Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Open Letter to OCA Metropolitan Jonah

Original post: November 11, 2009
Updated: 26 Feb 2014

The prophet Jonah warning Nineveh

Dear Metropolitan Jonah,

We were introduced by Fr. John Hennies of St. Dimitri Mission in Los Alamos, New Mexico, during the July 2009 DOS assembly in Atlanta. I was wearing a Ukrainian shirt given to me by relatives in the old country. Fr. John urged me to write directly to you regarding your response to a question during your keynote address on Spiritual Maturity.

I wrote such a letter in late August in care of DOS Chancellor Fr. Joseph at his suggestion. Since I have not received a response from him or you, I'm publishing this open letter in the hope that someone you trust may eventually read and bring it to your attention.

In the Q&A session of your keynote address on Spiritual Maturity someone asked about dreams. I heard you reply “He who pays attention to his dreams is a fool” as attributed to St. John the Ladder and that the Holy Fathers traditionally had a negative view of the subject. But I was not sure what your own view was.

If John the Ladder's comment is true, then he, who is now writing to you, is most certainly a fool! However, he hopes he is God’s fool and must therefore respectfully, but profoundly disagree! I hope to offer you an approach that allows one to value and utilize any dream--even those with demons, disturbing content or nightmares, which so troubled the ancient fathers. This approach, which I call Creative Deep Listening is simple, direct and experiential. It can be useful in better helping one understand, accept, love and transform by answering twelve carefully developed questions--even on the telephone--without the dreamer even required to disclose the dream's content. (Safety feature.) It can thus also be used as an instrument for pastoral care.

I want the chance to win your confidence.

Fr. John Hennies, who knows me well and has personally experienced the process, has suggested that I inform you of my experience with dream work over the past 35+ years. The process originated from having been invited by UCLA’s Extension director to teach an experimental course in 1976 entitled Creative Dreaming and Spiritual Awakening at the Extension Division's Center for Religious Experience, East and West. A decade later, as engineering manager for an aerospace company, I was given opportunity by its general manager to convert the process into a simpler, more practical form for use in industry that successfully resolved a serious problem with company morale.

Brother Jonah, in your recent speeches you have warned communicants about allowing the ego to take control of one’s decisions. Would you be surprised by my assertion that dreams bypass the ego? Indeed, the false-self ego is generally threatened by the truth of the dream and generally attempts to block it. Can you consider that dreams come from our deeper, spiritual natures and tell us our personal truth in metaphorical language unique to the dreamer at the moment he needs to know? For this reason I consider dreams a daily, unheralded miracle.

If an initial short presentation awakens your or your representative's interest, I would be available to give workshops to you and your counselors that you might find useful as a creative tool in addressing morale, personnel and council building issues and am willing to travel to any place at any time at your convenience.

Before closing, you should know that I am a recent convert to the OCA. Until fall of last year, I had no intention of ever joining another institutionalized religion, having been twice excommunicated from the Mormon Church into which I was born and raised. But last September (2008) I felt prompted to return to the tradition of my Ukraine-born, Russian Orthodox-baptized father to understand, integrate and transcend the truths therein.

If you need to know more of my background, please feel free to inspect this blog, which is dedicated to my grandchildren and great grandchildren. It was inspired by Fr. John Hennies and written with him and you in mind--as well as St. Herman of Alaska (my patron saint), Fr. Arseny (priest and prisoner, whose life and example taught me the Orthodox way of confession) and the martyred priest St. Pavel Florensky (mentioned by Solzhenitsyn as “the most remarkable man of all time in the Archipelago”). It was becoming aware of the first chapter of his 1922 book Iconostasis titled The Structure of Dreams that encouraged me to bring my dreamwork process to your attention.

That your leadership, vision, courage and creativity continue to inspire the OCA and all other Orthodox communities and institutions world-wide is my continuing prayer.

In the love of Christ,

Arseny Pavel (Eugene) Kovalenko, Ph.D.
St. Dimitri of Rostov Mission
Orthodox Church in America
Los Alamos, NM 87544
(505) 661-9713 (h)

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