Dreams, Prophecies, and Proving That You’re More Useful Asleep Than You Are Awake
People may not realize it, but much of our history and culture is based on dreams. Dreams have paved the way for scientists, writers, artists, directors, politicians, activists, doctors, inventors, and so on. At one time or another, each and every one of us has had a dream that either sparked an idea or helped us iron out the issues we had with ideas that had already occurred to us.
1. Dream Types
There are two different types of dreams: vivid dreams and indistinct dreams. An indistinct dream is the type that lasts no more than a minute or two and is easily forgotten if an effort isn’t made to retain it. These dreams are a collection of all the things that don’t make it into our conscious minds. Hopes, fears, doubts, etc., all combine in a hodgepodge of sequences that are influenced by our day-to-day activities, as well as anything we saw or noticed before going to bed.
If we’re nervous about tomorrow’s math test and we just watched a zombie movie, then maybe the dream we’ll have that night will include zombie teachers eating our faces off for failing the exam. More or less detail could be added to this sequence by our minds, depending on how we think and what we experience. The second type of dream, the vivid dreams, is more involved and only occurs after certain conditions have been met.
With four stages of sleep to look forward to, you would think that a combination of all of them would be required before a person would be able to dream. That isn’t the case. The stage where dreaming is possible is known as the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage. Some people are able to skip REM altogether, and when they do so, they don’t dream. Scientists aren’t able to understand why some people skip this stage and why some don’t, or even why people who would normally go through the stage are able to ignore it without a hitch. They also don’t understand why just entering REM sleep doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will dream.
2. The “What” of Dreaming
As you can probably guess, not much is understood as far as the WHY of dreaming is concerned. In some cases, however, the ‘why’ isn’t as important as the ‘what’. What did you dream about? What did it mean? What will you do about it, if anything? While unexplained mysteries for the most part, dreams have proven themselves to be points of references worth reckoning with in the long run.
During World War I Hitler had a dream that he was buried alive under dirt and hot iron. When he awoke in the trenches, he left. He had barely escaped before a shell exploded where he’d been and killed all of the soldiers that had been with him.
Someone once dreamed that seven fat cows ate seven scrawny cows. This sequence was immediately followed by the sight of seven ears of healthy corn being devoured by seven bad ears of corn. A pharaoh of ancient Egypt was the one who had this dream and it was correctly interpreted to mean that the Pharaoh’s lands would experience seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of death and famine.
Normally, a dream like that would have been ignored as something strange, but unimportant. Thankfully, it occurred during a time when the interpretation of dreams was tantamount to a prediction of the future because now we can look back on this dream (along with others like it) and acquire a certain level of understanding about dreams in general.
The point that I’m trying to make is that while some people accomplish no more than an improved grade on their science experiment, others have gone on to build entire cities and cultures based on concepts and inspirations derived from their own dreams. Dreams are important, whether we admit to it or not. Without them, many of the technological and entertainment advancements that the human race has made over the years would never have come to fruition. The best way to understand the impact that dreams have had on our society is to first look at a few examples of a dreamer’s influence at work.
3. Inspiration Through Dreams
Take “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley. Shelley was born in 1797 and was well known for her novels and poetry. The book that got the highest acclaim and recognition would have to be Frankenstein (written in 1817 and published in 1818). Like many writers, Shelley was inspired by a dream of a specific scene, and from there, the rest of the work simply grew around it.
Stephanie Mayer, author of “Twilight,” also got her inspiration for her books through a dream. In her case, it was the introduction of her two main characters (Bella and Edward) that sparked the tinder that eventually evolved into the Twilight saga.
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is another example of written works being created from dreams. Robert Louis Stevenson apparently dreamt up the plot for the book, and when you think about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it’s easy to understand how a dream (or rather a nightmare) was responsible for its evolution from a simple idea to an iconic story. Writers aren’t the only ones whose work has been influenced by dreams.
A number of musicians, like Paul McCartney, were able to create and record some of the most well known songs in our history thanks to dreams they had. McCartney, in particular, credits the formation of the melody for his song, “Yesterday,” to a song he created while he was asleep. “Tintin in Tibet” is an album of comics that was inspired by the nightmares of Belgian artist, Herge.
Artistic appreciation and literature aren’t the only ways in which dreams have helped shape us. James Watson once dreamed of spiral staircases, and because of that dream, he and Francis Crick were able to work from there to discover the inner structure of DNA. In 1845, Elias Howe had a dream about being prepped like a pig on a spit for cannibals, and from that dream, he was able to come up with the concept that made the sewing machine possible.
In November 1619, Friedrich August Kekule dreamed up the basis for the scientific method, while Abraham Lincoln and Caligula both dreamed of their own assassinations. In the end, Martin Luther King, Jr. really did have a dream (it wasn’t just a catchy phrase for his speech), and while his dream may not have been prophetic per se, it did help him along in his quest to achieve it.
4. Dreams of the Philosophers and Prophets
Prophetic dreams have affected everyone from kings to slaves, and throughout the passage of time, we have watched as influential person after influential person either listened to these dreams or ignored them. Some leaders avoided death thanks to the foresight offered by their subconscious, while some military leaders (i.e. Hannibal) trusted these dreams so much that they planned entire battles around the information garnered from them.
It was said that Cassandra of Troy dreamed of the great city’s fall, while priests, saints, Apostles, and so on (i.e. Joan of Arc), have claimed that they were visited by their respective Gods (or the messengers of those gods) during dreams for purposes that were then unapparent to dreamer and regular person both.
There have been a number of philosophers and prophets who have taken their predictions from dreams. They have reportedly seen everything from the apocalypse to 9/11 from as far back as ancient Rome. The ancient Mayans, the Aztecs, the ancient Egyptians, and even the Picts, Greeks, and Romans all have their own eclectic history with dreams. Some say that dreams are what led them to build some of the most complex and architecturally sound cities long before their time, while others claim it was dreams that led to their downfall.
The idea that dreams can hold so much sway over a person, in addition to accurately predicting future events, has been a topic of much dissention. There are as many theories as to why these types of dreams are valid as there are actual dreams themselves, and as of today, no one theory has prevailed over the others.
5. The Role of the Subconscious Mind
The popular and most long-standing theory is that dreams are predictions and prophecies. The belief is that, while asleep, our subconscious is more attuned to the natural hints that the universe provides to us. It is sort of like using our ‘third eye’ when asleep rather than when we’re awake. Another popular theory is that the dreams themselves don’t mean anything. Rather, it’s the interpretation of the dreams that are of real use. This theory follows the idea that when a person has a concern, and he or she falls asleep, they are then allowing their subconscious to work on the problem for them.
The solution or outcome of the problem is then presented to them in a dream, from which they are allowed to interpret the answers however they like. Let’s look at the example of the pharaoh who dreamed of seven years of prosperity and seven of famine. It could have been that the pharaoh was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of his land and its people. Not enough farmland, too little rain during the rainy season, an increase or decrease in droughts or heat, an expected alliance that could bring in income, etc.
It could then be assumed that, from these things, the Pharaoh was able to make an accurate guess of just how long his good luck could run before he would begin to have problems. In that case, it wasn’t mysticism or the universe that warned him, but his own ingrained sense.
This theory also covers the phenomenon when a person’s life is saved or ended, depending on whether or not they listened to or ignored the warnings given in their sleep. For some, the fact that Hitler avoided that falling shell, or that kings, presidents, and the like have avoided death or injury thanks to either their own dreams or someone else’s, all has to do with an acute survival instinct. They felt or noticed danger through their own senses and while they didn’t notice it consciously, their subconscious still worked to save them. No matter the reason for such dreams, the result remains the same.
These types of dreams are both life-saving and life-changing, and the people who make a habit of heeding them haven’t regretted the practice. It isn’t enough to simply acknowledge the dream. Properly interpreting it is important as well because without the right understanding at the right time, whatever edge the dream may have provided for you in the real world will be lost.
Dreams that were meant to ‘see into the future’ or to reveal some inner secret of the universe (like sewing machines or the nature of a strand of DNA) are more common than you may think. In fact, they happen all the time, all over the world. The dreams themselves don’t discriminate. The problem with these dreams is that people are used to ignoring them so that when they do make an appearance, they mean as little as the next dream.
Da Vinci once asked, “Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?” It’s easy to ignore a dream, but not so easy to miss out on an opportunity to have your own experience recorded in the history books.
That doesn’t mean that you should start investing your stock on what you see when you’re asleep, but do pay a bit more attention to what your own subconscious is trying to tell you. The answer may come as a surprise.
Share your dreams, we will solve them