Man has been enamored with dreams for millennia. 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians painted images of bodies sleeping with souls hovering outside of it, resembling an out of body experience (often referred to as lucid dreaming).
Fast forward to the 17th century, French philosopher Rene Descartes proposed the idea of The Dream Argument. Descartes proposed something chilling. He suggested because we all dream, this fact proves that our reality is not actually real. He had two observations:
He first observed that while we dream, our senses are so very real, that how do we know if we are truly awake when we think we are? Perhaps are waking senses propose an illusory world.
He later observed that because people never realize when they are dreaming, how do people know that they are awake if they very well are dreaming and not becoming lucid enough to know that they are awake?
This way of thinking has influenced Western thinking. The movie The Matrix, was built off of theories like Descartes’. This way of thinking also influenced philosophers like Nick Bostrom, who came up with the theory The Simulation Argument. This theory claims that we are living inside of a computer simulation, and that we are digital dreams of future human beings.
It is very odd to consider our lives not truly being our lives, but merely images dreamt by other human beings.
Everyone recognizes the name Sigmund Freud, correct? He is known as the “father” of psychology and psychoanalysis. Freud believed that what we dream is a reflection of our desires, that we as humans try to hide. He believed that we need to dream in order to stay asleep.
Many people disagree with Freud’s theories that everything the human brain thinks of can be related back to sex. Hobson and McCarley conducted an experiment to find the scientific origin of dreams. they tracked a dreamer’s brain with an EEG. Their findings proved that dreaming is a bodily process, not a mental one. Hobson findings were countered with the argument that dreaming cannot only be explained through electrical findings
Hobson wanted to connect his theory on a more psychological platform. He found that the mind tries to make sense of the dream while dreaming. This occurs after the cortex receives energy signals.
Lucid dreaming is a perplexing topic. Lucid dreaming is when the dreamer is aware they are dreaming while they are dreaming. To be able to lucid dream, the dreamer needs to be able to remember their dreams, and be self-aware and consciously reflective. A Dutch psychiatrist, Frederik van Eden experienced lucid dreaming and wrote about his experience in his book A Study of Dreams:
“In these lucid dreams the reintegration of the psychic functions is so complete that the sleeper remembers day-life and his own condition, reaches a state of perfect awareness, and is able to direct his attention, and to attempt different acts of free volition… We are here, however, on the borders of a realm of mystery where we have to advance very carefully. To deny may be just as dangerous and misleading as to accept.”
In other words, Eeden believed that when a dreamer is lucid dreamer, they can recall events that occurred in real life and apply them to their dream. Also, while lucid dreaming, the dreamer can exercise free will. Eeden also mentions that denying or doubting the reality of lucid dreaming is dangerous and the dreamer must act carefully.
Dreaming is a complex subject, and is still being studied today. Lucid dreaming is not very present in communities today as it once was, but it has influenced out cultures heavily.