Saturday, November 27, 2021

Crumpet Time

I know this: we can travel across time, and we can play mentor and counselor to a younger self, or receive help and guidance from a wiser older self. At the very least, when we reach to that younger self, we can offer the assurance that however much he is suffering, he will make it through. I know this because I started doing it when I was in my midforties, reaching back to the sick and lonely boy who found it so hard to live in the ordinary world.

The friends who helped me most in this period were invisible to others. One of the best of these friends was the Big Man. He was like a favorite uncle I did not have. One of the lessons he taught me was how to eat crumpets.
The Big Man came to me when I was in my bedroom, sick and lonely and feeling really sorry for myself. It was one of those days when I wanted to leave. I was curled up in the bed, with the covers pulled up over my head. I had been pretending I was in a silken tent in the desert, being waited upon and entertained by dancing girls. But I started coughing until my chest hurt and I was spitting into the basin beside the bed. I fell back, exhausted and desperate, and buried my face in the pillow, hoping to conceal the sound of my coughing from my mother
I felt a presence in the room, then the mattress tipped a little as someone eased down onto the edge of the bed. I thought it was one of my parents, come to check on me. I whispered that I was all right, no worries, which was the kind of fib I told to everyone except myself. A hand closed on my shoulder, squeezing just a little.
“That’s right,” my visitor said. “You really are all right.”
The warm, confident voice was familiar, but I could not put a name to it. I rolled over and looked up into a large, pink face smiling at me from under a mane of white hair. The blue-gray eyes were slightly hooded, a feature my mother and I shared.
“I know it’s hard for you,” my visitor went on. “I know you’re lonely and feel rotten. But you are going to make it through. You’ll be knocked down some more, but you will always get up again. You are a survivor, Robert. Trust me. You will make it through.”
The Big Man was hugging me then. I felt so small and fragile in his embrace, and I could not stop the tears from flowing because I felt safe and because this stranger was holding me as my mother never did, not since I died.
“Write,” he encouraged me. “Write your dreams. Write those adventures that stream through your head when you’re playing with your toy soldiers.”
“Nobody wants to hear my dreams,” I complained.
“You may have to lie low for now. But the day will come when lecture halls will be filled with people who are eager to hear your dreams and to tell their dreams to you. I promise you.”
I did not know what to say.
“Keep up your art. Draw and paint.” He surveyed my room and smiled at the stack of how-to-draw books I had bought with my pocket money. 
“You are lonely. But I promise you that the time will come when you will know the love of women and women will love you.”
I must have fallen asleep, because I did not see him go. I did not ask him who he was. I often sensed him nearby when I was alone. When he was close, I felt bigger and stronger.

When we were living in Melbourne, I liked going downtown with my mother on little shopping expeditions. The stately old Myers department store was always the high point of these expeditions. My mother took me to the Myers café for afternoon tea, and I always had crumpets.
I felt the Big Man close to me one afternoon in the café. “Crumpets taste much better with salt and pepper,” he nudged me. “Go on. No one will mind.”
I reached around the pots of jam and marmalade for the shakers, and gave my crumpets a good dose of salt and pepper. The waitress looked at me. My mother just went on sipping her tea. I had done stranger things. The Big Man was right. Crumpets are really nice with salt and pepper.
Many decades later, when I was living in North America, crumpets ceased to be a daily feature of my diet. Americans eat things called English muffins, but these are not crumpets. On rare occasions packets of crumpets popped up in the bread and cakes section of the local supermarket, and I would buy all of them and take them home. Fixing myself a snack in the kitchen of my new home in New York, I popped crumpets in the toaster and as they came out, browned but still delightfully soggy, I sprinkled salt and pepper before applying the butter. And I felt the attunement with that young boy in Melbourne who kept dying and coming back.
“Go on,” I messaged him, mind to mind. “Nobody will mind. You are going to make it through. I promise you.”

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

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Where’s the rest of me?


Where’s the rest of me?

Part of me is weeping against an ash tree beside a field of hay
Part of me checked out of this body at age three
Part of me never left London
Part of me is on an island of no-pain where I never have to grow up
Part of me never stopped fighting battles that cannot be won
Part of never stopped winning battles that should not be fought
Part of me never left that marriage, or that early love
Part of me wears a lion robe lined with the night sky
Part of me remembers this as a fading dream
Part of me does not know he has more than one body
Part of me is teaching school in a dusty town in New South Wales
Part of me is painting with Kupka in a French garden
Part of me is an African witchdoctor dancing with spirits all night
Part of me is fighting the Magical Battle of Britain
Part of me is entertaining in a villa in the astral realm of Luna
Part of me is in the Cinema of Lost Dreams, lost in the movies
Part of me fights to leave my body whenever I suffer heartbreak
Part of me abandoned me when I gave up on a life dream
Part of me hanged himself from the World Tree but did not die
Part of me is swimming with manta rays in the South Pacific
Part of me is interrogating the ghosts of Egyptian sorcerers
Part of me keeps score by money and part of me flees from it
Part of me is the tiger and part of me is the sheep
Part of me stands at the center of all these selves
and reminds them of our family motto: Reviresco. I grow back
Part of me is weeping against an ash tree beside a field of hay

Art: "Alternate Lives" by Robert Moss

The need for dream archaeology

Marija Gimbutas, the great Lithuanian scholar of Old Europe and its Goddess traditions, declared with urgent clarity in The Civilization of the Goddess, her chef d'oeuvre:  “We must refocus our collective memory. The necessity of this has never been greater as we discover that the path of ‘progress’ is extinguishing the very conditions for life on earth."

The new art and science of dream archaeology provides powerful tools for refocusing collective memory, exactly as the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess proposed.  I invented the term "dream archaeology".  It is the study of first and essential (arche) things with the aid of dreamwork and techniques of shamanic lucid dreaming. It is a discipline that enables us to access the living past, to enter into direct communication with the keepers of ancestral wisdom and heal the collective and cultural soul loss that is a feature of our age. 

The practice of dream archaeology involves reclaiming authentic knowledge of ancestral traditions, including those that may have been buried or suppressed in the course of history, through a combination of careful research and shamanic journeying across time and between dimensions. The dream archaeologist combines the skills of the shaman, the scholar and the detective. 

We let dreams set us assignments. Secrets of the past, of which the waking mind may know nothing or very little, come to us in dreams because we are ready for them, and because the ancestors speak to us in dreams. As dream archaeologists, we learn to work with such dreams, both through focused research and by learning the technique of dream reentry, which means making a shamanic journey through the doorway of a remembered dream to harvest more information, to deepen communication with the ancestors, and to travel beyond the maps. 

When we are already engaged in a line of research, we draw on the skills of shamanic lucid dreaming, as well as spontaneous gifts of the night, to find what cannot be located in ordinary ways, but can often be confirmed by subsequent dream-directed research. We are open to the phenomenon that Yeats, with poetic insight, called the “mingling of minds”. This means that when we give our best efforts and passion to our chosen work or study, we draw the support of intelligences beyond the everyday world, including those of past masters in the same field. 

After her death, Marija Gimbutas appeared to her friend and biographer Joan Marler in a powerful dream. Marija said fiercely, “You must remember us.” Joan understood that the great Lithuanian scholar of the Goddess was speaking from the realm of the ancestors, “a place of collective memory and wisdom”. She describes this encounter in an essay in From the Realm of the Ancestors, a magnificent Festchrift in honor of Marija that she edited. 

I have been privileged to lead six workshops in shamanic dreaming and dream archaeology in Lithuania. Each visit has been a grand adventure and a deepening encounter with the ancestors of the land. On my first visit to Marija’s native country, in the summer of 2004, 40 Lithuanians joined me at Nida to reclaim the arts of dreaming. With the aid of shamanic drumming, we made a group journey together through the gateway of an ancient oak, with the aim of establishing direct and authentic communication with the ancestors of the land. 

I found myself in direct contact with a priestess of Žemyna, the Earth Goddess. The priestess belonged to an earlier time, but seemed to speak from a place of amber light outside time. She instructed me in methods of healing and visioning involving the use of amber, and gave me symbols and words in old Lithuanian – a language previously unknown to me – that others in the workshop helped me translate. I am glad to report that I am returning to Lithuania in May this year to lead new adventures in dream archaeology and shamanic dreaming in Vilnius and Kaunas. 

Wherever I go now, I find myself traveling in two worlds. From behind the curtains of ordinary perception, the ancestors are calling. I am reminded again and again that one of the gifts of dreaming is that it opens authentic connections to the ancestors, offering us the chance to heal the wounds of the past and to perform cultural soul retrieval.

For much more on dream archaeology in the Baltic, and elsewhere, see my book The Boy Who Died Came Back

Photo: Žemaitiu alka, sanctuary of the old gods in Samogitia



Monday, November 22, 2021

Orenda and the practice of giving thanks

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Grandmother Willow by RM

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

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Your tears fall on my tongue


Empathy Dreams

When you weep for all you have lost
I listen with my mouth open;
your tears fall on my tongue
and I taste your pain.


When you were in the river of tiny fish
I splashed with you.
When you hug your swelling belly
I breathe love songs in your ear
to welcome the spirit who is coming
into this world through you.


When they broke the child in you
something broke in me.
When you fled from the johns to the jones
I tried to crack your crystal palace
so you could visit that beautiful boy
who found refuge with Peter Pan.


I was with you when they beat you
for sucking your thumb, and when they
beat you harder because you couldn't kill
the lovely soft bandit cornered by coon dogs.
I am with you at the white table
of the one who has shared his cup with you.


I laugh with you when you cartwheel through life
as a circus acrobat, and when you
walk the high wire without fear
because your second self goes ahead of you
making footholds so you cannot fall.


At the border camp. I share your terror
of returning to a country you can't remember
where killers still haunt the killing fields.
I am with the scary man with brick dust
on his skin and a claw hammer in his belt.
I whisper to him, "Don't tread on wildflowers."


I am with then hunter and the hunted.
I am Cossack and Jew, slave and slave owner.
I am the man in iron from the dragon boat.
I am the priestess whose weapons
are a mirror and the sickle moon,
who can give blood to the earth without cutting.


I am in the blade of grass that bends
under the tremendous gray hoof, and springs back.
I am with the elephant mother who grieves
for her calf as metal rain from the poachers' gunship
turns her dreams to blood ivory.


I am no bodhisattva, able to remember
all lives, past and present, without being overwhelmed.
I must spit out the tears I have tasted
and not go stooped under grief and pain of others.


But I can do this: I can go to the one
with a hole in the heart, and show you
the precious child who fled from your body
when they tried to kill your dreams,
and you lost the dreamer in you.


I can promise your child of wonder
that, despite everything, you are safe and can be fun.
I can hold you together until you know each other.
Growing beyond myself, I can go on holding you
in the fierce embrace of Great Mother Bear
until you cannot be apart, because you are one.

The most gifted dreamers may be, like the most gifted seers and healers, highly sensitive people who will be challenged, across a lifetime, to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Gardens require walls. This poem is a gift; it emerged from images shared in a wonderful community of active dreamers in one of my pre-pandemic workshops in a red cedar grove at Mosswood Hollow, where the Great Stump always reminds me of the possibility of  regeneration.

"Empathy Dreams" is included in Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories by Robert Moss. Published by Excelsior Editions.

Photo by RM

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Jung on the Virtue of Making Dream Pictures


In his 1929 lecture "The Aims of Psychotherapy", Jung issued a passionate appeal for art therapy - specifically, for the art of turning dreams into pictures.

First, he notes that it was often a very positive development in a patient's inner life when their dreams featured photos, paintings or films and even more so when the dreamer declared "If only I were a painter I would make a picture of it". When this happened he would encourage his patients to actually draw or paint their dreams and abandon any protestations that they lacked artistic ability. "Many of my more advanced patients, then, began to paint."
He noted that this shifted the dreamer away from a passive attitude to dreams, and to life. "He puts down on paper what he has passively seen, thereby turning it into a deliberate act. He not only talks about it, he is actually doing something about it."
In making a dream picture, the dreamer comes to reflect on a dream in depth and starts to bring vital energy from the dreamworld into embodied life. "The concrete shaping of the image enforces a continuous study of it, in all its parts, so that it can develop its effects to the full. This invests the bare fantasy with an element of reality, which lends it greater weight and greater driving power."
He insists that making art from dreams helps the dreamer to become "creatively independent". The patient no longer depends on the doctor's opinion. "By painting himself he gives shape to himself." He has gone beyond ego to work with his "interior agent" and "the hidden foundation of psychic life".
Then he goes right to the top, or perhaps over the top. 'It is impossible for me to describe the extent to which this discovery changes the patient's standpoint and values, and how it shifts the center of gravity to his personality. It is as though the earth had suddenly discovered that the sun was the center of the planetary orbits and of its own earthy orbit as well." [1]

Painting Philemon

"Since I did not understand this dream-image, I painted it"
In 1914 Jung dreamed of a figure he called Philemon. He came to play an extraordinary role in Jung's imaginal life. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he recalled:
"There was a blue sky, like the sea, covered by flat brown clods of earth. It looked as if the clods were breaking apart and the blue water of the sea was becoming visible between them. The water was the blue sky. Suddenly there appeared from the right a winged being sailing across the sky. I saw that it was an old man with the horns of a bull. He held a bunch of four keys, one of which he clutched as if he were about to open a lock. He had the wings of a kingfisher with its characteristic colors.
"Since I did not understand this dream-image, I painted it to impress it upon my memory."
The tremendous - indeed Otherworldly - significance of the dream encounter was confirmed for Jung when, a few days later, he came upon the body of a dead kingfisher, a bird rarely seen around Lake Zurich.
He said in his memoir that “Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I.
"He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, “If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them.” It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be directed against me.”
Jung's first portraits of Philemon - at least, the first that have survived - are a pencil drawing and a study for a lost picture that once hung in the room of Jung's wife Emma. They are reproduced in the lavishly illustrated book The Art of C.G.Jung, recently published by the Foundation of the Works of C.G.Jung. Their great interest is that they show the bull horns and a vigor of flight that are missing from Jung's later painting of Philemon in The Red Book.

1, C.G.Jung, "The Aims of Psychotherapy" in Collected Works volume 16 trans R.F.C.Hull (Princeton: Bollingen Series, 1985) 47-49

"Lady of Many Colors'. Dream drawing by Robert Moss.

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Flashlight and the Mail Drop: Two Modes of Dream Precognition

I make a practice of asking of any dream, Could any part of this be played out in the future, literally or symbolically? I am then alert for any follow up to the dream in ordinary reality. Over decades now my journal has been, in addition to all else, a log of precognitive and premonitory dreams. The hundreds of match-ups between dreams and subsequent events that I have tagged confirming that we have the ability to visit or receive glimpses of the possible future.

I scanned two dream reports in the early hours this morning putting that question, Could any part of this play out in the future? 

Eastern Blessing Ritual

In the first dream I lead a procession in an Eastern country around a holy site, perhaps a cemetery. We are clad in simple white and yellow garments. I receive inner guidance that we must address our request for blessing to three revered figures, one a prophet or saint, another a statesman. We pause at a place where I kneel and touch my forehead to the ground as I solicit blessings from these ancestors. My words are chorused by the group. 

Turkish Airline Official Gets Ahead 

In the second dream I need to sort out a return flight at an airport in Turkey. The airport is oddly deserted. Only one person is ahead of me in line and I expect to get quick service. However, the airline agent leaves his post at soon as he finishes with the customer ahead of me. He turns into an outsize, bronze-colored head hanging on a wall. It seems this is how he likes to take his breaks. I wave and call. When I get his attention, he is apologetic and respectful. It takes a while to go through the details of itinerary, seat selection and documentation. 

Neither dream stirred strong emotions. I enjoyed the mystery and exotic elements in the first dream. It felt like a vividly real experience in a place otherwise unknown to me, in this world or another reality altogether. It seemed most improbable to me that I would find myself there in the future in ordinary reality, except perhaps in the pages of a book or via a screen. You are very unlikely to see me in that posture of prayer. 

After recording my dreams, I checked my email. At that moment, A new message came in from, a site for scholarly research that sends me an unsolicited recommendation with a link to an academic article every day. The title of today’s recommendation was “The Blessing Ritual of Assam”. I would normally have deleted the message – I have to ration my reading time – but because of my dream I downloaded the pdf. 

The article, by a postgrad at the University of Delhi, describes how in the northeast state of Assam people seeking a blessing kneel, heads lowered, before their intended benefactors and place their hands on their feet. The formulas of the lead speaker are chorused by the group. I don’t recall any placing of hands on feet in my dream, and I don’t know that the location was Assam. Still, I had never received a message about a blessing ritual before, and the resemblance to my dream was strong enough for me to feel that the dream previewed the article. Did the article arrive in my dream inbox before it arrived in my email? Without the dream, would I have read the article? (Probably not) Without the dream, would the article even have arrived? 

I turned my questions to the second dream. I have traveled to Turkey several times and might possibly visit again. So I marked my second report “PC” for “precognitive” (more precisely, possibly precog) despite the anomalous part where the airline agent becomes an outsize head on a wall. This could be a visual pun for someone who wants to get ahead or is swollen headed. The transformations of the airline agent were less surprising to me than the state of the airport. Even in the midst of pandemic or revolution, it is hard for me to imagine that Istanbul airport- where I have waited in the longest lines I have ever seen - could ever be as empty as that. 

My dream catch this morning was small fish. Nothing of much importance going on here, no high emotions aroused. However, it’s fun playing games with dreams for the sake of the play, even more so when this turns into valuable data, the data of state-specific science. In writing about dream precognition in his excellent 1964 book Man and Time, J.B.Priestley observed that the difficulty in assembling evidence involves  “the trivial and the terrible”. People tend to disregard dreams they find trivial and run away from dreams they find terrible. The way forward is to decide – if the game appeals to you – that you will record all dreams in a journal and revisit your reports after the passage of time to see whether waking life caught up with the dreams. 

My little dream reports from last night may be examples of two modes of dream precognition, which we can call shining a torch and checking the mail. I am quite certain we have intuitive radar that scans our environment across space and time, reading the land and locating challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This is part of our human survival kit. This kind of intuition comes especially alive in dreams, when we lay aside our cognitive inhibitions. 

In his pioneer study An Experiment with Time, J.W.Dunne compared dream precognition to walking along a path in a darkened landscape holding a flashlight in front of you. My Turkish airport dream may be this sort of experience, though I won’t know that until I return to air travel. I don't expect the scene to be reproduced in every detail, not only because of the bronze head but because dream memories are often mixed. Details blur as we retrieve them, we mix up bits and pieces from different scenes, and our takeaways may reflect our reactions and feelings around a future event rather than the event itself. 

It takes no effort to see that my Blessing Ritual dream fits the model of checking the mail. Our future self may send us messages back across time. I picture this as the heap of mail I used to find when the mailman pushed letters through the slot in the front door. In the dream state, we go through the mail and pick out a few items. As we surface from dreams, our half-awake editor, true to what Aldous Huxley called the "reducing valve" of the brain, selects a smaller number of items. or censors them altogether.

There are other ways of understanding dream precognition. The one I like best is the most ancient: that dreaming is traveling. On any night soul or consciousness may travel across time as well as to other dimensions. “Dreams are the news that is told to us by the souls when they come back,” a Kwakiutl shaman told Åke Hultkrantz. So we might see our dream images as postcards from a journey, which could be to another time or another world.