Morpheus Speaks: This is the book 10 years in the making that many of you have been waiting for.
In it you will find a means for decoding the alchemy of dreams and the mysteries of the inner self. There are special sections on Native American, Aboriginal, shamanistic , pagan, and the Abrahamic and Asian religious traditions spread throughout the book.
The symbols of our dreams are like the paradoxical parables and koans of all religions. As with the questions presented by all holy ones our dreams are speaking to us in a way as to offer us an illumination of who and what we are. They are truly the road to our souls.
Not so long ago while waiting for my wife outside the pharmacy I was listening to a podcast discussion regarding the living of one’s life intentionally.
Intentionally? Like what? Intentional Parenting, was my first thought versus laizez faire (or unconscious) parenting. What would that look like? Do we take an interest in our children’s education other than letting them watch whatever they want on T.V. whenever they want (thus letting something else input their learning)? Do we allow a T.V. in their room? (what effect does that have on their learning?) Do we think we’ve done enough if we just say, “Do your homework!” or “Have you done your homework?” or do we sit down with them while they’re doing it? Or do we just let the teachers do it? Do we make sure there are books in the house and make sure that they see us reading? Do we read to them regularly, or do we just expect them to learn to read at school? What are our expectations for them and do we communicate those with them? Do we care what they want out of their life? How much do we even think about what we want for them?
How about Intentional Living versus just letting it happen? Do we watch what we eat and intentionally eat what is good for us? Is pre-prepared food good enough? Is exercise important? What about intentional recreation? Are we conscious of what we put into and onto our bodies and our children’s bodies? Do we honor life’s feedback or just resist it?
Then there’s Intentional Personal Development. Do we ask what would help us to be better people, or do we wait for it to just happen, or do we even care? Do we look to see what would be the responsible approach to our finances? Are we proactive with our finances, or just buy things on impulse? Do we practice Intentional Spending and Saving?
And what about intentional dreaming? Imagine going to bed every night with the intention of having a dream that helps us get in touch with our lives at a deeper level.
Zen masters talk of a mindfulness walk, a fully conscious walk of intention. Imagine walking through life being aware of what’s going on around you. Imagine treating the one life you’ve got like a favored pastime, being as interested and engaged in it as possible. Imagine treating your life as something sacred.
Imagine a life lived with purpose. What would this require? Certainly at the very least it would require us to be more conscious of what’s going on both inside us as well as outside us. What if we treated our lives as a game plan, or a book i.e. a story? How would we want the story to go and how would we want it to end? Instead of walking through life letting others and circumstances write the story for us, how would we write it ourselves? What would that take? We already know who the hero is. What do we want for them?
What does your version of the Quest for the Golden Fleece look like?
One thing I’ve learned about writing stories is that it helps to have a good outline, or you’ll just wander around in the wilderness letting the story write the story. It also helps to stay on message and be consistent with my intended purpose. The other thing is that details are important; they can make the difference between a ho-hum story and a good read. Lives are like a story, the good one’s require intention.
This morning I received a comment from a reader who identified as being non-binary and was musing as to whether women in the current gender equalization movement were suppressing their feminine aspect in favor of their more powerful masculine.
The following is my answer to those comments:
I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. I too believe that women are suppressing their feminine aspect in lieu of strengthening their masculine. I don’t see this as unusual for any time an entrenched behavior is shifted it takes time for the new behavior to become more balanced, though I also don’t see a call for this balance coming from the movement.
I also believe we are seeing the effects of a gender change in roles that have rendered some males feeling emasculated and others becoming over masculinized as a compensatory effect. However, there is also a small minority that are empowered to seek out and reinforce their feminine aspects so as to be more balanced and effective in their lives. These are all to be expected as well.
Not sure what you mean by non-binary because this can encompass those that see themselves as neither male nor female, while others see themselves as both and still others who might want to be categorized as transgender. As for myself I identify as male but find a lot of shadow aspects to that identity and spend a lot of time learning to strengthen my more feminine aspects e.g., compassion, inclusiveness, intuition. I’m trying to include all sides of my personality and only move one or the other to dominance when occasions arise that may require it.
The concept of non-binary is as I understand it been around for millennia. A form of this can be found in many Native American tribes as an individual called a “berdache” or “two-spirit” person who was allowed to switch gender roles within the tribe and was considered normal and embraced. It should be noted that this was allowing another expression of the soul and spirit of the individual and perhaps even of the tribe and not necessarily a sexual expression.
Interestingly my spirit guides are feminine e.g., A she wolf, a woman, and an eagle. These dream beings usually come to me in when I am in a transition or high anxiety state in my waking life. I reveal all this to say that I don’t want to use a term such as non-binary when describing my inner self. I am looking toward a marriage of the disparate, and sometimes conflicted, parts of myself i.e., what Jung might have called a coniunctio or a synthesized polarity or culminating non-duality. The tension between these dualities is in my mind necessary in order to function as a whole being so I’m not looking to create an undifferentiated oneness even if that were possible while a living human. Another of the aspects that are by definition highly related to this marriage of aspects is that of the intellect and feeling. These can coexist but if one or the other is allowed to dominate a person can become behaviorally skewed.
The attempt to bring into harmony all aspects of the psyche is not unlike what the alchemists were really up to with all their experiments.
“It is the moral task of alchemy to bring the feminine, maternal background of the masculine psyche, seething with passions, into harmony with the principle of the spirit, truly a labor of Hercules!” –C.G. Jung
My wife and I have spent many a happy moment with William Shakespeare at the Ashland Shakespearean Festival in Oregon, something we have been doing for over 35 years now. As always I was drawn into to his wild and fanciful stories and coming back into my own reality only when the actors bid ado and exited the stage. Where I go when they begin, I do not know for it seems as though I’m always there even though the “there” seems to be somewhere else– a secret dream-like place.
I’ve also found that there’s a secret place deep inside each of us that speaks in images, not words, and in sounds that aren’t really heard. It is a knowing unlearned from the pages of a book or the ministrations of a teacher that never gets old for it is always discovered anew. It is a mystery place, an inner school, and library of wisdom.
Some mistakenly imagine it to be a result of past experience interacting with present events, but look closely and you will see that this is not so. For this mysterious part of our self speaks from more than just the debris of our past or the confusing chaos’s of our present or some previously scripted story from some offstage deity. This is the almost soundless voice of our true-self whispering its guidance while we sleep– asleep as we walk through our days, asleep as we lay our heads upon our beds.
We are “Sleepers” you and I and for a brief moment in time we disappear into the mystery story that we call life. We become transfixed with the images conjured through its living text and forget it is but a story.
And oh what a story! We create fantastical tales full of intrigue, emotion, and plot twists with multiple beginnings and ends that we’ve stitched into a Dream Book of ideas that arc towards a promised resolution and an ending that never really materializes. We ache with the main character as they rush headlong into the plot searching for the promised grail– the answers that will bring them to the stories’ monumental and mind-expanding conclusion.
There are things going on inside of us to be felt or grieved or communicated, things that affect all that we do or think and all that we see or hear. Within us are the nutrients for psycho-spiritual growth and also the poisons for its death.
But the vast majority of people are imprisoned by the rational, concrete patriarchal world and unreceptive to guidance of the inner world. The world that most people live in is a severely contracted, emotionally, and spiritually stunted reality that leaves them unfulfilled and pining away from the promises of their childhood where everything was possible and potential could be experienced as real.
The world of the symbolic, the worlds of myth, fables and dreams can provide doors to what is missing in our lives but the patriarchal system that we have given our practical allegiance to has severed our connection with the imagination, the nurturing, caring, loving and compassionate aspect of the feminine.
“Only the symbolic life can express the needs of the soul”
The dominant masculine thinks concretely and demeans the symbolic world as being silly, touchy-feely, soft-headed, and impractical. Just do as your told, work hard, be practical and it will all work out, only all too often it doesn’t. Oh, we may make a lot of money, drive nice cars, have nice houses, a TV in every bedroom, good schools and summers in the Hamptons and it all looks good and very successful, but inside we’re not happy– it’s one big so-what, one big lie, because now we know this ain’t it. Of course we could reject all that “goodness” as being superficial and posh and live the middle class life of proud struggle, or better yet forsake most everything and live with barely nothing, but that ain’t it either. We don’t feel any more fulfilled with everything or with nothing. Why? Because that’s not where fulfillment lies!
In most of our societies we try to nurture only the material i.e. the ego world. We forget about our core being, our soul. So we try to fill this void with more materiality by reading and memorizing and practicing the aphorisms of our holy books usually without the understanding that their messages are symbolic in nature because it is that that feeds the soul not the literal meaning of words.
Or we turn on the radio or TV and listen to so-called talk shows as though the talking heads of these shows know something we don’t. But they only bring sensations to our banal lives and provide nothing of any meaning to the soul. Other shows provide us with even more sensationalism through murder and violence, promiscuity, and empty, meaningless competitions. They are ego generated and ego directed, bound to the superficial and as Shakespeare would have said, “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
But a few people, alas very few, leave the physical safety of the material patriarchy to search for something deeper, not something different, for that’s only more ego, but something beyond the outer experience of reality, something found only inside ones self.
This is a hard journey fraught with fearsome and difficult trial because in the inner world the concrete language of the outer world is of little to no use. This is because the inner world, the world of the soul, is a symbolic world and speaks in the tongue of the myth, the fairy tale and the dream. It is a world where the feminine rules and can guide one to their real potential. The masculine can only enter if it is willing to share its power with the feminine.
I remember that in graduate school we used to dissect fairy tales as a way of understanding the inner psyche the inner psychology of the mind. I always chose the story of the Wizard of Oz because I felt that its symbolism best reflected my outer journey and the effects that that had on my inner life. You see the four characters, the tin woodsman with no heart (self-compassion), the scarecrow without a brain (doubtful intellectual prowess), the cowardly lion (who could not stand up for himself) and Dorothy Gale who was lost and just wanted to go back home (to the nurturing safety of the inner feminine) were all facets of myself and my own journey through life.
The Great and Wonderful OZ was the hollow promise of the patriarchal society I grew up in that turned out to be a fraud who could give nothing but what you already had had you just looked within. Each of these characters were played by my parents and modeled the way in which I viewed myself. It wasn’t until I told the story as my own that I was able to confront the story and begin to deal with its results.
The Great Oz is the society within which we all live but when we deliberately or accidentally look behind the curtain and discover that it’s all a fraud, it’s all made up, we lose trust in the wisdom we were told was inviolable. I lost trust in my inner OZ for a number of reasons 1) because the father image was weak and 2) the patriarchy of the society never really delivered and still isn’t.
Emotionally abandoned it lead to my trying to find my way home by looking outside myself for something that looked like home. But like Dorothy I couldn’t find my way because I was looking in the wrong place. It was the inner feminine i.e. the Good Mother archetype in the symbolic form of Glinda the Good Witch who was able to guide Dorothy to where she had been all along had she known that she had the power.
Want to go home? What’s your inner fairy tale, the myth that tells your story? What are the symbols of your dreams trying to tell you? You may have been let down by the outer feminine, but she of the inner world can guide you to what you’re missing out here but only if you’ll listen to her and learn to read her message.
As many of you know I have written a great deal on the need for balance within us and within our societies. Many psychologists and philosophers also subscribe to the idea that we are all developing psychosocially toward wholeness i.e. to be a fully individuated human being one needs to deal with their inner and outer opposites by learning to integrate them. For those individuals and those societies who ignore or actively suppress part of themselves an imbalance occurs that affects negatively all relationships and retards the growth process.
There are probably an infinite number of aspects reflected in the human personality but I’m choosing to focus on what I see is probably the most destructive to the concept of wholeness, not only to the individual, but to all societies as well.
Each of us was born with dual gender personality aspects. In each of us is a feminine and masculine set of traits that affect virtually everything we do, think, and feel or at the least how we express our doing-ness, thoughts, and feelings. Simply put, these are the feminine and masculine traits.
For example, a feminine trait might be intuitiveness, compassion, accepting, sharing, surrendering, and patient. The masculine traits might include assertiveness, decisiveness, strength, powerful, forceful, focused, and independent.
A male or society that has denied to any degree the feminine aspect tends to be oppressive, overpowering, aggressive, un-nurturing, loses touch with their emotions, uncompassionate, and concrete in thought. The female or society that ignores its masculine nature tends to compromise their integrity, independence, self-confidence, focus, and freedom.
Of course, all of us with varying degrees share these traits, it’s only when a person or society allows one or the other trait to dominate its cultural, or political, or personal ethic and activity that an imbalance is created and out of that imbalance certain levels of dysfunctionality begin to grow.
Over time many cultural traditions have denied full and equal spiritual and social equality to females. And these oppressions aren’t restricted to females either, because most societies also define what it is to be male and that definition almost always excludes the feminine aspects as the feminine definition usually excludes the male. Most of these differentiations and definitions have not only been codified in religions but in local and national politics and legal systems as well.
Essentially by separating the masculine from the feminine not only have we fragmented and compromised our ability to positively impact our relationships and society, we have also severely limited our ability to live life to its fullest.
By separating themselves from the positive feminine1 males have handicapped themselves emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Females who don’t claim their positive masculine traits contribute to their oppression as well. It is one thing to be accepting, patient, and gentle but it’s quite another to become a doormat and a second-class human being. A man without his feminine becomes spiritually rigid in thought and experience and has great difficulty understanding where and when emotions affect behavior. Probably the most destructive aspect of sexism other than the denial of fully half of what we are and what we’re capable of is the loss for both the male and female of their vast spiritual potential.
We also have an inborn creativity, but our oppressive nature has seriously compromised and debilitated this God given gift. It is this creativity that defines our experience of life. It’s what inspires and motivates us.
Ask yourself why we have done this to ourselves? Is it fear, fear of what, loss, self-control, survivability? Or is it the fear of death, the death of what, a belief, control, self-image, and/or status?
In our dreams the archetypes, inbred images, of our masculine and feminine natures show up as our opposite gender, females for the male and males for the female. Pay attention to them, what they’re doing, saying, or feeling, If you know them or know of them, what about their personality or behavior reflects something desired or rejected in your own life, or way of being?
Dream people often bring symbolic messages to aide the dreamer with personal growth issues as well as solutions to vexing problems and it is the opposite gender people who more often than not have the most important information to give.
In our dreams both waking and sleeping the Phoenix bird is often symbolic of the feminine aspect as the dragon can be a representative of the masculine. Note closely their relationship and what each may be trying to tell you. It is the feminine that is and needs to rise from the ashes created by the fire spitting dragons of the world. It is the dragon who needs to withhold his fire so as to be open to his other aspect.
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. –Albert Einstein
1 We all have both positive and negative aspects of either gender in us as well e.g. the negative female might be passive but without the masculine assertive trait it might then become passive aggressive, or overly manipulative.
The negative male can show up when the individual or society dismisses the value of the emotional, or compassionate and thus becomes dispassionate and overly aggressive.
The negative gender aspect is always there but only comes forward when denying equal validity and expression for either trait disrupts the gender balance in either the individual or society.
Readers may also be interested in the following link:
Cabinets of Wonder, Cabinets of Curiosity, Wunderkammer, and Chambers of Art were sort of the first museums and often served their owners as a place for retreat and reflection, which is how I use my section of the Den where I do my writing and have my own cabinet.
They’ve been around in one form or the other (as whole rooms, warehouses, or in a piece of furniture) since about the 16th century. Click on this Wikipedia link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_curiosities ) and you can scroll through a number of different Cabinets and read a little background on the subject.
I also include this link to the Idols of the Cave that as it says in its introduction is, “a site devoted to the experience of Wonder, cultivated according to Renaissance rite and custom.” http://idolsofthecave.com/about-this-site/
Over the years I’ve collected objects that move my imagination in some way and have placed many of them on display that I frequently just gaze at and let whatever thoughts, memories, or feelings surface as a result. They also seem to serve as food for the soul and help me enter into the imaginal realm. To that end I have collected poems and quotes that inspire and transport me into this realm as well.
The cabinet includes such items as Bismuth (the modern Philosophers Stone), Merlinite, Galena, Aragonite, Lapis, Amethyst, Ruby, Hematite, and translucent slices of agate. Fossils of Ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras share the dishes of a brass apothecary scale with old compasses, sundials, antique pocket watches and a bronze hourglass crowding the corners.
There’s a Theodolite surveyors instrument, an 1890s microscope, an armillary and orrerary (planetary models), a brass scale and assorted dragons including a bat skeleton that I’ve relabeled as “Draco Infantia (Latin for ‘baby dragon’). North American butterflies, dragonflies. Bats, a flying Dragon Lizard, and shells from the deepest regions of the ocean adorn the walls while some vintage laboratory glassware sits on a bookcase full of old books and artifacts that have caught my imagination over the years. A taxidermist’s black crow stands watch over a sculpture of old magnifying glasses that serves to remind me that it is the realm of the hardly noticed that can open a whole new world if one were to look more closely at life.
I believe that anything that opens a link between our soul and us is worth exploring and experimenting with and our own expression of that can be immensely fulfilling.
Books that I’ve collected include the research of alchemists, psychotherapists, shaman, mystics, artists, poets, mythologists, physicists, theologians, fantasists, and holy books, collected dreams, and journals also share the crowded space along the wall and stacked upon the floor all representing a lifetime of interests.
Houses in dreams are metaphors for the “us” that lives within our bodies– our inner self. It is our spiritual dwelling where the soul rests and looks out upon the world. The doors to its rooms reflect aspects of ourselves open and closed such as our sexual self, our feeling self, spiritual self, our intellectual self and how we cope with the world self. Furniture in our dream house reflects the habits, beliefs, attitudes and values with which we furnish the mind.
Whether we find our dream self in a flooding basement or locked in an attic the symbols tell us something about ourselves and how we are dealing with the world we live in.
It is in our dreams that we most often brush up against the soul and get a peek at the divine. In our meditations, daydreams and musings the divine can also intrude.
But where is this divine being really, in the sky, in the ocean, in a rock, in a church/tabernacle/temple/mosque/synagogue? Some say it is everywhere and some say it is within the heart of humankind alone.
In the Hindu religion the coconut is cracked open and offered in a ritual signifying that the hard exterior of the ego needs to be cracked open in order to get at the sweetness of the divine within. The sweet innards are also a symbol of transformation because the palm tree sucks up salty water and transforms it into the sweet water of the nut.
The Kingdom of god is within (amongst or in your midst) from luke 17:21 and in the King James version (i.e. it’s a spiritual kingdom) of the bible is also a version of the Spirit within you concept.
A poetic look at the path to God-realization is also found in the lines of the 13th century Persian poet Mahmud Shabistari:
“Go sweep out the chamber of your heart, make it ready to be the dwelling place of the Beloved, when you depart, He will enter, in you, void of yourself, will He display His beauties.”
–Mystic Rose Garden, Mahmud Shabistari, as translated by E.H. Whinfield
The Sufi musician and teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan says that in The Inner Life, a person needs to be whole to take the journey. His point is that one needs to get their basic self in tune with their higher self.
The basic truth is that before any spiritual light from our inner selves can come into consciousness various distortions of thinking need to be dealt with. This often takes a lot of personal work and that is why there isn’t much of it going on with the “immediate gratification” mentality and rigidly shallow awareness that exists in most places across the world.
In our spiritual lives these days we spend far too much time battling with others about who has the best truth or which holy book uses the best words to describe what can’t be described with words. I suspect that all of this is a distraction and barrier to true spirituality.
Basically the differences in religions and the differences found within each e.g. protestant/catholic, orthodox or reform, Shia or Sunni, Mahayana or Theravada, Shaivism or Shaktism are only of the human ego and not of God.
The Spirit of life cannot be found in any place or any time but can be glimpsed within the heart of humankind but only if he or she has swept that heart clean of the nonessential ego rubbish thrown there.
We need to start cleaning out our house or be forever swamped by the garbage of the fearful ego. We need to clean out the rooms of our spiritual house so that we can welcome the Spirit in.
Simply put, God is not a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jain, a Hindu or a Christian– He is ONE and ALL.
I’ve been having dreams of people and things where there are parts or aspects missing and dreams of my childhood and childhood home where I see things and people I haven’t seen in years. There’s a common meaning between these kinds of dreams, that of something lost, something that used to be there but is no longer.
There’s an ‘energy’ in each of the images of a dream, an energy associated with each of the aspects of ourselves. Sometimes when something is lost or missing or that was associated with some part of our childhood but no longer present our deeper self longs for the missing part. What’s lost could be an admired aspect such as hope, or a dream of the future, or a feeling of excitement, or love, or of peace, acceptance, potential, possibilities, esteem, or meaning.
The list can be endless for when young, everything is possible and then life happens and the possibilities get whittled away and we learn to let go of more and more of our dreams. All these energies of the self that have been filed away or shoved down into the unconscious want to be recognized, reenergized if you will, and brought back into the self that is you.
For me it is enchantment, awe, and significance that has been carved away from my core, the suppressed expressions of my soul. My dreams serve as healers to the wounds suffered by my soul self and reminders of who I am. A dream of my eleven year old self has an energy that I gave up over time and sometimes this aspect will return in the form of my childhood bedroom or a beloved, but now gone, family member or pet and serve as a guide to regaining the lost energy.
The process is often called “soul recovery”. We may have lost some part of ourselves due to some pain or abuse, some trauma or heartbreak but for whatever the reason we cannot feel complete until we have learned to bring home the missing aspects. They’re still there, these missing parts of ourselves, they’re still part of us.
The eleven year old is still in there with the same dream for his or her life and the essence of the dream can still be expressed only now we have tools and opportunities gained through age and hard fought for wisdom that can help us to harness our missing energies and express the basic core of the dream. But first we have to recall the messages of our inner self through the medium of our sleeping dreams for it is in these dreams that the soul is trying desperately to communicate with us what we are really here for.
Don’t give up on your soul dreams. Listen to that small quiet voice from within that wants you to know who and what you really are.
As I finished writing I pushed away from my desk and took a break, pulled on a jacket and stepped outside into a brightly crisp morning and bid the just rising sun a good day. As per my morning ritual I closed my eyes and welcomed my part of the earth into its new course– standing before each of the cardinal directions and whispering a heart-filled gratefulness. With each breath in and out I chanted the morning’s mantra, “Earth am I, air am I, fire and water and spirit am I. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us”
I opened my eyes once again to the east and the sky was ablaze with gold, the distant trees dark silhouettes against its slowly strengthening glow. Turning to the North again and preparing to turn through the compass once more I was stopped in my tracks, for this morning the Earth had given me a new gift. Rising before me stood a brightly colored and full-arced rainbow with one foot planted near a Sycamore at the end of the street and the other stretching off to the south as though challenging me to follow.
The crows were flying out of the northwest on their morning pilgrimage and flew through the multicolored arc, winged black caricatures of the magical arts transformed into soaring messengers of joy. This is going to be a soul dream of a day.
On occasion I’ve mentioned REM sleep. Some people have asked, “What is REM sleep?”
It stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep and is the last stage of sleep where the EEG wave pattern is similar to the waking brain with some of the characteristics of both the alpha and beta states that are earlier states of sleeping. As a point of interest, the alpha state is also that same state that one finds themselves in when meditating, or when in “the zone,” or when daydreaming. Is this the state that a meditating Buddhist enters the mandala during a Tantric meditation (see below)?
REM is that time during sleep when we dream and when our eyes move rapidly under their lids as though tracking what they see, though that part of the theory has not been shown to be true. However, having said that there are those theories that continue to suggest an eye-brain correlation during REM sleep in that because of the discontinuous nature of most dreams, the brain is “looking” around the dream-scene trying to make sense of these discontinuities. We have these same discontinuities when awake, only the brain smoothes them all out and projects what looks like a linear presentation.
It has also been theorized that this jumping around of the mind’s eye during REM sleep may actually cause the sense of discontinuity and that the dream images actually come at us in an entirety which the mind then has to linearize (sort out) to make sense of it all. We may be doing this in the waking world as well which is why the concept of time (a construct of the mind that does not actually exist in the physical world) was created as a means of sorting it all out. It’s interesting how Tibetan Thangka paintings show the entire life of an individual in a circle surrounding the Buddha suggesting that the person’s life is all happening at once.
“Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening at once.”
But let me get back to REM. During REM a normal person’s musculoskeletal system (which is your body movement system) is suppressed or shut down. Why? Well we don’t have solid answers for this, but we do have research that points to reasons for this. Some evidence suggests that one of the reasons for dreaming includes both memory consolidation and memory erasure. In the erasure mode, any memory that is not reinforced becomes weakened. Memories with physical reactions are strengthened through repeated physicality, thus those memories brought up during sleep would be less likely to be retained if there were no physical reinforcement. This ‘feedback loop’ is shut down during REM.
There’s also the added advantage that when we were all huddled together against the cold in our dark and lonely caves, the dreaming of the day’s physicality would not be reenacted to the annoyance of your neighbor you’d be punching and strangling thinking that you were being attacked by some Saber-tooth tiger. Of course this theory only holds up for ‘unwanted’ memories with some other activity being responsible for the retention of those memories needed for survival. But don’t dismiss the erasure concept too quickly because if our brains could not erase the unwanted (which is enormous when compared to the wanted) we would need bigger brains to hold it all. This is in fact what we see in animals who have huge brain mass compared to their body mass and who have no REM. As a matter of fact studies have shown that when someone is deprived of REM sleep for too long, the brain goes almost instantly into REM and resists any further attempt to prevent it. So REM seems to be an adaptation for those creatures with higher order neural network systems such as ours.
It also gives us many hours of entertainment projecting meaning onto the sleep visions that may or may not have any inherent meaning. But isn’t this pretty much like the rest of our lives where we are continuously projecting meaning onto every object, person or event? Seems to me that dream interpretation of meaning projection is a pretty non-confrontational way of looking at what’s going on inside of you and around you. And who knows, higher-level self-awareness may just be the next neural adaptation the evolving human is developing.