Sunday, February 7, 2016

The shimmer effect of gods among us

I observe powers of the deeper world moving among humans. Some of these powers are called gods in certain cultures. A Jungian might call them archetypes. Most humans are utterly unaware of their presence.
   When they are in the field - noticed or invisible, invoked or uninvoked - their simple presence effects a radical change in the ordinary world. It creates a "shimmer effect". The fabric of physical reality in their vicinity becomes fluid and unstable. It produces changes that may be experiences by humans as coincidences or anomalies.
    I realize the importance of being alert for the presence of these powers. If we can learn to make the right move during the period of "shimmer", we can help manifest extraordinary things.

I note in my journal: I woke from this dream in my second sleep thrilled with excitement

Reality check: I think this may be an entirely accurate glimpse of how things work when beings from multidimensional reality move close to the human sphere.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The universe is created when illusion binds itself with the thread of a dream

Listen up. Leave your chores and worries. You need to know where we are.
    First there is Nainema. He is illusion. He is called “Father with an Illusion”. He is all there is.
    The illusion that is Nainema affects itself deeply.
    Nainema takes the illusion that is himself into himself. He holds the illusion by the thread of a dream and looks into it. He is searching, but finds nothing.
    He looks again. He breathes. He holds the phantasm and binds it to the dream thread with a magical glue that comes from inside himself.. Then he takes the phantasm and tramples the bottom of it, He goes on stamping until he has made an earth that is big enough for him to sit on.
    Seated on the earth he has made, holding onto the dream, he spits out a stream of saliva. The forests are born from  this and begin to grow.
    He stretches himself out on the earth and dreams a sky above it. He pulls blue and white out of the earth. Now there is sky.
    Gazing at himself, he – the one who is the story itself – creates this story to tell us how it is.
    Now do you understand? 

This is the creation story as told by the Huitoto (or Uitoto) a people of the Colombian rainforest who live by slash-and-burn agriculture, fishing, and their deep connection with the life of the jungle around them. They move through the forest at night using luminous fungi as flashlights.

    Their cosmogony is no more strange than the discovery, in quantum physics, that the act of observation plucks events into manifestation from a cosmic noodle soup of potentialities. Reality begins with illusion. A cosmic illusion becomes self-aware, looks into itself. The act of observation begins to collapse a formless wave into form. But nothing is definite until the process is tied down with the thread of a dream, and juiced by divine acts of emission.
    As in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the place of creation is a state of conscious dreaming. In this Upanishad, whose title means The Great Forest Book, the
state of conscious dreaming is described as a state of "emitting" [srj], a word that can also mean the ejaculation of semen. The dreamer "emits" [srjate] or projects from himself "joys, happinesses and delights...ponds, lotus pools and flowing streams, for he is the Maker." The word srj is also used to describe the way a turtle projects its head and paws from under its shell.
     In both stories from the forest, we learn that ancient wisdom traditions have taught for millennia that quantum effects observed at the smallest levels of the universe may be at work in the largest: that microcosm is macrocosm. Nainema's story tells us that reality starts with illusion. Quantum physics suggests that the universe is made of dream stuff. Go dream on it.

Note: I have based my retelling of the Huitoto creation story on two texts. The older is in Paul Radin, Monotheism among Primitive Peoples (Basel: Ethnographical Museum 1954) pp 13-14; paraphrasing and summarizing K. T.Preuss, Religion und Mythologie der Uitoto (Gottingen, 1921). The more recent is in David  Leeming and Jake Page, God: Myths of the Male Divine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) 157-158

Top image: I found this photo from Huitoto country, showing the largest water lilies in the Amazon region, in a fascinating blog "Wandering Philosophies"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arouse your mind to invention like Leonardo da Vinci

He noticed how mountains become bluer the further away they are, asked why, and came up with a theory far ahead of his time. He looked at the crescent moon in the night sky, and wondered why a ghost disk floated above it — and grasped that he was looking at Earthshine, the reflected light from the Earth, and described this effect in a way that NASA found quite exact more than five centuries later.    
     In 1502, he designed a single-span bridge, like a pressed bow, to span the
Golden Horn — the estuary that once divided the European part of Constantinople — but his plan was rejected because everyone else agreed it was impossible to build. In 2001, when technology had caught up with his vision, a bridge that exactly followed his specifications was constructed at Aas in Norway. In May 2006, the Turkish government ordered the construction of his bridge, following his original plans, over the Golden Horn.   
     Before 1500, and shortly after, he designed prototypes for the helicopter, the tank, the hang glider, scuba diving equipment, a submarine, a calculator, a mobile robot, and something akin to a programmable analog computer. IBM put up the money to build forty working models of his inventions, which are on display at the Chateau of Clos Luce at
Amboise, where he spent the last three years of his life as the guest of King Francis I of France. He was also an anatomist, an astronomer, and one of the greatest — if not the greatest — painter and sculptor of the Renaissance, an age of titanic artists.   
     He was, of course, Leonardo da Vinci. The secret of this polymath’s immense imagination is of endless fascination. We won’t understand him unless we grasp that his power was, quite simply, the practice of
     Leonardo has left us clues as to how we can exercise imagination as he did, and these clues are more thrilling — and vastly more practical — than anything you will find in a conspiracy thriller. In his
Treatise on Painting, he gives us “a way of arousing the mind to various inventions".   
      The preferred method, he suggests, is to
stare at a blank wall.   
      He specifies that the wall must not be literally blank. The ideal wall will have stains and cracks and discolorations. You stare at these until images begin to form in your mind, and then change and quicken. You may see many different landscapes, “graced with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, great valleys, and hills in many combinations.”
     Or you can exercise your director’s power and let the scenes evolve into battles or great dramas, with “figures darting about, strange-looking faces and costumes, and an endless number of things which you can distill into finely rendered forms.”
     He does not spell out that the things “you can distill into finely rendered forms” may include a new invention that goes centuries beyond current technology.
     Leonardo tells us we can read patterns on a stone as easily as on a wall and get similarly fabulous results.
     We can also take a break from visual thinking and see what comes when we devote our fullest attention to another sense: hearing. To switch from visual mode to auditory mode, he advises listening with undivided focus to the sound of bells or the sound of running water. As you let your imagination stream with the sounds, words and music will come to you, and if you let it flow, you will soon be in creative flow yourself, bringing through fresh words and new ideas.
    The greatest secret of the
true Da Vinci Code is hidden in plain view, and audible to anyone — as soon as we adjust our senses.

Adapted from
The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination. Published by New World Library.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Brigid's day

Imbolc is the day of the High One, the Exalted One. That is the meaning of Brig, from which the name Brigid (also Brigit, Brighid, Brigantia of England and Brigindo of eastern Gaul) derives. The church made the goddess a saint, one of the most beloved saints of Ireland, with various biographies, the best of which is recollected in Kildare, where the flame of Brigid burned constantly until Henry VIII, and burns again today. She is a power of the land, and of the deeper world, that the church and the people can agree on. In Ireland and in Scotland, you feel her presence in stones and trees, in high places and in deep wells.
    In the stories told at Kildare, the woman Brigid is born at sunrise, as her mother stands straddling a threshold, one foot out and one foot in. When Brigid’s head comes out, the sun’s rays crown her with flame. We can see why she is the patron of people who open doors between the worlds – of shamans, seers and poets – and of all who work with fire, in the peat, in the forge, in the cauldron of imbas, the fire of inspiration.
     Marija Gimbutas wrote of her (in The Living Goddesses): “Brigid is an Old European goddess consigned to the guise of a Christian saint. Remove the guise and you will see the mistress of nature, an incarnation of cosmic life-giving energy, the owner of life water in wells and springs, the bestower of human, animal and plant life.” She is “Mary of the Gael”, and she is the Triple Goddess and Robert Graves’ Three-fold Muse. She is patron of poetry, healing and smithcraft. In Scotland she is Bride, and the White Swan and the Bride of the White Hills. In the Hebrides she is the protector of childbirth.
    Lady Augusta Gregory, Yeats’s friend, described Brigid in Gods and Fighting Men as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshiped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night." We are now entering the prime time of this High One, when nature awakens around February 1.
     She may appear as a snake from beneath the earth, even in Ireland, the country without snakes:

This is the day of Bride the Queen will come from the mound

This is the time of Brigid’s feast of Imbolc which coincides with the lactation of the ewes and the first signs of spring. You know the lambs are coming soon. You see snowdrops pressing up from the hard earth, perhaps through its white mantle. You offer the gifts of the goddess to the goddess: you pour milk on the ground, you bake and leave out special cakes. To she who spins and weaves life itself, you offer woven fabrics or offer a cloth – a handkerchief, a scarf, a pillowcase – to be blessed as it rests on the earth overnight. To this bringer of fire, you light a candle and offer your heart's flame.
    In the old country, in the old way, young girls carry her images - straw dolls or brideogs - in procession from house to house, and the goddess is welcomed and decked with finery. The dolls are laid on in “bride beds”, with a staff or wand of power resting beside them. At Imbolc, as on other days, you may raise the High One’s energy with poetic speech. Best to do this by a stream or a spring, or (if you know one) a sacred well. She does have a fine love of poets and those who bring fresh words into the world.
    There is a legend that, in one of her womanly forms, Brigid married the great poet Senchan Torpeist,  foremost among the learned fili (bards) of Ireland. It was this same Senchan, it is said, who recovered the great poem known as the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) when it was feared lost forever, by raising the shade of the druid poet Fergus to recite all of the verses.
    Among the bevy of Celtic blessings in the great repository known as the Carmina Gadelica, collected by Alexander Carmichael in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland around 1900, some of the sweetest call on Brigid. In “Womanhood of Brigit” (#263 in the Carmina Gadelica)

Brigit of the mantles
Brigit of the peat-heap
Brigit of the twining hair
Brigit of the augury.
Brigit of the white feet
Brigit of calmness
Brigit of the white hands
Brigit of the kine.

Many kinds of protection are then asked of Brigid – safety from death or injury or mishap in many forms. Next comes a verse that makes it plain that Brigid is regarded, among all else, as a guardian of sleep and dreams:

Nightmare shall not lie on me
Black-sleep shall not lie on me
Spell-sleep shall not lie on me
Luaths-luis shall not lie on me.

I need someone more learned in Scots Gaelic than myself to translate Luaths-luis. Its literal meaning seems to be something like “fast-moving lice” for which our modern phrase might be “creepy-crawlies.” In the “Blessing of Brigit” (numbered #264 in the Carmina Gadelica) we have words that might please the Lady on her feast day, or any day:

I am under the shielding
Of good Brigit each day;
I am under the shielding
Of good Brigit each night.
Brigit is my comrade woman,
Brigit is my maker of song,
Brigit is my helping woman
My choicest of women, my guide

Brigid's Day is also a fine time for courting, and a time to dream, and seek guidance from dreams.
Art: "St Brigid's Path" by Carlos A. Smith.

Dreaming like an Egyptian

The ancient Egyptians understood that in dreams, our eyes are opened. Their word for dream, rswt, is etymologically connected to the root meaning “to be awake”. It was written with a determinative symbol representing an open eye.
     The Egyptians believed that the gods speak to us in dreams. As the Bible story of Joseph and Pharaoh reminds us, they paid close attention to dream messages about the possible future. They practiced dream incubation for guidance and healing at temples and sacred sites. They understood that by recalling and working with dreams, we develop the art of memory, tapping into knowledge that belonged to us before we entered this life journey, and awakening to our connection with other life experiences.

     The Egyptians also developed an advanced practice of conscious dream travel. Trained dreamers operated as seers, remote viewers and telepaths, advising on affairs of state and military strategy and providing a mental communications network between far-flung temples and administrative centers. They practiced shapeshifting, crossing time and space in the dreambodies of birds and animals.
     Through conscious dream travel, ancient Egypt’s “frequent flyers” explored the roads of the afterlife and the multidimensional universe. It was understood that true initiation and transformation takes place in a deeper reality accessible through the dream journey beyond the body. A rightful king must be able to travel between the worlds.
     It seems that in early times, in the heb sed festival, conducted in pharaoh’s thirtieth year, the king was required to journey beyond the body, and beyond death, to prove his worthiness to continue on the throne. Led by Anubis, pharaoh descended to the Underworld. He was directed to enter death, “touch the four sides of the land”, become Osiris, and return in new garments – the robe and the spiritual body of transformation.
     Jeremy Naydler’s Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts makes a convincing case that the palace tombs and pyramid texts of Egypt are about much, much more than funerary arrangements; that the Egyptians traveled beyond the gates of death while very much alive, not only to bring back first-hand knowledge of the afterlife, but to enter into sacred union with the gods and enthrone their power in the body, and so acquire the spiritual and sexual potency to marry the worlds.
      The dream guides of ancient Egypt knew that the dream journey may take the traveler to the stars – specifically to Sothis or Sirius, the “moist land” believed by Egyptian initiates to be the source of higher consciousness, the destination of advanced souls after death, and the home of higher beings who take a close interest in Earth matters.
      When we look for ancient sources on all of this, we are challenged to decode fragmentary texts, some collated over many centuries by pious scribes who jumbled together material from different traditions and rival pantheons.  Wallis Budge complained (in Osiris) that “the Egyptian appears never to have relinquished any belief which he once had”. We won’t find what we need on the practice of ancient Egyptian dreaming in the fragmentary “dream books” that survive, any more than we’ll grasp what dreaming can be from the kind of dream dictionary you can buy in drugstores today.
      We gaze in wonder at the Egyptian picture-books displaying the soul’s journeys and ordeals after death – and the many different aspects of soul energy that survive death – and quickly realize that to understand the source of such visions, and the accuracy of such maps, we must go into a deeper space. We must go to the Magic Library.
      In Hellenistic times – the age of Cleopatra – dream schools flourished in the temples of Serapis, a god who melds the qualities of Osiris and Apis, the divine bull. From the 2nd century BCE we have papyri recording the dream diaries of Ptolemaios, who lived for many years in katoche, or sacred retreat, in the temple of Serapis at Memphis. A short biography of the dreamer has been published by the French scholar Michel Chauveau in his book Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra. Ptolemaios was the son of Macedonian colonists, but like ancient Egyptians he was called to the temple by a dream in which the god appeared to him. He seems to have lived for years as a full-time dreamer, whose dreams guided him not only in his spiritual practice but in handling family and business matters beyond the temple walls.
     In this later period, the Egyptian priests who specialized in dreaming were called the Learned Ones of the Magic Library. What marvelous promise is in that phrase! What profound recognition of the magic and wisdom that is available to us through dreaming!

Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Beethoven practices dream reentry

Dream reentry is one of the core techniques of Active Dreaming. We use a remembered dream as the portal for a conscious journey. This may be undertaken in reverie or in the shaman's way, with the aid of drumming. The principle is simple. If you have been somewhere in a dream, you can go there again, just as you might revisit a place in the ordinary world.
    Why would you want to do this? Maybe there was something fearful or challenging in a dream, and you know it is time to face that issue and seek to resolve it on the ground where it presented itself. Maybe there was someone in the dream - a departed loved one or a possible inner guide - with whom you would like to have sustained conversation. Maybe there is romance and adventure you would like to continue, or a mystery to be resolved. Maybe you want more information. Perhaps there is treasure in the dream, a creative discovery that you did not manage to bring into waking memory but which you sense may still be there, on the other side of the doorway.
    Beethoven reentered a dream to bring back some music his dream self had composed, but which eluded his waking memory.
    He recounted the episode in a letter from Baden dated September 10, 1821, to his friend Tobias Haslinger, to whom he dedicated the canon.*

Best of friends,
When I was in my carriage yesterday, on the way to Vienna, sleep overpowered me, the more so as I had scarcely ever had a good night's sleep (because of my early rising here). Now, as I was slumbering, I dreamed that I was travelling far away, no less far than Syria, no less far than India and back again; to Arabia, too, and at last I came even to Jerusalem. The Holy City reminded me of the Holy Scriptures; no wonder, then, that I thought of the man Tobias, too, and naturally this led me my thinking also of our little, during my dream journey, the following canon occurred to me :
Yet I had hardly awoken when the canon was gone and I could not recall a single note or word of it to my mind. However, when on the next day I returned here, in the same carriage (that of a poor Austrian musician) and continued my dream journey, though now awake, lo and behold, in accordance with the law of the association of ideas, the same canon occurred to me; now, waking, I held it fast, as once Menelaus held Proteus, and only granted it one last favour, that of allowing it to transform itself into three voices.
Perhaps the rolling rhythm of the horse-drawn carriage, which had drawn him into sleep and creative dreaming on the outward journey, helped Beethoven reenter his dream in a lightly altered state of consciousness, to bring back the music.

* Canon, O Tobias, WoO 182

Source:  Michael Hamburger (trans) Beethoven, Letters, Journals and Conversations (London: Thames and Hudson, 1984) p.177.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

On the tracks of the Antlered Goddess of the Ways

The British visionary artist Chesca Potter says that when she moved to London, she had a vision of an immense goddess figure, dressed in green and gold, over the church of  St Pancras. This is the oldest church,  in the city, founded (according to legend) by Helen, the mother of the emperor Constantine, who is famous for her dreams; Helen is shown dreaming on the cover of my book The Secret History of Dreaming. It was another Helen - or rather Elen - who seized the artist's imagination. In her visions, Chesca saw her as an antlered woman. She painted and sketched several versions of this antlered goddess. My favorite is the one shown here, which appears on the card labeled "Lady of the Ways" in John Matthews' Celtic Shaman's Pack.
      Cernunnos, the male version of the Antlered One, is famous. It is less well known that there is solid evidence for the ancient worship of the Antlered Goddess. In the far north, she was a Reindeer Goddess. Female reindeer (and caribou) sprout antlers too. In early times reindeer were native to Scotland. Reindeer bones have been found in three caves near Inchnadamph, a hamlet in Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland. The name of the hamlet is an anglicization of the Gaelic Innis nan Damh, meaning "meadow of the stags". In the British Museum there is a bronze figure from the Iron Age, discovered at Besançon in France, of an antlered goddess.
      I am always delighted to come upon fresh material on the ancient forms of the Goddess. Elen is very special, for me, because she is the patron of roads and gates between the worlds.      In Chesca's image, she stands before a dolmen gate embellished with symbols suggesting access to the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds.  When you travel the British isles, you may feel Elen's soft footfall - beneath the traffic and modern construction - along the deer paths and ancient trackways and in the the lapping of quiet streams.
     Elen is Lady of the Ways in many senses. Most significant, for me, is her role as Lady of the Dreamways. In the great cycle of Welsh epic poems known as the Mabinogion, Elen calls a king to her in his dreams, and he finds her embodiment in the physical world when he learns to use his dreams as a map and to follow their roads.
    To know more of all this, we must study the literature and the archaeology, and we must dream on it. We can do this even on the other side of an ocean from Elen's ancient trackways, especially if our ancestors knew her - and if we know the right tree.
     I know a Camberdown Elm, transplanted from Scotland to a sloping lawn in western Massachusetts. I call it the Village Tree because its canopy resembles a collection of thatched cottages, especially in late fall, when the leaves are matted dull brown. In that season, I walked down to the elm in a light, cold rain. I caressed the scaly bark of the trunk, and wished the elm health and renewal. A wooden seat had been placed under the tree and I sat there, open to vision without insisting on it.
     Immediately Deer appeared to me. This time – the first occasion I remember – the antlered deer was wearing a saddlecloth. The saddlecloth was a deep red with a brocaded border. I understood that I was to get on the deer’s back and let it lead me. So I swung myself up, as I would have mounted a horse. Instantly we were off at a terrific pace, heading north across a landscape of frozen marshes. I looked ahead, and saw a huge orange disk very low on the horizon. It seemed we were flying straight into the face of the sun.
     Instead, I found myself in the presence of an immense being. She appeared as a beautiful, mature woman, white-skinned, deep-bosomed - and wearing antlers. When she invited me into her embrace, we became the same size. I understood that I was entering the embrace of an Antlered Goddess. Then I shot straight up through the sky, into the face of the Moon, and encountered a number of beings with historical identities in early Europe who gave me specific information I was able to verify and document in subsequent research. Another exercise in dream archaeology, but with even broader resonance.
     A big question was put to me recently by a questing young friend: "What is the white man's spiritual inheritance?" he went on: "it seems there is a dearth of relevant, culturally appropriate spiritual practice for white people." After gently chastising him for using the phrase "white man", i suggested that the answer lies in dreaming. Active dreaming is crucial to collective soul retrieval, to recovering and living our authentic spiritual inheritance.
     Let me add that Elen of the Dreamways has a double or close sister across the North Sea in Nehalennia, who was venerated at Celtic sacred sites on what is now the coast of the Netherlands. She was the patron of voyagers; seafarers and traders made offerings to her for safe passage and success in their transactions. Her name may mean “Steerswoman” or “Pilot”. She is depicted as a lovely young woman enthroned within a seashell, with a basket of fruit on her lap and a dog nearby, gazing up at her adoringly. Often she has her foot on the prow of a ship, and a boat rope in her hand.
     Nehalennia’s other close animal companion is the dolphin. She is the patron of astral as well as physical journeys, just as Elen is the maker of roads as well as dreamways. For the Celts, the happy afterlife on the Islands of the Blessed requires a crossing by water. And in ancient Europe (as in Polynesia) one of the favorite forms of transportation for the Otherworld voyage is the dolphin. Ripe fruits are often carved over the top of Nehalennia’s shrines. She offers abundance and ever-renewing life, as well as safe passage through the Otherworld, before and after death.

Illustration "Lady of the Ways" by Chesca Potter from The Celtic Shaman's Pack by John Matthews, published by Element.