By Ed Kellogg, Ph.D. © 2015
For thousands of years and across a wide range of cultures people have reported amazing, even miraculous, healings. In ancient Greece the sick visited the temples of Asclepius with the expectation that they would either receive information in a dream to effect a cure or would receive healing directly from the gods. Testimonies, stone tablets inscribed by grateful suppliants, specifically describe these events. (1) Two examples:
“A man whose fingers, with the exception of one, were paralyzed, came as a suppliant to the god. While looking at the tablets in the temple he expressed incredulity regarding the cures and scoffed at the inscriptions. But in his sleep he saw a vision. It seemed to him that, as he was playing at dice below the Temple, and was about to cast the dice, the god appeared, sprang upon his hand, and stretched out his [the patient’s] fingers.
When the god had stepped aside it seemed to him [the patient] that he [the patient] bent his hand and stretched out all his fingers one by one. When he had straightened them all, the god asked him if he would still be incredulous of the inscriptions on the tablets in the Temple. He answered that he would not. ‘Since, then, formerly you were incredulous of the cures, though they were not incredible, for the future,’ he said, ‘your name shall be ‘Incredulous.” When day dawned, he walked out sound.”
“Ambrosia of Athens, blind of one eye. She came as a suppliant to the god. As she walked about in the Temple she laughed at some of the cures as incredible and impossible, that the lame and the blind should be healed by merely seeing a dream. In her sleep she had a vision. It seemed to her that the god stood by her and said that he would cure her. But that in payment he would ask for her to dedicate to the Temple a silver pig3 as a memorial of her ignorance. After saying this, he cut on the diseased eyeball and poured in some drug. When day came she walked out sound.” (Stele 1, God and Good Fortune. Cures of Apollo and Asclepius(1))
While these testimonies may sound unbelievable to some, even today evidential reports of equally ‘miraculous’ healings continue to appear. In the 1970‘s Brendan O‘Regan and others at the Institute of Noetic Sciences began collecting validated accounts of unexpected healings. In 1987 he wrote: “So a year ago we got busy on our computers and started going into databases, and we now have assembled over 3000 articles from 860 medical journals in over 20 different languages.
By the way, one article can be about as many as several hundred cases. As far as I know this is the largest compilation of data on spontaneous remission in the world. . . . we have found cases of remission from almost every kind of illness, not just cancer. We’ve selected about 800 of the most striking examples of spontaneous remissions-out of 300 articles-for inclusion in Volume 1 of the spontaneous remission bibliography. We have many cases of remission with no medical intervention at all. These are the purest ones, the ones that give us the strongest evidence that there is an extraordinary self-repair system lying dormant within us. They make up about one fifth of what we have collected.” (2)
In 1993 they published a selection of these accounts in a 700 page hardbound book, Spontaneous Remissions: An Annotated Bibliography.(3) These reports taken from medical journals factually documented that a wide range of purportedly “incurable” diseases somehow or the other can ‘spontaneously’ disappear.
Because such radical healings fall outside of the conventional medical paradigm, which has no acceptable way of explaining them, even now you‘ll often find them rather disingenuously identified as ‘Spontaneous Remissions.’ ‘Spontaneous,’ because conventional medicine could not offer any acceptable etiology for how they could have taken place, and ‘remissions,’ because if conventional medicine has no plausible explanation for how a cure could take place, it must seem some kind of mistake that would eventually reverse itself. This despite the fact that some people who have experienced ‘spontaneous remissions’ live to ripe old ages and die of natural causes, unrelated to whatever supposedly incurable disease they originally had.
However, although radical healings do fall outside of the outdated Newtonian reductionist–materialist 19th century science still embraced by many doctors, 21st century science can in fact provide a reasonable explanation for many of them. Experiments in modern physics have repeatedly shown that consciousness plays a fundamental role, even to the extent that some physicists have concluded that the universe seems primarily mental, not physical. And research has repeatedly confirmed that our minds can, and do, have profound effects on our bodies, that go far beyond the limits of the prevailing medical model. The often belittled placebo effect has made cancer disappear, while in others, the nocebo (negative placebo) effect has lead to illness, and even death.(4)
With the advent of psychophysiology and biofeedback, scientific research has shown that mind-body healing can have dramatic effects, and that individuals can take a proactive role. Rather than passively receiving “outside-in” therapies from external sources, voluntary control methodologies have shown that people can take an active role in promoting their own healing processes – from the “inside-out.”
About twenty years after the publication of Spontaneous Remissions, Dr. Kelly Turner‘s Radical Remissions book came out.(5) Building on previous work and going a few steps farther, Dr. Turner collected additional validated accounts of extraordinary healings from cancer, and then analyzed these accounts by actually asking the individuals involved what they had done. In her work she makes no apologies for focusing on individuals with extraordinary healing outcomes, and on the strategies they used to achieve such outcomes. These stories do not just seem anecdotal, which to doctors sometimes seems a synonym for unreliable or possibly invented accounts, but factual reports of extraordinary outcomes supported by full medical documentation.
The 9 Healing Factors
Some people who experience radical healings from cancer first undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, while others choose to opt for alternative therapies instead. Regardless of whether patients chose conventional or alternative modalities, Dr. Turner found that almost all patients who experienced extraordinary outcomes made use of these nine key factors:
- They radically changed their diets;
- Took control of their health;
- Followed their intuition;
- Used herbs and supplements;
- Released suppressed emotions;
- Increased positive emotions;
- Embraced social support;
- Deepened their spiritual connection, and
- Had strong reasons for living.
In this article I‘ll focus on how dreamwork can facilitate and synergistically enhance each of these key factors. Of course, many people believe that in themselves dreams have a healing function. By consciously working with our dreams, we can greatly amplify this effect, and lucid dreamers, who can invoke the power of dreams while dreaming, may bring this healing power to an entirely new level. (6-8) Let‘s first focus our attention on healing factors that work more superficially from the outside-in, and then move on to those that work more deeply from the inside-out.
Back in graduate school after reading Sechrist‘s Dreams Your Magic Mirror (9) as an experiment I decided to pay attention to when and how foods showed up in my dreams, and to act on that information. If a food showed up in a positive context, I would eat some the next day, if it showed up in a negative context, I would not. Over the years, patterns began to emerge, and I began sorting foods that showed up in my dreams into five categories – “Super,” “Good,” “Fair,” “Poor,” and “Poisonous.” (8) I gave extra weight to vivid dreams with obvious and emphasized messages (e.g. “I make carrot juice in a solid gold juicer” or “I see ice cream at the bottom of a dirty garbage can.”)
At first I saw these dream food recommendations as mostly personal, but as the years passed I began to find scientific research on the effect of diet on health that confirmed their general value for others, even though this research appeared years, even decades after the dreams. Similarly, aside from foods, herbs, vitamins, and even prescription drugs have showed up in my dreams, in positive and negative contexts. Although it might take time to establish reliable feedback, anyone can make use of this technique. It also helps to intentionally incubate dreams featuring foods for an individualized optimal healing diet.
In the late eighties I created a ‘Spirals of Health’ seminar that described the characteristics of seven stages in a healing continuum, that began with healing from the outside–in and that progressed towards a kind of enlightenment and healing from the inside–out. In the first stage people basically act like infants, and when confronted by disease will passively and obediently follow their doctor‘s advice. Although such people make ‘perfect patients,’ research has shown that when confronted with serious illness their chances for long-term survival seem poor. And if their doctor tells them they have six months to live, they even tend to die on schedule, conforming to their doctor‘s expectations.(4)
As people progress along this healing continuum they begin to take an active role in making decisions, and to mindfully choose a therapy or health discipline, rather than unthinkingly following the advice of outside authorities, who they now see as advisors only. Thus, they might decide (based primarily on their thinking and reading) to change their diet, follow an exercise routine, or undergo a recommended therapy. In effect, in their waking lives at least, they begin to become more lucid, more mindful, and more aware of the assumptions that they make. Health practitioners working with people on this level need to learn to cooperate with, rather than work on, their clients.
However as people progress to deeper levels of healing, they begin to pay attention to information that comes from inside. And as I‘ll describe later in the discussion of Factor 7, ‘Following Your Intuition,’ in this area dreamwork can really pay large dividends.
In the waking world, participating in dream groups, especially those designed to facilitate health and healing (like 10 and 11) can prove especially helpful in providing support to individuals feeling isolated and depressed because of a health issue. But dreams can also provide ‘social support’ of a kind to people in their own way, through the social interactions they experience while dreaming. For example Tom, a friend of mine had a dream two days after receiving a diagnosis of advanced cancer, in which he and an M.D. friend, who had helped him deal with this situation, flew together up into the sky towards Heaven.
But after a while they floated back down, and landed on the Earth. At this point they looked at one another and almost simultaneously said, ‘Well, that took longer than I‘d thought it would.’ When feeling low this dream brings Tom an immediate sense of confidence and comfort. It reminds him that he has an ally he can depend on, and that while his healing process might take a little longer than they‘d hoped, that in time, rather than ‘going to Heaven’ that he will come back down to Earth.
Freud described dreams as the ‘Royal Road to the Unconscious,’ and dreams do routinely bring to light both suppressed emotions and situations. Some believe that all dreams have a healing function, even for those who do not recall their dreams or work with them. However this healing function can become far more effective through dreamwork in the waking state,(10, 11), and perhaps even more so in lucid dreams(12-15), where dreamers can transmute negative emotions or situations into positive ones while dreaming. For example:
“… I see a huge (big as a house) steamroller, tank-car bearing down on me as I stand in the middle of the street. Knowing that I dream, I choose to face it and transform myself into a superhuman state: my forearms bulge whitely with strength, as I expand and densify – but the machine still dwarfs me. As the [machine] bears down on me I don’t know if I have changed enough to stop it, but I stand resolute, and tear a hole right through it to the other side, walking through the mass of metal as if I went through paper maché.”
I remember this dream with great fondness, in that through lucidity I faced my fear and transcended it, ending up in a state of exaltation and joy that I can still appreciate, many years later.(14)
Dreamwork can play an especially important role in facilitating intuition, as for many people it seems the most natural way to tune into information that they may unconsciously know, but not have conscious access to. At a certain point people begin to recognize and act upon the wisdom of their unconscious. Two way communication between conscious and unconscious develops, in the form of dreams, intuitions, and feelings arising from knowingness. Here one chooses therapies or health practices from a deeper source of guidance, and only secondarily through information received from external sources, no matter how authoritative. In general healing dreams fall into three categories, diagnostic, prescriptive, and curative dreams.(8)
Diagnostic healing dreams: prodromal or even precognitive dreams that show a developing situation in the body, either as something that has already begun to manifest, or as something that may manifest in the future. These dreams can present diagnostic information metaphorically (your dream car’s engine malfunctions, or a dream toilet in the bathroom of your house overflows and won’t flush), or literally (you see a mole on your dream body that alarms you). For example:
“In a mirror I look in my mouth and see a black area on the top of a tooth. After waking up, I look at the tooth, and although I see no discoloration, and feel no discomfort, I notice that it has a large white filling in the same area. Feeling concerned, I go to my dentist, who tells me that he has never found decay under a filling of this kind, and that the tooth looks fine. At my insistence, he reluctantly removes the filling, which reveals significant decay underneath, which would have led to the loss of the tooth.”
Prescriptive healing dreams: dreams that provide guidance on what to do, or what not to do, to heal a condition. Such as dietary recommendations, changes in lifestyle, alternative therapies, conventional medical therapies, and also information about timing, the competence of practitioners, and probable outcomes. By acting appropriately, dreamers may reverse an ongoing disease process, or prevent its overt manifestation. An example of an intentionally incubated ‘dreamatarian diet’ lucid dream:
“While flying in a dream, I remember that I wanted to ask which foods I should eat for optimal health. I say aloud, “Let me now see, healthy food for me!” Below me the dreamscape changes. I now fly over plates of brown-green pasta, then lots – and lots – of bananas. I also see a few plates of pineapples, and what I can best identify as pinecones (with pine nuts).”
Curative healing dreams: dreams that heal a condition directly, partially or completely, through a mind-body-spirit integration effect, or perhaps through ‘divine intervention’, as illustrated by the two Asclepian healing dreams I quoted earlier. However, in most cases a curative healing dream only begins a process that will take time to complete. For example:
“A woman could hardly walk because of the pain from 6 plantar warts, 3 on each foot, each about one centimeter across. One night she had a lucid dream, and remembered that she wanted to try doing a dream healing. She creates a ball of white light to heal her feet. In the morning, to her surprise, she felt absolutely no pain when walking. She looked at the warts – they had all uniformly turned black. All of them fell off within ten days.”
Healing dreams can belong to more than one category. For example diagnostic healing dreams may also show the cause of a developing condition, which if eliminated might well halt or reverse the disease process.
Aside from serving as the Royal Road to the Unconscious, for many people dreams, especially lucid dreams, also serve as the Royal Road to the Divine.(16, 17) One can easily find accounts of transcendent dreams reported by individuals in a wide range of religions. Some traditions, like the Tibetan, make systematic use of lucid dreaming to invoke experiences of this kind.(18) Spiritual dreams give people a new perspective, providing an ‘eagles eye view’ of life rather than a ‘worm‘s eye view,’ and often also provide them with a renewed sense of purpose.
In 1996 I had a superlucid dream, in which I suddenly and spontaneously ‘jumped up a level’ to find myself part of a Greater Entity, an ‘Oversoul.’ (19) His/Its attitude (which I experienced) seemed benevolent but in a purely nonattached way. He/It lived in Eternal time, cared no more about the duration of a physical life, or the state of a physical body, than you or I might care about a pair of disposable paper shoes. After this dream I realized that the purposes of this “Deeper Self” had little to do with my own temporal and physical concerns. Not out of a lack of caring or compassion, but simply through a fundamental difference in viewpoint.
And while I could ask for help in healing from this Greater Self, I had no guarantee that I would receive anything useful. After this dream I knew this experientially, and with certainty, and realized that if I wanted to live a long life in good health, that this seemed primarily up to me.
In many ways modern medicine remains stubbornly mechanistic, with doctors focusing on the physical body only. A car mechanic can get away with this, fixing or replacing broken parts without needing to concern themselves with the vehicles driver, or what the driver thinks or feels. The same does not hold true for medical doctors, who in combination with the medical industry as a whole, have already become the third leading cause of death in the United States, right behind heart disease and cancer.(20)
Human beings differ greatly from machines, and what we think and how we feel play critical roles in whether we heal and recover from life-threatening illnesses, or wither and die. And even for those who manage to avoid such situations, enabling radical healing processes can pay large dividends with respect to quality of life. Few doctors know how to communicate diagnostic information about potentially catastrophic diseases in a way that empowers patients rather than causes them harm, and vanishingly few have the skills or the time to work with their patients for radical healings.(4, 21)
This means that, like it or not, the responsibility for finding a way of engaging radical healing processes depends on the efforts of the patient, and of their families and friends. At root, the word ‘healing’ means ‘making whole,’ and dreamwork can serve as a powerful force towards facilitating and enabling this process.
1. Edelstein, E.J., and Edelsetein, L. (1945, 1998) Asclepius: Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore. (Available online at Google Books.)
2. O’Regan, B., (1987) ‘Healing, Remission, and Miracle Cures: a lecture by Brendan O‘Regan, Vice-President for Research.’ An Institute of Noetic Sciences Special Report. May 1987.
3. O’Regan, B. and Hirshberg, C. (1993). Spontaneous Remissions: An Annotated Bibliography, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Sausalito
4. Dossey, L. (1998), Be Careful What You Pray For … You Just Might Get It, HarperCollins, San Francisco. See especially pp 70-71, and the chapter on ‘Medical Hexing.’
5. Turner, K.A. (2014). Radical Remissions: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds, HarperCollins, New York. See also her website at http://www.radicalremission.com/ to read additional radical healing reports.
6. Kellogg III, E. W. (1989), “A Personal Experience in Lucid Dream Healing,” The Lucidity Letter, 8(1), 6-7
7. Kellogg III, E. W. (1999), ‘Lucid Dream Healing Experiences: Firsthand Accounts,’ oral paper presentation at the Association for the Study of Dreams conference in Santa Cruz in July, 1999.
8. Kellogg III, E. W. (2007), Mind-Body Healing through Dreamwork Presented at IASD’s Sixth PsiberDreaming Conference, September 23 – October 7, 2007.
9. Sechrist, E. (1968). Dreams Your Magic Mirror: With Interpretations of Edgar Cayce, Cowles Books, New York.
10. Reed, H. ‘The Dream Helper Ceremony: A Small Group Paradigm for Transpersonal Dreaming,‘ Available online at: http://www.creativespirit.net/henryreed/dreamtelepathy/DHShort.htm
11. Lyons, T. (2012) Dreams and Guided Imagery: Gifts for Transforming Illness and Crisis, Balboa Press, Bloomington.
12. Kellogg III, E. W. (2011), ‘Lucid Dreaming, Lucid Waking, Lucid Being: An Online Workshop.’ As presented at IASD’s Tenth PsiberDreaming Conference, September 25 – October 9, 2011.
13. Kellogg III, E. W. (2009), ‘Initiations and Trainings in Lucid Dreams,” The Lucid Dream Exchange, pp 17-19, #51.
14. Kellogg III, E. W. (2012), ‘Transcending Fear through Lucid Dreaming,’ The Lucid Dream Experience, pp 8-11, Vol. 1 #2, September, 2012.
15. Waggoner, R. (2009) Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self Moment Point Press, Needham.
16. Kellogg III, E. W. (2012), ‘Lucid Dreaming, Psychic Development, and Spirituality,” The Lucid Dream Experience, pp 19-22, Vol. 1 #3.
17. Ziemer, M. M. (2013) ‘Beyond the Matrix: From Consensus Reality to Heart Consciousness,’ The Lucid Dream Experience, pp 20-25, Vol. 2 #1, June, 2013.
18. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (1992) The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, edited and introduced by Michael Katz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca.
19. Kellogg III, E. W. (2009), ‘Lucid Dreaming and Franklin Merrell-Wolff,” Sangha, pp 4-8, Winter 2009 issue.
20. Starfield B. (2000) ‘Is US health really the best in the world?‘ JAMA, 284(4):483-4.
21. Lown, B. (1999). The Lost Art of Healing: Practicing Compassion in Medicine. Ballantine Books, New York. This book by a Nobel prize winner has two chapters that every doctor, healer, and patient should read: “Words that Maim” and “Words that Heal.”