Lucid Dreaming. You’ve heard of it, you’ve read about it and if you’re a little adventurous or even simply curious you’ve probably tried it, but is it a valid means of extra-sensory projection, or simply a psychoactive form of deeper consciousness? Well, let’s look into it, shall we?
If you’ve been living with your head buried in sand for the last decade you may have not heard of the rapidly growing phenomenon of Lucid Dreaming, so I’ll explain it briefly. Lucidity is the natural state in which we go about our daily business; it is a sense of self-awareness and ‘control’ of our actions, and by and large it’s something we take for granted. Dreaming needs no explanation, but more often than not we have little to no control over what we experience in our dreams, let alone the actions the projections of our ‘selves’ take when we go through these often bizarre scenarios. Lucid dreaming is a technique by which we establish conscious control over our dreams, and interact directly with this ‘dream world’ we create every night as we sleep.
There are numerous ways to achieve lucidity during our dreams, but this article isn’t a tutorial- that said lucid dreaming is something every single person on the planet should try, as it’s one of the most entertaining and spiritualy engaging activities available to us. For more information on how to get started, visit http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/lucid-dreaming-techniques.html, and get ready for the ride of your life.
Popular culture has been cashing in on this growing trend with movies such as Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Inception and the lesser-known but also awesome Sucker Punch, as well as television shows including Seth McFarlane’s much-underrated American Dad. With so much media exposure on Lucid Dreaming you’d think that there would be some kind of scientific precedent set to either explain or debunk the phenomenon, and you’d be right: Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a PhD and one of the world’s leading psycho-physicians, has not only carried out an extensive study but has actually verified the existence and validity of Lucid Dreams.
LaBerge’s study Lucid Dreaming: Psychophysiological Studies of Consciousness during REM Sleep may not have the most catchy title, but it is an incredibly revealing piece of writing, and combines a lot of studies on the phenomenon stretching right back into the early 80s. It shows a lot of the techniques and practises which we take for granted today as being valid too, such as dream diaries, and uses analysis of REM patterns and brain-wave activity to determine states of consciousness during the period of slumber in which dreams occur (“REM Sleep”).
To quote a study carried out in 1983:
“Ogilvie et al. (1983) reported the physiological state preceding 14 spontaneous lucidity signals as unqualified REM in 12 (86%) of the cases; of the remaining two cases, one was “ambiguous” REM and the other appeared to be wakefulness.”
Now, out of context this quote may look like gibberish, but it’s actually very telling. The study to which it refers was carried out close to thirty years ago, yet even then with their limited technologies it was clear that the brain could conduct the functions of the higher levels of consciousness during a time traditionally associated by psychoanalysts as undefinable. It completely undermined the Freudian ideal that dreams were based in the subconscious and could be analytically dissected to reach some understanding of our subconscious desires. In short, it changed our understanding of dreams entirely.
LaBerge’s further writings go on to explain that while lucidity is achievable during sleep, it is not our default state, and must be worked at, which does restore a little validity to Freud’s theories, but it does make you wonder just how much about consciousness we truly understand. Very little about thought is actually known, and there is no one part of the brain which can be defined as the place our consciousness resides, in spite of evidence that it does exist in some way. Enough of that though, debating the existence of external consciousness versus constructed perception is fascinating, but it’s not a topic for today.
If you want to read the study for yourself, I’d really recommend it, and it can be found here: http://www.lucidity.com/SleepAndCognition.html, but be warned that it’s not for the faint of heart- not because the subject matter is disturbing, but rather because it’s such a heavy read. The abridged findings of the report are pretty simple: Lucid dreaming does indeed exist, and is atainable by almost everyone. What the report doesn’t say, because science rarely accounts for such things, is that it’s not only a practise that can be put into action by anyone, but that it is something that should be done by everyone.
It’s a fascinating experience, a great aid to meditation and self-exploration, and more than anything else it’s just a lot of fun.
It’s not just LaBerge either- citing one study would be tantamount to neglegence. Indeed, Japanese scientist Wantabe Tseuno’s 2003 study Lucid Dreaming: Its Experimental Proof and Psychological Conditions states quite clearly:
“The occurrence of lucid dreaming (dreaming while being conscious that one is dreaming) has been verified for four selected subjects who signaled that they knew they were dreaming. The signals consisted of particular dream actions having observable concomitants and were performed in accordance with a pre-sleep agreement.”
So we know it’s real, and nobody’s really questioning it. Why? Well, that’s open for debate- the practise is harmless, fun and doesn’t really cause any sociological fallout, so there’s no reason not to do it.
The Lucidity.com site itself is also a really useful resource for anyone seeking to understand the practise of lucid dreaming, and is incredibly well-written and accessible, so check it out if you have the time. For now, it’s about time for me to go and play some Doom, so I’ll leave you with this thought:
If you could go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone and not have to pay the consequences, wouldn’t you? You can. And you don’t even have to leave your bed.
Crash and burn.