Taking Dreams Seriously

Perhaps dreams reveal in the darkness what is hidden by the light of day.

The Scripture

Daniel 7:1-27
abbreviated and told by Deborah

During the first year that Belshazzar was king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions that passed through his mind as he lay in bed, which he wrote down as follows:

“As I watched, a series of bright blazing thrones appeared. The Ancient One took His seat upon a chariot of fire in their midst. Clothed in shimmering white, His head encircled with hair as bright as new wool, flames streamed from His Presence like a blazing river. Thousands upon thousands were doing His bidding, millions more awaited His command.

“The time had come. Court was in session, and the books were opened.

“As the visions continued, I saw a being in human form approaching from within the celestial clouds. He was presented to the Ancient One, and was given power and authority to reign over all people of every race, nation, and tribe. His dominion is eternal, an everlasting reign that will not end; his rule will never be destroyed.

“Confused and troubled by the visions I had seen, I approached one of those standing there and asked him what it all meant, and he gave me this interpretation: ‘[In time] the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’”

Photo of a flower

Reflection by Deborah Beach Giordano

The Invincible Dream

Rationalize, explain, or discount them as we may, we cannot escape our dreams. They are persistent, insistent, unyielding companions of our human condition, wherever we go, whatever we do, whoever we may be. Through sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in old age and in youth — even while yet in our mother’s womb, we dream.

baby dreamsAn unborn baby dreams. Imagine that. What might we dream of before we are born?

Other creatures dream, too, of course: dogs and cats and mice and rats, sheep and horses and elephants. Perhaps it is a characteristic of sentient beings; of all of us creatures who know that we are alive. But only humans have the ability to communicate to one another what we have dreamed — more than mere ability, the pressing desire to share: “You won’t believe the dream I had!”

As far as is known, we are also the only creatures who dwell on our dreams: we recall them, record them, analyze them, wonder about them, and — until recent times, have taken them seriously. It is hard to ignore these awesome nightscape visions that seem to come from another realm quite outside the normal and the known. They happen to us, unbidden, unexpected, beyond our control; we are mere vessels, receiving stations only: immobilized, speechless, incapable of looking away, unable to interrupt.


Being human, we aren’t going to take this dream business lying down (so to speak). Theories and speculation about their meaning and their source abound across history: angels, ancestors, intuition, indigestion.… Guidebooks and websites, research centers and encyclopedias, scientists, seers and psychologists all vie for a share in understanding and explaining our dreams.

Pepto-BismolOf course it’s all in fun, like Ouija boards and crystal balls: not something to take seriously. You can’t put your faith in a lot of jumbled images that may have been the result of too much spicy food.

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.”
    ~ Ebenezer Scrooge to the ghost of Jacob Marley

And yet…. Some are nearly impossible to disregard. Unlike the usual fluff and nonsense that evaporates when we awaken, there are dreams that demand our attention, trailing after us throughout the day, insistent as unshriven ghosts. They stay with us — sometimes including repeat appearances, despite our efforts to banish them from our memories.

It is not surprising that, historically, such dreams have been taken seriously, respected and sought-after; treated as divine messages bearing wisdom and warnings. This belief does not seem so far-fetched, as evidenced from the many contemporary examples of novels, musical compositions, art, scientific discoveries and inventions having their origin in dreams. As have monumental, transforming theological and social movements.

Unconstrained Imagination

And I wonder.

Perhaps dreams reveal in the darkness what is hidden by the light of day. New and unique ideas emerge to dance and play across the stage of our imagination when harsh and suspicious Reason is soundly asleep. Free from the restraints of rules and regulations and commonplaces, suddenly the impossible, the unlikely, and the rare come into view, no longer obscured by “the way things are,” or “the way things have to be.” Perhaps dreams truly are holy Messengers, whose soft whispers we can only hear in the gentle silence of the night.

Perhaps it is time for us to take our dreams seriously; to (re)claim our ability to imagine and wonder and consider what is truly possible; to refuse to be confined by the way of the world, with its cold and hopeless viewpoint, its insistence on enmity and hatred, its fascination with death and destruction. There is surely a better way, and we can make it happen — if we dare to dream.

Odilon Redon's Muse

Daniel, the “seer” — perhaps a better term might be “visionary” — relates a long and chaotic dream featuring amazing and alarming creatures, a metal monster, and inanimate objects that boast and brag. It sounds quite terrifying. Yet the Visionary finds the interpretation — given within the dream itself — to be one of hope and promise. The day will come when violence and force and discord will be ended, and all the people of God will govern themselves with justice and righteousness.

It hasn’t happened yet. But it is a glorious, hopeful, holy vision. It is a dream worth pursuing.

Dream Visions

What we can envision depends upon the seer. What we can dream depends upon our vision; our ability to hope and believe in The Possible: that human-kind can be kindly, caring, merciful, and just; that hate is an aberration that can be eliminated; that following the holy Way of love and compassion is worth the effort. It hasn’t happened yet, but it is a dream worth pursuing.

We dream — whether we want to or not. We interpret — our dreams, our desires, our world and our relation to it — whether we realize it or not. What dream will you dream? What vision will you pursue?

May the Beloved bless you with peace and gentle joy,


Suggested Spiritual Exercises

How is the world being interpreted for you — and by whom?

What is your dream?



Prenatal dreams: Neurologists have traced recognizable cycles of wakefulness and REM (dream) sleep in human infants as early as six to seven weeks after gestation.

Dream-inspired art, science, etc.: wikipedia. org/wiki/Dream_art