Current Update as of January 04, 2004
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
The Hebrew word for dream (Chalom) comes from a verb that means "to be healthy or strong." A healing dream is the kind that differs from others in that it is more transformative, transcendent, and bigger. It is a dream of such magnitude that it stops us in our tracks. It is the kind of dream where the senses seem so acute and the settings larger than life, so that we remember it forever. A healing dream can be a spiritual turning point. It can bring new spiritual understanding and change in career and relationship. The purpose of a healing dream seems to be to lead us to the difference of flesh and spirit, self and other, to point out who we are and who we might become.
Since dreams speak to us in symbols and metaphors, healing dreams often come to us as nonsense, which it is up to us to decipher. They have a story line, yet contain layers of meaning. Sometimes the words in them are ones with which we are unfamiliar because their origin dates back many generations. Sometimes what is happening in our body presents in the dream as what ‘s happening in the landscape of the dream.
Most tribal cultures honor healing dreams. Australian aborigines share theirs in the belief that different people have different gifts and thus at least one of them might shed light on the dream’s meaning.
In the Mayan culture, dreams are considered so important that one out of every four people is designated to be a dream interpreter.
Swiss analyst Carl Jung wrote that significant dreams were associated with major life passages. In trying to learn dream meanings for his own life, he used active imagination – a state between waking and dreaming - where he could talk to dream figures and experience their imagined world. He would take a dream image and turn it over and over, exploring it.
There are various ways to attempt to discern what our dreams are trying to tell us. One way is to pretend to be from another planet and ask questions of the dream, as though everything about the planet is completely foreign to you. Another way is to commit the dream to paper, such as keeping a dream journal. Another is to become part of a dream group where the dream community offers the dreamer their insights. After all, a healing dream does not work for the dreamer alone: often it offers meaning for the other members of the dream group, or for society as a whole.
Sometimes, it seems as though instead of us using the dream, the dream uses us. We must keep in mind that healing dreams are not prescriptions. Often they make us live our questions rather that giving us instant answers.
What does the dream want from us? Perhaps it wants us to withdraw from the outer world and to open to the inner one. Perhaps the dream wants us to accept the blessing from a higher intelligence. Perhaps it wants to transmit relics and memories of the past from one generation to another.
One of the people who has had life altering dreams is Katherine O’Connell, a nurse practitioner from Santa Cruz. She believes there is a structure to them. She claims that first there is a presentation stage, followed by an information stage. Finally, there is a processing stage, although it might not occur until months or years later.
Novelist Amy Tan had as many as twenty dreams a night. In one of them her murdered friend Pete described a new friend he would arrange for her to meet. In the future she met the person he described, who became one of the first people who encouraged her to write novels.
There are instances where dreams have predicted illnesses long before illnesses were diagnosed, or of illnesses that suddenly disappeared. In the thirteenth century, St. Peregrinus, the patron saint of cancer patients, was scheduled to have his cancerous foot amputated. The night before the surgery he spent in prayer. He then fell into a light slumber from which he awakened completely cured.
Russian psychiatrist Vasily Kasatkin did a study that noted that changes in dream content often preceded clinical diagnosis. He also noted that dreams changed and became more or less pleasant, depending on the progress or regress of the illness.
Robin Royston, M.D. treated a patient who described a nightmare in which a black panther had attacked him and put its claws into his back. The man later was diagnosed as having a melanoma (which means" black") in that precise spot.
But healing dreams aren’t necessarily about illness. They can also be about personal calling that satisfies both head and heart. The ancient world believed one is summoned to their true work by a vision or a voice in a dream. The word "vocation" is derived from a Latin word which means "to call."
Not only do we dream of people who are familiar, but we also dream of beings which are the wellsprings of folklore and myth. They are called archetypes, psychic emissaries from some deeper source of wisdom, whose mission is to "bring man to God and God to man." Archetypes have inspired such people as Muhammad (dream of an angel in human form) and Jacob (wrestling with an angel). The thirteenth Dalai Lama has spoken of receiving in his sleep new messages from the fifth Dalai Lama.
Native Americans have given accounts of ancestors who guide the living from beyond the grave. Also, in the Native American tradition, it is believed the destiny of a child can be revealed by the child’s dream. The Iroquois use their dreams in collective decision making. So do the Aquaruna Indians of Peru, who use dreams in their everyday decision-making. They believe that a dream is an invitation to a creative response rather than a certain destiny.
Healing dreams tell us about relationship through the symbolic language of life and death from the soul’s point of view. Often, if we would heed them at the beginning of a relationship, we could save ourselves a lot of pain later. The dreams are there to bring us a message, and the truth cannot hide from dreams, because in dreams there are no secrets.
The concept of time is different in a dream than in the waking state, particularly regarding past, present and future. The Australian aborigines have Dreamtime, in which ancestral time back to creation is considered to be part of the present. Physicists A.S. Eddington and Jon Wheeler have suggested there are two time dimensions, one consisting of past-to-present-to-future, the other one being a time that travels both backward and foreword. The latest investigators of hyperspace, however, have led to the conclusion that the universe consists of ten or more dimensions. The Hopi culture refers to time as the "already manifest" and the "not yet manifest." Jung has suggested that there is an existence outside time which runs parallel with existence inside time, with us existing simultaneous in both. The Sufis believe there is another dimension created out of thought itself.
What about precognitive dreams? Many people have experienced "otherworld" visions in dreams which later came true. Can the dreamer change a future event seen in a dream? Opinions differ. Some cultures believe that by enacting the dream in a minor way by yourself or with a friend, you can prevent or change the outcome. Others believe the event is inevitable. Passengers who heeded the warning not to board the Titanic had at least nineteen precognitive dreams. Numerous dreamers during the rise of Nazism knew the horrors of the Holocaust before it occurred, because they saw the facts in their dreams.
Some parapsychologists have suggested that precognitive dreams may have been an adaptive trait from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, so that they would be pre-warned of danger.
Not only can dreams portend the future. Perhaps the experience of déjà vu is the result of having actually experienced the event before – but in a dream.
In addition to people we know, dreams can include the following: angels, guides, dream icons that assume the form of political or entertainment figures, and voices. One person referred to the voice as "booming," another described it as an "intercom voice" and another said the voice sometimes caused his ears to ring and that when that happened, the voice was telling him what he should do.
Although healing dreams open us to beauty, they also show us the dark, or what Jung refers to as "shadow", the parts of ourselves we wish we didn’t possess. We look upon these parts of ourselves as enemies, creatures of lack or malevolence. Jung believes the shadow images represent the inner place we need to work on, those parts where we feel most unworthy. The shadow reminds us of our incompleteness. An example of self versus shadow is the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Shadow dreams aren’t meant to destroy us, but to enlighten. They are an interplay between light and dark, the profane and the sacred. Often they raise theological questions.
What is the difference in the sleeping world from the waking one? Socrates thought it could not be said with certainly "whether we are asleep and our thoughts are a dream, or whether we are awake and talking with each other in a waking condition." Even daydreams are dreamlike states, as is lack of attention. And another kind of dream is called a lucid dream, which involves waking within a dream.
The Dalai Lama has explained that if you stop approaching waking and dreaming as two separate and different lives, you can learn to change your reality.
Many cultures agree. In order to carry a healing dream into daily life, traditional people would sing it, dance it, and paint its symbols on their bodies. In this way they were making the invisible visible.
Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi wrote, concerning creativity, "The only reason God placed sleep in the animate world was so that everyone might witness the Presence of Imagination."
Although most people treat their dreams as "just imagination," leftovers from the day which the mind throws away every night, healing dreams are like a wise teacher. They can help us move away from tunnel vision by offering us a shift in perspective. They can give us indication that our lives lack balance, that our priorities are out of order.
Our dreams bear witness. It is through them that we can find wholeness.
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