Yet, the mind is very inventive. For a moment, even a long moment, a dream can seem perfectly believable as it performs miracles: bringing those from our past into the present; delivering the dead from their graves to talk and laugh as if they'd never left. In one dream alone, we can be at home, on a mountaintop, in the middle of the ocean, all in the span of seconds. We can play any instrument, speak any language, push the boundaries of personal safety. A dream can be deeply pleasurable or coldly terrifying.
Dreaming, we are told, is important. It is the mind's way of handling stress, of putting to rest the anxieties and fears of life's challenges. Moreover, some transpersonal psychologists believe that dreams can be a window into new paranormal and transformational experiences, that they can bring cosmic awareness. This branch of psychology grew out of the 1960s and 1970s when patients reported experiences that traditional theory couldn't explain. At the time, there was a lot of experimentation with psychedelic drugs, which ended up skewing some patient symptoms. Therapists had to learn to differentiate between a normal person's mystical experiences and that of a psychotic's delusional behavior. Transpersonal psychology gave therapists a new perspective and new language to explain specific symptoms.
Various schools of psychology have offered theories about the meaning of dreams. Freud argued that all dream content centered on conscious wish fulfillment, whereas Jung thought dreams reflected both conscious and subconscious influences. Parapsychology, called pseudoscience by some, investigates ostensible paranormal phenomena, like telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and telekinesis. Dreams figure into some of these fringe studies, including out-of-body (OBE) experiences, episodes which suggest that the mind floats apart from the body allowing the dreamer to see themselves in their physical state. Some people have described very lucid moments of such "travel" beyond their bodies. Acutely ill patients have also related near-death experiences where they are convinced they have left the physical plain for a metaphysical state called the astral plain, referred to as astral projection or soul travel.
Although some parapsychologists treat OBEs as evidence that a soul or spirit can detach itself from the body to visit distant locations, traditional science remains deeply skeptical. OBEs are considered rooted in nothing more esoteric than hallucinations which stem from various psychological or neurological factors. The empirical mindset will not acknowledge evidence that cannot be proved. And yet, the physical world is filled with the unexplained. There are many instances of phenomena that have confounded the scientific community. Guy Lyon Playfair in his book, The Indefinite Boundary, speaks to this conundrum and offers the following observation: "Science and the occult have always had a certain amount in common. Each has tended in the past to assume that things exist because they must, and not because anybody has actually proved they do." In other words, proving it's not may be as difficult as proving it is.
So, are dreams simply the result of chemical reactions in the brain, or do they come from something less organically based? Some of us are convinced we know the truth. Others are not so sure.
In my new book, DREAM TRAVELER, teenage protagonist, Jeff Hayden, who is physically challenged and confined to a wheelchair, discovers a psychic energy stream called The Realm, where the physical world is superceded and often diminished by a superior mental plain of existence. Jeff's mother is dead, and his father has mysteriously disappeared. The boy's uncle believes his father is dead, but Jeff doesn't, and experiences very realistic dreams of being with his dad in an undisclosed location.
DREAM TRAVELER now available at Amazon's Kindle Book store: