Questions Answered

Question from Anton: I just read your article on the web where you talk a lot about astralplane, lucid dreams and OBE. Can you identify and clearly articulate the difference between lucid dreaming and astral projecting? If not, why would one use different terms? Also if you are familiar with gates of dreaming concept by Castaneda, do you think that the state when you are dreaming and able to look at your body (which is meant to arrive to the 3rd gate) would be OBE? What is not clear then is how it’s possible to never come to the first 2 gates and arrive to the 3rd at once in case dreaming and astral projecting is the same or very close?

I think the main difference is that in a normal dream you are experiencing an environment you are creating through subconscious projection, in lucid dreams you are experiencing the reality that you are creating through conscious projection, while in astral projection you are in an environment that is already ‘there’, a plane that exists that you are projecting into. As far as the third gate, being in your bedroom or seeing yourself asleep, I think this is where these two experiences overlap. I go with the name etheric projection but I think the etheric body and the ‘dream body’ as synonymous. The etheric itself environment is an overlap of the physical and astral planes, so it is ‘already there’ but to whatever degree it is modified by your own perceptions and potential astral influences too.

I see the first two gates of dreaming as training exercises. Of course you can go to gate three or beyond first either intentionally or spontaneously, but without learning stability and concentration first these experiences will probably be instable and short-lived. For myself by the time I got to this stage I had already learned a lot of stability techniques and was able to prolong my first experience for a longer time and transition to the astral plane too.

Looking at your hands seems extra powerful as a lucid dreaming and stability technique and that’s why it was chosen I think, though there are other ways. (Incidentally, I had my first lucid dream this way.) Don Juan also mentions being able to wake up in your dreams is a ‘safety valve’ for indulgence in later experiences, allowing you to return and stop your dreaming or projecting in any circumstance. I once had a lucid dream that went for so long I eventually decided to wake up to make sure I could!

So ‘dreaming’ and ‘projecting’ are indeed very close, pretty much the same thing in many respects, but terms that can be used to better distinguish different circumstances of consciousness, both internally and externally. In another sense you could say it’s the difference between fantasy and reality, or between creativity and exploration.

(question from George)

THC, the active ingredient of cannibus/marijuana, certainly has a definite affect on one’s dreaming. However, insomuch as THC itself affects different people in different ways, the effect of one’s dreaming will vary from individual to individual too. Some scientific studies have shown that REM periods are reduced or suppressed by THC, and though unfortunately these are quite old, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting this too. While some people may experience vivid dreams shortly after use, generally, most people (again, not all) who smoke or ingest pot find that they have more trouble remembering their dreams, or even a complete lack of dream recall.

One likely cause of this is that THC builds up in the Hippocampus area of the brain, which has been identified as relating to dream interpretation and short-term memory, resulting in less dreaming or less dreaming memory. How quickly this happens, whether with one-time or regular use, is probably different for everyone, though with abstinence, full capacity generally returns in about a week. Personally I don’t go near pot any more, not because I have anything against it, but because I enjoy my dreaming far more. So for some of us it may come to a choice between the two.

When it comes to lucid dreaming, obviously having an impairment of one’s dreaming memory is going to be a bit of a problem, since memory is one of the foundations of lucidity. But for those who want to both smoke marijuana and lucid dream, it may be a worth trying some other herbs to counteract this undesirable side effect… A herbal tea before bedtime of Mugwort (known to increase the vividness of dreams) and Ginko Biloba (known to improve memory) may prove beneficial. In fact, I would recommend trying this whether you smoke or not! These two common herbs will give a nice boost to your dreaming.

Hope this helps! If you want to read more details on studies of THC on REM, check this forum thread (not exactly light reading though.)