C. S. Lewis on Dreams
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
September 1, 1996
C.S. Lewis on Dreams
by Kathryn Lindskoog
Like many children, C. S. Lewis suffered from nightmares; his were often about giant insects. Like many creative writers, Lewis continued to have an active dream life and took an interest in it. He likened the pruning and polishing of creative ideas from his unconscious to waking evaluation of dreams. Some elements from his dreams found their way into his fiction; for example, he had a series of dreams about lions just before he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
In 1939 he stated in "The Personal Heresy" that everything that is real is a real something, although it may not be what it pretends to be. "What pretends to be a crocodile may be a (real) dream; what pretends at the breakfast table to be a dream may be a (real) lie"
Like many authors, Lewis set some of his fiction in dreams. He did so in The Pilgrim's Regress, told as a dream about John. There Lewis described a dream within a dream. In The Great Divorce, readers aren't told until the end that the story was just a dream. Lewis also placed dreams in his fiction. Dreams of various characters played important parts in his science-fiction trilogy, his Narnian Chronicles, and Till We Have Faces.
Lewis sometimes described his dreams in his diary. For example, on 1 February 1923 he had a nightmare that turned out to be precognitive about the event that would trigger "The Most Substantial People." He took an interest in dreams of friends and relatives, and he used to tell them his in letters. Some of the accounts are memorable, such the one about Lewis's dream that he was on the moon.
Lewis was well aware of Freudian dream interpretation, but after a strong initial interest in Freud in early adulthood, he discounted much of Freud's theorizing.
He never lost his interest in dreams. In the last book he ever wrote, Letters to Malcolm, he reflected, "A dream ceases to be an illusion as soon as we wake. It is a real dream, and it may also be instructive."