the pictures right in front of you that can form your dream. It's not only the objects you remember that can form your dream. Dreams also respond to what's on the periphery of your vision, to what you're not paying direct attention and to what's underneath your usual level of perception.

So I have a question for you to ponder. How can you use your waking mind to "free associate" to an element of your dream that was procured by your subconscious mind? I don't mean that it became subconscious because your conscious mind recognized it, got embarrassed or guilty, and then repressed the recognition. Freud's theory held that many dreams were the result of childhood traumas and fantasies. That is, memories of childhood traumas and fantasies still operative and being acted out in maladaptive behavior. If memories of past connections (trauma plus guilt, for example) were unaltered by the passage of time, as Freud believed, they could be retrieved by the conscious mind because the conscious mind was aware of them at one time, even if for an instant prior to the repression.

But what if an event is subconscious because your conscious mind never made that connection in the first place? Never recognized it, never named it? It might be a body-memory, instead. A motor-sensory memory can be made manifest by the movement of your hand drawn across a sheet of paper. As far as your conscious mind goes, it's truly "un" conscious. It's clear that Freudian repression is not the same as subliminal perception. One depends on a psychological reaction to a previously conscious memory and is retrieved by written or verbal language. The other is physiological; it's in the nature of how human perceptual apparatus works at its subconscious periphery and its retrieval is not necessarily dependent on an oral recitation. To understand subliminal information, we need to look elsewhere to understand the associations that our minds make as they build the structure of the dream.

The "Pützl Phenomenon" was further studied by researchers Wolfgang Leuschner and Stephan Hau. In 1992, they used a collage of triangular objects as their target picture. In keeping with Pützl's assumptions, Leuschner and Hau discovered that the target material was apparently dissociated by the mind into fragments. REM dreams appeared to depict the fragments rather than the structure of the picture as a whole. So nobody dreamt the full picture, but sometimes they dreamt parts of it. This is a good reason to gather several dreams. More that one piece may be required to complete the puzzle.

Consistent Clues

Leuschner and Hau's subliminal research identified four target features.
  • LABEL: Certain individual details of the target were mentioned in dreamers' reports by their commonly recognized names. If there was a mountain, sailboat or beach in the picture, one could find the word "mountain," "sailboat" or "beach" in the oral report. To the literal researcher, these parts were "labeled" correctly.
  • CLANG: Some of the elements in the picture converted to metaphor. The use of analogy is no surprise to folks who have invested time doing dream interpretation. But these metaphors were of a specific type. They were puns. For instance, a pictorial element, such as a "sail" might transpose to the written word "sale." Such elements "clang," or sound the same.
  • COLOR: Even if the dreamer switched to other images or used different labels, the colors tended to stay the same as those in the picture. Instead of a yellow and green sailboat, the dreamer might dream up a green and yellow car.
  • FORM: Objects retained their triangularity. Again, the dreamer might switch to other images, with different labels. But the new images would have three sides, too. Rather than several people with triangular hats, the dreamer might dream up one person with a pair of triangular eyeglasses. The discovery of form was greatly aided by the fact that the dreamers didn't just speak their dreams as they were recorded by video tape. This type of research required that they draw sketches of what they had "seen" in their dreams.
Other researchers, who used 3-dimensional rather than 2-dimensional targets, would discover another Consistent Clue that has great relevance for the flying dreamer.
  • MOTION: The way another character or object moves in the dream or the way your dreaming self moves in the dream can be the same sort of movement as found in waking life. Obviously, your physical body doesn't fly like Superman in physical reality. But elements of your motion, like speed, direction or height above the ground can be clues to your visual whereabouts in that waking moment which helped inspire your sleeping dream.
Melonie's Dream Visit

The first time I became aware of Consistent Clues wasn't by way of a picture or a lab experiment. My own waking life was the target. But it did take the cooperation of another dreamer to discover Clues. At the time of this dream, I was co-dreaming with her. I had never met Melonie in physical reality; we communicated with each other by postal mail and phone. One night, Melonie decided to come visit me in a dream. Melonie's dream began:

"I am in Linda's house. I recognize it from the photograph she sent me. Three rooms. First to my right a small glassed-in room containing a piano. This room is all glass and wood."

To assist our co-dreaming, I had sent Melonie a photograph of myself, but not of my house. The bottom floor has three rooms. The family room contains a piano. On its opposite side is a wall with two double sliding glass doors and a large window. At the time of the dream, a wooden bookcase was planned to cover most of its far wall. The blueprints for the bookcase were on the back of our kitchen door and very much on my mind.

Melonie's dream continued:

"Then a larger room. Walls are greyish blue. I sit on a couch and wonder how I can find Linda's telephone number. It is afternoon and she is at work. Her husband and another man come in. Her husband is a psychologist."

The largest room is the living room but its walls are painted white. It's the couch which is greyish blue. And it's the couch upon which I was sitting when my husband came home from work one afternoon and handed me the mail. Seated next to me was a man who is a hypnotherapist and the two of us happened to be talking about dreams. For even more synchronicity, the mail included a letter from Melonie. And in it was this very dream. The literal LABELS include glass, wood, piano and couch. It's not an uncommon cue for a dream to use "telephone" as an indicator of connection; it SOUNDS very like "telepathy." The COLOR is the greyish blue. FORM is inferred in numbers: the 3 rooms and the 2 men. The MOTION is the man coming into the room. Label, clang, color, form and motion were ingredients in Melonie's dream.

The pieces were right. But they weren't assembled as in physical reality. In particular, some items were switched. The color of the couch showed up on the wall. An occupation was attributed to another man. The photograph was of the house instead of me. I was sitting on the couch rather than Melonie.

Some researchers call this a "reassociation weakness." But that's only if they are seeking in dreams an exact Xerox of the material world. To their credit, Leuschner and Hau took a more liberal view of the phenomena. They called the opportunity for mixing and matching "a precondition for new, witty and creative inventions of the kind seldom brought about by waking thought." Creativity is a hallmark of dreams.

A New View of Dreams

As far back as the early 20th century, the subliminal researchers had claimed that the dream features seemed to be "processed separately" by the brain rather than together, as a whole. And they only had the outer fruits of the dream to analyze: the dream reports. Finally, at the end of the century, neurological researchers were able to use technology to study the inner-workings of the body and brain. And guess what they found? It used to be thought that memories were stored like pages in a book, or books in a library shelf, located in a particular place in the brain. So the neurologists went looking for those locations. They found that the human brain no more contains memory spots than there are picture postcards stored in the memory board slots inside your computer case. Even when visual material first registers on the eye, it is recognized by two types of elements: rods and cones, and they fire in various combinations, depending on what is seen. But human encoding is even more complex than digital computer language. It is beginning to look like any one part of the brain is networked with other portions of the brain and body in a sort of Internet of connectivity. Parts can be "talking" to one another at more-or-less the same time. And it seems there are particular servers handling specific sorts of traffic.

Eyes dissect an image cast upon your retina into about 126 million pieces, then send signals for every one of these tiny elements to the thalamus. The thalamus in turn fires neuronal networks to and within the visual cortex before information ends up in the frontal cortex, where the pieces are put back together. The multi-million bits of information don't all travel the same route, however. All the processing takes place along a few independent, parallel pathways. One system processes information about SHAPE, one about COLOR and one about MOVEMENT, location and spatial organization. Sound familiar?

Separated information isn't just a characteristic of dreams, then. It is in the very nature of the body-brain perceptual system itself. And it's not just subliminal dreams that manifest these characteristics. Parallel pathways of research have reported evidence of Consistent Clues, too. The Clues have been found in labs that study regular dreams and dream psi. They've been found out in the field of lucid dreams. And in a closely related field of waking endeavor: remote viewing.

Surfing Your Dream Reports

So what does this mean when you go surfing your dream reports to discover evidence of dream-waking correlation? You already know some of the skills to develop beforehand: recall, recording, journaling. Take care to LABEL your dream elements as accurately as you can. Although you may not have a full copycat dream, a few of the elements might be named as they are in waking life.

Then do an about-face. Ignore the blatant imagery. Yes, that's right. Ignore the labels you have given to whatever you "saw" in your dream. At this stage in the process, don't you dare go running for a symbol dictionary! Time enough for that later. Much later. Symbol interpretation is about step 18 in a list of 20. There's a whole lot of prep work to do first.

If you haven't done so already, try to get in the habit of making sketches of the objects in your dreams. No, not involved drawings. Quick doodles actually work better to define FORM. Write down the COLOR you see, even if you only mention black and white. Describing MOTION may be a little more complicated. For now, just be aware of moving about in your dream, even if you aren't in flight.

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(Dream Flights)