Lucid Dreams and How Dreams
Relate to Waking States of Consciousness

By Mark Bancroft, MA



Lucid dreaming is a proactionary dream state in which the dreamer is aware that she/he is dreaming. The phenomenon of lucid dreaming can be traced back as far as the 4th century BC to Aristotle [Guiley, 1991]. Dreams in general are reactionary in nature. Dreamers often have little, if any, influence upon how their dreams unfold. The dreamer often does not know they are in a dream until waking consciousness returns- in this sense dreams are reactionary. In the lucid dream the dreamer knows they are dreaming and may even be able to alter the dream itself.

Characteristics of the Lucid Dream:

1. There are varying degrees of lucid dreaming: The degree of lucidity can range from a vague awareness that one may be dreaming, to possessing full thought capabilities which are used to influence the course and outcome of the dream [Guiley, 1991].

2. Various uses: The skill of lucid dreaming can be learned and has been used to modify behavior. A therapeutic application might consist of teaching a client how to lucid dream, then have them actively play out a fearful situation or desired outcome. Lucid dreaming has also been used for purposes of spiritual growth and the enhancement of creativity.

3. Time of occurrence: Lucid dreams have been found to occur during Stage 1 sleep. Although few details are known about lucid dreaming one author notes, "without exception all my lucid dreams occurred in the hours between five and eight in the morning" [Tart, p.184, 1990]. This is consistent with the observed data which shows Stage 1 (REM) sleep occurring in longer duration toward the end of the night [Wallace & Fisher, 1991].


Dreams and Waking Reality:

A. Reality coexists on multiple levels:  Reality is most often associated with waking states of consciousness. The "outer", physical world is considered real while the inner world is fraught with deception. Scientific inquiry has warned investigators for centuries about the deceitful nature of one's perception. Dreams, especially the lucid dream experience, strongly suggest that reality is multidimensional. The lucid dream shows that we have the potential to consciously function in these other dimensions of reality. Retaining an open mind may meet with value and practical application which can assist in the challenges of waking life.

B. Enhancing awareness during waking life: Often, dreams are described as being more real than waking life. Like the mystical experience reporters of such dreams have difficulty in sharing their experience with others. One explanation for this is attributed to increased sensory perception occurring within the dream state. Greater attentiveness of the senses takes place when one is in unique and unusual circumstances. Dreams are conducive for heightening a person's sensory abilities [Auerbach, 1996]. The experience of dreams being beyond "real" indicates a potentially high degree of automatization in waking life. In these dreams there is a direct experience of deautomatization: an undoing of the automatizations of apparatuses- both means and goal structure- directed toward the environment. Deautomatization is, as it were, a shake-up which can be followed by an advance or a retreat in the level of organization…Some manipulation of the attention directed toward the functioning of an apparatus is necessary if it is to be deautomatized [tart, p.42, 1990]. While the tendency towards automatization serves economic and efficiency advantages for dealing with daily tasks and operations it can severely limit the richness of life experience.

C. Encourages further exploration: The power of the lucid dream experience may help encourage the exploration of other possible dimensions. Psychic ability can be consciously explored in the lucid dream state. Dreams in general offer a fertile ground for psychic occurrences [Auerbach, 1996]. The fascination with lucid dreaming is a reflection of having collapsed all reality into the physical domain. Lucid dreaming offers unimaginable potential for direct experience of the physically "impossible". In this dimension one gets to fly, walk underwater, conjure up wise teachers, experience the ideal relationship, and achieve fame and success just by thinking it so.

D. A new model of reality: Reality may not be as "real" as we like to believe. The experiences of lucid dreaming and paranormal occurrences potentially threaten a worldview of strict physicality based upon measurable cause and effect. Unreal experiences such as lucid dreaming are at times more real than perceived reality. This would mean that our model of the world, which claims absolute realness of physicality, may actually be one enmeshed in relativity.
In a relativistic model of reality we may actually exist as something other than what we perceive ourselves to be. The world of objects, people, and bodily needs would appear just as unreal and illusionary to the other-dimensional entity as quantum non-locality would to Isaac Newton. The concept of relativistic reality is cleverly demonstrated in Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode #138, [Ship in a Bottle, 1993]:

Riker: "How did you do it sir?"

Picard: "We managed to program the holodeck inside the holodeck and use the same ruse that Moriarty used on us.

Data: "When he was attempting to contact the real bridge, he was in fact speaking to a simulation."

Troi: "You mean he never knew he hadn't left the holodeck?"

Picard: "In fact the program is continuing to run, even now, inside that cube."

Dr. Crusher: "A miniature holodeck?"

Data: "In a way doctor. However, there is no physicality. The program is continuous but only within the computer's circuitry.

Barclay: "As far as Moriarty and the Countess now, they're half way to Meles II by now…This enhancement module contains enough active memory to provide them with experiences for a lifetime."

Picard: "They will live their lives and never know any difference."

Troi: "In a sense you did give Moriarty what he wanted."

Picard: "In a sense. But who knows, our reality may be very much like theirs- and all this, might just be an elaborate simulation running inside a little device sitting on someone's table."

It would be difficult to disprove that what we consider reality is analogous to being active participants within a computer program, and not knowing it is a program. Sleep could be a necessity in such a reality. Sleep would provide the opportunity to tweak and readjust the program (life) being experienced within it. The "life within the program" would experience sleep, while in fact new situations, experiences, and "people" were being added to the program. The possibility for paranormal events would no longer be a mystery given that the programmer is outside of causality- Jane could appear at just the right moment to ensure the program continues in an intriguing way. Ghosts and apparitions…bio-electrical bleed-through from someone else's "reality."

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Auerbach, L. Altered States of Consciousness, Lecture. Orinda, CA (1996).

Guiley, R.E. (1991). Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. New York: Harper Collins.

"Ship in a Bottle." Star Trek: The Next Generation.Written by René Echevarria. (episode #138, aired 1993.)

Tart, C.T. (Ed.). (1990). Altered States of Consciousness. (3rded.). New York: Harper Collins.

Wallace, B. & Fisher, L.E. (1991). Consciousness and Behavior. (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


Mark Bancroft, MA, CHT
Nevada City, CA