I am always surprised when people tell me that they cannot read in dreams. They may look at text or inscriptions, but then find that they cannot stabilize or recall what they were viewing. There are research studies supporting the notion that reading is not an oneiric ability.
Such reports and studies bemuse me, because I read even more in dreams than in regular life, and often manage to bring back a good deal. Sometimes I am assisted by an inner voice that speaks the words as I read them. To recover more than a few scraps of a text, I am often required to go back inside a dream and re-read the whole thing. I typically do this in a state of relaxed attention, lying on the bed with a pad and pencil in hand, jotting down what I read as I go through the pages or panels in a state of conscious or lucid dreaming.
I have difficulty with languages that I do not know, or do not know well, but again that inner voice is there to assist me. Once I read a ribbon-like scroll in Hebrew and was given the inner translation:
Fear is falling down, awe is standing up, in the presence of the powers.
I read this dream text in the midst of one of my shamanic retreats. A member of the gathering, who is both a physician and a Kabbalist, explained to me, when he heard my report, that in Hebrew the word yira [יראה] can mean either "fear" or "awe".
Similarly, an inner voice will translate walls of hieroglyphs, tablets in cuneiform, parchments in Latin or Old English.
The most profound spiritual dialogue of my life began when I re-entered a dream from which I had awakened, in cool moonlight, in a cabin by a lake in Vermont. In the dream, I had been lunching with a mysterious and elegant couple. As I left the scene, an old friend rushed up to remind me that I needed to record everything, and should look inside a large manila envelope for instructions.
Lying on my bed, I sent my second self back into the restaurant. I opened the envelope and read a newsapaper cutting that announced that "The Prince and Princess of Fars Are Traveling Abroad". With the clipping was a list of 20 questions I was supposed to put to these visitors from the land of Rumi and Suhrawardi.
I sat my second self down at the table and read the questions one by one. They were all about soul and its peregrinations. "What is the nature of exile?" I read. Next question: "What are the conditions for return?" The answers fill many pages of my journal.
On another occasion, I dreamed I had received a telegram from my favorite dead professor. I brought back a couple of sentences. These were enough to take me back inside the dream, in my dream reentry, to capture the rest. The full contents of the telegram gave me beautiful postmortem reflections in a familiar voice on afterlife possibilities and the connections between personalities living in different times.
Sometimes, in dreams, I read books by authors I know. Some of these are books that have been published in the regular world; others appear to be books that exist in another reality. I especially enjoy reading books of my own that I have not yet completed, or even embarked on, in ordinary reality. It's a grand trick for a writer, to be able to bring through pages of a book that already exists, in the Dream Library, and turn it into something that others can read, in the ordinary world.