Existential Analysis of Dreams-or-Spiritual Unconscious in Vienna

The Unconscious God -or- Collective Responsibility  

Viktor Frankl in "The Unconscious God" uses "existential analysis" and "logotherapy" to interpret dreams and treat patients. In Frankl's own words; "Since Freud introduced the classical method of dream interpretation, based on free associations, we have learned to avail ourselves of this opportunity. This is also done in existential analysis, although our goal is to lift not only instinctual but also spiritual phenomena into consciousness-and into responsibleness. After all, dreams are the true creations of the unconscious, and therefore we may expect that not only the elements of the instinctual unconscious will come to the fore, but elements of the spiritual unconscious as well." 

For Frankl; "The phenomena of conscience serves well as a model to illuminate further our concept of the spiritual unconscious." "The same model may now well serve us in the context of dream analysis." Many dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) speak of the existential problem of individual and collective responsibility. The IIDR dream interpretation; "Collective Dissociative Disorder", deals with the problem of the "diffusion of responsibility". 

Here are some dreams Frankl reports (with the free associations, which I include at the end of the dream) and interprets; 

"A woman dreamed she went to Alser Church. The church seemed deserted. The church is entirely bombed out; the roof has fallen in, and only the alter remains intact. The blue heavens shine through here; the air is free. But above me is still the remainder of the roof, beams that threaten to fall down, and I am afraid of that. And I flee into the open, somewhat disappointed." 

Frankl reports the free associations as follows; the patient passes the Alser Church on the way to see her psychiatrist. She believes that she is "on the way to God-not through the church directly but through psychotherapy." The bombed out roof is a sign that the war had shaken her spirituality. Frankl interprets the "blue heavens" that shine through, as the war (WWII) having "freed her eyes to see the celestial". 

A complementary and perhaps more accurate spiritual interpretation sees the Freemasonry's  architectural symbolism of the "celestial canopy", the firmament of King Soloman's Temple as alluded to in Genesis. The woman can then be seen, as a mythological pilgrim on her way to see William Blake's heavenly Jerusalem. Frankl states that she had "experienced ecstatic mystical states several times." The spiritual idea of the "Sacred Canopy of the Dream"(read interpretation), is found in a different dream interpretation posted at the IIDR website. 

In another dream by the same woman, she dreams about St. Stephen's Cathedral also in Vienna, the cathedral is dark, yet she knows "God is there". She immediately associates a quotation out of the Bible in Psalms; "Truly, you are a hidden God." The spiritual idea of a "hidden god" (and hidden knowledge) was taken up by Thomas Aquinas. In the dream, the patient is searching for an entrance into the church and the time stands near 12 noon. This may allude to another Masonic concept, namely that of time, in terms of opening and closing of a Masonic temple. Women of course, much as in the dream says have no access to Masonry, except through the "Eastern Star". 

The "Alser Church" that Frankl's patient alludes to, is most likely the "Votive Church" designed by Heinrich von Ferstel, in the part of Vienna known as the Alsergrund district. The church is one of the most important religious architectural neo-Gothic churches in the world, and indeed it was heavily damaged during the war. Much like the mythological phoenix rising out of the ashes, the church has been restored. 

The fear that the woman feels in the first dream, can be viewed as "existential angst" and fears of "existential abandonment". From this more down to earth perspective, the dream speaks about what Orval Hobart Mowrer called "the Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion". With the spiritual foundations of civilization, social reality and moral responsibility nearly destroyed by WWII on a global scale, many people post-WWII were in search of new spiritual understanding and meaning in the existential face of destruction and meaninglessness

Further Reading; 

  • Victor White, "God and the Unconscious"


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.