Hypnopompic Encounter:

Death’s Shadow and Light Between the Realms

Helena Daly, PhD

Photo above: Gary Newman; All others: Karen Jaenke

For most of my life, I have been pursued by dreams of mysterious and seductive powers and held an intense curiosity about psychic reality and deep dreaming experiences. I have especially been acutely aware of those waking moments on coming out of sleep, while dwelling between dreaming and waking—a state of consciousness referred to as the hypnopompic state. This transient state of being that opens between sleeping and waking realms is a mysterious, deep, ephemeral and at times, highly charged state, full of moments made visible between the dark dead of the night and the dawning light of day—moments that leave as quickly as they came but not without leaving their mark.

During the early morning hours of January 20th, 2006, an indelible imprint was cast upon my body, mind and soul, following a profound healing experience upon awakening. I awoke to an encounter with Light—with ontological manifestations of living presence through which I experienced a deep affective life-death state of transformation. It felt as if a sacred contact had been signed, sealed and delivered with an innate force, with invisible presence seeking visibility and yearning to be born out of its own inner reality.

The far-reaching transformative effect of my encounter with Light, detailed here, helped lift me out of a depression, while going through a particularly difficult, painful time, and simultaneously changed the course of my life. Immediately following this transpersonal experience, I felt compelled to document all activity and associated phenomenology from that day to this, recording all nocturnal and waking activity in microscopic detail in a growing number of dreams journals—a discipline that developed into a committed spiritual practice. Seven months later, I left London, where I had been living at the time, and moved to San Francisco, armed with several dream journals tucked into my luggage, ready to study dreams in greater depth. And following a deep inner journey, gained my PhD in this precise area (California Institute of Integral Studies, 2016), exploring phenomenologically the hypnopompic state of consciousness and associated phenomena that manifests there.

These journals captured ordinary dreams (states through which inner processes are experienced and remembered) and different types of non-ordinary/transpersonal dreams—altered dream-waking states of awareness wherein subtle processes are reflectively observed with active absorption and self-conscious participation in and through them. My primary focus centered on transpersonal dream states—deep dreaming events that give rise to hypnopompic experiences and altered waking states of consciousness. This article is created around one such transpersonal experience, my encounter with light.

Given the focus of this article is the hypnopompic state, only aspects of the hypnagogic state are explored and discussed in relation to the dream-waking state, in order to help clearly identify and distinguish between these states of consciousness. In so doing, my aim is firstly, to provide an alternate way of approaching and understanding the hypnopompic state of consciousness; and secondly, that by considering the hypnopompic experience shared in this paper, along with ancient knowledge, depth psychological and transpersonal perspectives, the dream-waking state can be understood as a unique and important state of consciousness in its own right—a liminal, third mode of being through which healing, embodied knowledge, higher states of awareness, and the workings of soul and its relation to death and beyond can be known and experienced (Daly, 2016).


My thesis therefore, is rooted in a subjective premise, one that honors an inner epistemology grounded in experiential knowing (Heron & Reason, 1997). This naturally calls for hermeneutic-phenomenological methods of reflective exploration which holds a premise through which the art of interpretation is apt to yield unexpected insights, thus, helping challenge and transform preconceptions and older hermeneutical paradigms (Kearney, 1998).

The hermeneutic challenge of course, lies in the validation of interpretation and in distinguishing this from experience. So it is important to remember that interpretation is always highly contextual. This point needs to be emphasized! More general “objective” interpretations are garnered from the outside-in, without consideration from the inside-out—often a result of contempt prior to investigation. What is objective about that, I ask? Holding this in mind then, the reader can hopefully appreciate that it is the experience of particulars that alters perception, establishing therefore, an inner empirical basis of understanding and premise that does not claim general validity but offers new points of view for consideration.

In this exploration, interpretation is rooted in an in-between realm that energetically unfolds, rising up from within an interior state that manifests through dreaming depth.

In this exploration, interpretation is rooted in an in-between realm that energetically unfolds, rising up from within an interior state that manifests through dreaming depth. The art of interpretation in this context, therefore, follows a most subtle lead from the inside-out. This process unfolds through innate reflective structures and acute observation—deep reflection and critical thought based on experience. Revelatory embodied knowledge is imparted by entering fully the integral dialectics of hermeneutical experiences which are rooted in a bodily alertness that deeply listens, and attunes to the subtle threads of visceral, intuitive energetic resonance, and deep emotional undercurrents, all of which collectively allows meaning to unfold spontaneously without rational interference.

These forms of subtle consciousness are rooted in “body soul” (von Franz, 1998, p. 119), and it is through this subtle body that implicit meaning and significance unfolds. This way of knowing that comes through the visionary world of the dreamer is a type of empirical knowledge far removed from the measuring and testing of external perception (Irwin, 1994, p. 64). Subtle life transmitted through deep dreaming and waking states of being is a conscious intentional activity and movement from within, between and without that cuts across the usual dichotomy of subjective and objective. Hermeneutic methods of exploration and analysis work with existential dialectical processes as surely and as naturally as hand fits glove. And it is a powerful way of highlighting the function of interpretation: to make a type of fundamental existential disclosure, one that opens us to changes in our existence, in our dwelling (Levin, 2003, p. 27).

Offering a process-oriented perspective, neat, cushy, definite outcomes are not presented here. Instead, I offer revelatory insights that help raise questions, encourages speculative, reflective thought, and challenges the reader to recognize the difficulty and necessity of working with mystery. It challenges a different way of seeing and thinking that is situated in the middle, within a realm that manifests within mystery—within a multi-dimensional, multi-modal perceptive bridging state of consciousness between sleeping and waking realms.

The Dream-Waking State

The dream-waking state is a natural, ordinary yet extraordinary state of consciousness that plays a crucial role in helping to understand the phenomenon of dreaming as a potentially useful means of accessing knowledge and experiencing healing. Ordinary in the sense that everyone regularly passes through this state from sleeping to waking and extraordinary in terms of healing potentiality and actuality and as a gold mine for accessing information about subtle reality, death, and beyond. Yet today, this natural, ordinary yet extraordinary state of consciousness largely is forgotten, overlooked, misinterpreted and devalued.

The analogy of the ocean springs to mind as a way to reflect subtle realms of beingness from which dreams spring in their drive to manifest inner life, and as a way of describing the journey through sleeping, dreaming and waking states. The ocean is a common metaphor used within depth psychology as a way to represent the relationship between conscious and unconscious life, a small island rising out of an infinitely greater realm of unseen depths (James, 1990). I call this realm subtle reality—a realm accessible through sleeping-dreaming oceanic depth.

Moments between sleeping and waking were identified as a “privileged state for experiencing divine revelation.”

Ireland, as an island, forever strikes me as a geographical embodiment of this fluctuating relationship between conscious and unconscious life—where consciousness moves and flows along the continuum between water and land, night and day, sleeping and waking, darkness and light. Having been born and reared on the north-west coast of Ireland, land of the ancient goddess—that sits on the edge of one of the most westerly points of the European continent, I see her dimensional landscape, peripheral dwelling, and endless borderlands, as capturing the flow of visible and invisible life intermingling between the worlds. I offer this landscape, therefore, as a representation of the subtle state between sleeping and waking. A creative emerging unfolds between two primary modes—one rooted in the hidden realm of oceanic depth and darkness, and the other in the visible, physical, waking realm of light. Where these worlds overlap, there evolves a third elemental domain. A beach represents this beautifully—an intermediary ever-changing domain created between the elemental powers that be. This changing ground is neither water nor earth but a bit of both, with each domain needing the other in order to reveal itself from itself and to become something new.

Historical Context

In times past, in-between altered states and their existing landscapes, like the dream-waking states of consciousness, had long been recognized and explored through ritualistic practices. Eleusinian mysteries in ancient Greece and various shamanic and esoteric traditions and practices across cultures (Garcia-Romeu & Tart, 2013), as well as throughout the creative arts (Barrett, 2001), all recognized these states as holding enormous spiritual value and significance. These states were commonly referred to as the space-between-worlds—deeply receptive, liminal states of being, and places of heightened spiritual sensing wherein visions and big dreams carrying forth messages were received and experienced (Peat, 2005). Creative artists knew the semi-waking state as a potent, powerful, productive modality (Barrett, 2001), one through which infinite sources of inspiration, spiritual guidance and information in various forms was received (Keen, 1974).

Mozart, for example, was believed to have heard and received entire pieces of music in sleep, before setting notes to paper, a phenomenon known as a form of eidetic hearing, a type of sight described as manifesting from within different types of non-ordinary states of consciousness that arise in sleep and between sleeping and waking (Swedenborg as cited in Lachman, 2009). This type of perceptual transmission, known to manifest from within different types of transpersonal states of consciousness that arise in sleep, is but one of many different types of sight (such as precognitive vision, clairvoyance, clairaudience) described throughout visionary traditions and practices (Swedenborg as cited in Lachman, 2009).

Iamblichus, for example, a third century Neoplatonic philosopher and practicing theurgist, described this state that opens between sleeping and waking as a waking condition through which divine dreams (denominated theopemptoi meaning “sent by the gods”) were received and recognized. The divine origin of these special types of dreams were recognized as such by the presence of a clear voice that told precisely what was to be done, and that sometimes:

A bright and tranquil light shines forth by which the sight of the eyes is detained, and which occasions them to become closed, though they were open before. The other senses, however, are in a vigilant state, and in certain respect, have a cosensation of the Light, unfolded by the gods (Taylor, 1984, pp. 116–118).

In further differentiating divine dreams from more ordinary dreams, Iamblichus describes this waking state in more detail, through which there occurs:

a detention of the eyes, a similar oppression of the head, a condition between sleeping and waking, an instantaneous excitation, or perfect vigilance, are all of them divine indications, and are adapted to the reception of the Gods. They are also sent by the Gods, and a part of divine appearances antecedes according to things of this kind. (Taylor, 1984, pp. 116–118)

Centuries later, Swedenborg, an eighteenth century theologian and visionary, similarly described this waking condition, as a “spiritual state” (Lachman, 2009, p. 87). Moments between sleeping and waking were identified as a “privileged state for experiencing divine revelation” (Powell, 2018, p. 474). Swedenborg details transpersonal sight (visual and auditory) received in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness, and right at the time of wakefulness, when the dreamer is still waking up and sleep has not yet been fully shaken off. This state he refers to as “the sweetest of all, with heaven operating into the rational mind in utmost tranquility” (Swedenborg as cited in Lachman, 2009, p. 94).

Over time, in-between states and associated subtle life came to be known by many different names depending on one’s perspective, thus, reflecting the elusive ground within which it stands—a fact of its deeper mystery. I suspect that this elusiveness has led to the dismissal, misinterpretation and misrepresentation of psychic reality and altered states of consciousness such as transpersonal dreaming and waking states of being. This on-going dismissal is still evident today, given the inability of science to deal scientifically with subtle consciousness, a fact that has greatly stifled the advance of psychology as a science (Progroff, 1957/1984, p. 10).

With the coming of the European Enlightenment period, also known as the age of reason, attempts were made to bring some defining status to altering states of consciousness. This shift ensured a movement away from a natural appreciation of the dream-waking state as a receptive state of being through which subtle perceptual life is transmitted, to more external, rational perspectives of consciousness.

Before coming to understand more fully then, the dream-waking state of being, and significant differences between the hypnopompic and the hypnagogic state, it is necessary to briefly compare and contrast mainstream western approaches (those rooted in the natural sciences) and non-western approaches to consciousness. Non-western approaches include eastern, ancient visionary traditions, depth psychological and indigenous perspectives on reality. These types of approaches to consciousness offer perceptual understanding through what I call whole, circular approaches to consciousness. What I mean by this is an approach that encompasses all forms of embodied perceptual activity transmitted day and night, above and beyond rational forms of knowing, thus, allowing for a deeper conceptual understanding of consciousness.

Approaching Sleeping, Dreaming, Waking States of Being and Subtle Life

In the West, the primary approach to consciousness is rooted in more rational concepts of consciousness, theoretical conceptualizations formed from the standpoint of the waking state—the standpoint of consciousness (Fromm, 1957). Western culture’s monophasic orientation values only normal waking consciousness (Garcia-Romeu & Tart, 2013). The waking state is held as the dominant, normal state of being and the sole reference for how the world we live in is perceived and understood. These conceptualizations are built upon historical, learnt conditioning (Tart, 1975). They offer a limited perceptual insight and way of seeing that represents a consensus reality through a “specially tailored and selectively perceived segment of reality constructed from the spectrum of human potential” (Tart, 1975, p. 33). This narrow experience of the world can be understood then, as having little to do with the expansive range of human consciousness and more to do with mental constructs.

The enlightenment period, blinded and dazzled by its own solar power, cast a shadow over the more refined, subtle, lunar, emotive-intuitive, energetic ways of knowing.

These conceptualizations of consciousness range widely depending upon different cultural values and perspectives, such as those cultures with a polyphasic orientation, in which diversifying altered states of consciousness are “embraced as a toolkit for the ultimate advancement of society” (Laughlin, MacManus, & d”Aquili, 1990; Whitehead, 2011). In western society, there is little consideration of the visible waking state as being but:

one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted by the filmiest of screens lie potential forms of consciousness, entirely different… against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge us in a mother sea or reservoir. (James, 1990)

These other potential and actual forms of consciousness are perceptual unfolding from the inside-out, transmitted from within transpersonal states that arise through sleeping and dreaming dimensions. However, with the coming of the natural sciences, these subtle forms of consciousness that open through dream and vision, were deemed meaningless and as having diminished association with divine messages and greater associations with mental illness and irrationality (Meier, 1986, p.106). Subtle phenomena received through sleep and dream were not and are still not understood as bringing to consciousness “their own responses, experiences and significances,” (Garrett, 1943, p. 48).

The enlightenment period, blinded and dazzled by its own solar power, cast a shadow over the more refined, subtle, lunar, emotive-intuitive, energetic ways of knowing. This heavy shadow served to diminish, extinguish and devalue visionary and dream states status as ‘natural luminal states’ (Jung, 1974). This shift marked the divide between visions and dreams’ natural, spiritual grounding to more pathological perspectives that undermined the religious and spiritual function of dreams, thus, highlighting the development and dominance of more rational concepts of consciousness, and a progressive alienation from inner life.

Many contemporary thinkers, such as those that hold a more materialist or rationalist view, offer objective, empirical insights into consciousness. This type of view reflects an outsider perspective—a perceptual life being lived more above ground, through the visible daylight realm of the human psyche (Jung, 1933), one that seeks to explain, define and understand by means of intellectual and abstract reasoning. This more external, empirical perceptual understanding does not take into account perceptual transmission received from the inside-out, thus, bringing forth a different and limited kind of knowledge and meaning, one that does not reflect the greater complexity of human knowing, and that leads to existential alienation.

This is not to say that objective empirical insights on consciousness and altering states are not necessary and valuable. Dream research, for example, has benefited from neurological insight which has shown that “the usually dominant neocortex—the evolutionary recent and specifically human part of the brain, is inhibited during hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, and much older structures take over” (Mavromatis, 2010). These older evolutionary structures are attuned “to inner experience, and ‘pre-logical’ forms of thought, using imagery, symbol and analogy” compared to cortical activity “associated with clear, logical thought and with the perception of a well-defined “external’ world” (Mavromatis, 2010, p. 5).

Dreams were commonly held by early church thinkers, like St. Augustine, as primary avenues and valid conduits of spiritual revelation.

This discovery, in my opinion, lends itself to C. G Jung’s dream theory that claims the existence of innate biological anatomical structures—psychic formless structures known as archetypes (Neumann, 1974, pp. 81–82). The instinctual basis of these archetypes, when activated in deep dream states, bring forth collective memories, higher states of awareness, and energetic sources of deeply embodied knowledge, known and experienced upon awakening, as illustrated herein.

On the other hand, approaches to consciousness that incorporate non-rational aspects and other modes of knowing offer a perceptual understanding of the universe based on the standpoint of the unconscious, and consciousness has its roots there (Jung, 1933, p. 15) in dark sleeping depth. Approaches include depth psychological perspectives, ancient visionary, esoteric and yoga traditions and practices, as well as indigenous knowledge and wisdom.

Sleep in the ancient world was received as an oracle, “ready to be our infallible and silent counselor” (Synesius of Cyrene as cited in Fromm, 1957, p. 132). Sleeping-dreaming (non-ordinary) and waking (ordinary) states were held in ancient times as distinct states of being that offer different perspectives on reality (Fromm, 1957). The sleeping domain was understood as a mysterious ground of being (Peat, 2005)—a subtle yet deep realm of being-ness associated with death and beyond, wherein the soul was believed to speak directly and guidance and divine healing received (Meier, 1989). Dreams were commonly held by early church thinkers, like St. Augustine, as primary avenues and valid conduits of spiritual revelation.

Greek mythological descriptions of sleep also speak to these associations between the sleeping domain, death and the life of the soul. Comparisons are made through brother gods Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death) and death’s sister in Homer’s musing in the Iliad (as cited in Moody, 1975). This intricate association was also strongly held by Edgar Cayce, the great American sleeping prophet, who on the completion of his extensive life-long work, declared the sleeping realm to be “a shadow of that intermission of life or that state called death”. For Cayce, dreams were an avenue through which higher forms of awareness and perceptual knowledge about the death-state could be gained (as cited in Sechrist, 1968, p. 18).

This subtle/dream body is also known as the body light (resurrected body) according to esoteric and gnostic belief and practice, astral body according to theosophists and yogis, and Soul to Christian and Sufi mystics.

These beliefs were also reflected through yogic and esoteric philosophies and practices. Yogic belief, for example, holds the sleep state, dream state and waking state as reflective of the three states of the soul. And esoteric literature describes these interweaving states through different bodies that operate—the causal body in deep sleep, the subtle body through dreams, and the physical body in the waking state. This subtle/dream body is also known as the body light (resurrected body) according to esoteric and gnostic belief and practice, astral body according to theosophists and yogis, (Powell, 1969), and Soul to Christian and Sufi mystics.

These interchangeable bodies/states of being (causal, subtle and physical) are believed to reflect the process of death and rebirth (Frawley, 1999)—altering bodies that represent interweaving worlds. From within the ancient Irish mind and Celtic cosmological perception, these worlds are the heaven world (first world of archetypes, or white world), the mid-world (world of the water, characterized by constant fluctuation and shape-shifting), and earth-world (visible world and sensory perception) respectively (A.E., 1988, A.E. 1918, p. 78).

It is through the mid-world—a third mode of reality (Moriarty, 2005) wherein worlds overlap, that the Otherworld is accessed (Matthews, 1989; Whelan, 2010). This subtle realm opens without through dimensions inherent within the land (Matthews, 1989; Sheldrake, 1995; Stewart, 1992, p. 8), from within through sleeping-dreaming dimensions, and upon awakening in-between when realms overlap and changing bodies merge.

Paralleling these beliefs are depth psychological insights that view dreams and subtle states of being as opening within an intermediate realm of psychic actuality that teaches just what psychic nature really is. From within this subtle realm, the soul is believed to be freed from “its identity with the ego and the waking state” (Hillman, 1975a, p. 33) and insight granted into the soul’s special relation with death (Hillman, 1979). This realm has been described as the anima mundi (the meeting place between spirit and body), an interactive third perceived symbolically which serves a transcendent function by which deeper meaning unfolds (Jung, 1964, 1974; von Franz, 1998).

Ancient visionary knowledge and depth psychological perspectives, therefore, can be seen to embrace hidden life and dimensions of experience. Perceptual unfolding transmitted through dreams’ natural symbolic language and subtle energetic presence highlights the immense value of symbolic presence—much of which has been lost to the modern world. In the ancient world, the symbol was the means through which contact with the deepest self, with others and with god was made (Merton as cited in Osbon, 1991, p.283) and held as the key to a fundamental understanding of human nature and the world we live in, and as reflecting a more complete reality than can be encompassed in the rational concepts of consciousness (Neumann, 1974, p. 170). Indigenous cultures all over the world, for example, hold a deep reverence for sacred symbolic presence. Ancient dream perspectives are rooted within their symbolic character, understanding that “in exploring the ancestry of the symbolic vision we draw nigh to that clouded majesty we divine in the depths of our own being, and which is heard normally in intuition and conscience” (A. E., 1918, p. 69).

Furthermore, the importance of understanding symbolic language is highlighted when seeking to understand the development of personality (individuation). Individuation and transformative growth unfolds through a symbolic process—a process of psychic development (Jung, 1983, p. 21) depicted through symbolic expressive states received in deep dream states and associated altered waking states. This psychic transformation, I illustrate, through one such transpersonal dream-waking experience and unfolding hypnopompic encounter.

The dream-waking state of consciousness, rooted in the unfolding of subtle forms of consciousness that come through experiential components, can only be truly understood then, from within the ground of its own being, through letting the phenomena and unfolding inner constitution reveal itself from itself, without rational interference.

Coming to understand the deeper meaning and significance of the dream-waking state and associated phenomena does not come about through conventional scientific approaches and theories of reality but through circular approaches and explorative, reflective methods that take into account inner empirical ways of knowing, and that leave room for subtle life’s mystery. When mystery is embraced, so too is the function of dreams’ and visions’ symbolic expression, which lies in transmitting meaning beyond rational levels of understanding—subtle transmissions that reflect a dynamism of existential and supra-personal significance, referable to a direct ontology (Perera & Whitmont, 1996).

The opposing dichotomy between approaches rooted in reason and rationalistic thinking, and more encompassing approaches that include non-rational aspects and bodily, multi-modal ways of knowing highlights, therefore, limited understandings of consciousness. It is vitally important then, when seeking to understand the dream-waking state of being, and subtle forms of consciousness, to approach this state in an open manner, one that recognizes the emergence of simultaneous realities through which a natural interconnectivity of unfolding perceptual life opens between darkness and light.

Deeper insight can be gained by drawing upon ancient visionary approaches to consciousness along with depth psychological approaches, which are grounded within a continuous whole circular movement between night and day, lunar and solar forms of consciousness—a circumambulation between the dark nocturnal realm of unconscious and subtle psychic activity and the visible daylight realm of the human psyche (Jung, 1933, p. 11).

Differentiating between the Hypnopompic and Hypnogogic States

While hypnopompic and hypnagogic states of consciousness are similar, given that both states open through subtle modes of consciousness along the continuum between sleeping and waking realms, thus, highlighting the interconnectivity between the conscious and unconscious mind, significant differences do exist. These transitional states are similar in that both states have been found through supporting literature from esoteric and occult practices, numerous experiential studies and spontaneous cases of parapsychological phenomena (PSI), to serve as a vehicle for extra-sensory perception (Sherwood, 2002). Experiences of varying degrees that include visual and auditory features associated with precognition, telepathy, light phenomena, out-of-body experiences and apparitions (Mavromatis, 1987; Sherwood, 2002; Schacter, 1976; Gertz, 1983; Waters, 2016) are phenomena have that have been well-documented within hypnagogic literature—literature that tends to include hypnopompic experiences as part of the hypnagogic state.

This glaring tendency of researchers and writers across interconnecting fields of study, to not clearly differentiate between these states, naturally affects deeper understanding and interpretation. Yet there are important, distinguishing hypnopompic features that will be seen to highlight significant differences between these two states of being.

The hypnopompic state of consciousness is the state entered into on coming out of sleep while moving towards waking reality, while the hypnagogic state is entered into at the other end of the sleep cycle, when leaving waking reality and moving towards sleep. While the term ‘hypnopompic’ is sometimes correctly employed to describe the state that opens on coming out of sleep, it is more commonly used in contrast to the term ‘hypnogogic.’

In the literature, hypnopompic experiences are consistently included as part of an overarching hypnagogic state. I suspect, this may in part be due to the fact that the hypnagogic state is much better known and more commonly reported state of consciousness (Sherwood, 2002; Jaenke, 2004; Mavromatis, 2010), which naturally leads to this state being the more researched state. Experimentally and survey-based research on the hypnagogic state abounds with research findings frequently published in interdisciplinary fields of study, such as neuroscience, psychology, and consciousness studies. The hypnopompic state, on the other hand, is much less commonly reported with minimal research findings (Mavromatis, 2010; Sherwood, 2002; Jaenke, 2014).

In attempting to differentiate the dream-waking state from the hypnagogic state, the term hypnopompia was coined by Fredrick Meyers (1890), a classical psychologist and psychic researcher devoted to the study of consciousness and post-mortem inquiry. Its meaning derives from hypnos after the mythical Greek God of sleep and pompe, which means a “sending forth.” The term hypnagogia was introduced years earlier in the nineteenth century by French psychologist L. F. Maury (as cited in Mavromatis, 2010) with the latter part gogeus meaning “leading” as in leading towards sleep. The technical reader will understand the hypnagogic state as rational waking cognition trying to make sense of non-linear images and sensations, and the hypnopompic state as dreaming cognition, emotionally incredulous, trying to make sense of waking reality.

A less technical and more open, fluid understanding of these altering states can be gained by calling to mind once again, the Irish landscape, one brimming with borderland places between water and land—interlinking spaces that bridge the unconscious and conscious mind. Entering the hypnagogic state prior to falling asleep is like starting a journey, slowly leaving land, getting ready to enter the ocean, about to venture into those depths and just beginning to feel the first wave or two through image and subtle sensation while moving towards sleep’s depth. Moving out of sleep and deep dream states into hypnopompic consciousness is like returning from a long journey after having been at sea and travelling a great distance, awakening saturated with dream subtleties.

There is a softness and fluidity to coming out of sleep into the dream-waking state that is not so present and accessible at the other end of the continuum (exceptions to this sense of softness are when nightmares are experienced and waking becomes jarred). Realms of subtle life, collective sources of emotion, subtle energetic perceptual transmission and heightened states of altered awareness have been entered into while sleeping and in those liminal, hypnopompic moments are still accessible and experienced bodily. One way to think about the difference is to imagine the feeling when preparing with each shivering step and body tightening, a plunge into the ocean versus the invigorated feeling and a relaxed body after diving in and swimming like a fish.

This analogy highlights oceanic depth and rising emotional affect accessed and experienced through sleeping-dreaming dimensions, and upon awakening when dwelling between the states. Hypnagogic experiences, on the other hand, lack deeper experiential aspects and affect. It also serves to highlight how combining hypnogogic and hypnopompic states in the same category is like ignoring the difference between swimming on the ocean’s surface (and becoming a bit acquainted with subtle activity), and swimming in the deep.

Yet, rarely, are these states differentiated. Frequently, experiences that clearly manifest upon coming out of sleep are referred to as “hypnagogic” visions (Lachman, 2009), which only leads to continual misrepresentation, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Even the most comprehensive, extensive research to date on this subject matter (Mavromatis, 2010) does not differentiate between hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, and describes sleep dreams and day-dreams as being comparable in all aspects. This statement is not true and clearly reflects a lack of consideration of different types of non-ordinary sleep dreams. Transpersonal and archetypal dreams, for example, are deep dreaming events that give rise to hypnopompic experiences and encounters, the distinguishing, differentiating features of which we now turn to.

…the dream-waking state is primarily a receptive state of being that arises through deep experiential knowing and associated transformative affective components that serve a huge therapeutic role.

From within the dream-waking state, hypnopompic images arise from internal sources and come fully formed (McKellar, 1957) compared to hypnagogic images, which tend to form themselves in front of subjects, with eyes open or closed and are more external experiences. Hypnopompic images possess an internal coherence and relational participation not present within hypnagogic experiences which are much more fragmented and marked by a general lack of participation (Leroy, 1933).

Furthermore, hypnagogic states are also significantly characterized by a lack of affective components (Mavromatis, 2010, p. 206) and somatic elements (Waters, 2016)—central components of hypnopompic experiences that will be shown to serve a huge therapeutic and transformative role. The depth component and associated transformative affective power that comes through sleeping-dreaming spatial dimensions, highlights the important distinction between the hypnopompic experience and hypnagogic state.

In my view, informed through my own dream practice observations and experience, as well as my understanding of the literature, I believe a hypnagogic state manifests in a similar way to day-dreams with dream-like phenomena, wherein surface mental imagery and levels of awareness are played with. To my mind, this state of being is comparable to more ordinary types of dreams in which inner processes are observed without becoming absorbed in them, thus, reflecting more of a cognitive sensing and experiencing. This type of state then, could be described as more reflective of an “intellectual state” (A. E., 1918).

Hypnagogic explorers, such as the twentieth century Danish philosopher, Mosikivin as cited in Lachman, 2009), and the Russian mystic philosopher and spiritual teacher, P. D. Ouspensky (1974), knew the hypnagogic state as one through which the preservation of awareness could be practiced, and double consciousness—waking and dreaming experienced. From within this practice, some degrees of control could be exerted over dream-like phenomena—discoveries that led to the development of techniques for deeper exploration in lucid dream states.

While double consciousness also operates from within the hypnopompic state, the manifestation of this state does not come about as a result of controlling and manipulating dream imagery, a crucial and significant difference. This dream-waking state manifests through letting the emerging dream phenomena be, without rational interference, thus allowing powerful experiences to naturally emerge. Transpersonal dreaming events are experienced through a deeper absorption and participation that hold great transformative potentiality and actuality. This type of dreaming experience, rooted in experiential states of being that give rise to hypnopompic experiences upon awakening, is therefore very different from hypnagogic experiences that do not arise out of inner depth and dreaming spatial dimensionality.

Understanding this depth component and subtle activity transmission, from within sleeping and dreaming domains, is key to understanding the significant and meaningful differences between hypnopompic and hypnagogic states. Dream-waking encounters and hypnopompic consciousness are experienced through unifying symbols within “conflicting autosymbolic tension” (Silberer, 1965). A meaningful awareness of the significance of symbolic presence in the hypnopompic state is keenly felt, the awareness and implicit understanding of which is largely absent in the hypnagogic state. From within this waking experience, the tension and conflict that naturally exists between a stable consciousness and a charged unconscious is experienced. These simultaneous realities (the dark night world and day world of light) oppose one another, thus, reflecting the tense inner-outer merging through which dream-waking states emerge.

This enormous tension—high creative energy when endured, brings about an energetic transmutation (Neumann, 1974, p. 19) through which a state of suffering is called forth, one that gives birth to the third state. While hypnagogic states also manifest through tension, it is a very different kind of tension, one produced between “drowsiness and an effort to think” (Silberer, 1965) wherein the conscious ego remains alert and interacts with the vision. Creative tension experienced within hypnopompic states manifests within conditions of much greater drowsiness and an effort not to think, through the suspension of egoic activity, withdrawal of mental activity and preservation of psychic energy and being with whatever arises, without control or manipulation.

“I become aware that I am receiving this light in a tunnel made of light and as I am being moved into it, start to experience a tremendous love of indescribable magnitude.”

This third in-between state that manifests between sleeping and dreaming realms, is a state of being then, that does not compare to the hypnagogic state in significant ways. While both states are receptive modes for subtle forms of consciousness and varying degrees of extra-sensory perceptual transmissions, the dream-waking state is primarily a receptive state of being that arises through deep experiential knowing and associated transformative affective components that serve a huge therapeutic role. The combined activity of these distinguishing features that open in sleep and lead to hypnopompic experiences upon awakening, emphasize therefore, important intrinsic characteristics that highlight transpersonal dream states experienced in sleeping-dreaming dimensions as distinctly different from dream-like phenomena that opens in the hypnagogic state.

The following hypnopompic experience demonstrates this deep receptivity and the inner, intrinsic working of subtle perceptual transmissions received through multi-modal senses from within this third state of being. These include creative, visual, symbolic, visceral, proprioceptive and kinesthetic channels, and energetic, emotive, intuitive and rational modes of knowing.

Tunnel of Light: Love

I open my eyes on coming out of sleep and find myself encased in the most exquisite, soft, golden light that transmits tremendous, inexplicable tenderness. As I lay there, soaking up this healing light, I feel deep bliss move through every cell in my body and feel as light as a feather. I become aware that I am receiving this light in a tunnel made of light and as I am being moved into it, start to experience a tremendous love of indescribable magnitude.

While being perfectly aware of my sleepy body on my bed, I enter even more deeply this tunnel of light between sleeping and waking realms. A witnessing self observes my dreaming/subtle body move through a circular opening into this perfectly round tunnel. I move slowly along, flying low down close to the tunnel ground, never touching it but hovering just above it. I observe with extreme care this place I am in, an ethereal circular tunnel made of the most subtle, golden light imaginable. I can see straight ahead of me for at least a mile or so and see the brightest, whitest light at the very end of this tunnel, its pure, white, dazzling brilliance contrasting to the yellow, luminous tender gold light that surrounds me. I do not look ahead for too long, turning my head instead to the tunnel walls where some etchings and engravings catch my eye.

I fly the tiny distance to the tunnel wall which is within arms’ reach of the center, and observe my dreaming body move from horizontal low flying to vertical hovering. I touch this transparent wall of light and inspect it, surprised to find some structural solidity there within darkened, concentrated light. I trace with my fingers many engraved symbols and feel wonder and excitement. While hovering in front of the wall, I note that my vertical stance is restricted because it is not possible to extend to my full height (5’ 8”). I observe my legs automatically coming up and taking the position of a ninety degree angle as if seated upright in a chair ready to inspect and examine the wall. I suspect at this point that the tunnel could not be more than 4-5 feet in height and that the only way to travel this tunnel would be to fly through it. To the right of these symbols, I see what looks like another language hidden in the darker recesses of the tunnel wall light. I examine it in utter amazement as it starts to dawn on me that this language is even older than its neighboring symbolic language. The symbols were a mixture of etched drawings and shapes while this older language looked more numerical, with lines and dots. One section consisted of short and long rows of singular chalk-like line markings, some of which had dots over them. It felt to me that this was perhaps a sentence, with each stack of lines and dots making up a word. I hover there in total awe before feeling and observing my subtle body move back into a horizontal position. I experience waves of love so deep and beauty so great wash over me. I bask in this radiance and feel a deep yearning to sleep here, to lay in this fiercely loving, gentle presence forever. I am reluctant to close my eyes, afraid that this will leave me and I will return to ordinary light and full waking consciousness.

As my eyes close the light fades and I start to become more fully aware of my waking-self lying perfectly still in bed. I feel the softness of my bed and looking up to my right, glimpse dark light peeking through my window, night-light moving towards twilight and I start to cry in painful recognition of having returned to physical reality, to ordinary light. I experience intense waves of sadness and longing, peace and wonder, and I cannot stop crying. It is as if an inner dam has burst and water washes through me like a river of healing water that is cleansing the very depths of my soul.

Upon awakening, while becoming aware of this light that folded in around me, I became aware of a tremendous lightness of being. Through this, movement opened that enabled simultaneous, heightened, lucid awareness and acute observation of physical and subtle realms, and deepening exploration of the light’s form and texture. As movement within the realm of light progressively deepened, a deepening in affect was also experienced. Powerful healing features were intimately experienced throughout my whole being; shimmering goldenness, immense tenderness, lightness of being, bliss, pure unadulterated love of great magnitude, and exquisite, immeasurable beauty that held no bounds, above and beyond anything I have ever experienced at the human level.

This primal light lit up my interior chambers as surely as a single candle lights up a dark room, the energetic power of which reconfigured my whole being, bringing to an end that time of darkness.

While flying within this golden light, I observed another strand of Light at the very end of this tunnel; pure, snow white, blinding light compared to this softer, transparent golden light that enveloped me. While taking in these contrasting forms of Light, I also observed dense elemental structures hidden within the darker recesses of the golden tunnel wall. Changes in kinesthetic movement (inner movement of consciousness) of the dreaming subtle body, from horizontal to vertical hovering, allowed for closer inspection to be carried out. A ninety degree right angle was formed, an alignment that represents partial intersection between horizontal and vertical domains within this sacred realm of light. Through this intersection the subtle body is upright for the first time and maintains a hovering position through which the first and only point of physical-subtle contact with this elemental light is made, a deeper contact that came through the hands.

The importance of this discovery implicitly registers through feelings of surprise, excitement, awe and wonder, emotions often described as religious emotions (Otto, 1928/1958), the resonating effect of which alerts me to their ancient status. Here, from within another subtle realm of existence, I am shown traces of human activity. This particular activity, precisely laid out lines and dots in short and long stacks, the visual of which is as clear in my mind now as it was then, I came to discover, is an ancient language—a numerical system identified with the Maya Indians of Guatemala and other Mesoamericans (Carasso, 2012), and quite possibly other ancient sources as well. This astonishing discovery came to me, through my dissertation reader, Lee Irwin—a scholar of Native American Visionary Dreaming Traditions.

This significant discovery is deeply important given that evidence of this primal language is connected to evolutionary stages of consciousness, to times when different symbolic language systems were the pertinent way of communicating. It is possible, therefore, that this discovery within dreaming subtle reality may be showing some origin points in the history of human symbol making. As the full effect of these revelations sink in, I experienced intensely, again, the core phenomenological features of this primal light; shimmering goldenness, tremendous love, powerful gentleness, peace, radiance, heightened lucidity, bliss, profound beauty and incredible lightness of being, before observing my dream body move back into the horizontal position in preparation for the transition back to physical reality.

The transformative healing power experienced through this elemental, numinous encounter with light, within such a refined, sacred, subtle dimension of reality, served to bring me out of inner darkness and density and into lightness and possibility. This primal light lit up my interior chambers as surely as a single candle lights up a dark room, the energetic power of which reconfigured my whole being, bringing to an end that time of darkness.

Application of Theory and Research Discoveries

In light of Jungian theory, the working of a natural law of psychic happening, of compensation (Jung, 1974) between conscious and unconscious domains, is evident here. The psyche’s automatic self-regulation balanced a depressed, dark conscious attitude with the overflowing, energizing encounter with light. This undiluted encounter with light, also highlights subtle activity that opens above and beyond this compensatory function, through the manifestation of unintentional aspects that are known to open within higher states of being that point to “an intelligence and purposiveness which are superior to actual conscious insight” (Shafton, 1995, p. 109). These aspects can be perceived through diffuse intuitive knowledge that reflects our being (von Franz, 1998), thus drawing attention to the deeper unreflectiveness of a reflective consciousness (Heidegger, 1926; Merleau-Ponty, 1962/2006).

According to Jungian theory, the insightful depth of this experience between the realms suggests the intimate working of archetypes, collective psychic structures or energetic forms/patterns believed to contain the collective memory and wisdom of humankind (Neumann, 1974). Archetypal forms are thought to represent intersection points between personal time and timeless transpersonal being (Grosso, 1994) or chronological and dreamtime—distention animi—an extendedness of the soul (St. Augustine as cited in Arden, 1994). This particular hypnopompic encounter unfolds through these overlapping, deep dimensional openings, manifesting as it does between sleeping, dreaming and waking realms, between a “vertical timeless axis crossing the horizontal flow of time” (Blake as cited in Northrop, 1966, p. 24). This experience, therefore, can be understood as one that reflects higher active, energetic, dimensional principles of dream space at work within a liminal, transitional state of being through which cosmic healing interconnections are made.

Archetypal function is to assist the growth and evolution of humans, be that during a major crisis of individuation (Grosso, 1996) or when moving through what is perhaps the greatest transition of all, dying and death (Perera, 1981). The instinctual basis of these deeply rooted structures when activated in deep dreams states (as mentioned earlier in line with recent neurological dream research), bring forth collective memories, higher states of awareness, and energetic sources of deeply embodied knowledge.

This transformational experiential encounter strongly parallels descriptive accounts of near-death experiences (NDEs) and out-of-body experiences (OBE’s) widely recorded within death and dying literature. An OBE, also referred to as “extra corporeal perception” (ECP) represents a primary locus of awareness in the in-between state through which a dynamic process in which a non-physical self, manifests (Irwin, 2015).

Although the experience relayed here did not arise through actual physical death followed by a return to life, nor does it reflect any suicidal thoughts or ideation, it does reflect a profoundly life changing experience within a realm of light and ineffable, penetrating beauty that emerged through the depths of dark psychological and emotional pain that was inwardly killing me. This dark inner landscape is reflected in Greyson’s (2000) description of NDE’s as “profound psychological events with transcendental and mystical elements, typically occurring to individuals close to death or in situations of intense physical or emotional danger” (pp. 315-316). My turbulent inner life could be described in terms of emotional danger, which transformed through “inner light,” a profound realization described as a mystical form of enlightenment similar to higher forms of NDE’s (Bhattacharya, 2014).

Ray Moody’s (1975) extensive research on NDE’s and recent paranormal, transpersonal and mystical research, detail narrative accounts that reveal similar encounters with light. Overarching features, such as seeing a light during NDE’s as well as perceptions of merging with this light or the source of being-ness (Facco, 2012); of entering the light, leaving the body, and intensified feelings of deep peace typically characterize NDEs (Blackmore, 2004, p. 360).

“Light” is the primary symbol of all great religious traditions thought to reflect the manifestation of God, and has been spoken of by theologians and mystics as an energy that is “known in the mind, felt in the heart, sensed in the body, and that comes from, and is, Spirit.”

The experience of extraordinary vivid physical sensations, ESP and precognitive visions are experiential aspects in deeper NDE experiences that have been described as a “cosmic encounter with light, God, or other manifestations of great ontological import” (Irwin, 2015, p. 3). “Light” is the primary symbol of all great religious traditions thought to reflect the manifestation of God, and has been spoken of by theologians and mystics as an energy that is “known in the mind, felt in the heart, sensed in the body, and that comes from, and is, Spirit” (Metzner, 1998, pp. 165–169).

The progressive movement in this in-between state of being has been described within a particular type of hypnopompic state that resulted in the experience of “not knowing whether one was in the body or out it” (Swedenborg as cited in Lachman, 2009, p. 94), thus, reflecting paranormal and transcendental aspects comparable to an out-of-body experience (Irwin, 2015). There exists a wealth of widely published paranormal research, grounded in personal narratives which detail non-ordinary states of consciousness, such as near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences, accepted and recognized as empirical sources of data (Tart, 1997; Greyson, 2006; Irwin, 2015). Empirical findings in parapsychological research consistently show that people who attend to internal states such as meditative and deep dream states “open up sensitivities that can detect and receive nonlocal universal intelligence such as extra sensory perception” (Tart, 1997, p. 108).

In-between experiences within voids and tunnels are also well documented (Greyson, 2006; Irwin, 2015; Ring, 2006; Tart, 1997). While the tunnel experience is mostly associated with and reported by near-death experiencers, this type of experience has also been reported to happen during an OBE not associated with physical near-death experiences, spontaneously, through hypnosis and trance state, or under the influence of psychedelics (Sellars, 2018; Blackmore, 2004). This begs consideration around whether tunnel experiences occur not only during the process of dying, but also as an organic part of other phenomena such as time travel or quantum tunneling (Sellars, 2018).

Greyson’s fourfold typology of NDE’s describes lucid movement through tunnels or velvet darkness, heightened awareness of local physical surroundings along with movement away from them, and encounters with a non-ordinary realm inhabited by postmortem others (friends, family, and “beings of light”). This typology details cognitive, affective, paranormal, and transcendental features of these experiences, as well as enhanced abilities and an intensification of feelings (Beauregard, 2011; Garcia-Romeu, 2010; Johnson & Griffiths, 2011, Levin & Steele, 2005). Transcendental dimensions are held as spatial domains wherein the soul subjectively senses and picks up important information received through visual and auditory transmission (Cayce as cited in Sechrist, 1968)—veridical information, obtained through “empirically evident paranormal perceptions” (Irwin, 2015, p. 16).

Increasing lucid awareness, an exceptionally strong feature of my hypnopompic encounter, ensured a deepening of this experience into transpersonal and mystical domains (Stumbry, 2018). It is through this exceptional lucid quality, that some insight into the nature of consciousness is granted, particularly through the natural emergence of self-reflection and meta-awareness capacities (Stumbrys, 2018). And this is how I understand lucidity—as a quality of consciousness which contains innate self-reflective properties of reflexivity, foundational to consciousness (Irwin, 2015). While this encounter was profoundly lucid, the intrinsic, intricate working of this lucid presence was received differently to how lucid dreaming is commonly received and understood.

Lucid dreaming is commonly referred to as “being aware that you are dreaming when you dream” and using this awareness to change/shape the direction of a dream, or its potential outcome. While being very much aware of what was unfolding throughout this deep encounter, the increasing, lucid awareness served to sustain this heightened awareness and my being a lucid, participant observer of what was naturally unfolding, as opposed to trying to direct or manipulate any type of outcome. By allowing this subtle realm to unfold from within its own reality, without any kind of imposed control, through focused attention and acutely tending to what arises, any deeper emergence of significant ontological import is not prevented from coming through (Irwin, 2014). Heightened and deepening lucidity, therefore, can be understood as opening self-healing properties (Sellars, 2018). This potent awareness acts as a form of mediating awareness that links sleeping, dreaming and waking states of being, and as a medium for the cultivation of a more complex awareness and heightened sense of participatory engagement with profound possibilities (Irwin, 2014).

Intensification of feelings and deepening in affect came through a deepening lucidity, as I travelled deeper into the tunnel of light. Perera’s (1981) describes this profound affect commonly experienced within transpersonal encounters as an unfolding process of recollection and remembrance—one that reflects a consciousness born of suffering and loss. The profound sadness I experienced on returning, having crossed over into this sacred, healing realm of light, love and beauty, reflects perhaps a sense of separateness for the loss of this unifying state of bliss (Perera, 1981, p. 71). My sorrow was accentuated by the fact that while not truly wanting to die, I was acutely aware that I was returning to a life I had always struggled to live and fully participate in.

Accounts of the transformative effects described here, along with core phenomenal features, and paranormal dimensions (Ring & Valerion, 1998) are consistently reported cross-culturally. The aftereffects of this type of NDE encounter, as with OBEs have been widely reported as highly transformative, affecting an increased sense of spirituality, concern for others and decreased fear of death (Greyson, 2000), and a positive, dramatic shift in personality and worldview (Irwin, 2015)—all of which I can personally testify to, following my hypnopompic encounter with Light. The occurrence of veridical psi components and huge long-term transformative effect experienced within this particular type of in-between state, and its’ strong associations to NDE experiences, counter criticisms that perceive this type of experience as a delusory one.

Furthermore, this type of in-between, out-of-body tunnel experience, is frequently presented within scientific theories and particular perspectives such as a psychophysiological one, as representing a flashback to the birth canal process, thus drawing an analogy between the birth process and death process. However, the essential structures of birth and death experiences are quite different and the reverse of one another. The birthing passage “moves from amniotic bliss to expulsion into traumatic light” (Grosso, 1996), a process of expulsion quite contrary to universal and cross-cultural descriptions of flying and a lightness of being within this tunnel. The dying process, on the other hand, often begins with elements of pain, fear and shock, followed by experiences of a light described as warm, loving and gentle (Grosso, 1996). In recent near-death studies, ninety percent of individuals reported going into the light.

These discoveries and components of phenomena that speak to its universality, paranormal dimensions, and deep transformative effects, are empirical facts that continue to support an archetype of death (Grosso, 1996; von Franz, 1986), thought to represent passages and subtle realms of existence between dying and death (Moody, 1975). Psychical research, points to real possibilities of the continuity of consciousness after death, opening great avenues that extend beyond physicalist accounts of the universe (Irwin, 2015). This particular, liminal, transitional dream-waking state of being, therefore, can be understood as one that manifested within an energetic open realm of potentiality with associations to other transitional states between life and death and death and beyond (Perera, 1981, p. 72).

This revelatory hypnopompic encounter, therefore, carries profound symbolic, psychic, epistemological, ontological, methodological, psychosomatic, and psychosocial implications that impact inter-disciplinary and intra-disciplinary schools of thought and practice.



Deep exploration and understanding of symbolic expression that opens through dreaming and waking states, highlights significant phenomenological outcomes that result in a deepening, developing familiarity with altered, diversifying states of consciousness. Implicit to this developmental understanding is an appreciation for the psychic value of altered states of consciousness and their important role in helping understand how healing happens.

Deep dream states and altered waking states are symbolically expressive states through which “a process of psychic development” (Jung, 1983, p. 21) unfolds. This symbolic process, shown to be at work in the development of personality (individuation), highlights the importance of understanding symbolic language, given individuation and transformative growth has always been and remains to be, depicted in symbolic form and expression (von Franz, 1998). When this process is taken consciously, consciousness confronts the unconscious and a balance between the opposites is found.

Consciously engaging with night-life, with nocturnal symbolic life, invites a deepening relationship with the other side of reality, through which transformative states of being emerge. Understanding the importance of hidden life lies in the fact that it is not possible to effectively bring about forms of healing and treatment from the daylight side of consciousness (Jung, 1933, p. 16); rather this must come through “dark cythonic depth” (Meier, 1989, p. 127), wherein lie dreams’ symbolic life and autonomous healing powers.


This inquiry highlights the importance of dream consciousness and points to the phenomenon of dreaming and waking states of consciousness as actual and potential means of accessing higher states of awareness, embodied ways of knowing, healing and knowledge about the workings of the soul and its relation to death and beyond. Learning how to work with and assimilate subtle consciousness that comes through dream-waking states (in varying measure and degree of intensity) leads to fundamental insight into psychic life, thus contributing significantly towards the development of the faculties of inner life and innate epistemological sources of knowledge. Hypnopompic ways of knowing come through a receptive waking condition of relaxed alertness, focused attention, acute observation within and through participatory modes of being, deep listening, and resonating, emotional, intuitive energetics. All aspects of developmental unfolding, are then reflected upon in terms of a model of human potential.


Inner dream space spilling forth upon awakening opens up the possibility of an exploration of powerful encounters with being. It proposes a meta-physics of being within the heart of interiority. This recovery and recollection unfolds through hermeneutically attending to dream-waking gaps—to the interconnecting spaces that join visible and invisible life. Here, in the in-between space, symbolic, physical and subtle consciousness are interwoven, all of which are considered different manifestations of the same metaphysical principles (Evola, 1971). From within the in-between state, consciousness itself becomes transparent and transpersonal archetypal structure is shown as a living process that unfolds from within its own realm.

This unfolding of deep, divine relatedness and interconnectivity between invisible and visible domains has important implications for understanding our psychophysical nature and the world about us. Knowledge of this liminal third state, which separates what we see presently and what lies hidden through the earth, is a knowledge shared by all ancient cosmologies and the view of reality held by mystics of all traditions (Smith, 1992). It is possible then, that the dream-waking state and associated hypnopompic phenomena is a state of being that opens, however briefly, into Unus Mundus terrain—a domain that seeks to reveal itself while concealing itself within deepening dialectics of the mysterious coincidentia oppositorum (Wedemeyer, 2010). This subtle realm is believed to be instrumental in the divine teleology of human existence that provides the intermediate ground for the merging of a transcendent God and earthly being (Jung, 1964).

Subtle life and subtle forms of consciousness, therefore, imply a survival of consciousness—one that is ontologically no less real than physical reality on the one hand, and spiritual or intellectual reality on the other (Corbin, 1972). This transpersonal experience reflects a multi-dimensional unitary consciousness, accessible through the dream body that bridges the mind-body-spirit continuum, thus addressing dualism in western thought, and the spirit-matter dichotomy. Deep consideration of this possibility highlights the need for further exploration and mapping of transpersonal dreaming encounters, subtle states, altered bodily states of awareness that “deconstruct subject-object modes in favor of profound participatory knowing and being” (Jaenke, 2004b, p. 13). To do this, rather than come to know more and more about dreams, we want to get “deeper into dreams by working out ever more penetrating and subtle forms of inquiry”—namely, hermetic methods of inquiry (Hillman, 1979, p. 201).


Approaching dreams as revelatory phenomena and the hypnopompic realm as a revelatory state provides a fresh new way of seeing and perceiving. It naturally applies itself to a hermetic field—one that is self-contained and self-generating that opens through powerful symbolical expression upon awakening. Embracing the hypnopompic realm as an energetically emerging third mode of being, or post-dual third that sits in the middle—within continual, dynamic, opposing tense interaction between psyche and soma, fluid invisibility and condensed visibility, allows for the synthesis and reconciliation of apparently separate elemental realms.

This working dialogical approach is in line with current concepts of consciousness that take into account reflexivity inherent in full experience that cannot be split or reduced. It works with extreme whole body states, and demonstrates a coming into being not through abstract reasoning alone but through a deeply embodied practice. This way of working offers a natural, more complex way to explore generative states of inner, between and outer reality that holds within its interiority transpersonal depth and archetypal structures and visions. It encompasses multiple forms of subtle consciousness, helping balance more rational and materialistic external scientific perspectives, that has shaped and continues to shape how we make sense of reality.

Understanding the importance of hidden life lies in the fact that it is not possible to effectively bring about forms of healing and treatment from the daylight side of consciousness…

This approach naturally applies methodological techniques that describe critical ways of experiencing reflectively from within embodied states of being, thus serving as a post-dual way of knowing that goes beyond the mind-body split. Deep, reflective experiencing of transpersonal states and rich documented descriptions of subtle phenomenal unfolding help, therefore, in the development of a science of subjectivity-—while highlighting how grounded revelatory insight and knowledge shows the complexity of human perceptual unfolding, in potentially and actuality. In laying out the experiential groundwork, the interrelationship between mental and physical processes is illustrated, thus highlighting how deep psychological exploration and critical reflective methods of analysis help bring forth greater understanding of subtle life and naturally occurring altered dreaming and waking states.

A dialogical way of seeing and understanding also serves to help in the development of a theory of attention and reflection. A theory of attention is important given that deep concentrated attention (awareness) and swirling psychic energy are at the very heart of this reflexivity, and that even small shifts in attention open out revelations of “the extended range of our true self” and nonlocal consciousness that allows for direct knowing (Tart, 1997, p. 141). Deliberately attending to, is powerful activity consistently shown to empower the visionary ability (Cressy, 1996). This active technique offers a way to access, develop, and activate paranormal perception and ability, highlighting how innate potential can be developed and actualized. The cultivation of focused thought and attention is central to diversifying mystical techniques and contemplative practices. Therefore, with a view to future methodological developments, training in attention can be seen to be crucial to unlocking, accessing, exploring, developing, and enhancing human perceptual abilities (Irwin, 2015, p. 10).


Committed dream work is a transformative psychosomatic healing practice, through which the somatic unconscious, the part of the unconscious which becomes more and more identical with the functioning of the body, becomes accessible through the dream body upon awakening. It is through the body that inner life is accessed, and non-ordinary 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 unfolding and development of healing power at work. The body, therefore, serves as the central channel through which healing processes emerge, and through which the deeper integration takes root.

Interdisciplinary Connections and Considerations

Archetypal Psychology

This article, in bringing forth a detailed description of dream-waking phenomenal activity—a numinous, energetic unfolding from within its own subtle realm–contributes towards archetypal science with the uncovering of its natural self-reflective nature.  The revelatory unfolding explored in this hypnopompic encounter supports Jung’s archetypal hypothesis that represents epistemological roots of the individuation principle, of “a dynamic potentiality active within the cells of every organism working towards the goal of self-completion” (Card as cited in Stevens, 2002, p. 83), the teleological aspects and transformative effects of which greatly enhances life being lived.

Transpersonal Psychology

Transpersonal psychology has been described as standing at a vital and healing inter-section between science and religion, yet needs to take “one further step to embrace the participatory knowing that all matter is infused with spirit” (Jaenke, 2004b, p. 14). I hope that the descriptive detail of this hypnopompic experience, that lays bare the subtle, participatory activity and deep healing effect experienced between the realms, can serve to open out this understanding.

The regenerative, in-between landscape of dream-waking states suggests, therefore, a much vaster and more complex realm of human perceptions than currently recognized by normative physicalist accounts of embodied awareness.

Coming to understand the intricate working of subtle consciousness is a whole bodily affair, transmitted through multiple inner modes of perceptual knowing. It is not something that can be understood by the power of the intellect alone. When the body is left out, “both the spiritual experience and the unconscious remain disembodied in transpersonal thought” (Louchakova & Lucas, 2007, p. 121). Thus, transpersonal theories can advance through delineating structures of embodied internal perception combined with accounts from living practitioners. First person accounts like mine highlight phenomenological investigation of dream-waking states of consciousness as not only advancing personal consciousness development, but as healing transformative spiritual experiences through which the self is restructured, reorganized and restored (Louchakova & Lucas, 2007, p. 123). Given that all naturally pass from sleeping and/or dreaming into waking consciousness on a daily basis, hypnopompia holds a powerful transformative potential for humanity.

Somatic correlates of psychic events manifest within primitive layers of psyche, and when attention is applied to these process-oriented unfoldings deep within the body, embodied perceptual understanding of powerful energetic forces and metaphysical revelations is generated. This discloses how psychic and somatic counterparts interact, and the body as the medium for the expression and realization of being—metaphysical revelations, that do away with older dualistic conceptions that split psyche and soma.

The great divide within the scientific study of consciousness sits between materialistic and nonmaterialistic views of the mind. Hypnopompic revelations help bridge this gap between soma and psyche through bringing forth implicit experiential knowing. When keen observation of these transitional states is intentionally converted into detailed descriptions of psychosomatic processes, which carry heightened sense activation in the proprioceptive and kinesthetic channels, such descriptions provide a refined differentiation of inner-outer energetic unfolding that interacts within the mind-body-spirit continuum.

In times past, transpersonal events such as visionary dream states were recognized as holding enormous value and spiritual purpose, and understood as fundamental aspects of supernatural knowledge, insight and ability (Hollenback, 1996). Yet today, there is a bias against what comes through the visionary imagination … “a form of ethnocentric and logocentric bias that fails to recognize the epistemological legitimacy of more sensory oriented, visual traditions” (Hollenback, 1996). And it is unfortunately still a fact today that science remains unable to deal scientifically with subtle consciousness, continuing to stifle therefore, the advance of psychology as a science (Progroff, 1957/1984). If only it could turn inward, to inner space, to the deep dimensions in the heart of our interiority.

Dream-waking transformative encounters, like the one detailed in this article, offer a third way of experiencing reality, mediated by the depths of the psyche through the body. Hypnopompia offers a way to recover the third middle position, which earlier in western tradition, was the place of soul, “a domain neither physical nor spiritual yet bound to them both” (Hillman, 1975a, p. 68).

It is vitally important then, to learn how to work with and assimilate subtle forms of consciousness that come through dream-waking states, as this leads to fundamental insight into psychic life, thus helping in the development of the faculties of inner life and innate epistemological sources of knowledge.

The in-between hypnopompic state of being is a most subtle state wherein a dynamic process of unfolding perception takes place. This represents “a primary condition for unique types of visionary knowledge” (Irwin, 2015, p. 1). The regenerative, in-between landscape of dream-waking states suggests, therefore, “a much vaster and more complex realm of human perceptions than currently recognized by normative physicalist accounts of embodied awareness” (Irwin, 2015, p. 1).

And so it is high time, or more to the point, well beyond time, the biased blinkers and blinders come off, so the past visionary traditions can be recognized as setting the foundation for the visionaries of the future.


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