At the annual family reunion, Laura L. noticed that one part of the extended family did not interact with another part. When she asked her parents to explain this apparent disharmony, they refused.
Then one night, Laura became lucidly aware in a dream, as three deceased grandmothers argued about a piece of property. Knowing that this was a dream, Laura listened as her great-grandmother explained to her that Laura needed to go to the County Courthouse, look up the specific name of Mary Ann Kelly, and ask to see the documents. The deceased great-grandmother also provided the exact volume and page number where Laura could find a particular quote.
Waking from the lucid dream, Laura memorized it and then did exactly as directed. She went to the County Courthouse, found the name of Mary Ann Kelly, and felt shocked when the county clerk handed her a pile of documents! In it, she discovered the cause of the extended family disharmony from decades earlier, when one portion of the family secretly mortgaged some property held by the entire family. Her parents felt amazed that she had uncovered the family’s secret in a lucid dream by listening to their deceased great-grandmother!
Lucid dreaming of the deceased adds a new element to the age-old issue of ‘dreams of the deceased.’ Why? Because in lucid dreams, you know that you are dreaming and interacting with a deceased dream figure. Lucidly aware, you can ask questions, experimentally engage and explore the knowledge and awareness of the deceased dream figure.
Lucid dreaming also opens up a new approach to exploring and experimenting in the dream state with the perennial question of ‘What happens when you die?’ Aware in a lucid dream, you can begin investigating the nature of the ‘deceased dream figure’ as either an after-death visitation or a symbolic projection of one’s grief.
The Science of Lucid Dreaming
The scientific evidence for lucid dreaming began in the mid-1970s through the work of Keith Hearne at the University of Hull (UK) and later Stephen LaBerge at Stanford. Both realized that a lucid dreamer could be brought into the sleep lab, instructed to move their eyes left to right eight times, and then they would become consciously aware of dreaming. The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) polygraph pads would pick up these unusual eye movements and provide evidence that a person could become consciously aware in a dream and able to recall and perform the experimental protocol. Other measures would show that the person remained asleep.
When researcher Keith Hearne saw the paper evidence of the pre-arranged REM eye movements in April of 1975, he later remarked, “It was like getting signals from another world. Philosophically, scientifically, it was simply mind-blowing.”1 This REM readout evidence showed that a lucid dreamer could become aware within the dream state, and potentially use it to explore the nature of dreaming, the nature of the unconscious, and dream interactions that had fascinated humanity for millennia.
While lucid dreaming has been used in wisdom traditions, like Buddhist dream yoga and Sufism for a thousand years or more, it has an even longer lineage in many native and shamanic traditions. Some adepts proclaim that in lucid dreams, you can consciously interact with ancient sages and past masters.
But, how could you use lucid dreaming to determine whether you are engaging someone in the after-death state or if it is just a dream symbol? Experienced lucid dreamers have devised two ways to explore this question.
Using Lucid Dreaming to Investigate the Nature of the Deceased
A few months after my father passed away, I decided that I would seek him out in a lucid dream. In my next lucid dream, I recalled my goal and began to prepare to seek out my deceased father, when suddenly all of the nearby dream figures strongly encouraged me not to do it! Collectively, they repeated that it was not the right time to do this. I decided that if my father wished to visit me, then the door was open, and I would not lucidly seek him out.
Two years passed, and I found myself standing in front of a gold wood ladder. Looking up, I saw that my deceased father was climbing down it! Instantly, I became lucid, recalling that dad had passed away years earlier. Then, I began to laugh as I noticed his bad haircut! I thought, ‘He can’t even get a good haircut in the after-death state.’
At this point, I began to wonder if this deceased dream figure was a symbolic thought-form projection or my father in the after-death state? After greeting each other, I decided to ask him some tough questions. I opened with this, “Dad, you are from the land of the dead. When do you think mom will pass away?” He responded that she would probably pass in two to six years. I replied, “Of what?” and he mentioned a heart condition (which surprised me because she had never had any heart trouble.)
He then answered more of my questions and told me that he had come “to tell me things” and to please listen. He spent the next few minutes telling me things about the family. One thing he said that surprised me involved his suggestion that I become more compassionate to one family member, saying “You don’t understand the circumstances of her life, so it isn’t for you to judge her now.”
Waking, I realized that I needed to wait at least two years in order to verify his comment about my mother’s ‘probable’ passing. Incredibly, twenty-three months later, my mother entered the hospital and almost died of a heart condition. Then a few years after that, she almost died again of a heart condition, apparently caused by a prescription drug that had harmed her heart.
The research method in this spontaneous encounter involves lucidly gathering information from the deceased dream figure which you can later verify upon waking. While the deceased dream figure may look real, feel real and even smell real in the lucid dream, you need new and verifiable information (unknown to you) in order to have strong evidence of a visitation.
Another approach exists, as outlined by my lucid dreaming colleague, Ed Kellogg, Ph.D. Ed determined that he would try contacting deceased friends or acquaintances a few months after their passing. After a lucid dream meeting, he would then wake up, and visit the family to determine if the ‘lucid dream meeting with the deceased’ had produced any verifiable details, outside of Ed’s knowing.
For example, Ed became lucidly aware and sought out a deceased friend, named Bruno. After a bit of searching, he calls out “Bruno L.” a few times and then finds Bruno “sitting in a chair. He looks in his thirties or forties, very lean and self-possessed. He has on an elegant dark gray silk suit, a white shirt, and a dark tie. He has a deep tan – very dark, and looks almost like an American Indian. He also has on a pair of glasses with black or very dark frames. Most odd of all he has a full head of white hair (which Ed later calls ‘”frizzy”), although his eyebrows have dark hair….” In the lucid dream, they have a conversation.
Upon waking, Ed takes the lucid dream to Bruno’s son and discovers a number of corroborating details unknown to Ed, such as the following: 1) Bruno’s family buried him in a dark gray suit with a dark red tie, 2) Bruno also wore glasses with black frames in his 30’s and 40’s, 3) Bruno normally had a very dark tan in his middle age (unlike his later years, when Ed knew him), and 4) Bruno had extremely kinky/frizzy hair which he wore in a sort of afro style in his earlier years (although Ed only knew him as a nearly bald person in his later years).
A New Way to Deal with Grief?
Studies have shown that bereaved family members sometimes have spontaneous dreams of the recently deceased. A Canadian study suggested that two-thirds of those who had such dreams considered them as ‘visitation’ dreams and it increased their belief in an after-life. Almost 70% felt a greater connection to the deceased after having such a dream.
What if family members feeling grief were taught how to become lucidly aware in the dream state, and engage the deceased dream figures? Might this assist them as they deal with their complicated grief?
In a recent online course on lucid dreaming, a student shared a powerful lucid dream of meeting a deceased loved one. The student said that her father had passed away suddenly about 20 years earlier when she was a teenager.
On the night of the lucid dream, she had focused on a dream incubation to help harmonize her being and be shown ‘something of importance.’ To be clear, she had not consciously focused on losing her father, decades earlier.
The lucid dreamer reported finding herself in a truck driving across a wide-open prairie on a sunny day. She looks over at the driver, and realizes it is her deceased father! At that moment, she becomes lucidly aware! He looks young and full of vitality. From the lucid dreaming class, she remembers not to get too excited, but use this moment wisely.
Her father looks her in the eye and begins to explain to her that in her life, “You have choices,” and expresses his ideas about how this relates to her. As she listens, she notes how her father continues to care about her. He then shows her symbols of his caring. Suddenly, something wells up in her, and she asks a penetrating question, “Father, do you love me?” She told the class that during her life, she could never recall her father expressing his love in a simple affirmative statement – and this had troubled her after his death, thinking that she would never hear the answer to this simple question! Lucidly he looks at her, and answers, “Yes,” as he explains his ongoing love for her.
As the lucid dreamer shared her story, I could feel the powerful emotional healing that can come from lucidly interacting with the deceased. In her face, I could see that something deep had been healed – as if this one lucid dream had resolved a question, a persistent uncertainty and an inner longing to know, ‘Am I loved?’
In lucid dreams, we have an opportunity for emotional healing and inner discovery that can profoundly change the person and possibly our larger understanding of the after-death state. Lucid dreaming serves as an open platform for personal and scientific exploration.
Join Robert Waggoner for ConnectIONS Live on September 16th, and register for the Lucid Dreaming Living Lucidly course
DreamSpeak Interview with Laura Mason Lockard, Lucid Dreaming Experience (ISSN: 2167 616X ) September 2019. https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/60e44197d3987537e2ec1460/60fd72bf27e53b7a0cd7a867_2019-SEPT-LDE-Web-version.pdf
Ed Kellogg, Psychopompic Dreaming: Visits With Those Who Have Passed On? Presented at IASD’s Third PsiberDreaming Conference, September 19, 2004. https://www.academia.edu/32864522/Psychopompic_Dreaming_Visits_With _Those_Who_Have_Passed_On )
Robert Waggoner, Lucid Dreaming – Gateway to the Inner Self (Moment Point Press: Needham MA, 2008) 236.
Black, et. al, Dream of the Deceased: Can themes be reliably coded? International Journal of Dream Research, October 2016.
Cheryl L. Nosek, et. al., End-of-Life Dreams and Visions: A Qualitative Perspective From Hospice Patients, American Journal of Hospital Palliative Care, 2015 May; 32(3):269-74.
Therapeutic Lucid Dreaming and Lucidly Healing from Grief, Robert Waggoner, Lucid Dreaming Experience (ISSN: 2167 616X ) June 2022.