Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Dreaming like an Egyptian

posted by Robert Moss


The ancient Egyptians understood that in dreams, our eyes are opened. Their word for dream, rswt, is etymologically connected to the root meaning “to be awake”. It was written with a symbol representing an open eye.

The Egyptians believed that the gods speak to us in dreams. As the Bible story of Joseph and Pharaoh reminds us, they paid close attention to dream messages about the possible future. They practiced dream incubation for guidance and healing at temples and sacred sites. They understood that by recalling and working with dreams, we develop the art of memory, tapping into knowledge that belonged to us before we entered this life journey, and awakening to our connection with other life experiences.

The Egyptians also developed an advanced practice of conscious dream travel. Trained dreamers operated as seers, remote viewers and telepaths, advising on affairs of state and military strategy and providing a mental communications network between far-flung temples and administrative centers. They practiced shapeshifting, crossing time and space in the dreambodies of birds and animals.

Through conscious dream travel, ancient Egypt’s “frequent flyers” explored the roads of the afterlife and the multidimensional universe. It was understood that true initiation and transformation takes place in a deeper reality accessible through the dream journey beyond the body. A rightful king must be able to travel between the worlds.

In early times, in the heb sed festival, conducted in pharaoh’s thirtieth year, the king was required to journey beyond the body, and beyond death, to prove his worthiness to continue on the throne. Led by Anubis, pharaoh descended to the Underworld. He was directed to enter death, “touch the four sides of the land”, become Osiris, and return in new garments – the robe and the spiritual body of transformation.

Jeremy Naydler’s Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts makes a convincing case that the palace tombs and pyramid texts of Egypt are about much, much more than funerary arrangements; that the Egyptians traveled beyond the gates of death while very much alive, not only to bring back first-hand knowledge of the afterlife, but to enter into sacred union with the gods and enthrone their power in the body, and so acquire the spiritual and sexual potency to marry the worlds.

The dream guides of ancient Egypt knew that the dream journey may take the traveler to the stars – specifically to Sothis or Sirius, the “moist land” believed by Egyptian initiates to be the source of higher consciousness, the destination of advanced souls after death, and the home of higher beings who take a close interest in Earth matters.

When we look for ancient sources on all of this, we are challenged to decode fragmentary texts, some collated over many centuries by pious scribes who jumbled together material from different traditions and rival pantheons.  Wallis Budge complained (in Osiris) that “the Egyptian appears never to have relinquished any belief which he once had”. We won’t find what we need on the practice of ancient Egyptian dreaming in the fragmentary “dream books” that survive, any more than we’ll grasp what dreaming can be from the kind of dream dictionary you can buy in drugstores today.

We gaze in wonder at the Egyptian picture-books displaying the soul’s journeys and ordeals after death – and the many different aspects of soul energy that survive death – and quickly realize that to understand the source of such visions, and the accuracy of such maps, we must go into a deeper space. We must go to the Magic Library.

In Hellenistic times – the age of Cleopatra – dream schools flourished in the temples of Serapis, a god who melds the qualities of Osiris and Apis, the divine bull. From the 2nd century BCE we have papyri recording the dream diaries of Ptolemaios, who lived for many years in katoche, or sacred retreat, in the temple of Serapis at Memphis. A short biography of the dreamer has been published by the French scholar Michel Chauveau in his book Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra. Ptolemaios was the son of Macedonian colonists, but like ancient Egyptians he was called to the temple by a dream in which the god appeared to him. He seems to have lived for years as a full-time dreamer, whose dreams guided him not only in his spiritual practice but in handling family and business matters beyond the temple walls.

In this later period, the Egyptian priests who specialized in dreaming were called the Learned Ones of the Magic Library. What marvelous promise is in that phrase! What profound recognition of the magic and wisdom that is available to us through dreaming!


Horemheb in the company of the gods – image via flickr


  • Nina

    Egyptian initiation into deeper reality…, it´s a beautiful and very broad topic, resonating in almost every preserved fragment of their magnificient ancient culture.
    I can´t find the source of the exact information but I vividly recollect the first part of Paul Brunton´s description of his night spent in the initiation chamber of the Egyptian pyramide. Before he was introduced to more profound levels within, he and mainly his nerves went through an enormous trial when visited by the most hidious creatures. At that time they symbolized for me the lower parts of our beeing which need to be overcome or better integrated before we are allowed to touch the most sacred in us. Like facing our own demons that during the dreamtime may seem so real, but once they are openly faced and resisted, vanish like thesmoke.
    Thank you very much for this great post and a marvellous picture although one feels almost overwhelmed by their deep knowledge.

  • casoul

    Robt, WOW factor here!(no patronizing) Gratitude is appropriate yet insignificant when it comes to your contributions to Humanity. Honoring is a better saluation…Ahhhhhh So rich is your knowledge across time and cultures. You are a true Master Dream Weaver Wizard plus, understated for sure. It be wonderful to peer into your childhood! Also there must be a lineage in your ancesty physical and/or spiritual that avails you to this knowledge(Akashic?). I/We are so fortunate to be able to access your shared “magic”. You must travel alot for many reasons, but somehow there is a fast current that you ride your magic carpet on!(Ha Ha).Your life would give Harry Potter a run for his magic! The Egyptian Magic Library, with its Learned Way Priests and the novice initiates searching for the guiding light across other worlds…
    Your shared insightes are manna manifested from Heaven(even that is a limited interpretation)but your teaching are like the most exquisite food I have ever tasted; soul satisfying. Many Blessings ~casoul

  • casoul

    RM Just a post script to my reaction to your Dreaming like an Egyptian. “Katoche”;secret retreat in temple at Memphis…This calls out to me to explore in dreamstates. I can see You with an Egyptian head ornament, a curved staff and in Egyptian garb…you know us neophites, projecting, but it feels real!…Then my mind went to how coffee and other sensory activators can activates/open pathways to awakened senses and awakened dreaming…~casoul

  • casoul

    Last post on Katoche: enlightenment:I just discovered; Katoche was a special group among the therapentai “the private helpers of Seraphis” but not slaves of the god. The Katoche were not slaves, but initiates that had to be released out of detention. This info is poignant in that we as initiates are detained out of choice thru this course of Conscious Dreaming to be liberated under your guidance…Ancient returning across time and space…The jewel in your crown is a beakon that is activating our internal compasses ~ Will there be a ceramony in December as the year ends and the new year begins? Do you know the the healing sound chambers of Sakara?~casoul

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Nina – Yes, the Egyptian collective belief territories are indeed full of fearsome gatekeepers and dwellers at the threshold, that must be faced and mastered before you get to the good stuff.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/ Robert Moss

    Casoul – Certainly a katochos in the Serapeum was not a slave. He was “bound” by a religious obligation laid on him by the god in a dream, and it seems that a further sacred dream was required to secure his release. Let’s remember that the cult of Serapis arrived in Alexandria because of a dream (of Ptolemy Soter) and then spread to become the preferres personal religion of Roman emperors in the age of the Antonines.I describe the personal experience of dreaming with Serapis – based on the dream-inspired Sacred Tales of Aelius Aristides – in the chapter titled “The Angel That Troubles the Waters” in my SECRET HISTORY OF DREAMIING. Thanks for your enthusiasm and questing mind!

  • Pingback: | Dream Encyclopedia | dreamhawk.com

  • http://www.about-ancient-egypt.com Ancient Egypt

    Ancient Egypt is a fascinating culture. The more I read about it, the more interesting it is. They were very advanced for their time. Thank you for this great article on their beliefs regarding dreams.

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