Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lucid dreaming through the Net

This is not a report about the internet. It is about the interworld. My adventures in conscious dreaming often begin in the twilight zone between sleep and awake. Quite often, in this liminal state I find myself looking at the patterns and textures of what appears to be woven cloth or webbing. Sometimes I find myself suspended in the mesh. The following experience was quite tactile:

Through the Net

I floated weightless, looking into a dark, grainy field, textured like hessian, a very palpable depth. I felt I was hanging in this, as in a hammock or net. I was uneasy, to begin with, hanging between worlds. I did not feel stuck in the net. I realized I could push through the net and travel in any direction. I eventually resolved simply to open myself to my creative source.
     The “hessian sacking” opened into a textile bazaar. I examined bolt after bold of richly textured patterns and designs.
     I heard noise in my house and realized I was operating with multiple consciousness, fully engaged in dream travel while safely tethered to my body in the bed.
     I spent the whole night slipping back and forth between dream locales, mediation, and long study sessions in which I devoured books and memorized material.
     One of the dream episodes involved the Egyptian Mysteries, especially the mysterious god Ptah, whose power is associated with the breath and who is said to be the Giver of the Ka.
      Another dream episode carried me into the realm of the Kabbalists. I tried out a thronelike chair with a hard wooden strut that stuck out low down at the back of the seat. This guaranteed that you would not get too comfortable or doze off. It was intended to assist Kabbalistic meditation.

These adventures sent me off into a spate of happy research. The palpable resistance of the web or net in which I had hung, and the fact that, once through it, I had access to Mystery teachings in corresponding locales, sparked many thoughts and speculations.
     The name of the temple of Thoth at Khemennu (the City of Eight) in ancient Egypt was Het Abdit, literally the House of the Net. 
This net confined unevolved humans to their lower natures. But to initiates, it became a kind of cosmic trampoline, a springboard to higher realms. In Thrice-Greatest Hermes, G.R.S. Mead suggests that “this Net was the symbol of a certain condition of the inner nature which shut in the man into the limitations of the conventional life of the world, and shut him off from the memory of his true self”.
      Mythologically, the net may also be the web of life or the Veil of the Goddess. The Egyptian goddess Neith wears a weaver’s shuttle on her head. The inscription at her temple at Saïs reads, “I am all that has been and shall be and no mortal has ever revealed my robe.” To go beyond the veil is to go beyond the ordinary human condition. It is possible that Neith, with her veil and her weaver’s shuttle, personifies the human energy web, spun from fine threads or lines of force or light;
     The net I encountered may evoke the web of the human energy field, woven from Faraday’s “lines of force.” Those familiar with neuroscience may think about the reticular (literally "net-like") formation that regulates states of awareness and attention. 
    The net I pass through in lucid dreaming gives me the sense of being inside the cell walls of the larger reality, of testing the energy membranes that separate levels or dimensions of the multiverse. This may involve traveling from higher to lower astral planes, or - in deeper journeys - beyond the astral altogether.

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Image: Aegis of Neith, XXVI dynasty, in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. Photo by Rama 

Monday, May 30, 2016

The only expert on your dreams is YOU

You are the final authority on your dreams, and you should never give the power of your dreams away by handing them over to other people to interpret. Yes, our dreams can be confusing and opaque, and we gain greatly from other people's insights, especially when those other people are "frequent fliers" who work closely with their own dreams and have developed a fine intuition about what may be going on in dreaming. So it's okay to ask for help. More than that, we often need help because we are too close to our own issues, or too inhibited by self-limiting to see what may be obvious to a complete outsider.

But we need to learn some simple rules about how to share and comment on dreams. I suggest the following guidelines for starters:

1. Tell the dream as clearly and exactly as possible. Dreams are real experiences, and the meaning of the dream is often inside the dream experience itself.

2. Consider your feelings, inside the dream and on waking. These are a quick and usually reliable guide to the importance, urgency and quality (e.g. positive/negative) of the dream.

3. Always run a reality check by asking: Is it remotely possible the events in this dream could be played out in waking life? I have never seen more time wasted in dream analysis -- and more life-supporting messages lost -- than when we fail to recognize that our dreams are constantly rehearsing us for challenges that lie around the corner. In our dreams, we are all psychic.

4. If you are going to comment on someone else's dream, always begin by saying (in these words or similar words), "If this were my dream, I would think about..." This way, you are not leaning on other people and presuming to tell them the meaning of their dreams or their lives. If we can only encourage more people to follow this vitally important etiquette for dream-sharing, we'll create a safe space for many people to share dreams and work with them in everyday contexts -- at work, in the family, in schools -- and we'll be on our way to becoming a dreaming culture again.

5. Try to go back inside the dream and recover more information. A dream fully remembered is often its own interpretation.

6. Try to come up with a one-liner to summarize what happens in the dream (or encourage the dreamer to do that). This will often turn out to be a personal dream motto that will orient you towards appropriate action -- to act on the dream guidance and honor the dream.

7. Always do something with the dream! We need to do far more than interpret dreams;we need to bring their energy and insight into manifestation in waking life. 

The simple guidelines above are central to my Active Dreaming approach. I have condensed them into a fast and fun "Lightning Dreamwork" process for everyday dream sharing you'll find explained in my books the The Three "Only" Things and Active Dreaming.

Image: Dream art journal of French artist and dream teacher Véronique Barek-Deligny

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How an epic hunts its tellers in Kyrgyzstan

I like to quote the Australian Aboriginal saying that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them. The way that Kyrgyz singers are called in vivid and sensory dreams to memorize and recite an epic of more than Homeric length is a fascinating and rather extreme example of how this can work.
    I won’t flunk you if you can’t place Kyrgyzstan on a map without a little help. It is a poor, landlocked, Turkic-speaking country that was once part of the Soviet Union. Islam is the dominant religion today, but the contending influences of Soviet secularism and the old shamanic ways of a people of horsemen and sheep herders still run strong.
    An epic known as the
 Manas is still central to the national identity of the Kyrgyz people. It runs to 500,000 lines. It recounts the story of a hero khan who fought off his people’s enemies and unified tribes to make a nation, and of his son and grandson. The epic is studded with dreams, which are often “omens” containing prophecies. The Manas is transmitted through oral narration, by a special type of master singer, known as the manaschi, who recites the verses and is sustained and reinforced by the lively responses of his audience. He is not simply performing an extraordinary feat of memory, though years of memorization are involved; each performance of the Manas will introduce fresh words, because this is a living entity, not something frozen in a canonical text.   
    Taking on the obligations of a
 manaschi, a singer or teller of this longer-than-Homeric epic, is clearly only for a few. I was interested to learn that typically, the singers-t0-be are called to their vocation by dreams in which a great manaschi of the past, or a character from the epic, appears to them. Some of those who receive dream visitations of this kind are reluctant to take on the arduous apprenticeship and demanding duties of the role; they may receive successive visitations, developing into an offer they can’t refuse. For example, they may be told they will fall ill or lose the use of their limbs or their voice if they do not carry the immense and ancient song.   
    A famous manaschi, Sayakbay Karalaev (1894-1971) received his calling in a
 big dream involving an encounter with the hero of the epic, Manas, and his wife and companions.  In his early twenties, traveling on the road to Orto-Tokay, he was stunned to see an old black boulder transformed into a great white yurt. He heard a loud noise coming from the sky and fainted with terror. When he woke – inside his dream vision – he entered the yurt, and was offered food by the wife of Manas.. When he left the yurt he was greeted by a man who told him, “We are happy to meet you.” The man introduced himself as another of the heroes of the epic: “”I am Bakai,who finds the way in the dark and words of wisdom when necessary.” He offered the singer-to-be the special food of Manas. As he swallowed the food, Sayakbay took into himself the gift of singing and of memory required to take up his new work.,
Danish anthropologist Maria Elisabeth Louw interviewed contemporary Kyrgyz about their dreams and reports a continuing widespread belief that the ancestors appear to us in dreams and that dreams can provide foreknowledge of the future. She reports in an article in History and Anthropology that dreams are widely regarded – even in relatively secular Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan – as the main way God keeps in touch with people. “Certain dreams are seen as ayan, omens or direct signs sent by the ancestors, and ultimately by God, which can help people to make the right decisions and choices in life – if they know how to interpret the omens.” 
     One of the markers of the dream that is
 ayan, an omen, is that sensory impressions are unusually strong, including the sense of smell or taste, and that these impressions linger after waking.   
    Dream visitations by an 
arbak –  the ghost” or “spirit” of  a deceased relative or ancestor – are commonplace, and may influence family decisions.  Thursdays and Fridays are regarded as favorite visiting days for the ancestors, who like to check on how the family is doing; in Muslim households, verses of the Koran are often recited on these evenings.
Photo: Kyrgyz manaschi singing the Manas epic, bySiGorb.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Colors of the Simurgh

Overnight I was re-reading Borges' essay on the Simurgh, the mystical bird of Persian mythology. In exploring the mystery of how thirty birds become one bird, while the one bird is still thirty, he quotes these astonishing lines by his fellow-Argentine poet, Silvina Ocampo:

Era Dios ese pájaro como un enorme espejo:
los contenía a todos; no era un mero reflejo.
En sus plumas hallaron cada uno sus plumas
en los ojos, los ojos con memoias de plumas

This bird was God, like an enormous mirror
that contained them all, and not a mere reflection.
In his feathers each one found his own feathers,
in his eyes, their eyes with the memories of feathers.

My memories stirred of one of the big dreams of my life. I found myself in a house on a canal, perhaps in Amsterdam. The house belonged to a magician. I sampled the rich library. On a large table in another room, under glass, I found an elaborate machine signed by Israel Regardie, who disclosed the secret rituals and "flying rolls" of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
     Upstairs, in the master bedroom, I found a Persian rug, lying on the bed. Still rolled and tied with strings, it seemed to have been recently delivered, and still unused, at least in this house. While I contemplated the rug, a shamanic teacher with whom I had studied entered the room behind me. He was immensely excited by the rug, wanting to know when it had been delivered and when and how I planned to use it.
    I woke excited, with many questions. The first was: who is the owner of this house? Instead of speculating on this theme, I reentered the dream, with the aid of shamanic drumming, to make a full tour. I discovered what you might have guessed, had you heard my initial report. The house on the canal was my own, a place where I could explore my connections with many traditions of inner work and practical magic with which I appear to have connections across space and time. I went carefully through several volumes in the library. 
I examined the Golden Dawn machine. It was antiquated, with unnecessary Heath Robinson features, but still in fine working order.
    Then I went up the stairs to the bedroom and unrolled the Persian rug. I marveled at the beauty of the design. It was woven in colors of blue and silver. At the center was the form of a great bird I knew to be the Simurgh. When I spread out the rug, the Simurgh rose and spread its great wings. I found myself instantly on its back. We made a wild ride across space and time. I was drawn into the world and the visions of the Magi, and saw Bethlehem as they visioned it. I found myself chanting ancient names in Farsi. My mind opened to memories of the Fravarti, the Choosers, who make the choice to leave a higher world to come into this one to fight a good fight.
Leaving the Borges book aside, I went looking for images of the Simurgh. I have looked at many over the years, but I have failed to find the silver and blue image from my dreams. I have Peter Sis' beautiful illustrated and simplified version of The Conference of the Birds, the long Sufi poem by Farid ud-din Attar that is our main source on the Simurgh and the mystery of the many who are one and the one who is many. There is a lovely picture of thirty birds joined in the form of a giant bird in full flight, but not the colors from my dream. I decided to try my luck again with Auntie Google. I hit gold, or rather, silver. The mosaic in the photograph, from Bukhara, shows the Simurgh in the colors of my dream.

Note: "The Simurgh and the Eagle" by Jorge Luis Borges is one of his "Nine Dantesque Essays" reprinted in Selected Non-Fictions, edited by Eliot Weinberger (New York: Penguin, 2000). The Silvina Ocampo poem is Espacios métricos, 12. For more on own adventures in these realms, please see The Boy Who Died and Came Back chapter 38, "Flights of the Simurgh"

ImageSimurgh in a mosaic on the wall of Nadir Divan-Beghi madrassah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Nights with the daimon

My creative daimon is the most demanding of the spirits I seek to entertain. I use the word “daimon” as Yeats did, to describe a spirit that is forever driving me to do the most difficult things “among those not yet impossible.” Real angels (not the greeting cards kind) are forever saying, Get Up, Wake Up, Get On With It.
    My creative daimon operates the same way. He has never heard of a body clock. He has no interest in what time it is, or how much sleep I get, and knows that what I most need to do with this body is to create with passion, entertain the spirits, ignite creative and healing fire in others... and marry the worlds. 
    I felt the wind of his wings in the middle of the night in Paris in May, 2013. I was staying in a studio on the Street of the Moon Man and the Sun Woman, as I renamed this section of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis because of the statues a couple of blocks away. After a long day leading an Active Dreaming workshop, followed by dinner at a pleasant brasserie opposite the Gare de l'Est, I rose at 1:00 a.m. and sat at a table to write some of the book that was published as The Boy Who Died and Came Back.
    In France, it seemed natural to write about my "far memories" of other lives lived here, and to narrate how I have used the tools of dream archaeology - marrying shamanic dreaming to scholarly research - to investigate one life in particular: that of Charles d'
Orléans, the medieval poet-prince in whose name Joan of Arc went to war. Three hours later, I was satisfied with a fresh 3,000 word draft and had written a couple of shorter pieces, so I thought I might put my body back to bed in order to be rested for the morning workshop session.
   Flat on my back around 4:00 a.m., I found my body was nowhere near flirting with sleep. I considered my situation from the perspective of a greater entity I felt was with me in the space. I sensed the wind of his wings. I rose from my body to join him and look down at the Robert body sprawled under the sheet.
   From this perspective, I had no concern, no worries, about how much sleep the body in the bed might get, or what might be done with it, as long as it served my creative purpose. I agreed with the daimon: let’s get that body up. Let’s get on with the new book. So I did, and turned out another 2,000 words. When the time came to shower and dress and get myself to the workshop, I was charging on all cylinders. Writing is a workout, and the creative act is energizing and healing. And the extraordinary becomes easy when we entertain our creative spirits and borrow their wings.
     I have learned this:

* When we are passionately engaged in a creative venture - love, art or something else that is really worthwhile - we draw support from other minds and other beings, seen and unseen.

* We draw greater support the greater the challenges involved in our venture. Great spirits love great challenges. 

* Whether we are aware of it or not, all our life choices are witnessed by that creative spirit that that Yeats called the daimon. The daimon lends or withholds its immense energy from our lives according to whether we choose the big agenda or the little one. The daimon is bored by our everyday vacillations and compromises and withdraws its presence when we choose against the grand passion and our life Work, the “talent that is the call”.

* The daimon loves us best when we choose to attempt what is all but impossible, and may be perceived as quite impossible by the daily trivial mind.

- adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: On the Street of Moon Man and Sun Woman (Rue du Faubourg St. Denis) by RM.

Friday, May 27, 2016

When a dreamer gave me notes from a lecture by my second self

I know that my dream self often travels far ahead of my waking self, scouting possible roads into the future, gathering skills and experience beyond my current level. I quite often feel that I am forever seeking to catch up with him. Sometimes others who have encountered him make that easier by bringing me reports I can trust. On one occasion, a very wise woman was able to give me notes she made from a lecture he gave in her dreams, and I was able to apply those notes immediately in writing a book. Here's what happened:

Some weeks after leading one of my five-day adventures at the Esalen Institute, I received a note from one of the participants, a highly intelligent, spirited lady, a person with two PhDs who had explored consciousness in many ways. "I want to thank you for that wonderful lecture you gave last night."
    I checked the date. I had not given a lecture that evening anywhere in consensus reality. I had already intuited what she was telling me. She had attended a lecture I gave in one of her dreams. The woman from Esalen reported that in my lecture, I had listed, "very clearly and elegantly", five reasons why we misinterpret dreams about the future. I had written them on a whiteboard in view of the group. 
    This gave
me shivers. On that very day, I was laboring over a chapter in a book that was later published as Dreaming True. 
The chapter was titled "When Dreams Seem False" and on the first page I was developing a list of the five most common reasons why we misinterpret dream messages about the future. I was satisfied with my statement about the first reason we get these messages wrong. But I was not yet content with my formulation of the other four reasons, or the order in which they should appear on the page. 
     I emailed the woman from Esalen. I asked her, "Any chance you kept notes from my lecture, or could reconstruct what I wrote on the whiteboard?" She responded within a couple of hours, sending me her version of Dream Robert's five points. They were expressed with admirable brevity, very much in my own style. Borrowing from my dream student's notes, I was able to compose the opening section of that chapter with almost no editing.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Raven at the Gate between Worlds

Raven sits in the doorway between the worlds.
He is black on my side,  white on the other.
Raven says, You have more power than you know.
You don't have to go on repeating yourself forever.

Once you remember that you've had this illness before
and gone through its whole progression
you can choose to release it from your present body
into a parallel world. It is the same with any scenario.

Once you recollect that you came this way
and suffered this consequence on your present road
or the roads of dreaming you can move the chain
to another of the many worlds. There may be a price.

To keep the boy from drowning in the deep blue pool
you may need to pay my counterpart in the coin
of the country, in rum and tobacco, or a black goat.
Talk nicely to your gatekeepers. Show some manners.

Don't forget that when you send off disease or disaster
to a parallel world you can stir a parallel self
out of sleep. If he wakes up and remembers you
he may decide to return your gift, with interest.

drawing (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Call of the Hawk

Many years ago, I spent a weekend driving around the upper Hudson valley of New York. I was profoundly dissatisfied with my life. From the outside, that life may have looked like a dream fulfilled. I was a bestselling thriller writer; publishers competed to offer me high six-figure advances, laid on stretch limos and made sure the Dom Perignon waiting for me in the hotel suites they paid for was perfectly chilled. And my life felt hollow. I knew I had to make a break with big cities and the fast track I had been on and get back in touch with the spirits of the land and my own deeper creative spirit.
      On that upstate weekend, a few miles from the village of Chatham NY, a Realtor showed me some land with a run-down farmhouse that might be available. The house would need a ton of work, but as I walked the land, half of it still primal woodlands where the deer drifted in great droves, I knew in my gut this was a place I needed to be. I sat under an old white oak behind the house, feeling the rightness of the place but also that I needed a further sign.
     A red-tailed hawk circled overhead, dipping lower and lower, screaming urgently at me in a language I felt I ought to be able to understand. I did not speak hawk, but I could not fail to get a message when she proceeded to drop a feather between my legs.  That visitation by the hawk was the clincher. I purchased the farm, moved to the country, and soon found myself changing worlds, which is what can happen when we radically change the way we inhabit the world.
     When we had restored the farmhouse and moved in, I was drifting one night in that in-between state of consciousness the French used to call dorveille, sleep-wake. I found myself gently rising from my dormant body on the bed, in a second body, a dreambody - not an exotic experience for me, as far back as I can remember. I floated out over the night landscape, and found that in my dreambody, I had wings - the wings of a red-tailed hawk, scaled to my size. I had a marvelous time enjoying a highly sensory experience of flight, riding thermals, swooping and soaring, seeing the world at different angles.
     I found myself flying north, over Lake George and then Lake Champlain. I noticed the Northway and modern towns were missing from the landscape below me. I felt the tug of someone else's intention, and followed it, out of curiosity, to a cabin  in the woods somewhere near Montreal, where I was received by a beautiful, ancient indigenous woman. She spoke to me for a long time in her own language, her words like lake water lapping, while she stroked a beaded belt that hung from her shoulder, with the design of a she-wolf and human figures. I was fascinated, but did not understand a single word, any more than I had understood the language of the hawk. I knew I had been in the presence of a woman of power, and I hoped that, since this felt urgently important, more would be revealed.

The design of the belt, in my night vision, proved to be the equivalent of the hawk's feather: a way I could receive and confirm a message even though I lacked a necessary language. My first Iroquois friend - met later through an interesting series of coincidences - was able to show me a wampum belt identical to the one in my vision. It was in the archives of the New York State Museum at that time; since then it has been returned to Onondaga, the traditional capital of the Confederacy of the Six Nations of the Iroquois, or Longhouse People, among whom the Mohawk are Keepers of the Eastern Door. He told me it was believed that the belt was the credentials of an ancient mother of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk People.
    I entered deeply into the study of the traditions of the ancient dream shaman who had called me, when I was flying on hawk's wings. This opened to me ways of dreaming and healing that were possibly shared by all our ancestors, but which have become atrophied, when not actively suppressed, in modern society. I came to call the ancient shaman Island Woman; this  reflects the fact, which I was able to confirm through historical research, that she was captured as a young girl from the Huron/Wendat, called by the Mohawk the Island People, to be raised as Mohawk. In order to receive her teachings fully, I had to study the Mohawk and Huron languages, and reclaim terms from early sacred vocabulary.
     New dreams eventually called me to leave the land to which the hawk had called me and teach what I had learned about dreaming the soul back home and dreaming for our communities. We sold the farm to a woman who promised to conserve the land.
    As we were leaving the house, after our final checks, I was inspired to go back inside for no reason I could express. I heard a scuffling in the family room we had built, overlooking the old white oak. I found the noise was coming from the hearth. When I removed the firescreen, I found a young red-tailed hawk - a fledgling - that had somehow managed to fall down the chimney between my last two visits. My last action, on the land I acquired because of the hawk, was to carry the young hawk outside, next to my heart, and release her. She flew straight into the branches of the while oak where the first hawk had delivered her message.

The red-tailed hawk has become my most important bringer of omens. A hawk in good shape, flying my way or grabbing a good meal, will give me a surge of confidence for the day that has yet to be disappointed. A dead hawk in power lines will make me batten down the hatches and watch out for challenges.
    I was once very late for a phone interview with a California journalist who was irritated and pressed for time. I wasn't sure the interview was going to go well. She asked me to give an example of how I navigate by synchronicity.
    I was standing on the balcony of a villa overlooking Long Island Sound. Right below me, three bunnies had been scampering about in the grass. As I considered my response to the journalist's question, a red-tailed hawk made a vertical ascent, talons outstretched. It grabbed a bunny and shot straight up with its dinner in its clutches.
    Given my affinity with the hawk, I took this as a good sign, indicating that despite our bumpy start the interview would turn out fine. I was about to recount what had just happened when some inner caution made me pause. I was talking to a journalist for a Californian holistic magazine; for all I knew, she was a vegan who might be horrified by the scene of the hawk taking the bunny rabbit, especially if I reported it with the relish I was feeling. So I told her a black dog story and she loved it and the interview came out just fine. The hawk sign was, once again, reliable.

For fuller versions of my encounters with the red-tailed hawk and Island Woman, please see my books Dreamways of the Iroquois and The Boy Who Died and Came Back.

Drawings by Robert Moss

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Jung in the Underworld

Let’s be candid: Jung’s Red Book is not for the faint-hearted. Yes, there are passages of incandescent beauty, perhaps beyond any other of his writings. There are also vertiginous falls into places of rank terror and screaming madness. In my own reading, there was a moment when I wanted to throw the book violently across the room – and may well have done so, except that the book is the size and weight of a tombstone, and I feared for breakages.
    The moment when I was close to chucking the book came when Jung describes how he found himself compelled (by a woman he identified as his soul!) to eat part of the liver of a murdered girl. I was revulsed, almost gagging. And I forced myself to read on, to go every step with Jung on his frightful shamanic journey through the many cycles of the Netherworld.   
    Let’s be even more clear: Jung goes through hell. He converses with a Red Devil. He battles with a Bull God and shrinks him to the size of an egg he can fit in his pocket, then raises up the old horned god again. He howls to a dead moon and a dark sea about combining good and evil, but he doesn’t trust his own shouting.
    He comes to a library that may be a place of sanctuary and reflection. When the librarian asks him to choose the book that he wants, to their mutual surprise he names 
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, a medieval favorite. He debates with the librarian what it would mean to imitate Christ today. He decides that since Christ imitated no one, this would mean going his own way, and paying the full price for creating that way that no one before him has mapped or trodden.   
     He finds himself in a kitchen attached to the library, conversing with a plump, matronly cook. There’s a great stir in the air and a host of the restless dead come flying through, yelling about going to Jerusalem. He demands why these dead are not at rest, and their leader tells him that 
he must explain that to them. He tells the dead that they can’t rest because of what they failed to do in their lives. The dead clutch at him, and he shouts, “Let go, daimon, you did not live your animal” – by which he means the instinctive, natural life of the senses.   
    The noise of this altercation is so loud the police come and carry him away to a madhouse where a little fat professor diagnoses “religious madness” after the briefest of interviews. “You see, my dear, nowadays the imitation of Christ leads to the madhouse.”
    He is confined in a room between two other patients, one sunk in lethargy, the other with a fast-shrinking brain. He compares himself to Christ crucified between two thieves, one of whom will go up, the other down. His mind turns on the problem of dealing with the dead, which the kitchen scene taught him is vaster than he had known – “the dead who have fluttered through the air and lived like bats under our roofs from time immemorial.” This will require “hidden and strange work”, but it is not clear how he can do this from his confinement.   
    He listens to a voice praising madness, a voice he identifies as his soul. “Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is illogical.”
     In the night, everything heaves in his room in black billows. The walls become terrible waves. He finds himself now in the smoking room of a great ocean liner, where the professor reappears in beautiful clothes and offers him a drink, while telling him he is utterly mad and must be committed. The torpid neighbor from his room reappears and announces he is Nietzsche, and also the Savior. Back in his locked room at the madhouse, he struggles with entangling webs of words and ideas. He cannot tell whether it is day or night when he hears a roaring wind and then sees a great wall of darkness advancing on him.
    He opens his eyes and looks up into the jolly round face of the cook. “You’re a sound sleeper,” she tells him. “You’ve slept for more than an hour.” Jung thinks he is awake, but of course he is still in a dream, and far from his physical home.
    Once again, we see the price Jung paid for his knowledge of the depths. He commented in his Epilogue to the Red Book, nearly half a century later, that he would certainly have gone mad “had I not been able to absorb the overpowering force of the original experiences.”
    Some of the processes he developed in that heroic effort are ones that are suitable for all of us. He wrote his way through, by journaling and then writing up his journals. He sought and created images of balance and integration, which became a fascinating series of mandalas. And he developed the approach he called active imagination, by which – instead of rejecting the characters and contents of dream and fantasy – we work with them, carrying the drama forward towards healing and resolution. This is the shaman’s way, attuned to our modern language of understanding, but born in the depths of primal experience.

Illustration from Jung’s Red Book.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Story conference

I hear them at night, sometimes, east of the Well of Memory, west of the Mountains of Desire. They talk like herons after dark, like bears torn from sleep, like alien phone sex, like underground rivers, but mostly like a storytelling of crows. When the moon is old, I send my my shadow to listen.

“Back off,” says a story that might be a griffin to one of the hungry ones. “He’s mine.”
    “But I’m starving.” The smaller story is drooling.
    “Then go snack on something your own size," says the bigger story. "This is is my ride.”

    There is pushing and scuffling, and complaints from tall tales and flash fiction that has been flushed out of cover or jolted from long moonbath siestas.
    The hungry one leaves, snarling, to make a hide in the long grass by the beaver swamp.

    The one who has been scented by the big story comes along the path, humming a tune from a musical.
    He feels a stir in the air. With it comes the sense that he is 
being watched, or even ogled. He turns to look behind him. Nothing there.

    Something wallops him. He is knocked to his knees. The something is settling between his shoulder blades, drilling into the base of his neck, jabbing at his kidneys. He writhes and gropes behind him. He feels what may be a snout, and the hard ruthless curve of talons or claws.
    "Gotcha," says the big story.

I just concluded "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming", a writing and storytelling retreat like no other, at magical Mosswood Hollow in the foothills of the Cascades. The dates for next year's retreat are May 22-26, 2017.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The first dreamer

Not long after the creation of this world, the Creator became disgusted with the behavior of the people he had made. He went back to the Sky World, leaving humans to the darkness and confusion they had chosen to inhabit.
    In their benighted condition, no longer able to talk with God or walk in the spirit realms, people forgot who they were. They mated with peccaries and anacondas and lived as they did, and before long they thought they were wild pigs and water snakes and acted accordingly. They forgot they had human souls, and counterparts in higher orders of being.
    The man named Medatia began to dream. He dreamed sitting on a bench in his thatched hut. He dreamed do strongly that a hole opened up in the roof of his house. He went whirling upward, through the hole, through an opening in the sky.
    When Medatia passed through the clouds and entered the first of the upper worlds, he was unable to understand anything that was going on around him. He encountered beings in various forms — animal and human, godlike and beyond naming — but could not comprehend who they were or what they were saying, until they changed his sight and hearing.
    With new eyes and new ears, he was able to enter a succession of higher realms. He was cleansed and made new in a lake of blue fire. In each of the upper worlds he encountered powerful beings who were intimately related to him. They taught him their songs.
    When he returned to earth, Medatia was not the same. He had become the first shaman, the first of the great dreamers of his people.
    He was saddened to see how low his people had fallen. He made it his mission to open their eyes, to awaken them to the knowledge of what it is to be human.
    Night after night, while people were sleeping, Medatia called their dream-souls out of their bodies and instructed them, one by one. When the dream-souls returned to the sleepers, they reminded them that they were not meant to live their lives like pigs or snakes. One by one, awakened by their dream selves, Medatia’s people returned to their villages and began to live again as human beings.
    There is nothing wrong with anacondas or peccaries. But there is something wrong with a human who lives like a peccary or a snake and has no larger purpose.

This beautiful teaching story comes from the Makiritare, a native people of Venezuela.  It is used in the education of apprentice shamans. It gives rich insight into how dreaming can help us recover soul and the soul's purpose. We dream to awaken to who we are. And it is the strong dreamers — the shamans — who can heal the wound between Earth and Sky.

Adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Image: shaman rattle from Venezuela in author's private collection.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Notes for the road

Notes for the Road

To find yourself you must lose yourself.
The One you are seeking is not inside you.
You are inside the One.

To be present in every time
you must be here, now.
Now is the center of all times.

Here, now, you can step on and off
the trains to past and future
and travel on parallel lines.

To get to a place you do not know
you must go by a way you do not know.
Burn your maps to make beacons.

To wake up, you must dream.
Without dreams, you are a sleepwalker
who could join the ranks of the living dead.

There will be monsters, of course,
dark dwellers at every new threshold.
Without them, how could you be ready to pass?

In dealing with demons, you must learn
to choose the forms of your worst fears
and laugh at your creations.

If you wish to see marvels around you
you must carry marvels within.
A mirror can't show you what you don't bring.

The gates of the Otherworld open
from wherever you are. Don’t think
you have to drink jungle juice with anacondas.

Put your blade away, dragonslayer.
You only conquer the dragon when you raise it
and ride it and turn its energy towards Light.

Turn out the lights if you want to find the Light.
The visible is the skin of the invisible.
In the dark, it is easier to see with inner eyes.

Don’t list the Trickster among your demons.
He is your friend if you expect the unexpected
Everything interesting happens on the boundaries.

If you want to be fully alive, be ready to die.
How about now? You feel the cool breath
of Death on your neck. Give him some foreplay.

To find the One, don't spurn the many
Name only one God, and you’ll always end up with two.
Seek the nameless behind the forest of names.

Make your confessions on the road
not from behind a curtain. The hawk will hear you
and the rabbit, the lily and the stone.

Walk on the mythic edge. Let your life
become a stage for divine events.
Notice what neverending story is playing through you.

Look after your poetic health.
Notice what rhymes in a day, and a life.
Follow the logic of resemblances.

Practice real magic: Follow the passions of your soul
and bring gifts from the Otherworld into this one.
You’ll regret what you left undone –

the fence you wouldn’t jump, the dream you didn’t follow –
more than anything you did when your cool lover
stops licking your neck and takes you in his full embrace.

Photo: Path in Transylvania (c) Robert Moss

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The spider in my dreams is not the spider in your dreams

The spider in a dream might be a disease marker or an ally, a clue to the need for some cleanup or even a goddess in disguise. To know what the spider means for you, you need to track your dreams and learn to go back inside them consciously.
    A woman named Jennifer shared a vivid and very specific account of how the behavior of a black spider in a series of dreams gave her disease markers she learned to take seriously. As she tells it, the sequence includes the following prodromic dreams (and follow-up events):

1."I am standing in an open doorway. A black spider leaps from the frame onto my abdomen, scaring me badly. Three months later, I developed appendicitis in the same spot and had to be rushed to hospital for an emergency appendectomy."

2. "A black spider jumps on my face. I am terrified and grossed out. Several months later, I developed a horrible and virulent skin condition that made me look about a hundred years old. After five days, hospitalized on intravenous antibiotics and anti-viral medicine, I learned I had contracted a life-threatening strep infection."

3. "A black spider leaps on my face, near my left eye--again from the door frame in former dreams. A few months later, I am driving on the freeway and a black, spider web configuration covers the entire visual field of this eye. In an urgent care intervention, the on-call eye doctor discovers that I have a torn retina in that eye, and I undergo emergency laser surgery."

This is a very instructive example of how dreams can anticipate physical symptoms. By learning to recognize personal markers, we may not only be forewarned of possible problems; we may be able to take action to avoid manifesting those problems.    The spider in Jennifer's dreams is not the spider in your dreams, or mine. While we recognize common themes when we hear each other's dreams, every dreamer's experience is personal and unique to them. For some dreamers, the spider is an ally, offering the power to re-weave the web of possibility in life. To claim that kind of power, it may be necessary to go back inside a dream and brave up to whatever is there.
     I worked with one dreamer, a gifted artist, for whom the spider was at first a disease marker- warning of a possible recurrence of cancer - but then became an extraordinary ally when she found the courage to go back inside her dream and face the spider, through the dream reentry technique that is central to Active Dreaming..
    The artist was terrified by a recurring dream of a jumping spider that grew bigger and bigger until it took over her studio. I urged her to go back inside the dream and volunteered to go with her. Sitting together, with our hands joined, we embarked on conscious shared dreaming with a clear intention: the dreamer would face her terror and find out what she needed to do, while I would support her as friend and bodyguard inside the dream space. 
     Between the energy of her fear and the familiarity of her dream space - her studio - the artist had no difficulty reentering the dream. Almost effortlessly, we found ourselves together in the dream version of her studio, facing a spider that grew rapidly to enormous size. Its multiple eyes and cheliceral fangs were not a pleasant sight at close range. The artist was shaking and sobbing, but she stayed inside the dream. 
    Then spider shapeshifted into Spider Woman, an indigenous American form of the Goddess. Spider Woman told the artist: "Because you found the courage to meet me, I will give you the power to re-weave the energy web of your body and the web of possibility in your life." 
     At that time, the dreamer was facing a biopsy. The results showed she was cancer free. She embarked on the most creative period of her personal and artistic life. Spider kept her promise, when the dreamer found the ability to brave up and reach for the power beyond the terror. 
     A young woman reports that when she is ill a spider climbs inside her torso and starts spinning a web. While this would be terrifying to many dreamers, and might suggest a chest infection, her dream spider is an ally who catches what is bugging her, rolls it up in a silk ball, and elegantly expels the possible complaint from her body.
     By contrast, my friend Wanda has found it necessary to eject spiders she felt were adversaries - possibly embodying a threatening disease - from her dream houses in various creative ways. In one of her examples, she managed to convert a large and menacing spider into a wind-up toy that could be put out into the street, like the trash.
     I've had spider dreams of both kinds. I discovered a dream report from many years ago in which I knew that I had to remove a large black spider - not a tarantula, and not furry, but about that size - from my dream kitchen. I tried to catch it in paper towels in order to carry it out without harming it, as I would probably try to do in regular life. However, the spider died as I struggled to contain it, and then promptly morphed into a set of plastic parts, like a broken child's toy, that I carried out and placed in the trash. I woke from this dream feeling a strong sense of wellness and resolution, and felt no need to interpret the dream. Moving with the energy from a dream is often more important than figuring out what the content means.
    When it comes to the pursuit of meanings, let's remember that it's usually a good idea to study the nature, habits and habitats of the critters that turn up in dreams. There is a vast variety of spiders on this planet, most of them non-venomous but some incredibly deadly, so when we dream of spiders we may want to pause and attempt an identity check.
     We also want to study the specific gifts of different kinds of spiders: what kind of webs they weave, for example, and the uses of those webs. The first dream catchers were spider webs. An Onondaga friend told me that when his son was very young, he hung spider webs above his sleeping head to catch and keep out bugs of both the physical and the psychic kind, in the old way. Don reminds us in a comment on my last post that spider webs are helpful in stopping bleeding.
     Finally, let's remember that in the shaman's way of dreaming, we can learn to get close to fierce and dangerous creatures with which safe encounters in the physical are generally inadvisable. In my dreams of my native Australia, I am sometimes offered a funnel-web portal to enter the Dreaming of the Koori, the Aboriginal people. I remember being sternly lectured by my parents, as a small boy in Queensland, to check boots and shoes every morning in case a funnel-web spider had built inside one of them overnight, and to avoid or kill this type of highly venomous spider on sight. In the Dreaming, things work rather differently.