Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Under the Wings of Pegasus

Synchronicity guided the publication of my new book, Mysterious Realities. Being open and available to the play of signs and symbols around us - and ready to act in the special moments when the universe gets personal - not only brings a champagne fizz of magic into everyday life but delivers practical results.
At the close of one of my workshops in Berkeley – in which synchronicity was a major theme – I walked with my coordinator to a restaurant. I talked about three things along the way. The first was Pegasus, the winged horse, born from the blood of nightmare, capable of opening the springs of the Muses – the surge of creative inspiration – under his stamping hooves. Second, I spoke of how I had many folders of “almost complete stories” that probably wanted to be put in the hands of the right publisher. I had given the collection a title long ago, "Mysterious Realities". They were essentially just-so stories, tales from my adventures as a dreamer in many worlds. I remarked that a theme in many of these tales is that we may be living more than one life right now.
“While I am walking with you to dinner,” I said to Jane by way of example, “there is another Robert who is not going out to dinner, and another who never started leading dream workshops, and another who never moved to the United States, and who knows how many Roberts who died before now.”
I started talking about the Many Worlds theory in physics, which holds that we are living in one of numberless parallel universe that can interact with each other. I stopped in mid-sentence when I saw a winged horse, white and magnificent, on the other side of the street. It was on the sign of a used bookstore, Pegasus Books.
“Excuse me,” I said to Jane, “I just have to run in there.”

I darted across the street, dodging cars. Fortunately Berkeley drivers are generally kind to pedestrians.
From the threshold of Pegasus Books, at eye level, I saw my surname in upper case letters on the spine of a book. MOSS. The title of the book was Almost Complete Poems. I assumed the author was Howard Moss but no, it was Stanley Moss. His poetry, previously unknown to me, was of some interest but it was his title that seized me. I had been talking about almost complete stories and here was an author with my surname who had actually published a collection of almost complete poems.
I looked at the book next to Almost Complete Poems. The title was I Must Be Living Twice.

Pegasus, almost complete literary productions, living parallel lives. Three times makes the charm. I sensed laughter behind the curtain of the world, as if those who make these things come together were snickering, “Do you think he gets it? Is three times enough?”
The dinner was mediocre, but it was the story on the way to dinner that counted. I had a lunch date the next day with my favorite editor, Georgia Hughes, who had published, most recently, my book Sidewalk Oracles, which is all about playing with signs and synchronicity in everyday life. I had a fresh story on this theme, and I was eager to share it with her.
Synchronicity had brought Georgia and me together a decade before, and the friendship we developed had turned me, for the first time in my life, into a constant author, producing book after book on dreaming and imagination which Georgia received with great warmth and edited with great professional insight. She is highly intuitive, and may well have picked up the fact that the creator inside me was pushing for me to deliver something different from my previous books in several genres.
We met at an Italian restaurant in Walnut Creek, exchanged hugs, and ordered wine. Before the wine was delivered – and before I had a chance to tell my tale of Pegasus and the almost complete stories – Georgia looked me in the eye and said, “You know what book of yours I’d like to publish next? A collection of your stories, all these amazing adventures in travel that you have in this world and the worlds where you go in your dreams.”
“That’s exactly what I want to do next.”
I told her about my bookstore experience.
By the time our wine arrived, we had reached an agreement. We clinked glasses to celebrate the future publication of Mysterious Realities, with a nod to the shelf elves who were surely at play in that bookstore, under the wings of Pegasus.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Ambush

Down there in the root cellar of my life,
in the breathing dark, is a beast
that would terrify others but I know
to be a vital ally capable of taking on
the world. Not this time.
When I part the darkness
I find the sweetest of dinosaurs,
a confirmed vegetarian, 
willing to bend his neck to the children 
who are riding him with happy smiles. 
The kids are taking over my energy map.
I am amazed but not altogether surprised
because they have been setting ambushes for many years.

I go up one level and am on more adult ground
in the juicy space of my sex creative center.
There is the lovely insatiable leopard
admiring her beauty in the flowing stream.
The tiger comes through the lush undergrowth to join her.
I start to suspect that though we are old allies
 he has come this time in the children's cause.
The bright young girl has a tiger who lives in a striped sofa
 when he wants to stay unobserved
 and likes to sing songs in French.
Wait. There is more going on. A magnificent salmon
rears from the waters arching his gleaming back.
I revel in his potency but shed no tears
when a no less magnificent eagle drops from the skies,
talons outstretched, and claims him for dinner. 

I go higher, to the place of the animal powers in my solar plexus.
A great savannah opens before me, teeming with wild things.
The lion comes at once, tolerating no confusion
about who is boss in this energy domain.
But he comes to direct me to further discoveries.
I must know the elephants. I watch them move
with the precision of ballet dancers under their heavy majesty.
The leader carries a howdah in his back.
Under its bright fluttering canopy are children again,
delighted by their high adventure. They wave to me
and I know I must join with them to receive an incalculable gift.
It is the most magical of all tools for writing.
I see it now, Ganesha’s tusk, in the hand of the green-coated
elephant king the children invite to their tea parties.
I can’t miss the message: if you want the strength of a deity to write
a big story, you must bring the kids with you and in you. 

- Barcelona, October 13, 2018

A band of adventurous children,  among whom I recognize several of my Boy Roberts. have been pursuing me for many years. wanting me to write books for them and with them. While I was drumming for a group shamanic journey through the energy centers in my Barcelona training, they succeeded in taking over my own energy map. I think they have made their case. We'll see what stories we bring through together.

Journal drawing by RM

Monday, October 1, 2018

A brush with the Brushwood Boy

I woke early from a dream in which I needed to make up a story for eager children in an ancient or indigenous village. I told them a story of a chief's son who went through various adventures and ordeals of initiation and came back with a new name: "Brushy".
    I was excited about my storymaking assignment and curious about the name that Dream Robert gave the boy. The primary meaning of "brushy" in English is related to "brushwood", a pile of dry sticks often used for kindling.   This reminded me of a story by Rudyard Kipling titled "The Brushwood Boy" that made a big impression when I first read it many years ago. It is about two people who meet in dreams over many years before they meet in the physical world.
    Georgie Cottar dreamed stories in bed at an early age, “A child of six was telling himself stories as he lay in bed. It was a new power, and he kept it a secret… his tales faded gradually into dreamland, where adventures were so many that he could not recall the half of them. They all began in the same way, or, as Georgie explained to the shadows of the night-light, there was ‘the same starting-off place’—a pile of brushwood stacked somewhere near a beach.”    His dream adventures were interrupted by school (“ten years in a public school is not good for dreaming”). Hiss dreaming revived when he was deployed in India as a subaltern.
He would find himself sliding into dreamland by the same road—a road that ran along a beach near a pile of brushwood. To the right lay the sea, sometimes at full tide, sometimes withdrawn to the very horizon; but he knew it for the same sea. By that road he would travel over a swell of rising ground covered with short, withered grass, into valleys of wonder and unreason. Beyond the ridge, which was crowned with some sort of streetlamp, anything was possible…First, shadowy under closing eyelids, would come the outline of the brushwood-pile; next the white sand of the beach road, almost overhanging the black, changeful sea; then the turn inland and uphill to the single light.

In one of the dreams that “filled him with an incommunicable delight” “he found a small clockwork steamer (he had noticed it many nights before) lying by the sea-road, and stepped into it, whereupon it moved with surpassing swiftness over an absolutely level sea” and he is carried into trans-global adventures with the girl who reminds him of a picture in an illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes she is his rescuer. "Sometimes he was trapped in mines of vast depth hollowed out of the heart of the world, where men in torment chanted echoing songs; and he heard this person coming along through the galleries, and everything was made safe and delightful. They met again in low-roofed Indian railway carriages that halted in a garden surrounded by gilt and green railings."
   A stable geography develops, always anchored by the brushwood pile, a starting point, rendezvous and place of safety. There is the white beach and the black ocean, the thirty-mile ride along the coast that goes to tropical uplands, the Indian railway that goes to a garden where people sit at tables covered by roses, the purple down. Sometimes there is Policeman Day who walks him away from the City of Sleep. 

So thoroughly had he come to know the place of his dreams that even waking he accepted it as a real country, and made a rough sketch of it. He kept his own counsel, of course; but the permanence of the land puzzled him. His ordinary dreams were as formless and as fleeting as any healthy dreams could be, but once at the brushwood-pile he moved within known limits and could see where he was going. There were months at a time when nothing notable crossed his sleep. Then the dreams would come in a batch of five or six, and next morning the map that he kept in his writing-case would be written up to date, for Georgie was a most methodical person. 

The Brushwood Boy and his dream girl grow up together, in the dreamlands. She becomes a woman and kisses him under the lamp while he is sailing back to England on furlough.
    At the family’s country estate his mother tells him she has invited neighbors – the invalid Mrs Lacy and her daughter, Miriam, described as good with music (a composer) and horses – to dinner.
    He comes back from trout fishing very late and through the window he hears the girl singing her own composition, naming places from his dreams:

Over the edge of the purple down,
    Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
    That is hard by the Sea of Dreams—

He tells himself it can’t be the girl from his dreams. But at breakfast he sees her full face He gapes, knowing her and seeing that she does not know him. Later when they go riding they share more of the geography of their dreams and realize that since childhood they have been dreaming not only of each other but with each other.

"What does it all mean? Why should you and I of the millions of people in the world have this - this thing between us? What does it mean? "

There’s a happy ending. He tells her her how they kissed under the lamp above the brushwood pile, and the dream spills fully into the world. We understand that they will marry.

I am sure that Kipling drew heavily on his own dreams in composing "The Brushwood Boy". In a letter to Richard Gilder dated September 25,1895, Kipling wrote that “I’ve drawn the map of the dream-country several times.” He added, “It grieves me much that you call my yarn a romance for what I prided myself on most was my grey and unflinching realism.” He implied he was writing about real experiences in an alternate reality, a concept that is quite familiar to other dream travelers.
    His story may encourage us to think more about shared and social dreaming - when we find ourselves together with other dreamers - and about mapping the geography of our own adventures in the dreamlands.

Top photo: Kipling in the library of the shingled house near Brattleboro, Vermont where he wrote The Brushwood Boy – and The Jungle Book .He had married a Vermonter and loved his four years in Vermont (1892-1896) writing in a room where the snow came up to his windowsill all winter. 

Bottom photo: One of Kipling's maps of the geography of The Brushwood Boy.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Trainer bikes for dream travelers

I am walking on the beach. The colors are the wonderfully vivid hues of poster paints. The sea is French blue, with fluffy little whitecaps. The sand is oriole-yellow. There is a distinctly French Impressionist quality to the whole scene, so much so that I feel that if I turn around quickly, I might catch a glimpse of the artist who has just painted it - and maybe the scene will end at the edge of his canvas. Yet the scene is entirely alive.
     I walk with a male companion, studying the scene. He is wearing a frock coat and a top hat, has a neatly trimmed black beard, and is swinging a walking stick. I notice that everyone on the beach, like my companion, is dressed in the clothes of another era. The women wear full bathing costumes, and the men wear sleeveless tops with their bathing trunks. There is something more remarkable. Nearly everyone has a cycle. More sedate couples ride bicycles - including at least one tandem bike, built for two - along the esplanade. Others are riding on the sand, or through the shallows of the water. More daring cyclists are riding in mid-air, ten feet off the ground.
     While many of the bicycles are intact, some are just the vestiges. One lady sits on a padded seat, gripping handlebars and pedaling away, but below her the bike has vanished - no frame and no wheels, A beaming boy is riding high into the air, riding a bike that is invisible except for the handlebars. A dashing young man with hair like a raven's wing and an artist's silk scarf billowing from his neck is showing off, doing aerial acrobatics, on a bike that has completely vanished, while he has his fists clenched as if gripping the handlebars and his legs are cycling away.
      My companion explains to me that this is a school for dream travelers. "All the bicycles you see are training bikes. As dreamers become conscious that they are dreaming and grow their understanding of what is possible here, the machines become less and less necessary. The bicycles fade and finally disappear." I follow his upward glance and see some high-flyers among cotton-wool clouds who move through the air like swimmers, or rocket-men.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Dr Freud's slips, and others

I am leafing again through the book in which Freud gave the most complete account of the phenomenon known (after him) as the Freudian slip. First published in 1901 as The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, it's a collection of essays that was probably better-known and more widely read in Freud's lifetime than any of his other works. 
    In my favorite local used bookstore, a shelf elf placed a copy of an elderly Macmillan edition, with A.A.Brill's translation, in my line of sight. The paper label on the spine had rubbed nearly away, like the label on a well-soaked bottle of wine, so I had to pull the book off the shelf to see what was facing me, which begins to sound like a Freudian joke in itself.

    The merits of Freud's study of slips of the tongue and memory lapses are threefold. First, he assigns meaning to incidents that many of us tend to overlook. Forgetting the name of a town where you once stayed, or giving the wrong name to someone you know perfectly well, isn't simply a memory lapse or passing confusion; it speaks of something in you and your life situation which merits close attention, because you can learn from it. Second, Freud does dreamwork with these incidents, applying the same principles of analysis to episodes in waking life as he applies to dream symbols. Third, his prime lab rat, first and last, is himself. Like Jung (and unlike lesser scientific minds that fail to realize that knowledge is state-specific) he knows that understanding begins with self-knowledge, and that the most important data on inner events (and their interplay with outer events) must be gathered from first-hand experience.

    We follow Freud down some interesting trails as he studies such phenomena as forgetting names and otherwise well-known phrases and word substitution. He recounts a chance encounter with a fellow-traveler on a train who begins to quote the famous line, in Latin, in which Queen Dido of Carthage issues a terrible curse against Aeneas, the hero who loved her and left her. Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor (Aeneid, IV 625). "Let someone arise from my bones as an avenger."
    In the days where a good education still required Latin, Freud's educated companion would be expected to get the quotation right. But he cannot recollect the harmless indefinite pronoun aliquis. By the end of a long conversation in which Freud guides his travel companion through the free association process he also applies to patients' dreams, they understand that there may be deep significance to the suppression of a seemingly harmless pronoun. In aliquis the speaker now recognizes the echo of "liquid" and "liquefaction" in the Latin word. This reminds him that he's alarmed that his girlfriend may have missed her period. He's scared that he is the "someone" who will be cursed if he abandons his girl and a baby he doesn't want.

    Freud called errors in speech or memory Fehlleistungen, which means "faulty actions" or "misperformances." His English translator dubbed these phenomena "parapraxes" (nborrowing from Greek words for "another" and "action") - a term used in psychology - and "symptomatic misperformances'.  Freud maintained that word-amnesia and name substitution are related to "disturbing complexes" that prompt the psyche to seek to repress memories and information that may cause us pain. We hear of a man who simply cannot remember the name of a business partner who stole his girlfriend and married her; he just doesn't want to know. Freud can't remember the name of a town he knows well (Nervi) when treating a neurotic at a time when he himself is feeling nervous and may be heading for a migraine.

    While Freud's theory of repression may apply to some of his examples, there's both more and less going on with our slips and memory lapses than he allows for. Common sense tells us that memory gaps can be the result of all sorts of life factors, from fatigue to drug or alcohol abuse to migraine to information overload. Einstein once made people laugh because, asked for his phone number, he had to look it up in the book. He declared that he had so much on his mind that he didn't need to burden it by adding the need to remember things he could easily look up.

    I am generally pretty good with names, so when I call someone I know by a name that isn't their own I pay attention to what may be showing through my slip, In one of my workshops, I kept calling a man "Michael" though I was perfectly well aware that his name was "Don." Finally I asked, "Who's Michael?" Through tears, he explained that Michael had been his partner for many years; Michael had died but Don felt him close and was actually wearing his sweater that day.

     One of my rules for life navigation is: Notice what's showing through your slip. To which I will now add: And don't tag it a Freudian slip until you've explored what else may be going on. 

An Egyptologist aces his exam by dreaming it ahead of time

A common dream theme is of having to take a test for which you are unprepared. If you have no literal exam ahead of you, these dreams may be regarded as symbolic of a test that life is putting to you. However, if you are facing a literal exam, such dreams can be very helpful rehearsals when taken quite literally and used to guide last-minute preparation.

When I spoke at the Bermuda Rotary some years back, I confessed that one of the reasons I did very well at exams in my last years of high school was that I sometimes dreamed exam questions ahead of time, which clued me in to how I should approach my last-minute prep. 

The Bermuda Rotary is an interesting institution; the British Governor and his lady were present for my luncheon talk, along with yachtsmen, financial moguls and past and present members of the island government. An elegant black Bermudan lady, until recently the island Minister of Education, stood up at the end of my remarks and declared, "I want to endorse the statement by Mister Moss that we can dream examination questions ahead of time. This helped me greatly when I was in school. I recommend that anyone who knows a student should pass this advice along."

I discovered a fascinating and detailed account of how dreaming exam questions ahead of time aided the career of a famous scholar, E.A.Wallis Budge, who produced many important works on ancient Egypt, including a famous edition of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, during his long tenure at the British Museum. His career might never have gotten off the ground had he not dreamed, in exact detail, what would happen in a locked room where he would be presented with green examination papers containing certain Assyrian texts for translation. 

Budge recounted the episode to his friend H. Rider Haggard, the famous author of King Solomon's Mines and She, and Haggard retold it in his autobiography. I'll let Haggard (no mean raconteur, who fired my imagination with his adventure tales when I was a boy) tell the story: 

"When he was at Cambridge Dr. Peile of Christ's offered [Budge] an exhibition if he would be examined in Assyrian, and as Budge's funds were exiguous he was very anxious to get the exhibition. An examiner, Professor Sayce of Oxford, was found to set the papers--four in all-- and the days for the examination were fixed. 

"The night before the day of the examination Budge dreamed a dream in which he saw himself seated in a room that he had never seen before--a room rather like a shed with a skylight in it. The tutor came in with a long envelope in his hand, and took from it a batch of green papers, and gave one of these to Budge for him to work at that morning. The tutor locked him in and left him. When he looked at the paper he saw it contained questions and extracts from bilingual Assyrian and Akkadian texts for translation. The questions he could answer, but he could not translate the texts, though he knew them by sight, and his emotions were so great that he woke up in a fright. At length he fell asleep, but the dream repeated itself twice, and he woke up in a greater fright than before. 

"He then got up--it was about 2 A.M.--went downstairs to his room, lighted a fire, and, finding the texts in the second volume of Rawlinson's great work, found the four texts and worked at them till breakfast-time, when he was able to make passable renderings of them.

"He went to College at nine, and was informed that there was no room in the Hall, it being filled by a classical examination, and that he must go into a side room near the kitchens. His tutor led him to the room, which was the duplicate, skylight and all, of the one he had seen in his dream. The tutor took from his breast pocket a long envelope, and from it drew out several sheets of green paper similar to that of the dream, and gave Budge the examination paper for that morning, saying that it was green because Sayce, on account of delicate eyesight, was obliged to use green paper when writing cuneiform. The tutor then turned, said he would come back at twelve, and, going out, locked the door behind him as Budge saw him do in the dream. 

"When he sat down at the table and looked at the paper he saw written on it the questions and four pieces of text for translation, and the texts were line for line those which he had seen in his dream. Surprise at his good fortune prevented him from writing steadily, but at length he got to work and had finished the paper before the tutor appeared and unlocked the door at noon. The three other papers were easier, and Budge got the exhibition--for him a very vital matter.

"I asked Budge if he could explain the matter, or account for it in any way, and he said,'"No. My mother and maternal grandmother both had dreams of this sort from time to time when they were in any kind of difficulty, and in their dreams they were either shown what to do or were in some way helped. Being very pious folk, they regarded these dreams as the work of Divine Providence, who wished for some reason to help them out of trouble or difficulty. For myself, I could never imagine Providence troubling about any examination, but I was quite overcome for a time with astonishment at my good luck.'"

 [source: H.Rider Haggard, The Days of My Life: An Autobiography]

photo: Budge in his office at the British Museum

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A place to write from (Red Ink)

Write from the place that is raw
from the night when you lost your skin.
Write of the time in the war-torn city
when your heart was a quivering bird in your palm
and the blood pool kept filling, and you knew
no doctor could heal this wound
though the world would end if you failed
to keep the wounded lover alive for three days more.

Write from the night you wished yourself dead
and spirit flew from your heart, winged by your desire,
down to the lightless lands of the dead
that no one escapes without help.
Write from the day when, incredibly,
there was enough of you topside
to bribe the ferryman with the ribcage boat
and carry home the part of you that married Death.
Remember the promises you made her:
"You'll never be hurt again." "Every day you'll make poetry."

Write from the night you could not keep those promises
and had to hold the young lover in you by force,
rough as a jailer's armlock, soft as lambskin,
when she thought the one you were losing now
was the one she lost before. And when your heart
breaks again, hold her fast, willing a greater power
to embrace and join you, and write from that.
Dip your pen in the blood pool. This is the time for red ink.

- This poem is in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming. 

Art: Georgia O'Keefe's Red Poppy