Editor’s Introduction:

Dreaming at the Edges

Helena Daly, PhD

W. B. Yeats, whose trust in sleep and dream was well known, once remarked “all that I know of any value has come from sleep” (Bridge, 1953, p. 147). The authors in this issue share this perspective, showing that some of our most profound transformative experiences occur during sleep in deep dream states, and in liminal moments upon awakening between the worlds. The mysterious subtle presence encountered within the spatial depth of sleeping and dreaming led the Irish visionary George Russell (A.E) to wonder, if perhaps “the black curtain of unconsciousness which drapes the chambers of the brain, is lifted, granting, if for an instant, a glimpse of the high adventures of the sleeping soul” (A.E. 1918, p. 79).

William James (2005) wondered if the visible waking state might be but one special type of consciousness, “parted by the filmiest of screens behind which lie potential forms of consciousness, entirely different” (p. 155). These other forms of subtle consciousness James described as subliminal doors through which divine impressions are made. One condition under which this unveiling takes place lies deep within sleep and dream and upon awakening wherein sleeping, dreaming and waking realms overlap. This intermediary spatial domain between the worlds is referred to in academic circles as the hypnopompic state of consciousness—a special focus of the articles in this issue.

Helena Daly, PhD works as a Spiritual Care Provider at the University of California San Francisco, Parnassus Campus (UCSF). Before recently returning to the US, she worked as a Spiritual and Psychological Care Practitioner in Hospice and Palliative Care in Ireland. Helena holds a special interest in end-of-life phenomenal experiences (dreams, visions and death-bed encounters) and is currently writing her first book which is full of stories about extraordinary dreaming and waking experiences in relation to death and beyond. She holds a PhD in East-West Psychology with a specialization in dreams and hypnopompic consciousness. Previous qualifications include: MA in Counseling, BA in Psychology and RGN when working in London. She can be contacted at [email protected] or through her website www.helenadalyphd.com.

From within the depths of our being, during sleeping, dreaming and waking, the mysteries and passages of what lie beneath, between and beyond are revealed. For we are as Martin Heidegger beautifully says, “custodians of deep and ancient thresholds” (as cited in O’ Donahue, 1998, p. 42). Threshold experiences are revealed from within the spatial dimensionality that opens in sleeping-dreaming domains. From within these depths and in those liminal moments upon awakening, subtle revelatory experiences unfold through which perceptual alterations and spiritual transmissions are received. When the depths of consciousness are inwardly opened, living manifestations of soul, of ancient presence, deep heart knowing and remembrance are known and experienced, uncovering the spiritual potentialities of human life.

Heidegger (1926) speaks to these potentialities/possibilities as ‘ontological priority.’ The importance of dream life is reflected upon throughout the following articles, grounded in personal accounts of transpersonal dreaming and waking encounters. These articles offer descriptive illustrations of emerging subtle consciousness—raw perceptual transmissions that show dreaming as a revelatory ground that can and does reveal profound ontological depth. And when the ontological ground of being is reflexively engaged and participated in, meaning and significance is disclosed. This dynamic process of unfolding perception highlights dreams and dream-waking states of being as powerful innate epistemological sources of knowledge through which fundamental insight into life can be made.

The actualizing potential released through these types of visionary experiences carries a bodily and energetic component, with deep bodily resonances—undeniable inner energetics that serve as guiding intuitions in the outer waking world—the field of incarnation through which the actualizing process unfolds. These subtle experiences, awakened through dreams, generate a positive impact on human growth for the engaged recipient.

Our bodies—our homes, through which we experience inner and outer life, are so often left out in intellectual pursuits and transpersonal thought and inquiry, and yet the body is the channel through which all perceptual unfolding emerges, develops, deepens, integrates, and transforms.

Dreaming at the Edges addresses a deficit in psychology, a science still stifled “by the fact that it has not been able to deal scientifically with subtle consciousness” (Progroff, 1957/1983, p. 10). For it is subtle consciousness—potential and actual forms of subtle life that come through our inner world, through the peripheries of life, and in the in-between spaces, that give rise to profound, transformative shifts in consciousness with life-changing outcomes. In dreams—home to the wanderings of subtle life itself—the constricted waking egoic self undergoes radical deconstruction and re-formation.

In dreams—home to the wanderings of subtle life itself—the constricted waking egoic self undergoes radical deconstruction and re-formation.

As human beings, we are innately endowed with the gift of dreaming—regularly occurring subtle phenomenon that are an intrinsic part of the human condition. Dreams, live creative expressions of the psyche, known and experienced from the inside-out, are less subject to the harsh deadening effect of too much reason, rationality and endless caution—those domineering elements of the intellect so intrinsic to western concepts of consciousness.

Dreams, free from social censure, are altered states that unfold within the transformed, subtle domain of sleep. When dropping down into the dark dead of night, naturally occurring liminal conditions are crossed, granting easy exploration of transpersonal phenomena. The study of dreams, as a regular and naturally-occurring altered state of consciousness, can greatly advance and expand our understanding of the self and the field of psychology.

Throughout this dream issue, each author, in their own unique way, shows how vitally important it is that methods of inquiry be led from the inside-out, through deep experiential knowing. These articles also highlight how embodied dream knowledge significantly informs depth psychological, transpersonal and archetypal theories and concepts, frameworks and worldviews. Yet well before the advent of depth psychology in the 20th century, significant introspective, experiential work emerged in the understanding and channeling of subtle dynamic processes of inner life. Metaphysical teachings from the ancient world along with indigenous perspectives are founded upon disciplined engagement with rigorous internal experiences, such as those documented by contemplatives, mystics, shamans and medicine people, as distinct from the outer external orientation of the modern scientist (Progroff, 1957/1983).

In bringing forth embodied perceptual transmissions received in sleep, and metaphysical revelations that open through a process-oriented unfolding deep within the body, somatic correlates of psychic events that manifest within primitive layers of psyche are highlighted. Within the altered state of dreams, psychic and somatic counterparts dynamically interact, offering metaphysical revelations that transcend older dualistic conceptions that split psyche and soma. Hypnopompic openings, in particular, help close the gap between soma and psyche by bringing forth implicit experiential knowing of psychosomatic processes. Attending to subtle consciousness, with its energetic unfolding, offers refined discriminations within the mind-body-spirit-soul continuum.

The body serves as the medium for the expression and realization of being. It is through the body that inner life is accessed, and non-ordinary/transpersonal and higher cosmic perceptions explored and known (Irwin, 2015, p. 14). Thus, bringing forth the fruits of embodied, subtle life, is “crucial for the actualization of deep consciousness potential” (Irwin, 2015, p. 18), and central to the self’s unfolding and development.

Dream research rooted in embodied knowledge, therefore, holds enormous potential in helping bridge the great divide within the scientific study of consciousness that sits between materialistic and nonmaterialistic views of the mind. Higher states of awareness, accessed and explored by dream practitioners, continually show that direct subjective experience is a profound and rich qualitative resource in consciousness and psychology research that can expand and enrich our understanding of the far edges of the human self.

It is vitally important and necessary then, to create and develop approaches and embodied methods of inquiry within dream research that carry interpretive value—working models that help highlight and explore the meaningful significance transformative dreaming and waking experiences hold. Approaching dreams as revelatory phenomena, and the hypnopompic realm as a revelatory state, provides a fresh new way of seeing and perceiving. Embracing the hypnopompic realm as an energetically emerging third mode or being, or post-dual third that sits in the middle—within continual, dynamic interaction between psyche and soma, allows for the bridging and synthesis of apparently separate domains of experience.

This open approach is in line with current concepts of consciousness that take into account reflexivity inherent in whole experience that cannot be split or reduced.

Engaging consciously with extreme states as an approach demonstrates a coming into being not through abstract reasoning alone but through a deeply embodied practice. This natural way of working opens into complex, generative states of inner, in-between and outer reality, disclosing transpersonal depths of interiority associated with archetypal structures and visions. Multiple forms of subtle consciousness help balance and revise more rational, materialistic, and externally-oriented scientific perspectives, that have dominated how we in the modern West make sense of reality.

This approach brings the dreamer’s critical, reflexive and observational awareness to bear upon the embodied and subtle states of being that are dramatically altered through dreaming and non-ordinary consciousness. Deep, reflective experiencing of transpersonal states, along with rich documented descriptions of unfolding subtle phenomena, contribute to the development of a science of subjectivity. Building from the experiential ground of naturally occurring altered dreaming and waking states, deep psychological exploration and critical reflective methods of analysis contribute to an enriched and expanded understanding of the subtle complexities and edges of the self.

This special issue on “Dreaming at the Edges” offers a small but significant step in that direction, thus contributing to the field of transpersonal dream research and practice—and expanded visions of human selfhood.

Overview of Articles

The articles in this issue adopt scholarly personal narrative, offering innovative approaches and creative, transpersonal methods of inquiry to the exploration, reflection and discussion of deep dreaming and waking encounters.

This issue introduces a new column entitled “Dreaming with the Collective,” which will address cultural and planetary issues, as illuminated by dreams. The first column in this continuing series “Invitation to Interiority” naturally highlights the significance of interior dimensions and perspectives, which is also a recurring theme found within this issue. Based upon a dream of a series of nested boxes similar to the Russian dolls, Karen Jaenke presents an understanding of the sacred feminine defined as layered interiority. The nested boxes emphasize a progression towards smaller and subtler, hidden, interior spaces. Since patriarchal culture tends to focus on the exterior, visible dimension of reality, the orientation to interiority resides in the cultural shadow, widely overlooked and neglected. Yet from the interior perspective soulful depth and meaning are conferred onto life. Moreover, without the sensibilities of interiority, it becomes likely or even inevitable to damage the web of life.

By consciously engaging states of contraction awakened by dreams, trauma’s residue in the energy body is resolved, while shifting bodily constrictions towards spaciousness and joy.

Helena Daly’s article, “Hypnopompic Encounter: Death’s Shadow and Light between the Realms,” brings to the forefront the importance of subtle consciousness, dreaming perception and the in-between hypnopompic realm. Through the application of a hermeneutic-phenomenological method of inquiry, this article presents and explores an extraordinary, transformative encounter with Light upon coming out of sleep. In significant ways, she differentiates the waking, hypnopompic state of consciousness from the hypnagogic state of consciousness that opens at the other end of the spectrum, prior to falling asleep. This third mode of reality, hypnopompia, highlights that higher states of awareness, embodied knowledge, healing, and the workings of soul and its relation to death and beyond, can be known and experienced.

Hypnopompic dreaming as a form of epistemological knowing is further illustrated and explored through a transformative experience of loving embrace upon awakening, in an article entitled “Heart Knowing and Dreams: Somatic Intersubjectivity.” Daniel Deslauriers’ scholarly personal narrative shows how inter-subjectivity is crucial in dream meaning-making, while simultaneously exploring the notion of trans-subjectivity (mirroring of image) and how this points to a preexistent and incipient knowing field—heart knowing. From within this field, latent potentialities and higher qualities and values that come through deep heart knowing (such as compassion, forgiveness and empathy), can be realized and actualized through a process of enactment. Deslauriers suggests that our embeddedness in the world is informed by how we embrace the world and are embraced back by it—an interrelated activity that shapes the world. While archetypal patterns and qualities of the world exist independently of us, as postulated by Jung’s notion of the objective psyche, Deslauriers shows how these deep qualities accessed in dreaming and waking states, can come to be known only by enacting them, and by letting those qualities infuse our lives.

The transformative power of subtle consciousness at work in the body is also explored in an article entitled “Dynamics of Expansion and Contraction in the Dreaming Body.” Karen Jaenke, through a series of deep transpersonal dreams, with significant carryover into the waking state, describes and details how subtle dreaming processes when engaged within the hypnopompic state of consciousness, beneficially resolve the constrictions of trauma. Jaenke applies Eugene Gendlin’s focusing method of attending to the felt sense as a guide to growth directions, showing how this method leads to expansive possibilities. By consciously engaging states of contraction awakened by dreams, trauma’s residue in the energy body is resolved, while shifting bodily constrictions towards spaciousness and joy. Further, mindfully participating in the somatic dynamics of expansion and contraction conveys a keenly felt participation in the elemental dynamics of the universe. The hypnopompic state of being, therefore, can be recognized as a state through which dream energetics can be engaged and integrated, thus, accelerating the process of human growth at the energetic depths of our being.

Yet dreams intervene as a “daily nocturnal challenge to the paradigm of modernity/coloniality” and the presumed atomism of the self, instead revealing a self that is richly entangled with the world. Challenging the story of the Western masterful self, “Dreams re-introduce what has been excluded from awareness during the historical developments of the Western self. Moreover, for millennia, Indigenous traditions, have valued dreams as part of the shimmering and porousness of self. Dreams are an active presence in the Indigenous web of selves entangled in community and nature. The self revealed by dreams and embraced by indigenous traditions participates in a “complex osmotic pulsing between” interiority and exterior reality, yielding fresh perceptions, experiences and stories.

In conclusion, there is a need for more nuanced categorizations that map the rich complexity of actual dreaming experiences, in particular, the need for qualitative ethnographic accounts of higher dreaming types. The importance of dreams in the transpersonal context becomes crystal clear, and the pressing need for developing ever-deepening hermetic methods of inquiry. As this issue demonstrates, the theoretical implications of dreaming and the subtle consciousness awakened by dreams are far-reaching indeed, deserving careful attention. For dreaming fosters potential and actual long-term human development, embodied and actualized in waking life, while also addressing the limitations of the modern Western self.


A. E. (George William Russell). (1918). Candle of vision: Inner worlds of the Imagination. Dublin, Ireland: Macmillan Co. Press.

Bridge, U. (ed.) (1953). W.B Yeats and T. Sturge Moore: Their Correspondences. London: UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Heidegger, M. (1926). Being and time. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Irwin, L. (2015). Mystical knowledge and near death experience. In C. Moreman & T. Cattoi (Eds.), Death, dying, and mysticism (pp. 153–175). Basinstoke, UK: Palgrave.

James, W. (2005).Varieties of Religious Experience, Abington, USA: Routledge.

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O’Donahue, J. (1998). Anam cara: A book of Celtic wisdom. NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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