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Four Levels of Lucid Dreaming

The trick is to start taking control over your dream actions.

Wikimedia commons
Source: Wikimedia commons

Inspired by this post and subsequent discussion on Facebook, I have started thinking about the philosophy of lucid dreaming again. As I have mentioned on earlier occasions, I have been practicing lucid dreaming for a few years. There are at least four levels of lucid dreaming:

  1. Knowing that you are dreaming
  2. Being able to control your own dream actions in a wake-like fashion
  3. Being able to manipulate your dream surroundings
  4. Being able to manipulate the dream actions of other people in your dreams

On earlier occasions, I was convinced that dreaming that you know that you are dreaming would suffice for knowing that you are dreaming. "I dreamed that" clearly is not a factive operator. If I dream that my cats can fly, it doesn't follow that my cats can fly. However, I thought that "I dream that I know that I dream" was a special case. 'I dream that I know that I dream," I thought, entailed that I know that I dream.

However, that is incorrect. One night, I did dream that I knew that I was dreaming but when I woke up, it was clear that my dream was not lucid (it wasn't even a first level lucid dream). I hadn't been consciously present in the dream to an extent where I could draw a line between dream and reality. In fact, I woke up in the dream to more dreaming before waking up in real life.

As the aforementioned article points out, there are differences in activity in frontal areas of the brain between regular dreamers and lucid dreamers. Lucid dreamers use their conscious control center in the prefrontal cortex while the rest of the brain is in a dream-like state. In other words, in a lucid dream, your brain's control center is awake while the rest of the brain is asleep.

Though dreaming that you know you are dreaming doesn't suffice for knowing that you are dreaming, the methods I have mentioned on earlier occasions can nonetheless facilitate getting into a lucid dream state. First, not all things behave exactly the same way in real life and in dreams. Clocks and watches behave irregularly in dreams. Reading a sentence twice gives rise to different results in dreams but not in real life. And so on. Second, our dream content often repeats events that occurred the day before.

So, one method you can use to get into a state of lucid dreaming is to think a lot about the method of lucid dreaming during the day. If you are lucky, the objects you were thinking about prior to going to sleep will show up in your dreams, and this will allow you to check whether you are dreaming.

You are not actually in a lucid dream just because you look at your watch in your dream in order to check whether you are dreaming lucidly. But when you succeed in noticing that say, your watch isn't showing the time correctly or that you can't read the same sentence twice, and you conclude that you are dreaming, that's normally when you have entered a lucid dream state.

The trick now is to start taking control of your dream actions. I have succeeded in taking control on a couple of occasions. But the things I wanted to do were not always possible. Say I wanted to have a conversation with Kripke. I wasn't always in a position to find Kripke in the dream. So, a conversation with him became impossible. Or I found him but couldn't get him to talk to me. I have been able to do exactly what I wanted only once or twice. There are some things you can do to help this process as well. If you want certain people to be present in your dream, it helps to think about them a lot before you go to sleep. It also helps to imagine the activity you would like to engage in before you go to sleep. That will make it more likely that your brain will create dream stuff for you to interact with as you wish.

More about these cases can be found in our new book, The Superhuman Mind: Free the Genius in Your Brain, available on Amazon, BAM, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.