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Introduction to Dreams and the Afterlife

The Dreaming” (or “Dreamtime”) is a common term within the creation narrative of indigenous Australians for a personal, or group, creation and for what may be understood as the “timeless time” of formative creation and perpetual creating. They believe every person essentially exists eternally in the Dreaming. This eternal part existed before the life of the individual begins, and continues to exist when the life of the individual ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that this spirit-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through a mother. It was believed that, before humans, animals, and plants came into being, their “souls” existed; they knew they would become physical, but not when. And when that time came, all but one of the “souls” became plants or animals, with the last one becoming human and acting as a custodian or guardian to the natural world around them. These indigenous Australian societies share the notion that human beings and society were created in a distant time period referred to as the Dreamtime which the Aborigines considered sacred time. Simultaneously, the Dreamtime refers to the realm of the spiritual, which is coextensive with the time of creation. As the name indicates, the Dreamtime realm can be reached during dreams. Many of the rituals of Aboriginal religion also link the everyday world of human existence with the Dreamtime. As one might anticipate, at death the true soul returns to the eternal Dreamtime realm, where it had resided prior to birth.

1. Sleep as Death’s Sister


In the Bible and other sacred scriptures, the terms death and sleep are used interchangeably. Sleep has traditionally been called “death’s sister.” The Bible is filled with instances of people who are visited in their dreams by heavenly figures to convey an important message. In the Old Testament, Jacob had a dream of a heavenly “stairway” on the earth which extended into heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. Jacob’s description of this “stairway” could be a crude description of the NDE tunnel: “And he dreamed, and behold a stairway set up on the Earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:12) Scholars believe that the Book of Revelation is an account of a dream or a series of dream by John the Revelator. The reason it is believed to be a dream is because the symbolism found in the Book of Revelation is remarkably similar to the prophetic dream symbology of the prophet Daniel in the Book of Daniel.

2. Modern Dream Research

There is much evidence that our dreams are actually out-of-body experiences and journeys to other realms. In one study by consciousness researcher Dr. Charles Tart, a test subject was documented to have left their body during sleep in order to read a 5-digit number from a remote location. The test subject was successful in returning the correct number. The odds of correctly guessing a random 5-digit number is 1 in 100,000. Yale University Pediatric Cancer specialist Dr. Diane Komp reported that many dying children have near-death experiences which often occurred during dreams. One boy told Dr. Komp that Jesus had visited him in a big yellow school bus and told him he would die soon. The boy died as he predicted. Clear evidence from sleep laboratories shows that we all dream nightly. Our dream periods come in cycles, typically about ninety minutes apart. Most dreams happen during these times of unusual body and brain behavior called REM sleep – rapid eye movement sleep. Of course, the mind is active all night long, not just during REM periods. Dreams usually happen about five or six times each night and they range in length from just a few minutes up to thirty minutes or more, with longer dreams more likely near morning.

Dream symbolism is the universal archetypal language of the soul according to Carl Jung, MD, the founder of analytical psychology and dream researcher, was inspired tremendously by his own near-death experience. During the early part of this century, while psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were demonstrating the clinical importance of dreams, Edgar Cayce was providing people with guidelines for what has become one of the most practical approaches to dreams. Much of the metaphysical information that Cayce would discover during his out-of-body journeys dealt with the subject of dreams and dream interpretation. Perhaps one of the most important insights gained from Cayce’s revelations is the fact that each of us is aware of much more about ourselves, our physical bodies, our surroundings, even our lifestyles, at subconscious levels than we realize when we’re awake.

During the dream state, our minds become open to many different levels of our own unconscious where all of our previous conscious experiences are stored. Also stored there is information which rarely come to conscious awareness. The subconscious mind has a remarkable talent for finding solutions to problems. It can also assist us with self-evaluation and providing practical guidance for any question we may have. It even makes it possible for us to have psychic experiences.

The Cayce material reveals that dreams can diagnose the causes of our physical illnesses, point out thoughts and emotions that we haven’t dealt with on a conscious level, and suggest ways to improve our relationships with others. While we dream, we can become aware of our entire being — physically, mentally, and spiritually. The Cayce material shows that dreams are the easiest and most natural way for us to contact our inner, higher selves. According to Cayce, dreams are experiences with our very soul – our subconscious mind. Because dream symbolism is the language of the soul, it pays for everyone to learn how to interpret their dreams.

3. The Interpretation of Dreams

Tom Harpur, the author of the book and documentary, Life After Death, discovered this true report while researching his book on near-death experiences:

The following was dreamt by a dying woman in her hospital room:

“A lit candle suddenly appears on her window sill.
The candle goes out.
A terrifying, suffocating blackness envelopes everything.
Then, the candle relights but on the other side of the closed window.”

The woman died shortly after relating this dream to a nurse.

What did the dream mean? It must have been significant because, after all, this was the last dream the dying woman ever had – the final manifestation of her unconscious mind in this world.

According to the celebrated psychiatrist and dream analyst, Marie Louise Von Franz, and based on her analysis of over 10,000 dreams of the dying, the meaning being communicated is that the light of the individual, one of the common metaphors for life that we’ve heard so often, goes out at death but is miraculously renewed on the other side. In other words, the spirit seems to live on. This dream then illustrates perfectly a profound insight of the great psychoanalyst and mentor of Dr. Marie Louise Von Franz, Carl Jung, who once stated, “The unconscious psyche believes in a life after death.”

According to Jung, dream symbols which exist in the very depths of the soul behave as if the psychic life of the individual will continue. In Dr. Von Franz’ words, “These symbols depict the end of bodily life and the explicit continuation of psychic life after death. In other words, our last dreams prepare us for death.”