The Dream World—which is to say the inner world of all peoples—has lost a Giant, a true Leader of wise teachings around the wisdom of our dreams and therefore of our souls, our consciousnesses, our unconscious, our shadows, whether dark or bright, all that which often remains hidden but wants to be revealed and unveiled. Jeremy Taylor is known worldwide for his books and his teachings and his workshops on Dreams.
A student of Jung but also a witness operating from his own soul and always face to face with the pain of our troubled world, a Unitarian Universalist minister, a deep co-worker for 22 years in the Creation Spirituality schools first at Holy Names College and then at the University of Creation Spirituality, he was a beloved teacher beloved by his students and by his colleagues from whom he learned and whom he also taught and celebrated with.
One student wrote me on hearing of his death: “I took his class two times at UCS, he was so profound. You attracted such a stellar staff, I am so grateful to have met you all. Your words carry me at this darkest of times.” She is not the only student who took Jeremy’s classes more than once. And she is correct that the staff at ICCS and UCS was indeed “stellar.” Now Jeremy joins many of them who have become ancestors including M. C. Richards, Rolf Osterburg, Sister Jose Hobday, Robert Rice, Buck Ghosthorse, to name a few.
Our dreams have so much to tell us and no one I ever met, whether in books or in person, was more adroit at coaching people to explore their dreams and understand their wealth than was Jeremy Taylor. I have met people all over the world—in South Korea, in Australia, in Europe and all over North America, whose lives have been deepened and whose deeper lives have been opened up to them by the dream work that Jeremy Taylor perfected.
These are the words that come to me when I think of Jeremy and his ever-so-fruitful life’s work:
1. Generosity. He was so in love with his work that he gave and gave and gave again, traveling often and everywhere, in good seasons and bad, to share his wisdom. He gave unceasingly of mind, body and soul in this process. I praise him for his Generosity.
2. Justice. Jeremy was a champion for social, economic, racial, gender, gender preference justice—justice was at the heart and indeed the origin of his calling. It was while he was conducting a workshop on racism in the early 70’s I believe in Berkeley when things had hit a strand still and the group of blacks and whites was about to disband, that in one last ditch effort to keep it going he said: “Let’s meet one more time. Why don’t you listen to your dreams and see if we can find common ground.”
A week later they regrouped, shared their dreams, and thus began Jeremy’s vocation. It was rooted in healing—as he said—all dreams come to us for healing, whether personal or community healing; and therefore it was rooted in justice. He never lost sight of that reality.
3, Solidarity. Jeremy’s passion for justice also birthed in him a solid sense of solidarity with others who stood up to injustice. When the Vatican came after our ICCS program at Holy Names College, an attack that lasted for twelve years, Jeremy was a stout supporter of what we were doing; he understood the political and indeed historical ramifications of the battles we were engaged in. He wrote the Vatican on our behalf and he confronted my Dominican provincial in Chicago about the matter. Here is something he wrote about the struggle:
Sadly, for vast numbers of people gripped by fear, and the institutions that pander to, and prey upon them, these simple truths [of creation spirituality] do not seem to be at all clear. These seemingly elementary and self-obvious propositions of humane understanding and spiritual clarity that Matt promotes and celebrates have always been, and alas continue to be at the very edge, and in many cases even well beyond the boundaries of conventional, institutional religious dogma and collective practice. The resistance is so fierce that we are all still called upon to put our lives and livelihoods at risk when we advocate them publicly. For me, it is impossible not to call up an Old Testament parallel: “Joseph had a dream, and his brothers hated him for it.”
Jeremy walked his talk and showed up when times got tough. And he showed up with energy, vitality, humor and plenty of strategies for action. One of the heroes of the apartheid struggles in South Africa, Dominican theologian Albert Nolan, said to me during the struggle I was engaged in with the Order and with Rome: “North Americans don’t know a damn thing about solidarity.” Jeremy Taylor did. He was more than American.
4. A Learner and Seeker eager for truth. Jeremy was a life-long learner. That is what made him so good a teacher, he was very open to learning from his students. One such student, Victor Lewis, who was in his twenties at the time, is the one who introduced Jeremy to me and eventually to ICCS. Jeremy was recruiting Victor to attend Starr King Seminary where he taught when Victor said: “Write me a letter of recommendation for ICCS.” Jeremy resisted. He didn’t harbor positive feelings about Catholic Colleges. But he did as he was instructed and it was via Victor, a bright and eager African American student, that Jeremy started to read my books and eventually joined our faculty.
(His favorite of my books was Western Spirituality. Why? Because, he wrote, “the evidence presented in that anthology made it inescapably clear that ‘creation spirituality’ was not just the invention of a single brilliant mind, but rather a great underground river that had been feeding and nurturing the best religious thought in any number of different religious traditions for centuries, if not millennia.”)
5. A priest. Jeremy was an ordained UU minister but he was also a priest in the archetypal meaning of that word, namely, a midwife of grace. Jeremy’s life and vocation was all about unpacking the grace that dreams bestow on us and instructing others in how to do this. This is no small achievement since people are starved still for access to the spiritual life in a culture that tends to be either wildly literalist in its religious consciousness or shut down by scientific materialism and the cynicism, capitalism and consumerism that it spawns.
These are just a few of the gifts that come to my mind when reflecting on the life and death of Jeremy Taylor. Even his death—coming just two days after his beloved wife and life-long partner Kathy died—was special. As Louisa Teisch reminds us, “I can understand how a person of such heart would pass by a heart attack after losing his soulmate/wife. It is often this way with those whose souls are so entwined.” When people who love and serve one another faithfully for many years die so close to one another it is a sign of a special grace between them. In thanking Jeremy we thank Kathy also—not just for being his partner in life and work but for her own gifts as an artist and more.
Any death is a time of recognizing that this person’s work is finished. But what a work and what a ride Jeremy gave to the world! It will go on and on, like a stone hitting a pond, the circles of his giving and generosity, his passion for justice, solidarity, truth, his fecund priesthood will continue to bestow grace on countless souls and new generations even though he is no longer with us in bodily form and has joined the ancestors. But wait for the dreams to come!