I don’t get pedantic about much, but realizing the importance of the tool we call dreams is one of those things I do. Dreams are the nav system for waking life. Just as I wouldn’t head out on a trip without programming my car’s GPS, I don’t dive into the labyrinth of daily life without looking at my dream signs.
I realize Western culture tends to throw dreams into the basket of airy-fairy extras better done without. Hell, the priority is sleep, and there’s a whole lot of insomnia going on out there. So I know I stand in a relatively small group of modern Westerners that value dream intel. Indeed, they would collectively roll their eyes at me for calling it such.
But my sense is that’s changing. Next month, I’m attending “dream school” at the Pacifica Institute of Santa Barbara. I’m eager to surround myself with others who’d give dreams the time of day and study that material. I’m 99% sure I’ll get the same response from my fellow dreamers about the shifting climate in Western culture at large.
Call it an unsettled collective consciousness with the way the world’s events are clashing into each other. Call it a general dissatisfaction with the long list of to do items. Call it an overall evolutionary awareness that we each have a purpose much larger than dropping off drycleaning and schlepping oversize items from Costco.
Whatever it is, I feel it. And in my head, I can’t help but think all those others that understood dream importance can’t be out in left field. Take Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Freud pitched in the idea of “day residue” and Jung, lucid dreaming. Both spent much of their life studying dream phenomena.
Long before them, ancient cultures looked to the night for daily navigation. Some cultures saw dreams as messages from gods, while others saw dreams as warnings. Still others used dreams to choose their leaders or tribe destinations and other to cure illnesses. Many an inventor or writer have been tipped off to solutions in their sleep.
The Babylonians believed when dreams were good, they were from the gods. However when one had nightmares or bad dreams then these were generally interpreted as demonic. The Romans took dreams more seriously. Dreams were discussed in the senate and were regarded as messages from the gods. The dreams were then interpreted and used as guides as to how the state proceeds with certain laws, actions and even war.
The Greeks took it farther still. They would purify themselves for two days before sleeping in temples in order to receive messages from the gods. They would fast, abstain from sex and eat no meat or fowl. The potential dreamer would then sleep in the temple of the god which he wished to bring forth. The Greeks believed that Hypnos would then send his son Morpheus to warn or give prophecies to those who slept at his temples. (Behold, the linguistic predecessor to hypnosis.)
The Hebrews, who were monotheistic, believed that it was God who spoke to them. Many a Biblical character used dreams to guide them and rally the Jews. These dreams produced prophecy that had a great impact on the Hebrew religion and culture.
Dream interpretation during ancient times was centered on the gods and omens. This is because man even during his infancy, sought to better himself and sought guidance from higher powers. The same is still true in our modern world. Dreams are thought of by some people as signs, communications from our subconscious mind or even our “inner selves” seeking attention. Man’s fascinations with dreams are still on going even with the varied explanations and studies as to why we dream in the first place.
Many Native American tribes hold dreams sacreds and some lump dreams into the “vision” category. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tribe which discounted the importance of dreams, in spite of the fact that dream material is used differently amongst them.
And then we step back in today. I see so many products for sleep and hear so many people crossing all demographics lamenting their inability to sleep. Forget dream. They can’t even turn off the feed that runs through their brains. (The topic of a whole different blog.)
But here’s what I know: when you pay attention to your dreams, and make an effort to work with the material, they become a responsive lover you can’t live without.