Most of us are familiar with the religious practices of prayer, fasting, good works, scripture study, service to others, regular church attendance, tithing, and so on. While their merits cannot be denied, unfortunately they do not automatically lead to lasting healthy changes in personality, behavior, or relationships. In contrast, spiritual practices based on self-discovery — such as meditation, active imagination, creative expression, symbol work, dreamwork, body work, breath work, art, depth analysis, remything our lives to honor the feminine unconscious, journaling, and ritual — bring so many personal insights that they cannot help but lead to transforming new life.
Knowing this, many religious groups today sponsor ongoing dream groups. I myself have conducted workshops for Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists. Jeremy Taylor, a Unitarian Universalist minister, has written books about understanding dreams from a psychological perspective. And John Sanford, author of Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, was both a Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest. Such churches and religious leaders recognize that the aims of religion are compatible with those of psychology. They understand that we need not fear our dreams, for they come to bring healing and wholeness.
For many years I helped the Rev. Greer McBryde, an Episcopal priest, work with her dreams. Like many intelligent and ambitious women, over time she had developed a more conscious and accepting relationship with her masculine archetypes than her feminine. But when she began to experience health problems and have disturbing dreams that seemed to warn of disastrous consequences if she continued to pursue her single-minded Warrior attitude and lifestyle, she realized she needed to give more time to her Earth Mother. So she took an early retirement to rest, rediscover her center, and devote her energies to her relationships with herself and her family. Some time later she sent me this dream:
I am having a baby and the full-term child is born. It is a big baby with a full head of hair and eyes wide open. It is full of energy and ready for life. A nurse takes the baby from my body to clean her. When she hands the baby back to me she is small, hairless, and very delicate with almost transparent skin. She is so small that she fits in the palms of my hands.
Greer says of her dream, “I believe that I have given birth to a new me, and it was time for that to happen (the baby is full term). This was not premature nor was the child in any way not ready for life. When my nurse (the part of me that is a caretaker) returned her to me, I saw and felt how small and fragile this new life really was. I would have to handle her very carefully and nurture her with gentleness. That new life has been put into hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.”
Tending new life is the province of our feminine sides. Everyone has one. This is why some men are very mothering as are many women who have never physically birthed a child. But in today’s world many healthy aspects of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved are unconscious and undeveloped in males and females alike. As a result, even some very well-intended religious organizations don’t know how to nurture new life in individuals. Fortunately, Dream Mother speaks to us nightly and each of us can, like Greer, learn how to listen. I wonder… could Greer’s new baby girl have signaled the birth of a new aspect of Earth Mother into her conscious life?
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave