Action Alert!

Nun Tells How Dreams Can Free the Church From Its Dead Bones

by Michael S. Rose

Descriptive Title

Nun Tells How Dreams Can Free the Church From Its "Dead Bones"


Article about a series of lectures given at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH, by Jungian "community psychologist" Sr. Pat Brockman.

Larger Work

The Wanderer



Publisher & Date

The Wanderer Printing Company, June 11, 1998

Nun Tells How Dreams Can Free the Church From Its "Dead Bones"

By Michael S. Rose

"When feminists have smashed the stereotyped molds of Catholic experience, Jung's criticism of Catholicism might become the daily bread of millions" — feminist author Naomi Goldenberg.

+ + +

CINCINNATI — For four consecutive weeks at St. Francis Xavier Church in downtown Cincinnati, Jungian "community psychologist" Sr. Pat Brockman, O.S.U., explained how Jung's dream analysis techniques can liberate the Church from the "dead bones" of the past, inspire Catholics to invent new religious rituals that honor the "god within," and help individuals accept their evil inclinations and integrate them into their personalities rather than suppress them.

Over the course of four luncheon lectures, Sr. Brockman told her listeners that dreams are "our personal scriptures" and explained how "our dreams are the Spirit's message for the soul of our community."

Her first workshop began with the advice that we should not analyze our dreams; rather, we should "play with them."

"The dream describes without judgment the state of the psyche, or soul," and is a product of one's "inner reality."

The goal of the dream is "conversion, or transformation on the path to wholeness," a Jungian concept that has replaced holiness in the most popular religious and sex education texts used in Church catechetical programs in the United States today.

According to Sr. Brockman, who was trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, dreams can be classified into seven different types: "compensatory, regressive, prophetic, somatic, telepathic, reductive, and archetypal."

The dreamer is always the final judge of a dream's personal meaning, stated Sr. Brockman, and the dreamer always has the freedom to act on the dream in two general ways: by "creating a ritual, perhaps very simple, which honors the God of your dream, or by changing behavior as suggested by the dream."

Such dreamwork, she said, can lead to changes in the Church's rituals. "A lot of rituals in the Church need to be broken up in order to express them more adequately," she insisted, adding: "Many people have left the Church because the Church was out of touch with their deep inner experience. We've got a lot of dead bones in the Church, and Vatican II's renewal has been working to bring us back in touch with our inner selves.

"We modern Catholics need a continued renewal in liturgy. We need to create meaningful rituals for ourselves. We need to create a new culture. We need to mute intolerance of other religions and concentrate on the commonality. Some still think that the Church is the center of the world, but we are really the center, the abode of God."

In the manner of a true disciple of Jung, Sr. Brockman explained the need to replace traditional Catholic symbols with ones that are more meaningful. "A helpful way to enter into the spirituality of dreams," she said, "is to first accept that all major religions, especially Christianity, speak in terms of humanly understood symbols like anointing with oil, lighting a candle, or pouring water.

"Symbols," she added, "have the power to trigger conversion, or transformation, in those who use them. We can and should express our spiritual experience by creating simple gestures and words which become rituals honoring the God who dwells within. Your personal dream acts as a personal scripture, a way in which God calls you, challenges you, and affirms you."


Sister's audience during the four-week series started with about 40 members of St. Xavier Parish, most regular daily Mass attendees; about three-fourths were women, of mixed ages. Each week, the audience dwindled in size, until there were only about 15 attendees for the final session.

Even though the number of Catholics interested in Sister's dream analysis was small, those attending are known for their strong interest in Catholic spiritual life, and are often the ones seen at the parish's regular devotions, such as weekly eucharistic adoration and the daily recitation of the rosary.

Sr. Brockman outlined for these listeners a technique of "dream play," which she considers a modern form of prayer. A substitute for traditional Catholic devotional practices, such as a morning offering, acts of faith, hope, and charity, aspirations, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and the evening examination of conscience, the daily ritual of dream play involves naming the dream, describing and interpreting it, and dialoguing with it.

Each night before falling asleep, you should, she said, "prepare your consciousness for dreaming and remembering your dream. Consider important moments of the past day and think of any issues about which you would like to have a dream.

"Prepare yourself for the dream experience. You might decorate your pillow so as to awaken your unconscious. Then ask yourself, What do I want birthed by me? Where in your life would you like to be bettered? Then ask for a message, ask for an angel."

The angel that Brockman invokes is not what Catholics understand as an angel, but a figurative angel that carries a message from the "god within."

In place of the traditional morning offering, Sr. Brockman recommended the Jungian concept of "journaling":

"As soon as you awaken, write down your dream or the thoughts in your head, without censoring or editing."

"The most universally helpful short technique in dreamwork is known as TTAQ," she explained — "title, theme, affect, question." The title may be one or a series of words, she said: "It can be a question, a feeling statement, or action sentence. One way to focus yourself in doing this technique is to ask: What title does this dream want itself to have? You may use colorful language like 's—' because God won't be scandalized. He has seen and heard much more than that."

After giving thought to the theme and the emotional effect of the dream, the next step is "to ask, What question does this dream seem to be asking me?" Then "you can follow the dream ego, which is the character or characters in the dream that feel like you. You may look as you do right now, or as a child, or an older person, animal flower, or some other object."

The final step is "Dialoguing With a Dream Figure," a process which is not unlike that of channeling, communicating with a spirit.

Before beginning the so-called dialog, Sr. Brockman said, "write down several key questions you have about your dream. Some typical questions might be: Why did you appear in my dream? What do you have to teach me? Why did you act in a certain way in my dream? What gift do you have for me? I am feeling angry (attracted, frightened, loving, etc.) toward you. Please tell me why.

"Tell the dream figure of your uncomfortableness and ask what you should do about it. Let yourself relax, place yourself in a meditative attitude, and in your own way welcome God's presence and guidance as you begin your dream-work. Using your imagination, recreate the dream scene where your chosen figure appeared. Let the dream figure come alive again for you. Begin with a few opening questions to get the relationship started. Write down your first question and in your imagination picture yourself asking it of your dream figure.

"Then write whatever response seems to come to you as the dream figure's reply. Let your pen move spontaneously as you write, not caring about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Continue the dialog until you feel something has been changed or resolved, an insight has been gained, or until you want or need to stop. The dialog itself is a gift.

"When the dialog seems to come to a natural closing, we recommend you ask one last question: Do you have anything else to tell me or give me? Just in case something important has been forgotten. After the dialog, reflect on what happened, perhaps taking a few minutes to reread the dialog. Find some way to clarify the energy and insight that may have been communicated to you, and propose ways you might use this gift in your daily life."

The Tribal Dream Experience

"Beyond the journaling discipline," said Sr. Brockman, "we often find a desire or need to express the inner mystery of our relationship to God in a nonverbal form. Nonrational forms can begin to free up the inhibitions with which we face this unimaginably perplexing invitation. Often-used examples are mandala-making, mask-making, shields, dream pillows, dance, gestalt, chant, drumming, song, verse, haiku, mantra crystals, gesture, and movement"

According to Sr. Brockman, dreamwork not only helps the individual reach wholeness, but is also a way to move the entire community to wholeness.

"The principles of reading the symbolic language of dreams can be applied in a parallel way to tribal, or communal, dreams," she said, boasting how she has used "tribal dream analysis" with her own New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, founded by Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr.

"Sometimes we need to share our dreams with the community. God may be speaking to an individual about the soul of the community. The tribal dream experience expresses the community's personal scripture. All communities have their own soul."

Another dream method she discussed is the meditative daydream, when one enters into a specific passage of scripture — though scripture is understood broadly as any text that has meaning for the individual.

"Scripture should be any text that is from your tradition," she said. "As personal scriptures, our dreams are a source of prayer and give us many hints about conversation with the loving Creator, Savior, and Spirit who is always with us. Conversely, we can take hold of a parable or some other passage from scripture, exploring it in the same manner as if it were something we had dreamed.

"Enter into a passage and then you will fully engage and experience what is happening. You will then unfold the story on your own," she said, "and your way of experiencing it will become your own scripture prayer."

After the meditative scriptural daydream, the student then "rewrites] the scriptural passage as your own personal scripture."

The Disciple

Educated at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, Sr. Brockman spoke candidly of her admiration for Carl Gustav Jung, eminent spiritualist and founder of the 20th-century psychoanalysis movement. Jung's work formed the basis of her own theology, she said, and "although Jung was not Catholic, he was faithful to his own tradition."

Canonizing the Swiss psychoanalyst, Sr. Brockman quoted pantheist Joseph Campbell as saying: "That's the way saints are made. Saints are those who are faithful to their own tradition."

Jung, in fact, was not faithful to his tradition. Reared a Lutheran, he abandoned the Christianity of his parents to dabble in the occult. His entire life and work were motivated by his detestation of the Catholic Church, whose religious doctrines and moral teachings he considered to be the source of all the neuroses which afflicted modern Western man. Despite Jung's anti-Christian disposition, Sr. Brockman considers Jung a "reformed Christian."

In his 1912 book, New Paths in Psychology, Jung wrote that the only way to overthrow the neuroses-inducing Judeo-Christian religion and its "sex-fixated ethics" was to establish a new religion of psychoanalysis. His efforts extended not merely to reviving the lost gods of paganism, but in transforming Christ into a wine god and Christianity into a dionysian cult.

Jung even went so far as to call Christ the "central figure of the Christian myth."

Jung's mentor was psychoanalyst Otto Gross (1877-1920), from whom he acquired his notions about the "life-enhancing value of eroticism" and his concept of "free love." Jung, absorbed by eroticism and entranced by the occult, sought to provide an unholy merger of the two, which is now popularly known in seminaries across the country as "Jungianism."

For the past 30 years, Jung has become a premier spiritual guide in the Church throughout the United States and Europe. Three courses at the Athenaeum of Ohio, home to Cincinnati's archdiocesan seminary, for example, are devoted to Jungianism, one exclusively to Jung's topic of "Dreams and Spiritual Growth."

Further, in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Sr. Brockman offers her own dream analysis workshops several times throughout the year.

This summer, she will be offering three Jungian workshops on dream analysis at the Franciscan Wholistic [sic] Health Center, and another three at the Jesuits' Milford Retreat Center.

From July 19th-July 24th, Sr. Brockman will be directing a $300 weeklong retreat, "Dreams and Transformation of Soul," at the Diocese of Cleveland's St. Joseph Christian Life Center.

"My retreats mainly attract women religious," she said, "but lay people are certainly welcome, too." The Cleveland retreat, she said, "is for anyone serious about developing their [sic] sense of God speaking through, dreams. Both lay people and religious have found it to be an effective way to deepen their inner awareness of the indwelling God."

Jungianism has become an enormous money-making business, as the advertisements for books and cassettes for "Jungian Catholics" in The National Catholic Reporter attest. Credence Cassettes, a division of NCR, sells a five-hour cassette-tape series by Sr. Brockman called "Our Dreams Transform Our Life," promoted as a "Jungian personalist approach" to dream analysis. Other Jungian practices promoted in Brockman's retreats and workshops are: "discovering the god within," "psychodrama," "journaling" and "mandala making."

These practices are all ways, according to Jung's methods, to tap into one's subconscious to retrieve "hidden knowledge." Instead of calling it the occult, it is referred to as "Jungianism."

Sr. Brockman and other women religious teach that one can discover God in two "ways": communally, in prayer that employs Catholic elements and symbols; and personally, by use of "conscious dreaming" techniques, which can be powerful in creating delusions.

Bob Cetrullo, an attorney from Covington, Ky., attended two of the sessions.

"Every lie contains a germ of truth," he commented. "This whole Jungian self-esteem movement is like Satan mimicking Jesus. Sr. Brockman's Jungian dream plan reminds me of St. Patrick's appropriation of pagan symbols, shrines, and rituals for use with the Christianity he was spreading throughout Ireland. He didn't throw away everything from the Celtic paganism; he purified the pagan symbols.

"With Brockman and her Jungian peers, it is clear that they are doing just the opposite: They expropriate Christian signs and symbols and corrupt them for their own use in their occult practices. It is a clever modus operandi."

Just Parasites

"This reminds me of parasites," commented Dr. Grant Herring, a classics instructor at the University of Cincinnati. "Jungians such as Brockman are contributing nothing to the Church; they 're just feeding off of her and dragging her down," he said.

"The ancient parasite was a social type who flattered the rich in hopes of getting invited to dinner; only these parasites hang around the poor guy who is in the Church, insulting him and expecting to get an invitation; and they get, it. The invitation in this case is not a dinner, but professorships and other positions of authority in the Church.

"These Jungian parasites are in the Church, and they expect Catholics to believe that they are teaching what the Church teaches. And many Catholics do that, and end up falling away from their true Catholic roots, being recruited into the cult of the self, devoid of all intellectual or spiritual content. A real dead end."

The Wanderer 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733.

This item 392 digitally provided courtesy of