Over lunch with several colleagues, we talked about a phenomenon noted by Andreas Mavromatis in his book Hypnagogia, the twilight state between waking and sleeping. (We’ve all been there but usually very briefly.) Most of the time a distinct intermediate zone does not register in our awareness, and we are, as they say, out like a light. But often enough, while still holding to a dim waking awareness, images of a phantasmal nature appear in the field of consciousness. Still anchored in our waking state, we can observe our own hallucinations.
So, in this twilight state, you experience yourself as existing simultaneously in two worlds: the waking world of your physical room and the world of scenes and phantoms you meet in the hypnagogic state.
My bouts of insomnia increased the length, vividness, and frequency of these states. In effect, I learned to prolong the intermediate state of hypnagogia. Often it seemed the whole night would pass without any real sleep, but for some reason I never felt tired as a result.
I was interested in the visions, highly detailed, that made their presence known.
During these excursions, I would find myself very close to human faces, each completely alive-looking and unique. The figures were mobile, as if I were immersed in a crowd, some of the faces being beside my face. When I fixed my attention on one of these faces, man or woman, it became more vivid and suffused with light. This effect, although fascinating, was also distracting.
They mostly seemed absorbed in themselves, with slight indications of awareness of my presence. A few times I felt a twinge of discomfort when I became an object of attention. I would back off and wake up. But when I closed my eyes the figure would still be there. Sometimes the face would remain visible after opening my eyes.
Figures approached me that seemed menacing, and a few times it felt like several of them made a move toward me—again I would recoil and wake up. There was a feeling of proximity to these presences that made me uneasy.
In discussing this with colleagues, I raised the question about the nature of these phantoms that populate the world of hypnagogia. It felt as if I was being noticed as I might notice a homeless person on a bench or a stranger crossing the street. Most of the figures seemed busy with themselves and unaware of me. I had the feeling I was in a real place with its own existence.
Could I go more deeply into the hypnagogic world? It occurred to me that if we want to interact with the “other” world, it might be helpful to ask—to address the agent you would like to communicate with. Mediums do and I recall doing it with friends on the Ouija Board.
“Is there anybody there?” I asked empty space.
No use being shy with the spirits. I had mentioned to my colleagues how on several occasions I had addressed my departed brother, Stephan, suggesting I would like to hear from him—or see him. I would, in fact, be grateful for any scrap of evidence of his continued existence.
We had, in fact, more than once discussed stories reported in my book about life after death, Experiencing the Next World Now, at a time when the “next” world was for him in sight. These memories and my discussion with colleagues about interrogating the dead seems to have triggered something curious.
That night I stayed up rather late, attending to a string of mundane matters. It was quite cold. I turned down the heat and climbed into bed. Unable to fall asleep, I flicked on the radio, soon turned it off, and then felt sleep coming on. But instead of just dropping off, I slipped into hypnagogia and had an experience that for me was unique for that particular state. One feature was the speed with which it was over.
I looked up and there was the fully recognizable face and figure of my brother. He then brushed up against me, in one instant a perfect snuggle and embrace, and then swished away. Nothing the apparition might have said could have convinced me more that what I experienced was the presence--even a kind of distinct odor—of my brother, for some years gone from this world.
This was the first time I was ever actively approached and “physically” touched by one of the denizens of hypnagogia. Was it my brother who responded to my calling on him? Or was it my obliging subliminal self wishing to console me with a perfect fantasy? On the basis the experience alone, I couldn’t possibly say. What I suppose I need to do is carry on the dialogue.