"Truly our lives are our best creative work." (p.
254) Thus Tess Castleman concludes her literary journey
through Jungian approaches to dreamwork and synchronicity,
all the while offering her readers her own observations
of dream groups and other "tribal phenomena." Tess Castleman
is herself a creative Jungian analyst and experienced
leader of dream groups. Her book is a rich compilation
of dreams, stories and theory that blend well and make
for delightful, almost easy reading.
In part one, "Threads," Castleman gives a brief overview
of Jungian theory, showing how archetypes and complexes
can provide important cues for understanding dreams. She
introduces us to "the magic of the dream maker," which,
she says, "lies in the work that can be uncovered by examining
images, feelings, metaphors, and symbols that appear in
dreams. This is the language of our deep, archaic, ancient
brain---which is also the language of literature and poetry."
A sense of the mystery and reverence of working with dreams
is caught, almost by contagion, when we travel with this
author into the deep inner realm where dreams inform our
lives and show us the uncanny capacity to reveal what
is happening and to predict where we should be heading.
The inner wisdom from the deeper Self is a sagacious and
trustworthy guide in our path of psychological individuation
and spiritual unfolding.
Part two, "Knots," gives the reader a sense of being present
where dreamers in ongoing groups invite each other into
the process of decoding their dreams. A most intimate
encounter indeed! Castleman encourages her dreamers, knowing
that the trail is not easy to travel alone. Yet how important
it is! She writes:
The amplification of the dark, the unknown, the shameful,
and the frightening is just where the psyche needs to
go, because this is precisely where the energy lies. The
emotional "charge" is where the trapped libido lies in
latent potential. (p. 77)
What are the common themes that may be drawn to the surface
when group energy constellates? These themes may include
the darker elements such as confusion, depression, dependence,
narcissistic woundedness, loneliness, poverty, but also
the enabling aspects and strengths such as leadership,
competence, authority, love and (above all) the archetypal
Self. Self is that inner wholeness and spiritual core
toward which all dreams ultimately lead us.
The self-disclosure of shared dreams promotes an intimacy
that binds individuals together in a psychological "tribe."
Group members find commonalities that draw them together.
They start meeting outside the dream group sessions. They
may care for one another in numerous ways. It is often
not long before synchronicity, a meaningful coincidence,
Some meaningful coincidences can be explained as pure
chance, but as Jung writes ".the more they multiply and
the greater and more exact the correspondence is, the
more their probability sinks and their unthinkability
increases, until they can no longer be regarded as pure
chance but, for lack of a causal explanation, have to
be thought of as meaningful arrangements." (p. 265)
Here's where Tess Castleman's book begins to get really
intriguing. In story after story she gives examples of
synchronicity such that, sooner or later, the open-minded
researcher may gasp: QED. I believe she's right!
For Castleman, the group field tends to enhance the opportunities
for synchronistic adventures, since we are affected by
each other, creating wars, falling in love, and forming
families by our contact with each other. "When adults
come together to discuss dreams, they too are affected
by each other, and the entirety of the group forms a personality."
(p. 101) This "tribal field," as she calls it, is a central
theme of her book. In the exquisite vulnerability of dream
groups, this leader has found that the bonds of intimacy
are such that the unconscious of members is attuned in
The field can be observed in the form of synchronicity.
Dream group members have an uncanny habit of dressing
in the same colors or in the same clothing on given days.
Dreams will be congruent beyond the average level of coincidence..we
almost always identify a theme. Sometimes everyone's dream
will actually be about the same issue. (p. 102)
Here I can confirm Tess Castleman's observations. In my
current work environment where the staff members are very
compatible with one another, we frequently find (to our
amusement) that a majority of the individuals have chosen
to dress in the same colors. In my own family, I have
encountered two occasions where two or three family members
have had essentially the same dream on the same night.
(That's quite amazing, and feels like a synchronistic
exclamation point that says: "Pay attention to this!")
And once in my professional life, I experienced a dreamer
in one work setting seeming to have a dream "for" another
dreamer, whom she did not know, in an entirely different
setting. In that case I was the only common link between
the two dreamers, but both were deeply involved in their
own unconscious dream processes and the compassion of
one seemed to reach out to the pain and distress of the
In part three, "Tapestries," Castleman takes a broader
perspective, articulating how the "psychoid" space, where
psyche and matter intersect, plays out its dramas in the
tribal field. Following Jung, she writes:
Synchronicity.confronts ego consciousness..Breaking
out of preconceived notions is the first and foremost
challenge..Jung said, "Dreams prepare the psyche for the
events of the following day." ..It is remarkable to even
entertain the notion that dreams prepare one ahead of
time for actions that cannot be known by ordinary consciousness.
In the tribal field, there are times when dreams warn
of impending dangers, and times when one person has a
dream for the whole tribe. Castleman tells the poignant
tale of Black Elk's dreams that foreshadowed the destruction
of his entire Native American nation. Like the Lakota
shaman or the heyoke trickster, the dreamer called to
receive a message for the entire tribe may serve as an
important access point for the collective unconscious
to voice its warnings or its suggestions of possibility.
It is therefore beneficial not only to listen to our own
dreams and try to decode their mysterious messages, but
also to listen to the dreams of those around us, listening
for the common themes, ready to honor the dream that speaks
for the tribe. As Castleman speculates, "Perhaps inner
reality and outer reality intertwine." (p. 190)
We can get glimpses of the mystery of life when we are
open to observe the synchronistic happenings and the prognostic
dreams that can and do occur from time to time. In this
important sense, dreams are about connection, inclusion
and a sense of common purpose that bind the members of
a community together into a sacred "tribe." The tapestry
of our lives shows the interweaving of our common humanity.
In the tapestry we see the wholeness and we know our sense
of unity, one with another, each one with each and every
For more information on the book and Tess Castleman,
visit her web site at www.threadsknotstapestries.com.