The Origin of the Material of Dreams

The Origin of the Material of Dreams

We must be wondering where does the dream come from when we sleep? It may seem so real to ones’ reality, although dreams appear to be vivid and abstract. From time to time people have been interpreting their dreams. Some people believe that dreams are a sign sent from God, some people believe dreams are wish—fulfillment  to our deepest state of unconsciousness, and some people also believe that dreams are just a byproduct of brain wave activity and have no significant meaning to our psychological state.   Then, if it is the case, why are we dreaming? And where does it come from? And is there any psychological effect on our lives? And how do we interpret the dream?

Let’s go back to the time telescope. Ancient beliefs that dreams come from God, as a sign or messages sent by God during sleep. Ancient civilization such as Mesopotamia and Egypt viewed dreams as signs or messages from their gods, created their own Dream book-emphasised on the dream symbols and its meanings. Egyptian believed that dream can reveal fragments of the future, by giving sacrifices, celebrating rituals and reciting prayers. Both dream interpretation tradition influences on other cultural beliefs of dream interpretation afterwards.

Meanwhile, the religious discourses of dream interpretation accept the notion of the divine presence and inspiration within the dreams,which lead to the prophetic message and revelation. However, the religious discourse of dream interpretation do not separate divine presence and human consciousness and thought.

Early Christianity believed the idea that dreams more or less has a divine inspiration. Christianity finds dreams are significant in human lives because God chose to communicate through the dream. And He said, “Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num. 12.6). Christianity viewed that dreams reveal the conditions of one’s heart and as the source of the voice of God within one’s heart. Providing guidance and gifts from God.

Moreover, Hebrew also connects the dream with a religious emphasis. The Hebrew believed that dream is the voice of God alone. The dream can receive divine revelation. However, the Hebrew tradition differentiates the dreams between the good dreams (from God) and the bad dreams (from evil spirits).

Similarly, In Islamic tradition of dream interpretation placed dream as a guide from God to the faithful, especially in Quranic revelation. The prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “nothing is left of prophet-hood,except glad tidings”,those with him asked,”what is glad tidings?” He replied, “true dreams/vision”. The Dream Interpretation tradition is also carried and practiced in many Sufi riders and has distinguished place in Islamic wisdom tradition. Prophet Muhammad mentioned that prophecy would come only through dreams.

Islamic tradition in theology of dreams divided into types. According to Sahih Muslim, Muhammad said, “there are three types of dreams, a righteous dream which is glad tidings from Allah, the dream which causes sadness is from Shaitan,and a dream from the rambling of the mind”.

The Greeks also consider the dream as a sign from their gods, emphasising the presence of their gods in their dreams. According to Shushan, “Greek dream-books often contained numerous description in which divine instruction led the dreamer to perform tasks that were ultimately interpreted s prophetic messages sent by gods during sleep”.

However, Greek philosopher is not only analysed dreams in terms of religious content, but also analysed in scientific interpretation. Around 335 BC, Aristotle interprets dreams in which human capacity of imaginations influences within the dreams. Hippocrates analysed dreams as an important indicator of physical and mental health.  And seeing dreams comes from human thoughts,  rather than follow the believe of the divine sources within dream’s content. Moreover, Aristotle suggests that “dreams were not actually message sent from a God; he argued that animals could dream and God would ever send messages to anything less than that the superior human”. Aristotle emphasis on the human imagination that responsible for the reality appear during the dream. In other words, Aristotle emphasises that dreams were the extension of reality.

Artemidorus, a Greek philosopher around 100 AD who wrote Oneirocritica, which later, his books influencing the contemporary dream book interpretation, including the work of Sigmund Freud’s the interpretation of Dreams. Oneirocriticea (Interpretation of dreams) that discussed the symbolism and meanings within dreams. According to Hall, “Artemidorus placed emphasis on the true value of using the content of dreams to predict future events;he often compared his dream interpretation to events that actually transpired after the interpretation”. Coolidge states that, “Artemidorus knew that the age, physical health of an individual, and previous events they experienced have an effect of the quality and content of their dreams” .

“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road of the unconscious”-Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud’s work of The Interpretation of Dreams achieved a great contribution to influence the contemporary modern theory of dream interpretation. He gained the influence of the Greek philosopher such as Aristotle, Plato and also Artemidorus in the theoretical structures of the mind- body problem and the idea of psyche to explain the traditional belief in dream interpretation. Freud acquires the idea of the ancient Greek philosopher of ‘trinity of souls’, ‘Tripartite Mind’, theory of ego, superego and id. According to Freud, “Dreams are considered to be a conscious expression of the fulfillment of particular wish or impulse rooted from early childhood which has been repressed into the unconscious.” Moreover, He analysed that dreams would expose the expression of certain wishes and desires of the unconscious mind.

Freud’s work influence a great mind such as  Carl Jung, and continues to influence the modern day dream interpretation. Although his work is becoming the cornerstone of the modern theory of dream analysis, his view is challenged by many other ideas. Carl Jung is influence by Freud’s idea of an unconscious presence in dreams, however, Jung added and felt the spiritual significance role in dream experience. According to Jacobi, “Freud thought that dreams were a way of revealing the unconsciousness, Jung thought that this obtained simply by way of free-association, and that dreams could reveal something deeper and more spiritual”.

According to Jung, “along with  personal conscious that is devoted to your personal experiences, we also posseses a ‘collective unconscious”, in which Archetypes are universal symbols that mean the same thing for everyone”. Symbols are important aspect in Jungian psychology dream interpretation. Moreover, Jung sees dreams as like the unconscious, they have their own language. “it was ridiculous to not pay attention to the signs presented to us, as we wouldn’t ignore our conscious state” (Jung).

“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night , which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends”- Carl Jung

As with many great theories about dream interpretation, the antithesis and parallel conceptions of dreams source seems intertwined from the time of ancient into religious and modern day interpretation. Whether the dream source comes from God or human thought that separating prophecy and rational prediction. Therefore, the mystery of the source of dreams is still discussed among scholars that in a hope find unity regardless any theories of dream interpretation. And so, what is your dream mean to you? Subjective experience of personal experience is essential in searching for collective unconsciousness that we all posses.

kahlil gibran dream