Several ancient civilizations believed that dreams were the result of soul travel, hence, waking a sleeping person might kill them if the soul didn’t have enough time to return to the body.1 It’s obvious that the latter part is not true, and perhaps neither is the first, but I have wondered if some of my dream imagery is from places that I’ve never been to, but do exist.
I often dream of magnificent places that I have never seen (in person or picture) and they seem so real, yet impossible at the same time: a library with a glass tower from which there is an extraordinary view of the city; a small, cozy village up in the hills by a bay or lake; a cemetery on a hill with colorful, intricately painted grave markers that stand four or five feet tall. (Hm… I notice a recurring trend of being in higher elevations.)
As a kid I used to wonder if people (that I knew in real life) who appeared in my dream were also having the same dream at the same time. I have since confirmed that that doesn’t happen. I also used to think that when I woke up, the other people in the dream would witness me disappearing (Oh, she’s gone now), so if I were being chased, my pursuers would suddenly lose the one they were after.
My belief is that people have souls, and I do think it would be neat to visit places in my sleep. However, if dreams really are just the result of random rapid firing of neurons in lower areas of the brain with the higher areas trying to make sense of them, as the activation-synthesis hypothesis suggests, then there goes all the possibilities of my dream places being real.
1. Van de Castle, Robert. Our Dreaming Mind. 1994
Original post 11/12/10 1:10 PM