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Poem of the Soul, Nightmare (1854) by Louis Janmot
Poem of the Soul, Nightmare (1854) by Louis Janmot
Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus, Image from the book The Waking Dream.
Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus, Image from the book The Waking Dream.

"Life and dreams are leaves of the same book"

"I mean those which are awake when the reasoning and human and ruling power is asleep; then the wild beast within us, gorged with meat or drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime—not excepting incest or any other unnatural union, or parricide, or the eating of forbidden food—which at such a time, when he has parted company with all shame and sense, a man may not be ready to commit."--The Republic by Plato

"Last night I dreamed about Freud. What does that mean?" --Stanisław Jerzy Lec

"Common sense tells us that the things of this earth hardly exist, and that true reality is only in dreams. To digest natural (or artificial) happiness takes first of all the courage to swallow it down. And perhaps those worthy of happiness are precisely those for whom felicity, as mortals conceive it, has ever the effect of an emetic."--Les Paradis artificiels by Charles Baudelaire

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A dream is the experience of envisioned images, sounds, or other sensations during sleep. It occurs in humans, most mammals, and some birds. The events of dreams are often impossible or unlikely to occur in physical reality, and are usually outside the control of the dreamer. The exception is lucid dreaming, in which dreamers realize that they are dreaming, and are sometimes capable of changing their oneiric reality and controlling various aspects of the dream, in which the suspension of disbelief is often broken.

Frightening or upsetting dreams are referred to as nightmares.


Cultural history

Dreams have a long history both as a subject of conjecture and as a source of inspiration. Throughout their history, people have sought meaning in dreams or divination through dreams. They have been described physiologically as a response to neural processes during sleep, psychologically as reflections of the subconscious, and spiritually as messages from God or predictions of the future. Many cultures practiced dream incubation, with the intention of cultivating dreams that were prophetic or contained messages from the divine.

Judaism has a traditional ceremony called hatovat chalom – literally meaning making the dream a good one. Through this rite disturbing dreams can be transformed to give a positive interpretation by a rabbi or a rabbinic court.

Images and literature

Graphic artists, writers and filmmakers all have found dreams to offer a rich vein for creative expression. In the West, artists' depictions of dreams in Renaissance and Baroque art often were related to Biblical narrative. Especially preferred by visual artists were the Jacob's Ladder dream in Genesis and St. Joseph's dreams in the Gospel according to Matthew.

Many later graphic artists have depicted dreams, including Japanese woodblock artist Hokusai (1760–1849) and Western European painters Rousseau (1844–1910), Picasso (1881–1973), and Dali (1904–1989).

In literature, dream frames were frequently used in medieval allegory to justify the narrative; The Book of the Duchess and The Vision Concerning Piers Plowman are two such dream visions. Even before them, in antiquity, the same device had been used by Cicero and Lucian of Samosata.

Dreams have also featured in fantasy and speculative fiction since the 19th century. One of the best-known dream worlds is Wonderland from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as well as Looking-Glass Land from its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. Unlike many dream worlds, Carroll's logic is like that of actual dreams, with transitions and flexible causality.

Other fictional dream worlds include the Dreamlands of H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle and The Neverending Story, which includes places like the Desert of Lost Dreams, the Sea of Possibilities and the Swamps of Sadness. Dreamworlds, shared hallucinations and other alternate realities feature in a number of works by Philip K. Dick, such as The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ubik. Similar themes were explored by Jorge Luis Borges, for instance in The Circular Ruins.

Modern popular culture often conceives of dreams, as did Freud, as expressions of the dreamer's deepest fears and desires. In speculative fiction, the line between dreams and reality may be blurred even more in service to the story. Dreams may be psychically invaded or manipulated (Dreamscape, 1984; the Nightmare on Elm Street films, 1984–2010; Inception, 2010) or even come literally true (as in The Lathe of Heaven, 1971).

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Dream" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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