Bulkeley notes in the interview that his book attempts to look at common themes from various dreams described in the religious literature, and draws out how they might reflect common aspects of human experience.
It sounds like an historical anthropology of dreaming with a view to understanding the significance of dreams for some of the most influential movements in our culture.
You argue that modern science can learn about dreaming from religion. Do you have a favorite example that you use when talking to scientists?
BULKELEY: Well, consider this particular kind of nightmare dream that recurs again and again in religious texts. In the Christian tradition they talk about the incubus, or the demons of the night. In Newfoundland, it’s the old hag and so on. But what all these various religions agree on is that there’s a type of nightmare that’s very intense and involves the constriction of breathing or paralysis. Now we know, thanks to modern science, that this is a real class of dream called night terrors and they’re very different from ordinary nightmares. So all these texts that talk about night terrors, they’re actually describing a real element of human experience.
One of my favourite books on dream themes is somewhat less serious. I Dream of Madonna is a beautifully illustrated book that collects women’s dream about the Material Girl.