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Painting of a man smoking an opium pipe (London Science Museum)

We have all experienced pipe dreams. I had never realised that the term for such fanciful hopes had its origin in the late 19th century and referred to a dream experienced when smoking an opium pipe. Opium smoking may be ‘old hat’ by modern standards, yet many of us in today’s generation still seek dreams by taking other hallucinatory substances from crack cocaine to prescription opioids that have street names such as Goof Balls, Chill Pills, Hug Drugs, Kit Kat, Mellow Yellow, and Magic Mushrooms. 

I grew up in the 1960s when the taking hallucinogens emerged into the zeitgeist of that era.  I never succumbed to the temptation myself, although I was sent a packet of morning glory seeds to chew on. I resisted on the grounds of (a) being a newly graduated pharmacist, I was fully aware of the harmful effects of these drugs and (b) I felt that I was naturally goofy enough without any extra help.

However, like everyone else, I do have dreams during sleep. I don’t dream much, but sometimes the how, when, where, andwhyof my past experiences combine to produce really vivid dreams, that I can savour and want to recall on awaking. 

How to become a lucid dreamer

Recently a newspaper article of this title caught my eye. It began: ‘Most of us aren’t aware when we are dreaming. However, some people are not only aware, but are able to control their dreams. This is what’s known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreamers become aware that they are asleep while in the dream, and then are able to ‘will’ themselves into particular situations. Some athletes use lucid dreaming as an opportunity to practice real-life skills, as it can improve mental preparation for important events.

‘One of the most famous lucid dreamers is Mary Arnold-Forster. Born in 1861, Arnold-Foster published Studies in Dreams when she was 60. Her findings were very different to the work of her contemporaries, but many of her theories were later proved to be correct.’

I know I’m not a lucid dreamer, and I don’t think I want to try to be one, but I have been writing a novella, so I might give its protagonist such skills (which in itself may just be my lucid dream made real).