Thursday, April 27, 2023

Notes for the Road


To find yourself you must lose yourself.
The One you are seeking is not inside you.
You are inside the One.
To be present in every time
you must be here, now.
Now is the center of all times.
Here, now, you can step on and off
the trains to past and future
and travel on parallel lines.
To get to a place you do not know
you must go by a way you do not know.
Burn your maps to make beacons.
To wake up, you must dream.
Without dreams, you are a sleepwalker
who could join the ranks of the living dead.
There will be monsters, of course,
dark dwellers at every new threshold.
Without them, how could you be ready to pass?
In dealing with demons, you must learn
to choose the forms of your worst fears
and laugh at your creations.
If you wish to see marvels around you
you must carry marvels within.
A mirror can't show you what you don't bring.
The gates of the Otherworld open
from wherever you are. Don’t think
you have to drink jungle juice with anacondas.
Put your blade away, dragonslayer.
You only conquer the dragon when you raise it
and ride it and turn its energy towards Light.
Turn out the lights if you want to find the Light.
The visible is the skin of the invisible.
In the dark, it is easier to see with inner eyes.
Don’t list the Trickster among your demons.
He is your friend if you expect the unexpected
Everything interesting happens on the boundaries.
If you want to be fully alive, be ready to die.
How about now? You feel the cool breath
of Death on your neck. Give him some foreplay.
To find the One, don't spurn the many
Name only one God, and you’ll always end up with two.
Seek the nameless behind the forest of names.
Make your confessions on the road
not from behind a curtain. The hawk will hear you
and the rabbit, the lily and the stone.
Walk on the mythic edge. Let your life
become a stage for divine events.
Notice what neverending story is playing through you.
Look after your poetic health.
Notice what rhymes in a day, and a life.
Follow the logic of resemblances.
Practice real magic: Follow the passions of your soul
and bring gifts from the Otherworld into this one.
You’ll regret what you left undone –
the fence you wouldn’t jump, the dream you didn’t follow –
more than anything you did when your cool lover
stops licking your neck and takes you in his full embrace.

- My poem is included in Growing Big Dreams by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: "Path in Transylvania" by RM

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Kairomancy and the Grammar of Epiphany


The word “synchronicity” was coined by Jung to flag patterns of meaningful coincidence. He defined “synchronicity” as “the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning”, the work of “an acausal connecting principle.”

Things come up at the same time, or in a certain sequence, that feel as if they are closely connected, but cannot be attributed to any linear sequence of cause and event. Dreams and waking events may interweave closely, and may have the same quality. Coincidence is at work, but it cannot be shrugged off as “mere” coincidence. Synchronicities mean something. Sometimes they nudge us towards the perception of a deeper meaning in our lives than our everyday habits and attitudes have made room for. They can feed that hunger for meaning that is a defining characteristic of any human who is truly alive. They move us beyond our tendency to put fences around possibility.

Benign synchronicities tend to come thick and fast at times of change, moments that stir the soul, when our passions are aroused – when we fall in love, or make a leap of faith, or are embarking on a new creative endeavor, or are close to birth or death. Benign synchronicity may provide powerful confirmation of a path we are testing – or open a path of which we were previously unaware. Synchronicities can strengthen us in the determination to follow our deepest intuitions even when they run counter to conventional wisdom and logic and cannot be subjected to rational explanation. Like the exchange of secret handshakes between members of a secret fraternity, these signals alert us to the fact that we are not alone, that we have invisible sources of support, and that we are on the right course even when the whole world seems to be going the other way.

Negative synchronicities and counter-currents tend to multiply when we are resisting change, or insisting on following an ego-driven agenda.

Synchronicities carry us beyond stolid distinctions between inner and outer, mind and matter. They may arouse the suspicion that, when we are most deeply alive, we somehow call up from the depths of soul the events and situations that are played out around us.

Synchronicity helps us awaken to the fact that beyond the surface of things, everything is alive, animate, conscious. By making it our game to enter actively into the play of synchronicity, we move towards conscious engagement with the powers of the deeper world.

Synchronicity is the grammar of epiphany. An epiphany is literally a “showing forth”. The epiphanies of life, those numinous “show times” when we glimpse the deeper reality behind the manifest world, and derive insight into the larger meaning of our personal existence, come with the intersection of a hidden order of events with our seemingly linear progression through space/time.

The play of synchronicity helps us to move into a creative flow state, and invites us to step outside linear time and history into kairos time, the “jump time” of creative opportunity.

As English physicist F. David Peat writes lyrically in Synchronicity: The Bridge between Matter and Mind. , through synchronicity, as well as peak experiences, “creativity breaks through the barriers of the self and allows awareness to flood through the whole domain of consciousness. It is the human mind operating, for a moment, in its true order and extending throughout society and nature, moving through orders of increasing subtlety, reaching past the source of mind and matter into creativity itself.”

     A conscious engagement with synchronicity, like a conscious relationship with the dreamworlds, enables us to connect with a multidimensional perspective and become co-creators of what is manifested from a deeper reality in our physical worlds.

Dreaming and synchronicity are the warp and woof of our experience of a deeper reality. In dreaming, we go there. Through synchronicity, the forces of that deeper world leave their mark on our surface world and give us a spur to live juicier, more magical lives. 

Wolfgang Pauli, the pioneer of quantum physics who helped Jung develop his theory of synchronicity, did not like the term, which literally speaks only about things happening at the same time. Pauli suggested “isomorphy”, a term that in mathematics refers to identity or near-identity of form, and this is a useful word since connection by resemblance is arguably a more significant element in meaningful coincidence than convergence at a single moment in time. Indeed, we may experience a series of coincidence over a considerable period of time, a situation I have called reincidence. However, “synchronicity” has entered the household vocabulary and sounds scientific and so we are stuck with it.

I decided that we need a new term to describe the practice of navigating by synchronicity, and so I invented one: kairomancy. The first part incorporates the name of a Greek god of time very different from Chronos, the lord of tick-tock linear time. Kairos is the god of special moments, the god of jump time or opportunity time, when time operates quite differently. You may feel that time has stopped or that something from outside time is coming into play. Kairos is depicted as a fleet young man, hairless except for a lock of hair falling over his forelock. From this image we get the phrase, “Seize time by the forelock.” Kairos embodies the moment of opportunity you do not want to let slip.

Hence, kairomancy, literally, “divination by special moments”.  Develop this practice and you become a kairomancer, someone who is always poised to recognize and act in those special Kairos moments of opportunity.

Text partly adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library

Sunday, April 16, 2023

When the Dreamer Must Be Stronger than the Dream


Victor Hugo’s creative work was driven by dreaming to a remarkable degree. In a curious essay titled Promontorium somnii (The Headland of Dreams) written shortly after Les Miserables, he remarks, "The dreamer must be stronger than the dream". Il faut que le songeur soit plus fort que le songe. 

Hugo is not talking about trying to put the little ego in charge of the dreamstate. He is talking about our need to find a navigator within ourselves than can enable us to sail through the wreckage of dreams and plans that broke on the reefs, through the fog of despair and the will-of-the-wisps of illusion, to find and claim a bigger dream. He is also talking about the need to avoid falling over the edge of madness, when hurled into the "expanding spiral of the self". Hugo was keenly alive to the risk, since he saw both his brother and his daughter confined to mental asylums. He observes in the same essay that "sleep is not a formal necessity for dreams". 

Hugo journaled his dreams and they are central to some of his novels, especially Le Travailleurs de la mer [translated as "Toilers of the Sea"] and L’Homme qui rit and to poems including “Booz endormit” (which I discovered many years ago because of a dream of my own Boaz as a sleeping king with a tree growing out of his lower body) and “La Pente de la reverie”.

“The dream is the aquarium of the night,” Hugo writes in Toilers of the Sea, which contains an astonishing account of how realities are created from subtle “stuff” that “floats in dreams”. As the fluid forms that rise and fall in the night aquarium become fixed, "beings emerge".-

Victor Hugo also said, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” To fulfill the bold promise of that statement in our lives, we again need to heed the caution that the dreamer may need to be stronger than the dream. Dreams lay a path for manifestation. However, we want to avoid succumbing to a sense of fatality as the elements of our dreams - good or bad - start to play out in physical life. Dreams open paths, and show us possible futures. As we walk those paths, we must never give up our power to choose, and remain conscious how we are choosing.

At a couple of important passages in my life, stunned by how exactly waking events were replicating incidents in a dream, I behaved like an actor following a prepared script (one with some missing lines, however) - and lost important opportunities by abandoning my power to improvise and be present in the shifting moment. I have observed other dreamers weighed down by a sense of fatality about "bad" dreams that they feel are going to play out, thereby setting a course for the rocks. I have seen dreamers who clung to bright dreams of romance and success but failed to do all that was required to ground and nurture those dreams in the world - or saw part of those beautiful dreams unfold, only to be shattered. Out of such wreckage, once again, the dreamer is challenged to be stronger than the dream - to reach to a wiser and deeper self to find the power to sail on, into a bigger dream.

Illustration: A caricature of Victor Hugo by Bertall, titled "Une salade dans un crâne" ("A Salad in the Head").

Friday, April 14, 2023

Scarab Makes a World


April 13, 2023

Vision in liminal space before sleep

"What Is Reality?"

I like to do horizontal meditation flat on my back in bed in the liminal space between sleep and awake. Last night, following an interesting conversation with a philosopher and meditation teacher, I put the question he had put to me, "What is reality?"
The response was immediate - and highly visual. I saw a scarab beetle emerging from a ball of dung and spreading its wings, flying up into the sky. Light on its shell and wings flashed gold. I heard its Egyptian name, Khepri, which has to do with emergence and creation. I saw that the ball of dung was in fact the primal mound, rising from the waters of Nun. Reality is what happens when we rise from the sh-t and make a world.

Drawing: "Scarab Makes a World" by Robert Moss

Learning from the Patient: Jung’s Scarab at the Window


We might call the most famous story of synchronicity in Jung’s biography The Scarab at the Window. Jung had virtually despaired in his treatment of a patient who had left two previous therapists when she started telling him a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. At that instant, Jung noticed a green-gold flying beetle at his window. It was a rose chafer, the closest thing to a scarab you will find in Europe. He caught the beetle and presented it to his patient, saying, “Here is your scarab”. This took him and his patient out of their stuck place, and the analysis went forward (Jung, 1973 p. 22). I wrote about the importance of this episode in Jung's practice and theory of synchronicity here

We now know the name and background of Jung’s patient, thanks to Vicente de Moura (2014), a curator at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Her maiden name was Madeleine Quarles van Ufford; her aristocratic family called her Maggy. In Zürich she met her future husband, Adam Reichstein; he was the brother of the Nobel Prize winner Tadeus Reichstein. She was in therapy with Jung for five years in the early 1920s. She stayed in contact withn Jung and his circle after, joining the Psychological Club. Died in 1975.

She spent her infancy in Batavia (modern-day Indonesia) and carried for Jung some of the mystery of the East. We know, from Jung’s lengthy description of her case (without the name) in “The Realities of Practical Psychotherapy”, a paper only published after his death, that she had a vivid dream and fantasy life, and extraordinary psychosomatic symptoms that Jung could not initially understand (Jung, 1985, pp. 327-337).

Jung noted in ‘Concerning Mandala Symbolism’, (1950) where one of Reichstein’s mandalas is published, that she ‘… was born in the Dutch East Indies, where she sucked up the peculiar local demonology with the mother’s milk of her native ayah’.

What analysts call transference and counter-transference seem to have come into play. However something from a deeper order of events is also poking through. Is it possible that in choosing the dream she shared, Jung’s patient had picked up on his own recent reading and archetypal preoccupations? I have experienced and reported cases where my students picked up what I was reading overnight in dreams they shared with me the next morning. On one such occasion three students shared dreams at the breakfast table that matched three key passages in a ethnographic account of the Cayuga Rites of Midwinter that I had been reading between 3 and 4 am.

In the case of Maggy, it seems like the patient was taking the lead, that Jung was following her into mythic territory she already inhabited. Maggy’s dreams drove him East until he discovered Kundalini yoga in The Serpent Power. Only then did he feel he was starting to understand her, “Learning from the Patient”, as in the title of de Moura’s article. In November 1932 Jung gave a series of 4 lectures on Kundalini yoga. These lectures from Jung are known in literature as the Yoga-Kundalini Seminars.

Jung wrote that the case of Maggy and the Scarab at the Window was unique in his experience. of synchronicity. But de Moura observes that "this kind of event, which is an example for what Jung called synchronicity, was by no means the only one in her treatment."

In a letter to Jung probably send in 1930, Maggy described this remarkable sequence, suggesting astral visitations:

I came to you to tell a very impressive dream: I dreamt that I rested in bed and your spirit appeared to me. He bowed down to me and kissed me. In this kiss your spirit from the afterlife holds something very vital for me, which would set in an improvement of my condition.

With this dream I went to see you. As I told you the dream, you said to me what had happened to you. Before I came, you had a patient with you. Suddenly you got without any reason an irresistible urge to send the patient away. As this urge became too powerful, you really sent the patient away. When you were alone, it compelled you to go to the bookshelf, to get any book.

You read inside the book the story of an ill man, to whom the spirit of his beloved appeared. Beside her was the phantom of a man, who would have the mission to conduct the woman from the afterlife to the ill man. The similarities of my dream with the story were clear enough. (de Moura 2014, pp. 404-405)



de Moura, V. (2014). Learning from the patient: The East, synchronicity and transference in the history of an unknown case of C.G. Jung. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 59, 391-409.

Jung, C. G. (1973). Memories, dreams, reflections. Pantheon Books.

Jung, C. G. (1985). The Practice of Psychotherapy (2nd Ed.). Princeton University Press.

Illustration: Egyptian scarab amulet with bird wings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Yor City.



Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Dream rehearsals


Before I led my first public dream workshop, I dreamed the exact number of participants and also that there would be a problem with a man who would try to record the session without asking permission. In the dream, I saw him fiddling with a micro-recorder under a dark jacket while seated next to a grand piano. In the workshop the following evening, a man in a dark jacket sat next to the piano. As soon as he reached for his recorder, I was able to stop him pressing the Play button, because my dream had rehearsed me for this.

On another occasion, when I was scheduled to speak at a college in high summer, I dreamed that the air conditioning system in the lecture room was so loud that people could not hear me; we were posed with the choice of broiling in the summer heat or having an inaudible speaker. My action was to drive to the college and check the A/C. As in my dream, the fans were incredibly noisy. I was able to save my lecture by having it moved to another auditorium. I include many personal episodes of this type of dream rehearsal in my book Conscious Dreaming,

Still on the theme of "workaday" dream rehearsals: the dream may come long before the event it previews. Thirteen months before leading a three-day residential retreat at a new venue, I dreamed that 67 people had signed up for one of my programs. Much of my long dream report was then devoted to bizarre and surreal scenes. At the time of the dream, I had never heard of the venue where I found - more than a year later - that 67 people were enrolled for my program. That match-up made me scout the full dream report to see what else in it might have been a helpful rehearsal. As the workshop unfolded, I recognized that the dreams participants were sharing closely resembled those "bizarre and surreal scenes" in my dream report, which now served me as a personal counselor, guiding me on how to handle specific individuals carrying specific challenges and imaginal histories.

How could I be poised to relate a dream rehearsal to an event thirteen months later? Because I follow the discipline of keeping a detailed journal, giving a title to each entry. How could I find a report from more than a year before? Because I also live by synchronicity, in this case using a specific and fun version of bibliomancy (divination by opening a book at random) that for now I'll call journal-mancy (since imerologiomancy seems a bit too much). I opened an old journal at random on the morning of that three-day retreat, and out fluttered a closely-typed three-page report that began "There are 67 people enrolled for my workshop."

When people who remember dreams tell me they can't recall dreaming a future event, I say: Look again. Ask of any and every dream, and especially the workaday ones, Is it remotely possible that this will play out in the future? If the answer is, Yes, then consider whether the dream is more than precognitive; it could be a rehearsal that will help you to prepare for coming events and shape then for the better.

Illustration by Robert Moss

Monday, April 10, 2023

Those who die and come back, Tibetan style


Who knows what happens after death?

Those who live there, those who visit, those who have died and come back.

The Tibetan language has a word for those who have died and come back. The word is delog (“DAY-loak, with the stress on the first syllable). There is also the term nyin log, for one who dies and returns in one day.

Delog Dawa Drolma [d. 1941] recorded a detailed account of her travels in “realms of pure appearance” under the guidance of White Tara while her teenaged body lay seemingly lifeless for five days. These higher realms, like the lower ones, are understood to be “the display of mind”. The pure realms are the display of enlightened awareness, while the bardo state and the six directions of rebirth are “the display of delusion and the projection of mind’s poisons.” In the presence of the Death lord Yama Dharmaraja, she sings (with Tara) a song:

If there is recognition, there is just this – one’s own mind.
If there is no recognition, there is the great wrathful lord of death [Delog xi]

Sogyal Rinpoche discussed delog phenomena in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He reported that “In Tibet this was an accepted occurrence, and elaborate methods were devised for detecting whether d´eloks [alternate transliteration] were fraudulent or not” (Sogyal, 1993, p. 331)

The Tibetan Library of Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India,  houses at least a dozen accounts of delogs.

A pioneer work of French anthropologist Françoise Pommaret was published in 1989 as  Les revenants de l’au-dela dans le monde Tibetain: Sources littéraires et tradition vivante. She traveled often to the Himalayan highlands and  discovered historical records of ten delogs from the 11th to the 20th century. She interviewed a delog in a village in Nepal and three in Bhutan. Pommaret’s studies of  texts included a detailed story of a delog whose biography was based on a 17th-century manuscript.

"At first, the delogs may not realize that they are dead, when the spirit separates from the body, leaving it seeming like an animal in the delog’s clothing. As the disembodied spirit roams about the home, the delog may not understand why the rest of the family is acting so strangely and unresponsive to the delog’s efforts at communication. The experience of Gling Bza’ chos skyid is typical:

"'Then when I saw my own bed, there was the cadaver of a big pig covered with my clothing. My husband and my children and all the neighbors of the village arrived and began to cry.:::They began to prepare for a religious ceremony and I thought, “What are you doing?” But they did not see me and I felt abandoned. I did not think that I was dead.'" (Pommaret, 1989, p. 70)

When Chos ’dzom met her protective deity (yi dam) and guide, he said, “Don’t you know that you are dead? Don’t show attachment to your body of illusion; lift your spirit towards the essence of things. Come where I will lead you” (Pommaret, 1989, p. 32). Then she met terrifying minions of Yama shouting, “Execute!” but was protected by her yi dam and her mantra.

I wish we had a suitable word in English to describe one who died and came back. "Revenant" is too creepy. Raymond Moody's coinage "near-death experience" has been valuable in facilitating discussion of this kind of phenomenon, but it doesn't quite embrace what happened to me after I was pronounced clinically dead as a boy. On the first of those occasions, the doctors told my parents, with perhaps some embarrassment, when I returned, "Your boy died and he came back". That still sounds right. .



Bailey, Lee W., “A ‘Little Death’: The Near-Death Experience and Tibetan Delogs”  in Journal of Near-Death Studies, 19(3) Spring 2001

Drolma, Delog Dawa, Delog: Journey to realms beyond death trans. Richard Patterson.  Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 1995.

Pommaret, Françoise , Les revenants de l'au-delà dans le monde Tibetain: Sources littéraires et tradition vivante  Paris: Editions du Centre National de le Recherche Scientifique, 1989

Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (New York: Harper Collins, 2002)

Art: "Storm Bird Brings Me Back" by Robert Moss. Published in The Boy Who Died and Came Back.





How was your dreamimg?


When we study the vocabulary of dreaming, cross-culturally, we come alive to ways of seeing and experiencing the larger reality that I believe were shared by all our ancestors. For example, for the Makiritare, a dreaming people of Venezuela, a dream is literally a “journey of the soul” (adekato). In ancient Assyria, a dream is a “zephyr” slipping through the crack between the door and the lintel to breathe in your ear, like a puff of wind. In ancient Egypt, a dream is an “awakening” (rswt); for me, that is the best of all definitions.

In good Old English, a dream is "merriment" and "revelry" of the kind you might encounter from downing too many goblets in a mead-hall. But by Chaucer's time, the same word, with a different, Northern derivation, can also imply an encounter with the dead. As in Northern Europe (German Traum, Dutch droom etc) the word "dream" we have inherited is linked to the Old Germanic Draugr, which means a visitation from the dead.

The old Iroquoian word katera'swas means "I dream" but implies much more that we commonly mean when when say that phrase in English. Katera'swas means I dream as a habit, as a daily part of my way of being in the world. The expression also carries the connotation that I am lucky in a proactive way - that I bring myself luck because I am able to manifest good fortune and prosperity through my dream. The related term watera'swo not only means "dream"; it can also be translated as "I bring myself good luck." One of those early Jesuit missionaries,  Father Jean de Quens noted on a visit to the Onondaga, that "people are told they will have bad luck if they disregard their dreams." If you want to get lucky, in this conception, you had better learn to dream.

My understanding of what is possible through dreaming was deepened immensely when I dreamed of an ancient shaman, also the Mother of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk people, who used the term ondinnonk, which took some decoding. I discovered – after studying Mohawk and some Huron – that the term means “the secret wish of the soul, especially as revealed in dreams”. This, I learned, was the key to an ancient practice of dreaming for soul healing, in which a community task is to gather round the dreamer and try to help her understand what the soul wants, as revealed in dreams – and then to help her take action to satisfy the soul (rather than the ego) and keep it in the body where it belongs.

What a pity we don't greet each other in the morning in the style of another indigenous dreaming people, the Wayuu of the Guajira peninsula in Colombia. They don't say "Good morning" or "Hi" or "How's it going?". They say  jamaya pü’lapüin? which means "how was your dreaming?" or "what did you dream?"

Lapu is both their word for a dream and the name of a deity. 

Michel Perrin, a French ethnographer who lived with the Wayuu and describes their shamans "dream practitioners" - a better term for real shamans than many I have seen - reported a caution from this dreaming people. "“When you no longer dream, that is a sign or consequence of grave illness. You are almost dead because when your dreams vanish so do all traces of the soul.”

Illustration: Assyrian Lamassu in Red by Robert Moss

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Far Memory: Lessons in Time Travel, Bilocation and Seership from Joan Grant

She is conceived in the Blue Grotto on Capri, with Carabinieri standing guard over the site. This is because her parents, traveling in royal style, are mistaken for British Royals visiting Italy incognito. So Joan Grant begins the story of her life in her memoir Far Memory.
    I discovered her through her novel Winged Pharaoh which takes us vividly into a life lived in early dynastic Egypt by a girl who is trained as a dream seer in a temple of Anubis and grows to become a warrior-queen defending her country against invaders. This remains my favorite book on the practice of dreaming in ancient Egypt, though academic Egyptologists may cavil at some of its contents. It was a bestseller in its day, and the author initially kept mum about the fact that her novel, for her, was not fiction, but “far memory” of a past life in Egypt, triggered when she was allowed to handle a blue scarab. Much of the content came through in channeling sessions recorded by her then husband.
    I first picked up her memoir Far Memory to clarify how Joan Grant received her knowledge of ancient Egypt, and of other lives in other cultures. I recently re-read it, for the sheer pleasure of its bouncy narrative and to follow, in closer detail, how central the author’s own practice of dreaming became to her gifts as a writer, a psychic and a time traveler.
    As a young child, she remembered other lives. She dreamed of a French girl who died in Paris under the guillotine, and knew – through dreaming that experience – that “beheading does not hurt at all.” She received visitations from her deceased grandmother. 
    When her father took her to  a subway station on a family visit to New York, she glimpsed the remains of a man who had thrown himself in front of a train. She dreamed that she met this man, and took the form of the daughter he loved to comfort him, washing  him clean from blood and whiskey fog, and reattached his severed feet. She did this, not as the child Joan, but as a personality that was living as a girl born in 1906, with the knowledge of many other lives and a sense of identity that transcended any single body or life situation.
      During World War I, she traveled in dreams to a battlefield, where she took on the body of a Red Cross nurse, carrying out orders to deal with casualties in one of two ways: to explain to soldiers who had just been killed that they were “safely dead”, or to encourage the wounded to return to bodies that were not yet due to die.  “I had to get close, so close to the person I was trying to help that I became part of him: feeling, seeing, fearing as he did, until I could slowly instill my own faith in him.”
     And she wakes from these dreams in the body of a girl who is now eleven and can’t get the adults around her, apart from the occasional servant, to take her dreams seriously. The disconnect is so great that for a time she seeks to cut herself off from her dreams. But this plan can’t prosper because dreaming is a vital part of her calling. She starts getting confirmation of things she has dreamed but could not otherwise know about. Finding a young man in uniform alone at the breakfast table, she dares to tell him the dream from which she has just awakened in which she was with a soldier named McAndrew when he was killed. She describes his regimental badge and the slang name his unit gave to their trench. The officer at the table identifies the regiment as Canadian, and after checking is able to confirm all the details of the dream, the name of the soldier who was killed, even the slang name of the trench.
    She makes dream excursions, and she receives visitations. Jennie, her deceased grandmother, gives her music lessons and plays through her hands – an obscure piece that a Cambridge professor recognizes because Jennie played it for him. The sheet music no longer exists, and Joan could not know the piece in any ordinary way. “Quite extraordinary but completely evidential,” pronounces C.G.Lamb, the professor of engineering and amateur psychical researcher, giving her encouragement both to grow her clairvoyant gifts and to pursue academic studies.
    Another mentor was H.G. Wells, a house guest at Seacourt, her father’s immense estate on Hayling Island. Wells urged her to write – which she had not considered – while insisting that “you must live in order to write about living”.
    She dreams of places before she goes there, and of events unfolding at a distance in space or time. The night before Esmond, the lover she plans to marry, is due to return to her, she dreams he is staring at something on the floor, puzzled and angry. In the morning the news comes that he killed himself, apparently accidentally, cleaning his revolver. Later, she dreams of a kind of honeymoon with him in a beautiful environment he says is another planet, and delights in the kind of body she can enjoy here. “It was a material body, obeying a less stringent law of gravity, able to run faster, to leap higher, to swim farther under water, but still in its own place equally solid as the one I re-entered on waking.” She is startled when Esmond tells her that dream visitors aren’t especially welcome here. The residents call them ghosts, ‘earth-ghosts”.
    She develops the discipline of a real dreamer. She wakes herself several times during the night in order to record her dreams. She learns to distinguish “true dreams” from “the fustian and tinsel so dear to psychoanalysis”. In “true dreams”, she travels across time and space. She is with people at a distance . She visits the future. She enters or reenters life experiences of other personalities.
    In her development of “far memory” of those other lives, psychometry – the art of receiving impressions while handling a physical object – becomes increasingly important, after she first establishes that she can do it. But first and last, in the education of Joan Grant, is the dreaming. Reading her, we are reminded of just how important and just how practical this is. We urgently need many more people who can do pyschopomp work of the kind Joan narrates, helping the dead to find their way, and the best training for this is in dreaming, as I explain in my own "manual for the psychopomp" (Part III of Dreamgates) and in my Dreamer's Book of the Dead.

She was quite Egyptian in her insistence on the survival of a "supra-physical" body as well as the soul, and the possibility that a living individual can have more than one of these vehicles. A true pharaoh of Egypt, as I recall, was credited with having as many as 14 kas. It is "fun" to change your energy template, Grant informs us.
    "Another advantage of having more than one active, current supra-physical [body] is that it makes it easier to appear in two places at once." She gives a personal example. She was worried about a woman who was scheduled to undergo a C-section, an operation considered highly dangerous at the time. Although she could not be with her, she thought of her intently just before the procedure. Later the woman's husband thanked Joan profusely for the visit his wife said she had made, slipping in through the french doors from the hospital garden so as to be unobserved by the nurses, comforting her to the point that her fears dissolved and she slipped gently into a state of natural sedation.
    Joan waited some time after the birth before telling the mother that her visit was not an ordinary physical event. The woman responded, "Thank goodness I didn't know you weren't solid! I should have been simply terrified if I'd known I was seeing a ghost."
    We find this story in a recent collection of her occasional writings titled Speaking from the Heart. 
There are indications in the essays and memoirs here that Joan Grant experimented at least a little with what I find to be two of the most rewarding lines of exploration of our relations with a family of counterpart personalities, living in different times and dimensions. "Two personalities in the same series communicate with each other through their Integral - the Spirit." 
    This suggests that at the hub of many lives, playing out in different worlds, is a higher self that may operate outside time and may facilitate contact between personalities living in different times. We want to try to ascend to the perspective of that higher self, with its view over many times. And we want not only to understand how the legacy of past lives may work in our present lives - and may be healed, when seen for what it is - but how we can reach back across time to heal something in the life of a previous self. 

Far Memory in the Dreamer's School of Soul

In my new advanced online training for The Shift Network, The Dreamer's School of Soul, we will develop the art of far memory and study the nature and destiny of the "supra-physical bodies", using Joan Grant as one of our exemplars. We will also make a group shamanic journey to the Dream School of Anubis.

The First Latvian Moon Landing


This was the headline and basic content of one of my dreams on the first night of my residential workshop on shamanic lucid dreaming at a pleasant center on a rocky beach near Roja, on the Bay of Riga, over the Easter weekend. I took it as a wink from my dream producers, indicating that we would succeed in our efforts to bring back the dreaming here.  
     After all, the Moon not only has great attraction for dreamers; it was widely believed by the ancients to be the source of much interesting dream activity. In his treatise On the Face That Appears in the Orb of the Moon, Plutarch - the great biographer, initiate and priest of Apollo, who knew what he was talking about - suggested that the spirits of the Moon visit humans in their dreams, and that the souls of humans travel to the astral realm of the Moon in dreams and transit this realm on the way to birth and again after death.
     Many of the Latvians in my group are passionately engaged in reviving the knowledge and practice of the authentic ancient traditions of their country, dating back to before the invasions began in the 12th century. A folklorist and wonderful singer named Aina gifted us with dainas - traditional folk songs that celebrate oak and sun, stone and sea. The morning after my dream of the Moon landing, I asked her to help open our circle with a song of the oak tree:

I found in a field
a tall oak tree of spirit
his feet go into the earth
his head touches the sky

Oak tree, oak tree
how wide you are
the bee flies for three days
and can't get around you

In the last stanza, this song of oak teaches us to give a little in a strong wind, to avoid being broken.

The big storm boasted
"I'll break the oak."
Oak tree, stand strong
but let the wind shake your branches

For the first time, I introduced a circle in Latvia to the core techniques of active dreaming: how to open a safe space to share dreams and guide each other towards action to honor our dreams; how to reenter a dream in order to go beyond a fear, dialog with a dream character, penetrate a mystery, or have more fun exploring the multiverse.
    In a moving dream reentry, one of the Latvian women succeeded in going back inside a recurring dream that had previously filled her with shame and dread. In the original dream, she found herself (again and again) approaching the shack where her great-aunt had lived and died in extreme poverty in the harsh times of Soviet rule. She had loved this great-aunt and had always felt bad that the family had not been able to do more for her. In the dream reentry, she entered the shack and had a loving reunion with her great-aunt, who gave her blessings and specific personal information she could immediately use in her life.
    On Sunday, the day of requickening, we moved swiftly through a series of excellent journeys: through the gates of remembered dreams and on to a Dream Library where travelers could gain knowledge on any subject, meet a master teacher and even look at the book of their own lives; and a Magic Market where the discovery of a favorite object from childhood released the spirit horse of vital energy and provided a way to reclaim the energy and imagination of a younger self.
     The fog rolling in from the sea inspired me to offered the sea-mist as the gate for a journey to the Other Side with the dual objective of timely and helpful communication with a departed loved one or ancestor, and of gaining first-hand knowledge of the geography of the afterlife. All of these journeys succeeded beyond my wildest expectations, if not beyond my dreams.
    My own visions, during all these lucid shamanic dream adventures, powered by drumming, became a deepening adventure in dream archaeology, giving me direct access to the world of Baltic mythology and the history and spirits of the land. In a walled garden, I experienced the meaning of ancient Baltic symbols in the forms of shaped flower beds, turning in certain patterns. On a flying horse, I was called east, to a black mountain in Russia, to understand one of the long shadows over Latvia. Through an amber tunnel, I found my way to the current residence of a deceased scholar of Baltic mythology who wants me to make his work known in English.
    In the last workshop session, I helped people to open their hearts and grow a waking vision of the fulfillment of their hearts' desires, a vision so strong that it wants to take root in the world. Then I had them identify three key problems in the way of fulfilling that vision - and journey again, with the drum, for guidance on how to overcome those challenges. This produced very practical guidance, as well as the energy that comes when we carry a vision we can hold not only in the mind but in the inner senses.
     We closed the circle, arms around each other, swaying a little like the great oak in the big wind. As people continued, in high excitement, to share their experiences, I felt that the dream of the Latvian Moon landing was fulfilled.

Article first posted in April 2011

Photo: Sunrise on the Bay of Riga (c) Robert Moss

Friday, April 7, 2023

Under the Blue White Rainbow


I have heard Aboriginal elders say that spirits that are getting ready to come into a body lie in wait in certain waters, waiting for the right opportunity. I think stories can be like that. Even when you think you have left a certain story behind, it may be waiting for you, seeking an opportunity to enter you and come alive in you again.

 A certain story has been after me since my first visit to Hawaii, back in 1998, and I'll be glad if it comes after me again.

 During my first days in Hawaii, I found myself in a waking dream. The whole landscape was so vividly alive. Early on the morning of my birthday, I swam at Waimea Beach, on the wild north shore of Oahu, under gentle rain. Leaning towers of cloud and mist rose from the gorge behind the beach. A woman in a wetsuit was going down to the water; her hair was golden seaweed. From the water’s edge, the ocean floor slanted down sudden and deep. I slid into warm, gentle surf.

 I was delighted by a rainbow that appeared to be anchored half a mile away, to my left, by a rocky headland. The rainbow curved over the sea, opening a gateway – bluegreen to begin with, brightening as the sun burst through into the full, vivid spectrum.

 I wanted to swim under the rainbow. It looked like a gate to another dimension. I struck out strongly, beating my legs, towards the rainbow gate. When I raised my chin above the water to check on my progress, I found the rainbow was steadily receding into the distance. Everyone knows you can’t ever catch up with a rainbow, right?

 But now the sea turtles came. First a baby, then a whole pod. I swam among them, kicking hard to keep up. Sea turtles can be fast. 

We swam together to the place of the rainbow. Its brightness had gone, yet something of it seemed to hang in the air. I saw a beautiful soft bluegreen arch above me.

I wrote sloppy haiku on the beach. The woman with seaweed hair approached me.

"I saw you swimming with the sea turtles."


"I am a caller of sea turtles," she announced, quite matter-of-factly. I did not doubt her. "Are you a poet?" she asked me.


She asked me to read what I had written. How do you refuse a caller of sea turtles with golden seaweed for hair?

I want to go under
The rainbow’s ocean gate
Sea turtle takes me through

I returned to Hawaii the following year, and on another early morning, when I was alone on a white beach in early sunlight farther along the coast, a shark came out of the gentle surf and became a woman.

Life rhymes. When I first started teaching public workshops in Active Dreaming, the venue was often a store called Blue White Rainbow. 

 Years passed, and I began to write a novel-length story involving a man whose idea of paradise is a lot like Hawaii; not surprising, since the word Hawaii, I am told, is a contraction of Hawaiiki, a Polynesian term for paradise. So when he dies, my character finds himself traveling to a place like one of the Hawaiian islands where life after life is good until things start to fall apart because it's time for him to move on. I did not complete this book. It lies in a great pile of other unfinished manuscripts.

I am thinking of how stories may lie in wait in certain waters, like those spirits waiting to be born. I'll be happy if my Hawaiian story chooses to find me again.

Digital art by RM

Shark Tales from where fresh water meets the salt


Jenner-Sebastopol, California

The little California town of Jenner hangs from the cliffs where the Russian River meets the Pacific. Approach it from the south, following the bends of Highway 1, and you'll come to a sign that states that the population is 107, which seemed like a fine number to me. Drive through Jenner and return from the north, and you'll be informed by the sign at that end of town that the population is 170. That's a pretty big difference.
I pulled up at the River's End for clarification and liquid refreshment. "This seems to be liminal territory," I remarked to the civilized bartender as he worked the tap on a local amber ale. "You have a floating population."
"Our sign painter is dyslexic," he said. "The census might clear it up, or might not." In fact, Jenner is famous for one type of floating population: the harbor seals that gather here in great numbers in May. I was a few weeks too early to see them.
Out on the deck, I inspected the place where the Russian River - slow and gentle at this point, but feared for sudden floods twenty miles up stream - meets the ocean. A place where fresh water meets salt water is liminal in one of the most important and mythic senses. In imaginal geographies, this is often a preferred point of entry into the Otherworld. In my many years of leading retreats at the Esalen Institute, down the California coast at Big Sur, I often had participants study how the cold, fresh water of the creek splashing down through the ravine, meets the Pacific, among the rocks. Then, with the aid of shamanic drumming, I would invite them to take off from this point in a visionary journey to make the crossing to the Other Side, have timely and helpful communication with people on the other side of death, and learn about conditions in the afterlife through first-hand experience.
"I've seen sharks come up the Russian River," says the bartender when I go back inside. "Of course, they don't stay for long."
Could that be a great white out there, among the whitecaps? I'm not sure, though I've heard that great whites breed in these waters and are often seen. But I've felt the nearness of the shark since I arrived in California. The night before Jenner, a woman shared what she called the most powerful dream of her life. Swimming in a warm ocean, she found something brushing against her and discovered it was a great white. The shark told her it would protect her and proceeded to open its jaws and hold her inside its mouth. She rested there, safe and cozy as a baby in its crib, throughout the night and rose in the morning feeling wonderful.
I asked her if anyone in her family or circle of friends had been challenged by cancer. She mentioned a couple. I observed that if this were my dream and my family situation, I might feel that I had not only been granted the personal protection of a powerful ally, but might be able to draw on this relationship to help others. The shark rarely develops cancer, and I have found that if I can encourage a cancer patient to picture a shark swimming through the courses of her body, devouring the cells of her disease, she often does better. The shark dreamer wanted to explore this.
When I got to Sebastopol from Jenner and spoke at Copperfield's that evening, I told a story of transferring the healing power of the shark to a cancer patient. In the morning, swimming in circling loops for two hours in an outdoor pool, I enjoyed the sensation of drawing the shark power close. When I arrived to open my "Dreamgates" workshop on Saturday morning, a car pulled up in front of me with a window decal that read "THUNDER SHARKS."
My workshop host told me she had dreamed within the past week of an happy and empowering encounter with several kinds of shark, including the Australian sawtooth shark, the most primal and ferocious member of the species. This very ancient Aussie aquatic killing machine has something like a chainsaw on its nose and can pursue its prey - who might include both humans and crocodiles - up freshwater creeks by pumping out a saline solution that produces the salt water it needs. Now that's a bloody shark, mate!

- from my Travel Journal for April 11, 2010

Drawing: "Great White Breeches" by Robert Moss. From a dream of March 11, 2023