150. Dream Interpretation a Spiritual Journey Says Lucid Dream Expert Robert Waggoner

Lucid dreaming expert Robert Waggoner explains how to become aware of our dreams while we’re dreaming, and how paranormal dreams can lead to a journey of self-discovery.

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with author, and lucid dream expert, Robert Waggoner.  During the interview Waggoner explains how paranormal dreams can reveal future events:

Andrew Paquette: Can you give an example of something like that where you’ve been in a dream and you’ve asked for some kind of future information, you’ve been given it, and later on in a waking state you were able to verify this?


Robert Waggoner: Sure. One time a good friend of mine asked me if I’d ever sought out the lottery numbers while lucid dreaming. That had never occurred to me and I asked him if he had. He said, “Oh yeah,” and he told me what happened. He said he became consciously aware and that he asked for the numbers of the MegaLotto or whatever it was called in his state, to appear when he opened up something. So he opened up a book or something, and he saw six sets of two numbers.

And during the lucid dream he was really excited and he started to memorize them as quickly as he could. So there’s the first number, 26 and the next number is 3 and the next number is 17. And it goes on and on. He said he was really working hard to memorize the set of six two-digit numbers.

When he woke up from the lucid dream he immediately reached for his dream journal and began writing them down as quickly as possible. He says he got the first three exactly right but from then on his memory failed him. He just couldn’t recall the exact order. So a week later when the MegaLotto happened, he said he got the first three exactly right but then the other ones, the order had been goofed up. He’d transposed the numbers as anyone might.

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Andrew Paquette: Tonight we welcome Robert Waggoner, author of the book, Lucid Dreaming and a frequent speaker on the subject of lucid dreams. Welcome to the Skeptiko program, Mr. Waggoner.

Robert Waggoner: Thanks, Andrew; I’m happy to be here.

Andrew Paquette: I’ve got a few questions for you after reading this book of yours, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, which I’m going to right now plug just a little bit because I read this and I think it’s quite interesting. I think you’ve got some very interesting things to say in it. Just for the sake of listeners who maybe don’t know exactly what lucid dreaming is, would you mind giving a very quick snapshot of what that is?

Robert Waggoner: Lucid dreaming is when you consciously realize in the dream that you are dreaming. Because you consciously realize that you’re dreaming, then you can decide the direction of the dream; you can think about what you want to do; you can ask questions of the dream figures. For many people, they can perform some kind of heroic actions when they’re consciously aware in the dream.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, now one thing that happened—and I’m going to be kind of baring my soul here for the audience, kind of the way that I did when I met you—is that I had this negative impression of what lucid dreaming was and what books about lucid dreaming were about. And about people who wrote books about it like yourself. [Laughs] Which I feel kind of bad about now because now that you and I have met I’ve had the opportunity to change my mind, which I have.

It always seemed to me that if you wanted to make yourself have a lucid dream or if you had them and you got all excited about it, you were just looking that this kind of dream or this aspect of a dream as a form of entertainment. Kind of an amusement park, like you’re playing make-believe with your dream space. I always thought that your dreams are a lot more serious than that. You can get a lot more out of them than just fooling around. I mean, when you’re awake and daydreaming you can pretend to save the world from nuclear disasters and all that kind of stuff.

It seemed to me that was basically what people were doing with lucid dreaming. Now, I found out from you that that isn’t your take on it at all. Would you care to explain that for our listeners?

Robert Waggoner: Right. Just like you, there are lots of people out there who think lucid dreaming is all about narcissism and self-entertainment, but when you become consciously aware of the dream state you can actually use it to experiment. You can investigate the psyche, the subconscious, the nature of reality.

You can even go as far as using it for spiritual growth. Naropa, the 10th Century Indian Buddhist Yogi, said that dream yoga, which is basically lucid dreaming, was one of the six paths to enlightenment. So there are a lot of things that you can do with lucid dreaming but you do have to conceptually think about it differently and that’s why I wrote the book that I did.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, now you touched on something in your answer there that I want to ask you about. You were talking about your inner self on the cover and throughout the book you use the term, “inner self.” I believe the term you use is there is your super-ego or id, something like that. I know your training is as a psychologist and I see that kind of terminology throughout your book and in your conversation, as well. I’m wondering, do you differentiate the inner self as you term it in your book, from the id? Would you say it’s an entirely separate consciousness or part of yourself? How do you look at that?

Robert Waggoner: I would definitely say that the inner self is different than what Freud considered the id. It’s definitely different than the ego. The way that I came to this differentiation is when I became consciously aware of the dream state, I realized at one point that I could ignore all of the dream figures, ignore the setting, and just shout out questions to the awareness behind the dream and they would respond.

So I feel that invisible awareness behind the dream might be what Jung called the Self (with a capital s) or it might be what I’m calling here the “inner self.” It’s a part of us in the dreaming state that’s aware that it’s nonvisible and it’s behind the scenes.

Andrew Paquette: Let me ask you something else. After the conference you sent me a copy of Seth’s speech—that was very nice of you by the way, considering you’re off to Uganda after just dropping yourself off in Paris for a little while. I took a look at that and Jane Roberts—or if you want to say Seth you can say Seth—says something about how we have a permanent conscious state where we just direct our focus in one physical existence or another. That kind of sounds like the “super-self” that maybe you’re talking about, there. Is that correct or is that not correct?

Robert Waggoner: I believe that’s correct. I believe that we’re talking basically about the same thing.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, now when you’re in a lucid dream and you call out the dream, would you please explain what’s going on here? I’d like to get into some examples of that in a moment, but do you feel that you ever receive information in those dreams, even if they’re not lucid, that you’re able to verify later as factual even though you didn’t really have any normal way of knowing the information?

Robert Waggoner: Right. You know, I have and in my book, throughout it, I give numerous examples of using this kind of inner intent of questioning the awareness behind the dream to try to get valid information that I could later verify.

Andrew Paquette: The thing about this—I really would love to hear exactly what this looks like or feels like when you have this experience. That sounds quite a bit different from what I would consider to be a normal precognitive dream experience, at least based on what I know of the subject. You know I’ve got a little experience with that. As I understand the subject, a person most often in a precognitive dream going to experience whatever the later event is in a more-or-less direct way. But what you’re talking about sounds almost like you’re calling out and asking for information and it comes to you in a verbal manner. Is that correct?

Robert Waggoner: Right. What you would find is if you ask a question of the awareness behind the dream, it would depend on how you ask the question. If you said, “Let me experience second sight,” then you might have any type of experience. If you say, “Let me hear or let me see,” you’re either going to hear it or more likely to see it. So it could come in a number of modalities.

Andrew Paquette: Can you give an example of something like that where you’ve been in a dream and you’ve asked for some kind of future information, you’ve been given it, and later on in a waking state you were able to verify this?

Robert Waggoner: One time I became consciously aware in the dream state. I was playing around with this idea of getting forward-looking or future information so I announced in the dream that when I picked up the phone I would hear from the most important person who I was going to talk to the next day. So I picked up the phone and all of a sudden I could hear my wife happily chatting on the phone. I realized I’d done my experiment so I woke up and wrote it down.

The next day I was a little bit upset when I woke up, actually, that I had considered such a poor experiment because of course throughout the day I got a number of phone calls but the most important one and most excited one was the one I got from my wife who had just been placed as Chair of a university committee and she was excitedly telling me about it.

Andrew Paquette: By the way, one thing I want to point out here, and I’d like to have a comment from you if possible for our listeners because I suspect some of them are going to be thinking, “Wait a minute. His wife? His wife probably calls him all the time.” So it sounded to me, though, like what you’re saying is, what makes it interesting is it was the most important call of the day. It wasn’t necessarily who was going to call that mattered in this dream, it was the content or quality of the call itself. Is that correct?

Robert Waggoner: Right. I’d say that’s right. And I do want to say that oftentimes in a lucid dream, when you all of a sudden decide to create an experiment, sometimes they’re not the most clever experiment. Like on another occasion I became lucidly aware and I announced that when I picked up the phone I would hear the next word that I’d hear from one of my brothers, Donald.

So I picked up the phone and I heard him say, “Robert, you…” and he went on a little bit. So I waited a couple of weeks in waking reality and finally the phone rang one day and my wife said, “Hey, it’s your brother Donald on the phone.” I pick it up and he goes, “Robert, you are finally there,” which was exactly what he told me in the lucid dream. So in any case there are all sorts of little examples like this of getting forward-looking information.

Andrew Paquette: I hate to harp on this, Robert, but I know how skeptical some people are and I want to push it a little further. I’m satisfied with these, but let’s go another step. You gave an example at the conference of something that’s highly unusual. Although the examples you just gave are perfectly responsive and I’m satisfied, could you give an example that’s more unusual?

Robert Waggoner: Sure. One time a good friend of mine asked me if I’d ever sought out the lottery numbers while lucid dreaming. That had never occurred to me and I asked him if he had. He said, “Oh yeah,” and he told me what happened. He said he became consciously aware and that he asked for the numbers of the MegaLotto or whatever it was called in his state, to appear when he opened up something. So he opened up a book or something, and he saw six sets of two numbers.

And during the lucid dream he was really excited and he started to memorize them as quickly as he could. So there’s the first number, 26 and the next number is 3 and the next number is 17. And it goes on and on. He said he was really working hard to memorize the set of six two-digit numbers.

When he woke up from the lucid dream he immediately reached for his dream journal and began writing them down as quickly as possible. He says he got the first three exactly right but from then on his memory failed him. He just couldn’t recall the exact order. So a week later when the MegaLotto happened, he said he got the first three exactly right but then the other ones, the order had been goofed up. He’d transposed the numbers as anyone might.

Andrew Paquette: You know why that sounds interesting to me, right? Because you’ve read my book.

Robert Waggoner: [Laughs]

Andrew Paquette: I had almost the exact same thing happen to me. What were you going to say?

Robert Waggoner: So what I realized from talking to him is that if a lucid dreamer was ever going to do this, what they should do is pick a Lotto with a few numbers. Just a few. So I happened to do this one time in a lucid dream. I became consciously aware. I had heard about this Pick Three Lottery that was in my state. I’d never played it so I wasn’t really sure of the rules.

Just to make a long story short, what happened next was I saw like this wheel of fortune and the first number I saw was 8. There were colors but there were no numbers on it until I’d look at it. The first time I saw it there was an 8. Then I turned my head away, looked back at it again and the next time I looked at it there were no numbers. That was really confusing to me.

Then I looked back at the wheel of fortune and it showed another 8. That bothered me because I’d already seen an 8 and I couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening. I looked back and saw a 1. Anyway, I just felt like things were falling apart. As it turned out, the Pick Three Lottery number was 8-0-8. When I saw nothing I should have realized that zero was a number but it had never occurred to me, having never played this Pick Three Lottery, that zero was one of the numbers.

In any case, I did talk to one person who told me that he won the lottery by virtue of a lucid dream. What happened to him in that case is he saw his deceased mother in a dream, became lucidly aware, he and his mother had an incredible talk and reunion and at the end of it as she was getting ready to go, she turned to him and said, “One, nine, six, nine.” My friend said, “What?” And the mother again said “One, nine, six, nine,” and disappeared.

That was the end of the lucid dream. He wakes up; he realizes that he grew up in Detroit and in 1969 there were big riots there. He thought it was weird that his deceased mother would just start saying numbers at the end of the lucid dream. So he went out and bought a lottery ticket and he won that day. The numbers came up, 1969.

Andrew Paquette: Okay. That satisfies me. Thank you very much, Robert. I’m curious here although I think I know the answer. Do you feel that there really is such a thing as a genuinely paranormal dream?

Robert Waggoner: Oh yeah. I think that’s why I got interested in dreaming just as a general subject as a young child. Oftentimes a voice would announce what the symbolism in the dreams meant. Sometimes a voice would tell me what day that the event I was watching was likely to occur…

Andrew Paquette: Wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re saying that when you were a child, before you discovered lucid dreaming or had an idea what lucid dreaming was, you were already having this happen to you?

Robert Waggoner: Right. Without being lucid. The curious thing though is I don’t know if you’ve ever watched “The Twilight Zone” as a child…

Andrew Paquette: I can’t wait to get it on DVD. Go ahead, sir.

Robert Waggoner: In the introduction they have a clock with the hands spinning wildly forward, so that was the dream trigger, the dream symbol that would make me realize that that dream was probably precognitive. I would see the clock and all of a sudden the hands would start moving forward and then I would see something or hear something or the voice behind me would tell me to “Pay attention to what you’re seeing,” and tell me what the symbolism meant. So I realized early on that oftentimes precognitive dreams were heralded by this clock face with the hands spinning wildly.

Andrew Paquette: Yeah. Now I want to ask you, how do you differentiate between those kinds of dreams and normal ones? You’ve got this clock face there but I imagine it doesn’t show up all the time. Are you even able to reliably tell the difference or does this lucid state basically do it for you?

Robert Waggoner: You know what? In normal dreaming here’s what I would say would be some of the normal markers. Sometimes you’ll have a character who will just simply tell you, “This is important. This is coming. Pay attention.” Sometimes you’ll have the same dream over and over. If you don’t get it after three nights of having the same dream over and over, you have to realize that this dream is super-important and you’d better pay attention as it’s likely to occur.

One thing I’ve realized is on the nights that I have the dream that a day or two later I realize was precognitive, I go back and look at all the other dreams that night because oftentimes they too have precognitive elements in them. So there are various ways that just a normal dreamer can realize or differentiate precognitive dreams from just regular dreams.

Andrew Paquette: I have a question that I just thought of spontaneously. It just so happens that at the moment you alerted me to the fact that you were available for this call, I was working on a very large spreadsheet related to a few dreams from my journal that I decided to make an extensive study of for a paper I intend to write for a journal article.

One thing I’m seeing here quite a bit of, is that I break all my records down into scenes for each dream. I might have say, 10 scenes for a dream. I find that they tend to be either all of the pieces of each scene are verified or none of them are. Do you find the same thing in your own dreams?

Robert Waggoner: Well, I’ve never bothered to break them down to the depth that you have but I think in general terms you’re right.

Andrew Paquette: Okay. So that would be another way. You’re talking about meditating within a lucid dream and I have to say that was one of the most interesting things I heard you say at the conference. I’m not saying for everybody listening to this that it’s really the most interesting thing in the book. It’s just what I thought was the most interesting. Maybe I’m weird that way.

But when you said that and when I read it again in your book and I saw your reasons for saying it, it made me feel like this surge of energy. Here is this possibility for something really unique and potentially quite interesting that I’d never even thought of before. I don’t really know what it’s like to do that, having never done it myself. I mean, I’ve had lucid dreams but they always just happened spontaneously. I’ve never done this specific thing.

What is meditating in a dream like? How do you do it, and what do you get out of it?

Robert Waggoner: As your listeners might guess, in a lucid dream you can pretty much do what you decide to do. I’m not going to say you can control the dream. I don’t believe you can control the dream. In my book I say, “The sailor does not control the sea. Neither does the lucid dreamer control the dream.”

But one time I realized that in waking life I often meditated and that I’d never tried that in a lucid dream. So I became lucidly aware. I was walking down a path. I stopped along the path and remembered, “Oh yeah, I want to meditate.” So I sat down cross-legged, lotus-style and was looking straight ahead and began to put my mind in a meditative state. At once I felt kind of mentally empty, just almost immediately which was very interesting.

But then a very curious thing happened. All of a sudden, it was like the visual scene that I was looking at, it was like light started shooting out of it like parts of it were being stripped away like if you stripped away part of a projector screen. The white light was just shooting into my eyes. All of a sudden, that brought me out of my meditative state and I thought, “Wait a second. I don’t know what that’s about.”

So I decided to meditate now with closing my eyes and the fascinating thing is once I closed my eyes and got into a meditative state, it was like almost instantaneously I had this incredible feeling of kind of transcendence and kind of oneness with everything that’s kind of beyond myself in a sense.

And one thing that I think other people who have tried to meditate in a lucid dream have also had very powerful experiences. So it’s like when you’re consciously aware already at the level of the subconscious and you try a spiritual practice, oftentimes you’ll find it’s very much more powerful than the same sort of practice tried when you’re in the waking state.

Andrew Paquette: This brings up another point and that is to someone who is not already interested in the subject of meditation or spiritual subjects but is interested in paranormal dreams because they just think it’s impossible. Here you’ve got this respectable guy saying it is possible and it happens all the time, so maybe I’ll listen to what that’s all about because I think this doesn’t make any sense.

To then talk about white light, that might seem pretty foreign to somebody like that. I’m wondering, what is it about an experience like that tells you that there is something genuine to it and something valuable of a spiritual or religious nature? How do you determine for yourself whether you’re getting anything real out of something that really feels like a genuine spiritual experience of some kind in a dream like that?

Robert Waggoner: Well, for the experiencer by being there you feel it and you feel it very deeply. In lucid dreams there’s not very much stopping all of the energy from just being immediately sent or felt by you. I do want to say that in other cases I’ve become consciously aware and I’ve yelled out to the awareness behind the dream to let me experience some sort of esoteric practice and sometimes I’ve had my mind just totally blown.

But any lucid dreamer could become lucidly aware and shout out to the awareness behind the dream, “Hey, let me experience unconditional love.” Or, “Hey, let me experience divine grace.” I’ll tell you that nine times out of ten, you’ll be catapulted into a whole different sensation and really transported on a spiritual basis. So I think anyone who does it will immediately see the value of this.

Andrew Paquette: Let me ask you something about this. You used another term for it. When you’re in meditation you call out like a request and then it gets answered. Who is doing the answering in your mind?

Robert Waggoner: Well, in my mind the inner self, this inner awareness that exists, the conscious unconscious or the Self.

Andrew Paquette: Now, you know that I talk about something I call like a spirit guide in my book and you’ve probably heard this term from lots of other people also. Do you think it’s fair to at least raise the possibility that you’re having experiences with characters like than on occasion, as well?

Robert Waggoner: Well, I remember once I had a lucid dream. I was driving through New Mexico at night on a windy road. I realized that in reality I wasn’t in New Mexico. I didn’t live there. I knew it was a dream. I let go of the wheel, flew out of the windshield of the car and landed in a stream. And as I was laying there in the stream, I shouted out to the night above me because at first I thought, “Oh, I should fly out to the stars,” and then I thought, “Oh why bother? Why should I go to that effort?” So I yelled out, “Hey, pull me up, stars!”

All of a sudden, this hand reached around and grabbed my wrist and started pulling me up into the darkness. As we got further and further up into the night sky, I realized it was a young woman and she responded. She told me she was there always watching me in the dream state. I found that really interesting because the idea of spirit guides or guardians or that kind of thing, to me for whatever reason never appealed to me.

So I’ve had that occur in a number of occasions where a dream figure has announced to me that it was either a guardian or a guide. So I don’t know, however, if I would consider that as vast as the inner self or the awareness behind the dream.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, I’m just going to insert a tad here for the sake of some listeners who probably have a question about this. What you just described then is something that is not only against expectation for you, but it’s something that you don’t necessarily consciously desire to run into guides because this is something you either object to or just aren’t interested in. Is that fair to say?

Robert Waggoner: Right, right.

Andrew Paquette: So this is not something you’d expect and yet you get it anyway. It’s something that is consistent with the experience of other people like myself, for instance. As well as I think the kind of stuff that is mentioned in the book, is that correct?

Robert Waggoner: To some degree, yeah.

Andrew Paquette: What do you think that you’ve learned from these more spiritual experiences in dreams. I mean, apart from just getting a sense of say, love for the universe, for some people it’s less specific. Do you have anything specific that you feel you’ve really gotten out of these dreams of a more spiritual nature?

Robert Waggoner: I would say first I’ve realized that everything is interconnected. That all of us and everything exists in an interconnected Oneness. Also, one thing I’ve realized from interacting with the awareness behind the dream is that it’s always trying its best to educate me. I show instances in my book where people have asked the awareness behind the dream for something and the awareness behind the dream has told them that they’re not ready for it, that they’re not properly focused. That they should try this again when their mind is in a different space.

I remember once a woman yelled out to the awareness behind the dream, “Let me see the beginning and the end of the universe.” All of a sudden she heard this voice which said, “The universe has no beginning and no end. The universe is an everlasting cycle.” So you begin to see that this awareness behind the dream actually refutes the lucid dreamer when the lucid dreamer’s premise or assumption is incorrect.

But the beautiful thing about this, and I spend about the first 90 pages of my book in it, is that after 20 years of lucid dreaming, I decided to try to go beyond lucid dreaming. That’s when I began to have some very unusual experiences of what people call “the clear light,” and which are non-dual experiences.

Andrew Paquette: By the way, I think I should mention here just for the sake of people listening that you do actually provide some exercises to help people have these kinds of experiences on their own. From my reading of them, okay, I’ll admit I tried a couple times, okay? It didn’t work. Well, it almost worked.

What I did is instead of the hand example that you gave in the book, I pictured myself holding your book jacket and that would be the trigger to make me lucid. So that worked, but it instantly woke me up, too. So as soon as I saw myself holding the book, I was like, “Oh yeah, I’m lucid. Oh, I’m awake. Nuts!” [Laughs]

Robert Waggoner: [Laughs]

Andrew Paquette: I kind of blew it but for everybody else, it may work better for you. Maybe I just need to give it a couple more tries. So you’ll probably find it kind of interesting.

I want to ask you something from your position. I’m going to go away from your book a little bit right now. As the former president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, in that capacity you would have had quite a bit of exposure to the work of all sorts of people who research dreams in lots and lots of different ways.

I know you have been talking to all these people personally and probably listening to their talks and reading up on it. From all that experience, have you gotten some kind of read on what the general attitude of dream researchers is to the idea that paranormal events are connected to things that can be described as spiritual or supportive of religion?

Robert Waggoner: Of course I do want to say that in the talk I’m representing my own personal perspective and not the perspective of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.  But I think my thing about the International Association for the Study of Dreams is that it’s a very broad tent and it’s open really to everyone. About one-third of our members are therapists; another third are scientists or academic researchers of dreams. Then about one-third are just people like myself who are very interested in dreaming and lucid dreams and take it from there.

Now, one thing that I did want to say about my getting precognitive information in a lucid dream, what I suggest in my book is that this would be a way of finally overcoming the objections of scientists to precognitive dream reports. Oftentimes I’d say a normal precognitive dream report is retro-cognitive. That the event occurs and then somebody runs back to their dream journal and says, “Hey, I dreamt it three weeks ago. Here, it’s in my dream journal.” That may or may not be, but science doesn’t like that.

So a lucid dreamer could, in a scientific study, become consciously aware, get the forward-looking information, wake up with that information, and hand it to the scientist. Then the lucid dreamer and the scientist can both wait to see what actually occurs in the experiment. So what I’m saying here is lucid dreaming might be a way to actually help us validate what’s been happening for centuries, if not millennia, which is precognitive dreaming, telepathic and clairvoyant dreaming, and all these things that people call paranormal, which I think are very natural and normal. Especially the more I talk with people.

Andrew Paquette: Now that you’ve said that, I didn’t actually expect that answer from you. I want to break it out a little bit because what you just described is up to a point quite similar to the kind of studies that Krippner did at the Saybrook Institute and the kind of research that Montague Ullman was doing at the Maimonides Research Institute in New York until they were closed.

I believe that the difference is that you’re talking about using lucid dreaming as opposed to just any dreams and the difference would be exactly what? Would you mind expanding on that a little bit?

Robert Waggoner: So what they did was basically study dream telepathy. So a sender was trying to send an image or a picture or photo to a dreamer who was dreaming in the sleep lab. In my particular case, I’m saying that you could broaden the experience to any number sort of experiments by the use of lucid dreaming.

Andrew Paquette: But why lucid dreaming in particular? Like for instance, what’s the difference between doing it that way and recording dreams that appear to be precognitive while having those and later on checking them against later events?

Robert Waggoner: Because again, people say that it’s retro-cognitive. That you’re picking the one dream out of a group of 10,000 dreams and tying it into an event and there doesn’t seem to be any linkage involved. So when you’re consciously aware in the sleep state and you remember how the experiment is to get the front cover of the first issue of Time in 2012, you announce in the dream, “Hey, when I walk into that next room I want to see the front cover of Time in 2012.”

Andrew Paquette: Okay, so this is just the way to control the outcome of the dream. Instead of getting a random future event that may well be every bit as precognitive as what you get in a lucid dream, with the lucid dream you know what it is as opposed to just being able to describe it and recognize it after the fact. Okay, that makes sense. I can appreciate that.

One thing I wanted to ask you a couple of minutes ago is sometimes I have people come up to me—you probably have this happen to you, as well—and they ask, “What is the practical value of this stuff? You dream of all of the winning lottery numbers and you forget half of them. Or you dream all of them and you remember them but you just don’t believe them because you don’t understand that nothing is the number zero. Or you don’t understand the rules of the game so you don’t buy the idea that the same number comes up twice.”

Oftentimes when I get asked these questions about the practical value of dreams, they tend to be connected to the suggestion that the most practical use of dreams is probably related to gambling, actually. [Laughs]

Robert Waggoner: [Laughs]

Andrew Paquette: You can go make all this money this way. Or you can save all these people who would otherwise be killed in an airplane crash or avert a war or whatever. Now what do you think the practical value of this stuff is? Do you think it is that if you practice enough you’ll make a billion dollars? Or do you think that there’s something else going on?

Robert Waggoner: I think there are more valuable aspects of lucid dreaming and also dreaming in a general sense. The person in lucid dreaming, there have been numerous scientific reports showing that it helps people overcome emotional trauma, like recurring nightmares from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In my book there’s a whole chapter on people who have used lucid dreaming apparently to heal themselves when lucidly aware in the dream. So healing is one of the main values of lucid dreaming.

Secondly I’d say that lucid dreaming allows you to experiment within the subconscious mind and in dreaming and finally understand that reality from your lucid experimentation. So it gives you insight into the psyche and the nature of yourself.

Third, it gives you spiritual access to this kind of reservoir of knowledge, this kind of inner information that you can access when you’re consciously aware in a dream.

And finally I would say it shows us how to live more lucidly. When you start to have these experiences, usually you realize that you can transpose them into your waking life and then live your current life more lucidly.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, so you’re basically saying nevermind the lottery. This is better. You’ll understand your life better and you’ll be happier and you’ll make better life choices. Is that about right?

Robert Waggoner: That’s right.

Andrew Paquette: What that makes me think of is the sort of accounts we hear from people who have had near-death experiences where they had some sort of severe physical trauma. They may actually be brain-dead and their hearts have stopped pumping, that sort of thing. And then later on somehow miraculously if you like, or non-miraculously if you prefer, they return to consciousness and they start talking about these experiences that are very similar from person to person. Do you feel like you’ve ever had a lucid dreaming experience of any kind that also fit into that same pattern? Or shed any light on what is going on for those people?

Robert Waggoner: There are two ways of thinking about this. A lot of us lucid dreamers become consciously aware when we see someone who is deceased because we realize, “Wait a second. Dad’s been dead for 15 years. This must be a dream.” And from there we can go on and do whatever we want. For example, once when that happened I saw my dad and realized, “Wait a second. Dad’s dead.” But then I thought, “Wait a second. Is this dad as a dream figure or is this dad as a spiritual presence?”

So I decided to ask him some questions. The first thing I asked him was, “Hey, Dad, you’re from the Land of the Dead. When do you think Mom’s going to die?”

And he said, “Oh, probably in two to six years.”

And I go, “Of what?”

And he said, “A heart condition.”

That really surprised me because my Mom had never had any trouble. Then my dad in this lucid dream told me to be quiet and it became a dream. But anyway, as it turns out, 23 months later my mom goes to the hospital with a heart condition and almost died. Then a few years after that, she returned to the hospital due to a heart condition caused by prescribed medicine that was causing heart trouble with people and she almost died again. So it just shows that lucid dreaming might give us evidence that there is an existence in the afterlife.

Now the other aspect of this is that Buddhists see the value of lucid dreaming as helping us in the after-death state, in the Bardos State, and this kind of near-death experience state that instead of getting caught up in another reincarnational cycle or are drawn into Samsara as they say, the lucid dreamer has enough thoughtfulness to decide what they want to do with that moment.

So it appears that goal is to invite the light, to basically become one with the non-dual experience of light and to ignore the family members and all the whatever, future reincarnation that might appear and be enticing to them.

Andrew Paquette: That brings up a question I’ve had also. As I understand it anyway, one could look at our experience here on Earth as physical beings as one where we learn a great many things or we actually perform basic work or one kind or another. Maybe we help other people out, even if we don’t learn a great deal from it. But we’re able to be useful in a very functional, practical way to other people by adopting these lives.

Forgive me, all you listeners out there who really don’t care about this stuff, but this is actually important stuff to me so I’m going to ask anyway.

So when I hear about, for instance, people in India or the people you’re talking about who are not in India but close by, are we talking Nepal or Tibet right now?

Robert Waggoner: The Tibetan tradition.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, that’s what I thought. And they’re talking about this religious practice basically being centered around avoiding coming back to Earth. It makes me wonder, what about all of the other useful things that they could be doing here?

I’m wondering just from your knowledge of their practices, it is really completely centered around avoiding coming back? Like, “Oh boy, I’m not visiting that place again. I’ve been there and it’s awful.” Or do they actually have other things going on where they’re like it allows you to make the choice better so that if you do come back it works out better for you?

Robert Waggoner: The Buddhists will have to forgive me for this sweeping generalization of just making it that simple, but basically they’d say that between Yoga and lucid dreaming, initially it shows us the illusory nature of time and space and this waking reality. So then as we begin to see that in lucid dreams and we begin to see that waking life is dream-like and dream-like is dream-like. Even lucid dreaming is a function of mental experience.

Then you begin to do like I did after 20 years of lucid dreaming, which is try to go beyond lucid dreaming. That’s when you get to these very deep experiences, the non-dual experiences that tend to give you a sense of the source and I think forever changes your life. You’ll never view reality the same way.

Andrew Paquette: That’s actually a pretty good place to end this. Thank you for your time here. I really appreciate your answers. I think they’re very interesting and thought-provoking.

Thanks a lot to Mr. Robert Waggoner for being with us on Skeptiko tonight. He’s written this book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. It’s published by Moment Point Press. You can get this from Amazon.com or many other sources. Of course fine bookstores, I imagine, would carry this. Would you like to say anything about your book before we let you go?

Robert Waggoner: You know, a lot of the ideas that I’ve presented just briefly are much more expanded in the book. For lucid dreamers out there who feel like they’re experiencing lucid dreams, I think they’re the ones who are most impressed by the book. So I encourage people if they have an interest to check it out.

Andrew Paquette: Okay, thanks a lot, Robert.