Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Speakers for the living

Leonora Piper, William James's "White Crow"

I've been drawn back into the world of the Victorian spirit hunters, especially that great and eloquent pioneer of psychic research and psychology, Frederick (F.W.H.) Myers, and his famous American friend William James. 

There is an amazing moment in one of James's sessions with Leonora Piper, the Boston medium James studied and consulted over many years and came to call his "white crow".* She was supposedly communicating on behalf of Richard Hodgson, a great friend of James who had been secretary of the American Society of Psychical Research. Though "tremendously athletic", according to James, Dick Hodgson had died suddenly playing handball, leaving two book projects unfinished - and a half-joking promise that, if he died first, he would communicate from the Other Side and provide evidence of survival.

James grilled the Hodgson personality over and over, seeking proof positive that it was the dead man talking, through the revelation of personal secrets and codes neither the medium nor the sitter could have known. The demands this approach imposed on Hodgson's memory (assuming it was Hodgson) became ridiculous. Assessing the notes from these long sessions (James conceded) bored him "almost to extinction". 

But then something will come through that is thrilling even to a skeptical reader a century later. Here's what got me very excited, in the transcript of a "voice-sitting" on May 21, 1906:

Speaking through Mrs Piper, Hodgson tells James that Myers (who died in 1901) is with him. "Myers and I are also interested in the Society over here. You understand that we have to have a medium on this side while you have a medium on your side, and through the two we communicate with you."

The "Society" mentioned is the Society for Psychical Research, which was (and is) dedicated to producing evidence of "supernormal" (Myers' phrase) phenomena, including contact between the living and the deceased. Think about the statement made via Mrs. Piper's vocal chords. While there is a Society for Psychical Research on this side, there is a similar Society on the Other Side. They, too, hold seances or sittings with mediums. While James is listening to the voice of his dead friend through a speaker for the dead, Hodgson is apparently listening to the voice of his living friend through a speaker for the living. 

Was this the ultimate folie de grandeur of a psychic charlatan, promoting her own profession - that of medium - to the status of indispensability on the Other Side? I have a notion that this part of the reading, at least, can be trusted. There are sensitives among us who are more able than others to pick up presences and messages from the Other Side. It's not such a stretch to suppose that in the same way, there are people on the Other Side who are better as inter-world communicators than others, and may even have the ability to call spirits of the living for a session with relatives or colleagues who are eager to talk with them.

*  Having concluded that Mrs Piper's communications were for real, even though the sources could not be determined beyond doubt, William James declared: "If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, it is enough if you prove that one crow is white. My white crow is Mrs. Piper." [William James on Psychical Research edited by Gardner Murphy and Robert O. Ballou. New YorK: The Viking Press, 1960, 41]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pink silk road

Last night I dreamed I set up a director's chair for myself at the front of a huge gathering. Instead of canvas, the seat was pink shot silk. 

Waking, I remembered an encounter with a curious figure in a thriller of a dream I recorded in August 2006 - a huge bear-like man dressed in a pink frock coat with an amazing pink tie that grew to any length he imagined. 

Yes, I know Freud will be stirring now but I suspect there's much more going on, so I'll follow the pink silk road in my dreams and beyond.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rose Gate among the stars

There’s a garden among the stars
where flowers are gates to other worlds.

I see a Lady stepping from a constellation of stars into a boat in the sky. I want to meet her. This will be a far journey, and I want the drum to give me fuel and to help me to return safely. My friend is a good drummer,and she is ready to provide what I need.
     When I get my body settled on the sofa in order to slip out of it, the Lady has vanished. I search for her in the field of stars. I see something like a pink rose, out there in the wild blue. Is this her sign?
     The rose calls me, unfurling its soft petals, revealing a portal. I slip into the heart of the rose. Now I am sliding down a chute that might be its stem. I make a soft landing in a gentle scene, a Victorian garden where a table is set for high tea. A handsome, very properly dressed Victorian lady is pouring.
      I roam the garden, wanting tounderstand why I was drawn here. Young children are playing here, including agirl on a swing. A pleasant clergyman in country tweeds is playing with them. I know at once that this is the Rev. Charles Dodgson, known to countless readersas “Lewis Carroll”.
    As I observe him among the children, I realize I am present at the inception of some of Lewis Carroll’s best ideas. He looks at a rabbit burrow and the roots of a tree with the eyes of one of the children. With this borrowed sight, he can picture Alice dropping down the rabbit-hole into another world. As a child smiles at ginger cat in the garden, he sees the smile on the face of the Cheshire Cat. As he contemplates the pretty young girl swinging high into the air, he gets the idea– not actually used in the Alice books, as far as I can recall – for another way of entering another dimension. The swing goes up above the bar…and you’re off into another world.
    I borrow from where his imagination will lead. I think about the “Drink Me” bottles Alice found, and decide to see what will happen now if I drink from the one that makes you very much smaller. 
    Quick as thought,I am shrinking so fast I don’t even have time to see how that blade of grass grew as big as a royal palm, or how that ant became a black six-legged elephant.
    Dropping between the smallest of particles, I enter a universe as big as the one I came from, a cosmos contained within a speck of a speck of a speck, something you couldn’t find even with an electron microscope. This revelation is as simple as cracking your head open. It’s about finding the infinite in a grain of sand, as the poet did. It’s about universe hopping, pearl by pearl, on the necklace of Indra.    
   I am eager to explore this fresh universe, full of promise. And to find the Lady.
      But something falls across my path. It moves jerkily, an armored, jointed, mechanical thing. Its shape reminds me a little of cardboard periscopes I played with as a boy –the kind with joints that enabled you to peek around a corner. But this metallic thing is taller than a skyscraper. At its end is a rectangular hollow or “mouth” that might be an immense suction cup.
     Guard yourself, says an inner voice I have learned to trust. With this, an impermeable, transparent shield goes up, and I know I am safe, and invisible to whatever intruded.
   Steer for the Light Ship.
   I see it again now, in the distance. It looks like a kind of space station. I understand that it is a place of transit and communication with higher intelligences as they move in and out of range of human thought bands.
   I will go there on another journey.
   For now, I am content to come back to the body on the couch, settle in, and stretch and wiggle around to make sure I did not leave too much of myself out there in the field of stars..

The fragrance of the pink rose is still with me. I sip a glass of wine and write with its beauty within and around me:

There’s a garden among the stars
where flowers are gates to other worlds.
Try the pink rosebud that opens shyly.
plunge through its smooth and fragrant folds
into the Victorian garden where tea is laid
and sweet girls play and show a blushing priest
a bunnyhole that leads to Wonderland
and a ginger cat issues opaque directions.

Take the dare of the “Drink Me” bottle
and you’ll become inconceivably small
even faster than Alice,so fast you won’t see
a grass blade rear into a royal palm
and ants turn into six-legged horses.

You’ll grow, by diminishing, into a world
vaster than the one you knew before,
you’ll swim among stars no telescope has seen,
you’ll find light-ships among the galaxies,
immensity held in the iota of a speck
that eludes the electron microscope
but not the home-drawn voyager.

As I enter another Northern winter, I am doing what I often do in this inward time: mining my old journals. I have previously published the Rose Gate poem, but not the narrative of the journey that inspired it. Yes: I have made (and guided) many other journeys to universes within the inconceivably small.

Homage to the Pink Rose. Photos by Kirsten Love Lauzon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where's the Hitch?

In his autobiography, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens declared, “I personally want to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive and to be there to look it in the eye and be doing something when it comes for me.” It seems he fulfilled this wish, chronicling his struggle with esophageal cancer until he succumbed to pneumonia, a side-effect, yesterday, aged 62. I knew Christopher when we were both in our 20s. Though I often disagreed with his opinions - which veered from youthful Trotskyite verbal bomb-throwing to neocon advocacy of America's disastrous war in Iraq - I admired his blistering wit, his ferocious literacy, his wicked contrarian courage. He never met a tide he wasn’t willing to throw himself against, preferably with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black (his “breakfast of champions”) in hand.

Fare well, Christopher Hitchens. You denied God and gods, and spurned the heaven of religions as a "celestial North Korea". You are now entering a larger geography than you knew in the 60-some countries from which you reported. May your many gifts, and your delight in the dance and slash of words, serve you on the road of this immense journey. May you avoid leaving any part of you stuck in a bottle of Johnny Black. May you file fresh accounts from new territories, and find native guides who will help you to understand what you are experiencing. May your paths be open.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Life as Marcella

I am Marcella, called the Songbird because of my voice and because I can make men’s bodies sing. I can write my story in my own hand, because my father paid for a tutor. He was a merchant who sailed to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.

Bruno brings me figs and young green olives of Lucca, the best of the new harvest. The cloth of gold that trims my dress belonged to my mother. The mad monk of Florence tried to kill her for wearing it, under his sumptuary laws. Witch, they called her, as they call me, though none dares to raise a hand against me so long as I have the favor of the bishop. I confess that I sewed the mouth of a toad shut to punish a calumniator for speaking against me and to silence his abuses, and that I melted a wax imago of Cosimo’s organ after he raped me.

I will never marry, but I know men and they know me. There is no one in the city as practiced in the arts of love, though there are acts I will not perform, not even for the bishop.

Bruno will guard my body with his life, and he is as strong as a bear. But I know I will not be allowed the fullness of my years. I have no wish to survive the withering of my body, still firm and juicy as a maiden’s after forty summers.

I will heed the wishes of my sisters of the Hive. We are about in all the countries of Christendom and in many that have never heard of Christ or accepted his message.


I wrote these lines after leading a group journey to a Chamber of Mirrors where you can look into the lives of personalities in other times who are part of your multidimensional family. Participants in the workshop were asked to write an autobiographical statement in the voice of a personality of another time. The voice that wanted to speak through me was that of Marcella. Her reference to her mother's persecution by a "mad monk" (evidently Savonarola, a Dominican who ruled Florence and staged the notorious Bonfire of the Vanities before he was excommunicated and executed in 1498) suggests she lived in 16th century Italy. I am glad to know her, because in most of my impressions of past lives closely associated with my own, I have found myself linked to men, typically men of power.

Where are the women? I have often asked myself. Oh, there is that woman of the future; 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.

Perhaps Marcella and I will now be able to share gifts. In psychological terms, such episodes may mean that I am getting more deeply in touch with my female side, and I would be happy with that. Except that the encounter also feels transpersonal. Jane Robert's Seth insists that "the entire reincarnational framework must involve both sexual experiences. Abilities cannot be developed by following a one-sex line. There must be experiences in motherhood and fatherhood." Perhaps I am making a little progress.

Marcella hints at an Order of women content to call themselves a Hive. I have encountered this language, and similar women, in other times and other lands, "in all the countries of Christendom and in many that have never heard of Christ or accepted his message", just as Marcella says.

Detail of a 16th century portrait of an unknown woman (sometimes identified as Lucrezia Borgia) by Bartolemeo Veneto.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Robin Hood, Changing Woman & the Battle of Britain

I am walking with companions across hills and fields with a view to London and the English Channel. A war is being waged in the air. Though the main battles are far away, large pieces of debris – and small airplanes that look no bigger than crop dusters, some even smaller – come crashing down around us.

There is no sense of panic. The falling planes and pieces of metal seem to be coming down very slowly, slowly enough to dodge them even if they are coming straight at us. I do this several times. Their substance also seems softer than shrapnel or metal. I feel I could push them away with my hand as if they were merely cardboard or felt (and may do this too).

I lead my group down into London, to a square near the dockyards. No sign of modern traffic congestion. We gather a great group of people, mostly women, in the square. We sign and dance in a circle. Around us, at the cardinal directions, heraldic devices are set up on posts. We are singing and dancing to bring change.

I lead the group in singing an old song of Changing Woman

There is a woman who weaves the night sky
See how she spins, see her fingers fly
She is within us from beginning to end
Our Grandmother, sister and friend
She changes everything she touches
Everything she touches changes

The women, in particular, love this. We spin faster and faster, turning deosil (to the right). Then I pause the group, and step into the center of the great circle.

I notice with clarity, for the first time, the devices set up on the post that is now facing me; I think this is on the north side of the circle.

There are the words “ROBIN” and “AIR”, separate, and in capitals. There is a symbol that at first appears to be an anchor but I think is a bow and arrow. With a thrill of excitement I realize that these devices are related to Robin Hood and that the square was the scene of a drama from his life. With this recognition comes the sense that we are succeeding in calling up ancestral forces to help with the battle that has been raging in the skies and could soon reach the land.

Now I hear the great voice, loud and merry, of an Englishman who is coming to join us. I can now withdraw from leading the people and leave him to take charge.

Feelings: Excited, stirred.

First thoughts: I feel like I was a time traveler in the period of the Battle of Britain. Though I appeared substantial to those around me, I seemed impervious to things that would ordinarily wound or destroy a body – perhaps because I was moving in a subtle energy body, or had unusual powers, such as the ability to slow the experience of time (so the falling planes appeared to be coming down in slow motion) and to thin and loosen the molecular structure of objects.

Was I in my present body, or in the body of a contemporary person? Not sure.

It seems one of the key assignments of my dream self was to help call up ancestral forces, to awaken the sleeping powers of the land to support the living in a struggle for survival. An incident in the “psychic Battle of Britain”, perhaps…

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bear tracks to the cave of the vanishing god

My day began with my little dog pushing his bushy face against mine as I lay back on the pillow. I petted him and sang to him. Without considering the content, I found I was singing the Romanian version of a song to call the spirit Bear that is a favorite in my workshops.
Romanian friends helped me make the translation when I taught in Bucharest a couple of years ago.

Nu plânge micutule
Nu plânge micutule
Ursul danseze pentru tine
Ursul danseze pentru tine

Don't cry little one
Don't cry little one
The Bear is coming to dance for you
The Bear is coming to dance for you

After walking the dogs, I went online and found a Romanian Facebook friend had just commented on the article I posted here about the Vapor Drinker I met while traveling to Santa Fe for the board meeting of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners last weekend

When I told him I am returning to Romania in October 2012, to lead an adventure in shamanic dreaming and dream archaeology in the Bucegi mountains, he replied:

Ursii te asteapta! "The bears are waiting for you."

I shared today's Bear story with the physician who is the current president of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, who told me he loves bears after I led the group in singing the Bear song. He told me that his grandfather was Romanian.

Right after this, I received an email from my coordinator in Romania telling me that she is considering a workshop site called....The Cabin of the Bears.

Good stories can have many installments, or sequels. I suspect that this one is going to go far.

There is a tribe of gypsies in Romania called the Ursari, or Bear People. They go from village to village dancing with trained bears at fairs. -

The Bear may also be at the heart of the ancient mystery religion of the Dacians (in what is now Romania). Herodotus and other ancient Greek writers mention a mysterious god of the Getae named Zalmoxis. Most likely (the etymology is disputed) this name means "Bear Skin" or "He Who Wears the Bear Skin", deriving from the tradition that the infant Zalmoxis was wrapped in a bear hide (zalmon, in Getic).-
On a deeper level, the Bear connection involves the Underworld journey. Zalmoxis is one of the god-men who dies and is reborn. He goes down into the Underworld as the bear goes down into its cave, to hibernate. Zalmoxis reappears after three years to impart the "knowledge of the skies" to humans. Central to his teachings was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the idea that we cannot heal the body without healing the soul. Mircea Eliade wrote a monograph about Zalmoxis subtitled "The Vanishing God".
To know Zalmoxis, perhaps, we have to dream him. Romania seems ripe for fresh adventures in dream archaeology, in which we use the techniques of Active Dreaming to open direct channels to ancient knowledge, and then use the best of modern science and scholarship to confirm our leads. -

Monday, December 5, 2011

The vapor drinker and the hungry road

Albuquerque-Santa Fe, New Mexico

In The Famished Road, Nigerian author Ben Okri takes us deep inside the lives of those who are at home (and not at home) in the worlds of the living and of the spirits. This extraordinary novel seized me with the first lines, which I had to read over and over, not for comprehension, let alone to turn them into a pale paraphrase, but to let them dwell fully inside me:

In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.

I took the book as my in-flight reading on my journey to New Mexico last weekend for a board meeting of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners. The narrator is a boy of the kind called abiku in Nigeria, who may be fated to die young because he has spirit companions on the Other Side who want him to return to them soon and will do almost anything to pull him out of the land of the living. Madame Koto's palm-wine bar is his constant hangout, and its clientele make the denizens of the Space Bar in Star Wars look like country club golfers in plaid pants.
     I was seized by descriptions of how, as the living raise a glass or a fork or a cigarette to their lips, the spirits pressing thick about them dive in to get the first taste. The spirits drink the vapor of booze or food or smokes rather than the solid stuff. By my experience and observation, this is very much how it is, though few in modern Western society are able to perceive it. I have never met a genuine alcoholic, for example, who is not afflicted by a press of dead drunks trying to get another drink - that is to say, the spirit of the bottle - through them.
     I was thinking about this when I deplaned at Albuquerque airport. On my way down to baggage claim, I was greeted by a crescent line of cheery people ringing handbells, with a large explanatory sign that read: "ENCHANTMENT. Albuquerque Handbells Ensemble." Nice.
     As I rode the last escalator down, I was astonished to see a lean man in dark glasses puffing on a cigarette. Not something you expect to see in a U.S. airport these days. When I got closer, I saw that he was not blowing smoke. Rather, as he sucked on the tube, a fine mist - a vapor - rose around him.
     After I took my seat at the front of the airport shuttle, he came up the steps, still sucking on the strange cigarette. "Excuse me," I spoke to him. "I would like to know about your ghost cigarette."
     He took this as an invitation to take the vacant seat next to me. He explained how the e-cigarette, as he called it, simulates the act of tobacco smoking by using heat to vaporize a propylene glycerine liquid solution into an aerosol mist that is inhaled.
     I told him about the vapor drinkers in the novel. "When I saw you, I thought a character had stepped out of Madame Koto's bar." He laughed and shared part of his life story. A writer and artist, he has traveled the two worlds, experimenting with lucid dreaming and the shamanic use of hallucinogens. He quickly agreed with me that the most powerful dreamers and shamans have no need of chemicals beyond those produced in their own bodies. He told me about his friend Francis Huxley's early work in Amazonia and Haiti, adding two books to my always immense reading list.
     He had lived in Bali, and gave me a thrilling, step by step account of rituals of village exorcism in which the powers of good - barong - must be mustered against evil spirits led by the terrifying demon queen, the Rangda.
     All of this made for a wonderfully fast and fun ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. As we got off the bus, I noticed another man carrying a marvelous leather bag shaped a bit like a tall drum. "It's a goat," he told me when I complimented him on his carry-on. "I got it in Africa forty years ago. It holds everything I need for my trips." I looked more closely and saw that the bag had indeed been fashioned from a whole goatskin.

I make a round trip by airplane most weeks of the year, and this frequently involves from 10 to 20 hours of travel each way. When people ask me how I can do it, I respond that I am hungry for the road of fresh experience and everyday magic. Coincidence multiplies when we are in motion. Of course, this requires us to be open to the gifts of chance encounters, and the play of the Trickster, And to notice how life rhymes, as when the vapor drinker popped out of the book after a sign promised Enchantment.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knights of dreaming

I am with a group of gentle but fiercely dedicated people whose cause is the Earth and the other species with which humans share life on the planet. One of them is a man who spends most of the year in the far north, monitoring changes in the oceans and the ice cap. He is troubled that the survival of a certain genus of giant whale may now be at risk. He shows me video he recorded during close-up, deep-sea encounters with two of these whales. Fascinating to watch their mating habits. Troubling that Earth changes generated by humans may be threatening their survival.

Next, I am leading a weekend workshop. I am delighted by the caliber of the participants, and by the gender balance in our group of about forty people. There are nearly as many men as women, which is rare in programs devoted to inner work. Some of the guys are keenly interested in developing practical applications for the Active Dreaming techniques, and for bringing them into social and professional networks to which they have access.

I sit with four of these men on a grassy knoll under some trees during one of our breaks. I would guess that their ages range from the late 30s to the early 50s. They are all educated, self-made men who have been successful in different fields. Some have created their own businesses. They know how to get things done, and they are excited to have a project that goes beyond any previous venture. One of the guys feels that helping people to follow their dreams is a noble cause, and tries to express this by saying, "We want to revive the original idea of the duke." This sounds a bit grandiose, though I recollect that this title of nobility derives from the Latin dux, or "leader". I gently deflect the medieval fancy, while thinking, in the same moment, This is great. These are the knights of dreaming.
My little dog pulled me out of my dreams at this point, this morning. But I rose into the day feeling very happy and grateful that such promising connections were made, overnight. These were social dreams. I have no doubt that the encounters were real. I'll be alert to see how they can now manifest in waking life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proof that dreaming is more than hot air

A Russian friend living in New York has just provided proof positive that dreaming is more than hot air. She received an email from her mother, who lives in St Petersburg, recounting a dream.

"My mother writes that in the dream she is flying in a hot air balloon over St. Petersburg and showing the University to a friend of mine who is visiting the city. "My mother spent half a century at the University, studying and then teaching and doing research, and is quite attached to the place, so her part in the dream is natural. What seized me was this: one of my friends from graduate school is going to St. Petersburg this winter and recently discussed his plans with me. My mother has no clue about these preparations and has never met the guy - except in her dream."

This looks like a clear case of dream telepathy, wonderfully animated by the dream producers. What makes the mother's telepathic hit all the more interesting is that a trip by a foreigner to St Petersburg in the dead of winter is an eccentric move, because of the weather.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Trying to record in the night museum

I am delighted by the detailed reports dream travelers have brought back from a journey to a museum where they can find secrets from other lives and other times.

As they share their adventures, I am taking more care than usual to make notes in my travel journal. Although I am using a new ballpoint pen, the flow of ink is erratic. I shake it to try to improve the flow, then try writing letters again where previous efforts have left only indentations on the paper. When I press down hard, the results are worse than before. I try writing lightly, letting the tip of the pen just skim the paper. This works better.

I write and rewrite the title of the third journey report, stated clearly by a woman in the group as


By this, she appears to be saying that she went to an alternate Louvre museum, in the imaginal realm. She found that inside, it had double walls. She could step through any wall and find, an arm's length behind it, a second wall, behind which the real treasures were to be found.

She had a particular interest in a mystery of the American Civil War, involving "two lost names". She found the names. I duly recorded the first: "Orlando Orlando or William Orlando." I wrote down the second name also, but can't recall it write[*] now - since I woke to realize that I was doing all this recording inside my dream, not in a literal journal.

The dream content was quite typical of workshops I lead where a frequent and popular group exercise is to travel to a space like a library or museum where it is easy to find portals to other times, or speakers from those times. The literal-ness of the dream (in the context or how I spend my days) makes me feel that my dream self either (a) went ahead of me, across time, to lead a program I'll lead in ordinary reality in the future or (b) taught a workshop inside the Dreamtime, which would not be a novelty.

The trope of trying to record something inside a dream will be familiar to many dreamers. Sometimes we are quite convinced we have journaled everything - until we wake, to find the relevant page in the bedside notebook blank. Still, the physical-seeming effort of having to write over and over to get ink on the page did succeed in imprinting a few memories that remained in my waking brain.

* I'll leave the slip, on the principle that we want to notice what's showing through our slips. Clearly, a message for me is WRITE NOW.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dancing with the Bull of the Midi

Pomegranates are red in the tree.
I have not tasted the seeds, this time.
A blue gate creaks on its hinges.
I may go through it when the sun is high
and the wild boars dream of truffles.

Down from the dry garrigues
in a stir of dust and juniper
on thundering hooves the black bulls come.
No keeper can contain them
when they are called to the sea.

Pounding white sand, unstoppable force.
My heart leaps at their running.
I leap on the back of the strongest bull
laughing like a Minoan boy dancer
who has found his ride to the Goddess.

The bulls surge behind and around me
a black tide over the white foam
that throws up the great dark breaker
Persephone may have known. The memory
of a thousand corridas is red in his eyes.

He rakes his great horns
as the reaper swings his scythe
in a field of Van Gogh yellows.
He takes me over the kidneys
and tosses me over the sea. Is this Death?

I am witness now, to the man
thrown into the sky. Can he be so young?
My second self is swallowed by fire.
No, he has gone through. He is born again
from the yolk of the sun. He is not the same.

Now he is dressed to kill, in matador garb.
He is on his way down, flying, not falling.
His stiff arms, held before him, give me
no time to consider, or check
whose face he is wearing. I open. We are one.

- Hameau de l'Etoile, October 22, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dream Archaeology and Vanishing Smoke

Albany, New York

I had a grand time introducing the practice of dream archaeology, in the context of my dream-driven research into Iroquois traditions, to a standing-room-only crowd in my Neihardt Lecture at the Albany Institute of History and Art last night. I was honored to have been invited to present the third annual lecture in memory and celebration of John G. Neihardt, the remarkable poet and scholar who gave us Black Elk Speaks, the classic and essential work on spiritual vision in Native American tradition. Neihardt's dreams were his passport to the Lakota holy man, just as my dreams have been my passport to wisdom keepers of other cultures, from the Mohawk to the Mununjalli of Queensland

Dreams guide us to the necessary past, to the history we need to know and use. Dreams may also trigger and direct specific lines of research. Dreaming, we have direct access to the realm of the ancestors. Sometimes they reach to us, in dreams, as an ancient priest of Nippur appeared to the Assyriologist Herman Hilprecht when he was puzzling over the meaning of two fragments of agate or as an ancient atetshents (“dreamer”) and clanmother of the Mohawk people called me to work that required me to study her language and reconstruct the shamanic dream practices of her tradition. We can choose to reach to the ancestors through dream incubation and by developing the skills of shamanic dreaming.

The practice of dream archaeology involves reclaiming authentic knowledge of ancestral traditions, including those that may have been buried or suppressed in the course of history, through a combination of careful research, active dreamwork and shamanic journeying across time and between dimensions. The dream archaeologist combines the skills of the shaman, the scholar and the detective.

e let dreams set us assignments. Secrets of the past, of which the waking mind may know nothing or very little, come to us in dreams because we are ready for them, and because the ancestors speak to us. As dream archaeologists, we work with such dreams through focused investigation, tracking that strange word, looking again at the fragments of that figurine.

We also carry our exploration into the dream space, by learning to go back inside a dream, wide awake and conscious, as an archaeological team may penetrate to previously hidden levels of a site, or the inner caves where the great revelations are to be found. I call this technique dream reentry. It is practiced wide awake and conscious, and may be a joint venture by a whole group of active dreamers. We use shamanic drumming to fuel and focus our expeditions, using a dream image as a doorway to harvest more information, open direct dialogue with the ancestors, and go to the deeper levels of reality where the meaning of things can be found.

We are open to the phenomenon that Yeats, with poetic insight, called the “mingling of minds”.
This means that when we give our best efforts and passion to our chosen work or study, we draw the support of intelligences beyond the everyday world, including those of past masters in the same field.

Dream archaeology guided my research and writing, at every turning, in the creation of the three novels that comprise my Cycle of the Iroquois - Fire Along the Sky, The Firekeeper and The Interpreter - and in the retelling of Iroquois cosmology and the reclaiming of ancestral methods of shamanic dreaming in my nonfiction Dreamways of the Iroquois.

Last night I spoke in the presence of the Four American Kings - portraits by Jan Verelst of three Mohawk chiefs, and a Mahican, who were received like visiting sovereigns when they sailed to England in 1710 and were received by Queen Anne. I found myself dreaming into the life of one of them in the late 1980s. His name was Sayenqueraghta, a name I translated as Vanishing Smoke. A Mohawk of the Bear Clan, he was the grandfather of Joseph and Molly Brant. His dreaming and his war magic are reflected in the extraordinary tatttoos on his face and chest, meticulously copied by the Dutch artist, who must have wondered at their meaning and perhaps at their energy as the Mohawk posed in the typical posture of an Old World grandee.

In my novel The Interpreter, I describe the London experiences of Vanishing Smoke and the Mohawk war leader and skilled politician called Hendrick by the Dutch and the English from their own perspective. This includes the shock of finding themselves in a roiling city of over 700,000 people, when the largest city they had previously seen (Boston) had a population of only 5,000, and the Mohawk population on traditional Mohawk land had fallen to just 580 thanks to smallpox and flight to Canada.

The historian in me required me to check every detail in the historical records of the trip. The dreamer and novelist in me then enabled me to add what is not in the documents - for example, how a Bear Clan Mohawk might respond to the torment of a chained bear being mauled by attack dogs for the pleasure of gamblers, when the four "kings" were taken to a bear pit in Hockley-in-the-Hole for what the Englishmen of the time considered fine entertainment.

Fire Along the Sky and The Firekeeper are now available in handsome new editions from Excelsior Editions, an imprint of the State University of New York Press. A new edition of The Interpreter, with Vanishing Smoke on the cover, will be published by Excelsior in February 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dreaming four selves on the Brazilian shore

Praia Morro das Pedras, Santa Catarina Island, Brazil

She is standing on the shore, watching a huge ship, as tall as a skyscraper, being readied to put out to sea, under and iron-gray sky. She feels something pulling away from her, like an animate shadow. It pulls loose, and she sees a second self moving away from her, to join all the people on the giant ship.

She hesitates. Is she losing a part of herself? Should she follow this second self, on board the boat? Her other self seems old and stooped, and deeply tired. The people on the boat appear gray and somber. She decides to let go whatever has parted company with her, and watches the cruise ship put out to sea.

Now there is another change in her. She is lifting up, into a light-filled space above the clouds. She feels herself expanding and growing brighter. The sense of spaciousness delights her. She feels blessed by the radiant energy that is streaming through this changing self.

She looks down, and sees the person she left behind on the sure. This person is shrinking as quickly as her self on the higher level is growing. But she's not sure she wants to leave the person on the sure behind.

When the Brazilian dreamer shared her story with me, I observed that the dream presents four selves: the one that left on the boat, the one that stayed on the shore, the one that ascended towards a Higher Self, and the one who was witness to all of this. If it were my dream, I suggested, I would be glad that something old and tired - a burden I had long carried - had now been released, across salt water, the great medium for spiritual release. My instinct was that the shadow person on the boat never really belonged to me, but may have been a something from a departed family member or from a therapy client that had been "hitch-hiking" in my energy field for years. This suggestion brought a strong aha of recognition from the dreamer.

For me, the welcome challenge of this dream was to bring energy from the Higher Self into the body and life of the ordinary self on the shore. The dreamer clapped her hands, happy to accept this assignment. In the days of journeying, performance and celebration that followed, we saw her bringing that moreness through, with flashing eyes.

Dreams not only introduce us to many aspects of our selves; they open ways to live consciously with the energy of a Greater Self.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dreaming giant waves of change

Morro das Pedras, Santa Catarina Island, Brazil

One of the happiest - and most life-transforming - dreams that I heard in Brazil was a dream of a giant wave.
    The dreamer had been working at a job that was well-paid but felt empty. She wanted to leave her job and study to become a therapist, but a crowd of doubts and calculations made her keep putting off a decision. How would she pay her bills? What would her family say?
    Then she dreamed she was standing in front of a giant wave that reared up higher than the tall office building in Sao Paulo where she worked. Instead of fearing the wave, or trying to get out of its way, she was filled with joy. She woke with a sense of elation and the deep certainty that if she made her move, all would be well. She left her job, was accepted for a psychology course, and felt life opening up in many rewarding ways.
     When she told me this dream, over cafezinho and papaya at the breakfast table, I reflected on our different responses to the theme of the giant wave in our dreams. Some dreamers find themselves fleeing in terror from a great wave. This may reflect the fear of something in life that threatens to overwhelm our understanding or resources. It can also be a window on an event in the outer world; thousands of people dreamed of the tsunamis in the Indian and around Japan before they took place.
    As for the Brazilian dreamer, however, a giant wave in a dream - when viewed with satisfaction or joy during and after the scene - may betoken a time of positive change, and mobilize us to move forward decisively in the direction of change. Years ago, I dreamed I was walking with an animal companion, a deer named Bear. We came to a vast expanse of dry land. The land was fertile, but it was thirsty. We stepped out onto the red earth, and I saw a tremendous wall of water racing towards us from my right. With great satisfaction, I turned my back to the wave, and got Bear to turn also, so we were poised to catch the giant wave and ride with it.
    I woke with a sense of elation, like the Brazilian dreamer. When I went back inside the dream, by our technique of conscious dream reentry, I found that the wave had swept over the land and rolled back. Now plants - especially papyrus plants, I noticed - were sprouting everywhere. My happiness increased, since papyrus was used in Egypt as writing paper. Before my delighted gaze, the plants now became trees whose fruits were books, new books to be delivered. The dream and its sequel mobilized me to get on with writing a fresh series of books.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Soul and dreaming in Brazil

Praia Morro das Pedras, Santa Catarina Island, Brazil

She dreams of a beautiful three-year-old girl she wants to bring inside the house. The child hears her call, but when she tries to respond, she can't come, because she is tied by a blue ribbon that goes down into the earth. The dreamer knows that at the other end of the ribbon, hidden from her view, is a powerful man who is controlling her against her will.

When she wakes, the dreamer is initially confused about the identity of the child. This could be her daughter, although her daughter is now a grown woman. As she reflects on the dream, she realizes that she is dreaming of her own child self. With this comes the determination to bring home her lost child.

In the workshop, she resolves to make a journey, through the doorway of the remembered dream, to understand what has happened and to find a way to bring her three-year-old self back into the home of her body and her current life. She feels the edge of fear, but she is reassured by the fact that she has friends in the group who will travel with her - as I drum for the journey - and will bring their power animals and their own spiritual guidance and good intentions to support her in soul recovery.

At the end of the journey, her eyes are shining and her cheeks are wet with tears. She reports that she found her beautiful little girl, and managed to detach her from what was binding her. When she tried to understand what that was, she saw photographs of her grandfather, a stern man who insisted that women should be kept in their place. During the drumming, she held her child self very close, rocking her gently, promising that if she came home to her adult self, she would be safe and life would be fun. When the drum sounded the recall, the dreamer felt herself flying back to her body with her child self riding piggyback on her shoulders.

She readily agreed that her first step would be to indulge her three-year-old with things she would enjoy - some chocolate cake, with strawberries, from the buffet, and later some time with the swings and slides and jungle gyms in the playground that was conveniently nearby. She also resolved that from now on she would say what she needed to say, and speak truth in the face of male power.

"I feel the sun has come back in my heart."

This was one of many journeys for soul recovery I led in my recent workshop in Brazil. Again and again, we confirmed that the right dream can provide the portal for a journey of healing to reclaim vital energy lost along the roads of life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Provençal blue

lo País d'Òc

Over the past week, the ruling color of my dreams, sleeping and waking, has been Provençal blue. I led a six-day training for teachers of Active Dreaming, my first teacher training in Europe, at the Hameau de l'Etoile, a restored medieval village near Saint Martin de Londres in the Midi. Gifted dreamers eager to become guides and ambassadors to the deeper life came from Sweden and the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia, Britain and Romania, Italy and France (of course). We shared wonderful adventures in two languages and in two worlds, and the work was deep and true.

Doors, shutters and gates at the Hameau were painted in the colors of memory, nostalgia and sweet yearning, tested and tempered by the seasons.

Even the doors to the rest rooms were Provençal blue.

I would have loved to have plunged into the deep blue dreams of the splendid pool at the Hameau, but it was a little too cold for that in late October

After the training, I found my way through a chaos of tram lines under construction to the heart of Montpellier and stopped for a beer at a cafe in a quiet square in the university quarter. Here the doors were a deeper blue.

On my last day in southern France, I visited the magnificent medieval city of Carcassonne, the scene of mass tragedy when a Pope ordered a crusade against the Cathars in 1209. On a high terrace within sight of the donjon, with the noise of a brass band rising from the street, I lunched on a cassoulet of white beans, duck and Toulouse sausage, and found the blue trim of a window another invitation to go dreaming.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Turkish delight

I've been enjoying a new riff of Turkish synchronicity this week.

First, I received the image of the cover of the new Turkish edition of my book THE THREE "ONLY" THINGS.

Second, within a minute of that, I received an invitation (from a different person, someone I have never met) to lead a workshop at a beach resort town on the Turkish coast next year.

Third, within 30 minutes, a friend posted a comment at my Dream Gates blog in which she mentioned that she will be in Turkey next summer and has been dreaming that a tiger will be her guide in this trip. At the exact moment I read her post, I was cutting the picture of a tiger from a greeting card I had received to use as a bookmark.

Sometimes it's hard to avoid noticing that there are things that WANT to happen, and forces at play (in the play of coincidence) that help us to get that message.

I wrote a previous piece about an amazing (even by my standards) case of synchronicity or "mental texting" involving Turkey at my Dream Gates blog. On that occasion, exhausted by long investigation of an incident of alleged dream sending in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, I said out loud, around midnight, "I need a Turk!" (to help me with documents in Turkish in the archives of the Topkapi Palace). Two minutes later, I received an email from a doctor in Turkey (unconnected with the latest riff of coincidence) who readily volunteered, when asked, to help with my research.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finding the green book in the tree library

Rhinebeck, New York

At the end of our first evening session in my workshop on Shamanic Lucid Dreaming at the Omega Institute last weekend, I gave the group one of my standard homeplay assignments: to approach the night with intention. I urged our dreamers to set a juicy intention: to go to a tropical paradise, to have dinner in Paris, to seek healing or life direction or a tryst with the perfect dream lover.
    The next morning, a lawyer in our circle was eager to share the dream he had entered after setting the intention of meeting with higher intelligences. He found himself in a familiar setting, a law office where he asked two junior members of the firm to help locale a green book he needed to bring a case before a higher appellate court. It seemed that to locate this book, it would be necessary to go two levels above the regular law library. One the first level above were the golden books for intermediate cases; the green book he desired was above those, and he would need to find it for himself.
     As the lawyer went up, he found the scene changing. The wall beside him was now covered with bark, like a tree. He realized, to his wonder, that he was ascending a tree library. Going got harder. He was now climbing an Indian ladder; the rungs were little broken-off branches. Nervous, he was unable to get up to the place of the green book. But he woke with excitement and a strong desire to find what he was seeking.
    This exciting dream invited one of the core techniques of Active Dreaming: dream reentry and tracking. The lawyer readily agreed that he would like to go back inside the dream, with the aid of shamanic drumming, and that he would be happy for the 25 people in our group to accompany him, as trackers, and bring back our impressions. I was especially delighted with the dream because I had had many prior dreams and visions of a library inside a tree that seemed - inside the trunk - to rise as high as a skyscraper.
    This time, the lawyer succeeded in scaling the tree, found his book, and experienced direct contact with what he felt was an intelligent being on a higher level. In my own journey through the portal of his dream, the green book appeared to me with the green scuffed leather covers of my own travel journal. When I opened it, I found the pages of this version were blank. This filled me with an eager sense of possibility: of the potential to start life - and a new book - with fresh vision.

Art: "Message Tree" by Annick Bougerolle

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Solving things in the solution state

As I lay in bed early on a rainy Saturday morning, it occurred to me that the drifty state after waking can sometimes be - quite literally - the Solution State.

I did not initially have narrative dream recall. Instead, I found that my mental field was like an ocean of clean, translucent oil, in which many images and ideas were floating and bobbing. I could reach around and choose some of them to mix and match, and to bring into clear resolution. As I did this, I was given very clear solutions to a number of specific problems and imagery sequences I could now develop - or allow to develop - into movie-like sequences, with plot lines and voiceovers.

I was in the realm of hypnagogia, specifically in the hypnopompic zone that follows sleep. In my Secret History of Dreaming I report how creative breakthoughs in all fields have often been accomplished in this twilight state of consciousness, when connections that escape the daytime mind are made fluidly, and solutions arise.

Experiences of this type take place in a matrix that could be called a "solution" in the sense that many elements and possibilities are suspended in it - and that creative people have the ability, in that state of relaxed attention (or attentive relaxation) to enter the Solution State to bring through solutions.

Salvador Dali, Three Sphnxes of Bikini

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dreaming with Nehallenia


She appears each time I start drumming for the group journeys in my shamanic workshop at the De Roos Center in Amsterdam. She stands at the prow of a ship, looming out of a deep sea fog. She is robed, though her long golden hair floats free. Sometimes she has a dog, sometimes a basket of fruits or loaves of bread. When I go deeper, I see that her boat is part of a the back of a tremendous sea serpent, that may itself be part of the swell of the ocean.

I know her name, though its meaning is mysterious. It survives in inscriptions on votive altars erected by merchants and ship captains who credited her with safe passage through storms at sea. They called her Nehalennia. She was venerated at Celtic and Germanic sacred sites on the North Sea, especially on the island of Walcheren, and at Cologne.

She was the patron of voyagers; seafarers and traders made offerings to her for safe passage and success in their transactions. According to one etymology, her name derives from the proto-Indo-European root *neh2u- (boat); so her name could be translated as "Lady of the Boat" or "Goddess of the Vessel". Others find the source of the goddess name in the root *nek- (death, to bring) in the reconstructed proto-Indo-European lexicon. We could then translate Nehallenia as "Death Bringer", which makes some of the scholars twitchy but seems to me to bring forth a central attribute of the Goddess who opens the doors of life and death and rebirth.

Nehallenia is depicted as a lovely young woman enthroned within a seashell, with a basket of fruit on her lap and a dog nearby, gazing up at her adoringly. Often she has her foot on the prow of a ship, and a boat rope in her hand.

Her other close animal companion is the dolphin. In my dreaming, she is the patron of astral as well as physical journeys, just as Elen of Britain is the maker of roads as well as dreamways. For the Celts, the happy afterlife on the Islands of the Blessed requires a crossing by water. And in ancient Europe (as in Polynesia) one of the favorite forms of transportation for the Otherworld voyage is the dolphin. Ripe fruits are often carved over the top of Nehalennia’s shrines. She offers abundance and ever-renewing life, as well as safe passage through the Otherworld, before and after death.

I am glad for the presence of this kindly Death Bringer and Lady of the Sea, here below sea level, where it sometimes feels like the Netherlands is also the Nether World.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Dream People are waiting for you

You are on the road of your ordinary life, maybe on the morning commute, by car or subway or on foot. Things are not moving swiftly or smoothly. You are worried you’ll be late. Now it seems you may not be able to get through at all, on your familiar route, because there is a major obstruction ahead. The way is torn up, or blocked. Hard to see whether this is because of new construction or an accident.

Weary and frustrated, you notice an amazing being, slipping with a dancer’s grace between the stopped cars or people. There is something familiar about this figure. As it approaches the mouth of a tunnel, you realize, incredulous, that this figure is you – that is to say, an amazingly supple and youthful version of you, radiant in its beauty. The figure proceeds to fly up the tunnel, which leads upward. How can this be? Oh, that’s right. You must be dreaming. Wait – if you are dreaming, you can fly too. How could you ever forget?

Now you are flying up the tunnel, exhilarated by the speed and your freedom from the clogged traffic you have left behind.

You come out in a high, fresh place in the woods. A clean, sweet wind lifts your hair and shows you your way. You come to a meeting space, a lodge among the trees constructed from what the forest gives willingly. A great circle is gathered on the dirt floor, around a fire. The people here live very close to the Earth. The firelight reddens their skin as they sing and drum together. You stand, hesitant, in the door of the lodge, not wishing to intrude.

But an elder rises from the circle and indicates that you are welcome, and that the Earth people have a place waiting for you. You sit with them. You sing with them. You feel the depth and comfort of being welcomed home.

After a good long time, when the fire is gentle, you rise from your place and move to the center of the space. You bow to the fire, and stretch out on the ground next to it.

One by one, the Earth people approach you. One of them takes glowing coals from the fire and places them over your eyes, saying, “We do this to open your eyes, so that you may see clearly.”

Another places glowing coals over your ears, and sings, “We do this to open your ears, so you may hear clearly.”

One places a hot coal on your mouth, saying, “We do this to open your mouth, so that henceforth you will speak only truth.”

The wisest of the wise places a red-hot coal on your heart, and you feel it sear a passage through your body. The wise one sings, “We do this to open your heart, and to open the passage between your heart and your mouth, so that henceforth you will speak and act only from the heart.”

When you rise from your place by the fire, you are not the same. You go out among the trees, and you promise to the wood and the wind and the stars, “Henceforth, I will speak and act only from the heart.”

This is the story of a watershed experience in my life that put me on a path for which there is no career track in our culture: the path of a dream teacher. I have retold the story, as I do in my workshops, so you can make it your own, if it calls you. For more on the tradition that was opening to me, please read my Dreamways of the Iroquois.