Saturday, June 27, 2015

Commencement at Alma Mater

from last night's dreams:

I am walking across a campus with a host of people arriving for a big ceremony, something like commencement. I feel wonderful, young and fit and strong. 
    I am a young professor, no older than my early 30s. I am a celebrity, and the college kids are so excited by my presence. They look at me as if I am Indiana Jones. I am wearing well-cut “donnish” clothes – tweed jacket, slacks, shirt and tie. I consider the impact it will have if I turn up later for a lecture I am scheduled to give in a trench coat and broad-brimmed black fedora, which are also part of my wardrobe.
    There is special seating reserved for me in a vast auditorium.
    However, I first go to see a wise woman – wise beyond her apparent years, since she looks to be in her mid-thirties, a little older than my dream self. I present a card. It looks like a tarot card. It is brilliantly colored. The central figure wears a costume patterned in sky-blue and orange lozenges, with a big floppy Renaissance hat. He could be the Fool or the Magician, but I want to call him the Troubadour. The card glows in my hand, casting rays of light.
    When she sees the card, the wise woman reveals a whole set of cards. I am charged with excitement. This is the real deal. These images hold real codes of life and manifestation. I will consult them when I teach courses at the university, where I have been given a special, highly prized, appointment.

Feelings: Delight. I wanted to stay in this dream, and did so, despite the morning light spilling through the windows.

Bernart de Ventadorn
Reality check: The dream felt entirely physical. The body was definitely mine, but not the one I am living in right now. I was a very young professor (of ancient history) long ago at the Australian National University. This is a different college. The buildings are older, and the campus is larger.
    I work with tarot and have taught courses in "Tarot for Dreamers".
    I was introduced to Troubadour songs that spoke to me deeply when I was teaching in southern France earlier this month. One was from Bernart de Ventadorn, the meaning of whose surname ("Adorns the Wind") is already a poem. Another was from Guilhem de Peitieu, Count of Poitou ((1071-1127), who has been called The First Troubadour:

Farai un vers de dreyt nien....
qu'enans fo trobatz en durmen
sobre chevau.

I made this song from pure nothing...
It came to me when I was sleeping
on a horse.

    I cannot immediately identify the wise woman.
    I have seen myself teaching in a pleasant college in the afterlife in dreams and visions over many years.

What do I want to know?

-          Is this an alternate reality?
-          Is it a glimpse of a life I might inhabit after death, in an Alma Mater – School of Mother Soul – where I have seen myself teaching in dreams and visions over decades in this current life?
-          Does it reflect energy and presence I can claim right now?
-          All of the above?

Action: I will study the Troubadour song I was given. I will reflect on the significance of the combination of blue and orange. I may try to reenter the dream, talk to the wise woman, review the rest of the deck of cards, and find out what I am teaching at this nonordinary university.

Bumper stickers

1. Live in blue and orange.
2. Indiana Jones is a professor!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Way to Seshat's Library

Thoth-Tehuti is well known, as Egypt's god of writing and measurement associated with the Moon and in some ancient theologies as a creator deity who brings things into existence by naming them. I have led many group journeys into a magic library whose presiding figure casts the shadow of an ibis-headed biped. Less well known than Thoth is his sister Seshat, who has her own magic library.
     A friend's dream opened the way for a shared journey in which we traveled together into her realm. The experience is a lively example of what Yeats called "mutual visioning". It is also an example of the practice I call"dream archaeology", in which we use the techniques of Active Dreaming - especially conscious and interactive dream travel - to gain authentic first-hand knowledge of ancient traditions, and then use the tools of scholarship and science to verify our findings.
     My friend Carol, who is also a gifted dream teacher,  was eager to share a powerful dream with me. In the dream, a young woman leads her from one of my workshops along a passage into a library where she meets the Egyptian goddess Seshat, and is shown shelves filled with books of different times and a crystal window that opens onto both the past and onto many "drawing-board futures" – futures than have not yet been fixed.
     In the dream, the portal is a dark bookcase Carol finds beside her in a circle in which I am sitting at the north; a book by the Egyptologist Wallis Budge is on a lower shelf. As she bends down to inspect the book, she feels a hand on her right wrist. A young woman tugs at her, drawing her into a long hallway. The floor, walls and ceiling are light ivory. The young woman talks to Carol about meeting someone she has wanted to meet.
     Carol struggles with the name. She gets something like "Shasta" and thinks, No, that’s a brand of soda. The young woman smiles at Carol’s embarrassment. Carol looks down and notices she is now wearing a lovely long white dress. They go through a curtain of feathered wings, into a library. Carol knows this is the library of Sesha, or Seshet, or Seshat….she’s getting closer to that name now.
     The owner of the library appears and greets Carol as if she knows her. "I hope you will be able to remember. I precede Mary."
     "You know Mary?" Carol is stunned.
     "Of course. We are connected. I know many. You must remember."
     She leads Carol to the windows of the library. Carol sees geometric designs of cities on many boards. Some are surreal or futuristic, some ancient; some are "on the drawing board" and may or may not be constructed. Carol feels she could go through many different windows, to different cities. On the library shelves are artifacts: a star, writing instruments, engravings on stone that include a carving of an ibis. There are papyrus scrolls that appear to be new. There are beautiful flowers on Egyptian vases.

I was intrigued and excited by this dream. Carol and I made a date to meet privately and travel together back into this dreamspace, with the aid of shamanic drumming, to learn more.
    As I drummed for us, I found myself moving deep into Carol's dreamscape. I approached the bookcase and found Wallis Budge. He showed me praise names of Seshat, transcribed in his books, that we could use as an invocation that would open the gate to her library.
     The passage from the bookcase to the library of Seshat was on the back of an immense cobra. Its scales gleamed golden, with crimson flashes, against a dark void. As we traveled together, I noticed that Carol did not realize what she was walking on, which may have been a blessing since - while Carol is an intrepid dream traveler - the idea of walking on a giant snake could be distracting. She walked a few paces ahead of me, on the cobra’s flattened head through an open archway, high above, into Seshat’s library.
    In the library, I was drawn at once to a window set in a deep niche. The glass appeared to be a crystal several inches thick. Through the window, I looked into a sea world. Mer-people live here. They ride larger sea creatures for faster transportation. Their cities are underwater. This may be another vision of Atlantis, the Moist Land.
     I turn to the goddess. Her eyes are lapis blue, purplish blue around the pupils. Her headdress is a seven-pointed star.She tells me she is the original Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea. This is a fundamental sense in which she precedes Mary (who was given the borrowed praise name). From her library, I am able to view the original of the XVII Tarot trump, the Star. The Book of Seshat is concealed – and revealed – through this image.
     I sense the presence of Thoth/Tehuti. I am told he presides over a parallel library. I want to know their relationship and their story. Did they come to this Earth together? My sense is they are truly "extra-terrestrial gods". They are brother and sister. Thoth came first, at a time when Earth was a very savage and primal environment, the time when baboons were wiser and stronger than the ancestors of homo sapiens. He established a forward base on the Moon for his work in transferring language to humans and effecting the link with higher consciousness. Seshat came later, she instructs me. She descended directly to Earth, and therefore may preserve a more direct connection with the Star from which both of them come.

At the end of the journey, Carol and I shared our travelogues and found that our reports were very similar. Carol had experienced walking a path of golden light, but had not - as I noticed - realized that she was on the back of the giant cobra. By traveling into the multiverse in this way, as partners or in groups, we can achieve objective confirmation of our experiences of the deeper reality, and advance the work of reopening living connections to the past that matters, and of mapping the imaginal realms.

Art: The Way to Seshat's Library (c) Robert Moss

Text 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.

I am posting this tonight because of a wonderful journey report shared in my class for The Shift Network in which a woman received healing and guidance from Seshat and resolved to honor the encounter by "shamanic decorating" including the special arrangement of a library of colors as well as books.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Living inside the dream of a creator

In the mythology of some ancient and indigenous cultures, while we think we are awake in this world, we are actually living inside the dream of a creator god.
     In the mind of India, Vishnu is dreaming this world, which will continue until he ends the dream and disperses his dream characters – including ourselves. The god with skin the color of rain-filled clouds sleeps on the great serpent Shesha Naga, who may be depicted with five heads, or seven or a hundred.. The serpent drifts on the great Milky Ocean. For those raised on the Bible, through the exotic garb the threefold, undulating movement of the dreaming god, the serpent and the ocean, may evoke the flow of the second verse of Genesis where “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” While Vishnu sleeps, his mind generates dreams, and this is the stuff we and our world are made of.
     Another version of a god dreaming up a world comes from the Guajiro (Wayuu), a forest people of South America. For the Guajiro, the universe is born when the creator, Maleiwa, becomes aware that he is dreaming. He does not come to this awareness unassisted. His helper is an intriguing being called Apusanai, whose function is to set up the matrix within which dream experiences take place. Apusanai performs this operation not only for the creator, but for every human. [1] So whenever we go dreaming, it is possible that – on our own scale – we may enter into the manifesting power of the first conscious dreamer, the creator god.
    In the cosmogony of the Makiritare, a shamanic people of Venezuela, the high god Wanadi created his own mother, through dreaming. First he projected a double that entered the physical world. The double “just sat there in silence, thinking, dreaming, dreaming. He dreamed that a woman was born….He made his own mother.” Then he entered her body in the form he had dreamed. [2]
    That story may provoke us into thinking more deeply about what is really going on in divine conception dreams like the famous dream of Queen Maya that heralded the coming of her son Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. In approaching Maya, we don’t want to miss the fact that in Sanskrit her name means “illusion”, not merely in the negative sense but in that of the play of images that brings things – even worlds – into manifestation.
     Maya dreamed of a six-tusked elephant, “white as the snow-capped mountains”, that entered her body by the side. Priests were summoned to interpret the dream, and predicted that she would give birth to a spiritual being that would change the world. On the night of conception, according to some early texts, she slept apart from her husband. Though the queen was not a virgin, up to this point she had been childless, and the birth of Siddhartha was certainly an extraordinary event. He is sometimes described as exiting his mother’s body through the side, without surgery and without harming her. Some versions suggest that the six-tusked elephant not only represents the spiritual power of the Buddha but is also the spiritual begetter of the coming Buddha. [3]

1. Lawrence C. Watson, “Dreaming as World View and Action in Guajiro Culture,” Journal of Latin American Lore 7, no.2 (1981): 239-254,
2. Marc de Civrieux, Watunna: An Orinoco Creation Cycle, trans. David M. Guss (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1980) p.23
3. Serinity Young, Courtesans and Tantric Escorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography and Ritual (London: Routledge, 2004),pp. 67-72.

Graphic: Vishnu dreams on Sesha Naga, while Lakshmi rubs his feet (18th century)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Advice from your best life coach: Play first, work later

Like puppies or lion cubs or dolphins spinning silver lariats of bubbles, children play for the joy of playing. Young children are masters of imagination, since they know the magic of making things up. Our first and best teacher of conscious living is our inner child.
     But that inner child may have gone into hiding, under a glass dome or in a room in Grandma’s house, because of shame or abuse, ridicule or loneliness, because the world wasn’t safe or it wasn’t fun. If we have lost our dreams, if our imagination is stuck in a groove, it’s because we have lost our inner child. To live as active dreamers in everyday life, we have to bring that child home. This requires a quest, a negotiation, and fulfillment of a promise.
     The quest will lead us down halls of memory to a place and time where our wonder child went missing. We can embark on the quest as a guided journey to a real place in the imaginal realm, or through the portal of a dream or memory from childhood.
     The negotiation requires us to convince our child selves that we are safe and we are fun to be around. Fulfilling the promises we make will require us to remember to play without scheduling it.
     Play first, work later, our child selves will insist. The cautious dutiful adult self will protest. But if we are to keep our inner children at home in our bodies and our lives, we’ll need to fulfill our promises to be fun as well as safe. If we play well enough, then before we quite know it, we’ll fall in love with our work because it will be our play

Adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Drawing (c) Robert Moss

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Growing a dream of a better world, even in Auschwitz

Every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.
- Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

He has been reduced to a number tattooed on his arm. His ability to survive until tomorrow depends on being able to dig stones for a long day without collapsing from malnutrition and fatigue, and on being able to get a few peas at the bottom of a bowl of soup, and at not falling foul of one of the SS guards or the no less brutal Capos, fellow-prisoners selected to act as wardens and help select who will be sent to the "bathhouse" that leads to the crematorium. He reaches into the storehouse of memory for images that can help him to live. He cherishes little things from the life that has been taken from him, like taking a bus ride, or turning on the lights in his apartment, or finding real food in the kitchen. Most of all, he cherishes the image of his wife. He doesn't know whether she is still alive, but the great love between them is real, and helps to sustain him.
    When he can get scraps of paper, he tries to reconstruct the book manuscript that was torn from him by a Capo when he came here. He dreams of seeing it published. In the indeterminate state of a death camp prisoner, with no way of knowing whether he will live or die within the next hour, he chooses to grow a vision of the future in his mind. It is an extraordinary vision, and it takes a terrific act of will for him to turn his mind from his bleeding feet and aching stomach to inhabit a future that very few could begin to imagine. The emaciated prisoner of Auschwitz transports himself to a warm and comfortable lecture room, in a civilized time and place in which the horrors of World War II lie in the past. The speaker is the prisoner himself, Dr Viktor Frankl. From the platform, he surveys an attentive audience, seated on handsomely upholstered chairs. His topic? The psychology of the concentration camp.
-   After his release from Auschwitz and the fall of the Third Reich, Viktor Frankl recalled the effect of this remarkable exercise in active imagination. "All that oppressed me in that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them as if they were already of the past. Both I and my troubles became the object of an interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by myself." [1]
-   This is a stellar example of the power of dreamgrowing - of developing a creative vision powerful enough to carry you beyond adversity. Inside one of the worst of history's nightmares, Viktor Frankl reclaimed the identity and the future that had been torn from him. He not only saw himself surviving the death camps; he saw himself emerging to found a new approach to psychology on what he had learned from them. In doing this, he stepped outside and above his appalling circumstances to adopt the perspective of a witness and a scientist. He transported hmself to a future time in which the hideous collective nightmare was in the past. In doing this, he succeeded in escaping, mentally, from the camp. But he did more: he reached for a possible future so powerfully that it seems than an answering force helped to pull him towards it.
-  Whatever the pain and adversity of our lives, we can all take heart from Viktor Frankl's tremendous example. Even when all other freedoms are denied to us - he later insisted - we can never lose one final freedom, the freedom to choose our attitude. We can choose to give up, or to struggle on. We can choose to find meaning in our suffering, or to pronounce our world unfair and meaningless (as too many people do under circumstances that look quite comfortable to most of the world's poor, let alone a death camp inmate). It is our choice. If we choose to believe that we have no choice, we are still making a choice. If Viktor Frankl could say yes to life in Auschwitz, and find meaning in what life threw at him, even there, who are we to go about with the misery-guts attitude that life is unfair, or meaningless?
-   Frankl founded the method he called logotherapy, sometimes described as the third of the great Viennese schools of psychology (after Freud and Adler). As the name suggests, this is therapy based on the need for logos or meaning. The central thesis is that many of our ailments are noögenic - that is to say, they have their origin in the realm of noös, or mind, rather than in the psyche as observed by psychiatrists, or the body as diagnosed by physicians. The human animal needs meaning as well as food and air and sex and water. The sense that life is meaningless is at the root of a great deal of depression, agression and addiction, which can only be addressed by a restoration of the sense that life is meaning-full.
-   How do we find meaning in our lives? We find it in work, especially through creative action. We find it as we engage in the world, and with other people. We find it - Frankl insisted over and over - in the attitude we adopt in the face of unavaoidable suffering.
    Let me add that we also find meaning through our engagement with our dreams. Our dreams, and the powers that speak to us in dreams, are forever inviting us to reclaim the knowledge of who we are, why we are here, and what our purpose is in our current life experience.
-I read Man's Search for Meaning when I was a student. I've read it three times since, and I expect I'll read it again. It offers perennial wisdom. Frankl deploys several of my favorite quotes that are relevant to his theme.
-   From Nietzsche, he borrows this celebrated and telling truth: "He who has a why to live can cope with almost any how."
    From Dostoyevsky, this: "My only fear in life is of not being worthy of my suffering."
    From Spinoza: "Suffering ceases to be suffering as soon as we produce a clear and precise picture of it."
    And then he quotes the Viennese poet, Arthur Schnitzler, a contemporary of Freud. Schnitzler maintained that there are really only three virtues, which he itemized as follows: objectivity, courage, and the sense of responsibility. An interesting choice for a poet.
     We saw something of the merit of "objectivity" in the way Frankl was able to take himself out of his situation in the death camp and look down - and back - from the viewpoint of a scientific observer. Courage, certainly, is a fundamental virtue. It is not the absence of fear; that could be psychosis or reckless stupidity. Courage is fear conquered by something stronger than fear, by love, or belief, or dury, or a cause. The sense of responsibiliity - of being responsible for our own lives, first and last, and for exercising our power to choose our responses to whatever life gives us - is clearly of vital importance in a ife that meets the existential challenge:

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible[2]

Not a bad exercise, in our own quest for meaning, to name the three virtues that count for most in our own experience. Whatever selection we make, for me, as for Frankl (thinking of his beloved wife in the death camp) the fundament of all is love. This is what makes us human, and sustains us daily, even when we dare not say its name.

[1] Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (New York: Pocket Books, 1985) p.95.
[2] ibid p.131.

Love beyond death on another plane

I have been away from this blog for three weeks, engaged in teaching and travel in three European countries: the Czech Republic, France and Spain. I carried a travel journal, as always, and let it fill with things glimpsed along the road and with the adventures shared in the workshops and trainings. But I needed a break from writing for publication, even in the evanescent form of a blog. I had finished proofing the pages of my new book, Sidewalk Oracles, just before getting on my first flight to Europe in May, and had been pumping out all kinds of new texts in connection with the launch of my new course for The Shift Network, "Dreaming Wide Awake."
    Yesterday, on my last morning in Prague, I took a stroll along the Vltava river and saw the following slogan: Nejlepší program když nemás program. It can be translated as "The best program is to have no program" or perhaps, "The best schedule is to have no schedule." This seemed like a little nudge of confirmation from the world about taking some time off from writing to lie fallow and see what wants to come through.
     I received a different kind of nudge on my first flight on my long journey home later that day. My rowmate was a reader, with a used copy of a collection of short stories by John Sayles she had picked up at Shakespeare & Son in Prague. We were soon talking about Czech writers, especially Milan Kundera. She volunteered that she had attended the well-known Iowa writers' workshop "decades ago." Yes, she had kept on writing. "I have finished several novels, but they are all in the garage."
    I said I admired anyone who completed a book, especially without the benign pressure of an editor or agent who is waiting and wanting to receive it.
    "I do have an agent," she told me. "He's only been enthusiastic about one of my novels. I heard from him just before I came on this trip. He wants me to do a lot of work on that book, so I decided to let it go."

    Intrigued, I asked her if she would like to share something about the novel. "I guess you could call it a ghost story," she said, with a little hesitation.
    "You mean ghosts as in shapes floating in midair, and making funny bumps in the night? Or do you mean a story of an encounter between the dead and the living?"

     She meant the latter. She explained that her novel centered on a love that survives death. Grounded in her intimate knowledge of a locale in the East Bay area near San Francisco, the story recounts the love between an unlikely couple - a lifeguard and a female minister - that survives her premature death.
    I told her that people are hungry for good writing on this theme. I mentioned my work with dreams of the deceased, and reported that the number #1 reason why people have told me their dreams, over the years, is that they have had an encounter with someone who has died and need confirmation that this kind of experience is for real - and guidance on where to go with it. I mentioned that on Friday I am giving a lecture at Unity Church in Madison, Wisconsin, on "Dreaming with the Deceased".
    By the time we landed in Frankfurt, my flight companion was eager to get back to that novel about a love that survives death, and get it on the road to publication. Guidance from this synchronistic encounter worked both ways. I have had it in mind for a long time to try to turn my personal encounters with Death and with situations on the Other Side into something that can be published as a novel. 

    So synchronicity on another plane played literary adviser for both of us.

Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Sychronicity in Everyday Life will be published by New World Library in October. It contains a chapter with fresh stories of chance encounters during airline travel.