As the students start to wander in for Divination, they notice a difference to the lounge. There are blankets covering the benches and each table has a fluffy pillow adorned on top of it. There's a mild scent of vanilla and lavender in the air and they settle into their seats, looking around. Moments before the bell chimes, Professor Ornitier enters the room, pronouncing himself with an unceremonious yawn. He seems to be dressed in night clothes, a sleeping cap laying crooked across his head. He grabs a blanket and pillow and moves to the front of the class.
Welcome back students to your sixth Divination lesson for Year Five! O.W.Ls are fast approaching and I can see many of you, like myself, have been having some very late nights. Never fear, my budding seers, for O.W.L.s will not be as painful as you think! Now, I must apologise for my attire this morning, however all will make perfect sense soon enough. I am sure many of you have noticed the fluffy pillows and quilted blankets which are there for each of you within easy reach. While I wish for nothing but your comfort whilst you are in the Divination lounge on normal days, today the extra comforts are for research purposes as much as they are for relaxation. I suggest grabbing the nearest pillow, snuggling under a blanket and making yourself comfortable as this, dear students, is where we change our focus to the matter of the subconscious mind.
Eat, Sleep, Dream, Repeat
The subconscious mind allows the individual to dream whilst we are sleeping. This phenomenon extends to magical folk, Muggles, and many, if not all, animals. A dream can be described as a series of images, thoughts, and sensations which occur within the confines of the brain during particular points within the sleep cycle of an individual. But how do dreams occur? Sleep patterns, dear students, are the key to this phenomena.
Within each sleep cycle, we progressively alternate between two stages: REM sleep (meaning “Rapid Eye Movement”) and non-REM sleep. It is during the former stage when we experience dreams. Simple enough, so far. These sleep stages allow us to achieve a state of altered consciousness, where we are more or less paralyzed: our senses are suspended and our bodily muscles are at rest. However, this sensory suspension cannot stop the Inner Eye when it is ready to manifest as you may have guessed! More on that later, however.
As an interesting aside, without the ability to dream, humans such as you and I cannot function -- we would actually quickly go insane! Our brain simply needs that time to sort itself out. Neither the magical or Muggle community are entirely sure why -- though there are many logical theories out there -- but the most generally accepted belief is that our brain uses this time to sort through our experiences and waking thoughts, organize them so they make sense, and not only process it all, but store that information away for later use. Don’t worry if you do not remember dreaming, though, this does not mean your insanity is inevitable! It is a common enough occurrence not to recall your dreams -- though you will find yourself significantly disadvantaged during this portion of our classwork -- while it is difficult to prove, it is commonly believed that you do dream each night, but for one reason or another, rarely or never recall it. Perhaps there are some profound mysteries or prophesies your subconscious is protecting you from! Enough of speculation, though. Onto divination.
As with most forms of divination, one thing that assures us of their potency is the fact that dreams have been prophetically analyzed and revered in many cultures around the world since early points in our history. The ancient Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians wrote of their important dreams in their literary works. Dream analysis is recorded in ancient Greek works and some hieroglyphic inscriptions in tombs -- aside from the obligatory curses -- depicted the pharoah’s dreams, or those of which were seen to be predictions. In Medieval Islam, witches and wizards separated dreams into categories, distinguishing between “true dreams” and other, lesser groups. In short, history reveals the importance of this practice.
Daydreams, Different Dreams
For a brief interlude before we move on, I would like to take time to outline the differences between visions -- clairvoyant episodes that we have been discussing all year -- and dreams, specifically “true” dreams. The similarities are great, after all. They both occur in a state of altered consciousness. They are often fleeting and hard to remember. Last, true visions can often be wedged in between mundane, stray thoughts: a clairvoyant episode can come in a string of otherwise normal daydreams, and a true dream can be hidden amongst your normal nighttime mental activities.
The actual difference seems small at first: when you are asleep, they are dreams; when you are awake (and simply in a momentary “dazed” or altered state): they are visions. So, why the need for a distinction? The answer is this: the absence of restrictions. Let me explain. When you daydream, or let your mind wander, most of us think of possible things: we think of plans to go to the beach this weekend and imagine how that might go, we think of what life might be like if we became the lead guitarist for the Weird Sisters, we imagine a scenario in which Gilderoy Lockhart gains his memory back, is actually quite delightful, and somehow falls in love with us… Ah, I digress. My point is, while, yes, these daydreams are quite fanciful, they do not break the laws of physics. Some of you may have wild daydreams, but those of you who remember your dreams can likely attest that your wildest daydream simply cannot compare to your strangest dream. In dreams, anything is possible. It is this mental freedom that both allows our minds to be more open than usual, but also results in strange, harder to decipher prophecies.
Before we close the lesson for today, we will speak of just a little more theory. Any good seer ought to know as much as possible about their abilities, after all! Prophetic dreams, true dreams, or precognitive dreams are thought to be a sleeping form of clairvoyance, though some more specifically call it an extension of ESP (remember back to our discussion about how the normal senses are paralyzed during sleep, potentially making it easier for your sixth sense to operate unhindered). Like clairvoyance, it can fall into one of three subcategories. Some people dream about the past -- about events that have already occurred and people that have long died. Sometimes, a seer may experience a dream that is occurring right then and there, though in another location. Often these dreams are alarming, warning the dreamer of some catastrophe. Lastly, though probably the first thing that came to mind, is the category of dreams that tell of an event yet to come. But why, and how, does this happen?
When you are asleep, your mind is free from distractions. As we have mentioned, when having a clairvoyant episode while awake, seers often slip into a momentary “dream state” or “trance” in order to filter out the distractions that cloud your Inner Eye. When sleeping, there is no need to free yourself from those distractions. Your regular sensory perceptions are dulled significantly -- particularly if you are a heavy sleeper, like me! This means, when the time is right for prophecy, you are not burdened and much more likely to pick up on it. As you might guess, this makes prophetic dreaming very appealing, as you do not need to exert as much will over your mind to clear it, nor do you need to concentrate so hard on the incoming psychic thought. Of course, dreaming comes with its own issues, such as being hidden amongst a number of other, non-prophetic dreams, or occasionally hazy due to the difficulty of remembering one’s dreams.
Goodbye and Goodnight
Before we all go our separate ways today, please take a moment to take out your journals from the beginning of the year. We have already talked about using these books as a way to become more sure of your predictions and improving your accuracy of precognition through documentation, but there is a second task I’m going to give you that involves these leather-bound beauties. Along with your predictions, I would like you to start documenting at least a snippet of your dreams each night. If you do not remember a whole dream, do not fear, just write down as much as you can! On the other side of the spectrum, if you would like to record more than one dream for the sake of accuracy, you are more than welcome to! As we mentioned, it is difficult to tell a true dream from any other, and sometimes we only discover the truth retroactively.
How you would like to structure it is up to you. If you prefer a chronological approach -- simply opening to the next clean page and writing whatever is fresh: a dream, a prediction, a remote viewing -- you are welcome to use it that way, almost like a diary. You can also separate your journal into various sections, with portions devoted to a dream diary, predictions, and more, as you prefer. The decision lies in your hands, just so long as you are documenting your dreams (or a part of them) in some way!
In the coming weeks we will discuss how to encourage these dreams, distinguish a mundane dream from a psychic one, and how to improve your memory of these dreams and their details. For now, though, I bid you adieu! You may consider it extra credit homework this week to get lots of sleep in the effort to have more potential prophecies to analyze as we progress in our discussions!
Professor Alex Ornitier