Once, the mathematician Donald Newman(1930-2007) was struggling hard with a problem, but couldn’t resolve it by any means. He went to sleep at night and had a dream. This was not the kind of dream which gives the solution to a problem, but a dream in which he met fellow mathematician John Nash. Newman asked Nash about the problem, and Nash told him the answer. When Newman finally wrote the paper, he gave credit to Nash. (I’m not kidding, read the story in this book or in the Scientific American ).
The Mother once gave four possible explanations for dreams in which you interact with a known person. This is an excerpt from a Q&A session held on April 14, 1951.
Mother: …When one sees somebody in a dream (I am not speaking of dreams in which you see somebody unknown, but of those where you see somebody you know, who comes to see you) there are all sorts of explanations possible.
If it is someone living far away from you, in another country, perhaps that person has written a letter to you and the letter is on the way, so you see this person because he has put a formation of himself in his letter, a concentration; you see the person and the next morning you get the letter. This is a very frequent occurrence. [See a previous article “Messages on subtle planes” for an incident where the Mother received such a formation before getting a letter from the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)]
If it is a person with a very strong thoughtpower, he may think of you from very far, from his own country and concentrate his thought, and this concentration takes the form of that person in your consciousness. Perhaps it is that this person is calling you intentionally; deliberately he comes to tell you something or give you a sign, if he is in danger, if he is sick. Suppose he has something important to tell you, he begins to concentrate (he knows how to do it, as everyone does not) and he enters your atmosphere, comes to tell you something special. Now if you are passive and attentive, you receive the message.
And then, two more instances still: someone has exteriorised himself more or less materially in his sleep and has come to see you. And you become conscious of this person because (almost by miracle) you are in a corresponding state of consciousness.
And finally, a last instance, this person may be dead and may come to see you after his death (one part of him or almost the whole of his being according to the relation you have with him).
Consequently, for someone who is not very, very careful it is very difficult to distinguish these nuances, very difficult. On the other hand, quite often imaginative people will tell you, “Oh! I saw this person—he is dead.” I have heard that I don’t know how many times. These are people whose imagination runs freely. It is possible that the person is dead, but not because he has appeared to you!… One must pay great attention to the outer forms things take. There are shades very difficult to distinguish, one must be very, very careful. For oneself, if one is in the habit of studying all this, one can become aware of the differences, but to interpret another’s experiences is very difficult, unless he gives you in great detail all that surrounds the dream, the vision: the ideas he had before, the ideas he had later, the state of his health, the feelings he experienced when going to sleep, the activities of the preceding day, indeed, all sorts of things. People who tell you, “Oh! I had this vision, explain it to me!”, that is childishness —unless it is someone whom you have followed very carefully, whom you yourself have taught how to recognise the planes, and whose habits, whose reactions you know; otherwise it is impossible to explain, for there are innumerable explanations for one single thing .
What about dreams in which you interact with a person that you meet later in life? Long before she met Sri Aurobindo in physical life, the Mother had some dreams where she saw a person resembling him who was wearing an Indian dhoti which she mistook for some kind of “vision dress“.
Question: How is it that in dreams one meets and knows people whom one meets and knows afterwards in the outer world?
Mother: It is because of the affinities that draw certain people together, affinities in the mental or the vital world. People often meet in these planes before they meet upon earth. They may join there, speak to each other and have all the relations you can have upon earth. Some know of these relationships, some do not know. Some, as are indeed most, are unconscious of the inner being and the inner intercourse, and yet it will happen that, when they meet the new face in the outer world, they find it somehow very familiar, quite well-known.
- A Brilliant Madness. Directed by Randall MacLowry. PBS, 2002.
- Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 4, pp 319-320.
- Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 3, p 16
- A contemplation exercise before going to sleep
- Explaining out-of-body and near-death experiences
- Sleep disorders : somnambulism and somniloquy
- Why do we forget our vivid dreams?
- Somnambulists who do creative work in their sleep
- Perception of Time changes with the concentration of consciousness
- Mental awareness in comatose patients and sleeping newborn infants
- Sleep-learning and the Upanishads
- Reading and writing books in a dream
- How can we “see” in our dreams when our eyes are closed?