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In my dream Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said in a very stern tone of voice “Get out of the city! Get out of the city!”
I lived in Toronto at the time, and worked in a social service agency which I’d started. I was estranged from my family and separated from my husband, so this agency had become my family. I’d just begun to look at the effects of my childhood abuse and had therapists who were helping me. To leave the city meant I had to leave all that behind.
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But because of the respect I have for Abdu’l-Baha, I took the dream seriously and moved out of the city as quickly as I could wind things down. Within a month, I had a new job and found a therapist who specialized in childhood sexual abuse, who had also just moved to the area. Miracle upon miracle! I took it as a sign that God rewards obedience.
In 1919, Abdu’l-Baha gave a talk (provisionally translated here by Keven Brown) describing the three types of dreams to some pilgrims who had come to see him:
There are three kinds of dreams. One is a true vision, which is even as the morning light and has no need of interpretation. Exactly what is seen, the same thing occurs. But most people, generally, do not receive this kind of dream. In the period of every person’s life it may chance to happen that one’s heart and mind are free and clear of false suppositions. Then whatever the spirit discovers conforms to the reflection obtained. This is a true vision and needs no interpretation; it is reality.
The second kind of dream is that requiring interpretation, because the mind or the heart of the dreamer possesses false suppositions. When a spiritual journey is attained, it must be interpreted and false thoughts must be separated from spiritual discoveries.
Another kind of dream is the confused dream. For example, during the day a man becomes engaged in a quarrel and dispute. Later, in the world of the dream, these same circumstances appear to him. This is a confused dream. It has no interpretation and contains no discoveries. Before the person dreamed, he was overcome with delusions. It is clear that this kind of dream bears no interpretation and is confused.
We know, scientifically, that dreams can be caused by many things, including fatigue and fear. But in a spiritual sense, as Abdu’l-Baha pointed out, dreams can also sometimes contain true visions of the future or an intimation from God to man.
In other places in the Baha’i teachings, we learn that dreams can have secrets and wisdom contained in them; that they can enable us to forecast future events; and that they can help us make decisions and solve problems which can’t be solved in wakefulness. There are dreams that are both truthful and untruthful and we can ask God to know the difference; and some dreams which have absolutely no result whatsoever.
At the same time, many dreams are influenced by the mind of the dreamer, and we shouldn’t put too much attachment on them. Bad feelings or evil motives will warp and distort any inspirational impression that comes to us, and we should test impressions we get through dreams by comparing them with the revealed Word and seeing whether they are in full harmony with those spiritual teachings.
But dreams can be very important, too. Baha’u’llah revealed a prayer we can say to solidify what we’ve learned in our dreams:
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. Do Thou ordain for me through Thy most exalted Pen, O my Lord, the good of this world and of the next. I testify that within Thy grasp are held the reins of all things. Thou changest them as Thou pleasest. No God is there save Thee, the Strong, the Faithful. Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent.
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We all dream, and dreams can be particularly crucial in the lives of children. “Sweet Dreams!” is often the last thing a child hears before drifting off to sleep. I sometimes wonder if this is a habit of speech we need to re-examine, particularly because often children’s dreams are not always sweet. Often they dream of monsters under the bed! It’s possible that sensitive children who don’t have sweet dreams, may feel at some level, that they aren’t being obedient to their parents when they have nightmares; and as a result, they could grow up to become children who don’t believe in God. Since they’ve already failed to live up to parent’s expectations and God certainly didn’t give them sweet dreams, why should they obey a God who doesn’t care … ? It’s a bit of a stretch, perhaps; but therapists will tell you that one isolated incident, interpreted wrongly by a child, can certainly have an impact on the adult.
When a child goes to bed at night, worried about dreaming about monsters, instead of inviting him or her to have “sweet dreams”, it might be better for their mind and soul to say this prayer, revealed by the Bab, as the last thing heard:
O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily, Thy protection over all things is unfailing.
Have you ever had a dream that was significant to you, that fell into one of these categories? Have you ever had a dream that moved your life forward? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
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