What are dreams?
Do they have a purpose, and do they have a
significant meaning? Existing theories are the Freudian theory that
attributes disguised meanings to dream content, and the
that reduces them to experiences of disordered brain activity.
The Freudian theory gives dreams hidden meanings, and the Hobsonian theory denies that they have any significant meaning at all. Yet our immediate intuition about dreams is that they are little movies that we experience and take part in. If dreams are movies, do they have producers and script-writers and directors and all the other personnel required to make one?
Dreams are normally non-lucid. Dreams are often bizarre and incoherent. And finally, most of them are completely forgotten when we awake. We can compare those characteristics to those of a cinematic movie.
The creation of a cinematic movie is a purposeful activity. We can ascertain an overall purpose, which is something like: to give the movie-goer an exciting, emotional, disturbing or satisfying experience. Can we ascribe a similar purpose to dreams?
The possibility that dreams are purposefully constructed by a dream-maker suggests an alternative interpretation of non-lucidity: dreams are non-lucid because this intensifies the experience.
One specific phenomenon that is given an interesting interpretation by this theory is that of realising that you are dreaming and then dreaming that you wake up. Dreaming that you wake up is the same thing as no longer realising that you are dreaming.
If there is a dream-maker, who or what is it ? If we are not to believe in supernatural beings accompanying us in our sleep, the dream-maker must reside in some part of our own brains. Presumably it is found in some or all of those regions specially active during dreaming.
What is the overall purpose of the dream-maker's dreams? I have given some reasons why we can believe that dream-making is a purposeful activity, and whatever the purpose is, it is one that requires dreams to be experienced as if they were real. Unfortunately I can only speculate as to what this purpose actually is. It may for example be some sort of testing or rehearsal.
Careful study of dream content may shed more light on this question. Better understanding of the mechanisms that hold the dream-maker accountable for the success of its dream-making may also give some clues.
See also: this update