Saturday, 28 July 2012

10 Famous Lucid Dreamers

1.      JAMES CAMERON (b. 1954)
The Canadian director of Avatar (2009) - as well as countless other hit movies, including The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997) - has cited lucid dreaming as being the inspiration for one of his famous movie scenes. Musing on Avatar, he said: "...I've kind of realized that what I was trying to do was create dream imagery, create a lucid dream state while you're watching the film," Cameron told Hollywood Today. "I think that most people dream of flying at some point and when we're kids we dream of flying and I certainly did, and still have a lot of flying dreams and I thought that if I can connect to an audience, to a kind of collective unconscious in almost the Jungian sense, then it bypasses all the politics and all the bullshit, and all the culturally specific stuff and all the language specific stuff around the world and connects us all to that kind of childhood, dreamlike state when the world was magical and infinite and scary and cool and you could soar. So that was the concept behind these scenes. And for me, personally, this was the part of the movie that I like the best, that I can watch over and over again."

2.      NIKOLA TESLA (1856 – 1943)
The Serbian-American genius inventor and scientist, best known for his many revolutionary innovations in the field of electromagnetism, whose work formed the basis of modern-day commercial electricity supply, using alternating current (AC) power systems was inspired by lucid dreaming. In addition to practical application of his work, Tesler is also famous for many scientific theories which remain unresolved to this day. Tesla possessed some extraordinary mental characteristics – such as an acute sense of hearing, visualisation skills so vivid as to mimic reality, and bizarre eccentricities of habit and behaviour. His visualisations enabled him to conduct realistic "dream experiments" while he was wide-awake in the laboratory. As a result, it is very tempting to suggest that, in his virtual laboratory, Tesla functioned one level above the lucid dream state. He had the ability, while being both physically and mentally awake, to run complex visualisations internally with all the realism and automaticity of a lucid dream world. In 1892, Tesla was awakened from a dream in which his mother had died. Tesla rushed to his mother's side as she lay dying, arriving from Paris just hours before her death.

3.      CHRIS NOLAN (b. 1970)
As the director of original and gripping movies like Memento (2000) and The Dark Knight (2008), British-American director, screenwriter and producer, Chris Nolan, mined his own lucid dreams to conceive Inception (2010). "I wanted to do this for a very long time, it's something I've thought about off and on since I was about 16," he told The Los Angeles Times. "I wrote the first draft of this script seven or eight years ago, but it goes back much further, this idea of approaching dream and the dream life as another state of reality." Intriguingly, Inception's main character, Dom Cobb, is played by Leonardo DiCaprio who also had lucid dreams before starring in the movie. The role of Cobb in the tangled dream-within-a-dream plot is to implant an idea in the subconscious mind of his victim. While the idea of shared dreaming currently resides in the land of science fiction, we can't escape the inherent truths of this movie: that the dream architects consciously manipulate the dreamscape with all the realism of waking life. Also like lucid dreams, however, the subconscious mind has its own agenda.

4.      SALVADOR DALI (1904 – 1989)
The famous Spanish surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, knew that lucid dreams were real long before they were scientifically verified in the laboratory. He used dream incubation techniques to pre-program his dreams, and produced many dream-inspired works, such as Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944). His painting, Sleep (1937) explores the Freudian world of dreaming – he had read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1920) and from 1926 onwards had incorporated dream imagery into his work, paining his dream scenes almost literally, blending reality with subconscious dream imagery and symbolism. He would often describe his paintings as “hand-painted dream photographs”. Dali also pursued some forms of automatism as a way of inspiring new works straight from the unconscious. However, he eventually turned to a method he called "critical paranoia" - a state in which he could apparently cultivate delusion while maintaining sanity. His eccentric persona, which is what helped make him so famous, was even considered part of his art practice.

5.      STEPHEN KING (b. 1947)
There is some evidence that the American horror writer experiences the phenomenon of lucid dreaming – for example, it is the major theme of his novel, Insomnia (1997), an extraordinary tale about an insomniac who begins to see brilliant auras, and then more disturbing hallucinations, as his condition deteriorates. Another clue that Stephen King may be a lucid dreamer is how he finds inspiration for his novels. In an interview with UK reporter Stan Nicholls on the inspiration for Misery (1987), King said: "Like the ideas for some of my other novels, that came to me in a dream. In fact, it happened when I was on Concord, flying over here, to Brown's. I fell asleep on the plane, and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. His skin, the writer's skin. I said to myself, 'I have to write this story.' Of course, the plot changed quite a bit in the telling. But I wrote the first forty or fifty pages right on the landing here, between the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel." And in an interview with Naomi Epel, King said: "I've always used dreams the way you'd use mirrors to look at something you couldn't see head-on, the way that you use a mirror to look at your hair in the back. To me that's what dreams are supposed to do. I think that dreams are a way that people's minds illustrate the nature of their problems. Or maybe even illustrate the answers to their problems in symbolic language." Dreams were also said to inspire King’s novel, Dreamcatcher (2001). In 1999 a minivan smashed into King as he walked down a country road near his home in North Lovell, Maine. Thrown 14 feet, King suffered a shattered leg and collapsed lung. He endured three operations and spent months recuperating. That's when the dreams started coming. Speaking on how his dreams transfer into storylines for his novels, King stated: "They don't always translate well...But when it's good, it's like your eyeballs turned right around 180 degrees and you're touring your own head."

6.       RICHARD D JAMES (b. 1971)

The Irish-English electronic musician also known as Aphex Twin, James has publicly stated that the sounds from his album Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994) were inspired by lucid dreams. Upon waking, he would attempt to re-create the sounds and record them. This album consists of lengthy ambient compositions which James has described as being "like standing in a power station on acid". James also claims to have natural synesthesia which contributes to his work.
7.      RICHARD LINKLATER (b. 1960)
The Texan-born American screenwriter, and director of the live-action rotoscoped movie Waking Life (2001), is very familiar with the concept of lucid dreams. The movie is an intriguing philosophical jaunt into the world of dreaming and asks the question: "Are we sleep-walking through our waking state or wake-walking through our dreams?" The animation technique used in Waking Life requires animators to trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, giving a curious dream-like appearance; real but not real. Rotoscoping was again used in Linklater's movie, A Scanner Darkly (2006). This movie also pressures its protagonists to make a decision about the reality they are experiencing and to "wake up" and see their world for what it really is.

8.      THOMAS EDISON (1847 – 1931)
The prolific American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison was hailed by many as a genius, but he had a famous saying: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration". His West Orange laboratory would often be operating throughout the night, as Edison and his team turned his dreams into inventions. He came up with the idea for the electric lamp in a dream one night, and he would often sleep in short bursts between working, writing down all the new ideas that came to him during REM sleep. While the term "lucid dreaming" did not even exist when Edison was alive, there have been many natural lucid dreamers for millennia, and Edison was likely one of them. His tendency to nap often would have left him wide open to conscious dreams, and his genius would not have overlooked the potential for drawing inspiration from such experiences. Indeed, his unusual sleep cycles may well have attributed to his prolific inventions. Thomas Edison held 1,093 US patents, many of which contributed to mass communication and telecoms of today, including a stock ticker, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.
The American directors, writers, producers, best known as the creators of The Matrix (1999), are lucid dreamers who drew on this notion to create a virtual reality world in which we are all mentally enslaved, not recognising that we are merely "dreaming". According to the official Matrix website, they drew on a whole host of philosophies to devise the plot, including Descartes, Mahayana Buddhism and the proverbial "brain in the vat" problem. The conundrum of The Matrix is: "How do I know that my reality is not an illusion?" This is the key to unlocking a dream and becoming consciously lucid. The Wachowski Brothers convey this and more in their sci-fi trilogy. They show us that the simple awareness that you are dreaming is not enough (Neo knew this from the start, yet he still wasn't able to control the Matrix yet). Instead, you must train your mind in your own lucid dojo before you can achieve full creative action. Like Neo, many newbie lucid dreamers have difficulty flying (or at least staying airborne) until they have been through their own personal training regime. We learn the mental perspective required to understand what makes flight possible in a non-physical dream world. Because of this insight, The Matrix is a veritable instruction manual for lucid dreamers.

10.      ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879 – 1955)
Einstein, the German-born theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, effecting a revolution in physics, was thought to be a lucid dreamer. Since conscious dreaming was not officially categorised nor popularised until after his death, we can only really speculate, however, it is clear that he mused on the concept of his internal dream world, and even used visualisation techniques to arrive at some of his theories, including that of relativity. One of his most famous quotes deals with the condition of consciousness: "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." This is typical of the conclusion that every lucid dreamer makes after his first legitimate lucid dream - how can we trust our real-world perception when our dreams so effortlessly mimics reality? Where did Einstein's genius come from? Post-mortem studies of his brain have revealed some interesting differences to the average brain. His parietal lobes were 15% wider than average - and area usually connected to spatial and visual cognition, as well as mathematics. He also had a rare pattern of ridges and grooves in his parietal lobes, thought to aid his visual thinking when it came to physics. And a third key difference is related to a knob found in the motor cortex, associated with musical ability (Einstein played the violin avidly since childhood). Ironically, Einstein's brain was actually smaller than average, which tells us his genius had more to do with the structure than size. Interestingly, Einstein's Dreams (1982) by Alan Lightman is a novel which fictionalises Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. Each dream involves a conception of time, though some scenarios may involve exaggerations of true phenomena related to relativity.


  1. You should credit the original source of this article or risk being sued for copyright infringement:

    1. I think you will find that this article is written entirely in my own words, using material sourced from several key websites and Wikipedia pages. As an academic I am aware of what needs to be referenced, and how to cite appropriately. As the information used in this article is covered by a plethora of different web-based sources, there is absolutely no way I could identify the original author. As I have re-written all core information in my own words and collated a vast amount of different material into a single piece, referencing is not necessary. Neither is it necessary to 'credit' anyone for producing a list of names (the 'famous dreamers') which inspired independent research. I also welcome someone trying to sue me for copyright infringement as (a) they would fail and (b) I have no money to pay damages in the unlikely event I was successfully sued, as I am a student and make no profit from my personal Blog. Thank you for your comments Anonymous xxx