Mapping Territories: A Phenomenology of Lucid Dream Reality

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Mapping Territories: A Phenomenology of Lucid Dream Reality
   (Originally Published in the  Lucidity Letter  , 8 (2), 81-97, 1989) MAPPING TERRITORIES: A PHENOMENOLOGY OF LUCID DREAM REALITY   by E. W. Kellogg III, Ph.D ©1989 Recently, I've found myself both delighted and disappointed as dreamworkers have increasingly applied the term "phenomenological" in describing their research in lucid dreaming. Delighted,  because I haven't found a more useful approach to dream research than that involved in phenom-enological methodology; and disappointed because few dreamworkers seem to have any clear idea about what a formal phenomenological approach involves! In this paper I hope to make clear the essence of such a phenomenological approach, and to clarify its application by present-ing some of my own findings as a lucid dream phenomenologist. Before beginning, let me describe my background in both dreamwork and in phenomenology: I normally recall 3 to 5 dreams per night, and have over the past decade or so written down and indexed over 5,000 dreams. Of these dreams I've had several hundred that I characterize as fully lucid, meaning that within the dream I had at least the same degree of consciousness and free will (the ability to make conscious decisions) as in my physical reality waking state. I first dis-covered Edmund Husserl's work in phenomenology in 1970, and since that time I've made a con-tinuing effort to work through, and to extend for myself, his studies into the nature and structure of consciousness. In the self-observation of processes of consciousness of myself both "awake" and "asleep", I've found no other discipline as valuable - or as difficult to do well. One can not understand the phenomenological method simply by reading about it, but must practice and ap- ply it to daily life. THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL METHOD  The phenomenological movement derives chiefly from the work of one man - Edmund Husserl - although many others continue this work today. Many existentialists, including Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, based much of their work upon the foundation that Husserl es-tablished (Wilson, 1966). In essence, one could describe phenomenology as a method (not a "philosophy") that aims at clearly seeing, and rigorously describing the essential structures of one's lifeworld, including all aspects of consciousness and experience. In effect, Husserl worked towards the development of a presuppositionless philosophy that goes to the bedrock of experi-ence, and which eliminates assumptions (especially hidden assumptions) to the greatest extent  possible. To accomplish this, Husserl developed the transcendental phenomenological reduction (or epoché  ) which involves a fundamental shift in perspective by suspending judgment in the "thesis of the natural standpoint". Basically, the natural standpoint describes our ordinary every-day at-titude towards the world. For example, the judgments that we live physically as human beings in "objective reality", that physical objects exist independent of our awareness of them, and that no difference exists between objects as experienced and the "real" physical objects themselves.  Thus, the epoché  requires a radical suspension of belief in this ordinary, deeply ingrained, and usually unconscious attitude towards the world we live in. The epoché  (from the Greek, meaning "to bring to a halt") should sound familiar to lucid dream-ers, as they need to have performed at least an approximation of it in order to have attained lucid-ity. In the ordinary dream state we continue to hold onto the usual assumptions inherent in our every-day attitude towards the physical world. In lucidity or "knowing that we dream" we bring at least one of those assumptions to a screeching halt - that our experience occurs within an ob- jective, physical world. However, this major insight only begins the task involved in a true epoché  , as the "lucid" dreamer still operates through a residuum of unquestioned beliefs and as-sumptions left over from the "natural standpoint". The phenomenological epoché  allows one to go deeper and further towards greater lucidity, by bringing to bear a rigorous and defined method aimed at reducing assumptions and mis-identifications to the greatest extent possible. The method of accomplishment of the epoché  lies beyond the scope of this paper (Husserl spent a lifetime describing pathways to its accomplishment), but as a very crude approximation one can look at the method of Descartes, where he tested the certitude of a fact by seeing if he could doubt it. Husserl also called this operation bracketing ( indicated by [ italics  ] ), through which one sets aside and makes overt the covert assumptions about experience. For example, at this moment I might say "I sit in a chair", by which I mean an objective chair existing in physical reality. Can I doubt this? Well, perhaps I hallucinate due to hypnotic sug-gestion, or find myself caught up in a very realistic dream. Neither of these possibilities seems likely, but I recognize their essential possibility and can, in fact, doubt. However, after the epoché  I might state "I experience myself sitting in a chair" and this statement I can not doubt at all. Bracketing reduces the assumed physical chair to the experienced phenomenon - [ chair  ]. It doesn't matter whether a physical chair exists or not - my experienced [ chair  ] exists apodictical-ly. In this context, apodictic means expressing or of the nature of necessary truth or absolute cer-tainty. The [ chair  ] exists apodictically because I perceive it directly and immediately. Please note that the epoché  does not cause me to disbelieve in the physical chair, but to relegate this be-lief to its proper place as one of the assumptions or inferences I (usually unconsciously) make on the basis of experience. Phenomenological work can only begin after the epoché  , in the apodictical realm. The second major tool involved in phenomenological work Husserl called the eidetic reduction,  by which one grasps the essential structures of experience after the epoché  . Again, I can not ad-equately describe this process here (see Husserl, 1973b), but it involves a direct "seeing" for each eidos  (or "essence"), through a testing for the congruent and truly identical in all of the var-iations of experience to which that eidos  belongs. For example, for me increased freedom of choice, and of awareness of assumptions, make up a fundamental part of the eidos  of lucidity, as all of my experiences of lucidity involve these factors in an integral way. One can describe an eidos  in words, but the eidos  does not consist of words but of pure meaning susceptible to im-mediate examination. In making sense out of the world of experience each of us by necessity  performs something like the eidetic reduction, but without normally achieving the clarity and ri-gor involved in the phenomenological method.  As a phenomenologist I understand that a map, no matter how useful, must never take prece-dence over the territory that it can only represent. After the epoché  , the so-called objective world loses a naive a priori  validity, and the so-called subjective world (the world of pure expe-rience) gains a priori  validity. For the purposes of this paper let me define reality as "that which certainly exists". By this definition, the term "objective reality" has an internal contradiction, as "objective reality" for me as an individual exists only as a hypothetical map within my subjective experience which I may use to make sense of subjective experience. On the other hand, "experi-ential reality" belongs to the apodictical realm (susceptible to direct examination), and must have  priority in all phenomenological work. Thus, through the epoché  one loses a naive sense of cer-tainty about the "objective" and instead finds certainty an inherent property of the formerly ques-tionable "subjective". This shift in perspective may sound deceptively simple, but it involves a fundamental change in attitude that goes against deeply ingrained habits and prejudices. The epoché  suspends belief and disbelief, taking what one might describe as an agnostic position. To those interested in studying phenomenology further, I recommend Husserl's Cartesian Meditations , Natanson's  Ed-mund Husserl:Philosopher of Infinite Tasks , or Zaner's The Way of Phenomenology  as useful in-troductions to this work. E-PRIME AND PHENOMENOLOGY  Unfortunately, even those who attempt to rigorously hold to a more phenomenological attitude quite frequently find themselves tripped up by the habitual structures and assumptions inherent in language. To minimize such distortions, I use a more phenomenological language called E-Prime (E'), that more accurately reflects my experience while minimizing hidden assumptions (Kellogg, 1987). E' refers to an English language derivative that eliminates any use of the verb "to be" (basically am ,is, was, are, and were). The use of E' has clarified many aspects of my scientific and phenomenological work, and made obvious many inherent assumptions that ordi-nary English usage had concealed. In his book,  Language, Thought and Reality , Benjamin Lee Whorf (1956) gives numerous ex-amples of languages and cultures that support his "principle of linguistic relativity." This princi- ple states that the structure of our language influences the way we perceive "reality," as well as how we behave with respect to that perceived reality. Although one could describe E' simply as English without any use of the verb "to be," such a definition misses the profound shifts in per-sonal orientation resulting from such a change. In essence, E-Prime consists of a more descrip-tive and extensionally oriented derivative of English, that automatically tends to bring the user  back to the level of first person experience. For example, if you saw a man, reeking of whisky, stagger down the street and then collapse, you might think (in ordinary "is" English) "He is drunk." In E' one would think instead "He acts drunk," or "He looks drunk." Each of these statements more accurately describes the actual ex- perience, and involves fewer covert assumptions than the English original. After all, one might have encountered an actor (practicing the part of a drunken man), a man who had spilled alcohol on himself during a heart attack, etc. The E' statement still leaves these possibilities open, whereas the "is" statement does not. Although E' usually reduces hidden assumptions, it does  not exclude them (for example, you may have seen a woman who looked like a man and acted drunk). E' also greatly encourages one to use the active voice ("I did it", "he did it", etc.) rather than the often misleading and information-poor passive voice ("it was done"). E-Prime fosters a worldview in which the user perceives situations as changeable rather than static, and where one's language indicates possibilities rather than false certainties. I have found it a very useful language for dreamwork, in that dream experiences translated into E' usually suf-fer far less from distortions and hidden assumptions then they do when set into ordinary "is" English. This can lead to some interesting discoveries, and I hope that other dreamworkers will find the idea of E' interesting enough to experiment with it themselves . BASIC MAPS AND OBSERVATIONS  Before describing what I've observed in lucid dreaming, I first need to establish a baseline on how I ordinarily experience myself. In  Figure 1  I've attempted to diagram a relevant two dimen-sional section of my four dimensional consciousness process. For present purposes, "conscious", "subconscious", and "paraconscious" each corresponds to a different depth in intentionality. By intentionality I mean the fundamental act by which consciousness directs itself at something within experience. By "conscious" I mean that aspect of myself that thinks, and labels; by "sub-conscious" that aspect that feels, that attributes meanings and significance to things; and by "paraconscious", that aspect of pure creativity and knowing that forms structure. I experience these three "levels" in a hierarchical order, with thinking as the most superficial, feeling occur-ring at greater depth, and with pure knowingness occurring at the greatest depth, closest to the functioning of my essential source-self. Let me try and make this clear by example. "About to cross a road I see a car coming towards me, a Dodge Caravan. I stop and let it pass before crossing". In perceiving the car, I see it first as a particular shape or form, and differentiate it from my experience as a whole; I impose mean-ing on the form, and see it as a motorized, and potentially dangerous human directed vehicle, made of metal, running on gasoline, etc. I understand this at a glance without words. Finally in my thinking I may label this object a "car" or more specifically as a "Dodge Caravan". All of  this occurs automatically and routinely, and with little "conscious intent". We take this tremen-dous activity for granted, and even talk about consciousness as "passive"! In a very demonstra- ble sense each of us creates, or more specifically intends, our own reality. For after all, what would an Indian from the depths of the Amazon jungle have seen? Certainly not a "car" or a Dodge Caravan! Husserl termed this automatic, and many layered making sense out of the world "functioning intentionality". As I'll describe below, the operation of "functioning intentionality" changes dramatically in ordinary and in lucid dreaming. With this as a necessary prologue, let me briefly compare some self-observations in three differ-ent categories of my overall experience: In "waking physical reality" (abbreviated WPR  ), I usually have my identity focus and "center of gravity" in the conscious/thinking levels; e.g. feelings happen to me, and I have little direct conscious control over them. In "dream reality" (abbreviated DR  ), my center of gravity has shifted to the subconscious or feeling level. In ordinary dreaming I experience a "horizontal split", by which I mean that I have little or only limited use of my thinking aspect, thinking and labeling occur automatically and without conscious intent. In "lucid dream reality" (abbreviated LDR  ) the breadth of my consciousness increases to include the functions of my thinking and knowing aspects; although my "center of gravi-ty" remains in the subconscious and in feeling, my identity focus has expanded to include  both thinking and knowing aspects. In fact I feel much more myself when fully lucid in LDR   than I do ordinarily in WPR  . And as self-consciousness expands into these areas of self function, so also does the possibility of choice. Although I characterize a fully lucid dream state as one where I have the same degree of con-scious awareness as in my waking physical state, I want to make clear that my conscious self in LDR   functions differently from my conscious self in WPR  . Specifically, the quality and accu-racy of the labeling of my "functioning intentionality" markedly diminishes in the dream state. Thus, I will far more easily jump to faulty conclusions in LDR   than I would in WPR  . For ex-ample, if I saw a hybrid fruit halfway between an apple and an orange in WPR  , I would immedi-ately identify it as an "odd" fruit. However, if I saw such an object even in a fully lucid dream I would most likely automatically identify it as an apple or an orange, without noticing the dis-crepancies. I would have to make a conscious intentional effort to actually perceive the object correctly. Hence, even in lucid dreams I have to make an effort to compensate for a loss of function of my "automatic object identifier". I've learned from experience that this particular mental function works far less accurately and reliably in LDR   than in WPR  . In a relative sense however, my "functioning intentionality" works markedly better and more accurately in LDR   than in ordinary dream reality, where it scarcely works properly at all. LUCID DREAMING DEFINITIONS  
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