Sunday, September 16, 2018

At the Stag Tree


I am the antlered one.
I raise living bones
as taproots into the sky
to draw down the strength of heaven.

I am sure-footed, potent,
a warrior in love,
with power to read the land,
to see behind me and around me.

I grow my own crown, royal,
magnificent, and have the wisdom
to give up its burden
when the year grows old.

I come here, to the hickory,
to rub out my royalty,
to drop the burden of my crown
and grow again, stronger than before.

- Ryzymburk, September 15, 2018

- lines composed in an exercise to become Animal Speakers that I led in my writing retreat in the Czech Republic

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Yoga of Consciousness in the Place between Sleep and Awake

"You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you. That's where I'll be waiting."
                  - Tinker Bell to Peter Pan in the movie version of J.M. Barrie's story.

I have been following these fairy directions for a very long time. If you can train yourself to maintain a state of relaxed attention in this in-between state, you will notice that you may be receiving a whole menu of possibilities for lucid dream adventures. Images, faces, landscapes rise and fall. When you learn to hold one of them in focus, it may become the portal for a conscious journey.
    The Parade of Faces is a frequent phenomenon in this state. You may feel you are among a crowd of people, with faces and figures rushing by. Sometimes one may turn to look at you, which can be an interesting opportunity to enter a shared experience with another dream traveler you may or may not know in ordinary reality.
    Sometimes the images rising and falling before you look like a child's sketches, or cartoons.
    A frequent sighting for me, in this in-between state, is of what initially looks like the weave of a carpet or the mesh of a net. I have come to recognize this as a kind of border between states of reality and consciousness. With intention, I can part the strands and find myself in another order or reality.
    The liminal state of hypnagogia, which I often call the Twilight Zone, is a good place to become aware of your ability to travel beyond the body. I often find myself lifting out of the body quite effortlessly in this state, without bumps and grinds. Sometimes, when tired, I simply rest half in, half out, of my physical form. Sometimes I float up to the ceiling. Quite often I go flying, like a bird, over my sleeping city and to places far away.
    As Tinker Bell counseled, the Place Between Sleep and Awake is, above all, a wonderful place to rendezvous with other beings and other intelligences. It is a state in which we often become away of the psychic activity around us.
    Often, I find different casts of characters waiting or popping up as I hover on the edge of sleep or linger in the twilight zone of hypnagogia. Sometimes, they appear to be quite literally on stage, or in the wings, waiting for me to show up in order to start or resume a play. More often, they seem to be characters in life dramas that are being played out in other times or in parallel worlds, dramas in which I have a lead role from which I may have been absent while attending to things in my default reality.

     I frequently have inner dialogues in the Place Between Sleep and Awake, with sources of knowledge I have come to trust. This is a time when I can often receive streams of counsel and information from inner guides.
In Dreamgates, I record some of my conversations with the intelligence I decided to call "G2". He carried the vocabulary and knowledge of a great Western Mystery order. I felt he was a transpersonal figure, though in no way alien to me. Many others have come to me in this liminal state. The most important of these inner guides is certainly no stranger; he is a self who observes and operates on a level of reality above the one I inhabit while living on this Earth in a physical body.

    In the history of creative breakthroughs in every field, including science and technology, the hypnagogic state has been of vital importance. In this liminal zone it is easy to make creative connections, which often involves linking things that seem to the routine mind to be unconnected. Many inventions and discoveries attributed to dreams by over-hasty writers - like Kekule's discovery of the benzene ring - are actually gifts brought through from hypnagogia, to such an extent that I call this zone of consciousness "the solution state" in The Secret History of Dreaming.

        It is surprising that so little has been written about the nature and manifold possibilities of this liminal state in the literature of sleep and dreams. Greek Cypriot author Andreas Mavromatis wrote the only book I know entirely devoted to this liminal state of consciousness, marrying scientific data to rich accounts of creative and visionary accomplishments in this zone. In Hypnagogia: The Unique State of Consciousness Between Wakefulness and Sleep, originally published in 1987, Mavromatis writes that

“Hypnagogia…facilitates the emergence into consciousness of material that might otherwise remain unconscious. It might, thus, also constitute the platform onto which is periodically raised the substratum of continuous but not always conscious mental activities taking place throughout life. As such, it opens great vistas of psychological exploration. Its introspective study may furnish the individual not only with the benefits of an integrated personality but also with the means of discovering new or little known modes of experiencing which will undoubtedly enrich him/her as a psychological entity.”  

    The Place Between Sleep and Wake can be the very best place to go on with a dream or go back inside one. You may want to practice dream reentry to clarify information from a dream, or get to its full meaning, or continue a conversation with a dream character. You may need to reenter a dream because there are terrors to be overcome, or a mystery to be explored, or simply because you were having fun and adventure and would like to have more. Or because Tinker Bell is waiting for you.
    The Place between Sleep and Awake is the best place to develop the continuity of consciousness prized by advanced practitioners of the yoga of sleep and dreams. I am talking about growing your ability to maintain awareness and witness perspective as you move back and forth between sleep, half-sleep, dream, lucid dreaming, what Sri Aurobindo called “the sleep of experiences” and the dream of everyday life.

Art: "The Victory" by René Magritte (1939)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

In Dreams, We Scout the Roads Ahead

Our dreams are constantly coaching us for challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us on the roads of life. It's possible that we rehearse everything that will take place in the future in our dreams, though we forget most of it. 

Across human evolution, dreaming has been a vital survival mechanism. In the days when we were naked apes without good weapons, our dream radar - our ability to scout across both space and time - often enabled us to avoid becoming breakfast for saber-toothed tigers or leathery raptors. 

A recent theory posits that dreaming prepares us for challenges by putting us through frequent workouts in threat simulation, helping us to develop the reflexes and responses that will get us through. I suspect our relationship with the future in dreams is much deeper and more important than this. In dreaming, we have access to the matrix in which the events and circumstances that will manifest in our physical lives have their origins. We can not only see future events; we can choose - to varying degrees, and according to our level of consciousness - which among many possible future events will manifest. 

It's my impression that we are dreaming the future all the time. If you adopt the practice of recording your dreams and comparing the dream data with subsequent events, it won't take long for you to notice some match-ups. The incidents you preview in your dreams may be trivial or terrifying, blah or wonderful. They may be events in your own life, or events in the future history of the world. Our dreams start preparing us for what life will give us months, years, even decades ahead of events. In dreams, we have several kinds of engagement with the future: 

Precognitive Dreams 

Through precognition, we see events and circumstances ahead of time, as they will be played out. A precognitive dream may be literal, or symbolic or both. For example, a dream of a tsunami might turn out to be both a preview of a literal disaster and advance notice of an emotional storm that will hit with the force of a tsunami. We may not understand what we have seen in a precognitive dream until a physical event catches up with that dream. It may also be difficult for us to understand what we have seen because we are looking at things from a certain angle, perhaps the perspective of a different person. But with practice, we can learn to recognize markers that a dream relates to future events, and we can then move to clarify and use the dream information.

Early Warning Dreams 

Dreams may contain early warnings of a possible future development we may not want - a crisis at work, the bust-up of a relationship, a health problem, a car accident. We may not want to focus on any of these unpleasant possibilities. But if we are willing to study what an early warning dream is telling us, we will often find that it is giving us vital information that can help us avoid a possible future problem if we take appropriate action. Sometimes we dream the future for the benefit of another person, even a great cause. What will then happen depends whether we can find an effective way to get the dream information to the person who can best act upon it. 

Early Opportunity Dreams 

Early opportunity dreams may also require action if we are going to manifest a future we'll enjoy. You dream you are in your ideal home, or doing the work that nourishes your soul and your bank account, or you are with your soulmate, who is someone you have not yet met in the regular world. These dreams may be inspiring and encouraging, but you won't want to leave them floating away from your physical life like helium balloons that have lost their strings. You'll want to figure out what practical action you can take to move decisively in the direction of that happy dream. 

Choosing Alternate Event Tracks 

Any future we can see (in dreams or through wakeful intuition) is a possible future. We can influence the odds on the manifestation of a specific future event. While it may seem impossible for an individual to change certain future events perceived in dreams - like a natural disaster or death at an advanced age - it may still be possible to work with the dream information in a useful way: for example, to alert friends not to go on vacation in the place where the dreamed hurricane will hit, or to help someone whose death is near, and the family, to meet that situation with grace and closure. 

As dreamers, we discover and inhabit the true nature of time, as it has always been known to dream travelers and is now confirmed by modern science. Linear time, as measured by clocks, and experienced in plodding sequences of one thing following another, always heading in the same direction, is an illusion of limited human awareness, at best (as Einstein said) a convenience. In dreaming, as in heightened states of consciousness, we step into a more spacious time, and we can move forwards or backwards at varying speeds. We not only travel to past and future; we travel between alternate timelines. 

With growing awareness, we can develop greater and greater ability to choose the event track - maybe one of infinite alternative possible event tracks - that will be followed through a certain life passage, or even the larger history of our world. 

This may be a case of the observer effect operating on a human scale. It is well understood that at quantum levels, deep within subatomic space, the act of observation causes plucks a specific phenomenon out of a bubbling cauldron of possibilities. It may be that, in the cauldron of our dreaming: through the act of observation, we select a certain event track that will begin to be manifested in the physical world. By a fresh act of observation, or re-visioning, we can then proceed to alter that event track, or switch to an entirely different one. 

Coincidence and Imagination published by New World Library

photo by RM

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Stone Jung's Builders Rejected

Jung dreamed of a tower and he built it, on old church land at the edge of the village of Bollingen, on the shore of the Obersee basin of Lake Zürich. He started work soon after his mother’s death in 1923. What began as a simple neo-medieval tower with a pointed roof grew, in successive waves of inspiration and construction, into a small castle. Jung embarked on the final phase of construction after his wife Emma’s death in 1955, adding a high upper room he called the chapel to the middle building between what were now two towers. He painted the walls with scenes of other times, and filled the room with things that took him “out of time, out of the present.”
 He always refused to install electricity and indoor plumbing. He lived here like a farmer of an earlier time, pumping his own water, chopping wood for his fire, lighting his candles and oil lamps, cooking his hearty stews. He spent several months of the year at Bollingen. He came for solitude and simplicity, leaving behind his patients, his lecture room audiences, and his persona as professor and professional analyst. He went about in old, comfortable clothes, and was often to be seen in overalls and even, on occasion, washing a pair of jeans. He did the best of his creative writing here in the last period of his life.
 Very often, if you were nearby, you could hear the tap of Jung’s chisel or the clang of his hammer. He worked here with stone as well as paper, covering many surfaces with images and inscriptions. He called the whole place his “confession in stone”. Some of the things he carved were there for any visitor to see, some were hidden.
     One of the hidden inscriptions read in Latin
 Philemonis sacrum Faust poenetentia [sic] which means “Sanctuary of Philemon, Penitence of Faust”. Philemon was the name by which Jung knew the spiritual guide whose importance is fully revealed in the Red Book, the guide who, as he wrote, convinced him of the objective reality of the psyche and its productions. Philemon is also the name, in the myth, of a kindly old man who gives hospitality to gods who are traveling in disguise – and is killed, together with his gentle wife, through the greed and megalomania of Faust, the model of heedless Western man, in Part II of Goethe’s Faust.
 When he was writing his essay on synchronicity, Jung carved the face of a laughing Trickster on the west wall of the original tower.
 Jung’s confession in stone contains many images that spark fire in the imagination but do not immediately yield explanation, except where Jung has added words, always in Greek or Latin, which he read fluently. Here is a woman reaching for the udder of a mare. Here is a bear behind her, apparently rolling a ball. Here is Salome. Here is a family crest.
 The best story of Jung’s stone work involves the block that was not supposed to be delivered. Jung wanted to build a wall for his garden. He engaged a mason who gave exact measurements for the stones required to the owner of a quarry while Jung was standing by. The stones were delivered by boat. When unloaded, it was clear at once that there had been a major mistake. The cornerstone was not triangular, as ordered. It was a perfect cube of much larger dimensions, about twenty inches thick. Enraged, the mason ordered the workmen to reload this block on the boat. Jung intervened, saying, “That is my stone! I must have it.” He knew at once that the stone his mason had rejected would suit him perfectly for a purpose he did not yet understand.
 Fairly soon, he decided to chisel a quotation from one of his beloved alchemists on one side of the cube. But something deeper was stirring, through affinity between Jung and the stone itself. On a second face of the stone, he saw something like a tiny eye, looking at him. He chiseled a definite eye. Around it he carved the shape of a little hooded figure, a homunculus. 

     He had a name for this figure, Telesphoros. The name means “one who guides to completion”. In Greek mythology, he is a son of Asklepios, the patron of dream healing. This figure was a recurring archetype in Jung’s inner life, one he sought to give physical form with pen and chisel and, as a boy, with a pocket knife. When he was ten years old, Jung carved a little manikin of this kind from a school ruler and kept it hidden in a box. He regarded this as his first great secret in life, and “the climax and conclusion” of his childhood.
 Now, around Telesphoros, he chiseled words in Greek that came to him. In Memories Dreams Reflections they are translated as follows:

Time is a child – playing like a child – playing a board game – the kingdom of the child. This is Telesphoros, who roams through the dark regions of this cosmos and glows like a star out of the depths. He points the way to the gates of the sun and to the land of dreams.

The broken first sentence is a loose translation of one of the most mysterious and compelling fragments of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Key words are open to rival translations. The word Jung renders as time is aion for which “time” is perhaps not a strong enough rendering. A recent translation of the line from Heraclitus offers this: “Lifetime is a child at play, moving pieces on a board. Kingship belongs to the child.” 
      I wonder whether Jung played with the idea, as he chiseled, that what Heraclitus was talking about was a secret law of manifestation, perhaps none other than what Jung dubbed synchronicity. Beyond logic, beyond causation as it is commonly understood, the play of forces outside time determines what happens within the human experience of time. Play is what we must be most serious about. Play in the spirit of the child, who plays without concern for consequences, because the play is the thing.      
     So, I suggest: “Synchronicity is a child at play, moving pieces on a board.” On our side of reality, we see the pieces move, but not the hand that moves them or casts them.

Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Nine Keys to Understanding Your Dreams

1.  Trust Your Feelings

Always pay attention to how you feel when you wake from a dream. Your feelings and bodily sensations may be your best guide to the relative urgency and importance of a dream, and its positive or negative implications.

2.  First Associations

In keeping a dream journal, you will want to get into the habit of jotting down your first associations with the dreams you record. What floats to the surface of your consciousness in the first minutes after waking may come from layers of the dream that have eluded, or from deeper levels of dreaming 
3.  Reality Check

Compare what is going on in the dream to the rest of your life, including the life of your imagination. Always ask whether it is possible that any part of the dream will manifest, literally or symbolically, in physical reality. Though dreams are inner experiences, they often contain accurate information about external reality. In both subtle and unsubtle ways, dreams incorporate signals from the outside environments.

4.  Dream Reentry

Dreams are real experiences, and a fully remembered dream is its own interpretation. The meaning of a dream is inside the dream itself. By learning how to re-enter dreams, you will develop the ability to clarify messages about future events, resume contact with inner teachers, and resolve unfinished business.

5.  Dialogue with Dream Characters

One of the best ways to work out what your dream characters are telling you is to ask them. You can do this through dream reentry or simply by sitting down with a pad and pen, imagining that the dream figure is in front of you, and opening a conversation.

6.  Tracking Your Dream Self

Who are you in your dreams? Are you the protagonist or simply an observer? Are you younger or older? Male or female? How does the situation and behavior of our dream self compare with that of your waking self? The character who appears in all of your dreams, even if only as a witness, is you.

7.  Symbol Exploration

Although the dream source tries to communicate with us as clearly as possible, it must often speak in symbols in order to carry us beyond the limitations of the everyday mind.  Symbols take us from what we know to what we do not yet know. You'll be inspired to track your symbols far and wide, and may discover that your personal dreams embody timeless myths from many traditions. Always remember that the best encyclopedia of dream symbols is your own journal, kept over time.*
8.  "What Part of Me?"

Dreams make us whole. They show us the many aspects of ourselves and help us to bring them under one roof. This is why it is often useful to ask "what part of me" different characters and elements in a dream might represent. However,this approach is rarely sufficient since dreams are transpersonal as well as personal. If you meet a tribal shaman in a dream, that may be an aspect of yourself and an actual shaman. If you meet your departed grandmother, that is more likely to be Granma trying to communicate than merely a part of you that is like her.

9.  Dream Enactment

Dreams require action! You may take creative action, turning a dream into a story, a picture a collage.You may do some shamanic shopping, to get shoes or earrings your dream self was wearing or a sculpture of a deity you saw in a dream. You may use the dream as GPS on your life roads. You may accept dream assignments, seeking to translate that strange word or find that obscure place on a map of this world or another world. At the least, you can harvest a bumper sticker or action phrase from the dream that will help to move its energy into life. 

Adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Dream horses

Horses run through our dreams. We wake, hearts pounding, still feeling the thunder of the hoofbeats.

Our dream horses are not the same, of course. Some are oppressed by dreams of a black horse that seems like a figure of death, or a red horse foreboding war and bloodshed, or a ghostly pale horse that brings the sense of sorrow and bereavement. Such dreams - and Fuseli's famous painting of nightmare - have encouraged the belief that the "nightmare" has to do with a mare, whereas in fact (the etymologists tell me) the "mare" part here is most likely derived from the Old Germanic mer, meaning something that crushes and oppresses.

In dreams, the state of a horse is often a rather exact analog for the state of our bodies and our vital energy. When you dream of a starving horse, you want to ask: what part of myself needs to be nourished and fed? You dream of horses flayed and hung up under the roof beams (as did a dreamer in one of my workshops) and you need to ask: which parts of me have been flayed and violated in the course of my life, and how do I heal and bring those parts back to life? 

Such a dream also evokes the ancient rituals of horse sacrifice - common to many cultures - and might also require a search back across time into primal material from the realm of the ancestors, lost to ordinary consciousness, but alive in the deeps of the collective memory.

In Greek mythology, horses are the gift of Poseidon, and come surging from the sea, their streaming manes visible in the whitecaps. Or they irrupt from the dark Underworld, from whence Hades charges on his black stallions to ravish Persephone with his unstoppable sexual energy and hurl her into a realm of savage initiation beneath the one she knows. Yet in Arcadia, Persephone's mother Demeter, the great goddess of Earth and grain and beer, was depicted with a horse's head.

Go to the British Isles, and you find the white mare revered as the mount and form of the Goddess. She is Epona, and her prints still mark the land whichever way you ride, even if only by train or car or Shanks' pony. In ancient Ireland, a true king was required to mate with the white mare, as the living symbol of the sacred Earth. (It would take a manful king indeed to couple with a mare; I suspect a priestess was substituted.)

We know the horse in certain living myths as healer and teacher, as vehicle for travel to higher realms, and as the source of creative inspiration. It is the hooves of Pegasus, rending the rock, that open the Hippocrene spring, beside the grove of the Muses, from which poets have drunk ever since. It is Chiron the centaur, the man-horse, who is the mentor of Asklepios, the man-god synonymous with healing, especially through dreams. In fairy tales (the Grimms' and others) it is often the horse that can find the way when humans are lost.

I dreamed of rounding up a great herd of wild horses, and understood, waking in excitement and delight, that this was about bringing vital energy back where it belongs and helping to shape a model of understanding and practice of soul recovery for communities as well as individuals, The wild horse racing through our dreams may be the windhorse of spirit, or vital essence, that needs both to run free and to be harnessed to a life path and a human purpose. 

Of all the shaman terms I have heard, "windhorse" is my favorite. It is native to at least three traditions of Central Asia, where the word "shaman" and the shaman's frame drum (often made with horse hide and commonly called the shaman's "horse") originate. In Buryat (Mongolian) the word for "windhorse" is khiitori; in Old Turkic it is Rüzgar Tayi; in Tibetan it is rlung ta (pronounced lung ta).

When you think about it, the horse is unlike any other animal. Stronger than man, it yet allows itself to be gentled and bridled and provided the main form of locomotion for all those centuries before the invention of the internal combustion engine. As in Plato's image of the charioteer of the soul, challenged to manage the rival energies of a horse that wants to go down on a rampage, wild and sexy and possibly violent, and the steady horse whose instinct is always to go up, to rise higher, we are challenged by our dream horses to recognize, release and temper the horse power within us.

Photo: Pegasus in Powerscourt gardens, County Wicklow, Ireland

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Oh My God Peaches and a Picnic for the Dead

I am in Seattle, wake up early and decide to take a morning stroll around the Pike Place Market. I notice that the produce stalls are bursting with fresh fruit; the peaches look especially ripe and juicy. I consider buying some fruit, but do not want to carry it back to the hotel. However, as I leave the market, I have second thoughts. I just have to sample some of those peaches. I choose Sosio’s stall, where a sign above the mounds of fruit reads “Oh My God Peaches”. I joke with the vendor that the sign should actually read “Oh My Goddess”.
 I now exit the market a couple of minutes later than I would have done had I not gone back for the peaches.
 As I walk along the street, a VW bug slows to match my pace. A woman’s arm reaches out the driver’s window and plucks at my sleeve. “Oh my God! Robert!” she cries, “You got me pregnant five months ago! We have to talk!”
 I am so stunned I don’t immediately recognize the woman in the car. She reminds me, as we move slowly along the street together, that she came to a workshop I led in Seattle five months before. At the time, she and her husband were trying to have a baby through in vitro fertilization. She reminds me that I helped her to journey to meet the soul of the incoming child, and to develop a ritual to add spiritual depth to the medical procedures. She tells me she feels that our work helped. Though she is 45 and her doctors had anticipated difficulties, there have been none; she and her baby are happily on their way.
 She is on her way to the market and asks if she can take me for coffee or breakfast to celebrate. She has a sudden craving for clams, and it requires some negotiation to get them at a restaurant at this early hour. As I watch her sucking down her clams, she tells me, “It’s incredible meeting you here. I came for the peaches. Sosio’s in the market is the best place in the world for peaches.”
 “I know,” I smiled, displaying my bag from Sosio’s stand. “You came for the peaches and I came back for them.”
 She then told me that she was going to buy two dozen Oh My God Peaches to make peach pies for a very special picnic – a picnic in a cemetery. She and several of her friends had lost close family in a tragic Alaskan Airlines crash a few years before. The survivors had agreed to hold a picnic, as well as a memorial service, to celebrate the dead and the living. As we spoke, I felt the presence of her parents. Her father wanted her to bury a personal item at his gravesite; I received the clear impression of a corkscrew with a twisty wooden handle. I might have felt awkward about passing on the message if synchronicity had not opened our path. She identified the corkscrew immediately; it was a fine one with a vine root handle, one of many her father had collected. Since most his body had vanished underwater, it felt right to lay something more of him in the earth on the occasion of the peachy picnic.
Everything that happened around the market that morning was charged with meaning. From the moment I bought the Oh My God peaches, I seemed to have stepped out of ordinary time, into a deeper, juicier reality. The mother-to-be and I met because of the peaches, yet I took my walk with no thought of buying any kind of fruit, and the odds on our meeting in that way, with that connection, are beyond astronomical. There were important reasons for us to meet, involving birth and death.
But I was unaware of these at the time of our meeting, and had not thought of the mother-to-be since the workshop five months before, while on her side – though she had apparently had fond thoughts of me – she had no inkling that I was visiting her city that morning. Whatever brought us together was operating from far beyond the conscious mind, or any plausible notion of probability. As we enjoyed the shared sense that we had entered the play of larger forces, it seemed entirely natural that her parents should join the party – from the other side of death – to announce their wishes for the peachy picnic before it took place.

What is to be said about an episode like this? The first words that come to me are “Thank you.” The mother-to-be and I both felt blessed to have entered a realm of natural magic, where things operate according to dream logic, and the veil between the worlds thins.  I carry my drum - the one I use to power shamanic journeys in my workshops - in a bag from Sosio's fruit stand.

Text adapted from The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Wrinkles in the veil of reality

Coincidence, especially in the form of reincidence*, provides clues that our default reality might be in process of being re-booted. Think of the moment in the movie The Matrix when the black cat crosses the room in exactly the same way twice. This is a signal that a virtual reality is about to collapse – in this case, to be collapsed by the alien forces that are keeping humans in thrall by caging their minds in an artificial world.
     There is a vast genre of Eastern literature about this kind of thing. In their dastangos, Urdu storytellers - 
eagerly heard in princely courts and humble markets - preserved an imaginal geography that includes constructed realities known as tilisms. The word tilism, related to the more familiar "talisman" describes a realm of enchantment created by sorcerers that becomes a prison for one who falls into it.
     Any world may prove to be a tilism, a mind trap constructed by Dark Side magic in defiance of "the laws of God and of nature". The vast tilism of Hoshruba, with its multiple layers of illusion and deception, is the realm of Afrasiyab, the Emperor of Enchantment. Its geography is more various and complex than that of the ordinary world. 

     There are tilisms within tilisms, nested worlds created by magic and imagination. Humans live in such places but do not see where they are. It is much easier to fall into a tilism than to get out. The only way to pierce the veils of illusion and overthrow a tilism is to find the tablet that holds the secrets of the tilism, including the conditions for its destruction and the name of the person who will destroy it. The tablet could be concealed anywhere, often inside the tilism itself. **      
    The “real world” of the first Matrix movie is a nightmare reality where insectoid machines suck energy from humans who allow their bodies to lie dormant because their minds are trapped in a techno-tilism. But the “real world” beyond our consensual reality may be a brighter, not a darker, one. The shaman-priests of the Kogi warn that the Aluna, the psychospiritual field around the earth, has been polluted by human thought-forms and hungry ghosts to the point where it is difficult for higher intelligences to reach us.
     Star travelers (not only in C.S.Lewis’s adult fiction, The Cosmic Trilogy) report that Earth is known by sentient beings elsewhere in the galaxy as the Veiled or Cloaked Planet, because we have been wrapped in the fabric of illusion, limiting our access to higher intelligences, and theirs to us.
    Noticing wrinkles and loose threads in the fabric of ordinary reality, we begin to lift the veil. Pull on a few of those loose threads, and the fabric of perceived reality may unravel quickly. In Borges’ story “
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia leads to the discovery of an alternate reality that soon replaces the “real" world.

* Reincidence. A term I invented for a recurring series or riff of synchronistic phenomena over time.

**These traditions were largely unknown in the west until an Urdu scholar and novelist named Musharraf Ali Farooqi was stirred by a dream to embark on a fantastic enterprise. He dreamed he was visited by mythic creatures who came galloping right out of the great Urdu story cycle known as The Adventures of Amir Hamza. He made a tremendous contribution to world literature in giving us an elegant 900-page translation of this work, published by The Modern Library. But this was only the start of his labors. Farooqi has since produced the first volume of a projected 24-volume translation of the oceanic Tilism-e Hoshruba. Titled Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism

Time Travel to the Stars

C.S. Lewis's novel of Malacandra, Out of the Silent Planet, describes a journey in a spaceship to another planet by three humans - one driven by greed, one by darker ambitions to make humans the predatory master species in the universe, the third a thoughtful, attractive adventurer called Ransom, who is a professor of philology. They enter a world quite unlike the Earth, where three quite different intelligent species are able to coexist without conflict, and everything is ordered by the benign rule of a godlike being called Oyarsa, whose messengers and assistants are the radiant eldila. 
     In Malacandra, we learn that Earth is known as "the silent planet". Contact between Earth and other planets has been cut off because Earth has fallen under the sway of the Bent One, a dark overlord. Unknown to humans, the eldils still travel to Earth, but it's become a dangerous journey and they go down like warrior angels, concealed from the perception of most humans.
     Lewis adds a postcript to the novel that purports to be a letter to the author from "the original of Dr Ransom", an acquaintance on whom the Ransom character is based. Supposedly their friendship began when Lewis - a medievalist - found a twelfth century account of a voyage through the heavens that introduced a being there called Oyarses, "the intelligence or tutelary spirit of a planet".In a nonfiction book, The Discarded Image, that Lewis published late in life, he discusses the 12th century Platonist, Bernardus Silvestris - "Bernard of the Woods" - who wrote about a journey out of this world and planetary gods he called Oyarses.
     There are more clues to Lewis' evolving thinking about how we can open and maintain communication with the intelligences of other star systems in the partial draft of a late novel he did not intend to publish. Lewis's former secretary narrowly managed to save this from a bonfire on which the author's brother was burning his manuscripts shortly after his death. This unfinished novel, titled "The Dark Tower" by the editor, involves time travel. The editor suggests it is the true sequel to Out of the Silent Planet.l
     In the postcript to Out of the Silent Planet Lewis made the fascinating suggestion that time travel will be the key to travel to intelligent life on other planets.The last sentence in that postscript reads as follows: "The way to the planets lies through the past; if there is to be any more space-traveling, it will have to be time-traveling as well."     
     The heart of the matter (as Lewis also came to believe) is that given the Cloaking of Earth, the best and safest way to reopen communication with benign intelligences on other planets and in other dimensions may be to go across time and take off from a past - or future - location. After leading many group journeys by flights of intrepid shamanic dream travelers (following the "Sirius" script I published in Dreamgates, and others) I believe he was correct.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Soul remembering in Yoruba tradition

The Yoruba say that the individual soul, or ori, goes before the high god Olodumare before it joins a physical body. The ori kneels down before Olodumare to receive its destiny. It comes into the world to fulfill this destiny:

What the ori comes to fulfill
It cannot but fulfill it.

This personal destiny is known as iponri, which means “the ori’s portion or lot.” The more fortunate and evolved souls choose their own destiny at the feet of the high god. Most souls accept their fate, with only limited ability to negotiate the details. A third category have their destinies “laid on their backs” and come into the world reluctantly.
     In the Yoruba version, when a soul has received its destiny from Olodumare, it embarks on its journey toward physical birth. When the soul arrives at one of the gates between the worlds, it must answer the question of the Gatekeeper, the oni’bode.

Gatekeeper: Where are you going?
Journeyer: I am going into the world.
Gatekeeper: What are you going to do?
Journeyer: I will be born to a woman named X and a man named Y, in the town of Z.
I will be an only son….At the age of…I will…and will die in…and will be mourned by
all and given proper burial.
Gatekeeper: To. It is sealed. [1]

    The destiny is doubly sealed — at the feet of the high god and at the gates between the worlds.
    When souls come into this world, most forget their contract with the high god: the destiny that has been assigned to them.
    Can the destiny be changed? It can sometimes be changed for the better by divine intercession, especially with the help of Orunmila, the austere lord of divination who cannot be bribed. It can be changed for the worse through the interference of forces of evil. A destiny can be aborted through human weakness and impatience.
    One of the two most important insights, in the Yoruba version, is that “an unhappy destiny can be rectified if it can be ascertained what it is.” There is a story of a father who traveled to Ajiran — a town reputed to be a gate between the worlds — to discover why his children died young. In what was clearly a soul journey, he previewed the probable death of his surviving son from snakebite and was able to use his foreknowledge to prevent this from coming to pass.
    The other vital Yoruba insight is that we have an ally in heaven who is in no way alien to ourselves. This ally can help us remember our destiny — and coach us on how to fulfill it or modify it. The ori has a “double in heaven,” a personal daimon. When the Yoruba offer you the blessing “May ori go with you,” they are actually saying something like, “May you walk with your guardian angel, your own Higher Self.”
    Soul-remembering, in some of the Yoruba stories, is the key to weathering life’s ups and downs with grace and tenacity. There is a tale in the odu — the verse recitations that accompany Ifa divination — of a celebrated royal drummer who decided to commit suicide at the peak of manhood after suffering many misfortunes. He fainted during his suicide attempt.
    The drummer’s soul now comes face-to-face with a Gatekeeper who demands, “Why do you appear unbidden at the gate?”
    He recounts his troubles. The Gatekeeper shuts him up in a room and tells him to listen carefully.
    He hears footfalls as the people who are going to be born in the world come before the Gatekeeper. He listens as they recount their destinies.
   “Have you been listening?” the Gatekeeper demands. “This shows how one’s life is ordered.”
    The would-be suicide is reminded that what happened to him on earth happened in accord with his destiny.
    The Gatekeeper shows dim a house full of goods and a pen full of cattle that were to be his in the next year of his life, according to his destiny.
    The Gatekeeper shows him a house full of goods and a pen full of cattle that were to be his in the next year of his life, according to his destiny. “But through your impatience, you have forfeited everything.”
    The drummer wept and protested so strongly that at last Olodumare granted him an extension — ten more years in which to enjoy his predestined riches.[2]

1. E.Balaji Odowu, Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief (New York: Wazobia, 1994
2. ibid, 180

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring theWorlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library

Image above: Ifa divination board. Ifa divination, under the patronage of Orunmila, may assist in remembering the soul's assignments,  opening the possibility that an unhappy destiny can be rectified if it can be ascertained what it is.