Thursday, March 30, 2023

Feeding Tiger, Meeting Puma

The wheeling of the stars is not infinite
And the tiger is one of the forms that returns.

- Jorge Luis Borges

In the early days of my public teaching, many people said they came to my workshops because they had dreamed of tigers. One woman dreamed again and again that she was searching in a forest for a white tiger. A man arrived at the arts center where I was then teaching and froze in the doorway, staring at the artifact I had placed at the center of our space. It was the carved head of a tiger, open-jawed, set atop a wooden staff hung with bone rattles. An artist in Colorado had started carving the head shortly before he met me, guided by a dream. After he met me, he dreamed he should set the head on a rattle-staff and give it to me. The man in the doorway at the arts center exclaimed, “I know I’m in the right place! This is my dream.”
     “For more than a year,” he explained, “I was hunted by a tiger in my dreams. I kept running away, and usually woke myself up, still terrified, trying to convince myself this was only a dream. Then the tiger was on me, snarling and snapping, and I could not get out of the dream. He drove me down a dark forest trail. I saw things there that scared me, huge snakes hanging from the trees, savage eyes in the shadows, but nothing was as scary as the tiger. He kept on me, tearing my clothes and flesh.  I was bleeding when he forced me to the edge of clearing in the jungle, where he licked my wounds. I saw he had brought me to a place where jet fighter pilots were being trained. They had been waiting for me for a long time. I went through the training and got my wings, all before breakfast back at home. I felt really good, and empowered to do stuff to help and protect other people. That’s why I came to you.”
     I loved this dream resolution. I know, as young children know, that the tiger is power that can indeed help and protect. In soul recovery work, the tiger – as well as the bear – has often been my ally in persuading lost boys and lost girls to return to an adult self from whom they separated because of pain or abuse or trauma in early life. Those child selves often trust the tiger more than the adult, to keep them safe and to make life crazy fun.
     The tiger must be gentled to purposes of this kind. The tiger must also be fed. For six weeks, in the late 1990s, I decided to go vegetarian. Towards the end of this experiment, I visited a zoo south of Montreal with my family. I was edgy as we neared the big cat enclosures. Though the zoo was well laid out, with space for the animals to roam, big cats do not belong in confinement.
I glanced through the bars at a group of Sumatran tigers dozing in the sun.
    “Look, Dad!” my youngest daughter exclaimed. “That one is looking at you.” I looked again and saw that a male tiger had sat up and was staring at me. Suddenly he bounded from the slope where he had been napping to press his face against the bars, still staring at me. I returned his stare, wondering if he felt – as I did – that we were kin.
     He sniffed me, gave a kind of shrug, and loped back up the hill to resume his nap. I got the message. He may have considered the possibility that we were related, but one whiff on my body scent had assured him we were not. Tigers are not vegetarians.
     I returned to eating meat – starting with bacon, of course, the vegetarians’ favorite kind – and one night the tiger returned to me. Reclaiming his power was not easy. I learned again that night that there is a price for gaining and maintaining a relationship with a true animal power. The tiger irrupted into my space that night as an energy form that was entirely real, more real than the darkened room around us. He made me fight with him, hand to claw. Few, if any men, could hold their own in a wrestling match with a tiger, and I was certainly not one of them. He made me fight long and hard, until I was bloodied and torn. Then, relenting, he gave me a harder assignment than combat. He told me I must eat his heart. He opened his chest, and I took out his steaming, beating heart, dripping blood. Half-gagging, I forced myself to eat the tiger’s heart. This felt exactly like eating the living organ.
     From that time, the tiger was with me again, available whenever  I needed his help. He was ready to yield pride of place to other allies, like the bear, when their talents were needed, and even to introduce new helpers. When I landed at Cuzco in Peru in 1999, I was cautioned to be careful to avoid altitude sickness. Our guidance was to take this slowly, and relax in the hotel lobby for an hour with some coca leaf tea. It was stressed that the tea would calm and strengthen us but was unlikely to have hallucinogenic effects because the coca content was so small.

I did not regard what I saw in that hotel lobby, beyond the comings and goings of tourists and staff, as a hallucination. I saw the tiger, moving in front of the desk and a wall covered with murals with Incan themes. He was a translucent form. He signaled to me that I was going to need help up here in the Andes, and that he would send the right helper to my room that night. I should make myself ready.
    Near midnight, in my hotel room, I lay on my back on my bed, looking out the window at a night full of stars in constellations whose names I did not know, or recalled only vaguely from my childhood in the Southern hemisphere. I felt an urge to go flying up among those stars, and to bring back their names, and something like a grid opened in my perception, inviting me to go through it. My body started to vibrate and I heard the kind of humming I had long associated with the run-up to conscious astral projection. An instinct of caution was still with me. Was it really safe to leave my body in an environment I had not yet tested, without defenses?

      My thought flow was interrupted by the very palpable sense of another presence in the room. I sat up in bed and saw the energy form of a big cat approaching me. As my senses adjusted, I saw it was a puma. I was certain that this was the ally the tiger had promised to send. The puma pressed its face against mind. It spoke to me, mind to mind, in words I can transliterate like this:
      “Big cats are not intended to live at these altitudes. We took millennia to adapt, following the game animals up the mountains. You have just arrived and have not time to make the necessary adaptations. So what you need to do is this. You need to open yourself at your solar plexus and let me in. I will help adjust your body systems so you will be at home in the Andes, as we are.”

      I did what the puma suggested without hesitation, since this new helper had come with the right introduction. I felt the energy of the mountain cat streaming through my blood, toning my muscles, flexing my sinews. Over the ten days that followed – though I am not athletic and do not work out – I was the fittest member of our party. I had no difficulty with the altitude,  no fear of heights, no shortage of breath.
     Tiger is not only a fierce but reliable friend. He is willing to share his whole tribe.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Drawings (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Four Days in the Grip of the Bear Goddess


I have known since early in my long sojourn in North America that the Bear is a great medicine animal. A powerful dream that brought me personal healing reminded me that this was not unknown to early peoples in Europe, especially when the ancient way of the Great Goddess was most alive. Here is my unedited journal report from almost quarter of a century ago.


April 26 1999

Four Days in the Grip of the She-Bear

A she-bear is among us. I volunteer to deal with her. She is enormous, maybe six hundred pounds. Light in color, lighter than honey-brown. She grips my head in the crook of her arm, and holds it against her, close to her face. We spend four days in this intimate embrace. It is not uncomfortable, but I am aware that at any moment she could break my neck.

At the end of four days, the people who were with me at the outset gather around us again. One is a woman scientist or zoologist. They now have the means to release me. But the she-bear lets me go without a struggle, confident of our relationship. She shambles away into a space that had been prepared for her, in a room off the corridor of an institutional building, a hospital or teaching facility.

When I start talking about her, she returns to look at me. 

“You are Artemis,” I tell her. “I am Osiris.”

On waking, I noticed that troublesome symptoms that had been bothering me for days - headaches and wooziness - had left me. I felt charged with vitality, sure I had received personal healing, and grateful to the she-bear that delivered it.-

I was intrigued by the words my dream self had spoken to her. I could grasp why I might have identified myself with "Osiris", as candidates for initiation and travelers preparing for the next world were schooled to do in ancient Egypt. Osiris is one who dies and comes back, one who is dismembered and re-membered. I could find something of my finite story within his neverending one.-

But why did my dream self hail the she-bear with the name of the Greek goddess Artemis? I hit the books, especially the brilliant early studies of Jane Ellen Harrison, who had an intuitive grasp of the shamanic sources of Hellenic ritual practices. I rediscovered hat throughout ancient Greece, bears were sacred to Artemis. Well-born little Athenian girls danced as bears to Artemis of Brauronia, the Bear-Goddess. Jane Ellen Harrison observed they “could not but think reverently of the great might of the Bear.”-

More generally, Harrison wrote in  Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, "The mystery gods…are never free of totemistic hauntings, never quite shed their plant and animal shapes. That lies in the very nature of their sacramental worship. They are still alive with the life-blood of all living things from which they sprang."-

I looked anew, with the eyes of a dream archeologist, at ancient images of the Bear goddess, including the 2nd century bronze statue of the Celtic bear goddess, found near Bern in Switzerland, who appears in the photo that accompanies this essay. The Romans called her Dea Artio. As far away as Britain, the Arthur, as consort of the Bear goddess, led his men into battle under her standard. In her human guise, in the Bern statue, the goddess offers fruit to her animal self.-

The link between Artemis and the Bear can be tracked through the myths, though we need dream sight to get to the heart of these stories. In the Greek version of the creation of the Bear constellations in the sky - Ursa Major and Ursa Minor - Zeus pursues Callisto, one of the nymphs of Artemis. Callisto keeps shapeshifting; the lusty god shifts just as fast, seeking to cover her in every form. The nymph of Artemis becomes a bear, and now Zeus, as a male bear, wraps her in his embrace and has his way with her. When Artemis later notices that her nymph is pregnant, she flies into a rage and kills her, but quickly repents and places Callisto and her daughter among the stars, as the Great Bear many call the Big Dipper, and the Lesser Bear.

A Dreamer's Notes: Meeting Doubles on the Many Roads of Time

I am leading another workshop, in the dream, and people are wildly excited by the new experiments I have constructed, for which I am using my own life - or rather, my own lives - as a demonstration model. I am demonstrating how it is possible to step in and out of the bodies and life situations of doubles on parallel event tracks, and how this can be used for healing and mutual empowerment. To show how this works, I have chosen doubles from my present life continuum, alternate Roberts who made different choices and have traveled since on separate timelines that split off when those choices were made. I want to show that all times are accessible through our Active Dreaming techniques.

I jump into situations that belong both to a parallel past, a parallel present, and a possible future, but the time in each scene is always Now. I can make choices in all these situations. When my consciosuness enters the situation of an alternate Robert, for example, I choose to behave with kindness and compassion in an unhappy episode involving a former partner. I repeat the exercise with other parallel selves who made different life choices, large and small.

I allow the group to watch my moves, which look to them as if I am stepping in and out of sliding and revolving  doors. We proceed to develop a simple new model of doubling and travel between parallel universes. We prepare for a group journey in which they can experiment with jumping into the situation of their own alternate selves.

Feelings: I returned from this dream excursion excited, almost elated. 

Reality check: I lead workshops in my dreams several times a week. The main theme here has featured in many of my dreams. Several much more detailed dream reports from the past week seemed to involve jumps of this kind, into the situation of doubles on alternate event tracks. I found two of these experiences, involving former partners, to be very healing and resolving - beautiful, really - and woke from them energized and happy. I have crafted and led a number of group experiments in visiting doubles in parallel universes, and I am interested in developing a model of understanding that will bring together current speculation in physics (where is is now widely hypothesized that we are living in one of possibly infinite parallel universes) with the experience of dreamers, who go to parallel worlds (by my experience and observation) most nights. 

Follow-up: When I got online after this dream, I found an announcement for the English translation of a book by French physicist Jean-Pierre Garnier Malet. He has developed a "theory of doubling" In his Théorie du dédoublement, Garnier Malet suggests that the "doubling" of time and space is a "law of physics" that offers us "temporal openings" - opportunities to step in and out of time and by so doing, change our possible future for the better. These opportunities are enhanced when we become conscious of the existence of our doubles and draw on their superior knowledge. Garnier Malet urges us to learn to "drink time", as a thirsty animal drinks from a stream. He explains that this means "drinking information from the past and the future during sleep. Dreams are there to allow us to do this. Haven't you noticed that dreams put us in a different kind of time?."

Journal diving: I like to do bibliomancy with my own journals. This report popped up today and I am posting it unedited. It is dated August 22, 2011, and has the same title as this article: "Meeting Doubles on the Many Roads of Time". I made the illustration today. I intend to conduct further group experiments similar to what I was leading in the workshop. 

Illustration: "Many Doors, Many Timelines" by Robert Moss

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Dreaming in Greeneland

When I first traveled to Paris as a foreign correspondent, early in the 1970s, the office secretary made a reservation for me at the St James Albany, which turned out to be twin hotels - very handsome Right Bank townhouses - separated by a quiet courtyard with a fountain and flagstones and flowerbeds and shade trees. It struck me that the courtyard between the twin hotels was a liminal space, ideal for intrigue and trespass of various kinds – for games involving lovers, or spies, even players from different worlds. 
     I later discovered, to my great delight, that Graham Greene had similar feelings and had made this location a part of Greeneland, the fictive world of his novels. He used the courtyard of the St James Albany as the setting for a hilarious scene in Travels with My Aunt in which two women, meeting by chance, discuss the lovers with whom they tryst in secret in each of the twin hotels - and then discover that their lovers are the same man when M. Dambreuse arrives with his wife and children.
     Graham Greene led many lives, but first and last he was a writer, with a professional writer’s discipline. Through his many intrigues, both personal and political, he managed to sit down almost every day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. – on a veranda in Tahiti or a cottage in Brighton – and knock out his quota of 500 words, and he did this for seventy years, producing a steady stream of popular novels and essays.
     A crucial part of Greene’s practice was to write down his dreams. He started keeping a dream journal when he was sixteen. He often reported his dreams in letters to lovers and friends. Over the last twenty-five years of his life, he recorded his dreams with great faithfulness – though in fiendishly difficult handwriting – in notebooks that are now in an archive in Texas. His last literary project was to edit a selection of his dreams for a posthumous collection he titled A World of My Own.
     The interweaving of Greene’s dream life with his other lives makes a fascinating study, for which the primary source materials are unusually extensive.  We see how a man who chose to live on the dangerous edges of the world was able to create – richly and repeatedly – from the borderlands of dreaming. We can track many different modes in which a writer can create from dreams, from receiving the initial idea for a story, to solving a problem during sleep, to bridging a narrative gap, to dreaming deep into a character’s life.
     As a young boy, he had psychic dreams, often involving death by water, a prospect that terrified him. On the night the Titanic sank, when he was just seven, he dreamed of a shipwreck, with a man in oilskins bent double beside a companionway under the blow of a great wave. 
     He was miserable at school – nothing unusual in the lives of creative and sensitive individuals – and ran away when he was sixteen. This was highly embarrassing for the family, since Graham’s father was headmaster. They decided to send him to London to be psychoanalyzed, which was still a novel idea in 1920, especially for a teenage boy. The analyst selected, Kenneth Richmond, had no formal training; he was a writer with spiritualist leanings who followed an eclectic approach.
     While Greene was boarding with him in Lancaster Gate, Richmond instructed him to write down his dreams. In mid-morning sessions, Greene was expected to tell a dream and then give his associations to the key images while the analyst merely listened. When Greene did not recall a dream, he made something up. The whole experience – which he later described as the happiest six months of his life  – laid the foundation for Greene’s literary career by training him to write from dreams and invent stories. 
      Kenneth Richmond’s beautiful wife Zoe – about whom Greene had mildly erotic dreams – thought Graham was clairvoyant, “a natural medium”. While in Lancaster Gate, Greene dreamed of a ship going down in the Irish Sea. That same night, just after midnight, the Rowan sank in the Irish Sea
      In some of his precognitive or clairvoyant dreams, he found himself in the situation of one of the victims. Aged twenty-one, he dreamed of another shipboard disaster in which he was being ordered to jump overboard from an upper deck. He later read the news of a terrible wreck in a storm off the Yorkshire coast in which the captain ordered his men to jump into the violent sea, and all but two were drowned. Greene speculated that “on an occasion like this there must be terrific mental waves of terror, and my mind seems to be particularly attuned to the terror of drowning wave.”
     His youthful psychic ability to dream his way into someone else’s situation resembled his mature ability as a novelist to dream his way into his characters’ lives. He later observed that “sometimes identification with a character goes so far that one may dream his dream and not one’s own.” 
     Greene’s dreams were central to his writing. He said that two of his novels, It’s a Battlefield and The Honorary Consul, both started with dreams. He dreamed the plots and characters of entire short stories. When he was writing A Burnt-Out Case – which drew heavily on his diary of a trip to the Congo – Greene came to a point in the plot where he was stuck. Then the author dreamed as his character, Querry, and found he could insert his dream “without change” in the novel, “where it bridged a gap in the narrative which for days I had been unable to cross.” 
     Greene made it a habit to solve writing problems in his sleep, noting that it is not necessary to remember the content of a dream in order to receive a dream-inspired solution. “When an obstacle seems insurmountable, I read the day’s work before sleep…When I wake the obstacle has nearly always been removed: the solution is there and obvious – perhaps it came in a dream which I have forgotten.” 
      He harvested personal dreams and assigned them to characters in his novels. In a  dream reflecting his lifelong preoccupation with religion, he gave a lecture on the theme that God evolves, as well as man, and that behind their apparent duality, God and Satan are one. He later transferred this theory to a passage in The Honorary Consul where his character explains that God has a “night-side” as well as a “day-side”; the night-side will wither away (“like your communist state, Eduardo”) as God and man both evolve. 

   Graham Greene was a man of mystery who had much to hide, in his private life and in his engagement with the worlds of power and espionage. For him the great mystery, at the end, concerned what follows death. He thought – and dreamed – about this all his life. He was greatly affected by a series of dream encounters with his father after his death. 
   Greene had a disturbing dream that he might be extinguished after death through lack of belief. “I had been aware of people I had loved who called me to join them. But I had chosen, by my lack of belief, extinction. A great black cone like a candle extinguisher was to be dropped over my head.” 
     But he did not go out like that. He left sure of continuing life, ready for new travels, regretting only separation from the last woman to share his life, Yvonne Cloetta.
    A week before his death, knowing it was at hand, he said to Yvonne in the hospital at Vevey: “It may be an interesting experience; at last I shall know what lies on the other side of the fence.” 
Towards the end, he made this note in Yvonne’s “red book” of their conversations: “Perhaps in Paradise we are given the power to help the living. I picture Paradise as a place of activity. Sometimes I pray not for the dead friends but to dead friends, asking their help.” 
Yvonne recalls that “He worked every morning, as he always did, right up to the end, on his book of dreams.” Evidently he came to believe that through dreams (as one of his characters said in a different connection) “there was something in the warring crooked uncertain world he could trust beside himself.”

Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

A Medical Scientist Dreams with a God

Galen (128-210) was one of the greatest scientists of his time, and a pioneer of scientific methods of experiment. He was a prolific author in many fields, ranging from psychiatry to linguistics, from pathology to mathematics. He was court physician to Marcus Aurelius, able to influence the most powerful men in the Roman Empire. He doctored gladiators and enjoyed their company.
     He wielded his sharp mind like a scalpel and a digging tool, and was in many ways the model of Greek rationalism. Second only to Hippocrates, Galen is the most important person in the rise of Western medicine.
      He owed his career and, by his own account, his life, to dreams of a god. He was born in Pergamon, a highly civilized Greek city renowned for its library of 200,000 parchment books and its Asklepeion, a huge temple complex devoted to the healing religion of Asklepios. Galen’s father Nikon was one of the top architects in the city, and initially opposed his son’s desire to study medicine until his mind was changed by “vivid dreams” of the god. When he was twenty, Galen wrote, “Asklepios, god of my fathers, saved me when I had the deadly condition of an abscess.” The god directed him to perform a surgical procedure, opening an artery in his hand between his thumb and forefinger.
     He wrote some of his medical books under direction from Asklepios. When he was at the height of his career, the god cautioned him not to go on an eastern campaign with Marcus Aurelius. He may have won the emperor’s indulgence because Marcus Aurelius thanked the gods for granting him “assistance in dreams” and especially for showing him “how to avoid spitting blood and fits of giddiness.” Later in Galen’s writing career, Asklepios reproached him in a dream because he had not completed a treatise on the optic nerve; he then pushed himself to finish this work.
     As he recorded medical case histories, Galen paid close attention to the appearances of the god in diagnosing and prescribing for different ailments, and in facilitating direct healing. He was in no way superstitious. It would have been irrational, from his perspective, not to work with a friendly god who could fix the parts other medicine could not reach – and demonstrated this again and again.
     The surviving text of Galen’s essay On Diagnosis from Dreams shows his no-nonsense approach. He explains that dreams can provide accurate diagnosis because during sleep the soul travels inside the body and checks out what is going on. He notes the need to distinguish a somatic dream of this kind – for which he uses the word enhypnion – from other types, such as those that originate in waking thoughts and actions, or the prophetic dream (oneiros). He is especially interested in dream weather, believing that an excess of moisture or dryness, of heat or cold in a dream, will indicate the action that needs to be taken to balance a patient’s “humors”, or vital energies.
     He notes a cautionary example of how a dream warning was missed when a patient’s dream that one of his legs was turned to stone was interpreted symbolically instead of more literally. “This dream was interpreted by many skilled in these matters as a reference to the man’s slaves. However, contrary to all of our expectations, the dreamer became paralyzed in that leg.” 
    Galen prided himself on his ability to use his observation and intuition to diagnose emotional, as well as physical, problems. Called to treat a woman who was suffering from insomnia, he noticed that her pulse became wildly disturbed when the name of a handsome dancer, Pylades, was mentioned, but remained unaffected when he mentioned the name of a rival dancer. Galen diagnosed love-sickness. 
     And then there are the dreams where the god appears, to prescribe and to cure. Sometimes he does this by issuing prescriptions that might puzzle even the most adventurous physician. In one case reported by Galen, a “foreigner” came to the temple at Pergamon, in response to a dream, and had a visionary encounter with Askeplios in which he was directed to drink “a drug made from vipers”, and then smear the potion on his skin. This produced an ugly skin condition, which disappeared as the patient was healed. One scholar suggests that “viper” – echidne – should be read as “wild fig”, echinos, which certainly sounds less scary, but hardly less strange. [1] And we must never forget the vital importance of the “health-bringing snakes” in the Asklepian religion.
     One of the benefits of divine dreams, according to Galen, is that patients are more willing to comply with directions from a god than from a regular doctor. “In Pergamon we see that those who are being treated by the god obey him when on many occasions he bids them not to drink at all for fifteen days, while they obey none of the physicians who give this prescription.” [2]
     The god may also offer an Rx that addresses the whole person, rather than merely the symptom. Galen believed that this approach was at the heart of healing. In one of the most striking fragments from his works (many of which perished in a fire in the Temple of Peace – of all places – in Rome) he states, “We have made not a few men healthy by correcting the disproportion of their emotions.” Asklepios now appears as a power that restores balance in a life. He ordered some “to compose comic mimes and certain songs”, others to take up vigorous exercise including hunting, horse riding and martial arts to “arouse passion when it was weak” and to restore “measure” in the patient. [3]


We don’t want to miss the place of healing in Galen’s city of Pergamon, also well-known to his contemporary Aelius Aristides. The Asklepeion was on the south-western edge of the city, approached through a long colonnade. Those seeking health of body and mind entered a courtyard whose central feature was a white marble pillar adorned with the snakes of Asklepios. Beyond it, they moved through an arch into the sacred precinct. There was the round temple of Telesphoros – the Finisher – an enigmatic figure sometimes described as the son of Asklepios, but depicted as a hooded dwarf whose name and whose image carried the sense of nearness to death, the Finisher of human affairs. In the subterranean level of this temple, patients were immersed in purifying baths and rites of dream incubation took place.A passage led to the sacred well, and what went on here may give us a clue to the mystery of Bethesda.
     Aristides tells us that “this well is the discovery of the great magician who does everything for the safety of mankind.” For many it “is like a drug.” By bathing in it, the blind recover their sight; by drinking from it many are cured of chest trouble and regain “the breath of life.” The lame get up and walk. Some who drink from the well become prophetic. “For some merely drawing up the water has been like a means of safety.” [4]
    No surprise, then, that Galen not only reports dreams as clinical data, but includes an invocation to Askelpios when he administers medical treatment, as he did with these words for an emperor: “Be gracious, blessed Healer, you who made this remedy; be gracious and send your always gracious daughter Panacea to the Emperor, who will offer pure sacrifices for the freedom from pain which you can grant.” 


1. Steven M.Oberhelman, "Galen, On Diagnosis through Dreams" in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 38 (January, 1983) p.38.
2. Emma J. Edelstein and Ludwig Edelstein, Asclepius: Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies (second edition, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Press, 1998).Testimony 401, p.202
3. ibid.,Testimony 413, 
pp. 208-9.
4. Aelius P. Aristides, Complete Works trans. Charles A. Behr (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1981) 2 vols. 2:.237

ImageThe Healing of Archinus, ex-voto tablet, c. 370 BCE in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. The tablet commemorates an act of dream healing in the shrine of Amphiaraos in the city of Oropos,on the border of Boeotia and Attica. The deified king of Argos, Amphiaraos, was credited with powers of healing and his cult, like that of Asklepios, featured dream incubation. On the right side of the tablet, the patient is asleep or dormant on a couch. In the left foreground, Amphiaraos, like a mortal physician, is treating the patient’s right shoulder. At the same time, a sacred snake is licking or biting the same right shoulder of the sleeping patient. Behind, on a pillar, a votive stele commemorates the god’s act of healing. The figure on the right may be a third representation of the patient Archinus,giving thanks for his healing.

Text adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Dreaming with the Animal Powers


When shamans go dreaming, characteristically they operate under the protection and guidance of animal guardians. Forging a close relationship with one or more "power animals" is central to developing the arts of shamanic dream travel and tracking. It is invaluable in maintaining healthy boundaries and defending psychic space. A conscious connection with the animal guardians shows us how to follow the natural paths of our energy. A strong working connection with the animal powers brings the ability to shapeshift the energy body and project energy forms that can operate at a distance from the physical body. 

Our ancestors believed that we are born with a connection with a particular totem animal; this was the raison d'être of the clan system. Some Australian Aborigines believe, up to the present day, that when a human is born, its "bush soul" is born in the form of an animal or bird. We may feel that we have a lifelong connection with a certain animal or bird. Others may observe this in our body type, our life styles, our modes of responding to challenges. 

But in the course of a lifetime, we may develop many animal connections. Some of these may stem from our relations with the animals who share our homes and habitats, from the family pets to wild animals encountered in nature and in our travels. Animals we have met in the physical world may reappear in our dreams, as allies and helpers. 

Here are two personal examples, one involving a dog who had shared our home, the other a bird who had shared our habitat: After a black dog I had loved was killed on the road, he appeared again and again as a family protector. His presence, for a time, was all but physical. Driving the Jeep he had loved to ride in, a family member saw him in the rearview mirror and told him firmly to "Sit down!" The dog had died, but he was still very much around, watching over the family he had loved fiercely. After a time, I performed a ceremony to release his spirit. 

After this, he appeared in a different way. A larger intelligence began to work through his form, and I found a black dog - who sometimes walked upright and even drove an automobile - appearing as a guide and bodyguard in my dreams and journeys. He showed me passages into the afterlife. He played guide and escort for me on a powerful and challenging journey that finally resolved a past-life issue that had shadowed my current life in many ways. I believe that, in the year after his death, I was dealing with the individual spirit of the dog I had loved. I feel that in later years, the form of my beloved dog has fused with a larger transpersonal source of guidance, linked to the precinct of Anubis, the "Opener of the Ways". 

On the same land where I lived with my black dog, I had a series of physical encounters with a red-tailed hawk who spoke to me in a language I felt I could understand - if I only spoke hawk. In a spontaneous vision one night, when I was drifting between waking and sleep, the hawk lent me her wings, and I found myself drawn to a cabin in the woods, north of Lake Champlain, where I had the first of a series of life-changing visits with an ancient Iroquois "woman of power." I have written about this at length in my book Dreamways of the Iroquois. The hawk has appeared again and again over the years, to offer confirmation or warning in its flight patterns over the roads of everyday life, and to lend me her wings in dreams and visions.

Animal dreams may be the doorway to developing strong working relations with the animal guardians. These dreams may hold up a mirror to our health or habits. They may show us how we need to feed and attend to our bodies. They may reveal a potential we have not yet developed. They may tell a story about our lives or relationships like one of Aesop's fables. They may be the place of encounter between our dream self and a spiritual ally or guardian. 

Our true spiritual teachers come looking for us in our dreams, and often they come in unexpected forms. The cat in your dreams may be the kitty you remember from childhood, or an aspect of your self that needs to be pampered or walk by night or play hunter, or a guide that has assumed a familiar face.

Recently my beloved calico cat, who died several years ago, has taken to visiting me, typically appearing in the drifty state between sleep and awake. She is both herself and a greater being I think of as the Calico Tiger. I am sure she is more than a part of me, and more than the lovely friend who liked to lie on the arm  of my reading chair. In her latest visitation, she brought a whole army of felines with her, large and small - maybe every cat who has shared my life in all the worlds. Some have been worshipped as deities; the others may think that they should be.

Illustration: "Calico Call" by Robert Moss

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Conscious Dreaming in the Real World

I used to avoid the term “lucid dreaming” because it was often associated with approaches that promised to teach people to “control” and “manipulate” their dreams. The discussion has matured greatly since then, though if you cruise the web you’ll find plenty of hucksters promising to teach you how to be a master of the universe or have guilt-free sex with anyone through lucid dreaming.
    I chose the title Conscious Dreaming for my first book on all of this. In my mind, being conscious means more than being lucid. It means being aware that at every turning, in every state of reality and consciousness, you can exercise choice. At the very least, you can choose your attitude, and that can change everything. You want to be prepared, always, to test the limits of possibility.
    In my experience, it is less important to be aware that we are dreaming than to be capable of exercising choice, pursuing goals and considering consequences, whatever state of reality and consciousness we may be in.
    The ability to embark on dream journeys at will, travel to certain locations, contact transpersonal beings and exercise wakeful powers of goal-setting and decision-making in the dream state  is what is prized by traditional dreaming peoples. In other words, they rank volitional dreaming above lucid dreaming, to employ a helpful distinction suggested by anthropologists Roger Ivar Lohmann and Shayne Dahl in a recent essay.[1]

      As a lucid dreamer, you may experiment with creating environments in nonordinary reality where you can live out your wildest fantasies or engage in training or meditation. I am greatly in favor of practicing reality creation on the imaginal plane. However, you don’t want to fall into the delusion that everything you experience in dreaming is merely a figment of your own imagination, or that everyone you encounter is a projection or aspect of yourself.
     You will come to understand that dreaming – lucid or otherwise – is a portal to other realms of reality in the multidimensional universe. They may have their own physics, whether similar or wildly different from the physics of everyday experience on Earth.  These realms include the territories where the dead are alive.
     This is common knowledge in ancestral and indigenous traditions, which understand that the dream world is a real world and may actually be more r
eal than much of ordinary life, where we are sometimes in the condition of sleepwalkers. In dreaming cultures, it is recognized that the most important events in our lives may take place in dreams.              
     Anthropologist Irving Hallowell wrote of the Ojibwa, “When we think autobiographically we only include events that happened to us when awake; the Ojubwa include remembered events that hat have occurred in dreams. And, far from being of subordinate importance, such experiences are for them often of more vital importance than the events of daily waking life. Why is this so? Because it is in dreams that the individual comes into direct communication with the atiso’kanak, the powerful ‘persons’ of the other-than-human class.”[2]

     Shamans say that in dreams that matter (waking or sleeping) one of two things is happening. Either you are journeying beyond your body, released from the limits of space-time and the physical senses; or you receive a visitation from a being — god, spirit, or fellow dreamer — who does not suffer from these limitations. In the language of the Makiritare, a dreaming people of Venezuela, the word for dream, adekato, means literally a “flight of the soul.”[3]
     Among the Semang-Negrito peoples of the Malay peninsula, "walking into a dream" means entering an altered state of consciousness and a separate reality.  What is experienced in dreams is at least as real as what goes on in the day. One of the souls of the dreamer travels in other worlds. [4]
    If you have been primed to think that what goes on in dreams is all about your  own thoughts and projections, you may be shocked into awareness that the dream world is a real world when you find yourself in a lucid dream in which other players are clearly beyond your control. 
    For Jung, the dawning came in his encounters with the mentor he called Philemon, who appeared to him as an old man with kingfisher blue wings and convinced the psychologist, as Jung put it, of the objective reality of figures who appear in inner experiences. "it was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche." [5]
    I once dreamed that I was rattling along at high speed in a yellow New York City cab. I became lucid when I noticed that the taxi driver was a dead man yoked to the steering wheel by a rope around his neck. I yelled for the cab to stop. When it did, I heard the kind of recorded voice you get in New York cabs. It said, "This is not a dream. You are in the afterlife."
    I proceeded to have adventures in a number of strange Underworld locales and bardo states. Getting out of here was not straightforward. I had to ask for help. It came in the elegant shape of a being I had met many times before, who is recognized in certain traditions as a form of the sacred Gatekeeper. I was lucid throughout this odyssey, and volitional in the sense that I remained fully conscious of my power to choose my course. But the other players and the environment itself had their own reality and solidity.
     A bigger experience in a state of dream lucidity brought me to my first encounter with the spiritual teacher I have called Island Woman in my books. This episode began in the hypnopompic zone, when I stirred from sleep in the middle of the night. Among the stream of images rising on my inner screen, I chose a double spiral of the kind I had seen on a guardian stone at the entrance to Newgrange, the megalithic temple-tomb in Ireland.
     Instantly, I found myself floating above my body - a reminder that in dreaming (lucid or not) we often travel beyond the body and brain. I enjoyed the very sensory experience of flight. I lifted over trees and rooftops, soaring and swooping like a bird. I felt some pain when my wingfeathers rubbed the dried needles of an old spruce tree.

     Then I felt the tug of someone else's intention. I chose to follow the call. It brought me on a long flight over pristine woodlands - modern highways and developments were gone - to a cabin somewhere near Montreal where a wise and ancient woman spoke to me over a wampum belt. I did not understand her language until a series of later experiences - and some helpful synchronicity - led me to my first friends among the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois. They had me repeat words I had recorded phonetically. Eventually we determined that my interlocutor was speaking to me in an archaic form of the Mohawk language, "the way we may have spoken it three hundred years ago."
     I was required to study Mohawk to understand the teachings of an arendiwanen, or "woman of power", who had called me in a lucid dream into a real world beyond linear space and time. This transformed my life. [6]


1. Roger Ivar Lohmann and Shayne A.P. Dahl, "Cultural Contingency and the Varieties of Lucid Dreaming" in Ryan Hurd and Kelly Bulkeley (eds) Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2014) vol 2., 24-25.
2. A. Irving Hallowell, "Ojibwa Ontology, Behavior and World View" in Stanley Diamond (ed) Culture and History: Essays in Honor of Paul Radin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), 207-44.
3. Marc de Civrieux, "Medatia: A Makiritare Shaman's Tale" in David M. Guss (ed) The Language of the Birds (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1985) 74.
4. Diana Riboli, "Dreamed Violence and Shamanic Transformation in Indigenous Nepal and Malaysia" in Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives, vol, 2, 75.
5. C.G.Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage, 1973) 183.
6. For the full story, see Robert Moss, Dreamways of the Iroquois (Rochester VT: Destiny Books, 2004) and The Boy Who Died and Came Back (Novato CA: New World Library, 2014).

Photo by RM
Drawing: "Island Woman" by Robert Moss

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Your dreams are doorways for lucid adventure travel and healing


Dreams are real experiences and a fully remembered dream is its own interpretation. The meaning of a dream is inside the dream itself. We claim it by learning to go back inside our dreams in a relaxed state. By learning how to reenter dreams, you will develop the ability to clarify messages about future events, resume contact with inner teachers, and resolve unfinished business. Through this method, you will place yourself in closer attunement with the creative source from which dream images flow.      

As a natural side benefit, you will probably also find that you are increasingly able to embark on conscious dream journeys from a waking state, and retain awareness that you are dreaming as you move deeper into the dreamscape. You may indeed discover that dream reentry is a royal road to lucid dreaming: you start out lucid and stay that way.

To understand this process, we need to get one thing clear: the dream you remember is not the dream itself. By the time you are fully awake, you have forgotten 90 percent, if not more, of your nocturnal adventures. A partner's love bite, a ruckus in the street, a child tickling your toes, the need to get to the office, can shoo away most of your remaining memories. By the time the editor in your waking mind has finished processing and tagging the scraps that are left, your dream memories may be quite remote from the dreams themselves. At best, they are souvenirs from a journey.

Suppose you fly down to Rio and bring home a few snapshots of Sugarloaf Mountain and bathers in string bikinis on Copacabana beach. How much of your adventure is contained in the photos? Do they carry the smell of palm oil, the bittersweet tang of batida de limão, the slap of a tropical rainshower? Or the drama at Customs, the rippling laughter of the girls in the samba school, the dance of your nerve endings when you entered (or renewed) a romance that woke up all your senses? Of course not. However, as you study the pictures, you may find yourself sliding back into the fuller experience.

Dream memories are like this. Even as snapshots, they are often unsatisfactory: out of focus, with key characters missing their faces, subject to multiple exposures and mess-ups in the dark room. But with practice, you can learn to use these blurred images as windows through which you can reenter your dreams, continue the adventure and bring back valuable gifts.

Dream reentry requires two things: your ability to focus clearly on a remembered scene from your dream, and your ability to relax, screen out distractions, and allow your consciousness to flow back inside that scene. If there are scary things inside the dream you are nervous about confronting, or if you have difficulty relaxing into a flow of imagery, you may find dream reentry easier if you have a partner to talk you through the process, or the support of a whole circle.

Shamanic drumming is an especially powerful tool for dream reentry, providing fuel and focus for the journey. Drumming enhances the possibility that you can invite a partner to enter your dream space with you to act as your ally and search for information you may have missed. I have made my own recording of shamanic drumming for dream reentry, Wings for theJourney.

Why you want to learn dream reentry

  • You want to have more fun
  • You need to move beyond fear and nightmare terrors
  • You need to clarify the meaning of the dream – for example, to determine whether it is literal, symbolic or the experience of a separate reality
  • You need specific information from the dream – for example, the exact time and place of a possible future event, or the full text of something you saw in a book or an inscription.
  • You want to talk to someone inside the dream.
  • You want to claim a relationship with a spiritual ally who appeared in the dream
  • You want to try to change something in the dream.
  • You want to bring through healing
  • You want to get in touch with a part of yourself you encountered in the dream
  • You want to enter creative flow and create with dream energy
  • You want to use your dreams as portals to the larger reality.

Location, location, location

The Realtor's familiar slogan applies to the technique of dream reentry as well as to the property game. The easiest way for you to go back inside a dream is to hold your focus on the dream location. Your initial memories may be fuzzy but a single landmark - even a single shape or color - may be sufficient to enable you to shift your consciousness into a vivid and complex scene.

Be open to possibility! The geography of the dreamworld is not that of Google maps. In dreams, you may find yourself in familiar locales, including places from your past - Grandma's house, or your childhood home - that may or may not have changed. You may visit unfamiliar but realistic locations, often clues that your dream contains precognitive or other psychic material.

Your dream location may prove to be in a parallel world where one of your parallel selves is leading a continuous life.  You may find yourself in scenes from a different historical epoch (past or future), in a mermaid cove or in lands where the dead are alive. You may fall into an astral slum or rise to cities or schools or palaces in the Imaginal Realm, where human imagination, in concert with higher intelligence, generates worlds. 

One of the purposes of dream reentry is establish where in the worlds you are. The typical dreamer, after waking, has no more idea where he spent the night than an amnesiac drunk.

The best time for dream reentry

The best time to reenter a dream is often immediately after you have come out of it. By snuggling down in bed and rehearsing the postures of sleep, you may be able to slid back inside the dream space in a gentle and natural way. But you work schedule may not allow you to do this. And if your dream contains deeply disturbing material, you may need to wait until you have the resolution and resources to face that challenge on its own ground - which you will probably find is the sovereign remedy for nightmare terrors and frustrating dreams.

There is no such thing as an "old" dream when it comes to choosing the portal for dream reentry. What matters is that the image that you choose should have real energy for you. I have seen people who had been missing their dreams for thirty years take the last dream they remembered - sometimes from childhood - and use it as the portal for a lucid shamanic journey, powered by drumming, with stunning results. The gifts sometimes extend to soul recovery, to bringing home the beautiful young dreamer who checked out of a life when the world got too cold and cruel, leaving the adult bereft of dreams.


Part of this text is adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.

Illustration: "Door to Magic" digital art by RM


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

On Dying and Coming Back


I first died in this lifetime when I was three years old. My great aunt the opera singer saw this in the tea leaves but didn’t talk about it until long after. What she did not see was that – as a doctor at the hospital in Hobart, Tasmania told my parents – I “died and came back”. That is still the term I prefer to use of these experiences. I don’t remember much of what happened when I left my body at age three, only that it was very hard to live in a body in this world after I came back, and that I felt that my home reality was somewhere else.

     At nine, I died again during emergency appendectomy in a Melbourne hospital. This time I seemed to live a whole life somewhere else, among a beautiful people who raised me as their own. I came back remembering that other life and that other world. It still wasn’t easy for me to live in the ordinary world, and I was nostalgic for that other world. The gift of these experiences,  and my persisting illness (I had double pneumonia twelve times between the ages of three and eleven) was an inner life that was rich and prolific, and an ability to move between states of consciousness and reality at will.
    We did not have terms like “near-death experience” in Australia in that era.. The first person who gave me a model for understanding what had happened to me was an Aboriginal boy. He told me, “When we get real sick, our spirit goes away. We go and live with the spirit people. When we get well, we come back.”

    At age eleven, I had the vision of a great staff of burning bronze with a serpent wrapped around it that seemed to fill half the sky. Right after that, I came very near death for a third time, back in hospital with pneumonia. But this time, I came back healed, and was able to live a relatively normal life – except that in my mind, the dream world was my “normal”.
    I can’t remember a time when I did not understand that our personal dreams can take us into the Dreamtime, which is about more than the bargain basement of the personal subconscious; it is the place where we find our spiritual kin on a higher level and remember the origins and purpose of life. That’s the way the First Peoples of my native Australian see it. The Aboriginal boy who befriended me did not think it was extraordinary to dream future events, or to meet the dead in dreams, as I did all the time.
    I had to be fairly quiet about these things, growing up in a conservative time in Australia, in a military family. But as I grew older, I was able to do more and more with the gifts of dreaming. My dreams of ancient cultures led me to my first job, as lecturer in ancient history at the Australian National University. My dreams of possible future events enabled me to avoid death on the road, quite literally, on three occasions.

    In the mid-1980s, I left the fast-track life of a bestselling thriller writer and moved to a farm 130 miles north of New York City, thanks to a hawk and a white oak. I found myself drawn into trans-temporal dramas and the spirit world of a Native American people. I became deeply engaged in issues and dramas from the life of an 18th century Irishman, a major historical figure who knew the Mohawk very well.
    My engagement with him opened a link to a woman of his time, an extraordinary dream shaman, the Mother of the Wolf Clan of her people, who tried to influence him and most certainly succeeded in influencing me. She reminded me why dreaming is central to healing and to living our bigger and braver stories, and I cherish our continuing relationship across time and dimensions. I learned what it means to be so deeply involved with a personality from another time that your lives turn together. I was eventually required to undergo death and rebirth in the mode of a shaman. 
    Borrowing from Jung, I sometimes describe this period in my life as a protracted "confrontation with the unconscious." I see now that, as with the years Jung recorded in his Red Book, all the important work of my subsequent life has flowed from this stormy period of spiritual emergency and emergence.   
    There are few subjects more important than how we navigate the big transitions in life. A transition is more than a change; it is literally a “crossing over” from one state into another. What happened to me in midlife was another experience of dying and coming back.

    I learned that when you change your life, your true friends are those who will support you through that change and your worst friends are those who try to keep you in the frame of past expectations.
Dreams showed me how to find my way in my new life as a dream author and dream teacher. When I still thought I had to return to writing thrillers to pay the bills, my dreams told me that it is never a good idea to trade the soul’s calling for a bag of groceries, or even a truck full.
Young children, especially my own daughters, became my most important mentors in ordinary life on what dreams require from a family or community. Time among children confirmed and renewed my understanding that dreams are for real, that there is magic in making things up, and that we change the world when we tell a better story about it.

    I started teaching what I had learned, and learned through teaching. I found, as Emerson counseled, that “there is one direction is which space is open to us.” When I followed my calling, doors opened in astonishing ways. When I slipped back and away from my path, doors stayed resolutely closed. I am grateful for that.
     I was now able to give people who were willing to share dreams and other experiences of the larger reality the confirmation and validation I had desperately needed as a lonely boy. As I developed my practice, I found I was able to offer more: safe ways to travel into the deeper reality, have adventures, and return with gifts of guidance and healing. I developed an original synthesis of contemporary dreamwork and primal shamanic methods for shifting consciousness and operating in the spirit worlds, and called this Active Dreaming. I found people everywhere were hungry for this. The more I gave them, the more happy and fulfilled I felt. I knew joy every time I saw more of spirit shining in someone’s eyes in one of my workshops.
    There is no better confirmation that you are on the right track than a secret handshake from the universe, one of those meaningful coincidences you simply cannot dismiss. I got a bisou, or kiss, from the universe in a delightful and entirely unexpected way, on the day I told my editor I was going to write a book titled The Boy Who Died and Came Back. My last action that morning, before rushing to the airport to catch the first of a series of planes to France, was to send  her  a couple of sample pages about what happened to me as a young boy.
    I was traveling to southern France that day because I had a date with Death. I was going to lead one of my favorite workshops, titled “Making Death Your Ally”, at the Hameau de l’Etoile, a restored seventeenth-century village near Montpellier that is now a retreat center.  On my last short flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Montpellier, I took out my in-flight reading, a book in French titled Les portes du rêve. A flight attendant immediately asked me if she could see the book. Leafing through it with mounting excitement, she saw that one of the driving themes is using dreams of the departed and conscious dream journeys to the Other Side to gain first-hand knowledge of what happens after death.
    "This is my favorite theme," she told me. "I am passionate about it. I am going to get this book!"
    I now confessed that I was the author. I explained that I was reading myself in hopes of brushing up my French prior to opening my workshop. Les portes du rêve is the French version of my book Dreamgates.
    Cabin service at my end of the cabin was now suspended while the flight attendant proceeded to fire a volley of questions. "To write about these things you must have had a near-death experience, yes?"
     Yes, indeed. 
    People around us did not seem to mind that the coffee and juice was not being poured. An older couple next to me wanted in on the conversation. Violette, the wife, said, "We are all so hungry for first-hand information about what happens after death. I want to know what I can expect in the afterlife, and I don't want to hear it from priests or psychologists. I want to hear it from people who have been there! And I want to know how I can find out these things for myself."
    I quoted Montaigne. Puisque nous ne savons pas où la mort nous attend, attendons-la partout. I had forgotten that I don't speak good French as I quoted this wonderful counsel in the original version. "Since we do not know where Death will meet us, let us be ready to meet it everywhere."
    There was a stir of agreement from folks around us. I realized I now had an audience of at least a dozen people.
    "I can't think of any subject as important as what you are discussing," a man across the aisle contributed, writing down my name and the title of my book. A male flight attendant joined us, wanting the same information.
    I observed that we have two main ways of gaining direct knowledge of 
l’au delà, the Other Side. We can communicate with people who are at home there, and we can make the crossing before death, to see for ourselves.
    This led to an urgent series of fresh questions, again centering on my personal experiences.
     "Do you have no fear of death?
     "Do you talk to many people who have died?"
     "Are there many different places where people go when they die?"
     The short answer to those three, of course, is Yes, Yes, Yes. I gave highest marks to this question: "Were you happier in the life when you died, or the life you are living now?"
     That was a tough one. I confessed that I was so in love with the people of the other world who raised me as their own when I went away from this world at age nine that I had a hard time living in the body of a nine-year-old boy when I came back. "I suppose I was in love with Death. I have learned to make Death an ally rather than a lover. I want to be ready to meet him anywhere, everyday. I also want to use him as a counselor who can help me to make my life choices with the courage and clarity only Death can bring."
     The flight attendant had returned to her regular tasks, but kept coming back to rejoin the conversation. When we landed, she was waiting outside the baggage claim with some of her colleagues. They were all very interested and wanted my website and book information.
    "You see, we are making you some good publicity, so you will have to keep teaching us about
l’au delà, here in France."
     Her lips grazed my cheek.  I felt a bisou from the universe, a little kiss from Death.



Adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist inthe Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Drawing: "Stormbird Brings Me Back" by Robert Moss