Dreaming is practice for immortality, perhaps the best we have available. Why? Because dreaming is traveling. We journey effortlessly beyond body and brain, into realms beyond the fields we know in ordinary life. We travel to territories in which the dead are at home. In this way we gain first-hand knowledge of the roads and conditions of the afterlife.
In dreams, we also receive visitations from the dead. They come for all the reasons we may contact each other in ordinary life, and then some. They come for healing and forgiveness. They come for an update on family affairs. They come with warnings and information. Sometimes they need help and information from us, because they are lost of confused.
Tremendous numbers of people who are living in the afterworld are seeking to communicate with the living. In one of my workshops, I led forty active dreamers on a group shamanic journey, powered by drumming and focused by clear intention, to visit communications centers on the Other Side where the dead gather to try to contact the living. We found them using technologies both ancient and hyper-modern, according to earthly notions.
I found some of the dead gathered in an old fashioned seance room, trying to call the living into their space, as Spiritists or mediums seek to call up the dead. In another space, the dead were trying to text and phone and make video calls to the living. I was especially intrigued by a special courier service. The dream messengers, called Zephyrs, are slim and elegant, almost diaphanous, in uniforms that recalled winged Mercury, but capable of putting on any costume that might help them to get into the minds and memories of the people to whom they are tasked with bringing dream messages.
We may become open to contact with the dead in many ways: through the sense of a presence, through physical anomalies, through goosebumps, with the help of a go-between like a reputable psychic or shamanic practitioner. But the easiest way to communicate with the dead is in our dreams.
We may be catapulted into afterlife situations by a near-death experience, or brave the gates of death in a shamanic journey or a ritual of deep initiation (which always requires death and rebirth). Yet, again, the easiest way to become familiar with the Other Side and develop a personal geography of the afterlife is through dreams and then by developing the practices of Active Dreaming.
An old Lakota saying has it that "the path of the soul after death is the same as the path of the soul in dreams." This is exact. In quoting this, I have often added the thought "except that after death, you don't come back." But that is not entirely correct. Some who have died do return to the body. I did this as a child, and so have millions of experiencers of what is now called the NDE. And the dead who have left their physical bodies behind for good return to us in subtle bodies.
We need to know a little about what happens when we die, and before we are born, in order to live well. Death is an incredible teacher. Looking at our life choices in the clear knowledge that our story did not begin in this body and doesn't end with it can help us to develop a courage and clarity in approaching life choices that may otherwise be lacking.
These things are too important for us to leave to hand-me-down religious dogmas, or avoid through denial. Maps from recent travelers to the Other Side are good. If you are contemplating a trip abroad, it's good to hear the opinions of others who have stayed in that hotel, or taken that cruise. But the afterlife is infinitely malleable, ever-changing, even within the battlements of the collective belief systems, so we'll want to find out how things are for ourselves. The most reliable ways to do that are through contact with the dead, and through personal travel in the realms where the dead are at home. Both are most easily and safely accomplished through dreaming.
You may say, why be in a hurry? We'll find out about the afterlife when we are dead, yes?
Well, certainly. But I stand with Montaigne on these matters. Puisque nous ne savons pas ou la mort nous attend, attendons-la partout. "Since we do not know where Death is waiting for us, we must be ready to meet Death everywhere."
For much more on this subject, please read my books The Dreamer's Book of the Dead and Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death.
Photo: Doors open and shut at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. By RM.