Inspired
by the
Baha’i Faith
The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith. The official website of the Baha'i Faith is: Bahai.org. The official website of the Baha'is of the United States can be found here: Bahai.us.
GOT IT
The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
How do I become Baha’i?
Spirituality

Animal Dreams, and What They Mean

David Langness | May 23, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Interested in Other Topics?

We’ve got something for everyone.
David Langness | May 23, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Some BahaiTeachings.org readers, after reading my recent essay called Dreams and Visions of the Soul, wondered about human dreams and how they compare to animal dreams. They left these comments on our site:

“I wonder if you will tell us about the difference between human dreams and animal dreams.”

“…in the very cute and amusing videos on YouTube which show a puppy chasing something in its mind whilst asleep, what is animating that locomotion?”

Just about anyone who has ever seen a dog’s paws twitch and “run” in his sleep knows that animals dream. As far as scientists have been able to determine, all mammals experience some variant of REM sleep. Dogs, cats, rats and even dolphins dream. Whales probably do, too, although no brave scientists have managed to hook up their electrodes to a whale. Birds and reptiles might dream, as well. Armadillos and opossums dream even more than humans, apparently.

So what separates human dreams from animal dreams? What do animals dream about, anyway? Most importantly, if our dreams indicate the presence of a soul, what do animal dreams indicate?

dog-dream-2We know that most mammals have similar brain components. Like humans, they all have a sleep-activated hippocampus and a brain structure called the pons, which secretes a hormone that paralyzes our muscles to keep us from moving too much when we dream. My pons didn’t work too well when I was a kid—which is why I had many sleep-walking adventures, including a memorable trip to the kitchen, which, in my dream, I mistakenly thought of as the bathroom. Hilarity ensued.

Two MIT neuroscientists, Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie, have learned more about animal dreams than just about anyone. Their research actually recorded the firing of single cells in the brains of four rats as they ran through a maze. Different cells fired at different sections of the maze. Then Wilson and Louie observed the same cells firing while the rats slept—in the exact same order as when they originally navigated the maze.

This research shows us that animals replay their waking lives in their dreams, just as humans sometimes do. That fact leads scientists to believe that dreams actually fulfill a problem-solving function in both animals and humans, allowing our resting brains to go over difficult tasks and quandaries, potentially seeking and finding answers while we sleep.

But human dreams, we know from similar scientific studies, have the ability to go far beyond basic problem-solving, and into the much more mysterious areas of symbolism, psychological insight and even precognition. The best-known science in this area came from the sleep laboratory at New York’s Maimonides Medical Centre, where researchers investigated precognition in dreams. Their research subjects described their dreams, recording them immediately after waking, and then waited to see whether or not those dreams came true. After a sufficient amount of time passed, the researchers reported that five out of eight experiences directly corresponded with the original dreams, and two more were close matches. The odds against that randomly happening, according to the scientists, were 5000-1.

Many historical examples of this phenomena exist. In 1865, two weeks before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln had a precognitive dream about a funeral at the White House. In the dream, he asked someone who was in the casket and they replied, “The president of the United States.” Lincoln told his wife about the dream, but neither of them took it seriously. On the night of his death the President gave his bodyguard the night off.

This suggests that while all mammals sleep and dream, human beings have higher-order abilities and powers, in the same way intellectual capacities increase in the most complex life-forms:

According to science, all forms of creation are endowed with life; this element of life and energy depending on environment and adaptations. Life as an attribute of growth is manifest to a minute degree in the mineral kingdom. It is more powerfully manifested in the vegetable kingdom and when we study the animal world we observe that the power of life is expressing itself through more capable mediums, showing manifold attributes. Ascending to the human kingdom we find that life, or what is figuratively called spirit, is declaring itself with knowledge in the utmost power and transcendency. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 165.

Certainly, animals have feelings and emotions. Anyone who has ever felt the love of a pet or the trust of a horse for his rider knows that animals can not only sense but feel. In all animals, though, the ability to think and reason cannot rival the human capabilities for rational thought, for the creation of art, for the building of complex civilizations, for scientific accomplishment and technological achievement:

In the animal world there is the sense of feeling, but in the human world there is an all-embracing power. In all the preceding stages the power of reason is absent, but the soul existeth and revealeth itself. The sense of feeling understandeth not the soul, whereas the reasoning power of the mind proveth the existence thereof. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to August Forel, p. 9.

Our souls, Baha’is believe, allow us to evolve beyond a purely animal existence. They lead us to higher levels of intellectual and spiritual development. They open our minds to more subtle and divine aspirations. Our souls allow us to dream, and make our dreams vehicles for our spiritual growth.

You May Also Like

Spirituality

How Prayer Makes Peace

Spirituality

Love,Your Heart and World Health Day

Spirituality

Finding a Guide for your Path


Comments

characters remaining
  • David Bowers
    May 25, 2016
    -
    Thank you! Just the sort of insight I was looking for. :)
  • rodney Richards
    May 24, 2016
    -
    Thank you for reaffirming that animals have feelings and emotions, for how couldn't they when they represent our lower nature? Hence it is our human responsibility to show kindness to all (unless attacked), and perhaps the ability to show kindness as many animals do, if you view hundreds of Facebook posts, is also innate? I think so.
  • Hooshang Afshar
    May 24, 2016
    -
    The understanding that soul/spirit is real and exists in all things in the universe comes to us only when we believe in God the Creator, the great Spirit. We cannot understand soul but we can understand existence of God when we ponder the complexity and wonder of all things from atom to solar system to human body etc. To learn about God is only possible through Divine religions. But religions have a bad record except the latest one the Baha'i faith. The Baha'i faith has no preachers or clergy and all its writings are authoritative, written by their respective divine ...authors. Thus, it is not divided and has no sects to compete for each others followers by denouncing other sects. A perfect harmony and unity always and forevermore, as promised in its sacred Writings, preserve it . The Baha'i faith is the fulfillment of all the past promises in all the world's scriptures regarding the Messiah who will establish peace and justice in the world by the will of God the Ruler - "He holds the rein of His creation. He doeth as He willeth and ordaineth as He pleaseth".
    Read more...
x
x
Connect with Baha’is in your area
Welcome!
What's your name?
Thanks my friend ! We want to connect you with a Baha’i in your area, where would that be?
Thank you so much! How can they best reach you?
To put you in touch with a Baha’i in your area who can answer your questions, we would like to kindly ask for a few details about yourself.
Connect with Baha’is in your area
Connect with Baha’is in your area
Get in touch with the Baha’is in your community.