For the entirety of our history, there are those who have reported encounters with figures such as angels, demons, Gods, aliens, extra dimensional beings, the virgin Mary, and many others who’s form ends up having a strong correlation with the person who reports the encounter’s cultural upbringing.
We who are aware of the effects of sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and hypnagogic imagery recognize the symptoms and encounters for what they are very easily. In a typical case, an individual reports encountering an oddly tiny figure, perhaps three of four feet tall, which moves through walls. The individual is unable to move, and when the encounter is over, there is a message of insight left with the person to impart to everyone else. These insights, ironically enough are not other worldly but predictably within that person’s cultural context and scope of knowledge. During the height of the catholic church’s power in Europe, when apparitions of church and biblical figures was extremely prevalent there were never any warnings about accepting the delusion of an Earth-centered universe. There was never a warning against the church’s future complicity with Nazi Germany — a matter of considerable moral as well as historical import. To his credit, Pope John Paul II eventually admitted that the church had erred.
Perhaps it sounds as if I am dismissing the idea that these encounters actually happen completely. I do not believe that they do, because they are more easily explained by what we know to be dream cycle occurrences — but if it turns out to be that there is more evidence in the future, then a change of mind would of course be in order. There is also much personal insight that one can gain through these encounters and their meanings can be very helpful when interpreted in the context of what they actually are. It is very easy to get carried away and then led astray for days, months, perhaps years in a direction that leads to self deception and wishful thinking.
There are those who in spite of the information of what the dream cycle does to the human mind and body, believe that what happens in dreams actually happens in our shared external reality. G. Scott Sparrow is a psychotherapist and hypnotist — of Jesus. In I Am With You Always: True Stories of Encounters with Jesus, first hand accounts both moving and banal are laid out. Most of them are straightforward dreams and acknowledged as such, but for Sparrow any being you dream of, any incident, really happened in the outside world. In other words, he denies the fact that dreams are purely subjective. If the dream felt goodand elicited wonder, why then it really happened. What if a pregnant woman dreamed that Jesus told her to have an abortion? What if her husband dreamed that Jesus told him that his wife should not have an abortion? More than the problem that arises out of contradictory claims that come out of each dream being connected to our external reality, the claims may also contradict that person’s own holy scriptures and countless others which do not belong to them.