I passed through the vibratory prelude to an out-of-body experience (OOBE) and drifted up from the mattress. But then I sank down under the bed and stayed there, content to lie drowsily, staring at the fluff-bunnies and dried-up tissues.
Even as I experienced this, there was a faint awareness it wasn’t what it seemed. The OOBE vibrations had been only a simulacrum; they had had none of the jarring viciousness of the real thing, in all its tooth-jangling violence. And if I was truly lucid, then why was I content just to lie there with my nose in the dust?
No. This was merely a standard dream after all – perhaps on the verge of becoming lucid, but standard nonetheless. My body wanted sleep, and it had fobbed off the psychonaut part of me with a shoddy simulacrum of the lucid state. The psychonaut was fooled into thinking it was going somewhere; meanwhile, the body snatched a sneaky forty winks.
Some practitioners might have chalked this up as an OOBE success. To judge from their accounts in mass market books on lucid dreaming, I suspect that many would. It’s all too easy to have a standard dream about having a lucid dream, but this is not a lucid dream. And it’s also possible to have a lucid dream about having an OOBE, but this is not an OOBE.
It seems to me that practitioners of these arts demonstrate greater skill by admitting and learning to tell the difference between the real and fake versions of these states, rather than trying to pass everything off as ‘true’. There are all kinds of states available to us when we practice, but we gain the deepest insights of all from grasping their intrinsic nature. By this route we arrive at an understanding of the structure of human experience. This is not to be gained by accepting at face value what is merely the content of an experience.
Yet there’s nothing wrong or inferior about a standard dream, when considered in relation to a lucid dream or OOBE. In magical practice, a standard dream can fulfil a role just as important as any other mental state. For instance, in my current ‘Who’s In Charge?’ project, it was a non-lucid dream that furnished that rather amazing ‘Davina McCall’ synchronicity.
Another instance recently grabbed my attention. I’d been agonising over whether to teach meditation. I’d pledged on the internet to set up a group, and people had responded, yet I found myself putting off the chore of finding a venue and booking a room. I admitted to myself finally that this was because I couldn’t actually be bothered; I didn’t really want to teach at all.
That night I had a dream. A deeply ignorant woman, whom I’d taught years ago and forgotten all about, came up to me and declared: ‘You were the best teacher I ever had. You made an impact on me and now I want to start learning again.’ In the dream I was amazed: ‘If I can make an impression on someone like her, then this must really be my calling after all.’ I turned to the woman and asked: ‘So what is it that you want to learn about now?’ Enigmatically, she answered: ‘Ships that sink.’
The next day I went to the centre where I meditate every week. There was only myself and the group leader, but then a woman arrived whom we’d never met before. After talking with her, I found myself thinking she seemed precisely the type to whom it would be very difficult to teach meditation.
Later, the group leader announced he was going on an extended retreat for several months and formally invited me to take over the group in his absence, if I was interested. And so a venue with a regular meditation teaching slot had dropped into my lap with a minimum of effort. The presence of the woman seemed a synchronistic echo of my dream, on the basis of which I accepted the invitation.
From that dream I had woken with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. Lucid dreams and OOBEs can connect us deeply with the etheric and astral levels of our being, but I suspect that there’s nothing like a bog-standard dream for connecting us with our gut issues, with the earthly yet unconscious strata of our daily lives. Yet I’m still curious to find out whether ‘ships that sink’ might turn out to be a warning rather than an epiphany!