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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.

"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, referring to dreams

"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." --Charles Baudelaire in Les Paradis artificiels

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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.

Popular culture

Modern popular culture often conceives of dreams, like Freud, as expressions of the dreamer's deepest fears and desires. In films such as Spellbound (1945) or The Manchurian Candidate (1962), the protagonists must extract vital clues from surreal dreams.

Most dreams in popular culture are, however, not symbolic, but straightforward and realistic depictions of their dreamer's fears and desires. Dream scenes may be indistinguishable from those set in the dreamer's real world, a narrative device that undermines the dreamer's and the audience's sense of security and allows horror movie protagonists, such as those of Carrie (1976), Friday the 13th (1980) or An American Werewolf in London (1981) to be suddenly attacked by dark forces while resting in seemingly safe places. Ambrose Bierce's short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1891) tells of a man sentenced to death escaping the execution and returning to safety, only to wake up and realise that he is in fact about to be hanged.

In speculative fiction, the line between dreams and reality may be blurred even more in the service of the story. Dreams may be psychically invaded or manipulated (the Nightmare on Elm Street films, 1984–1991) or even come literally true (as in The Lathe of Heaven, 1971). Such stories play to audiences’ experiences with their own dreams, which feel as real to them as the real world that inspires them.

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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