How Dreams Shaped The Evolution Of Spirituality And Religion

Carl Jung, the Swiss founder of depth psychology and early proponent of dream analysis, was the first to seriously study what he called “big dreams” — vivid and memorable dream experiences that occur rarely, but when they do, can have a lasting impact on an individual’s life.

Jung noted that while most dreams are fuzzy in our memory and quickly forgotten, others remain imprinted in our minds for months or even years. So why do we intensely remember a few striking, symbolic dreams?

In his new book “Big Dreams: The Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion,” dream researcher and theologian Dr. Kelly Bulkeley picks up this inquiry where Jung left off. Bulkeley scientifically explores these types of vivid, imaginative dreams as a “primal wellspring of religious experience,” and argues that they play a universal role in the evolution of spirituality and religion across cultural contexts.

Dreams represent a “neurologically hard-wired capacity” for greater self-awareness, creativity and insight into the spiritual dimensions of life, according to Bulkeley. By integrating the scientific and spiritual aspects of dreaming, therefore, we might be able to learn more about why we dream and what our dreams tell us about the imaginative powers of the mind.

HuffPost Science caught up with Bulkeley to learn more about the science of “big dreams,” the role they’ve played in the evolution of religion and spirituality, and how anyone can prime the mind for these kinds of dream experiences.

Why do a few vivid dreams sometimes have a profound impact on us, while the rest quickly slip away?

The basic idea is that most of our dreams seem to be relatively everyday, mundane kinds of things that don’t last in our memory long, if at all. Whereas a few dreams — maybe only one or two in —> Read More