Wednesday, July 6, 2022

If it were my dream

 


Don’t let anyone tell you what your dreams mean. And never do that to anyone else. This is the golden rule of dream-sharing.

None of us have the right to tell another person what his or her dream means, based on any certification or presumed authority.  We don’t need to be doctors or shrinks, gurus or experts to offer helpful comments on someone else’s dreams. In commenting on each other’s dreams, we should begin by saying, “If it were my dream,” making it clear that we are offering our personal associations and projections, not presuming to tell the dreamer the definitive meaning of his or her dream.

If you are commenting on someone else’s dream, you can do little wrong as long as you follow the simple rule that you will preface your opinions and associations by saying “if it were my dream.” You will not presume to interpret another person’s dream. You are absolutely free to give your own ideas on the meaning of the dream, but you will do that by pretending that the dream is your own. You will own your own projections instead of foisting them on the other person. You will not only help to guide the dreamer towards grasping the meaning of a dream; you will help her to claim her power to determine the meaning of her dreams, and her life, for herself.

You listen to a dream, you ask for the dreamer’s feelings on waking (which are always the first and best clues to what is going on in the dream) and you run a quick reality check, asking the dreamer what she recognizes from the dream in the rest of her life and whether any of it could manifest in the future, literally or symbolically.

Then you offer your comments, starting with the phrase, “if it were my dream”. As long as you follow this protocol, you are free to bring in any associations, feelings or memories the dream arouses in you, including dreams of your own that may come to mind. Often we understand other people’s dreams best when we can relate them to our own dream experiences.

For example: If the dreamer has told you a dream in which he/she is running away from a bear, you may recall a dream of your own in which you hid from a bear – before you discovered that the bear was an ally. Your own experience may lead you to say, “If it were my dream, I would like to go back into the dream and meet the bear again and see whether it might be an ally”. You are now doing something more useful than merely interpreting the dream; you are gently guiding the dreamer to take action on the dream.

It is very rewarding to receive a totally different perspective on a dream, so sharing in this way with strangers can be amazingly rewarding – as long as the rules of the game are respected.

The fact that we may be highly intuitive, and highly skilled as dream interpreters, does not give us the right to take people’s power away by telling them what their dreams mean – even (and perhaps especially) when we are convinced we are “right” in our reading of what is going on in the dream.

As dreamers, we also want to be open to what other people can contribute to our understanding of our own dreams. We don’t want to adopt a “know-it-all” attitude, because even if we think we have a pretty fair idea of what is going on in a dream, more than likely someone else’s take will offer fresh perspectives. Even if feedback we receive seems remote from our own feelings about a dream,  that can help us to home in on what matters for us. 

Because dreams are multi-layered, it is also possible that a different perspective can help us open up aspects of the dream we may have missed. I find it very helpful to hear from people who have a very different perspective than my own. For example, because I tend to see dreams as transpersonal experiences in which we encounter other beings, in one order of reality or another, it can be very useful for me to be prompted to ask “what part of me” are the different characters and elements in a dream.


RM journal drawing: "Lady of Colors"

With the air of a magician, the young woman artist shows me the pigment powders she has laid out in metal dishes. We agree they could be used as a benign arsenal to paint visions of healing and possibility in place of hatred and despair. I have my own set of paints but I need to learn her techniques.

" I am your double from the jinn"


Kuthayyir 'Azzah was born in Medina and died there in 723  after many years in Egypt. He had the ear of caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty, was favored by courtiers for his flattering verses, and was no stranger to the charms of women. He became famous for his ghazals, songs of love and longing, often spiked with the absence of the lady he thirsted for, graceful as an antelope, fleeting as a raincloud over the desert - and unfortunately, wed to another man. His poems survive in palaces including the library of the Escorial in Spain.

When asked for the source of his poetic inspiration he gave a stunning response. He did not mention a lady, or the voices of birds or a rising flood inside him. He spoke of his double in the world of the jinn, a world normally invisible to humans where great games are nonetheless in play. Amira El-Zein tells the story in a wonderful book on “the Intelligent World of the Jinn": 

Umayyad love poet Kuthayyir 'Azzah (660-723) was once asked, "When did you start reciting poetry?" He replied, "I did not start reciting poetry until it was recited to me." Then he was asked, "And how was that?" He replied, "One day, I was in a plane called Ghamin, near Madinah. It was noon. A man on horseback came toward me until he was next to me. I looked at him. He was bizarre, a man made out of brass; he seemed to be dragging himself along. He said to me, 'Recite some poetry!' Then he recited poetry to me. I said, 'Who are you?' He said, 'I am your double from the jinn!' That is how I started reciting poetry."


As for those songs of longing: poets and dreamers know that yearning for a lover who is far away may loosen the soul from the body and launch astral flights.

Source: Amira El-Zein, Islam, Arabs and the Intelligent World of the Jinn (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 2017) 126-7.


Journal drawing "Jinn on Horseback" by RM

 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

What’s Going On in Your Dream House?

 


When you record your dreams, pay special attention to the dream locations. The settings may be familiar or completely foreign, vivid and sensory or cloudy and indistinct. You may be in a place whose physics appears quite different from ordinary reality. You may be at home with people you don't know in regular life. You might be living in a medieval castle that seems to have been constructed yesterday.

Again and again, you dream you are in the old place – back in the home you shared with your ex, or the office where you worked at the old job, or at grandma’s house, or in the school yard. Maybe you’ll want to ask yourself: did I leave part of myself behind when I left that old situation? Maybe your dream house is a hybrid, melding elements from places you recognize from the past with novel architecture. The house may seem familiar at the outset, but then proves to have more rooms and more stories than you remember. These may be stories of your life and levels of your psyche or Self.

It can be fascinating to revisit a dream structure of this kind through conscious dream reentry, and learn more about what is going on. Jung found in his dream of a many-layered house - a dream Freud insisted on misinterpreting - a model for understanding connections between the conscious mind, the personal subconscious and the collective unconscious. In his dream, he started out on a floor that looked like a normal bourgeois home. As he descended through successive floors, he found himself in primal territory, in a dirt-floor basement containing skulls and bones of distant ancestors.

I find it especially intriguing to go up on the roof of a dream house. Sometimes I find there are levels beyond what I expected. Sometimes, on a roof terrace or garden, I meet a benign figure I recognize as a slightly higher self, a witness self who can give me perspective on my life situation, since he is up above the scrum. I have called this figure the Double on the Balcony.

I dreamed I was in a house that I used to own, in another reality. It was quite familiar in the dream, but does not correspond closely to any house I have occupied in this world. My dream house was a palace, with sections open to tour groups. It has sweeping marble staircases leading up to what used to be private family apartments and my library. I tried to go up the steps, but they petered out and I realized the library and the private rooms had been long since abandoned and sealed off. I did not give up on my detective work. I took another staircase to a balcony with wonderful views over green forests and meadows. I told ladies I met there, matter-of-factly, "I used to own this house." I know I will come here again. I need to get up that staircase. And I need to understand what life story I am inhabiting in this palace that has seen better days.

By focusing on a dream location, we have an excellent portal for conscious dreaming, shamanic journeying and astral travel. If you have been to a place in a dream, you can go there again, just as you might return to a place you have visited in ordinary reality. Your dream house may be a place you will visit in the future. I have been guided, in while series of dreams, to houses I did not recognize at the outset but proved to be future homes that I purchased and occupied. We take real estate tours in our dreams. 

The dream house may be a structure that the astral architect in you has constructed for various purposes: as a place for rest and relaxation, as a sanctuary or a study, as a place of rendezvous, as a pleasure palace. Such creations may have their own stability. They may be homes that await you in the afterlife or interlife. Your dream house may be a place where you are leading a parallel life with people you may or may not know in your physical world. It may be a construction or renovation site, a place waiting for our imagination to raise the walls or put on the finishing touches.

What's that? Your memories of such things are blurry? You can take comfort from Seth, as channeled by Jane Roberts in Dreams and the Projection of Consciousness  "If you have little memory of your dream locations when you are awake, then remember that you have little memory of your waking locations when you are in the dream situation. Both are legitimate and both are realities. When the body lies in bed, it is separated by a vast distance from the dream location in which the dreaming self may dwell.” 



Flying House by Matthias Jung

 

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Dream Web

 A document from a a possible future describing a the practices of a commonwealth of dreamers.


In place of a constitution, Dreamland has a charter that the founders titled 

RULES FOR HERDING CATS

            One of the rules reads as follows:

When a decision is required on a matter of community importance, the people must come together in the Big House and make a web.

In the first years of Dreamland, when the community was small, there was only one Big House, built of very simple materials around a great tree that rose through the roof like a ladder into the sky. Now Dreamland has many Big Houses, but the making of a dreaming web is essentially the same. Standing in a great circle at nightfall as they sing songs of Earth, the weavers raise the Mother’s energy into the vital centers and share it hand to hand, giving and receiving. When the energy is flowing strong between them, they each project ropelike energy cords to a common center and began to weave and shape the web. The cords flash with many colors, but as they interweave they glow sparkling white. When the chief weavers are satisfied that the web is strong enough to serve the group intention, the dreamers lie down in a cartwheel on the floor.

Lying together in the dark, with their web of dreaming glowing above and around them, the dreamers sing their group intention, over and over. As they sing, the web grows. It will grow until it has brought within it everything the dreamers need to see and know. As the energy filaments stretch, they may encompass the whole planet. All times are accessible. Years or centuries may slip by, like blown leaves, in the group perception. While the group visions together within the web, individual Dreamers move along its strands, agile as human spiders, and drop down on scenes they choose to see close-up.

At daybreak, the Dreamers share their perceptions, and the necessary decision becomes clear. They say there is no need to count heads when hearts are joined and connected to the heart of the Mother.



Text adapted from "Dreamland: Documents from a Possible Future" in Active Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.


Spider web photo from Wikipedia

 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

You Always Have the Freedom to Change Your Attitude, and That Can Change Everything


Terrible things are happening in our world. The worst nightmares of the mind-twentieth century seem to be returning. There are days when we might find it hard to rise above despair or escape a low, lethargic mood freighted with our own negative mantras. On days like that, I often call on one of the greatest life coaches I know.

I know him from his most famous book. Maybe you do too. His book is titled Man’s Search for Meaning. His name is Viktor Frankl. He was an Existentialist — which is to say, someone who believes that we must be authors of meaning for our own lives — and a successful psychiatrist in Vienna before Nazi Germany swallowed Austria in 1938. He was a Jew and a free-thinking intellectual, two reasons for the Nazis to send him to a concentration camp. For several years he was in Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.

In the camp, every vestige of humanity was taken from him, except what he could sustain in his mind and his heart. He was in constant pain, reduced to a near-skeleton with a tattooed number on his arm, liable to be beaten or killed at any moment on the whim of a guard. He was there to be worked to death. He watched those around him shot or beaten or carted off to the gas chambers every day.

He made an astonishing choice. He decided that, utterly deprived of freedom in the nightmare world around him, he would tend one precious candle of light within. He would exercise the freedom to choose his attitude. It sounds preposterous, if you don’t know the story of what unfolded. When people tell us we have a bad attitude in ordinary circumstances, we are usually not grateful. The suggestion that we can choose our attitude when the world around us seems cold and bleak, or we have suffered a major setback, even heartbreak, sounds cruel, and maybe preposterous. But let’s stay with Viktor Frankl.

When the light went out in his world, he managed to light that inner candle of vision. Despite the pain in his body and the screams and groans around him, he made an inner movie, a film of a possible life in a world where the Nazis had been defeated and Hitler was a memory. It was an impossible vision of course, an escapist fantasy. There was no way he was going to survive Auschwitz.

But he kept working on his inner movie, night after night, as director, scriptwriter and star. He produced a scene in which he was giving a lecture in a well-filled auditorium in New York City. His body had filled out, and he was wearing a very fine custom suit. The people in the audience were intelligent and enthusiastic. The theme of his lecture was “The Psychology of the Concentration Camps.” In his movie, not only were the death camps a thing of the past. He had retained the sanity and academic objectivity to speak about what went on during the Holocaust from a professional psychiatric perspective.

This exercise in inner vision, conducted under almost unimaginably difficult circumstances, got Viktor Frankl through. Not only did he survive the death camp; in 1946, one year after the war, he gave that lecture in his nice new suit in the New York auditorium from his inner movie set.

What do we take away from this?

First, that however tough our situation may seem to be, we always have the freedom to choose our attitude, and this can change everything. Let’s allow William James to chime in: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

Second, that our problems, however bad, are unlikely to be quite as bad as the situation of someone who has been sent to a Nazi death camp. That thought may help us to gain perspective, and to stand back from a welter of grief and self-pity and rise to a place where we can start to dream up something better.

Third, we can make inner movies, and if they are good enough it is possible that they will play in the theater of the world.

If we take Viktor Frankl’s example to heart, we see that choosing your attitude can be an exercise in creative imagination that is much more practical and original than trying to edit your inner soundtrack (though that is worth trying) or telling yourself that you can’t afford the energy of a negative thought (you can learn to use the energy of any strong emotion, including grief and rage).



Text adapted from Growing Big Dreams: Manifesting Your Heart's Desires through the Twelve Secrets of Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library

Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Threefold Death of Silver Wolf


We are not only more than body and brain; we are more than body and soul. This has been the insight of most spiritual traditions, that have understood that at a minimum, the human is a threefold being, a trinity of body, soul and spirit. In some traditions, the anatomy of soul depicts four, seven or nine aspects of energy and consciousness, with differing functions and degrees of mobility during life, and different trajectories after death. The words "soul" and "spirit" are very slippery in English but I use them for the sake of simplicity. My deepest understanding of the nature and trajectories of body-soul-spirit comes from an indelible experience in Ohio country in and out of dreamland two decades ago. Here  the word "body" stretches to includes a dense energy vehicle that survives the death of the physical for a time.

~

After an early flight, a long day of teaching and a jolly dinner, I am glad to settle in to the guest bedroom in the rambling frame house my friend has turned into a cozy retreat center. It's quiet here, on wooded land, near a town with one of those wonderful Midwestern names: Strongsville, Ohio. I hear only the low murmur of the Rapid River, beyond the rise where there is said to be a ring of ancient stones used by the Iroquois for sacred ceremonies.

Soon I am wandering through the courtyards of dreaming. I am startled awake by a loud burst of laughter. Blurry, I look at the bedside clock. 3:00 AM. I strain to identify the source of the noise. There are many voices, coming from the sitting room downstairs. Are there intruders? I'm quite sure my host would not be holding a loud party in the middle of the night.

I pull on shirt and jeans and pad downstairs. There is indeed a party in full swing. The party-goers are quite elegantly dressed. A tall, lean man detaches himself from a group around the baby grand piano to welcome me.

"Who are you people?" I demand.

He says clearly and distinctly, "Autochthons. We are autochthons."

I recognize the Greek term and try to recall the exact meaning. His shining eyes wait for my recognition. There is something anomalous here, stranger than the party itself. What is it? His hair is silver. It does not stop at the hairline, it covers the whole face, darkening around the muzzle. I am looking into the face of a wolf, atop the body of a man. The wolf head is not a mask.

Shocked, I tumble out of an inner court of the dreaming, rushing through outer courts that leave no mark on memory, back into the body that did not leave the bed.

Over morning coffee, I tell my host what happened during the night. She says, "I'm sorry I missed the party. Who did the Alpha Male say they were, again?"

"Autochthon. It comes from the Greek." My Greek is a shambles, but the meaning is with me now. "It literally means Sprung from the Earth. Aboriginal, indigenous."

The Wolf Man has told me, in the language of a Western scholar, that he and his kin are of the First Peoples of this land.


I need no persuading that this is the morning to go up on the rise behind the house and investigate the ancient circle of stones among the pines and birches. The sun is shining brightly as I walk with my friend up the winding trail. When we reach the stones, she lets me go alone between two boulders. I touch them lightly, and feel at once that one of them is an archive stone, holding the memories of the land across eons.

When I pass beyond the gateway stones, I freeze, because I am not alone within the circle. The Wolf People are all around me. Their faces are now human, but they wear wolf pelts over buckskins and broadcloth. The alpha has the head of a silver wolf lolling over his own.

In bright sunlight, these people are quite substantial. Their bodies are just slightly translucent. I can see the flash of reflected light on the river through the alpha's massive form, but he is more real to me than my friend, who waits respectfully outside the stone circle. Silver Wolf, I now call him, as he communicates with me, mind to mind.

I am of the Wolf People. I am their dreamer and I guide them on the roads of this world and the Real World. We have come to you because you dream as we do, and you walk on our paths.

You wish to know the soul, and what happens to soul after the body is left behind. I now invite you to enter my death, and know the truth about these things by living and dying as I have done.

I am excited, and terrified. In the Ohio sunlight, I am about to fall into a different world. It does not occur to me to dismiss Silver Wolf and his people as figures of fantasy or hallucination. They are real, and the offer is a real.

As soon as he receives my acceptance, Silver Wolf transports me into his experience of death, and life after death. I am inside his consciousness as his body is laid under the blanket of Mother Earth. And soon I am groaning and dry-heaving, because I have been buried alive. A heavy stone has been laid on my chest to prevent me from rising up. I know that what I am sharing is not the death of the physical body, but the deliberate confinement of an energy body that survives death. This is a husk that must be given to the Earth and kept away from the living. I will myself to leave this energy husk in the ground, to let it suffocate and start to decompose.

Now I am above the ground, levitating and then flying. The sense of freedom is exhilarating. I can travel anywhere I want, according to my desire and imagination. I can indulge my passions and appetites. I can revisit old friends and old places, and travel to new ones. I enjoy myself like this for a time, then my astral ramblings begin to pall. I choose to rest now inside a tree, in the sleep of the heartwood.

In a few Ohio minutes, I seem to rest here for years or centuries. Then I rouse, ready for new life. I am drawn to a scene of passion, of a couple engaged in the sexual act. I stream between them, into the womb of the mother. I see myself now, from a witness perspective, as a newborn, pink and small enough to fit inside a parent's palm. This part of me has been reborn as a bear cub.

Who is the I that is watching? I am spirit, I am mind. I can return to a home among the stars. But I - as Silver Wolf - am one of those chosen to stay close to the land and watch over the Earth and those who share life upon it. I will visit them in their dreams, and I will call their dream souls to me, to remind them of essential things that humans must know but are forever forgetting.


It is enough. My heart thumps as I return to the self that is standing in the circle of stones.

My friend is still waiting beyond the portal stones. "Did you feel anything?" she asks. "Was this really a place of power for Native Americans?"

"Yes," I tell her. "You could say that."


~


I have recounted this episode exactly as it took place, in the woods in northern Ohio in 2003. Silver Wolf, a great shaman of an earlier time, made me know the nature and fate of three aspects of soul and spirit by inviting me to share his experience of what happens after death. The knowledge I gained is indelible, and guides me in my shamanic work and teaching, and in continuing efforts to develop models of the multidimensional self and geographies of the afterworld. 
A lightly edited version of this narrative is in Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories by Robert Moss. Published by Excelsior Editions.

Drawing: "We are autochthons" by Robert Moss.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Scottish Crossings to Fairyland

 


Robert Kirk, a seventeenth-century Anglican vicar at Aberfoyle in Scotland, wrote a remarkably detailed account of the Otherworld, its inhabitants, and their intercourse with living human beings. He wrote it by hand, as magical texts need to be written, with the greatest of  care, in 1691. Kirks Secret Commonwealth is not another collection of folklore and popular beliefs but a rigorous study, scientific by the standards of its day, that is clearly grounded in experience. Its main interest today is that it describes a secret way of correspondence with the invisible world: a means of crossing between ordinary and nonordinary reality at will.

Kirk subtitled his work “An Essay of the Nature and actions of the Subterranean and for the most part Invisible People, heretofore going by the names of Elves, Fauns and Fairies and the like.” By “subterranean,” he does not mean creatures living in dark, gloomy places in the bowels of the earth. Their realm is full of light, though it is not lit by any sun. They live in “cavities” and may pass wherever air may go. The earth is “full of cavities and cells,” and everywhere is inhabited; there is “no such thing as pure wilderness in the whole Universe.”

Though invisible to most humans, the inhabitants of these realms are not disembodied. They have “light changeable bodies, like those called Astral, somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud.” They are best seen at twilight. They shape-shift and can make their “bodies of congealed air” appear and disappear at will.

The fairies are “of a middle nature betwixt man and Angel,” like the daimons of the ancient world. They are mortal, in the sense that they pass from their existing state, but they live far longer than a human life span. They are strongly connected to the earth and special places within the earth. They tend to show themselves in the costume of the country and speak its language. Kirk discusses rival opinions in his parish about whether the “good people” are spirits of the departed, clothed in their subtle bodies; “exuded forms of the man approaching death”; or “a numerous people by themselves.” He suggests that all these descriptions may be valid for different phenomena. Just beyond the borders of everyday perception is a vast and varied population.

Encounters with the fairies can be dangerous. They are known to abduct humans into their realm Those who enter the Otherworld willingly may have a hard time getting back. Some inhabitants of the invisible realm are hostile to humans, and some seek to feed on the energy of the living. However, the peoples of the Secret Commonwealth take a close interest in human affairs, and our lives are closely related to theirs. 

One of Kirk’s most intriguing observations is that each of us has a double who is fully at home in the Otherworld. The old Scots Gaelic term for this double is coimimeadh (pronounced “coy-me-may”), which means “co-walker.” Kirk improvises a series of synonyms for the double, including: twin, companion, echo, “reflex-man, and living picture. The double resembles the living person both before and after she or he dies. The double survives physical death, when the co-walker “goes at last to his own land.” When invited, the co-walker will make itself “known and familiar.” But most people are unaware that they have a double. Since it lives in a different element, it “neither can nor will easily converse” with the everyday waking mind.

Your double may be seen by others. Kirk gives several examples: of someone’s double entering a house shortly before the person himself arrived; of sightings of the double of a person who had just died or was soon to die; of the perception of the subtle form of a lover or spouse standing close to the loved one; of a woman who observed her second self walking ahead of her as she left her home. Kirk also offers clues to the possible influence of the co-walker — even unrecognized and unperceived — in a person’s life. He cites the Scots belief that someone who eats great quantities of food without putting on weight is being joined in the gourmandise by a “joint eater” or geirt coimitheth. Maybe there is a tip here for a new weight-loss program!

Rereading The Secret Commonwealth, I asked for dream guidance to clarify exactly what Robert Kirk means by “co-walker.” In my dream, I acquired a suede coat identical to the coat I most often wear when flying around the world or traveling to my Active Dreaming workshops. In my dream, I carried both these garments, swapping them according to circumstances. The dream confirmed my suspicion that Kirk is writing about the dream double; unfortunately, he tells us little about dreaming, where the double is most easily perceived.

Kirk speculates that everything may have its double — a tantalizing hint of the existence of what I have called counterpart reality.

How can we know the truth about these things? Through the art and science of seeing. Robert Kirk describes the practice of the Scottish seer as he was able to understand and enter it. The seer is able to make spirits visible to himself and others. He is able to cross into the Otherworld and return at his choosing. Kirk includes a curious report of a seer who was seen to vanish, body and soul, from a certain spot and reappear an hour later some distance from the point of his crossing. 

The gift of seeing runs in certain families, but many of the most powerful seers receive their calling directly from the spirits. Their initiatory visions are often wild and shamanic; they gall into “fits and Raptures.” The gift of seeing brings the ability to look into subtler orders of reality and perceive things “that for their smallness or subtlety and secrecy are invisible to others” even though they are intermeshed with them. The seer is accompanied by an inner light that can be focused and directed, “a beam continually about him as that of the sun.” Kirk’s description of the taibhsear’s “beam” closely parallels Inuit accounts of the “shaman-light” of the angaqok.

Kirk provides an interesting account of a seer’s initiation. He winds a cord of human hair around his middle in the shape of a helix. He bends down and looks backward between his legs. The object of his gaze may be a funeral procession, moving over a border crossing. Or it may be a hole in a tree — like the hole left in a fir tree when a knot has gone.

Kirk describes how a seer can provide a layman with temporary access to the Sight. The apprentice places one foot on the seer’s foot, while the seer lays a hand on the apprentice’s head, so that the would-be seer is enclosed within the taibhsear’s body space as well as his energy field. as he looks over the seer’s right shoulder, the apprentice is suppose to see “a multitude” of beings rushing toward him through the air.

The gifts of seeing include the ability to fold time and space. Kirk cautions — as any good practitioner would — about the difficulty of interpreting and working with some of these sightings. He recounts the case of a woman with the Sight who foresaw a seaborne attack on her island in the Hebrides but was confused about whether the soldiers in the boat were hostile or friendly and even whether they were coming or going — with good reason, since they had stolen a barge from her island and were rowing toward it with their backs to the shore.

As a man of the Church, Kirk goes to great lengths to argue that there is nothing ungodly about “correspondence” with Otherworld beings, quoting reports of visionary experiences in the Bible. He also contends that it is as “natural” to encounter the inhabitants of the Otherworld as it is to go fishing; both involve moving into another element. He reassures us that we are dealing with “an invisible people, guardian over and careful of man,” whose “courteous endeavor” is to convince us of the reality of the spiritual world and of “a possible and harmless method of correspondence betwixt men and them, even in this life.”

According to local tradition, Robert Kirk paid for his knowledge. He was reputedly taken by the fairies in 1692 into a fairy knoll across a little valley from his church; villagers were still pointing out the site centuries later. Were the fairies annoyed with him for revealing their secrets? Or had they fallen in love with him? Maybe the tale was concocted by people who wanted to “spook” their neighbors into keeping away from personal exploration of the unseen. Some say the fairies took Kirk’s body and soul; some say only the soul. A related tradition says that he had a means of coming back from the Otherworld that depended on the actions of a cousin to whom he announced it in a dream. But the cousin lost his nerve when he saw the clergyman’s double appear in the church at a baptism. So Robert Kirk remained on the other side.

 

 


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


Art: A Fairy Ring’ by Walter Jenks Morgan (1847-1924)