Oliver Sacks, the man from Awakenings, about dreaming

“Waking consciousness is dreaming – but dreaming constrained by external reality” 
―Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks, one of my hero’s died August 29 2015. Almost all of us know him from the film ‘Awakenings‘. Using L-Dopa, a precursor to dopamine that is able to cross the blood brain barrier where dopamine is not able to do so. People up who had been in a coma for decades woke up.

But what did neurologist Oliver Sacks – the man who wakes people up – have to say about dreaming?

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks on dreaming #1:

In the book Trauma and dreams edited by Deidre Barret Oliver Sacks wrote:
‘It is scarcely surprising that neurological disorders can alter dreaming either quantitatively or in striking and specific ways. Every practicing neurologist must be aware of this, and yet how rarely do we question our patients about their dreams. Though there is virtually nothing on this subject in literature, I think such questioning can be an important part of the neurological examination, can assist in diagnoses, and can show how a sensitive barometer dreaming may be of neurological health and disease.

Oliver Sacks
Trauma & Dreams

Working in a migraine clinic years ago, it became clear that there was not only a general correlation between the incidence of very intense dreams or nightmares and migraine aura’s but also, not infrequently, an entering of aura phenomena in dreams.
A patient who had focal sensory and motor seizures once dreamed that he was in court, being prosecuted by Freud, who kept on banging his head with a gave as the charges were being read’.

So just like Kasatkin, a Russian psychiatrist who wrote A theory about dreams, Oliver Sacks sees dreams as important for your physical health. Dreams usually give a non symbolic representation of physical problems. Probably because there is a big trauma to the body. When people start to dream in symbols again usually they are dealing with their trauma’s. Aura’s of migraine in waking live turn up as aura’s in dreams, Freud hits a man with migraine on the head (as if to say: ‘will you listen to your dreams now?’).

Oliver Sacks on dreaming #2

In a footnote in his book An Anthropologist on Mars Oliver writes:

Oliver Sacks
An Anthropologist on Mars

Rodolfo Llinás and his colleagues at New York University, comparing the electrophysiological properties of the brain in waking and dreaming, postulate a single fundamental mechanism for both — a ceaseless inner talking between cerebral cortex and thalamus, a ceaseless interplay of image and feeling, irrespective of whether there is sensory input or not. When there is sensory input, this interplay integrates it to generate waking consciousness, but in the absence of sensory input it continues to generate brain states we call fantasy, hallucination, or dreams.
Thus waking consciousness is dreaming — but dreaming constrained by external reality. Credit: gautel.net
And here science meets the ancient presupposition of Dream Yoga, that dreams introduce us to other dimensions of experience. Dreams can be seen as a form of hallucinations, with the brain deprived of sensory input and motor output.

Oliver Sacks was one of the most compassionate doctors of our time. It was his gentleness combined with his sincere care about the well-being of his patients that made him stand out from other neurologists.

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Psychology professor Stanley Krippner about dreams myths and visions

Stanley Krippner

Mindfunda had the honor of interviewing Stanley Krippner, professor in psychology on Saybrook University about his life. You can watch it on my YouTube channel. Don’t forget to sign up because I will be uploading lots of interesting interviews.

Stanley Krippner is a featured speaker on the conference of the International Study for the Association of dreams (IASD) where he will be talking about his work on ptsd – post traumatic stress disorder -. *)

It was a dream of mine that triggered me to sent him an invitation for an interview. I dreamed that I was performing a ritual with my hands. I had to move my hands in synch with Stanley Krippner in my dream. I knew exactly what to do, intuitively and I woke up very happy. With a new sense of trusting my inner self.

Stanley Krippner A life of dreams, myths and visions

If you purchase this book using this link, you will support the good work of Mindfunda

In this book Stanley Krippner, a life of dreams myths &  visions, a picture is painted of a psychology professor who combines a very analytical skill with tact and diplomacy. A rare combination. A lot of well-known scholars contributed a chapter to this book: Allan Leslie Combs, Jurgen Werner. Michael Winkerman, Charles Laughlin, Jean Millay & Suzanne Engelman, Deidre Barret, Daniel Deslaudiers, Faribah Bogzahran, David Feinstein and Deidre Barrett to name a few. This book is filled with wisdom.

Stanley Krippner has explored the field of psychology in all possible realms. He has a special interest in dreams. He has kept a dream journal from a relative young age. His article about how the magnetism of the earth influences dream content is just one of the ways he shows his love for the earth. Growing up in a farmer’s family he was involved in ecological agriculture at an early age. Slug the Bug! was his first ecological product that he sold himself at the local market. He always is very aware of his connection to the earth. His advice to students of psychology is: to stay grounded


This connection to the earth must get nurtured by a believe in magic. In the Mindfunda interview Stanley Krippner talks about how his good friend Rolling Thunder surprised him with some magic. One day a bird was brought to Rolling Thunder, a Cherokee medicine man. His wing was broken. Rolling thunder just took the bird in his hands and it flew away, healed.

Rolling thunder

If you buy this book using this link you will support the good work of Mindfunda 

In the Mindfunda interview you will hear Stanley Krippner talking about that event. The picture on the cover of the book was taken shortly after.

photo @zoom.nl

The interview with Stanley Krippner made perfectly clear that psychology needs grounded people who base their conclusions on observable facts. But that only observable facts are not enough. You have to be open-minded for the magic to do its work. Otherwise the earthly facts would be too dry to consume.

His knowledge about magic (he used to study and perform magic tricks) came into good use when he investigated several paranormal events. A haunted house got analyzed by Stanley who deducted that every time something happened the grandson of the couple that lived in this haunted house was present. It turned out that the grandson wanted a place of his own and creating a story about the house being haunted made people crazy enough to experience weird things.
Magic also played a role when he conducted his experiments with Montague Ullman and Alan Vaughan concerning dream telepathy. The laboratory where he investigated dreaming persons using electrodes to measure their brainwaves was checked by magicians. It are those kind of details that make this man stand out.

I know Stanley Krippner not only from the books he has written but also because I invited him to perform a workshop Personal Mythology in the Netherlands. In the Mindfunda interview Stanley says that finding out your Personal mythology is important. Getting to know yourself better is vital for liking yourself. Liking yourself creates inner peace. inner peace creates the ability to give back to the world. If you want to join the Facebook group Personal Mythology I initiated click here. In this group we talk about mythology, mythological themes that penetrate our lives, we talk about dreams and how we have evolved from old personal mythologies into new mythologies.

There is one thing I have not mentioned yet. Shamanism. Deidre Barrett, in her contribution to the book “Every Tribe’s Wise man” talks about how a supervisee, Amaro Laria found shamans in remote places who all asked him once they heard he was from America: “Do you know Stanley Krippner?”

Stanley talks in the Mindfunda interview about how he used Carlos Casteneda’s hand method to aquire the art of lucid dreaming (for more info about lucid dreaming see my interview with Robert Waggoner).
Like Ralph Metzner he researched and experienced natural means of expanding consciousness and has written several articles about it.

Stanley Krippner gives psychology a new two-sided face. On the one hand he is about facts: analyzing data, reading the latest research. On the other hand he always keeps an eye open for magic. “The one thing I wish that students would do is gather facts about precognitive dreams” he stated in one of the interviews I saw while preparing my Mindfunda interview. Facts, sprinkled with a little touch of magic.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

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