There are many theories concerning dreams, their interpretation and relation to life, each of which doubtless contain insights applicable to various psychic conditions, emotional problems, stages of growth and times of life. The possibilities offered by dreams are very many and they can be a vehicle of insight into the workings of the human mind and especially as regards creativity. Since Freud, at least, it has been well-known how dreams can serve symbolic functions for the psyche, bringing into consciousness in a variety of subtle and strange impulses, emotions and notions that have been excluded from the individual's awareness for any number and kind of reasons.

The Freudian theory that all dreams express (at least some elements of) wish-fulfilments has occasional validity but any view based on sufficient experience will regard this as far too narrow an idea to apply to all or even most dreams. It can be the more relevant at certain phases in psychic growth, especially where there is frustration with the environment or oneself. It is almost becoming a truism nowadays how interpretations on the Freudian wish-fulfilment theory often (though not always!) go to undue lengths to twist and turn dream materials into some sort of pseudo-meaning. Consequently there has grown up a range of other schools of psychological interpretation, each with their relative usefulness and application in specific circumstances.

Important functions that dreams can fulfil include emotional and mental regeneration. Deep sleep and dreams often renew ones psychic energy just as much as physical energy. One way in which anyone can observe that dreams and sleep function is simply to redirect or interrupt the thoughts, interests and moods of the previous day. We often awake feeling something fresh, something different to the previous evening and our thoughts mostly take off from a new starting point. In this way, dreams can 'clear out' unwanted thoughts or psychic energies. They may also clear up the psyche through dealing directly with troublesome ideas or frustrations, in this way releasing the energy through a dream experience that was driving them in waking life. Some dreams alter moods through unusual images and feelings. Dream events can point a way to the conscious mind to deal with certain inner or outer experiences or can 'warn' the psyche, sometimes even being directly precognitive warnings of error or even disaster ahead. There is increasing evidence that the mind or brain during dreaming helps deal with materials from waking experience in useful ways, working somehow to sort or organise in unseen ways connection between elements of recent waking experience and stored memories, especially imagery. Dreams may also indicate positive eventualities open to the individual and may provide an arena for 'trying out' in phantasy potential thoughts, feelings and actions in relationships. Thus they may provide imaginative materials for living, quite apart from artistic stimulation. Such 'dry-runs' into possible latent experiences can enable the person to sense the emotional consequences of allowing certain impulses and inherent tendencies to surface, testing certain roles on an inner level before eventual decisions in waking life.

Through time, dreams can also develop in interaction with thought and imagination to become more and more detailed, vivid and unusual in meaning. A continuity of dream events can even occur and run through dreams over long periods of time, even many years. One example of this is the manner in which in various types of psycho-analytic therapy, dreams gradually tend to conform more or less to the theories that underlie the work, often very strikingly so. Dreams even occur that are 'fakes' of some earnestly desired result, especially while in psychoanalytic or other dream-oriented therapy, which is perhaps a sophisticated instance of wish-fulfilment.

Dreams can also challenge one's ego by bringing up unaccustomed feelings and sensations. In reversing such roles as victim and perpetrator, parent and child, lover and hater, the inner I expresses itself to the outer man or ego-oriented mind of the individual. Such dreams advance spiritual growth or regenerate it when too much ignored.

Dreams also definitely do occur, though it appears to happen very seldom, wherein there are direct interactions with other persons in their dreams, nearly as if it were in the waking state. This has occurred only where strong, unexpressed emotions were involved, and often in connection with the death of close relatives or friends.

Further, there is some evidence to suggest that certain persons may 'enter' the dreams of others. One cannot exclude the possibility of dream interference from persons with suspect motives. However, dreams in which others appear to 'invade' may occur due to having concentated on that person often with strong positive or negative feelings.

The Nature of Dreams and whether dream interventions are possible There is a prevalent belief in Hindu culture that their gurus or holy men can attain to the power of entering a person's dreams (among many other 'incredible' abilities). I have met with this claim in Eastern gurus I have met or studied, and most intensively in connection with Sathya Sai Baba of India. Very many Sai Baba devotees have reported dreams that they believed to be direct interventions by Sai Baba. Before I became disillusioned with him, I had over 300 such dreams involving him - and I noted down every one directly after waking. He frequently claimed he could enter the dreams (or minds) of anyone he chose and that no one could dream of him without his will. However, he also contradicted himself fully by saying: "Do not be under the illusion “Rama has appeared in my dream, Krishna has appeared in my dream, Swami has appeared in my dream”. This is a sign of ignorance. All these are dreams only. How can a dream be called a reality? The very word “dream” explains its nature. As long as you are in sleep, this experience may be true. The moment you wake up, the experience vanishes." (Source"

I now strongly doubt that he or any other supposed 'spiritual masters' have had the power to enter and shape other persons' dreams. When the available evidence is taken into account and critically compared and examined it points to the subconscious mind of the dreamer as the crucial agency. The brain can create the most amazing visions (as use of psychotropic subsances alone prove entirely). Stimulated by the central concerns of the waking mind, Sai devotees were constantly advised to concentrate on Sai Baba' form, his teaching and to pray and yearn for his attention. How a direct intervention into a sleeper's mind would be possible is a very open question with nothing remotely like a satisfactory answer. See Sai Baba's various conflicting statements about dreams.

There are two main approaches to this which interest me. One is the nature of dreams themselves, and where their component 'materials' come from. I have had different kinds of dreams depending on the main focus in my life in different phases. When involved with psycho-analysis I had 'Freudian'-type dreams. When I turned to Jung, my dreams began to show up all his archetypes. Later I got deeply involved in nature mysticism and had many amazing dreams with nature spirits - and not only dreams but manifestations of a lizard, a butterfly and even I 'saw' what I later found to my amazement was very exactly described (by people at Findhorn) as a 'deva' of a plant - in this case, a cactus I had been given many years before!

In short, what manifests in dreams - even in perception (i.e. one 'sees'. 'touches' etc.) - can be the result of what subjects, images, ideas, imaginings, wishes are most important at that time of life. If one hears of Sai Baba and wonders if he is genuine - with all the deep-seated ideas from childhood about eternal spirit, God, miracles and so on - the mind can produce perceptions to match these in some ways. The mind also produces darker version of Sai Baba in dreams and perceptions, of course (though devotees do not write about these in most cases).
The second approach is more controversial. There is a very large world literature on the existence of 'disembodied' spirits. Much of it is inspired by early Hindu beliefs, but also by ancient aboriginal, African and similar 'primitive' societies' world-views. The writings of once famous Dr. Paul Brunton tell how he was drawn into the spiritual search. He experienced what he was sure were genuine magicians who could command disincarnate spirits to carry out manifestations (like writing on a piece of paper which was blank and was held in Brunton's hand - in his first best-seller 'A Search in Secret India'. He also found the same practices in Egypt later on where 'djinns' were summoned, and received detailed explanations of the rituals required to raise these (potentially very dangerous) spirits and keep them under control. India has the same traditions in Tantric magic and other branches (eg. Tibetan) - 'bootas' or 'bhutas' can be made to do the will of their masters... and the master is through ritual (including as in many other cases too, sexual rituals). Some people assert that Sai Baba has control of many such 'helpers' and he has several times been recorded as talking of his 'helpers' ("They are very fast" etc.). To become a 'bhuta' (disembodied spirit or ghost) after death is something deeply feared by many Hindus - to become an imprisoned spirit, the slave of some 'demonic' master or even perpetually unable either to live or to die... but this is probably a massive, self-fulfilling prophesy at worst, sheer imagination at best. Of course, manifestations do not prove that anyone is an avatar... though I was also misled on these lines. There are many accounts of such things - by Swami Rama, Shiva Bali Yoga, Tapasvaji Maharaj, Yogananda, Mircea Eliade, Baird J. Spalding (!) and even by rational Vivekananda along with literally scores of others reported as doing such miracles, leelas, manifestations etc. It is common fare in the Indian and Tibetan tradition, but even quite a lot in Japan and China too. Materialisations are reported by dozens of Sai Baba imitators, and there have been many through the years. Swami Premananda of Tiruvannamalai (who died in prison while serving a double life sentence for rape and murder, reportedly did all the same things as Sai Baba did. One very successful copyist is Bala Sai (not so far from Puttaparthi with a huge following and all the same features at Prashanthi! See
I am not anywhere near convinced that dreams have any connection with supposed disembodied souls, spirits or suchlike, since I am also aware that the mind can run powerfully amuck through subconscious impulses and manipulations, the sophistication of which are still amazing to me. For example, the visions of such tremendous scope, intricacy and intensity that a large range of substances can stimulate the brain/mind into creating demonstate this power of autonomous creativity. There are as ever enigmas that no one so far can solve beyond all doubt. I draw no final conclusions since I like to remain open to see issues from many angles, though I find the entire literature on human souls or spirits existing independently of bodies as beliefs without empirical substance and highly speculative in nature.

I am encouraged by the cutting-edge research in the neurological and related sciences into more and more aspects of what are considered 'paranormal' phenomena, since they are gradually providing pieces of the jigsaw that remove the mystery of unusual observations, events and beliefs. The propagation work being done by independent TV companies like Discovery Channel into the amazing human mind and brain - well beyond what 'politically correct' academic studies have hitherto allowed. They pply to the most advanced scientists and experts in each enigma they approach, from UFOs, alien abductions and other 'visitations' to the Shroud of Turin, the Spear of Destiny, the Catholic blood miracle in Naples, 'ghosts' and many other similar issues, usually illumined by the aid of hi-tech science.

The British 'illusionist' and psychologist, showman or whatever you'd call him... Derren Brown has had many series of very impressive programmes on Channel 4 (UK TV) in which he does the most (apparently) incomprehensible feats with people - sometimes in controlled settings, very often out on the street. He can even suggest to people on the phone so the go into a kind of trance within seconds. He is quite open about his methods, saying there are definitely no psychic powers involved (very hard to believe for many) - and he even considers 'hypnotic trance' a false idea... achieving what he does through a range of methods of suggestion. He is applauded by famous media people in Britain some of whom have appeared on his programmes. What is best is that he explains a good deal about his techniques - even how he came to learn some of them - and there are not tricks or stooges involved. On several DVDs there are long interviews with him and his team - the BBC technicians etc. - and much 'behind the scenes' footage which convinces that he is an extremely clever psychologist and trickster. He says he uses 'misdirection, neuro-linguistic programming, reading body languages very closely, and deep research, such as into into mediums, Victorian spiritual frauds and all forms of stage To see his programmes one soon realises that Sathya Sai Baba used the same methods. Sai Baba's uncle - with whose performing street troupe he toured as a boy - was a priest and practitioner of Tantrism, which is often identified in India with what are presented as 'magical powers'.