Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Look for the secret wishes of your soul in your dreams as the year turns

Here's a game I am playing with my own dreams at this turning of the year. I am looking to see what they reveal about the secret wishes of the soul.
      That phrase is a translation of the ancient Iroquoian word ondinnonk, which I first heard from a Huron/Mohawk woman of power who called me in dreams. I call her Island Woman in my books. I learned from her that we need to look in dreams for clues to what the soul wants, what the heart yearns for, as opposed to the agendas of the everyday mind and the expectations other people lay on us. She told me, “Dreams that are wishes of the soul (when they are true dreams as well as wishes) can tell you that you need something you didn’t know you needed, or something you denied wanting because you felt ashamed for wanting it.”
     In her tradition, it is the duty of caring people to gather round a dreamer and help her to read the secret wishes of the soul and take action to honor those wishes. This goes to the heart of healing, because if we are not living from soul, our lives lose magic and vitality.
     Here is more of Island Woman's wisdom.Notice that in her vocabulary the dream world is the Real World and the physical world is the Shadow World.

There is limitless power and beauty and healing available to us in the dreamworlds. To keep body and soul together in the surface world – and to live from the purposes of the soul – we need to bring that dream energy through. This requires action in the Shadow World.
    The first part of that action may be speech, but not the chatter of idle birds or village gossips. The speech required is an act that brings something new into a world. Dreaming gives us the songs and the magic words that can bring something up from a soupy ocean of possibilities to take root in the earth. That is why real men and women of power are poets, singers, storytellers, performers. With skeins of song and dancing needles of magic words, they reweave the fabric of reality.
   When we do this, we know that we are entertaining the spirits: our own vital spirits, the spirits of the ancestors, the great ones who reach to us from beyond space and time, the ancient and shining ones.
   Nothing happens until it is dreamed. When we bring something good from the dreamworld into the surface world, we do the work of the Creator. We join in dancing a world into being, as Sky Woman danced on Turtle’s back.
   Through dreaming, we recover the knowledge of our sacred purpose that belonged to us before we came into our present bodies. Then we can begin to live from our sacred purpose and unite ourselves to the powers of creation. We can also begin to get in touch with other members of our soul families who live in other places and times. 
     Unless you dream, you’ll never be fully awake. In the Shadow World, we go around like sleepwalkers. In big dreams, we wake up.

Drawing of Island Woman by Robert Moss

For more of Island Woman's teachings about soul and dreaming please see my book Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul 

Monday, December 30, 2019

The waters of dreams

In drugstore dream dictionaries we are told that water, as a dream symbol, is about emotions. Well, ye-es, it maybe, but what you find in your dream waters and what I find may be very different things. 
     As with any dream, a dream of water may be symbolic, literal, or an experience of a separate reality. I have dreamed, over decades now, of being able to travel to the sea floor without any breathing problems and of encountering a Mother of the Deep and various other characters who seem to embody the elemental powers of the ocean. I have dreamed of healing in sacred pools, and delight in mermaid coves, and the kind of inundation that brings fresh new growth bursting into the world.
     I have also noticed that some of our dreams of water may be both literal and symbolic. We dream of a tsunami or a hurricane - and that event turns out to be both a natural event that is played out in the world and a terrific emotional storm that blows up in our personal lives. 
     How water moves or fails to move in dreams is a very important source of guidance to me on the state of my body and my creative energy. Clogged pipes and logjams - in physical reality as well as in night dreams - alert me to the need to do some clearing and free up energy that needs to be in flow. 
     Water transforms, and it goes through its own transformations, from vapor to liquid to solid and back through the sequence. We come from the water, and our bodies are mostly composed of seawater. Our dreams may open us to the teachings of water: to flow rather than to push, to stream round an obstacle rather than charge it head on.
     The waters of dreams offer entry into a different element, sometimes a different universe. In the deep, we may receive deep healing or encounter sacred powers.
     In one of my workshops, a scientist from Virginia shared a wonderful dream in which he plunges deep into the ocean and then up into space, doing the butterfly stroke, repeating the motions until he is circling the planet. We didn't analyze this dream. We plunged into it and enjoyed its energy. With the dreamer's permission and the aid of shamanic drumming, our whole circle accompanied him back into his dream in a marvelous adventure in group lucid dreaming. Some of us met creatures of the deep beyond those chronicled in National Geographic, with mutual respect. Some joined dolphin pods. I enjoyed skimming the Pacific, in waters around my native Australia. 
     When I think of water, and the need for flow in any satisfying and creative life, I remember my favorite statement in the Negative Confessions that were made in the Halls of Osiris in an ancient Egyptian passage to the afterlife. In the presence of grim assessors, the traveling soul is required to swear that he or she has not committed various crimes and immoral acts. This is the affirmation I love best, as recorded in the so-called Egyptian Book of the Dead, whose literal title is The Book of Coming Forth by Day:

I have not obstructed water when it should flow.

I want to be able to say that on any day.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

What the old ones know about dreaming worlds

Some things I have learned through dreaming that wise ancestors of all traditions knew:

The doors of the Otherworld open from wherever you are.

The visible world is the skin of the invisible multiverse.

Souls can be lost or stolen.

True shamans can heal the body and call the soul home with story, song and poetic enchantments.

We are more than body and brain: we are mind and heart and spirit, and all need care and feeding.

Dreaming is traveling. You make visits and you receive visitations.

Dreams are a field of interaction between human and more-than-human.

By entering the portal of a dream, you can find your way to worlds of magic, healing and adventure, reclaim parts of your own vital soul that went missing – and meet the beloved of your soul.

Everything is alive and conscious and we are connected with all animate life.

The distance between the living and the dead is thinner than your eyelids.

The ancestors are talking, talking. We need to discern who and what is with us and which relations we need to heal, end or affirm.

Real magic is the art of bringing gifts from another world to this one. We do this when we go dreaming and bring back guidance and energy we embody in our lives, and when we wake up to the fact that the world around us will speak to us in the manner of dreams if we pay attention.

You don't need to go to sleep in order to dream. Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It's about waking up to the deeper reality.

Your Big Story is hunting you. All you need do is place yourself where you are easy prey.

You are here in this world on a mission

You had a life before you were conceived, and you’ll have a life after death.

You belong to a spiritual, as well as a biological family. You have counterparts in other times and in alternate realities, aspects of your larger, multidimensional self

Nothing happens until it is dreamed. Dreaming, whether you remember or not, you help to pluck definite events out of the quantum soup of possibility.

- from "Maxims of the Hidden Poet", a work in progress

"Eye in the Sky". Drawing by Robert Moss from a spontaneous vision in the hypnagogic zone.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Social dreaming on Christmas Eve

Dreams are social as well as individual, transpersonal as well as personal. We get out and about, we make visits and we receive visitations. Some of us are much more social in dreams than in regular life. This was my story overnight.

After a quiet Christmas Eve with family around the tree, I traveled far and wide and brought back detailed reports in three intermissions from adventures with people who are strangers to me in the ordinary world.

In the first excursion, I am at a British military hospital during World War I trying to persuade the brass that there are more humane and healing ways to approach "shell shock" than to send soldiers back to the front or discharge them as unfit. I become lucid, aware that I am in a different body, trying to find how to apply knowledge from my current life including psychological terms that are not understood in 1917. I am starting to get a hearing from British military doctors when I step out of this scene.

 In another dream, I travel between the Hamptons and a country estate, trying to help in an emotional drama that has a woman on the verge of suicide. Despite the raw grief and rage in the scene, I feel I am getting through. I am calm and detached when I leave the scene.

In a third dream, I am staying in a vast luxury apartment in Miami. Three Latina housekeepers come in while I am trying to take a shower and lay out a four-plate feast for me. They come with happy dogs – a big black Chow and a tiny long-haired dachshund - that race around.

None of this was cheery jingle bells stuff, or the starlight of the Magi, but I felt up rather than down after each episode. The dreams seemed entirely literal, real encounters in different times and places. I was glad to see that my dream self was trying to help where help was needed, in an earlier time and an alternate reality. I could be in that apartment in Miami in the future, but I think what is unfolding there belongs to a parallel life that does not require further attention from me from this side of the swing door between the worlds.

I am pretty sure the stories are continuing to play after I thought I had checked out. I don’t feel any work is required on this side, not even my frequent dream detective work of asking “Who? What? Where? When? Why?”

I could play the part of asking “What part of me?” is each character in each dream – the ramrod stiff colonel as opposed to the would-be healer or the wounded warrior, for example.That could be fun. but would not lay to rest my deep sense that the dream figures are more than aspects of myself or a cast assembled by my inner movie producers. They have their own lives.

I allow myself the gentle pleasure of recording three new travel reports in my journal, and then adding them to my digital folder on Social Dreams. This folder now contains thousands of personal entries. In many of them I meet people I later encounter in ordinary reality, often in a workshop or lecture setting. I lead a workshop in a dream, then give that workshop in regular life, and recognize people who took it with me already. Just as often, however, a social encounter in a dream remains in its own space, in an alternate reality or a parallel event track. First-hand data of this kind is a corrective to the misconception – still amazingly common among pundits on dream psychology - that whatever goes on in a dream is merely a part of the dreamer.

Journal drawing by Robert Moss

Monday, December 23, 2019

We are such dreams as stuff is made on

The concourse is longer than I remember, with more turnings and more choices. Maybe I turned the wrong way when I last had the choice. Walls and ceiling are covered with little white ceramic squares, like tiles in a bathroom. Or a morgue. There are movie posters on the walls, but graphics and titles are indistinct under a changing wash of murky colors, shifting from bruised purple to poison green.
      I slow to a stop, wondering whether I should turn back. In this moment, color drains from the scene. There is only black and white. Definition is sharper. Shadows are knife-edged. I can read a sign that says BARDO. It points forward and back. Underneath it, helpfully, is a second sign I know from roundabouts in France: TOUTES DIRECTIONS. I see that indeed I am at a kind of roundabout. Tunnels go off in all directions. As I spin to appraise my situation, I lose all sense of direction. I am not sure I can find my way back now. Which way should I take.
     Ask Ka.
The statement is made in a precise and neutral voice, classless and accentless. I am not sure whether it comes from inside or outside my head. I don’t know what it means until something is illuminated in the tunnel ahead of me, as if caught by the flash of a camera. It looks like an old-time phone booth.
     I walk towards it and more light comes on – a crescent of brightly colored bulbs on top of the booth, a warm syrupy light inside. The sign on the box, next to a slot for coins, reads
ASK KA. Behind the glass is a round-bellied figure with curling mustaches and a turban. His eyes swivel to look at me. The illusion is remarkable. There is life – or lively death – in those eyes, and in the smile lines around them, and in the rise and fall of torso and belly.
     I have seen figures like this at fun fairs and outside magic shops. The last time was on the subterranean level of Pike Place market in Seattle, when I popped a quarter in the slot and a fortune-telling dummy named Zoltar decanted a scroll that – as I recall – was on the money if rather generic.
     I fish in my pocket for a quarter to see what Ka can deliver.
     Your money is not currency here, says that neutral voice.
     Ka is staring at me.
      Think of something that makes you want to be in a body.
     This is crazy stuff, but it gets pictures moving in my mind. Sex. Love. The kids. Swimming in the lake.
      Ka’s tongue come out of his mouth and lolls over his chin whiskers, pink and plump and obscene. He points at his tongue and I hear the word
      “Bacon?” This is insane. But Ka is nodding his head vigorously.
      I look more closely at what I thought was a coin slot. It is actually designed to take something else.
       “Get your tokens here,” says a voice behind me. I turn to find a vendor on a tricycle. The handlebar supports a platter of crispy bacon.
      “How much?”
      “Just one strip for now.”
      “I mean, what is the charge?”
      “You mean, what is your charge. You are charged with eating one strip of perfectly crispy bacon for Ka every day you are in the body.”
       “But I don’t usually eat breakfast.”
       “Bacon is not only about breakfast. It is a religion.”
       “I’ll see what I can do.” I don’t want to miss the chance to ask Ka. I detach a strip of crisply bacon from its fellows, resisting the temptation to grab another for myself – I am suddenly ravenously hungry – and feed it into the slot on the front of the fortune teller’s booth.
       I watch Ka’s white-gloved hands come down to collect the bacon. As he raises it to his mouth, a second pair of hands appears. He is sprouting limbs like a Hindu deity. With his extra hands, he smooths out a piece of paper, writes on it carefully, rolls it into a scroll and drops it into a chute. The scroll comes out the bottom, neatly tied with a thread.
       I retrieve it. As I untie the thread, I glance at Ka. His jaws are definitely working. Some of his hands are now making mudras.
       I open the fortune scroll and read the impeccable Copperplate:

We are such dreams as stuff is made on.

Drawing: "Ask Ka" by Robert Moss

Friday, December 20, 2019

On leaving a dream

When I leave a dream, I often feel that I step from one room into another. It's a "just so" feeling. I was there, and now I am here.
    When I exit a dream, I avoid saying "I woke up." That is such a boring way to end a dream narrative. And it's entirely possible that when I open my eyes in one reality, I have fallen asleep in another world that is no less real. When I finish recounting a dream adventure, I may say. "then I left that scene" or, “then I came back to my bedroom”.
     Sometimes the dream stays with me, and I am in both locations - the bedroom and that other room - in a state of dual consciousness after I come back to my body.

Very early this morning, at an hour many would call the middle of the night, I came back to the body in my bed from an excursion. In my dream I was at an airport where a woman from an Islamic country needed my help to find a place where she could get halal camel meat.
     This felt like an entirely literal experience, taking place in an alternate reality. I do not rule out the possibility that I will meet that woman at an airport in the future, since I often return from a dream with  memories of the future.
    My ability to help her will be greater now that I have consulted Auntie Google about halal camel meat. I now understand that camel meat is not only halal ("allowed") for Muslims but is available in restaurants and butcher shops all over the Middle East and Central Asia. I will also reflect on the possible symbolism here. It may have something to do with taking on the strength to cross a desert while carrying your own water - quite relevant for a writer embarking on a new book project. A dream adventure can be literal, symbolic and an experience of another reality all at once.
     My gentle return from my dream outing allowed me to see the airport - a very modern one, with sweeping architectural features I did not recognize, and the strong, dark features of the woman (no headscarf, I confirmed) - as I made a note.

Other times, however, I don't so much come back from a dream as fall out of it, in a mode reminiscent of the David Bowie character in The Man Who Fell to Earth. One night I fell back into my body so hard that I thought that I had broken the bed. I made a drawing of that bumpy return. Coming back so hard and fast cost me the memories of where I had just been.

Journal drawing: "Man Who Fell to Earth" by Robert Moss

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A solstice poem

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.

photo: Spirals on the kerb stone at Newgrange

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Dreaming with Robin Williams

Sarah Sera Sera is a wildly creative and entertaining dream teacher, performance artist and storyteller in the Portland,Oregon area. Her flair for comedy is such that it is not surprising that she attracted a dream mentor and playmate with the face and personality of Robin  Williams. When I gave an advanced group the assignment of selecting nine dreams that had made a mark in their lives and weaving a story from them, Sarah selected nine of her dreams of Robin Williams. She then produced a wonderfully funny script that I hope will be performed on stage. You can read the full narrative if you follow the link at the end of this delightful guest blog I asked Sarah to write, with Robin, to introduce their oneiric relations. She just messaged me that Robin says “Feel free to give her writing assignments as you find entertaining. But she is unlikely to follow the rules.”

Guest blog by Sara Sera Sera
I turned on my computer and started an email to Robert Moss. It’s 5:30 AM. OMG, why am I up and writing to Robert Moss at 5:30 AM?
In my mind's eye, the archetype expressed most recently and accurately by the late, great, Robin Williams appears in midair to my right.
“You okay, kid?” Robin asks.
I’m glad he’s wearing a festive long winter hat. I smile. He’s in a four poster bed in midair in my apartment. Don’t worry, it’s not creepy. He’s also wearing an old time white nightshirt.
I sink under my weighted blanket. “My chest hurts, my friend. It feels like I’ve been stabbed repeatedly.”
Robin lifts a candle. He is using the base of a candle holder I remember from my father’s family cabin when I was little. “Nice touch,” I think.
Robin shines the candle light on my bed to look at me. He yawns largely. I can see something is very awry about his hat, but the light isn’t bright enough for me to make out what’s off.
“What were you dreaming?” He asks.
I pick up my cell phone. I look at the notes to see what I’ve written.
“In my dream, I dance where comedy meets with tragedy. I see the storyline glimmering upon the surface of waters, and when I see the specific fragment I would like to know, I stretch out my hand and lift the glimmering gold line. The line wraps around my arm and I gather the song from inside the fragment and become that song.”
Robin blinks at me. He twists his face in a strange expression, slightly dazed.
“I’m going to need a lot of coffee for that one,” he says. “Is it time to get up? I guess I’m up now.”
I don’t move, it’s still not even 6am yet.
“OK. I request paid assistants from the universe,” I reply.
“What do you think I am?” Robin asks. “You think the universe sends me to just anybody?”
“Yes,” I say. “And now that I’ve begun to channel you, you once again get to bring new life to people in new ways. So, yes, I do think anyone can invoke you. But… I get to be your favorite story teller for the next little bit of our journey.” I wink at him.
Robin must have got bored with my monologue, he is looking at a room service menu. I don’t know where he gets these ideas, I don’t have room service here. Oh wait – that’s genius. I’ll put in a request to the universe. The universe loves me. “Excellent idea, my friend! Ahem… Universe? I want room service options, here, on site.”
Robin looks at me over his reading glasses. “You could easily make your own coffee and flavor it with good intentions”.
Robin chuckles. Now he’s reading a newspaper. I’m glad he keeps the old school traditions alive. Its so nostalgic to read a paper.
“Alright. What are you planning to work on before you make coffee?” Robin asks.
“I haven’t committed to getting up yet.” But now I’m thinking about coffee and that may be the best course of action. Robin is a wise guide after all.
“Alexa,” I say, and stop short. I just heard a dolphin squeak when I said Alexa. Oh that’s right, I have a bad cold. Perhaps that’s the explanation for why my chest feels like I’ve been repeatedly stabbed.
I try again, pressing on thru the inhuman squeaking that should be my voice. “Alexa, play Xanadu Soundtrack.”
Robin groans and falls back on his bed holding a pillow tightly over his head.
Olivia begins to sing, “Come take my hand, you should know me, I’ve always been in your mind… You know I will be kind, I’ll be guiding you.”
“How does this replace your other submission, ‘9 dreams and Robin Williams’?” Robin asks.
Olivia continues singing over Robin as if she doesn’t know he is speaking. “Building your dream, has to start now, there’s no other road to take.”
“Simple. I’ll post that essay on “I Am Always Dreaming”. This is submission becomes a teaser. It’s long enough to intrigue the fans of your school in Anamnesis and the department of “Comedy from Tragedy”, but it’s not so long that people pare inspired to send ‘TL;DNR’ comments to Robert. I’m polite that way.” I pause as I feel a wave of déjà vu, and realize it’s actually déjà reve. “I think I’ve dreamt this conversation before.”
“You have to believe we are magic…” Olivia is on a roll and unstopable! I start to sing along, but quickly stop when I realize the voice of the dolphins isn’t fond of singing in English.
But Olivia didn’t stop. When I recover from my coughing fit, I hear her sing, “I’ll bring all your dreams alive, for you.”
Read the original “9 dreams and Robin Williams” over at https://iamalwaysdreaming.com/blog/f/9-dreams-and-robin-williams.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Scientists in the Solution State

Great scientists often solve problems in their sleep. It is well-known that Descartes had some interesting dreams, but his work as a whole may have gained more from the “creative mood” in which he often found himself during a relaxed state after sleep. Carl Gauss said he often had his best insights immediately after awakening. John Appold, the inventor of a centrifugal pump, worked out the following routine: when faced with a problem, he would go over and over the elements in his head before going to sleep, programming his mind for the night. He generally found that he had the solution first thing in the morning. 

Famously, Einstein woke up on a spring morning in 1905 with the elements of the special relativity theory in his head. He had talked to a friend the previous evening about his keen sense that he was on the edge of a tremendous breakthrough, but was not yet sure what it was; the pieces came together in the secret laboratory of the night.    

The role of dreaming in the history of scientific creativity is both underrated and overrated. Exaggerated claims have been made for the inspirational power of sleep dreams in scientific discovery, and when these have been exploded, the reductionists have not been slow to pounce. For example, dream enthusiasts have often suggested that Einstein and Niels Bohr made their breakthroughs in dreams but (as far as I am aware) there is no evidence that either of them was inspired by specific content from sleep dreams. 

However, when we do deeper research into the history of scientific discovery across time, we find evidence of something far more interesting. Many of our greatest scientists have been dreamers in a more expansive sense. Above all, they have known how to enter into a fluid state of consciousness — a solution state - where unlikely connections can be made that escape the workaday mind, and where the shapes of what was formerly inexpressible rise from the depth like creatures from the ocean bed.

     To illustrate these statements, let’s study the case of one of the most famous — and problematic - “dreams” in the history of science. This is the dream of a snake biting its tail that revealed the shape of the benzene ring to German chemist August Kekulé (1829-1896). You’ll find it mentioned in almost any book that contains stories about dreams and creativity. But was it a sleep dream, or an image that came in a lightly altered state of consciousness. 

    Kekulé wrote a personal account, reconstructing an extempore speech he gave at the 1890 Benzolfest many years after his visions. Study this closely, and check the meaning of the German words, and you’ll find that his dreamy perception of the “dance” of chemical elements was not a one-off affair. He described a similar experience seven years before the snake dream that gave rise to his theory of chemical structures. He made it clear that in years between the two visions he had developed a practice of seeing or thinking in visual imagery.

     In his mid-20s, when he was living near Clapham Common in London, Kekulé spent a long summer evening sharing his ideas with a friend and fellow chemist who lived in Islington, on the other side of the city. Riding home on the last bus, Kekulé drifted into a reverie (Traumerei) in which he saw atoms “gamboling” and dancing and forming combinations. He understood, when he analyzed their motions, that he had been given clear insights into chemical structures. Up to this time, he had been unable to grasp the nature of their motion. 

“Now, however, I saw how, frequently, two smaller atoms united to form a pair; how a larger one embraced the two smaller ones…while the whole kept whirling in a giddy dance. I saw how the larger ones formed a chain, dragging the smaller ones after them but only at the end of the chain.” He stayed up late that night sketching these “dream forms”. This was the origin of his theory of carbon bonding in chemical structures.

     We see three conditions for creativity at work in this incident: (a) immersion in a subject, (b) sharing a developing idea with the right friend, and (c) drifting or relaxing into a flow state, from which the “Eureka” moment arises spontaneously.

Seven years later, a dream or reverie during an evening nap showed Kekulé the chemical structure of the benzene ring. He was now a professor in Ghent in Belgium. Dozing by the fire in his darkened study, he again saw atoms “gamboling before my eyes.” Now his inner sight “rendered more acute by repeated visions of the kind, could distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion.” Then he was startled to see one of the “snakes” seize hold of its own tail, and whirl “mockingly” before him. He was jolted out of his languorous state, “as if by a lightning bolt.” The image of the whirling snake gave the chemist the clue to the structure of the benzene ring. He spent most of the night that followed working this up until he had shaped his theory.

Kekulé had become practiced in receiving and developing helpful images in this way. When he described the roots of his scientific creativity in the Benzolfest in his honor in 1890, Kekulé told his audience, “Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the truth.” He added the salutary caution, “But let us beware of publishing our dreams till they have been tested by the waking understanding.” 

 The images that came to Kekulé would have been meaningless, in terms of chemistry, to someone who did not have a scientific mind that had long been working on the problems whose solutions they revealed. The imagery might have sent an artist off to paint, or sent someone with an interest in myth off to study the symbol of the Ouroboros in the ancient world and in alchemy.

     When Kekulé urged his audience to “dream”, he was surely not talking exclusively, or primarily, about what happens in sleep. He was talking about developing the ability to enter a state of relaxed attention in which ideas take form and interact as images.

    It is always exciting to know the specific ways in which a creative mind enters that imaginal space. In the 1850s, people did not travel in motorized buses. The public conveyance that carried Kekulé home to Clapham, was a horse-drawn omnibus. The clatter of the hooves and the jangle of the harness and the rocking motion of the box carriage provided the soundtrack and the rhythm for Kekulé’s breakthrough. 

    It is likely that other creative minds of his period were helped by the rhythms of a contemporary mode of transportation? For the French mathematician Jules-Henri Poincaré, it was enough to put his foot on the step of a horse-drawn omnibus. In his beautiful essay on “Mathematical Creation” Poincaré recalled that he had come to a stuck point in his efforts to formulate a new mathematical construct, when he agreed to travel to Coutances to join friends on a hike. Inspiration struck as he started to board an omnibus. “At the moment when I put my foot on the step the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it.” When he went home to Caen, Poincaré wrote up his theory of “Fuchsian functions” directly from this moment of insight. 

    Poincaré also received direct guidance from his night dreams. After several unsuccessful attempts to perfect an equation he had been working on, Poincaré dreamed he was giving a lecture to students on problem and wrote the equation on the blackboard to make everything clear. After waking, Poincaré was able to hold the image of what he had chalked on the board, wrote down the equation — and found he had his solution.

The Russian physicist Arkady Migdal described creativity as an intermediate state “where consciousness and unconsciousness mix, when conscious reasoning continues in sleep, and subconscious work is done in waking”. The place of creative breakthroughs, in the history of science as in other fields, has often been the liminal state between sleep and awake. I have come to think of this intermediate zone of consciousness as a solution state. 


Text partly adapted from  The Secret History of Dreaming  by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

"Cloudladder" is a "photoallegory" by Hungarian artist 
Sarolta Ban.

Painting with Words: The Dream Poems of Marta Aarli

Guest blog by dream teacher and poet Marta Aarli, MA, LPC 

As I hover in between the worlds, my soul swimming in the realm of dreams while my mind is scrambling to reassemble itself, there is a region where image and word exist together in harmonious balance. I often find myself racing through this passage as my mind wrestles back control and puts me into human form again.
    But sometimes I can slow this process down by softening my gaze until the boundaries blur, watching as my experiences take shape into visual phrases and verbal landscapes. From this in-between place, I allow words to flow, coming from my whole being, not just the verbal part of my brain, letting myself speak in a language of the body, the heart, the senses.
    Sometimes it sounds strange, because it’s from another place, a foreign country, the motherland of poetry. Each poem becomes its own being, expressing its unique character in its own form and dialect.
    In order to understand it, the reader must also open, allowing the language to flow in and merge with their own fluid places, translating it into their own native tongue. This is the creative process of reading or listening to poetry, similar to connecting with another’s dream. In this way we meet in the universal creative field that we share with humans and all other beings. When we listen to poetry, we receive it, rather than knowing in the same way that we comprehend things on an intellectual level.         Poetry is a wonderful art form for expressing dreams, because it is by nature a surreal, visual orientation to language. Once they’ve taken verbal form, poems reconstitute through the readers’ imagination, translated into their own images which evoke, or inspire, or move something deep inside that they had forgotten a long time ago.
    As a psychotherapist, dreamer, poet, singer, dancer, and visual artist, I’m interested in how to be the fullest, most integrated beings we can be. This includes our many parts - the analytic and emotional, verbal and non-verbal, earthly and spiritual, waking and sleeping, seen and unseen, conscious and unconscious, weaving together into fluid wholeness. I see poetry as a contemplative practice, to be with what is happening now inside our being and around us in the environment. When we express our inner worlds, we connect with others, invite them in, see our common experiences. Or perhaps we find that we are already roaming the halls of these vast universal realms together, in our dreams. The poems in this collection, Dream Worlds, my third book of poetry, are all from my dream experiences, since childhood. Some are combined dreams, some weave in waking life experiences or other peoples’ dreams. 

and as they danced 

and as they danced 
the women waved their arms 
threw their hair swirling
their black veils 
into the air 

hands touched 
in flowering gestures 
around their hips and shoulders 
their skin grew warm 
their breath deep 

and as they danced
 the snake wound around their feet 
intertwined at the ankles 
slowly binding them 
all together 

mother’s veins 

tributaries of 
mother’s veins 
flow together 
following our guide 
with the snake around his neck 

down river down path
island beach lined with boats 
dead loved-ones gathered 
singing and dancing 
at the crossing place

her mountain range breasts 
and rolling meadow hips 
upon which we gather
feather and bone ceremony 
around the fire
prepares us for journeying

through the fangs 

We drum for the journey 
because we are not from around here. 
We fast for the darkness 
for the daemons 
for the human heart. 
Unless sick, or too old
or too young, and then 
we are carried 
by the strong. 

And as we travel 
we see each other 
across other realms, 
not always recognizable 
often not what we seem.
Look closer 
and listen to the nightmares 
to the biting 
and the possibility 
of receiving medicine 
through the fangs.

also our angels 

they come to us 
each one its own animal 
ready to bite or sting 
wrestle us to the ground
 or devour us whole 
they come in need of sustenance
or understanding 
or union 

they come to love us 
wake us out of our slumber 
to get our attention 
by any means necessary 
with a kissing or a killing
 by delighting or disgusting
 pummeling us with storms 
or fire, earthquakes, tsunamis 

monsters so horrible 
only we can imagine them 
because they know us our fears, 
our worst enemies 
our hidden demons 
to conjure and thrust 
and also our angels 
our guides and our gifts

Dream Worlds: Poems is available from the author, Marta Aarli. You can also visit her psychology website