Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Synchronocity Beast



Shhhh. If you're quiet for a moment, you'll hear him snuffling and padding around the room. Most grown-ups can't hear him or see him because they are too busy. Whatever age you are, you don't want to miss him. When he's around, things happen differently. You can finish something before you started it, which is really cool when it comes to doing chores.
-   He is, of course, the Synchronocity Beast. I shall tell you exactly how he got his name and his shape. There was once a very clever professor in Switzerland who woke up noticing what you and I know but most grown-ups forget: coincidence matters, terribly. But it was very hard for him to explain this to respectable adults in a country of bankers and cuckoo-clocks, so he made up a word that sounded scientific.
    The word was "synchronicity", which he defined as "an acausal connecting principle." He was talking about meaningful coincidence. You and I know that coincidence always means something. It's through coincidence that we discover that the world inside us and the world outside us aren't really separate. It's through coincidence that we discover the secret doors to the world-behind-the-world that open in our dreams but often seem to be bricked over in the daytime, as if they were never there. Through coincidence, we discover that there are players involved in our games of life who live on the other side of the curtain between the worlds, but can reach through that curtain to move a piece on the board, or tickle us, or muss our hair.
-   The Swiss professor got serious people - the sort who would never listen to talk of "coincidence" - to sit through his lectures when he substituted the word "synchronicity." He also go them to listen because he told good stories about how synchronicity worked in his own life, about how a solid cabinet cracked with a loud BANG when he was getting into an argument with his own teacher, or how a fox appeared on a path when he was talking to a lady about a dream of a fox.
-   I have never liked the word "synchronicity" as much as that good old word "coincidence". But alas, "coincidence" has been horribly ad-justed and only-fied by all the people who have long been in the habit of saying, "just coincidence" or "only coincidence". It has even been not-ified by people who insist "it's not coincidence" when they really mean that it is, but it's something real and important and meaningful, and they don't understand (because of the bad talk they've learned) that coincidence is all of those things.
-   So I've been using the word "synchronicity" in my own classes. But in one of those classes, there was a sweet lady artist who could never say it quite right. It always came out "synchron-O-city" with a great big O where an I should be. I thought this was rather cute, and couldn't bear to correct her. So, month after month, following her homeplay assignments, she would bring us tales of synchron-O-city, to our smiling delight.
-   One evening there was a newcomer in the class, a serious person and a stickler for accuracy in everything that can be looked up.
-   "I have another synchron-O-city to tell," said the lady artist, eager to share.
-   "You mean synchon-I-city," said the newcomer. "If you are going to use a big word like that, you should get it right."
-   Crestfallen, the artist tried to correct herself, but faltered.
-   I quickly intervened. "Please don't ever change the way you say that word," I implored the artist. "Every time you say it, I sense a soft snuffly animal - the Synchronocity Beast - coming into the room."
-   I paused. In that moment, I believe we all heard and sensed something like a plush baby rhino, snuffling and snorting. The first peoples of the country where I grew up, Down Under, say that to name something is to bring it into the world. The Synchronocity Beast is now alive and ever so busy in this world.
-   I can prove this because a writer called Maureen reported a most delightful dream in which she is one of a team of counselors helping me to run a camp for children where we supervise sleepover parties and dream together. Padding and snuffling all over the magical house in the woods where we are gathered is a creature she describes as a "baby rhino", soft and cuddly. I don't think Maureen ever heard of the Synchron-O-city Beast from me, at least not in an ordinary way. The Synchron-O-city Beast just went ahead and introduced himself. I hope they are feeding him well in Maureen's dream camp. He thrives on giggles and slips of the tongue. He likes to exercise by shredding the curtain of solemn people's expectations, and butting holes into Outland and Fairyland and other lands big enough to be doorways for anyone with a child's sense of wonder.


Friday, December 21, 2018

A Poem for the Winter Solstice


Eyes of the Goddess

From a journey to Newgrange

The poet waits for me in his countryman’s cape
And shows me the map in the gateway stone:
Twin spirals to get you in, and out, of the place of bone;
Wave paths to swim you from shadow to dreamscape;
A stairway of stars for when you are done with earthing.
I am here to practice the art of rebirthing.

She calls me, into the belly of the land that is She.
But I play, like the poet, with the shapes of time:
I am a swimming swan on the River Boyne;
I am a salmon, full with the knowing of the hazel tree;
I wander with Angus, and know the girl I have visioned
in gold at the throat of a white swan, beating pinions.

Drawn by the old perfume of burned bones, I go down
and doze until solstice fire, bright and bountiful
quickens me for the return of the Lady, lithe and beautiful
In the form she has taken, flowing as liquid bronze.
Her face is veiled, so the man-boy called to her side
like the red deer in season will not die in her eyes.

I see beyond the veil, for I come from the Other.
Oh, I yearn for the smell of earth and the kiss of rain!
I leap with her on the hallowed bed, coming again.
She knows the deer-king, as I am child and lover
Her eyes are spiral paths; the gyre of creation whirls
And sends me in green beauty to marry the worlds.


This poem is included in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories. Published by Excelsior Editions/SUNY Press.





Photos: (above) Newgrange at the winter solstice; (below) kerbstone at Newgrange

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Consecutive dreams and Mr H.G.Wells


I re-read H.G. Wells’ tremendous and terrifying short story, “A Dream of Armageddon”. A white faced stranger on a train – a solicitor from Liverpool – strikes up a conversation with the narrator when he notices that he has a book about dreams. Does he know about “consecutive dreams”? The narrator allows he may have read something about this phenomenon involving mental cases. The stranger says that the dream experts don’t know what they are talking about. He has lived and died many years into the future, and he knows this because of consecutive dreams more real than his current life.
    He begins his story with a scene of looking at the shoulder of a beautiful woman, and over her shoulder, at a beautiful view of Capri from a loggia. The white-faced man has never been to Capri in his current life, but his interlocutor has, and is amazed by the accuracy and vividness of its landscapes, of Mount Solano, of Faraglioni….
    Scene by scene, we follow the life drama of a powerful man who left government in the “north” to live with his lover on Capri. He is now being urged to go back, because a dangerous demagogue has replaced him and could start a world war. To return, he would have to give up his mistress and he refuses to do this even when she begs him to follow duty and save the wold from war. We see the first warplanes (not yet flying in Wells’ time) over the pleasure island. Eventually we see the couple flee Capri and seek safety on the peninsula. They die at the ruined temples at Paestum (and again the narrator confirms the description of a man who hasn’t been there in his present life).
    The story, written before Kitty Hawk and World War I, has been admired for its vision of coming technology and man-made catastrophe. It’s also an extraordinary depiction of how in dreams we may inhabit a second life – in this case an unwanted one, in a different body in a different time, in the future rather than the past.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The path of blue lotus petals


We don’t need to wait for death to remember what the soul knows: how and why we came into our present bodies, and where we will go when we leave them. Dreaming, we remember. We dream, perhaps, of death as a wedding, a cause for celebration as we move towards union with the beloved of the soul. Dreaming, I remember a funeral that preceded birth.

I hear the high, keening voices of the mourners achingly beautiful. I have never heard music so lovely on Earth; I have heard its melancholy matched only in a fado cafĂ© on an old cobbled street in Lisbon. As I hear the voices, I see again the path of blue lotus petals. I suffer again the knife of regret as I share the last passionate embraces of those I must leave behind. I feel naked and cold when my garment is gently removed from me, leaving me skinless and fluid, glowing softly like a wandering light over the waveless sea. I look back and see a lion robe, lined with a sky full of stars.
    I pass before the High Ones, on their high thrones. They approve the choice I have made, and its price. They counsel me with sweet sternness not to drink too deep from the cup of forgetfulness on this side or the other. They bring forth the envoy who will track me, and will speak to me in my dreams, to help me not to lose my memory and purpose in the miasma of the Earth plane.
    She escorts me to the Pivot of the Worlds. I enter the portal and descend, quick as thought, to a place on Luna I have used many times before. The Moon priest greets me with his archaic smile, unreadable in that pale, moon-round face. There are armed guards everywhere, with the heads of jackals and the muscled bodies of armored baboons. It seems conditions have deteriorated since my last visit. Luna has always been a mixed environment, a place of illusion and swirling cross-currents. It has now become an active theater in the contest between rival forces contending for the soul of the Earth.
    The Moon priest helps me into my body suit. Part of me recoils from this limiting, this confinement to such a primitive form, with only one organ of generation. Yet this body suit is flexible and moves with my thoughts. If I want to be a lion, it will take lion form. If I want to sprout wings or extra limbs or suckers, it can do that. It pulls back into its default mode – that of a biped that cannot eat and talk safely at the same time – when my attention wavers. But this confinement is nothing to what it will be to take on a body of flesh and bones in the world below.
    I relax for a while in the pool on the high terrace. I look up at the blue-white star, high above in the sky. It is eons since the experiment on Earth began, and it is constantly imperiled. We keep coming, because we helped to begin the game and must play until the final round.
    I wonder how much of this I will be able to remember this time, in an Earth body. I swim down to the bottom of the pool. The water streams faster and faster, sucking me into a funnel. I am on my way.

This is a case of what Joan Grant called "far memory" of another life, and a space between earthly lives. Experiences of this kind  have made me understand that. I am in an afterlife situation - a bardo of becoming -right now. I died to another world in order to come here. At a certain point I will die to this world in order to be born into another. Such things are too important to take on trust, from some hand-me-down belief system or even the reports of previous soul travelers. We need first-hand experience and far memory of other lives, the kind that enables us, on clear days, to appreciate the divine comedy of it all. 





Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead  by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Flying to Nut

The Egyptian Book of the Dead is full of spells for becoming a bird - a swallow, a falcon, a heron, or the benu bird the Greeks identified as a phoenix, the bird that is reborn from the ashes of its own funeral pyre. Sprouting wings was clearly one of the preferred Egyptian ways of entering the Otherworld and embarking upon a happy afterlife. The ba soul is usually winged; it is depicted in many inscriptions as a human-headed bird coming or going from the body of the soul traveler.

I come to you O Nut
I come to you O Nut
My wings have grown into those of a falcon
My two plumes are those of a sacred falcon

My ba-soul has brought me
and its magic words have equipped me

- PYRAMID TEXT OF UNAS, Utterance 245

In the same passage in the Pyramid Text of Unas, when the star traveler calls to the sky goddess Nut that he is ascending to her on falcon wings, leaving the realm of Osiris below and behind, the goddess gives him the following welcome:

May you split open a place for yourself in the sky
among the stars of the sky
for you are a star...
Look down upon Osiris

when he gives orders to the spirits.
You stand far above him

You are not among them
and you shall not be among them.

A true pharaoh ascended to the realm of the gods in such ways not only to rehearse for death, but to marry the worlds and return to the body with superabundant energy and insight. Initiates made the journey of ascent to enter the realm of the Akhet - the shining ones - and to be made "shining" (akh) in transformed energy bodies.
    The transformations recorded in the pyramid texts reflect a passage through several levels of reality, requiring movement beyond several successive energy bodies and the putting-on of a celestial body. Like the shamanic journeyers who find that they are required to give up human or animal form to transcend the astral plane, the royal traveler becomes lightning. In the Unas text, "a blinding light...a flame moving before the wind to the end of the sky and the end of the earth."



Image: Nut on the lid of the sarcophagus of an Egyptian noble lady, Tararo. Necropolis of Thebes, 740-700 B.C. In the Museo delle AntichitĂ  Egizie, Turin.




Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.




There is one direction in which space is open to us

The sun rises from behind the mountains, and golden light bursts over the lake. Though the analogy is too pedestrian for the glory of this moment, it seems to me that an immense light bulb has come on, impossible to miss yet difficult to look at head-on. 

The moment before I walked barefoot across the wet grass to wait for the sun by the shore, I was reminded of some lines from Emerson that give exact shape to the sense of illumination and direction that is now with me: 

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. 
    This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any other call.

This passage, from Emerson's Spiritual Laws, gives vital navigational guidance for our life journeys. Every word is as precise as a compass bearing. To read this passage deeply and take it to heart is to turn on the light in a darkened room, or put the sun in the sky.

The talent is the call. When we follow our soul's calling, and give ourselves to the work, the life Work that is ours and no other's, our gifts are multiplied, because we draw to us supporting powers from the unseen, starting with our own creative genius. 

There is one direction in which space is open to us. This explains why, when we are unsure of or uncommitted to our calling, we find blocks and opposition placed in our paths, doors slammed in our faces, savage reversals of fortune or of health that compel us to ask what we are doing in our lives. Such obstruction isn't random, and it's about more than toughening us up. Dead ends and adversity, repeated often enough, can make us aware that we've been following the wrong charts. Knowing that we have been misdirected gives us the chance to find our true direction. 

On that side all obstruction is taken away. When we follow the soul's direction, the way ahead is open, and wind and water flow with us. We "sweep serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea." We draw new allies, events and resources to us. Chance encounters and benign coincidence support us and ease our passage in ways that are inexplicable to those from whom the spiritual laws of human existence are hidden.

What we now deliver in our world is unique, yet it springs from the mode in which the general soul incarnates in us. We draw from "that age-long memoried self that shapes the elaborate shell of the mollusc and the child in the womb, that teaches the birds to make their nest", as Yeats wrote, thrillingly, in The Trembling of the Veil. The poet added that "genius is a crisis that joins that buried self for certain moments to our trivial daily mind.." Yes, but Emerson arouses us to the understanding that the flash of genius can become a steady beacon for a voyage in which the mixed crew of personalities that compose the self are willing to work the ropes together, because the helmsman is unerring.

We have no rival when we follow our one direction and live as creators. To be a creator is to bring something new into the world, the thing only we can give.

Each of us has all of the power to do something unique, and no one has any other call.
Ah. As I write this line, releasing it from gender to become fully the property of all, the sun calls me, laying a path of light clear across the inland sea and through my window, so it shines before me. My pencil, on the table, glows in this brilliant morning light silently inviting me to endless exertion with the talent I am given, the kind of exertion that is no sweat because it is the soul's delight.





Text adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.