We That Walk In The Nights – Midwinter Reflections on Wandering Stars, Dream Incubation and Alchemical Gold

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on December 25, 2021

“We that walk in the nights, our cattle to keep, we see sudden sights, when other men sleep.”

– Second Shepherd’s Play, Wakefield Cycle (c. 16th century) (1)

Taddeo Gaddi: ‘De verkondiging aan de herders’ (The proclamation to the shepherds) ~ 1332-1338 ~ Fresco ~ S. Croce, Florence

The winter solstice brings the longest night of the year and marks the turning point where the days grow longer until the summer solstice. For many this period of darkness is marked by the celebration of Christmas, a holiday whose more occult readings have been obscured by commercialization and the decline of Christianity in the era of Nones. (2)

When Other Men Sleep

The brief segment quoted above comes from a mystery play that forms a part of the Wakefield cycle performed in 16th century England to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, which falls on the first Thursday after Pentecost (3)  – and while many read these plays as simple reflections of the Gospel story and part of the popular liturgy of the time, this passage in particular dealing with the proclamation to the shepherds of the Christ’s birth has always struck me as a resonant reflection of lucid dream induction.

On the surface it is a fairly succinct and direct statement of a shepherd’s everyday experience, which can include seeing ‘strange sights’ while wandering around at night in the wilderness with their flock. The contemporary history of paranormal documentaries shows that many folks out and about after the sun sets see things that leave them with unanswered questions. Yet, from the very first time I read this passage so many years ago it also seemed to hold more meaning than that simple interpretation. More than some hallucinatory fancy or encounter with the unknown, this passage for me pointed to the experience of one who ‘walks nights’ by remaining awake during sleep through lucid dream and incubation practices.*

One may wonder at this association, I certainly did even though it stuck with me over the years until Eric Wargo, author of Time Loops – Precognition, Retrocausation, and the Unconscious (Anomalist Books, 2018) and Precognitive Dreamwork and the Long Self: Interpreting Messages from Your Future (Inner Traditions, 2021), helped me solidify it by pointing out an interesting correlation between the shepherd motif and dreaming in his essay The Great Work of Immortality: Astral Travel, Dreams, and Alchemy:

1642 – Philippe de Champaigne – The Dream of Saint Joseph
National Gallery, London

“Sheep, which must be closely watched at night, are like dreams, and shepherds are watchers of dreams—like dragons, they are “awake while sleeping.” The motif of the shepherd as dreamer, having fallen asleep on the job, appears throughout European art and literature, and it has ancient roots with the mythical Endymion, the handsome shepherd placed in a perpetual sleep to be adored in slumber by the moon goddess Selene.

Then of course there is “counting sheep” as a supposed cure for insomnia. It was recorded first in the 12th century but could be far older: There is a possible folk etymology linking the Latin imperative sopor sond (“sleep soundly”) to the Hebrew sopwor tsoan (“count sheep”), and whether or not this is really the origin of the idea of counting sheep in connection to sleep, the linkage of sheep/shepherds and dreams is clearly ancient.

I think it is possible that, as a focus of conscious awareness, counting sheep might originally have been intended, not to induce sleep, but as a meditative bridge to lucid dreaming using the wake-induced lucid dream—WILD—method described by LaBerge. In my experience, maintaining fixed meditative awareness across the sleep threshold is, although challenging, far more reliable than attempting to wake up in a dream once it has begun using a lucidity trigger, per the MILD method.”(4)

Wargo mentions here sheep, and certainly sheep are evoked by the shepherds in the play, however even the cattle directly mentioned in the quote have long been associated with the moon and lunar mysteries as well.† In fact whether we’re talking sheep or cows or shepherds or Magi, it turns out that the extra-biblical stories surrounding the birth of Jesus are all quite friendly to being re-read as potent dream incubation primers.

How would the W.I.L.D. method for practicing lucid dream awareness be described in poetic terms? Or written about in allegorical form?

The Psi-Encyclopedia sponsored by The Society for Psychical Research has some insight into this:

“The term ‘dream incubation’ is drawn from the Greek enkoimesis, meaning a dream-like state of induced sleep, and Latin incubatio, ‘to lie on a kind of bedstead or camp-bed’ (in Greek, on a kline,from which the term ‘clinic’ arose). Historical documents record a series of dreaming incubation practices in ancient times, mainly for the purpose of healing. The idea of incubation has survived, although in a reduced form, for problem-solving or achieving an enlightening and transformative effect (…)

Incubation as practised in most old cultures derived from Egypt and Mesopotamia and spread to countries in and outside Europe, continuing for thousands of years. The rituals surrounding it vary according to time and place. Greek and Roman authors described incubation in factual or poetic terms, and in prose, variously with enthusiastic or critical attitudes (the list includes Claudius Aelianus, Aelius Aristides, Aristophanes, Cicero, Euripides, Eusebius, Herodian, Herodotus, Pausanias, Flavius Philostratus, Pindar, Plutarch, Sophocles, Strabo, Tertullian and Virgil). Numerous original case inscriptions (iamata) were arranged in an exaggerated style to impress new arrivals and promote the (incubation) temple.” (5)

Discovering the truth behind the poetry is one the things that has lead me, and obviously Eric Wargo as seen in his article, to reassess ancient and classic allusions to what seems to be dream incubation practices. Other scholars as well have found it fruitful to use this lens, carefully, to investigate deeper into these areas.

For those unfamiliar with the WILD method of dream work mentioned in Wargo’s essay it has a few easy to remember, somewhat harder to master, steps:

WILD (Wake Initiated Lucid Dream) was coined by Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a psychophysiologist who specialized in oneironautics. It is used to refer to any lucid dream where the dreamer brings their woken awareness into a dream while falling asleep.

Step 1: Relaxing

This technique involves falling completely asleep, so one has to lay in bed as comfortably as possible. The best position to sleep is whatever feels comfortable for you, but the preferred pose is Shavasana, or Corpse Pose, since it allows for normal blood supply to all limbs, and is the best pose to do an OBE exit. Additionally, sleeping on the back gives the highest chance of success among the sleeping postures.
Then, close your eyes, and focus on the absolute darkness, without thinking about anything. You have to keep your mind absolutely empty. If any thoughts appear, just observe them and let them go. You have to breathe very slowly and deeply ten times, so you’ll be very relaxed. Try to imagine that your body is floating, or that it starts to gradually fade or melt. Don’t make a single move; you have to “forget” that you have a body.

Step 2: Hypnagogic state

If you are deeply relaxed, within a few minutes you will start seeing moving blobs of color, called phosphenes. This is the onset of the hallucinatory phenomenon known as hypnagogia, which marks the transition between wakefulness and sleep. These patterns will gradually increase in complexity, and will be accompanied by more ellaborate visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations, or sensations like floating, or doing daily activities. In this state, it is usual to feel a strong urge to roll over, change your position, or move your legs. Don’t do it. It is actually a mechanism to prevent you from falling asleep consciously: if you are aware, you will move, thus aborting the process. Other reflexes that you must ignore include swallowing, or scratching. However, there is no problem if you move slightly due to a spasm or jerk, as long as it is unconscious. It’s very important to stay calm and breathe naturally; avoid losing awareness, but without focusing too deeply.

A very common thing that you can experience is the Hypnic Jerk, which is a strong muscle twitch violently taking you back to wakefulness, usually with a sudden falling sensation. It can thwart a WILD attempt, essentially at random. Stressful activities increase the likelihood of experiencing it, as does alcohol, and sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Sleep paralysis is also possible during hypnagogia, as you are consciously entering REM state, where movement is disabled. You could start feeling that your body progressively gets paralyzed, so if you don’t like it, you can always move any part which is not paralyzed, and you will immediately wake up. Sleep paralysis will usually be accompanied by a strong buzzing sound. If you get completely paralyzed, you can start lucid dreaming by doing an OBE exit.

If you prefer visualization, you should observe your hypnagogia. You can try to create simple shapes with it, such as a circle. As the process continues, you will be able to make other shapes, change their color, move them…

Step 3A: Visualization

When your hypnagogic patterns get complex enough, you can create a simple dreamscape with them. For doing this, you don’t actually need the hypnagogia; you can also bring all the imagery from beyond your field of vision, without paying any attention to the hypnagogia. Whatever you do, you must try to add as much detail as possible, although the image will start to gain realism by itself. Think that you are actually seeing it with your eyes; it is right there, in front of you. Then put yourself in the dreamscape. Look around, see what’s behind you. Now look at your hands, run, feel the environment. Think that this is your actual body, and forget about the real one. Dissociate from it, and become more linked to your dream body by experiencing kinetic sensations. Eventually, you will undergo a complete dissociation, and the dream environment will become fully vivid and tangible. Remind yourself that you are dreaming, do a reality check, and you will be in a lucid dream.

Step 3B: OBE (Out of Body Exit)

Visualization is the easiest, and probably the best way to have a WILD. However, it is not always possible to do it. If you enter the REM phase before visualizing a dream, you will not dissociate from your body, and so will experience sleep paralysis. This doesn’t mean that you are awake; everything you see, including your room, is just hallucinatory. It is a dream based on your memories, and may contain subtle differences. This state is also characterized by a very loud buzzing sound or vibration which can be distressing. Also, everything about sleep paralysis applies here, including the possible hallucinations or felt presences. You have to remain calm despite any disturbing incidence. (6)

Associating medieval references to visionary states with a contemporary method of lucid dream induction may seem forced, but remember that in the period that the Wakefield cycle was performed, as well as other citations we will explore below, it was common for the standard biblical text to be read through referential material that expanded and enhanced the familiar story of the gospel. We might think of it as a form of the analog internet in which the performance of ritual, plays, oral traditions, songs, and additional texts created an interweaving of meaning that enhanced and opened the Christian bible and provided a much richer, and sometimes occult, experience for the faithful.(7)

As detailed in an essay by Eleanor Rosch, LaBerge himself was drawing on a particular thread of Tibetan Buddhist initiatory practices in developing his dream work practice:

“In the early 1970s, Stephen LaBerge attended a workshop on Tibetan Buddhism at the Esalen Institute in California. There the Tibetan lama Tarthang Tulku, newly arrived in America, stood before the class gesturing broadly around the room and repeating, “This…dream!” As LaBerge puts it, “Rinpoche managed to get the idea across to us (how, I don’t really know, I wouldn’t rule out telepathy…) that we were to…try to maintain unbroken continuity of consciousness between the two states of sleep and waking.” LaBerge credits this experience as a seed for development of his own lucid dreaming which, in turn, led to his foundational research at Stanford University. Western explorations of lucidity quickly diverged from the Tibetan Buddhist understanding of course, but with the growing interest in our culture in both contemplative traditions and lucidity in dreams, perhaps it is coming full circle.” (8)

It is quite possible, and as some scholarship indicates, quite likely, that dream incubation practices were more common than we would think and formed part of an oral teaching at the very least – a teaching that would be reinforced or hinted at through extra biblical material such as the Wakefield mystery plays. In our current era dream practices have become a common theme in both Catholic practice, through the Prayer to St. Joseph Sleeping devotion popularized by Pope Francis, and in Charismatic circles where dream control and interpretation has become part of ‘supernatural living’ and spiritual warfare. (9, 10)

One of the most famous expansions of the biblical text in the medieval period, although little known today, is Jacobus Voragine’s 13th century anthology of hagiographic stories, Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend). A citation in which will lead us farther into our adventure.

The Golden Legend

The Journey of the Three Kings by Leopold Kupelwieser, 1825.

“That other cause that moveth them to come to Jerusalem putteth St. John Chrysostom, which saith that there were some that affirmed for truth that, there were great clerks that curiously studied to know the secrets of heaven; and after, they chose twelve of them to take heed. And if any of them died, his son or next kinsman shall be set in his place. And these twelve every year ascended upon a mountain which was called Victorial, and three days they abode there, and washed them clean, and prayed our Lord that he would show to them the star that Balaam had said and prophesied before.

Now it happened on a time that they were there the day of the Nativity of Jesu Christ, and a star came over them upon this mountain which had the form of a right fair child, and under his head was a shining cross, which spake to these three kings saying: Go ye hastily into the land of Judea, and there ye shall find the king that ye seek, which is born of a virgin.”

– from the Ephiphany section of Blessed Jacobus Voragine’s 13th century anthology of hagiographic stories, Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend), translated by William Caxton, 1483 (11)

This short section from The Golden Legend demonstrates the complex way in which information travels through our world – and it is a perfect example of the extra biblical material that informed the faithful and opened up their reading of the bible in ways that it is hard to countenance today.

As the scholar Sherry Reames recounts in the preface to her book, The Legenda Aurea: A Reexamination of Its Paradoxical History (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985):

“Even from the perspective of twentieth-century America, where a book can sell millions of copies before. it fades from t he scene, there is something awesome about t he rise and fall of. the Legenda aurea. This thirteenth-century work about the saints and celebrations of the church, compiled by the Dominican friar Jacobus de Voragine, was not just a popular book in our sense; it was almost a cultural institution. By the time the first printing presses were established in Europe, the Legenda had already been something of a best-seller for 175 years. There is doubtless some exaggeration in the old claim that late-medieval scribes produced more copies of the Legenda than of any other book except the Bible, but the manuscripts which have survived until our own time leave no doubt about its dominant position in a very popular genre.” (12)

While its popularity is notable, it is perhaps even more notable that this text contained some fairly hefty citations woven throughout. In the section we’ve quoted above alone, Voragine, writing in the 13th century, cites the 4th century archbishop of Constantinople St. John Crysostom, who in turn was referencing an obscure 3rd century Syriac text (8) called The Revelation of the Magi. A text which, in our own day, remained untranslated and for the most part unknown until recently.

The fact that The Golden Legend draws on and collects so many older traditions is another indicator that we may find hints within it of practices such as dream incubation. As Avril Cameron outlines in an essay on Cult and Worship in East and West for the anthology The Transformation of the Roman World A.D. 400-900, miracle stories often represented the transmission of older spiritual techniques:

“In A.D. 391…The collection of miracle stories attached to particular Christian shrines such as that of Saints Cyrus and John near Alexandria, or the Church of St. John Prodromos in the quarter of Oxeia at Constantinople, which possessed the relics of St. Artemios, witness the continuing attraction of astrology and magic practices and the Christian adoption of the pagan practice of incubation…” (13)

The Revelation of the Magi itself presents a curious expansion on the brief mention of the Magi in Matthew 2:1–12. Brent Landau, a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Texas – Austin, has done some wonderful scholarship exploring the substance and history of this work which:

“…narrates the moment when the star appears to the Magi at the Mountain of Victories, just when they are gathering to commence their monthly rituals (11:3). The star appears in the sky, descends from the heavens, and enters the cave, inviting the Magi to come inside (12:3-5). In the cave, the star takes the form of a small and humble human being and tells the Magi that such a form is necessary for the inhabitants of the world to see the Son of the Father — indicating that this star-child is none other than Christ himself (13:1-2). Christ tells the Magi that he has been sent from the Father for the salvation of all humanity, and instructs them to follow the star to Bethlehem to see his birth in human form (13:8-13).

As they set out for the journey, the Magi discuss what they saw in the cave, and learn that each of them witnessed Christ in a different form, each of which corresponds to a stage in Christ’s life (14:3-9). While they are marveling at this, a voice from heaven — revealed to be the Father himself — calls out to them and tells them that what they have seen is only a very small portion of the power of the Father and the Son(15:1-10). Once the Magi have gathered their traveling supplies, the star leads them on the journey to Judea, making the mountains and valleys level in front of them, relieving their fatigue and increasing their food supply through the power of its light, and making the lengthy journey impossibly short (16:3-7).” (14)

During the 17th century The Golden Legend fell out of favor in part due to the complexity of its allegorical and inter/intra-textual references and the assumed simplicity of its Latin.(15) As is so often the case that which is hidden in plain sight was dismissed as ‘superstitious tales for the credulous’ by rationalist critiques. This more exacting scholarship not being exact enough to see the deeper threads woven into the work – such as the fact that small sections, such as the one quoted above, contain what are essentially hyper-text references to the a vast cross-cultural network of esoteric, initiatory and mystery school teachings. We can of course forgive critics of past ages for not having reference to a concept like ‘hyper-text,’ since we do have such a concept, however, it proves fruitful to apply it here.

Wandering Stars and Astral Light

During the same time period where we see The Golden Legend becoming eclipsed by more expedient means of propagating the Catholic faith, we have in the work of colonial expatriate physician and alchemist George Starkey, writing under his pen name Eirenaeus Philalethes, some very curious correspondences within the Syriac tale of the Magi. In Secrets reveal’d: or, an open entrance to the shut-palace of the king (Introitus apertus ad occlusum regis palatium,) published first in Amsterdam in 1667 and two years later in an English translation in London, he mentions:

“Our Chalybs (steel, or weapon made of steel*) is the true key of our Art, without which the Torch could in no wise be kindled, and as the true magi have delivered many things concerning it, so among vulgar alchemists there is great contention as to its nature.

It is the ore of gold, the purest of all spirits; a secret, infernal, and yet most volatile fire, the wonder of the world, the result of heavenly virtues in the lower world — for which reason the Almighty has assigned to it a most glorious and rare heavenly conjunction, even that notable sign whose nativity is declared in the East.

This star was seen by the wise men of old, and straightway they knew that a Great King was born in the world. When you see its constellation, follow it to the cradle, and there you will behold a beautiful Infant. Remove the impurities, look upon the face of the King’s Son; open your treasury, give to him gold, and after his death he will bestow on you his flesh and blood, the highest Medicine in the three monarchies of the earth.” (16)

Here again we find mention of the Magi and a connection between the Star of Bethlehem and a visionary revelation. Some may be thinking of course we find that, this is the story of the Magi – they have a vision and follow it to Bethlehem, yet look deeper into this particular version of the familiar story. Where is the ‘true key of our Art’ discovered? Within the shut-palace of the king – which could, if we are wont to expand poetic meanings, be some what akin to the Mountain of Victories where the Magi are invited into a cave in order to have a vision. Lest we feel we’re stepping too far afield – let us remember the alchemical maxim found on pg. 52 of the 17th century text, Les dovze clefs de philosophie de Frere Basile Valentin, or, The Twelve Keys of Brother Basil Valentine:

Mellon Alchemical MS 82. Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,” (Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone.) (17)

The hidden stone in question being the prime tool of transmutation, the goal of the wise, which in Starkey’s work is analogous in some ways to the Chalybs, the true key to the Art. It can also be, in a Christianized reading, the very figure of the Christ child. (18) So here we have a bridge between the palace and the mountain, the visionary star, the philosopher’s stone and the key to revelation, all of it centered on the familiar gospel story of Jesus’ birth – a shaky bridge, to be sure, yet it is still one we can cross with the kind of analogical thinking that the alchemical quest requires.

I do understand we are making a leap here, so I’ll also remind the reader of another alchemical maxim, this one found in the Mutus Liber of 1677:  

Ora, lege, lege, lege, relege, labora et invenies (Pray, read, read, read, reread, work, and you shall discover) (19)

Starkey advises us that, “when you see its constellation, follow it to the cradle, and there you will behold a beautiful Infant. Remove the impurities, look upon the face of the King’s Son.” Put this next to the instructions for wake induced lucid dreaming – “If you are deeply relaxed, within a few minutes you will start seeing moving blobs of color, called phosphenes. This is the onset of the hallucinatory phenomenon known as hypnagogia, which marks the transition between wakefulness and sleep. These patterns will gradually increase in complexity, and will be accompanied by more elaborate visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations…” The similarity is striking.

In alchemy and occult practice one needs to read across many different texts in order to zero in on the experiential meaning that lies hidden behind veiled words, allusions and allegories in esoteric works. In addition to this one must work or practice. For our readers who have not experienced hypnagogia and lucid dreaming all of this may seem to be a flight of fancy and forcing meaning on obscure texts, but if you have had a lucid dream experience you may recognize that these passages do indeed seem to correlate, at the very least, with the experience.

A Musical Interlude

Stella Splendens – 14th century Catalonian “Llibre Vermell” of Montserrat.

Stella splendens in monte ut solis radium
miraculis serrato exaudi populum.

Concurrunt universi gaudentes populi
divites et egeni grandes et parvuli
ipsum ingrediuntur ut cernunt oculi
et inde revertuntur gracijis repleti.
Stella splendens…

Radiant star on the mountain, like a miraculous sunbeam,
hear the divided people.

All joyous people come together:
rich and poor, young and old,
climb the mountain to see with their own eyes,
and return from it filled with grace.
Radiant star…

Soothed by that musical interlude, a 14th century pilgrim song which happens to speak to our subject of stars, mountains and visions, let us return to the interior and back to lucid dreaming, dream incubation practices and to another reference to a ‘wandering star’ which illuminates the one we find in the tale of the three Magi.

The Mountain of the Adepts, containing the Philosopher’s Stone. Engraving from Stephan Michelspacher’s Alchemia, 1654.

“In the Greek grammar the word aster means “star.” In hieratic Greek, astron is made up of the negative prefix a – and stereon, the state of being fixed or solid, and thus means without fixity, wandering and therefore astral light in its secret sense is the light that is not fixed, which is wandering, ethereal, evanescent.

Close your eyes, call up an image and observe it. In the darkness of your self-induced blindness you will see with a kind of sight, which although it is within all men’s reach, is not the ordinary capacity to see, as among other men.

In this way, by a very simple action, which every man can do, you will begin to set in motion an exercise, which, if you just carry it on a little, will give you the idea of an ethereal light that is quite different from the light of the ordinary kind of sight. When you sleep and dream, the images you see are lit. And yet there is no sun, and that light is not sunlight or electric light; it is ethereal or astral light.

The latest writers have called it the unconscious, but in Hermetic and magic terminology it is the astral field or the dark field, the source and repository of all our consciousness, but of this source and repository we have no awareness except the recollections we draw from it through continual evocations by means of memory.” (20)

The 20th century Italian Hermeticist Giuliano Kremmerz includes a foot note to this section in his Elements of Natural and Divine Magic that is even more explicit in tying the ‘star’ to the interior of a cave – saying that, “the tunnels of Orpheus and the subterranean or priestly cities of the ancient initiates were astral, that is, without sunlight; and there the neophytes began to learn the truths; therefore, we often find the ancients speaking of the stars, and instead of looking in the sky, we must look below ground.” As above, so below – the ground here meaning, as can be seen in his explication of the inner light, the unconsciousness, or the blackness found behind our eyelids when our eyes are closed. The black interior of our microcosmic minds being the ouroborosic mirror for the black exterior of the universal depths.

Admittedly I am taking some liberty here – wandering across time and seeming disparate texts, something sure to annoy strict historicists and even casual readers who may be facing mental whip lash from all of the references. Yet, this is exactly the way that medieval and ancient texts were written and read – when we read these texts we are reading a conversation across time, written quite often as a cipher in which the meaning of certain portions of one work are hidden whether explicitly or implicitly in others.

Even if we are to be strictly historical, there a through line in the 20th century work of Kremmerz drawing on centuries of Italian esoteric tradition, European alchemical traditions and, although his work is strictly Hermetic in nature, he is quite open in utilizing Catholic and Christian imagery within it. Kremmerz is one of the most open and practical writers within the late 19th century and early 20th century Hermetic scene and offers us a glimpse into the working side of these traditions which is often hidden in other writers. It is important to point out as well that Kremmerz centered much of his Hermetic practice on healing – one of the more important functions of incubation in the ancient and classic world. Following as he does a particularly Italian line of transmission, Kremmerz may also give us clues as to some potential extra-linear intentions within Voraigne’s work, the Italian archbishop of Genoa Giacomo da Varazze may have called his hagiography Golden for a reason and the brief allusion to an obscure Syriac text on the Magi is not the only portion of the work that has the potential to be read on multiple levels.

What A Dream Figure Represents

As interesting as this all may be – at least to me – it would be nothing more than vain speculation without a practical example that proves the point.

Do these shepherds seeing sights, Magi following a star, Hermetic alchemists speaking of seeking stones in interior ground have any connection to dream incubation?

Thankfully we have an example that shows there is something of worth to be found here in the work of dream researcher Robert Waggoner, past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and author of Lucid Dreaming – Gateway to the Inner Self (Moment Point Press, 2008). In an interview on the World of Lucid Dreaming website he says:

“Back in the 1980s, I was part of a lucid dream explorer’s group…Each month for three years, we had lucid dreaming experimental goals to accomplish. During one of these experiments in which we were ‘to find out what a dream figure represents,’ I had an unusual lucid dream. I very politely asked the dream figure, “What do you represent?” when a Voice boomed out a partial answer from the area above the dream figure! I asked my question again, and then the same Voice boomed out a more complete answer.

Well that Voice startled me, and made me wonder, “Is there an awareness behind the dream?” So after a while, I began lucidly shouting out my questions or requests to this “awareness behind the dream” – and it answered. Sometimes, it would change the dream completely and ‘show me’ the answer, while other times I would hear a response. This unseen “awareness” seemed much more knowledgeable than any dream figure – in fact, I came to see it as the larger Self that Jung hypothesized.

To understand what this awareness can show you, I devote a chapter to in my book. Most incredibly, asking this awareness to let you experience ‘concepts’ – spiritual concepts, esoteric concepts – some of these have tremendously expanded my mind. And in many cases, my conceptual experience would be later confirmed by reading ancient or obscure texts about that concept. Inventors, theorists and even theologians could use this approach to gain insight into concepts beyond their knowing, when lucidly aware” (21)

Waggoner discovered that he could commune with the ‘awareness behind the dream’ when he inquired further than the surface of the dream itself. In this communion he found that the ‘awareness’ presented information beyond what he felt he knew already, offering ‘spiritual concepts, esoteric concepts’ which ‘tremendously expanded (his) mind.’

“When you see its constellation, follow it to the cradle, and there you will behold a beautiful Infant. Remove the impurities, look upon the face of the King’s Son; open your treasury, give to him gold, and after his death he will bestow on you his flesh and blood, the highest Medicine in the three monarchies of the earth.”

Image 6. From Thomas Vaughan’s Lumen de Lumine, 1651, engraved by R. Vaughan, in the Welcome Library, London, UK, showing the Mons Majorum Invisibles.

Reading this another way, we might say that visiting the interior of the earth, or his mind, he purified the dream by asking to commune with the awareness behind the dream, and he discovered that this awareness was more vast and expansive than he had expected. It could be nothing more than coincidence that in examples we’ve looked at above dealing with caves, stars and visionary experiences seem to be opened up by Waggoner’s experience during an incubated lucid dream, but I personally think that there is more correspondence here than there is mere coincidence.

“So what of the alchemic mountain, the Mons Magorum Invisibles, that is, the Invisible Magic Mountain? On this mountain too we find a god who acts as a guide (Instructor) for the alchemist who is seeking unusual knowledge unsought by most. The alchemic god is Hermes who can be found in one picture at the top of a mountain with the king’s son (filius regis).”(22)

The full exploration of all these textual connections and potentials in relation to the hidden power of dreams could fill a book at least. In fact, it seems that if one knows how to read beyond certain veiled references, knows multiple languages and has the time to dig into two thousand or more years of relevant material these correspondences could fill libraries. In this we’ve only explored a thin stream of European and American sources focused on a single portion of the Christian biblical narrative – imagine bringing First Nations, African, Asian, South American, Australian, and other traditions into the mix. A further study could solidify some of the more tangential drifts in this piece and show how the connections made here are strengthened when we start to look across traditions.

If it is not the answer itself, then dream incubation and the treasure that can be found beyond the veil of sleep is certainly tied to the answers that so many spiritual seekers are searching for. Starkey warns us regarding the Key to the Art, however, that “the true magi have delivered many things concerning it, so among vulgar alchemists there is great contention as to its nature.” Rather than seeing this an end then, think of it as an invitation to further experimentation.

So I will leave off here, with the hope that you, dear reader, will take the opportunity explore further on your own this holiday season while the nights are still long and the cold invites us to incubation. You needn’t read more books, simply find the wandering star within the astral blackness and following it to the manger of your subliminal mind where you will discover the birth place and ‘repository of all our consciousness’. Whether or not you find gold, you will surely find that deeper meaning awaits you.

Special thanks to Diana Walsh Pasulka for pointing me to Brent Landau’s work and Eric Wargo for discussing some of these connections – although, I beg you not to blame them for the speculative leap frogging I am guilty of in this piece.

*An occult reading that can also be applied to a number of passages in the New Testament:

Matthew 24:42 – Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 – Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
Ephesians 5:13-14 – But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

†Researcher Stephanie Quick sent me a note after reading this piece that further’s the correspondence between shepherds and W.I.L.D. method:

“…the thing about shepherds and sheep is that sheep are prey – prey animals need to ‘share out’ their waking consciousness with others in their flock – same w shepherds, you are either time sharing waking/sleep with other shepherds OR you never really relax into sleep. So you have a very different relationship to wake/sleep and also self/other in that context. You’re blurring those lines in a way completely consonant with the ‘consciously falling asleep’ recommended to people trying to lucid dream in the Tibetan style.”

(1) ‘We that walk on the nyghtys / oure catell to kepe, We se sodan syghtys / when othere men slepe.’ http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/playtexts.htm
(2) https://www.patheos.com/blogs/freethoughtnow/christianity-is-collapsing/
(3) https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/epp-the-towneley-plays-introduction
(4) http://thenightshirt.com/?p=2857
(5) https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/dream-incubation
(6) https://psychonautwiki.org/wiki/Wake_initiated_lucid_dream
(7) https://davidmetcalfe.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/through-mediums-never-before-considered-psychotronics-spiritual-services-and-the-analog-internet/
(8) Eleanor Rosch, Tibetan Buddhist Dream Yoga and the Limits of Western Psychology Eleanor Rosch, In R. Hurd & K. Bulkeley (Eds.) Lucid dreaming: New perspectives on consciousness in sleep. Volume 2: Religion, creativity, and culture. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2014, pp 1-22.
(9) https://www.churchpop.com/2021/01/04/awaken-the-sleeping-giant-the-powerful-st-joseph-devotion-catholics-need-for-modern-times/
(10) https://modernmythology.net/satans-target-your-mind-supernatural-living-in-the-american-marketplace-c6c38c616778
(11) https://www.christianiconography.info/goldenLegend/magi.htm
(12) Sherry L. Reames, The Legenda Aurea: A Reexamination of Its Paradoxical History, p. 3 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)
(13)  Averil Cameron (1997). Webster, Leslie (ed.). The Transformation of the Roman World, AD 400-900. London: British Museum Press. p. 98.
(14) “the Syriac text of the Rev Magi (is) contained in the only surviving MS of the Chronicle of Zuqnin, codex Vaticanus Syriacus 162.”
(15) Landau, Brent, The Sages and the Star-Child: An Introduction to the Revelation of the Magi, An Ancient Christian Apocryphon (2008)
(16) Eirenaeus Philalethes, Secrets reveal’d: or, an open entrance to the shut-palace of the king (London, 1669) https://www.alchemywebsite.com/openentr.html
(17) https://curioesoterica.com/2021/02/12/visions-of-v-i-t-r-i-o-l/
(18) https://www.jstor.org/stable/2542490
(19) https://www.e-rara.ch/cgj/content/titleinfo/1350330
(20) Giuliano Kremmerz, Elements of Natural and Divine Magic, reprinted in The Hermetic Science of Transformation – The Initiatic Path of Natural and Divine Magic, p. 53 (Inner Traditions/Bear & Co., 2019)
(21) https://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/robert-waggoner.html
(22) https://thomasrhersh.pressbooks.com/chapter/symbolic-mountain-stage-6/

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