Friday, November 27, 2020

Baldieri's Football

Every morning, whenever possible, I draw a scene in my art journal from one of my nocturnal excursions. Some of these take place in sleep dreams that may or may not become lucid dreams. Many begin, usually quite spontaneously, in the space between sleep and awake, in the zone of hypnagogia. I have decided I will start posting more of my drawings here, together with brief accounts of the adventures that inspired them. Here is my account of what happened when I was lying in a state of relaxed attention that I sometimes call "horizontal meditation" around 4 in the morning today

November 27, 2020
Baldieri's Football
I am moving along a broad avenue that feels like a processional way. On either side are groups of royals and nobles who remind me of the courts of the tarot. They are waving me on towards what looks like a medieval city. It is floating in the sky, maybe fifty feet up. Tethered to the Earth by just a simple pinkish cord that looks like wool.
The nobles bow and wave me forward. I see that immense crowds are gathered, for the send-off for a man who was a public idol. The city is no longer visible. Instead I see a shiny-dark house-sized ovoid, also tethered to the ground by the pink string. A hatch opens and I see a well-furnished interior, leather upholstery, wooden panels. This is for deceased hero. His name is Antonio Baldieri.
Maybe he was a football star, like the recently departed Argentine player. But his craft is not shaped like a soccer ball. It’s like the balls used in American football or rugby.
Feelings: very curious
Reality: I don't know an Antonio Baldieri and Auntie Google gave me no interesting matches. I have observed that ovoid is a popular shape for interdimensional travel. I describe a group shamanic journey in an ovoid vessel to the intelligences of another star system in my book Dreamgates. Some dreamers who have made journeys to meet loved ones on the Other Side have found them living for a time in football-shaped mini-worlds.

RM Journal Drawing: "Baldieri's Football"

Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanks giving is for every day

In the indigenous North American way, giving thanks is a practice for every day, not just for an annual holiday. Here is a little of what I learned after I was called in dreams by an ancient woman of power to study the traditions of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois.

Orenda is the power that is in everything and beyond everything. It clusters in certain things – in that tree, in that stone, in that person or gathering – and if you are sensitive you will feel its weight and its force.
    People come from another world – in the Iroquoian cosmogony, they call it Earth-in-the-Sky – and the origin and purpose for life here below is to be found in that Sky World. Tosa sasa ni’konren, they say. “Do not let your mind fall” from the memory of that other world where everything is directed and created by the power of thought, and everything lives in the glow of a great Tree of Light.
    The first person on Earth who was anything like a human came from that Sky World, after she fell – or was pushed – through a hole among the roots of its great tree. As she fell, she was caught on the wings of great blue herons, who carried her gently down to a chaos of water. Animals, diving into the black deep, found earth for her, so she could begin to make a world. Turtle offered its great back and First Woman danced a new world into being. Under her feet, a handful of soil became all the lands we live on.
    The memory of Earth-in-the-Sky in no way blurs the knowledge that orenda – which is power, spirit, energy, consciousness all at once – is in everything. In the way of the Onkwehonwe, the Real People (as the Iroquois call themselves) we must remember that our relations with our environment are entirely personal, and require appropriate manners.
    If you want to take something from the Earth, you must ask permission. The hunter asks the spirit of the deer for permission to take its life and wastes nothing from its body. I once watched a Mohawk medicine man gathering healing plants. He started by identifying the elder among a stand of the plants and speaking to this one, seeking permission. He offered a little pinch of native tobacco in return for the stalks he gathered for medicine.
    In this tradition, the best form of prayer is to give thanks for the gifts of life. In the long version of the Iroquois thanksgiving, you thank everything that supports your life, and as you do this you announce that you are talking to family.

I give thanks to my brothers the Thunderers
I give thanks to Grandmother Moon and to Elder Brother Sun

In the Native American way, as Black Elk, the Lakota holy man, said, “the center of the world is wherever you are.” For him, that was Harney Peak. For you, it is wherever you are living or traveling. You may find a special place in your everyday world. It may be just a corner of the garden, or a bench under a tree in the park, or that lake where you walk the dog. The more you go there, and open both your inner and outer senses, the more you will find that orenda has gathered there for you.
     A woman who lives near the shore told me that she starts her day like this: “I go to the ocean in the morning at sunrise and put a hand in the water and say Good morning, thank you, I love you. I feel a response from this. The tide will suddenly surge up a little higher, hugging my feet, which is kind of cold in winter but wonderful in warmer weather. I talk to everything out loud like this.”
     The simple gesture of placing your hand in the sea, or on a tree, or on the earth, and expressing love and gratitude and recognition of the animate world around us is everyday church (as is dreamwork), good for us, and good for all our relations
    It is good to do something every day, in any landscape, to affirm life in all that is around us. This may be especially important on days when the world seems drab and flat and even the eyes of other people in the street look like windows in which the blinds have been drawn down. The Longhouse People (Iroquois) reminded me that the best kind of prayer is to give thanks to all our relations, to everything that supports life, and in doing so to give our support to them. When I lived on a rural property, I began each day by greeting the ancient oak on the dirt road behind the house as the elder of that land.
    These days, it is often enough for me to say to sun and sky, whether on the sidewalk or in the park or by the sea

I give thanks for the morning
I give thanks for the day
I give thanks for the gifts
    and the challenges of this lifetime

For more on indigenous tradition, please read my book Dreamways of the Iroquois. For more on everyday practice, please see my book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Becoming Dean of Dream Archaeology


I have just been honored by the invitation to become Dean of Dream Archaeology of the University of Užupis. As some of you - including those who have read The Boy Who Died and Came Back -  will know, I have been Dream Ambassador for the Republic of Užupis since 2013. Here is the story of how this connection was made.

Republic of Užupis, May 29, 2013

I sit down to lunch at a breezy café table at the edge of the little Vilnelė river, just across the bridge from the Old City of Vilnius and the bed and breakfast where I am staying on a narrow cobbled street. There is a mermaid in a wall on the other side of the river. My companions are a Lithuanian therapist and Zen practitioner named Agne, who is a brilliant translator for my workshops here, and dreamers from the Netherlands and Sweden who will soon be traveling with us to Kernave for the depth adventure in dream archaeology I will be leading there over the weekend. Our conversation is lively, and turns (of course) on the play of dreams and synchronicity.
    I pause to swallow a mouthful of an excellent local "live" (unpasteurized) beer, and a bright-eyed, bearded man with long hair leaps up from a neighboring table. "Your conversation is fascinating," he declares, "I invite myself to join it." He introduces himself as Tomas 
Čepaitis , the Foreign Minister of the Republic of 
Užupis. Is he joking? He doesn't look like any foreign minister I have ever encountered, and his republic sounds like something from a story book. Our Swedish friend has heard of it, though. She tells us she read a big feature article about Užupis in the Stockholm paper that same morning; she later showed me the article, which describes Užupis as "the coolest little republic in the world." 
    Tomas gives me a copy of the constitution of his republic, which includes such fundamental principles as "A dog has the right to be a dog" and "Everyone has the right to be unique." I learn that the word Užupis means "On the Other Side of the River" and has double meaning. The territory of the republic is about 150 acres of a once largely Jewish and then (post-Holocaust) notoriously seedy and dangerous neighborhood across the river from Old Vilnius. But "the other side" also means the other side of reality. "Our work is similar," Thomas tells me. "Like you, we are dedicated to bringing the dream world and the ordinary world closer together."
    He introduces me to the President of Užupis and other government officials. The Republic On the Other Side of the River declared its independence in 1997, unfurling its own flag, currency and cabinet of ministers. This is essentially a republic of artists, and their work is everywhere on the cobbled streets, in luscious murals and voluptuous goddesses, in pagan symbols and Surrealist provocations. At one of the main art centers, the Gallera, a Belgian-Lithuanian exhibition is opening that weekend, Tomas tells our dreamer from Belgium.

We have our picture taken and Tomas informs me that he wants to appoint me Ambassador of Dreams for the Republic On the Other Side. I tell him, naturally, that I would be delighted to assist the Republic in growing its factory of dreams.
    In a later email exchange, the web of synchronicity became tighter and stranger, Tomas told me that he had lived for several years in upstate New York, not far from my present home. Specifically, he had lived in the village of Ghent, N.Y. Ghent is about 10 miles from the farm where I used to live near Chatham, N.Y.; one of the people who worked on my house renovations after I purchased the farm lived in Ghent. The story gets better still. Tomas added that he had some "Mohawk drawings and dreams" from that period in his life that he was still trying to understand. It was in that same neighborhood on the edge of traditional Mohawk Indian country that I started dreaming of an ancient Mohawk woman shaman and entered the visionary adventures that persuaded me to give up my previous life and become a dream teacher.

I returned to 
Užupis on Monday, to admire the goddesses and have lunch at the same cafe on the river with a view of the mermaid in the wall. I discovered that the Republic also has a king, a splendidly fat and self-confident tiger cat named Nicas, who has his private entrance to the restaurant and is well-fed and well-petted by everyone, including the group at our table. Consulting the constitution of Užupis, I read that "Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat."

We were distracted by banging and wailing from the river below us. From the railing, we saw a couple who had lost control of a hired canoe, banging against the rocky bank. Agne sprang into rescue mode. She took fresh strawberries from a bag we had been carrying around and started tossing them to the inexpert boat people, who caught and ate them with gusto, calling up that these were the first strawberries they had tasted this season. However, they had now managed to tilt their craft so it was half-full of water and sinking fast. Agne rushed down to the river and pulled them up onto the bank. I congratulated her on her efforts and declared that I would use my high station as Dream Ambassador to recommend that she should be appointed Commandant of the Coast Guard of the Republic on the Other Side of the River. I wasted no time in penning Rules of Riverine Safety in Užupis:

1. Carry strawberries at all times.
2. When a boat is sinking, pelt the occupants with strawberries.

Note: While Užupis declared its independence in 1997, it has yet to be recognized by any government in ordinary reality, but it has a seat in the United Nations of Dreams.

June 8, 2013

It's official. I have now received my formal credentials as Dream Ambassador of the Republic of Užupis. I solemnly undertake to execute all my rights and responsibilities, including the most important clause 5:

enjoy life and sustain in people the feeling of life as Brazilian Jazz

November 22,2020

My invitation arrives to be Dean of Dream Archaeology for the University of Užupis. From his official portrait, the Pro-Rector is clearly a serious fellow.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Three Kinds of Seers


 There are three kinds of seer: the receivers, the travelers, and the far-seers.

Receivers know things because they come to them or come through them, in the way of the medium. They receive visitations, both waking and sleeping. They may be “speakers for the dead”, passing on messages from the departed. This type of receiver is in great demand, because there are so many people on the other side who are desperate to communicate with the living. Receivers may also be empaths who pick up what is going on in other people’s bodies and energy fields. The very first kind of training receivers need is instruction in shielding and screening, and above all in discernment. They must learn how to pick up things it is useful to know without being swamped by someone else’s feelings and psychic litter. They need help in establishing healthy psychic boundaries. They need fully functional BS detectors that will help them to screen out false or misleading information.

The traveler knows things by going to the places where knowledge is to be found, in this world or in other dimensions of reality. This is the shaman’s way, and the journeys beyond the body may be assisted by drumming or other forms of “sonic driving”. Some indigenous cultures use hallucinogens to facilitate astral travel, and there is a lively New Age tourist traffic that involves going into the jungle to ingest rather nasty stuff like ayahuasca. Drugs are not recommended for Western journeyers, and they are not required. A practiced traveler requires only two things to embark on a journey, once the body is relaxed in a quiet and protected space: a picture and an intention. Essential training for the traveler includes learning to recognize the nature and the needs of the different energy vehicles that can operate outside the physical body. And it involves developing a strong working relationship with guardians who can protect and guide the journeys. As young children and shamans know, there is no better escort for these journeys than an animal guardian.

The far-seer knows by expanding his or her sight to include whatever he or she needs to know. This may be like turning on an inner light and directing it — like a searchlight with X-ray properties — on a target that may be on the other side of the world, or inside the molecular structures of the body, or in another dimension. Or far-seeing may be a process of mental expansion, in which the field of consciousness grows until everything it is necessary to know is inside it. This is profoundly simple, once we understand that if we think of something or someone, we are with the object of our thoughts. Thought travels faster than light, so the connection is instantaneous. The trick is to get out of our own way — to sideline the clutter and confusion of the trivial everyday mind — to we can see and operate in the larger field.

Seers may also be skryers. Skrying means using an object — or a series of objects — as a focusing device. We may recall how, as children, we used to stare at a certain spot on the surface of a creek or a lake, where the light struck just so, and would stare and stare until pictures came to us, in the mirror-bright surface of the water. Or we found shapes inside a rough rock crystal, or peering through a hole in a stone and saw the Other Side as well as the other side.

 In our time, as in other times, the core training of the seer will come through paying the closest attention to dreams, coincidence and the symbolic language of the world.

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


Photo: At the threshold of St Columba's church in Drumcliffe, a symbol from an older religion: the Celtic AWEN.  W.B.Yeats' headstone is in the churchyard, though it is not clear that his remains are in the ground there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Duke and a Secret Library

I am often excited when my house turns out to have an extra wing, a terrace, or an additional floor, that I did not know about. I am super-excited when I discover that it contains a secret library. I am talking, of course, about my dream house, which is often a composite of houses where I have lived in ordinary reality.

 I can’t say that finding a secret library in my dream house is truly a new discovery, since there are versions that I have been using for decades. Nonetheless when I enter a secret library in a dream, I am frequently surprised that I left it unvisited for quite a while. Sometimes access requires me to roll back a whole wall of books (like the one in my living room photo, complete with library dog); sometimes I pass through a door that is not immediately obvious in the outer room. 

Here’s my report of my visit to a secret library in my dream house last night. If the history part seems a little dry, a theme that is opened here is of compelling interest to me: the possibility that we are living parallel lives in parallel worlds, and that dreams show us how.

November 18, 2020


Marlborough and a Secret Library

I want everything on Marlborough to complete writing something important I must deliver the next day. I open the door to my secret library, a door I have not opened in a long time. There is an air of hushed expectancy throughout the house. As I walk the passage behind the door and approach the thousands of books on the shelves, I expect to smell dust or – horrors - mold. However, everything seems clean and dry. I find the heavy hardback biographies of Marlborough without difficulty. I have quite a reading assignment ahead of me, but I can do it if I stay up all night. This should not be a problem. I have done it many times before. 

Feelings: intrigued

Reality check: I know this secret library in my dream house. I have gone there in many dreams over decades. The books in this dream library (I have others) are mostly history. I do pull overnight binges of reading and research.

In my physical house I have a 4 volume paperback version of Winston Churchill's biography of his ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Marlborough was Captain-General of the English forces in the wars in the Low Countries in the early 18th century. The huge biography became a bestseller and the earnings kept Churchill afloat in dodgy times. I was impressed, dipping into these volumes, by the vividness of Churchill's historical imagination. He was able to transport himself right inside the living field of another time, putting himself inside a scene in which the outcome among the many possible event tracks in the many worlds was not yet determined. 

Why am I researching Marlborough in my dream? Well, I dipped into Churchill’s biography when I was writing about his historical imagination in The Secret History of Dreaming. I wrote elsewhere, in my historical novel The Interpreter, about the visit of the “Four Indian Kings” to London in 1710, when Marlborough and his wife Sarah – the on-again, of-again favorite of Queen Anne – were at the pinnacle of power. 

I am aware that there are many parallel Roberts, on parallel event tracks, who are also writers but have chosen different themes and genres. Maybe I stepped into the life of Robert the Historical Novelist or Robert the History Professor. Or into a future project I have not yet recognized, let alone decided on, in regular life.

Dreams set us research assignments. Naturally, my dream drove me to reopen my book The Secret History of Dreaming to my chapter titled "Churchill's Time Machines", where I read this:

Imagination and History

In his valedictory lecture at Oxford, Hugh Trevor-Roper observed that “the historian’s function is to discern alternatives, and that, surely, is the function of imagination.” He added: “History is not merely what happened: it is what happened in the context of what might have happened. Therefore it must incorporate, as a necessary element, the alternatives, the might-have-beens.” Churchill had excellent reason to look at history this way, his mind always turning on alternatives, the ghost trails of roads not taken.

 Another English historian, J.H.Plumb, observed that for Churchill history was not a subject; it was “a part of his temperament” that “permeated everything that he touched, and it was the mainspring of his politics and the secret of his immense mastery.”  Isaiah Berlin, studying Churchill in his “finest hour”, concluded that “Churchill’s dominant category, the single, central organizing principle of his moral and intellectual universe, is a historical imagination so strong, so comprehensive, as to encase the whole of the present and the whole of the future in a framework of a rich and multicolored past.” 

Churchill was a time traveler, at least in imagination, and his ability to read the tides of human events and the workings of character across the ages enabled him to see the patterns of the present - through the fog of war and the incredible proliferation of pressure and detail - and to grasp the history of the future.

In his time travels into the past, Churchill may have gained most from his ability to enter - fully - into the mind and situation of his great ancestor John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, who led the (uneasily) allied armies of the Grand Alliance to victory against the French in the early 18th century. His four-volume biography of Marlborough, written during his “wilderness years” when he was out of office in the 1930s”, is widely regarded his greatest literary work. Churchill announced that his intent was to unravel “the unfathomable mystery which Marlborough’s character represents.”

He learned from Marlborough’s steady resolve in adversity; early in his command Marlborough announced, “The issue in this matter is liberty or death.” He studied with Marlborough how to exercise leadership within an alliance, in a war involving much of the world and therefore offering multiple choices and rival priorities. Marlborough “never ceased to think of the war as a whole”; Churchill also was always looking for the big picture. Churchill noted that Marlborough’s success in command was related to his ability to enter the mind of his adversary: “The mental process of a general should lead him first to put himself faithfully in the position of the enemy, and to credit that enemy with the readiness to do what he himself would most dread….The safe course is to assume that the enemy will do his worst — i.e., what is most unwelcome."

Churchill concluded from Marlborough’s example that contrarians win when they are guided by accurate intuition. Marlborough made many command decisions that baffled or terrified generals with more conventional minds. 

Churchill was able to roam the past without being lost in it. Churchill’s command of history helped him to see the broad lines of a situation; he was able to swim through details without drowning in them.

 Churchill’s works of history were participatory. He wrote about events in which he or ancestors with whom he felt close affinity had taken part, and about causes he had espoused. There is no pretense of standing at the margins of the action as an impartial scholar. He said that his method was borrowed from Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier, in which the author “hangs the chronicle” of great evens “upon the thread of the personal experiences of an individual.” 

"Imagination and History": text adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.



Sunday, November 1, 2020

When your inner guide is an ugly dwarf

I have a friend who has held high office in the Swedish government, a man deeply versed in both the humanities and science who has attended Nobel Prize dinners under the three crowns of Stockholm’s town hall.
   He hosted me for dinner one night. Within moment of being seated at a table in a fine restaurant, I noticed I had  beer, red wine and akvavit in front of me, before I had asked for anything. "You are in Scandinavia, Robert," my host declared. "You will drink like a Scandinavian."
    That night he confided, “I have an inner guide who has helped me greatly, in and out of government service. He turns up in my dreams and fantasies. He is a horrible, ugly dwarf. He always begins by insulting me, using filthy language. You miserable piece of shit, he’ll begin. Then he’ll proceed to tell me all the reasons I’m a failure. When he’s satisfied that he’s hit home, and I’m starting to fill with self-loathing, he’ll tell me something useful. He gave me the location of a legal document that had gone missing. I found it exactly where he said it would be, and that resolved an important family matter.”
   “How reliable is your ugly dwarf?”
   “He is eighty percent reliable. Better than most advisers. So I put up with his insults.”
   I was delighted with this revelation, which sounded like something from Scandinavian folklore. It also occurred to me that there are the elements of a practice here that can be very helpful for all of us on our road to manifesting our life dreams.
    Each of us has an ugly dwarf inside us. You’ve heard his voice. It’s the one that’s forever reminding you of your failures and shortcomings. He knows your every weakness. He won’t let you forget how you let yourself or others down. Let him vent for long enough, and you’ll squirm with self-loathing. And this can become a moment of power. Let your ugly dwarf pull you down far enough, and you may find yourself bouncing up with fresh ideas and new vigor. Why? Because there is energy in all strong emotions, including the ones we tag as “negative” and that a certain kind of self-help book advises us to avoid.
   Let your ugly dwarf beat you down, break you down, and rattle you out of the need to maintain pretenses and defenses. Then move with the energy of the emotions this releases. But don’t put up with someone in your social environment who tries to play ugly dwarf; accept no substitutes for your very own version.

Drawing by RM