“Through the forms of dream, things are seen as other than they are; through the illusion of separateness, one knows not the real. When these two inversions of perceptions are overcome, then one enters the Forth degree of consciousness, the Divine. …
“The wise have declared that all forms seen in dreams are unsubstantial; because they are subjective, and not formed of gross matter. One does not actually go to the places he beholds in dream, for the time is too short, and on awakening, he does not find himself in the place he was dreaming of. …
“The sages have declared that things seen in dream and waking are equally unreal, because both are separate from the Self.” ~Mandakya Upanishad

Dreams and Reality

Philosophers and spiritual leaders have discussed what is real and what is not since the beginning of time. There are many good arguments for one side or the other, but often the differences of opinion are not as great as some believe.

When modern man, especially the ones into science, hear that ancient philosophers said that the world of physical matter is not real, they laugh. They can see it all around them, they can tough it, they can smell it, it must be real. The movie “The Matrix” does a brilliant job of showing us just how untrustworthy such sensual clues are.

When the ancients philosophers said that the material world is not real, it is often misunderstood. People think they were saying that the world of matter doesn’t exist. This is, in most cases, not true. They were only saying that it is temporary, like a distorted image in a mirror. We can see the image in the mirror, but it is just an image. If you break the mirror, the image is gone. It doesn’t matter if you were looking at an image of a bug or a mountain, destroy the mirror, and it’s gone. That could not happen if the image itself was something real and substantial, but it isn’t. Just as the image in the mirror exists only as long as the mirror does, so the world of matter is temporary. The spiritual philosophers say it is unreal because it is temporary.

The World of Dreams

The quote says that dreams are not real, and that the world of matter is just as unreal. This is true, at least in the sense that it was meant. This does not, however, mean that drams are meaningless and should be ignored. It may be true that if you dream you are lost in the maze of corridors in the Pentagon, hat you are not actually in the pentagon, but it has meaning nonetheless. The meaning of dreams is found in symbology, and while that may seem insubstantial to many, these symbolic images can be important if we know how to interpret them.

For me, being lost in the complex of corridors in the Pentagon makes sense because if worked in the Pentagon for several months and I’m familiar with how easy it is to get lost in them. My mind therefore used this knowledge as a dream symbol to give me a message, a warning perhaps, but it had nothing to do with the pentagon. So one could argue that the dream was not real because I did not really travel to the Pentagon, but as a symbolic dream, it provided very real and useful information.

The interpretation of dreams can be tricky. First, while a dream dictionary can help, we have to understand that the same symbol can have very different meaning for different people. My dreaming of the Pentagon where I was worked has very different symbology than it would for a person who is a peace activist and considers the pentagon an image of death and destruction. I love apples so they would have a very different meaning in my dreams than it would to someone who is allergic to apples. And not all dreams have meaning.

Because a dream can be a warning of something happening in our present, a prophecy of a possible future, or a meaningless rehash of past events, one needs to learn to tell the difference. Dreams can be very helpful to us if properly understood, But as Dumbledore warned Harry Potter, “It doesn’t do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

One final note on dreaming. In the materialistic world, teachers tend to frown on daydreaming and scold the students who do it. This is unfortunate and unwise, for the daydreamers are the creative ones who are likely to solve many of the worlds problems.

This post was previously published on the Solar Wind blog.