Some examples of meaningful dreams
A revealing dream that solved an archaeological case
In 1903 Frederic Myers published the two volumes of Human personality and its survival of bodily death, a work in which he lavished his energies to highlight (if not to demonstrate) with rational arguments consistent with the mentality and knowledge of the end of the nineteenth century, as in the human being there is an element (which he called the subliminal Self), whose existence goes beyond ordinary bodily life. The fourth chapter of this book is dedicated to the dream, although the title is Sleep. Myers saw in the dream one of those mental states through which something that is related to our existence as human beings, but which goes beyond ordinary reality, can manifest itself to our conscious Ego. In this chapter there are some examples of extraordinary dreams, one of which is quoted below . The case was reported by Professor W. Romaine Newbold, of the University of Pennsylvania, in an article entitled Sub-conscious Reasoning, which appeared in vol. XII of the Proceedings of the SPR. The experience was told to him by Hermann Hilprecht, a colleague and friend, holder of the chair of Assyrian at the University of Pennsylvania, shortly after it had occurred. The report was written in German by Professor Hilprecht on 8 August 1893, before an exhaustive confirmation was received.
One Saturday evening, about the middle of March 1893, I had been wearying myself, as I had done so often in the weeks preceding, in the vain attempt to decipher two small fragments of agate which were supposed to belong to the finger-rings of some Babylonian. The labour was much increased by the fact that the fragments presented remnants only of characters and lines, that dozens of similar small fragments had been found in the ruins of the temple of Bel at Nippur with which nothing could be done, that in this case furthermore I had never had the originals before me, but only a hasty sketch made by one of the members of the expedition sent by the University of Pennsylvania to Babylonia. I could not say more than that the fragments, taking into consideration the place in which they were found and the peculiar characteristics of the cuneiform characters preserved upon them, sprang from the Cassite period of Babylonian history (circa 1700-1140 B.C.); moreover, as the first character of the third line of the first fragment seemed to be KU, I ascribed this fragment, with an interrogation point, to King Kurigalzu, while I placed the other fragment, as unclassifiable, with other Cassite fragments upon a page of my book where I published the unclassifiable fragments. The proofs already lay before me, but I was far from satisfied. The whole problem passed yet again through my mind that March evening before I placed my mark of approval under the last correction in the book. Even then I had come to no conclusion.
About midnight, weary and exhausted, I went to bed and was soon in deep sleep. Then I dreamed the following remarkable dream. A tall, thin priest of the old pre-Christian Nippur, about forty years of age and clad in a simple abba, led me to the treasure-chamber of the temple, on its south-east side. He went with me into a small, low-ceiled room, without windows, in which there was a large wooden chest, while scraps of agate and lapis-lazuli lay scattered on the floor. Here he addressed me as follows: «The two fragments which you have published separately upon pages 22 and 26, belong together, are not finger-rings, and their history is as follows. King Kurigalzu (circa 1300 B.C.) once sent to the temple of Bel, among other articles of agate and lapislazuli, an inscribed votive cylinder of agate. Then we priests suddenly received the command to make for the statue of the god Ninib a pair of earrings of agate. We were in great dismay, since there was no agate as raw material at hand. In order to execute the command there was nothing for us to do but cut the votive cylinder into three parts, thus making three rings, each of which contained a portion of the original inscription. The first two rings served as earrings for the statue of the god; the two fragments which have given you so much trouble are portions of them. If you will put the two together you will have confirmation of my words. But the third ring you have not yet found in the course of your excavations, and you never will find it».
With this, the priest disappeared. I awoke at once and immediately told my wife the dream that I might not forget it. Next morning Sunday I examined the fragments once more in the light of these disclosures, and to my astonishment found all the details of the dream precisely verified in so far as the means of verification were in my hands. The original inscription on the votive cylinder read: «To the god Ninib, son of Bel, his lord, has Kurigalzu, pontifex of Bel, presented this». The problem was thus at last solved. I stated in the preface that I had unfortunately discovered too late that the two fragments belonged together, made the corresponding changes in the Table of Contents, pp. 50 and 52, and, it being not possible to transpose the fragments, as the plates were already made, I put in each plate a brief reference to the other. (Cf. Hilprecht, The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A, Cuneiform Texts, Vol. I., Part I, Old Babylonian Inscriptions, chiefly from Nippur).
Here ends the letter sent by Hilprecht to Romaine Newbold. At the time when the professor told his strange dream, a few weeks after he made it, there was still a serious question that he was unable to explain. According to what was written in the notes of his book, the fragments were of different colors and therefore it was unlikely that they had belonged to the same object. The original fragments were in Constantinople, and Newbold waited impatiently for the return of Hilprecht, who had gone to that city in the summer of 1893. And here is the account, dated November 10, 1895, of the investigations carried out by Professor Hilprecht.
In August 1893, I was sent by the Committee on the Babylonian Expedition to Constantinople, to catalogue and study the objects got from Nippur and preserved there in the Imperial Museum. It was to me a matter of the greatest interest to see for myself the objects which, according to my dream, belonged together, in order to satisfy myself that they had both originally been parts of the same votive cylinder. Halil Bey, the director of the museum, to whom I told my dream, and of whom I asked permission to see the objects, was so interested in the matter, that he at once opened all the cases of the Babylonian section, and requested me to search. Father Scheil, an Assyriologist from Paris, who had examined and arranged the articles excavated by us before me, had not recognised the fact that these fragments belonged together, and consequently I found one fragment in one case, and the other in a case far away from it. As soon as I found the fragments and put them together, the truth of the dream was demonstrated ad oculos – they had, in fact, once belonged to one and the same votive cylinder. As it had been originally of finely veined agate, the stone-cutter's saw had accidentally divided the object in such a way that the whitish vein of the stone appeared only upon the one fragment and the larger grey surface upon the other. Thus I was able to explain Dr. Peters's discordant description of the two fragments.
Dreams that anticipate in detail an actual event
Some dreams, rather than being premonitory, anticipate literally in the smallest details an event that will take place, after a few years, in real life. I excerpt the two examples that follow from a 1956 book (William Sherpes - Ancient and Modern Spiritism - Milan), available on the Internet in the second hand market. The source of these dreams is not quoted, but they have probably been taken from a book by Flammarion.
It was 1846, the second year of my studies at the upper seminary. One night, while sleeping, I traveled in spirit. The road that I followed, white and flanked by trees often spaced from each other, seemed to descend from the mountain on a gentle slope to reach a plain that stretched as far as the eye could see. The sun was lowering towards the horizon, between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, and poured its calm light on the countryside with nuances easier to imagine than to describe. Suddenly, without knowing why or how, I found myself in a place where another road cut at a right angle the one where I was. There was, however, nothing extraordinary that could stop the traveler's eye, and not even attract his attention. Yet even now I see myself standing there, straight as a statue, while contemplating with particular satisfaction not a great scene, but one of those rural pictures that we can see every day. On the left I saw the road that crossed mine go along the mountainside, and so there had been built a wall about a meter high that flanked it to support the ground. Along that wall three large trees had been planted, that gave a thick shadow. About thirty yards from the point of the road where I stood, in front of me, in a well-leveled court just against the road, there was a very pretty house, whitewashed with lime and very sunny. The only window, located on the road side, was open: behind the window there was a well-dressed, albeit simply, woman. Among the bright colors of her clothing, red predominated. On her head she had a white cap of very light laced fabric, whose shape was unknown to me. That woman seemed about thirty years old. Standing before her stood a little girl, from ten to twelve years old, whom I considered her daughter, because she carefully watched her mother who worked on a lace and taught her the job: she was bareheaded and without shoes, dressed more or less like her mother. Near the girl, three children rolled on the floor; a little boy who could have been four to five years was on his knees showing something to his two little brothers, younger than him, to amuse them. These latter were prone before the first, all absorbed in their admiration.
The two women had given me a quick glance when they had seen me standing on the road, and looking in their direction, but they had not moved. In fact, they often saw travelers passing by. A very large dog was lying on its entire length, and scratched occasionally to get rid of the fleas. Through the open door, at the back of the room I could see three men sitting on the benches around a table, two on one side and the other on the other, playing and drinking. They looked as if they were workers busy around. They wore canvas aprons and pointed black hats like those from Abruzzo. On the other side, three rams were chewing not appetizing grass, and as a pastime they gave themselves friendly gorings. Beside them were two horses, one reddish and the other white, tied to the wall. A nice colt was going here and there, to have fun, and headed for the players' table, certainly to receive a lesson and rub his nose in their hats. The little innocent earned a good slap for reward. I still noticed four or five hens and a cock of beautiful build, adorned with a magnificent tail, with green and black feathers like those that garnish the hats of Italian Bersaglieri. Those poor birds sought their food in the courtyard, where the sun-dried grass barely concealed the white dust. Such was the modest landscape that I contemplated, more than happy, perhaps for the time of ten minutes, and which disappeared as suddenly as it had come. Before, I saw nothing; later, I saw nothing again, and I believed that it was forever drowned in the river of oblivion.
Here's how it resurrected, etched forever in my memory and in my imagination. I can still see today that corner of land, as I see the bell tower of my village. In 1849, with two friends, I gave myself a trip to Italy. Starting from Marseille, a jump to Genoa, stopover in Livorno, then Siena, Florence, then a very fast travel to Rome. We crossed a village in the Apennines. A solid coach brings our august persons. Five strong horses pull the wagon, start in a flash, and make their hooves resound; the coachman, or postilion, adorned with an African – or rather Harlequin – hat, strikes the air with the whip tirelessly enough to dislocate his arm, makes the curious go out into the street, and exhibits his skills to the eyes of the multitude. There is no time to admire our lordships; the coach does not run, it flies. But as soon as we leave the small town every ardor is lost, we fall back into the flat calm, we mount on the crest of a mountain. Five minute stop; four proud racers replace our tired horses, and the coachman whips, the coach flies through the dust, we descend like a hurricane, recommending our souls to God. It was not too much, because I do not know how we managed to get together with all of our members after that race at breakneck. Finally the wagon takes a reasonable pace and arrives at a stop without breaking.
During that stop I look out of the door and sweat immediately covers me; my heart beats like a drum, and mechanically I bring my hands to my face as if to remove a veil that annoys me and prevents me from seeing; I rub my nose, my eyes, like a sleeping man who, after a dream, wakes up abruptly. I think I dream, really, and yet my eyes are well open, I make sure I'm not crazy, nor the victim of a very strange illusion. I have before my eyes the small landscape that I had previously seen in my dream. Nothing had changed! The first thought I had after resuming my common sense, troubled for an instant, was this: I've already seen it, I do not know where, but I'm very sure of it, it's certain. However, I never came here, because this is the first time I come to Italy. How does this happen? Here are the two roads that cross, the wall that supports the land on the side of the courtyard, the trees, the white house, the open window; the mother who makes the lace and the daughter who looks at her, three children who play, the dog, the three workers who drink and play, the colt, the two horses, the rams, nothing has changed; the characters are exactly the same, such and such as I had seen them, intent on doing the same things I had seen, in the same attitude, with the same gestures, etc. How did all this happen? I do not know anything, absolutely! But the fact is certain, and, for fifty years, I wonder about it! Mystery!
Thus ends the telling of this dream, a typical example of déjà vu. Although interesting, the whole story is pervaded with an atmosphere that can truly be described as dreamy, emotional, almost enchanted. There are, however, no precise information on the nature of the dream, on the effect it had on the dreamer, if it was transcribed and possibly told to someone before the event of the travel to Italy. More precise, and also more recent, is the following dream, validated by two testimonies.
In 1911 I found myself, in a dream, in a place new to me, in a country that I felt to be unknown to me. On a small hill, with its soft curves covered with fresh lawns, I saw a large building with a medieval appearance, half manor, half fortified farm. Large walls surrounded the building with their uninterrupted belt smoothed by the winds. Four massive towers, slightly elevated, stood at the corners. In front of the main door and in the meadow ran a beautiful stream with limpid and murmuriant waters. Some men, or rather soldiers, drew water from it. Others lit fires not far from the rifle bundles arranged along the walls. These men were dressed in a strange pale blue uniform, unknown to me, and wore a helmet that seemed to me curiously shaped. I saw myself, in an officer's uniform, giving orders for the provision. For one of those phenomena that many have experienced, while I was busy with those occupations, I thought: «What a funny situation! Why am I here and in this costume?» Having the dream left, upon my awakening, a clear and precise impression, I could not help but think of the strangeness of the absence of those incoherent and ridiculous details that populate our dreaming, and of the presence of harmony and logic in the absurd, because my situation as an officer of that unknown army seemed absurd to me. In the sane day I spoke with my relatives of that dream and the blue soldiers who animated it. Then I did not think about it anymore.
Now, the war, which upset so many existences, made me, after a series of vicissitudes, an infantry lieutenant. My regiment was at rest in 1918, in the third line, in the Aube region. I led my recruits of the 1899 class. Since the early hours in the morning, the battalion marched. The heat, which discolored the tender green of tall rye plants, was hard to bear by my poor young soldiers. The cloud of dust raised on the road by the thousands of weighed feet did not allow me to see where we were. I received the order to make a grand-alt under the walls of the castle that was there, the aide told me, two hundred meters to the right. After giving instructions to the section leaders, I went to the battalion's head. A few minutes later, I found my company near a poplars avenue that hid the castle from me. The landscape that I saw, after the last tree interposed, immediately struck me. It was the gentle slope meadow, all scattered with the flowers that June makes bloom everywhere. The walls and towers, everything was exactly like what I had seen, seven years before, in my dream. But the stream and the monumental gate were missing. While I was considering this difference between my dream and reality, an aide came to ask me where the corvée had to go to draw water. «But, to the stream» I answered, laughing. The sergeant looked at me in amazement, and I added: «Yes: if it is not on this side, it is certainly on the other side of the building. Come with me».
Turning the tower at the north corner, I saw, without surprise, the gay stream that ran between the moss-covered stones and, towards the middle of the wall, the gate, which I had seen it in my dream, with the pillars of old bricks. The two head units had already solved the problem of water, the rifle bundles were already formed at the foot of the walls, in the shade of which many men already enjoyed the much desired rest. The image thus formed was that of my dream of 1911. Nothing sensational had to occur in those places; the dream therefore represented only a vision of what was to happen to me in the future, showing me especially my future situation as an officer, impossible to be conjectured in 1911. Signed Alfred Saurel.
In this case the dream was certainly significant, because – although there was no particular event in it – its details and quality made it remain vividly etched in the memory of the dreamer, who felt the urge to tell it to his closest relatives.
A long lucid dream
And finally, an example of a long and adventurous conscious dream made by me in December 1999.
After some blurred initial visions, which I use to focus the perceptive faculties, I find myself in a narrow alley of a typical medieval town. All the buildings, and the pavement of the street, are in stone, looking quite gloomy. Behind me there is a wall, in front of me a lane with two directions: one straight, and the other that diverts to the left (the latter is the direction from which I know I came). On my right there is a heavy door, in which I could enter. The atmosphere is disturbing, I can not see a living soul, yet I feel comfortable: in a sense, it's like starting a videogame. I decide to go forward along the road: I carefully observe what surrounds me, the walls and houses, which seem to belong to another age. How come nobody is seen? At the end of the small road I go to the right, and I start to see some human figures. It is as if people emerge from the fog, which makes them indistinct and dark, to become more and more clear. It is a kind of fog of time, because the more they become clear, the more they seem modern, current people, while also the atmosphere of the place becomes more alive.
I look around with careful excitement, aware of being inside that world and of being able to explore it intentionally: I seem to recognize the central square of Perugia, and I pass among the people, sure to be able to observe anyone closely, since I think I'm invisible to others. At this stage I am very interested in being able to observe the private behavior of others, but when I approach a couple of people in their thirties, to listen to what they say and see where they are going (and what they do), they notice my presence, not appreciated, and make me understand it (especially the woman). I'm surprised they can see me: am I not therefore invisible? I do some experiment, and I realize that in certain circumstances I am invisible, in others not. I am perceived not as a body, but as a presence. During one of these experiments, I climb a flight of stairs and enter a lawyer's office. The waiting room is crowded with people who are agitated and turbulent, while a secretary tries to keep order, inviting everyone to wait patiently for their turn. I'm the last one, and if I want to see what happens in the lawyer's office, I'll have to wait a long time. So I try to see if my invisibility works, and in fact I can pass in front of everyone without anyone noticing anything. The most bizarre thing is that as I pass through the crowd, I exert a certain pressure on people: it is as if I were made of deformable rubber, and everyone attributes the effect of my passage to the pressure of the neighbor's body. I climb another flight of stairs and enter the lawyer's office: it is a rather miserable, unfurnished room, with a single painted wooden table, almost of the kitchen type, and a few chairs. The lawyer, a thin and cunning guy, is wasting time with a client lady, making it clear that he wants to take her to bed. The lady, as it seems, is willing, and I observe amused and not seen the scene, thinking of all the people below waiting to be received.
In the end, when they go to another room, I'm tempted to follow them to see what happens, but then I change my mind: I feel like flying and I go out the window. I am not really flying with my body, but it is my gaze that can see everything as if I could hover in the air at any level. So I begin to explore a rather large city, full of historical monuments: houses, palaces, churches, strange buildings pass before my eyes as I move at a certain height along a series of rather wide roads. Again, there are not many people around. Everything is illuminated by a gentle rosy light, like that of a particularly bright and clear twilight. I look at all these buildings of the past that are partly standing and partly ruined, with all the blocks of stone stacked pell-mell over the buildings, on their sides, on the streets. It seems to me a very strange scene: why, I think, nobody cares about the maintenance of these beautiful buildings of the past? Agreed that time crumbles everything, but men could remedy through their work and put some order among all those ruins. This last thought strikes me, and I realize then that all the buildings, more or less, are in this state of partial crumbling, regardless of their age, as if all the high parts of the buildings were collapsed, and only the low parts remained standing. Moreover, the fact that there are so few inhabitants in that town so big, and that strange light so beautiful but also so unnatural, lead me to think of being in a world that has recently suffered a catastrophe, perhaps natural, perhaps in the form of a nuclear war. Not everything has been destroyed and the world is still livable, and even some technological elements are still present (for example, I see some trolleybus wires), but it is a world of survivors, and it is clear that the population has been decimated.
At this point I leave the city and always flying I move towards the mountains. The landscape is wonderful. I see from above a wide valley flanked by high mountain peaks, with hills and lower mountains within it. The air is clear and the sky is bright. At the top of one of the hills I see a complex house, even if a little badly maintained, and I go to take a look around. It seems to be the home of a young woman who is photographing, or watching, from the top of a window, some strange animals that jump or graze on the slope below. I approach and talk to her, looking for information, or maybe I'm just curious about her. I have the ability to focus on the animals below, one by one, simply by looking at them, as if I had binoculars that I do not actually have. I magnify one animal at a time, and the girl photographs it. These are strange two-legged animals, like the back of a horse with a snout, but of the size of a sheep, who jump easily among the bushes. After a while I walk around the house, which looks like a country house with a dirt floor, some household goods, and a certain disorder everywhere. There is a room higher than the others, a kind of tower, that I go to explore, carefully noticing each detail. There should be a man, but I can not find anyone. Instead a girlfriend of the photographer arrives, who also lives in that house, but I do not remember what we are talking about. The fact is that after a while I leave the house and continue my journey.
I arrive at another town, in an area of the center, an ancient historical center with some buildings that are part of a kind of university. Here too, the buildings are serviceable but partly ruined. In one of the buildings exams are held, some students must be examined, and perhaps someone would like me to be examined too. In this situation there is a certain tension, but I feel that there are more important and urgent things to do, rather than waste time with exams that no longer serve any purpose. At this point the visual aspect and the action take over. What I see and what I do is important. One of the classrooms is a very large room (it looks like a small deconsecrated church), filled with colorful lights and white vapors. These vapors condense everywhere, forming like lacy ice waterfalls beautiful to see, as they reflect all the colored lights.
It's time to act, and while some of the people are surprised, I take flight and start to transport people inside that wide room. I probably also tell some of the students and teachers present to help me and gather the most significant people, because there is no time to waste. I, always flying, carry in my arms some people who move with difficulty, including my parents. But I can not bring everyone I want, because there is no more time and I feel we have to leave at once. While everyone looks at me astonished in that environment with colored lights and luminescent ice reliefs, looking nice but, as I said, like an old church in disuse partially ruined, I, sure of what I do and very calm, lift myself in midair and sit in balance on a sort of articulated arm, like those of a dentist's drill of the past, but 4 or 5 meters long, which come out of a wall and contains some small levers. These devices do not seem very efficient, but I know they will work: I touch a couple of those levers and the spaceship, because this is what it is, starts moving. Everyone is amazed, while I smile satisfied and invite them to enjoy the flight, as if I were the commander of an airliner. The spaceship is very heavy and the take-off is very long. I see four trails of blackish smoke left behind us, and this disappointes me a bit as I would have preferred a more evolved machine, but then I think it does not matter, just that it works! We must indeed leave that world.
The take-off lasts a very long time. It is as if we climb along the slope of a very high mountain: a gentle slope, in continuous ascent, along which also extends that great city, with its houses, its streets, its trolleybuses. So we, despite being a few meters from the ground, can not really lift ourselves, and around us we continue to see the same urban landscape. I adjust the engine power, and point out to everyone how exciting it is to feel a sensation of strong acceleration in the stomach. The effect is intense indeed, like on a rollercoaster, and the physical sensation I feel is definitely real. Eventually, with a wide turn to the left, we can leave the slope of the mountain, of which we are now at the peak. The air is serene and golden, crepuscular, and the ship aims quietly towards the stars. Then I say to those who are there that I have yet to do something in that world we are leaving behind, and so I have to go outside for a while: but they do not have to worry, because then I will join them again.
What I really want is to say hello to that planet, which at that moment seems to me to be so beautiful. While the spaceship goes away into the sky, I greet a strange tree that grows horizontally on the top of a mountain. I stop to caress it (now I'm flying like Superman), while I see the magnificent and endless valley, and on the horizon a chain of very high mountains that close it on its flank. Then I feel the curiosity to see what is beyond those mountains and, fast as lightning, I move towards them, but when I get close I realize that I can not overcome them: in fact, the higher part of those mountains is not real, but it is as if it were made (painted) on an elastic rubber wall stretched upwards, perhaps up to the sky, and in any case always higher than I can be able to reach by flying. So I can not see what's beyond those rubber mountains. Yet, in the rubber wall there are some holes here and there, the size of a human head, but as I go towards one of them to see what's on the other side, the dream begins to fade and I find myself in a phase of half-sleep, from which I gradually return to the ordinary state of consciousness.