Friday, August 18, 2017

Wotan Time: Being Seized by a Dark Archetype

In November 1932, Jung declared in a speech in Vienna that "the gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are…psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics.”
     Four years later, as the full horror of Nazism unfolded, Jung gave a name to the psychic epidemic that had seized Germany. He suggested that Hitler, in himself a hollow man, had been seized by a dark force and that through him the collective mind of the German people had been possessed. He expressed these thoughts in a 1936 essay titled “Wotan”.
     Jung brought out of Teutonic mythology a dark archetype, the wild and furious figure of a war god ever hungry for blood, who drives men to crazy and violent excess. “Because the behavior of a race takes on its specific character from its underlying images, we can speak of an archetype 'Wotan’... Wotan is an Ergreiffer [possessor] of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler – which has indeed actually happened – he is really the only explanation."
     Jung observed, “We are always convinced that the modern world is a reasonable world, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors... In fact, I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan’s character explain more of National Socialism than all three reasonable factors put together.”
    In a letter to Miguel Serrano, he added, “When the belief in the god Wotan vanished and nobody thought of him anymore, the phenomenon originally called Wotan remained; nothing changed but its name, as National Socialism has demonstrated on a grand scale. A collective movement consists of millions of individuals, each of whom shows the symptoms of Wotanism and proves thereby that Wotan in reality never died, but has retained his original vitality and autonomy. Our consciousness only imagines that it has lost its gods; in reality they are still there and it only needs a certain general condition in order to bring them back in full force.”
   I wish we could say that none of this is relevant to our current conditions.

Note: We want to separate Odin, the shaman-god of the Eddas, from the bloodthirsty entity Jung was talking about. Just as we would wish to separate the swastika - a symbol of transformation in the Baltic, in India, and among the Pueblo - from the crooked cross of Naziism (though alas, thanks to the Nazis, it is now probably impossible to reclaim that symbol in the West).

Illustration: This is also troubling. In the year Hitler was born, 1889, Franz von Stuck made a painting of the Die Wilde Jagd, the Wild Hunt, showing Wotan leading a crazed band of hungry ghosts. At 13, Hitler saw the painting and was fascinated. Von Stuck became his favorite artist. Some people see a strong resemblance to Hitler in the face of the leader of the mad and deadly hunt in the picture.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Waiting for the Spiral Galaxy

I have long suspected that in the end we will have more regret over what we did not do in this life than what we actually did. This suspicion was reinforced by a conversation on a plane during a redeye flight to Europe. The stranger seated next to me explains, when a conversation starts, that he is an astronomy professor approaching his 70th birthday. He has no plans to retire, generally likes his work and gets to travel to many international conferences. I ask him if there is something he longs to do in the years ahead. "Oh yes. I'd like to work on spiral galaxies. I've wanted to do that since I heard a great mathematician, C.C.Lin, explain his theory for the nature of spiral galaxies at M.I.T. back in 1968." I love the theme, but I am puzzled. "You heard that theory nearly fifty years ago. What have you been working on since then?"     "Oh, stars. I can tell you that stars are not round and they're ugly."
    "What about spiral galaxies?."
    "Well the problem is that C.C. Lin ran into big-time opposition. Another titan of science objected to the Lin-Shu density wave theory, contending that spiral patterns are caused by outside interference - by a galaxy bumping up against another galaxy, let's say - rather than integral. The fight got really bad. Anyone who publicly aligned with one side would get shot at by the other."
    "But you've had tenure for decades. Surely you can follow any line of research you like and damn the torpedoes."
    He talks about difficulties with funding and getting time on colossal computers required for galactic simulations.
    I am sad for him. Nearly fifty years after a vision of cosmic spirals set his imagination on fire, he's still not ready to stir the embers.
    "I'm risk-averse," he explains.   
    I reflect on this in the darkened cabin. I review what I regret in my own life, and realize that being risk-averse is not high on the list. For this I am grateful.

Image: M74 spiral galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On the Ides of August, Honor the Goddess of the Grove

She is a huntress, at home in the wild, fleet as any animal, her quiver on her back, her hounds at her side. She is the Moon. She is queen of tides, in water and in the body. She dies every month and is reborn, so she is also queen of the Underworld.
    She is called Trivia, but don't confuse that with anything trivial. Feel her presence where three roads meet. In your life, this is where you come to a fork where a choice must be made. She is a maker of nets, a weaver of veils.
    She is a healer and midwife, the protector of pregnant mothers and newborn babies.
    She is a virgin yet she draws the passions of men. They come to her to be cleansed from guilt and released from the madness of deviant mind. If they get close to her, they pay a terrible price, but may be reborn under her aegis, as in the story of Virbius.
    She is Diana, also called Selene and Hecate and depicted with them as a triple goddess on Roman coinage. Her mirror, the Speculum Dianae, is Lake Nemi, a beautiful spring-fed lake inside the crater of a volcano. It is near the ancient town of Aricia (modern Ariccia).
    She was called Diana Nemorensis, Diana of the Sacred Wood, or Grove (nemus). Today, the Ides of August, is her special day. * This is the day of the Nemoralia, which became a holiday across Italy but was celebrated most elaborately at her temple beside Lake Nemi. Burning torches were carried in a procession around the lake, known as Diana’s Mirror. Those whose prayers had been answered at her shrine came wearing wreaths of flowers, to show their gratitude and fulfill specific promises made to the goddess. Dogs were garlanded and given special treats today. Nemoralia was a holiday for slaves, reflecting the alternations in status we see in the face of the Moon.
    We may be drawn to Diana as we are drawn to the Moon. She does not begin as Artemis, though they are closely twinned when the Romans start importing Greek deities, and their statues as young huntresses in tunics, with bows, become interchangeable. By one account, the first image of Diana, described by Ovid as  "a golden goddess fashioned by a barbaric hand" [1] was smuggled to Nemi, concealed in a bundle of sticks, from what is now the Crimea.
    The precinct of Diana did not grow into the vast world-city of Artemis of Ephesus. It remained a remote place in the wild woods, though not far from Rome if you were able to get up the steep slope of the volcano in order to get down into the crater. However, a beautiful Hellenistic temple complex developed, with baths and healing pools and a theater - where actors came up and down from a pit as from the Underworld - and granaries and the ancient version of a teaching hospital, one of the best in the world.
    Pilgrims and petitioners of all social classes came here to seek guidance and healing. As with the cult of Asklepios and his divine family, it must have been the experience of the numinous in this place - and the word that was spread about it - that kept the supplicants coming. In an excellent recent monograph, classical scholar C.M.C. Green observes that "the success of the cult was the result of the religious experiences of the people who came to the sanctuary for the goddess." [2]
    Votive statues from the temple of Diana depicting body parts and internal organs and newborn babies suggest some of medicine people came seeking. Some of the ex-votos are heads of Diana, maybe suggesting that they wanted to get the numen of the goddess into their heads. Green reminds us that supplicants did not come to the temple of Diana looking only, or even especially, for miracles. Treatments of every kind were offered here, offering state-of-the art pharmaceuticals and surgery, as well as dream incubation in the sacred night. This was a hospital for dogs as well as humans, with the best remedies for scabies and other canine complaints known in ancient times.
    The sanctuary of Diana was famous for treating or containing mental and psychospiritual complaints. We hear again and again about men who seek refuge in Diana's woods, tormented by Furies of guilt and despair, with what modern psychiatrist might call PTSD but which Horace - following the assistants of the Goddess - called fanaticus error, the obsession of the deviant mind. [3]
    Now we come to the baking. The precinct of Diana at Nemi included large granaries, the source of the flour used to form and bake untold numbers of strange deformed pastry dolls. These were sometimes called maniae, which usually means evil spirits, especially unclean spirits of the dead, and is the plural of mania, which speaks for itself.
    It seems that a key practice for spiritual cleansing and repair, in the healing rooms of Diana, was to encourage a patient to transfer the entities and energies that brought affliction into one or more of these doughboys, some of which were quite hideous. Think Fright Night gingerbread boys. The pastry figures would then be broken up, crushing and dispersing the unwanted energies. It is possible - this part is speculative - that the pieces might then be mashed together, reshaped and baked into a new and desirable form, representing the return of the patient to physical and mental health.

    Reflecting on the many faces of Diana, Green writes: "Diana's triple form...represented the multiplicity of her sacred experience. There was not one Diana. She belonged to the underworld, to the earth, and to the sky. That triple nature would also be exemplified by the sanctuary itself, the lake and the caves and the springs, leading to the underworld, and the crater as the circle of the earth, all ruled by the moon moving slowly across the sky." [4]   

1. Ovid, Heroides 12. 70-71
2. C.M.C. Green, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 153.
3. Horace, Ars Poetica 454.
4. Green, op.cit.,291.

The Goddess and the King of the Woods

In the sacred wood, the hunter becomes the hunted. Perhaps this goes to the depth of the mystical relationship between the hunter and the game animals in hunter-gatherer cultures. It is an enduring feature of the cult of Diana, shocking to many ancient, as well as modern, minds.
   The savage ritual observed at Nemi was made famous by James George Frazer, who brought from it the title, opening chapter and ruling theme of The Golden Bough. The following brief account departs from Frazer, drawing on recent scholarship.
    In the woods at Nemi is a wild man who is nonetheless a king, rex nemorensis, the King of the Sacred Wood. He arrives here a fugitive, an escaped slave, a man without a country. Maybe only a man in his condition would be desperate enough to pay the price of kingship.
    First, he must find the evergreen oak in the depths of the forest where mistletoe hangs from an upper branch. This is called the golden bough because yellow blossoms of the mistletoe that grows on oak are that color year-round. He must separate the parasitic plant with his bare hands.
    Once he has done this, he is given a sword. Weapons are forbidden to all except the King of the Woods and his challenger in this sacred precinct. Two desperate men now stalk and hunt each other through the woods. Even if he is old, the reigning king has the advantage of knowing the forest well, The challenger has the advantage of relative youth. They meet in mortal combat and one dies.
    The survivor, maybe wounded, must drag the body of the slain contender to the funeral pyre. After, he must carry ashes and bones down into a deep cave, viewed as a mouth of the Underworld, to lay them in an ossuary of fallen kings. Down there, he will dream and see visions. When he returns to the world above he will not be the same because he has gone through the death and rebirth of the shaman.
    His reward may include becoming the mate of the Goddess - embodied by her priestess - in the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage. His life will always be lived on the edge, with death at his shoulder.


* In the Roman calendar, while the Ides of March notoriously falls on the 15th of the month, the Ides of August falls on the 13th. Julius Caesar has an interesting connection with Lake Nemi. He had a sumptuous villa built overlooking the lake. But when he came to inspect it for the first time he ordered it leveled to the ground. It may be that surveying the sacred wood, he suddenly felt fear at the sight of a place where royal succession was accomplished by assassination.

Art at top: Speculum Dianae by Enrico Coleman (1909)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

When you don't know you're dreaming until the dream spills into the street

Dreams offer many clues that we are not in ordinary reality. We can fly, or breathe underwater, or find ourselves inside different bodies. We have the powers of superheroes. We can talk to animals and ride dragons. We meet people who died in the regular world but are very much alive here.
    Even humdrum dreams offer many lucidity triggers: prompts to wake up to the fact that we are dreaming. We are naked in public or engage in other anomalous behavior. The scene shifts inexplicably from one location to another, as if we have teleported. There is odd repetition; the same scene plays out several times, like the black cat walking across the room in the movie The Matrix. People we know are notably older or younger than in regular life.
    When a lucidity trigger awakens us to the fact that we are dreaming, we are sometimes so startled that we are jolted out of the whole experience, back into the dormant body on the bed. When we can stay in the dream, conscious that we are not in ordinary reality, we may be on our way to grand adventures, to romance or healing, to solving a mystery or vanquishing a fear.
     To recognize that you are dreaming is not the same as telling yourself This isn't real. Dreams are real experiences. The realities in which they unfold may be as real, less real, or more real than the physical world. In a certain kind of dream experience, the reason you may not pause to say to yourself I'm dreaming is that you are conscious, in an even deeper sense, that you are in another reality, for example a world where the dead are alive, where you will join them on a full-time basis when you leave your own body behind at physical death.
     You can fail to notice you are dreaming during sleep and then wake up to the dreamlike character of everyday life. I missed several lucidity triggers in a dream overnight, and then found elements from my dream spilling into the street, quite literally, as I took my dog on the first walk of the day.
    In my dream:

I'm at a retreat center in California, wearing a wild tropical shirt I think looks great on me. Next I am giving directions to a group of my students on how to take a train from a London station - I specify Victoria or Euston - on certain assignments. There's an air of adventure, as if I am asking them to play detectives.
    As soon as I name the stations, I am transported to a train station. I go back and forth between a pleasant waiting room and a platform. I notice a shower head near the door, outside the waiting room, and decide to take a quick shower. The flow isn't strong, and I catch water in my cupped hands and sprinkle it over myself. I find this quite enjoyable.
    I'm still naked when I hear a station announcement that the train is coming. I look along the platform and see a bus. Can this be right? Behind it, a train or tram is coming.
    A attractive lady in a dark blue uniform - a station official - smiles at me. I tell her I probably shouldn't get on the train naked. Will she hold it for me until I get dressed?
   There's a small problem. I can't find my clothes. Eventually I discover a crisp white short-sleeved shirt on a hook and a pair of boxers. This wasn't the shirt I was wearing earlier (one with a wild tropical design) but it will serve.
    I'm barefoot and pantless and missing not only my carry-on bag but my wallet and ID. Who can I call? I think of a dear friend but I am not sure he can help. 

I felt some concern towards the end of the dream, but relaxed - and fairly soon amused - on waking.
   I did a radio interview yesterday on lucid dreaming in which I talked about lucidity triggers. My little dream report contains several classic examples of lucidity triggers that I missed. 

* Instant change of scene. I am whisked from California to London, quick as thought.
* Naked in public. One of the most common dream themes, and a lucidity prompt for that reason alone.
* Anomalous behavior. I take a shower in an unlikely place, fully exposed to public view. The lady station official acts in a very non-official way.
*  Repetition and recurring dream situations. Trains and train stations often feature in my dreams and I was talking about their symbology in a recent class. Naked in public, losing ID or valuables, and quick change scenes are also recurring situations here, as in many people's dreams.
* The dead are alive. I don't call my friend but it does not occur to me that, in ordinary reality, he died several years ago.

Maybe you'll want to make a list of your own lucidity triggers, including any of the ones I missed that are relevant to you.
    The entertainment value of this little episode was enhanced by what happened when I walked the dream, along with the dog, before coffee in the morning. A couple of blocks from my house, a woman was packing her car. She called to her boyfriend, at the door of an apartment, "Hey, is my wallet in there?" He responded, "I don't know."
    There was the theme of misplaced or lost ID, spilling from the dream into the street.
    It got better (or worse) when we returned to my house. On the sidewalk, I noticed a discarded pair of men's briefs. Not the kind of underwear I had in the dream (or would choose in regular life) but there was the theme of naked in public, dropped right where I live.

Art: Giorgio de Chirico

Friday, August 11, 2017

Through the Skylight: Adepts who take on bodies

The light comes on at the top of my head. It is bright, white and steady and I know there is no cause for alarm. It is like the opening of a skylight. I sense that a circle of benign tutelary presences has been formed, and is beaming a communication to me. The theme is the deliberate incarnation of a succession of adepts who teach and inspire humanity. I am able to record the following:
     “This is truth: there is a line of spiritual masters, known to each other across the ages, who watch over humans and are alert to the stirrings of spiritual understanding and intellectual achievement. From time to time they take on bodies voluntarily. Their descent into the body is both mourned and honored.
     “Born remembering, they are nonetheless exposed to the phenomenon of memory loss. Unless closely supported and protected, they are feared and resented, as unnatural, as “demons”, as illegitimate bastards. Hence the stories of efforts to put them to death: of Moses in the rushes, of Asklepios exposed on the mountain. Alternatively, in some traditions they are welcomed and even worshiped, but may become pawns for greedy and ambitious theocracies.”

Origin: This journal entry, from New Year's morning, 1999, surfaced during one of my bouts of bibliomancy (divination by book) in my old journals. It describes an experience unfolding in the hypnopompic zone, the place between sleep and awake - prime real estate for adventurers in consciousness. 

Skylight photo by RM

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Smelling the lilacs and other scientific research inside dreams

The most original and revealing scientific study of dreams – the only kind that is likely to bring us the big stuff – is research inside dreams, rather than research about dreams. Charting a path for future research, William C. Dement, one of the leading research scientists in the area of sleep and dreams, appealed for “trained introspectionists to give us somewhat more confident information about what goes on in the mind during sleep.”
    Research should center on recognizing that there are some individuals who seem to be “supremely good at recalling their dreams.” Perhaps they could be encouraged not only to increase their recall even further but to attain some degree of mental control inside the dreamstate “which would allow them to attend to the dream more closely with the idea of remembering it and reporting it.” Dement concluded: “Our major data about the dream world should come from those best able to describe it” – dream experiencers. [1]
    A century before Dement made his remarks, the Marquis Hervey de Saint-Denys (1822-1892), a French aristocrat and oriental scholar, made this type of research is ruling passion. He started observing his dreams closely at the age of thirteen, as a way of whiling away his time after completing lessons with his private tutors. Within a year, he noticed he was often aware while dreaming of his “true situation” - that he was dreaming – and was able to “guide their development” consciously.
    He dreamed, for example, that he was among flowering lilac trees. Aware that he was dreaming, he remembered reading that our memories of smell are “seldom correct” when we wake from dreams. “I caught hold of the branch, and first assured myself that the smell of lilac was recalled in my memory by this imaginary but voluntary act.” [2].
    Over decades, Saint-Denys became an intrepid investigator inside his dreams, producing and exploring dream images that revolved around his research interests. “During the day I reflected on the subjects most worthy of examination; at night, during the dreams in which I was aware of my situation, I sought every possible opportunity to discover and analyze.”
    There was a curious blind spot in his dream exploration. He believed that dream images all derive from our waking experiences: that whatever we see in dreams is constructed from life memories. Scientist that he was, he tested this by his experiential method.
    Perhaps the fact that he was not able – by his own account – to identify dreamscapes that were unrelated to waking life memories was a function of his own belief system. That would fit his own observation that whenever he thought about something in a conscious dream, a corresponding scene or image appeared. Dream images, he concluded, are “the representation in our mind’s eye of the objects that occupy our thoughts.”
    Today, we look to active dreamers 
to help us expand the frontiers of our knowledge of the deeper realities accessible to the dreaming mind. An active dreamer is not only an enthusiastic and prolific dream recaller. He or she develops the ability to enter and navigate inside the dream state at will, to maintain continuity of consciousness through success states of sleep, dream and hypnagogia - and keeps extensive logs of these experiences.
    Active dreaming, as I teach and practice it, is a discipline - a fun one, but one that requires practice, practice practice. The rewards are immense. We discover that dreams give us personal doorways to the multiverse. We confirm that, dreaming, we are time travelers. We scout out the possible future, and we can visit past times and past lives and communicate, mentally, with other personalities. We gather first-hand evidence of the reality of parallel worlds and explore how quantum effects may work on a human level. We become quite familiar with the normalcy of "supernormal" abilities like precognition and telepathy. We embark on experiments in mutual or interactive dreaming, sometimes by traveling together on group shamanic journeys powered by drumming, at other times by setting overnight assignments for our circles. And - oh! - the places we go!


1.      William C. Dement, “Proposals for future research” in Gabrielle C. Lairy and Pero Salzarulo (eds) The Experimental Study of Human Sleep: Methodological Problems. (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1975) 442.

2.      Marquis Hervey de Saint-Denys, Dreams and How to Guide Them trans. Nicholas Fry, ed. Morton Schatzman M.D. (London: Duckworth, 1982) 56

Art: "The Bunch of Lilacs" by James Tissot (c.1875)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Time Travel to the Stars

C.S. Lewis's novel of Malacandra, Out of the Silent Planet, describes a journey in a spaceship to another planet by three humans - one driven by greed, one by darker ambitions to make humans the predatory master species in the universe, the third a thoughtful, attractive adventurer called Ransom, who is a professor of philology. They enter a world quite unlike the Earth, where three quite different intelligent species are able to coexist without conflict, and everything is ordered by the benign rule of a godlike being called Oyarsa, whose messengers and assistants are the radiant eldila. 
     In Malacandra, we learn that Earth is known as "the silent planet". Contact between Earth and other planets has been cut off because Earth has fallen under the sway of the Bent One, a dark overlord. Unknown to humans, the eldils still travel to Earth, but it's become a dangerous journey and they go down like warrior angels, concealed from the perception of most humans.
     Lewis adds a postcript to the novel that purports to be a letter to the author from "the original of Dr Ransom", an acquaintance on whom the Ransom character is based. Supposedly their friendship began when Lewis - a medievalist - found a twelfth century account of a voyage through the heavens that introduced a being there called Oyarses, "the intelligence or tutelary spirit of a planet".In a nonfiction book, The Discarded Image, that Lewis published late in life, he discusses the 12th century Platonist, Bernardus Silvestris - "Bernard of the Woods" - who wrote about a journey out of this world and planetary gods he called Oyarses.
     There are more clues to Lewis' evolving thinking about how we can open and maintain communication with the intelligences of other star systems in the partial draft of a late novel he did not intend to publish. Lewis's former secretary narrowly managed to save this from a bonfire on which the author's brother was burning his manuscripts shortly after his death. This unfinished novel, titled "The Dark Tower" by the editor, involves time travel. The editor suggests it is the true sequel to Out of the Silent Planet.l
     In the postcript to Out of the Silent Planet Lewis made the fascinating suggestion that time travel will be the key to travel to intelligent life on other planets.The last sentence in that postscript reads as follows: "The way to the planets lies through the past; if there is to be any more space-traveling, it will have to be time-traveling as well."     
     The heart of the matter (as Lewis also came to believe) is that given the Cloaking of Earth, the best and safest way to reopen communication with benign intelligences on other planets and in other dimensions may be to go across time and take off from a past - or future - location. After leading many group journeys by flights of intrepid shamanic dream travelers (following the "Sirius" script I published in Dreamgates, and others) I believe he was correct.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Nine Keys to Helping Kids with Their Dreams

Here's what we need to know about listening to children's dreams and supporting their imaginations: 

1. Listen up!
When a child wants to tell a dream, make room for that. Make some daily space for dream sharing. Listen to the stories and cherish them for their own sake. 

2. Invite good dreams

Pick the right bedtime reading or better still, tell stories. Help your child to weave a web of good dream intentions for the night — for example, by asking “What would you most like to do tonight?” Encourage children to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal (whether teddy bear or T-Rex) and make this a dream guardian. 

3. Provide immediate help with the scary stuff

If your child was scared by something in the night, recognize
you are the ally the child needs right now. Do something right away to move out that negative energy. Hugs usually help. Get a frightened child to spit it the yucky stuff (literally) or draw a picture of what scared her and tear it up as violently as possible. Help her choose the right stuffed animal or toy to be a guardian for the night. When things are calm, you can suggest facing what was scary and dealing with it on its own ground - with a Riddikulus spell (as used in the Harry Potter stories to banish boggarts), or befriending it or by scaring it back.

4. Ask good questions.

When the child has told her story, ask good questions. Ask about feelings, about the color of the sky, and about exactly what T-Rex was doing. See if there's something about the future. Say what you would think about this if this were your dream. Always come up with something fun or helpful to do with this story. Open up the crayon box, call grandma, etc. 

5. Help the child to keep a dream journal

Get this started as early as possible. With a very young child, you can help with the words while they do the pictures. When your child reaches the point where she closes the journal and says, “This is my secret book and you can't read it any more”
do not peek. Give her privacy, and let her choose when she'll let you look in that magic book. 

6. Provide tools for creative expression.

Encourage the child to bring dreams come alive through art, dance, theater and games, and to draw or paint dreams. Gather friends and family for dream-inspired games and performance. Puppets and stuffed animals can be great for acting out dreams. This can also be dress-up time. It's such a release for kids to portray mom or dad or other grown-ups in their lives — be ready to be shocked! 

7. Help construct effective action plans

Dreams can show us things that require further action — for example, to avoid an unhappy future event that was previewed in the dream, or to put something right in a family situation. A child will probably need adult help with such things, starting with
your help. This will require you to learn more about dreaming and dreamwork, as you are doing now.

 8. Let your own inner child out to play

As you listen to children's dreams, let the wonderful child dreamer inside you come out and join in the play. 

9. Keep it fun!
When you get the hang of this, you'll find it's about the best home entertainment you can enjoy.

Notice two things that are not on this list, but would be at the very top of a list of what not to do with a child’s dreams: 

Never say to a child “It's only a dream”. Children know that dreams are for real and that scary stuff that comes out in dreams needs to be resolved, not dismissed.

Do NOT interpret a child's dreams. You’re not the expert here; the child is.

Adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library. © Robert Moss. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bear Sightings

You stood in the middle of a country road
to make me stop and listen.
I got round you and said, when my heart slowed,
that a bear in the road is just coincidence.

So you came over in the middle of the night
and stood between me and the moonlight
and scared me so bad with your size and the surprise
I jumped out of my skin.

A fox barked in the woods and snickered,
“What are you thinking of?
In your body or out of it,
you are now in the dream of the Bear.”

So when you came again, taller than my ceiling,
I made myself enter your embrace.
I thought I would die in your arms;
instead, I grew to your size, and we danced.

You showed me we are joined at the heart
as an unborn child is joined to its mother
by a thick umbilical pumping life juice.
You told me to call on you for healing.

There are days when I still forget you.
One night, from a hilltop, I saw you on the road
like a walking mountain, dwarfing the cars.
I feared you would crush them like matchbox toys.

Fox barked again, and I saw you were the shadow
thrown by the moonlight from my shoulders.
I had not known your power with me had grown so big,
and that I must choose whether it will harm or heal.

I am still remembering you. I remember now
that I knew you when I was a soldier in leather armor
fighting under the banner of the Bear Goddess.
Weary, I went to die in wild country, but you healed me.

I remember that when the Real People laid my body
in the blanket of mother Earth, I found rest
in the heartwood of an oak until, stirring from my long nap,
I sought life in a newborn cub that could fit in a pink palm.

You are healing. I have seen you open yourself
as a medicine chest, offering all you contain.
You are protection. I have seen you gather your kind
to form an unbreakable circle of defense against the dark.

Behind all your forms, you are the Mother.
You made me find the right song
to open a door in the roots of the Life Tree
and receive your blessing in a world beneath the world.

I bring others here, to be nursed and healed
in your generous lap, and be joined to their dream selves,
their wonder-children, their powers of healing and creation –
that fled from them when they fled from you.

This poem is in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories. Published by Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press.

Drawing by RM

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Red Bull and the Morrigan

I see a huge red bull, with long silky hair. I know that he is the focus of an ancient battle.
    I see the warriors of two rival armies clashing together - kilted men swinging killing irons.
    Riding through the field of battle comes an immense dark figure, standing proudly erect in a chariot. She is three women in one. Their bodies are joined. Her chariot is not drawn by horses but races forward, powered by the intention of the War Goddess. Its great wheels are armed with scything blades, that mow down the fighting men like tall grass.
     As the bodies of the slain lie in heaps on the ground, the Morrigan divides into three huge black birds. They soar into the air, then swoop down on the fallen, picking out the eyes, stripping the flesh from the bones. They are separating what rots from what endures.
    When their work is done, they come together and the Goddess shows herself as a single being - a ripe, naked woman wearing deer antlers.
     In this form, she rises above the earth. She glides at tremendous speed from the site of the battle to a mountain whose name is Slievnamun. She shows herself here in yet another form - as a lovely young woman who sits above a natural cauldron, a bubbling spring among the rocks. Here and only here (I am informed) can the dread Morrigan be approached in beneficent human form.

This dawn vision, arising spontaneously in the liminal space between sleep and awake, has been with me since I led a retreat on a sacred mountain twelve years ago. I am posting it now because of my dream of the Scáthach last night. Here is the new report:

Sound of the Scáthach
SCAW-thach. The pronunciation is insistent, and the word is repeated. I know what it means. The Scáthach is the fierce warrior woman who trains the Irish hero Cúchulainn in the arts of war. I have heard her name said differently by contemporary Gaelic speakers (more like "Scath-ath"). Is my dream putting me on the trail of ancient usage, or simply incorporating the accent of whoever was urging me to think about a woman who was deadlier than most of the men around her?    Either way, I've been given a fresh research assignment, the kind that my dreams often give me. I go back to the Red Branch of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology and learn that her name means "Shadowy" and that her home on the Isle of Skye was known as the Fortress of Shadows. Her father may have come from Scythia. She becomes a Celtic goddess of the dead, guiding the way for those killed in battle to the desirable Otherworld of Tír na nÓg.

Graphic: Louis le Brocquy, The Morrígan, 1969, lithograph. Illustration for Thomas Kinsella's translation of The Táin.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says yes

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says yes. Perhaps you have noticed this. Yes, we are talking about the law of attraction. It is indeed an ancient law, never a secret to those who live consciously. “All things which are similar and therefore connected, are drawn to each other’s power,” according to the medieval magus Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim. It is a rule of reality that we attract or repel different things according to the emotions, the attitudes, the feelings, the agendas that we carry.
     Before you walk into a room or turn a corner, your attitude is there already. It is engaged in creating the situation you are about to encounter. Whether you are remotely conscious of this or not, you are constantly setting yourself up for what the world is going to give you. If you go about your day filled with doom and gloom, the world will give you plenty of reasons to support that attitude. You’ll start looking like that cartoon character who goes about with a personal black cloud over his head that rains only on his parade. Conversely, if your attitude is bright and open to happy surprises, you may be rewarded by a bright day, even when the sky is leaden overhead, and by surprisingly happy encounters.
     Through energetic magnetism, we attract or repel people, events, and even physical circumstances according to the attitudes we embody. This process begins before we speak or act because thoughts and feelings are already actions and our attitudes are out there ahead of us. This requires us to do a regular attitude check, asking, What attitude am I carrying? What am I projecting?
     It is not sufficient to do this on a head level. We want to check what we are carrying in our body and our energy field. If you go around carrying a repertoire of doom and gloom, you may not say what’s on your mind, but the universe will hear you and support you. Attitude adjustment requires more than reciting the kind of New Age affirmation you see in cute boxes with flowers and sunsets on Facebook. It requires deeper self-examination and self-mobilization.
     What are you doing? A woman in one of my workshops told me she hears this question, put by an inner voice, many times a day. Sometimes it rattles her and saps her confidence. But she is grateful for the inner questioner that provokes her to look at herself. It’s a question worth putting to yourself any day. As you do that, remember that thinking and feeling are also doing.
    “The passions of the soul work magic.” I borrowed that from a medieval alchemist also beloved by Jung. It conveys something fundamental about our experience of how things manifest in the world around us. High emotions, high passions generate results. When raw energy is loose, it has effects in the world. It can blow things up or bring them together.           There is an art in learning to operate when your passions are riding high and to recognize that is a moment when you can make magic. Even when you are in the throes of what people would call negative emotions — rage, anger, pain, grief, even fear — if you can take the force of such emotions and choose to harness and direct them in a certain creative or healing way, you can work wonders, and you can change the world around you.
     How? Because there is no impermeable barrier between mind and matter. Jung and Pauli in concert, the great psychologist and the great physicist, came around to the idea that the old medieval phrase applies: unus mundus, “one world.” Psyche and physis, mind and matter, are one reality. They interweave at every level of the universe. They are not separate. As Pauli wrote, “Mind and body could be interpreted as complementary aspects of the same reality.” I think this is fundamental truth, and it becomes part of fundamental life operation when you wake up to it.
     The stronger our emotions, the stronger their effects on our psychic and physical environment. And the effects of our emotions may reach much further than we can initially understand. They can generate a convergence of incidents and energies, for good or bad, in ways that change everything in our lives and can affect the lives of many others.
     When we think or feel strongly about another person, we will touch that person and affect his or her mind and body — even across great distances — unless that person has found a way to block that transmission. The great French novelist Honoré de Balzac wrote that “ideas are projected as a direct result of the force by which they are conceived and they strike wherever the brain sends them by a mathematical law comparable to that which directs the firing of shells from their mortars.” 
     Scientific experiments have shown the ability of the human mind and emotions to change physical matter: studies by Masaru Emoto have shown that human emotions can change the nature and composition of water, and the Findhorn experiments have taught us that good thoughts positively affect the growth of plants. Conversely, rage or grief can produce disturbing and sometimes terrifying effects in the physical environment.
     “We are magnets in an iron globe,” declared Emerson. If we are upbeat and positive, “we have keys to all doors....The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.” Conversely, “A low, hopeless spirit puts out the eyes; skepticism is slow suicide. A philosophy which sees only the worst ...dispirits us; the sky shuts down before us.”
Whatever our circumstances, we always have the power to choose our attitude, and that this can change everything.

Adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Puddle". Woodcut by M.C.Escher

Friday, July 21, 2017

Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine: Jung heals with a lullaby

Jung agreed to see a woman who had “incurable” insomnia that had resisted all previous treatment. In her presence, he found himself remembering a lullaby his mother had crooned to him in childhood. He started humming it aloud.
      The song was about a girl on a little boat on a  river, full of gleaming fish. It evokes the rhythms of wind and water. Jung’s patient was enchanted. From that night on, her insomnia was gone. Her regular doctor wanted to know Jung’s secret.
     “How was I to explain to him that I had simply listened to something within myself?," Jung reminisced, late in life, in the presence of his assistant Aniela Jaffe. "I had been quite at sea. How was I to tell him that I had sung her a lullaby with my mother’s voice? Enchantment like that is the oldest form of medicine.”
     Once again, we see that Jung's practice was that of a true shaman of the west.


A new weekend adventure at magical Mosswood Hollow, near Duvall, Washington, on December 9-10

Jung labored to bring together the best of Western science and scholarship with ancient ways of soul travel and soul remembering. Throughout his life, he was guided by dreams and synchronicity, and in this class, we will learn from his practice rather than his theories. 
     We’ll journey, like Jung, through the many-tiered House of the Soul. We’ll walk with the Sacred Guide, as Jung walked with his Philemon. We’ll meet the Shadow. We’ll discover that dreams unlock the limitless field of nonlocal mind he called the collective unconscious.
    We’ll develop learn to navigate by synchronicity and practice field perception as Jung did when he watched the movements of wind and water, of a fox or a beetle, as he counseled his clients by Lake Zurich. Details here.

Art: Child and Boat by Edmund Tarbell (1899)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Scarab and the Fox: How Jung Navigated by Synchronicity

Jung’s life practice of paying attention to coincidence and symbolic popups in the world around us is a model of how to navigate by synchronicity.
    In his work with patients, he paid close attention to the interplay of dreams and signs from the world. He was encouraged to do this by his celebrated breakthrough work with a female patient who had been seriously blocked until she dreamed of a scarab, the dung beetle of the Nile Valley. Despite its lowly origins, the scarab was one of the most important Egyptian symbols of rebirth and transformation; it had been deified as Khepri and was placed over the heart of the soul traveler to guide journeys beyond the body and beyond death.
    As the woman discussed her dream with Jung, a flying beetle known as a rose chafer appeared at the window. It was the nearest match for the Egyptian scarab you could hope to find in Europe, and as the patient’s eyes widened in recognition, she experienced a sense of confirmation of her dream and the work she was doing with Jung that carried her to deep healing.
     When he saw patients in his house at Küsnacht, on Lake Zurich,, he liked to sit so that they both faced the garden, the poplars at the edge of the lake, and the water beyond, noticing what the world was saying.  He found significance in every shift in the environment — a sudden wind whipping up the lake water, the shape of a cloud, the cry of a bird.
     He was especially intrigued by how animals or birds sometimes seemed to participate in a human exchange.  On one occasion, he walked in his garden with a woman patient. As they wandered beyond the garden into light woods, she was talking about the first dream of her life that had major impact on her; she said it made an “everlasting” impression. “I am in my childhood home,” she recalled, “and a spectral fox is coming down the stairs.” She paused and put her hand on Jung’s arm, because at this moment a real fox trotted out of the trees, less than forty yards in front of them. The fox padded softly along the path in front of them for several minutes.  Jung noted that "the animal behaved as if it were a partner in the human situation.”
     Jung’s willingness to trust an unexpected incident — and accept it immediately as guidance for action — was evident in a meeting he had with Henry Fierz, who visited him in hopes of persuading him to support the publication of a manuscript by a recently deceased scientist. Jung had reservations about the book and opposed publication. The conversation became increasingly strained, and Jung looked at his watch, evidently getting ready to tell his guest he was out of time. Jung frowned when he saw the time.
     “What time did you come?” he demanded of his visitor.
     “At five o’clock, as agreed.”
     Jung’s frown deepened. He explained that his watch had just been repaired, and should be keeping impeccable time. But it showed 5:05, and surely Fierz had been with him for much longer. “What time do you have?”
    “Five thirty-five,” his visitor told him.
    “Since you have the right time and I have the wrong time,” Jung allowed, “I must think again.”
     He then changed his mind and supported publication of the book.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Don't let me sleep too long

Don’t let me sleep too long.
If I leave my bed for more than a few hours
I come back jet-lagged
and sometimes with bruises and bite marks
I didn’t get in the world where I left my body.

When the body sleeps the soul travels
and it does not go naked.
It makes its excursions in a subtle form
whose adventures and misadventures
can leave astral stigmata.

In a cold land near the Northern Lights
women preparing corpses for the funeral pyre
place moss on their tongues and caw like ravens
to scare away hungry ghosts
that gobble spirit bodies like chitlins.

If you are drinking pour a little for the thirsty dead
because the subtle body is also a body of desire.
If you’re out there, you’ll learn that to go beyond the Moon
you must leave your astral body behind. Make sure
you put it in a locker where thieves can’t take it.

It’s late and my double is eager to go wandering.
It could come out through my toes
or through my groin, or my core.
It could fly from my mouth or rise from the fontanel -
the right way, says the yogi, to go out at death.

Leaving my body tonight, I don’t plan
more than a temporary death.
I might go to the mermaid cove
or the island of apples or a tower in the clouds
but I’ll be back unless you let me sleep too long.

-        -   Mosswood Hollow, July 14, 2017

Art: Willliam Blake, illustration for "The Grave", a poem by Robert Blair

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lick the sky and rule China

The future of an empress of ancient China was foreshadowed by a dream in which she rose to the sky and drank from it. The crucial role of dreams and shamanic experience in imperial China is another chapter in the history we weren't taught in school.
   Deng Sui (81-121) ruled China as dowager empress in the Later Han Dynasty. As a young girl, she dreams that she rises up to the sky. It is beautiful, flawlessly blue. She touches it, moving her hand lightly across the smooth, rounded surface. Her exploring fingers find something shaped like “the nipple on a bronze bell”. She puts this in her mouth and sucks on it like a baby, feeling herself fed and nourished. 
    When she tells the dream to her parents, her father, a high official and royal tutor, calls in a dream interpreter. The professional draws on precedents. He recalls that two of the legendary “sage kings” of ancient China dreamed of rising to the sky before they rose to take the throne. Yao dreamed that he climbed up to the sky. Tang dreamed he rose to the sky and licked it. Both dreamers became emperors, ranked among the “sage kings” because of their wisdom and innovation. The dream interpreter declared that Deng Sui’s dream was “unspeakably auspicious.”
    For a second opinion, a face reader was called. He studied Deng Sui’s physiognomy and pronounced that her features closely resembled those of the sage king Cheng Tang. Therefore her destiny would be tremendous, as the dream seemed to promise.
    Still in her teens, Deng Sui was selected as a consort of the young Emperor He. A slightly older consort, Yin, was raised to the status of empress. Jealous and scheming, Yin hired sorcerers to attack Deng Sui with black magic. When this was discovered, Yin was deposed and Deng Sui took her place on the throne. When the emperor died, she became the regent for his child successor, and ruled China as dowager empress for several years, fulfilling the dream  prophecy.
     My source for Deng Sui's dream is an excellent scholarly study of shamanism, religion and poetry in early China: Gopal Sukhu, The Shaman and the Heresiarch: A New Interpretation of the Li sao. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012). This is the first book-length study in English of the Chinese poetic classic, the Li sao, attributed to Qu Yuan, a high official of the kingdom of Chu in the 3rd century BCE who lost his position thanks to the jealous intrigues of rivals.
    The title is translated here as Encountering Sorrow”. It might also be rendered as "Departing from Sorrow". In his sorrow, the poet contemplates suicide; according to tradition Qu Yuan drowned himself in a river in 278 BCE, an event memorialized by the Duanwu or Dragon Boat festival. Yet the force of the poet's violent emotions is also the departure lobby for vividly described shamanic journeys between the worlds. He rides on dragons and phoenix-like birds, summons elemental powers, talks with gatekeepers of heaven worlds.

I sent Wangshu, the moon's charioteer, ahead as my herald,
And Feilian, the wind god, to the back as rear guard.
Male huan birds were my fore-runners,

And the Lord of Thunder would warn me of the unforeseen.

    The long poem is full of challenges for modern readers, especially in its elaborate floral codes (have as many flowers and herbs ever been named in another poem?) and in the gender-twisting narrative voice; Gopal Sukhu deftly traces the rival paths of interpretation and contributes a new translation with detailed notes.

Graphic: Chinese postcard depicting Deng Sui in Han dynasty hairdo.