It may surprise you to learn that many highly respected scientists, musicians, artists and inventors have said that their work was completely inspired by their dreams. Albert Einstein, Paul McCartney, George Frederic Handel, Richard Wagner, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Rene Descartes, Orson Welles, James Watt and D.H. Lawrence, to name but a few. The reality is that very few of us are aware of the incredible number of dream-inspired discoveries, inventions, and works of art that have shaped our culture and consciousness.
Aristocrat and Russian academic, Dmitri Mendeleyev was investigating the basic elements or building blocks of the universe that combine in various forms to make up all physical matter. He was completely stumped and for the life of him could not explain their seemingly random properties. One day while on vacation with his family, he became tired and excused himself from the room in which his family was playing chamber music. Hearing the strains of their music as he fell off to sleep, Dmitri dreamed that he “saw” the basic elements of the physical universe arrange themselves in an orderly and beautiful pattern like repeating phrases of music. He woke up and outlined from his dream every element in its correct slot and order – what is now known in all chemistry texts as the Periodic Table of Elements.
Albert Einstein, while still an awkward adolescent headed for a boring job at the patent office he dreamed a dream that changed the course of human history. He reported this dream, the precursor to his Theory of Relativity, in an interview with famed journalist, Edwin Newman. Einstein told Newman that it was night in the dream and he was with friends sledding down a hill and having a grand time. However on one trip down, he became aware that he was travelling faster and faster. Realizing after a moment that the sled was approaching the speed of light, he looked up and saw the twinkling starry light of the night refracted into a brilliant spectrum of colours he had never before seen. Filled with a numinous sense of awe, wonder and reverence, he intuitively understood he was witnessing an event that contained his calling in life – all the answers as well as questions he would need to ask.” I knew I had to understand that dream”, he told Newman, “and you could say and I would say, that my entire scientific career has been a meditation on that dream.
Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845. He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn’t figure out exactly how it would work. He first tried using a needle that was pointed at both ends, with an eye in the middle, but it was a failure. Then one night he dreamt he was taken prisoner by a group of natives. They were dancing around him with spears. As he saw them move around him, he noticed that their spears all had holes near their tips. When he woke up he realized that the dream had brought the solution to his problem. By locating a hole at the tip of the needle, the thread could be caught after it went through cloth thus making his machine operable.
Paul McCartney of the ‘The Beatles’, dreamt the tune of his famous song ‘yesterday’. Mary Shelley fell asleep quickly after discussing the supernatural with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. She awoke feeling extremely disturbed by a powerful dream which she wrote down in detail the very next day; This dream was later to become the famous story we are all now so familiar with. The story of Frankenstein. People may say, that these were all very talented people and that their dreams were a manifestation of those talents. And while I would agree up to a point that, that is true. Non of us know what potential we hold inside ourselves. What abilities we use in our normal day to day life, I believe is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg of what we are capable of.
When you sleep your mind does not turn off; quite the contrary, it becomes very active during dreaming. Through dreams, your mind continues to work out solutions to real world life and work problems and taps into your innate creativity and problem solving skills. For some individuals, I believe this ability goes even further and transcends our own abilities by tapping into a higher inspirational source. Who knows what future scientific developments or humanitarian and ecological answers, may lie waiting for us, in that infinite space, we call our dreams.