You have direct access to sacred knowledge, in your dreams. Your dreams are a personal oracle that reveals the future and helps you prepare for it. Don’t let anyone tell you what your dreams mean; get rid of dream dictionaries. Pay attention to signs from the world around you; know that everything in the universe is interconnected and constantly interweaving. Use your imagination. What you grow there will be stamped on your world and on your soul – on the energy body in which you will travel to another life after death. 
insights come from a fifth-century bishop of the church. His name was Synesius
of Cyrene, and his treatise On Dreams,
composed around 405, is one of the wisest books ever written on dreams,
coincidence and imagination. Synesius was a most unusual bishop. In his life
and work we find – alas, only briefly – a confluence between the best of the
ancient practice of philosophy and
the new religion of the
Synesius was a
Greco-Roman aristocrat who could trace his pedigree back to the founders of
He had the best
education possible in his time, in
It was in
It was in
He makes it clear
that his discussion of dreams is grounded in personal experience. Dreams have
guided him in the hunt, showing him how and where to find the game. Dreams have
led him to “swarms of wild beasts that have fallen to our spears”.
He was guided by
dreams when his city sent him to
The dream oracle
“helped me in the management of public office in the best interest of the
cities, and finally placed me on terms of intimacy with the Emperor.”
His dreams contributed to his success as a writer and orator. The dream source “frequently helped me to write books”, correcting his style, and helping him to prune archaic Attic expressions – products of his love of old books - from his essays and poems.
Synesius explains that dreams are “personal oracles”. We want to claim authority over our own dreams and reject anything and anyone who tries to come between us and the dream source. “We ought to seek this branch of knowledge before all else; for it comes from us, is within us, and is the special possession of the soul of each one of us.
The dream oracle speaks to us wherever we go. “We can’t abandon this oracle even if we try. It is with us at home and abroad, on the field of battle, in the city and in the marketplace.”
Dreams are our
common birthright. They belong to rich and poor, to kings and to slaves. The
dream oracle turns no one down because of race or age, status or calling.
Even the worst tyrant is powerless to separate us from our dreams – which may hold the key to his overthrow – “unless he could banish sleep from his kingdom”.
“Dream divination is available to all, the good genius to everyone.”
It is no wonder
that dreams show us the future, because dreams are experiences of soul and “the
soul holds the forms of things that come into being”
dismisses dream dictionaries – popular in his time, as in ours – with admirable
vigor. “I laugh at all those books and think them of little use”. General
definitions don’t work because each dreamer is a different mirror for dream
images – some are funhouse mirrors, some are made of varied materials. Big dreams do not require interpretation;
their meaning is in the experience of the dream itself. Dreams that are “more
divine” are “quite clear and obvious, or nearly so”, but come only to those who
live “according to virtue”.
Steeped in Homer,
he can’t avoid mentioning the scene in the Odyssey
where the Gates of Horn and Ivory are described. In his view, both Homer’s
Penelope and legions of commentators and borrowers failed to understand that
dreams, in themselves, are never false. Penelope assumes that there are true
dreams and deceptive dreams “because she was not instructed in the matter.”
Deception arises through false interpretations, not false dreams. If Penelope
had understood the nature of dreaming better, “she would have made all dreams
pass out through the Gate of Horn…We should not confuse the weakness of the
interpreter with the nature of the visions themselves.”
recommends setting an intention for the night. “We shall pray for a dream, even
as Homer prayed. And if you are worthy, the god far away is present with you…He
comes to your side when you sleep, and this is the whole system of the
stresses the value of keeping a dream journal, and of writing and creating from
dreams. “It is no mean achievement to pass on to another something of a strange
nature that has stirred in one’s own soul”.
Synesius urges us to keep a “day
book” for our observations of signs and synchronicities as well as a “night
book” for dreams. “All things are signs
appearing through all things…they are brothers in a single living creature, the
cosmos…they are written in characters of every kind”. The deepest scholarship
lies in reading the sign language of the world; the true sage is a person “who
understands the relationship of the parts of the universe”.
Five years after writing his essay On Dreams, Synesius was persuaded by Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, to accept the bishopric of Ptolemais. It seems that he was baptized at the same time, rather late in the day according to our common understanding of what is involved in becoming a bishop of the church.
Synesius’ entry into
the episcopate was a political, rather than a spiritual, event. The influence
of his wife – who he loved deeply – may have been important; she was presumably
Christian, since Theophilus was at their wedding in 403. Winning an
aristocratic philosopher to the church was a coup for the Patriarch; though
Christianity had become the religion of the empire, the old houses were still
keeping their distance. For Synesius, assuming the rank and responsibilities of
a bishop was both a case of noblesse
oblige and an accommodation to the movement of history. In 399, the
Serapeum – the great temple complex of Serapis at
In theological language, Synesius joined the Christians through adhesion rather than through the transformative experience of a full conversion.  But we can trace some possible lines of convergence between his philosophy and the Christian message. He believed in One divinity, behind the many forms of the divine. He wrote of the “fall” of the soul from a state of knowledge and truth. He believed that in times of darkness, a saving power may be sent to rescue humanity from itself and its deceivers. His essay On Providence depicts a world dominated by dark forces whose purpose is to drag humans down and destroy them if they reach for the light. Behind the surface events of history is the struggle between the higher instincts of humanity and the darkness within and around it. The power of light in humanity runs down, and must be restored periodically, at the end of the great cycles of history. But sometimes, when humans are in extremis, divine intervention may take place before the end of a cycle, to keep the game in play. 
If Synesius lived long enough to
learn the end of his mentor, Hypatia, he would have been left in no doubt that
the darkness was rising. Though Hypatia’s students included Christians, the
fanatical Cyril, who became bishop of
In such a world, Synesius offered the means of communicating with a higher realm, and bringing gifts from it into everyday life. He taught that the realm of imagination is “the hollow gulf of the universe” where the soul is at home. Imagination is “the halfway house between spirit and matter, which makes communication between the two possible”. [Bregman 148] The soul travels in this realm in dreams.
For Bishop Synesius, dreaming is everyday church. It is also a way of entry into the real world. According to Synesius, dreamer do not return to reality when they awaken; dreaming, they are already there.
3. ibid 26, 32-3,citing Letter 137.
4. All quotes from De
insomniis (On Dreams) unless otherwise noted are from Augustine FitzGerald (ed) The Essays and Hymns of Synesius of
6. Synesius, De providentia quoted in Bregman,op.cit., 66-72
7. Socrates Scholasticus, “The Murder of Hypatia” in Anne
Fremantle (ed) A Treasury of Early