Lucid Surrender

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This close up of the Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom, the alchemist’s study, shows the alchemist in his oratory on his knees before the divine, Great Alchemist [3]. He surrenders not only to a higher power but also to a deeper wisdom, acknowledging the great mystery behind the universe.

Of visionary lucid dreams, Stephen LaBerge has observed: “To go beyond the ego’s model of the world, the lucid dreamer must relinquish control of the dream—surrender—to something beyond the ego.” [4]  This observation raises two key questions: What does surrender in lucid dreams entail? And to what does the lucid dreamer surrender? Alchemical emblems provide answers to these questions.

The Psychological Path of Surrender

The Alchemical model provides a universal framework for understanding the path of surrender in lucid dreams. Across cultures, the emblems provide templates for understanding and accessing archetypes of the Inner Self and Transcendence in numinous lucid dreams.

Carl Jung has said that ‘The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night….’ [5] This metaphor conveys what is experienced subjectively as an objective truth in the lucid dream of surrender. As alchemical emblems indicate, lucidity opens this “hidden” door to a new dimension of consciousness, literally to the experience of a new brain state.

When crossing the threshold of this door, it is, as this alchemical emblem illustrates, important to maintain an attitude of humility and wonder rather than a will to power.

Carl Jung cautioned against yoga being applied by westerners as a means of gaining power. Such a practitioner, rather than experiencing liberation from the constraints of the ego, could either simply reinforce his or her spiritual pride or be overwhelmed by the unconscious contents of the psyche. This caution can be extended to the dream yoga of lucid dreaming where the aim is to surrender the finite ego to what Jung called the larger Self or the Transpersonal aspect of Being.

Speaking of the Western individual that had recently experienced World War I and was on the verge of World War II, Jung said, ‘It is infinitely more important to strip him of the illusion of his power than to strengthen him still furthering the mistaken idea of everything he wills,’ and, ‘What he lacks is conscious recognition of his inferiority to the nature around and within him.’ [6]  Lucid dreams of surrender require an attitude of humility, an awareness of one's own personal limitations in contrast to the vast mystery of the universe that is both without and within.

While the move towards lucidity does require that the dreamer apply conscious intention to realise that the dream is, in fact, a dream, an illusion created by the mind, once lucidity has been gained, the lucid experience of surrender requires a paradoxical quieting of the logical mind and the opening of the intuitive mind and heart.

The Spiritual Path of Surrender

As many Wisdom Traditions teach, in surrendering one is paradoxically made strong.  This is the theme of the Beatitudes that Jesus teaches in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12). The word beatitude comes from the Latin beatus meaning blessed. Certainly, lucid dreams of surrender are in that sense similar to a beatitude, particularly the first:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

On this theme of surrender, the Zen Master, Lao Tzu observes:

Seeing into darkness is clarity
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light to return to the Source of Light.
This is called practicing eternity.[7]

You can develop such a practice in lucid dreaming by surrendering your fears and expectations, as well as withdrawing your desire to control or manipulate the situation. Ibn Arabi, a 13th century philosopher and mystic has said, "My heart clings to the door of the Divine Presence waiting mindfully for what comes next when the door is opened." It feels like that in a lucid dream of surrender.

In my own case, my main dream guide and teacher, Dr. Nigel Hamilton, once said in a lecture, “If you become lucid in a dream, meditate.” Hamilton is also the Director of the Centre for Counselling & Psychotherapy Education, CCPE, London, where I trained in psychotherapy, dreamwork, and alchemy. His advice rang out to me like a clarion call and became my intent.

Upon lucidity, I may bow my head in surrender and prayer.  Sometimes, like the alchemist, I fall to my knees. At other times, I simply say, "Here I am if you want me." At such times, the dreamscape disappears, giving way to a vast, seemingly empty expanse of black light.  My being is very often seized by the holy black light and the winds that accompany it. From this point on, my role is to receive the experience rather than consciously control it.  My energy is focussed on quieting my mind and being present to what arises.

In order to help me regain my equilibrium and overcome my fears, a holy name or sacred song may spontaneously arise in my heart. Such sacred names and songs come primarily from the Wisdom Tradition that is my spiritual base, Christianity. Teachings from other traditions such as Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism and Sufism as well as alchemy have also helped me to understand what is experienced in such lucid states. As suggested in the emblem of the Alchemist's Study, the balance and harmony of music is key in lucid dreams of surrender.

I am always surprised by what the lucid dreams reveal and teach me. Released from my dreambody, my consciousness moves within a realm that I have had only intimations of in waking reality.  Teresa of Avila has poeticized her experience of the Divine in dreams and her words speak well for me, her questions are my own:

One Divine Being is existence.
All the forests on this earth combined are but
a tiny wood fiber--a particle of one spoke on the Wheel.

What is the relationship of form to the unseen aspects of God? 

What percentage of God is unseen? 

What percentage of the Truth of God do we know? 

He led me a place where only Light existed..... [8]

My own experience is that through lucid dreams of surrender we can encounter this place where only Light exists, where, as Saint Teresa observes, “everything bursts into glorious symmetry”. And, as Lao Tzu instructs, it is the path of surrender that leads to the Source of Light. This encounter transforms us. We can look to alchemical emblems as well as the principle of symmetry for a better understanding of this process and path.

The new, deeper understanding of ourselves and the world that we gain through a lucid dream of surrender must be made manifest in waking reality. The lucid experience is only complete when the dreamer brings the dream experience of inner wholeness back into life in an attitude of service.

The Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan points out that Avila was engaged practically in the world even though her experiences were 'out of time and space.'  His criterion for the mystic also applies to the lucid dreamer: 'to be able to cross the threshold and still find one's way back into the world of time and space, to bridge the two...' through creativity and service to life.[9]

If you would like to practice lucid dreams of surrender, see the Guidance Manual link on the Resources page. You can also contact me at: