Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jung heals with a lullaby: the healing power of song

Jung agreed to see a woman who had “incurable” insomnia that had resisted all previous treatment. In her presence, he found himself remembering a lullaby his mother had crooned to him in childhood. He started humming it aloud.
     The song was about a girl on a little boat on a  river, full of gleaming fish. It evokes the rhythms of wind and water. Jung’s patient was enchanted. From that night on, her insomnia was gone. Her regular doctor wanted to know Jung’s secret.
     “How was I to explain to him that I had simply listened to something within myself?,” Jung reminisced, late in life, in the presence of his assistant Aniela Jaffe. “I had been quite at sea. How was I to tell him that I had sung her a lullaby with my mother’s voice? Enchantment like that is the oldest form of medicine.”
     Ancient and indigenous peoples know that the right song is a way of transferring power and of raising and entertaining the spirits. In the Mohawk Indian language, the word for song, ka'renna, literally means, "I am putting forth my power. In the language of the Temiar-Senoi of the Malaysian rainforest, a song of power, typically delivered by a dream, is a norng, which means a "roadway"; this may a path for the soul between the worlds, or a path for the traveler through the jungles of everyday life.
    When I open circles, we often sing a song for Mother Bear I have borrowed from the Mohawk people. It is both a shaman song that calls the great medicine animal of North America into the gathering, and a traditional lullaby used to comfort children in the night.
Don't cry little one
Don't cry little one
The Bear is coming to dance for you
The Bear is coming to dance for you
    When Jung acted, spontaneously and intuitively, to bring healing with an old lullaby, he acted in the tradition of the spirit singers and word doctors all our ancestors new and valued. We need to reclaim their ways.

Art: Child with Boat by Edmund Tarbell (1899)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Paleopsych 101

At a benefit dinner, the wife of a bank president asked me, “What exactly is it that you do?”
      I told her, “I’m a paleolithic psychologist.”
     She nodded respectfully, possibly associating me with the clinical psychiatrist seated above the salt.
I had stolen the phrase from Frederic Myers, the great Victorian psychic researcher. Myers coined the term Paleolithic psychology as an erudite joke, to describe “the habits of thought of the savage who believes that can travel in dreams.”  He apologized to his respectable readers for “the apparent levity of a return to conceptions so enormously out of date” — while sowing the seed of doubt that “modern science” had actually surpassed the “primitive” understanding of the soul.
     Myers chose the path of true science, which is always ready to revise the reigning hypotheses in the light of fresh evidence.  In his master work Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, he wrote: “My own ignorance…I recognize to be such that my notions of the probable or improbable in the universe are not of weight enough to lead me to set aside any facts which seem to me well-attested.” He arrived at a “root-conception” of “the dissociability of the self, of the possibility that different fractions of the personality can act so far independently of each other that the one is not conscious of the other’s actions,” and that “segments of the personality can operate in apparent separation from the organism.” Myers observed such phenomena in “true apparitions” of the departed, but also in “traveling clairvoyance” by living persons, which sometimes produce “phantasms of the living” that are visible in other places.
     In his book Primitive Culture, Myers’s contemporary Edward Tylor, who held the first chair of anthropology at Oxford, beautifully summarized the challenge to modern science that is posed by shamans and frequent fliers who are at home with the spirits and often journey in their realms:

The issue raised by the comparison of savage, and civilized spiritualism is this: do the red Indian medicine man, the Tatar necromancer, the Highland ghost-seer and the Boston medium share the possession of a belief and knowledge of the highest truth and import, which, nevertheless, the great intellectual movement of the last two centuries has simply thrown aside as worthless? Is what we are habitually boating of and calling new enlightenment, then, in fact a decay of knowledge? If so, this is a truly remarkable case of degeneration and the savages on whom some ethnographers look as degenerate from a higher civilization may turn on their accusers and charge them with having fallen from the high level of savage knowledge.

The basic insights of paleopsychology are as follows:
  1. Spirits are real.
  2. We are not alone: we live in a multidimensional universe peopled with beings — spirits of nature, gods and daimons, angels and ancestors — who take a close interest in our affairs and influence our lives for good or ill.
  3. We are more than our bodies and brains, which are only vehicles for soul.
  4. The soul survives the death of the body.
  5. Soul journeying is the key to the spiritual worlds and the knowledge of ultimate reality. The soul makes excursions outside the body in dreams and visions. The heart of spiritual practice is to learn to shift consciousness at will and travel beyond time and space. Through soul-flight, we return to worlds beyond the physical plane in which our lives have their source and are able to explore many dimensions of the Otherworld.
  6. Souls are corporeal, though composed of much finer substance than the physical body.
  7. People have more than one soul. In addition to the vital soul that sustains physical life — closely associated with the breath — there is a “free soul,” associated with the dreambody, which can travel outside the body and separates from it at physical death, as well as an enduring spirit whose home is on the higher planes.
  8. Souls — or pieces of soul — can be lost or stolen. This is the principal  cause of disease and misfortune.
  9. Some people have more souls than others and have the ability to make excursions to different places at the same time.
  10. At death, different vehicles of soul go to different lots. Through conscious dreaming, it is possible to explore the conditions of the afterlife to prepare for one’s death and to assist souls of the dying and departed.
  11. We are born with counterparts in nature. For example, we are born with a totem animal and a relationship with natural forces (wind or water or lightning) that are part of our basic identity and help to pattern the natural flow of our energy.
  12. We are born with counterparts in other places and times, and in other dimensions of reality. When we encounter them through interdimensional travel, they become allies and sometimes teachers.

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and LifeBeyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: Henri Breuil's sketch of "The Sorcerer", a painting found in the cavern known as "The Sanctuary" at Trois-FrèresAriègeFrance

Saturday, June 18, 2016

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 Australian 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 body. By 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 milennia 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.

     Drawing: "Great Bird" (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Songs from the place between sleep and awake

Tinker Bell advised Peter Pan to look for her in "the place between sleep and awake." It is amazing how little attention is given to this highly creative space in the work of most sleep and dream researchers, and how it is sorely neglected in many modern lives.
    Andreas Mavromatis published an excellent scholarly introduction to what is possible in Hypnagogia:The Unique State of Consciousness between Wakefulness in Sleep in 1991, but his example has not fired up the academic community. In my own book The Secret History of Dreaming, I recount how so many scientific and creative breakthroughs have been made in this liminal space that it can be called the "solution state". In my book Dreamgates I offer a vigorous invitation to would-be lucid dreamers and spiritual adventurers to spend much more time in this twilight state and to use it as the launch pad for conscious dream travel. In my memoir The Boy Who Died and Came Back I describe how, in this state, I have often had access to greater minds and been treated to ongoing tutorials with intelligences I feel to be beyond this world.
    I have been reviewing some fascinating fieldwork by Australian educators that illustrates how the liminal state is viewed in Aboriginal tradition as a privileged place of encounter with ancestral spirits and co-creation.
    The Yanyuwa, an Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, prize "dream state songs". These are given to them during encounters with the spirits in a state of consciousness beyond both ordinary dreams and prophetic dreams (which they recognize as separate categories). Their word for this third and higher state of dreaming is 
mawurrangantharra. It is entered in the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep.
    A person who enters mawurrangantharra finds that boundaries between humans and spirit realms are fluid. The Yanyuwa say that a person in this state has “left the world” and is “deaf” to it. Through contact with ancestral spirits in this state, new songs are created. They are regarded as exceptionally powerful. A mermaid song may rise from the deep in this way, and become part of sacred ceremony. Through dream songs, the relationship between humans and the spirit world is maintained and refreshed.

Source: Elizabeth Mackinlay and J.J. Bradley, “Many songs, many voices, and many dialogues: A conversation about Yanyuwa performance practice in a remote Aboriginal community” (2003) in  Rural Society, vol. 13, pp. 228– 243.

Image: Yanyuwa Body Art by John Veeken.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Case of the Bishop's Pig and Other Dream Stories from Andrew Lang

One of my favorite books on dreams is Andrew Lang’s The Book of Dreams and Ghosts, first published in 1897. The prolific and popular author of the “color” series of fairytales affected a cool skepticism towards this subject material, which allowed him to slide us right into the deep end, recounting cases of timefolding and interdimensional travel in dreams.
    As a consummate storyteller, Lang was always alert for the story value of his material. His main question of dreams is which dreams make the best stories. He concludes that the dreams that make the best stories are those that reveal the “unknown past”, “the unknown present” and the “unknown future”.

Dreams only form subjects of good dream-stories when the vision coincides with and adequately represents an unknown event in the past, the present or the future…If we dreamed of being present at an unchronicled scene in Queen Mary’s life, and if, after the dream was recorded, a document proving its accuracy should be for the first time recovered, then there is matter for a good dream-story.

His references to his own dream life, though modest and brief, suggest he had experiential insight into his subject: “In dreams…we see the events of the past (I have been at Culloden fight and at the siege of Troy)”.
    He collects examples of shared dreams (and uses that term for them):

-          Five members of the Ogilvie family, in different locations dream that a family dog – a poodle called Fanti – goes mad. Subsequently, the poodle lives on, sane and harmless, for the rest of his natural life. However, Lang does not comment on the fact that an action was taken in one of the dreams, in which the family threw the dog into the fire.
-          Three members of the Swithinbanks family (father and two sons) dream the mother’s death on the same night and discover in the morning that indeed she died that night,

Lang also gives several examples of dream tracking (my turn) in which dreams reveal the location of lost objects, making allowance for the possibility that the dreaming mind may simply be making better sense of details half-observed in waking life:

-          a lawyer dreams that a check he has lost is curled around a street railing (he dropped it when he went out to post letters)
-          a girl in Lang’s family dreamed that the missing ducks’ eggs were at a place in a certain field, where they proved to be
-          an Irish lady dreamed a lost key was lying at the root of a certain tree

Lang’s story collection includes one of my all-time favorite accounts of dream precognition, which I discuss in Conscious Dreaming as The Case of the Bishop’s Pig. Here is Lang’s original version:


Mrs. Atlay, wife of a late Bishop of Hereford, dreamed one night that there was a pig in the dining-room of the palace. She came downstairs, and in the hall told her governess and children of the dream, before family prayers. When these were over, nobody who was told the story having left the hall in the interval, she went into the dining-room and there was the pig. It was proved to have escaped from the sty after Mrs. Atlay got up.

“Millions of such things are dreamed”, Lang comments. At first sight, the dream is of “the common grotesque type” – except that it proved to be a quite literalistic preview of an incident that was played out in ordinary life. The Case of the Bishop’s Pig reminds us that we don’t want to skip asking whether elements of a dream could be played out in the future, even when the dream content seems “weird” or “grotesque”.

Art: Prize Pig, Cardiff by Richard Whitford (1872)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Visiting Yeats in the Magic Cottage

I have enjoyed a lifelong relationship with William Butler Yeats. I have always loved his poetry and have been able – since elementary school – to recite long passages from memory. I have had dreams and visions of Yeats and his circle for as long as I can remember. He was not only a marvelous poet; he was a Western magus, one of the leading figures in the Order of the Golden Dawn.
      Yeats began to appear in my dreams at night as well as my daydreams and willed journeys in consciousness. In these dreams, I sometimes seemed to be living in his era – sometimes I seemed to meet Yeats in another reality altogether.
      Many years later, I dreamed I received a message from him inviting me to visit him at home. I was not sure where ‘home’ for Yeats might now be, but it did not appear to be in Ireland. In a subsequent vision, in that promising state of fluid awareness that sometimes develops in the hypnagogic zone between waking and sleep (or vice versa), I found myself floating above my body, up through the ceiling, and then through some kind of mesh that looked like an intricately woven fabric or netting.
     I was drawn up as if a traction beam had been turned on. I was under no compulsion, but I let myself rise on the intention of the one who was calling me. I had no doubt who that was. His lines were running through my head:

I shall arise and go there, and go to Innisfree…

Oh, yes, the early poem that has been quoted so often that Yeats himself got bored and irritated by it, vastly preferring the maturity and complexities of his later work. But its rhythms helped me travel, helped me swim through the subtle air. You don’t reject a wing song that works (and indeed, Yeats wrote many).
      I passed through many landscapes, perhaps whole worlds. They were separated by dividing partitions that were sometimes like cloud-banks, sometimes like membranes that stretched to let me through, and sometimes like woven fabric or netting. I came at last to what appeared to be a pleasant country cottage on a winding path. The flower beds were bright with color. It seemed to me that, as I glanced around, the colors at the edge of my peripheral vision would change. Behind the cottage was a gentle river, and on the banks of the river, spires and towers that might have been those of Oxford. I began to drift along the path beside the river and saw another town beyond the first, this one quite certainly Italian; the architecture was that of the Quattrocento Florence or the Urbino that Yeats had loved and sometimes threatened to make his sanctuary from the critics and civil unrest in Ireland.
      I was thrilled that scenes the poet’s words had often conjured in my mind in lesser, drifting states of reverie were now so vividly and palpably available to explore. I hurried toward a palazzo worthy of a Medici that looked as if it has been constructed that day.
      But again there was that tug of another’s intention, and I allowed it to pull me back to the cottage. Did the cottage really have a thatched roof before, or was that detail changed while I was looking elsewhere?
     Through the door, long a hall, and there was Yeats, sitting at a broad table covered with books and papers. Through the leaded glass window at his left hand I saw the cities along the river; they changed from one to another at the blink of an eye. I was excited to see that Yeats was continuing to study and to write. I wondered whether it hampered or helped his craft that his new work would not be published on earth. He was patient with me, letting me gradually awaken to the understanding that, from his new perspective, the most important from of publication might be to inspire others, to operate as one of those ‘teachers of the thirteenth cone’ he wrote about in A Vision.
      He showed me a large blue crystal lying on his desk. He was most insistent that I should use this blue stone for creative inspiration and to open and focus the third eye of vision. This blue crystal was a place in which to see, and a connection between the two of us.           
      He gave me some personal guidance and an update on certain psychic crosscurrents involving individuals and group that had been caught up in psychic battles in the past, in the time of the great rift within the Order of the Golden Dawn and in the darker times of the struggle between British magicians and the Nazi occultists. I asked Yeats where exactly we were.
      He told me very precisely: “We are on the fourth level of the astral plane”. It seemed this was a neighborhood essentially reserved for people of creative genius, for writers and artists and musicians.
      I felt immensely privileged to have been given this tour of Yeats’s environment. It was not clear to me whether he lived in the cottage alone; I was not shown the private rooms. I did feel quite certain that this Yeats was embarked on a vast new project, though its exact nature was not yet made clear to me.

Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

Drawing: "Yeats in the Magic Cottage" (c) Robert Moss

How do you look in the dreams of your parallel self?

I slip in and out of the lives of parallel selves, and others, in dreams and in reverie. I am open to the idea that they are leading continuous lives, on parallel event tracks, and that from their points of view, I am a character that exists in their dreams, when they remember dreams.
    It requires little imagination for me to picture a worldly-wise Robert with a much fatter bank account and a different view of reality sitting down to Sunday brunch and talking about a dream in the following way: “I had the strangest dream last night. I was in Dracula country, in the mountains of Transylvania, or some such place. I was persuaded to hire some evil-looking road cowboy to drive me up a crazy one-lane road to see some natural feature the locals call their Sphinx. They said he boasted that he had killed a fox on that road and cut off the head as a trophy. The next moment, he had driven us halfway off a cliff.”
    What my parallel Robert might recall as an odd dream was a quite literal, physical event for me. On a dream archaeology expedition in Romania in October 2012, I set off with local friends to see the Sphinx of Bucegi, a celebrated natural rock formation regarded as a major energy spot, near a cave associated with an ancient shaman-god of the Dacians and the mystical White Wolf said to watch over this land.   
     We walked through the woods from the pleasant
pensiune we had booked for my workshop, facing the  Caraiman monastery, whose construction was inspired by a priest who dreamed of a church that needed to be built around a fir tree at this site. We intended to ride up the mountain to the Sphinx by cable car, but a road cowboy with a four-wheel drive persuaded us to hire him. This proved to be the wildest ride of my life, up a steep, narrow road with hairpin bends and no railings at the edge of dizzying cliffs. The road was often partly blocked by construction or landslides, and we frequently encountered cars and trucks rushing down in the middle of the road as if bent on a head-on collision.   
     The road cowboy drove as if possessed, but I assumed this was local custom and he knew what he was doing. I could not follow his conversation with my Romanian friends, but I was struck by his hand-waving animation as he recounted a story at a point where the road was only dirt and craters and lumps of rock. Soon after, the driver made a wild swerve to the right to get around a protruding boulder, taking us to the edge of the cliff — and then partway over. We were now stuck in the dirt, hanging over the cliff, as the driver gunned the car back and forth, succeeding only in getting us deeper into the dirt, while the Jeep leaned, little by little, further over the cliff.
    “Time to get out of the car,” I said quietly.   
     We left the driver with the vehicle, phoning for help, and walked for twenty minutes down the winding road to a
cabină— a rustic inn and restaurant — to recover with Ursus beer and spicy sausages. On the walk, my friends told me that just before he nearly took all of us over the cliff, the driver had been boasting about how he had killed a fox on that section of mountain road and then decapitated the fox to mount its head on a wall as a trophy.   
     It seemed we had traveled that day with a man under a fox’s curse. Through it all, I felt oddly detached, and never in real danger, as if we had been under the protection of an unseen hand. Perhaps it was the man who had taken the fox’s head who was under the real danger on that high and stony road.
    My parallel Robert, remembering this as a dream, might discuss it as a set of symbols, seeking a Freudian or a Jungian interpretation. He might shrug off the dream as simply "bizarre", or attribute it to something he ate. He might give some thought to foxes and fox hunters, and the possibility that he might travel to Romania and should consider his transportation options carefully. If he has read Jung, he may study the fox-cursed driver as the Shadow, and the Romanian girls as anima figures, and the Sphinx of the mountains as a form of the Self that is hard to attain.
    Wherever his mind turns, my parallel self is likely to miss the fact that what is a dream for him was a physical experience for me. But wait - who am I to judge? Some mornings, when I return from his life, I talk as if he is my creation. When I share dream reports in French, I say, "J'ai fait un 
rêve", "I made a dream", which implies that I made him.  I don't know whether his French is better than mine (I hope so!), but I can hear him talking as if he made me.

I suggest the following thought experiment: Imagine you are in the situation of a parallel self who is trying to make sense of events in your day as scenes from a dream.

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.

Photo: In the Bucegi Mountains of Romania, 2012

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bear in the Secret Library

I have a secret library in my house. It contains several rooms filled with rare and precious books, many of them beautifully bound, arranged on bookcases that rise to the ceiling.
     It's hard to believe, but I often forget the very existence of this amazing cache. Often I remember it only when I am thinking of moving. Then I am in a lather to make sure that I don't leave any of the most important books behind. This task is not straightforward, because now I must find the concealed entrance to the secret library. Things have to be moved to free the wall without a door that will swing open if I can remember how to work the hidden catch.
     I remember a night when it took me a while to move what needed to be moved and open the false wall. Then I was able to go down a broad, rather grand staircase. I was surprised and delighted to see something unexpected on the bottom step: a very large bearskin. As I descended to it, the bearskin rose up and became a huge brown bear. I was so happy to be with Bear. I hugged him and danced around with him.
    Then I noticed that the whole first room of the library was full of animals. At first they looked like taxidermy specimens, stiff and stuffed. In front of the fireplace, noses in the air, were two great dogs who once lived with me; I loved them fiercely. Elsewhere in the room, I saw a red fox, a wolf, a mountain lion, a stag, a moose. As I moved around the room, they all came alive and I found myself at a joyous reunion with a council of animal guardians.
    Libraries can hold more than books. In your dreams, as in mine, you may find yourself in possession of a secret library. Try to remember it tonight, and see what you may want to transfer from your dream life into your waking world: knowledge that has always belonged to you, on another level;a book you have not yet written but can now bring through; a renewed connection with your animal spirits.

Photo by RM.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Punching a Hole in the World: Listening to Children's Dreams

Young children know how to go to Magic Kingdoms without paying for tickets, because they are at home in the imagination and live close to their dreams. When she was very young, my daughter Sophie had adventures in a special place called Teddy Bear Land, where she met a special friend. I loved hearing about these travels, and encouraged her to make drawings and spin further stories from them.
    One day Sophie sat down beside me and asked with great earnestness, "Daddy, would you like to know how I get to Teddy Bear Land?"
   "I'd love to."
    "Sometimes I take the Sun Gate. Sometimes I take the Moon Gate. Sometimes I take the Tree Gate. Sometimes I take the Rainbow Bridge. And sometimes I just punch a hole in the world."
    I've never heard anyone say it better. To live the larger life. we need to punch a hole in the world. This is what dreaming - sleeping or waking or hyper-awake - is really all about. On our roads to adulthood, we sometimes forget how to do it, just as older children in the Chronicles of Narnia cease to be able to see Aslan as they approach adolescence and become more and more burdened by the reality definitions of the grown-ups around them.
     When we listen, truly listen, to very young children, we start to remember that the distance between us and the Magic Kingdoms is no wider than the edge of a sleep mask. True listening requires us to pay attention; to attend, in its root meaning in the Latin, is to stretch ourselves, which requires us to expand our vocabulary of understanding. We owe nothing less to the young children in our lives. When we do this, we discover that they can be our very best teachers on how to dream and what dreaming can be.
      Here's what we need to know about listening to children's dreams and supporting their imaginations:

1. Listen up! When a child wants to tell a dream, make room for that. Make some daily space for dream sharing. Listen to the stories and cherish them for their own sake.

2. Invite good dreams Pick the right bedtime reading or better still, tell stories. Help your child to weave a web of good dream intentions for the night - for example, by asking "What would you most like to do tonight?" Encourage children to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal (whether teddy bear or T-Rex) and make this a dream guardian.

3. Provide immediate help with the scary stuff If your child was scared by something in the night, recognize you are the ally the child needs right now. Do something right away to move out that negative energy. Get a frightened child to spit it out (literally) or draw a picture of what scared her and tear it up as violently as possible.

4. Ask good questions. When the child has told her story, ask good questions. Ask about feelings, about the color of the sky, and about exactly what T-Rex was doing. See if there's something about the future. Say what you would think about this if this were your dream. Always come up with something fun or helpful to do with this story. Open up the crayon box, call grandma, etc.

5. Help the child to keep a dream journal. Get this started as early as possible. With a very young child, you can help with the words while they do the pictures. When your child reaches the point where she closes the journal and says, "This is my secret book and you can't read it any more" do not peek. Give her privacy, and let her choose when she'll let you look in that magic book.

6. Provide tools for creative expression. Encourage the child to bring dreams come alive through art, dance, theater and games, and to draw or paint dreams. Gather friends and family for dream-inspired games and performance. Puppets and stuffed animals can be great for acting out dreams. This can also be dress-up time. It's such a release for kids to portray mom or dad or other grown-ups in their lives - be ready to be shocked!

7. Help construct effective action plans Dreams can show us things that require further action - for example, to avoid an unhappy future event that was previewed in the dream, or to put something right in a family situation. A child will probably need adult help with such things, starting with your help. may require adult help, starting with yours. This will eventually require you to learn more about dreaming and dreamwork (hint: you can start with my books).

 8. Let your own inner child out to play As you listen to children's dreams, let the wonderful child dreamer inside you come out and join in the play.

9. Keep it fun! When you get the hang of this, you'll find it's about the best home entertainment you can enjoy.

Notice two things that are not on this list, but would be at the very top of a list of what NOT to do with your children's dreams: 

1. NEVER say to a child "It's only a dream". Children know that dreams are for real and that scary stuff that comes out in dreams needs to be resolved, not dismissed.
2. DON'T INTERPRET a child's dreams.You are not the expert here; the child is.

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

Photo by RM

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The shaman as poet of consciousness

Poets, it’s said, are shamans of words. True shamans are poets of consciousness. Journeying into a deeper reality with the aid of sung and spoken poetry, they bring back energy and healing through poetic acts, shapeshifting physical systems. When we dream, we tap directly into the same creative source from which poets and shamans derive their gifts. When we create from our dreams, and enter dreamlike flow, we become poets and artists. When we act to bring the energy and imagery of dreams into physical reality, we become poets of consciousness and infuse our world with magic.
    In Birth of a Poet, William Everson raised a clamorous appeal for poets to reawaken to their shamanic calling: “O Poets! Shamans of the word! When will you recover the trance-like rhythms, the subliminal imagery, the haunting sense of possession, the powerful inflection and enunciation to effect the vision? Shamanize! Shamanize!” Across the centuries, many of our greatest poets have recognized their kinship with the shaman’s way of shifting awareness and shapeshifting reality. As his name in a spiritual order, Goethe chose the name of a legendary shaman of antiquity, Abaris, who came flying out of the Northern mists on an arrow from Apollo’s bow.   
    Our earliest poets were shamans. Today as in the earliest times, true shamans are poets of consciousness who know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that through the play of words, sung or spoken, the magic of the Real World comes dancing into the surface world. The right words open pathways between the worlds. The poetry of consciousness delights the spirits. It draws the gods and goddesses who wish to live through us closer.
     Shamans use poetry, sung or spoken, to achieve ends that go deeper than our consensual world. They create poetic songs of power to invoke spiritual help; to journey into nonordinary reality; to open and maintain a space between the worlds where interaction between humans and multidimensional beings can take place and to bring energy and healing through to the body and the physical world.
     The South American
 paye takes flight with the help of “wing songs”. These flight songs help him to borrow the wings of the kumalak bird [a kind of kite] that is a main ally of shamans.   
      Among the Inuit, the strongest shamans are also the most gifted poets. One of the reasons their spirit helpers flock around them is that they are charmed and exhilarated by the angakok’s poetic improvisations. Inuit shamans have a language of their own, which is often impenetrable to other Eskimos. It is a language that is never still. It bubbles and eddies, opening a whirlpool way to the deep bosom of the Sea-goddess, or a cavernous passage into the hidden fires of Earth.
      My favorite Inuit shaman-word is the one for “dream”. It looks like this:
 kubsaitigisak. It is pronounced “koov-sigh-teegee-shakk”, with a little click at the back of the throat when you come to the final consonant. It means “what makes me dive in headfirst.” Savor that for a moment, and all that flows with it. A dream, in Eskimo shaman-speech, is something that makes you dive in headfirst. Doesn’t this wondrously evoke the kinesthetic energy of dreaming, the sense of plunging into a deeper world? Doesn’t it also invite us to take the plunge, in the dream of life, and burst through the glass ceilings and paper barriers constructed by the daily trivial self?

None of this is any secret to anyone of Celtic heritage. The arts of "goodly speech", of turning the world and stepping between the worlds with the aid of story and song, are central to the ways of Celtic magic. The song of shapeshifting is one of the great Celtic art forms. Many will remember the great Song of Amergin, in which the bard of the Milesians lays claim to Ireland. It begins like this, in Robert Graves’ elegant version:
I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

Shamans know further uses for poetry. They use song and poetic speech call the soul back home, into the bodies of those who have lost vital energy through pain or trauma or heartbreak. From their own journeys, they bring back poetic imagery that can help to shapeshift the body’s energy template in the direction of health.
    Mainstream Western physicians agree that the body believes in images and responds to them as if they are physical events. By bringing the right images through from the dreaming, the poets of consciousness explain dis-ease in ways that help the patient get well, and interact with the body and its immune system on multiple levels without invasive surgery. This is the work of the word doctor.

Adapted from Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.
Image: "The Bard" by John Martin (1817)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dream bruises, dream love-bites and other cases of astral repercussion

What if in your dream you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower and what if when you awoke you had that flower in your hand?

Coleridge's famous question is not a hypothetical to active and conscious dreamers, who notice various types of bleedthrough between different dimensions of reality and experience.
    A nurse who took part in one of my early dream classes later told me she had dreamed of a visitation from a being that was half woman, half deer. Waking in her second floor apartment, she found deer scat on her floor. Trying to make sense of this (nurses are no-nonsense, practical people) she recognized that a deer might have wandered onto the grounds of her apartment complex. But she was quite certain there was no way it could have gotten up her stairs or through her window! She was content to accept the unlikely deer poop as a sign from the deeper universe that her visitation had been absolutely for real. She later found the deer-woman turning up as a guide when she was caring for patients, especially the dying who needed help to prepare for their journeys beyond this world.
    One of the most common bleedthroughs from the realm of dream or astral experience into the world of the body is astral repercussion, to use a term favored by Dion Fortune and her peers. This is what happens when what is experienced in the astral body during its excursions outside the physical body leaves physical marks when it returns.
    While Fortune described cases where this kind of thing can be seriously depleting, even life-threatening, to the experiencer, astral repercussion may be a routine side effect of getting out and about in a subtle energy body, sometimes wholly benign and even entertaining. In the first letter from Lady Valerie D'Arcy in my novel Fire Along the Sky, she protests that an amorous visit from her lover in the form of a leopard-man left her with bite marks on her body; this fictional scene was drawn from experience!
    Let me give an example from my dream life during a lazy week of summer vacation on Lake Champlain. I spent my time swimming and reading, dining well, spending a lot more time in bed overnight than is my typical pattern. My body's peace and ease over those summer days was balanced by the nocturnal adventures of my dream self. 
    In a dream thriller that could easily be filmed in the style of The Bourne Identity, I go on a wild ride through the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. We have to dodge road-blocks and predatory packs that are out to stop cars and rob their drivers and passengers, or worse. The predators use all sorts of stratagems to get drivers to stop, sometimes pushing children in front of the cars. When they do that to us, I grab control of the steering wheel from my driver, managing to avoid hitting a child being used as bait, so we escape the trap. I hurt my arm making this maneuver, but pay little attention because soon I am caught up in a big-stakes international intrigue.
    I woke happy and excited. I felt like I had stepped into a movie to play an Action Man hero, and this was really enjoyable. But - uh, oh - how did that bruise come to appear on the underside of my left upper arm? There really was no physical cause I could locate. On the other hand, there was all that action in the dream, and the pain I experienced during the car chase. Someone had jabbed something at me through the window of the car, in that mad ride through the Bois de Boulogne.
   Inter-dimensional bleedthroughs bring us awake to the fact that we are engaged in more than one order of reality, and that what happens beyond our default (physical) reality may not only be no less real, but sometimes more so. If the dream gave me the bruise, then which was more real: my night escapade in Paris, or my lazy day by a lake in Vermont?

Dearest Shane,

I dream you as the leopard. Last night you came to me in his skin.You frightened me, pressing against my face. I knew you by the eyes.
     This night vision was entirely real. As I write this, I feel the places in my body you praised and fed. 
I cannot undress in front of Sir Henry tonight, even if he begs me to do it, because I have bite marks and a spectacular bruise, ovoid and empurpled as an eggplant, blooms on my inner thigh. 
     Can you cause a leopard, Shane?

- love letter from Lady Valeie D'Arcy to Shane Hardacre, the opening page of my novel Fire Along the Sky published by Excelsior Editions. Please note that only the second edition contains the letters.