Lilith Apostel: Doctoral Project | Promotionsprojekt



Lilith Apostel (2017, forthcoming): Falling into Other Realms. The Universal, Embodied Experience of Sleep and Dreaming and Its Relation to Concepts of Death and the Netherworld before 1500 BC. Doctoral dissertation, Universität zu Köln.


Sleep and dreaming are characterised by specific traits, which incline them to religious interpretations, in particular to religious concepts of dying and life after death. Several aspects are relevant here, the most important being the formal resemblance of sleep and death: the immobility of the body and the (seeming) absence of consciousness. At the same time, the dreamer experiences in the mind’s eye an alternate reality that is structured in much the same way as the waking world but can still be distinctly different with respect to its content, prompting ideas about other realms.

In my doctoral dissertation, I explore the interconnectedness of ideas about sleep and dreaming with ideas about death and the netherworld. To address this topic, I investigate how far back in time this connection can be traced and under which circumstances it manifests itself to what extent and in what form. Comprised in this main issue is another subordinate question, namely the role that sleep and dreaming play in religious contexts, especially for burial rites and cosmological ideas. By integrating historical and archaeological data with findings from the natural sciences and investigating them against the background of cognitive archaeology and the cognitive science of religion, a broader perspective on culture-specific manifestations of sleep and dreaming is enabled, particularly in relation to human universals.