Thoughts, images, or emotions that occur during one’s sleep. The theosophical view on the subject recognizes the common insights of psychology on the dream experience but adds further dimensions to it. The following is primarily based on the exposition by Helena P. BLAVATSKY.
Blavatsky distinguishes between ordinary dreams and real dreams. Ordinary dreams are the activities of the desire nature (KAMA) awakened by the lower mental nature (lower MANAS). Examples of these are those caused by psychological distress, bad digestion, etc. These are purely mechanical dreams, driven by instinct, and not by reason. This kind of dream is also present in animals, for animals do dream — at least those with a physical brain or its approximate equivalent. It is the action of the brain’s cerebellum. During sleep, the desire nature and the lower mind “receive and send out mechanically electric shocks to and from various nerve-centres. The brain is hardly impressed by them, and memory stores them, of course, without order or sequence. On waking these impressions gradually fade out, as does every fleeting shadow that has no basic or substantial reality underlying it” (CW X:246).
Real dreams, on the other hand, are those which come from the Higher Mind or Ego, which is conjoined with Buddhi, the spiritual soul in human beings. This Higher Ego (not to be confused with the Higher Self or Atma) becomes free from its material bondage during sleep and has its own life. During real dreams, the physical brain cannot feel or be conscious since it is paralyzed temporarily. But these dreams are present realities or actualities to the Higher Ego, and its thoughts are different from those experienced by the physical brain. From this realm come prophetic dreams and those dreams about events of a previous lifetime. Thus real dreams are really “stray pages torn out from the life and experiences of the inner man, and the dim recollection of which at the moment of awakening becomes more or less distorted by our physical memory” (CW X:247). They are similar to the experiences in DEVACHAN, the happy state after the death of the physical body and the discarding of the personality. In fact, real dreams are one mode of communicating with individuals in Devachan (CWV:82; CW X:262; CW XII:125 fn.).
Blavatsky further divides dreams into seven classes:
- Prophetic dreams. These are impressed on our memory by the Higher Self, and are generally plain and clear: either a voice heard or the coming event foreseen.
- Allegorical dreams, or hazy glimpses of realities caught by the brain and distorted by our fancy. These are generally only half true.
- Dreams sent by adepts, good or bad, by mesmerizers, or by the thoughts of very powerful minds bent on making us do their will.
- Retrospective; dreams of events belonging to past incarnations.
- Warning dreams for others who are unable to be impressed themselves.
- Confused dreams, the causes of which have been discussed above.
- Dreams which are mere fancies and chaotic pictures, owing to digestion, some mental trouble, or suchlike external cause (CW X:263-4).
True dreams of the inner Ego may be impressed upon the physical memory more or less accurately depending upon the degree of spirituality of the individual. The spiritual individual has less obstructions in the psyche that will impede the faithful registration of the inner dream experience to the waking memory (CW III:436). It is also by cultivating the power of dreaming that clairvoyance is developed. “Knowledge comes in visions, first in dreams and then in pictures presented to the inner eye during meditation” (CW XIII:285).
All human beings dream but, according to Blavatsky, advanced ADEPTS do not dream.
An adept is one who has obtained mastery over his four lower principles, including his body, and does not, therefore, let flesh have its own way. He simply paralyzes his lower Self during Sleep, and becomes perfectly free. A dream, as we understand it, is an illusion. Shall an adept, then, dream when he has rid himself of every other illusion? In his sleep he simply lives on another and more real plane. (CW X:255-6)
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