It is a common but mistaken idea that all dreams are mystically significant or prophetic. The oldest mystical writings indicate that primitive man was often horrified by dreams of any kind; and because he knew so little about mind and its actions and the brain and its peculiarities, he felt sure that the experiences through which he passed in his dreams were either satanic or divine. He was impressed with the possibility that during sleep he was a different character than when awake.
Many of the ancients believed that revelations from the various gods came to them through the agency of dreams and during the Middle Ages belief in dreams as divine revelations of some kind became part of the Christian doctrines.
The general belief in such prophetic symbols in dreams later led to the preparation of dream books and dictionaries of dreams. It is regrettable that so much that is worthless is so easily accessible to the seeker for simple reading matter about mysticism.
Man should realize, first of all, that the mere fact that dreams occur is proof of his ability to extract from the storehouse of memory certain associated and disassociated facts.
One is in a lighter state of sleep when dreaming than perhaps at any other time. Just what constitutes the dream state we do not knew; however, it is a borderline condition much like that during which many forms of psychic functioning are made manifest. It is unquestionably a state during which the recorded things and registered impressions of the storehouse of memory pass easily into the objective consciousness, across the veil between the chambers of consciousness.
We know, of course, that all registered impressions remain a permanent record in the subconscious memory, and we also know that all impressions made upon the eyes and ears and other sentient faculties of the body do not really registered themselves upon us. Only those things which hold our attention sufficiently long for us to have a concentrated consciousness of them are registered, and this registration automatically passes through the indelible records of memory.
During the dream state, however, it would appear that withdrawing these registered impressions is simple; so easy, in fact, that often the impressions seem to rise up out of their entombed and forgotten place and parade before our psychic consciousness without control or direction.
As stated above, the registered impressions that are stored away in the permanent memory of the psychic self are so classified and indexed by subject and related subject that, in order to extract any of them from their well protected place, one mush have the proper key to recall them.
If someone asks us what we did on the first Monday of July last year, we may be unable to answer until we look at a calendar and discover that the first Monday in July was the Fourth of July. Instantly, that date becomes a key to the recorded impressions in our memory, and with it we can perhaps instantly bring back from the recesses of the memory the registered impressions of things that occurred on that day.
The process of Recall
The whole process of recalling from the memory facts that are stored there is based upon this principle of association of ideas. Whenever one tries to recall the address of someone, a telephone number, or some other incident in connection with a person or place, he generally concentrates for a few moments and excludes all other impressions while he proceeds to correlate and associate certain things in order to bring fore the key to the fact that he desires to recall.
The same thing often occurs in dreams. Here it is not necessary to concentrate in order to blot out all other objective impressions, for the borderline state of sleep has already blotted them out, leaving one free to manipulate the subconscious actions relating to recollection.
Two things can occur in such a state that are responsible for dreams. Conditions of our own body and physical consciousness may suddenly present us with a key to some locked-up impression in the memory; or some external psychic or mental impression coming to us may furnish a key.
Let me take the first method and explain it. Dreams usually occur in a peculiar borderline state, midway between complete and partial objectivity. In this state, the sudden blowing on our face or hands of a cold breeze from an open window may give us an objective impression of extreme coldness. In the borderline state, this is interpreted as a chilly, icy impression and may be taken as a key to subjects pertaining to the North Pole, winter with its ice and snow, a sudden plunge into an ice-covered lake, or many other things connect with extreme cold.
With such a key, the memory storehouse of impressions connected with such subjects is unlocked, and out into the subjective consciousness come parading all the impressions which have ever been registered in our memory from books, moving pictures, and actual experiences pertaining to the North, to frozen areas, to winter, and to coldness an dice generally.
In the morning, we recall having a dream about skating and falling into a frozen lake, of being high up in the air in an airplane where it is very cold, or of being on an expedition to the North Pole.
Perhaps, while we were in the borderline state, something or someone touched us on the hand or face, giving an impression of a sudden jolt or shock, and this may be interpreted as a pistol wound or a blow with evil intent. Immediately, impressions relating to such things are unlocked from the memory, and we have another peculiar dream.
We might go on and cite thousands of things such as sounds, flashes of coloured lights, the changes of temperature in a room, little pains from an improperly digested meal, the unusual touch of the blankets on some part of the face, and so forth, which could cause the unlocking of impressions from the memory.
In the other instance of impressions received from external sources, we have that of thoughts received from the minds of other persons. Perhaps someone somewhere is thinking of us so concentratedly that there is a transmission of the thought, which acts as a key and unlocks impressions regarding the person whose thought reached us while we were in the borderline state. If the impressions do not relate to the person who sent the thought, they may relate to things connected with his life and activities.
There is a possible third process whereby we may receive an impression from the Cosmic in regard to some event transpiring at some distant place or about to occur, for all things are registered in the Cosmic before they manifest on the material plane. Receiving such an impression may also cause us to dream by supplying a key to the memory storehouse.
So we see that dreams may be caused in many ways. It may be there are dreams caused by a book falling from the open shelves of the memory library, opening itself to some page of past impressions, which rise and pass in review before subjective consciousness.
It seems to be a fact that nothing we dream ever pertains to something we have not registered in its fundamental idea. Of course, we may take the impressions from the memory of a giraffe and hippopotamus and combine them into a unique animal, seeing it in all its grotesqueness as part of our dream. Later, we are certain that it could not have come from the memory because we could never have seen and registered such an animal. Likewise, we may take several impressions from the memory pertaining to occurrences in our lives and unite them so as to make a new impression or a new picture, much to our surprise and inability to explain.
Not all dreams are recalled. Many do not pass over into the objective consciousness at all. That peculiar borderline state in which dreams occur is a rapidly fluctuating state with most sleepers. The turning in bed from one side to the other partially awakens every sleeper and for a moment brings him to a borderline state which may last but a few seconds; but during that short space of time, a dream may be started.
However, before it is underway, the sleeper is again more than ninety percent unconscious and the dream never reaches the objective mind. On the other hand, in those periods when deep sleep seems to be impossible and a borderline state lasts for many minutes or an hour or more at a time, there may be many dreams or one long one which will pass over to the objective consciousness and remain there and be vivid in the mind in the morning.
All in all, dreams are intensely interesting and certainly prove that man has a dual consciousness and a dual state of mind, that he can live at times in either state or on the borderline of both.
One thing should be kept in mind: it is quite impossible for another to interpret your dreams. The oracles or wise men of the past who interpreted dreams, like those of today who pretend to interpret them, could do nothing more than guess at the significance of any dream.
If there is in the dream a real communication or impression of prophecy or advice being transmitted to you from some other person’s mind, no one but you and the person who sent the unconscious or conscious thought as a key can fathom the mystery of the dream or tell its significance.
Therefore, dream books and dream dictionaries are useless. If your dream means anything at all, it must be interpreted by you: and if it seems unusually significant, the thing to do is to analyse it as best you can and make a note of the date and day, recording your brief analysis of it. Then see if some future dream or experience will check with it in some way. By this process, you can discover after a year or so whether your dreams have any significance to you or not.
- Extracted from the article Dreams by Dr. H. Spencer Lewis