Scientific history of Lucid Dreaming

The first book to recognize the scientific potential of lucid dreams was Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys’s 1867 Les Reves et Les Moyens de Les Diriger: Observations Pratiques.[20] This French publication, originally published anonymously, translates as ‘Dreams and the ways to direct them: practical observations’. It accounts for Saint-Denys’ own experiences, but made also an extensive study of the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. Later, researcher Celia Green’s 1968 study Lucid Dreams. analyzed the main characteristics of such dreams, reviewing previously published literature on the subject and incorporating new data from participants of her own. She concluded that lucid dreams were a category of experience quite distinct from ordinary dreams, and predicted that they would turn out to be associated with rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). Green was also the first to link lucid dreams to the phenomenon of false awakenings.

Philosopher Norman Malcolm’s 1959 text Dreaming had argued against the possibility of checking the accuracy of dream reports. He points out “The only criterion of the truth of a statement that someone has had a certain dream is, essentially, his saying so”.The realization that eye movements performed in dreams may affect the dreamer’s physical eyes provided a way to prove that actions agreed upon during waking life could be recalled and performed once lucid in a dream. The first evidence of this type was produced in the late 1970s by British parapsychologist Keith Hearne. A volunteer named Alan Worsley used eye movements to signal the onset of lucidity, which were recorded by a polysomnograph machine.

Hearne’s results were not widely distributed. The first peer-reviewed article was published some years later by Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University, who had independently developed a similar technique as part of his doctoral dissertation. During the 1980s, further scientific evidence of lucid dreaming was produced as lucid dreamers were able to demonstrate to researchers that they were consciously aware of being in a dream state (again, primarily using eye movement signals).Additionally, techniques were developed that have been experimentally proven to enhance the likelihood of achieving this state.

Paul Tholey, an oneirologist and Gestalt theorist laid the epistemological basis for the research of lucid dreams. His work laid the foreground for further researchers to categorize what a lucid dream is. Tholey (1980, 1981) defined seven different conditions of clarity that a dream must fulfill in order to be defined as a lucid dream:

  1. Awareness of the dream state (orientation);
  2. Awareness of the capacity to make decisions;
  3. Awareness of memory functions;
  4. Awareness of self;
  5. Awareness of the dream environment;
  6. Awareness of the meaning of the dream;
  7. Awareness of concentration and focus (the subjective clarity of that state).

For a dream to be lucid as defined by Tholey, it must fulfill all seven factors together. Tholey replaces the word ‘Klarheit’ (clarity) with the word ‘awareness’, which is a well known and central term in Gestalt therapy theory and describes the subjective experience of the conscious dream state quite well (Lucid dreaming – dreams of clarity)



A wikipedia extract*