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    Thread: Charles McCreery: The Dreamsign of Questioning Reality

    1. #1
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      Charles McCreery: The Dreamsign of Questioning Reality

      In the 70s, McCreery proposed the following: If one finds oneself seriously asking the question whether one is dreaming or not, it is likely that one is.

      Charles McCreery co-authored the book Lucid Dreaming: The Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep with Celia Green, and useful input is found in the 'False Awakening' chapter where several examples of bizarre thinking within 'pre-lucid dreams' and false awakenings are listed.

      It makes it clear that we cannot tell whether we are dreaming or not solely on how vivid or realistic our surroundings appear to be. The best reality checks, however, as Stephen LaBerge once intimated, are those that rely more on stability, especially when the environment is probed for a prolonged period of time. For example: try gazing at your index finger about six inches from your face for more than ten seconds—in the dream world, objects seldom withstand this type of inspection and soon exhibit warped behaviour. Another one is reading text, looking away, and back ...

      However, even LaBerge was careful to mention he was speaking from personal experience when he said he could reliably do the text reality check as the reading content changes every time he looks away and back. There are also many other idiosyncratic factors to take into account; for instance, some people have photographic memory whereas the majority of us don't—how much this influences the level of accuracy expressed by bedroom replicas in lucid dreams is still unknown, but I would venture with due, hypothetical tone, that it have some sort of mnemonic impact upon lucid dream environments that mimick the real world.

      For those people with photographic memory, it might not be a good idea to rely on spotting anomalous forms a way to check reality, and here is where unstable objects will more reliably betray the illusory nature of the environment. What McCreery proposed is not a reality test, but rather, a type of dream sign that can potentially ward off that part of the mind that tries to explain away the oddities encountered in dreams—in other words, the tendency to make sense of, or normalise, the anomalous.

      The reasoning behind it is that in the waking state we don't sincerely question whether we are dreaming or not as it always seems obvious; instead, we deliberately perform reality checks in spite of the obvious mundanity that surrounds us in the hope that this habit will manifest when we actually do dream. We only sincerely doubt reality when we dream because something suddenly seems off. This analytical mind is what needs to be cultivated in order to promote lucidity.
      THE PHASE = waking consciousness during sleep hybridisation at 40Hz of brainwave activity conducive to lucid dreaming and autoscopy.

    2. #2
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      Interesting stuff, Summerlander, but I think you may have, perhaps accidentally, mentioned the basic problem with RC's as they are used today.

      Quote Originally Posted by Summerlander View Post
      The reasoning behind it is that in the waking state we don't sincerely question whether we are dreaming or not as it always seems obvious; instead, we deliberately perform reality checks in spite of the obvious mundanity that surrounds us in the hope that this habit will manifest when we actually do dream. We only sincerely doubt reality when we dream because something suddenly seems off. This analytical mind is what needs to be cultivated in order to promote lucidity.
      I never read him, but I would bet McCreery, and know Laberge, would have said that RC's were not initially meant to be techniques that question reality. They are meant to confirm reality. RC's were originally designed, I'm pretty sure, as a state test to check that you are not dreaming after you encounter, say, something odd in waking-life. Your initial assumption while doing a RC should be that you are awake (because, your analytical mind already knows that and, if healthy, really can't be fooled), and if the RC fails (i.e., your finger passes through your palm) then you are dreaming. In other words, whether asleep or dreaming non-lucidly, questioning reality is a meaningless, almost silly exercise because you already know you are awake in reality; but confirming reality by questioning if "this is a dream" makes sense because you don't need to imagine everything is a dream, just confirm that it isn't.

      Here's a fun corollary to all this: Doing RC's by rote in the hopes that you will bring the practice into your dream and make yourself lucid is, to me, a fallacy. This is because when not lucid your DC You assumes that it is in reality, so the RC will not fail because it is simply working the way you expect it to in waking-life. In other words, you must already be at least slightly aware that you are dreaming for a RC to work for you in a dream... so a RC confirms what you already know, just like it does when awake.

      Now, this is not meant to be a slight on RC's, as I think they are excellent tools, both for increasing lucidity during those initial moments of noticing you're in a dream, and as a first step in of a "lucid mindset" routine (i.e., do a RC then, after it works, think about what your surroundings would be like if it were a dream, or maybe about what you will do when you are dreaming, or work on remembering to remember or, etc., etc.). It's just that the current use of RC's has so much attached to it (like trying to convince yourself you're dreaming) that doesn't need to be there, it seems a good idea to point out its actual simplicity and usefulness when I get a chance.

      That all sounded a lot better in my head. I guess what I'm saying here is that RC's are not a tool for questioning reality, they are a tool for confirming it, and that difference is important. So I guess, to me, questioning reality might not be possible at all, but using a RC in the process is not helpful.
      Last edited by Sageous; 05-01-2021 at 06:23 PM.

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      Reality checks are tools with which to test the properties of our surroundings, including the manifest context, in order to ascertain the state of consciousness that we are actually experiencing. They help dream detectives to confirm their suspicions which naturally must precede the reality check that in itself will further reinforce lucidity. I contend that it is only possible to be suspicious of what is perceived during the dream state, for something must have triggered suspicion to begin with.

      It is suspicion, coming from a rising analytical mind, that triggers a reality check in a dream as a resulting action. The reality check is merely the act of analysing the surrounding phenomena further to obtain confirmation; testing the dream is akin to answering the question—or, to be precise, allaying doubt about the nature of the environment—rather than the questioning itself which has already happened the moment suspicion arose.

      In waking life, there is never a suspicion of any sort because a healthy dreaming mind constrained by sensory input—as is the case in the waking state—never gives you reason to be suspicious. So, reality checks while awake are deliberate exercises and dress rehearsals for when the right time comes. But they are not foolproof in promoting lucidity in dreams and we must be careful with complacency in waking life.

      Celia Green lists the example of a dreamer who missed an opportunity to become lucid. He was camping with a group of people and remarked to them that he couldn't possibly be dreaming because no dream could ever display such splendorous detail in the scenery. Then, to 'prove' a point, he proceeded to spin to show that nothing would happen, and when he stopped, the environment continued to spin in the opposite direction—which prompted him to 'explain' to the dream characters that the opposite spinning effect of the environment after he halted his revolutions is normal and exactly what would be expected to happen in the real world. Subsequently, he woke up astonished at how fallacious he had been while he was dreaming. Bizarre thinking had got the better of him.
      Sageous and DarkestDarkness like this.
      THE PHASE = waking consciousness during sleep hybridisation at 40Hz of brainwave activity conducive to lucid dreaming and autoscopy.

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      You've talked about reality checks to question reality and to confirm reality.

      I am made to think of dream yoga, where one believes that "reality" is a dream. In that context, one could question their reality periodically throughout the day to observe the dream-like nature of reality, hopefully doing the same in dream.

      I just wonder then, how does one who treats reality as a dream distinguish between reality and dream, if they're focusing on perceiving the dream-like features of both. And I think something like this:

      Quote Originally Posted by Sageous View Post
      because, your analytical mind already knows that and, if healthy, really can't be fooled_
      It's already easy to distinguish between the two experiences if you ever think about it without any test at all.


      In my non-lucid dreams, it is way more common that I undergo activities as such: [A. narrate the story (projecting my conscious interpretation onto the dream) B. consciously restart the story if it doesn't go as I wished, despite feeling the high stakes of failure anyway C. recognize places and events from previous dreams explicitly. d. outright cheat my way out of scenarios with actions I only have access to in dreams] than it is common for me to think "This could never be a dream." About that, I do sometimes think I have woken up and think about my previous dreams thinking I am awake.

      But I think the issue is not so much about not knowing we are dreaming but being engaged with the dream. If I am thinking or daydreaming, I don't generally stop to say "aha, I am thinking/daydreaming." But that's the thing. If I'm very engaged in a book, in a movie, in a thought, in a university lecture, in a problem solving activity, is it so valuable to stop and think "This is not real. I could be doing whatever I want. Instead of thinking about this calculation or being emotionally invested in this plot, I could just imagine I am eating a cake. Is that really appropriate? And when you stop the activity you are engaged in, an activity that is likely meaningful to your situation to ponder on your infinite freedom to actually direct your subjective experience toward anything you want... What's next. Personally, I get stuck. I start looking for meaning where there isn't. If I do this in waking life, I feel an emptiness. If I do it in a dream, I lose the dream.

      To conclude, the reality check, as I see it, seems to not really be about distinguishing between reality and dream but about disengaging from a mental activity to ponder about the infinite freedom of our subconscious experience.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Summerlander View Post
      Celia Green lists the example of a dreamer who missed an opportunity to become lucid. He was camping with a group of people and remarked to them that he couldn't possibly be dreaming because no dream could ever display such splendorous detail in the scenery. Then, to 'prove' a point, he proceeded to spin to show that nothing would happen, and when he stopped, the environment continued to spin in the opposite direction—which prompted him to 'explain' to the dream characters that the opposite spinning effect of the environment after he halted his revolutions is normal and exactly what would be expected to happen in the real world. Subsequently, he woke up astonished at how fallacious he had been while he was dreaming. Bizarre thinking had got the better of him.

      Some very interesting points here. When I first started I noticed very quickly the minds ability to justify oddness in dreams. One example was when I was dreaming about walking through a normal looking English countryside when suddenly I saw lions and a buffalo behind me. I immediately became aware of this oddness and it should have been the perfect time to RC but instead I concluded “I must be on a safari” and that was it. I also noticed we do this in waking life as well. Whilst at work I saw a cloud of black smoke rising in a nearby field one day. This was again out of the ordinary but I concluded “a nearby farmer must be burning some waste”. This was of course much more likely than the safari scenario in my dream but shows the mind is always trying to justify oddness with a reasonable explanation. I have since being trying to replace this justification with the conclusion “this could be a dream” instead both in waking life and in dreams.

      As for reality checks they’ve always been a tricky one for me. When I first started I was doing them regularly as was recommended. After a while I started performing them in dreams when I became suspicious, however they always failed and I continued the dream without lucidity. I started to wonder if doing RCs through the day was actually harmful as I was expecting them to fail in waking life so they were in dreams as well. In the end I stopped performing the “test” part of the reality check and just did the critical thinking instead and this seemed to solve the problem. Now when I became suspicious of a dream I found I was still doing the test but only because I was already 90% certain I was dreaming. Has anyone else found this to be the case? Do RCs only work in dreams if we’re already somewhat sure we’re dreaming?

    6. #6
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      Quote Originally Posted by Tiktaalik View Post
      Do RCs only work in dreams if we’re already somewhat sure we’re dreaming?
      That's been my experience. The logic does follow, I think, as well.

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      My (very limited) experience would suggest the same thing. When I first started, I had a number of reality checks happen in dreams that would never result in any increased level of awareness and which were just explained away by the dreaming mind, much as described in the "dismissing oddness" behaviour.

      As time has gone by, RCs in my dreams have probably become less frequent regardless of however much I practise them in waking life, eventually starting to be the case that they are only really occurring in situations where I already had questioned reality prior to doing the check, as was the case in my last lucid and in other more recent fragments of lucidity. I think I did fall into a (poor, possibly) habit of doing RCs in waking life that meant that they were not promoting critical thinking in a good way; specific symbols or certain unusual contexts have become more likely to make me question reality when compared to making a habit of stopping whatever I'm doing to practise RCing and then think critically as I do so.

      Even though I'd read these posts earlier, it wasn't until I typed the above now that I realised how odd and reversed the logic seems to be for doing the RC first, at least once you have some experience behind you. It certainly wouldn't have made quite so much sense when I first started out, when I got into lucid dreaming years ago, especially with the stuff I was reading at the time.
      Singled out from some of my favourite quotes from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: "Risks of [Planet] flowering: considerable. But rewards of godhood: who can measure? - Usurper Judaa'Maar: Courage: to question."

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      Over the years I learned to look at the phase state phenomena (out-of-body experiences and lucid dreaming) more and more through an empirical lens and, as far as I'm aware, it seems to be mostly a Jungian Wonderland powerful enough to make one wake up exhilarated. I've encountered some characters which seem to act as guides and, weirdly enough, have reminded me of things I was planning to do in said state. For example, in a lucid dream I had forgotten that one of my steps in a plan of action was to go to the moon, and a shapeshifter pointed to the sky and said, 'There's a land waiting for you, far, far away ...'

      There seems to be a great potential in that realm for self-integration and it is definitely a source of inspiration if you want to be creative. We can, of course, speculate on the subjective, individual experience and the collective unconscious and I do think experiences in the phase state can be so profound as to escape adequate description. They can often be ineffable.

      The possibility of telepathy and precognition cannot be ruled out with certainty as much as we invoke coincidence to explain away those glaring instances of weirdness. Maybe the flow of time is an illusion and consciousness is able to 'illuminate' the future. Maybe when we visit people in OOBEs we can access part of their subjectivity as minds have a potential to become quantum entangled within the geomagnetic field as Michael Persinger once hypothesised.

      Who knows! There is, in fact, so much we don't know. But at least we can explore and experiment with what forms in consciousness itself.
      THE PHASE = waking consciousness during sleep hybridisation at 40Hz of brainwave activity conducive to lucid dreaming and autoscopy.

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