About by Kelly Bulkeley Hi, I’m Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., a psychologist of religion specializing in dream research. This website is for anyone who is interested in dreams and wants to learn more about current research on dreams in relation to psychology, religion, evolutionary science, politics, art, and culture.  I also encourage you to visit the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb), a companion website with a collection of thousands of dream reports and digital tools to study them.

I was not interested in dreams as a child, but as a teenager I experienced a series of recurrent nightmares in which I was chased and attacked by frightening antagonists, including the uber-villain Darth Vader of the “Star Wars” movies.  These nightmares forced their way into my waking awareness and prompted what has become a lifelong fascination.  Where do such strange dreams come from?  What generates their emotional intensity, hyper-realism, and boundless creativity?  What do they tell us about the potentials of the human mind?  These are the questions motivating my work.

My graduate training is in the field of religious studies, specifically the psychology of religion, because that discipline a) helped me learn about dream teachings and traditions prior to rise of psychology in the 19th century, and b) offered more flexible programs for interdisciplinary research than I found available in other disciplines.  I knew from early on that any hope of understanding the complexity of dreaming would require the resources of more than one field of study, and it was easier to be in a religious studies program taking psychology classes than in a psychology program taking religious studies classes.

In recent years I have become interested in the use of new technologies of data analysis for the study of dreams.  In 2009 I launched the Sleep and Dream Database, an open-access online archive and search engine designed to promote the scientific study of dreaming.  The SDDb has more than 30,000 dream reports from a variety of people and sources, and much of my current research is focused on developing the resources of the SDDb and collaborating with other scholars in studying the various meanings and patterns that emerge from SDDb analyses.  This New York Times essay from 2013 gives an overview of what I’m trying to accomplish.

Many of the posts here have been previously published in my regular blogs for Psychology Today.  I also have a Twitter account (@kellybulkeley) that I use exclusively for dream-related quotes, research, and observations.

About by Kelly BulkeleyA short biography and curriculum vita are below.

Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., is director of the Sleep and Dream Database.  He earned a doctorate in Religion and Psychological Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from Stanford University.  A former President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and Senior Editor of the APA journal Dreaming, he has written and edited several books.  Among his works are Dreaming in the Classroom: Practices, Methods, and Resources in Dream Education (co-authored with Philip King and Bernard Welt) (State University of New York Press, 2011), Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History (New York University Press, 2008), American Dreamers: What Dreams Tell Us about the Political Psychology of Conservatives, Liberals, and Everyone Else (Beacon Press, 2008), Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep (co-edited with Ryan Hurd) (ABC-Clio, 2014), Big Dreams: The Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2016), and Lucrecia the Dreamer: Prophecy, Cognitive Science, and the Spanish Inquisition (Stanford University Press, 2018). He lives in Portland, Oregon.


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17 Replies to “About”

  1. I read with interest your article in yesterday’s NYST. As a psychotherapist/hypnotherapist, spiritual counselor and dream therapist, there were several points of interest. Having amassed a vast database of the unconscious you seem to be able to detect from an individual’s dream somethings about them that prove accurate. However, you aren’t able to first de-cipher the dream let alone provide its theme and its true meaning.

    I hold that all dream books be used as doorstops.

    While I think Jung as on the right track, he can be seen as the Model T to dreaming as Freud was to psychology and especially psychoanalysis..now outmoded due to cost and time. From my own personal experience and those of my patients I and they are able to first de-cipher the dream get the theme and as a result interpret it for ourselves. I teach my patients how to accomplish this so that in the end they can do it without me.

    I have a challenge for you. I had a dream last night which I’d be happy to share with you. You derive what you can from it and post the comment. Then I’ll share with you the process I use and the result I got..

    1. Hi David,

      I get your skepticism, and I’m intrigued by your offer. Sure, I’d be happy to look over your dream, and we can talk about what might be going on.

      1. 21st Oct. Dream

        I’m in NYC with two other mean sitting around a conference table.We were talking. Then I went out and phoned someone I knew for a long time. Then this friend, a man, his wife and dog came in the conference room and sat down. The man sat directly in front of me the wife to his left with the dog. I waved at the man. He gave the Vulcan salute back. Her dog leaped on the table came over by me and smelled the salad greens in a bowl to my left. Then it turned around, and being a bitch, squatted over the bowl and peed in it while giving me an odd look. Everyone convulsed in laughter. The dog went back over the table to the wife’s side. She said its a Vizsla a Hungarian Vizsla. The dog came around the table to me. I played with it as it was such a lovely dog. I turned to the man and said, “You couldn’t have gotten here in an hour and a half.”. One of the other men at the table said, “You couldn’t have gotten from Chicago that fast.” The first man replied, “We were in south Florida in Hayworth on vacation.” He then went on to describe Hayworth and his vacation.

        I realize that you could Google me which might give you an advantage…I would hope that you don’t. After you print your response. I’d be gad to give you both my technique and my results. However, please email me directly as my results are private.

        Thanks, looking forward to your reply.


  2. I read “Dreaming Beyond Death” two days ago and felt such gratitude for you and your mother for being so grounded and mystical. The entire book felt like pure gold. I was particularly interested in your insights on visitations: “striking, emotionally intense dreams in which a recently deceased loved one returns to provide guidance, reassurance, and/or warning.” You say, “they provide experiential evidence of human connections that extend beyond the end of mortal life” (p. 18). My brother, a quadriplegic since age 17, died leaving many unanswered questions and my mother was inconsolable, certain that she would never “see him in Heaven.” She called me one morning, two years after Steve’s death, to tell me something she thought might sound crazy. She had “awakened” in the middle of the night because of a bright light. She said she opened her eyes and looked down the hall where the light was coming from and saw Steve walking towards her, and he seemed to be saying “I’m all right, Mom.” She asked if I thought she was crazy. I told her instinctively that she wasn’t crazy at all, that Steve had loved her so much he had come back to let her see him walking and tell her he was okay. We wept together and said goodbye. That dream/visitation affected her profoundly. She experienced deep peace and was able to finally let go. I’m grateful to you for affirming these experiences.

  3. i am looking for anyone who might know about seeing your hands in your dreams. If you do not know what I am talking about please research. I have done it and would like to share what happened with someone who wont think I am crazy.

  4. Hello! I have had a handful of powerful numinous “big “dreams that have acted as my lodestar in life. I have also had a dream of my mother after her death which enabled me to ask her how she was.. she said she was fine and I lent over an kissed her- very healing whatever the interpretation. Finally she also appeared in a dream but looking like her younger self, and warned me of a dear friend’s soon to be announced cancer (within 2 days of the dream and this was totally unexpected) and then his death. I asked her to give us 5 minutes and we had 5 years!

  5. Hello, I am beginning a search to find out information about dreams and sleep talking. I’m in a relationship with a man who talks in his sleep but what I have discovered is that I can touch him while he is sleeping and actually activate the talk. It interests me to listen as he’ll be having conversations where he asks a question in a voice and response in another voice, and either voices are not his ‘real’ voice. In addition, at times he speaks in languages that I have no idea are – but I can listen to the conversation and it is a back and forth exchange. This mystifies me as I wonder, having little knowledge about quantum physicals is he actually in another time/space reality? What I am looking for is information to research about – what I will refer to – as a strange sleeping phenomena. One night I had a question in my mind, that I wanted to ask him, and after contemplating the question over a few times in my mind, he spoke out loud in his sleep – and said: Yes Yes. I giggled out loud because I knew he just said Yes Yes to the questions in my mind, without hearing them, and I would jokingly be able to tell him later – that he already said yes. But then, the strangest thing happened, he then said out loud, in his sleep – Did you ask me if you could see me tomorrow? And then I said, yes, but not out loud – I only thought the question. Of course, he doesn’t recall any of it. My mind is curious if there is anyone studying sleep talking – which I assume is associated with the dream that is being experienced. I would love some direction to learn more. Best regards, Kathy

  6. I was waiting to see my doctor when I picked up a Time magazine from April 4, 2016, when reading thru it I found your article on The surprising link between dreams and faith. It was quite interesting as I have always been a dreamer from a young age.
    I would dream that I could fly, take off running, jump and fly, did that quite often at a young age but it left me as I got older. During my Junior and Senior year of high school I would dream that I was flying in a plane, alone and with the door open, would walk to the door and my little voice told me to jump (did not have a parachute) but could not jump was afraid and I could feel my body stiffen and I would wake up. This dream happened for the longest time till one night while dreaming I finally did jump and as I did I woke up and never had that dream again.
    In dreams I have been in a different dimension and I know this because the young lady that was speaking to herself out loud was stating something that was not a good thing to do and I told her she could not as it was not right and as I stated that she starts asking who am I and I thought to myself ‘oh, oh need to leave’ and I woke up. I was in her time and not mine. I had three dreams of children being killed by people they knew but I don’t know who they were. I have dreams of family members that have died as they come to me either during the process or after. I also know if they are in heaven or hell, which at times has made me very ill. These dreams are but a few of the many I have had and I have gotten very good a interpreting my dreams and one last one (recent one) that really surprised me was I had a decision to make regarding a family member that is getting married to a same sex partner but my walk in the Lord Jesus was causing me anguish if to attend the wedding or not. I decided I would not attend as when I decided to follow the Lord I would do so with my heart. A week after making my decision I was coming out of a dream and as I was doing so the last 2 or 3 seconds I saw the Lord standing in a white robe looking at me with such a soft loving smile which took me by total surprise. In the last second I stated Lord is that you and woke up. That dream has not left me and I have a feeling that it will never do so and will probably be something I go back to when I need too.
    Beyond dreams I also have what people call a strong sixth sense but that is another story. So you see why I was so excited to read the article and happy to hear I’m not the only one that has dreams such as mine. I will read your book(s) for further insight, knowledge is always good.

  7. I’m mother of three children..girl 11,boy 9 and girl4.My oldest dither had a dream about me having child a girl and she was upset becose everyone like the baby more then he’s. She run away from home .
    Wondering what it means.
    Thank you.

  8. Hi Kelly- I have been journaling my dreams for 20 years. What makes my story unique is that I met my twin soul when I was 24, now I am 41. Often we meet up in the dream world. I started blogging my supernatural experiences 6 years ago. My writing also reflects this love play between myself and my twin. There is a lot more to this- such as my kundalini awakening I had in 2007. My connection with my twin strengthened. All my research and writings are on my blog. Hope you get a chance to read it and share your thoughts with me.

  9. Dear Kelly,

    I’ve had several, what I think you term mystical dreams, over my lifetime. It took me a very long time to be able to label them (i.e. Big/numinous dreams – hence how I found your book). The first one I had, and the most profound, occurred when I was a teenager. Others I’ve had have been associated with a change in consciousness. I’ve read part of your Big Dreams book and am just about to finish Jung’s ‘Memories Dreams Reflections’ (I’m trying to understand his perspective on Big Dreams). My mystical dreams, as you refer to them as, relate to visits from people who have died and ‘aesthetically complex dreams of of astonishing beauty’ and are ‘archetypal-spiritual’ dreams with ‘numinous force.’ (I’ve never had flying dreams – but I have had a dream of being in outer space). I agree these dreams have nothing to do with superstition. I agree that these dreams reflect a healthy brain/mind system working at extreme levels of intensity. I agree that these dreams simulate possibility. But one thing I have personally observed is that mystical dreams are somehow related to the search for and or experience of the self. It’s difficult for me to put into words (your book has helped me to some degree). These dreams, I feel have been generated in several different ways. 1) My deeply inquisitive thinking nature has lead me to experience a change in consciousness which has then led to an ‘archetypal spiritual’ dream. 2) Some highly significant personal experience (in my case the death of a man who had a profound (in a good way) impact on my life) which so deeply effects you then causes a change in your world view – has caused a numinous dream. So I think what I’m saying is that these dreams come from some type of relationship between one’s consciousness and the divine. But they can come about through introspection and research and or events but the dreams relate to the possibility of the future. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts as I have tried to understand these dreams for over 30 years. Please feel free to email me. Best wishes, from Sophie

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