Dream Incubation

To incubate a dream means to seek earnestly for a dream that responds to a special need or question. This way of approaching the best in yourself for help has been practised widely in many cultures. Some evidence suggests it was first used as a means of curing sterility, and was wide-spread enough to be used by Australian aborigines as well as Chinese and North Africans. It evolved into a much wider application, and in more recent history its various uses range from young women seeking to dream about their future husband, to Amerindian youths fasting in lonely vigil to receive a dream about their inmost character and destiny. Many such approaches, as those used in Ancient Greece in the healing temples of Aesculapius[i], were felt to be sacred. Individuals were helped to take on a feeling of approaching the divine and humbly seeking help from the highest wisdom. The effectiveness of this is to be found in many historical records.

In today’s world we have no dream incubation temples, and our culture does not often encourage us to take a cleansing fast and vigil to incubate a dream. We may not have learned the humility and joy felt in approaching the sacred. But we can still as individuals recognise that the forces behind nature and our own existence are special and potent. The great cycles of birth and death, or mating and reproduction are to be seen everywhere, and spring from eternal powers. To approach the fount of these with reverence is not irrational. To seek deeper understanding of your own life situation, your health, or your relationship with the whole, can still bring wonderful blessings and change.

To apply this yourself, the first step is to recognise that the unconscious processes of your own mind and body, of your transcendent self, are not like a machine into which you can drop a coin or press a button and out pops a can of coke. The unconscious can be helpfully likened to a person. It is intelligent, responsive, is moved by meaningful communication and relatedness. To gain the help of this potent power in yourself, you need its co-operation.

The second step is to remember your dreams and see if they are already dealing with the subject you want information on. It may be your unconscious has other things that need attention first. So think around the question you want answered. Recognise the feelings surrounding the question. A frivolous question that does not connect with the important issues of your life will not easily get the attention of your unconscious. The more important the question is either for your own welfare or work, the more likely it is your unconscious will explore the issue and present a response in a dream.

When you have a reasonable respect for what you are approaching, define your question. Write it carefully as a letter to your unconscious and place it under your pillow. Expect a reply as you would expect a response from a good friend. Your unconscious is your best and loving friend. It knows you intimately as no one else does. When you wake, pause and let any dream flow into awareness. Record it immediately in some way. Then explore it as suggested in the sections above in The Dream Interview and Be Your Own Dream Detective. If you do not get a response the first time try again.

See Dreams – Practical Techniques to explore their meaning – Being the Person or Thing – Opening to Life



[i] One of the most beautiful of surviving shrines to Aesculapius is at Epidaurus. It was built in the fifth century BC. Such centres were often of great size, and the one at Epidaurus took about 150 years to complete.


-David Low 2017-07-25 21:53:53

A great article advocating modern dream incubation in a roundabout way.

    -Tony Crisp 2017-07-28 9:55:43

    Thanks David.


-christy ib 2016-11-04 7:58:31

i dreamt that in a plane sitting at the cockpit beside the pilot and it wasn’t moving faster and i changed my position and sat beside the window , there was heat and we are complaining i noticed that the was still moving on the land along with vehicles

-theresacarnley 2015-07-01 15:46:21

it’s amazing how long ago they recorded the dreams and their beliefs .of the dreams meaning.

-Jeanne Reed 2014-09-04 5:33:51

I have never heard of the term “dream incubation” although 24 years ago I did write a question on paper and placed it under my pillow. I had been recording dreams for quite some time at that point. I received a very vivid, to the point answer to my question.

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