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Dreaming Beyond Death: A Guide to Pre-Death Dreams and Visions    by Kelly Bulkeley & Patricia Bulkley order for
Dreaming Beyond Death
by Kelly Bulkeley
Order:  USA  Can
Beacon, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Dreaming Beyond Death is targeted at terminally ill patients and caregivers. Reverend Dr. Patricia Bulkley and Dr. Kelly Bulkeley (mother and son) propose the exploration of end-of-life dreams, for the comfort which the patient can decipher from them. Their premise is that, if caretakers actively listen to the patient telling their final dream(s), they can support a message of solace, and help release the dying individual.

Dr. Kelly Bulkeley is a visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union, and president of the Association for the Study of Dreams. He has written and edited books, such as Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming; Dreams of Healing: Transforming Nightmares into Visions of Hope; and The Wondering Brain: Thinking about Religion with and beyond Cognitive Neuroscience. Reverend Dr. Patricia Bulkley is a Presbyterian minister who provided spiritual services at Hospice of Marin for ten years. She earned her doctorate in ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary and is currently an adjunct faculty member of the Program of Christian Spirituality at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Rev. Bulkley and Dr. Bulkeley include historical and psychological perspectives of dreaming in various cultures, and discuss modern dream studies, without promoting one faith over another. They describe pre-death dreams under three themes: 'dreams in which death is presented as a journey; dreams in which a guide appears; and dreams involving obstacles that parallel concerns of the dying in real life.' Throughout our lives, these themes prepare us for death. The authors write, 'Our main concern is not with dream theory 'integration of scientific psychology and cross-cultural religious history' ... Our goal in writing this book has much more to do with the practical consequences of taking pre-death dreams and visions seriously in the care of the dying.'

Dreaming fundamentals are discussed, including that men commonly dream about other men and strangers, while women dream of both sexes. Regarding dream journals, the authors relate the case of Dorothea, who provided researchers a fifty-year dream journal. She began writing it in 1912 at the age of twenty-five, ending it in 1963 when she was seventy-six. The study of her dreams brought out six basic themes which repeated 'with the same frequency throughout the fifty years', suggesting that 'dreams not only mirror the ups and downs of daily life, but also reflect the enduring qualities of our personality and the foundational concerns that shape our way of being in the world.'

In ancient Egypt, those about to die were prepared for that final release with spells, prayers, and magical incantations (referred to in The Egyptian Book of the Dead). Similarly the Tibetan Buddhist text Bardo Thodol has been used 'to guide people in their passage from this life to the next'.

Though I found the subject matter credible and comprehensible, I had some difficulty with the book's structure and flow. That caveat aside, the authors make a powerful case in favor of pre-death dreams, preparing for the journey with the opportunity to mend fences or make peace with a troubled conscience, but most importantly, offering insight into attaining spiritual solace and a welcome serenity. Dreaming Beyond Death is an excellent resource for medical, seminary, and academic libraries.

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