The amazing world of psychic dreams by Jane Lyle
It's all too easy to dismiss the idea of prophetic, psychic dreams.
Sceptics, psychoanalysts, and psychiatrists prefer to believe that all our dreams are just a way of working out the day's anxieties or events, or perhaps figuring out deeper traumas or past upheavals. And of course dreams do help us in all those ways. But there's evidence to show that our sleeping mind is capable of some much more impressive, thought-provoking feats too.
Back in the ancient world, dreams were taken very seriously. There are references to dreams carved on the walls of Egyptian temples, in the Bible, and in what is believed to be the oldest dream book in the world, compiled by Artemidorus of Ephesus, Greece, in the second century AD. Thousands of years ago, every civilized country in the Ancient World had its own soothsayers, priests and priestesses whose job it was to interpret dreams. The Ancient Greeks believed that dreams entered the sleeping mind through what were called the Gates of Dreams. One, made of horn, was the gate for prophetic dreams. The other, made of precious ivory, opened up for dreams containing warnings. They also searched their dreams for healing messages when they were sick, believing that herbal remedies or other helpful advice would be given to them as they slept.
Since many of our dreams seem like stories, it is no surprise that many authors have openly admitted to being inspired by their dreams. Robert Louis Stevenson, for instance, was a prolific dreamer. His chilling horror story, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was, he said, born from a dream. Or perhaps it was more like a creepy nightmare?
Music, too, has been inspired by dreams. The famous composer, Wagner, for example once wrote this in a letter to a friend, 'You are going to hear a dream, a dream that I have made sound….I dreamed all this; never could my poor head have invented such a thing purposely.' He was talking about his famous opera, Tristan und Isolde.
Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Niels Bohr, related a dream he had while researching the structure of the atom. He was finding it almost impossible to visualise his ideas, until one night he had a vivid dream in which he found himself standing right in the middle of a brightly-burning sun. Looking up, he saw planets attached to the sun by slender threads. These were revolving around the central body where, in his problem-solving dream, he stood. Suddenly, the hot, gaseous sun began to cool and the whole whirling image came to a standstill. Bohr would go on to use this dream image and the analogy of a solar system to describe how electrons revolve around a nucleus.
Dreams of the Future
Many predictive dreams tend to be of catastrophes, disasters, and sad events. You can imagine a kind of early warning system working here, even though, tragically, there is rarely a chance to warn anyone or know exactly when the tragedy will occur. One of the most disturbing accounts of this type of dream concerns that great American President, Abraham Lincoln. In 1865, Lincoln related the grim details of a dream he'd had to his wife and his friend, Ward H. Lamon.
In his dream, sounds of mourning were coming from the White House. Lincoln hurried from one room to the next, searching for the cause of the sound. In the East Room, he said, 'there was a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards, and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse.' Lincoln's dream self asked who lay there. He was told it was the President, who had been assassinated. Just one week after this dream Lincoln was killed at the Ford Theatre.
John Godley, later Lord Kilbracken, had the kind of predictive dreams we'd all love to have. In a remarkable series of dreams, over a period of twelve years, Godley dreamed the names of horses, horses that won races. His dreams are particularly interesting because, on the strength of one correct and highly publicised dream prediction, Godley became the racing correspondent for the British newspaper, The Daily Mirror. He became a famous psychic punter in the 1950s, writing down the names he saw in his dreams, and making sure he told friends in advance so that there was some kind of proof of his strange, and lucrative, gift.
Whatever our dreams may be, they are essential for our well-being, as research on sleep deprivation has shown. And our nightly visits to this mysterious world remain elusive, intimate and fascinating.