I just returned from a very pleasant stay in the beautiful abbey of Rolduc, in the Netherlands, for the International Association for the Study of Dreams annual conference. The abbey is located a short distance from the train station if measured by the inexpensive taxi ride to their grounds, but it seemed so much farther because of its ancient self-contained beauty. Inside the massive stone courtyard, one already feels isolated from the rest of the modern world, and this despite a number of automobiles parked there. Step into the building and then walk out onto the patterned brick paving leading to their gardens and you will feel thrust backwards a couple hundred years in time. Juvenile pears and apples grow quietly in shady trees under a gentle mist, and to the side, other crops, ornamental bushes, enormous whispering trees, and a small graveyard effectively cancel out the noise of busy thoughts.
The purpose of my trip was to present a couple of lectures on psi dreams. The first was about the validation of spiritual dreams, if this is even possible, and the second concerned my observations about the fact that many seemingly symbolic dreams are not symbolic dreams at all. Due to an unintended impression created when I checked the A/V equipment for my presentation, some of the people there came to consider me "the A/V guy", and I was asked to assist several people with their presentations also. I briefly had the impression that other attendees knew me better as the person who knew how to make the remote work (by plugging in the USB antenna) than as the presenter of a couple of presentations on his psi dreams.
One of the room monitors for my talk was IASD president Robert Waggoner, author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the inner self. I didn't discuss his book with him when we first met, at least partly because I wasn't too interested in lucid dreams. As far as I was concerned, the term "lucid dream" was just a fancy gimmick designed to artificially create interest in a not-particularly-interesting subject. He seemed pleasant enough, but I'd read enough to be turned off by the idea of turning dreams into amusement parks by practicing techniques that allow dreamers to manipulate the content of their dreams. This had nothing to do with Waggoner, as I found out just hours before I had to leave the conference to return home.
My last presentation was one of four, all done together. This meant that whether I liked it or not (and I didn't mind) I would have to listen to the other three in addition to giving my own. To my surprise, Waggoner not only offered to help advance my slides for me when the remote turned up missing, but then he got up to give his own talk and asked me to do the same for him. In this way I not only had an opportunity to hear him talk about lucid dreaming, but really had to pay attention, or risk making a mistake with the slides. Considering that I wasn't enthusiastic about his subject, I thought it was ironic to play a role in his presentation. The irony changed to something else when I realized that his take on lucid dreaming was quite different from what I expected.
The first thing Waggoner did was to say that if a person uses the lucid state in a dream to manipulate it, they are likely disturbing whatever legitimate and valuable information it may contain. This was exactly my argument against being interested in lucid dreams. They only encouraged the destruction of legitimate dream elements, or rather, if focused on for that purpose, that is the result. In one stroke then, I was disarmed. Waggoner went on to discuss his own study of lucid dreaming. To my ears, it sounded very much like my own road to discovering that legitimate information, oftentimes of genuine spiritual value, is conveyed in dreams. After listening for awhile, his lucid dream interactions sounded more and more like a kind of dream meditation, and worthy of any meditation expert.
After listening to his talk, and then having a short conversation with him afterward, I believe he has made some genuinely valuable observations and written about them in his book. My dreams are sometimes lucid, and sometimes they are good quality dreams, but not always. When they aren't, it is always because I interfere with the existing dream content by consciously manipulating it. In the good quality lucid dreams, I am more passive and observe what is presented to me. What Waggoner describes in his writing, is how he discovered that he can be active without destroying the dream, in order to better understand the dream that is there, rather than for mere entertainment. This is an interesting take on the subject, and one worth knowing more about. His website can be found here.