Dreaming was an extremely important part of the Native Culture. It was woven deep into their tradition and their spiritual practice. Children would be taught to remember their dreams from an early age so that they could decode them and extract guidance from them.
But where does the soul go when we dream? Does it remain in our body as our minds explore the dream world? Or does it come with us into the dream world and explore alongside the mind?
These questions imply that we only have one soul. But according to Native Americans, we have 3 souls. First is the ego-soul, which is embodied in the breath. The second is the body-soul, which gives the body energy and life force during the waking state. And the third is the free-soul which is the soul that leaves the body during dreams and trances.
So as we can see, the Native Americans believed that a part of the soul literally goes and explores other dimensions (which we will look at more fully in a bit). It operates as the physical body sleeps. The other two aspects of the soul remain attached to the body as the free-soul traveled the dream world.
The Dream World
According the Native Americans, the mind does not dream anything. Neither does the body. Chippewa elder John Thunderbird explains it this way:
“Your soul dreams those dreams; not your body, not your mind. Those dreams come true.” “The soul travels all over the world when you dream.”
They believe that a portion of the soul disconnects from the the physical body and travels the dream world, where it then communicates with other spirits of other human souls. In the dream world, you can also communicate with non-human animals as well. The dream world is just as real as the physical world.
It is by experiencing the realness of the dream world that we appreciate the dream-ness of the real world. A big part of Native philosophy was understanding that life itself was just one big Dream, and it is through dreaming that we remember how impermanent this world really is. In the minds of Native Americans, there is no difference in terms of importance between the dream world and waking life.
In fact, if someone got bit by an animal or was sick in the dream world, they would be treated for it back in waking life by a Medicine Man. Our Spiritual Mentors (spirit guides, guardian angels, etc.) communicate with us through dream symbolism. Dreaming is a time of receiving spiritual and psychic transmission. When you wake up from a dream journey as a Native American, it would be time to go approach and Elder and tell them about your dreams. They would then interpret them, tell you what Spirit is trying to show you, and then would leave you with words of advice to take with you.
Similar to how we go to therapists and teachers for problems we experience in waking life, Natives would approach experts and therapists for what they were experiencing in their dreams. They were not dismissed as being random activities of the subconscious mind, or meaningless neurchemical firings. Some say that life is a schoolhouse for the soul. The Natives believed this as well, but they also believe we visit a second schoolhouse for our soul each night as we enter into the dream world.
Looking at dreams in a new light
Contrary to our modern world where profound dreams are usually followed up by a bowl of cereal and CNN, dreams in the Native American culture were just as important as anything in waking life. In fact, sometimes dreams were even looked at as more important. This is because you were travelling there with a part of your soul for the purpose of receiving spiritual guidance, gaining insights into the future, and connecting with Spirit.
The dream world is a real world. In the background of New Age and New Spirituality, we may say that Natives believe the dream world to be an astral plane that our souls go to each night for the purpose of self-exploration and growth. Dreams were no joke, and were not to be taken lightly. They were thought of as the main communication medium where Spirit could give us guidance without infringing upon our free will. Because Spirit cannot interfere with our souls development, it has to allow us to make our own mistakes and learn our lessons. But by communicating to us through dreams and dream symbolism, we can receive guidance while maintaining our free will.
So, where do our souls go when we dream? One of our souls goes to a spiritual plane guided by our Spiritual Mentors to help us evolve, while the other two remain in the body keeping it alive. If the Natives were right and one of our souls travels to a spiritual schoolhouse each night, it would be wise to start reflecting on the dreams you have each night. They may just hold the answers you are looking for.
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