In addressing this question, it is pertinent to understand briefly, the nature of dreams. A dream is said to be “an illusory psychic activity, particularly of a visual nature that occurs during sleep. It is essentially a psychological phenomenon with many philosophical, religious and moral implications.” According to science, dreams could be said to involve perception, creative and reproductive imagination, association of ideas and images, memory and emotion. It is also important to note that the product of our thinking/reasoning faculties often manifest themselves in dreams but on a superficial and uncritical level, (this is important in relation to the moral relevance of what one does in the realm of a dream). Sometimes, one is conscious of making choices or resisting temptations in the dream, however, this basically stems from one’s behavioural habits and automatic responses, and not from an ability to make a “free decision”.
Given the foregoing, socio-cultural and religious experiences have shown us that dreams could be natural or supernatural (having their source from God, angels or demons). Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that natural dreams are basically induced by hypnosis. For a better understanding, hypnosis is “a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination”. It is an altered state of consciousness. Put differently, dreams could be as a product of one’s imaginations or cognitive faculties. For instance, it would not be strange for a hungry man to often dream of eating. This is because he desired food while awake, and often sought ways to satisfy his hunger. This is plainly and psychologically natural. In relation to the natural and supernatural nature of dreams, Saint Augustine reflects a similar sentiment. This is seen in his letters to Nebridius and in “De Genesi ad litteram”. For Augustine, it is possible for God to communicate an idea via dreams, and also, dreams could be a product of hypnosis – a psychological effect, inasmuch as they reflect physiological or mental conditions of the dreamer. For Saint Augustine: “Men dream what they need.” As a follow-up and in line with his predecessor, the angelic doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas makes a fourfold classification of causes of dreams and indicates how each of these causes can relate to specific future events. The four causes are divided between internal-external and physical-spiritual causes. First, an internal, psychological preoccupation can cause a specific dream and thereby give the dreamer the incentive to a specific future action. Second, internal physiological processes can influence our dreams and determine future health conditions. Third, external physical causes of dreams are the celestial bodies, which also exercise causal influence on e.g. future meteorological circumstances. Finally, external spiritual agents, demons, and God (through the mediation of good angels) can send dreams, while they also can cause or know future events. In summary: for Aquinas, it has to do with the mental activity, the physical disposition of the body, environmental conditions and spiritual causes — God, angels and demons.
Dear friends in Christ, the thoughts expressed above on dreams are coming from the wise and great doctors of the Church of the Medieval Era. They admitted that dreams are not only supernatural in nature, but also natural and psychological. However, what do we have today, especially in Africa where almost all dreams are considered a manipulation of the devil? Today, in Africa, and especially in Nigeria, when you eat in the dream, a typical man of God (without considering the cause – whether you were hungry or it was a product of your imagination), will immediately tell you that it is a bad dream, and it was the devil that gave you the food to eat, and will immediately begin to cast and bind all the demons and “spiritual husbands and wives” that gave you the food to eat. The problem with this African mentality is that evil is seen in almost everything; the good aspect is never considered. This has eaten deeply into the mind of the typical African man/woman, such that when he/she wakes up and discovers he/she ate in the dream (because the man of God told him/her that eating in the dream is always bad), he will immediately grab a bottle of anointing oil and consume, reaches out for a keg of holy water, and starts drinking and sprinkling on himself, at the same time saying “the devil is a liar”. My dear friend, yes, we know that the devil is a liar, even he (the devil) knows that already. It becomes funny that, perhaps, when the devil sees you behaving this way, he might stay at a corner and laugh hard at your funny behaviour in believing the lies your “man of God” told you out of his ignorance. If your man of God holds that eating in the dream is always bad, has he forgotten the book of the Acts of the Apostles chapter 10, where Saint Peter had a dream (considered a vision because of its divine nature). How did it happen? We were told that Peter went to the housetop at about the sixth hour to say his prayers. HE FELT HUNGRY AND WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO HIS MEAL, but before it was ready he fell into a trance and saw heaven thrown open and something like a big sheet being let down to earth by its four corners; it contained every kind of animal, reptile and bird. A voice then said to him, ‘Now, Peter, kill and eat!’… (cf. Acts 10:9ff) The rest of the story, I believe we know it all. From Peter’s experience, we could see that his dream was first influenced by his hunger (psychological state), of which God used as a medium to pass His message across – that is, welcoming the gentile sinners. Now, if eating in the dream is intrinsically bad, why would God command Peter to eat in the dream? Or use a dream setting where food is involved to pass his divine message? Good enough, that dream or better still, a trance (a sleep-like state, characterized by an absence of response to external stimuli, typically as induced by hypnosis or entered by a medium) was considered a vision. Throughout the bible, there is no place the devil gave people food in the dream, only God did (as seen in Peter’s case). The book of Psalms also tells us that it is the Lord who prepares a table (food) for us in the presence of the enemies (Cf. Ps. 23:5). Thus, I’m yet to see the aspect of the Bible that condemns “eating in the dream”. Yet, some men of God will immediately rush to a conclusion that eating in the dream is always bad for it means that the person’s spirit has been summoned into the spirit world to eat forbidden and polluted foods. Laughable!
Now, I’m not negating the possibility of demonic manifestations in the dream in relation to eating; however, this idea has been “over-exaggerated” without considering other factors – psychological, natural, biological, divine, etc. Let it be known that the devil’s strength is active when a man is clothed with fear. Here is the secret: if you happen to eat in the dream (for instance), it could (perhaps) be a way of God communicating to you that there would be food for you in the nearest future, but because your “man of God” had already soaked your mind with guilt and fear that “eating in the dream” is always bad, then immediately, fear grips you, then the devil sets in and attacks you through the fear medium. Therefore, the problem is not the dream, but the fear you already nursed and welcomed. Instead of nursing fear, why not think and act positively: pray and convert the dream to having your daily bread in due time.
On the aspect of having sex in the dream or flying in the dream, I will not say that it is a good dream; however, the same factors must also be considered (mental activity, the physical disposition of the body, environmental conditions and spiritual causes), before reaching a conclusion. I have once heard a man of God saying: “if you fly in the dream or have sex in the dream, you must pray to God for forgiveness.” Dear friends, do not be deceived, neither merit nor punishment can be acquired through dream behaviour. Put differently, it is not a sin, nor your fault that it happened that way. Man’s ability to think and choose is so reduced during sleep that he is not morally responsible for whatever may happen. Again, I’m not saying that demonic manipulations could not be manifested via this medium, but then, that should not be the immediate conclusion; the psychological aspect etc. must also be looked into. In Psychology, there is what is known as “wet dream”. Wet dreams occur when a person orgasms involuntarily while they are sleeping because of a dream, which may or may not be erotic. They are called wet dreams because when a male has this type of dream, he may awaken with wet clothing or bedding. This is because semen, the fluid containing sperm, is released during ejaculation. Psychologically speaking, wet dreams occur only during sleep, as such, they are normal and should not be viewed as “bad” or “wrong.” It is also normal not to have them. Biologically speaking, wet dreams occur after a period of abstinence from sex, as such, the testicles (which produces sperms) device this means to remove older sperms and help with the natural formation of new, healthy sperm in the body. Therefore, it is a healthy process.
The point here is, it is possible that sex in the dream is a product of psychological effect and has nothing to do with demonic manifestations. Biologically, it could also be that the body needed to get rid of old sperm, as such, when one sleeps and the body is at rest, this healthy process may occur. If we are sincere with ourselves (all healthy men), we would attest to this fact. Now, if this happens, does it mean that the individual has committed a sin against God? However, it is when we nurse fear, that the devil manipulates and uses this means to launch his attack by bringing in confusion, and manipulating the person to believe there is one spiritual wife or husband somewhere… This is what the devil does because he’s a deceiver and the father of lies. As stated in my previous post, only God reserves the right to that title (husband) in the mystical sense as seen in Isaiah 54:5, Hosea 2:16, Jeremiah 3:14, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 16:8 among others.
Flying in the dream, on the other hand, could represent a sense of freedom or God’s intervention to free you from the enemies. In Exodus 19:4, we hear God reminding the Israelites: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings…” Here He uses the metaphor “bore you on eagle wings” as a way of liberating his people and granting them freedom. The Bible depicts this reality in a metaphorical way: In Psalm 55:6, we read: “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.’” In Isaiah 40:31, we read: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah continues in 58:14 “Then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth…” Unfortunately today, a typical man of God will just tell you immediately that flying in the dream is bad, without encouraging you to consider the positive dimension as revealed in the Scriptures. It could be that God is trying to communicate something to you in a metaphorical way by making you levitate or fly in the dream, but no, our people will immediately welcome negativity and begin to cast and bind out of ignorance. I wonder where they had kept their Bibles.
Someone asked: “What about swimming in the dream, what is the significance?” Some pastors will quickly and ignorantly say that the person is being initiated into the marine kingdom simply because they have never read their Bible where swimming is even seen as a way of achieving healing. Have we forgotten the Pool of Bethesda? (John 5:1-15) where the first to enter the pool and swim when the water is stirred would be healed? What about Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” What about Psalm 23:2? “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” The problem is, we only see evil in everything, even where there’s no evil. if we had done justice to the Scriptural teachings, we would have learned otherwise.
Dear friends, let me stop here. I want you to believe that a good practice to adopt after each dream is to always think and act positively, cultivate praying habits, asking for God’s grace and protection, and let His Will be done in your life. Never you be afraid nor cast your hearts on worries, for that is the first step of accepting negativity and defeat. Unfortunately, the present daydream analysis by most people is limited, one of which is a lack of knowledge as to how the unconscious and conscious life of an individual are related. Because of this, great caution should regulate attempts to use dreams as a technique of spiritual guidance. Above all, dreams are not sinful since we have no control over our dreams. If this bothers you severely, after praying about it, seek a counselling professional.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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