Electric Dreams

A Briefing on the History of Dream Psi Research

Richard Catlett Wilkerson

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

  Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (2002 Sept). A Briefing on the History of Dream Psi Research . Electric Dreams  9(9).

"While awake, our view of ourselves is one in which we see and stress our autonomy, our individuality, our discreetness. We define our own boundaries and we try to work with them. What I'm suggesting, and which is not at all novel, is that our dreaming self is organized along a different principle. Our dreaming self is more concerned with our connection with *all* others."
Montague Ullman, pg 217 Dream Telepathy 2nd ed

Written records of dream prophecy and strange phenomena occurring during dreams go back to the beginning of writing itself. (note the dream prophecies in cuneiform and the Egyptian Deral-Madineh), and we can only assume that extrasensory dreaming contributed to some of human kinds earliest observations & concerns. Cicero, nearly 2000 years ago discusses the probability of prophetic dreams. Research disappears or goes underground then until the 18th and 19th century, due in no small part to Christianity seeing dream interest as witchcraft.

By the late 19th Century, the London Society for Psychical Research had formed and began documenting psychic dreaming along with other independent researchers. Many people reported having had dreams that corresponded to an event distant in time or space. These & other similar surveys continued throughout the 1950's and re confirmed that people at least *felt* they were having psi experiences in dreams.

Therapists since 1900 have been privy to the dreams of their patients and a number of clinical studies arose. In 1953 George Devereux published PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE OCCULT which summaries these many clinical accounts.

Although Jung regarded spirits as only psychic complexes in his early period, he changed his position in his later work.

When Jung was a student at Burgholzi he attended sťances that centered on a fifteen-year-old girl who channeled what Jung felt was a wiser part of her self. Eventually the two personalities merged, which confirmed Jung s perception that the channeled spirit was a split off autonomous complex. But later he felt that a purely psychological explanation of psyche was inadequate to explain the range of psi phenomena and that there was a deep place were psyche and matter and spirit meet. This opens up the whole question of the transpsychic reality immediately underlying the psyche (Jung, CW * The psychological Foundations of Belief in Spirits )*

By 1929 Jung was observing dreams and related events that required a larger viewpoint. He noticed in series of dreams of his patients that various motifs would appear in material reality, both literally and figuratively as if related, such as a black-clad dream figure preceding news the next day of a death. To account for both the inner & outer realities in a way that didn't rely on the idea of cause and effect, Jung proposed the idea of Synchronicity. In synchronicity, events are related by meaning and connected by the activation of an unconscious archetype with may appear either in psyche or in material reality. The attraction of such a theory is that is shifts our view away from the idea that psi-capacity is simply the grasping of future, distant or mental event as an object, furthering only our technologically minded theories. Rather it moves us towards the idea that what is significant lies in the relationship between the events, or in the event itself. The two viewpoints don t exclude one another, but rather compliment each other.

Jung felt there was a need to include psi phenomena long before 1929. One of the instances that contributed to the Freud/Jung break was around an psychic event.

Jung and Freud were engaged in a heated argument about the occult and paranormal, focusing on precognition. Freud was vehemently against it. A loud crack was heard from the bookcase, which startled them. Jung said it was an example of catalytic exteriorization phenomena, and Freud thought this was bull. Jung predicted another noise and another crack happened, which quite upset Freud, though did little to convince him.


By far the most extensive research on dreams and parapsychological occurrences come from the decade of studies conducted at the Maimodides Medical Center in Brooklyn. The 50+ published articles are summarized both in a technical monograph (Ullman and Krippner, 1970) as well as two editions of the popular book DREAM TELEPATHY with Ullman, Krippners and Vaughn, (1973, 1989).

Ullman was the chair of the Psych Department at the Center and after some preliminary studies with Parapsychological Foundation in 1960, the lab was established (1962). The basic procedure was to have the participant hooked up to an EEG and sleep in a soundproof room. After going to sleep, the target picture was revealed, usually an art piece selected by random and given to an agent 32 to 98 feet away (sometimes longer). When REM began, the agent began "sending" the picture, and after 10-20 minutes the sleeper was awakened and the dream recorded. The next morning the sleeper was shown 8-12 pictures and asked to rank them in terms of how closely they matched the emotions of the dreams. many variations and subject combinations were used. Some as exotic as having the 2,000 dead heads from a Grateful Dead concert see and send the picture 45 miles away to Malcolm Bessent in the lab. The results were significant, but it would be a very hard design to replicate! This seemed to be the overall conclusion of the studies. Dream psi is very elusive.

The research lab of the famous David Foulkes in Wyoming attempted to replicate some of the experiments without results, though to this day the story seems to be that the lab was rather hostile & unfriendly to the "loaned" subject, Robert van De Castle and the conditions less than favorable for psychic hits.

What are the conditions that seem to make dream psi favorable? Here is a summary:

1. States of consciousness that interrupted normal consciousness lead to higher psi- and the interrupted state is even higher than altered states.
2. Like a siren the results of psi become promising then can utterly fail
3. Experimental conditions that are friendly and optimistic produce higher hits
4. Subjects that get sent images can feel intruded upon -
5. State specific conditions - psychics develop skills under spacial conditions, and the labs are not conducive to this
6. Distance between states important
7. full moon conducive to psi
8 statistically, precognitive dreams come true within a day of two
9. Decreasing the irrelevant simulation of a subject during an ESP test increased the accessibility of psi 10. So, for psi dreaming to occur, it is important to emphasize the role of expectation, motivation, and emotion. For example, those who are open to a telepathic experience of a sender are more likely to have hits than those who are uncomfortable with the thought of having his or her dreams invaded by someone else.

Much of the research since Maimonides has been privately funded (see as an exception the work of Dale E. Graf, a physicist and a former director of project STARGATE, the government program that investigated remote viewing phenomena. http://www.dalegraff.com/ ) and is usually presented at conferences of the Association for the Study of Dreams. ASD now has a special forum on parapsychological dreaming hosted by Ed. W. Kellogg III, Ph.D. at http://www.asdreams.org/telepathy

Is there anything still left to be investigated, and is it worth our efforts? In a final response to this question, I would like to quote from Stanley Krippner:

"...I devoted ten years of my life to parapsychological research because of a lifetime curiosity concerning the scope of human consciousness as well as a commitment to the development of human potential. The findings about ESP and PK, sparse though they may be, suggest that there exists in the universe a dimension that is ignored, unacknowledged, and virtually unexplored. This dimension of existence could teach us more than we know about time and space. It could expand our development of intellect, emotion, intuition, and creativity. It might even demonstrate that human beings do not end at the boundaries of the skin, but exist as part of a network of consciousness which connects one person to another person distant in space and time." (Stanley Krippner_ Call of the Siren_ , pg 290)