In The Complete Book of Dreams and What They Mean, we are taken on a fascinating journey through the theories behind dreaming. The author begins with an overview of the different types of dreams, such as, lucid dreaming, daydreaming and even touches upon supernatural elements, such as, premonitions. From there Ashley goes deeper into the study of dreaming, looking first from a scientific point of view then to a religious one, and finally to a spiritual perspective.
Through science we’ve learnt that REM sleep, commonly characterised by the flickering of the eyes, is the time when we begin to dream. Ashley explores theories from a number of well-known and famous psychologists, such as, Freud (the master of dream interpretation) and Carl Jung. Jung explains that science is more concerned with the physiological states of the dreamer, along with the chemistry and physics surrounding thought.
‘The conscious mind allows itself to be trained like a parrot, but the unconscious mind does not – which is why St. Augustine thanked God for not making him responsible for his dreams.’
In scientific study, dreaming is known to come from the subconscious; we learn that Freud believed that dreams were encoded, coming deeply from the subconscious, as a way of dealing with repressed memories and traumas.
Interestingly, in religion, a much more divine approach is taken; our dreams come from God himself, or so many religious people believe. The act of dreaming is portrayed as a way in which God can communicate with us and not something which occurs from our unconscious mind. Ashley takes a look at various spiritual arts connected with dreaming, such as, oracles, divination and contacting the dead through dreams, which is considered a dark art in most religions and is forbidden.
Islam believes that the spirit leaves the living body in sleep and is able to travel around, even when day dreaming, the soul will wonder but remains closer to the body than when sleeping. Dreams were believed to be sent by Allah and evil dreams came from bad djinn’s (genies).
The theory of the spirit wondering in sleep is an interesting concept. One that has been explored in many horror films, such as, Insidious and The Nightmare on Elm Street, where the soul is shown to travel to a different plane of reality. Of course, in these movies, it is usually to a dark place polluted with demons.
The further one reads into the theories Ashley presents, the more one wonders about the act of dreaming. What does it mean by falling into a ‘deep’ enough sleep that we begin to dream? How do we accomplish this? Why do we need to? One might even begin to wonder whether our soul travels to a different plane entirely when we sleep. Could it be true, that when a nightmare takes form we have been temporarily possessed by a demon as believed by some religious groups?
In the passages of the Art, Literature and Folklore chapter, Ashley explores whether inspiration emerges from our subconscious mind as opposed to conscious thought; ‘all good art springs from the unconscious.’ We are reminded of famous artists, such as, Dali, who used his dreams as a source of inspiration and as a result created numerous masterpieces, most notably; Persistence of Memory.
Ashley showcases a variety of quotes by famous writers which convey the correlation between dreaming and inspiration.
‘A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.’ – Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist
In other words, a person finds his way, his path, his direction by dreaming and for him, his punishment is to wake up too soon and end the dream.
Perhaps the real reason why we dream is to create, to explore other possibilities, some impossible, yet all the impossible ideas that ‘dreamers’ thought about eventually came into being like the aircraft. It seems we need to be creative in order to evolve as a species. This has been one of the main factors which has helped us become the dominant species on the planet; our ability to use our minds. Perhaps, after all, dreaming is wholly a scientific act rather than a spiritual one.
Of course, when we touch upon the subject of premonitions, our opinions may be altered slightly. A great example of the future being foreseen through dreams is presented by Ashley when he talks about Abraham Lincoln predicting his own death.
‘In it, he walked into the East Room of the White House to find a covered corpse guarded by soldiers and surrounded by a crowd of mourners. When Lincoln asked one of the soldiers who had died, the soldier replied, “The president. He was killed by an assassin.”’
Perhaps unbeknown to modern science of today, we have developed an ability to see into the future in order to protect ourselves from harm. Perhaps Lincoln was sent a message by God himself as a warning. Speculation can be invoked as to whether Lincoln’s dream can be explained from a religious, spiritual or scientific point of view. All in all, Ashley’s book of dream interpretation is an informative yet provocative one.
The Complete Book of Dreams and What They Mean is a little gold mine of dream theories and symbol analysis; perfect for those who are fascinated by dreams, the occult and the supernatural. Discover a little more about the other side of our reality; the warped, the wonderful and the weird!
- Post by Sarah
The Complete Book of Dreams and What They Mean by Leonard R. N. Ashley is out now from Barricade Books
(9781569805237, p/b, £13.99)