Sunday, December 30, 2018

Dreaming in the New Year


Whatever you do as the year turns, write in your journal! Write your dreams from the night, and your dreams of life for the coming year. Write, in particular, whatever you receive from dreams, synchronicity and spontaneous revelation over the last night of the Old Year and the first day of the New Year.
    If you were up all night partying - or the effect of your New Year's Eve reveling knocked your dreams out of memory - then record and work with the first dream that comes the following night, and whatever dreamlike symbols the world around you may give you.
    In Japan they make a special effort to catch and work with the very first dream of the new year. Many Japanese people pay close attention to Hatsuyume, the first dream of the New Year. It may come in the night of December 31-January 1 but - since many may be up late partying or suffering the after-effects - it may come in the following day or on the night of January 1-2.     

    In Japanese tradition, it is very auspicious to dream of three things in Hatsuyume: Mount Fuji, a hawk, or eggplants (aubergines). We don't have to puzzle long over why the highest mountain in Japan or a hawk - the seer of the sky - would be seen as propitious.Aubergine is more mysterious until we consider the Japanese love of puns and homophones, which comes very much into play in reading dreams. The Japanese word for eggplant is similar to the word that means “to accomplish” or “to fulfill”; both are transliterated as nasu.





   
In hopes of a lucky dream to kick off the New Year, some Japanese invoke the Shichifukujin or "Seven Lucky Gods" and may place a picture of them under the pillow. These may not be part of our belief system, but we have other sources of guidance and blessing available, and it is always appropriate to ask for help and blessing if we do it nicely!

 If you are ready to dream in the New Year, you could set the simple intention: 


Show me what the New Year will bring


Or give this a positive spin by couching your request to your dream makers the following way: 


Show me the best that life holds for me and those I love in the year ahead. 


Be as specific or as general as you like, but ask in a way that excites you and reflects your willingness to receive guidance and enter on new adventures.
     Don't forget that dreams require action! Your first action is to record anything you remember from your dreams and the drifty state of hypnagogia. Share it with a friend, if you can, using our Lightning Dreamwork process. Walk with your dream and see how what is going on around you may illuminate the dream and how your dream may illuminate your world.
    If you saw things in your dream you don't want to manifest in the year ahead, comb through the material with the eye of a detective, asking Who, What, When, Where, How? If you can clarify the details of the dream and identify where it may play out in coming events, you may be able to take appropriate action to avoid an event you don't want to live through in your physical life. You can also try to accomplish this by going back inside your dream, in a conscious reentry journey, to see whether you can change the script where it was playing. You may want to try writing the story of your dream so it comes to a happy ending. If those approaches feel artificial, however, that may be telling you that physical action is required to reshape the probable future for the better.
    If your first dream for the New Year is full of promise, then celebrate - but make it part of your celebration, once again, to take action to embody the energy and promise of the dream and to help it to take root in the world. Don't leave the old year without your journal, and don't enter the new year without your dreams. 
    May your New Year be filled with abounding joy, and may your best dreams come true!



Painting of Lucky Dream for the New Year:, with Mount Fuji, Falcon and Eggplants by Suzuki Harunobu (1725–1770)

Thanks to Rick Gned for information on Hatsuyume

Monday, December 24, 2018

The first Santa

In this holiday season, I received a cri de coeur from the mother of a young boy named James:

James just found out that his parents stuff his stockings each year instead of Santa Claus. He is crestfallen. I asked him if he remembered a story you told him about a real live, animal-loving "Santa" that lived long ago, and he did, but neither of us could conjure enough details to make a suitable retelling. Could you please give me a reference to find the story of this previous, real-life "Santa"? It just might save Christmas for a certain 5-year old boy who yearns to believe.

I remembered a conversation in which I suggested that the original Santa was a shaman of the Sami, a reindeer-herding people of Lapland, reputed to have the power to call up the winds and fly through the air, and that the reason his coat is red is that it was the flayed skin of a reindeer. I have seen Sami drums with images of a shaman flying through the three tiers of the shamanic cosmos on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
    But while there is a rich ethnography on Sami shamanism, I could think of no source that would be suitable for a young boy. 
I was not enthused by the idea of introducing a small boy to the theory of certain enthusiasts for entheogens that Santa’s outfit is red and white to match the colors of a magic mushroom, amanita muscaria, that got him flying out of his skull. 
So I took on the assignment of writing my own version of the first Santa, addressed to a boy in danger of losing his belief in Christmas magic.

Dear James

I heard you found out that it wasn’t Santa who put the presents in your stocking, but people who live with you every day.
     I know this is a shocking discovery, and it would not be surprising if you felt cheated and confused.This is also a very big moment on your journey of growing up. Actually, it’s not big, it’s ENORMOUS.
     You have come to a fork in your road. If you let your feelings of disappointment and betrayal take you down the wrong path, you could very easily end up in the world of the Meanies who don’t believe in any kind of magic at all, and therefore never have any. Go the other way and you’ll come to know that, even if Mommy and Daddy filled the stocking, Santa is REAL. Not only is he real; he is MORE real than you could understand before you found out about the presents. 
     Let me explain.
 
     When a story is as important as Santa’s, lots of people will try to tell it their own way. So you’ll hear that Santa was a saint who traveled the world producing marvels and good works many centuries ago. Or that he was a winter king in a great northern forest. Meanies might tell you he was dreamed up by slick advertising men so they can sell more stuff. It’s often said that Santa lives at the North Pole with his elves. Most children I know, and some grown-ups, picture him flying through the sky with a team of reindeer. They are more right than all the rest.

      I am going to tell you the true and original story of Santa. Accept no substitutes.

Long ago and far away, where the sun shines all night on Midsummer’s Eve and never shows its face at Midwinter, a boy they called Dreamer lived with his family among the Reindeer People. They were a simple folk who lived on fish and the fruits of the earth, on reindeer milk and sometimes, in the hungry depths of winter, on reindeer meat. They followed the reindeer through the cycle of the seasons, forever in search of something to eat. They made tools and toys and holy statues out of reindeer bone, and when they danced around their fires, men and women both wore crowns of reindeer antlers.
     Dreamer was an awkward boy. He couldn’t run or move as fast on snow shoes as the others. He wasn’t very lucky at fishing, and he couldn’t lift the great tree-trunks they used for their winter games of log-tossing. They called him Dreamer because his mind always seemed to be wandering somewhere else. He loved the reindeer, and sometimes his mother would find him dreaming among them, arms wrapped in sleep around the belly of a reindeer cow.
     Even the wild reindeer approached him without fear. That was why, one hungry winter, his father made him go out with the hunters, to call the wild reindeer from the shadows of the evergreens. As a magnificent bull reindeer trotted towards him, the boy's father muttered, “Take him. He’s yours.” The boy trembled, with his father’s long bow in his hands, looking into the deep steady eyes of the reindeer.
     Impatient, his father threw his spear. Blood spurted from the great heart of the stag over the boy's chest. He dropped to his knees by the body of the reindeer, asking forgiveness. “We do this so our people may live.”
     His father punished him for his failure to take the kill by forcing him to skin the reindeer with his own knife, and carry the hide back to the village on his shoulders. Staggering under the weight, he wore the reindeer hide bloody side out, so he seemed to be wrapped in a bright red coat.
     That night, while the boy’s father and mother were snoring under their sleeping skins, he woke and looked up through the smoke hole into a field of stars. Through the field, a reindeer was racing on flying hooves. It swooped down through the smoke hole and stood over the boy, so close the steam from its nostrils entered him. He understood, without human words, what he was to do. He was to make a drum, using the hide he had carried back from the woods, binding it to the frame he would carve from an evergreen. He would use a piece of antler as a beater. An old one who lived alone in the woods would show him things he needed to know to make the drum right.
     I don’t know how much you know about drums. This was not the kind of drum you see at a concert, or in a marching band, or in a toy shop. It was the kind of drum you can ride. The boy did not know that until he made it, and learned to tap-tap-tap with his bone hammer until the winds changed and the air was filled with the sound of drumming hooves.
     Another night came, at the darkest time of the year, when the reindeer looked down through the smoke hole and the wind whispered, Tomorrow. The boy walked alone in the gray absence of dawn to the tree that had provided the frame of his drum. He made himself a nest among soft needles the reindeer had not touched.




     As soon as he touched the drum, the stag appeared, different from before. Now his back was covered by a scarlet saddlecloth. The boy understood what he was meant to do. He swung himself up, as someone else might get up on a horse. There was no bit or bridle; he just held on to the reindeer’s neck as he took off at a terrific pace, heading ever north across frozen marshes and ice floes, into a world of white. Ahead, he saw a huge glowing disk very low on the horizon. It seemed he was flying into the face of the moon.

    The boy found himself in the presence of an immense being that blazed with light. It was like looking at the moon, caught in the bare branches of a giant oak. The boy’s vision changed and he saw a woman more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined, a White Lady crowned with great glowing antlers. He knelt before the Reindeer Queen. She smiled a moon-bright smile and raised him up and held him to her breast like a mother.
     She told him, “Darker times are coming. You will need to become a man quickly, and more than a man, to help bring back the light. When the time comes, I will call you and show you what to do.”
     When the ice broke up, monsters appeared in the inlets where the Reindeer People went to fish. The monsters reared from the waters with the heads of leering dragons, then disgorged terrible iron-clad men bent on killing and plunder.
     The Iron Men stormed over the land. The boy's father, now headman of his village, gathered the herders and the older boys to defend their women and their tame reindeer. Fearing for his son’s life and contemptuous of his fighting skills, he ordered Dreamer to stay with the herd.
     When the din of battle sounded across the hill, and the boy's mother armed herself with a bone knife, the boy took his drum and sat among the reindeer, in the long grass. He tapped with the bone hammer until he felt himself stretch and stretch. Then he was flying with the reindeer, through the arctic rainbow to the palace of the Reindeer Queen.

Bright as the full moon, she told him, it was time to meet Brother Bear. The great bear rose up before him like a shaggy mountain. Dreamer wasn’t afraid, well, not as much as he might have been if the Reindeer Queen had not made the introductions.
     When Brother Bear opened his arms, the boy stepped forward and hugged him hard, though his arms could cover only a tiny part of the bear’s tremendous girth. When Brother Bear hugged him back, closing his mighty arms, Dreamer fell through the heart of the mountain, into the world of battle.
     The Iron Men were baying victory. What landed before them, making thunder in the earth, silenced their cries. Sword-arms and spear-arms ceased hacking and cutting, frozen in mid-thrust. Brother Bear towered between the Iron Men and the herders. He reached down and plucked the invaders from the field like toy soldiers. He tossed them back towards their dragon boats. The remnants of the Iron Men broke and fled, throwing down weapons and plates of armor to speed their escape. Rejoicing, Dreamer's father ran to bring his wife and son the good news. He found the boy sleeping under his drum, among the reindeer. He poked the boy with the toe of his boot. “Dreaming again, eh? Rouse yourself, boy! Come and see how we won the good fight.”
     As the boy struggled to his feet, very wobbly, the form of the great bear began to wobble too, fading to a thin mist, then gone.
     When she called him again, the Reindeer Queen told the boy, “When you are grown, you will be wide and strong and big-bellied, like Brother Bear. And all who see you will smile and be jolly, except men of evil hearts, who will flee before you.”
      So the boy grew to be a man, wide-bellied and jolly, fond of stuffing himself with summer berries and tracking the bees to the best honeypots in the trees. When he tapped on his drum and the reindeer came to take him flying now, they came as a whole team and he road in a sleigh that they pulled through the sky, since he was now too broad to ride on the back of a single animal. Whistling for favorable winds, he traveled far beyond the lands of the Reindeer People.
     His biggest journey began when he was old, in the eyes of men, and the Reindeer Queen called him to tell him that there was new star in the sky, and its light was coming to the Northlands.
     He flew to a place where the wisest of the wise were waiting for this star. He stood with them on top of a mountain, He saw the night sky open like a smoke hole to reveal the new star. Light came down from it like a pillar, and inside the pillar he saw the face of a radiant child that melted his heart.
     He wanted to lay gifts before the child, but he had nothing except his beating heart.
     “Drum for me from your heart,” the star-child told him. “Drum for the hearts of men, to help them open to give and share in peace on this night of the turning year.”


Santa has been doing that ever since. When he drums, hearts open like the roofs of houses, and shining gifts come pouring down.
     Whoever gives in a spirit of love and joy on this special night has Santa inside him, or her.
When Mommy and Daddy were stuffing your stocking, Santa was there with them.
     Now, I know that when you have seen something with your eyes it can be hard to believe a different thing unless you can see that with your eyes too.
      So I want you to know this.
      In a great museum in Europe there is a drum made of reindeer skin. On it is an old, old painting of a man flying through the sky on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. I’m not saying this is Santa’s drum. I think his drum is too lively to ever get caught and stuck in a museum. I am saying that whoever painted and used that drum knew how you make flying reindeer, and how you get down chimneys.


Etching of Sami shaman with magic drum by O.H. von Rode (1767). 



(c) Robert Moss. All rights reserved. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Synchronocity Beast



Shhhh. If you're quiet for a moment, you'll hear him snuffling and padding around the room. Most grown-ups can't hear him or see him because they are too busy. Whatever age you are, you don't want to miss him. When he's around, things happen differently. You can finish something before you started it, which is really cool when it comes to doing chores.
-   He is, of course, the Synchronocity Beast. I shall tell you exactly how he got his name and his shape. There was once a very clever professor in Switzerland who woke up noticing what you and I know but most grown-ups forget: coincidence matters, terribly. But it was very hard for him to explain this to respectable adults in a country of bankers and cuckoo-clocks, so he made up a word that sounded scientific.
    The word was "synchronicity", which he defined as "an acausal connecting principle." He was talking about meaningful coincidence. You and I know that coincidence always means something. It's through coincidence that we discover that the world inside us and the world outside us aren't really separate. It's through coincidence that we discover the secret doors to the world-behind-the-world that open in our dreams but often seem to be bricked over in the daytime, as if they were never there. Through coincidence, we discover that there are players involved in our games of life who live on the other side of the curtain between the worlds, but can reach through that curtain to move a piece on the board, or tickle us, or muss our hair.
-   The Swiss professor got serious people - the sort who would never listen to talk of "coincidence" - to sit through his lectures when he substituted the word "synchronicity." He also go them to listen because he told good stories about how synchronicity worked in his own life, about how a solid cabinet cracked with a loud BANG when he was getting into an argument with his own teacher, or how a fox appeared on a path when he was talking to a lady about a dream of a fox.
-   I have never liked the word "synchronicity" as much as that good old word "coincidence". But alas, "coincidence" has been horribly ad-justed and only-fied by all the people who have long been in the habit of saying, "just coincidence" or "only coincidence". It has even been not-ified by people who insist "it's not coincidence" when they really mean that it is, but it's something real and important and meaningful, and they don't understand (because of the bad talk they've learned) that coincidence is all of those things.
-   So I've been using the word "synchronicity" in my own classes. But in one of those classes, there was a sweet lady artist who could never say it quite right. It always came out "synchron-O-city" with a great big O where an I should be. I thought this was rather cute, and couldn't bear to correct her. So, month after month, following her homeplay assignments, she would bring us tales of synchron-O-city, to our smiling delight.
-   One evening there was a newcomer in the class, a serious person and a stickler for accuracy in everything that can be looked up.
-   "I have another synchron-O-city to tell," said the lady artist, eager to share.
-   "You mean synchon-I-city," said the newcomer. "If you are going to use a big word like that, you should get it right."
-   Crestfallen, the artist tried to correct herself, but faltered.
-   I quickly intervened. "Please don't ever change the way you say that word," I implored the artist. "Every time you say it, I sense a soft snuffly animal - the Synchronocity Beast - coming into the room."
-   I paused. In that moment, I believe we all heard and sensed something like a plush baby rhino, snuffling and snorting. The first peoples of the country where I grew up, Down Under, say that to name something is to bring it into the world. The Synchronocity Beast is now alive and ever so busy in this world.
-   I can prove this because a writer called Maureen reported a most delightful dream in which she is one of a team of counselors helping me to run a camp for children where we supervise sleepover parties and dream together. Padding and snuffling all over the magical house in the woods where we are gathered is a creature she describes as a "baby rhino", soft and cuddly. I don't think Maureen ever heard of the Synchron-O-city Beast from me, at least not in an ordinary way. The Synchron-O-city Beast just went ahead and introduced himself. I hope they are feeding him well in Maureen's dream camp. He thrives on giggles and slips of the tongue. He likes to exercise by shredding the curtain of solemn people's expectations, and butting holes into Outland and Fairyland and other lands big enough to be doorways for anyone with a child's sense of wonder.


Friday, December 21, 2018

A Poem for the Winter Solstice


Eyes of the Goddess

From a journey to Newgrange

The poet waits for me in his countryman’s cape
And shows me the map in the gateway stone:
Twin spirals to get you in, and out, of the place of bone;
Wave paths to swim you from shadow to dreamscape;
A stairway of stars for when you are done with earthing.
I am here to practice the art of rebirthing.

She calls me, into the belly of the land that is She.
But I play, like the poet, with the shapes of time:
I am a swimming swan on the River Boyne;
I am a salmon, full with the knowing of the hazel tree;
I wander with Angus, and know the girl I have visioned
in gold at the throat of a white swan, beating pinions.

Drawn by the old perfume of burned bones, I go down
and doze until solstice fire, bright and bountiful
quickens me for the return of the Lady, lithe and beautiful
In the form she has taken, flowing as liquid bronze.
Her face is veiled, so the man-boy called to her side
like the red deer in season will not die in her eyes.

I see beyond the veil, for I come from the Other.
Oh, I yearn for the smell of earth and the kiss of rain!
I leap with her on the hallowed bed, coming again.
She knows the deer-king, as I am child and lover
Her eyes are spiral paths; the gyre of creation whirls
And sends me in green beauty to marry the worlds.


This poem is included in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories. Published by Excelsior Editions/SUNY Press.





Photos: (above) Newgrange at the winter solstice; (below) kerbstone at Newgrange

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Consecutive dreams and Mr H.G.Wells


I re-read H.G. Wells’ tremendous and terrifying short story, “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. Does he know about “consecutive dreams”? The narrator allows he may have read something about this phenomenon involving mental cases. The stranger says that the dream experts 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.
    He begins his story with a scene of 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 its landscapes, of Mount Solano, of Faraglioni….
    Scene by scene, we follow 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 wold 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 die 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 story, written before Kitty Hawk and World War I, 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.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The path of blue lotus petals


We don’t need to wait for death to remember what the soul knows: how and why we came into our present bodies, and where we will go when we leave them. Dreaming, we remember. We dream, perhaps, of death as a wedding, a cause for celebration as we move towards union with the beloved of the soul. Dreaming, I remember a funeral that preceded birth.

I hear the high, keening voices of the mourners achingly beautiful. I have never heard music so lovely on Earth; I have heard its melancholy matched only in a fado cafĂ© on an old cobbled street in Lisbon. As I hear the voices, I see again the path of blue lotus petals. I suffer again the knife of regret as I share the last passionate embraces of those I must leave behind. I feel naked and cold when my garment is gently removed from me, leaving me skinless and fluid, glowing softly like a wandering light over the waveless sea. I look back and see a lion robe, lined with a sky full of stars.
    I pass before the High Ones, on their high thrones. They approve the choice I have made, and its price. They counsel me with sweet sternness not to drink too deep from the cup of forgetfulness on this side or the other. They bring forth the envoy who will track me, and will speak to me in my dreams, to help me not to lose my memory and purpose in the miasma of the Earth plane.
    She escorts me to the Pivot of the Worlds. I enter the portal and descend, quick as thought, to a place on Luna I have used many times before. The Moon priest greets me with his archaic smile, unreadable in that pale, moon-round face. There are armed guards everywhere, with the heads of jackals and the muscled bodies of armored baboons. It seems conditions have deteriorated since my last visit. Luna has always been a mixed environment, a place of illusion and swirling cross-currents. It has now become an active theater in the contest between rival forces contending for the soul of the Earth.
    The Moon priest helps me into my body suit. Part of me recoils from this limiting, this confinement to such a primitive form, with only one organ of generation. Yet this body suit is flexible and moves with my thoughts. If I want to be a lion, it will take lion form. If I want to sprout wings or extra limbs or suckers, it can do that. It pulls back into its default mode – that of a biped that cannot eat and talk safely at the same time – when my attention wavers. But this confinement is nothing to what it will be to take on a body of flesh and bones in the world below.
    I relax for a while in the pool on the high terrace. I look up at the blue-white star, high above in the sky. It is eons since the experiment on Earth began, and it is constantly imperiled. We keep coming, because we helped to begin the game and must play until the final round.
    I wonder how much of this I will be able to remember this time, in an Earth body. I swim down to the bottom of the pool. The water streams faster and faster, sucking me into a funnel. I am on my way.

This is a case of what Joan Grant called "far memory" of another life, and a space between earthly lives. Experiences of this kind  have made me understand that. I am in an afterlife situation - a bardo of becoming -right now. I died to another world in order to come here. At a certain point I will die to this world in order to be born into another. Such things are too important to take on trust, from some hand-me-down belief system or even the reports of previous soul travelers. We need first-hand experience and far memory of other lives, the kind that enables us, on clear days, to appreciate the divine comedy of it all. 





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



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Flying to Nut

The Egyptian Book of the Dead is full of spells for becoming a bird - a swallow, a falcon, a heron, or the benu bird the Greeks identified as a phoenix, the bird that is reborn from the ashes of its own funeral pyre. Sprouting wings was clearly one of the preferred Egyptian ways of entering the Otherworld and embarking upon a happy afterlife. The ba soul is usually winged; it is depicted in many inscriptions as a human-headed bird coming or going from the body of the soul traveler.

I come to you O Nut
I come to you O Nut
My wings have grown into those of a falcon
My two plumes are those of a sacred falcon

My ba-soul has brought me
and its magic words have equipped me

- PYRAMID TEXT OF UNAS, Utterance 245

In the same passage in the Pyramid Text of Unas, when the star traveler calls to the sky goddess Nut that he is ascending to her on falcon wings, leaving the realm of Osiris below and behind, the goddess gives him the following welcome:

May you split open a place for yourself in the sky
among the stars of the sky
for you are a star...
Look down upon Osiris

when he gives orders to the spirits.
You stand far above him

You are not among them
and you shall not be among them.

A true pharaoh ascended to the realm of the gods in such ways not only to rehearse for death, but to marry the worlds and return to the body with superabundant energy and insight. Initiates made the journey of ascent to enter the realm of the Akhet - the shining ones - and to be made "shining" (akh) in transformed energy bodies.
    The transformations recorded in the pyramid texts reflect a passage through several levels of reality, requiring movement beyond several successive energy bodies and the putting-on of a celestial body. Like the shamanic journeyers who find that they are required to give up human or animal form to transcend the astral plane, the royal traveler becomes lightning. In the Unas text, "a blinding light...a flame moving before the wind to the end of the sky and the end of the earth."



Image: Nut on the lid of the sarcophagus of an Egyptian noble lady, Tararo. Necropolis of Thebes, 740-700 B.C. In the Museo delle AntichitĂ  Egizie, Turin.




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




There is one direction in which space is open to us

The sun rises from behind the mountains, and golden light bursts over the lake. Though the analogy is too pedestrian for the glory of this moment, it seems to me that an immense light bulb has come on, impossible to miss yet difficult to look at head-on. 

The moment before I walked barefoot across the wet grass to wait for the sun by the shore, I was reminded of some lines from Emerson that give exact shape to the sense of illumination and direction that is now with me: 

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. 
    This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any other call.

This passage, from Emerson's Spiritual Laws, gives vital navigational guidance for our life journeys. Every word is as precise as a compass bearing. To read this passage deeply and take it to heart is to turn on the light in a darkened room, or put the sun in the sky.

The talent is the call. When we follow our soul's calling, and give ourselves to the work, the life Work that is ours and no other's, our gifts are multiplied, because we draw to us supporting powers from the unseen, starting with our own creative genius. 

There is one direction in which space is open to us. This explains why, when we are unsure of or uncommitted to our calling, we find blocks and opposition placed in our paths, doors slammed in our faces, savage reversals of fortune or of health that compel us to ask what we are doing in our lives. Such obstruction isn't random, and it's about more than toughening us up. Dead ends and adversity, repeated often enough, can make us aware that we've been following the wrong charts. Knowing that we have been misdirected gives us the chance to find our true direction. 

On that side all obstruction is taken away. When we follow the soul's direction, the way ahead is open, and wind and water flow with us. We "sweep serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea." We draw new allies, events and resources to us. Chance encounters and benign coincidence support us and ease our passage in ways that are inexplicable to those from whom the spiritual laws of human existence are hidden.

What we now deliver in our world is unique, yet it springs from the mode in which the general soul incarnates in us. We draw from "that age-long memoried self that shapes the elaborate shell of the mollusc and the child in the womb, that teaches the birds to make their nest", as Yeats wrote, thrillingly, in The Trembling of the Veil. The poet added that "genius is a crisis that joins that buried self for certain moments to our trivial daily mind.." Yes, but Emerson arouses us to the understanding that the flash of genius can become a steady beacon for a voyage in which the mixed crew of personalities that compose the self are willing to work the ropes together, because the helmsman is unerring.

We have no rival when we follow our one direction and live as creators. To be a creator is to bring something new into the world, the thing only we can give.

Each of us has all of the power to do something unique, and no one has any other call.
Ah. As I write this line, releasing it from gender to become fully the property of all, the sun calls me, laying a path of light clear across the inland sea and through my window, so it shines before me. My pencil, on the table, glows in this brilliant morning light silently inviting me to endless exertion with the talent I am given, the kind of exertion that is no sweat because it is the soul's delight.





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




Thursday, November 29, 2018

Psychorrhagy, or the Origin of Ghosts and Doppelgangers


I am walking near a neighborhood store. From a block away, I see a friend who works in the store walking a dog, a German shepherd. It would be more accurate to say that she is walking him; he is struggling to keep up as she pulls on the leash. I don’t call out because they are quite some distance away, and cars are moving between us on a busy street. But as I return home from my walk, I stop by the wine shop. My friend is behind the counter, and I notice he has changed his clothes.
    “Where’s your dog?” I ask him.
    “She’s at home. I never bring her into the store.”
    “She’s a German shepherd, right?”
    “Right.” He stares at me. “How did you know?”
    “I thought I saw the two of you outside just now.” I describe the scene – including the checked shirt and brown pants I saw the man in the street wearing, which my friend recognizes – and especially my vision of the dog pulling him as if she wanted to take him somewhere,
    My friend turns pale. “I know where that might be,” he allows.
    He tells me, haltingly, that the woman with whom he lived for many years recently took her own life. He has not seen her since they broke up, did not go to her funeral and has not – yet – visited her gravesite.
    I get the impression that such a visit is now very much on his agenda.
    I find it fascinating that my friend’s doppelganger appeared with the double of his dog, which seemed to be leading him on an important mission – perhaps into the realm of the dead. Cross-culturally, dogs play an important role as conductors of souls in mythology, folklore and shamanic practice: as fierce boundary guardians (like Virgil’s Cerberus), as hellhounds that seize the wicked (like the red-eyed hounds of Annwn, a Celtic underworld), but above all as psychopomps (like Anubis or the dogs of Nehallenia, a Celtic patron of Otherworld voyagers) who can safely escort travelers between realms.
    This incident is quite instructive about the origin and nature of ghosts – ghosts of both the living and the dead, subtle ghosts that are perceptible only to the inner senses and heavy ghosts that are audible and visible to the physical senses.
    In its heyday around 1900, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) took a keen interest in “phantasms of the living”, ghosts, and dreams of the dead, correctly fining common elements in these phenomena. One of the founders of the SPR, the great Victorian psychic researcher Frederic Myers, coined a word to describe the origin of the kind of doppelganger I saw on the street. He called an episode of this kind a psychorrhagy. The word literally means a bursting or breaking loose of the psyche, as a hemorrhage is a bursting of blood. In Myers’full definition, psychorrhagy is “a special idiosyncrasy which tends to make the phantasm of a person easily perceptible; the breaking loose of a psychical element, definable mainly by its power of producing a phantasm, perceptible by one or more persons, in some portion of space.” [1] This might be caused by strong emotion, such as grief or fear.
    Myers was a classicist and a poet as well as a parapsychologist. He was relentless not only in his quest for evidence of psychic events – and especially of the soul’s survival of physical death – but in his efforts to provide an exact vocabulary to describe such events. Drawing on his command of Greek and Latin, he coined the now familiar term telepathy as well as many other terms that are still in use by researchers in these fields – supernormal and retrocognition among others. Some of Myers’ coinages have caught on; psychorrhagy has not. It is rather hard on the eye of the average nonclassicist reader, especially when couples with diathesis, a medical term used to define a constitutional tendency towards certain ailments or symptoms. Psychorrhagic diathesis, in Myers’ lexicon, is “a habit or capacity of detaching some psychical element, involuntarily and without purpose, in such a way as to produce a phantasm.” [2]
      Translation? Think of my sighting of the double and his dog in front of the wine shop. Some of the psychic energy of my friend seems to have “broken loose” and produced a double – dense enough to be mistaken for his physical self even under the midday sun. For a living person to go on missing so much dense etheric energy for any length of time would be likely to produce fatigue, debility, and illness – and later, possibly physical death. Hence the old popular belief that seeing someone’s fetch (an English and Irish term for this kind of doppelganger could portend death. The uncanny nature of the double is reflected in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting "How They Met Themselves" in which a couple in a dark wood are astounded to meet their second selves are react accordingly - the woman by fainting, the man by drawing his sword. [3]
     Ghosts, in our usual parlance, are already dead, in the sense that the physical bodies from which they were projected have died. But a ghost may have originated before the physical death of its unconscious maker, through the unwitting projection or psychorrhagy of dense energy.
      Ghost that remain stuck in one place for years after death are rarely very interesting. Either they have lost their minds or their awareness is smothered by a heavy energy sheath, like something wrapped in used chewing gum. Of ghosts in this sense, Andrew Lang observed correctly, “Since the days of ancient Egypt, ghosts have learned, and have forgotten, nothing”. [4]

References
      1.F.W.H. Myers, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (London: Longmans, Green, 1903) vol.1, xx.
      2. ibid. 
      3. Rossetti was fascinated by the double, and painted and drew several versions of this picture. He drew the first version when he was 23 and called it his Bogie Drawing. He painted his first watercolor version during his honeymoon with his model,Elizabeth Siddal, who died two years later from a laudanum overdose. When I was nineteen, I played Dante Gabriel Rossetti in a repertory performance titled "An Evening with the Pre-Raphaelites".
      4.Andrew Lang, Dreams and Ghosts (Hollywood CA: Newcastle Publishing,1972) 13-15





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


Art: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "How They Met Themseves" (1864 watercolor version)

Monday, November 26, 2018

The gift of "boring" dreams

I often hear from dreamers who complain that their night dreams are boring or mundane. They feel they are missing the movies. "I'm forever dreaming of arguing with my mother," writes one dreamer. "I'm fed up with having long-winded conversations with my boss," writes another. "I get enough of him from nine to five. Why can't I enjoy a dream romance in a tropical paradise, or go on an epic adventure?"
Of course we want the romance and adventure. But we also want to keep body and soul together on the roads of everyday life. Here's one of my personal mantras about dreamwork:
Ho-hum dreams are the most likely to offer help in navigating the future.
Why? Because much of waking life can be ho-hum too - until we start using the skills of dreaming and imagination to bring it more alive. So instead of complaining because you keep dreaming of arguments with your mother, you want to ask: how can I avoid getting into this situation again in the future? And perhaps also: how can I make peace with the part of myself that is like my mother?
Here's one of my favorite examples of the need to examine a ho-hum dream as a preview of a possible future, and harvest information from the dream in order to navigate better in a developing situation and avoid an unwanted event in waking life.
A woman friend complained to me that she had a boring and irritating dream in which she was in her cubie at the office when her boss threw a temper tantrum. "He banged his fist down on my desk, spilling my coffee over my work papers." "What happened then?" "I called him a bad name and walked out." She thought this over. "S--t. I think this may have cost me my job, in the dream."
Suddenly the ho-hum dream sounded less boring than urgent. I asked the dreamer to run a reality check. Could her boss throw a two-year old temper tantrum? "He does that all the time." Was there anything in the dream to indicate what he was mad about this time? "All I know is he wasn't mad at me. He was just taking his rage out on me."
If it were my dream, I now suggested, I would remember that next time my boss threw a hissy fit, his anger will probably not be directed at me, and I should keep my cool. The dreamer readily made this her action plan. "I'll play Miss Zen," was her one-liner.
Not long after this conversation, the dream scene started to play out in exact detail. The boss came into the dreamer's cubie and banged his fist down on her work surface, spilling her coffee. Instead of swearing at him, she played Miss Zen.He exited later in some confusion. The boss returned later to apologize. "Sorry about how I behaved. It wasn't about you." Instead of saying, "I know," the dreamer remained Miss Zen, sitiing silent with a distant tight-lipped smile.
The boss came back with flowers. "I'm really sorry." Miss Zen accepted the offering without comment, holding out a vase for the boss to fill.
At the end of the workday, the boss returned for the third time. "hey, I feel real bad. I want to invite you to come down to Cancun with the group I'm leading for the sales conference. You won't have to do any work. You can just work on your tan and drink stuff that comes with little umbrellas."
Because the dreamer did not discard a "boring" dream and worked with its information, she not only avoided an unpleasant scene and possible job loss but also collected an apology, flowers, and a free vacation.

Keep Books of Night and Day and be your own dream interpreter



We have direct access to sacred knowledge, in our dreams. Our dreams are a personal oracle that reveals the future and helps us prepare for it. We must not let anyone tell us what our dreams mean or stand between us and the direct experience of the sacred that is available in dreaming. We want to pay attention to signs from the world around us in the knowledge that everything in the universe is interconnected and constantly interweaving. We need to journal both our dreams and our waking experiences in our Books of Night and Day.
     These insights come from a fifth-century bishop of Ptolemais (in what is now Libya), Synesius of Cyrene. His treatise On Dreams is one of the wisest books ever written on how to work with dreams and synchronicity. He wrote that "Dream divination is available to all, the good genius to everyone" and that is no wonder that dreams show us the future, because dreams are experiences of soul and "the soul holds the forms of things that come into being".
      Synesius used dreams for practical navigation; he describes how dreams alerted him to plots by his enemies, counseled him on his literary style and (as a young man) on the hunt, and helped him win the ear of a Roman emperor with the right oration. He also observed, correctly, that the energy derived from dreams can be more valuable than their content; through dreams God "makes us fruitful with his own courage."

It is written, 'Others even in their dreams He made fruitful with his courage.' Do you see? One man learns while awake, another while asleep. But in the waking state man is the teacher, while it is God who makes the dreamer fruitful with His own courage, so that learning and attaining are one and the same. Now to make fruitful is even more than to teach.

He despised dream dictionaries, as popular in his time as in ours: "I laugh at all those books and think them of little use." He strongly counseled that we must not assign the interpretation of dreams to "experts" other than the dreamer: "It would be shameful for those who have lived ten years beyond adolescence to stand in need of any other diviner."
      He wrote that dreams carry us into higher worlds, and put us in direct contact with the God we can talk to. He hinted that the road of dreams is the road of the soul, on both sides of death, noting that "the soul's way of life in another world is similar to the imaginings of the dream condition."
       He was a great proponent of navigating by synchronicity, though the word he used was "sympathy". The wisest of humans are those who navigate life by reading the sign language of the world. We should keep a "day book" for our observations of signs and synchronicities as well as a "night book" for dreams.

"All things are signs appearing through all things...they are brothers in a single living creature, the cosmos...they are written in characters of every kind". 

The deepest scholarship lies in reading the sign language of the world; the true sage is a person "who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe".
     We can learn from Synesius how to practice dreamwork as real church, and track coincidence as "God's way of remaining anonymous". He deserves to be much better remembered, as a great dream teacher from the world of the early Church, one who spoke eloquently against those who seek to stand between people and the direct experience of the sacred. He wrote about dreams not on the authority of his excellent education (he studied under Hypatia in Alexandria), nor his contacts with the great, nor any high office that he held, but on the authority of his prolific first-hand experience.
     Synesius speaks to us across the centuries with the authority of experience, understanding - as do all true dreamers - that the best guides to dreaming are frequent flyers who do a lot of it.

-

Partly because I keep unusual hours, and am often embarked on my best creative work long before dawn, I don't separate my night journal from my day journal. All the material goes into one book — a leather-bound travel journal, when I am on the road. I try to type up my entries before my handwriting becomes illegible and put the printouts in big ring-back binders. I save each entry with a date and a title in my data files, so I automatically have a running index.





For more on Synesius of Cyrene, see my book The Secret History of Dreaming.

Art: Fresco from Pompeii showing a young woman with a wax tablet and stylus, cerca 50 c.e. We don't know her name. Her hair net of gold threads, as well as her literacy, suggest an upper-crust family. Today the fresco is maintained by the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Inventory number 9084).