Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Matinee: The Lucid Dream and the Lathe of Heaven

Sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest places. A recent episode of American Dad got me thinking lucid dreaming again, something that hadn't really crossed my mind in a very long time. I don't think I ever took a serious crack at it, since my dream work was all about surrendering to the Unconscious and seeing how far it could take me on its own. I have journals filled with my reports from this process, though unfortunately my handwriting is illegible even to me.

But it wasn't a question of going back in the future to explore old dreams (never really a fruitful process for me) it was a question of exercising my recall, and forcing myself to explore what the dreams were trying to tell me. I think the process was an important part in my creative evolution, but also an important part of a lot of the work I do here- decoding symbols and secret messages, in order to understand the meanings buried within.

We are all in a state of semi-consciousness in many ways, which is an evolutionary response to the memetic bombardment we experience every day of our lives. In many ways, I feel as if our dreams have been colonized, and certainly the pressures of our lives intrude on the rhythms and cycles of the body and brain itself, inhibiting our ability to stay in communion with that deep and vast mainframe of symbol and wisdom locked inside our heads.

Which brings us to this 1980 television production of Ursula K. LeGuin's classic novel The Lathe of Heaven centers on a man who can't control his dreams- nightmares, more accurately- from coming true. He ends up in the care of your usual sci-fi mad scientist antagonist and things go as they usually do.

This production was legendary in the pre-home video era, and has its own kind of dream reality embedded within it, the kind that only cheap genre film produced by passionate outcasts could impart. It's the power of those who live desperately close to their dreams and cling to them as their own salvation in the bewildering environment of daily life. It's why so many of these kinds of films once played at midnight, when most uncommitted people would be inside their own dreams. Maybe that energy somehow fed the process that made these films so numinous.

Note: I've been very busy this past week, but I promise I'll catch up with your comments ASAP. As always, you guys feed this blog with your contributions, something I very much appreciate when I see the idiocy on some other comment sections, especially some of the big media sites out there.


  1. The LATHE OF HEAVEN was very influential on my childhood. I saw it on television when it was originally produced and that drove me to read and reread the novel. The Beatles' song rights was the hold up in releasing it on video/DVD. There was a remake film release but I've never seen it. James Caan played the psychiatrist antagonist, I believe. Psychiatry, at the time the book was written, was a major target of the new wave of science fiction. L Ron Hubbard is the extreme end of this, but at the time it represented a form of mental tyranny considering the power of psychiatrists to legally incarcerate people against their will.

    Though it isn't so very apparent in the film, the central premise of the book was that there was a nuclear war and the main character George Orr (Jor Jor - Jar Jar Binks?) was trapped under the rubble. However, Orr is the only human who has the ability to change reality with his dreams. Later, Orr dreams an alien invasion but it is revealed that the aliens are not his creation, but a separate race who also share his abilities.

    In the film, you are left with a somewhat ambiguous conclusion. Reality in the story could all be the illusion inside the mind of a man trapped in a collapsed building and dying of radiation poisoning OR Orr could have actually dreamed the world back into existence after such an apocalypse. In the book, it is clear that this is all real -- there was a nuclear war and Orr reversed it with his unconscious power to alter reality.

  2. juss finished The Undiscovered Self by Uncle Carl and had a tough time since i cant find my dictionary but came away with more appreciation for what you do. I have Synchronicity up next, with Man and His Symbols, then the Portable Library, but not till i find my damn dictionary. Working my way up to the Red Book.

  3. I love that book. I've read it many times. I was thrilled when the DVD finally came out of the TV film. I even enjoyed the remake. It's a very compelling story. I've also been fascinated with lucid dreaming for many years. I tried to write a teleplay about it. I hope you continue to be interested in the topic, Chris.

  4. Check it out

  5. Chris - You and I are of a very similar vintage. I saw that PBS movie in it's original airing way back whem.

    You have a way of find the formative events of my formative years - and posting them!


  6. Interesting observation that our insights come from the strangest places. There was a recent reference to lucid dreaming on "30 Rock" and the whole "Nightmare on Elm Street" theme that peaked my curiosity. BTW, you have me totally hooked on "The Outer Limits". I have been digesting and falling asleep to at least one or two episodes every night for the past week. Thanks. Ddare35

  7. Ciao Chris,
    I had a good laugh when one of my internet friend pointed out that the photo chosen for the 20th anniversary of the Hubble telescope looked eerily similar for a Europe's cover.
    I'll let you the pleasure of guessing which one. maybe someone is sending us a message :)

    the lyrics made me smile too

  8. You guys continue to honor me with your feedback (literally "feeding back" this blog). I will catch up with the past three posts soon- hopefully tonight.

  9. Anony- Very awesome info there, spoilers aside! I'll have to track it down on audio since I'm busy again.

    Justuss- Excellent. Jung really informs everything I do here.

    Anony640- I am still interested. It's something I'd like to work on. What I've been doing is sleeping with my Ipod on with a mix of deep ambient stuff. It's been sa really powerful tool in dream recall, since it keeps me from sleeping much too deeply. I recommend it.

    Anony900- Tweeted.

    C!- It's my version of the Vulcan Mind Meld.

    DDare- Always glad to turn folks onto TNOL.

    Daniel- I saw that pic- it looks like space poo! Weird.

  10. I remember the book ending not as Anonymous did. I remember it being all the dream of a dying man