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  • Lorin Peters

Shanti Sena Stories: Dreams: From the Collective Subconscious?

My father was born and raised in the Mennonite tradition (followers of Menno Simons, a renegade Catholic priest). For 400 years, Mennonites have refused all violence, not even to save their own lives. Thousands were persecuted and executed, usually by hanging or drowning (see “Martyrs’ Mirror”). Because they were excellent farmers, they were always welcomed by rulers to marginal land. But when they refused to fight in their ruler’s wars, they were driven out. My father’s family, the Peters, were driven out of Holland, then out of Poland, then out of the Ukraine to America (1885). But my father never explained, or even mentioned, to me this Mennonite tradition of pacifism and complete nonviolence.

During the intensive training for CPT, I shared the story of the kamnan’s death threat, and my dream of Jesus of Nazareth, which converted me instantaneously from violence to nonviolence (see “Death Threat” reflection). Immediately the director of CPT, Gene Stoltzfus, who was also Mennonite, said, “Lorin, you have just proven Carl Jung’s theory of the collective subconscious.” Although my father never told me about his ancestors’ nonviolence, it still resided somewhere in their/his/my Mennonite subconscious and dreams. Four decades later, Jadot Said, the Syrian Muslim mystic, said to me, “Allah sends such a dream to very few. You have been chosen.”

Gene had served four years with the International Volunteer Service (IVS) in Vietnam. He had been assigned to help set up “pacification hamlets,” which in fact became concentration camps. Thousands of Vietnamese, and a number of fellow American volunteers, had been assassinated. His reaction to all the oppression and violence he had witnessed was to read, once he returned to America, all of Carl Jung’s work, including the role of dreams and the collective subconscious.

Subsequently, when Gene encountered dreams among the oppressed, his respect for the power of their dreams opened doors for him. As he began working with the T’boli hill tribe in the mountains of southern Mindanao, the Filipino government was planning a dam that would flood their villages and destroy their way of life. At first they were wary of Gene as another agent of international finance. But when he began to listen to their terrible dreams of impending doom, they began to line up, wanting to talk. His engagement with the deeper psychic energy of the T’boli became a key factor in their successful resistance to the dam.

Later, when CPT had a team in Palestine, he visited the family, in a very remote village, of an exceptional 12-year old Muslim boy who had just been killed by an Israeli grenade. When Gene hinted that their son’s death might bring them important new dreams, the father shared his son’s dream. Just days before his death, his son had dreamed he was carrying some kind of treasure and placing it in the village cemetery. This dream had been calming for him. His family and village now found great comfort in the dream, and expressed thankfulness that Gene had come, and had validated the dream.

About the same time, CPT was invited to place a team in Chiapas, Mexico, where a full scale rebellion by native people was gathering momentum. The Tzotzil had formed a religious community called Las Abejas (The Bees) and identified themselves as Christian pacifists, refusing to fight on either side. Most of them had been forced into hopeless refugee camps, and 45 had been massacred while praying in their church. Gene asked, “Did you have any warnings that you would be forced out of your homes and villages?... Did you have dreams?” Immediately they began sharing powerful dreams, of the forest burning all around them, and of the destruction of their villages. They were relieved to be able to share their dream life, and their rigorous Lenten (Ramadan-like) prayers and fasting, which sustain them and give them strength to persevere.

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