Whether considering the variety of prophetic dreams in the Bible and other religious texts, modern parapsychological phenomena, or even pop-culture ideas like Agent Dale Cooper or Scott Pilgrim — everyone agrees that dreams mean something. Most people, however, resign it to some mysterious corner of their brain that splashes them with endless, unsolvable riddles that are better left forgotten because they are essentially random neurological feedback during a brain’s inactivity.
This is probably not an accurate way to consider a dream, but any theory or hypothesis without the use of empirical deduction or irreducible complexity, or Occam’s razor (it’s all the same), is incomplete. Unfortunately, virtually any piece of modern scientific data is half-completed at best, considering it has not been given the proper stroke of Occam’s razor in comparison with history’s ancient sciences (and yes, they were sciences). Keep in mind: just because something is not a lie, does not mean it is the truth either.
When considering dreams using empirical deduction, it is important to consider two data sets — the first is the variety of dedicated and classical psychotherapists that have not only heavily postulated about dream analysis, but have also gleaned promising results using their methodologies throughout their patient practice — such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Calvin Hall, and to a lesser but still notable degree, Viktor Frankl and Wilhelm Reich.
The second, perhaps more poignant note here, is the efficacy of these dream-analysis practices in personal life. Much like a psychedelic chemical, all a person need do is simply try it for oneself—there is no belief required. Furthermore, “belief” or “faith” is becoming more of a loose and entirely mis-represented idea, as modern science has shown without doubt that placebos are effective even as a person is aware that it the substance is a placebo. How is this possible? The idea of “placebo” “faith/belief” or “tricking yourself” is not actually “tricking” yourself at all, but using mental triggers to kick-start an entirely achievable but remote brain-state in a person’s traditional state of waking-consciousness. As another note of consideration for the reader, Christopher Nolan indisputably has a wealth of understanding about dream-analysis and its relationship to this notion of “placebo” and even esoteric symbolism, as the movie Inception boasts a fantastical version of some very fundamental principles in dream-analysis and interpretation.
Moving forward, there are a great deal of people—even if they are skeptics—who would be willing to try this dream analysis, if only they knew how. Reading material by the likes of Jung and Freud requires a fairly skillful reading comprehension ability, and is often difficult to grasp even for educated individuals, because, simply, nobody has been taught this frame of reference towards dreams unless they were lucky enough to be raised by esoterically-minded parents or a traditional culture of spirituality.
As a final consideration of source material before diving into the mechanics of this phenomena, consider some of this traditional spirituality and the empirical, effective results of this shamanic dream analysis. For anyone who still considers these ideas as “New Age” junk, remember that there is a difference between post-modern New Age peddlers and the analysis of ancient historical documents.
This is a 100+ page textbook entitled, Religious Taoism and Dreams: An Analysis of the Dream-data Collected in the Yün-chi ch’i-ch’ien which can be read here.
Furthermore, it was a traditional belief upheld by Initiates into the Mysteries of Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Persia, and elsewhere that dream-states were in fact a deeper vein of a person’s reality than their waking consciousness. This is not to say that “real life” is less important than dreams, but that “real life” is less poignant than dreams on a continuous basis. Waking life has many significant moments, but a sizable amount of unnecessary down-time as well. In a dream-state, there is no down-time. Every single aspect of the dream has been crammed with a specific meaning that has a relationship to a person’s brain through fractal mathematics; for there must be a cause (the neurons) to create any effect (the symbolism of the dream) to begin with. Here is an interesting article discussing Egyptian dream-work metaphysics. Since Thoth, the Scribe of the cosmos, was considered the god of divination, he was commonly associated with this dream-work and analysis. Babylonian dream-work can be found woven throughout the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Moving forward, it is time to consider the methodology and mechanics of how these ancient priests and initiates conducted their dream-work, and why these ideas were useful enough to inspire an entirely divergent era of psychoanalysts (this torch lit by Freud and run to the finish-line by Carl Jung, who enjoyed Freud’s work but thought it was misguided).
Firstly, it is of the utmost importance to be “symbolically literate,” which means that symbolism is an entirely different language in and of itself (Hieroglyphs, anyone?), and is a language that is mutually exclusive from linguistic communication. If a person is linguistically gifted, this has practically no use whatsoever with dream-work. A person must be prepared to speak their mind through symbols. This article can provide a deeper context.
Since learning a new language is a daunting task, it is recommended to start with a trusted encyclopedia-source, such as Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols which can be viewed here and ARAS.org, which stands for The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism. Furthermore, so-called dream dictionaries can be found online and can provide a helpful context, but should be taken with a deeper grain of salt due to the second-hand nature of this source material. As well, essentially any psychotherapist who has worked with dreams has published at least one “dream-analysis example” or a “how-to” of sorts, although these can be quite confusing at times if symbolism is not properly understood.
It is crucial to consider the ritual of “getting ready to sleep.” There is a key combination of factors required for the most effective and surreal results during dream-states. While modern science may disagree that these things promote metaphysical dream analysis, everyone can agree that, in any case, these are the best results for a good night’s sleep. It’s all pretty simple: Don’t eat at least a couple of hours before sleep, do not fall asleep with light on or technology like music, podcasts, or movies. Preferably, do not take any natural sedatives either, and certainly not on a regular basis. Natural sleep-aids like valerian root, St. John’s/mugwort, kava kava, cannabis, and the like, while known for the ability to boost the surrealism and poignancy of dreams in the short-term, also tend to shorten REM cycle over prolonged usage, and will eventually serve as a barricade to consistent dream-work.
This is not to dissuade any use of these plants, as they are very helpful for restful sleep and entirely healthy for a person to take on a regular basis, but they won’t help anyone to dream in the long run.
After proper steps are taken for bedtime, the next step is called, “dream incubation,” which is the concept of “incubating” a dream as an individual falls asleep. The trick here is to focus on the thought from an objective perspective; if a person is trying to understand an event in their lives, it is suggested that they analyze the event from an omnipresent perspective, as if they were not a part of the memory or idea in mind at all. Doing so will lead to dreams on the subject, guaranteed. The only thing that cannot be guaranteed is whether the person will remember this dream at first, and so repetition is usually required. Continuation of this process will lead to definitive dream incubation. Once a person can learn to incubate these concepts when they fall asleep, the next step will be upon waking up. It is important for anyone following these steps to have a writing utensil and a notebook next to their bed—an electronic device will not do. There are certain things about the ritual of writing on paper, like one’s own handwriting, that will help a person connect with their thoughts much more effectively than any laptop or phone.
Aside from the in-depth studying of symbolism that is recommended, here is a four-step guide to a more-hands on approach to dream symbolism which can be worked in conjunction with studying for best results. Since part of the definition of an “archetypal symbol” denotes the concept of a symbol being an empirical definition of part of the metadata that comprises a person’s conscious thoughts, it is important to probe the subjective ideas of the individual as well as studying historical evidence. In other words, live neurons cannot be studied very well firsthand(even with today’s scientific advancements), and even when they can be, there is minimal context that can be applied to EEG scans and the like. Suffice it to say that symbolism is a way to empirically study the function of the neurons and bio-electrical stimulus without interrupting the process though a procedure or surgery of some type.
Now, consider this four-step process, which can be colloquially coined as “dream-weaving.”
1) Write your dream down in a journal. Next, make a list beside that dream of every single noun (person; place; thing;) that you came into contact with during the dream. Don’t make an entire day of compiling this list—some of these things will be less important than others, and so personal discretion is key here.
2) Physical descriptive adjective; free word association. If the noun is a cat, then the person should open their brain to the first logical word they find in their thoughts that is associated with cat. This should not be given more than a 1.5 seconds of thought, because after this the spontaneity of the exercise is lost. Let’s say a person gets “yarn” from “cat.”
2) Emotional descriptive adjective, free word association. If the physical adjective from “cat” was “yarn,” the person then seeks to use the same process illustrated in Step 1, except this time searching for the first emotional description of “yarn” that comes to mind. Let’s say the person gets “tangled.”
4) From cat, the person can subjectively deduce, given the context of their own brain and the feeling of their dream, that on some level this cat represents a feeling of tangling, perhaps of emotional frustration that could be tied to a whole number of things; perhaps an owner of the cat that was dreamt of.
A person will likely be surprised at how often they will find through the dream weaving process that their subjective, intuitive interpretation of symbols fits within the same framework of traditional, esoteric symbolism discussed here. While notions of a “collective consciousness” should not be dismissed here, what is perhaps more accurately noted is the mis-represented notion of “placebo,” which again, is not “tricking yourself” but “triggering yourself.” Socrates’ Theory of Recollection (written by Plato) is something of an interesting side-note here as well.
The overall idea is that the unconscious and the gateway of the subconscious are working together to tell the waking-consciousness a continuous, and limitless riddle of symbols ready to be assimilated into the narrative of a person’s thoughts and understanding. Like anything, persistence is key, but results are irrefutable and guaranteed, provided the proper steps are taken and the right amount of time and dedication is applied here. This, undeniably, represents the ability for anyone to read their own unconscious like an open book during dream-states, which can lead to forms of lucid dreaming that are quite limitless and mind-boggling, and are experiences often saved for the highest adepts, sages, and priests, for these tend to be highly powerful experiences. Anyone with an ability to lucid dream, who also has a symbolic literacy, could find themselves seated at the reigns of the most interactive and detailed “role-playing game” ever conceived, and is something that not even the best virtual reality programs could muster (especially if someone considers the possibility of meeting other spiritual and/or human entities during specific dream-states through a form of telepathy).
Another note for the avid researchers is an article released by The Last American Vagabond about neuroplasticity, which can be viewed here, and provides further context to the mechanisms at play.
Be prepared, for this is truly a trip down the rabbit hole—and depending how far a person goes, it can be the key of truth to the mind or the key to Pandora’s Box of our inner fears (consider the Shadow People and sleep paralysis). This author wishes good luck and happy hunting to all travelers of the dream-states, and recommends a dreamcatcher above the bed to anyone seeking a sojourn.
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Respect and gratitude to The Last American Vagabond, where this article first appeared.
Dreams should never be underestimated. I once kept a dream diary and found that night after night many a story unfolded. There are some who believe this life is a dream and when we die that is another. I tend to agree.