Thursday, April 30, 2020

Dreaming with the departed

Many people in our society are hungry for confirmation that communication with the departed is not “weird” or “unnatural”, let alone impossible, and that it is possible to extend love and forgiveness and healing across the apparent barrier of death. We encounter our departed, especially in dreams, because they are still around (sometimes because they have unfinished business or are not actually aware they are dead); or because they come visiting; or because we travel, in dreams or visions, into astral realms where the departed are entirely at home.
    It’s not just that we dream of the dead; our departed are dreaming of us, and trying to reach us through dreams. Sometimes our departed return as counselors or “family angels”, as my father returned to me, many times, in the year after his death in Australia in 1987, with loving messages and practical guidance for the family. Sometimes our departed need us to play guides, because they are confused or stuck between the worlds, clinging to old appetites and attachments – which can be extremely unhealthy for the living, who may pick up the feelings and addictions and even the past physical symptoms of the dead.
    One of the cruelest things that mainstream Western culture has done is to suggest that communication with the departed is either impossible or unnatural.  There is nothing spooky or “supernatural” involved, though these experiences take us into realms beyond physical reality. It is especially easy to meet our departed in dreams for three reasons:                                                                                                                                 
Our Departed are Still With Us

Quite frequently dreams reveal that the departed are present because, quite simply, they never left. The departed may linger because they have unfinished business, or wish to act as guide and protector to the family, or are attached to people and places they loved in waking life, and this may be a perfectly happy situation for a year or two.
    But there comes a time when our departed need to move on, for their own growth, and so they do not become a psychic burden to the living. After death, we continue to be driven by our ruling interests, appetites and addictions. Some of those who have died but not truly “passed on” continue to try to feed their cravings via the living.  When the departed remain earthbound, the effects are unhealthy both for those who have died and those among the living to whom they are connected. 
    When the dead are enmeshed with the living, the result is mutual confusion, loss of energy, and the transfer of addictions, obsessions and even physical ailments from the departed to the person whose energy field he or she is sharing.
    Helping the departed may involve a loving dialogue, a simple ritual of honoring and farewell, and invoking spiritual helpers. As we become active dreamers, familiar with the geography of the afterlife, we may find we are called on to provide personal escort services and help to instruct some of our departed on their options on the other side. William Butler Yeats noted, with a poet’s insight, that “the living can assist the imaginations of the dead”.

Our Departed Come Calling

Most people who remember dreams can recall one in which someone on the other side made a phone call, sent a letter, or simply turned up at the door or the bedside. Our departed return to us in dreams for all the reasons they might have called on us in physical life – including the simple desire to tell us how they are doing and see how we are coping - and for larger reasons: to bring emotional healing, to bring us helpful information, to instruct us on life beyond death and the reality of worlds beyond the physical.
    Our departed may come visiting to offer or receive forgiveness. They may come to show us how they are doing on the other side.
    Our deceased friends and loved ones may appear in our dreams because they are trying to understand the fuller story of the life they have left. Yeats, with poetic clarity, called this stage in the afterlife transitions the "Dreaming Back."
    Our departed can be excellent psychic advisers when they achieve clarity on the other side and are aware that they are not confined to the rules of space and time.    Our departed may come as health advisers and family counselors.   They may visit us in dreams to help us prepare for our own deaths and reassure us that we have friends on the other side. 

In dreams, we travel to realms of the departed 

In our dreams, we are released from the laws of physical reality, and travel into other dimensions, including environments where the departed may be living. Through dreams of this kind, we can begin to develop a personal geography of the afterlife, which will be vastly enriched when we learn the art of conscious dream travel.
    In my workshops,  I often invite participants to focus on a dream or memory of a departed person and make it their intention to journey – with the help of shamanic drumming – to seek timely and helpful communication with that person and to learn about the environment where that person is now living.

Such visits and visitations have been a primary source, across the ages, for the widespread belief that consciousness survives the death of the physical body. This is too important a subject for us to rely on hand-me-down knowledge or blind faith. We want first-hand experience, and this is most readily available through dreaming. We will find that the realms of the departed may be no more distant from us than the thickness of our eyelids.

For much more on this subject please see The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

photo (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Egyptian Gates to the Afterlife: Flying to the Sky Goddess

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

I come to you, O Nut.
I come to you, O Nut.
My wings have grown into those of a falcon.
My two plumes are those of a sacred falcon.
My ba-soul has brought me
and its magic words have equipped me.

- PYRAMID TEXT OF UNAS, Utterance 245

    In the Pyramid Text of Unas, the star traveler calls to the sky goddess that he is ascending to her on falcon wings, leaving the realm of Osiris below and behind. Nut, the great goddess , mother of Isis and Osiris, Set and Nephthys, is depicted as a naked woman or a heavenly cow whose body is filled with the starry sky. When the soul voyager calls to her, she gives him the following welcome:

May you split open a place for yourself
among the stars of the sky
for you are a star...
Look down upon Osiris
When he gives orders to the spirits,
you stand far above him
You are not among them

and you shall not be among them

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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

In praise of bricolage

I've given up trying to translate the marvelous French word bricolage, sometimes rendered as "tinkering". It's about putting together bits and pieces on a whim, rather than approaching a project as a solid, stolid work of engineering. It's about following oneiric logic rather than plans and structures.
     Claude Lévi-Strauss,who made the word at home in French, found that this approach is central to the making of myths and the workings of "the savage mind". In his celebrated book La pensée sauvage he observed that the bricoleur employs "devious means". His game is "always to make do with whatever is at hand, that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions."[1]
     Found objects, junk shops, storage basements, words overheard from strangers...these are materials for bricolage. So are your journals. I love to go through old journals plucking out curious and shiny things and arranging them on fresh pages. I was encouraged to learn that this was a regular practice for Thoreau, a dedicated journal keeper. He liked to forage through old journals plucking out promising bits and pieces - observations in nature, quotes from his reading, dreams and reflections. He copied excerpts and married them up as fresh drafts. It became his habit “to work back over his journals…to reengage old subjects in the light of new interests, to revise and recopy his own earlier journal work,measuring, weighing, culling and sorting his materials…taking up earlier threads, reweaving and combining them.”[1]
     For any writer, as for Thoreau, it opens treasuries of material and above all it supports the writing habit. Playing around with old notes removes the terror of the blank page. When you dip into an old journal, you are never at a loss for a theme. The simple processes of selection, arrangement and retitling will fire the imagination. Before you know it, you’ll be in the midst of writing something new. However, the practice of journaling from journals is not only for writers. It is a marvelous tool for self-observation, for life navigation, and for constructing a personal encyclopedia of symbols.  
     Ah, but what is best is the pure bricolage. I might start working through old journals with a specific agenda, using the search engine to pull up items from my digital files, arranging materials in orderly folders, setting production schedules. Then I am distracted or enchanted by a note I made after a concert:

Barber's Adagio for Strings: The sad and lovely waves of sound carried me effortlessly into vision: of an island in the mist, of the grace of swimming swans, and the loneliness of a solitary swan, of a bright winged being towering above the many-colored waters. Meeting me halfway in the crossing, the swan prince made me know what is required to be enfolded in his knowing. I remember how Aengus, dream god and love god, took the form of a swan.

or a quote that stuns me awake:

Plotinus on the personal guardian: "“Our guardian is the power immediately superior to the one we exercise, for it presides over our life without itself being active…Plato truly said that ‘we choose our guardian’, for, by the kind of life that we prefer, we choose the guardian that presides over our life.’

or a dream of any kind, calling me into fields of memory, mystery and delight:

The Thumbelina Exchange: A young woman has mastered the art of entering another universe by becoming incredibly small.This may have been intentional; she may have wished herself out of her life situation, at least for a fling. Not clear if she is able to return at will.

Soon the pleasure of simply playing with my finds as they come up and come back, takes over. I forget my agendas, and play with the pieces that catch my eye, arranging and fitting them together without expecting them to snap into prearranged place like a jigsaw puzzle. I don't count on it, I don't try to program it, but I am open to finding again that it is in these moments of dickering and tinkering and playing without thought of consequences that fresh and unexpected creation bursts through, as I once saw an apple tree rise from an abandoned core in a heap of compost.  

1. Claude Lévi-Strauss, La pensée sauvage (Paris: Plon, 1962)
2. Robert D. Richardson Jr., Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986)

Friday, April 24, 2020

The Double on the Balcony

Higher Self, Greater Self., Oversoul. Divine Double, religious scholar Charles Stang calls the Self above the regular self, the one that is not even partially confined to a physical body. These are very big words. I want something smaller and more colloquial for a personality I have come to know rather well. There may be many levels to the Higher Self, ten that I know, others beyond counting. He lives on a level just above the level I am on.
    When I set out to meet him, I follow the road of dreams to a terrace above the world. Sometimes it is the rooftop of a tall building, twenty stories up, or more. Often the terrace has the air of a civilized café, operating just for us. I find him seated at a table, perhaps with a glass of wine the color of moonlight. He is usually impeccably dressed, in a perfectly tailored white suit or a dinner jacket. Occasionally I have the impression that he has a female companion; once she seemed to be an opera singer. But she is never part of our conversation.
    He is impossibly beautiful. He looks like a man in the prime of life, maybe thirty years old, yet carrying the knowledge of millennia. He does not judge me. He is my witness. He knows all of my life. It is as open to him as the contents of a doll house when you remove the back and the roof. More than this, he remembers my other lives.
    I should say, rather, our other lives. Something I have remembered, through our conversations, is that we have a twining relationship across time. When I am in the body, in a life on Earth, he is up here, on his balcony above the world. He still enjoys pleasures and creature comforts, but he is not enmeshed in the confusion and clutter of the physical world. He can sample delights that we associate with a physical body without being confined to one. The babalawo in me, the African diviner he calls my witchdoctor, says it has always been like this. While one of us is down in the marketplace of the world, the other observes as a “double in heaven”.
     I like that phrase, but his is a near heaven, rather than a remote one. So how shall I describe him? I could call him my Free Self. He is not bound by the conditions of physical life.  I also think of him as my Double on the Balcony. From his terrace, he can see the big picture. When I join him up there, I can see the crossroads and forking paths of my life from an aerial perspective.
    He shows me some navigational challenges that lie ahead. There’s a spaghetti junction with whirling stands of traffic going off in all direction like an exploding bowl of pasta. It’s dizzying to look at. Inspecting this with his mildly humorous detachment, I see the scene lift to reveal a manageable locale, the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Now I can survey, one by one, the possible roads I can take from that place of decision. He reminds me that when life on the ground poses difficult choices – when I run into blockages or risk making a turn without reflecting on where that direction will take me – I should come up here, look at things from the higher perspective, and freeze the action while I observe myself traveling more than one of the possible roads in order to clarify and compare the probable outcomes.
    From such encounters comes daily practice, one I can share with others. I picture myself in the thick of a situation where I am facing a choice or conflict or dilemma. I see myself pausing from acting or worrying, placing myself in a quiet mental space whatever is going on around me. I feel light coming down around me, until I am within a column or pillar of light. This brings the sense of blessing and protection. I sense benign energies and intelligence reaching down to me within the pillar of light. Then there is the sense of traction, of being carried up within the pillar. I could be carried up many levels, as if on an elevator. But it is sufficient, for everyday navigation, to go up just one level, to that terrace above the world.
     Here I find again the Free Self. From his table, I can see a relief map of my life, and of other lives and situations that will concern me. When the traffic patterns are hard to read, I can have everything slow down or stop so I can study it at my leisure.
I wrote a poem in honor of my long relationship with my Free Self:

The Double on the Balcony

You are not my shadow.
You stand closer to the sun.
Of all my doubles, you are the most interesting.
You are watching when I forget you.
You are with me when I don’t notice.
You are not my judge, or my guardian angel.
You are the one who remembers.
You are my witness on the balcony above the world.

My friend the witchdoctor calls you
My “double in heaven”. You smile at this,
Reminding me the African lives are mine, not yours.
You saw all of it, from your balcony,
But did not drink the blood or savage joy.
It’s the other way round in other lives, you say:
From life to life, we change places.
When you come down to Earth
I take your seat on the terrace above.

We are together now, for a moment.
I’ve slipped out of the body
That neither confines nor delights you
To join you on your balcony above the world.
The wine in the cup is the color of moonlight.
Below us are all the roads of the world,
The casts and dramas of the many lives
Laid out in dioramas, as manageable from here
As toy soldier sets, or tea-party dolls.

You chide me gently (since humans are forgetful animals)
For forgetting you. I have been a serial amnesiac,
Losing bright nights when we roamed together,
And an ingrate – not seeing your hand in everyday miracles,
Not hearing your voice in the still sure moments of knowing,
Not feeling the breeze of your wing when you come,
In reluctant extremity, to restrain or release me.

When my road was blocked, you were the one
Who reminded me we can fly.
You love to travel in disguise
And I often missed you behind your masks.
When I mislaid my sense of humor
You burst in as a stand-up comic
And shocked me alive with belly-bawdy farce.
It’s easy for you to bring light, and lighten things up:
You stand closer to the sun.

RM journal drawing: "My Radiant Double as a Guide through Death". From a dream.

My poem "The Double on the Balcony"is in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories. Published by Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press.

Photo: "Big Sur balcony" by RM

Monday, April 20, 2020

Lines for the Marriage of Persephone and Hades


I sing because what I must say cannot be spoken in prose. It comes from the mound, from beyond the white gate, from the far side of the Western sea, from beneath the roots of the wild fig and the holm oak. It comes through the heady musk of bee-loud blossoms that conceal killing thorns. It calls you to the well of memory and desire, to the vulva of the goddess who will swallow you until she gives birth to what she wishes you to be.
     You would flee from this if you were not drunk on the fumes of wildflowers, or doubled up with laughter, if the honey wine on your lips and the play of young limbs around the rising thyrsus were less sweet.
     Don’t slow it down. Dance faster, higher, lighter.  Let your words be winged feet. Tilt and angle, loop and knot. Be the lyre, be the drum, be the ecstasy of wild flutes. You will not get from here to there in any straight way. Let your song make the twisting twisting way.
    You must plunge between the stone thighs, into the womb where water becomes fire. You must give up, piece by piece, all your vanities and certainties. You must let your skin be flensed from your body, and then let your flesh be rendered. You must watch your organs laid out on a butcher’s table while pale snakes spill and slither from your belly.
     Beyond your body of pain, you are ready to sit on a love seat with the one who called you. You can’t look your intended in the face until your new eyes settle in your skull. Now you can drink in the beauty that rises from terror, as wine is born from the trampled grapes.
    You are learning the nature of true power. The cauldron is lifted from the marriage table. You are anointed with liquid fire. It streams over your head and glows on your skin. The womb of death has given birth to a new sun. A fountain of bright fire is inside you now.
    Of course you eat the red food of the dead when it is placed before you. You haven’t come here as a tourist. You are here for the sacred marriage. You have no thought of escape, because you are not a captive. The love seat is a shared throne. You will go up, when it pleases renew the cycles of earth, bringing the promise of harvest. You will make this descent again, as it pleases you, to enjoy the embrace of your dark lover and to follow your shared calling. You are royal. In your royalty, you will serve the souls that tremble at the gates of life and death and do not know that they are at a swing door. As an initiate, you will be an initiator.
      Go up now, go out now, and see how everything sprouts and quivers under your feet. Be with the huge lady cow, so white and beautiful, and with the bull of heaven as they meet in fields of green delight. Graze in the apple orchard that will go with you everywhere. Let others rekindle their flames from the fire in your eyes. Allow antlers of light to rise as living candelabra from the fire inside your head. Wear the clothes of whatever country you are in. Gods and goddesses love to travel in disguise. Never forget to sing. Shine bright, shining one

- by Robert Moss, April 2020

Photo: pinax (votive plate) showing Persephone enthroned with Hades, from Locri in Calabria, in the Museo Nazionale Archeologico, Reggio Di Calabria

Friday, April 17, 2020

How dreaming gets us through

In our current closed-down society, people who did not previously make much room in their lives for dreams are dreaming up a storm. Unused to sharing or working with dreams, they often shout out, “Why am I having this weird dream?” As a lifelong dreamer who devotes much of his time to teaching others how to dream, let me offer a few general observations: 

1.Dreams always tell us more than we already know. Don’t dismiss any dream, or tag it as “weird” or trivial, until you have recorded it and looked carefully at what is going on here.

2. "Weirdness" in dreams may be special effects your dream producers bring in to dramatize something you need to understand or act upon, such as the need for social distancing and self monitoring.

3Dreaming may be traveling; you make visits and you receive visitations. Your social life may be very restricted in ordinary life, but you can be as social as you like in your dreams. You can go to that farmer's market or that travel destination you've been missing. I dreamed I wass in Aruba the other night, lying back under a palupa on the white sand beach with the taste of sea salt and lime daiquiri on my lips. I did not feel downcast when I reurned to my body's housebound condition. I enjoyed the full after effects of a mini vacation and did not have to pay for a plane ticket or wait for bags.

4.You have intuitive radar that comes fully alive in dreams. You see things happening at a distance in time and space. You check out the possible future. You see unwanted events in the possible future you may be able to avoid if you clarify your dream information and take appropriate action. You see desirable future scenarios -your dream home, your dream partner, your dream job – that you may be able to manifest if you follow the road map your dream has given you.

5. In dreams, you can go to a night cinema where the feature films are made especially for you. You are not confined to sitting in the audience. You can step through the screen and become scriptwriter, director an star of your own life movies.

6. You can talk to the dead in your dreams. There is nothing “weird” or unnatural about contact with the deceased, especially in dreams. We meet them because they are still around, or because they come visiting, or because in our dream travels we go to places where they are alive. Sometimes they have guidance for us. Sometimes they need our help because they are stuck or confused, and may have been hurled into the afterlife without preparation or rituals of leave-taking. With so much death around us, this is a very good time to learn, with the deceased, that consciousness survives the death of the body and that life goes on in whatever world.

7. Dreaming, you have access to wiser sources than those available to the daily trivial mind: to the god/goddess you can talk to, to the ancestors, to a Greater Self. Your dreams are a voice of conscience and course correction, showing you how your current actions and attitudes appear to an objective, witness self. Dreams are a way for your true spiritual guides to get past the cynical, reductionist skeptic in your left brain and recall you to your bigger story.

8. Your dreams are a factory of images that can help you stay well or get well.  Your body believes in images. Find the right ones and you program the amazing pharmaceuticals factory inside you to pump out the right drugs, boosting your immune system.

9. You don't need to go to sleep in order to dream. Your most powerful dreaming may unfold in the twilight zone between sleep and awake. You may journey like the ancient shamans, hyper-awake. The scales may drop from your eyes so you see that the world around you is a forest of living symbols looking at you.

10.Active dreaming is a path of real magic. In my lexicon, true magic is what happens when we bring gifts from another world into this one. We do this when we remember our dreams and act to embody their energy and guidance in everyday life. And when we wake up to the fact that dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. Dreaming is about waking up to a deeper reality and deeper sources of meaning in our lives

To get good at dreaming, as with anything else, requires practice, practice, practice. Three things to do now:

* Keep a journal. Date each entry and give it a title. This is going to become the most important book on dreams you will ever read: your personal encyclopedia of symbols, our data log for “supernormal” phenomena like clairvoyance and precognition, a place where you dialog with your Self and your inner teachers, a workout for the writer and creator in you.
*Learn some of the core techniques of Active Dreaming, my original synthesis of dreamwork and shamanism. These include using the Nine Keys to Your Dreams explained in my book Conscious Dreaming, practicing the Dream Reentry technique, and learning to navigate by synchronicity, which is the dreamer’s way of operating 24/7/ You’ll find a short guide to my relevant books here. You may also want to check out my online video courses for The Shift Network
*Learn my Lightning Dreamwork technique, a fast, fun process by which we can share a dream or a personal story with a friend, give each other helpful feedback (without presuming to tell each other what our dreams or our lives mean) and help each other determine what action we should take to embody guidance and energy from the story.

Get to know your dreams better and you may find that if you still want to call them "weird" you will use the word in older sense. Though few of us remember its origin, weird is derived from Wyrd, which is a way of understanding how things in all the worlds are connected, and turn together. In the Scotland of my paternal ancestors, to be “weirdless” was to be unlucky or unfortunate in life. 

Photo: Under a palupa on Manchebo beach, Aruba, by RM

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Want dreams? Go bananas!

When I am asked, “What can I take to improve my dream recall?”, I sometimes respond, “Eat more bananas!”
I am no expert on dietary supplements, and when I first came up with this suggestion, I was making a joke. My humor was inspired by an appearance on Connecticut Public Radio in which I shared the hour with a report on bananas (no kidding).
I was intrigued when a somewhat earnest man who took my banana Rx very seriously reported back that it had worked perfectly. He ate a banana around bedtime and remembered his dreams for the first time in months; the dreams were vivid and rather steamy. I took this as evidence of the power of suggestion, but was encouraged to offer the banana Rx to others demanding a quick fix for a dream drought. Not all of them reported an immediate flood of dreams, but some did.
I reviewed some recent articles on the possible benefits of vitamin B-6 in enhancing dream recall and/or the vividness of dreams. They have me wondering whether my humorous improv may actually have been pointing in the right direction. Bananas are a good source of B-6, a member of the B vitamin family also known as pyrodoxine. There has been a theory in circulation for more than a decade that vitamin B-6 converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, which helps the brain to “wake up” during REM sleep, contributing to more colorful and lively dream imagery.
The study often cited to support this theory is old and unsatisfactory because of the small size of the survey group. It was conducted in 2002 and involved just 12 college students. Four of them were dosed with 100 mg of B-6, four with a higher dose of 25o mg and four were given a placebo, prior to bedtime for a period of five consecutive days. The test was then repeated twice, with two-day breaks for “wash out”. Those who were given the higher dosage reported the most vivid and detailed dreams, some rated high for “emotionality” and “bizarreness” over the first three days of each treatment. The tentative conclusion of the study was that  vitamin B-6 may affect dreaming  “by increasing cortical arousal during periods of rapid eve movement (REM) sleep”.
The Mayo Clinic lists “dream recall” and “sleep enhancement'” as possible uses for vitamin B-6, but cautions that these are “uses based on tradition or theory” rather than hard scientific evidence.
So here is my modest proposal for fresh oneiric research. If your dream life has been dull and listless, or you’ve been waking without dream recall for some time, try eating one more banana a day, preferably in the evening, over a five-day period, and see what happens.

I was inspired to repost this blog by a friend who reported that, using instacart for the first time during our current lockdown, she ordered eight bananas - and got eight bunches.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dream symbols: Facing a monster wave

You are facing a killer wave, rushing at you like a moving mountain of water. You are fleeing from it, but you can't escape and it crashes over you, pushing the air from your lungs and you surface from sleep terrified and gasping for breath.

This is a rather widespread experience in sleep dreams. I've heard versions of it from hundreds of dreamers. What's going on here?

You could be dreaming of something that will blow up in your life with the emotional force of a rogue wave, even a tsunami. The dream may be a prompt to look at the kind of situations in your regular like that threaten to overwhelm you, and how you can better cope when those situations arise. This may lead you to shape a survival strategy that is simple as this: 

- Remember to breathe
Let the storm wash over you
- Put yourself in a protective bubble

Then again, your dream of a killer wave could also be a psychic preview of a natural disaster. Many people shared dreams with me in advance of Hurricane Katrina and the terrible Asian Tsunami of December 2004 that appear to have been rather exact precognition of coming calamities. There is nothing strange about such premonitions. We are connected to all life on the planet, and mass events cast a shadow before them in the collective mind. Let's notice that a dream of a tsunami - or any other natural disaster - may be both personal and transpersonal. It may symbolize overwhelming stress or emotional drama in your life and also contain a vision or preview of an external event.

My research into the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien's mythic imagination has led me to think about another possible context of understanding for dreams of a giant wave. The author of The Lord of the Rings was haunted by a recurring dream that first came upon him in early childhood, of a great wave that overwhelms a whole country and hurls its people and cities into a rift in the earth. In a letter written near the end of his life, Tolkien say this about the "ineluctable Wave" that came upon his again and again:

I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming out of the quiet sea, or coming towering in over the green inlands. It still occurs occasionally, though now exorcised by writing about it. It always ends by surrender, and I awake gasping out of deep water

Tolkien became convinced that his dream of the Wave (note his upper case) came out of "ancestral memory" of the fall of Atlantis. He never managed to escape the Wave, and perhaps never tried, believing that the repeating dream had hurled him back across time to the scene of an actual cataclysmic event.

However, we are not condemned to go on being drowned or overwhelmed, in our dreams or in our lives. A dreamer with whom I have worked reported a very happy evolution in her initially terrifying dreams of a monster wave after she began to practice our Active Dreaming techniques, which include going back inside a scary dream - wide awake and conscious - and seeking to confront and resolve the fear on its own ground, which in this case is the flooded beach or the seabed. 

When she agreed to go back into a dream of being drowned by a killer wave, she found that she was able to imagine herself inside the protection of a glass bubble. As the wave crashed over her, her heart pounded but she was able to breathe. She stayed in this scene until the wave receded. Later, in a spontaneous night dream, she discovered - to her amazement and joy - that her dream self could actually catch the wave, and ride it. She carried the happy energy and poise from this dream into waking life situations that had previously overwhelmed her with a sea of emotion.

Even if we feel we can't change the dream of the monster wave, we can learn from Tolkien to borrow its raw energy and apply it to creative work. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that with out his terrifying dreams of the "ineluctable Wave", Tolkien might not have been driven to give the world his greatest work. 

Graphic: "The Fall of Numenor" by Darrell Sweet

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Dream School of Anubis

Those who write from true imagination can take us where historical data cannot, into the Magic Library. Among the most intriguing – and to my mind, the most reliable - published sources on the Egyptian way of dreaming are three books that have all been classified as fiction. Two are ancient works; the third is a novel that was very popular in the 1930s but is waiting to be rediscovered by a new generation.
    Apuleius (who was almost certainly a Mystery initiate) chose the mask of a comic novel for The Golden Ass, or the Transformations of Lucius, in which Isis speaks directly to humans in dreams, travelers encounter each other in the dreamspace and dreamers are coached for future events before they manifest.
     In another ancient tale, The Romance of Alexander the Great, pseudo-Callisthenes describes the practice of a sorcerer-king of late Egypt, Nectanebo, who fights battles long-distance and visits others in dreams (not always, alas, for the most evolved purposes).
     Joan Grant’s book Winged Pharaoh (first published in 1938) takes us into the possible reality of the First Dynasty and the dream training of a king’s daughter who becomes co-ruler of Egypt. As she explains in a memoir (Far Memory), the book came to Joan through “far memory” of a possible past life. After a short visit to Egypt, she was shown a collection of Egyptian scarabs in London. When she took the oldest in her hand, she saw vivid scenes of the time and place from which it had come, and then began talking as Sekeeta, the dreaming princess of her story.
    We are dealing here with a visionary narrative that transcends the categories of fiction and nonfiction. The best word to describe it is the Greek term mythistorema, which could be translated as “mythic history” but which I would prefer to render as mythistory – in other words, a true history of something that may or may not have happened but always is.
     The most fascinating element in Joan Grant’s mythistory is the description of a dream school that operates within the temple of Anubis. When she is a small child, Sekeeta’s mother gives her a tiny statue of Anubis – represented as a black hunting dog – and a little painted house for it to live in, and tells her that Anubis is the bringer of dreams to small children.
     When she is a few years older, Sekeeta meets her dream teacher Ney-sey-ra, the priest of Anubis. Her training begins in the dreamspace, when he shows her an open lotus flower and tells her that just as the lotus opens its petals to the sun, she must learn to open the gateway of soul memory to reflect the light. When the scene is played out in waking life the next day, she recalls her dream, which is confirmation to both that she is ready to begin her training.
     She learns to go scouting in dreams to find lost objects, look into the future, observe things happening at a distance, and discover what is going on behind the scenes. Suspicious of a foreign ruler who is visiting the court, she embarks on a dream journey to his country – flying to her target like a bird – and brings back a very detailed and disturbing report that she shares with Pharaoh, her father.
    At the age of twelve, she becomes a full-time student at the dream school, taking up residence in the temple of Anubis. She sleeps on a bed with Anubis heads carved at head and foot. Beside the bed she keeps a wax tablet, and her first task each morning is to record her dreams. Every morning she goes to the priest of Anubis and tells him what she has recorded. Some days she must also carry out assignments he gave her inside a dream – for example to bring him a certain flower, or bird feather, or colored bead. Through practice her memory is trained and sharpened.
    After three years, she undergoes advanced training. On the night of each full moon, she sleeps in total darkness in a room that has been psychically shielded. She undertakes many assignments, visiting distant places and bringing guidance and healing to people on both sides of death. She recounts her dream travelogues to her teacher and he confirms her experiences, adding further details and sometimes suggesting follow-up missions. When she finds herself blocked by a monstrous crocodile, for example, her teacher tells her that this thing was “a creation of the evil one” designed to scare her back into her body and sabotage her work. Next time she must go on, and if the adversary is too strong, she must call to the priest for help.
     Frequently, in her dream travels, she encounters people who have died and are confused about there condition. She meets a man who had been murdered in a wine-shop in Crete, and refused to believe he was dead. Her teacher encourages her to go to the dead man again, gently help to awaken him to his condition, and guide him in the right direction on the paths of the afterlife.
Anubis as psychopomp, on a shroud in the Louvre
     At this point we come fully alive to the intimate connection between dreaming and dying well, and the reason why Anubis is such an appropriate patron of dream travel. As every school child knows, Anubis – most often portrayed as a human figure with the head of a jackal or black dog – is a guardian of the Otherworld, who watches over tombs and mummies and guides souls of the departed to the Hall of Osiris. But Anubis’ significance goes much deeper. As psychopomp, or guide of souls, he is the patron of journeys beyond the body (which is why he is invoked to guard those who have left their bodies under trauma or anesthesia) and everyone journeys beyond the body in death and dreaming, with or without instruction.
     As Sekeeta’s training in the dream school deepens, she takes on more and more work as a psychopomp. One of the most movingly realized scenes in the book is one in which Sekeeta helps a grieving widow who has been crushed by the drowning deaths of her husband and son. Sekeeta advises the woman that she can meet her loved ones in dreams. The woman insists that she does not dream. (How often have we heard this from people we know?) Sekeeta gently insists that, nonetheless, she would like the woman to be open to a dream experience with her loved ones.
     That night, Sekeeta goes out – as a conscious dream traveler – to reintroduce the grieving woman to her husband and son. She enters the woman’s dream space, and finds herself sobbing over the dead bodies of her loved ones, frozen in a past scene of trauma. With the power of her focused intention, Sekeeta bathes the widow in light and lifts the “cloak of grayness” that is preventing her from seeing her husband and son as they now are. There is a loving reunion, and Sekeeta skillfully guides them to a beautiful park-like setting where they can share happy times together.
     This episode is a wonderful glimpse of what compassionate psychopomp work is all about. It seems entirely plausible to me that advanced spirits in ancient Egypt did it this way. I know that gifted dreamers are doing the work in very similar ways today, because many have shared comparable experiences with me during training in our contemporary dream school.     As entertainment, Winged Pharaoh is wonderful fun. But when you read it as an active dreamer, you’ll find that it suggests a whole curriculum of study. The exercises Sekeeta’s dream teacher gives her are ones you can practice with a partner. 

For more on dreaming like an Egyptian, please see The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Anubis mask, late period. Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Risen God, Goddess Rising

Today I give thanks for the risen god
The one whose blood became poppies
The one torn apart by the boar
The one who hung himself in the world tree
   sacrificing himself to himself
The one dismembered by his women
    in the ecstasy of their love
The wild bull called to the goddess
    who faces his killer in the arena
The ones who die when the seed corn
     goes into Earth, to sprout again
The deer king who is willing sacrifice
The one whose dark twin boxed him in
     and scattered his parts
     and rose under beating wings
The beautiful shepherd sent down
     to the Underworld by his consort
     to learn all that women endure    
The one who rose from the dark cave
     in a shining body but still wears
     a crown of thorns because of all
    the wrongs that are done in his name

Today I give thanks for the goddess rising
The one who chose to go down
    to the Great Below to meet her dark sister
The one who was ripped from the daylight world
    to bring treasures out of darkness as
    Queen of the Underworld and of herself
The one who fell through a hole
    in the Earth in the Sky and danced
    a new world into being on turtle’s back
The one who is always three
    maiden, mother, crone
    endlessly recreating herself
The ones who raise their lovers as sons
   and heal the wounded warrior in man
The one who raises the dead to give birth
    to the golden child
The Great Mother of a thousand faces
   whose bounty streams like milk
The Lady of Beasts
The deep mind of Earth
The bright intelligence of stars
The Divine Feminine we need
    to repair our world
    and redeem our kind

I give thanks for the power to die
    and come back on any day,
    Especially on this day.

- Easter Sunday 2020

Drawings by Robert Moss