Sunday, June 29, 2014

Life replays, dreams and parallel timelines

I just devoured a superior novel about time loops, Replay, by Ken Grimwood. Don’t know how I missed this when it was published in 1986. 

[SPOILER ALERT: some plot twists in Replay are disclosed in the next paragraphs.]

Jeff Winston, a radio journalist stuck in a lifeless marriage dies of a heart attack at 43. He finds himself in the body and life of his 18-year-old self in a college dorm, with full memory of the twenty-five years he lived in the freshman’s future. He remembers the horse that won the Kentucky Derby that year – Chateaugay – and makes a killing by betting on it at 11:1. Then he bets his winnings on the Dodgers to shut out the Yankees in all four games of the World Series, at 100:1. A precocious multi-millionaire, he drops out of school and founds a financial empire, investing based on his memories of startups and economic trends. And his life becomes more and more hollow, after he marries a suitable, sterile wife from money – until he reaches 43 and dies again.
    Once again, he’s back in the 18-year-old body, with slight time displacement: he’s now on a movie date with his college girlfriend. He makes different choices, has a happy marriage, cashes in on future knowledge more cautiously – then dies again at 43, this time with the anguish of losing the kids he had.    
    Next, he’s 18 again, once more with some time displacement. This happens again and again. He places different bets, makes different choices, ends up with - or without - different women. Sometimes he tries to stone himself out of awareness of what is going on. Sometimes he tries to save the world, with mixed results.
     Every time he is hurled back to a younger self, he retains full memory of what will happen over the years up to his fatal heart attack, and of the choices he made in his previous time loops. Though the evocation of America in the 1960s and 1970s is brilliant, this repetition could get tedious until there is a major game changer. Jeff meets another "replayer", someone who is experiencing the same time loops. This happens when he is persuaded to go see a movie called Starsea, a box office hit that he realizes could not have been made except by someone who was familiar with movies and cinematic techniques that are still in the future (Star Wars, 2001 etc). He seeks out the writer/producer, Pamela Phillips, and finds his time mate.
    So now the plot thickens as the two replayers fall in love and agree to find each other again in the next time loop, when she’ll be 14 when he becomes 18 again….and then in the time loop after that...until something happens I won't reveal here.
    One of the things they notice is that the parallel lives they are living, in this linear sequence, aren't so much better or worse than each other as simply...different.
   The loopers seek a scientific model of understanding for what is happening to them, and never get one, which may be a good thing for the reader. Dreams are not mentioned in the novel, and I don't know whether Ken Grimwood (who died of a heart attack at 59) was influenced by his own dreams.
    Yet active dreamers may find many familiar elements in this fictional scenario. In dreams, we sometimes find ourselves in scenes from our younger lives, back in the old place, with the old crowd, doing the old things. There may be anomalies. The "old place" is slightly different. The main players in our lives are shifting places. We are striking out in somewhat different directions than we remember.
    It is my impression that in dreams of this kind, we are sometimes walking paths not taken on our current timeline. We are entering the experience of parallel selves as they make different choices in what is "past" time for us but current time for them. We may follow these trails into what is "future" for us but is again current time for these other selves.
    When I took a nap in the midst of reading Replay, I found myself about thirty years younger. In the dream, I discovered a box containing power objects belonging to a notorious English black magician of the early twentieth century. I decided I needed to bury these so they could never be used again, and set off to an Egyptian museum - and then an archaeological site - to accomplish this. Despite sinister elements in the dream, I woke happy and exultant, relishing the adventure I had just had.
    The dream (of which this is only a bald summary) could be approached from many angles, but the one that interests me here is the possibility that I stepped into a life my parallel self is leading thirty years in my past, which is right now for him. Time moves differently in different realities.
    Maybe this is less like "replay" than like new play. It is certainly deep play.

The Antlered Christ and the Synchronicity Hammer

Sometimes synchronicity feels like a secret handshake from the universe. Sometimes it falls like a hammer. Synchronicity hammered me in a sunlit park, softly, to confirm the importance of a certain line of research.
     I had returned to studying the symbolism of antlers. 
Every world culture that knows the deer family has been fascinated by the horns that die and grow back. For many ancient and indigenous traditions, the antlers are a symbol of spiritual authority because they grow above the physical head, reaching towards the realm of spirit. They signify regeneration, because they die and grow back, bigger than before. They are worn by Cernunnos, the ancient Celtic Master of the Animals, by Mongol women shamans, and by the rotiyaner or "men of good minds", the traditional chiefs of the Six Nations of the Longhouse, or Iroquois. 
Visually, deer antlers suggest the shape of a tree, even the World Tree that shamans climb; the resemblance is in the French word for antlers, which are called the bois - wood - of the deer. There is a mystical connection between the deer, especially the flying deer (cerf volant) and the early kings of France. [1] In The Secret History of Dreaming, I describe how a mysterious stag, taking the English archers by surprise, helped Joan of Arc win a battle, and hint that this may have been an animal guardian whose form she could borrow.
     Studying religious iconography in France in 2005, I became fascinated by the moment in the history of the Western imagination when the old pagan image of the Antlered One fused with that of the Christ. You can view the results on the facade of the great Gothic church of St-Eustache at Les Halles, once the site of the famous market. Look up and near the top, lording it over the gargoyles, you'll find the figure of an antlered stag with the Calvary cross between his antlers.
    According to legend, St. Eustace (to give him the Anglo version of his name) was formerly a pagan Roman general named Placidus, who reveled in the hunt until one day he confronted a magnificent stag through whose deep eyes the Christ light shone. Christ spoke to him through the deer. The general gave up hunting and converted to the new religion. This moment of conversion through the agency of the deer has been memorialized in numerous painted and woven and sculpted images, including a marvelous 15th century painting by Pisanello that I viewed in the National Gallery in London.

    The St.Eustace legend may be an invention, designed to claim the luster of a commanding symbol of the old ways for the new religion, just as churches were placed on the sacred sites where pre-Christian rituals were celebrated. However, the theme of the power of the deer spirit to tame the killer in man resonated with me deeply, because on a mountain in the Adirondack mountains of New York, I had heard a similar tale from mountain men who knew nothing of Placidus or Eustace: that three hunters, on separate occasions, had come face to face with a great stag in that wild terrain, and that each time, something in the deep, steady eyes of the deer had persuaded the hunter to lay down his rifle and go home. 
   Not long after that trip to France, I was talking about the theme of Christ in the Stag on my cell phone, while walking my dog in a park in upstate New York that is notably clean. As I described the stag with the cross between his antlers on the church at Les Halles, I glanced down and saw an orange cardboard disk at my feet. It bore the image of a stag with a Calvary cross shining between his antlers. This was one of those moments when the universe gets personal. I knew that in that moment, the symbol that was blazing in my mind was shining back at me, on the grass at my feet.
    I put the cardboard disk in my wallet and have carried it ever since, a token from the world. I did not identify the source of this version of the stag with the cross until, on my way to give a talk at a bookshop in Vancouver B.C. some months later, I stopped at an Irish pub across the street. I needed to use what Canadians call the washroom, and as I did what boys do, I saw the image from the cardboard disk in front of my nose, in a framed poster for Jägermeister, a herbal liqueur whose name means "hunt-master" and (I later learned from my youngest daughter) is a favorite on college campuses with kinds who want to get "hammered."

1. Anne Lombard-Jourdan, Aux origines du carnaval (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2005) 139-141.


Pisanello, "The Vision of St. Eustace", c.1440.
Dream of flying deer in XIV century manuscript book in the Louvre. Photo (c) Robert Moss
Jägermeister coaster I found in the park.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Doctors in Dreamland

Our doctors are dreamers. No one in Dreamland would consider diagnosing or prescribing without consulting dreams. In our medical schools, we learn, as Galen already knew,that the dreaming mind can travel throughout the body and report on its condition in exact detail. A change in a single cell can be detected in a dream many years before the condition has spread far enough to produce detectable physical symptoms.
Many of our physicians have a sign on their wall that reads “MY PATIENT IS MY COLLEAGUE”. Some have expanded this into a personal charter. One of the ways doctors and patients learn from each other is by swapping dreams.
But dream diagnosis begins long before a visit to a doctor’s office, in regular dream-sharing and – where the dreamer feels that specialist knowledge may be required – in wellness or pre-need clinics where the dream helpers are often nurses.
Imagery harvesting is central in the treatment of illness. Our approach is that any dream image can offer a path to healing, if it is worked correctly. This often requires continuing the dream, often with the aid of a helper who will accompany the dreamer on a conscious journey back into the dreamscape. Dream reentry is one of our core techniques for healing. A personal image provides the doorway for a conscious journey, in which the dreamer may be accompanied by a friend or guide, even a whole family of dream travelers. Relaxation and focused intention are the keys to this mode of conscious dream travel. In many cases, sonic driving (especially when generated by live shamanic drumming) is used to deepen and accelerate the journey.
    Some dreams provide portals for soul recovery, an essential mode of healing that the ancestor shamans helped us to reclaim, to save at least some of our kind from joining the march of the husk people, the living dead. Shamans know that soul loss – the loss of vital energy and identity – it at the root of illness and despair. We loss vital soul through grief and trauma and heartbreak, through wrenching life choices that leave us divided against ourselves, through habits of deceit and addiction that drive our bright spirits to abandon us in disgust. Soul loss can reduce us to the condition of the walking dead, passionless and dreary, forever trying to fit in with other people's needs and expectations, lost to any sense of purpose.
Dreams show us where our missing parts may have gone, and invite us to reach in and bring them back. When we dream again and again of the “old place” (maybe a childhood home, maybe a space we shared with a former partner), we may be learning that a part of ourselves is stuck in that place, or went missing at the time we lived there. By going back inside the dream of the old place, we may be able to locate that lost aspect of our own identity and energy, and find the way to bring it back into our hearts and our lives.
In the hearthfire circles where we gather with our intentional families at least one evening a week, we tend the dreams that show us where the soul has gone and help each other with fierce compassion to bring it home.
Our flying doctors work with the souls of the dead as well as the souls of the living. Our best clues to where we are needed come from spontaneous night dreams in which sleepers receive visitations from the departed and travel, often unconsciously, into realms where the departed are at home. Such encounters can be the source of much-needed healing, forgiveness and closure, as well as mutual guidance. When they are released from the second body, the departed may become wise counselors and “family angels”. Prior to that liberation, they may need help from our healers because they are enmeshed in the sticky stuff of old cravings, rancor and desire. “The living have the ability to assist the imaginations of the dead,” as the poet said. Our flying doctors operate in this understanding, on both sides of the swing-door of physical death.
    The First Peoples say that the Big stories – the stories that want to be told and to be lived – are hunting their tellers, like predators in the bush or sharks in the water. In healing, as in education and in family life, we are constantly engaged in helping each other to let the Big story come through.
All of us are living a story. If we don’t know what it is, it is likely to be a little story, a limiting one, woven from past disappointments and stitched tight by the people who are forever telling us who we are and what we can and cannot accomplish. If we fail to define ourselves, we let ourselves be defined by others. When we are seized by the Big story, we step beyond limiting definitions and beliefs. Great healing and great creativity become available because we can now draw on the immense energy that becomes available when we know we are serving a larger purpose.

Book excerpt from "Dreamland: Documents from a Possible Future" in Robert Moss, Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom. Published by New World Library.

Drawing: "Wolf Doctor" (c) Robert Moss

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Night flight with the Sultan of the Heart


I am getting deeper into Anatolia's many layers of culture and spiritual tradition. In the middle of the night I saw a statue come alive. The statue was of a bearded man in a Sufi-type hat, holding a lion and a deer or gazelle. I had never seen this statue, but I recognized the animal companions from paintings of Haji Bektash (Hacı Bektaş Veli) an Alevi Muslim mystic and poet who was a contemporary of Rumi and loved to break ranks with conventional religion, operating in the style of a shaman. He wrote that "an hour of meditation is worth more than seventy years of piety." He insisted that truth is not to be found in Jerusalem, or Mecca, or in religious observance, but within. His admirers called him the Sultan of the Heart. A teacher needed in our times.
     I had asked for guidance on healing relations, and he showed me that the answer was to embody the peaceable kingdom, by holding people in conflict together in the embrace of a larger healing power, as he embraces the lion and the gentle deer.
     He then whisked me over the vast city of Istanbul, under the crescent moon, and showed me the terrible lack of green space, especially on the European side. "They pray to God, but they forget that paradise is a garden," he told me. "You must help them to restore the lost gardens of Istanbul."
      All this unfolded before the mornig ezan, the call to prayer, filled my ears, coming from the loudspeakers in the mosque across the street before 5:00 a.m. . I don't know what they think of Haji Bektash in there. Contemporary Bektashis are renowned for flouting convention. They enjoy wine and include women in their zikrs and follow the master's injunction to seek light and truth in the heart rather than in ritual observance.
      I settled back in bed. The Sultan of the Heart was not done with me yet. A great white dove fluttered above his shoulder. He wanted me to acknowledge and receive it. "I'm much more of a hawk," I signaled, suddenly aware that a hawk I know well was on my shoulder.
      "You can hold the balance," his intent came to me.
      I complied. In my second body, in the air above the city, I clasped the white dove to my heart while the hawk, keen-eyed, stood sentinel on my shoulder.
      Time for a nap, a little industrial sleep, perhaps?
      Not yet. A quiet voice moved in my mind, the kind of voice I have learned to trust and has been the source of the most profound spiritual dialogues of my life.
      "You are one of us. You have no earthly order, yet you are one of our Order. You have no earthly guide. Like us, you find the Guide in the only place where the true Guide may be found."

Wine before Mosque photo (c) Robert Moss

When Sekhmet licked the hyenas


Imagery is healing. The trick is to find the right imagery that the body believes and will act upon lickety-split. The latest case from my travel journals:

I spent a very rocky night after my long journey to Istanbul. My body had been depleted by 23 straight hours of travel, more than half of it spent in the recycled air of airplane cabins. I had also been exposed to some rather murky psychic influences, not to mention a drunken neighbor who not only sprayed me with his miserable view of life but with some horrendous sneezing, insufficiently contained by the back of his grubby hand.
    I found myself coughing and coughing, and by three in the morning the infection had rushed down my bronchial chords, hurting my chest and making me rush to the bathroom sink to throw up. I was appalled to realize that whatever infection had gotten inside me, my body's exhausted immune system was letting it go where it wanted. What to do?.
    I lay on my back on the bed in my room and basically said in my mind, I could use a little help.
    The image of Sekhmet, as I had met her and led others to meet her in my Egyptian workshop the previous weekend, filled my inner screen and brought all my inner senses vividly alive.  Her eyes were red as carnelian, red as murder, as one of her praise poems has it. She was mad at the agents of my infection. With her came a whole pride of lions.
    They soon defined a field of battle. I understood that they were going to fight whatever was making me sick. Something slashed at me from behind. I turned to see a rabid hyena. Ah yes, the right form for an adversary of my lion protectors. Lions and hyenas are mortal enemies.
     There seemed to be hundreds of hyenas, but they had no real chance against Sekhmet, in furious Eye of Ra mode, and her pride. The lions slaughtered hyenas until the survivors fled the field, then moved over the ground of battle licking up any nasty stuff that remained. I felt this as deep healing inside my body.
     There was a small catch. I had been wounded by the hyena who attacked me from behind. But now Sekhmet tongued the wound, erasing it, restoring my energy field.
     I turned on my side, profoundly grateful, knowing that the crisis was over. My immune system was fully functional again, and I had all the help I needed.
     As I lay on my left size, a beautiful lioness my own size settled full-length on the bed, facing me. I felt the warmth of her body. I felt her breathing her energy into me. We lay together like lovers, hearts beating together.
    I have been more than fine since the night the lions licked the hyenas.

I have learned that I have an imaginal metabolism, a mythic constitution. My body responds at astonishing speed to the images I permit it to entertain. When the images come charged with mythic, transpersonal power, they work wonders. My experience with Sekhmet and the sickness hyenas is a fresh example. My book The Boy Who Died and Came Back contains many more. I think we are all alternately beneficiaries and victims of the power of imagination. We want to learn how to use it well, and how to draw on those greater powers. This starts with becoming more conscious of the stories we are living, and the images we invite to live in us.

Photo (c) Robert Moss. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Long night's journey to Istanbul

Ortaköy, Istanbul

I wake a few minutes before the ezan that calls the faithful to pray, amplified by speakers in the spires of the Ottoman mosque across the street in this neighborhood of shiny things - rings and necklaces, earrings and bracelets - laid out by the thousands on the jewelers' tables that are open day and night. I can smell the Bophorus. From the terrace, I watch launches and ferries and huge big-bellied container ships plying the double currents of this strategic passage between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara and, beyond it, the Mediterranean.
    4:17 a.m., Istanbul time. Not a bad time to reflect on what it required to get here. I left early for my home airport less than 36 hours ago, before noon on Wednesday. A good thing too, since they told me at the airport that my first flight was seriously delayed and I would never make my connection from Newark to Geneva. I suggested a change of itinerary, and managed to get the last seat on a flight to Washington-Dulles where I could board a different flight to Geneva that should enable me to make my original final connection, Geneva-Dulles.
    So far, all good and familiar. My antennae were twitching because I have noticed that whenever plans get scrambled, the Trickster comes into play. We want to be alert to the nature of this energy in our lives. The Trickster can be our devil if we are set in our ways, bound to plans, unready to improvise. When we are ready to expect the unexpected and turn on a dime (or something less), however, the Trickster can be a very good friend.
    Time for a beer and a snack at my local airport bar, where I am greeted by a familiar friendly face. Bonnie, the bartender, is a world traveler. "Never been to Istanbul,: she says, pumping the pale ale. "I'd love to go. But what I really want to do is go back to Tasmania. Tasmania is to die for."
    "I know," I allow. "I died in Tasmania when I was three years old." She knows that story.
    Just a dozy young geek with headphones for rowmate on the puddlejumper to Washington. No likely story here. We are slightly delayed, and further delayed when we are made to wait on the tarmac for a personage known as a gate agent to wave us down the steps of the little Dash propeller plane. The gate agent takes 25 minutes to appear, while we stand swaying in the super-heated cabin. It's 95 outside, 115, maybe, in the cabin.
    Sweat rolling down my face, I am finally released to hurry from the end of the A concourse to the end of the C concourse at the vast Dulles airport. This requires taking eight escalators, several moving walkways, and a train. When I get to my departure gate for Geneva, the last passengers are boarding. I sink into my seat on another plane that was not in my original itinerary with a sense of gratitude. What next?
    What's next is a fellow who is not quite falling-down drunk but certainly falling-over-himself drunk. He's been talking to relatives on the plane. He hands me a plastic cup of snacks to hold for him while he finishes lurching around in the aisle. When he tumbled into his seat, he immediately pulls out a couple of small airline bottle of wine and a vodka miniature. "I hope you don't mind," he breathes stale alcohol in my face. "They don't serve drinks until after takeoff."
    Now he is chugging red wine, from the bottles. "I had five wines in business class on my last flight," he confides with a dreadful leer. "And a couple bottles of champagne."
    This guy seems to be a serious wino. He starts pouring out his life, including his current travel plans to visit Italy to see the country of his ancestors. As I take another hit of wine-breath. I suddenly have the strong impression of some of the dead drunks this fellow is drinking for. Chief roisterer among them is a big hunk of sausage who calls himself Gianni. He worked as a stevedore - I see him wielding a crowbar, not only on the job. He loved to help out with making wine in his family village. I see his big,dirty feet stomping as they press the grapes.
    My rowmate's ramblings are becoming exhausting. he is venting his opinions about everything and asking for my agreement. Then he asks, "Are you going to Istanbul of vacation?"
    "My life is a vacation," I tell him. Then I decide to give it to him between the eyes. "I have a date as Death in Istanbul. I am going to guide people into conversation with their dead, and on a journey to explore what awaits them in the afterlife. Best of all, I am going to help to embody their personal Death. They will be required to brave up to Death and submit to his interrogation on how they have lived and not lived their lives."
     The wine drinker turns pale. His eyes roll around in his head. His lower jaw drops to his collarbones. Then, rallying himself, he orders champagne from the flight attendant. When it comes, he adds a hit of vodka and a variety of colored pills.
     "Salute," I say. "But you know Gianni prefers red wine."
     Conversation languishes. By popping Ambien into his cocktails, my neighbor manages to knock himself out for an hour or so. The price for me is that, in his sleep, he shoots out a leg or an elbow, making it impossible for me to protect my physical space though - after picking up some awful, despairing images from the dreams he rarely remembers - I am moved to ward my psychic space.
     Not as much fun as I'm used to, this eight-hour flight to Geneva on the wrong plane.

     During the long layover at Geneva airport, I admire a Barclays Bank add that borrows the image of Sekhmet, who was a very powerful and challenging presence in my Dreaming Like an Egyptian workshop last weekend. I wonder what is Sekhmet's investment strategy, and what price she may exact from those who borrow her numen.
     My rowmate on the last flight is wearing a sweatshirt with the state map of Tasmania and the name of the state blazoned in huge letters. He's a young, sporty Swiss male. "Have you been to Tasmania?" I ask. "No. But a friend has. I  don't know why I am wearing this today."
     Ah, but I do. I died for the first time in this life in Tasmania, aged three. After I was pronounced dead from pneumonia in a Hobart hospital and then revived, to general surprise, one of the doctors told my parents, "Your boy died and came back." Thus the title of my new book, my nonfiction spiritual thrilller The Boy Who Died and Came Back. Hence my license to play Death in Istanbul, and elsewhere in this world of ever forking paths.

photos (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Brushes with the red fox

When the fox is around, the message for me is always Pay attention. The fox is a liminal animal, and its appearances suggest that we are entering an edgy time. I feel a Trickster energy in play when the fox is about.
     Once, when I was talking about the fox in front of a workshop circle in the Big House at Esalen, a fox popped up behind me, clearly visible to the group through the window. When they started laughing and pointing, I turned around. The fox promptly disappeared. This scene was repeated several times. That fox seemed to enjoy performing for the group while playing hide-and-seek with me. I became quite careful about monitoring the shifting energies of the group that week.
     I pay special attention to the comings and goings of the red fox. In my personal mythology, the red fox connects me to ancestral dramas. In shamanic lucid dreaming, I once tracked a red fox, glimpsed in dreams, to a scene in ancient Britain involving a tragic love affair and a druid sacrifice and the issues these raised in my current life.
     The oldest evidence we have of shamanism in Europe is the remains of a woman of power who was buried inside a crypt of mammoth bones in the wooded Pavlov hills of what is now the Czech Republic. She was interred 30,000 years ago. Her body was painted red, and in her hand was placed the body of a fox,apparently her spirit ally.
     Similar clues to the importance of the fox in early magic come from other parts of Europe. The druid prince dug out of the Lindow Moss in northern England, preserved by the chemical stew of the bog, was found to be wearing a collar of red fox fur.
     As a power animal, fox brings many gifts, of craft and cunning and camouflage. Fox knows when to hide and when to hunt, and how to wait in concealment for the right opportunity.
     There are clues in language to the qualities associated with the fox. To "outfox" someone is to outsmart them. "Foxy" can mean crafty, or sexy, or simply red-haired. "Shenanigan" - an act of mischief - is derived from the old Irish sionnachuighim, meaning "play the fox".The Trickster character of the fox is central to countless folk tales, fables, and children's stories.
      East Asian cultures are uneasy about the fox, and especially about foxy women. In traditional Japanese and Chinese culture, possession by a fox spirit is held to account for many problems, especially in women. In folk tales there are women who are foxes, putting on human disguise to seduce men.
     Here are some verses from a long poem I wrote from a hundred encounters with the red fox, on the roads of two worlds:

From Brushes with the Red Fox

You live on the edges of my life
at the margin of the tame land and the wild
and your appearances are always edgy for me.

You know when to hide and when to hunt.
Men chase you on horseback, with dogs,
yet turn chicken when you turn up unannounced.

You are tricky. I doubt I'll ever be at ease with you.
But you are a determined messenger
and a necessary link to old and sacred things

You call women I care for to reclaim lost soul
and become foxy girls, immune to glass ceilings,
setting their own boundaries, living unbounded life.

- from my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Raising Osiris, Birthing the Golden Child

We faced the sun, arms raised, palms out, and chanted the syllables that evoke the unmanifest power of the creative source, and the power of creation in this world:


We drew the power into our bodies, and shared it through the raised hands with each other. Then we stood in our own places in the circle and used the power again to project energy doubles, hands raised like the symbol of the Ka. We walked our energy doubles a few paces into the room, experimented with shifting forms, before we turned them around and absorbed them back into our bodies.
    We made the sign of the Enterer at the Anubis gate, greeted our gatekeepers and made our way to the chambers where we lay down on beds with lion legs and headrests shaped like thin crescent moons. Here we called for the dreams of invitation that would establish our right to go further.

    We were then admitted to the Hall of the Gods, to find - among all the breathing images set on high pedestals - who among the neteru support our life journeys, who defends us before the greater powers.
     Next we were challenged to brave up to our fears and master our rage in the Chamber of Sekhmet. Some were torn limb from limb and devoured, to spend an aching, desolate time in utter darkness before they were reborn. One, with the hunter in her soul, met the lion spear in hand and killed it -  to find that she was now transformed into a lion and required to devour her human double.

     At last we went down to the Halls of Osiris. Each of us, male or female, was required to share his passion. We relived the experience of allowing ourselves to be trapped in a box, because it looked pleasant or because we thought we had no choice. We felt the crushing burden of being used to prop up a whole structure, be it a marriage, a job, a community or a world.          
     We knew the joy of being released by one who loves us and never ceases from seeking us. We knew the pain of being torn apart, our pieces scattered to the four quarters, and losing something that could never be found again in an ordinary way. We felt the gentle hands of those who sought our broken pieces and brought them together and made us whole.
    We stirred alive under the great wings of the beloved of our soul. And we claimed those wings, becoming the shamans of our souls, prime players in our own restoration. We knew the fierce joy of giving birth, through soul magic, to the golden child, the new creative life project. We saw it rise up like the sun falcon.
     When we came back, we each wrote a statement identifying ourselves, with fresh words, with the three central characters in the neverending story of Raising Osiris and Birthing the Golden Child. This is my version:

I am Osiris, the one who was trapped in a box, dismembered and re-membered, and returned from the dead. I am the one who came back.

I am Isis, above Osiris, the soul shaman who brings vital spirit back into the body through my beating wings.

I am Horus, sun falcon, golden child. I am the magical boy who writes and makes worlds and lives under the love and protection of the Sisters.

- Notes from group shamanic journeys I led in my workshop on "Dreaming Like an Egyptian" in Ann Arbor, Michigan in June 2014.

photos of Horus and Sekhmets in the Louvre (c) Robert Moss
drawing "Temple of Anubis" (c) Robert Moss
photo of Lake Michigan sunset by Julie Tumbarello

Monday, June 16, 2014

Life rhymes, and it hisses

Ann Arbor, Michigan

On Sunday morning, in the midst of leading a workshop titled "Dreaming Like an Egyptian" in Ann Arbor, I stopped for breakfast at a Whole Foods store. As I munched my mini-baguette - my favorite breakfast - I talked to my coordinator and a couple of wonderful dreamers who were attending the workshop about the significance of snakes in the Egyptian maps of the Otherworld. Snakes appear all over - as adversaries, as protectors, or simply as guardians whose function is to make us brave up and prove we are ready to progress to the really good stuff.
    When Ra journeys on his solar boat, accompanied by Creative Utterance (Hu), Insight (Sia) and Magic (Heka) he is shielded and enclosed by the Mehen serpent, whose name means the Enveloper. He is opposed by the cosmic adversary, Apophis, also depicted as a serpent, of the world-devouring kind.
    The Egyptians symbolized awakened psychospiritual power with the wadjet, or uraeus serpent, the cobra that features on the crowns of pharaohs. The raised head evokes the opened third eye of vision and the ability to operate from this center.
    Wadjet is also a snake goddess, patron of Lower Egypt, protector of kings and of Horus, closely allied - in evolving mythology - with both the cat goddess Bast and the vulture goddess Nekhtet. Her name means "papyrus-colored".
     We spoke of our own associations with snakes, and the many different ways they can figure in dreams. We talked of the snake's power to shed its skin, and of the importance of the serpent as a symbol for the vital energy of life, the kundalini force, and in medicine and healing.
     After half an hour of this lively, serpentine conversation, it was time to move on to open day two of the workshop. I reflected on how, in our opening session, we had called the serpent energy up through the soles of the feet, through the energy centers of the body, to open the third eye. I had invited our adventurers to do the full Egyptian by picturing the wadjet cobra at the vision center, and then rising from there to fly above the landscape like a bird.
     In the parking lot, right in front of us, we discovered a sleek, powerful convertible painted Egyptian blue. On the front was a silver cobra. On a side panel was a larger cobra that seemed to quiver, ready to strike, against the mirror-bright surface of the car. I walked round the back and found the cobra again, in a crest, and the make of the car. I was looking at a Shelby GT 500. Later research tells me that this is a high performance version of the Ford Mustang, retail price around $55,000, advertising slogan: Coiled and ready to strike.

    Life rhymes, and it hisses.

Synchronicity continued to snake through my Ann Arbor weekend.
    In the last exercise on Sunday morning, I led the group on a deep journey into the afterlife with the dual intention of having timely and helpful communication with someone on the Other Side - a departed loved one, an ancestor, a guide to these realms - and of learning about conditions and transitions of the soul after death. We used an Egyptian gate for the journey, boarding a boat for the crossing. We invoked strong guidance and protection. Each traveler was coached to name herself in the presence of the gatekeepers and to give a clear statement of intention.
    The journey was deep and powerful. One of our dreamers was moved by an immediate encounter with her grandmother, Mildred, who guided her to others. One episode in the journey had shaken the dreamer. She met a version of herself who had died in a parallel reality, years before.
     We talked about her experiences as we crossed the courtyard in front of the Michigan League, past the Triton fountain, under the big clock tower, on the way to lunch.
     We stopped to inspect an extraordinary monster drawn in chalk, with artistry and care, on the paving slabs. The inscription read: Mildred, are you sure this haunted house was rated wholesome family fun?     
      It hardly seemed possible that an unknown chalk artist had left a strange message addressed to "Mildred" and involving the dead for us to find right after our dreamer had met her dead grandmother Mildred.
     The story got even better. After lunch, I learned that another workshop participant had talked to the chalk artist when he was creating his picture and message the previous evening. He told her he was inspired by dreams of his deceased mother 
Mildred turning into various strange beasts.
When synchronicity strikes, the universe gets personal, and you know it.

photos (c) Robert Moss

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Ka of Mau has restored the crown

Ann Arbor, Michigan

The tall cabinet is the kind that is sometimes called a secretary. There is a pull-out writing surface between the drawers below and the glass-fronted bookcase above. There are intriguing objects visible behind the glass - statues, vases, family heirlooms. However, the object that I want to access is on top of the cabinet. To get to it, I will need to climb onto the opened desk part of the secretary. The whole thing is rickety and I doubt that the desk can bear my weight. A friend volunteers to hold everything steady but I don't trust her ability to do this. I don't want to risk breaking the contents of the secretary. They belong - or once belonged - to an extraordinary older woman I regard with great respect and affection.
   So I turn to other things.
   I am startled by the arrival of a whole pack of cats. There are at least six or seven of them. They are long-eared, short-haired, lean and wiry and very supple. They stretch and sport and show themselves off in different postures. All vary Egyptian, I think. Wait a minute. They are Egyptian. I am sure of it.
   A gray cat separated herself from the others. She springs up on my lap and gazes intently at my face. Her eyes are strange. I expect the slit eyes of a regular cat, but these eyes at first seem blank. Their substance - light gray in color, and flecked found the edges - makes me think of a statue. I also think about ancient bronze mirrors.
   I read the cat's fierce intention. She wants me to know that she is my helper, and that she will bring what belongs to me if she has my approval. Absolutely.
   She springs to the top of the secretary with one bound and jumps down with something in her paws that looks like an enormous flower. She brings it to me and places it in my hands. It is so light and beautiful. I recognize the white conical center piece and the high flanking ostrich plumes. This is the atef crown of ancient Egypt.
   A voice in the dream says, "The Ka of Mau has restored the crown."

Feelings on waking: Gratitude, delight, surprise
Reality: I am preparing to open a workshop in Ann Arbor titled "Dreaming Like an Egyptian". Cats were sacred in Egypt, were sometimes mummified, appear in many statues, and were known to have Ka souls that were fed - like those of humans - after death. The atef crown combines the conical white hedjet crown of Upper Egypt with twin ostrich plumes. Osiris wears it. So do Sobek, the crocodile god, and others,

"Mau brings me the atef crown" drawing (c) Robert Moss June 13, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

From Bear Man to Sun Falcon: healing through group shamanic dreaming

Niskayuna, New York

I am the beneficiary of an extraordinary group experience of healing and initiation achieved through a shamanic journey through the portal of a personal dream. The dream was shared last night by a member of one of my circles of active dreamers.
    The night before our gathering, the dreamer found herself in a cave with intriguing paintings on the walls: of fire, sun and moon, stars. All these images seemed alive. A being rose from the depths of the cave. She could not tell whether he was human or animal. He was entirely covered in fur. He looked more like a bear than anything else. He said, "Are you ready?" She replied, without hesitation, "I am". She knew that he was talking about a portal that had opened behind him. She saw a waterfall, and a vivid green landscape, and a unicorn. The bear man stepped aside, inviting her to go through.
   But she woke before going through the portal. She was excited, but also disappointed that the adventure remained unfinished.
   "Wouldn't you like to go back inside the dream and carry on the adventure now?" I asked, after she told us the dream.
    She was eager to do this. She was familiar with our process of making shamanic journeys, with the aid of drumming, through the gateway of a personal dream. The idea is simple: if you have been some place in a dream, you can go there again, just as you can return to a place you have visited in ordinary life.
    "When you are back inside the dream," I said, "what are you going to do?"
    She told us she wanted to talk to the caveman, inspect the paintings on the cave walls, go out through the waterfall, find the unicorn - and let the rest unfold.
     "Do we have your permission to come with you?"

     We were now almost ready for a group adventure through a dream portal that excited and intrigued all of us in the circle. We made time for people to ask a few questions - traveler's questions, not analytic ones. "Could you see the sky above the waterfall from inside the cave?" "Was the cave man wearing his own fur, or something he had put on?" The answer to that one was unclear. We agreed that this was one of many things for our trackers to check out, an idea that brought plenty of chuckles from the women in the circle.
     We closed the curtains against the gloaming and stretched out - all except me, since I was the drummer.
    With the first tap of the drum, we were there, all together, inside the cave. I saw a whole soul history in the cave paintings, and saw others checking them out. Some of the symbols, especially a lake of fire, were familiar to me from images on the walls of Egyptian temple tombs.
     I monitored the dreamer's fresh encounter with the bear man. I noticed that he could appear as more or less bear, or more or less human, at his choosing, and that whatever he was wearing (or not wearing was his own). He was potent and well-equipped, but the space he opened was about more than sex.
    "You are in the cave of your heart," he told the dreamer. "This portal is open only to those who follow the heart."
   I watched her plunge straight into the waterfall. I followed suit. I enjoyed the shock of the water beating down on my head, pummeling my body. I felt deep cleansing, and staying in the falls far longer that I had expected - maybe an hour of ordinary time - in the few minutes my physical body was drumming for the group.
   Then I was out above the falls, grabbing salmon out of the river, feasting on the fish and offering them to my family of bears.
   When I remembered to check on the dreamer, I saw she was safely off, on the back of the white unicorn, surely headed for a fresh personal adventure and initiation.
    I thought about my own need for bodily healing. I had had a rough few days, with flu-like symptoms and other irritations, whose source was not yet clear. I saw a huge, bat-like thing flapping across the sky to my left. Was this a form of my affliction, or its source? I asked for help to deal with it.
    A giant falcon appeared, flying straight from the sun. The red-tailed hawk is a special friend of mine, but I will call his cousin here a falcon, because of what evolved. Sun-bright, the falcon pursued the dark thing across the sky, seized it with his talons, grappled with it in mid-air and forced it down and down and down to a hole in the earth. When I looked in the hole, I saw a ravening maw, edged by countless irregular snapping teeth, as long as knives.
    The sun falcon was fiercely intent on ending whatever story the black thing embodied. He forced it down into the toothed hole, which snapped shut over it. I found myself exultant, rising to my feet as I drummed. Now I felt the wings of the falcon against the sides of my face, of my head. He held me and shared his power and his knowing. I knew who was with me. Horus, divine warrior, eternal opponent of darkness and dark forces, healer and protector.
    I stayed in full Egyptian mode for the next phases of the journeyer. I experienced a series of kheperu - becomings or transforming - familiar to me from long-ago journeys and far memory of ancient lives. I meet the lion, pass through its skin, and claim the fullness of its power and roam with my pride.
    I am aware of my duty to the group. Many of us now seem to be in a sacred wood where gatekeepers native to this land where we are living and drumming stand guard. The guardians are friendly.
    I return from the cave of the heart, and my Egypt of the heart, and sound the recall.
    After we take times to record our experiences, the travel reports are rich. One tracker is suprised that she found herself among falcons and lions. I reassure her that she was in the realm of shared experience.
    The original cave dreamer told us, with awe, that the unicorn flew her to a place of encounter with an ancient medicine teacher. Her discoveries continued in dreams of the night. She told me this morning: 
   "I went back into that cave and met the bear man again. You were there and we were looking at the pictures on the wall. It was a story of an ancient civilization and the bear man said that in the future dreamers, healers and teachers were needed to build a community of one heart."
 Dreamers, healers and teachers are needed to build a community of one heart. Yes indeed. Some of us are working on that, night and day, day and night.

"Horus Resolution" (c) Robert Moss. June 11, 2014. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Soul Tree: Joining Earth and Heaven

We can’t lose our way if we go to the root of things, to the roots of a tree. By finding the right tree – a tree you know that also knows you – you can reconnect with the soul of nature. You can find grounding for soul in this world, and a shaman’s ladder to travel between the worlds.
      I once moved to a place in the country because of a tree, an old white oak behind the house that had survived the lightning. I knew it for a guardian of the land and a wise ancient. Sitting with that tree, I would have impressions of all the seasons it had lived. When I walked the farm road towards it, I would sometimes feel its silent greeting. Sometimes I watched the moon rise over the hills from up in its branches. The oak became a tree of my dreaming, and a portal to the ancestors. Rooted deep in American earth, the oak also joined me to the ways of oak seers of my bloodlines in the Old World, to the druids “grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed”, to the sacred oak at Dodona where the Greeks listened for the voice of a god in the creak and rustle of the branches. After the first snows, when the cold stung my eyes, I saw that the oak still hung onto its leaves, longer than any other shedding trees on that land. Oaks hang on.    
     What trees call to you, on country walks, or out of memory or dream? Any tree may be your soul tree, and it may also be your sole tree, the One Tree through which the three worlds of the shaman’s cosmos are joined, and which may become your ladder between them.
      At the start of most of my depth workshops, I lead a standing meditation in which each person in the circle finds the image of a special tree, and then lets the body take the form of that tree, rooted in Earth, rising between Earth and sky, feeding on sunfire. We let our bodies sway as we stand, as a tree will sway in a strong wind, giving a little in order not to be snapped. We see the seasons changing around us. We feel what it’s like to have a squirrel run up our trunk or to have birds nesting in our hair. As the meditation deepens, we feel ourselves reaching deep into the Earth, through the roots system, going deep and spreading wide. We feel, with our inner senses, how we can travel this way to connect with the animal powers, and with ancestral spirits, and to receive healing and blessing in the realm of the Great Earth Mother.
      Then we let our awareness ascend to the high branches. We picture ourselves perched up there like a bird, or a happy child in a tree house, able to look out in all directions from this excellent place of vision. We imagine that we can fly now to a person or place at a distance and look in on them and sometimes, quick as thought, we are there. We discover that from the place in the high branches, we can not only see across any distance in space, we can scout across time, and travel into the possible future to see what lies on the roads ahead for ourselves and others. This is something that tree seers have always been good at.
      Now we go higher, in the world of the tree. We feel ourselves rise up into the canopy, up to the green crown, and then feel ourselves rising up higher and higher until the sky opens and we are in the first of the many levels of the Upper World. We are on our way now to make or renew our connections with our authentic spiritual teachers.

Text adapted from Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Picture: "Dream Altar" by Siiri Liivandi. "A safe place," writes the Estonian artist, "to offer and generate dreams."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Google choice: glimpsing a parallel life

Rhinebeck, New York

"Suppose you could go back in time and be present to a younger self in his or her own Now time. You could provide counsel and mentoring in a time of confusion and vulnerability. You could be the invisible friend for that lonely kid. You could go to that wounded younger self who was shamed or violated and assure her, You'll make it through. You'll survive. I promise.
   "You could caution a younger adult self on life choices, since you know far more about the consequences, for yourself and others." 

I am talking to a group of intrepid dream travelers who are preparing to make a journey across time, with the aid of shamanic drumming, into the mind and circumstances of one or more younger selves. I know it is possible to do this. I am quite certain that my sick and lonely boy Robert - the one who had double pneumonia twelve times between the ages of three and eleven - would have had an even harder time making it through without the active support and companionship of a forty-something Robert who learned to fold time in order to be present to him when he most needed a friend. I have described how this worked in The Boy Who Died and Came Back.
    I am getting the group ready to journey upstream, over the rivers of their lives, to one or more points where the intervention of an older self in the mind of a younger self may be helpful, even essential.
    I can't refrain from joking about less enlightened things we might try to do. "You could try to slip your younger self the name of a winning horse. Or tell your younger self to buy Google stock at the IPO, lots of it."
    Most people chuckle, but a very gifted and sensitive dreamer shoots me a look of serious concern. It's okay, I want to tell her. We're not really going to go back in time to push Google stock when the company is going public.

Now I'm drumming, and conscious of our travelers plunging back through time to enter the minds of their younger selves. I sense one of them leaping the waterfall, into the space before birth, to enter the amniotic lake.
    This is going well. I check in on a couple of versions of my younger self. Then I decide, for the heck of it, to get together with my younger adults self on the eve of the Google IPO. I find him on a pleasant beach in the Pacific Northwest. He's aware of the Google offering, and is even talking to a friend about it.
    I find myself pushing him to get in on the IPO. Find out how to order stock - the Google offering is different from most - buy a lot, and keep on buying over the next year. Google is going public at $85 a share. People think that's a high price, but ten years later the stock will be trading at over $550. Take out a home equity loan. Buy lots.
    Uh-oh. I suddenly realize that this suggestion has just caused a split in my personal universe. I see, like a movie running fast-forward, what my life becomes after I buy thousands of shares of Google. I have tons of money and three houses. But all this quick cash has encouraged me to make some disastrous personal choices, and it has seriously deflected me from my calling. I make lots of donations to good causes, but my own sense of a cause has lapsed, and this makes me profoundly discontent, since I am not much good unless I feel I am serving a cause.
    I am still drumming for the group, but I feel reality shimmer. In the post-Google universe, I am not here, in the Pavilion at the Omega Institute, drumming for the group while the rain falls in the green landscape around us. And I don't want that rich but hollow parallel life.
    I will myself fully back to where I have chosen to be, in my present life. When I sound the recall and tell people to move around, wiggle their bodies, and find themselves fully back in physical focus, Now, I do this myself with special vehemence.
    I know, of course, that there really is a post-Google IPO universe where one of my countless parallel selves is living the consequences I saw. That universe no doubt existed before I made my journey back to a point of decision. I am glad that, on my present event track, I made the choice I made then, and again.

Now I am walking the dog in early sunlight. There are worse things to do than walk a little dog around a city park. I am not doing this in that post-Google world.