In a recent column, I wrote about the power of inspirational dreams in our lives. These dreams frequently serve in many of us as the seed for dramatic change and growth. Even if we have not experienced such dreams of our own they have surely had an influence on us because they have served as the stimulus for virtually all the world's mainstream religions.
However, we might say there are three different types of spiritually inspiring dreams. The first type, which I described in that recent column opens us as dreamers to an experience that profoundly affirms the importance and reality of the path we've been seeking in life--but had doubted was possible. People awaken from such dreams feeling blessed with new energy and confidence, and a deepened experience of the spiritual nature of life.
There are yet two other kinds of dreams, which have the same ability to inspire our waking life path, but which also provide an experience of transcendence. In transcendent dreams, there is an experience similar to what has been described by those reporting near death experiences (NDE’s). In both NDE's as well as in these dreams, we have an experience of the Divine and return to waking life with a major shift in our values including a deepened selflessness and compassion and less attachment to material goals.
There are generally two kinds of transcendent dreams. The first type we can call Dreams of Transcendent Awareness. There are still elements of waking life drama in these dreams, but now there enters an experience that hints at the existence of a deeper and more divine reality. It is as if one steps out of a smaller box and into a much larger one whose limits are unknown. The experience is akin—though far more intense—to that of astronauts when they find themselves peering down from the moon toward an Earth that is now just one of many twinkling lights in the Universe.
I read once the dream of a man who suffered a heart attack and who was highly anxious about whether he would live or die. His anxiety quickly diminished after this dream:
I am in a room full of people talking nonchalantly about trivial matters. I realize that an earthquake is coming and warn them to seek shelter. They ignore me. I take cover from the falling shattered glass under a table, but immediately realize that it is only a flimsy card table and will not protect me. I back out from under the table and stand up. The earth has stopped quaking, the other people are gone, and seated on a folding chair by the card table is an ancient Jew, wearing an ornate yarmulke which has slipped down and now covers his left eye like a patch. I smile at him. He smiles at me, opening his arms as if to embrace me, as his yarmulke inches back to its proper place on top of his head. I maintain eye contact with him. His right eye is an emerging cosmos; his left eye is a collapsing void.
Here’s another similar dream of transcendent awareness I experienced not long ago:
I find myself walking out of an unfamiliar house in the middle of the night. I look up into a pitch-black sky. The blackness of the sky begins to fade as if a veil is being drawn back. At the same time an immense, gargantuan sun slowly appears. Its colors have an unearthly and indescribable beauty. I call to a friend in the house to come and witness this cosmic event but he doesn’t respond. As I continue to stare transfixed by the radiant and beautiful light of this sun, I notice that the sky has remained dark. Now next to the sun rests a moon almost as large. I awaken in awe, aware that I have witnessed the unveiling of day and night, and the unity of creation.
The second type of Inspirational dream—Dreams of Oneness—differ from those above in that dreamers have a direct experience of the transcendent and feel at one with divine energy or spirit rather than a sense of having been witness to it as an observer. Such dreams may still include waking life elements, but these images quickly dissolve into a greater and more profound reality. Here’s one of those dreams told to me by a friend:
I am on a sidewalk in the city on a warm and pleasant afternoon. I find myself with friends I know in waking life. Suddenly we are Zen monks on our knees and we are chanting the mantra OM. With each repetition of the word my body is rocked with ecstatic waves of energy that I experience as deeply sacred. This powerful energy begins to dissolve my sense of separateness from the world around me and I am filled with – no – I realize that I am one with this energy that can only be described as Divine Compassion. Then as we continue to chant I see these vibrations or waves of compassion ripple out around us in all directions and the city, its buildings and people are transmuted. Everything, even the bricks are alive and conscious and I know this is the true unchanging nature of the universe–a living, loving divine state of energy as it has always been through eternity–but now I have become conscious and one with it.
While most of our dreams are not of the transcendent kind, their power and energy are such that even one stays with us for an entire lifetime. Our great religions and spiritual traditions have grown out of these. It was the noted Swiss analyst, Carl Jung who said, “In dreams we put on the likeness of the primordial night. There we are still the whole, and the whole still in us—indistinguishable from Nature and bare of all egohood. Out of these all uniting depths arise the dream.” And I would add that out of our dreams arise the sacred lessons of compassion and our oneness with all of life.
May your dreams guide you swiftly and well along your path.