Human beings spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping, and in sleep we dream—which gives us access to a mystical world.
Contemporary research indicates that everyone dreams while sleeping, whether those dreams are remembered or not. Scientific and popular interest in dreams has risen recently: academic institutions and sleep laboratories conduct dream research, while dream study groups, workshops and seminars take place in psychologists’ offices, conferences and homes. An ongoing stream of publications, both on the internet and the printed page, attest to the public’s abiding fascination with the subject.
In this short series of essays, we’ll look at some of the insightful wisdom of the Baha’i teachings on the subject of dreams.
Baha’u’llah, in his writings, repeatedly exhorts the reader to ponder the dream state. He stated point blank:
Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 152.
Consider how strange is the mystery of the world that appeareth to thee in thy dream. Ponder in thine heart upon the unsearchable wisdom of God, and meditate on its manifold revelations … – Ibid., p. 162.
Baha’u’llah focuses on dreams in “the Valley of Wonderment” in his mystical treatise The Seven Valleys, which includes these words:
One of the created phenomena is the dream. Behold how many secrets are deposited therein, how many wisdoms treasured up, how many worlds concealed. – p. 32.
Referring to the outer world and the world of sleep, Baha’u’llah urged us to:
Consider the difference between these two worlds and the mysteries which they conceal, that thou mayest attain to divine confirmations and heavenly discoveries and enter the regions of holiness. – Ibid., p. 33.
Baha’u’llah shared these summarizing insights as to the place of dreams in understanding the realms of existence:
Moreover, thou hast asked about the dream state. It is a world distinguished among the divine worlds that expresseth and indicateth infinite conditions. For example, it is proof of a world without beginning and end or first and last, inasmuch as something is seen in a dream and after a period of years the same event is observed in this world. From one perspective, if it be said that it is the intermediate world of similitudes resembling the Kingdom, which some regard as the world of similitudes located between the world of Dominion and this mortal world, this is correct. In short, shouldst thou ponder deeply upon this state, thou wilt comprehend innumerable subjects.
… O questioner, man is the supreme compendium and the most perfect talisman; he is the compendium which containeth a similitude of whatever hath been created in the heavens and the earth. When the soul is released from transitory restrictions and terrestrial states, it will traverse all the stages, and the greater its freedom, the stronger, more steadfast, and true will be its flight. – from a tablet of Baha’u’llah, provisional translation by Keven Brown.
The Baha’i teachings, then, indicate the potential importance of dreams in each person’s inner spiritual life. While the Baha’i writings often use sleeping and dreaming metaphorically in relation to spiritual awakening, there can be a literal application as well. One of Baha’u’llah’s prayers includes these words:
I give praise to Thee, O my God, that Thou hast awakened me out of my sleep, and brought me forth after my disappearance, and raised me up from my slumber. I have wakened this morning with my face set toward the splendors of the Day-Star of Thy Revelation …
I beseech Thee, by the potency of Thy will and the compelling power of Thy purpose, to make of what Thou didst reveal unto me in my sleep the surest foundation for the mansions of Thy love that are within the hearts of Thy loved ones, and the best instrument for the revelation of the tokens of Thy grace and Thy loving-kindness. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 248.