Dreams have long fascinated the human race. This alternate reality, separate from the conscious world we see around us, has captured the interest of many people throughout history. In fact, mankind has been studying dreams since the invention of the written word. Perhaps the lure of dreams is that there seems to be some significance behind them. Most reject the idea that dreams are just random meaningless fragments of data. The vivid sensations that dreams create are just too powerful to ignore. The world of dreams is filled with peculiar phenomenon and unexpected events that beg our attention. Consider the following example of a dream:
I was in a fairly large square room; the room was dark…I was sitting on the floor against the wall…In the center of the room was a well or tubular iron shaft…I crept on my hands and knees slowly over to the well and looked into it…a square piece of white paper…came into view…I felt afraid and crawled back against the wall…my little Boston terrier dog appeared…and jumped into the well without a sound being uttered. (Sanford 45-46)
This man’s dream is filled with too many powerful images and irregularities to ignore. He is forced to ask himself what this well means, why his dog jumped into it, and more importantly, why his mind created this situation. Finally, dreams are extremely relevant because everybody has them. People sometimes assume they are not dreaming, when in reality they just aren’t remembering them. Whether one remembers his dreams or not, they are always present. For these reasons, dreams have fascinated mankind for centuries.
The history of dream research goes back to the 12th dynasty (1991-1786 BC) when the Egyptians began to explore dreams. They developed a process called “dream incubation” where a person who wanted his dreams interpreted would go to sleep in a temple. From there a priest would observe and interpret his dreams. The Egyptians believed that dreams where in fact messages from gods. The Egyptians are believed to be the first civilization to write about dreams, and actually created several books on the subject. The Greeks were another civilization concerned with dreams. In fact, the Greeks were studying dreams as early as the 8th Century. References to dreams can be found in early Greek literatures such as Homer’s The Iliad, in which Agamemnon receives instructions from Zeus in a dream. The Greeks took an approach similar to the Egyptians in that they believed dreams were messages from God. However, this kind of thinking did not last long. A Greek philosopher in the 5th Century named Heraclitus was probably the first to suggest that dreams actually originated from within. He stated that each individual’s dreams were unique and were products of his own mind. Socrates and Plato followed where Heraclitus left off, corroborating his theory with their own research. Finally it was Aristotle who completely dispelled the notion that dreams were attempts at divine...