Back in the day, which is to say the early 1990s, when I was wearing flannel and too much patchouli, we read Stephen Laberge’s book Lucid Dreaming (now out of print), and we liked it! I was 20 years old, and the work transformed my dream life.
Since then, Laberge went on to pen an even more popular book, The World of Lucid Dreaming, co-authored with Howard Rheingold. This book is still required reading for the inspiring oneironaut. It has not been surpassed when it comes to sheer usefulness, authenticity, and grounded expert opinion.
Today, there’s a ton of new books about lucid dreaming on the market, with more coming out every year, and most of them focus on the nuts and bolts of how to have a lucid dream. These books are great — worthy of a blog round up on their own — but that’s not what I’m focusing on here.
Rather, there’s a smaller niche of works that might have escaped your notice. I’m talking about thoughtful, spiritually mind-bending, and downright world-shattering books that take on the central mystery of “consciousness in sleep” and run with it. These books may touch on the “how to” aspect of lucidity, but that’s not their central purpose. They go deeper; they have bigger fish to fry.
So here’s the most recent lucid dreaming books in this category of philosophical and spiritual perspectives that I can personally recommend. These are the authors who have taken lucid dreaming into the 21st century.
(By the way, I’m also not covering Buddhist Dream Yoga and lucid dreaming in this post–that also is a topic that needs its own round-up).
- Lucid dreams and the Holy Spirit, by Maria Pita (2015). This is a highly personal book by Pita that explores her lucid dreams and its effect on her faith and self-knowledge. You don’t have to have a Catholic background to get a lot out this one, but I do think that Christian lucid dreamers will love this work as there’s not much out there from this perspective. Honestly, I find Pita’s approach refreshing and heartening, especially when set against the sea of “lucid” nihilism that characterizes so much of the lucid dreaming scene.
- The paradox of lucid dreaming: A metaphysical theory of mind, by Rory McSweeney (2015). This one is truly mind-bending, reminding me of the smooth writing and scale of vision of Anthony Peake. McSweeney reframes lucidity within philosophy and the new physics, creating a new metaphysics of dreaming along the way. At the bottom of the debate is the nature of consciousness and the structure of the universe. “Are dreams made of atoms?” he teases. (Spoiler: no). Recommended especially for those who like to have more questions than answers!
- Dreaming wide awake: Lucid dreaming, shamanic healing and psychedelics, by David Jay Brown (2016). I can’t recommend this one enough. Brown is a science journalist who has been writing about psychedelia since the 1990s. His take on lucid dreaming is profound, personally informed, healing, and deeply practical. He asks questions and makes connections that only a seasoned consciousness explorer would know how to articulate. Full disclosure: Brown interviewed me for this book, and features my work as well.
- Llewellyn’s complete book on lucid dreaming (2017) by Clare Johnson. For less than $20, this book is a steal. Johnson has synthesized the most up-to-date lucid dream research from international scholars and combined it with her own personal experience to create a tour-de-force. This book is huge. It’s rich. It’s full of references for further reading. And it’s got lots of practical exercises that range from the spiritual to the creative. Another disclosure: Johnson also cites my work in this book.
- Lucid: The Tao of dreaming (2018) by Daniel Love. This book is hard to define, because it’s really unique. At first it appears to be a collection of thoughts on the nature of mindfulness and dreaming. Then, slowly, a hidden structure is revealed, taking the reader on a journey of greater lucidity as each meditation builds upon and supports one another. Some chapters are truly koans that create delightful paradox in the mind– the perfect recipe for stirring lucidity. It’s a relaxing book to read, a little at a time. In fact, reading it too quickly can dampen its power. This book is perfect as a lucidity-primer right before bed, or for incorporating into middle-of-the night meditations.
Did you enjoy this literature round up? Let me know if you’d like me to do some more, such as the best lucid dreaming 101 books, or recommended Dream Yoga texts, or recommended books for dream interpretation, etc. There’s been a wonderful collection of new dream books in the last few years!
Laurie Baker says
Which of these books would you recommend for, not so much how to lucid dream, as to which book would render the most insight into understanding our deepest spiritual nocturnal experiences? Thanks for this list, Ryan!
Ryan Hurd says
Hi Laurie, that’s a tough one, as each of these 5 are not about how to lucid dream but deeper issues. In terms of sheer spread of high quality ideas, I’d say Dr. Johnson’s work. but for philosophical insight, zeroed down on questions of ultimate reality, probably Dr. McSweeney’s or David Jay Brown’s.
Hi Ryan, really helpful post! I have only read dreaming wide awake on this list but is my all time favourite book on the subject. Looking forward to reading some of the others and your next list on Buddhist dream yoga and lucid dreaming if you make one.
Just wanted to also recommend another lesser known lucid dreaming book that goes way deeper than a how to. It’s called Dreamscape by Bruce A Vance 1989. So it’s not new but is filled with great insights from a man who has spent a lot of time contemplating thought forms and the dream space. I think you will enjoy it if you haven’t read it already.
Cheers, all the best
Ryan Hurd says
thanks Jesse. I haven’t heard of Dreamscape – interesting! And OK on dream yoga… that will be a fun one.
Thank you for these Ryan. My dreamwork has taken on this colour of ‘philosophical and spiritual perspectives’ more and more of late, so I welcome these.
Yes, more reviews are always appreciated (when you have time and are really inspired), especially when you think a book is exceptional, even nuts-and-bolts if there’s a particularly unique technique (I still have very little success with lucidity).
Luckily, lucidity isn’t all there is. My dream recall is pretty good (not so much just now since it’s late summer here and recall seems to be always less in summer). With good recall, interpretation is another growing interest. It’s amazing what you can learn from it (even when it’s wrong, if there is such a thing), and I’m just getting into it in earnest. Your favourites in this category would be of interest as well.
Ryan Hurd says
thanks cj for the feedback. I’d say the best dream interpretation-style dictionary these days is JM Debord’s new work. It’s flexible and nuanced.