Monday, January 27, 2020

When we become a dreaming society

I have a dream: that we will again become a society of dreamers. In a dreaming culture, dreams are valued and celebrated. The first business of the day, for most people, is to share dreams – dreams from the night, and dreams of life - and seek to harvest their guidance. The community joins in manifesting the energy and insight of dreams in waking life. In a dreaming culture, nobody says, “It’s only a dream" or “In your dreams, mister.” It is understood that dreams are both wishes (“I have a dream”) and experiences of the soul.
     If dreams were honored throughout our society, our world would be different, and magical. Let me count the ways:

1. Dream Partners.

Personal relations will be richer, more intimate and creative. There will be less room for pretense and denial. Sharing dreams, we overcome the taboos that prevent us from expressing our real needs and feelings and open ourselves to those of others.

2. Family life and home entertainment.

“What did you dream?” is the first question asked around the table in a family of dreamers. In our dreaming culture, families everywhere will share dreams and harvest their gifts of story, mutual understanding and healing. Parents will listen to their children’s dreams and help them to confront and overcome nightmare terrors. Best of all, they will learn from their children, because kids are wonderful dreamers. This might be bad for TV ratings but it would bring back the precious arts of storytelling, helping us learn to tell our own story (a gift with almost limitless applications) and to recognize the larger story of our lives.

3. Dream Healing.

In our dreaming culture, dream groups will be a vital part of every clinic, hospital and treatment center and doctors will begin their patient interviews by asking about dreams as well as physical symptoms. Health costs will plummet, because when we listen to our dreams, we receive keys to self-healing. Dreams often alert us to possible health problems long before physical symptoms develop; by heeding those messages, we can sometimes avoid manifesting those symptoms. Dreams give us an impeccable nightly readout on our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

4. The Care of Souls.

As a dreaming culture, we will remember that the causes of disease are spiritual as well as physical. We will use dreams to facilitate soul recovery. In dreams where we encounter a younger version of ourselves, or are drawn back to a scene from childhood, we are brought to recognize a deeper kind of energy loss, that shamans call soul loss. Through trauma or abuse, through addiction or great sadness, we can lose a part of our vital soul energy. So long as it is missing, we are not whole and the gap may be filled by sickness or addiction. Dreams show us what has become of our lost children and when it is timely to call them home.

5. Dream Incubation.

In a dreaming culture, we will remember to “sleep on it,” asking dreams for creative guidance on school assignments, work projects, relationships and whatever challenges are looming in waking life. When we seek dream guidance, we must be ready for answers that go beyond our questions, because the dream source is infinitely deeper and wiser than what Yeats called the “daily trivial mind.”

6. Using Dream Radar.

Dreaming, we routinely fold time and space and scout far into the future. As a dreaming culture, we will work with dream precognition on a daily basis -- and develop strategies to revise the possible futures foreseen in dreams for the benefit of ourselves and others.

7. Building Communities.

When we share dreams with others, we recognize something of ourselves in their experiences. This helps us to move beyond prejudice and build heart-centered communities.

8. The Art of Dying.

The path of the soul after death, say the Plains Indians, is the same as the path of the soul in dreams -- except that after physical death, we won’t come back to the same body. Dreamwork is a vital tool in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of the afterlife.

9. Walking the Path of Soul.

The greatest gift of dreaming is that it facilitates an encounter between the little self and the big Self. Active Dreaming is a vital form of soul remembering: of reclaiming knowledge that belonged to us, on the levels of soul and spirit, before we entered this life experience. So much of the harm we do to ourselves and others stems from the fact that we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to become. Dreaming, we remember, and encounter authentic spiritual guides who will help us on our paths.

Photo: RM leading a fire ceremony at a gathering of Active Dreamers in the New York Adirondack Mountains

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Truth comes with goosebumps from Delphi to the next street corner



It's a rule of skin, for me, that truth comes with goosebumps (or chicken skin, if you like). There is a science of shivers, which involves learning to recognize and respect what is going on when something exceptional is in the air and your body responds even before your mind can make sense of it.
    For the ancients, and in shamanic traditions, trembling for reasons other than cold or external danger has always been regarded as a sign of the advent of the numinous, the coming of gods or spirits. A dream seemed to take me deep into this realm:

How to Know When the God is Present

I am explaining to a large group of students how to read the signs that announce the advent of the god Apollo at his oracle, and confirm that true messages will be delivered by his priestess. The sacrificial goat starts shaking from the hooves up when the holy water is poured over it. Everything in the environment begins to tremble as if stirred by an unseen wind. The priestess called Pythia, who has been drinking from the sacred spring, sees movement in the bowl of spring water she holds in her lap as she sits on the tripod. The laurel leaves on the branch in her other hand are shaking and murmuring.
    Inside the dream, I felt educated pleasure in being able to explain these things clearly. I woke with a mild shiver of recognition, and a deep sense of satisfaction.
Dreams set us research assignments, and this one sent me back to the books, to refresh my memory on the practice of divination in the ancient world, especially at the famous Greek oracle of Delphi, where the priestess known as the Pythia, or Pythoness, was consulted by the rulers of cities and nations.
    Through the surviving sources, starting with Aeschylus' play The Eumenides, I confirmed my dream self's version of the operations of the Pythia. In preparing to become the oracle, she bathes in the sacred spring and invokes all the deities associated with Delphi by name, starting with Themis and Phoebe, daughters of the Earth goddess Gaia, and continuing through Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus and Apollo, who she hopes will speak through her in the presence of a client. She makes burned offering of laurel leaves and barley meal on an altar of the temple. She enters the adyton(sacred chamber) and mounts the golden tripod chair.
    In one hand she holds a laurel branch, in the other a shallow bowl. She sits quietly until the laurel leaves start to quiver. The trembling seizes her hand, moves up her arm to her shoulders and chest. Her whole body starts shaking violently as it has been seized by giant hands. This is confirmation that the god is present and that his speaker is in the necessary state of enthousiasmos to deliver true messages.

The bit about the goats fascinated me. In Diodorus of Sicily's World History, I reviewed again the legend of the foundation of the oracle of Delphi. Long before the great temple was built, when the area was wilderness, a goat herder noticed that some of his animals were behaving strangely. They were shaking and throwing their heads back, croaking and bleating.
    The herder approached them and saw they were at a crack in the rock from which vapors were rising. When he peered down, a strange exaltation seized him. He started shaking too. Knowledge of many things streamed through him. His family, alarmed by his long absence, searched for him and found him under a tree. He began to tell people their secrets without being asked. He had become clairvoyant. News of the chasm and the power of the vapors spread far and wide, until those in authority determined that things should be put on a orderly business footing. A priestess of blameless life would be chosen as speaker for the oracle, and access to the adyton would be banned to everyone except her attendants.
    It would probably be mistaken to attribute the Pythia's powers of truth-seeing to sulphurous vapors from the earth, or chewing laurel leaves, or any other chemical assistance. For one thing, recent archaeology summarized in Robert Temple’s Oracles of the Dead suggests the historical oracle of Delphi operated at a different site from the place - called Likoreia - where the goats were set trembling by whatever was rising from a fissure in the earth.
But there was something else to be learned and remembered about quivering goats. Ah yes, it has to do with divination by animal sacrifice, indirectly referred to my dream-lecturer self. Goats and sheep were the preferred animals used in haruspicy, divination by the entrails, a practice common throughout the ancient world and held to be of high importance in establishing the divine will in relation to human decisions. The Mesopotamian baru, a specialist in these matters, held high rank. So did the Etruscan haruspex counselor to Greeks and Romans, under both the Republic and the Empire. The liver was the preferred organ for divination, because it was thought to be a vital seat of an aspect of soul, and a kind of anchor between the spiritual world and the world of the body.
     For the haruspex, the best liver for divination was one that had been just carved from the animal victim, still warm and quivering in the diviner's hand. The Hittites liked to observe the spasms of the dying animal as its organs were removed.

These tales of savage times say it again: truth comes with goosebumps. Personally, I can do without looking at animal livers. It's enough to notice those little - or large - shivers that come when something is going on beyond the range of ordinary perception. They are a part of what the bleep we know that we (often) don't know that we know.

Art: "Priestess of Delphi" by John Collier (1891)


You Can’t Understand a Dream without the Dreamer


“No interpretation can be undertaken without the dreamer. The words composing a dream narrative have not just one meaning, but many meanings. If, for instance, someone dreams of a table, we are still far from understanding what the ‘table’ of the dreamer signifies, although the word ‘table’ sounds unambiguous enough. For the thing we do not know is that this ‘table’ is the very one at which his father sat when he refused the dreamer all further financial help and threw him out of the house as a good-for-nothing. That is what our dreamer understand by ‘table’. Therefore we need the dreamer’s help in order to limit the multiple meanings of words to those that are essential and convincing [for the dreamer]. – C.G. Jung, “On the Nature of Dreams" (1948)
     In our Active Dreaming approach, we respect this cardinal rule through the first questions we put to a dreamer about their dream. The very first question is, “How did you feel on first leaving the dream?” This provides immediate – and often the best – guidance to the basic character of the dream, whether it is negative or positive, urgent and personal or something else. If a bear turns up in your dream house and you wake up feeling cheerful, your bear is clearly very different from the kind people flee from, at least in your perception and availability for interaction. If you are at work in a humdrum situation but wake with feelings of crawling dread, there is something in that scene – perhaps something that will unfold in the future – you need to understand and be ready to contain or head off.
    The next question we ask is the reality check. It has two aspects:

What do you recognize from this dream in the rest of your life, including the life of your imagination; and

Could any part of this dream play out in the future, literally or symbolically?

The question about the future is vitally important because dreams often rehearse us for challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and sometimes give us very clear precognition (a phenomenon that Jung, for all his brilliance on many fronts, was slow to accept).
     The first part of our reality check answers Jung’s concern by taking the elements of the dream straight to the dreamer and locating them in the context of their outer and inner life. I will never forget listening, in a dream sharing circle, to a dream of bats. Everyone there had strong feelings and associations with bats, across a wide spectrum from bats in the belfry to witches, from speleology to being able to navigate in the dark.  Some were quivering with eagerness to offer feedback on the dream. “If it were m dream, the bats would mean…” But wait. First we do the feelings: cheerful, confident. Then we do the reality check. “Have you encountered bats in your life?”
    “Oh yeah,” the dreamer said nonchalantly.”I kept bats as a pet when I was a kid.”
     I don’t think we had ever met someone who kept bats as pets and regarded them as delightful childhood playmates. This took our dreamwork in an entirely different direction from where it might otherwise have gone. You can't understand a dream without the dreamer, and the bats in your dream are not the same as the bats in my dream.

Friday, January 24, 2020

To the Moon and Back and Other Things a Circle of Active Dreamers Can Do in Two Hours



The morning after I am still feeling the joy of sharing in an Active Dreaming circle where we all take turns to play dreamer and dream guide. There were ten of us yesterday evening in a local dream circle I have been leading for many years. In the space of two hours we made time for everyone to share a dream or life story and be guided by a different person through our Lightning Dreamwork process. This encourages us to give and receive helpful feedback in the "if it were my dream" mode and to come up with action plans to embody energy and insight from the dream worlds in regular life.
    "They tell me the gate has closed but I push through and get on the plane. And find I am in Africa, driving a Jeep with a friendly lion on the hood who knows where we are going."
    This report got us off to a lively start. Another dream carried us into the rainforest. A couple of dreams -of going back to the childhood home or the elementary school - carried not only nostalgia but the sense that there were gifts to be brought into adult life from a much younger self, gifts of energy and joy and imagination. A doctor's dream suggested an Rx for illness. A wildly funny dream of wearing lingerie to a gym and being celebrated by everyone around helped a man to recognize it is now safe to open up to his feminine side and show it to others.

    The action required by some dreams is to reenter the dream, do more inside that space and bring back gifts. Lasr evening we were able to make a group shamanic journey through the portal of a dream with the irresistible title "To the Moon". In her dream a woman found herself among lively children in a writing workshop being held on the far side of a fast-flowing river "at the bottom of the moon". The kids were assigned roles and started improvising stories by acting them out All of us were eager to join that writing group and the dreamer gave us permission to travel with her with the aid of shamanic drumming. 
    We did not know what "the bottom of the moon" meant, but all found our way, and had adventures in a marvelous creative space. I flew through a great round moon face like the entrance of Luna Park, a theme park I visited in my Australian boyhood. I rode with kids in a flotilla of boats on an underground river. Kids led the way to the other side of the water as the boats became dormant crocodiles that let us us their backs as a bridge. Enormous theatrical curtains, opening just a crack, promised now entertainments. Characters from children's books fluttered around us. I heard the buzzing propeller of Karlsson on the Roof, Astrid Lindgren's delightful character.
     Then I stepped through the curtains and the children started playing the roles promised in the original dream, acting out fresh stories. Right after the drumming sounded the recall,I urged everyone to write a couple of lines from their writing class on the moon. It was delightful to hear them all read aloud. I wrote in the voice of a girl complaining about a wild boy who was showing off the lunar horns he had sprouted:

"He's doing it again," said Emma. "He's putting up horns and he doesn't know what to do with them."




One of our dream voyagers, a gifted poet named Tammie, heard the song of the moon children and recorded it in these lyrical words: “We are the children of the moon. Listen to our words. We are the poets and storytellers of the future, helping to keep dreams alive”

As we closed our circle,I recalled that Karlsson on the Roof says in one of Astrid Lindgren's stories, "It has to go bang and it has to be fun, otherwise I won't come." We delivered that in our circle. And we finished on time, to the minute. Dreamers can get it together.

Drawings: "The Nearness of the Moon"  and "Wild Lunar Boy" by Robert Moss

Neither folk nor fairy


We did not have the term “near-death experience” (NDE) when I kept dying and coming back as a young boy. The first edition of Raymond Moody’s book Life after Life did not appear until 1975, twenty years after I left my body in St Andrew’s hospital in Melbourne and flew through the Moon Gate to live a life in another world while my body lay under the surgeon's knife.
     If the phenomenon now called NDE had been recognized earlier, it might have been easier for me to have been heard and understood by those around me. It would have been helpful to me to know that many others in Western society have reported profound experiences of leaving their bodies and that this is widely recognized as evidence that the soul can travel outside the body and that there is life after physical death.
    There is a statement in Life after Life that spoke to me deeply when I eventually got to read it: “Once the dying person reaches a certain depth in his experience, he does not want to come back, and he may even resist the return to the body.” This was certainly part of my story.
    Moody argues in Life after Life that “the similarity of so many of the accounts” is a reason for believing reports of NDEs.  But when I read the cases he assembled, and then hundreds of other reports from Near Deathers, I did not find many close “similarities” to what I experienced when I was nine, and seemed to live a whole life in another world. The stories that spoke to me were from ancient and indigenous cultures, from folklore, and from Eastern traditions.
    In Yeats’ song, I heard a voice that knew something of where I had been:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

      When I discovered George MacDonald’s tales of Highland seers and ghosts, I found a phrase that spoke very directly to my experience of trying to live in the ordinary world. In MacDonald’s wonderful little book The Portent: A Story of the Inner Vision of the Highlanders Commonly Called the Second Sight, the woman who nursed the narrator reveals details of his strange birth and his possible connection with a tragic drama played out in an earlier time. The nurse has the gift of second sight; she sees things happening at a distance, and moving between dimensions. She cautions Duncan that he will never be “either folk or fairy”. I did not remember quoting this phrase as a young boy. I doubt that it would have helped me communicate with those around me. But the notion that one may be “neither folk nor fairy” – but something of both” – helped me to explain things to myself.
     In MacDonald’s “faery romance,” Phantastes, the book C.S.Lewis said “baptized” his imagination, the room where the protagonist is sleeping turns into an enchanted forest overnight. Water spilling from a green basin becomes a little river. The floral patterns of the carpet become wildflowers and grasses along its bank. When he follows it into the woods, he is in Fairy Land. He is welcomed and fed by a friendly woman in a cottage of living trees, and knows she must be at least part human because she is awake during the day, when the fairies sleep. But she is something else as well. She must live close to fairies, and eat a little of their food, or else she will always be hungry.
      This became a pattern for me, since I went away. I found that the gates of the Otherworld opened from wherever I happened to be, and that I went hungry unless I stayed near its people and shared some of their food. I never had trouble staying awake in the night, or sleeping in the day.




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




Art: Fairies by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Soul loss and soul recovery: Essential Q&A




Ø  What is soul loss?

When we suffer trauma or bitter disappointment or violent shock, soul may leave the body, to escape. This produces the phenomenon that psychologists call dissociation and shamans call soul loss. It can be seen as a survival mechanism. When you can’t take any more pain, you go away in order to make it through.
          A child who has been abused, a survivor grieving for a beloved partner who has died, a lover who has been betrayed and abandoned, a soldier who  is shell-shocked, and the victim of a terrible accident are all likely to have suffered major soul loss.
          Let’s notice that soul loss need not be major, or the result of violent events. We suffer a lesser degree of soul loss when we choose one direction in life over another, or when we put our energy and focus into one thing rather than another – like holding down the job instead of pursuing a creative project, or being a mom instead of a lover (or vice versa).  Soul loss may be merely temporary and transitional “soul drift”, as when we are jet-lagged and it takes a while for us to catch up with ourselves. 

Ø  What are the symptoms of soul loss?

Common symptoms of soul loss include:  chronic fatigue;  emotional numbness; chronic depression;  spaciness;  addictive behaviors; low self-esteem; inability to let go of past situations or people no longer in your life; dissociation and multiple personality disorder; obesity or unexplained weight gain;  abusive behaviors;  absence of dream recall;  recurring dreams of locations from earlier life, or of a self separate from your present self

Ø  What is the difference, in a practical sense, between someone with a lot of soul in their bodies and someone who does not?

For people with a lot of soul, or vital energy, in their bodies, most of the symptoms of soul-loss listed above would be rare, transient, or absent. For someone who has suffered significant soul loss, three or more of these symptoms are likely to be chronic.

Ø  Why does the soul have a hard time staying in the body?

We suffer pain or abuse, grief or shame, and part of us finds the world so cruel that we want to go away. Soul loss is also caused by wrenching life choices: we decide to leave a relationship, a home, a job, a country, a lifestyle — but part of us resists that choice, sometimes to the point of splitting away and withdrawing its energy from our lives. We also lose soul energy when we give up on our dreams and settle for a life of dull compromise, refusing to trust ourselves to love or to take that creative leap.

Ø  Where does soul go when it leaves?

Sometimes we find that a part of ourselves  is stuck in the old place, in Granma’s house, or in the apartment we shared with our first love. Sometimes a soul part we lost seems to be living in a separate reality, like the land of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. When we wish ourselves dead, a part of our soul may go far way, as far as a Land of the Dead.

Ø  Are all aspects of soul recoverable?

There are parts that are so damaged we don’t want them back. Sometime they appear burned or charred, dark or addicted. Sometimes our life choices are so radical that a part of ourselves simply cannot be persuaded to share our present situation. My inner businessman is quite disgusted with the choices I have made, and won’t stay close to me unless I make money more of a priority than I am likely to do!

Ø  What is the first step that someone who would like to experience more soul in their life to take?

You do some cleanup, and you ask for help. In my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home, as in my retreats, I offer practical guidance for psychic cleansing and release. One of my favorites is a very simple fire releasing in which we cast out any heavy energies that are holding us back and clear a space for vital soul to come back in. It’s very important to remember that we have help available, including from our spiritual allies and our own Greater Self, and that it’s always a good idea to ask for help nicely.

Ø  What role does addiction play in soul loss?

Addiction can be both a cause and an effect of soul loss. Part of our brighter energy may leave us if we fall into habits and company it doesn’t like. When we are missing a part of ourselves, things come in to fill the gap, and we reach for things to fill that gap. From a shamanic viewpoint, addictions are often worsened by spirits of the dead who are seeking to feed their own cravings through a living person. I have never met a true alcoholic, for example, who has not (from my viewpoint) been accompanied by dead drunks. In the book, as in my programs, I offer practical guidance to create healthy psychic boundaries between the living and the deceased.

Ø  What is the difference between spirit and soul? 

We can’t lose spirit, when the term means mind, higher consciousness or our spark of the Godhead.  But we can lose contact with it, and block our own access to the Greater Self.  Soul is a different matter. Soul is quite mobile and soul energy is divisible; we can lose parts of it and take on parts from others that we really don’t want around.

Ø  You have developed an original approach to healing through what you call “soul recovery”. What are the key elements in this approach?

We use the core techniques of Active Dreaming to bring more of soul into the body and help others to become whole. By learning to share dreams with others in the right way, we create a safe space where our younger and brighter selves can draw closer, and we start to build communities of soul friends. By learning to use a dream as a doorway through which we can travel — in shamanic lucid dreaming — into a deeper space, we can go to the places where lost souls can be found and reclaimed, and we help each other to do this.

Ø  Are there other ways, in addition to working with our dreams, to experience soul recovery?  If so, what are they?

Soul retrieval, as opposed to soul recovery is a shamanic operation in which the practitioner makes a journey on behalf of a client to locate lost aspects of soul, brings them back, and transfers them to the client’s body, often by blowing them into energy centers such as the heart and the crown of the head. It can be a profoundly healing event. It reaches parts that Western psychology often does not reach, and may be essential in cases where people are missing so much of themselves that they are not equipped to become self-healers until an intervention has taken place. The limitation of this is approach is that nearly everything depends on the character and skill of the practitioner, on the reality of his or her connection with spirit helpers, and on the quality and motivation of those helpers.

Ø  You say that dreams not only show us what the soul wants, they also show us where it has gone.  Please elaborate and provide an example of this.

Our dreams can tell us which parts of ourselves may be missing, and when it is timely to bring them home. Recurring dreams in which we go back to a scene from our earlier lives may indicate that a part of us has remained there. Dreams in which we perceive a younger self as a separate individual may be nudging us to recognize and recover a part of ourselves we lost at that age. Sometimes we do not know who that beautiful child is – until we take a closer look
     A middle-aged woman recently approached me for help. She told me, "I feel I have lost the part of me that can give trust and know joy." As preparation for our meeting, I asked her to start a dream journal, although she had told me she had not remembered her dreams for many years. When she came to see me, she had succeeded in capturing just one tiny fragment from a dream. She remembered that she was standing over a table, looking at three large-size "post-it" notes. Each had a typed message. But the ink had faded and she could not read the messages.
    Slowly and carefully, I helped her to relax and encouraged her to try to go back inside her dream. Quite quickly, she found herself inside a room in the house where she had lived with her ex-husband prior to their divorce, almost twenty years before. Now she could read the typed messages. The first read in bold capitals, "YOU CAN DO IT." They were all about living with heart, and trusting life.
    She realized that she had left her ability to love and to trust in that room for nearly twenty years. I asked her what she needed to do. She told me, "I need to bring my heart out of that room and put it back in my body." She gathered up the messages and made the motion of bringing them into her heart. As her hands crossed over the place of her heart, we both saw a sweet and gentle light shine out from her heart center. She trembled, eyes shining, and told me, "Something just came back. Something that was missing for twenty years."


Bear creation by Tracy Cunningham. Bear is a great ally in soul recovery.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

"I can't remember my dreams"

You may hear this a lot. We are living in an era in which many people are suffering from a protracted dream drought.This is a serious malaise because if you have lost touch with your dreams, you have lost access to many gifts, including your power to tap into a wiser source than the everyday mind, to rehearse the possible future, to hear the voice of conscious and to find energy and direction to carry you through the day.
     "I can't remember my dreams." This statement is still a big step up from saying,"I don't dream", which really just means "I don't (or won't) remember", but is often freighted with a hardhead denial or the reality and importance of dreaming
     What do you say to someone who says they can't remember their dreams? I sometimes start like this:



1. I would drop that statement altogether, because every time I repeat "I can't remember my dreams" I am programming myself to make that the case.

2. I would wake myself up to the fact that I don't need to go to sleep in order to dream.The world around me will speak to me in the manner of dreams, through signs and symbols and synchronicity, if I pay attention.

3. I would try to call up a dream or memory from early childhood and put myself back into that scene. My inner child is a world-class dreamer and if I can only get more in touch with her my dreams will come back.


If I am called to offer more extensive guidance, I might offer any or all of the following



WAYS TO BRING BACK DREAMS


1.Set an intention for the night

Before sleep, write down an intention for the hours of dream and twilight that lie ahead. This can be a travel plan (“I would like to go to Hawaii” or “I would like to visit my girlfriend/boyfriend”). It might be a specific request for guidance (“I want to know what will happen if I change my job”).
     It could be a more general setting of direction (“I ask for healing” or “I open myself to my creative
source”).
    You might simply say, “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember.”
     Make sure your intention has some juice. Don’t make dream recall one more chore to fit in with all the others.
     If you like, you can make a little ritual of dream incubation, a simple version of what ancient seekers did when they traveled to temples of dream healing like those of Asklepios in hopes of a night encounter with a sacred guide. You can take a special bath or shower, play a recording of the sounds of nature or running water, and meditate for a while on an object or picture that relates to your intention. You might want to avoid eating heavily or drinking alcohol within a couple of hours of sleep. You could get yourself a little mugwort pillow – in folk tradition, mugwort is an excellent dreambringer – and place it under or near your regular pillow.

2. Be ready to receive

Having set your intention, make sure you have the means to honor it. Keep pen and paper (or a voice recorder) next to your bed so you are ready to record when you wake up. Record something whenever you wake up, even if it’s at 3 a.m. If you have to go to the bathroom, take your notebook with you and practice doing two things at once. Sometimes the dreams we most need to hear come visiting at rather anti-social hours, from the viewpoint of the little everyday mind.

3. Be kind to fragments.

Don’t give up on fragments from your night dreams. The wispiest trace of a dream can be exciting to play with, and as you play with it you may find you are pulling back more of the previously forgotten dream.The odd word or phrase left over from a dream may be an intriguing clue, if you are willing to do a little detective work.
    Suppose you wake with nothing more than the sense of a certain color. It could be quite interesting to notice that today is a Red Day, or  a Green Day, to dress accordingly, to allow the energy of that color to travel with you, and to meditate on the qualities of red or green and see what life memories that evokes..

4. Still no dream recall? No worries.

If you don’t remember a dream when you first wake up, laze in bed for a few minutes and see if something comes back. Wiggle around in the bed. Sometimes returning to the body posture we were in earlier in the night helps to bring back what we were dreaming when our bodies were arranged that way.
     If you still don’t have a dream, write something down anyway: whatever is in your awareness,
including feelings and physical sensations. You are catching the residue of a dream even if the dream itself is gone. As you do this, you are saying to the source of your dreams, “I’m listening. Talk to me.”
     You may find that, though your dreams have flown, you have a sense of clarity and direction that is the legacy of the night. We solve problems in our sleep even when we don’t remember the problem-solving process that went on in our dreaming minds.     

5.Remember you don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream.

The incidents of everyday life will speak to us like dream symbols if we will are willing to pay attention. Keep a lookout for the first unusual or striking thing that enters your field of perception in the course of the day and ask whether there could be a message there. Sometimes it’s in your face, as happened to a woman I know who was mourning the end of a romance but had to laugh when she noticed that the bumper sticker of the red convertible in front of her said, “I use ex-lovers as speed bumps.”
     When we make it our game to pay attention to coincidence and symbolic pop-ups in everyday life, we oil the dream gates so they let more through from the night.




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

Drawing: "Dream that Got Away" by Robert Moss




Monday, January 20, 2020

On and off the dream movie sets

Some dreamscapes appear to be film sets, or stage sets. You step into the wings and the scene is changed, or gone completely. Some are pocket realities; go outside and there is no there there.
    When I become lucid, I sometimes explore the borders of these landscapes. Once I was deep in adventure in a rainforest. When I became aware I was dreaming, I marched off in a certain direction – to find that I came to a line where the jungle, and its world, simply ended. When I traveled through the forest in other directions, I found the same thing. Beyond the jungle world, on every side, there was nothing but a white void. Its color and texture resembled the drawing paper on which I proceeded to sketch this geography.
     Night after night, in a certain interval of terror and beauty in my life, I was carried away to a mountain convent that was a complete world, for training and initiation by an order of priestesses. How a mountain can be a planet, except in a painting by Magritte or a story by Saint-Exupéry, is a question no dreamer needs to ask. The shape of the world mountain, when I drew it, looked like a bobbing toy, the kind you could float in a bathtub. Around it was the vastness of space, not dark or drawing-paper white, but grainy and silvery like mother-of-pearl.
     One night, I was deep in magical intrigues in a vast apartment in a huge old building in an old European city. With companions, I moved from room to room, accessed by wide, long halls that turned back upon themselves, counter-clockwise, like Greek keys. Sometimes a hall would end, without explanation, at a blank wall or sealed door.
     On another night, in my dream body, I walked cobbled streets, under arches, in another Old World city, perhaps Prague. I again had the sense that I was being directed, unobtrusively, to turn in a counter-clockwise spiral. Before me walked a man who was looking at me from the back of his head. It was hard to tell whether the face on his back was a mask or a double. Behind me walked a second man with two faces. Their presence was deliciously creepy, but in no way sinister or threatening for me, inside or after the dream. Though the city was dark and silent in the dream, there was a feeling of carnival, of dress-up.
    The hypnagogic zone, between sleep and awake, is a wonderful place to explore how our dream producers, scriptwriters and choreographers, construct the sets where dramas we see in the night unfold.


Drawing: "Theatre of Life" from Robert Moss journals 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

In the beginning was the dream


The Aborigines of the northern Kimberley ranges say that in the beginning, there was only earth and sky. In the earth was the Great Mother Ungud, in the form of a great snake. In the sky was Wallanganda, the All-Father, in the form of the Milky Way. The sky god threw water on the earth; the earth goddess made it deep. In the night, as they dreamed, life arose from the watered earth in the shapes of their dreams.
     From the sky god’s dreaming a spiritual force went forth as images that he projected on the faces of rocks and the walls of caves. These images can still be seen, painted in reds, whites, and blacks. Some say a mystical bird was the original painter, grasping the shapes of the sky-god’s dreams in his own dreaming. After the paintings were done, the sky god reproduced their forms in the bodies of living beings, which he sent out across the land.
    The paintings are the spiritual source of living beings. In the Kimberley rock paintings, Wondjina figures do not have mouths or eyes because these are the gift of Ungud. The Wondjina spirit — associated with rainmaking and fresh water — lives beneath the paintings in the waters under the earth, creating “child-germs,” spirit children. In a dream, a father-to-be will find one of these spirit children. In another dream, he will put it into his wife. It assumes human form in her body. At death, this part of the soul returns to the water hole from which it came
   Though the names may seem alien or exotic, this is a story about you and me. It reminds us that the process of manifestation begins with a movement or intention on the spiritual planes that is projected toward physical reality through images — the facts and events of the imaginal realm. By entering the imaginal world through dream travel, we can become active participants in this process and cocreators of the circumstances of our lives on Earth. As we learn to work with the hidden order of events, we come to recognize that is also reveals itself through the play of synchronicity in everyday life. As evolving beings, we come to take dreams more literally and waking life more symbolically.




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

Art: "Making Songlines" by Robert Moss

Happy Mad-Doctor Day



According to my Calendar of Forgotten English, which reminds me that "mad-doctor" is an early term for an alienist, now called psychiatrist, today is the feast day of St Fillan. Other calendars disagree, but I want to recollect this Irish-Scots priest who operated a healing sanctuary centered on a sacred pool in Perthshire. 
     There were healing stones, resembling major organs, where the sick hoped to secure relief from symptoms afflicting those organs.
     Fillan's Pool was used for cleansing and purification. It became famous for rituals to cure the insane. They were dunked in the water after sunset and told to bring three stones from the bottom. They had to place these on cairns in a ritual fashion. They were then conducted to a ruined chapel where they were laid out like corpses on a stone slab - Fillan's Bed - and bound tight with ropes. If they had managed to get loose from the ropes by sunrise, they were pronounced sane and well.
     I found an interesting 1863 essay on these practices by Professor J.Y Simpson in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, quoting a man who was dunked in Fillan's pool and swore he only got free from the bonds because a dead relative turned up to help him.
     Fillan, by the way, means Little Wolf in Gaelic. His left arm was supposed to glow in the dark and was brought to Robert the Bruce, at his demand, as a charm on the eve of his victory at Bannockburn.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Paleopsych 101


1. Spirits are real.

2. We are not alone: we live in a multidimensional universe peopled with beings — spirits of nature, gods and daimons, angels and ancestors — who take a close interest in our affairs and influence our lives for good or ill.

3. We are more than our bodies and brains, which are only vehicles for soul.

4. The soul survives the death of the body.

5. Soul journeying is the key to the spiritual worlds and the knowledge of ultimate reality. The soul makes excursions outside the body in dreams and visions. The heart of spiritual practice is to learn to shift consciousness at will and travel beyond time and space. Through soul-flight, we return to worlds beyond the physical plane in which our lives have their source and are able to explore many dimensions of the Otherworld.

6. Souls are corporeal, though composed of much finer substance than the physical body.

7. People have more than one soul. In addition to the vital soul that sustains physical life — closely associated with the breath — there is a “free soul,” associated with the dreambody, which can travel outside the body and separates from it at physical death, as well as an enduring spirit whose home is on the higher planes.

8. Souls — or pieces of soul — can be lost or stolen. This is the principal cause of disease and misfortune.

9. Some people have more souls than others and have the ability to make excursions to different places at the same time.

10. At death, different vehicles of soul go to different lots. Through conscious dreaming, it is possible to explore the conditions of the afterlife to prepare for one’s death and to assist souls of the dying and departed.

11. We are born with counterparts in nature. For example, we are born with a totem animal and a relationship with natural forces (wind or water or lightning) that are part of our basic identity and help to pattern the natural flow of our energy.

12. We are born with counterparts in other places and times, and in other dimensions of reality. When we encounter them through interdimensional travel, they become allies and sometimes teachers.





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

Art: detail from Henri Rousseau, "The Dream" (1910)


Friday, January 17, 2020

Word Gates


Gently rising from sleep into the grey morning, I saw what looked like a child's wooden alphabet block set within a frame. The front edge of the block had an ornamental red and green border. A word rather than a single letter was inscribed. I understood that when we could come up with an adequate story or definition for this word, the block will turn, and this will reveal another word requiring description. Each turn of the block would have tumbler effect on other blocks or components of the system.
    I cannot say how many words will come up before the block moves and provides an open portal to what all seekers aspire to know. I do not know whether there is only one block, or many, or an infinite number.
    I know that, behind the frame, the block is not a three-dimensional cube but extends into other dimensions. Despite its apparent wooden solidity, the face it presents may actually be a hologram projected from another reality. As I picture this I see the surface within the frame as one end of a structure, composed of many segments and flashing many colors, that somewhat resembles the Rosicrucian cross, in which the vertical shaft is longer than the arms, although in this case the structure is laid on its back.
   I cannot say the word that first appeared within the frame.
   I can give you two words, but I cannot say where they come up in the sequence:

     TIPU
     KARANDANSKY

   I can also say that at some level of this game, instead of defining unusual words, we are required to come up with the word that fits an unusual definition.
   Many of these words are not in the dictionaries of Earth.
   For example, there is a word that exactly defines the Tail of the Lion phenomenon, as described by Einstein in his famous analogy:

Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size.

   There is also a word that fits the definition "something that is much bigger inside than outside" (and it is not TARDIS, the name of the machine disguised as an old police box in which Dr Who travels).
    Unlike Scrabble players, Dream Word players can't appeal to a dictionary. A rare few among us may have glimpsed something in the Thesaurus of Tulun - from which Einstein appears to have borrowed his description of the Tail of the Lion - but such works are not available when you need to reach across the table. So we must judge words and definitions offered in our Dream Word games by three criteria:

- The LD [Laugh Decibel] Level
- The OU [Outrageously Unexpected] quotient
- Whether they move our blocks