|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr.John Weldon; ©2012|
|Newsweek magazine has observed that a “New Age” of revived interest in dreams and dream work has arrived. The article noted, “What was [once] a fad is now mainstream. Even executives are asking their dreams to solve business dilemmas.”|
Introduction and Influence
Newsweek magazine has observed that a “New Age” of revived interest in dreams and dream work has arrived. The article noted, “What was [once] a fad is now mainstream. Even executives are asking their dreams to solve business dilemmas.”
Like crystal work and channeling, dream work is one of the more popular New Age practices. Since 1970, dozens of books on New Age dream work have total sales in the millions. For example, Dr. Ann Faraday’s Dream Power has sold 600,000 copies.
The highly popular Jungian-Senoi Dreamwork Manual tells us that its “purpose is to convey to readers everywhere that dreamwork is now an extremely practical tool for a creative self-discovery and even the transformation of one’s life.” In Dreams and Healing: Expanding the Inner Eye, Joan Windsor, who presents workshops throughout the country on parapsychology and creativity topics, states,
Dreams and Healing is the most important book you will ever read if you are at all interested in a practical program of self-help in relation to attuning your mind-body connection to total wellness. Within its pages lies the formula for the realization and maintenance of a harmonious and joyful balance between physical, mental, and spiritual states of being.... This is the natural birthright of each soul.
If one reads through the library of modern dream work books, one finds many claims like these. Of course, everyone dreams, so everyone has some degree of interest in their dreams. It is not surprising that the things that affect our daily lives may influence the content of our nightly dreams. Dreams can also be fascinating experiences. But does this prove the validity of the dream work as it is commonly practiced today? Does dream work have genuine therapeutic and spiritual value? Are there occult associations to the use of dreams?
Today, many people have questions surrounding their dreams. For example, what about troubling dreams? At one time or another, most of us have had troubling dreams or nightmares. What do they mean? Should nightmares concern us? Probably not, unless they persist. If needed, these may be effectively dealt with in counseling. But legitimate dream therapy for persistent, troubling nightmares should not be confused with New Age dream work, which attempts to use the dream state for occult applications.
Another question is, “Can God speak through dreams today?” Yes, but it appears to be a relatively rare experience. Can dreams predict the future? Again, in rare cases, it seems that they can. In some cases recurring dreams about tragedy may need to be considered as possible portents, or divine warnings to be prepared for future events.
Dreams can also reflect the condition of our lives. Can dreams provide useful information in some cases? Yes, but one should be circumspect with the information and what is done with it. In the sense that common dreams can reflect common human themes and experiences, dreams may sometimes be significant. But in the sense that they have a consistently profound religious application to our lives, we don’t think they merit this approbation. In the following pages we explain why we believe this, and we critically evaluate modern dream work, its practices, and its implications.
Categories and Varieties
What is dream work? In general, dream work attempts to remember, explore, evaluate or manipulate normal dreams for psychological, physical, spiritual, or occult purposes. These purposes include physical healing, greater self-understanding in secular counseling, discerning “God’s will” in so-called Christian dream work, and a variety of occult goals in New Age dream work.
At the risk of oversimplifying, dream work may be divided into three basic categories: 1) “secular” dream work, as in Freudian, Gestalt, Jungian, humanistic, and other conventional psychotherapy; 2) so-called Christian dream work, popularized by Morton Kelsey, John A. Sanford, and others, which often relies on Jungian psychology; 3) New Age dream work, which incorporates diverse elements from, for example, ancient pagan (e.g., shamanistic) dream methods, modern spiritistic revelations (e.g., Edgar Cayce, “Seth”), Jungian techniques, and transpersonal (“Eastern”) and fringe psychologies. It must be noted that the lines separating these categories are not rigid. Elements of Jungian, humanistic, Christian, and New Age dream work are often mixed together.
Dream work may be utilized in conjunction with a dream work counselor (a conventional therapist or someone who specializes in dreams), with dream work partners in a variety of programs offering dream “workshops” or seminars, or individually by oneself using texts on self-help dream work. New Agers often report that their spirit guides assist them in dream work.
Dream work is employed differently in different disciplines, although most forms share one basic element: the belief that, potentially, dreams are psychic vessels containing a wealth of hidden knowledge, wisdom, and power. It is this fundamental perspective on dreams that has made them so popular in New Age occultism, education, psychology, and healing.
Teacher Patricia Pirmantgen observes, “Educators who have tried dream work in the classroom know that there is no quicker way to capture the interest of a group of students.” Transpersonal educators Gay Hendricks and James Fadiman report, “Dreaming is an altered state that is being used successfully by teachers both as a technique and as content. From a transpersonal point of view, dreams are important because they give us messages from the unconscious, and they afford easy access to a different reality. Dreaming is one door to our inner selves.”
Psychic researcher Dr. Harmon Bro makes an interesting point in Edgar Cayce on Dreams: “The century of the rediscovery of dreams has also been the century of scientific investigation of psychic phenomena.” The relationship is more than incidental. Since the dawn of time, dreams have brought fascination, fear, and perplexity to men, and their use in the world of the occult is pervasive:
The interpretation of dreams has always been regarded as an occult science, with a popularity that waxed and waned with fashion and politics. Sigmund Freud’s introduction of the concept of using dreams to understand the deeper workings of the mind, although highly controversial at the turn of the century, lifted dream analysis to a new plateau of respectability. Every school of psychology that derives from Freud’s theories uses dream analysis as a standard therapeutic tool.
Even so, there is little agreement about what dreams mean or even why we dream.... Dreaming... seems to be essential for the restorative function of sleep, but beyond that, its purpose is debated....
New Age philosophy commonly portrays dreams as a medium for receiving clairvoyant or spiritual information. Various traditional occult systems of dream interpretation are being revived and reinterpreted to be used for this purpose. Such reinterpretation is usually similar to that used in humanistic astrology, which assumes that dream information indicates probabilities of personality patterns and indicates strengths and weaknesses that may be acted upon.
Dreams have also been used by God to reveal His will, as indicated many times in the Bible. God used prophetic dreams in the life of the pagan Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and the prophet Daniel interpreted them. God used a dream to instruct Mary’s husband, Joseph, to take her as his wife in spite of the unusual circumstances surrounding her pregnancy. God also used a dream to warn Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod’s attempt to destroy the child, Jesus, the Messiah (Daniel chs. 2, 4, 7; Matt. 1:20; 2:13).
Scripture also reveals that dreams are used by false prophets and teachers who speak the “delusions of their own minds” to lead people to follow false gods (Jer. 23:25-32; Deut. 13:1-5). God warns His people, “Do not listen to... your interpreters of dreams” who “prophesy lies” and who counsel against what He has spoken (Jer. 27:9-10). Dreams, then, have been used by God to reveal His will and accomplish His purposes, and they have also been used by the self-deceived.
Dreams have also been used by the devil to reveal his will and accomplish his purposes, including new occult revelations, psychic development, spiritistic contacts and guidance, and even spiritual intimidation and spirit possession. That the spirit world is interested in the promotion of dream work for its own purposes can be proven by the many books written on dreams through the agency of spirit-possessed mediums. Two examples are Edgar Cayce on Dreams and Seth: Dreams and Projection of Consciousness.
That dreams are used by both God and the devil shows that dreams can be used for either good or evil. But this should not blind us to the normalcy of dreams; their divine or demonic use is the exception, not the rule. Most of us dream in some form regularly, and we accept our dreams as ordinary components of life. In fact, some people who are experimentally deprived of their dreams for long periods may suffer mild to severe psychological problems. Our point, however, is that dreaming and dream work are worlds apart. Because the latter is becoming increasingly common within our culture, and also in the church, an evaluation of dream work is necessary.