Carl Jung started out with Sigmund Freud as his mentor to the point that Freud expected Jung to carry on the mantel of psychoanalysis. He referred to Jung as his “crown prince”. Jung, however, developed an interest in spiritual matters, validating spiritual experience as more than simply unconscious process. He and Freud parted company as a result.
I came across Jung early in my journey when I was trying to find anchors for my work as a psychotherapist. Jung’s affirmation of the spiritual appealed to me. I was also intrigued by his expansion on Freud’s theory of dream interpretation. Jung speculated that dream activity touched on universal themes he termed archetypes. And so I began to pay attention to my dreams.
Near the end of my time in the Army, I had deeper contact with Jung’s theories. I also began to consult with a wonderful therapist trained in Jungian psychology. Ramon Lopez-Reyes encouraged me to pay attention to my dreams and to share them in therapy.
One night I was on duty at the hospital as Administrative Officer of the Day. This rather boring activity allowed me to do some reading and even to sleep. I was reading Jung’s Man and His Symbols and was deeply impressed with his stories of “big” dreams, i.e., dreams of significant guidance for the dreamer. I went to sleep very much hoping for a Big Dream. Here is what my unconscious (and God) offered me:
I am travelling to the center of the earth! Only I am travelling by elevator. Once there, I search out the Philosopher’s Stone. Instead I find a hot dog with thorns in it.
Eagerly, I brought this dream to Ramon, expecting that he’d be impressed as I uncovered its meaning. Of course, I overlooked the fact that in the dream I’d taken the easy way to the center of the earth. In any case, Ramon focused on the hot dog, asking me for my associations. After a bit, he suggested that “hot dog” is slang for a show-off, an egotist and that perhaps my approach to the spiritual journey was somewhat superficial. Needless to say, I did not like his interpretation.
Some years later, I realized that Ramon was right and that I did indeed have a Big Dream. It was pointing out to me that, if I truly pursue a spiritual journey, I have to struggle and suffer if I am to reach any degree of wisdom. I also have to approach the journey with humility.
My exposure to Jungian psychology led me to the works of others such as John Sanford and Morton Kelsey, men who sought a bridge between Jungian psychology and Christianity. Jung provided some important signposts for me. And I’ve been blessed with a few other Big Dreams.
In an interview at the end of his life, Jung was asked if he believed in God. His response was “I know there is a God.” I long for his certainty.
Reflection: Have you had any Big Dreams that had significant impact on your journey?
Further Reading: Jung is not easy to read. His writing is convoluted and complex. Therefore, a good starting point is his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Jung was one of those marvelous therapists who lived his theory.