Truth matters. By this, I mean the Truth that connects us to Source; that calls us to be in service to something greater than ourselves. The Truth that brings light to darkness enables us to see who we are rather than the persona or mask we present to the world.
Paying attention to one’s dreams is a way of enabling that Truth to appear. Not necessarily as a sudden revelation, although that does sometimes happen. More often, it is a slow process as images and symbols arise from the unconscious unfettered by the ego that would prefer to keep control of the narrative. Thankfully, sleep shuts that door and opens another, almost as though a prison gate has been flung open, which can be unsettling.
Taking dreams seriously can also mean a rebalancing of priorities between the individual dreamer and the collective, whether that be a religion, culture, or political organisation. Systems and organisations are part of what help us live in the world. They have ideals, a set of values and offer a coherent framework to aid development. There’s a kind of safety in being part of them. And when they recognise and incorporate soul, it can seem as though they have the ultimate Truth, even though the fit might become tight over time.
David Tacey offers a helpful perspective when reflecting on Socrates in Religion as Metaphor: Beyond Literal Belief. Socrates was accused of corrupting the people of Greece, especially the young, by ‘making them question their cherished beliefs’. As Tacey says, Socrates was ‘tired of the literal understanding of the gods as external beings’ and saw that ‘gods are metaphors for the sacred potentialities in the human soul’, p125.
As Socrates made clear at his trial, he wasn’t working at a purely intellectual level, but as often happens in dreamwork, he was responding to a ‘deeper calling’. He named that the ‘daimonic voice or internal oracle’. However, this was not accepted by the powers of the day, and Socrates was condemned to death and executed.
Thousands of years later, Carl Jung talked about this inner Source of authority, now named the Self, that totality of the psyche, a combination of the conscious and unconscious. The internal oracle producing dreams that, when integrated with one’s conscious understanding, form an ongoing personal revelation.
Because this is an infinitely creative process, suggests Lionel Corbett in, The God Image From Antiquity to Jung, ‘revelation can no longer be confined to the scriptural tradition’. But these private revelations, experiences of the real, may be treated with suspicion as ‘they might not conform to the authority of Church teachings’, p71. Shades of Socrates.
Developing a spiritual direction outside or alongside the collective has its dangers. It can feel disloyal or as though you have lost your faith. A sudden revelation, or even the slow-growing kind, can bring a sense of superiority that you alone have the Truth. Without hesitation, dreams will remind one of the need to get a grip on reality and on one’s inflated ego.
Although dreams are plentiful in the Judeo/Christian scriptures, churches are not set up to encourage or value dreamwork. This may be because so much has been invested in building a framework to encompass large numbers of people over prolonged periods of time. Consistency of thought and action has been valued, along with loyalty to the collective. However, this hold is breaking down across the western world and in my homeland of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Some people grieve the loss of what was, and this is understandable. But despite the suffering that comes with death, there is always the potential for new life.
Our challenge is to trust that Truth is greater than we are, individually or collectively. If we foster spiritual openness and connection with the unconscious, we continue to be part of the ongoing work of creation. This is true even when the God-image revealed to me through my dreams differs from the God-image revealed to you. Not something to argue about but something to rejoice in. I call it Soul Pilates, strengthening the inner core through reconnecting to Source.