Remembering the Future of Dream Research

Kelly Bulkeley

Kelly Bulkeley

Researcher, Senior Editor of the journal Dreaming

Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., is a dream researcher with a background in the psychology of religion. He is director of the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb), a Senior Editor of the APA journal Dreaming, and a former President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. He earned a B.A. at Stanford University, an M.T.S. at Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is author and editor of several books, including The Wilderness of Dreams (1994), An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming (1997), Dreaming Beyond Death (2006), American Dreamers (2008), Dreaming in the World’s Religions (2008), Lucid Dreaming (2014), Big Dreams: The Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion (2016), and Lucrecia the Dreamer: Prophecy, Cognitive Science, and the Spanish Inquisition (2018). He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Some of the oldest texts in recorded history are “Dream Books,” dictionaries of dream imagery with interpretations that try to identify recurrent patterns of meaning across multiple dreams. The empirical spirit of these ancient texts can be found today in new technologies of analyzing dream content, which has verified the key insight of dream interpreters through the ages: the more knowledge you have about the basic patterns of human dreaming, the better you can discern the meanings of particular dreams. Recent advances in data science and linguistic analysis have brought the study of dreams to a major historical inflection point, giving present-day researchers the tools to observe the large-scale phenomenology of dreaming with unprecedented scope and detail. To explain what these developments mean and suggest where they may be leading, this presentation will describe several projects using the resources of the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb) to highlight important discoveries that have already been made using these technologies, with practical applications for psychotherapy, artistic creativity, athletic training, spiritual reflection, cultural criticism, and child education. Insights about the future of dream research from writers of speculative fiction (H.P. Lovecraft, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick) will be cited to help in evaluating the utopian and dystopian potentials of technologies enabling people to develop a more dynamic relationship with their dreaming selves.