Inception: Lucid Dreaming Goes Mainstream

05I just went to see the biggest movie in America, Warner Bros.’ Leonardo DiCaprio summer smash, Inception. Surprisingly it really revived, for me at least, the notion that Hollywood can still make truly interesting, challenging films — one of the first since The Matrix. Lucid Dreaming is generally relegated to New Age backwaters with most people probably unaware even of the term, let alone what it refers to, but director Christopher “Batman” Nolan has changed that in no uncertain terms.

Robert Waggoner, author of the book Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, has written an excellent analysis of the movie for Reality Sandwich:

Inception raises many fascinating questions that experienced lucid dreamers (those who become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state) have wrestled with for decades:

  • If you become consciously aware of dreaming, can you lucidly enter another’s dream, or bring them into your dream?
  • If they share unknown information with you, would this provide evidence for a shared or mutual dream?
  • And if that information proves to be valid, what does that say about the nature of reality?
  • Do dreaming minds have access to an individual or collective unconscious where they share information?

The plot of Inception portrays a talented lucid dreamer, who brings unsuspecting dreamers into a mutual dream environment and then “extracts” information from his or her subconscious. The lucid dreamers in Inception rely on a special machine, PASIV and a special drug, Somnacin, to achieve a stable lucid dream realm and enact their underhanded (or under-minded) deeds.

Inception’s basic premise resonates with many experienced lucid dreamers who have empirically investigated these questions of gathering information and interacting in an apparent shared or mutual dream. Though complex, the simple answer to the above questions appears to be “Yes. Lucid dreamers have provided numerous instances of acquiring unknown information while consciously aware in the dream state.”

In the movie’s dialogue, Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) explains the three stage approach to ensnaring another’s subconscious information while lucid dreaming. “We create the world of the dream,” Cobb tells his understudy. After creating a stable lucid dream, “We bring the subject into the dream.” Next comes the finale, “And they fill it with their secrets.”…

[continues at Reality Sandwich]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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15 Comments on "Inception: Lucid Dreaming Goes Mainstream"

  1. tonyviner | Jul 30, 2010 at 12:53 am |

    I must be the only one that found this movie to be very underwhelming. I just don't get it, even people that I consider intelligent have been sucked into this shit. It wasn't a bad movie, don't get me wrong, it just felt like another standard Hollywood movie. People keep talking about how it made them think. About what? What the hell was so damn profound about this movie? I am always the fucking outcast, I swear to god!

    • take three hits of acid then see it again.

      • tonyviner | Jul 30, 2010 at 3:18 am |

        That shouldn't have to be a prerequisite for a movie that was already supposed to be mind blowing.

        • emperorreagan | Jul 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm |

          People thought the Matrix was mind blowing, too. I suppose I could see either movie being mind blowing, depending on what ideas you typically roll around in your head.

          I thought the movie was reasonably interesting and generally interesting. I did like that it strayed a little bit away from the typical genre crutches (though not too far away, as pointed out in the other comment on this thread about machine guns). I guess you can't expect a major motion picture to stray too far from formula, but I like the effort.

          • I haven't seen the movie yet, but it seems like this territory has already been touched on in movies like Dreamscape (1984) and the Nightmare on Elm Street series.

            David Lynch's newer stuff, like Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive, seem to portray events taking place in dreamlike realities (such as pre-death life reviews, depending on how you interpret his films). They're notoriously cryptic, but in a strictly cinematic sense, they're really good at giving you the sense of drifting through the realm of the subconscious.

            This sounds like it's just another sci-fi thriller…nothing I've read so far makes it sound particularly innovative, much less mind-blowing.

          • Gemmarama | Jul 31, 2010 at 1:49 am |

            i've not seen the movie but i'm guessing it's probably just another case of alternative ideas being diluted for and assimilated to the mainstream, thus discrediting their validity and negating their power… sigh!

  2. i agree. i didn't “get it” either.

    • Gemmarama | Jul 30, 2010 at 6:11 am |

      let's say you can “enter” somebody else's dream; this would presume that we all visit the same dream “worlds” that are somehow part of the universal unconscious… i don't buy it. my dream worlds are so decidedly, personally and idiosyncratically mine that they must be specific to me. although i can occasionally manage some lucid dreaming (although it was much easier when i was a teenager – must be something to do with the hormones) i think “drawing” another into that dream is a little far-fetched. nice idea though!

  3. A Bad Joke | Jul 30, 2010 at 1:27 am |

    Can you enter someone elses dream? If you're psychic, sure. Otherwise, no.

    Lucid dreaming is pretty cool though. Personally I like to fly around and look at things.

  4. I think it's interesting that so much mainstream science fiction is now exploring false realities, inner worlds, altered perception, and so on. My guess is that the internet, with its virtual worlds, has brought some of the ideas of the psychedelic movement to the mainstream, but I'd be interested to hear where other people think it comes from.

    • Hadrian999 | Jul 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm |

      they are also quite big in modern occult thought,
      the Castaneda books, Kaos magic…..
      these have been kicking around for a while Hollywood was bound to
      use it eventually

  5. My take, if anyone's interested –

    Short version: “You enter the world of dreams and all you get are thugs with machine guns?”

  6. justagirl | Aug 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm |

    oh! real nice juno. “he’ll be allright”. just let him stay in the sinking van. that top is never going to stop spinning now. that movie was a snoozer (lol).

  7. justagirl | Aug 2, 2010 at 10:31 am |

    oh! real nice juno. “he'll be allright”. just let him stay in the sinking van. that top is never going to stop spinning now. that movie was a snoozer (lol).

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