It begins at night on a strange, wild beach. The waves are dark and strong, dark trees bow in the wind from the sea. I am reminded of the mysterious Island of the Dead in the famous painting by Arnold Böcklin. I have companions, but on waking I am not sure who they are, or which side of the waters I am on.
The dream was eerie, but left me thrilled with excitement. I was eager to go back inside the scene and discover more. I rolled my head on the pillow, ignoring the gray light of morning, and willed myself back. I smelled the salt air, and plunged into the waves.
Now I was moving at fantastic speed through great sentinel rocks that came alive at my approach and became giants and monsters. Some resembled the creatures Odysseus had to survive, others seemed to come from Northern imagination. There was a storybook, cinematic quality to these stone monsters. Uneasy to begin with, I soon found myself delighted by them, because I realized that I was now traveling in the imaginal realm of a child self, or of several of my Boy Roberts.
A slightly older Robert, old enough to be avidly curious about girls, took charge, and now I was in a kind of harem dream, in which women of every type were flirting with me. This was fun, for a while, but some instinct took me to breakfast at the most elegant hotel buffet. I did not linger too long over coffee and croissants, because I felt the tug of another mind.
I followed it into the presence of a true priestess, the leader of a great Western order of initiates who died around the time I was born. I had met her many times, in encounters between the worlds, and felt I had known her, in a different body, during her own time on Earth. I felt blessed by this renewed contact. She was a gentle teacher, in this encounter. She wanted to remind me of my connections with certain personalities in other times and other dimensions, and how our actions in any one of these lives change the patterns of the others.
She gave me an image to bring back from this lucid dream. It looked like a Tarot card, hand drawn in ink with washes of color, from a marvelous draftsmen. Through the open flaps of a medieval tent, a city appears on the horizon, and at the heart of the city is a pavilion arranged for a special event, perhaps a marriage.
The Roman numerals VI appear at the top of the card. In most decks, the VI trump is called The Lovers. But here, the word written on the card was Grace.
There was more, much more - at least a dozen separate episodes, including ones in which I was inspecting books I haven't written yet and contributing to the translations of ones I do know. The gifts of this night were tremendous. A sense of grace (good word!) and bounty, which I want to name with that boisterous Italian word, abbondanza! Synesius of Cyrene, that great dreamer of the Greco-Roman world, wrote that the crowning gift of dreams may be simply that the Creator "infuses us with his own courage." Something like that. I have no desire to analyze experiences of this kind, simply to live and create with the energy and sense of grace they bring.
"Island of the Dead" by Swiss symbolist Arnold Böcklin. Freud had this on his wall, so did Lenin. The artist described his painting as “a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”