Throughout the ages, dreams have often been regarded as encounters with the Divine, Ruah, God or gods.
The Upanishads of India, 900-500 B.C., assigned two meanings to dreams. First, that dreams are expressions of inner desire, and second, that the soul has left the body and is being guided until it returns.
Judeo-Christian Scripture is replete with stories of God visiting and instructing humans in the hours of night.
From the early pages of Genesis through the New Testament, the power of dreams to carry the message of the divine is evident in lives such as those of Jacob, the Josephs, Solomon and Daniel.
The prophet Joel announced, “I will pour out my spirit ... your sons and daughters will prophesy and your old men will dream dreams.”
Sigmund Freud proposed that the content of dreams is created from unconscious wish fulfillment.
His student Carl Jung believed that dreams provided the dreamer with revelations that can help resolve emotional or religious problems and fears.
Jung also was of the opinion that dreams entered a world beyond the individual to include the “collective unconscious.”
Dreams are gifts that are complex, mysterious intertwinings of our life experiences, personalities, hopes, fears and an unfathomable, bubbling wisdom.
Dreams have a power to instruct and to provide insight far beyond what mere words or thinking will provide.
They can be a source of guidance, challenge, comfort or healing. In dreams, one encounters a world of symbols and metaphors that offer a deeper “knowledge.”
Without becoming obsessed with dreams, we can play with them, learn from them. Writing a quick summary of a dream, noting key symbols, emotions, characters and questions can be a basis for prayerful reflection.
Characters in dreams may not directly represent that person, but can be symbolic or archetypal figures. It is helpful to interchangeably see oneself as everyone in the dream or to ask yourself who or what this person symbolizes.
As time allows, the dreamer can reflect on what the symbols remind one of in his or her daily life. What does this symbol mean to you?
Ask others what they think the symbol represents. What if you were this symbol or character? If the symbol could speak, what would it say? What would you say in return?
Does the dream and its interpretations ring true in seeking positive movement forward or understanding? Or is the dream expressing your fears or ignorance and inviting you to a different stance towards a life issue?
Louis Savary, Patricia Berne and Strephon Kaplan Williams in their book, “Dreams and Spiritual Growth,” write, “While many people look to a dream to find an answer to their problems, we have discovered that a dream is more helpful when viewed as a question ... as an invitation to relationship. What if we experienced our dreams as an invitation given by the Source of our life and destiny calling us to a spiritual journey towards greater consciousness, and to a relationship with the divine?”
Dreams allow us to process how we relate and move in the world with greater clarity and insight. They enable us to live in closer unity with the Divine Goodness, to That Which Is.
Dreams are gateways to wisdom, the immanence of God. As you embark on letting your dreams speak to you, go lightly, playfully and with courage.
Therein learn at a level more profound than words, a learning that is in your body and/or soul ... a wisdom that you do not control or master ... but which invites you to enter and experience.
Theresa Nichols Schuster received her master’s degree of theological studies from the Franciscan School of Theology, Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and lives in Wolf Point, where she works with Health Promotion.
The Faith & Values column appears Saturdays in The Billings Gazette.
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