I’m usually not so wrapped up in the release of summer blockbuster movies, but I have to admit I’m enthused for Inception, Chris Nolan’s latest film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. And I want to share my joy for being interviewed by Empire Magazine on the topic of how endangered we really are by dream-hacking super spies.
I can’t reprint the interview without breaking copyright laws, but I can tell you what I think about the dream philosophy stuff that Inception explores.
Director Chris Nolan’s own lucid dreams inspired the film. In his recent Wondercon appearance, Nolan says his lucid dreams come after waking up and going back to bed (a wake-initiated lucid dream) and that his own attempts to manipulate the dream were “frustratingly elusive,” a hint that such things are possible on a grander scale. As Chris Nolan says at WonderCon, Inception is primarily a heist movie set in the dream world. Nolan says his desire to express what it feels like to be in a lucid dream even influenced decisions of which kinds of film to use. He shot 35mm some of the time, to get a gritty documentary feel in order to honor the truth that they “feel completely real while we’re experiencing dreams.”
The central premise of Inception is that Leonardo DiCaprio, as corporate sleuth Dom Cob, can hack into people’s dreams with the help of a mysterious dream machine and discover secrets held by the dreamer. Once in the dream, Dom may also have the ability to manipulate the dream world too, a la lucid dreaming, as he is also having the same dream. Then, things begin to unravel, as Dom’s own emotional ties and memories begin to complicate the heist.
What of the technology to see into people’s dream? To be honest, I think there’s more a chance of hacking people’s dreams the old fashioned way (shamanism, telepathy, entheogenic plant-assisted spirit voyages) than with some scientific equipment that projects dreams into your brain like a virtual reality game. Cognitive neuroscience techniques like fMRI now allows scientists to view three-dimensional brain activity scans as they occur, but brain activation is a long, long way from interpreting neuronal output as visual and tactile metaphors that can be re-constructed as sensual reality. Dreams are not a movie, and there’s no projector screen to view what is happening in a dream. This is the classic homunculus fallacy.
Is dream sharing possible? I didn’t discuss this in the interview, but mutual dreaming is an oft-explored topic amongst experienced lucid dreamers, and you don’t need a fancy dream machine. Linda Magellon literally wrote the book about mutual dreaming in 1997, in which she explores synchronicities and successful dream incubations by two or more people who have statistically-improbable dreams on the same night. Also, Robert Waggoner co- editor of the Lucid Dream Exchange, was recently interviewed at the WOLD about Inception, where he discusses other cases of mutual lucid dreaming, and also lucid dreaming telepathy. More stories are discussed by Ed Kellogg, another veteran lucid dreamer.
Skeptical? I was too… until my first mutual dream. My wife and I actually have mutual dreams on a fairly regular basis. They tend to occur in early morning for us. While they are never the same exact dream, they tend to show different perspectives about the same event or a similar dream environment, and are usually tied together with strong emotions. If there’s even more funding available for mutual dream research (like the supposed Project Somnacin that was leaked in this viral video), I’d recommend using people who care about each other or have a deep bond instead of random strangers, as this is how the phenomenon is expressed in the natural dream world, to help families illuminate issues that are central to the whole community and possibly the eco-system at large.
But I digress.
Will Big Brother Ever Record our Dreams?
As a sci-fi, Inception brings intrigue to the idea that a device could tap our dreams like a Google van taps into our privacy. Even if we could devise such a contraption, would we be able to steal secrets? I don’t think so. We dream about things that are important, and may have locked inside us theorems and algorithms, but how would the dream hacker know what was the truth? Dreams regularly mix up actual events with deep emotional material, so any secret divined from a dream could not pass a veracity test.
For every scientific breakthrough and creative solution discovered in dreams, there’s a thousand more dreams full of information and metaphors that would not provide “data” for the waking world. That’s because dreams are more than reflections of waking life, but actual experiences that have their own internal truths. So mining the dream world can work well for novelists, but probably not dream sleuths after the magic code/formula/password/widget.
I still want a peek inside the dream machine tho.
My husband and I have shared dreams, too. Like yours, they’re never exactly the same, but have more to do with elements in the dream that are odd and not having to do with anything in the waking world. We’ve experimented with sending and receiving specific images and that has worked, too. They do tend to happen more during the early morning, and when we are at emotionally charged times in our lives (I phrase it like this because the dream might not be particularly charged, but we’ve been going through a wild, exciting, or stressful time). Interesting that your shared dreams have these similar conditions.
I have not yet seen Inception. However….
my feeling is that once one is able to experience lucid dream reality or any kind of alternate consciousness state, that one automatically goes through some kind of personal transformation. It is pretty mind blowing to discover that one’s consciousness can function completely well- yet differently – in another virtual capacity. So…back to the movie, after experiencing the territory of your own personal metaphors, would you even care to be involved in espionage or any of the marginally unethical situations that the waking world provides us with?
During the actual experience in LDs and OBEs, there is a greater spiritual context available that I can now access. This is then something that carries over into waking reality. And continually motivates me to do the work necessary to access the lucid dream states again and again.
In your post you said something that I’ve never thought of before. “..that one automatically goes through some kind of personal transformation.”
With this I begin to wonder. Do many “high-level” lucid dreams have an easier time exploring both sides of a situation? I am very analytical and can easily argue a point that I don’t even agree with. I wonder if that has to do with years and years of the brain both creating a scenario and having the consciousness (sorry, my spelling is horrible) and having the ability to manipulate that scenario. Think about what that implies, that your brain is creating and manipulating at once (or at least very rapidly switching between “you” and “your brain”. I keep giving up on these forums because people keep bringing up spirituality as if that is always what it means. If that works for them, great, but I’d love to just talk with some like minded people. I’ve been lucid dreaming since I was 8 years old (thanks Nightmare on Elm Street!!!). I tried to write a book about it when I was 10..that lasted about 3 pages on my old typewriter haha.
Ryan Hurd says
KMG – great to hear about your observations. I do think that emotionality carries the charge for these sorts of “non-local” events, however they manifest.
Carole and Brian – lucid dreaming ethics is fascinating area of debate — and both of ya’ll bring up valid views. There are SO many ways to use meta-consciousness. I am reminded that some of the most profound lucid dreamers in the world are sorcerers — or those shaman who use their abilities for malevolent reasons, such as harming other shaman or wishing sickness onto their enemies. Closer to home, I know a dreamer who often switches back and forth between dream figures in her lucid dreams. In each embodied dream character, she feels and thinks differently, and has a different hold on truth and reality. that’s a profound ability of the mind! For myself, lucidity often provides an opportunity for self-growth, but I believe this paradigm is culturally-mediated and personally sought-after, and not simply an automatic fruit of lucidity.
one other though…has anyone ever been surprised at what they were willing to do one the fear of punishment is completely removed. For those of us that have come to that realization…have you realized stuff about yourself?
I fear, that if it would possible to actually harness this power…I might not like the person that I would be…and I mean instantly.
Ryan Hurd says
hey Brian — yes, you’ve nailed it. LDing offers a chance to look at the human shadow, or everything tabooed and despicable — as well as beautiful and repressed — about being human that we’ve put into a bag with the thought “I could never do that — only bad men do that,” etc. What are you capable of? Lucid dreaming can offer a safe forum for these explorations. I personally think that such dreams can actually show us something we don’t know already about ourselves, and that is always instructive. I would not be afraid of this anger/rage/brutality. Rather, more fearful is not being accustomed to owning it. I took a dark path like this when I was in my early 20s, and it was destabilizing because I didn’t have a mentor, so I recommend having someone to talk about these experiences if you do follow that fear/urge.
I think that what you are saying is that the personal Self has its own perspective and filter, in which out of that is a projected and manipulated scenario? And we all assume that this scenario is consensual reality and then get caught up in its theatre and believe that all others are experiencing the same thing.
Is it you and your brain or you and your Mind? A loose analogy – the brain is a computer and Mind is Cyberspace. Non local, reaching out to our concept of infinity. Possible of all things known (and unknown). If that is so, my question – what are the available pátterns and tendencies available to us as players in this large field of consciousness?
Hmm, the word “automatic” is key here. My assumption is/was that by entering into lucid astral spaces we are transformed. I just assumed that I would go towards spiritual evolution (sorry Brian!), but of course, that is only my personal quest, so that is what I am giving out and receiving back – in bits and pieces – in LD space!
Yes, of course, thanks for mentioning sorcerers and shamans. I have known of some of them (here in Ecuador) and have really steered clear when I found out about what a great majority of them were involved in. Too dark for me – with traditions of enemies and revenge. And now it makes sense to me that they are caught up and perpetuating personal astral wars with each other. All of this time I had assumed that one would automatically want liberation from all of this!
So, let me rephrase this supposition: I think that the more we have conscious experience in lucid dimensions, in whatever way that is our desire to explore these realms, I do think that we undergo some kind of transformation. It could be positive or negative according to what we want, what we are looking for. But the transformation is actually an activation of our subtle mental dream body, (borrowing terminology from readings that I distantly remember from Casteñda) begins to take hold here in physical waking reality. The stronger this body becomes, I would think, the more important it becomes to the functioning awake mind in PWReality and the greater access one would have to return to lucid dimensions.
Ryan Hurd says
Carole — I like your rephrasing: “the more we have conscious experience in lucid dimensions, in whatever way that is our desire to explore these realms, I do think that we undergo some kind of transformation.”
That’s what the Buddhists say about dream yoga, and about consciousness in general. I’m also reminded of the story:
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “A battle is raging inside me…it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The old man looked at the children with a firm stare. “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied: “The one you feed.”
Priya Florence Shah says
My lucid dreams usually come in the morning and are vivid and in technicolor. But dreams are symbolic expressions of the subconscious and though they could be precognitive or prophetic – as some of my friends experience – I don’t see how you could steal data or information through them.
I also have shared dreams, mostly with relatives and friends. Since they are not trained in recalling dreams, I rarely have confirmation of it, but once I had the exact same dream with my boyfriend – he was amazed he could remember something and he started describing what he had dreamed and it matched my own last drem of that night: we were at a beach party, with lots of friends, people eating fish and we asking for something different (as we’re both vegetarians). Also he made the funny remark that the dream looked like one of my dreams and not one of his, because in his dreams, there’s never a lot of people or so much detail and clarity. Considering I consciously desired to bring him on the dream, I got the impression I “planted” my dream on his mind – a kind of inception.
Ye lol my lucid dreams come in morning as well, or some afternoon naps, focused on other stuff irl so forget about being aware in dreams so they rarely happen. They not always same strong, and i always get tricked by some fake waking up really soon or something so they dont last long …
But until i experiance shared dreams, or prophecies or something on my own. Chances of me beliving in that are close to 0.
Your mind plays so much tricks on you. It can make you belive many things, but in end… i think it is just ones mind.