Sunday, January 29, 2012

Black pond, white swan

I am drawn to the black pond and the white swan
Who turns with hieratic grace at the mid-point.
When I walk down to the water’s edge
She glides to me at once, so close I can touch her breast,
Her great wings, folded, make the shape of a heart.

When I try to read her dark and shining eyes
I see the sadness of a lovely woman in white
And in her eyes, mirrors within mirrors,
I find a blazing phoenix fire of many colors
And know this is reflected glory of the heaven bird
Who flies fearless through all the worlds.

“Where is your mate?” I ask the white swan.
Words swim back. How long have you made me wait?
And: How many dreams of me did you forget?
How many signs from me did you refuse?
I can only answer with truth, “I have been a fool,
Silly and forgetful, but I have always loved you.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Revenge of Imagination and the Queen of Analepsis

The Bolshevik revolution and the rise of the totalitarian state drove dreams in Russia underground. The safe places to write about dreams – or from them – were now to be found in state-sponsored studies of folklore and folk art, and in science fiction, which can put the reader inside a dream without a frame.
    What happens when the imagination is driven underground?
    A Russian-American writer, Olga Grushin, brilliantly depicts the revolt of the imagination  in her novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov. The protagonist is a promising Surrealist painter who buries his art in order to get a fat paycheck and a big apartment and a chauffeured car as an art bureaucrat. His suppressed imagination comes after him, spawning dreamlike anomalies in his everyday world, until that world – and the false values it instilled in him – falls apart.
     I read The Dream Life of Sukhanov when it was first published in 2005, and read it again this winter for sheer pleasure and also to study the author's mastery of certain techniques. It is chastening to notice that English is her third language, since so many native writers in English have much to learn from her.
     Olga Grushin is the queen of analepsis. That is the literary term for a flashback, but in this novel she raises the art to a new level, beyond either of those terms.
     The novel opens in dreary 1985 Moscow, in the privileged life of the editor of the most influential Soviet art magazine, who gets a chauffeur and a dacha and a big apartment in return for squelching or spitting on any signs of originality or Western "decadence" in the art scene. He was once a promising young Surrealist painter, whose imagination was on fire since he got an illicit look at Chagall's flying violinists and horses, sealed from public view in locked basement at a museum. But then Sukhanov made a Faustian deal, trading his creative soul for a well-paid life, because he thought this was what his beautiful wife (the daughter of an icon of Soviet realism) required. The whole drama of the novel turns on the revenge of the artist's imagination, and its powerful engine is analepsis. In this story, the flashbacks don't delay the action; they drive it.
     The narration of Sukhanov's current life is recorded in the past tense and in the third person, doubly distancing us from it. By contrast, when we slip into his memory stream - which I am inclined to call his state of memorydream - the narration is in the first person, and often in the present tense. We grasp very quickly that these brilliant bursts of memory are taking Sukhanov (and us with him) into a life more vivid and more real than the scripted existence he has been leading. His past is more present and more intimate than his present. The transitions are flawless, though sometimes shocking. The shift may take place in mid-sentence, giving us the vertiginous sensation of hanging over an open elevator shaft - a situation Sukhanov finds himself in, as the structures of his world start to crumple.
     The interplay of dream and memory shakes his default version of reality. The dream world is becoming the real word.
     Pictures come alive and spill into the streets. A figure in a brown coat from Dali paintings turns up as a character in Moscow and at a strange country railroad station, both frustrator and liberator. A face reflected in a window in an early canvas, when Sukhanov was still an artist, turns out to be the face of the woman he will love and marry, unknown when he made the painting.
     I love the rhyming symbols in the book, especially the mirrors. Shards of light and color reflected in a flower seller’s bucket of water. “Multiplying infinities” of images in the facing floor-length mirrors in the grandiose lobby of Sukhanov’s apartment building. The sexy glimpse of a painted nude with a swan, coming alive in a window.
     Grushin is wonderful at crafting simile and metaphor: the corridors of a Soviet art institute are “the color of disease”; a stairwell splits the "gray monstrosity" of a building in half, "laying it open like an enormous, overripe fruit".
     Olga Grushin paints with words as a Surrealist paints with a brush: the fantastic is shocking and believable because of the excellence and realism of the depiction. While she transports us to Moscow, in the mid-1980s and in the mid-1950s, she succeeds in carrying us to a country of the mind where the themes are universal, and drives us to wonder what open elevator shafts will yawn before us if we try to suppress our own creative spirits.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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 and raises the god in man with her breath.
      Men tried to confine her to limited roles, to force her into wedlock with despotic gods, before 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 fourteen, she claimed me in one of her most fearsome forms, and from that dark night I wrote a cycle of poems titled Creatures of Kali. I have met the Goddess in the deep loamy earth, in molten lava, in the waves of the sea, as Spider Woman and Reindeer Queen and as Great Mother Bear. I feel her robe swirl in the shifting stars. I have received instruction from ancient priestesses, communicating across time, and from wise women of many cultures in our present world.  I am conscious of walking in the footsteps of Marija Gimbutas, the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess, and it was in her native country that I made an indelible connection with the oldest living Goddess tradition in the Old World.

Photo of the Eyes of the Goddess in the Traxien temple, Malta, by Joan Marler.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Meeting Yeats in the magic cottage

Yeats in the Magic Cottage, R.M. oil crayons

I have enjoyed a lifelong relationship with my favorite dead poet, William Butler Yeats. I have always loved his poetry and have been able – since elementary school – to recite long passages from memory. I have had dreams and visions of Yeats and his circle for as long as I can remember. He was not only a marvellous poet; he was a Western magus, one of the leading figures in the Order of the Golden Dawn.
         Since I was a boy, Yeats has appeared in my dreams at night as well as my daydreams and willed journeys in consciousness. In dreams, I sometimes seem to be living in his era; at other times I seem to meet him in a separate reality. When drumming for groups, I have had had strong impressions of Yeats conducting experiments in "mutual visioning" in his own time, and have felt communication between us.
         I dreamed I received a message from Yeats inviting me to visit him at home. I was not sure where ‘home’ for Yeats might now be, but it did not appear to be in Ireland. In a subsequent vision, in the hypnagogic zone, I found myself floating above my body, up through the ceiling, and then through some kind of mesh that looked like an intricately woven fabric or netting. I was drawn up as if a traction beam had been turned on. I was under no compulsion, but I let myself rise on the intention of the one who was calling me. I had no doubt who that was. His lines were running through my head:

I shall arise and go there, and go to Innisfree…

Oh, yes, the early poem that has been quoted so often that Yeats himself got bored and irritated by it, vastly preferring the maturity and complexities of his later work. But its rhythms helped me travel, helped me swim through the subtle air. 
       I passed through many landscapes, perhaps whole worlds. They were separated by dividing partitions that were sometimes like cloud-banks, sometimes like membranes that stretched to let me through, and sometimes like woven fabric or netting. I came at last to what appeared to be a pleasant country cottage on a winding path. The flower beds were bright with colour. It seemed to me that, as I glanced around, the colours at the edge of my peripheral vision would change. Behind the cottage was a gentle river, and on the banks of the river, spires and towers that might have been those of Oxford. I began to drift along the path beside the river and saw another town beyond the first, this one quite certainly Italian; the architecture was that of the Quattrocento Florence or the Urbino that Yeats had loved and sometimes threatened to make his sanctuary from the critics and civil unrest in Ireland.
      I was thrilled that scenes the poet’s words had often conjured in my mind in lesser, drifting states of reverie were now so vividly and palpably available to explore. I hurried toward a palazzo worthy of a Medici that looked as if it has been constructed that day.
      But again there was that tug of another’s intention, and I allowed it to pull me back to the cottage. Did the cottage really have a thatched roof before, or was that detail changed while I was looking elsewhere?
      Through the door, long a hall, and there was Yeats, sitting at a broad table covered with books and papers. Through the leaded glass window at his left hand I saw the cities along the river; they changed from one to another at the blink of an eye. I was excited to see that Yeats was continuing to study and to write. I wondered whether it hampered or helped his craft that his new work would not be published on earth. He was patient with me, letting me gradually awaken to the understanding that, from his new perspective, the most important from of publication might be to inspire others, to operate as one of those ‘teachers of the thirteenth cone’ he wrote about in A Vision.
     He showed me a large blue crystal lying on his desk. He was most insistent that I should use this blue stone for creative inspiration and to open and focus the third eye of vision. This blue crystal was a place in which to see, and a connection between the two of us.
     He gave me some personal guidance and an update on certain psychic crosscurrents involving individuals and group that had been caught up in psychic battles in the past, in the time of the great rift within the Order of the Golden Dawn and in the darker times of the struggle between British magicians and the Nazi occultists. I asked Yeats where exactly we were.
     He told me very precisely: “We are on the fourth level of the astral plane”. It seemed this was a neighbourhood essentially reserved for people of creative genius, for writers and artists and musicians.
     I felt immensely privileged to have been given this tour of Yeats’s environment. It was not clear to me whether he lived in the cottage alone; I was not shown the private rooms. I did feel quite certain that this Yeats was embarked on a vast new project, though its exact nature was not yet made clear to me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Boiled cabbage

We were going to what had been touted as the best Mexican restaurant in south-eastern Arizona, and my palate was set accordingly. But the Mexican place was fully booked; a local Aussie who scouted the scene reported that the parking lot looked like “a can of maggots.” The fall-back choice was described on the sign as Mexican- Greek. An unlikely combo, but I was willing to adjust my palate. I told my tongue it could roll either way, from mole to dolmades.
    Inside, the Mexican-Greek place was a kitchen from the 1950s, formica under unforgiving lights. My scout got in ahead of me, and was swigging a bottle of Negro Modelo while a capering waiter finished describing the special. “I’ll have it,” declared my friend. “What’s the special?” I inquired.  “Cabbage stuffed with meat, with mashed potatoes.”
     Boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes? In a Mexican, or even a Greek, restaurant?
     I was incredulous, and my taste buds were flashing emergency signals. “Do you have a menu?” The waiter shrugged. “You can look at the menu if you like. But the special is what’s fresh.”
    Now the reek of boiled cabbage is everywhere. Under a Soviet-era leaden sky, I smell it in the barracks-like apartments, in the offices of the newspaper where the censor outranks the editor, even in the lobby of the upscale building where my Polish apparatchik hosts reside. The Warsaw restaurant resembles a funeral parlor that has seen better days. No formica in sight, but rather heavy drapes and cabinets the size of caskets. Here the menu is set before me right away, but my hosts whisper for me to ignore it. “Have the special.” What is the special? “Duck with cabbage and potatoes.” I am not too keen on duck, or cabbage. I search the menu and ask for steak. No steak. The waiter speaks as if he is spitting. How about chicken? No chicken. Now his lip curls with contempt. “Have the special.” The push is stronger. But I won’t concede defeat. I’ll have pasta. No pasta.
     “I’ll have the special,” I agreed, and the Greek waiter smiled at his little victory, half a world and forty years away from Warsaw in 1972, when I was a young journalist visiting Eastern Europe for the first time.   
     The boiled cabbage dinner was wretched. I realized that I had agreed to it because, for a critical minute or two, I was catapulted from the implausible scene in a little Mexican-Greek restaurant in Arizona into a time and place where waiters were little Gods and you ate what you were told to eat.
     “Bloody bloke!” croaked the Greek waiter’s father. He had been to Sydney at the end of World War II.
      My dreadful dinner gave me a story. You don’t have a story (it's been said) unless something goes wrong. I’ll put up with just about anything so long as it has entertainment value.
      “Bloody bloke!”
     I concede that the boiled cabbage was more entertaining in hindsight than at the table.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hand writing

On Friday 13th, on my first plane trip of the New Year, I returned to the art of hand writing, journaling by hand in my green-bound journal. I stopped using the green leather covers years ago; Levenger had ceased making refill pads for them and though I found substitute journals, they did not fit the covers. At Christmas, my wife gave me a set of filler pads that fit. Chastened by customer protests, Levenger had returned to making them, though the covers are now midnight blue instead of buff. The pages are sewn in, numbered, archival quality and (naturally) gilt-edged.

Though it is often a challenge for me to decipher my writing, even on the same day, I realize there are essential reasons for me to return to the practice of writing by hand. The medium is the message, and the tactile, sensory contact with this medium can bring unexpected results. There is the release (more complete than via the keyboard) from any concern about judgment or consequences. There is my tendency, when writing a journal, to include sketches. And then there is a big dream, from some time last year, in which I am writing a new book, quite different from any of the two dozen I have published so far, within the green covers of my journal. As I form words on the page, I have the shiverish sensation that I am starting to manifest the dream of fresh literary creation.

The first pages of the new journal contain notes from the road, on the synchronicities and symbolic pop-ups that seem to multiply when we are in motion, and on my current reading, which includes (for the second time) Olga Grushin's extraordinary novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov, which describes the revenge of the imagination on an artist who gave up his creative vision to live the privileged life of a Soviet apparatchik. My rowmates, on the second flight of the day, from Minneapolis to Tucson, contributed more material. They were both reading classic lit - (he) Lucretius On the Nature of Things and (she) Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe - so conversation was irresistible. Soon we were talking about different modes of writing. 

Ann, who was sitting next to me, got me talking about my sense that the book that may be hatched from inside the green covers will be different from anything I have published before. "I will write from what I have lived, and what I know," I declared. "I will write about my travels in the dream worlds, and among those who are living on the other side of death. I shall write from the truth of experience, and study, but this time I'll offer it as fiction or narrative nonfiction, inviting readers into a universe they can share for a time without needing to ask, Is it true?"

Ann responded, "It's better to write a work of nonfiction and call it fiction than to write a work of fiction and call it nonfiction."

That was exactly what I needed to hear. Yes, I wrote it down carefully in the journal with the green covers, and drew a big balloon around it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dream archaeology in Romania

“You ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul….If the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul.”

These famous words about holistic healing are from Socrates (speaking in Plato’s dialogue Charmides) but Socrates wasn’t speaking for himself; he was quoting a military physician who had instructed him on the teachings of his “king and god, Zalmoxis.” This is the name of the ancient deity of the Dacians. 

Zalmoxis was a man-god who died and was reborn, and who taught the immortality and transmigration of the soul, as well as the ways to heal soul and body. Mircea Eliade called him a "vanishing god". His legendary birthplace was a bear cave. His high priest was called the Great White Wolf. So we are also in the realm of the animal powers.

Since the Dacians did not keep written records, we know rather little about their spiritual practices and their god. But I hope to discover more, in the company of an intrepid band of shamanic dreamers and dream archaeologists, in the Bucegi in the mountains of Carpathia in October. Here, where the energy of Bear and Wolf is strong, we'll grow the "strong eye" of the seer and the shaman, and tap into to the archival memory of the land itself to open authentic connections with keepers of ancestral wisdom.

Dream archaeology is an original method I have developed over many years of study, teaching and practice. The dream archaeologist combines the skills of the scholar, the detective and the shaman and acquires the ability to travel across time - by the techniques of Active Dreaming - and bring back first-hand knowledge of essential things from the past (or future). This program is an invitation to high adventure and to participate in the healing work of cultural soul recovery. Details here

Here, everything is dreaming

Island Dreaming

Dreaming is soul sleep
but even more it’s traveling.
You may fly across the water
in your body of wind
following the drumming of the waves
to spend the night with your dream lover.
Even goddesses do this.
Pele left her lava bed for three days
to make love with her dream prince.
Being a goddess, she could bring him home.

It’s harder for humans. Spend too long
with your dream spouse
without bringing him home
and you sicken like rotting silver.
You need to check who you’re sleeping with
because spirits take many forms.
If your prince is a water imp in disguise
you’ll go fish belly white and moist
on the side that rests next to him.

You must learn the vocabulary of dreams.
Never confuse a wild goatfish dream
that begins and ends in your belly
with a dream that comes true
because it’s the memory of a trip to the future.
Don’t mix up a wishing dream with revelation.
Be alert to the visions that open and shut
like lobster pots, quick and true,
on the edges of sleep and waking.
Use the dreams that are given to heal a family
and dreams that show you how to heal yourself.

In beauty and terror, as redbirds or lovely sharks,
as windflowers or razorbacks or honeycreepers,
gods and ancestors are talking, talking.
They show us life’s hidden springs.
They compose songs in us. They give
night names for babies that are coming.
They save our skins when they are worth saving.

Learn to discern when you can sweeten a dream
and soften the sharp future it portends
and when you have to swallow it straight up.
For a second opinion, listen to the birds
or to a bird-man who talks to the wind
or might sail a blossom canoe for you
over submarine tattoos in a gourd filled with water.

In the islands, everything has a body of wind.
In the morning garden, you notice the pandanus
has walked to the far side of the pond
where the fish dream open-eyed;
a palm swapped places with an avenging angel.
Even the land snail goes flying at night
and is the preferred scout of the fiercest goddess.

To become a native of these islands
you must grow double vision, reading signs
in the world and the world-behind-the-world
without going crazy. Persevere
and all your dramas will lead
to the Place of Leaping
where fresh water meets salt water
and you’ll drop your old body
and travel on, as bird or fish or zephyr
to the land tourists never see on the horizon.

Here, everything is dreaming.
On a white beach in the early light
a shark came out of the waters
and became a graceful silver woman
who claimed me as her mate,
there on the embracing sand.
She was so lovely I was not put off
by her hammerhead eyes.
I wonder what unexplainable love child
is swimming out there, in the deep.

Hawaii is a waking dream. I swam under the blue-white ghost of a rainbow there, in the midst of a pod of sea turtles. The tides of my blood move with the ocean, my breath flows with the wind, my body thrills to the sense of islands being born, in every moment, from fire beneath the water, and dying back. Early in March, on Pele's island, I will lead an adventure into deep dreaming and poetic consciousness, at play with the elemental powers. Still time to join if you feel the call; details here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The threefold death of Silver Wolf

"Autochthon", RM journal drawing
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 and try to recall the exact meaning. His keen dark 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, nine years ago, in the woods in northern Ohio. 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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The man who blew things up

“Pauli Effect” is a term invented to describe the way the mere presence of Wolfgang Pauli, the pioneer of quantum mechanics, tended to cause things to blow up, especially physics experiments and equipment. At least one experimental physicist (Otto Stern) banned Pauli from coming anywhere near his laboratory.
    Pauli was brilliant, but he was also a roiling mass of conflicted emotions. His mother’s suicide, his father’s subsequent marriage to a woman half his age, his discovery as a young adult that his parents had concealed the fact that three of his grandparents were Jewish, his heavy drinking and a disastrous early union with a cabaret dancer who ran off with another man, all contributed his violent mood swings. The way the material world seemed to react to him is a case study in how mind and matter interact, so egregious that we can hardly miss drawing the lesson that thoughts and feelings are actions that change the world we inhabit.
   Pauli's friend and colleague Rudolf Peierls (a German-born physicist who moved to England and later worked on the Manhattan Project) described the Paul Effect as follows: “This was a kind of spell he was supposed to cast on people or objects in his neighborhood, particularly in physics laboratories, causing accidents of all sorts. Machines would stop running when he arrived in a laboratory, a glass apparatus would suddenly break, a leak would appear in a vacuum system, but none of these accidents would ever hurt or inconvenience Pauli himself.”
   When important experimental equipment in Professor James Frank’s laboratory at the Physics Institute at the University of Gottingen blew up for no apparent reason, someone remarked that this could be the Pauli effect. However, Pauli was nowhere in the area; he was on a train, traveling to Denmark. It was later discovered that at the time of the lab explosion, the train carrying Pauli from Zurich to Copenhagen was making a stop at Gottingen station.
  When he arrived at Princeton in 1950, an expensive new cyclotron that had recently be installed burned for no obvious reason, and there was again speculation about the Pauli Effect.
   Such phenomena happened outside the laboratory.
   When the Jung Institute was inaugurated in Zurich in 1948, Pauli attended the opening ceremony, since Jung had asked him to become a “scientific patron” and so represent the convergence of physics and psychology. At the time, Pauli's mind was turnng on the tension between two earlier approaches to knowledge represented by the alchemist Robert Fludd and the scientifst Johannes Kepler. When Pauli entered the reception room for the Jung party, a large Chinese vase inexplicably slid off a table, creating a flood that drenched some of the distnguished guests. Pauli saw huge symbolic significance because of the echo of “Fludd” in the phenomenon of the spontaneous “flood”. This incident inspired him to write his paper “Background Physics”.
    On another occasion, Pauli was sitting at a table in the window of the CafĂ© Odeon, thinking intently about the color red and its feeling tones. While thinking “red”, he was unable to take his eyes off a large, unoccupied car parked in front of the restaurant. As he watched, the car burst into flames and his field of vision was filled with fiery red.
    In yet another, quite hilarious, incident in New York, Pauli was lunching with Erwin Panofsky, the famous art historian and two other scholars. When they rose from the table after dessert, three of the men found that they had been sitting - inexplicably - on whipped cream, now smeared over their trousered rumps. The only one unscathed, of course, was Pauli.
    According to his close colleague Marcus Fierz, “Pauli believed thoroughly in his effect.”  He experienced an unpleasant inner tension before things blew up. After the event, he felt relief and release from tension, even moments of euphoria. No doubt he enjoyed his ever-growing reputation for producing wickedly strange phenomena. This was, after all, the man who dressed up as Mephistopheles for a skit in front of Niels Bohr’s circle in Copenhagen.
The best story on the Pauli Effect is from Rudolf Peierls. Some of Pauli’s fellow-scientists plotted to spoof the effect attributed to him at a reception. They carefully suspended a chandelier by a rope that they intended to release when Pauli entered the room, causing the chandelier to crash down. “But when Pauli came, the rope became wedged on a pulley and nothing happened – a typical example of the Pauli effect.”
It has been suggested that the reason Pauli was not invited to join the Manhattan Project – which recruited many physicists from his circle – was that the directors knew Pauli’s reputation and were worried that he would blow up something vital.

For more on Pauli, his long collaboration with Jung, his dreams and his contribution to the theory of synchronicity, please read the chapter titled “The Man Who Blew Things Up” in my book The Secret History ofDreaming, published by New World Library.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A different drum

New Year's Day, 2012

The little synthetic drum that has been my all but inseparable companion for 12 years is alive. It has been ensouled by use. It has powered journeys into other realms of reality for groups from the Baltic to Brazil, from Sydney to San Francisco. It has called in the spirits and the animal guardians. It has helped to guide souls in their transitions on the Other Side, and to bring vital energy back into the bodies of hundreds of people who have suffered soul loss. And through all of this, its voice has grown. At its last major outing, in southern Brazil, two professional musicians approached me during the first break, astonished that one small instrument could lay down so many complex waves of sound. They said they felt they were listening to a whole orchestra, of voices as well as primal instruments. Was there something unusual in the fabrication of the drum, and some secret to my playing?
      “The drum is alive,” I told them. “And because it has so much spirit, the spirits come to play when I am playing it.”
      But then there was a problem, that became serious only after the long journey home from Florianopolis in October. My little drum was getting tired. The drumhead had developed permanent wrinkles, as any face might age, and dull spots where the sound no longer sang. So, with a deep sigh, I purchased a new drum. The catalog description was identical to that of the original drum, but everything else was different. When I played the new drum in a local circle, it did not sing. It merely spoke, in a rather high register without the thrilling resonance and deep mysterious undertones of its senior. So I reverted to my old drum. She gave her best, while telling me, I’m so tired.
     The first day of the New Year seemed like the right day to set things right. I invited a dear friend, a sister of my soul who has shared adventures in two worlds with me for many years, to come down into the Cave where I write and dream, and asked for her help to energize the new drum, to open its “mouth” and charge it with the spirit of my shamanic work. That’s my friend (or at any rate her energy double) on the couch with the drums in the photo.
     I gave her the new drum, to start our improvised ceremony, and took up the elder of my many drums, the deerskin drum on which I painted the sea eagle that was my ally in my boyhood and carried me on its wings to deep places of discovery and initiation in my native Australia and in the Scotland of my paternal ancestors. Ah, the elder drum was in wonderful voice. We both enjoyed the waves of sound passing from its deeper throat to the young drum. I sensed something more: a direct transfer of energy. This inspired me to repeat the operation with other primal instruments in the Cave, with a goatskin bodhron out of Ireland, with a kangaroo-skin drum from my native Oz, with an Afro-Brazilian agogo, with an Iroquois turtle rattle. Each time, we felt something join the young drum, and heard its voice shift until it began to sing.

Time, now, for me to take up the drum that has accompanied me on the roads of the soul for the past twelve years. In wave upon wave of sound, we released all we have shared and let it wash over the junior drum. Now it was time to fulfill the transfer. I took the young one from my friend. I drummed in the Goddess pattern of twin spirals, cycling between the worlds of body and spirit, creation and dissolution, life and death and rebirth. I shifted into a soft and coaxing beat, the kind that might call home a lost child or a lover who has gone Away. I made thunder in the Earth. I called in the animal powers and the bird tribes. I tested whether this young one could sustain a beat strong enough to carry a traveling soul to and from the Lower World and the Upper World. And my heart smiled as the young one sang, and our spirits soared with her singing.
    The older companion she has replaced will have an honored place in my cave, as an elder among my speaking drums. I'll take her out from time to time, to sing in the woods and by the water, and to drink the light of sun and moon.

I have recorded my own CD of shamanic drumming for dream travelers; "Wings for the Journey". It was recorded in the woods among a circle of shamanic dreamers and is available from Psyche Productions.
The synthentic drums mentioned above are REMO "Buffalo" drums. I use a small 16" model because I like to pack my drums in my suitcase and avoid excessive questioning at airport security. The beater that comes with REMO drums is too short for my taste, however. I use hand-made long-handled beaters made to my specifications and the heads are encased in deerskin.

I painted a very simple image on my new drum; simple can be good. My personal name for the double spiral is the Eyes of the Goddess. It was through this portal, quarter of a century ago, on my return from a visit to Newgrange in Ireland, that I found myself traveling to an ancient Iroquois woman shaman who insisted on instructing me in her own language - the first of a series of encounters that led me to change my life. I published part of that story in Dreamways of the Iroquois. It continues to unfold.