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Dreams have played a major role in religion—in fact, mystic dreams often accompany the inception of a new Faith:
… the soul-shaking experience of Moses when confronted by the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai; of Zoroaster when awakened to His mission by a succession of seven visions; of Jesus when coming out of the waters of the Jordan He saw the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descend like a dove and light upon Him; of Muhammad when in the Cave of Hira, outside of the holy city of Mecca, the voice of Gabriel bade Him “cry in the name of Thy Lord …” [The Bab] … awoke to find Himself the chosen recipient of the outpouring grace of the Almighty. – Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 93.
“One night in a dream,” [Baha’u’llah] Himself, calling to mind, in the evening of His life, the first stirrings of God’s Revelation within His soul, has written, “these exalted words were heard on every side: ‘Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth—men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him.'” In another passage He describes, briefly and graphically, the impact of the onrushing force of the Divine Summons upon His entire being—an experience vividly recalling the vision of God that caused Moses to fall in a swoon, and the voice of Gabriel which plunged Muhammad into such consternation that, hurrying to the shelter of His home, He bade His wife, Khadijih, envelop Him in His mantle. “During the days I lay in the prison of Tihran,” are His own memorable words, “though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.” – Ibid., p. 101.
Shoghi Effendi unmistakably affirmed that Baha’u’llah received this seminal revelation in a dream:
Now that He had been invested, in consequence of that potent dream, with the power and sovereign authority associated with His Divine mission … – Ibid., p. 104.
We’ve all had revealing dreams, where we obtained new insight, discovered something previously unknown or found the solution to a pressing problem. In similar but much more profound ways, the prophets of God received their revelations in waking or sleeping dreams.
The Buddha meditated and dreamt under the Bodhi tree for 49 days. Moses conversed with the burning bush. Jesus Christ, after being baptized by John the Baptist, emerged from the water and saw a waking vision of the Holy Spirit descending toward him in the form of a dove. Muhammad, after praying in a cave near Mecca, encountered the angel Gabriel, who commanded him to begin reciting the verses of the Qur’an. These dreamlike revelations have influenced and guided the lives of billions of people.
Clearly, the world of dreams has a great deal to teach us. The Baha’i writings say that dreams conclusively prove the existence of an afterlife:
God, the Exalted, hath placed these signs in men, to the end that philosophers may not deny the mysteries of the life beyond nor belittle that which hath been promised them. – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 33.
In like manner, this world [the “dream state”] denoteth the place of gathering and resurrection after death, for as Luqmān [Aesop] hath said to his son: ‘If thou art able to sleep, thou art able to die; and if thou art able to waken after sleep, thou art able to rise after death.’ Just as death is a reality, so is the world of the dream; and just as there is waking after sleep, there is rising after death. – from a tablet of Baha’u’llah, provisional translation by Keven Brown.