Strephon Kaplan-Williams, author, the Jungian-Senoi
Dreamwork Manual, Elements of Dreamwork and the Dream Cards
We start with an observation. Jung himself was not a dreamer. He was a great
dreamer. Jung originated the term, Great Dream, by which he meant any dream that
like drama, had a beginning, middle and an end, was complete in itself and
whole. In his _Memories, Dreams, Reflections_, published after his death, he
gives us his great dreams and tells us how they directly influenced and guided
his life. They are indeed major dreams and show the Jungian dreamwork process.
Jung's childhood dream was of going down a tunnel underground and coming face to
face with an erect penis on a throne. The Jungians call this a phallos to
indicate an archetype, not a human. So we get the impression that Jung was a
great dreamer, a version for some of a Jungian saint.
I once had in my year long dreamwork training a man who presented dreams of
flying from earth to mars and so on. He really impressed us and so I named him
the cosmic dreamer. However, his wife told me privately that he only remembered
and wrote down his great dreams. He never bothered with all the ordinary dreams,
what one analyst of mine called the skunk dreams where we are shitting in the
living room and not the bathroom, or where I had to stack hundreds and hundreds
of pieces of wood.
This raises an issue. Certainly when we remember or only present our great
dreams, those with major archetypal and mythic imagery, then we are going to
believe in the Jungian collective unconscious and that everyone out there is
having great dreams of the archetypes. To illustrate, an older lady in a dream
group complained that she only had ordinary dreams compared to some of the other
members of the group. She would dream repeatedly of a simple farm with a fence
around it and in that fenced in area would be a cow. Certainly she could not be
classified as a great dreamer. But I did suggest one thing to her. If she wanted
to dream of mythic creatures she should read a book about dragons before
bedtime. She replied that she would do just that and bring the results in the
following week. Well, in fact she came to group beaming, for she now had her
first mythic or archetypal dream. She dreamed of the same simple farm with its
fence around the pasture. But this time instead of there being a cow in there
she now had a dragon fenced in! She could now earn the title of Dragon Lady, a
more exciting title of course than Cow Lady.
So this incident illustrates the difficulty of interpreting dream content. I
call it dream context. What is the dream landscape you habitually dream in? So,
as some have said, if you go to a Freudian you have Freudian dreams and if you
go to a Jungian you have Jungian dreams and if you go to a Lucidian you have
lucid dreams. This last part I have added of course.
What is key with any dream is the context within which it is dreamed. This
does not mean necessarily the context of the dreamer's life but of the dreamer
herself. I once counseled a young woman dreamer. Her father wanted her to stay
in college because he was an academic himself. But she kept dreaming of trees,
forests, streams, mountains. So I suggested that she could simply follow in life
what her dreams were dreaming for her. She quit college and went full time into
the ecology movement. I am almost sure that was the right choice for her.
Thus we have the issue, do we lead the dream or does the dream lead us? Are
we dreaming certain a symbolic context because we are creating our context, like
a Jungian who has to be a Jungian because he identifies with being a Jungian?
To rephrase the paradox, might it not be better that for some Freudian
patients who are having Jungian dreams that they be referred instead to a
Jungian, and that the Jungians then reciprocate by sending their clients who
have a lot of sex dreams to Freudian analysts?
In my own trainings and practice I will work with anyone's dreams and usually
go along with their context. Some are always dreaming about their personal
relationships while others mostly journey alone in their dreams. I don't
intervene and suggest other kinds of dreaming but if anything, enhance with the
dreamer the context they are dreaming in. One woman years ago who had never had
any interest in animals except her house cat started dreaming of dolphins. What
were we to do? Suggest that the dolphin is symbolic of a mammal who regressed to
the sea, or is a mythic animal the ancients revered and so she was having a
spiritual experience or that dolphins represent relating across species and
therefore she should improve her relationships with the other sex, or all the
variations thereof? No doubt you can look up in Jung's collected works what
dolphins mean for him. However, what this dreamer wanted to do since she kept
dreaming of her dolphins is that she took her vacations to Australia to visit
people who visited the dolphins in the sea. This became a major advocation for
her. This also raises dreamwork issues.
One danger of the Jungian approach to dreams is when it remains interpretive.
The orthodox Jungian turns symbol into concept. They create interpretations
based on their knowledge of other dreams, on mythology, on symbols and artifacts
of culture. In fact, one of the major Jungian books on dreams is all about
interpreting dream symbols and nothing at all about using Jung's active
imagination techniques with dreams.
When I began the Jungian-Senoi Institute in 1978 in Berkeley, California, no
one I knew of was doing dream reentry. Jung had already stated in his writings
that sometimes he had his patients carry the dream forward. Jung stated you do
not interfere with the dream itself, you do not change it in anyway since it is
a direct product of the unconscious. But he did say that amazing things could
happen when you began at the end of where your remembered dream left off and did
active imagination of letting new images come to you as you continued your dream
journey. Jung said he learned about imagery techniques from Ignacius Lyola, the
founder of the Jesuit order who had his monks do guided imagery with the
What I did was entirely new and it took a lot of courage on my part since I
had been trained as a Jungian for ten years with Dr. Elizabeth Howes of the
Guild for Psychological Studies. Don't change the dream! said Dr. Jung in
effect, or this is ego inflation by the archetype!
But a woman dreamer, herself a therapist, in my dreamwork training for a year
kept having repeat dreams of dark male figures. Now I could have interpreted
these in Jungian fashion for her as negative animus symbols, but in fact I
wanted to get to the emotional level with her. Turning _ image into concept_
simply would not do since it was interpretive and thinking. I needed to turn
_symbol into function_, the functional approach. Jung had indicated that
powerful things happen when you reenter the deeper psyche through active
imagination which I also call the meditative state. So I got this dreamer's
permission to take her back into her dream of the dark mysterious man with her
eyes closed and my eyes closed.
What happened lasted an hour and a half. Other spontaneous imagery came up
for her and it quickly turned into a man who had years earlier raped her. So
then we had to go through that. I learned also that simply taking a person back
into their psyche via the imagery could in fact be dangerous. I had the Senoi
concept from Kilton Stuart that you could intervene in the dream situation while
in the dream state. The Senoi trained their children to let themselves fall all
the way when they had a falling dream instead of waking themselves up as if the
dream was a nightmare. So here in this dream reentry I did not tell this dreamer
what do to but suggested she simply stay present to this man, who was the image
of her rapist, and encounter him however it came to her. My guidance was
supportive and not directive, following the Jungian principle of let the deeper
psyche produce its images spontaneously.
The amazing result was that for this dreamer a lot was healed for her at the
feeling level because now she could confront her attacker. She had been having
these negative male figure dreams because of a past traumatic experience. I
subsequently used dream reentry with other dreamers who have been raped and also
with other trauma victims and in each case with amazing and healing success.
Their repeat dreams never repeated themselves after going through guided reentry
with me. And their emotional life changed dramatically.
I hasten to add that many people now who have not been professionally trained
in psychology or dreamwork at a highly skilled and supervised level are using
active imagination and a form of guided dream reentry. One recent case in point
from the Netherlands is of a priest who goes around telling his groups to close
their eyes, see a forest and see their wild animals in the forest.
To the classically trained Jungian this is rape of the unconscious. It is a
rational approach used to evoke imagery from the unconscious. Some people will
immerse in the suggested images but what gets evoked can be more than they can
So it is not simply Jungian to do dream reentry, active imagination or
creative visualization, a misnomer for what is not always creative when you have
people close their eyes and suggest things to them to visualize.
I strongly advocate that people who use active imagination on others and
dream reentry with others be supervised and trained in handling ethically and
professionally this technique. Having said this I know that there are many out
there who will not go along with this statement. But I can tell you from
personal experience that active imagination and dream reentry are powerful
techniques. You can unbalance a person's psyche if you are not really knowing
what you are doing.
But for those of you who will go ahead anyway I urge that as a guide you stay
supportive and neutral as much as possible. You do not direct what the person
you are guiding should do. You do not say when someone is at the door of a dream
house, would you enter the house now and report what you see there? Better you
say, You are at the door of this house. What are you experiencing right now?
Then after experiencing the situation you can as guide ask, what choices do you
have here? If finally the choice is to enter and explore the house, still keep
it neutral. The guide can say, please start slowly. Just open the door and
proceed at your own pace. Describe what you see. It will be amazing and
unpredictable what is seen or experienced there. The guide supports
possibilities. He or she does not direct the show with an exaggerated sense of
his or her self importance at using such a powerful technique.
The reason I still consider myself Jungian is that through the dream and
dreamwork channels the archetypes, or energy structures, have become very real
for people at a feeling and imagery level. I use my Ego and the Seven Basic
Archetypes model to help balance situations. If there is too much adversity I
may search with the dreamer for a little more heroic, but without suggesting the
Thus in a dream reentry and the dreamer is before her dream cave and it is
dark in there, should you suggest that she summon a helper or light a torch?
Aha! Guiding again by telling someone else what to do or what you would do. What
if the choice is not to enter the cave in the dark. Again, stay present but
don't suggest what to do. You are at the entrance to this cave. Can you just
describe what you are experiencing there? And above all, never ask a person how
they feel! Feelings are rational reactions. I feel fine. I feel bad. These are
evaluative statements. It seems to pull the dreamer out of their trance state
where they are open to their unconscious. How are they supposed to know what
they feel? They are experiencing without immediate evaluation. That is the
I will just say that amazing things often happen out of a dream reentry.
There may even be physical changes. Stephen LaBerge at one point stated he hoped
to fine lucid dreaming techniques that would bring about physical healing. Well,
I have taken a few dreamers through a dream experience and after they did have a
change of symptoms. One dreamer was diagnosed as having breast cancer. She had a
dream in which she was in the hospital hall and afraid to open the door to a
ward room for what she would find there. I suggested she meditate in front of
that door in her daily meditations until it occurred to her what to do. When she
finally after many days opened the door she was not a cancer victim in bed
there. And her breasts had no sign of cancer in her next diagnosis. The same
happened for a dreamer with a diagnosis of cervical cancer. Dream reentry with a
huge woman made of earth that the dreamer was helped to experience also meant
somehow that her next pap smear was negative.
Not enough to go on statistically but it would not be hard to do clinical
tests with the skilled and professional application of dream reentry to the
right dreams of persons diagnosed with cancer. Another of my year long dreamwork
students was scheduled the next day for an operation on her knee which was lame
in part. She dreamed of being in the hospital and healing her knee right there
with a method and statement that she knew what was wrong and could heal herself
and did not need the doctors. Well, the next day she declared her knee was
indeed healed and cancelled the operation and never had trouble with her knee
since. Talk about Jesus doing healing's! Maybe it is possible with the right
What I am suggesting here with the Jungian dreamwork is that you must show
results to prove that your methods and personality theory works. Any appeal to
"Jung says," simply will not do. Can you produce results? Can you back
up your ideas? Of course I have many more examples along these lines.
What is still Jungian about my approach is that the fundamental assumption
that dreams reflect archetypal patterns still holds. I have also had extensive
experience with psychotic teenagers in the former glory days of St. George
Homes, Inc, in Berkeley, California. There also strong interventions through the
dream state into the unconscious seemed to be a contributing factor in real
shifts out of psychosis into healing. But of course with the mentally ill you
have to often put a lot of energy into evoking the unconscious in the right way.
I have had a number of letters now from therapists who used my Jungian-Senoi
Dreamwork Manual with effective and healing results with their clients and
patients. Sadly it is out of print now but may be gotten as a used book. Also my
rewritten edition, Dreamworking is available as a used book. We are looking for
a re-publisher and any grounded suggestions would be helpful.
Currently I live in the Netherlands and have a three to five year course for
dreamwork professionals that meet every other Saturday throughout the year and
work in small groups in between. This is training at the highest of professional
levels and graduates must have had over one hundred dreams worked with at a core
level. We are Jungian in the sense of Jung's key concepts of wholeness and
individuation at work in the deeper psyche and revealing themselves as major
energy principles in dreams and their dreamwork. We train professionals of
integrity who have done the thorough work on themselves even before working with
others and their dreams. Amazing changes in life and dreams have come about with
these committed students.
Our professional ethics are based on students having direct experiences of
their own dream journeys and life changes brought about through their own
dreamwork. This cannot happen without going through the basic three year course,
the one hundred dreams worked with, and an enormous shift away from dream
control and egocentricity to truly following the guidance of ones own dreams and
dream source. In addition students are professionally supervised and trained in
using the dreamwork methodology on others as well. My own Jungian training
lasted ten year. We try and do the professional level in five to seven years by
concentrating mostly on the dream and its dreamwork itself. For my Jungian
training I had to read all of Jung's twenty-two volumns, know them practically
by heart, and be current with almost all the other Jungian writers as well.
Fascinating stuff but for our professional dreamwork training we focus mostly on
the dream and its dreamwork. This is the original book of the unconscious and
far more powerful than reading even Jung.
I also give a week long summer intensive, this year from June 30 to July 6,
2001 in a forest in the Netherlands. Both my advanced Norwegian and Netherlands
students will be there to participate and help lead. You can of course join us
if you would like to work intensively for a week with your own dreams. This year
our web site should be offering its first comprehensive dreamwork course for
work at home on ones dreams.
Strephon Kaplan-Williams has his web site, www.dreamwork2000.com going for a
year now with around 500 visitors a week. Of special note is his _Dream Cards_
Interactive page where visitors can pick by synchronicity an unknown Dream Card
on a dream or life issue and receive the _Dream Card_ images and inspirational
wisdom message which may give personal insight to what they are dealing with.
Many have testified that this tool works for them. Also of note is that the
_Dream Cards_ in revised edition with new recipes is out for the first time in a
German language edition. The _Dream Cards_ have sold over 100,000 copies by now
in eight languages. Please also note and pass on to others interested that
Strephon is a weekly contributor to analyzing issues in dreams that people share
at the Consciousness Forum page of Dreamwork2000.com. Here you can see how he
works with people's dreams without making highly personal interpretations.
Strephon calls his approach the functional approach to dreams in which dreams
are analyzed for key issues in dreams and life and for life principles for
dealing with those issues. If we do the work on the dream itself, how to deal
with life becomes more obvious. We dream to wake to life!
-Strephon. Strephon Kaplan-Williams may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
through his web site.