I’m always a little worried, on this blog, that people will find their way here from the atheosphere and then dismiss me because I talk so much about dreams and lucid dreams (dreams in which the dreamer knows they are dreaming). To be honest, lucid dreaming is connected with a whole lot of pseudoscience stuff. It’s often talked about together with things like astral projection and out-of-body experiences. Then there’s ideas like shared dreaming, which would be pretty cool if it could happen, but I’ve never seen anyone produce any actual evidence of it. Most of the time when I go to the library to find books on lucid dreaming, I find shelves full of books on dream interpretation* and unlocking the unconscious mind and New Age-y sounding stuff (there are maybe one or two books about lucid dreaming, if I’m lucky). There’s also the people who claim to have precognitive dreams. The lucid dreaming forum I hang out on has a few separate sections for most of these topics (which I think is great, because it makes it very easy for me to avoid them).
It really bothers me that there is so much woo surrounding dreams. It seems like, in this culture at least, dreams are either dismissed as insignificant or treated as an important spiritual and/or psychic thing. Neither of these attitudes is likely to result in much good research about dreaming.
I keep thinking I should write an in-depth post about this or that kind of dream woo. It’s kind of a natural topic to pop up in a blog that combines the topics of atheism and lucid dreaming, after all. In this post, though, I just want to establish that I am not a fan of woo, and that lucid dreaming (which I am a fan of) is actually a real thing that has been proven scientifically. Here’s a link to a study by Stephen LaBerge about lucid dreaming. LaBerge, who has Ph.D in psychophysiology, came up with a technique to prove the existence of lucid dreaming using eye movement signals. During REM sleep (which is the part of sleep during which most dreaming happens), the body is paralyzed, but the eyes move. These eye movements seem to correspond to the direction of gaze in the dream. For the experiment, eye movements of the dreamer were monitored and when the dreamer became lucid, they used a previously agreed upon eye movement signal to indicate that they had become lucid.
* While there is probably some meaning that can be gleaned from dreams (even if it’s nothing more complicated than, gee, maybe I had a dream about pizza because I have been absolutely obsessing about pizza lately), I’m really skeptic of the majority of people/books that claim to be able to interpret dreams. This is probably something I’ll write an in depth post about later, but for now, I’m just going to link to somebody else who wrote about some of this stuff, starting with Freud. I haven’t finished reading it, but it looks quite useful from what I’ve read so far, and the presence of references for further reading is always a good sign.