History of Lucid Dreaming

The history of lucid dreaming goes back a very long time, and it can even be supposed that as long as humans have had dreams they have likely had episodes of lucidity spontaneously.  Thus we divide our history of lucid dreaming into two sections, one being about the history of reported lucid dreams, and the other about the history of lucid dreaming as a science and as something where people looked for techniques to promote them.

History of Lucid Dreaming Reports

There are many pieces of evidence that early civilizations were aware of lucidity and dreaming.  Thus if we use the definition of “history of lucid dreaming” that is not about the science behind the quest for lucidity, and just focus on reports of lucid dreams, we can go back quite far.  For example, we see evidence in paintings that have withstood time from around 5000 years ago of pictures of people seemingly having lucid dream experiences, mostly of an out-of-body type experience that is akin to lucidity.  At that time they likely were seeing this as more of a spiritual journey of some type, but there is still a link to what we now called lucid dreams.

History of lucid dreaming attempts

We also see more direct evidence in more recent history of groups of people experimenting with lucid dreams.  Our real evidence in the history of lucid dreaming of a culture looking for specific lucid dreaming techniques is found in several places, including the fact that around 100 years ago Tibetan monks did a combination of meditation and yoga that was designed to promote periods of lucidity during dreams.  This was not the only evidence in the lucid dreaming history of a group pursuing techniques.

The actual term “lucid dreaming” got its start when a writer and scientists Frederik van Eeden used the term in his 1913 book A Study of Dreams.  Not surprisingly the book was not popular at first and certainly not accepted by the scientific community.  Surprisingly, even though many people at the time had likely had spontaneous experiences of lucidity, the possibility of having purposeful lucid dreams was mostly dismissed.  It really wasn’t until 60 years later in the history of lucid dreaming that the field achieved some degree of scientific acceptance.

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History of Lucid Dreaming Science

The history of people pursuing lucid dreaming science through scientific research is more recent.  There are several major pioneers in this area:

In 1968 the first book about the potential of lucid dreams was published, Celia Green’s “Lucid Dreams”.  But the first real scientific studies came in the 1980s, with initial studies working to confirm that the lucid dreaming experience is possible. The idea that a brain scan can be used to verify that something different was going on when someone had achieved lucidity was the main idea during this important time in the history of lucid dreaming.  At the same time, researchers we able to see that people experiencing lucid dreams were fully aware that they were dreaming.

The real pioneer in the recent scientific history of lucid dreaming is Stephen LaBerge who started at Stanford University and went on to be a major figure in the field, leading substantial research into lucidity along with his partner Dr. Lynn Nagel.  LaBerge was ale to use certain eye signals to confirm that the person knew they were dreaming.  He soon formed the The Lucidity Institute which became (and still is) a cornerstone center for the study of lucid dreams.

Soon there were new studies and new products, and in the history of lucid dreaming the last 20 years have seen an explosion in devices that can help you achieve lucidity, research, supplements, and new techniques.

History of Lucid Dreaming: Modern Times

In the history of lucid dreaming the current period is all about science and technology.  While in the past great efforts were made to define and in some ways prove the concepts behind lucidity, right now the goals involve getting a better understanding of what causes lucidity and how it can be enhanced.  We are also in an age when lucid dreaming aids are being used and perfected, everything from certain kinds of beats to dream masks which can signal a dreamers when she r he is dreaming.

Some of the scientific history of lucid dreaming has included:

  • The Neurological Laboratory in Frankfurt Germany investigated brainwaves of lucid dreamers during REM sleep and found that they appeared to be fully conscious given the closeness of their brainwave activity to that of people who are awake.
  • The Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich found that actions performed by lucid dreamers while in the dream state were recorded by the brain in a very similar way to those actions while awake.  In other words in appeared that  the brain does not distinguish between activities the body is actually performing while awake from those performed in dream states
  • In the Journal Consciousness and Cognition a meta-review of the current research into lucid dreaming provided some excellent guidance about techniques, supplements, aids and the results were interesting an informative.
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There have also been recent studies on lucid dreaming aids including masks that flash a light or make a tone when the dreamer is in REM sleep, an increase in the effectiveness of technologies such as binaural beats and isochronic tones, and better supplements that might create lucidity.

History of lucid dreaming: Next steps

What will the next chapters be in the history of lucid dreaming?  Will we get to a point where technology allows for people to have frequent and long experiences of lucidity?  Will we find new techniques that work even better than the ones we commonly use now?  The history of lucid dreaming to this point has suggested that we are in a period of rapid improvement in our understanding of lucidity and our ability to induce lucid dreams.

DreamStudies has a nice lucid dreaming timeline, and Altered States presents a good history of lucidity as well.

We hope this history of lucid dreaming proves helpful as you pursue this art, showing how far the field has come and how it is currently accepted within many corners of he scientific community.  Please use our contact form if you know of other key parts of the history of lucid dreaming.

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