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BIO-COMMUNICATION IN DREAMS

 

Presented at the Fourth International Forum Of Psychoanalysis, New York, September 28, 1972.

Montague Ullman

Maimonides Community Mental Health Center, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York 11219 and Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York 11203

J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanalysis, 1(4):429-446 © 1973 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

In recent years a number of reports have issued from our laboratory lending experimental support to the existence of the extrasensory or paranormal transfer of information to the sleeping subject. This information appears in the dreams of the subject and corresponds in one or more ways (form, texture, affect, or symbolism) to a target picture in the hands of a sender or agent viewing it in total isolation from the subject.

A summary of the procedure employed and the results obtained follows.

METHODOLOGY

We worked either with single subjects over a period of seven or eight nights or with a series of subjects, each sleeping in the laboratory for one night. Subjects were volunteers, some of whom were selected on the basis of earlier successful performances on screening nights. The subject's sleep was monitored electroencephalographically and he was awakened at the estimated end of each REM period to report his dream. An agent or sender spent the night in a separate room attempting to telepathically influence the subject's dreams by concentrating on the selected target picture at intervals throughout the night, and particularly when signaled that a REM period for the subject had begun. The target, generally an art print, was randomly selected by the agent from a pool of targets in opaque, sealed containers after the subject was in bed. Only the agent was aware of the target chosen for the particular night and he remained in his room throughout the night acoustically isolated from both subject and experimenter. The dream protocols were transcribed from the taped reports. Copies of them, along with copies of the targets used for any given experimental series, were given to three independent judges who assessed correspondences on a blind basis. The results were analyzed using either the Latin-square analysis of variance technique or the application of the binomial expansion theorem.

RESULTS

Summaries of seven completed experiments are given. Four of these yielded statistically significant findings.

I. The first screening study: For this study, 12 volunteer Subjects (Ss) spent one night each at the laboratory. Two staff members, one male and one female, alternated as Agents (As), attempting to influence Ss' dreams by means of telepathy. Target materials were famous art prints, randomly selected for each night once Ss had gone to bed. On the following morning, Ss were asked to match their dream recall against the entire collection of target pictures, selecting the art print which most closely corresponded to their dreams and ranking the others in descending order of correspondence. Four outside Judges (Js) followed a similar procedure; statistically significant data emerged from Ss' rankings and from one of the J's evaluations. Significant differences between As were also obtained, with the six Ss paired with male A obtaining closer target-dream correspondences than the six Ss workings with the female A (Ullman, Krippner, and Feldstein, 1966).

II. The first Erwin study: Dr. Erwin, the S whose target-dream correspondences were the most direct in Series 1, was paired with the male A from the screening study for a seven-night series. Statistically significant results were obtained from both S's evaluation and the means of similar evaluations done by three Js (Ullman, Krippner, and Feldstein, 1966).

III. The second screening study: Twelve different Ss and two A s were utilized in another 12-night series. The results did not attain statistical significance for either S or Js (Ullman 1969).

IV. The Posin study: Dr. R. Posin, who participated in Series III, was paired with the A she had worked with during her night in the laboratory. Neither S nor Js produced significant data for this eight-night series (Ullman 1969).

V. The Grayeb study: T. Grayeb, another S from Series III, was selected for this 16-night study. Without the knowledge of S, A concentrated on a target during eight nights of the study; for the other eight nights there was neither an agent nor a target. The condition was determined randomly once S had gone to bed. Neither condition produced significant results (Krippner 1969).

VI. The second Erwin study: Dr. W. Erwin was again paired with the A from Series II for an eight-night study. The art print was accompanied by a box of "multisensory" materials on each night to enhance the emotionality of the target. For example, Daumier's painting, "Advice to a Young Artist," was accompanied by a canvas and paints to enable A to "act out" the artist's role. No S evaluation was accomplished for this study. Analysis of the means of the three Js' evaluations produced significant results (Ullman and Krippner l969).

VII. The Van de Castle study: Dr. R. Van de Castle, an S who had produced several direct target-dream correspondences in a telepathy study at another laboratory, was allowed to select his own A from the laboratory staff during the eight-night series. He selected a total of three As: one for a single night, one for two nights, and one for five nights. Both S's evaluations and those of an outside J were statistically significant (Ullman and Krippner 1970).

Soviet colleagues working in parapsychology prefer the term bio-communication or bio-information to more time-honored terms, such as telepathy, clairvoyance or precognition. This is in line with their own emphasis on identifying the underlying energy exchanges at work and in so doing stressing the continuity of these phenomena with physical phenomena generally. It is also in contrast to our own terminology which tends to emphasize the separateness and discontinuity of parapsychological data from the mainstream of scientific knowledge and data. The term bio-communication will be used from this point on to refer to the telepathic transfer of information.

There are many sides to the problem of bio-communication in dreams. This presentation deals mainly with those aspects of the problem involving the dreamer as contrasted with events at the source involving the agent. They may be divided into determinants of form, content, and the general problem of identifying correspondences. Studying these elements separately may yield clues to underlying neuropsychological and neurophysiological mechanisms.

FORM

There is empirical evidence suggesting that, in some instances at least, forms contained in the target material come through more clearly and recognizably than the content itself and that this applies to more complex targets as well as simple targets where the form itself is the predominant feature.

There are two experimental techniques which may have a possible bearing upon the perceptual aspect of bio-communicative effects as this relates to similarities based on form. Each of these techniques limits information input but in different ways. Tachistoscopic presentations limit exposure in time. Work with the stabilized retinal image limits information ordinary collected and maintained through the play of eye movements about an object under fixation.

There have been a number of experiments beginning with the awakened interest in the Pötzel phenomenon demonstrating that cues occurring outside of conscious awareness can produce perceptual illusions as well as influence cognitive problem-solving activity. Ericksen (1958) suggests that what occurs following the subthreshold presentation of a stimulus is not a registering of the stimulus at an unconscious level, but simply a fragmentary partial perceptual response. It takes the activated state of dreaming to bring to bear upon this unidentifiable percept a number of response systems which then clothe it with an identity approximating the original stimulus. What is occurring is the very reverse of the usual dynamic explanation in terms of unconscious perception, repression, and reappearance through the channels of censorship and dream work. The appearance in the dream is based not on a lowered threshold for unconscious perception but rather on a lowered threshold during the REM state for the activation of a number of relevant response systems which have the additive effect of establishing at least some of the features of the original stimulus.

Klein (1959) agrees that for discrimination to occur there must be some degree of partial registration in awareness. He does insist that subception is a real effect, that fragments or aspects of the image register in this way and that they can be recovered directly through intentional recall and indirectly through associations and dreams. An interesting effect noted in subception studies is the alteration in figure ground relations with the loss of the ability to make that particular distinction. Tachistoscopic display of the Rubin double profile results in two opposing shapes confronting each other. Of importance from the standpoint of bio-communication, as we shall see, is that in the face of experimental cutoff of information the object is fragmented, shapes are abstracted and autistic processes shape the percept. This seems to be precisely what occurs in a bio-communication effect.

Similar effects are noted in connection with the work of Evans (1967a,b) in his observations on fragmentation phenomena associated with binocular stabilization (Fig. 1). He notes that under conditions of stabilization when a pattern disappears it does so in parts and the parts drop out in a nonrandom fashion. He talks of levels in the hierarchy of the visual system and suggests, as an explanation of the fragmentation phenomena, that when the information supply is limited, as in stabilization experiments, not all levels of the hierarchy are activated. As a consequence only parts of the pattern are seen corresponding to the level of the hierarchy reached. Evans also notes the characteristic stabilization fragments after repeated tachistoscopic exposures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fragmentation of images noted by Warcollier (1938) (Figs. 2-4) and Sinclair (1930) (Figs. 5-7), in their efforts to effect transfer of information at a distance resembles in remarkable ways the fragmentary percepts obtained through the two experimental strategies described. Note the fragmentation of complex forms into simpler forms (Figs. 2 and 5) and the emergence of simple forms out of more complex imagery (Figs. 3,4,6,7). It is also of interest to note the emergence of similar forms when similar targets are used by two different investigators. Compare Figures 3 and 6, and 4 and 7. These findings suggest, by implication that the neurophysiological pathways involved in the processing of bio-communication may be the same as in normal visual perception.

In our own experimental work correspondences in form were noted under a variety of circumstances.

A. Explicit correlation between target and dream when simple forms were used as targets (Ullman 1966).

Example 1

3:40 A.M.: A circle was drawn as the target by experimenter (Fig. 8).

3:53 A.M.: Subject awakened and reported the following dream:

"I feel as if I was sort of floating to sleep at the time. I had an image of a, oh, it wasn't really like a dream, it was sort of like being on a round, like the bottom half of a large tube, such as if you would be going into the Holland Tunnel or something, sort of like a road. As I was traveling, there seemed to be people there but it didn't seem to be like a typical dream, sort of falling asleep. I caught an image and I was conscious of just having started to fall asleep. I was on a road shaped like the curve of a trough."

"Earlier as I was falling asleep before I turned around, I had an image of a something that's very positively shaped, like a door stop except it was upside down and there were several smooth round shapes, as if I was going through these passages, these round smooth shapes, the shape as I meant it only like a rounded doorstop, sort of like the fin of a car but it was upside down and it wasn't connected with the car. It was just like that."

Example 2 (Same Subject, Same Night as Before):

4:30 A.M.: Angular shapes were drawn by experimenter (Fig. 9).

6:30 A.M.: Subject reported the following dream:

"I had a number of dreams in sequence. But I don't remember them well. One was, w e were standing around, some people were standing around, and they had in their hands canes shaped like hockey sticks, used upside down, the curved part up. But they were shaped more like free form than plain hockey sticks. And there was in the dream two of my wife's cousins - a married couple. We see them about twice a year and in the dream I was kind of indifferent to them or critical of them because of some opinions they had. And you made a comment, `Why are you so critical?' And I had other dreams I can't recall, there were a series of them. You sort of woke me up after I had them. I mean you asked me about the dreams after they had gone on for some time in the past. As a matter of fact, I remember waking up after the one with the hockey sticks and wondering why you didn't ask me whether I had been dreaming. I went back to sleep. That's all I can think of." Inquiry the following morning produced this additional information:

(You mentioned hockey sticks?) "Yes, I guess it was like a party, people were there and they had canes, but very nicely shaped canes like hockey sticks, they weren't hockey sticks actually but about the same size, long and the shape was very good for them. Now I think I know ...before I went to sleep I was thinking of the fact that Leah and I were invited to a banquet at the Waldorf given by this international society for the welfare of cripples, maybe that's why this came, and of course I don't like the idea of having to go formal and w e were planning to go camping around that time but it seemed we were invited as guests. The hockey sticks were not all exactly the same shape. It has to do with disability, at the same time in spite of the disabilities these people get around pretty well."

B. Explicit correlation between dream and formal aspects of target when more complex target material was used.

Example 3

The target picture showed a monk squatting before what the agent initially took to be a square blue patch of stone. Later, on closer examination, this appeared to be a garden. Along one border there was a diamond-shaped pattern in the pavement (Fig. 10).

 

4:20 A.M.: " was approaching a masonry wall with the stones put together very neatly. Someone else and I are seated in a cab of some large vehicle-it might be a tractor. We're coming up to this wall. I was with someone else. We were traveling in what seemed like the front of some very big vehicle parallel to the large wall. We came to a small diamond shaped hole in the wall. One of us remarked 'Look at that.' The wall was gray."

5:24 A.M.: "There was a figure of a diamond, a diamond shape was in it."

5:3 5 A.M.: "We were in Alaska, my wife and I were together. It was about 7:00 o'clock in the morning and I said to her, `Well, it's very unlikely that you'll ever see the sun this low in the horizon again at such an hour.' And she said, `Yes, I noticed that.' It wasn't at all cold. We were walking along in what seemed to be a forest with only what seemed to be very few trees until we came to one large, very large tree, with thick branches, no leaves. It was at the time when it didn't seem to be cold, and Lillian pointed out to me that on the trunk of the tree there was a large diamond, like a trapezoid, that had been cut out of the center of the trunk of the tree."

Comment: The first dream described a masonry wall with stones put together neatly. The three subsequent dreams all make reference to diamond shapes.

C. Implicit correspondences between dream and formal aspects of target when more complex target material was used.

Example 4

The target picture was the painting "Football Players" by Henri Rousseau. (The picture depicts men playing football, dressed in uniforms of the last century and arranged in a somewhat semicircular fashion. The football appears as a red object.)

First dream: "Semicircular. In the first one, I'm sort of near a balcony, only I'm inside the building and the balcony comes back into the building in a semicircular way. I suppose the balcony itself outside the doorway is some kind of straight routine type of balcony structure, but I'm inside the building (if you want to call it that), but it's more like a courtyard, and there's like a railing coming inside from the balcony along the floor of this stone courtyard, and I had the feeling as though it had vines on it or something. As you approached the balcony to look out, it seems to look over something like the mall in Washington-toward like the Washington Monument."

"And then the second image I got was again standing in a kind of courtyard looking toward a sort of Roman courtyard - it's more of - it's a European kind of building, with a sort of terrace jutting out from the bottom of the building again, a semicircular quality like statues in a semicircle; the two ends of the semicircle are toward me and the semicircle goes back away from me, and there's like a fountain in the center. That's all. Those two things came to me. Sort of half-dreaming, half-asleep way."

Second dream: "A floor in Bloomingdales where the houseware stuff is, and there's like empty book shelves on the left side of the room, on one of these-and these shelves are like painted black, and the wall behind the shelf (the whole thing) is like a black shadow box; and on it is this lone object shaped like a cylinder, sort of like a cheese box, only small, about five or six inches in diameter, and it's red lacquer, and it's spinning like a top - only it's not really - it's rotating around ...and now I remember that the semicircle of the balcony did the same thing, and also the inverted semicircle of the statues in the other thing."

Excerpts from dreams three through six will be included here for later comment.

Third dream: "Oh, I think of summer camp. I remember ...that you have to be able to tip over a canoe and right it again, something like that. These were obstacle tests."

Fourth dream: "I was peeling an onion and talking to somebody ... But before that, I was dreaming about my mother as a little girl standing in the doorway of a Victorian parlor, facing a niche of some sort, and this arch doorway was all surrounded with some kind of filigree-like curtains, or some twig design that they thought was very artistic around 1903 or 1904 or so." Rousseau painted "Football Players" in 1908.

Fifth dream: No obvious references.

Sixth dream: "Myself and two other kids... Anyway, we were swimming in a swimming pool ...The scene shifts and it has something to do with the headmaster of a prep school, so I suppose that the swimming pool was at the prep school."

Excerpts from subject's associations: "There was an awful lot of movement ...I think it was kind of a counter-clockwise motion - circular, revolving motion .... There was even a merry-go-round in it somewhere."

Comment: The points of formal correspondence rest on the repeated reference to semicircular quality, the arrangement of statues in a semicircle and a form that is spinning like a top (cf. the football). Other interesting areas of correspondence involve the reference to a camp or prep school and the Victorian setting.

Example 5

Target: "Bauhaus Stairway" by Oskar Schlemmer (Fig. 11).

Dream no. l: "...there was the experience of mounds. The feeling was of being surrounded on a field, a monstrous field, by sort of like anthills, but large numbers of them, and climbing over them, and around them back and forth, and not being able to find a way out. Then it changes to a feeling of wearing a conical hat, much like a wizard ... Everything was spinning around counterclockwise, whirling, whirling, turning, and it's going in the same direction, and in some respects I was forcing consciously, deliberately, helping myself in the process, as if I was doing a spin ....

Dream no. 2: "...I remember describing to you sensations ...and these were being in some sort of tunnel, some sort of windy, open plain, climbing up to a hill ...I thought of... Mt. Appelier. I think this was the first thing I had related, where I had felt I was going up a road, driving my car of some sort and looking back and forth, but still going upward, you know, ascending this mountain ... They weren't exactly anthills. Initially, they started off as bumps, sort of like ...a fez, but they were small and rounded off on top instead of squared off like a fez. It's like the little pies children make with a pail."

Experimenter: "Please make a guess at what you think the target for the night was."

Subject: "One of the elements that pervaded almost everything was this conical shape-pointed, conical, mountain-like, conical, hat-like cones ...I'd say some sort of form element, conical in shape ...It's the one thing that seems to unify all of the fantasy, and all of the dreams."

Example 6

Target: "The Dark Figure" - a painting by Castellon (Fig. 12). This painting portrays four people, one of them garbed in a somber, dark brown gown. There are four round hoops above the figures; the hoops are held in the air by distorted children's hands. In the background is a red brick wall.

First dream report: "... For some reason I've been thinking of a barrel... you know, spinning around ... There was some kind of activity or motion going on. The barrel was spinning ...like spinning in a circle ... It was like spinning. A top. Clockwise, left to right ...Dark brown wooden color... A red wheel spinning around."

Second dream report: "...I thought I saw lights and these lights were arranged in almost a circular fashion ... You have a circle again and there was some movement there..."

Sixth dream report: "...there was a photograph I was looking at and in this photograph there was a bunch of people standing, and out front there were four people in costumes whose picture we were taking ...They were just posing ...and looked pretty ridiculous..."

Post-sleep interview: "... All I remember at first, I think, was these wooden barrels, maybe three or four... There was the iron rim going around the middle to hold the slats together, and ... going around and around, spinning like a top ...I also remember something about pale greenish-white lights... They formed kind of like an arch as though they started to spiral or circle ... swirling like whirlpools ... This photograph was a rather big one and it had these young guys in costumes ...Two summers ago when I went to that camp for retarded children, they asked me to put on skits and costumes ...There is a lot of circling and spiraling effects in my dreams, so any combination of effects like those I would look for m the target."

CONTENT

Elsewhere (Ullman 1970) it has been suggested that the screening of content for appropriateness for inclusion in the dreaming experience can be understood on the basis of a vigilance hypothesis. This view suggests that dream consciousness is an elaborate form of orienting activity designed to attend to, process and respond to certain aspects of residual experience, with an endpoint being reached in either the continuation of the sleeping state or its interruption and consequent transformation to awakening.

The affective residue which makes its presence felt in the dream operates reflexively or automatically as a scanning mechanism. Ranging over the entire longitudinal history of the person, it exerts a polarizing influence, drawing to itself and mobilizing aspects of past experiences that are related to it in emotionally meaningful ways. More recently, and in a different context, Dewan (1969) has called this "emotional tagging" and has identified it as a device facilitating memory storage and consolidation. Here it is viewed as an energizing or mobilizing effect necessary to help the sleeping organism to fully assess the meaning and implications of the novel or disturbing stimulus and through the participation of a conscious monitoring process either to allow the sleep cycle to remain intact or to engage in an arousal process leading to awakening.

While dreaming, conscious experience is organized along lines of emotional contiguity rather than temporal and spatial contiguity. The affective scanning that takes place while dreaming can, on occasion, bridge a spatial gap and provide us with information independent of any known communication channel. Emotional contiguity, under conditions we know very little about, appears capable of integrating transpersonal as well as personal content into the dream. Anecdotal accounts have for a long time pointed in this direction and the circumstances under which they occur strongly suggest that in matters of life and death the vigilant scanning of one's emotional environment reaches out across spatial boundaries in a manner that has yet to be explained.