People have always tried to interpret their dreams, from ancient times to now. Ancient cultures had many different traditions in regard to dream, their interpretation and their significant meaning to their waking life. Many ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, believed that their dreams came from the gods and it is a known fact that the Egyptian way of seeing dreams had influenced the manner in which later people understood their dreams. Interpretations and Meanings of dreams are still an object of debate.
Ancient Dream Interpretation
The Egyptians believed that the gods sent them three types of dreams: one where the gods would demand things from them, one where the gods would send them warnings and dreams that would take place during their dream rituals. When a person dreamed during the rituals, Egyptians believed that the dreams were oracles and they must listen to what was told to them.
The Egyptians were also one of the first cultures to have a dream book. The book had examples of their dreams, which were categorized as either good or bad, (if the dreams were bad, they were written in red – which was the color of a bad omen).
The Greek civilizations, also believed that dreams could be either good or bad, and came from their gods. Greeks also used a dream incubation ritual to try and receive prophecies from their gods.
[If you want to learn ancient Greek online, read here my article to know how to do this.]
The ancient Babylonians believed that good dreams came from gods, while bad dreams came from demons. They also believed that there was a compelling correlation between dreams and their religion.
Like the Babylonians, the ancient Hebrews also saw good dreams as messages from the gods; while, the bad dreams came from evil spirits. They would also try to obtain their dreams, while they were at their temples. This is shown in the Bible with stories or verses like those of the prophet Samuel trying to sleep in the Temple of Shiloh or in the tales of prophetic dreams such as Jacob’s ladder. People have always tried to find prophetic meanings from dreams, which are shown in some biblical dream interpretations.
[Interpretations of biblical dreams depends on the language in which they were interpreted. If you want to better understand such dreams and interpretations, read here my article on how you can learn biblical languages online.]
Biblical Dreams: Interpretations and Religion
The Bible shows many different verses of biblical dream interpretations. As mentioned before there are the passages of Samuel sleeping in the Temple of Shiloh and the dream of Jacob’s ladder. Why is this? As stated before there is no hard proof as to why we dream, which leads to a wide variety of theories and interpretations; and some of these interpretations come from the belief that our dreams are messages from God.
According to Num. 12:6, God makes himself known to prophets in visions and will speak them in dreams. This is one of the reasons many people believe that dreams are messages from the Lord. Also in Joel 2:28 the Bible says, that God says He will make people prophesy, old men have meaningful dreams and young men have visions. By telling us this, God is saying that He will speak to us in our dreams.
He speaks to us in our dreams because it is easier for Him to do so. God knows that we are able to receive instructions from Him because our subconscious is receiving His word. God is able to bypass our defense mechanisms, our pride and fill us with His wisdom and foresight into what could happen if we continue to discard Him and His teachings.
Biblical Dream Verses
There are many different verses in the Bible when God speaks to His chosen people through dreams. One of these is Matthew 2:13-15, where Joseph is told to take the child and his wife and go to Egypt and remain there until the death of Herod. Had Joseph not listened to his prophetic dream, Jesus would have been killed as a child under the reign of King Herod.
Another one is Genesis 20:3. Here we learn that, after Abimelek takes Sarah as one of his wives, he becomes very sick. Abimelek doesn’t know that Sarah is Abraham’s wife and even though Abimelek is a pagan, he still acknowledges that adultery is wrong. So God comes to him in a dream and tells Abimelek if he returns Sarah and starts to pray to him, God will forgive him and his illness will be cured, (which it was).
Another of the famous biblical dream verses is Matthew 1:20-23: the prophetic dream was to console and comfort Joseph that Mary had done no wrong and that he should take her as a wife. Had Joseph not taken Mary as his wife and Jesus as his own, horrible things could have occurred to them and then Jesus would not have died for our sins. There are many other verses in the Bible of dreams and their interpretations.
Stages of sleep
When people sleep, they normally have dreams. Dreams occur during a person’s REM (or rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. They are your unconscious thoughts, images, sounds and other sensations that occur while you are sleeping. There are two explicit stages of sleep, REM and NREM (or non-rapid eye movement).
When a person falls asleep, they enter their first stage of sleep, which lasts about 1-5 minutes, they then enter stage 2, which is known as the “baseline” sleep. We spend the majority of our time, about 50 to 60 percent, in baseline sleep.
After roughly 15 to 20 minutes in baseline sleep, we enter into stage 3 and 4. These stages are called “slow wave sleep” or delta sleep; they are known as this because of the brain activity that occurs during this stage. It usually lasts about 15-30 minutes and is considered the “dead” sleep.
After you leave delta sleep, you enter REM sleep; which, lasts for roughly 10 to 20 minutes. You then go back and repeat stages two through REM, and you do this roughly five to six times a night. There are many different theories as to why a person dreams. Also, historically people have attempted to find meanings from their dreams.
People who study dreams, (oneirologists), come from different fields of study, including, psychology and neuroscience. This is one of the reasons that there are multiple theories as to why people dream. Some of the theories are: they are wishful thinking, activation-synthesis theory, continual-activation theory, reverse learning theory, consolidating learning, evolutionary defense mechanism, threat simulation, problem-solving, Oneiric Darwinism, and contemporary theory of dreaming.
Sigmund Freud came up with the wishful thinking theory. Freud believed that dreams, either literally or symbolically show us what we want. He also believed that you could use your dreams to tap into any buried emotions that a person has.
Activation-synthesis theory was founded by J. Allan Hobson. He believed that dreams are just the interpretations of random signals that are sent from our brain stem and the limbic system (the system that engages our emotions, memories, and sensations).
Jie Zhang came up with the continual-activation theory. Zhang believed that our brains are continuously storing memories, wither we are awake or sleep. Like activation-synthesis theory, continual-activation believes that our dreams are just interpretations of random signals; however, Zhang also believes that dreams have a purpose. He thinks the purpose is to store your memories until they move from short term memory to long term memory.
Reverse learning theory is for us to rid our minds of things we no longer need. This allows us to store more important information.
With consolidating learning theory, it is believed that dreams help us remember what we have already learned.
The evolutionary defense mechanism theory is that dreams might be associated with tonic immobility (or playing dead). Scientists have link similarities between dreaming and animals play dead. Antti Revonsuo came up with threat simulation theory. He believed that dreams allow people to be able to face threats when they are confronted in the awake world.
Deirdre Barrett came up with problem-solving. She believed that dreams are a form of “play therapy.” Barrett, also believed that dreams allow us to make connections that we normally would not notice.
Mark Blechner came up with Oneiric Darwinism. He believed that dreams are mutations of our thoughts.
Richard Coutts went a step further and said that our dreams allow us to figure out how to deal with situations.
Ernest Hartmann came up with a contemporary theory of dreaming. This is basically how we process and deal with emotional and painful situations.
However, all of these are just theories and no hard proof. The truth is no one actually knows the truth as to why we dream. There are many other theories as to why we dream and these are just a few of them. Some of these theories may have come from ideas that have come from dream interpretation.
Dreams and Their Open-Ended Life
When a person enters their REM sleep state, they begin to dream. Why do they dream? No one actually knows for sure, there are plenty of theories out there but no one knows for sure. Historically and in many cultures, people have tried to interpret their dreams and figure out the true meaning behind them. Some people believe that sometimes our dreams are messages and visions from God. Wither you believe this or not, people will still be trying to figure out why we dream for the next millennia to come.