Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange
Lucy Gillis, Editor

Dream Characters and Reality Checks
Part Four: Mutual Dreaming

Linda Lane Magallón

(Electric Dreams)  (Article Index)  (Search for Topic)  (View Article Options)

Magallón, Linda Lane (2006 February). Dream Characters and Reality Checks. Part Four:
Mutual Dreaming. (An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange, Lucy Gillis, Editor.)
Electric Dreams 13(2).

Back in May, Linda Lane Magallón tackled the subject of dream characters in part one of her four part series. Are dream characters real people? Do they have a will, or a consciousness of their own? Are they all the same, or could some be lifeless projections? Join Linda as she takes us on a journey through her own thoughts and intriguing dreams. You may not look at your dream characters in quite the same way again!

Dream Characters and Reality Checks
Part Four: Mutual Dreaming

(c) 2005 Linda Lane Magallón

"What you see is what you get!" said Geraldine Jones. On most every episode of The Flip Wilson Show, she would strut around and show herself off. "What I see is what I get!" think lucid dreamers when they spy a dream character. Literal identification is a hard habit to break.

The audience of The Flip Wilson Show television program had an edge over dreamers. They'd spent plenty of time looking at TV, comparing it with physical life. Over time, through conscious observation, they'd been able to teach themselves the subtle differences between a fictional drama, a fanciful commercial and a factual documentary - between what is "real" and "unreal." When Geraldine made her proclamation, it was time for a chuckle.

For "Geraldine" was actually comedian Flip Wilson in drag. His falsetto voice and women's clothes didn't fool the audience one bit. They could readily see past his disguise.

The same can't be said for dreamers. We haven't spent an equal amount of time noticing and interacting with dream characters in a conscious manner. The dream screen isn't nearly so handy as the TV screen; there's always a time lag before we can contrast the visuals of the dream with the sights of waking life. I was just as prone to the Flip Wilson Syndrome as everyone else: accepting dream characters as they appear without questioning my assumptions. I didn't realize that the dream is a jokester. It can clothe itself in all sorts of special effects, and I'm not just talking about the scenery.

Spirit guides, deceased relatives, probable selves, gods, fairies and beasts: these are just a few of the identities attributed to dream characters. Which of them, among the often bewildering variety, actually fits the dream you had last night? In order to comprehend dream characters in general, I suggest we start with live human beings. Maybe we can learn to see through the Geraldine-façade to the actual person underneath.

Why Pay Attention to Human Beings?

  1. Agreement About Reality
    Most humans act as if the material world is real. They also think they're real and are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. So the first reason for using live humans is a practical one: mutual agreement that real beings coexist in a shared physical universe. Since the vote of the majority isn't always correct, consensus is no proof. But this common ground is a good place to start our discussion, whether we end here or not.

  2. Relative Stability of the Physical Counterpart
    The physical world is more fixed than the worlds of dream, altered states and psi. It doesn't morph as much as they do, nor slip and slide in time. This consistency makes the more stable waking versions of its inhabitants a useful standard for comparison, when contrasted with their dreaming counterparts.

  3. Shared Perceptual Apparatus
    No matter who or what a dream character actually is, we still have to use human perceptual apparatus to perceive it. Our inner vision is dependent on our outer vision (people blind from birth don't have visual dreams). Our outer vision perceives the physical world only partially (not like a microscope, telescope or x-ray machine). Whatever we do "see" must have something that our human hardware can latch onto or we will remain oblivious to it. In addition, our human software, such as intuition, reason, judgment, culture, language and reporting skills, combine to produce the final perceptual product. Seen together, we can realize group disadvantages (we don't have ultraviolet, magnetic or heat vision like some animals do). We can discover species-wide quirks (we have anthropomorphic tendencies: we are apt to assign human characteristics to animals, aliens and angels). What's actually in front of us may be quite different from what we think we see.

  4. Assessment of Hardware and Software
    We are less likely to ignore or gloss over our specific talents...and handicaps...if they are seen against a backdrop of multiple events. We are less likely to consider our dream vision to be perfect and our capacity to identify dream characters to be unflawed when we compare perceptual skills with fellow humans.

  5. Feedback
    A live human being is the only entity in this shared universe who can give us feedback about private presumptions. Whereas we can observe from afar the obvious surface appearance and behavior of any visual element, only a verbal human can tell us about what is hidden from sight, such as thoughts, feelings, emotions and subtle senses. These are the very components likely to participate in and influence the construction of our dreams.
Reality Checks Linking Humans and Dream Characters

On an informal basis, we can look and listen to one another, sharing notes about what we see whether awake or asleep. But if we're serious about doing reality checks on human dream characters, the two main avenues of study involve a comparison of our dreams with another person's waking life and a comparison of our dreams with another person's dreams.

  1. Lab Experimentation
    The most stringent reality check involving dreams or psi is experimentation in a laboratory using the scientific method. There have been lab experiments in dream telepathy and waking psi, as well as nonpsi phenomena like subliminal perception. Valuable information comes from lab reports, scientific journal articles, lectures and books written by the scientists. Perhaps the most revealing option is to communicate directly with lab subjects and scientists to discover what wasn't in the published reports. For example, there have been no official lab projects involving two or more people dreaming together, although I have heard the results of unofficial studies.

  2. Field Research
    Field research in dream telepathy, precognition and clairvoyance can provide basic information on psi. However, the most applicable research involving dream characters is shared dreaming: deliberate dreaming with other people with the intent to connect in the dreamstate. My initial research in this area was with people who had never met in waking life, so a baseline of psi versus nonpsi results could be established. In the major projects, there was a facilitator or group to provide checks and balances and assure that everybody was being honest. Specifically, the Mutual Lucid Dreaming Protocol requires a "fair witness" to oversee communication between dreamers. Ed Kellogg, Robert Waggoner and I co-created it.
Three Aspects of Dream Characters

As a result of my research, I became aware that we needed to re-think the elements involved in dream identification, since they weren't quite the same as waking life. I decided to focus on three aspects. First, let's consider the case when all 3 aspects refer back to you, when the dream is totally "your stuff."

  1. The Source of the Image-As-Perceived (the Picture)
    Your own personal hardware and software produces the imagery in your mind, whether you are awake or asleep, whether your eyes are open or closed. Thus, an inner picture you'd identify as Aunt Annie would be your snapshot, your painting. As if your mind were a camera, you project an image of Aunt Annie built from whatever visual memory data has been collected and stored. Your dreams need not be an exact copy of waking life; your creative mind is quite capable of mixing, matching and expanding upon whatever is seen with physical eyes. You have whole Aunt Annie memories, but you also have common memories of component parts like movement, speech, color and form that will help animate the Aunt Annie dream.

  2. The Source of the Information That Produces the Image
    In the waking state and lucid dreams, you might deliberately think of your aunt and have a picture spring up in response. But usually the process is unintentional and the image arises spontaneously from whatever bodily sensations, anticipations and emotions, feelings and subtle senses you associate with Aunt Annie. Although memory of a real person is triggered, the Annie character can star in a dream story that is totally fanciful. Your own information is ladled onto her image and used for your own purposes. In such a case, the only thing taken from Aunt Annie would be a visual snapshot of her façade, her picture, her mask.

  3. The Presence or Absence of That Energy Source in the Dream
    When the dream acts like a reflecting glass, it bounces back what physical mirrors do not. Thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions can resound from your inner echo chamber. In this case, if Aunt Annie feels real, it's because you are real. You would be sensing your own "realness" returning to you, while concurrently seeing an Aunt Annie façade.
Whether awake or asleep, your vision is only as good as your picture; your picture is only as good as your vision. Because you are always using your personal hardware and software, you are consistently the one who creates your own surface picture of reality.

But the information and energy behind the picture? That can vary.

You could be dreaming about Aunt Annie; having an in-dream reverie about the real person. When information is co-opted from waking life, Aunt Annie can seem quite realistic. The information that forms the dream story could be known consciously, but it's often not. While awake, you may have picked up Aunt Annie information subconsciously, subliminally or at the periphery of your vision. Perhaps it's a certain attitude, skin tone or gesture that alerts you to the fact that Annie is pregnant. This you don't consciously know while awake, but your subconscious mind reads the signs correctly and plays back that information in a dream.

Therefore, just because you dream about Aunt Annie doesn't necessarily mean you are in connection with her as you sleep. Nor does it prove that she is present in the dream. It doesn't guarantee that you obtain dream information directly from Aunt Annie or that you dream with Aunt Annie. You may be relying totally on information obtained while awake or fantasized as you slumber. Or a little of both. Because these options are highly probable, be prepared to take full responsibility for your dreams. And full credit for you extrasensitive sensory perception. Only sometimes may you be dealing with influence beyond it.

If Aunt Annie is not standing at the end of the bed tickling your toes or her voice isn't whispering suggestions into your ears as her audio tape plays at your bedside; if the information could not have reached you via normative sensory means, then it's possible you are experiencing dreampsi. Precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy or empathy could be contributing factors. Shared dreaming would extend psi beyond information retrieval and involve energy transfer, especially the energy of presence. It's only when these 2 aspects occur together - her information and her energy - that you would truly be dreaming "with" Aunt Annie, meeting her in dreamspace. You may notice that, in defining a dream meeting, I've said nothing of how the picture of Aunt Annie looks.

The Mask Atop A Live Human Being

Now, let's turn the tables. Suppose that you're actually dreaming about or from or with Aunt Annie, but the dream picture doesn't match her waking appearance. Could the dream version of Annie take on an alternate appearance, like an celebrity, spook or past life self? Could Annie, in some sense, actually be there but not look like you'd expect her to look?

I had created my recurring dream character, Willette Nicholson, in imagination before she suddenly showed up in the dream state. So, I already knew that I had provided the picture. My breakthrough dream, although a seemingly spontaneous event, was actually predated by an intense period of incubation. Later, I found I could deliberately induce Willie dreams if I held onto that intent prior to sleep. Within lucid dreams, I could conjure up her image by willpower alone. "Will-it," I had called her in that first lucid dream, not Willette. To have her appear the way she did, I just had to "will it." But who was the actor underneath the surface appearance? Was she only a reflection of me? Sometimes it seemed so, but not always.

Gradually, I came to recognize parallels with physical existence. For instance, the day after I met a female psychic at a New Age bookstore, I dreamt of Willie as a psychic. In waking life I introduced a working colleague named Leona to another woman; during the night I dreamt that I introduced Leona to Willie. After I'd traveled to Jill Gregory's Dream Library and Archive to help her organize the books and shelves, I dreamt Willie and I were heroically lifting a library floor.

Once, I dreamt that Willie was being introduced in public, along with Superman. Incongruously, Superman was wearing a flat top hat. At the time, Kent Smith, Ilona Marshall and I were co-creating the Dream Definition Dialogue interpretation technique to present in public. Kent often wore a flat top hat. If Superman was my version of Kent, then Willie would be...Ilona. Although the waking versions of such events involved several women, the dream versions contained only one costume.

Another time, I visited a dream group and talked animatedly about lucid dreaming with a fellow dreamer named Brad. Whereas I supported Brad's enthusiasm about lucid dreams, the leader of the group castigated us by inferring that, since Brad enjoyed manipulating the scenery so much, passive non-lucid dreams (and the people who dreamt them) were more spiritual than lucid ones. I talked with Brad afterwards, reaffirming his active behavior. That night I dreamt I was flying with Willie when she was struck by lightning and fell out of the sky. I had to dive down and rescue her before she hit the ground. For a long time, I didn't see the connection between being shut down in the dream group and being shocked out of the sky. That's because I was expecting Willie's waking counterpart to be a woman, not a man. Evidently, I could plaster Willie's image atop anyone, no matter what the gender.

Instances like these gave me the sense that I was leading parallel lives: a mundane variety in waking life and a magical version in the dream state. In waking life, I was Linda interacting with friends and colleagues; in dreaming life I was Casey the flyer who could levitate objects, teleport through walls and rescue people by flying away with them. Quite frankly, I preferred the dreaming version! However, in each of these cases, I felt that I was dreaming about Ilona, Brad and the rest. There was no reason to suspect influence other than day residue and no way to check in the dreamstate, since these were all non-lucid dreams.

Mutual Willie

After I began co-dreaming with dreaming partners, I discovered that Willie could be a flag for mutual dreams. If she appeared in either of our dreams, it was highly probable that they would contain psi correspondences. These correlations could be similar symbols (a deep hole in the floor), similar scenery (a resort hotel) or similar events (a bus trip in San Francisco).

One of the most vivid examples of dream/waking connection was a precognitive-telepathic dream. Several months before mutual dream researcher Jean Campbell took a trip to Europe, I dreamt of meeting Willie there. The correspondences between Jean's upcoming trip and my long, lucid dream were very striking. This dream occurred before Jean and I had ever met in the physical, although we had been penpals for a short time.

The most consistent recipient of the Willie costume was my husband, Manny. I'd dreamt Willie gave me a gold chain after Manny gave me a gold necklace for my birthday. Definitely day residue. I already knew that Manny had a harem fantasy when I had a harem dream with Willie; however, that same night he had a lucid dream in which he tried to "will" a woman to do his bidding. Synchronicity. I dreamt Willie picking up pieces of a DOS computer (unusual for me, since I own a Mac). After I woke, Manny told me an incident from the previous day: he was trying to fix a DOS computer at work when he dropped some of the pieces on the ground. Quite likely a case of psi.

The dream world had provided me with multiple examples of Willie's picture atop another human, but I was so caught up in the need for Willie to be a real, independent being that I ignored the clues. The dream had to become more specific. I dreamt of meeting Willie. Immediately afterwards, the dream repeated itself, and I dreamt of meeting Jean Campbell. The dream was trying its best to tell me something, but I wasn't listening. When that didn't get my attention, it became even more literal. I dreamt of making love to Willie, who morphed into Manny. Several times I closely observed this morphing process as it occurred in lucid dreams. In each case, the Willie picture melted into Manny's image, not the other way around.

Despite having to use the clothing I provided, a Willie dream could reveal information about other people. Beyond sensory stimuli, there was extrasensory perception in operation. But were any of the people behind the mask coming to visit?

Dream Presence

Waking psi experiments, like remote viewing, reveal that it's possible to perceive at a distance, yet remain seated in the here and now. So the perception of accurate dreampsi information about Aunt Annie doesn't necessarily mean that she is present in your dream. She could be the broadcasting source of information that your sleeping mind recognizes as having Aunt Annie qualities, and in response, attaches an Aunt Annie image to it.

On the other hand, full-blown presence presumes that your consciousness travels to another dreamer or that he comes to you. Sometimes this happens in physical terms. Once, before completely returning to the waking state, I had the sense of Willie hovering over me, smiling, although there wasn't much of a picture to accompany this feeling. Soon thereafter, my daughter Teresa actually came into my bedroom and hovered over me. When I opened my eyes, she said, "Look at my face." "You're a clown," I responded. As part of a costume for Halloween, Teresa had "smiling" makeup painted on her face. Talk about a living mask!

My definition of "presence" has little to do with whether my partner's astral body appears in my dream. To me, presence involves the emergence of energy as contrasted with information. The full equation for psi is extrasensory perception plus psychokinesis. In dreaming terms, this means that the tactile senses come into play: gesture, motion, speed, rhythm being among them. It means, for instance, that if you touch your partner in your dream, she dreams of being touched. Is this somatic experience simply a case of information received, then converted by the dreamer's mind into sensation? Or is it direct tactile influence? This is one of those areas that still requires a lot of reality checks, but my preliminary investigation leads me to conclude that another person's energy can be present in a dream. When this happens, the dream character feels real because it is real. You are sensing the real energy of another human being behind the mask. The mask need not look like that particular human being, though.

The other person doesn't have to be conscious of sending information or energy your way for the transfer to occur. This makes it difficult to discover correlations with dreamers who aren't very self-aware. Just because you're lucid in a dream doesn't mean the other person is. A successfully shared lucid dream would require information plus energy plus conscious awareness. Ironically, it does not have to require the same picture! There doesn't even need to be a picture for psi connection to occur. It could be an audio or tactile experience, instead.


This adventure with Willie was far more complex than I've had the time to tell. It was also a journey into altered states other than the dream. It was an eye-opener about how much we project rather than perceive, and how much Western culture encourages projection, while concurrently rejecting even the possibility of extrasensory perception.

To summarize, these are the most important things I learned from doing reality checks with human beings.

Picture, presence and parallel information are three different aspects of dream characters, each to be considered separately when trying to make an identification. Just because Annie appears in your dream doesn't mean it really is Annie. Just because an angel appears in your dream doesn't mean it really is an angel. Or an alien. Or an animated cartoon. The picture might be a mask for your own information and energy. It could be a costume for another human being. Or there can be any combination or permutation of these aspects.

Can our dream pictures be costumes for real entities other than humans? To my own satisfaction, I've concluded that animals needn't look like they do in waking life. A family pet with four legs can appear without them, as an eel, worm or a puff of fur (I suspect this is picture shorthand for its bubble-shaped aura).

In this immensely large universe, I would never suppose that humans are the only sentient inhabitants. However, I think an alien or alternate essence would have a real problem trying to communicate with humanity. Humans are so prone to plastering their presumptions that the presentment of such "significant others" would likely be warped beyond recognition. Personally, I think humans have a lot of homework ahead of them before they'll be invited to join any planetary or astral alliance.

But these last remarks are opinions. They've not been reality checked.

Determining the difference between another's presence and our own reflections is not any easy task, but by using humans as our standard, I believe we can develop the identification process into an art and science: an art of subtle sensing backed by a science of verification. If we don't know the difference, we'll never understand or even realize the existence of the greater mysteries of the universe. And, for sure, we'll never get the cosmic joke.

The Lucid Dream Exchange is a quarterly newsletter featuring lucid dreams and lucid dream related articles and interviews. To subscribe to The Lucid Dream Exchange send a blank email to: TheLucidDreamExchange-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

You can also check us out at www.dreaminglucid.com