History of Dreaming

Dreams have been a part of human culture as far back as the Ancient Egyptians and can be found in all corners of the world. Here are just some examples of how cultures viewed dreams.

Chinese: The Chinese put a lot of emphasis on dreaming. In fact, the first recorded information about dreams can be found in the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, dated 2600 BC, a Chinese manuscript that talks about the relationship between dreams and illness. The Chinese believe that dreams and dream analysis could help the dreamer learn more about one's most inner secrets. This dream analysis can be used to help the dreamer make important decisions or make positive changes in their life.

Aboriginal: Dreamtime, or Dreaming for the Australian Aboriginal people, represents the time when the Ancestral Spirits progressed over the land and created life and important physical geographic formations and sites. Aboriginal philosophy is known as The Dreaming and is based on the inter-relation of all people and all things. (Jung called this the collective unconscious). The past of the Spirit Ancestors which live on in the legends are handed down through stories, art, ceremony and songs. The Dreaming explains the origin of the universe and workings of nature and humanity. It shapes and structures life through the regulation and understanding of family life, the relations between the sexes and obligations to people, land and spirits.

Ethiopian: Many followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church associate dreams with supernatural forces, because the Old Testament includes many stories of dreams with divine intervention. One can mention Jacob's dream of a ladder, and Joseph's dream of forecasting famine. This tradition of believing in dreams as oracles, bringing messages from God even continues to this day. Many followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church head to monasteries so they can receive divine revelation through dreams. It is not only the Orthodox, but followers of other sects of Christianity such as Protestantism also hold on to dreams and believe in the divine intervention of dreams.

Native American: Dream work is an essential part of Native American tribal culture. Native Americans' beliefs about dreams are that they are an extension of reality, an opportunity to travel to other realms, and communicate with ancestors and spirit guides. They teach their children from a very young age to remember their dreams so that they use them for spiritual guidance and healing.

There are many theories today of why we dream and what functions dreams play in our daily lives. Some theories say that dreams are just the brain purging information, while others say it is the subconscious mind revealing what the dreamer truly feels.

In 1953 Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman PhD from University of Chicago discovered REM (rapid eye movement) while conducting a series sleep studies. It was noted that patients reported vivid dreams when awakened during this phase of sleep.

Michael Jouvet MD of Claude Bernard University in Lyon France noticed that the brain was very active during the REM cycle. He compared this activity to a person that is awake. He also came up with the term Paradoxical Sleep that describes how the body paralyzes its muscles during this phase of sleep. This is essential so the dreamer does not act out their dreams.

Carl Jung: Born July 26, 1875, Kesswil, Switzerland—died June 6, 1961, Küsnacht. He was a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who founded analytic psychology, in some aspects a response to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of the extroverted and the introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious. Jung saw dreams as the psyche's attempt to communicate important things to the individual, and he valued them highly, perhaps above all else, as a way of knowing what was really going on. Dreams are also an important part of the development of the personality -a process that he called individuation.

Jung's belief about dreams connects into what many cultures have been practicing for centuries.

History of Dreaming Sources