Is dream telepathy possible?

© Clare R Johnson, PhD

People tend to take strongly opposing views on the question of telepathy. Any kind of telepathy: waking telepathy or dream telepathy.

Whether or not we believe in it seems to depend on our world view. Some believe that everyone is separate, that we cannot ‘inter-mesh’ with other people’s minds as they are entirely separate from our own mind. Consciousness is believed to reside in the brain, and the brain is viewed as separate from other brains: brains are housed in our own individual skull and die when we die, so there can be no ‘telepathic’ overlap. Any evidence that suggests mind to mind communication is shrugged off as coincidence.

Other people seem more open to the possibility of porous minds. These people often believe that we don’t just disappear altogether when our body and brain die. They take the view that consciousness continues after death, and feel that ‘mind’ is vaster than ‘brain’. They also tend to believe in universal oneness: we are all drops in the same infinite ocean, not separate at all on any significant level. If this analogy is followed through, it makes sense that what one ocean drop ‘knows’ could also be ‘known’ by other drops in the same ocean without overt communication, since ultimately they are one.

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Are we all drops in the same, infinite ocean?

But who is right? And what about evidence of dream telepathy? Has it ever been proved under rigorous scientific conditions?

In fact, scientific research into dream telepathy has been going on for quite some time. A major ten-year study into dream telepathy took place under controlled conditions from 1964-73. Eminent psychiatrist Dr Montague Ullman and psychologist Dr Stanley Krippner led the experiments at the Maimonides Medical Centre in Brooklyn and their fascinating book, Dream Telepathy: Experiments in Nocturnal ESP details the successes and failures of their dreaming subjects as well as the many questions raised by their research:

 

 

Our main surmise is that the psyche of man possesses a latent ESP capacity that is most likely to be deployed during sleep, in the dreaming phase. Psi is no longer the exclusive gift of rare human beings known as “psychic sensitives”, but is a normal part of human existence, capable of being experienced by nearly everyone under the right conditions. …We may discover ourselves to be less alienated from each other, more capable of psychic unity and more capable of closeness in ways never before suspected… Perhaps all forms of life are vitally interrelated in ways we do not yet clearly understand. (Dream Telepathy, Ullman & Krippner, p.227)

Every year, the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) organises a dream telepathy contest based on the Maimonides experimental method, and this has become one of the many highlights of the annual IASD conferences.

 

IASD Dream Telepathy Contest

  • Four independently chosen images are placed in sealed envelopes. One “sender” is chosen, as are independent judges.
  • The sender publicly picks an envelope, then takes it back to wherever she or he is sleeping that night, opens it in private and spends the night focusing on the target image.
  • Anyone who wants to enter the contest can focus their intent on picking up information about the target image through their dreams.
  • Everyone writes down their dreams.
  • The following morning, all four images are displayed, with boxes underneath them.
  • People slip their dream reports into the box belonging to the image they think they correspond to. At this stage, nobody knows which one is the target image.
  • The dream reports are read by independent judges to see if there are any which seem to tune in accurately to the target image. Then a winner is chosen.

 

The IASD Dream Telepathy Contest is fun to enter but it can blow you away if you get a strong telepathic ‘hit’. I know this from personal experience. Back in 2004 I won the contest with the most direct hit the judges had ever seen. And it was from a lucid dream.

Recently, I interviewed Dr Krippner for IASD’s DreamTime magazine, and at the start of the interview I recall the telepathy contest:

 
Dr Stanley Krippner’s work with dreams has touched many lives.

 

In my case, it began with a lucid dream of a tree. But this was no ordinary lucid dream, and no ordinary tree.

 

It was the night of the 2004 IASD Dream Telepathy contest and my dreams were flooded with green. As I strolled through a dream park, I heard a woman’s voice shouting the word ‘TREE!’ over and over. In the next dream, I met the telepathic sender, Beverly D’Urso, and lucidly asked her how transmitting the image was going. She told me she’d been shouting the word inside her head and I remarked that in my last dream someone had been shouting about trees. Just before I awoke I stood before a big, leafy tree.

 
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It turned out the target image was a big, leafy tree.

 

I won the contest and my mind reeled with questions. How could this happen? How is it possible to receive information from another person through a lucid dream? Are minds really so porous? If so, what can this teach us about the nature of consciousness? 

                (Read the full feature)

Dream telepathy is a fascinating topic and anyone who is deeply in tune with their dreams is likely to notice precognitive or telepathic elements in their dreams. How it works is not yet known, and although researchers such as biologist Dr Rupert Sheldrake have documented telepathic experiences and developed theories about them, more studies are needed. In the meantime, it’s good to keep an open mind.

There are so many mysteries in life; so much still remains to be discovered! We can’t possibly have it all figured out already. Staying curious and alert allows lucidity to come into our lives, and with it come many possibilities.

Among them is the possibility of discovering who we really are and what we are capable of.