Thursday, January 29, 2015

Drum spirits and real church

Paradise Island, Bahamas

After my last workshop at the ashram, I walk up the beach to the Atlantis resort in quest of some tiger food. The closest I come is a Caribe Spicy burger. A little black kitten jumps up on the windbreaker I have placed on the next chair and waits patiently until I share my late lunch with her, breaking off pieces of burger from the side not coated with jerk sauce.
   On the way back, there is an empty lifeguard's chair, the perfect throne for me to occupy while I watch the Atlantic waves and feed more of my spirits with a good cigar. A dark-skinned man approaches me. I recognize him from the ashram. He appreciates the cigar, telling me that another of his teachers, Malidoma Some, was often to be observed smoking a cigar in breaks from his workshops. We agree that we must feed our spirits, and different spirits require different sustenance.
   He tells me he is a drummer, and assisted Babtunje Olatunje, the renowned Yoruba drummer, in some of his performances at the Esalen Institute, where I am teaching again in April. He is eager to explain how he dreamed his way to a prize drum, made in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) over a hundred years ago. It has an unusual design, featuring huge hands and a pair of female breasts and other fertility symbols below the drumhead. In one of his dreams, he saw the shape of those great hands, clasping something unseen, and was told by a voice that he must take up drumming.
    After the message came again, he found himself in an antique shop in California filled with artifacts from many indigenous cultures. In the African section, he discovered the drum with the hands and the breasts and was certain it was the one he had dreamed. he ran his hand across the surface in a glissando. This sent out singing vibrations through the store that brought the owner running to see, "What was that?"
     Of course, my new friend wanted to buy the drum but he was a poor student at the time who did not even own a car. Playing another drum in a pop-up concert, he earned enough in donations to lay down a deposit, and then unexpected helpers came to enable him to complete the purchase - an anonymous benefactor, a generous reduction in price by the owner.
     "The drum was calling you," I commented. "And its spirits like you. They made everything possible."
     He agreed. "I know I am the custodian of this drum, and that those who came before are playing with me and through me."
     The conversation continued in this vein. I told him some tales of my own connection with spirits of Africa, especially the Yoruba. 

      He told me he had discovered an old, abandoned church nearby - "only the spirits live there now" - and after we parted company I set off to take a look. The atmosphere about the church was slightly sad and eerie, and I decided not go through the broken doorway.
     Then, just behind the church, late sunlight fell on a remarkable tree, a grandmother banyan. I approached her with reverence, offering the last of my tobacco. I knew that this tree is the real church, ancient and ever-living.

photos (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Can't stop the dreamers drumming

Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas

Those in authority have decided to ban shamanic drumming for groups, in the way we practice this in Active Dreaming circles. They have concluded that the combination of drumming with personal dreams and imagery, used as portals for shamanic journeys, is just too powerful, opening direct access to the sacred and to self-healing.
    However, the practice has become so popular that it cannot be stopped. Efforts to interfere result in groups everywhere taking up the practice and it spreads like benign wildfire, cracking open the carapace of hand-me-down doctrines and entrenched skepticism. The mood is soon celebratory. Dream droughts are breaking everywhere.

I wake feeling very cheerful, even triumphant, from this dream today. I have the sense of a great wave whose ripples are being felt in many communities. My mind goes to the Singing Revolution in the Baltic. When I first visited Tallinn (where I am teaching again next month) I visited the Museum of the Occupations (note the plural noun) which preserves the memory of the suffering of Estonians under the heel of two totalitarian dictatorships, those of Hitler and Stalin. I will never forger listening to a recording of the chief of the Soviet KGB in Tallinn as people gathered in their hundreds of thousands to sing folk songs together, defying an official ban. As the singing crowd mounted, the Soviet secret police boss reported to Moscow, "We have lost". The collapse of Communism followed.
   I know the power of the combination of dreamwork and shamanic journeying that I have called Active Dreaming. There is an immense gift available in any image that comes to us spontaneously, especially in dreams we have not asked for and may or may not want. Any image that is authentic and personal can be worked with in the direction of healing and guidance.
   If you have been running away from something that scares you in dreams, you want to learn to go back and confront that fear on its own ground. You may find that what is waiting for you, beyond the fear, is your own power. You may find that by clarifying what is going on in the dream, you are able to avoid a crisis in waking life - an illness, an accident, the rupture of a relationship - that the dream has been trying to prepare you for.
    You may have met someone in a dream with whom you want to have an extended conversation, a departed loved one, a spiritual guide, an enigmatic figure you would like to identify.
    When you learn to journey through the portals of your own dreams, you will soon discover that a dream can be your gateway into the multiverse. You can use a dream door to travel to past or future or to a parallel self on a parallel life path. You can even find your way, through the space of a dream, to connect with a younger and brighter aspect or yourself that may have gone missing through pain or trauma or disappointment and bring her vital energy to reside in your heart and your life.
   This is the royal road to becoming a lucid dreamer any time of day or night.
   Steady drumming on a simple frame drum, of the kind that humans have been using for many thousands of years (first in Mongolia and Siberia) provides excellent rule and focus for this kind of journey. I have recorded my own shamanic drumming CD specifically for dream travelers
    They truly can't stop the dreamers drumming.

Photos: (1) drumming with a people of the Singing Revolution on the Bay of Riga in 2011
(2) scene on the beach in the Bahamas near the ashram where I am teaching today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ammonite and a blue god

Sivananda Ashram, Paradise Island, Bahamas

I am in a fine wine shop where the owner has arranged a display of rare French vintages at amazingly affordable prices. I have never heard of some of the chateaux and some of the names are distinctly un-French. I start making a collection. However, my beautiful companion wants something else. "Ammonite". I hear her whisper the word to the proprietor, who takes her into another room. I am intrigued. This is definitely another kind of spirit.

My sense of intrigue lingered on waking to the sound of the waves outside my room at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas where I am teaching this week.
     At home I have an ammonite - the spiral fossil of a mollusc from the time of the dinosaurs - presented to me by a French archaeologist after I dreamed the site of a paleolithic menhir he was able to locate for me.
     I did not know until just now that the ammonite is also a most sacred symbol of Vishnu. It is held to resemble the Sudarshana Chakra, the formidable discus weapon in  his fourth rear hand. There is also a myth that Vishnu once took the form of an ammonite (shaligram) from the Gandaki river while waiting to release a goddess from a curse of mortality inflicted by the rage of another goddess.          
     There is no French wine for me at the ashram, but other kinds of spirit seem to be infusing my dreams. I dined last night in the Vishnu House with the outside wall painting you see here. I'm not much of a yoga guy, but I do have a soft spot for blue gods.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The hidden chain

I am studying a pattern of islands. I can see from the observation deck – which might be on a space station – that the islands are the peaks of underwater mountains, not truly separate but part of a range. This is a simple model for patterns of coincidence. We see some resemblance between surface events because they are part of a larger structure, a hidden chain.
    I wake with the impression that in the same dream I am with a group that monitors anomalies such as coincidence for clues to the convergence, confluence – or collision – of different aspects of reality. As the islands are joined in the underwater mountain range, so surface events may be part of deeper structures and woven from one fabric. How that fabric is folded or torn changes everything.
    I start to speculate that there really is a corps of observers who monitor wrinkles and rents in reality fabric. Are they interdimensional cops, or at least maintenance teams? I feel they are observers, not enforcers, and essentially benign. Would their findings lead to interventions or repair operations? Are there rival groups? Are these observers able to cross between parallel worlds and travel across time?
    I haven’t finished forming the last question before the answer comes to me: of course.

- from my journal

Photo: Palau island chain. NOAA Photo Library. Public domain.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jung's exploding knife

In Jung's Letters, I came again upon the photo of an "exploded knife" that he sent to J.B.Rhine, the famous American researcher of extra-sensory perception, with his account of poltergeist-like phenomena that he experienced in 1898, when he was twenty-three.
   Jung reported that a steel bread knife exploded inside a locked cabinet while his aged mother was seated across the room and Jung himself was outside in the garden. The bang sounded like a gunshot. Nobody could understand it until they unlocked the cabinet and found that the knife had shattered into four pieces, now lying in a bread basket beside a loaf of bread, neither of which had been damaged. "The explosive force apparently did not exceed that amount of energy which was just needed to break the knife and was completely exhausted with the breaking itself." 1   
    Jung took the knife to a master cutler who inspected it closely under a magnifying glass and found no flaw in the metal. "The knife is perfectly sound," the expert informed him. "There is no flaw in the steel. Someone must have deliberately broken it piece by piece." When Jung denied that this could have happened, the cutler shook his head. "Good steel can't explode. Someone had been pulling your leg." 2
    Jung told Rhine that there was an equally noisy and mysterious incident within a few days. Again, there was a sound like a pistol shot. This time, the explosion came from an old and very solid round table. It was found that for no apparent reason the table top had split from the rim to beyond the center, three-quarters of the way across.
   Jung went to work as a psychic detective. He could not accept that the explosions were "only" coincidence any more than it would be "only" coincidence if the river Rhine were found to be flowing backwards.
    He decided that the explosions were connected with the emotional and psychic forces that were running strong in his relationship with his cousin Helene "Helly" Preiswerk, a natural medium with whom he had conducted seances since he was a teenager. They had suspended their sessions. The exploding knife and the self-splitting table persuaded Jung to resume them. His experiments with his cousin formed the basis of his doctoral dissertation "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena."  Jung said quarter of a century later that the period of the seances "contains the origins of all my ideas."3
    In a 1934 letter to Rhine, Jung declared "I am highly interested in all questions concerning the peculiar character of the psyche with reference to time and space, i.e., the apparent annihilation of these categories in certain mental incidents."4
Jung kept the pieces of the exploded knife for the rest of his life. 5

1. Jung, Letter to J.B. Rhine 17 November 1934 in C.G. Jung, Letters 1:1906-1950 trans R.F.C.Hull ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973) 181
2. C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed Aniela Jaffe, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1965) 106.
3. Analytical Psychology, Notes of the Seminar Given by C.G. Jung in 1925 ed. W. McGuire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989) 6.
4. Jung, Letters I, 180.
5. Memories, Dreams, Reflections 105

Shelf Elf Moment

I wrote this note after rereading Jung's 1934 letter to J.B.Rhine and some material on the mediums in Jung's family. I realized that something was missing and I needed to go back to his account of the exploding knife in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. I sighed over the probable need to page through the early chapters to find the passage I wanted. The book fell open at the right page, and the first line I read was the start of Jung's account of the exploded knife.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A place to write from (Red Ink)

Write from the place that is raw
from the night when you lost your skin.
Write of the time in the war-torn city
when your heart was a quivering bird in your palm
and the blood pool kept filling, and you knew
no doctor could heal this wound
though the world would end if you failed
to keep the wounded lover alive for three days more.

Write from the night you wished yourself dead
and spirit flew from your heart, winged by your desire,
down to the lightless lands of the dead
that no one escapes without help.
Write from the day when, incredibly,
there was enough of you topside
to bribe the ferryman with the ribcage boat
and carry home the part of you that married Death.
Remember the promises you made her:
"You'll never be hurt again." "Every day you'll make poetry."

Write from the night you could not keep those promises
and had to hold the young lover in you by force,
rough as a jailer's armlock, soft as lambskin,
when she thought the one you were losing now
was the one she lost before. And when your heart
breaks again, hold her fast, willing a greater power
to embrace and join you, and write from that.
Dip your pen in the blood pool. This is the time for red ink.

Comments on my recent post "Ready to Paint it Red" lead me to re-post this poem, written in 2011 and included in my collection Here, Everything is Dreaming.

"Deer Sacrifice" (c) Robert Moss

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ready to paint it red

I am wandering through an immense and beautiful art museum. In one of the rooms, the ceilings are beyond cathedral height, and as far up as I can see there are enormous paintings in softly glowing pastel hues. I know these images are sacred and they have something to do with ascension towards successive levels of a Higher Self.
    I am carrying an open can of red paint in one hand and a paint brush in the other. The paint is bright crimson, fire engine red. The brush is large enough for a house painter but I think it is the kind an artist would use to cover a wide area very quickly.
    Through an open doorway, I look at a small group of people clustered around a professor who is talking to them about the large framed painting in front of them. This is a special invited group. The picture shows a stone tub, possibly limestone, that looks like it could be filled with water. Hooded figures in white and light-colored robes are around it, evidently waiting for some event.
    In mid-sky, in the picture, there is an arc of light. Figures are moving along this arc in the sky. Some are mounted, some on foot. They appear to be in many sizes. They are golden, and glowing.
    There is something of the quality of the Journey of the Magi about this painting, but the images are not explicitly Christian.
    I am fascinated by the stone "tub". I can't find the right word for it. It could be a sarcophagus, but the feeling is of coming birth or baptism rather than of death.
    My high excitement and curiosity are with me as I become fully lucid inside the scene.
    I hear these words streaming through my mind:

From life to life, from day to day, I bring essence from the world of soul into the world of time.

I rise into the California morning charged with energy and excitement.
    I want to know what my dream self means to do with that red paint. I think of it now as life blood, blood of spirit. I feel I want to fill that hollow tub with this blood of spirit and see whether this will provide a medium of manifestation for those glowing spirits in the sky.
    I am reminded of a big dream from many years ago in which I led a special group of invited guests along a spiral path, past a great stone lion with a huge carnelian on his back, into a gallery space with an immensely high ceiling. We studied an unfinished painting of incalculable size. Within it, a life size human figure was as small as a candle flame in proportion to the shapes that rose around and above him. I understood that this was an unfinished portrait of the Higher Self. I was the professor in that dream. In the new one, I am watching my second self - I am almost certain - play professor while I get ready to lay on the red paint.

- Berkeley journal, January 17, 2015. Drawing (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Bloodied Hedgehog: Dream as Flash Fiction

I decide to swim the lake from bottom to top. It’s a hundred miles, I figure. I manage the distance, but there’s no way I can swim back without stopping. So I get out and find a bicycle. It must have a motor, because now I can thread the traffic on a busy road, following the median. There is a big American flag up ahead, so I think Canada must be that way, beyond a border post. I am not planning to go there today, so I find another form of transportation.
     I’m now in a huge gasoline tanker with a double cabin. I park it on a side road in the middle of the night to catch a nap. When I wake, I’m concerned maybe I don’t have enough gas to get where I want to go in the tanker. I don’t notice the irony of driving a gas tanker that is running low on gas until I look back on this. I could do with some help. I can say I just happened on the tanker and was trying to do the right thing with it.
    To support this story I paint my face to look like an American Indian from a tribe I know only by name. I come to a family farm where a father is giving instructions to his grown sons. He looks like a decent sort so I present myself to him. He’s no hayseed. He has a lawyer’s wits and he sees through my disguise. He tells me it’s the last day of a big native powwow and if I can get in there they will give me the right cover, but to do this I must stop pretending to be the wrong kind of Indian and present myself as the kind I truly am.
    So I wipe off the paint and enter a general store full of Indians where they have big pots of soup and corn mush on the cookers. A broad, flat-faced woman sizes me up, says she knows me. I tell her I often feel I have met people before, somewhere out of this time. It’s like opening a top drawer in a chest and having a bottom drawer fly open.
    She talks about someone she thinks I must know. “When other people bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack to a party, he shows up with a bloodied hedgehog.”
    “Don’t you mean a porcupine?”
    “No. A porcupine has quills you can pull out and wear. A hedgehog doesn’t.”
    “Hedgehogs are cute.”
    “Not this one.”
    No bloody use for a bloodied hedgehog, we agree. I realize that I am speaking without closing my lips, the way her people speak. We don't say “porcupine” because there is no P in Kanienka talk. We say it their way. Anen:taks.
     I guess I’m in.

Sometimes all I want to do with a dream is tell its story. The shifting modes of transportation here are fascinating to me as symbols. I am intrigued by the irony of driving a gas tanker that may be running low on gas. I am excited by the prompt to recall my connections with a Native American people whose language and customs I was led to study by big dreams many years ago. I remember once having to slam on the brakes when I was driving a Mohawk family in northern Ontario because they had spotted roadkill, a dead porcupine, and wanted to harvest the quills for jewelry. But first and last, with this report of a dream from last night, I want the satisfaction of serving up flash fiction like hot soup from that country stove.

Drawing (c) Robert Moss

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Elemental divination with the Odyssey

..So the man prayed
and the god stemmed the current, held his surge at once
and smoothing out the swells before Odysseus now,
drew him safe to shore at the river's mouth.

- Odyssey Book 5, lines 497-500 Fagles translation

This was the result of my morning stoicheomancy.
    The term combines the Greek words 
Greek stoikheion, "element", and manteia, prophecy. Ancient Greeks used this term for a very special branch of bibliomancy or book-dipping: consultation of the works of Homer, considered "elemental" among literature. You open the Iliad or the Odyssey anywhere, and read aloud the first lines that you see. As I opened the Odyssey today, my left thumb fell on the lines I quoted. 
    I felt a warm shiver as I recognized the blessing. After all his misadventures, shipwrecked Odysseus has been washed up safe on the shore of Phaecia, the land of a people of dreams. Princess Nausicaa, alerted by a dream in which the goddess Athena speaks to her in the guise of a girlfriend, will meet the naked stranger and give him safe haven.

Art: "Ulysses and Nausicaa" by Louis Gauffier (1798)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nine keys to living consciously in the multiverse

The only time is Now. All other times - past, present and parallel - can be accessed in this moment of Now, and may be changed for the better.

We dream to wake up. Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It is about waking up to a deeper order of reality. Dreaming is a discipline; to get really good at it requires practice, practice, practice.

Treasures are waiting for us in the Place Between Sleep and Awake. The easiest way to become a lucid or conscious dreamer is to spend more time in the twilight zone between waking and sleep, or between sleep and waking.  

We live in the Speaking Land, as the First Peoples of my native Australia say. Everything in the world around us is alive and conscious and will speak to us if we are paying attention. Navigating by synchronicity becomes very simple, even irresistible, when we stream into this mode of understanding.

To live well, we must practice death. We bring courage and clarity to life choices when we are aware that death is always with us, and that we should be ready to meet it any day.

We must feed and honor our animal spirits. A working connection with them gives us immense resources for self-healing.

We have a guide for our lives who is no stranger. He is always with us and does not judge us. This is the Self on a higher level. When we rise to the perspective of the Greater Self, we are able to make peace between different personality aspects, including our counterparts in other times and parallel realities.

We are at the center of all times. The dramas of lives being lived in other times and in parallel realities may be intensely relevant to understanding and navigating our current relationships and life issues. We can learn to reach into those other lives to share gifts and lessons. We can dialog with our own older and younger selves within our present lifetimes.

We must entertain the spirits, starting with our very own – the child self, the inner artist, the passionate teen, the animal spirits, the creative daimon.

Adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

photo (c) Robert Moss

Monday, January 12, 2015

Manhattan transfer and used karmas at O'Hare airport

I am changing planes at Chicago's O'Hare airport and stop in at a bar restaurant near my gate for refreshments. A well-dressed older woman comes in and asks for a manhattan. That's a classy bourbon cocktail you don't often hear ordered at 10:00 a.m, except maybe by Don Draper in "Mad Men".
     Before the bartender has mixed the drink, she switches her order and asks for bourbon with ginger ale. I can't resist. I say to this stranger, "You raised the tone of this establishment and then you dropped it down again."
     She laughs, then peers at me and screeches, "We know each other!" I don't recognize her until she introduces herself. She came to some of my workshops twenty years ago. We last saw each other on a group adventure in the high Andes in 1999. How come she's in the bar now? Three of her flights were cancelled, she had to stay overnight at an airport hotel.
    "Do you have a story for me?" I ask.
    "I've been going deeper into Buddhism," she tells me. "I just came from a Buddhist retreat in Wisconsin."
    "Okay. Always good to ground and balance after something like that. Cheers!" We clink glasses. I am an Australian. I'll have a beer anytime I feel like it when traveling, especially when I have been up since 3:00 a.m. But I'll leave the morning manhattan to someone coming off a Buddhist retreat.
    She is earnest about what she has been studying. She wants to know my opinion about karma.
    I tell her I think there are consequences or everything we do, and that it's important to think about how we are collecting karma of every kind in our present lives, as well as carrying karma from other lives. "I like the Buddhist idea that we can be released from all of that in the moment of enlightenment," I say. "Tathagata time!" We toast again.
    More serious now, I reflect on the apparent contradiction between the idea of linear karma and the probability that in  the multidimensional universe everything is going on Now - and on limitless parallel event tracks. Einstein suggested that time and space, as we commonly think about them, are just a human convenience, not a fundamental reality. It may be convenient to step out of them, or across them.
    If I think that the Scottish druid who lived and died 1,500 years ago and the Royal Air Force pilot who was killed in World War II are part of my story, and that I have inherited karma from what they did or did not do, maybe I can reach back to them, launching from the moment of Now. Maybe my thoughts and actions now help or hinder in their own time - which is also now - and may be more helpful as I rise to greater consciousness of how all this works.
    It is possible to operate with these two seemingly contradictory visions of reality: linear karma in Chronos time, and the simultaneity of experience in the multiverse in a spacious Now. It is like the observation in physics that something can be both a particle and a wave, and you will see it one way or the other according to how you observe it.

- from my travel journal for Friday, January 9, 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dreaming with Spiritual Guides

In the passage in Dante’s Purgatorio where he encounters his radiant guide in the form of a lovely woman called Beatrice, she reproaches him for not heeding the dreams in which she sought him, over many years. Dante has gone through all the cycles of Hell, and knocked on his own heart, and climbed all the ledges of the mountain of Purgatory, to gain access to the beloved of his soul, who sets fires in his blood.  Beatrice calls angels to bear witness:

Ne l’impetrare inspirazion mi valse,
con le quali e in sogno e altrimenti
lo rivocai: si poco a lui ne calse!

It was no use for me to inspire him,
calling him back through dreams
and in other ways; so little did he heed me

           - Purgatorio canto xxx, lines 133-136 (my free translation)

Dante is seared by the encounter, made to recognize all the years he lost by not awakening to his dreams.   
     The message is clear and enduring:
our true spiritual teachers are looking for us, which is why they can always be found. They especially come looking for us in dreams, when we move beyond the self-limiting beliefs and consensual hallucinations of the little everyday mind.
    The guides who come to us in dreams put on masks or costumes adapted to our level of understanding. There is an old Greek saying that “the gods love to travel in disguise”.
    The guide may appear with a familiar face – that of an old friend, or a departed loved one. The sacred guide may appear in a form that has been shaped by our religious upbringing – or in a form that is wildly shocking to conventional beliefs. Genuine teachers often love to shock us awake.
      The guide may appear in dreams as a generic figure, especially in places of transition or in border zones: as the taxi driver, or the customs official, or the train conductor, or the person at the airline check-in desk.
      When the guide drops even the edge of the mask, the initial effect can be terrifying. “Every angel is terrifying,” wrote Rilke, who knew what he was talking about.
     The encounter with the guide may challenge us to brave up, to move decisively beyond the fear and clinging of the little everyday mind, in order to claim our connection with deeper sources of wisdom and true power.
    This is often the case with dream experiences in which we meet a powerful animal. Faced with a bear or a tiger in a vivid dream, our first instinct may be to run for our lives. Yet the bear or the tiger may be hunting us to invite us to claim our own power and our own medicine. How do we do that? By going back into the dreamspace, through the dream reentry technique *to face whatever needs to be faced and to claim our connection with the dream animal (and/or the angel).
   In Native American teachings, we are not fully alive – we are missing a part of our vital soul energy – if we lack a strong and vibrant connection with the animal guardians. Here, also, it is recognized that our truest and most important spiritual allies come looking for us in dreams. The Lakota have many ways of approaching the sacred. But they also recognize that the greatest gift comes when the sacred beings come looking for us. The most revered medicine lodge among the Lakota is the Bear Dreamers Society. It is composed of those who have been visited and called by the Bear in their dreams.
   Dream encounters with the guide – like all powerful dreams – need to be honored. We may want to create a talisman, or personal “power object”, to hold the memory and the energy of the dream. It may sometimes be appropriate to use a stone or crystal for this purpose. In the shamanic dream practice of the Anishnaabe (Ojibwa) the pawaganauk, or dream visitor, is honored in this way. After an encounter with a dream guide, the dreamer finds a stone that will be more than a souvenir; the stone can become a place of rendezvous and continued communication with the dream guide – as the dreamer learns to journey into a chamber that opens inside the stone.

* Dream reentry is a core technique of Active Dreaming, explained in my books Conscious Dreaming and The Three "Only" Things. I have recorded a CD of shamanic drumming, Wings for the Journey, specially designed for dream travelers who want to develop this practice.

Art: William Blake's vision of Beatrice addressing Dante. As in the Purgatorio, she arrives in a chariot drawn by a griffin, with fierce and beautiful companions. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Defecation rites among the Azande

A woman postgrad tells me she chose defecation rites among the Azande as the theme for her dissertation. I ask why. She says she wanted to study the same theme among a different tribe, but more had been published on that one. There was a hole in Azande studies she intended to fill.
    I am surprised that the prolific Evans-Pritchard left room for anyone else in coverage of the Azande. I am even more surprised by her focus. Defecation rites?

Feelings after waking with this dream fragment in the early hours: Amusement.

Reality check: I wrote an article once, titled “Excremental Issues” on defecation in contemporary dreams. Many years ago, I read books and articles by Sir Edward “E.E.” Evans-Pritchard, a famous Oxford anthropologist. Regarded as the founder of social anthropology, he did a great deal of fieldwork among the Azande of southern Sudan and became a world authority on witchcraft and sorcery among the peoples of Central Africa. Having immersed himself in the lives of people among whom sorcery is the explanation for many everyday events, he converted later in life to Roman Catholicism. Some suggested that he did this in an effort to close the lid on experiences for which he had no rational explanation.

Action: Yes again, a dream has set me a research assignment, quite a curious one. I pulled out Evans-Pritchard’s book Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. I will check whether anything has been published on “defecation rites” among this people. I am curious to see whether scatomancy (divination by excrement) is among their practices. It is often part of folk medicine, and there is an account of this in Augusten Burrough's hilarious memoir Running with Scissors, which I read a few years ago on a plane.

The snapper (or is it the crapper?) is irresistible: “Are you sh-tting me?”

Photo: Evans-Pritchard among the Azande.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

At Epiphany, a poem is the key

My first dream at Epiphany, the day of “showing forth”, for Christians the “theophany”, when the nature of God in Christ is revealed:

The Poem is the Key

I am in front of a screen that is a control panel. My task is to link various rectangular shapes. They are the size and shape of cards. I can click and drag them across the screen, and chart lines of connection between them. If I hit upon the right sequences, I will make magic, changing things in the world as well as on the screen.
     One of these rectangles contains a poem. If I lay my palm on the poem, everything goes right. All else is secondary. The poem is the trump, the master key. I am very happy because I have the poem. The rest will fall where it needs to be.

I rise from this dream charged with excitement, not least because I have already written the poem. 

The Speaking Land

Everything is speaking to you.
The tarot Fool is out of the deck
and walking up the drive
with the patterns of the world in his sack
to remind you (if you’ll listen)
that to be wise you may need to be crazy
in the eyes of others, but don’t confuse this
with behaving like a bloody fool.

The chickens in the yard can teach you
multiplication and what you need
to hatch that dragon's eggs you have inside.
Hawk will come over, more interested in you
than a chicken dinner. Are you ready
so soar on his wings, and claim his vision
and see your life roads from his sky?
Everything is conspiring to show you
what heaven and earth want to happen.
When you think your way is lost,
when there are mountains of glass
and concrete between you and your dreams,
the ones who move beyond the curtain
of our consensual hallucinations
and speak as the wind in the trees
as the call of a bird, as the bark of a fox
will open ways where you least expect them.
All you need are new ears and fresh eyes.

Morning star photo

Monday, January 5, 2015

Serial dreams and parallel lives

Serial dreams, in which we find ourselves returning, again and again, to a life that is not our waking life offer an invitation to gather first-hand data on the possibility that we are leading parallel lives in alternate realities that may also be parallel worlds.
    Some serial dreams may reflect that fact that one or more of our soul-selves is “out there”, leading its own life in an alternate reality that is separated from that or our dominant personality. But serial dreams of this type open windows into even more spacious possibilities.
    While you are living your present life, on your present timeline, co-walkers are walking beside you, near or far, along their own paths, which branched off when they made different choices or took a different turning. There is the parallel self who stayed with your former lover, the white shadow that still works in the old job. If parallel universes are infinite, as some physicists believe, you have a parallel self who chose pancakes instead of eggs for breakfast, and another that has not opened this book.
     When it comes to studying parallel selves who took a radically different life path, developing different skills and relationships and incurring different karma, it is fascinating to consider what happens when two paths start to converge again. Before you are remotely aware that this is happening, you may feel a certain tilt to the day, and notice that you are drawing events and encounters in an unusual way.
People praise you or put you down in ways you can't fathom unless you awaken to how you are loaded now with karma a parallel self incurred in adventures you can't know about unless you are following the dream tracks of your multitudinous self.
     What if it were possible to reach to some of these alternate selves, and share gifts and life experiences with them in mutually supportive ways? We can attempt that through dream reentry. We can also seek to journey back to a crossroads on our previous life road, and seek to locate and then track the  parallel self that made a different choice from what put us where we are now. We can choose to follow the life of this alternate self from that moment of choice all the way up to the present time, make an inventory of what went wrong or right on that other path and then - most importantly - to harvest lessons and gifts from the alternate life trajectory.

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

Art: RenĂ© Magritte, "La reproduction interdite". The book on the mantel is Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale of the double, here given the French title Les aventures d'Arthur Gordon Pymt. The picure is in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dreams of initiation

In dreams and twilight states, we are called to a deeper life. Training and initiation, as well as direct experience of the sacred, lie beyond the dreamgates.
    The hunger for transcendence, through a primal, direct encounter with the sacred, leads people down strange and dangerous byways: into experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, into dubious cults and ersatz Nativism. Yet the authentic call to initiation continues to resonate in our dreams. And through the dreamgates, it can be followed to a genuine consummation. Arguably, it can hardly be pursued in any other way since — whatever the externals of ceremony and culture — true spiritual initiation and apprenticeship always take place on the inner planes, in a deeper order of reality.
    Even in societies where Mystery initiation was regarded as central to human fulfillment, and its gates and secrets closely guarded, the validity of an individual dream calling and initiation was honored.
    There is a fascinating story about this from the Hellenistic world, preserved by Sopatros, a teacher of rhetoric. A man dreamed he had attended the epopteia, the crowning revelation of the Eleusinian Mysteries. He recounted the secret rituals of the Telesterion in vivid and accurate detail to an initiate of the Greater Mysteries. But in ordinary reality, the dreamer was not a “made man.”
    The initiate to whom he told his dream was shocked that he was speaking openly about things he had no right to know and denounced him for sacrilege. He was dragged into court, where his accusers demanded the death penalty. However, the defense argued successfully that the gods themselves had played the part of the hierophant in his dream. His dream of initiation was recognized as true initiation; the dreamer would now be respected as an epoptes — one who had “seen” and gone through the sacred fire.
     Contemporary dreamers who have never heard of Eleusis or other ancient Mystery rites have dreams of similar quality.        
     A woman with no classical education dreamed she was at a banquet that reminded her of the Last Supper, except that the feasters at the table were wearing curious masks. One of them had the face of a raven, another wore a veil, yet another a Roman helmet. Her own head was covered by a lion mask fashioned from a canvas-like material, possibly oiled paper. When she shared this dream in one of my workshops, I realized she was describing, as if from the inside, a communion rite of the Mithraic mysteries, whose initiates donned masks and headgear of this type according to their grades.

Adapted from chapter 7 of Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Image: The Ninnion Tablet depicts Iacchus leading Mystery initiates to an encounter with Demeter and Persephone. Found in the sanctuary of Eleusis, and dating from the mid-fourth century BCE, this red clay tablet is the only known original depiction of the Eleusinian rites of initiation. Now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Lamplighter and the Ancient Deer: Expanding Jung's Reach

My first dream of 2015. Intention: Show me the best things I can help to bring through in the year ahead.


I am engaged in a busy, enjoyable round of publishing, conferences and workshops. I have made creative connections with scholars and psychologists who are dedicated to Jung's work. One is a woman who has written a fascinating new study of the history and legends of the Ancient Deer in Europe. I read many pages of this text with great care.
    All this work, and especially the paper on the Ancient Deer, is making Jung's central ideas more accessible to ordinary people.
    You can see this going on in the street. I watch an attractive younger woman who is part of our circle standing in front of row houses with a long pole, tall enough to reach the second floor. She is swaying a little, but I see that she knows what she is doing. With the pole, she looks like a lamplighter from the gaslamp era. 
 I understand, as I watch her, that what we are doing is turning people's lights on.
Feelings: happy and very intrigued.
Reality: I greatly admire Jung, have studied his life and his writings rather deeply, and part of my current book is a kind of circumambulation (one of his favorite words) of his theory and practice of synchronicity.
    I have dreamed of Ancient Deer and have led shamanic workshops for twenty years on a mountain where the Deer energy is strong. The woman lamplighter reminds me of a younger, more attractive Marie-Louise von Franz. I hope our paths converge.
Snapper: We Are Turning People's Lights On.