The Magic and Transformative Power of Dreaming in Different Cultures and Religious
Different cultures around the world view dreaming in many diverse ways. Some cultures and religions attach great significance to dreams; others do not. The perspectives regarding dreaming have been shaped by both Eastern and Western ideology. Egyptians may have been the first to attempt interpreting their dreams. Even three thousand years ago, the Hindu scripture "The Upanishads," describe dreaming as a higher state of consciousness than the waking state. What is interesting is how widely varied people's interpretations of the same phenomena can be. Some regard it as divine, some regard dreaming as demonic, and some regard it as neither, or merely a curiosity.
The Native American approach to dreaming gives dreams credit for creative inspiration and spiritual guidance, and acknowledges that unconscious desires are expressed in dreams. Power dreams of shamans and warriors were considered vital for predicting future events. The Ojibwa, a group of North American and Canadian Indians, consider dreams to be actual experiences, not just fantasies created the mind, and they also link dreaming to specialized occupations such as healing.
The Kalapalo Indians of Central Brazil give their dreams great importance, and they acknowledge the profound changes that occur in dreams as a result of psychological changes and upheaval in a person's life. They believe that dreams reveal a person's life, motivations, and fears. In this, it could be used as a valuable tool for psychoanalysis, either when used by the dreamer or as a tool used by a counselor.
The Zuni of New Mexico, only share good dreams when they come true, which is often many years later, and mostly discussion of dreams is about the bad dreams. Even further along the spectrum, the Berti, an African people, consider dreaming to be a private affair, and to be merely the wanderings of the spirit.
The Logoli of Western Kenya have a positive outlook on dreaming and don't concern themselves with either negative or positive religious connotations. By contrast, a fourth century Christian writer named Macrobius was very negative on the subject of dreaming. He attributed nightmares and sexual dreams to demons called the sucubi and incubi. This influenced religious theology and practice, and people began to fear dreaming, which could have been a great source of power, healing, insight, and creativity. Those who experienced power as a result of their dreams were destined, after that, to have their outlook and beliefs attributed to demonic origins.
Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, was one of those who had a negative view of dreams, going so far as to say that dreams were the work of the devil. However, the Bible does have some accounts of dreams that were sent with a divine purpose. Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, had a dream that she would give birth to the Messiah. Jacob had a dream of a ladder stretching up to heaven. Joseph had a dream that saved a country from famine. And there are others.
From the Chinese, who appreciate dreaming and the subtle energy of the body (which is related), to Native American shamanism, if it was associated with invisible energy or the unknown, the concepts were shunned and viewed as Eastern (in the negative sense). Yet, it could be said that to exalt one's own interpretation over all others is quite pompous.
Many cultures believed that one could see the dead in their dreams, and that the dream was some sort of alternate reality. The Australian aborigines, as well as the belief system of Hellenism, are just two examples of those who believed that one could contact the departed through dreaming. Naturally, this is where there is friction, because the Bible forbids contacting the dead - although, by forbidding it, it acknowledges that it is possible - but not the brightest idea.
Rome viewed dreams as divine messages, Greece viewed dreams as a source of healing and as a way to communicate with spirits and ghosts, The Orient viewed dreams as messages from the Creator, the Gola artists of Liberia credited dreams with artistic inspiration, Sigmund Freud viewed dreams as a way to explore fantasies that society considers unacceptable in waking life, the Cree of North Quebec rely on dreams for creative inspiration, and more than a few cultures - including the Ashanti - hold that dreams have more reality than the waking life.
There are so many ways to view dreaming and its purpose: creative and artistic inspiration, foretelling of future events, healing, contact with other realities, divine or spiritual messages, exploration of fantasies, a method of contacting the departed, a tool of the devil, journeys of the soul while it is out of body, as a psychoanalysis tool, as a mirror of the emotions, as tools for transformation and healing, for awareness of subconscious desires....
Could all of these be simultaneously correct conclusions about dreaming? It's interesting to see that each culture takes an aspect of dreaming and runs with that. It's also interesting to see an integrated view of all the different aspects of dreaming, and to realize that each one of us has a magic, powerful tool: dreaming. We do not have to be an obscure saint to tap into this power. It's already here.
If you would like to see some of the things that dreams have inspired people to do or create, check out: http://www.brilliantdreams.com/product/famous-dreams.htm. Even Paul McCartney was inspired to write the song "Yesterday," as a result of a dream. Tap into your unlimited well of creativity tonight when you dream!