Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Does your dream handbag have a kissing lock?

Though I'm a mere man who's never even carried a "European shoulder bag", I've come to know a bit about women's pocketbooks, and especially how they feature in dreams. I've talked with hundreds of women about their dreams of handbags over the years. In leading dream theater in my workshops I've been struck by how often a pocketbook has proven to be a key element in the drama - lost or stolen, at risk, flaunted or misused or swung as a weapon.
     The handbag in a dream may of course be just a handbag, one that needs to be checked or kept safe. Everyone knows someone who's had a handbag nabbed by a mugger, sometimes after dreaming this exact event, while failing to recognize a quite literal warning. If you tell me a dream in which your pocketbook is lost or stolen, my first step will be to encourage you to look for clues in the dream as to when and where this could happen, so you can avoid this situation in the future. We also know people who have rushed off to the airport without a passport or driver's license. So if you tell me you dreamed something like that, my first advice to you will be to check that you have your travel documents before you leave home on your next trip.
     Now let's consider the symbolism of a pocketbook and what it contains. By my observation, a woman's handbag often contains:

- ID such as driver's license
- keys
- credit cards
- cell phone
- currency
- change
- medicines
- a whole mess of personal stuff
- trinkets and lucky charms
- treats and snacks
- further ID

    Each of these literal items is rich in symbolism. Together, they represent power and identity, things we don't want to lose or have taken from us. One woman dreamed she was fighting off a giant panther with her pocketbook. That's power! She held up her own side so well that in a later dream the panther reappeared as her friend, purring like a kitty.
     Another woman dreamed she was at the office and kept leaving her pocketbook in a place where it was vulnerable. In the dream, she couldn't break this habit, even though she knew that a creepy man who might be a robber was prowling the halls and snooping around her things. When I invited her to compare the behavior of her dream self to that of her waking self, she was able to come up with an action plan that involved not giving up her power in her work situation.
     Another woman dreamed she had left her purse in church and needed to go back to retrieve it. She felt this reflected the fact that for part of her life, as a devout member of her congregation, she had given up her right to direct knowledge of the sacred, and was now reclaiming that.  
     A woman's pocketbook can represent her sexuality. You don't have to be a Freudian to see the possible sexual associations with the way it opens and closes. The catch on the vintage photo used here is actually called a "kissing lock".
     I remember wildly funny dream theater back during the (Bill) Clinton presidency in which we play-acted a dream in which Bill is trying to get into a woman's purse. Eons ago, at a dream conference, I couldn't miss the the sexual character of this type of dream while doing a dreamwork process with an attractive woman from Texas . In her dream, she is repeatedly and compulsively opening her purse and snapping it shut. As she recounted the dream, in front of 200 people, she couldn't stop herself vamping and gyrating.
     Again, a bag can just be a bag. I had a recurring motif in dreams over a period of 18 months - that a little grey carry-on bag I always took with me on trips was lost or stolen. The context was different in each of these dreams, but the outcome was the same. The dreams prompted me not to carry my passport or valuables in that bag, which was a good thing, because 18 months after the first lost-bag dream, that grey carry-on was stolen from a car I rented in California. There was symbolism in the literal event that followed the dream. On the day it was stolen, that grey carry-on bag contained a working draft of a book I later decided not to publish.
     Playing with our dream symbols is fun. We also need to be more literal about dreams and more symbolist about the incidents of waking life. That's my bag.

Image: 1860 women's handbag with "kissing lock". Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

Monday, December 15, 2014

The state of your soles

Walking a lake shore, I come upon something small and white and solitary on the wet sand. From my original angle of vision, it looks like a tiny ribcage. When I come closer, I see it is a sandal with many straps. I feel I am looking at a symbol from a dream. Abandoned between the confident lakefront mansions and the cold lake, looking so much like part of a little person, the lone sandal makes me think of soul - a part of soul that has been left somewhere away from home.
      In dreams, the state of our footwear often suggests the state of our souls. You can hear the echo of "soul" in "sole". A dream of lost shoes may invite us to think about where on the roads of life we may have lost or misplaced soul. Sometimes you can reach back into that kind of dream in order to look for lost shoes, and that search may take you back to a place in your life where you lost something more important - vital energy and identity - that you can now reclaim.
     Shoes not only have soles. They have ties, and the state of your laces or straps in a dream may say something about connections - "old ties" or new ones. A woman getting ready to attend a high school reunion in Manhattan dreamed she was urgently seeking shoes that would be comfortable for walking yet smart enough to suit her taste. A salesman in Bloomingdale's persuaded her to purchase a pair of sneakers with laces made of genuine, but flexible, gold. She smiled at the thought that after all the years since graduation, her ties to her classmates were "golden", and that she would be comfortable with them in the big city.
    A Freudian psychiatrist I know dreamed that her shoes were far too tight; they were torturing her feet and making it nearly impossible for her to walk. When she reflected on this, she realized that her Freudian approach was cramping her ability to do her job. She expanded her studies, embracing Jung and other approaches to the psyche and its healing. Now, in her dreams, her shoes fitted just right.           
    In some dreams, we find ourselves wearing shoes that would be highly unlikely in regular life, except at a costume party. We seem to be cross-dressing, or wearing the footwear of a different historical period, or dispensing with shoes altogether in a primal landscape. When we inspect the bodies we inhabit in dreams of this kind, we sometimes discover that our dream self slipped into someone else's situation, in a different place or a different era. The state of our shoes in such dreams (and other details) may be a clue to connections within a soul family that includes personalities in different times.
     That thought has been of great interest to me since I dreamed that I visited my favorite professor at a research institution where he was doing some remarkable work that involved pairs of shoes. The professor is Manning Clark, the famous Australian historian, who was a great friend and mentor to me when I was a student and a precocious lecturer at the Australian National University. Manning died in 1991, but I have had many intriguing encounters with him since.
     In the dream involving shoes, Manning showed me that he is now busily engaged in studying "parallel lives". This meta-historical approach seems to involve tracking how choices made and actions taken by two people living in different times impact each other's fortunes, by a process of causation that you can only grasp if you can step outside linear chronology. One of the pairs Manning had selected for study was Lenin and Dionysius of Syracuse (a tyrant of ancient Greece). Each time the professor finished work on one set of parallel lives, he moved a pair of shoes to a different position on the far side of his desk. This was evidently a kind of tally, but I felt the shoes signified something more.
    I am thinking now of that lone sandal on the lake beach. There is a sandal angel, very important in the pathworking and astral travel protocols of certain Mystery and kabbalistic orders. His name is Sandalphon. He wears sandals in the presence of his Maker, and leather footgear in the presence of Shekinah, the Divine Feminine. Some say he was once the prophet Elijah, or Elias. He presides over the astral body and the soul journeys we make in this vehicle. Some believe he watches over the big journeys that precede birth and follow death, which involve putting on and discarding "garments", like soft shoes.
    I think also of the symbolism of everyday life. The other day, I noticed a pair of women's high-heeled shoes, muddied and scuffed, abandoned under a tree on a gritty urban street. And I thought again about those dreams in which shoes that are lost or abandoned can reflect soul loss. 
    In my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home, I discuss shoe dreams as one of the main categories of dreams that encourage us to ask where soul has gone and make sure that we have proper grounding when we are walking our soul paths. The state of our soles may indeed reflect the state of our souls.

Abandoned shoes (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When your dream road is under construction

One recurring theme in my dreams, and maybe yours, over many years, is that my road is blocked by construction work. In one of these dreams, I found a road completely impassable with great hills of rubble and huge bulldozers ahead of me.
    I woke frustrated, and decided to try to get back inside the dream and find a way forward. When I reentered the dream, I discovered I had a companion I hadn't noticed before. He looked like an impossibly beautiful, radiant double of myself. He wasn't blocked by the construction, He shot up something like a storm drain, flying Superman-style. Then it hit me - I'm dreaming and I can fly. I flew up the tunnel after him, and entered one of the most powerful life-changing experiences of my life.
   Since then, I still find my road blocked at times, in my dreams, and often don't remember that I can fly. Sometimes I have to turn back, or wait my time (as we have to do on a highway when there is literal construction and flagmen determining when we can stop or go).
   Sometimes my dream self does something as cool as flying but different. On quite a few nights, he has solved the problem of a blocked road by picking up his car as if it's a toy and lifting it over the obstacles.
   A variant is coming to a point where the road is unfinished, or the bridge just stops halfway across a body or water or an overpass. Those dreams make me want to look very carefully at what direction I'm following in my work and my life and check whether that's really the way I want to go. If it is, then I'll consider what roadwork I need to do in order to go forward.     
It's cool to remember, in dreams, that we can fly. It can also be very helpful to be reminded that we have work to do and given some orientation on how to approach that.
    Of course, a dream of difficult road conditions may be a quite literal travel advisory. So when you dream of a road being blocked, don't fail to ask whether you recognize that location and might be driving somewhere like that. Recognizing a dream rehearsal of this kind can save a lot of aggravation on the ordinary roads.
    At the same time, a precognitive or admonitory dream may still hold great symbolic resonance. The dream may anticipate a literal event in external reality that will, in itself, he highly symbolic.
     One more thought about dreams of construction. Whether the work is being done on a road, or a house, or something else in a dream, you may want to pause to reflect on whether what is really under construction is you.

drawing (c) Robert Moss

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How many floors in your dream house?

"In the Norse heaven of our forefathers, Thor's house had five hundred and forty floors; and man's house has five hundred and forty floors."  The voice is that of Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay "Conduct of Life".
    We begin to see the truth of it in dreams in which we discover that our home has an extra level, or many of them. I have yet to meet a dreamer who claims to have discovered all five hundred and forty floors. Yet when  we discover even a single room we had not opened before, we discover that we are more than we know.

     To spin from Norse gods to the Bible, in the dream house, there are many mansions - extra stories and hidden rooms and basements, wings of possibility.
     The state of a dream house may reflect the state of the body. If the dream house is in need of repairs, or there's a problem with the plumbing or the furnace, you may want to consider whether there is a health advisory concerning a corresponding part of the body..
     Different rooms in the dream house may represent different functions, of body or soul. The kitchen may represent the digestive system, or the state of the family, or of our creativity (since the kitchen is the place where we cook things up and often the hub of family life).
When I'm living in an apartment in my dreams (which I have not done in waking life for 30 years) I ask myself "what am I a part of, or apart from?" 
    I love the sense of expanding life possibility that comes when I am in a dream house that has levels or rooms beyond any physical house I know.
    I'm intrigued by how life memories help design my dream houses, which are sometimes composites of several past places where I have lived. 
     When I find myself moving to a new place in my dreams, I'll ask myself whether this could be preview of a literal house move (maybe one I haven't yet considered in ordinary life). I'll also ask: what changes in my life situation are in store for me in a larger sense?
     In dreams, we often find ourselves back in the old place, a childhood home or a home we shared with a former partner. Being back in the old place could be a journey back across time, or into a parallel reality in which a parallel self never left the old situation - and/or an invitation to reclaim vital soul energy and identity we left behind when we made a major life change. 
     There are dream houses that are not of this world, places of learning and adventure and initiation in the Imaginal Realm. These may be places of encounter with a second self, an aspect of our multidimensional Self. Over many years, I have found myself traveling in dreams to an old house on a canal in Europe, the home of an eccentric scholar who is something of a magus, with an extraordinary library and collection of working tools of magic. It took me a couple of visits before I recognized that this dream house belongs to me,
     Jung's dream of a "many-storied house" led him for the first time to the concept of the "collective unconscious" (and also to his rift with Freud, who refused to accept the depth of this dream). Jung found in his multi-level dream house a "structural diagram of the human psyche." In the dream, he became aware that there was a story below the respectable middle-class environment in which he was living. When he went downstairs, he found successive stories below his previous consciousness: a darkened floor with medieval furnishings, and below that a beautifully vaulted Roman cellar, and down below that - when he lifted a stone slab by a ring - a primal cave with scattered bones and pottery and the two skulls.

Image: The so-called "Wooden Gagster" house in Archangel, Russia, built without permit or architect, demolished in 2008. Photo credit: Wikipedia, Mr 850

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do four-year-olds dream precognitive dreams?

This just in from dream teacher Valerie McCarney:

"We were in Virginia and like always, my grandson got into bed with me to tell me his dream. In this one , he was in a forest of mean trees. The trees all had faces and arms and he had lots of sticks and rocks to throw at them. There was one little squirrel and he wanted to save him from the trees. He asked me to draw it and I made a quick sketch. 
   "Later that day we took a ride to a Christmas event at Busch Gardens. Old Country was set up as European countries, all decorated for Christmas.
    "We crossed the bridge into Ireland and there was his tree. He said, 'See this is the tree was that in my dream last night.' Then he ran into it. It is the tree in the photo I took.
     "it is so important to get children started young believing in the power of dreams."

Drawing and photo of the "mean tree" by Valerie McCarney

Why we miss dream messages about the future

In dreams, perhaps every night, we travel ahead of our physical selves, scouting out challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Dreams of the future are part of the basic human survival kit. We not only see things that will happen. We see things that may or may not happen, depending on our ability to remember and clarify the details, and then to  take appropriate action to avoid an unwanted possible future event or to manifest a happy one.
     This is part of our natural intuitive radar. It has helped humans to survive for the whole of our odyssey on the planet, and most human societies, until recently, have valued dreams and dreamers that can show us the shape of things to come.
     So why are so many of us missing our dream messages about challenges and opportunities that lie ahead? For a majority, perhaps, this is part of the cost of suffering a substantial dream drought, missing dreams with every kind of content. But even those of us who love to dream and make room in our lives for dreams often fail to notice what they reveal about the possible future.
    We have often been oriented by Western psychology and popular methods of dream interpretation to look only at the symbolic, as opposed to the literal, content of dreams. A widespread theory is that whatever is going on a dream report is a purely subjective, internal transaction between the personal unconscious and the conscious mind. This might lead us to look at every character and element in the dream as an aspect of the dreamer. This can be a fun game to play, but it fails to recognize that dreams are not only personal and subjective experiences. They can also be transpersonal, social and take us to other times and other realities.

     When we look at our own dreams, we are naturally inclined to home in on what we recognize from the past, because the past is what we know or suppose that we know. But dreams are actually organized by the future more than the past. They show us things developing within us and around us. They show us events that could play out in the future, for good or ill. In other words, they show us possible futures. We can improve our odds on manifesting a desirable possible future event, or averting, gentling or avoiding an unwanted one if we are able to look at our dream material - whatever its content - and ask, Is there any chance that this could manifest, literally or symbolically, in the future?
     If we feel the answer is "Yes", we may want to spend some time clarifying the dream information. The best way to do that, whenever we are able to do it, is to reenter the dream in a conscious journey and take a closer look at what is going on in the space of the dream, carrying the questions any investigator might bring along: What? When" Where? Who? How?
     Simply carrying the dream with us for a while, walking with it, seeing whether more of the detail comes back is another way to approach this. We'll get in the habit of noticing when incidents come up in the world around us that resemble scenes from the dream, and perhaps we'll find ourselves better poised to cope with what is coming next.
     It will help for us to make a list of personal markers that a dream may reflect coming events. One such marker may be the routine, everyday quality of a dream, reflecting situations that may come up in ordinary life. You may notice clues to the passage of time in a dream - the kids are older, the season has changed. Some markers of dream premonition or precognition may be wildly symbolic. You may notice that you dream of a tsunami or a train rushing off the tracks when a crisis is looming in your life (but don't forget a tsunami could also be a tsunami, a train wreck a train wreck).
     For highly psychic dreamers, the lively presence of dead people in a dream is sometimes a marker that information about the future is available. The dead, who are of course alive on the other side, are not confined to time as we know it, and can show us things - if they choose and if they have clarity - that we have trouble seeing by ourselves.

     However, even the most active dreamers, with good recall and a clear understanding that dreams must be searched for clues to the future, often miss messages of this kind. In my book Dreaming True I suggested  five main reasons why we misinterpret dreams of the future even when we are fully prepared to look at dreams for messages about what is to come:

1. We mistake a literal event for a symbolic one, or vice versa.
2. We misidentify people and places.
3. We fail to figure out how far in the future the dream event might be.
4. We see future events from a certain angle, that may not reveal the whole picture.
5. We confuse realities, confounding a dream that relates to external reality with dreams that are real experiences in other orders of reality.

Gifted psychic dreamers often find themselves looking at a future event involving others as an observer, looking in from the outside. But in clairvoyant or precognitive dreams involving others, we may be drawn inside another person’s situation. Sometimes it’s as if we have stepped inside someone else’s head and are looking through their eyes. This syndrome is quite common among siblings, close family and friends. It poses special challenges in reading dreams of the future.
     We need to determine what is our stuff and what belongs to someone else's stuff. One of the ways to do that is through dream reentry, which means seeking to reenter a dream and establish – inside the dream space– exactly what is going on.
    I counseled a woman who was troubled by recurring dreams in which she saw her husband cheating on her and working himself into violent alcoholic rages in which he attacked her and was a danger to himself as well. She was not initially keen on the idea of trying to go back inside these horrible dreams, but I encouraged her to go in as an investigator and get the facts straight. With the help of my shamanic drumming, she succeeded in reentering the dream. She realized very quickly that the locale was not her own home, but her sister's place.
     Even more revealing, she found that in the disturbing dreams she had not been herself. She actually seemed to be inside the body and situation of her sister.  She now understood that she had been given insight into terrible problems that had been developing in her sister's marriage by being taken right inside her sister's situation. Now that she had clarity on what belonged to her and what did not, the dreamer was able to talk to her sister, who admitted that she was having the problems seen in the dreams. Now the dreamer could provide loving and helpful counsel and support to her sister, who had been feeling desperately alone.

Shadow photo by Jeanne Cameron

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting a second opinion from Jung on the Battle of the Giants

There is a commotion outside. I go to the window and see an army is encamped along the edge of a body of water where a battle is taking place between a giant turtle (the size of a dozen men) and a giant crocodile. I call to the others to come and see. When I turn back, I see that the army has saved the turtle, which is being transported to safer waters. They have constructed or opened a kind of raceway and the turtle is swimming between walls. Now I see that there are actually two giant turtles.
    I look out to the water again. Beyond military lines, the crocodile stands on a headland, tail raised like a scorpion, apparently triumphant for now. I understand that the conflict will be resumed. It's part of life. The role of the army is to ensure that neither party destroys the other.

I woke from this first dream of the night feeling both excited and satisfied. In the dream, I was an observer. I felt that I was being shown something of huge importance in life.
    I know both Turtle and Crocodile as members of my personal mythic bestiary. I have swum with sea turtles and I am from a country famous for crocodiles. I know that in life there are contests between opposing forces and attitudes that must continue if life itself is to go on.
    Instead of spending much time in self-analysis of the dream, I made a quick drawing and decided to ask Jung for a second opinion. Who better? I had already had it in mind to do my daily bibliomancy with Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a book of seminal importance in my life and the most personal and accessible of his works. However, when I reached into the Jung section in a glass-fronted bookcase in my personal library, the shelf elves had other ideas. Another volume in Jung’s Collected Works came flying off the shelf, striking me lightly on the chest.
     Naturally, I changed my ideas about where to look for guidance and took this flying book to my desk. Its title is Two Essays on Analytical Psychology which seemed to match the revelation of the two turtles in my dream rather nicely. The volume is a dual edition of two of his early essays, Volume VII in the Collected Works. I opened the book at random and read this:

"There is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind...Repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible…Just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites." 

I saw that there was no need to invent a snapper to carry the essence of my dream. Jung had given me one. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.

    This little incident from this dreamer’s life is a practical example of how we can turn to a book to give us a second opinion on a dream. Our curiosity may of course take us far beyond the initial passage we find when we open a book at random. I found myself drawn, irresistibly, to-read both the essays in that volume of Jung, in which we find his mind devising and developing theories of aspect psychology, the shadow and the relations between the ego-self and the collective unconscious which were to become fundamental to his approach.

Drawing by RM