Sacred Places and Home Dream Reports:  Methodological Reassessments and Reflections on Paul Devereux's Experiment in Wales and England
By Stanley Krippner, Ph.D. and Mark A. Schroll, Ph.D.

Editor's Note: A version of this paper is scheduled for presentation in the symposium “Sacred Sites, Dreams, Jung and Consciousness” at the 28th Annual Conference  of the International Association for the Study of Dreams  Friday-Tuesday, 24-28, June 2011, Rolduc Conference Center, Kerkrade, The Netherlands.


This article summarizes the key contributions of Paul Devereux's preliminary study of sacred sites and home dream reports in Wales and England, offering suggestions for an improved experimental design.  This article also relates the work of Devereux to previous work conducted by Montague Ullman and Stanley Krippner at the Maimonides Medical Center.  Brief references to the relationship between the work of Rupert Sheldrake and sacred sites are also included.  Likewise the importance of David Bohm's contributions to our understanding of dreaming and sacred sites is mentioned.


A very stimulating introduction Mark (Schroll, 2011, this issue).  I want to give you credit for picking up on Monte Ullman’s article “The Dream: In Search of A New Abode” (Ullman, 2006); and for seeing how David Bohm’s work really ties in with dreams, even though Bohm never mentioned dreams in his books or his articles.  I am going to talk about two pieces of research that I and my colleagues have done.  One ties in very closely with Bohm and one ties in more closely with Sheldrake.  Bohm’s notion of holomovement and the implicate order suggest that there is an underlying web that connects us all, not only inanimate physical particles but all humanity (Bohm, 1980a, 1980b)--and this is where minds get entangled (Radin, 2006).

Mark A. Schroll: I agree with what you have said here, but let me also clarify “the meaning of Bohm's holomovement concept (gleaned from holography) in order to construct his model of cosmos and consciousness (Bohm 1980a, 1980b).  Holography not only provides a three-dimensional representation of phenomenal reality; it gives us a four-dimensional representation if this image is set in motion” (Schroll: 58, 2005).  (Similar to looking at the night sky, which is also looking back in time (Schroll, 2011).    “Nevertheless,”:

through additional conversations with Karl Pribram, Bohm concluded his holomovement concept was limited because holography cannot illustrate quantum states in a state of potentia, which are beyond the constraints of spacetime and matter.  Realizing this, Bohm suggested the concept of holoflux (Bohm 1984; Bohm and Weber 1982), referring to phenomena that are not bounded by a rigid structure whose quantum transformation is more dynamic than any fractal image Flux refers to a change in state rather than movement in time or place.  In other words, a transition in quantum state from potentia (Bohm's implicate order) to spacetime and matter (the explicate order) does not require a path.  Holoflux is what I mean by the unifying principle bonding the reciprocal interaction of person and environment together at any given moment.  The difficulty in grasping the concept of holoflux is almost certainly related to social factors causing us to forget the primordial tradition, because holoflux represents the physical description and means of theoretical expression to guide us toward a rediscovery of the primordial tradition. (Schroll: 58, 2005)  (See also Schroll, 2009)

Krippner: The work that Ullman and I have done on dream telepathy over the years could be explained by Bohm’s notion of the implicate order.  This work at Maimonides has been written up in various books and articles that Monte and I published over a 10-year period of time (Ullman, Krippner & Vaughan, 1974; Schroll, 2008).  Monte was (right up to the time he passed away) devoting most of his writing time to expanding, and bringing the work of Bohm into an exposition of entangled minds, dream telepathy and the like.

Rupert Sheldrake's ideas we must remember are very controversial; he believes when humans or other species learn something, enough people learning this will spread to other members of the species (Schroll: 11-12, 2010b).  This is not something that necessarily emerges from the implicate order, although it might involve it—it might end up there (Schroll, 2010a).  The way that Sheldrake originally tested this out, was to teach a number of people a code and then test a group of people that did not know the code, and they learned it faster than they did a control code.  There have been a number of sophisticated experiments to test this morphic resonance notion, some successful, some not so successful.  But it can be tested in a number of ways and as I mentioned, there are attempts to do this (Sheldrake, 1985).

The way that Paul Devereux envisioned doing this (a noted British archaeologist), was to take a look at some of the sacred sites in England and in Wales and have people dream in these locations.  Seeing that these sacred sites had been revered for so many years, Devereux began formulating the hypothesis that a lingering affect or resonance at these sites would affect people's dreams.  If so, this would operate according to Sheldrake’s concept of morphic resonance—because for a thousand or more years people were doing sacred rituals at these sites (Sheldrake, 1990).  I’ve visited three of the four.  Basically they are clumps of stones or underground rivers, natural formations, that have been tinkered with and spun just a little bit by the ancient ones so that someone could meditate, contemplate, and hold rituals inside.

Now Paul’s volunteers (and this was quite an experiment to volunteer for) worked in pairs.  One person in a sleeping bag was dreaming at the sacred site, during the summer months of course, the other person was watching for the rapid eye movements.  After 10-15 minutes of this activity, they would wake up the person sleeping and ask them to relay their dream.  Then the volunteers would go back to their homes, and would record their home dreams—also during the summer months.  We had to control for this, because if it was done during the winter months you might get different dreams due to seasonal changes, life changes, etc (Hoffman, 2011, this issue).

It is also important to point out that Paul is an archaeologist, not a psychologist.  If he had been thinking like a psychologist he would have known number one you have to have an equal number of dreams to do statistics.2  Instead he had some people who spent five nights in a cave, ten nights doing home dreams.  Some people that had two home dreams, one night in a cave.  I therefore was sent all of these hundreds of dreams, and thanks to Robert Van de Castle’s help on this, we pruned down the number of dreams so we had an equal number of home dreams and an equal number of sacred site dreams from every person.  But that was not the end of it. 

What about expectancy?  People knew that they were going to be dreaming at a sacred site.  Might that alone skew their dreams?  What Paul should have done, was to have a dummy (experimental) sacred site, a clump of stones that was never regarded as a sacred site that he would tell people, yes, this is a sacred site going back to the Druids and have people dream there as well.  Well Paul admits now that he should have done this, but I was not called in until the data collection of these dreams was done and I could not make this suggestion before that phase of this project was completed.  So we dealt with what we had, and look upon this as a pilot study.  The complete results are in (Krippner, Devereux, and Fish, 2003).  For now I will give you a summary; there will also be another article coming out that I will tell you about later.

Once we pruned the dreams down, so we had an equal number of sacred site dreams per person and an equal number of home dreams, we had outside judges work with the dreams not knowing which was which using a scale designed by Inge Strauch (a noted dream researcher from Germany).  Her scale evaluates dream content in three dimensions:  1) Bizarre quality,  2) Paranormal Quality, and 3) Magical quality; with very strict guidelines for each.  So our team of judges went through and judged every single dream, and then we compared the home dreams and the site dreams.  The results were the site dreams had slightly more bizarre, paranormal and magical content, but not enough to be statistically significant.  Why was this so?  Well, maybe people knew that they were participating in such an experiment and so their home dreams also took on these qualities, or something else, which follows dream research.  When you have an unusual experience, sometimes it does not show up in the dreams right away.  Sometimes it shows up three or four or five days later.  Tori Neilson did a very lengthy experiment and found that some extremely dramatic experiences did not show up for seven or eight days later in a dream.  This therefore might have contaminated the home dreams.  (I was never able to confirm if this was a summery of an article in the journal Dreaming?). (Hoffman, 2011, this issue)

Well, we did not stop there.  We also worked with the Hall-Van de Castle Scale—all 50 content variables, and here we did get several statistically significant differences.  This part of the experiment was published in the Anthropology of Consciousness (Devereux, Krippner, Tartz and Fish, 2007) thanks to Mark Schroll's helpful editing and massaging of the information so that it fit the context of an anthropological journal.  Looking over the differences, it seems to me that on the one hand, yes there are some indications that we might expect if people were experiencing residue of a sacred ritual, but also it is what you would expect from people that are sleeping in a somewhat uncomfortable—maybe chilly setting in a sleeping bag.  You see the only way to tease these differences apart is to have these dummy sites, these control sites, and this is sort of the charge for the future.

Now all four of these sacred sites were sites that are found in anthropological and archaeological books, Carn Ingli, Chun Quoit, Carn Euny, the Madron Well.  Sounds like something from the Harry Potter books and movies, and each one of these sites has a history.  Well, one thing that Paul did was to take sensitive instruments that measure radioactivity and believe it or not there was weak radioactivity coming from each of these sites.  This by itself could influence dreams—and maybe this is what made people think that these were sacred sites, because they felt differently when they were in or near these clumps of stones, than clumps of stones without this radiation.  We know now that the Oracle of Delphi breathed fumes coming from a crevice in the rocks that had mind altering qualities to it.  This is something that has been speculated for years, but in 2005 it was pretty definitely demonstrated.  Now those fumes are gone, but the residue lingers on in the rocks.  Thus many of these sacred spots or sites around the world actually have a geo-physical quality that predisposes people to have unusual experiences there.

Now once people start to have unusual experiences there, this is learning.  This is where the morphogenetic fields come in.  Because then these fields lay down this learning and this spreads to the next person that comes in; and so you have a combination of the predisposition and then what is learned.  You could blame it all on the predisposition, you could blame it all on expectation, but the morphogenetic fields of Sheldrake add another dimension to it that is certainly worthy of consideration.

Now what kinds of dreams do these people have?  Interestingly enough, they had dreams very similar to what Lewis Williams wrote about when he investigated paintings and drawings in sacred caves like Lascaux and Alta Mira in terms of the animals, (famous painted horses, geometric images, etc.) (Clottes & Lewis-Williams, 1998).  Now I am just going to read you one of the dreams coming from one of these sacred sites.  “I started to see lights in this dream, flashing backwards and forwards.  And I felt like I was losing it.  And then it morphed into a channel or passageway, with buzzing coming to me from both sides.  There were lights and sounds consuming me.”  Then another dreamer had black and white stripes and a tall white figure, guarding a gate, and a bird flying through the air.  Well that sounds like a description for example of Lascaux which I was able to visit a few years ago, where you have these marvelous drawings and you have this incredible artwork that is 17,000 years old.  Work that is so incredible that when Picasso visited these caves with his friends he emerged from the caves saying to his friends (all of whom were men), “gentlemen, we have learned nothing over the years.  We have invented nothing new.”  And the art work is incredible.

Now were these caves used for sacred rituals?  Well, perhaps we will never know for sure.  There are shaman-like figures in many of these caves making a suggestion that they were used for sacred rituals.  If indeed they were used for sacred rituals, maybe these images come from dreams, or at least from waking imagery that they had in these particular caves which are not only in France and Spain by the way, but we also have them in South Africa and Australia that are even older and that probably served the same purpose.  So there we have a summary of the work that Devereux and I did, and even though it was flawed, it is a good beginning.  Let's hope that someone will take it on from here.  And in taking it on from here, they keep in mind the work of Bohm and the work of Sheldrake as possible explanations for what they might find and think of other ways the dreaming community can draw upon these models and test them out.  I mean, nobody else is testing them out, parapsychologists do not have enough money to test them out, and yet there are some simple experiments (especially with Sheldrake’s work) that can be easily done.  This is why Sheldrake wrote his book Seven Experiments that can Change the World (Sheldrake, 1994), because all of these experiments are low budget experiments.  I think the fact that there are so many of you here tonight, so late in the evening, showing such rapt interest in this shows that IASD is a very fertile ground for some of this pioneering work to take place.  So I thank you.  continues on page 17

Rhine Online: Psi-News Magazine Previous | Page 16 | Next

Volume 3, Issue 1, 2011