During an interview with Valder Beebe on her talk show early last week I was asked about the difference between daydreams, visions and sleeping dreams. My answer was rather limited by time in that I revealed only a small part of the relationship between these three forms of “seeing”.
Firstly all three come from the same place, our unconscious mind. However, some may see all three as being spiritual in nature maybe even spiritually generated or induced.
Visions can be said to come to us in a trance, a meditation or in a dream though visions tend to be clearer and more vibrant than dreams. Prophecy and the supernatural are often associated with visions whether they show up in a trance, dream or just walking down the street. Frequently they seem to be numinous in nature and have a mystical quality to them. Often one feels connected to all things, feel a sense of the timeless and experience the sacred. They frequently come to us when there is an unfilled and unfillable void or deep and unresolved questioning in our lives and when they arrive cannot be understood through our rational selves. However, the message of the vision experience is often quite clear and is something that most sleeping dreams do not give us given their chaotic nature.
Often these otherworldly vision experiences come with clear messages written or heard and are frequently the point of the vision. Dreams rarely come with a clear message or point and though we may see words or hear them in a sleeping dream they almost always make no sense. This is probably due to the fact that the part of the brain that processes written or spoken language* is shut down or suppressed during sleep whereas in many vision states the language part of the brain continues to function almost normally.
Visions no matter how experienced usually come with four states to that experience e.g., they are ineffable (they defy expression), noetic in that there is a “knowing” that cannot be plumbed through the regular intellect and beyond what was known before, transient in that they don’t last for long, and lastly passive in that they are almost always unbidden though they can be encouraged by focusing ones attention.
For many a vision feels as though they have been taken over by some greater power. This must have been the experience retold in the biblical story of a Pharisee named Saul a Christian hunter and persecutor who experienced being overwhelmed by Jesus in a vision on his way to Damascus and being shown the error of his ways and ultimately converted to another way of being and seeing and becoming the über Christian and Jesus interpreter Paul in the process.
Saul with his split allegiances to the Jewish diaspora and the Roman empire and suffering from a deep hatred of the Christian sect (a hatred that creates or is born from inner conflict itself) was probably dealing with any number of psychic conflicts but also searching for meaning and/or absolution from denied inner guilt. Under conditions of such inner conflict and the fatigue that he probably experienced throughout his travels his psyche was opened to such a vision experience. For most of us who have had this kind of world shattering vision experience these are often the conditions through which we become open to our deeper Self and that Self’s connection to a greater being.
We often call this kind of insightful vision an epiphany or an aha moment. But new clarity can come from dreams whether during sleep or during a day reverie of a lazy moment though they may be harder to read. The deeper self is always trying to make itself heard but often finds itself suppressed or shouted down by the continuous chatter of the mind full of all its worries, anxieties, activities and agendas. It’s only when we give this ego-self a rest that the inner self can come out to play. And play it will through our music, dance, poetry, writing, socializing, meditations, dreams, all kinds of art, and even on the road to the grocery market.
Lastly daydreams can be another way of tapping into the inner self and are seen as a detachment from one’s immediate surroundings where their connection with reality becomes blurred and a sort of visionary fantasy takes place. It’s sort of a mild dissociation and happens to many folks throughout their lifetime. Often these reveries can be disruptive to the tasks at hand (especially when those tasks are boring, in which case daydreaming can serve as an adaptive function) but they can also provide information related to future-thinking and increased creativity.
I envisioned the story of The Archipelago of Dreams: The Island of the Dream Healer** during a daydream one summer day at a lake in northern Wisconsin. Though fully formed during that summer’s reverie it took me another twenty some-odd years to put the story into print. That fantasy journey through time and space stayed with me for all those years and even informed much of my subsequent interest with psyche, soul, and dream-work.
*These areas of the brain associated with language are known as Broca’s area (for production of language) and Wernicke’s area (comprehension of spoken and written language).
**Also sold at Amazon