The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

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The Nature of the Dream

How Dreams are Formed

The Dream




The Nature of the Dream

While speaking on this subject I should quote a Hindustani saying, they call this world, 'the dream of life'. In the Vedanta it is called, 'the dream of Brahma', that is 'the dream of God'. It makes a person afraid that all this should be unreal, that all our affairs to which we give so much importance should be a dream.

Myself, three or four times I have experienced great disappointments, in America, and in places where people came to talk to me at the receptions and lectures. They said, "Do you mean to say that all this is a dream, that it is not real? Now you are standing, I am sitting, you are speaking. Is this all a dream?" That means, "What a foolish idea to call this a dream." Really to him who has experienced only materially, by his five senses, without even a glimpse of an idea of something else, this seems real, and we cannot blame him for thinking it real.

It is only when he awakens from this life that he sees that it is unreal. While you are dreaming, if someone would come and tell you, "Do not believe it, it is a dream," you would never believe that, you would think, "It is real." The dream is recognized as a dream, because of the contrast of the physical life, as everything is recognized by its contrast. You say, "Woman," because there is man. Day is recognized by night. But the contrast of the dream of life is very hard to find.

Let us see what things there are that make a dream be called a dream. There are three things, (1) its changing character, (2) its momentariness, and (3) its deluding nature. This life has the same attributes.

  1. If we consider ourselves, our body, the body of another, we see that at every moment it is changing. At one moment we find ourselves so angelic, so good, so mild, at another we find ourselves so rebellious that we would fight with Satan.
  2. Then its momentariness, its transitory nature. Where are those who were so great, like Dara and Secundar, that such might promise to last always? Nothing is left.
  3. Then its deluding nature. How jealous we are if our rival gets what we hoped for. It may be a passing joy. Tomorrow the joy and the rival may not be, but whilst they last, how jealous we are. If great riches come into our hands, we think it so great a thing. It promises us all. It all passes, but while it is there, we are so happy or so sad. This is its deluding nature.

And why is it called the dream of Brahma, the dream of God? Because we each of us experience a part only of the dream, and only God, the Whole Being, experiences, all the time, the whole of the dream.

How Dreams are Formed

Let us consider now how the dreams that we dream every night are formed. Our mind is made of vibrations, or call them "atoms", if you will. These have the property of receiving impressions. They are just like a photographic plate. They are continually receiving impressions, impressions of heat, of cold, of friends, of enemies. These impressions are stocked in the storehouse of the mind, so many thousands, so many millions of impressions, more than can be counted. When you are asleep, and your body is resting, but your mind is active, these pictures come before you just like the moving pictures on the curtain. Then when your mind is fully exhausted, deep sleep comes.

There are some pictures that we develop very much, by keeping them much before us, the pictures of the enemies, for instance, or of the friends of whom we often think. Some pictures are very little developed. They just come and go. That is why, in the dream, sometimes we see the faces of our friends, just as they are, sometimes we see forms that seem familiar, but we do not recognize them, sometimes we see pictures that seem quite strange. Two or three of the pictures that are little developed join and form one picture, which seems familiar.

When we ask, "Can we dream of what we have never seen?" I will say, "No." All that we dream, we have seen. The Jinns, who have never manifested on earth cannot form the picture of the things of this world. The imagination is just the same as the dream.

The dreams that we dream every night are of three sorts. There is a fourth sort of dream, but that is more a vision.

  1. There is Khwabi Khayali, when a person sees in the night what he has been doing in the day. When your mind is so much engaged in all the thoughts, the occupations, the cares of the day, that these appear before you in the dream. This dream has not much effect upon the mind, because it is not very deep.

  2. The second sort of dream is Khwabi Ghalti. In this you see the opposite of the real happening. Your friend may be ill, and you may see him well, but when you see him ill, he will be well. We see someone dead and that person recovers from his illness, or we see that someone is our enemy who in reality is our friend. When the mirror of the mind is distorted then the image falling upon it is distorted also, just as there are some mirrors in which a thin person appears very fat, a tall person appears short, everything appears reversed.

  3. The third sort is Khwabi Ruhi, vision. In this the happening is shown exactly as it is. This dream is seen by the pious persons, by the pure minds. It comes only to the few, to the chosen ones. But we should all remember that the soul is the same in all of us. It is only its covering that is different. It is the same pure essence, and so we may all, at times dream this dream. Khwabi Ruhi is seen either in the dream, or in a half-waking condition. If there is something lacking in his piety, he may see something reversed in the dream. He may see the death of the father when it is the death of the mother, or the illness of the daughter when it is the illness of the son. But if he is absolutely pious he sees the exact event.

    Many years before Muhammad came forward as a Master, a Prophet, his wife knew of his being a Prophet, because every morning he used to tell her what he had dreamt in the night, and it was always that which happened the next day. Whilst he himself was not yet sure of his Message, she believed that he was the chosen one, and she encouraged him. So that, if there was a first disciple of Muhammad, it was his wife.

We can help the fulfillment of the dream ourselves. If we see something bad, some misfortune, we can take it as a warning. If we see a success in some country, we should go to that country, because it was there that the success was shown. The effect is shown first in the dream, because that is the first world, then it is produced here.

As to the time when the event shown will happen.

  • The dream seen in the early part of the night will take long for its accomplishment, a year or more.
  • The dream of the midnight will take a few months.
  • The dream before sunrise will be accomplished very soon.

The reason is simply this, that

  • the effect upon the mind of the dream of the early part of the night is taken away by the sleep, and its result is not accomplished so soon.
  • The impression of midnight is fresher and it is fulfilled sooner,
  • and the impression of the dream of early morning has nothing to take away its effect, and so it happens soonest.

We may dream of what is going to happen, or we may dream of a friend, and then receive a letter from him, or we may dream of a friend whom we have not seen for a long time, and the next day we may see him.

Q. Is there any means of keeping away an undesirable dream?
A. There are a thousand ways of keeping away an undesirable dream, but if it is a warning, then it will be very difficult to keep it away, or, if one particular dream is kept away, another unpleasant dream will come. The first thing that happens in the spiritual development of a person is that his dreams change.

  1. He dreams a thing, and the contrary happens.
  2. Then he dreams a thing, and that thing happens exactly as he dreamt it.
  3. Then God gives him warning in pictures, just as the first writings were picture-writings.
  4. Then, when his soul discloses more, he hears a voice, and he sees angelic beings.
  5. Then, when his soul opens still more, he realizes the true being of God.

When the true being of God is realized in the waking condition, then he is a saint.

Dreams go by affinity, that means, like attracts like. If at the beginning of the night, we have a sad dream, then all night sad dreams come. If, at the beginning of the night, we dream a joyful dream, all night pleasant dreams come. If there is one tragic dream, then all night tragedy goes on. If there is one comic dream, then all night there is the comedy going on.

In the physical world, you are here, and everything else is without you. You are contained in the space. In the dream, all that you see is contained within you. You may dream that you are in Paris, but if you were really in Paris, the Parisians must know that you are there. If they know nothing of it, then you were not in Paris. Paris and everything else in dream, is within you. In that state, you are so great, but you call it dream, an imagination. Imagination is nothing.

Q. Is it better to be always in the dream or always awake? A. This is a very interesting question and one that should be asked of great people. If a person wishes to be always in the dream, then he should go to the caves of mountains, to the wilderness, because in the world people will not only take all from him, but they will eat his bones, his skin, and his flesh. By being always awake, we see to what point people have come. If such a person wishes to eat, the thought, "What can I gain? What business can I do?" comes and will not let him eat. If he wishes to sleep, the thought, "What benefit can I have?" will not let him sleep. The politician who is always thinking, "What office can we do? What territory can we gain? How can we get more than the others?" can never have any rest.

The best course for those who are seeking the truth, not for everybody, but for those who are on the way of truth, is: Be just so much awake as is needed to carry out your responsibilities in life, and not to allow yourself to be quite trodden upon, and so much in the dream as you can without neglecting your life's responsibilities.

God lost in the manifestation is the state which we call waking. The manifestation lost in God is realization. In my language I would call that awakening and this a dream.

The Dream

The dream is the most wonderful subject of study in life. It has its different aspects.

  • In one aspect the dream is the exact picture of reality which one may sooner or later experience in his so-called real life. This again teaches the fact that the incidents which we experience unexpectedly in life were pre-ordained for us. It also teaches us that here in the physical plane though we appear to be one separate from the other, in the plane of the dream upon the surface of the individual's mind the whole world exists. He who is one single being in the physical plane, inverts into the whole world in the plane of the dream, although he holds still fast his individuality even there where he is alone.

  • The second aspect of the dream has the opposite nature of manifestation as everything in it appears to be the reverse to what may be going to happen. For instance a person seen dead in a dream will have a long life, and the sickness of a friend seen in a dream would on the contrary bring him good health. It is because of its negative nature everything, either the printer's block, the photographic plate, the humorous glass and all things of a negative character will show opposite before they manifest aright.

  • The third aspect of the dream is of little importance, just like the birth of a child who after living only a week, has died. The same is the case with the dreams produced before the view of man either caused by the unbalanced activity of mind or by the disorder of the health. Such dreams have as a rule no importance, and they are surely a waste although they create before man a moving picture.
    1. The first aspect of dreams is generally manifest to the spiritual person, of course seldom they are noticed also by the average man.
    2. The next aspect of the dream generally manifests before the view of those who possess the attribute of humanity, who first think of the world and its responsibilities, together with the thought of God.
    3. The third aspect of the dream is vouchsafed to each person in his every day life, caused by the activity of his mind.

    A dream is an inspiration, according to the point of view of the Sufi. There are four kinds of dreams.

    1. The soul dream. That dream is the actual vision of something that has passed, or that is going to happen, or that will happen.

    2. The heart dream. In this dream there is a feeling more dominant than when one sees. The feeling itself is expressive of what has happened or will happen.

    3. The symbolical dream, the mind dream. This dream comes to a man of artistic mind or mystical spirit, when, in the language of dreams, so to speak, he knows the past, present and future.

    4. The dream of the mind. Whatever the mind is impressed with during the day, the mind goes on repeating it, and the dream is the same kind of impression.

    Every person has that kind of dream, either clear or confused. But the mystical artist dreams the dream which is symbolical. The dream of a person who is tender, kind and sympathetic [is the heart dream]. The soul dream comes to a spiritual person. At the same time to some persons some of those four dreams happen, or each of these dreams may be manifested to him.

    If I were to define the cause of dreams it would take perhaps a long time, but what I mean to say just now is, that

    according to the state of man's spiritual development he receives the knowledge of the unseen world.


    When considering the idea of dreams, one finds, that although it is something which is known to everybody, this subject leads to the deeper side of life. Because it is from dreams that one begins to realize two things; one is that something is active when the body is asleep. And to the deep thinker this gives faith in the life hereafter. For this gives the proof that when the body is not active, even then the person is active, and he seems to be no less so than in the physical body.

    And if he finds a difference, it is a difference of time. For here he may pass from one country to another in two hours, instead of doing it in a month. In no way is he hindered; the hindrance on the physical plane is far greater. From England to America he jumps in one moment. He flies there. The facility of that plane is much greater. There is no difficulty of changing the condition from illness to health, from failure to success, in one moment.

    People say: "Yes, but it is imagination, a working of the mind." But what is mind? Mind is that in which the world is reflected; Heaven and earth are accommodated in it. Is that a small thing? What is the physical body compared to the mind? It is a world in itself. The physical body is like a drop in the ocean.

    It is for no other reason than ignorance that man does not know that there is a kingdom in himself. If only he were conscious of it. Why is he not? Because he wishes to hold; only then something exists for him. He does not wish to admit the existence of sentiment, for he says: "It is of no account, it is nothing." So about thought, they say: "It is only imagination, it is nothing."

    But science and art come from imagination, from the mind, - not from a rock, not from the physical body. The source of all knowledge is the mind, not an object. Mind means "I." It is the mind which identifies, the body is an illusion. When the mind is depressed, we say: "I am sad." Not the body, but the mind was depressed. So the real identification is the mind, not the body.

    If in a dream man is able to see himself, what does that show? That after what is called death, man is not formless, that nothing is lost, that only the freedom is gained which was lost. The absence of this knowledge makes man afraid for this physical body, makes him have a horror of death. But what is death? Nothing but a sleep. A sleep of the body, which was a cloak. One can take it away and yet be living. Man will realize after all the talk about death, that he is alive, that he has not lost but gained. Man is in the physical world to learn.

    Besides this the dream teaches that law is working, that all that seemed surprising, accidental, a sudden happening, was not sudden, no accident. It seemed accidental because it was not connected with the conditions. There happens nothing which does not go through the mind. Man has turned his back on it, he is open only to the manifestation. It was no surprise, it was only preparing. Did they not say in all the countries when the war came: "We did not know." Yes, it was so to those who slept, but the awakened had seen the preparation. In all things we see this.

    Every accident, pleasant or unpleasant has a long preparation before it; first it exists in the mind, then on the physical plane. A dream shows the depth of life, through a dream we see things.

    One may ask: "What is the meaning, has every dream a meaning?" Every dream has a meaning. Only the thing is this, there are those in a country who do not know its language. So it is with minds. Some minds are not yet capable of expressing themselves; so the dreams are upside down, a chaos. They see a goat with the ears of an elephant. The mind wanted to express itself, but was not able to. There is a meaning in what the child says, but it has not yet learned, it has no words; it can only cry or make a sound, yet this has a meaning. So it is with dreams which are not expressed correctly.

    But you may say: "How can the mind learn to express itself?" It has to become itself. Often the mind is disturbed, inharmonious, restless. When a person is drunk, he wants to say, 'Yes', and he says 'No.' So is the expression of the mind in a dream.

    It is a marvelous thing to study the science of dreams. How wonderful that the dream of the poet is poetical, of the musician harmonious. Why is this? Because their mind is trained. Their mind expresses itself in the realm of art. Sometimes one marvels at the dreams one hears of, experienced by poetic souls. You will see the sequence from the first act till the last. You will see that every little action has a certain meaning.

    More interesting still is the symbolical dream, to see the meaning behind it. It is a wonderful thing that to the simple person comes a simple dream; when the person is confused then the dream is confused. So you see a person in the dream with fear, with joy, with grief; or the dream shows sadness. But this is not a small thing, this is not a pastime, it was not a dream, it is as real as life on the physical plane.

    Is this life not a dream? Are the eyes not closed? The king has forgotten his palace. Man says: "Oh, it is a dream, it is nothing." But this dream can be the whole life of the past, this dream can be tomorrow. It is only on the physical plane that it was a dream. The condition into which the mind has passed makes it only a dream. But man says: "Yes, but when we awake we find a house, therefore this is reality. If we dream of a palace we find no palace." This is true and not true. The palaces which are built in that world are as much our own, are much more our own. As soon as the body dies, this is left; that is always there. If it is a dream of pleasure, the pleasure will come. If it is a dream of light, of love, then all is there. It is a treasure you can depend upon; death cannot take it away.

    It is a glimpse of that idea where it says in the Bible: 'Where your treasure is there is your heart.'

    We can find glimpses of that by comparing dreams with the wakeful state. Whatever we hold, the longer we have held it, the more firmly it is established. And it can be more firmly established than what we hold in our hand. Than we create a world for us to live in. This is the secret of the whole life. How can words explain it?

    God bless you.