LOGOS VIII: A Few (Failed) Experiments in (Lucid) Dreaming

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Mugwort can supposedly improve dream recall and lucidity.

It’s been said by a number of people, especially within the herbalist community, that mugwort (various plants within the genus Artemisia are called mugwort, but usually the term refers to Artemisia vulgaris) improves or changes the quality of dreams, improves dream recall, and can even possibly induce lucid dreams. I’ve been told, and I have read, that certain Native American tribes once used mugwort for the purpose of enhancing dreams.

Lucid dreaming is often said to be a potential pre-requisite—sometimes, though not always, necessary—to gaining the ability to astrally project: in more scientific terms, to willfully induce an out-of-body experience and explore the out-of-body state utilizing the imagination, or a substratum of the imagination. (That’s my best way of putting it for now, and my understanding of the concept may change in the future.)

Therefore I became interested in the use of oneirogens, or dream potentiators, substances that enhance or change the quality of dreams in some way.

Astral projection, and the mastery of traveling on the so-called astral plane (to the skeptic a space generated by the mind during out-of-body experiences), is a necessity for the neophyte (1°=10) grade in the A∴A∴. I am currently two steps away from this grade, and although that may sound like it’s close, it’s not at all: the journey from student to neophyte takes a lot of time and energy and work. As a student who is still going through the reading material necessary to pass the examination required to become a probationer (0°=0), I can tell you this is a real struggle even at the outset.

Anyway, I thought I might try and get a head start on astral projection, given that it is indeed a requirement for the neophyte, and if lucid dreaming aids in opening the door to astral projection, why not pursue that?

I decided to conduct experiments using ground mugwort leaf that I procured online, in order to see if I could induce a lucid dream state.

This experiment of mine was unfortunately inconclusive. I made mugwort tea with a large amount of the ground leaf of the plant (Artemisia vulgaris, known as common mugwort, riverside wormwood, wild wormwood, and sailor’s tobacco, among other names) and drank it before bed, went to sleep, and noticed no change in the quality of my dreams or my dream recall. I certainly didn’t enter a lucid state.

A second experiment involved me smoking the plant: it has a decent taste when smoked, which can’t be said of the tea, which is more bitter. I smoked it before bed, went to sleep, and again noticed no change in the quality of my dreams or dream recall.

Mugwort is claimed to be mildly psychoactive, potentially causing mild sedation and euphoria, but in my experience none of that has occurred with the use of this herb.

It may be that a higher dose is needed, though I’m guessing that a tincture or extract may work better, and if not, that this herb’s ability to affect dreams is simply overblown and I should move on to other substances.

I have, in fact, used other dream potentiators in an attempt to change or enhance the quality of my dreams, and ultimately to reach the lucid state.

Once or twice I used a nicotine patch: this is said by many that, if worn at night, during sleep, to induce vivid dreams. In my experience a four milligram patch did nothing to enhance or alter my dreams in any noticeable way. However, I blame this on myself: my nicotine tolerance is extremely high—I vape 30 milligrams 50 milligrams of nicotine salts all day, every day (I admit I’m terribly addicted), so the idea that nicotine would affect me in any substantial way that I wouldn’t expect is, in a way, absurd, unless the dose were very high. That is why, like with mugwort, I believe I should try again, but with a more substantial dosage: perhaps next time I will use two or three patches. We’ll have to see.

Using a nicotine patch during sleep can supposedly improve the vividness of dreams.

Choline bitartrate is an essential nutrient for the production of acetylcholine in the brain. It has been said to affect dreams and be a mainstay for lucid dreamers. I took 1 gram of this supplement before bed and noticed no change in my dreams or dream recall. Again, dose may be a factor.

Choline as a supplement promotes the production of acetylcholine in the brain, which affects dreaming.

Lastly, valerian: I have both smoked valerian and drank it as a tea. I noticed no effect when smoking it, but after drinking two teabags worth of it on several occasions I have always become tired. It is certainly good at making one fall asleep. But once one is asleep I haven’t noticed that it changes much of anything. Again, perhaps this is related to dose, but I’m not holding my breath.

Valerian is a natural sleep aid that is said by some to affect the quality of dreams.

I should mention that I am on a few psychiatric medications at the moment: Latuda, Cymbalta, and Wellbutrin. These may be altering or suppressing the ability of the substances I’m using to change the quality of my dreams from doing so, as these are either antidepressants (Wellbutrin and Cymbalta) or antipsychotics (Latuda).

The only oneirogen that I have had success with is melatonin, and that was a number of years ago. Unfortunately the success resulted in a very negative experience. It wasn’t quite a lucid dream, but it remains the most vivid dream I’ve ever had, and one of the most, if not the most, horrifying.

I took nine milligrams of melatonin before bed and went to sleep. I dreamed I was in the foyer of a white marble palace. There was a long staircase against the right wall that lead up to a balcony, and on the stairs stood a number of people, most of whom I didn’t know, including a boy who seemed of South Asian descent. He wore a turban and cream-colored tunic. My cousin was standing on the stairs and invited me to go up them. I did. I went through a door along the balcony into a bedroom and there was a girl there, naked on the bed. My cousin watched as I fucked this random woman, then a man in a top hat and tuxedo entered the room, bowed, and told me I had to leave. I was transported to a long, tall hallway of the same white marble as the foyer. I stared down the hallway and saw that lead off into total blackness. Along one wall was a massive painting of psychedelically-colored arms of a squid or octopus, shifting colors with blinking, multi-colored lights on its suckers. Then Jimi Hendrix jumped out of the painting, thrashing at his guitar and yelling as he landed on his feet. Then something inexplicably awful happened: from the blackness down the hallway came a flying specter with a hideous face so awful that I can’t describe it, and it grabbed me and kept flying down the hallway with me in its arms, screaming in my face, the whole time me looking at its horrific visage. Then I woke up in a total panic. I didn’t know if anything was real for a good minute or so after I woke, thinking I was still dreaming, but after maybe 10 minutes I calmed down. Still, I was shaken and had trouble getting back to sleep that night.

Melatonin is a sleep aid that often affects the quality of dreams.

I have yet to experience a dream so vivid, realistic, and terrifying.

In any case, I will continue to explore oneirogens and techniques to induce lucid dreams, improve dream recall and vividness, and eventually induce astral projection if possible. And, of course, stay tuned for posts about that.

Let’s just hope these future dreams, powerful as they may become, don’t turn into nightmares.

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