The Eygptian Dream Book -or- Fragments of the History of Dreams

Dream Incubation in Biblical Times -or- Foreshadowing History 

Writing the story of the history of dreaming is a difficult research enterprise, however it is not completely impossible. While this Field Note does not provide a continuous literary thread of the history of dreaming, it does present to you the reader some known literary fragments. One of those surviving pieces of the historical puzzle, is known as the Eygptian "Dream Book". 

The Dream Book is a record of Eygptian dream interpretations and reportedly dates back to nearly 2000 BCE.  An even earlier surviving narrative that included dreams is the story of Gilgamesh which is dated ca. 2500 BCE. Dreams were used in the epic story to foreshadow  future plot and character development. 

Whether there are literary connections between the dreams found in Gilgamesh and the Egyptian Dream Book is unknown. Some believe that the Egyptians were the first to employ "dream incubation" rituals. Dream incubation and divination worked to predict the future. The Hebrews of the Old Testament would also learn to employ the oneiric method of dream incubation. Abraham some believe was born about 2000-1950 BCE. 

The Old Testament informs the reader that Abraham's covenant with God was part of a vision he experienced. The Old Testament records that Joseph was sold into Eygptian slavery, after which he rose to become the visier of Eygpt on the basis of his gift of understanding dreams. The modern scholarly research, places the life time of Joseph, somewhere between 1800 BCE and 1600 BCE. 

It is generally believed that between the time of Joseph and the time of the Hebrew Exodus under the leadership of Moses, some 400 years had past. As a Prince in Eygpt, Moses must have had access to the methods of Egyptian dream interpretation, it is also logical to assume that Moses was aware of the story of Joseph being the visier of Eygpt. If we have no reported dreams of Moses, then we can speculate that his people dreamed what all prisoners and slaves dream, the dream of freedom from their suffering and bondage. 

This dream of the escape from bondage was realized in Exodus. Exodus represents one of the very few successful slave revolts in history. Moses life time has been estimated and pegged between 1391-1271 BCE. Nearly four hundred years later, King Soloman would build the first temple at Jerusalem which is believed to have been constructed between 1000-900 BCE. The Old Testament informs us that Soloman employed dream incubation rituals to fulfill his desires in his search for God and wisdom. 

As so much already stated about the chronology of people's lives found in history, it is uncertain when the ancient epic poet Homer lived, some place him in the 12th century BCE, others in the 8th BCE, take your choice. Some even believe that Homer is a fictitous name, created by the oral tradition to tell the tale of the Trojan War and its aftermath. What is certain is that Homer's narrative is repleat with dreams and is the oldest known work of Western literature. The ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles would create the Oedipus the King myth which incorporated the riddle of the Eygptian Sphinx. The first performance of the play was ca. 429 BCE. The story would employ oracular foreshadowing which in-turn became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Plato's Socrates employed many dreams in his philosophical dialogues. Plato informs the reader that Socrates even had a dream that foretold and foreshadowed his death. 

With the birth of Jesus, a new Christian covenant with God was being created and laid down in the New Testament. Dreams would also play a role in the New Testament. There are so many pieces to the historical mosaic of dreams and Dream Books. Another Field Note will outline further pieces of the picture puzzle of dreamers and the history of dreaming after Christ, leading to Freud's own modern Dream Book "Interpretation of Dreams".

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.