Have you ever been just lying there, slightly more conscious than sleeping though not fully awake, and suddenly the answer to a puzzle or project you've been working on magically appears in your thoughts? This has happened to me on a number of occasions, and interestingly these occurrences have been more frequent lately while attending RIT than ever before that I can remember. Twice while working through projects for Interactive Digital Media, and once for a project for Technology Transfer, did a vision of what-to-build and how-to-build-it come to me by epiphany.
I awoke from a dream-in-progress by the telephone ringing. Though not completely awake, I was conscious enough to know that I was, in fact, awake and that the thoughts my mind had been engaged in just prior were indeed part of a dream. Thus set the stage for what I believe to be the sudden manifestation of the essence of dreams: dreams are merely play time for our subconscious-self while our conscious-self and higher-order cognitive processes rest. Furthermore, the images, memories, emotions and other experiential information we have stored in our brain become the 'building blocks' and 'toys' our minds play with... and here's the epiphany: there isn't much thought processing occuring during our dreams, just thought handling.
The epiphany was perceptible both analytically and emotionally: I actually felt that I had walked in on my subconscious and caught 'him' playing with my toys. It was also at that moment I realized, with a knowing grin, that although he was caught in the act, he was also unable to derive any meaning between the images, memories and emotions other than the experiential meaning stored with them. I perceived a distinct difference between the 2-dimensional objects he was playing with and their 3-dimensional meaning to my conscious-self. In other words, he had found my computer but didn't have the password!
I'm not sure if what I experienced has any relevance to fact, though at the time it was real enough to be able to articulate what I felt that I thought I had better write it all down. So there you have it.