Dreaming is About Power, Part II (Excerpts for Free Membership)

In Part I, we talked about the issue of power and dreams – and how we have the choice to use dreams and stories to wield power in the world or to let the dreams bring us to another kind of power. The power of knowing our selves, the power of bringing that deep self to the world.

Thinking of this has made me consider stories laced deeply in our collective consciousness about dreams and about how to “use” dreams. Ancient stories like Greek mythology and sacred stories coming from sacred texts.

From these texts, we are taught how dreams are “used” and how we can “use” dreams. We are taught to see dreams as something to use. We are taught that they may come from “the divine” but that it is about power in the world, not inner power.

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Dreams in Christian Mythology – Joseph’s Dreams in The Book of Matthew

Dreams are scattered throughout Christian mythology, especially in the book of Matthew. In that book, Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus [one of only two places in canonical gospels where the birth is briefly told], including four dreams given to Joseph around Mary and the birth. In the first dream, an angel comes to tell him not to divorce Mary when it is discovered she is pregnant, which Joseph was planning on doing. Then, Joseph received three dreams after the birth, each with instructions about where to go to avoid harm – first to flee to Egypt to escape Herod who wanted to kill “the newborn king”, then a dream saying he could return after Herod’s death, then a dream about going to Nazareth. The Magi in the story are also given a dream about not speaking to Herod, who was trying to use them to find where the child was so he could kill him

The use of dreams in this narrative are directives from angels of god, instructing the characters on what to do. Just like in the Greek myths, it is about the working of power – Herod wanting to retain his kingship, the effort to keep the baby who would be king safe, the dreams of the Magi – for the angels come to work around the issue of power in the world.

Something else about Matthew – let’s talk about the power of storytelling here.

The author of the Book of Matthew was writing for a specific audience set during a specific time of crisis:

The evangelist who composed the gospel of Matthew was probably a Jewish Christian, possibly a scribe. The historical evidence suggests that he wrote between 80 and 90 CE and addressed his work to a community in conflict: Jewish Christians who were being pushed out of the larger communities, located in northern Galilee or Syria. These communities were led by Pharisees, rabbis who assumed leadership of the Jewish people in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem.

(Mellowes, Marilyn. “The Story Of The Storytellers – The Gospel Of Matthew | From Jesus To Christ | FRONTLINE.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, Apr. 1998, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/mmmatthew.html.)

The author of Matthew, then, wanted to plant his narrative of Jesus deeply in the tradition of Judaism, deeply in the religion and laws known by his community. To do this, he told his story steeping it with references to the Torah, keeping it in direct alignment with Jewish teachings.

Which he does at the outset of the entire book and throughout the telling. Here are a few examples:

  • The book opens with the lineage of Joseph, father of Jesus, tracing him all the way back to Abraham, thereby legitimizing the claim of Jesus to be Jewish and to be the messiah.
  • He gives Joseph three dreams warning him about future events, a gesture back to Joseph and his colorful coat in the Torah.
  • He has Jesus give five speeches, or sermons, that echo the five books of Moses, one of man gestures to compare Jesus with Moses, including:
  • He tells the story of the slaughter of innocents by Herod, just as there was a slaughter of the first born male babies of Israelite slaves by the Pharaoh in the story of Moses’ birth.

Power. Using storytelling and including the use of dreams to bend a narrative toward having an impact in the world.

One part of Matthew that is interesting is that, in his telling, the Pharisees play a large part as the group “against” Jesus during his lifetime. Even laying the blame of his death at their feet in many ways.

But at the time of Jesus’ life, the Pharisees were not a major political factor. They were a factor, however, in the time of the writing of Matthew and especially to the specific community he was writing for. There was a struggle between the Jewish “Christian” community and the Pharisees who were vying for power.

Powerful, for the author of Matthew is trying to establish his book and his narrative of Jesus as the way to interpret Jewish Law; not the Pharisees and their interpretation.

So, in Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17.

Powerful the use of dreaming with Joseph to echo the dreaming of Joseph in the Torah, to bring the narrative into an already known narrative.