Do You Listen to Your Dreams?
By James and Robin Capers
Dreams are a language of communication (Jung, 1964). That language is composed of symbols. Some of the symbols are smells, some are emotions, some are sounds, and most are visual symbols.
Dreams take place in the mind. Not the conscious mind but the less conscious mind. Dr. Sigmund Freud called that part of the mind the subconscious and Dr. Carl Jung called it the unconscious.
The language of that part of the mind is not intentionally processed through the logical, left hemisphere or the creative, right hemisphere of our brain. What is left for dream language, then, is informal and less structured. However, there is still a language and its purpose is communication.
Some people regard dreams as a viable means for God to communicate with humankind. About one-third of both the Jewish and Christian Bibles’ content is about dreams, visions, and the resultant actions of the people who believed their messages (Riffel, 1990). Between the 9th and 5th centuries BC, the prophet Joel quoted God:
(2:28) After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Complete Jewish Bible, Joel 3:1)
In the 5th to 4th centuries BCE, Plato had a strong comprehension of the spiritual and incorporated it into his philosophies (Republic, 439 e3–4). Unfortunately, as happens rather cyclically through time, students tend to think they are smarter than their elders whom they consider superstitious rather than logical. Why does this happen?
It appears that it happens because elders do not limit their knowledge to what can only be observed by the five senses. Such was the attitude of Aristotle, the student of Plato who was, himself, the student of Socrates. Aristotle premised that valid knowledge is attainable through only tangible means, that is, by the five senses and reason (Riffel, 1990).
Since the dark ages, Western society has bought into Aristotelian philosophy with its denial of anything that cannot be observed with the five senses (Riffel, 1990). Those denying the spirit realm have included the leaders of the Christian religion, beginning with the pope as the seat and controlling authority of Roman Catholicism and the Western world. This has resulted in Western society regarding dreams as meaningless and, more and more, considering the spiritual realm to be invalid.
By the 1800s, even Freud held the belief that our dreams are simply random thoughts (Jung, 1964). In the early beginning of disbelief in Aristotelian thinking, Freud’s colleague, Jung, realized one of his dreams had nothing to do with Freud’s interpretation (Jung, 1964). From that insight, Jung began to consider that his dreams had continuity and purpose.
Jung developed and taught the concept that dreams are the unconscious mind’s method to bring balance to the psyche. He determined that the characters in our dreams most often represent different parts of our own personalities (Riffel, 1990). To Jung, dreams have value and meaning for us when we learn to interpret their symbols and, by doing so, identify our own out-of-balance parts.
In modern times, increasing numbers of people are believing that their dreams are communications from God (Riffel, 1990). This perception and belief have ignited a passion and desire within these individuals to accomplish feats of significance.
It is very interesting that Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote a book based on one of his dreams (Riffel, 1990). However, Einstein attributed his mathematics- and physics-shattering theory of relativity to a childhood dream. In the realm of warfare and the welfare of thousands or even millions of lives, General Patton received military direction from dreams.
Jung said, “Eternal truth needs a human language that alters with the spirit of the times” (Jung, 1966, ¶ 396, p. 196). In our present world, entire societies exist who hold their dreams in such high regard that they share them communally (Riffel, 1990). This is evidenced in Western society by the increasing use of dreams and dream symbology in the fine arts and film arts.
Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols. London: Aldus Books.
Jung, C. G. (1966). XVI: The Practice of Psychotherapy. NJ: Princeton University Press.
Plato (n.d.). Republic IV.
Riffel, H. (1990). Dreams: Wisdom within: Unlocking the mysteries of the dream world. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.