Wednesday, March 9, 2016
God makes the dreamer fruitful with his own courage
It is the most extraordinary statement in the most remarkable book about dreams written before our own times: "God makes the dreamer fruitful with his own courage."
The author is Synesius of Cyrene, a Greek philosopher, nobleman and student of Hypatia who was made bishop of Ptolemais in North Africa around 400. The source is his little treatise On Dreams. The translation is by Augustine Fitzgerald and was published in 1930. We owe a great debt to Fitzgerald because his translation is still (as far as I know) the only one in the English language. It can sound a little old and patriarchal in contemporary ears. We could say, "Spirit" or "the divine source" or "the Creator" or "the gods" in place of the masculine "God", but we don't want to dilute the power of that astonishing affirmation with a paraphrase. Let me stay with Fitzgerald's version for now.
Here it is, in its context:
It is written, "Others even in their dreams He made fruitful with his courage." Do you see? One man learns while awake, another while asleep. But in the waking state man is the teacher, while it is God who makes the dreamer fruitful with His own courage, so that learning and attaining are one and the same. Now to make fruitful is even more than to teach.
This passage was on my mind this morning after I rose from a dream that left me filled with courage, confidence and a deep sense of blessing. The setting and action in the dream were very like my ordinary life. I was opening a workshop, preparing the group to make a journey, powered by shamanic drumming, to the Tree Gate, a portal I often use for excursions to the three tiers of the shaman's cosmos, the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds. There were a few distractions and minor issues of the kind that come up when new people are finding their place and their way in a circle.
Then I started drumming, and the power of the drumming carried everyone, immediately, beyond the distractions into a powerful journey. I saw them meeting and reconnecting with the animal spirits and with benign energies of Earth, even with the Earth Mother. I felt the beating of great wings as the bird tribes and higher powers came to support us. I noticed, as I circled the group, that I was no longer playing my frame drum the usual way. I was whirling it in mid-air, like a bullroarer. This made the sound of rushing winds, and drove the journey deeper and higher.
I returned to my place in the circle. As our dreamers came back from their excursions, stretched and moved their bodies, their faces were glowing and bright. We agreed to make an impromptu fire ceremony to do some releasing that people now understood to be required, and this was very effective. I was able to assist in some personal healing.
Through most of this, I was in two places at once, fully aware of my body lying in the bed, and of morning light filtering through the blinds, while super-engaged in whirling the drum and tending the fire and assisting in healing. I suspect that bilocation of this kind is quite common for lucid dreamers as well as for shamanic voyagers. I have experienced it for as long as I can remember.
Fully lucid, still in the dream scene, I arranged with some of the people in the circle to do follow-up work and made a mental note of who, where, when and how on the assumption that elements of the dream may manifest in a future workshop in the physical world. However, the enduring gift of the dream, quite simply, was that, as my traveling consciousness rejoined my body as it rose from the bed, I felt "fruitful with courage" for the day, even blessed.
Quotations from Synesius of Cyrene, “On Dreams,” in The Essays and Hymns of Synesius of Cyrene, trans. Augustine Fitzgerald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930). For more on Synesius of Cyrene, please see Robert Moss, The Secret History of Dreaming (Novato CA: New world Library, 2008) 67-70.
Image: Lion of Cyrene