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Lucid Dreaming Research Paper

Uncommon Consciousness: Discovery Through Lucid Dreaming Throughout history, scientists, artists, mathematicians, and intellectuals have made cultural and technological advancements based on observations or realizations made in exceptionally realistic, or lucid dreams. Individuals such as Salvador Dali, Thomas Edison, and Dmitri Mendeleev turned to their dreams for inspiration in their respective fields. (Dali, 27) (Bernd, p. p. 28-29) (Baeyer, 6) These exceptionally intelligent individuals made innovations by utilizing the dream world to observe problems from a perspective other than waking consciousness.

In these dream worlds, the brain is able to conjure unique models of events or ideas without the distraction of sensory input. The brain is then able to analyze these models and draw unique conclusions based on observations. Lucid dreaming has a profound effect on creativity in that it allows the artist to picture objects in new ways or recall particular interesting or unique scenes in dreams and re-create them through a different medium.

In these dreams, the subject usually controls aspects of conscious life in a realm of endless possibility conjured by his or her subconscious, and experiences a realization that causes a paradigm shift in his or her thought model in order to provoke an innovation or discovery. Richard Feynman inadvertently exposes the basic principals behind dream discovery in his book, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, by observing his personal experiences with lucid dreaming and the transition from waking consciousness to dreaming and back again.

The first principal of dream discovery that Feynman details is simply possessing the will to gain knowledge from dreams by consciously observing events taking place in the dream world. After thinking about the concepts of sleeping and dreaming, Feynman decides to create an experiment to observe and record his personal experience with falling asleep and dreaming in order to better understand how the human stream of consciousness breaks down into sleep. Feynman, 47) He begins observing the process by paying attention to his thoughts as he falls asleep twice a day-once in the afternoon, and again at night. He notices that, during the transition from waking to dreaming consciousness, the brain “speaks” to itself internally and synthesizes vivid images of objects or scenes.

Later in his observations, Feynman notes that as he closer approaches unconsciousness, his brain is able to visualize objects or scenes in great detail and logically connect the visualizations to his “verbal” stream of consciousness. Feynman, 48) As the visualizations and verbal stream of consciousness become harder for the brain to connect, the subject enters an “unconscious” dream state where the stream of consciousness is purely a result of the brain’s analysis of it’s own synthesized visuals. Though Feynman does not realize it at the time of his experiment, Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali use similar methods of observing the period between consciousness and unconsciousness in order to consciously observe scenes conjured by the subconscious.

Edison accesses the state between consciousness and unconsciousness by drawing himself out of sleep as soon as he drifts off. He would doze off in his favorite chair, holding steel balls in the palms of his hands. As he would fall asleep… his arms would relax and lower, letting the balls fall into pans on the floor. The noise would wake Edison, and very often he would awaken with an idea to continue with his project. (Bernd, p. p. 28-29) Similar to Edison, Dali employs the method of jerking the brain out of sleep by dropping a key onto a plate as he fell asleep sitting upright in a chair.

Instead of observing his thoughts with the intention of solving a scientific problem, however, Dali recalls the visuals he experiences between consciousness and unconsciousness and translates them onto canvas. (Dali, 27) Continuing to observe his thoughts while falling asleep, Feynman accidentally reveals another key factor in the pursuit of discovery by means of dream observation. He does so by unintentionally accessing a full state of consciousness in REM sleep.

Though accessing consciousness in a dream seems like a simple task, the human brain makes it nearly impossible. The brain’s manipulation of the dreamer’s senses is the main reason we often do not realize we are dreaming. The human brain is so good at mimicking sensory input that it cannot easily tell the difference between waking reality and dream reality. In his 2002 book, Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep, author J. Allan Hobson writes, As typical of most dreams, I am so involved in the scenario that it never occurs to me that I am dreaming.

As I see Richard Newman (and his unidentified friend), see my house (even though it is clearly not mine), see the blue paint as it is sprayed on the walls, and move through the sequence of scenes, I accept all of these unlikely features as real on the strength of my hallucinatory perceptions, my delusional beliefs about them, and my very strong feelings of anxiety and apprehension. (Hobson, 5) Hobson makes the observation that the brain recognizes some situations in dreams as normal or routine even though they contain”… lagrant disregard for the constancies of time, place, and person. ” (Hobson, 5)

Hobson’s findings stress the idea that dreams rely more on how the brain carries out daily tasks, not necessarily what is involved in the task. For this reason, dreams are mainly a mimesis of the dreamer’s daily life with varying characters and situations that produce very interesting dreamscapes. In his book, 13 Dreams Freud Never Had: The New Mind Science, Hobson notes the brain’s ability to sharply synthesize complicated images and textures.

He recalls a dream where he imagines that lobsters have beautiful, delicious brains that can be perfectly sliced and eaten with chopsticks. Hobson’s subconscious projects his textural and visual desires in the form of the lobster, and Hobson notes that he gets pleasure from thinking back to the delicacy simulated by his subconscious. This synthesis of imagery based on the desire of the dreamer is the same mechanism used by Mendeleev to build the foundation of the modern periodic table (Strathern, 14) and Salvador Dali to create his unique surrealist art.

Both Mendeleev and Dali’s dreams of discovery are projections of the spatial and sensory desires that the two individuals could not easily express in their most common conscious state. In these lucid dreams, the brain takes normal obiects and gives them more dimension, portraying them in many different unique ways at once in order to create a visual that is pleasing to the observer. In Feynman’s first lucid dream, he finds himself standing on top a moving train car, quickly approaching a tunnel.

He ducks down so that he will not hit the tunnel and realizes that he can sense intense fear in his dreams. As he continues to explore the dream world, Feynman discovers that the sleeping brain synthesizes realistic colors, sounds, and tactile sensations. Scientist Friedrich Kekule also realized the importance of dreams and discovered the structural arrangement of the Benzene molecule in a lucid dream. Puzzled by the fact that the Benzene molecule’s six hydrogen and carbon atoms must be arranged according to the rules of chemical valence, Kekule dreams of a snake biting its own tail, forming a ring.

In the dream, Kekule becomes conscious and realizes that the shape created by the snake represents the hydrogen and carbon atoms in Benzene arranged in a hexagonal ring. (Von Baeyer, p. p. 6-8) Though Feynman does not make a discovery or innovation as notable as the ones made by Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali, or Friedrich Kekule, he does utilize dream observation in order to deeper explore his subconscious. In his lucid dreams, Feynman observes that, though he is dreaming, all of his senses are present and equally sharp as in waking consciousness.

Feynman recalls seeing a thumbtack pressed into the frame of a door and thinking to himself about the possibility of feeling the thumbtack without actually simulating its image. After confirming that he could trick his senses, he further expanded his capacity to control his dreams and began to think about how the senses are manipulated by our subconscious in the dream world. Feynman’s experiences observing the act falling asleep and consciously controlling his dreams parallels the experiences of artists who have made real-world discoveries in the dream world.

Feynman demonstrates the process of discovery by means of lucid dreaming when he has his first “symbolic” dream. Feynman’s open-minded curiosity paired with his desire to explore the dream world combine in order to reveal to him a truth about his suppressed feelings. After hearing his friend’s opinions about symbolism in dreams, Feynman has a dream where his loved ones are represented by billiard balls whose colors and actions symbolize Feynman’s subconscious dilemmas about the characters.

Unintentionally, Feynman demonstrates the archetype of a lucid dreamer on the track to discovery and provides valuable insights into one of the human mind’s most delicate states of consciousness. Though dreams of discovery have been traditionally viewed as divine intervention or magic, Feynman easily exposes the factors that contribute to an individual experiencing a “breakthrough” by detailing his conscious dreaming experiences and observing the deterioration of the daily human “stream of consciousness” into sleep in his book, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman.

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