Recently I was asked by ABC News to comment on Christopher Nolan's new movie Inception, which I was happy to do. But as it's impossible to do the movie justice in a 15-second sound bite, I want to offer you my list of 10 things I like about Inception...
"Dreams seem real while we're in them," the main character, Cobb, says.
It's a simple point, but an important one, and the dream sequences in Inception get it right.
As the team's newest student, Ariadne, learns, the assumed reality of our experience, waking or dreaming, seems to us compellingly real.
It's only when the street disintegrates that we question reality.
Just a few nights ago a dream figure asked me, "How do you know you're not sleeping right now?" I blew him off for asking such a sophomoric question - and woke up in my bed!
Inception illustrates the way in which expectations operate in the dream state.
Cut your finger in a lucid dream and you'll feel pain - unless you actively expect otherwise. Even in lucid dreams we carry with us the idea of physical senses.
Yet there is an escape clause: the mind's expectation about what it experiences. To feel pain in a lucid dream, you must mentally believe in it.
No belief, no pain.
The brilliant creativity accessible to lucid dreamers shines through Inception like the sun - and is equally taken for granted.
Aware in the subconscious, the mind's warehouse of creativity stands completely open and ready for requests.
Many lucid dreaming painters, novelists, song writers, programmers, and engineers access their muse while consciously aware in the dream state, and marvel at its beauty and creativity.
Lucidly knock on the door of your subconscious, and creativity opens it.
Inception offers a cautionary tale. Lucid dreamer Cobb fails to resolve major personal issues and they prove to be his undoing.
Dream architect Ariadne repeatedly begs Cobb to deal constructively with his guilt and grief; instead, he both avoids and befriends his guilt and grief, and it accompanies him in each layer of the mind.
Cobb fails to learn the fundamental psychological lesson of lucid dreaming: No matter where you go, there you are.
Inception shows us the vast creativity of the subconscious in the hands of a psychologically wounded lucid dreamer who fails to learn his lessons and so accumulates increasingly complex karmic wounds.
Whatever else you may think, lucid dreaming remains, fundamentally, a spiritual journey. Until you clear away the emotional and psychic wounds and misperceptions, they distort your view, your understanding, and the lucid landscape.
Once they are taken care of, lucid dreamers see clearly that lucid dreaming follows a spiritual path of extraordinary beauty, complexity, and depth.
Inception illustrates what most experienced lucid dreamers know: layers of lucid awareness exist.
While the movie relies on the "dream within a dream within a dream..." metaphor, some lucid dreamers have become consciously aware and moved to other levels of consciousness.
How? Well, they didn't use Inception's fantasy device, PASIV; rather, they did it the old fashioned way: they used the power of the mind.
Next time you're lucid dreaming, shout out, "I want to go to the next level!" and see what happens.
Inception hints at, but never asks, "How would society respond if technology offered a drug and device that would place you with others in a stable lucid dream?"
Would you give up weekly bridge games for a few hours in a shared Holodeck, lucidly aware with friends?
I can only speculate, but a chemical compound that creates stable lucid dreams may be discovered in our lifetime. Science fiction seems headed toward science fact.
One day those weekly bridge games may collapse faster than bee colonies, as people swarm to lucid dream gatherings.
Inception presents us with something lucid dreamers grind their metaphysical teeth on: another type of reality.
Sure, physical reality has physical pleasures: peaches and watermelons in season, Lady Gaga. But physical reality also has death, taxes, and lute fisk.
Lucid dreaming offers whatever you expect and more in a lucid reality; except that it's not real.
Or is it?
If you step outside of Plato's physical cave and stumble into Plato's lucid dream cave, who's to know?
I like Inception for bringing up these reality checking ideas, these "How do I know that I know?" questions that push thousands of lucid dreamers like myself to go deeper and deeper, to play lucid dreaming reality off of so-called physical reality, to see more clearly the attributes of a physical, mentally mediated reality (waking) contrasted to a mental reality with Gumby-like physical forms (lucid dreaming), and to experience, behind it all, the unseen Architect, the "awareness behind the dream" that I discuss in my book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self.
So these are 10 things I like Inception.
Hey, wait a minute. There are only nine reasons here. My software arbitrarily removed #5 - no kidding.
I guess that's the final reason I like Inception: the minor details and anomalies our awareness floats over and fills in reminds us of the mentally "created" aspect of this experienced reality.
Who knows, maybe we're dreaming, right now, but managed to overlook that, too.
About The Guest Author
Robert Waggoner is a lucid dreamer and author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. He is President-Elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). Check out his lucid dreaming blog at Lucid Advice or subscribe to the quarterly Lucid Dreaming Experience.
Rebecca Turner is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a science degree in Auckland and becoming famous as a science writer. Try her lucid dreaming course and connect with the team on Facebook and the lucid dream forum.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?