Lucrecia the Dreamer
Prophecy, Cognitive Science, and the Spanish Inquisition
Kelly Bulkeley


Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

The introduction explains what is and is not known about the life, trial, and dreams of Lucrecia de Leon (b. 1568). The goal of this book is to explore the extant records of her dreams as dreams, as authentic expressions of her mind's functioning during sleep. Previous studies of historians are examined in the Introduction, including their theories of the political and social significance of her dreams. None of these studies have considered the dream reports in relation to current knowledge about the actual nature of human dreaming. With this as the working hypothesis, the evidence from her case will be considered in relation to current findings in dream research and in the cognitive science of religion.

Historical Prologue
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This section introduces Part One and sets the stage for Lucrecia's life. From the legendary Roman roots of her name to the Reconquista of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to the reign of King Philip II, this prologue lays out the major historical, political, and religious forces that shaped the world into which she was born. Much of her career as a prophetic dreamer depended on her growing up in the center of Madrid, at that time the capital city of the world's strongest empire. This dynamic environment was driven in large part by strong Catholic religious faith and a centuries-long effort to expel Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula.

1 Early Life
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This chapter describes Lucrecia's birth, her parents, and the conditions in Madrid during her childhood. It explains the significance for her life of the Battle of Lepanto, the various theories of medieval Christians about dreams, Lucrecia's earliest reported dreams, her father's hostile reaction to her dreams, and her work in the royal palace. The chapter suggests that the circumstances of her upbringing played an important role in how she dreamed, what she dreamed about, and with whom she shared her dreams.

2 A Record of Dreams
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This chapter describes how Lucrecia's dreams became the source of a theological project conducted by two eminent religious officials. It also explains the influence on her dreaming experiences of another prominent voice of prophetic doom, Miguel de Piedrola. When Lucrecia had a dream about Piedrola, it came to the attention of Don Alonso de Mendoza and his colleague Fray Lucas de Allende. They began recording her dreams on a regular basis, despite immediate concerns that this kind of project might attract the skeptical attention of the Spanish Inquisition, which had little tolerance for spiritual practices that might deviate from the confines of orthodox Catholic doctrine.

3 The Three Companions
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This chapter describes the dream journaling and recording process conducted by Don Alonso de Mendoza and Fray Lucas de Allende. Several excerpts from Lucrecia's dreams are provided, including passages from dreams portending future dangers for Spain and problems for the king. The "three companions" in her dreams are discussed: recurrent figures who interact with her in strange and unpredictable ways. Don Alonso found the dreams very interesting, and he told other people about them, as another ominous sign that King Philip II was leading the country in the wrong direction.

4 Esta Negra Soñadora
chapter abstract

This chapter describes the growing attention to Lucrecia's dreams, and the difficulties this caused with the religious officials of Madrid. She was arrested by the Vicar of Madrid and interrogated for ten days about her dreams. The religious officials accused her of stirring up social dissent and threatening the loyalty of the king's subjects. She defended herself by saying she only did what she was asked to do by Don Alonso and Fray Lucas. Don Alonso was able to secure her release by showing a senior official in the Inquisition several dreams of Lucrecia's that accurately predicted danger for the senior naval officer of the Spanish fleet, who had unexpectedly died just a few days earlier.

5 New Powers
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This chapter describes the voyage in 1588 of the Spanish Armada, the king's great military force with which he intended to attack England, seize the throne from the Protestant queen Elizabeth, and expand his Catholic empire northward. Despite the fervent support of the Church and all patriotic Spaniards, Lucrecia continually dreamed of danger, destruction, and failure for the Armada. When the Armada finally set sail and met the English fleet, the Spaniards suffered a shocking and catastrophic defeat. Suddenly Lucrecia's prophetic dreams seemed to have been proven true. In the aftermath of the Armada's loss, when the English threatened to counterattack and rampage throughout Spain, Lucrecia's dreams became of greater interest to a wider array of people, putting them all in grave danger. She also found someone whom she fell in love with and secretly married, a young scribe named Diego de Vitores, and soon she was pregnant.

6 The Trial
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This chapter describes the arrest of Lucrecia and her followers by the Spanish Inquisition. The precipitating cause was an embarrassing problem with Antonio Perez, a former secretary who had involved the king in a secret murder but then escaped his custody. Angrily looking for other disobedient people to punish, the king learned from his advisors about Lucrecia and her followers, and soon thereafter gave the order for their arrest. They were brought to the Inquisition's secret prison in Toledo and tried for heresy and sedition. The trial dragged on for five years while the Inquisitors alternately favored Lucrecia with special treatment, and tortured her to try to make her admit she was fabricating the dreams. Even under extreme pressure, she never gave up on her initial claim that her dreams were real dreams, and if anything heretical or treasonous was done with them, it was without her knowledge or permission.

7 What She Was Not
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This chapter begins the analytical section of the book. It looks at the available evidence about her case, and examines it in relation to the modern findings of dream research and the cognitive science of religion. The Spanish Inquisition tried to assign Lucrecia to one of their typical categories of heretics, but none of them fit her case. She was not Jewish, a Muslim, or a Protestant; she was not a witch, a mystic, or a lunatic; and she was not a Devil-worshipper. This led the Inquisition to accuse her primarily of fraud, of making up the dreams to cause mischief and draw attention to herself. The argument to be developed in the remaining chapters of this book is that current research on sleep and dreaming can provide retrospective help in answering this accusation and determining the nature and significance of Lucrecia's dreams.

8 Patterns in the Dreams
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This chapter looks in detail at the 36 dreams that were copied in the original manuscript in especially legible form and that date from a five-month period before the voyage of the Spanish Armada. The analysis uses the word-searching tools of the Sleep and Dream Database, a digital archive and search engine designed to promote scientific dream research. A study of Lucrecia's dreams (translated from Spanish into English) reveals several significant patterns that highlight important aspects of her waking life. The analysis of her word usage frequencies also reveals several features of her dreams that do not easily map onto her waking life experiences and seem to reflect unusually creative aspects of her dreaming imagination.

9 Cognitive Science
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This chapter uses the tools and findings of cognitive science to examine several aspects of Lucrecia's dreams. Cognitive science is a new development in the scientific study of the human brain-mind system, and this chapter explains how these resources can be brought to bear in the study of a historical person. The chapter grounds its analysis in neuroscientific research on sleep, with a close look at the electrical, chemical, and anatomical features of the sleeping brain. This research is connected to findings about typical human dreaming experiences, particularly around features of supernatural agents, threat simulation, and metacognition.

10 Relational Psychology
chapter abstract

This chapter considers the social relationships in Lucrecia's waking and dreaming life in light of modern relational psychology. This approach foregrounds the role of personal relationships in human development. Drawing on Freud, Erikson, Winnicott, and others, this line of thinking emphasizes early life experiences, gender dynamics, and the complex changes of adolescence in trying to understand the growth of an individual's personality. These ideas are brought into a discussion about the major relationships in Lucrecia's life, including those with her parents, Don Alonso, Fray Lucas, Diego de Vitores, and her daughter, Margarita, born in the Inquisition's prison in Toledo.

11 Politics and Society
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This chapter looks at Lucrecia's dreams in the context of the political and social dynamics of her place and time. The capacity of dreams to include material from the political world is discussed, drawing on Charlotte Beradt's moving book The Third Reich of Dreams as one especially compelling example of politically significant dreaming. In light of this, the chapter considers the various sources of information Lucrecia had about the royal court of Philip II and the geopolitics of the Spanish empire. She was very familiar with the king, his frailties, and his weaknesses, and her dreams accurately reflected the concerns felt not only by her but by many other people in Madrid and throughout Spain, who worried about the dangers posed by a failing monarch.

12 History of Religions
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This chapter considers Lucrecia's dreams cross-culturally, examining patterns of dream experience found in various religious traditions around the world and throughout history. These patterns shed light on several patterns in Lucrecia's dreams. The practice of dream incubation is discussed. This is a widely practiced kind of ritual used to elicit a favorable dream. Other themes considered in this chapter are dreams of future events (precognitive dreams), prophecy in the biblical tradition, visual imagery and symbolism in dreams, and the challenges of interpreting dreams accurately. These qualities of her dreams made them alluring to her followers, but more dangerous in the eyes of the Inquisition.

13 What She Most Likely Was
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This chapter draws together the various strands of evidence to argue that Lucrecia was a prophetic dreamer. Considering all the details of her case, it seems most likely that she was honestly and accurately describing her dreams to Don Alonso, who did his best to keep meticulous records of her reports. Despite everything the Inquisition put her through—five years of imprisonment, interrogations, torture—she remained consistent in her claims of innocence. The facts of her case suggest she was telling the truth.

Historical Epilogue
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This chapter describes the outcome of Lucrecia's trial and its aftermath. The outcomes of the trials of her followers are also presented. She was convicted of heresy and sentenced to one hundred lashes, two years confinement in a religious institution such as a convent, and permanent banishment from Madrid and Toledo. After this, nothing is known for certain about the rest of her life. She may have died, or fallen into poverty or prostitution, or perhaps found her way to her husband Diego, who had also been banished by the Inquisition. Soon after her time of religious confinement was due to end, Philip II finally died.

chapter abstract

The Conclusion discusses the methodological advantages and disadvantages of using modern dream research and the cognitive science of religion to explore the life and dreams of a person from a distant period of history. Several contributions of this book to the scientific study of religion are discussed, including the importance of studying individuals with unusual religious or spiritual capacities, the powerful potential of connecting dream research to the study of human religiosity, and the future of digital humanities research in the study of dreams and religion more broadly.