The Purpose of a Dream Isn’t to be Interpreted

Dreams are meaningful, but not in the sense that they call for waking / conscious interpretation. Once the dream has been experienced by the sleeping-state consciousness, it has served its purpose. The emotional impressions, symbolism, metaphors, exaggerated variants of actual situations, etc. have all made their necessary impressions on the subconscious mind.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of dreams is mainly to cancel out certain dispositions accumulated in the mind (which you may or may not be consciously aware of) over the course of the day, and sometimes over the course of years or one’s lifetime, through exposure to the elements of the dream. If the disposition you’ve gained during the previous day / week / etc. is a change you wanted and consciously worked toward, then your dreams won’t cancel it out. Another purpose may be to properly integrate the day’s / week’s / life’s events into the psyche that weren’t fully emotionally registered at the times of their happenings. There are probably other purposes too, of course, such as furthering your soul’s agenda for change in this life.

Whatever it is that weaves your dreams, it uses whatever elements are convenient for it, and if the thing that changed your mind’s disposition most is something that happened or that you thought of the previous day / week / etc., then that will be the dream weaver’s best resource, so you’ll dream about stuff that actually happened. For obvious reason, you’ll also dream about stuff that actually happened for the purpose of integrating the day’s / week’s / etc.’s events into your psyche.

Interpreting dreams is something that can lend a little insight sometimes, or at least can be a fun thing to do, but it’s ‘extra,’ and furthermore, we’re hopelessly bad at doing that. Our analytical understanding of our dreams is minuscule compared to the complete meaning, which is actually a myriad of things.. Every element of a dream simultaneously means a thousand things at once, brilliantly, and holistically connects to every other element to mean even more myriad things.

Even though dreams are meaningful, the way in which we tend to see their contents and meaningful can be misleading. For example, if you dream about something happening in the future, that doesn’t mean it will happen in the future. Or if you dream something about some other person, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything about that other person (usually it’s all about you). Or there are a million other ways they can be misleading.. dreams can highlight or exaggerate particular themes that are only small parts of a vast, multidimensional truth. Sometimes one part of the truth can be highlighted by a dream where there are other parts of the truth that are antithetical to that part that aren’t proportionately represented in the dream. Also, dreams are highly symbolic and a given symbol may mean something different to one’s analytical mind than what it was meant to mean to the dreamer’s subconscious. Another way interpreting dreams can be misleading is through taking certain elements of a dream to be omens, or signs that you should make a particular decision, when they aren’t really.

There is this idea floating around that dreams are due to random neuron firings, and/or the purpose of dreaming is to transition memories into long-term storage. “Jack” from the late expresses the view nicely, in response to the question, “What are dreams made of?”. His answer is, “Almost random fragments of your experiences as they are consolidated into long-term storage. Then you brain tries to make a story about the scattered bits. It helps you remember, but the dream may be just a side effect.” This is a highly scientistic conception of the purpose of dreams, and it defies the fact that dreams don’t just come in bits and pieces; they tend to be stories. Anything not really understood tends to be conceived of by scientist as being random. As for the long-term storage, surely they’ve done some brain scans and noticed a correlation between the dreaming process and long-term storage, and that may be one function of dreaming, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only purpose or even the main purpose.

I’d like to include a few more important notes on dreams, particularly regarding the part of the mind or Nature that generates dreams. The ability of the dreamweaver to use symbolism and events in a way that has the intended effect on the subconscious may seem genius to us; it may seem like a specific skill requiring a knowledge base, or at least a lot of cleverness and a deep understanding of the dreamer’s subconscious mind. Similarly, the ability of the dreamweaver to be able to render nightmares that exploit the dreamer’s most delicate fears may seem to imply that the dreamweaver has intimate knowledge of the dreamer’s fears. As another example, a Quora poster seems to indicate in this post that he’s had a dream in which he was shown the outcome of a series of events, in which he made several decisions that presumably affected the course of events, and then at the end it all led up to what he was shown initially, happening. This would seem to imply that the dreamweaver (whether it be the dreamer’s subconscious, some other aspect of his own mind, or something entirely different) knows the dreamer well enough that it can predict all the decisions he’d make in all the given scenarios, or maybe that it can control the dreamer’s decisions, or maybe that its perception isn’t limited to now and it can peek into the future.

But I think all these conclusions are fundamentally thinking of the phenomenon of dreaming in the wrong way. The dreamweaver doesn’t “know you very well” or “figure out” the best possible scenario to render an intended result. We assume this is the case because this is how we’re accustomed to thinking and problem-solving. But dreaming is an altogether different realm of thought. I believe the answer to all of the above scenarios is that the dreamweaver can directly bridge the gap between raw creativity and intended result, sort of the way intuition or parallel thinking works. It’s like coming up with a solution to a problem or riddle at some instant without knowing how; or like telling yourself to imagine something, which always results in the calling forth of all sorts of details that conform to your criterion, without you having meticulously devised them; or like creating poetry or lyrics that rhyme brilliantly, which can only be done whole sentences or stanzas at a time—no breaking it down and doing it step-by-step is possible. Or, to alienate the physicalists in the audience, it’s sort of like if a rat were miraculously able to exit a maze on the first try, without having to first explore the other passages within the maze. This mode of thinking isn’t very accessible to us in waking life (and perhaps it was more accessible to us in ancient times, and is more intrinsic to other animals), but it’s very germane to the overall characteristic of the dreaming realm.

Essentially, strata of mind below modern conscious and waking thought work on PFM (Pure Fucking Magic). In truth, all consciousness is, in essence, magical, mysterious, non-mechanistic, cosmic, infinitely layered, and ineffable. But the top, practically uninhabitable crust of consciousness in which we mainly reside in our modern way of thinking has been reduced to being highly algorithmic and systematized, probably because of the technical accuracy it affords and the tremendous effectivity of that mode of thinking in manipulating our environment. (The king of scientism that would scream bullshit in response to the above characterizations of consciousness/life-qua-life is pinnacular of the kind of “crust” of consciousness we’re trapped in as explained above.) (Regarding the technical accuracy of our modern way of thinking, I think the dreaming/ancient/subliminal modes of consciousness doesn’t render results with 100% accuracy; for example, some symbolism used in a dream may “miss”, not producing the effect on one’s conscious/subconscious mind or on our emotions that was intended.) But much like “the spice” in Dune, this way of thinking gives with one hand and takes away with a thousand others. Human beings seem to be highly susceptible to being lured and doomed by activities that have overtly positive results while having much more profound yet subtler/more nuanced negative results.

See also my friend’s essay on dreaming at There are also a few other essays about dreaming in that blog.

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