‘Dreams and Spirituality’ : a triple 10 minutes interview with the editors

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep" William Shakespeare

In a time not too long ago, dreams were regarded as messages from God. Now society has become much more rational dreams are regarded as random neurological chatter of the brain. ‘Dreams and Spirituality’ a handbook for ministry, spiritual direction and counseling is a skeleton for anybody working with dreams. In the first place it is aimed at ministers and spiritual counsellors. But it is also a very useful guidebook for anyone who has encountered a dream about spirituality. Mindfunda talked with the three editors: Kate Adams, Bart Koet and Barbara Koning.


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Dr. Kate Adams is Reader at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, Lincolnshire.
Dr. Bart Koet is Ordinary Professor of New Testament and Extraordinary Professor of Early Christian Literature at the University of Tilburg.
Dr. Barbara Koning is a clinical psychologist of religion and spiritual director in the Netherlands. Her website is dreampilgrims.com.

“Explain all that” said Mock the Turtle. “No, no! The adventures first” said the Gryphon in an impatient tone: “explanation take such a dreadful time“.
Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland

This book is an outstanding attempt to analyse and categorize spirituality in dreams. But everyone who has ever had a Big Dream, a confrontation with his own spirituality, knows that the most important thing in such dreams is the adventure. To drift away in another realm of being, to reach beyond the limits of what you thought was possible. My own spiritual dreams, especially the lucid ones where I was researching God, or my concept of God are of such intensity that I am afraid of writing about them. Afraid because I can not find the right words to paint you the picture. So the best way to read this excellent book is to interpret it as an invitation into your own realm of spirituality.

The book is divided into three parts, with dream narratives used as an interlude . In that way, the book reads like a poem, or a symphony. Part one gives an outline of the multi-disciplinary points of departure. Part two dives into empirical data. Part three serves as a more practical guideline for pastoral workers.

Each part consists of a number of chapters written by authors like Bob Haden of the Haden Institute, Robert Hoss, the man who put colors in dreams back on the map, anthropologist Charles Laughlin, Rev. Geoff Nelson. it is an impressive set of names. This structure takes care that every aspect of spirituality is covered. In this Mindfunda I will jump through the book, cherry picking the best quotes.

Dreams and Spirituality – part one:

In the first part of the book: Multi-disciplinary points of departure  Bart Koet is one of the contributors. He outlines the view on dreams in the bible. Religious ministers are often inclined to neglect the dreams of their flock. In the western world, since Freud published his ideas, the interpretation of dreams has been considered to belong to the psychological realm and maybe to the adherents of New Age movements. However, Bart Koet shows that  in Biblical traditions dreams and visions can be signposts. They stimulate people to look for new roads. . Biblical stories of dreams are also being used to wake the reader. At that moment the reader knows: ‘Be alert, wake up and listen carefully to this dream’. This approach does not stop with the Bible for there have always been people who have experienced some of their dreams as divine revelations, such as a lady like Perpetua in the third century, Saint Francis and also, for example, Don Bosco.

Charles Laughlin, author of ‘Communing with the Gods’ shares a chapter about the different cultural outlooks on dreams. “Human experience seems to be distributed across a range of states, from those concerned primarily with adaptions to extramental reality to those oriented towards internal relations within the being
Charles distinguishes between the Western Monophasic culture were dreams are disregarded and the eastern Polyphasic cultures where dreams are perceived as a form of reality.
When one does a cross cultural study, like Vincenza Tiberia did in 1981, there is across cultures the same distinction between common dreams and big dreams. Tiberia used the data from roughly 300 societies and collected 62 archetypical dreams from 43 different cultures. She found six archetypes: ‘the Archetypical Feminine’, (anima, Great Mother), ‘the Self’, ‘the Marriage’, ‘the Ancestor Archetype’, and ‘Loosing teeth’. In “The spirit of Psychology” Jung refers to archetypes as “the holy”.

The interview with Bart Koet makes clear that his work in prisons, probably the least spiritual environment possible, can bring about very deep spiritual experiences and dreams. Being in a situation of despair can help people to face and accept dark parts about themselves. Like the man who murdered his “brother”:

Dreams and Spirituality – part two

In the second part of this book: Dreams and religion: empirical data, theory and reflection Barbara Koning writes about varieties of religious dreaming. This chapter is a way for counsellors and pastors to categorize the content of dreams shared with them. The Hall and van de Castle system of content analysis is mentioned.

I am sitting in a circle of people around my minister who is leading a celebration. Suddenly he is giving me a kind of musical instrument: I understand I will have to accompany the worship. The instrument is broken and it does not work properly. I can’t fulfill the task given to me and I feel embarrassed about that”.

Such beautiful dreams we can all recognize are shared in the book. Barbara uses them to illustrate how pastoral workers can give a dream shared with them more depth and perspective.

The religion you believe in also influences the content of your dream. It is a pity that neither science nor atheism is considered a religion by the editors because that would have given the book an extra boost for me. Maybe the editors can consider it for the second edition of this book.

In the interview Barbara shares her vision on how science and spirituality can be united while working with spiritual dreams:

Dreams and Spirituality – part three:

In the third and final part of this book: Dreams and the practice of pastoral care Kate Adams and Peter Green share their chapter about the spirituality of children: “Out of the mouths of babes”.

Neither Christian pastors nor teachers are trained to respond to children’s dream narratives“. Being the mother of two teenage boys I can confirm that my children would be terrified if they would have to share dreams at school. They could consider it humiliating, even though they share their dreams at home. Charles Laughlin pointed out in part one that we live in a monophasic culture. And it is a shame because children dream often.
Both Peter and Kate stress the importance of listening to and accepting the dreams without interpreting them. Spirituality in dreams is an innate quality of dreaming:

“I was on a cloud and God was there. I was crying and God told me not to be upset. When I woke up I felt better”.

This dream was told by a nine-year old from a secular background. He only told his cat because “my cat always listens and never talks back to me”.

In the interview Kate shares her vision on the importance of spirituality and children. So many times the subject of children’s dreams are disregarded in literature:

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Dreaming: Do you know Where your Consciousness Goes when You fall asleep?


Dreaming: you are tired. You lie down in bed, close your eyes, yawn and drift away… What happened to your consciousness?

Dreaming by Jennifer Windt addresses this question. If you are interested in dreaming, this book should be in your bookcase.
Jennifer Windt, Lecturer at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, wrote this
philosophical groundwork for modern dream research.

Dreaming Dennett

Jennifer is an admirer of Daniel Dennett (just like me). The common notion about dreaming is that dreams require a conscious state of being, even though this is often later forgotten. If it is not forgotten you are in a lucid dream. Dennett states that there is no consciousness in the dream at all. The consciousness of a dream comes in retrospect. You can agree or disagree with it, but I like such a daring assumption as a basis for dream research.


Dreaming A Conceptual Framework for Philosophy of Mind and Empirical Research
Jennifer Windt

Dreaming Aristotle

Jennifer takes us through the history of dream research starting with Aristotle. Aristotle claims that dreams can be understood in natural terms but not be studied scientifically.

Cartoon: Philosophy 101


A dream is a personal story, perceived by one individual, referring to that one individual only.

Dreaming Freud

We are flown through time into the 1900s when Freud decided to put that nice simple view upside down. There was a REAL meaning behind a dream, concealed but waiting to be unraveled. He poured it into a scientific model: the es, the ich and the über ich.  the energy of the “Es” was moving between Eros, the desire to live and to procreate and Thanatos, the desire towards the end.

Sabina Spielrein

Mind you, the never during her lifetime acknowledge intelligence of Sabina Spielrein gave Freud the idea of Thanatos. Freud had several meetings with Sabina after Jung very inelegant disposed off her.

Dreaming content analysis

Then Jennifer leads us into the 50s of the last century: the discory of REM sleep made sleep and dreams visible for the third eye observer. In 1966 the content analysisi took hold of dream research with Hall and van de Castle’s system for usefull descriptions of the cognitive process at play during sleep.

Hobson’s AIM model is discussed. A stand s for Action. I stands for Information flow and M stands for Mode of information. As one of the most used models in dream research it is essential to become aware of its merrits and flaws.

Dreaming and local sleep

Recently Hubar et al found out that rats sleep while being awake. Sleep depth seems to be unevenly distributed. Rember when you had one of these nights sleeping – waking – sleeping -half awake – half asleep? I have had them, I am sure you had them too. Sleeping as a part brain phenomenon is something completly new in scientific research.

Dreaming as U form experience

Most dreams have a story to tell. Windt introduces the U form of the story: a situation begins, hits rock botten and a solution is found. Most methods of dream interpretation hold that assumption as a true fact. Even though it is not for all dreams, commenly dreams are this shape. Jennifer says: “Dreaming may indeed be a U form for some very fundemental cognitive capacities”.
I think buying this book will be worth your while if you have a professional interest in dreaming.

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Click here to find out more: Mindfunda Mythology

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Dream analysis: 5 ways of looking at your dream

dream analysis
Dream analysis: 5 ways of looking at your dream

Dream analysis, how do you do that? What does my dream mean? Is a question many people ask themself if they wake up in amazement. This article will give you 5 possible ways that are used to unravel the message. I will mention some good books that you can use to apply the method to see if it resonates with you.

Dream analysis way #1: Shamanism

Shamanism is the oldest religion in the world. Living in small groups, Homo sapiens had one or two wise men or women whose function was to be a bridge between earth and sky. They were selected in prescribed ways: chosen by the other shamans, called for in a dream. It was an innate quality.
Shamanism has gotten a new vibe: people want to go back to human nature and get callings in dreams. The trend is now to be your own shaman.
A shaman uses dreams to get in tune with the rhythm of the earth. A way of finding the Schuman resonance. The extended knowledge of ways to induce psychedelic experiences using herbs and vegetables is described by Paul Devereux in his book the long trip.

dream analysis
The long trip Paul Devereux

A good introduction to shamanism is the book of Tom Dale Cowan. Inn this intelligent, clear written book he explains about the basic principles of shamanism. Traveling to the different realms of reality, tuning into natures vibes, exploring your inner imagination to enter the different realms.

dream analysis
Shamanism Tom Cowan

Dream analysis way #2: Gestalt

Gestalt focusses on the images of a dream. It does not want to analyse an image to pieces, it wants to look at the whole image, the Gestalt. Frits Perls became one of the prominent spokesmen for Gestalt and his “Verbatim” a collection of his workshops. Perls was not very easy on his workshop participants, he made sure that they came out of their usual way of acting. In his dream analysis he was always looking for the “top dog” and the “underdog”,  a way that many people still use when they interpret the content of their dreams.. If you have not read it, you might want to add it to your list of dream classics.


dream analysis
Gestalt Therapy Verbatim Frits Perls

Dream analysis way #3: Jung

Carl Jung broke all the rules of science when he treated day dreams and fantasies as realities. He drew on ancient mythologies, shamanism, and science, pouring them into a tasteful appalling sauce. The book that will tell you most about how to apply his method of working is his book Man and his symbols:


dream analysis
Man and his symbols Carl Jung

If you really want to understand the ideas of Carl Jung and enjoy all the notes in the Red Book you might want to buy the readers edition:

dream analysis
Carl Jung Red Book

The readers edition will be so much easier for you to read and handle because it is so much smaller. Reading the Red book has led me to so many good relevant literature that has opened my eyes to a new perception of mythological stories and if Jung his life.

Dream analysis way #4: dream tending

Steven Aizenstat focusses on four ways of dream analysis.  The psyche is multidimensional. Just like a shaman, Steven distinguishes three realms of consciousness: personal unconscious, the collective unconscious and the world unconscious.

The heartbeat of dream tending is that dreams are alive. A dream is not static, written down in words and brought to an therapists’ office. A dream is alive. Dream characters are more than symbols, they have a mind of their own (something we all have experienced).

Another shamanic oriented notion in dream tending is that everything dreams. Not only creatures with spines like science says, but rocks, trees, plants, insects too. It is the same presumption as Anne Baring takes when she asks the thought-provoking question: What is the dream of the cosmos? In an animated world, everything is dreaming says Aizenstat.

The last presumption of dream tending is that dreams happen now. You could be dreaming, or being dreamed as you read this.


dream analysis
Dream tending Aizenstat

Last year I heard Steven speak for an enthusiastic crowd at a dream conference of the Iasd.  I think dream tending is a pleasant mixture of old insights in a new coating, with a foreman that has an appealing charisma.

Dream analysis way #5

Content analysis has been around since the late ’50s early ’60s. Especially the ground work of Hall and van de Castle is still the leading way in current dream research. Whenever someone wants to graduate using dream work, using this method is the way to gain respect in the community of dreamers. Dream texts can be qualified and analysed using the categories distinguished by Hall and van de Castle.

Untill Milton Kramer’s work Dream research, contributions in clinical practice” gets published at the end of May 2015, you can get more information from the master himself: Robert van de Castle wrote Our dreaming mind. A classic, filled with research about dreams. Here is a link telling more about content analysis.

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