A popular workshop at last year's PsiberDreaming Conference invited participants to describe their dreams — actual sleeping dreams, not hopes-and-dreams dreams — about Barack Obama. "I dream that I am in a mathematics classroom. Obama is the teacher," one participant wrote.
Another recounted: "There is a suit hanging on an armoire that belongs to Barack. It has many colors woven into the fabric. ... I am looking at the fabric closely, thinking how cool to have a man of color in the white house, who can wear colors and knows the importance of color."
"I always pray immediately after having any dreams of him possibly in harm's way," confided yet another.
This year's conference began on September 26 and continues through October 10. Among its dozens of presentations, workshops, contests, and other activities are "Beautiful Dreams of Cancer," "Archetypal Neurons in Dreams," and "Thought Forms in Dreams and Shamanic Visions." Entirely online — hence its name — the conference is a project of the Berkeley-based nonprofit International Association for the Study of Dreams, devoted to elevating dream study as a professional and academic pursuit.
Hosting this year's conference is former IASD president Jean Campbell. Years ago, Campbell began dreaming of a "shape-changer" named Sheena, only to learn that other members of her family had dreamed of Sheena, too. Their shared "Sheena dreams" continue to this day.
"Dreams give us information about health, relationships, and the world at large," Campbell said. "My interest in dreams as an area of research began with work I did during the 1970s and '80s, when I directed a nonprofit research organization working with professional psychics to understand the intuitive process. It became clear to me that people were spontaneously sharing dreams. ... I wanted to see whether people who were asked to dream toward a specific goal could dream together. They did: both people who knew one another, and people who had never met." These revelations fueled her 2006 book Group Dreaming: Dreams to the Tenth Power.
Some of the conference's most popular features involve the paranormal, exploring dreams as vessels for telepathy (person-to-person psychic messages), precognition ("seeing" the future), and remote viewing ("seeing" events occurring elsewhere).
This summer's release of the film Inception — in which Leonardo di Caprio plays a thief who extracts information from sleeping people's dreams and Ken Watanabe portrays another baddie who implants information in sleeping people's dreams — inspired organizers to invite as the conference's keynote speaker the documentarian Roko Belic, whose 1999 film Genghis Blues was nominated for an Academy Award and whose film Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious accompanies the Inception DVD.
In keeping with this year's theme, "I would like to suggest that one way of working with dreams is to act them out," Campbell said. "If we stand in the manner of our dream characters, move in the way a dream character moves, and ask ourselves how we feel when doing that, we can learn quite a lot." Conference runs continuously online, $30-$45. ASDreams.org/psi2010