Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Einstein demonstrates the source of synchronicity

The best explanation of synchronicity I know comes from Albert Einstein. More than an explanation, it is a demonstration, and it came to me in a dream, one of a sequence in which “my” Einstein mentored me on the nature of reality.
    I’m not megalomaniac enough to think that the actual Einstein would bother with someone who knows as little about hard science as I do. Yet the Einstein character who appears in my dream says that he talks to me for two reasons. The first is that dreaming is at the heart of real science, something that will be better understood as we go deeper into the 21st century. The second is that dreaming is the key to time travel, which Dream Einstein says is the most dangerous and most potent thing that humans will ever to get to experiment with; the experiments must be done properly.
    I spend little time and energy questioning whether my Dream Einstein is the individual intellect or spirit of Einstein or a part of me that dresses up like Einstein or some teaching figure in costume. I like the idea that our guides and teachers have access to a cosmic costume department. Whoever my dream Einstein is he talks to me in a stage German accent, sometimes at machine gun speed about things like the physics of time travel and the code of the I Ching, which he once told me is the best model of the universe commonly available and accessible.
    Here is how Einstein demonstrated the source of synchronicity.
    In my dream, a passage opens like a long cylinder lined with silver and bronze-colored rods angling up into the sky. I shoot up effortlessly through this tube. I become aware I’m about to encounter someone who can instruct me on the workings of time and the content of the future.
    I come out high above the ground and look up at a huge revolving structure; something like a Ferris wheel on its side or a giant fun park Tilt-a-Whirl. At the end of each spoke is a different object, a rather bundle of objects. As the wheel revolves, I noticed that the spokes go up and down at all angles making the general shape of a sphere.
    At the hub of the wheel is Einstein. He appears with wild fluffy hair, rumpled clothes as he’s appeared in my other dreams. From the center he works an engine that enables him to toss down bundles from the ends of the spokes. As one spoke dips another rises producing a seesaw effect. As a bundle falls to earth, it explodes like a piñata, scattering its contents over space and time. The source of synchronicity is the firing of a probability bundle, a package whose effects will be observed over a variable period of time but have their origin in a single throw.
     Since Einstein’s demonstration, when I notice a riff of coincidence, things popping up that you know are connected though there is no causation involved in the physical plane, I think of these probability bundles fired from another world into this one to burst across our space and time like multidimensional piñatas. A bundle is also quantum. Quantum means bundle or packet. So the cosmic Tilt-a-Whirl from which bundles are fired may be a model for how quantum effects are manifested on a human scale.
      The idea takes us all the way back to Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who said the deepest logic of our life is a child playing with game pieces on a board beyond this world. The child is divine, and as it plays with the pieces in another reality, events and people are moved on the game board of this world.

Statue of a Franciscan hitting a star-shaped piñata in Acolman, Mexico by Alejandro Linares Garcia, curiously evocative of Einstein's probability bundles.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

What is Active Dreaming?

Active Dreaming? The phrase is a provocation, designed to shake us free from the assumption that dreaming is a passive activity.  I am grateful for the gift of spontaneous sleep dreams, the ones we don’t ask for and often don’t want. They hold up a magic mirror in which we can see ourselves as we truly are. They serve as a voice of conscience. They preview challenges and opportunities that lie in our future.
    Sleep dreams show us what is going on inside the body, diagnose developing complaints before medical symptoms present themselves, and show us what the body needs to stay well. We solve problems in our sleep. And, as the First Peoples of my native Australia teach, our personal dreams may be a passport to the Dreamtime, the larger reality in which we can meet the ancestors and our authentic spiritual teachers.
    I work with sleep dreams in all these varieties, and many more, and welcome them to work on me. But Active Dreaming is far more than a method for decoding sleep dreams. While the techniques involved are fresh and original, they are also very ancient. They involve ways of seeing and knowing and healing that were known to our early ancestors, kept them alive on a dangerous planet, and enabled them to communicate with each other and with other forms of life in the speaking land around them.     
    Active Dreaming is a way of being fully of this world while maintaining constant contact with another world, the world-behind-the-world, where the deeper logic and purpose of our lives are to be found.
    Active Dreaming is a discipline, as is yoga or archaeology or particle physics. This is to say that there are ascending levels of practice. In any field, the key to mastery is always the same: practice, practice, practice.
     Active Dreaming offers three core areas of practice. 
First, Active Dreaming is a way of talking and walking our dreams, of bringing energy and guidance from the dreamworld into everyday life. We learn how to create a safe space where we can share dreams of the night and dreams of life with others, receive helpful feedback, and encourage each other to move towards creative and healing action. We discover that each of us can play guide for others, and that by sharing in the right way we claim our voice, grow our power as storytellers and communicators, build stronger friendships and lay foundations for a new kind of community. Above all, we learn to take action to embody the energy and guidance of our dreams in everyday life.  

Second, Active Dreaming is a method of shamanic lucid dreaming.  It starts with simple everyday practice and extends to profound group experiences of time travel, soul recovery and the exploration of multidimensional reality. It is founded on the understanding that we don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream. The easiest way to become a conscious or lucid dreamer is to start out lucid and stay that way.
    We learn to embark on conscious or lucid dreaming from the liminal state of awareness known as hynagogia, when we are between sleep and waking, or between waking and sleep. We learn to use the doorway of a remembered dream to embark on a wide-awake and conscious dream journey, traveling back inside the dreamscape to gather more information, dialogue with a dream figure, move beyond fear toward healing and self-empowerment – and have wonderful fun. We learn to travel together in mutual and group adventures in conscious dreaming, journeying into nonordinary reality with one or more partners and bringing back gifts and mutual confirmation.
    As a method of conscious dream navigation, Active Dreaming is not to be confused with approaches that purport to “control” or manipulate dreams; it is utterly misguided to seek to put the control freak in the ego in charge of something immeasurably wiser and deeper than itself.

Third, Active Dreaming is a way of conscious living. This requires us to reclaim our inner child, and the child’s gift of spontaneity, play and imagination. It requires us to claim the power of naming and define our life project. It invites us to discover and follow the natural path of our energies. It calls us to remember and tell and live our bigger story in such a way that it can be heard and received by others. It is about navigating by synchronicity and receiving the chance events and symbolic pop-ups on our daily roads as clues to a deeper order. Beyond this, it is about grasping that the energy we carry and the attitudes we choose have magnetic effect on the world around us, drawing or repelling encounters and circumstances.
    To live consciously is to accept the challenge to create, which is to move beyond scripts and bring something new into the world.

This approach is not only for individuals and friends and families, but for communities and for our deeper attunement to the cause of the Earth.  Active dreamers become Speakers for the Earth, and rise to full awareness of the truth of the indigenous wisdom that we must be mindful of the consequences of our actions down to the seventh generation beyond ourselves. Active dream groups can offer a model of intentional community, and can foster a new mode of leadership that empowers each member to claim her voice and play guide to others as they learn to speak and embody their own truth.

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

Photo: Path of lights at Mosswood Hollow, near Duvall WA, where I lead many dream retreats and trainings.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Churchill, Einstein and the making of immortals

I journeyed through the doorway of a dream, intent on exploring a most interesting locale, an upscale pub-restaurant called The Huntsman's Arms. I confirmed my impression that the pub is a waystation on the Other Side, and had several memorable encounters with deceased family members and friends and with the enigmatic proprietor, the Huntsman himself.
     In my exercise in conscious dream reentry, I noticed Winston Churchill looking in on a gathering in a saloon bar. The former statesman was floating in midair, like a human zeppelin, puffing on his eternal cigar. Over many years, Churchill has been a recurring figure in my imaginal life.
    This sighting prompts me to ask: just who are the great figures of the past who turn up in this way, dead yet seemingly immortal? Who, in the collective psyche, is Princess Diana? Who, in the Catholic imagination, are the saints who are believed still to be working miracles and turning up in visions? Who is the Jung who showed me around the Other Bollingen, a story I recount in Mysterious Realities? Who is the Yeats who has appeared to me in dreams and hypnagogia scores of times, and volunteered to be my"guide to the Other Side", as related in The Dreamer's Book of the Dead?
    Answers are likely to be slippery, because we dream and perceive in so many different ways, on so many levels. Musing on this theme, I found myself reflecting again on my serial dreams of encounters and "thought experiments" with Einstein. In one of my Einstein dreams, the great scientist welcomed me at the wooden gate of a formal Chinese garden. He led me to a tea house and introduced me to Richard Wilhelm, who gave the West the first translation of the I Ching that works for practical purposes of divination. In the course of our conversation, Einstein made reference to a certain "Fechner", a name previously unknown to me.-
    I did some research and found that Gustav Fechner was a German psychologist and physicist of the 19th century, credited with pioneering the science of "psychophysics". Fechner, a firm believer in the soul's survival of physical death, attempted to define the different modes and subtle vehicles in which consciousness can both survive death and make itself known to others. 
    In Richard Wilhelm's lectures on the I Ching I found a note on Fechner's psychophysics of the afterlife that goes to the quick of my inquiry about what is going on when Churchill or Einstein turns up in the imaginal lives of the living. Fechner suggested that after death the departed acquires a "body of immortality" that is "formed in the thoughts of other men...formed by their remembrance of the deceased". This body of immortality is "a body of a higher grade, in which the deceased can continue to live" and appear to the living. The great and famous, whose image in life is magnified by the attention and hopes and beliefs of millions, and whose memory is carried by just as many, could presumably take on a "body of immortality" that would enable them to appear and operate like the demigods of the ancient world or the saints of believers.
     In the midst of these researches - in books and in my journals, on the internet and in the interworld of lucid active dreaming -  I stopped in at my favorite used bookstore.This is one of those happy places where shelf elves are often at play, and are sometimes embodied by the bookseller. The assistant on duty that day - a gentle and mature historian and scholar whose day job is at an area college - chose to recollect, out of the blue, "When I was a boy my father gave me a complete collection of Winston Churchill's speeches, on vinyl of course. I was thrilled by them. My wife put them on disk for me and I've been listening again, and they are no less thrilling. It feels like Churchill is one of those people who can reach across time, into many people's minds."

Art: "The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell" )1962), Churchill's last painting

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Dreaming with the Goddess

She has a thousand faces.
She is virgin, mother and crone.
She is creator, preserver and destroyer.
She gives birth, endlessly. 
Her womb is the gateway of death and rebirth.
She is Queen of Earth and Heaven.

She fell through a hole in her world
and danced our world into being on turtle’s back.
She hid the sunlight from the world
when she was abused by men
and could only be lured back
when shown her radiant face in a mirror.

She is lover, warrior and shaman.
She is the one who repairs the broken soul.
She raises the god in man with her breath.

Men tried to confine her to limited roles,
to force her into wedlock with despotic gods.
Then the Church sought to bury her.
But the Goddess returned as Mary,
and now she is loose again,
asking us to honor and embody her
in the forms that please her.

I am only a man, but I serve the Goddess.
When I was still a virgin, she claimed me
in one of her most fearsome forms,
and I carry her mark in a secret place.

I have been taught by ancient priestesses
in a mountain temple in the sky
in a mandorla of amber light
in worlds that open through an oak door
and a bee hive and a sea mist.

I have met the Goddess in molten lava,
as Spider Woman and Reindeer Queen
and as Great Mother Bear.
Bees flew me to a place of her mysteries.
I feel her hair stream in the sea waves.
I love her in the deep loamy earth.
I see her robe swirl in the shifting stars. 

Images: Top: Venus of Willendorf
Bottom: Nut at Esalen (c) Robert Moss

Making real magic

Real magic is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this world. We do this when we go dreaming and when we remember to bring something back. In dreaming, we go to other realities, that may include places of guidance, initiation, challenge, adventure, healing. When we bring something back from these excursions, and take action in ordinary life to embody guidance and energy, that is a practice of real magic.
    We go dreaming in the night. We do it quite spontaneously. We can do it by setting an intention for our nocturnal adventures. We can do it as lucid dreamers, awakened to the fact that we are dreaming and able to navigate the dreamlands consciously.  We can do it in the way of the shaman, traveling intentionally, conscious and hyper-awake, riding the drum to locales beyond the ordinary, and bringing back gifts.
    We can also walk the roads of everyday life as conscious or lucid dreamers, learning to recognize how the world is speaking to us in signs and symbols, and how a deeper order of events may reveal itself through the play of synchronicity. In night dreams and conscious excursions, we get out there; we go near or far into other orders of reality where the rules of linear time and Newtonian physics do not apply. Through synchronicity, powers of the deeper reality come poking and probing through the walls of our consensual hallucinations to bring us awake. Sometimes they work to confirm or encourage us in a certain line of action; sometimes they intercede to knock us back and discourage us from persisting in the worst of our errors.
     Synchronicity is when the universe gets personal. Navigating by synchronicity is the dreamer’s way of operating 24/7. Though the word “synchronicity” is a modern invention — Jung made it up because he noticed that people have a hard time talking about coincidence — the phenomenon has been recognized, and highly valued, from the most ancient times. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that the deepest order in our experienced universe is the effect of “a child playing with game pieces” in another reality. As the game pieces fall, we notice the reverberations, in the play of coincidence.
      When we pay attention, we find that we are given signs by the world around us every day. Like a street sign, a synchronistic event may seem to say Stop or Go, Dead End or Fast Lane.  Beyond these signs, we find ourselves moving in a field of symbolic resonance which not only reflects back our inner themes and preoccupations, but provides confirmation or course correction. A symbol is more than a sign: it brings together what we know with what we do not yet know.
    Through the weaving of synchronicity, we are brought awake and alive to a hidden order of events, to the understory of our world and our lives. As in the scene in the movie The Matrix when the black cat crosses the room in the same way twice, riffs of coincidence (for which I have coined the term reincidence) can teach us that consensual reality may be far less solid than we supposed.
    You do not need to travel far to encounter powers of the deeper world or hear oracles speak. You are at the center of the multidimensional universe right now. The doors to the Otherworld open from wherever you are, and the traffic moves both ways. 

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

Photo by RM

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Symbol magnets and something fishy about Jung

The magnetic power of a symbol, in our lives, can bring together inner and outer events in ways that shift our perception of reality. We learn best about these things through direct experience, and through stories - like Jung's fish tales - that we can trust.     
    When Jung was immersed in his study of the symbolism of the fish in Christianity, alchemy and world mythology, the theme started leaping at him in everyday life. On April 1, 1949, he made some notes about an ancient inscription describing a man whose bottom half was a fish. At lunch that day, he was served fish. In the conversation, there was talk of the custom of making an "April fish" - a European term for "April fool" - of someone.
    In the afternoon, a former patient of Jung's, whom he had not seen for months, arrived at his house and displayed him some "impressive" pictures of fish. That evening, Jung was shown embroidery that featured fishy sea monsters. The next day, another former patient he had not seen in a decade recounted a dream in which a large fish swam towards her.

    Several months later, mulling over this sequence as an example of the phenomenon he dubbed synchronicity, Jung walked by the lake near his house, returning to the same spot several times. The last time he repeated this loop, he found a fish a foot long lying on top of the sea-wall. Jung had seen no one else on the lake shore that morning. While the fish might have been dropped by a bird, its appearance seemed to him quite magical, part of a "run of chance" in which more than "chance" seemed to be at play. 
    If we're keeping count (as Jung did) this sequence includes six discrete instances of meaningful coincidence, five of them bobbing up, like koi in a pond, within 24 hours, and all reflecting Jung's preoccupation with the symbolism of the fish. Such unlikely riffs of coincidence prompted Jung to ask whether it is possible that the physical world mirrors psychic processes "as continuously as the psyche perceives the physical world."
    In her discussion of how inner and outer events can mirror each other, Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz suggested that "if the psychic mirrorings of the material world - in short, the natural sciences - really constitute valid statements about matter, then the reverse mirror-relation would also have to be valid. This would mean that 
material events in the external world would have to be regarded as statements about conditions in the objective psyche.
    Some of the greatest minds of the past century - Jung and Wolfgang Pauli and David Bohm - sought to model a universe in which mind and matter, subject and object, inner and outer, are everywhere interweaving. Events, both physical and psychic, unfold from a unified field, the unus mundus of the alchemists, that may be synonymous with Bohm's "implicate order", Their interaction escapes our ordinary perception of causation and of time and space. “Precisely because the psychic and the physical are mutually dependent...they may be identical somewhere beyond our present experience.” 
    Living symbols deeply ingrained in the imaginal history of humankind are charged with magnetic force, which can draw clusters of events together. For those familiar with tarot, it feels at such moments as if one of the Greater Trumps is at play in the world. Traditional diviners understand this, as do true priests and priestesses. Thus one of the Odu, or patterns, of Ifa, the oracle of the Yoruba, is held to bring the fierce orisha Ogun into the space, while another is believed to carry spirits of the dead into the realm of the living. When that happens, you don't just study the pattern; you move to accommodate or propitiate the power that is manifesting.
    To grasp the full power of a symbol, we need to go back to the root meaning of the word. "Symbol" is derived from the Greek σύμβολον (sýmbolon) which combines συν- (syn-) meaning "together" and βολή (bolē) a "throw" or a "cast" A symbol is that which is "thrown together" or "cast together". This is very close to the root meaning of "coincidence". In Latin, to coincide is to "fall together". So it's not surprising that when symbols are in play, coincidence multiplies.
   The first literary mention of a symbol is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, in which the god Hermes exclaims, on finding a tortoise, "O what a happy symbol for me", before turning the tortoise shell into a lyre. In the ancient world, sýmbolon came to mean a token, that which brings things together. Thus a symbol might be a pair of tokens that could be fitted together to make a single object. Such tokens might be broken halves of potsherd, a ring or a seal. They would vouch for the truthfulness of a messenger, or an enduring loyalty.    

-  Jung noted in his foreword to his most important work on synchronicity that "my researches into the history of symbols. and of the fish symbol in particular, brought the problem [of explaining synchronicity] ever closer to me" His experiences of symbols irrupting into the physical world led him to sympathize with Goethe's magical view that "We all have certain electric and magnetic powers within us and ourselves exercise an attractive and repelling force, according as we come into touch with something like or unlike."  Such powers are magnified when our minds and our environment are charged with the energy of a living symbol.

Graphic: Oannes, from a relief in the Assyrian city of Dur-Sharrukin, today called Khorsabad.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Flitcraft Shift

"He went like that," Spade said, "like a fist when you open your hand."

It's a great parable, told by Sam Spade in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. On the way to lunch, a real estate man named Flitcraft is almost killed by a beam falling from a high floor of a building under construction. A chip thrown up from the sidewalk leaves a scar on his cheek. 
    By the end of lunch, Flitcraft decides to simply walk out of his comfortable, middle-class life in Tacoma - and vanishes, walking out on his family, his job and his savings without a goodbye to anyone.
     Sam Spade explains, "He knew then that men died at haphazard like that, and lived only while blind chance spared them. It was not, primarily, the injustice of it that disturbed him: he accepted that after the first shock. What disturbed him was the discovery that in sensibly ordering his affairs he had got out of step, and not in step, with life."
     A close encounter with death, and awareness of the role of the "haphazard", changes people, that's for sure. Ironically, when spotted years after his vanishing act, Flitcraft has settled into a life very similar to the one he abandoned, with a similar wife and car, and the same date with the golf course at four every afternoon.
     In his brilliant novel Oracle Night, Paul Auster tells the story of a novelist who accepts the challenge to write a new version of the Flitcraft parable.