Recently, an amazing statistic emerged from a little known sleep laboratory at the University of Swansea in Great Britain: namely, that the number of people in Western society experiencing a lucid dream has increased by up to 40 per cent in the last 30 years.
In fact, current estimates are that most of us — eight of every 10 people — will experience a lucid dream at some point in our lives.
In a lucid dream you are, in a sense awake; you remain aware that you are dreaming and so can consciously manipulate the dream’s events. This neat ability was recently highlighted in the movie Inception, where Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page are able to custom-design their dreams in order to blow up cafes, curve streets into the heavens and in general bend reality to their will.
This ability used to be relatively rare — a mark of the gifted psychic or sensitive. But according to Professor Mark Blagrove, one of Britain’s leading authorities on dreams, our dreaming patterns are drastically shifting. These days far more of us are able to delve into our dreams and consciously control them.
A different mechanism
Lucid dreams appear to involve a very different mechanism than ordinary dreams. During ordinary waking consciousness, our brains operate at a fast clip, using beta waves (around 13-40 hertz, or cycles per second), but slow down drastically during sleep.
Light dreaming or meditation leads to a preponderance of either alpha rhythms (slow, high-amplitude brain waves with frequencies of 8-13 hertz) or the slower theta waves (4-7 hertz), which typify the state of consciousness during deep sleep.
However, something very different happens during lucid dreaming. Researchers have recorded very high brainwave frequencies of up to 40 hertz in the frontal areas of the brain ((behind the forehead) in test participants during lucid dreaming.
This is a brain that is very alert and working hard, with the kind of mental ticking over that occurs during the waking state. Nevertheless, during lucid dreaming, research shows that the brain’s overall activity markedly differs from that of ordinary waking consciousness, which indicates to scientists that lucid dreaming is a third state between sleeping and wakefulness.
Another interesting aspect of the research is the evidence that has emerged about the type of person most likely to have a lucid dream. Blagrove and others find that lucid dreamers tend to share similar personality traits.
They tend to be creative and problem-centred, viewing life’s difficulties clinically as a problem to be solved, not a personal issue inspiring anger or defeat. They also tend to have a high sense of personal responsibility about their lives, rather than expecting society to solve problems for them.
This fascinated me, because these also appear to be the self-same personality traits of people most likely to experience ‘peak experiences’, or transcendent moments — those beyond the limits of ordinary or material existence.
This refers to the kind of epiphany astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced after returning from his flight to the moon. Staring out the window of the Kittyhawk, he felt a profound sense of interconnectedness, as if all the planets and all the people of all time were attached by some invisible web.
It was an overwhelmingly visceral feeling, as if he was physically extending out to the furthest reaches of the cosmos.
At the end of his life, US psychologist Abraham Maslow, best known for “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’, turned his attention to ‘transpersonal psychology’ or peak experience.
In Maslow’s view, those most likely to have transcendent moments are ‘self-actualized’. After reading the biographies and writings of historical figures he considered self-actualized, such as Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, William James, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Schweitzer, he was struck by the fact that they also shared this quality of creative problem solving and personal responsibility. Consequently, many did have both transcendent moments and transcendent dreams.
So lucid dreaming may share the same source as mystical experiences – as a gateway, in a sense, into the Field.
Peter Fenwick, a British neurophysiologist, has also extensively studied transcendent states. Some of his most interesting scientific evidence concerns the fact that they are caused by an integration of the brain’s left and right hemispheres.
Until now, scientists believed that the two sides of the brain work more or less independently. The left side used logical, analytical, linear thinking and speech, the right, for spatial orientation, music and intuition.
However, it is now understood that the brain works best when it can operate as a totality, and that speech and many other functions result from both sides of the brain.
Furthermore, during mystical experiences, not only does new activity occur in the brain but, also, both sides act in a particular harmonious manner.
Eugene d’Aquili, and Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania who carried out a study of Tibetan monks discovered that feelings of transcendence, such as during peak moments, show up as more activity in the brain’s frontal lobes with less activity in the parietal lobes (at the back of the top of the head).
In this situation, the person loses the sense of self and other and enters a perception of oneness. So in lucid dreaming (which creates similar brain activity), we also experience that rare feeling of unity.
Unique geomagnetic effects
A number of fascinating studies also show a strong correlation between geomagnetic activity and an increase in dreams or psychic activity. In extensive studies by psychologist Stanley Krippner, lunar cycle, sunspot activity and changes in the GMF all appear to affect the outcome of dreams.
We now know that earth is presently experiencing a number of unique geomagnetic effects. The past few years have seen a record number of sunspots — the highest for a thousand years.
According to NASA’s Sun-Earth Connection Office, we’re also experiencing a record number of X-ray flares, coronal mass ejections – blobs of gaseous material hurled toward earth by the sun – and solar storms, causing more and more displays of the Northern lights in more southern regions of the world, as occurred in England a month or so ago.
We’re also experiencing a record number of earthquakes, hurricanes, and landslides (as our headlines reveal), all of which also affect the human psyche. Russian scientists predict that we are undergoing a shift in the magnetic poles of the earth.
Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger, who has long demonstrated that human temporal lobes are an antennae picking up fluctuations in the earth’s electromagnetic and geomagnetic fields, believes that large cosmic changes, energized by ‘intense geophysical forces of nature’, can create mass changes in human consciousness.
Lucid dreams may be yet another sign that we are experiencing a general reorganization of human consciousness and a greater move toward oneness.
If so, the world isn’t coming to an end in 2012, but coming to its true beginning.