Ancient Egyptian Theories
Ancient Egyptians were probably the first people
who dealt with dream interpretation, as recorded in a book they
wrote about dream symbols. They considered dreams to be messages
from Gods, foreseeing either disasters or good fortune. In fact, the
term "dream incubation" first appeared in Egypt. Apparently, when
people wanted information from their dreams they would go to a
"dream temple" where they would sleep and the next morning a temple
priest would try to interpret their dreams.
Greek Philosophy on Dreaming
Dreams as signs from God first appeared in
Greece in Homer's Iliad, where Agamemnon receives instructions from
Zeus in one of his dreams. Greeks were also consulted by priests in
order to interpret their dreams. They too would sleep in temples
even for weeks sometimes, until they had the dream with the
information they needed. The most famous for dream pilgrimage was
the Aesculapius at Epidaurus.
It is uncertain who the first dreams interpreters
were. Pliny the Elder claims Deukalion, the son of Prometheus was
the first dream interpreter. Yet the famous historian Herodotus
claimed that the people of Telmessus, a village in southwest Asia
Minor, were known as dream interpreters and even King Croesus had
asked for their consult.
In the 5th century BC, Greek philosopher Heraclitus suggested that a
person's dream world was something created in their own mind. Most
Greek philosophers in that time period pondered dreams and what they
might mean. As told in Phaedo, Plato realized how much dreaming
could affect a person when he found out that Socrates studied music
and the arts because he was instructed to do so in a dream.
Aristotle began to study dreams and the dreaming process and was the
first to put an end to the idea that dreams were divine messages. In
his De Divinatione Per Somnum, he states, "most so-called prophetic
dreams are to be classed as mere coincidences, especially all such
as are extravagant," and that "the most skillful interpreter of
dreams is he who has the faculty of absorbing resemblances. I mean
that dream presentations are analogous to the forms reflected in
Romans had recorded their ideas about dreams
in a five-volume work named the Oneirocriticon or The Interpretation
of Dreams by the Roman Artemidorus (c. AD 150). This is the first
comprehensive book on the interpretation of dreams, were Artemidorus
brought out the idea that dreams are unique to the dreamer and are
connected to the person's occupation, health and status.
The revived idea that dreams were of the
supernatural element appears in the history of Christianity. One of
the most famous dreams was Jacob's dream of a ladder from Earth to
Heaven. St. Augustine and St. Jerome, claimed that their lives were
dramatically affected by dreams that they had.
Other religions reportedly believed in the significance dreams had
in our lives. For example, Mohammed "received" much of the text of
the Koran from a dream he had, as well as interpreting the dreams of
Middle Eastern Dreamers
Dreams also concerned people from the Middle
East. An anonymous Persian writer claimed that to truly interpret a
dream it must be done during the day of incident. A religious group
called the Zoroastrians followed this theory, which set rules for
each day of the month.
One of the most well-known Arabian dream interpreters was
Gabdorrhachamn who believed that dreams could only be interpreted by
a person with "a clean spirit, chaste morals, and the Word of
Truth". But his dreaming aphorisms are thought to have been based on
his own feelings rather than a true understanding of dream symbols.
Probably the most famous dream
philosopher was Sigmund Freud. According to Freud's theory dreams
are in fact reflecting our deepest desires and our repressed urges
and needs. Carl Jung disagreed with Freud on some points and
believed that dreams reminded us of our wishes in order to realize
what we subconsciously want and to help us fulfill our true desires.
As Jung said, dreams were messages from ourselves alerting us to pay
attention to them for our own benefit. Jung's theories are accepted
by most psychologists nowadays and, unlike Freud, Jung claims that
the dreamer is capable of interpreting his/her own dreams after
carefully studying oneself.