Friday, December 31, 2010

Eve's portals for New Year dream travels





The gateways to the invisible must be visible.


This is my favorite line from René Daumal's Mount Analogue, a must-read for voyagers in consciousness. In our Western way, we love the play of images.

In the practice of Active Dreaming part of our essential art is to find the right images that can be portals for shamanic lucid dreaming. Quite often, in the workshops, this involves setting an assignment for a whole group of say, thirty people, along these lines: "You will journey through the gateway of the dream that has been told with such-and-such an intention."

To develop the practice of journeying consciously beyond the body, into realms of reality beyond the physical, one of my favorite training tools - both for neophytes and for veteran travelers - is to offer the gateway of a painted image.

My friend the French artist Eve Fouquet has just sent me two of her paintings as a New Years gift, and I want to share that gift with you here. The first painting (shown above) is titled l'instant présent (The Present Moment).

The second, shown here, is le mystère (The Mystery).

















Both of these magical images have traction for me; looking at each, I feel myself already beginning to travel in consciousness into a deeper realm. You may want to explore what lies for you behind each doorway. If you embark on this experiment, notice the margin around each painting and see this again as the edge of a door you will step (or fly) through. When you are ready to return, turn around, inside the space you have reached, and see that door-frame again, with your body in the place where you left it....

For more on ways of stepping through a picture, please see my book Dreamgates.


Visit Eve Fouquet at her website: http://www.etincelledevie.fr/

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A library full of seeds


Around the turning of the year, I make time to look over old journals. This is part of the ongoing process of composing a life story. It also helps me to keep track of my dream double, and how far and wide he has traveled beyond the milder adventures of my waking self.

Just now I turned up the following dream report from May 2003:

A LIBRARY FULL OF SEEDS

In my library, I am surprised and delighted to see that a shelf has been partly filled with white-covered booklets, in stacks facing outward. These booklets resemble large packets of seeds. The covers are somewhat spackled by time and weather. I have the impression that they have been brought out of old trunks and boxes, including boxes bequeathed to me by a scholar of an earlier generation in my family.

The first brochure I examine is on dreams, and contains the text of an ancient dream - possibly the dream of Scipio (recorded by Cicero) that was central to the medieval study of dreams. As I look over the stacks, I see that the brochures have been organized alphabetically and cover a tremendous range of information. Some titles are the names of countries.

I am excited by the prospect of using these materials. I glance at the larger bookcase on my left, and notice that quite a range of books I had not noticed before (or were not there before) are now on the shelves, including a volume from the chunky Cambridge Medieval History series.

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I find this a cozy and comforting dream in this winter season, when I am at home for a few weeks, reading wide and deep, and letting the seeds of ideas and stories germinate inside me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When crow calls back




So what does this literary crow want me to write about?

How about this:

Crows are marvelous messengers. And like their larger cousin, the raven, they can be impeccable allies in shamanic lucid dreaming and tracking. We know this from legend and folklore.

In the Iroquois story of the real Hiawatha, a force is gathering to challenge the dark power of the tyrant-sorcerer, Tododaho. They need scouts to report on his defenses. The scouts who perform this task, unerringly, are Crow People, shamanic dreamers who take on the form of crows, fly to the tyrant's redoubt, and return to Hiawatha with accurate intelligence. I recount this story in full detail in my book Dreamways of the Iroquois.

Raven has an even larger history as a seer. Odin, who was a shaman before he became a god, works with two ravens, who are found perched on his shoulders when they are not out and about gathering information for him. Their names are Huninn and Muninn, Thought and Memory. When I teach the arts of seership, I often encourage members of my workshops to borrow the wings and the sharp sight of Thought and Memory as they go out on assignment - powered by shamanic drumming - to collect information for a partner. Sometimes the assignment involves traveling a certain distance into the future to scout out a possible future situation or event. Sometimes it requires opening a path for healing, or breaking the terror of a nightmare left unresolved.

We worked this way in my last Active Dreaming workshop in southern France. I noticed that there was an especially gifted shamanic tracker in the group named Anne, who came with a previous connection with the crows, and used it to deliver excellent results.

When we call on an ally, it sometimes calls back. Anne's friend, Jean-Alain, sent me these photos of some recent close encounters.



corneille-anne-.jpg

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Death card speaks


I am Death. I bring a term to everything. I mock your vanities, yet I also give you the limits that make your achievements matter. I am your beginning as well as your end.

I give you straight-edged clarity, sharp as a razor. I give you the chance to find courage. In my presence, what fear can the risks of your ordinary life hold for you?

Surely you feel me now, at your left shoulder. I will tell you what you need to know, but only if you let me put my noose around your neck.

I am the bridge between the tame land and the wild. I was made by your hand but I am the making or unmaking of your kind.

If you fear the crossing I narrow and rock back and forth. If you seek to avoid what lies on the other side, it will meet you on the bridge, in the form you most dread.

The face I will show you is the one you will choose for me, knowingly or unknowingly. Choose wisely.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dream hunters of Corsica


The "dream hunters” of Corsica - the mazzeri - who are often women, go hunting at night. They hunt with knives and vine-root clubs called mazza and tear their prey apart with their teeth. They attack any animals that are around, but boars are their favorite. At the moment they kill an animal, they get a flash glimpse of a human being they can identify, and know by this that the human will die within a year. If the animal is only wounded, the human connected with it will get sick or have an accident but will recover. One mazzera, taking a trout from a stream, recognized her aunt and hastily returned the fish to the water; her aunt sickened but recovered.

The mazzeri do these things in dreaming, and the things they do are real. They may go out in the night, or they may leave their bodies during an afternoon siesta. They have a flair for bilocation, what the French call the dédoublement de la personnalité. You meet a mazzeru on a hillside, among the sheep, at an hour when his family swears he was asleep in bed.

The hunt takes place in a parallel world. In Corsican belief, the spirit of the dream hunter meets the spirit of his victim, a human who has assumed animal form. When he kills the animal, he severs the spirit from the victim's body. The human body of the victim may carry on for a time, but it is going to sicken and die.

The dream hunters themselves may take animal form - appropriately, the form of hunting dogs. The dream hunters don't seem to be regarded as evil or malicious; what they do is just a part of Corsican life, like the violence of a stream in flood.

This is all part of the night life depicted in a book by Dorothy Carrington titled The Dream-Hunters of Corsica. I can’t personally vouch for its content, and I’m not planning to check out these club-bearing night hunters any time soon. If I do, I'll take something larger than a dog with me. In a recent Italian documentary, the mazzeri are called facitori da morte ('death makers") and a type of European shaman.

Napoleon (and 43 of his generals) came from Corsica. I wonder whether he had something of these gifts. I have seen a legend that he was able to view a field of battle from the other side of a hill, penetrating the fog of war through inner sight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Voice of lightning


I strike fast, but before I strike I probe for the best way through the air currents, sending down feeders you cannot see.

I am drawn to oak trees, and to humans who have the quality of oak, hanging on to their foliage when other trees have shed theirs, standing tall, deep-rooted in earth, but always reaching for the sky.

I fall in love, as humans and spirits do. The humans I love best will be stroked by my fire and can read my movements in energy fields. They will be challenged, as others are, to ground my power safely, because I sometimes forget that these soft animals are weak vessels that need to conduct my force instead of holding it to themselves.

Connect with me, and you take on my speed, my ability to focus energy – and the challenge of remaining grounded and of passing on my gifts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A writer can afford to produce one maverick work


"My decision to write The Land of Ulro was an act of perfect freedom in the sense that I didn't aim either at pleasing, convincing, conquering or seducing my contemporaries. It was as if I said to myself that a writer in his lifetime can afford to produce one maverick work."

What a grand statement! (Though I am inclined to ask: why only one "maverick work"?)

With these words Czeslaw Milosz introduces English-language readers to his tangled literary memoir The Land of Ulro in which he hunts ideas through the pages of Blake and Swedenborg, Hölderlin and Baudelaire in order to explicate Polish writers often unknown outside the Polish language (and sometimes within it).

The real object of this bookish hunt is the author's distant cousin, the mystical nobleman Oscar Milosz ("O.V. de L. Milosz"), born in Russia, famed as a French poet, wedded to Kabbalah (and Jewish on his mother's side) who found his soul's landscape among the unfussy country manors of old Lithuania. In his elegant, elderly cousin, Czeslaw finds a half-lit mirror, rocking on a stand in a room stuffed with taxonomy specimens and tarnished silver.

The book borrows its title from Blake's Ulro, a world not unlike our own, blighted by the tyranny of reason and ego, lost to creative Imagination. I don't share Milosz's fascination with Blake's clumsy flat-earth cosmology, and I am repelled by the "anti-Nature" notion they share: that humanity is Fallen before it gets here. Still, I can see how for Milosz, the Polish-Lithuanian native son of an area of ever-changing flags and occupiers, the idea of fallen man may have been appealing, as I can picture Blake's horror at the struggle for life in the fetid slums and "dark satanic mills" of the London of his era.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Street of the End of the World

It started with the olives. They were the bright green, naturally salty kind the French call lucques and they were on display, fresh from the harvest, at a market table under a magnificent white platane tree in the square of St. Guilhem-le-Desert, a medieval town in southern France. My friend Irene, who had volunteered to show me some of the country in between my two workshops near Montpellier, encouraged me to try them. I demurred, noting that I had skipped breakfast. "Maybe later, with a glass of wine."

At that instant, a vivid woman dressed in all the colors of a flower garden appeared in the square and greeted Irene, who made the introductions. Her name was Eve Fouquet. She was an artist who lived in St. Guilhem. She had decided, on a whim, to walk to the square at that moment. "I've just come back from Bordeau and I brought some good Bordeau wine. Come to my place and have a glass."

Of course I bought some of those excellent, meaty green olives. Eve led us down a steep, narrow cobbled street and up high stone steps to a magician's cave. Some of the interior walls were from the 11th century, and still bore traces of 11th century paintings.














Eve poured wine and showed me a laptop gallery of her paintings, many of which excited me as portal images, and celebrations of the Goddess, and evocations of elemental powers.

Eve suggested lunch at the Hotel Guilhaume d'Orange, named - like the town - after the battle lord of Charlemagne who decided, after his wars, to become a monk. I ate local trout, and we were joined by friends, one of whom brought a very large and happy black dog named Emma.

Eve proposed an afternoon walk - a promenade - to the End of the World. There is a street in St Guilhem that bears that name, the Rue du Bout du Monde. After the trout, we followed the street to its end, just past Eve's gallery, and walked on along a winding path that soon faded away into a rocky trail.

I looked back at the high battlements of a castle from Charlemagne's time. I noticed a low electric fence around a small field of bright green grass. It was explained to me that the fence was to keep out the sangliers, or wild boars; that little field was famous for its truffles. There was plenty of further evidence of wild boars as we climbed rocky slopes and splashed through cold mountain streams - piles of poop, marks of digging and scraping.

As we walked on, the mountains around us seemed to lean in closer. Eve pointed up to where a hermit lives on a high ledge. There was wild beauty in the scene, but also a sense of something dark, from the past, that I found more and more oppressive. We came at last to the hollow between the mountains where the trail ends. The place is known in the langue d'Oc as Infernet, Little Hell.

Sitting on a ledge, at the base of a mountain, I found myself drawn into a drama of the Middle Ages, involving the passion and death of a man in iron who was lured to this place, and killed by people who resembled wild boars, or wild boars that resembled people. Walking back ahead of the group in the fading light, with the great black dog bounding before me, I heard the jangle of chainmail and felt immersed in this medieval story.

I stood sentinel beside the first house in the town, waiting for the others to catch up in the dark. "Qui vive?" I challenged. "Are you living or dead? Few of the living return from that place." To prove she was alive, one of our party raised a howl that startled a smartly-dressed woman coming out of the house.

Interesting what can flow from the synchronistic union of green olives and red wine.



"Voyage" by Eve Fouquet. Used with permission. Visit the artist's website http://www.etincelledevie.fr/

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When dreamers are the top earners


"Dreams represented a guarantee of work and the possibility of wealth and fame. Any children who showed an inclination - vivid dreaming, night terrors, a tendency to sleepwalk, were thought, by hopeful families, to have chance at the life."

A society where dreamers have the highest social status and are even better-paid than anyone else? this has to be fiction, right? Well, yes. The quote is from a most interesting young adult novel, Dreamhunter, by New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox. She creates an alternate reality where the most powerful, most respected - and most feared - citizens are the "dreamhunters" who are able to produce dreams that can be transferred to others. So far, so good. But there is a dark side to this situation. Any power can be abused, and when dreaming is recognized as the ultimate form of power, there are interests that will seek to control and misuse that power for their own agendas.

A provocative read, which challenges those of us who are seeking to midwife the rebirth of a dreaming society to think carefully about all the issues this will involve.

Elizabeth Knox is a vivid writer and an intelligent thinker on collateral matters. As a historian, I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read this: "History, unlike science, doesn't need repeatable proofs. A story can be true if its sources are sound." This is exactly why we need the historian's approach, more than the psychologist's, to understand the past and future nature of dreaming. While a certain type of scientist will dismiss case histories of dream precognition, or even the vast array of historical case studies in my Secret History of Dreaming as merely "anecdotal", any true historian knows better.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The underwater archive of lost dreams


British-born sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor creates cities and societies under the sea. His art is compelling, though you may need a scuba outfit to see all of it.

I am especially stirred by his installation titled El Collectionista de los Sueños Perdidos (literally, "The Collector of Lost Dreams")

In the words of the artist: "The Archive of Lost Dreams depicts an underwater archive, maintained by a male registrar. The archive is a collection of hundreds of messages in bottles brought together by the natural forces of the ocean. The registrar is collating the individual bottles and categorising the contents according to the nature of each message - fear, hope, loss, or belonging.

"Various communities from a broad spectrum of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds have been invited to provide the messages, which, it is hoped, will document current values and aspirations for future generations to discover."

Taylor's installation matches the sense we dreamers often have, surfacing from the deeps of the night, of having left treasures and messages behind, and may inspire us to go diving again, beneath the shallows of ordinary consciousness, in quest of them


For more on Jason deCaires Taylor and his underwater sculptures, visit his websiteionista de los Sueños Perdidos

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Le rêve a laissé son manteau


On my last night at l'Hameau de l'Etoile, the refurbished 17th century village in the south of France where I have been leading new adventures in Active Dreaming, I dreamed I was leading the group on a spiral dance through stables where powerful horses stamped and snorted their approval. As we danced, I improvised the words of a song with alternating verses in French and English. As I woke, the title of this dream was with me: "Le chanson des écuries du rêve" - "The Song of the Dream Stables."

I sat down with a cup of coffee to write with the energy of this dream. What came streaming through me was not exactly the Song of the Dream Stables but rather a poem in the rhythms of Charles d'Orléans, the poet-prince of medieval France who has featured in my dreams for many years. It was a sequence of dreams, visions and synchronicity - extraordinary even by my standards - that brought me to France in 2005 to lead a previous workshop at a chateau near Blois, the city Charles most loved, and where his body lies under the protection of the most fearsome gargoyles I have ever seen. The repeating line in my poem is borrowed from one of Charle's lyrical poems. Le temps a laissé son manteau.

Here is the poem as I delivered it to the group, in French, the day before I flew home for Thanksgiving:

Le rêve a laissé son manteau
de brume, de soie et du regret
Je marche entre la terre et l’eau
pour nettoyer
à castanet


La lune m’a donné sa pleine face
J’encontre esprits de là-haut
Je dois assigner chacun
à sa place
Le rêve a laissé son manteau

Les vents racontes légendes d’or
je glisse comme grue, je mange taureau
Je vive entre la mort et l’amour
Le rêve a laissé son manteau

- - Hameau de l’Etoile November 23, 2010

And here is a rough translation:


The dream has dropped its mantle
of mist, of silk and of regret
I walk between earth and water
to cleanse with their percussive beat

The moon has given me her full face
I have met spirits that come from there
I must assign each to its rightful place
The dream has dropped it mantle

The winds narrate golden legends
I glide as the crane, I eat the bull
I live between love and Death
The dream has dropped its mantle.


Oh, yes. "Eating the bull" is no bull. Taureau is a preferred dish of the guardian, the cowboy of the Camargue, and I ate steak de taureau au fleur de sel in a restaurant named the House of the Moon Bull (Casa Toro Luna) on the square in the medieval town of Aigues Mortes.


Graphic: Illumination from an early collection of poems of Charles d'Orléans, depicting his time as a hostage in the Tower of London.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Active Dreaming for Soul Recovery


Shamans understand that soul loss is the root of much illness and confusion in our lives. It may be caused by pain or trauma or heartbreak, by wrenching life choices, or by wimping out on our best and bravest dreams. It can reduce us to the condition of the walking dead, passionless and dreary, forever trying to fit in with other people's needs and expectations, lost to our own deeper purpose.
     Soul retrieval is a shamanic operation in which the practitioner journeys to bring back lost soul-parts and puts them into the client's body (typically by blowing into one or more of the energy centers, most often the heart or the crown of the head). Soul recovery is a practice in which we help each other to become self-healers and function as our own shamanic practitioners - to gather and integrate our own families of selves and bring wholeness and vital energy into our lives.
     Dream reentry frequently opens the road to soul recovery, because our dreams show us where our missing parts may have gone, and invite us to reach in and bring them back. When we dream again and again of the "old place" (maybe a childhood home, maybe a space we shared with a former partner) we may be learning that a part of ourselves - a part scared away by trauma, or a part that resisted a choice we made - is "stuck" in that place, or went missing at the time we lived there.
By going back inside the dream of the "old place" in a lucid shamanic journey, we may be able to locate that lost aspect of our own identity and energy and find the way to bring it back into our hearts and our lives. Typically, soul recovery of this kind will require reassurance and negotiation. Our younger self may need to be reassured that she is not going to be hurt in the way she was hurt before. She may need to be convinced that we will include things in our lives that she will enjoy and will engage her passions.
    In the practice of soul recovery, we support each other without necessarily playing shamanic practitioner for each other – since the heart of this practice is to assist everyone who is able to become a self-healer. The core technique is dream reentry and tracking. This is a method of interactive shamanic lucid dreaming explained in depth in my books, especially Dreamgates, Dreamways of the Iroquois and Conscious Dreaming. As applied for soul recovery, we place the focus on locating and reclaiming lost aspects of soul energy that may have surfaced in a dream or a life memory.
     The tracker may be required to play an activist role - for example, by helping the dreamer to move beyond a fear, by running interference if there are negative entities in the field, by bringing in the tracker's own animal guardians, or by negotiating directly with some of the dreamer's younger or "other" selves. Before undertaking the soul recovery journey, dreamer and tracker should try to reach a clear agreement on how far the tracker should go (or not go) in assisting the healing.
     What do we do for a person who has suffered soul loss and does not have a dream? This is of course a common condition. The Iroquois say that if we have lost our dreams, we have lost our souls - at least, the part of our soul-self that is the dreamer and remembers the deeper life. Several Active Dreaming techniques can help the dream-deprived to open a gateway to soul recovery – and reclaim part of themselves that is the beautiful dreamer. 
    We can help them to revisit a life memory in the same way that they might reenter a dream. And we can perform dream transfer in the service of soul recovery for someone who has lost their dreams. We journey for them and grow a dream for them that they can be helped to enter and can provide an authentic portal for self-healing. Active dreamers know we can bring a dream to someone in need of a dream.

Flying bed by Laurel Schiavone

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Dream Show LIVE on November 9th



Calling all dreamers: My next "Way of the Dreamer" radio show on http://www.healthylife.net/ will be LIVE with call-ins next TUESDAY, November 9th. Please call in with dreams and questions to share. We'll play the Lightning Dreamwork game and explore the many ways in which we can use the arts of Active Dreaming to live more consciously and creatively.
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The show airs from 9-10 AM Pacific time, which is 12 noon-1 PM Eastern, on Tuesday, October 12th.
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The toll-free number for callers is (800) 555-5453. If you can't get through right away, try, try again. If you are calling from outside North America (or need a backup number because the 800 line is busy) alternative numbers are (310) 371-5459 and (310) 371-5444.
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You can access the archive and download or listen to previous shows at http://www.healthylife.net/RadioShow/archiveWD.htm

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yeats and the dusky path of a dream


I like to start the day by opening a book at random and seeing what thought or message this sets before me. The book I use may be one of my own notebooks, or something that has recently landed on my desk through the machinations of the shelf elf, or an old favorite.

An edition of Yeats' collected poems is rarely far from me when I am down in my writing Cave. I read Yeats with passion as a young boy - and ever since - and hunted up a scratchy old vinyl recoding of him reading some of his own works. My first copy of his collected poems was my choice as my prize for writing poetry (the Ellis Prize for Verse) at my high school graduation.

This morning I have a recent edition of Yeats' poetry, edited by Richard Finneran. It is volume I of what is now the standard edition of The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, published by Scribner, a mammoth and impressive enterprise in which many of the world's leading Yeats scholars have been engaged over many years.

I turned to this for my thought for the day.

The book opened to a poem I don't remember reading before, titled "Solomon and the Witch". A wild scene of passion and memory, older than the Fall, is playing out under a wild moon. In sacred union, it is suggested, we can annihilate time and bring back Eden. The lovers of the poem have not quite accomplished this, but

the moon is wilder every minute.
O Solomon! let us try again.

I am thrilled by the mystery of these verses. They elude translation; I must allow the images to work inside me.

I turn the page and find another poem titled "An Image from a Past Life".

He: Why have you laid your hands upon my eyes?
She: A sweetheart from another life floats there.

Now this gives me a clearer directive for the day's work.

I remember now a poem by Tagore that Yeats selected for inclusion in The Oxford Book of Common Verse: "In the dusky path of a dream I went to seek the love who was mine in a former life." Not always a fun path for Yeats, who felt that he found his love of many lives in Maud Gonne, but was unable to be with her for long.

Yes, we shall go on seeking, along the dusky path of dreams.

Yeats by John Singer Sargent (1908)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tarot guidance from Dion Fortune


Dion Fortune (born Violet Firth) was one of the great esoteric teachers of the twentieth century, and a true priestess of the Western way. I've returned to her works again and again over many years, and I believe I have dreamed of her. One of the most refreshing things about her writing is that she brings pithy common sense to the most complex and abstruse matters.

Anyone embarking on the study of Tarot would do well to listen to the simple and helpful counsel Dion Fortune offers in Practical Occultism in Daily Life, first published in the 1930s.

Here are some of her key points (the subtitles are mine):

Start out with a new deck and get to know the cards intimately

"To use the Tarot properly... requires a very great deal of preparation, and the preparation does not consist merely in a knowledge of the significance of the cards, but in getting in touch with the forces behind the cards... Obtain a new pack of Tarot cards, for a used one will be too full of other people's magnetism to be reliable, and carry them on the person, and sleep with them under the pillow, and handle them and ponder upon the meaning of the pictures in the light of what the book of instructions has to say about them until the significance of each picture is realized. It does not matter greatly which pack is used.

Test your trial divination three times

Having got in touch with one's chosen pack, the next thing is to lay out a divination according to whatever system is chosen...and note down the results obtained and the position in which the cards fell. Repeat the process a second time, and a third time, upon each occasion keeping accurate notes of the fall of the cards, and, of course, thoroughly shuffling the cards between each lay-out. If certain cards keep on coming up, and especially if they come up in approximately the same positions, or even if cards of the same type predominate through the three divinations, it may safely be concluded that the system is working satisfactorily, and a divination may be made on the basis of the recurring cards. But if the three divinations bear no resemblance to each other; if even the balance of the four suits does not remain constant for at least two out of the three, and if none of the Greater Trumps turn up more than once, then it must be concluded that the Tarot is not working for the diviner, and the divination should be abandoned.

Trust spontaneous impressions and learn by trial and error

Divination is a thing that cannot be learnt out of books, but builds up gradually as a system of associated ideas in the mind of the operator. Moreover, one varies very much in one's capacity for divination; upon one occasion one may be absolutely inspired...at another time, one may have to spell out the meaning of the lay-out with reference to the book for almost every card. It will always be found that it is useless to force a divination; if the interpretation does not leap spontaneously to the mind it is unlikely to contain much insight.

The image of the 4 of Pentacles is from a recently-produced "Dion Fortune Tarot" that was not designed by her but claims to be based on her principles.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mother Africa, and other female incarnations


She is vast, like the continent itself. She sits under a great baobab tree in the center of the village marketplace. She is mountainous under the folds of her bright crimson dress. She wears a matching red headdress and heavy chains of gold around her neck. When people come for her counsel, she sometimes reaches for a gourd in which she keeps the cowrie shells and stones and bones that she casts on a well-brushed layer of powder inside her divining tray, to get a second opinion from the ancestral spirits. The top of the gourd has been cut so that it opens and closely like a box.

I remember her youth. She was brought among her present people as a captive with a choke collar around her neck. Lissome and nubile, she was taken by force by the tribal king. Years later, when that chief tried to hang himself from this very tree, she cut him down and raised him up, cleansed and healed in body and mind, to be a better ruler. Like the baobab, she renews herself - and helps to renew herself - endlessly. I feel humbled and blessed to be able to share her life memories and to imagine myself, if only for a moment, sharing her life as the wisdom of her people, under that great tree.

This is a brief report of one of my experiences during a group journey in quest of the multidimensional self during a workshop I led last weekend. I invited the spirited members of our circle to direct their awareness to a Tree of Vision we had grown in a standing meditation and feel themselves rising up to a place of observation among the high branches. I suggested that they could then look out towards the four cardinal directions and connect with a personality in a different time and culture whose life experience was relevant to them now. We then used shamanic drumming to power and focus a group adventure in lucid dreaming. It was remarkably successful.

I had a personal agenda for this journey. I wanted to connect with female personalities in other times and places. In most of my impressions of "past lives" closely associated with my own, I have found myself linked to men, typically men of power. A Royal Air Force pilot in World War II. An ancient Chinese general. A Scottish druid in a cloak of raven feathers. A figure in the high white crown of Upper Egypt, studying his own family of counterparts in mirrors of water or metal. Where are the women? I have often asked myself. Oh, there is that woman of the future, and I feel her even now, as I write. She is a priestess and a scientist, working to restore our world, seven generations into the future. Dreaming is central to her practice and that of her Order, and I am driven by a sense of obligation to her, the obligation - through my work as a dream teacher - to help make her possible. But where are the women of the past?

Mother Africa (as I'll call her, though I also know her personal name) is one, and I am privileged to know her. Perhaps we will now be able to share gifts. Another, I now know, is a magical woman of the Scottish islands who is of the sea as much as of the land, and is clothed in the gifts of the sea. Yet another is a beautiful woman of ancient Persia about whom I will hope to learn more. And I find that, since last weekend, I am starting to find my dream self sharing the experiences of woman as if he has taken up temporary residence in their bodies; I reported one of these in my parallel blog at beliefnet this morning.

In psychological terms, such episodes may mean that I am getting more deeply in touch with my female side. Yet they also feel transpersonal, as if I am connecting with - and sometimes entering into the minds and bodies of - personalities in other times and places who may be part of my family of selves, within the structure of the multidimensional self. Jane Robert's Seth (in Seth Speaks) insists that "the entire reincarnational framework must involve both sexual expereinces. Abilities cannot be developed by following a one-sex line. There must be experiences in motherhood and fatherhood." If this is so, perhaps I'm on the right track. I will be most interested if you wish to share personal experiences relevant to this theme.

Baobab photo by Bernard Gagnon

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You stand at the center of all times


I'm on my way to open a new workshop on exploring the multidimensional self, in a wonderful airy studio in the woods just outside Mystic, Connecticut, under the full moon of October.

My travel reading includes Seth Speaks. I see from the flyleaf that I first read this book, channeled by an entity named Seth by Jane Roberts, back in 1988, when I was trying to make sense of some profound, indeed revolutionary, experiences of my own in the universe beyond the five senses. Though generally resistant to channeled material, I found here a very clear and helpful model for reality creation and for understanding relations between the ordinary self, personalities in other times and places, and the self on a higher level. I went on to read everything I could find in print by Jane Roberts and Seth, including Jane's wonderful Oversoul 7 trilogy.

So I start the day (after noting some dreams from the night) by opening Seth Speaks at random for a thought for the day. I find this:

Knowing your reincarnational background, but not knowing the true nature of your present self, is useless. You cannot justify or rationalize present circumstances by saying, "This is because of something I did in a past life," for within yourself now is the ability to change negative influences.

Yes. And this can be applied to the lives we may lead within one single span of years. As a matter of fact, if we want to grasp the nature of reincarnation we would do well to study how we can rebirth ourselves several times within our present lifetimes.
When you change your life utterly - as I did in the period when I first read Seth Speaks (and was dreaming of an ancient native "woman of power" who required me to learn Mohawk in order to understand her) - you may find you have some karma to deal with, bequeathed by your former selves. You may be distracted by "bleed-throughs" from "probable selves" (as Seth would call them), parallel versions of you who made different choices and are walking not far from you, on paths you abandoned.

Your power is now. You stand now at the center of all times and dimensions. Your challenge is to explore how much it is possible to influence for the good of all through the choices you now make.
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Hindu vision of a chain of reincarnation. Image from Himalayan Academy Publications, Kauai.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giant grey sheep opens the way to a guide



I am swimming in a very clean canal with green meadows to my left. I've been told that if I keep going this way I can swim directly to the great country house where a meeting will take place; the name of this house is something like "Cairncross".

I see a grey sheep grazing. It must be the size of an elephant. It has a black face, curly horns and black legs and the head is quite small in proportion to the vast body. I guess that sheep of this kind are bred for meat rather than wool. I remember being told that my hosts would roast an animal for dinner; maybe it will be a sheep like this.

The canal is getting quite shallow. Soon I can no longer swim without scraping my chest or belly against the gravelly floor. I get out and notice a large body of water to my right, perhaps a lake. I can just slide down the bank and continue my swim there.

Interruption: My 11-pound puppy wakes me up, barking for me to lift him back up on the bed.

Feelings: Intrigued. Frustrated at being pulled out of the dream.

Reality: I recall that in the Celtic immrama (voyage tales) you know you have reached the Otherworld when there is a dramatic shift in scale. For example, the voyagers come to an island with ants the size of calves.

Action: When my puppy is settled, snuggled down in the small of my back, I decide to reenter and continue the dream.

Reentry experience:

Easy to get back to the giant sheep and the canal. I go down the bank into the lake. The water is delightful, but I am soon aware that there are other inhabitants. I catch a glimpse of them. They are giant eels the size of treetrunks, armed with many rows of spiky teeth. They are blind, but are drawn to movement. I decide it's prudent to continue my journey along the edge of the lake.

I come to a rise and see, through woods, another body of water below me. A giant yellow fish, the size of a marlin, breaks surface and I decide that perhaps I won't be swimming here either. There's the back of a house visible through the trees. Maybe this is my destination.

I come to a gate in a high wire fence, and step through. This must be the back entrance. I pass a group of people eating what may be Thanksgiving Dinner. In contrast to the giant sheep, these people are smaller than ordinary human sized. The men are all dressed alike in longish black coats that remind me of butlers' livery. The woman are wearing copious country clothes, patterned like tablecloths.
They don't seem aware of my presence and I don't feel I have anything to learn from them.

I enter the house and find myself in a huge room that looks like the builders left it unfinished. The walls are untreated plasterboard and plywood. There are just a few sticks of furniture and a kitchen nook with very basic appliances and cupboards.

I become aware that a guide is present. I don't see him distinctly, but I sense he is larger than normal human size. However, even his gender is indistinct. I receive his thoughts directly. Our dialogue begins like this:

Why is this room unfinished?
It's waiting for you to choose the design and decor.

I think: I'd like a blue room. Instantly the walls are powder blue, hung with gilt-framed mirrors and set off with gilded boulle tables, very rococo French, with touches of Fragonard. I find the effect cloying, and substitute library colors and features, deep greens and cordovans.

This fooling around with room design is not why I am here. I remember now that I am seeking to learn more about how we can keep in touch with multiple personalities - all related within the multidimensional Self - who are living and acting in different times.

The Guide produces a sphere. It floats in midair, soft white and opaque.

Go inside

It's as simple as thought. I project myself into the center of the sphere. Around me, in every direction, scenes from different lives in different times are playing, as if on multiple holographic movie screens. Sometimes an element from one of these life "movies" will bleed through into another movie. Sometimes what is going on in one of the lives can touch and influence all of them.



Photo: Gotland sheep

Monday, October 18, 2010

Invoked or uninvoked, the god is present


A sampling of one-liners from the road - which led me last weekend to a lodge up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, right on the Eastern Continental Divide, which felt like the right location, symbolically, for bridging several distinct groups that were present (Jungians and Christian ministers, dreamers and Native American ceremonialists).

"I have to work very hard in order to play." (Jungian analyst, in a playshop.)

"I envy you Native Americans because you have ancestors." (American woman of German-Irish descent, quoted by the leader of an indigenous-themed fire ceremony.)

"Play is something you don't want to stop doing." (My own summary of what I felt at the end of a playshop, when I did not want to stop drawing in crayons.)

"You are an unrepeatable miracle." (Retired Presbyterian minister, at the end of one of my presentations.)

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit. Inscription on a mug presented to me in the closing ceremony at the conference. This statement was carved by Jung above the door of his house at Kusnacht. He found it in the Latin writings of Erasmus, who stated that it was an ancient saying of the Spartans. It means: "Invoked or uninvoked, the god is present."


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Book of Raziel



One of the neverending stories is about an ultimate book of secrets, a book containing all the secrets of the universe and the record of everything that has happened and can ever happen to human beings. All celestial and all earthly knowledge is recorded here.
    In Jewish legend, it is said that Raziel, the archangel of the Mysteries whose name means “The Secret of God” gave such a book to Adam when he was living in the Garden of Eden. By means of this book, Adam was able to master the seventy-two branches of wisdom and gain entry to celestial mysteries that were hidden even from the higher ranks of angels and archangels. According to the Zohar, the mighty angel Hadarniel told Adam: “You now possess treasures of the Lord that are unknown even to those who live in the heavens.”

It is the book out of which all things worth knowing can be learned, and all mysteries, and it teaches also how to call upon the angels and make them appear before men and answer all their questions. But not all alike can use the book, only he who is wise and God-fearing and resorts to it in holiness.

Some say the book “flew away” when Adam and Eve committed their transgression.
Others say that many of the angels were jealous that such powerful knowledge had been entrusted to the first human. The jealous angels stole the book and hurled it into the depths of the sea. To retrieve the book, God had to enlist the help of a primordial power of the deep: Rahab, the angel of the sea.
    From time to time, two of the archangels who are friendly to man – Raphael and Raziel – have shared the book with humans.
    After the fall, Adam repents and prays for God’s compassion. He asks for knowledge of the future Raziel comes to him when he has been praying for three days on the bank of a river that flows out of Paradise. Raziel tells him he will give him a sacred book that will give him and his descendants knowledge of things to come “if they will but read this book in purity, with a devout heart and a humble mind, and obey its precepts.”
   Adam is so terrified when Raziel starts reading from this book that he falls on the ground shaking. The archangel tells him to get up and brave up. “Be of good courage, be not afraid, take the book from me and keep it. Learn from it and become wise, and you will teach its contents to all who are found worthy of knowing what it contains.” When Adam accepts the book, ‘a flame of fire” whooshes up from the river bank, and Raziel soars heavenward with it, leaving Adam in no doubt about the nature of his visitor.
    After the death of Adam, according to one tradition, the book disappeared. The cave where it was hidden was revealed to Enoch in a dream. It was from this book that Enoch derived his wisdom and the maps he used in his otherworld journeys. He committed to the book to memory and returned it to its hiding-place.
    Since then it has come into the possession of exceptional humans in the way of Adam or the way of Enoch: through direct transmission by an angelic visitor, or through dream revelation. (Often the two are closely related.) When God decided to send the great flood, he despatched the archangel Raphael to Noah with the book. From it Noah learned how to construct the ark. The book Noah received was made of sapphires. When he took it on board the ark, it served him as a timepiece, allowing him to distinguish night from day. From Noah, it descended to Shem and then to Abraham. It turns up again in the hands of Solomon, “who learned all his wisdom from it, and his skill in the healing art, and also his mastery over the demons.”
    In the middle ages, a number of manuals of angel magic and occult lore circulated among a discriminating (or less-than-discriminating) clientele under the title of Sefer Raziel, the Book of Raziel. A number of these works survive in the British Library. They seem heavily tainted by the Faustian desire to wield secret power for its own sake. I have the feeling that Raziel would like to dissociate his name from the schools of sorcery and recall us to a higher path of knowledge.
    The descriptions of the book as “made of sapphires” and lighting up Noah’s ark are glimpses into hyperreality, for a book that contains the secrets of the cosmos is clearly no ordinary book. It may be related to the “painted curtain” on which all souls are depicted, that was shown to Adam according to the Zohar. It is surely related to books we discover, like Enoch, in dreams.

Quotations without other attribution are from Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews. 7 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Ginzberg is the indispensable source on Jewish angelology.

Graphic: illustration from one of the manuals of magic titled Sefer Raziel, not to be confused with the Book of Raziel of the higher tradition.