Meeting in the Dream World: Oneirogens and Tips for Better Dreaming

Members of an oneironauticum practice lucid dreaming and dreaming together with the help of oneirogens, sensory triggers for dream recall.


| February 2013



Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness

What do dreams mean? From demons encountered in sleep paralysis visions to psychic research conducted by the CIA, the seemingly disparate topics covered by “Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness" congeal to form a larger picture of what these extraordinary states of consciousness might have to tell us about the nature of reality itself.

Cover Courtesy Evolver Editions

In Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (Evolver Editions, 2012), a diverse group of authors journey into the fringes of human consciousness, tackling psychic and paranormal phenomena, lucid dreaming, synchronistic encounters, and more. Collected from the online magazine Reality Sandwich, these essays explore regions of the mind often traversed by shamans, mystics, and visionary artists; adjacent and contiguous to our normal waking state, these realms may be encountered in dreams or out-of-body experiences, accessed through meditation or plant medicines, and marked by psychic phenomena and uncanny synchronicities. From demons encountered in sleep paralysis visions to psychic research conducted by the CIA, the seemingly disparate topics covered here congeal to form a larger picture of what these extraordinary states of consciousness might have to tell us about the nature of reality itself. In this excerpt, Jennifer Dumpert writes about a group of dreamers called an oneiroauticum and the practices, herbs and supplements they take to promote dream experiences. 

At five in the morning the alarm clock quietly chimed. I leaned over and gently roused Erik. Then I reached toward Ivy, asleep on the cot on my other side, and woke her too. Barefoot and in my best nightie, I got out of bed and padded around the apartment, nudging the dozen people sleeping on futons and couches. “It’s time,” I said. In my wake, drowsy people reached for the pill of galantamine, an extract of red spider lily, and the bottle of water I’d placed near them earlier. We’d gathered to dream together, a monthly commitment we’ve kept for more than a year. Thus began the Oneironauticum.

On the last Saturday of every month, Oneironauticum participants worldwide enter dream space together. We do this by sharing an oneirogen. Derived from the Greek oneiro, “dream,” and gen, “to create,” an oneirogen is anything that induces vivid dreams. Our oneirogens are often substances, but sometimes they’re practices or sensory triggers. Whether it’s garlic, galantamine, or Tibetan Buddhist lucid-dream practices, if it promotes dreams and dream recall, we’ll try it.

Oneironauticum has no specific focus. I don’t specifically advocate therapeutic interpretation, lucid dreaming, healing dreams, messages from the gods or from the other side, contacting other dreamers through dreams, foretelling the future, inspiring creativity, or any of the many other reasons that people pay attention to dreams. It’s great if people are into any of that; lots of participants are. Any goal is valid. My interest is not why people participate, but what happens when we simply practice together. We dream together to see what happens, without expectation about what that will be. Oneironauticum offers an open-ended exploration of what the experience is like.

Everyone dreams. Across cultures and throughout history, we all visit bizarre, visionary worlds on a nightly basis. There is a lot to be learned in this place. Your mind creates objective “reality” and the subjective experience of moving through that reality. Think of it as a different mode of cognition. Your dream mode is a way of being that you inhabit a fair percentage of the time. The point of Oneironauticum is to provide a vehicle to help us all explore this universally shared, yet deeply individual, lost continent. Whether you’re lucid dreaming or barely dreaming, want to contact your ancestors or figure out what symbols mean to you, or just like to sit back and watch the weird movie, Oneironauticum helps amp up the experience through collective attention, brings it to the fore of the mind in a way that encourages us all to take a closer look. What’s going on in there? Is there a worthier question?

Before every Oneironauticum, I pile blankets, sheets, pillows, and single futons into my VW van and drive to our venue—the home of one of our participants. Sometimes I host at my place too. People troop in between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., pajamas and dream journals in hand. While we settle in and wait for everyone to arrive, we chat about some oneiro-centric topic. During last August’s session, I brought up hypnagogia and hypnopompia, those in-between stages that bookend sleeping and waking consciousness. I have my best dreams in hypnopompic states, just before I get up in the morning. During hypnopompia, the difference between awake and asleep gets confused, so thoughts and dream intermingle. First I’m in bed considering going to yoga, then I’m on a flying carpet discussing yogic breathing techniques with a chipmunk. I love the delicious drift between consciousness and dream.