Dreams and Facts

While we dream, we take the dream as fact. We do not doubt that we are in a real situation, moving our real body among real objects and people. We live as if the dream were the only reality. Sometimes when we awaken, the dream continues to haunt our mind. More commonly, the dream world dissolves, exposing its unreality compared with the waking state that replaces it. We no longer encounter the sense data that manifested in the dream, nor do we use the dream senses that were mysteriously awake and active while our body lay beneath the covers. We cannot revive the same dream story when next we sleep. It has gone, clearing the way for new productions.

The tendency to view dreams as unreal is partly the result of our science-formed mentality. The subjective nature of the dream world disqualifies it from providing data and evidence that are meaningful in real life. We depart even further from fact by attempting to say what a particular dream means. Through dream interpretation, we may learn more about the mind of the dreamer, but such phenomena have no proven causal validity in our practical life.

It was different in the ancient world, when dreams were often viewed as communications from a higher source of knowledge, transmitting warnings and predictions. Such was Pharaoh’s dream about the starved and well-fed cattle, which Joseph interpreted as signs of the harvests of the coming years. Rulers depended on such predictions and would reward sooth-sayers with high office, as long as their counsel was correct. The bible has many references to God-inspired dreams that determine a particular course of action in the outer world; for example, the flight of the holy family to Egypt was prompted by the warning of an angel in a dream.

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This article is from the Spring 2021 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.