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  • Writer's pictureKen Cohen

Lucid Dreaming: Science Scratches the Surface

©Kenneth S. Cohen

Non-indigenous scientists are, in general, ignorant of the connections between science and spirituality. As a result, their research, in some areas, is so naïve and simplistic, that sometimes I think it will take them 1,000 years to catch up with what our ancestors knew 10,000 years ago! Maybe I am being too harsh. But here’s what’s got me fired up.

The esteemed science journal, Nature, just reported an unexpected “discovery”. People retain an ability to solve problems and communicate in their dreams! Four independent labs in Europe and the U.S. recruited 36 volunteers who were either lucid dreamers or willing to be trained in lucid dreaming (the ability to know you are dreaming while dreaming and, to a degree, control what happens in the dream). Once brain activity and eye movements confirmed that the subjects were definitely asleep, scientists would ask the dreamer questions such as “What is 1 + 2”—they would respond with a pre-arranged signal such as moving the closed eyes back and forth three times. Or a Spanish-speaking dreamer might be asked “Do you speak Spanish?, and she would again answer with a pre-arranged signal such as smiling or frowning. Out of 158 questions, 18.6% of the responses were correct.

Neuroscientists are astonished. Communication with a person while asleep “challenges the foundational definitions of sleep” in which the brain, while asleep, is assumed to be disconnected from the outside world.

I don’t know where to start. Yes, it is an interesting experiment. But the scientists seem unaware of the long established First Peoples’ traditions of dreamers: dreamer prophets, dreamer healers, dreamers who solve problems or offer information vital to survival, dreamers who communicate with others whether they are awake or dreaming. And so importantly, dreamers who solve problems or answer questions that their conscious mind would have no way to know. Not “what is 1 + 2” but “when are the salmon arriving this year?” or “what is the correct diagnosis?”

I remember a teaching from one of my elders: the spiritual gift of “sight” also means insight, clear vision, and the ability to be awake while dreaming and dreaming while awake.

Finally, if the dreamer is truly talented, he/she may be able to access a bridging state between dreaming and waking that might fool scientists into believing that the he/she is only asleep. Thus, there is an integration between waking senses and thoughts and deeper levels of mind and spirit.

I was personally able to demonstrate this in the lab of Ed Wilson, MD in the 1980s. He hooked me up to a brain mapping EEG device and asked me if I could voluntarily produce a state of consciousness/being that allows me to spiritually travel to retrieve information. (I am familiar with this state from my work as a practitioner of traditional indigenous medicine.) About 40 minutes later, when the experiment was over, I asked Dr. Wilson if he observed anything unusual. I will never forget his reply, “Yes, you are a dolphin or perhaps a whale!”

Dr. Wilson explained that within minutes after he said, “Please begin”, the left hemisphere of my brain started producing mostly beta and alpha waves, but the right hemisphere did something completely different, a predominance of theta with some ultra-slow delta waves. In other words, the left hemisphere was awake and capable of cognition. But the right hemisphere was dreaming. “I have only seen this brainwave state reported in dolphins and whales when they sleep,” Dr. Wilson explained. “Dolphins and whales are capable of being asleep and awake at the same time. Part of the brain dreams while the other part remains conscious and sensorily connected to the outside world, allowing them to surface periodically for air.”

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