Interview with Robert Waggoner

Robert WaggonerRobert Waggoner is President-Elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and a summa cum laude graduate of Drake University with a degree in Psychology. For the past seven years, he has co-edited the quarterly journal, Lucid Dreaming Experience, and recently authored a remarkable book titled Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self.

Robert frequently speaks on lucid dreaming at national and international dream conferences, workshops and college classrooms. He has supported the development of World of Lucid Dreaming right from the start, and has kindly agreed to talk about his lucid experiences and perspectives in this exclusive interview.


Why are you interested in lucid dreaming? What do you use it for?

Robert Waggoner: Lucid dreaming was like my own, personal 'magic kingdom.' Flying through the sky, playing with dream figures, creating adventures - it felt fascinating to do this while aware in the dream state. Lucid dreaming became a free ticket to a kind of Hogwarts School of Wizardry. As I learned the principles of how to move and manipulate the dream state, my adventures really took off.

Over the years, I began investigating lucid dreaming's potential deeply. Through experimentation, I realized lucid dreaming could be used to get 'unknown' information; apparently from the deeper part of yourself or some kind of collective unconscious. Moreover, lucid dreaming could be used to explore deep spiritual concepts, focus healing intent on your body, seek out telepathic and precognitive information and learn about the nature of reality (from the unique perspective of being aware in the dream state). In my book, I take lucid dreamers to these deeper aspects of lucid dreaming, and show them how experienced lucid dreamers approach these topics successfully. It's simply mind blowing.


What was your first lucid dream like?

Robert Waggoner: My first incubated lucid dream gave me a glimpse of the wonders. I was reading Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan, and began suggesting to myself each night, "Tonight in my dreams, I will see my hands and realize that I am dreaming." After three nights of doing this, I was dreaming of walking through my high school hallway, when suddenly my hands appeared right in front of my face. I thought, "My hands! This is a dream. I'm dreaming this!"

I felt pure awe. Everything around me 'looked' real, but I knew it was a dream, a mental creation. The students looked real, the walls of the hallway felt real - I existed in an alternate reality, a mental projection, while consciously being aware of it.

Then something wild happened. I stepped out of the hallway next to the administration building, when the dream began to feel shaky. I realized that I needed to look back at my hands to stabilize the dream (as Carlos Castaneda suggested). Looking back at my hands, I suddenly felt my awareness become a speck of light, floating through my palm prints and finger prints, which now appeared as giant flesh colored canyon walls, towering above me. Aware, it felt wonderful to have this microscopic view, as I floated along, just a speck of awareness. Then suddenly, I bounced back to my original viewpoint, still lucid. I decided to try flying, got off the ground and became too excited - and then woke! An epic adventure - and it was just the beginning.


Can you tell us about your new book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self?

Robert Waggoner: After thirty years of lucid dreaming, I felt no one was telling the story of lucid dreaming's fantastic depth. Lucid dreaming is so much more than expectation and mental models. Through the unexpected and surprises, you see that it's a path to the broader awareness of our larger psyche.

In Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, you will read how experienced lucid dreamers have taken lucid dreaming to a whole new level. Using techniques and various mental approaches, you will learn how to construct a more stable, longer-lasting lucid dream, and use it as a platform for personal investigations and experimentation. Already, I am getting emails from people saying that reading my book has ignited their lucid dreaming. They are having more lucid dreams, and using them for incredible explorations.

So this book reaches out to those lucid dreamers who are ready to go deeper - whether beginner, intermediate or advanced - who want to experiment with the larger awareness accessible in the lucid state, and its practical uses to benefit your life. And this book is for those who want to explore the big questions of life, consciousness and the nature of reality. In many respects, this book ushers in a kind of Lucid Dreaming 2.0 - the next stage of the lucid experience.


In the book, you recommend that lucid dreamers interact with the "awareness behind the dream." This can have bizarre and unexpected results. What have your lucid dreams shown you and who or what is creating this experience?

Robert Waggoner: Back in the 1980s, I was part of a lucid dream explorer's group, headed by Linda Magallon (author of Mutual Dreaming). Each month for three years, we had lucid dreaming experimental goals to accomplish. During one of these experiments in which we were 'to find out what a dream figure represents,' I had an unusual lucid dream. I very politely asked the dream figure, "What do you represent?" when a Voice boomed out a partial answer from the area above the dream figure! I asked my question again, and then the same Voice boomed out a more complete answer.

Well that Voice startled me, and made me wonder, "Is there an awareness behind the dream?" So after a while, I began lucidly shouting out my questions or requests to this "awareness behind the dream" - and it answered. Sometimes, it would change the dream completely and 'show me' the answer, while other times I would hear a response. This unseen "awareness" seemed much more knowledgeable than any dream figure - in fact, I came to see it as the larger Self that Jung hypothesized.

To understand what this awareness can show you, I devote a chapter to in my book. Most incredibly, asking this awareness to let you experience 'concepts' - spiritual concepts, esoteric concepts - some of these have tremendously expanded my mind. And in many cases, my conceptual experience would be later confirmed by reading ancient or obscure texts about that concept. Inventors, theorists and even theologians could use this approach to gain insight into concepts beyond their knowing, when lucidly aware (an idea that Jane Roberts called the 'dream art scientist').

Later when Castaneda's The Art of Dreaming appeared in 1994, he talks about the 'Dream Emissary,' an unseen awareness who answers questions honestly in lucid dreams and apparently has access to deep, unconscious layers of information. This seemed to re-confirm some of what I had already experienced.


There are some skeptics who believe in lucidity, but maintain that true dream control is an illusion. In your book, you reconcile that fact by pointing out that lucid dreamers direct their awareness in the dream - but ultimately "the sailor does not control the sea." Are you redefining the concept of lucid dreaming? And who or what is creating the lucid dream environment around us?

Robert Waggoner: The sailor does not control the sea, nor does the lucid dreamer control the dream. Like a sailor, lucid dreamers manipulate or direct themselves in the larger expanse of dreaming; however, they do not control it. Lucid dreaming appears to be a co-created experience.

If lucid dreamers control it, then they would lucid dream for hours, instead of losing their lucidity or collapsing the lucid dream within minutes. Also if they controlled it, the lucid dreamer would have to stop and make everything appear, once they flew through a wall into a new room. Obviously, some deeper part of the psyche controls what appears when they fly into a new room; it happens without the lucid dreamer's conscious involvement.

This is important as you go deeper into lucid dreaming, since conceptually it's a game-changer. Once we understand that we direct the lucid dream, but do not control it, then we can investigate the larger dreaming or the dreaming outside-of-me and my thinking - aka the big picture. If you think you 'control' the lucid dream, then there is nothing to investigate. Conceptually, you are locked inside the prison of your own assumptions. My book tries to help lucid dreamers break free of limiting assumptions, and approach lucid dreaming more thoughtfully. One piece of that conceptual freedom involves understanding that no sailor controls the sea, and no lucid dreamer controls the dream.


What significance do you attach to dream characters in your lucid dreams? Who controls their behaviors? What motivates them?

Robert Waggoner: First, you'll notice that I call them 'dream figures.' When we call them dream characters, our language predisposes us to view them as fictions, like TV characters or characters in a novel. Perhaps some may be, but as Carl Jung pointed out when talking about his dream visitor, Philemon, "...there are things in my psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life."

Consciously aware, we can interact and discover the more aware dream figures. Then we realize that different types of dream figures exist. While some may be symbols and nothing more, other dream figures appear to have conscious awareness. As the gestalt psychologist, Paul Tholey observed fifteen years ago, some lucid dream figures seem conscious before the lucid dreamer becomes conscious, and also appear more conscious than the lucid dreamer. Not all, but some.

Many lucid dreamers have reported telling their dream figures, "I am dreaming you. You are nothing but a projection of my mind." - only to hear the dream figure respond, "How do you know I am not dreaming you?" Through conversations, we learn that dream figures possess knowledge beyond the waking self's, and can rationally defend their belief in their own awareness.

A dream figure may be a part of my psychological makeup, much like a cell in my kidney is part of my physical makeup. On its level, it is important and responding to its environment. However the kidney's environment or the unconscious environment is not the waking-self's environment, so it seems too early and too provincial of the waking-me to say 'who' controls them, or 'what' motivates them when I consciously look into their environment. All I can say is that when lucidly aware, you see clearly that dream figures vary in their awareness, responsiveness, ability to manipulate the dream and themselves. What motivates them, or how they perceive their environment and their relation to it, may give us insight into the unconscious activities of the self/Self.


Have you ever asked your lucid dreams for specific information about the future? What was the outcome?

Robert Waggoner: Many times. Occasionally, I get interested in a topic and will pursue it lucidly for a year or so. In my book, I detail a number of lucid dreams in which I lucidly sought out precognitive information. And you know what? The information seemed often very accurate and very clear.

Actually, the potential here for scientific experimentation is enormous. For thousands of years, people have mentioned their belief in precognitive dreams, but science rejects the anecdotes - usually because the dreamer makes no 'prediction' but only shows the dream after the fact or retro-cognitively. Lucid dreaming would end those scientific complaints, because the lucid dreamer and scientific researcher could develop the experiment beforehand; then the lucid dreamer could become aware in a dream and seek out the experimental information, and provide it to the scientific researcher upon waking and before the event.

Lucid dreaming could revolutionize the field of para-psychology. Similarly, it could provide insight or evidence to support theoretical physicists and many of their views on space/time.

For lucid dreamers who want to try this, I suggest that they conceive of a precognitive experiment while waking and one that does not require an answer with lots of memorization (since it can be hard to remember all the details exactly when going from the lucid state to the waking state), then perform it in their next lucid dream. Once lucid, they may need to announce that the answer will be discovered when they open a book, or walk into the next room, or pick up a phone, but normally, an answer will appear if you expect it to and provide a place for its materialization.

In my book, I have a wonderful story of a college student who questioned whether it was possible to get unknown information in a lucid dream. It took him two attempts, but he succeeded.


Have you ever met a "real" person inside a lucid dream and been able to validate their presence in the mutual dream?

Robert Waggoner: On page 182-3 of my book, I relate one of those incredible lucid dream meetings which I would scarcely believe it, except it happened to me. Here's what happened: I became lucidly aware, and then see my friend, Moe, walk into the restaurant/bar. I go up to her and try to convince her that we are dreaming - I hold her as we levitate to prove 'this is a dream' - but she still has that look of an unfocused person (actually, in these cases, lucid dreamers say the other person acts almost drunk, like they can't focus or function). Finally, I get frustrated and shove a 'peace sign' right in front of Moe's face, and say, "Moe, do you see this? Every time you see it, it can make you become lucid!" Then I decide to wake.

I never mention this lucid dream to Moe or anyone. Months later, I'm on a business trip in the Bay area, and call Moe to see if she is free for lunch. I get to the restaurant, and stand outside waiting for her. As she comes walking up the sidewalk, she steps up to me and shoves the "peace sign" right in front of my face!! I feel stunned. I ask, "Moe, why are you doing that?" And she replied, "I don't know. Just felt like it." Over lunch, I told her my lucid dream, and how the peace sign that I gave her in the dream state, she now gave it to me four months later in the waking state. We both flipped.

In my book, I have an entire chapter on mutual lucid dreaming. While rarely achieved, people seem to be meeting telepathically or merging their dream environments in some lucid dreams. I suggest some scientific approaches to studying this.


What does this say about our current perception of reality?

Robert Waggoner: Lucid dreaming gives us a unique unconscious platform from which to perceive and experiment upon the waking world. From that unique platform of conscious awareness in the dream state, we have a revolutionary tool that can radically transform our perception of this reality. To understand 'this' reality, it may help to see it consciously from another perspective (that of being consciously aware in the unconscious). Moreover, the capacity to experiment lucidly and validate the findings has tremendous value for the Western scientific approach to understanding the truer nature of reality.

The Buddhist yogi, Naropa, considered dream yoga (a system of inquiry that relies on lucid dreaming) one of the six paths to enlightenment. In Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, I tell how after 20 years I sought to go "beyond" lucid dreaming - beyond expectation and belief, beyond feeling and memory, to the source of lucid dreaming and its information. Without realizing it, I began to have experiences that sound very similar to what dream yoga leads to (non-dual experiences of clear light). I had no framework to place those non-dual experiences, until I heard a talk three years later on dream yoga (so it was not something that I expected to happen as I went "beyond" lucid dreaming). I felt like I had bushwhacked my way into something that another tradition had already built a path to - I just did it my way.

Whether we take an Eastern path or a Western path to conceptualizing reality, lucid dreaming offers insights either way.

As Albert Einstein said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

Lucid dreaming is a gift that if used intelligently and insightfully can bring us to a new level of awareness. My sincere hope is to assist lucid dreamers and society in that journey to greater awareness.

Robert Waggoner Interview

Hear more from Robert Waggoner by subscribing to the free magazine Lucid Dreaming Experience or picking up a copy of his superb new book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. You can also check out his blog at Lucid Advice.

About The Author

About The Author

Rebecca Casale is a lucid dreamer and a science writer with a special interest in biology and the brain. She is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming and Science Me.