Lucid dreaming and astral traveling are in what I think of as the liminal space between pagan practices and new age mysticism. Not to judge either path, but one tends to weave the dreamscape into an overall practice while the other seems to see it as a self-contained experience that is the beginning and the end of consideration. If you're coming to Facing North for reviews and guidance, you are already in the target demographic for Samantha Fey's "The Awake Dreamer: A Guide to Lucid Dreaming, Astral Travel, and Mastering the Dreamscape," and as such there's no reason for disclaimers like "if you believe in this sort of thing" or similar. This book is very much about what it says it is. However, there's one thing that put me off on the wrong foot immediately, and may do so for you as well.
Samantha Fey has serious cred within her field. She teaches online, has at least two podcasts running currently, and seems involved in the community of similar practitioners. All of this is by way of saying that whatever issues the book may have, there's no reason to think that Fey isn't the real deal. So what's my problem with the book? The vibe is uncomfortably close to the "prosperity gospel" that undermines so much of mainstream Christianity these days. We are associated with famous 'soul travelers' at the beginning, and in these famous folk their tangible, professional successes are often highlighted. Paul McCartney dreamed the lyrics to 'Yesterday'. Napoleon Hill, author of multiple best-selling books, was encouraged by Abraham Lincoln to keep collaborating with a council of deceased advisors he had developed. As Fey writes it, '[h]e did just that and went on to pen over a dozen bestselling books. This last is the preface to encouraging the reader to create their own such council. Are we told specifically that we will become bestselling authors if we do this? Of course not... but words on a page are not placed there by accident. Why are these two ideas placed next to each other if not to signal the success that will come from following this advice? In another section, the author describes awaking from a lucid dream to describe a vision of their grandmother who had appeared in luxurious finery. Again, I'm not here to shiv the author with accusations; let's take for granted that the event happened as described. Once again, though, it is a story of envisioning Chanel suits and idealized hairstyles.
The borrowed glory of others is another facet of this New Age prosperity gospel that is woven throughout the book. Carl Jung is name-checked numerous times. He's one of the famous soul travelers. His notion of the collective unconscious is used as a metaphor for more metaphysical models of energy, even though Jung would probably say that the reverse is true; that any perceived astral travel or global energy webs are actually your subsconscious trying to communicate with you via symbolism. Credit where credit is due, Fey does not dismiss or minimize all notions of the dark side of the dreamscape. In chapter five, "Things That Go Bump in the Night", they go into detail about nightmares and ominous visions and how these can be worked with. They even call out early teachers of theirs who exhibited a "wholly positive belief... that there was nothing negative to worry about there."
If the world of lucid dreaming or related notions of healing or divining within dreams already calls to you, I wouldn't have any issue recommending "The Awake Dreamer" as an addition to your library. If you are looking for an entry into this subject, however, I don't believe that this would make a good entry point when so many others already exist.
~review by Wanderer
Author: Samantha Fey
Hampton Roads, 2022
272 pages. $18.95 paperback