On Tuesday 21 April 2015, within the framework of T8581A Church Fathers: An Introduction, Protopresbyter Dr Doru Costache organised a public seminar on the theme "Dreaming in the Ascetic and Philosophical Traditions of Late Antiquity".
Associate Professor Bronwen Neil, FAHA (Centre for Early Christian Studies with the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane QLD) offered the paper "Dreams in Early Eastern Monastic Literature". Her presentation was followed by that of Kevin Wagner (PhD candidate with John Paul II Institute, Melbourne VIC, and Lecturer at University of Notre Dame, Sydney NSW), "Live Right, Sleep Right: The Role of the Virtues in Synesius' Theory of Dream Divination". Father Doru presented on "Sleeping and Dreaming in the Athanasian Psychological Theory and Ascetic Theology". The presentation of the three papers was followed by a lengthy Q & A session. The convener of the seminar shared the following thoughts:
"The whole idea of this seminar emerged with Bronwen's recently initiated project on dreams in early Christianity, Judaism and Islam, for which she was awarded a generous grant by the Australian Research Council. It has been a great honour for the College to host her once again. Indeed, Brownen is a great friend and supporter of St Andrew's, working with us in the editorial board of Phronema and previously offering a couple of keynotes for various patristic symposia. Kevin is a newer friend of the College; this was his third presentation at St Andrew's. Bronwen explored a range of ascetic authors representing Eastern Christianity, in the Greek, Latin and Syrian traditions, offering a very informative and formative talk by which she introduced us to the fascinating monastic attitudes toward dreaming. One of the points she made refers to the need to reticently consider the meaning of dreams, at least as long as one is not spiritually advanced and purified to be able to decipher them accurately. In turn, Kevin focused on the slightly different approach of the philosopher bishop Synesius of Cyrene, who recommended both the practice of virtue and a more scientific approach to dreams, by recording and analysing them comparatively. Significant is the fact that Synesius did not dissociate the more 'technical' approach of recording and analysis from the virtuous life of the dreamer. In my own paper, I highlighted the contradictory views of St Athanasius in relation to sleep and dreaming, proposing that these contradictions dissipate when one looks at the context of the respective statements and also consider them in the light of the great shepherd's appraisal of nature within a transformative perspective. The College generously offered supper to the participants, after which unfolded a very lively Q & A session.
The event was very well attended, considering the terrible Sydney weather these past few days and last night. Approximately forty people braved the storm and warmed up the great hall of St Andrew's with their presence and interest. They have my deep gratitude. So do the clergymen present, The Very Reverend Archimandrite Sophronios Konidaris, The Reverend Athanasios Giatsios and The Reverend Dimitrios Papaikonomou, together with the enthusiastic representatives from Kogarah Fellowship. My gratitude goes also to Dr Patricia Ciner (National University of San Juan and Catholic University of Cuyo, Argentina), who currently undertakes a research séjour at Centre for Early Christian Studies in Brisbane, and Dr Graham Lovell (Macquarie alumnus), for their contributions during the Q & A session. Many thanks to Mario and Chris Baghos who acted as support staff, my colleague Dimitrios Kepreotes, our wonderful speakers, our other guests and, last but not least, our admirable students."