Dreams can be inspirational, incredibly clever and part of the problem-solving process. Indeed in many of the alternative healing methods, dreams are used to help cleanse, awaken and process feelings. However, history shows us that this application of dreams toward problem solving and healing is not a new idea. Dreams have offered creative solutions in the past. Some particularly interesting and aware dreams by “famous” people follow.
Robert Lewis Stevenson composed many of his novels from events he’d witnessed in his dreams. Of particular note is his novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a reworking of events that had taken place in several of his dreams. Stevens actually took this a step further by training himself to dream complete stories. Interestingly, he went yet another step forward by going back to his dreams on different nights and giving each one a different ending.
Then 19-year old Mary Shelley’s famous story “Frankenstein” came from a dream she had while visiting the poet Lord Byron in 1816. After reading ghost stories one evening, Byron had challenged his guests to each write their own spooky story.
Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed his popular poem Kubla Khan by directly transcribing it from a dream. The poem, however, remained incomplete. While he was writing the dream poem down, a visitor knocked on his door. By the time he had finished talking with the visitor and returned to his desk to finish his transcription, he realized he’d forgotten the remainder of the dream. He therefore put the interrupting visitor, as “the person from Porlock,” into his poem.
In the musical realm, both Mozart and Beethoven created symphonies from melodies first heard within the context of their dreaming minds.
Another composer, Tartini, dreamt that he was in a musical competition with the devil. As the devil played trills and improvised on his violin, Tartini, did the same in a desperate effort to win the contest. Upon waking, the composer put the song into a now famous composition called the “Devil’s Trill.”
From the Beatles’ Paul McCartney comes a dream he had in 1965 while filming the movie Help! in London. He recalled having a dream where he heard a classical string ensemble playing. “I woke up with a lovely tune in my head,” said Paul, “I thought, ‘That’s great, I wonder what that is?’ There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th – and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot, but because I’d dreamed it, I couldn’t believe I’d written it. I thought, ‘No, I’ve never written anything like this before.’ But I had the tune, which was the most magical thing!”
Aside from artistic creation, dreams have also helped with the quest for missing links in inventions and as solutions to problems. We’ll explore those next week.