Dreaming in the World's Religions: A Comparative History

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From Biblical stories of Joseph interpreting Pharoh’s dreams in Egypt to prayers against bad dreams in the Hindu Rg Veda, cultures all over the world have seen their dreams first and foremost as religiously meaningful experiences. In this widely shared view, dreams are a powerful medium of transpersonal guidance offering the opportunity to communicate with sacred beings, gain valuable wisdom and power, heal suffering, and explore new realms of existence. Conversely, the world’s religious and spiritual traditions provide the best source of historical information about the broad patterns of human dream life

Dreaming in the World’s Religions provides an authoritative and engaging one-volume resource for the study of dreaming and religion. It tells the story of how dreaming has shaped the religious history of humankind, from the Upanishads of Hinduism to the Qur’an of Islam, from the conception dream of Buddhas mother to the sexually tempting nightmares of St. Augustine, from the Ojibwa vision quest to Australian Aboriginal journeys in the Dreamtime. Bringing his background in psychology to bear, Kelly Bulkeley incorporates an accessible consideration of cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology into this fascinating overview.

Dreaming in the World’s Religions offers a carefully researched, accessibly written portrait of dreaming as a powerful, unpredictable, often iconoclastic force in human religious life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Psychoanalysis and phenomenology combine to understand dreams and dreaming as comprehended by a geographically and temporally wide spectrum of global and regional religions. Bulkeley argues that scientific understandings are not unique in their reflective critique of the nature or value of dreaming, that critical reflection on dreams can be found in a variety of traditions, and that even where evidence for formal analysis is lacking, dreams are categorized by type and value."


”A pleasure to read, well written and full of fascinating examples. It is unique in combining a sensitive and sympathetic understanding of the religious meanings of dreams with a state-of-the-art treatment of the insights that cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology bring to our understanding of them.”

-Wendy Doniger,author of Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities

”The scope of Bulkeley’s knowledge is impressive, as is his skill at synthesizing ideas from a variety of source material.”

-Publishers Weekly,

Publishers Weekly

Arguing that "dreaming is a primal wellspring of religious experience," dream researcher Bulkeley delves into original sacred texts and stories to trace the ways dreams have been regarded, interpreted and acted upon across human history. He defines his terms carefully, then draws out both common themes and cultural differences in religious traditions originating in Africa, Oceania and the Americas as well as from the Fertile Crescent, South Asia, China and the Mediterranean. Providing ample evidence that doubt about the reliability of dream information was common in ancient times, Bulkeley examines such intriguing phenomena as prophetic and prototypical dreams, paradoxical dream interpretation and dream incubation techniques. Each chapter starts with a provocative idea related to the religious tradition to be discussed and ends with a helpful summary of key themes. The scope of Bulkeley's knowledge is impressive, as is his skill at synthesizing ideas from a variety of source material. The author makes a persuasive case that "[t]he study of dreams is... a necessary source of insight for our knowledge of what it means to be human." (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Do our dreams mean anything? If they do, can we usefully discern what that meaning is? Psychologists and neuroscientists have recently been working on these questions. As Bulkeley (visiting scholar, Graduate Theological Union; An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming) here shows, however, religious thinkers have long been studying the same questions from a more spiritual viewpoint, and their answers are not only interesting but also useful. Bulkeley lays out the history of dream studies in the various world religions with a chapter for each tradition: "Hinduism," "Chinese Religion" (mainly Taoism and Confucianism), "Buddhism," "Religions of the Fertile Crescent" (including Judaism), "Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome," "Christianity," "Islam," "Religions of Africa," "Religions of Oceania," and "Religions of the Americas." Such a chronological/regional organization, along with the author's careful, scholarly prose, makes this practical as a classroom textbook. Casual readers would perhaps be put off, but for interested readers and students, there are notes and an ample bibliography to stimulate further study. Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with strong religion collections.
—James F. DeRoche

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814799574
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/19/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,540,371
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Bulkeley is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and is a former President of the Association for the Study of Dreams. His books include The Wilderness of Dreams: Exploring the Religious Meanings of Dreams in Modern Western Culture; An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming; Visions of the Night: Dreams, Religion, and Psychology; and The Wondering Brain: Thinking about Religion with and beyond Cognitive Neuroscience.

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Table of Contents

Note on Translations
1 Hinduism
2 Chinese Religions
3 Buddhism
4 Religions of the Fertile Crescent
5 Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome
6 Christianity
7 Islam
8 Religions of Africa
9 Religions of Oceania
10 Religions of the Americas
About the Author

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