90. Are Dreams Real?
Updated: May 25
There are many references to dreams in Baha'i and other religious scriptures.
Several decades ago I dreamed that I had died. Without warning, I found myself standing among many trees. Before me stood my parents in a place of honour, just as we are all enjoined to demonstrate to parents, whilst immediately beyond, and framing them, was a tall carved archway.
As we began to walk towards the arch, I became aware of a gathering of friends and family moving with us to our rear.
Emerging from the shadow of the trees we saw, sweeping out before us and around to the right, a broad grassed area. Scattered in various spots around the grass, or lying in cheerful groups in the bright sunlight, were many Maori.
''These original discoverers of New Zealand are of a very fine race, and they are a people long admired for their noble qualities." --Shoghi Effendi, Arohanui: Letters from Shoghi Effendi to New Zealand, Pages 72-76.
In the centre of all lay an imposing marae (complex of buildings). To the left we passed a lesser whare (building) of unknown purpose.
Our group continued on to what looked like a wharenui (meeting house) but it was a wharenui unlike any I had previously seen. On entering, the first details to draw my attention were the beautifully carved and painted walls and ceilings, bearing ornate kowhaiwhai (painted scroll) designs, to an extent unlike any wharenui I had previously seen. Barely a single surface was without decoration of some sort.
Inside this beautiful building was a smaller interior room of a type unknown to me. Then the door to this side room opened to reveal it as some sort of store room. At this point, I became aware of the presence of a dear elderly Bahai friend from my community - a woman of great humility and devotion - who entered the room and returned bearing a carved wooden throne which she was instructed to set outside in front of the gathered crowd. It ended shortly afterwards.
I felt bewildered and awed by this dream which I shared in some detail the following morning with my husband. The memory of it would remain with me for the rest of my life.
The deference and respect that had been shown towards my parents in the dream gave me a new appreciation of the station of parenthood in God's eyes. I felt that whatever small thing I might go one to achieve in my life, in God's eyes that was to the credit of those parents who had raised me.
A month or two later the national Baha'i community was holding one of the first Bahai hui (gathering) to take place at Turangawaewae Marae. This very significant marae was the official residence and reception centre of the Maori Queen, head at that time of the Kingitanga (one of New Zealand's most enduring political institutions).
It was a rare and exciting opportunity to attend this historic hui to which leaders and Heads of State from all over the Pacific had also been invited. I felt privileged to be given the task of running the Children's Programme for which I excitedly began to plan.
During a break on the second day of the hui I was unexpectedly asked by my husband to accompany him, along with several New Zealand Bahai dignatories who had been invited, to attend a personal visit with the Maori Queen herself!
Overcome by the unexpected nature of this event, and with a feeling of unreality, I entered the private whare of the Maori Queen. To my amazement, there inside the building was the very room I had seen in my dream! With a growing sense of familiarity I noted the ornately decorated walls and ceilings. There at the head of this room was a raised platform bearing a range of what appeared to be ceremonial items. I saw a number of different types of tokotoko (walking sticks).
At this point he and I were approached by the Maori Queen herself who gestured with interest towards my own walking stick which I was needing to use at that time. I explained that it had been carved as a gift to my grandfather. She looked at it more closely, then laughingly suggested that I might like to admire her own collection. It was at this point that I suddenly realised that this very room was the exact same one of my dream.
Excitedly I moved closer to my husband and conveyed to him this strangely unreal experience, reliving the details of my dream, and expressing amazement that the ONLY item from the dream that was missing in this very room was a throne. At that point, he paused and pointed up towards the head of the raised platform. There, most unexpectedly, stood a splendid throne!
Several years later I came across a photograph of Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga during his legendary visit to Turangawaewae Marae. Behind him was the same carved archway I had seen in the dream.
Religious teachings often refer to the spiritual significance of dreams. Abdu'l-Baha commented:
How often it happens that man ponders a question in wakefulness, but he is unable to solve it. Then, in the world of the dream, it happens that the answer is discovered. Frequently such a dream is a true dream, inasmuch as that which is seen becomes manifested to the outer eye, requiring no interpretation".- From Miss Buckton’s notes, revised by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Abdu’l-Bahá advised that there is a distinction to be made between dreams and Physic Forces which - although they exist - are not intended to be active in this world. We are warned not to seek to attract them.
"To tamper with psychic forces while in this world interferes with the condition of the soul in the world to come. These forces are real, but, normally, are not active on this plane. The child in the womb has its eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc., but they are not in activity. The whole purpose of life in the material world is the coming forth into the world of Reality, where those forces will become active. They belong to that world." - From Miss Buckton’s notes, revised by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.}
Development of Psychic Faculties Weakens Spiritual Capacities:
“...The Guardian would suggest that you study very carefully the statement of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in connection with the question of visions, dreams, etc., as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has very fully explained this delicate subject. You will find references to this in ‘Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era,’ ‘Some Answered Questions’ and the Books of Tablets. The Guardian likewise has commented on this matter.
“Briefly, there is no question that visions occasionally do come to individuals, which are true and have significance. On the other hand, this comes to an individual through the grace of God, and not through the exercise of any of the human faculties. It is not a thing which a person should try to develop. When a person endeavors to develop faculties so that they might enjoy visions, dreams etc., actually what they are doing is weakening certain of their spiritual capacities; and thus under such circumstances, dreams and visions have no reality, and ultimately lead to the destruction of the character of the person.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated May 6, 1952, to an individual believer)