Paranormal Phenomena FAQ
by E. W. Kellogg III, Ph.D.
Notice: The Association for the Study of Dreams does not necessarily approve of, or agree with, the views or opinions presented in this FAQ on "Paranormal Phenomena". This FAQ simply presents one reasonably experienced researchers point of view on different aspects of the field. Other qualified researchers might well answer the questions presented in this FAQ quite differently.
This section of the ASD Website explores all kinds of phenomena that exist outside of the presently accepted mainstream cultural and scientific worldview, from well controlled parapsychological research, to anecdotal reports from credible experiencers of the strange, the supernatural, and the just plain weird. Enjoy yourself!
para·normal [para- (beyond) + normal] : phenomena existing outside the limits of the consensus trance through which humans perceive the world: ANOMALOUS, OCCULT, ODD, PECULIAR, RARE, STRANGE, SUPERHUMAN, SUPERNATURAL, UNCANNY, WEIRD.
consensus trance : 1: deep hypnotic conditioning imposed on humans by society from birth, which allows them to perceive and act on only a small fraction of their potential experience, and forces them to ignore the rest 2: The accepted worldview for a designated population of a particular time, location, and culture. Varies widely from culture to culture. Populations may designate their ‘mainstream’ worldview as "scientific" or as "religious" depending on the current authoritarian standards of the culture involved. (If you want to understand the phenomenon of ‘consensus trance’ in more depth, see Chapter 10 in the book Waking Up by the noted parapsychologist, Dr. Charles Tart).
phenomena :an experienced fact or event, subjective or objective.
Q. What do you mean by "paranormal dreams"?
A. Dreams that differ in some significant way from the expected range of ‘normal dreams’ accepted in our culture. Often unusual, sometimes uncanny, these experiences happen to us when our physical bodies sleep, or have become ‘unconscious’, and do not seem easily or neatly explained by the conventional theories of ‘reality’ promoted by mainstream scientists.
Q. Can you give me some examples of "paranormal dreams"?
A. Any experience that falls outside of the consensually accepted normal range of dreaming experience, and that takes place while the physical body has become either asleep or ‘unconscious’. For example:
Alien Abduction Experiences
Out of Body Experiences
Past Life or Parallel Self dreams
Q. Can dreams predict the future, and if so, how can you tell whether a dream will come true?
A. Many impressive accounts from reliable sources relate dreams in which specific unlikely and unexpected events take place, that appear to accurately predict later physical reality events. Dreamers who have had a number of such experiences sometimes report that such ‘precognitive’ dreams have a different "feel" to them than ordinary dreams.
Q. How do you define a "Lucid’ Dream?
A. For a dream to qualify as lucid in a minimal sense, means that you at least vaguely realize that you dream while you dream. For example, you might think "I must dream this", and then decide to leave your current dreamscape and go flying elsewhere. In a fully lucid dream you think clearly and remember clearly. You become awake in the dream. You feel an extraordinary sense of self, and can choose to act upon your enhanced freedom of choice in dream reality as compared to physical reality.
Q. How do you define an Out of Body Experience?
A. Through the ages, people have recounted experiences of leaving their physical bodies behind and traveling about in a second nonphysical body, often called the "astral" (meaning starry) body. Often these experiences would coincide with a physical crisis, such as a severe illness or a near death experience. However, OBEs do not always require such extreme circumstances, and many healthy people claim the ability to leave their physical bodies, and to "astral travel", at will.
Q. What does a Near Death Experience Involve?
A. Thousands who have narrowly escaped death, or even clinically died and then come back to life, have reported NDEs. Typically they report leaving their physical bodies (OBE), experiencing a life review, traveling through a tunnel towards a bright light, meeting deceased friends and relatives, encountering a spiritual being, and then returning to their physical bodies. NDEs often have profound effects on those who have them, often changing their views of life and death, and fundamentally altering their religious beliefs.
Q. How might Alien Abduction Experiences relate to Out of Body Experiences?
A. Do "alien abductions" actually exist? Certainly, at least in the same sense in which "out of the bodies" exist, as psychological realities and as lived experiences. Many who have OBEs vehemently deny that they only had a dream, because it felt so real - similarly for many accounts of AAEs. Although many abductees claim that the AAE happened to them physically, usually no physical traces of evidence exist to support this claim. In such cases it seems possible that the abductions took place in the OBE state, which would account for many of the features often reported - 1. the vividness and realness of the event; 2. the substantiality of the environment, which does not seem dreamlike but physical; 3. a feeling of paralysis; 4. the experience of floating; 5. the feeling of unusual energies or vibrations.
Thus, one could categorize many accounts of AAEs simply as a subtype of OBEs with one major distinction - that the locus of control changes from inside the experiencer to outside the experiencer. People who experience OBEs (including NDEs) usually report feelings of freedom, well-being, and increased power and control over their nonphysical bodies (now able to fly, etc.). Those who experience AAEs report feeling helpless, fearful, and of having little or no control over their nonphysical bodies. Perhaps those who experience AAEs might learn to gain control over their experiences by practicing OBE techniques, just as nightmare sufferers can learn to transform nightmares into positive dreams by learning the techniques of lucid dreaming.
Q. Do OBEs, NDEs and AAEs just seem different types of lucid dreams?
A. No. First off, even a minimal definition of a lucid dream requires that you realize that you dream during the experience. OBEs, NDEs, and AAEs fail this test because people who have experienced them usually vehemently deny that they could have possibly dreamed it. They did not believe that they dreamed during the experience, and often continue to deny this possibility even after subjected to strong social pressure to do so. Many have reported losing their fear of death after having OBEs and NDEs, or have acquired new and potent fears after AAEs. No one that I know of has reported on lucid dreams having these particular profound effects on those who have experienced them. (see the Appendix in this FAQ). Of course, you can have dreams of OBEs (or NDEs or AAEs) just as you have dreams of anything else. The inexperienced or obtuse often confuse dreams of OBEs with OBEs, thereby confusing the issue. (Also, for more information see the Appendix at the end of this FAQ titled "A Phenomenological Account of Out of Body Experiences")
Q. I don't understand many of the abbreviations used in this FAQ. What do they mean?
AAE - Alien Abduction Experience.
DR - Dream Reality.
ER - Experiential Reality (DR, LDR, OBR, and WPR make up subsets of this reality).
FAQ(s) - Frequently Asked Question(s), or a reference to a document containing same.
IBE - In the Body Experience.
LDR - Lucid Dream Reality.
NDE - Near Death Experience.
OBE - Out of Body Experience.
OBR - Out of Body Reality.
PR - Physical Reality.
UFO - Unidentified Flying Object.
WPR - Waking Physical Reality.
Q. When you refer to 'reality' in this FAQ, what do you mean?
A. Mainstream scientists frequently use the term ‘reality’ as a synonym for the ‘physical universe’. Nevertheless, according to modern neurophysiologists, the ‘physical universe' as such exists only hypothetically, as they affirm that we can only indirectly experience it through neural simulations of it (hence IBEs). According to this theory, the ‘physical reality’ that we actually experience seems only an imperfect simulation and abstraction of a physical universe whose existence we can only infer, and never directly confirm. In contrast to this point of view, I take a descriptive attitude when using the term reality. From a phenomenological point of view, the term reality refers to the world of direct experience, the world in which we live. From this viewpoint, DR, LDR, OBR, and WPR simply make up subset realities of a greater experiential reality (ER), that we directly experience.
Q. Why do you sometimes use the term "Dream Reality" (DR) instead of dream?
A. The term ‘dream’ in our culture carries unfortunate associations that can prejudice our understanding of its actual nature and importance. For example, many people often use the phrase "it was only a dream", which conveys the general view that dreams seem unimportant and unreal, not worthy of serious attention, and better forgotten than remembered. In regard to the nature of dreams, each individual usually makes a judgment - an assumption - in line with their cultural or personal prejudices. For example:
1. 'dream' = 'the purely subjective projections of one's sleeping brain'; or
2. 'dream' = 'an independently existing spirit world'; or
3. 'dream' = 'a parapsychological realm with both subjective and objective
4., 5., etc.
Once made, such judgments usually become covert and unquestioned.
Some mainstream scientists believe that an unquestioning acceptance of the currently popular neurophysiological theory of dreaming, as summarized in judgment #1, defines the true nature of dreams. To many others, such a definition appears both limiting and naive. Rather than simply replacing one set of unexamined beliefs with another, from a phenomenological viewpoint one gives priority to the territory of experience - to lived experience. This means that we revise our maps to fit our territories, instead of distorting our perceptions to fit our preconceptions. I use the term Dream Reality to emphasize the fact that I consider it just as important as any other type of lived experience, including Waking Physical Reality.
Q. I want to explore these topics in much more depth. Where can I go?
A.If you want to explore paranormal phenomena in depth, you may want to check out the other sections of this Forum, especially the Contacts, Research, Resources, and Dream Explorers Group sections.
Q. Do you ever hold any chats on subjects like these?
A.Not at the present time. We may hold chats on subjects like these in the ASD Chat Room if we get enough requests to do so. Check the schedule on the Discussion page.
Notice: If you have any special questions or comments that you would like to see included in future versions of this FAQ, or if you have any special questions or comments on specific types of paranormal phenomena, or would like to make suggestions, please E-mail the Host of the paranormal Phenomena Forum; Ed Kellogg, Ph.D.
Appendix - A Phenomenological Account of Out of Body Experiences
(excerpted from "Mapping Territories: A Phenomenology of Lucid Dream Reality" with permission by the author.
© 1989 E. W. Kellogg III, Ph.D. in The Lucidity Letter, 8(2), 81-97). All rights reserved.
"To me, OBEs differ from lucid dreams in a number of ways. First, environmental stability in out-of-the body reality (OBR) seems much more like physical reality than dream reality. When I take a second and even a third look at objects in OBR, the objects stay very much the same. I generally find myself in a very close counterpart to my physical body, sort of a semitransparent white color, that can feel very light or very dense depending upon how much I speed up, or slow down my "vibrational rate". I feel a very strong and defined sense of embodiment, directly comparable to that felt in my "physical" body. Unlike LDR most "magic" does not seem to work very well here. My body shape seems relatively immutable, and although I can fly (and go through walls) if I speed my vibrational rate up sufficiently, I've had very poor success with psychokinesis, materializations, etc., tasks which I can routinely perform in LDR. I generally go about naked and have had little success in generating clothes, which simply appear automatically in LDR.
Although my state of consciousness ("center of gravity" in the subconscious) seems just about identical to that of full lucidity in dream reality, my memory of an OBE after the fact in WPR stays as clear and sharp as any WPR memory. This stands in marked contrast to my memory of even fully lucid dreams, which tend to fade unless I make a conscious effort to remember it in WPR. I experience time very much as in WPR, as a "straight line" without the ambiguity of two-dimensional time present in LDR. OBR has a very strong reality tone much like WPR, solid and convincing with much less of the flux that makes even LDR "dreamlike".
To further confuse the issue, just as one can delude oneself with dreams of WPR, so can one delude oneself with dreams of OBEs. Although this may confuse the issue for dreamworkers in general, it no longer confuses the issue for me. Until I noticed the differences, I only considered an OBE genuine if I maintained a continuity of consciousness from WPR to OBR, experienced leaving my physical body and maintained full lucidity throughout. Whatever "really" happens, for me OBEs belong to a category of experience distinct and easily differentiated from lucid dreams. Neither "fish nor fowl" it has similarities to both WPR and LDR, while having characteristics different from both."