Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange

Dream Trips: Dream Drugs as Metaphor

Lucy Gillis 

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  Gillis, Lucy (2001 April). An Excerpt from the Lucid Dream Exchange: Dream Trips: Dream Drugs as Metaphor  Electric Dreams 8(4). Retrieved December 30, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams 

The feature article this month is written by "Adastra" who looks at the idea of taking dream drugs while lucid, as a symbolic way to express intent (to the dreaming mind) to experience an altered state of consciousness.

By Adrasta (xtrope@direct.ca)

If someone takes a psychoactive drug while physically awake, it changes her brain chemistry and so alters her state of consciousness. Taking a drug in a dream is a very different proposition, however - in that realm a drug would actually be a metaphor for an intention to change your consciousness in a particular way, and as such I believe it could be an interesting and useful technique for lucid dreamers. Ann Faraday discusses this in her book DREAM POWER:

"I had several high dreams during and after the period of my [legal] drug research, and the one I remember most vividly still remains somewhat of a mystery to me. In this dream, I found myself on a desert island with some friends when a storm blew up. As we stood and watched the lightning flash across the sky and the waves beating against the rocks, I thought, "I wish I had some acid now." My wish immediately became reality, and I reached a "high" in the dream. For a timeless moment, I danced, flashed, and roared with the storm and seemed to merge with the "being" at the centre of it. On regaining normal consciousness in the dream, I turned to my friends and said, "You need acid to see the devil in the storm," and they nodded their comprehension. I woke up feeling exhilarated and joyful beyond belief, a feeling which remained with me for several days. Here again is evidence that the "high" state can be produced without drugs - in this case it was a mental image of LSD which succeeded in bringing about the ecstatic dream experience."

In contrast to Charles Tart's article on "high dreams" in ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS, Faraday suggests that it may be possible to experience such a state in a dream without having experienced it first in waking life. Most of Tart's data comes from subjects who had participated in LSD research and subsequently had similar experiences in dreams. Faraday, however, experienced her first high dream long before her research with psychedelics. One fascinating aspect of this phenomenon mentioned by Tart is that some of the subjects experienced a continuation of the altered state for a few minutes after they woke up. Terence McKenna, who has done extensive research with psilocybin and DMT, mentioned in an interview that he has experienced "full-blown DMT experiences" after taking the substance in a dream, and that this experience sometimes persisted for a few moments after waking. It would be interesting to speculate on whether taking a drug in a dream is literally altering your brain chemistry, or even if naturally occurring psychedelics in the brain could be involved in the normal dreaming process. After all, it is known that a small amount of a psychedelic taken before going to sleep - an amount too small to produce a noticeable effect if taken while awake - will extend the period of REM dreaming. The Lucidity Institute Lucid Dreaming FAQ states, "Drugs in the LSD family, including psilocybin and tryptamines actually stimulate REM sleep (in doses small enough to allow sleep), leading to longer REM periods." They add, "we do not recommend the use of drugs without proper guidance nor do we urge the breaking of laws," an important qualification with which I fully agree.

Regardless of the possible role of endogenous psychedelics in "normal" brain chemistry and daily altered states such as dreaming, it may be worthwhile to experiment with "dream drugs" as a metaphor for intended alterations of consciousness. Obviously, if one has experienced the effect of a particular drug while awake - be it LSD, alcohol, ecstasy, marijuana or whatever - it would be possible to compare the states produced in the dream and those produced while awake. However, even if one has never experienced a drug in waking life, knowing what the effects of the drug are said to be may be sufficient to produce a useful altered state in the dream environment. A.S. Kay, in the article "Psychedelics and Lucid Dreaming: Doorways in the Mind," mentions a dreamer's experience of taking MDMA [ecstasy] in a dream, then notes, "The dreamer had...not yet taken MDMA in waking life. Shortly after this dream he did try it and found the experience to be very similar." Kay points out the rich array of possibilities open to someone who chooses this line of experimentation:

"A particularly "psychedelic" way of programming your choice is to decide which dream drug to take in a lucid state. If you take dream-MDMA you will have a heart-level bonding experience, which can be used to clear negative patterns with parents, lovers or friends, or to enhance awareness of the perfection of your self, and every other person. If you take dream-LSD you can more easily tune into the unconscious realms and the spiritual channels, etc. You might even try creating your own brand of psychedelic, with attributes of your fancy. If you are really daring, take a totally unknown drug, and let it take you where it will. Everything you learn will mirror your mind! You will reach totally new and uncharted lands, which are yet somehow familar!

Speculative and science fiction stories also offer good ideas for compounding your dream drug...time warpers would be drugs that dilate or contract time, or allow time travel to past and future lives. Or take a stripper drug that peels away layer after layer of whatever you see/feel to reveal its deeper essence - then dream a mirror and fall into your core! Or design a transference drug that allows you to be fully in another's mind, or in an alien consciousness. Of course there are all manner of telepathy-enhancing drugs you could conjure, as well as dream tripmates to play with. The list is an endless as your fantasy world, and as deep as your calling."

No matter how you feel about using psychedelic or other drugs while physically awake, you may find them worthwhile to experiment with in dreams. In dreamland you don't have to worry about breaking the law, nor about the possible purity or even identity of black market drugs. You need not worry about the safety of your physical body. And in the fluid state of dreams, you may be able to go much deeper into a state than you would during an analogous experience initiated in consensus reality. As John Lilly aptly noted, "In the province of the mind, there are no limits."
Faraday, Ann. "Dream Power" New York, Berkley 1980.

Kay, A.S. "Psychedelics and Lucid Dreaming: Doorways in the Mind." Psychedelic Monographs and Essays, Issue 3: Dec. 1987. [I believe this essay is available in the book Psychedelics: The most exciting new materials on psychedelic drugs, ed. by Thomas Lyttle. It should also be available from your local library as an Inter-Library Loan.]

Tart, Charles, "The 'High' Dream: A New State of Consciousness," Altered States of Consciousness. New York, Harpercollins 1990.

The Lucidity Institute Lucid Dreaming FAQ is available at

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