Sunday, February 27, 2022

Hegetor oneiron: to Hermes in the heart

Hegetor oneiron
Leader of dreams
Hermes in the heart
Transit of the moon
Giver of words and goodly speech
Interpreter and advocate for humans

You of the golden wand and winged feet
Sender of true oracles
who speaks through sacred dreams
and weaves shimmering threads of sympathy

Guide of souls
Helmsman between the worlds
You escort the souls of your chosen
You call back lost souls
You raise the dead

Lord of many ways
I am your watchman
By day give me your signs
By night grant me your skill
to read in dreams what is and will be

- inspired by an invocation of Hermes in Papyri Graecae Magicae (Greek Magical Papyri) translated by Hans Dieter Betz, XVIIIb: 1-23. Hegetor oneiron ("ruler [or leader] of dreams") is a praise name in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.

On the Just-so-ness of certain dreams

Reflections on my travel report from my last cycle of dreams overnight.

February 27, 2022


Moving back to Chatham

Talking with a group that includes a woman with a trade paperback about Iroquois festivals and a huge, overweight Onondaga elder with a protruding belly who declares himself to be a great admirer of mine. He recalls coming to a talk I gave many years ago, in Chatham. They reminisce about a storm that once tore the roof off a longhouse during a Midwinter festival. I tell him I'd like to walk with him in Johnson country. We agree to meet in Johnstown in the summer and maybe stay overnight at a motel. I bid him farewell for now in Mohawk, glad to be making an Iroquois friend.  Tekateweiarikht'ha. "I take off now beating my wings."

 It's 12:45 pm and I'm running late for a house warming. We are moving back to Chatham. There are droves of people here that I don't know. I walk around sticking out my hand and announcing, “I'm Robert, your host.” This produces every kind of reaction. One woman says she needs five minutes of my time but gets tongue tied when I say she can have two. An old man, also named Robert, starts weeping when I ask if he knows what our name means. I tell him, “Bright in fame” and I playact performing in the floodlights. Young males who think they are hip don't seem to understand or care who I am. A flirty younger woman bops my shoulder with something to get my attention. I try to say something to people in languages corresponding to their names. “Guido.” “Molto piacere”. A sharp, hawk-nosed Israeli says his name is Avalal (?) Nehamot. I have to explain to people that we used to live just outside the village of Chatham, on a lot of land. 

Feelings: tired after all that socializing. Just so.

Reality check 

I bought a farm in the township of Chatham in 1986 because of a white oak and a red-tailed hawk. During the four years I lived on the farm I was called in dreams by ancestors of the land, into the world of Sir William Johnson, the Irish-born colonial Superintendent of Indians, and the Mohawk Iroquois clanmother and woman of power who tried to influence him. My first Iroquois friend in contemporary time was Onondaga and he came to our home in Chatham. 

Later an Onondaga elder asked me to share dreams in which I was called to fly on the wings of a hawk and to receive instruction in an archaic form of the Mohawk language. He told me matter-of-factly, "You made some visits and you received some visitations." Out of these experiences I wrote a cycle of historical novels and a book titled Dreamways of the Iroquois and embarked on my path as a dream teacher. 

I have no plans to move back to the Chatham area but I am planning a house move. It’s possible that I will be drawn back to the world of Johnson and the First Peoples he knew well.

On the Just-so-ness of certain dreams 

My most frequent journal comment on my feelings after a dream is "just so", meaning "been there, done that". Returning from dreams, I very often feel as if I am coming back from a trip. Sometimes the kind that takes you across oceans, sometimes the kind that takes you just across the street. Such dreams don’t feel symbolic except in the sense that all of life is symbolic. They invite careful inspection rather than analysis. The questions I ask are Who, What, Where, When, How?

In my last dream overnight – the one that left me tired after much socializing – I attended my own housewarming. I was moving back to an area where I used to live, not to the same house, which stood on a great deal of land, but to a house of a similar vintage on a modest lot. I knew none of the people at the party and went around sticking out my hand and introducing myself as their host, which produced every kind of response from gushing enthusiasm to cool indifference.

I am planning a house move but not to this area. I could meet some of the dream characters in the future so there may be some precog elements. However, I doubt that the dream primarily concerns a possible future. It feels more like a dream of an alternate reality where one of my parallel selves made different choices. The content also makes me think about my possible need to go back to an old field to retrieve something from an earlier time in this life. That theme  is supported by my encounter with an Onondaga elder and my interest in returning to Johnson country in an earlier scene in the same dream cycle. 

A Jungian observer might say that my very social housewarming dream could be “compensation” for my isolation in these pandemic times, when I rarely leave the house and see very few people. Since dreams can have many layers, I am willing to look at content from multiple perspectives. I am ready to ask: where am I at home or not at home? What’s going on in the house of my body or my soul? What part of me is the big-bellied Onondaga elder, the tongue-tied woman, the hip teenager or the flirt? However, my primary feeling remains, been there, done that.

Illustration: "Hawk calls" by Robert Moss

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Change is valuable: The case of the buffalo nickel

When people tell me they can't remember dreams, I sometimes tell them to go out into the world and dream with their eyes wide open, by paying attention to signs and symbols and synchronicity around them. This often produces interesting results right away. Quite frequently, paying attention to synchronicity reopens the connection to dreams. 

There is a mirror relationship between dreams and meaningful coincidence. Dreaming, we get out there: we travel beyond body and brain into other realities, sometimes to a personal movie production studio where dreams are made to bring us awake. Through the play of synchronicity, powers of the deeper world poke through the curtains of our everyday perception with the same design: to bring us awake to a deeper order or events and life possibilities.

Looking through my journals just now, I found this pleasant little incident involving a woman who didn't remember dreams but found a waking dream just round the corner after I suggested she might look for one. 

I gave an evening talk to a large and highly enthusiastic crowd at a store in Mountain View, California.

When I moved to a table to sign books a woman told me, when she reached the head of the line, "I find what you say fascinating but I never remember my dreams."

I reassured her that she was not alone. Dream drought is endemic in our society.

"What can I do?"

I gave her a few simple suggestions. "Give yourself a juicy intention for the night. Make time to linger in bed and see what comes back. Be kind to wisps and fragments. Keep a journal. Write down something every day, even if there are no dreams. "That way you are saying to your dream producers, I'm, here. I'm ready to listen."

I scrawled an inscription in her book. May your best dreams come true - and may you remember them.

I said, "There is something you can do right now, tonight. You can let the world speak to you in the manner of a dream. When you leave the store, tell yourself that the first unusual or striking thing that enters your field of perception will be a message to you from the world, a kind of in-your-face dream symbol."

She looked a bit skeptical as she went out.

She rushed back into the store while I was still signing books. 

"Look what I got!" She held out her palm to show me a Buffalo nickel (one of the old "Indian Head" nickels retired from circulation in 1938). "I got it in the change at a Chinese take-out place. Do you know how rare this is?"

I said, "My one liner-would be, change is valuable."

 She clapped her hands, delighted. "Yes! Change is worth a lot. I guess I am going to dream now."


Monday, February 21, 2022

William James lost in the forest of dreams


He called it “the most peculiar experience of my whole life”. He said that it put him in a state of mental confusion that made his teeth chatter. The voice is that of William James, the renowned American psychologist, philosopher and psychic researcher. He was talking about dreams that had shaken him to his core, "dreams I could not remember myself to have had”.

On February 12, 1906,  James was in San Francisco, in a bed at Stanford University. He woke at breakfast time from “a quiet dream of some sort”. While gathering his thoughts, his memory of the dream “seemed suddenly to get mixed np with reminiscences of a dream of an entirely different sort, which seemed to telescope, as it were, into the first one, a dream very elaborate, of lions, and tragic”. He decided that the lion dream must have been “a previous dream of the same sleep”. However, he found the apparent mingling of two dreams to be “something very queer, which I had never before experienced” – and deeply disturbing.

The following night, he woke from heavy sleep in the middle of a dream. Thinking about the dream he became confused by the irruption of two more dreams into his memory. They “shuffled themselves abruptly in between the parts of the first dream” and he could not grasp their origin.

“Whence come these dreams? I asked. They were close to me, and fresh, as if I had just dreamed them; and yet they were far away from the first dream.” He could not find a connection between them. One had a “cockney atmosphere”, and “happened to someone in London”. The other two dreams had American locales. In one, perhaps the one from which he wakened, he was trying on a coat. The other was “a sort of nightmare and had to do with soldiers” Each dream had completely different content and a distinct emotional charge. Yet as they telescoped in and out of each other, James noted, “I seemed to myself to have been their common dreamer, they seemed quite as distinctly not to have been dreamed in succession, in that one sleep… I seemed thus to belong to three different dream-systems at once, no one of which would connect itself either with the others or with my waking life. I began to feel curiously confused and scared, and tried to wake myself up wider, but I seemed already wide-awake.”

His emotional response was amazingly strong. “Presently cold shivers of dread ran over me: am I getting into other people's dreams?” Was this telepathy, or a descent into dementia and mental confusion, even multiple personality disorder?

"Decidedly I was losing hold of my 'self,' and making acquaintance with a quality of mental distress that I had never known before, its nearest analogue being the sinking, giddying anxiety that one may have when, in the woods, one discovers that one is really lost.”

Who is the dreamer? Whose are the dreams? He repeated the question over and over, even in the published version of his notes. “Whose? whose? WHOSE? Unless I can attach them, I am swept out to sea with no horizon and no bond, getting lost. …My teeth chattered at the thought.”

His experiences increased his empathy for those diagnosed with dementia, Verwirrtheit [mental confusion] or suffering “invasions of secondary personality”. “We regard them as simply curious; but what they want in the awful drift of their being out of its customary self, is any principle of steadiness to hold on to. We ought to assure them and reassure them that we will stand by them, and recognize the true self in them to the end.”

Desperate to explain what had happened to him on those San Francisco nights, he played with the notion that it had something to do with the hour of waking. On going to bed, he normally slept heavily until after two. On the nights of multiple dreams, he had woken around midnight. He had never remembered “midnight dreams" before. Was it possible that his mind was playing catchup, bringing him dreams from midnights past that had escaped him until now? The idea gave him relief. He had been scared to let himself return to sleep and dreams. Now he lay down, fell asleep, and woke at seven with “a curious, but not alarming, confusion between two dreams.”

As things settled, James continued to be haunted by the shock of those San Francisco nights. “My confusion was foudroyante [like a lightning bolt], a state of consciousness unique and unparalleled in my 64 years of the world's experience.” 

He felt unable to rule out the possibility that his multiple dreams were produced by “a telepathic entrance into someone else's dreams” or “a doubling up of personality".

“I don't know now 'who' had those three dreams, or which one 'I' first woke up from, so quickly did they substitute themselves back and forth for each other, discontinuously…To this day I feel that those extra dreams were dreamed in reality, but when, where, and by whom, I cannot guess.”

It appears that James never settled his inquiry as to what had made his teeth chatter, though brilliantly equipped to do so. He made use of the term "multiverse" but it seems he did not apply it to his understanding of dreams: to the possibility that in nested and multiple interacting dreams we may be in multiple realities at the same time. Exploring what that means through direct experience is a royal road to fulfilling James' aim of expanding the "margins" of our fields of consciousness - and our understanding of the nature of the universe.  


James kept a detailed record of his experiences in his college bed in San Francisco on the nights of February 12-13, 1906 but it gives only brief and vague impressions of the content of the dreams that appalled him. He published most of these journal pages in an essay on the expansion of the field of consciousness in a scholarly journal in 1910. See William James, “A Suggestion About Mysticism” in The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods Vol. 7, No. 4 (Feb. 17, 1910) 85-92.

Photo by RM






Thursday, February 17, 2022

Those who attend in the twilight zone


All these people are gathered. They are like actors who have taken their places on stage and are waiting quietly for the curtain to go up. It comes to me that they are "attending", an interesting word. 
    I have the feeling they are characters who could have parts in a new book. Yet they have their own lives. None of them seems to be aware of me.
    But now a young woman slips through their ranks, to look at me directly. She is red haired, tall and slim, quite lovely. Her clothes are of an earlier time. Her gaze is deep. I cannot read her feelings, but I would like to know her. She moves away to my left, and I sense that she wants me to follow. When I go after her, however, I am interrupted by a mature woman with long black hair and very white skin who thrusts herself between us. I know she is filed with jealous hate for the redhead.
    There is an old story here, of passion and jealousy. I sense it goes back several centuries, to the British Isles. I won't follow it now. The sunlight streaming into my bedroom round the edge of the drapes is quite bright. I reach for my French blue sleep mask (thank you Air France) and stretch out on my back, enjoying the luxury of drifting back from my twilight zone adventures into the sleep that repairs the body and allows the dream soul to go wandering without an agenda.

Often, I find different casts of characters waiting or popping up as I hover on the edge of sleep or linger in the twilight zone of hypnagogia. Sometimes, they appear to be quite literally on stage, or in the wings, waiting for me to show up in order to start or resume a play. More often, they seem to be characters in life dramas that are being played out in other times or in parallel worlds, dramas in which I have a lead role from which I may have been absent while attending to things in my default reality.

When I am writing, I am occasionally thrilled to discover in this way that my characters - who may or may not have been previously known to me - are assembling in this way, ready to claim their parts in my stories, or at least audition for those parts.

Those attending. I like this description for the people who appear on the cusp between waking and sleep, or between sleep and waking. To attend can mean to take care of or wait upon someone; in its Latin origin, in the verb attendere, it means "to stretch toward" something. Encounters with those who attend in the twilight zone can certainly help to stretch the mind.

Illustration: "Cutrtain Time" dream oracle card by Robert Moss

A world-city that rose from a dream

After he made himself master of the Roman world, the emperor Constantine traveled to the site of Troy, in Asia Minor. He had decided to found a new capital for the eastern empire, and thought that Troy - the legendary origin of the first Romans - would have the required mythic cachet. Inside the ruined walls of the city, however, he heard a voice telling him, "The city of Priam belongs to the past. Leave it in the past."

Afterwards, he crossed the Bosporus to the small Greek city of Byzantion, founded in the 7th century BCE by one Byzes, and initially settled by colonists from Athens and Megara. Here Constantine spent the night and dreamed, of a very old woman who became young again. On waking, he concluded that this would be the site of Nova Roma (New Rome), the place where a decrepit, elderly and dissipated world-city could rise again from its ruinous past. In 330 CE, following the dream, Constantine laid out the new city that would be known to the world, after him, as Constantinople, or, in its heyday, as simply The City.

After the Ottomans under the young Sultan Mehmed II broke down the previously impregnable walls of Constantinople in 1453, they renamed it Istanbul.

The story of the voice and the dream is less solidly evidenced than that of an earlier vision, followed by a dream, that led Constantine to march into battle under a Christian cross (the chi-ro symbol rather than the cross of Calvary) to victory over a rival emperor at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, before Rome, in 312 CE. I have discussed that sequence, which arguably led Rome (and thereby the West) to choose Christianity its established religion, in my Secret History of Dreaming. Maybe Constantine and his advisors simply had the smarts to appreciate the high strategic value of the site of the old Greek town commanding the trade routes between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and the crossings between Europe and Asia.

     I am tickled by the legend that Constantinople became a world city because of a dream. S
e non è vero, è ben trovato; "if it's not true, it's well found."  The Ottoman empire, according to another (Turkish) legend also owed its origin to a dream, the dream of Osman, but this is a story for another time.

Graphic: Constantine's Dream by Piero della Francesca (1466)

Einstein shows me the secret of synchronicity


An Einstein figure has appeared in a number of my dreams, talking in a stage German accent, sometimes at machine-gun speed, about such things as the physics of time travel and the code of the I Ching. I retain a necessary skepticism about whether my dream Einstein could possibly be connected to the great scientist, since I have a hard time wrapping my head around the simplest principles of physics. Whoever my dream Einstein may be, behind the familiar mask, he does have interesting things to reveal and to teach about the nature of multidimensional reality. Here is the dream in which Einstein showed me the secret of synchronicity:

Einstein Demonstrates Probability Bundles

A passage opens, like a long cylinder lined with silver and bronze-colored rods, angling up into the sky. As I speed up through it - shooting up effortlessly - I become aware that I am about to encounter someone who can instruct me on the workings of time and the content of the future. I come out high above the ground and look up at a huge revolving structure, something like a Ferris wheel on its side. At the end of each spoke is a different object, or rather bundle of objects. As the wheel revolves, I notice that the spokes go up and down at all angles, making the general shape of a sphere.

At the hub of the wheel is Einstein. He appears with his wild fluffy hair, in rumpled clothes, as he has appeared in other dreams. From the center, he works an engine that enables him to toss down bundles from the ends of the spokes. As one spoke dips, another rises, producing a seesaw effect. As the bundles fall to earth, Einstein instructs me that this is how the unfolding of events in time actually takes place: not in the serial fashion that is a concession to the limited human mind, but in the releasing of probability bundles, packages of time + energy whose contents will be unfolded over a certain period. The unfolding of events will be influenced by the dropping of subsequent probability bundles.*

I woke from this dream excited, with an aha sense of illumination. While Jung said that synchronicity (a word he coined) is "an acausal connecting principle", when it happens we often feel that causation is at work on a level that escapes explanation in terms of the push-pull laws of consensual reality. Einstein's demonstration provides a model of how this may work, raising our imagination to a higher dimension of the multiverse.

I think of Einstein at the wheel of that crazy machine whenever I notice a riff of coincidence. When things keep popping up that you know are connected, though there is no causation involved on the physical plane, couldn’t this be the effect of the firing of one of those probability bundles, flung from another world into this one, to burst across our space and time like multidimensional piñatas? The world "quantum" means "bundle" or "packet", so this image may be a clue to how quantum effects are manifested on a human scale.

What I like best about the dream image is that the machine that fires the probability bundles closely resembles something you might find in an amusement park, evoking a game greater than the ones we spend most of our lives playing. Heraclitus said that life in time is governed by a child king at play  moving pieces in a game on another level of reality. Maybe the pieces in play are probability bundles.


* This dream report is from my journal for December 30, 2003.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Telling a dream inside a dream

In the Babylonian Talmud it is stated that “Three types of dreams are destined to be fulfilled. These are: a dream one sees in the morning, just before he wakes up; a dream that his friend dreamt about him; and a dream that is interpreted within a dream. And some say: a dream that was repeated is likewise destined to be fulfilled.” (Berakhot 55b)

I can't endorse all of this. I don't agree with the last statement. A dream that is repeated may be a warning that is being issued again and again. However we also confuse "repeated" dreams with serial dreams in which the action is evolving and changing from one installment to the next.

"A dream one sees in the morning" may indeed be psychic, showing things at a distance in place and time. I often catch glimpses of what is going to happen in the near future when I linger in the hypnopompic state after sleep. When we dream of others, our perceptions may have an objectivity that is harder to attain when we are entangled with our own hopes and fears; however we may not understand what we are seeing.

What I want to explore here is the phenomenon of telling a dream inside a dream. I do this quite often. It is rarely a case of old-fashioned dream interpretation; I find that far too limited. It is often a case of sharing the energy, as well as the content of a dream while inside another dream - and of taking some action to apply what is being shared. Here are some examples from my journals.

On the Beach in Brazil

August 11, 2013

I love the wild beach. Water, wind and light stream together. This calls for Turner's brush. I run in and out of the water with two lovely younger women who have trained with me.

I feel myself being gently pulled out of the dream, but I want to stay with it, enjoying its energy and trying to hold every detail: the island across the waves, the buildings on the rise above the sand dunes, the palms swaying in the wind. Is this the beach in Brazil where I'll be leading a workshop later this month? It is very like it.

I let the scene go and proceed to describe it to the women who were with me in the dream. One of them needs some counsel for a friend who is going through a painful life passage. The other wants to explore some marketing ideas we began to discuss in the beach dream.

I stretch, and open my eyes, and sit up in bed. I am now in a spacious, pleasant room where more than a dozen happy people are gathered around the walls. They seem to have been waiting for me to wake up. They are all students of mine, and all but two are women. I joke that it is my good fortune in life to go everywhere surrounded by beautiful women. We are in the midst of a retreat I am leading. Our laughter is interrupted by a matronly figure, the manager of the place, who comes through a door to my right I had not noticed before to remind us that checkout time is 12 noon.

Oh, very well. I go out through the door she used to get my stuff together. I go outside the house, and now seem to be in a different country. I overhear part of the conversation of friends 
in that country and get a picture of a certain situation that may be useful. I leave them to it and go back inside the house. Funny, I can't seem to return to my room the way that I left it. The layout of this house is rather unusual. When I stepped outside, I was in another country. When I go back in, I am not where I was before.

I rose from this dream this morning, in my regular bed, in excellent spirits. I amused myself by counting the number of dream scenes that opened from each other here. There was (1) the scene on the wild beach (2) the scene where I am discussing this with the two women who were with me on the beach; (3) the bedroom with the party crowd; and (4) the outside scene where I listen to the conversation of people from yet another country, apparently in that country.

I smiled at a very familiar motif. Remembering a dream inside a dream is a common experience for me. So is telling a dream inside another dream. This sometimes triggers dream lucidity in the narrow sense of becoming aware that you are dreaming inside a dream. Sometimes it brings the ability to navigate and draw knowledge from multiple realities in whatever state of reality and consciousness we happen to be in.

Called by Sea Eagle

Back in 1994, I dreamed that a sea eagle was wrestling with me on a beach for possession of the Australian hat I used to wear in those days. The struggle felt altogether physical. I reported the dream to a large audience in an auditorium at a conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD)*. Then I woke up in my bed, several months before that conference took place. The tussle with the sea eagle helped to prepare me for a very important life transition that was going to require my return to Australia. The scene where I told the dream, within a second dream, had more than entertainment value (though I never underrate that).

When I recorded the dream, I noted that I was speaking in an auditorium with chairs bolted to the floor in tilted rows under sterile lightning. This was quite the wrong environment for the workshop I had agreed to lead at the ASD conference, in which I planned to have people choose partners and journey together with the aid shamanic drumming. I called one of the ASD organizers and learned than the scheduled location for my workshop was identical to the auditorium in my dream. It was now time to tell the dream in which I was telling a dream to someone in the dream of waking life. By doing that, I was able to have my workshop venue changed to a dreamier space.

In a Sea Plane with the Professor

November 17, 1995

Here's another example of telling a dream inside a dream:

I am being piloted by an elderly professor in a small seaplane over a mountain range. As we dip low, over the reddish peaks, I remark that this reminds me of a dream in which I was flying in a similar plane over a cordillera, and how this kind of plane has always appealed to my sense of romance and adventure. We swoop low over a body of water. The sensations of flight and movement are wonderfully vivid.

 “This is like a dream!” I exclaim in delight.

It's like a dream because it is a dream. Like life.


Driving with My Father

I have dreamed of the departed for as long as I can remember. Our interaction usually feels perfectly normal, though information is shared that is beyond what is accessible to me in ordinary reality. I become aware that I am in another reality, where those who died on Earth are very much alive. I become lucid in that sense but rarely say to myself "I must be dreaming". One of the occasions when I did is noted in this journal report in which I proceeded to tell a dream within another dream. 

May 1, 1994 

My father takes me for a drive. The steering wheel is on the right. We are having a wonderful time. His moral support and counsel are immensely encouraging and steadying, at a time when my emotions and thoughts have been confused by various encounters with other people, including a couple of pushy tabloid reporters who want to write articles on my psychic abilities.

I realize I must be dreaming, because I remember that my father died in 1987.

I don’t want to lose the wonderful experience of the dream. I resolve to stay with it and explore its conditions more carefully. I start to open the car door, intending to make a small alteration in the dream scene, to confirm that I am dreaming and able to transform elements in the dream. When I open the door just a crack, I find the car is surrounded by pulsing white light, without form or dimension.

Now I wake up and describe my dream to others, possibly including the tabloid reporters.

When I wake up back in my body in bed, I realize that the dream lucidity I thought I had achieved was lucidity in a dream-within-a-dream. It strikes me that this is a metaphor for life.

[*] Now the International Association for the Study of Dreams

Photos: Praia Morro das Pedras Negras, Santa Catarina Island by Robert Moss

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Flooding, or The Making of a Poet

It is said of a people who live east of Fez that they value poetry above all other human activities. There was a man among them who despised poetry. He said it was for the weak and for women. Bashir was a warrior and a hunter, sudden and violent in his moods, given to strong drink. 

One night he was caught by a dream. The moon threw down a lasso of light. It pulled him down, spilling his wine, extinguishing the lamps. He fell into blackness that became the sound of rushing water, more water than the village had ever seen. When his sight cleared he saw that the little river where the women washed clothes had become a great torrent, waves rising mountain high. The sky sheeted heavy rain. There was no horizon except endless water. 

In the savage flood, he saw trees and houses, donkeys and camels, carried away, and a woman he might have loved and a man to whom he owed money and the witch who sold him a charm against the evil eye after setting the curse on him, and a fat grafter whose neck he had broken though the thief had been buried for three years. He wept when he heard the howls of the sight dog who had hunted with him. Then the flood took him too. He had nothing to hold onto, nowhere to stand. This was the end of the world. His life memories swirled in his head like water going down a drain. 

He was thrown up by an immense wave, and hurled down with bone-shaking force. He tasted sand and rust. He opened his eyes. He smelled coffee and warm bread. His woman was making him breakfast. He brushed this aside, more gently than he might have done on another day. This gave her the courage to ask if he was well. She did not say that the noises he was making in the night were not human, or even bestial. 

He told her he was going to see Shaykh Omar. He must go at once. He paused only to put on a clean garment and his sandals. Omar the Blind, they called him, not because he had cataracts but because he saw with inner vision. He lived in a house no better and no worse than most in the village, under a date tree. He was famous for his beautiful ghazals, lyrical poems of erotic encounters between the soul and its beloved. He was the judge of the poetry contests that were more popular here than football. 

"I've been waiting for you," the shaykh told Bashir. 

"I dreamed of a flood. It took the whole land. It was the end of the world. Does it mean I am going to die?" 

"You have died already, my son. Welcome to paradise." 

Bashir gaped, then looked carefully around. The landscape was surely the same as yesterday, and the smells, and the hot dry wind gusting from the south. Yet there was a subtle shimmer to things, as if nothing was quite fixed or tethered to the earth. The wind carried the sound of stringed instruments. With the music came birdsong that became words. The words shook their wings inside him, then took flight from his lips. 

"You broke the vessel and I became wine." 

Bashir sat open-mouthed, shocked at what he had released. 

Omar the blind sipped his glass of red tea and made a sound like a kiss with his wet mouth. "My friend, everything will be different. You have been made a poet. It is known that all poetry comes from flooding."

Art: Claude Monet, "Flood Waters" (1896)

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Inviting in your genius

The Romans never described a person as a genius. They might say, "Apollonius has a genius" - i.e., a special relationship with a tutelary spirit. The word genius is related to gignere, which means to engender or "beget". It implies reproductive energy, the power of inseminating new life. The Romans called the marriage bed genialis lectus. As observed by Jungian analyst and classicist Marie-Louise von Franz, "this referred not only to sexual potency but also to the qualities that today we would call psychic vitality, temperament, resourcefulness and a lively imagination."
    In a well-bred Roman household, a statuette representing the personal genius of the father of the family usually stood near the hearth in the kitchen. It might be the figure of a young man, holding a horn of plenty or a phallus or a snake. The woman of the house was believe to have her own guardian spirit, or "Juno", who embodied the power of giving birth. In the Roman conception, each of us is born with a personal relationship with a spiritual patron, or genius, who is the source of creative energy.
    James Russell Lowell was close to this perception when he wrote: "Talent is that which is in a man's power; genius is that in whose power a man is."
    To live and work creatively, we need to make room for this energy. The Romans were on to something. To bring something new into the world is to give birth. We see this in the pregnancy dreams that are not about physical childbirth, but about something new that is borning inside us. We can feel it in our bodies in a period of creative gestation.
    When one of my books is ready to be born, I feel pregnant. I mean that in a quite literal sense. My appetites change. I develop odd cravings at strange hours. I forget to eat or sleep for days at a time, then walk out of a dinner party to crash or feed my face with something I wouldn't normally touch. I develop morning sickness. When my new baby is ready to come out, I can't stop the contractions, even though sometimes, like a woman I once heard screaming in a maternity ward, I want to yell, "This has to stop!" There is no dope, no epidural, no C-section available to dull the experience or shortcut the labor; whatever is in me has to come out the old-fashioned way. There is an equivalent to birthing in water: the blessed gift of going into a state of flow, in which I relax into the rhythms of what is fighting its way into the world.
     As Erich Neumann remarked, "Every human being is by nature creative. Yet one of the gravest and most menacing problems in our Western civilization arises from the fact that this civilization cuts man off from his natural creativity."
    To choose and act creatively, we must be able to put our commonplace selves, with their reliance on structures and schedules,on one side, and make room for the source energy of the begetter. Creative inspiration, as all artists and discoverers know, comes through spontaneous combustion between the waking mind and other levels of consciousness. "I know now," wrote Yeats, "that revelation is from the self, but from that age-old memoried self, that shares the elaborate shell of the mollusc and the child in the womb, that teaches the birds to make their nest; and that genius is a crisis that joins the buried self for certain moments to our daily trivial mind."
     You cannot program a creative breakthrough, but you can clear a space where it may come about. Dreamwork is a wonderful aid to the creative process, because the source of dream images and the source of creative inspiration are not separate. When you resolve to catch your dreams, you are telling your creative source, "I am available. I'm listening."
     When you record your dreams, you are developing the art of storytelling. You will discover your gifts as a writer, and if you are already a writer,you will find you have done your "warm-up" exercises almost effortlessly and are ready to go he distance. Best of all, through dreamwork you are constantly learning to approach challenges from new angles, in a spirit of play. The Romans believed that a person's genius rejoices in good living, in laughter, in healthy sex, in having fun. Forget to play, and you are not working with your genius, for whom play is the only thing in mortal affairs worth taking seriously.

Adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press

Image: Winged genius from mural in a Roman villa at Boscoreale, near Pompeii, late 1st century, now in the Louvre.

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Midnight Library and the Café Jet-Lag


"Sometimes just to say your own truth out loud is enough to find others like you."

It's a great moment in Matt Haig's great novel The Midnight Library, when Nora, who is sliding between parallel lives, discovers there are others like her. This is what Hugo, the first to reveal himself, tells her.
"We are sliders. We have a root life in which we lying somewhere, unconscious, suspended between life and death, and then we arrive in a place...A library, a video store, an art gallery, a casino, a restaurant..."
And this place becomes the portal to a parallel world where you find yourself in the body and situation of your parallel self as they are in this same moment. You'll be challenged to catch up with their divergent biography, with a lover you never knew, a job you never had, songs you never learned, muscles you didn't know you had.
The many worlds interpretation of reality, as it has evolved, makes sliding acceptable to theoretical physics. The architecture for transit - the library, the video store - is easier for human minds than theorems about quantum waves.

You don't need to be half-dead to explore this field for yourself, though we all exist somewhere between life and death. I use a very special library, and a cosmic video store, and an art gallery or museum often as portals for lucid dream adventures in parallel worlds and others and play guide for groups that want first-hand experience of these things..
Matt Haig's slider remind me that perhaps I haven't made sufficient use of restaurants, though I often dine well in my dreams and return with the taste in my mouth. I think I will see whether the Café Jet-Lag in Paris, where I would often stop for coffee or vin rouge after overnight flights, is a friendly transit lounge for interdimensional travel. The name matches my condition when I return from world-jumping.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

"What is your contract with God?"

Who could be knocking on the door, so late? Reluctantly, I left my book and the warmth of the fire. White moonlight gave the smooth oval of my visitor's face a pearly glow. A pleasant face, without distinctive features. The man at the door appeared to be ten years younger than myself, and perhaps a bit simple. I sensed a quiet fervor in him. Was he a Jesus freak, one of the kind who peddle religion at the doorstep?

     "I come from my father's house." His first words commanded my whole attention. I knew that this statement was true, and better than any identity card.
     He gave me a name I recognized from my father's Scottish family.
     He watched me with steady eyes, unblinking. He asked calmly, "What is your contract with God?"
     The scene shimmered, then exploded. Back in my body, I rose from the dream gasping, as if coming up from under a giant wave on a surf beach. The bedside clock told me it was shortly after 3 a.m. That's a popular time for people to be born, or to die. My wife was breathing evenly, away in a different dreamland, and did not stir as I slipped from the bed and padded downstairs to record what had just happened to me.
     I had no doubt that I had received a visitation. The stranger at my door had come to me with a question that pierced me to the marrow. The question implied that at some time, in some reality, I had made a sacred contract, "a contract with God". If this were so, then how could I have forgotten it? What would be the penalty for violating such a contract, in God knows how many ways? Would amnesia serve as an alibi?
     This visitation sowed a sort of divine discontent in me. It made me restless in familiar modes of living,    urgent to know the contents of the contract my visitor had mentioned. It brought back shards of memory, from my earlier life and from other lives. I remembered another visitor, who appeared as a radiant young man on white nights in my boyhood, and engaged in extended conversation; he taught me that the knowledge that matters is acquired through anamnesis, through "remembering" what we knew, on the level of soul or spirit, before we entered our present bodies.
     We humans are forgetful animals. We forget and remember, remember and forget. Sometimes it is necessary to die in order to remember what really matters. There is a magnificent story about that in Plato's Republic. It concerns a man who died and came back, a soldier named Er. In today's language, we might call him a near-death experiencer. From his experiences on the other side, Er brought back one of the greatest accounts in world literature of how each of us, in a space between lives, may choose the terms and conditions of our next life experience before our souls take up residence in a new body. There are varying degrees of choice, in this version. Then there is the question of how much an incoming soul will be allowed to remember after taking up residence in a body on earth. On the way to the body, a soul gets to drink from Lethe, the waters of forgetfulness; according to how deeply it drinks, it will remember a little, or a lot, or perhaps nothing at all.
     I like, even more, a Yoruba version of how we choose our births and may be helped to remember the sacred contracts we tend to forget. As the Yoruba tell it, before it enters a body the ori, or individual soul, kneels before the high God, Olodumare, to confirm a destiny that is intended to unfold in a new life.  Fortunate, evolved souls are able to choose their destinies. However, many souls have only a limited degree of choice, and many more have their destinies "laid upon their backs."
     When a soul has received its life contract from the high God, it embarks on its journey toward physical birth. At one of the gates between the worlds, it must answer the question of the Gatekeeper, the oni’bode

Gatekeeper: Where are you going?
Soul: I am going into the world.
Gatekeeper: What are you going to do there?

Can a contract with God be renegotiated? I am cheered by the Yoruba teaching that 
“an unhappy destiny can be rectified if it can be ascertained what it is.”
    I am also inspired by another Yoruba insight: that we have an ally on a higher plane of reality who is in no way alien to ourselves. This ally can help us remember our contract with God, and coach us on how to fulfill it or modify it. While the soul is down here in "the marketplace of this world", it has a “double in heaven,” observing from a higher level. From one life to another, they may swap places, alternately playing the role of actor and witness or memory-keeper. 
    Maybe the man at my door who said he came from "my father's house" was such a being. Certainly, he has inspired me to recover elements of what I regard as a sacred contract, and to live, work and play, with a clear sense of life purposes to which I believe a committed myself before I came into my present life.
    Let me hasten to add that remembering a sacred contract doesn't mean getting stuck in details. A babalawo, or high divination priest of Ifa, the Yoruba oracle, once told me that contrary to what most people suppose, most things in life are negotiable. I may be interested in renegotiating one clause on my contract that says I am supposed to publish 68 books; I am only up to 26. In the workshops where I guide intrepid dream travelers to make journeys to recover their sacred contracts, I sometimes suggest a follow-up visit to an otherworldly yet cheerily familiar Contracts Office where negotiation is the name of the game.

For more on the Myth of Er and Yoruba teachings about how the ori receives a destiny, please see my book Dreamgates.

Photos: "Dream Detective" and "Yoruba Gelede Mask" by RM