New Religions (Dream Revelations)(dreams)
New religions and sects are constantly coming into being. How, one might ask, does the founder of a new religious movement legitimate his or her new vision? The claim, quite often, is that the founder has received a direct revelation from divinity. The earliest models for this kind of authoritative claim are the various manifestations of Yahweh in the Hebrew Scriptures in which he sets forth the terms of the covenant, most dramatically and elaborately in the revelation to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Some new revelations begin in dreams or in dreamlike trances.
The prophet Muhammad, for instance, received the first revelation of the Qur’an during the holy month of Ramadan while he was sleeping in a mountaintop cave. Also significant was the Prophet’s “Night Journey,” a dream in which he received a revelation of his mission. Many of the new religions to arise among American Indians in response to Euro-American incursions began with revelations in dreamlike trances. For example, Wovoka, the prophet of the Ghost Dance of 1890 (a group dance of a messianic cult believed to promote the return of the dead and the restoration of traditional ways of life), experienced his initial revelation when he fell into a trance and received a revelation in a dream vision.
Because many cultures make little or no distinction between visions and divine message dreams, it is often difficult to determine whether a particular new revelation began in a dream or in a vision during wakefulness. This indicates that there is some intangible quality that waking visions share with dreams.