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In Kelly Bulkley’s mystical dreaming, analysis on the patterns in form, content and meaning has been carried out based on a non-experimental research study based on religion. Interviews were carried on 100 Americans whereby four major hypothesis were put forward on: mystical experiences are derived from abnormal and pathological brain functioning; they are characterized by the Jamesian marks ineffability, anoetic or knowledge-gaining, quality, transience, and passivity; mystical experiences are cultural constructions enhanced by an individual’s history, religion, language and the social environment one is exposed to; and leading towards consciousness or absolute unitary being. This presents a basis for contrasting on the appropriate level of analysis of mystism be it physical or phenomenological and whether mystical dreams are real or apparent presenting an argument on pluralism versus universalism. This, unlike previous studies, has been based on findings of dream research. Findings provide further support for these hypotheses and also show that mystical dreams are more prevalent in women in comparison to men.

 The study was carried out through personal interviews on family life, political afflictions and religious convictions.  The variables investigated were the respondent’ details, settings, color and emotions experienced in the dream. 65 women and 35 men ranging from 19-86, with an average age of 46, were interviewed for one to five hours. There were however several limitations on scope, the age range, religious composition, breadth of an individual’s experience and occupational diversity.

Findings tabulated showed that 94% of the participants were able to describe their most memorable dream. At least 89% experienced sexually arousing dreams which were positive and enjoyable with the number of women being slightly higher at 91% in comparison to 87% in men. Dreams on visitation were quite prevalent at 69% with women experiencing 50% in contrast to the men’s high of 79%. Dreams on self-awareness and lucidity were more prevalent in men.    

Dreams on evil presence were evenly common at 53%. However, mystical dreams were considerably more experienced by women rather than men who had the lowest frequency at 40% in comparison to any other type of dream experienced. Mystical dreams experienced involved unusual and non-human characters, friendly interactions, positive emotions, and good fortunes. This is in contrast to non-religious dreams which involve negative content and emotions coupled with aggressive social interactions and misfortunes.

The individual’s interpretation and understanding as to the motif of the dream have been observed in the study of 42 core dreams which have been either on single or multiple occurrences. These motifs were death, Christianity, light, precognition, reassurance, nightmare, epistemological uncertainty, and impact–no memory. Psychologists view dreams to be filled with strange, bizarre and supernatural phenomena. However, they are neither disjointed, nor fragmented and vague but are coherent, vivid and consistent with real-life emotional, social and religious experiences. These further serves to illustrate that dreams are not random and irrelevant but are an expression of human experiences through imagination. The abnormal/pathological brain function theory was supported by three people who experienced their dreams when ill. However, most of the people sampled were perfectly healthy at the time the survey was conducted hence the dreams could not have been caused by brain defects. A Jamesian mark on ineffability is contravened by the fact that most people can precisely describe the details of their dreams. Most of the dreams were found to be coherent, memorable and enduring. However, the dreams were anoetic since the persons regularly described them as sources of true insight and knowledge. Therefore, James’ claim as a whole is contravened. The culturalist approach is widely supported by the study. Christian motifs serve a basis for religion whereby they represent a symbolic world. The dreams were strongly felt although they were spiritually mystical. It seems that most dreams are influenced by multiple factors of culture, religion, history, and language.  The “pure consciousness” view by which mystical experiences are regarded as varying approximations of a unitary mode of being have not been widely supported in the light motif.  (Bulkeley)

In an experimental procedure provided by Brigitte Holzinger, Stephen Laberge and Lynne Levitan on the Psychophysiological Correlates of Lucid Dreaming, the study sought to electrophysiological differences between lucid and non-lucid dreams in REM sleep have been explored. This has been classified as an experimental study since the causal effect of REM periods has been investigated against theta power, alpha power, beta-1 power, beta-2 power, total power, heart rate, eye movements and muscular activity. Lucid dreaming was found to be vital in therapeutic settings such as solving recurrent nightmares. The hypothesis is that lucid dreams are associated with higher frequencies in the EEG spectrum.

This study involved a sample of seven men and four women experienced lucid dreamer volunteers ranging from 21 to 37 years who underwent polysomnographic recordings for two consecutive nights in a sleep laboratory. The subjects were full aware of the dream state, the possibility of making free decisions under clear consciousness, perception by all senses, full memory of waking life, full memory of all lucid dream experiences in the waking state and in the lucid dream state and awareness of the meaning of symbols. Eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure, and skin potential in lucid and non-lucid dreams were compared. There were a number of physiological variables such as lucid REM periods recorded through EEG data onto an Ampex analog tape recorder while others on polygraph paper.  Later, the EEG data were digitized, using a BECKMAN polygraph and a CODAS computer interface, with a sampling rate of either 100 or 125 points per second. A computer program read in the digitized EEG data as well as the averaged calibration, applying FFT. The program then summed the spectral analyses into the appropriate frequency bands such as DELTA, THETA, ALPHA, BETA-1 and BETA-2.

In this study methodology, light stimuli were used for lucid dream induction whereby a sleep mask was equipped with two extra-bright red light-emitting diodes. The stimulus was triggered through pressing a button 7 minutes after each REM onset of eight flashes in 2 seconds (4 Hz) determined by polysomnography. Response was initiated through eye movements such as LR2 ( left-right left-right) in order to indicate lucidity and LR4 (left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right) to indicate a waking state. The subjects were all aware as to what constituted a lucid dream and its volitional control. This was further enhanced by eye signals initiated once a dream state was achieved.  If a response was not initiated, the light stimulus was then re-triggered after each REM onset. If there still was no response, the subjects were then awakened after 30 seconds and asked to record their experience and rate the dream either as lucid or non-lucid. Else, if a subject signaled, the light stimulus was not re-triggered. A false awakening was detected when an LR4 signal was made when the subject was still asleep.   Lucid dreams were hence identified by an LR2 signal visible in polysomnography and an actual account reported by the subject. 

Differences between lucid and non-lucid epochs consisting of 7.5-second time units, a discriminant function analysis and MANOVA were carried out. The ANOVA approach was then used to contrast between the onset of lucidity and the non-lucid state.  Findings showed that lucid dreams occurred during periods of increased physiological activation.

The essence of the experimental study was to find out on the existence of psychological differences between lucid and non-lucid REM epochs which consisted of various variables: theta power, alpha power, beta-1 power, beta-2 power, total power, heart rate, eye movements and muscular activity (EMG).A discriminant function analysis yielded six variables, splitting the data set with a Canonical Correlation of 0.494 and Chisquare of 10.419. Criteria of non-lucid epochs were the means of the eye movements, total power of the right parietal hemisphere and beta-1 of the right frontal lobe, whereas criteria of lucid epochs were beta-2 and beta-1 of the right parietal lobe and beta-1 of the left frontal lobe. Discriminant function analysis produced a predicted group membership of 69% for non-lucid epochs and 77.8% for lucid ones. (Levitan et al)


Levitan, B. H. Psychophysiological Correlates of Lucid Dreaming.

Psychology of Dreams. (2009, October 4). Retrieved November 9, 2010, from



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