On Goes the Endemic Dream: An Experiment in Contagious Dreaming

Note of Introduction: Meg Rivers is an Evolver sporganizer in Columbia, Missouri.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Evolver Convergence this year.  She shared with me the freshest theory of dreams I'd ever heard, so I asked her to write this post to bring it to you.  - Love, Carolyn

The Endemic Dream is an ongoing international scientific dream experiment, intended to culminate in a quantifiable result.

We know very little about the actual mechanisms behind our dreams, puzzled by complex and eerie stories that unfold in our minds at night without our knowledge or consent. From where inside us do images, emotions, ideas, and events that we have never encountered originate?

Carl Jung called this place the collective unconscious; The Endemic Dream seeks to quantify one method of its collection, and believes part of the answer may lie in the scent trail.

No one knows how long a dog can track something in a forest, though some scent hound trainers claim their dogs can follow a trail for up to a year assuming conditions are wet enough. Why would conditions need to be wet for your trail to be detectable? It is because the pieces of yourself that you leave behind live independently of your body, and need water to survive. The scent trail carries with it information of which we are consciously unaware, information that our bodies use in ways we seem far from understanding. Everywhere we go we leave much more than a way to be found if we are missing. We leave thoughts, ideas, and dreams behind that other people and animals are able to interpret by various methods.

We accept that foreign thoughts and images are random accumulations, information our minds piece together from things we have already learned. The Endemic Dream proposes a different hypothesis, that these foreign concepts appearing in our dreams [sights, smells, sounds, tastes, knowledge and emotions we have not experienced in waking life] are in part composed of information we have contracted from other people and places. Just as a virus may not always express itself immediately following contraction, the information we accumulate (through sensory experience and contagion) might not express itself immediately as an element in your dreams. It may take time to interpret the results of this study.

At this time in Columbia, Missouri, we are experimenting playfully, looking for variables to control and make future experiments quantifiable. The hypothesis of infection came about from a series of synchronistic dream events that occurred over a short period of time, too amazing to be a coincidence. This is a short synopsis of what occurred.

A friend of mine dreamed of me and sent me an email about it. That night, my mother came to visit. In the morning, she woke up and reported a dream to me, the same dream my friend had had the night before.  Later that week, I called this friend’s mother to discuss an unrelated topic, and that night she dreamed I called her mother and phoned me to tell me so, though they had not spoken of the call.  The next week, the same friend emailed me again with a new dream that was seemingly insignificant. That evening, my mother came to visit me again, and when she woke up in the morning, reported exactly the same dream my friend had written me about, but with different people playing the character roles

After a process of elimination, I hypothesized that microbial contagion was the culprit, the medium by which dreams were being shared, and that information can be more than just learned, that it is absorbed, innate, environmental, and continuously processed through our orifices. We are a gyre and every seal we leave open brings things in, whether or not we are aware we have received it.

The first experiment I conducted to test this theory was in 2009 between myself and a friend of mine, let’s call her Samantha, who works at the University of Missouri in Soil Science. She was a good candidate, logical, skeptical, someone after scientific truth for truth’s sake. She was also the wife of my partner’s friend and our close neighbor, which made it easy to experiment with her. The first night, I told her my theory and asked her if she would be willing to conduct a rather nasty biological experiment; she agreed that in the name of science, she would do it.

A leaf had recently dropped off an orchid someone gave me for a gift; I ripped it in half. I instructed Samantha to put the piece of orchid leaf in her mouth and completely soak it in her saliva, and I did the same with my half. We then traded, and agreed to sleep with the other’s saliva-covered half-leaf under our pillow cases all night, directly under our nostrils.


A few days prior to this, I had a very vivid dream. After a post-apocalyptic dream bus ride, I woke up in a windy, hot desert where three wise men dressed in biblical attire materialized and handed me a map. When I looked at the map, it was deep midnight blue, so blue that it looked like a piece of the night sky. It was printed upon a strange type of parchment, and I flipped it over, pinched at the corners, at every turn trying to figure out what it was made of. I realized it was made out of skin, and that the map was a tattoo taken from something - or someone’s - back. Ahh, “Important,” I thought at the three men, my eyes wide. “Yes, very. Do not lose it” was the message. I was pulling my son behind me in a ramshackle wagon made out of loose boards and pieces of trash, he was an infant and was unconscious, feverishly tossing and turning in the heat. I pulled him painfully through the desert as I tried to read the map.


I looked up trying to match the constellations on the map with the sky, and realized that I could not recognize my surroundings, possibly was in the southern hemisphere or on a different planet. I looked to the map trying to identify something I knew, but I could not remember what I identified to help me find my way. I saw it up in the sky and set out for my destination, certain that when I arrived we would be rescued.


The day after the saliva-leaf experiment, Samantha and I sat in my living room and she reported what she remembered. This is a compilation of what she and I recall:

She woke up and she was in a kayak sailing through the ocean at night. Someone gave her a map, which she looked at intently. “What color was the map?” I asked. “Blue,” she said, “a map of stars, blue like a piece of dark blue sky.” “What did you do with the map?” “I turned it around and around in my hands like it was upside down or something.” “Why did you turn the map around?” “I was trying to see which way was up. It was printed on a kind of mammal skin.” I asked, “What were you looking for on the map?” “Constellations, a star system. I looked up and realized that I wasn’t in a familiar place, and used the Big Dipper to help orient myself on the map. I knew that when I got there, something would happen.”

The Big Dipper! That was what I had not remembered in my dream, Samantha’s power of recall was different than my own. The experiment had seemingly worked on this first occasion, and I looked closely at what elements came through. Color was one that transferred, as well as action, images, and overall directives. Personal thoughts about those items did not seem to transfer as well. I was turning the map over to see what it was made of, but Samantha was turning it around and around abstractly, with no real thought behind the action except to explain away why it was happening. Her dream seemed an empty copy of mine.

The way we both remember the dream is different, and the way we remember the telling is different as well. I do recall for certain the fact that we were both made to spin the map, and that it was the deepest midnight blue. She recognized immediately what the map was made of and attempted to determine which way was up, while I was unsure of what it was printed on but certain of its orientation. Was her dream authentic or inauthentic? Was it mine, or was it hers? Was she replicating my actions, or was I predicating hers? Was she turning the map because it was an inherent part of what transferred over, or does it merely demonstrate the differences in perception when the map was received?

In the Theory of Megamind [a theory of evolution currently evolving, posted here: http://evolver.civicactions.net/user/microscopic_meg/blog/theory_megamind], body and mind are separately intelligent entities cooperating for survival, though body knows this and mind does not. Body is operated by a group council of cells in the intestine, “the gut”, and mind is a singular entity, “I”, which can be likened to Freud’s respective “ego + id” and “super ego”. Body’s governing council has access to one’s audio, video, and other sensorial files and can use them as it sees fit: sometimes to warn the mind of a perceived danger, often to gauge reaction to a particular stimulus. More frequently though, dreams seem only to be the mind’s perception of collected information crossing the cerebral cortex, and being filed into archives for later recall.

So if the Dream World exists in the world of the cell, and our world is exponentially larger, what translates from the Big Action World into the Dream World? What do they understand from the great beyond? Is it more than we understand of the cosmos? The members of the Dream World are so small, those little darlings, always setting the stage for us to skate upon, like when you dream you are in an exact replica of your home, but you know it is not real, because the details are minutely skewed. They must know nothing of the cosmos as we see them, considering the size differential between the two dimensions. Those pranksters think they know us but alas, they are only grasping for straws.

Though one-on-one experiments through the Endemic Dream have been successful, group experiments have yielded few significant results. On September 7th, 2012, a Dream Team is being assembled in Columbia, Missouri that will begin seriously testing and documenting this hypothesis of dream contagion, isolating variables for future experiments, and recording what occurs, so stay tuned for information as the Endemic Dream unfolds. For now, I’ll leave you with this story:

Last week on Monday my friend Samantha, with whom I first experimented at the beginning of the Endemic Dream, realized at work that her building was infested with cockroaches, her poverty-stricken childhood phobia. She turned over several boxes from which roaches spilled out to frighten her, and subsequent traumatic roach events occurred throughout the day. Later that night, she and her husband shared a margarita out of the same glass at a restaurant. The next morning on Tuesday, her husband woke up and said, "I haven't remembered my dreams for like a year, weirdest thing. But last night I dreamed all night long that I was turning over boxes full of cockroaches that spilled out. Oddly I was terrified, and screaming."

Good night, sweet dreams, and don’t eat after anybody you don’t want swimming in your subconscious. It’s always good advice,


Meg Rivers

Posted on August 28, 2012 and filed under Dreams.