Hypnagogia or Revelation

Explanations of near sleep hallucinations as a normal function of brain activity

Transition in and out of sleep often produces a wide variety of sensory experiences from several to one modalities. Most frequent, as in the case of my spouse, is auditory sounds. People will frequently hear their name called out or hear a loud clashing sound or a mild whisper. Knocking and loud bangs are also fairly common.

In my case I typically see down a fleeting, extending corridor. The images are sometimes clear, sometimes darkened, and as I become aware of them they disappear. Usually this is in color, but occasionally black and white. Once in a while they are very vivid hallucinations I can recall shortly after wakening, but usually not.

Thought processes on the edge of sleep tend to differ radically from those of ordinary wakefulness. For example, something that you agreed with in a state of Hypnagogia (excellent read) may seem completely ridiculous to you in an awake state. On a different direction though, many (including myself here) are able to solve problems in this state. Edison, Tesla, and other inventors have reported ideas or problems they have solved in this condition. The brain is fascinating!

Also, research has shown that during the hypnagogic state subjects are very open to suggestion and EEG readings show elevated responsiveness to sound around the onset of sleep.

Hypnagogic state is also frequently re-created with the use of psychedelic pharmacology. Very similar findings across the spectrum between near sleep and drug induced experiences create these visionary experiences.

Hypnagogic phenomena may also be interpreted as visions, OBE’s, astral glides, prophecies, premonitions, apparitions, or enlightenment, depending on the experiencers’ beliefs and those of their culture.

There are some famous hypnogogians who “heard” the voice within themselves; Abraham, Noah, Muhammad, Moses, Paul, Joseph Smith and so on. Happy to be living at a time where we have valid explanation for hallucinatory experience that precludes sleep. If there is a god, he’s right between your ears. It is us. Top that off with a little peyote or LSD and you’ve got yourself a church.

WARNING: Images can be quite complex and detailed, and may not make any sense. Enter Religion

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

53 thoughts on “Hypnagogia or Revelation”

  1. Is it Hypnogogia if you are lying on a bed reading, and your dead mother walks through the door, wearing a filmy airy nightgown and carrying a lit candle in a curlicue candle holder? I was eight years old when this happened. I still do not believe in ghosts, but I saw what I saw that night.

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    1. I would suggest that is a different topic but, I do believe had you never heard of ghosts prior to the sighting you would not have seen it. Someone here should do a ghost post. I would have a couple questions for you first. Is the candle also a ghost? In the spirit realm do they have immaterial ghost clothing? I would think if the ghost was real it would be naked. Can a spirit hold a physical object and still walk through walls or disappear holding such physical object? The power of suggestion and planting seeds in young minds has a powerful effect even later in adulthood. I posted about apparitions before. I’ll see if I can dig it up. There were some great comments.

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      1. I cannot remember if I knew what ghosts were thought to be at the time, but I would think I had at least heard of them. Yes, the candle was ethereal, not physical, but I have since seen such candleholders in historical movies. I have never seen one in real life. As for the clothing, it was like some kind of sheer lingerie, but it billowed around her and covered her body.
        She had been dead probably a couple months at this time. Before she died she often came around in a cotton nightgown, holding a flashlight, checking to see all 10 children were in their beds.
        The kicker in this scenario was if she found me reading she would take my book away, but this time she didn’t even look at me or the book, she just walked in, looked at the bed, turned around and left. Could be a lot of things, but I figure a figment of my mind. She had been my part-time protector against my physically abusive father. Probably I had had a bad day.

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  2. I don’t experience it much now, but during my teens and early twenties I experienced Hypnagogia and sleep paralysis quite often. Back then it scared me quite a bit, and the hallucinations feel very real until you wake up. I don’t blame people for believing in aliens and ghosts before science came around.

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    1. It’s a curious phenomenon. When one person has a weird experience he asks why. Then through research we get some pretty good explanations. The other says it’s god and that’s the end of it. Makes me wonder about the founders of religions being very convinced about what they saw, and in reality it happens to everyone as a function of a changing, processing, learning mind.

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  3. My spouse once had a “hypnopompic vision”, which is more commonly known as sleep paralysis. It’s kind of like the reverse of sleepwalking. When you sleepwalk, the paralysis that’s supposed to come with dreaming doesn’t turn on properly. With a hypnopompic event, as you wake from sleep, the dream paralysis doesn’t shut off right away, the way it usually does. So you’re at least semi-awake, but can’t move. People often perceive this as though it’s a presence in the room with them. My spouse thought that he had been visited by a ghost, until he learned about this phenomenon, and realized that it’s just a brain fart.

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      1. I think it was also behind the “demonic visitations” from back in the middle ages. We have a weird experience, and our brain latches on to whatever is available from our culture as a suitable explanation. (Similary, Hildegard of Bingen, from the 1100’s, thought she was having visions from god, but her descriptions match very well with a migraine aura. I get those too!).

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  4. Religious visions during sleep states that are assumed valid remind me of children (and some adults) who are mistreated in a dream by someone they know and in walking life remain upset with them. And I can attest to having interesting dreams/visions of things to wake and realize they were the key to solving a problem or professional in some research or project. Great topic and article!

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    1. You are referring to “spectral evidence”. The same evidence used in the Salem witch trial is the same evidence/backbone of religion. All based on powerful dreams.

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  5. Very interesting post. I hear the loud noise on occasion, like a bang, and I’m amazed that our black lab isn’t up and barking. Of course, now I understand why.

    Your “Enter Religion” comment is perfect. I remember reading some time ago an article along the same lines regarding where those ancient “voices” came from. The article posed that the old boys were simply hearing their consciousness, but not understanding the nature of their own brain, they assumed it was god. The same goes for the Homeric Muse. The poets couldn’t believe it was their own mind that came up with those wonderful verses that rang in their heads…it had to be something “out there.”

    I think you hit on a very important point about human nature. We still, even now, can not accept the fact that we are intelligent, that we are the very god we so desire. That fact absolutely amazes me.

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    1. What an excellent comment Paul. There is an explanation for most everything at this point. Some good research and data explains most, but not all facets, but the faithful just aren’t looking.

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      1. It simply CANNOT be denied that those folks who wrote the bible knew absolutely NOTHING about the brain and its many and varied activities. So how else could they possible explain things that didn’t makes sense EXCEPT … god(s). Yet try to convince a believer of this. *sigh*

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    2. Socrates โ€” ‘He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is an incorrigible fool.’

      A simple “I don’t know” would have be okay, the faithful don’t have to bring god everytime

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      1. My wife has had similar experience as Ubi’s husband. Hearing loud noises or her name called out. It’s all very puzzling until you realize no sound was made and it happens in some way to nearly everyone

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    3. Dear Jim and Paul and whomever,
      I must take umbrage with the “a little… LSD, and you got yourself a church.” I would prefer you say “and you can create yourself a church,” or some such less determinant phrasology. I am of the LSD spiritual experiential variety, and the LAST thing I want to do is create a gathering of followers. My purpose is merely to infer, or suggest, never to write anything on stone tablets, or golden books. Please never suggest always. Thank you.

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      1. IMO these strange occurrences are difficult for individuals to process because they can feel very real. Additional input and varied experiences and research can at the very least show we are not alone in our experience, and at the very best show varied, viable explanations through these discussions. Neurotheology is making huge strides in explaining varied brain activity. IMO, the very spiritual experiences people attribute to a god, LIFE, revelation, etc, is a very anticlimactic us. Our brains are the source. I would suggest to you that ever learning, processing, changing, calculating and information storage of our brains recollect things in an uncanny way from time to time. Sleep is also a mechanism to wash and refresh the brain, and during those times of cleanout we are subject to unfiltered oddities preparing for that process. That is also a scientific field of study.

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        1. Hey, Jim,
          I’m betting you will not be surprised when I say I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Science can measure brain activity all it wants, but it cannot tell us why we can go against our brains when the need arises. Our “reasoning ability” allows us to take facts presented to us by our brains, and after some consideration, totally ignore what we think the brain wants us to do. In trying to describe this very concept I am denying my brain what it sees as its right to be in control. The brain is basically a computer, except that the garbage thst goes in has no effect on the wonders of the imagination that come out. You know the old saying, Go with your gut. It does not say, Go with your brain for a reason. What the brain wants, that is not always the best thing for the being. A computer makes decisions based on known data, so does the brain. But the mind makes decisions not only by looking at the facts, or even extrapolating expectable results, but by connecting dots no brain could even consider. Put another way, the brain is stuck inside a box; the mind can step outside of the box that contains the box that contains the box that the brain is stuck in. A programmer can add more information to a program to allow the computer to make better choices, but only the mind can tell the brain how to make the best choice. Science cannot measure or recreate that ability.
          As for processing strange occurences, most people don’t even try to process them. It is easier to go with the flow. But that is not how all beings who encounter strange events process those events. Using myself as an example, because I am the expert on how my mind works, I spent over 50 years examing two events that happened 10 days apart when I was still in my teens. I could have taken the easy way out, but that is not me. I need to know, but even more importantly, I need to understand. What you are trying to do is to know by looking at the facts as Science sees them. I am not just trying, I am learning how to look at events as I experienced them, and understand how and hopefully why they happen. All this, of course, is just my opinion, but it is an educated opinion, and it takes into account my ability to look behind the visible facts, and condider facts few people can even think to see.
          By the way, thank you for your comments. I find them highly useful, because they are highly challenging…

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          1. Likewise, thank you as well. My dilema with separating the brain and mind, the conscious and subconscious, gut feelings and intuition, is you have none of that without the brain. Brain injury through trauma or disease process changes personalities and temperament. Nice guys become villains and murderers because of a tumor, then return to nice guys after surgery. (University Texas Tower shooter). In my mind right now the mind and brain are of one source performing complimentary functions of thought. Throw in hormones and stress and various inputs and choices and we serve ourselves to the best of our information. In spite of what we are taught, and what we believe, we are ruled by hormones that effect our brain/mind. Even the most disciplined of people go against everything they believe because of a gland. There’s more to brain function than thought, storage, reason, and purpose.

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            1. This is all very true, Jim. and I will not dispute any of it–on a physical level. I think and hope you understand that I am not trying to convince you of anything, just like I know you are not trying to convince me of anything. We can differ in our opinions with respect and understanding (although I may just have lost an internet friend for making the same assumption with her), but time will tell.
              For the moment, I would like to take you back one step further–one would not have the use of their brain if they did not have life. People tell me love makes the world go ’round. I tell them life makes the universe go ’round, and in fact the whole cosmos. Without life, there is nothing. Not even love! But if a lifeless rock were still here, without life there would be no way of knowing the rock was here.
              For me, the brain is like that rock. It can do a lot of things, but without a mind to drive it, the brain might as well be a rock. IMO.
              Science too is kind of like a rock. It can only study itself. No matter what Science thinks it is studying, all it really is studying is its own reactions and observations of itself. We can say we are studying the rock, but all we are studying is our perception of it.
              This gives us nothing. We can study the same rock for a million years, but studying it does not help us to perceive the rock’s perception of itself, or an understanding of what that rock really is.
              (To play devil’s advocate for just a second, Science cannot even tell if the rock is alive because the only kind of life we can recognize is the kind of life that motivates us.) Do I think the rock is alive? No, I do not. But neither am I about to deny that rock life if in fact that life is totally alien to all other forms of life on this planet as we know it.
              In my last comment I was comparing the brain to a computer, and you have now forced me to look at what programs are affecting the brain, and I admit I overlooked things such as hormones and feelings and physical senses, and so on. Maybe even emotions, but I am not convinced emotions are not just strong feelings that we are brainwashed to believe are uncontrolable. No matter, IMO they are still programs, and the brain can only function as a motivator WITH A MOTIVE FORCE or ENERGY.
              The brain is not it.
              What is? That is a whole possible field of study.

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            2. I could share my beliefs or intuitions about some of these spiritual things, but I have no particular evidence for that other than preference of idea. I do however, know everything is alive to some measurable level. All the elements have calculable half lives and every element is in a constant struggle to stay intact, hanging on as it were , holding together bonding with other elements to do so in many many cases. Even though the halflife may be millions of years, decomposition or death is in their future. Therefore they are alive at this point. What they feel or see is conjecture, but there is noise in there. We just don’t know what it’s saying.

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            3. As I said, I hope, I will not deny anything life as I know it or do not know it to anything, but inanimate matter is called that because it is not visibly animated. Until further notice that is where I draw the line… for now.

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            4. Another example of your quest appears to have been understood by the ancient Egyptians. By tapping the thalamus we may be able to peek at the source of life as you refer. The Horace Eye, used as a symbol in Egyptian culture as a center of enlightenment. The eye was also broken into six basic components, each representing a different sense; smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight and thought. The thalamus is the part of the human brain which translates all incoming signals from our senses. This part of the midbrain is identical to the depictions of ancient Egypt. Not sure if you were familiar with this, but this appears to be a very old, and possibly well understood in yonder days.

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            5. Nope, I have never encountered anything that calls thought a “sense,” but I don’t see how anyone can even think it could be. The first five senses are all physical, and depend on physical interactions with the brain. We “sense” something, and our brain reacts to that something. Thought is, at the very least, uncaused by any particular thing, though that may not have been true in our early history.
              Close down all your physical senses (as in a sensory deprivation tank), and you can still think. Thought is a completely different process.
              But be that as it may, the process of thought does cause measurable brainwaves. However, there is no way to measure what the mind is thinking about.

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            6. The point is, by manipulating or stimulating the thalamus it was thought to open the connections to the unseen realms. Whether that is hallucination or an actual process is where it gets hard to determine. They called it the “third eye”. Descartes called the thalamus the root of the soul. Having used hallucinogenics you would be a better judge of whether that manipulation causes a factual result or a realistic hallucination. From your search I would guess it was very real. I see it probable that we have lost a connection we had in days gone by, and what may have been a well known portal to visit LIFE or not remains to be seen. I do interpret things from my studies as things were much more advanced, and much stranger back in the day than we give them credit for.

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            7. Aha, there I agree with you totally. Before we invented gods, we were much more in touch with our “pre-birth” selves, or however you might want to describe “the period between death and birth.”
              And as you say, it was very real to me. Though watching molecules of LSD break down the wall between my mind and the escape hatch to other planes of existence was possibly a mental metaphor [*see below]. Whatever that was, it was amazing to watch, especially the first time, as I did not know what was happening.
              As for the “Third Eye” allegation (my word, not yours), it was a patently different experience than what I felt the few.,, times I may have experienced such vision.
              From my understanding the Third Eye looks outward at the ethereal reality on earth, while my vision was from a cellular point of view, *one cell of my brain watching what was happening inside my brain. This idea resonates with my belief that every living cell in every living body (with the possible exception of bones, teeth, hair and nails, etc.) is a living being on itns own terms…

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            8. Its been great following this brain-mind conversation

              I have always thought of the brain and mind as kind of a hardware-software specifically a CPU-operating system relationship
              Where the glands, hormones, sense organs, muscles, bones are kind of input output devices

              Just like it is virtually impossible to separate the software from the hardware I feel it’s the same for the brain and mind

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            9. Great analogy Jonathon. It is all electricity. Our computer is organic and made from the same available elements but is mostly water and fat. Simply Amazing.

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  6. Interesting topic. Regarding ghosts in the comments above, the two people I know who think they ‘might’ have had some sort of experience also happen to be the two most skeptical people I know… Who knows? Again, probably the brain.

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    1. I have seen images a couple of times or (shapes of past energies) whatever they are called, in a house I moved into years ago. I don’t believe it was a ghost, but some repeat of a past habit. I talked to the previous homeowner whose husband died in the house, and she said he would come in the house through the front door after work, check the thermostat, then go downstairs to his private room. This is what I saw exactly, although it was not a recognizable person, but the shape of persons shadow. Interesting, but not convincing of ghost or spirit.

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      1. I think they call those “residual hauntings,” which means exactly what you described–basically some sort of recording of energy from the past. Very neat, but mind boggling.

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  7. I don’t know if I have ever had a sleep experience that I would call “spiritual” in any way. But I have had them. I agree with the brain is fascinating. The mind, too.

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  8. Hearing your name being called when no one’s actually calling you is sign of a healthy mind, says some random website.๐Ÿ˜‰
    I experience it sometimes.
    Do you ever feel like you’re being watched from behind?

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    1. Not often, but some certain areas of the wilderness I have had that feeling. Like when being stalked by a Panther. We are able to sense certain things when we need it I suppose

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        1. Depends on the upbringing, culture and traditions. Latin America everyone believes in ghosts because everyone believes in ghosts. Pretty superstitious.

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