Understanding the Eight Types of Dreams You Might Have
Sermon by Rev. Rich Tafel
May 9, 2021
Today I want to talk about dreams and their importance to our lives.
Thanks to Ellie for suggesting this topic.
Modern secular science has recently been reporting on the incredibly profound value of dreams and sleep. In a nutshell, the science of sleep is that those who get appropriate sleep live healthier lives at every level. Recent findings show that Alzheimer’s risk is reduced by appropriate sleep. If you are looking for one healthy thing you can do for yourself, it’s gotten the right amount of sleep.
During sleep we dream. The scientists are much less clear about the purpose of dreams. Sigmond Freud popularized the study of sleep around 1900 saying it was the gateway to the unconscious and many psychologists who followed engaged in dream analysis.
In the 1970, much of science concluded that dreams were simply random brain firings with no meaning. More recently science has come to the conclusion that dreams serve as a cleansing of the brain of trauma and unfinished business. They also help the brain sort out important memories from unimportant ones. Dreams also appear to help us break out of linear thinking into more creative thinking.
Expert Matthew Walker noted, “Dreaming has the potential to help people de-escalate emotional reactivity, probably because the emotional content of dreams is paired with a decrease in brain noradrenaline.”
Many of the greatest artists claim that they got the inspiration for their work from a dream. The song “Yesterday” was because Paul McCartney said he had it dictated to him in a dream saying, “It was fairly mystical when I think about it,” he said. “It was the only song I ever dreamed.”
For the most part modern science can’t really explain dreams at any deeper level.
It is fascinating to think that modern science can’t really explain the importance of a dream realm where we spend a third of our lives.
If we get beyond scientific materialism and look at dreams with a spiritual lens we can see much more.
Let’s begin our search for the importance of dreams in the Bible which is full of powerful dreams. Moses helped Pharoah interpret dreams predicting the future of Egypt. Daniel in today’s Old Testament reading, like Moses, moved to prominence within a hostile kingdom because he too could read the King’s dreams and explain them. Dream prediction was an art in the Old Testament.
The story of Jesus turns on the dream we read today of Joseph who had Mary’s virgin birth explained and later he was warned to leave for Egypt to protect the baby Jesus’ life.
The dreams in the Bible are all almost prophetic dreams given by angels to serve a very important purpose. Prophetic dreams are just one type of dream, but nowhere in the Bible are we told the purpose of our everyday sleeping dreams, what they mean or how to interpret them.
Swedenborg offers pretty deep insights.
He kept a dream journal most of his adult life. This is a century before Freud and is considered one of the most complete dream journals ever recorded. He never wanted his dream journal published and it is full of bizarre images including many sexual dreams. These dreams were unedited and personal and when an ancestor of mine with the same initials wrote his personal dream journal he cut out the sexual stuff, but later versions include it.
He kept the journal to help him guide his spiritual life before he had a game changing live spiritual encounter that changed his life. After this he engages in almost lucid dreaming where he is awake, but in a meditative state.
I’ve also kept a spiritual journal for over twenty years, and I record the dreams and my interpretation. I find dreams fascinating and helpful.
Following his mystical engagement with angels, Swedenborg studied the meaning of dreams with spiritual guides. After reading his insights, I came up with eight types of dreams from his insights.
1. Prophetic: There are the spiritually prophetic like we see in the Bible. These seem rare. You might recall in a previous sermon where I had a dream about leading at the Church of the Holy City fifteen years before I took the minister role. That would be a prophetic dream. In these you get an important message about your meaning and purpose.
2. Personal Symbols: In these dreams the symbolism only makes sense to us. For example, a person in the dream who represents goodness or evil helps us decipher the dream. I believe these are the most common. If true only you can decipher it or someone asking you, “What does that image mean to you at a gut level?” This is the method I personally use to decipher dreams.
3. Correspondent Dreams: These dreams hold events have a deeper inner meaning on a spiritual level. Often symbols that correspond to the Bible can be used to decipher what’s being shown. Swedenborg essentially created a dictionary of symbols that can be used.
4. Heaven Connection: These dreams allow us to connect to others who have passed. I have these regularly with people who died. I’ve felt their hugs and remember the conversation, though in all of these dreams, I never remember that they have died while we’re connected in the dream.
5. Archetype Dreams: He spoke about dreams that have archetypical symbolic significance. For me these are the most common. In these dreams we share with others. Have you, like me, dreamed you show up to class only to realize you missed the entire year only to find today is the test? Or have you been chased or been lost? For me I’ve shown up to a church only to find everyone’s waiting for me to preach but I have no sermon. These anxiety dreams share common across cultures and represent our wrestling with our daily fears and concerns.
6. Spirit’s Dreams: He spoke about dreams where we might encounter the world of our guardian angels around us. I’ve been puzzled in my own life that I enter into dreams where I meet complete strangers, but I know them well and I feel like we’re picking up where we left off. When I awake and write it down, I feel I’ve been in someone else’s movie.
7. Spiritual Struggle Dreams- He spoke about dreams that help us work through deep spiritual struggles. These dreams can be quite vivid when we face a big decision. He reports that at night we are protected by angels, but dark forces do try to get into our dreams which would manifest themselves as nightmares.
Interestingly, we only usually remember dreams we are woken up from. Anxiety dreams can get so crazy that we wake up in a panic, which is why were more likely to remember them and find that others have similar dreams.
8. Crazy Dreams- Some dreams he reports just meaningless. So, don’t get over attached to all of your dreams.
My take-away for us from this is it good to pay attention to the spiritual dreams that are prophetic and write them down. We are getting guidance.
Two types of dream states are hypnogogic and lucid. Hypnogogic is that state between waking and sleeping as you fall asleep that some great spiritual insights come through. Lucid is when you get into a dream state during meditation.
A big warning, don’t take your dreams literally and no dream should take away your free will. Dark dreams are often not coming from good sources and you should let those go.
I go through intense periods of dreams and I get them more in certain locations. If you want to start a dream journal you might want to wake without an alarm and keep a note pad nearby. You will forget you dream quickly if you don’t. Telling yourself you want to write it down when you go to sleep will help as well.
If you do have a profound dream and you can’t figure it out talk to spiritual friends and ask for help. I get these calls frequently and enjoy trying to solve the puzzle. I’ve seen some amazing stuff when we share dreams.
If God wants you to remember a dream, you’ll remember it. If not, don’t worry about it.
Get some sleep and enjoy your dreams!