Electric Dreams

 Transforming Research into Socially Responsible, Collaborative Personal Education

Henry Reed 

(Electric Dreams)  (Article Index)  (Search for Topic)  (View Article Options)

Reed, Henry (1995 February 5). Transforming Research into Socially Responsible, Collaborative Personal Education. Electric Dreams 2(2). Retrieved July 31, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  

From the very beginning of his career, Henry Reed has demonstrated innovative approaches in the field of psychology, integrating personal transformation, research and classroom learning into a new paradigm of socially responsible discovery.

As a case in point, when he began his post as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Princeton University in 1970, his first project was a new approach to the problem of amnesia for dreams, a topic for which there had been no applied research up to that time. His class for undergraduate students was on the psychology of dreams. As a class project, students kept dream journals, developed and used a quantitative records of their attempts to remember dreams, and devised a novel procedure for revealing what, exactly, was "learned" when a person "learned to remember dreams." Students learned the skill of dream retrieval in the morning and transformed their attitude about memory for dreams from that of being a victim of circumstances ("the alarm chased the dream away") to feeling empowered in the use of their skills ("by lying still in the morning I am able to bring back memories of my dreams.") The methodology used in that class, and the results of the students' experiment, was published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (1973, 13, Pp. 33-48) as "Learning to remember dreams."

While at Princeton University, Henry innovated in other areas. He taught the first for-credit course offered in the United States on the topic, "Humanistic Psychology." Laboratory work in this class involved student exploration and reporting in areas such as meditation, imagery, communications, etc. One of the first students in this class, Mary Watkins, wrote for her senior thesis, Waking Dreams, which was later published and has become a classic in the field of imagery.

Henry offered the first for credit course devoted entirely to the subject of Carl Jung's psychology. Students read Jung's autobiography and kept dream journals. Using art and drama, they explored Jung's practice of active imagination and linking dreams to myth. When he took his students into New York City on a field trip to the Jung Institute, the Director of Training initially expressed skepticism, as was the custom at that time, that anyone could learn anything meaningful about Jungian psychology without being a patient in Jungian analysis. After interviewing the students and hearing about the personal insights they had made and how they could relate them to Jung's theory, he admitted that perhaps there was a place for Jung within an educational framework. The Jung Institute then published Henry's next article, "The art of remembering dreams" in Quadrant (1976, 9, Pp. 48-60).

During the early 1970s, dream research was in its infancy, and was just beginning to expand into the humanistic domain, where dreams would be seen as an asset to the dreamer him or herself and not just a diagnostic or therapeutic aid to the attending psychiatrist. Henry wanted his students to see if they could, as he had done, use dreams for self-transformation. He realized that the "dream incubation" procedure, inherited from ancient Greece, could potentially be dormant within the human psyche, but that new methods would be required to realize their current vitality. As a result of his continuing investigations into creating a new paradigm for research provided transformative and educational experiences for its participants as well as significant new information for society, Henry decided that the sterile laboratory, with its antiseptic procedures, was not the best atmosphere to encourage people to test the outer limits of dreams. He decided upon the use of psychodrama to create symbolic rituals as preparation for "big" dreaming or "breakthrough" dreams. The psychology department at Princeton University frowned on this approach, declaring it was "void of scientific value." At this time, the A.R.E. invited Henry to conduct research with its membership. At the residential, rural setting of A.R.E. camp, Henry conducted his first experiments in dream incubation. His paper was immediately accepted for publication by the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, (1976, 16, 53-70) as "Dream incubation: A reconstruction of a ritual in contemporary form." It has since been reprinted in many sources. That study, showing that the transpersonal dimension of dreaming is indeed available to individuals today, provided their motivation is sincere and the preparations are expressive of that motivation, was a landmark study, with implications for psychology, religion, anthropology and related fields. It showed that symbolic ritual, expressed through psychodrama, made available to people working on real concerns, who have a vested personal interest in the outcome of their involvement, was the perfect context for creating structured, repeatable experiments that yielded the type of meaningful, transformative experiences that heretofore had been only seen in "spontaneous" or uncontrolled cases outside the laboratory.

A.R.E. commissioned Henry to continue his style of research with its at-home membership. In what became a paradigm-creating project, Henry showed that people at home, working on themselves in structured projects, keeping track of their experiences with simple record keeping, could indeed make significant progress in personal growth and at the same time contribute to science. His study, "Improved dream recall associated with meditation." Journal of Clinical Psychology (1978, 34, Pp. 150-156) showed that when people meditate, they are more likely to remember dreams. It was but the first of many experiments, the later ones conducted by other researchers such as Mark Thurston and Richard Kohr, using the "home study" approach. Henry later published a workbook based upon that first experiment. It is now in its sixth edition, Dream Solutions, (published by New World Library).

Henry's style of research was excellent at encouraging serendipity as all the laboratory subjects, rather than being passive little rat-people oblingingly going through the motions required by the experimenter, were instead motivated observers. During the study on meditation and dreams, some of the participants had dreams about the research itself. Those dreams were synchronistic with Henry's dreams and the result was the creation of the experimental publication, Sundance Community Dream Journal. This journal, sponsored by Atlantic University, had as its premise, nothing other than the counter-cultural hypothesis that, instead of segregating scientists away from the population, that people themselves, as a cooperating circle of responsible people, could become a research entity, making significant discoveries in dreams. The motto was, "Every dreamer is a researcher and every dream is an experiment in consciousness." The journal accepted articles from dream explorers and sponsored projects for subscribers to attempt. The journal was published for three years then stopped for lack of funding. But its reputation didn't die. The journal received high praise and began to spawn imitators. A few years later, The Dream Network Bulletin sprang up as a private enterprise, citing Sundance as its inspiration. As professional dream researchers saw the potential of harnessing people's interest in dreams and directing it toward research, the organization, The Association for the Study of Dreams was founded, allowing laypeople equal participation with the degreed professionals. All this as a outgrowth of Henry's research project.

Gradually Henry's work expanded beyond dreams into parapsychology proper. This evolution came about through dreams, as told in his book, Getting Help from Your Dreams. Most significantly, as we researched dreams in a community setting, he found that people could cooperate with their dreams as well as they could cooperate on projects during the day. That led to the innovative dream telepathy procedure, "The Dream Helper Ceremony," whereby a group attempts to dream about the undisclosed problem of a stranger in distress. This ritual demonstrated that it is possible to obtain telepathic dreams, repeatably, when there is a good purpose for dreaming telepathically. The Dream Helper ceremony, published in Theta as "The Dream Helper Ceremony: Small Group Paradigm for Transcendent ESP" (1990), has been also written up in Omni magazine and in Jean Campbells' book, Dreams beyond Dreaming.

The ritual was also used to generate dreams for America ("The Dream American Project", Sundance, 1976), reviving the visionary politics of the Native American. Henry's interest in the civic aspect of transpersonal psychology led him into the community, reaching into the mainstream. For several years he worked as a social work supervisor with the Department of Social Services in Virginia Beach. Bringing his same approach to collaborative personal learning as a research tool, he transformed the way the Crisis unit responded to city emergencies. His approach, published by as "Burnout and self-reliance." Public Welfare, Summer, 1982, 29-36 also earned him an award of merit from the city of Virginia Beach. After leaving employment by the city, he continued as a volunteer, training other supervisors in his methods, and was nominated to a Govenor's award for Volunteering Excellence in 1989.

In a recent book, Night and Day, by Jack Maguire, in a passage describing Henry's work on dream incubation and Sundance, there is this summation, "By common agreement, Henry Reed is the father of the modern dreamwork movement." In a recent evaluation of the significance of Henry's work for parapsychology, Rhea White, past president of the Parapsychology Association and editor of the Journal of Parapsychology, said that Henry's work was the "dark star" of parapsychology, currently unseen, but inevitably drawing everything into its wake as it pointed to where the future had to go.

(Article received from H.R. on February 3, 1995.)



 Henry Reed
Creative Spirit Studios
Flying Goat Ranch
3777 Fox Creek Road
Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
1-800-398-1370 voice and fax
web: www.creativespirit.net