The ancients relied on dreams to predict the future or to advise them as to which course to take in a specific situation. There were temples throughout the ancient world that were devoted to the practice of incubation. This involved spending the night in a chamber inside the temple or at least within the temple precincts in order to receive a visitation either from the gods or some one or something delegated to act as the representative of the gods.
I dreamt last night of some one who died a few years ago. He was my best friend and, in my dream, he had not died, but had almost died. He had disappeared, his house had been sold and his possessions dispersed (as in reality) but he had survived.
In the dream, I was in Manhattan, the city where we originally met in reality, but in the dream he was standing at a counter in a shop, his back to me. I recognised him by his clothing and stance, something impossible or unlikely in reality. In fact, in the dream, he was dressed in a fashion he never would have chosen in reality.
Furthermore, in my dream, he had become addicted to heroin and was attempting to purchase drugs from a chemist. Obviously this twist was inspired by 'Trainspotting' and another film I had seen recently quite late at night. (Does any one wonder about the proliferation of drug addiction films on television lately? I have been awakened from a fitful sleep to 'Candy', 'Trainspotting' and a few other films whose names escape me but all were centred on intravenous and illegal drug use. Not the most pleasant awakening in the middle of the night, especially if the film is showing some one undergoing withdrawals.) In any case, let me make it quite clear that my friend was as far from a drug user in reality as any one could be. In fact, I think it was his refusal to take prescribed necessary medications that contributed to his death.
In my dream, I was astounded by the fortuitous nature of our reunion in Manhattan. I do not live in Manhattan now (either in the dream or in reality) nor do I visit New York often. What were the odds??? In the dream, I was poised to ask him why he had not telephoned me after his survival from his impending death but then realised I no longer had the telephone, having cancelled the service after his death (both in reality and in the dream).
I persuaded him to move into a rather bleak little cottage on my parent's property (in the dream). I waited to hear from him but when he did not contact me, rather to my surprise, given our extraordinary good fortune in having met again, went to visit him. I saw him through a screen window in the throes of terrible withdrawals...
I tried to imagine what could help in these circumstances and decided to bring him one of my cats. He was as much a feline lover as I, both in reality and in the dream. In interacting with the cat, his suffering vanished and he was in both good humour and good health.
He asked if I wished to listen to some music and referred to a very extensive CD collection in the dream. At that point, I marvelled that, despite the loss of everything else, he had managed to retain his music collection. (We both loved classical music in the dream as in reality.)
I have made this rather tedious recital of details from a dream only because it fascinates me how the two worlds cross and intersect. My consciousness and memory in the dream were equal if not greater than that in reality. I remembered every cassette and CD he owned as well as all the valuables he had lost in his 'near-death' experience... in reality, his surviving brother either sold or took all his possessions to the local dump. The dream, however, contained a wealth of detail that was sheer fantasy. It is amazing how our minds create and engineer such impressively detailed 'sets' for our dreams.
Furthermore, once again, I experienced a world that has existed since my early childhood, a world containing detailed cities, roads and buildings that do not exist anywhere except in my dreams. The cities in my dreams run parallel to those in reality. 'London', 'Paris' and 'Rome' exist in my dreams, but their landscapes and planning is quite distinct from the cities I know in reality. The property my parents inherited and one that I revisit again and again in my dreams is very different in dream from reality, but the dream place has a substantial 'reality' of its own that has grown and evolved in dreams over the year. There is no bleak little cottage on that land in reality.
If I had been a 'patient' undergoing incubation in the ancient world, I would have scrutinised my dream and viewed it as a message from the gods or at least a message from the dead. As it is, I view it as a strange combination of films that intruded upon my consciousness while sleeping and wishful thinking. How wonderful it would be if my friend had not died, even if he had become addicted to drugs by some bizarre twist of fate! How wonderful if I could have moved him to the relative safety of a little cottage on some property owned by my family... (Or it is myself here, wishing for some safe haven that does not exist?)
To raise some one from the dead ... That is a concept that has haunted epic poetry, myth, literature and film from time immemorial. In most tales, meddling with the afterlife and attempting to bring a soul BACK leads to danger, misery and tragedy. Even in my dream, I could not bring my friend BACK properly. He was afflicted with an addiction to an illegal substance and moreover one that he evidently was unable to obtain!
The price I paid for my dream is false memories. At the end of the dream, we spent some time with all my pets. Here as well the dead were raised to life again and cats and birds who died in this reality lived again in the dream. Furthermore, the birds not only sang but left their cages to fly to my hand. It ultimately became a dream of paradise in a way, albeit of a rather modest sort.
The false memories engendered by this dream are far more profound and potent than any that could be aroused by simple waking memory at this point. After all, there is an immediacy and 'reality' to dreams. My friend walked and talked with me last night and we spent time with some of my most beloved pets from the past.
Now, forever mixed with the real memories I have of my friend will be memories of this dream. A person created partly of memory and partly from imagination now shadows the real friend I had in this life.
If I had been a patient undergoing incubation in a temple, I would view this dream as some sort of message from the gods or a portent for the future... In fact, I recognise that much of it probably was directly inspired by a film playing on the television as I slept, assimilated into my dream. Bringing my friend back to life, however, was my own contribution to the mix. The strange dream meeting in Manhattan was prompted by a recent unsuccessful attempt to trace one of my best friends from University who moved to Spain. One no doubt can trace every component to a recent thought or influence. Even so, thoughts flit through the mind momentarily, leaving little trace... A dream, on the other hand, can leave emotions in its wake that do not disperse for days. I expect I will be 'haunted' by this dream for some time. To that extent, it now is as much a part of my reality as any 'real' experience.
One day later: My cat died in the night, quite without any warning. I am still stunned. No matter how we try to come to terms with death or believe in an afterlife, it remains extremely difficult to cope with the loss of a loved one, whether animal or human. Lionheart appeared to be in excellent health. There was no indication whatsoever.