Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When a dream won't let you go

There are dreams that won't let you go. You leave a dream in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom - and as soon as you are back in bed and close your eyes, you are back in the same dream, and the action continues. You wake up again. This time you make a definite break. You might get a snack, read or watch television, or step outside and look at the moon. You go back to bed again, and as soon as you close your eyes, you are back in the same dream.
    This happened to me overnight. Though multiple awakenings, I found myself returning, again and again, to an adventure unfolding in Japan. I don't think I was my present self. At any rate, I was much younger. A Japanese magnate and his beautiful assistant were trying to recruit me for a certain project. The technology involved was beyond anything I know about, but perhaps quite plausible. they explained it to me as "making fire from water" and demonstrated by using a few drops of fluid to fuel a heavy vehicle that raced to the top of a mountain. One of the executives confided, over dinner, that the greatest resource of the company is "imagination" and that is why they were talking to me.
     Intrigued, I made no attempt to get away from the dream. Towards the end of the night, I lay in horizontal meditation, hoping that more of the plot would be revealed, since I might have the makings of a story here, of a kind that H.G,Wells might approve.
    In one of his most masterful short stories, Wells gives a darker version of a dream that won't let you go. In  “A Dream of Armageddon”, a white faced stranger on a train – a solicitor from Liverpool – strikes up a conversation with the narrator when he notices that he has a book about dreams. 

    "Isn't there something called consecutive dreaming - that goes on night after night?"
    "I believe there is. There are cases given in most books on mental trouble."

    The stranger says that the psychologists don’t know what they are talking about. He has lived and died many years into the future, and he knows this because of consecutive dreams more real than his current life.

I dreamed that I was another man, you know, living in a different part of the world and in a different time. Night after night I woke into that other life. Fresh scenes and fresh happenings - until I came upon the last 

    He begins his story by describing himself looking at the shoulder of a beautiful woman, and over her shoulder, at a beautiful view of Capri from a loggia. The white-faced man has never been to Capri in his current life, but his interlocutor has, and is amazed by the accuracy and vividness of his description of its landscapes, of Mount Solano, of I Faraglioni: "Just below us was a rock with an arch worn through it. The blue sea-water broke to green and foam all around the rock..."
    The clarity of detail he recalls is amazing.
    Then there is his sense that the action is constantly moving forward, whether he is conscious of his dreams or not. Four days pass when he does not remember dreams, then he is back on the island of Capri, in a future world, and everything has moved forward by four days.   

I dreamed often. For three weeks of nights that dream was my life. And the worst of it was there were nights when I could not dream, when I lay tossing on a bed in this accursed life; and there - somewhere lost to me - things were happening - momentous, terrible things...I lived at nights - my days, my waking days, this life I am living now, became a faded, far-away dream...

    In dream after dream, the solicitor finds himself immersed in the life drama of a powerful man who left government in the “north” to live with his lover on Capri. He is now being urged to go back, because a dangerous demagogue has replaced him and could start a world war. To return, he would have to give up his mistress and he refuses to do this even when she begs him to follow duty and save the world from war.
    We see the first warplanes (not yet flying in Wells’ time) over the pleasure island. Eventually we see the couple flee Capri and seek safety on the peninsula. They are killed at the ruined temples at Paestum (and again the narrator confirms the description of a man who hasn’t been there in his present life). The solicitor describes dying without pain, followed by blackness and then a desperate and apparently failed attempt to rejoin his love on the Other Side - and then the conversation ends as the train stops at Euston station.
    The story, written before Kitty Hawk and World War I and moving walkways (also part of the dream of the future), has been admired for its vision of coming technology and man-made catastrophe. It’s also an extraordinary depiction of how in dreams we may inhabit a second life – in this case an unwanted one, in a different body in a different time, in the future rather than the past.
   The consecutive dreams to which we are called again and again may be full of beauty or terror, mystery or adventure. We want to record them carefully, building memory in our present reality of what is playing in others and capable - with that knowledge - of being ready for the next installment, hopefully capable of making better choices in any world we find ourselves in.

Quotations are from "A Dream of Armageddon" by H.G. Wells, first published in Black and White Budget, May-June 1901.

Photo: I Faraglioni, Capri

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Soul alchemy in the friendly silence of the Moon

When we are passionately engaged in a creative venture - love, art or something else that is really worthwhile - we draw support from other minds and other beings, seen and unseen. According to the direction of our will and desire, and the depth of our work, those minds may include masters from other times and other beings. We draw greater support the greater the challenges involved in our venture. Great spirits love great challenges.
      There is great clarity on how this works in W.B.Yeats' essay Per Amica Silentia Lunae. The title means “The Friendly Silence of the Moon”. He borrowed it from Virgil's description of the Greeks approaching Troy by stealth. Under the poet's moon, Yeats explains how we  can develop a co-creative relationships with minds operating in other times and on other planes of reality. Let's notice that when he refers (in the first line) to "fellow-scholars" he is not thinking about people of his own time, but minds that are working and reaching out from beyond time and space:

I had fellow-scholars, and now it was I and now they who made some discovery. Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a Great Memory passing on from generation to generation.
    But that was not enough, for these images showed intention and choice. They had a relation to what one knew and yet were an extension of one’s knowledge. If no mind was there, why should I suddenly come upon salt and antimony, upon the liquefaction of gold, as they were understood by the alchemists, or upon some detail of cabbalistic symbolism verified at last by a learned scholar from his never-published manuscripts, and who can have put it together so ingeniously?...
   The thought was again and again before me that this study had created a contact or mingling with minds who had followed a like study in some other age, and that these minds still saw and thought and chose. 

As well as the "mingling with minds" from other times and dimensions, Yeats wrote, with poetic clarity, about relations with the creative spirit he called the daimon. The daimon lends or withholds its immense energy from our lives according to whether we choose the big agenda or the little one. The daimon is bored by our everyday vacillations and compromises and withdraws its presence when we choose against the grand passion and the Life Work, the soul's purpose. 
    The daimon loves us best, Yeats perceived, when we choose to attempt “the hardest thing among those not impossible.”

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

Art: "The Silver Apples of the Moon" by Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh (1865-1933)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

In the treasure cave

On the shortest day of the year, I am down in my creative Cave, once more engaged in reading, transcribing and harvesting from my journals over many decades. There are fantastic dramas here, mythic trouble (and delight) and tremendous trans-temporal adventures in which sometimes I enter the situation of my counterparts in other times, and sometimes they join me in mine. We bring each other gifts and challenges, allies and adversaries from other times and other worlds.
     When I read a report of a dream or vision recorded long ago, it comes alive and I am often able to reenter it fully, and make sense of its nature and context with the benefit of what I have learned. Thus I am able to track continuous lives, being lived by my parallel and counterpart selves in other realities, remembered and recorded as dreams. From the viewpoint of those parallel selves, my life in ordinary reality is the dream, or the ghost trail.
     I feel sympathy and compassion as I monitor how younger Roberts tried to make sense of all this while lacking any really helpful mentor in this reality, and how they struggled to keep body and soul together on the roads of this world. I wonder, as I consider how “past” and “future” aspects of myself looked in on each other and sent each other mental texts, whether my present acts of observation are changing things in, say, 1987-1988.
     That thought quickens my interest in those journals that aren’t really old. I am in a treasure cave. But as in the Indiana Jones type of adventure where the floor gives way and the roof starts to fall when you touch a precious object, there are rather strict limits to how long I can safely remain in the cave, and how much I can bring out, on each visit. So I move softly and slowly, tiptoeing around the floor in a kind of hopscotch rather than plodding up and down, taking a little from the chest over there, then something from the one on the other side. A raven’s feather, an ancient treatise on the imagining spirit, a Celtic cloak pin, a flying carpet.

Solstice blessings!

Photo of Deinkuyu from buzzworthy.com

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The birthday of the Sun of God

In my neighborhood, Hebe, cupbearer to the Olympian gods, is now decked out in Christmas trimmings on the porch of a townhouse.  Though she would probably prefer to be wearing vine leaves, she may be relaxed because she will remember that Christmas decorations - especially anything involving a tree - were borrowed from the followers of the old gods. Even the date of Christmas, which is almost certainly not the literal birthday of Jesus, is taken from the old religions
    Nobody knows for sure when Jesus was born, but it is rather unlikely that it was on December 25th. The famous early bishop, Clement of Alexandria, who died in 215, wrote that many Christians in his day believed that Jesus was born in April. December 25 was only recognized as the birthday of Jesus by the Church in Rome in the mid-fourth century, and it took centuries for the date to be adopted by Christian congregations elsewhere. The church in Jerusalem only adopted the date in the 7th century. It took England a century longer.
    On the other hand, the significance of December 25 in the pagan calendar had long been established. Under The Julian calendar, instituted by command of Julius Caesar in 45 BCE, December 25 was made the date of Bruma, the “shortest” day, meaning the winter solstice. Early European peoples honored the winter solstice as the day of the re-birth of the sun, personified as a god by some, a goddess by others.
     In 274, the soldier-emperor Aurelian proclaimed that December 25 was the birthday of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. This was a composite deity he hoped would be acceptable to believers of all persuasions, including the old worshippers of Helios-Apollo and the Roman legionaries who had adopted the cult of Mithras, a god from the East whose birth from a cave was already celebrated on December 25. So the day we now celebrate as Christmas became Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Day of the Unconquered Son.
     Against this backdrop, it seems more likely than not that intelligent leaders of the early Church were inspired to move Jesus’ birthday to December 25 to claim the glamor of the old winter solstice festivals and to match the religious calendar to the celestial calendar in the way that early peoples had always done, making the coming of the Christos coincide with the re-birth of the sun. This, at any rate, was the opinion of a learned Syriac scholiast, Jacob Bar-Salibi,  who wrote in the 12th century:

It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.

Syncretism – the bringing together of different strands of belief and custom – was characteristic of the old Roman religions; in the mid-4th century, when the Christian leaders chose to make December 25 the birthday of Jesus, it became an act of Church policy. In a ceiling mosaic in the tomb of the Julii, in the necropolis under St Peter’s, we have an arresting visual image of the convergence of the old solar cult with the new religion. It shows the figure of Sol-Helios, the sun god, riding his chariot. Around 250, his image was touched up, to make the rays around his head resemble a cross.
     When we look at the customs and symbols of Christmas that are most loved in our families today, we find that many of them are of pagan origin: the Christmas tree, for starters, but also the holy and the ivy, the mistletoe, the yule log, the giving of gifts, the reindeer that fly through the sky. An early Christian grinch in Britain, Polydor Virgil, thundered that “dancing, masques, mummeries, stageplays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them."
     The happy news is that the grinches will never win (though I’m not so sure about the retailers). The sun returns, and at Christmas all peoples of good heart will share gifts of light and love.

Joyous Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Natalis Invicti!

Top image: Sol Invictus in a mosaic in a necropolis under St Peter's in the Vatican. His aura has been touched up to resemble a cross, presumably by Christians who wished to claim his rays for Christ.

Bottom image: Christmas Hebe photo by RM

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Death calls Jung through the trees

In a cold snap after his wife Emma died, the vine over the front door of Jung’s tower at Bollingen oozed a strange red sap that ran down over his crest. He felt the vine was weeping tears of blood.
    Shortly before his death, Jung dreamed of the “other Bollingen”, the counterpart in another world of the sanctuary he had helped to build with his own hands. The place was suffused with sourceless light. The deep voice he had come to trust told him his new home had been completed and was now ready for him to move in. Far below the tower, he saw a mother wolverine teaching her child to dive and swim in shining water.
    Jung died at quarter to four in the afternoon on June 6, 1961.Two hours after his death, an old poplar in the garden where he had watched the changing moods of the lake was struck by lightning in a sudden storm. The tree survived, but it was completely skinned; great strips of bark covered the garden. Those who knew felt the strong play of synchronicity in the lightning-struck tree.
     Jung might have seen a deeper level of symbolism. In his last recorded dream, he saw a grove of trees “all fibrous roots, coming up from the ground and surrounding him”, with gold threads gleaming among the roots.  He had written that our true life is “invisible, hidden in the rhizome”; what we see in the leaf and bark and blossom passes. Beneath the flux of our surface lives, the rhizome remains. Lightning stripped the bark from the tree, and death stripped away Jung’s body;  life continued, rooted in an unseen world.

- Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

I am leading an adventure in "Dreaming with Jung" in Berkeley, California over the weekend of March 24-25

Photo by RM

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Perennial Jung: "God speaks, chiefly, through dreams and visions"

Near the end of his life, Jung finally managed to put his best and most original ideas in a form that was simple enough to reach a general audience, without diluting or dumbing anything down. He might not have done this except for a dream. After watching Jung's very human interviews with John Freeman for the BBC in 1959, the publisher of Aldus Books had a bright idea: why not ask Jung to write a book for a general audience? 
     Jung's answer, when approached by Freeman, was a flat No. He was now in his 80s, and did not want to take the time that remained to him for this. Then Jung dreamed that he was standing in a public place and lecturing to a multitude of people who were not only listening with rapt attention but understood what he was saying. The dream changed his mind. 
     Jung had said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, "All day long I have exciting ideas and thoughts. But I take up in my work only those to which my dreams direct me." Now he proved this, again, by embarking on the book that was published (after his death) as Man and His Symbols. He conceived it a collaborative effort and invited trusted colleagues like Marie-Louise von Franz to contribute chapters. 
     His personal contribution was a long essay titled "Approaching the Unconscious" . The essay is, first and last, about dreams. He completed it just ten days before the start of his final illness, so this work may be called his last testament. It testifies, above all, to the primary importance of dreams in Jung's psychology and in his vision of human nature and evolution. Jung makes this ringing statement: "It is an age-old fact that God speaks, chiefly, through dreams and visions." 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The case of the headless bear

I was leading a workshop at Maitrea in Prague, on a cobbled street just off Old Town Square, in February. Snow was falling outside. A thoughtful man named David told us he wanted to understand the illness of a family member. This was on his mind as he left our first evening session. I had suggested to everyone in our lively group that they should experiment with “putting a question to the world.” This meant formulating a theme on which they wanted guidance and carrying it with them, in the mind, as they went out into the external environment. The game would then be to receive the first unusual, unexpected thing that turned up in their field of perception in the world around them as a possible response from the oracle of the world.
David walked down the snowy street and turned left into Old Town Square. He saw an amazing scene unfolding in front of him. A headless bear was being pursued across the square by a pack of animals of various kinds. The headless bear was a man in a bear outfit, missing the head. As David tried to grasp the nature of this astonishing theater, he saw a fox being chased by a second pack of animals.
When he shared the episode with us in our morning session, we all felt that the world had staged a special production, a dream theater, just for him. There was a fine run of coincidence at work. On my first evening in Prague, I had taken a table at a restaurant in front of the astrological clock in the Old Town Hall, waiting for six o’clock to chime and the procession of sainted figures to emerge from behind their shutters. I heard these words in English wafting from a nearby table: “It was the time when the fox drank water with the bears.” Though tempted to get up and ask the speaker for the context, I was content to let the mystery words hover in the air. They had the quality of an enchanted children’s story, full of wonder, and also gave me a sense of confirmation the animal powers would be very active with my workshop group in Prague, in harmonious ways, as indeed proved to be the case.
During my first drumming on the first evening of the Prague workshop, I saw Bear and Fox standing on either side of a great tree, urging me to invite the group to enter the tree without delay, through a door among the roots, to seek consultation with the animal doctors in the way that had proved wonderfully successful in my workshop in Utrecht the previous weekend.
Now I proceeded to discuss what the theater of the headless bear and the running fox would mean to me if I were seeking guidance on someone’s illness and the way to healing. I suggested that our dreamer might want to help his sick relative find ways to connect with Bear and Fox, perhaps by growing a story for him that would carry the energy. We talked about the Bear as a great medicine animal and about the cleverness of Fox as an animal that must be able both to hunt and to hide and that has been — for me — an impeccable guide to ancestral matters, which can carry the code for contemporary complaints and also their cure. I have noticed that people who are attacking bears in their dreams, or running away from them, are often avoiding their personal medicine.
At night, in dreams, we sometimes feel that a company of players and scriptwriters are staging productions to dramatize certain themes in our lives. The case of the headless bear confirmed what Shakespeare taught us: that all the world’s a stage, as well.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and CameBack by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo of Old Town Prague by RM. February 2013.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Healer of all, come blessed one

Dream incubation has been a preferred way of seeking life direction in most human cultures as far back as we can trace. If you believe that, in seeking dream guidance, you are approaching a sacred source, then you will probably use some form of prayer or ritual as you seek help from that power. 
     In the Greek Magical Papyri we read this invocation:

Sender of true oracles
while I sleep send me your unerring skill
to read what is and and will be

     If we have a big request, it is important to ask nicely. Aelius Aristides, an ancient Greek orator who walked very close to his god – Asklepios, the patron of dream healing – used to phrase his requests as follows: “Lord, I ask for the guidance (or health, or resources) my body requires to serve the purposes of the soul.” A human who asks that way might hope to engage the support of a power behind the scenes.    
     The journey to a special place – the shrine of a saint, the tomb of an ancestor, a sacred mountain, an ancient tree – has often been part of a full-dress dream incubation. 
     But in our hurried everyday lives, we can make all of this simple. Are you in need of healing, life direction or a solution to a problem? Are you willing to turn to a source beyond the obvious ones? Then approach the night as a place of possible encounter with a power that can answer your questions and help to heal your life. 
     In the Active Dreaming circles I lead, we often invoke the sacred guide and healer by singing these words:

Healer of all, come blessed one

     This is a version of an ancient invocation used in the temples of Asklepios, the god of dream healing. But no personal name is mentioned. So in offering you these words I am not inviting you to sign up for an ancient religion (whether or not that might be a good idea) but to turn towards deeper sources of healing and counsel than are available in ordinary life. You can speak or sing these words in the privacy of your own space, on your way to dreaming.
     You may find it helpful to do something to make your sleeping area more of a sacred place; for example, by foregoing sugar and alcohol for a few hours before sleep, by lighting a candle, and/or by using a special fragrance or placing a little mugwort sachet under your pillow.
     Now you want to set your intention for the night. Make it as simple and clear as possible, and avoid composing a laundry-list of needs and wishes. You can make your request large and spacious:

I ask for guidance on my life path
I open myself to my creative source
I ask for healing

Or you can make it quite specific:

I would like guidance on my job interview.
I ask for healing for my friend in hospital.
I would like to see what will happen during my trip.
I want to prep for the exam.
Should I date the guy I met yesterday?

You will want to be ready to catch whatever your dreams give you whenever you wake. This may involve lingering in the half-dream state after you surface from deeper sleep; this in-between state is one in which important messages often come through.
     If you remember only a small piece from a dream, but your feelings are strong and your sense of direction is clear, you are in luck. Sometimes it is easier to read a plain answer from a short, uncomplicated dream vignette than from a rambling epic, and the energy that comes with a dream is often more important than the specific information it contains.
     If you can’t initially see any connection between the dream your record and the intention that preceded it, be patient and learn to use some detective skills. It’s possible that your dream producers decided to give you something they think you should see rather than what you asked for. All the same, it is always worth playing the game of trying to find a link between the dream and the intention.
     For example, I once sought dream guidance on a personal health issue. In my dream, I was racing a car at high speed up through one of those multi-tiered indoor parking lots, slowing to a stop at a fancy penthouse restaurant where a famous publisher was waiting to host me for lunch. I woke feeling marvelous. The dream might seem to have little or no obvious connection with my intention, but I could see a health advisory in my wild ride up through the vertical parking lot, and an Rx in my meeting with the publisher, since for me creative writing that results in publication has always been healing.
    Here is my account of a bigger personal experience, which came when I set the intention of opening myself to a source of sacred healing during the night.

A night of Asklepian dream healing

I set the clear and simple intention: “I wish to be healed.” I add a second statement: “I ask for the health of body and mind required to serve my spiritual purpose.”
-I stretch out of the bed. Immediately, I see an enormous serpent. It is gray-blue, and could be twenty feet long. I see the dark slits of its pupils, quite close to me, in a head larger than my own. I do not feel fear, but there is a strong sense of the uncanny, the presence of a transpersonal other. I feel this is the Asklepian serpent, a power mastered for healing. The form of the god appears less distinctly, like a living statue. Also the form of a large dog with tall pointy ears.
-     I resolve to let the snake enter my energy field and do anything required for healing. I begin to experience movements of the serpent energy through my chakras, starting at the root center and moving upwards. There are moments of gentle physical pressure or constriction as it passes through some of my energy centers – of slight pressure in the heart, of a little constriction at the throat. The movement ceases to flow smoothly at the vision center, where I had been experiencing pressure and blurring. An experimental probe, not pushing too hard.
     The movement loops down and back, returning to try again. I invoke Light as well, and feel the presence and blessing of a being of Light I know well. I feel a process of healing has been initiated, and will be played out over time, if I allow it to be.
-    All of this has been enacted in the liminal state of wake-dream the French used to call dorveille, which is where much of the work of Asklepian healing (I believe) took place, Now I let myself drift towards sleep, hoping for the gift of further healing in the dreamspace. That gift came in the form of an amazing and energizing sleep dream that connected my personal healing to new creative endeavors, writing new books and bringing them to the world.

However, you don’t want to ask for big messages, let alone big favors, every night. That becomes wearisome to everyone engaged, and can end by trivializing and cheapening the process. On the other hand, I see no objection to putting a simple request like the following one to the dream oracle fairly frequently:

Show me what I need to see 

If you try that, be ready for some shocks! Our dream producers see our needs and issues from a different angle than we do.


Please see chapter 4 of my book The Secret History of Dreaming for a full account of Asklepian dream incubation.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The dream that is a song that is a road

Dreams bring us images and energy for healing and revitalizing our lives. These gifts may be delivered through the vehicle of a song.
    My Celtic ancestors lay in tomb-like spaces in the dark, sometimes with heavy stones on their bellies, hoping for the gift of awen - poetic inspiration - to burst through in song.
    For the Temiar-Senoi people of the Malaysian rainforest, the greatest gift of a dream is the kind of song they call a norng. The word literally means a "roadway". The dream song can open a road between the worlds. It can also help to open a path through the thickets and obstacles of everyday life.
    In the Mohawk language, which my dreams required me to study, the word for song is karenna, which literally means "I am putting forth my power." In my book Dreamways of the Iroquois, I describe the experience of a Mohawk grandmother of the Turtle Clan who received a healing song in a dream and was able to transfer its energy to a whole circle. As she sang, the veils between the worlds thinned. The whole group became vividly aware of the presence of spirits of the land, including Great Turtle, a form of the teacher of the Deep in the Iroquoian tradition.
    I have been gifted with many songs in my dreams. Sometimes I have to reenter a dream in order to capture all of the words and elements. Once I awakened from a dream in which I was bouncing across lush grass towards an immense tree that resembled a beech. I knew, in the dream, that secrets of life were waiting for me in a world below the roots of that tree. And that there was an entry price. To enter the gate of this tree, I must bring a song. When I rose from my dream, I had the music of this song humming in my mind, but not the words.
    Urgent to move with the dream, I called a close friend who has traveled with me in the way of the shamans over many years. "Can you come over at once? I need you to drum for me." She jumped in her car and was with me in less than an hour.
    As she drummed, I traveled back into my dream. I enjoyed the springiness of the grass under my bare feet, the clean smell of woods and water. Over the drumming, through the drumming, I hummed the little hum that had stayed with me after the original dream. Now the words came too:

Praise and serve the Mother
and let her grace unfold
Praise and serve the Mother
and re-enchant the world. *

The way to the world of our Great Mother Earth now opened to me, through the roots of a world tree. I was healed and nourished in her generous embrace. I found specific guidance, for myself and others, in a kind of creative cave that opened to me, within her realm. This is a place to which I have returned, again and again, to restore my inner compass and replenish my energy.
     The dream song may be a wing song, a song that can help you journey beyond the body, into other worlds, at any time you choose. My dreams have given me many songs of this kind, some of which I share with the circles I lead to power our group shamanic adventures.
     One morning I woke with this song streaming in my mind:

We are sleeping till we're dreaming
We are dreaming till awakening
We're awakening for our homecoming
      into the Land

Anxious that I might lose the tune, I phoned two friends and sang it to them over the line. One made a recording; the other had her musician husband listen in and write down the notes. We have sung this song in many of the adventures I have led since the dream, including our shamanic gathering up on a mountain in the New York Adirondacks last weekend.
     In the Celtic way, we sing to call lost spirit home. In some of the old tales, a part of soul that has left the body is up in a tree, in the form or a bird, and must be charmed by the power of the right song into returning to the heart and the body of the person. In recent gatherings, I have encouraged participants to go to a special tree, with a special song, and call back whatever parts of their spirit may need to come into their bodies and their current lives - a child part lost when the world seemed very cruel, a counterpart personality from another time, an aspect of a greater Self, a bright shining winged soul.
     But what if you have no song?
     Sometimes it will be gifted to you. We have journeyed on wings borrowed from the old ones - songs of the Highland and Islands, and of W.B.Yeats, chants from Africa and Native America, through Baltic dainas and Romanian doinas, rhythms of the orishas. We also share the fresh songs that come through members of our dreaming family. On the way to a workshop on Celtic Dreaming that I was leading, my friend Wanda Burch shared a marvelous song for soul healing that had come to her.

I am calling my spirit back home

She readily agreed to invite the group to use this when they traveled to the special tree to call spirit back home. It worked like a charm then, and has been charming spirits ever since.

Picture: Path of magic at Mosswood Hollow, where I lead many of my retreats in North America.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Calling the Deer

Deepheart, mountain guardian
who harries the hunter
and knows what belongs to us
and what does not,
give us your speed,
your ability to read the land,
to see what is behind us and around us.
May we grow with the seasons
into your branching wisdom
putting up antlers as taproots into the sky
to draw down the power of heaven,
reaching into the wounded places
to heal and make whole,
walking as living candelabra,
crowned with light,
crowning each other with light.

I wrote this invocation many years ago, on a mountain in the Northeast where I lead advanced gatherings of shamanic dreamers. It is a very special place, where we draw on the deep fires of Earth, and the spirits of the land, and where the healing energy of the Deer is very strong.
     The symbolism of the antlers is vitally important in every tradition that knows the cervid family. The antlers represent spiritual connection; they rise above the physical body into the spirit realm. They also embody the power of regeneration; the bones die and fall away and grow back stronger and greater than before. 

Art: L'Arbre et la Brume by Annick Bougerolle

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We dream dreams of the child, and the child dreams of us

I often hear dreams from adults that sound like the products of a child's imagination. One dreamer is menaced by giants. She runs but can't get away - until Superman swoops down to rescue her. Another dreamer is entertained by a strange composite animal, a cross between a jolly pink pig and a hairless dog, with a strip of carpet instead of a tail.
     In such dreams, buildings and people around the dreamer often seem vastly larger than in regular life, as adults and cities might appear from the perspective of a young child. At the same time, the dreamer may find she has the ability to make herself greatly bigger or smaller, like Alice with the "Drink Me" bottles.
     I wonder whether such child-like dreams really are the dreams of the child within the dreamer. They may be returning memories of dreams in early life. They may also be a direct link to the inner child, providing a chance to bring more of her energy, joy and imagination into current life. They may even be a bridge to connect with the child in her Now time, which is past history for the adult except when released from the constraints of linear time, as in dreaming.
    I have given happy examples thus far, but the dreams of the child may of course be filled with challenge and drenched in fear. Those menacing giants may represent abusive adults and authority figures the child can't handle, and Superman is not always available. Yet when the bridge to the child in her own Now time is open, we can slip across it, to offer support and mentoring that may be desperately needed. We can help to provide the heroes our child selves want to be dreaming of.

    I know this: we can travel across time, and we can play mentor and counselor to a younger self, or receive help and guidance from a wiser older self. At the very least, when we reach to that younger self, we can offer the assurance that however much he is suffering, he or she will make it through.
    We dream dreams of the child, and the child dreams of us.

Art: "Jumping Rope" by A.E. (George Russell)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Immrama: Celtic voyages to the West

For the Celts, the road to the Land of the Living, the Islands of the Blessed, runs ever westward, across the sea. The immrama, or “voyage tales”, contain vital keys to the ancient European craft of dying. Despite flawed and faulty transcription, and gaping lacunae, and editing and censoring by pious monks, the Celtic voyage tales still hold the memory of shamanic explorations of the Other Side, and of a deep practice for rehearsing the dying and guiding the departed along the roads of the otherworld. As Caitlin Matthews says wisely in The Celtic Book of the Dead, “The function of the immram is to teach the craft of dying, to pilot the departing soul over a sea of perils and wonders.”
    The earliest of the immrama is the Voyage of Bran mac Febal, transcribed in seventh century. His journey begins when he is alone – unearthly music sends him into deep sleep. He wakes to find a silver branch beside him, blossoming with crystal flowers. A beautiful woman of the Otherworld appears to him in the locked house and sings of the glories of the land from which she has come. In one of the loveliest invitations to a journey in all of world literature, she urges Bran to cross the sea and seek the original Avalon, the Island of Apples:

The Invitation to Avalon

I bring a branch of the apple tree from Emain, from the far island ringed by the shining sea-horses of Manannan mac Lir. A joy to the eyes is the White Silver Plain where the hosts play their games, racing chariot against curragh….
    There is an ancient tree there in fruit and flower, and birds calling from it; every color is shining there, delight is common and the music sweet.

    There is no mourning or betrayal there...

    To be without grief, without sorrow, without death, without any sickness or weakness – this is the sign of Emain, and no common wonder this is.

    Its mists are magical, the sea caresses the shore, brightness falls from the air.

    There are treasures of every hue in the Gentle Land, the Bountiful Land, the sweetest music and the best of wine…
    Marigold horses on the strand, crimson horses, sky-blue horses.
    It is a land of constant weather. Silver is dropping on the land, a pure white cliff on the edge of the sea, warmed by the sand…
    There are three times fifty far islands in the ocean to the west, and every one of them twice or three times more than the land you know.
    It is not to all that I am speaking, though I have made these wonders known to all who hear me. Let you who are ready listen from the crowd of the world to the wisdom falling from my song.
    Do not fall upon a bed of sloth. Do not be overcome by drunkenness. Set out on your voyage over the clear sea, and you may chance to come to the Land of the Living, the Land of Women, the Island of Apples.[1]

Who could refuse such an invitation? Bran sets sail with three companies of nine men. They meet Manannan mac Lir – lord of the sea and the underworld. They reach the Land of Women but after a year they leave because one of the men is homesick. When they return to Ireland they find that centuries have passed and they are remembered only as figures of legend. When the homesick man stumbles ashore he crumbles into dust. Bran and his men cross the waters again and do not return – and yet, in another telling, the head of Bran, the man who went to the Otherworld and returned, becomes a true oracle from generation to generation.

1. Adapted from The Voyage of Bran Son of Febal translated by Kuno Meyer and Alfred Nutt (London: David Nutt, 1895).

Photo: Landing at Staffa (c) Robert Moss

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Keeping Waste Books is no waste of time

“Everyone is a genius at least once a year.  The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.

This choice aphorism is one of hundreds of snappers and astonishers to be found in the journals of the German polymath Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799). If you have any doubts about the long-term value of journaling, take a look at Lichtenberg’s lifelong practice. He journaled thoughts, observations and wittcisms, starting in his student years, in notebooks that he called his Waste Books (Sudelb cher). 
    He borrowed this term from the English accounting houses of his day. For English bookkeepers, a “waste book” was a temporary register of transactions, jotted down in rough form before being entered in meticulous copperplate in a formal account book.
    I like the throwaway quality of the term. It encourages us to get down the scraps and the rough sketches, without concern for form or structure or even spelling. 

Some more choice one-liners from Lichtenberg's Waste Books:

"A book is a mirror; if an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out."

"People who have no time usually do nothing."

“Don't judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him.” 

“A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.” 

“Where the frontier of science once was is now the center.” 

“The most dangerous of all falsehoods is a slightly distorted truth.” 

"One has to do something new in order to see something new."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The forgetful envoy

You are sent from your homeland on an important mission, to rescue something beyond price. You understand the enormous risks of this assignment, and you freely choose to fulfill it. On leaving your homeland, you are honored and mourned, because you are dying, for a time, to those who love you and know you best.
             The conditions of your assignment require you to put on the clothes and the habits of the country where you will operate. You must fit in with those around you and follow their ways. This is hard for you, to begin with, because the people here live as if there is nothing beyond their world of getting and spending. Their pleasures are tawdry and their drugs numb the mind, but you are required to pass for one of them, so you do as they do.
             In the miasmic conditions of this plane, you start to forget why you came here. Your memory of your homeland, of its achingly beautiful music and its true communion of souls, seems like a fantastic dream that is starting to fade away. You let those around you, in your new country, tell you what life is about and you act in accordance with their valuation of things.
             You join them in snickering at dreamers who rant of other worlds.
             Then one night there is a knock at your door. You open it, and feel a strange wind, like the beating of giant wings. The person framed in the doorway is strangely familiar. When he speaks, his words leap to your heart. I come from my Father’s house. He is here to remind you of the mission you forgot. You are weeping now, ashamed. He is not interested in your tears. Now you remember your contract, you are required to fulfill it.

This is my own version of a story I feel I am living. You’ll find versions in sources ranging from the Gnostic Hymn of the Pearl to Doris Lessing’s novel Shikasta. Perhaps it will speak to you too. I find it useful to believe (as Plato believed) that each of us agreed to a contract before we came into this world in our present bodies. The trick is to remember the terms of that sacred contract, and then to find the courage and constancy to fulfill them. I am grateful for the night, long ago, when I heard a knock on my door in the middle of the night and opened it to find a young man outside, his face shining like the moon. He said, I come from my father’s house. And the dream was more real than the life I had been living, in this sublunary world.

Text adapted from Active Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Libraty.