Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Looking for a civilized cave man

In a time of terror, where many powerful things hunt and eat humans, the shaman comes to the cave of the paintings to call forth powers that are greater. He can take on the form, as well as the force of the cave lion or the bison minotaur, that come alive in the flickering light of the pine torch. When he raises the skull of the cave bear, he assumes it mountainous size and strength. He can embody all these animal powers in the same moment.

Below the cave of the paintings, the dragon sleeps - to be raised and ridden in time of need, when the need is strong enough.

Bright jewels flash a color code on the breastplate of the scholar-priest who has come here from across oceans of time to reclaim the first, the primal symbols.

I am in his mind, as he is in mine, and both in the mind and muscles of the cave shaman.

When I fly up from here, it is in yet another shape, as one of the bird people with human faces. I long for the others of my kind. Parting the many veils between many worlds, I speed to them, into a world of light, fresh as the first day.

[Report from a shamanic group journey into a prehistoric cave]

Feelings: exhilaration and light tristesse (at having to come back)

Reality: The cave resembles the Grotte Chauvet filmed in the new Werner Herzog documenatry "Cave of lost Dreams"; i had not seen the film at the time of the journey. There are descriptions of jewels on the breastplates of ancient high priests, including in the Temple at Jerusalem; I doubt that this "scholar-priest" comes from there. I know Bird People of this kind, from previous journeys. I know the Bear and the Lion rather well. Will I go to a place like this in the future? In vision, for sure. Possibly also in physical reality. Am I a civilized cave man? Sometimes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I’m far from confident in the French language, in ordinary reality. Yet in my dreams and in half-dream states, I often compose or receive poems in the French. Here’s one I rediscovered today that carries a thrill for me:

Par ce qu’il visitait la lune au fond de la mer
Par ce qu’il se consolait avec le char de l’ abîme

Par ce qu’il se montrait dans les couleurs de ses rêves
Parce ce qu’il fit sauter les coeurs des filles dormantes

entre le monde mondaine
et le monde-montagne

The first four lines appeared, one by one, as captions under four small images set like postage stamps on a piece of paper under the silhouette of the pyramids at Giza. As I studied the document, I realized it was a laissez-passer (safe-conduct, travel permit) of a special kind, a license to travel between worlds.

I came upon this most interesting document when two young men appeared in a dream to escort me to a private showing of an exhibition. They spoke of this exhibition as a revolutionary event, one that was going to shake up people’s understanding of reality.

The exhibition included surrealist machines – for example, an old-fashioned gramophone with the stiletto heel of a woman’s shoe as the stylus – serial pictures developing certain themes, little sepia pictures and black-and-white photographs with poetic captions.

My excitement was only fully roused when I realized what the laissez-passer contained. Then I observed a lovely little faerie flying about the space on butterfly wings, and knew her name was Marquisite.

A rough translation of the poetic text of my dream laissez-passer:

Because he visited the moon at the bottom of the sea
Because he consoled himself with the chariot of the abyss
Because he showed himself in the colors of his dreams
Because he made the hearts of sleeping girls leap

between the worldly world
and the world-mountain

Salvador Dali, Aphrodisiac Telephone (1936)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The field of the brave person is always in blossom

On my visit to Estonia last April, I was given a glass jar containing 101 Estonian proverbs, rolled up as tiny scrolls. For the first time, I dipped into the jar just now to get a one-liner for the day. On the little emerald-green strip of paper i unrolled was this message:

The field of the brave person is always in blossom.

This touched me especially deeply since I learned last night that a dear friend had passed. She was a person of tremendous courage and love, and I have no doubt that fields will blossom for her beyond the fields we know.

Field of Poppies by Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A master of the third eye

“You know what a master is like,” she cautioned me.

“Oh yeah.”

“He’s as likely to whack you as to talk to you.”

I climbed the last steps to the master’s hermitage resolved not to submit to any slap-in-the-face treatment.

I found him with his feet in a tub of hot water. Steam rose and the air was pleasantly scented with mountain herbs as one of his handmaidens palpated his feet. I was curious to see whether she would dry them with her lustrous black hair, that fell to the floor.

“Move the chest,” he directed me.

I contemplated the great iron-banded box without enthusiasm.


He indicated the far corner.

I half-lifted, half-carried the heavy trunk to the place he indicated, wondering what he kept in it.
“Now bring it back. And don’t drag it. Pick it up.”

I felt the veins bulge on my forehead as I struggled to carry out these instructions. I nearly made it back. Then the trunk slid from my grip, landing painfully on my left foot.

The master waited until I had stopped howling before he spoke again. “Why do you come to me?”

“Master, I come to you because I wish to see."

“Then why are your eyes open?”


I realized, at that moment, that the master’s eyes were closed. I understood that I was to close my own.

“Closer,” he commanded.

I felt the stir of movement. I heard the swish of the loose silk of his garment, and pictured his arm swinging back, fist clenched. Here it comes.

I intended to duck the blow, but something kept me in place, on my knees in front of him. What was that buzzing sound? It made me think of a bee, trapped behind glass. It came closer.

I felt burning pain as something pierced me at the third eye, like a drill bit. Immediately the girl was at my side, soothing my forehead with an ointment that smelled like yogurt.

When she left off, there was absolute stillness in the cabin. Then I heard the soft slap of water from the footbath.

I opened my eyes. There was no change in the scene. The black-haired girl squatted at the master’s feet, as before. I felt no surge of enlightenment. I did notice that one of the master’s eyes was now open. Above and between his closed eyelids, it fixed me with its blue light, cold and unblinking.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fergus and Yeats in the Poop Park

[Druid] What would you, Fergus?

[Fergus] Be no more a king
But learn the dreaming wisdom that is yours...

- W.B.Yeats, "Fergus and the Druid"

Half a block east of my home is a small neighborhood park I call the Poop Park, because it is highly utilitarian: every second person in the neighborhood has a dog and people are constantly rushing down to empty their dogs on the way to or from work and other things.

When we first moved to this neighborhood, I was struck by how many of the dogs in the Poop Park had names out of myth and poetry and legend - Zeus, Tiamat, Xenobia were early acquaintances. I would hear the laughter of the gods as I was introduced to a shaggy Zeus or a bottom-sniffing Xenobia.

One day a woman came running after me to strike up a conversation. Bounding with her was a beautiful and puppy-wild Irish setter who jumped up and licked my face. "This is Fergus," she made the introduction.

"Fergus. That's a very Celtic name."

"Yes. I got it from the poem by Yeats."

Almost in the same breath, we started reciting the poem.

For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all disheveled wandering stars.

As we came to the last line, I looked down and noticed that, in the dark, I had put on mismatched socks. One had the pattern of stars, another an animal pattern. That morning, I joked, I was the "disheveled wandering star" - all the more since I had to rush to the airport to fly off and give a lecture and would not take time to change my socks.

Since then, every single time I have met Fergus in the Poop Park I have been researching or dreaming or writing about Yeats. Every time. No kidding. The deeper world comes through to us any way it can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lion Woman and Cave Mind

What do you see here?

This figurine was carved from mammoth ivory some 32,000 years ago. It is 11.7 inches tall. It is said to be the oldest zoomorphic (animal-shaped) sculpture in the world, and one of the oldest of all sculptures. The pieces of the body were found in the Stadel cave of Hohlenstein Mountain, in the Swabian Alps in Germany, in 1939. The lion head was discovered, restored and set on the shoulders nearly sixty years later, in 1998.

In German, the figurine is called Löwenmensch, a word that is gender-neutral in meaning (though grammatically masculine) and can be translated as "lion person" or "lion human." Some scholars think the figure is female: a woman's body surmounted by the head of a an ancient cave lion.

To contemplate this little statue is to be transported into the era of Cave Mind. It is a state of being and consciousness in which human, animal and god are not set apart from each other. Waking and dreaming stream together. Fluidity of consciousness is matched by the mobility and mutability of the energy bodies. A bear may become a man, a woman may become a lion, appearing in two places at once, as animal and as human.

There is little doubt in my mind that the lion-human of Hohlenstein-Stadel is a shaman of Old Europe, with the shaman's ability to shapeshift, to meld forms, and to operate on multiple levels of consciousness.

In a provocative recent essay, William Irwin Thomson suggests that

One of the skills of the shaman that contemporary Everyman does not possess is the ability to separate the vital or etheric body from the physical body and to project it to take possession of an animal—a lion or a jaguar—as was dramatized in Val Lewton’s classic 1942 horror movie, Cat People. Contemporary Everyman often has experience of astral projection, or out-of-the-body travel, but this skill of animal possession is much rarer. Modern man as a geek alienated from nature is much more likely to project his etheric body into a computer or an avatar in a computer game

I won't mourn if contemporary Everyman has lost the power to "possess an animal" (that is to say, to possess an animal body) in the manner of the horror movies. But in a gentler mode, the power of transfiguration - to reshape and project energy bodies - is still with us, though dormant in most people, in a time when the Cave of Mind is an electronic cloud of geek projections.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Climbing Mount Analogue

The gateway to the invisible must be visible. This is a cardinal rule of the Western imagination, that helps to express a crucial difference between the Western way of accessing other worlds and Eastern approaches (especially as misrepresented by Westerners) that discount imagery and dreams.

The statement comes from René Daumal’s unfinished novel Mount Analogue A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, first published – posthumously – in 1952. The opening is choice. The narrator publishes a “literary fantasy” - in the Revue des Fossiles, describing a location he has imagined as if it is an actual place. He then receives the following message:


I have read your article on Mount Analogue. Until now I thought I was the only person convinced of its existence. Today there are two of us, tomorrow there will be ten, perhaps more, and we can launch the expedition.

In his original article, the narrator explored the symbology of the mountain as the path between heaven and earth. The problem is that today, thanks to explorers and mountaineers, the mystic mountains of the past that had recognized addresses (Mount Olympus for example) have become “cow pastures”.

Where do we find the World Mountain? He suggested: "For a mountain to play the role of Mount Analogue, its summit must be inaccessible, but its base accessible to human beings as nature has made them. It must be unique and it must exist geographically. The gateway to the invisible must be visible."

The novel makes the first literary use of the strange word "peradam", one worth adding to our vocabulary because it exactly defines something that adventurers in consciousness will know: a peradam is an object that is revealed only to those who seek it.

"The Ascent of Mount Analogue" by Remedios Varo. Illustration from the 1952 edition of the novel.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rose Gate

There’s a garden among the stars

where flowers are gates to other worlds.

Try the pink rosebud that opens shyly.

plunge through its smooth and fragrant folds

into the Victorian garden where tea is laid

and sweet girls play and show a blushing priest

a bunnyhole that leads to Wonderland

and a ginger cat issues opaque directions.

Take the dare of the “Drink Me” bottle

and you’ll become inconceivably small

even faster than Alice, so fast you won’t see

a grass blade rear into a royal palm

and ants turn into six-legged horses.

You’ll grow, by diminishing, into a world

vaster than the one you knew before,

you’ll swim among stars no telescope has seen,

you’ll find light-ships among the galaxies,

immensity held in the iota of a speck

that eludes the electron microscope

but not the home-drawn voyager.

Photograph by Kirsten Love Lauzon

Saturday, June 4, 2011

When the body refuses the soul's assignment

Edward Plunkett, known in society and to his vast reading audience as Lord Dunsany, was one of the masters of fantasy, producing more than sixty books in his lifetime at high speed, his publishers generally content to print the first drafts that he sent them exactly as they came in. He was an Anglo-Irish gentleman of the old school, a hunter, the chess and pistol-shooting champion of Ireland. But while he rode his fields, his mind was forever beyond the fields we know, in Elfland or in a Carcassonne of the imaginal realm, where a witch queen, terrible in her beauty

Swims in a marble bath through whose deeps a rive tumbles, or lies all morning on the edge of it to dry slowly in the sun, and watches the heaving river trouble the deeps of the bath. It flows through the caverns of earth for further than she knows and coming to light in the witch’s bath goes down through the earth again to its own peculiar sea…. When there is blood in the bath she knows there is war in the mountains.

Somewhere between here and Elfland, Lord Dunsany came by an unhappy body engaged in a painful dialogue with its soul. “The Unhappy Body” (his title for the tale) is tired; all it wants is to sleep. The soul will not allow it to rest because it has an urgent assignment for this body. Everywhere, the soul explains,

People’s dreams are wandering afield, they pass the seas and mountains of faery, threading the intricate passes led by their souls; they come to golden temples a-ring with a thousand bells; they pass up steep streets lit by paper lanterns, where the doors are green and small; they know their way to witches’ chambers and castles of enchantment; they know the spell that brings them to the causeway along the ivory mountains – on one side looking downward they behold the fields of their youth and on the other lie the radiant plains of the future.

But people forget their dreams. From their dream awakenings, they go back to sleep, forgetting the realms of magic and enchantment, and the causeway from which they can see into past and future. The soul’s urgent assignment for the body is: “Arise and write down what the people dream.”

The body asks what reward it will receive for doing this. When told there is no reward, the body declares, “Then I shall sleep.” But the soul rouses the body with a song, and wearily the body takes up a pen and starts recording what the soul wants it to preserve: a vision of dreamers rising above the roar and distraction of the city to a shimmering mountain where they board the “galleons of dreams” and sail through the skies in their chosen directions. The soul goes on telling the dreams of all these travelers. But the body is tired and mutinous; it cries out for sleep.

“You shall have centuries of sleep,” the soul tells it, “but you must not sleep, for I have seen deep meadows with purple flowers flaming tall and strange above the brilliant grass, and herds of pure while unicorns…I will sing that song to you, and you shall write it down.”

The body protests, Give me one night’s rest.

Go on and rest, the soul at last responds, in disgust. “I am tired of you. I am off.”

The soul flies away. The undertakers come and lay the body in the earth. The wraiths of the dead come at midnight to congratulate the body on its happy estate. “Now I can rest,” says the body.

Ursula LeGuin once said that Lord Dunsany is the worst temptation for the novice writer of fantasy, and it must be conceded that his prose can be overly rich and faery-infused. Yet A Dreamer’s Tales, where you will find these two stories, is a book for the ages, and reminds us that in fantasy we can sometimes the truth of our condition more clearly than in the roar of the city.

Lord Dunsany, A Dreamer’s Tales [1910] reprint: Holicong, PA: Wildside Press, 2002

Friday, June 3, 2011

Egyptian bird in the sky

I am driving in the countryside with my friend Wanda, a world-class dreamer who was for 30 years the curator of Sir William Johnson's last home in the Mohawk valley.

She is trying to describe patterns she sees in the sky - perhaps in the play of lightning. I am not content with her descriptions. She switches similes and tells me that one of the sky patterns resembles the movements of a graceful young Thai woman.

Suddenly I see one of these patterns for myself, filling the sky above the treeline in the other direction. Etched by lightning against a dark sepia backdrop, I see a bird-figure from an Egyptian hieroglyph, either falcon or owl. The shape of the head is indistinct, but I sense this is the owl, perhaps the eagle-owl.

I rose from this dream outing during an evening nap just now, to find a lengthy email letter from another friend speculating about my possible connections - within a multidimensional family of selves - to ancient Egyptian initiates who were trained in the art of "far memory", and specifically with Sir William Johnson, the central figure in two historical novels I felt compelled to write after moving to a home in what was his neighborhood (in the 18th century) and dreaming into his life. I was not entirely happy with her descriptions of how these things work, and realized I need to write more about the workings of far memory and the relations between personalities living in different times and a central Self or Oversoul.

And my mind slips a way (the break in the word was unintended, but I'll leave it; "away" can be "a way") another scene, and a this-life connection with the eagle owl, the Old World cousin of the North American great horned owl.

I am in Prague, which I visited two years ago. The city is lovely, but the crowds of tourists are exhausting. I take refuge from the crowds in a quiet shady garden next to the Hradčany castle and give myself over to reflections on our connections with other personalities across time, how these "past lives" or "other lives" open to us in dreams and how far memory can be triggered by travel to a certain place, or handling a certain object, or an encounter with someone you are certain you know very well, in a different world.

"Have you met Arthur?" It's a woman's voice that interrupts my musings. I turn to find an eagle-owl on the gloved wrist of a beautiful young falconer. She explains that her vocation is to help rescue injured raptors, and walks me with Arthur into a preserve where there are other birds, including a tiny merlin falcon.

Egypt, Johnson, the eagle-owl. Echoes of Arthur and Merlin. You have other centuries to play with, as Seth reminded us. In dreams of the night and dreams of the day, we meet and interact with our reincarnational selves. It is vital to remember (as Seth also instructed) that these are also simultaneous selves, in the play of the multiverse.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Zuni rain priest asks nicely

We are not alone on this earth, and it is always okay to ask for help from the deeper powers that support our lives. It is also wise to ask nicely. Here is a beautiful sample of what that means: a “prayer to the U’wanami made by a rain priest” recorded by anthropologist Ruth Bunzel at Zuni Pueblo in 1928.

From wherever you abide permanently

You will make your roads come forth.

Your little wind blown clouds,

Your thin wisps of clouds,

Your great masses of clouds

Replete with living waters, you will send forth to stay with us.

Your fine rain caressing the earth,

Your heavy rain caressing the earth,

Here at Itiwana,

The abiding place of our fathers,

Our mothers,

The ones who first had being,

With your great pile of waters

You will come together.

When you have come together

Our mothers,

Our children,

All the different kinds of corn,

Nourishing themselves with their

Father’s waters

Tenderly will bring forth their young. Clasping their children

All will finish their roads.

Source: Ruth L. Bunzel, Introduction to Zuni ceremonialism, Forty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Americam Ethnology, Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution, 1929-30.

Zuni Shalako God Festival rain makers. 1904 lithograph