Since the pioneering work of Carl Jung, ancient and modern dreams have been recognised as having not only personal
meanings for the dreamer, but also social and cultural meanings for the dreamer’s community (Jung 1974). Social psychologist,
Domhoff, criticised the Jungian dream interpretation model for not eliminating ‘the possible influence of socialization and
culture in the personal, therapeutic, and cross-cultural anecdotes on which it is based’ (2003:144). It is precisely the social, cultural and religious contexts that will be analysed in this innovative project. It seeks to cross traditional boundaries between the disciplines of history, social psychology, studies of religion, and Classical studies, which have traditionally operated in isolation from each other in Australian and UK scholarship, although not in the United States, as shown by the trail-blazing work of Cox Miller (1994), Mavroudi (2002) and Noegel (2007). The innovation of the project lies in its application of a range of theoretical approaches to ancient dream interpretation, including neurocognitive development, anthropology, gender studies and literary criticism. These theoretical approaches allow us to uncover both the personal and cultural meanings of dreams, through the analysis of dream interpretations in ancient literature from various religious standpoints.
The project’s two main aims (to uncover continuities in dream theory and its application from its roots in Judaism and Classical Antiquity, through early Christianity to the rise of Islam; and to discover how dreams and visions were used as tools of religious control and to justify violence against other religions) are also novel and innovative, as is its major anticipated outcome: to produce the first study of dreams and their cultural significance in religious contexts from the rise of Christianity to the rise of Islam. Its secondary outcome, a better understanding of the historical use of dreams to legitimise religious violence, and its relevance to modern religious conflict, is perhaps the most innovative aspect of the project.