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No. 68: Mar-Apr 1990

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Dreams that do what they're told

A few people can dream and, in their dreams, know that they are dreaming, and then take charge of their dreams, directing them to unfold according to their wishes. This all sounds occultish, to say nothing about far-fetched. It is called "lucid dreaming." F. van Eeden, a Dutch psychiatrist, defined lucid dreaming in this way:

"...the reintegration of the psychic functions is so complete that the sleeper reaches a state of perfect awareness and is able to direct his/ her attention, and to attempt different acts of free volition. Yet the sleep, as I am able confidently to state, is undisturbed, deep and refreshing."

Lucid dreams are real dreams. They occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movements) sleep, usually in the early morn ing, and they last 2-5 minutes. High levels of physical and emotional activity during the preceding day can encourage lucid dreaming. When lucid dreaming occurs, there are pauses in breathing, brief changes in heart rate, and changes in the skin's electric potential.

There is even a recipe for triggering lucid dreaming. If you awake from a normal dream in the early morning, wake up fully but don't forget the dream. Read a bit or walk about, then lie down to sleep again. Imagine yourself asleep and dreaming, rehearsing the dream from which you awoke, and remind yourself: "Next time I'm dreaming, I want to remember I'm dreaming."

Lucid dreaming, it seems, is not an isolated phenomenon. There are strong similarities between lucid dreaming and out-of-the-body experiences and even the experiences of UFO abductees. S. Blackmore remarks:

"In all these experiences, it seems as though the perceptual world has been replaced by another world, built from the imagination, a hallucinatory replica."

Some people enjoy their lucid dreams; but others fear them and report that objects in this false world are surrounded by a "strong diabolical light."

(Blackmore, Susan; "Dreams That Do What They're Told," New Scientist, p. 48, January 6, 1990.)

From Science Frontiers #68, MAR-APR 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987