Dreams and Dying, Part 1
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28
I do not regularly journal about my dreams, although I believe it can be a helpful practice. Much has been postulated about dreams over the centuries, but no one has fully described or understood their nature (nor will I do so here). The reason for this, in my humble opinion, is because scientists view dreams as a physiological process of mental and/or emotional release, organization, and recovery for the brain. Theologians tend to view dreams as something separate from and mostly unimportant to our spiritual life and development. I believe where both groups miss the mark is in their underlying belief that this life – what we experience during our waking hours – is the only life we are present to and thus is the sole focus of our consciousness. Our dreams may demonstrate that neither view tells the entire story.
Consciousness is an interesting concept. It vaguely refers to our state of awakeness to or awareness of the solid world around us. I italicize solid because there is plenty of scientific evidence, particularly in the field of physics, that the world around us in not solid at all. Rather, the foundational building blocks of our world are in constant motion through space and time. The things we consider solid, like our body, a chair, or a tree, are of concentrations of energy in furious motion around a central, organizational point of consciousness. They resemble beams of light more than beams of steal. In fact, as far we can tell, even the basic elements of creation are fields of energy vibrating in otherwise open space. What we perceive as solid may only be a mental projection. In other words, it is solid only because we believe it is solid.
This is important to understand in relation to death because the part of us we believe to be solid is the same part of us we believe dies to this earthly life. If something, such as our consciousness, is projecting that body, then the consciousness projecting it – perhaps soul is a better word – will continue to exist without the body, or at worst, will simply project a new body. The point is that that what we consider me is not dependent upon its physical body for its existence.
When we fall asleep, we lose consciousness to this aspect of reality that we know as our earthly life. Our body stays on our bed, but where does our consciousness go? Our dreams seem to indicate that, absent the body, our consciousness wanders to other places – sometimes new and beautiful, sometimes terrifying, but often familiar. Our consciousness is not welded to our bodies or our brains. Regardless of where our consciousness wanders when we sleep, those places seem every bit as real and solid as the places we experience in our waking hours. When we consider the consciousness of our earthly lives we see that it exists on a continuum that slides effortlessly between wakefulness and various dream states. It is the same individual consciousness existing in different states of being, not unlike water changing form from ice to liquid to steam. It is helpful to increase our awareness of the entire continuum, even though we usually only focus on limited points upon it.
The Bible most often describes dreams as informative visions of heaven’s relationship with earth, such as when Jacob dreamed of a ladder extending from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending (Genesis 28), or as warning messages given by God, such as when Joseph was warned in a dream to take Jesus and Mary and flee into Egypt to escape Herod (Mathew 2). Biblical references to dreams most often occur in the books of Genesis and Daniel. Just as there are different types of dreams recorded in the Bible, so we experience different types of dreams, from mundane to dramatic, from entertaining to prophetic, and from awe-inspiring to terrifying. Some of our dreams may best be ignored, but others can be profoundly informative. When we consider our dreams we interpret something that happened in an alternate reality through the biased lens of this life, so what seemed real in the dream often seems unreal in our recollection.
The main point I wish to make is that our consciousness is not tied to our earthly bodies. I believe our dreams prove that. Dreams reveal our intimate connections with realities far beyond what we experience in our waking hours.
I will continue this exploration next week.
This is the 40th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.
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