Tinker Bell advised Peter Pan to look for her in "the place between sleep and awake." It is amazing how little attention is given to this highly creative space in the work of most sleep and dream researchers, and how it is sorely neglected in many modern lives.
Andreas Mavromatis published an excellent scholarly introduction to what is possible in Hypnagogia:The Unique State of Consciousness between Wakefulness in Sleep in 1991, but his example has not fired up the academic community. In my own book The Secret History of Dreaming, I recount how so many scientific and creative breakthroughs have been made in this liminal space that it can be called the "solution state". In my book Dreamgates I offer a vigorous invitation to would-be lucid dreamers and spiritual adventurers to spend much more time in this twilight state and to use it as the launch pad for conscious dream travel. In my memoir The Boy Who Died and Came Back I describe how, in this state, I have often had access to greater minds and been treated to ongoing tutorials with intelligences I feel to be beyond this world.
I have been reviewing some fascinating fieldwork by Australian educators that illustrates how the liminal state is viewed in Aboriginal tradition as a privileged place of encounter with ancestral spirits and co-creation.
The Yanyuwa, an Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, prize "dream state songs". These are given to them during encounters with the spirits in a state of consciousness beyond both ordinary dreams and prophetic dreams (which they recognize as separate categories). Their word for this third and higher state of dreaming is mawurrangantharra. It is entered in the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep.
A person who enters mawurrangantharra finds that boundaries between humans and spirit realms are fluid. The Yanyuwa say that a person in this state has “left the world” and is “deaf” to it. Through contact with ancestral spirits in this state, new songs are created. They are regarded as exceptionally powerful. A mermaid song may rise from the deep in this way, and become part of sacred ceremony. Through dream songs, the relationship between humans and the spirit world is maintained and refreshed.
Source: Elizabeth Mackinlay and J.J. Bradley, “Many songs, many voices, and many dialogues: A conversation about Yanyuwa performance practice in a remote Aboriginal community” (2003) in Rural Society, vol. 13, pp. 228– 243.
Image: Yanyuwa Body Art by John Veeken.