Saturday, March 31, 2012

Winged soul in the sky

Ba amulet in the Brooklyn Museum
I've been a speaker at a conference attended by a group of dealers in art and antique jewelry. I was impressed by the beauty of jeweled belts that two of them have in their stock; they tell me the best of these come from Jordan.
    Now I am outside. The world around me is shimmering. I marvel as the landscape becomes a field of crimson, streaming like silk. High above, to the left, I see a golden winged figure. Is it a golden bee, or a hummingbird?
    Clear as a bell, the one syllable is spoken in a beautiful feminine voice.
    I remember Egypt, and how the ba soul, seen as a human-headed bird, takes flight from the heart. The gods of Egypt, the neteru, have ba souls too. The sun-god Ra, as I recall, has seven and they take many forms. The benu bird the Greeks called the phoenix is a ba of Ra.
    I rise before the sun, thinking of the sun god, because of that vibrant field of red, and that glorious golden winged soul.

- from last night's dreaming

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dream legacy from a Victorian psychic researcher

Dreams give us assignments. In my first cycle of sleep, I dreamed I discovered a rich trove of materials from Frederic (F.W.H.) Myers, the great Victorian researcher of the paranormal. The materials were both manuscripts and recordings. Some of the transcriptions were faulty and needed to be revised; some of the recordings sounded as if the speaker had a cleft palate. But there were riches here quite unknown to the public. Walking a familiar city street,  I announced to a friend, with high excitement, that I intended to produce a corrected version and make them known. I sensed a stir of spirits around me as I talked, fluttering like birds or bats. There was nothing sinister about these lively shades; their presence added to my enthusiasm for my project.
     This dream will drive me back to my study of Myers; I wrote a little about him in my Dreamer's Book of the Dead. The quest that drove him was to provide evidence of the soul's survival of physical death, evidence that would pass muster with the scientists of his time. "To prove that man survives death would be to transform and transfigure his whole life here now," he wrote in Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. That masterwork was unfinished at the time of his death and was published posthumously.
     Some believe that Myers continued his work on the Other Side, and fulfilled his promise to his colleagues in the Society for Psychical Research in England to supply first-hand information once he got there by dictating a series of new works via psychic mediums in the years after he passed over. The most interesting of these channeled works, received via Geraldine Cummins, are titled The Road to Immortality and Beyond Human Personality, and describe a series of transition zones after physical death.

     I have long felt an affinity for Myers not only because of his quest, but because of his love of words and of wordplay. A poet and classical scholar, he tried to give us a fresh vocabulary to describe interactions of mind and matter, levels of consciousness, and transits of spirit. His love of words and his sense of the importance of how we name things was so great that he inserted a glossary at the beginning, rather than at the end, of his magnum opus Human Personality. It is studded with terms that are his own invention. Some of his coinages, like "telepathy" have become household words. Some will probably never enter common English or even the technical lexicons of parapsychology, but stimulate all sorts of ideas, as with:

           Psychorragy – a bursting through of psychic phenomena. 
Cosmopathic – Open to the access of supernormal knowledge or emotion, apparently from the transcendental world, but whose precise source we have no way of knowing.
Methectic – of communications between one stratum of a man’s intelligence and another; as when he writes message whose origin is in his own subliminal self.

     So, dream-directed, I return to what Myers has left us, in his own hand or through the hands of others. My eye falls on a passage in Beyond Human Personality, the second of the works received by Geraldine Cummins, in which he speaks of how we create our after-death environments according to our imagination. Speaking from the Other Side, Myers declares that it is through the imagination (or lack thereof) that man approaches paradise or falls into situations far short of that:

Imagination plays an important part in his conceptions of paradise. If it has become perverted through his deeds and thoughts when he was a man, it may create sinister surroundings for him, or perhaps, kindle the old fires of hate till they blaze again and continue to flame until their folly becomes apparent and thus, in time, he wearies of the sameness, of the monotony, of this particular kind of experience. Love, on the other hand, will draw about the soul the conditions necessary for its fulfilment. And in this world beyond death, very beautiful surroundings may be built up by the imaginations of those who truly love. These latter are not, however, as numerous as is commonly believed. If there be any soil or stain, any weakness in their love, the picture which they have created as their background will in some way be faulty, and, though it furnish temporary satisfaction, be far from the ideal of the seeker of Heaven.

All good stuff, but the style is inferior to the best of Myers' writings when he was still on the earthly plane. Maybe, as in my dream, there is need for a better transcription.

Illustration: "Fred" Myers. Drawing by Robert Moss with digital effects

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tarot cards from the world

I encourage people to be open to receiving tarot cards from the world, in the form of symbolic pop-ups and coincidences. Sometimes it's rather hard not to see this playing out, as when on my morning walk I found part of a deck of Bicycle playing cards abandoned on my street just a few doors up from my house. Most of the cards were face-down, but four presented themselves as a possible reading for the day, in this order: 10 of Clubs, Queen of Diamonds, 8 of Clubs, 9 of Diamonds.
     The Clubs in a deck of playing cards correspond to the Wands of tarot; the Diamonds to Disks or Pentacles. So, in the abandoned Bicycle cards, sodden and soiled under the rain, I found myself looking into a tarot mirror and a possible story for the day. The Ten of Wands, for me, cautions about a great energy confined in too narrow a space; a creative outlet is required for all that passion and fire! The Queen of Disks, whether an aspect of me or a woman in my life, brings the grounding and earthy approach that I often require to balance my energies. The Eight of Wands, for me, is a great card for rapid and effective communication, an invitation to connect with others through all available media. The Nine of Disks, as an outcome card, can hardly be beat, suggesting a powerful forward movement into abundance and physical manifestation.
    Not a bad bunch. As I smile at myself for spending these moments reflecting on the possible tarot attributions of a few cards abandoned on the sidewalk, I am reminded of an entertaining thought expressed by Papus (Gerard Encausse) in his otherwise tedious 19th century book The Tarot of the Bohemians. Giving his own twist to the legend that tarot is originally an Egyptian book of wisdom, Papus  dreamed up the story of an Egyptian priest who, “observing that virtue is a most fragile thing, and most difficult to find, proposed to confide the scientific traditions to vice. The latter, he said, would never fail completely, and through it we are sure of a long and durable presentation of our principles." So he invented a card game to perpetuate the secret wisdom while hiding it from the understanding of the uninitiated. "The game chosen as a vice was adopted. Since then the players have transmitted this tarot from generation to generation far better than the most virtuous men ever could have done.” 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Paris Backstage and other dream realities

French soldier from Indochina war,
Del Prado
My dream rambles last night have got me thinking about how easily, in dreams, we slip into a separate reality, or a whole series of alternate realities.
    In my recollection, the first scene in the dream unfolds at a large airport, possibly Paris Charles de Gaulle. I recognize women I know in a line at a departure gate, but the line is moving fast and they are gone before I can greet them. I stop at a news stand to buy a French-language newspaper, and notice that instead of giving me change for 5 Euros, they hand me a little ticket that can be used in lieu of cash.
     Now I am out and about in the streets of Paris in the morning light. I am free to explore without any fixed agenda. I come to a pleasant little square lined with bookshops and galleries, and am delighted that the doors are already open, with old books on display in carts on the sidewalk. I glance at a set of landscape paintings hanging from a metal fence. Someone behind me says, "Florida", but the pictures don't look much like Florida to me.
     I walk on, eventually coming to a narrow street. The sign has three words; the middle one is "Coulisse". I wander down a passage in a building on this street. I am drawn to model cars and trains in a window display to my right. Through the shop window on my left, I see whole platoons of model soldiers in French uniforms, from different eras. I am less interested in the Napoleonic figures in their finery than in the Foreign Legionnaires, the World War II figures, and the figures from the wars in Indochina and Algeria. I wonder whether the shop has a model soldier from a regiment from northern France; a character I have been studying fought in this unit.
    Suddenly I am inside the soldier shop, though I have no memory of going through the door. The owner is a strange character. He starts speaking to me in voluble French about a seminar - apparently a military history conference - that is taking place that day. Soon he is recounting his combat experiences in a French unit in Vietnam. I realize that he is talking about the French war in Indochina, and that there is an anomaly. The French left Indochina in 1954, while the owner of the soldier shop looks to be no older than 40.
     He is rather hard to understand, even when he switches to speaking English. Now he is talking about how he lost an eye in the war, and how people looked upon him with revulsion when he came home. He shows me that his left eye is glass, and moves to roll it from its socket to show me how he cleans it. I don't need to see this, and want to leave.
     But somehow, instead, I accept an invitation to a picnic, and in the next instant I am at a gathering under a tent with people of all ages, perhaps an extended family. They are eating thick sandwiches with great lumps of what might be chicken, oozing mayonnaise, that don't appeal to me. These people are all very careful not to expose themselves to direct sunlight. There is an elderly woman there I find creepy; she may be demented. I want to take pictures of her and the man with the glass eye, perhaps in order to identify them later, but this proves to be no easy task. When I think I have got them in focus, they slip into blurry profile, or out of the shot altogether. The little camera I am using spits out passport-sized photos, none of them satisfactory.

I woke from this dream feeling distinctly uneasy. The reality shifts inside the dream - when I slipped through the shop window, then when I was projected into the picnic scene - had taken me to places I really did not want to be.
    My first action was to research the word-clue. The word "Coulisse" is most widely used, in French and among theater people in English, to mean "backstage" or "in the wings". The coulisse, in a theater, may be the space between stage scenery in the wings through which actors come and go. A coulisse may also be a "sliding door."
    Certainly the dream street named Coulisse took me to a backstage version of Paris. Why was I drawn to this separate reality, which feels to me now like a possible realm of the dead? Well, I will be in Paris in May (and will carry my dream report as a travel advisory). And I have dreamed of old wars involving France and the French. Oh yes, I did have a passion for model soldiers and for playing "little wars" with them as a boy, and still have quite a collection, including a box of French Zouaves; and when I was last in Paris I visited a toy soldier shop, not the one in the dream but the famous Drapeaux de France, near the Louvre.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Designing your own tarot cards - 4 of Swords

One of the fun assignments in my tarot workshops is for everyone to produce a sketch of a personal tarot card, based on discoveries and imagery that came to them during the program. There is no shortage of material, since our Tarot for Dreamers playshops include theater and performance, journeys through the doorways of the cards, monologues in the voices of both major and minor arcana as well as readings for ourselves and each other in many different styles.
     In my tarot workshop last weekend, I produced sketches of several cards, including a Priestess inspired by the snake journey I described in my last article here. The card that demanded my closest attention was the Four of Swords. In a Celtic Cross spread, it had come up in the position of my Hopes and Fears. I had seen it in the same place before, in another recent reading, and realized that I needed to explore why this number card - a benign one in the sometimes scary and clanking procession of the Swords - might speak to me of my Hopes and Fears.
     My personal name for the Four of Swords is Rest. My catch phrase for it is "Time Off". Weapons are laid down or hung up on the walls. We have moved beyond the pain and grief and possible self-laceration of the Three of Swords; we are not yet menaced by the terrible mental strife of the Five of Swords. A period of calm and relaxation might certainly figure among my hopes; why would is also be a source of fear?
     In one of our exercises, I drummed for the group, inviting our participants to step through the frame of a selected card, as through a door, to learn more about the character of the card within its own realm. When I let my mind travel through the frame of the Four of Swords, I saw metal pens hanging on a wall. They were the Zebra F-402 pens, inexpensive but elegant, that I generally use. I strolled from a writing nook through an open doorway into a rather Hawaiian scene with a sandy beach, palm trees, a lounger near the water. A great place for rest and relaxation, imagined or physical. Then why the fear? I looked back into the writing space and saw one of my pens lying on top of an unfinished manuscript. Ah, yes. Now I saw it. The writer in me - who might be the creator and producer in other contexts also - fears rest periods because he knows that starting up a project that has been left for a while requires overcoming the heavy weight of inertia. 
     So I produced a personal version of the Four of Swords with the hope of delightful R&R, but also the implied fear of that pen laid to rest across the unfinished book.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Three fires

In dreams last night, I am staying in an immense hotel suite; it is as much like a well-appointed office suite as guest rooms. On an island in the kitchen there are central controls for three (presumably gas or electric) fires that will come on in fireplaces in three different rooms.
    I don’t need to figure out the controls. As soon as I indicate interest, a glass door from the kitchen slides open and a charming, respectful black hotel employee in a suit comes in to assist me in igniting or adjusting the three fires as I wish.
    I woke with a sense of quiet satisfaction.
    In my dreams, over many years, the state of the kitchen often reflects my creative state and sometimes my progress, or lack of progress, in relation to creative projects; a kitchen is where things get cooked up. I am cheered by the thought that I may have three projects that can catch fire – and that I don’t need to try to control anything, because help is available.
    If I were to pick a tarot card for this dream, it would be the Three of Wands. In the stream of the tarot numbers within the suit of fire, passion and intuition, there is the sense of thrusting energy, moving forward and expanding into new areas.
     In the Thoth deck, the image on the card is three blossoming lotus stalks, nicely balanced, against a rich orange background. In this deck the Three of Wands is labeled "Virtue", which confuses card readers who are not into etymology. The word "Virtue" is used here not in the sense of medieval morality, but in the old sense of vertu, meaning "excellence" and deriving from the Latin vir ("man") and evoking what is virile. When the Three of Wands is in play, there can be some risk of cockiness or arrogance; sage counsel may need to be sought. In my dream, this is available.
    My personal name for the Three of Wands is Spring Fire, and a dream on this theme feels just right for the vernal equinox.

My next adventure in Tarot for Dreamers will be held next weekend at the perfect address: the Dragon's Egg, Mystic CT. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Fourteen

R.M., "The Moon at the Foot of My Bed"

The Fourteen

Some days, I don’t remember how I got here, or what I’m supposed to be doing. But today, on the eve of the lunar eclipse, it seems to me that my prior residence was the Moon. There was a mix-up at the time of my conception, for which I tried to press charges against the Zygote Fairy. But she convinced the court that it was my own doing, because I was excessively curious about sex.
I sit now with a ball in my hands. From it strands extend in all directions across time and space. Fourteen silver threads are attached to my body, a little above the navel. One runs to the ball, the others link me to counterparts in other places and times: to the man with skin the color of powdered ash who crouches over a mirror of water in a conical hut in Africa; to the young woman of the future who is priestess and scientist in an Order of dreamers; to the elegant flaneur who strolls with a beautiful woman on his arm through the Paris of Victor Hugo; to the feathered shaman living wild on Deer Mountain. Our work and our passions tug on the web that joins us. When I remember the pattern, I can work the strands like bell-ropes, to signal to another self. Or I may follow a thread into the mind of that other self, in his own world.
We, the Fourteen, came here in the same throw, aspects of a single purpose, operating outside time. My assignment, when I remember it, is to link consciously with my counterparts and serve the plan that unites us.

This was the product of a 10-minute timed writing exercise I led in a workshop at Mosswood Hollow, where I am leading a five-day adventure in Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming in April.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012



There are traffic lights in the trees
green to red is too sudden for me
I wait for the blue light to go.
Fallen leaves are yellow spark plugs
the sun rises in a cape of rainbow feathers
there is green fire in the eyes of all women.

All roads begin and end here
where the woods meet the water.
I shuffle memories of the future
and prepare for the past that lies ahead.

Here, now: all that I was or will be.
I am the red priest who makes love
to the insatiable Fire Lady.
I am the killer whale with the spirit fin
who swallows souls to keep them safe.
I am the Bear of battles
a dreamer made to save a lost kingdom
and the sleeping king
who must be awakened again and again.

I am the boy who knows the ways of dragons
I am the tiger that guards the flock
I am the stump of the old tree
that is putting up fresh shoots
I am the stag of the mountain
who drops his antlers and grows them again.
I am one who grows back.

Here and now, I know this:
I love to swim in the bright dark pools
of your eyes, where a child of wonder
darts from under the lilies to welcome me.

Leave it to the fisher boy with the boat
to fetch and carry messages to the world;
leave it to the faithful knight with the long sword
to guard this sanctuary. In another moment of Now
I will unfold again the long leather wallet
that holds the game of the world.

I sense the ripple from a great wave
not yet seen, from Atlantis not yet fallen.
Yet here and now, as you pluck the strings
and lives and times are dragonflies on the wing,
I drink the wind, I smell the rain,
I breathe in color, I dream a world
of love and peace. Here and now. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wayfinding on the road to Hana

road to Hana; photo from   

On my second visit to Hawaii, I flew to Maui and set off along the notorious road to Hana. Glorious views of sea and waterfalls and rushing streams, but a test for drivers; over 50 miles of switchbacks, hairpin bends, and innumerable one-lane bridges. You must reckon the distance by curves rather than miles. The most common road sign reads, “Yield to Oncoming Vehicles”. Another directs you to honk before blind curves where the road narrows above the cliffs so two cars cannot pass.     

    I turned on the car radio and caught the beginning of a public radio discussion of a TV program airing that night on Wayfinding, the ancient Polynesian art of navigation. Nainoa Thompson, the Hawaiian leader of a team that built a double-hulled voyaging canoe dubbed Hokule'a (the Hawaiian name for Arcturus) and sailed it 2500 miles to Tahiti without modern instruments in the 1970s, described the course in navigation he received from a master navigator the Hawaiians had brought from Micronesia to help train them in the ancient ways.
    The master navigator gathered the Hawaiian crew at night on a point of land on Oahu. He asked them to turn in the direction of Tahiti, 2500 miles away. Using the stars, they did this. When they had turned towards the island, he told them, “Now see the island.” When they could do this – when they could see and touch Tahiti with all of their inner senses – he directed, “Hold the vision in your mind or you will get lost.” This was the master class in ancient Polynesian navigation!
   In the TV program (part of which I caught that night) someone spoke of “pointing the canoe in a certain direction and bringing the island to the canoe” – rather than heading for the island.
   Out on the ocean, Polynesian navigators read the dome of the heavens, the winds, the sea animals, and the waves. But the key is holding to the vision. When you do that, you establish a magnetic current that draws your destination towards you.
   That is marvelous guidance for life navigation.