"The Stormbringer" original art by George Grie
We spend about one third of our life sleeping. Out of the average of seven hours per night that adults need to sleep to restore their physical and emotional bodies, most people will dream for about 25% of their REM/deep sleep stages.
There is voluminous research on sleep and dreams from many different scientific disciplines in a number of different countries. Probably the most well known writer on dreams and their meaning to an individual, was the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung from Switzerland (1875-1961). Carl Jung created the term 'collective unconscious' which was a deeper step into understanding what possibly connects us as human beings. From his study of diverse cultures and individuals, he determined that dreaming itself was a phenomenon, an activity, that all human beings experienced whether they were aware of their dreams or not. He also cataloged what he believed were the 12 main archetypes which were 'universal' and could assist one
in determining one's life path. He knew these could assist in reflection on life's challenges, and aid an individual in their own dream analysis. (See chart)
An archetype has been defined in psychological terms as part of a language of symbols. When an individual has a dream with a powerful archetype it may also be a door to a "collective" unconscious.
"The dream that contains an archetype often has a mythical quality. Instead of scenes that seem like the everyday world, the dream takes you to a place that feels ancient, from another time, or like a fairy tale”.
Another sign in dreams is that events and people are larger than life or smaller than life. Archetypes may present themselves as otherworldly animals: talking lions, griffins, dragons, flying horses. They may be recognizable natural forms such the ocean, the highest mountain, an iceberg, the stars, or human creations such as castles, dungeons, machines, clocks, a ship-for example. aristocratsofthesoul.com/an-easy-guide-to-jungian-dream-interpretation/
However, ancient societies and many Indigenous cultures, as well as most religions, point to a more otherworldly and Divine hand in dreams. Messages may be carried through dreams. The Holy Bible and many other religious texts recount dreams of some of their noted prophets, rabbis, priests, rulers and ordinary people with extrasensory abilities.
Throughout human history there have been "seers" - those who have had prescient dreams, dreams which foretell or foretold the future. Dreams transmitted important messages such as where an enemy was hiding, or where to find a lost child. People have spoken of dreams in which "texts" appeared which they wrote down upon waking, or a 'painting' or a 'dance' created in their dreams. Dreams were/are sometimes warnings of danger ahead, plotting or death.
Some civilizations cultivated those members who were known to have special abilities to interpret dreams. These people were advisers to the those in power and served an important purpose in their society.
Today, these "advisers" are often those treating people with ‘mental health’ problems. They are called psychoanalysts; dream analysis is part of their toolkit for treatment. There are a number of strategies for helping patients who have insomnia or recurrent nightmares which impede their ability to sleep. They include "inception" or inserting ideas on a conscious level before sleep in order to change the direction and even the resolution of a dream to be less frightening or more affirming. I know because early in my life through the guidance of my paternal grandmother, and by being part of an experimental program during my time at Georgetown University, I was introduced to lucid dreaming strategies, and inception into my own dreams. I interpreted my dreams consistently.
Later in life I consulted with elders and "clever" women and men as well as Wicaska Wakan (Holy men or "Medicine men") who guided me further into the ‘Dreamtime’ and navigating dream realms.
"Most people dream anywhere from four to seven times per night, with each dream progressively lasting longer as the body remains sleeping. If a person has a particularly striking dream, it may seem like it lasts an hour or more, but the truth is that most dreams are short. What happens is that when a person falls asleep dreaming doesn't start immediately. A person will typically go through a first of a series of sleep cycles." sleep.lovetoknow.com/How_Many_Times_a_Night_Do_People_Dream
.According to contemporary psychoanalytical definitions:
"A dream is an involuntary and spontaneous product of the unconscious mind, and is usually obscure and difficult to understand because it is made up of symbols and pictures. In attempting to understand the dream-language, Jung uses a method of sort of similar to deciphering symbols. The first step in understanding a dream, he considers, is to establish its context. This means discovering the significance of the various images it presents. For example, one's mother might appear in a dream. Everyone has a concept of what mother implies, but for each person the image of a mother is different, and the significance of this image will even vary from time to time. The thought of mother may for one person be associated with love, care, and protection, and for another with power, anger, or frustration and so the meaning of a dream of mother can vary accordingly. As far as possible, each image or symbol must be taken in turn till its meaning for the dreamer is established as nearly as possible, and not until this has been carefully done is one in a position to understand what the dream may mean." www.psychologycampus.com/dream-psychology/carl-jung.html
As my life evolved, I met more "spiritually trained" elders at the Zen center near San Francisco. One was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who had been a bridge between Catholicism and Buddhism, as well as between science and theology. He prompted me to expand my understanding of dreams as part of my "calling".
Shortly thereafter I moved to Australia with my husband, and worked in the Gumbaynggir community for a number of years where their "clever" men and women had a very different perspective on dreams. Their concept of "Dreamtime" or "The Dreaming" is sophisticated. It transverses centuries. A few of their elders told me they had "called me" in my dreams. I heard/saw that invitation and responded.
By the time our son, Denali was born in Macksville, NSW-Gumbaynggir country- I had many years of experience with dream interpretation and dream "navigation". Gumbaynggir elders were like my grandmother, in that to speak openly and freely about dreams was just an ordinary part of life and nothing strange, crazy or weird.
Aunty Phoebe, me, and Aunty Jessie - Gumbaynggir elders in New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Gumbaynggir elder Tresna Carriage in Nambucca Heads, 1998
As the Australian Aboriginal doctor, Commissioner and writer, Dr. Helen Milroy stated:
"We are part of the Dreaming. We have been in the Dreaming for a long time before we are born on this earth and we will return to this vast landscape at the end of our days. It provides for us during our time on earth, a place to heal, to restore purpose and hope, and to continue our destiny".
Commissioner Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She was born and educated in Perth. She studied medicine at the University of Western Australia, worked as a General Practitioner and Consultant in Childhood Sexual Abuse at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children for several years before completing specialist training in Child and Adolescent psychiatry. Dr. Milroy’s work and research interests include holistic medicine, child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, application of Indigenous knowledge, cultural models of care, Aboriginal health and mental health, and developing and supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce. She is certified and has practiced in both New Zealand and Australia. Her approach incorporates her tribal beliefs and "dreaming" experience.
While there is some academic and personal writing about "The Dreaming" and "Dreamtime" it is usually only passed on through oral tradition, and transmitted human being to certain human beings. Mainstream society, especially now, would like to erase this knowledge and power completely because it is not 'controllable' or even predictable. Maybe they are afraid because they cannot understand it in a sound byte, YouTube video, or tweet.
It requires a complete change of mindset for a western raised person to start to grasp. It requires an open mind, spirit and imagination to begin.
The importance of understanding the lexicon of our dreams, receiving the messages they offer us, connecting with our own subconscious part of our being, cannot be overstated. Much of 'modern life' aims to suppress our individual and unique connections to the collective unconscious. The sensory assault through noise, electro magnetic pulses, dizzying images designed to distract us, artificial lights, constant electronic chatter via screens, phones, subliminal advertising and programming-does much to diminish our abilities to sharpen our natural senses or to sleep and dream peacefully. Our children and the next generation already have many of their dreams "incepted" and commercially sponsored-though they may never realize it. How many people are apathetic to what happens to them and their mind and consciousness for over one third of their life?
Most non-Aboriginals will dismiss the 60,000+ years of the "Dreamtime" and the Aboriginal co-existence with their environment-even with proven evidence by archeologists, carbon dating and other "scientific" tools of verification.
They have no idea what they are missing,