Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catholics and the interpretation of dreams

There was a new thread posted over at the Catholic Forum concerning the interpretation of dreams and the Catholic position on it. Here is the question as it appears in the thread:
"Last night I was at a talk about Occultism and the concept of interpretating dreams was brought up. I never really thought of dreams as being part of Occultism and often I analyse my own dreams and Google them. With regards to this, my question is whether Catholicism recognises or dismisses that dreams hold meaning, prophecy, etc. and secondly if there are ways in which you can interpret your dreams that is in line with the faith, if you dream about a particular Bible passage, for example. Should these things be dismissed as nonsense? Thanks."
The Church does not explicitly say that Catholics should not interpret dreams. On the matter related to the interpretation of dreams - divination - the Church says this:

"All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone." - CCC, par. 2116

You could infer from that paragraph that the interpretation of dreams is one in the same with divination, but you'd need to do some mental gymnastics in order to come to that conclusion. The fact that the Catholic Church in this paragraph outlines some very clear examples on what actually constitutes as divination (e.g. "consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, etc.) and has not made mention of the interpretation of dreams, is a very clear indication that there is nothing inherently evil or immoral about making inquiries into the meaning of your dreams. That said, however, what needs be avoided is treating the dream as if it were an omen or premonition. Treating your dream(s) as an omen or premonition would indeed constitute as divination and that would be sinful.

As we read in scripture, the Lord Himself, angels, and so forth have appeared to key figures in dreams so obviously God may use our dreams communicate with us, as if to reach the deepest recesses of our conscience. Here are some examples from scripture:

"At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, 'Ask what I shall give you'". - 1 Kings 3:5

"For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man; he keeps back his soul from the Pit, his life from perishing by the sword." - Job 33:14-18

"It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out." - Proverbs 25:2 "As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." - Daniel 1:17

"In the first year of Belshaz'zar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, and told the sum of the matter." - Daniel 7:1

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'" - Matthew 1:18-21

"... and going into the house they [the three wise men] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way." - Matthew 2:11-12

"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.'" - Matthew 2:13

"But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.' And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'" - Matthew 2:19-23

Don't be so keen, however, to seek God in your dreams; be discerning! Because, as we know, Satan is the father of lies and may very well use your dreams to mislead you. If you have a vision and dream of God speaking to you, I would advise the following:

- write down what you saw in the dream (try to remember as much detail as you can); and
- pray, pray, and then pray some more about it!

If there is something that God wants to reveal to you in your dreams, it will become more apparent after you speak personally and deeply with him. This will also ensure that it is indeed God speaking to you and that you are not being tricked by the devil. Be vigilant, be on your guard, and always turn to God in prayer if in doubt.

"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." - Matthew 7:7


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