Friday, August 12, 2011
New Church Perspective in Helen Kennedy, angels, associate spirits, dreams, spirituality

Helen traces the progression of how humans have interpreted dreams from Biblical times through to the present day. She examines why we are removed from perceiving their significance directly. -Editor.

Sleep is a wonderful thing — Hamlet says:

"…to sleep, perchance to dream” (William Shakespeare, Hamlet).

Emily Dickinson wrote about sleep and dreaming, too. A verse from a poem of hers says:

"Half glad when it is night and sleep,
if, haply, thro’ a dream to peep
into parlors shut by day…" (I Have a King, who does not speak—).

Dreams are full of odd and unusual imagery and there are many books trying to explain the images in dreams. But in sifting through some, I’m convinced it’s still a matter of the person being the only one who can interpret a dream for herself, or himself.

When we look at what some people have said about dreams, we see that the pioneer psychologist, Sigmund Freud, had an abiding interest in dreams, but he maintained that dreams are neurotic symptoms.

In this group he includes hysterical phobias, obsessions and delusions, and says they are bound for practical reasons to be a matter of concern for physicians.

Freud’s idea was that "dreams are a compromise between…wishes that have been repressed and…the restrictions on open expression of these wishes…The repressed wishes are fulfilled in images which ensure that their nature is not revealed. Freud also believed that, because of our repressed wishes, we dream in order not to wake up" (Charles Rycroft, The Innocence of Dreams).

Jung looked at dreams differently. He "seems, from the very beginning, to have regarded dreams as creations, as messages, though he seems also to have had some difficulty in deciding who or what…was sending them" (ibid).

And that they came from "both the…Id or It — and [the] collectively impersonal part of oneself, which one shares with others, or the Collective Unconscious" (ibid). Jung seems also to have believed that we continually dream even while awake, "but that consciousness makes such a noise that we do not hear it" (ibid).

And Jung "rejected Freud’s view that…the purpose of [dreams] is to preserve sleep by granting the dreamer disguised…fulfillment of wishes which would otherwise wake him up" (ibid).

Jung says, "There is no reason under the sun why we should assume that the dream is a crafty device to lead us astray" (ibid).

Both Freud and Jung seem to have been partly right, partly wrong. Laboratory research on the physiology of dreaming suggests that we do not dream continually, even during sleep. It suggests rather that one of the reasons why we sleep is in order to dream.

Let’s look at dreams and things of a spiritual nature. To our western, rationalist mind, it is amazing how many books of the Bible include dreams. Some are dreams that need to be interpreted, like in Genesis 41 where the Pharoah dreamed of cows that were both fat and skinny. Joseph interpreted the fat cows meaning the present time of plenty, and the skinny ones meaning a famine that was to come. Because of his interpretation, the pharoah stored up grain and many people were saved from starvation during the famine that ensued.

The chapters on Daniel have several dreams and visions in them. In one the king, Nebuchadnezzar, was so frightened of his dream that he actually forgot what it was (Daniel 2). Then Daniel had to both tell the king what his dream was AND interpret it for him. Two chapters later, the king was troubled by another dream and said, "These were the visions of my head while on my bed" (Daniel 4:19). Daniel interpreted it, saying the king would be driven from men, and forced to live as a beast in the field, eating grass. Scary. In the next chapter the king’s son, Belshazzar, is frightened so terribly by visions that "the joints of his hips were loosened, and his knees knocked against each other" (Daniel 5:6).

Belshazzar was desperate for someone to interpret the dream, and his wife told him:

Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding (of) interpreting dreams, solving riddles and explaining enigmas was found in this Daniel, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation. (Daniel 5:12)

Not all the dreams in the Bible are portents of terrible things, there are some that have a highly mystical quality, like in Genesis where Jacob:

dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28)

Again in Genesis where Jacob, as an old man has learned that his son, Joseph, is still alive; he undertakes the journey to go down to Egypt and see him. During this time God spoke to him in a dream, calling, "'Jacob! Jacob!' And Jacob said, 'Here I am!' Then God said, '...Do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.'"(Genesis 46).

Other dreams from the Bible have conveyed important messages. In fact, Jesus was protected when He was an infant by the use of dreams. In a dream an angel told Mary’s betrothed, Joseph, that God wanted him to take Mary for his wife (Matthew 1:20); then again in a dream Joseph was instructed to take the infant, Jesus, and flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). He had the time to do this because the wrath of Herod was forestalled when an angel told the three wisemen not to return to Herod, but to travel home by a different route (Matthew 2:12). Each of the wisemen had the same dream.

There are so many dreams in the Bible that Abraham Lincoln once said, “It seems strange how much there is in the Bible about dreams…some fifteen or sixteen chapters in the Old Testament and four or five in the New. If we believe the Bible, we must accept the fact that, in the old days, God and His angels came to men in their sleep and made themselves known in dreams" (John A. Sanford, Dreams & Healing p. 6).

In fact, Ancient man’s belief in dreams gave him a connection to the sources of his spiritual life, but our culture is greatly impoverished in this respect, and a wide gulf has emerged between our conscious life and the life of our souls (for all our material well-being, we are a culturally-deprived people) (Ibid 7:3). To the best knowledge, there is no ancient culture in which dreams were not exceedingly important. Ancient people believed dreams to be an important way in which the soul received guidance from the spiritual world (Ibid 6:1).

Anthropologist William Merrill writes of the Raramuri of Mexico:

Dreams are real events. On numerous occasions, people would describe to me quite incredible personal experiences, but fail to mention that the events had taken place in dreams until I asked. This does not mean that they do not distinguish between their waking and dreaming lives, but that they attribute comparable reality to both. (Healing Dreams p. 316)

To go into another area. Related to dreams is the cerebellum. I’ve gone to the library and onto the internet to learn about the cerebellum. Medical science knows precious little about it and the best use they ascribe to it is having to do with the function of the muscles and with walking.

Philip Whitfield, in the Human Body Explained, says:

Nestled at the lower rear of the brain is the cerebellum. It coordinates movements, especially the fine, rapid, accurate movements of skilled actions such as writing or playing a sport. The cerebellum receives motor signals from the motor cortex, as well as sensory signals from the muscles, joints and skin about how a movement is progressing. (p. 50)

The book Minds Behind the Brain, by Stanley Finger, says:

Today we know that the cerebellum plays an important role in allowing us to walk without thinking about how to move one leg in front of the other, and in allowing us to drink from a cup without consciously plotting how far to tip it as it approaches our lips. (p. 96)

These quotes show how the cerebellum controls the unconscious functions and has us bypass our thinking, even in matters pertaining to our body.

Of the cerebellum, the theologian and scientist, Emanuel Swedenborg, said it is the part of our mind that the spiritual flows more directly into — which would explain why medical science knows so little about it.

Swedenborg said the cerebellum is important to our understanding of dreams because "at night-time man is in spontaneous things, and the cerebellum is the source of what is spontaneous" (Spiritual Diaries 4518).

He also says the cerebellum functions during the daytime, too:

The influx from the cerebellum insinuates itself into the face, as is evident from the fact that the disposition is inscribed on the face, and affections appear in it, for the most part without the man’s will, as fear, reverence, shame, etc. these come from the cerebellum by means of its fibers when there is no dissimulation within. (Arcana Coelestia 4326:2)

And he says:

The cerebellum perceives everything the cerebrum does, but does not publish it, or is unable to think or speak in the way that is peculiar to the cerebrum. [It] has an exquisite perception of all thoughts… [notice it knows our thoughts] The cerebrum is comparatively in a turmoil, but the cerebellum is in quiet. (Arcana Coelestia 4326:1)

Now we can get some understanding as to why the cerebellum doesn’t communicate in words. And it also ties in with what I quoted Jung as saying that, "Consciousness makes such a noise that we do not hear it" (Charles Rycroft, The Innocence of Dreams).

When it’s ready for its nightly romp, the cerebellum gears up to communicate with us through dreams. The deeper we are asleep, the more we dream. But dreams are confusing, and most people want to make sense out of what is confusing. But we can allow things to become more confusing until they make sense out of themselves.

What is confusing, at times, is the spirit trying to communicate with us, but the conscious mind doesn’t yet know what it is saying.

"Some would think dreams can’t design outer circumstances. But on closer acquaintance one finds that they can" (Wilson Van Dusen, Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams p. 122).

Swedenborg had been lodging with a Moravian man and attending that church every Sunday. But after a series of dreams he didn’t join the Moravian church, though he respected their simple piety, but followed his own individual path. What we see here is the inner world shaping Swedenborg’s religious life. He left behind a very well documented book called the Journal of Dreams which traces his transition from being a well known scientist to being a visionary and revelator.

However dreams work, for me on a personal level, the key to a dream is the feeling I have when I am waking up. That is what I need to pay attention to. Swedenborg says that, "when a man dreams his natural understanding is laid asleep and his spiritual sight is opened, which draws its all from affection" (Apocalypse Explained 706:3).

In his amazing exploration of the world of spirits, Swedenborg says that at times his dreams coincided with what angels were saying:

I once had quite an ordinary dream, and having woken up I related it all from start to finish. The angels said that it coincided exactly with what they had been discussing; not that the things they were discussing appeared in the dream, but instead things completely different, into which the thoughts in their discussion were transformed, yet in such a way that they were representative and correspondent. Not one detail was missing. (Arcana Coelestia 1981)

This can be understood when we see that, if the angels were talking about truth, Swedenborg’s dream might have had water in it, or stones. He says essentially the same thing in Arcana Coelestia 6319:

As regards what flows into a person from the angels present with him, it is not of the same nature as the objects of his thought but is that which involves correspondences; for the angels think on a spiritual level, but the person perceives their thought on a natural one. Thus spiritual realities come down into images that correspond to them. …When for example the person speaks about bread, sowing, harvest, fatness, and the like, the angels’ thought is about aspects of the good of love and charity, and so on.

He says that dreams come from varied sources:

  1. …one flows in from spirits, who act (the part of) the persons that are seen in the dreams, and precisely as the dreaming appearance is
  2. …the other kind consists of things…which are usually representations.
  3. …a third kind is from the Lord mediately or immediately through heaven. (Spiritual Diaries 3877)

Of the last, Swedenborg says that dreams from angels are beautiful, delightful, instructive and predictive (Spiritual Diaries 8 – index).

Those in whom …dreams originate are angelic spirits at the entrance to the paradise gardens… They perform their task with very great delight, so much so that they vie with one another to be there, and they love to fill man with joys and delights such as they see within his affection and disposition. The angelic spirits are drawn from those who during their lifetime took delight in and loved in every way to make other people’s lives delightful. (Arcana Coelestia 1977:2)

How do these angelic spirits know how to do this? The angelic spirits don’t know where this comes from, but then they said:

…representatives so beautiful and delightful, came to them all in a moment; …they were told that they came from heaven. They belong to the provence of the cerebellum, for the cerebellum, as I have learned, remains awake even during periods when the cerebrum is sleeping. (Arcana Coelestia 1977)

Arcana Coelestia 1976 restates what the types of dreams are, slightly differently:

  1. The first type comes from the Lord mediately by way of heaven; such were the prophetical dreams spoken of in the Word.
  2. The second type comes by way of angelic spirits, especially those who are situated…over towards the right where the paradise gardens are. This was the source of the dreams that members of the Most Ancient Church had, dreams that were instructive.
  3. The third type comes by way of the spirits who are close to a person when he is asleep. These too carry spiritual meanings.
  4. Delusory dreams however come from a different source.

In these catagories I believe Swedenborg is talking about dreams that come from a directly spiritual origin, not the ones that many scientists and other dream researchers think are a rearranging of the events of the day. Those dreams occur earlier in the night, while ones that are very different in content and imagery occur later in the night and towards the end of the dream cycle.

Swedenborg has many interesting things to say about dreams and dreamers. He distinguishes between a prophet and a dreamer like this:

Prophet: one who teaches truths (They were instructed by a living voice from the Lord)

Dreamer: one who stirs up to doing, [or the stirring up from which a thing is done]

I wish I had written down where this was from, but I didn’t. It makes so much sense to me, and, being a woman, I know about being stirred up by my feelings to do something long before I understand what needs to be done. This is called perception.

This kind of unconscious function is very important, even in literal types of things.

"The history of science can produce many examples of dreams reflecting the day’s work, with the dream illuminating and directing the scholar’s work in progress" (Ernst Benz, Swedenborg: Visionary Savant in The Age of Reason p. 153).

Dreams helped Swedenborg in his scientific research and writing of The Animal Kingdom. Ernst Benz writes:

…A dream of 11/12 April (1744) gave him particulars of the thymus gland and its connection to the adrenal glands, which he was discussing in The Animal Kingdom. He understood a dream of 8/9 August as an indication that a particular medical discussion in the third part of The Animal Kingdom was incomplete, while a dream of 1/ 2 September confirmed that the conclusion of his first chapter on the sense of taste was “correct and satisfactory” (p. 153)

In more recent times, the leading 20th century scientist Albert Einstein used his imagination in his work. He imagined he was riding on a beam of light from one star to another. That vision was central to developing his theory of Relativity, and Einstein is known to have said that, "The imagination is more important than knowledge."

Even peoples who do not have our type of modern science attribute help in developing their specific form of science to dreams. In the book Healing Dreams Marc Barasch says that "many a tribal shaman claims to have learned medicinal use of specific plants through dreams" (p. 75).

How do we know what a dream is saying to us, or if it is saying anything at all to us?

In Healing Dreams, it says that "the most reasonable-seeming answer is often the wrong one."

"Dreams play by rules that confound the waking mind. But at the heart of healing dreams are certain consistent, if challenging attitudes" (Healing Dreams p. 28).

Are we too far removed to get anything from our dreams—-that is, the ones sent to us by the Lord through the agency of His angels?

In our society we have not lost our dreams, but our organic connection to them, and thus our ability to act upon them. If we fail to give our dreams a place in our life, our existence may become a wraithlike affair. Healing dreams are not career counselors, telling us how to repackage our assets for success. They speak for the innermost when no one else will. They do not calculate the shortest distance between two points but suggest that we take the long way home. Though we often content ourselves with having to maintain different faces — one for the job, one with our families; one for society, one for the heart — healing dreams want to make visible the pattern that connects; they tempt us to bring forth what is most passionate and profound within us, for our own sake, and for the world. (Healing Dreams p. 118)

Now I’d like to share with you two dreams, one I had and another from a book—-but they both have to do with interacting with people:

I was in the office of a railroad company executive waiting to be talked to by a woman executive. I had to wait my turn and there was one woman ahead of me. The executive took her and was not hurrying. I was in a rush because I had to go to Italy soon by train. I had one of my granddaughters with me.

As time went on I got more and more rushed. Soon it got to the point where I had to leave and be on the train in two hours. I had to be downtown at the main train station. I had to talk to this woman, get my granddaughter home (she was being good), completely pack, pick up my daughter (who was going with me), drive downtown, and get on the train. All of the sudden it dawned on me I was going to have to park in the lot of the main train station and leave my car for the length of my vacation. I didn’t have anything else to do with the car. It was too late to get someone else to drive us. I was going to have to pay downtown rates for all that time. I tried to think of a few things but nothing worked. I resigned myself to paying the money.

This was a very rushed dream and in the hours after I had it I realized that the high price of downtown parking represented the high cost to my psyche from living crowded with other people and not being authentic.

This is the second dream:

I am stealing a newspaper from a vending machine.

I suddenly wake up to what I am doing and feel guilty.

I had to mull this over for a long time. In the newspaper it seems the articles are just collections of platitudes, opinions, gossip, and scandals raked up to serve as news, etc. I saw that in the dream I was stealing something of very low quality. Finally I made the connection: At the time I was starting in my profession, I was very unsure of myself. I tried to fit into every group, every clique that might give me some feeling of belonging or being ‘someone’. I listened to all the collective opinions and gossip and repeated the trite things whenever I could. A lot of time I repeated it as though it were my information, my points of view.

My dream showed me I was stealing all this collective nonsense because I wasn’t thinking for myself; I was taking it, free of charge, from others. I wasn’t paying the price for having my own ideas and wouldn’t dare to think for myself because I so desperately wanted to belong. (Robert A. Johnson, Inner Work p. 74)

There is much that can be said for dreams and being bothered about them. The book, The Inner Child In Dreams says that "a dream unnoticed is like a letter left unopened."

Where does this letter come from? From what is deep within us. Psychologist and mystic, Wilson Van Dusen, says, "If one is to know heaven, it has to be through developing the unconscious functions" (Wilson Van Dusen, Swedenborg's Journal of Dreams p. 141).

And Swedenborg says, "Angelic thought, or man’s interior thought…may almost be likened to living dreams and the living thought he has in them" (Spiritual Diaries 1309).

Helen Kennedy

Helen Kennedy writes essays, novels, and poetry. Her first published story, Grandmothers and Grandfathers was about a new mother who can perceive her baby's Irish ancestors bringing blessings to the newest member of the family line. Her unique novels are rooted in the human condition while exploring the reality of a world to come. Helen also is an avid genealogist, believing there is much to learn about our minds from the very people with whom we may share facial features, body size, personality traits, and other expressions of our humanity.
Article originally appeared on New Church Perspective (http://www.newchurchperspective.com/).
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