What are dreams?


Dreams are series of sounds,images, feelings,ideas, and emotions that show up while we sleep in the REM stage. But what do they mean :shrug: .No one really knows for sure. There are many theories ranging from the idea that dreams are random or they are bits of imagination, desires, experiences put together in your mind as dream imagery and there have been theories about dreams being mirrors of your deep unconscious. It’s up to you what to believe. Here are some theories that have been studied by some of dreams most famous philosophers and scientists.

People have been recording their dreams dating all the way back to the Sumerians in 3100 B.C :yes: . King Gilgamesh told his mother, Ninsun, about some of his reoccurring dreams and Ninsun made the first dream interpretation.

Ancient Hebrews believed dreams were messages from god himself :bow: . The biblical figures Solomon, Jacob, Nebuchadnezzar and Joseph were all visited in their dreams by God or prophets, who helped guide their decisions. The Talmud, which was written between 0 and 500 A.D, states that "dreams which are not understood are like letters which are not opened." The greeks also believed that Gods gave messages through dreams.

The Chinese thought that your spiritual body ,or hun, would leave and wander to the land of the dead :astral: . Cultures such as Chinese and Egyptians went to incubate in Dream Temples in which some judges and government officials were required to go for insight and wisdom. So as you can see, dreams were taken very seriously long ago.

Hippocrates (469-399 BC), the father of medicine and Socrates’ contemporary, wrote that “during the day, the soul receives images; during the night, it produces images. Therefore, we dream.” That sounds logical. :wink:

Aristotle (384-322 BC) thought that dreams could be indicators of conditions within the body, such as illnesses that we weren’t aware of yet.

Artemidorus wrote “as the best source we have for the dream interpretation practices of antiquity." His theory is extensive, but within the five books he wrote, he describes two classes of dreams: somnium, which forecasts the future; and insomnium, which deal with contemporary matters and are affected by the state of the body and mind. He stated that the dream interpreter should have information about the dreamer including: 

1.images that are natural, lawful and customary for the dreamer;2. circumstances at the time of the dream;3.dreamers occupation and personality.

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist that believed that dreams are just wish fulfillment  :cloud9: and repressed feelings .He also heavily thought that dreams were sexual desires/frustrations(when i look in dream dictionaries, i see that a ton of things may reference sexual topics :uh: )  Freud was famous for his  book The Interpretation of Dreams which impacted dream studies greatly. 

Freud listed four transformations applied to wishes in order to avoid censorship:
Condensation — one dream object stands for several thoughts.
Displacement — a dream object’s psychical importance is assigned to an object that does not raise the censor’s suspicions.
Representation — a thought is translated to visual images.
Symbolism — a symbol replaces an action, person, or idea.

A man named Carl Jung agreed with the basics of Freud’s theories but Jung thought dreams were more complex than that. Jung thought that dreams were a reflection of the whole unconscious and mostly are made up of repressed feelings. The two had mailed letters to each other and arranged to meet. But they called it off due to differences in their beliefs of dreams.

          As you can see, people on this earth have been studying dreams for thousands of years!! :eek: ! The true meaning of dreams is a question asked long ago and is still being asked today. 

What’s their purpose?

That also has been debated. Yet we don’t know :wallhit: ! The theories include:

  1. Dreams are meant to keep our mind busy while we sleep so we don’t wake up(FREUD)
    2.Dreams are used so we can be visited by gods.(CHINESE)
    3.Dreams may compensate for one-sided attitudes held in waking consciousness(JUNG)
    4.Dreams may communicate things that are not being said outright(Ferenczi)
    5.Dreams may be the clean-up of unneeded and unwanted memories and other “junk”.

The purpose and causes of dreams remain unknown. Many people have their own ideas, but we still don’t know for sure. Well, that’s what they think. What really matters is what YOU think. Thanks for reading. :colgate: . See ya…

Read more: at wikipedia… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream
www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/misc/johnlocke/ … osophy.rtf
www.chevroncars.com/learn/wondrous-worl … are-dreams


I think that dream are our soul expression within his own creativity and imagination.

I’ve read in a scientifical magazine, about the theory, that dreams move information from our temporary/short memory to the long lasting memory. That’s why while in a dream, studying, practicing something is very efficient. Though, this is only a theory.

Another one would be that dreams stimulate our senses so that we can wake up, ready to do our daily routine.

I’ve once read that dreams could be a way of tidying up any loose ends in the brains from things we saw or thought during the day, but we didn’t fully process yet. Maybe these loose ends (neurons) are still firing, causing related images to pop up in our dreams, but also closing the loose ends at the same time. It seems logical that a complex system with tons of input like your brain needs to have some way to tidy itself up once in a while.

A lot of information! :tongue:

But I don’t actually need any theories, I mean I dream, and when I’m lucid I don’t care whether those are images, or repressed feelings or gods or something else.

Scientific proves I can accept but the things about gods and that things are crazy. But ok, everybody accepts what they want!

My point is, when I’m lucid I have a great time, and I’m feeling great when I wake up, and that’s important to me, also experiences from other dreamers are great. We can learn from them. Knowing that you can [which is also theory but also proven to some point] reach to your subconscious is great. And for that dreams are to me, to learn about my self and to have a damn good time while sleeping 10+ hours.

But it would be great to know what dreams are actually! :grin:

personally i view dreams from both a spiritual and psychological point of view, they can be messages from God but are mostly reflections of the subconscious but all take place in the mind. (this is my view, i understand and respect others views)

i know, a lot of people will disagree, i understand and its ok everyone has their own opinions and views, i just thought i’d share mine. even though i do believe in the spiritual side of dreams, i also know they are made up by the mind. however that doesn’t make dreams any less interesting, in fact with lucid dreaming it makes dreaming much more interesting, because while lucid you have access to parts of you and your subconscious that you normally don’t while awake and you can learn a lot about yourself.

I really liked your artical, and I have my personal beliefs that Dreams are the brain’s TV and we (The Dreamers) are the actors of the show. (Dreams) My theory of what their purpose is that they are to give us ideas for Movies, Shows, Art, Games, ECT. To make.

Nice survey of all of the explanations for dreams SLS93!
There is a very nice survey as well to be found in Stephen LaBerge’s first book, Lucid Dreaming…unfortunately, it was out of print last time I checked :cry: …so, if anyone wants to check it out, you may need to find a second hand copy, or a library that happens to have the book.

I’ve heard something similar to this as well…this is probably the wrong way to put it, but think of dreams as our brain’s way of ‘de-fragging’ itself. In fact, there are some disorders where people don’t dream! And this is known to have some affect on how functional they are during their waking lives.

I just had a dream about a tiny Chinese man and small Chinese baby both dying in a rainy gutter on a busy street, the baby head kept coming off but looked a doll, I put the head back on and put the baby down, it’s naked an cold so rested my finger against it to keep it warm (it was that small) I picked the Chinese man and he was being sick everywhere saying “il kill him, if you summit summit il kill him” so he sorta twirled round on spot while projectile vomiting and fell down, while looking at the ground he said “stay with me”. Looked back the baby and he still breathing but I felt helpless

I see this question as the other side of the “Hard-problem” coin, that is: What is consciousness? Most modern scientists would argue that consciousness is nothing but a by-product of brain activity, but so far we have no theory able to explain how our experience of reality can arise from biochemical activity and electrical impulses in our brain.

Ancient cultures had a different epistemology than ours, and the idea that dreams could be the channel of divine or supernatural forces was not as strange to them as it was for us. Until few centuries ago, when the scientific revolution determined the spread of materialist theory as the main epistemology of the Western world, human beings have used the word “Soul” (with different, more or less religious connotations) to refer to the totality of our consciousness, experience and awareness. The idea that the soul could receive influences not directly mediated by our senses was considered entirely plausible, and I believe that the same goes for dreams. We currently have no way of excluding that, during a dream, our consciousness receives information which are not mediated by sensory perception (on the contrary, I believe that there is evidence for this kind of phenomena, which tends to be systematically rejected by the scientific community).

In relation to this, I find intriguing how dreams have been used as diagnostic tools to get information about someone’s disease and possible therapies. In the Ancient Greece, it was common for sick individuals to spend the night in the temple of Asclepius (Asclepeion); the priest/physicians would then prescribe a therapy based on the interpretation of their dreams. Interestingly, the use of dreams and visions with healing purposes (such as in the Ayahuasca ceremony) is still practiced by South American shamans and healers.

Sir (I think – otherwise you would probably be “La Bateleuse”), I fully agree with you – I have learned things in dreams that I should not have been able to know, and I have certainly been contacted in them, whether for good or for ill, by various beings. I am however curious why you seem to imply that most people today are materialists – at least in my experience, that’s nothing near the case. (Then again, I live in Kentucky.) That reminds me – what are your own views on this matter?

Thanks for the ‘Sir’ Lisez! I come from an academic environment which is dominated by materialistic thought. I agree with you that many ‘lay people’ do not embrace materialism, but (unfortunately) among scientists this is still the dominant paradigm.

I don’t have a strong view on this matter, but I do have a very strong view against dogmas of any kind and I think that many materialists have taken a dogmatic stance, claiming that their view is the only possible explanation for our experience of reality. I do not believe it is so, I think that one should always keep an open mind.

Personally, I never experienced anything in my dream that led me to think of external influences of some kind. Every dream element I have encountered so far can be explained as a creation of my mind (although I do believe that there are different depths, and some dream elements certainly arise from deeper parts of my mind). This being said, I have no good reason to exclude that phenomena like dream telepathy or clairvoyance are, at least in principle, possible.

Materialism or not, the only think I know for sure is that this life is a precious gift. Telepathy, clairvoyance or other esoteric phenomena are certainly very attractive and fascinating… but in my opinion the things that really matter in this life are Love, Wisdom and Compassion, and being on an inner journey of self-exploration and development… I also think that this is the aim of spiritual practices, like meditation or prayer - that I’d warmly recommend to anyone, materialist and non-materialists alike!

I wonder what are your views on this matter, and if you think of the beings that contacted you in your dreams are external entities rather than just dream creations.

Ah, yes – academia is a strange place, where recycled knowledge can be passed off as “new” and genuine new knowledge is generally laughed into obscurity. I’ve had to deal often with such types; but let me stop before I go too far on that subject.

I apologize if this may stir up any of your disdain for dogma, but I myself am a fundamentalist Christian, and so I cannot but look askance (albeit respectfully) at many of the things people say on this site – part of the reason why I replied here in the first place was to warn people about what seems (at least to me) to be a real threat.

While I no longer seek out any kind of external interaction in dreams, there was a time when I did, and I received it – even now I occasionally still do. The reason which leads me to believe some of the things I’ve encountered are external is because I have occasionally learned things I didn’t know already from them. The example that most immediately comes to mind – and I apologize for any disgust this may induce – is that a demonic figure first taught me how to masturbate soon after I had heard about the concept; the method was strange to me, and I never would have come up with it on my own. I refused ever to do it, so it kept coming back and forcing me to while I was dreaming – but perhaps you’d chalk this up to “sexual repression”?

A few months ago, I also had a dream (on this site here: ld4all.com/forum/viewtopic. … 961#748961 ) in which I was guiding a young woman around one of my own previous dreams. She was remarkably emotionally complex and seemed very much to have her own consciousness – I was able to empathize with her, which never happens. I have never encountered a more realistic “dream character” before or since, and so I can be fairly confident that this anomalous case actually did involve some other being visiting me.

Again, I suppose such encounters could alternately be explained as facets of my own mind so fully developed as to seem real, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to me that that could be possible; there is a very real sense of “other” around them. Of course, most of the “beings” I meet in dreams quickly fall flat and turn out to have been little more than talking cardboard cutouts – I agree that the mind is responsible for most dream content, if not all. At any rate, I’m glad you seem to have your priorities in order – love, wisdom, and compassion indeed, and the less I or anyone else has to touch this supernatural stuff again, the better!

Dear Lisez, thanks for sharing this. I do have a certain disdain for dogma and fundamentalism, but greatly respect (and admire) genuine Faith.

My experience (and that of other dreamers) is that dream characters can be at times extremely realistic and display complex behaviour. On a few occasions I met dream characters in a lucid dream that felt so real I believed they were other dreamers (one of them explicitly said that it wasn’t so, and that he was part of me), but after waking up I never felt this was indeed what had happened.

I also know expert lucid dreamers who meet characters in their dreams that they’re not able to control in spite of their lucidity. Do I think they are entities external to the dreams? The way I interpret these events is that these dream characters represent a part of the dreamer, and arise from levels of the mind which are deep and ancient. I also believe that working with these characters (especially when they represent negative forces or shadow figures) is an important part of the inner journey.

Starting from Jung, many researchers of the dream world suggested that frightening and aggressive shadow figures (such as monsters, demons, killers, or aliens) represent parts of the dreamer’s soul that are not fully integrated with their personality and appear in the dreams in order to be acknowledged, recognised. I don’t claim that this is THE truth, of course other interpretations are possible depending on your worldview; this is the one that’s most compatible with mine. I personally find the Jungian interpretation a very useful paradigm to work with my dreams, especially with those elements that appear as negative or frightening, and to try and find what their psychological significance is.


Great discussion so far! I agree with Freud on dreams. I think they are partly the result of wish-fulfillment, needs, fears, and repressed feelings that cannot be experienced in real-life because of social constructs or the situation you are in at the moment. I also tend to think some dreams (incl. nightmares) are a way for your brain to test a possible future situation (I think this was also proposed in a scientific study). In this way, you will be better prepared to handle difficult situations in real-life. I also think dreams are involved in coping with the experiences you have had and the expectations or fears you have for the following days. In this way, many of my own dreams can be explained.

However, a lot of dreams seem to be made of random stuff, and I don’t think everything in dreams has a deeper meaning or has to be explained in ways mentioned in this topic so far. Maybe (a lot of) this random stuff is the result of “clearing” your brain during sleep in which random connections of neurons occur.

In addition, I really believe your subconscious has a lot of information about you, it ‘knows’ you far better than your conscious-self. I don’t see this as anti-materialistic, or anti-scientific. I actually think this is also the scientific view. The following can also be explained this way:

I greatly value science, having done a university master study of my own. However, this is not surprising to me, despite the fact that I view everything about nature in a very scientific way. As I said earlier, the subconscious knows a lot about you. It seems possible to me that it already knows something is wrong before the illness is expressing itself (to the outside world).

Also, saying that “we have no way of excluding this or that” is not convincing to me because this is true for so many things, including any God of gods, the tooth fairy, bigfoot. I think it is about demonstrating, not about excluding.

About consciousness, it is indeed true that “we have no theory able to explain how our experience of reality can arise from biochemical activity and electrical impulses in our brain”. However, we already know that other animals also have dreams. I also tend to think that animals have some sort of consciousness, especially the more intelligent ones (apes and aquatic mammals). In light of evolution by natural selection, I don’t see dreams or consciousness as something supernatural. Of course, it is true that these things are more sophisticated in humans because of our increased intelligence.

I do not believe in messages of God or entities is dreams because these things are very hard to explain and involve believing in lots of things without evidence. Just my opinion. Feel free to respond :smile: