Dreams - Dream Interpretation With James Harvey Stout
An Introduction To Lucid Dreaming
What is a lucid dream? If we have a non-lucid dream, we are
not aware of the dream until after we awaken; then it is merely a
memory. During a lucid dream, we know that we are dreaming while it is
occurring. While the body sleeps, we feel "awake" in a world which has
the qualities of a regular dream, and we are able to think clearly, act
willfully, and change the course of the dream around us.
What are the characteristics of a lucid dream?
- Our alertness. At our best, our mental skills are comparable to
(or better than) those of wakefulness in such areas as concentration,
reasoning, memory, and control of our actions.
- Our senses. The senses are functioning during a lucid dream. While
our physical body is asleep, we experience the dream in a dream-body
which usually resembles our physical form (as in a non-lucid dream).
This dream-body has senses which are similar to those of the physical
body, so we can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. In a lucid dream,
these senses seem absolutely authentic; for example, if we touch
someone, the person's skin feels warm and soft. Sometimes this
"virtual reality" is more real than "real life" (and certainly more
real than non-lucid dreams); the colors have a greater vividness and
the sensations a deeper intensity -- from the sound of celestial music
to the explosiveness of a lucid-dream orgasm.
- Our emotions. A lucid dream brims with emotion and feeling. When
we first become aware that we are dreaming, we feel exhilaration:
"This is a dream!" During the dream, we might feel any emotion,
including ecstasy (perhaps during a visit to a heavenly dreamscape) --
or fear (although nightmare creatures can be confronted and even
befriended, in contrast to our helplessness during non-lucidity).
Lucid dreams give us a chance to know freedom; we can fly, walk
through walls, live out any fantasy, and even change ourselves into
another person. And when we awaken from a lucid dream, we are not
tired from the adventures; our body feels as rested as it would feel
from regular sleep, and our mind feels stimulated and refreshed (if we
took the responsibility of creating a pleasant experience while
- Our control. We can control a lucid dream. We can create any
scenario, assume any identity, and invoke characters to play any role.
The range of possibilities is almost incomprehensible. Among the
limitless selections (which would be experienced with utter realism):
We can visit a dreamscape which resembles the Mardi Gras, or the moon,
or the Egyptian pyramids, or the crucifixion, or our childhood home.
We can meet characters who speak and interact in a lifelike manner --
and we can create vivid images of specific people such as our first
girlfriend or boyfriend, or a movie star, or Carl Jung, or Cleopatra.
Our own identity can be that of our wakeful self, or a person of the
opposite sex, or an animal, or a centaur. We can swim with dolphins
(and "breathe" the dream-water), or jam with Jimi Hendrix, or star in
a scene from our favorite movie, or fly to another planet, or enact
any social or sexual fantasy with any partner. There are no
restrictions on the time, place, or activities; anything which we can
imagine can be accomplished with the same visual detail, emotions, and
tactile sensations which we would expect from wakeful life.
Lucid dreams really exist. In laboratory tests at Stanford
University and other sites, lucid dreamers proved the existence of this
phenomenon by signalling to the researchers. The subjects did this by
moving their eyes in a prearranged pattern while asleep. During the
sleep state (which was confirmed during these tests by an EEG machine),
most of the body is unable to move, but the eyes move freely; hence the
state which is commonly associated with dreams is called "REM"
(characterized by Rapid Eye Movements). When the sleeping lucid dreamers
moved the eyes of their dream-body in a particular pattern -- up and
down, and side to side -- their physical eyes moved correspondingly;
this activity could be seen and recorded by the researchers. Even
without these scientific confirmations, lucid dreamers know that their
experience is genuine; our body is asleep but our mind is awake.
We can benefit from our lucid dreams. They provide us with a
vast arena for self-improvement, adventure, creativity, problem-solving,
pleasure, psychological growth -- and increased understanding of the
unconscious mind and our underlying spiritual realities. The delight
which is experienced during lucidity often carries over into
wakefulness; the elation lingers, and we feel better also because
lucidity allowed us to resolve emotional conflicts (by directly
communicating with the unconscious mind).
Lucid dreams are not a recent "discovery." We can assume that
people have always had them. They were mentioned by Plato -- and by
Aristotle, who said, "... often when one is asleep there is something in
consciousness which declares that what presents itself is but a dream."
Lucid dreaming has been the foundation of Tibetan dream yoga for more
than 1,000 years. Freud wrote about lucid dreams in the second edition
of his classic, The Interpretation of Dreams. The term "lucid
dream" was devised in 1913 by a Dutch psychiatrist, Frederick Willems
van Eeden; it has also been called a dream of knowledge (by Oliver Fox),
a half-dream (by P.D. Ouspensky), dreaming true, a dream of experience,
a clear dream, a conscious dream, a borderland dream, a power dream, and
an awake dream. As a science, lucid dreaming is relatively new to the
laboratory; it is in a phase (and probably always will be) where a
discovery of information and techniques is as likely to come from an
amateur like you as from a professional researcher. Lucid dreams have
been mentioned throughout history.
- The philosophers. References have been made by the philosophers
Aristotle, Plato, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Ren`e Descarte. Friedrich
Nietsche wrote that he had "... sometimes called out cheeringly and
not without success amid the dangers and terrors of dream life: 'It is
a dream! I will dream on!'"
- The saints. Lucid dreams have also been mentioned by Christian
saints. St. Thomas Aquinas described lucid dreams: "... sometimes
while asleep a man may judge that what he sees is a dream ..." In the
fifth century, St. Augustine wrote a letter concerning the lucid
dreams of a doctor in Carthage.
- Other religions. Lucid dreaming has been part of the training in
certain religious groups. A twelfth-century Sufi, Ibn El-Arabi,
instructed his students to control their mental activity during
dreams. Tibetan Buddhism has a well-developed offshoot, "dream yoga,"
which has been teaching lucid dreaming during the past 1,000 years.
- Edgar Cayce. He was asked to analyze lucid dreams in at least two
instances. (Refer to #195-51 and #294-51 in his records.)
- Sigmund Freud. Freud also knew about the existence of lucid
dreams. In the second edition of The Interpretation of Dreams,
he wrote, "... there are people who are quite clearly aware during the
night that they are asleep and dreaming and who thus seem to possess
the faculty of consciously directing their dreams." When confronted
with a lucid dream of his own, the sexual content disturbed him
(predictably), and he concluded, "I won't go on with this dream any
further and exhaust myself with an emission." Freud was aware of the
work of Hervey de Saint-Denys, who wrote a book about lucid dreaming
in the 19th century; Freud said, "It seems as though in [the lucid
dreamer's] case the wish to sleep [has] given way to another ... wish,
namely to observe his dreams and enjoy them."
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