Have you ever wondered about the reality of your dream characters? Do they
perhaps exist "somewhere" in another dimension of reality – a "place" we
simply call "the dream state?" Could some of them be more than just images
conjured up by our minds? Do they have minds of their own? How could we go
about finding out?
In LDE 33 co-editor Robert Waggoner asks "Are all dream residents merely
thought forms?" and provides some very (if you'll pardon the pun)
THOUGHT-FORMS, AUTOMATONS, AND ACTIVE INITIATORS: RESIDENTS IN LUCID DREAMING
(c) 2004 Robert Waggoner
(This article was initially presented at the 2004 PsiberDreaming Conference.)
In a lucid dream years ago, I found myself having sex with an attractive dream resident. While part of me enjoyed the physical thrill and building passion, another part lucidly wondered, "Is she merely a thought-form?" To resolve the question, I authoritatively announced, "All thought-forms must now disappear!"
Suddenly, she was gone.
As I lay there in the semi-darkness, hanging in a missionary position that had seemingly lost its mission, I wondered how someone apparently so real, so tactile and so responsive could be nothing but a thought-form.
Before I could ponder too long, another woman had taken her place! While not as captivating as the first, she seemed to know the part quite well, and we continued the scenario with passionate gusto. Again, I consciously felt her skin, touched her hair and pressed her lips, yet I had to wonder, "Could she be a thought-form?" With that, I declared that all thought-forms must disappear. Poof! She too vanished.
In the semi darkness of the lucid dream, I became alarmed. She had "felt" real, as real as my body felt in the dream. But she too disappeared. How could one tell then? How could one distinguish between a dream resident as valid as one's self and a thought-form? Or are all dream residents merely thought-forms?
Before I could finish the questioning, a third woman lay underneath me now! Not as engaging as the first two and with a bit of an "attitude," she seemed intent on fulfilling the mission. But as I felt her skin, her bones, her muscles, seeking some imperfection that would clearly indicate her status in the dream state as either equivalent to mine or just a thought-form, I realized my sense's record of unreliability. Formulating the dreaded question, "All thought forms must now..." - she was gone before I could say - "disappear."
Shall we dreamers assume that all dream residents are simply thought-forms?
That seemed my unspoken assumption 29 years ago when I began lucid dreaming. The dream characters (note: I no longer prefer the term, dream character, as it suggests a pre-judgment that those who reside in the dream are merely "characters" in a drama or book), or dream residents seemed to exist only as projections of my dreaming mind. So in my early lucid dreams, I interacted with the dream residents with complete confidence in my primary validity and their secondary status. They were projections, play things, automatons of my aware dreaming. In the lucid dream, I alone existed within a playground of dreamed imaginings.
That assumption began to change one night, as I lucidly flew above a crowd of dream residents. Laughing as I swooped down and knocked off the men's hats, a hand suddenly shot up and grabbed me in mid-flight. Shocked by this unimagined act, I wrestled free of the dream resident's grip, and continued my lucid activities.
Awake, I now wrestled with the meaning of a dream resident's apparent volition within "my" lucid dream. Can a mental projection possess volition? Purposeful action? If so, does this suggest an awareness apart from the lucid dreamer's? Can a dream resident be volitional, purposeful and aware? If the actions run counter to the lucid dreamer's expectations, what then?
Over the years, other incidents have fueled my wonder about the nature of dream residents. These are some abbreviated examples:
In these examples, one sees a sampling of lucid encounters with dream residents. In the first, an unexpected dream resident announces that she watches and helps me! She seems to possess knowledge that I do not. In the second, a dream resident responds correctly to questions about precognitive events. Oddly however, behind the dream resident appears a virtual copy; so is the first, the second, or both, a "thought-form" of mine? Does the apparently precognitive information come from a source like the collective unconscious, or from the mind of dream resident #1 or #2?
- Driving down a mountain road, I realize I dream, and let go of the steering wheel. Coming to rest in a mountain stream, I lucidly laugh and call out to the night sky, "Pull me up stars!" Suddenly, I feel a firm grip on my wrist, pulling me up. A young woman dream resident introduces herself and tells me that she watches me in my dreaming and helps me. She explains various things about dreaming and tells me how to reenter the dream.
- Aware in a dream, I recall my goal to get precognitive information. Seeing my brother, I lucidly ask, "So, D, a year from now, where will you be living?" Hearing his response, I then ask, "A year from now, will you be married?" Again he responds, but as he does so, a curious thing happens - behind him appears a virtual duplicate of him with a bit of a worried expression! (A year later, the answers are confirmed as correct.)
- In a gray setting, I see A, a post-doctoral student from a foreign country. He tells me that he would like to introduce me to his wife (whom I have never met). She steps forward, and I am very surprised, since she looks nothing like what I had expected. (A week later at a dinner party, some graduate students tell me that they finally met A's wife. I stop them and tell them that he introduced me to her in a dream! I describe her. One says that I'm joking and have obviously met her. Another says that she probably weighs 130 lbs. and not 125 lbs. as I estimated. The other says that it is simply impossible. A month later when I meet her in waking reality, she wears the same dress as in the dream.)
- In a lucid dream, I announce that I want my higher self to take me to some place important for me. Immediately, the dream scene changes to a desert environment. I drift down to the ground, touching the waxy leaf of an unfamiliar tree. Two women seem to wait for me. As I come to them, they begin to ask me a series of thoughtful questions. Lucidly aware, I respond. Finally they conclude, "You are not ready yet." I'm shocked to be judged by these dream residents.
- In a gray setting, I see a golden wood ladder. I watch as someone comes down the ladder - it's my deceased father! I realize that I dream, and laugh at his inability to get a good haircut in the after-death state. Thinking that he may be a "thought-form", I decide to ask him questions about future events. He responds. Then he informs me that he has come "to tell me things." He suggests things to prepare for and then suggests that I quit judging a certain person, since I have no understanding of the trials in her life.
In the third example of being introduced to A's wife, shall one assume that A and his wife are thought-forms? Or have I met their equally valid dream selves in the dream state? Is the lucid dreamer the only valid self in the dream? In the fourth example, what can one make of a lucid dreamer being judged (and in this case found wanting) by dream residents?
In the final lucid dream of meeting my deceased father, does it matter if he responds correctly to my questions seeking precognitive information? Does that prove that he is something other than a "thought-form"? How can a lucid dreamer prove the status of a dream resident? Even if a dream resident feels real and provides knowledge beyond the dreamer's capacity to know, does that provide sufficient evidence to give them validity equal to the dreamer's?
One of the beauties of lucid dreaming involves one's ability to question assumptions, conduct experiments and act creatively. My initial assumption that all dream characters are simply projections of my dreaming mind, now seems simplistic.
What do you think about the nature of dream residents?
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:
You can also check us out at