This chapter examines the cross-cultural religious phenomenon of prophetic visions in dreams. The widespread occurrence of these kinds of visually intense, future-oriented dreams has prompted both positive and negative attention from religious authorities throughout history. This chapter looks at prophetic vision in the context of scientific research on big dreams. The discussion includes a detailed case study (Perpetua, a young Christian woman in second-century C.E. Carthage who kept a dream diary while awaiting execution in a Roman coliseum), references to other religious traditions around the world, and theories from cognitive science and the psychology of religion. Special attention is given to the power of visual imagery in certain kinds of religious experience. The chapter argues that religions are naturally drawn to the anticipatory powers of dreaming, in which the human mind’s natural capacities for forethought are boosted by the brain’s innate tendency to generate spontaneous visionary experiences during sleep.
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