Esoteric Dreams


Up until now, I have been mainly describing and illustrating symbolic dream interpretation, as it is practiced by modern-day psychology, which, although it is sometimes driven by considerable artistic and intuitive talents, usually does take place within the realm of the "rational, scientific, world-view."

Of course, as originally stated, most cultures, before our own, which have existed on the earth, strongly believed in the esoteric nature, or potential, of dreams. Today, as Jungian psychology, with its openness towards the paranormal, and the mystical world-view of the New Age meet, more and more dreamers are beginning to look for, and to expect, esoteric qualities in their dreams.


Clairvoyant Dreams

Visitation Dreams

OBEs, Shamanism, And Lucid Dreams

Past-Life Memory In Dreams


Clairvoyant Dreams

One of the most widely recognized forms of esoteric dream is the clairvoyant dream, that mysterious dream that, somehow, seems able to foretell the future, allowing the dreamer to see events, in his mindís eye, before they actually occur! Of course, this ought to be impossible according to the model of reality currently advanced by contemporary science. And yet, it does occur. The evidence, though mainly anecdotal, is overwhelming. (I, myself, have experienced some, though in my own case, they are few and far between. But some other dreamers I know claim to experience such dreams at a much greater rate of frequency.)

Without a doubt, the occurrence of this kind of dream points to the existence of psychic-paranormal abilities as an underutilized and largely undeveloped, but sometimes active, component of our human potential. It also points to the possibility of telepathic communication between individuals; and ultimately, can only lead us to the conclusion that the universe we live in is far more mysterious, and far more connected to us, than we have been taught to believe.

Following are some examples of clairvoyant dreams:

William Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, portrays Caesarís wife, Calpurnia, as having a terrible nightmare prophesying his death (Act II, Scene II). The dream is so vivid and disturbing to her that she tells her husband, "What mean you, Caesar? Think you to walk forth? You shall not stir out of your house today." But he has business to conduct, and is convinced that he will seem fearful, cowardly, a fool controlled by his wife, if he stays locked up in his house because of her dream. So he goes outside, and ends up being assassinated, stabbed to death, by a band of senators who resent his power. Although Shakespeare is hardly counted as a reliable source of history, it turns out that this incident was really based upon historical Roman accounts.

Closer to our own times, in 1865, Abraham Lincoln had a clairvoyant dream foretelling his death by assassination. The dream occurred about 2 weeks before the tragic day, and in it, Lincoln came upon a casket in the White House, surrounded by soldiers and a crowd of mourners. When Lincoln, unable to see the face of the deceased because it was covered, asked who had died, one of the soldiers replied, "The President. He was killed by an assassin!" And the President awoke, disturbed, but not able or not willing to utilize the warning in a practical way.

Closer still, to our own times, is the strange story of legendary boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who had a dream the night before a fight that he was going to kill his opponent in the ring. In the dream, Sugar Ray hit his opponent, Jimmy Doyle, with a series of good punches and saw him go down. But standing over him, victorious, something terrible happened: Ray observed the defeated boxerís blank eyes staring back up at him, unmoving, in a frightening way, and when the ref finished counting Doyle out, the body just stayed there, lying on the canvas, inert and lifeless, until the crowd began to scream, "Heís dead! Heís dead!" After that, Ray woke up in a sweat, agitated and upset.

Next morning, Sugar Ray was still so disturbed, so spooked by his dream, that he told his trainer he wanted to call the fight off. But his trainer told him that it was just a dream, and that he shouldnít worry about it. Unconvinced, Robinson next went to the promoter of the fight, and told him to cancel the fight. But the promoter told him, "Donít be ridiculous. Dreams donít come true. If they did, Iíd be a millionaire." As Robinson continued to insist, the promoter became alarmed, and warned him that the boxing commission would think they were both nuts if they asked for permission to pull out of a fight because of a dream. Finally, the boxing commission, itself, contacted a priest and sent him to Sugar Ray to convince him to fight. The fight went on as planned, on July 24, 1947, in Cleveland, Ohio. Jimmy Doyle was knocked out in the 8th round, and carried out of the ring on a stretcher. He died the next day in a hospital. Although Sugar Ray remained a great champion, that fatal fight shook him to the core, and some experts believe he was never the same again.

Other cases of clairvoyant dreams came to light in late 2001, as a captured videotape of Osama bin Laden and friends was released by the US government. In this tape, several references were made to clairvoyant dreams and visions, in which Muslim supporters of Bin Laden claimed to have had premonitions of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, in which hijacked airplanes were crashed into the Twin Towers. The attacks were, of course, generated by highly secretive terrorist cells, and the plan was, therefore, hidden from all except those directly involved. Nonetheless, clairvoyant dreamers were on to the attacks before they happened. One supporter of Bin Laden, who appeared on the captured videotape, said, "I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up on the field, they were all pilots!Ö Our players were all pilots!" Other dreams included visions of planes crashing into tall buildings, and Arabs learning karate (as the hijackers really did). In fact, according to Bin Laden, there were so many clairvoyant dreams going on in Fundamentalist Muslim circles in the months and days before the attack, that he was afraid the secret plan might be exposed. He said, "At that point, I was worried that maybe the secret would be revealed if everyone starts seeing it in their dream. So I closed the subject. I told him [a clairvoyant dreamer] if he sees another dream, not to tell anybody, because people will be upset with him." What a pity that clairvoyant dreamers here, in America, did not foresee the attacks - or if some did - that they were unable to transmit the warning to authorities willing to believe it, or capable of acting upon it.

One of two important lessons that can be drawn from the "Bin Laden tape dreams" is that clairvoyant dreams do not necessarily occur with any moral underpinnings. The same as "magic", which can be "white" or "black", used to heal or to hurt. Clairvoyance seems to be an innate part of the human potential, more naturally expressive and developed in some souls than in others, yet surely able to be experienced by all: by the compassionate and the wise, as well as by the cruel and unkind. As we all can hear, and all can see, so we may all, perhaps, have the raw talent to, at times, "know what is beyond knowing", through clairvoyance. Surely, it is an impressive skill, but also, just as surely, one that matters far less than the contents of our hearts.

A second important point well-illustrated by the "Bin Laden tape dreams" is that clairvoyance, in a dream, need not always manifest as an exact and literal vision of what is about to take place. Just as in the more common nighttime dream, which I have already described in the section on dream interpretation, the prophetic message/vision may be disguised, and transmitted by means of symbols. In the "pilot dream", for example, in which Islamic pilots were seen to be playing in a soccer match against Americans, the soccer match was a symbol of conflict, "us against them", and the pilots represented the clairvoyant knowledge that Bin Ladenís supporters were training to be pilots in order to be able to fly airplanes in their attack against US targets.

Other examples which illustrate how clairvoyant knowledge may sometimes be transmitted by means of symbols:

A woman dreamt that her sister met, and was with, a scarecrow.

It turns out, the sister met, dated, and married a man whose raggedy, thin appearance was actually quite reminiscent of the scarecrow in the "Wizard of Oz." He, himself, admitted the similarity when he heard about it!

I had a dream that a woman who I knew snuck into my apartment in the middle of the night. She was clutching her abdomen, where she appeared to have been stabbed, and her hands were bloody as she tried to cover the wounds with them. "Theyíve killed me," she said.

In real life, the woman was not murdered, but she was misled by a charlatan-healer, and his bogus treatment contributed to her untimely death, not long after this dream. (By the time the dream occurred, irreparable damage had already been done.)

Speaking of symbolic clairvoyant dreams, probably the most famous and well-known examples would be the complex and perplexing ones recorded in The Bible (Daniel 2:31-45, and 4:1-27), in which Daniel, a captive Hebrew prophet, interprets the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.

One very important question in dealing with clairvoyant dreams is, how do we tell if what we have just dreamt is really clairvoyant? Take the case of a dream in which a dreamer sees that some of his relatives are aboard a plane which explodes in midair, and disintegrates in a fiery inferno. What does this dream mean? What should the dreamer do?

First of all, it is important to realize that this dream could be interpreted in different ways. As a normal, non-clairvoyant dream, it could represent the dreamerís fear and anxiety. There is almost always some subconscious stress and fear about flying, even excluding the threat of terrorism, and this dream could be a product of that anxiety, a kind of fantasy of the worst, that we all pray will never take place when we, or anybody we know, steps onto an airplane.

On the other hand, the dream could also disguise the expression of the dreamerís own aggressive impulses against his relatives - some form of resentment or anger. One of the great laws of psychology is ambivalence, meaning that we never have purely good or bad feelings about anyone. Whether our trace of anger, against someone who we generally love, comes from excessive neediness, because we are not "everything" for that someone - or from something the other person has actually done against us, which may have stimulated these angry feelings in us as a potential basis for self-defense - or from some other source or motive - it is entirely natural that some degree of hostility should exist in our subconscious mind. In this way, it is very possible for a husband who adores his wife to still harbor some grudges against her, and vice versa; for parents and children to resent each other, underneath their love; and, of course, for in-laws toÖ but we donít need to even go there! The point is, ambivalence is a psychological fact of life (it is very often, in fact, what generates so much guilt among the survivors, whenever a person dies. For we who live on, sensing that subconscious reservoir of anger against the deceased which we harbored within, cannot help but feel partly responsible for his death, as though our aggressive feelings towards him had somehow harmed him.) In the case of the exploding plane dream, the dreamerís subconscious traces of hostility against his relatives could produce this fantasy of revenge or self-defense, hiding it, of course, from his conscious and moral mind, by disguising his attack against his relatives as an unrelated, tragic incident, not connected to him.

And then, finally, of course, this dream might actually turn out to be a clairvoyant dream, after all - a psychic premonition of a disaster to come.

How can the dreamer decide which way he should take his dream?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this all-important question. In some of the examples previously given, a price was paid by the dreamer for not listening to his dream warning. But there is often a price to be paid for listening to a dream warning, as well. Supposing you have a dream that you will be in a car crash on your way to work, and you can afford to take a day off. No harm done, you take the day. But supposing you and your family have been planning to go on a big family vacation for nearly a year, and now, the night before the big trip, you suddenly have a nightmare about an airplane crash. If you cancel the flight, or the trip, you may lose the money you paid for the tickets, and end up disappointing or enraging your entire family, as well. What if this dream was just a nightmare, a fantasy produced by anxiety, and not a clairvoyant dream?

Perhaps if your whole family is very mystical and believes in the power of clairvoyant dreams, they may agree with you, and take your side in deciding to cancel or reschedule the trip. But what if they are not? What if you are the only one who believes in such things? Then, they will be likely to be astounded by your resistance, angered, and probably consider you to be either a coward or a nut. And without their understanding and cooperation, you will essentially be forced to single-handedly sabotage their vacation and seriously damage your relationship, or else be driven to go along on what you feel is a "death trip."

Of course, if the plane were to blow up, after you backed out of the trip, your family would cease to hate you, and no doubt thank you for saving their lives. But what if it did not blow up? What if it made an uneventful, routine flight, and ended up landing safely at your dream destination, without you and your family aboard? Surely, then, there would be hell to pay!

All that I can say, in regard to this, is that one has to go with oneís instinct. Certainly, if a dream is especially intense, vivid, and disturbing, it should not be lightly dismissed. Likewise, if one has a tendency to see the future in oneís dreams, or a record of previous clairvoyance, one should at least sit up and take notice. Even so, there is no guarantee that a person with a mild (non-intense) dream, and with no previous track record of clairvoyance, might not be seeing the future in his dream. I would, therefore, advise any dreamer of disasters to pray for guidance and help in deciding what to do. (Clarification Dreams could be of use, if the time frame permitted it.  See "Dream Interpretation Contents"/"Fundamentals Of Dream Interpretation"/"Clarification Dreams.") In advance, I would also like to point out how helpful (and potentially life-saving) it can be when those around you are open to the possibility of clairvoyant dreams, because it is often the ridicule and rejection of the very people we are trying to help which stands in the way of us helping them! I know in one important case, I could not successfully transmit a clairvoyant warning to an individual, because I had no normal, scientific way of knowing what I did, and this individual - who was strongly committed to the rational, scientific model of the Universe - and I, who had just had a paranormal experience - had no mutual avenue of communication. (Sometimes, in such cases, a warningís paranormal source may be disguised, and some rational excuse may be created to manipulate the non-believing individual away from the danger which you have sensed by psychic means. For example, if you dream that someone in your family is involved in a horrible car crash, you may try to find some way to keep them at home.)

Of course, not all clairvoyant dreams are warnings of impending disasters! Opportunities, and "good things", may also be foretold. In one case, I saw the unexpected outcome of a boxing match played out before my eyes, the night before it happened - if only I had been more of a gambler, I might have made some good money!

Then, there is the strange dream of a 15th Century Englishman by the name of John Chapman, who allegedly "learned", in a dream, that he ought to go to London, and stand on London Bridge, where he would meet someone who would change his life. For a poor jack-of-all-trades, it was an offer he couldnít refuse. There, sure enough, after several days of standing on the bridge like a fool, a man finally stopped by to hear his story, and reprimanded him, telling him that dreams were nothing more than dreams. "Donít be an idiot, go home," he said. "Take my case, I just dreamt that if I go to Swaffham and dig under the apple tree in Ö [such and such a garden] Ö that Iíll come upon a box of money, there. Donít you think I have better things to do than get my clothes all dirty and strain my back, digging for the false promises of a dream?" Of course, after the man left, the hopeful Chapman decided to try the strangerís dream out for himself, and went back to Swaffham, which just so happened to be his very own town! Digging under the tree the man had described, he came upon a box full of money - and on its lid, it said: "Under me doth lie another much richer than I." Sure enough, continuing to dig, Chapman came upon a second box, filled with an even greater treasure inside. Although some people doubt the historical veracity of this dream, there was, besides this story which is remembered to this day, a real John Chapman, and there is a church in Swaffham which, dating to his times, was built with his money.  Back To Top

Visitation Dreams

Another kind of esoteric dream might well be called the "visitation dream", a dream in which the dreamer is visited by a deceased relative, a spirit, guide, angel, or God, often receiving advice, comfort, or reassurance in the process.

Deceased relatives are certainly frequent visitors in these kinds of dreams. They may come to comfort the dreamer, to let him know that they are all right, that death is not what it seems, not the end. They may come to give some helpful advice, or to set the dreamer straight. Sometimes they will even come to ask a favor of the dreamer. (In one case, a murder victim appeared to the dreamer, and revealing the identity of the murderer, seemed to ask the dreamer to see to it that justice was served.)

In some particularly fascinating cases, people have been visited by friends and relatives, in dreams, at the very moment that these loved ones passed away - they seemed to be stopping off to let the dreamer know, and to say good-bye, before continuing on their way to the "other side." (Only later, on the following morning, or even days later, did the dreamer actually receive a phone call or a letter informing him of the loved oneís passing.)

Of course, skeptics deny the reality of these visitations, and see them as just ordinary dreams. But, as some of these dreams clearly indicate, telepathic and psychic realities are, at the very least, on display, if not outright proof of the existence of life after death, and of a spiritual realm, beyond our material world. As usual, it is a matter of individual choice if one wishes to accept an esoteric dream at face value, or to force it to fit into the conventional scientific world-view which is our current "collective take" on reality. My own view of the matter could not be better expressed than in this paraphrase of the famous quote: "The Universe seems to give just enough evidence of the paranormal to convince those who are able to be convinced, while leaving the skeptics skeptical."

Two really fascinating examples of visitation dreams are provided by Dr. Brian Weiss in his excellent "past-lives book", Through Time Into Healing. In the first, a father was visited by his deceased daughter in a dream. She had just recently died a tragic death, and told her father, "Why donít you play my numbers? Iíd like to bring you a little happiness." He decided to play the numbers of the Lottery ticket that had been found in his daughterís car, after her death - 2, 6, 11, 14, 31, and 34 - and ended up winning $10.5 million dollars in the Florida State Lottery! Another man, who had never before played the Lottery, was advised, in a dream, to play it by none other than his deceased mother. He ended up with $11.2 million in winnings.

But it is not only deceased relatives and friends who may appear to the dreamer in a visitation dream. One may also experience the visitation of another kind of being, a spirit guide, an angel, a divinityÖ

It is reported that Thutmose IV, pharaoh of Egypt, was visited by the spirit/divinity of the Sphinx which promised him great fortune and success if he would clean up the mighty statue of the Sphinx, which was at that time unkempt, neglected, and partly buried by the unchecked action of the desert winds and sands. Thutmose complied with this divine dream request, and went on to realize his ambitions.

In another famous dream, Hannibal, the brilliant Carthaginian war leader, was said to have dreamt of a gigantic black snake destroying everything in its path, amidst a fierce and terrifying storm. Within the dream, a beautiful otherworldly man came to inform Hannibal that this was a vision of the destruction of Rome which was to take place at his hands. The dream is credited with inspiring Hannibal to go ahead with the idea of invading Italy and challenging the might of Rome head on. While some interpreters see this as a deceptive dream, one which lured Hannibal to commit a fatal mistake, the truth of the matter is that conflict between Rome and Carthage was probably inevitable; and that Hannibal, defying the odds again and again with his military genius, came very near to accomplishing the object which his dream had inspired him to pursue. For 16 years, he marched up and down the Italian peninsula virtually at will, destroying one Roman army after another, constantly on the verge of achieving his aim. But perhaps for lack of adequate support from his homeland - or for lack of proper siege equipment to help him break through the walls of wounded cities, to finalize what he had accomplished in the field - he was stranded at the gates of triumph. As one of his own generals told him, "Hannibal, you know how to win a victory, but not how to use one!" And thus, the message of his dream guide turned out to reflect only what was in his power, not what he would actually do with that powerÖ

In ancient Greece, numerous dream visions of Aesculapius, the God of Healing, were reported, especially at sacred dream sites where temples were built and priests helped seekers to dream in a sacred way, and to interpret and apply the dream knowledge that they had gained. Often, it is said, the dreamers were visited by the God, who would touch the afflicted part of the body or in some other way transmit divine healing to them as they slept.

In Native American culture, dream visitations were also very much believed in. Among the Lakota (Sioux) of the American West, those who dreamt of the wakinyan, the thunder-beings or thunderbirds, were compelled to become heyokas, or sacred clowns: people who had received a divine gift of power from the thunder, and must now use that power to help their people, by acting in a strange, crazy, humorous way that would touch the people with the healing power of laughter, and with the visionary power of being able to see the world all over again, by having something contrary put right next to it. One duty incumbent upon the thunder dreamer, who was believed to have been divinely selected, by his dream, to play a certain role in society, would be to go in front of the entire village, and act out his dream in public. This could be a way of humbling himself, cleansing himself of some degree of pride or pretentiousness, which would bring him closer to the spirit power; and also, perhaps, a way of sharing some of the wealth of the dream world with the whole community (the thunder-beings - communicating to him in his sleep - could, by making him act out his dream in public, under threat of their lightning bolts, project their message to everyone else, as well). Having completed this stage of his dream-inspired journey, the heyoka would then, many times, act as a "contrary", doing everything weirdly, and in a "backwards" or bizarre way. He would become the holy clown, holy crazy person, of the village. If he wanted out of this supremely challenging role, he might fulfill the obligations given to him in his dream; participate in a demanding heyoka ceremony; and, thereafter, return to "normal life."

Native American lore is also filled with the appearance of spirit protectors, and "power animals" - sacred sources of mystical strength - through the medium of dreams. (Visionary experiences, outside of dreams, were also supremely important.)

As for my own experience with visitation dreams, I know of people who have dreamt of beautiful spirit guides who have comforted them, given them hope, and a sense of being protected, cared for, and watched over. These visitors have helped to improve the quality of their lives, and in cases, even laid the foundations for a total life transformation. In my own dreams, I, too, have discovered important spirit guides, guides whose strange and mysterious presence did not have the "feel" of normal dream characters, but, instead, transmitted a deep emotional impact which resonated with a very ancient, very occult part of my soul, a part of my soul which responded just like a child, lost in a crowd, when he hears his name being called out in the voice of a parent, who is searching for him; and these same guides appeared to me, later, in the medium of hypnotic regressions, as well.

Of course, not all dream visitations are uplifting and beautiful. Many cultures have feared the intrusion of evil spirits during sleep, and amulets and charms such as the Native American dream-catcher have been used to try to protect the sleeper from these invasions, believed responsible for corrupting the dreamer, afflicting him with illness, even with stealing away his soul and life. The dream-catcherís characteristic mesh, or net, strung like a spiderís web across a round hoop, which is often adorned with feathers and beads, is meant to symbolize spiritual power that will act as a protective filter, allowing good, life-giving dreams to come to enrich and vitalize the dreamer, while "catching" and keeping out malicious, dangerous dreams, and the forces that navigate through such dreams. Prayers said before one goes to sleep, and visualizations of nighttime protectors, are said to be additional ways of defending oneself from the harm of unwanted dreamtime visitors.

During the Middle Ages, Europe was afflicted with an epidemic of dreamtime visits by overpowering sexual beings known as incubi and succubi (singular, incubus and succubus). The first was believed to be a class of demon which came, in the darkness, to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women; while the second was said to be a class of demon that came down upon sleeping men, to lustfully entangle them and bring them to ecstasy. Some of the experiences seem to have been oppressive, rape-like, unwanted; others amazingly pleasurable, yet filling those who underwent them with terrible guilt if they gave in and let go. For these were the Middle Ages, and the Christian Church of those days had, sadly, equated sexual pleasure with sin, and sexual dreams and visitations with the Devil, and thus turned all of these erotic dream encounters, wanted and unwanted, into a form of demonic attack. Seen through the filter of this perspective and conditioning, the experience was rarely positive, though some individuals did make peace with it by rejecting the religion which stood in its way, and following, instead, paths of "witchcraft", in the remnants of shattered pagan faiths. Perhaps the true nature of these experiences will never be known, but it is unlikely that they were truly as wicked as their frightened times painted them.

Now, in modern times, yet a new form of dream visitation is upon us. This is the epidemic of nighttime encounters with extraterrestrial beings which is being reported with increasing frequency. Some of these nighttime encounters are believed, by the subjects, and by some of the analysts who have interviewed them, to be actual physical encounters with alien beings from other planets, who are said to be able to come in and out of our homes, passing like ghosts, through walls; to levitate human subjects out of their beds, through open windows into their hovering spaceships; or to entrance human beings, putting them in a kind of hypnosis, and inducing them to "sleepwalk" out of their own homes, sometimes even to drive their cars, to a rendezvous point where they can be picked up by an awaiting spacecraft, for study, experimentation, or communication. Some of these physical experiences may then leak back into the subjectís mind, in the form of dreams, which are actually flashbacks, or memories. Besides this, it is believed that the extraterrestrial beings may also be able to communicate with sleeping humans through the use of telepathy, visiting them in their dreams.

Of course, mainstream psychologists view these experiences as symbolic dreams, and portray the extraterrestrials as "disguised" representations of parents or other figures of power in the dreamerís life; while the "alien abduction", if it takes place, is considered to be a symbolic mask for memories of abuse, sexual fantasies, a sense of powerlessness, or a desire to be special. Alien abduction specialists, such as John Mack and Budd Hopkins, reject this interpretation, and provide detailed arguments on behalf of their point of view.  Back To Top

OBEs, Shamanism, and Lucid Dreaming

Sometimes, it is hard to tell where a dream ends and another kind of paranormal experience begins. For example, if a person "dreams" that he is leaving his body and flying around some other place, or universe, even, is it really correct to say that he is "dreaming"; or should we now say that he is having an OBE (out-of-body experience)?

In 1889, the Native American, Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, was in Paris, as part of a traveling American folkloric show/circus reminiscent of Buffalo Bill Codyís Wild West Show. All of a sudden, he fell sick, and for 3 days, he lay like a dead man in a bed. The people who were caring for him were even preparing to buy his coffin. But during all this time, Black Elk was far from dead. He had a dream - or was it a vision? - or an OBE? - in which he saw himself riding on a cloud, all the way back to his homeland. Looking down from the cloud he saw his village, and his mother, and he wanted to jump down but it was too high up, and then the cloud began to go back; but his mother saw him, just before he left. When Black Elk woke up, or returned to his body, back in Paris, he was filled with the desire to return home, and when he finally did make it back by ship and railroad and wagon (no cloud this time), his mother told him that, while he was gone across the sea, she had seen him once in a dream, looking down at her from a cloud, before it had drifted away from her.

It is also hard to say what, exactly, is going on, during many shamanic visions which take place in the night, or while the shaman appears to be asleep, unconscious, or inert. Are these dreams, or soul journeys into other dimensions of being, into landscapes of spirit, other realities, which are like the secret world Plato envisioned, which casts this one as its shadow? In these strange alternative worlds of dream or vision, the shaman - or healer, witch doctor, or medicine man, as he may be called - discovers insights and revelations; heals the sick, whose sickness is said to start in these phantom worlds; and finds power, and guidance, and protects his people.

In many ways, the shamanic journey seems to parallel the world of lucid dreaming, which, though it is not generally thought of in esoteric terms, does contain some elements not quite common to our ordinary way of viewing dreams. Lucid dreams, as they are defined today, are particularly vivid and alive dreams, often luminous to the senses, in which the dreamer is conscious of the fact that he is dreaming, and yet remains within the dream state, exploring, and interacting with the dream imagery and events; not quite controlling what is taking place, but definitely influencing it, and participating in it on an entirely different level than in ordinary dreaming. Lucid dreaming does occur naturally, but it can also, to a large extent, be learned through exercises and practice. In the lucid state, some individuals feel closely connected to esoteric realities, whether these realities are the result of actually traveling through another "dimension", in the shamanic sense, or of gaining a more aware form of access to the incredible wonders, secrets, and imaginative powers of the subconscious mind.  Back To Top

Past-life Memory In Dreams

Not surprisingly, since the dreamerís exposure to his own subconscious mind is vastly increased during dreaming, secrets and mysteries normally hidden in the subconscious mind may sometimes "leak out" and be revealed during dreaming. One form of esoteric knowledge which is sometimes said to be uncovered during dreaming is past-life memory.

For those who believe in the concept of reincarnation - that we human beings are born, die, and then reborn numerous times upon the earth - there is often a burning curiosity to find out more about who we once were, as a way of better knowing who we are now, and who we might be in the future. Most believers in reincarnation and past lives believe that the lives we have lived in the past have left an imprint somewhere, whether it is in some universal body of knowledge, some "holographic record" in the texture of space-time, or in the personal memory of the individual soul; and they believe that that imprint is accessible to us, able to be brought up from the subconscious mind, where it is either stored, or from which it can be touched. Past-life regressions, which utilize hypnosis to "activate" the subconscious mind in the search for past-life memories, are one way that many people are, today, seeking to come in contact with the secrets of who they once were. The study of dreams, which uncovers sometimes unexpected treasures from our subconscious mind, is another.

Far and away, one of the most convincing tales of past-life memory yet on record is that of Englishwoman Jenny Cockell, who, as a child, was afflicted by a recurring nightmare in which she saw herself as a young Irish mother, wasting away and dying from sickness, tormented by the thought of "abandoning" her children, whose fate without a mother was sure to be bleak. And yet, Jenny - who was "Mary" in those days - could not fight on to live, she just felt herself helpless and fading away, grieving for her inability to protect those she had brought into the world, her motherís loyalty overpowered by death. Over time, as Jenny explored and deepened her memories more, through dreams, and writing down and sketching things she remembered from her dreams - and through daydreams, visions, and some work with hypnosis - she came to piece together the puzzle of that life tragically cut short, discovered her actual past-life identity, and traveling to Ireland, found some of the children she had, against her will, left behind - children, still alive, who were now much older than she! These survivors verified many of Jennyís memories; and while they, as traditional Catholics, preferred to think of her as a woman who had somehow, and in some way, become psychically connected to their mother, assuming the burden of carrying their departed motherís love back to them through time, many others have taken this amazing story to be proof of reincarnation. All starting from a dreamÖ

Another example of possible past-life memory surfacing in a dream, which was reported by researcher Ian Stevenson, involved a young American girl troubled by a recurring nightmare, in which she saw herself as an adult woman, dressed in a long, exotic garment. Walking along, in this dream, with a child who seems to have been her daughter, she suddenly heard a huge and terrible noise surge up around her, and the earth seemed to collapse beneath her feet. The sensations were absolutely terrifying, and she would invariably wake up screaming. Later on in life, as the American dreamer grew into a woman, she finally came upon, and recognized, the India sari as the garment which she had been wearing in her dream. She also discovered a powerful emotional resonance with India, and a compelling attraction towards its culture. Later still, on seeing a movie which featured the Indian city of Darjeeling, she was hit by overwhelming feelings of deja vu; struck by something strangely familiar and intimate about that distant place, by a sense that she knew this city and had had some kind of personal experience or relation with it (which she did not have in her present lifetime). Subsequent research showed that between 1890 and 1920, Darjeeling was affected by a series of disastrous landslides, which seemed to coincide very plausibly with the terrifying details of the womanís childhood nightmares. Dr. Stevenson, however, a researcher committed to investigating reincarnation in a demanding, scientific way, with rigorous scientific standards set for establishing the reality of esoteric facts, was only able to categorize this case of "past-life memory in dreams" as suggestive of reincarnation, not proof of it. But, of course, the dreamer was free to believe what she felt in her own heart, whether her truth could be proved to anyone else, or not.

Of course, the question arises: If you have a dream that seems to take place in another time, and/or in anther land, how can you tell if you are having just some ordinary nighttime fantasy, or real past-life memories?

If you donít believe in past lives, of course, you will have no problem in making this decision. You will take your dream as a symbolic fantasy, embellished by elements of history and culture which you have been exposed to in this life, in books and movies, or in your own personal travels. Just like a writer of historical fiction uses his knowledge of the past to create the setting for his story, so you will come to believe that your subconscious mind has first acquired and stored, then reworked this historical material into a conventional dreamÖ Although you see yourself dressed as a Roman soldier, or a medieval knight, or a witch being burned at the stake, or a lady at the feudal Japanese court, you will believe that it is all part of a subconscious costume drama, meant to convey information about your present life to you.

On the other hand, if you do believe in reincarnation, and past-life memory, how can you tell the difference between real past-life memory in a dream, and symbolism and fantasy?

Carol Bowman, in her excellent book on Childrenís Past Lives, attempts to provide some guidelines for assessing this, writing that real past-life dreams are most often (1) vivid and coherent, (2) recurring, and (3) portray the dreamer in a different persona. She believes that dreams with real past-life memories tend to stand out, and leave a powerful impression; that they tend to repeat, and to remain consistent (details of the past life do not change); and that the dreamer often sees himself as another character (for example, a child may see himself as an adult, a woman as a man, a white man as a black man, an American as a Japanese, etc.) Sometimes the dreams make sense out of something that was previously baffling (for example, if a child who screams whenever airplanes fly overhead, dreams he was a soldier killed in a past-life strafing attack, then it all begins to fit together). In cases, hypnosis can be used as a follow-up to such dreams, to see if any more suggestive past-life material can be uncovered. Bowman also suggests that past-life dreams are most often not filled with fantastic, unreal elements, like flying and "morphing" (this is what she means by "coherent").

Of course, these are meant to be guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. And I would tend to disagree, at least to some extent, with the "rule" of "coherence." For if we use the verifiable material of our own real, present-day lives to help weave the fabric of symbolic and fantasy dreams, why not the real material of past lives, as well?

For example: For a period in my life, I dreamt frequently of going back to my old university, to check for mail in my mailbox there, and to check the shelves of the school library for two old books that meant a great deal to me. Sometimes I also passed by a cavernous dining room in the basement of the "university center." These were all very real, verifiable places. Yet, in these dreams, I would often find myself walking through walls, invisible, riding on horses, and flying through the air, sometimes by waving my arms like wings, other times by moving my legs up and down as though I were pedaling some kind of imaginary bicycle, sometimes by just floating like a balloon. These fantasy elements did not erase the fact that my dreams contained "real stuff" in them, as well; instead, the two streams of imagery - fantasy and reality - mingled, in my dreams, and there was significant interplay between them.

Supposing, then, that I have a dream that I am a New York City messenger delivering a package to a high floor in an office building, and that when the elevator door opens, I find myself in a street in ancient Rome. I see men and women of the time walking down the street; a column of soldiers with helmets and shields marching by; I step aside to avoid a chariot, driven by a young and rather arrogant man, then looking up, see a stadium in the distance, and hear the far-off, excited murmur of a crowd.

Or supposing that I am being led up the steps of the guillotine in revolutionary France, about to be beheaded. I feel fearful. Before me, a beautiful, once-elegant woman, sweaty now, in disarray, like someone being raped, is laid underneath the machine, and I hear her call out, "God save me!" Then, I hear the almost unbelievable thud - they really went through with it (I thought it must be stopped by Fate, it was so unfair) - and there is a huge gasp from the crowd, thrilled and pleased, yet also slightly awed. I see the headless body of the once beautiful woman being dragged away, and then it is my turn. But suddenly, I kick and twist away from my captors, and before they can catch me, I have leapt up into the air and begin to float away. "Monsters!" I call out to them as I fly away, the guardsmen too shocked to dare to fire their guns at me; "God shall have payment for this!" And then I am gone, flying beyond their reach.

Each of the two dreams just cited could be taken to be symbolic dreams, or subconscious fantasies, because they did contain undeniable fantasy elements. And yet, it is also possible that there was real past-life material incorporated in those dreams, as well, interacting with the fantasy material.

In the first dream, for instance, the messenger delivery and elevator ride could merely have been ways of bringing me into a real past-life memory of ancient Rome. In fact, hypnotic regressions often use imagery such as "bridges", "tunnels", "descending staircases" and yes, even "elevators" (usually going down), to bring subjects "into" the realm of their subconscious mind, where past-life memory is said to reside. The mix of present life and past life could also have been an attempt to establish important connections between things going on in my life, now, and issues or events of the past.

In the case of the second dream, it is possible that a real past-life memory of an execution in 18th Century France has been interrupted by a fantasy escape, meant to mask the traumatic conclusion. The dream, filled with tension and dread, is nonetheless, steered away from becoming an all-out nightmare, and, in fact, even emerges as a statement of liberation and personal power. Perhaps it is all something like the death of the protagonist in Hemingwayís Snows of Kilimanjaro, who dreamt of being rescued by an airplane as he died of an infection.

This is not to say that the dream might not be purely symbolic, using historical material to make an important point to me, such as "God helps those who help themselves", or "You have the power to get out of a damaging situation."

Which leads back to the question, how can one tell if one has had an actual past-life memory in a dream?

Ultimately - as is the case with many dreams of the esoteric sort - it all comes down to your own worldview, current or potential; and to your own feelings and emotions about the dream. For when all is said and done, the decision of whether to believe, or not to believe, is yours.  Back To Top



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