Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Great Mother Bear


You feel her under your feet.
You enter her realm through the roots
of the tree that knows you.
She is endlessly nurturing, fertile and abundant.
She will nurse you and heal you as she cares for her cubs.
You can call on her blessing at any time,
once you have found the courage to enter her embrace.

She calms the mad warrior in men.
She strips the berserkers of old skins.
Serve her, and you join the army of the Great Mother
whose purpose is to protect, not destroy.
She will defend you, even from yourself. 

When you call back your lost children,
she will hold you together in her vast embrace
until you are one, and whole.
When you reach across the jagged rifts in your family
to forgive and make well, you feel her rolling pleasure.

Poem and drawing ("In the Grip of the Bear Goddess") by Robert Moss



Monday, May 29, 2023

Bees Fly Me to the Epopteia

I open an old journal at random and find myself back in an incandescent night in 1992 when bees swarmed around my body. They flew me to the climax of the Mysteries at Eleusis. From my raw journal report:

January 25, 1992

“Had” to lie down at 9:30 p.m. Immediately, I had the sense of being drawn up out of my body, of my whole second body lifting up. I saw a glow around my second body. I felt strong vibrations and heard a humming sound. I realized that a swarm of bees had massed around me, especially around my arms and shoulders, lifting me, helping me to fly.

I flew inside the swarm of bees, over an ocean, towards a temple on a rocky height. Greek words were streaming through my mind. Kyriacos. Epopteia.

Later, I grabbed relevant books from my shelves. Kyriacos means Lord or Ruler. The epopteia is the “full vision” or “full revelation" of the highest stage of the Mysteries, when the initiate is brought face-to-face with the deity. Of course I found many pages about bees as the companions of the Goddess and recalled that "honey bee" (melissa) is an ancient title of the priestess.

I made a quick sketch from this old report.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Socrates' Dream Woman


She was beautiful and shapely (καλή καὶ εὐειδής), Socrates tells Crito, the wealthy friend who has come to his prison cell. Crito bribed the guards to get in and has been waiting since before dawn for Socrates to wake up. Socrates has been waiting for nearly a month for his death, having been condemned on charges of impiety and corrupting the young. Execution of the death sentence will be caried out when a state ship that carried offerings for the festival of Apollo and Artemis at Delos returns from the island. Crito has dreadful news. The ship has been sighted off Cape Sounion. It will soon be in harbor and Socrates will die. However, Crito has the money and connections to arrange Socrates' escape to Thessaly, beyond the reach of Athenian justice. They are going to have a discussion about whether it is moral to resist the unjust application of just laws. But first, Socrates wants to correct the timeline. He is sure he won't die the next day, even if the ship from Delos is back. How can he know?

Crito: Where do you get your evidence for this?
Socrates: My evidence is something I saw in a dream a little while ago, during the night. It's probably a good thing you did not wake me.

Crito: What was the dream?
Socrates: A woman appeared, coming towards me, beautiful and shapely, wearing white garments. She called to me, 'Socrates, you shall arrive in fertile Phthia on the third day.'
Crito: What a strange dream, Socrates.
Socrates: It seems obvious to me.

Phthia was in wild Thessaly, home of Achilles. The phrase about arriving there on the third day was used in the Iliad when Achilles, piqued by Agamemnon's theft of a beautiful captive he had wanted for his prize, was threatening to abandon the siege of Troy and go home.
Home for the warrior might be a refuge for the philosopher, if he were willing to flout the laws. (Socrates, of course, is not.) But surely the shapely woman in white was preparing Socrates for his journey to a different home in a different world, as dream visitors often do. When his time comes, Socrates does willingly, discoursing on the immortality of the soul as he raises the cup of lethal hemlock to his lips.

Based on Plato's Crito 44ab. This is regarded by scholars as one of the most realistic of Plato's dialogues. It has only two speakers: Socrates and Crito. Curiously, it says little overtly about the soul. Illustration: "Socrates' Dream Visitor" by Robert Moss.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Lord Dunsany's Hat and a Dreaming God

In Lord Dunsany's early work of fantasy, The Gods of Pegana, an elder god with the resounding name Mana-Yood-Sushai makes the lesser gods including a drummer named Skarl. The effort of creation and the sound of the drum put the creator to sleep. Skarl sits on the mist before Mana's feet, drumming away.

"Some say that the Worlds and the Suns are but the echoes of the drumming of Skarl, and others say that they be dreams that arise in the mind of Mana because of the drumming of Skarl." Either way, when the drumming stops, the world of gods and humans will end. Skarl may grow weary, but he plays on, "for if he ceases for an instant then Mana-Yood-Sushai will start awake, and there will be worlds nor gods no more". 

From these self-published tales of a fictional pantheon Dunsany went on to virtually found the fantasy genre. He was endlessly prolific and soon wildly popular, publishing some 90 books before he died from appendicitis at 79. The Anglo-Irish aristocrat's writing habits were as strange as his stories. According to his wife Lady Beatrice, he wrote with quills he sharpened himself, while sitting on a crumpled old hat. He rarely revised anything. The first draft, often streaming directly from dreams, was usually the last. I would like to know what was going on with the hat. 

The entertaining Jorkens stories are among Dunsany's later productions. Jorkens is a portly bibulous member of the Billiards Club who will spin a yarn for a large whisky and soda. One of his tales, “Lost” is about time travel, about a man who succeeds in going to the past and changing something there but then can’t find his way back to his starting point; in fact he’s bewildered by a wilderness of diverging paths. In another Jorkens story, he claims that in Africa he found a being very different from humanoids, whose species had also discovered fire. He could not produce the evidence because he couldn’t kill a creature that had this ability, previously thought unique to humans. 

Dunsany's family, the Plunketts, settled in Ireland in the 11th century. Dunsany Castle has been in theitr possession – inherited from in-laws – since the 14th century. In the time of Edward Plunkett (the writer) it was still 1600 acres with great herds of cattle and sheep. The current Baron Dunsany is a young metalhead turned vegan who has sold off the livestock and “rewilded” 750 acres. 

Lord Dunsany was actually born in Kent and moved to another family estate there for his last years. pistol and chess champion of Ireland, often out with horse and hounds, schooled at Eton and Sandhurst – not , from the outside, a likely scribe for a dreaming god or an elven princess. Perhaps the hat made all the difference.

Drawing by Robert Moss


Sunday, May 7, 2023

Know the myth you are living


We all conceal
A god within us, we all deal
With heaven direct, from whose high places we derive
The inspiration by which we live.

-          Ovid, Ars Amatoria III, 549–550 (trans. James Michie)


As some people use the word, myth is synonymous with fake news, or superstition, or outmoded hand-me down beliefs. A myth may be a prevailing worldview – that the earth is flat or the still center of the turning universe, that humanity begins with Adam and Eve, that the world is enthralled by a dark Demiurge. For the Greeks, mythos was the spirit of the play, familiar to the audience yet as unpredictable as the gods in how it would unfold in a fresh drama.

A myth may be a sacred teaching story that explains how the world came into being – and what is beyond it – and why bad things, as well as good, things happen, and what it means to be human. A myth may justify the ways of gods to humans, or those of humans before their Creator. A myth may introduce you, like the major arcana of tarot, to essential members of your archetypal family: to personified forces at play in your life and your universe.

A myth may invite you to consider who among the gods defends you, and who has it in for you. A myth may also be a living reality beyond the realm of facts, a source of truth that cannot be confirmed in a laboratory experiment but may be evidenced by the data of raw experience.

Your dreams can be a nightly screening of gods and archetypes. A dream may be your place of encounter with a Big story that is looking for you. It may call you to a tradition about which you previously knew nothing ."In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his primary, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream," as Joseph Campbell wrote in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Psychologist Betsy Meador was called to study Inanna and her priestess after a dream that involved the prayer flags of the great Sumerian goddess, Queen of Heaven and Earth, that were previously unknown to her.

I was seized by Kali in a terrifying night vision – beginning with sleep paralysis – when I was fourteen. I wrote a cycle of poems in her honor. Later her brother-consort Kala, better known as Yama, became one of my principal mentors, reminding me to consider every life choice in the presence of Death. A little-known Celtic deity came into my ken in a series of dreams in which I was defending my property with a long-handled hammer, like a weaponized croquet mallet. Some shelf elf produced a Gallo-Roman statue of a god with a similar hammer, named in the inscription as Sucellos, which means the Good Striker. He seems to share some qualities with Thor. He is also the consort of a great goddess of abundance, called Rosmerta by the Gauls and Abundantia by the Romans.

We confirm our relationship with a patron deity, or power animal, when it comes to our aid. Athena came to me like this in Anatolia and loaned me her owl eyes. The Bear has come to me like this many times since it claimed me when I found the courage to step back into the space of a dream where it had terrified me.

Myths are a cauldron of stories and symbols that hold superabundant energy for life. You want to become conscious of the myth you are living. If you are unconscious about this, then the myth is living you and you may be driven into confusion and disaster, like Odysseus when his men lose control of the winds. In different phases of life, we may inhabit – and be inhabited by – different myths. We may find ourselves in the play of rival stories. We may be able to match and mix.

The great scholar of religions Wendy Doniger writes about the “seed text”, bija mantra. In her book Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India, she describes how she found this in the story of an Indian goddess, Saranyu, who cloned herself in order to get away from a husband she detested, leaving a compliant Hindu version of a Stepford Wife at home while she ranged free as a wild mare. This story kept after Doniger for decades, prompting her to reach deeper and deeper into its well. Whenever she heard it, she would say, “That’s the story of my life.”

“Myth, by design, makes it clear that we are meant to be something more than our personal history,” declared P.L.Travers, the author of Mary Poppins who was inspired to make Mary a star traveler by a childhood vision of her deceased father turning into a star.

The myths we are living now swing on hinges into other lives, whose myths swing back at us. Because our present life dramas are connected with those of other personalities, in other places and times, within our multidimensional family, it is not surprising that “old” gods and “dead” religions feature in our spontaneous mythology, as mediated by dreams and visions and by moments on the roads of this world when we experience a hidden hand, pushing us forward or holding us back, or rearranging the stage set.

Illustrations by Robert Moss. Original mixed media paintings.

Top: Eyebrows of Zeus

Bottom: Faces of Yama

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Where's the rest of me?

I am looking for the rest of me
the one who goes barefoot in lush grass
the one who’s been off-planet most of my life
the one who is living in an old TV series
and needs a cowboy with a big lasso to get her out
the one who was buried under old archives
growing mold in a dirt floored basement
the one who is dancing with a fox
the one who won’t put on an asbestos necklace
the one who is hiding behind the sun
the one who lives in the beauty of flowers and plants
the one who jumps through the pictographs
on the walls of a deep cave, with a white rabbit
the one who might be at the end of a golden tunnel
I’m scared to enter
the one who’s in the room with the No Entry sign
the one who is right here, waiting for me to see her
and hug her and play with her
the one who whispers in dreams you can't quite forget,
“When you are your true self, I’ll be there”

Hey! The flag is up on the magic mailbox
where the dirt road ends in a field
Let’s try again. You open the box
when you answer the question,
“Where is the rest of you?”

“I thought you asked, ‘Where is the restroom key?’
I’ll have to get back to you.”

How about now?

I’ve been riding a rocking horse since I was three
I am trying to block my family ghosts
with a dream catcher made in China
I am shamanic shopping for the Golden Fleece
I am looking for a Thai restaurant that isn’t open
I am reading an email from a dead friend
I am in an enchanted apple orchard with my fairy lover
I am dancing on the dark side of the Moon
I am in my mind, which is everywhere
I am trying to go home to a blue star
I am stuck in a book only I can write my way out of.

-          - Robert Moss 

     This could be called a community poem. I wove it from the dreams and memories that came from members of my Soul Recovery Training at Mosswood Hollow when I suggested they journey on the question, "Where's the rest of me?"

      Photo: Hedge Gate at Mosswood Hollow by RM


Monday, May 1, 2023

Einstein Demonstrates Probability Bundles


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

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

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

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

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

Illustrations by Robert Moss: original drawing at top; with AI assistance at bottom