We sleep to rest and revive our bodies and minds. Each night, many of us progress through different phases of slumber. We drift into light sleep when we first relax. But the process often culminates in deeper rest, though it is during the periods of milder sleep when our minds are somewhat active that long and important dreaming is likely to occur.
In his book, Dreams: A Way to Listen to God, Morton Kelsey tells us that “a dream is a collection of a vivid series of images over which we have no control.” Dreams usually last between 15 and 90 minutes. An Anglican priest and psychologist, Kelsey describes ways to focus on these inner images and voices. His book is a primer for those who wish to mine the depths of themselves and experience a dynamic relationship with the living God. Dreams may be one of the most common avenues through which God reaches out to us, he says, and therefore they should be taken seriously.
Kelsey stresses the religious value of dreams. In the tradition of the prophets, he says, Jesus and his followers believed that God approached people through dreams and visions. Jesus, says Kelsey, lived in both the physical and spiritual worlds and stressed that God is always present, not only in the physical world, but also in the spiritual world which breaks through our consciousness via the dream and vision. God gives us the dream as a way of discovering the nature of that world and even establishing a relationship with it.
It was during a difficult time that a friend advised Kelsey to pay attention to his dreams and to write them down in a journal. “I soon noticed,” he says, “that there was a wisdom greater than mine that spoke to me in my dreams and came to my aid. After experiencing this I began to study the history of the dream…In the Old Testament, in the New Testament, among the Church fathers–I encountered dreams everywhere.”
In fact, the dreamscape is and has been significant in most world religions. Sections of the Qur’an were revealed to Mohammed in a dream and were also visionary inspiration for his spiritual mission; Jacob dreamt that he climbed a ladder to heaven and heard God promise him the land of Israel; while the Hindu text Brahmavaiarta Purana is a guide to interpreting the will of the gods through dreams. On every continent, there are individuals and groups who believe that their deities can communicate through images received in dreams.
Kelsey also turned to the Greek philosophers and discovered that both Plato and Socrates believed in dreams. And Hippocrates, the great physician, described the dream as one of the most important methods for diagnosing a patient’s illness.
Similarly, in the 20th century, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, both psychiatrists, believed that the dream was the royal road to the unconscious. Freud first used hypnotism and free association to penetrate the unconscious, but then discovered that the dream offered a better path to it. Dreams of sexual desire or violent behaviour are sometimes expressed in dreams, he said. They are free from personal or social taboos, and represent wish fulfillment.
Jung believed dreams spoke through the rich language of symbols. By paying attention to these images, he said, we can gain access to a new realm that brings balance to our conscious view. They also open our psyches or souls to spiritual reality–evil as well as good. He introduced the idea of the “collective unconscious” which he believed was a universal symbolic language which could be used to interpret anyone’s personal dreams, regardless of their culture, religion or belief.
As a follower of Jung, Kelsey says it is important to learn to understand these archetypal symbols. For instance, the unknown woman frequently occurs in a man’s dream and the unknown man in a woman’s dream and can represent the feminine side of a man and the masculine side of a woman. And when we dream about other people, says Kelsey, 99% of the time we are not dreaming of that individual, but a part of ourselves that resembles them.
Jung also used the term “shadow” to interpret dreams. Some dreams allow us to do things we would never contemplate in waking life and reveal the “shadowed” sides of our personality. Shy people may express themselves in a flamboyant manner and those who are sexually restrained might dream they are promiscuous. Such dreams balance our personality and give vent to emotions we might not usually feel.
Other experts, however, argue that some of us experience problem-solving dreams which usually include a guide who imparts an important message to the sleeper which may help them solve an issue in their waking life. The guide’s identity is paramount, they say. Spiritual guides may take the form of a friend, stranger, or even an animal.
Dreams that repeat themselves are sometimes a sign of unresolved troubles in our waking lives. Our psyche uses sleep to remind us of the anxieties we feel, the problems we face, and the stress we are under.
Some people will experience visions in dreams that later come true. These prophetic messages might be evidence that God works through our nighttime reveries and speaks to us of future events, or are the natural fruits of the active unconscious mind.
Furthermore, many musicians, artists, writers, and inventors also claim to have received inspiration through their dreams. Although some of the ideas that are born of the unconscious mind are too strange or extreme to be of use, occasionally the sleeping mind interacts with a fertile imagination to introduce ideas, imagery or concepts which would never have otherwise surfaced. Writers Lewis Carroll and Mary Shelley both claim to have based books on lucid dreams and Spanish painter, Salvador Dali, claimed his work was a portrayal of reality seen through the unconscious mind: dream lore that was both surreal and yet hauntingly familiar.Tags: Brahmavaiarta Purana, Israel, Morton Kelsey, New Testament, Old Testament, Salvador Dali, work