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Dreams, Visions and Sleep

Old and New Testament Dreams


by Rev. Fredrerick L. Schnarr

In the first ages of the Ancient Church something of the former use of dreams seems to have briefly endured, but only with the good remnant from the Most Ancient Church; not with everybody. But now the dreams and visions were no longer crystal clear. General truths passed on by word of mouth could still be confirmed through dreams and visions, because the knowledge of correspondences had not yet been lost. But the open communication with the nature and quality of heaven was gone. This was the time in which the Lord began to provide that there should be a written form of revelation with man. Since man could no longer be led and taught through dreams and visions from within, he would have to be taught the knowledge of good and truth from without. As long as there was a memory of the meaning of correspondences, a written Word could be formed by collecting together the symbolic and representative stories from the Most Ancient times. This was done under Divine guidance, and what we know as the Ancient Word came into being.

But the use and function of the Ancient Word depended upon men remembering the meaning of correspondences and representatives. Once this began to fail, as it did in the succeeding times prior to the Hebrew Church, the Lord then had to form a new Word.

We are taught that in giving the Old Testament the Lord employed three different means, internal speech, visions, and dreams. (AC 4682) These means were not in themselves new, as we have seen, but the manner in which they were used was new. For now the purpose could not be that of open instruction; the essential purpose would be that of preserving communication between heaven and earth so that man would not completely destroy himself from off the face of the earth. Dreams and visions taken from the representative appearances of heaven and the world of spirits at the Lord's direction, would be given through men specially chosen, and written down by them. When these were read by men on earth, the angels and spirits present with man would see their internal meaning, and something of the life of heaven could thereby be communicated to man. This is how the Lord preserved something of heaven with man all through the hundreds of years of the external and perverted states of the Hebrew, Israelitish and Jewish Churches. Certainly the dreams and visions served to provide a means whereby essential Divine truths were revealed; such as the Ten Commandments. But most of the writing would remain for ages a closed and mystical work, as far as the comprehension of man was concerned.

We noted previously six ways whereby revelation was given: by dreams, by night-visions, by day-visions, by speech within man, by speech with man from angels that were seen, and by speech without man from angels that were not seen. (AC 6000) We noted above, however, the teaching that revelation was only given in three ways, through internal speech, through dreams, and through visions. These teachings are not contrary - one is giving a general statement, while the other has simply given a more particular explanation. It will be seen when we examine examples from the Scriptures, that some of the six modes include a combination of these six ways; for example, vision with internal speech.

All dreams take place when the conscious mind of man is sleeping. The activity of the cerebrum is lulled, whether from fatigue, from sickness, from drugs, or what have you. (AC 1975; AE 706: 3) There are different kinds of dreams, some from heaven and some from hell. What kind of a dream a man has at one time depends upon many things. What he should think of his dreams, how or if he should interpret them, and what use dreams serve we will consider in a later class. Here we are concerned only with the dreams the Lord used in giving Divine revelation. (AC 1976, 1977)

The Writings tell us there are three types of dreams which are genuine, that is, three types that are according to Divine order. We have already seen in our last class how paradisal dreams of heavenly life and scenery were common in Most Ancient times. With the possible exception of Swedenborg's preparation for giving the Writings, we know of nowhere such dreams were used in giving Divine revelation. Then there are dreams which are from the activities of associate spirits with the things of our memory. These are our own dreams, and they are significative - that is, they have a meaning if they are from good spirits, even though we cannot tell what their signification is. Swedenborg shows how such dreams work. This, too we will consider in a later class. These common dreams are not the kind used in Divine Revelation.

The type of dreams which the Lord employed in giving revelation are representative and prophetic dreams. They pictured the representative appearance in the spiritual world, but at the same time were Divinely organized and ordered so that they foretold future things hidden in the wisdom of the Lord's Divine foresight. (AC 5113: 30) Because no angel has foresight of future things, but the Lord alone, it is said of these dreams in distinction to others, that "they flow in immediately through heaven from the Lord." (AC 5091) The dreamer was instructed and stirred up to doing things by representatives "which flowed into the affection of the dreamer, and from that into the sight of the thought, for when a man dreams his natural understanding is laid asleep and his spiritual sight is opened, which draws its all from the affection." (AE 706: 3)

There are many examples in the Word of prophetic dreams, and we will only list some of those that will be more easily recalled to mind:
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