Sunday, February 24, 2019

Breathless in the Bardo of Air Travel

I landed at Oakland airport on Friday night only five hours late, arriving from Denver, not on my original itinerary. There were small indications of trouble on that plane from the outset - a fat man in a loud aloha shirt who kept bawling inanities, a problem with one of the two toilets, the one at the front. We were told it was out of action, then - as lines grew long and twitchy at the back - that we could use it on condition we did not do "number 2" because of low water pressure. "Don't make me go in there and check what you did," said the humorist in the cabin crew.
    Three hours into the flight a small, elderly woman stood in the open door of the defective toilet gesturing for help. She was having trouble breathing. The flight attendants swung into action, clearing a seat at the front for her across the aisle from me, working with inhalers and oxygen tanks, parsing her limited English and her dozen boxes of pills to try to understand her medical condition. The lady was very scared. When her lips turned blue the decision was made to divert our flight to Denver.
    The EMTs were on the spot and wheeled the breathless woman away. We were promised a quick turnaround but - wait. Our plane was considered overweight because we hadn't burned enough fuel in our shortened flight; the mechanics were worried we had stressed the frame. And that toilet needed to be fixed.
    After a period of confusion we were given a new plane but no departure time. Snow was coming down hard and the clock was ticking on how long the crew would be allowed to remain on duty before a mandatory 8 hour break.
    After we boarded the new plane. we spent an awful hour on the tarmac de-icing and getting conflicting information. The blowhard in the aloha shirt kept yelling, "We'll be grounded! We'll never leave Denver!" He followed up these shouts with manic laughter. I finally leaned over and requested that he stop these predictions; they weren't funny any more. He wasn't happy with me but two minutes after he stopped announcing we would be grounded the captain came on the intercom to tell us we had been cleared for takeoff. After we got airborne, we were informed from the cabin that we had been "two minutes" away from being told we could not leave Denver that night.
    Not as eerie as another of my adventures in the Bardo of Air Travel, titles "What to Do When You Might Be Dead in Denver" that I included in my collection Mysterious Realities. But eerie enough. I had a new rowmate on the new plane, and we were sharing the empty seat between us - the only empty seat on the plane - to hold books and bottled water. When I put down my in-flight reading, a late collection of the strange stories of Jorge Luis Borges titled The Book of Sand, she laid what looked like a copy of a chapter from an academic book across it.
    I asked, "How do you think your text is getting along with Borges?" She had never heard of Borges, one of my favorite writers, so I had to explain how, in jeweled short-form fantasy, the Argentine writer takes us into the largest questions about reality. She now disclosed that her text - on personality cults and institutions in Latin America - was homework for a paper she is writing for a master's program. Argentina, Borges's country, is one of the case studies. And the political history of Latin America can be as fantastic as his stories.
    The conversation took another unlikely and synchronistic turn. My rowmate told me she had met the woman who developed a way to calm cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse by keeping them moving on a serpentine path. My mind was thrown back to a visit I made to a ranch in Mato Grosso decades ago before Temple Grandin’s work was widely known. I watched cows being driven up zigzag ramps to the platform where a slaughterer waited to crown them with a sledgehammer. I described this to my rowmate.
    The death blow might now be delivered in a different way, but – we agreed –the approach was similar. Like snaking round and round to get on a ride at Disneyworld. Or waiting in line to get on an airplane that might or might not follow its flight plan.

Image: Serpentine chute for cattle on the way to slaughter

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The price of Fox's secret

The Little Prince is sad. He has left his planet and the rose he cared for. Now on Earth, he is devastated to find there are thousands of roses, when he thought his was unique.
    He meets a strange, pretty animal that greets him from under an apple tree. It is a fox.
    The Little Prince asks the fox to play with him. Fox tells him, "I cannot play with you because I have not been tamed."
    The Little Prince does not know the meaning of this word "tamed".
    He has to ask three times before the fox tells him that "to be tamed" is "to establish ties."
    How is that done? It takes time, the fox instructs. If the Little Prince wishes to tame him, he must meet him in the meadow at a certain time every day and sit at a certain distance. Each day, the Little Prince may move a little closer. In this way, the fox is eventually tamed and is able to reveal the secret of life.

It's a lovely story, from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved fable The Little Prince, known to most of us from childhood. The secret the fox is about to give is one of the great moments of clear and simple revelation in world literature. But he can only give it when he has been "tamed".
     Now it seems improbable that any fox would ask to be tamed in the sense of being house-broken or put on a leash or made to obey commands. The critical word "tamed" is a correct, but imperfect, translation of Saint-Exupéry's original term apprivoisé. In French, “to tame” an animal (or person) in the sense of making them submissive is dompter; to turn something wild into a domesticated being is domestiquer.
has a different lilt. In early medieval French usage, it means to make something  less savage (but not domesticated), to make something alien more familiar. For the poet-prince Charles d’Orléans, apprivoiser is to make someone gentler, softer, more tractable. The fox tells the Little Prince that the way to bring this about is créer liens, to make links or ties.
      Synonyms for apprivoisier might include “to gentle” or “to befriend”. As the fox uses the word, it is about establishing the kind of connection that will make your relationship unique.  Once gentled (apprivoisé) the fox is no longer one of a thousand foxes that hunt chickens and are pursued by hunters; he is your special friend. Once a rose has befriended you, it is no longer one of a hundred thousand roses; it is your rose.
     “Here is my secret,” the fox, befriended, says to the Little Prince. “It is very simple. You can only see clearly with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes."
     Fox has two more secrets, all of them things that humans have forgotten.
    “It is the time you lost for the sake of the rose that made the rose so important.”
    Then, never to be forgotten: Tu deviens responsible pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. “You are responsible, forever, for everything you have gentled. You are responsible for your rose.”

I think of an old white oak, a tree that I know that knows me. Its image shines in my mind as the Little Prince’s rose shines in his. When I need to know whether other thoughts or visions are to be trusted, I sometimes let the oak rise and rustle in my inner senses, to confirm or caution.
    I think of the red-tailed hawk who dropped from the sky to guide me and, as I came to know, to do something more: to befriend me and, in its own wildness, to gentle me.
Elle m’a apprivoisé.    
    I think of how Death has come to me, over and over, in personal guise, sometimes as a Hindu god who speaks in the accent of an Oxbidge-educated maharajah. In gentling me, Death has found it amusing to play the gentleman. Now I see the brilliance of the French translators of The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead in devising the title Apprivoiser la Mort par le Rêve for my book. “To Gentle Death through Dreaming.”  

Available from Éditions AdA

Graphic: Watercolor by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from Le Petit Prince

Friday, February 15, 2019

"Good story this one" : Listening to Aboriginal dreamers

They say in the South Pacific that when the anthropologists arrive, the spirits leave.
    A notable recent exception is Sylvie Poirier, a social anthropology professor from the Universite Laval in Quebec, who has been tracking the dreaming of the Kukatja, a people of the Gibson desert in Western Australia, for many years. She won the confidence of a Kukatja grandmother, Nungurrayi, and was helped by her to understand not only what traditional Aborigines believe is going on in dreams, but how they share and honor dreams in their communities.   
    Sylvie Poirier writes that "in Aboriginal Australia, dreams are the privileged space-time of communication between humans and ancestral beings, as between humans and spirits of the dead.” 
     Dreaming is a way of tending the land. A fertile country is a country of good dreamers.
 Dreaming is active, not merely passive. It is a form of engagement. You can decide where you are going to go, and you can go consciously.
     Dreaming is soul travel. A dream is what happens when an aspect of soul leaves the body and has encounters and adventures. “The spirit goes on walkabout," the Kukatja grandmother explains. In the understanding of her people, “a dream occurs when, while a person is asleep, his or her kurunnpa [an aspect of soul or spirit]related to the abdominal (or umbilical) area (tjurni) leaves the body to pursue various encounters and experiences.” A good dreamer is one who knows how to “open” their tjurni.
     Dreams can be shared experiences. People can enter each other’s dreams.
     When dreams are shared in community, it is often in the morning, over a mug of tea. Yet Sylvie Poirier found that the Kukatja are far from promiscuous in their dream sharing. They know that dreams are powerful, and that it is necessary to handle this power carefully. They also recognize that dreams can provide clues to situations that require discreet investigation. Like detectives on a case, they may be unwilling to share such clues until the case is solved.
     Nonetheless, Poirier heard Kukatja people open up and tell their dream narratives fluently and spontaneously in relaxed social circumstances. This is appreciated as a chance to share and enjoy some good stories. You might here someone tell a terrifying dream and get the response, "G
ood story (palya wangka) this one”. Dreams of any kind, told well, are appreciated for their story value, as entertainment, as well as for information. A dreamer who is specially pleased with their telling may conclude by saying, "Good story sweet as tea."

     While recounting a dream, the teller may be illustrating the narrative with hand gestures and by making sketches in the dry earth, so the dream is already turning into a visual and kinesthetic art form.
     When Kukatja discuss the meaning of dreams, they ask questions like "where, who, what, when?" Tracking routes and locations in a dream is of high importance. Where were you, exactly? What landmarks do you recognize? Who else was there? Everyone is conscious that they are tracking where the dream soul, the kurunnpa, went in its nocturnal excursions.
     While dreamers make visits, they also receive visitations. So the questions may center on who came calling last night, invited or not.
     Dreams reveal malfeasance, especially sorcery, and a dream of sorcery may put an end to psychic attack. In such cases it may be judged highly desirable to tell everyone about a dream. A young Kukatja woman dreamed of sorcerers who are pointing the bone at her. The elder told her to tell the dream to everyone at the camp. "Outing” the sorcerer in this way was intended to scare him off.
     Dreams are valued as sources of creative inspiration. A Kukatja man is chased by a snake in his dream. As he tells it, he dwells on the snake’s vivid colors – and decides to use them in an acrylic painting.
     Kukatja dream sharing is directed at getting all the facts from the dream and taking appropriate action, for example, to deflect a coming danger revealed in the dream or to harness its creative energy. In contributing to discussion, others may tell dreams, stories and life experiences evoked by the first dream report. Through emerging patterns of resemblance and connection, the fuller meaning of a dream - and the appropriate action - may be revealed. 
    Poirier reports that this desert people, who appear so "poor" in terms of material culture, are far more advanced in their approach to dreams than cultures that rely on dream dictionary or dogmatic modes of analysis:  “I have not found any dream that has a fixed meaning; depending on context, any dream can be read as a good or bad omen.” 
   Aboriginal dreamwork is an antidote to Freud, who wrote that the dream “has nothing to communicate to anyone else”, meaning that dreams are entirely products of the personal subconscious and even so, unintelligible until interpreted. Aborigines know that dreams are social and transpersonal, connecting us to other people, both dead and alive, and to the animate universe of spirits and Ancestors. 

Source: Quotes are from Sylvie Poirier, “This Is Good Country. We Are Good Dreamers: Dreams and Dreaming in the Australian Western Desert,” in Dream Travelers: Sleep Experiences and Culture in the Western Pacific, ed. Roger Ivar Lohmann (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 107–126. Sylvie has also published an excellent book based on her years with the Kukatja: A World of Relationships: Itineraries, Dreams and Events in the Australian Western Desert (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005).

Art: "Canning Stock Route" by Kukatja artist Rover Thomas. National Museum Australia.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Austin definitions of dreaming

I spent a marvelous evening in Austin years ago, when I gave a talk at Book People, a fine independent bookstore. To warm things up, I asked my audience if anyone would care to define the word “dream”. I expected that someone would say that a dream is something that happens during sleep. I was poised to use a response of this kind as a launch-point to discuss the deeper and wider spectrum of dreaming. 
    Instead, the Austin crowd offered definitions that took us right into the limitless adventure of dreaming. These were the first four definitions of "dream" that were volunteered

  1. A dream is a beginning.
  2. A dream is an adventure.
  3. A dream is a message from spirit.
  4. A dream is a mission.
     A challenging question was posed later by a man who told us that his mother warned him not to go too deep into dreaming because "you can get lost there". She told him this had happened to her, and he saw what this could mean as she succumbed to Alzheimer’s-type symptoms over the years before her death. We discussed how older people sometimes withdraw their awareness into another state of reality, and how we can meet them there – before and after physical death – and have helpful communication. He said he intended to try to reach his mother in her parallel reality now. I hope he succeeded. I know it can be done.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Dreaming with Jung through a Crisis of Shamanic Emergence

The night of my birthday in 1988. I entered the rooms of a tailor in Manhattan. I wanted to have a new suit made but did not like the fabrics he had in stock. When I left the tailor’s shop, the city was different. There was the sense that hidden things were pulsing behind the scenes. Still bent on new clothes, I entered the menswear section of an upscale department store. I pulled a suit off the rack. It fitted perfectly and the price was right. It seemed to have pinstripes. When I looked at the label, it read “Shamanic.”
    Now aware I was dreaming, I examined the pattern more closely. The “pinstripes” were actually minute designs, a magical language I could not yet translate. The collar was unusual. I realized it was animal fur. My first impression, of a pinstriped “power” suit, was an illusion. I had chosen a power suit of a different kind: a shaman’s outfit, of skins and furs with magical charms.
    I dreamed I was among ancient shamans in Europe. Some of these shamans boasted that they had the power of the “taurs,” but their powers were limited. They wanted knowledge from me that they did not have, but I turned away from them because it seemed that they wanted power for self-aggrandizement and to make war on the people over the next hill. I found an old man who looked like Jung, smoking a pipe and carefully laying one stone on another.
    I turned back to Jung. In the midst of a midlife crisis that I came to understand was a process of shamanic ordeal and initiation, recently relocated to a farm in rural New York, I was in urgent need of a guide.  I had discovered Jung in high school and devoured many volumes of his Collected Works when I was an undergraduate, though I probably failed to digest the most difficult passages. In the midst of the psychic storms of 1987–1988, I turned to Jung again, to see how he made sense of his own “confrontation with the unconscious.” My main source was Memories, Dreams, Reflections, his life story as recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé, based on conversations he began when he was eighty-one.
    His great life crisis began in 1912, after his break with Freud. For several years, he lived in a house of the spirits. The contents of his dreams and visions seemed to be spilling over into his physical life, producing poltergeist-like phenomena and apparitions that his children could see. Night after night, he descended into a dark and thrilling Underworld where he met mythic characters who seemed to him to be entirely real and transpersonal. He often felt he was under an avalanche of psychic events, “as if gigantic stones were tumbling down upon me.”  His survival required him to draw on a “demonic strength” that brilliant, mad Nietzsche had lacked.
    He kept seeing patients but stopped lecturing at the university and ceased publishing for three years, no longer confident that he could make sense of things for other people. He had no mentor now, in the ordinary world. He sought stability through his family, his continuing work with clients, through painting, and through “hewing stone,” building a miniature stone village that he thought he was making in collaboration with his eleven-year-old self.
    He realized that he had to reclaim beginner’s mind. He said to himself, “Since I know nothing at all, I shall simply do whatever occurs to me.” Then he took the shaman’s plunge. “I consciously submitted myself to the impulses of the unconscious.”
    Central to Jung’s ability to restore his inner compass was his daily recording of dreams. After his break with Freud and his theory, Jung's main preoccupation was to set down an unedited, uncensored chronicle of his experiences. “Dreams are the facts from which we must proceed.”  This was one of his central discoveries, and it is one of the most helpful statements that has ever been made about dreams and dreamwork. Let’s start with the facts of the dream, leaving aside theory until we have recovered as much of the experience as possible. 
    This was confirmation for me of the method I was obliged to improvise in my own time of testing. I journaled my dreams and visions as exactly as possible, giving each a title and noting the time and duration of each experience. I most required clarity when my experiences rebuffed interpretation and linear thinking. I found it essential to disentangle the reports of inner adventures from other material so that their nature and content were not blurred. I underlined Jung’s statement that “otherwise the material would have trapped me in its thicket, strangled me like jungle creepers” and put a big check mark in the margin. Exactly right.
    In his storms of emotion, Jung sought to let images take form. Images gave him a way to work with the raw power of emotion rather than being torn apart by it. He was learning how to harvest images and rework them through what he later called “active imagination” in the laboratory of his own psyche.
    He recorded the facts of his inner experiences even when he found the content nonsensical, repugnant, or freakish. In this way, he hoped that instead of being drowned by the contents of his inner life, he would gain a means of navigation.
    He felt himself pulled into the Underworld. Instead of resisting, he let himself drop and began a harrowing journey of Underworld initiation, played out over years rather than hours, reminiscent of the shaman’s path of tests and ordeals. In this time, he found an agreed form for an inner guide: an old man with the horns of a bull and wings of kingfisher blue that he named Philemon. “It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche.”  
    Near the end of his life, Jung observed, “All my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams which began in 1912, almost fifty years ago. Everything that I accomplished in later life was already contained in them, although at first only in the form of emotions and images.”
    He had had a plan for his life, to become a professor and pursue a scientific line that had seemed clear to him. “But then, I hit upon this stream of lava, and the heat of its fires reshaped my life.”  What overthrew his plans and expectations also gave him the prima materia for a greater life work. “That was the primal stuff which compelled me to work upon it, and my works are a more or less successful endeavor to incorporate this incandescent matter into the contemporary picture of the world.”
    I felt immense affinity for the great dream shaman of the West who spoke those words, and took comfort and courage from his example. I felt the deep truth of his ringing assertion that “anyone who takes the sure road is as good as dead,” and spoke those words aloud as I walked with my dogs to the old white oak behind my farmhouse and scrambled up the slippery banks of the creek to the highest of the waterfalls.
    Jung labeled his years of psychic struggle and self-healing his "confrontation with the unconscious". I liked the relative mildness of this term, barely hinting at the tremendous raw power of the energies that raced through our psyches like wild bulls. My own confrontation with the unconscious gave me the material for more than a dozen books and put me on the road of a dream teacher, for which there was no career track in my culture.

Text 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.

Image: Bull of Lascaux

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Books for Magical Dreaming

Real magic is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this world. We do this when we go dreaming and when we remember to bring something back. In dreaming, we go to other realities, that may include places of guidance, initiation, challenge, adventure, healing. When we bring something back from these excursions, and take action in ordinary life to embody guidance and energy, that is a practice of real magic.
    Dreaming, as I teach and practice it, is not fundamentally about what happens in sleep; it’s about waking up to a deeper order of reality. We can dream wide awake in everyday life, by paying attention the play of signs and symbols all around us. Navigating by synchronicity is the dreamer’s way of operating 24/7. Through the weaving of synchronicity, we are brought awake and alive to a hidden order of events, to the understory of our world and our lives.
    I have published many books that are relevant to the understanding and practice of magical dreaming, and it is time to introduce the whole family.

Conscious Dreaming

First published in 1996, Conscious Dreaming remains in many ways my foundation book, offering my original synthesis of dreamwork and shamanism.  Its toolkit includes the Nine Keys to Understanding Your Dreams. Important chapters explain how we can develop our intuitive dream radar to see across time and space, engage in helpful and healing communication with the departed, encounter inner and transpersonal guides, and harvest energy and inspiration for self-healing and creativity. 

In Conscious Dreaming I make this statement about the magic of dreams in my own life:

"To me, dreams are an inner authority, a creative touchstone in all things, uniting seemingly disparate matters: from career choice to the most basic economic and financial decisions that life requires of us, from the most mundane questions of being and doing, getting and spending - which they enliven and invest with new significance - to the most spiritual questions of higher purpose and self-understanding. They have brought vitality and excitement to my inner and outer life, forging the two spheres into the truth of a path with heart, the only path to walk."


First published in 1998 and now available in a beautiful 2010 second edition Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death is a lively manual for frequent flyers ready to travel far and wide in the multidimensional universe. You are encouraged to make the twilight state between sleep and awake your departure lounge for lucid dream adventures. You are offered a working anatomy of subtle energy bodies and a working geography of astral and other realities. You are invited to visit places of healing, initiation and advanced education in the Imaginal Realm and to follow the phosphorescent trails of previous voyagers. 

Dreamgates contains practical guidance on flight security for dream travelers:

"It is always appropriate to ask for help, and help is always available. You are going on a journey, but in all likelihood you are also responding to a call — a call from a deeper aspect of your Self, a call from a spiritual teacher (perhaps even a Master) who has been watching over you and waiting for you to reawaken to the deeper dimensions of reality in which your life and your soul’s purpose have their source. Aslan says to the children in The Silver Chair, 'You would not have called to me unless I had first called to you.' You are reaching inward — or upward — to something that has been reaching to you, perhaps unnoticed by your everyday mind. Call for help to that unseen agency that supports your life, or to guides and allies with familiar names, and help will be given."

Dreaming True

 Dreaming True is my fullest guide to how, as conscious dreamers, we can not only see the future but shape the possible future for the better. It defines and explores seven levels of dreaming: dream recycling; dream moviemaking; dreaming with the body; psychic dreaming; transpersonal dreaming; sacred dreaming; and dreambringing, which is what we do when we learn to bring a dream - a healing image, a vision of possibility, even a map to the next world - to someone in need of a dream.

Dreaming True provides keys to manifestation through the exercise of creative imagination. And it offers this solace and encouragement for our soul odysseys:

"Let's be real about this: There will be days when the contrast between your vision and the clutter and letdowns and bruises of everyday life seems so jarringly huge that you give up hope. But this is not about hope. It's about vision, which is more substantial than hope. Hold the vision in your mind, however rough the seas turn out to be. If you can dream it, you can do it." 

Dreamways of the Iroquois

Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul follows the trail that opened for me when an ancient Huron?Mohawk arendiwanen ("woman of power") called me in dreams when I moved to a farm on the edge of traditional Mohawk country. Her voice resonates through the book. We learn from the shamanic dreaming traditions of First Peoples of the Northeast that dreaming is about soul and survival. Dreams reveal the ondinnonk, the "secret wish of the soul" and it is the duty of decent people in a decent society to gather round the dreamer and help them to recognize and manifest what soul wants in their life. Dreams also rehearse us for the future, showing us challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This can benefit whole communities.

Here is the voice of Island Woman, dream shaman and Mother of the Wolf Clan, from Dreamways of the Iroquois:

"Through dreaming, we recover the knowledge of our sacred purpose that belonged to us before we came into our present bodies. Then we can begin to live from our sacred purpose and unite ourselves to the powers of creation. We can also begin to get in touch with other members of our soul families who live in other places and times.
     "Unless you dream, you’ll never be fully awake. In the Shadow World, we go around like sleepwalkers. In big dreams, we wake up."

The Dreamer's Book of the Dead

I wrote The Dreamer's Book of the Dead because what happens after death is far too important for us to rely on hand-me-down beliefs and second-hand accounts. We need first-hand knowledge. We get that by visiting places where the dead are alive, and by receiving visitations from those who have departed this world. Both ways of knowing are opened, easily and naturally, in dreams.
    The Dreamer's Book of the Dead helps you confirm that healing and forgiveness are always available across the apparent barrier of death and that departed loved ones and ancestors can become family guides and counselors. It offers practical guidance on how we can help the deceased  when they are stuck or confused and how we can assist the dying to prepare for death by opening to their dreams. You'll learn how to call in spiritual guidance and protection and embark on a journey to the Other Side for helpful and timely communication with someone who resides there.

The central message of The Dreamer's Book of the Dead:

"It is never too early or too late for us to brave up to death and discover what happens on the Other Side. As Montaigne said, 'We do not know where death will meet us, so we must be ready to meet death everywhere.' When we are willing to meet death as an ally instead of a dread, we find we have superabundant energy for life and can approach our life choices with the courage and clarity that a close encounter with death may bring."

The Three "Only" Things

The Three "Only" Things  celebrates three powerful sources of guidance and energy for life that we too readily dismiss as "only" this or than:  dreams, coincidence and imagination. It contains instructions for the Lightning Dreamwork Game,an original fun, fast four-step technique for sharing dreams and life stories in a safe, mutually supportive way that leads to positive action. It also contains the Nine Rules of Coincidence - guidance for navigating life passages through synchronicity. The book is easily accessible and a good one to recommend or gift to someone who is just putting their toes in these waters.

Here's a tip from The Three "Only" Things on how to deal with blocks:

"The blocks we encounter on our roads - whether they are in ourselves, in our circumstances, or both - may be teachers and helpers, as well as part of life's cycles. A block can drive us to discover a new direction, spur us to develop new skills and courage and stamina, or lead us to look again at what really matters in life.

   ‎"I've come to believe that some of the blocks and setbacks we encounter in life are placed on our paths but our Gatekeeper to save us from compounding mistakes, to make us take a longer view of our issues - and encourage us to shift direction and notice better options." 

The Secret History of Dreaming

The Secret History of Dreaming restores a missing dimension to our understanding of what drives the human adventure: the vital role of dreams and imagination in science and literature, war and religion, medicine and the survival of our kind. History without the inner side is as shallow as history without economics, and as boring as history without sex.
   This is not another book about dreams. It is a history of dreaming, a term I use in an expansive sense to encompass not only night dreams but also waking visions, the interplay of mind and matter that is sometimes called synchronicity, and experiences in a creative “solution state”.
    We learn how a dream led directly to one of the biggest oil finds in history, how Mark Twain’s life was guided by coincidence and how Harriet Tubman was able to guide escaping slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad because in dreams she could fly like a bird. We follow the amazing dream-infused creative collaboration between Carl Jung and quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli as they track the interweaving of mind and matter revealed by synchronicity.     

In The Secret History of Dreaming I introduce the new discipline of dream archaeology:

"While archaeology is often understood to be the science of unearthing and studying antiquities, the root meaning is more profound: it is the study of the arche, the first and essential things. The practice of dream archaeology requires mastery of a panoply of sources, and the ability to read between the lines and make connections that have gone unnoticed by specialists who were looking for something else. It requires the ability to locate dreaming in its context - physical, social and cultural. And it demands the ability to enter a different time or culture, through the exercise of active imagination, and experience it from the inside as it may have been. These are the skills we need to excavate the inner dimension of the human adventure."

Dreaming the Soul Back Home

The essence of the shaman’s power to travel and to heal is the ability to dream strong. In our everyday modern lives, we stand at the edge of such power when we dream and remember to do something with our dreams. If you want to be a shaman, start at the breakfast table, by sharing dreams the right way with your family and friends.
    I wrote Dreaming the Soul Back Home to offer ways we can become shamans of our own souls and healers of our own lives.
   The greatest contribution of the ancient shamans to our medicine and healing today is the understanding that in the course of any life we are liable to suffer soul loss - the loss of parts of our vital energy and identity – and that in order to be whole and well, we must find the means of soul recovery.  Our dreams give us maps we can use to travel to where soul that was lost or stolen can be found and brought home. The ancestors come seeking us through dreams and how, through conscious engagement, we can heal ancestral wounds and open the way for cultural soul recovery.    
     An audio version of Dreaming the Soul Back Home, narrated by me, is now available.

Dreaming the Soul Back Home also offers guidance for trans-temporal healing:

"As dreamers, we can move outside time. As a time traveler, you can journey to a younger self in her own Now time. As a voice in her mind, you can provide the encouragement and counsel she may need at a time of unbearable pain or challenge. You can be the friend and protector she lacked when her need was great. From this can flow tremendous healing for both of you — for you in your present time and for her in her own time."

Active Dreaming

Active Dreaming is a way of being fully of this world while maintaining constant contact with another world, the world-behind-the-world, where the deeper logic and purpose of our lives are to be found. Active Dreaming is a discipline, as is yoga or archaeology or particle physics. This is to say that there are ascending levels of practice. In any field, the key to mastery is always the same: practice, practice, practice.

My book Active Dreaming offers three core areas of practice: 

* a way of talking and walking our dreams, of bringing energy and guidance from the dreamworld into everyday life

* a method of shamanic lucid dreaming founded on the understanding that we don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream. The easiest way to become a conscious or lucid dreamer is to start out lucid and stay that way. 

*a way of conscious living that encourages  us to reclaim our inner child, and the child’s gift of spontaneity, play and imagination. It is about navigating by synchronicity and receiving the chance events and symbolic pop-ups on our daily roads as clues to a deeper order. 

Active Dreaming contains guidance on supporting the dreams and imagination of children as well as recovering the Magical Child in each of us: 

"To understand dreams and reclaim the practice of imagination, we must look to the master teachers: our inner children and the children around us. When very young, children know how to go to magic kingdoms without paying for tickets, because they are at home in the imagination and live close to their dreams. When we listen, truly listen, to very young children, we start to remember that the distance between us and the magic kingdoms is no wider than the edge of a sleep mask."

The Boy Who Died and Came Back

The title of my spiritual memoir The Boy Who Died and Came Back derives from what a doctor said when I first died in this lifetime. I was three years old and was pronounced clinically dead from pneumonia. When I revived the doctor told my parents, "Your boy died and came back".At nine, I died again during emergency appendectomy in a Melbourne hospital. This time I seemed to live a whole life somewhere else, among a beautiful people who raised me as their own. I came back remembering that other life and that other world. 
    The gift of these experiences included an ability to move between states of consciousness and reality at will. My dreams of ancient cultures led me to my first job, as lecturer in ancient history. My dreams of possible future events enabled me to avoid death on the road, quite literally, on three occasions. 
    In the mid-1980s, I moved to a farm in upstate New York, thanks to a hawk and a white oak. I found myself drawn into trans-temporal dramas and the spirit world of a Native American people. I became deeply engaged in issues and dramas from the life of an 18th century Irishman who knew the Mohawk very well. My engagement with him opened a link to a woman of his time, an extraordinary dream shaman who tried to influence him and most certainly succeeded in influencing me.I learned what it means to be so deeply involved with a personality from another time that your lives turn together. I was eventually required to undergo death and rebirth in the mode of a shaman. I see now that, as with the years Jung recorded in his Red Book, all the important work of my subsequent life has flowed from this stormy period of spiritual emergence.
     The Boy Who Died and Came Back offers nine keys to living consciously in the multidimensional universe forged by my experiences, including the following:

"To live well, we must practice death. We bring courage and clarity to life choices when we are aware that death is always with us, and that we should be ready to meet it any day.

"We have a guide for our lives who is no stranger. He is always with us and does not judge us. This is the Self on a higher level. When we rise to the perspective of the Greater Self, we are able to make peace between different personality aspects, including our counterparts in other times and parallel realities.

"We are at the center of all times. The dramas of lives being lived in other times and in parallel realities may be intensely relevant to understanding and navigating our current relationships and life issues. We can learn to reach into those other lives to share gifts and lessons. We can dialog with our own older and younger selves within our present lifetimes.

"We must entertain the spirits, starting with our very own – the child self, the inner artist, the passionate teen, the animal spirits, the creative daimon."

Sidewalk Oracles

Navigating by synchronicity is the dreamer's way of operating 24/7. I invented the word kairomancy to define the art of divination by special Kairos moments when the universe gets personal. Sidewalk Oracles is a book of games and stories designed to prepare you to approach life as a kairomancer, poised to find the extraordinary in the ordinary and to seize on special moments of opportunity.
     You'll learn to play Sidewalk Tarot.Walk your environment with the right kind of awareness, and you’ll notice that the world is constantly giving you messages in the form of signs and symbols. You can play fun games any day by receiving these messages – the vanity plate on that car, that overheard snatch of conversation from a stranger, that chance encounter – as tarot cards being dealt to you by the world. A tarot deck has 78 cards; in Sidewalk Tarot, the number is unlimited. You’ll learn:

·         How to put your question to the world and receive guidance on a life theme

·         How to let the world put its questions to you, by scheduling unscheduled time to pay attention as you walk in “the forest of living symbols that are looking at you”
·         How to listen for your daily kledon, a favorite oracle of the ancient Greeks that works well on any day
·        How meaningful coincidence multiplies when you are in motion, traveling outside your familiar rounds or going through a major life transition
     We need to be more literal about dreams and more symbolist about everyday life. Living by synchronicity isn't merely about getting messages. It is about growing the poetic consciousness that allows us to taste and touch what rhymes and resonates in the world we inhabit, and how the world-behind-the-world reveals itself by fluttering the veils of our consensual reality. This is a path of natural magic, and when we follow it we'll find that we move beyond self-limiting beliefs into a world filled with juice and possibility. 

Mysterious Realities

The traveler’s tales in Mysterious Realities are "just-so" stories in the sense that they spring from direct experience in the Many Worlds, my own and that of other dream travelers who have shared their adventures with me. This territory is more familiar to you than you may currently realize. You are a traveler in your dreams, whether or not you remember them. 
    You visit realms where the dead are alive. You travel into the possible future, scouting the roads that lie ahead. You travel into the past, into scenes from your present life, and other lives that are part of your story. You slip into parallel lives, where your parallel selves are moving on different event tracks because they made different choices.
    What is going on in your dreams doesn't necessarily stop when you wake up or switch to a different screen. The action may play on, like episodes in a television series that continue to run after you turn off the set.
    In dreams, you may check in to a parallel life you are leading somewhere else. When you exit a scene in a life you are leading somewhere else, you may or may not remember where you were and who you are in that other world. When you do remember, you tag what lingers in your mind as a dream.
    When you exit a dream that is also a visit to a parallel life, your parallel self continues on its way. While you go about your day, your other self may dream of you.
     In Mysterious Realities, you’ll confirm that the doors to the Otherworld open from wherever you are. You’ll see what it means to live on a mythic edge. At any moment, you may fall, like the author, into the lap of a goddess or the jaws of an archetype. Are you ready? A survival tip: don’t go to any world without your sense of humor.


Fire Along the Sky

Dearest Shane, I dream you as the leopard. Last night you came to me in his skin.

So, in the voice of one of his lovers, we first encounter Shane Hardacre, the narrator and protagonist of Fire Along the Sky. An eloquent Anglo-Irish rake and fictional kinsman of Sir William Johnson, the King's Superintendent of Indians, Shane comes to the New World from London because of a doubtful wager. "I laid money on whether a man would take his own life," as Shane informs us. That man was Robert Davers, a Norfolk baronet who sought to escape melancholia and learn the nature of the soul among the dream-catchers of North America. He ignored Johnson's caution that "if you go looking for the spirit world of Indians, you will find you are already inside it" and found savage death during the Pontiac revolt.

We enter the extraordinary world created by William Johnson in the Mohawk Valley in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, in the time when America was forged. We meet extraordinary historical figures: the warrior chief Pontiac and the Delaware Prophet who inspired his revolt; Angelique, the "Pompadour of Detroit"; Molly Brant and her brother Joseph; and Patience Wright, the "wax sybil," an American spy in London who rivaled Madame Tussaud. The action races from the notorious Hell-Fire Club in England to the murder of Pontiac near St. Louis, from Mesmer's performance for Ben Franklin in a Paris salon to bigamy and intrigue in New Orleans when an Irish captain-general held the city in the name of the Spanish king.

Fire Along the Sky is grand entertainment that carries lightly a wealth of original research summarized in the copious notes "from the editor." Through the narrator's worldly skepticism, we are given a window into the shamanic dream practices of early Native Americans. The voice of Valerie D'Arcy, in the correspondence interwoven with Shane's narrative, provides a knowing woman's counterpoint to Shane's phallocratic assumptions.

The Firekeeper

This is the big historical novel I was able to produce when I had integrated enough of my wild convergence with the dramas of another life on the colonial New York frontier. I read all the documents relating to the life of Sir William Johnson, King's Superintendent of Indians - and before that, an adopted Mohawk war chief - and walked the landscapes of his boyhood in County Meath and his fields of battle in the time of the French and Indian War. I dreamed with the Mohawk clan mother who tried to influence him, and with her granddaughter, the only woman who came close to taming Billy Johnson. 

The Firekeeper brings alive the world in which America was born, when the clash of empires produced the first worldwide war and Albany, New York, was the Casablanca of the age. Filled with great men--George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the Mohawk Hendrick Tehayanoken--and the battles that opened the way for the American Revolution, The Firekeeper follows the exploits of Sir William Johnson, an Irish adventurer with a rage for life, who created a tribal kingdom on the New York frontier.

Johnson defended the First Peoples against white men who were bent on genocide and led the Mohawks into battle on the English side in the French and Indian War. His story is interwoven with those of three extraordinary women: Catherine Weissenberg, the Palatine German girl who fled the wars of the Old World to make a life with Johnson in the Mohawk Valley; Island Woman, a Mohawk shaman and mother of the Wolf Clan; and her granddaughter, known to history as Molly Brant, the only woman who managed to tame Johnson. With Island Woman, we journey deep into the dream practices and ways of healing of the Onkwehonwe, the Real People, and through her The Firekeeper also becomes the indelible story of a native people's struggle for survival, and of how dreaming can bring the soul back home.

From some of those who enjoyed The Firekeeper:

"Some rare novels defy labels. The Firekeeper is such a book. An intricately detailed historical novel, a mystical journey, a breathtaking adventure tale, and a passionate exploration of the human heart. This is a book to savor when you truly want to lose yourself in another world." -- Morgan Llywelyn

"Robert Moss is a writer of considerable skill. In The Firekeeper, he shows a talent for accurate historical detail and an ability to recreate the past, both as it was and as it might have been. To read The Firekeeper is to be transported to another time and place, and leave it measurably enlightened." -- James A. Michener

"The Firekeeper by Robert Moss depicts with accurate and exciting detail the time of the French and Indian War. Through the fictionalized lives of historical individuals, Sir William Johnson and Catherine Weissenberg, and memorable, almost mythical characters such as the Iroquois shaman Island Woman and Ade, a former slave, the narrative springs to life. The characters, even the minor ones, are clearly drawn in this fast-paced tale, and the pages keep turning as we learn about the lives of the original inhabitants of this land, and of the early European settlers. This fascinating historical novel offers just the right mix: an involving story which imparts a deeper understanding." -- Jean M. Auel, author of The Clan of the Cave Bear

The Interpreter

In The Interpreter we follow the initiation of a dream shaman among the Mohawk people in the time of the first mass migration to North America - the flight of Palatine Germans from wars in Europe. There are extraordinary scenes of the visit of the so-called Four Indian Kings to London as guests of Queen Anne in 1710. My journal records the vision that was the genesis of one of these scenes:

"I am in London, in the time of Queen Anne. I smell the stench of the streets. I am with the Mohawks now. They are being taken to another entertainment, an evening of bear-baiting at Hockley-in-the-Hole. Vanishing Smoke is Bear Clan. I feel his deepening grief and rage as he watches the sport the Englishmen have devised. The handlers have chained a brown bear to a pole in the center of the ring. Attack dogs are released to snap and tear at him. As the bear tries to bat them away, people are placing bets on which dogs will survive. The bear is old and tired, and bleeding. He wants to leave this life of torment.
     As he watches, the Mohawk’s hands tense, his fingers curl like raking claws. He makes that little coughing sound that bears make when they are getting really mad. The crowd is going wild because the bear has found the strength to pull the great pole out of the ground. It bangs behind him as he swats the dogs away. The Mohawk steps into the ring. He takes his knife from his waist band and stares into the anguished eyes in the dish-round face. He addresses the bear as Grandfather. “Grandfather, I ask your permission to free you from this life.” He reads the bear’s consent, and sinks his knife into the bear’s heart. He tells his court escorts that the bear must be buried facing the east, so he will be reborn in the right way."

Here, Everything Is Dreaming

The poems and stories in Here, Everything Is Dreaming stream directly from dreams and shamanic adventures in the world-behind-the-world.
    Our earliest poets were shamans. Today as in the earliest times, true shamans are poets of consciousness who know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that the right words open pathways between the worlds and draw closer the gods and goddesses who wish to live through us.
     I hope to transport you into a reality where everything is alive and conscious, where tigers and bears can lend you their forms and raven and hawk can give you their sight, where the ancestors are talking, talking, and the gates to the Otherworld open from wherever you are.
     You may awaken, through these pages, to how shamans use poetic speech to call the soul back home, into the bodies of those who have lost vital energy through pain or trauma or heartbreak. You'll travel to the Island of No Pain where lost boys and girls are kept safe. And you'll learn to make the return journey, and sing the lost soul back into the body where it belongs.

"Each of these poems is a dream song and a leaping-off place, from one body to another, one song to another, from one realm into another, to gain knowledge, to be closer to the gods. We are all dreaming. We are all the dream. Robert Moss communicates across the boundaries between worlds, across time, as do the dreamers who have awakened to find that they are in a dream, within a dream, within a dream. 'that you are a star that came down because/you wanted a messier kind of love,' Moss reminds us. We need these songs to illuminate the dreaming." -- Joy Harjo, author of How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001

Thanks to Meredith Eastwood for the group portrait of the family of books introduced here.