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dream. It happens to everyone ever night; however, what would happen if someone could consciously have power over their dreams and manipulate those involved in said dream? The fact that you are not consciously responsible for what you do in your dreaming world is thrown aside. How moral are the decisions made during one of these “lucid dreams”? Before beginning to argue the morality corresponding to the topic of manipulation within lucid dreams, a basic understanding of the science and history of lucid dreams is necessary. Historically, lucid dreaming has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Native Americans experienced it and considered it to be a “portal to the spirit world.” Great minds such as Aristotle and St. Augustine were some of the first to write about this phenomenon. In 415, Augustine had written a letter regarding a man by the name of Gennadius who experienced what we, today, would recognize as a lucid dream. Tibetan Buddhists have been practicing lucid dreaming as “dream yoga” for ages, as well. Although these dreamers did not have a name for what they were experiencing, it is clear to scientists today that it is what we call lucid dreaming. This term was coined by a Dutch psychiatrist named Frederik van Eeden in 1913 who began the scientific studies on it. Today, the most prominent name in the studies of lucid dreaming is Dr. Stephen LaBerge, founder of the Lucidity Institute where he conducts cognitive studies to better understand the dreaming and the waking mind. (Lambert)
Hernandez 2 It is often difficult for some people to grasp the concept of being aware of dreaming. Scientifically, a person must be conscious while you are dreaming a normal dream to an extent. If a person were not somewhat conscious, they would not have the ability to recollect their dreams and relay them when awake. The difference between regular dreaming and lucid dreaming is your ability to use your conscious mind and decision-making skills in a full sense while asleep. (Blackmore 139) Dr. LaBerge conducted studies to prove that the dreaming individual was, in fact, fully conscious, and not simply just assuming so. He began by developing a new invention at Stanford University called the DreamLight system. This equipment looks a lot like a high-tech sleeping mask connected to a small biofeedback computer. This system is used to initiate the lucid dream by flashing a light in your eyes when you enter REM sleep (the deepest stage of sleep where dreaming occurs) to remind you that you are sleeping. (Courtney) After LaBerge felt that the lucid dream had initiated, he waited for eye-motion cues. Since most of the body is physically immobilized while sleeping, LaBerge had instructed the test subjects to move their eyes in distinct rightleft-right patterns to prove that they were conscious. Sure enough, the experimentation was successful. (LaBerge) The practice of lucid dreaming can be both supplemental and beneficial but it can also be used immorally and wrongfully. Since lucid dreaming gives the dreamer just as much, if not more, free-will as they have in their waking life, it is up to the person’s own personal discretion and moral decision-making.
Hernandez 3 Those who have experienced a lucid dream once before will usually wish to have one again because of their extreme realism and limitlessness. They can be used in positive ways such as helping to cope with chronic nightmares, training for athletic endeavors, and practicing artistic techniques. (Holt) This is possible due to the research of sleep studies that show that, while performing a task within a lucid dream, you experience the same brain functions as you would experience while doing the same task in your waking life. Respiratory and hormonal activities are the same and even some motor activities are performed in the same way while dreaming. (LaBerge, and Rheingold 25-28) In the circumstances where the individual dreamer decides to use this very realistic type of dream for immoral purposed, all aspects of the moral spectrum could be considered. Sexual morality would need to be considered when lucid dreams become “wet dreams.” “Wet dream” is the name given to dreams where primarily adolescent boys and men experience actual sexual feelings and even orgasms within dreams. (LaBerge, and Rheingold 26) This could be especially controversial when you bring yourself into an extramarital affair or become promiscuous. The morality of violence would need to be brought into the light in lucid dreams where the dreamer willingly and viciously attacks or kills a dream character (whether or not they represent a real person in their waking life) or themselves. Although every aspect of morality can come into question since lucid dreaming is an alternate reality, it ultimately can water down to one main topic- manipulation. Any person who is dreaming lucidly can automatically be categorized as functioning in a very low stage of moral decision making. There are, obviously, no
Hernandez 4 consequences of your actions and no chance of punishment. According to Lawrence Kohlberg, a renowned psychologist, humans function at their first stage of moral development when all they ask themselves is, “Will I be caught and punished?” “Kohlberg calls stage one thinking ‘preconventional’ because children do not yet speak as members of society. Instead, they see morality as something external to themselves, as that which the big people say they must do.” (Crain 118-136). Those indulging in maleficent lucid dreams would be functioning even below this very first stage of preconventional morality. After all, why would anyone bother to do something for anyone else in a fantastical dream when they could indulge in anything they wished? The vice of manipulation is so very simple and is also very tempting to a dreamer. What makes manipulation so immoral is the theory of how it affects yourself and other people after the actual act of manipulating the person or situation. According to Kent Beck, a computer engineer and author of several books pertaining to software development and merchandising, the problem with manipulation is that it gradually loses the trust of the people around you. (Beck) This could absolutely be held true in your everyday life, but when it is considered in a dream, it is irrelevant since no one has to know about what you do within your own mind. Another theory about manipulation which was proposed by Beck is that the real problem develops within the manipulator, themselves. Manipulation can become habitual and becomes a way of life. (Beck) When taking a lucid dream into account, you could use this as an argument. Although your dream manipulation of situations and people is not instantaneously affecting your waking life, it could become a habit and begin to carry into your waking life. For example, according to lucidity scientists
Hernandez 5 Russell E. Gruber, John J. Steffen, and Steven P. Vonderhaar, in a study conducted in 1995, people who consistently participate in lucid dreaming do show changes in character in their waking lives. A group of both male and female lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers were assessed for personality traits. Those who were lucid dreamers showed more traits of self-assuredness, assertiveness, boldness, and dominance. This was concluded to be a direct result of the ability to be controlling in dreams. (Elder) Kent Beck also gave another example of how manipulation works. Using the example of selling a car, Beck said that he could choose to be clear, resourceful, and helpful to assist a client in finding the very best car. He could also choose the manipulative path which would be most self-beneficial. “The flow of the conversation in each case might be similar. Many of the words and phrases might be identical. It’s the intent that’s difference.” (Beck) This would be a very good example to use in the case of lucid dreaming. Both if you were manipulating a situation while dreaming or if you were honestly participating in a situation in real life, the biological and psychological aspects are identical however, your intent is different. When acting in reality, you would act more responsibly than the way you would act within the dream. On the contrary, it could be argued that engaging in manipulative, violent, or sexual activity within a lucid dream may, in fact, be the most moral and ethical thing to do. Certain studies have shown that lucid dreaming could be a cathartic way of coping with your vices. It can be argued that it is far better to engage in these negative behaviors while they do not directly affect other people around than to keep them bottled up to, perhaps, seep out into your waking life and cause actual harm.
Hernandez 6 In considering this particular circumstance, the principle pertaining to “the Common Good” can be used as evidence and support. The Common Good principle, as give by the Ascension Health Ethics Department states: “Society should allow each of its members to fulfill his or her vocation. Insofar as it presupposes social welfare, the common good requires that the infrastructure of society is conducive to the social well being and development of its individual members.” (AHED) When you use this as an argument, it would help conclude that the catharsis experienced in a lucid dream, no matter what the dreamer consciously entails, would be a benefit to the social well being of that individual member of society. Also relating to the same issue would be the Principle of Beneficence along with the Principle of Nonmaleficence. Together, these two principles basically instruct you to “first, do no harm” and then focus on “do good and avoid evil.” (AHED) Although manipulation, promiscuity, and violence may be used in a lucid dream, it would be morally acceptable since you are, foremost, doing no harm to others or to yourself. After taking this into account, you would then avoid the evil of it altogether. When engaging in conscious evil past the point of therapeutic catharsis, then you are crossing over the line of immorality. Although it may seem that, in this case, it would be morally acceptable to have malevolent lucid dreams for cathartic purposed, it can all be contradicted by one of the most difficult ethical principles, the Principle of the Double Effect. Again the Ascension Health Ethics Department states: “When there is a clash between the two universal norms of ‘do good’ and ‘avoid evil,’ the question arises as to whether the obligation to avoid evil requires one to abstain from a good action in order to prevent a
Hernandez 7 foreseen but merely permitted concomitant evil effect.” (AHED) This clash is very evident in the current argument. Although there is an advantageous outcome, the dreamer is still acting in a sinful way to achieve that. A second principle given to counter the argument further would be the Principle of Human Dignity. In this principle, it is stated that “every human being should be acknowledged as an inherently valuable member of the human community and as a unique expression of life, with an integrated bodily and spiritual nature.” (AHED) Manipulation is the very opposite of respect for human dignity. Though you are not physically humiliating or abusing the person, you are being disrespectful all the same. It is stressed that you must respect human dignity both in body and in spirit- both physically and mentally. Consciously having another person act in a way they would not and have not consented in acting is an outright attack on that human’s dignity. One principle, in respect to manipulation, can be a controversial statement. The Principle of Integrity and Totality can be used to argue that manipulation within lucid dreams is either moral or immoral. In the 1965 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Section 61), Pope Paul VI describes this principle and instructs people to "preserve a view of the whole human person in which the values of the intellect, will, conscience, and fraternity are pre-eminent.” The part of this statement that may leave people torn would be the part regarding will. If human will is pre-eminent, would this mean that, since you will it, you should be able to freely use your ability to manipulate anything at your will within your dream or would it mean that you would have to suppress your manipulation to
Hernandez 8 preserve the free will of those dream characters that you manipulate? If you choose the former argument over the latter, however, you would end up contradicting the purpose of the principle on the whole. The Principle of Integrity is not, foremost, a Principle of Free Will. You must preserve will, of course, but it must be preserved along with fraternity and conscience. You can exhibit your free will insofar as it respects some kind of conscious decision and is not harmful to society as a whole. You must use integrity in your actions while in a lucid dream just as you would use the same amount of integrity within your waking life. It simply becomes a much more difficult and much more tempting situation when you know that, regardless of your ignorance of integrity is, the effect will not be real and you will not be at physical fault. In the end, it is a struggle with your conscience and with temptation. Lucid dreaming can be used for beneficial purpose however; it can be a very dangerous practice when you begin using it for ill will. It can be safely assumed that lucid dream, alone, cannot be deemed immoral. Only the individual’s integrity when it comes to their choices involving manipulation, violence, and sexuality can be considered immoral, just as they would in real life.
Hernandez 9 Works Cited
Ascension Health Ethics Department, . "Key Ethical Principles." Ascension Health. Ascension Health, 1997. Web. 7 Mar 2010. <http://www.ascensionhealth.org/index.php? option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=171>.
Beck, Kent. "Manipulation: A Matter of Intent." Three Rivers Institute. N.p., 04 January 2010. Web. 10 Mar 2010. <http://www.threeriversinstitute.org/blog/?p=428>.
Blackmore, Susan. Conversations on consciousness. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006. 137-148. Print.
Courtney, Edward. "DreamWare." The San Francisco State University. SFSU, 1997. Web. 7 Mar 2010. <http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~art511_j/emerging.1999.f/techartproposals2/dreams.mh/CER EBREXDreamWare.htm#dreamlight>.
Crain, William. Theories of Development. 5th. Prentice-Hall, 1985. pp 118-136. Print. Elder, Kara. "Dream Lucidity and Assertiveness." Missouri Western State University. MWSU, 2009. Web. 10 Apr 2010. <http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/100.php>
Hernandez 10 Holt, Doug. "Lucid Dreaming." Serendip. Bryn Mawr College, 1998. Web. 8 Apr 2010. <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1759>.
LaBerge, Stephen, and Howard Rheingold. Exploring the world of lucid dreaming. New York: Random house, 1990. Print.
LaBerge, Stephen. "Lucid Dreaming: Theory and Practice." Center for Consciousness Studies. University if Arizona, n.d.. Web. 10 Mar 2010. <http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/2010LaBerge.htm>.
Lambert, Katie. "How Lucid Dreaming Works." 21 May 2008. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://health.howstuffworks.com/lucid-dreaming.htm> 7 March 2010.
Leung, Anita, Elisa Tsan, Clarisse Miguel, and Alistair Wong. "Department of Cognitive Science." University of California, San Diego. University of California, n.d.. Web. 14 Mar 2010. <http://bci.ucsd.edu/~pineda/COGS175/presentations/cs17508/luciddreams.ppt>.
Pope Paul VI, . "Gaudium et Spes." Vatican Archives. The Vatican, 07 December 1965. Web. 11 Mar 2010. <http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vatii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html>.
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