Thursday, December 30, 2021

Dreaming towards Epiphany

Whatever you do as the year turns, write in your journal! Write your dreams from the night, and your dreams of life for the coming year. Write, in particular, whatever you receive from dreams, synchronicity and spontaneous revelation over the last night of the Old Year and the first day of the New Year.
    If you were up all night partying - or the effect of your New Year's Eve reveling knocked your dreams out of memory - then record and work with the first dream that comes the following night, and whatever dreamlike symbols the world around you may give you.  
    In Japan they make a special effort to catch and work with the very first dream of the new year. Many Japanese people pay close attention to Hatsuyume, the first dream of the New Year. It may come in the night of December 31-January 1 but - since many may be up late partying or suffering the after-effects - it may come in the following day or on the night of January 1-2.     
     I would counsel you to stay alert for dreams for the New Year for a slightly longer period. In my mind the turning of the year rolls from December 30 until January 6, which is Epiphany in the Christian calendar, the day of “showing forth" when the Magi come to Bethlehem following their star, to honor the Christ child. Beyond the religious context, an epiphany may be a sudden revelation or perception of the reality or essential meaning of something important. It may be the gift of a dream.

In hopes of a lucky dream to kick off the New Year, some Japanese invoke the Shichifukujin or "Seven Lucky Gods" and may place a picture of them under the pillow. These may not be part of our belief system, but we have other sources of guidance and blessing available, and it is always appropriate to ask for help and blessing if we do it nicely!

 If you are ready to dream in the New Year, you could set the simple intention: 

Show me what the New Year will bring

Or give this a positive spin by couching your request to your dream makers the following way: 

Show me the best that life holds for me and those I love in the year ahead. 

Be as specific or as general as you like, but ask in a way that excites you and reflects your willingness to receive guidance and enter on new adventures.
     Don't forget that dreams require action! Your first action is to record anything you remember from your dreams and the drifty state of hypnagogia. Share it with a friend, if you can, using our Lightning Dreamwork process. Walk with your dream and see how what is going on around you may illuminate the dream and how your dream may illuminate your world.
    If you saw things in your dream you don't want to manifest in the year ahead, comb through the material with the eye of a detective, asking Who, What, When, Where, How? If you can clarify the details of the dream and identify where it may play out in coming events, you may be able to take appropriate action to avoid an event you don't want to live through in your physical life. You can also try to accomplish this by going back inside your dream, in a conscious reentry journey, to see whether you can change the script where it was playing. You may want to try writing the story of your dream so it comes to a happy ending. If those approaches feel artificial, however, that may be telling you that physical action is required to reshape the probable future for the better.
    If your first dream for the New Year is full of promise, then celebrate - but make it part of your celebration, once again, to take action to embody the energy and promise of the dream and to help it to take root in the world. Don't leave the old year without your journal, and don't enter the new year without your dreams. 
    May your New Year be filled with abounding joy, and may your best dreams come true!

Art: Sassetta, Journey of the Magi (1433-35)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Trainer Bikes for Dream Flyers

I was inspired by dream sharing today to make a quick drawing of a scene that has recurred and evolved in a series of my dreams over the years. I observe, and later help to lead, a very special flight school. After I made the sketch, I found my original dream report, dated September 22, 2008. My drawing does not do justice to all the details of the first dream in the series, but it carries the spirit of the whole.

I am walking on the beach. The colors are the wonderfully vivid hues of poster paints. The sea is French blue, with fluffy little whitecaps. The sand is oriole-yellow. There is a distinctly French Impressionist quality to the whole scene, so much so that I feel that if I turn around quickly, I might catch a glimpse of the artist who has just painted it - and maybe the scene will end at the edge of his canvas. Yet the scene is entirely alive.
     I walk with a male companion, studying the scene. He is wearing a frock coat and a top hat, has a neatly trimmed black beard, and is swinging a walking stick. I notice that everyone on the beach, like my companion, is dressed in the clothes of another era. The women wear full bathing costumes, and the men wear sleeveless tops with their bathing trunks. There is something more remarkable. Nearly everyone has a cycle. More sedate couples ride bicycles - including at least one tandem bike, built of two - along the esplanade. Others are riding on the sand, or through the shallows of the water. More daring cyclists are riding in mid-air, ten feet off the ground.
     While many of the bicycles are intact, some are just the vestiges. One lady sits on a padded seat, gripping handlebars and pedaling away, but below her the bike has vanished - no frame and no wheels, A beaming boy is riding high into the air, riding a bike that is invisible except for the handlebars. A dashing young man with hair like a raven's wing and an artist's silk scarf billowing from his neck is showing off, doing aerial acrobatics, on a bike that has completely vanished, while he has his fists clenched as if gripping the handlebars and his legs are cycling away.
      My companion explains to me that this is a school for dream travelers. "All the bicycles you see are training bikes. As dreamers become conscious that they are dreaming and grow their understanding of what is possible here, the machines become less and less necessary. The bicycles fade and finally disappear." I follow his upward glance and see some high-flyers among cotton-wool clouds who move through the air like swimmers, or rocket-men.


December 29, 2021
Lucid dreaming from the hypnagogic state

I decided to return to the scene of the flight school with trainer bikes. I didn't see the master last night but found a serviceable handlebar. I didn't need this to fly but thought it would be fun to experience what others did with a prop like this. As soon as I gripped the handles of the bar, we were off - whizzing at high speed ten or twenty feet above golden fields of grain, wind in my hair. I was delighted to see I had a companion, a long-haired black retriever pacing me on the farm road below, delighting in his run.


Drawings (c) Robert Moss

Friday, December 24, 2021

Dreaming Parallel Worlds

I've long been fascinated by dream experiences of parallel lives. These can take many forms. We find ourselves in the situation of a person living in a different time. We seem to be enjoying - or not enjoying - a continuous life in another reality. We slip into the perspective and apparently the bodies of other people (including even members of other species) who may be living in our present world, but are not ourselves.

    The parallel life experiences that intrigue me most are those in which we seem to find ourselves traveling - in an alternate reality - along paths we abandoned in this lifetime, because of choices we made. Contemporary science speculates about the existence of (possibly infinite) parallel universes. In our dreams, we have the ability to gain first-hand experiential knowledge of this fascinating field.

    In my own dreams, I quite frequently find myself living in a city or a country where I used to live, doing the things I might well be doing had I stayed in a former line of work and a certain life situation. In these dreams, I am my current age, but my life has followed a different track from the one I have taken in my waking reality. Sometimes it seems I have joined a parallel self who has been following a path I abandoned - through my life choices - twenty or even thirty years ago. There is a "just-so" feeling about these dreams. I return from them thinking, "Well, that's how things might be if I had made a different choice." Sometimes I'm quite relieved that I made the choices I did; sometimes I feel a little tristesse for something or someone left on the "ghost trail" I've seen in my dream ; but most often my feelings are entirely non-judgmental.

    This theme is nicely explored in a novel titled The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver. Through alternating chapters, we follow alternate event tracks in the life of the heroine, depending on whether she did or did not kiss a man other than her partner on the night of his birthday. That night, her world split. We follow her double life, through those alternating chapters, and the dual narrative is beautifully wrought. At the end of the twin tellings, it's hard to make a value judgment between the alternate life paths. You can't really say that one is better or worse than the other; they are simply different. The movie "Sliding Doors" dramatizes a similar theme.

    Through a chance encounter that was the product of a missed airline connection, I once met a woman who told me she was living a double life of this kind every night (or every day, depending on your perspective). Every night, she went home to her husband at their comfortable house on an island off the North Carolina coast. They might go to their favorite restaurant, or to the mall or the country club. In the morning, they went off on their separate ways to work. The shocker was this. The man she went to every night in her dreams was a different husband, in a different house in a different island. "Whenever I close my eyes," as she told it, "I'm in a different world. It's the same as this world, but everything is different." Under the Many-Worlds hypothesis now widely entertained by physicists, it's possible that every choice we make results in the creation of two or more new universes.

     In Parallel Universes theoretical physicist Michio Kaku suggests that another universe may be floating just a millimeter away on a "brane" (membrane) parallel to our own. He explains that we can't see inside it because it exists in hyperspace, beyond the four dimensions of our everyday reality. But in fact, we can and do go there - in dreaming and in the imagination.

     Second only to dreaming, imaginative fiction is our best mentor on these matters. In Matt Haig’s brilliant recent novel The Midnight Library a young woman whose body is near extinction after an overdose is allowed to experience some of the parallel lives she is living in worlds where she made different choices, and determine whether she can make a firm commitment to any of them.

 In Borges' 1941 novella "The Garden of Forking Paths" a sinologist discovers a manuscript by a Chinese writer where the same tale is recounted in several ways, often contradictory. Time is conceived here as a "garden of forking paths", where things happen in parallel in infinitely branching ways. Borges conveys how all possible outcomes of a given event may take place simultaneously, each one opening a new array of possibilities.

    It's fascinating to speculate on what may happen if parallel selves, and their parallel worlds, bump up against each other. Could we combine the gifts of different life experiences, or would we compete with each other? One approach to this theme is a creaky old Roger Moore movie titled "The Man Who Haunted Himself", hilarious to watch now because of its silly, jingly circa-1970 musical score. An arrogant, power-mad, womanizing s.o.b. finds enlightenment, and becomes softer and kinder to the point where his family, his office and his girlfriend can't figure him out. When his other self - the s.o.b. in the Savile Row pinstripes - turns up, everyone accepts him as the true Roger Moore character, and Mr. Softer and Kinder is shut out of his home and his office.

     All the questions raised here apply to our collective world as well as our personal one. Just beside us, perhaps, is a parallel world - or a thousand of them - in which there is no pandemic and there was no insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And parallel worlds where there is still a Soviet Union or where (as in the Philip K. Dick novel The Man in the High Castle) the Axis won World War II and a Japanese commandant rules California. In another parallel world, we have evolved to the level of a Type III Kardashev civilization, with colonies established all over our home galaxy and the technology to tap the energy of a billion stars.

    Before Earth's ecosphere ceases to support life, Michio Kaku conjectures, we may have learned how to transport ourselves to a parallel world in the multiverse. Or maybe (as some scientists believe the Big Bang came about) everything will end and begin again through the collision of parallel "branes". Forking paths, dividing - and sometimes converging. To know more, let's go dream on it.

Illustration: "Alternate Lives" (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Dreaming the Cosmogram

Lucid dreaming from the hypnagogic zone

On the Cosmogram
Something is skimming the surface of wetlands. I can't see it clearly among the rushes. I am told it is a Nightskimmer. The marshes extend as far as the horizon. I wonder whether these are the waters between the worlds of the living and the dead in the Kongo cosmograms.
I see one of them now, drawn with motion signs to show progression from life through death to rebirth. The cycle moves from birth to death as the sun moves from sunrise to sunset. When the sun goes down in the world of the living, it rises in the white clay world of the dead. To die in one world is to be born in the other. To die in the world of the living is to “go upside down”.
Then there is the other arm of the cross within the circle. It is actually a vertical pole. It takes you up or down, between the two worlds. The way is open to the initiate and the sorcerer and the sacred king. In their different ways they stand feet planted in the cosmogram, connected to its points, choosing among its ways, drawing the flash of spirit from above and below.
Feelings: high excitement
Reality check: I am not versed in Kongo tradition or practice. However, I was intrigued by the pictures and commentaries of Kongo ground drawings (Brazilian: pintos riscados) of the cosmos in recent rereading of Robert Farris Thompson's wonderful book Flash of the Spirit.
The traditional cosmograms are usually highly abstract, often basically just a circle cross. In my lucid dream space, one came alive and I saw the parallel life and movement of the two worlds and how an initiate could himself become the vertical axis between them. I gave my figures bird crowns like Yoruba kings. My solar barque sailing both sides of the world-ocean recalls Egypt. In the African diaspora, the traditions stream together.
Since I have made drawing and coloring from dreams a daily practice, my imagery in the HG state is often very painterly, suggesting how to transfer something from the dreaming to a physical surface. I don't have the technical proficiency to bring through more than a small part of what my inner artist is showing me, but I'll go on doing what I can!

The drawing below came from another distinctly African passage in my recent dreaming in the liminal space between sleep and awake.

Bird on the Iron: Staff of Osanyin (Osain)

The bird of mind, the spirit head, floats above six iron spikes. This is the staff of Osanyin, wounded healer, lord of leaves, crippled orisha of medicine and initiation of the Yoruba. I own a staff just like this, in Afro-Brazilian style, that I acquired in Salvador da Bahia several decades ago. The bird, lean and graceful, hovers above the crossroads of the tricky god Eshu and the sharpened iron of the hard god Ogun. The spikes may also be a psychic stockade and the healer's apothecary tree. Look carefully and you may see the serpent energy raised.

Drawings (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Waking the Sleeping King

In one of Madame d'Aulnoy's classic fairy stories, “The Blue Bird” an abused princess survives incredible   trials and transformations. Disguised as a beggar girl, she at last manages to gain access to the Echo Chamber in the castle of King Charming, who loves her as she loves him but believes her lost. What is said in the Echo Chamber can be heard distinctly in the royal bedchamber above. The princess wails her story of love and loss, assuming it will awaken the king to the fact that she is alive and available and recall him to the pledges they exchanged.

But night after night, the king fails to hear. The princess has used up nearly all of the magic a good witch gave her — which has enabled her to buy entry to the Echo Chamber — before she learns that the king does not hear her because he takes a sleeping-draught every night. She manages to bribe a page to withhold the sleeping potion. Awake in the night, the king hears her love pleas, goes in search of her, and they are united.

This is a much more relevant story for our times than the theme of the sleeping princess. Here the woman has to wake up the man, as is so more often the case. How many “sleeping kings” do we know? How many forms do their “sleeping draughts” take? Whenever you run into a guy who has lost touch with his dreams, who may even say, “I don't dream”, remember you may be dealing with a sleeping king, and you may be called on to play the role of the awakener.

The very adult message in this story made me want to know more about the author. Where did her clarity of perception, amongst all the fantasy and finery (and raw horror, too) come from? The story of the author of “The Blue Bird” is fascinating, and takes us into the primal depth of lived experience from which the pre-Disney and pre-Victorian fairytales come — in this case, not from peasant folklore but from the no less brutal life dramas of France's real-life princesses.

At age fifteen, Marie-Catherine le Jumel de Barneville was kidnapped from a convent school and raped under the pretext of an arranged marriage — the polite name for an arrangement by which her father sold her to a rich and depraved aristocrat three times her age. The Baron d'Aulnoy was odious, a heavy drinker and gambler with very unpleasant sexual penchants. 

Three years into the marriage, it looked like Marie-Catherine had found a way out of her cage when her husband was arrested on charges of high treason against the king. However, under torture two of the accusers confessed that they had invented the treason charges because they were Marie-Catherine's secret lovers. The baroness had to flee to Spain, where she restored herself to royal favor — over many years — by functioning as a secret agent for the French. 

We derive the term “fairytale” from this extraordinary survivor, Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy.. She titled her first collection, published in 1697, Les Contes des Fées. She spun her tales for adults, rather than children, in her seventeenth-century salon, in fashionable colloquial style, as reflected in the subtitle of her second collection, Les Fées à la Mode. Hers is a true-life story of spinning soiled hay into gold. 

Text adapted from Active Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.