Ever since I was a little boy, dreams have fascinated me. Why do they happen? What do they mean? Where do they come from? Now, I’m definitely not an expert on the subject; I don’t know much about the science behind dreams, nor have I made a study of them. So this will just be my own musings and ideas on the matter, nothing to take too seriously.
For starters, I know that dreams are, from a purely scientific standpoint, the brain’s method of categorizing information. You take in so much sensory input while you’re awake that your mind must use its resting time to put everything in its proper order. This is why “sleeping on it” can be effective if you’re trying to come up with an idea or reach a decision. But to my mind, this is an extremely unromantic view of dreams. I believe that there’s two sides to everything, a physical side and a spiritual side, a practical and a romantic, and I shall focus more on the spiritual/romantic side of dreaming in this post. I guess I don’t really have much of a point behind this, I just want to ramble.
One idea about dreams that I find intriguing: the idea that dreams could be a gateway to another plane of existence. I imagine, if this were true, that the other plane would like a gigantic beehive, each person having their own personal section of the hive in which to play out their dreams. I imagine it would be more of a spiritual plane than a physical one, which a person’s physical body staying in his bed, while his spirit travels to the world of dreams. Is this the truth? I find that unlikely, but it’s an intriguing thought nonetheless.
That begs the question: would there be any way for one to leave one’s section of the hive and travel through the rest of the dream world, see other people’s dreams? And so we come to the concept of lucid dreaming. There are a couple of kinds of lucid dreaming. In one kind, which I’m sure everyone has experienced at one point or another, you know that you’re dreaming, you see it all happening and know it isn’t real, but you’re still invested in it and you can’t escape it, can’t control it (I’ve heard some people say that they can wake themselves up if they’re in this state–but I, personally, cannot). The second kind of lucid dream is much different. In this kind, the dreamer is not only aware of his dreaming, but can also control the dream. I’ve heard that in this state, the only way to tell if the dream is real or not is to try to change the light level, flip a light switch or turn on a lamp or what have you. If the light changes, it’s real. If it doesn’t change, then you’re in a dream. This kind of dreaming intrigues me quite a bit. With a good deal of training, I do believe it might be possible for a person to accomplish. Just think of what you could do if you were able to lucid dream like that! But I doubt that it would ultimately be a good thing if people could do that, because they would dwell on dreams and forget to live (yay for Dumbledore!).
Back to the idea of a dream world. If one could lucid dream (in the second sense, of course), and if there really was a dream world, it would be theoretically possible for one to leave one’s own section of the dream world and explore the wider reality. Hypothetically, this person might then be able to enter other people’s dreams, and pull them out into the dream world, or alter their dreams in some way. Perhaps this person would be able to affect people’s sleep, preventing them from ever waking. Who knows what one could do? Who knows what adventures might await? Unfortunately, I don’t really believe in a dream world like this, but now I think I’ll write a story about it. Novel inspiration strikes!
Anyway. That’s not the only thing about dreams that I find intriguing. Another thing is the idea that dreams can be, or carry, messengers. Going back to the dream world/lucid dreaming idea, I suppose this messenger could be a person who has left his own dreams and entered yours. But let’s get away from that idea for now. Many people and cultures believe that dreams foretell the future. I don’t know how common this is, but I myself have had dreams that predicted future events. However, the events predicted were extremely minor events, and I there was nothing to set them apart from the nonsense that made up the rest of the dream. One idea that occurs to me is that this might be the reason behind deja vu. Perhaps people often have dreams that show the future, but don’t usually remember them; it is this subconscious memory of a dream that gives one the bizarre feeling of “this has happened before” that is part and parcel of deja vu. This particular theory I’m fairly willing to believe in, actually….
Another thing that intrigues me is the idea that all the various people I see in my dreams might be the same people, over and over again. I often dream of people who are not real, who are just constructs of my imagination. I wonder if there isn’t a “cast of characters” in my head, a limited group of dream people, who fill all the roles in my dreams that are not already filled by real people. I would have no way of knowing this, because I don’t remember my dreams clearly enough to verify if it is true. The idea, though, is very interesting. If it was really like this, would it be possible to get to know these people? Did I subconsciously make them up, or did they come from somewhere else? What could they tell me about myself and the world around me? I suppose this is where being able to lucid dream would come in handy. This theory is one that I don’t believe one way or the other about. I think it would be cool if it were true, and I certainly think it’s possible, but I see no evidence for it and no reason to believe it.
To sum up: I don’t believe dreams are a gateway to another reality, aside from that scary one you call the inside of your head. I do believe that lucid dreaming, in a way that allows one to control the dream, might be possible with enough training. I’m leaning towards believing that deja vu is caused by forgotten prophetic dreams. I haven’t decided one way or the other about having a cast of dream people in my head. I’m not crazy either, in case anyone is wondering at this point. :P