Exploring the Oneiroverse with Chad Watts: On Lucid Dreams, Entheogens, and the Spiritual Experience
When I first started blogging, I naturally sought out other blogs on lucid dreaming. One of the most unique blogs out there was called Exploring the Oneiroverse, the contents of which were based on a book by fellow blogger and lucid dreamer Chad Watts.
Soon enough, we started writing emails back and forth discussing dreams and lucid dreaming, drugs, metaphysics, and so forth for a few weeks. I found his perspective so interesting that I asked for a more formal interview, which is what follows below. Enjoy.
Can you talk about the relationship between dreams and lucid dreams and the experience one has when tripping on LSD or mushrooms?
In shamanic magic, both hallucinogens and lucid dreaming are tools used to access higher planes of consciousness and, as such, are considered sacred. I consider them sacred too. I was surprised at how similar tripping and lucid dreaming were the first time experimented with the psychedelic trip.
One of the main points of similarity is the vividness of sensory phenomena. Both lucid dreaming and tripping heighten the user’s sensory apparatus. Warp is another common factor – things changing in appearance the more one focuses on them. Increased sensory input is beautiful and captivating but I think that the correlation between the two states of consciousness has a much more powerful role in the user’s life. Both states allow access to parts of our mind that are closed off while we are ‘straight’. The power of both lucid dreaming and tripping is in their ability to enlighten, expand, and explore the mind.
On your website you make a point to separate the meaning behind two concepts: something that is real and something that exists. Can you talk about this?
In everyday language we use the words ‘real’ and ‘exists’ interchangeably. For example, an atheist might say “God is not real” or “God does not exist” and we understand him to be saying the same thing. To better understand the nature of dreams we need to use these terms in different ways. In short, everything one experiences can be said to exist but not everything one experiences is real.
Compare a dream tree to a waking-world tree. We can say that both exist because we can use our senses to explore both trees. We can see them, touch them, smell them, etc. But the dream tree’s existence depends totally upon the dreamer’s mind, unlike a waking-world tree. We can thus surmise that while both trees exist they exist in different ways. Dream objects exist; waking world objects exist – the difference lies in the mode of existence.
To define it clearly we can state that real objects exist independently of any perceiving mind while a dream object’s existence is totally dependent upon mind.
It wasn’t until our email discussions that I properly understood the term metaphysics. I’m guessing a lot of people were in the same position as I was. Would you mind explaining this term? What does it mean and what range of phenomena falls within its scope?
The term ‘metaphysics’ was given to us by scholars of the middle-ages who were translating the works of Aristotle. They came upon a section that had no title and whose subject matter was the ultimate nature of reality. The unimaginative scholars named this section ‘metaphysics’ because it came after Aristotle’s section on Physics. The actual translation of metaphysics is ‘after-physics’.
Western philosophy as a whole is divided into three categories: Metaphysics (the study of reality), Epistemology (the study of knowledge), and Axiology (the study of value). Metaphysics deals with such knotty problems as the mind-body distinction (introduced by Rene Descartes), what can actually be said to exist, how can we categorize existence, free will vs. determinism, artificial intelligence, the problems of identity, teleology (natural development of existents to a higher order of Being), ontology (the true nature of Being), etc.
Generally metaphysics deals with questions in a universal sense as opposed to investigating the particulars of any given phenomena. It is impossible to study metaphysics without delving into the other two categories of philosophy as they are all interconnected.
In recent years the term ‘metaphysics’ has come to be a synonym for New Age ideas.
I’d like to hear about your background with lucid dreaming – how did you start doing this, what attracted you to it, how often do you wake up within a dream, and so on. Can you share any specific techniques you’ve used that help you become aware and then control your dreams?
When I was young I had many spontaneous lucid experiences. I remember the onset of hypnagogic imagery being much stronger as a child. I found that I could have lucid dreams quite easily if I focused on such imagery. Sadly, as I grew older, the vividness and appearance of hypnagogic imagery tended to fade and I began to have fewer lucid dreams.
The experience of lucid dreaming changed my life – the experience of being in a very realistic yet other world. I became obsessed with it. I tried tracking down resource materials but there was little information available. I remember being a freshman in high school and finding an issue of Omni magazine that described lucid dreaming and gave some tips on how to induce them.
The real breakthrough occurred when I found a copy of Dr. LaBerge’s “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” – a book I highly recommend to everyone interested in lucid dreaming. Employing the techniques in the book, combined with my own experimentation, I learned to have lucid dreams at will.
I have to admit my success rate is not 100%. Several things occur regularly that disrupt my dreaming practices (periods of insomnia, new medications, bouts of depression, etc) and I have to start over again. ‘Dreamer’s Block’ can be very frustrating.
The best advice I can give about inducing lucid dreams is this – it’s all a matter of timing.
Once, while on a psychedelic trip, I realized that they key to inducing lucid dreams is not so much what you do as when you do it. We all wake up several times during the night but since we go right back to sleep we tend to forget about these brief waking moments.
Those moments (I call them Doors because they are gateways to the magical lands of dream) are your access point to the lucid dream world. The trick is to stay conscious enough to intend/ visualize a lucid experience while falling back asleep. This is tricky at first as your body wants to go back to sleep quickly and it can be hard to concentrate. Practice makes perfect and even a little effort will produce good results.
Besides looking for Doors, be sure to practice a relaxation technique before falling asleep and form a clear intention to find the Doors. Once you find a Door, practice the induction technique of your choice (there are many to choose from – just do a Google search)
As far as dream control is concerned, you only need to be able to do three things:
1) Have a very clear goal in mind of what you want to accomplish
2) Suspend you disbelief (you don’t actually have to believe you can make changes but it is necessary to suspend your disbelief) and
3) Visualize the desired change happening.
Step 3 can be a bit tricky because we are used to visualizing with our eyes closed. You have to see in your mind’s eye the change occurring. Following these steps will cause just about any change you want (there is still debate amongst lucid dreamers as to the limits of dream control).
What do you make of out of body experiences and astral travel?
I have had many strange experiences in the dream world but I have never experienced astral travel or an OOBE. I am a skeptic by nature and thus have severe doubts about the possibilities of both. I do not deny that people have powerful experiences but my personal theory is that what these people are experiencing are spontaneous, powerful dreams accompanied by hypnogogic / hypnopompic sensations (bodily vibrations, feelings of exiting the body, numbness, etc,)
While I always leave some room for the possibility, I do not believe in astral travel or OOBE’s. I think such ideas arise because people underestimate the power of mind. The mind creates your reality. This is another boon to both tripping and lucid dreaming – both show you quite clearly the power of the human mind.
On your blog you mention that these posts are actually coming from a book you’re putting together. Can you summarize the contents of this book? Do you hope to publish in print format or is it something you’re planning to publish over the internet?
Currently the blog has been taken off-line.
I am still in the process of creating the first draft. The main idea behind the book is that the best way to learn/explore/discover the dreamworld is through the aid of dreams themselves. I realized that nobody (as far as I know) had ever taken this approach before.
The book covers the metaphysics of the dream world, some basic programs on lucidity induction, how to overcome problems specific to the dreaming world, how to create dream constructs that will help you with dream problems / projects, and suggestions for higher, more spiritual paths one can take once lucid dreaming has been mastered.
I hope to publish it in print some day. Failing that approach I will publish the book (once revised and completed) on the Internet. I would say about 50% of the book has been written so far.
From your writings it seems reasonable to call you a skeptic. And yet, I see something of spiritual leaning and every now and then a nod to Buddhism. So what is spirituality to you? Can spiritual experiences be obtained through lucid dreaming? What about drug use?
I don’t really fall neatly into any one category. I have studied and practiced Buddhism for several years, but I also learn from other traditions. Spirituality, to me, means perfecting the mind. I hold with the Buddhist doctrine of Anatman (No-Soul) so I don’t know if my beliefs are ‘spiritual’.
I firmly believe that lucid dreaming is a path to enlightenment, but it is not the only one. I am also a firm believer in the use of entheogens. It is important to note that just having lucid dreams or just taking some hallucinogenic drug is insufficient for spiritual growth – they are tools that must be used properly to achieve the desired result.
I can confidently say that my experimentation with lucid dreaming and hallucinogens (specifically LSD-25 and mushrooms) have changed my life for the better in more ways than one. These experiences have shown me that the true frontier, the true royal road, lies within. As Jesus said – “The kingdom of God is within you.”
Photo by Virgini