Monday, January 11, 2010

Dreams and Spiritual Growth

Like many, I've been fascinated by dreams and what significance, if any, they play in our waking life. Some see them as "brain farts" while others (myself included) see them as messages from God. Before you immediately leave this site, consider that this is also what the Biblical writers thought as well.

I was helped to understand the importance of dreams when I was introduced to the writings of the great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung while I was in college. Here's a photo of that old sage on the right. I felt an immediate connection to the themes in his books. I liked Jung's stress on the spiritual, and on the second half of one's life, and these themes rang true to my own experiences. There were many parallels between what Jung was speaking about and my own Christian experience, although Jung used a secular language. Later, while in seminary, I had the opportunity to study Jung's thought more seriously. There we were encouraged to read the writings of both Jung and Freud. And I wrote papers on Jung's Answer to Job (1958), Psychology and Religion (1938) and of course Dreams (1974). Later, as a social worker, I read more about Jung, and became familiar with several writers who popularized Jung's ideas including Joseph Campbell, John Sanford, Morton Kelsey, and Robert Johnson. 

One never escape dreams. They pop up at the most unusual times and places. And I am not just speaking about my own personal dreams either. I remember thinking, as I read the lives of several of the Celtic saints, how dreams were common for them, and how they took them seriously. St. Patrick's dreams are probably the best known in the Celtic tradition, yet there are plenty of other examples. And come to think of it, this is what one would expect, as it is in keeping with the Biblical tradition-dreams are positive messages from God which need to be interpreted. Jung, put it this way, "dreams are communion every night". I love that quote because it captures the incredible splendor and beauty which dreams often take. All that is required is the attempt to understand.

I've been part of a dream group for almost two years now, and love having the opportunity to share some of my own dreams with the group, and to hear their feedback, or amplification of my dream. In addition, I benefit from having the opportunity to hear their dream as well. Dreams groups are often located in churches, and are located across the country. Here's a link to find if there is group located near you. If your interested in finding out the meaning to your own dreams, check out some of Kelsey's and  Sanford's books. They are great places to start. You can't go wrong with and Dreams and Spiritual Growth by Louis Savory (1984), or Johnson's Innerwork (1989).

Many churches across the country have weekly dream groups. This is based on the work of Joyce Rockwood Hudson, and you can find a list of church across the country which have dreams groups by clicking here. They also produce a wonderful journal The Rose which has many interesting articles, and lists of church dreams groups located nationwide. If you're looking for something more in depth, and want some formal training, you can check out the Hayden Institute located in Hendersonville, NC. For those who live in Hawaii, there are several dreams groups available. Just drop me an email, and I'll get back with you.

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