Saturday, October 1, 2022

Your Dream Key to Many Lives in Many Worlds

 


In physics, the hypothesis of Many Interactive Worlds suggests that we live, right now, in one of countless parallel universes that impact each other. Part of the secret logic of our lives may be that our paths constantly interweave with those of numberless parallel selves. The gifts and failings of these alternate selves may influence us, when our paths converge, in ways that we generally fail to recognize.  

We are connected in a multidimensional drama and this may generate events in both our lives that will appear as “chance” to those who cannot find the trans-temporal pattern. The hidden hand suggested by synchronistic events may be that of another personality within our multidimensional family, reaching to us from what we normally perceive as past or future, or from a parallel or other dimension.

When you experience déjà vu and feel certain you have been in a certain situation before, you may be close on the heels of a parallel self who got there before you. Serial dreams, in which you find yourself returning to people and places not on your current event track may also be glimpses of a continuous life your parallel self is leading in a parallel world, in which you made different choices. Physicist Brian Greene speculates that we all have "endless doppelgangers" leading parallel lives in parallel universes.

When you wake up to the fact that serial dreams may be glimpses of continuous lives you are living in other realities, you may be ready for the good stuff: to journey as a lucid dream traveler into a parallel life to dismiss old regrets and claim gifts and knowledge from your selves who made different choices. This can effect a quantum shift in your present life.

Way of the Kairomancer

 


Synchronicity is when the universe gets personal. Though the word “synchronicity” is a modern invention — Jung made it up because he noticed that people have a hard time talking about coincidence — the phenomenon has been recognized, and highly valued, from the most ancient times. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that the deepest order in our experienced universe is the effect of “a child playing with game pieces” in another reality. As the game pieces fall, we notice the reverberations, in the play of coincidence.

When we pay attention, we find that we are given signs by the world around us every day. Like a street sign, a synchronistic event may seem to say Stop or Go, Dead End or Fast Lane.  Beyond these signs, we find ourselves moving in a field of symbolic resonance which not only reflects back our inner themes and preoccupations, but provides confirmation or course correction. A symbol is more than a sign: it brings together what we know with what we do not yet know.

Through the weaving of synchronicity, we are brought awake and alive to a hidden order of events, to the understory of our world and our lives. You do not need to travel far to encounter powers of the deeper world or hear oracles speak. You are at the center of the multidimensional universe right now. The extraordinary lies in plain sight, in the midst of the ordinary, if only you pay attention. The doors to the Otherworld open from wherever you are, and the traffic moves both ways. 

I invented the word kairomancer to describe someone who is ready to recognize and act in special moments of synchronicity when time works differently and opportunity strikes. It incorporates the name of Kairos, a Greek god who personifies a kind of time that is altogether different from tedious tick-tock time: that special moment of jump time when more is possible than you imagined before.

To become a kairomancer, you need to check your attitude as you walk the roads of this world, because your attitude goes ahead of you, generating events around the next corner. You need to develop your personal science of shivers. You want to take dreams more literally and the events of waking life more symbolically. You need to take care of your poetic health, reading what rhymes in a day, or a season. You want to expect the unexpected, to make friends with surprises, and never miss that special moment when the universe gives you an invisible wink or handshake.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Borges, again


I go back again and again, to Jorge Luis Borges and his jewel-like stories, essays and poems. So many glinting facets in such elegant, miniature creations! So much effortless mastery of literature and philosophy, such love of English poetry, so many tigers.

 El tiempo es un río que me arrebata, pero yo soy el río; es un tigre que me destroza, pero yo soy el tigre; es un fuego que me consume, pero yo soy el fuego. El mundo, desgraciadamente, es real; yo, desgraciadamente, soy Borges.

"Time is a river that sweeps me away, but I am the river; it is a tiger that destroys me, but I am the tiger; It is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges."

At the start of Borges' story "Ragnarök" there is this excellent counsel for those who must deal with sleep monsters:

"The images in dreams, wrote Coleridge, figure forth the impressions that our intellect would call causes; we do not feel horror because we are haunted by a sphinx, we dream a sphinx in order to explain the horror that we feel."

He is fascinated with the theme of the double, and blames this on his love of R.L.Stevenson). A couple of his stories of the double made an especially strong impression on me because I came to them just after re-reading Gérard de Nerval’s Aurélia where – in his descent into madness – he thinks that his dark double is getting married to the woman he loves, though she is already dead.

In one Borges story (“Borges and I”), he feels empty and abandoned, while watching a second self write his stories and claim his fame. In another (“August 25, 1983”), as a man already 70, he walks from a station to a hotel at night to find he has already checked in, to room 19, a number with great significance. The clerk recognizes him with difficulty. 

He goes up to the room and finds his older self, now blind and 84, staring up at the ceiling, with an empty bottle nearby. His older self tells him he has come here to die – he says to commit suicide – and tells Borges things he will do before he arrives at the same situation. When Borges denies that this is what his future holds, his older self insists that things will proceed as he says, but that when the younger Borges reaches this point, he will remember the encounter, if at all, only as a faded dream.



Watercolor by Gisela Robinson. 

 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Putting a Stopper in the Dream Door


Do your dreams fly away like fireflies escaping from a jar, as you leave the fields of dreaming? Here's a game I invented for catching lost dreams.

Picture a door to your dream world.

When you return from a dream excursion, you step through this door, back into your body in the bed.

Often, as you come back, you have dreams fluttering around you. Perhaps you have some of them in your pocket or what you think of as a safe container. I picture a glass jar like the ones I used as a boy to catch fireflies on summer nights.

But a strange thing happens. As soon as you step through the door, back into an ordinary space, your dreams take flight. They won’t stay in your pockets. The container won’t hold them. They swirl away through that door, which closes so fast you can’t prevent them leaving. Now the door is sealed tighter than a bank vault and you can’t find a way to open it.

Try this: as you return from your dreams, imagine that the door to the dream world stays open for a while, because there is a door stopper. I picture this stopper as a black dog. He’s alive, of course, though he may remain very still while his role is to keep the door from closing. Gradually he will let the door close. Close it must, so your waking life is not so full of dream creatures that you can’t tell where you are any more and end up on the couch of the mad-doctors.

But you have enough time now to catch some of those escaping dreams. You are permitted to go back through that ever-so-slowly closing door, go in a little ways, and grab what you can.

When I did this in an initial experiment, I was surprised to see that a flight of steps began at the threshold. As I climbed the steps, I found myself in a pleasant wooded setting, with dreams gathered on the branches or flitting about.

I invited them to play with me, and some consented to accompany back to the ordinary side of everything, which gets less ordinary in their company.

I brought back three dreams that had flown off before, one of them quite spicy.

I noticed that the black dog I had stationed at the door to hold it ajar was now bigger and even more noble: a guardian, not merely a stopper.


 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Cartesian makes friends with his dreams

 


I dreamed that I was struggling to explain something important in my faulty French. I woke, checked online, and read a message (in French) from a friend in France. He was trying to help a man who was struggling to understand what he describes as "an absurd experience for a Cartesian spirit like mine."

The "absurd experience" was a dream in which the skeptic met his departed father. His father was eating breakfast, wearing a beautiful blue shirt. In ordinary life, the man did not believe such an encounter was possible. In the dream, he rushed to his father, gave him a big hug, and was deeply moved.

Trying to make sense of what happened, the dreamer exclaimed, "We need to be taught how to make friends with our dreams."

That is my loose translation. What he actually wrote, in French, was: "On devrait nous apprendre, quelque part, à apprivoiser nos rêves."

"Apprivoiser" is a very interesting word. It is often translated as "to tame" or "make gentle". Its most famous use is in the beloved story of The Little Prince, who learns from the fox that in order to find the secret of life he must "tame" the fox in the sense of making friends with something wild.

My friend in France thought that I might be able to help the man who had dreamed of his dead father. I could hardly refuse this appeal to help after seeing the word "apprivoiser", You see, I wrote a book called The Dreamer's Book of the Dead. It explains why contact with the deceased is neither weird nor even unusual, since they are alive somewhere else. They call on us and we visit them, especially in dreams. We discover that healing and forgiveness are always available, across the apparent barrier of death.

When foreign rights to The Dreamer's Book of the Dead were sold, my French publishers came up with this title for the translation: Apprivoiser la mort par le rêve.

I wrote to the Cartesian who had the "absurd" experience of a loving encounter with his father on the Other Side:

"I have seen it so many times: a man encounters his deceased father in a dream. He discovers that to die in this world is to live in another world. This transforms his understanding of what it means to dream, to live and to die."

I wrote this in my faulty French, My dream had rehearsed me for this minutes before.

How do you get to know that dreams are real experiences? Run a tingle test. Truth comes with goosebumps, Then let synchronicity give you a wink or a nod, as in "apprivoiser". Test, check, verify. Then: practice, practice, practice.


Monday, September 19, 2022

Have a Close Encounter with Death, Wake Up in a Different Life

 

I reread Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.  It's an engaging sci fantasy yarn about a future American police state. The protagonist, TV celebrity and alpha “Six”, Jason Taverner, is hurled out of his privileged life by a familiar plot ruse that works: he has a close brush with death and finds himself in a different reality.

 The device is used beautifully in The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You and in the BBC Wales series Life on Mars. In Kin, the protagonist wakes up in another world where he regains his humanity and sense of life’s purpose before being sent back to the reality he came from, where he has bills to pay. 

In Life on Mars, a cop is thrown back to 1973 while his body lies in a coma after a near-fatal accident. He has an identity here, close to the one he has in the present. He is again a police inspector, with transfer papers that say he was reassigned from “Hyde”. In 1973 he was (and is) four years old, and catches a glimpse of his child self. He gets engaged in cleaning up a corrupt police department and introducing methods for collecting and handling evidence that no one has heard about. From time to time – through a voice on TV or a phone call no one else can hear - he learns about his situation in the present. Will he die in 1973 as well as the present if they turn off the respirator?

 In Flow My Tears the close call is delivered by an otherwise unexplained monster from a B horror, a “cluster sponge” with fifty feeding tubes flung at him by a psychotic girlfriend. He kills the thing with whisky, but some of the feeding tubes stay in. When he comes round, he’s not in hospital but in a cheap hotel in a bad part of L.A., minus all the I.D. that makes life possible in this reality. The people he knows – agent, lawyer, official mistress – are all in this reality but they don’t know him and when he manages to check, there is no record of his birth.

The scifi elements are charmingly creaky, like old space cowboy flicks without special effects. No cell phones or internet here. When Taverner wants to phone, he drops gold dollar coins in a public phone booth. (Where do you find public phone booths these days?)

Have a close brush with death and come back to a different world. For some of us, it's not fiction. I was pronounced clinically dead under a surgeon's scalpel during an emergency appendectomy in a Melbourne hospital when I was nine years old. In the minutes I showed no vital signs, I seemed to live a whole lifetime in another world. When I came back, my "prime ' reality seemed very strange. I wrote that story in The Boy Who Died and Came Back. Philip K. Dick was no stranger to such things. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Acts of Creation

 


To be creative is to bring something new, and valuable, into our lives and our world. You don’t have to be an Einstein or a Shakespeare to be creative. You need to play the best game you can, in whatever field is calling you, and come up with some new moves, and play so hard you don’t think of your game as just work (and may never want to retire from it).

What makes a world-class creative remains mysterious. But new research in neuroscience is telling us interesting things about how the association centers of the brain work when new ideas are coming through, confirming that one characteristic of creative people is that they make connections between things that other people don’t see as connected. Nancy Andreasen, a pioneer of brain imaging at the University of Iowa, found that in episodes of high creativity, multiple association cortices of the brain are communicating back and forth with each other - not to process sensory input, but in free conversation. Wild and novel connections are made, and from these – through the brain’s character as a self-organizing system – new creation emerges.

 Educational psychologists who try to rate creativity levels speak of a “fourth-grade slump”, when adult assumptions and formal training start to block kids’ natural ability to make things up. This suggests another key to creative living; we want to stay in touch or get in touch with the spontaneous creativity of our inner child, our master imagineer. 

Something important that creative people have in common is that they develop creative habits. For choreographer Twyla Tharp, these include “subtraction” – making a conscious effort to minimize distractions and make sufficient time and space available for a new project. For creativity researcher Keith Sawyer (a psychology professor at Washington University in St Louis) good creative habits include “working smart”, creating a daily rhythm that sets the right balance between hard work and “idle time” when the best ideas often jump out.


For Columbia business professor William Duggan, creativity in business hinges on “opportunistic innovation”, the readiness to watch for unexpected opportunities and change your plans in order to cash in on them when they turn up.

Other habits of creative people: 

- They find personal ways of getting “into the zone”.

- They are risk-takers. They are willing to make mistakes, and learn from them. They look at mistakes as experiments rather than failures.

 - Creative people are “prepared for good luck”; they view coincidences as homing beacons and turn accidents into inventions.

- They make room for creation – time and private space.

- They find a creative friend. This is a person who provides helpful feedback and supports their experiments.

- They persevere. 

Creativity is not just the preserve of a lucky – or tormented – few. It’s a power we can all claim. 

And here is what, for me, is the most important key to creativity. When we take on a creative project - and its element of risk - and step out of whatever box we have been in, we draw supporting powers, especially the power that the ancients called the genius or the daimon. Most people understand this intuitively, even though we may fumble for an agreed language to describe it.



Drawing by RM

 

Monday, September 12, 2022

In Praise of Raven

 


Sun Stealer

 

They say you stole the sun.

This is inexact.

You hid the light in darkness

Where the light-killers could not find it

So the sun could shine brighter than before.

 

They say you are black

Because you are evil and unkind.

They do not say you swallowed

Your own shadow and mastered it

At the price of wearing its color.

 

Shivering, they call you death-knell,

Death-eater, bad omen, flying banshee

Because you feed on death that feeds on men.

You strip what rots from what remains.

You give us the purity of the bones.

 

Trickster, they call you.

Oh yes, you’ll do your wickedest

To ensure our way is never routine

And we are forced to improvise and transform.

You won’t let us swap our souls for a plan.

 

At least they don’t accuse you

Of minor crimes.

I praise and claim your gifts

Of putting on darkness to come and go safely

In the darkest places, and joking with Death.


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


Photo: Raven Talking Stick from Pacific Northwest

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Lord Dunsany's Hat and the Drummer who Keeps a God Dreaming the World



In Lord Dunsany's early work of fantasy, The Gods of Pegana, an elder god with the resounding name Mana-Yood-Sushai makes the lesser gods including a drummer named Skarl. The effort of creation and the sound of the drum put the creator to sleep. Skarl sits on the mist before Mana's feet, drumming away.
"Some say that the Worlds and the Suns are but the echoes of the drumming of Skarl, and others say that they be dreams that arise in the mind of Mana because of the drumming of Skarl." Either way, when the drumming stops, the world of gods and humans will end. Skarl may grow weary, but he plays on, "for if he ceases for an instant then Mana-Yood-Sushai will start awake, and there will be worlds nor gods no more".
From these self-published tales of a fictional pantheon Dunsany went on to virtually found the fantasy genre. He was endlessly prolific and soon wildly popular, publishing some 90 books before he died from appendicitis at 79.

The Anglo-Irish aristocrat's writing habits were as strange as his stories. According to his wife Lady Beatrice, he wrote with quills he sharpened himself, while sitting on a crumpled old hat. He rarely revised anything. The first draft, often streaming directly from dreams, was usually the last. I would like to know what was going on with the hat.

Source: "The Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai" from The Gods of Pegana, by Lord Dunsany; illustration by Sidney H. Sime, 1905

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Henry James' time traveling doubles

 


Henry James embarked on a curious novel of time traveling doubles, The Sense of the Past, but left it unfinished. It held my attention through one of my overnight reading binges. The theme is deliciously creepy and the twist in the tale is well done. 

The protagonist, Ralph Pendrel, is a young independent American scholar who has published one small book, An Essay in Aid of the Reading of History. An aged English relative, reading this before his death, was moved by the author's "ear for stilled voices " to leave him his old London house. Ralph finds this stroke of luck "a violation of the law of prose”; this is "poetry undefiled"  

We feel the pull of the house for this 30-year-old American with a passion for history. "I dream of making it speak" Ralph declares on arrival at Mansfield Place. He wants to "remount the stream of time really to bathe in its upper and more natural waters to risk even, as he might say, drinking of them.” He wants to hear the old stopped clocks ticking again. He feels the house is "a museum of held reverberations". 

We walk the place with him, feeling the staring eyes of the family portraits and then the deeper and creepier mystery of the portrait of a man with his back turned to the viewer, the lone picture in the smallest of three drawing rooms. At 2 in the morning, Ralph enters the room again. The figure in the painting has now turned. And the face is his own. 

We are given to understand, obliquely, that the man in the picture is not only his ancestor but his counterpart or double in an earlier time, as keen to enter the future as Ralph is to enter the past. He steps through the frame and they are together in the same space and time. For a while they travel London together though only Ralph seems able to see his double. We realize, little by little that they are swapping lives. 

Henry James is a subtle seducer. He is a page puller not a page turner. He pulls you in. And slows you down. You can't rush. Either you walk at his pace or you give it up. His command of words doesn't often involve unusual words but using words in unusual ways. The word "congruity", not altogether usual, is used in a most unusual way in an early description of Mrs. Aurora Coyle, the lady Ralph has been courting unsuccessfully for ten years when the story begins. “Beautiful, different, proud, she had a congruity with things that were not as the things surrounding her." Some of James’ sentences sound like philosophy problems as well as grammatical tests: "the only way to not remain is to not go". 

He provides little description of people or places and much less dialogue than we might expect. There is little forward motion. Yet he had me, again. I was reading with an agenda - I wanted to see how he managed the themes of time travel, doubles and haunted houses. As I reached the end of Book One, a natural place to pause, at 5:30 a.m., a sensible time to sleep, I wanted more. I went to bed with the book and reentered the 1710 house on Maitland Square in the grey London light that might better be called shadow, to watch Ralph stare at the utter familiarity of the chessboard tiles of the lobby, so aged that the white squares are yellow and the black squares are blue. 

I looked again, through his eyes, at the painting in the inner room of a youngish man from the age of rakes with his back turned. Ralph indulges in the fantasy that the figure may turn to face him. He thinks of the faithful in an Italian church hoping for the miracle of a sculpted saint or Madonna shedding a tear. On a night of wild rain, he prowls his house and returns to the paneled room  and finds the miracle has taken place. The man in the picture has turned to show his face "but the face - miracle of miracles, yes - confounded him as his own." 

"I am not myself,” Ralph confesses later in the story. We learn that we are dealing with trans-temporal doubles, one obsessed by the past, the other fascinated by the future, who agree to trade places in different times.

 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Becoming an eagle: dreamers as shamans

A woman dreamer finds herself in a different body, traveling with her clan beside a river in a primal landscape untouched by the ax. She knows the lives and relations of these native people intimately, and feels the coming of a hard winter.
     She sees an eagle flying near the river, and someone tells her, "You can go fly with it." She is afraid to go too far from the river, so she waits until the eagle hovers overhead. Then,:
    “I fly an eternal moment with this magnificent bird; beautiful brown, glistening feathers with golden speckles. Eagle is above, beside, then lands in the river. I land downstream and float on the warm white foam. The river is blanketed in white foam.
    “After I dry off, I fly over the river again. I see Turtles where eagle had flown and landed. The turtles are a darker green. They are solid on the foam, not moving, just peacefully sunning themselves.”
    The dreamer asked me how she should approach the meaning of this dream. For me, an experience of this kind does not require analysis, but honoring. Her dream was a journey into the life circumstances of an indigenous people, an entry into a "past" life that might be a prior experience of her own multidimensional self or that of an ancestor of the land where she lives, or her wider spiritual family. Within that life experience, she learned what indigenous dreamers know: you can become an eagle.
    When a gifted Jungian analyst journeyed to the Central Desert in my native Australia, he sought to understand the practice of dreaming among the Pidjinjara, speaking through an interpreter to a "spirit man" who was said to know all about dreaming and the Dreamtime. To warm things up, he tried to give some account of his own dream practicum. How this translated into an Aboriginal language I do not know. The spirit man sat impassively, occasionally brushing away the blowflies. When the psychologist asked him to explain how he worked with dreams, the answer came back, via the interpreter, “He becomes an eagle.” When the Jungian sought to clarify what this meant, the statement was simply repeated: “He becomes an eagle.” 
     It was a just-so statement that had little to do with archetypal symbolism. When the Aboriginal shaman said he became an eagle, he meant exactly what he said: he travels in his dreambody as the eagle, sees with its keen vision, and goes where he needs to be.
     The American dreamer who flew with the eagle and splashed down in the river did something similar, through the spontaneous shamanism of dreaming. Dreaming is traveling, in the understanding of ancient and indigenous peoples, and we are not confined to one form in these journeys. If you fly with the eagle, you don't want to waste too much time discussing the eagle as a symbol. You want to celebrate the connection, make or find something to keep or carry as a dream talisman, and remember, in the midst of the challenges of everyday life, that you have the ability to rise to a higher perspective, and see "many looks away". The last phrase is from the Iroquois or Longhouse People, who place the eagle at the top of their great Tree of Peace so it can watch and warn of things developing at a distance.
     In my childhood, the bird I knew best was the sea eagle, native to northern Australia and also to the northern coast of Scotland, the home of my paternal ancestors. In the Orkneys, ancient shamans were buried together with sea eagles. For the islanders of the Torres Straits, the sea eagle is the preferred ally of the zogo le or shaman. I have lived outside Australia for most of my adult life, yet in big dreams the sea eagle sometimes comes, to lend me wings to fly back to my native country and see something I need to see.
     In the Mohawk language, which I had to study because of my dreams of an ancient woman of power who insisted on communicating in her own language, the word for "shaman" or "healer" is ratetshents,which means literally, "one who dreams". Throughout indigenous North America, there are similar terms, underscoring the characteristic the real shamans: they are dreamers who can shift consciousness at will and travel in worlds invisible to ordinary eyes to bring back gifts to people in the visible world. The Kagwahiv, a shamanic dreaming people of Amazonia, contribute the thought that "everyone who dreams is a little bit shaman".

Picture: White-bellied sea eagle photographed by Thimindu Goonatillake in Sri Lanka


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How Bull became a believer in dreams


The thing most likely to bring people awake to the importance of dreams is a visitation from the deceased. The number one reason why people of every background have chosen to share dreams with me, over the years, is that they have dreamed of a dead relative or friend. They want confirmation that the encounter is real, they would like guidance on what to do about it, or simply need to share something that has moved them at the core.

For men in particular, such dream visitations can be life-changing. Hard heads who previously dismissed dreams and prided themselves on having no connection with the inner life crack open when dad or granddad turns up in a dream. Take the case of Bull.

That was the nickname his buddies had given him. He is a huge man, a linebacker, and a police officer for a big city department, the kind of guy for whom touchy-feely doesn’t come easy. Then came the night when he would have died but for the intervention of a dead man.

As he tells the story, he came home hammered that night and fell into bed alone. His girlfriend was working late. As he slept, his grandfather appeared to him in a dream. He had loved his granddad and they had been very close when Bull was a boy. But this was not a gentle visitation. Bull’s grandfather slapped him and shook him, shouting “Wake up!”

Bull woke with a start and sat up. The bedside clock told him it was 5:00 a.m. He felt wet. He looked down and saw that the whole bed was filled with blood. He had a varicose vein that had popped .He called 911 and the ambulance came right away He lost 5 pints of blood and was in intensive care for two days. They told him that if he had not woken up when he did, he would have died.

Bull says, “I never thought much about my dreams but after this I am a believer.” The dream visitation saved his life and shook his world.




For much more on dreaming with the departed see chapter 7 of Conscious Dreaming and The Dreamer's Book of the Dead.


Cave art: Aurochs at Lascaux

 


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Drowning Boy and His Sister


When I was nine years old, before I left my body in an operating theater and went to another world, I nearly drowned. I had been out fishing with my father and his friends on a boat on a river near Melbourne, Australia. When we docked, I slipped on the gangplank and fell into the water. Nobody could understand that I was in any danger. The water was shallow and I was a good swimmer. Yet all my short life was swirling through my mind, with glimpses of places and people I had not met in ordinary reality. Finally someone reached down and hauled me out. Then I was on my belly, coughing up the brackish water I had swallowed.

Half a world away, in Memphis, Tennessee, a girl my age dreamed that a boy with a round, freckled face, was drowning, though no one understood he was in danger. In her dream, she reached down into the water and helped to pull him out.


In many nights during my lonely boyhood, this girl was the sister I longed for. We went riding through the sky together, leaping from cloudbank to cloudbank to get to fresh worlds of adventure. Usually my horse was gleaming black, with a star on his forehead, while hers was white. Sometimes, we would meet in a garden of fruit trees and rambling roses, where a bear guarded the gate to color worlds, as vivid and fascinating and scary as the Color Books of Fairies. We could count on Bear to keep us safe. He tied a red cord round our middles so we could not get lost, and would tug when it was time to come back.

It took more than three decades after my near-death in the river before I met the girl from Memphis. Because of my dreams of ancestors of the land, I was now on my quest for Sir William Johnson and the world he made in the Mohawk Valley. I drove from the farm where I was living to Johnson Hall, his last home in the Valley, and met Wanda Burch, who had been curator of this historic site for many years. I did not know her right away as my dream sister, but I felt completely at home with her. She was generous in opening her vast trove of personal knowledge of the records of Johnson, and in escorting me to other places connected with him and the Mohawk Indians he came to know so well. 

We soon discovered we were both dreamers. We traveled into the same dreamscapes, as we came to believe we had done as children. Wanda revealed an ability to dream into other aspects of my life that would have been disturbing had we not almost immediately developed a relationship of deep trust and agreed to adopt each other as brother and sister. 

One morning, Wanda shared a dream report in which she saw me exploring a strange triangular castle on the borders of England and Scotland. While she was dreaming, I was studying photos and descriptions of Caerlaverock castle, the ancestral home of the Maxwell clan (of which the Scots Mosses are a sub-clan). This stronghold on the Western Borders, near Dumfriesshire, was built in the shape of a triangle for both ease of defense (it takes fewer soldiers to guard three walls than four) and for magical purposes (the triangle is a favorite ritual portal for evocation, or bringing things through from a hidden dimension).

Sometimes Wanda seemed to be dreaming my material. She would call and say, “I have another of your dreams.” Sure enough, her report would look and feel exactly like one of my own dreams, stamped with personal markers like picking up a phrase from another language, discovering a secret room or a rare book, or cloak-and-dagger adventures in far-flung places.

The great and daily gift in this ever-deepening friendship was our ability to give each other mutual support and validation and to grow our practice of dreaming together. We realized early on that dreams require action..
     
Over lunch soon after the pull of dreams and the play of synchronicity had led me to sell the farm and move to a house on a hill in the city of Troy, I told Wanda that I had dreamed that a famous author of dream books had moved to my town and was leading dream classes and everyone was very excited. Wanda and I had not yet learned to offer comments by saying “if it were my dream”. She fired her interpretation of my dream right at me. “Robert, you are the famous author who has moved to Troy. Why not give some dream workshops?”

This had me poised for action, but I did nothing until the next day when, in the way of synchronicity, I got a call from a local arts center. Would I be willing to give some classes? Sure. They were expecting me to offer writing classes, but readily readjusted their expectations when I said I wanted to lead dream workshops. Prior to the first of my evening dream classes, I dreamed we had 41 people signed up, and that there was a problem with a man seated near a piano who was trying to record the class without asking permission. I was perplexed by the number 41, since we had agreed to limit the class to 35 – until I got to the center and learned that we had 35 registered and 6 on a waiting list. I was now alert for possible appearance of a man with a tape recorder near the baby grand piano in the gallery we were using. I spotted him as soon as he started fiddling with the machine he was trying to conceal under his raincoat, and laid down the law.
    
Wanda and I practiced dream archaeology together, culling the holographic memories of the land at sites in the Mohawk Valley and further afield where the events of Johnson’s life, and those of the settlers and natives he knew, had unfolded. We also found ourselves developing “far memory” of other lives where we felt we had been connected.

We learned how to companion people who are moving through the gates of death. We learned how to grow dreams for people who are in need of a dream, and wrap the energy of vision around them so that it can bring body and mind towards healing.

I don’t recall exactly when Wanda told me her dream, from when she was nine, of rescuing the drowning boy. I remember her talking of it to me again, when we visited a Mohawk community in Ontario because a Mohawk grandmother had asked me to help her people remember how to dream in the old way. At the lunch table, I found myself sitting opposite young women whose surnames were Johnson and Brant, and may well have been lineal descendants of the 18th century people who called me into their world and brought Wanda and me together.

“Your own will come to you,” asserted the Irish visionary writer George Russell, beset known by his pen name 
Æ. My soul friendship with Wanda, in its inception and its ever-renewing gifts, has taught me that this is simple truth. In his beautiful little book The Candle of VisionÆ gave a personal example. When he first attempted to write verse, he immediately met a new friend, a dreaming boy “whose voice was soon to be the most beautiful voice in Irish literature” This was William Butler Yeats. “The concurrence of our personalities seemed mysterious and controlled by some law of spiritual gravitation.”

In his later life, Æ found a soul companion in the Australian writer P.L.Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and also a deep student of the Western Mysteries and a world-class mythographer. Æ wrote to her, “I feel I belong to a spiritual clan whose members are scattered all over the world and these are my kinsmen.” Yes. And our spiritual kin can reach to us across oceans, and across centuries, even into the drowning pool.





Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.


Photo by RM


For Wanda's odyssey of healing through dreamwork, please see her beautiful book She Who Dreams 


Tarot Cards from the World

 


I have the sense that the world is sometimes slipping us a Tarot card, from an infinite deck. On the literal roads of everyday life, I'm often struck by how the first thing that comes on the car radio, or the first vanity plate or bumper sticker I spot on a car, may contain a clue to the quality of the day. One morning the first vanity plate I noticed while walking my dog read WAT U WISH. This got me thinking long and deep about the nature of wishcraft. What we encounter in life has a great deal to do with what we wish - or fail to wish - and whether our wishes come from the head or the heart, from the little self of the big Self. 

A friend reported that the first bumper sticker she saw that day read "I Won the Time War". That feels to me like an nod of approval from the universe, whether you read it in the mundane sense of managing to get things done in allotted tick-tock time, of in the larger sense of inhabiting a more spacious time in the multiverse (which my friend had been discussing at the moment she spotted the bumper sticker). 

The behavior of birds and animals sometimes has the quality of one of the Major Arcana coming into play. Once when I was speaking to a group about the character of the Trickster in mythology, a fox appeared on a grassy knoll behind my head, visible to everyone in the meeting space except me. Every time I turned my head, he would vanish, only to reappear when I wasn't looking, until that session was done. Hard to miss the fact that the Trickster card was in play that day - as proved to be the case, richly, beyond that workshop session.



For many games of Sidewalk Tarot, please see my book Sidewalk Oracles


Fox oracle card by Robert Moss

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.