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If there were dreams to sell...








“If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy…” asks Thomas Lovell Beddoes in "Dream Pedlary".


A very interesting question indeed. Would you go with Shakespeare’s dream:

“There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest,

For I did dream of money bags tonight”.

Or would you rather prefer Alfred Bunn, saying

“I dreamed that I dwelt in marble halls

With vassals and serfs at my side”

Perhaps you may say in a philosophical tone that “life and love are all a dream” and discard the whole affair, but the fact remains that the phenomena of dreams have intrigued even philosophers.


American Indians believe that the Great Spirit gives dreams to guide and inspire the soul. Edgar Cayce, the great American psychic, once declared, "Visions and dreams are given for the benefit of the individual, would they but interpret them correctly". He further stated that dreams work to solve the problems of the dreamer's conscious, waking life, and they work to quicken in the dreamer new potentials, which are his to claim.


Ancient Egyptians gave the dreams of their royal leaders special attention since gods were more likely to appear in them. Serapis, the Egyptian god of dreams, had temples in which dream incubation occurred. Before going to these temples, dreamers would fast, pray and draw to help ensure enlightening dreams.


Chinese considered the dreamer's soul to be the guiding factor of dream production. The hun, or spiritual soul, was thought to leave the body and communicate with the land of the dead. They also practiced incubation in dream temples. These temples served a political purpose through the 16th century. Any high official visiting a city reported to a temple the first night to receive dream guidance for his mission. Judges and government officials were also required to visit dream temples for insight and wisdom.


The earliest Greek view of dreams was that the gods physically visited dreamers, entering through a keyhole, and exiting the same way after the divine message was delivered. Antiphon, a Greek living in the fourth century BC., wrote the first known descriptive book of dreams. It was designed to be used for practical, and professional interpretations. He maintained that dreams are not created by supernatural powers but natural conditions. In the second century AD. Artemidorus, a Greek physician who lived in Rome, wrote on The Interpretation of Dreams (Oneirocritica). Artemidorus classified dreams into dreams, visions, oracles, fantasies and apparitions. 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 claimed to have gathered his information from ancient sources, possible from the Egyptian dream book dating from the second millennium BC. Hippocrates , the father of medicine and Socrates' contemporary, wrote On Dreams. His theory was simple: during the day, the soul receives images; during the night, it produces images. Therefore, we dream. Plato said that even good men dream of uncontrolled and violent actions, including sexual aggression. These actions are not committed by good men while awake, but criminals act them out without guilt. Democritus said that dreams are not products of ethereal soul, but of visual impressions which influence our imagination. Aristotle thought that dreams could be indicators of conditions within the body. He did not believe they were divinely inspired. He hypothesized that external stimuli are absent during sleep, so dreams are manifestations of a profound awareness of internal sensations, which are expressed as dream imagery.


The story of Gautama Buddha's life (567- 487 BC) starts at preconception when his mother, Queen Maya, is said to have dreamt that a six-tusked elephant pierced her side with one of its tusks. This produced an immaculate conception. She understood the dream to mean the resulting child would become a monarch whose domain was the world. The Buddhist scriptures contain mention of five of the Buddha's dreams, and also include dreams of his father, King Cudhodana, and his wife, Gopa.


Jewish tradition furnishes abundant material relating to dreams, the Babylonian Talmud—which originated in the home of the Chaldeans, the magicians of the ancient world—being especially rich in them. Berakot is a storehouse of dream-interpretations. Hisda, a Babylonian of the third century, laid down the following rules:


  • Every dream, excepting those, which occur during fasting, means something.
  • A dream not interpreted is like a letter unread.
  • Neither good nor evil dreams come true entirely.
  • An evil dream is better than a good one, since it leads to repentance; the former is annulled by the pain it causes, and the latter by the joy (Ber. 55a).

Other Babylonian Amoraim expresses similar views. An evil dream can be turned away, according to R. Johanan, by saying to three persons: "I have had a good dream"; they replying: "Yes, it is good; let it be good; may God change it to good," etc. The evil dream can also be annulled by means of certain Bible verses. The prayer for good dreams, which the congregation still pronounces after the first and second blessings of the priest, is recommended as early as the Talmud (Ber. 55b). The Jews of Eastern Europe have still their special dream-book, a Yiddish translation of Almoli's "Pitron Halomot," an edition of which was published as late as 1902 in Brooklyn, New York. This classifies dreams in accordance with their subjects—as animals, plants, angels, or the dead; or milk, cheese, butter, etc.


The Bible attaches importance to dreams, as is shown by well-known instances in Genesis. But in conformity with its strict monotheism, it is always God who speaks through dreams, either to make known His will or to announce future events. It must be noted, furthermore, that the dreams recorded in the Bible are, almost without exception, intended for the benefit of the race in general and not for that of single individuals. In Genesis xx: 3, we read, 'But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.' Other references include Gen. xxviii. 12; xxxi. 10, 24; xxxvii. 5, 9; xl.; xli.; Judges vii. 13; I Kings iii. 5, 15; Dan. ii. and iv. The two interpreters of dreams mentioned by name, Joseph and Daniel, expressly refer to the inspiration of God in their interpretations (Gen. xli. 16, 25; Dan. ii. 19).


Pascal says “… no person is certain, apart from faith, whether he is awake or sleeps, seeing that during sleep we believe that we are awake as firmly as we do when we are awake; we believe that we see space, figure, and motion; we are aware of the passage of time, we measure it; and in fact we act as if we were awake. So that half of our life being passed in sleep, we have on our own admission no idea of truth, whatever we may imagine. As all our intuitions are, then, illusions, who knows whether the other half of our life, in which we think we are awake, is not another sleep a little different from the former, from which we awake when we suppose ourselves asleep?”


Freud attempts a definite naturalization of the dream in the mental domain. To him, a dream is the smuggler of repressed desires. According to the Freudian theory, the dreams are always in some sense a wish fulfillment. The “super ego” censors the wishes of the “id” by a process of “dreamwork”.


Carl Jung believed that Dreams are a way of communicating and acquainting ourselves with the unconscious. Dreams are not attempts to conceal our true feelings from the waking mind, but rather they are a window to our unconscious. They serve to guide the waking self to achieve wholeness. Dreams offer a solution to a problem we are facing in our waking life. Jung believed that recurring dreams are proof that dream-manifested issues neglected in a conscious mode will show up repeatedly in dreams to demand attention. Many of the symbols or images from these dreams will return with each dream. "Man, as we realize if we reflect for a moment, never perceives anything fully or comprehends anything completely" (Jung, 1964, p. 21). He concluded that symbolic terms are used to represent concepts that we cannot grasp. There is a conscious use of symbols, as seen in religious symbolism; there is an unconscious use of symbols, such as spontaneous dream symbols. Both are to help us comprehend the world around us, whether sleeping or awake.


Calvin Hall developed a cognitive theory of dreams (1953). He believed dreams contain maps, which the dreamer follows to anticipate difficulties and obstacles. He also thought that meaningful predictions can be made about the dreamer's behavior and lifestyle using her conceptions of parts of the dream.


On the other hand there are other interesting, if not totally reasonable, methods of interpreting dreams. These interpretations are based on the theory that dreams are prophetic in nature.


The Human Double


According to this concept every individual possesses a psychic double. When a person sleeps, this double leaves the body and if, by chance, the double does not return, the body does not awake. The psychic double is capable of astral traveling and thus dreams are said to be the experiences of the double. An interesting superstition prevalent in certain parts of India prohibits the changing of the face of a sleeper, whether by painting it, masking it, or by using some other means. It is said that the double, not being able to recognize the body, will not be able to return to it and so the person will die.

While residing within the inter-atomic space of the physical body, the astral body is said to cause an “aura”. It is said that the more advanced Lamas of Tibet can diagnose physical ailments by seeing this aura. Interestingly, latest scientific findings conclude that the body is actually surrounded by some kind of electro-magnetic/ electro-static/ electrical field.

Numerous evidences of astral traveling and the existence of the human double have been recorded. The recorded case of astral traveling by Eileen J Garrett, president of the Parapsychology foundation is worth mentioning in this context.

Symbolic Dreams


Books on symbolic dream interpretation have had wide vogue in almost all languages. Here are some sample interpretations.


Vrihat Jyotisara

Here are a few sample interpretations of dreams from Ancient Indian text, the “Vrihat Jyotisara”

The dreams of a sick, sad, worried, or mentally disturbed person do not produce any result.

The dreams seen in the first quarter of the night bears fruit within one year, Those seen in the second quarter in eight months, those seen in the third quarter fructifies in three months, and the last quarter bears fruit within fifteen days.


A person lives for one hundred years and gains all-round success if he sees the gain of a letter, flower, fruit, or water in the last part of the dream.


  • Even a poor person will become a king if he dreams of eating in a palace and crossing a sea.
  • If, in the dream, one crosses a river on a boat, it indicates short journeys.
  • Dreams of burnt city or village or country result in the loss of life, intelligence, fame, and power.
  • To see a candle extinguished foretells sickness while the appearance of a bright burning one indicates rejoicing. To the unmarried, burning candles show speedy marriage.
  • To dream of hens and chickens are warnings of coming danger.
  • The eagle is a good omen to lovers. To dream of an owl forewarns sickness and poverty.
  • Black clouds denote evil while white ones denote prosperity.
  • Dreams of snakes or scorpion are signs of immediate financial gains.
  • If a businessman dreams of drinking water, loss of goods may be expected.
  • Success in love and monetary gains are indicated if one dreams of walking in a flower garden.
  • If one sees a squirrel in dream, he should be warned of secret enemies. To a lover, it is a warning of a dangerous rival.
  • According to Vrihat Jyotisara, the dreams will become fruitless if one continues to sleep after seeing it.

Other Sources

Following are few other examples of interesting interpretations of dreams. I request the readers to kindly contribute incase they can mention the authentic sources of these interpretations:


  • To dream that you have aches denotes that you are halting too much in your business, and that some other person is profiting by your ideas.
  • To add figures with a machine, foretells that you will have a powerful ally who will save you from much oppression.
  • To dream that you or others are adopting a child, you will make an unfortunate change in your abode.
  • For a young woman to dream that she is afraid of a dog, there will be a possibility of her doubting a true friend.
  • To be on shore and see the waves of the ocean foaming against each other, foretells your narrow escape from injury and the designs of enemies.
  • To slip on an orange peel, foretells the death of a relative.
  • To see a dead owl, denotes a narrow escape from desperate illness or death.
  • To dream of melons, denotes ill health and unfortunate ventures in business.
  • To dream of sending a message, denotes that you will be placed in unpleasant situations.
  • To dream of seeing a hammer, denotes you will have some discouraging obstacles to overcome in order to establish firmly your fortune.
  • If you dream of your own head, you are threatened with nervous or brain trouble.
  • To ride or see passing horses, denotes ease and comfort.
  • To see a baby in your dream signifies innocence, warmth and new beginnings. A love affair may be blooming for you in your near future. You will also make new and fun friends.
  • If a woman dreams she is nursing a baby, she will be deceived by the one she trusts the most

Some scientists have taken the possibility of precognition seriously, and one or two have devoted special attention to precognitive powers as shown in dreams. One of the best known of these is J.W.Dunne, whose book “An Experiment with Time” was widely read in the 1920's and 1930's. Here is an interesting dream recorded by him.


“He dreamed one night that he was walking down a sort of pathway between two fields, and separated from them by high iron railings. His attention was suddenly attracted to a horse in the fields on his left, which had apparently gone mad and was tearing about in the most frantic fashion. Anxiously, he inspected the railings to see if there was any opening through which the animal could escape. Finding none, he continued on his way, only to find, to his dismay, that the animal had somehow managed to get out after all and was pursuing him full tilt down the pathway. He ran in an attempt to reach a flight of wooden steps rising up from the path.


Next day Dunne went fishing with his brother, when the latter called his attention to the antics of a horse. There were two fields with a fence, and a pathway running between them. The horse was there behaving just as it had done in the dream. The wooden steps at the end of the pathway were there too. There were certain slight differences in the scene but by and large they were of no great consequence. Dunne began to tell his brother about the dream, but broke off because he was becoming worried that the horse might get out, as it had done in the dream. Failing to see any gap or even a gate in the railings, he said, ‘at any rate, this horse can not get out,’ and recommenced fishing; but suddenly his brother called out to him, and he saw that the animal had, just as in the dream, got out of the field in some inexplicable fashion, and was thundering down the path towards the wooden steps. It swerved past these and plunged into the river, coming straight towards Dunne and his brother. The end of the story was rather tame, however, for on emerging from the water, the animal merely looked at the pair of frightened brothers, snorted, and galloped off down the road.“

(Source – The interpretation of dreams by H.J.Eysenck)


Having said all this, may I join Beddoes and ask “If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?”




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