The great majority of dreams have no other value than that of a purely mechanical and uncontrolled activity of the physical brain, in which certain cells continue to function during sleep as generators of sensory images and impressions conforming to the pictures received from outside.
These dreams are nearly always caused by purely physical circumstances — state of health, digestion, position in bed, etc. With a little self-observation and a few precautions, it is easy to avoid this type of dream… by eliminating its physical causes.
There are also other dreams which are nothing but futile manifestations of the erratic activities of certain mental faculties, which associate ideas, conversations and memories that come together at random.
Such dreams are already more significant, for these erratic activities reveal to us the confusion that prevails in our mental being as soon as it is no longer subject to the control of our will, and show us that this being is still not organised or ordered within us….
Almost the same in form to these, but more important in their consequences, are the dreams… which arise from the inner being seeking revenge when it is freed for a moment from the constraint that we impose upon it. These dreams often enable us to perceive tendencies, inclinations, impulses, desires of which we were not conscious….
There are all kinds of different things, there are mental and vital projections exactly as in the cinema; then, there are visions you may have if you are exteriorised in the mental and vital regions; the great difference is that these dreams are imposed upon you…. Then there are countless dreams without any connection which have no interest.
Very few dreams have a meaning, an instructive value, but all dreams can show you what your present state of consciousness is and how things are combined in the subconscious, what the terrestrial influences are, what traces they leave….
… dreams are not merely the malignant informer of our weaknesses… there are others which should on the contrary be cultivated as precious auxiliaries in our work within and around us.
We should therefore observe our dreams attentively; they are often useful instructors who can give us a powerful help on our way towards self-conquest.
No one knows himself well who does not know the unconfined activities of his nights, and no man can call himself his own master unless he has the perfect consciousness and mastery of the numerous actions he performs during his physical sleep.
Very often, the work itself remains unconscious; only the result is perceived.
There can be no doubt that from many points of view our subconscient knows more than our habitual consciousness. Who has not had the experience of a metaphysical, moral or practical problem with which we grapple in vain in the evening, and whose solution, impossible to find then, appears clearly and accurately in the morning on waking?
The mental enquiry had been going on throughout the period of sleep and the internal faculties, freed from all material activity, were able to concentrate solely on the subject of their interest.
If our night has enabled us to gain some new knowledge — the solution of a problem, a contact of our inner being with some centre of life or light, or even the accomplishment of some useful task — we shall always wake up with a feeling of strength and well-being.
The hours that are wasted in doing nothing good or useful are the most tiring.
Difference between a symbolic dream and a vision — usually, one has a vision when one is not asleep, when one is awake. When one is awake and enters within oneself — whether in meditation or concentration — one has visions. Or at night you can’t sleep… remain stretched out, quiet and you may have visions.
Dreams come when one is asleep… when one has no longer the waking consciousness; whereas in vision one is in the waking consciousness, but one quietens or immobilises it, and it is another more inner consciousness which awakens…. Vision is another plane of perception which awakes. It is the senses in the mind or vital or physical which wake up and manage to pass their experiences to the outer consciousness…. One can have visions with closed eyes, one can have visions with open eyes; while when dreaming one is always asleep.
Usually, the symbolic dream is much clearer, more precise, more coordinated, and carries with it a kind of consciousness of something which is true… one remembers it better….
… according to the plane on which one has seen, one can more or less judge the time that the vision will take to be fulfilled. And the immediate things are already realised, they already exist in the subtle physical and they can be seen there…. They are only the reflection or projection of the image in the material world which will appear on the next day or in a few hours.
There are all kinds of premonitory dreams. There are premonitary dreams that are fulfilled immediately… and there are premonitory dreams that are fulfilled over varying lengths of time. And according to their position in time, these dreams are seen on various planes. The higher we rise towards absolute certainty, the greater the distance is, because these visions belong to a region which is very close to the Origin and the length of time between the revelation of what is going to be and its realisation may be very great. But the revelation is certain, because it is very close to the Origin. There is a place — when one is identified with the Supreme — where one knows everything absolutely, in the past, the present, the future and everywhere.
There are children who know how to do this, they continue their dreams. Every evening when they go to bed they return to the same place and continue their dream…. Become a child once more…. It is a most pleasant way of passing the nights. You begin a story, then, when it is time to wake up, you put a full stop to the last sentence and come back into your body. And then the following night you start off again… and then you arrange things well — they must be well arranged, it must be very beautiful…. And you continue this every evening and write a book of wonderful fairy-tales — provided you remember them when you wake up…. It depends on the candour of the child. And on the trust he has in what happens to him, on the absence of the mind’s critical sense, and a simplicity of heart, and a youthful and active energy… a kind of inner vital generosity; one must not be too egoistic, one must not be too miserly, nor too practical, too utilitarian…. And then, one must have a lively power of imagination, for… there is a world in which you are the supreme maker of forms; that is your own particular vital world…. If you have an artistic or poetic consciousness, if you love harmony, beauty, you will build there something marvellous which will tend to spring up into the material manifestation.
When I was small I used to call this “telling stories to oneself”. It is not at all a telling with words, in one’s head; it is a going away to this place which is fresh and pure…. And if you know how to tell yourself a story in this way, and if it is truly beautiful, truly harmonious, truly powerful and well coordinated, this story will be realised in your life…. That may take years, perhaps, but your story will tend to organise your life.
The dreams of childhood are the realities of mature age.
When you have what you call dreamless sleep, it is one of two things; either you do not remember what you dreamt or you fell into absolute unconsciousness…. But there is the possibility of a sleep in which you enter into an absolute silence, immobility and peace in all parts of your being and your consciousness merges into Sachchidananda. You can hardly call it sleep, for it is extremely conscious…. You cannot have it by chance; it requires a long training.
If one is more conscious in the day, will one have dreams of a good kind?
It is very difficult to say on what it depends…. It depends not on what one was during the day, because this doesn’t always have much effect upon the night, but on the way one has gone to sleep. It is enough just to have at the moment of sleeping a sincere aspiration that the night, instead of being a darkening of the consciousness, may be a help to understand something, to have an experience; and then, though it doesn’t come always, it has a chance of coming…. It depends perhaps on a consciousness that watches over everyone; and provided one is just a little open, it can guide and give sure indications.
Usually there is a whole category of dreams which are useless, tiring… which one can avoid if, before going to sleep, one makes a little effort of concentration, tries to put himself in contact with what is best in him, by either an aspiration or a prayer, and to sleep only after this is done… even, try to meditate and pass quite naturally from meditation into sleep…. And then, if one has truly succeeded well in his concentration, it is quite possible that one may have, at night, not exactly dreams but experiences… which are very useful indications…. Or else a set of circumstances where you ought to take a decision and don’t know what decision to take; or else some way of being of your own character which does not show itself to you clearly in the waking consciousness… but something that harms your development and obscures your consciousness, and which appears to you in a symbolic revelatory dream, and you become clearly aware of the thing, then you can act upon it.
The ideal is to enter an integral repose, that is, immobility in the body, perfect peace in the vital, absolute silence in the mind — and the consciousness goes out of all activity to enter into Sachchidananda. If you can do this, then when you wake up you have the feeling of an extraordinary power, a perfect joy.
Space and time do not begin and end with the mental consciousness: even the overmind has them…. Each world has its own space and time. Thus the mental space and time do not tally with what we observe here in the material universe. In the mind-world we can move forward and backward at our own will and pleasure. The movement is immediate, so very free are the spatio-temporal conditions there. In the vital world, however, you have to use your will: there, too, distance is less rigid, but the movement is not immediate: the will has to be exercised.
Inevitably, (in a dream) a wound received in the vital being is translated in the physical body…. If you receive a blow in the vital, the body suffers the consequence. More than half of our illnesses are the result of blows of this kind… men are not conscious of their vital…. If one knows how it reacts on the physical, one goes to its source and can cure oneself in a few hours.
In dreams, you must remember that you are in the space and time of the vital world and not to try to act as if you were still in your physical body.
One of the characteristics of activity in the vital space and time is that these beings are able to assume huge shapes at will and create the vibration of fear in you which is their most powerful means of invading and possessing you. You must… cast out all fear. Once you face them boldly, unflinchingly, and look them straight in the eyes, they lose three-quarters of their power. And if you call upon us for help, then, even the last quarter is gone.
You have no idea of the almost magical effect of staring fearlessly into the eyes of a vital being…. So, to sum up… never be afraid and in all circumstances call for the right help to make your strength a hundred fold stronger.
What are nightmares?
These are your sorties into the vital world. And what is the first thing you try to do when you are in the grip of a nightmare? You rush back into your body and shake yourself into your normal physical consciousness…. In the world of the vital forces you are a stranger…. its beings gather round you and want to encompass and get out of you all you have, to draw what they can and make it a food and a prey… the body is your fortress and your shelter…. after death you have the same vital surroundings and are in danger from the same forces that are the cause of your misery in this life.
No attachments, no desires, no impulses, no preferences; perfect equanimity, unchanging peace, and absolute faith in the Divine protection: with that you are safe, without it you are in peril. And as long as you are not safe, take shelter under the mother’s wings.
(selection by Roshan Apurva)