“[The student’s] dreams, hitherto confused and haphazard, now begin to assume a more regular character. … He can discern in them law, cause, and effect. The content, too, of his dreams is changed. … There now appears before him pictures of a world he has hitherto not known. … Dreams are distinguished from waking mental activity by the symbolic presentation of what they wish to express. … The more regulated dreams of esoteric students whose etheric body has began its development retain this symbolic method of representation. … They are mingled with similar pictures expressing things and events of another world. … Yet no true mystic will ever make his experiences in dreams the basis of any authoritative account of the higher world.” ~Rudolf Steiner
There are several kinds of dreams. First, we have to distinguish night dreams from day dreams.
In daydreaming, there is essentually two kinds. The most common is just allowing the mind to wander off subject, such as when you are sitting in a boring class. The other type is where you get a sudden glimpse of something. It may be a warning of something that is about to happen. Or it may be that thoughts of someone nearby triggered it. Since they may be warnings, they should not be ignored. Of course, if you standing on dry land, and get a flash of yourself drowning, you don’t need to grab a life vest. It is either a warning of a future event, or a symbolic representation of something.
Nighttime dreams are even more complicated. There significance can change depending on when they happen, what you had to eat in the evening, and what state of mind you were in when you went to sleep.
Dreams that happen in the middle of the night are usually about the present time. They may be a warning about something you are not aware of, or they may be trying to answer a problem you have. For example, you may have a health issue beginning to develop in you that you are not aware of. The dream may be trying to warn of that. Unfortunately, it will probably do so in symbolic fashion that may be difficult to understand. Having a good dream dictionary is always a good idea.
The dreams you have just before waking are usually the most significant. They are often about the future and are likely to be prophetic. They may be warnings, or just general guidance. They are almost always symbolic rather than literal. A dream about death, for example, is usually not a warning that you will soon die, but an indication of a significant change coming soon in your life.
If you don’t make use of your dreams, what they mean doesn’t matter. They are a valuable resource that shouldn’t be wasted. If you rarely remember you dreams, start telling yourself before you go to sleep that you will remember them. When you awaken with a dream in your mind, you need to record it quickly before it is lost. Some people keep a notepad to write them on. I found that didn’t work well for me because my writing in the dark was often illegible when I got up. So instead I keep a small digital recorder nearby to record them with.
While few of us can completely understand all of his dreams, it is worth the effort to try. Over the years, I have been warned of problems with myself, my house, and my pets by dreams. The trick is learning to understand what is symbolic and what is literal.