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Book Reviews : Traveling on the Dream Path While Still Awake

December 18, 1985|MARILEE ZDENEK | Zdenek lectures internationally on imagery and dream-programming; her latest book is "The Right-Brain Experience" (McGraw-Hill). and

Lucid Dreaming: The Power of Being Awake & Aware in Your Dreams by Stephen LaBerge Ph.D. (Tarcher: $15.95)

"She flew through the cool evening air, free as a cloud, stopping now and then to admire the beautiful stone carvings on the walls. After a few minutes, however, she decided it was time to begin the experiment. Flying through an archway, she spotted a group of people. . . . Swooping down to the group, she picked the first man within reach. She tapped him on the shoulder, and he came toward her as if knowing exactly what he was expected to do. . . ."

Many people fly in their dreams and most people can recall experiencing some erotic encounters while dreaming. What is unusual about this particular dreamer is that she was able to maintain consciousness during her dream and to realize that she was dreaming. While connected by wires and probes to 16 channels for reporting physiological data at the Stanford University Sleep Research Center, she was able to communicate with the researchers during the dream itself.

Dr. Stephen Laberge, who conducted this lucid dream experiment (and hundreds of others as well), has written a book that gives scientific validation to what many people know from personal experience: It is possible to remain conscious while dreaming.

According to Laberge, Aristotle knew how to do it, as did Friedrich Nietzsche, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Tibetan Buddhists have written about the advantages of lucid dreaming since the 8th Century. In the second edition of "The Interpretation of Dreams," Sigmund Freud described the experience: "There are some people who are quite clearly aware during the night that they are asleep and dreaming and who thus seem to possess the faculty of consciously directing their dreams. If, for instance, a dreamer of this kind is dissatisfied with the turn taken by a dream, he can break it off without waking up and start it again in another direction--just as a popular dramatist may under pressure give his play a happier ending."

What You've Been Missing

LaBerge makes a strong case for the value of learning how to develop this skill. If you don't know how to direct your dreams to enhance self-confidence, or to create the pleasurable sensation of flying, if you can't facilitate creative problem-solving, rework painful situations, or turn nightmares into positive experiences, LaBerge may show you what you've been missing.

Acknowledging that his claims might seem extravagant to some readers, the author substantiates his position by using his own experiences, case histories of other lucid dreamers, anecdotes from diverse cultures, and writings on the subject that spans 24 centuries. Advice and techniques are presented for the reader who is motivated to learn how to use dreams to improve the quality of life.

In "Lucid Dreaming," LaBerge explores some fresh territory for readers interested in mind/brain relationships. You can sense the scientist and the dreamer trying to ride tandem through difficult terrain and, on the whole, LaBerge keeps his balance quite well. He hits a few bumps when he attempts to compare lucid dreaming to imagery, and sometimes he passes the same observation points more times than is desirable. But he moves well through the scientific procedures and when he encounters a transpersonal experience during a lucid dream, his work takes off and soars as spontaneously as a character in one of his dreams.

The implication of LaBerge's research is important for reasons that transcend the subject of lucid dreaming: When you begin to take responsibility for your attitudes and actions in dream situations, you are, in fact, rehearsing the challenges of daily life; when mental powers have been effectively developed, you can determine your perceptions as well as your behavior in any circumstance--in REM sleep and in the waking state.

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