– As Revealer and Deceiver –
The subject of dreams has captured human imagination for aeons of time. For long humanity has sought the significance of dreams, believing such nightly images to be keys that reveal the deeper meaning of life, both from a psychological and spiritual perspective. In recent years much effort and speculation has gone into understanding the symbolic clues to dream imagery. Within each of us is a yearning to know precisely what these nocturnal apparitions mean, and in what way they can be utilized in the facilitation of one’s growth. Yet, do they mean what we think (or hope) they mean? Are dreams always an indication that something meaningful and transformational is occurring within one’s consciousness? In this article we shall examine these questions by considering this subject as understood within the ancient Esoteric Tradition. By so doing, it will become apparent to the reader that dreams can be revelatory of one’s spiritual growth, as well as deceptively misleading.
To begin, it is important that the relationship between soul (central point of consciousness) and the lower-self (personality) be briefly discussed. For dreams are emergent as a result of this relationship. From the esoteric perspective it is understood that the soul is encased within three layers of substance. These layers are referred to as the mental, emotional and physical bodies. These three bodies are the personality vehicles that the soul uses in order to contact and relate to the outer world of thought, feeling and physical reality. For example, the soul extends itself into the mental body, and by so doing the individual has the capacity to experience thought, as well as perceive mental ideas directed toward him/her. The same is true of one’s emotional body. The ability to feel an emotion is contingent upon the soul (which is one’s true identity) being extended into that emotional body of the personality. In point of fact, this extension continues into the densest aspect of human existence, the physical body. Most important to our consideration of dreams is the actual mechanism of extension that the soul uses to connect with these three sheaths of the personality. As understood in the esoteric teaching, this extension is made possible by something called the sutratma. The sutratma is best understood as an energetic conduit extending from the soul through the mental and emotional vehicles, finally anchoring itself in the physical body.
When examining the sutratma in greater measure we see that it is actually an intertwining of two threads linking the soul to the threefold personality instrument. One of these filaments is called the life thread, and the other the consciousness thread. These two threads of contact make it possible for consciousness to relate to the world, yet their roles are quite different. The purpose of the life thread is to pour into the personality the life and vitality of the soul itself. It makes it possible for the physical body to function as a coordinated whole, and to maintain its biological systems. This thread anchors itself in the heart of the human being, the organ responsible for the circulation of blood, which is ever the medium that distributes life. The other fiber of the sutratma, the consciousness thread, makes it possible for the Self to experience consciousness itself. By way of this thread, the soul is able to extend itself into the threefold personality. This it does for the purpose of learning how to be conscious of itself and the environment. This thread finds its mooring in the brain, in the region of the pineal gland located near the center of the brain cavity.
Having established an understanding of the threads of the sutratma, it is now possible to discuss the nature of sleep and dreams. When a person drifts off into the slumber of sleep s/he is experiencing an abstraction of consciousness from the physical brain. The Self (soul) begins to withdraw from the normal experiences of wakeful brain consciousness. Importantly, this extraction represents the detachment of the consciousness thread from its anchoring within the brain. The result of this extraction is that consciousness is then experienced in a different manner than it is normally. This alteration of consciousness, as a result of the extraction of the consciousness thread, is the basis of all dream experiences. It should be noted that, when sleep occurs, the life thread remains firmly affixed to the heart. Therefore the body still maintains its vital functioning while the consciousness thread is dislodged from it.
When we consider the dream experience, it must be understood that there are several categories of dreams, some being spiritually significant while others are not. Some dreams genuinely indicate the soul’s evolutionary activities and purpose, while many others are unimportant and even misleading. The distinction of dream categories is based upon the extent to which the consciousness thread has been extracted while the individual is in the sleeping state. After the consciousness thread is drawn away from the physical vehicle, it is then found upon the astral (emotional) plane. For many people, this is where the end of this thread will find rest within the personality during sleep. In such cases, dreams will be largely conditioned by the individual’s emotional body and desire life. For some, the consciousness thread extracts further into the mental body, and the resultant dreams will be qualitatively different than those generated by the emotional body. Still others will experience this extraction to a greater extent, causing the consciousness thread to be pulled back into the casual body (the container of the soul) itself. What is important to understand, therefore, is that the nature and quality of one’s dream life is largely due to the degree to which this thread is withdrawn from the personality instrument. The extent of this extraction process varies for everyone. Thus each human being will have experiences related to different levels of extraction, and this can vary from night to night. Though there are many kinds of dreams, we shall examine the most important types, their causes, and the measure of importance (or unimportance) they have in one’s spiritual life.
1. Dreams Based Upon Brain Activity
This form of dreaming is largely due to sleeping too lightly. Essentially, the consciousness thread has not been completely detached from the brain. This occurs when the brain cells are highly agitated as a result of the events of the day. In such cases, the churning of brain activity is so strong that the consciousness thread has difficulty fully detaching from the physical brain. These dreams represent an extension of the thoughts, problems and worries of the day. Yet, because the thread is only partially disengaged from the brain, they will be confusing and exceedingly difficult for the dreamer to clearly interpret and understand. This form of dreaming can last the entire night, though it is more commonly experienced during the first couple hours of sleep. No importance should be assigned to such dreams. They have very little significance to the individual, other than the fact that they do reveal in what way the mind has been overly occupied by worrisome thoughts.
2. Dreams of Remembrance
These dreams represent the remembrance of the experiences upon the astral (emotional) plane. Primarily they involve the memory of the sights, sounds and actions related to one’s emotional desires and wish life. Such dreams are usually vivid when recalled, and include elements consistent with the personality’s likes and dislikes, desires, and those elements considered attractive or repulsive to it. When expressive of the desire nature, these dreams can range from images related to sexual gratification, to the yearning of the spiritually minded person to have union with his/her spiritual Master, the Christ or the Buddha. Interestingly, there are such thoughtforms already created by humanity over countless centuries. These ancient thoughtforms have been built into the collective consciousness of humanity. As such, the dreamer’s desires are usually met with a pre-existing thoughtform consistent with the object of his/her desire as experienced in the dream. As such, upon awakening the individual will recall the satisfaction achieved in the dream. These are the most common forms of dreams. They have value in as much as they do reveal aspects of the personality life that are unfulfilled, as well as indicate the character and trend of the life. However, dreams of remembrance should not be viewed as indicating any type of soul achievement or development. This is a category of dreams that is largely personal, and is essentially self-referencing. Dreams having immediate relation to the soul’s development are relatively void of desire and self-reference.
3. Dreams of a Mental Nature
In this form of dream the consciousness thread has been further extracted, and finds its termination point within the mental body. As such, the character and nature of one’s dreams will be quite different. These dreams are of three kinds.
a. Dreams that are conditioned by ancient and modern thoughtforms. They are thoughtforms that have been created by humanity over the ages, and are usually connected to themes related to the interpretation of life and its meaning. This type of dream is rooted in the personality’s attempt to understand the events and meaning of life. They often have idealistic motifs connected to them, representing humanity’s long search for answers to the mystery of human existence. Religious or philosophic themes are frequently evident. Even so, these dreams are of personality origin, and are no real indication of soul involvement in the dream experience. Nonetheless, they do have great value, for they reveal how and in what manner the personality is seeking a spiritual understanding of itself. Though these dreams are not of the soul per se, they do tend in that direction.
b. Dreams upon the mental plane revealing geometric forms. Such dreams provide the dreamer with a sense of the basic patterns, forms or symbols that indicate an aspect of God’s Plan seeking to be expressed in the outer world. Symbolic forms such as the triangle, pentagon and cross provide fundamental insight into the nature of divine purpose, particularly as that purpose is seeking to work through the dreamer’s life. As such, this type of dream is very much related to one’s soul and spiritual development. Though there are many such sacred forms, the newest of the emerging symbols to enter into the dream life of the disciple (spiritually dedicated person) is that of the lotus and the flaming torch.
c. Dreams that symbolically represent information and teaching conveyed to the dreamer in the hours of sleep. This information is transmitted to the disciple within the Hall of Wisdom found upon the higher mental plane. The teaching conveyed usually involves deep occult information. It is intended to condition the disciple’s mind with the abstract ideas and principles needed in order that s/he can more effectively facilitate and serve the evolution of humanity in some way. Such service is always an act of upliftment, and is selflessly applied to outer need.
4. Telepathic Dreams
These dreams represent impressions telepathically received by the dreamer from another person. This can be intentional or unintentional. Most often it occurs when one person undergoes some crisis and internally thinks of the other person. Though sometimes such telepathic impressions are experienced during the waking hours, more often it is while sleeping that they are registered. Very often, the dreamer awakes with the telepathic impression received, yet mistakenly attributes it to his/herself. It is an error of appropriation, though done innocently, to be sure.
5. Dreams that are Dramatizations
These dreams represent dramas, symbolically registered, of the soul giving information to the personality. Such dreams can be instructional, or can be dramatized in such a way so as to convey a warning or command to the personality. They can also make impression upon the mental body during the practice of some forms of meditation. These dreams are difficult to interpret by anyone other than the dreamer him/herself. Many variables color this form of dream experience. For example, the unique qualities of the soul and personality will have a bearing on the type of symbols used by the soul, as well as the nature of the drama that it will play out within the dream. Another variable will relate to astrological factors evident in the individual’s life at the time.
As already noted, these represent just a few of the categories of dreams that people can experience. From the esoteric perspective, they are nonetheless the most relevant to the life of the spiritually inclined individual. Dreams are often quite important, for they can reveal those aspects of one’s spiritual nature needing to be developed and expressed. Yet, dreams can also be comparably meaningless, at least when considered in the light of one’s spiritual life. What is important is to learn to discern those dreams that have spiritual relevance from those which do not. Regrettably, such discernment is often lacking by many well-meaning people trying to express the soul in their lives. Many of the dreams we all experience upon the emotional plane seem spiritually meaningful, for they will often contain elements that represent our most intimate spiritual desires. Yet, such dreams are rarely related to actual impulses transmitted by the soul. Rather, they are largely based upon personal desire, and therefore are personality driven. Admittedly, such desires may at times seem lofty and spiritually significant. Yet they are nonetheless conditioned by desire, and desire is always self-referencing. Dreams that are genuinely indicative of soul intention are always related to the development of selfless love, and the yearning to serve others. Self-reference may be present in such dreams as well, but only tangentially so. For when the theme of self-reference enters into an authentic spiritual dream, it will only be in regard to the individual’s capacity to serve the larger whole. Therefore, if self-reference is present at all, it is quite secondary. Such is the nature of the soul and the nocturnal messages it conveys.
© 1998 William Meader
William Meader is an author, teacher and counselor. Much of his work is focused on the subjects of Spiritual Creativity, the Evolution of Consciousness and the Art of Meditation. At present he is teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He resides in Oregon, and can be contacted through his website at meader.org.