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Religion & Culture | Dreams: A pathway to enlightenment

Published:Wednesday | April 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby

'Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.'

Carl Jung

'God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, 'Jacob, Jacob'.'

Genesis 46:2

Dreams are sometimes symbolic, cryptic, metaphorical, and difficult to interpret. Sometimes we leave it to our culture and belief systems to decide.

For example, a dream involving a snake could signify spiritual advancement for the mystic. For the Christian mind, it could mean treachery and duplicity as conveyed in the mythical Garden of Eden.

However, there are some symbols or dream archetypes (a term coined by Carl Jung) that arguably carry the same meaning for every group or society.

For example, dreams of flying (denoting satisfaction and accomplishment), death (meaning closure and the beginning of a new chapter in one's life), being chased (meaning that the dreamer is avoiding a situation that must be addressed); and the loss of one's teeth (meaning that the dreamer is not being candid or is unable to communicate his or her feelings).

But for the most part, dreams are highly personalised experiences that hold multiple meanings.

All sacred books make mention of dreams. In the Bible, we read of Daniel's successful interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream in Daniel 2:48 - "Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men."

And Joseph, in like vein, is exalted by the Pharaoh for his interpretative prowess, as detailed in Genesis 41:37-57.

The Koran also relates Joseph's story in 12:5, and in 8:43 Muhammad is comforted in a dream before a decisive battle: "Allah showed them (enemy combatants) to you in your dream as few; and if he had shown them to you as many, you (believers) would have lost courage and would have disputed in the matter (of whether to fight); but Allah saved you (from that fear). Indeed, He knows all things."




While some Buddhist Sutras view dreams as illusory, most texts hold similar views to Judeo-Christian and Islamic teachings. Dreams to Easterners represent the mutability and impermanence of all things. Dreams convey messages of the gods, spirits, ancestors and the future.

In 7th-century Tibet, we learn that dream analysis flourished alongside medicine and religious lore. Like some Western psychoanalysts, Easterners believe that dreams can facilitate wholeness or psychological and emotional growth.

Dreams are reflective of our ruminations, imaginations, thoughts, and values. Dreams are the language of the mind. They are doorways to other dimensional experiences not privy in the physical world. Dreams reveal themselves at the unconscious level, a level that is not bound by physical laws.




Dreams take place in the Theta Brain Wave state and afford us incredulous insights into our unconscious self and other planes of consciousness.

This explains why we are not subject to gravitational laws when dreaming. We can fly and communicate on a telepathic level. The landscape can be vivid and colourful, meaning that the dreamer is in the astral world - one of the seven dimensions.

On this level, information is presented symbolically and we are none the wiser if we use the conscious, linear mind to interpret it.

In the dream state, we are not subject to time or space. In fact, quantum physics has proved that time is an illusion. Time is relative, illusory, according physicist Julian Barbour. Aristotle viewed time solely as a measurement of change in the physical world.

In the dream state, or in other states of consciousness, time is simultaneous and unifying. As such, the prophetic dream is not uncommon.

Consolation, counsel, and creative guidance are also received in dreams. Dreams have triggered literary insights, scientific theories, and inventions.

The stories of Albert Einstein, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, and many more historical personages attest to this.

Indeed, while our waking consciousness is constricted and limited, the dream state removes every restriction and allows the dreamer to tap into what is called the sea of consciousness that contains all of life occurrences - past, present and future. It frees the mind from the limitations of duality.

That said, we must bear in mind that not all dreams are significant. Oftentimes, the mind serves as a recorder, replaying our preoccupations, concerns, and predilections. In such cases, dreams are mere projections of the mind.

How then can we benefit from our dreams? How can we integrate newly found insights into our daily lives?

We should note that dream books are generic, and while they can help us decode symbols, they rarely offer profound understanding on our unconscious impulses.

We must learn to determine what constitutes a meaningful dream. This takes practice and patience. We must learn to connect seemingly disjointed pieces of our dreams.

This can only be done if we recall every nuance of the experience. We must keep a paper and pen close by to record these inner travels. We must identify and explore our emotions and feelings in the dream state, and ask ourselves if they are consistent with our feelings in waking consciousness.

We must look for recurring themes, and examine all aspects of our dreams for relevance. This must be done immediately, mindful that our experience can immediately become a distant memory just moments after awakening.




Moreover, we must believe in the power of self. We sabotage the inner voice when we are doubtful and overly deliberative. Live by the words once uttered by Maria Erving, a well-known healer and intuitive counsellor: "Don't go against your inner knowing. Just don't. Trust yourself."

Dreams offer much more than counsel, intuition, creativity, admonition and prophecy. It serves as a bridge, a psychoanalytic tool that helps us to better understanding ourselves - our own fears, anxieties, goals and aspirations.

Surely, we are the best arbiters of ourselves. In learning to interpret our dreams we would have added a reliable tool to navigate life's uncertainties.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity now available in audio format Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleahsby.