Human beings have always been intrigued by their dreams. Scientists and psychologists, too, search for the meanings of dreams, but usually while addressing larger questions. When, precisely, do dreams occur? What causes them? What is their purpose? Might they even, as some parapsychologists maintain, serve as channels for psychic communication?
From the early 1900s, researchers began to make the connection between the state of dreaming and rapid eye movements, or REMs – short bursts of eye wiggling followed by a minute or two of rest – during certain periods of sleep. In the 1950s, the correlation between REM activity and dreaming was reinforced by studies in which electroencephalographs monitored the brain waves of sleeping volunteers. Researchers found that most sleepers progress through four stages of sleep, ranging from light slumber to deep sleep. About ninety minutes after falling asleep, this pattern is reversed.
While ascending through the sleep stages, the sleeper may be difficult to rouse, but the brain registers alertness. This is the REM stage, and here dreams take place. This pattern is repeated four to five times per night, with each dream period lasting for approximately ten minutes.
Less easy to uncover, however, has been the cause of dreams. One neuro-physiological explanation is that dreaming is a side effect of concentrated nerve signals traveling within the brain; another view holds that during REM sleep the central nervous system is clearing itself of chemicals generated during the day. However, neither theory addresses the content of dreams. That task has usually fallen to psychologists.
The Study of Dreams
Sigmund Freud felt that dreams express unconscious wishes and desires. Carl Jung viewed them as glimpses into the collective unconscious, filled with symbols that contain advice or guidance. Some scientists believe that dreams are a way for the mind to rid itself of excess information; still others consider dreams the means by which humans integrate new knowledge about their environment and rehearse responses to various situations. But no single theory has accounted for the full range of dream experiences, including those with alleged psychic content. Large-scale, systematic experiments have convinced a number of psychic investigators that telepathic exchange during dreams is not rare and does not require a special aptitude. Although thoughts or images may not always be transmitted whole from sender to dreamer, parts may be inter-woven with the ongoing dream or appear in an analogous form.
Taking dream telepathy research one step further, Dr. Keith Hearne of Hull, England, is studying the lucid dream, in which the sleeper knows a dream is occurring. Hearne has developed a device that monitors the sleeper’s breathing, and when the subject breathes in a prearranged pattern to indicate a dream has begun, the machine automatically telephones a sender. The sender then concentrates on delivering an image to the alerted dreamer.
Dream studies continue to be conducted, but dream researchers Montague Ullman and Stanley Krippner have already drawn some conclusions. “The psyche of man possesses a latent ESP capacity that is most likely to be deployed during sleep”, they have written. “It took many hundreds of thousands of years before man learned to write his language. How much longer will it take before he learns to use his psi?”.
Montague Ullman, M.D. and Stanley Krippner
Dr. Keith Hearne
Dr. Carl Jung – Dream Theory