Updated: Jan 25
Today it’s easy to think of lucid dreaming as something that’s going a little bit more mainstream. Between books and YouTube videos on the topic, as well as the general accessibility of subject experts via social media, it’s become something people can learn about and practice for themselves. That’s not to say it’s guaranteed to work for you, nor that every piece of advice about lucid dreaming out there is worth taking (most are not). But if this is something you’re interested in, you can certainly explore it!
Lucid dreaming hasn’t always been that way. It wasn’t always as well understood as it is today, and even now there are a lot of misunderstandings about it. What’s interesting however is that this hasn’t stopped a number of surprisingly prominent figures throughout history from delving into lucid dreaming on their own. Also intriguing is that among these figures are some of the most interesting and creative thinkers in recent history.
The following are five famous figures who give lucid dreaming a good name
1. James Cameron
Citing film director James Cameron as a prominent thinker of recent history may be a little bit much for some who don’t have a taste for blockbusters. But there’s little denying the creative prowess of Cameron, nor the depth of his vision on projects ranging from Titanic to Avatar. And though much of the success of those projects can clearly be chalked up to the dedication with which Cameron famously approaches both research and production, lucid dreaming has played a role as well.
In its own article on ways to “control dreaming” a few years ago, The Atlantic included Cameron as one of a number of prominent people who have essentially used dream worlds to impact real-world work. The article claims that Cameron’s dream interaction with a “robot man” inspired The Terminator. And it has also been said that Cameron did some lucid-dream world building when conceiving of Avatar.
2. Albert Einstein
It’s actually not known for certain that Albert Einstein was a lucid dreamer. However, we do know that he spent a lot of time musing about his dreams and how they related to the real world.
Einstein’s considerate of reality as an illusion, coupled with his interest in dreams, makes it reasonable to wonder if he was in fact exploring his “dream reality” with intent and purpose.
If so, he would be one of a handful of people known for extraordinary intelligence who found more in dreams than the average person.
However, it's important to note that figures like Einstein are often misquoted or assigned traits or interests. So consider this highly speculative.
That said, it's certainly possible to meet Einstein in a lucid dream!
3. Maynard James Keenan
Maynard James Keenan, the musician and singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle, has spoken about his use of lucid dreaming as a tool for self-exploration and personal growth.
He claims that lucid dreaming has helped him to understand himself better and to navigate his subconscious mind. He believes that the ability to control the dream environment allows him to explore the depths of his psyche and to come to a greater understanding of his own motivations, thoughts, and feelings.
Furthermore, he also believes that lucid dreaming also allows him to connect with the collective unconscious, which can help him to gain new insights and understanding of the world around him.
4. Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla may not be regarded quite like Einstein, but he’s one of very few figures from the past few centuries whose intellect can at least be mentioned in the same breath.
While Einstein concerned himself with mathematics and physics though, Tesla’s realm was slightly more abstract — focused on invention in ways that in his time must have seemed to border on magic.
Tesla is said to have crafted some of his vividly imagined creations and concepts by way of a sort of twist on lucid dreaming — a wakeful but meditative state in which it’s believed he could visualize his ideas in astounding detail.
Whether or not this constitutes lucid dreaming is open to interpretation, but by the sound of things Tesla essentially entered a sort of virtual reality within his own mind, leaving his surroundings to work on creations as if stepping into a lab.
5. Christopher Nolan
Nolan is another very prominent film director known to have dabbled in lucid dreaming. Interestingly enough, Nolan has included Tesla in some of his work (the inventor features as a significant character in The Prestige), but it’s Inception that has the most to do with lucid dreaming. The film is more or less about lucid dreaming (along with plenty of additional plot and conflict), and Nolan has been quoted as suggesting that his own experience with the conscious manipulation of dream states helped to influence the film. This may be why despite its famously mind-bending plot and potentially impossible concept of shared dreaming, Inception is viewed by experts as being at least somewhat realistic. An ABC News piece written around the films’ release cited people “versed in the science of dreaming” saying that the film was closer to reality than science fiction, at least in some respects. Whatever your personal interest in them or their work, these are undeniably five impressive and unusual men. Knowing that they have all dabbled at least partially in lucid dreaming only makes the practise that much more appealing!