Dreams: Finding Out What Really Matters

Today, my online slumberfest will take me to the University of Creation Spirituality in the city of Oakland where, as part of an accredited class in the doctor of divinity program, I will allow the deepest, most personal content of my secret dreams to be coaxed out of me for all the Internet to see.

The class I'm taking is taught by Jeremy Taylor, a Unitarian minister, heavyweight dream worker and author of some fascinating books on dream interpretation (including Dream Work and Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill.)

Dreams As Personal Myths

For Taylor, dreams are personal myths that teach us how to be our most authentic selves and link us, through a universal language of archetype and metaphor, to a deeper, transcendent level of consciousness with which he believes we must connect if our lives are to have richness and meaning. "Dreams offer us a transcendent chance to grow," he says. "They are constantly inventing metaphors for the deepest meanings in our lives, and the primary reason to explore our dreams is to catch glimpses of that meaning closer and closer to the source. From my experience — and I'm casting aside my natural Unitarian queasiness about the G-word here — that source might as well be called 'divine' as anything else."

I don't have the time or space to explain Taylor's fascinating views on the spiritual nature of dreams, so I'll stick to the question of how dreams can help us live more richly. According to Taylor, dreams help us by reminding us, over and over again until we get the message, what really matters in our lives. All dreams, he says, have lessons to teach. Even the strangest, fragmented dream images have meaning. Even the grisliest nightmares have come to do some good.

"In 30 years of dream work, I have not met a single dream which has not come in the service of health and wholeness," he says. "There's really no such thing as a really bad dream." According to Taylor, it's all just a matter of making a point.

Dreams as Wake-Up Calls

"When the unconscious has something very important to tell us, it often dresses it up as a nightmare to make sure we notice," he says. "The generic message of every nightmare is, Wake up, pay attention, there's a survival issue at stake, and you can do something about it if you pay attention. The nastier the dream," he says, "the more valuable is the information it is trying to convey."

"If dreams are crucial dispatches from the inner consciousness, wouldn't lucid dreaming, in which we control our dreams, scramble the dream's essential meaning? I ask.