Do Baha’is Believe in Dreams?

Many cultures around the world place special emphasis on dreams as a means of explaining the unknown, as a tool to guide decisions and life choices, or as a connection with another world. What do Baha’is believe about dreams? What do they signify?

Abdu’l-Baha once suggested to pilgrims that there are three kinds of dreams: true vision dreams which requires no interpretation because they are reality; dreams that requires interpretation in order to separate false thoughts from spiritual discoveries; and confused dreams, in which the same circumstances exist in the dream as occurred during waking life:

There are three kinds of dreams. One is a true vision, which is even as the morning light and has no need of interpretation. Exactly what is seen, the same thing occurs. But most people, generally, do not receive this kind of dream. In the period of every person’s life it may chance to happen that one’s heart and mind are free and clear of false suppositions. Then whatever the spirit discovers conforms to the reflection obtained. This is a true vision and needs no interpretation; it is reality.

The second kind of dream is that requiring interpretation, because the mind or the heart of the dreamer possesses false suppositions. When a spiritual journey is attained, it must be interpreted and false thoughts must be separated from spiritual discoveries.

Another kind of dream is the confused dream. For example, during the day a man becomes engaged in a quarrel and dispute. Later, in the world of the dream, these same circumstances appear to him. This is a confused dream. It has no interpretation and contains no discoveries. Before the person dreamed, he was overcome with delusions. It is clear that this kind of dream bears no interpretation and is confused.1

An example of the first kind of dream would perhaps be the way in which the Messengers of God received their intimations:

…the soul-shaking experience of Moses when confronted by the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai; of Zoroaster when awakened to His mission by a succession of seven visions; of Jesus when coming out of the waters of the Jordan He saw the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descend like a dove and light upon Him; of Muhammad when in the Cave of Hira, outside of the holy city of Mecca, the voice of Gabriel bade Him “cry in the name of Thy Lord…” [The Bab] …awoke to find Himself the chosen recipient of the outpouring grace of the Almighty.2

Here is an example to illustrate the second kind of dream: In the early days of the Faith, there were many dreams that interpreters deciphered. The most famous is the story of Baha’u’llah and the fishes:

When Baha’u’llah was still a child, the Vazir, His father, dreamed a dream. Baha’u’llah appeared to him swimming in a vast, limitless ocean. His body shone upon the waters with a radiance that illumined the sea. Around His head, which could distinctly be seen above the waters, there radiated, in all directions, His long, jet-black locks, floating in great profusion above the waves. As he dreamed, a multitude of fishes gathered round Him, each holding fast to the extremity of one hair. Fascinated by the effulgence of His face, they followed Him in whatever direction He swam. Great as was their number, and however firmly they clung to His locks, not one single hair seemed to have been detached from His head, nor did the least injury affect His person. Free and unrestrained, He moved above the waters and they all followed Him.

The Vazir, greatly impressed by this dream, summoned a soothsayer, who had achieved fame in that region, and asked him to interpret it for him. This man, as if inspired by a premonition of the future glory of Baha’u’llah, declared: “The limitless ocean that you have seen in your dream, O Vazir, is none other than the world of being. Single-handed and alone, your son will achieve supreme ascendancy over it. Wherever He may please, He will proceed unhindered. No one will resist His march, no one will hinder His progress. The multitude of fishes signifies the turmoil which He will arouse amidst the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Around Him will they gather, and to Him will they cling. Assured of the unfailing protection of the Almighty, this tumult will never harm His person, nor will His loneliness upon the sea of life endanger His safety.”3

Today, we don’t use soothsayers but the best interpreter I know of is Richard Hastings, a Canadian Baha’i living in Malaysia. He is a dream researcher who believes that our dreams are moving us towards peace. He analyses dreams to help people understand their meaning and to find a solution suggested by it. He’s analysed over 70 of my dreams over the past 5 years or so, and I’ve always been impressed with his keen vision – it’s almost as though he can see right into my life and know exactly what I’m dealing with; and what virtue I need to develop. He welcomes inquiries about dreams, without charge, so feel free to email him through his website or you can buy his book called Dreams for Peace.

An example of the third kind of dream: In my own dreams, I often dream of doing my job and because it was a recurring dream, I often wondered at its significance. Now I know it’s an example of a “confused” dream that needs no interpretation and contains no discoveries.

One of the purposes of dreams is to answer questions that aren’t obvious in waking life:

In the same way, how many times it happens that a question which one cannot solve in the world of wakefulness, is solved in the world of dreams.4

This article is a good example of that! I went to bed wondering how I could shorten 16 pages of notes down to 1,000 words, and when I woke up, the article wrote itself! I love these kinds of dreams!

If you’d like to share them, I’d love to hear about any interesting dreams you may have had in the Comments section below. By interesting dreams, I mean the first or second kind of dream: true visions and those dreams with a deeper significance, but not confused dreams. Abdu’l-Baha tells us that most of us will not be the recipient of true visions dreams, but perhaps you have experienced dreams of spiritual import or dreams that have answered questions.


  1. From a talk of Abdu’l-Baha to pilgrims dated August 8, 1919, Amr va Khalq, Vol. 1, compiled by Fadil-i-Mazindarani, Tihran 1954-55. Provisional translation by Keven Brown. []
  2. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 93 []
  3. Nabil, The Dawnbreakers, p. 119-120 []
  4. Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 326 []

About the Author

Susan Gammage, MES, Certified Life Coach, author, educator and researcher, maintains an active Baha'i-inspired life coaching practice, which focuses on applying Baha'i principles to day-to-day situations. She is the author of "Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies", a compilation of quotes from the Baha'i Writings and is currently working on several other books including a Baha'i Perspective on "Overcoming Anxiety and Depression"; "The Courage to be Chaste in a Sexual World"; the "Baha'i Marriage Manual" and "The Spiritual Roots of Disease". Visit her Bookstore; get your Free E-Books ; sign up for her Newsletter; and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

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Discussion 16 Comments

  1. I have had a several vivid dreams in my lifetime…one of which saved my and my friend’s life. Over a period of three weeks, I had a recurring dream of being in a car, looking out into pitch black darkness, then seeing the headlights of a volksvagen driving straight towards my car. The car zig zags for a second, the rights itself and begins driving even faster head on towards me. I awaken before impact in a cold sweat on three different occasions. On the third vision, I decided to ask why I was having such a dream. I didn’t know why, but I decided to play a game my father played with me when I was six years old.

    As we would drive together, he would have his arm around me to hold me close and prevent me from getting hurt in case of a sudden stop. Then he said, “What if I had a heart attack while driving with my foot on the accelerator and my body slumped over the steering wheel? What would you do?” I came up with my first answer, I would pull the steering wheel and put on the brake. He responded that I was two small and weak as a six year old to do that and reach the brake. So then I said I would shut off the car. He said, that would cause me to lose power steering and power brakes, and with a sudden stop, the cars behind us would crash into us. So I said, “What should I do?” He said, “Put the car in neutral to keep power steering and power brakes working, then pull the steering wheel to get the tires of the car to rub against the curb to let friction slow the car. Placing the car in neutral would disengage the accelerator, and it was easy for a six year old to reach the gear to shift into neutral.” I agreed this was the best and simplest solution.
    Now, I had emerged from a vivid dream in a cold sweat — I was about to be hit head by a volkswagon. I said to myself, “What would I do if a volkswagon was going to hit me head on?” I decided that since I was now 16 years old, I wouldn’t want to lose my driver’s license for poor driving and the accident being my fault. So I decided if I was going to be hit by a volkswagon, i wouldn’t want it to be my fault, so I would pull over to the right and stop.
    Three weeks after this dream. My Russian girlfriend just received her driver’s license and kept insisting to drive me late at night to a restaurant that served ice cream sundaes. I told my mother, I did not feel safe with a newly minted driver driving at night. My mother said, you have been driving since you were six years old, you’ll be fine…and she encouraged me to accept the invitation.
    When my Russian friend picked me up, I pointe out that it was dusk and that she needed to remember to turn on her headlights. She said, “Oh, I forgot!” We stayed at the restaurant until closing. When we left it was midnight. The parking lot was pitch black, and every car was gone except ours. We got in her car and began driving. Suddenly we see the lights of a volkswagon driving at high speed straight for us, a swerves for a second. I remember my dream. The car is head straight for us for a head on collision. I shout at the top of my lungs, “Xenia! Pull to the right and stop, NOW!!!”

    She complies, and in an instant the volkswagon speeds past the driver’s side mirror within two millimeters of hitting us.

    We stare out in the pitch black darkness. Xenia asks what just happened? I said, “You forgot to turn on your headlights.”

    The recurring vivid dream and my father’s “What if game…” ten years earlier…saved our lives that day.

    1. @ Rhonda: What a blessing for you to have that dream to protect you and your friend in a future time of need! Truly awe-inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

      Kimberley

  2. I had the most vivid dream back in 1965, while I was in high school. The memory has stayed with me all of these years since I had the dream. The first scene was a city visited by atomic missiles, with its citizens in full riot over their plight. Then I saw the planet, once ravaged by a nuclear holocaust, gradually heal to a peaceful land of lush forests and healthy animal life. After many years of peace, a woman from another world came and married a man of our planet. Together, they had a daughter as fair and beautiful as her mother. Then in my dream, tragedy struck the family. The alien woman contracted a disease that apparently could not harm anyone but the woman of that other world.
    Since I had the dream, I have attempted to write the story of the lovely alien, A’maresh (a name that came to my mind after I awakened from the dream). I have named the story, written as an epic poem, I Dream of A’maresh. I have also illustrated the story and self-published it.

  3. Dear Susan! Back during the time of the revolution in Iran about a month before the first Martyrs were killed of the latest round of persecution, I had a dream every night for 7 days (seven Martyrs) of me in various scenarios being asked to recant my faith. I must admit that in some of the dreams, I hesitated but would be killed for ultimately resisting them. I couldn’t understand these dreams even though throughout my life I’ve had premonitory dreams. I was still a youth at the time so I prayed about it and let it go. A month later we got word of the first wave of death from The House of Justice. To this day, I don’t understand why I was given those dreams and really don’t think about the why. I simply gratefully accept that it was a gift. Thank you for this article as of late it’s been on my mind. I might check out that gentleman you mentioned!

    1. @ Carol:

      Wow…just wow. It seems to me that your spirit is very sensitive and in tune with the Bahá’í vibration in this world of being, so that you sensed the coming of this tumult in the collective Bahá’í spiritual world. Very special indeed.

      Thanks for sharing,

      Kimberley

  4. In previous Dispensations atheism hardly existed and ergo earlier Manifestations of God revealed little to counter the ‘eloquent expounding’ that marginalizes religion in our time.

    Proving the existence of God, defining the essence of wisdom and the pillars supporting it and rebutting atheistic philosophers is actually child’s play now, though society little realizes it yet, because the Writings of Baha’u’llah provide proofs based essentially on logic and reason AND also in His mystical proofs as in “The Dream”:

    “Indeed, O Brother, if we ponder each created thing, we shall witness a myriad perfect wisdoms and learn a myriad new and wondrous truths. One of the created phenomena is the dream. Behold how many secrets are deposited therein, how many wisdoms treasured up, how many worlds concealed. Observe, how thou art asleep in a dwelling, and its doors are barred; on a sudden thou findest thyself in a far-off city, which thou enterest without moving thy feet or wearying thy body; without using thine eyes, thou seest; without taxing thine ears, thou hearest; without a tongue, thou speakest. And perchance when ten years are gone, thou wilt witness in the outer world the very things thou hast dreamed tonight.
    Now there are many wisdoms to ponder in the dream, which none but the people of this Valley can comprehend in their true elements. First, what is this world, where without eye and ear and hand and tongue a man puts all of these to use? Second, how is it that in the outer world thou seest today the effect of a dream, when thou didst vision it in the world of sleep some ten years past? Consider the difference between these two worlds and the mysteries which they conceal, that thou mayest attain to divine confirmations and heavenly discoveries and enter the regions of holiness.
    God, the Exalted, hath placed these signs in men, to the end that philosophers may not deny the mysteries of the life beyond nor belittle that which hath been promised them. For some hold to reason and deny whatever the reason comprehendeth not, and yet weak minds can never grasp the matters which we have related, but only the Supreme, Divine Intelligence can comprehend them:
    ‘How can feeble reason encompass the Qur’án,
    Or the spider snare a phoenix in her web?’ [1]

    [1 Persian mystic poem.]

    (Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, pp.32-33)

    Baha’i love.

    Paul

  5. I was in a room, it had a warm glow as from candle lights, it seemed to be a house from olden times… I had this feeling that I was in the home of a very special person, a true holy man. I felt his presence in the next room… The door was not fully closed… I reached for the doorknob but before I could touch the realization that his hand had touched the very same spot filled me with an overwhelming awe of the sacred and divine beauty and I awoke and lay there in the half light of dawn. I had been in the home of the Messenger!

  6. I became Baha’i true dreams and would like to share it in privet writing if its possible .
    How can I do this ?
    Thanks

  7. Dear Susuan,

    thanks for such a wonderful post. It is so interesting, because in the morning, before I actually saw the article, when I woke up a thought that I need to go deeper in my research of dreams in the Faith popped up in my mind. I guess instant replies are also possible:) I found an interesting article from an Online Journal of Bahá‟í Studies here:
    http://bahai-library.com/pdf/a/alkan_dreams_introductory.pdf
    Hope others enjoy reading it too!

  8. Not very significant but a dream I had long ago brings smile to me whenever I recall it.

    It was in 2003 spring I was serving at the Baha’i World centre as a security officer. Those days my post was in the Golomb Gate, the main entrance to the Universal House of Justice and nearby buildings. All the House members and the International Teaching Councillors, other volunteer Baha’i friends and local workers would enter/exit from this gate, after presenting their ID card.

    At night shifts we would keep patrolling the area and make sure everything is safe and sound. Going inside the UHJ building and see if all the rooms were locked or not of each of the UHJ members would be the most remarkable event of night shifts. I prefer the night shifts also for another reason is that we would be at the Golomb gate by the sunrise and welcome our friends until 8am, see the familiar faces and open the gate for them, a brief chance to get-together, short of.

    After few months of service in the Holy Land we had chance to visit the International Archive Building and it was my first encounter with the portrait of the Blessed Beauty. I kneeled down there and prayed, watched those beautiful eyes for a long time so that I could remember them.

    And in a few days I had this dream…

    I was at the end of my night shift, at the Golomb gate at dawn. I reported on radio to the dispatch of my location of being at the main gate, ready to welcome our friends. Morning was so fresh and beautiful. Cool breeze in face makes anyone happy and look refreshed. Sky was clear and I could see far away the Akko bay. Downtown Haifa wasn’t fully awake yet. City lights were still on.

    Then a very familiar face walked toward the gate. A handsome and tall middle-aged man. I watched him coming towards the entrance. A quick scan disappointed me as I couldn’t see any ID card around his neck or in hand. He is not a serving staff… I said good morning, he just smiled. Then he looked at me and the gate. His eyes focused towards the UHJ building. He motioned that he wants to go there, pointing it with his hand.

    I requested him his ID card. Then he said “I’m Baha’u’llah”.

    I looked in disbelief …. indeed He was! But now looked little nervous as if He forgot his ID at home, similar expression when other friends face the same situation. I don’t know what to do, but I said, “I’m sorry I can’t let anyone enter without ID but let me check with my dispatch unit for permission.”

    Then I pressed call button to dispatch- “934 to …..”

    My voice was shaking. It was louder than usual, I could feel it myself.

    He came close to me with grinning face and pat on my back but in a split second I didn’t see Him there!

    I had nothing to say on radio but I was sweating. Dispatch repeated my call sign twice and finally some other friend in duty questioned- “934 R U 10-4?” (Are you ok?)

    Next day I shared my dream with some friends. Most of them said I should allow Him, few said I did my job well.

  9. What do you think about words of Baha’u’llah about dreams:

    LXXIX: As to thy question concerning the worlds…
    As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God 152 are countless in their number, and infinite in their range. None can reckon or comprehend them except God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Consider thy state when asleep. Verily, I say, this phenomenon is the most mysterious of the signs of God amongst men, were they to ponder it in their hearts. Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream is, after a considerable lapse of time, fully realized. Had the world in which thou didst find thyself in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must necessarily follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if thou wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world. Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world, and creatures apart from these creatures. In each of these 153 worlds He hath ordained things which none can search except Himself, the All-Searching, the All-Wise. Do thou meditate on that which We have revealed unto thee, that thou mayest discover the purpose of God, thy Lord, and the Lord of all worlds. In these words the mysteries of Divine Wisdom have been treasured. We have refrained from dwelling upon this theme owing to the sorrow that hath encompassed Us from the actions of them that have been created through Our words, if ye be of them that will hearken unto Our Voice.

    http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-79.html

  10. Two dreams come to mind.
    In the first I am fishing with my grandparents in a tropical inlet (they were very important in my spiritual upbringing and as a “fisher of men”). I then see a home with a parachute for a roof and know that what I am searching for is connected with home. A month or more later we moved to Inarajan, Guam. There I found not only the Baha’is I had been searching for at the Inarajan Baha’i Center, but saw the home with the parachute roof (a super typhoon had passed by not long before and the roof had blown off). A Baha’i lived in the house.
    The second, experienced during a weekend jount in our harvester van, was very powerful and I woke up in a sweat. Went back to sleep and awoke to the sensation of our van rolling downhill. I knew to run to the front of the van and step on the brake, as I had seen in the dream. The van stopped just short of a drop-off (also seen in dream).

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