Dream Work and Spiritism Part 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr.John Weldon; ©2012
We will cite illustrations from a number of modern texts on dreaming and dream work to show how readily dreams can become the means to hazardous spiritual practices, such as inducing altered states of consciousness, developing psychic abilities, or channeling. These phenomena may occur even when they are not the intended goals of a particular program of dream work.

Dream Work and Spiritism Part 2

We will cite illustrations from a number of modern texts on dreaming and dream work to show how readily dreams can become the means to hazardous spiritual practices, such as inducing altered states of consciousness, developing psychic abilities, or channeling.[1] These phenomena may occur even when they are not the intended goals of a particular program of dream work.

[From Part 1: It should be evident that the deliberate cultivation of dream states in some contexts opens people to direct or indirect spiritistic influence. This spiritistic influence occurs in a certain amount of dream work currently done in therapy and a great amount done in popularized dream work. The context in which the program of dream exploration occurs, and the methods used, are a good indication of the spiritual orientation. Following are seven examples from modern dream literature that show how dreams are used by spirits to deceive people into adopting New Age philosophies and practices, and even sorcery. In such examples, the spirits state that they want humans to actively utilize and manipulate the dream state for all kinds of purposes: health, self-insight, intuition, developing psychically, out-of-body experiences, and so on.]

The Jungian-Senoi Method

As noted previously, Strephon Kaplan-Williams is the founder and director of the Jungian-Senoi Institute in Berkeley, California. He is a practicing Jungian therapist-analyst whose specialty is “transpersonal and holistic healing.” He is also an instructor in transpersonal dream work and Jungian psychology at the New Age-oriented John E Kennedy University. In the Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual he discloses the basic premises of much modern dream work: active participation with dreams and dream characters as part of “objective” reality. He writes: “The golden rule of dream work might be stated as follows: To get to the meaning of dreams, actualize dreams rather than interpret them.” He also teaches: “A basic principle is to start with the dream and objectify it,” and in “the Jungian-Senoi approach we try and start always with the dream, objectify it, and then move out into levels of manifestation.”[2]

Kaplan-Williams reveals that “dialoguing” with dream figures is a key part of the JungianSenoi method:

The dialogue with dream figures and situations is one of the major techniques of Jungian-Senoi dreamwork…. Discovering the issues [of your dream] can be based in part on using the following central questions as the focus for beginning your dialogue.

—What, or who are you?

—Why are you in my dream?

—Why are you acting the way you are in my dream?

—What do you have to tell me?

—Why is such-and-such happening in my dream?

—What do you think/feel about such-and-such?

—What do you want from me? What do you want me to do?

—What is your gift to me?

—What questions would you ask of me?

—What do you think/feel about this dialogue?

At some point a flow may happen and the dialogue becomes almost automatic….

Always bring up your problems about dialogue with the dream figures involved. They are best equipped to help you. They will tell you quite honestly what you may need to do to open up the flow…. If the flow gets going for you, if the information coming your way contrasts with your own consciously chosen point of view, then most likely you are not “making up” the dialogue.[3]

But Kaplan-Williams also admits that dream work can lead to spiritistic and necromantic contacts. In his discussion of choosing which “dream being” to dialogue with, he explains that one should:

Also choose, if possible, an entity which has a lot of specificity. We may choose also to dialogue with more than one entity…. To develop more than one point of view we can have separate dialogues with opposite entities in the same dream…. Dialogue is a major feature of [dream] journalwork. Some of the “life dialogues,” which may also appear in dreams, are as follows.

—Dialoguing with one’s birth. Why was I born?

—With one’s death …

—With some person who has died to reestablish or complete the relationship.

—With one’s own spirit guide, that presence which may know our essential life direction better than we ourselves do.[4]

He also asserts that in practicing dream work we are also permitting the spirit world, or even the dead, to speak to us:

In doing dialogue… are we not establishing more harmonious relations between different parts of our psyches?… Are we not, even, letting the spirit world speak to us?…

Is there perhaps a psychic connection established in a dialogue with the essence of other persons, living or dead? Several Institute participants have had dialogues with parents, spouses, etc., who have died, and they have been deeply moved. Something besides an exclusively inner spirit seems to be present. Who knows ultimately all that is going on?

In many, many dreamwork classes and groups, people have become deeply involved in their dialogues…. Who can say where such an experience comes from, or even what its meaning is? From my own experience as well as others’ experiences, I can say that dream work is soul-work … [and] what could be more natural than knowing oneself? And this means using the known self to learn and relate to the unknown selves. To know ourselves we must know the various parts of ourselves…. A dialogue is a relationship between a known and an unknown.[5]

Finally, in his discussion of the dream work application to ritual, magic, and the like, he argues that occult ritual work can play an important part in evoking key dream archetypes:

The practice of ritual can be one of the healing arts. Ritual is potentially the most powerful art form for evoking and transforming the archetypes—

We find this same process occurring within so-called primitive or pre-literate cultures which are often rife with ritual practices….

Simple rituals are used at the Institute as part of the natural process of working with the unconscious and seeking renewal from its source energies….

We also work with relating to symbolic objects, usually from nature, which might embody “spirit in substance” energies. The effect of such a process is to create a deeper more meaningful level of dream-sharing and to evoke the central archetype, inner and outer.[6]

Carlos Castaneda’s The Art of Dreaming

“Following don Juan’s suggestion, I have refrained from using shamanism, a category proper to anthropology, to classify his knowledge. I have called it all along what he himself called it: sorcery.”[7] —Carlos Castaneda

“Sorcerer… a magician, especially one supposedly aided by evil spirits.”[8]

The Los Angeles Times referred to Carlos Castaneda[9] as “one of the godfathers of the New Age movement,” and indeed, no other single individual has been more responsible for introducing millions of Americans to sorcery than Castaneda. After writing his eighth book, The Power of Silence, Castaneda spent six years in study, meditation, and dream work and then wrote what is possibly his most significant work, The Art of Dreaming.

Castaneda classifies “the art of dreaming” as “the most important” of all the sorcery arts that his Yaqui Indian sorcerer instructor, don Juan Matus, made him practice.[10] Indeed, for reasons that soon become clear, dream work is the most vital method of the sorcerer’s occult armory, and the most dangerous. Yet books of this nature, which powerfully travel into the dark world of the occult, and which instruct others how to do the same through dream-induced out-of-the body experiences, are better left alone by the curious. Reasons in abundance are supplied in the book.

For Castaneda, don Juan, and all sorcery, dream work is the quintessential technique permitting contact not only with the world of spirits and demons but with incredibly bizarre and all-too-frightening realities—realities entirely unknown to the mind of non-initiates. Regardless, whatever the perceived occult benefits of entering of such realms, the end result is that explorers become victims of its seductions and manipulated by demons.

Don Juan himself has to warn Castaneda continually of the risks and dangers. He refers to “the trickery of the inorganic beings [i.e., spirits],” and he declares, “It is absurd to trust the inorganic beings…. [S]orcerer’s maneuvers are deadly.” Don Juan went on:

I beseech you to be extraordinarily aware…. You must be extremely careful, for you are about to fall prey to the inorganic beings…. The inorganic beings are plotting…. You must seriously consider that the inorganic beings have astounding means at their disposal…. Their awareness is superb. In comparison, we are children, children with a lot of energy, which the inorganic beings covet…. The inorganic beings don’t let anyone go, not without a real fight…. [You may encounter] circumstances that are more dreadful than death. Everything in the sorcerer’s path is a matter of life or death, but in the path of dreaming, this matter is enhanced a hundred fold…. That’s why you have to go into their realm exactly as if you were venturing into a war zone.[11]

Once someone enters the world of the sorcerer’s dreams, distinguishing reality from fantasy becomes problematic. As Castaneda recalls, “Dreaming of that world, I became aware of what don Juan had said to me many times: that under the influence of dreaming, reality suffers a metamorphosis…. [R]eality becomes fluid…. [W]e are left with very few tools for sensory interpretation and, thus, a sense of an infinite realness that is unreal or an infinite unrealness that could very well be real but is not.”[12] For example, attempting to merge the consciousness of everyday life with the consciousness of sorcerer’s dreams and other realities was treacherous. Castaneda recalls, “[I]n my daily state I was nearly an idiot, and in the second attention [state of consciousness] I was a lunatic.”[13]

According to Castaneda, the more one experiences dreaming in an occult context, the greater one’s chances that the spirit world will respond and somehow “enliven” the dreams to a highly dramatic and captivating new level, which permits the kinds of bizarre and horrible things recounted in the book. Castaneda writes:

Some strange force, which I had never before encountered in my dreaming, had me riveted down…. [I]t was a blob of sheer energy. I was able to see its energetic sizzling. It seemed to be conscious of me. Suddenly, it lurched onto me and tugged me or prodded me…. [R]ipples of energy went through it, one after another. From that moment on, everything in my dreaming became much more real. I had a very difficult time keeping the idea that I was dreaming a dream. To this difficulty, I had to add the certainty I had that with its touch the scout [spirit] had made an energetic connection with me. I knew what it wanted me to do the instant it seemed to tug me or shove me.[14]

As don Juan later told Castaneda:

[The] awareness of sorcerers grows when they do dreaming. And the moment it grows, something out there acknowledges its growth, recognizes it and makes a bid for it. The inorganic beings are the bidders for that new, enhanced awareness. Dreamers have to be forever on their toes. They are prey the moment they venture out in that predatorial universe. “What do you suggest I do to be safe, don Juan?” “Be on your toes every second!”[15]

Of course, once one enters the realm of demons, no one can be on their toes every second. Sooner or later one becomes the victim. In the middle of the book, don Juan sharply warns Castaneda:

“You’ve gone beyond the point where you could simply quit. Besides, you had the misfortune of being singled out by a [specific entity]…. They are dependent and possessive, and once they sink their hooks, they never give up.” “And what does that mean in my case, don Juan?” “It means real trouble. The specific inorganic being who’s running the show is the one you grabbed that fatal day. Over the years, it has grown familiar with you. It knows you intimately.— I am thinking that they are going to trick you,” he said, “Like they tricked nagual [sorcerer] Rosendo. They are going to set you up, and you won’t see the trap or even suspect it.”[16]

Clearly, this is the final lot of all those who use dreams or other methods to assimilate sorcery: in the end they are “set up” for destruction and they don’t even know it. Indeed, this has sadly been the lot of Castaneda for over two decades. Manipulated by spirits at their whim, enthralled or tormented as they see fit, Castaneda had become, in the worst sense, someone used. Castaneda may think he has some degree of control over his visionary excursions, or that he has attained a state of excellence along the path of sorcery,[17] but he is just a pawn of forces that could crush him at will. He knows this, yet he continues.

What Castaneda and others have found—what they encourage us to find by “the art of dreaming”—is far better left alone.

Dream Work and Inner Teachers

Another text is Dreams: Discovering Your Inner Teacher by Clyde Reid; it is typical of the many books which utilize dreams to contact an “inner teacher.” The inner teacher, however, is often indistinguishable from a modern spirit guide. As Clyde observes, “There is much discussion these days about spirit guides. This term was once the private property of strange, esoteric people or spiritualists. However, as we increasingly explore the unconscious through dream analysis and meditation, we find that many people are in touch with their spirit guides and are conscious of their help.”[18]

He says he is often asked, “Are spirit guides the same as the inner teacher?” He responds that because they act in similar ways, they may indeed be one and the same. Clyde also notes, “In the workshops I offer around North America on the subject of dreams and the inner teacher, I am amazed at how many people are ready to find their inner teacher or already have some sense of it.”[19]

There is little doubt that Reid’s text and his own dream workshops are an effective means toward introducing people to the world of the occult. And yet he makes the standard claim that this kind of activity is really a “divine” work because dreams “are manifestations of the Spirit of the living God. As for me, I insist on testing those spirits with the highest standard I know. As I am by choice a Protestant Christian, I test the spirits by the spirit of Christ as best I know it…. [Nevertheless,] I believe that the task of Spiritual leaders today is to instill trust of the inner teacher into our people.”[20]

Reid believes that those who think such activity may involve demonic deceptions are simply uninformed as to how God works: “Historically, religious authorities have feared such inner leading as the work of the devil. Today we are much more ready to trust that God works from deep within us. When we learn to trust the inner teacher, and to check our dreams with that teacher, our lives begin to flow with the divine intention.”[21]

Joan Windsor

Another illustration of New Age dream work is found with Joan Windsor, an author who holds workshops on dreaming, parapsychology, healing, and creativity topics. One of her mentors is the spiritist and New Age leader, Ruth Montgomery.[22] Windsor is the author of The Inner Eye: Your Dreams Can Make You Psychic (Prentice Hall, 1985) and Dreams and Healing: Expanding the Inner Eye—How to Attune Your Mind-Body Connection Through Imagery, Intuition and Life Energies.[23] Dreams are utilized for and associated with all sorts of New Age topics: auras, Edgar Cayce, channeling, reincarnation, astral projection, psychic development and guidance, intuitive diagnosis and psychic healing, psychic counseling, absent healing, crystal work, visualization, positive affirmations, and meditation!

For example, dreams can be utilized for physical healing by “asking for direction from higher realms”:

Not only is the dreamer able to invoke physical guidance and healing for himself, but given that all minds are in contact with one another, we are often assigned the task of personally healing our friends and acquaintances. This is accomplished through the medium of dream revelations which contain transmissions commenting on aberrant conditions regarding their physical health.

Through intensive review and interpretation of dreams, expanding minds realize that not only are dreams soul flights into higher realms in an unquenchable thirst for esoteric knowledge, but they may also be the vehicle for achieving physical healings for others while the body lies at rest…. To quote Phyllis A. Koch-Sheras, author of Dream On, “You don’t have to wait for your dreams to offer you health advice spontaneously. You can educate them to provide this advice when you need it, through dream incubation.[24]


  1. See John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Coming Darkness: Confronting Occult Deception (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993).
  2. Strephon Kaplan-Williams, Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual (Novato, CA: Journey Press, 1988), pp. 28, 80, 88.
  3. Ibid., pp. 114-15.
  4. Ibid., pp. 116-118. Each issue of Shaman’s Drum lists a “Resources Directory,” with numerous workshops, retreats, shaman centers, shaman counseling, etc.
  5. Ibid., pp. 118-19.
  6. Ibid., p. 130.
  7. Carlos Castaneda, The Art of Dreaming (NY: Harper Collins, 1993), pp. VII.
  8. Oxford American Dictionary
  9. See http://new-age-spiritual-masters.blogspot.com/2011/06/carlos-castaneda-biography.html.
  10. Castaneda, Art of Dreaming, p. VIII.
  11. Ibid., pp. 103-10.
  12. Ibid., p. 97.
  13. Ibid., p. 125.
  14. Ibid., pp. 88-89.
  15. Ibid., p. 101.
  16. Ibid., p. 123.
  17. Ibid., p. 122.
  18. Clyde H. Reid, Dreams: Discovering Your Inner Teacher (Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1983), p. 85.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid., p. 86.
  21. Ibid., p. 75.
  22. Joan Windsor, Dreams and Dreaming: Expanding the Inner Eye—How To Attune Your Mind-Body Connection Through Imagery, Intuition and Life Energies (NY: Dodd Mead, 1987), p. VI.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid., pp. 110, 114.

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