Monday, March 30, 2015

When dreams are caused by future events

We are time travelers in our dreams and one thing that goes on, probably every night, is that the dream self travels into the possible future, scouting out challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Depending on whether we remember such dream scouts, and can read the information correctly, and can then decide on appropriate action, we can move away from undesirable future events and towards ones that are more attractive.
     My recent experience in which clock time - unusually - corresponded to a dream has me thinking about a great pioneer researcher in this field. He was in every way a product of Britain in the Edwardian era. I can think of few less likely candidates for Psychic Friends Network – as either client or reader – than J.W.Dunne (1875-1949). 
    A gentleman soldier and aviator, he came out of the Anglo-Irish military caste. He designed and built the first British military aircraft, and his prototype was soon adopted and manufactured in the United States. He was devoted to fly fishing. In all things, he was a determined scientist and rationalist who looked for the logic in life’s anomalies. Like the best Britons, he was also marvelously pragmatic: if the data presented to
him did not fit existing theories of how things worked, then to hell with the theories. 
      The data that shook Dunne’s conception of reality – first when he was a sub-lieutenant of the Imperial Yeomanry, fighting the Boers, then when he was convalescing in Italy, and many times later – were dreams in which he saw, with remarkable accuracy, events that lay in the future. Sometimes his dreams anticipated news of world events that he had not yet received. His dreams gave him “news flashes” of an earthquake in Madagascar and of troop movements in Sudan long before the newspapers arrived with printed reports of those events.
    Dunne started keeping a detailed journal of his dreams, and found that he dreamed of the future – on average – as often as the past. This led him to realize that in dreams, time works differently than in our usual experience of waking life. He drew friends and family members into an ongoing “Experiment with Time” and collected a great deal of data on “time displacement” as observed in dreams. 
    He extended his experiments into waking precognition – for example, by trying to guess what he would find in a book he would later pick up at random in his club. He quickly concluded that precognition can be achieved in waking states as well as in dreams, but requires “a steadying of attention” and practice in controlling the imagination that are not easily attained. 
    He published his findings in 1927  in a book titled An Experiment with Time that had wide influence in the interval between the two world wars; it was read and eagerly discussed by many leading scientists, writers and politicians.
    Dunne evolved a complex mathematical model he called Serialism in his effort to account for the fact that time does not move in a linear fashion in dreams – and perhaps in the larger universe. In his last book,  Intrusions?,  published posthumously, he makes the bold statement that his precognitive dreams were "caused by something which I was going to experience in waking life later on”.
    This is a most interesting theory: that future events not only cast a shadow before them, but cause us to dream of them – and perhaps, in dreaming, to help bring a certain event track into our physical experience, out of an immense range of alternative possible futures.
    In Intrusions?, he  provided further details of the precognitive dreams recounted in An Experiment with Time that he suppressed in the earlier book, apparently for fear of not sounding scientific and respectable. The strongest  dream "intrusions" containing glimpses of the future were often accompanied by inner voices, sometimes a tremendous chorus of voices crying "Look, look, look!" He describes this phenomenon as the "rousing of attention".
    Dunne moved towards the understanding that our experience of  linear time  is an illusion of the limited ordinary mind. Viewed from the fourth dimension,  past, present and future are in fact simultaneous and only experienced sequentially because of our mental perception of them. In the dream state the mind was not shackled in this way and was able to perceive events in the past and future with equal facility.



Sunday, March 29, 2015

Time and the dreamer


I look at my watch. It is nearly 4:20. I must get on with my lecture. I close my eyes.
    I am standing before to a group of forty or fifty people seated in chairs arranged in a relaxed horseshoe pattern. It is rather irritating that behind the audience is a café area where people are talking quite loudly. At one point, I have to call to the café crowd to keep it down, and they do.
    My subject is time, and the dreamer’s relationship with time. I talk briskly and smoothly about how, especially in dreams, consciousness is forever traveling ahead of the body, returning with reports about conditions on the roads ahead. We can use these travelogues from the future to make better choices at the crossroads that lie before us.
     I next talk about how we also travel into the past. We visit scenes from our earlier lives. We visit other eras across history, sometimes as observers, sometimes entering fully into the mind and experience of other personalities. I talk about how we need to discern carefully whether we are dealing with ancestors, spiritual kin, reincarnational dramas – or counterpart personalities living in other times and other realities.
     To get a handle on all of this, I suggest, we need to rise to the perspective of a self on a higher level, a hub personality or oversoul. From this perspective, we may be able to recognize that a number of personalities – including our present selves – are joined to a central personality, a slightly higher self, as spokes join the hub of a wheel. Looking from this position, from above and beyond linear time, we can see that the dramas of many personalities are playing in the same spacious Now, and turn with each other.
    This is all being received well, but I keep looking at my wristwatch because I am determined to finish in precisely forty minutes, on the hour. I succeed.
    I open my eyes and look at the wristwatch I left on my bedside table. It is precisely 5:00 in the morning. The time I spent giving my lecture, in my dream, exactly coincided with the time that I lay in bed. Contrary to what people may say, dreamers can get things done on time.


Afternote

Sports psychologists report that athletes get the same benefits from practice or workout in dream/visualization as in physical reality, but that full value depends on doing the exercises over the same time period.  I was intrigued by my experience of conducting a dream activity  (in this case, giving a lecture) in exactly the same period of linear time that would be required in ordinary reality. However, the great thing in general about dream time is that it is almost infinitely elastic, so we can have experiences that would take days or longer in a few minutes, when that pleases us and our dream helpers.

Art: René Magritte, "Time Transfixed" (1938) Art Institute of Chicago

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Flying in Dreams and Awake: The Winged Art of Reet Kalamees


When I arrived in Tallinn, Estonia last month to lead a dream workshop, I found the hotel lobby filled with marvelous paintings of luminous winged beings. I was thrilled to learn that the artist, Reet Kalamees, was coming to my workshop and that her theme was "Flying in Dreams and Awake". Our meeting received a little nod from the universe. Her exhibition at the Euroopa Hotel had been scheduled to end a week before my event, but had been unexpectedly extended.
   At our first meeting, Reet told me how she felt that one of her pictures was for me. She showed me a striking canvas with a blue figure whose huge wings are crackling with sparks of light. She explained that the image had come to her in a powerful vision, in which she felt the presence of a great bird, six months before we met. With great generosity, as described in my last post, Reet insisted on gifting me with the painting - "He Sees" - and it is now at home in my home.
   Over lunch that weekend, Reet described how her paintings are often inspired by dreams and visions. I asked her to write an account of her work, and to let us know the birthing process for some of her individual paintings. Reet has now generously contributed the following inspiring account, with the stories of several of her pictures:


PAINTING WITH ANGELS
by Reet Kalamees

For years now I've felt a strong urge to paint. And not just paint, but to paint angels, beings of light and the beautiful spiritual world. For me angels represent the connecting link between heaven and earth, between humans and the Creator. Cooperation with them has been truly inspiring. 
Visions of my new paintings are often given to me through dreams and meditation.
I've had over twenty exhibitions and my paintings have found homes all over the world.

Mostly I paint in two ways:
  1. According to the vision I get from my dream or meditation or a vision related to a person I’m painting for.
  2. Without a vision- I just open my heart and I accept what the universe wants to express through me.
I would like to thank the Universe and the Creator for the inspiration and support.Who am I? Angel artist? Spiritual artist? Visionary artist? All of my paintings have a very special purpose - to help people - whether you are in need of spiritual guidance, positive energy, support at a difficult time, to strengthen your relationship with someone etc. 
    I have loved to draw and paint since childhood. As grown-ups, we often forget the child in us and tend to take life too seriously. But then some life event(s) will remind us who we really are. Already as a child, I had a strong feeling that besides our ordinary everyday world, there is something way greater-the invisible, eternal and infinite Universe. In my childhood, during the gloomy Soviet time, dreams were a great way to escape and I have always been a great dreamer.
    A few decades ago I was brought back to painting, because all of a sudden through my paintings beings of light, angels, spiritual guides, teachers and counselors showed up. For years now I have been painting the world that remains invisible to many, with all its power, energy and the characters from its light vibration. And this journey has been so incredibly fascinating, enriching and full of blessings and miracles.
     Often when I start painting I do not have a clear idea what I will paint, I simply open my heart to allow the Universe to express through me what it wishes. For me it is important, that through my paintings I can bring people more light, higher vibration and that, without exception, we are all divine beings.
    With my creation, I would like to thank all those extraordinary people who have played an important role in my spiritual journey. I would like to thank the Universe and the Creator for all the inspiration and support. May these paintings touch all the people who have an open heart and are willing to take on more magic and miracles into their life.

 The story behind some of my paintings:



JOIN ME
Stay in the wind of my wings.
Keep close to my heart.
To take flight, all we need is to believe.

This is one of my first oil paintings from 2007 and it is very special for me. The vision for this painting was given to me in a  fraction of a second. I saw two different sides of a whole, which formed a divine union in higher consciousness. Everything and everyone is connected in total synchrony and harmony. When I look at this picture, I still to this day feel a great longing. A lot a people have given me feedback on this picture and said they feel a sense of recognition when  looking at this painting as if they are reminded of  something they have turned away from.

Many pictures are coming directly from my dreams:

Heavenly Horse or Creature of hay


  
HEAVENLY HORSES
Heavenly horses in their heavenly stable.
Talking to the stars.
Say a word on behalf of the humans.



CREATURE OF HAY
Heavenly horse galloping through a dream.
Looking into our hearts.
Touching our longings.

Heavenly horse is a dreamlike mystical being resembling a horse and vibrating in a very high frequency. In my dream the horse was made of hay and was not in any way an ordinary creature All over its body were doors and gates, which served as hideouts during danger. Like a heavenly Trojan horse. In that particular dream I was with my mother and we went to hide in the horse and came out after the danger passed.
     Somehow I knew that heavenly horses protect our dreams as well. Consequently, I have drawn a lot of heavenly horses for children to bring them warm, safe and supportive dreams.


At the Source of Life

Standing midst flowing light.
Letting go of all that has been.
The presence is all that remains.



Two transparent creatures standing midst running spring water. The water is not the water we are used to, but a liquid flowing light. In the dream the beings of light consume that light, they drink that light and pour it all over themselves until one moment they will become that light  and diffuse into eternity.


TWIN SOULS
Reflection within a reflection
Light within a light
To be where you belong and present.




In my life I have met a lot of souls, whom I remember and know from previous lives.  Some of them have been my twin souls. Meeting those souls creates synchronicity and the feeling of being present. Even if those encounters are meant to be brief, they create a new impulse, help me better perceive my journey and make it more meaningful. 


All art (c) Reet Kalamees. Please visit her website, where you will find both prints and original artworks available. You can find some of her art with English commentary on this American site

Friday, March 27, 2015

He Sees: an extraordinary gift


There are artists who help us remember that the soul has wings. Estonian artist Reet Kalamees is one of them. Look at one of her pictures of light beings in flight and you will feel your soul beginning to shake out its wings.
    
I met Reet last month in Tallinn where she explained to me how her wonderful pictures are often inspired by dreams and visions of flight. Now she has gifted me with an extraordinary painting. She sent me this letter explaining the origin of her painting "He Sees" and why she has given it to me:

"I painted this picture six months before you came to Tallinn. While I was painting, I felt the presence of a large bird, like a hawk or eagle. As the painting, emerged, I felt that the picture is connected to the powerful and wise soul of a man. .
   "This being of light has enormous wings. They are somehow illuminated. In my vision as this bird-man flies, hundreds of sparks of light fall to the earth from his winds. The sparks explode, creating marvelous waves of light. This is a way he brings gifts to earth.
.  
   "
Robert, when I first saw you in Tallinn, I realized in an instant, that the soul that is connected to this picture, is you. I want you to have this picture, because I know it is for you and my guidance is that it will bring you a message beyond my words.
   "I named this painting 'He Sees'.
   
"I wrote this little text about it, as I do with all my paintings:
    
HE SEES 

He sees
He touches souls
Even if you don't realize"



Art: "He Sees" by Reet Kalamees.

Manifesting a cosmic man


I am in a magical library of the kind Jung would have loved, full of rare volumes of alchemy, mythology, ancient philosophy. I am in modern clothes, but I act like a Renaissance magus who actually knows what he is doing. I am engaged in the Great Work of creating a kind of Cosmic Man.
    He comes to life as a tall, well-built Caucasian man with fine red-gold hair and trimmed beard. His body is draped with planetary, elemental and zodiacal symbols, clustered especially over the upper torso and lower body. 
    Over his shoulder he wears a loose-flapping banner with the inscription, "Fortunate is he who is able to know the causes of things."

I woke happy and excited.
    I recognized the words on the banner. They are borrowed from Virgil's Georgics, Book 2, line 490. The original Latin is Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, literally "fortunate was he who was able to know the causes of things." I shall have to do some reentry work to recover all the symbols.
   The 19th century image (above) from Jaipur of Vishnu as Cosmic Man has a similar placement of symbols, though as human types the figures are very different. 



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

To practice death is to practice freedom


We do not know where death awaits us, so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.

This wisdom comes from the great French essayist, Montaigne, and I count it as one of the essential rules for living.
    To live today to the fullest, we want to be ready to die. When we approach life in the knowledge that Death is at our left shoulder, we find courage and clarity that may otherwise fail us.
.    I have known this since I was a child, when I died and came back, as the Melbourne doctors put it, not yet possessing the term “near-death experience”. In my books and workshops, I encourage people to make Death their ally rather than their dread, and to be ready to meet him on any day, on any corner.
     What does it mean, to “practice death”?
     An art of dying adequate to our needs and yearnings today must address at least these five key areas:

1.   Practice in dream travel and journeying beyond the bodyBy practicing the projection of consciousness beyond the physical plane, we settle any personal doubts about the soul’s survival of physical death. This is not really an exotic or esoteric assignment. Every night, in your dreams, you travel beyond the body quite naturally and spontaneously; it’s a matter of waking up to what is going on and learning to use your natural gifts as a dreamer,

2.      Developing a personal geography of the afterlife. Through conscious dream journeys, we can visit the deceased — and their teachers — in their own environments. We can explore a variety of transit areas and reception centers, adapted to the expectations and comfort levels of different types of people, where the recently departed are helped to adapt to their new circumstances. We can tour the “collective belief territories,” some established centuries or millennia ago, where ex-physicals participate ins hared activities and religious practices. We can examine processes of life review, reeducation, and judgment and follow the transition of spirits between different after-death states. We can also study the different fates of different vehicles of consciousness after physical death.

3.      Helping the dying. We can use dreamwork and the techniques of Active Dreaming – including vision transfer, which means growing a dream or a journey map for someone who needs one – to help the dying through what some hospice nurses describe as the “nearing death experience.”In many of our hospitals (where most Westerners die) death is treated as a failure, or merely the loss of vital signs, followed by a pulled-out plug, a disconnected respirator, and the disposal of the remains. As we recover the art of dying, many of us in all walks of life — not only ministers and health care professionals and hospice volunteers — will be able to play the role of companion on the deathwalk, helping the dying to approach the next life with grace and courage and to make the last seasons of this life a period of personal growth. The skills required in this area include the ability to communicate on a soul level with patients who are unable to speak or reason clearly. A vital aspect of this work is facilitating or mediating contact between the dying and helpers on the other side — especially departed loved ones — who can give assistance through the transition. Dream sharing and dream transfer are invaluable tools in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of life beyond the body.

4.      Helping the departed. We pray for our dead in our churches and temples, and no good intention is ever wasted. However, you may have a hard time finding a priest who is willing to take on the role of psychopomp, or guide of souls, and provide personal escort service to spirits of the departed who have lost their way and gotten stuck between the worlds, causing pain and confusion to themselves and sometimes to their survivors. Yet the living have a crucial role to play in helping to release earthbound or troubled spirits. For one thing, some of these “ex-physicals” seem to trust people who have physical bodies more than entities that do not, because there is comfort in the familiar, because they did not believe in an afterlife before passing on — or quite simply because they do not know they are dead. Sometimes our deceased need help from us in dealing with unfinished business, passing on messages to survivors, and getting their story straight. I have become convinced that an essential stage in the afterlife transit is the effort by the departed to understand the full story of the life that has just passed, in order to be ready to choose the next life experience.

5.      Making death your ally. Finally, we are challenged to reach into the place of our deepest fears and master them: to face our own death on its own ground and re-value our lives and our purpose from this perspective. When we “brave up” enough to confront our personal Death and receive its teaching, we forge an alliance that is a source of power and healing in every aspect of life.

My books that explore these themes in greatest depth are Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death (New World Library), The Dreamer's Book of the Dead (Destiny Books) and The Boy Who Died and Came Back (New World Library).

Photo: Nurse stump at Mosswood Hollow (c) Robert Moss. The dead tree giving life nutrients to a new one is a great metaphor for death and rebirth. 


The Dervish House

I read the last lines of The Dervish House and said, “Wonderful!” out loud. I want to read the book again to savor all that is in it and to understand more fully some of the intricate description of nanotechnology, hedge fund operations, the history of Sufi lodges, the legend of the Mellified Man, the geography of Istanbul.
    Ian McDonald is astonishingly deep and diverse in his knowledge. He writes about everything with exact and fine detail and vocabulary and – amazingly! – this is never wearisome, though it makes the book a slow (but always fascinating) read. I never doubted that his six main characters, sharing apartments in a converted dervish house on the Asian side of Istanbul, are Turks (if we include the elderly Greek “experimental economist”, Georghios Ferentinou, as we must).
    There are no concessions to the non-Turkish reader. Every Turkish word is given with the Turkish spelling and necessary diacritical marks. The sole concession is with jinn, rendered djinn, no doubt at the publisher’s insistence. Even Shams of Tabriz becomes 
Çams with the cedilla under the C.
     Just when you think the author can’t possibly trump himself, 
we read this on the penultimate page, where the focus is on Necmet, who has been turned into a shayk who sees djinn and talks to Hizir (the guide of those who have no earthly guide, called Khidr in Arabic) by a nano-pharmaceutical exploded in a terrorist suicide on a tram:

The army doctor...told him a story about the Mevlana, the great saint whose order built this tekke. The Mevlana has a friend, Shams of Tabriz, a spiritual friend, the other half of his soul, one spirit in two bodies. Together they explored the depths of God in ceaseless conversation. The dervishes grew jealous of the one-in-twoness and quietly killed Shams of Tabriz. When the Mevlana was unable to find his friend, the only possible conclusion was that they had merged and Shams was now part of him.

Why should I seek?
I am the same as he.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Astral projection and bilocation in the early Renaissance church



In the mid-15th century, the monks of San Francesco, in Borgo San Sepolcro in Tuscany, allotted 510 ducats - a fantastic sum at that time - for a double-sided altarpiece. The lead artist was Stefano de Giovanni, known as "Sassetta", already recognized as the master of the Siena school. The altarpiece was constructed over the grave of of the Blessed Ranieri Rasini, and a series of panels on the predella depicted scenes from his life.
    The Blessed Ranieri (just short of sainthood) was revered locally as a miracle maker with the ability to project an energy double that could work wonders while his body was engaged somewhere else. Thus he ranks as an all-but-patron-saint of dream travel and astral projection.
    Anyone interested in the history of dream travel would do well to look very closely at two surviving paintings of the Blessed Ranieri, by the great Sassetta. The one above is titled "The Blessed Ranieri Freeing the Poor from Jail", and it is in the Louvre. It shows Ranieri whizzing around like a rocket man.


The second painting shows Ranieri appearing to a cardinal in a dream; this panel is now in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. It depicts Ranieri floating in mid-air above the sleeping body of a well-fed cardinal, pointing to a flask containing a healing balm.
     It was a good thing for those who saw the Blessed Ranieri (d. 1304) flying about in this way that they were living in a Catholic country where bilocation and astral projection were welcomed, at least when practiced by the religiously correct. In the Puritan theocracy of colonial Massachusetts, a couple of centuries later, a snitch who claimed to have seen you flying around in your dream body could get you hauled into a Salem witch trial.


I'll be interested in further information on the flying holy man in Sassetta's paintings. His aerial visit to the rotund cardinal is mentioned in Sassetta: The Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece, edited by Machtelt Israels, but it seems that the identity of the cardinal is a matter for speculation.
    A pleasant legend survives in a later account (1622) by a printer named Giovanni Antonio Castiglione, according to which the monks had emissaries sent to a certain cardinal to request balm to preserve the Blessed Ranieri's body after he died "in the odor of sanctity." The flying Ranieri got to the cardinal first, offering a deal: balm for his body in return for healing for the cardinal. So, in the painting, he has gone in ahead of the emissaries waiting outside the cardinal's bedchamber. Ranieri was the subject of a religious play that was popular in Tuscany.


Art:

"The Blessed Ranieri Frees the Poor from a Prison in Florence" (c.1440) by Sassetta, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris

"The Blessed Ranieri of Borgo San Sepolcro Appearing to a Cardinal in a Dream" (1444) in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Turning guns into quinces


Kalani, Hawaii

In a dream last night, I parted company with a group of soldiers, carrying a rifle. In my hands, it turned into wooden gun that started dividing like a branch of a tree. I clambered with it through a passage.
    On the other side a woman, seeing what I was carrying, shouted in high excitement, "It's a quince!" I looked and saw, on leaves that had sprouted, little golden fruit and seeds. They seemed to be pulsing and vibrating, ready to burst into new life. The woman took one on her tongue and swallowed it with pleasure. "We must plant them at once!" she exclaimed, leading me up to a place on a hill. 


I woke happy and excited. I must now look into the history, mythology and uses of the quince. I know some think that the apple of Eve, in the Garden of Eden, was really a quince. I recall it is generally thought that the golden apple that Paris threw to Aphrodite - starting the Trojan War - was a quince.
    I have heard of turning swords into plowshares. Turning guns into quinces is an interesting fresh version.

Graphic: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen. Public Domain.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A secret tail wag from the universe


Hilo, Hawaii

As I waited for my first flight en route to Hawaii on Sunday morning, I was thinking about who I need to include in the Acknowledgments for my new book. It his me that I must express special thanks to the dogs who have shared my life, including the little dogs who take me on daily walks when I am at home in a small city in the Northeast, constantly bringing me to "sidewalk oracles". I sometimes journal my daily observations of synchronicity as my Dog Walk Chronicles.
     On the long second flight from Chicago to Honolulu, my rowmate told me she had left from the same home airport and - like me - travels far afield almost every week for her work. "What are the chances?" I reflected that when synchronicity magnets are operating, the chances are pretty good.
     "Tell me a story from your life," I invited her. I do this with strangers all the time. She thought for a moment, then beamed. "I got my husband a yellow lab puppy for his birthday." She told me how their beloved yellow lab had died three years ago and it had taken that amount of time to feel ready to replace her. She decided on a puppy because her daughter begged for a dog they could watch grow.
"It's extra work, but we are all so happy. My husband plays with the puppy like a little boy."
      I observed that dogs love you know matter what, and thanked the stranger on the plane for communicating a tail wag from the universe. Yes, I must start by thanking the dogs when I write those acknowledgments.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The world as seen by the Queen of Swords


I pull a Tarot card for the day, drawing from a deck called Navigators of the Mystic Sea. I have drawn the Queen of Swords, In this deck, she is tagged with the word "Subversion". Instead of thinking about what she may represent for me today, I decide that I'll enter her perspective and try to grasp what part of me may be like the Queen of Swords, and what strengths and challenges come with that.

I am seated in a high black throne on the edge of a chasm. My robes are gold and purple, and I wear a gold helmet with a long back-plate that protects my neck. A huge solitary raven perches on the top of my throne, above my head. Though I am seated, my right arm, brandishing a sword, is vigorously outstretched, pointing to the far side of the abyss, as if am ordering an army to attempt the dangerous crossing – or warning off an unseen force on the other side. In my left palm, I am holding what may be an orb but could also be a pocket watch.
    Where my robes flow over the armrest of the throne, they burst into other colors – blue and lavender, teal and pink and gold again. The same colors stream like ribbons through the sky above the high orange peaks in the background, and – joining my streaming robes – along the edge of the abyss.
     In the distance, a strange brown dog (if it is a dog) is leaping over the chasm, from the far side towards my side. When I inspect his jump, I see that the far side of the abyss is higher than my side.


I remember that, in other images, I am represented as holding a severed head, and that I have been called the Mask Cutter. My sharp sword gives me the power to strip away illusion and pretension. But I know that the sharpness of my intellect can suppress my essential feminine gifts and that, misused, my sword can cut down the brightest hopes and ambitions. I cut deep.
     A solitary raven is not to be trusted. The raven you can rely on is one of a pair. The head is not to be trusted without the heart.
     I have come to the very edge. I may order others to take the jump, but do not take it myself. Yet I am barefoot, which gives me the ability to touch and feel the earth if I am willing to listen to my body.
     I am beautiful but cold and aloof and unforgiving. I place myself above others. The dog, jumping to my side, could help to soften me.
     There is a story to be written about me, and why I sit, with sword unsheathed at this high and wild and lonely border. My throne is also my prison, from which I can be released only with the help of the dog and the second raven, the one who does not appear on the card. There is a clue in the arrangement of the scene. I sit on the left side of the chasm, and on the left side of the brain.

Note: I first posted this piece a few years ago. I am posting again because of a friend's question about the significance of the Queen of Swords. Entering the perspective of this court card is as an example of how we can learn to meditate or journey with tarot. I am leading a "Tarot for Dreamers" weekend workshop involving this and other practices for active dreamers who are interested in tarot at magical Mosswood Hollow on May 9-10.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Return of Asklepios: reclaiming ancient arts of dream healing


He is the archetype of the wounded healer. He is both human and divine, the son of Apollo by a mortal woman. He is deeply connected to the realm of the animal spirits. His familiars are the snake, the dog and the cock. The name of his mother, Coronis, suggests a link to the family of crows and ravens.  He is mentored by Chiron, the centaur.
    His symbol is a long staff, shoulder high, with a snake wrapped around it. We see this everywhere today, on the sides of ambulances, on the doors of hospitals, as medical letterhead. Our doctors still take the oath that ancient physicians dedicated to him, and his divine family, though the god-names have been removed. Western medicine begins in his precinct, though it no longer honors his name and often omits the essentials of his way.
    His name is Asklepios, Latinized as Aesculapius by the Romans when they floated his statue up the Tiber to make him at home in Italy. I had the pleasure of talking about him today on my “Way of the Dreamer” radio show with Dr. Edward Tick, a gifted and compassionate therapist who has labored for many years to revive the way of Asklepian dream healing. As Ed Tick noted, the  name Asklepios evokes “a tradition of holistic healing that was prized in the ancient world for two thousand years, a tradition in which dreams are regarded as epiphanies through which communication is opened between humans and divine powers.”.
    Pilgrims journeyed to more than three hundred temples of Asklepios around the Mediterranean and (according to recent archaeology) as far west as Britain. The helpers of Asklepios – the original therapeuts, or therapists – and his followers looked to dreams for diagnosis, prescription and an invitation for direct contact with the sacred guide and healer. The pilgrims traveled in hopes of a big dream that would be a “showing forth” of the god or one of his family and might, in itself, deliver healing from complaints that human remedies could not cure.
    Ed Tick evokes Asklepios and his way with passion and eloquence, scholarship and deep familiarity with the ancient sites. He is the author of an excellent book on the Asklepian tradition, The Practice of Dream Healing and of two important and profoundly moving books inspired by his work to heal wounded warriors and bring them home, War and the Soul and Warrior's Return.
     In our conversation, Ed recalled how the Asklepian tradition was suppressed by the Christian authorities and disappeared or went underground after the fifth century, to revive, under extraordinary circumstances, in the aftermath of World War II. A world catastrophe of that order, Tick suggested, calls forth tremendous archetypal powers. The return of the god was heralded by a curious incident involving a company of British troops bivouacked at Epidauros, the site of the most famous Asklepian temple in the Hellenic world, at the end of the war. As Ed tells it, soldiers came one by one to their commanding officer to request that the unit should be moved to another camp site. Why? They told their captain the place was haunted. They had all seen the same “ghost” – a bearded man carrying a long staff with a snake wrapped around it.
    Asklepios entered modern psychology in the same period through the dream of a patient of Jung’s student and colleague C.A. Meier. She gave Meier a one-line dream report. She heard the words, “The best thing he ever created was Epidauros.” Meier did not recognize the Greek place name, but he embarked on a search that eventually led him to write an important work on the ancient practice of dream incubation and dream healing. As Tick tells it, there was an Asklepian touch in the play of synchronicity between Jung and Meier. When Jung was reflecting on who would  do most to continue his work as they walked and talked together by the lake, a snake rose from the water and slithered between Meier’s legs, which the ancients would certainly have taken as a numen, a nod of approval from greater powers.
    A key principle in Asklepian practice, as Ed presents it, is that “you do not ask the gods for help until you have run out of human options.” Another, quite foreign to modern medicine, at least in the United States, is that “you do not put the patient under financial pressure.” This mode of healing is open to everyone who is ready to make the journey to the temple and to dream with the god. “Fees are paid only after healing, and in proportion to a person’s resources. A slave may give an apple, an emperor may pay for a new temple or theater.”
    The practice of Asklepian healing begins as a quest. You go on a pilgrimage, when you have failed to find other remedies for what ails you. You travel to a holistic center. You pray. You are shown images of the gods, and evidence of what happened before”. You see hundreds, maybe thousands of votive offerings and inscriptions depicting healings that have taken place. This stirs up the psyche, fires the imagination, primes you for a big experience in the sacred night. The temple helpers will ask you about your dreams, looking for a dream of invitation, noting when the caliber of your dreams indicates that you are not ready for the big experience.
    Quoting the ancient documents, Ed recounts the case of a rich man who was denied entry to the abaton – the place of encounter with the god in the sacred night – because his dreams suggested that his character was so defective that he was unready and unworthy. He was told he must dedicate himself to the care of the sick and the poor, even of lepers, for a year before he could return to try again.
    Pilgrims hoped for night visitations from figures resembling the statues and paintings they had been shown – from Asklepios, or one of his three daughters, or one of his animal familiars. “Collective images will help produce archetypal dreams,” Ed observes. A visitation of this kind could deliver full healing in a single night. The ancient testimonies include the account of a soldier who came to the temple with an arrow embedded in his body that could not be extracted by surgery. In his night vision, Asklepios himself deftly removed the arrow. In the morning, the soldier was fully healed, the arrow extracted.
    Such experiences must be honored. Dreams require action. As Ed Tick puts it, “once you have the dream you have to bring it into the world.” This sometimes meant taking actions that would seem crazy to most people and certainly most doctors. We discussed the case of Aelius Aristides, a famous orator who turned to Asklepios many times for guidance and healing. When he was in the grip of a raging fever, he was ordered by the god in a dream to obtain a horse and ride to an icy river and plunge in – which he proceeded to do.
     Contact with animals and animal spirits is a vital part of this tradition. The snake is a primary healing ally of Asklepios. There were snake pits in the Asklepian sanctuaries, and seekers of big dreams often had to brave up to serpents (non-venomous, but still scary for many) slithering over them in the night. In the testimonies, healing was often delivered by the experience of a snake licking or biting or coiling round an afflicted part of the body. Ed talked about how he experimented with a modern reenactment of this by inviting a woman snake dancer to bring some of her serpents to one of his retreats. He was fascinated by how the snakes behaved differently with different persons, sometimes as if they understood where someone was experiencing a problem. The same snake would coil on the head of one person, and wrap around the belly of someone with intestinal complaints.
    The dog, the second Asklepian animal ally, is the guide of souls and guardian of passage to the Underworld in many traditions, the friendliest of animals to man, and a primary “bridge to nature” in many lives, ancient and contemporary. As we discussed the dog of Asklepios, my mind flew to an experience I had when I attended a workshop with Ed in the Bahamas when we were co-presenters at a conference there last January.
     Ed had described how the philosopher Proclus received relief for his gout after he invoked Asklepios. When he was sitting with his leg up, swathed in bandages, a sparrow landed on his foot and proceeded to strip away the bandages. His gout was gone. I was keenly interested, since I suffer from occasional flare-ups of gout, and my left foot was feeling very sore that day.
     Ed gave us a short meditation – to go to a place in the body where we felt aches or pains, and ask any of the divine figures mentioned in the Asklepios story (including his animal triad of snake, dog and cock) for healing. I went to my aching left foot. I tried to visualize Proclus’ sparrow. Instead, a beloved black dog who shared my life and often appears in my dreams, leaped on me, licking my toes, rubbing joyfully against my body, licking my face. This was all but physical. I saw again the great craters made by that big dog’s paws as we walked on a Sag Harbor beach in winter. My heart swelled to bursting with love. Dogs love you no matter what, and they may be healing gods in disguise.
    The rooster, or cock, is the third Asklepian animal familiar, the animal of sacrifice – and also the liminal creature that heralds the transition from night to day, from sleep to waking. The famous last words of Socrates after he drained the hemlock were, “Crito, we owe a cock to Asklepios”, reminding us that the most famous voice of Greek philosophy was also deeply immersed in the Asklepian way.
     We need this practice today, in our lives and our world. Ed and I discussed how to apply the key elements of Asklepian practice, both at special places and healing centers, in small groups and in our individual lives. Ed gently insisted that gentleness is a primary requirement. Though the derivation of the name "Asklepios" is disputed, Robert Graves suggested that it means "unceasingly gentle."
    I proposed that a vital principle from the Asklepian way to be applied in our lives today is that help from greater powers is always available, and that we want to remember to ask nicely. I quoted Aelius Aristides, the ancient orator who asked for healing by speaking to his god along the following lines: “I ask for the measure for the measure of health my body requires to serve the purposes of the soul.”
    Ed reciprocated by reciting for us lines from the Homeric Hymn to Asklepios:

Great to humanity, soother of cruel suffering…
You are welcomed, Master. By this song I beseech you.


-

My conversation with Ed Tick on my radio show can be downloaded from the Way of the Dreamer archive. Ed's website is Soldier's Heart.

I highly recommend the following books by Edward Tick Ph.D.: The Practice of Dream Healing, War and the Soul and Warrior's Return: Restoring the Soul After War

How to know if you're dead for the time being

How to know if you're dead in the cyber age:

I waited and waited for an email to show up from her, but it never did. Maybe this is what it's like when you die. Your inbox stays empty. At first, you just think nobody's answering, so you check your SENT box to make sure your outgoing mail is okay, and then you check your ISP to make sure your account is still active, and eventually you have to conclude that you're dead.

This is a passage, in the voice of a Japanese teen, from Ruth Ozecki's extraordinary novel A Tale for the Time Being. The book was introduced to me by a former student who recognized me at the baggage carousel on my return from a trip last week. She told me she had just finished the novel, which involves the relativity of time and quantum entanglement as well as the culture of suicide in Japan, how to become a "living ghost" and why there are sixty-five Zen moments in a single snap of the fingers. Flourishing the jacket, she declared, "I think I am here to let you know about this book." I am very happy she did.
    The greatest plot twist is a dream in which a Canadian novelist whose name happens to be Ruth is guided by an unusual crow to meet a Japanese man who is sitting in a park bench in Tokyo. He has made a date with death; he is expecting to meet an online acquaintance with whom he has made a pact to commit mutual suicide. The encounter - a dream on one side of the Pacific, a physical event on the other - transfers a lost treasure from one time and place into another, saves lives and shifts worlds.
   Ruth Ozecki's writing is superb, shifting effortlessly from Japanese high school slang to Zen paradox to fine naturalist observation to Many Worlds speculation. Here is Nao, the Japanese teen, on the atmosphere on the eve of a feast of the dead: "
It was coming up to Obon, and spirits were cruising about like travelers arriving at the airport with their suitcases, looking for a place to check in."
   Here is Ruth, the writer becoming dream traveler: "Her fingers press against the rag surface of her dream, recognize the tenacity of filaments and know that it is paper about to tear, but for the fibrous memory that still lingers there, supple, vascular and standing tall. The tree was past and the paper is present, and yet paper still remembers holding itself upright and altogether. Like a dream, it remembers its sap."  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The birds of fortuity and The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The play of coincidence can shape a whole life, like a musical composition. Out of the weave of small incidents we can find beauty and a secret order. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera writes beautifully about the "fortuities" that bring lovers together. Tereza notices Tomas in a pub in a small provincial town because he has a book in his hand and because her favorite Beethoven starts playing on the radio. Six tiny incidents of this kind prompt her to get on a train and follow him to Prague; she feels "the birds of fortuity fluttering down on her shoulders".
    Kundera insists that this is not only the stuff of novels but the shape of lives. He is absolutely and poetically correct.
   "Our day-to-day life is bombarded with fortuities or, to be more precise, with the accidental meetings of people and events we call coincidences," he observes. "Tomas appears in the hotel restaurant at the same time as the radio is playing Beethoven. We do not even notice the great majority of such coincidences. If the seat Tomas occupied had been occupied instead by the local butcher, Tereza never would have noticed that the radio was playing Beethoven. But her nascent love inflamed her sense of beauty, and she would never forget that music."
    Kundera suggests that "human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. They are composed like music, Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence…into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual’s life…Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress."
   So it is wrong to chide a novelist for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences and making his plot turn on them. "But it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.”


-     - quotes from Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being trans. Michael Henry Heim.(New York: Harper Perennial, 2009).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The need for dream archaeology


Marija Gimbutas, the great Lithuanian scholar of Old Europe and its Goddess traditions, declared with urgent clarity in The Civilization of the Goddess, her chef d'oeuvre:  “We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity of this has never been greater as we discover that the path of ‘progress’ is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth."
    The new art and science of dream archaeology provides powerful tools for refocusing collective memory, exactly as the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess proposed.  I invented the term "dream archaeology".  It is the study of first and essential (arche) things with the aid of dreamwork and techniques of shamanic lucid dreaming. It is a discipline that enables us to access the living past, to enter into direct communication with the keepers of ancestral wisdom and heal the collective and cultural soul loss that is a feature of our age.
     The practice of dream archaeology involves reclaiming authentic knowledge of ancestral traditions, including those that may have been buried or suppressed in the course of history, through a combination of careful research and shamanic journeying across time and between dimensions. The dream archaeologist combines the skills of the shaman, the scholar and the detective.
      We let dreams set us assignments. Secrets of the past, of which the waking mind may know nothing or very little, come to us in dreams because we are ready for them, and because the ancestors speak to us in dreams. As dream archaeologists, we learn to work with such dreams, both through focused research and by learning the technique of dream reentry, which means making a shamanic journey through the doorway of a remembered dream to harvest more information, to deepen communication with the ancestors, and to travel beyond the maps.
      When we are already engaged in a line of research, we draw on the skills of shamanic lucid dreaming, as well as spontaneous gifts of the night, to find what cannot be located in ordinary ways, but can often be confirmed by subsequent dream-directed research. We are open to the phenomenon that Yeats, with poetic insight, called the “mingling of minds”. This means that when we give our best efforts and passion to our chosen work or study, we draw the support of intelligences beyond the everyday world, including those of past masters in the same field.
      After her death, Marija Gimbutas appeared to her friend and biographer Joan Marler in a powerful dream. Marija said fiercely, “You must remember us.” Joan understood that the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess was speaking from the realm of the ancestors, “a place of collective memory and wisdom”. She describes this encounter in an essay in From the Realm of the Ancestors, a magnificent Festchrift in honor of Marija that she edited.
     I have been privileged to lead several depth workshops in shamanic dreaming and dream archaeology in Lithuania. Each visit has been a grand adventure and a deepening encounter with the ancestors of the land. On my first visit to Marija’s native country, in the summer of 2004, 40 Lithuanians joined me at Nida to reclaim the arts of dreaming. With the aid of shamanic drumming, we made a group journey together through the gateway of an ancient oak, with the aim of establishing direct and authentic communication with the ancestors of the land.
     I found myself in direct contact with a priestess of Žemyna, the Earth Goddess. The priestess belonged to an earlier time, but seemed to speak from a place of amber light outside time. She instructed me in methods of healing and visioning involving the use of amber, and gave me symbols and words in old Lithuanian – a language previously unknown to me – that others in the workshop helped me translate.
     Wherever I go now, I find myself traveling in two worlds. From behind the curtains of ordinary perception, the ancestors are calling. I am reminded again and again that one of the gifts of dreaming is that it opens authentic connections to the ancestors, offering us the chance to heal the wounds of the past and to perform cultural soul retrieval.

Photo: leading a dream archaeology expedition at Kernave, Lithuania. Photo (c) Giedre Rein