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Hall, J.A. (1981). Religious Symbols in Dreams of Analytical Patients. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 9(2):237-249.

(1981). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 9(2):237-249

Religious Symbols in Dreams of Analytical Patients

James A. Hall, M.D.

I have previously discussed the occurrence of religious images in dreams (Hall, 1979), dividing them into three categories: (1) traditional images known to the conscious mind of the dreamer, (2) images that carry religious meaning in a symbolic system not known to the conscious mind of the dreamer, and (3) dream images that appear to have religious meaning within the context of the dream, but cannot be amplified into a known religious system by the dreamer's conscious mind nor by the skill of the analyst. I have chosen to refer to this third category as contextual religious symbols.

Even when images in dreams refer to the conscious religious system of the dreamer, they are often used in a unique way, demonstrating the ability of the unconscious dream-making function (the Self in Jungian theory) to use images from the personal unconscious in an emergent and unexpected fashion. It sometimes seems as if the dream-maker Self selects from materials already at hand, and weaves them into new but exact meanings that do not destroy the previous image but metaphorize it, pointing toward a multiplicity of viewpoints, one or several of which are emphasized in the particular dream.

Let me give an example that is not actually from a dream, but from a vision (perhaps a hypnogogic hallucination) of a woman who had marked sexual identity problems, pan-anxiety, and who might diagnostically be called borderline. During the period when she was particularly ambivalent about sexual involvement, a struggle that had no conscious religious overtones, she suddenly saw a vision of Christ on the cross. There was a difference from the traditional religious representations of this scene: he had an erection.

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