The science on dreaming seems a little soft, and so does the theology, but here goes anyway. Since we spend between one-quarter and one-third of our lives in bed asleep, dreams should be very important. But most of us, in large measure, just try ignore them.
During most dreams, sleepers are not aware that they are dreaming. The reason for this has not been determined, and there doesn’t appear to be an obvious explanation for this phenomenon. There have been attempts by various fields of psychology to provide an explanation, but nothing solid yet.
Mormon Ideas Concerning Dreaming: In a talk titled “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Elder Richard G. Scott emphasizes the importance of dreams.
Revelation can also be given in a dream when there is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. If you strive to capture the content immediately, you can record great detail, but otherwise it fades rapidly.
So how can we tell if our dream is personal revelation? Apparently a dream is revelation when the information is communicated by the Holy Ghost and is “crisp and clear and essential.” For David Banack writing for T&S, this criteria seems a little soft and opens up all kinds of possibilities. For example, how do you know if a dream is really from the Holy Ghost? One person on T&S asked the question: “How do I sort out visions from madness, psychoactive drugs, or demonic influence?”
Another person on T&S made the statement: “You will only find revelations in your dreams if you seek after them.” As it turns out, besides the spiritual component, there are several techniques to enhance the message from potentially revelatory dreams. So if you want to improve the quality of your dreams, here are a few suggestions.
Dream Incubation is an alleged technique for “planting a seed” in the mind in order for a specific dream topic to occur. Dr. Deirdre Barrett of the Harvard Medical School reported that while most dreams occur spontaneously, some individuals are susceptible to dream incubation. They give themselves pre-sleep suggestions in attempts to get answers to specific problems.
In a 2010 article in Scientific American, Barrett summarizes a few incubation techniques:
If you want to problem-solve in a dream, you should first think of the problem before bed, and if it lends itself to an image, hold it in your mind and let it be the last thing in your mind before going to sleep. For extra credit, assemble something on your bedside before falling asleep.
Very often if it’s a person someone wants to dream of, just a simple photograph is an ideal trigger. So perhaps an image of Christ, or Joseph Smith, or Pope Francis would be useful is you want to have a religious experience.
Equally important, don’t jump out of bed when you wake up–almost half of dream content is lost if you are distracted. Lie down, don’t do anything else. If you don’t recall a dream immediately, see if you feel a particular emotion–the whole dream could come flooding back.
Lucid Dreaming technically refers to any occasion when the sleeper is aware they are dreaming. But it is used also to describe the idea of being able to control your dreams.
Lucid dreaming has been researched, and its existence is allegedly well established. And techniques (including software) have been developed that have been experimentally proven to enhance the likelihood of achieving a lucid dream.
According to Nasfim Haque, reporting for the BBC:
Once confined to a handful of niche groups, interest in lucid dreaming has grown in recent years, spurred on by a spate of innovations from smartphone apps to specialist eye masks, all promising the ability to improve your dreams.
So here we have it. We can not only remember our dreams, but we can also actively influence and control them. This puts a entirely new spin on personal revelation. For Mormons, Fast and Testimony Meeting could get more exciting if “revelatory” lucid dreams are shared.
But all of this talk of dreams–scientific, pseudo-scientific, and metaphysical–blurs the line between reality and never-never land. And for most of us, that is probably not a good thing. Joseph Smith had to deal with this blurring, and he was either able to cope or not cope depending on your religious convictions. Are we really ready to merge our “reality” with the abyss of our subconscious self? And what role should drugs play in all this.
Are we really ready to “Break on Through (to the Other Side)” with The Doors:
You know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run/Tried to hide/Break on through to the other side.