Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Dream diagnosis that left a scar

Our dreams tell us what is going on inside our bodies. This can help us avoid medical problems. When we do have a problem, our dreams can be a reliable source of diagnosis. Here is Janice’s story of a dream that helped to alert her and her doctor to a problem he had missed:

When I was in my late twenties. I went to the doctor for my annual check up. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health. The night after my visit to his office, I had the following dream:


I am screaming at the doctor, “I told you to check my arm. Now, look! You had to cut it off.” As I’m screaming at the doctor, I am looking at my right arm which has been cut off above the elbow. My arm is wrapped in gauze.

Upon waking from my dream, I had a very troubling, heavy feeling that I could not shake off. I immediately called my doctor and told him – not a request – that I would be coming in that very day to have him check my right arm. He insisted that I was fine. I told him about my dream, and insisted that no matter what I was coming in to see him.

When I got to the office my doctor checked my arm. After examining my arm the doctor said, “You know, your arm doesn’t look right.” There was a slight purplish hue to a part of my skin, the size of mosquito bite. The doctor suggested that I see a surgeon. I went to the surgeon who decided to remove the little bump. The little bump however, turned out to be a tumor the size of a very large green grape that was hidden deep under my skin. The tumor had begun to change and, fortunately, it was fully encapsulated when removed.


I have a scar on my right arm an inch above the elbow, at exactly the place where my arm had been cut off in my dream. I’m grateful for that scar, because it is a daily reminder of the importance of paying attention to dreams.

I look forward to the day when our doctors are schooled to look to dreams, along with other resources, for diagnosis of complaints, as they were in the ancient world.

Aristotle noted that the most successful physicians paid close attention to their patients’ dreams. Throughout the Hippocratic corpus – the large body of ancient medical texts attributed to Hippocrates, the great early physician from whom the oath of our medical profession is derived – the diagnostic value of dreams is recognized again and again. The author of the Hippocratic treatise On Regimen [fourth century BCE] tracks dreams that foreshadow physical symptoms and reveal their progress. He maintains that in sleep “the soul becomes its own mistress” and is able to tour its bodily residence without distractions. In the morning, it leaves the dreamer some pictures from its nightly tours. To read the diagnostic meaning of these souvenirs, we need to recognize that inside the body is a whole world. Thus earth, in a dream, may represent the body as a whole. A river may be the blood, a tree (for a man) or a spring (for a woman) the reproductive system.


Second only to Hippocrates, Galen (128-210) was the most important person in the rise of Western medicine. As he recorded medical case histories, Galen paid close attention to the appearances of the god Asklepios in diagnosing and prescribing for different ailments, and in facilitating direct healing. He was in no way superstitious. It would have been irrational, from his perspective, not to work with a friendly god who could fix the parts other medicine could not reach – and demonstrated this again and again. The surviving text of Galen’s essay On Diagnosis from Dreams shows his no-nonsense approach. He explains that dreams can provide accurate diagnosis because during sleep the soul travels inside the body and checks out what is going on.

Notes on dream diagnosis in ancient Greek medicine are adapted from my Secret History of Dreaming (New World Library, 2009).

  • Wanda Burch

    As most people who know me, know, I dreamed my diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequently my dreams provided imagery I used in the healing process. My story is not an unusual one – it is an ancient one, repeated again and again in testimony and historic journals as just chronicled by Robert in his brief history of physicians recommending that physicians pay attention to their patents’ dreams. In several of my dreams I saw what doctors and scientists see on x-rays [in one a compass of stars] or the way cells act and re-act in the body – a number of dreams defining cellular structure as imagery. There have been dreamers on Robert’s Spirituality and Health dream forum reporting dreams of cellular structure. These dreams have proved important in their healing.
    I currently read science proposals as a breast cancer peer reviewer and often wonder why physicians do not immediately see the link between science, imagery, and dreams. Amidst the formulas and complicated language of the proposals, metaphors form that have the potential for imagery. In a recent proposal the word “targeted” was used in conjunction with the discussion of a “sac” that would have the ability to “entice” and “draw” toward it the tumor cells where they could be contained and destroyed. Like the simple imaginative stories told by Aesop, a good physician could describe this scene in such a way that the patient’s imaginal process could take over – aided I suspect by great dream intent – and produce an imaginal story that could be used in the healing process. Dreams see what we do not and provide imagery for healing. If the physician can describe in metaphor to the patient what he sees under the microscope – can you imagine the power of combining the patient’s dream with the visual reality of the science!

  • Robert Moss

    Wanda – Thanks for charting a path for an aspect of dream medicine that is at least as important as dream diagnosis – the harvesting and application of the right images for healing. Dreams are a fabulous source of healing imagery. We know that when something is given to us in a dream, it is personal and timely.

  • bird

    I just heard from a close friend in France whose grown daughter has a mysterious (and serious) autoimmune disease. The doctors don’t know what it is or how to treat it. It’s been years already, and still no diagnosis. I wonder if asking for a diagnosis in a dream would help this family.

  • Robert Moss

    Wendy – Surely it could do no harm to try. I’m thinking now of a woman whose doctors could not agree on a diagnosis of her symptoms until a wolf appeared to her in a dream and told her, “My name is Lupus. Tell the doctors.” That story is recounted in my book THE THREE “ONLY” THINGS. Not only did the dream diagnosis prove to be spot-on; the dream wolf reappeared later as an ally in imaginal healing.

  • Janice

    Hi, Robert,
    This is a very important message that needs to be shared with medical professionals.

  • Savannah

    That’s such a powerful and instructive story, thank you so much for sharing it Janice… I agree it’s hugely important to get the message out to medical professionals, and anyone. One of the more powerful diagnostic dream I recall involves a massive army of wasps in military uniform invading my home and dropping bags of toxic looking grapes in “nuclear” green and red to the floor. The dream, which occurred a few months prior to flu season, felt like both a global and personal warning, possibly of a respiratory infection (the point of entry being the kitchen windows). There are other aspects of that dream left to be explored but after working with the dream elements in the imaginal space I weathered the winter with no more than a minor cold. The warning was strong enough that left unattended I suspect things might have looked far worse – I suppose it would be difficult to produce hard evidence to that effect since the dream never manifested as such though I’ll be happy to keep it that way…

  • Janice

    Hi, Savannah,
    Yes, I agree, to be shared with everyone, as well.

  • Robert Moss

    Janice – Yes, we do want to get the word out, to medical professionals, and to dreamers everywhere.

  • Robert Moss

    Savannah – Better than a dream diagnosis that is later confirmed in the doctor’s office is a dream advisory that enables us to take action to avoid manifesting an unwanted symptom, even though this may not produce evidence of the diagnostic power of dreams. Similarly, a dream of an unwanted possible future event that we are able to avoid by taking appropriate action based on the dream advisory cannot be cited as an example of precognition, but is something better.
    We dream for ourselves and for others, and for the world. Sometimes, as in your dream of the army of wasp invaders during the run-up to flu season, an advisory seems to be both personal and global. As those ancient Greek dream diagnosticians noted, the world in a dream may be the world of the body. Since dreams are multi-layered and we are all connected, it may also be the world.

  • Jana

    I love working with my dreams and their meanings and messages. I find it can be difficult to help people do the same….many of my clients just don’t bother or say they remember them however don’t write them down or really take a look at them. I have healed myself in some wonderful and amazing ways through my dreams. They have also helped me make some big decisions and have some shown many things yet to come!!

  • david Pierce

    Wonderful piece, Robert, thanks. For about ten years I’ve maintained a public forum at my Lilli Pierce and the Big Trip BBS called, “The Asklepian Wave.” I’ve long been fascinated by the Asklepion at the Temples of Asklepios, not only because they allowed one to find answers in dreams, but because they provided sanctuary from the rest of the world, avoiding politics and strife – a safe and caring atmosphere in which one might feel secure enough to be able to relax, and simply dream. Our modern sleeping clinics are scientifically focused, studying sleeping disorders or else following La Berge’s work on lucid dreaming. How nice it would be if some nonprofit were to actually establish a modern-day Asklepion. I suppose The Monroe Institute might partially qualify, except they require participants to listen to all sorts of piped-in brainwave-entrainment music, and I’m not sure if the role of the facilitators there compare in any way to that of the priests at the temple (I have never been to THI so I don’t really know).

  • Robert Moss

    Jana – You may want to offer those clients who are undergoing a dream drought some of the practical suggestions I detail in my previous post “How to Break a Dream Drought.”, whichj you’ll find here –

  • Robert Moss

    David – That’s an excellent suggestion. We’ve created a latter-day version of the Asklepian temple of dream healing in some of my retreats, but only for the duration of those retreats. I do believe that the permanent Asklepeion you envision will be created in the right place and time. Some of our active dreamers have brought back rather detailed descriptions of it, but we’re not ready to make those public as yet.

  • Janice

    Hi, Robert,
    What is also interesting in medical dreams is when one is given a specific name for treatment. Once, when I had been over medicated with antibiotics and needed to repair my digestive system, I dreamt of this word written very clearly on a black board: Floor Store.
    When I went to my doctor for discussion, after the dream, to balance my flora he gave me a product called: Flora Stor.
    So, dreams can give us very specific remedies!

  • Robert Moss

    Janice – Finding Flora Stor in the dream Floor Store is a marvelous example of how our dream doctor can produce a specific Rx. Thanks for inspiring us to be open to more such messages.

  • David Pierce

    Robert, when you and the active dreamers are in a position to share ideas about creating an Asklepion-type environment, I would be interested in knowing more. My wife and I run a nonprofit called Friends Along the Road, dedicated to providing sanctuary and caring support for those in grief. Currently we are practicing and teaching Sanctuary Anywhere – the idea that sometimes, the best thing one can do for those in grief is make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible, and simply be present for them, so they have the time and place to grieve on their own terms; this can be done just about anywhere, including the grocery, in school, in a restaurant, in the park, in church or prison, wherever. Our long-term plans, though, are to establish physical sanctuaries in which those in grief may stay or live and be able to grieve on their own terms, without being pressured to “get over it.” In the prime FAR Sanctuary, of which my wife and I hope to be live-in directors, we envision a kind of miniature Asklepion as one of the facilities. So anything your group might care to share on this topic could be of importance to our bereavement work. Let’s be in touch about this, if you are of a mind to be, and time permitting.

  • Robert Moss

    David – I like the idea of “Sanctuary Anywhere”. We need to take the help and guidance that is needed to people where they live. I’m not currently involved in bricks-and-mortar plans, and will probably avoid adding this to my small to-do list. But I will be writing more – including in a new book now in the works – about how we can create precincts of healing in the Asklepian mode.

  • David Pierce

    I am now drafting an article about our concept for Sanctuary Anywhere to be published in weeklies and small newspapers throughout Southern Colorado, Eastern Texas, and Western Louisianna. Robert, I look forward to reading your book when it comes out. It is not brick-and-mortar guidance that I am seeking from your dream/teamwork, but rather ideas on creating sanctuary of a sort that would enable dreamwork – something that would make the most appropriate use of space/place and approach, and work harmoniously within the guidelines for sanctuary that we have developed for FAR, available for viewing in our Values and Vision list at Perhaps you could give some thought to such ideas as your work progresses. -Dave

  • Donna Sunshine

    I’ve had experience with the Physician in the dream space on two occasions. First was to tell me I had breast cancer which I followed up by going to my doctor. Being only 38yrs old she didn’t want to expose me to a mammogram. I would not get dressed until she sent me, so she agreed to an ultra sound, which lead to a mammogram. Two weeks later she received a report from a surgeon recommending a bi-lateral mastectomy. Had I not listened to my body and my dreams, I would have crossed over within two years.
    The second dream came in March of ’95. I was attending a Kenny Chesney concert at a fairgrounds, but instead of him performing, his sister performed. She was singing the chorus of a song while looking at me, then said the chorus while walking over to me, then repeated it again and asked if I understood what she meant.
    I said yes, but really didn’t. You were there and when I looked at you, you cocked your head stating I’d best heed her warning. The words to the chorus were “In order for any and all healing to take place, the lymph nodes must be clear.”
    Having had cancer before myself, I though it was a warning for me, but doing a body scan of myself and having the dream school journey on this, I learned it wasn’t for me, so I let it go. A few months later my son was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He underwent chemo and his lymph nodes are clear.

  • Robert Moss

    Donna – Thanks for sharing these powerful and moving experiences of dream diagnosis. The second message brings out the fact that we dream for others as well as ourselves, and sometimes need to think carefully about who such a message is for.

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