Tuesday, August 31, 2021

What Wolfgang Pauli Read in His Dreams

 


I am always astonished when people tell me they don't read in their dreams or find that if they try to dream the text blurs and they can't follow it. I read even more in dreams than in regular life, and often surface from a dream with the text - and sometimes a voiceover,often my own - still streaming. I have been able to catch whole pages from these experiences. Last night, in the library of a French chateau, I was reading and singing with a group from the libretto of an operetta with dual texts in English and neo-medieval French.

Revisting Wolfgang Pauli's correspondence in preparation for a new course, I was delighted to recognize a kindred spirit, a fellow dream reader. Pauli was a Nobel laureate, pioneer of quantum mechanics, and creative colleague of Carl Jung in the development of the theory of synchronicity and the effort to understand the interweave of mind and matter in the universe. He once declared that dreams were his "secret laboratory".

Again and again, he receives and reads letters in his dreams. Sometimes in dreams he reads and signs documents. He dreams that he is in Copenhagen and Niels Bohr tells him that three popes have given him a new house. He signs a document and Bohr gives him a train ticket so he can ride to the new house. He wakes but sleeps again and the dream continues. A Catholic uncle tells him the house is for him and his family. He comments that "my dreams make no actual distinction between laboratory and church so the new house could be both."[1] 

He is told in a letter that there "with me there is something essentially different from C.G.Jung." His number has changed from 206 to 306, not so with Jung. The letter is signed Aucker, a mystery name to him. [2] 

He takes a tram to a large house that is the new building of ETH, the top science and technology university in Zurich where he found an academic home. In his new office are two letters, one very long signed by his boss; it says "ferry dues settlement". The other, in an envelope that says "philosophical chorus society", contains beautiful red cherries, some of which he eats." [3] A voice says: "At the place where Wallenstein atoned for his sins with his death a new religion shall arise." [4]

These two dreams, he tells Jung, are fundamental for him. They speak of the need to move beyond "the nonfunctioning of the religious tradition that strikes me as the distinctive characteristic of the West in the Christian era" towards "a chthonic, instinctive wisdom" and a religion that "attaches more value to the transformation of man through immediate experience than to an old book." [5]

His dream language substitutes scientist terms for Jungian psychology whose terminology is "less differentiated." [6] His dreams inspire him to tussle with Jung over the vocabulary the pyschologist developed to describe meaningful coincidence. A mathematician tells Pauli in a dream, "Cathedrals will be built for isomorphy"[7] and he wakes in high excitement. He proposes to Jung that he should substitute the term "isomorphy" - which means identity or close similarity of forms - for the word "synchronicity" which Jung had invented. [8] 

He has his own math-derived dream language of which "isomorphy" is a prime example. He has a symbolic language he tries to decode according to ancient myths and Gnostic legend like Jung, as with his dream of being at a house in the tropics where one cobra rises from the floor and a second from the earth. He dreams word codes involving foreign languages. In one of these dreams, Bohr tells him that the difference between V and W corresponds to the difference between Danish and English. As he wakes the word vindue enters his mind and he counts it part of the dream. He realizes that in Danish the letter W does not exist. He hasn't grasped what is going on until he nearly collides in the dark, after a meeting, with an Anglicist  named Straumann, a philologist who specializes in early English. Strausmann explains how the W vanished from Germanic languages. Next morning Pauli finds himself sitting opposite Strausmann on the tram , a phenomenon he calls "doubling".They discuss their previous night's speculation that vindue originally means "wind eye". In refelecting in the meaning of this episode, Pauli writes "The dreams and their images are 'Windaugen' for me." [9]  The wind is spirit (pneuma) producing dreams through a visual faculty.

Sometimes, in dreams, Pauli reads formulas on a blackboard. [10]

Two elements in his dreams that may speak to many of us: his dream self is more fluent in foreign languages, especially French (11) and, again and again, he can't get through to someone (usually his wife) on the phone (12).



References

1. C.A.Meier (ed) Atom and Archetype: The Jung/Pauli Letters, 1932-1958 trans. David Roscoe (Princeton NJ: Pinceton University Press 2001) pp.135-6.
2. ibid p.137
3. ibid p. 138
4. ibid p.139
5. ibid p.140-1
6. ibid
7. ibid p.139
8. For a full account of Paui's dream life and dialogue with Jung, see my Secret History of Dreaming (Novato CA: New World Library, 2009) chapter 11.
9. ibid p.145
10. ibid p.150
11. ibid
12. ibid p136

Monday, August 30, 2021

On the road


What happens on the road in your dreams? Our dreams rehearse us for literal situations that may come up. I am quite certain that dreams saved me from possible death on the road three times by giving me previews of fatal accidents I was able to avoid by retaining, clarifying and applying the information. Our dreams give us gentler travel advisories: check your brakes, be prepared for a detour or heavy traffic.

Then there are all the dreams in which was is happening on the road may be a metaphor for life situations, past, present or future. In a dream last night I knew where I wanted to go, but it's by no means clear that I knew how to get there. I drove straight ahead, on a highway that dwindled to a country road that turned to dirt and then was just a trail that suddenly dropped in a near-vertical descent. I plugged on in the car - which may have been a Mini Cooper - despite the risk until the narrow walls of a gorge hemmed me in I got out of the car and tried to climb down, still headed in the same direction.

I came back from my dream excursion with no strong feelings and no sense of urgency. I was slightly disappointed, since the dream wasn't much fun. And a little frustrated, since it seemed unlikely that my dream self was going to make it to his objective. I doubted that the dream held hold a literal advisory since I rarely drive these days and don't have a Mini Cooper.

Instead of recording the details, as I normally do, I let the dream go until I had finished my coffee and checked the news about Hurricane Ida and Kabul.

With my memory of the dream narrowed to my effort to keep traveling in a straight line regardless of circumstances, I could recognize a recurring theme in my dreams and my life. I can think of past situations where I thought I knew where I wanted to go, and discovered that I did not actually know how to get there. Literally and symbolically, I've gone through life passages where I keep on keepin' on without checking the map or considering alternate routes or asking directions. Is there a chance I'll do that again? Well, of course. I don't see the possible circumstances this morning, but I'll keep the dream with me as a counselor.

To add to the likelihood I'll hear that counsel, I'll make upa bumper sticker. Not a major creative assignment on this occasion. I can borrow an oldie.

Remember a straight line is not always the shortest path.

There are dreams that hold up a magic mirror to our actions and attitudes, giving us the gift of seeing ourselves from a witness perspective. Sometimes they hold up a funhouse mirror in which our quirks and imperfections are so mocked and magnified we can hardly fail to pay attention. This gives us precious opportunities for course correction. Have you noticed?

What's happening on the road in your dreams?

Photo by RM

Friday, August 27, 2021

The real history of Lincoln's dream



Most of us know that Abraham Lincoln dreamed of his assassination a couple of weeks before he was shot. But the full story of that dream - of how it haunted Lincoln, and how he tried to get a second opinion on it, and finally failed, tragically, to heed the warning - is much more intriguing and instructive than the truncated version we are usually given.

    The original source is a memoir by Lincoln's friend and aide Colonel Ward Hill Lamon, who heard him tell the dream. In Recollections of Abraham Lincoln Lamon recalls that Lincoln was "haunted" by a sinister dream that seemed "amazingly real" but said nothing until confronted by his wife Mary to explain his melancholy and "want of spirit."
     Lincoln began by talking about the Bible. "It is strange how much there is in the Bible about dreams....If we believe the Bible, we must accept the fact that in the old days God and His angels came to men in their sleep and made themselves known by dreams."
     Asked for his own views on dreams, Lincoln revealed that he was "haunted" by a dream from a few nights before - and that he had sought a second opinion on the dream, repeatedly, by opening his Bible at random and seeking a message in the text his eye fell upon. The first time he did this, he found himself in Genesis 28, reading the story of Jacob's Ladder, one of the great dream visions in the Bible. He tried again and again. "I turned to other passages and seemed to encounter a dream or vision wherever I looked.
     Clearly this gave him the sense that his own dream was a true dream, perhaps a prophetic one. This increased the grip of the dream on him, to the point where. Lincoln said, "the thing has got possession of me, and like Banquo's ghost, it will not down." 
    At Mary's prodding, he recounted the dream. There was first a deathly stillness around him. Then he heard the weeping of invisible mourners. He roamed the White House, trying to understand what was going on. The rooms were all brightly lit but he found no one until he entered the East Room and met with "a sickening surprise". Soldiers stood guard over a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments on a catafalque. When Lincoln demanded, "Who is dead in the White House?" one of the soldiers replied, "The President - he was killed by an assassin!" A great howl of grief rose from mourners in the room and waking, Lincoln was unable to sleep for the rest of the night. 
    Having told the dream, Lincoln announced that - despite his Bible discoveries and the depth of his feelings - it was "only a dream" and should be forgotten. But it stayed in his mind, and he tried to dismiss it by developing the idea that it could not be about his own assassination because - as he told Lamon - it was "some other fellow" that was killed.
    Lincoln understood dreaming. He regarded true dreams and presentiments as natural, not supernatural, and extraordinary visions as the workings of "The Almighty Intelligence that governs the universe." Yet he failed to act on the dream that could have saved his life.

ABRAHAM'S DREAM is a print produced by Currier & Ives in 1864. The artist depicts Lincoln as tormented by nightmares of defeat in the election of that year. In his supposed dream Liberty, brandishing the severed head of a black man, is at the door of the White House, driving Lincoln out with her foot. Lincoln is seen fleeing, wearing a a Scotsman's plaid cap and a cape. His dress is an allusion to an incident prior to his first inauguration in 1861. Informed that an attempt would be made to assassinate him during his trip to Washington, Lincoln took a night train and disguised himself. It was widely reported that he was spotted wearing a Scotch plaid cap and a long military cloak and his critics in the press had a field day poking fun at his alleged timidity. Tragically, this experience may have influenced Lincoln's failure to do more to change the future he previewed in the assassination dream.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

When Dreams Speak in Riddles: Learning from an Ancient Dream Diviner


Artemidorus was the most famous dream interpreter in the Greco-Roman world. Operating in the second centuty, he was originally known as Artemidorus Daldianus, from his mother's city of Daldis in Lydia, but mostly practiced in the great temple city of Ephesus. He wrote many books, but only one survives: his five-volume Oneirocritica, "The Interprettion of Dreams",from which Freud borrowed the title but not the approach. 

Artemidorus states his general objective at the start of this book. He wants to make a rational and effective case for divination, based on his personal experience and the case studies he has collected.  Second, he wants to offer a practical and original guidebook that any intelligent reader can use. 

He gives his credentials in his opening pages: “I have not only taken special pains to procure every book on the interpretation of dreams, but have consorted for many years with the much-despised diviners of the marketplace…In the different cities of Greece and at the great religious gatherings of that country, in Asia, in Italy and in the largest and most populous of the islands, I have patiently listened to old dreams and their consequences.” [On 1: preface. White pp 21-22] His authority is based on experience: “Everything has been the result of personal experience, since I have always devoted myself, day and night, to the study of dream interpretation.” [On 2.70; White p.158]

Artemidorus proceeds to distinguish different types of dreams. A fundamental difference is between oneiros, which he defines as a dream that “indicates a future state of affairs” and enhypnion – stuff “in sleep” – that “indicates a present state of affairs”, ranging from the state of your digestion to your desire to be with your lover or the haunting images of things that you fear. People who lead “an upright life” try to discipline themselves to avoid being “muddled” by the fears and desires reflected in such sleep experiences, which are the stuff of much modern dream analysis [On 1.14]. In the Oneirocritica, Aretmidorus is interested only in dreams that reveal the future, and only in those that do this through allegory rather than by literal depiction of possible scenes and events. Allegorical dreams are “those which signify one thing by means of another.”

 “The mind predicts everything that will happen in the future.” [On 1.2, White p.24] Artemidorus gives several examples of precognitive dreams that presented future events in an entirely literal way. A man dreams of a shipwreck and then his boat is wrecked and he narrowly avoids drowning, as in the dream. Another dreams he is wounded in the shoulder by a friend in a hunting accident, and again the dream is played out exactly.

If it is possible to dream the future with this kind of clarity, why do we need allegories? Artemidorus gives two reasons. The first is that we may lack the experience to understand a future event perceived in a dream – for example, because we have not yet encountered a person or situation that features in the dream. By setting us a puzzle to figure out, the “allegorical” dream gives us a rational way to access what the larger mind knows about things to come. Second, the kind of dream dramas Artemidorus describes can bring an emotional charge that leads to action; “it is the nature of the oneiros to awaken and excite the soul by inducing active undertakings.” [On 1.2, White p. 23]  

 Artemidorus also notes that while the gods do not lie, they like to speak in riddles. This is because “they are wiser than we and do not wish us to accept anything without a thorough examination”. He gives the example of a man who dreamed the god Pan told him that his wife would poison him via his best friend. It was the relationship that was poisoned, when the wife proceeded to have an affair with the friend. [On 4.71, White p.224]

Thus Artemidorus sets very clear boundaries around the field of dreams he explores in the Oneirocritica. He is going to show us how to decode allegorical dreams in order to discern the future. He is well aware that other kinds of dreams require other kinds of dream work, and he wrote about other types of dreams in books that have not survived, as well as a book of augury – divination by bird-watching. [Price p.29] This approach is completely different from that of Freud, who postulated the equal status of all dreams, all formed by the same mechanisms.

Artemidorus recognized that every dream may be unique. The snake in your dream is not the same as the snake in mine. To read the meaning of a dream symbol correctly, you must know the dreamer’s identity, position in life, habits and medical condition. “You must examine closely the habits of men before the dream….you must inquire carefully into them.” [On 4.59, White pp 217-8 ] Suppose you dream you are made of silver or gold. If you are a slave, this means you’ll be sold; if you are poor, you’ll become rich; if you’re already rich, you’ll be the victim of plots because everyone will be out to get your money.. [On 1.50 White p.57] You must also question the dreamer’s feelings about a dream.

Artemidorus observes that we dream the future for others as well as ourselves. Sometimes we receive a dream message for someone else. “Many dreams come true for those whose characters are similar to the dreamer’s and for his relatives and namesakes.” Artemidorus gives the example of a woman who dreamed she was married to a man who was not her husband. He observed that work with this dream could proceed in several directions, including exploring the possibility that it warned of death; “marriage and death signify each other because the circumstances surrounding a marriage and a funeral are similar.” [On 4.30, White p.204] This association, it turned out, was on the right track, but it was the dreamer’s sister, not the dreamer herself, who “married death” after the dream.   

Artemidorus kept in touch with his clients after consultations, and apparently believed that divination through dreams is for the benefit of the whole community. This carries a burden: “If a man dreams that he has become a prophet and has been celebrated for his predictions, he…will take upon himself, in addition to his own anxieties, those of others.” [On 3.21, White p. 164]

 He wanted to raise dream divination to the level of an applied science. In the view of one modern scholar, Christine Walde, he succeeded. “The more complex aspects of divination – which is the attempt to investigate the connections underlying fate and the cosmos through natural and artificial means – constituted both an ancient mode for mastering life and a way of gaining knowledge or insight that, in the context of its time, can in no way be dismissed as irrational; at most, it might be considered extrarational.” Artemidorus devised a “demystified” approach to divination that “provides the standardized conditions that scientific distance requires” and “an imposing reservoir of knowledge about things in the world and their interdependence.” [Walde 126, 128] 


References

Artemidorus, Oneirocritica: The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. Robert J. White. Torrance CA: Original Books, 1990, pp. 82-85. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Artemidorus are from this translation.

Price, S.R.F., “The Future of Dreams: From Freud to Artemidorus,” in Past and Present no.113 (November 1986).

Walde, Christine, “Dream Interpretation in a Prosperous Age? Artemidorus, the Greek Interpreter of Dreams” in David Shulman and Guy G. Stroumsa (eds) Dream Cultures: Explorations in the Comparative History of Dreaming. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.



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

 

 Photo of cat at Ephesus by RM

A Gift for Resemblances

 


Divination is the effort to discern the divine will: to identify what supports and what opposes an individual or a community. When properly conducted and interpreted, what comes through may show the shape of things to come. Divination has never been out of style.

      The oldest and most effective forms of divination are those in which you look very carefully at what the world is telling you. You have a question on your mind and you pick up a stone, or examine the bark of a tree, and see what patterns they suggest to you that may hold an answer. The women seers of the German tribes, who gave Roman commanders plenty of trouble, liked to find pictures and hear voices in running water. Plutarch wrote in his biography of Caesar:“Their holy women used to foretell the future by observing eddies in the rivers, and by finding signs in the whirling and in the noise of the water.” When the Romans themselves needed guidance on whether the divine will was favorable or unfavorable to a certain undertaking, they sent their augurs up onto the Capitoline hill to monitor the behavior of birds.

      From very early times, humans have constructed divination kits to limit the answers the world can give you to manageable numbers, that can be read according to an agreed and teachable method of understanding. African diviners carry pouches containing stones and pieces of bones and other objects and artifacts that represent certain themes or outcomes. They can be cast as lots, like runes, to make a story.   

      The world’s great divinatory systems, such as China’s I Ching, West Africa’s Ifa, and Europe’s Tarot, are more than tools for fortune-telling. In their design, the hexagrams, the odu and the cards bring together symbols representing all the forces and processes at work in the world, including those that emanate from a deeper world. The magnitude of the design is clear in the oldest text of the I Ching, from Mawangdui, where it is written that the ancient sages “drummed” the patterns of heaven and earth into the hexagrams. Such patterns give form to the ever-shifting dynamics of manifestation. The world is before you, with all of its players, marshaled in finite numbers adapted to the finite understanding of humans: the sixty-four gua of I Ching, the sixteen master odu and 256 derivative patterns of the Ifa diviner, the 78 cards of Tarot.

      A reading is designed to show what forces and factors are at play in a given moment of time, and which are absent. For a devoted reader of one of these systems, what is missing from the field may be as significant as what is present. If you do a daily card reading, for example, and you find that a certain card or suit never seems to show up, you will want to ask yourself why that element or power is absent from your life. A recurring pattern of absence may be comparable to a medical test that reveals, for example, that you do not have enough iron in your body.

     Great readers, using any of these systems, rely on memory, intuition and a gift for resemblances. Phenomenal memory is required to learn and carry the poetic oral recitations that hold the possible meanings of Ifa. A great babalawo (“father of the mysteries”, the title of the Ifa divination priest) may carry in his head a hundred poetic stories about each of the odu, and will scan his memory banks in a reading to see which of these, in which combinations, are relevant to his client in that moment. A great reader of I Ching will remember, as coins or yarrow sticks reveal a hexagram, not only the commentaries of past masters that he has memorized, but incidents that followed when a certain hexagram came up before. In the presence of the Hanged Man, the Queen of Cups or the Seven of Swords, a great Tarot reader may wander through a personal memory palace where each of the rooms holds a living history of each of the cards – its transformations, its consequences – and there is a great room where the cards move together and interact, as in a medieval pageant with its mystery plays.

     Intuition may involve courting, or at least being receptive to, the guidance of past masters. In China, for many generations, the yarrow stalks preferred for casting the I Ching were plucked from the gravesites of previous masters, including Confucius. The babalao recognizes that certain odu not only feature the ancestors or the orishas (the gods and demigods of the Yoruba) but may announce their irruption into the space. When the pattern of Ogun, the iron lord of justice and retribution, is revealed, everything comes to a stop while his praise-names are chanted. Those who work deeply with variants of Tarot based on Kabbalah or the work of Western esoteric orders may come to feel they are in contact with the intelligences of some of those who traveled before them on the roads of the Tree of Life.

    In all cultures, attitudes to divination range from superstitious credulity to impatient skepticism. The most pragmatic approach may be the one the great Roman statesman and advocate Cicero attributed to his brother Quintus in a celebrated treatise in which he argues both for and against divination: eventa non causae – pay attention to “outcomes, not causes.” If it works, use it.

From time immemorial, dreams have have been the favorite source of divination, for amanteurs and professionals. The dream interpreter is never likely to lack business – even in a society that disparages dreams – because people know that their dreams are important, but need help in three important ways: to figure out the meaning of dreams, to determine appropriate action to be taken, and to disperse or ward off bad energies that may be operating during the night.

The prime requirement for a dream interpreter, according to Artemidorus, the most famous practitioner of this trade before Freud, is “a gift for resemblances.”

The meaning of dreams is often mysterious, and in many societies it has been mainatined that a professional - shrink or priest or seer - is required to interpret them.The truth is that dreams are a personal oracle that travels with us everywhere, and we don't need someone else t tell us what they mean if we are preapred to do our own work. Asked why dreasymbols can be so difficult t read, a wise ancient interpreter responded that the gods who are kindly to humanaity want us to get smart, so they set us puzzles to figure out. This was also sometimes cited as a reason why the pronouncements of the Delphic oracle were famously mysterious and ambiguous.



Graphic: Ifa divination tray

 


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

 

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Notes from a Reading Life: Jung's Dove Girl and the Black Books


 Just after Christmas 1912 Jung dreamed he was with his children in a tower, at a round table topped by a wonderful green stone, A seagull or dove flew in. It turned into a girl of eight who ran and played with his children among marvelous colonnades. The girl turned back into a bird and gave him a mysterious message.

He knew no way to find the meaning of the dream. He wrote later , “All I could do was just wait, keep on living and watch the fantasies.” The bird dream also convinced him that the unconscious was populated with “living” entities, things with their own life.

So began the long experiment in wakeful fantasy (that he later called active imagination) chronicled in the Black Books. 

I wonder whether Jung knew at the time about the doves of Dodona. The priestesses of the famous oracle of the speaking oak, themsleves called Doves, told Herodotus that the oracle was created because a dove flew from Egypt and spoke from the tree in a human voice, announcing the will of the gods. Jung's dream of the shapeshifting bird girl has the uncanny, numinous quality of what we can easily imagine to have been the experience that brought pilgrims to such places over many centuries.

The call and the movement of birds were closely monitored at Dodona, as throughout the ancient world, and birds were recognized as companions and sometimes adopted forms of deities as well as lesser spirits: the eagle of Zeus, the dove of Aphrodite, the sea-bird and owl of Athena. Carrier pigeons - doves by a different name - were also an important communications system, and when oracles delivered early and accurate news, it may have been because something arrived on the wings of a bird as well as the wind of divine or daimonic inspiration.

I love Jung but am not a Jungian. (Neither was he.) I try to keep up with his literary afterlife in this world as Sonu Shamdasani and others bring out volume after volume of seminar notes and journals. I wrote from my visions of his afterlife in another world in my story "The Other Bollingen" in Mysterious Realities.


I have the Black Books and enjoyed the book-length introduction where I discovered the dove girl and her influence on Jung. However, I was exhausted halfway through one of the six volumes of transcriptions in which characters with big names in Jung's wakeful fantasies throw hissy fits at each other and make rude aspersions about each other's genealogy. Not to be read in a reverential way, at all, and generally lacking in the poetry (and the art) of the Red Book.

So I took a break from the Black Books and moved a more accessible posthumous publication,  Introduction to Jungian Psychology harvested from a 1925 seminar on analytical psychology and again edited by the indefatigable Shamdasani, to the top of the Jung section in my current reading piles. And I plunged deep into the sources for what was going on at the ancient oracle of the dove priestesses and the speaking oak at Dodona, using the skills of shamanic dreaming to travel through the texts and the archaeology and practice what Suhrawardi called "the knowledge of presence".


Art: Pablo Picasso, "Child with a Dove" (1901)


Notes from a Reading Life: The Dervish House

 


When I  read the last lines of The Dervish House I said, “Wonderful!” out loud. I read it again to savor all that is in it and to understand more fully some of the intricate description of nanotechnology, hedge fund operations, the history of Sufi lodges, the legend of the Mellified Man, the geography of Istanbul. 

Ian McDonald is astonishingly deep and diverse in his knowledge. He writes about everything with exact and fine detail and vocabulary and – amazingly! – this is never wearisome, though it makes the book a slow (but always fascinating) read. 

I never doubted that his six main characters, sharing apartments in a converted dervish house on the Asian side of Istanbul, are Turks (if we include the elderly Greek “experimental economist”, Georghios Ferentinou, as we must). There are no concessions to the non-Turkish reader. Every Turkish word is given with the Turkish spelling and necessary diacritical marks. The sole concession is with jinn, rendered djinn, no doubt at the publisher’s insistence. Even Rumi's beloved Shams of Tabriz becomes Çams with the cedilla under the C.

Just when you think the author can’t possibly trump himself, we read this on the penultimate page, where the focus is on a Turk who has been turned into a shayk who sees djinn and talks to Hizir by a nanopharmarmaceutical that exploded in a calculated terrorist suicide on a tram: 

The army doctor...told him a story about the Mevlana, the great saint whose order built this tekke. The Mevlana has a friend, Çams of Tabriz, a spiritual friend, the other half of his soul, one spirit in two bodies. Together they explored the depths of God in ceaseless conversation. The dervishes grew jealous of the one-in-twoness and quietly killed Çams of Tabriz. When the Mevlana was unable to find his friend, the only possible conclusion was that they had merged and Çams was now part of him.


Why should I seek?
I am the same as he.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Synchron-O-city beast

Shhhh. If you're quiet for a moment, you'll hear him snuffling and padding around the room. Most grown-ups can't hear him or see him because they are too busy. Whatever age you are, you don't want to miss him. When he's around, things happen differently. You can finish something before you started it, which is really cool when it comes to doing chores.
     He is, of course, the Synchron-O-city Beast. I shall tell you exactly how he got his name and his shape. There was once a very clever professor in Switzerland who woke up noticing what you and I know but most grown-ups forget: coincidence matters, terribly. But it was very hard for him to explain this to respectable adults in a country of bankers and cuckoo-clocks, so he made up a word that sounded scientific. 
     The word was "synchronicity", which he defined as "an acausal connecting principle." He was talking about meaningful coincidence. You and I know that coincidence always means something. It's through coincidence that we discover that the world inside us and the world outside us aren't really separate. It's through coincidence that we discover the secret doors to the world-behind-the-world that open in our dreams but often seem to be bricked over in the daytime, as if they were never there. Through coincidence, we discover that there are players involved in our games of life who live on the other side of the curtain between the worlds, but can reach through that curtain to move a piece on the board, or tickle us, or muss our hair.
     The Swiss professor got serious people - the sort who would never listen to talk of "coincidence" - to sit through his lectures when he substituted the word "synchronicity." He also go them to listen because he told good stories about how synchronicity worked in his own life, about how a solid cabinet cracked with a loud BANG when he was getting into an argument with his own teacher, or how a fox appeared on a path when he was talking to a lady about a dream of a fox.
     I have never liked the word "synchronicity" as much as that good old word "coincidence". But alas, "coincidence" has been horribly ad-justedand only-fied by all the people who have long been in the habit of saying, "just coincidence" or "only coincidence". It has even been not-ified by people who insist "it's not coincidence" when they really mean that it is, but it's something real and important and meaningful, and they don't understand (because of the bad talk they've learned) that coincidence is all of those things.
    So I've been using the word "synchronicity" in my own classes. But in one of those classes, there was a sweet lady artist who could never say it quite right. It always came out "synchron-O-city" with a great big O where an I should be. I thought this was rather cute, and couldn't bear to correct her. So, month after month, following her homeplay assignments, she would bring us tales of synchron-O-city, to our smiling delight.
    One evening there was a newcomer in the class, a serious person and a stickler for accuracy in everything that can be looked up.
    "I have another synchron-O-city to tell," said the lady artist, eager to share.
    "You mean synchon-I-city," said the newcomer. "You should get it right."
    Crestfallen, the artist tried to correct herself, but faltered.
    I quickly intervened. "Please don't ever change the way you say that word," I implored the artist. "Every time you say it, I sense a soft snuffly animal - the Synchron-O-city Beast - coming into the room."
    I paused. In that moment, I believe we all heard and sensed something like a plush baby rhino, snuffling and snorting. The first peoples of the country where I grew up, Down Under, say that to name something is to bring it into the world. The Synchron-O-city Beast is now alive and ever so busy in this world.
    I can prove this because a writer named Maureen reported a most delightful dream in which she is one of a team of counselors helping me to run a camp for children where we supervise sleepover parties and dream together. Padding and snuffling all over the magical house in the woods where we are gathered is a creature she describes as a "baby rhino", soft and cuddly. 
     I don't think Maureen ever heard of the Synchron-O-city Beast from me, at least not in an ordinary way. The Synchron-O-city Beast just went ahead and introduced himself. I hope they are feeding him well in Maureen's dream camp. He thrives on giggles and slips of the tongue. He likes to exercise by shredding the curtain of solemn people's expectations, and butting holes into Outland and Fairyland and other lands big enough to be doorways for anyone with a child's sense of wonder.



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

Friday, August 20, 2021

Workaday Dreams of Other Lives

 


Last night I led an advanced training for a circle of students in a spacious room with arched windows overlooking an old European city. The room and the students were familiar to me from other dreams but not from regular life. The training was successful. We had to take special care with a woman consumed by grief; a mothering nurse in the group was very helpful. Another of the women students sought private time with me to talk about her relations with the beings she called "pixies"; she proved to be a walking folktale. I came back from the dream with the sense of virtue that comes when you have completed a challenging task before other people have started their day. I also felt a bit jet-lagged as if I had just flown back in Europe. I rested in bed for an hour before walking the dog.
Dreams are social as well as individual, transpersonal as well as personal. They may be entirely real experiences in other orders of reality. I have no doubt that I led that group in an alternate reality. I am curious to see whether some or all of it plays out in ordinary reality. If that starts to happen, I will be on the lookout for the woman in grief and the pixillated lady.
Some psychologists might call last night's dream "compensation", in the sense that in dreams we may live parts of life we have been denied or have denied ourselves in the physical world. So the ascetic (as in a famous Théophile Gautier story) is a lecherous Don Juan in his dreams, or the invalid is climbing the Himalayas. Before the pandemic, I was traveling seven months out of twelve, leading workshops all over the world map. Since March last year, I have not been to Europe or boarded a plane to any destination. So I might accept the idea that leading that in-person training in Europe is "compensation". However, my dream is "compensation" in more than the sense of fantasy. I am quite sure I was in that space, doing that work, helping students with their issues, listening deeply to their stories. It is a workaday dream. Since I love the kind of teaching I do, having to work at it as the price of a dream getaway is a price I am happy to pay.
We lead many lives in our dreams, and we miss so much if we fail to notice this vital aspect of dreaming. People are forever asking me about the "message" a dream may have for them, or the meaning of a symbol. I find myself responding, again and again, that while a dream may indeed hold a message, it is first and last an experience playing out in another reality. We want to ask questions like Who, What, Where, When? And then: Can this play out in the future in physical reality? Is it part of a continuining life I am leading somewhere else? Is it complete in itself or is there something I now need to do, perhaps to bring a gift or a lesson from another life into this one?

Photo of Prague rooftops by RM

Friday, August 13, 2021

There is one direction in which space is open to us


The sun rises from behind the mountains, and golden light bursts over the lake. Though the analogy is too pedestrian for the glory of this moment, it seems to me that an immense light bulb has come on, impossible to miss yet difficult to look at head-on. 

The moment before I walked barefoot across the wet grass to wait for the sun by the shore, I was reminded of some lines from Emerson that give exact shape to the sense of illumination and direction that is now with me: 

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. 
    This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any other call.

This passage, from Emerson's Spiritual Laws, gives vital navigational guidance for our life journeys. Every word is as precise as a compass bearing. To read this passage deeply and take it to heart is to turn on the light in a darkened room, or put the sun in the sky.

The talent is the call. When we follow our soul's calling, and give ourselves to the work, the life Work that is ours and no other's, our gifts are multiplied, because we draw to us supporting powers from the unseen, starting with our own creative genius. 

There is one direction in which space is open to us. This explains why, when we are unsure of or uncommitted to our calling, we find blocks and opposition placed in our paths, doors slammed in our faces, savage reversals of fortune or of health that compel us to ask what we are doing in our lives. Such obstruction isn't random, and it's about more than toughening us up. Dead ends and adversity, repeated often enough, can make us aware that we've been following the wrong charts. Knowing that we have been misdirected gives us the chance to find our true direction. 

On that side all obstruction is taken away. When we follow the soul's direction, the way ahead is open, and wind and water flow with us. We "sweep serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea." We draw new allies, events and resources to us. Chance encounters and benign coincidence support us and ease our passage in ways that are inexplicable to those from whom the spiritual laws of human existence are hidden.




What we now deliver in our world is unique, yet it springs from the mode in which the general soul incarnates in us. We draw from "that age-long memoried self that shapes the elaborate shell of the mollusc and the child in the womb, that teaches the birds to make their nest", as Yeats wrote, thrillingly, in The Trembling of the Veil. The poet added that "genius is a crisis that joins that buried self for certain moments to our trivial daily mind.." Yes, but Emerson arouses us to the understanding that the flash of genius can become a steady beacon for a voyage in which the mixed crew of personalities that compose the self are willing to work the ropes together, because the helmsman is unerring.

We have no rival when we follow our one direction and live as creators. To be a creator is to bring something new into the world, the thing only we can give.

Each of us has all of the power to do something unique, and no one has any other call.

Ah. As I write this line, releasing it from gender to become fully the property of all, the sun calls me, laying a path of light clear across the inland sea and through my window, so it shines before me. My pencil, on the table, glows in this brilliant morning light silently inviting me to endless exertion with the talent I am given, the kind of exertion that is no sweat because it is the soul's delight.





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


Photos of Lake Champlain by RM