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Dreaming is the subjective experience of involuntary imaginary images, thoughts or sensations during sleep. Dreaming is associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a lighter form of sleep that occurs during the later portion of the sleep cycle.

Dream imagery ranges from the normal to the surreal; in fact, dreams often provoke artistic and other forms of inspiration. Forms of dream include the frightening or upsetting nightmare and erotic dreams with sexual images and nocturnal emission.

Dreams are likely as old as humanity. The earliest literature, including Homer's The Odyssey and the biblical book of Genesis feature dreams prominantly.
Many historical figures were reputed to have been influenced by their dreams.

Psychology of dreams
Dreams are, according to some psychologists (most famously, Sigmund Freud), rich in symbolism and offer a window into the unconscious mind. Interpretation of dreams is a regular part of psychoanalysis. It is said that one may control the course and content of dreams by a technique called lucid dreaming. However, this could distract one from the dream-matter provided by the unconscious mind.

Most mainstream academic psychologists do not believe that dreams have a coherent meaning. Carl Jung's view of dreams was more precise than this: that dreams have meanings, but their meanings are idiosyncratic, complicated, and not susceptible to more than vague, uncertain, and sometimes superficial interpretations. In particular, interpretation needs to be based on the thoughts of the individual dreamer, and not on any formula.


George du Maurier, in his Peter Ibbetson, has given one of the best descriptions extant of the life of dreams. He says the whole cosmos is in a man's brains, so much at least as a man's brains will hold. And when sleep relaxes the will, and there are no earthly surroundings to distract attention--no duty, pain, or pleasure to compel it--riderless fancy takes the bit in his teeth, and the whole cosmos goes mad, and has its wild will of us. There are the "ineffable false joys"--how well we know them; "the unspeakable false terror and distress"--we know them, too; and they chase each other without rhyme or reason, and play hide and seek across the twilit field, and through the dark recesses of our clouded and imperfect consciousness. No wonder that early man, with sufficient intelligence to remember his dreams, and ponder over them fearfully, was, in his ignorance, persuaded they conveyed serious messages to him, messages in which the more clever men of the group saw an opening for personal ascendancy by devising a system of interpretation, and thus assuming a position of importance and leadership in the tribe. That dreams should occupy so prominent a position in divination is not at all surprising. Dream life--indeed sleep life altogether--is still an unsolved problem, and when the coincidences of events as between dreaming and waking are taken into account, it is most natural that primitive man and civilised man should try to turn dreams into a science, and formulate a skilful list of interpretations. Besides, in all Christian countries there is a solid reason for accepting information conveyed in dreams, inasmuch as the sacred narratives in the Bible allege Divine guidance by this means. We may, of course, have our own interpretation of such phenomena, but the wide stretch of centuries covered by these facts is not without significance, showing as it does the strong and tenacious grip which dream interpretation had upon the race. From Jacob's dream to that of Pilate's wife is a far cry, and yet both Jew and Pagan agreed in the real importance of the dream as a guide to life and conduct.

But a distinction was made between the various kinds of dreams, or rather the better type of mind attempted to make such a distinction, though seldom with success. In the Christian and Pagan worlds no notice was taken of the wild, incoherent, purposeless dream, except by a class of low magicians who sought money by exploiting the fears of the fearful. Nevertheless, if one kind of dream came from God, or the gods, where did the others come from? Here was an opportunity for the sharks of occultism, and for the charlatan generally. The dream-book and the diviner came into being, and they have never yielded to pressure from civil or military authorities. You cannot stamp out a superstition which has its basis in the operations of sleep, over which men and women have practically no control. Only a right understanding of the subject can rob the superstitious of their fears and the credulous of their credulity. To forbid dreaming by Act of Parliament would be a nonsensical procedure; and yet it is just as absurd to attempt to keep people from wondering what is the meaning of their dreams.

If we look carefully for the origin of dream superstition, we shall find one source in the Pagan tradition of the importance of dreams in conjunction with the high place given to them in the Bible; another source is the long and historical list of remarkable coincidences; and a third source is the somewhat humiliating fact that we do not yet know the nature of dreams and sleep.

Take the last point first. Here is a brief account of some experiments regarding the brain and the mysteries of sleep recently made by Professor Wenley of Michigan University, who declares authoritatively that the investigations have destroyed many accepted theories. The accepted theory of sleep has been the lessening of the blood-pressure in the brain.

The experiments showed directly opposite conditions. By delicate and most careful measurements, the following results were tabulated:

'The size or volume of the brain increases when the individual goes to sleep, and decreases when he awakens. On this point it was noted that in some cases the brain became smaller at first, and then increased as the sleep became deeper. Very striking was the evidence that the size of the arterial pulse in the brain increases steadily with the increase in the volume--i.e., that the dilating of the arteries after each beat of the heart is more pronounced. This is particularly true when the subject is propped up. As the sleep passes off, the brain volume decreases, but then the blood-pressure increases. These results show that whatever sleep may be caused by, it is not a lessening of the blood-supply to the brain, for there is no such lessening.'

What kind of consciousness, therefore, is dream consciousness? The question remains unanswered.

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