Lucid dreaming has actually been around for a very long time, but it’s only very recently that we in the western world are learning more about it as it reaches a wider audience through the internet. Let’s explore the history of lucid dreaming..
The subject of lucid dreaming is a fascinating one to get into.
If you are interested in the process and want to grasp the main points, you’ve come to the right place.
Maybe you have had a lucid dream and want to explore what it meant, or you would like to learn to induce one and experience it for yourself?
The fascination with dreams goes way back to ancient civilisations. Many people believe that the dreams we have are trying to give us messages. It is a subject that the majority of people are intrigued by because most of us experience dreams often in our lives.
In this post, we will cover all of the important information around lucid dreaming, and delve into the ways that it can truly revolutionise your dreaming experience.
In the following post, we will explore:
- What is lucid dreaming?
- How is lucid dreaming possible?
- When was lucid dreaming scientifically proven?
- The complete history of lucid dreaming
- Lucid dreams and spirituality
- What’s the future of lucid dreaming?
What is lucid dreaming?
To put it simply, lucid dreaming is the experience when a person becomes aware that they are dreaming during the REM stage of their sleep cycle. This means you can control your dreams and decide what to dream about.
During a lucid dream, you can potentially control some of the aspects such as the environment and characters.
The main difference between a lucid dream and what we call a “regular” dream, is that during a lucid dream we become aware of the fact we are dreaming, almost awakening during the dream, without leaving the dream world.
To some people, this may sound like a slightly scary proposition. But it is a truly incredible experience.
The German psychologist Paul Tholey produced perhaps the clearest definition of lucid dream by presenting seven different conditions that a dream must fulfil in order for it to be properly defined as being lucid. These conditions are:
- Awareness of the dream state (orientation)
- Awareness of the capacity to make decisions
- Awareness of memory functions
- Awareness of self
- Awareness of the dream environment
- Awareness of the meaning of the dream
- Awareness of concentration and focus (the subjective clarity of that state)
How is lucid dreaming possible?
Usually, when you go to sleep, your brain slowly shuts off and you’re no longer aware of what’s going on around you. When you begin dreaming you’re also not really aware what is going on, you just feel like you’re watching yourself perform some actions.
However, with some training and practice, it’s possible to train the part of your mind that is responsible for being aware of yourself while you’re dreaming.
This means that you can explore any part that you want in your dream world, which includes controlling it and doing anything you can imagine. There is no limit, so you can easily fly, meet someone famous, practice doing something important, or something just completely ridiculous such as talking to a centaur about reproduction.
In truth, there are many methods and techniques which can be utilised to make lucid dreaming possible. It will likely take some experimentation on your part to find the ones which work for you.
Many studies have been performed on methods to induce lucid dreams – around 40 since the 1970’s. Some seem to produce more success than others.
But what are the most effective methods for lucid dreaming?
The technique known as (MILD) or Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams was originally developed by the American psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge. Here is a brief overview of his method.
Firstly, you need to set an alarm for five hours after you get into your bed. When the alarm goes off, you attempt to remember a dream that was occurring just before you awoke. If you can’t recall one, just think of any dream that you recently had which is fresh in your memory.
Next, you lie down comfortably in the dark and repeat the mantra:
“Next time I am dreaming, I will remember that I am dreaming.” This should be said silently in thought rather than out loud. Emotion and meaning are key, so be sure to repeat the phrase with intention and feeling so that you are communicating with your subconscious.
Each time that you repeat the aforementioned phrase, you should visualise yourself being back in the dream that you recalled in the previous step, imagining that you are remember being in a dream.
Repeat the lying down and repetition steps over and over until you either drift off back to sleep, or you are certain that your intention to realise that you are dreaming has been firmly set, with no doubts involved.
One of the main factors which people who have undertaken this method report as making it more likely to be successful is the ability to complete the technique then fall back to sleep quickly.
It is thought to be twice as effective if you fall back to sleep within five minutes of setting the intention.
This method requires patience and practice, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t experience a lucid dream straight away. Stick at it, and the likelihood is that your intention will be answered and you will experience the magic of dreaming while knowing that you’re in a dream.
Many subjects surrounding sleep and dreams are yet to be concretely proven, but lucid dreaming has been verified multiple times. You can find more information on techniques for lucid dreaming in the video below.
When was lucid dreaming scientifically proven?
The scientific community only recognized it in 1978, but the actual recorded history of lucid dreaming dates back thousands of years, even as far as the Old Stone Age. But the first verified documentation dates back several thousand years.
Lucid dreaming was first noted to be described by Aristotle himself in 350BC. He wrote about it in his treatise On Dreams, saying that “when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which tells us that which presents itself is but a dream.”
Several centuries later, there is another record of lucid dreaming by the famous theologian and philosopher form North Africa, Saint Augustine. He wrote a story about a dreamer, named Doctor Gratiae, in which he refers to lucid dreaming.
Meanwhile, in the East, the Tibetan Buddhists widely believed that a person could be aware that they are dreaming while practicing dream Yoga, along with the ancient Indian Hindu practice of Yoga nidra. These practices had been used for over 12 000 years.
It is believed that lucid dreaming was a common practice among the early Buddhists.
The complete history of lucid dreaming
Unfortunately, with the rise of Imperial Rome and Christianity, lucid dreaming became suppressed by the religious atmosphere. There was a strong suspicion about witchcraft and dreaming during this time, and various theologians believed that some dreams could access a bigger truth.
Later came Thomas Aquinas, an Italian theologian and philosopher.
He was very strict in his beliefs and wanted to reduce Christianity into the worldview that Aristotle had. This was a worldview that had no room for any direct spiritual encounters, so he claimed that dreams and visions came from demons.
After his warnings, the entirety of the Christian world started doubting dreams and visions, and this is probably the reason why the Western world still ignores dreams. During this time, lucid dreaming went completely underground until the era of enlightenment.
During the renaissance, lucid dreaming resurfaced when many people decided to stop believing the old superstitions about it and started to look inward. It was Thomas Reid along with Pierre Gassendi who both talked about being aware that they had been dreaming.
Sir Thomas Browne, another philosopher was also fascinated with dreaming and even went as far as describing his own abilities in his Religio Medici writing “…yet in one dream I can compose a whole Comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests and laugh my self awake at the conceits thereof”.
Next, it was also Rene Descartes, who wrote extensively about his dreams. He even kept a private journal where he recorded many instances of his dreams. However, Descartes kept all of his records of dreaming secret throughout his entire life, because of the social pressure of the Church along with the scientific circles.
Lucid dreaming in the modern world
Lucid dreaming was identified in the Western world much later. This was done by Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys. He is the father of lucid dreaming and first coined the term in his book Dreams and the Ways to Direct Them: Practical Observations. He started recording most of his dreams from the age of 13 and in this book, he often talked about dreams where the “dreamer is perfectly aware he is dreaming”.
Next, in a later study from 1913, the Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden talked about lucid dreaming again. In his A Study of Dreams he wrote, “The seventh type of dreams, which I call lucid dreams, seems to me the most interesting and worthy of the most careful observation and study. Of this type I experienced and wrote down 352 cases in the period between January 20, 1898, and December 26, 1912.”
In the 1960s, lucid dreaming was scientifically classified by Celia Green. She also made the first connection between REM sleep and false awakenings.
Fifteen years later, in 1975 lucid dreaming was finally scientifically proven in a laboratory. Psychologist Keith Hearne managed to record an instance with Alan Worsley, a lucid dreamer, at the University of Hull in England. Unfortunately, this research didn’t reach the mainstream science journals.
So, it was the previously mentioned Stephen LaBerge who first published data about lucid dreaming in 1978 and wrote about it in his book, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. To this day, he is still the leading force in the research of lucid dreaming.
In 1985, Laberge, through a pilot study, displayed that time perception when counting during a lucid dream is similar to that of waking life.
To prove this, the lucid dreamers counted ten seconds while dreaming and signalled the start and end of the count with an eye-signal which was measured using an electrooculgram recording. The results were later confirmed by German researchers a little over twenty years later.
Continuing his remarkable work on the subject of lucid dreaming, Stephen Laberge then found that the right hemisphere of the brain was more active when his subjects were singing during their dreams. When counting on the other hand, the left hemisphere was seen to be more active.
Lucid dreams and spirituality
Lucid dreaming and spirituality and interconnected because both consist of an “awakening” process from within a dream like state – the realisation that there is more to the reality you are experiencing at that moment.
The connection lies in the raising of awareness. In a lucid dream, you are able to come completely into the present moment and experience it with a certain level vibrancy and richness.
Meditation is of course a pillar of spirituality, and it is also known to be an effective practice for inducing lucid dreams.
The difference between a lucid dream and a “regular” dream is that in the regular dream you are not aware of the fact that you are dreaming. Once you enter a lucid dream however, you become aware that you are the dreamer of the dream. This is very similar to the awakening process in spirituality.
Spirituality is, in its essence, the process of becoming aware that you are more than just the “I” that you have been conditioned to identify with. When a person has an awakening, they see past their name, gender, physical body and the story of their life. They being to realise themselves as being part of a bigger picture, an eternal force which permeates everything in existence.
So what does that have to do with lucid dreaming?
Well, a lucid dream makes you aware that you are in control of the dream. That the “regular” dreams were merely an illusion and that when you are in them, you are limited to identifying with the story of the dream, rather than seeing that you, the dream and the dreamer are all one thing experiencing itself.
In everyday life, we go through the motions. Many days are spent unconsciously performing actions by default, and we often wonder, where has this week gone? This could be likened to being asleep, unaware that there is more depth to our existence than we realise.
Those who believe in spirituality have the deep-seated feeling that everything is inter-dependent, and that the separation of form is merely an illusion.
A lucid dreamer has the same realisation – the dream is an illusion but we have now become aware of that fact during the dream.
To awaken spiritually is exactly that – becoming aware of the fact that everyday life is a kind of dream. The characters, settings and stories all have a dream-like quality to them once a person spiritually awakens.
The prominent Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that “often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.”
After all, everything we experience in life is happening inside of our own heads. Sounds a bit crazy I know, but hear me out!
When you look at something, the thing you are seeing is not actually out in front of you. It’s inside your mind. The eyes are receptors which gather light and electrical impulses, transmit them through a series of nerve passageways and the data is then turned into what we call sight by our brains.
Similarly, when we hear a sound, it is just vibration being received by our ears, being processed by the brain and creating the sensations that we call hearing.
When we use our sense perceptions in a dream, it is exactly the same thing. The whole thing is being processed and created in our minds, so – to get really “woo-woo”, everything we experience is simply happening in our own heads, and we have no way of proving that there’s actually anything outside of us at all!
What’s the future of lucid dreaming?
Who knows. There certainly seem to be a lot of new lucid dreaming devices and masks coming onto the market, along with various supplements and lucid dreaming aids. This is encouraging as it means there’s a market for it and people are INTERESTED in lucid dreaming, at least a little bit.
This can only grow into the future and get better. Lucid dreaming has the potential to change the world, but it will only happen if people like you read blog posts, share them, and spread the word as much as you can.
Lucid dreams are an incredibly immersive experience that can really open our eyes to the possibilities of what our minds are capable of. If you intend to have a lucid dream, you now have all of the information required to give it a go.
Remember to be patient, and don’t get disheartened after some failed attempts. It really has the power to transform the way we see our reality.