A DreamGate Education class, in cooperation with Canadian Learning Television and Access Learning Online

The History of Dreams: A Course in Dream Discovery Techniques

Instructor: Richard C. Wilkerson   

Module 9. Supplements
History & Benefits of  Lucid Dreaming

dreamer01.jpg (10651 bytes)  


"I have been dreaming for some time and suddenly I realize that I am dreaming. As soon as I become lucid, I feel a flow of tingling energy rising up into my head and settling in my forehead. The dream images shift suddenly and now I see an amazingly beautiful evergreen tree in from of me. " Ken Kelzer





A New Paradigm in Dreaming

Lucid dreaming has rushed to the forefront of the field of dreams and sleep studies and has unfolded a whole realm of its own. It has spawned its own teachers, its own research and laboratories, its own books and manuals, its own institutions, its own technologies and Web sites, newsgroups, its own priests, shamans, distractions, critics and newsletters.

Lucid dreaming is dreaming where the dreamer is aware that they he or she is dreaming and yet does not wake up. Although the ability to do this has been noted throughout history and at times consciously sought after, it wasn't popular in our culture until around 1985 and the publication of Steven LaBerge's <i>Lucid Dreaming</i>. Though popular in the dream underground since the 1960's it has now been accepted by the scientific community as well and has growing support around the world.



A Brief History of Lucid Dreaming

If the writings of the Ancient Eastern mystics are to be considered, the first mention of lucid like dream control comes from about 1000 BCE in the Upanishads "...having subdued by sleep all that belongs to the body, he not asleep himself , looks down upon the sleeping senses. Having taken to himself light, he goes again to his place - the golden person, the lonely swan." (Shafton, pg 431).

The doctrines moved from India into Tibet and as Gillespie (1988) has published, became part of the complex systems of enlightenment in Buddhism. Though generally unknown in the West, they were know to esotericists from Evans-Wentz's 1935 book Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines.

Both the Greeks and the Romans spoke about lucid dreaming, but the credit for the first full description is usually given to St. Augustine who in 415 AD recounted two dreams of a former Roman physician Gennadius. In the first dream appeared a guide and the next night the guide returns and when Gennadius recognized him, the guide said they had met in the previous night's dream. The guide goes on to instruct him that he is dreaming, though his body is lying asleep, and that this is what it is like after death.

Hervey de Saint-Denys investigated and wrote in France about lucid dreaming in _"Dreams and how to Guide them_" which Freud knew of but didn't read. Freud should have read him as it would have perhaps gave him pause in saying it just wasn't possible.

Actually, it was Frederick Van Eeden that brought the issue up to the mainstream Western public in 1913 at a meeting for the Proceedings for the Society of Psychical Research, but the audience was small and reacted much in the same way they had to dreams in general - "So what?"

Other writers and individual pioneers like Hervey de Saint-Denys and Mary Arnold-Foster tried to bring public attention to lucid dreaming, but without success.

But by the 1960's Western Culture had reached a degree of self awareness that allowed us to see that excessive material gain didn't necessarily increase the meaning in one's life. Alternative realities were explored, some with success and some with disaster. Charles Tart was at the center of this exploration and published <i>Altered States</i> which among other articles, included one on how the Senoi tribe controlled their dreams and a reprint of Van Eeden's article "A Study of Dreams".

A few other writers also were able to reach people, including Patricia Garfield and her chapter on lucid dreams in Creative Dreaming, Celia Green's 1968  Lucid Dreams and Sparrow's 1976 Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light. Another influential stream were the popular Castaneda books, particularly the 1972 Journey to Ixtlan where Castaneda is supposedly taught the secret of lucid dreaming by the guide Don Juan. The now famous technique is to become conscious of one's hands while sleeping and thereby become lucid. What was actually suggested was to pick *any* pre-sleep selected object. Its was just that the hands were something that would always be available.

But it wasn't until two independent researcher groups were able to actually signal from the lucid dream state in laboratories that the first objective evidence was available. The first was a subject named Alan Worlsely who signaled to Keith Hearne in the the English sleep laboratories of Hull University. But Hearne held off on publishing his work and it was unknown to the parallel work being done in California at Sanford by Stephen LaBerge. Both had drawn on the current REM dream research that found that while most of the body is pretty much cut off from movement during dreaming, the eyes are actually quite active (thus REM or Rapid Eye Movement). Why not signal from the dream state with a pre-chosen series of eye movements that would be obvious and statistically significant? The only question was whether or not the lucid dream eye movements would correspond or connect with the psychical eye.

LaBerge describes the first night he was sleeping in the lab and was able to signal after some initial problems:

"I slept very well, indeed, and after seven and a half hours in bed had my first lucid dream in the lab. A moment before, I had been dreaming- but then I suddenly realized that I must be asleep because I couldn't see, feel, or hear anything. I recalled with delight that I was sleeping in the laboratory. The image of what seemed to be the instruction booklet for a vacuum cleaner or some such appliance floated by. it struck me as mere flotsam on the stream of consciousness, but as I focused on it and tried to read the writing, the image gradually stabilized and I had the sensation of opening my dream eyes. Then my hands appeared, with the rest of my dream body, and I was looking at the booklet in bed. My dream room was a reasonably good copy of the room in which I was actually asleep. Since I now had a dream body I decided to do the eye movements that we had agreed upon as a signal. I moved my finger in a vertical line in front of me, following it with my eyes. But I had become very excited over being able to do this at last, and the thought disrupted my dream so that it faded a few seconds later." (1985, pg 70)

Two large eye movements were found on the polygraph and the results were sent to the Association for the Psychophysiological Study of Sleep. But then the research began to come up against skepticism by reviewers in the journal where LaBerge and his mentor Lynn Nagel tried to publish. A reviewer for the <i>Science</i> Journal kept saying that it was impossible and therefore invalid, not on technical grounds, but philosophical ones! But they continued research, doubling efforts and finally by around 1981 the sleep research community could no longer deny the evidence.

Now lucid dreaming is a large sub-branch of dreaming in general. The lucid dreaming papers and symposiums are quite popular at the annual ASD (Association for the Study of Dreams) conventions and besides the Lucidity Institute in Palo Alto, there are multitudes of smaller groups run by interested and informed individuals. The Internet has spawned not only several web sites devoted to lucid dreaming, but two newsgroups, alt.dreams.lucid and alt.dreams.castaneda which continually discuss lucid dreaming.

The benefits of learning and practicing lucid dreaming are still being debated, but some positive trends are becoming clear. Generally, they follow the benefits of becoming mindful & conscious in general:

• Nightmare Control. Bringing consciousness to dreams allows the dreamer to feel more empowered. This can be especially helpful to those who suffer from nightmares.

• Increase Life Expectancy. Usually we see this increase as living longer. But what if you could be conscious an extra 10% of your sleeping time and feel more refreshed than ever?

• Amazing Adventure for Free. How often in waking life do we get the chance to fly, to breath under water, to walk through walls and cuddle up next to movie stars?

•Rehearsal. Just as practice visualization helps before an event, so to can rehearsal in a dream.

• Health. Lucid dreamers tend to resist disease more and have shorter periods of illness when they are sick.

• Advance Enlightenment. Many lucid researchers have now connected lucid dreaming with states of consciousness promoted by Tibetan Buddhism.


Lucid dreaming, which once shared the shelf with esoteric and occult beliefs, has now been brought out onto the table of verifiable knowledge and teachable skills. We now have the platter before us, and a nightly feast awaits.



Bogzaran, Fariba (1987). The creative process: Paintings inspired from the lucid dream. _Lucidity Letter_. 6(2).

Barrett, Deirdre (1992). Just how lucid are lucid dreams? _Dreaming_, 2(4). 221-228.

Castaneda, Carlos (1993). _The Art of Dreaming_. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Delaney, Gayle ( 1979/1989). _Living you Dreams._ San Francisco, CA: Harper & Rowe.

Evans-Wentz, W. Y. (1958). _Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines._ New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Faraday, Ann (1974). _The Dream Game_. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Gackenbach, Jayne and Hunt, Harry T. (1992). Lucid dreaming as a transpersonal (meditational) state: A potential distinction from dream-work methods. _ Journal of Mental Imagery_, 16(1&2), Spring/Summer, 97-117.

Gackenbach, Jayne & Bosveld, Jane (1989). _Control Your Dreams_. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Gackenbach, J. & LaBerge, S. (1988). _Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming_. New York: Plenum Press.

Gackenbach, J & Sheikh, Anees A. (Eds). (1991). Dream Images: A Call to Mental Arms. Imagery and Human Development Series. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.

Gackenbach, J., Snyder, T. J., Rokes, LeAnn M., and Sachau, D. (1986). Lucid dreaming frequency in relation to vestibular sensitivity as measured by caloric stimulation. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 7(2&3), 277-298.


Garfield, Patricia (1979). _Pathway to Ecstasy_. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

--------. (1974). Creative Dreaming. New York: NY: Ballantine Books.

Gillespie, George (1988). see Gackenbach 1988, pg 27-63.

Green, C. (1968). _Lucid Dreams_ Oxford: Institute for Psychophysical Research.

Hearne, K. M. T. (1982). Keith Hearne's work on lucid dreaming. _Lucidity Letter_ 1(3). 15-17.

Krippner, Stanley. (Ed.). (1990). _Dreamtime and Dreamwork: Decoding the Language of the Night_. Los Angeles: Jeremy P Tarcher, Inc.

Green, Celia E. (1968). _Lucid Dreams_ Oxford: Institute of Psychopysical Reserach.

Gregory, Jill (1988). _Dream Tips_. Novato, CA: Novato Center for Dreams

LaBerge, Stephen. (1990). Lucid dreaming: Psychophysiological studies of consciousness during rem sleep. In: Sleep and Cognition. R. Bootzin, J F. Kihlstrom and D L Schacter (Eds.). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

--------. (1985). Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine Books.

LaBerge, S., Levitan, L., Dement, W. C. (1986). Lucid dreaming: Physiological correlates of consciousness during REM Sleep The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 7(2&3), 251-258.

LaBerge, S., Nagel, L., Dement, W., & Zarcone Jr, V. (1981). Lucid dreaming verified by volitional communication during rem sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 52, 727-732.

LaBerge, S. & Rheingold, H. EXPLORING THE WORLD OF LUCID DREAMING (New York: Ballantine, 1990).

Moffitt, A., Kramer, M., Hoffmann, R. (Eds.). (1993). The Function of Dreaming. NY: State University of New York Press.

Reeh, Henry (1978). Improved dream recall associated with meditation. _Journal of Clinical Psychology_, 34, 150-156.

--------. (1977). Meditation and lucid dreaming: A statistical relationship. _Sundance Commmunity Dream Journal._ 2, 237-238.

Saint-Denys, Hervey de. (1982/1867). _Dreams and How to Guide Them_. (N. Fry, Trans). London: Duckworth.

Shafton, Anthony (1995). Dream Reader: Contenporary Approaches to the Understanding of Dreams. Albany, NY: Suny Press. See esp Chapter 14 Lucidity, pg 431-485.

Sparrow, G. S. (1976). _Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light_. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press

--------. (1976). Effects of meditaton on dreams. _Sundance Community Dream Journal._ 1(1), 48-49.

Tart, Charles T. (1987). The world simulation process in waking and dreaming: A systems analysis of structure. _Journal of Mental Imagery_, 11(2), 145-158.

--------. (Ed.). (1972)._ Altered States of Consciousness_. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

--------. (1965). Toward the experimental control of dreaming: A review of the literature. _Psychological Bulletin_, 64(2), 81-91.


Tholey, P. (1983). Techniques for inducing and manipulating lucid dreams. _ Perceptual and Motor Skills_, 57: 70-90.

Ullman, M.& Limmer, C. (1989) _The Variety of Dream Experience_ . New York: The Continuum Publishing Co.

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1996). Lucid Dreaming and Lucid Control. San Francisco, CA : DreamGate Publications.

Worsley, Alan (1982). Alan Worsely's work on lucid dreaming. _Lucidity Letter_ 1(4) 21-22.




Copyright 1998 Richard Catlett Wilkerson


See the Links to Lucidity Online

button-blue.gif (58 bytes) Electric Dreams Lucidity Links
button-blue.gif (58 bytes) Lucidity Institute Inc.

A DreamGate Education Course in cooperation with Canadian Learning Television and Access Learning Online

The History of Dreaming: A Course in Dream Discovery Techniques

Instructor: Richard C. Wilkerson

For more information on this and other CLT/ALO courses contact the staff at www.accesslearning.com/