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Observations placeholder

Tholey, Paul and LaBerge, Stephen - Perspectives of the Dream Figures



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Conversation Between Stephen LaBerge and Paul Tholey in July of 1989  - STEPHEN LABERGE, PAUL THOLEY, and BRIGITTE HOLZINGER (Editor)

Perspectives of the Dream Figures

Tholey: One of my hypotheses is that sometimes one cannot remember a dream because the dream figure conscious of the dream state, is not identical with the dream-ego. The central dream character does not necessarily have to be lucid, but he or she cannot be totally unconscious! [Editor’s Note: For a detailed discussion on consciousness in dream characters, see Tholey, 1989.]

LaBerge: Unconscious of what?

Tholey: The dream-ego, which is identical with the waking ego, doesn’t exist in that situation at all.

LaBerge: Let’s assume that Paul is asleep in bed right now. A dream is occurring. We know that normally you would see a picture, but we don’t know yet if other dream characters, such as me, actually see something or if we merely look to you as if we were seeing. That’s the question we want to answer. Do dream characters see the world?

Tholey: The experiments have shown that the other dream character, who sits facing me at the other side of the table, can paint or draw a picture of me. But, after all, this is a metaphysical question which also inspires psychophysiological experiments.

LaBerge: I think that experiments are necessary, but I think you can explain the same facts by the assumption that there are unconscious processors.

Tholey: Yes, but you can also experience phenomenologically two egos, two sides with two different viewing perspectives.

LaBerge: That interests me very much, because I have never experienced having two separate selves. I have had more than one dream body—here is me and there is another Stephen—but "I" was only at one place at a time.

Tholey: That’s the novel thing. The other experience has often been observed as well. We have had two bodies quite often, two ego-bodies.

LaBerge: Oh, ego-bodies! Bodies are different. The interesting and novel thing is the two selves, the two perspectives. How easy is it for you to produce that?

Tholey: Usually that’s only possible in an out-of-body-experience situation. And then it works in only a third of all cases. It happens when in the dream I cut the dream-self character. If I don’t cut exactly in the middle, I only get one I. I cut the ego-core vertically and horizontally above the abdominal section. The ego-core is the origin of sight (Sicht), the origin of the will, of directing attention of thoughts and of speech. The ego-core can leave the body and can exist as only a point. Although it doesn’t have a mouth, it can still speak.

LaBerge: Yes, but can it move its eyes?

Tholey: No.

LaBerge: That could present a problem. In order to study this, one would want to be able to mark when it happens.

Tholey: So when I leave the body, let’s say in the sleep laboratory, the EEG is nearly normal and the EMG is totally relaxed. I am not paralyzed, though.

LaBerge: So, what stage of sleep are you in?

Tholey: It’s a very extraordinary sleep state. The researchers in the sleep lab couldn’t recognize it!

LaBerge: They would probably call it a "sleep disorder" then!

Tholey: I remember once when I slept in the lab, I was in a lucid state two times for five hours during that night. I was able to direct all the dreams!

LaBerge: I am still interested in the stage of sleep you were in. When you say, "I was lucid the whole night," do you mean that you have some way of knowing that you were lucid for every minute of the night or that it would happen again and again throughout the night?

Tholey: The physiological data and the phenomenological data prove it. I also signaled in between. There is another important thing that happened. I had the experience that, all of a sudden, I was awake and in a totally different situation and then, all of a sudden, in the dream situation again. I restabilized the dream mainly with eye movements and movements of the body.

LaBerge: Does that mean, that you had one eye movement every 30 seconds throughout these five hours?

Tholey: No, during these five hours I wasn’t restabilizing the dream consciously. I know other people in Frankfurt who are also capable of doing that, but only phenomenologically.

LaBerge: There is a question about this claim—when you say, "I know I was conscious during the whole period of time." The problem is that we are not conscious of the fact that we are not conscious. So we can have blank moments and not know it. And that is where the signalling could answer the question, but not necessarily for your experience!

Tholey: No, this was not an unconscious state! I have signalled and the people in the sleep lab have told me that I was so totally relaxed that I couldn’t signal with the fingers. I would have probably been able to signal only with the eyes.

Holzinger: I would like to know more about the state which you called "sleep disorder" before.

Tholey: I apparently have mixed up all known sleep stages. Therefore, they say, I’m not the ordinary Middle European and I am a champion dreamer. They had no idea what was going on.

LaBerge: As I was understanding it, it was not a normal sleep stage, but what was it close to?

Tholey: I am sure that before I learned lucid dreaming, I had the same sleep stages as everybody else. It was not a pure REM stage. They haven’t shown the records to me because they want to publish it themselves. They viewed me as only a subject. I was angry about that and therefore we decided to set up our own sleep lab.

LaBerge: Well, I see nothing wrong with publishing it together, that makes sense, but I am surprised that they wouldn’t let you have a copy or see the information.

Tholey: A student showed me some data briefly, but I wasn’t allowed to go through all the data. The professor hasn’t shown the data to me at all. There is hardly any communication in Germany between the sleep researchers and dream researchers, not to mention the lucid dream researchers.

LaBerge: Well, just because you can’t say what exact stage of sleep it’s in, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t, for example, record the EEG on a computer and study the amount of different waves in your records and characterize it. If you have a new way organizing your sleep, that would be interesting to study in itself.

The source of the experience

Tholey, Paul

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items


Activities and commonsteps



Dreaming and lucid dreaming


Lucid dreaming