Merry Christmas from the Dream Temple!
In this time of upheaval crossing religious and political limits, I wish there could be nothing inflammatory about wishing someone a Merry Christmas and about talking of Christianity in the 21st Century. My disclaimer here is that I grew up and still live in the South, where Christianity is taken seriously by many people of all stripes. I have attended Universities affiliated with the Southern Baptist, the Episcopal, and the Nazarene churches. At the same time, while many of my friends were involved in denominations which broadly proclaimed Jesus (and we’ll return to that), my family came more from the Northeastern Episcopal tradition of keeping our relationship with Christ cordial and distant. In fact, we referred to him not by Jesus but by his last name, as though respectfully calling him Christ or THE Christ, like a formal relationship with a distant but respected Mr. Christ.
At the Southern Baptist College I attended, I mistakenly pointed out to a professor of religion that Parthenogenesis happens once every 100,000 births,* and he was restrained but heated in his response. “As I said earlier,” he emphatically declared, “the death of Jesus was miraculous, and I believe his birth was miraculous as well.” And of course it was. That birth and the aftermath has inspired so much in Western culture and in personal spiritual growth. A related tale is the story of the late 19th century dinner party where a British diplomat asked a prominent Hindu guest why his people deny the divinity of Christ. The response was, “We do not deny the divinity of Christ. Why do you deny the divinity of everyone else?”
So it is from this tradition of respecting the divinity of all that has characterized most of the places I have worked and nearly all the people alongside whom I have counseled or tended the dreams of others. Still, I am often struck working with the dreams of people in this part of the country how Jesus appears to them in the dreamtime: real and as infused with life and vitality as any other Divine figure. These phenomena are transformative, weighty, and valid. Case in point: Jill, a client at YANA about eight years ago, was a tall young woman in her early 30s when she came to YANA House for Women about nine years ago. Her painting (at right) was constructed on a seven-foot door that had been removed from a closet at YANA, and it depicts her coming to her self while a resident. Her growth, her connection to the feminine in nature and herself, are well depicted in this self-portrait. Last I heard, Jill was doing quite well after leaving YANA with more than a year sustained recovery. Her dream reported below is consistent with her evangelical Christian beliefs:
I am outside. It is like being by a dock but I don’t see any water around. There is a stone in the ground and I pick it up. It is like there is a cartoon scene of Jesus on it, and it starts moving and it is like I am watching the stone being rolled back, Jesus walking out of the tomb dressed in white, and there is light everywhere. It is like the rock has a mirror on it, and light from heaven is reflected on me.
Jill seemed to be in a blissful, trance-like state in recounting the dream. “When I awaken it is like I feel high. My therapist says it’s joy, but it’s not exactly like that. It is like I have knowledge there is no such thing as bad. It comes from God, this knowledge.” Something about her experience in this dream remained with Jill as she moved about the rest of the stay in the extended care sober housing of YANA House. Many of the other women, respecting though not sharing her beliefs, looked up to her as a positive spiritual mentor. Her work with them was genuine, heartfelt, and not in any way proselytizing. If you asked her, she would say Jesus was very much alive in her and with her.
Some people quote Huston Smith with regard to diluting their religion: “If you are looking for water, it is better to dig one well sixty feet deep than six wells ten feet deep.” In other words, honor a single faith specifically and you will strike what you seek. It may also be true though that trying several wells increases the chance you will find a trickle, and I have looked around enough to have slaked my thirst in more than one location. Though I come from a long line of Christians, I have spent much of my life as a spiritual generalist and seeker.Jesus is alive this time of year. Christ is alive this time of year. and the Christian season of advent is, if nothing else, a time ripely expectant of the miracle of hope. And today for a change I awoke without an aversion to the concept of Jesus – the first name, personable and caring Son of God more readily embraced by the more evangelical denizens of my realm. Jesus; ready to hand; vital and alive; present and caring. I might insert – hoping not to sound like some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jewish, but I own much of this year’s inner work to at least five people whose Jewish background although running silently in the background, emerged in the work of my dreams many times over.
In the work of this year, through my dreams of Jewish Temples and of Christian sanctuaries, I have come to a state of trust in the larger Forces at work. For example, I came into this year quite worried about the planet, and as I write we are approaching a 72 degree Christmas which is startlingly different than the White Christmases or cold ones of my youth. As unseasonal storms (tornadoes) passed through the South last night, it was easy to marvel with awe over the resiliency and power of Earth. I say this even – or especially – in these times of global warming, genetic manipulation, and the biohazard imprint of Man. Despite entering 2015 still bleak and depressed in all of that, I leave the year more hopeful and trusting in nature and in Earth. Christ is alive. The Jewish and Muslim Patriarchs are alive. The Greek Pantheon is alive. The Hindu pantheon is alive. Dreams are alive. And with all of that, I hold hope for the planet, and I do not count as much today, the power of man to destroy what these Forces have wrought.
Peace on Earth; Good Will to All!Merry Christmas!
- Just to fact-check this, Parthenogenesis is not known to occur naturally in mammals. If it did, the offspring would share the genetic composition of the mother, like a fraternal twin only more so, and would be female, never male.