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While you sleep with your eyes closed, your ears deaf, your tongue mute, and your arms and legs motionless, how do you travel, meet people, and do many things in a few minutes or even seconds? When you get up in the morning, you feel deeply influenced by that few seconds of adventure. Although Freud and his followers attribute dreams to the subconscious self, to thoughts and desires, impulses and past experiences, how can you explain dreams that inform you of a future event with which you have no contact or have never thought about? How do we dream? With what part of our body or being do we dream? Why do dreams last only a few seconds? How (and why) do we remember what we dreamed? All of these and many similar questions are like puzzles awaiting to be solved by science.

Sometimes while we are asleep, our subconscious (namely, our thoughts and desires, impulses and past experiences) are revealed unconsciously. We may be sick or hungry, or be facing an unsolvable problem. The imagination gives form to the deviations of a bad temper, or the mind remembers a past exciting event and gives it a new, different form. All such dreams are jumbled; they have some meaning, but are not worth interpreting. For example, if we eat salty things before sleep, we may dream that we are lying by a pool; if we go to bed angry, we may dream that we are fighting with others.

If we do not know how to interpret dreams, true dreams may be confused with or taken for such jumbled dreams. For example, although the dream Pharaoh told to Prophet Joseph, upon him be peace, was true, his men described it as jumbled.

True Dreams. One type of dream has nothing to do with the subconscious self. Such dreams carry important messages: either good tidings from God, which encourage us to do good things and guide us, or warnings concerning the evil we have done. Those dreams, which we call true dreams, are very clear and unforgettable.

Some true dreams contain news of the future. To understand the nature and mechanism of such dreams, consider the following:

As a book’s essence—its meaning—exists before it assumes a written, visible form, everything has an essential form of existence in God’s Knowledge before it appears in the world. Islamic philosophers call these essential forms archetypes. When God wills to send them to this world, through the manifestation of His Wisdom and Power and the appropriate Divine Names, He clothes them in material bodies. Between the world of archetypes (where God’s Knowledge has primary manifestation) and this world is another world—the world of immaterial forms or symbols. There, things exist in ideal forms or as symbols, and the concept and measure of time are completely different from their counterparts here. Dreamers find or receive these symbols differently, based on such factors as time and place, culture, and even national and individual characteristics.

When we sleep, our spirit ascends to this world of ideal forms without completely breaking its connection to the body. It enters a different dimension of existence, where past, present, and future are combined. As a result, we may experience a past event or witness a future one. However, since things in that world exist in ideal forms or symbols, the spirit usually receives symbols that require interpretation.

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