Sunday, December 20, 2015

At home in winter with the Muse

When my schedule is entirely my own, as it mostly is when I am at home on cold winter days, I do whatever I feel like at any time. I don't think about sleep until it falls upon me. When that happens, I let my body fall into bed. Very frequently, I then find myself engaged in a marvelous adventure in another reality, where other players are waiting for me.
      In the Hittite language, you don't say "I fell asleep". You say, "sleep fell upon me" or even "sleep seized me." I learned this from Alice Mouton's excellent work RĂªves hittites. My relationship with sleep is sometimes like that of one who is willing to be seized. I notice that when sleep falls upon me like a lion on a goat, what follows is often a powerful and numinous experience, sometimes an encounter with a greater being.    
     Who are those beings who are lions as well as humans who I so often find waiting for me, as if I am late for lunch or the theater, when I am seized by the need to lie down?
What was that instrument I was playing after sleep fell on me and obliged me to take an early evening nap? It looked a bit like a set of pan pipes, but I strummed it with my fingers. It seemed to be organic, vegetal, like a dried gourd with multiple tubes, orange and yellow in color. The music it made was enchanting. I was playing it in a jungle setting, near where a river joined the sea, maybe somewhere along the coast of Brazil.     
     I write scenes and questions like these in my journal at any hour. Its what writers do. It's what active dreamers must do if they are going to get really good at dreaming. 
     At 1:00 a.m. on one of these winter nights I sit down to a plate of linguine with home-made bolognaise sauce, heavy on garlic, fresh-grated romano and a glass of fine St. Emilion. Since I skipped dinner and this followed an early evening nap, does it count as breakfast or a late supper? My body is thankful either way.
    If the Muse is looking for me she will almost always find me prowling around indoors between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m. On winter days at home I often take an early evening nap and then stay up until after lunch. I grab a couple of sleep periods - rarely more than a couple of hours each - in a 24 hour cycle. Sleep researchers call me a "biphasic sleeper". Few of them seem to grasp that it is not necessary to sleep in order to dream. I am a biphasic sleeper and an omniphasic dreamer.
    One of my favorite ways to dream is to laze in bed in a state of horizontal meditation after waking. It is in this liminal place between sleep and awake that marvelous things become available. I find myself looking at a parade of faces, or a kind of travel video, offering multiple itineraries and destinations for lucid dream expeditions.
    I check in with my dreaming family at any hour. There are hundreds of them gathered for my new virtual course in Active Dreaming for The Shift Network, sharing fabulous narratives of mystery and adventure,or terror and beauty, inviting each other to play dream detective and shaman of the breakfast table or the supper club. Who was that African princess with gold dust on her face? Who was that tall young Irish lady, regal as one of the lordly ones of the Sidhe, who showed me an illustrated book filled with magic and ancestral tears?
    I flit like a hummingbird from book to book in my personal library, drinking from different styles and visions. I am reminded by Marguerite Yourcenar, in Dreams and Destinies, that a dream report can be written as a prose poem, without need of developing the story or adding commentary or analysis. I am dazzled, again, by the crazy-brilliant mind of Philip K. Dick, as he follows his own manic encounters with God (or the Archon), pre-Socratic philosophy, a Roman Empire that never ended, and mind-incinerating quantities of dope in his autobiographical Valis. I consider Seth's insistence in The Nature of the Psyche that each of us is both male and female and picture him in conversation about this with Jung. 
     I leaf through old journals, choosing passages to develop as stories or use as teaching examples, noting recurring and evolving themes. I find evidence on every other page that I am leading continuous lives beyond my present body. I am amazed by all that would be lost to memory, had I not made it my practice, over all these years, to keep a detailed journal. Did I really have so many dreams of sheep; of a gray sheep as big as an elephant who led me to a spiritual guide, of blue sheep who alerted me to the fact that I possessed unclaimed riches in a place I thought I had left behind? 
     An unavoidable and perennially fascinating theme is the importance of the house in dreams. Often the dream house seems to provide a structure within which we can meet and grow our relationship with many aspects of the self, I take a sip of Bachelard's Poetics of Space (I can't swallow too much of this at one sitting in English translation) on the houses of imagination:

1) A house is imagined as a vertical being. It rises upward. It differentiates itself in terms of its verticality. 2) A house is imagined as a concentrated being. It appeals to our consciousness of centrality.

In all of this, of course, I am putting out lures for the Muse. One of these winter nights I may again write a love poem for her. I did this in seeking fair winds and caresses for The Boy Who Died and Came Back.

Sing in me, creative spirit
of the boy who died and came back
and the man who flew through the black sun
and returned to walk the roads of this world
as the envoy of a deeper world...

     I come upon my notes from Mircea Eliade on theophany, the moment of revelation when a divine agency shines its light through the ordinary world and you cannot fail to notice because everything is different. I remember how when I last landed at Bucharest, Eliade's city, a woman previously unknown to me, a literary translator, greeted me at the baggage carousel by crying out. "You are a writer!" I allowed that I was, and we had a heady conversation while waiting for our bags. When we parted company, she gave me this blessing: "May the Muses kiss you." 
     I hope this will happen again soon. I like my body when my creative writer is at home and the Muse is with him. Muscles better and nerves more. She is a glorious, ardent and insatiable lover. She keeps this body up for whole nights before she lets it drop for a couple of hours of regenerative sleep. I don't complain, any more than you would complain after a perfect night of love, as you watch the stars go to bed over Copacabana, or the dreaming spires of an Old World City, or the Mountains of the Moon. 
    I have seen writers complain that their work involves sweating blood. Maybe, but when the creator is home, in the arms of the Muse, what you sweat isn't ordinary blood. It is ichor.

Graphic: Muse reading from a scroll. Boeotia, 5th century bce. In the Louvre.

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