Saturday, January 30, 2021

Encounters with a Greater Self

 Ultimately we make peace between the many aspects of our selves by rising to a conscious connection with the Self on a higher level, a Self that is no stranger. There are many ways of perceiving and receiving the knowledge and power of a Greater Self. In practical terms, your most important life teacher may be the aspect of the Greater Self whose home base is the level of consciousness and reality immediately above the one where you spend most of your time...

This was the wisdom of the Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus. He taught that every human soul is a spectrum of possible levels of consciousness. Each of us is a cosmos, and we choose the level on which we live. Whatever level we choose, our spiritual guardian or daimon is on the level just above. Live well and evolve, and you may rise to a higher level with a daimon on a higher level again.

Plotinus offered one of the most rousing statements from the real philosophy of the ancient world: “The soul has the power to conform to her character the destiny allotted to her.” 

When I lay down for some horizontal meditation on the afternoon of October 14, 1993, I had mental contact with an intelligence that told me that “dreams are the primary dimension of being” and that the most important thing to teach people is that “Dreaming and waking are the same”.

 I felt within the larger presence – and its presence within me – throughout the day. I came to understand that he is with me, and has been with me, even in situations from which I have fancied that the Higher Self absents itself out of discretion or disgust. 

Your life partner, the soul pal who will never leave you, is your higher self, the soul of your soul, on the level where you can engage with each other. To open fully to this engagement requires a surrender of ego agendas and what don Miguel Ruiz calls the four agreements, self-limiting beliefs and accommodations that bind the soul. It may take desperate circumstances to bring this about, or a desperate state of mind. What follows the surrender is not a master-servant relationship but an active engagement, a blissful friendship in which you are never alone.

  I like to call my slightly higher self, Plotinus’ guardian, my Double on the Balcony. When I set out to meet him, I follow the road of dreams to a terrace above the world. Sometimes it is the rooftop of a tall building, twenty stories up, or more. Often the terrace has the air of a civilized café, operating just for us. I find him seated at a table, perhaps with a glass of wine the color of moonlight. He is usually impeccably dressed, in a perfectly tailored white suit or a dinner jacket. Occasionally I have the impression that he has a female companion; once she seemed to be an opera singer. But she is never part of our conversation.

He is impossibly beautiful. He looks like a man in the prime of life, maybe thirty years old, yet carrying the knowledge of millennia. He does not judge me. He is my witness. He knows all of my life. It is as open to him as the contents of a doll house when you remove the back and the roof. More than this, he remembers my other lives.

I should say, rather, our other lives. Something I have remembered, through our conversations, is that we have a twining relationship across time. When I am in the body, in a life on Earth, he is up here, on his balcony above the world. He still enjoys pleasures and creature comforts, but he is not enmeshed in the confusion and clutter of the physical world. He can sample delights that we associate with a physical body without being confined to one. The babalawo in me, the African diviner he calls my witchdoctor, says it has always been like this. While one of us is down in the marketplace of the world, the other observes as a “double in heaven”.

I like that phrase, but his is a near heaven, rather than a remote one. He is a Free Self. He is not bound by the conditions of physical life. From his terrace, he can see the big picture. When I join him up there, I can see the crossroads and forking paths of my life from an aerial perspective.

He shows me some navigational challenges that lie ahead. There’s a spaghetti junction with whirling stands of traffic going off in all direction like an exploding bowl of pasta. It’s dizzying to look at. Inspecting this with his mildly humorous detachment, I see the scene lift to reveal a manageable locale, the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Now I can survey, one by one, the possible roads I can take from that place of decision. He reminds me that when life on the ground poses difficult choices – when I run into blockages or risk making a turn without reflecting on where that direction will take me – I should come up here, look at things from the higher perspective, and freeze the action while I observe myself traveling more than one of the possible roads in order to clarify and compare the probable outcomes.

From such encounters comes daily practice, one I can share with others. I picture myself in the thick of a situation where I am facing a choice or conflict or dilemma. I see myself pausing from acting or worrying, placing myself in a quiet mental space whatever is going on around me. I feel light coming down around me, until I am within a column or pillar of light. This brings the sense of blessing and protection. I sense benign energies and intelligence reaching down to me within the pillar of light. Then there is the sense of traction, of being carried up within the pillar. I could be carried up many levels, as if on an elevator. But it is sufficient, for everyday navigation, to go up just one level, to that terrace above the world.

 Here I find again my Double on the Balcony. From his table, I can see a relief map of my life, and of other lives and situations that will concern me. When the traffic patterns are hard to read, I can have everything slow down or stop so I can study it at my leisure.

As we go through a process of spiritual evolution, we may grow to the point where we can fuse our current personality with that a slightly higher self and progress to a relationship with a self on yet a higher level, and so on up the scale. Through successive transformations, we may reach a level where we are able to survey — on a continuing or even constant basis — our relations with many aspects of our multidimensional self, including personalities living in other places and times, without losing our ability to navigate in our present bodies.

Text adapted from Growing Big Dreams by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: "Kildare Window" by RM

Thursday, January 28, 2021

RAVEN EYE: Sun Stealer


RAVEN EYE: Sun Stealer

They say you stole the sun.
This is inexact.
You hid the light in darkness
where the light-killers could not find it
so the sun could shine brighter than before.

They say you are black
because you are evil and unkind.
They do not say you swallowed
your own shadow and mastered it
at the price of wearing its colors.

Shivering, they call you death-knell,
Death-eater, bad omen, flying banshee
because you feed on death that feeds on men.
You strip what rots from what remains.
You give us the purity of the bones.

Trickster, they call you.
Oh yes, you'll do your wickedest
to ensure our way is never routine
and we are forced to improvise and transform.
You won't let us swap our souls for a plan.

At least they don't accuse you
of minor crimes.
I praise and claim your gifts
of putting on darkness to come and go safely
in the darkest places, joking with Death.

COMMENT: The kindness of ravens. Our collective noun for a group of crows is "murder". The word for a group of ravens is even crueler; those who know it speak of an "unkindness" of ravens. Yet I have found the raven to be an impeccable ally in seeing into dark places, and in training frequent flyers in the arts of the dream seer, I often call in the ravenous eye. Be it noted that in working with Raven this way, it is vastly desirable to call in a pair, as Odin knew when he sent off his twin ravens, Thought and Memory, to scout for him. I wrote this poem for Raven at the end of a marvelous adventure in group shamanic journeying, when many of us were able to see true with the help of raven eyes.

Drawing by RM. Acknowledgments to Bernd Heinrich who showed me how to depict a raven fluffing out its feathers in a display in his marvelous book Ravens in Winter.

This tribute to Raven is included in my collection of poems and stories, Here, Everything Is Dreaming, published by Exclesior Editions, an imprint of State University of New York Press.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Location, location, location

The Realtors' motto is also an imperative for dream explorers. I try to bring back every possible detail of a dream location, especialy when it is unknown to me in ordinary reality. Sometimes I can match it to a physical location that I may visit in the future. Sometimes the dream place exists in its own reality, and what happens there stays there - except in my journal and dream sharing.

In a dream last night, I cheked into a hotel in Germany.I was traveling with my two sons, sons I don't have in ordinary life. They wanted to explore the old city we cound see from the hotel, bt I did not want to drve at night and I told them we wouldhave dinner in the hotel.

I return from the dream remembering, in exact detail, the layout of the public spaces in the hotel, though its namehas escaped me. Lying on my back, head sightly raised agisnt the pillows, I make it my game owalk slowly through the hotel again. I return to the airy greenhouse-likes space where I sat my boys down to study enormous menus under a leaded glass ceiling. The young fair-haired lady at the next table is still looking over work papers.

I pad again through the lushly carpeted lobby where a fire is burning in the hearth. I nod to the very correct grey-suited lady standing guard at the reception desk. I again inspect the formal restaurant with its cherrywood paneling and bright lights - the chefs want you to see their creations - that I thought too stuffy for my boys. The diners are elegantly dressed, the waiters of course wear black tie. A prosperous family is sharing roast goose.

I duck my head into the brew pub with all its pipes and barrels and so many beers on tap. I want tofind a dining area with a view over the water to the old city, the view I amired when we arrived here. It seems none of the restaurants and bars on this level overlook the lake.

I think we are near Munich.

My search inside the dream locale naturally orients my search online. I seek "Munich hotels with a view". I dwell for a while with pleasant images of the Kleinhesseloher See, a lake in the public park known as English Gardens in the heart of Munich. The view from my dream hotel was a little more scruffy. I found something strongly resembling it at the website of The Flushing Meadows, a trendy, upscale contemporary hotel an hour's drive from Munich. Could I go there in the future? Always possible. But not with my sons.

I take a closer look at these boys I know only in the dream. Each has the dark brown hair and the oval face I had at their ages, 8 and 10. They could be Younger Roberts. However, they have different names (that I don't need to share here) and it seems clear to me that they have their own identities. I'll look forward to spending more time with them, in what may be an alternate life.

I seem to be much younger in the German hotel than I am writing these lines. I may be in a different body altogether.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Know the myth you are living

We all conceal
A god within us, we all deal
With heaven direct, from whose high places we derive
The inspiration by which we live.

-          Ovid, Ars Amatoria III, 549–550 (trans. James Michie)

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 who was inspired to make Mary a star traveler by a childhood vision of her deceased father turning into a star.
      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.

Photo by RM: Assyrian lion in British Museum

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Incredible Shrinking Man


I feel that pull, and rush to bed at 8:30 p.m., shouting to my wife, “I have to lie down.” As soon as I stretch out on the bed, I see a Blue Lady – a dancing figure of blue light, inside a blue sphere. White lights flash at the top of my head. This no longer alarms me, but I am not wholly prepared for what follows. I am being pulled up into a cone of light. The luminous space is shaped like the inside of a pyramid, with an opening at the top.
    I am drawn into a long, narrow chamber. It is very light, with many tall windows. It is hung with masks and sculpted heads. It has the quality of a museum suspended in space. There is a rounded opening at the other end of the gallery. I approach this opening and am astonished to see an enormous face, the face of a beautiful woman, but of giant proportions. 
     Despite her beauty and welcoming expression, I back away. Then comes another shock. I glimpse the feeler, or part of the leg, of an insect, also blown up to giant size. I’m not happy about confronting a bug or a spider this big. I focus on expanding myself to equally huge proportions. I find the reverse process taking effect. Now I am shrinking incredibly fast. The bug’s leg is now as thick as a tree. As I continue to shrink, I lose track of it. What’s coming next? Dust mites the size of mastodons? My fears dissipate as I continue to shrink. I see planets whirling by, and realize I am traveling in the space between subatomic particles. It is as vast as “outer” space. 
     I see an intense pinpoint of white light. In some way, I become this point of light. I am traveling inconceivably fast, and harnessing immense energy.
     Through swirling cloudbanks, I see another world. Its sun is a great white disc, much closer to the surface of the planet than our sun is to Earth. The planet is screened from its burning rays, to some extent, by dense gaseous clouds. I am looking at a jagged, dramatic range of mountains.
     I am in the presence of a life force. I feel it, but cannot see it clearly. I glimpse fleeting images of something like a grasshopper, or a small humanoid figure with an enormous head. I realize that the life forms of this place are not focused in material reality as humans are on Earth. They can put on shapes as we put on clothes.
     I enter into a long mental dialog with the presence. Its thoughts are deep and heavy as a mountain; they weigh on me before they slip into forms I can hold. I do not hear words. The communication is not in language as we know it. The thoughts are not transmitted in linear form. I can receive them without need of a mediator, but as they become words in my mind, I am aware that I am missing a great deal. I am told:
     “You are an interpreter between worlds.”
     I ask for guidance on my life and work. The response: “You do not need to wait upon Power. Power is always waiting for you.” 
     I ask about love, and receive a surge of communication in one moment point, from which I unfold the statement, “Love brings your world into being.”
     I ask for a name by which I can call on this presence. It is difficult to pick anything up. I suggest that the entity could write its name in lights. I am presented with an impressive display of cosmic fireworks. I see the spiral arms of a galaxy spinning into life. Still no name. But from somewhere, a word that sounds like “Calidon” wells up in me. I ask if this is right.
     My question is received with sublime indifference. My sense is that “Calidon” will serve if I must have a name, but an unclear whether it is the name of the entity, or its world.
    When we part, there is a deep exchange of affection, less personal than human love, but strong and empowering.

For the five hours of this experience, I was in a liminal state of consciousness. I was aware of external noises – a yapping dog, a distant train – and the state of my physical body, while fully engaged in my journey and my interaction with the intelligence of another world. I was also watching over the body on the bed and observing the incredible shrinking man.
     When I got up to record this adventure, and then to walk my dogs in the cool moonlight along the farm road, I carried a sense of awe. I felt I had been given experiential access to a great secret: to go to another galaxy, go within.

Journal drawing: "Traveling" by Robert Moss

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss.Published by New World Library.


Friday, January 22, 2021


When you lie down to sleep or rest, what do you see behind closed eyelids? If you are really tired or have been partying hard, your inner lights may go out right away. However, it’s likely you’ll see and sense a few things, like flashes or light or color or voices that are not in the next room. If you can manage to be drowsy and somewhat attentive at the same time, your impressions may grow. You see geometric patterns or the weave of some fabric. Pictures like children’s drawings or cartoons whiz by, too fast and flimsy for you to catch anything much.

Now there are faces and figures, vivid and alive. It doesn’t feel like you’re looking at them inside your head. It’s more like they are in front of you and around you. Who are all these strangers? You may find yourself shifting from your witness perspective and moving among a crowd. Nobody seems to see you. But wait. Someone is looking at you. The moment of eye contact may startle you out of your excursion. Maybe another time you could risk an encounter with that stranger.

The longer you can maintain a state of relaxed attention, or attentive relaxation, in this border state, the more is likely to happen. You’ll enter different landscapes, some wildly beautiful, some otherworldly. You may sense you are moving at increasing speed until you are flying.

You may  step into a drama, a romance or adventure that may mystify you to begin with because it does not correspond to anything familiar to you.

There’s no doubt you are walking on the wild side. Nothing is fixed. An elephant turns into a tuba. A fish leaps in a pool and becomes the pupil of an enormous eye. An octopus turns into a solar disk with multiple arms, like the Aten of ancient Egypt. You watch a tiger chasing a girl, then you become the girl and the tiger, and the tiger is on her, and it’s all good, though when you go to the bathroom you check in the mirror to see whether there is blood around your mouth.

Maybe those flighty figures who come and go in your mind are the Hypnagogics I dreamed about: “They run lightly, playfully, up and down steps and over stoops along my street. They are flying as much as running. They seem light as zephyrs. They are the size of nine-year-old children. I know they are called Hypnagogicks.”

Text adapted from Growing Big Dreams by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Journal drawing:"HG Eye" by Robert Moss


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tales of the dream tellers

Last night, in a dream, I gave a lecture on dreaming traditions in India. I quoted the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and looked up the text after waking:

When he dreams, these worlds are his. Then he seems to become a great king. Then he seems to become a great Brahmin. He seems to enter into the high and low. As a great king takes his people and moves about in his own country just as he wishes, just so this one takes his own senses and moves about in his own body just as he desires.

My main thesis, in my dream lecture, was that your approach to dreams, reality and illusion differs radically according to whether you are thirsty for moksha (liberation) from the world, or  seeking to do as well as you can in the conditions of samsara. The first orientation will send you to the ashram and to dream yoga; the second might send you to the village dream teller and the temple of Lakshmi. The sources I quoted ranged from the Yogavasistha and the Upanishads to folktales and Queen of Dreams, a novel by an (East) Indian-American author, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
     I recounted one of my favorite Indian tales about how dreams of the night can help you fulfill your dreams of life in this samsaric world. The story is about dreaming your way to Mr Right. It is sometimes called "The Sketcher of Pictures" but I will call it

The Face of the Dream Lover

The princess (and all women may be princesses, or queens) is dreaming. She dreams of the perfect lover, who satisfies her in every way. The dream streams like silk. It smells like jasmine and honeysuckle.
   She opens her eyes and howls with pain and loss, because although her surroundings are opulent she knows no one like the man of her dreams.
   Her father sees that she is very sad and asks what is wrong. When she tells him it has something to do with a dream, the king summons his wise men to listen to the dream and tell her what it means. They gather in a council chamber, ready to give their interpretations.
    As the princess recounts her dream, a wild man rushes into the room, his hair a white storm about his shoulders. He is a rishi who lives in the woods and cares nothing for the rules of the court. He grabs a piece of paper, makes a quick sketch, and hands it to the girl.
    When she looks at the picture, the princess is stunned. The rishi has captured the very essence of her dream lover.
     Abandoning the conclave of dream interpreters, she runs after the wold man from the woods. When she catches up to him, she begs him to tell her the identity or her dream lover. "Who is he? Where can I find him?" Clearly the rishi knows the man of her dreams.
     Good teachers don't give you everything all at once. The rishi says only, "The map is in your dream." Then he takes off into the woods.
     The princess thinks about it. What does it mean, that a dream contains a map? When she thinks about it some more, she realizes that she was not with her lover among the clouds. She was in a bed in a room in a house in a city in a certain landscape. Though she recognizes none of these places, she has vivid memories of them and feels she would know them again.
     So she sets out on the quest. In an Indian village, they may take hours to tell this part. There will be tigers, of course, and bandits, and deserts and snakes and all manner of perils. There will probably be elephants.
     But let's catch up with the princess at the moment when her quest is almost over, because there on the horizon, after long travels and many ordeals, she sees the city from her dreams. And now she is rushing through those streets the house from her dream, and up the stairs to the bedroom from her dream, where she finds her lover rising from his dream of her.

It sounds like a fairy story, but there are no fairies in it, or any of the gods, demons and others from the rich forests of Hindu mythology. There are only humans, and what humans can do when they learn to make maps from their dreams and have the will and stamina to follow their maps.
    Through the perfume of romance, we receive a lesson in practical romanticism. Do the work in dreamwork. Recognize that dreams require action. Learn - why has it taken you so long? - that a dream is a place. Because you have been there, you can go there again. This can bring you, in this physical world, to place of your dream lover. More often, it will bring you to places in a more spacious universe where you can rejoin the beloved company of your soul, those who love you across time and space, even when you make each other crazy.

Way of the Dream Teller

Last night's dream sent me back to 
Divakaruni's novel. Queen of Dreams is very interesting as the portrayal of mother-daughter relations, in this case in an immigrant (Indian) community in California. Most interesting for me, the mother in the story is a "dream teller" in the old Bengali style. She not only interprets dreams for people, she can dream for them - for example, bringing warnings about the future. Excerpts from her journals are interspersed with the narrative.
     Some of these journal entries describe the dream teller's initiation by an order of female dream specialists in caves in India. One of her teachers retold stories of dreams from mythology and history to inspire students to think about the deeper aspects of dreaming - for example, that if you can remember a big, life-transforming dream, and go back into the space of the dream and take the right action, you can change your life and your world. 

“A dream is a telegram from the hidden world,” the dream teller writes in her journals.

     Queen of Dreams first published in 2004) is a captivating story that makes an ancient Indian tradition of dreaming highly accessible. On one level, this is a story of social and personal transition. A young single mother, Rakhi, is trying to make a life and make art in contemporary Fremont. Her livelihood is threatened when a Starbucks-type chain opens a supercafe across the street from her quaint little tea shop, and the dynamics of the struggle that ensues are told very well – hyped by turning the java-train manager into an ice-blonde witch.
     The heart of the story is Rakhi’s relationship with her mother, and what she learns about her mother’s life as a “dream teller” when she discovers her mother’s journals after she dies in a mysterious car accident. Rakhi knew, as a child, that her mother had special gifts, and was disappointed that she did not inherit them. Her mother’s gift explained why she needed to sleep alone, and why she would drag herself to a public phone to deliver an anonymous but extremely specific warning to a man she did not know after dreaming the details of a murder plot being hatched against him.
    The dream teller’s journals contain a beautiful statement attributed to an ancient text called the Brahit Swapna Sarita, which appears to be the author’s invention. (The literature of India is full of dreams, but I cannot locate this text, or the Swapna Purana also mentioned in the novel).

The dream comes heralding joy.
I welcome the dream.
The dream comes heralding sorrow.
I welcome the dream.
The dream is a mirror showing me my beauty.
I bless the dream.
The dream is a mirror showing me my ugliness.
I bless the dream.
My life is nothing but a dream
From which I will wake into death,
Which is nothing but a dream of life.

    To read her mother’s journals, Rakhi is dependent on translations from archaic Bengali by her unloved, alcoholic father. We learn that the mother was trained by a female order of dream tellers in caves. The instruction included lectures on the history of dreaming. One of the elders tells a story that does not mention the word dream. The students are left to puzzle out the connection. In summary, the story goes like this:

The King, the White Boar and the Transforming Moment

A king who prides himself on his prowess as a hunter goes out in search of game. Finally he sees a white boar, which would be the greatest of prizes. He pursues it deeper and deeper into the forest, his men left far behind. He comes to a clearing where little people in bark clothes are making an offering of something like porridge to a stone god. He finds he is ravenously hungry, and steals the food meant for the god. Fatigue overwhelms him.
     When he wakes from sleep, he finds his horse and trappings are gone. The little people must have stolen them. He is a good tracker. He finds his way home. But at the gates of the palace, the guards bar his way. They do not know him. When he checks his appearance, he finds he has been turned into a beggar in rags. Then he sees a different banner is flying over the castle. There is a different king, a man unknown to him – who has his wife and his child.
    The king-turned-beggar returns to the forest. He cannot find the place of the stone god until he catches sight of the white boar, which leads him again. He makes supplication to the stone god, humbly accepts the porridge given him after the ceremony. He lies down where he tethered his horse before. He can’t sleep, but must, because “he knows that only through a break can he change back to who he was.”  When he wakens, his horse and trappings are there, his men are not far away, he is king again. He now lives prayerfully, and is especially kind to beggars.

Swapping Lives through Transforming Dreams

Elder Jahnavi explains what happened with a diagram. She draws two ovals, one for the waking world and one for the dream world, linked by a connecting tube she calls the gateway. Both ovals revolve; the dream oval very fast, the other very slowly, so that when you come back from a dream you normally find yourself in a scene from regular life. But because the balance was disturbed by the forest sages after the king’s impertinence. The king experienced a transforming dream. Because he remembered it and was able to reenter the same magical space, he was able to shift worlds again through a second transforming dream. The name of the king is Tunga-dhwaja. “Tunga-dhwaja was fortunate in that he remembered, and even more fortunate in that he could reenter the same transforming dream, where he was forgiven. Otherwise he would have been trapped in his new life, and doomed to spend his days as a beggar.”

Divakaruni has played fast and free with a very old story. In the original, the king’s arrogance is that he refuses Prasad (food offering) when cowherd boys invite him to join their Vrata ritual for Satya Narayana under a banyan tree. The Lord himself decides to punish the king. When he returns home, he learns that all his family are dead. He realizes he has incurred divine wrath. He returns to the banyan, makes offering – and his family and property are restored. This simple telling, found online, lacks the dream shift.
    Divakaruni omits to tell us that the ritual that the little people are conducting is one of the most popular vratas in India – the Satya Narayana Puja ritual, which starts by invoking Ganesha and offering him favorite foods and continues with offerings and praise for a beneficent avatar of Vishnu.
    Still, I am intrigued by the idea that if we can remember a dream in which our life changed, and reenter it, we might be ableto put ourelves on a different event track.

Divakaruni gives us this,froma cave tecaher of her secret order of dream tellers:  “Sometimes you will be given a warning in a dream, which you must convey to the person it is meant for, a person whose mind is too thick for the dream spirit to pierce...The dreams that are most important come from another reality…This is the time of the dream spirits.” 

In the Dream of a God

Whether you are seeking nirvana or Mr. Right, in the literature of India we see again and again that dreaming is a way to wake up to the nature of reality and illusion.
     In one Indian cosmology, we live inside the dream of a god. 

Vishnu is dreaming this world. It will last until he leaves the dream and dismisses its cast of characters,who include us. The god with skin the color of rain-filled clouds sleeps and dreams on the great serpent Shesha Naga, who may have five heads, or seven or a hundred.. The serpent drifts on the Ocean of Milk.  While Vishnu sleeps, his mind generates dreams. They are the stuff we and our world are made of.

Markandeya is a human being who is curious about what is real. He tries so hard to see beyond the obvious that one day, without meaning to, he falls out of the mouth of the dreaming god. He now discovers that he has spent his whole life inside the body of the god. Now he's out there, he has a cosmic vision of the structure of the universe; he sees that everything he knew is contained within the body of the dreaming god. But this vision is too much for him; it inspires him with a trembling awe that easily shifts to terror. It's too much for him, even though he is an evolved soul, an adept. So he climbs back through the mouth of Vishnu, back into the world the god dreams. As he resumes his life there Markandeya starts to forget that there is anything outside..

Drawing at top: "The Sketcher of Pictures" by Robert Moss

Monday, January 18, 2021

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.

Top: Dreaming at Kernave, Lithuania,at the hill of the Shaman fromthe Eagle's Nest.(See The Boy Who Died and Came Back for that story) 

Bottom: Gathering of a family of Active Dreamers in the New York Adirondack Mountains

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Journal excavation and the magic of hand writing

I find there is magic in writing by hand. I prefer to write with a fountain pen, or in pencil. In the old days I used to carry rather fancy fountain pens.

In a village cafe where I was signing for a catered lunch that was going to be delivered to one of my workshop groups, I signed the bill with a fountain pen.

The man behind me said, "You're a writer!"

"How do you know?"

"Who but a writer uses a fountain pen. What's your name?"

When I told him, he gasped, "Robert Frost? Oh, I'm gonna die!"

"Robert Frost has done that already."

Things have changed. I am far less at risk of being mistaken for Robert Frost because in these times of pandemic you won't find me out and about signing for things. Also,I got lazy about fountain pen maintenance so instead of those fancy ones I use disposable Pilot Varsity pens and just throw them out when they run out of ink or get hopelessly clogged.

The biggest change, however,is that I'm not writing much by hand because my writing has become largely illegible, even to me. So at home, where I have been nearly all the time since March, when I follow my practce of starting the day by wrting dream reports or writing from my dreams, I go to a keyboard and type. I will often do a sketch a little later in the morning.

I was writing by hand every day during my pre-pandemic travels, which had me on the road roughly half the days of the year. I am still in process of transcribing what is in all those travel diaries - and in the big college-ruled five subject notebooks where I used to record my dreams thirty years ago.

When I embark on tne task of transcribing handwritten pages, I frequently find I am digging up real treasure. Here's an example. In a travel journal from six years ago I found a dream report that came alive in glorious color, pulsing with energy and mystery today, as it did them, when I made a sketch from it. This is the transcription, unedited:

January 17, 2015. Walnut Creek, CA


Ready to Paint It Red

I am wandering through an immense and beautiful art museum. In one of the rooms, the ceilings are beyond cathedral height, and as far up as I can see there are enormous paintings in softly glowing pastel hues. I know these images are sacred and they have something to do with ascension towards successive levels of a Higher Self.
    I am carrying an open can of red paint in one hand and a paint brush in the other. The paint is bright crimson, fire engine red. The brush is large enough for a house painter but I think it is the kind an artist would use to cover a wide area very quickly.
    Through an open doorway, I look at a small group of people clustered around a professor who is talking to them about the large framed painting in front of them. This is a special invited group. The picture shows a stone tub, possibly limestone, that looks like it could be filled with water. Hooded figures in white and light-colored robes are around it, evidently waiting for some event.
    In mid-sky, in the picture, there is an arc of light. Figures are moving along this arc in the sky. Some are mounted, some on foot. They appear to be in many sizes. They are golden, and glowing.
    There is something of the quality of the Journey of the Magi about this painting, but the images are not explicitly Christian.
    I am fascinated by the stone "tub". I can't find the right word for it. It could be a sarcophagus, but the feeling is of coming birth or baptism rather than of death.
    My high excitement and curiosity are with me as I become fully lucid inside the scene.
    I hear these words streaming through my mind:

From life to life, from day to day, I bring essence from the world of soul into the world of time.

I rise into the California morning charged with energy and excitement.
    I want to know what my dream self means to do with that red paint. I think of it now as life blood, blood of spirit. I feel I want to fill that hollow tub with this blood of spirit and see whether this will provide a medium of manifestation for those glowing spirits in the sky.
    I am reminded of a big dream from many years ago in which I led a special group of invited guests along a spiral path, past a great stone lion with a huge carnelian on his back, into a gallery space with an immensely high ceiling. We studied an unfinished painting of incalculable size. Within it, a life size human figure was as small as a candle flame in proportion to the shapes that rose around and above him. I understood that this was an unfinished portrait of the Higher Self. I was the professor in that dream. In the new one, I am watching my second self - I am almost certain - play professor while I get ready to lay on the red paint.


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Assignment: Idun


Dreams set us research assignments. A note on an assignment I was given in the hypagogic zone, on the cusp of sleep, when I lay down in the early hours:

January 2, 2021

HG assignment


The name comes through clearly the moment I close my eyes.. I know I am being given an assignment: to explore and report from the realm of the Norse goddess who keeps the apples of regeneration that keep the gods young. For a moment I am wafted into an enchanted apple orchard. I smell the apple blossom in the golden hair of a lovely young woman who seems sweet and innocent.

I let myself drift into sleep. In the final scene of my sleep dreams, I am driving far north, ever north, faster and faster with a young woman who seems to be both my daughter and my research partner. The wind rushes past us as the beating of great wings. We are excited because we have found the key to a mystery. We now need to use it and confirm the story we may bring to the world.

Feelings: excited

Clearly this sequence demanded immediate research in ordinary reality. I looked at the name, written as Iðunn in Old Norse and translated as "ever young" and "rejuvenator”. I went back to the books: to the Prose Edda for the story of Idun’s abduction and rescue (both the work of Loki), to Hilda Ellis Davidson’s treatment of Idun in Gods and Myths of the Viking Age, I looked again at the role of apples in many traditions (notably Celtic) as seeds of life and as passports to the Otherworld. I reflected on the nature of Idun’s  husband Bragi, the skaldic god of poetry, who gave his name to the cup (bragarfull) with which toasts to the mighty Viking dead were raised.

Of course I drew Idun by an apple tree with apple blossom in her hair, holding her golden apples in a basket rather than an ashwood box because that is the way I see her. This assignment has just begun. Who knows how far the road may lead?

RM jounal drawing January 2, 2021