Johnson: Inner Works

“All forms of interaction with the unconscious that nourished our ancestors—dream, vision, ritual, religious experience—are largely lost, dismissed by the modern mind as primitive or superstitious. In our hubris, our faith in our unassailable reason, cuts ourselves off from our origins in the unconscious and from the deepest parts of ourselves.” —Robert Johnson in Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth (Harper & Row, 1989).


My spiritual director posted this quote on Facebook today. It is an affirmation for a new path that a group of us are beginning again. Our book group is rereading the revised version of Joyce Rockwood Hudson’s Natural Spirituality. We recently were in a clergy group and announced that we were studying Natural Spirituality. Two members who had recently finished seminary had no idea what we were talking about. When we mentioned dream work, they were even more in the dark, and maybe a little suspicious. Older clergy in the group had been studying dreams for some time and affirmed the value of the study.

I have been involved in dream groups on and off for more than thirty years. Dream work is one of the many ways to try to discern what God is calling us to do in our lives. My experience is that it is important to participate in a group of people studying their own and each other’s dreams. Most of us find it difficult to discern dreams by ourselves.

There are many factors to consider. Dreams tell us something we don’t already know. Parts of ourselves may block new information.

Think of our experience in other discussion groups when new ideas come up. There is invariably at least one person who flings out an automatic “no” to a new way of doing things. “That is not the way we have done it in the past.”

It always takes time for the whole group to process the information and decide to go in a new direction. Likewise, a dream group of friends looking at a dream from outside of our own ego may gently guide us in a new direction. We look for these insights into our inner life until the light bulb turns on inside and outside of us. I like Joyce Rockwood Hudson’s subtitle of her book, A Handbook for Jungian Inner Work in Spiritual Community.

Joanna joannaseibert