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Written by Christine Breese, D.D., Ph.D.
long been a source of intrigue and mystery to humankind since the beginning
of time. When was the first dream? It is speculated by scientists that dreams
began 130 million years ago. This theory was explored by observing animals with
varying levels of nervous system development. Observation was done by means
of brainwave recordings and REM observations. It has been concluded that amphibians,
like bullfrogs, do not sleep or dream at all. Reptiles might sleep,
and birds have only two different stages of sleep. The chimpanzee is the closest
to early mankind’s type of nervous system. The first human dream was probably
fairly simple, as Robert L. Van De Castle says in his book Our Dreaming
Mind (1994) “…when a hairy creature re-experienced briefly
during sleep a strong smell that had caused its nostrils to twitch during the
preceding day, or the taste of some earlier feast.” Human dreams most
likely evolved into more complex imagery as humans evolved in the nervous system
and gained more experience as a species.
The idea that sleep is a “little death” is a common notion in cultures all over the world. Almost every primitive religious tradition has some reference to dreams as being a small version of what occurs at actual physical departure from the Earth. A traditional saying among American Indians is that “to die is to walk the path of the dream without returning.” Having a relationship like this with dreaming changes the very nature of our relationship with death.
The world of dreams is getting more and more mysterious, and we are no closer to mapping the dream worlds than we are of knowing the secrets of the universe. Elsie Sechrist says in her book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968), “The more the unknown continent of sleep is explored, the more it discloses wider and vaster territories to be explored. And the findings discovered tend not only to outdate but to contradict the early work by the first explorers in the field. It is as if one compared the charts of Columbus’ day with the modern maps of America’s Eastern seaboard—the subject is the same but no other similarity exists.” In this field, there is still an infinite amount of exploration to be done.
So how, then, do dreams affect us, and can they improve our waking lives? Dreams are highly underestimated by our society and could be put to better use than they currently are. Dreams can be used more effectively for growth, fulfillment and identifying the self, or the many selves within one self than they presently are. If an individual uses the dream world to enhance conscious understanding of the self, perhaps the waking life will be lived more effectively and with more joy. This applies to all the shades of dreaming, from simple dream recall to full lucidity in dreams. (Full lucidity means that one has woken up in the dream and realizes it is a dream, yet goes onward in the surroundings of the dream without waking up physically). Full lucidity is the ideal “sound-stage” for working out our decisions, gaining skills, and exploring Self, God and the universe. Simple recall is limited to one story, but full lucidity is limitless in its uses, outcomes, trials and errors, and capacity for solving problems. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold state in their book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “The world of lucid dreams provides a vaster stage than ordinary life…almost anything imaginable, from the frivolous to the sublime…lucid dreams can help you find your deepest identity—who you really are.”
The dream world, especially the lucid dream world, is our own built in virtual reality machine. The attempts of computer engineers, who are trying to invent virtual reality programs for the computer, are falling far short of what we already have built into our consciousness right now. If we could learn to tap into this inner resource of wisdom, experience, and exploration, we could avoid many of the mistakes or problems we encounter in everyday life. In ordinary life there is only one chance to play out an event—and only one conclusion. In the dream world, different versions of an event and its outcomes can be experienced without lasting consequences.
For instance, an individual who has a difficult time speaking publicly could practice dealing with stage fright and the mechanics of delivering a speech in front of thousands of dream characters. If the person first fails this speaking engagement, the stage could be reset and one could try again with a different approach. A person who has to communicate something to another, whom he or she is having a conflict with and is unsure about how it will go, can use trial and error attempts in the dream world to find just the right way to communicate without negative outcomes. Another person who is having difficulty with some area of study or creativity could use the dream world to gain access to knowledge or skills that are otherwise unavailable in the waking life.
There are billions of ways that one could use this built in virtual reality machine that we all have inside us. Our imagination is the limit. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold state in their book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “Research on how to cultivate peak performance suggests that lucid dreaming may prove to be an ideal training ground, not only for athletics, but also for any area in which skill can be developed… Dreams are the most vivid type of mental imagery most people are likely to experience…Waking mental images are weak sensory impressions that resemble actual experience, but are generally not as vivid. Dreams, however, are mental images of completely convincing vividness... The more the mental rehearsal of a skill feels like the real thing, the greater the effect it is likely to have on waking performance. Because of this, lucid dreaming, in which we can make conscious use of dream imagery, is likely to be even more useful than waking mental imagery as a tool for learning and practicing skills.” Imagine what a person could do with all that extra time in life to gather skills and abilities, even while the physical body sleeps!
The book Dreams & Dreaming (1990), by George Constable, Editor In Chief, states that, “Sleep learning was first the stuff of science fiction… However, it is now scientifically documented that sleep learning is a reality. Experiments have shown that sleep learning cannot replace daytime learning, but the two can sometimes be used in concert together. Snoozing students can absorb facts…mathematical formulas, historical dates…but more complex learning requiring abstraction, analysis and reasoning seems to be beyond the powers of the slumbering mind. Nevertheless, hypnopedia could be a real boon for students, adding hours of painless instruction that could speed their educational progress. Soviet researchers assert that months of hypnopedia produces no fatigue or other unwanted side effects.” Hmmm… I have always been bored to death with having to memorize dates, lists and all the presidents of the United States in order, a common list that students in the U.S. are required to regurgitate sooner or later in the educational process. If I could have memorized such things in a soft doze during the hypnagogic state, a state that is related to dreaming but on a lighter level, I could have saved myself immense amounts of time. Could I have averted my painstaking journey through Algebra and Calculus with hypnopedia? How many lists, facts and formulas could a human brain hold if as children we are taught early in our education to take advantage of such a skill?
Perhaps the dream world is the root of our waking life, a place where some deeper consciousness is figuring out how to play the game of life. Perhaps it is the wire mesh that the physical reality is laid upon. No one really knows. Jane Roberts says in her book The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977), “The ways in which dream material becomes real, the processes involved, are the same ones by which the universe itself becomes objectified… The universe is the result of a certain kind of focus of consciousness…the matter rises out of inner wonderworks, of which the private wonderworks of each of us is a part. If we really understand how dreams worked and allowed ourselves to explore dream levels, we’d see how the universe is formed… it is the …creative product, en masse, of our individual and joint dreams.” She also says in the same book, “from the ‘chaotic’ bed of your dreams springs your ordered daily organized action… Your present universe is a mass-shared dream, quite valid…based not upon chaos but upon spontaneous order.”
I feel it is important to find out what this dream world is really for, since dreams have been with us since the earliest memories of mankind. This is undiscovered territory for us as a species. Perhaps it is even the final frontier! Robert H. Hopcke says in his book There Are No Accidents (1997), “If you presume that dreams have a meaning…you will undoubtedly find out more about your inner life than you ever thought possible.” I agree! We are missing a very useful tool for enlightenment and self-understanding. The sacred books of India, composed between 1000-600 B.C., explain in great detail how to use dreams as a tool for gaining enlightenment. So do Tibetan texts and oral teachings. Using dreams for self-understanding is an ancient art form, one that could serve us just as well today in our search for who we are and our purpose for being alive.
Dreams could lead to higher consciousness if one constantly applies what is revealed in dreams. The Tibetan Rinpoche Tarthang Tulku, quoted in Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold’s book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), instructs us to “maintain unbroken continuity of consciousness between the two states of sleep and waking.” He then went around the room, pointing to various people, and laughing he said, “This dream!” indicating that the body itself, the personality, all of it, is a dream. The two authors also said in their book on lucid dreaming, “By cultivating awareness in your dreams, and learning to use them, you can add more consciousness, more life, to your life. In the process you will…deepen your understanding of yourself.” Examining dreams, according to the Tibetans, inevitably causes us to learn more about the self and also about the dream we are inhabiting in waking life as well.
Jeremy Taylor says in his book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), “…Not only is dreaming significant from an evolutionary point of view, dreaming itself is the workshop of evolution…Clearly, we are still dreaming. Evolution is not done with us. We are not finished or completed, either as individuals or as a species… The Divine…is not yet as consciously developed and self-aware within us as it longs to be.”
Yes, there have been multitudes of workshops, books and studies done on dreams, but up to now, these endeavors have been considered frivolous and unimportant by society, and have even been called the junk of the mind. Most people feel that dreams, their recall, interpretation and meaningfulness, are for those who have too much free time on their hands. People who investigate their dreams are often considered hobbyists, rather than what they really are—brave explorers of an unmapped and misunderstood world that may have just as much reality as this physical one. Exploration of dreams is considered by most in society as frivolous play at best. However, according to Jeremy Taylor in his book Dream Work (1983), “In non-technological societies where people use fewer tools and are virtually without machines, dream life tends to have much more importance and prominence than it does in industrial/technological cultures.” Perhaps we would do well to observe the more primitive societies in existence today, for they are more proficient at dreaming than we in our highly technological societies. We could learn from these primitive societies, for they excel in their understanding and uses of dreams.
John Layard says in his book The Lady Of The Hare (1988), “All primitive peoples recognize [that dreams are messages from God], and accordingly pay great attention to them…all knowledge of the other side of life came to mankind through [dreams], later canalized into dogma, which is its static representation, true but lacking in redemptive efficacy so long as it is divorced from its organic source.” This points to the fact that all religious doctrine, rituals and beliefs are based on information originally received via channels of other worldly nature, like dreams. It is well documented in the Bible that many of the most important messages came to mankind through dreams, but why are dreams not used in such a way now? We are left with only the static conclusions that others made in their own dream analysis early in history, yet is not spirituality a constantly evolving thing? Perhaps we should look at our dreams in the present day as messages from God, universe, Self, whatever the source might be called by any given individual. These may be the changes that are needed as human spirituality evolves. Spiritual messages through dreams did not end upon the point of crystallization of the Bible.
Many of the visions and divine realizations in the Bible are products of dreams. John A. Sanford quotes the Bible, Numbers 12:6, in his book Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language (1968), “And he said, ‘Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.’ Thus equating clearly the common origin and significance of dreams and visions [in the Bible].” Elsie Sechrist states in her book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968), “In the Bible there are constant references to communication between man and God, between man and the angels, and between man and his higher self through the medium of dreams.” She also addresses meditation, as in metaphysical methods: “In Meditation, man opens himself to those benign powers which are the strongest forces in the universe, as well as to all time, all space, and all levels of consciousness. It is his attempt to communicate with his source, with God. Whereas prayer is ‘man talking to God,’ meditation is ‘man listening for God’s voice.’” So could dreams be likened to meditation at our deepest level where we clearly receive messages from some higher source or power? Are dreams actually the “ultimate meditation?”
Unfortunately, modern day religious leaders do not acknowledge our continuing ability to receive messages from God, our divine source, or our own personal connection with the powers-that-be. John Layard states in his book, The Lady Of The Hare (1988), “Though God spoke to the prophets in dreams and visions, the Church is now apt to frown on them, considering them to be vain fancies, a view that has now percolated to the common man, or else, if they are clearly important, to be, except in rare instances, of the Devil. The truth is that they may…point the way to spiritual growth, but equally as being of the Devil if we fail to see below their manifest content which so often darkens and distorts the spiritual meaning that lies beneath.”
Bob Larson, the most famous Doubting Thomas in the literary world when it comes to metaphysical concepts, says in his book Straight Answers On the New Age (1989), “It is true that in the Old Testament God sometimes revealed His will through dreams. But we observe no continuing occurrence of this practice. When God did use dreams it was under His discretion and at His prerogative…” Is this to say that God no longer communicates at all with mankind? Is religion now just an unmoving, non-evolving entity? Has God died, or something, and we are now left to fend for ourselves without any further direction or intention for our evolution from a higher source? Are dreams truly dead ends for spiritual messages and understandings? I highly doubt it, myself.
Why is the dream world a possibility for a healthier human psychology? It is because the mind and personality has unlimited freedom. It is a place to express and address everything that the human psychology gives attention to. It is a place where trial and error can happen without consequences on the Earth plane. It is a place where true therapy can take place at the deepest levels. I have experienced many such healings as a result of my dream activities. They have changed my life for the better—permanently. I believe this is possible for everyone.
It is absolutely certain that we must dream or we will have terrible problems psychologically. In Dreams & Dreaming (1990), George Constable, Editor In Chief, describes an experiment done at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital by a psychiatrist named William C. Dement. In this experiment, subjects were woken up as soon as they began to have REM periods (Rapid Eye Movements are indicative that dreaming is happening). He did this for five nights in a row until he was awakening the subjects at least twenty times. Then he allowed them a night, finally, of undisturbed sleep. “As if hungry for dreams, the volunteers spent more time on the recovery night than normal in the REM stage. By contrast, a control group of volunteers who had been awakened just as frequently but only during non-REM sleep did not increase their dream time during the recovery night. The tendency to make up for lost REM sleep suggests that dreaming is important for both psychological and physical health.” The book continues to describe that the subjects became increasingly agitated, unclear, and irritable as the experiment went on until they were allowed to dream normally on the recovery night. This is an obvious indication that dreaming is absolutely necessary to human psychological and mental health. I would not like to imagine an experiment of this sort that deprived a person of dream time for, say, three or four months. Would we then have a monster on our hands?
Great inventions have come about through dreams, including the singer sewing machine, the discovery of the benzene molecule, and the creative works of many literary, visual and musical artists. In the book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992) by Jeremy Taylor, he says, “Dreams have been and continue to be a source of genuinely innovative thinking, invention, and discovery in fields ranging from philosophy to physics, from architecture to agriculture, and electronics to zoology.” I wonder, personally, if we would have ever invented anything at all if it were not for our capacity to dream. These people who invented such things were called dreamers, but it is these very same dreamers who have catapulted us into our ever evolving future.
Much of the visionary art in the world is the product of dreams. It is stated in this same book by Jeremy Taylor that, “dreaming holds great promise for the future of humankind: dreams are reflections of our inborn creativity. Creativity is our universal human birthright. All creativity has its source deep in the unconscious. Dreams have always been one of the major vehicles for the appearance of the creative impulse in waking imagination and awareness.” Jane Roberts says about creativity in her book The Unknown Reality (1977), “Some inventors, writers, scientists, artists, who are used to dealing with creative material directly, are quite aware of the fact that many of their productive ideas came from the dream condition. They see the results of dream activity in practical physical life. Many others, though untrained, can clearly trace certain decisions made in waking life to dreams.”
This brings us to the fact that millions of people from the ancient to the modern have solved personal problems with dreams, which might not be reported much throughout history, but we can assume that it has been done since the beginning of humankind. In the book Creative Dream Analysis (1988), Gary K. Yamamoto says that dreams, “all have one thing in common. All our dreams can help us solve our problems. Every problem we have is a candidate for our dreams to solve.” He also says, “our inner intelligence knows what we have to do… Each moment requires a new decision that forms the foundation for all future decisions. Fortunately, our dreams are adaptable, moving, and changing in step with anything we choose to do… Every decision we make, every action we take is recorded by our inner intelligence. Based on this ever-changing input, our inner intelligence creates new dreams. The dreams identify any new pitfalls, provide possible solutions, and may reveal the outcomes of the paths being followed.”
I think that without dreams, we would have great difficulty knowing what to do, for dreams are our exploration of probable futures and probable outcomes. Dreams are the testing ground for actions and decisions. Jane Roberts says in her book The Unknown Reality (1977), “The future of the species is being worked out in the private and mass dreams of its members… Few understand, however, that private reality is like a finished product, rising out of the immense productivity that occurs in the dreaming condition.”
Dreams had by great leaders often directed their path to victory. For example, the great victory of Constantine when he had a “vision” was most likely a dream. He was instructed in his “vision” to embed the symbol of the cross on the shields of his warriors, and then he was assured victory. After this victory, he made Constantinople the central city of Christian beliefs. Among all the books I use as references for this material, there are hundreds of reports where dreams have made life better for the dreamer or the masses that the dreamer affected in his or her life. Dreams influence physical reality in very real ways. Dreams are part of the equation in mankind’s evolution, perhaps a bigger part of the equation than we know.
Not only that, but dreams are our most definite and tangible proof that we live eternally, independent of the physical body. Dreams give us proof that there is more to us than meets the eye. Robert L. Van De Castle says it best when he says in his book, Our Dreaming Mind (1994), that dreams have “also given us a basis for believing that there is a nonmaterial component to our existence, as well as a continuity of existence which is not interrupted by physical death.” We literally spend at least 90 minutes a night in an entirely different world of experience—independent of the physical body. The implications of this are important in our search for proof of life after death. In the book Dreams & Dreaming (1990), George Constable, Editor In Chief, says, “The importance of dreams in causing primitive man to conceive of himself as possessing a soul, a non-material self that moved and acted in the dream world,” was emphasized. It is further stated in this book, “Dream experience made men aware that they were constantly in contact with a mysterious supernatural world, from which much might be learned about their own destiny in this world and the next.”
And what of the dreams of animals? It is a fact that most animals dream. It could be speculated that even plants might dream. I’d like to take it a step further and ask if rocks dream, or oceans, or dirt or perhaps the very molecules and atoms inside us. Do they dream in some way or another? Jane Roberts verifies that they do in her book The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977), “All consciousnesses dream. We have said that to some degree even atoms and molecules have consciousness, and each one of those minute consciousnesses forms its own dreams, even as on the other hand each one forms its own physical image. Now, as the field of individual atoms combine for their own benefit into more complicated structure gestalts, so do they also combine to form such gestalts…in the dream world.” She goes on to say, “Because it is connected to you through chemical reactions, this leaves open the entryway of interactions, in animals as well as men. Since dreams are a by-product of any consciousness involved within matter, this leads us to the correct conclusion—that trees have their dreams, that all physical matter…also participates in the involuntary construction of the dream universe.” She goes further to say that even cells, molecules and atoms have their version of dreaming, although “Atoms do not dream of cats chasing dogs, yet, there are indeed ‘lapses’ from physical focus that are analogous to your dreaming state.” Just because something is small or insignificant in our opinion does not mean that it does not perceive life and the other worlds in some way. This is noted in the book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), by Jeremy Taylor, in his following statement: “There are those organized collections of atoms with relative speedy metabolisms that are obviously and observably alive, and then there are those organized collections of atoms that seem to have slower metabolic rates that up till now we have mistaken for ‘inanimate,’ when actually their life is simply too slow and subtle to be observed with our short attention span.” This, I would think, includes such things as rocks, tables, chairs, crystals and other objects that seem quite inanimate to us.
On a larger scale, dreams have created, shaped and changed the world throughout history. Jane Roberts states in her book Dreams, Evolution, and Value Fulfillment (1986), “All of your grandest civilizations have existed first in the world of dreams. You might say that the universe dreamed itself into being.” This is truly a profound thought, in my opinion. Is it possible that all we know of the physical universe has only been created because some great intelligence dreamed it into being, and is still dreaming about it? This could throw all our ideas about this thing called physical reality into confusion. Is it actually but a thought, a dream, in the mind of God, and when God stops dreaming and wakes up, will it all simply disappear the way our dreams do when we wake up from our sleep each night? This is a mind shattering concept to wrap ourselves around, is it not?
What is this sleeping and dreaming thing anyway and why is it so necessary for most living beings? Neale Donald Walsh, in his book Conversations With God, Book III (1998), states that dreams may simply be in existence because, “The soul literally drops the body…when it is tired of the limits, tired of the heaviness and lack of freedom of being with the body. It will just leave the body when it seeks ‘refueling.’” In her book The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977), Jane Roberts states, “Dreams provide a steady give-and-take between conscious and so-called unconscious activity.”
Why do we go insane without dreams? How do they keep us psychologically functional in waking life and why are dreams so important to emotional health? Is it possible that we interact with each other in our dreams, or are dreams just a static place containing only material from only our own minds as individuals? These are some of the questions I have wondered, and some of this will be explored and answered in this report, but most of these questions only serve to spur more questions that simply cannot be answered at this time in human evolution.
End of Introduction.
We will work more with the idea of lucid dreaming in the Master’s section of the curriculum. You will receive many exercises and techniques for inducing lucid dreams at that point. For now, you will receive detailed information about history, dreams, and exercises for recalling your dreams more vividly and interpreting your dreams for more understanding.
It was quite a challenge to narrow my selection of literature down to only these sources. There is so much literature on dreams and interpretation that it is mind-boggling. Many of these sources would be redundant to have in the bibliography, so I have chosen the most pertinent ones that don’t have so many similarities that they are practically the same book in relation to one another. In no way does this give a portrayal of how many books are printed on the subject of dreams.
Some of the books selected here only mention dreams in passing or only have a few paragraphs, like the Seth books by Jane Roberts, but these books are some of the first ones to give me the idea that dream worlds might be a key for me in my growth and self-discovery. The Seth books are channeled material, Jane Roberts being the channeler and her husband Robert Butts being the transcriber and questioner. I believe channeled information can sometimes be more accurate and informative than information from the human mind alone. If the person doing the channeling is adept at the task, information that has either been dormant in the human collective unconscious or has yet to be discovered, can be brought forth. Roberts has many books, about twenty, but I only refer to four of them in this essay. Each book has a different focus, and the comments on dreams come from different perspectives, depending on the focus of the book.
The first of Jane Roberts books that I have listed is The Nature Of The Psyche: Its Human Expression (1979). This book delves into the human nature in depth, expounding on sexuality, personality problems, and includes psychic exercises that one can do to improve on his or her intuition. Dreams are also addressed.
The second of Jane Roberts books is Dreams, Evolution, and Value Fulfillment, Volume One (1986). This is also channeled material and as per the title, is completely focused on the nature of dreams and how they work as another arena for consciousness to have experiences which are just as valid as waking life experience. Not only are our nightly dreams discussed in this book, but so are the dreams of the mass consciousness of humanity, animals, plants and other such beings on Earth. There is constantly an unconscious dreaming mass self at work underneath the fabric of physical reality.
The next two books by Jane Roberts that I refer to are called The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977) and The Unknown Reality, Volume Two (1986). Both of these books are very large in scope as to the subjects addressed, for there are many kinds of unknown realities. The future and how it is created is discussed, probable realities, how events at the individual and mass level are created, past/present/future lives, and how idle daydreams and unfulfilled desires shape our lives. I found exquisitely interesting material on the nature and uses of dreams in these books, mostly in Volume I.
The Lady Of The Hare: A Study In The Healing Power Of Dreams (1988) by John Layard is a wonderful book with a gentle and soft approach to dream work. It includes an account of his work with one woman who had a life changing dream about the sacrifice of a hare (rabbit). This spurred an entire book about the mythology and symbolism of the hare, like the Easter Rabbit of the Christian tradition, and an examination of the archetypes the hare holds in many different religions and cultures. The part of the book that is useful for this essay, however, is what Layard writes about dreams and how archetypes are an essential part of their content.
Leaving The Body: A Complete Guide to Astral Projection (1983) by D. Scott Rogo is a wonderful book that does not address dreams as the subject for the entire book. However, there is some lengthy information about dreams and how they can lead to an OBE, or out of body experience. If a lucid dream is achieved, an astral projection can easily follow by instructing yourself to do so while in the dream state. This causes the consciousness to shift into yet another dimension that is similar to the dream world, but is overlaid on the physical world and doesn’t change as easily. The book also suggests that the dream body is just one of the many bodies we use in order for our consciousness to have an experience. These experiences happen whether we realize them or not.
Harper’s Encyclopedia Of Mystical And Paranormal Experience (1991) by Rosemary Ellen Guiley is a book about many metaphysical subjects. I found her portion about dreams, approximately five pages, quite informative and useful. The Encyclopedia Of Psychic Sciences (1966) by Nandor Fodor is another one of these books about all things metaphysical. I found that the information about dreams in his book was informative and useful.
Sexual Dreams: Why We Have Them, What They Mean (1994) by Dr. Gayle Delaney, who has written other books on dreams, definitely perked my attention, for I hadn’t seen many books addressing the sexual nature of dreams except books influenced by Freud and Jung. I definitely had to take a peek into this book and it was quite interesting what I found. It is a precise and intelligent look at the sexual material in dreams, explaining that sexual dreams are not always about sex. This book is filled with vivid erotic dreams of both men and women and the analysis of those dreams and their symbols. Dr. Gayle Delaney graduated from Princeton University. She is also the Founding President of the Association For The Study Of Dreams. Her co-founder is Jeremy Taylor, the author of the next two books listed in this chapter. She lectures around the world in several languages, including French, Italian, and Spanish. I must admit that I am very impressed by this woman, who was actually quite young at the time this book was written, and has accomplished so much already in her physical life.
Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992) by Jeremy Taylor is a wonderful book about using dreams to tap into the wisdom of the unconscious. Jeremy Taylor has studied dreams for over twenty years and has worked with thousands of people from all walks of life, both individually and in groups. He is a Unitarian Universalist minister and co-founder of the Association For The Study of Dreams. In his book, he explores the many levels of symbolism and archetypes. He also gives us exercises for dealing with dreams, from recall to interpretation and to deriving the spiritual messages of dreams.
Another book by Jeremy Taylor, Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams (1983), is an older work of his, but very helpful in understanding how to use dreams creatively. This book is not quite as full of techniques as the book listed in the previous paragraph, although it does offer techniques, even in the area of lucid dreaming. He talks more about the origin of ideas, inventions, and revelations that dreams give, and have already given, throughout history. He talks about how to apply that desire to receive creative ideas from your dreams.
Interpreting Dreams A-Z (1999) by Leon Nacson is a cute and colorful book with a layout that is ideal for teaching children about dreams. It is very artfully done. I liked it because it had some very simplistic definitions for symbols in dreams.
Understanding Your Child’s Dreams ( 1999) by Pam Spurr, Ph.D. is another very colorful book. It is also geared toward children. I really liked the simplistic definitions for dream symbols as I did in the book listed above. Sometimes simple really is better!
Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language (1968) by John A. Sanford is written from a Christian perspective. It is religious in nature, and refers to many biblical experiences of dreams as found in traditional bible text. Sanford was a priest and is now a rector in the Episcopalian tradition. He is not convinced that God has stopped speaking to us in dreams, as many Christian traditions would have us believe.
Unlocking the Power Of Your Unconscious Mind (1999) by Lauren Lawrence is a wonderful book on understanding how the brain registers experiences and uses these experiences in the inner worlds, one of which is dreams. The most useful part of this book for the purposes of this dissertation is the list of common dream symbols and their meanings.
Dreamworking: A Comprehensive Guide To Working With Dreams (1991) by Strephon Kaplan-Williams is a huge book with multitudes of exercises and a focus on self healing through dreamwork. “Comprehensive Guide” is an understatement about this book! I don’t believe that there could be any other work that has as many tips and precision guidance through exercises for dreams and interpreting those dreams. If this book isn’t famous, it should be.
Dream Back Your Life (2000) by Joan Mazza is another book, not quite as large, but just as comprehensive in its offerings of exercises and tips for understanding dreams and interpreting them. It is focused on do-it-yourself healing. It also introduces lucid dreaming as a means for healing.
Yet another book focused on self healing is The Dreamworking Handbook (2001) by Helen McLean and Abiye Cole. This one is also chock full of exercises and tips on dreaming and interpretation.
The Art Of Dreaming (1995) by Veronica Tonay, Ph.D. is full of charts and exercises for dreamwork.
Working With Dreams (1979) by Montague Ullman, M.D. and Nan Zimmerman uses many case histories and facts to explain how dreams work. This book is full of techniques and ways to interpret dreams. It goes through all kinds of scenarios and explains how to work with them, including working with recurring dreams or nightmares.
Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968) by Elsie Sechrist contains dream interpretations that the late Edgar Cayce did long ago. Elsie and her husband consulted the famous psychic about problems they hoped to solve. This book uses hundreds of actual dream interpretations in order to demonstrate how to understand dreams and derive vital information about business dealings, social dangers, sexual entanglements, religious beliefs and other aspects of life—from the most spiritual to the most commonplace. Edgar Cayce’s son, Hugh Lynn Cayce, wrote about this book:, “a summation of years of study and work in many new, thought-provoking concepts. Good common sense, humor, practical psychological insight, and spiritual purposes are blended here to challenge the reader…”
Dreams & Dreaming (1990) by Time-Life Books, George Constable, Editor In Chief, is a beautifully arranged tribute to dreams and dreaming. It is full of beautiful color pictures and has many articles and prose about dreams, from the history of dreams to speculation about the purpose of dreams. Also explored are symbols, archetypes and events that happen in just about everyone’s dreams sooner or later. This book does not go into techniques as much as some of the other books, but it is a very beautifully arranged synopsis of dreams and what they might be for.
Our Dreaming Mind (1994) by Robert L. Van De Castle, Ph.D. is a huge volume with extensive information about the history of mankind and dreaming. It contains early philosopher’s ideas and twentieth century ideas about dreams. He explores the role that dreams have played in politics, art, religion, and psychology during all eras. He also discusses the mechanics of dreams and what the different classifications are. Multitudes of dreams are interpreted and analyzed in this wonderful book as well. It should be a textbook for colleges.
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Dreams (1988) by Patricia Garfield, Ph.D., an esteemed dream expert, shows in her book how women dream differently than men and how those dreams reflect a woman’s passages in life. This book is geared toward women of all ages and assists women with understanding dreams and adjusting to the female body’s changes and emotional states. This book might not be as interesting to men, but it is quite useful for women.
The Inner World Of Daydreaming (1975) by Jerome L. Singer isn’t about dreams per se, but about daydreaming while awake. I found information in this book that is quite applicable to the night dreams we have, and how the mind needs these dreaming times, both while awake and while asleep, in order to have health and balance. As in nighttime dreams, daytime dreams are also therapeutic and useful to the human psychology.
Sigmund Freud (1971) by Richard Wollheim is a book about the famous psychoanalyst who came up with some of the first theories and techniques known to western psychology. Included in this book are some of his theories and writings about dreams and their meanings. He has a tendency to think that everything wrong with people is some kind of sexual dysfunction, so I must admit that I am not necessarily a subscriber to everything he says about the human psyche. However, since he is one of the first people to even think of examining dreams as an official form of therapy, he should be included in this material, not to mention the fact that his name is nearly synonymous with the concept of dream analysis. His points of view on these matters has been a cornerstone of western psychology even though most of western psychology uses Jung’s methods more than.
The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung (1959) edited by Violet Staub De Laszlo also should be included in the reference material for this dissertation, for he is another founder of western psychology in the area of dreams and their interpretations. Jung and Freud were colleagues of sorts until they realized their theories were going in different directions and they split off from each other. Jung is an early psycho-analyst who is famous for his dissertations on the shadow self. In this book are his basic ideas about dreams.
My favorite book out of all these books is Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990) by Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. & Howard Rheingold. This book is one of the most informative books on the subject, and there are not many books about lucid dreaming per se. It is packed with material that has not been addressed in most dream books except in a passing nature. I used this book like a Bible for techniques, inspiration and knowledge about how lucid dreaming works. This book is solely about lucid dreaming, written by people who have done laboratory testing and research in the field. It is the most information one will find about lucid dreaming all in one place.
Stephen LaBerge is the founder of the Lucidity Institute, the leading organization and authority on the subject of lucid dreaming. A workbook put out by this organization contains multitudes of charts for self-teaching and analysis of dreams. This workbook was invaluable to me in learning how to track my progress and get my mental body in the right mode of attention for observance and noticing the irregular things that occur even in daily life, which is a necessary state of attention for attaining the ability to dream lucidly. Not only did this book with its charts and questions help me learn how to wake up in dreams, but it also helped me wake up in my waking life, assisting me in becoming more observant of the subtle details that are around me all the time. The name of this workbook is called A Course In Lucid Dreaming (1999) by Stephen LaBerge and it is an invaluable tool for learning how to have lucid dreams. This book is published in house at the Lucidity Institute and comes included when an individual buys the Nova Dreamer, a device that will be mentioned further in the Findings part of this thesis. In short, it assists the dreamer in waking up in a dream.
The Universe Within (1982) by Morton Hunt is a book about many things within, dreams being one of them. This book is a collection of information derived from scientists on the leading edge of the exploration of humankind’s inner self. He portrays the work of researchers who are “investigating such mysteries of the mind as memory and forgetting, concept formation, logical reasoning...” He reports on the scientific studies on how we solve problems and get creative ideas. Artificial intelligence is also addressed. This book is mostly about the mechanics of human psychology and how it works. Dreams are included in this book in only very small ways, but most importantly, it discusses how a famous dream was the source of knowledge about the benzene molecule, which had stumped early scientists for years, and was the key to greater scientific feats with chemicals and such.
Creative Dream Analysis: A Guide To Self Development (1988) by Gary K. Yamamoto is a wonderful book with the same intensity that the book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming has for the how-to type of person who is exploring consciousness. It is not focused on lucid dreaming however. It is focused on the recall and interpretation of dreams, which is important for understanding any kind of dream, including lucid dreams. It is packed with exercises and tips for recalling dreams and interpreting them. It is a practical guide for using dreams to increase mental and physical health.
All In The Mind (1981) by Ian Wilson addresses many subjects, like reincarnation, regression, stigmata, multiple personalities, and other “little understood powers of the mind.” Dreams are not addressed in a huge way in this book, for its subject matter is mostly about proving or disproving that reincarnation exists. However, what it does say about the dreams of the fetus are quite interesting.
There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity And The Stories Of Our Lives (1997) by Robert H. Hopcke is not about dreams per se, but dreams are included in his material. This book is more about synchronicity in our lives. Dreams are one of the triggers for synchronicities take place. Dreams and synchronicity are explored together in this book, including many other aspects of synchronicity and ways it shows up in our lives.
Conversations With God, Book III (1998) by Neale Donald Walsch is channeled material although it is not called such. It is a dialogue between the author and God, and the author translates what God is saying in answer to his questions. There is only one reference in this book on the nature of dreams but it was quite interesting to read that the soul is the one who needs the break from human life, not necessarily the personality or the body.
Straight Answers On The New Age ( 1989) by Bob Larson is an opposing point of view to the value of dream work. He is against the New Age movement and feels that everything metaphysical and “other worldly” is a sham. I want to include Larson’s point of view in this dissertation so that opposing thoughts to the subject matter are fairly observed.
The following books are all the same kind of book. They are dream dictionaries that list, from A to Z, symbols and words that appear in dreams. They describe what each of these symbols and words might mean in the context of the dream. They are quite basic in list form and don’t describe much in other areas about dreams, like how to recall them, dream lucidly or seed a dream. Some of these books have short introductions to dreams but do not have in depth material about dreaming techniques. They are directed toward giving the dreamer a dictionary to use in interpreting events that have appeared in the dream. The following books are the dictionaries I have used in my own dream interpretation endeavors: The Complete Dream Book (1966) by Edward Frank Allen, The Dreamer’s Dictionary (1974) by Lady Stearn Robinson & Tom Corbett, Zolar’s Encyclopedia & Dictionary Of Dreams (1984) by Zolar and Ten Thousand Dreams Interpreted (1999) by Gustavus Hindman Miller. The Encyclopedia Of Dreams (1993) by Rosemary Ellen Guiley is a dream dictionary, but also has a good amount of introduction material about dreams, techniques and recall. It is not just a dictionary like the others, but an instructional book on dreams.
Beliefs About Dreams
The Greek god of sleep is named Hypnos. The Greek god of dreams, son of Hypnos, is called Oneiros. The Greek word for dream is oneiron. The practice of dream interpretation is called oneiromancy. The dream adventurer is called an oneironaut even in today’s English language.
The first materials depicting dream content date back 5000 years to the population of Mesopotamia, the center of civilization at that time, which is now the central region of modern Iraq. Agriculture flourished and substantial cities were created with as many as 100,000 inhabitants. First there were the Sumerians, then the Akkadians, the Babylonians and finally the Assyrians, among others.
The materials found were fragmented writings, approximately 25,000 clay tablets, nestled in King Assurbanipal’s royal library, an ancient king of Assyriah. Some of these writings were about religious beliefs, mythology, and dreams. Twelve of these tablets were recitations of a legendary hero-king called Gilgamesh, who still lives in folklore today. These early stories included the dream sequences of Gilgamesh and the adventures that ensued as a result of these dreams. These dreams were had by a fictitious character, but there were also the recorded dreams of King Gudea of Sumeria, who was led by dreams in the building of a temple to his favorite deity.
The Mesopotamian writings showed that this ancient population was familiar with the practice of dream-seeking, asking for messages through dreams or incubating dreams. They even had a goddess of dreams named Makhir. They classified dreams in three categories: message dreams, mantic dreams and symbolic dreams.
Message dreams were usually had by rulers, or priests who advised the rulers. Messages were most often delivered by a deity of some sort who appeared in the dream. The dreamer usually awoke immediately after the dream was over. A ruler who sought a message dream went to the temple of the deity he wished to receive a message from. He participated in ceremony and recitation of prayers for the dream, slept overnight, and if the dream was not achieved, he would try again the next evening.
Mantic dreams were prophetic dreams, indications of what would come in the future. There were “omen-texts” with particular dream omina (omens, or signs) defined. Many cause and effect scenarios were translated from the dream world to their physical world meanings and a list of these were kept and referred to by dream interpreters.
The third class, symbolic dreams, were complex, with interactions and personality dynamics of the dreamer and other characters. These dreams were considered dangerous to one’s health, and they were never recorded unless their interpretation served to ease the situation. They used these dreams as a warning to dissolve some impending danger by taking action to avoid the outcome, even if it was just to dispose of unwanted emotions that would cause the unwanted event.
The Mesopotamians had a practice of telling their symbolic dreams to a lump of clay, then throwing the clay into water where it would dissolve the negative energy of the dreams it heard. A variation on this was telling the dream to a reed and then burning it completely. Amulets and charms were created to protect one from the negative effects of symbolic dreams. It was believed that evil spirits were always willing and ready to attack people in their dreams in order to take away health and vitality. It was also believed that evil dreams could be sent from an enemy and would deplete the vitality of the dreamer.
Dream interpreters were few, and they were mostly women who also served as necromancers (communicators with the dead). Later they were called soothsayers, exorcists or diviners.
The Egyptians believed that the Ba, or soul, traveled during sleep and collected the dream. They also believed that dreams were messages from the gods. They took these dreams seriously, especially the ones that came to rulers. Thutmose IV (1400B.C.) was visited by the god Hormakhu who promised him riches if he would remove the sand covering the Sphinx. Thutmose removed the sand and recorded the dream on a stone column in front of the Sphinx, which is still in existence and can be seen today.
Bes was a joyful minor god who protected the household against bad dreams and his image was carved on the headboards of beds. Serapis was the god of dreams and there were many temples dedicated to him. Professional dream interpreters lived at these temples. A “shingle,” or advertising sign, of one of these interpreters was uncovered reading: “I interpret dreams, having the gods’ mandate to do so; good luck; the interpreter present here is Cretan.” Incubation of dreams was widely practiced. Through ceremony, fasting, donations and prayers, a dream could be procured.
Dream omina, or “omen-texts,” were also found in Egypt. In Mesopotamia, these texts pertained to many types of divination systems, dreams being only one of these. In Egypt, the “omen texts” pertained to dreams only. The earliest collection of dream omina was created sometime between 2050-1790 B.C. known as the Chester Beatty Papyrus III, in honor of an Englishman who donated it to the British Museum. It is incomplete at both ends, meaning that it is only a part of a larger document. This text lists 143 good and 91 bad dreams, with interpretations, the Egyptian word for “good” was written in black ink and the word for “bad” was written in red. The omina, or symbols, appear at different places in the interpretations, but no pattern is evident. Perhaps the missing part of the text would explain. The portions of this text which are available list certain ways to protect oneself against the contents of a bad dream, one of these being that the dreamer must rub his face with herbs, beer and myrrh in order to avoid the negative effects of the dream. It would also remove the contagion that the dream depicts within the dreamer.
The second and only other “omen-text” found in Egypt dates back to 200 A.D., a more recent documentation of dream omina, and it is known as the Carlsburg Papyrus. There were originally 250 omina listed, but 100 are damaged and unreadable. There are also section headings. Six of these sections are legible and one of them deals with women’s dreams and issues.
The Chinese believed that the hun, the immaterial soul of man, not the physical soul of man, was involved in dreams. It could separate from the body for nighttime communication with the spirits. It was believed that the dreamer was vulnerable, and the soul could have trouble getting back into the body if the sleeper was disturbed. Alarm clocks were not welcome in many areas of China when they were first available.
The T’ung Shu is a Chinese almanac of life that has a 4000 year history of collected knowledge. It’s section on dreams is called “Chou Kung’s Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams” dating back to 1020 B.C. Chou Kung was a mathematician who may have also been involved in the compilation of the I Ching. Mr.Chou is a term attributed to dreaming. If a student dozes in class, he will often be aroused with the question, “Have you been visiting Mr. Chou?
The T’ung Shu has seven categories of dreams. Many interpretations about events and symbols are listed in the material. The categories are arranged by association, like “heaven and the weather,” “houses, gardens, forests, etcetera,” “human body,” “animals and birds,” and “clothing and jewelry.” An example of the entries under these categories would be that to dream of an orchard with trees heavy with fruit, “houses, gardens, forests, etcetera,” means that one will have many children and grandchildren. Another example under “human body” is that to dream of one’s teeth falling out means the parents are in danger.
One of the most famous Chinese dreams is that of Chuang-tzu who is associated with the development of Taoism. He could not figure out, upon awakening, whether or not he was a man dreaming that he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that he was a man. It seemed to him that both existences were real, depending on the perspective that one looks from.
The Lie-tseu is a Taoist text defining several classes of dreams. These classes are ordinary dreams (without emotion), terror dreams, thought dreams (about what one was focused on thinking about that day), waking dreams (what one said or did that day), and joy dreams. Explanations and definitions are put in the concept of Yin and Yang energy and the constant balancing act between the two. It was believed that dreams “compensated” for what was missing in ordinary life. (Yin represented darkness or negative, Yang represented light or positive.)
Incubation of dreams was widely practiced in temples and other sacred places. Once the dream was achieved, there would be a divination done to determine if the dream was really sent by a god. Only if the dream was sent by a god would it be analyzed by a dream interpreter. Even political figures, judges, government officials and visiting dignitaries were required to spend their first night in a temple of the city’s god in order to receive guidance and wisdom. Robert L. Van De Castle makes an interesting statement in his book Our Dreaming Mind (1994), “It’s fascinating to speculate what would happen if our government encouraged its officials to spend some nights in a dream temple, seeking and sharing guiding dreams.”
The Tibetan Buddhists believe that dreams are practice for realizing illusions after death. It is of utmost importance for aspirants to cultivate the ability to dream lucidly. The Tibetans believe that through cultivating lucidity in dreams while alive, it is easier to perceive the Bardo Worlds for the illusions that they are. The Bardo Worlds are what happens after death for about forty days. At first, the Bardo Worlds are pleasant and seductive. However, toward the end, they begin to disintegrate and become nightmarish. Demons appear, the happiness is gone, comfort is gone, and the entity experiencing all this becomes frightened and wants to escape if he or she does not recognize the Bardo Worlds as illusion. The entity runs back to incarnation in order to escape the Bardo Worlds, instead of attaining nirvana, freedom and final oneness with the Source. According to the Tibetan Buddhists, nirvana, freedom from the re-incarnational wheel, can only be achieved by overcoming the dream illusion, fear, and the Bardo Worlds.
Dream demons appear from the discarnate soul’s own fears, regrets and sins. This karma is not handed out by an external authority, but is created by the dreamer himself or herself by the self judging conscience within each being. The discarnate soul flees the Bardo Worlds by frantically searching for a copulating couple, slips between them, and re-enters the world in order to escape the self created demons, believing that they are real. The possibility of nirvana is lost, and the soul is once again incarnated into the world, driven by terror and the illusion of the Bardo Worlds.
The Tibetans believe that our nighttime dreams can be used to prepare us for our final challenge after death when we must face the Bardo Worlds. They see lucid dreaming as the ultimate exercise in learning how to deal with illusion. It is the highest order of importance in spiritual discipline. Sleep is like a “little death” and dreams give us the chance to practice how we will handle the Bardo Worlds upon physical death. The experience of lucid dreaming allows us to change our relationship with death itself.
Spiritual aspirants in the Tibetan traditions are taught to stay calm and unmoving when frightening characters appear in dreams, and thus also to act the same in the Bardo Worlds after death. This is the most important thing to learn. This also applies to waking life, in Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
Prophetic dreams played an important role in Indian epics, adventures and stories. Of all the types of dreams, prophetic dreams were the most important to Eastern Indians.
The Vedas were written between 1500 and 1000 B.C, and dreams were recorded and interpreted in this text. Dreams had particular interpretations, much like the omina in the early Mesopotamian “omen-texts.” For instance, to ride an elephant is a lucky dream, while riding a donkey is an unlucky dream. Verses, recitations, rites of purification, and different types of baths are suggested as medicine for dispelling the negative aspects of a bad dream.
It was believed, pertaining to the Atharva Veda, that the time of night the dream was had indicates whether the dream will come true sooner or later. For instance, a dream early in sleep means that it will take a year for it to come true, for it is further away from the conscious mind and thus further away from manifestation. Dreams close to awakening were thought to already be present and half realized. Also, if several dreams followed one another at close intervals, only the last dream was significant.
The Upanishads are philosophical material that deal with deliverance from the material world. They were written between 900 and 500 B.C. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, two theories about dreams are proposed. One theory is that dreams are expressions of the dreamer’s desires, creating that which he or she does not have in physical life. The other theory is that the soul leaves the body during sleep and wanders to different locations where those same objects the dreamer desires actually exist. If a person was awakened too quickly from this other location, the soul would not make it back and the person would die. It is also mentioned in this text that there are different levels of sleep, one of them being dreamless sleep where the soul becomes one with the Absolute. It was also believed that childhood dreams were visions of a former world. The elderly dream of the world they are about to enter that they came from before incarnation.
A third text is also considered important in the understanding of dreams. It is called the Sushruta Samhita, a collection of medical and surgical material compiled around 600 B.C. by a surgeon named Sushruta. It contains many interpretations of dreams, mostly pertaining to illnesses and their resolution.
The first references to dreams in the Greek culture are found in Homer’s epic poems, usually dreams had by the heroes in the poems. The practice of oneiromancy (dream interpretation) was considered a sign of civilization, and dream interpretation became a profession in Greece. Dreams were considered a passive experience by the Greeks, so one “saw” a dream, one did not “have” a dream. The earliest Greek view of dreams was that a real god made a visit by entering through the keyhole in the door, delivered a message at the bed, and then exited through the same keyhole. Later views were most likely influenced by Eastern Indian beliefs that the soul could travel without the body and have adventures or visit the gods. The earliest recorded dream book, appearing in the fifth century B.C, was written by Antiphon, an Athenian statesman.
Dreams were considered a vehicle for getting information and relief from physical suffering when sickness was involved. Prophetic dreams were sought through incubation at temples dedicated to Aesculapius. Aesculapius was a talented healer who was later deified. He was known for successfully curing many illnesses through the use and interpretation of dreams. Temples were created around his image for incubating and interpreting dreams. The temples were decorated with beautiful, carved, weaving snakes. Today’s modern medical symbol, intertwining and weaving snakes, was a symbol of Aesculapius. Snakes were thought to be a healing emblem.
When a person sought a healing or prophetic dream, the person had to refrain from sexual intercourse, adhere to a special diet, and bathe in cold water. An animal sacrifice, usually a ram, would be made and the dreamer would sleep on the animal’s skin. Aesculapius was then beseeched in prayer and the lighting of lamps. When it was time for sleep, the priests would say encouraging words to those seeking a dream. Through the power of suggestion and long preparation, the desired dream was often produced. Aesculapius would appear to the dreamer and indicate what type of medicine should be taken or what action to pursue. Sometimes his daughters, Hygeia or Panacea, delivered the message.
Hippocrates was alive at the same time as Socrates. While Socrates was thought to be the father of philosophy, Hippocrates was called the father of Greek medicine. The Hippocratic Oath that graduates of medical school swear to is derived from the writings of Hippocrates (the general statement is: the doctor promises to keep life going in the physical body in whatever way possible.) Hippocrates wrote a collection of material, and one of these texts was titled On Dreams. His theory was that the soul is passive and the sense organs of the physical body were predominant during the day, but during sleep, the soul then produces the images instead of receiving them. He believed in prophetic dreams, diagnostic dreams, and psychologically revealing dreams. He maintained that disharmonic dreams indicated somatic malfunctioning or psychological malfunctioning. He also believed that some dreams were simply “a wish of the soul.” He used dreams to diagnose illness on many occasions.
Plato was most interested in the emotional implications of dreams, and believed that dreams were a result of the “beast within” that appears only during sleep. Only by raising one’s ability to reason could one then experience dreams that are morally acceptable and then be healed of illness.
Aristotle was Plato’s student and he belittled the idea of others that dreams were of divine origin or that dreams could be interpreted astrologically. He argued that animals also dream, and the gods would never send dreams to such creatures. He had three small books called On Dreams, On Sleep and Waking and On Prophecy in Sleep. He speculated that dreams might be more closely related to the body’s internal sensations and awareness of external somatic disturbances, which then resulted in dream imagery. He also pointed out that dreams, upon awakening, influence waking life behavior, which then resulted in dreams seemingly being prophetic, whereas in truth, the dream only provided the idea and then the dreamer acted on it. He believed that coincidence was the most likely factor in prophetic dreams.
Another Greek physician named Galen felt that dreams had diagnostic utility. He carried out complicated operations based on the dream guidance he received. He claims to have saved many lives with dream diagnosis and dream prescribed treatment. He was the first to dissect human corpses in order to map the inside of the human body.
The Romans were heavily influenced by the Greeks and practiced dream incubation widely, despite the disdain of intellectuals. Cicero was a well known Roman critic of dreams and gave many contrasting interpretations of dreams as examples. He viewed dream interpreters with disdain, reflecting some of the feelings the public had toward necromancy. He concluded that dreams had such a huge variety of interpretations attributable to them that no interpretation could possibly be arrived at that was all inclusive and correct. There was no order or regularity in dream interpretation, so he proposed that the practice of divination by dreams be abandoned, for it oppresses the intellect.
Artemidorus of Daldis was a contemporary of Galen. He wrote the most extensive material on dreams called Oneirocritica, meaning “The Interpretation of Dreams.” He named himself Artemidorus of Daldis, instead of Ephesus where he was actually born, in order to memorialize the birthplace of his mother. He also wrote earlier works on augury (divination).
The Oneirocritica is an encyclopedia of dreams containing five books. The first three were intended for the general public, and the last two were intended for the private use of his son, a budding dream interpreter.
Book 1 of Artemidorus’ work deals mainly with dreams about the human body. It is well organized. He covers every human body part from head to toe, literally, and the dreams that one might have about them. He has other categories about bodily transformation, activities, food and beverage consumption, and sexual acts. Book 2 deals with dreams about objects and events pertaining to the natural world. He covers animals, weather, fire, bodies of water, the gods, the deceased, flying, numbers and clothing. Book 3 is a bit disjointed for it covers everything else for the general public that might be of concern for interpreting dreams. These are varying subjects and categories that did not fit into the first two books.
Book 4 contains suggestions to his son with regard to his role as a dream interpreter. It is a how-to book on techniques of interpretation. Given are the guidelines for the data needed about the dreamer, the necessity for the interpreter to know about the culture and background of the person seeking interpretation, and how to collect every detail about the dream that the dreamer can explain. Book 5 was a collection of 95 dreams that Artemidorus recorded and verified the outcomes of himself. These were intended as practice sessions for his son and to illustrate how the interpretation of the dream could vary only because the person who had the dream was a particular type of individual.
Artemidorus consulted with many dream interpreters for years in order to compile the information he had in his books. He went to many cities in Greece, Asia Minor, Italy, and the larger islands. He calls upon experience and testimony as the guiding principles for his statements in his material. Robert L. Van De Castle says in his book Our Dreaming Mind (1994), “The Oneirocritica can be considered the great-grandfather of all dream books and stands as an impressive monument to the dedication and diligence of its author.”
The Oneirocritica is the only surviving complete text from twenty-seven more dream books mentioned by Artemidorus that were in circulation in antiquity. We have only his comments about them to go by, but they seemed to be very limited in their content compared to Oneirocritica.
In his book Our Dreaming Mind (1994), Robert L. Van De Castle quotes Robert White, who translated Oneirocritica into English in 1975. In his preface, White says that dream study, “…continues to be a field with a future. It is also a field with a past… In a sense, Freud, Jung, and others were not so much innovators as restorers, since they were reassigning to dreams and dream-readings the importance that they had held in antiquity, and which they had lost in more recent centuries.”
continues with more material on beliefs about dreams from various cultures.
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Freud & Jung On Dreams
Sigmund Freud’s assessment of dreams was a revolution in understanding the psyche of the human mind. He made the “unconscious” the foundation of his psychoanalytic theories, and sexuality was a huge component in his analysis of the unconscious. He was born in 1856 and had a career in the treatment of nervous disorders. He also studied hypnosis. He is well known for his idea that sexual frustration is at the root of all nervous disorders. He alienated himself from his contemporaries in many instances because he took the idea to such an extreme level. His opponents called him intolerant, for he did not deviate from his ideas about psychotherapy, and his followers called him passionate for the truth.
Freud was met with much criticism. His relationship with Carl Jung and several other contemporaries dissolved over differences in ideas about psychotherapy. He was quite unbending in his convictions. However, if you ask anyone on the street who discovered the unconscious, dreams or using dreams to understand oneself, almost everyone would reply that Freud was the father of these concepts. Of course this is not historically accurate, for the word unconscious appeared in the English language as early as 1751 and many other writers had speculated on such things as dreams long before Freud was alive. Freud was a bit arrogant and helped create this image for himself by not acknowledging previous work by others who came before him or the work of his colleagues. He claimed to be the first to truly examine dreams, discounting previous efforts by others, and this has echoed throughout time until the present day, even though it is not true.
Freud believed dreams were of the utmost importance in understanding the nature of a patient’s mental illness. He was a supporter of Plato’s idea in 400 B.C. that our beast nature appeared in dreams, uncontrolled and easily expressed in dreams. His first book, The Interpretation of Dreams, was published in 1899, although the date was depicted as 1900 by the publisher so his views did not appear to be emerging from an antiquated time period, but instead depicting the new ideas of the 1900s.
Freud divided dreams into two levels. The first level was the manifest content, or that which one could consciously recall. Freud thought this material was not important and had no meaning or significance. The second level was the latent content, or that which remains unconscious, like the true reasons for the dream that are not known to the conscious mind. These were the unconscious wishes and fantasies which have not been lived out in the physical life. Freud believed that the manifest content was a cleaned up version of the latent content, which was raw and crude.
Freud introduced the idea of the censor, a sentinel in oneself that prevents primal and crude material from getting into the conscious mind, and also puts unacceptable conscious material into the unconscious. This is called repression. During sleep, the censor is not quite as alert as usual, so through dreams it is possible for the language of the latent content of the unconscious to be translated into cleaned up language of manifest content in the conscious. This transformation is called dream work. Freud also concluded that latent content is always more extensive than the manifest content, therefore a process called condensation takes place. When something in the dream that is unimportant is exaggerated, this is called displacement. Secondary revision is the term Freud gives to the process of the mind organizing the dream into an intelligible story, or sequence of events. This creates the dream façade. He believed that secondary revision did not always happen in every dream, and that is why some dreams ended up disjointed and unintelligible. He believed that this process of secondary revision happens before the manifest content of the dream appears.
Freud first discussed symbolism in dreams in his fourth edition of The Interpretation of Dreams. Others in the same field were far more knowledgeable than Freud on the topic of dream symbols, but he caught up to them later. He believed that a symbol in a dream was a substitute for something else which came from the unconscious.
Freud’s methods of dream interpretation consisted of two main techniques. First was the symbolic interpretation of the dream. The other was the decoding method in which dream symbols were signs that coincided with a fixed key, like a dream dictionary. He worked backwards from the manifest content to the latent content by asking the patient what the pieces of the dream meant to him or her by association, finding the symbology, and eventually finding the latent content. Freud would put before the dreamer a few different possibilities for the symbol, and the dreamer would pick one that he or she most resonated with.
Freud often had his patients report the same dream twice in order to find the differences or changes in the manifest content. In this way he could find the weak spots in the dream’s disguise and also find the strongest points that did not change in the first report. He wanted all the information on manifest content if more than one dream were reported in one night, too. He believed they were complimentary and he could find similarities between them in order to decipher what the unconscious messages were.
Freud did not believe that dreams function in a problem-solving capacity. He did believe, however, that by examining dreams, repressed emotional problems could be addressed. He believed that dreams were also like safety valves to release pent up psychological tensions, and thus wish fulfillment dreams were the result.
Freud believed that there were four possible origins for wish fulfillment dreams: 1) consciously remembered wishes that were aroused during the day but left unfulfilled, 2) wishes that arose during the day but, because of their unacceptability, were repressed into the unconscious, 3) wishes arising during the night stimulated by such bodily needs as hunger or urination, and 4) wishes originating in the unconscious that are incapable of ever passing beyond the censorship into conscious awareness. These were often called infantile dreams, or they represented childlike wish fulfillment for things one cannot have. Freud also coined the phrase counter-wish fulfillment dreams. These are the dreams where frustration is experienced because the wish is not realized. He believed these dreams revealed a masochistic nature in the patient. He later believed that these actually were truly wish fulfillment dreams, but the inner censor had failed to do the translation correctly.
Freud was perplexed by telepathic dreams and other sorts of very clear dreams where mental faculties were present. He felt that these dreams were not true dreams and that they were dream fantasies, which are not necessarily disguising latent unconscious wishes. These dreams were afterthoughts of the conscious mind and weren’t really dreams at all. Any dream that was reasonable was not useful for analysis in Freud’s view. He believed that true dreams were devoid of reasoning or mental reflecting.
Freud never personally had a telepathic dream, but he regularly encountered people who did. He thought perhaps telepathic dreams were an exception to the way dreams were normally constructed and translated. He believed that sleep provides favorable conditions for telepathy, and that is what it truly is, not dreams. He believed these were separate functions. He believed that the occult was a viable field of study, but refrained from engaging in psychic study because he did not want to discredit the field of psychoanalysis. The occult always fascinated him, however, and he wished he could conduct experiments in the field. He was fascinated by the psychic abilities displayed in some subjects, and thought that it was an entirely different field of study. He made a comment in a letter to a colleague that if he did not have such an extensive career in a scientific field, he would have gladly pursued the field of psychic research. It would be interesting to see what Freud would have done in that field.
Freud is viewed with mixed feelings in the field of psychoanalysis. It is not really known whether he was truly a genius or a self-aggrandizing user of other people’s ideas. He did have a talent for convincing people that he was the first to uncover the secrets of dreams and how they work. Perhaps he is somewhere in between these two extremes. What he did do for the study of dreams was bring professionalism and scientific focus to the field. He significantly advanced the study of dreams, even though some would say that he created unfavorable connections between dreams, neurosis, and sexuality. He often insisted that even an innocent dream disguised the Oedipus complex in the dreamer. (Oedipus was the character in mythology who slept with his own mother.) Freud assumed that all dreams were disguising sexual content unless it could be proved otherwise, so in a way, he gave dreams a bad rap. Only until late in his work did he seem to open up to other possibilities for the motivations in dreams, but by then, most of his published work attributed dreams to sexual wish fulfillment.
Carl Gustav Jung was born in 1875 in Switzerland. He was somewhat younger than Freud, but also became one of the most well known names in the field of psychoanalysis and the study of dreams. Freud and Jung are the two most important and well-known forefathers of these fields, and at one point were friends. Their friendship lasted during the years of 1907 to 1913, and was terminated in anger by Jung in 1913. Jung found Freud to be unbending in his ideas, and not open to Jung’s or anyone else’s ideas about dreams, and therefore found a conflict that could not be resolved. This may have had to do with Freud’s status as being older than Jung, and seeing Jung as a student or patient rather than an equal. This was frustrating for Jung, and he later moved in a different direction with dream analysis than Freud.
autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, was begun through dictation
to a secretary at the age of 82. He reflected on forty-two of his dreams in
this book, but he had written extensively throughout his life. His published
works fill eighteen volumes in the Bollingen Series of Princeton University
Press. Two of his books remain unpublished, the Black Book and the Red Book.
Jung was also an avid dream journal keeper. He wrote down and drew his dreams
every morning. He used himself as his most studied subject. He was very creative
in this process and some thought he even had a “creative illness.”
According to James Matlock in his book Harper’s Encyclopedia Of Mystical And Paranormal Experience (1991) Jung considered dreams to be, “compensatory, to provide information about the self, achieve psychic equilibrium, and offer guidance.” He also believed that, “dreams had a deeper meaning, that they were involved in bringing spiritual direction to a person in a process of unfoldment or evolutionary growth,” according to Gary K. Yamamoto in his book Creative Dream Analysis (1988). Jung also coined the phrase collective unconscious. Yamamoto goes on to say, “Carl Jung thought that people were tied together through a common and vast intelligence called the ‘collective unconscious’… which is the storehouse of the total experience and knowledge of all mankind. Though this unlimited source of information seems to lie just beyond our ability to recognize and use it, it is actually providing constant guidance. Messages from the universal intelligence flow in a continuous stream, guiding each of us from moment to moment. Some people call this their conscience or say that they hear a ‘small voice’ inside their mind.”
Jung introduced the idea of archetypes as a psychic structure for the collective unconscious of humanity that was reflected in every individual. The term archetype was coined by Saint Augustine, meaning a genetic encoding or impression in the brain tissue. Archetypes are forms that have mass associations and certain emotions attached to them. In volume 18 of his Collected Works, Jung wrote: “The archetype is… an inherited tendency of the human mind to form representations of mythological motifs—representations that vary a great deal without losing their basic pattern.” He believed that the unconscious of any given individual contains inherited information that predated the individual’s existence and was a remnant of the species’ past. There is evidence that our bodies contain remnants of our ancient past, for instance, a fetus has gills in early stages of pregnancy, so Jung argued that the mind could also contain remnants of our ancient past, just as our bodies do. He encountered many references to ancient belief systems that the patient could not have known about in sessions.
Jung’s theory of personality development consisted of the idea that one is always moving toward maturity and completion and that life is a series of transformations toward that goal. Crisis leads to maturation as problems are overcome and assimilated. Archetypes appear in these crises, especially in dreams. The hero archetype could be a triumph over a problem if it appears in a dream. The shadow archetype is associated with the dark side of the personality, the primitive animal instincts within mankind. As children, we learn to ignore these impulses, but Jung believes that they are often the culprit at the root of negative situations. Guilt is present when these feelings arise, for the child has been taught to self-regulate these urges.
This shadow side shows up in dreams unrepressed and unchecked, and much can be learned from examination of these dreams. Jung believed that acceptance of these disowned and ignored layers of our personality is the beginning of the move toward maturation and self-understanding. The shadow usually shows up as a negative or unsavory character in the dream and could appear as the drug addict, pervert, criminal, Nazi, deformed or sinister presence that might remain unseen in the darkness.
Jung describes the archetypes of the soul as the animus and the anima. The animus is the masculine side of a woman’s personality and the anima is the feminine side of a man’s personality. He believed that by getting in touch with the animus or anima within oneself, relationships could be less volatile and difficult. When we encounter strong sexual opposites in a dream, we are receiving information about our animus or anima. Fear of our own embodiment of the opposite sex is usually at the root of these types of dream. As these animus and anima figures transform in dreams, so do our personalities in waking life. An archetype acts like a magnet, attracting relevant experiences. After enough of these experiences have clustered around an archetype, it breaks through into consciousness. After this it becomes more developed and refined.
Many Jungians capitalize the word Self because Jung believed that Self is the final product of life. This is a larger transpersonal self—God. When one is in touch with the archetype of Self, it would feel as if some sort of divine force was present, a larger force directing everything, and some greater plan being carried out. As the elements of the personality are discovered and worked with to gain maturation, the transcendent function is in operation. This is the capacity to bring opposites together, thus resulting in the actualizing of the archetype Self.
Jung was an artist. He drew what he saw in his dreams, mandalas particularly. These images are associated with the Self archetype. A mandala is a symmetrical, balanced, and centered image, often circular. Mandala is a Sanskrit word for magic circle. Mandalas were a theme in Jung’s book Psychology and Alchemy (Collected Works, Volume 12). He started receiving his own mandalas after working with the young man who is the main subject of this material. The young man received hundreds of mandalas in dreams, each one successively more complicated than the previous one. Jung was inspired by this so mandalas appeared in his dreams as well. The concept of “fourness” was a re-occurring theme for Jung, not only in himself but also in others. He knew that four was a sacred number in some cultures. It appeared often in his mandalas. Jung believed that dreams were a rich source of creative energy.
Jung believed that the psyche is in a compensation and balancing process all the time, just like our physical bodies. Our physical bodies perspire or shiver, depending on what balance needs to be done in temperature adjustment. Our psyche does the same. The goal of life is that all the components of the personality must become balanced.
Jung said that dreams are dramas on one’s interior stage. These have a series of steps. First is the opening scene introducing the setting, characters, and initial situation of the main character. Second is the development of the plot, third is the emergence of a major conflict, and fourth is the response to the conflict by the main character or another character. Some dreams are too short or fragmented to be classified in these terms. These are still attempts at problem solving in the personal structure. The ending of the dream shows the possibilities for the dreamer in waking life to solve similar problems.
Jung was puzzled by paranormal dreams. He could not classify them the way normal dreams could be, but the mystery did lead him to expound on his principle of synchronicity. This concept is that events occur together in time but are not linked through cause and effect connections. For instance, a clock might stop at the moment of its owner’s death, but these are purely synchronistic and unrelated events. Jung concluded that perhaps there is some sort of order in the universe, where a manifestation appears psychically while the related manifestation in physical reality happens at the same time.
Jung did not try to establish a particular school of thought or acquire disciples, so his concepts were not well known outside of his home country, Switzerland. While Freud created an international society around his work, Jung remained obscure in public view. He is also not as good a writer as Freud, so his texts did not gather the kind of attention Freud’s did. Jung is labeled a mystic by some intellectuals, and at the same time, his viewpoint of the personality is more optimistic and positive than Freud’s.
Jung differed from Freud in many ways, particularly in the area of seeing dreams as something that actually happened to the dreamer rather than wish fulfillment as Freud endorses. Freud did not encourage his patients to keep dream journals, and Jung did. Freud did not believe the dreaming mind has reasoning faculties. Jung did, and in fact, he believed that the dreaming mind contained abilities that the conscious mind would never have. Freud looked at dreams as infantile fantasies, while Jung looked at them as arenas for working out problems as life progressed for the individual.
Most dream analysts and psychology practitioners use the Jungian methods for analyzing dreams rather than the Freudian methods. In a way, Jung did surpass his predecessor and colleague because his methods have lasted over time while Freud’s deductions and methods have not.
Archetypes, some of which are described above in the section about Carl Jung, are symbols used in almost every dream in some way or another. In this section, let’s look at what these particular archetypes are. The following excerpt is from the book Dream Work (1983) by Jeremy Taylor:
“Just as there are basic patterns, or archetypes, of biological form, so there are also basic structural patterns to the human psyche. Each person is an absolutely unique physical specimen, while at the same time embodying the same basic physical structure shared by all human beings. So it is with the psyche. Each one of us embodies the archetypes of the objective psyche, or "collective unconscious," in our unique and personal fashion, while still repeating the same basic pattern shared by all human beings.
Understanding the archetypes and how they inter-relate is a complex and subtle task without apparent end. The archetypes are reflected both as personal, interior categories of experience, and as collective patterns of history and culture. Very briefly, some of the major archetypes often encountered at the beginning of dream work are:
Persona - the part that shows, the "mask" - analogous to the skin - made up of our choices about how we
wish to be perceived, individually and collectively.
Shadow - the part that is denied and repressed, the dark, scary, "immoral," unpredictable, and unconscious/
unknown part of ourselves.
Light & Darkness - archetypes of consciousness and unconsciousness-the quality of light in dreams is most
often a metaphor of the extent to which the main theme of the dream either is or is not already
known and acknowledged in waking life.
Animus & Anima - the man inside a woman, and the woman inside a man respectively, figures representing
our deepest intuitions and feelings about the opposite sex.
Trickster - a figure representing human consciousness itself-simultaneously knowing and foolish,
overblown, yet the source of all the gifts of culture.
- a figure representing new consciousness and self-awareness-born amidst trouble,
often surviving with its miraculous powers and the aid of Divine sources.
Animals - figures often representing instincts and natural drives-elements of life that are vital but not yet
consciously differentiated, creatures and servants of Divine sources.
Great Mother - Mother Nature, Mother Earth, cyclic time, the divine perceived in feminine form, the
feminine principle[s]-multiplying, dividing, nurturing, bringing forth all life, and simultaneously
condemning all to inevitable death.
All-Father - the thunderer, the law giver, linear time, the divine perceived in masculine form, the masculine
principle[s]-abstracting, constructing, judging, and calculating with objectifying will.
Spirit Bird - a figure representing and embodying communication with the divine-unites the realm of the sky
with the plane of the earth.
Wise Old People - the figures representing the oldest and wisest and most loving possibilities of our being-
figures sometimes referred to as "mana-personalities."
Willing Sacrifice - a figure representing and embodying the increasing consciousness of interior and exterior
oneness-the One dividing itself into the Many, and the many in the act of dying to rejoin the One.
Mandala - an image uniting the circle and the angular figure exhibiting radial symmetry and a defined
centered image of harmony, beauty, balance, order, often used as a visual aid in meditation/worship.
Spiral - image of evolution-the spontaneous archetype of cyclic, repeating rhythmic processes occurring amidst the
forward flow of time-visible at all scales and levels from the shape of galaxies to the DNA helix.
Perilous Journey - image of life and being alive, often a sea journey, a descent into the earth, or into a
labyrinth, the journey to the land of the dead, the search for treasure, wisdom, immortality.
Death & Rebirth - in the realm of dream and myth, as in physics, energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed. Each
dream death is a liberation of psychic energy from specific form and is linked inevitably with a new birth.”
(end of excerpt)
and archetypes have lived throughout time in every culture, in every race, and
in every individual that has ever walked the Earth. This is why legends across
cultures are so similar. There must be something more to symbols than physical
experience. Perhaps symbols and archetypes are something instilled into the
human experience from the spirit worlds long before humans ever set foot on
the Earth. Gary K. Yamamoto, in his book Creative Dream Analysis (1988),
says, “Symbolic language allows stories to be passed on with minimal distortion.
Symbols are usually very concrete. They are not dynamic as are abstract thoughts
or philosophies. Their meanings change little with time.”
John Layard has a lot to say about archetypes in dreams in his book The Lady Of The Hare (1988). This book follows a patient through her exploration of re-occurring dreams about hares. She had no conscious knowledge about the mythological nature of the hare, but her dreams reflected all the associations with the hare that were common in the archetype of the hare. The four associations are 1) its sacrificial nature, 2) that it is a willing sacrifice, 3) its bright eyes, and 4) the whiteness so often associated with the hare. Layard attests to the possibility that archetypes live in our collective unconscious, and this is why someone like his patient, with no conscious knowledge of their attributes, can have dreams that are perfectly in conjunction with common traits of any given archetype. This is unconscious knowledge that is available to us all in the collective unconscious.
In The Encyclopedia Of Psychic Science ( 1966) by Nandor Fodor, the author quotes Letourneau, who wrote Bulletins et Memoires do la Societe d’Anthropologie de Paris: “Certain events, external or psychic, which have made a deep impression on a person, may be so deeply engraved upon his brain as to result in a molecular orientation, so lasting that it may be transmitted to some of his descendants in the same way as character, aptitudes, mental maladies, etc. It is then no longer a question of infantile reminiscences, but of ancestral recollections, capable of being revived. From that will proceed not only the fortuitous recognition of places which a person has never seen, but moreover a whole category of peculiar dreams, admirably coordinated, in which we witness as in a panorama, adventures which cannot be remembrances, because they have not the least connection with our individual life.”
Jeremy Taylor, in Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), quotes Greek therapist Evangelos Christou: “It is not so much that the archetypes are in us. The more important truth is that it is we who are surrounded by and immersed in the archetypes.” Taylor goes on to say that the archetypes are capable of evolution, just like humans. The personal work of the individual influences the development of archetypal forms and goes into the collective unconscious mind. “This may sound very theoretical, but I believe that ‘ordinary people’ do this psycho-spiritual work of evolution on themselves and the archetypes every day… Every person who succeeds in breaking the ‘trance’ of conventional attitudes…manages to break the chain so that these attitudes and self-limitations are not passed on to the next generation. In this way, the individual dreamer contributes in a most profound and real way to the liberation of all people, and the planet as a whole… Our individual triumphs and defeats…feed back into the realm of the archetypes, in the same way that the archetypal energies embodied in our dreams and myths influence our waking lives.”
The fact that we dream in symbols and pictures is based on the fact that this is the universal language of all beings. This was the first “language.” Even in our conscious mind we think in symbols and pictures. This is the only language that is common among all people, no matter what language they speak or write. In Elsie Sechrist’s book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968), it is stated, “We dream in symbols because we tend to think in symbols or pictures at the conscious level. If someone mentions your wife or husband, you immediately picture a human face rather than the word wife or husband. Man first learned to write by using pictorial images… Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of symbology is that it is universal language, teaching and preserving permanent basic truths. What shorthand is to words, symbology is to ideas.”
Archetypes are in every one of our stories and these stories abound in every culture. Many movies and TV shows depict the most famous of all the archetypes, the hero on an adventurous journey of triumphing over evil. The book The Art Of Daydreaming (1995), by Veronica Tonay, looks at how archetypes play a crucial part in the stories that influence young people in the media arena of entertainment. “The fact that the huge world interest in television, movie or popular music personalities has become a mammoth industry in itself attests to the great need all of us have for a constellation of ego ideals or alter egos, whose adventures we can follow and whose fates we can share vicariously. For relatively young persons such fantasies and identifications form a critical part in the molding of their personalities and of the direction of their goals, as well as their aesthetic tastes.”
Our greatest adversary in dreams is our own fear. The shadow part of the self is the part that most of us contend with in dreams. The shadow is represented by the archetypes that are less desirable than the others. It is most recognizable as figures who are threatening or repulsive in other ways. In waking life, our shadow is recognized as people we dislike or fear. If these shadow forms remain unrealized as the projections that they are, we will never fully mature. Elsie Sechrist says in her book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968), “Broadly speaking, you usually meet yourself in your dreams in a myriad of artful disguises. People of authority such as policemen, ministers, parents, and judges usually represent the higher self, the conscience, and its dictates. Immoral, lawless persons, and groups from the lower strata of society relate to the lower or undisciplined self.” This is further supported by Jeremy Taylor’s statement in his book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), “…Everything and everyone in the dream is a living representation of some aspect of the dreamer’s total being and psyche… The life in all dreams, and in waking experience too, for that matter, is a blending of the individual’s own personal vital energies with the larger life of the archetypes and the cosmos itself.”
The shadow is indicative of the parts of ourselves that must grow and become integrated into our whole being. These are the parts of us that have not fully developed, or the parts that we have not made peace with. Jeremy Taylor says in his book Dream Work (1983), “The shadow is that very thing that has been lacking and is the most required for further healthy development. The ‘dark’ figure of the Shadow always bears the great gift. In order to receive the great gift, the fear and repugnance first awakened by the ‘dark’ aspect of the Shadow must be overcome… By the same token, when we flee from death in dreams…we are often fleeing from inner promptings that it is time once again to grow and change.”
Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold say in their book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990) that lucid dreaming lends itself well to dealing with the shadow figures of the self. The authors have some useful suggestions on how to handle the shadow figures, as well. “If you become fully lucid in a nightmare, you will realize that the nightmare can’t really hurt you, and you don’t need to ‘escape’ it by awakening. You will remember that you are already safe in bed…attacking unfriendly characters may not be the most productive way to handle them… hostile dream figures may represent aspects of our own personalities that we wish to disown. If we try to crush the symbolic appearances of these characteristics in dreams, we may be symbolically rejecting and attempting to destroy parts of ourselves… a conciliatory approach is most likely to result in a positive experience for the dreamer… would generally cause them to look and act in a more friendly manner.” LaBerge and Rheingold go on to suggest, “Lucid dreamers can deliberately identify with, accept, and thereby symbolically integrate parts of their personalities they had previously rejected, or disowned… Don’t slay your dream dragons, make friends with them… the true way to healing is to seek out the ‘barking dogs of the unconscious’ and reconcile with them.”
Jeremy Taylor has much to say about the uses of lucid dreaming for confronting shadow characters in his book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992). “…The lucidly ‘awakened’ dreamer transcends the fear and confusion in the dream…One of the best gifts is to ask the seemingly menacing and hostile figures or elements in the dream what they are up to… If a dreamer can gather his or her wits together sufficiently in the lucid state to ask a question… will always be rewarded with an answer. Most will be an answer of profound importance to the dreamer’s waking life.”
Facts & Research On Dreams
In laboratory testing, mentioned in almost every book about dreams, electrodes and/or sensors are placed on the face and skull to detect brain activity and eye movements during sleep. These electrodes can tell the experimenter what level of sleep the subject is in. This is how this information about brainwaves and REMs has been found. However, it was not until fairly recently, the past forty years, that any data was retrieved from these machines for they had not been invented yet. There have been multitudes of studies around dreams and sleep activity in the centuries that preceded the possibility to measure actual brain waves. The experiments and observations are far too numerous to list here in this material, but I will speak of some here.
Apparently, the first systematic effort to investigate the effect of external stimulus manipulation in dreams was carried out in 1831 by C. Girou de Buzareingues. He was a physician and a report of his work appeared in the first volume of The Lancet, a British medical journal. He played with different physical stimuli in order to induce dream events. In his first experiment, he left the back part of his head uncovered during sleep. In his dream, this showed up as an outdoor religious ceremony where members of that faith were allowed to have their heads uncovered while worshiping, which was uncommon at that time. In another dream, he left his knees uncovered and dreamed that he was in a stagecoach traveling at night, and everyone at that time knew that the knees were the first to get cold in night-time stagecoach travel. This was the first proof that external physical stimulus can induce dream events that are related in some way to the external world.
J. Borner published a book in 1855 describing how he tried to induce nightmares with external stimulus. When he experimented on himself, he buried his face in a pillow as he fell asleep, trying to induce nightmares of smothering. When he used someone else as a subject, he covered their mouth and nostrils with bedclothes, inducing dreams of not being able to breathe.
Alfred Maury, a French scientist, published a book in 1861 (expanded and revised in 1878) called Le Sommeil Et Les Reves, “Sleep & Dreams.” He carried out many experiments using himself as the subject. He had an assistant apply all sorts of physical stimuli one at a time and reported dreams that coincided with the stimuli. Another French experimenter studying sensory stimuli and dreams was Marquis Hervey Saint-Denys. He published his work on dream imagery and lucid dreams in 1967. He played with perfume scents that coincided with particular places he was familiar with. When these different perfumes were applied sporadically to his pillow at night by a servant, he dreamed of the places that the perfumes were associated with.
Taste stimuli were researched minimally during the nineteenth century, but there were experiments with this. So were visual stimuli experimented with, although it was quite difficult to introduce visual stimuli after the subject had fallen asleep. It was mostly done by giving the visual stimuli before sleep, and then the subject would dream about those visuals later.
George Trumbull Ladd did some experiments in the late 1890s around visual dreams. He theorized that the visual dreams which follow immediately after going to sleep originate predominantly from the condition of the retina, and later he proved it. He awoke from dreams, remembered the dream, and immediately examined his retinal field. He discovered that the rods and cones in the eye corresponded with what he saw in a dream and vice versa, examining the retina before he fell asleep, and then noting what his dream was.
J. Mourly Vold, a Norwegian psychologist, did extensive examination of pre-sleep visual stimuli, using himself as the primary subject. Over seven years, and three hundred exposures, he would open a packet containing a number of small objects or figures cut from cardboard, place the objects on a black or white background, and gaze at them for a specific length of time, between 2 and 10 minutes, even up to a half hour. In the subsequent dreams, the forms and sometimes the colors of the objects remained unchanged. He also experimented with restraining a limb during sleep. He noted that in the dreams the limb subjected to restraint played some important part in the dream, either of being restrained or being used in an exaggerated way.
There were many experimenters with physical external stimuli and dreams, but for the sake of this course, we will not go into every single one. In fact, all sorts of experiments were done, from exploring the power of suggestion to planting desires in dreams. Multitudes of psychological experiments were done and many dreams were recorded. However, the most important information about dreams and sleep patterns came with the invention of the electroencephalogram (EEG). This new technology showed the brain’s electrical activity during sleep and wakefulness and was a godsend to those who were experimenting with sleep patterns. It solved many mysteries! The EEG was invented in 1930, and by the 1940’s vast amounts of data had been gathered about the patterns observed during sleep. Very few experimented with dreams, for at that time dreams were still considered unimportant and not worthy of scientific study. Dream research did not really begin until the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The first true dream research using the EEG began with Nathaniel Kleitman, a physiologist at the University of Chicago, and Eugene Aserinsky, one of the medical students working in Kleitman’s laboratory. Aserinsky, observing the sleeping behavior of infants in their cribs, noted that there were periods when the baby’s eyes were moving for certain amounts of time. He and Kleitman monitored the duration of these movements by attaching electrodes around the baby’s eyes. Then they wondered if adults had these eye movements in the same patterns and durations. They discovered that they did. They named these movements Rapid Eye Movements (REMs). They decided to wake the sleeper during these movements in order to find out if the subject was dreaming at that time. Out of 27 of these awakenings, 20 detailed descriptions of dreams were recalled. They also woke people when these movements were not present 23 times. For 19 of these occasions, no dream was reported.
Aserinsky and Kleitman also recorded the brainwaves, heart rates and respiration patterns present during these REM periods. When they looked at all the data, they realized that during REM periods, there was a higher heart and respiration rate, and an EEG pattern showing a different electrical activity from the more passive periods of sleep. They published a short two page summary of their findings in the journal Science on September 4, 1953. That was the first serious research done on dreams up to that point. What came afterwards was an outpouring of research by many inspired researchers. Aserinsky and Kleitman published a much more detailed description of their investigation in 1955.
Aserinsky left the university after he finished his doctoral dissertation and another student took his place. His name was Dement and he was primarily focused on psychiatry. He monitored only mental patients at first. He monitored them with the EEG machine quite differently than his predecessor, however. He turned the machine on for one minute out of every five instead of occasionally during the night, as was done before. This extra monitoring proved to be of utmost importance in discovering more about sleep patterns and dreaming. Dement noted that REM activity always came after a frequency of about ten cycles per second was being recorded.
Dement published a landmark article in 1957 with Kleitman. They left the machine on all night, and the results were incredible. This created a foundation for all the dream experimentation that came after that. They discovered that REM periods occurred every 92 minutes. Subjects were awakened during REM states and NREM (non-REM) states alike. During the REM periods, subjects reported dreams 80% of the time. When awakened during NREM periods, subjects only reported dreams by 7% of the time. REM awakenings made within 8 minutes after the end of an REM period, dream recall was 29%. After 8 minutes, the recall rate was only 5%. This indicates that dream recall fades rapidly after the REM period. Awakenings were also conducted during REM periods, from 5 to 15 minutes of REM, to determine if the length of the dream had any connection to how long the REM state was going on. It was determined that the length of time the REM state took and the length of the dream were associated with each other.
They published yet another article in 1957 where subjects were monitored uninterrupted just to see what patterns were noticeable. They discovered that in a six hour period of sleep, four REM periods usually happened between one and seventy two minutes. The average amount of sleep time spent in REM activity in a six hour sleep would average 18%. This percentage was higher if an eight hour period of sleep were used. They discovered that REM periods became progressively longer as the night wore on and the REM activity happened more often closer to morning and the more sleep time, the higher the percentage of REM time.
Much experimentation was done on dreams after this, and the terminology began to get mixed up. It was not until 1968 when a committee of experienced sleep researchers got together and devised a standard terminology for measuring sleep patterns in A Manual Of Standardized Terminology, Techniques and Scoring System for Sleep Stages of Human Subjects.
Everyone dreams, even if the dreams are not recalled upon awakening. There is no one who doesn’t dream, even though they might say they do not. There are two phases of sleep: the passive phase and the active phase. During the passive phase, not much is happening, although the brain still may show some activity at the electrical level. Dreams happen during the active phase in sleep when REMs occur. REMs happen for everyone during sleep.
REMs are an indication that a dream is taking place. It is believed that the eye movements are a reaction of the dreamer to the events happening in the dream. Not only the eyes move, but also fingers and other muscles twitch, depending on what is happening during the dream. During the active state, the brain burns just as much fuel as it does in waking life. No human has ever been discovered yet who does not have REM periods during sleep. Some yogis in the past have claimed that they no longer need dream time and therefore do not dream. As of yet, this has never been documented or tested.
Everyone has watched a cat twitch during sleep. It certainly appears that the cat is trying to catch a mouse or a bird, or is running and jumping. The reason that the body does not act out more than just a few twitches or eye movements during a dream is because a natural sleep paralysis is induced in the body during sleep, in animals and humans alike. This was certainly good planning on nature’s part! This is also why it might seem so difficult to wake up at times, or once awake, cannot move for the first minute or so. Dream paralysis will be discussed in more detail later in this material.
When one falls asleep, there is a progression of levels one passes through before the sleep state is actually achieved. First is the transitional state between drowsy wakefulness and light sleep. This stage is short and is marked by small dreamlets, or hypnagogic images. The word hypnagogic originates from Greek, meaning “leading to sleep.” The second stage is bona fide sleep with brain wave patterns called “sleep spindles” or “K-complexes.” Thought processes are sparse. In the third stage, about twenty to thirty minutes into sleep, Delta is reached. This signifies that long slow brain waves are happening. None, or very little, dream activity happens in this phase. It is said in some ancient East Indian texts that this is the stage of sleep where we are in direct contact with our innermost consciousness, or original consciousness. After lingering in Delta sleep for about thirty or forty minutes, one comes back up to the second stage about seventy to ninety minutes after sleep first started. After five or ten minutes of REM, one moves back into stage two and then back into Delta again. REM is achieved approximately every 90 minutes during the night, with more REMs closer together, even a half hour apart, closer to morning. REM periods last longer closer to morning. After REMs, it is common for a brief awakening to happen, although one usually forgets about it because falling back to sleep happens so quickly and seamlessly.
There are four types of brain waves: Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. These states are described as follows by D. Scott Rogo in his book Leaving The Body (1983). Beta brainwaves are the most predominate and are typical of waking consciousness in everyday life. Beta waves register between 14-30 cycles per second and accompany intellectual activity, such as problem-solving. When one relaxes and clears the mind, but is still alert, the brain waves slow down to 8-12 cycles per second. These are called Alpha brainwaves. A typical Alpha state happens when one watches TV. The next layer down in consciousness are Theta waves, which register between 4-7 cycles per second. These waves can appear during sleep but they can also occur during deep meditation. Theta waves are somewhat uncommon and fall between alpha and delta waves. They manifest when a person is involved in a deep alteration of consciousness, like meditation or creative inspiration. Theta waves are not unknown to appear during the deep sleep and delta phases, and are often present during a lucid dream or astral projection (leaving the body, not in a dreamlike world, but a parallel version of the physical world). People who have theta brainwave activity often report having lucid dreams, out-of-body experiences or divine revelations. Theta waves have something to do with divine experiences of all sorts, whether awake or asleep and are often accompanied by a divine floating feeling or inner spaciousness. Delta waves are the deepest, longest and slowest brainwaves and only appear during sleep at ½-3 cycles per second. They cannot appear during meditation.
In the book Our Dreaming Mind (1994), Robert L. Van de Castle, Ph.D. describes these brainwave patterns in more depth. Alpha is actually split into two levels instead of one. Alpha 1 is alert wakefulness, very short small waves, 12-30 cycles per second. Alpha 2 is described as the restful alertness, rather than wakeful alertness, and is quite different from Alpha 1. It has a greater amplitude and a frequency of only 8-12 cycles per second.
Things get interesting when Delta waves enter the picture. They are very high-amplitude slow-frequency waves at 1-2 cycles per second. In stage 2 NREM Delta waves and alpha waves are somewhat mixed, delta waves making up 20% of the mix. Stage 2 NREM is marked by sleep spindles, or spikes, with a frequency range of 12-14 cps. Stage 3 contains between 20-50 % delta waves, and 4 NREM contains more than 50% delta waves. This is when deep sleep has been entered. Here, the delta waves are somewhat regular and a pattern is more easily seen, but some spindles are still present. Stage 2, 3, and 4 NREM delta sleep are noted for the sleep spindles, or K-complexes, where cycles speed up and are irregular in between the deeper rhythms of delta, stage 4 NREM being the calmest with the highest percentage of delta waves.
Stage 1 NREM and stage 1 REM are almost the same brainwave patterns, but are differentiated by the presence or absence or rapid eye movement. In stage 1 NREM state there are sharp vertex waves from the crown of the skull that are not present during REM periods.
The deepest sleep is gotten in the earlier parts of the night, based on the patterns between REM and NREM sleep. The unfolding of sleep moves from drowsiness into Stage 1 sleep. Stage 1 is passed very quickly, descending into stage 2, 3 and 4 NREM. Most of the time is spent in stage 4. Ninety minutes after stage 1 NREM, there is a rise into stage 3 again, and soon stage 1 reappears, lasting about 5 minutes. There may or may not be REMs, for sometimes the dream is not very active, or doesn’t form fully for some reason. Then there is a drop back into Stage 2 or 3. Very seldom, and if so only briefly, is there a return to stage 4 sleep after the first REM period. Most of the time will be spent in stage 3 NREM before the next REM period, which appears 90 minutes after the first one. For the rest of the night, most of the time is spent in stage 2 NREM before returning to REM.
As the night goes on, succeeding REM periods become longer and longer, reaching as much as 25 – 45 minutes. For the normal adult, and this is of course only an average among many subjects, REM time is 22% of the entire sleep period. The rest of the sleep is spent 50 % of the time in stage 2 NREM, 7% spent in stage 3 NREM, 14% spent in stage 4, and 7% spent in stage 1 NREM without rapid eye movements.
There is no difference in sleeping patterns between the sexes, but there is a difference in ages. A normal infant spends 50% of its sleeping time in REM, and a premature infant spends as much as 70 – 80 % of its time in REM. Young children under four years old have decreasing time spent in REM until they reach the same patterns as an adult by the age of four. Young children still have a higher percentage of sleep spent in stage 4 NREM, than adults, during which time growth hormone is secreted.
(Course goes on with much more scientific information; skip to next section)
Meaning & Interpretation Of Dreams
and interpretation of dreams has long been an area of confusion. It is difficult
to interpret and find meaning in dreams for there is no cut and dry method or
dictionary of dreams that works for everyone. It is argued, however, that, “The
dream is a series of images which are apparently contradictory and meaningless,
but that it contains material which yields a clear meaning when properly translated,”
according to The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung (1959) edited by Violet
Staub De Laszlo.
Jane Roberts, in her book The Nature Of The Psyche (1979), says about the meaning of dreams, “Often the seeming meaninglessness of dreams is the result of your own ignorance of dream symbolism and organization… When you understand how your own associations work, then you will be in a much better position to interpret your own dreams…and finally to make an art of them.” She goes on to speak about how we occupy more than one reality at the same time, and dreams span those realities, giving us information from each of them and therefore it is seemingly garbled and incomprehensible as to what the dream means. “…You have other minds. You have one brain, it is true, but you allow it to use only one station, or to identify itself with only one mind of many. A mind is a psychic pattern through which you interpret and form reality. You have minds that are invisible. Each one can organize reality in a different fashion. Each one deals with its own kind of knowledge… When you use all of these minds, then and only then do you become fully aware of your surroundings.”
Roberts elaborates on the analogy with the idea of a television station dial: “Suppose that you turned on your television set to watch a program, for example, and found that through some malfunction a massive bleed-through had occurred so that several programs were scrambled, and yet appeared at once, seemingly without rhyme or reason. No theme would be apparent. Some of the characters might be familiar, and others, not. A man dressed as an astronaut might be riding a horse, chasing the Indians, while an Indian chief piloted an aircraft. If all of this was transposed over the program that you expected, you would indeed think that nothing made any sense. In the dream state then, you are sometimes aware of too many stations. When you try to make them fit into your recognized picture of reality, they may seem chaotic.”
Roberts gives yet one more example in this book: “You may have a dream… in which you see a tailor’s shop. The tailor may be dancing, or dying or getting married. Later, in waking life, you may discover that a friend of yours, a Mr. Taylor (spelled), has a party, or dies, or gets married, whatever the case may be; yet you might never connect the dream with the later event because you did not understand the way that words and images can be united in your dreams.”
This explains how the dreams might have no meaning. Too many “stations” at once are being perceived or personal symbology and associations are misunderstood. Once we learn how to interpret more than one reality being presented to us at a time, perhaps then dreams will be quite easy to understand. It is possible to learn your own personal ways of combining all this information, your own personal associations and symbology.
In Elsie Sechrist’s book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968), Erich Fromm is quoted to explain why some people dismiss their dreams as nonsense: “…If all our dreams were pleasant phantasmagorias in which our hearts’ wishes were fulfilled, we might feel friendlier toward them. But many of them leave us in an anxious mood; often they are nightmares from which we awake gratefully acknowledging that we only dreamed. Others, though not nightmares, are disturbing for other reasons. They do not fit the person we are sure we are during daytime. We dream of hating people whom we believe we are fond of, of loving someone whom we thought we had no interest in. We dream of being ambitious, when we are convinced of being modest; we dream of bowing down and submitting, when we are so proud of our independence… But worse than all is the fact that we cannot understand our dreams while we, the waking person, are sure we can understand anything if we put our minds to it. Rather than be confronted with such an overwhelming proof of the limitations of our understanding, we accuse the dreams of not making sense.”
This is so true of all of us. We often think we are something we are not, perhaps thinking more or less of ourselves than we reveal of ourselves in dreams, and our waking perceptions of ourselves are quite different than our perceptions of self within dreams. Dreams are more honest however, than our waking life. Dr. Gayle Delaney says in her book Sexual Dreams: Why We Have Them, What They Mean (1994), “While dreaming, we blurt out the truth about how we really feel and think about the most important issues in our lives… you are much more honest with yourself when you dream than when you are awake. When you dream, you look at your life from a wiser, less defensive, more mature perspective… As you work with your dreams you will find that they are usually several steps ahead of your waking self in the degree and quality of insight they offer.” That is, if we can learn to interpret our dreams.
Elsie Sechrist referring to Edgar Cayce’s opinion in the book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968), “… Unless an individual is seeking to improve his spiritual life by asking for help in terms of prayer, his dreams will primarily be a meaningless jumble. If, however, he is unselfishly seeking God’s will for him, then the higher consciousness will monitor his dreams and give him a clearer sense of direction in his daily life. There is little therapy or value in simply learning the meaning of a dream, especially if it is related to an aspect of behavior, unless an individual wants to change or improve himself.” I am not sure I agree with that, entirely, but I can see how having an intent for self improvement could seriously increase one’s ability to understand dreams. I do not believe that dreams are a meaningless jumble if one is not petitioning the higher consciousness or otherwise spiritually inclined. I believe that the value of dreams is available to everyone who cares to remember them and learn their own symbology.
Jane Roberts has more to say on the meaning of dreams in her book Dreams, Evolution & Value Fulfillment (1986). “…Dreams appear to be staticky objective background noise left over from when you sleep. But that is how physical experience would seem to someone not focused in it, or inexperienced with its organization… The dream world is not an aimless, nonlogical, unintellectual field of activity. It is only that your own perspective closes out much of its vast reality, for the dreaming intellect can put your computers to shame… The intellectual abilities as you know them cannot compare to those greater capacities that are a part of your own inner reality… The conscious mind cannot handle that kind of multidimensional creativity.” This is obviously why we cannot hold all the information in the conscious mind easily. This, I believe is a process of evolution. Perhaps millennia from now the human mind will be able to perceive such multidimensional creativity and attention with more ease than it does now.
Perhaps the real problem with interpreting dreams has to do with the fact that we are trying to interpret and understand dreams from the viewpoint of the waking consciousness. Roberts elaborates in her book The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977) on the meaning of dreams and why we cannot understand them. “You always examine your dreams…from an ‘alien’ standpoint, one prejudiced in favor of the ordinary waking state… the dreaming condition is consequently experienced in distorted form… By contrast to waking consciousness it can appear hazy, not precise, or off-focus. This does not always apply, because in some dreams the state of alertness is undeniable.” Roberts continues by encouraging us to look at the waking condition from the dream state. From the dream state, the waking condition will appear quite distorted and hazy, just as the dream state seems to us when we look at it from the waking state. In the dream state, the waking self is considered the dreamer.
Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold suggest in their book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “The experience of dreaming is not ‘rational,’ but this does not mean that it is not meaningful… [dreams] are primary manifestations of the processes of association from which all possibilities of meaningful self awareness arise in the first place.”
A common reason for the failure to understand dreams is that these events are so multidimensional in nature that they simply cannot be interpreted in the framework of space and time, especially when only fragments of a dream can be remembered. Upon awakening, it is nearly impossible to remember every component of a dream, for even in the telling or writing of it, pieces are lost.
Jeremy Taylor instructs us in his book Dream Work (1983), “It is most important to remember the two basic truths about dream work: 1) only the dreamer can know what his or her dream means; 2) there is no such thing as a dream with one meaning.” This coincides with the analogy by Jane Roberts that dreams are like overlaid TV stations bleeding into each other, each with its own story and meanings. He continues by saying, “Why then are dreams generally so obscure and opaque to waking consciousness? It is because every dream has multiple meanings, and multiple levels of meaning woven into a single metaphor of personal experience. It is the multiple, many-layered quality of dreams that makes them so often appear obscure and devoid of meaning on first awakening.”
The Greek Christian authority, who felt that dreams were useful for spiritual purposes for the common man, was the first to suggest that following dream dictionaries was a mistake. He felt that each individual needed to make his or her own personal dream dictionary, for everyone had different associations and symbols that the individual mind thinks and communicates with through dreams. Helen McLean & Abiye Cole agree in their book The Dreamworking Handbook (2001). “While dream dictionaries can be interesting on a superficial level, their use cannot help but miss the essential meaning that your personal dream symbols will have for you.” This does not mean that a therapist is not useful in this process of finding one’s inner symbols and associations. A therapist can serve well in that sense, assisting with possible interpretations, ideas and inquiry.
Gary K. Yamamoto suggests in his book Creative Dream Analysis (1988), “The first and simplest method is to use the natural psychic ability that we all possess. If we ask our inner intelligence what type of dream we have had, we will receive and answer. This becomes easier as we gain confidence in our own psychic ability.” Almost everyone can agree that when one remembers a dream, it is possible to immediately guess what it is about simply by using the knowledge of oneself and the issues that are on the mind. If the mental body is relaxed enough more information will come in about the meaning of the dream if only a psychic space for an “ah-ha” realization is opened.
This innate knowing is also addressed by Jeremy Taylor, in Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992): “Only the dreamer can say with any certainty what meanings his or her dreams may have. This certainty usually comes to the dreamer…in the form of an aha experience of insight and recognition – a wordless ‘felt shift’ – when something true and on-the-case is suggested about the possible meanings of one’s dream. This aha is the only consistent touchstone in determining the multiple meanings of a dream.”
When sex occurs in a dream, it is not always about sex, according to Dr. Gayle Delaney in her book Sexual Dreams: Why We Have Them, What They Mean (1994). Sometimes sexual activity in dreams is more about intimacy in relationships with ourselves and others that may or may not have anything to do with sex. She says sometimes these dreams are directly about our sexual lives, though. “Our dreams about sexual matters offer us the chance to understand the effects of early conditioning and current conflicts in our sexual lives.” She goes on to say that, “having orgasms while dreaming is perfectly normal for both men and women. The Kinsey Institute estimates that forty percent of all women have had at least one nocturnal orgasm, with women in their forties having the highest rate… My clients and our students at the Dream Center have often commented that a number of their orgasmic dreams are lucid ones.”
Many people are embarrassed about having sexual dreams, but there really is no need for this. Sex is an integral part of being human. Sexual dreams can often lead us to understand our secret desires toward other people who we didn’t even know we were attracted to. Sometimes these sexual dreams are completely out of context with the social conduct of the waking world, but in the dream world, everything goes.
It is possible that dreams could offer many people who cannot access sexual encounters as readily as others. Many people live alone, or are single, or are dissatisfied with their partners sexual prowess, but don’t want to leave because they love their partners. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold suggest in their book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “...Lucid dreaming can provide a sexual outlet for people confined to prisons, working in isolation, or whose activities in waking life are limited by a physical handicap.”
Many dream therapists believe that sex is synonymous with our need for love. When sexual activities appear in dreams, love is really what we’re after. Gary K. Yamamoto says in his book Creative Dream Analysis (1988), “On a still deeper level, dreams of sex reveal our need for love. Love is such a necessary part of our lives that we spend a lot of time looking for it. It is the main theme of our movies, our music, our poetry, and even our dreams… We begin to equate sex with love. Sex is convenient. It is easily identified, measured and evaluated. Even in our language we substitute the word ‘love’ for ‘sex.’”
and Healing Dreams
The following is an account from the book by Jeremy Taylor, Where People Fly, And Water Runs Uphill (1992), about a dream that saved the life of the dreamer. The woman continually had dreams about something wrong in her uterus, despite the reassurance of doctors who said that they found nothing wrong. “In the face of her firm, continued insistence, her doctors resorted to a sonogram. This test detected a curious overall thickening of the lining of her uterus, a condition clearly calling for a biopsy. The biopsy detected a malignant and quickly metastasizing cancer. She had immediate surgery, which apparently caught the cancer in the nick of time. As of this writing, she has been in full remission for more than three years. In her own view, this ‘nasty’ nightmare and her subsequent work with it, supported by her ongoing dream group saved her life. When she later asked the doctors what would have happened if she had postponed a checkup until after her European trip, the doctors cautiously said that a month or so later would probably have been ‘too late.’”
It is not uncommon to have dreams before sickness appears in the body or during its development. It is believed that illnesses act as somatic influences on dreams, much the way a spray of water or tickling of the nose with a feather would influence a dream. Dating all the way back to early Greek medicine, dreams were a typical way to diagnose and find treatment for a mysterious illness. Dreams of illness can also reflect associations with the illness whereas the dreamer dreams of scenes and situations associated with that particular illness, rather than dreaming that the illness is within the self. An example of this would be that a person dreams he or she is in a cancer survivor’s group, but doesn’t dream that the cancer is within the body.
Dreams could be thought of as X-rays that the intelligent dreamer can interpret as warnings about coming physical problems. If such fleeting stimuli as a spray of water or the tickle of a feather could be incorporated into a dream, why not a physical illness or discomfort?
It is also not uncommon to have dreams about recovery or being given a second chance in life. This happens especially around chronic illnesses that stump physicians when they are mysteriously cured. Sometimes the prescription for healing is offered in the dream as well, and if the dreamer takes action on it in waking life, he or she becomes cured. Spontaneous healing has long bewildered doctors. These are powerful healing dreams.
It is believed that the oldest medical book in existence is The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Of Internal Medicine, written sometime between 1000-200 B.C. A large section is dedicated to the connection between dreams and illnesses. It is a conversation between the emperor’s sage and his minister discussing dreams, health and the treatments that were prescribed by the dreams. Then followed the Greek accounts on dreams and healing made famous by Galen, Aesculapius, and Artemidorus. There were many who realized that the dream world could be a source of alerting one to an illness, and also prescribing the medicine needed for recovery.
In a 1987 study by Dr. Robert Smith of Michigan State University, it was revealed that “cardiac patients who dreamed of destruction, mutilation, and death had worse heart disease that those who did not. The dreams worsened as did the condition, despite the fact that the patients did not know the severity of their disease.” This report comes from the book by James Matlock, Harper’s Encyclopedia Of Mystical And Paranormal Experience (1991). This shows how dreams can continue to alert one to the worsening of a condition. This book also reports that terminally ill patients have transitional dreams, “such as entering beautiful gardens, crossing bridges, or walking through doorways, which occur shortly before death and which often bring peace of mind.”
CONTENT DEPENDING ON AGE, SEX, & SOCIETY
It is well known by the scientific community that the human fetus dreams in the womb. There have been intriguing findings in gynecological research. Dr. Michele Clements of the City of London Maternity hospital has demonstrated that the fetus not only hears auditory stimuli, but also reacts and retains the memories into adult life. Dr. Carl Sagan has also said that a large portion of the fetus’s experience in the uterus is spent in dreams, and these dreams most certainly do not derive their material from the fetus’s own life experiences. In chickens, there are physiological signs that dreaming occurred in the chicks before the hatching of the egg, and in kittens, dreams were evident before the opening of the eyes. All of this suggests that dreams are made of more than just life experiences. Perhaps the early dreams of the fetus are made of material from the spirit worlds from whence it came as well as the sensory experience of the physical novelty of having a new body.
It is believed in many schools of thought that how one is born greatly effects his or her outlook and personality in life. Almost everyone could assume that he or she dreamt at least once about the birth event. Many positive or negative emotions can be experienced during this somewhat traumatic event, and for the rest of life, these may be processed to some extent or another in dreams. It is not uncommon for someone to report a dream that very closely resembles the feelings and impressions that are had during the birth process.
One of the most consistent findings across all studies of children’s dreams is the content of animal figures. The reports of dreams from children between 3 and 4 years old are the ones most likely to contain animal content. It is speculated that animals are part of our ancestral memory and children are quite in touch with that. Children this age usually only have a sentence or two and the dream is fairly simplistic. Often these animals are seen as protectors or helpers. However, the child who had the most animal dreams of all the children displayed aggressive behavior. Perhaps these animals represent the animal drives within the human genetic structure.
At ages 5 through 6 dream reports are double in length and dreams are a little bit more complicated. The main character usually is in a passive role, however, watching. Sex differences begin to emerge. Girls’ dreams are usually nice ones with friendly outcomes while boys’ dreams tend toward conflict. All these dreams of both sexes contain animal and family characters, with the conflict coming from outside the family.
At ages 7 through 8, dreamers became more active in the dreams. Boys’ dreams became tamer and more friendly and the preoccupation with conflict and strangers drops away. Girls’ dreams stayed relatively the same, with friendly outcomes.
From 9 to 12 year olds, interaction with peers in social situations is more prominent and family characters decline. Peer characters are usually of the same sex as the child. Dreams of conflict and aggression begin to preoccupy the boys’ dreams again. Male children have roughly twice as many aggressive dreams as do female children. Issues of sex roles are worked out. Boys dream of athletics and male oriented tasks and girls dream about acquiring domestic skills.
From ages 13 to 15, dreams become more troubled. The setting is more vague and distortion of the characters is prominent. Anger appears more often and happy outcomes happen less often. Girls have happier dreams than boys, but they still are more troublesome than their dreams earlier in life. It has been suspected that role identification is more difficult for boys than it is for girls because boys are forced by society to dis-identify with the mother whereas girls are not under this pressure.
When children’s dreams are compared with adult dreams, significant differences appeared. Children’s dreams contained more parents and other family members, fewer strangers, and more animal characters. Nature also appeared more in children’s dreams, and of course there were more toys and such. They did not dream of cars very often and it was sometimes difficult to discern whether the setting was an indoor or outdoor one. Children also have more dreams about aggression being directed at them and most dreams had no outcome in the situation, positive or negative. Children also seem to notice color more significantly than adults.
“Children’s dreams are more intense than those of adults because the brain is practicing its event-forming activities,” according to Jane Roberts in her book The Nature Of The Psyche (1979). Veronica Tonay says in the book The Art Of Daydreaming (1995), “My own research and that of various colleagues and students suggests that even in three and four year olds, we can discern the beginnings of strong individual differences in modes of using make-believe as a way of dealing with the world. By adolescence these predispositions to resort to fantasy as a resource are well established and may play an important later role in the life style of the individual.”
Elsie Sechrist says in her book Dreams: Your Magic Mirror (1968) that children respond readily to their inner teachers. “Children as young as six seem as responsive to dreams as any adult. What has gratified me as much as it has the parents of the children is the power of a correctly interpreted dream to persuade a child to correct his own failings. Parents have admitted that where appeals and scoldings have been useless, a single dream has caused the child to put his own counsel into practice.”
of the Elderly
Many of the elderly have dreams about having difficulty with taking care of physical functioning. They have less dreams about fear-based or anger-based situations, especially women. They often dream about emerging in a birth-like fashion in another world. Many of these dreams are about passing through a tunnel into light. The spiritual beliefs of the dreamer play a significant role in how the death is faced. Life review is often done in the dreams of the elderly as well. The dreams do not signify demise, however, but rather a resolution and a beginning in a new world.
Men dream more often about outdoor settings. Fewer people appear in men’s dreams and are more often strangers. Men are more concerned about boundary issues and the male usually is the central figure playing out his role in his dream. Men are more likely to see themselves as lone figures in a strange world.
It was discovered that females tend to dream about indoor settings and are more concerned about intimacy and personal relationships. Women’s dreams are more likely to include family and sensory input from the surrounding environment. Dreams of destruction or collapse are more common during the days preceding a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women who are pregnant are especially prone to somatic (physically influenced) dreams as the baby moves or develops within her. It is not uncommon for women to see a bulging building or other such patterns in their dream imagery. Depending on how they view their pregnancy, women were quite preoccupied with dreams around this event.
It was found that lower class girls experienced and expressed more aggression in their dreams than middle class girls and boys, and also more than lower class boys. In adults, there were more human characters in the lower class than the upper middle class. Perhaps it is because lower class people experience crowding more often. The lower class dreamed much more of home and family than did the upper middle class. Greater anxiety, unhappiness and misfortune appearing as obstacles appeared more in the dreams of the lower class.
Vs. Negative Dreams
Overall, regardless of class, all adults and all children had more negative and fear-based dreams than positive dreams. Therefore, the positive dreams must be more elusive than the dreams that are products of the conflicts within. The majority of dreams are unpleasant all across the board. Perhaps by responding to the unpleasantness in our dreams we work out waking life problems more easily. Dreams may be the messages from the Self that are meant to assist growth and perhaps that is the primary function of dreams altogether. A dream could easily be an indicator of emotional health or lack of health in certain areas.
As A Vehicle For Evolution
George Constable, Editor In Chief of Dreams & Dreaming (1990), speculates, “It seems that many great events throughout the ages, religious and secular, were preceded by relevant human dreams.” It definitely seems to be the case when one ponders the number of dreams that rulers have acted on, or religious figures in the Bible acted on. In this same book, Montague Ullman is quoted as saying, “…While asleep, we are not only able to scan backward in time and tap into our memory, but are also able to scan forward in time and across space to tap into information outside our own experience. Regardless of how seldom they occur, these manifestations cast a new light on the range of our psychic abilities. They persuade us to look at dreams as ever-occurring in a much larger and more complex frame than we are accustomed.”
Perhaps this ability to cross dimensions of space and time might be the very way we have unconsciously evolved as a species. It is believed by many that dreams are a place where the unconscious mind interprets for consciousness the events and information that are otherwise completely unavailable to the conscious mind, but are absolutely necessary ingredients for evolution. Perhaps not a single invention would have been created were it not for this ability to tap into the unknown, even though a dream or internal experience might not be remembered. Somehow it found its way into the evolution of the species, whether or not there is awareness of where it came from.
A much used quote by Carl Jung reads as follows: “In dreams we pass into the deeper and more universal truth and more eternal man, who still stands in the dusk of original night in which he himself was still the whole and the whole was in him in bright undifferentiated pure nature, free from shackles of the ego.” This is one of the most brilliant things he said, in my opinion, and I believe it to be true. Dreams might be the doorway to the eternal nature of humankind. Many cultures believe that dreams are the realm of the true self, and that the physical world is the illusion.
Jeremy Taylor, in Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), says, “The benefits of paying more regular attention to our dreams will be great, both at the level of the personal details of our lives, and the larger, collective level of our shared reality and interdependent existence. To quote the old Universalist maxim, the dream comes in the service of health and wholeness to promote ‘the reconciliation of each with all.’”
Telepathy and other such phenomena, like predictions and remote viewing, have long been subjects of conversations among those who have had a dream about something before it happened or knew something that was going on at the moment it was happening. In the book There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity And The Stories Of Our Lives (1997) by Robert H. Hopke, he says, “Besides dreams which coincide with subsequent events in a synchronistic way, any dreams seem to disclose not just what will be but what is in ways that are impossible to know through normal sensory experience. The word most people would use, ‘extrasensory,’ is the simplest description for such dreams.” He says in another section of his book, “I have had clients report dreams with any number of details about my personal life that they could not possibly have known and which I certainly never revealed to them. Once woman dreamed that it was my birthday when in fact it was my birthday. Another repeatedly dreamed of the number 909, which is my unlisted home address.” These are good examples of remote viewing dreams, or knowing what is presently happening.
Dreams of events that come true in physical reality are thought by many to be synchronistic dreams, dreams in which the story is told before the identical outer story. Some people think that it takes great talent or natural ability to be able to have telepathic or predictive dreams. Jeremy Taylor disagrees in his book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), and says, “Transmission’ or ‘talent’ have virtually nothing to do with it. Everyone is born with an undeveloped potential for intuitive expression. My experience is that telepathic connections are formed of deep feeling and emotion. The strength of emotional association determines who will have telepathic communion with another person.” According to Taylor, only a deep emotional connection between two people is necessary for telepathic dreams to happen.
Bob Larson, an advocate against metaphysical concepts and ideas, says in his book Straight Answers On The New Age (1989), “Those who believe in dreams provide access to psychic powers and are a means of guiding the future venture into the territory of divination, which God has forbidden.” Larson goes on to say that playing with these deeper forces of the self are not allowed because these are the realms of God, in which we should not tread because we do not understand them and could invite evil forces upon ourselves.
Sleep Influences On Dreams
Emotions that are predominant in waking life are usually predominant in dreams. If someone suffers insecurity, it is highly likely the emotional insecurity will appear in dreamtime. The dream characters will reflect the unlikable aspects of the self, and experiences in the dream world will usually be similar to encounters with other people in physical reality.
Physical conditions are another influence on dreams. If the body is experiencing discomfort in some area, it is highly likely that it will show up in the dream in some context within an event.
Movies and stories influence dreams quite often. Almost everyone can remember a time when they watched a movie before going to bed and then dreamed that they were the hero in the movie who saved the day, or had heroic adventures.
Social situations are often an influence on dreams, especially if that social situation is unusual or out of character for the individual.
Almost anything that happens in daily life could become a pre sleep dream influence.
Lucid dreaming is by far one of my favorite subjects in the world. Besides my own experiences, which I have described in the Methods chapter, many other people have had lucid dreams. A lucid dream is an instance where the dreamer wakes up in the dream and realizes that he or she is dreaming. It does not necessarily depict control of the dream; it only signifies that the dreamer is aware that he or she is inside a dream. Well known authorities on lucid dreaming, Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold say in their book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), that once one realizes that it is a dream, “Rather than disappearing…might increase in clarity and brilliance until you find yourself dumbfounded with wonder. If fully lucid, you would realize that the entire dream world was your own creation, and with this awareness might come an exhilarating feeling of freedom.”
The history of lucid dreaming dates back as far as the first written account of lucid dreams in Tibetan Buddhist text. In the eighth century A.D., Tibetan monks pursued the mastery of lucid dreaming and it was made a prerequisite to seeking enlightenment. By mastering the art of lucid dreaming, the spiritual seeker would come to see waking life as made of a similar substance that is a projection of the mind. The monk would then find enlightenment in this realization that the world is an illusion just as dreams are, and that consciousness is the only consistent and continuing substance, rather than the material world.
The next written account of lucid dreaming came when Saint Augustine wrote about two lucid dreams had by a former Roman physician name Gennadius who had been reassured by these dreams that there was life after death.
Islam also instructs its subjects to pursue the art of lucid dreaming. If thoughts and actions could be controlled in the dream world, they could be controlled in waking life.
Frederik Van Eeden is credited with coining the term “lucid dream.” He was a Dutch psychiatrist and experienced lucid dreams himself, 352 of which he recorded between 1898 and 1912. He tested and experimented with his lucid dreams and came up with much interesting information about how they work.
Lucid dreams are characterized by the freedom one feels at suddenly finding oneself free of all the limitations of the body and physical reality, without consequences for experiences like flying and such. In a lucid dream, one can do anything and everything one has ever wanted to do. They are also characterized by an increase in vividness of colors and imagery. Ecstatic emotions often accompany lucid dreams. Celestial music is not uncommon to hear.
Lucid dreaming has met with much skepticism by scientists. All the reports that have been recorded on lucid dreams do not prove a thing. Laboratory studies began on lucid dreams using the EEG machine.
The dreamer was instructed to signal from sleep that he or she was having a lucid dream by moving the eyes in a particular pattern. If the subject could awaken in the dream, he or she could also be aware enough to send a physical signal to the external world. Alan Worsley conducted the first of this type of experiment on April 12, 1975. Two years later, independent and without knowledge of this experiment, Stephen LaBerge and associates at Stanford University conducted the exact same experiment. Both men used themselves as the subject and were able to signal that a lucid dream was achieved by particular eye movements. LaBerge did the most extensive laboratory observation and study of lucid dreaming. These experiments marked the first time that the conscious world (the lab technicians) could directly communicate with the human unconscious (the lucid dreamer) and receive messages from the unconscious mind as it is in action. This is an exciting development for many in the study of the unconscious mind.
Stephen LaBerge has created The Lucidity Institute. He has also developed a gadget for helping people learn how to dream lucidly in their own homes without help from a laboratory technician. I used mine religiously until I was able to dream lucidly on command. This gadget is called the Dreamlight, or NovaDreamer. The way it works is quite simple. It fits over the face like a mask and a movement sensor watches for REM periods during sleep. When the sensor notices that REM is taking place, red electrodes flash in alternating patterns in order to alert the dreamer to realize that he or she is dreaming. The dreamer is alerted by flashing lights or flickering in the setting, scenery or situation in the dream. This is the signal to the dreamer that he or she is dreaming.
Many people have a lucid dream quite spontaneously without any techniques being used. In fact, it is believed, from surveys done, that 58% of the population has had at least one lucid dream. Children are the most common lucid dreamers. It was not uncommon for ten year olds to report monthly lucid dreams. As children age, lucid dreams diminish. Perhaps if there were support and acknowledgement of lucid dreaming, a child would grow into an adult who never loses the ability to lucid dream.
& Uses For Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreams are often very surreal and vivid. James Matlock says in his book Harper’s Encyclopedia Of Mystical And Paranormal Experience (1991), “Lucid dreams are characterized by light (sometimes very bright), intense emotions, heightened colors and images, flying or levitation, and a sense of liberation or exhilaration. Some are almost mystical in nature.” It is reported in many accounts in other books that lucid dreams are surreal, exhilarating and liberating. These seem to be the common words used to describe the sensation of having had a lucid dream.
In their book, Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold’s first and foremost speculation on why lucid dreaming is a useful skill is because life is short and yet we are sleepwalking through our dreams. Instead, dreams are “many thousands of opportunities to be fully aware and alive.” These are moments we can experience events that are just as important as physical waking life events. They can be learning experiences, fantasy fulfillment experiences, self exploration experiences, and interactions with the divine. By awakening in our dreams, we could add much to our stores of experiences, which would in turn enrich our waking life. It is as if one could double one’s time to be alive, so if someone lives to be 80, they in fact really have something like 160 years if they are able to dream lucidly.
Learning is another very important reason for achieving the ability to lucid dream. The learning achieved in the dreamworld is carried over into the waking world. This can be quite useful to musicians who would like to improve their playing, or the mother who is learning how to handle the unruly child, or the person who needs experience with giving a speech before one actually does the speech in real life. The uses for learning that could be had in dreams are significant and would add much richness to the waking life.
Positive feelings are often a result of an experience in lucid dreams. These feelings of ecstasy, bliss, peace, freedom and other such positive feelings carry over into the waking life. The exhilaration of being fully conscious in an entirely different kind of world is often reported to last for a few days after the dream. Freedom of all the physical world’s limitations, and even the body’s limitations, this is a positive experience indeed, especially for those who are limited in some way, like those who are handicapped physically.
Realizing one is awake in a dream translates into real life in an enlightening way. It is a long held belief in many cultures and religions that mankind is actually sleepwalking through life, much the way we sleepwalk through our dreams, not realizing that we are awake and alive in the moment. If one experiences the feeling of being awake and alive in a dream, it would be likely that he or she would experience that in physical life as well. Stephen LaBerge & Howard Rheingold continue by saying in their book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “By cultivating awareness in your dreams and learning to use them, you can add more consciousness, more life, to your [waking] life. By waking to dreams, you can waken to life.”
Fantasy fulfillment is another very special use of the skill of lucid dreaming. Every one of us wish we could have something we don’t, or wish the world was a different way, or wish for something impossible and out of our reach. The dreamworld has it all waiting for you, that amazing and magnificent career, that notable discovery that everyone responds to, that huge house, lavish lifestyle, your private jet, all of it. It is already in you and you can have these experiences without having to manifest them in the waking life. Consciousness does not necessarily know the difference between the waking world and the dream world. Yes, you know if it officially happened in physical reality or not, but the signature of the experience is independent of whether it happened in the physical world or not. The brain registers it as a real experience. For instance, feeling the exhilaration of a speech well done and an entire arena giving you a standing ovation is a healthy experience whether it happened in the physical world or the dream world. It has been documented quite well that pleasure, fun, happy experiences, and wish fulfillment is good for you, even if it happens in a dream. Wish fulfillment is the ultimate use that many people make of their lucid dreams.
This takes away the need for ego gratification in the physical world. There is freedom and peace in knowing that the experience you wish to have could be had anytime in the dream world, independent of physical world manifestations or skills. Being a brain surgeon in the dream world can be a quickly gratified ego desire, whereas in the physical world, eight years of college and working up a good reputation takes quite a lot of time. Fantasy fulfillment in the dream world is instant. We all like instant gratification. The nice thing is that there is nothing wrong with that in the dream world! It is not against the rules.
Problem solving and rehearsal for waking life might be the most important use of lucid dreaming, besides doubling the amount of time you can spend being conscious during a lifetime. The kinds of problems that can be solved are many. Social issues can be resolved through trial and error communication attempts, finding what works in communication and what doesn’t. Scientific problems can be figured out in the dream world. Even automotive or household problems can be recognized or resolved in the dream. Many times, a message is given in a dream that is the direct key to solving a waking life problem. The nice thing about this is that trial and error can be done without having to pay any consequences for the error.
Healing can be quite a good use for lucid dreaming. It is often reported from patients, who are mysteriously healed of terminal illnesses, that a dream about the body healing in a very clear and lucid dream came before it. What an interesting world we would live in if our doctors prescribed certain lucid dreams to have in order to achieve healing of any given illness!
For Lucid Dreaming
Most lucid dreams occur between 5AM and 8 AM, times that are most likely to be longer REM periods. LaBerge’s work at Stanford confirmed this occurrence. The first step is to develop good dream recall. If one cannot remember dreams at all or has difficulty remembering dreams, then lucid dreaming is nearly impossible. Awareness must be developed in the area of dreaming. First of all plenty of sleep is necessary, and the longer one sleeps, the more dreams are possible. As the night progresses, dream periods get longer and closer together until near wake up time, the dreams are forty-five to sixty minutes long and only a half hour apart. The first dream of the night is the shortest, perhaps only five to ten minutes in length.
Dream recall happens when the dreamer awakens directly from the dream, which happens after almost every dream a person has. We fall back to sleep and forget the dream because we are in the habit of it. One way around this would be to set an alarm clock to wake you up at a time when you are likely to be dreaming. You could set your alarm for ninety minutes after bedtime, or other various intervals of ninety minutes from bedtime. If you are aiming for a period of time that would be richer with dream time, try setting the alarm(s) for six or seven hours after you go to sleep. Dreams are thickest and most likely during the late morning hours of sleep, right after or before dawn, depending on when you like to wake up. The probability of a lucid dream during this time is also double than in the earlier part of the sleep period.
Remind yourself of your intention to remember your dreams before you go to bed. Motivation is a big factor in the success or failure of dream recall. It will help to keep records of the dreams you recall, for this will inspire more dreams to be remembered.
As soon as you awaken in the morning ask yourself immediately what you were dreaming, for you were just dreaming before you woke up, if you woke up naturally. If you cannot remember to ask yourself this, try putting a note next to your bed reminding yourself to ask this question. Don’t move when you wake up. Stay still. Don’t think about anything either. If you can’t remember what you were dreaming, ask yourself what feelings or thoughts are present. This will give you clues to what you were just experiencing and might jog your memory. This may bring back the entire dream. At first, only fragments of the dream will be remembered by the person who does not have good dream recall, but with practice, more will be revealed without as much effort.
Many techniques are available to train oneself to dream lucidly. One common technique taught by many, including the Don Juan character in Carlos Castenada’s books, is to look for the hands in the dream. Once the hands are seen, one can realize one is dreaming because the signal was recognized, and then one is lucid in the dream. If the hands begin to change, one must look away or lucidity might be lost.
A very potent technique for inducing lucid dreams is to train the waking life consciousness to always be asking itself if it is dreaming. Every 90 minutes, one could ask oneself if he or she is awake or dreaming, and always answer, “Yes, I am dreaming. This is a “conditioned response” that will show up in the dream world.
Bizarre occurrences are dreamsigns, triggers which become doors to lucidity. A single out of place object, character or circumstance can be a dreamsign. These are clues to show you that you are dreaming. For instance, a streetlight is flashing blue, rather than the familiar red, green or yellow. This would be a dreamsign for the dreamer, and the dreamer could then realize that this is a dream, rather than physical reality. Then lucidity is achieved. If a tree in a familiar courtyard were pink instead of green, this could be a dreamsign. If your boss comes into work wearing a tutu, when this is completely out of character for that person, this can also be a sign that the dreamer is dreaming. Almost every dream has dreamsigns, some defiance of physical laws, social laws, or out-of-the-ordinary interactions of objects, people and things. By training yourself to recognize dreamsigns, you can wake up in any dream you like. Train the waking consciousness to look for out-of-place objects, situations or people in waking life. Noticing that one’s boss is wearing an orange hat with a feather in it when it is completely out of character for him or her, this could be considered a dreamsign. A dreamsign is something that is unordinary, like purple kittens, and this would be a signal to the dreamer that he or she is dreaming. Impossible situations and objects are possible only in a dream.
Another discipline is looking for dreamsigns during waking hours and then this mental attention will be carried into the dream world. Simply recognize the out of the ordinary experiences all around every day, confirm that it is a dream, and as the dreamworld presents unusual events, the mind will respond similarly in the dream state as it did in the waking state by confirming that it is a dream.
An ancient Tibetan Buddhist technique is to maintain wakeful consciousness as one drifts off to sleep. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold say in their book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), that Rinpoche, a Tibetan teacher who was visiting America, taught people to “think of all our experiences as dreams and to try to maintain unbroken continuity of consciousness between the two states of sleep and waking.” One could most easily do this when going back to sleep after just having awakened from a dream. It is more difficult if the first REM state hasn’t been reached yet.
Another is called “Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams,” or MILD, the phrase coined by Stephen LaBerge. Mnemonic means “something that aids the memory.” It is difficult for most of us to even remember that we are trying to awaken in a dream, let alone do so. Stephen LaBerge’s MILD technique can assist with this. This is a close cousin to the technique of looking for dreamsigns, but differs because you are the one who picks something to look for, rather than just waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen. For instance, one could program oneself to wake up in a dream every time he or she opens a door. This is done by remembering in waking life to check whether or not one is dreaming every time a door is opened in waking life. Then, in the dreaming life, this will automatically happen again, the question will be posed and the dreamer will then awaken in the dream.
A second version of this method, MILD, is to recall the dream just awakened from. While returning to sleep, imagine returning to that dream and waking up inside it. Before falling back to sleep, pick something you want to do as soon as you see yourself awakening in the dream, like flying or something like that. Often, the dream one was having is returned to and one and might remember that one had seen oneself waking up in this particular dream.
Another method for inducing lucid dreams is called “sleep redistribution.” A normal eight hour period of sleep might be between midnight and 8 AM. With this method, the eight hour sleep period is cut short by sleeping only until 6 AM. One goes about his or her business for two hours and then goes back to bed from 8 AM to 10 AM. During these two hours, one will have more dreams than was possible from 6 AM to 8 AM in normal sleep. It is a fact that within only a few moments of falling back to sleep, especially during the morning period, REM can be re-entered quite quickly.
Stephen LaBerge’s invention, the Nova Dreamer, also called Dream Light, is a wonderful device that delivers a trigger while the dreamer is dreaming. Other methods mentioned above deal with bringing a trained waking awareness into the world of dreams, but this method sends a direct cue into the dream as it is actually happening. This device, as mentioned before, flashes light into the dreamer’s closed eyes whenever it detects REM. The dreamer will then see flashing lights in the dream and may use the trigger to wake up in the dream. It is most effective if the waking mind is trained to look for light sources in the dream. I have personally found this device quite effective.
Wake Initiated Lucid Dreams, or WILDs, are lucid dreams based on the idea that one can fall asleep consciously. This means that the body falls asleep while retaining full wakefulness and enters the dream state with consciousness intact. Full lucidity would be present immediately with the beginning of the dream. This is probably the most difficult technique of all, but it has been reported that it works, especially from the Tibetan Monks. A WILD is most likely when one awakens during the night and then goes back to sleep. It is not as effective in the beginning of the night for the deep delta sleep must be attained first before much else can happen. The ability to stay awake is quite a skill indeed, and might only be possible for meditators who have gained much mastery in not slipping over the sleep/awake border so easily into sleep. It takes great training to straddle this border without losing the wakefulness of waking life consciousness.
This idea of being able to control dreams is a little bit misleading. If one could completely control dreams with the waking ego intact, this would be working against what the dream realities are all about: teaching us about the parts of ourselves that we do not know much about, the unconscious parts. The dream ego is much the same as the waking ego, but it is more flexible than the waking ego, most importantly because it cannot be harmed in the dream the way the waking ego can. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold say in their book Exploring The World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “The person, or dream ego, that we experience being in the dream is the same as our waking consciousness. It constantly influences the events of the dream through its expectations and biases, just as it does in waking life. The essential difference in the lucid dream is that the ego is aware that the experience is a dream. This allows the ego more freedom of choice and creative responsibility in finding the best way to act in the dream… Your expectations and assumptions, whether conscious or unconscious, about what dreams are like, determine to a remarkable extent the precise form your dreams take.”
The usefulness of waking up in the dream is control of the self, rather than control of the dream. Control of the self means that one can decide what one wants to do inside the experience. One can decide how one wants to act in a spirit of co-operation with what is presented to the dream ego in the form of events and occurrences.
Jeremy Taylor, in his book Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill (1992), puts down the “rhetoric of popular promoters of lucid dreaming who regularly promise that if you buy their books or listen to their training tapes you will learn to control your dreams. In my view, this is simply false advertising since control is impossible, increased influence is all that can be achieved, and it is a much more interesting and valuable accomplishment than ‘control’ would be, even if it were possible.” He goes on to say that it is about co-operating with what the dream is trying to help us evolve in ourselves rather than over-riding our inner teacher. “It is my experience that the dreamer will then inevitably meet the same or a similar situation again, either later in the same dream, or in a subsequent dream. The multitude of lucid-dream stories that come from the Tibetan and other Asian traditions suggest that no matter how dedicated and skilled the lucid dreamer, the dream remains autonomous and defies counterproductive manipulation and control.”
Jeremy Taylor pontificates in his book Dream Work (1983), “It is certainly possible to be preoccupied with comparative trivialities in lucid dreams, but the unconscious element of our being from which the dreams spring is so much older, wiser, stronger, more creative, loving and reconciling that we even imagine that it seems to me that even aggressive triviality on the part of a lucid dreamer…can easily be absorbed. To imagine that the dreaming unconscious could be totally overwhelmed and controlled by even the most practiced and disciplined lucidity seems to me to be simply hubris at worst, and at best a failure of perception and imagination.” He finalizes this statement by saying that it is impossible for the deeper self to be fooled by such antics on the dream ego’s part, even if it is successful in the short run at controlling dreams. “The dreaming unconscious is a center in our being which is so much older, wiser, stronger and more far-seeing than waking consciousness that to imagine it could be dominated or ‘controlled’ by even the most adept lucid dreamers is to misunderstand its basic nature.”
Of Body Experiences (OBEs) or Astral Projections
Inducing lucid dreams naturally leads to the ability to astral project, or have out-of-body experiences (OBEs). This is often what is happening when one has a false awakening from a lucid dream. A false awakening happens when one ‘wakes up’ from the dream, but does not realize that he or she is not awake physically. A short time later, the subject does realize a dream is still in progress, but it may or may not be a dream, but instead might be an astral projection. The world of OBEs is slightly different than the dream worlds in the fact that it is a mirror image of the physical world, not a completely invented world like the world of dreams. The astral world has the same picture on the wall in your living room as your actual living room does. It is more parallel to the Earth plane, and one has the freedom to travel the Earth world while in spirit. This is the difference from lucid dreaming.
It is easy to create the experience of a false awakening in a lucid dream and induce an OBE from that platform. It is easier to get into the astral world from the dream worlds, some say, than it is to get into the astral worlds from the physical state, even if one is asleep, or falling asleep.
One of the fringe benefits of learning to dream lucidly is the fact that OBEs are a natural by-product of this skill. The techniques for inducing lucid dreams are the same techniques for learning how to have an OBE. It is all about learning to free oneself from the limitations of the physical body. Learn one skill and you get a bonus skill!
continues with many pages of techniques and pointers on dream recall and interpretation
and a dream symbol index. Skip to conclusion.)
of whether or not the dream world is made of some sort of substance related
to physical matter have yet to be answered by mankind. Perhaps a millennia of
exploration of the dream world is necessary before these questions can be answered.
I think we are on the brink of a great discovery. Dreams are finally being viewed
as an important area of scientific discovery, especially as more reports from
the dream world reflect physical world benefits. The first benefit is the personal
unfoldment and growth that is possible in the dream world, therefore making
the citizens of physical reality more mature and healthy beings. The second
benefit of the dream world is the information we can retrieve from there and
bring back with us into the physical world.
Our dream life is continuous, not a life that starts and stops when we are asleep or awake. According to Jane Roberts in her book The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977), we continue to dream while we are awake, but our conscious mind averts its attention away from the inner world to the outer world. She says that we do not understand that “Dream life is continuous. It has organization on its own levels that you do not comprehend, and from its rich source you dream much of the energy with which you form your daily experience… It often seems that sleep is almost a small death, and psychologists have compared dreaming with controlled insanity. You have so divorced your waking and dreaming experience that it seems you have separate ‘lives,’ and that there is little connection between your waking and dreaming hours…” This means that the realities being perceived underneath physical reality when we dream are happening whether or not we are currently paying attention to them consciously. The events in the various dimensions we occupy simultaneously, i.e.: the dream world, the physical world, and perhaps a few others yet to be officially named, are active and influencing us, whether or not we are dreaming. Jane Roberts continues by saying, “You dream whether you are living or dead. When you are alive, corporally speaking, what you think of as dreaming becomes subordinate to what you refer to as you conscious waking life.”
I would liken it to the multitudes of TV stations that are playing in the vast arena of consciousness that we are as eternal beings, and just because we tune in clearly to one station, like physical reality, it does not mean that the events happening on the other stations have stopped, but rather that our attention is the only thing that changed. Our activities in the dream worlds go on without our conscious awareness of them. Perhaps our dreams can be thought of more as snapshots that we take with the conscious mind of things that happened while our attention was elsewhere focused on physical reality events. Jane Roberts continues to say in this book, “A remembered dream…is a snapshot of a larger event, taken by your conscious mind.”
Perhaps becoming an oneironaut will be a childhood aspiration, just as becoming a fireman is. Robert Van De Castle laments the lost possibilities in childhood in his book Our Dreaming Mind (1994), “It is unfortunate that our culture doesn’t provide more reinforcement for children to develop and expand their capacity for lucid dreaming.” What wonders these children would produce! Would the speed of our evolution as a species be increased exponentially? Wouldn’t it be quite interesting to grow up with the expectation that one will go to college and earn a degree in oneiromancy, becoming a valued explorer of the dream world and returning with treasures of knowledge and information for mankind to use in the physical world? What an honored position in society it would be, rather than the nonchalance such explorers are viewed with presently.
This is how potent I believe the dream world is, and how powerful it can be in the unfoldment of evolution. If every child were taught to maintain the ability to dream lucidly, for we are born with the ability and forget as we grow older, what kind of world would we live in? What kind of discoveries could be made? Could communication with other dimensions or other worlds within the physical universe be achieved through spirit communication before physical communication is possible? Are there other communities in the universe who traverse the universe freely and are able to connect with us in the dream world? What if our political leaders were to attempt such a thing?
Of course, these are all fantasies at this time, but so was the idea of inventing the airplane and the automobile before they were manifested physically. I believe that dreams are a huge unexplored frontier of human consciousness. If we were to begin to explore and map this world, we would discover much about ourselves, our physical world, and our nature. Perhaps we could even blend the worlds at some point and bring powers like the ability to move objects, or make physical reality more fluidly in other ways, into manifestation. Perhaps we can even learn to levitate in physical reality and fly the way we do in dreams. It is estimated that we only use 10% of our brain. What is the other 90% of the brain for? Is it to harness and embrace these other worlds in which we live simultaneously and bring gifts back and forth to each of these realities? Are these the abilities that are latent in human beings, awaiting our intent to explore them?
Let us become oneironauts and find out! Jane Roberts says in her book The Unknown Reality, Volume One (1977), “The true mental physicist will be a bold explorer¾not picking at the universe with small tools, but allowing his consciousness to flow into the many open doors that can be found with no instrument, but with the mind. Your own consciousnesses…can indeed help lead you into some much greater understanding…” In The Unknown Reality, Volume Two (1986) she says, “Any of your scientific or religious disciplines could benefit from a study of the dreaming consciousness, for there the basic nature of reality exists as clearly as you can perceive it.” She also says in The Nature Of The Psyche (1979), “Then you would put all religions and sciences out of business, for you would understand the greater reality of your psyche. The physicists have their hands on the doorknob. If they paid more attention to their dreams, they would know what questions to ask.”
Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold say in their book Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming (1990), “Given that dreams are such fertile fields for inspiration, why is there not yet a school of dreaming in the Western world? …Once researchers have investigated creativity in dreams more thoroughly they should be able to give you more precise guidance in how to use your sleeping time to solve problems and be creative.”
In the book Dreams And Dreaming (1990), George Constable, Editor In Chief, states, “The shades of consciousness, from full engagement with the waking world to retreat into deep sleep’s profound solitudes, are being sorted out in ever finer gradations by researchers. They have traced the psychological and physiological paths human beings follow as the slip in and out of the world of dreams. But mysteries still abound.” Using dreams for scientific exploration, not to mention religious and spiritual exploration, would be a good beginning that does not cost us much in resources, money or extra time. It can all be done while we sleep. There cannot be a better business proposal than this! Discover treasures, explore the universe, communicate with the population within, and learn about the different possibilities for physical reality, all while we sleep in our beds! This is a good use of our time here on Earth spent in sleep.
I have asked more questions in this material than I have answered. One question only spurs many more. The dream world is yet an undiscovered territory, an unmapped frontier, in human reality. So let us use our consciousness to the utmost of our ability. Let’s make the quality of our lives better, using dreams as another outlet for experiences in which we can grow, learn and discover the secrets of the universe and ourselves while in the form of individuality. Waking life experiences are not our only opportunities for growth. Dreams offer thousands more opportunities for experiences than we can fit into one physical lifetime, especially if we become lucid in them. Let us take advantage of that time, making the best use of it we can, and truly expand ourselves as a species.
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” —Thoreau
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Interpreting Dreams A-Z. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.
Roberts, Jane 1979
The Nature Of The Psyche: Its Human Expression. New York: Bantam Books
Roberts, Jane 1986
Dreams, Evolution, and Value Fulfillment, Volume I. New York: Bantam Books
Roberts, Jane 1978
Dreams & The Projection Of Consciousness. Stillpoint Publishing, NY
Roberts, Jane 1977
The Unknown Reality, Volume I. New York: Bantam Books
Roberts, Jane 1986
The Unknown Reality, Volume II. New York: Bantam Books
Robinson, Lady Stearn & Tom Corbett
The Dreamer’s Dictionary. New York: Warner Books
Rogo, D. Scott 1983
Leaving The Body: A Complete Guide to Astral Projection. New York: Simon & Schuster
Sanford, John A. 1968
Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company
Sechrist, Elsie 1968
Dreams: Your Magic Mirror. New York: Cowles Education Corporation
Singer, Jerome L. 1975
The Inner World Of Daydreaming. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers
Spurr, Pam, Ph.D. 1999
Understanding Your Child’s Dreams. New York: Sterling Publishing Company
Strephon Kaplan-Williams, 1991
Dream Working: A Comprehensive Guide To Working With Dreams. Journey Press, San Francisco, CA
Taylor, Jeremy 1983
Dream Work. New York: Paulist Press
Taylor, Jeremy 1992
Where People Fly And Water Runs Uphill. New York: Warner Books
Tonay, Veronica Ph.D. 1995
The Art Of Dreaming. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts
Ullman, M.D., Montague & Nan
Working With Dreams. New York: Dell/Eleanor Friede Book
Van De Castle, Robert L., Ph.D. 1994
Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine Books
Walsch, Neale Donald 1998
Conversations With God, Book III. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.
Wilson, Ian 1982
All In The Mind. New York: Doubleday & Company
Wollheim, Richard 1971
Sigmund Freud. New York: Viking Press
Yamamoto, Gary K. 1988
Creative Dream Analysis: A Guide To Self Development. New York: Wings Books
Zolar’s Encyclopedia & Dictionary of Dreams. New York: Arco Publishing
Further Reading On Dreams
Faraday, Ann, The Dream Body
Freud, Sigmund, The Interpretation Of Dreams (Avon 1965)
Freud, Sigmund, On Dreams (W.W. Norton, 1952)
Jung, C. G., The Archetypes And The Collective Unconscious (Princeton University press, 1965)
Jung, C. G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books, 1965)
Lewis, James R., The Dream Encyclopedia (Invisible Ink Press, 1995)
Rimpoche, Sogyal, The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying (Rider 1992)
Visit the Christine Breese website to read articles on consciousness and awakening, visit University of Metaphysical Sciences Video Satsangs to see talks on spiritual subjects. Read articles on Wisdom of the Heart Church. Visit Starlight Journal for blogs, newsletter, and forums on spiritual subjects. Visit Christine Breese's Metaphysical Sciences youtube channel to view free video satsangs.
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