Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Art of Memory


Dreaming, waking or in between

in any part of the multiverse

in any body, in any life

you are invited to play

a memory game.

Whatever world you are in

the trick is to remember

the other worlds you inhabit

where you are dead and more alive

and the self that is dreaming you

- "The Art of Memory". Poem and photo by Robert Moss


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Where Myths Spill into the Day


A recent dream of finding a 232 diamond in the rough led me back to my journals to see what was going on in my imaginal life around the time a diamond of precisely that size was found in September 2014. I discovered a poem I wrote in the midst of one of the adventures I lead at a magical place is a red cedar forest in the foothills of the Cascades.

Mosswood Dreaming

Here, if you tread very softly among the cedars,
you may hear the low midday snores
of the soft secret race of big-footed beings
who grow pink hibiscus in their dreams.

You can’t miss the tree that is the portal
to the three worlds because it is more real
than the others. This is your One Tree,
that knows you before you know it.

When hungry spiders dressed as magic mushrooms
come skittering over your bed at night
you forget to be scared because you are hungrier
than they are. You gobble them up fast
and burp out webs of shining possibility.

You stand before the bathroom mirror
squeezing toothpaste from the tube
and a giant boa rises to rhyme with you
wrapping itself around the tube of your body,
squeezing your old dead stuff out.

You see that people have fire slumbering
in their bellies, even when they are cold
and muddled and living on ashes.
You turn on the pilot light of their souls.

Here you can walk through wild orchards
to a wild shore. You pick your way to the tide pool
where sea turtle resumes your lessons in going deep
and wearing armor that leaves your soft bits exposed
so you can’t hide from life in a hard shell.

Here you remember the power of naming.
You find the words that heal bodies.
pleasure spirits, and make worlds.

When you ask, “Where’s the rest of me?”
you create a conga line where you are joined
by the belly dancer and the golden child,
the red horse and the crocodile,
by Bigfoot, the Empress, and the Fool.

Here, when you let love spill through your eyes
every blade of grass is in love with you.
You lie in a creek bed like a pebble
and the water rounds your hard edges.

In pilgrim hands you are carried to a stony place
as an offering to mountain spirits.
You rest in a cairn for a thousand years
until you spread wings and fly to your truest lover
and let the earth have you, under warm sun.

The fire has been built for you.
You become cinnamon.
Rising again, you spread yourself.
As aurora, you color the world.

Here myths spill into the day
like ripe fruit falling into your hand.
The salmon that made Finn the first shaman
leaps from the deep pool of dreams
stuffed with the hazel nuts of wisdom
and explodes on your palate
and feeds the whole company
in a miracle of filberts and fishes.


-    - Mosswood Hollow, September 12, 2014

Friday, November 25, 2022

"Your dreams say more than anything you can tell me"


You greet someone by asking what they dreamed. If you want news of someone you care about at a distance, you ask how they have been dreaming. You see the future in your dreams and you talk to the dead.

This is how it is in the family of Colombian American writer Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Her dead Nono - her grandfather - appeared to her in a dream and showed her a river, a river she needed to know about. He appeared in dreams the same night to her mother, Mami, and two of her aunts, telling them all that he needed to be disinterred. He couldn’t bear to stay longer in the place where he was buried. His daughters did not understand why, but they knew the dream required action.

This is a shared dream, and shared dreams are gospel, because unlike dreams you experience on your own, shared dreams have the validity of being peer-reviewed.

At some danger and expense, the women of the family acted on his wishes. They traveled to Bucaramanga, the town where he was buried, and raised money to have his body exhumed. They found the reason for his discomfort. People had smuggled encargos – demands for Nono’s help - inside his casket, burdening him in the afterlife with their needs and desires. A typical encargo, scrawled on a piece of paper, might read, “You will have no rest until I get a new house.”

So the family took the remains of Nono’s body, in his white suit, and had them burned. They made their way eventually to the river from Ingrid’s dream and released the ashes to the waters there. “My dream gave us the river.”

Nono was a curandero, a healer and seer, both an illiterate rogue and a person of real gifts he called “secrets,” like the ability to talk to move clouds (and so change the weather) foresee events, or negotiate with the dead.

When Nono was treating an illness, he asked his dreams to guide him to the herbs he needed, and when he roused from sleep, he hiked until the landscape matched his vision, and there he gathered the medicine

His daughter Sojaila, “Mami”, Ingrid’s mother, had similar gifts, though women were not supposed to be curanderos. Her gifts burgeoned after a dreadful incident when she was eight, in which she fell down a well and remained amnesiac for eight months. After that, as well as knowing “secrets”, she had the ability to bilocate: to project a double visible to other people. This often happened when her regular body was in deep sleep or she was tossing in fever. Ingrid saw Mami’s double reading tarot cards at the kitchen table while her body lay in bed. Mami would often go to visit her husband in her second body – which she called her “clone” - when he was working in another country. He would see her doing his housekeeping, sweeping the floor, scrubbing the walls and leaving them wet.

The doubling theme is central to the book. Ingrid, too, suffered amnesia (for eight weeks) after an accident in Chicago in her early twenties, and the gift she found in the wound is a remarkable story in itself.  And she is a dead ringer for her mother, causing endless confusion among Mami’s relatives and former lovers.

Enter the world of The Man Who Could Move Clouds and you will find yourself in a landscape teaming with the wild fauna of magical realism. You may need to shake yourself to remember this isn’t just magical realism: it’s magical reality. You are in a realm full of ghosts. The ghosts may be restless spirits of the dead, or conditions that Western doctors label complexes or disorders, or  energy doubles, or the product of leaving a part of yourself behind when you make a sudden or wrenching life choice. Listen to this:

We have a hand in creating our own ghosts. We think we are done with a place , or a person, and wrest ourselves away. But when leaving happens in a wave of distress, when we leave what we still love, we conjure our own ghost walks into being.

And this:

A circle is a straight line haunted by something living at its middle – a ghost that causes it to bend and bend,

Ingrid Rojas Contreras showed us her astonishing power with words in a novel titled Fruit of the Drunken Tree, which brings vividly alive the struggle of women and girls for survival in the era of constant war between guerillas, paramilitaries, drug dealers and police.  The violence is always there, in the offing, in the memoir, along with heartbreak, deception and the brutality of men towards women. Yet there is a dancing spirit that sashays us through, the fascination of local customs – sleep with a mirror under your pillow in order to remember, watch for the glow in the earth where a guaca (haunted treasure) is buried - and all the everyday magic.

Maladies and misfortunes are caused by “stories that have not healed inside you.” The heart of healing is changing your life story for the better. Mami heals people by mumbling incantations over a bottle of tap water and giving them a story as they drink it. She tells fortunes the same way. "You have to tell a story that will allow the client to experience the truth without your ever having to name it."

In the world of Ingrid's family in three mountain towns in Santander department, we see what it means to live in a family where everyone dreams and therefore everyone is a little bit of a shaman. Ingrid’s Papi dreams of death under a piece of falling machinery on a walkway at the site where he is employed as an engineer. He’s arguing with a worker when this happens. Later, in ordinary life, he starts arguing with a worker on that walkway. He recognizes that the dream is starting to play out and steps back – escaping the death he dreamed when a piece of machinery fell at the exact spot where he was standing.

The boundary between dreaming and waking, like that between the living and the dead, is porous, if frailer than the ratty shower curtain Nono was gripping when he fell and died in the bathroom. Things bleed through. On the night of Nono's death, Nona - his estranged wife - dreams she has passionate sex with him. Bit when he asks her forgiveness, she won't give it. She wakes to find she is covered in mud and there are clods of earth on the bed. She knows this is because she threw their marriage bed away in the woods, leaving it to mud and muck. 

In my family, we study dreams and seek to decode their architecture. 

Waking life was a constant state of confusion "but our dreams were grounding”. 

Mami says, “Your dreams say more than anything you can tell me.”



A Dreamer's Notes: Running with Tiger in the Twilight Woods


Running with Tiger in the Twilight Woods

I lay down to rest in the early afternoon. There is an immediate flow of imagery. 

I am moving faster and faster, along a road without defined scenery.

I speed towards a tunnel. I’m through it almost at once, and come out in a lightly wooded landscape. I hear water nearby. I try not to interpret what is happening mentally. I chant the syllables of a power song inwardly to shut off the talker in my mind.

Soon I am airborne. This happens effortlessly; there is no need to visualize the process before it begins. I’m flying over a thickly wooded scene.

From above, I see a man running through the woods. He’s almost or completely naked apart from some kind of face covering. This may be a mask. The main feature is long whiskers, fastened to his upper lip. The face is oblong; surely it’s a mask. 

He’s running from something. What is it?

I see a magnificent Bengal tiger loping effortlessly behind him.

Now the tiger is on him.

It doesn’t pause to kill or devour. It opens its jaws and simply swallows the masked runner, whole. They are now one. I sense that this is as it should be.

I cease to be a spectator.

The tiger’s huge face looms up, close to my own. I’m not scared of him. He is splendid.

He leaps at me. We become one. Instead of devouring me, he seems to have entered me.

 - from a 1995 journal

Image: Tiger Man by RM with AI assistance

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

God's way of remaining anonymous


Jung described the pairing or clustering of events through meaningful coincidence as an “acausal” phenomenon. Certainly, we do not observe causation in the play of coincidence in the way that we can say the kettle boiled because we turned on the burner. A characteristic of coincidence is that it does not have a visible cause.

But this does not mean that there is no cause for coincidence. In our lives, meaningful coincidences often feel like they came about because of a hidden agency, or a strong intention, or a trickster or gamester at play just behind the curtain of the obvious world.

Most human cultures, across most of recorded history, have believed that there is indeed a hidden hand at work in coincidence: that it is through the play of unusual or unexpected conjunctions, and natural phenomena, that gods or angels or animate forces of nature or other dimensions send messages to humans or actively intervene in our world. It’s been said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. Let’s not shrug this off as a “primitive” idea — it has worked, and continues to work, in highly practical ways. And let’s not classify this idea as a “metaphysical” belief.

The forces that cause meaningful coincidence may be quite physical. We miss this because we cannot observe their workings with our ordinary senses and our regular assumptions. These forces include our own thoughts and feelings, and those of others connected to us. They may include the powers that Jung called “archetypes” — as long as we remember that in Jung’s mature thought the archetypes are not structures but “habitual currents of psychic energy” and “systems of readiness for action,” and that they are as much physical as psychic. The physical forces that play with us through coincidence may include our parallel selves in parallel universes, interacting with our world in constant and complex weavings through what quantum physics has taught us to call “interference” patterns, forever shifting the balance of probabilities for any specific outcome.

Quantum physics shows us the universe as a dynamic web of connection. Subatomic particles are not separate “things”; they have meaning and identity only through their connections with everything else. Those connections do not depend on physical proximity or causation. Particles that have once been in contact with each other remain connected through all space and time.

Quantum physics also confirms that when we go to the heart of physical reality, there is no separation between mind and matter. Subatomic particles exist in all possible states until they are observed — at which point something definite emerges from the soup of possibilities.

Inner and outer, subjective and objective, interweave and move together at quantum levels, on a human scale, and no doubt everywhere in the universe. We live in an energy field where everything resonates — to a greater or lesser degree — with everything else. The world we inhabit mirrors our thoughts and feelings, and vice versa.

In the hidden order of reality, there is no distinction between mind and matter. The split between inner and outer — subjective and objective — that we experience in ordinary life is unknown in the deeper reality.

Richard Wilhelm’s account of  the Chinese rainmaker contains the essence of a worldview in which the human mind and the external world form a whole. A village has been without rain for weeks. The desperate villagers send for a rainmaker. When the old man arrives, he shuts himself up in the house provided for him, performing no ceremonies until the rains come. When asked how he brought the rain, he explains that when he arrived he noted a state of disharmony in himself, so he retired to compose himself. When he restored his own equilibrium, the rain came according to its natural pattern.

As we become more awake to what is going on, we may become personal magnets for coincidence, “strange attractors” that draw more and more interesting and unexpected encounters and events toward us. The brilliant analyst and classicist Marie-Louise von Franz, who knew both Jung and Pauli well, alluded to this: “The larger our consciousness is, and the more it develops, the more we get hold of certain aspects of the spirit of the unconscious, draw it into our own subjective sphere, and then call it our own psychic activity or our own spirit.”


Adapted from The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.


Image: "Moving a Curtain" by RM with AI assistanvce


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Dreamer's Notes: Under the Threshold

Less can be more. I am going to start sharing brief notes from my commonplace book (aka my journal) on this blog, ranging from current movie reviews to snippets of ancient philosophy.

 Soul in Slumberland 

The movie Slumberland, available on Netflix, is getting rave reviews and deserves them. It's deeply moving and visually stunning, sad and scary at times but relieved by flashes of wild humor and with a deeply satisfying ending. We travel through many dream doors and learn how it might be possible to enter the dreams of others. We see that loving contact with the departed is possible in dreams. We learn what can be gained when we brave up to nightmare fears. We are drawn to think about whether there are dream producers and dream regulators who try to give us the dreams they think we need and apply certain rules.

Most exciting, for me, is the vivid depiction of what can happen if we lose a vital part of ourselves - the beautiful bright dreamer - through soul loss and it goes off to live in another world, leaving us bereft of dreams and their magic in regular life. And what it means to get that dreaming self back in the body.

Beneath the Threshold

"Out of slumber proceeds each fresh arousal and initiation of waking activities....To some extent at least the abeyance of the supraliminal must be the liberation of the subliminal. To some extent the obscuration of the noonday glare of man's waking consciousness must reveal the far-reaching faint corona of his unexpected and impalpable powers."
- Frederic W.H. Myers, in his masterwork Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death. Myers, a classical scholar and poet as well as one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research, is using language he invented. In the Glossary at the start of Human Personality, he defines "subliminal" as follows: "Of thoughts, feelings, &c,, lying beneath the ordinary threshold (limen) of consciousness, as opposed to supraliminal, lying above the threshold...The threshold (Schwelle) must be regarded as a level above which waves may rise - like a slab washed by the sea - rather than as the entrance to a chamber."

“She walks into a dream like you walk into another room."

A few lines from a fantasy novel by a popular author who understands dream travel:
“They go journeying by dream all the time. She can't understand why I make such a fuss about it."
"So you dream of your woman?"
"She is not my woman. Never talk about a woman [of her people] that way. And I don't dream about her. She comes into my dreams."
"What's the difference?"
"In the world you and I grew up in, nothing at all. In her world, she walks into a dream like you walk into another room."
- This passage is from Forest Mage, the second novel in Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy. She gives us clear, simple insight into the nature of dream travel, as experienced by ancient and indigenous shamans and Active Dreamers today: the essential dimension missing from any number of psychology and sleep research books.

Stoic Divination through Sympathy and Soul Travel 

The Stoics had an optimistic belief in divine pronoia: that the gods sent forewarning to humans out of benevolence. They defined divination as “the foreknowledge and foretelling of things that happen fortuitously” (Cicero De Divinatione2.13). The future that cane be foreseen for them is not predetermined.

Two modes of divination described by the far-traveled philosopher Posidonius are observation of the "affinity of al things" and the close study of dreams. He spent time with druids in Gaul and wrote five books on divination, of which only fragments survive, mostly in the pages of De Divinatione, a philosophical dialogue by Cicero. The concept of sympatheia - the  "affinity of all things” (συμπάθεια τον όλον) – presents the world, including the gods, as a unified organism with mutually interrelated parts that turn on each other. Everything is part of a cosmic body. Just as your whole body may respond to the lightest touch on your little toe, what happens to any part of the cosmos may resonate with the whole and generate an event far away. 

Posidonius taught that the soul travels free from the body during sleep. “Divination finds a positive support in nature, which teaches us how great is the power of the soul when it is divorced from the bodily senses as it is especially in sleep and in times of frenzy or inspiration: (Cicero de div 1.129). The Stoics held that dream divination is open to all, a view resoundingly espoused by Synesius of Cyrene in his wonderful little book On Dreams around the year 404.

Image: "Subliminal" by RM with AI assistance

Friday, November 18, 2022

Perennial Lessons of Oversoul 7

 "Let's see...I'm a man on Wednesday and Friday, a woman on Sunday and Thursday, and I have the rest of the time off for independent study.

   "Actually...this is somewhat more complicated. Each life is lived in a different area of time to which various designations are given. As Lydia I'm in the twentieth century, as Josef in the seventeenth, as Ma-ah in 35,000 B.C., and as Proteus in the 23rd century, A.D."

As the opening of a novel, this is hard to beat as an attention-grabber. I remember sitting forward in my seat, catching my breath, the first time I read these lines in the summer of 1988, fifteen years after they were written. If you don't recognize the source, maybe it's time for you to go find it, even if you think you don't like didactic fiction. The Education of Oversoul 7, the first of a trilogy by Jane Roberts, presents a working model of our possible relationships with personalities connected to us in other places and times, and with intelligences on higher levels of being and consciousness.
     The speaker on the opening page is Oversoul 7. He is a fallible being, responsible for four very fallible humans facing different, yet interrelated, challenges in different places in time, from the Ice Age to a future in which most humans are "floaters" living in a plastic environment suspended above the Earth.
     The first lines of the novel are not a spoiler, because we soon come to understand that things are even more complex and exciting than Oversoul 7 understands at this point. He is not some all-knowing "spirit guide" or guardian angel. Though to a certain extent he can play guide and teacher to his trans-temporal set of human charges, he is answerable to his own mentor and supervisor on a level above himself. This mysterious entity, who never stays long in any single form, is identified as Cyprus. It is hinted that Oversoul 7, like the humans he supervises, may be one of a set of "oversouls" all related, and subject, to Cyprus. Most certainly, Oversoul 7 is no "master". He is a student whose classroom is the world. All his engagements with his human personalities are tests on which he is being graded.
      When he's reporting to Cyprus, as he is doing in the opening scene, Oversoul Seven generally adopts the default appearance of a fourteen-year-old boy, very appropriate since in relation to higher intelligence he is a schoolboy. When his humans perceive him, most often in dreams, they see him as a wise old man. His ability to stay present to all four of his human personalities and help out in times of crisis is impeded by his tendency to play favorites and get drawn into one of the dramas, while losing track of the other three.
      Thus the first great lesson we derive from the adventures of Oversoul 7 is: the teacher is a student too. Our ability to gain from our teachers and communicate with the Self on higher levels will be severely limited until we understand this simple and fundamental truth.
      The second great lesson, for us, in the Oversoul 7 story is that we may have relationships with personalities in other times and other probable realities, past and future, that are intensely relevant to our current life dramas - and that all these lives are going on now. What is happening in 35,000 B.C. can change a situation today, and what is happening in the 23rd century can inspire and transform the life of a painter living in the 17th century. There are constant "bleed-throughs" between one life and another life, rarely noticed by humans on the ground except in dreams that are frequently forgotten.
      That is the third great lesson: that to understand how all of this works first-hand, we need to become more active and conscious dreamers.
      The fourth great lesson, for me, is this: yes, reincarnation is possible, but it is not automatic and it does not operate only according to the rules of linear time. One of Oversoul 7's favorite personalities is Lydia, a feisty, chain-smoking woman writer who has set off in a well-furnished trailer, at seventy-three, for a sunset romance with her younger lover. 
       In the first Oversoul 7 novel and in its sequel (The Further Education of Oversoul 7) we follow Lydia's journey through death and the choices she comes to make when her understanding of the soul (which she wasn't sure about in life) begins to grow. She enjoys herself, for a time, in a young and attractive body in a personal post-death world she builds from her desire and imagination. When this begins to pall, she eventually agrees to be reborn as the child of a person in the family of selves that Oversoul 7 is supervising. She will take up residence of a baby that will be born in the seventeenth century. Her past life will be her future life. By my own experience and observation, by the way, such things are entirely possible.
     There are profound and perennial lesson here. 
      This is fiction, right? Yes and no. For one thing, it is grounded in Jane's long engagement with the entity called Seth who dictated a series of books that - to my mind - contain one of the best working models of the multidimensional self. Jane, a brilliant original thinker and writer as well as a gifted psychic medium, shows here that she knows how to bring ideas to vivid life, in many voices.
       Here she gives a marvelously animated version of some of Seth's central propositions including this: "You have other centuries to play with. In the dream state, you meet and interact with our own reincarnational selves. I prefer that you think of them as simultaneous selves. In the dreaming condition, there's a great interchange of information with these other portions of your selves." (Seth Speaks)
      Then again, when I consider genres, I remember a young boy who was once in line ahead of me for a library sale. His mother asked him if he knew the difference between fiction and nonfiction. This was his response: "Nonfiction is what you think in your head. Fiction is what you 
      The Oversoul 7 stories are books through which we 
see. For me, the idea of reincarnation in a "previous" time is entirely plausible. But don't let's just sit on the sidelines discussing these things. Like Jane Roberts' "Seth" books, the Oversoul 7 novels are an incitement to gather first-hand knowledge of these matters by dreaming on them.

I write about the impact of the Seth material and the Oversoul 7 books in a critical phase of my own life in chapter 13 of The Boy Who Died and Came Back.

Digital image: "Window for Oversoul 7" by RM

Monday, October 31, 2022

The Night When the Veil Thins

 Back in the day, I used to give a talk on the meaning of Halloween, on the night, at the New York Open Center, when it was still downtown in SoHo. We always had standing room only in the lecture room, which was partly filled by witches, ghouls and vampires dressed for the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade that would unfold just down the street right after. 

I notice, looking through old journals, that on the night of October 30, 1998, prior to taking the train to Manhattan the next day, I asked for some Halloween dreams. This is what came as soon as I closed my eyes:

I watch a beautiful woman in a flowing, gauzy white dress like a wedding dress rise from a coffin and begin to float around a dark, undefined space (like an artists' background, defined by brushstrokes rather than finished shapes). The eyes are dead. All that is there is blind appetite. She is the living dead, a hungry ghost. I avoid her.

As we approach All Hallows' Eve, a shiverish, magical, crazy night in a more than usually crazy year, I am thinking of its many meanings. It is the topsy-turvy, inside-out, upside-down time, when the past lies ahead of you and the future walks behind you, breathing on your neck. It is a night when the doors between the worlds swing open, when the dead walk among the living and the living move among the dead. As my dream of the beauty from the coffin dramatized, it is a night when you want to be able to discern who is who and what is what. 

The last night of October is the start of Samhain (which is pronounced "sow-in"), the great Celtic festival when the dead walk among the living, the fires are extinguished and rekindled, the god and the goddess come together in sacred union, and as the year turns from light to dark, the seeded earth prepares to give birth again. It's a time, when the Celts knew what they were doing, to watch yourself and watch comings and goings from the barrows and mounds that are peopled by ghosts and faeries. It's a time to honor the friendly dead, and the lordly ones of the Sidhe, and to propitiate the restless dead and remember to send them off and to set or re-set very clear boundaries between the living and the hungry ghosts. It's a time to look into the future, if you dare, because linear time is stopped when the hollow hills are opened. 

As Celtic scholar Marie-Louise Sjoestedt wrote, "This night belongs neither to one year or the other and is, as it were, free from temporal restraint. It seems that the whole supernatural force is attracted by the seam thus left at the point where the two years join, and gathers to invade the world of men." 

If you have never learned to dream or see visions or to feel the presence of the spirits who are always about - if you have never traveled beyond the gates of death or looked into the many realms of the Otherworld - this is the time when you'll see beyond the veil all the same, because the Otherworld is going to break down the walls of the little box you call a world, and its residents are coming to call on you. 

It's a time for dressing up, especially if you are going out at night, although there is likely to be much less of that in this time of pandemic. The Celts put on fright masks not to extort candy but to scare away restless spirits before they scared them. Out and about ,they carried torches to light the way, and especially to guide the dead back to where they came from when the party is over. Before Europeans discovered pumpkins in America, they carried lit candles in hollowed-out niches in turnips. 

All of this was so important, and such wild, sexy, shiverish fun that the church had to do something about it. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided to steal the old magic by making November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows Day; so the night of Samhain became All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween for short. A century before, an earlier pope had borrowed the date of the old Roman festival to propitiate the dead - the Festival of the Lemures, or Lemuralia - and renamed that All Saints' Day. But since Roman paganism had been largely suppressed, the church fathers decided to grab the glamour of the Celts, among whom the old ways are forever smoldering, like fire under peat. 

Few people who celebrate or suffer Halloween today seem to know much about its history. For storekeepers and the greetings card business, it's a commercial opportunity. For TV programmers, it's a cue to schedule horror movie marathons. For kids, it's time to dress up as vampires or witches and extort candy from neighbors. My preferred way to spend Halloween is to rest quietly at home, sometimes with candles lit for my dead loved ones, and a basket of apples and hazelnuts beside them, tokens of the old festival that renews the world and cleanses the relations between the living and the dead. 

Text partially adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss (Destiny Books)

Saturday, October 29, 2022

How Dreamers Earn Upgrades on the Flight to the Afterlife


In a lighter moment in an otherwise very sober guide to the bardos of life, death and after, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche suggests that through the right practices, we can earn an upgrade on our ride to the afterlife. He writes in Mind Beyond Death that “the way we make any journey depends on the type of ticket we have…We may even have collected mileage points. We may be eligible for an upgrade to first class." He seems to be telling us that advanced dreamers may have earned sky priority, and direct access to the "pure lands", including the realm created by the buddha Amitabha. If you have traveled this way before, and your heart wants to go there again, you may be able to project your consciousness there at the moment of death by "pure realm phowa." Another reason to deepen the practice of dreaming. Here's the key passage from Mind Beyond Death:

Pure realm phowa is connected to the practice of dream yoga. It involves directly transferring out consciousness at the time of death to one of the Buddha realms, such as the pure land of Amitabha or Akshobya, or to any of the sacred realms of the dakas, dakinis or bodhisattvas. The capacity to effect such a transference is developed through training in dream yoga. In that practice, not only do we learn to recognize the dream state, but also we develop the skill to transform our dream appearances. When we have developed that degree of control over our minds, then we can travel in our dreams to any Buddha field we wish...

If we can exercise that kind of power in our dreams, then we will be able to exercise the same power in this bardo [the Bardo of Dying]. We can use our understanding and experience of dream yoga to spontaneously transport ourselves to any sacred realm with which we have a heart connection. For example, you do not have to be a realized being in order to take birth in Amitabha’s pure land. Ordinary beings with a strong aspiration and good accumulation of merit can also take birth there. 

A few comments:

1. Phowa (literally "transference" or "ejection") is the art of projection of consciousness from the body to another state at the moment of death. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche offers a brief introduction to five modalities, including deity phowa in which the practitioner seeks to merge with a yidam or god-form.

2. "Pure lands" or "buddha-fields" (Sanskrit buddhakṣetra) are especially important in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. When we study the accounts of how such realms are created through the will, merit and imagination of superior beings, we may have an Eastern model for reality creation in the imaginal realm.

3. In our Active Dreaming approach, we do not use the symbols, postures, mantras or guru devotion of dream yoga as practiced in Tibetan Buddhist lineages and others, though we respect these. However, Active Dreaming, like dream yoga is a discipline that requires practice, practice, practice. Like yoga, Active Dreaming is a science of consciousness. It trains you to raise your awareness, play witness to yourself, go beyond consensual hallucinations, and enter the limitless field of nonlocal mind. It will certainly earn you frequent flyer miles, and maybe even premier status for the Big journey.

Image: The Western Pure Land of Amitabha, distemper and gold on cloth, Central Tibet c.1700.  In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain. There's a lot going on here! At the bottom are courtyards, giant lotus flowers, and pools from which the purified are being reborn.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Doctors in Dreamland


One of a set of documents received through oneiric channels that describe a future commonwealth known colloquially as Dreamland.  Internal evidence suggests that the Dream Commonwealth was established as a "Switzerland of the mind" - and its independence and neutrality guaranteed by the world powers - after after an earth catastrophe known as the Singularity. 

Our doctors are dreamers. No one in Dreamland would consider diagnosing or prescribing without consulting dreams. In our medical schools, we learn, as Galen already knew, that the dreaming mind can travel throughout the body and report on its condition in exact detail. A change in a single cell can be detected in a dream many years before the condition has spread far enough to produce detectable physical symptoms.

Many of our physicians have a sign on their wall that reads MY PATIENT IS MY COLLEAGUE”. Some have expanded this into a personal charter. One of the ways doctors and patients learn from each other is by swapping dreams.

But dream diagnosis begins long before a visit to a doctor’s office, in regular dream-sharing and – where the dreamer feels that specialist knowledge may be required – in wellness or pre-need clinics where the dream helpers are often nurses.

Imagery harvesting is central in the treatment of illness. Our approach is that any dream image can offer a path to healing, if it is worked correctly. This often requires continuing the dream, often with the aid of a helper who will accompany the dreamer on a conscious journey back into the dreamscape. Dream reentry is one of our core techniques for healing. A personal image provides the doorway for a conscious journey, in which the dreamer may be accompanied by a friend or guide, even a whole family of dream travelers. Relaxation and focused intention are the keys to this mode of conscious dream travel. In many cases, sonic driving (especially when generated by live shamanic drumming) is used to deepen and accelerate the journey.

Some dreams provide portals for soul recovery, an essential mode of healing that the ancestor shamans helped us to reclaim, to save at least some of our kind from joining the march of the husk people, the living dead. Shamans know that soul loss – the loss of vital energy and identity – it at the root of illness and despair. We loss vital soul through grief and trauma and heartbreak, through wrenching life choices that leave us divided against ourselves, through habits of deceit and addiction that drive our bright spirits to abandon us in disgust. Soul loss can reduce us to the condition of the walking dead, passionless and dreary, forever trying to fit in with other people's needs and expectations, lost to any sense of purpose.

Dreams show us where our missing parts may have gone, and invite us to reach in and bring them back. When we dream again and again of the “old place” (maybe a childhood home, maybe a space we shared with a former partner), we may be learning that a part of ourselves is stuck in that place, or went missing at the time we lived there. By going back inside the dream of the old place, we may be able to locate that lost aspect of our own identity and energy, and find the way to bring it back into our hearts and our lives.

In the hearthfire circles where we gather with our intentional families at least one evening a week, we tend the dreams that show us where the soul has gone and help each other with fierce compassion to bring it home.

Our flying doctors work with the souls of the dead as well as the souls of the living. Our best clues to where we are needed come from spontaneous night dreams in which sleepers receive visitations from the departed and travel, often unconsciously, into realms where the departed are at home. Such encounters can be the source of much-needed healing, forgiveness and closure, as well as mutual guidance. When they are released from the second body, the departed may become wise counselors and “family angels”. Prior to that liberation, they may need help from our healers because they are enmeshed in the sticky stuff of old cravings, rancor and desire. “The living have the ability to assist the imaginations of the dead,” as the poet said. Our flying doctors operate in this understanding, on both sides of the swing-door of physical death.

The First Peoples say that the Big stories – the stories that want to be told and to be lived – are hunting their tellers, like predators in the bush or sharks in the water. In healing, as in education and in family life, we are constantly engaged in helping each other to let the Big story come through.

All of us are living a story. If we don’t know what it is, it is likely to be a little story, a limiting one, woven from past disappointments and stitched tight by the people who are forever telling us who we are and what we can and cannot accomplish. If we fail to define ourselves, we let ourselves be defined by others. When we are seized by the Big story, we step beyond limiting definitions and beliefs. Great healing and great creativity become available because we can now draw on the immense energy that becomes available when we know we are serving a larger purpose.

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

Journal drawing: "Wolf Doctor" by Robert Moss



Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Poets of consciousness

Poets, it’s said, are shamans of words. True shamans are poets of consciousness. Journeying into a deeper reality with the aid of sung and spoken poetry, they bring back energy and healing through poetic acts, shapeshifting physical systems. When we dream, we tap directly into the same creative source from which poets and shamans derive their gifts. When we create from our dreams, and enter dreamlike flow, we become poets and artists. When we act to bring the energy and imagery of dreams into physical reality, we become poets of consciousness and infuse our world with magic.

In Birth of a Poet, William Everson raised a clamorous appeal for poets to reawaken to their shamanic calling: "O Poets! Shamans of the word! When will you recover the trance-like rhythms, the subliminal imagery, the haunting sense of possession, the powerful inflection and enunciation to effect the vision? Shamanize! Shamanize!" Across the centuries, many of our greatest poets have recognized their kinship with the shaman’s way of shifting awareness and shapeshifting reality. As his name in a spiritual order, Goethe chose the name of a legendary shaman of antiquity, Abaris, who came flying out of the Northern mists on an arrow from Apollo’s bow.

Our earliest poets were shamans. Today as in the earliest times, true shamans are poets of consciousness who know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that through the play of words, sung or spoken, the magic of the Real World comes dancing into the surface world. The right words open pathways between the worlds. The poetry of consciousness delights the spirits. It draws the gods and goddesses who wish to live through us closer. Shamans use poetry, sung or spoken, to achieve ends that go deeper than our consensual world. They create poetic songs of power to invoke spiritual help; to journey into nonordinary reality; to open and maintain a space between the worlds where interaction between humans and multidimensional beings can take place and to bring energy and healing through to the body and the physical world.

The South American paye takes flight with the help of "wing songs". These flight songs help him to borrow the wings of the kumalak bird [a kind of kite] that is a main ally of shamans. Among the Temiar-Senoi of the Malaysian rainforest, the great gift of a dream is the norng, or dream song, literally a "pathway" that can get you through the jungle or carry the soul to where it needs to go on either side of death.

Among the Inuit, the strongest shamans are also the most gifted poets. One of the reasons their spirit helpers flock around them is that they are charmed and exhilarated by the angakok’s poetic improvisations. Inuit shamans have a language of their own, which is often impenetrable to other Eskimos. It is a language that is never still. It bubbles and eddies, opening a whirlpool way to the deep bosom of the Sea-goddess, or a cavernous passage into the hidden fires of Earth.

My favorite Inuit shaman-word is the one for "dream". It looks like this: kubsaitigisak. It is pronounced "koov-sigh-teegee-shakk", with a little click at the back of the throat when you come to the final consonant. It means "what makes me dive in headfirst." Savor that for a moment, and all that flows with it. A dream, in Eskimo shaman-speech, is something that makes you dive in headfirst. Doesn’t this wondrously evoke the kinesthetic energy of dreaming, the sense of plunging into a deeper world? Doesn’t it also invite us to take the plunge, in the dream of life, and burst through the glass ceilings and paper barriers constructed by the daily trivial self?

Shamans know further uses for dream songs. They call the soul back home, into the bodies of those who have lost vital energy through pain or trauma or heartbreak. And from their journeys, they bring back poetic imagery that can help to shapeshift the body’s energy template in the direction of health.

Mainstream Western physicians agree that the body believes in images and responds to them as if they are physical events. By bringing the right images through from the dreaming, the poets of consciousness explain dis-ease in ways that help the patient get well, and interact with the body and its immune system on multiple levels without invasive surgery.

As dreamers, we tap into the same deep wells as poets and shamans and we climb ladders between the worlds. Poetry sometimes comes dancing out of dreams, in full-formed verses. When we turn our dreams into poems, we free our creative spirit, and our spirits come dancing.

Text adapted from Dreamways of the Iroquois by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books. 

Photo by RM

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Look for the Hidden Hand


I was walking with a friend in the New Forest in Hampshire. We were both undergoing major life changes, which is not always smooth sailing. We had had a major row the night before, drinking too much and bumping up against darker sides of each other’s personalities. Now we were walking, detoxifying, working it through. We walked all day, traveling fifteen or twenty miles on those forest trails, losing track of distance and — we finally noticed — direction. England may be a rather small country, but the New Forest is not a small wood. We looked at each other and laughed, realizing that in our effort to find ourselves, we had become utterly lost.

I said out loud, “I wish a guide would just appear out of nowhere and show us the way. Wouldn’t that be fabulous?”

My friend laughed like a crow. We had seen no one in the forest that day.

But within a minute or two, a runner appeared on our trail. He waved to us cheerily. “You two look lost. Need some help?”

“Yes, please.”

“Mustn’t break my stride. I’ll leave you markers.”

A minute later, he had vanished in the dappled wood. We followed his lead. At the next fork in the trail, we found he had indeed left a marker — an arrow formed with three sticks — showing us the right way to go. We found a succession of these arrows at every crossing or forking of the trail, along the whole two-mile distance back to the main road.

The Greeks say the gods love to travel in disguise. In Greek folk tradition, it’s good policy to be nice to strangers, and to pay attention to what they say, because you never know who is traveling behind their masks.

On another visit to England, I landed at Heathrow on a red-eye flight, exhausted and burdened with financial worries. I was carrying too much baggage and had to wrestle an oversize suitcase down the steps to the Underground.

As I collapsed onto a seat on the train, a roly-poly man, bearded like Santa Claus, winked at me from the seat opposite. He said with a broad grin, “The Buddha says walk on the bridge, don’t build on it.”

The words slapped me in the face. They stung me awake. They were exactly what I needed to hear. Caught up in my immediate worries, stressed out and overtired, I had been forgetting one of the secrets of living the Incredible Journey: it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.

The stranger on the London Tube was an example of how we play everyday angels even gods in disguise for each other. There is a provocative Buddhist text on this theme entitled Entry into the Realm of Reality (in the Thomas Cleary translation). It describes how authentic spiritual teachers even the greatest who walk this earth can appear in any guise, as an exotic dancer or as a monk, as a panhandler or a king, as a scholar or a warrior.

We are most likely to run into them when we are in motion, especially when we are crossing a border into unfamiliar territory, when strong emotions are in play, and when we are facing the greatest challenges. They take many forms.

For me, a friendly black dog especially when it appears in an unlikely place is a good omen, and sometimes I detect a hint of a superior being traveling in disguise.

As I arrived once at the Fort Mason conference center in San Francisco, on the first morning of a weekend workshop, I wondered if the world would give me a sign of how the program was likely to go.

Our meeting space was a converted firehouse right on the water. As I walked from the parking lot toward the building, a large man in a bright red watchcap appeared right in front of the doors. He was walking a standard black poodle unclipped, of course.

When we greeted each other, I told him why I was glad to see him with his big black dog, at the gate of our adventure.

He told me the name of his black dog was “Pollo. Short for Apollo.”

Jung famously called synchronicity an "acausal" connecting principle. We may see no mechanical or reasonable process of push-pull when coincidence strikes. Yet when we feel its significance in our shivers, we may sense a hidden hand and feel that the universe just got personal. 

People used to describe found money in the street as "pennies from heaven", suggesting that departed loved ones are giving a sign of their presence. The old ones called coincidence "God's way of remaining anonymous." I think there is great good sense in these old saws. 

When we go dreaming, we get out there: we travel beyond the fields we know into other realms and meet beings who live there. Through the play of synchronicity, powers of the deeper world come poking or probing through the veils of our ordinary perception to give us a wake up call.

Text partly adapted from The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.