An excerpt by Robert Waggoner from Consciousness Beyond the Body: Evidence and Reflections
In the early 1980s, most commentators and researchers appeared to accept a clear-cut distinction between OBEs and lucid dreams. A July 1983 survey conducted by Susan Blackmore (1983) at the University of Bristol found that of 593 randomly selected individuals, 47% reported at least one lucid dream, and ‘The most striking finding was the strong association between lucid dreams and others experiences’. She notes, ‘Lucid dreamers also tended to note more frequent dream recall, vivid dreams, flying dreams, hallucinations, body image distortions and OBEs’ (p. 61). Clearly, at that time, OBEs and lucid dreams appeared as different experiences to the public, if not the researchers themselves.
A later survey reported in the Spring Issue of ‘Nightlight‘ by Lynne Levitan and Stephen LaBerge (1991) echoed Blackmore‘s findings. The analysis noted (p. 9):
People who reported more dream-related experiences also reported more OBEs. For example, of the 452 people claiming to have had lucid dreams, 39 percent also reported OBEs, whereas only 15 percent of those who did not claim lucid dreams said they had had OBEs. The group with the most people reporting OBEs (51%) were those who said they had experienced all the dream events we were studying, that is, lucid dreams, dream return, and sleep paralysis.
From such surveys, it appears lucid dreamers encounter a variety of unusual experiences, including a large proportion who note the occasional OBE. By their survey markers, it seems apparent that the lucid dreamers felt that an OBE seemed uniquely different than a lucid dream.
Yet by the mid to late 1980s, Stephen LaBerge (1985) had already begun to propose a different view, doubting the existence of OBEs and suggesting ‘…OBEs are actually variant interpretations of lucid dreams’ (p. 206). Briefly making the case in his first book (‘Lucid Dreaming‘) he wrote, ‘In my opinion, lucid dreams and OBE‘s are necessarily distinguished by only one essential feature: how the person interprets the experience at the time’ (p. 211).
Nonetheless, LaBerge fails to address the OBEs which seem to occur as a result of medical trauma, sudden accidents and other waking state events, and how they might reconcile with his assertion that OBEs are subjective interpretations of lucid dreams. In any case, a number of experienced lucid dreamers who have also had OBEs disagree with his broad assessment, and find the distinctive characteristics of the two experiences indicative of unique states.
Similarly, when you read a self-report on a lucid dreaming forum of someone falling asleep, who begins to feel humming or buzzing and energy around the body, possibly sees wispy arms composed of silver looking light, and then floats above the bed consciously aware, then please ask yourself, ‘Does this meet the definition of a lucid dream? Did this person realise within a dream that he or she was dreaming?’. If not, the experience simply fails to meet the definition of a lucid dream, just as having a heart attack on the operating table and floating up to the ceiling fails to meet the definition of a lucid dream.
Shifting States Hypothesis
In Chapter 3, Ed Kellogg [Editor’s note: please see Ed’s excerpt in this issue of the LDE.] identified the phenomenological differences between a lucid dream and an OBE. While the vast majority will easily and clearly fall into one camp or the other (lucid dream or OBE), a small percentage will appear to show elements of both states, and therefore seem indeterminate.
Here, I wish to propose a unique proposition to explain some of the indeterminate experiences: the Shifting States Hypothesis (SSH). The hypothesis posits that a person may consciously (or unconsciously) transition from the lucid dream state to other states, including that of the OBE. Similarly, a person may transition from the OBE state to a lucid dream. These hybrid experiences can result in reports with elements of both lucid dreaming and OBEs.
Before getting into some of the personal experiences, I ask the reader to think about moving from one state of consciousness to another in general. When moving from waking to sleeping, do you shift states of consciousness? When moving from a lucid dream to the waking state, do you shift states of consciousness? When awake and undergoing deep hypnosis, do you shift states of consciousness? When awake and daydreaming as a friend drones on about their recent holiday, do you shift states of consciousness?
Obviously the physical, mental, and phenomenological evidence supports an affirmative response to many of these questions. Throughout the day, consciously and unconsciously, we shift states of awareness. In fact, this process often seems so commonplace that it appears unremarkable. Though physical and mental markers exist which confirm that shift, we normally know a shift has occurred because of the change in inner experience….
So, can an experienced person shift states in a lucid dream? More specifically, can an experienced person move from a lucid dream to an OBE? Or from an OBE or other state into a lucid dream?
In the remainder of this chapter, a number of practical examples will be illustrated, which demonstrate how you can consciously (or subconsciously) move from one state to the other. The examples all come from experienced authors, including myself, Clare Johnson, Robert Peterson, and Ryan Hurd, and illustrate how to make the shift, whether using conscious intent, visualisation or other practice.
Decades ago, I decided to experiment with shifting states and consciously intend to transition from the lucid dream to another state of consciousness (other than waking). Naturally, I felt uncertain and wondered, what would that experience entail? Would the SSH stand?
Example: My Personal Experience
I became lucid and recalled my interest in the idea of shifting levels or forms, while lucid. I announced, ‘Take me to the next form!’.
Susan Blackmore, A Survey of Lucid Dreams, OBE‘s and Related Experiences, Lucidity Letter, Vol 2, No 3, July 1983, p.61.
Lynne Levitan and Stephen LaBerge, In the Mind and Out-ofBody: OBEs and Lucid Dreams Part 1, Nightlight: The Lucidity Institute Newsletter 3, no. 2 (Spring, 1991) p. 9.
Stephen LaBerge, Lucid Dreaming (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1985), p. 206.
LaBerge, Lucid Dreaming, p. 211.
LaBerge, Lucid Dreaming, p. 206.