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.