Reality of Dream

M1. The  reality of dreams has been attested to time after time by different cultures and different religions. Whether God speaks to Moses through a dream, or Mohammed learns the Koran through a dream, or whether scientists measure bodily functions during dream.

Dreams feel real to me.

Magical Maiden

From National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan I found a 17th Century Chinese story of Zhu and the Maiden.

Zhu was with a friend when he happened upon a an old temple that was in ruins and deserted except for a shabbily-dressed old monk. The monk was quite welcoming and showed the friends around.

There were murals on some of the walls showing the usual gods, immortals, faeries and men. But on the eastern wall there was a picture that included a beautiful girl with long black hair.

Zhu couldn’t keep his eyes off her and despite his friend trying to pull him away, he felt captivated by the beauty.

As he looked Zhu felt like he was floating on a cloud and to his surprise he found himself in the town shown in the picture. The girl and he looked at each other and she invited him to go with her.

Of course, they have a passionate romance for many days. Whereupon some of the maidens relatives drop by and see what is going on and they frown and little so that the maiden acknowledges her new (common law marriage) state and she ties up her hair in accordance with the local custom.

The couple reside together for a few more weeks until there is a terrible commotion in the village and soldiers appear in the town to round up foreigners.

Zhu is forced by the girl to run for his life and, before he realizes it, he pops out of the picture. He is immediately greeted warmly by his friend who has been waiting and looking for him everywhere.

They are pleased to see each other. So Zhu recounts a short version of his experiences in the picture and describes it much like a dream. The two friends go to look at the picture again and  this time, the maiden in the picture no longer wears her hair down but has it tied up!

Beautiful Flower

There is a fragment of a poem attributed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge that is very similar to the sense of the Chinese dream/reality story above, that goes as follows:

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?


Both the Magical Maiden and the Beautiful Flower describe similar views of the reality of dream from very different cultures. Also they are many years apart for the story of the mural is over a hundred years before Coleridge. Yet both stories show the desire of both cultures to have evidence that dreams or hallucinations are real.

It is not until experiments by Keith Hearne in UK and Stephen LaBerge in California, separately in the 1970’s, that real evidence was found that dreams are, in some sense, scientifically real.

There is further research required before dreams and waking perceptions can both be proven to share the same brain models and processes, but I have an intuitive sense that it will happen before long.

And the nature of the reality of dream can be established in it’s entirety.


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