It happened again last night. I was rushing around between cities and airports in Europe, and realized I did not have directions for a house where I had an appointment. I decided to call the people I was visiting, and found that the cell phone in my pocket was not my regular one. It had very different features, and I could not initially figure out how to make the call. When I finally reached my destination, I glanced in a mirror and saw a different face looking back of me – that of a handsome young man in his twenties with lustrous curling black hair.
The face in the mirror woke me up to the fact that I was dreaming and not in Kansas any more. I stayed lucid for a while inside the dream scene, then got out of bed to make sure I did not lose a mass of details, place names and personal names that are only dimly familiar to me in waking life, when familiar at all. I’ll be doing some detective work with these clues in the effort to understand why I assumed this young man’s identity and body form in the dream.
For many dreamers, it’s a classic moment of dawning lucidity and self-awareness: to look in a mirror and see a different self. I’ve been doing this, off and on, for as long as I can remember. Glancing through old journals just now, I notice a series of dreams I recorded over a period of nine months some twenty years ago in which I seemed to be in the body of a vigorous black man with dreadlocks. Again, I first noticed that I was in a different dream body when I glanced in a mirror.
Sometimes we find ourselves in the life situations and apparently the bodies of people living in other times, past or future. We may have entered the experience of our ancestors, or may be inside a “past” life or “future” life.
I once dreamed I was in a Hall of Mirrors where I was able to look at the features of fourteen different selves, living in different times. These fourteen selves were revealed in mirrors of different types, arranged around a a great stone bowl containing water whose mirror-bright surface, illuminated by light from above, showed me a central identity.
I’ve had “body-hopping” dreams in which I’ve found myself briefly jumping from one personality to another. I remember a very vivid and sensory night of lucid dreaming in which I slipped into the body of a black basketball player (fun but edgy), then into that of a prosperous Midwest golfer (boring!) and at last into that of an eccentric independent scholar who appeared to be an older version of my present self (delightful, but I felt the pain or his aging joints).
Dreams in which we enter the situation of someone very different can expand our humanity.
Body-hopping is a common feature of psychic dreaming. The most gifted psychic dreamer routinely finds herself inside heads, and looking through the eyes, of a wide variety of characters, some of whom turn out to be principals in news stories and crime dramas that become public knowledge only after her dreams.
Slipping into another person’s perspective in this way is very common among siblings and other relatives in close-knit families. There’s a need here to pause and ask both (1) what part of me is like my sister/daughter/nephew and (2) have I entered the situation of that relative so I’m seeing something – maybe of the future – that they may need to know? Let’s never forget that because dreams are multi-layered and because our dream memories reflect experience in realities that have different physics from our everyday world, several orders of explanation may be relevant and are not mutually exclusive.
Sometimes there is the sense, as in the old TV series “Quantum Leap,” that we have been catapulted into the life of another person at a moment of crisis, on assignment to help that individual make the right choice and “put right what once went wrong” (in the words of the scriptwriters). I once dreamed that in order to save a young woman from being raped, I needed to enter the mind of a strong man in her town who could put her would-be attacker to flight.
Experiences of this kind may lead us to speculate about our relations with counterparts in different places and times within our soul families. Joan Grant and others who knew what they were talking about have suggested that some of us may have several soul siblings living in our current world. These are aspects of a shared identity that fragmented somewhere in our previous history, so that we are reborn not just as one person, but as several. I’m an agnostic on this theory, keen to study as much data as possible from the only source that counts: first-hand experience.