Friday, April 28, 2017

Dreaming in Greeneland

When I first traveled to Paris as a foreign correspondent, early in the 1970s, the office secretary made a reservation for me at the St James Albany, which turned out to be twin hotels - very handsome Right Bank townhouses - separated by a quiet courtyard with a fountain and flagstones and flowerbeds and shade trees. It struck me that the courtyard between the twin hotels was a liminal space, ideal for intrigue and trespass of various kinds – for games involving lovers, or spies, even players from different worlds. 
     I later discovered, to my great delight, that Graham Greene had similar feelings and had made this location a part of Greeneland, the fictive world of his novels. He used the courtyard of the St James Albany as the setting for a hilarious scene in Travels with My Aunt in which two women, meeting by chance, discuss the lovers with whom they tryst in secret in each of the twin hotels - and then discover that their lovers are the same man when M. Dambreuse arrives with his wife and children.
     Graham Greene led many lives, but first and last he was a writer, with a professional writer’s discipline. Through his many intrigues, both personal and political, he managed to sit down almost every day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. – on a veranda in Tahiti or a cottage in Brighton – and knock out his quota of 500 words, and he did this for seventy years, producing a steady stream of popular novels and essays.
     A crucial part of Greene’s practice was to write down his dreams. He started keeping a dream journal when he was sixteen. He often reported his dreams in letters to lovers and friends. Over the last twenty-five years of his life, he recorded his dreams with great faithfulness – though in fiendishly difficult handwriting – in notebooks that are now in an archive in Texas. His last literary project was to edit a selection of his dreams for a posthumous collection he titled A World of My Own.
     The interweaving of Greene’s dream life with his other lives makes a fascinating study, for which the primary source materials are unusually extensive.  We see how a man who chose to live on the dangerous edges of the world was able to create – richly and repeatedly – from the borderlands of dreaming. We can track many different modes in which a writer can create from dreams, from receiving the initial idea for a story, to solving a problem during sleep, to bridging a narrative gap, to dreaming deep into a character’s life.
     As a young boy, he had psychic dreams, often involving death by water, a prospect that terrified him. On the night the Titanic sank, when he was just seven, he dreamed of a shipwreck, with a man in oilskins bent double beside a companionway under the blow of a great wave. 
     He was miserable at school – nothing unusual in the lives of creative and sensitive individuals – and ran away when he was sixteen. This was highly embarrassing for the family, since Graham’s father was headmaster. They decided to send him to London to be psychoanalyzed, which was still a novel idea in 1920, especially for a teenage boy. The analyst selected, Kenneth Richmond, had no formal training; he was a writer with spiritualist leanings who followed an eclectic approach.
     While Greene was boarding with him in Lancaster Gate, Richmond instructed him to write down his dreams. In mid-morning sessions, Greene was expected to tell a dream and then give his associations to the key images while the analyst merely listened. When Greene did not recall a dream, he made something up. The whole experience – which he later described as the happiest six months of his life  – laid the foundation for Greene’s literary career by training him to write from dreams and invent stories. 
      Kenneth Richmond’s beautiful wife Zoe – about whom Greene had mildly erotic dreams – thought Graham was clairvoyant, “a natural medium”. While in Lancaster Gate, Greene dreamed of a ship going down in the Irish Sea. That same night, just after midnight, the Rowan sank in the Irish Sea
      In some of his precognitive or clairvoyant dreams, he found himself in the situation of one of the victims. Aged twenty-one, he dreamed of another shipboard disaster in which he was being ordered to jump overboard from an upper deck. He later read the news of a terrible wreck in a storm off the Yorkshire coast in which the captain ordered his men to jump into the violent sea, and all but two were drowned. Greene speculated that “on an occasion like this there must be terrific mental waves of terror, and my mind seems to be particularly attuned to the terror of drowning wave.”
     His youthful psychic ability to dream his way into someone else’s situation resembled his mature ability as a novelist to dream his way into his characters’ lives. He later observed that “sometimes identification with a character goes so far that one may dream his dream and not one’s own.” 
     Greene’s dreams were central to his writing. He said that two of his novels, It’s a Battlefield and The Honorary Consul, both started with dreams. He dreamed the plots and characters of entire short stories. When he was writing A Burnt-Out Case – which drew heavily on his diary of a trip to the Congo – Greene came to a point in the plot where he was stuck. Then the author dreamed as his character, Querry, and found he could insert his dream “without change” in the novel, “where it bridged a gap in the narrative which for days I had been unable to cross.” 
     Greene made it a habit to solve writing problems in his sleep, noting that it is not necessary to remember the content of a dream in order to receive a dream-inspired solution. “When an obstacle seems insurmountable, I read the day’s work before sleep…When I wake the obstacle has nearly always been removed: the solution is there and obvious – perhaps it came in a dream which I have forgotten.” 
      He harvested personal dreams and assigned them to characters in his novels. In a  dream reflecting his lifelong preoccupation with religion, he gave a lecture on the theme that God evolves, as well as man, and that behind their apparent duality, God and Satan are one. He later transferred this theory to a passage in The Honorary Consul where his character explains that God has a “night-side” as well as a “day-side”; the night-side will wither away (“like your communist state, Eduardo”) as God and man both evolve. 

   Graham Greene was a man of mystery who had much to hide, in his private life and in his engagement with the worlds of power and espionage. For him the great mystery, at the end, concerned what follows death. He thought – and dreamed – about this all his life. He was greatly affected by a series of dream encounters with his father after his death. 
   Greene had a disturbing dream that he might be extinguished after death through lack of belief. “I had been aware of people I had loved who called me to join them. But I had chosen, by my lack of belief, extinction. A great black cone like a candle extinguisher was to be dropped over my head.” 
     But he did not go out like that. He left sure of continuing life, ready for new travels, regretting only separation from the last woman to share his life, Yvonne Cloetta.
    A week before his death, knowing it was at hand, he said to Yvonne in the hospital at Vevey: “It may be an interesting experience; at last I shall know what lies on the other side of the fence.” 
Towards the end, he made this note in Yvonne’s “red book” of their conversations: “Perhaps in Paradise we are given the power to help the living. I picture Paradise as a place of activity. Sometimes I pray not for the dead friends but to dead friends, asking their help.” 
Yvonne recalls that “He worked every morning, as he always did, right up to the end, on his book of dreams.” Evidently he came to believe that through dreams (as one of his characters said in a different connection) “there was something in the warring crooked uncertain world he could trust beside himself.”

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Everyday Angels and the Cosmic Costume Department

The well-known psychic Alice Bailey believed that both anonymous companions and other generic dream figures - the train conductor, the taxi driver, the telephone operator - may all be angels in disguise. Maybe you have noticed how such characters sometimes play the role of guardians or guides in your dreams. Here are a few cases from my own dream journals:

The telephone operator

In one dream, I found a message on my telephone answering machine from a troubled woman who had caused a good deal of confusion in my life. As I listened to the message, which was an appeal for a meeting, the voice of the operator came through. The operator explained that she did not want to let calls from this person come through because her intentions were harmful. In my dream, I was able to print out the message, which I then destroyed by putting it through a trash compactor. I often find that the telephone operator in my dreams helps me to screen communications on the inner planes. The telephone operator or switchboard also helps me to route calls to higher sources of guidance. This continues even though, in waking life, in the age of smart phones I rarely have any interaction with old-style telephone operators.

The immigration or customs official
Since I do a lot of traveling in this world, these figures frequently appear in waking life. In dreams, they often play a deeper role, although I never dismiss the possibility that I may be dreaming a future situation in regular life. In my dreams, customs officials may discuss whether I am dressed properly or carrying excess baggage and help me to get these things sorted out. Immigration officials play an even more interesting role. In one dream, for example, I noticed that the immigration official to whom I had to present myself at a foreign airport was reading a book on synchronicity. When I expressed interest, he led me into a back room, where several of his colleagues - dressed in blue, high-necked uniforms of a distinctively "French" design - discussed early research on the theme that had been conducted in French. This gave me useful and specific leads for research that found its way into books I proceeded to write.

The hotel manager

In another dream, I found myself in a hotel in a foreign country where a power problem was causing intermittent blackouts throughout a whole city. Then the hotel manager appeared. He was an immensely charming, confident, even radiant, man who assured me that everything could be put right. He proceeded to demonstrate. He increased the voltage on a generator, raising the energy flow to several times the maximum level shown on the gauge. Nothing blew up, and the lights in the city came back on. After this dream, I noticed a marked increase in my energy level and was able to complete a book project at record speed.
    The hotel manager often appears to me in dreams as the person responsible for the management and effective operation of the whole establishment - i.e., my whole psychospiritual condition. 

The maitre d' and the chef

The restaurant manager or maitre d' figures in my dreams as the person who oversees my social and eating habits. The dream chef plays a deeper role, on stage or backstage. He often represents my inner creator. In a turning point dream, both figures played shocking but very helpful roles. I was struggling at the time with a book project.
    I had contracted to write a thriller with a Russian theme, following the popular success of my earlier novel Moscow Rules but my heart wasn't in it. I did not want to repeat myself and was feeling a deep call to change the whole direction of my life and my writing. I turned to my dreams for help. I set the intention, on going to bed, to receive dream guidance on writing my new "Russian" thriller. I stepped into a dream that seemed promising. A huge banquet hall had been set up in my honor. I noted that the place settings included the finest china, and that the cutlery seemed to be made of silver and gold. But the maitre d' rushed up, wringing his hands. He tol me there was a problem in the kitchen. The master chef did not like my menu. He refused to cook any more stroganoff., If I insisted on a Russian entree, he would quit.
    I woke up chastened. I understood that - through the message from the unseen master chef - my creative spirit had given me clear guidance. I tore up a contract because of that dream, abandoning the Russian thriller for fresh literary adventures that led me to publish a series of historical novels involving Native American dream shamans, and eventually my nonfiction books on Active Dreaming.

The taxi driver

I learn a lot from taxi drivers in dreams, where they are quite as unpredictable as in New York City. When I turned to historical fiction, a cabdriver turned up in a splendid vintage car. I entered into a most rewarding conversation with him after the initial dream. Wide awake but still connected to the energy of the dream, I sat down with pen and pad and asked him a series of questions, carefully recording his responses. 

The elevator operator

This is someone who can help to transport you to higher levels. He may or may not hold the door open for you if you are running late, or expect a tip. In one of my dreams, an elevator operator waited for me patiently while I carried a dead relative who was in a bad way, groggy and disoriented, into an old-fashioned lift. When we had risen to a higher floor, the dead person vanished into a television set inside the lift

The doorman or security guard

At any important threshold, we may challenged to establish our right of entry, to show ID and perhaps to lay down things we are carrying that do not belong where we are going. In dreams, as in ordinary life, the doorman or security guard plays a vitally important role. We may come to recognize the many forms of the Gatekeeper, that archetypal entity that opens or closes our doors and paths in life and between the worlds.

I have come to think that there is a Cosmic Costume Department for spiritual guides. They appear to us in forms that we can perceive. I have given examples of guides appearing in everyday dress. They may put on much wilder outfits, including the forms of wild animals. Their purpose is to get our attention. Sometimes that requires reassuring camouflage; sometimes it requires shock tactics.

Parts of this article are adapted from "Dream Guides and Guardian Angels", chapter 8 of Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.

Image: Makeup Room at the National Theatre, London.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dreaming for soul and survival, from the Paleolithic to our times

Most human societies have valued dreams and the dreamers for three principal reasons. They have recognized that in dreams we see the future, and this can help whole communities as well as individuals to make better choices. They have understood that dreams give us a direct line to the sacred, to the God/Goddess we can talk to, to the ancestors, to the animate spirits of Nature. And they have grasped that dreaming can be very good medicine. Dreams diagnose problems before they present symptoms; they offer imagery for self-healing; and they show us the state of the soul and can help us retrieve parts of our vital energy that may have gone missing through what shamans call “soul-loss”.
     In Western society, dreams are undervalued by those the English call the “talking classes”, especially in academe and the media. Yet we all dream, so this is common property. Ever the hardhead who says “I don’t dream” is only saying “I don’t remember” or “I don’t care to remember”. And when life is tough or he is going through a big life transition, his head may be cracked open by a big dream that will expand his understanding and maybe give him sources and resources not otherwise available.  One of the most common types of “big dreams” that can accomplish that is a visitation by a dead family member or loved one.
     All ancient and indigenous peoples that I have encountered, in my studies as an independent scholar and in my travels in many realities, understand that the dream world is a real world, maybe more real than the regular world of our consensual everyday hallucinations. When I told an elder of the Longhouse People, or Iroquois, about my dreams of a Mohawk/Huron  arendiwanen,  or “woman of power”, who walked this earth three centuries ago, he told me “you made some visits and you received some visitations.” There you have a central understanding, forgotten or ignored in much of Western psychology: dreaming is traveling.
     In dreams, soul or consciousness gets around, far beyond the body. In dreams, we may also receive visitations. The very words for “dream” in many cultures reflects this insight. In the language of the Makiritare, a shamanic dreaming people of Venezuela, the word for “dream” is adekato, which literally means “a journey of the soul.”
     Look at what is painted on the walls of the Paleolithic caves and you have evidence of the central importance of dreaming from as far back in the human odyssey as we can trace. The images are portals into a deeper reality, not simply hunting or fertility magic, but ways of connecting with the spirits, of calling through power, and of traveling between dimensions.
     On the most practical level, dreaming has always been a key part of our human survival kit. When we were little better than naked apes, without good weapons, dreaming helped save us from becoming breakfast for leathery raptors or saber-toothed tigers, by enabling us to scan our environment, across space and time, and identify possible dangers.
     We want to learn to meld ways of dreaming and healing that  our ancestors knew with the best of science and scholarship today. The methods of Active Dreaming that I teach and practice are not a "New Age" approach, but the revival of ancient wisdom, adapted to our contemporary lives, and providing essential tools to get us through life's challenges and find and fulfill our bigger and braver stories.

Art: the "Panel of the Lions" in the Grotte Chauvet in southern France.

My new online course "Dreaming into the Dreamtime" draws on the wisdom and practice of seven world traditions; classes start on May 3.


Amnesia and Anamnesis: The Journey of the Forgetful Envoy

Life is a process of remembering and forgetting, forgetting and remembering.
    The theme of the forgotten mission is beautifully conveyed by the “Hymn of the Soul” in the gnostic Acts of Thomas. The hero is sent from the East into Egypt in search of the Pearl beyond price, which may be his own Higher Self. Drugged by the food and drink of the country where he now finds himself, he forgets who he is. From the distant land from which he has come, the king and queen and “all the princes of Parthia” send a message to awaken him to the memory of who and what he is and recall him to his forgotten mission.
    The same theme resonates, in modern dress, in Doris Lessing’s allegorical novel Shikasta. An envoy is sent to Earth from a higher civilization in a distant galaxy. To reach his destination, he must pass through a vast waiting area, a plane of mists and illusions, where souls wander between incarnations. On Earth, the envoy succumbs to the miasmal conditions; he forgets who he is and why he has come. An new envoy must be sent to remind him.
    Does the story sound familiar? It could be yours. It has certainly been mine.
    One of my favorite literary versions is Herman Hesse's novella The Journey to the East.  In a time of social collapse, when "there was a readiness to believe in things beyond reality", the narrator joins a pilgrimage to the East under the guidance of a mysterious order described only as the League. He journeys far in search of his spiritual home and regains the knowledge of essential things, such as his purpose for living. However, when he returns to his former environment, he loses his journals and souvenirs and begins to doubt whether his experiences were real. People around him don't believe his accounts. Soon he succumbs to their skepticism. He wonders whether the League itself is only a figment of his imagination.
    But the League has not forgotten him. He is one of its own. He is invited to read his personal file in the League archives. He discovers that four centuries earlier, in another lifetime, he also belonged to the League. He is ashamed. How could he possibly have forgotten this? In a secret alcove, he is permitted to draw back a veil and makes his most extraordinary discovery. It is a small statue that proves to be two figures in one, joined back to back. One of the figures is the traveler himself. In the other, he recognizes the features of the guide who led him on his journey to the East.
    As he studies the twinned figures, amazed, the statue comes to life. His own image melts and flows into that of the guide. It seems that, when fusion is complete, his ordinary self will be absorbed into the larger identity of the guide, the form of a Higher Self.
    Like Hesse's League, our true spiritual teachers do not forget. When we open ourselves to the possibility of remembering who we are and what we might become, they communicate clearly. To receive their knowledge — and recover the knowledge that belonged to us before we came through the tunnel of the birth canal — we must be in a corresponding state of consciousness. As Ana├»s Nin remarked, “We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
    Ordinary consciousness is a candle bobbing on a dark river, casting an inconstant circle of light across the water, in which an occasional creature from the deep can be glimpsed indistinctly. The river is vast, flowing into a boundless ocean. This is the sea of the greater Self. We cannot see it by the light of our daily trivial mind, which scarcely combs back the darkness.
    When I was a lonely adolescent in Australia, an inner guide who appeared to me in the form of a radiant young man from the eastern end of the Mediterranean reminded me that the knowledge that matters comes to us through anamnesis. The word literally means "remembering", the antithesis of amnesia. For Plato and the neo-Platonists, it means remembering the knowledge of mind and spirit that belongs to us on a higher plane, knowledge to which we had access before we came into our present bodies.
    Humans are forgetful animals. We forget and remember, remember and forget. Yet our true spiritual teachers stalk us in dreams and speak to us in liminal states of consciousness when we turn off our routine soundtrack and can hear a deeper voice. 

Part of this text is adapted from chapter 14, "Soul Remembering" in Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Song of Shambhala" by Nicholas Roerich

Spiritual gravitation

"Man attracts spirits according to his own temperament," as William Butler Yeats observed. To "the sanguine, the spirits of fire, and the lymphatic, those of watery nature, and those of a mixed nature, mixed spirits." While observing that like attracts like, Yeats was also fascinated by the way that opposites may be drawn together, to complement and complete each other, and to spark that creative friction that brings new things into being.  
    Yeats' friend, the Celtic visionary artist George William Russell (whose pen name was "AE") defined the key principle at work here as "spiritual gravitation", and described how it spills over into the play of synchronicity or objective chance. 
Your own will come to you. 
AE summarized the law of spiritual gravitation in this single thrilling phrase. In his beautiful little book The Candle of Vision he explains
I found that every intense imagination, every new adventure of the intellect endowed with magnetic power to attract to it its own kin. Will and desire were as the enchanter's wand of fable, and they drew to themselves their own affinities. ..One person after another emerged out of the mass, betraying their close affinity to my moods as they were engendered. 
     In our lives, this plays out through chance encounters, through the dreamlike symbolism of daily events, when we turn up the right message in a book opened at random or left open by someone else on a library table. If the passions of our souls are strong enough, they may draw "lifelong comrades".
     In The Candle of Vision, AE gave a personal example. When he first attempted to write verse, he immediately met a new friend, a dreaming boy "whose voice was soon to be the most beautiful voice in Irish literature" This was William Butler Yeats. "The concurrence of our personalities seemed mysterious and controlled by some law of spiritual gravitation." 
     In his later life, AE found a soul companion in the Australian writer P.L.Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and also a deep student of the Western Mysteries and a world-class mythographer. AE wrote to her about a further aspect of spiritual gravitation: "I feel I belong to a spiritual clan whose members are scattered all over the world and these are my kinsmen."
"Bathers" by George William Russell (1867-1935) 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dreaming with the departed

Many people in our society are hungry for confirmation that communication with the departed is not “weird” or “unnatural”, let alone impossible, and that it is possible to extend love and forgiveness and healing across the apparent barrier of death. We encounter our departed, especially in dreams, because they are still around (sometimes because they have unfinished business or are not actually aware they are dead); or because they come visiting; or because we travel, in dreams or visions, into astral realms where the departed are entirely at home.
    It’s not just that we dream of the dead; our departed are dreaming of us, and trying to reach us through dreams. Sometimes our departed return as counselors or “family angels”, as my father returned to me, many times, in the year after his death in Australia in 1987, with loving messages and practical guidance for the family. Sometimes our departed need us to play guides, because they are confused or stuck between the worlds, clinging to old appetites and attachments – which can be extremely unhealthy for the living, who may pick up the feelings and addictions and even the past physical symptoms of the dead.
    One of the cruelest things that mainstream Western culture has done is to suggest that communication with the departed is either impossible or unnatural.  There is nothing spooky or “supernatural” involved, though these experiences take us into realms beyond physical reality. It is especially easy to meet our departed in dreams for three reasons:                                                                                                                                 
Our Departed are Still With Us

Quite frequently dreams reveal that the departed are present because, quite simply, they never left. The departed may linger because they have unfinished business, or wish to act as guide and protector to the family, or are attached to people and places they loved in waking life, and this may be a perfectly happy situation for a year or two.
    But there comes a time when our departed need to move on, for their own growth, and so they do not become a psychic burden to the living. After death, we continue to be driven by our ruling interests, appetites and addictions. Some of those who have died but not truly “passed on” continue to try to feed their cravings via the living.  When the departed remain earthbound, the effects are unhealthy both for those who have died and those among the living to whom they are connected. 
    When the dead are enmeshed with the living, the result is mutual confusion, loss of energy, and the transfer of addictions, obsessions and even physical ailments from the departed to the person whose energy field he or she is sharing.
    Helping the departed may involve a loving dialogue, a simple ritual of honoring and farewell, and invoking spiritual helpers. As we become active dreamers, familiar with the geography of the afterlife, we may find we are called on to provide personal escort services and help to instruct some of our departed on their options on the other side. William Butler Yeats noted, with a poet’s insight, that “the living can assist the imaginations of the dead”.

Our Departed Come Calling

Most people who remember dreams can recall one in which someone on the other side made a phone call, sent a letter, or simply turned up at the door or the bedside. Our departed return to us in dreams for all the reasons they might have called on us in physical life – including the simple desire to tell us how they are doing and see how we are coping - and for larger reasons: to bring emotional healing, to bring us helpful information, to instruct us on life beyond death and the reality of worlds beyond the physical.
    Our departed may come visiting to offer or receive forgiveness. They may come to show us how they are doing on the other side.
    Our deceased friends and loved ones may appear in our dreams because they are trying to understand the fuller story of the life they have left. Yeats, with poetic clarity, called this stage in the afterlife transitions the "Dreaming Back."
    Our departed can be excellent psychic advisers when they achieve clarity on the other side and are aware that they are not confined to the rules of space and time.    Our departed may come as health advisers and family counselors.   They may visit us in dreams to help us prepare for our own deaths and reassure us that we have friends on the other side. 

In dreams, we travel to realms of the departed 

In our dreams, we are released from the laws of physical reality, and travel into other dimensions, including environments where the departed may be living. Through dreams of this kind, we can begin to develop a personal geography of the afterlife, which will be vastly enriched when we learn the art of conscious dream travel.
    In my workshops,  I often invite participants to focus on a dream or memory of a departed person and make it their intention to journey – with the help of shamanic drumming – to seek timely and helpful communication with that person and to learn about the environment where that person is now living.

Such visits and visitations have been a primary source, across the ages, for the widespread belief that consciousness survives the death of the physical body. This is too important a subject for us to rely on hand-me-down knowledge or blind faith. We want first-hand experience, and this is most readily available through dreaming. We will find that the realms of the departed may be no more distant from us than the width of our eyelids.

For much more on this subject please see The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

photo (c) Robert Moss

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dare to be afraid

Dare to be afraid.          
You're already in the underworld.
You are more dead now than you'll be
when you wake up in another world
and remember what it was all about
and how you might have used that knowledge.

Check in on the lives you are living now
in worlds where you never left your  lover
or met him ten years sooner 
or crossed that bridge that scared you
or went to Paris to make art.

You are on your way to a Customs booth
where your regrets will be weighed
against a feather  Travel light.
If you regret a life unlived grab from it
what you can before you face the scales.

Round up the usual dead artists.
Courage is not the absence of fear
but fear conquered by something stronger.
Feed the tiger even if that means becoming food.
Dare to be afraid.

- Gore Mountain April 23, 2017

Tiger mask by RM