It seems these days there is a pill for everything. Now there may even be one for lucid dreaming! LDE co-editor Robert Waggoner discusses the latest discoveries in lucid dreaming research.
Chemically Influenced Lucid Dreams?
New Discovery Leads to New Issues
(c) 2003 Robert Waggoner
A recent presentation by Dr. Stephen Laberge of new research on herbal and medical compounds that appears to increase the likelihood of lucid dreams in subjects with lucid dream experience was announced at the Association for the Study of Dreams Conference in Berkeley, CA. While we wait for the official publication of the data, and the response from scientists in the area of dream and sleep research, the appearance of chemical compounds as a means to enhance the probability of a lucid dream leads us to consider the possible issues that may result.
The fundamental issue may not be that chemical compounds lower the threshold to lucid dreaming and thus make it easier and more likely for dreamers to become lucid. Rather, the issue may be that chemically influenced lucid dreams may be experientially different on numerous levels than one's typical lucid dreams. Chemically influenced lucid dreams, (I will call them CILDs) may exhibit distinct differences when compared to lucid dreams in which no special herbal extract or vitamin was taken. In LaBerge's presentation, he suggested that self reports by the research subjects indicated that there may be experiential differences when compared to their normal lucid dreams. In my separate talks with one of the research subjects and also an accomplished lucid dreamer who has taken the herbal extract, their experiences suggests that there may be distinct differences.
From one perspective, this development of a chemical compound has positive aspects to it. For example, with the use of a chemical compound, it now may be much more likely for interested people to become lucid, particularly those who have had difficulty in the past. Similarly, there may a higher number of lucid dream reports from which to study and investigate. Along these lines, researchers who are setting up lucid dream experiments, may have a greater likelihood of success if providing their lucid dreaming subjects the chemical compound.
From another perspective, however, this development of a chemical compound may make the area of lucid dreaming more complicated. From this time on, lucid dreamers may need to make a distinction between their normal lucid dreams, and those that follow the ingestion of a chemical compound (which I suggest we identify as CILDs, or chemically influenced lucid dreams). Much as lucid dreamers identify WILDs or Wake Initiated Lucid Dreams as somewhat distinct from normal lucid dreams, we may need to ask lucid dreamers to identify their CILDs, as well. As a lucid dreaming friend suggested, it may progress to the point that we need to identify which particular chemical influenced the lucid dream, since there may be a set of herbs or vitamins that influence lucid dreaming.
Beyond the verbal or titular distinction, lucid dreamers will need to ask themselves what is the experiential difference between their typical lucid dream and a chemically influenced one? Is that difference significant? Does the difference involve the awareness of the lucid dreamer or the psychological space in which the lucid dream exists? And does a notable experiential difference constitute the need for a new classification or descriptive clarification? Is there such a thing as a "normal" lucid dream?
Prior to this announcement, lucid dreamers had a number of lucid induction techniques that seemed to increase the likelihood of lucid dreaming. A few of these, such as the NovaDreamer with its flashing lights, involved possible external alterations or physical cues to assist the dreamer in becoming lucid. With the scientifically proven introduction of chemical compounds as a means to assist lucid awareness, the alteration becomes more biochemical and moves to a whole new level.
While one could say that all of us are biochemical creatures and receive biochemical alterations by virtue of the foods we eat or the vitamin and mineral supplements we take, is taking an herbal extract equally natural? What if, instead of taking 8mg of the herbal compound, one took 1 mg instead? Is it just a matter of subtleties? How can one suggest a chemically influenced lucid dream, when all lucid dreams have a biochemical influence?
These are some of the questions that lucid dreamers may be asking themselves in the years ahead. Whether this new development is heralded as a positive or a negative by lucid dreamers, it does appear to mark a new era in lucid dreaming.
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