These attitudes are partly the work of societal pressures, and of the authority we have assigned to two kinds of authority: those who have aspired to control our inner lives and those who have suggested that we have no inner lives that matter. I am speaking about the strange alliance between forms of established religion that fear direct personal experience of the sacred, and scientific reductionists who deny both the sacred and the validity of such experience.
For centuries, the church applied crushing weight to deny the validity of personal experience in the worlds of spirit. Personal revelation is always perceived as a threat by religious monopolies. Carl Jung, the son of a Protestant minister who had lost his faith, observed that organized religion exists to protect people from a personal experience of the divine. Hopefully, we and our churches will evolve beyond the need for such defenses. In these things, there is simply no substitute for personal experience.
If fear of dreams breeds witchfinders, it also spawns reductionists, who are perhaps more deadly (or at least more deadening) because they invoke scientific jargon in a society where “science” is widely presumed to have all the answers. Turn a certain kind of scientist loose on the dreaming mind and you will soon be informed that dreams are hallucinations spawned by the wash of chemicals, or nonsensical clutter triggered by random neural firing. Such findings are usually reported without a single reference to the researcher’s personal experience of dreaming, which speaks eloquently about their value.
There is all the difference in the world between a genuinely scientific approach and scientism, the dull ideology that denies the authenticity of what cannot be quantified and replicated under laboratory conditions. It is scientism, not science, that is the enemy of dreaming. True science is hungry for fresh data and new experiments, ready to jettison theories that our understanding has outgrown, ever alive to the possibility that the universe (like the dream source) is putting bigger questions to us than our best brains can put to it. It is no accident that the pathfinders of modern science – Einstein and Pauli, Kekule and Bohr, even Sir Isaac Newton is his day – have been dreamers and practical mystics.
Dreaming is a path of direct experience of the greater reality, whether we call that the sacred, or nature, or the multiverse. Dreamwork – sharing dreams in the right way and helping each other unfold their messages and take appropriate action to embody their energy and guidance – is everyday church. Let’s step from under the sway of the League of Fear and Contempt. Let’s break the mental padlocks installed by those who have tried to get us to keep our dreams sealed in a locked basement.
Dream sharing at Mosswood Hollow. Photo by Robert Moss.
Adapted from Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.