Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Baltic city built on a dream

Vilnius, Lithuania

In front of the cathedral in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a statue of its founder, the Grand Duke Gediminas. Carved in the plinth that supports his towering figure is a howling wolf. This recalls the dream that led directly to the foundation of Vilnius.
    In a military camp on a hill, Gediminas dreamed of an iron wolf that opened its jaws and howled. For guidance on the meaning of his dream, he sought out a shaman-priest named Lizdeika. According to tradition, Lizdeika was born in an eagle's nest on a conical hill at Kernave. Lizdeika lived closed to wolves, and was reputed to be able to shapeshift into their form.
    When the grand duke dreamed of the iron wolf, Lizdeika was recognized in Lithuania as the
 krivu krivaitis, or high priest of the old religion. Lizdeika told the grand duke he should build a fortified city on the hill where he had been sleeping. Vilnius is a city founded on a dream, and over the past week it was a grand place to be dreaming with a spirited circle of Lithuanians.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Of journal-keeping, funny pages and graphic novels

She is Pele, as I drew her in my journal after a group journey through the chakras I led during my recent Hawaii retreat. While drumming for the circle, I found Pele giving birth to the islands while her fiery body streamed and coiled.
    I am forever drawing in my journal, the one I write in by hand. The boy artist in me enjoys this activity, and it makes the pages fun to examine when I get round to reading the records I have made. Sometimes the drawings are keys that help me to decipher the befuddling shorthand and hieratic scratches of my impossible handwriting.
   Often a series of little sketches look like the funny pages, or even part of a graphic novel. I might depict several acts of a dream or shamanic journey in panels, or on successive pages.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Things Seen In My Dreams

Marc Chagall, "The Poet"

A black dog learning to drive a white car
A pleasure house in the realm of the Moon
A lion robe lined with the night sky
A druid in a raven cloak
The Journey to Absolute Knowledge
A telescope for viewing and correcting the future
The crown of an ancient king, heavy with battles
The Sun behind the Sun
The Mother of the Wolf Clan
Lovemaking with a lioness
The Dragon, aroused and gentled
Flying books
Friends and loved ones on the Other Side
Fourteen selves in fourteen mirrors
The House of Time
Yeats’s cottage on the Fourth Level of the Astral Plane
The Sisters of the Stones
My boy selves
A priestess-scientist of the future
A sleeping king who must be awakened
The game of worlds
The shape of my heart’s desire

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mary Poppins and the Blue Lady

I am getting to know the author of Mary Poppins. The life of P.L. Travers (the name she chose) was full of shadows and sharp angles that are missing from the delightful Disney movie (though not from all of the Mary Poppins stories she wrote) and of adventures in several worlds. She was an intimate of AE (George Russell), the Irish mystic, a friend of Yeats and Gurdjieff, and no stranger to the rituals of the Golden Dawn, the practices of yogis, and the vision quests of the Plains Indians. She was fascinated by the idea of the double, and came to believe she was leading a double or treble life, in parallel realities.
    My current reading includes an excellent recent biography of by Valerie Lawson, published in the United States as Mary Poppins, She Wrote. This contains many surprises. As a young girl in Australia, young Helen Lyndon Goff (as she then was) so longed to be "away" that she approached a gypsy camp near her home and offered a tall blue-robed man one of her sandals, hoping he would whisk her off into another world. The stranger gravely inspected the sandal, and returned it to her, leaving "Lyndon" to make her own way. She disliked her native country, and was stirred by stories of Ireland and England, where she traveled as soon as she was able.
    I have also been looking again at a late collection of essays by P.L.Travers, titled What the Bee Knows, that is probably her least-known work. It turned up, placed eccentrically on an unlikely shelf in a used bookshop, through the helpful machinations of a shelf elf. Opening the book at random, I found a beautiful essay “On Forgiving Oneself” that is a marvelous evocation of encountering a Greater Self that proves to be no stranger. I would title it “Meeting the Blue Lady”. 

     She comes upon her again and again in the woods - a mysterious, beautiful woman in a blue mantle, that reminds her of Demeter and of hyacinths. She is often dancing, or gathering woodland flowers, or meeting with strangers. The day comes when the Blue Lady blocks her path:

Then she thrust a hand under her veil and drew it down from head to shoulder, her face emerging from the blue as the moon slips out from the edge of a cloud.
   It was my face...And I knew that I had always known, and at the same time refused to know, what lay between the veil.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"You must know the heart of hatred to gain the salvation of love"

I find myself in front of a pair of massive carved oak doors with lion knockers and fleurs de lys. Inside I meet Charles d’Orléans, the poet-prince in whose name Joan of Arc went to war. I have dreamed into his life over many years, but this is the first time I have seen him face to face. I observe him closely, recalling that no contemporary portraits of him survive.
    Charles has sharp, angular features, a beak of a nose, a strong pointed chin, dark straight hair cut above the shoulders. He is in what, for him, is informal garb: a particolored doublet (dark green and pale green or cream) and hose.
     He declares in French, Il faut connaitre le coeur de haine pour obtenir le salut d’amour. "We must know the heart of hatred to gain the salvation of love."
     The words strike deep. I ask the 15th century Duke of Orleans why I have been dreaming into his life, and his death. He tells me: Je porte le sceau des ages, inclus de l’age mussulmane que vous importe si lourde dans vos temps. "I carry the seal of the ages, including that of the Muslim age that weighs so heavy on you in your times." This is exciting, and altogether mysterious.

This encounter unfolded during a group shamanic journey I led in which I gave participants the assignment of finding a personality in another time whose life issues are relevant to their present situations. The follow-up assignment that I gave the group was to write a page from the “autobiography” of the personality they had encountered. When I took up pen and paper to write my own page, I began by reproducing Charles' extraordinary opening statement:

Il faut connaitre le coeur de haine pour obtenir le salut d’amour.

Then the words streamed from me, or through me:

We must know the heart of hatred to gain the salvation of love.

"My mother schooled me in hatred. Chief among her keepsakes, in the black-shrouded box near my right hand on the table, is the silken square on which she first embroidered the emblem of our family’s grief, and hate. It is the image of a rounded watering-can, a chantepleure, dripping fat drops of blood. My mother told me it was her heart that was bleeding, and would go on bleeding until we avenged ourselves on John of Burgundy, who had my father chopped to pieces on a Paris street like a side of beef on a butcher’s block.
    "John is long dead, and I cannot hate him now. His son became my friend. On the game-board of this world, the pieces are forever in motion.
    "My beautiful young wife Marie is waiting for me. Perhaps she is my reward for the bloody years of war and revenge, and the longer years I spent in a gilded cage, as a hostage in EnglandI am writing a new poem for her, or rather for the Lady of the Forest of Long Awaiting I worship in the pleasing slopes of her body.
    "Through the landscapes of women, and of the gentle Loire country around my chateau of Blois, I give myself reason to stay in this body, which has survived longer than any of my boyhood friends, but is beginning to fail. The Lord knows – and the Adversary even better – that I have had no difficulty leaving this body. I am a prince of France, but I am also my mother’s son.
    "There is a rustle of wings at my window, and a huge black crow tapping at the glass. The sheen on its plumage is purple in the morning light. Is it my mother’s familiar, calling me to yet one more act of family duty – or vendetta?
    "I will never leave you, she promised. She knows the ways to keep such a promise. She was a Visconti, of that great Italian house that pursued its battles by night as well as day. She was accuse of sorcery, to keep her and her accusations out of Paris after my father’s murder. In our time, it was customary to charge an unmanageable or inconvenient woman – even a woman of the highest degree – with sorcery. This was done to a Queen of England as well as to the peasant girl from Lorraine who raised an army in my name. My mother’s policy was this: If they are going to charge you with sorcery, you may as well become a sorcerer....
"I am writing in my library, here at Blois, the city I love best. Through the leaded glass, I see the lazy bend of the Loire, lemon-green in the sunshot mist. At my left hand, I have my copy of the Picatrix, lettered by a renegade monk from Germany. I never tire of reading its account of a city of magicians in North Africa. Next to the Picatrix is the jeweled box that contains the rarest of all my manuscripts. I have had five letters of Greek embossed on the lid. Θαύμα. Thauma. The contents of this box have made a long journey. By a great irony, the script was in Constantinople at the same time my family’s enemy, John of Burgundy, was there as a prisoner of the Great Turk…"

Graphic: Dutch artist's version of Charles d'Orleans, circa 1471. There are no surviving contemporary portraits.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The man with the sunburst tattoo at the third eye

I met a dubious character in my dream wanderings last night. I saw him first as a vigorous 40-ish man with wild dark hair and beard, wearing a long, loose coat or robe of many colors. At his third eye, he wore a tattoo of a sunburst. It was inked in flashing colors, giving the impression of solar flares. He also clearly meant to indicate to those he was trying to impress that his third eye was open, and capable of projecting immense psychic power.
     His energy was that of a sorcerer; his style that of a huckster. I watched him in a marketplace, up on a little platform, seeking to win followers with his tricks. I gave him a wide berth.
     But later in the dream, after traveling far and wide, I met him again. I did not recognize him to begin with, standing near an arch in an old brick building that might have been St James's Palace in London. He was now an old man, very tired and pale, his skin almost white, dressed in a three-piece black suit. His hair was close-cropped, curly and white, his lips almost colorless. I would not have known him except for the sunburst tattoo. It was now leached of color, its lines puckered like the edges of an old wound.
    He stared at me intently, and I remembered a figure in a dream of long ago - a leader of a British esoteric order - who had sought to impress me by opening a third eye, quite realistically, in a gathering of his acolytes. Would the old man with the faded sunburst tattoo try a similar stunt? Apparently not. We took each other's measure for a long moment, then I moved on.
Dreaming is traveling. We get around, we visit various neighborhoods in a geography much vaster than that of the physical world, we meet other people. I could play psychology games with this dream - for example, by asking "what part of me" is like the man with the sunburst tattoo, in his two versions and his aging - and they could be interesting, up to a point. But I know, as a lifelong dream traveler, that he is not merely an aspect of myself; he is a transpersonal figure, living another story that occasionally (it seems) intersects with my own. I don't feel inclined to follow his trail, but I'll be on the lookout for his possible further appearances in my night life. I haven't got his number yet, but I know his mark.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chinaberry gleam

Chinaberry Gleam

Gentle soul, the Spirit caught you up as a raptor
beating wings, and tore your flesh
and drew you through the night worlds
and hurled you into deeps where no sun shines
and the moon is a blind pulse, a drum unheard,
so you would learn to shine in your own light
so you would steer by your inner sun
so you could unwrite the book of Fate
so that, remembering, you move as a dancer among your kind,
in the world but not of it, not different and not the same,
sharing what you have lived at your heart's core:
love, and courage, the flash of the sea-horse racing waves,
the gleam of rain on a chinaberry tree.

Chinaberry photo by Mauraguanandi

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Storytelling in Hathor red

In last night's dreams: I am at a table where we are swapping stories. When it is a person's turn to tell or read a story, a colored disk floats in the air behind and just above his or her head, flashing a complementary color. It is my turn. There is a red disk behind me, flashing light turquoise. I take the seat at the head of the table. I am very happy that I have a 5-page finished typescript I had long forgotten I had written, about past life issues that surface in the lives of a contemporary couple.
     Waking, I recall magical exercises for training vision that involve using a Westernized version of the tattvas and their complementary or flashing colors. The red of the disk and its placement remind me of the symbol of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who wears a red disk between horns, when depicted as a woman or a cow.
    We often play story-swapping games in my workshops, especially "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming", which I led last month as a 5-day retreat at Mosswood Hollow and will lead again next year. I am engaged in gathering and editing stories I have written over many years for a new collection, and am intrigued by my dream discovery that I have one "ready to go" on a theme Dion Fortune took up (as discussed here yesterday) 90 years ago.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dr Taverner releases a soldier from a hungry ghost

Dion Fortune says that she told the story titled "Blood-Lust" (in The Secrets of Dr Taverner) exactly as it was played out in physical and psychic reality.
    Captain Craigie, back from war, starts killing for blood. He starts by raiding chicken coops and works his way up to sheep. Along the way, he can't help trying to sink his teeth into his fiancee's neck. He tells Dr Taverner, the unusual practitioner who turns his attention to the case, that he suffered "shell-shock" in the trenches. This was a familiar term in the World War I era; today we are more likely to speak of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But in this case, "shell-shock" seems an exact description. Captain Craigie was blown out of a trench.
    The source of the problem becomes literally visible when people start seeing the apparition of a German soldier in a flat cap and field-gray uniform. This, we learn, is the etheric or dense energy body of a dead enemy soldier who has attached himself to the unfortunate Craigie, seeking to feed his "vitality hunger" (as Taverner diagnoses his condition) through his living host.
    Dr Taverner's solution involves baiting a trap, by nicking the neck of the captain's girlfriend. While Craigie is physically restrained, the hungry ghost of the German soldier leaves his body to seek the fresh blood. Taverner stands between the ghost and its host and forces it into "a psychic killing-pen" in the form of a triangle.
    Dion Fortune is discreet about what happens next. Taverner makes "a Sign and a Sound". The gray etheric form spins into a whirling spiral and disintegrates. Captain Craigie is released from the hungry ghost that was riding him,
    Dr Taverner pronounces that the source of the problem was "a corpse who was insufficiently dead."

While some parts of the plot summary may sound like the script for one of those old Hammer horror flicks, the story touches on themes of perennial importance, including the plight of veterans of foreign wars yesterday, today and tomorrow, who may be carrying unwanted energies of the dead.
     One of Dr Taverner's lessons, in this story, is that we have more than one physical body. To be specific: 

We have two physical bodies...the dense material one...and the subtle etheric one, which inhabits it, and acts as the medium of the life forces, whose functioning would explain a great deal if science would only condescend to investigate it.

By my observation, this is exactly correct. Failure to understand the nature of the etheric body and its survival of physical death confuses our relations with the dead and delays or prevents recognition of the need for spiritual cleansing and releasing in healing cases of PTSD, addiction and other disorders.
     Dr Taverner instructs that "it is possible to keep the etheric body together almost indefinitely if a supply of vitality is available". In "Blood-Lust", the supply of vital energy comes through "a human feeding bottle" that feeds on others in an effort to replenish itself.
     How common is the problem? Well, literal vampirism and blood-drinking may be rare (despite the contemporary vampire fad) but energy vampirism has never been uncommon, alas. Dr Taverner, the magician, alludes to dark side magical practices by those who seek to avoid the second death (of the etheric body) by forming "a connection with the subconscious mind of some other soul that still has a body." He cautions that "the lower type of medium" is especially vulnerable to this type of parasitism. But "higher" types can be vulnerable if in a weakened or absent condition, as when Captain Craigie was blown out of his trench, and (for a period) out of his body.
     Who ya gonna call, if you don't have a Dr Taverner down the street? Well, I give rather specific guidance on spiritual release, including staging a "second burial" for an etheric body that does not belong with the living, in The Dreamer's Book of the Dead. And we have Dion Fortune's classic Psychic Self-Defence. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"You've got to name me"

Yurt at Mosswood Hollow, scene of many of my workshops
I am leading a workshop for a huge number of people, gathered in many rooms and on several levels of a spacious building. The central space has a domed ceiling with a skylight.
    I call everyone to come as close to me as possible, under the dome. I teach them the Lightning Dreamwork process and have them choose partners to do dream sharing together. Next I select some experiences that are teaching examples of how healing can come through dreamwork.
    One of those I choose to share a personal experience with the whole group is a man I call Father David. When I look at him, I can see him standing by a fountain in Rome. He came to my workshop with some misgivings, but he is going through a deep transformation.
    He is not only willing to talk to the group; he is ready to sing.
    His voice rises in the cadence of a spiritual. The chorus of his song is "You've got to name me."
    I wake from my dream, thrilled with excitement, with the music and that one line pulsing inside me. "You've got to name me."

Sometimes a single phrase is all we need from a dream, especially when it comes on the wings of song. This "old" dream, which I found in a 2002 journal just now, has lived with me ever since. Though the details of the dream report had faded (until now), the message has not.
    There is such power in naming.
     When it comes to our health and healing, we require the correct names for conditions and symptoms. We also want to claim the ability to re-name what ails us in ways that can help our bodies and our hearts to heal. In Madeleine L'Engle's luminous novel A Wind at the Door, the villainous Echtroi, or ancient enemies, are the Un-Namers who kill by Xing things out.
     "You've got to name me." Coming in a spiritual, from a man who may be a priest, this also carries the message that we want to remember that we can call on a saving power, by a name we believe in. If in doubt, call on Love and Light, and Forgiveness. Those are saving names.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thanks to the dream Brownies

Osamu Tezuka, "New Treasure Island" (1947)
Robert Louis Stevenson thanked his "Brownies" for some of his best creative work. He described them as laboring away on his stories when he was asleep or in half-dream states, so that better than half his work was done when he came to put pen to paper.
    I woke with a similar delightful sense of creative assistance around 4 am today, a time when I often rise to record and research my dreams and see what wants to stream into a story, an article or a poem. My dream reports from last night include this pair, with the recurring motif of creative help:

1. I examine a typescript I've been working on. I have left gaps in the narrative. Someone has filled in these gaps and inserted some further material. I can see at a glance where the new material is, because it looks like it has been highlighted in yellow, though the highlighting effect fades as I read it. I am at first annoyed that someone unknown has been fooling around with my text, and assume that the inserts are random. But when I study the new passages more closely, I see that they are just right. The penultimate paragraph is beautifully expressed. I try to figure out who has been working on my text. In the distance, I see a beautiful woman in a yellow robe. 

2. With a woman companion, I have been encouraging an older man to take up art. We have expressed enthusiasm over some colored drawings he has done, and are looking at a folder of these. Most are incomplete, and they are not especially well executed when we look at them more carefully. There is a spill; I think it is my companion who spills water or tea over some of the drawings. This makes the colors run and the effect is quite magical. I am excited that an accident has brought the drawings to life.

I stirred from these dreams in a state of excitement and delight. 

Reality check: I am currently writing a story and have left gaps in the text. I draw a good deal, often with colors, but my technical execution could do with improvement. 

Action plan: I'll fill in the gaps in my narrative, and let the colors run - by using oil crayons and perhaps watercolors - in some of my new artwork.

And I reopened RLS' "A Chapter on Dreams", included in his book Across the Plains, where he describes in detail the role of his dream Brownies, including this celebration:

And for the Little People, what shall I say they are but just my Brownies, God bless them! who do one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep, and in all human likelihood, do the rest for me as well, when I am wide awake and fondly suppose I do it for myself. That part which is done while I am sleeping is the Brownies' part beyond contention; but that which is done when I am up and about is by no means necessarily mine, since all goes to show the Brownies have a hand in it even then. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Interview with Yama I


A mountain of smoking charcoal with flaming eyes
opposes my passage. No way around.
The mouth opens into hellfire,
giving me the only way. I fly into the fire,
leaving my moist soft overcoat behind,
seeking his master. Where's the boss?

Yama, we know each other.
You consented to speak with me
in the cultured voice of a maharajah
who plays polo with heads
though you would only answer my questions
when I agreed to let you place your noose
around my neck. I have seen you
in a business suit, in a robe of flame,

and in the black Tom Mix outfit
of a cowboy swinging a lasso.

Can this be you? This monstrous being
skyscraper tall, who makes your gatekeeper
look like a child's stuffed toy?
So many arms, so many appendages
that snake and spider from your terrible black core -
the devouring eyes, avid to drink breath of the living.
I have come here to purchase a life.

- from a journey on Gore Mountain, April 29, 2012