Sleep is absolutely crucial for our physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. It is during sleep that we abandon conscious control of our physical body and the unconscious mind is allowed to roam free, giving rise to dreams.
Although we now know a lot more about dreams, their real purpose isn’t yet fully understood. It wasn’t until we approached the middle of the twentieth century, with the first electronic monitoring of the brain, that we began to get a clearer idea of the nocturnal adventures of the mind. For centuries it was thought that the purpose of sleep was to rest the body and the mind, but this reasoning was disproved when it was shown that both the body and mind are active during sleep. If sleep doesn’t rest the body or mind, then what is it for?
Sleep researchers may not yet have discovered the exact reason for sleep or dreams but they have discovered some fascinating things. For example, it seems that when we are asleep our brains are a bit like computers that are offline. This J. August Strindberg means they are not idle but are filing and updating the day’s activities. They take stock of your body and release a growth hormone to repair damaged tissues and stimulate growth, while the immune system gets to work on attacking any viral or bacterial infections that may be present. Some experts believe the brain also jettisons trivial information during sleep to prevent it becoming overburdened with unimportant information, but this explanation is perhaps too simplistic, as no memory can be totally eradicated.
The advent of space travel gave scientists the opportunity to prove that resting the body was not the main function of sleep. What they found instead was that prolonged periods of isolation decreased the need for sleep. In other words, the fewer stimuli received from people or external contacts during the day, the less sleep was required. It seems we have a sleep control center at the base of our brain linked with activity during wakefulness. When that gets overloaded we get tired, but if there have not been enough stimuli from the outside world, the sleep mechanism isn’t triggered. It seems, therefore, that boredom and lack of stimuli may account for many cases of insomnia. (Paradoxically, overstimulation also produces insomnia.)... Dreampedia
It is stated in old writings that “he who knows the meaning of the number 13 has the key to power and control”!
Christianity, however, was opposed to any kind of occultism and had a lot to do with giving this number such a bad reputation. They insisted that 13 was an unlucky number because there were 13 people sitting at the table of the Last Supper. This gave rise, for instance, to the belief that when 13 people sat at a table, one of them would die in the same year. And to this day, there are hotels where no room is numbered 13. Theaters in Italy don’t have a seat numbered 13. But this suspicion is rare in the rest of the world.
It is only prevalent in places where the Christian Church is very influential.
Cheiro, in The Book of Numbers, wrote:
In the Indian pantheon there are 13 Buddhas.
The mystical discs which surmount Indian and Chinese pagodas are 13 in number. Enshrined in the Temple of Atsusa, in Japan, is a sacred sword with 13 objects of mystery forming its hilt. Turning westward, 13 was the sacred number of the Mexicans. They had 13 snake gods.
The original states that formed the American Union were 13; its motto, E Pluribus Unum, has 13 letters, the American eagle has 13 feathers in each wing, and when George Washington raised the Republican standard he was saluted with 13 guns.
The sum of the number 13 is 4 (1+3=4), the number of “radicals,” because Four-people often feel misunderstood and unconsciously invite secret envy and enemies. They are not inclined to recognize authorities who act as if the power is theirs alone and often misuse it. Challenging conventional standards, laws, and the powerful—and speaking out—has never been popular with the general public, least of all with the ruling authorities.
The number 13 is Four on a higher level and has thereby more gravity, increasing the intensity of any revolutionary conviction even more—including the struggle to bring about social reform and justice.
13 is a symbol of your whole person and your entire life. Don’t let others drive you crazy—13 is not an unlucky number! On the contrary, it seeks to “revolutionize” in the sense of reforming a world that is in dire need of it.... Dreamers Dictionary
Dreams and their purpose
Consider dreams like home movies that each person produces in response to their daily experiences. These movies are meant to clarify certain situations and support the person. With sufficient knowledge, they can become a sort of spiritual guide, since oneiric thoughts are a window to the subconscious where, frequently, hidden feelings and repressed needs are stored without us realizing.
Even then, there are people who question the importance of dreams. Some scientists, for example, believe that the content of dreams is simply a random mix of the many electronic signals the brain receives. Others, however, find all types of messages in even the simplest dreams, and end up distancing themselves from daily reality in favor of oneiric activity.
Neither extreme is advisable. Each dream is undoubtedly a journey into the unknown, but, at the same time, modern psychology has allowed us to understand a good part of their structure. One of the conclusions drawn from the study of dreams confirms this: dreams can be a priceless aid to the imagination, but above all when it comes to solving problems. You just have to know how to listen to them, because their content tends to have a direct relation to the emotional challenges you are experiencing.
Each dream is a journey to the unknown with an implicit personal message. Although it is the content of the episode that determines our emotional state, dreaming in black and white indicates a possible lack of enthusiasm or nostalgia for the past. These dreams are an invitation to live with more intensity and enjoy the present.
Still from the film Viaje a la Luna (Méliès, 1902).
It is known that in times of crisis, our oneiric production increases significantly, both in quantity and intensity. Should we consider this “surplus” to be positive? Yes, as long as one makes an effort to remember and interpret the dreams, since, as we will see further on, they have a valuable therapeutic potential.
For example, if a couple is going through a critical phase, remembering and analyzing usually helps them understand the subconscious reactions they have to the situation. In other words, dreams are an excellent tool to get to the bottom of emotional conflicts. Knowing the causes is an essential step to resolving the problems, regardless of what course you take.
The English psychologist David Fontana, whose books have been translated into more than twenty languages, said it clearly: “In listening to my patients’ dreams in therapy sessions, I have observed how, often, these can take us right to the root of the psychologic problem much quicker than other methods.” Although, we shouldn’t fool ourselves: dreams are a mystery that can rarely decipher everything. But if a certain level of interpretation helps us understand ourselves better, what more can we ask for? From a practical point of view, our own oneiric material can be very useful.
In dreams, relationships with others are a recurring theme. The people that appear in our dreams, especially strangers, represent facets of ourselves that the subconscious is showing us.
Well-known writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, and Woody Allen have had faith in this, acknowledging that part of their works have been inspired by dreams. The discoveries of Albert Einstein or Niels Bohr (father of modern atomic physics), among other celebrated scientists, had the same origin. In any case, these examples shouldn’t confuse us: no dream can tell you what path to follow through symbolic images without the intellect to decipher them.
Prosperity, precognition, and pronostics
What’s more, judging by some documented cases, we can even reap material gain from dreams. There is proof of some people that had premonitory dreams managing to earn significant sums of money thanks to their oneiric “magic.” The most spectacular case was in the fifties, when an Englishman named Harold Horwood won a considerable number of prizes betting on horses. His dreams transmitted clues as to the winning racehorse to bet on. Unfortunately, these types of premonitions don’t come to everyone. However, anyone has the opportunity to discover the greatest treasure of all—knowledge of one’s self—through their dreams.
We’ve all experienced the feeling of having lost control of our lives at some point. We might feel like others are deciding things for us or that we are victims of our circumstances.
Our “dream-scapes” contain valuable information about our desires and concerns; they could also function as a forecast of some aspect of our future. According to ancient tradition, dreaming of stars predicts prosperity and spiritual wealth. “Starry Night” (Van Gogh, 1889).
However, many psychologists disagree with this. That is, they argue that daily events are not coincidences but rather meaningful deeds that reflect the inner state of the individual.
Dreams and thoughts
According to these experts, luck is a pipe dream, something that does not exist, since that which we consider the result of coincidence is none other than the natural manifestation of our thoughts and attitudes. We are basically creator, not passive receivers or victims of the events that unravel in our lives.
An example that illustrates this idea perfectly is the story of the old man who threw rocks into the sea. One day, someone asked if he ever got bored of the simple game. The old pebble thrower stared at his questioner and gave an answer he’d never forget: “My small stones are more important than they seem, they provoke repercussions. They will help create waves that, sooner or later, will reach other other side of the ocean.”
What does this have to do with dreams? It’s simple: as we’ve just seen, we are the only ones responsible for our daily experiences, no matter how hard that is to believe. Therefore it shouldn’t be too difficult to take control of our lives; we just have to listen to the messages in our interior, that is, our oneiric thoughts, of which we are ultimately the authors.
In this way, thanks to dreams, our two existences—conscious and unconscious—can work together to make our lives more creative and free. An important part of this process is getting to know and understanding better the process of thought. One of the most beautiful and commonly used visualizations in yoga reminds us of this: “In the bottom of the lake of our thoughts is a jewel. In order for it to shine in the light of the sun (the divine), the water (the thoughts) must be pure and crystal clear and calm, free of waves (excitement). If our water is murky or choppy, others can’t see this jewel, our inner light...”
In the bottom of the lake of our thoughts is a jewel...
But it’s not that simple: it’s often difficult to discern the connection that unites wakefulness with sleep, between what we think ourselves to be and what our oneiric fantasies say about us. In any case, if our search is passionate and patient, constant and conscious, it will result in the discovery of our true Self. Therefore the interpretation of dreams cuts right to the heart of the message conceived by and for ourselves (although not consciously). It is important to learn to listen to them (further on we will discuss techniques for this) when it comes time to unstitch their meaning and extract the teachings that can enrich our lives.
The rooms in our dreams reflect unknown aspects of our personality.
In this way, when we have to make an important decision, we can clear up any doubts through a clear understanding of our most intimate desires. Although it may seem like common sense, this is not that common these days, since most people make decisions at random, out of habit, or by impulse.
The meaning and psychic effect of some deities in Tibetan Buddhism can be linked to the monsters that are so popular today.
Dreams allow creativity a free rein and free us from worry, sometimes resulting in surreal images that would be impossible in waking life.
Put simply, the idea is to find your true identity and recognize your wounds, fears, and joys through dreams. Never forget that the subconscious, although hidden, is an essential part of our personality. Dreams are fundamental for understanding the Self, since they are a direct path to this little-known part of ourselves. Their symbolic content allows us to recover repressed emotions and gives us a map to the relationships that surround us.
Nightmares that put us to the test
Sometimes the messages they bring us are not so pleasant and take the form of nightmares. However, although it may be hard to accept, these nightmares are valuable warnings that some aspects of our life are not
in harmony with our deepest Self and thus need our prompt intervention. Nightmares are proof that self discovery is not always pleasant. Sometimes it’s necessary to feel this pain in order to find out what you really are and need.
On the other hand, dreams give creativity a free rein because, when we sleep, we are free from our day-to-day worries. Therefore, even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, keep in mind that all the scenes, symbols, and characters that appear in your dreams have been created solely and exclusively by you.
It’s often very helpful to record dreams in a notebook (we will explain how further on) in order to later analyze them and apply their teachings to daily life.
It is quite the paradox; the human being awakens their most intimate reality precisely when they are sleeping.
Carl Gustav Jung, who dedicated his life to studying dreams, developed this metaphor: “People live in mansions of which they only know the basements.” Only when our conscience is sleeping do we manage to unveil some of the rooms of our magnificent house: rooms that may be dusty and inhospitable and fill us with terror and anxiety, or magnificent rooms where we want to stay forever.
Given that they all belong to us, it is reasonable to want to discover them all. Dreams, in this sense, are a fundamental tool.
How to remember dreams
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Sure, dreams are really important, but I can’t use them because I simply don’t remember them.” That’s not a problem, there are techniques you can use to strengthen your memory of oneiric thoughts. Techniques that, when applied correctly, allow us to remember dreams surprisingly well.
The use of these methods is indispensable in most cases since people tend to forget dreams completely when they wake up. Why? Because, according to the hypothesis of Sigmund Freud, we have a sort of internal censor that tries to prevent our oneiric activity from becoming conscious material.
Sometimes the message of dreams turns unpleasant and takes the form of a nightmare...
However, we can laugh in the face of this censor with a few tricks. The most drastic is to wake up suddenly when the deepest sleep phase (REM phase) is just about to end, so that you can rapidly write all the details of your mind’s theater in your notebook. Waking suddenly will take this censor by surprise, stopping it from doing its job. The best time to set the alarm is for four, five, six, or a little more than seven hours after going to sleep.
If your level of motivation is not high enough to get up in the middle of the night and record your dreams, there are alternatives that let you sleep for a stretch and then remember what you dream with great precision.
First of all, it’s helpful to develop some habits before going to bed, such as waiting a few hours between dinner and going to sleep. Experts recommend avoiding foods that cause gas (legumes like green beans, raw vegetables, etc.) and foods high in fat.
You must also keep in mind that, like tea and coffee, tobacco and alcohol alter the sleep cycle and deprive the body of a deep sleep (the damaging effects of a few glasses on the body does not disappear for about four hours).
What is recommended is to drink water or juice, or eat a yogurt, more than two hours after eating, before going to bed. There are two main reasons for this: liquids facilitate a certain purification of the body, and because, most interestingly for our purposes, it causes us to get up in the middle of the night. As we said, this will catch the internal censor by surprise and allow us to record our dreams easily.
Relaxing in bed and going over the events of the day helps free the mind and foster oneiric creativity.
Yoga exercises, such as the savasana pose, are great for relaxation, restful sleep, and a positive outlook.
It’s important to surround yourself with an environment that stimulates oneiric activity. You should feel comfortable in your room and your bed. The fewer clothes you wear to sleep, the better. Practicing relaxation techniques, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath a few minutes before getting into bed will help relieve stress so that you enjoy a deep restorative sleep.
There are good books on relaxation on the market, both autogenous and yogic; we recommend one of the most practical, Relajacion para gente muy ocupada (Relaxation for Busy People), by Shia Green, published by this same publishing house. However, the real key is to concentrate on remembering dreams. When you go to bed, go over the events of the day that were important to you. This way, you will increase the probability of dreaming about the subjects that most interest or worry you.
So, let’s suppose you’re asleep now. What should you do to remember dreams? First, try to wake up naturally, without external stimuli. If this isn’t possible, use the quietest possible alarm without radio. Once awake, stay in bed for a few moments with your eyes closed and try to hold your dreams in your memory as you gently transition into wakefulness. Take advantage of this time to memorize the images you dreamt. The final oneiric period is usually the longest and these instants are when it is most possible to remember dreams.
Remember that it’s best to write the keywords of the dream immediately upon waking. It is convenient to keep a notebook on the nightstand and reconstruct the dream during the day.
The dream notebook
Next, write in the notebook (that you have left beside your bed) whatever your mind has been able to retain, no matter how absurd or trivial your dreams seem, even if you only remember small fragments. This is not the moment to make evaluations or interpretations. The exercise is to simply record everything that crosses your mind with as much detail as possible. Giving the fragility of memory, it’s okay to start off with just a few key words that summarize the content of the dream. These words will help you reconstruct the dream later in the day if you don’t have enough time in the morning. Ideally this notebook will gradually become a diary or schedule that allows you to study, analyze, and compare a series of dreams. Through a series of recorded episodes, you can detect recurring characters, situations, or themes. This is something that’s easy to miss at first glance. One important detail: specialists recommend you date and title each dream, since this helps you remember them in later readings.
It’s also interesting to complement your entries with relevant annotations: what feelings were provoked, which aspects most drew your attention, which colors predominated, etc. An outline or drawing of the most significant images can also help you unravel the meaning. Finally, you should write an initial personal interpretation of the dream. For that, the second part of this book offers some useful guidelines.
While we dream, there is a sort of safety mechanism that inhibits our movement. Therefore, sleepwalkers don’t walk during the REM phase. This protects us from acting out the movements of our dreams and possibly hurting ourselves. Still from the Spanish movie Carne de fieras (Flesh of beasts) (1936).
As we’ve seen, there are a series of techniques to remember dreams. This is the first step to extracting their wisdom. Now, given that oneiric thoughts are a source of inspiration for solving problems, wouldn’t it be great to choose what you dream about before you go to sleep? Rather than waiting for dreams to come to us spontaneously, try to make them focus on the aspects of your life that interest you.
How to determine the theme of dreams
Let’s imagine that someone is not very satisfied with their job. They’d like to get into another line of work but are afraid of losing the job security they enjoy. On one hand, they’re not so young anymore, they should take the risk to get what they really want. But they don’t know what to do. They need a light, a sign, an inspiration. In short, they need a dream. But not just any dream, a dream that really centers on their problem and gives answers.
However, if you limit yourself to just “consulting your pillow,” you won’t get the desired results. There is a possibility you will be lucky and dream about what you’re interested in, but more likely you will dream of anything but. If we are really prepared to dive into that which worries us most intimately, we can direct our dreams to give us concrete answers. Just like the techniques to remember dreams, the process is simple: before sleeping, we must concentrate on the subject of interest.
It’s also best to write in your notebook all the events and emotions of the day that were most important before you go to sleep.
Once your impressions and theme to dream have been noted, concentrate on the subject that most bothers you. Think about it carefully; propose questions and alternatives, “listen” to your own emotions. It’s best if all possible doubts are noted in the dream notebook. This way you’re more likely to receive an answer.
In order for it to be an effective answer, the question must be well defined. The fundamental idea of the problem should be summed up in a single phrase. Once you’ve reflected on the problem, it’s time to go to bed. But the “homework” is not finished yet. Before going to sleep, you need to concentrate on the concrete question. You need to forget everything else, even the details. Just “visualize” and repeat the question, without thinking of anything else, until you fall asleep.
Oneiric thoughts are a source of inspiration. Annotating and analyzing them carefully fosters a process of self discovery.
Writing a dream notebook
You should always have a notebook and pen near your bed to write down dreams the moment you wake up. Don’t forget to always write the date. What details should you include in this kind of diary? As many as you remember, the more the better.
Dreams are “signs,” messages from our subconscious, and the study and interpretation of them helps resolve the problems that worry us.
Nocturnal sleep puts us in touch with the deepest level of being, which allows us to approach our problems with a wider perspective. And induced dreams tend to be easier to remember than other oneiric activity.
When we dream, we enter a marvelous world that escapes the laws of spatial and temporal logic.... Dreampedia
For example, if you are chased in your dream, this will show a sense of insecurity. Dreams Interpreted, each page reveals the fantastic meanings of quotidian objects and occurrences that surface in your reveries. Make a note of it when you wake up so you do not forget your dream.... About Dream Interpretation
The theme of missing an exam, to take one example, commonly begins during college years, when the stress of performing well may be more intense than ever before. However, this theme may then carry forward as a recurring dream for many years, even as one moves on to a career.
The “missing the exam” dream may reappear the night before an important job interview or an evaluation at work.
The circumstances may change, but the same feelings of stress, and the desire to perform well, can trigger the relevant recurrent dream. Theorists suggest that these themes may be considered “scripts” (Spoormaker, 2008) or perhaps “complexes” (Freud 1950); as soon as your dream touches any aspect of the theme, the full script unfolds in completion. Dream theorists generally agree that recurring dreams are connected to unresolved problems in the life of the dreamer. In a previous post I discussed the idea that dreams often portray a Central Image, a powerful dream image that contextualizes a certain emotion or conflict for the dreamer.
The Tidal Wave dream is an example of a Central Image that represents overwhelming emotions such as helplessness and fear.
The Tidal Wave dream is a common dream to experience following trauma or abuse, and often becomes a recurrent theme that reflects a person’s struggling with integrating and accepting the trauma. Resolution of this theme over time is a good sign that the trauma has been confronted and adaptively integrated in the psyche. Empirical research has also supported findings that resolution of a recurrent dream is associated with improved well-being (Zadra, 1996). This is one way that keeping track of your dreams can be extremely informative and helpful in a therapeutic, or even self-help, process.
The dream repeats because you have not corrected the problem. Another theory is that people who experience recurring dreams have some sort of trauma in their past they are trying to deal with. In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time. Nightmares are dreams that are so distressing they usually wake us up, at least partially. Nightmares can occur at any age but are seen in children with the most frequency. Nightmares usually cause strong feelings of fear, sadness or anxiety. Their causes are varied. Some medications cause nightmares (or cause them if you discontinue the medication abruptly). Traumatic events also cause nightmares. Treatment for recurring nightmares usually starts with interpreting what is going on in the dream and comparing that with what is happening in the person’s life. Then, the person undergoes counseling to address the problems that are presumably causing the nightmare. Some sleep centers offer nightmare therapy and counseling. Another method of treating nightmares is through lucid dreaming. Through lucid dreaming, the dreamer can confront his or her attacker and, in some cases, end the nightmares.... About Dream Interpretation
Once upon a time not so long ago, an inventor was struggling with a major problem. His name was Elias Howe, and for years he had been trying to solve this problem, so that he could complete a machine he was building—a machine that would in time change the world. He was missing a small but vital detail, and, try as he would, he just couldn’t figure it out. Needless to say, Howe was a very frustrated man. One night, after another long day of fruitless work on his project, he dreamed he had been captured by fierce savages. These warriors were attacking him with spears. Although in the dream he was terrified he would be killed, he noticed that the spears were unusual looking: each one had an eye- shaped hole at the pointed end. When Howe woke up, it hit him like a brick: he had actually dreamed the answer to his problem. His nightmare was a blessing in disguise. He immediately saw that the eye of the spear could be an eye in a sewing needle, near its point. Elated with the discovery, he rushed to his laboratory and finished the design of his invention: the sewing machine. The rest, as they say, is history.
The list of what dreams can do for you seems endless. We’ve touched on a few of these benefits of dreaming in the preface and introduction. Now let’s go into a bit more detail. I want you to get really excited about your own dream potential. And, once you realize the possibilities, I think you will.
The history of dreams is filled with stories of famous people who have called on their dreams for help, or who have received help unexpectedly from their dreams. Here are a few more interesting stories to illustrate the point:
The physicist Niels Bohr, who developed the theory of the movements of electrons, had a dream in which he saw the planets attached to the sun by strings. This image inspired him to finalize his theory.
The great Albert Einstein reported that the famous theory of relativity came to him while he was napping—a good reason for taking frequent naps!
Author Richard Bach, who wrote the bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was stuck in a writer’s block after writing the first half of his now-famous novel. It was eight years later that he literally dreamed the second half and was able to complete his book.
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman told reporters that his classic film Cries and Whispers had been inspired by a dream.
Another writer, the well-loved British author Robert Louis Stevenson, was quite dependent on his dreams for ideas that he could turn into sellable stories. Stevenson has related in his memoirs that after a childhood tortured by nightmares, and his successful efforts to overcome them, he was able to put his dreams to work for profit.
A born storyteller (though he started out as a medical student), he was accustomed to lull himself to sleep by making up stories to amuse himself. Eventually, he turned this personal hobby into a profession, becoming a writer of tales like Treasure Island. He identified his dream-helpers as “little people,” or “Brownies.” Once he was in constant contact with this inner source, his nightmares vanished, never to return. Instead, whenever he was in need of income he turned to his dreams:
At once the little people begin to bestir themselves in the same quest, and labour all night long, and all night long set before him truncheons of tales upon their lighted theatre. No fear of his being frightened now; the flying heart and the frozen scalp are things bygone; applause, growing applause, growing interest, growing exultation in his own cleverness . . . and at last a jubilant leap to wakefulness, with the cry, “I have it, that’ll do!”
Stevenson wrote his autobiography in the third person, not revealing that he was the subject until the end.
Stevenson further states that sometimes when he examined the story his Brownies had provided, he was disappointed, finding it unmarketable. However, he also reported that the Brownies “did him honest service and gave him better tales than he could fashion for himself,” that “they can tell him a story piece by piece, like a serial, and keep him all the while in ignorance of where they aim.”
Stevenson’s Brownies are a perfect example of dream helpers just waiting to be called upon. A particularly famous example of the work of Stevenson’s Brownies is the tale The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As he explains:
I had long been trying to write a story on this subject, to find a body, a vehicle, for that strong sense of man’s double being, which must at times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking creature. [After he destroyed an earlier version of the manuscript . . .] For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterwards split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers. All the rest was made awake, and consciously, although I think I can trace in much of it the manner of my Brownies.
Although Stevenson did the “mechanical work, which is about the worst of it,” writing out the tales with pen and paper, mailing off the stories to publishers, paying the postage, and not incidentally collecting the fees, he gave his Brownies almost total credit for his productions.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a British poet, was accustomed to taking a sedative derived from opium (legal in those days). One afternoon after taking a dose he was reading and fell asleep over his book. The last words he read had been, “Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built.” When Coleridge awoke some three hours later he had dreamed hundreds of lines of poetry, which he immediately set to writing down. The opening lines of this poem—one of the most famous of all time—are:
Unfortunately for posterity, after writing only fifty-four lines of the two to three hundred he had dreamed, Coleridge was interrupted by a caller, whom he entertained for an hour. When he returned to complete the poem, he had lost all the rest of what he had dreamed! In his diary he noted that it had disappeared “like images on the surface of a stream.” Even so, he had written a masterpiece. This true story, however, emphasizes the need to record dreams upon awakening, a subject we will take up in chapters 5 and 6.
Not only artists and writers give their dreams credit for their ideas and inspirations, but many scientists as well (as we saw in the examples of Bohr and Einstein). Psychologist Eliot D. Hutchinson reports numerous cases of scientists receiving information through dreams and says of dreams that “by them we can see more clearly the specific mechanism of intuitive thought,” and that “a large number of thinkers with whom I have had direct contact admit that they dream more or less constantly about their work, especially if it is exceptionally baffling . . . they often extract useful conceptions.”
I personally can attest to this statement, as it mirrors my own experience writing books. For example, when I began work on this book about dreams, I noticed that my dream production immediately doubled; and I have had Stevenson’s experience of “little people,” whom I call my “elves,” and whom I write about extensively in my book for teens called Teen Astrology, telling about how they came to my rescue when I was quite stuck (see chapter 9, pages 249– 252 in that book).
One of the most astonishing as well as fascinating stories is that of Hermann V. Hilprecht, a professor of Assyrian at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. It seems to be a characteristic of those who receive dream help that they have recently been working long and hard and are frustrated. In Hilprecht’s case, he was working late one evening in 1893, attempting to decipher the cuneiform characters on drawings of two small fragments of agate. He thought they belonged to Babylonian finger rings, and he had tentatively assigned one fragment to the so-called Cassite period of 1700 B.C.E. However, he couldn’t classify the second fragment. And he wasn’t at all sure about the first either. He finally gave up his efforts at about midnight and went straight to bed—and had the following dream, which was his “astounding discovery.”
Hilprecht dreamed of a priest of pre-Christian Nippur, several thousand years ago, who led the professor into the treasure chamber of the temple and showed him the originals, telling him just how the fragments fitted in, all in great detail. Although the dream was long and involved, Hilprecht remembered it all and in the morning told it to his wife. In his words: “Next morning . . . I examined the fragments once more in the light of these disclosures, and to my astonishment found all the details of the dream precisely verified in so far as the means of verification were in my hands.”
Up until then, Hilprecht had been working only with drawings. Now he traveled to the museum in Constantinople where the actual agate fragments were kept and discovered that they fitted together perfectly, unlocking the secret of a three-thousand-year-old mystery by means of a dream!
How did this happen? Clairvoyance? Magic? Who was the priest? How was it that Hilprecht seemed to make contact in a dream with someone who had lived so long before him? We will never know the answers to these questions; but we do know from the professor’s own words that this is exactly what happened to him. (It makes you wonder whether Professor Hilprecht was in the habit of paying attention to his dreams!)
No doubt one of the most famous dream sources of scientific discovery was experienced by the German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé, when he was attempting to understand and model the molecular structure of benzene. Like Professor Hilprecht, Kekulé had been searching for the answer for many years and was totally immersed in the problem. He told of a dream he had while he napped in front of his fireplace one frigid night in 1865:
Again the atoms were juggling before my eyes:
My mind’s eye, sharpened by repeated sights of a similar kind, could not distinguish larger structures of different forms and in long chains, many of them close together; everything was moving in a snake-like and twisting manner. Suddenly, what was this? One of the snakes got hold of its own tail and the whole structure was mockingly twisting in front of my eyes. As if struck by lightning, I awoke.
This dream led Kekulé directly to the discovery of the structure of benzene, which is a closed carbon ring. A dream had presented a realization that served to revolutionize modern chemistry. Later, reporting his discovery to his colleagues at a scientific convention in 1890, he remarked, “Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, and then we may perhaps find the truth.” Not the sort of comment one generally expects from a scientist!
Here is the story of another scientist. Otto Loewi, who won the 1936 Nobel
Prize in Psychology and Medicine for his discovery of how the human nervous system works, credited this discovery to a dream. Prior to Loewi, scientists had assumed that the body’s nervous impulses were the result of electrical waves. However, in 1903 Loewi had the intuition that a chemical transmission was actually responsible. But he had no way to prove his theory, so he set the idea aside for many years. Then, in 1920, he had the following dream:
The night before Easter Sunday of that year I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of thin paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at six o’clock in the morning that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at three o’clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether or not the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered seventeen years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory and performed a simple experiment on a frog’s heart according to the nocturnal design:
Its results became the foundation of the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse.
Interestingly, Loewi had previously performed a similar experiment, which combined in his dreaming mind with the new idea, creating the successful result. This is an excellent example of the ability of dreams to combine with previous dreams, or with actual events, to produce fertile new ground.
These are some of the stories of famous people who have used dreams to solve problems, enhance creativity, and even make money and win important prizes. They are all evidence of the vast human ability to make use of dreams. As you draw upon your own dream life and develop skills in both dreaming and interpreting your dreams, you will become an advanced teen dreamer. Think of your dreams as a school where you are continually learning new skills and developing new aptitudes, reaching ever higher levels of achievement.
As you pay conscious attention to your dreams, and then use your dream symbols in your waking life, you will be integrating yourself, creating the greatest artwork of your life: your whole and unique Self.... Dreampedia
Throughout recorded history humankind has valued the dream. A source of guidance, inspiration, prophecy, predic tion and problem solving, dreams are a common experience to us all. They know no boundaries between young and old, rich and poor, races, religions and nationalities, In every cul ture we find some version of “sleeping on a problem” before making a decision. The Bible and other ancient texts are filled with examples of how dreams have played important roles in people’s lives.
What is this wonderful dimension that is so near and yet so far? To understand the real meaning of dreams we must delve beneath the surface to the purpose of it all. Why are we here? How are we to answer the age-old question: Who am I?... Dreampedia