In this month’s Excerpt, Robert Waggoner interviews accomplished lucid
dreamer, Suzanne Wiltink.
Robert: I met lucid dreamer, Suzanne Wiltink, at the IASD conference in
Copenhagen two years ago, and was very impressed with her lucid dreaming
skills and thoughts about lucid dreaming. Suzanne is on break from her study
of clinical psychology at the University of Nijmegen, where her fields of
interest are traumatic experiences and consciousness.
Robert: So Suzanne, how long have you been lucid dreaming? Please tell us
about your first lucid dream.
The first lucid dream I had that I can remember was in 1994. At that time, I
didn't have any special interest in dreams whatsoever, though I did write
down a few of them, including this lucid experience:
I dreamt that I was walking down a street in my home town, and that I saw a
man running towards me, suited in black with two white stripes on the side
of his pants. I was afraid and was thinking about the warning words my
mother used to say to me. "Don't go alone on the streets at night...you
might get kidnapped, raped or murdered!" So I turned around to rush home,
but suddenly out of the blue, I realised I was dreaming.
I decided to use my imagination and creativity, I wanted to confront and
overcome this fear that my mother had instilled in me. So I turned around.
The man was already out of sight. I shouted 'Joehoe!!!' and started to wave
with my hands in the direction in which the man had vanished, completely
sure of myself. But...the man in black didn't appear, so I started to
wonder...what was wrong? Didn't I create this scary man? Isn't he part of my
thoughts? If I 'dream' that he will reappear to talk to me, than that should
happen - right?
I thought I might have acted a little bit too impulsively and the fear came
back...this time much bigger. I started to run like crazy to my house,
thinking, "You're not dreaming at all, silly!" I went into the house, closed
the doors, windows and put the curtains down. I didn't speak because I was
afraid the man might hear me. I was lying down and falling asleep when
suddenly my sister said, "Dad there's a man in front of the door!".
In reality I then woke up and was relieved when I saw my sister sleeping,
but also astonished that I fooled myself in the dream.
Robert: Did that lucid dream change how you viewed dreaming?
From that moment on, I became more interested in writing down my dreams and
occasionally I would talk to friends about them. One of them, Marco, told me
that this was called a lucid dream. Although it was a new experience for me,
I didn't have a clue that I could actually do something with it. But the
concept of a lucid dream stayed in the back of my head. Then, in 1999, it
popped back into my life. I had a lucid dream that made a great impact on
I was having a dream of some friendly people in a room, which had a kind of
'tent' in the middle. Oddly, the tent was fluorescent green, and light was
coming out of it. There was a nude young man inside, I could see the shape
of his body, and there was the sound of electricity coming from this tent
and it smelled like ozone. The young man shouted, "It's amazing!"
I was quite curious and the people asked me if I would like to try it also.
I was enthusiastic and approached the tent, which suddenly seemed more like
a box with some sort of screen that looked as if one could go through it. I
was told to undress and put on a special suit in order to protect me. I
noticed I had these strange tattoos on my foot with triangles and a stripe,
which would light up if I would go inside, so my foot had to be covered as
I asked what I should do then, and they replied that I could create anything
that I wanted. So I jumped into the screen and shouted, "I'm going to have a
lucid dream!!" I jumped through the screen and my body 'vanished', meaning
that I could feel my 'body' but it was different than how it feels to me in
real life, and I could see it if I wanted it, but if not, it was invisible.
I remember that it all felt very real and vivid, as if my senses were more
alert. At first I tried some Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu, fighting some Chinese
guy for fun. But it wasn't as spectacular as I'd hoped for and I got bored,
so moved on. I thought I could try to have sex, but I didn't know who to
think of having sex with, because I thought it wouldn't be fair to this
person in real life if I would try that without asking permission. I moved
on and I went to an open area where there was a music festival but I thought
there wasn't much to see, so I asked a person walking there were I could
find '(dream) space'. He evaded my question so I went on.
I went down a street and saw a really strange creature, which I accidentally
touched when I moved by. A very nasty feeling went through me when that
happened, and I concluded that it was an evil being. He reminded me of the
bodiless creature called 'Azazal', from a movie I once saw, starring Denzal
Washington. In my dream he looked like a strange dark cloud and he had a
muilkorf (muzzle) over his head. This being spotted me and was going after
me. It somehow forced me to go down a set of stairs, I walked backwards, the
stairs ended up in some sort of bar with hazy people, criminals and hookers.
When I went down, other people were going up and down the stairs and I was
surprised that some of them noticed me, others did not. I also had the
feeling that I had been there before. The creature didn't follow me any
more, but two of his helpers did. One of them came really close to me, and
'touched' me; it felt like an electric shock, extremely unpleasant, which
made me decide to create another dreamscape, because I didn't have to be
there. Then another dreamscape appeared and the lucidity vanished.
Robert: Amazing! So what was it about these early lucid dreams that
I think my dream life has evolved gradually because of experiences like
these. As I said, the first lucid dream made me interested in keeping up a
dream journal, because I had the feeling that something more was going on
there. When Marco told me about the existence of lucid dreams, I had some
understanding of what he was talking about, because I could relate it to my
dream about the man in black.
The second lucid dream feels like a gift to me, which pointed the way to
this 'new world' I was entering. It raised many questions, that later turned
out to be a drive or intention for me to have more lucid dreams and explore
the potential of them. Questions like how can I get lucid the next time, why
did it end, and how can I prolong it? What kind of body was I experiencing
when being lucid, what is that body made of and what can I do with it? Does
there exist other worlds or dimensions, or is it purely imagery from my own
mind? How could it be that some dream persons were aware of my presence and
others not; what does this say? Are there moral and ethical boundaries when
Robert: In the beginning, how did you become lucid? Did you have any special
techniques? Has that changed over the years?
I surfed the internet and looked up some books to find out about techniques
that other people use to induce lucid dreams. For instance: I tried to ask
myself a few times a day, "Is this a dream?" - hoping that I would encourage
that critical observation in my dreams, too. I tried to re-enter a dream
when I woke up in the morning, telling myself I would dream the same thing,
but now knowing that I was dreaming. I tried to look at my hands as a signal
that I was dreaming (as in Casteneda's book). None of these things worked
Then I read somewhere that if lucid, I could ask a dream character to alert
me the next time I was dreaming and that they would usually be loyal to
their promises. I had a funny lucid dream about this:
I was lucid and saw this man, I asked for his name and he replied "Otto". As
planned I asked, "Can you warn me the next time I'm dreaming?" He
immediately replied, "No!" I was really surprised and asked him, "Why not?"
Then, Otto said, "Because this is real...."
Whether or not the response is true, I saw my own ambivalent thoughts about
the reality of lucid dreams reflected in it. Though I call them 'dreams', to
me, they ARE real.
I also tried reality checks like jumping in the air. If I would float, this
would assure me that I was dreaming. This works for me, but only when there
was already some lucidity, otherwise I couldn't even come up with the idea
of jumping. I also created my own reality checks while dreaming, but my mind
is good in fooling me. One time I became a bit lucid and stated, "If this is
a dream, then in 10 seconds a dream character will appear." I started
counting, but it was extremely difficult to do so; I never got to 10!
Another time I asked a dream character, "If this was a dream, what would you
do?" But this person couldn't come up with anything either, and 'poof!' my
little bit of lucidity was gone. This is why I always keep a list of things
I want to explore when I might get lucid. It also told me that I have to be
careful and specific about how I formulate my goal or intention.
Another reality check I read about was turning on the light switch; if the
light doesn't turn on, this would be a signal that I'm dreaming. Well, just
like Otto, I think whether or not reality checks work for you, depends on
the way you define reality. In my real life, it happened often enough that a
light got broken. It didn't help me to discriminate between different states
of reality. And here lies the key in the way I become lucid nowadays. And as
a matter a fact, it is in exactly the same way as my second lucid showed me
already, but what I hadn't grasped at the time. There was this screen which
appeared as a border between the dream I was in and the lucid dream I was
entering. Going through this screen gave me a bodily sensation or
transition, if I might say so. The sensation of going from 'thick and dense'
into something 'lighter and elevated', or in other words from a state of
'form' into a state of 'formlessness/'shape-able' became my trigger. Now, I
can 'feel' in my dream in the imagery, whether or not there's the
possibility to 'shift'.
In my dream journal, I would write, "I feel that I can become lucid" or "it
feels permeable." In waking life I think there are also many states of
consciousness, and that it is possible to find a suitable way for each
person to learn to alter between these different states. I use meditation
and shamanic journeys to become more aware of transitions in my
consciousness. Practicing this way of discriminating between states,
automatically increased the number of lucid dreams I had. I think that our
'dreambody' can also be aware in waking life.
Robert: For me, I often visually can tell that the dream looks "dreamy" and
become lucid, but you might be the first person to mention kinesthetic
feelings prompting lucidity. As you had more lucid dreams, did you have any
surprising lucid experiences?
When I write down a lucid dream, I also try to formulate statements about
what I've experienced. Even though the lucid dream is short, or seems
insignificant at first. I use these statements as hypotheses when I look
over my lucid dreams and think about the lucid dream state. If I can, I try
to test them or use them as an affirmation in future lucid dreams.
In one dream I was lucid and wanted to visit a friend, he lives 100 km away.
I was flying through the sky and it took a long time, so I decided to land
on a house and affirm that this house would be the place where he would be.
And it was. The statement that I wrote down was: "There is no distance, you
must imagine it and you're there." This way I have collected a bunch of
statements (or lucid dream hypotheses), and the main thing that I took from
them so far is that for me, belief and intention seem useful 'tools'. If I
firmly believe something to happen, the effects seem more manifest in the
lucid dreams. Having a clear intention seems to give me a kind of confidence
that I'll become lucid if I want to and can learn something in the lucid
dream world, and that it will unfold in the direction of my intention.
I like that idea of really looking at one's lucid dream and trying
to pull possible meanings about lucid dreaming and the dream state from that
experience. For example, we normally assume that our dream characters are
the products of our dreaming mind - as you did in your first lucid dream.
Have you ever had an encounter, where the dream character seemed to be
independent of you?
In my second lucid dream where I was confronted with this Azazal and his
helpers, I assume that the characters were independent of me because of the
bad feeling I got when I passed by and the electric shock that I got. It's
hard for me to explain, but it didn't feel as if it is was generated from
within myself, it didn't feel like the same 'substance' as the images I was
creating and the characters that dwell therein (which I consider to be a
product of my own mind).
Also, I had a very strange lucid dream once where there appeared a being
with three wings on each side with eyes upon each wing, who spoke to me with
a very penetrating voice. It felt like the words that it spoke were loaded
with energy that is not mine. It said that I haven't been in touch with real
evil. Which I interpreted as meaning that it is watching me, but that I will
know it, when it is really there. This raises questions to me about
'protection' while dreaming lucid. Although I think that good and bad are
relative, it is not to say that nothing unpleasant can happen in lucid
dreams, just as in real life.
Robert: This issue of the "independence" or independent agency of some dream
characters encountered in lucid dreams seems to come to all experienced
lucid dreamers at some point. It's a complicated issue. Have you ever had
any interesting lucid dream encounters with dream characters that gave you
I have tended to see dream characters as aspects of myself that somehow
relate to my 'core (sense of) self'. I once had a dream in which a girl
committed suicide, and when I became lucid later on, I wanted to comfort a
friend of this girl who died and told her that it was a dream so she wasn't
really dead. This friend shouted, "No", then started crying and ran away. I
think this might have something to do with a suppressed aspect of myself. So
in that sense, it doesn't really surprise me that dream characters have
knowledge and independent action.
I think aspects can be more or less conscious in our-selves and there's a
diversity in the way these aspects can be integrated. I had a series of
lucid dreams in which I kiss a dream character. I thought that kissing a
dream character would be some kind of integration of psychological
aspects/contents of my mind, and wanted to see what effect kissing dream
characters would have on my lucidity. I expected it to increase. But the
opposite occurred mostly. What this might say is something that I want to
explore further, perhaps in exploring what different characters stand for.
But perhaps there isn't really a connection between assimilation and
absorption of dream images/energies and different levels of lucidity one can
Robert: Your point that a suppressed aspect of our selves in the form of a
dream character could seem to have independence is a good one and shows how
complicated the lessons of lucidity might be. Have you tried any experiments
in lucid dreaming? What did you learn?
I tried to visit people from real life, with different outcomes:
I wanted to meet S. I didn't know were to look, so I decided to enter the
first house I saw. I was in a street and saw a house with a green wooden
door and decided to enter. It's an old house which reminded me of an
orphanage, around 1800-1900's. There are stones on the floor, a fire place,
and wooden chairs. It's small and sober. There was no one downstairs so I
went upstairs. Upstairs it was 'the current time'. I came in a room with a
lot of beds next to each other with all kinds of men and women sleeping in
them. Between these beds was no bed left for S. I was allowed to lie on a
bed next to a tall man with dark hair and a Slavic appearance.
When I woke up I had several associations, the first floor reminded me of
the first chakra and it made me think of loneliness, the second floor made
me think of the second chakra and of sexual confusion. When I told S. about
this dream, he said that he and his wife at one point in time were going to
a meeting about Tantra, it was given by a man that fit the description I
gave, and it was indeed in a former orphanage and had a green wooden door.
He said that there were orgies taking place, he felt embarrassed talking
about it, and that he had felt awful about it and didn't want to sleep
there. I was astonished by these resemblances.
Also, I tried to visit you, Robert, several times. (Note: Suzanne and I had
some interesting lucid dream experiences in which she sought to contact me,
and I tried to learn unknown things about her, while lucid. - RW)
In other lucid dreams where I tried to visit people, it wasn't such a "hit"
like the dream I just described. But the images did contain symbols that
more or less meant something to the person I tried to visit. Although I must
say, to some extent, they also applied to me, as well. So maybe I was
picking up on something that we had in common.
Robert: Thanks for agreeing to an interview about lucid dreaming, your
experiences and ideas. I have to say that when I saw you for the first time
in Copenhagen, an inner sense within me just knew that you were an excellent
lucid dreamer. Any parting thoughts or comments?
I underestimated the time I needed to translate from Dutch to English, but I
really enjoyed answering these questions, since it made some of my ideas
more insightful for me while writing about them.
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