Sunday, January 30, 2011
Banishing Desert Demons, then Over the Arch of the Bridge
Monday, January 24, 2011
Lying down with lion: energy doubles and animal messengers
When I lie down for an evening nap (I keep very erratic hours) I become aware of the full-formed energy presence of a maned lion on the bed with me. He settles down, nose to nose, like a friendly dog. He is all lion, except that his breath seems sweet; I am fully aware of his strength and killing power. But he is my very dear friend. I drift off into a delicious nap. And dream:
I give an impromptu speech to a large audience. It's all about how to get to the Place of the Lion. This requires you to speak and act, always, from the heart. I talk about Aslan, how "he is terrible but he is good". My voice rises to a roar, then drops to a far-carrying purr when I remind my audience, "When the lion speaks, everyone listens."
This sweet encounter got me thinking about the many ways in which energy doubles and visitors have turned up in my field of perception in animal form. I started to make a mental inventory of bedroom encounters in that drifty hypnagogic zone prior to sleep, or to hyper-awakeness.
While the lion in my bed might be seen as my own energy double, the jaguar who turned up in the night many years ago in my bedroom was definitely something else. He startled me, though he did not scare me. When he made me understand that he was a messenger, I agreed to travel with him, and sped through the astral to come down among lush tropical vegetation at the home of a Maya shaman in Belize, who proceeded to instruct me in songs of healing and rituals of divination.
Then there was the white wolf who showed up in my bedroom another night. Though I knew him and loved him, he was not a part of myself. I let him lead me out the window and across the night sky, to the far North, to an encounter with a radiant being who seemed to be entirely covered with glowing white shells. Deeply moved, I felt I had been blessed to encounter a form of the Peacemaker.
Serengeti Lion from Flickr
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Two ways of re-making the future
I am teaching two ways of re-making the future. One involves working with what looks like a ball of string. The second way involves scooping, molding and sculpting a heap of soft material, like dough or squishy clay.
I have announced that a prize will be given for the best student in each category. The bigger prize will go to the one who sculpts from the formless mass of pliable "dough".
The students are eager to try this assignment. As they take turns to separate strings from the ball, I notice that the strings look a bit like long strips of celluloid, as were used to record and project films. A vigorous, stocky man throws himself into molding and sculpting the heap of soft matter. He's building an amazing structure and he's the clear favorite to win the prize I have announced.
I woke from this dream today, actively curious and intrigued.
In my regular life, I teach people to play with the idea that we can switch from one probable event track, running into the future, to another. This can be visualized as selecting one string of events from a ball of possibilities. I also like the idea that we can "rewind" a certain sequence - in life as in dreams - back to a certain point of decision, and then go forward with a different scenario. These ideas are evoked by the dream exercise with the "ball of string".
I also love the image of sculpting a life project out of a soft mass of unformed material. The prize is no doubt bigger here because there is more creating to be done. I think of how, in the imaginal realm, we can build cities and palaces of subtle and ideoplastic substance. It is from creation on this plane that physical structures and situations are manifested.
M.K.Čiurlionis, "Creation of the World IX"
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Rounding up the wild horses
I am the master of a vast stretch of wild country. Wealth here is counted in horses, and the wild horses that have not been claimed and branded belong to whoever catches them. There is fierce competition between rival ranchers to round up the best of the wild horses in this season, when huge numbers come thundering down from the hills to feed by the rivers.
I am dashing around my stables in high boots, whip in hand, organizing my stockmen in teams and giving them directions. I tell a teen who has been mucking out the stables, to get mounted up and join the men; this will be his first roundup.
Everyone is in a lather of excitement.
I wake from this dream in the early hours of this morning with a continued sense of excitement.
The dream location could be either the American West or my native Australia, where wild horses are called "brumbies". I used to own a property in the Hudson Valley of New York that became a horse farm and is now (very happily) an equine rescue center. I don't recognize the boy in the stables.
I associate wild horses with the "windhorse", the term used by the shamans of Siberia and Mongolia for vital soul energy. I have noticed that the condition of horses in dreams - especially in women's dreams - very often reflects the state of soul energy.
I once worked with a woman who was distressed by dreams in which she saw a starving pony tethered to the porch of her childhood home. She came to recognize in the starving pony her childhood self, who had been starved of spiritual and emotional nourishment and literally made to go hungry because of her controlling mother's insistence on her idées fixes about diet and appearance. When she decided she would feed the starving pony in her body and her life, literally and figuratively, her dreams changed. She now saw herself galloping into grand adventures on a great battle charger worthy of a knight in armor, "a little broad in the beam," as she reported, laughing, "but capable of getting me anywhere."
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The Secret History of My Russians
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Unlikely weapons for the Hero's Quest
A dream from the early hours of this morning:
The Scroll of Decision and the Dissertation of Doubt
The Hero is setting out on the Quest. He is given his weapons. They are not the usual hero's weapons, like a sword or a wand or a magic cloak.
The first is a tightly rolled scroll, inside a cylinder of the kind provided with degree certificates. This is the Scroll of Decision. It is a clean, clear, tight statement, and when the Hero unfurls it and reclaims it, he can move forward with sword-point resolution and clarity, and those around him respond accordingly.
The second gift is the Dissertation of Doubt. This is an untidy mass of hundreds of pages, loosely held together with what appear to be shoestrings. The contents may have their uses, but consulting this interminable discussion of pros and cons and whys and wherefores does not seem likely to get the Hero where he needs to go very fast. However, those who support the Quest must have their reasons fior weighing him down with all this material.
I wake from this dream feeling cheerful and curious.
Context: I am continuing my study of Tolkien's mythic imagination, his interest in time travel, his use of dreams - and how dreams used him. Before going to bed, I was re-reading The Return of the King. I made a note of these lines, spoken by the King of Rohan, who has been roused from ensorcelled torpor to lead the Riders into battle, to Aragorn, who will be revealed as the greater King, the heir to Atlantis (here called Numenor):
"You will do as you will, my lord Aragorn," said Theoden. "It is your doom, maybe, to tread strange paths that others dare not."
I capitalized Hero and Quest in my dream report because it seemed I was viewing a model for the archetypal Quest, not a specific version of it.
The Hero's weapons are sometimes ambivalent. When Aragorn scouts the future in a seeing stone (called palantir, or "Farsighted") he makes himself visible to the Dark Lord, Sauron. In my dream the ambivalence is in the duality of the papers the Hero must carry. Maybe his weapons are better suited to a writer's life than swords. My question remains: why do those who support the Hero's Quest burden him with this huge and ponderous Dissertation of Doubt?
"The End of the World", drawing by J.R.R. Tolkien (1912)
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Tolkien's wager with Time
In one of his letters, J.R.R. Tolkien reports that he once made a bet with C.S. Lewis that led to a grand (but unfulfilled) literary project and what became a lifelong inquiry into the nature of time. The two great scholars and fantasy writers "tossed" to decide which of them would write a fantasy epic centered on adventures in space, and which would write a parallel epic devoted to adventures in time. Lewis got the assignment in space, and proceeded to produce the magnificent Space Trilogy of adult fantasy novels. Tolkien got the assignment in time, which he would certainly have chosen for himself, since he was always fascinated by the possibility of time travel and of slipping into the Other Time of Faerie, which he ruminates on in his important essay Of Fairy-Tales.
Monday, January 3, 2011
An exhibition has opened in London that no dreamer - or lover of Renaissance art - within range will want to miss. It features a series of drawings that Michelangelo created for a younger man he admired. They are on display at the Courtauld Institute Gallery until May 16.
The centerpiece is Michelangelo's Il Sogno ("The Dream"), bequeathed to the gallery in 1978.
It depicts a naked young man, thought to represent Tommasso de Cavalieri, the artist's adolescent inamorato, being roused from sleep into dreaming by a winged spirit. This beautifully captures the essence of how in dreaming, we wake up.
A beautiful naked youth is perched on an open-fronted box. He leans back against the sphere of the world. Inside the box are theatrical masks, suggesting a variety of pleasures and guises. In a bow to the beliefs and allegorical tastes of the age, figures in the background represent six of the seven deadly sins – Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Wrath, Envy and Sloth. This might lead us to suppose that the central figure represents Prude, being awakened from his state of delusion by the winged angel swooping down from above.
But there's a lot going on behind the surface allegory. This is a very sexy picture. A man and woman are depicted in sexual embrace, the man's organ exposed, An other couple, only partially dressed, are kissing, with the woman on top. The artist included a huge erect phallus held by a hand emerging from the clouds. Someone who once owned this drawing made an effort to erase the penises. In the Courtauld exhibition, their prominence is made clear by a print made from the original drawing.
Study these pictures, and you'll understand why Michelangelo insisted that drawing is "the fount and body of painting and sculpture and architecture and of every other kind of painting and the root of all sciences."
Michelangelo was a poet and writer as well as an artist, and his drawings are interspersed with many lines in his fine calligraphic hand. One of his poems speaks to the source of creation, as to God, with wonderful truth and passion:
Signor, nell´ore streme, stendi ver´me le tue pietose braccia, tomm´a me stesso e famm´ un che ti piaccia
"Lord, in my hour of need, hold out thy compassionate arms to me, take me from myself and make of me one pleasing to thee."