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Dream Interpretation?

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[Mod Note: This post is from a book by Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi.]

What is the Reality of Dreams?

It is necessary that we discuss, in a concise manner, the various opinions that have been propounded in connection with this subject:

There have been numerous interpretations about the reality of the dreams which can be categorized into two categories:

1. Materialistic Interpretation
2. Spiritual Interpretation

The materialists say there could be several causes of dreams:
It is possible that dreams are a direct consequence of the daily acts of man; i.e. whatever has transpired with man over past days becomes embodied for him in his thoughts, whilst he sleeps.

Possibly, a series of unfulfilled desires become a reason for witnessing dreams - a thirsty person observes water in his dreams, and a person awaiting someone, who has gone on a journey, dreams that he has arrived. (From ancient times, it has been said that a camel witnesses cottonseed in its dreams!)

It is likely that fear of something causes man to dream about it; it has been repeatedly observed that those who possess fear of thieves witness them in their dreams.

Freud and the followers of his ideology have presented another material explanation for dreams:

In the course of a detailed introduction they define dreams as being the gratification of repressed tendencies which, with alterations, creep into the arena of self-consciousness, to deceive the “I” within man.

Explanation: After accepting the fact that the human mind is comprised of two parts: The self-conscious part (that, which is associated with the day-to-day thoughts, voluntary knowledge and the freedom of choice of man) and the sub-conscious part (that, which is concealed within the inner-self as an unfulfilled tendency and inclination), they go on to state: It frequently happens that in the state of sleep, when the 'self-conscious' apparatus has shut down, the inclinations and tendencies which we have been unable to gratify due to certain reasons and which have accumulated in our inner-self turn to the sub-conscious in order to achieve a kind of fictitious and imaginary gratification.

At times this is reflected without any change (like an aficionado, who witnesses his beloved, whom he has lost, in his dreams), while at other times there occurs a change in form which is reflected in appropriate appearances, in which case there arises the need for interpretation (of the dreams).

Accordingly, dreams are always associated with the past and never informative of the future. It can only be a useful for reading the unconscious self, and it is for this reason that the dreams of patients are utilized for the treatment of psychological disorders that rely on exposing the unconscious mind.

Some of the experts of the field of nutrition believe that there exists a relationship between 'dreams' and 'the nutritional need of the body', and are of the opinion that if, for example, a person happens to witness blood trickling from his gums in his dreams, it means that the quantity of ascorbic acid in his body has diminished! And if he dreams that his hair have turned white, it can be inferred that he suffers from an inadequacy of vitamin B!!

However, spiritual philosophers offer a different explanation for the occurrence of dreams. They state that dreams are of several kinds:

- Dreams that are related to the bygones, inclinations and desires - and these constitute a major portion of man's dreams.

- Dreams that are distressing and incoherent; these are an outcome of delusion and imagination (although it is possible that they could possess psychological reasons)

- Dreams that are related to the future and provide information in connection with it.

Undoubtedly, dreams that are related to the past and the embodiment of the scenarios that man has seen in the course of his life do not possess any particular interpretation. Similarly, distressing dreams - technically referred to as أََضْغاَثُ أََحْلاَم - which are an outcome of disturbing thoughts and are similar to the thoughts that manifest themselves for man in the state of delirium, too cannot possess any particular interpretation in connection with the future issues of life.

However, psychologists and psychoanalysts utilize them and consider them to be a door for the comprehension of the human unconscious self and a key for the treatment of psychological disorders. As such, interpretation of these dreams is used for the purpose of uncovering the mysteries of the mind and the origins of diseases, and not for revealing future happenings of life.

As for the dreams that are related to the future, they too are of two kinds: One kind consisting of dreams that are plain, clear and explicit, and which do not require any interpretation whatsoever; and amazingly enough, at times, materializing exactly as witnessed either in the near or distant future - without the slightest of differences.

The second kind are those dreams which prophesize future events but, due to the influence of certain mental and spiritual factors, have undergone a change of form and hence need to be interpreted.

There are so many instances for each of these dreams that the existence of all of them cannot be denied. Not only have they been mentioned in religious sources and books of history, but these have also been noticed in our own lives and the lives of those who are known to us, in a measure that prevents us from considering them to be mere coincidence.¹

¹ Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 9, pg. 312


Edited by Hameedeh
To add the Mod Note.

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