Monday, January 27, 2020

When we become a dreaming society

I have a dream: that we will again become a society of dreamers. In a dreaming culture, dreams are valued and celebrated. The first business of the day, for most people, is to share dreams – dreams from the night, and dreams of life - and seek to harvest their guidance. The community joins in manifesting the energy and insight of dreams in waking life. In a dreaming culture, nobody says, “It’s only a dream" or “In your dreams, mister.” It is understood that dreams are both wishes (“I have a dream”) and experiences of the soul.
     If dreams were honored throughout our society, our world would be different, and magical. Let me count the ways:

1. Dream Partners.

Personal relations will be richer, more intimate and creative. There will be less room for pretense and denial. Sharing dreams, we overcome the taboos that prevent us from expressing our real needs and feelings and open ourselves to those of others.

2. Family life and home entertainment.

“What did you dream?” is the first question asked around the table in a family of dreamers. In our dreaming culture, families everywhere will share dreams and harvest their gifts of story, mutual understanding and healing. Parents will listen to their children’s dreams and help them to confront and overcome nightmare terrors. Best of all, they will learn from their children, because kids are wonderful dreamers. This might be bad for TV ratings but it would bring back the precious arts of storytelling, helping us learn to tell our own story (a gift with almost limitless applications) and to recognize the larger story of our lives.

3. Dream Healing.

In our dreaming culture, dream groups will be a vital part of every clinic, hospital and treatment center and doctors will begin their patient interviews by asking about dreams as well as physical symptoms. Health costs will plummet, because when we listen to our dreams, we receive keys to self-healing. Dreams often alert us to possible health problems long before physical symptoms develop; by heeding those messages, we can sometimes avoid manifesting those symptoms. Dreams give us an impeccable nightly readout on our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

4. The Care of Souls.

As a dreaming culture, we will remember that the causes of disease are spiritual as well as physical. We will use dreams to facilitate soul recovery. In dreams where we encounter a younger version of ourselves, or are drawn back to a scene from childhood, we are brought to recognize a deeper kind of energy loss, that shamans call soul loss. Through trauma or abuse, through addiction or great sadness, we can lose a part of our vital soul energy. So long as it is missing, we are not whole and the gap may be filled by sickness or addiction. Dreams show us what has become of our lost children and when it is timely to call them home.

5. Dream Incubation.

In a dreaming culture, we will remember to “sleep on it,” asking dreams for creative guidance on school assignments, work projects, relationships and whatever challenges are looming in waking life. When we seek dream guidance, we must be ready for answers that go beyond our questions, because the dream source is infinitely deeper and wiser than what Yeats called the “daily trivial mind.”

6. Using Dream Radar.

Dreaming, we routinely fold time and space and scout far into the future. As a dreaming culture, we will work with dream precognition on a daily basis -- and develop strategies to revise the possible futures foreseen in dreams for the benefit of ourselves and others.

7. Building Communities.

When we share dreams with others, we recognize something of ourselves in their experiences. This helps us to move beyond prejudice and build heart-centered communities.

8. The Art of Dying.

The path of the soul after death, say the Plains Indians, is the same as the path of the soul in dreams -- except that after physical death, we won’t come back to the same body. Dreamwork is a vital tool in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of the afterlife.

9. Walking the Path of Soul.

The greatest gift of dreaming is that it facilitates an encounter between the little self and the big Self. Active Dreaming is a vital form of soul remembering: of reclaiming knowledge that belonged to us, on the levels of soul and spirit, before we entered this life experience. So much of the harm we do to ourselves and others stems from the fact that we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to become. Dreaming, we remember, and encounter authentic spiritual guides who will help us on our paths.

Photo: RM leading a fire ceremony at a gathering of Active Dreamers in the New York Adirondack Mountains

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Truth comes with goosebumps from Delphi to the next street corner

It's a rule of skin, for me, that truth comes with goosebumps (or chicken skin, if you like). There is a science of shivers, which involves learning to recognize and respect what is going on when something exceptional is in the air and your body responds even before your mind can make sense of it.
    For the ancients, and in shamanic traditions, trembling for reasons other than cold or external danger has always been regarded as a sign of the advent of the numinous, the coming of gods or spirits. A dream seemed to take me deep into this realm:

How to Know When the God is Present

I am explaining to a large group of students how to read the signs that announce the advent of the god Apollo at his oracle, and confirm that true messages will be delivered by his priestess. The sacrificial goat starts shaking from the hooves up when the holy water is poured over it. Everything in the environment begins to tremble as if stirred by an unseen wind. The priestess called Pythia, who has been drinking from the sacred spring, sees movement in the bowl of spring water she holds in her lap as she sits on the tripod. The laurel leaves on the branch in her other hand are shaking and murmuring.
    Inside the dream, I felt educated pleasure in being able to explain these things clearly. I woke with a mild shiver of recognition, and a deep sense of satisfaction.
Dreams set us research assignments, and this one sent me back to the books, to refresh my memory on the practice of divination in the ancient world, especially at the famous Greek oracle of Delphi, where the priestess known as the Pythia, or Pythoness, was consulted by the rulers of cities and nations.
    Through the surviving sources, starting with Aeschylus' play The Eumenides, I confirmed my dream self's version of the operations of the Pythia. In preparing to become the oracle, she bathes in the sacred spring and invokes all the deities associated with Delphi by name, starting with Themis and Phoebe, daughters of the Earth goddess Gaia, and continuing through Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus and Apollo, who she hopes will speak through her in the presence of a client. She makes burned offering of laurel leaves and barley meal on an altar of the temple. She enters the adyton(sacred chamber) and mounts the golden tripod chair.
    In one hand she holds a laurel branch, in the other a shallow bowl. She sits quietly until the laurel leaves start to quiver. The trembling seizes her hand, moves up her arm to her shoulders and chest. Her whole body starts shaking violently as it has been seized by giant hands. This is confirmation that the god is present and that his speaker is in the necessary state of enthousiasmos to deliver true messages.

The bit about the goats fascinated me. In Diodorus of Sicily's World History, I reviewed again the legend of the foundation of the oracle of Delphi. Long before the great temple was built, when the area was wilderness, a goat herder noticed that some of his animals were behaving strangely. They were shaking and throwing their heads back, croaking and bleating.
    The herder approached them and saw they were at a crack in the rock from which vapors were rising. When he peered down, a strange exaltation seized him. He started shaking too. Knowledge of many things streamed through him. His family, alarmed by his long absence, searched for him and found him under a tree. He began to tell people their secrets without being asked. He had become clairvoyant. News of the chasm and the power of the vapors spread far and wide, until those in authority determined that things should be put on a orderly business footing. A priestess of blameless life would be chosen as speaker for the oracle, and access to the adyton would be banned to everyone except her attendants.
    It would probably be mistaken to attribute the Pythia's powers of truth-seeing to sulphurous vapors from the earth, or chewing laurel leaves, or any other chemical assistance. For one thing, recent archaeology summarized in Robert Temple’s Oracles of the Dead suggests the historical oracle of Delphi operated at a different site from the place - called Likoreia - where the goats were set trembling by whatever was rising from a fissure in the earth.
But there was something else to be learned and remembered about quivering goats. Ah yes, it has to do with divination by animal sacrifice, indirectly referred to my dream-lecturer self. Goats and sheep were the preferred animals used in haruspicy, divination by the entrails, a practice common throughout the ancient world and held to be of high importance in establishing the divine will in relation to human decisions. The Mesopotamian baru, a specialist in these matters, held high rank. So did the Etruscan haruspex counselor to Greeks and Romans, under both the Republic and the Empire. The liver was the preferred organ for divination, because it was thought to be a vital seat of an aspect of soul, and a kind of anchor between the spiritual world and the world of the body.
     For the haruspex, the best liver for divination was one that had been just carved from the animal victim, still warm and quivering in the diviner's hand. The Hittites liked to observe the spasms of the dying animal as its organs were removed.

These tales of savage times say it again: truth comes with goosebumps. Personally, I can do without looking at animal livers. It's enough to notice those little - or large - shivers that come when something is going on beyond the range of ordinary perception. They are a part of what the bleep we know that we (often) don't know that we know.

Art: "Priestess of Delphi" by John Collier (1891)

You Can’t Understand a Dream without the Dreamer

“No interpretation can be undertaken without the dreamer. The words composing a dream narrative have not just one meaning, but many meanings. If, for instance, someone dreams of a table, we are still far from understanding what the ‘table’ of the dreamer signifies, although the word ‘table’ sounds unambiguous enough. For the thing we do not know is that this ‘table’ is the very one at which his father sat when he refused the dreamer all further financial help and threw him out of the house as a good-for-nothing. That is what our dreamer understand by ‘table’. Therefore we need the dreamer’s help in order to limit the multiple meanings of words to those that are essential and convincing [for the dreamer]. – C.G. Jung, “On the Nature of Dreams" (1948)
     In our Active Dreaming approach, we respect this cardinal rule through the first questions we put to a dreamer about their dream. The very first question is, “How did you feel on first leaving the dream?” This provides immediate – and often the best – guidance to the basic character of the dream, whether it is negative or positive, urgent and personal or something else. If a bear turns up in your dream house and you wake up feeling cheerful, your bear is clearly very different from the kind people flee from, at least in your perception and availability for interaction. If you are at work in a humdrum situation but wake with feelings of crawling dread, there is something in that scene – perhaps something that will unfold in the future – you need to understand and be ready to contain or head off.
    The next question we ask is the reality check. It has two aspects:

What do you recognize from this dream in the rest of your life, including the life of your imagination; and

Could any part of this dream play out in the future, literally or symbolically?

The question about the future is vitally important because dreams often rehearse us for challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and sometimes give us very clear precognition (a phenomenon that Jung, for all his brilliance on many fronts, was slow to accept).
     The first part of our reality check answers Jung’s concern by taking the elements of the dream straight to the dreamer and locating them in the context of their outer and inner life. I will never forget listening, in a dream sharing circle, to a dream of bats. Everyone there had strong feelings and associations with bats, across a wide spectrum from bats in the belfry to witches, from speleology to being able to navigate in the dark.  Some were quivering with eagerness to offer feedback on the dream. “If it were m dream, the bats would mean…” But wait. First we do the feelings: cheerful, confident. Then we do the reality check. “Have you encountered bats in your life?”
    “Oh yeah,” the dreamer said nonchalantly.”I kept bats as a pet when I was a kid.”
     I don’t think we had ever met someone who kept bats as pets and regarded them as delightful childhood playmates. This took our dreamwork in an entirely different direction from where it might otherwise have gone. You can't understand a dream without the dreamer, and the bats in your dream are not the same as the bats in my dream.

Friday, January 24, 2020

To the Moon and Back and Other Things a Circle of Active Dreamers Can Do in Two Hours

The morning after I am still feeling the joy of sharing in an Active Dreaming circle where we all take turns to play dreamer and dream guide. There were ten of us yesterday evening in a local dream circle I have been leading for many years. In the space of two hours we made time for everyone to share a dream or life story and be guided by a different person through our Lightning Dreamwork process. This encourages us to give and receive helpful feedback in the "if it were my dream" mode and to come up with action plans to embody energy and insight from the dream worlds in regular life.
    "They tell me the gate has closed but I push through and get on the plane. And find I am in Africa, driving a Jeep with a friendly lion on the hood who knows where we are going."
    This report got us off to a lively start. Another dream carried us into the rainforest. A couple of dreams -of going back to the childhood home or the elementary school - carried not only nostalgia but the sense that there were gifts to be brought into adult life from a much younger self, gifts of energy and joy and imagination. A doctor's dream suggested an Rx for illness. A wildly funny dream of wearing lingerie to a gym and being celebrated by everyone around helped a man to recognize it is now safe to open up to his feminine side and show it to others.

    The action required by some dreams is to reenter the dream, do more inside that space and bring back gifts. Lasr evening we were able to make a group shamanic journey through the portal of a dream with the irresistible title "To the Moon". In her dream a woman found herself among lively children in a writing workshop being held on the far side of a fast-flowing river "at the bottom of the moon". The kids were assigned roles and started improvising stories by acting them out All of us were eager to join that writing group and the dreamer gave us permission to travel with her with the aid of shamanic drumming. 
    We did not know what "the bottom of the moon" meant, but all found our way, and had adventures in a marvelous creative space. I flew through a great round moon face like the entrance of Luna Park, a theme park I visited in my Australian boyhood. I rode with kids in a flotilla of boats on an underground river. Kids led the way to the other side of the water as the boats became dormant crocodiles that let us us their backs as a bridge. Enormous theatrical curtains, opening just a crack, promised now entertainments. Characters from children's books fluttered around us. I heard the buzzing propeller of Karlsson on the Roof, Astrid Lindgren's delightful character.
     Then I stepped through the curtains and the children started playing the roles promised in the original dream, acting out fresh stories. Right after the drumming sounded the recall,I urged everyone to write a couple of lines from their writing class on the moon. It was delightful to hear them all read aloud. I wrote in the voice of a girl complaining about a wild boy who was showing off the lunar horns he had sprouted:

"He's doing it again," said Emma. "He's putting up horns and he doesn't know what to do with them."

One of our dream voyagers, a gifted poet named Tammie, heard the song of the moon children and recorded it in these lyrical words: “We are the children of the moon. Listen to our words. We are the poets and storytellers of the future, helping to keep dreams alive”

As we closed our circle,I recalled that Karlsson on the Roof says in one of Astrid Lindgren's stories, "It has to go bang and it has to be fun, otherwise I won't come." We delivered that in our circle. And we finished on time, to the minute. Dreamers can get it together.

Drawings: "The Nearness of the Moon"  and "Wild Lunar Boy" by Robert Moss

Neither folk nor fairy

We did not have the term “near-death experience” (NDE) when I kept dying and coming back as a young boy. The first edition of Raymond Moody’s book Life after Life did not appear until 1975, twenty years after I left my body in St Andrew’s hospital in Melbourne and flew through the Moon Gate to live a life in another world while my body lay under the surgeon's knife.
     If the phenomenon now called NDE had been recognized earlier, it might have been easier for me to have been heard and understood by those around me. It would have been helpful to me to know that many others in Western society have reported profound experiences of leaving their bodies and that this is widely recognized as evidence that the soul can travel outside the body and that there is life after physical death.
    There is a statement in Life after Life that spoke to me deeply when I eventually got to read it: “Once the dying person reaches a certain depth in his experience, he does not want to come back, and he may even resist the return to the body.” This was certainly part of my story.
    Moody argues in Life after Life that “the similarity of so many of the accounts” is a reason for believing reports of NDEs.  But when I read the cases he assembled, and then hundreds of other reports from Near Deathers, I did not find many close “similarities” to what I experienced when I was nine, and seemed to live a whole life in another world. The stories that spoke to me were from ancient and indigenous cultures, from folklore, and from Eastern traditions.
    In Yeats’ song, I heard a voice that knew something of where I had been:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

      When I discovered George MacDonald’s tales of Highland seers and ghosts, I found a phrase that spoke very directly to my experience of trying to live in the ordinary world. In MacDonald’s wonderful little book The Portent: A Story of the Inner Vision of the Highlanders Commonly Called the Second Sight, the woman who nursed the narrator reveals details of his strange birth and his possible connection with a tragic drama played out in an earlier time. The nurse has the gift of second sight; she sees things happening at a distance, and moving between dimensions. She cautions Duncan that he will never be “either folk or fairy”. I did not remember quoting this phrase as a young boy. I doubt that it would have helped me communicate with those around me. But the notion that one may be “neither folk nor fairy” – but something of both” – helped me to explain things to myself.
     In MacDonald’s “faery romance,” Phantastes, the book C.S.Lewis said “baptized” his imagination, the room where the protagonist is sleeping turns into an enchanted forest overnight. Water spilling from a green basin becomes a little river. The floral patterns of the carpet become wildflowers and grasses along its bank. When he follows it into the woods, he is in Fairy Land. He is welcomed and fed by a friendly woman in a cottage of living trees, and knows she must be at least part human because she is awake during the day, when the fairies sleep. But she is something else as well. She must live close to fairies, and eat a little of their food, or else she will always be hungry.
      This became a pattern for me, since I went away. I found that the gates of the Otherworld opened from wherever I happened to be, and that I went hungry unless I stayed near its people and shared some of their food. I never had trouble staying awake in the night, or sleeping in the day.

- Excerpted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: Fairies by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) 

Monday, January 20, 2020

On and off the dream movie sets

Some dreamscapes appear to be film sets, or stage sets. You step into the wings and the scene is changed, or gone completely. Some are pocket realities; go outside and there is no there there.
    When I become lucid, I sometimes explore the borders of these landscapes. Once I was deep in adventure in a rainforest. When I became aware I was dreaming, I marched off in a certain direction – to find that I came to a line where the jungle, and its world, simply ended. When I traveled through the forest in other directions, I found the same thing. Beyond the jungle world, on every side, there was nothing but a white void. Its color and texture resembled the drawing paper on which I proceeded to sketch this geography.
     Night after night, in a certain interval of terror and beauty in my life, I was carried away to a mountain convent that was a complete world, for training and initiation by an order of priestesses. How a mountain can be a planet, except in a painting by Magritte or a story by Saint-ExupĂ©ry, is a question no dreamer needs to ask. The shape of the world mountain, when I drew it, looked like a bobbing toy, the kind you could float in a bathtub. Around it was the vastness of space, not dark or drawing-paper white, but grainy and silvery like mother-of-pearl.
     One night, I was deep in magical intrigues in a vast apartment in a huge old building in an old European city. With companions, I moved from room to room, accessed by wide, long halls that turned back upon themselves, counter-clockwise, like Greek keys. Sometimes a hall would end, without explanation, at a blank wall or sealed door.
     On another night, in my dream body, I walked cobbled streets, under arches, in another Old World city, perhaps Prague. I again had the sense that I was being directed, unobtrusively, to turn in a counter-clockwise spiral. Before me walked a man who was looking at me from the back of his head. It was hard to tell whether the face on his back was a mask or a double. Behind me walked a second man with two faces. Their presence was deliciously creepy, but in no way sinister or threatening for me, inside or after the dream. Though the city was dark and silent in the dream, there was a feeling of carnival, of dress-up.
    The hypnagogic zone, between sleep and awake, is a wonderful place to explore how our dream producers, scriptwriters and choreographers, construct the sets where dramas we see in the night unfold.

Drawing: "Theatre of Life" from Robert Moss journals 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

In the beginning was the dream

The Aborigines of the northern Kimberley ranges say that in the beginning, there was only earth and sky. In the earth was the Great Mother Ungud, in the form of a great snake. In the sky was Wallanganda, the All-Father, in the form of the Milky Way. The sky god threw water on the earth; the earth goddess made it deep. In the night, as they dreamed, life arose from the watered earth in the shapes of their dreams.
     From the sky god’s dreaming a spiritual force went forth as images that he projected on the faces of rocks and the walls of caves. These images can still be seen, painted in reds, whites, and blacks. Some say a mystical bird was the original painter, grasping the shapes of the sky-god’s dreams in his own dreaming. After the paintings were done, the sky god reproduced their forms in the bodies of living beings, which he sent out across the land.
    The paintings are the spiritual source of living beings. In the Kimberley rock paintings, Wondjina figures do not have mouths or eyes because these are the gift of Ungud. The Wondjina spirit — associated with rainmaking and fresh water — lives beneath the paintings in the waters under the earth, creating “child-germs,” spirit children. In a dream, a father-to-be will find one of these spirit children. In another dream, he will put it into his wife. It assumes human form in her body. At death, this part of the soul returns to the water hole from which it came
   Though the names may seem alien or exotic, this is a story about you and me. It reminds us that the process of manifestation begins with a movement or intention on the spiritual planes that is projected toward physical reality through images — the facts and events of the imaginal realm. By entering the imaginal world through dream travel, we can become active participants in this process and cocreators of the circumstances of our lives on Earth. As we learn to work with the hidden order of events, we come to recognize that is also reveals itself through the play of synchronicity in everyday life. As evolving beings, we come to take dreams more literally and waking life more symbolically.

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

Art: "Making Songlines" by Robert Moss

Happy Mad-Doctor Day

According to my Calendar of Forgotten English, which reminds me that "mad-doctor" is an early term for an alienist, now called psychiatrist, today is the feast day of St Fillan. Other calendars disagree, but I want to recollect this Irish-Scots priest who operated a healing sanctuary centered on a sacred pool in Perthshire. 
     There were healing stones, resembling major organs, where the sick hoped to secure relief from symptoms afflicting those organs.
     Fillan's Pool was used for cleansing and purification. It became famous for rituals to cure the insane. They were dunked in the water after sunset and told to bring three stones from the bottom. They had to place these on cairns in a ritual fashion. They were then conducted to a ruined chapel where they were laid out like corpses on a stone slab - Fillan's Bed - and bound tight with ropes. If they had managed to get loose from the ropes by sunrise, they were pronounced sane and well.
     I found an interesting 1863 essay on these practices by Professor J.Y Simpson in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, quoting a man who was dunked in Fillan's pool and swore he only got free from the bonds because a dead relative turned up to help him.
     Fillan, by the way, means Little Wolf in Gaelic. His left arm was supposed to glow in the dark and was brought to Robert the Bruce, at his demand, as a charm on the eve of his victory at Bannockburn.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Paleopsych 101

1. Spirits are real.

2. We are not alone: we live in a multidimensional universe peopled with beings — spirits of nature, gods and daimons, angels and ancestors — who take a close interest in our affairs and influence our lives for good or ill.

3. We are more than our bodies and brains, which are only vehicles for soul.

4. The soul survives the death of the body.

5. Soul journeying is the key to the spiritual worlds and the knowledge of ultimate reality. The soul makes excursions outside the body in dreams and visions. The heart of spiritual practice is to learn to shift consciousness at will and travel beyond time and space. Through soul-flight, we return to worlds beyond the physical plane in which our lives have their source and are able to explore many dimensions of the Otherworld.

6. Souls are corporeal, though composed of much finer substance than the physical body.

7. People have more than one soul. In addition to the vital soul that sustains physical life — closely associated with the breath — there is a “free soul,” associated with the dreambody, which can travel outside the body and separates from it at physical death, as well as an enduring spirit whose home is on the higher planes.

8. Souls — or pieces of soul — can be lost or stolen. This is the principal cause of disease and misfortune.

9. Some people have more souls than others and have the ability to make excursions to different places at the same time.

10. At death, different vehicles of soul go to different lots. Through conscious dreaming, it is possible to explore the conditions of the afterlife to prepare for one’s death and to assist souls of the dying and departed.

11. We are born with counterparts in nature. For example, we are born with a totem animal and a relationship with natural forces (wind or water or lightning) that are part of our basic identity and help to pattern the natural flow of our energy.

12. We are born with counterparts in other places and times, and in other dimensions of reality. When we encounter them through interdimensional travel, they become allies and sometimes teachers.

Adapted from my book Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death. Published by New World Library.

Art: detail from Henri Rousseau, "The Dream" (1910)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Word Gates

Gently rising from sleep into the grey morning, I saw what looked like a child's wooden alphabet block set within a frame. The front edge of the block had an ornamental red and green border. A word rather than a single letter was inscribed. I understood that when we could come up with an adequate story or definition for this word, the block will turn, and this will reveal another word requiring description. Each turn of the block would have tumbler effect on other blocks or components of the system.
    I cannot say how many words will come up before the block moves and provides an open portal to what all seekers aspire to know. I do not know whether there is only one block, or many, or an infinite number.
    I know that, behind the frame, the block is not a three-dimensional cube but extends into other dimensions. Despite its apparent wooden solidity, the face it presents may actually be a hologram projected from another reality. As I picture this I see the surface within the frame as one end of a structure, composed of many segments and flashing many colors, that somewhat resembles the Rosicrucian cross, in which the vertical shaft is longer than the arms, although in this case the structure is laid on its back.
   I cannot say the word that first appeared within the frame.
   I can give you two words, but I cannot say where they come up in the sequence:


   I can also say that at some level of this game, instead of defining unusual words, we are required to come up with the word that fits an unusual definition.
   Many of these words are not in the dictionaries of Earth.
   For example, there is a word that exactly defines the Tail of the Lion phenomenon, as described by Einstein in his famous analogy:

Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size.

   There is also a word that fits the definition "something that is much bigger inside than outside" (and it is not TARDIS, the name of the machine disguised as an old police box in which Dr Who travels).
    Unlike Scrabble players, Dream Word players can't appeal to a dictionary. A rare few among us may have glimpsed something in the Thesaurus of Tulun - from which Einstein appears to have borrowed his description of the Tail of the Lion - but such works are not available when you need to reach across the table. So we must judge words and definitions offered in our Dream Word games by three criteria:

- The LD [Laugh Decibel] Level
- The OU [Outrageously Unexpected] quotient
- Whether they move our blocks

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Dictionary of Funny Dream Words

In some of my workshops and online classes we are have fantastic fun playing an oneiric version of the Dictionary Game. If you've never played the Dictionary Game, it goes like this: you open a fine fat dictionary, pick an obscure word, then call on the players to come up with a definition. Sometimes an erudite or lucky player will know the precise meaning of that arcane word. But the real fun is in making something up. In scoring (at least in my family) you vote for the entertainment value of the proffered definitions, above their plausibility.
 In the Funny Dream Words game, the dictionaries we use are our personal journals. We start by re-viewing the old reports. We extract those mystery words, names and phrases - in known or unknown languages - that we never managed to decode. Then we offer these to others to track or define.
A funny word from a dream can open all sorts of territory. It can provide a clickable link to another culture or another world. It can reveal a new technology, or the grammar of elvish. It can open a connection with a person (hitherto unknown) on the other side of the world, or with a forgotten ancestor. It can be the hook that pulls in a song or a story or a painting, even a whole novel. And this is all streaming, fresh and spontaneous, from our own dream lives. But we often miss our messages, and someone else - through an intuitive flash, or a few minutes googling, or by hitting the books - can often help us hear what we couldn't make out, and see what escaped us in an apparent jumble of syllables.
The most fun part, as in the old Dictionary Game, is when the other players, who might otherwise be foxed by a funny word, start making things up. To give you a feel for how this goes, here are the definitions I suggested for five of the dream words posted at one of my forums over 24 hours. Only the first came with any context.
Morolli Novia (a dish demanded by an angry restaurant patron)

Morolli Novia [n]: odoriferous rum-drenched dessert named after the fiancee [novia] of Sal "Bankroll" Morolli, Miami restaurateur currently serving 6 months for postmortem abuse of Julia Child.
Sir Percy Belay
Belay, Sir Percy: Last baronet of Limpley-in-the-Hole, Somerset. Antiquarian and minor versifier in the style of the "silver poets" of the Elizabethan era. Best known for his "Response to the Nymph's Response to the Shepherd" (a reference to the famous poem by Sir Walter Raleigh) into which he worked his family name, of disputed (nautical and perhaps piratical) origin:
Belay the world and keep it young,
So we may feast with tongue to tongue,
Belay the sun so you are moved
To live with me and be my love
The Australian slang expression, "It's time to point Percy at the porcelain" is said to derive from his erratic bathroom habits.
Source: Burke's Minor Nobility and Silly Upper-Crust Names
Ursula Le Dean

Ursula K. Le Guin has been awarded the title of Dean honoris causa by the College of Fantasists because of her advocacy of truth-telling by fantasy as well as her own fantastic body of work. The citation refers to her Introduction to the English translation of The Book of Fantasy (compiled by Jorge Luis Borges, Silvina Ocampo and Adolfo Bioy Casares) where Dean Ursula states:
The central ethical dilemma of our age, the use or non-use of annihilating power, was posed most cogently in fictional terms by the purest of fantasists. Tolkien began The Lord of the Rings in 1937 and finished it about ten years later. During those years, Frodo withheld his hand from the Ring of Power, but the nations did not.
The judges especially commend Dean Ursula's observation that "Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities serves many of us as a better guidebook to our world than any Michelin or Fodor's."

Pay Uht
Pay Uht [n}: Kotror pidgin for "pay dirt." Negotiable in two forms: (1) as rolls of "cash", typically strung on cords and worn around the midriff; or (2) as dried cakes of yak dung. Most commonly used to purchase shashtree [yak offal delicacy] or swee balak [dessert custard, mixed with fermented mare's milk, sometimes resulting in death by sugar or alcoholic poisoning]. 

reference: Commercial Traveler's Pocket English-Kotror Dictionary, 3rd hipflask edition.
Interalicia [n]: A mode of travel in the multiverse that includes stepping through mirrors, diving down rabbit holes, and shrinking or growing at fantastic speeds, inter alia. See works of Lewis Carroll.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Iguana Woman

She is an armored herbivore
Who doesn't look like prey
With those razor teeth
And that bull whip tail
She can drop and grow back
Her dominant sense is sight
She reads colors and shapes over great distance
And has light sensors as well as eyes
She can drop from a tree
From forty feet up and land on her feet.
She can stay underwater for half an hour
I wonder what more she can show me
Now she has taken this hybrid form
And whether shaman artists
In ageless caves of these windy islands
Encountered her like this..
I know who to ask: the snakebird shaman
Who showed me his face on my first night
With a rattlesnake round his waist
And the eyes of socho, the burrowing owl
And the wings of a seabird.
Iguanas are his sight hounds and bodyguards
But he is not ready to show himself to you
And you are not ready to look into his eyes.

- Aruba January 11, 2020

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Want to get good at dreaming? Practice, practice, practice

All of us have access to dreams, if we are willing to make space for them in our lives, and the gifts that come from dreaming can be immense. They range from course correction to wild entertainment, from contact with a Higher Self or departed loved ones, from time travel to access to a secret laboratory where we find creative solutions that escape the routine everyday mind.
   When we hear others share dreams, maybe starting just with the title or an opening line, we usually recognize something of ourselves. Yet as the details emerge, we also realize that each dream is distinct and must not be tossed into a suitcase of categorization. This is part of the beauty of dreaming. As we listen to each other's dreams, we recognize universal themes, something of our common humanity and our access to the limitless repository of shared knowledge and experience that Jung once called the collective unconscious and later, the objective psyche. At the same time, when we attend to details and feelings and context around them, we find that individual dreams are exquisitely tailored to the character and circumstances of the dreamer.
    Of course we dream in different ways and on different levels, even in a single night in the mind of a single person. And there are many levels of dream practice. When you begin to understand all that dreaming can be, you come to know that it is a discipline, a fun one, with friendlier hours than most jobs of work -since you can do so much of it during sleep. However, as with any other discipline, from piano to particle physics, you get really good through practice, practice, practice.
    As a teacher of Active Dreaming, my original synthesis of dreamwork, shamanism and creative imagination, you could say I am a full-time dreamer. As personal practice, however, I like to keep things simple and fun. My daily engagement with my night dreams is sometimes no more than this easy one-two:

1. Whatever time I surface from sleep, I check whether I have any dream recall. If I think I don't, I hit any inner pause button and wait for something to come back. At the very least I am likely to receive a stream of hypnopompic images, which may be returning dreams or new material. When I have something,I pick up my phone and I record one or more entries. I used to pick up a bedside pad but con no longer read my handwriting. Using the phone causes minimal disturbance in the bedroom and gives me a text I can transfer to my digital database later on. I may repeat this through two or three cycles of sleep-wake on any given night.

2. When I get up, before coffee and while my little dog (who has excellent manners) waits patiently for me to shower and dress and take him out for his first walk, I open a sketchbook and draw an image from my dreams. I start in pencil. I give the drawing a title, of course. I often feel wonderfully satisfied and charged with creative energy when I complete this little task, and the boy artist inside me claps his hands.

The dream may require further action. This may range from shamanic shopping to researching a curious word or phrase, to going back inside the dream (in a wide-awake exercise in shamanic lucid dreaming) to clarify information or continue the story. My action might be to turn a glimpse of the possible future into a travel advisory or to road-test a new exercise that I dreamed with a workshop group.
    Any day of the week, however, the two simple steps of recording in bed when things are fresh and then turning a dream into a quick sketch are basic and sufficient practice. If you want to get really good at dreaming, I recommend them.