so what’s this? It’s a dream-Stephen! So a moment ago I thought this is who I am and now I know that it’s just a mental model of who I am. So reasoning along those lines, I thought, I’d like to have a sense of what my deepest identity is, what’s my highest potential, which level is the realest in a sense? With that in mind at the beginning of a lucid dream, I was driving in my sports car down through the green, Spring countryside. I see an attractive hitchhiker at the side of the road, thought of picking her up but said, “No, I’ve already had that dream, I want this to be a representation of my highest potential. So the moment I had that thought and decided to forgo the immediate pleasure, the car started to fly into the air and the car disappeared and my body, also. There were symbols of traditional religions in the clouds, the Star of David and the cross and the steeple and near-eastern symbols. As I passed through that realm, higher beyond the clouds, I entered into a vast emptiness of space that was infinite and it was filled with potential and love. And the feeling I had was– this is home! This is where I’m from and I’d forgotten that it was here. I was overwhelmed with joy about the fact that this source of being was immediately present, that it was always here, and I had not been seeing it because of what was in my way. So I started singing for joy with a voice that spanned three or four octaves and resonated with the cosmos with words like, “I Praise Thee, O Lord!” There wasn’t any I, there was no thee, no Lord, no duality somehow but sort of, ‘Praise Be’ was the feeling of it. My belief is that the experience I had of this void, that’s what you get if you take away the brain. When I thought about the meaning of that, I recognized that the deepest identity I had there was the source of being, the all and nothing that was here right now, that was what I was too, in addition to being Stephen. So the analogy that I use for understanding this is that we have these separate snowflake identities. Every snowflake is different in the same sense that each one of us is, in fact, distinct. So here is death, and here’s the snowflake and we’re falling into the infinite ocean. So what do we fear? We fear that we’re going to lose our identity, we’ll be melted, dissolved in that ocean and we’ll be gone; but what may happen is that the snowflake hits the ocean and feels an infinite expansion of identity and realizes, what I was in essence, was water! So we’re each one of these little frozen droplets and we feel only our individuality, but not our substance, but our essential substance is common to everything in that sense, so now God is the ocean. So we’re each a little droplet of that ocean, identifying only with the form of the droplet and not with the majesty and the unity.
RMN: Do you believe that the soul then reincarnates into another form?
Stephen: There may be intermediate states where “to press the metaphor” the seed crystal is recycled and makes another snowflake in a similar form or something like that, but that’s not my concern. My concern is with the ocean, that’s what I care about. So whether or not Stephen, or some deeper identity of Stephen survives, well that’d be nice if that were so, but how can one not be satisfied with being the ocean?
DJB: If I was able to, through nanotechnology, completely replicate every atom in your brain, identical down to every little trace– would that be you?
Stephen: That would be “Stephen”, if that’s what you mean. I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t transfer the information in our brain to some other structure. It may be, for example, if you had something like you just described with nanotechnology, or a digital computer that was sufficiently complex, you’d still need some kind of substrate to sustain the different informational states. For all we know the vacuum of space itself may have an infinite amount of structure in it that could easily sustain a mind.
DJB: We interviewed Nick Herbert, the quantum physicist, and he described how there are mathematical models that leave a lot of latitude for things like parallel universes and other dimensions. Have you ever entertained this as a model for lucid dreaming, that there actually really are other dimensions or places that are not just mental simulations or constructs?
Stephen: I think of those as skew, not parallel, universes. (extra-dimensional laughter) Seriously, I’ve never liked that model, it seems tremendously inelegant to require every time you make a quantum decision the thing you didn’t decide is still there in some way. It seems like a reductio ad absurdum of quantum theory. People think quantum theory is about the world but it’s not, it’s about descriptions of the world. What’s the world really like if you don’t make a measurement? Well, making the measurement is making the world – the world is interaction. In other words, as a thought experiment, let’s think about an object. Here it is right here on the table. I just pointed as if the space encloses it. Well, let’s say, not only is it invisible as you can see but it doesn’t interact in any way with any other thing in the world – is it a part of the world? No. What is the universe? The universe is a collection of objects that interact in some form with the other objects of the world.
DJB: Can you tell us about the Lucidity Institute and any current projects you’re working on?
Stephen: The purpose of the Lucidity Institute is to sponsor and support research on human consciousness and what we’re focusing on now is primarily lucid dreaming because that is one capacity of the mind that we feel is useful. If we knew more about the physiology of lucid dreaming we will be able to make it happen more readily. We could find other mental techniques or physiological interventions, perhaps some drug effects that could make the state much more accessible and stable. The idea is to help people make more viable decisions about what they’re going to do in life, to get more experience out of the world, but basically to understand that life can have many more possibilities than we ordinarily think of. In the lucid dream you look around and realize that the whole world that you’re seeing all something that your mind is creating. It tells you that you have much more power than you’d ever believed before – or dreamt – for changing the world, starting with yourself.