Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dream mirrors of the Self

One of the most important gifts of our dreams is that they put us in touch with more aspects of ourselves than we have recognized in  what Yeats called our “daily trivial minds.” Among these aspects is the famous Shadow, composed of parts of our selves we have repressed or denied (and tend to project on to others in regular life, till we awaken). But we encounter much more than the Shadow. We encounter a whole family of aspects of ourselves, and as we recognize them and bring them together we become much more than we were.
     We are given the opportunity to claim the imagination and energy of our inner children, the nature-knowing of the ancient shaman within us, the wisdom of the elder, the artist, poet, creator, entrepreneur, hero, dancer, athlete, astronaut inside.
      We also meet our conscience. We are introduced to parts of ourselves that have been broken and are in need of repair. We are given clues to parts of our selves that fled from this body and this life because the pain or shame was too great - or because our dominant personality wimped out on a big dream, settled for a little story and ceased to be any fun for a bright spirit to be around. When we discover such things, we are on the road to healing through soul recovery
       There is more. As we follow these roads, we may rise to a closer acquaintance with the Self beyond all the smaller selves. Call it the Higher Self. Perhaps we are the mirrors in which some part of it is reflected, when our lenses are clear enough.
       I remember a dream that mirrored the relationship between the little self and the Big Self. Here is a brief version:


I read in the local paper that an artist is working on a portrait of the Higher Self. Greatly excited, I lead a group to see it. The path spirals up to a studio like an open tower, guarded by magnificent sculpted beasts; great carnelians flash on the back of the stone lion.
     The artist is at work on a tremendous canvas. It rises as high as the tower, perhaps even above the table. At the bottom, he has painted a self-portrait. The figure stands within glowing bands of color. He is as small as a votive candle in proportion to the immensity of the Higher Self that rises above him, visible only as bands of energy that become subtler and subtler as I look up, until there seems to be nothing except a pristine and unblemished expanse of pearly light.
     It seems unlikely that this immense work can ever be finished. But I know, as I merge with the artist and take up the brush, that this is my life's work.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Warning from Ur: lose your dreams, lose your world

When we lose the dreaming, we may lose everything that matters. There is a haunting warning about this, echoing down across the millennia, from an ancient Sumerian text that gives voice to Ningal, the goddess-protector of Ur, who shared the central temple-palace complex with her consort Nanna, the god of the Moon. Ningal is speaking of the coming destruction of the city:

When I was grieving for that day of storm,
that day of storm, destined for me,
laid upon me, heavy with tears...
Dread of the storm's floodlike destruction
weighed on me,
and of a sudden on my couch at night,
upon my couch at night no dreams were granted me. [1]

Here the loss of dreams heralds the fall of the city and the loss of an empire.
     We can only grasp the full power of Ningal's terrible complaint when we understand her vital role, and that of the succession of high priestesses who embodied her, as dreamers and dream interpreters.
     In The Treasures of Darkness, Thorkild Jacobsen made a strong case that Ningal, like her mother Ningikuga, was a goddess of reeds as well as of the Moon. For the people of ancient Sumer, reeds defined a liminal environment, between the marshes and the dry land, symbolically a place of passage between states of consciousness and reality.
     Betty de Shong Meador writes in her wonderful book Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: "Ningal wanders in that borderland between dry ground and the watery deep of the rivers or ocean. In that transitional space between solid consciousness and the muddy unconscious, dreams emerge. Ningal is the divine dream-spinner who roams the marsh in the moonlight of her husband and taps the fertile, imaginative play of figures in the darkness that make up dreams."
     The high priestess of the Moon god of Ur, Nanna, embodied the goddess Ningal in the annual rites of sacred union in which Nanna was embodied by the king. The hieros gamos was believed to renew the fertility of the land. From day to day, a no less vital function of the high priestess was to receive and pass on to the king and the people "Ningal's gifts of dreams". The phrase comes from the first author known by a personal name in all the world's literature: Enheduanna, poet, princess and high priestess of Nanna at Ur, whose wild and lovely poems evoking the Moon couple's daughter Inanna, Queen of Earth and Heaven, still arouse and unsettle us today.
     Scholars parsing the cuneiform texts from Sumer that have survived on baked clay tablets have found extensive evidence that dreams were greatly valued as oracles for both individuals, families and the whole polity. It was believed that the gods expressed their wishes and revealed the future through dreams. Special care was taken in incubating dreams on matters of great importance.  The dream seeker would lie down on a special couch - "the shining, fruitful couch" - to seek divine guidance, or seclude herself in a specially constructed reed hut.
    In her poem of exile, Enheduanna  grieves for a people bereft of the gift of dreams. The poet priestess laments

I cannot stretch my hands
from the pure sacred bed
I cannot unravel
Ningal's gifts of dreams
to anyone [2]

1. trans. Samuel Noah Kramer; in  Thorkild Jacobsen, TheTreasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976) 87.
2. trans. Betty De Shong Meador in Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001) 66.

Graphic: Alabaster disk showing Enheduanna, high priestess of the Moon god, in ceremony, Ur circa 2300 BCE. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dreaming expands our humanity: Report from Paris, 1944

Paris, August 1944 and December 2013

I'm in Paris in August 1944. People are hungry and torn between hope and despair. Allied armored columns are speeding towards the capital, according to the BBC and the underground newspapers passed hand to hand. The word from Free French General Leclerc is Tenez bon. Nous arrivons. "Hold on. We're coming."
    But not all the French are looking forward to the Liberation. I listen in on the frantic conversations of once-comfortable bourgeois merchants and functionaries who grew fatter by serving the Germans, and ordinary Parisians who obeyed Marshal Pétain's appeal to "collaborate" with the Militärverwaltung in Frankreich, the German Military Administration in France.
    I look in women who were kept as mistresses by German officers. Some have been living in luxury, in swank hotels, with running champagne and silk stockings. I watch them huddled together, talking about survival plans. They are terrified of what will be done to them when their protectors are gone. I watch some of them pleading with Hans or Otto, Don't leave us. Take us with you. A Wehrmacht colonel feels sympathy, but there's nothing he can do except to give his mistress his gold cigarette case. He has no idea what will happen to him, when Paris falls, as he knows it must. His comrades will simply dump the women they used and leave them to the mercies of their countrymen. Some will be stripped of their finery and their hair, beaten and shamed and used for rough sex.

I woke from this dream feeling oppressed, in a hotel off the Boulevard Saint-Germain during a visit to Paris a few days ago. To clear my feelings, I trekked out to Montparnasse to visit the Memorial Maréchal Leclerc and the Museé Jean Moulin. I sat in a little theater with a wrap-around screen watching multiple images of Paris in the last days of the Occupation.
    I wondered why I had dreamed into the situation of the people I had viewed the previous night, people who had made unpleasant choices and were facing unpleasant consequences, people who would not be among those jostling to cheer the Americans and the Free French as they entered Paris. Maybe one of those women was kept in a room in my hotel, under the Occupation.
    It occurred to me, yet again, that one of the functions of dreaming is to expand our humanity. In a hotel bed in Paris, I traveled back across time into life situations of people who were compelled by history to make terrible choices. I was reminded that the typical Parisian during World War II was not a Resistance fighter but someone who was simply trying to survive, to put food on the table, to get through.
     I was in Paris in 1970, a year after Marcel Ophüls' tremendous four-hour documentary film  Le chagrin et la pitié ("The Sorrow and the Pity") was released. The film showed how collaboration was normal for most of the French under Vichy, and all the justifications for it beyond acceptance of military defeat. A government committee ruled that the film “destroyed the myths that the people of France still need”. More recently, French historian Patrick Buisson has claime, in a book with the provocative title, 1940-1945 Anneés  Erotiques (“1940-45 Erotic Years”), that a remarkable number of French women traded sexual favors with the Germans. He floats the idea - infuriating to many - that for some French women this amounted to a kind of sexual liberation. Photos from Nazi archives, like the one above, were displayed in a big exhibition in Paris showing what look like high times shared by Nazi officers and French girls, generating more rage and disgust.
    So perhaps I was dreaming not only into French lives in 1944, but into the continuing challenge, for the heirs of Occupation - in which everyone's family had a story - to come to terms with history. Mulling this, I recognize that those of us who are born and live in countries that have not suffered invasion and occupation in recent generations are truly privileged. It is a challenge to our empathy and imagination to grasp fully the history of other peoples.

    I recalled a Latin tag from my school days. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. It is from Terence (aka Publius Terentius Afer, writing around 170 BCE) and it means, "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me."
   Dreaming, nothing that is human is truly alien to us.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Giving a glimpse of blue sky to a dying soldier in 1916

Hameau de l'Etoile, near Montpellier, France

"Today we are going to the Gallery of Time," I explain to the eager group of adventurers gathered in a restored stone farmhouse in the Midi.
    "This is a place where many have gone to explore their connections with personalities living in other times. It will appear to you like a very long, well-lit gallery filled with art and artifacts, furniture and clothing, jewelry and masks and weapons from many different cultures. You will be drawn to one of these. When you look at that picture, or try on that coat, or sit on that chaise longue, you will be instantly drawn into the time and place from which it comes. You will find yourself entering the experiences of someone who belongs to that time. You may feel yourself entering the mind of this person and settling into his or her body for a while.
    "You need to clarify all the details. Whose life have you entered. What exactly is going on?
    "You want to establish why you have been drawn to this person. How doe the dramas and issue of this life situation compare to your own? Are there lessons to be drawn?
     "Remember that the time is Now. You may be able to establish clear mental communication with the personality whose situation you have entered. You can initiate mental dialogue. You may find that there are ways in which you can help each other, at least to understand a trans-temporal drama."

I had already introduced them to the Gatekeeper, and given them a password. You don't get to the Gallery of Time - let alone what lies beyond it - without an invitation, and certain preparation. I am eager to see what today's travelers, all bright and eager and ready, would bring back from this new expedition to a place where I have conducted hundreds of voyagers over the years.
    "Put your bodies into correct position for the journey," I remind them. Soon they are stretched out comfortably on the mats, eyes covered by sleep shades or bandannas.
    I drum for the group, and travel with them. While watching over the group, both physically and psychically, I am ready to make a personal journey. I have a low boredom threshold and have learned that the mind can be fully active in several places - levels of consciousness and reality - at once.
    I watch our travelers salute the Gatekeeper, who takes forms adjusted to their own characters and experience.
    I am detained in my own journey by unexpected activity around the steps to the great building. An old friend, who handles security here, appears dressed like a gamekeeper, in tweeds with a shotgun over his arm. Men in similar garb, and some in British military uniforms of perhaps a century ago, are coming and going and keeping close watch on the perimeter. My friend is welcoming, and approving of my guests. But he wants me to understand that there is something urgent I must do, something to do with the military.

    I enter the Gallery and realize I am in a military section, with uniforms, helmets and weapons on display. My attention is captured by an officer’s leather belts – a Sam Browne belt that goes over the shoulder and a regular belt with a leather holster attached, and a heavy pistol inside.
    I strap these on.
Immediately I join the situation of a young British officer in the trenches in the thick of World War I His first name is Norman. He has not been having a good war. His commanding officer – not a bad fellow, Norman is eager to explain – considered him a coward for holding back when ordered to take his men out of shelter into the German machine gun fire. The colonel died doing just that.
    The year is 1916. This world of mud and blood is part of the Battle of the Somme.
    Norman can’t breathe. He is buried under a heap of dead and dying men. No one is coming to help. He is going to die like this, breath forced from his lungs.
    What he most wants now is a glimpse of blue sky and green hills.
     In my mind, I am driving on a curving road, over gently rolling hills. In part of myself, I am back in upstate New York circa 1987, on a road I often drove while living on a farm near Chatham. I am drinking the fresh air through the open window, delighting in the sweet beauty of the green rolling hills, the horses grazing, the glorious blue sky with a few fluffy fair weather clouds, all more vivid than I had previously remembered.
    “Thank you,” Norman groans. I am amazed to realize that, without knowing what I was doing, I have placed happy memories from my life in upstate New York a quarter century ago into the mind of a man who is dying in a trench in Europe in 1916.
     “I want to give you something,” Norman speaks in my mind. “I was good at drawing. I was a fair draftsman. I helped design an engine. That may be old hat to you, I know, but please use anything I can give.”
      Now I understand the military theme at the entrance to the Gallery of Time. I did not come here today to fulfill an agenda set by my current self, but to answer a call from almost a century ago. I am moved to tears by the thought that I may have been called, in the simple way, to give a dying soldier a glimpse of blue sky.

We stand at the center of all times.
    There are places where it is easier to remember this, and to act on it. The Gallery of Time is one of them.
    When we are on to something as important as this, the world often helps us to hold on to it by producing a rhyme.
    The day after I entered the mind of a dying man in World War I, I ran into a man who had taken part in my workshop while waiting for a flight to Paris at Montpellier airport. He is from Sweden, and had proved himself to be an excellent travel companion in more than one reality over the three days of our adventure in "Time Travel and Reality Creation".  
     I described my visit to the dying man in World War I.
     My Swedish friend said, “World War I will end in 2018.”
     "I beg your pardon?"
     He repeated "World War I will end in 2018." He explained that this line is part of the promo for a TV series on World War I that is currently running in Sweden.

About Time

The Gallery of Time is part of a complex imaginal environment known as the House of Time. You will find a description of the House of Time and travel reports from earlier expeditions in my book Dreamgates. As is the nature of imaginal reality, every visit results in changes to the locale, which has deepened and grown enormously since 1998, when I published the first reports. To know more about what is possible here, there is no substitute for first-hand experience. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Don't have a dream? Make something up

Almost every day, I am asked for guidance by people who have been missing their dreams. "How can I improve my dream recall?" one man asked. "I feel I've been missing the movies?"
    There are many remedies for dream amnesia that are worth a try. They start with making more room for dreams in your life. This means giving yourself time to wake up naturally, and staying in bed for a bit to see what images from the night may come back to you.
    You may want to experiment with personal rituals for dream incubation, which may be as simple as placing an image that speaks of your intention close to your bed or even under your pillow: a postcard of Paris, a beach stone, a photo of a loved one, a written statement about what you would like to dream. And then being ready to record whatever is in your mind whenever you stir from sleep.
     Whether you are a prolific dreamer or a dream amnesiac, you need to be kind to fragments. Maybe all you remember from the night is a sense of color, or a funny word, or a tiny cameo, or the song playing in your head as you woke. Don't blow these fragments a way. Your associations around them may be very revealing. You may be able to use a wisp from an otherwise forgotten dream like the end of a line, to pull back something much bigger that hid from the light of day.
    It will be of great help to you to remember that dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It is about waking up. And you don't have to go to sleep in order to dream. Many of the most important visionary experiences of my life have taken place in the twilight zone of hypnagogia, in "the Place Between Sleep and Awake". Look for the images and adventures you have been missing there, too.
    The world around you will speak to you in the manner of dreams, through the play of synchronicity and pop-up symbols in everyday life, if you will pay attention. And when we make more room for the play of meaningful coincidence, we sometimes manage to renew our connection with the dream source on the other side of the obvious world.
    Persistent cases of dream amnesia are often a symptom of the condition that shamans call soul loss. We are missing our dreams because we have lost a vital part of our soul, a younger self who is the dreamer. In my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home, I offer guidance on how to locate and bring back those lost boys and girls, with all their joy and energy and imagination.
    Having at least one trusted person with whom you can share dreams and personal stories in the right way on any day is a great incentive for dream recall, especially when you make a regular date to meet, whether in person or on the phone or through the shared dream of the internet.
    Even when dreams have flown, needing to bring something like a dream to the breakfast table, the coffee shop - or the workshop - is a tremendous spur to story making.
    In my workshops, I give people a standard homeplay assignment: Set an intention for the night and bring us juicy fresh material in the morning. I will often add this instruction: If you don't remember a dream, bring us a story of some kind, from any part of your life. If necessary, make something up.
    It is wonderful how this works, and grows the practice of imagination, which is at the beating heart of my work, as teacher and as creator.    

   I have long been inspired by the example of Graham Greene, who became one of England's most prolific and engaging novelists. At sixteen, he had a complete nervous breakdown. He ran away from the posh boys school where his father was headmaster, potentially a dreadful scandal. His family packed him off to London to seek a cure by living in the home of one of the first practicing psychoanalysts in Britain.
    Fortunately this proto-shrink had a relaxed and eclectic attitude. For almost three month, the main assignment he gave young Greene was this: Come to my study at 11:00 o'clock every morning and tell me a dream. When Graham did this, he was not given any interpretation; he was merely encouraged to make a series of free-form associations.
    There were days when the adolescent Greene had no dream recall, or no dreams he was willing to tell. On those days, he would make up a story and tell it as a dream. In this way, he gave him imagination a regular workout, and laid the foundation for his long and almost incredible life as a maker and teller of stories.
    So, if you don't have a dream, make something up, and share that in some way, if "only" with your journal. I put he "only" in quotes because your journal may be the very most important place for this kind of sharing.
    Similarly, if you are stumped by any other life situation, make something up.
    I once asked a group of dreamers in a week-long adventure I was leading at the Esalen Institute in California to make a shamanic journey, powered by drumming, with the aim of finding and bringing back a power song. Some people came back with ancient chants in various language. One traveler came back with "Yellow Submarine". A woman from the Midwest came back with a fresh song that became a kind of hymn to the imagination for many of our subsequent groups:

Make it up as you go along
Make it up as you go along
Make it up
Make it up
The way will show the way.

Resources: I offer many games and tricks that will help you to break a dream drought in my book Active Dreaming. I tell the full story of dreaming in Greeneland in The Secret History of Dreaming. I lead many playshops around the world where the practice of imagination is the heart of what we do; please see the events calendar at my website.

Image: René Magritte, "The Lovers"

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The shamans who interest me

The shamans who interest me are world-class dreamers who can travel between different worlds in the multiverse at will.
    They know the roads of the afterlife because they have died and come back. They walk with Death at their left shoulder, as an ally, not a dread.
 know where to find lost souls and how to guide them to where they belong, in one world or another.
    They travel in the company of animal spirits, and can borrow their senses and use their forms.
    They are time travelers who can scout out the future, repair the past and heal ancestral karma.
    They are poets of consciousness who entertain the spirits by bringing them fresh words. They heal body and mind and re-enchant the world by telling better stories about them.

Drawing: "Making Songline" (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shamans of the breakfast table

If I am going to sit down with people at the breakfast table, I want (1) dreams (2) coffee (3) bacon when I am in the United States. In France I want (1) dreams (2) coffee (3) fresh baguette or croissants. In Turkey I want (1) dreams (2) a glass of tea (3) fresh fruit and olives. In England I want (1) dreams (2) a pot of English Breakfast tea (3) crumpets. In Scotland I want (1) dreams (2) a mug of black tea (3) oatmeal with sea salt. In Brazil I want (1) dreams (2) cafezinho (3) tropical fruit.
    You'll notice my top priority remains constant. The dreams are essential. The rest of the breakfast menu is optional. Here's why:

True shamans are dreamers. They are typically called to their vocation in dreams, and dreaming strong - traveling in lucid dreams to help souls find their way, to diagnose and treat illness, and to scout out the future - is the core of their practice. Anyone who dreams, as the Kagwahiv, an Amazonian dreaming people say, is "a little bit shaman", so we stand on the brink of claiming this power when we remember our dreams and start to develop the practice of working with dreams and traveling with intention into the dreamspace.
     Once we are catching dreams, we need to develop a way of sharing them with others that is mutually empowering and brings energy and juice from the dream world into everyday life. I have developed a simple method for dream sharing that makes it fun and safe to share dreams with just about anyone, anytime, at the breakfast table or at the workplace or even in the line at the grocery store checkout.
     I call this Lightning Dreamwork, because it is meant to be fast as a lightning bolt, and to focus and harness energy. The method is not meant to preempt many other things we may want to do with a dream. Some dreams require tending over time, or remaining alert to how waking events may slowly catch up with a dream and reveal its meaning. Some call for a conscious journey back inside the space of the dream, or performance, or creative expression, or sustained research and inquiry.
     What Lightning Dreamwork provides is a way of dream sharing that can reach temporary closure in just five or ten minutes, exploding any alibi that we don't have time for this. This approach also offers clear guard rails that insure that we will not intrude on each other's privacy and will never presume to tell another person what his or her dreams mean. Dreams belong to the dreamer, and even if we are gifted therapists or infallible psychics, it is never permissible to take another person's power away by telling them what their dreams or their lives mean.
     Once you have mastered and internalized the four steps of the Lightning Dreamwork process, you are ready to play dream guide and dream ambassador, opening a space of power and healing and fabulous adventure for others.

Here's what you do with your dreams at the breakfast table, or anywhere else you choose to
share, in four easy steps:

1. Get the dreamer to tell the dream as a story, as simply and clearly as possible. Encourage the dreamer to leave out the background (no autobiography) and avoid any attempts at interpretation, and to tell, rather than read, the dream report. In this way, we encourage each other to reclaim our gifts as storytellers. This is hugely important life training. Once we have learned to tell our dreams well in this way, we are primed to tell whatever stories we may need to communicate with others.

2. Ask a few essential questions. The first question to ask, of any dream, is what did you feel, immediately on waking? First feelings are instant guides to whether the dream is negative or positive, and often to whether it needs to be viewed literally or symbolically, or as an experience in a separate reality. We also want to do a reality check, asking what the dreamer recognizes from the dream in the rest of her life - including from other dreams, since dreams often run in series. We need to ask whether anything in the dream could manifest in some way in the future, since our dreams are forever rehearsing us for future events.

3. We can now say to the dreamer, "If this were my dream, I would think about such-and-such." In offering feedback according to this protocol, we can say just about anything we like. Notice that as we do this, we are owning our projections: that we are speaking from our own experience and point of view, not purporting to be experts. We may be a thousand miles removed from the dreamer's own felt sense of the dream, but this can be helpful in assisting the dreamer to home in on what the dream means for her.

4. Last, we guide the dreamer to bring home the bacon by coming up with an action plan: a way of honoring the dream, applying its guidance, and harnessing its energy. The action plan may range from researching an odd phrase or location featured in the dream, to eating (or giving up) a certain food, to creative expression, to dream reentry, which means revisiting the dream, in a conscious journey, to solve a mystery or move beyond a fear or enjoy more of the adventure.

Resources: I explain the Lightning Dreamwork process in depth in my books TheThree "Only" Things and ActiveDreaming. You can watch the game played by a lively circle of active dreamers in my DVD series The Way of the Dreamer. It gives us a way to practice dreamwork as everyday therapy and everyday church that brings juice to any day and grows deep friendships. I believe it is a vital tool for rebirthing a dreaming society, in our time, in our world.

Breakfast photos (c) Robert Moss

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why we dream

"Why do we dream?" asked the blue butterfly girl, looking around the circle of animals she had invited to her tea party by the garden gate.
    "You dream so we can always be together," said Bear, without hesitation. "You dream so you will always have a friend. "
    "You dream so you can see," said Hawk. His golden eyes flashed.
    "You dream so you can learn to be brave like me," said Lion.
    "Nonsense," said Mr. Fox. "You dream so you can tell stories about me."
    "Grandfather," the girl looked into the tea water. "Why do we dream?"
    Grandfather Teller's voice bubbled like a pot about to boil. "You dream because humans are the animals that tell stories about all the others."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Who is the dreamer?

We travel, in this world and in others, in the direction of our interests and desires, and we see what is around us through our personal lens.
    Swedenborg, one of the great astral travelers, observed that this determines our experience of the afterlife. He wrote in Heaven and Hell about how the light of heaven was a consuming and terrible fire to those who wanted to go somewhere else.
    This is highly relevant to how we understand what goes on in our dreams. The famous American psychic Edgar Cayce suggested that we need to discern whether a certain dream reflects the needs or wishes of the body, the mind or the spirit.
    Our dreams are often excursions, in which we travel beyond the physical body in a subtle vehicle, guided by whatever part of the self is in control.

    Let's turn to another of the world's great astral travelers, the Persian mystic philosopher Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, whose followers called him Shaykh al-Ishraq, the Leader of Illumination. He distinguished different levels of dreaming – with corresponding degrees of importance and reliability – according to which aspect of the self is the prime experiencer.
     Clear dreams or “free revelation” [kashf] are experiences of soul [ruh] traveling beyond the body, or having clear communication with a visitor. The territory visited may be a separate reality or a situation in the future. “With the eye of the free soul, by the imagination, a person contemplates in dreams the state of things which is yet in the hidden.”
     In this condition, the dreamer can have accurate foreknowledge of future events, and true clairvoyance. “After separation from the body, the soul knows even of the small things heard and seen of this world.” In clear dreams, the dreamer becomes a remote viewer.
     This is a practice that can be developed in waking states of altered consciousness, or mukashafa. The Prophet Muhammad scouted out the progress of a caravan en route to Mecca in this way. The Caliph Umar, from afar, scouted an ambush that had been laid for his general Sariya (and sent his general a telepathic warning that was received).
     The second of Suhrawardi's categories is symbolic dreams or “fancied revelations”. These he defines as dreams in which the lower self [nafs] is dominant. Clear vision is cloaked by the “fancy garments” of appetite and desire. Landscapes traveled in such dreams are “the stages of lust.” Interpretation is required to separate a message from the fancy dress.
     Suhrawardi's lowest category is dreams of  “pure fancy”. These unfold when “sensual thoughts” take over completely and higher consciousness [ruh] is “veiled from considering the hidden world.”

Then there are the dreams in which we seem to join or rejoin another personality, in another body, in a different reality or a very different version of our present world. I have just been reading the travel reports of a prolific dreamer who has found herself entering the perspective, the life experience and seemingly the bodies of different animals, including a small terrier dog and a very large polar bear.
     These experiences seem to me entirely plausible, and possibly quite similar to the dreaming of many of our ancestors, and of indigenous people who remain rooted in the old ways. This dreamer loves animals and lives close to the natural world, so it seems likely that the animal-lover in her, and the part of her that not only identifies with animals but is willing to learn from them, takes charge during these adventures. Typically, she retains dual awareness, of her human self with its current life situation and memories, and of the animal self she joins.
Here's a question to ask when you come back from a dream excursion: who was the dreamer?

Translations of Suhrawardi are from H. Wilberforce (ed. and trans.) A Dervish Textbook ('Awariful-Ma'arif) London: Octagon Press, 1990. For more on Suhrawardi, see The Secret History of Dreaming.

Photo:  Beyoğlu mirrors (c) Robert Moss