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History of Lucid Dream Research

The term "lucid dreaming" was coined by Frederik van Eeden in his 1913 book A Study of Dreams. This book was 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, scientific evidence to confirm the existence of lucid dreaming was produced [1] (http://www.stanford.edu/~mgoldens/lab/psyphy_lucidity.html), 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/Articles/si91ld.html)). 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 neurophysiological 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.

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 travelling or dream sharing. Regardless of these claims' validity, lucid dreaming as a scientifically verified phenomenon is well-established.

Some proponents of technique claim they can use symbolic methods to research, program, and modify their nervous system itself. Memory management, creative solution generation, accelerated healing, autoinduced priapism, and ecstatic envelopment of one's body are among the various claimed techniques.

An early recorded lucid dreamer was the philosopher and physician Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682). Browne was fascinated by the world of dreams and stated of his own ability to lucid dream in his Religio Medici ... 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; (R.M. Part 2:11)

The movies Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes), Vanilla Sky, and Waking Life are partly about lucid dreaming, while the Nightmare on Elm Street series directly involves lucid dreaming as a plot device by which the villain threatens the hero/s. The Matrix, while not about lucid dreaming, has the hero in the similar position of living in a simulated world (complete with its own distinctive "dream signs", such as a subtle overall green hue and the slightly inaccurate mechanics) and being able to control it.

There are thought to be some insights into the workings of the brain that can be found by lucid dreaming. In particular, in surveying the experiences of lucid dreams, many have noticed that the brain, at least while in dreaming, has the feature whereby it is possible for a single individual thought, memory, definition, belief, etc. to be incorrect while the rest of the mind appears to be working normally. An example would be where the "lucid" dreamer was walking around the dream world, knowing he was dreaming, retaining his full sense of identity and waking memories, yet believing for some reason a locked door can only be opened with a fish, and not a key (almost all lucid dream reports contain this kind of phenomenon). This is contrary to normal experience of brain malfunctions, which are usually more general, such as wholesale memory loss, or broad emotional imbalance.

There exists a tribe of people known as the Senoi. They are destined to be famous for only one thing, since they have no great military strategists, no crime problems, serious health or addiction problems, no wars, and only minimal conflict in their own society. The thing that makes their otherwise dull-sounding tribe great, and in fact, what makes the harmony they experience possible, is their approach to dreaming. They can and do control their dreams and live them as part of their daily lives.

How To Control the Action in Your Dreams

Guide to Lucid Dreaming
Guide to Lucid Dreaming

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