"Was it a dream, or did it really happen?" I know I've often asked that question of myself numerous times. And we know people who might have asked us, "Pinch me, so I know it's not a dream." Dreams are strange things; they can delight or terrify us, and there's almost nothing we can do, consciously, to affect the outcome. We awaken asking "What did that mean?" Or, "I hadn't thought of THAT person for years! Why was he in my dream?" Or, "I never thought SHE was evil!" We wonder about the classic "falling" dreams, or those that place us in EXTREMELY embarrassing situations.
I'm no expert in dream interpretation, to be sure. I struggle to understand my own (if I can remember them!). I do recall from my college/seminary training something about Freud's argument that dreams are really wish-fulfillment, or the sub-conscious working through things that had been left un-resolved during the day. I remember, too, some of Alfred Adler's work; the important thing about dreams was the point at which one woke up, as that indicated the place where discomfort took over big time. (That one never made much sense to me.) And the theory that probably had the most lasting impact on me was from Carl Jung's work. While there's certainly more to his thinking than this, the part that has stuck was his idea that the people that populate our dreams are reflections of some aspect of who WE are. In other words, that disagreeable childhood friend does NOT represent HIM, but the disagreeable part of ME that is reflected in him.
Jung's theory may have had some influence on Alan Watts, a western writer on eastern traditions from the 1960's. I remember reading many of his books in the mid- to late- 1970's, and while I don't recall the precise book (and I've not been able to find the actual reference), Watts wrote and spoke about dreams in relation to God. NOT that dreams necessarily reveal God's will (another dream theory with ancient roots!), but that God was doing the actual dreaming. What I remember (although he may not have written exactly this — memory's a tricky thing!) was a passage in which he suggested that we were living a dream of God, in which God was playing all of the roles. While that's not a particularly orthodox view of the Divine in any tradition, I find it rather engaging — and enlightening — to consider.
When working with a Jungian therapist, one's dreams are significant pieces in the psychotherapeutic work. We need to root out WHY those strange people (reflecting our inner strengths/weaknesses/anxieties) are appearing in our dreams. Then, with the help of the therapist, we can move forward towards wholeness. In a similar way, I sometimes like to think, working with Watts' suggestion (or, at least, my version of his suggestion), that the ACTUAL people I encounter on a daily basis are a part of the same divine dream I am occupying. There is a lot of challenge there! There is an implication that my treatment of the other indicates how near (or not) I am to godliness. But part of Watts' idea (and this I DO remember clearly) is that the Divine "dream" represents God's interest in learning new things.*
So, what if, by extension, we were to lead our daily lives in a way that we believed that all the folks we encounter — even those disgusting ones in the comment lines following on-line articles, or political candidates, or wildlife-refuge-occupying-militants — were as much a part of a Divine dream as we are? Would we see them simply as another obstacle on our way to a blissful life? Or might we see them, and deal with them, in a way that reflects OUR interest in learning more about their fears and hopes, prodding us to new levels of understanding and, thus, compassionate behavior?
* In searching for the precise reference to the book I was trying to remember, I ran across a LOT of YouTube videos that suggested that God's "dream" might be a possible reaction to God's being bored. Okay, that's not particularly orthodox either!
PS: If you would like to comment on this reflection, please surf on over to my blog "On a Bike and a Prayer" at http://duchap.blogspot.com
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