Skyping with Ryan Hurd

About once every two months, Ryan Hurd and I catch up on dream-related topics via Skype. It is one of the richest, most enjoyable exchanges that I have with my colleagues and friends. Ryan's www.dreamstudies.org has become the clearinghouse for all dream-related research, lucid dream induction and theory, as well as a place where thousands of dreamers meet for seminal exchanges on a variety of topics. Ryan is positioned at the center of dream studies, and thus is a perfect choice for the IASD Board and IASD's chair of the social networking committee.

One thing that Ryan and I share is a deep respect for the dream characters. Neither of us feels comfortable relegating the felt-personhood and otherness of dream characters, especially in lucid dreams, to the traditional "self-created" dustbin. Instead, we elect to suspend our judgment about the ultimate nature of dream characters. Three years ago, I debated with Stephen LaBerge at the Nonduality Conference in San Rafael on the ontological status of dream characters. I argued that, in the absence of knowing, we had to extend personhood to the dream character; for otherwise, we would be committing the fundamental solipsistic error of rendering ourselves as the only living thing in the dream. LaBerge, as a scientist, was understandably loathe to go there, but the consequences of reducing dream characters to psychological extensions of the self are equally disturbing. Tarnas comments on this problem in The Passion of the Western Mind, in which he discusses the impact of Newton's brilliance on the scientific field; that is, to reduce everything in the known  universe to mathematics, thus "de-animating" the universe and leaving ourselves essentially alone.

We can commit the same unwitting error by reducing everything to an extension of ourselves. What self? Now that's an interesting conversation. Perhaps there's a meeting ground in redefining what we mean by the "self." But if the self to which we refer is "larger" than the conscious self, we have effectively creating a realm of "ownership" without commensurate awareness of what we have created. For all practical purposes, this is exactly the same as granting our dream characters a separate ontological status, but "feels better" because we imagine that they exist within an as-yet unconscious domain of our destined greatness. Let me know what you think about this thread.

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