ARTICLE: What dream characters reveal about the astonishing dreaming brain

Fascinating article about dream characters in lucid and non-lucid dreams: What dream characters reveal about the astonishing dreaming brain

The fact that dream characters can exhibit remarkable cognitive abilities, from speaking fluently (sometimes even with a foreign accent) to engaging in complex social interactions, to displaying a range of situation-specific emotions, reveals something astonishing about the dreaming brain. Alongside the unfolding story and your own sense of self, it can create a host of dream characters who not only interact with you (or among themselves), but also appear to have private access to their own subjective perception of, and reaction to, the events unfolding within the dream.

Experienced lucid dreamers will sometimes delve into this dynamic process by asking key dream characters potentially insightful questions such as: Who am I? Who are you? How can you help me? What is the most important thing I should know about what awaits us? Not only do some dream characters appear to take these questions seriously, but their replies can be startlingly witty or insightful. In rare cases, dream figures have even presented the dreamer with a possible solution to a pressing problem. I believe that, when used in this manner, lucid dreaming can allow you to explore and interact with parts of your mind (you might call it your unconscious) in ways that you can’t in non-lucid dreams – or during wakefulness, for that matter. To paraphrase the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, this way of interrelating with people in your dreams can help make ‘the unconscious conscious’.


The article is written by one of the authors of When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep, which I’m currently reading and finding quite interesting.



Reminds me of a lucid dream I had where many things happened and at the conclusion, the characters took up all the “props” consisting of landmarks, trees, objects and put them all behind a door, as if they were cleaning up a stage. I remember someone even sweeping up. That’s one dream ending I’ll never forget.

Really fascinating Arthur, thanks for sharing. The endless depth and mystery of dreams never ceases to amaze me. Looks like an interesting book as well. IMO, this is one of the gifts of Night Club – to have articles like this posted and shared. The Buddhist tradition doesn’t have an explanation for why we dream, even the Dalai Lama says this, so the various links in this article about theories of dreaming is notable.


Who really knows to what depths the mind goes. Is there a deeper reality, deeper than light and beyond the dream where there is a shared mind?

Do we sometimes access those depths when we slip into the clear light nature of mind in the dream?

Ah yes…the questions of a thousand dreams. :wink:


open . . . space . . . open . . . space . . . open . . .

It seems that this phenomena points directly at the characteristic of minds innate emptiness, when we become empty of self, (as in a the dream state) it allows the arising of the innate fullness, the primordial mind and its infinite manifestation of characteristics, captured in vessels of form, personality and narrative, (ego). emptiness of self leads to fullness of other, and a passive witnessing to the display of characteristics. My question is, what is beyond this infinite display and show of characteristics, what is this pointing too? in Islamic Theology the highest point and purpose for creation is to Witness The Ultimate Face of The One, in the many. To my understanding this is equivalent to the awakened state of the Buddah? please correct me…


I just listened to a clip by Shinzen Young Talking about the absolute witness, he mentions that there are two kinds of witnessing the first as detachment from the display and you are just observing from a distance, this state still holds a sense of self. then there is the Absolute witness, where in each moment of expansion and contraction of consciousness comes to a meeting place these is a break in the display ( a break in the time space continuum) and this is where the absolute witness is, and awakening is the awareness of that break in phenomena and the inherent emptiness of characteristics. According to Islamic theology there is only one possessor of all these characteristics and creation is a display of those characteristics, So Awareness is His (primordial generator) Characteristic. So when I become aware that my awareness is His awareness, I instantaneously lose self (in the negative) or yoke with The Primordial (in a positive), here the + and - balance out and there is the gap in time space, but there’s no one to fall through it…hahaha…but at least we can come back and write about it…and I suppose the point of the path is to widen and stabilize the opening in that gap. My Question is, is there anything further, beyond this.? (even though this can take a 1000 lifetimes), at least if I know there’s more I can go for it in the bardo.

The Absolute Witness ~ Shinzen Young - YouTube This is the clip by Shinzen Young.


I’m not sure that’s what happens in the dream state, but what do I know? Interesting discussion of “witness,” kind of advanced for me. Thanks for pointing out this information.

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In Buddhist Guru Yoga, one seeks to recognize the ultimate which is the Guru in onself (not an external person, or separate buddha). The last prayer line reads „… help me to recognize my own true face“ which points to recognizing that which we truely are beyond any dualism and subjectivity.

In my opinion, we commonly believe that understanding comes only by way of interpretation.
The act of Interpretation - by its‘ nature - segregates.
Union can not be experienced by interpretation.


Many Western scientists and deep thinkers are absolutely convinced that the time space continuum is a limited model and that there is, indeed something beyond it.

That break in its display is what I seek in meditation and in the dream for there may lie true clarity and blissful emptiness.


Thanks for this reply, my cognitive understanding of the ultimate has always been something ‘out there’ yet intuitively I know if its out there, I am also apart of the out there… I just realised this morning that you can know the whole ocean by knowing just a drop… I am that drop, I need to see the ocean in myself…I love this ; That which we truely are beyond any dualism and subjectivity…Perfect…Thanks


One of the best metaphors . . .