Monday, January 31, 2022

Playing Dream Detective and Dreaming Movies Ahead of Time

I greatly enjoy turning my dreams into drawings that I enliven with oil pastels, gel crayons or watercolors. Sometimes, however, I am content with a pencil drawing, especially when, playing dream detective, I call in my inner sketch artist. Here's an example from my journal from exactly one year ago:

January 31, 2021
The Actor with Thick Eyebrows
Sometimes playing dream detective requires me to try my hand as a sketch artist as I seek to identify a character in the story. Last night's dream inverted a familiar dream trope. You have dreamed of being with a film star, right? Afterwards (on the assumption that you are unlikely to meet this person in regular life) you may think about what aspect of you, or perhaps another person, you have tagged with the characteristics or role you associate with that actor.
In this dream, things worked the other way round. I thought I was dealing with a powerful British official. Then I realized that he was an actor playing that role in an actual movie production. I thought I recognized the actor from movies and TV series I had seen in the past. On waking, I couldn't recall his name. His most notable feature is his thick dark eyebrows. He may be 45 in the dream, good-looking in a craggy way, dark haired, fairly athletic under his custom suit.
I posted my sketch on Facebook like a WANTED notice. Scores of attempted identifications poured in. The suggested actors nearest in looks to The Man with Thick Eyebrows were Colin Farrell and Clive Owen. Not there yet, though.
Funny how this game is the opposite of what we usually play with a dream of a movie star or other celebrity. Usually we retain the name of the star and then have to figure out how the character or roles of that well-known figure might relate to us or someone in our ambit. In other words, we assume that our dream editor has stamped a well-known name or mask on a less-recognized person or personality aspect so we have something to hold from the dream.
Here it's the other way round: go find the star whose name is withheld. I have not quite caught his likeness here. I think he is British and may have appeared in political thrillers and cop stories. I haven't come up with a name yet though it's interesting what happens when you ask Auntie Google to pull up mug shots of Male Actors with Thick Eyebrows.

Going to Movie Previews in Dreams

A year later, I still haven't found a satisfactory match for my drawing. However, now I am watching more movies on the small screen under the combined effects of the pandemic and a bitter Northern winter, maybe his face will appear. In the past, I made a collection of movie previews I attended in my dreams. The fact that we can dream the content of a film we haven't yet seen or thought about is for me entertaining confirmation that we may dream the future all the time. Here is one of my favorite examples, from 1996:

I dream that a silly little dog decked out in fake antlers runs out onto a road and is killed. He is magically revived by a bizarre character who does not conform to human norms.

I had no strong feelings about the dream. It felt like watching a movie. I entered the report in my journal and rushed to the airport to catch an early flight. I missed my connection and ended up on a different plane with a completely different itinerary. I was carrying a copy of my book Conscious Dreaming, then newly published, and the woman author seated beside me asked to see it. With our pleasant conversation on hold, I looked up at the screen where the in-flight movie was playing. I watched a silly little dog decked out in fake antlers for a Christmas pageant run out on a road. He was killed but magically revived by a bizarre character, the archangel Michael portrayed by John Travolta in the movie of the same name.

If it is possible to dream about something as trivial as the in-flight movie on the wrong plane ahead of time, then surely it is possible to dream of bigger things. I'll stay on the lookout for the Man with Thick Eyebrows.

Back to the Future, Forward to the Past

After I published this little article I posted a link on the Robert Moss Books Facebook page. I immediately got fresh suggestions about the identity of the mystery actor. . Two readers suggested Matthew McFadeyan, a name not mentioned before. He wasn't on my radar because I don't think I had ever watched the early seasons of the popular BBC series MI5 where he plays a leading role. I had not even heard of the current HBO series Succession - where he again plays a major role - until I checked the internet overnight.

I fired up Britbox and started watching episode 1 of Season 1 of MI5. Within minutes I was sure - through the tingle test as well as facial recognition - that the actor in my dream was Matthew McFadeyan.

This tiny episode presents an example of a paradoxical relationship between dreaming and time. A dream leads me one year later to a TV series that was launched 20 years ago. The first episodes are punchy and highly relevant today. However it may be that the main point of the episode is to give a simple demonstration- trivial and thus safe - of how time loops work.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

An Oneironaut in Edwardian England

Mrs. Arnold-Forster flies at the Royal Society

In the dream, Mrs. Arnold-Forster is at the Royal Society in the immense colonnaded pile of Burlington House on Piccadilly. Some of the foremost scientists in Britain are there, including Lord Kelvin, who created the universal units of measurement named after him, and her brother-in-law, the physicist Sir Arthur Rucker. Sir Arthur asks her to explain how she flies. It's easier to demonstrate than to describe, so she pushes off and turns a few loops under the ceiling. She comes down and demonstrates a second technique, gliding a few inches off the floor.

The display draws no gasp of amazement. Some of the company seem to think they have seen nothing more than a cheap conjuring trick. However, Lord Kelvin approaches Mrs. Arnold-Forster with great courtesy and declares that “The law of gravitation had probably been in this case temporarily suspended. Clearly this law does not for the moment affect you when you fly.”

She feels the great mathematician has given her words of power she will use again and again. For now, she wants to add to her demonstration by showing that it's not so hard for anyone to fly. She grabs the hand of a somewhat hesitant assistant, pushes off, and soon has him flying a few inches above the floor.

She gives us this story, without further discussion, as an example of all the fun and adventure awaiting us in dreams. She waited until she was sixty to publish a wonderful little book titled Studies in Dreams. It is based, as any good book on dreams must be, on her personal experience. Her previous book was a memoir of her husband, the politician and writer H.O. Arnold-Forster, who served as Secretary of State for War in Balfour's Conservative government from 1903-1905 and died in 1909. He was the nephew of E.M.Forster.

Some may find it curious that a high society lady with the resounding name of Mary Lucy Story-Maskelyne Arnold-Forster should have made herself, through constant personal experiment, a pioneer of lucid dreaming and one of the most advanced thinkers about dreaming of her time (which is also now, because she has much to teach us). It's not all that strange when we recall how deeply the late Victorian and early Edwardian British Establishment, including the Balfour family, was engaged in psychical research, ardently seeking to confirm "supernormal" phenomena like telepathy and precognition, the reality of communication with the deceased and with producing scientific evidence that consciousness can travel beyond the body and survive it.

Mary makes a clear and passionate case for encouraging people everywhere to remember and record their dreams. Like Jung, she understands that dreams are the facts from which we must proceed: that theory must take second place to the collection and study of a multitude of individual reports. Get enough people involved in reporting and sharing their dreams, Mrs. Arnold-Forster insists, and we can create a "Clearing-House" of dreams whose contents will shatter flawed theories like that of Freud and reveal the wonderful richness and variety of what people everywhere can enjoy every night.

This will require developing what she charmingly calls the art of "happy dreaming". We need to get over our fear of "bad" dreams and nightmares. The best way to do that, she counsels, is to train ourselves to wake up, inside a dream, to the fact that we are dreaming. We can then make the choice either to leave the dream or carry on in the knowledge that we will come to no harm and can handle whatever challenges are presented. Some of the practices she recommends in this cause sound very similar to recently promoted methods of lucid dream induction. For example, she suggests repeating a mantra during the day and especially before sleep along these lines: “Remember this is a dream; if you wake, it will be over, and all will be well again.”

She does not use the phrase "lucid dreaming" but she does use the term "dream control" and explains it as follows:

I believe, in short, that we can at will stop the recurrence of " bad " dreams, or of dreams that we dislike or dread, and that we can , to a considerable extent, alter the very nature of our dreams by using in our sleep the same faculty of rational selection and rejection that we use with regard to our thoughts and to our wandering fancies by day. We shall find, when the habit is learned, that we can make desired dreams recur more or less at will, and that we can develop in them certain qualities and powers. In this way the habit of dream control will gradually become ours

Fortunately, she concedes further along that the depth and spontaneity of dream experience will always elude efforts at complete control.

I am delighted by Mrs. Arnold-Forster's accomplishments as a dream flyer. She introduces this theme as an example of training yourself to dream happy dreams. She recalls that as a child she was scared of going up or down a nursery staircase after dark, and the fear gave her fearful dreams. Then she found that she could float down the stairs, eluding any danger. “When once I realized that I could always escape by flight, the sense of the something unknown, to be escaped from, became a thing of the past ; but the power of flying grew and has steadily improved all my life.”

She gets airborne by pushing off with her feet, then does a kind of dog paddle in the air. “By giving a slight push or spring with my feet I leave the ground and fly without further effort, by a simple act of volition. A slight paddling motion by my hands increases the pace of the flight, and is used either to enable me to reach a greater height, or else for the purpose of steering, especially through any narrow place, such as through a door way or window."

In addition to flying, she develops the practice of gliding a few inches off the ground.

As for flight itineraries, she likes to return to happy and exciting dreams and go on with them. This is part of a practice that we can call dream reentry. “When I had discovered the method by which bad dreams could be got rid of, I tried to find out how far I could consciously control dreaming by inducing a particular dream to recur. I found that if I steadily thought about such a dream as the flying dream it would soon come back.”

Mrs. Arnold-Forster flies to Belgium

One of Mrs. Arnold-Forster's flying adventures starts in November 1914. The Great War has been raging for three months. The Germans have swallowed most of Belgium and are on their way to Paris and the Channel ports. In the dream, she is in a room painted light green and knows it is connected to the War Office. “I was expecting a dispatch that I had volunteered to carry to the Army Headquarters in Belgium, flying in the manner in which I fly in my dreams.”

Kept waiting, she flies around the room to limber up and also to check whether the window is a good launch pad. She inspects the pictures on the wall, which have been hung notably high up. She wants a map of Belgium to guide her flight. They only have a very old one on yellowed paper with no railways and very few roads. She is assured it will work because towns and villages in Belgium are where they used to be. “ You will fly over Naville and Dischemoote," she is told. Once airborne over Belgium, she finds the landscape below her very like the map.

When she gets to Army Headquarters, she finds Winston Churchill in charge. She delivers her dispatch and then explores the underground chambers of a castle that is falling into ruin. She watches a king and queen in procession. Back above ground, she sees Belgian Boy Scouts being taught to fly. She thinks they look silly, like flying frogs, and pushes of on her return flight to England.

Mrs. Arnold-Forster recounts all of this as another example of the adventures we can have in our dreams. She doesn't discuss how closely her dream excursion may have corresponded to what was happening on the ground. I find it fascinating to compare the details of her dream with what was unfolding in the war. There are dreams that are better understood through history than psychology. Winston Churchill had rushed to Belgium the previous month to try to organize the defense of Antwerp. A Daily Mail correspondent was astonished to see the young First Lord of the Admiralty jump out of a car in mythic costume - a flowing dark blue cape with a huge silver lion’s head clasps - and play traffic cop for a stalled military convoy. Churchill wasn't in Belgium when Mrs. Arnold-Forster flew there as a secret courier, but his presence may still have been palpable; he had lobbied for command of the British Expeditionary Force.

The part with the royals in underground chambers would have spoken to anyone following the situation. King Albert of Belgium took personal command of his army and succeeded in keeping the Germans out of a little strip of Flanders for the rest of the war, much of which, notoriously, was an "underground war" in the trenches. The Trench of Death at Diksmuide (one of the places on Mary's map, with various spellings) is now an outdoor exhibit recalling the horrible nature of that war.

Some elements in her dream might have incorporated news she was following at the time. It is more than likely that she had met Churchill. He paid attention to dreams and would have been intrigued by the notion that a dreamer who knew what she was doing in two worlds  - as an oneironaut and the widow of a Secretary of War - could serve as an aerial courier. It's a pity she wasn't given a subsequent mission by the Dream War Office to get Churchill to abandon his next mission - to take on the Turks in what became the tragedy of Gallipoli.


La vie aƩrienne en rose

As a proper Edwardian lady Mrs. Arnold-Forster always wanted to be correctly attired. Her favorite flying dress extended three inches beneath her heels. This made it less likely that people on the street would notice when she fluttered down from the sky and glided along the pavement. She was especially happy with a flying dress of rose silk..

Quotes are from Mary Arnold-Forster, Studies in Dreams (New York: Macmillan, 1921)

Illustrations by Robert Moss

Monday, January 24, 2022

Claim the gift of nightmares

Dreams are not on our case; they are on our side. This is one of my personal mantras about dreams and (yes) it applies even to nightmares.
     In my personal lexicon, a nightmare is not only a "bad" or scary dream; it is an interrupted or aborted dream. We are so frightened we run away. We wake ourselves up and try to slam the door on the dream experience, hoping that it is "only" a dream and can't get out and come after us.
     This is a very foolish strategy. The challenges we face in dreams are challenges that are being presented by life itself. If we learn to confront the underlying issues inside the dream space, we may be able to prevent those issues from blowing up in our regular lives. This may require us to take action in waking life, based on what we have learned in our dreams; but we will lack the essential data required for appropriate action if we have left the dream broken and abandoned, behind that door we are trying to keep shut.
      Common forms of the nightmare include:

The nameless terror.
The intruder.
Being pursued.
Being attacked by a wild animal.
Suffering an infestation of bugs, spiders or bats.
An unwanted encounter with the dead.
Being attacked by vampires, demons or zombies.
Being overwhelmed by a giant wave or a twister.
Being in a plane crash or an auto accident.

You probably have your own version. We have different lives, different characters, and different styles of dreaming (another reason why you will never find the full meaning of dreams by looking them up in a dream dictionary). My own least favorite dreams are ones in which I am stuck in a place where I don't want to be.
     Whatever the content of the dreams you flee from, the Rx is the same: try to learn to confront the challenge on the ground where it is presented. This requires firm intention and some degree of courage. You want to learn to go back inside a dream you fled and try to clarify and resolve what is going on there. You can accomplish this through the dream reentry technique explained in several of my books, including Conscious Dreaming and Active Dreaming.
      You want to give a name to that nameless dread. You want to know whether the plane crash was literal or symbolic and, either way, what you need to do to avoid it. You want to establish whether that dream intruder is someone who could literally break into your house, or a disease that could invade your body, or an aspect or yourself - maybe even your Greater Self - that is trying to get your attention. If you are scared of dream vampires, you want to think about who or what in your life may be draining your energy; if your dream house is infested, you need to know whether this reflects a condition in your body that may need medical attention.
       I think it's like this: our dream producers are constantly trying to alert us to things essential to our health, wholeness and well-being. When we ignore these messages, they resort to special effects to get our attention. If we persist in ignoring the messages, the problem the nightmares reflect is likely to show up in our regular lives. Nightmares are a gift in the way that a smoke detector going off in the middle of the night - when there is a real fire hazard - is a gift.
       Sometimes we find that what we are fleeing in dreams is an aspect of our own power. When I first started living in rural New York, I dreamed repeatedly of a giant bear that came into my bedroom. He did not menace me, but he was so much bigger than me that he scared me. Finally, I told myself (as I would now counsel anyone) that I needed to go back inside those dreams, confront the bear, and discover why he was in my space. When I did that, the bear caught me up in his great embrace and showed me that we were joined at the heart, reassuring me that when I needed healing for myself or others, he would be there. I later learned that the bear is the great medicine animal of North America, and he has kept his promise.
       I have worked with several people challenged by cancer who fled from sharks in their dreams. When they agreed to swim in those dream water through conscious dream reentry, they were able to claim the shark as an ally in healing. The shark, an impeccable killing machine that rarely gets cancer, is indeed an extraordinary ally in healing cancer. But to claim that kind of power, we are first required to brave up.
       In summary: the best remedy for nightmares is to summon the courage and the necessary guidance and protection to go back in, face the source of the fear on its own ground, and stay with the experience until you achieve resolution. If reentry is no longer an option (because the dream is mostly gone) do things that help you to spit out (literally) and shake off (literally) the negative legacy, ground yourself with the good Earth - and make it your intention not to succumb to dread next time. What we most fear is often what we most need to face,

Art: "Shark Woman" by Aniela Sobieski.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

How Do You want Your Multiple Dreams? Split Screen, Nested, Quantum Leap?

"Many Dream Screens" by RM

I am asked, Can I be in two dreams at the same time? My instant response is, “Absolutely! You can be in two dreams or multiple dreams simultaneously, and be actor and observer at the same time..”

This may happen every night. However, even the most ardent and prolific dream recallers may fail to notice what is going on. This is because, as we leave the dreamlands, our editing mind tends to shunt our memories onto a single track, giving us some kind of linear narrative. Stories are great, and so this can be a highly creative endeavor, giving us a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end, even if there are puzzling scene shifts and gaps.

It is fascinating to pause and look again at those sudden jumps and changes of scene and ask, Did I jump from one dream into another? And then, Is it possible that I was actually in two or more dreams at the same time?

By my experience and observation, just as consciousness is not confined to the body and brain, it is not restricted to one location in any reality. You can see this in ordinary life. On a warm afternoon, you are trying to follow a zoom conference while part of you has drifted off to a Caribbean island. You are not so far out there that you can’t cope when someone on the call speaks to you, and you may be aware, watching yourself, that your mind is in two places at once, or actually three, since that observing self comes into play as well.

In dreams, whether during sleep or in the fertile state of hypnagogia, we may find ourselves in several places at once, while looking over it all from a witness perspective. This can provide a marvelous opportunity -once we understand that dreaming can be horizontal meditation – to grow continuity of consciousness and our understanding of multidimensional reality.

Let’s look through the menu of multiple dreaming, starting with cases that may not be recognized and those in which experiences that may have happened simultaneously are pushed into a linear template.

How did I get here?

You are somewhere in a dream, and then you are somewhere quite different, with no recollection of how you got there. You open a door and you are on the ocean floor or out among the stars. You get in your car and suddenly you are on a mountain top with or without the car. You go to a party and then you are on a Viking longboat on a fjor where bearded Northmen are singing their way to Valhalla. These sudden jumps mauy lead you toask “How did I get here?” inside the dream – which may wake you up to the fact that you are in a dream reality. Or that question may come later,when you are trying to make sense of the content of the dream. Either way, these scene shifts may indicate that you moved from one dream (and even one world) to another.


False awakenings

You have probably had one, or many, of these. You think you have woken from a dream, only to find, when you wake back in your body on the bed later on, that you woke from one dream inside another dream. You may also recall nights when you fell asleep inside a dream and woke up in another dream. These are clear transitions between different levels of dreaming. Those who make a practice of keeping a dream journal often report, ruefully, that they were sure they had written down a dream only to find, on waking back in physical reality, that they did this in a dream state.

Nested dreams

As you grow your dream practice and your awareness of the multiplicity of dreams, you will notice more of these, and you will have a simple structure for catching and recording more of went on during the night. You now recognize that dreams may be nested inside each other like those Russian dolls. You go from an outer dream to an inner dream, and may return the same way. Sometimes the inner dreams seem to be deeper experiences. When I led a program on dreams for a local school district, a sixth grader told us, with absolute clarity as well as high excitement, how she traveled through seven dreams, nested inside each other, to a thrilling adventure in the time of the American Revolution, and then returned the same way.

Seesaw dreams

You are pulled back and forth between different dream situations. You may be participant or observer, or both, in each of these scenarios. You may have the impression that the action is playing simultaneously, in two or more locations. Seesaw dreams may evolve into split screen or side by side dreaming, and lead you to develop simultaneous perception. On the way to describing these modalities, let me share a personal experience of seesaw dreams that led to much more. I titled my journal report


RM journal drawing "Mongolian shaman warrior"

I am teaching at the Esalen Institute in California, and I have been given a bedroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As I lie in bed, I enjoy the sound of the breakers on the rocks below. I slip into a dream in which I am arriving at Ulan Bator in Mongolia. I have been invited to speak at a conference on shamanism, and members of a welcoming committee are thereto greet me with warm smiles.
     I rouse from the dream, delighting again in the sound of the waves. I briefly reflect that my dream could be a glimpse of a possible future, since I have received invitations to shamanic conferences in Mongolia in the past. My breathing follows the rhythms of the waves. I am back in the sea of dreams. I am in Mongolia again, but out in a wild landscape in an earlier era, the 1930s. I am involved in a grand Indiana Jones-style adventure involving a magical object the Nazis are seeking. 
     I stir from this dream, and again hear the waves. Was I watching a movie just then? No. I am pulled back into 1930s Mongolia by a force that seems as strong as a Pacific undertow. I am there,in a bitter winter, where mounted soldiers are drinking blood from their horse’s necks to survive. I am in a different body, and have dual consciousness within it, as Robert and as the man wh is trying to stop the Nazi tomb robbers. I know now what they are seeking. It is the spirit lance of Genghis Khan. People believe that this object has immense power, like a shamanic weapon of mass destruction. 
     While I am fully engaged in this drama,I am also aware of what is going on at the airport in a possible future. And I can hear, distinctly, the ocean sounds on a warm evening in California. The seesaw effect has changed. I am now aware of all three situations simultaneously, and have an overview of all of them. My focus on one situation will blur a little as I give full attention to one of the scenes, but my perception is never altogether lost.

 I spent the whole night like this, with pauses to record details.
     Clearly the night had given me research assignments. I had never heard if the spirit lance of Genghis Khan. I found Jack Weatherford’s biography of Genghis Khan, and there it was, on page one. I read that Genghis Khan is a godlike figure for some shamanic lineages in Mongolia and that his power was held to have been preserved in his spirit lance, adorned with black horsehair. The burial place of this magical object was kept secret in a forbidden zone in Inner Mongolia. In the 1930s, there was a race to find it. It vanished, reportedly after being carried to Ulan Bator by armed monks – it vanished.
      Oh yes. On my return home from California I received an invitation to a shamanic conference in Mongolia. I had too much going n in my calendar to accept, in ordinary realty. But since my dream self  went, maybe a parallel Robert did also.


Side by Side Dreams

You are involved with two dream situations and you can watch and participate in both at the same time. Sometimes this seems like you are walking on one side of a road or a wall, aware that a second self is on the other side. You have continuing perception of both, though your primary attention is likely to be with one or the other and may shift back and forth.


Split Screen Dreams

Now you and your dream producers are getting truly organized. You are looking a a divided screen, able two watch two dream movies simultaneously -or jump in and become the star of one or both productions. With practice, you may be able to use multiple screens. One night I found myself seated in front of multiple screens reminiscent of the array in a NASA control room. I observed six dreams playing on six screens, in each of which a dream Robert – perhaps also a parallel self -was doing different things. As remote observer, I could monitor the overall pattern and choose whether and when to engage more of my attention and energy. When I engaged as participant in a dream scenario, my senses came vividly alive. In the simultaneous dreams, I was mostly doing things that are ordinary for me like connecting with power animals or making a group journey on a magical school bus to an Imaginal City.



While we seek to make linear narratives out of our dreams it is possible that many of them are organized by superposition. In quantum mechanics this means that "whenever the system is definitely in one state we can consider it as being partly in each of two or more states" (Paul Dirac). 

RM journal drawing, "Superposition"

For example: in the dream from which I made this sketch I was both (a) dressed in safari shirt and cream chinos and (b) looking for the same clothes on a bed while (a) I had the room to myself but (b) there were other people coming and going, leaving signs of much activity - a burning candle, a weird collection of Icelandic elves and trolls, both humorous and sorcerous, on a wide windowsill. The parallel states converged when a young man - one of a gay couple that had been using the room without intruding on me - showed me a strange cabinet carved with runes and magic sigils. Definitely some magic afoot.

I can’t resist including this note on a type of dream experience that involves dual awareness and may be triggered by a call from another time or place:


Quantum Leap Dreaming

You may remember the old television show "Quantum Leap", in which a scientist played by Scott Bakula cannons from one body to another in different situations because of an experiment in time travel gone awry. The episodes typically begin with him looking in a mirror and gasping "Oh boy" as he looks at a different face. He has to fix something in each situation in hopes of getting back to his own body in his own time - but is then shot into yet another person's situation. He has an erratic cigar-puffing guide, Al, who appears as a hologram visible only to him and consults an artificial intelligence, Ziggy, that gives the odds on the probable outcome of any move he makes in the bodies he occupies.
     I quite often experience a call to dream into another time or life situation, on some kind of assignment, as I was called to that adventure in 1930s Mongolia. The circumstances may be far less dramatic. In my story ”The Silent Lovers” in Mysterious Realities I seem to have been assigned to help a man who has just died and is lost and confused about his circumstances, back in the 1950s. I don't have Al or Ziggy available to help explain all these scenarios, though I do have another cigar-smoking humorist who turns up from time to time to remind me "It's about entertainment, kid."


Growing Simultaneous Perception and Comprehension

This, perhaps, becomes the heart of the practice I am sketching here. Dreaming is a great training ground. However, there are related fields of practice. Some of my own best workouts have come when leading and drumming for shamanic circles. I have to remain sufficiently in control of my physical body to sustain the steady beat of the drum. At the same time I must watch over the physical and psychic space. I will simultaneously make a shamanic journey of my own which may take me far away in the Lower, Upper or Middle Worlds. I may also look in on the journeys of individual members of the group to see whether they need support. And while all of this is going on, my witness self maintains an overview of the whole scene. On a really good day, this can feel like observing the scene from every point within the circumference of a sphere that encloses us all.




Thursday, January 13, 2022

Dreaming, we are time travelers


We are time travelers in our dreams and one thing that goes on, probably every night, is that the dream self travels into the possible future, scouting out challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Depending on whether we remember such dream scouts, and can read the information correctly, and can then decide on appropriate action, we can move away from undesirable future events and towards ones that are more attractive.

J. W. Dunne (1875-1949) was a pioneer researcher in this field. He was in every way a product of Britain in the Edwardian era. He was not a mystic, a shaman or an occultist. He was a soldier, an aeronautical engineer, a fly fisherman and a crack shot. He came out of the Anglo-Irish military caste. He designed and built the first British military aircraft, and his prototype was soon adopted and manufactured in the United States.  In all things, he was a determined scientist and rationalist who looked for the logic in life’s anomalies. 

What distinguished him from other members of his upper class military type was that he dreamed and remembered and recorded his dreams. He noticed something remarkable. The incidents he dreamed were often located in the future rather than the past. And their content often involved things he knew nothing about before the dreams.

The data that shifted Dunne’s conception of reality – first when he was a sub-lieutenant of the Imperial Yeomanry, fighting the Boers, then when he was convalescing in Italy, and many times later – were dreams in which he saw, with remarkable accuracy, events that lay in the future. Sometimes his dreams anticipated news of world events that he had not yet received. His dreams gave him “news flashes” of an earthquake in Madagascar and of troop movements in Sudan long before the newspapers arrived with printed reports of those events.

Dunne started keeping a detailed journal of his dreams, and found that he dreamed of the future – on average – as often as the past. This led him to realize that in dreams, time works differently than in our usual experience of waking life. He drew friends and family members into an ongoing “Experiment with Time” and collected a great deal of data on “time displacement” as observed in dreams. 

He extended his experiments into waking precognition – for example, by trying to guess what he would find in a book he would later pick up at random in his club. He quickly concluded that precognition can be achieved in waking states as well as in dreams, but requires “a steadying of attention” and practice in controlling the imagination that are not easily attained. 

He published his findings in 1927  in a book titled An Experiment with Time that had wide influence in the interval between the two world wars; it was read and eagerly discussed by many leading scientists, writers and politicians. An expanded and revised edition was published in 1934. This is the version I use, and return to frequently.

Dunne evolved a complex mathematical model he called Serialism in his effort to account for the fact that time does not move in a linear fashion in dreams – and perhaps in the larger universe. In his last book,  Intrusions?,  published posthumously, he makes the bold statement that his precognitive dreams were "caused by something which I was going to experience in waking life later on”.

This is a most interesting theory: that future events not only cast a shadow before them, but cause us to dream of them – and perhaps, in dreaming, to help bring a certain event track into our physical experience, out of an immense range of alternative possible futures.

In Intrusions?, he  provided further details of the precognitive dreams recounted in An Experiment with Time that he suppressed in the earlier book, apparently for fear of not sounding scientific and respectable. The strongest  dream "intrusions" containing glimpses of the future were often accompanied by inner voices, sometimes a tremendous chorus of voices crying "Look, look, look!" He describes this phenomenon as the "rousing of attention".

Dunne moved towards the understanding that our experience of  linear time  is an illusion of the limited ordinary mind. Viewed from the fourth dimension,  past, present and future are in fact simultaneous and only experienced sequentially because of our mental perception of them. In the dream state the mind is not shackled in this way and is able to perceive events in the past and future with equal facility. The dream self, as "Observer 2" may be able to view past, present and future at the same time. Beyond this 4D view, however, there may be larger perspectives, of an "Observer 3" who watches the watcher observing the actor, and then "observers" on successively higher levels of reality and consciousness. 

When he expounds his Serialist theory, Dunne becomes very hard to follow and he fails to take us into one of the most interesting aspects of this inquiry: the possibility that we are consciously choosing, usually unwittingly. between parallel timelines leading to alternate futures.  His great contribution is the example of his pragmatic, fact-based approach to gathering and appraising examples of precognition from everyday (and every night) experience. 
Dunne's experiment provided impressive evidence that precognition or prevision is quite normal in dreams. Many people are unaware of it because they don't remember their dreams or don't look for correspondences with later events in ordinary life. However, there is nothing weird or special about the "temporal freedom" of the dreaming self. Know it or not - like it or not - we may all be time travelers in our dreams.
As J.B.Priestley summed it up in Man and Time Dunne's experiment demonstrated that the ability to transcend time in dreams "is not a privilege enjoyed by a few very strange and special people. It is part of our common human lot. We are not - even though we might prefer to be - the slaves of chronological time. We are, in this respect, more elaborate, more powerful, perhaps nobler creatures than we have lately taken ourselves to be."

Keep a dream journal over time and watch for subsequent physical events that may resemble a dream and you will soon confirm the reality of dream precognition. You are now on track to do the really interesting stuff. If you can see the future, you may be able to change it for the better. If you can't see whether you are going, you are likely to end up where you are headed.

Make some time in your life to record the time travels of your dreaming self and you may find, with practice, that you can do more. You can enter the perspective of the witness self who can see a whole timeline. You may even, on a high rooftop of the mind, enter the vista of a higher observer who sees the forking paths of the multiverse and the weave of connections between different lives, across time and space, in a spacious Now.

Photo: The young J.W.Dunne, designer of Britain's first military aircraft, as a pilot.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Nine Keys to Understanding Your Dreams

One of the effects of the covid 19 pandemic has been an explosion of public interest in dreams. People who never gave much thought to dreams and were rarely known to talk about them are now dreaming up a storm, and wanting to share their dreams with anyone who will listen.     The dreams reported cover a wide spectrum. While some seem to dramatize fear and anxiety, others offer entertainment, sanctuary and destination travel.  While many reported “bad dreams” and nightmares, others were grateful for  dreams of reassurance in which they found themselves in the presence of departed loved ones and mentors, angels and goddesses, talking animals and benign space aliens.
      Many people are cheered to rediscover that, dreaming, we can travel without leaving home and we can be as social as we like.
    "Why am I having this weird dream?" "What am I supposed to do with my dream that my dead grandma came to visit last night?" "What does it mean that I'm trying to get gas in my tank but it's squirting in the wrong places?"
     Lots of people are seeking guidance on how to understand their dreams and what to do with them. In my Active Dreaming approach we never presume to tell others what their dreams (or their lives) mean. However, we can offer feedback by offering what the dream might mean to us if it were our dream. You can learn about the fast, fun, four-step process for sharing dreams and life stories that I call the Lightning Dreamwork Game here. This goes far beyond analysis. It lead to action to embody the creative and healing energy of dreams in our everyday lives.
     To understand and harvest the gifts of your dreams at home, you want to keep a journal. This is your indispensable tool. You will date and title each entry.You will write a short simple narrative of each dream you record. You will add some of what you learn when you start using the Nine Keys to Your Dreams I first explained in my book Conscious Dreaming. Here they are, in summary:

1.  Trust Your Feelings

Always pay attention to how you feel when you wake from a dream. Your feelings and bodily sensations may be your best guide to the relative urgency and importance of a dream, and its positive or negative implications.

2.  First Associations

In keeping a dream journal, you will want to get into the habit of jotting down your first associations with the dreams you record. What floats to the surface of your consciousness in the first minutes after waking may come from layers of the dream that have eluded, or from deeper levels of dreaming 

3.  Reality Check

Compare what is going on in the dream to the rest of your life, including the life of your imagination. Always ask whether it is possible that any part of the dream will manifest, literally or symbolically, in physical reality. Though dreams are inner experiences, they often contain accurate information about external reality. In both subtle and unsubtle ways, dreams incorporate signals from the outside environments.

4.  Dream Reentry

Dreams are real experiences, and a fully remembered dream is its own interpretation. The meaning of a dream is inside the dream itself. By learning how to re-enter dreams, you will develop the ability to clarify messages about future events, resume contact with inner teachers, and resolve unfinished business. 

5.  Dialogue with Dream Characters

One of the best ways to work out what your dream characters are telling you is to ask them. You can do this through dream reentry or simply by sitting down with a pad and pen, imagining that the dream figure is in front of you, and opening a conversation.

6.  Tracking Your Dream Self

Who are you in your dreams? Are you the protagonist or simply an observer? Are you younger or older? Male or female? How does the situation and behavior of our dream self compare with that of your waking self? The character who appears in all of your dreams, even if only as a witness, is you. 

7.  Symbol Exploration

Although the dream source tries to communicate with us as clearly as possible, it must often speak in symbols in order to carry us beyond the limitations of the everyday mind.  Symbols take us from what we know to what we do not yet know. You'll be inspired to track your symbols far and wide, and may discover that your personal dreams embody timeless myths from many traditions. Always remember that the best encyclopedia of dream symbols is your own journal, kept over time.

8.  "What Part of Me?"

Dreams make us whole. They show us the many aspects of ourselves and help us to bring them under one roof. This is why it is often useful to ask "what part of me" different characters and elements in a dream might represent. However,this approach is rarely sufficient since dreams are transpersonal as well as personal. If you meet a tribal shaman in a dream, that may be an aspect of yourself and an actual shaman. If you meet your departed grandmother, that is more likely to be Granma trying to communicate than merely a part of you that is like her. 

9.  Dream Enactment

Dreams require action! You may take creative action, turning a dream into a story, a picture a collage.You may do some shamanic shopping, to get shoes or earrings your dream self was wearing or a sculpture of a deity you saw in a dream. You may use the dream as GPS on your life roads. You may accept dream assignments, seeking to translate that strange word or find that obscure place on a map of this world or another world. At the least, you can harvest a bumper sticker or action phrase from the dream that will help to move its energy into life. 

Text of the Nine Keys partially adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.

Art: Frantisek Kupka, "The Dream"

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Lost in Dreams

Not all my dreams are mythic adventures or exotic destination travel. I sometimes find myself in frustrating repetitive situations where my dream self is very far from a master of the universe. The other morning I came back travel worn and disappointed from a dream in which I was lost and confused and looking for help in all the wrong places.

Things started out well with a big book event in California in my honor. Then for some reason I got on a bus without checking where it was going and found myself in a remote location, hiring a sketchy character off the street to drive me back to my point of departure. I realized things were off when he led me down a scruffy path among trash bins where a weird black-and-white rabbit seemed to be snacking on the bloody remains of his twin, His car turned out to be a filthy rustbucket. At that point my dream self had the minimal good sense to pull out but was still far from where he wanted to go.
I recorded all the details. I will think about the rabbits and I will pay attention if any elements start to play out in ordinary reality, because dreams can show us the future quite literally and I have been known to do book events in California.
What weighed upon me after this dream was the reprise of a familiar, recurring dream situation I will call Lost and Clueless. The details change from dream to dream but the situation repeats every so often. When it does I make myself stay with the dream and ask: where in waking life am I Lost and Clueless in the sense that I am failing to use common sense, to adopt rational solutions and to seek help in appropriate quarters?
I think my dream producers gave me another B movie because they wanted to me to receive a message and do something about it. I would have liked to slam the door on my Lost in California dream. But I don't ever let myself dismiss an uncomfortable dream, let alone shrug "It's only a dream" because I know that every dream tells me more than I already know.
So I wrote my report as an email I sent to myself, my favorite way of first documenting a dream. Then I confronted the uncomfortable question: Where in waking life am I Lost and Clueless right now?
The answer came to me at once. For many weeks I had put off doing my part to complete a family Help Book. It is both a locator for documents and services and a set of directions any of us could use to get help in an emergency, the kind of guide that tells you who to call if the pipes freeze or the internet is down. The utility of this Help Book was made very clear in physical reality on the night of my Lost in California dream; we discovered that our internet was down for several hours.
Dreams require action. I postponed other plans and sat down at my desk and did my bit to complete the Help Book. This took less time than I had feared. With that job done, I felt grateful for the dream, no longer frustrated by it. No need now to hire a sketchy character with an odd bunny off the street. Though the link between the content of my dream and the waking situation might seem obscure to an outsider, I felt the inner logic and accepted the push.
We can be lost in dreams, as in waking life, in other ways that provide another kind of course correction. There is Lost and Clueless. There is also Lost and Found. The navigational law of serendipity is that we may need to get lost in order to find ourselves. The word "serendipity" is derived from Serendib, the magical kingdom in the story of Sindbad the sailor. Everyone wants to find the kingdom but it is not on any map. Sindbad finds it only after he falls off the charts, is shipwrecked, loses his shipmates and washes up on an unknown shore. To find a place you do not know you must go by a way you do not know. You can get lost in a dream, as in life, and find yourself in a place of wonder and delight. I'm looking forward to the next dream like that.

Drawing: "Lost in California" (c) Robert Moss