Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Learning the language of the birds, Australian syle

“Nothing is nothing”, they say in the Cape York peninsula. Everything speaks of something else, and to something else. The spirit world and the physical world are interfused. The distance between them is the width of an eyelid, and no distance at all if the strong eye is open.
     You know when it is the right time to do something by listening to the land, by recognizing those things that like to happen together. The Yolngu of the Northern Territory know when food is ready to be gathered in certain places because they notice things that like to happen at the same time. When flower blooms in one place you know it is time to harvest in another. When that tree blossoms you know the yams in another spot are ripe and ready to eat. You do not check the calendar for the date of that big initiation ceremony; you know it’s about time when a certain fish is jumping in the river, big and fat.

     You learn that the birds are a whole telephone system. Night hunting birds, like owls, are powerful spirits whose call can mean that someone close to you is about to die. Listen carefully to the kingfisher, who lent wings to Jung’s Philemon. Kingfisher can see ghosts. If it calls out ekwe, ekwe, ekwe, watch out for a ghost attack that could inflict illness or even death.
     Little willie wagtail is a shaman of shamans among the bird tribes, He dances like a made man in ceremony when he jitters sideways. Watch willie wagtail for any unusual behavior, because this means news is coming. “Him good telephone that fella,” a Ngarrindjeri woman of the Lower Murray told Philip Clarke, who has been helping to map the Aboriginal landscape. *
     Listen to water as well as earth, to the voices in a billabong, to the song of a river. Today the indigenous fishermen of the Torres Islands see and feel the “scars on the water” caused by boat propellers and pollutants. Their shaman, the zogo le, flies on the wings of sea eagle, and sees with his keen eyes.

*Philip Clarke, Where the Ancestors Walked: Australia as an Aboriginal Landscape. (Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2003) 23.

Photo: Sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus). Australian Museum

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tracking the Traveler

I can only keep up with him by becoming him. When I come home from our travels, I am not quite myself and no longer him. When we part company, I am left to pore over scraps of memory like the things I find in my pockets and on my phone after a regular plane trip: a boarding pass, a bus ticket, a foreign banknote, a scribbled love note, random photos of far-away cities and beaches and train stations.

It is now one of my ongoing undertakings to track the Traveler through my journal reports. Here he seems to be very like my present self, just two days ahead of me, on my present probable event track. Sometimes he is much further ahead, or on a different – mildly or radically – event track, or he is in another body in another time or another world. Is the traveler sometimes in a different body in this world, like the kids in  the Japanese film “Your Name”? Perhaps. I think back to the body swapping dream of many years ago when the Traveler tries on at least three different bodies – of a black athlete, a rich Republican country club type, and finally an older, eccentric scholar much like my current self.

I think of the dream in which I am dressing up in a blue satin ballgown, excited by the prospect of turning on my boyfriend. I wake wondering whether I have been in a woman’s body. This doesn’t feel quite right. My excitement in the dream is surely male arousal, within a man’s anatomy. Confused, I look out the window and see a tall black transvestite, gorgeously attired in a long blue satin ballgown, teetering down the steps on stiletto heels on the arm of her boyfriend. 

I like to play with words in English. The Traveler plays with words in many languages. One morning I was left with an unlikely phrase in French, on acccable par les hochements. This could be a newly-minted saying with the sense of “yessing someone to death”, or a commentary on the storm surge of Hurricane Irma, or both. Now I remember the Traveler’s effort to find the right words to greet Stalin at lunch in Ufa in the midst of World War II. He sought an edge of humor while trying to avoid getting his throat cut. He managed, in the Georgian language.

I am beginning to think that the moment of lucidity, in a sleep dream, is often the moment when the self that has been dormant in bed – or somewhere else altogether – catches up with the Traveler. It may be a moment of self-possession, of taking control of a vehicle that has been traveling under the direction of an autonomous self, like the captain of a ship coming back on board and taking over from a junior officer or crew member. However, the person in the wheelhouse may decline to give over control, and a sudden rebuff may result in falling out of the dream (for the person who wakes in the bed) and the Traveler’s disappearance from radar. So it could be like a horse bucking a would-be rider.

Just as I now seek to track the Traveler, I now watch the person who is writing these lines. I see him fumbling with his nautical analogy. I like the bucking horse analogy better, though we lose the notion that there may be a second rider. I am not going to play editor or critic. The writer’s attempt to model and understand what is happening in his many lives is part of his story, the one on which I will put the name we use in the ordinary world.

When I am the Traveler. leaving my body consciously on astral excursions the journey often begins at a certain threshold, a gap between the worlds, in a twilight of the mind. I may find myself floating upwards. I roll over and as I do so I feel something pulling loose from my physical body. Lights flash at the top of my head and I find myself being drawn up into a cone of light, like a pyramid with an opening at the top. 

There are days when, flat on my back under a tree, I fall upwards into the bowl of the sky, like Rumi. There are nights when I feel I am about to blast off like a rocket, or be blown from the mouth of a cannon, through circles of red within black. Or I find myself stripping off, shedding the body like a snake skin, dropping it like an old overcoat. When the travels begin, I often find myself looking at geometric pattern. It may be a glowing energy grid. It may resemble the weave of a carpet, or the strands of a net.

I find it soothing to study parallels for my dream travels, and my relations with the Traveler, in reports of anthropologists and mythographers. I find again, in A.P.Elkin's Australian classic Aboriginal Men of High Degree, conformation that the projection of a dream double was a primary skill of indigenous shamans in my native country. 

Among the Aborigines of Walcott Inlet it was believed that the high god Ungudd summons potential shamans through dreams. Those who had the courage to answer their calling faced a terrifying trance initiation in which they saw themselves killed and dismembered. The potential “man of knowledge” is reborn from this ordeal with a new brain, filled with inner light, and a new body, filled with shining quartz crystals. He now has the ability to send his dream double, or ya-yari, outside his body to gather information. His shamanic powers are described by an interesting term, miriru. Elkin explains its meaning as follows: “Fundamentally it is the capacity bestowed on a medicine man to go into a dream state or trance with its possibilities.” 

In a book of paintings by Father Arsenie Boca, a celebrated Romanian Orthodox priest and mystic whose church I once visited and who rises from his grave to visit Romanian friends in their dreams, I find clear depictions of an astral double operating beyond the physical body. In the mythology of Egypt, I find the belief that the god Ra has no fewer than fourteeen Ka souls, or astral doubles. I must have further conversation with the Traveler about these matters. I am sure he has first-hand knowledge of how things are done in Egypt, and among the casuarina trees, and in the mountains of Transyvania.

For many related adventures, see my book Mysterious Realities: Tales of a Dream Traveler from the Imaginal Realm. 

Photo "Tracking the Traveler at RatiboĊ™ice" by RM

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ritual initiation inside the dream state: A story from India

Can a ritual performed in a dream be for real? In the sacred literature of India, there is no doubt. Mind you, the ritual conducted in the dream world may involve living a whole life in another reality. The remarkable story of King Lavana, as recounted in the Yogavasistha, is an example.

In the lush country of the northern Pandavas, a king called Lavana performed a complex religious ceremony in his mind. It was the sacrifice of royal consecration, which made him a true king. What he accomplished in his imagination was entirely real. But there were consequences.
   Lavana is sitting on his throne when a magician appears, bows and invites the king to watch a marvelous trick. When the magician waves his peacock-feather wand, a man enters leading a horse. The king stares at the horse, transfixed, and then begins to fall from his throne. The servants catch him, but he is completely disoriented; he does not know where he is.
   When he recovers himself, he explains that he believes he mounted the horse and galloped away hunting across a great desert and into a jungle until he was pulled out of his saddle by a creeper and left swinging in a tree. He was starving by the time he was discovered by an Untouchable girl who agreed to rescue and feed him on condition that he married her and lived with her in her village.
   He spent sixty years with her, and had children, and ate carrion in cremation grounds, and forgot he had ever been a king - until a terrible drought struck the land and, in desperation, he ordered his son to kill him and eat his flesh. He was about to throw himself on the pyre when a great shout restored him to his throne.
   As he finishes this speech, the magician vanishes. It now becomes plain that what the fellow with the wand effected was no mere conjuring trick but a "divine illusion" designed to demonstrate the nature of reality.
   Lavana sets out to revisit the landscapes of his adventure - and finds the desert and the jungle he crossed, and the tree where he hung, and the village of the Untouchables and the crone who was his mother-in-law and recalls the king who married her daughter and the drought that destroyed the rest of the family. 

We eventually learn that Lavana's sufferings as an Untouchable were not only real but were arranged by Indra, to fulfill the ritual requirement that a king who performs the sacrifice of royal consecration must endure twelve years of suffering. By effecting the whole complex ceremony of the royal consecration in his mind - through an act of imagination - Lavana had accomplished instant initiation.

Wendy O'Flaherty comments on this tale from the Yogavasistha in her excellent book Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities: "To this day, many Indian sects hold that anyone who dreams that he is initiated has in fact been initiated." This has ancient precedent. In Vedic sacrifice, one priest serves as the witness. He does nothing except think the sacrifice while others make the physical motions.

Image: Indian king (Maharaja of Patiala) in 19th century picture

What if the dream angel spoke to you tonight?

"Can you imagine a modern American man coming to his wife, who had just had a baby, and saying 'I had a dream last night, and I received a message that we need to move to Mexico because our baby is in danger here'?  Can you imagine her discussion with her parents, as they’re packing up the house?  The conversation at work when they quit their jobs?"
     The question was put to me by a Christian friend after he read an article I had written on the dreams that saved the life of the infant Jesus. My friend continued:
     "Somehow we seem to think that lives 2,000 years ago were simpler, and that these decisions weren’t as 'big' as they would be today, but in an era when the average person probably never traveled more than 50 miles from the spot they were born, this was a very large decision indeed.  They knew how to listen."
      A thought transference exercise of this kind is like stoking a fire, and bringing the glowing coals under the cold ashes alive. It carries a fierce and luminous story that may have grown cold and gray through mindless repetition into blazing relevance for how we live today.
      My friend had further questions. "Where, and when, did we lose the ability to listen to our dreams? How do we get it back?"
       Here's part of the answer I give in my book Conscious Dreaming:

For centuries, the church applied crushing weight to deny the validity of personal experience in the worlds of spirit. Personal revelation is always perceived as a threat by religious monopolies. To impose its control over bodies and souls, the medieval church not only demonized half the cosmos; it demonized the dream source and the personal unconscious - a poor name for what is also our channel to higher consciousness.
     Carl Jung, the son of a Protestant minister who had lost his faith, observed that organized religion exists to protect people from a personal experience of the divine. Hopefully, we and our churches will evolve beyond the need for such defenses. In these things, there is simply no substitute for personal experience.
     If fear of dreams breeds witchfinders, it also spawns reductionists, who are perhaps more deadly (or at least more deadening) because they invoke scientific jargon in a society where 'science' is widely presumed to have all the answers. Turn a certain kind of scientist loose on the dreaming mind and you will soon be informed that dreams are hallucinations spawned by the wash of chemicals, or nonsensical clutter generated by random neural firing. Such findings are usually reported without a single reference to the researcher's personal experience of dreaming, which speaks eloquently about their value.
     There is all the difference in the world between a genuinely scientific approach and scientism, the dull ideology that denies the authenticity of what cannot be quantified and replicated under laboratory conditions. It is scientism, not genuine science, that is the enemy of dreaming. True science is hungry for fresh data and new experiments, ready to jettison theories that our understanding has outgrown, ever alive to the possibility that the universe (like the dream source) is putting bigger questions to us than our best brains can put to it. It is no accident that the pathfinders of modern science - Einstein and Pauli, Kekule and Bohr, even Sir Isaac Newton in his day - have been dreamers and practical mystics.

"How do we get it back?"

I've spent nearly thirty years in that cause, and have founded my own school of Active Dreaming, training dream teachers from more that 20 countries. Part of what we help people to understand - to revert to my friend's initial questions - is the need for discernment. Working with dreams, as with any other source of information, we want to check the reliability of our sources and fact-check the details. Active dreamers learn to do this in a  number of ways, for example by (a)  identifying and trusting their true feelings and gut instincts about a dream; (by) getting feedback from others according to the quick, clear and action-oriented Lightning Dreamwork process and (c)  mastering the art of dream reentry, which means going back inside a significant dream, wide awake and conscious, to develop further information and dialogue with the source.

Image: Russian Orthodox icon of the archangel Gabriel

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dreaming humanity's path

I have a dream: that we will again become a society of dreamers. In a dreaming culture, dreams are valued and celebrated. The first business of the day, for most people, is to share dreams – dreams from the night, and dreams of life - and seek to harvest their guidance. The community joins in manifesting the energy and insight of dreams in waking life. In a dreaming culture, nobody says, “It’s only a dream" or “In your dreams, mister.” It is understood that dreams are both wishes (“I have a dream”) and experiences of the soul.

If dreams were honored throughout our society, our world would be different, and magical. Let me count the ways:

1. Dream Partners.
Personal relations will be richer, more intimate and creative. There will be less room for pretense and denial. Sharing dreams, we overcome the taboos that prevent us from expressing our real needs and feelings and open ourselves to those of others.

2. Family life and home entertainment.
“What did you dream?” is the first question asked around the table in a family of dreamers. In our dreaming culture, families everywhere will share dreams and harvest their gifts of story, mutual understanding and healing. Parents will listen to their children’s dreams and help them to confront and overcome nightmare terrors. Best of all, they will learn from their children, because kids are wonderful dreamers. This might be bad for TV ratings but it would bring back the precious arts of storytelling, helping us learn to tell our own story (a gift with almost limitless applications) and to recognize the larger story of our lives.

3. Dream Healing.
In our dreaming culture, dream groups will be a vital part of every clinic, hospital and treatment center and doctors will begin their patient interviews by asking about dreams as well as physical symptoms. Health costs will plummet, because when we listen to our dreams, we receive keys to self-healing. Dreams often alert us to possible health problems long before physical symptoms develop; by heeding those messages, we can sometimes avoid manifesting those symptoms. Dreams give us an impeccable nightly readout on our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

4. The Care of Souls.
As a dreaming culture, we will remember that the causes of disease are spiritual as well as physical. We will use dreams to facilitate soul recovery. In dreams where we encounter a younger version of ourselves, or are drawn back to a scene from childhood, we are brought to recognize a deeper kind of energy loss, that shamans call soul loss. Through trauma or abuse, through addiction or great sadness, we can lose a part of our vital soul energy. So long as it is missing, we are not whole and the gap may be filled by sickness or addiction. Dreams show us what has become of our lost children and when it is timely to call them home.

5. Dream Incubation.
In a dreaming culture, we will remember to “sleep on it,” asking dreams for creative guidance on school assignments, work projects, relationships and whatever challenges are looming in waking life. When we seek dream guidance, we must be ready for answers that go beyond our questions, because the dream source is infinitely deeper and wiser than what Yeats called the “daily trivial mind.”

6. Using Dream Radar.
Dreaming, we routinely fold time and space and scout far into the future. As a dreaming culture, we will work with dream precognition on a daily basis -- and develop strategies to revise the possible futures foreseen in dreams for the benefit of ourselves and others.

7. Building Communities.
When we share dreams with others, we recognize something of ourselves in their experiences. This helps us to move beyond prejudice and build heart-centered communities.

8. The Art of Dying.
The path of the soul after death, say the Plains Indians, is the same as the path of the soul in dreams -- except that after physical death, we won’t come back to the same body. Dreamwork is a vital tool in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of the afterlife.

9. Walking the Path of Soul.
The greatest gift of dreaming is that it facilitates an encounter between the little self and the big Self. Active dreaming is a vital form of soul remembering: of reclaiming knowledge that belonged to us, on the levels of soul and spirit, before we entered this life experience. So much of the harm we do to ourselves and others stems from the fact that we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to become. Dreaming, we remember, and encounter authentic spiritual guides who will help us on our paths.

Photo by RM: Dream sharing in one of the retreats I lead for Active Dreamers twice a year on a magic mountain in the New York Adirondacks. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

How a Physician Was Called to the Medicine Bear

A woman physician in Alaska dreamed that her two grandmothers, one Athapaskan Indian, the other Euro-American, paid her a visit in the same dream. They told her, “Go to Robert Moss. You need to meet the Bear. Until you meet the Bear, you will only be a doctor, not yet a healer.”
    At the time, the doctor had never heard of me. But she made a search and immediately pulled up the details of a workshop I was leading in Oregon a few weeks later. The title of this program was “Dancing with the Bear: Reclaiming the Arts of Dream Healing.” The physician did not hesitate. She booked a plane ticket, flew down the coast, drove in a rental car out to a small center near Bend, and was soon singing an indigenous song to call in the healing power of the Bear. On our first morning together, we journeyed together down into the Cave of the Bear to receive its gifts.
    After the drumming, the physician from Alaska came back with tears of joy in her eyes. She told us, “I now know what is required for me to be a true healer as well as a physician. When my patients come to me, they will get the best that modern medicine has to offer. At the same time, they will receive the healing power of the Bear because that is all around me.” She told me later that when she worked with patients in her office, she felt Bear paws over her hands, gently guiding her in diagnosis and healing. And that when she had to accompany a patient to an operating room, she would get everyone present - nurses, orderlies, even the occasional radiologist - to sing the song I had given her to call the Bear.

Art by Cristina Craciun. In RM private collection

Monday, June 17, 2019

Dreaming with Einstein

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.

- Albert Einstein

 While leading a workshop in Chicago, I recorded the following dream:

 Einstein tutors me on time travel

I enter a landscape that can be folded like a map, or crumpled so that points that would normally appear distant in time and space are next to each other. I see a beaming Einstein figure sailing across the vista. He seems to be gliding in midair, but may be traveling across the surface of an invisible screen.
      Einstein wants to talk to me, and begins to speak in a thick German accent. I am amazed, delighted and skeptical. Who would a great scientist wish to communicate with a scientific ignoramus like me?
      Einstein explains that there are two reasons. First, from his current vantage point he has an even greater appreciation of the value of dreams and the central role of dreaming in our future science. Second, he reminds me that he was always a dreamer, and that his greatest discoveries were the fruit of his dreaming. “Dreaming was central to my lifelong work, from my vision at sixteen of riding a beam of light.”
     Einstein tells me that dreaming will help to unlock the secrets of time travel – which could, however, be a mixed blessing. He continues to insist on the physical impossibility of human travel backwards through time. On the other hand, according to “my” Einstein, it is possible to enter the past and interact with beings and situations in the past in other ways – for example, by materializing a body at an earlier time or by occupying the body and awareness of a person living in that time.
    “Higher entities are capable of direct intervention in any time,” says my dream Einstein, who proceeds to tutor me on the existence and nature of five-dimensional (and higher-dimensional) beings who are not confined to the rules of the universe, even the relative universe. 

 This is one of a series of dreams and visions in which “Einstein” has appeared to mentor me on the structures of multidimensional reality. He gave me a very interesting working model of synchronicity described in my book Sidewalk Oracles. Some of his dream transmissions are extremely complex. I have shared some of my reports with scientist friends who can compare this material with their own explorations in string theory, particle physics and the nature of time. Sometimes we journey together, into a shared dreamscape – like the scene in which a landscape is folded like a map, or the courtyard beyond a Chinese gate where Einstein introduced me to Fu Tsi, the legendary creator of the I Ching, and explained why the I Ching is an accurate model of the universe and its patterns of manifestation.
    Whether “my” Einstein is an aspect of myself, or a fantasy figure, or a holographic legacy of a great mind, or the scientist himself, making a visit from his research center on the other side, this ongoing dream series is provocative and thrilling, and gets me thinking about what dreamers and scientists have to offer each other.

In the wake of the Einstein revolution of 1905, physics became a science of uncertainty, improvisation and wonder. It revealed that behind the seemingly solid surface of things is an incredible dance of energy, or pure consciousness. It showed us that time and space, as we experience them on the way to the office or to pick up the kids from school, are not conditions for any other kind of life in the universe, merely human conveniences (although they often seem more like inconveniences). 
   Today, popular hypotheses in physics suggest the following:

* Time travel into the future is possible.
* Time travel into the past may be possible. (Einstein, in his time and in my dreamtime, maintains that it is not a physical possibility for a human body – but allows, in the dream version, that it could be accomplished in other ways.)
* There is no firm separation between subject and object in the universe. The observer and the “outside world” he thinks he is observing are enmeshed together. Indeed, at subatomic levels, it is the act of observation that plucks events from a soup of possibilities.
* Humans have an innate ability to communicate and influence people and objects across a distance.
* The mind is nonlocal. Consciousness acts outside the brain and outside spacetime.
* Any event that occurs in the universe is immediately available anywhere as information.
* Our experience of reality, like our experience of linear time, is a mental construct. Change the construct, and we change our world.

The new physics shows us a universe that baffles common sense, a universe that operates along utterly different lines from one in which the commuter train   leaves at 6:05 (if we’re lucky). Yet the findings of leading-edge physics have brought us scientific confirmation of the worldview of shamans, mystics and dreamers, who have always known that there is a place beyond surface reality where all things are connected, a place beyond time where all times are accessible, and that consciousness generates worlds
    How do we bring all of this together with our lived experience, our human needs, and our hopes for world peace and a gentle upward evolution of our species?
    Through dreaming.
    Dreaming, we swim in the quantum soup of possibilities, where the act of looking brings things into being. Dreaming, we discover the existence of alternate realities and parallel worlds – including dimensions that escape human conceptions of form – and can actively explore them.
     Dreaming, we confirm that consciousness is never confined to the body and that we can reach people and objects at a distance. Dreaming, we are time jumpers, able to visit (and possibly influence) both past and future. Dreaming, we can experience the six (or seven) “hidden” dimensions of physical reality, separated from our everyday sensory perception at the time of the Big Bang, that are posited by string theory.
     As dreamers, we can achieve experiential understanding of the multidimensional universe that science is modeling.
     As active dreamers and researchers inside multidimensional reality, we can contribute in important ways to what will be – if we are lucky – the foremost contribution of the twenty-first century to science and evolution: the emergence of a true science of consciousness.

Part of this text is adapted from Dreaming True by Robert Moss. Published by Pocket Books.