Monday, September 1, 2014

Jung wrestles with the Prince of the Casbah

I accustomed myself to living always on two planes simultaneously, one conscious, which attempted to understand and could not, and one unconscious, which wanted to express something and could not formulate it any better than by a dream.

The voice is that of Jung, reflecting late in life on his early travels (in 1920) in North Africa, where he was fascinated to find himself among people whose language he did not know, whose culture was initially utterly foreign to him, and who had a very different relationship to their bodies and their emotions (he thought) than Northern Europeans.
     He felt that beyond surface differences he was dealing with a different collective spirit, a spirit of the land itself. He told himself that his feelings were more than a tourist's projections, that there was something out there, a spiritus loci that he needed to explain to himself and eventually to others. He had deeply emotional reactions to everyday scenes: to the buzz of Arab conversation in the casbah in Algiers, to a haughty, magnificent rider on a black mule hung with silver, to Arab men walking hand-in-hand at an oasis in the Sahara, to the the sudden riot of color and noise of a market setting up in the early morning.
    He feared that he was falling "under the spell of the primitive", that he had been "psychically infected", a condition he saw reflected in his body when he succumbed to a form of infectious enteritis.
    He began to fear that his rational mind and identity might be overwhelmed by what "primitive" peoples called ghosts and spirits. He had read Inside Australia, a 1912 book about Aboriginal beliefs and customs by anthropologists Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen. His imagination was seized by the reported Aboriginal belief that the ancestral spirits of the land lie in wait for newcomers, and can reincarnate themselves through their progeny. Jung returned this idea again and again. In his essay "Mind and Earth", he wrote that "Certain Australian Aboriginals assert that one cannot conquer foreign soil, because in it there dwell strange ancestor spirits who reincarnate themselves in the new-born. There is a great psychological truth in this."
    In North Africa, Jung wrestled with the sense that there was something wild and primal and "barbaric" that could take possession of him now, not in a future generation. He was moving towards a theory of the "objective reality of the psyche", about how just as each of us has a world within, the world outside us is full of spirit, for good or otherwise. But more immediately, he was groping for a way to stay in balance, to master and integrate archetypal forces that threatened to overwhelm him.
    In Tunis in 1920, it was a dream that was his mentor and his proving-ground, as was so often the case in his life. Jung 
dreamed he was in an Arab city with a casbah whose walls formed a perfect square, with a gate on each side, and a moat around (an unlikely element in a North African city). He stood before a wooden bridge leading to a dark, arched portal.             Eager to explore, he stepped onto the bridge. At the mid-point, he was challenged by "a handsome, dark Arab of aristocratic, almost royal bearing". This prince of the casbah attacked him. They fought and fell through the railing of the bridge together. The dark prince tried to force Jung's head under water to drown him, but Jung resisted. "No, I thought, this is going too far." He succeeded in pushing his assailant's head under water. "I did so although I felt great admiration for him. I had no intention of killing him. I wanted only to make him unconscious and incapable of fighting."
     After this struggle, the scene changed and the adversary reappeared as as a companion. They stood together in a vaulted octagonal room in the center of the citadel. Everything was white, simple and beautiful. On the floor below him, Jung discovered an open book with black letters written in splendid calligraphy on milky-white parchment. He was reminded of the Uigurian script of western Turkestan, familiar to him from the Manichean fragments of Turfan  "I did not know the contents, but nevertheless I had the feeling that this was 'my book', that I had written it."
     He told the young prince that now he had overcome him, he must read the book. The prince resisted, but Jung overcame him again, this time with kindness and patience.
     Recalling this turning-point dream in his later years, as he dictated the materials for Memories, Dreams, Reflection
Jung analyzed it in terms that today sound almost stereotypically "Jungian" and yet go beyond. The shape of the casbah or citadel is a perfect mandala, within which the dreamer is journeying to the center of the self. The adversary on the bridge is a "shadow", but in a larger sense that is often understood when that term is used. The Arab prince is "not the personal shadow, rather an ethnic one associated not with my persona but with the totality of my personality, that is, with the self. As master of the casbah, he must be regarded as a kind of shadow of the self."
    In his own view, Jung's struggle with the dark prince - like Jacob's struggle with the dark angel - was more than a battle with a denied or suppressed aspect of his ordinary personality. It was a contest in which consciousness, awakened to the power and allure of a previously unrecognized archetype, is challenged to fight in order to befriend. 


Art: Henry Ossawa Tanner, "Gate of the Casbah" (1914)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sidewalk Tarot: Gotta Try for the Big One

The experience of meaningful coincidence can come like a slap in the face or a passionate embrace. It can leave you gasping, knowing that the universe has become very personal and is speaking directly to you. Such big encounters with the deeper order, in which there is really no separation between mind and matter, can leave you stunned, or aroused.
    However, I love the smaller encounters with synchronicity that may do no more than give a little fizz or tickle to the day. When I am home, I start my morning by walking my little dog up a street of brownstones in a small city to the park where we take a path around a lake. Coming and going, I'm mildly alert - in a relaxed, undemanding way - for signs and symbols from the world about us.
   I will note the first kledon of the day. "Kledon" is the Greek word for speech or sounds coming out of silence. I wrote here recently about how deeply I was aroused by a man whistling for his dog who made what sounded to me like the call of a rainbird.
    Today's little story starts with a kledon from the path around the lake.
 "Gotta to try for the big one!" the cheery mother of a large family greets me. They have set up a veritable fishing camp on the path round the lake: canvas fold-out chairs, hampers, rods and reels, jars of bait, drinks and snacks. I've never seen anything big that has gills and fins caught in this lake, but then there are many kinds of "big ones" in life.

    Walking my dog back from the park, I'm open to playing what I call Sidewalk Tarot. This means noticing things that pop up on the street - a kid's chalk drawing on the sidewalk, the logo on a van, a dropped coin or earring or an abandoned shoe - and seeing whether they are offering a message or image for the day, or at least the moment.
     I notice the huge fish banner flapping from a brownstone near my home. It's been here for a couple of weeks, but today, as it blows back and forth, it seems to reinforce the theme that we want to try for the Big One. At the least, there is something fishy going on.
    Just down the block, a young man is strumming a guitar on one side of a car, singing what sounds like an original - but imperfect - composition. His girlfriend watches and listens from the other side of the car, which is full of stuff. They are moving in, or moving out. Could be a big one.

    A few paces further, and I come to the Reject Books of the day. In my neighborhood, where there are quite a few transient college kids, unwanted books are frequently left out on stoops or steps or on the sidewalk, So I have made Reject Books a subcategory of my Sidewalk Tarot.
    Today's spread is pretty interesting. It takes no imagination to see the books laid on on a neighbor's steps as a five-card spread. What do we have here? A princess card, surely (lower left). The suit of Jewels is dominant.  Is that Children's Bible the Hierophant, or High Priest? Is "I Do" the Lovers card?
    I love outrageous correspondence, when we know we are dancing or teetering on the mythic edge, and that the powers of the world-behind-the-world are poking or thrusting through the curtain walls of our limited everyday understanding. I love it when I walk into a bookstore in Boulder to read from some of mythic poems and am greeted by a young woman named Athena who introduces me to Odysseus. I am thrilled and chilled when a fox-cursed demon driver takes me half-way over a cliff in the Carpathian mountains. I can never forget what it meant to me when I had written down a theme for guidance that included the name "Indiana Jones" and a man dressed as Indiana Jones sat down next to me on a plane, a story I tell in full detail in my book The Three "Only" Things.
    Yet I also love the little patterns of resemblance and connection, the way life rhymes in smaller ways. Noticing these things is essential to poetic health, and we need poetic consciousness to come fully alive to the rhyming universe.
    It's enough for me, for now, that I have my bumper sticker for the day: Gotta Try for the Big One. Yes, ma'am.

Sequel: Landing the Big One

The next morning, I come upon another fisherman, casting his line from a gap in the bull rushes at the western end of the lake. "Have you ever caught anything in this lake?" I ask him.
   "Oh yeah. I just caught a bass as big as my tackle box. The biggest fish I ever caught in my life."
   The tackle box is large and chunky. A bass that size would certainly be a Big fish. My inner skeptic tells me I'm listening to a wannabe fisherman's wishful tale. I have never seen anyone catch anything big in these waters.
   I am rounding the end of the lake when I hear shouts, "Hey! Hey! I got one!"
   I can't see clearly through the rushes, but when I walk a little further on I see the fisherman hoisting his rod high in the air, for me to see what he's hooked. That fish really is as long as his tackle box. He unhooks the fish and lets it drop back in the water.
    Has he got a bass trained to appear on command? Is this the Law of Eternal Return (in two senses)?
    Whatever. I'll carry yesterday's catch phrase with me today. "Gotta Try for the Big One."
    A snatch of Ovid returns to me. 

   Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nine Keys to Living Consciously in the Multiverse

1. The only time is Now. All other times - past, present and parallel - can be accessed in this moment of Now, and may be changed for the better.

2. We dream to wake up. Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It is about waking up to a deeper order of reality. Dreaming is a discipline; to get really good at it requires practice, practice, practice.

3. Treasures are waiting for us in the Place Between Sleep and Awake. The easiest way to become a lucid or conscious dreamer is to spend more time in the twilight zone between waking and sleep, or between sleep and waking.  This liminal state is a place of encounter with inner guides and of heightened psychic perception and creative breakthroughs.

4. We live in the Speaking Land, as the First Peoples of my native Australia say. Everything in the world around us is alive and conscious and will speak to us if we are paying attention. Navigating by synchronicity becomes very simple, even irresistible, when we stream into this mode of understanding.

5. To live well, we must practice death. We bring courage and clarity to life choices when we are aware that death is always with us, and that we should be ready to meet it any day.

6. We must feed and honor our animal spirits. A working connection with them gives us immense resources for self-healing.

7. We have a guide for our lives who is no stranger. He is always with us and does not judge us. This is the Self on a higher level. When we rise to the perspective of the Greater Self, we are able to make peace between different personality aspects, including our counterparts in other times and parallel realities.

8. We are at the center of all times. The dramas of lives being lived in other times and in parallel realities may be intensely relevant to understanding and navigating our current relationships and life issues. We can learn to reach into those other lives to share gifts and lessons. We can dialog with our own older and younger selves within our present lifetimes.

9. We must entertain the spirits, starting with our very own – the child self, the inner artist, the passionate teen, the animal spirits, the creative daimon.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "World Tree" by Annick Bougerolle

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Call of the rainbird

There it is again, the call of the rainbird. But it can't be. I have never heard this bird in any part of North America, let alone this urban park in the Northeast. It has to be someone whistling for his dog. The whistle changes, a happy dog with flapping ears materializes through the maples, and my guess is confirmed.
    But for a moment, I am transported, back to a another park, in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, where my parents retired. I walked a path there, slowly, with my father when I visited him before his death. He loved to hear the call of the rainbird and would imitate it perfectly. even after his stroke. The Pacific koel - as ornithologists and bird-watchers call this kind of cuckoo - derives its familiar name from the fact that it is often heard before rain and storm. The males are black with red eyes, and their calls in mating season are very demanding.
    Strange and welcome, this vivid reminder of a scene from the other side of the world in the whistle of a dog walker. When I heard the rainbird, I was thinking about the content of a class I leading this evening in a teleseminar for The Shift Network. The theme tonight is "Partnering with Spiritual Guides." I was reminded that our spiritual guides include loved ones who have gone to the Other Side before us, and that they can become extraordinary life counselors.
    My father played a very direct role in healing old family wounds within days of his death. After the funeral, I sat out on a balcony with my mother. Emotions were raw, we were drinking rather heavily, and my mother started voicing an old list of complaints. When I responded curtly, she rushed inside the apartment.  I was deeply sad, and ashamed. In desperation, I spoke to my father. I begged him to forgive me for getting drawn into old, petty family disputes. “Dad, if you can, please speak to Mum. Please lift the burden and the bitterness from her.”
     The next instant, my mother flew through the door to the balcony like a leaf being blown by a strong wind. She stood behind me, placing her right arm over my shoulder, and her left hand over my heart. She spoke to me of love and forgiveness. She spoke of the deep love she had always felt for me, and apologized that she had so often found it impossible to demonstrate that love, and had been so prone to get distracted by things that really weren’t important.
     All the while, she had her left hand on my heart. When I mentioned this later, she was stunned. She found it hard to believe what I was telling her. She was never one for physical contact and had no idea that her hand was on my heart. This gust of emotion, this tremendous release, had come from someone who had been emotionally bottled up since I was very young, who avoided showing her feelings and did not hold me like a mother. She said, “I came back out on the balcony because something grabbed me and pushed me outside.”
    I was certain it was my father who had blown her back to me, and held her hand over my heart, to make peace between us, and bring us back to the heart center. I felt the depth of my father’s blessing, and deep gratitude for what becomes possible when we recognize that our dead are alive, and that we can help each other to live better and remember what matters.
    In the year that followed, my father visited me, and another family member, repeatedly. He confirmed the reality of life beyond physical death. He delivered messages for the family that helped us to navigate life issues. For example, concerned that my mother needed to move to a more sheltered environment, he visited me and insisted that I tell her to get in touch with someone named "Rodriguez." I had no idea who this might be, but when I duly phoned my mother, she told me that she knew a Ron Rodriguez quite well. He was a real estate agent. She followed my father's advice and Rodriguez helped her to sell her apartment and move to a new home in a retirement community where she made new friends and was happy in her last years.
    My father showed me something of his transitions on the side, and his eventual choice of a new life situation where he would no longer be available for communication on a regular basis. I think of him now, with deep love and gratitude for playing the role of family angel in so many ways. Thank you, Dad. And I thank whatever inspired that other dog walker to make the call of the rainbird today.

Part of this article is adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo of Pacific koel by Aviceda

You can listen to the call of the rainbird here

Monday, August 25, 2014

You take the high road and I'll take the low road

You take the high road and I'll take the low road.
And I'll be in dreamland before you.

The way up is the way down.
Lower World, Middle World, Upper World. Go traveling like a shaman, and you might find the cosmos is not arranged like a layer cake.

Good morning, willow. I share your green yearnings.
Any tree may be the Tree of Life, whose roots are in heaven.

The young Rimbaud said that to prepare himself to write poetry, he would stare into a river until he could see a cathedral at the bottom. Sometimes this takes no time at all, because the world of living symbols is looking at you. This is what I found at the lake in my local park today.

photos (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I had a dream

I had a dream, you say,
but maybe a dream had you.
A dream may slip through the keyhole
and stand over your head, whispering,
or creep under the covers with you.

You could say that you saw a dream
or you heard one. On juicy nights
you might taste a dream and wake
with the tang of raspberries
or runny cheese on your mouth.

Dreams may be visitors.
Dreams are also places you visit
where your experiences may be
realer than what you call real
on an ordinary day.

When you wake up to what’s going on
you know you don’t have to lie down
and let just any dream have you.
You don’t need to keep going
to bad neighborhoods in the dreamlands.

You can make better dreams.
You have a starship full of dream producers
waiting for your call. Dump your old scripts
and they’ll help you create worlds.
Then you’ll have a dream.

- August 24, 2014

Art: "Making Songlines" (c) Robert Moss

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where there's a Goddess there's a way


This is my catch phrase from my last dream of last night. In the dream:

I am on a road that becomes impassable, thanks to erosion and then construction that has left a gaping L-shaped hole (actually more like the Greek letter lambda)  through which I can see water below. Now fully lucid, I consider my options. I can fly over the obstruction, as I have done in dreams before. But that does not feel right.
    Whatever is going on here needs to be sorted out on the ground - or on the water. Different dream lands have different physics and requirements. It seems I am stopped on a bridge. Why not call up a boat to take me where I want to go? 

    Now I hear a tremendous feminine voice, saying, I will open the road from Halicarnassus to Sinope. 
   I sit up in bed with the words vibrating in my mind I am certain I have heard the words of a goddess, delivered by a priestess of her oracle. I am thrilled with excitement.
    Of course my dream has set me yet another research assignment, starting at the birth city of Herodotus, whose Histories were already in my current reading because of a dream from a few days ago, extending to a Black Sea port associated with the quest of the Golden Fleece. No doubt I will be called again into the realm of the Great Goddess of Anatolia....

Image: The Cyblele fountain in Madrid. Though it's at the other end of the Mediterranean, and was sculpted in the 18th century, this is one of my favorite images of the Great Goddess of Anatolia, Matar Kubileya to the Phrygians, Kumbaba to the Hittites, Kybele to the Greeks (syncretized with Artemis at Ephesus), Magna Mater or Cybele to the Romans, and often, quite simply, the Mountain Mother or Mother of the Gods.