“A man had two dreams in the same night. In the first, he found himself in familiar surroundings imbued with a sinister aspect. As the mood of the dream darkened, so did the lights dim, until at last he could scarcely see at all, despite all his attempts with light switches, flashlights, and match sticks. Then the voice of the devil came to him from the shadows, questioning the sincerity of his faith, tempting him into the performance of dark deeds, threatening him with damnation. Terrified, he called upon the name of Jesus, the devil fled into deeper darkness, and the man awoke, sweating and frightened.
“Later, the same dream came to him again. But this time, when the devil approached him and he called out the name of Jesus, it seemed to the man that he had not spoken at all. Unfazed, the great liar sowed his confusions, the tempter proffered his wares, the lion threatened to devour. The man persisted, calling out the name of Jesus to no avail, until the man started awake, more frightened than before.
“Which of the dreams emerged from the man’s interior world, the dreamscape manifestation of his own hopes and fears, and which found its source beyond the man, in the realm of the spirit?"
The students glanced at each other, unprepared for such a question. Each thought, is this any way to begin a lecture? Have I wandered into the wrong class? But, having won the opportunity to sit at the feet of this man of great reputation, they would not abandon it so easily.
The first student to respond said, “The first dream emerged from within the man, since it represents the wishful thinking of a man desiring power. The invocation of the name of Jesus granted him the power he craved, and thus the desire was fulfilled. The second dream must represent cold external reality, since if there was an evil force in the world personified as Satan, why would the mention of its nemesis halt its power? Why would the man's inner world deny him that power?”
The second student countered, “No, the reverse is true. The first dream represents authentic contact with the supernatural. By his invoking the name of Jesus, the power of the devil flees, as was the promise of Jesus as recorded in the Scriptures and what the Christian believes is true. The second dream represents the conflictions of his own mind, since the fear opposing his limited faith overpowers it, rendering it useless in a dream of his own construction.”
Finally, after a reflective pause, the third student spoke, “It is clear that the framing of the question sets up an invalid either/or choice. There is too much subjectivity in the question to allow for such an analytical—in fact, digital—answer. There are no answers to such questions, and therefore the question is useless, except as the narrative experience of false abstraction.”
Each of the students awaited the professor’s evaluation, each certain that he had offered the most thoughtful answer. The professor gathered up his notes and walked across the room to the door. He said, “Come back tomorrow when you have discovered why you are here," and closed the door behind him.