Sunday, July 31, 2022

Love advice from Icelandic sagas: Don't date someone who doesn't dream


“If you don’t dream, don’t bother to call on me again.” 

   Thyri Haraldsdóttir, a noblewoman, to a medieval king of Denmark who wanted to marry her.


Iceland has always been a country of dreamers. Dreaming is important in the Icelandic sagas and in the Völuspa even the gods go to wise women for help with their dreams. A Gallup survey of 1,200 Icelanders in 2003 found that 72 percent found meaning in their dreams, and many reported dreaming the future and sharing dreams regularly within their families. The Icelandic language distinguishes vital categories of significant dreams, such as dreams of the future (berdreymi) and dream visions (draumspa).

The story of Thyri Haraldsdóttir, from the Icelandic sagas, is a beautiful example of how dreaming can make us wiser, and opens the way of the heart. Thyri [written in Icelandic as Þyri] was the daughter of an earl in Holstein, although some say she was the daughter of an English king. She was a dreamer who saw far and deep into the nature of things, and her father consulted her on all important affairs.

Gormur, king of Denmark, wanted to marry Thyri and asked her father for her hand. The earl said that he would leave his daughter to decide for herself, “since she is much wiser than I am.” Thyri told her royal suitor to go home and build himself a new house, just big enough to sleep in, where no house had stood before. In this place he must sleep alone for three nights, and pay close attention to his dreams. Then he must send a messenger to her to report on his dreams.

“If you don’t dream, don’t bother to call on me again,” Thyri told him firmly.

Gormur remembered his dreams, and the content satisfied Thyri, because she consented to marry him. The dreams were recounted at the wedding feast.

 In the first dream, three white boars came out of the sea, fed on the grass, and went back to the sea. In the second, three red boars came out of the sea, and did the same. In the third dream, three black boars with great tusks did the same, but when they returned to the sea, there was such a loud rush of the waves returning to the land that the noise could be heard throughout Denmark.

Thyri's interpretation was that the three white boars represented three very cold, snowy winters which would kill "all the fruits of the ground." The red boars meant there would next be three mild winters, while the black boars with tusks indicated there would be wars in the land. The fact that they all went back into the sea showed that their effect would not be long-lasting. The loud noise as the waves of the sea rolled back on the Danish shores meant that "mighty men would come on the land with great wars, and many of his relations would take part." 

She said that had he dreamed of the black boars and the rushing waves the first night, she would not have married him, but now, since she would be available to provide advice, there would be little injury from the wars. We might wonder whether the writer who recorded this narrative was familiar with the tale in Genesis of Pharaoh's dream and how Joseph's interpretation saved Egypt from  famine. 

In a region of strong women, Thyri became the wisest of queens, remembered as "The Pride of Denmark". Through dreaming, she helped the king to scout the future and read the true factors at work behind the surface of events. Decisions of state were based on these dreams.



Source: The story of Thyri Haraldsdóttir is in the version of Ólafs Saga Tryggvasónar in the 14th century Icelandic Flateyjarbók. While Thyri is not actually Icelandic, her story comes to us through Icelandic tradition. I am indebted to Valgerður Hjördis Bjarnadóttir, a gifted Icelandic dreamer and scholar who is helping to revive the ancient dreamways, for bringing this wonderful story to my attention, and for the translation on which this summary is based. You can read more about Icelandic dreaming, both medieval and modern. in The Secret History of Dreaming.

Image: Viking queen from "The World of the Vikings" exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Dreaming Expands Our Humanity: Report from Paris, 1944

I'm in Paris early in August 1944. People are hungry and torn between hope and despair. Allied armored columns are speeding towards the capital, according to the BBC and the underground newspapers passed hand to hand. The word from Free French General Leclerc is Tenez bon. Nous arrivons. "Hold on. We're coming."

But not all the French are looking forward to the Liberation. I listen to frantic conversations of once-comfortable bourgeois merchants and functionaries who grew fatter by serving the Germans, and ordinary Parisians who obeyed Marshal Pétain's appeal to "collaborate" with the Militärverwaltung in Frankreich, the German Military Administration in France.

I look in on women who were kept as mistresses by German officers. Some have been living in luxury, in swank hotels, with running champagne and silk stockings. I watch them huddled together, talking about survival plans. They are terrified of what will be done to them when their protectors are gone. I watch some of them pleading with Hans or Otto, Don't leave us. Take us with you

A Wehrmacht colonel feels sympathy, but there's nothing he can do except to give his mistress his gold cigarette case. He has no idea what will happen to him, when Paris falls, as he knows it must. His comrades will simply dump the women they used and leave them to the mercies of their countrymen. Some will be stripped of their finery and their hair, beaten and shamed and used for rough sex.


I woke from this dream feeling oppressed, in a hotel off the Boulevard Saint-Germain during a visit to Paris in December, 2013. To clear my feelings, I trekked out to Montparnasse to visit the Memorial Maréchal Leclerc and the Museé Jean Moulin. I sat in a little theater with a wrap-around screen watching multiple images of Paris in the last days of the Occupation.

I wondered why I had dreamed into the situation of the people I had viewed the previous night, people who had made unpleasant choices and were facing unpleasant consequences, people who would not be among those jostling to cheer the Americans and the Free French as they entered Paris. Maybe one of those women was kept in a room in my hotel, under the Occupation.

It occurred to me, yet again, that one of the functions of dreaming is to expand our humanity. In a hotel bed in Paris, I traveled back across time into life situations of people who were compelled by history to make terrible choices. I was reminded that the typical Parisian during World War II was not a Resistance fighter but someone who was simply trying to survive, to put food on the table, to get through.

I was in Paris in 1970, a year after Marcel Ophüls' tremendous four-hour documentary film  Le chagrin et la pitié ("The Sorrow and the Pity") was released. The film showed how collaboration was normal for most of the French under Vichy, and all the justifications for it beyond acceptance of military defeat. A government committee ruled that the film “destroyed the myths that the people of France still need”. 

More recently, French historian Patrick Buisson has claimed in a book with the provocative title1940-1945 Anneés  Erotiques (“1940-45 Erotic Years”) that a remarkable number of French women traded sexual favors with the Germans. He floats the idea - infuriating to many - that for some French women this amounted to a kind of sexual liberation. Photos from Nazi archives, like the one above, were displayed in a big exhibition in Paris showing what look like high times shared by Nazi officers and French girls, generating more rage and disgust.

So perhaps I was dreaming not only into French lives in 1944, but into the continuing challenge, for the heirs of Occupation - in which everyone's family had a story - to come to terms with history. Mulling this, I recognize that those of us who are born and live in countries that have not suffered invasion and occupation in recent generations are truly privileged. It is a challenge to our empathy and imagination to grasp fully the history of other peoples.

I recalled a Latin tag from my school days. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. It is from Terence (aka Publius Terentius Afer, writing around 170 BCE) and it means, "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me."

Dreaming, nothing that is human is truly alien to us.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Dreams Are Not On Our Case, They’re On Our Side


Our dreams show us things we may prefer not to think about -- which is a major reason why many of us slam that door shut on our dreams and try to keep it closed. Those things may include future life problems, or parts of ourselves we tend to ignore or repress, or the larger values and issues involved in a situation we are approaching from a limited point of view. We may prefer not to think about these matters, but if they are in our dreams, it is because our wiser Self is telling us we need to think about them. 

When our dreams show us future problems, they are also offering tools to avoid or contain those problems -- if we will only heed the messages and take appropriate action. 

When our dreams reveal aspects of ourselves we tend to deny, they invite us to reclaim the energy we waste in denial and to integrate and work with all the aspects of our energy. When dreams reflect the bigger issues involved in a current situation, they offer us an inner compass and a corrective to decisions driven by ego or other people's expectations. When we see things in night dreams we don't like, we need to pay careful attention, because we are being shown elements in our life situation that require understanding and action. The scarier the dream, the more urgent the need to receive its message and figure out what needs to be done. 

Here's one of my personal mantras: 

Dreams are not on our case, they are on our side. 

We need to stop running away from what our dreams are showing us and learn to stand our ground and confront the issue or the monster in the space where it first presents itself. If we fail to resolve a challenge in our dreams then - as Jung discovered - it is likely to come after us in the waking world, perhaps with even more scary consequences. 

A nightmare, in my lexicon, isn't just a scary dream; it is and interrupted or aborted dream. We tried to escape from the dream, leaving it broken and unresolved, because we were too frightened to deal with what confronted us. 

We want to learn to go back inside an interrupted dream of this kind, when we can muster the strength and resources to do that, and dream it onward to healing and resolution. We can do this through the Dream Reentry technique explained in several of my books, including The Three "Only" Things and Active Dreaming. 

We can ask a friend to go along with us as family support in conscious shared dreaming. We can write a satisfactory ending for the broken dream, which can be a fabulous exercise in creativity. 

We may find we've been running away from an advisory than can help save our job or our relationship, or can enable us to avoid a road accident or an illness. Sometimes we find that what we've been running away from is our own power. 

When we manage to brave up and face the beast or the alien, we may discover that what was most alien to us was our own larger Self, or that the wild animal we feared is an invitation to move beyond self-limitation into a life of wild freedom. 

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

"Fear Not" Art in RM collection

Thursday, July 28, 2022

My father came back decades after his death with a health warning

On this day in 2016, after surgery, I raised a glass of fine Oban whisky to toast and thank my father. He had died nearly nearly thirty years earlier, but he had turned up for me again, in the most vivid and helpful way, with a health advisory I acted upon.
    Early that month, in the liminal space between sleep and awake, I found myself on a high rooftop with sweeping views over a great city. In a corner of the rooftop terrace, standing near the edge, I saw my father.
    This was a tremendous surprise. Let me clarify. The reason for my surprise was not that my father was deceased. We had seen a lot of each other since his death. At his funeral, I felt his loving presence and his joy at being released from the confinement of an ailing body. Not long after, I was blessed by his direct intervention to make peace between family members.
    Soon he was able to present himself, in dreams and visions, in a youthful new body, resembling the one he had had as a dashing young cavalry officer, the equestrian champion of the Australian Army.

    Over several years, he often came to me in dreams and visions with specific guidance for the family, playing counselor and protector, As he moved through his transitions on the Other Side, he was able to share his experiences. As he remembered more about the multidimensional self and the relations between members of soul families across time and space, he was able to talk to me about our identities and connections in other life dramas. Eventually, he explained to me that he had graduated from his current life school on the Other Side and had made his choice about his next life experience. It was clear that we would no longer be able to see each other so frequently, if at all.
    Hence my surprise when I saw Dad on that high rooftop. I know he has been fully engaged in life adventures in another time. I did not expect to see him again this way in my own time..
    As soon as I saw him, I found myself standing in front of him, as if one or both of us had traveled without moving.
 . My father pointed a finger at my upper lip, at a spot on the right side. He said, "Go to a doctor and get that checked out."

    This was our entire exchange.
     I acted on Dad's counsel right away. I had had a spot just above my upper lip for a couple of years that did not look like a regular mole. It had started bothering me after I cut it while shaving and it took a long time to heal. However, I tend to avoid doctors and had not mentioned it to my general practitioner.
    Because of my father's intervention, I called a dermatologist when his office opened that morning. "That is something," he declared when I pointed to the spot above my lip. He did a biopsy. Wearing a Band-Aid mustache over the hole this opened in my face, I went ahead with my plan to make a personal odyssey to Yeats country in the west of Ireland. I got the results of the biopsy on the morning I caught a plane back from Dublin. The spot was what the skin doctor suspected: basal cell carcinoma.
    I was scheduled to lead two weeks of trainings, and went ahead with these, allowing my students to guess about why I was sporting a Band-Aid mustache. When I met the surgeon for a consultation, he told me that the procedure would leave a scar. We agreed that I could tell people that this was the result of a close encounter with a bear.
    The surgery was a complete success. It took a little while for the wound to heal and the sutures to come out and my lovely new "baby skin" to bloom but I felt absolutely fine.
    Problem solved, because my dead father found a way to get my attention.
    My father was a Scot by ancestry, and whisky was his preferred drink. The whisky in the glass looked like liquid sunlight.

   "Thanks, Dad!" I said aloud. "Here's to life!"

Drawing by RM

Sleeping Tiger, Flying Sage


Chen Tuan (871-989) was a renowned Taoist sage who lived a secluded life in mountain caves in western China, where he created kung fu and a method of conscious dreaming. He was an ardent student of I Ching. He reputedly wandered the country in disguise, and sometimes provided warnings of impending events such as the flooding of the Yellow River.

Legend has it that Chen Tuan won Mount Hua  – sacred to the goddess, and a center of Taoist practice up to the present day – in a chess game. He defeated Zhao Kuangyin, who later made good on his promise to deliver the mountain if he became emperor of the Tang dynasty, which he did in 960-976. Chen Tuan presided over a revival of Taoism, and is especially famous for his dream practice. He spent his later years in a cave at the Jade Clear Spring Monastery. Today it is a shrine with a statue of him in a classic pose of the dream adept known as Sleeping Tiger. He lies on his right side, with his right hand cupping his ear. His followers claimed he would lie in this position for days or even months while he traveled beyond space and time in his subtle body.

He taught that to dream well, we want to develop the practice of shifting attention from the physical to the subtle.  For neophytes, this is best attempted when you are not so tired you’ll just crash. Preparation includes releasing negative thoughts and  emotions and bodily complaints. There is a Taoist technique for that which centers on directing an “inner smile” to complaining parts of the body.

When we dream, the Taoist master taught, we enter realities beyond the physical. The core practice is to remain conscious as you relax your body in sleep position. You issue yourself a “sleep command” directing where you intend to go and what you intend to do. And you arrange your body in bed in the posture of a sleeping tiger.

The instructions for that can be given as follows:

Lie on your right side. Extend your left arm along your left leg. Your right hand may be cupped over your right ear, or tucked under the pillow. Bend your right knee. Leave your left leg  loosely extended. This posture shifts breathing to the left nostril and this is believed to activate right brain activity, facilitating strong visual and intuitive experiences and smoothing the way to states of brainwave activity associated with dreaming or meditation.

This posture is not unique to Taoists; it has been widely adopted and recommended in many dreaming traditions, sometimes as an ideal posture for entering death. The Buddha, at the moment of death, is depicted in Asian art as lying in the posture of the sleeping tiger.

Like tigers, a dream master may take plenty of “power naps” in the course of an day. This was a preferred technique of Chen Tuan. He would keep visitors waiting while he grabbed fifteen minutes in the sleeping tiger mode.  Chen Tuan is revered in Taoist tradition as “Ancestral Teacher”. He liked to call himself  Fuyao Zi, which means “one who soars high through the sky”, like a dragon or flying tiger.

Life Rhymes: Ganesha in French


I wake from a dream in which a god is standing on the corner of my street.  I turn to the shelf elves for immediate feedback. I grab a volume off my bookcase without looking at the title. I find I have brought down an old French dictionary of symbols by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant. The book falls open at an entry about Ganesha. I am not expecting to find an Indian god in the French book, but why not? 

The authors say that elephant-headed Ganesha represents the contradictions of embodied life, riding with his big belly on a mouse or enthroned on a lotus flower. He embodies the principle of manifestation they exclaim in italics. "He evokes all the possibilities of life and all its modes of expression. even the burlesque, in time and space.”

I check in with what my students are sharing online in a private group. One of them has posted a photo of a wondrous image of Ganesha on the back of a tee-shirt. She explains that while waiting for someone in her car, she closed her eyes and sought inner guidance on difficulties her daughter had been facing. When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was the popular Gatekeeper of Hindu tradition, the elephant-headed Remover of Obstacles. She lowered her car window to tell the woman with Ganesha on her back, “That’s a great tee-shirt.” To which the wearer responded: “All your obstacles are now removed.”

I could not resist sharing the small synchronicity of Ganesha popping out of the French book. “Oh wow,” my student messaged me back. “My daughter is a high school French teacher.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The dream calling of a Neoplatonist philosopher

Proclus (412-485) , one of the greatest of the Neoplatonist philosophers, taught that the true philosopher should become "a priest of the entire universe", honoring all forms of the divine. He was an immensely prolific author, whose collected works - many of which were destroyed by religious book burners - were longer than those of Plato and Aristotle combined. He instructed that there are two basic aspects of soul in each human being: the "fallen" terrestrial soul, focused in physical reality, and the "celestial" soul or "true self" that transcends time and space and is the source of creativity and spiritual wisdom. As a teacher, he sought to guide his students into ever-closer alignment with this higher self, or "good daimon". 

According to Marinus, his student and biographer, Proclus was called to his vocation in dreams. It was not an easy calling, since it connected him with gods and goddesses the triumphant Church was seeking to proscribe. But he believed that his dreams put him in contact with a lineage of teachers - the "hermetic chain" - who were able to communicate with each other across time and space.

The goddess Athena "appeared to him in a dream inducing him to follow philosophy". Proclus was born in Constantinople, but spent his early years at his family home in Lycia, the country of Homer's hero Sarpedon, beloved of Zeus. He had moved on to the great university city of Alexandria and was embarked on a promising career as a rhetorician when he accepted a friend's invitation to accompany him on a trip back to Constantinople. When Proclus reached his native city, the goddess Athena appeared to him in a dream in the form in which she was traditionally worshipped in the eastern capital. She instructed him to devote himself to philosophy and prepare himself for admission to the great school of Plato in Athens.

He had already received the gift of dream healing. When he was suffering from a serious illness as a child, a radiant boy appeared above his head. Leaning over Proclus' bed, his visitor announced his name - Telesphoros - and touched the child's head, releasing him from his sickness. 

On his return to Alexandria from Constantinople, Proclus applied himself to the study of philosophy and mathematics under new teachers. Later he followed his dreams of the goddess to Athens, and studied with Plutarch, Syriacus, and other renowned philosophers. When he had completed his apprenticeship, he applied himself to seeking to understand the mythologies and Mystery traditions of both East and West through direct visionary experience. Much of his creative work flowed directly from meditative states, conscious dreaming and the twilight zone of hypnagogia. Long before he rose to greet the sun, "alone, in his bed, he composed hymns, and examined certain theories, and searched for ideas, which he later committed to writing at the coming of the day." [1]

Proclus continued to be guided by Plutarch after his teacher's death. In dreams, Plutarch gave him advice on the commentaries Proclus was writing on the Chaldean Oracles - and on the probable length of his own life. His later teacher, Syriacus, with whom he had disagreed over the interpretation of Orphic materials, appeared in a second cycle of dreams that deterred him from continuing with his work in this area. [2]

In other dreams, Proclus communed with earlier philosophers and received training in the school of Pythagoras. These powerful dreams convinced him that he had experienced a previous incarnation as a member of Pythagoras' circle.

Through dream travel, he experienced dimensions beyond the physical and evolved a personal model of the subtle bodies as vehicles of consciousness. At the age of 42, he returned from one of his dream excursions shouting these lines:

I am possessed by a spirit that breathes into me the forms of fire, which, enfolding and entrancing my spirit in a whirl of flame, flies towards the aether, and with its immortal vibrations reaches in the starry vaults. [3]

In his later years, racked by arthritis, severe headaches and bouts of depression - partly induced by Church attempts to suppress the cult of the old gods and Plato's Academy - Proclus again received the gift of dream healing. His headaches and his despair were lifted when a serpent sacred to Asklepios wrapped itself around his head. When he asked for a healing dream to relieve extreme pains in his legs, he was rewarded by a dream in which "someone returning from Epidaurus" (the most famous temple of Asklepios) kissed his knees. He woke free of pain and reportedly did not suffer "even a twinge" of arthritis throughout the rest of his life.

When he traveled, Proclus asked his dreams to guide him. He especially sought dream guidance on the spirits of the land: on the names, rites and sacred sites of the guardian spirits of each place. In Lydia, the gods or daimons of a defunct shrine revealed lost rituals to him through a dream.

Proclus even allowed dreams to dictate the manner of his burial. His old teacher Syriacus appeared in a dream to remind him that though they had had disagreements, they had once lived together as family and had agreed to share a double grave. Proclus gave the appropriate instructions and their remains were interred together in a double sepulchre. 

While Proclus' major life choices and most enduring work were inspired by dreams, his biographer notes that he did not allow himself much conventional sleep, regarding long periods of sleep as a symptom of "psychic laziness". His most powerful experiences appear to have unfolded in hypnagogia - the fertile space between sleep and awake - and in conscious dream excursions beyond the body.

In his commentary on Plato's Timaeus and in other surviving works, Proclus left us a precise anatomy of soul and spirit, a Western counterpart to descriptions of subtle bodies or "sheathes of soul" in Eastern literature. Proclus may have been the first writer to use the term "astral body" though its meaning for him was different from its common usage today. For Proclus, the astral or "starry" body (astroeides) is a vehicle in which the soul descends from higher planes to animate a physical body, and also a vehicle in which it ascends after death or in transcendent experiences. 

In its descent towards physical incarnation, the soul takes on various garments (chitones) or vehicles (ochemata). These are material, as the body of flesh and bone is material, but woven of finer stuff. Among them is a subtle body associated with the breath (soma pneumatikon) that is also a vehicle of appetite and desire. It survives physical death but will decompose, in the natural course of thigs, when the soul has moved higher in its "starry" form. In this view, what follows physical death is a kind of spiritual striptease: an ascending soul casts off garments one by one, to rise higher in its vehicle of light. [4]

Proclus' insights are not the product of abstract speculation. He seeks to describe what he has experienced through direct vision, especially in the most natural form of altered consciousness: dreams and half-dream states. His language is difficult, but it is well worth the effort too recover the essence of his teachings. He is one of the lost teachers who can help us relate our contemporary adventures in the multiverse to ancient Mystery traditions and the kind of philosophy that is truly the love of Sophia. 


1. Marinus of Samaria, The Life of Proclus trans. Kenneth S. Guthrie (Grand Rapids MI: Phanes Press, 1986) 41.

2. ibid 43-44.

3. ibid 45

4. cf. E.R. Dodds, "The Astral Body in Neoplatonism". Appendix 2 to Proclus, Elements of Theology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. For a pioneer attempt to restore these teachings, see G.R.S. Mead, The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in the Western Tradition (London: John M. Watkins, 1919).

Carl Jung, Shaman of the West

If you want to know what a true shaman of the West would be like, consider Carl Jung, as he is now revealed in his Red Book. He culled the material for the Red Book - whose fine calligraphy and vivid illustrations and decorative features make it resemble a medieval illuminated manuscript - from the journals and 'black books" he kept during the years of his "confrontation with the unconscious", when he walked the razor's edge between madness and genius. As he describes it, the "spirit of the depths" ripped him out of the comfortable, rational assumptions of the "spirit of our times" and dragged him, night after night, through the terrifying stages of Underworld initiation.          
       In a crater in a dark and terrifying world below, where black snakes threaten to destroy a red sun, he meets the prophet Elijah and his "daughter" Salome, the evil beauty responsible for the decapitation of John the Baptist in the Bible. Salome tells Jung - to his amazement and confusion- that they are brother and sister, the children of Mother Mary. Disbelieving and fearing for his sanity, Jung yells at her that she and the Elijah figure are only "symbols". Elijah reproves him, saying, "We are just as real as your fellow men. You solve nothing by calling us symbols." Jung's Elijah also instructs him that "your thoughts are just as much outside your self as trees or animals are outside the body." [1]    
   While he is trying to continue to lead a normal life, as a prominent psychoanalyst and the father of five children. Jung's sense of reality is being shaken by the raw power of his night visions, and by synchronistic phenomena during his days when he feels the forces of a deeper world pushing through. In December 1913, in a well-cut suit, he gives a polished lecture to the Zurich Psychoanalytical Society. Three nights later, he tells Elijah, "It seems to me as if I were more real here" - in the Underworld - "yet I do not like to be here." [2]   
     As Jung confessed, anyone reading the last chapters of Liber Primus, the first part of the Red Book, out of context might conclude that the author was crazy. Brilliant and erudite, but crazy. Yet from such perilous adventures out there beyond the roped-in precinct of sanity, Jung derived his ideas about "psychological objectivity", one of the most stimulating elements in his later work. From his dialogues with his dream characters and his efforts to integrate and balance the powers that moved with them he developed his practice of active imagination. He told the Dutch artist Roland Horst that he developed his work Psychological Types from 30 pages of his Red Book [3], apparently the pages in which the encounters with Elijah and Salome take place and in which - after Jung has been squeezed by a giant black snake until the blood gushes out of him and his head has become that of a lion - Salome tells him, "You are Christ". [4]
     Looking back on this passage in his inner and transpersonal life in 1925, from across the divide of the catastrophic Great War that some of his visions had foreshadowed, Jung told a seminar that "You cannot get conscious of these unconscious facts without giving yourself to them. If you can overcome your fear of the unconscious and can let yourself go down, then these facts take on a life of their own. You can be gripped by these ideas so much that you really go mad, or nearly so. These images...form part of the ancient mysteries; in fact, it is such fantasies that made the mysteries." [5]
     "I fell into the mystery," Jung states after he has been squeezed by the black snake and saluted by Salome [6]. Reading the Red Book, we see the enormity of the price Jung paid for his wisdom, and come to appreciate the extent of his courage and eventual self-mastery. This is a record of a thoroughly shamanic descent to the Underworld, and of long testing and initiation in houses of darkness from which lesser minds and feebler spirits might never have managed to find their way back.

1. C.G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus edited by Sonu Shamdasani (New York: Norton, 2009) 249
2. Red Book 248
3. Stephan Hoeller, The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead(Wheaton, IL: Quest, 1985) 6.
4. Red Book 252.
5. Jung, Analytical Psychology: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1925 edited by William McGuire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991) 98-99.
6. Red Book 254.

For more on this theme, please read "The Dream Shaman of Switzerland" in my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home.

Graphic: Jung's Philemon, from the Red Book.

Friday, July 22, 2022



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 adapted from Robert Moss, Conscious Dreaming. Published by Three Rivers Press


Photo by RM

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Egyptian Silver: A New Dream Archaeology Assignment


In one scene in a dream last night, I have been given an object to deliver to a skinny, sketchy man I don't trust. I take it out of my bag and unwrap it. The object is flat, rectangular, silver, about the size and shape of a cigar cutter. It seems to be in two parts, with a cover that slides back. I notice at least three columns of Egyptian figures, one holding a staff of power and wearing a high crown. The figures look to be in the elongated Amarna style introduced under Akhenaten.
When I hold it up, the skinny man jumps back, face distorted in a rictus of terror. "Silver" I reassure him. Nope. He acts as if silver will scald him. Or whatever is under the cover. I don’t understand. I put the Egyptian object away carefully in my pocket.
On assignment: There was a lot more going on in my dream report. I'll just note where my initial Egyptian research took me. The Egyptians valued silver even more highly than gold though fewer examples have survived because of the corrosive effects of salt at the burial sites. The wealthy used silver for mirrors and certain amulets, including scarabs.
Nefertem was the deity most often embodied in silver statuettes. He is the god of the blue lotus. He is said to have been the first being to emerge from the blue lotus that grew on the mound that rose from the primal waters. In complementary myths of Memphis, he is placed in a divine family as the child of Ptah and Sekhmet.

He was both a deity of perfumes and healing, a lion-headed creator god and a potential sender of demon punishers and the Seven Arrows of Sekhmet. He was sometimes depicted as a child emerging from the blue lotus or an adult male crowned with the lotus. There is a bust in the Amarna style of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun as Nefertem emerging from the lotus in the Cairo museum.

Photos: Top Silver scarab of Overseer Wah c 1900 bce; bottom standing statue of Nefertem with blue lotus crown, late period c 600-300 bce. Both in Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City. Photos in public domain.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Why We Dream



"Why do we dream?" asked the blue butterfly girl, looking around the circle of animals she had invited to her tea party by the garden gate. 

"You dream so we can always be together," said Bear, without hesitation. "You dream so you will always have a friend. " 

"You dream so you can see," said Hawk. His golden eyes flashed. 

"You dream so you can learn to be brave like me," said Lion. 

"Nonsense," said Mr. Fox. "You dream so you can tell stories about me." 

"Grandfather," the girl looked into the tea water. "Why do we dream?" 

Grandfather Teller's voice bubbled like a pot about to boil. "You dream because humans are the animals that tell stories about all the others."

RM journal drawing: Garden Gate

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Dream archaeology at Bandelier

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

I was staying outside Santa Fe in an adobe house with extraordinary views across desert and mountains. The phrase Big Sky really applies here - you can watch the weather rolling in from fifty miles away. The night sky is extraordinary, a grainy, pulsing field full of animate energies. Nature feels quite personal here.

    I went out to the Bandelier State Monument, to visit the sites of the ancient and mysterious Anasazi people. I had two of those encounters with spirits of the land of the kind that are the stuff of dream archaeology.
    On the trail to the falls, I felt the mountain lion energy very strongly. Further along the trail, I lay down under ponderosa pines. I immediately sensed a presence. Scanning with my inner senses, I tracked it. Among the trees, a little person took form. He was very dark-skinned and no more than four feet tall. He was willing to give me a name, speaking the five syllables slowly and distinctly, so I could pick them up. I will not publish his name here; traditional peoples are very sensitive about the power of names.
    The name and the nature of the little man were connected with Rabbit. He could run like a jackrabbit. I saw him hunting small animals a long time ago, living very close to the earth. I asked to enter his Dreamtime and slipped inside the world of the animals. He belonged to a time when human and animal consciousness were not as separate as they are today, and when forms were not fixed. He seemed to be able to shapeshift his physical body as well as his energy profile into animal forms. I was attracted by his simplicity. There was even a sense of innocence in the just-so-ness of his relations with the land.
     I encountered a different presence as I stood  in front of the petroglyphs at the “longhouse” site - apartments built into the talus of a volcanic cliff - at the Anasazi village. A Gatekeeper figure emerged. He told me that white people still know next to nothing about what really went on here, but that he would show me certain things, under certain conditions.
    The wall opened to my vision like a window. I looked into the scene of an ancient rainmaking ceremony. The priest held up and vibrated a large stuffed serpent while a helper made the sound of thunder crashing with something resembling a mortar and pestle. I was shown the methods this ancient people used for appealing directly to the animate forces of nature. My tour expanded. I enjoyed looking into the everyday lives of these ancient ones, their foods and cooking methods, their rituals and their delight in theater and music.
     I recalled that the First Peoples of my native Australia talk of the Speaking Land. The spirits of the land are talking, talking. All we need to do expand our awareness, and listen without judgment. I felt privileged to have been invited into a space between the worlds to learn the ways of two ancient peoples of the American Southwest.

- from my dream archaeology casebook (2001).

Jackrabbit photo by Jim Harper

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Put Yourself in a Place where a Greater Power Can Find You.


To engage with greater powers, including your creative spirit, or genius, you need to put yourself in a place where you can easily be found. Border territory is good for this, like the borderland between sleep and awake, or the edginess of entering a new field or making a life transition, or the liminal space that opens up when you walk the roads of this world with senses aquiver, aware that everything is alive and speaking to you.. As Australian Aborigines say, the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them. I offer you a poem I wrote in this spirit:


Hunting Power


You say you are hunting your power

But your power is hunting you.

I’ll go up to the mountain, you say.

I’ll fast and live on seaweed

I’ll hang myself on a meat-hook

Under the hot sun. I’ll give up sex

And wine and my sense of humor.

What are you thinking of?

For you to go hunting your power

Is as smart as the mouse hunting the cat.


Go out in the garden any night

Step one inch outside the tame land

And you are near what you seek.

Open the window of your soul

Any night and your guide may come in.

The issue is whether you’ll run away

When you see what it is. To make sure

You succeed, tether yourself like a goat

At the edge of the tiger wood that breathes

Right beside your bed. He’ll come.


- from Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories by Robert Moss. Published by Excelsior Editions.