Most of us are familiar with the religious practices of prayer, fasting, good works, scripture study, service, regular attendance, tithing, and so on. While their merits cannot be denied, unfortunately traditional religious practices do not automatically lead to lasting healthy changes in personality, behavior, relationships or quality of life. Nor do they signify spiritual maturity.
In contrast, regular practices that connect our inner and outer lives and have self-discovery as their goal bring about positive growth in every area of our lives. Some examples are meditation, active imagination, psychological studies, creative expression, symbol work, dreamwork, body work, breath work, art, depth analysis, remything our lives to honor the feminine unconscious, journaling, and ritual.
Knowing this, many religious groups today sponsor ongoing dream groups. I have discussed the value of dreams and conducted dream workshops for Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Unitarian Universalists. 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. These religious leaders understand that the aims of religion are compatible with those of psychology. They know that we need not fear our dreams, for they come to bring compassion, healing and wholeness. Aren’t these the goals of every authentic religion?
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 side 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 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.”
As Mother’s Day approaches, Greer’s dream reminds me that tending new life, whether in the form of personal growth or societal reforms, is the province of our feminine, nurturing sides. Everyone has one. Yet many seemingly mature religious and political leaders are still so deeply suspicious of femininity and their own feminine sides that they would rather perpetuate blatantly dysfunctional masculine attitudes than support the fragile feminine growth that is full of energy and ready for life in ourselves and the world.
Fortunately, Dream Mother’s nightly guidance is available to all. Each of us can, like Greer, learn how to listen, receive, and mother new feminine life in gentle hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks .
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Dear Mama Jeanie,
Thank you for championing the Dream. <3
Dear Daughter Amanda,
I am proud to be your “Mama” and very grateful that you see me as one who nurtures new life! Thank you for blessing me with your open and sincere heart.
I love how you describe union of religion and consciousness. And I enjoy the sharing of the dream because how the dreamer interpreted their dream is very different than I would have interpreted those images for myself…which, to me, points out how fluid dream images are for each of us in our uniqueness?
The innate compatibility between psychology and religion is a central theme for me, and much of what I write is motivated by the desire to heal the polarization between them. I’m glad to know you appreciated that aspect of this post.
And yes, the images and themes of our dreams are tailor-made for each individual. Once we take our dreams seriously, the unconscious appears to “make every effort” to understand and use the images and ideas that will resonate with our conscious self, or ego. The same symbol can mean many different things to different people. That fluidity of which you speak is part of the genius of dreams. What other teacher has the talent and wisdom….or benevolence for that matter….to create a different, completely appropriate lesson for each student every single night?
Sometimes the innate creativity of the human psyche just blows my mind! I so wish more people could understand the incredible power and guidance that is their native inheritance!
Yes, Jeanie, you are a Dream Mama. Your new handle. I love my weekly visits to a Jungian therapist where I explore dreams. I began seeing her when starving baby girls appeared in my dreams during my husband Vic’s illness. Vic and I had always told dreams to each other and worked on the images (we asked questions and never trying to analyze). My inner child starved as all my energy went toward supporting Vic. If truth be told, she’s still struggling and dreams tell me so if I forget. I haven’t had a dream for nearly a week. I hope your blog stimulates my Dream Mama.
With much gratitude for your inspiration,
I love my new handle! Thanks! You are so very fortunate to have a Jungian therapist to explore your dreams with. What a blessing. I’d love to have one too, but luckily my inner therapist is very active these days. In the past week I’ve had four very rich dream sessions with her. One dream was about George Washington, for heaven’s sake! I was helping him with a project. (Obviously, something about assuming my leadership!) A second took place in a restaurant and featured my very precocious new baby boy who grew into a young man wearing a red sweater by the end of the dream. I’m still not sure what that’s all about. A third featured a lovely older woman I was attending a conference with who liked and befriended me, and the fourth showed me an aspect of my shadow I’m not crazy about. Each of them featured a different archetype (Animus, Divine Child, Crone, and Shadow!) and they all taught me something I hadn’t been fully conscious of. I know a waking life therapist would help me gain many more new insights, but frankly, at the moment I have about all I can handle! Isn’t it amazing how much we still have to learn after all these years of inner work? Okay, if that doesn’t stimulate your Dream Mama, I don’t know what will!!! 🙂
You don’t need a therapist, Jeanie. You have Dream Mama. I still need a place to bring grief and make sense of my new life. I imagine I won’t need a therapist forever, but I look forward to my two-hour sessions every other week. She fills in (a little) for that guy who was always interested in my dreams and ruminations.
It sounds like your therapist is a safe haven for you…something we all need when major losses and life transitions turn our worlds upside down. I wonder how many people have that kind of support. Plus, you had an especially amazing husband who cherished you deeply and was genuinely interested in your inner life. What a blessing that was, and how incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to replace. I admire you so for having the gumption to press on the way you have, and for making a beautiful, original work of art out of your life after Vic. With admiration, Jeanie
Reblogged this on Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support.
Reblogged this on Joy's Creative Space and commented:
Jean Raffa is such a powerful and knowledgeable woman who offers some thought provoking wisdom on her blog. She initiates the wise woman in all of us. Joy
Many thanks for your kind words. I hope your readers enjoy this post. Warm blessings, Jeanie