Christian Dream Work
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr.John Weldon; ©2012|
|Most but not all “Christian” dream work is really New Age dream work using Christian terminology. So-called “Christian dream work” is not derived from Scripture itself. Rather, it comes from secular psychotherapy and culture, such as the Jungian analysis and dream work of those who endorse shamanism, such as John Sanford and Morton Kelsey.|
New Age “Christian” Dream Work
Most but not all “Christian” dream work is really New Age dream work using Christian terminology. The influence of the following text among Christians is great enough that we will use it as an illustration. In Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Christian Approach to Dreamwork, we discover that so-called “Christian dream work” is not derived from Scripture itself. Rather, it comes from secular psychotherapy and culture, such as the Jungian analysis and dream work of those who endorse shamanism, such as John Sanford and Morton Kelsey.
The book repeatedly stresses that dream work leads to “wholeness” and “holiness.” “Wholeness” is supposedly achieved by the technique of Jungian “individuation,” and “holiness” is a subjectively determined state of spiritual growth based upon psychological completeness or integration. In other words, this book basically deals with psychological experimentation, defined subjectively and then interpreted as spiritual growth. Despite its title, it does not deal with Christian theology or Christian sanctification.
This kind of dream work may also be used as a means of spirit contact, although the spirits contacted are believed to be Christian saints:
One of the significant doctrinal beliefs in the Christian Church is called the communion of saints. This doctrine teaches that persons in God’s grace do not cease to exist after death, but live in a non-physical state joined to each other and to Christ in loving, soul-to-soul communion. Early Christian teachers proposed a variety of relations between the communion of saints and dreams.
For example, for many of the Church elders, the dream state gives us some idea of the life of the soul after death. Ambrose believed that dreams and visions were a means of contacting those who had died. More generally, Justin Martyr believed that humans are capable of contact and spiritual communication with non-physical beings.
But were Ambrose and Martyr really spiritists or necromancers? Hardly! If some early Christians did believe such things, they were clearly wrong from a scriptural perspective. At least the early Christians warned that dreams could come from either God or Satan. Many of the current texts on “Christian” dream work don’t go this far. Furthermore, as is true in the text under discussion, they reject biblical authority and deny or downplay the devil. In fact, no personal devil or demons really exist. By accepting all dreams as divine and by integrating dream work with Jungian presuppositions, they also open the door for demonic intrusion into dreams while inhibiting any process of biblical discernment:
In this book our general position is that since everything in the universe is God’s, all dreams somehow reflect God’s purposes and plans for our lives. Even the most demonic or terrifying presences in dreams can be worked with and their energy transformed.
We are not as concerned with where dreams come from as we are with what we do with the dreams which do come to us. Our methodology and spiritual perspective of commitment to wholeness and holiness should be able to encompass any kind of dream and offer ways of working with it toward transformation and meaning.
This book on “Christian” dream work accepts contact with the dead through dreams, and it masks spiritism under its Dream Work Technique 5: “Dialogue with the Dream Figure.” All in all, the book provides some 37 different dream work techniques:
It is also possible to dialogue with dream characters, meditatively, after the dream. Dialoguing with figures or symbols from our dreams is a very powerful and basic dreamwork technique with a wide variety of uses.
We need to establish relation to the energies in a dream in order for them to work for us toward healing and wholeness. Almost all dream work techniques suggested in this book invite us to relate to the dream and its energies.
Dialoguing [with dream entities] is… especially powerful in releasing spiritual energy and insight…. On the other hand, dialoguing is an exercise in surrender, in letting go of control.
Dialoguing with dream figures puts us in touch with both the invitation and the energy to change and grow. Dialoguing is the beginning of transformation.
Dialoguing in dream work is quite simple…. To get started, we ask the dream figure a question and let the dream figure’s response come. Usually this response leads us to respond in turn, or perhaps to ask another question. In this way a dialogue may continue.
As noted earlier, there is little doubt that this process can and does lead to spiritistic contact. Although the dream figures are normally interpreted as part of a person’s “unconscious,” they are nevertheless part of spiritual reality: “As you practice dream work, you grow comfortable in working in non-rational realms. You soon realize these realms have their own reality, which is fundamentally a spiritual reality. In time, you find it natural to work with spiritual energy.”
Consider the following example about alleged angels:
Once when we were explaining the dialogue technique to a group, one woman told how as a child she used to dialogue with her guardian angel, especially at times when she was lonely or hurting. At these times she felt her angel responding and comforting her. Many people in the audience were familiar with the dialoguing experience, for they were nodding their heads in agreement. In dreamwork we are to be open like children, to allow two-way conversations between us and dream figures to happen in our imaginations.
The spiritually naive approach suggested in texts like this underscores why they can lead participants to spiritistic deception: Personal experience overrules critical thinking. Thus, we are told that the actual identity of the dream figure is really unimportant. Knowing whether it is merely a part of one’s unconscious or an actual spirit entity is not as important as using the technique to “grow spiritually.” The dream user is assured that questions of spiritual discernment are out of place and may actually harm the process of effective dream work. The proper approach is simply to trust in the process itself, wherever it leads. “[W]e are not suggesting source questions such as: ‘Who are you? Are you a part of me? Are you someone outside me? Do you come from God? Are you a messenger? Are you a projection of my mind?’ These are questions of theory. As such, they may distract from the main task of entering into a relationship with the dream figure…. Our suggestion is: Trust the process.”
In other words, “From our perspective, all dreams are given for our growth, no matter how paranormal [occult] their content may seem. The ultimate source of the dream is God and its purpose is ultimately to bring about healing and wholeness.” Because “God is everywhere, and nowhere visible,” all invisible realities are assumed to be divine.
Once we assume that everything comes from God in such a manner, the question of demonic deception is ruled out by definition. Again, the authors of Dreams and Spiritual Growth don’t believe in a personal devil. And they are fully open to working with any and all kinds of spiritual “energies.” “Spirituality is one’s way of responding to God’s call, a style of living that is open to energies of God’s spirit…. For persons using dreamwork, their spirituality involves ways of channeling energy released from the inner world into the everyday world.” Here we encounter the development of psychic abilities under the aegis of working with supposedly divine energies. “We assume that truly telepathic dreams are a sign of latent psychic ability, and that dream work may be used to accept this ability as a gift from God to be used in deepening one’s spiritual insight and direction in life. Dream work here is designed to help broaden the dreamer’s life view and to develop tasks that use the [psychic] ability to serve others in healing ways.”
The authors also want occult powers to be used in Christian ministry: “Some people are able to use their psychic and intuitive abilities in their Christian ministry in situations where deep spiritual knowing and help can bring issues into awareness for healing and growth. It is with this orientation that we offer suggestions for working with dreams that reflect paranormal human capacity such as telepathy, ESP, synchronicity, prophecy, and the like.”
It seems clear that the several dozen dream work techniques suggested in this text, like the three dozen in The Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual, can become a basis for developing psychic abilities, entering altered states of consciousness, energy channeling, or spirit contact. That the former book sanctifies spirit contact under the guise of encountering Christian saints or biblical personages hardly alters its occult potential. Indeed, one cannot distinguish the kind of dream work suggested in this book from the more openly spiritistic forms, such as those experienced by followers of medium Edgar Cayce:
Dreams came to Cayce’s subjects to show them the kind of [spiritual] vehicle or body they might have after death, how they would know they were dead, how they would progress through various planes, and what sort of [spirit] helpers they would find. Much was unfolded in their dreams about communication with the dead…. How they longed to speak through a psychic…. One is ready for dreams of the dead when he is as ready to give aid to the dead as to receive it. When prayer for a discarnate [spirit] comes freely and naturally to mind, then visions of them may follow.
Here is a sobering thought. The number of occultists who utilize dream work for an endless variety of occult pursuits is legion. Yet the same dream techniques used by these occultists are now employed by some or many Christian dream workers within the church.
Because the therapeutic application of dream work is not proven, and because its occult potential outweighs its possible benefit, we believe that using dream work techniques and workshops in the church is spiritually hazardous.
- Louis M. Savary, Patricia H. Berne, Strephon Kaplan Williams, Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Christian Approach to Dreamwork (NY: Paulist Press, 1984).
- Ibid., pp. 64-69.
- Ibid., pp. 70-71, 188.
- Ibid., p. 41.
- Ibid., pp. 208-12.
- Ibid., p. 41.
- Ibid., p. 42.
- Ibid., pp. 56-57.
- Ibid., p. 59.
- Ibid., p. 59.
- Ibid., p. 58.
- Ibid., p. 207, emphasis added.
- Strephon Kaplan-Williams, Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual (Novato, CA: Journey Press, 1988), p. 221.
- Savary et al, Dreams and Spiritual Growth, pp. 208-12.
- Ibid., pp. 106-07.
- Ibid., p. 213.
- Ibid., p. 214.
- Kaplan-Williams, Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual, pp. 219-25.
- Harmon H. Bro, Edgar Cayce on Dreams (NY: Warner, 1968), pp. 189-90.