Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge is not the ever popular book, Exploring Lucid Dreaming (same author). It is however, an interesting read about the science and history behind Lucid Dreaming, as well a glimpse at some of the science behind the techniques explored in his second book.
The forward is brief, written by Robert E. Ornstein, it is only a page and a half in length, but speaks greatly of the book. Chapter 1 is titled “Awake in your dreams,” and details some of the author’s own experiences with lucid dreaming as well as offering the suggestion that “lucid dreaming has considerable potential for promoting personal growth and self-development, enhancing self-confidence, improving mental and physical health, facilitating creative problem-solving, and helping you to progress on the path to self-mastery” (page 2). Throughout this book LaBerge works hard to prove that it truly offers all of these benefits. He briefly debates consciousness, and compares a true full-blown lucid dream to rebirth. He discusses several of the benefits mentally of lucid dreaming, pointing out that
Lucid dreamers realize that they themselves contain, and thus transcend, the entire dream world and all of its contents, because they know that their imaginations have created the dream. So the transition to lucidity turns dreamers’worlds upside down. Rather than seeing themselves as a mere part of the whole, they see themselves as the container rather than the contents. Thus they freely pass through dream prison walls that only seemed impenetrable, and venture forth into the larger world of the mind (page 10-11).
Chapter 2 is “The origins and history of lucid dreaming,” and begins in 415 A.D. with the first reported lucid dream, written about by St. Augustine. The progression of lucid dreaming across time, as well as in other cultures is discussed, with numerous references and footnotes that link the first-hand accounts to their origins. The part that lucid dreaming played in psychology and psychiatry is also laid out, along with tricks that those who experimented used. My favorite piece was about Oliver Fox. He called his lucid dreams Dreams of Knowledge, due to the fact that he was aware he was asleep. Chapter 3 is “The new world of Lucid Dreaming” and covers the scientific studies of sleep and dreaming. In this section the brain is discussed, in particular when it is dreaming. EEG Studies are covered, as well as the stages of sleep. This section really picks up where the last chapter left off in the history of lucid dreaming, somewhere around the 1950’s. He ends the chapter by talking about some of the parallels he discovered in the 1980’s when his first few articles on the studies he had been doing with Lucid dreaming.
Chapter 4, or “Exploring the Dream world: Lucid dreamers in the laboratory,” begins with a mapping out of the dream world. He discusses the relationships between dreaming and the real world, explaining that evidence supports the idea that dreams take as long as their actions would in real time. They also did studies on breathing, singing, counting, sexual activity, and significance. The most important thing to take note of is that “what happens in the inner world of dreams… can produce physical effects on the dreamer’s brain no less real than those produced by corresponding events happening in the external world” (page 89). The 5th chapter is “The Experience of Lucid Dreaming,” and describes consciousness as a reflective awareness. In Lucid dreaming one is forced to ask “Who is the Dreamer?” and reminds us that we have control over the level of involvement in the dream we are. In order to Lucid Dream, one must balance between detachment and participation, for “a person who is too rigidly attached to a role while dreaming will be too involved to step back far enough to see the role as a role. On the contrary, a rigidly detached person will be too uninvolved and “out of it” to care” (page 97). Cognitive functions, motivation, expectation, the varieties of action (reflexive, instinctive, habitual, and deliberate, as well as the types of dream control), emotional quality, perceptual quality, entry into LD (the #1 is recognition of the anomaly), termination, the spinning technique, & coherent knowledge are all covered. The spinning technique is described as being very simple.
As soon as my vision begins to fade in the lucid dream, I either fall backward or spin like a top (with my dream body, of course!). For the method to work, it is important to experience a vivid sense of movement. Usually this procedure generates a new dream scene, which often represents the bedroom I am sleeping in. By repeatedly reminding myself that I’m dreaming during this transition, I can continue dreaming lucidly in the new scene. Without this special effort of attention, I will usually mistake the new dream for an actual awakening- and this in spite of frequent manifest absurdities of dream content! (page 120)
Chapter 6 is “Learning Lucid Dreaming,” and covers learning to dream (the developmental stages of dreaming as a child), the potential for lucid dreaming, dream recall (keep a dream journal it familiarizes you with your own dreams, and ask yourself “What was I dreaming?” upon awakening, page 128-9), Learning lucid dreaming, (count to yourself (“1, I’m dreaming…”) while drifting off to sleep, page 135), MILD, and future access.
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD)
1. During the early morning, when you awaken spontaneously from a dream, go over the dream several times until you have memorized it.
2. Then, while lying in bed and returning to sleep, say to yourself, “Next time I’m dreaming, I want to remember to recognize I’m dreaming.”
3. Visualize yourself as being back in the dream just rehearsed; only this time, see yourself realizing that you are, in fact, dreaming.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you feel your intention is clearly fixed or you fall asleep. (page 141)
Chapter 7 is “The Practical Dreamer: Applications of Lucid Dreaming,” and covers the healing dream (remember that what happens in LDs have a powerful impact on the dreamer, self healing), nightmares and anxiety reduction (recurring anxiety dreams need a new approach for coping with the situation), decision making, creative problem solving, rehearsal, and wish fulfillment. The 8th is “Dreaming: Function and meaning.” More of the science is covered here, in the interpretation of dreams revisited, the activation-synthesis model of dreaming, dreaming to forget, the functions of dreaming and the advantages of consciousness, and the meaning of dreaming. Chapter 9 is “Dreaming, Illusion, and Reality,” which focuses on ESP, shared dreams, and primarily, OBE, or Out of Body Experiences. Chapter 10 is “Dreaming, Death, and Transcendence,” and discusses the common theme of death in dreaming and OBEs, as well as Near Death Experiences, or NDEs. The 5 steps of Near Death Experiences is covered, as well as the reactions to NDEs, which are frequently transformations in their approaches to life, including favorable patterns of behavior (page 234). These experiences can often serve the purpose of a sense of rebirth of the self that manifests in a new version of the ego.
The Epilogue is titled “Alive in your life,” and is a return to the argument begun in the beginning of the book in favor of Lucid Dreaming, with the reminder that
Lucid dreaming can be a point of departure from which to understand how we might not be fully awake- for as ordinary dreaming is to lucid dreaming, so the ordinary waking state might be to the fully awakened state. This capacity of lucid dreams, to prepare us for a fuller awakening, may prove to be lucid dreaming’s most significant potential for helping us become more alive in our lives (Page 254).
There is also a notes section, and an index. Overall I enjoyed the book, although it did take me quite a while to read.