Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Forgetful Envoy

Life is a process of remembering and forgetting, forgetting and remembering.
    The theme of the forgotten mission is beautifully conveyed by the “Hymn of the Soul” in the gnostic Acts of Thomas. The hero is sent from the East into Egypt in search of the Pearl beyond price, which may be his own Higher Self. Drugged by the food and drink of the country where he now finds himself, he forgets who he is. From the distant land from which he has come, the king and queen and “all the princes of Parthia” send a message to awaken him to the memory of who and what he is and recall him to his forgotten mission.
    The same theme resonates, in modern dress, in Doris Lessing’s allegorical novel Shikasta. An envoy is sent to Earth from a higher civilization in a distant galaxy. To reach his destination, he must pass through a vast waiting area, a plane of mists and illusions, where souls wander between incarnations. On Earth, the envoy succumbs to the miasmal conditions; he forgets who he is and why he has come. An new envoy must be sent to remind him.
    Does the story sound familiar? It could be yours. It has certainly been mine.
    One of my favorite literary versions is Herman Hesse's novella The Journey to the East.  In a time of social collapse, when "there was a readiness to believe in things beyond reality", the narrator joins a pilgrimage to the East under the guidance of a mysterious order described only as the League. He journeys far in search of his spiritual home and regains the knowledge of essential things, such as his purpose for living. However, when he returns to his former environment, he loses his journals and souvenirs and begins to doubt whether his experiences were real. People around him don't believe his accounts. Soon he succumbs to their skepticism. He wonders whether the League itself is only a figment of his imagination.
    But the League has not forgotten him. He is one of its own. He is invited to read his personal file in the League archives. He discovers that four centuries earlier, in another lifetime, he also belonged to the League. He is ashamed. How could he possibly have forgotten this? In a secret alcove, he is permitted to draw back a veil and makes his most extraordinary discovery. It is a small statue that proves to be two figures in one, joined back to back. One of the figures is the traveler himself. In the other, he recognizes the features of the guide who led him on his journey to the East.
    As he studies the twinned figures, amazed, the statue comes to life. His own image melts and flows into that of the guide. It seems that, when fusion is complete, his ordinary self will be absorbed into the larger identity of the guide, the form of a Higher Self.
    Like Hesse's League, our true spiritual teachers do not forget. When we open ourselves to the possibility of remembering who we are and what we might become, they communicate clearly. To receive their knowledge — and recover the knowledge that belonged to us before we came through the tunnel of the birth canal — we must be in a corresponding state of consciousness. As Anaïs Nin remarked, “We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
    Ordinary consciousness is a candle bobbing on a dark river, casting an inconstant circle of light across the water, in which an occasional creature from the deep can be glimpsed indistinctly. The river is vast, flowing into a boundless ocean. This is the sea of the greater Self. We cannot see it by the light of our daily trivial mind, which scarcely combs back the darkness.
    When I was a lonely adolescent in Australia, an inner guide who appeared to me in the form of a radiant young man from the eastern end of the Mediterranean reminded me that the knowledge that matters comes to us through anamnesis. The word literally means "remembering", the antithesis of amnesia. For Plato and the neo-Platonists, it means remembering the knowledge of mind and spirit that belongs to us on a higher plane, knowledge to which we had access before we came into our present bodies.
    Humans are forgetful animals. We forget and remember, remember and forget. Yet our true spiritual teachers stalk us in dreams and speak to us in liminal states of consciousness when we turn off our routine soundtrack and can hear a deeper voice.

Image: Library of the Clementinum, Prague

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The archangel of dreams

Gabriel is the archangel of dreams, for all three peoples of the Book – Jews, Christians and Muslims.
He first appears in scripture in the Book of Daniel, where he explains a troubling vision that Daniel does not understand. The archangel shows himself in the form of a man. But when he comes closer, Daniel is seized with fear and awe and falls prostrate on the ground. [Daniel 8:13-16] When Gabriel comes again to explain a prophecy about the restoration of Jerusalem, he “swoops” on Daniel in “full flight.” [Dan. 9:22]
The name Gabriel is a composite of two Hebrew words, meaning “man” (gever) and “God” (El). As Rabbi Joel Covitz comments, “Gabriel brings man to God and God to man, thus divinizing man and humanizing God.” [1]
In the Talmud, Gabriel figures as an angel of justice, smiting the hosts of Sennacherib with a sharpened scythe. He is also an interpreter between nations, fluent in languages such as Syriac and Chaldee. In Jewish tradition, Gabriel is sometimes identified with the nameless voice that told Noah to prepare the Ark, and the invisible force that prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and the voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
The Jewish mystical text, the Zohar, identifies Gabriel both as the Master of Dreams, and as the angel who mentors the soul before birth. In this conception, the bringer of dreams is also the source of the soul’s knowledge of its destiny and its place in the order of creation.
In the Christian story, Gabriel is the angel of the Annunciation. He appears to Mary to announce the coming of the Christ, as he formerly appeared to Zacharias to announce the coming of John the Baptist. He visits Joseph in a dream to reveal the identity of the divine child. He returns in another dream to warn the family to flee from Herod’s persecution.
The beauty of his face and form are almost feminine in countless Renaissance images of the Annunciation – in Leonardo’s version, for example, and in Melozzo da Forli’s.
The whole of Islam hangs on Gabriel’s relationship, as dream guide, with the prophet Muhammad. The prophet claimed it was Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic) of the “140 pairs of wings”, who dictated the Koran to him, sura by sura. It was Gabriel who escorted Muammad on his Night Journey (miraaj) to gain the personal knowledge of higher worlds.
Gabriel brought Muhammad an extraordinary ride, the Buraq, sometimes depicted as a mule with a woman’s face. Like the human mind, the Buraq is restive and must be calmed by the angel before it can carry Muhammad through the many worlds. They fly to Jerusalem, swift as thought. They ascend to higher realms from the Dome of the Rock. They explore successive heavens – some say seven, others nine – where Muhammad interviews spiritual masters who once lived on earth, as well as planetary angels.
Gabriel parts company with Muhammad at the Lote Tree of the Farthest Boundary. The Lote Tree is unlike any tree known on earth. It marks the outer limit of the realm of images; beyond this, the intellect may not go.
When Muhammad returns to his body, with the inspiration for the Koran, he finds that water from the jug his mystical steed kicked over during its take-off is still spilling onto the floor of his cave. His travels through all the heaven worlds have taken less time than is required to empty a jug of water.
 A hadith says that Gabriel used to come to the Prophet in the firm of Dihya Kalbi, the most beautiful of his contemporaries. [2]
Muslims believe that Gabriel descends to earth once a year on the Night of Destiny, towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
In Kabbalah, Gabriel is associated with Yesod, Foundation, and the sphere of the Moon. In the Western Mystery traditions, his  color is blue and his element is water. Coptic Christians associate him with Anubis, the canine-headed Egyptian patron of dreaming and astral travel. In Celtic blessings Gabriel is sometimes called the Seer of the Virgin.

My favorite account of Gabriel is from Rumi. The great Persian mystical poet put himself inside the scene in which Mary first encountered the archangel and found that (of course) she was terrified.
Alone in her room, Mary saw a “heart-ravishing form”. It “rose up before her from the face of the earth, bright as the moon and the sun.”
She trembled with fear. She was naked and feared that her body would be ravished by this amazing power.
She was so scared she jumped out of her skin, trusting herself to the protection of God. She was practiced in “flight to the unseen.” “Seeing this world to be a kingdom without permanence, she made a fortress of the presence of God” – and sought shelter in that fortress now.
The angel spoke to her. “I am the true messenger of the Presence. Do not fear me.” As he spoke, a pure light flamed from his lips, like a candle, and spiraled up to the star Arcturus.
“You flee from me from the seen into the unseen, where I am lord and king. What are you thinking? My home is in the unseen. What you see before you is only a portrait. Mary, look closely, for I am difficult to grasp. I am a new moon and a yearning in the heart.
“You seek refuge from the one who is your refuge. You confuse the Friend of your soul with a stranger. You flee from the Friend you seek. Don’t choose sorrow when what is before you is joy.”[3] 

Thirty years ago, in bright sunlight, I had a vision of the archangel as a being of feminine beauty formed of solidified light. I fell on my knees,streaming tears, on a dirt road behind the farm house where I was then living. I wrote a poem for Gabriel from that vision.

Song for Gabriel

My heart is a song that rises
It is a rainbow bridge
spanning abysses 
of place and time

My heart is a song that rises
to walk in the One Light
to heal the wound
between earth and sky

    My heart is a song that rises
It is the crystal fire
that wakens the sleeper 
into the dream

My heart is a song that rises 
It is the pure waterfall 
that cleanses my path
with tears of joy


1. Joel Covitz, Visions of the Night: A Study of Jewish Dream Interpretation (Boston: Shambhala,1996) 58
2. William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989) 117, 396n4
3. Freely adapted from A.J.Arberry's rendition in Tales from the Masnavi (London: Curzon Press, 1994) 267-268.

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

Art: Gabriel as Annunciating Angel by Melozzo da Forli (1438-1494)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Know the myth you are living

As some people use the word, myth is synonymous with fake news, or superstition, or outmoded hand-me down beliefs. A myth may be a prevailing worldview – that the earth is flat or the still center of the turning universe, that humanity begins with Adam and Eve, that the world is enthralled by a dark Demiurge. For the Greeks, mythos was the spirit of the play, familiar to the audience yet as unpredictable as the gods in how it would unfold in a fresh drama.
      A myth may be a sacred teaching story that explains how the world came into being – and what is beyond it – and why bad things, as well as good, things happen, and what it means to be human. A myth may justify the ways of gods to humans, or those of humans before their Creator. A myth may introduce you, like the major arcana of tarot, to essential members of your archetypal family: to personified forces at play in your life and your universe.
      A myth may invite you to consider who among the gods defends you, and who has it in for you. A myth may also be a living reality beyond the realm of facts, a source of truth that cannot be confirmed in a laboratory experiment but may be evidenced by the data of raw experience.
      Your dreams can be a nightly screening of gods and archetypes. A dream may be your place of encounter with a Big story that is looking for you. It may call you to a tradition about which you previously knew nothing ."In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his primary, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream," as Joseph Campbell wrote in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Psychologist Betsy Meador was called to study Inanna and her priestess after a dream that involved the prayer flags of the great Sumerian goddess, Queen of Heaven and Earth, that were previously unknown to her.
       I was seized by Kali in a terrifying night vision – beginning with sleep paralysis – when I was fourteen. I wrote a cycle of poems in her honor. Later her brother-consort Kala, better known as Yama, became one of my principal mentors, reminding me to consider every life choice in the presence of Death. A little-known Celtic deity came into my ken in a series of dreams in which I was defending my property with a long-handled hammer, like a weaponized croquet mallet. Some shelf elf produced a Gallo-Roman statue of a god with a similar hammer, named in the inscription as Sucellos, which means the Good Striker. He seems to share some qualities with Thor. He is also the consort of a great goddess of abundance, called Rosmerta by the Gauls and Abundantia by the Romans.
       We confirm our relationship with a patron deity, or power animal, when it comes to our aid. Athena came to me like this in Anatolia. The Bear has come to me like this many times since it claimed me when I found the courage to step back into the space of a dream where it had terrified me.
       Myths are a cauldron of stories and symbols that hold superabundant energy for life. You want to become conscious of the myth you are living. If you are unconscious about this, then the myth is living you and you may be driven into confusion and disaster, like Odysseus when his men lose control of the winds. In different phases of life, we may inhabit – and be inhabited by – different myths. We may find ourselves in the play of rival stories. We may be able to match and mix.
        The great scholar of religions Wendy Doniger writes about the “seed text”, bija mantra. In her book Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India, she describes how she found this in the story of an Indian goddess, Saranyu, who cloned herself in order to get away from a husband she detested, leaving a compliant Hindu version of a Stepford Wife at home while she ranged free as a wild mare. This story kept after Doniger for decades, prompting her to reach deeper and deeper into its well. Whenever she heard it, she would say, “That’s the story of my life.” 

      “Myth, by design, makes it clear that we are meant to be something more than our personal history,” declared P.L.Travers, the author of Mary Poppins.
       The myths we are living now swing on hinges into other lives, whose myths swing back at us. Because our present life dramas are connected with those of other personalities, in other places and times, within our multidimensional family, it is not surprising that “old” gods and “dead” religions feature in our spontaneous mythology, as mediated by dreams and visions and by moments on the roads of this world when we experience a hidden hand, pushing us forward or holding us back, or rearranging the stage set.

Art: Frantisek Kupka, "The Path of Silence"

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Shelf Elf School of Dream Interpretation

Shelf elves are constantly at play in my book-filled life. They may push a book off my shelves, or hide one, or send one flying across the room. Sometimes they want to give me an opinion on a dream. I woke before dawn one morning from this dramatic scene:

Battle of the Turtles and the Crocodile

There is a commotion outside. I go to the window and see an army is encamped along the edge of a body of water where a battle is taking place between a giant turtle (the size of a dozen men) and a giant crocodile. I call to the others to come and see. When I turn back, I see that the army has saved the turtle, which is being transported to safer waters. They have constructed or opened a kind of raceway, and the turtle is swimming between walls. Now I see that there are actually two giant turtles.
    I look out to the water again. Beyond military lines, the crocodile stands on a headland, tail raised like a scorpion, apparently triumphant for now. I understand that the conflict will be resumed. It’s part of life. The role of the army is to ensure that neither party destroys the other.

I left the dream feeling both excited and satisfied. In the dream, I was an observer with a commanding view. I felt that I was being shown something of huge importance in life.
    I know both Turtle and Crocodile as members of my personal mythic bestiary. I have swum with sea turtles, and I am from a country famous for crocodiles. I know that in life, there are contests between opposing forces and attitudes that must continue if life itself is to go on.
     Instead of spending much time analyzing the dream, I made a quick drawing and decided to ask Jung for a second opinion. Who better? I had already had it in mind to do my daily bibliomancy with Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a book of seminal importance in my life and the most personal and accessible of his works. 
     However, when I reached into the Jung section in a glass-fronted bookcase in my personal library, the shelf elves had other ideas. Another volume in Jung’s Collected Works came flying off the shelf, striking me lightly on the chest.
    Naturally, I changed my ideas about where to look for guidance and took this flying book to my desk. Its title is Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, which seemed to match the revelation of the two turtles in my dream rather nicely. The volume is a dual edition of two of Jung’s early essays, volume 7 in the Collected Works. I opened the book at random and read this:

There is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind…Repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible…Just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.

     I saw that there was no need to invent a snapper to carry the essence of my dream. Jung had given me one. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.
     This little incident is a practical example of how we can turn to a book to give us a second opinion on a dream. Our curiosity may, of course, take us far beyond the initial passage we find when we open a book at random. I found myself drawn, irresistibly, to read both of the essays in that volume of Jung, in which we find his mind devising and developing theories of aspect psychology, the shadow, and the relations between the ego-self and the collective unconscious, which were to become fundamental to his approach.

I went looking in an old journal for my drawing of the battle of the turtles and the crocodile to post with this article. I found the relevant journal fairly quickly. But as I pulled it off the shelf another journal, bound in green leather, shot off the shelf above it and slapped my shoulder. Yes, I will spend some time with the journal that was thrown at me. A sketch on the first page immediately catches my attention.
     As I rise from my desk, green journal in hand, to make coffee, I am pretty sure I can hear mumbling and squeaking among the stacks of my personal library.

Text adapted from SidewalkOracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Journal drawing by RM

Monday, January 21, 2019

Flying with the Library Angel

It was probably that literate spirit Arthur Koestler called the  Library Angel who was my unseen companion on that passage in the Bardo of Air Travel. My in-flight reading was Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, an excellent study of how Shakespeare rose from obscure origins. After I took my aisle seat, the fellow by the window asked how I was enjoying the book. Quite soon he was telling me how he was in Stratford the previous year when the news broke that a hitherto unknown portrait of Shakespeare had been identified in an Irish country house and was then on its way to the bard's birthplace.
    My literate rowmate proved to be an artist and glass-blower. He gave me his card, which included the following self-description:

bon vivant

This was one of the best three word self-definitions I had come across. He asked me to define my own work, and then asked me to explain the application of Active Dreaming techniques to healing. I spoke of how dreams diagnose illness and can be a factory of imagery for self-healing when symptoms develop, I recounted some personal experiences of growing and then transferring healing images to cancer patients. With deep emotion, the man told me he was flying to the West Coast to support a family member who was undergoing treatment for cancer. He jotted down the book titles I had mentioned.
      Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young man who took the seat between us. More introductions ensued. The young man told us he was a vocalist who had sung with his college choir across the British Isles, and in many other places.
      I asked him whether it is true that composers tend to look down on librettists to the extent suggested in Robertson Davies' novel The Lyre of Orpheus, which I had finished the night before. He was unfamiliar with the novel, so I explained the plot, which turns on the creative pains and misadventures of an unlikely crew who set about trying to make an opera out of sketches by Hoffmann, with an entirely new libretto, while the long-dead composer watches from the limbo of composers who are waiting for someone to complete their unfinished work.
     "E.T.A. Hoffmann?" the new graduate echoed. "We studied him in my last semester." He gave me a rundown on Hoffmann's musical oeuvre, and asked about Hoffmann's second career as the author of dark fantasy stories, which were based in no small degree on his dreams and nightmares and sightings of apparitions, including several versions of the double or doppelganger.
    He spoke of a piece his choir had sung in his last concert, with lyrics from Goethe. His face fell when he added that the brilliant young composer was struggling with cancer. He had heard the tail end of my account of using dreams to develop imagery to help cancer patients, and asked me to repeat the book details.
    The bookish spirit with us on the flight was notably literate, far-traveled and caring.

Photo: Robertson Davies, marvelous Canadian novelist and sometime master of Massey College.

Fresh Words

The Inuit say that we need to entertain the spirits, including our own creative spirits, and that one of the best ways to do this is to produce “fresh words.”
   They help prevent our gods from becoming tired and dried up in the way that Rilke warned about in “Migration des Forces”, one of the poems he wrote in French:

Certains de nos dieux s’épuisent et se dessèchent,
arides, ankylosés;
dans d’autres, en murmurant, se jette la source fraiche
d’une divinité reposée.

My free version:

Some of our gods become tired and dried up,
sterile and stiff-jointed;
so into others, murmuring, rushes the fresh spring
of a refreshed divinity.

Drawing of Rilke I placed in my journal when I was 19.

    Among the Inuit, the strongest shamans are also the most gifted poets. One of the reasons their spirit helpers flock around them is that they are charmed and exhilarated by the angakok’s poetic improvisations. Inuit shamans have a language of their own, which is often impenetrable to other Eskimos. It is a language that is never still. It bubbles and eddies, opening a whirlpool way to the deep bosom of the Sea-goddess, or a cavernous passage into the hidden fires of Earth. 
    Our earliest poets were shamans. Today as in the earliest times, true shamans are poets of consciousness who know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that through the play of words, sung or spoken, the magic of the Real World comes dancing into the surface world. The right words open pathways between the worlds. The poetry of consciousness delights the spirits. It draws the gods and goddesses who wish to live through us closer.

    Yaminahua shamans in Peruvian Amazonia use complex, opaque metaphorical language in their power songs, which are their most important tools for journeying and opening an interactive space with the spirits – and for bringing energy and healing through. This is called, literally, “twisting-twisting words”. One shaman explains that with ordinary words, you’ll “crash” in this deeper reality; “twisting words” let you circle around and see.
    Wherever the old ways of dreaming and soul healing are still alive, poets of consciousness - those born and dreamed to be our shamans and Speakers - know what this means.We'll never be able to travel the song lines and the story lines into the space where worlds are made and can be recreated until we come up with our own fresh words.
    We need fresh and twisting words to change and twist the behavior of the body, in the direction of health, and to re-weave tangled or torn energy webs. We need to twist and shout our way out of the boxes, constructed by limited and self-limiting belief systems, that we sometimes mistake for home.

Photo at top: Fox Crossing on the Metuje River in Bohemia by RM

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Einstein demonstrates the source of synchronicity

The best explanation of synchronicity I know comes from Albert Einstein. More than an explanation, it is a demonstration, and it came to me in a dream, one of a sequence in which “my” Einstein mentored me on the nature of reality.
    I’m not megalomaniac enough to think that the actual Einstein would bother with someone who knows as little about hard science as I do. Yet the Einstein character who appears in my dream says that he talks to me for two reasons. The first is that dreaming is at the heart of real science, something that will be better understood as we go deeper into the 21st century. The second is that dreaming is the key to time travel, which Dream Einstein says is the most dangerous and most potent thing that humans will ever to get to experiment with; the experiments must be done properly.
    I spend little time and energy questioning whether my Dream Einstein is the individual intellect or spirit of Einstein or a part of me that dresses up like Einstein or some teaching figure in costume. I like the idea that our guides and teachers have access to a cosmic costume department. Whoever my dream Einstein is he talks to me in a stage German accent, sometimes at machine gun speed about things like the physics of time travel and the code of the I Ching, which he once told me is the best model of the universe commonly available and accessible.
    Here is how Einstein demonstrated the source of synchronicity.
    In my dream, a passage opens like a long cylinder lined with silver and bronze-colored rods angling up into the sky. I shoot up effortlessly through this tube. I become aware I’m about to encounter someone who can instruct me on the workings of time and the content of the future.
    I come out high above the ground and look up at a huge revolving structure; something like a Ferris wheel on its side or a giant fun park Tilt-a-Whirl. At the end of each spoke is a different object, a rather bundle of objects. As the wheel revolves, I noticed that the spokes go up and down at all angles making the general shape of a sphere.
    At the hub of the wheel is Einstein. He appears with wild fluffy hair, rumpled clothes as he’s appeared in my other dreams. From the center he works an engine that enables him to toss down bundles from the ends of the spokes. As one spoke dips another rises producing a seesaw effect. As a bundle falls to earth, it explodes like a piñata, scattering its contents over space and time. The source of synchronicity is the firing of a probability bundle, a package whose effects will be observed over a variable period of time but have their origin in a single throw.
     Since Einstein’s demonstration, when I notice a riff of coincidence, things popping up that you know are connected though there is no causation involved in the physical plane, I think of these probability bundles fired from another world into this one to burst across our space and time like multidimensional piñatas. A bundle is also quantum. Quantum means bundle or packet. So the cosmic Tilt-a-Whirl from which bundles are fired may be a model for how quantum effects are manifested on a human scale.
      The idea takes us all the way back to Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who said the deepest logic of our life is a child playing with game pieces on a board beyond this world. The child is divine, and as it plays with the pieces in another reality, events and people are moved on the game board of this world.

Statue of a Franciscan hitting a star-shaped piñata in Acolman, Mexico by Alejandro Linares Garcia, curiously evocative of Einstein's probability bundles.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

What is Active Dreaming?

Active Dreaming? The phrase is a provocation, designed to shake us free from the assumption that dreaming is a passive activity.  I am grateful for the gift of spontaneous sleep dreams, the ones we don’t ask for and often don’t want. They hold up a magic mirror in which we can see ourselves as we truly are. They serve as a voice of conscience. They preview challenges and opportunities that lie in our future.
    Sleep dreams show us what is going on inside the body, diagnose developing complaints before medical symptoms present themselves, and show us what the body needs to stay well. We solve problems in our sleep. And, as the First Peoples of my native Australia teach, our personal dreams may be a passport to the Dreamtime, the larger reality in which we can meet the ancestors and our authentic spiritual teachers.
    I work with sleep dreams in all these varieties, and many more, and welcome them to work on me. But Active Dreaming is far more than a method for decoding sleep dreams. While the techniques involved are fresh and original, they are also very ancient. They involve ways of seeing and knowing and healing that were known to our early ancestors, kept them alive on a dangerous planet, and enabled them to communicate with each other and with other forms of life in the speaking land around them.     
    Active Dreaming is a way of being fully of this world while maintaining constant contact with another world, the world-behind-the-world, where the deeper logic and purpose of our lives are to be found.
    Active Dreaming is a discipline, as is yoga or archaeology or particle physics. This is to say that there are ascending levels of practice. In any field, the key to mastery is always the same: practice, practice, practice.
     Active Dreaming offers three core areas of practice. 
First, Active Dreaming is a way of talking and walking our dreams, of bringing energy and guidance from the dreamworld into everyday life. We learn how to create a safe space where we can share dreams of the night and dreams of life with others, receive helpful feedback, and encourage each other to move towards creative and healing action. We discover that each of us can play guide for others, and that by sharing in the right way we claim our voice, grow our power as storytellers and communicators, build stronger friendships and lay foundations for a new kind of community. Above all, we learn to take action to embody the energy and guidance of our dreams in everyday life.  

Second, Active Dreaming is a method of shamanic lucid dreaming.  It starts with simple everyday practice and extends to profound group experiences of time travel, soul recovery and the exploration of multidimensional reality. It is founded on the understanding that we don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream. The easiest way to become a conscious or lucid dreamer is to start out lucid and stay that way.
    We learn to embark on conscious or lucid dreaming from the liminal state of awareness known as hynagogia, when we are between sleep and waking, or between waking and sleep. We learn to use the doorway of a remembered dream to embark on a wide-awake and conscious dream journey, traveling back inside the dreamscape to gather more information, dialogue with a dream figure, move beyond fear toward healing and self-empowerment – and have wonderful fun. We learn to travel together in mutual and group adventures in conscious dreaming, journeying into nonordinary reality with one or more partners and bringing back gifts and mutual confirmation.
    As a method of conscious dream navigation, Active Dreaming is not to be confused with approaches that purport to “control” or manipulate dreams; it is utterly misguided to seek to put the control freak in the ego in charge of something immeasurably wiser and deeper than itself.

Third, Active Dreaming is a way of conscious living. This requires us to reclaim our inner child, and the child’s gift of spontaneity, play and imagination. It requires us to claim the power of naming and define our life project. It invites us to discover and follow the natural path of our energies. It calls us to remember and tell and live our bigger story in such a way that it can be heard and received by others. It is about navigating by synchronicity and receiving the chance events and symbolic pop-ups on our daily roads as clues to a deeper order. Beyond this, it is about grasping that the energy we carry and the attitudes we choose have magnetic effect on the world around us, drawing or repelling encounters and circumstances.
    To live consciously is to accept the challenge to create, which is to move beyond scripts and bring something new into the world.

This approach is not only for individuals and friends and families, but for communities and for our deeper attunement to the cause of the Earth.  Active dreamers become Speakers for the Earth, and rise to full awareness of the truth of the indigenous wisdom that we must be mindful of the consequences of our actions down to the seventh generation beyond ourselves. Active dream groups can offer a model of intentional community, and can foster a new mode of leadership that empowers each member to claim her voice and play guide to others as they learn to speak and embody their own truth.

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

Photo: Path of lights at Mosswood Hollow, near Duvall WA, where I lead many dream retreats and trainings.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Churchill, Einstein and the making of immortals

I journeyed through the doorway of a dream, intent on exploring a most interesting locale, an upscale pub-restaurant called The Huntsman's Arms. I confirmed my impression that the pub is a waystation on the Other Side, and had several memorable encounters with deceased family members and friends and with the enigmatic proprietor, the Huntsman himself.
     In my exercise in conscious dream reentry, I noticed Winston Churchill looking in on a gathering in a saloon bar. The former statesman was floating in midair, like a human zeppelin, puffing on his eternal cigar. Over many years, Churchill has been a recurring figure in my imaginal life.
    This sighting prompts me to ask: just who are the great figures of the past who turn up in this way, dead yet seemingly immortal? Who, in the collective psyche, is Princess Diana? Who, in the Catholic imagination, are the saints who are believed still to be working miracles and turning up in visions? Who is the Jung who showed me around the Other Bollingen, a story I recount in Mysterious Realities? Who is the Yeats who has appeared to me in dreams and hypnagogia scores of times, and volunteered to be my"guide to the Other Side", as related in The Dreamer's Book of the Dead?
    Answers are likely to be slippery, because we dream and perceive in so many different ways, on so many levels. Musing on this theme, I found myself reflecting again on my serial dreams of encounters and "thought experiments" with Einstein. In one of my Einstein dreams, the great scientist welcomed me at the wooden gate of a formal Chinese garden. He led me to a tea house and introduced me to Richard Wilhelm, who gave the West the first translation of the I Ching that works for practical purposes of divination. In the course of our conversation, Einstein made reference to a certain "Fechner", a name previously unknown to me.-
    I did some research and found that Gustav Fechner was a German psychologist and physicist of the 19th century, credited with pioneering the science of "psychophysics". Fechner, a firm believer in the soul's survival of physical death, attempted to define the different modes and subtle vehicles in which consciousness can both survive death and make itself known to others. 
    In Richard Wilhelm's lectures on the I Ching I found a note on Fechner's psychophysics of the afterlife that goes to the quick of my inquiry about what is going on when Churchill or Einstein turns up in the imaginal lives of the living. Fechner suggested that after death the departed acquires a "body of immortality" that is "formed in the thoughts of other men...formed by their remembrance of the deceased". This body of immortality is "a body of a higher grade, in which the deceased can continue to live" and appear to the living. The great and famous, whose image in life is magnified by the attention and hopes and beliefs of millions, and whose memory is carried by just as many, could presumably take on a "body of immortality" that would enable them to appear and operate like the demigods of the ancient world or the saints of believers.
     In the midst of these researches - in books and in my journals, on the internet and in the interworld of lucid active dreaming -  I stopped in at my favorite used bookstore.This is one of those happy places where shelf elves are often at play, and are sometimes embodied by the bookseller. The assistant on duty that day - a gentle and mature historian and scholar whose day job is at an area college - chose to recollect, out of the blue, "When I was a boy my father gave me a complete collection of Winston Churchill's speeches, on vinyl of course. I was thrilled by them. My wife put them on disk for me and I've been listening again, and they are no less thrilling. It feels like Churchill is one of those people who can reach across time, into many people's minds."

Art: "The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell" )1962), Churchill's last painting

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Dreaming with the Goddess

She has a thousand faces.
She is virgin, mother and crone.
She is creator, preserver and destroyer.
She gives birth, endlessly. 
Her womb is the gateway of death and rebirth.
She is Queen of Earth and Heaven.

She fell through a hole in her world
and danced our world into being on turtle’s back.
She hid the sunlight from the world
when she was abused by men
and could only be lured back
when shown her radiant face in a mirror.

She is lover, warrior and shaman.
She is the one who repairs the broken soul.
She raises the god in man with her breath.

Men tried to confine her to limited roles,
to force her into wedlock with despotic gods.
Then the Church sought to bury her.
But the Goddess returned as Mary,
and now she is loose again,
asking us to honor and embody her
in the forms that please her.

I am only a man, but I serve the Goddess.
When I was still a virgin, she claimed me
in one of her most fearsome forms,
and I carry her mark in a secret place.

I have been taught by ancient priestesses
in a mountain temple in the sky
in a mandorla of amber light
in worlds that open through an oak door
and a bee hive and a sea mist.

I have met the Goddess in molten lava,
as Spider Woman and Reindeer Queen
and as Great Mother Bear.
Bees flew me to a place of her mysteries.
I feel her hair stream in the sea waves.
I love her in the deep loamy earth.
I see her robe swirl in the shifting stars. 

Images: Top: Venus of Willendorf
Bottom: Nut at Esalen (c) Robert Moss

Making real magic

Real magic is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this world. We do this when we go dreaming and when we remember to bring something back. In dreaming, we go to other realities, that may include places of guidance, initiation, challenge, adventure, healing. When we bring something back from these excursions, and take action in ordinary life to embody guidance and energy, that is a practice of real magic.
    We go dreaming in the night. We do it quite spontaneously. We can do it by setting an intention for our nocturnal adventures. We can do it as lucid dreamers, awakened to the fact that we are dreaming and able to navigate the dreamlands consciously.  We can do it in the way of the shaman, traveling intentionally, conscious and hyper-awake, riding the drum to locales beyond the ordinary, and bringing back gifts.
    We can also walk the roads of everyday life as conscious or lucid dreamers, learning to recognize how the world is speaking to us in signs and symbols, and how a deeper order of events may reveal itself through the play of synchronicity. In night dreams and conscious excursions, we get out there; we go near or far into other orders of reality where the rules of linear time and Newtonian physics do not apply. Through synchronicity, powers of the deeper reality come poking and probing through the walls of our consensual hallucinations to bring us awake. Sometimes they work to confirm or encourage us in a certain line of action; sometimes they intercede to knock us back and discourage us from persisting in the worst of our errors.
     Synchronicity is when the universe gets personal. Navigating by synchronicity is the dreamer’s way of operating 24/7. Though the word “synchronicity” is a modern invention — Jung made it up because he noticed that people have a hard time talking about coincidence — the phenomenon has been recognized, and highly valued, from the most ancient times. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that the deepest order in our experienced universe is the effect of “a child playing with game pieces” in another reality. As the game pieces fall, we notice the reverberations, in the play of coincidence.
      When we pay attention, we find that we are given signs by the world around us every day. Like a street sign, a synchronistic event may seem to say Stop or Go, Dead End or Fast Lane.  Beyond these signs, we find ourselves moving in a field of symbolic resonance which not only reflects back our inner themes and preoccupations, but provides confirmation or course correction. A symbol is more than a sign: it brings together what we know with what we do not yet know.
    Through the weaving of synchronicity, we are brought awake and alive to a hidden order of events, to the understory of our world and our lives. As in the scene in the movie The Matrix when the black cat crosses the room in the same way twice, riffs of coincidence (for which I have coined the term reincidence) can teach us that consensual reality may be far less solid than we supposed.
    You do not need to travel far to encounter powers of the deeper world or hear oracles speak. You are at the center of the multidimensional universe right now. The doors to the Otherworld open from wherever you are, and the traffic moves both ways. 

Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo by RM

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Symbol magnets and something fishy about Jung

The magnetic power of a symbol, in our lives, can bring together inner and outer events in ways that shift our perception of reality. We learn best about these things through direct experience, and through stories - like Jung's fish tales - that we can trust.     
    When Jung was immersed in his study of the symbolism of the fish in Christianity, alchemy and world mythology, the theme started leaping at him in everyday life. On April 1, 1949, he made some notes about an ancient inscription describing a man whose bottom half was a fish. At lunch that day, he was served fish. In the conversation, there was talk of the custom of making an "April fish" - a European term for "April fool" - of someone.
    In the afternoon, a former patient of Jung's, whom he had not seen for months, arrived at his house and displayed him some "impressive" pictures of fish. That evening, Jung was shown embroidery that featured fishy sea monsters. The next day, another former patient he had not seen in a decade recounted a dream in which a large fish swam towards her.

    Several months later, mulling over this sequence as an example of the phenomenon he dubbed synchronicity, Jung walked by the lake near his house, returning to the same spot several times. The last time he repeated this loop, he found a fish a foot long lying on top of the sea-wall. Jung had seen no one else on the lake shore that morning. While the fish might have been dropped by a bird, its appearance seemed to him quite magical, part of a "run of chance" in which more than "chance" seemed to be at play. 
    If we're keeping count (as Jung did) this sequence includes six discrete instances of meaningful coincidence, five of them bobbing up, like koi in a pond, within 24 hours, and all reflecting Jung's preoccupation with the symbolism of the fish. Such unlikely riffs of coincidence prompted Jung to ask whether it is possible that the physical world mirrors psychic processes "as continuously as the psyche perceives the physical world."
    In her discussion of how inner and outer events can mirror each other, Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz suggested that "if the psychic mirrorings of the material world - in short, the natural sciences - really constitute valid statements about matter, then the reverse mirror-relation would also have to be valid. This would mean that 
material events in the external world would have to be regarded as statements about conditions in the objective psyche.
    Some of the greatest minds of the past century - Jung and Wolfgang Pauli and David Bohm - sought to model a universe in which mind and matter, subject and object, inner and outer, are everywhere interweaving. Events, both physical and psychic, unfold from a unified field, the unus mundus of the alchemists, that may be synonymous with Bohm's "implicate order", Their interaction escapes our ordinary perception of causation and of time and space. “Precisely because the psychic and the physical are mutually dependent...they may be identical somewhere beyond our present experience.” 
    Living symbols deeply ingrained in the imaginal history of humankind are charged with magnetic force, which can draw clusters of events together. For those familiar with tarot, it feels at such moments as if one of the Greater Trumps is at play in the world. Traditional diviners understand this, as do true priests and priestesses. Thus one of the Odu, or patterns, of Ifa, the oracle of the Yoruba, is held to bring the fierce orisha Ogun into the space, while another is believed to carry spirits of the dead into the realm of the living. When that happens, you don't just study the pattern; you move to accommodate or propitiate the power that is manifesting.
    To grasp the full power of a symbol, we need to go back to the root meaning of the word. "Symbol" is derived from the Greek σύμβολον (sýmbolon) which combines συν- (syn-) meaning "together" and βολή (bolē) a "throw" or a "cast" A symbol is that which is "thrown together" or "cast together". This is very close to the root meaning of "coincidence". In Latin, to coincide is to "fall together". So it's not surprising that when symbols are in play, coincidence multiplies.
   The first literary mention of a symbol is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, in which the god Hermes exclaims, on finding a tortoise, "O what a happy symbol for me", before turning the tortoise shell into a lyre. In the ancient world, sýmbolon came to mean a token, that which brings things together. Thus a symbol might be a pair of tokens that could be fitted together to make a single object. Such tokens might be broken halves of potsherd, a ring or a seal. They would vouch for the truthfulness of a messenger, or an enduring loyalty.    

-  Jung noted in his foreword to his most important work on synchronicity that "my researches into the history of symbols. and of the fish symbol in particular, brought the problem [of explaining synchronicity] ever closer to me" His experiences of symbols irrupting into the physical world led him to sympathize with Goethe's magical view that "We all have certain electric and magnetic powers within us and ourselves exercise an attractive and repelling force, according as we come into touch with something like or unlike."  Such powers are magnified when our minds and our environment are charged with the energy of a living symbol.

Graphic: Oannes, from a relief in the Assyrian city of Dur-Sharrukin, today called Khorsabad.