Mutual dreaming (also known as shared or group dreaming) is the paranormal claim that two or more people can share the same dream environment. The concept was popularized in Inception, where lucid dreamers could link up via technology and roam around the unconscious of a single dreamer.
In reality, no such device exists. But how might we go about proving the hypothetical existence of mutual dreams?
The best mechanism we have for initiating mutual dreams is through the act of lucid dreaming. Though they can sometimes incubate specific dream themes, it is hard for non-lucid dreamers to plan their dreams in advance - and impossible, without becoming lucid, to alter the course of the dream in progress.
But lucid dreamers can make these influences and perform all kinds of in-dream experimentation. That's why we are poised to prove the possible existence of mutual dreaming if the phenomenon exists.
I am a skeptic (one who seeks to know more by asking questions). And as yet there is no scientific evidence for mutual dreams - although, arguably, it is a difficult concept to prove. What we need is some solid, large-scale experimentation to fuel the debate.
The most commonly reported mutual dreams are known as meshing dreams. They happen when you share certain dream elements with someone else.
For instance, you and your partner may both watch Lost one night and then dream about being stranded on an island. Understandably, your shared waking experience leads to similar dreams. Even Freudian dream analysis offers an explanation for this kind of coincidence.
The less likely experiences are called meeting dreams and this is really what we're trying to prove or disprove through lucid dream experiments.
A meeting dream is the true meaning of mutual dreaming, where two or more people meet up and communicate inside the dream world.
How would mutual dreaming work?
The definition implies one of at least two paranormal explanations: that we have the capacity for telepathy in dreams - or the dream world itself is an external construct, an alternate reality that could stem from an artificial simulation or other shared astral realm.
Dr Stephan LaBerge of The Lucidity Institute believes that mutual dreaming experiments in the lab can test the objective reality of shared dream worlds. That means that group dreaming can be used to prove whether the dream world is a genuine alternate reality or not.
Numerous group dreaming experiments and anecdotes have been published over the years.
To learn about some of the more compelling cases in detail, check out Group Dreaming: Dreams to the Tenth Power by Jean Campbell. In this book, Campbell traces the history of group dreaming experiments and how harnessing the power of mutual dreams would change our world today.
You can now take part in Dr Rory Mac Sweeneys ongoing Mutual Dream Experiment, in which dreamers are asked to select a "dream password" and attempt to exchange it with another dreamer on a specific night. Passwords are then matched online and dream content exchanged to further validate the match.
Let's look at some mutual dream methods which you can attempt in a non-lucid or lucid dream state.
Find a meshing dream partner - ideally someone you are very close with. Choose an activity to do together during the waking day. Maybe go to a sports event, go hiking in the countryside, go to the zoo, or watch a movie (fantasy is probably the best genre for this purpose).
Before you go to sleep that night, discuss your memorable experience with your meshing dream partner. Talk about elements that you found most interesting and set a clear intention to dream about your shared experience.
Hopefully, you will dream about your waking experience, or a closely related theme. If you become lucid, all the better. Seek out your meshing partner in the dream and have a lucid conversation with them. When you wake up, write down all the details of the dream, including the time you think it happened.
Finally, compare notes with your partner and see how many dream symbols you can match. Don't influence each other's dream reports or change your recollection to fit their story. If you both report a dream conversation, pay particular attention to the details. This would be a nice example of a pre-arranged meshing dream.
Just remember there is nothing paranormal about this experiment, it is essentially a form of shared dream incubation.
Find a meeting dream partner. If you have friends who lucid dream, invite them to try this experiment with you. Or you can seek out out others at our lucid dreaming forum. The goal is to have a lucid dream at the same time, on the same date, and both remember to enact the meet-up.
Select a location to meet up in. If you both live locally, you might choose a familiar place, like a park or town center. Otherwise choose a famous meeting spot, like Stone Henge or the Eiffel Tower. Make sure you know your destination in detail so you both have the same location to meet in mind.
If you do both visit the same location in your lucid dream, it could simply be a meshing dream - a coincidence - so you need to go one step further by having an unpredicted conversation. Perhaps you could share something with them you've never told them before, or make up a code-word on the spot.
By reporting the same unique conversation, you would generate solid anecdotal evidence for mutual dreaming that could warrant further investigation by the dreaming community.
When you're exploring a paranormal phenomenon such as mutual dreaming, remember to record as much data as you can and to be objective.
This means trying to rationalize events as much as you can before jumping to conclusions. It's all too easy to trick ourselves into false beliefs, which may be much more exciting than writing off results as coincidence. But that does not lead us to greater truth.
One of the brilliant things about lucid dreaming is that it enables us to explore the dreaming mind in a way no other research method can. I urge all lucid dreamers to help science gain a greater understanding of the human mind, including the possible existence of mental phenomena like mutual dreaming.
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If you saw the Christmas edition of Charlie Brooker's awesome Black Mirror [spoiler alert] you would have watched Jon Hamm mentally and emotionally torture an innocent woman living inside an egg. Ok, back up a bit. She wasn't really a woman. She just thought she was. One week earlier, Hamm's technical team implanted a 'cookie' into a real woman's eyeball. The cookie was an artifically intelligent computer chip. And over the next seven days it learned the personal preferences, thoughts and emotions of its female host. It even took on her life's memories.
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