The Language of Dreams

May 19, 2024

Basic Vocabulary 

Thanks to my recent Rhine Research and Education Center course, Dreams and Altered States, I've been thinking  about dreams and how they communicate information. And I've realized it's now just about symbols. It's about language.

In it's most basic sense, language substitutes simple words for simple  things.

But spoken, and most especially written, language is also capable of poetry and metaphor and complex symbolism. And I think dreams have the same potential.

Except that in dreams words and ideas come to us as pictures.

As an aphantasic (mind-blind) individual, I find this fascinating.

Dreaming in Symbols

I'm not sure how thinking in pictures works or how people don't get distracted by imagery and symbolism. But I guess it probably has to do with context. 

In everyday thought and conversation there is a primary contextual meaning for any given word. Often, however, it is the noncontextual meaning (as found in symbolic meaning or free-association) that take us places we could never predict. 

In my experience, this is especially true of dreams and dream interpretation.

Not all dreams are meaningful, of course. Some are generated by the stress of the day or worries buried deep in our subconscious or in the existent light or sound that bleeds into our sleeping awareness. 

I believe that best and most meaningful dreams come from somewhere else but I never really understood how that happened.

According to the text for our Rhine Education course, Psychic Dreams, dreams are a narrative built from sensory, psychological or psychic input. Specific examples of each input type are included in the text along with various theories that attempt to explain them. 

The theory I found most interesting was that of neuroscientist J. Allan Hobson, who believes that our dream narratives are drawn from our own neurobiology. According to Hobson, the firing of neurons are translated into images and images are then made into story. 

This idea stopped me cold. To me, the idea that our sleeping selves are translating from firing neurons, to pictures, to narrative was amazing. Especially when these neurons are influenced by something not us.

Received Information

In one of his books or talks, biophysicist Rupert Sheldrake shares an analogy. 

Imagine that you know nothing of radios and that you assume that the sound is generated by the radio itself. To test your theory, you open the radio and remove some of the parts. When you see that the radio no longer functions, you may assume that you have understood how a radio works. But you would be wrong.

This, according to Sheldrake, is how many scientists approach the brain. And it is how a lot of them approach dreams as well. The parts do matter, obviously, but they are not the source of the message.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of the mind as a receiver.  But it isn't only a receiver, it is a translator of what is received--awake or asleep.

To be honest, I'm still grappling with this idea but I feel it is going to significantly affect the way I look at my own dreams going forward. 

I'll be sharing more on that in a future post.


Psychic Dreams (affiliate link) is available through Amazon and elsewhere. Please note, that if you buy Psychic Dreams though my Amazon affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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