Accepted Paper:

Assessing the reality of dream images: a true-false quiz in New Guinea  


Roger Lohmann (Trent University)

Paper short abstract:

Particular dream images are often of uncertain ontological status for Asabano people, who rely on several methods and attendant theories to evaluate whether they are accurate or illusory, and what their source is. This promotes flexibility and agency in distinguishing true from false dreams.

Paper long abstract:

I describe how Asabano people decide which remembered dream sequences represent accurate perceptions of reality versus imaginary thoughts. One approach is judging whether an image matches local religious ideology—if it does, it may be deemed divine and therefore accurate or predictive; if it does not, it may be attributed to a demon, and therefore considered deceitful. Another method is waiting to see if something similar to the dream scenario happens in the future—if it does, this indicates it was predictive and therefore revelatory. Many remembered dreams are of uncertain status, and dreamers may think about or discuss a particular dream's possible source or accuracy. When remembered dream images do not inspire the dreamer with interest or curiosity because of their confused, fragmentary, or dull content, they are usually regarded as meaningless thoughts. The methods used to evaluate the ontological status of particular dream sequences, and the cultural dream theories on which they are based, are multiple and changeable, enabling people to pick and choose whether certain dream vignettes are spiritual communications, sensory perceptions of wandering souls, mystical participation in spiritual perceptions, troubled thoughts deriving from indigestion, or personal thoughts and fanciful images. Indeed, they may be deemed as accurate or illusory predictions based on subsequent outcomes, without any theory being invoked at all. The lack of absolute certainty regarding the ontological status of any particular dream invites speculation, faith, and ongoing possibilities for reassessing the extent to which one's dreams represent reality.

Panel W074
Imprints of dreaming