The following is an excerpt from my Dreams and Divination course and is my interpretation of a 5th Century essay by the philosopher Synesius. The title of the essay is On Dreams and argues that 1) divination by dreams is the most noble and precious subject of study and 2) that imagination is of the utmost importance to a healthy soul and a healthy dream life. You can learn more about the course here. Enroll or learn about other courses in The DIVINA School of Dreams and Divination here.

If you’re still not convinced that the way to the realm of the gods and the muses is through sleep and the imagination, listen to what the sacred Sibylline oracles say about the matter:

By lessons some are enlightened,

By sleep others are inspired.

Did you catch the distinction that the oracles established? On one side is study, on the other side is inspiration.

On one side is instruction while you are awake, on the other is instruction while you are asleep. While you’re awake, it is always another man or woman who is instructing you. While you’re asleep it is the gods who are instructing you.

By lessons some are enlightened,

By sleep others are inspired.

The catch is that the gods do not instruct in the usual manner, that is, the manner that we are accustomed to when awake. This is where using imagination and intuition to unravel obscurity (divination, essentially) comes into play. Those who are attached to the intellect and to reason may scoff at this idea and this practice and I’m not surprised if they do. However, through their attachment and cultivation of wisdom solely via intellect, they are also attached to practices that are condemned by the sacred oracles. The oracles say:

Sacrifices and victims

Are only vain amusements.

The oracles advise us to renounce sacrifices and victims but the men of whom I speak, being superior to the multitude in their own opinion, practice almost all kinds of divination but they neglect divination by dreams– a method within the reach of all, ignorant and wise. But why?! Doesn’t the “wise” man know that that which is common to all is better? Almost all good things, especially the most precious, are the common property of all of humanity. In the universe, nothing is more magnificent and divine than the sun, nor more common.

Side note: Today’s version of the “wise” men and women he is denouncing wouldn’t even practice any sort of divination, especially the kind that uses animal sacrifices. They would, however, still scoff at the idea of divining through dreams.

Isn’t it interesting that in Synesius’ time it was just assumed that everyone, even those “attached to intellect and reason” did some sort of divination? Isn’t it interesting that some sorts of divination were considered inferior because they were more cerebral than intuitive?

Today’s version of these “wise” men and women are those that hold to the idea that imagination is for toddlers and has no divine purpose or that dreams are just spontaneous bursts of brain activity while sleeping.  They are overly attached to the intellect and not in tune with their intuition or imagination.

It is a great happiness to behold God. A greater happiness still to know God by means of the imagination. Imagination is the sense of the senses. Imagination is a sense that is necessary to all of the other senses. Imagination is the only sense that communicates to both the body and the soul at the same time. It is the only sense that has the power of acting instantaneously, without any intermediaries. Imagination has a divine character and it is through imagination that we can approach intuitive intellect.

— Synesius, 5th Century C.E.

Imagination is essential to a healthy intuitive life and to have any sort of success with divination. Imagination is most certainly essential to a healthy dream practice and even more vital if you hope to divine by dreams, which Synesius and I are both in accord that divination by dreaming is the most “precious and easy” sort of divination there is, and also the “noblest.” 🙂

Try This:

I encourage you to watch this TED Talk by Tim Brown on Creativity and Play. Bonus points if you do any of the exercises (I like the 30 Circles exercise at about the 10 minute mark!)

Consider how the points he makes in this talk can be related to your own imagination and your relationship/attitude towards and with your imagination. Take it a step further by reflecting on the state of your imagination and it’s connection to the state of your soul . . . we’re going deep this week!

Let me know how I can help!