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, science, politics, art, technology, 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 now has more than 50,000 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.
A short biography and curriculum vita are below.
Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., is a dream researcher and author with a background in the psychology of religion. He is director of the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb), a Senior Editor of the APA journal Dreaming, and a former President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. He earned a B.A. at Stanford University, an M.T.S. at Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is author and editor of several books, including The Wilderness of Dreams (1994), An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming (1997), Dreaming Beyond Death (2006), American Dreamers (2008), Dreaming in the World’s Religions (2008), Lucid Dreaming (2014), Big Dreams: The Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion (2016), and Lucrecia the Dreamer: Prophecy, Cognitive Science, and the Spanish Inquisition (2018). He has three books that will be published in 2023: The Scribes of Sleep: Insights from the Most Important Dream Journals in History (Oxford University Press); 2020 Dreams (Stanford University Press); and The Spirituality of Dreaming (Broadleaf Books). He lives in Portland, Oregon.