Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lucid Dreaming

Book Review: Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge, PhD (Balantine 1985)

This was a pioneering book in the field by the sleep and dream research scientist at Stanford Sleep Lab. Lucid dreaming refers to being in a state where one is aware that one is dreaming and the variable reality of such a state. This book covers quite a bit about all aspects of dreaming and offers new approaches and techniques from inducing lucid dreams to better recall of dreams to some creative uses of dreaming to dreams as

Some of the cultural dream studies covered are those of the well-developed tradition of Indo-Tibetan dream yoga and other Indian tantras related to dreaming and some dream knowledge of the Sufi orders such as the famed Spanish Sufi, Ibn El-Arabi who said, “a person must control his thoughts in a dream. The training of this alertness ... will produce great benefits for the individual. Everyone should apply himself to the attainment of this
ability of such great value.”

Some early scientifically-minded dream researchers were the Marquis d’ Saint-Denys who first published – Dreams and How to Guide Them - in 1867, Freud – with all his Victorian sex-repression notions, Carl Jung, the Russian philosopher P.D Ouspensky, and a few others. In fact research into dreams only became more commonplace after psychotherapy became validated as an effective method of helping people. Scientific research led to the classifying of phases of sleep and of equating the condition of rapid-eye movement (REM) with dreaming. More modern researchers noted are Patricia Garfield, Celia Green, and Charles Tart.

There is a discussion of so-called out-of-body experiences (OBE) aka. astral projection. The author comes to the conclusion through some very good arguments that most – if not all OBEs are really misinterpreted lucid dreams in which one merely feels as if one is out of his or her physical body. Of course, in the tradition of the Western Mysteries the world of the astral and the world of dream are one and the same. Also of interest are the stark similarities of OBEs and so-called near-death experiences (NDEs). There is some discussion of the so-called “dream ego” or the question of who is it that is dreaming. Is the dreamer the same person as the one in the waking state? This reminds me of a Kasmiri Saivite text I read once where the dreamer, the dream, and the act of dreaming were associated with 3 of the 4 states of consciousness, awake, asleep, dreaming, and then there was the integrated 4th state where subject and object are not separated. In any case the dream ego/personality typically has some differences to our waking ego/personality. The Tibetans call the dream body – the Illusory Body. Western Occultists can refer to it as the Astral Body or the Body of Light.

The author was able to study many subjects in the lab including himself, an avid lucid dreamer. He was able to develop some methods for inducing lucid dreams. One is what he calls Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) which merely consists in practicing habitual mental and verbal reminders to be aware in one’s dreams. A similar method is used in Tibetan Dream yoga. The author was able to develop a method where the lucid dreamer could signal with the eyes that they were lucid in their dreams. This was quite repeatable and is rather remarkable.

He goes on to talk about various healing dreams, rehearsal dreams (where an upcoming future event takes place and the dream can aid in planning it) sleep paralysis, prophetic dreams, sharing of dreams, false awakenings, precognitive dreams, dreams leading to scientific discoveries, and the fascinating subject of dream telepathy. Experiments have shown that telepathy is more reliable and powerful during dreams. As for shared dreams – the author is of the opinion that shared dream plots are a result of telepathy rather than sharing the same dream world.

Sleep apparently developed among warm-blooded animals to conserve energy needed for warming the body. Some scientists think dreaming is a way for the brain to test its circuits – kind of like running scans on a computer. Others think it is a way of un-learning or forgetting useless information. Since the body is paralyzed during REM sleep it is likely that more dreaming time equates to degree of safety from predators. The French sleep researcher Michel Jouvet thinks that: “dreaming permits the testing and practicing of genetically programmed (i.e., instinctual) behaviors without the consequences of overt motor responses – thanks to the paralysis of the sleep state.” There is another interesting idea that ties dreaming to learning and memory. Psychologists describe two types of learning – prepared and unprepared, one easy and quick the other slow and difficult. It was noted that, “learning tasks requiring significant concentration or the acquisition of unfamiliar skills is followed by increased REM sleep.” Most researchers logically conclude that dreaming provides a restorative function to our
mental mechanisms.

Anyways – awesome book – must read for anyone seriously into dreams. I need to check out some of his more modern work as I know he actually developed a device to help induce lucid dreams. Nowadays it has also been noted that there are supplements and herbs that can help induce lucid dreams.

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