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Lucid dreaming

Lucid dreaming is consciously perceiving and recognizing one is in a dream while he or she is asleep and having control over the faux-reality dream world within a dream, ordreamscape[?].” Stephen Laberge, a published author and expert on the subject, has defined it as simply realizing one is dreaming while in a dream. Others authorities contend that in order for the state of a dreaming person to be lucid, that person must have control over his or her dreamscape. Lucid dreamers, called “oneironauts[?],” report being able to freely remember the circumstances of waking life, think cogently, and act deliberately upon reflection, all while experiencing a dreamscape that seems vividly real.

A person in a lucid dream with full control may morph the dreamscape into any virtual reality that person pleases, all with properties that feel identical to that of wakeful consciousness. Doing literally anything within a lucid dream is not outside one’s ability. Less skilled onerionauts who have trouble controlling their surroundings, however, sometimes instead make themselves like actors in a chosen plays. Lucid dreams are notable for their durability in memory, being exceptionally more memorable than typical, non-lucid dreams. Oneironauts regularly describe their dreams as exciting, colourful, and fantastic, and often compare their dreams to a spiritual experience.

Many people report having experienced a lucid dream during their lives, often in their childhoods. However, even with training, achieving lucid dreams on a regular basis is uncommon and can be difficult. Despite this difficulty, techniques have been developed to achieve a lucid dreaming state intentionally. A number of universities (notably Stanford) conduct continued research into these techniques and the effects of lucid dreaming, as do some independent agencies such as Laberge's The Lucidity Institute[?]. At present, there are no known cases where lucid dreaming has caused damage on either the psychological or physiological level. However, it would be very hard to determine whether some form of lucid dreaming might prevent one from receiving a benefit from normal dreaming. Jungian psychology seems to indicate that normal (or partly lucid) dreaming, in which one does not control the dreamscape, is a way to achieve self-understanding.

One method of testing whether one is dreaming or not is to read a text, look away, and read it again. In the real world, the text will not change, while in a dream, observers have found text will often change.

History of lucid dreaming research

The term "lucid dreaming" was coined by Frederik van Eeden[?] in his book A Study of Dreams[?] (1913). This book was a highly anecdotal and not embraced by the scientific community. In fact, the possibility of achieving a lucid dream state was dismissed categorically by N. Malcolm in his 1959 text “'Dreaming.” The enthusiastic endorsement of lucid dreaming during the 1970s by New Age proponents such as Carlos Castaneda did little to enhance its scientific credibility.

However, during the 1980s, credible scientific evidence to confirm the existence of lucid dreaming was produced[1] (http://www.stanford.edu/~mgoldens/lab/psyphy_lucidity), and lucid dreamers were able to demonstrate to researchers that they were consciously aware of being in a dream state (usually by performing a pre-arranged series of physical cues such as distinct patterns of eye movement[2] (http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/si91ld)). Additionally, techniques were developed which have been experimentally proven to enhance the likelihood of achieving this state[3] (http://www.asdreams.org/journal/articles/laberge5-3.htm).

One outstanding question on the neurophysiogical nature of lucid dreaming concerns the electrical activity in the frontal cortex, which is generally suppressed during normal sleep. The behavior of the frontal cortex has not at present been crucially analyzed with respect to lucid dreaming.

Some psychologists have theorized that the intensely "real" experience of lucid dreaming may actually provide a valid explanation for accounts of alien abduction, Astral travel[?], and other paranormal, out-of-body experiences[4] (http://www.uwe.ac.uk/fas/staff/sb/si91ld).

There is a substantial cottage industry based around the technique of lucid dreaming, with an array of devices (usually based around flickering light arrays) commercially available to allegedly allow induction of lucid dreams. Their proponents also sometimes claim that these devices help achieve a higher level of spiritual consciousness, and associate it with other New Age concepts such as astral traveling or “dream sharing[?]”. Regardless of these claims’ validity, lucid dreaming as a scientifically verified phenomenon is well-established.

See also: Senoi

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