‘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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Golden Dawn: Talking to the Gods using magic

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” W.B. Yeats

Almost every one of us believes that we can tap into a greater pool of creativity if we only knew how to use the laws that can unleash our creative powers. This Mindfunda is going to shed a light on where those beliefs originate from.

Magic is everywhere right? In the eyes of a child, filled with promises and unfulfilled potencies. In the sunlight that kisses your skin. In the smile from your lover that left this morning. But we almost all have this uncanny feeling that there is so much more that lies hidden behind secret laws.

Of course we do not believe in magic anymore. We call it sorcery. But give us ‘The Secret’, based on wishing and visualization and we go wild. Give us the ‘The Celestine Prophecy’ and we change our lives. This craving to learn how to control the laws of nature is just the thing what brought about the Order of the Golden Dawn in the late 1800s.

Golden Dawn

Susan Graf talks about the Golden Dawn in her book ‘Talking to the Gods‘ using a very interesting perspective. She reviews four different authors, all still in print today, according to their magic qualities. The magic qualities they all four had learned about in the Secret order of the Golden Dawn.

Talking to the Gods
Susan Graf.
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The Golden Dawn was a secret occult society. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in London in 1887. This order used esoteric knowledge from many cultures: Egyptian, Hindu, Jewish, Greek, Christian. The aim was to control the laws of nature and accomplish goals that would benefit the world.

The world was multi-layered according to the Golden Dawn and an initiate learned, like a shaman, to travel the different worlds using rites. There were different levels a Golden Dawn initiate could attain. At each level the initiate learned more secret rites about how to obtain entrance to one of the total of ten worlds. Each world being based on the Life tree of the Kabbalah, the Sephiroth. World number 10 was the realm closest to the earth and world number 01 was the world closest to God. So Susan Graf shows us the way the four writers: Yeats, Machen, Blackwood and Fortune used this knowledge to climb up to the realm of the Gods.

Susan Graf starts her book with a description of the Golden Dawn and its basic merits. A secret society for the upper middle class who tuned into the spiritual upheavel that accompanies the “fin de siècle”. Most of the members were well read, scolars even, that wanted to deal with the tension created between the new scientific findings and their old catholic and protestants beliefs.

Her choice of writers to compare: the famous W.B.Yeats, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood belonged to the cultural elite of their days. Dion Fortune did not but she was the one writer who used her books to educate her readers about the magical laws of the Golden Dawn. She got more appreciated in the 60’s of the last century when the “Goddess movement” began its rise. Her book “Applied Magic” is still one of the best magic introduction books around.

Applied magic
Dion Fortune

Dion is the last writer to be discussed in the book and the only woman. She is the only one of the four who openly admitted to be occult. The other three men did not do that. But Susan had a different reason to pick them.

Even though all three were secret about their membership and their occult practices, magic was Yeats religion. He had 35 years of involvement in the Golden Dawn and was an established writer rewarded with the Nobel Prize. And even though the occult beliefs of the Golden Dawn are in his work he never openly violated his promise of secrecy.

Fairy and Folk Tales
W.B. Yeats

There was a sense that Yeats had of a “greater spiritual mind” that he could tap upon using magic. It enabled him to write Fairy and Folk tales of Irish peasantry. And even though he yearned to tell about his encounters with the fairy people he did not mention his magical knowledge to anyone.

Algernon Blackwood, had like Carl Jung, very a religious father who inspired him to search for his own method of experiencing religion.

golden dawn
Algernon Blackwood

Blackwood did not get the international recognition like Yeats dis, but his John Silence stories are still appealing today. They paint the hero of the Golden Dawn movement.

John Silence
Algernon Blackwood

The concept of God is like an enlightened doctor who travels the world on a healing mission in the service of all that is good and right. 

Arthur Machen was, just as Yeats and Blackwood, a member of the literary establishment of England and also kept his membership of the Golden Dawn a secret. But he did not capture the worldwide recognition of Yeats. The Great God Pan still is his most read publication.

The Great God Pan
Arthur Machen

And where Yeats was a Golden Dawn adept, Arthur Machen wanted to be inspired by the knowledge within. He already had a lot of spiritual knowledge. Compared to Yeats he was more reserved towards the Golden Dawn.

I have enjoyed reading Talking to the Gods. The perspective of looking at the Golden Dawn influence in the books of the writers gives us a lot of knowledge about the Golden Dawn. Everybody who works with symbols should get their hands on a copy of this book. The use of symbolism by the Golden Dawn has infiltrated todays art, books films and dreams. Reading Talking to the Gods makes you see how the wish for a new era, a new way of living for humanity is a shared vision of generations. This book makes you want to dive into your own rite to communicate with your higher self.

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Please sign up for my YouTube channel to enjoy all the beautiful Mindfunda interviews with inspiring people. People like Jean Benedict Raffa, Anne Baring, Connie Kaplan, Ralph Metzner Stanley Krippner and P.M.H. Atwater. I will be doing an interview with Catherine Wikholm about her book the Buddha Pill very soon so be sure to sign up and with Justina Lasley about her book Wake Up to Your Dreams: Transform Your Relationships, Career, and Health While You Sleep!

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