Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Upgrades for frequent dream fliers at Tibetan Airline


In a lighter moment in an otherwise very sober guide to the bardos of life, death and after, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche suggests that through the right practices, we can earn an upgrade on our ride to the afterlife. He writes in Mind Beyond Death that “the way we make any journey depends on the type of ticket we have…We may even have collected mileage points. We may be eligible for an upgrade to first class." 

He allows that advanced dreamers may have earned sky priority, and direct access to the "pure lands", including the realm created by the buddha Amitabha. If you have traveled this way before, and your heart wants to go there again, you may be able to project your consciousness there at the moment of death by "pure realm phowa." Another reason to deepen the practice of conscious dreaming. Here's the key passage:

“Pure realm phowa is connected to the practice of dream yoga. It involves directly transferring out consciousness at the time of death to one of the Buddha realms, such as the pure land of Amitabha or Akshobya, or to any of the sacred realms of the dakas, dakinis or bodhisattvas. The capacity to effect such a transference is developed through training in dream yoga. In that practice, not only do we learn to recognize the dream state, but also we develop the skill to transform our dream appearances. When we have developed that degree of control over our minds, then we can travel in our dreams to any Buddha field we wish.

"According to these teachings, if we can exercise that kind of power in our dreams, then we will be able to exercise the same power in this bardo [the Bardo of Dying]. We can use our understanding and experience of dream yoga to spontaneously transport ourselves to any sacred realm with which we have a heart connection. For example, you do not have to be a realized being in order to take birth in Amitabha’s pure land. Ordinary beings with a strong aspiration and good accumulation of merit can also take birth there. If we can achieve such a positive situation then we will have the optimum conditions to continue our spiritual training. Our practice will be supported by the blessings of buddhas and boidhisattvas."

Phowa (literally "transference" or "ejection") is the art of projection of consciousness from the body to another state at the moment of death. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche offers a brief introduction to five modalities, including deity phowa in which the practitioner seeks to merge with a yidam or god-form.

"Pure lands" or "buddha-fields" (Sanskrit buddhakṣetra) are especially important in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. When we study the accounts of how such realms are created through the will, merit and imagination of superior beings, we may have an Eastern model for reality creation in the imaginal realm.

In my Active Dreaming approach, we do not use the symbols, postures, mantras or guru devotion of dream yoga as practiced in Tibetan Buddhist lineages and others, though we respect these. However, Active Dreaming, like dream yoga is a discipline that requires practice, practice, practice. Like yoga, Active Dreaming is a science of consciousness. It trains you to raise your awareness, play witness to yourself, go beyond consensual hallucinations, and enter the limitless field of nonlocal mind. It will certainly earn you frequent flyer miles, and maybe even premier status for the Big journey.

Art: "Night Airport" by Robert Moss

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Night When the Veil Thins

As we approach All Hallows' Eve, a shiverish, magical, crazy night in a more than usually crazy year, I am thinking of its many meanings. It is the topsy-turvy, inside-out, upside-down time, when the past lies ahead of you and the future walks behind you, breathing on your neck. It is a night when the doors between the worlds swing open, when the dead walk among the living and the living move among the dead. It is a night when you want to be able to discern who is who and what is what. 

The last night of October is the start of Samhain (which is pronounced "sow-in"), the great Celtic festival when the dead walk among the living, the fires are extinguished and rekindled, the god and the goddess come together in sacred union, and as the year turns from light to dark, the seeded earth prepares to give birth again. It's a time, when the Celts knew what they were doing, to watch yourself and watch comings and goings from the barrows and mounds that are peopled by ghosts and faeries. It's a time to honor the friendly dead, and the lordly ones of the Sidhe, and to propitiate the restless dead and remember to send them off and to set or re-set very clear boundaries between the living and the hungry ghosts. It's a time to look into the future, if you dare, because linear time is stopped when the hollow hills are opened. 

As Celtic scholar Marie-Louise Sjoestedt wrote, "This night belongs neither to one year or the other and is, as it were, free from temporal restraint. It seems that the whole supernatural force is attracted by the seam thus left at the point where the two years join, and gathers to invade the world of men." 

If you have never learned to dream or see visions or to feel the presence of the spirits who are always about - if you have never traveled beyond the gates of death or looked into the many realms of the Otherworld - this is the time when you'll see beyond the veil all the same, because the Otherworld is going to break down the walls of the little box you call a world, and its residents are coming to call on you. 

It's a time for dressing up, especially if you are going out at night, although there is likely to be much less of that in this time of pandemic. The Celts put on fright masks not to extort candy but to scare away restless spirits before they scared them. Out and about ,they carried torches to light the way, and especially to guide the dead back to where they came from when the party is over. Before Europeans discovered pumpkins in America, they carried lit candles in hollowed-out niches in turnips. Some of my friends in Ireland still do. 

All of this was so important, and such wild, sexy, shiverish fun that the church had to do something about it. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided to steal the old magic by making November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows Day; so the night of Samhain became All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween for short. A century before, an earlier pope had borrowed the date of the old Roman festival to propitiate the dead - the Festival of the Lemures, or Lemuralia - and renamed that All Saints' Day. But since Roman paganism had been largely suppressed, the church fathers decided to grab the glamour of the Celts, among whom the old ways are forever smoldering, like fire under peat. 

Few people who celebrate or suffer Halloween today seem to know much about its history. For storekeepers and the greetings card business, it's a commercial opportunity. For TV programmers, it's a cue to schedule horror movie marathons. For kids, it's time to dress up as vampires or witches and extort candy from neighbors. My preferred way to spend Halloween is to rest quietly at home, sometimes with candles lit for my dead loved ones, and a basket of apples and hazelnuts beside them, tokens of the old festival that renews the world and cleanses the relations between the living and the dead. 

Text partially adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss (Destiny Books)

Photo by RM: Birch woman in the Samhain circle of Brigid's Gardens near Rosscahill, County Galway.

Story for Samhain: The dream god and the swan maiden


We find beauty or terror in our contacts with the Otherworld - or our flight from it - according to our courage and the colors of our imaginations. 

How people respond to the banshee is an excellent example. The banshee is well-known in Celtic folk memory as a death messenger, whose appearance and weird cries are feared as the sign that death is near. The banshee is often depicted as a hag, or a crow, or a crow-woman.  

 But the banshee is actually the bean sidhe, which means "she-faery". She can appear as a being of amazing beauty. She can come as a personal or family guardian in tight situations - as a family banshee appeared to members of the royal house of Munster on the eve of the battle of Clontarf.  

Above all, the banshee comes to invite us or escort us on the Otherworld journey: not only the journey that follows physical death, but on journeys beyond the physical world from which we may return to the body with magic and power.  

Banshees are much abroad at Samhain, or Halloween.  

The story of Aislinge Óenguso, The Dream of Aengus,  turns the traditional fear of the banshee on its head. Instead of being scared of being caught by a banshee, the hero of this story is out to catch one, because night after night, she has been visiting him as his dream lover. This wild love story haunted Yeats all of his life and inspired him to write some of his most haunting verse. We'll call the hero Aengus, as the poet did.  

 Aengus is a lover and a friend of lovers. He is a trickster, a shaman and a soul healer. He is described as "mac Oc", the Young Son, forever young. He lives in the Brugh na Boinne, a palace beneath a Mound of Wonder that recent travelers know as Newgrange. Women everywhere dream of Aengus; his butterfly kisses graze their lips and their secret places.  

 But Aengus is no longer master of his own dreams. His dreams have a mistress. She first appeared by his bedside in a glory of red-gold hair, her long white body dancing through the veils to music that played him like a harp and shook him like a tambourine. Carried by the music and his surge of passionate desire, Aengus flies with her, like a wild swan, into a different landscape.

In the morning, exhausted, he can barely fall out of bed. He is listless, lethargic, not even interested in sex, his speciality. This goes on night after night, day after day. His mother is troubled. She sends for a famous doctor, so skilled he can diagnose what is wrong in a house before he walks through the door, by reading shapes in the smoke from the fire.  

The doctor sees at once that Aengus is away: a part of his soul has left his body to live with his dream lover. The cure is to put body and soul together again. This involves finding the girl, and putting the lovers together in their physical as well as their astral bodies.

Will Aengus please describe his dream mistress as exactly as possible? He aches for her as he speaks of the red-gold hair, the pearly skin.  

Very well, Aengus' mother has resources. She is a queen and a goddess of the Tuatha de Danaan. She will send out searchers to look for a girl who fits Aengus's description.

This is not such an easy assignment, however, because the dream lover is of the Sidhe, and is hidden in the faery mists. A year passes, and she is not found.  

Now Aengus' father is called in. He is the Big Guy among the old gods, the Dagda, one end of whose outrageously huge eight-pronged club delivers instant death, while the other brings the dead back to life. But he can't or won't help with finding the dream lover, except to recommend the far-sighted Bodb the king of the Sidhe in Munster, as the faery for the job.  

 Bodb tracks the girl to yet another of the Mounds of Wonder. The girl is a bean sidhe, and she has the right kind of name for a banshee. Her name is Caer Ibormeith, which means Yew Berry. Of all trees in her landscape, the yew is most intimately associated with death.

It is agreed that Aengus must rally himself and go to Yew Berry's mound to spy on the banshee and make sure she is the one he has dreamed. She is. Her beauty shines beyond that of the "three times fifty" noble ladies about her, all wearing silver at their throats while Yew Berry wears gold.  

 At this point, in a different kind of story, we might expect the dream lovers to fall into each other's arms and elope. After all, they have been doing it every night for two years. But there are complications.

First off, Yew Berry's mound  is in the realm of the notorious Queen Maeve and her jealous husband Aillil, and they must not be scorned. They agree to help bring the lovers together, but Yew Berry's father won't hear of it. Even after the joined forces of the Dagda and King Aillil have stormed his faery fort, he clings to his daughter.  

 There are many tests and battles before the secret is learned. Yew Berry is under an enchantment, sometimes represented as a curse, sometimes - in the deeper tellings - as a gift. She does not stay in one form. She is a beautiful woman for one year. Then for the next year she is a white swan. Then the cycle repeats.  

The day of shapechanging is Samhain. If Aengus would win her, he must find her on the liminal day, on a lake whose name is The Dragon's Mouth. At Samhain, Aengus goes to the Dragon's Mouth. He finds "three times fifty" white swans with silver chains around their necks, and one swan with a gold chain. He recognizes his love in the shape of the beautiful white bird, and calls to Yew Berry to fly to him. No, she tells him. You must change into my form.

Aengus changes, becoming the long-necked bird. They mate, in beating splendor, above the deeps of the Dragon's Mouth. They fly together back to the palace of Brugh na Boinne - Newgrange - and the love music they make in flight is so lovely and lulling that all the land is at peace and people drift into pleasant dreams and stay there for three days.  

 It is an amazing story, a love god smitten by love, and seizing a moment of opportunity - at Samhain - to bring his lover from one realm into another.

In the best-known tellings of the Dream of Aengus, death is not mentioned. But the whole story is a dance with death, in several guises. It involves the death-in-life that we suffer when a part of our soul goes away, because of pain or abuse or heartbreak or - in this case - a longing for something beyond the familiar world. It involves the rescue of someone or something from the Land of the Dead. Yew Berry's name is a dead giveway. Her mound  is actually a piece of the Underworld, her father one of the princes of the dead.  

Terror or beauty, banshee or faery lover. On the Night When the Veil Thins, we are especially reminded that we can never claim the treasures of the Otherworld - and a love bigger than the familiar world - unless we can brave up. 


Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss published by Destiny Books.

 Art: "Swan People" by Robert Moss

Friday, October 27, 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 release 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. Dream reentry is a core technique of Active Dreaming., my original synthesis of contemporary dreamwork and shamanism. 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  use drumming in all my workshops and online courses and I have made my own recording of shamanic drumming for dream reentry, "Wings for the Journey”.

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

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.

 Drawing: "Blue as Sky" by Robert Moss

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Death Is Lonely in Company


Death is lonely in company.
He is always the unwanted guest.
The party stops when he comes in.
Bubbles go flat, petals drop from the flowers,
pink leaves the cheeks under any amount of rouge.
People don't see his good side.
They see the skull without the skin.
They see teeth and tusks and sickles.
They taste metal and smell decay.
So he dresses up to meet awful expectations.
Death needs a friend who can see beyond the masks.
I think his friend is the dreamer.

- Robert Moss

Art: "Faces of Yama" by Robert Moss

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Dreaming with the Departed: First Responder

Drumming for a group to call up dreams of the departed, I found my mind going back to the produce section of a supermarket where I met Fireman Tom six months after he had come to a one-day shamanic workshop with me. He came to that class because he was hungry for contact with his departed wife. He had spent two years visiting psychic mediums and others and had received lots of messages but that wasn’t good enough. He needed direct contact. He was a one-woman guy who had married his high school sweetheart. No, he had not dreamed of her and rarely remembered dreams. I assured him that when we had set a clear intention and opened the right kind of portal, he would ride to his deceased wife on the shamanic drumming I would provide.

He came back from that journey beaming. He met a guide he thought was Gabriel but didn’t want to get too grand so they agreed Tom would call him “Gabe”. He escorted Tom to a pleasant green field where tables had been set up to welcome and process new arrivals. Tom recognized Mary working at one of the tables. She did not look up when he first approached her. When he got her attention she still seemed distracted by the papers in front of her.
“Don’t you love me anymore?”
“Of course I do. But I’ve got a lot of work to do here – work I love – and you have lots of years ahead of you down their Tom. Please go back and enjoy them”
When Tom shared his journey report in my workshop, he concluded, with a shy grin, “So I guess it would be okay to ask that girl from the church out now.”
The “girl” was sixty-five. They had both felt some chemistry but Tom thought he would be disloyal to his wife if he went with another woman – until he met Mary on the Other Side. He really was a one-woman man.
When I met him in the supermarket thirty years ago, Tom was tanned and fit, not only looking fifty pounds lighter but fifteen years younger,
I asked, “What happened to you?”.
“I just came back from my honeymoon in Jamaica. I married that girl from the church.”
Warm memories from that exchange, in front of the oranges and tangerines, washed through me as I listened in class to the sounds of bubbling spring water. I had asked everyone to allow a story or image to come from the well of dreams and memory, Was it only a wonderful memory that was coming to me now, or was there more of the story to be reveled?
I knew in that moment that Tom had died since I last saw him. His honeymoon was thirty years ago and he was in his late sixties at the time. How was he getting on now?
Immediately, I found myself looking in on another scene. Its vividness scared away any doubt that this was absolutely real.
I saw Tom in an old brick firehouse, in his blue fireman’s uniform. The siren had just sounded, and he sprang into action. He wrapped his legs round the pole and slid down to the ground floor where the engines were waiting. He looked as he had done as a young man, hearty and strong, maybe thirty years old. Tom was a first responder again.
I saw him rush to the scene of an accident. A man’s body lay on the road. Above it, half-formed of smoke-like substance, was a second body, leaving him from the abdomen. His consciousness was in the second body but blurry. He had no idea what had happened. There was a real risk that as he settled into his dense etheric body, he would confuse it with his physical body and fail to understand his situation. Those who have died suddenly, without preparation for conditions after death, often get lost or confused in this way.
Tom acted decisively, as first responder for a victim of sudden death. I observed him comforting and steadying the spirit of the man who had been killed on the road. I knew he would soon lead him to the guides who would escort him on the next stage stage of his journey to his new life. I wondered whether Tom would still call one of them Gabe.

Drawing: "First Responder" by Robert Moss

Monday, October 16, 2023

Under Bare Ben Bulben's Head


From my travel journals

I met a windy spirit in the night of a grey soggy day spent sloshing along the shores of Sligo and checking out the burial place of my favorite dead Irish poet in Drumcliffe churchyard.  

Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliffe churchyard Yeats is laid. 

In fact there is no reason to believe that Yeats' mortal remains are under his headstone there. He died in France at the start of the Second World War and in the confusion his corpse was thrown into a communal grave. After the war, with nothing like DNA testing, a committee selected some likely bones to return to Ireland.  Whether or not any part of Yeats the man of flesh and bone is in that ground I do not doubt that some part of his spirit may fly here, like the swan of hammered pewter on the church door. The dark, sere wall of Ben Bulben rises against the horizon. Some say they have seen a door in the wall open around Samhain to let the Wild Hunt ride out. Yeats encountered these trooping fairies and urged great caution around them. His unease was reflected in the epigraph he wrote for his headstone. 

Cast a cold eye on life, on death
Huntsman, pass by 

He changed the key word in the last line and it is the blander version - Horseman, pass by - that tourists and pilgrims read today. The softer word does not dull the edge of what lies beneath. 

I felt that edge, lying back on a creaky bed in a shambling hotel of creaking floors, under bare Ben Bulben's head, as the poet expected to lie in his casket. 

It was wet and blowy outside, and the windows rattled. A harder gusto of wind threw one of them open and it banged so hard against the wall I feared that some of its little planes of glass had broken. 

"Wisp" drawing by Robert Moss

The wind took a form, with knife-sharp features and streaming hair. There was cruelty in the mouth, lordly disdain in the upward tilt of the raptor nose and the sweep of the high forehead. The body was still a force field, a seething bunch of energies whose form would be determined by the will of the airy spirit, and perhaps by the fears and desires of the perceiver. 

This was not a fairy of the sort you find in fairy tales that adults think suitable for children. But children may know this kind of fairy in the stories they live and may never share with their parents. 

"What is your name? " I find that this is the best opening for any dialogue with spirits. The creature appeared to yawn. Really? 

"If you must call me something you may call me Wisp."

Art: "Mountain View" by Jack Butler Yeats, brother of the poet. Lean through the paint and you are at the multipane window of a cozy cottage with lush window boxes. Lean through the glass and you are at the sere, dark wall of Ben Bulben, from which the Wild Hunt is said to ride out in due season. Lean through the stone, if you dare, and you may find yourself among the Sidhe. I came upon this window to the Otherworld during a visit to the wonderful Model Museum of Modern Art in Sligo

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Soul Sandwich

Last night, in my dream body, I went to a New York café for brunch and ordered The Alfred, a simple cheese sandwich on a garlic roll. The bread was incredibly delicious, a soft floury ciabatta. Deeply infused with garlic and olive oil, it still looked perfectly smooth and snow white. I separated the bread from the filling to savor every crumb.

The taste was in my mouth when I opened my eyes in bed. This was not an unusual experience for me. My taste buds often come alive in my dreams. I wonder whether this is related to different aspects of soul and the subtle body coming into play. The famous American psychic Edgar Cayce suggested that we need to discern whether a certain dream reflects the needs or wishes of the body, the mind or the spirit. Our dreams are often excursions, in which we travel beyond the physical body in a subtle vehicle, guided by whatever part of the self is in control.
Prior to sleep. my late night reading was the Book of Visions of the Kabbalist R. Hayyim Vital (1542-1620) , who writes at length about five levels of soul or consciousness (starting with nefesh, ruah, neshamah) and how they may follow separate trajectories between bodies and lives. He did not apply this closely to the 56 dream reports in his spiritual autobiography. However, the Persian mystic philosopher Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, whose followers called him Shaykh al-Ishraq, the Leader of Illumination, did.  He distinguished different levels of dreaming – with corresponding degrees of importance and reliability – according to which aspect of the self is the prime experiencer.

Clear dreams or “free revelation” [kashf] are experiences of soul [ruh] traveling beyond the body, or having clear communication with a visitor. The territory visited may be a separate reality or a situation in the future. “With the eye of the free soul, by the imagination, a person contemplates in dreams the state of things which is yet in the hidden.”
In this condition, the dreamer can have accurate foreknowledge of future events, and true clairvoyance. “After separation from the body, the soul knows even of the small things heard and seen of this world.” In clear dreams, the dreamer becomes a remote viewer.

This is a practice that can be developed in waking states of altered consciousness, or mukashafa. The Prophet Muhammad scouted out the progress of a caravan en route to Mecca in this way. The Caliph Umar, from afar, scouted an ambush that had been laid for his general Sariya (and sent his general a telepathic warning that was received).
The second of Suhrawardi's categories is symbolic dreams or “fancied revelations”. These he defines as dreams in which the lower self [nafs] is dominant. Clear vision is cloaked by the “fancy garments” of appetite and desire. Landscapes traveled in such dreams are “the stages of lust.” Interpretation is required to separate a message from the fancy dress.
Suhrawardi's lowest category is dreams of “pure fancy”. These unfold when “sensual thoughts” take over completely and higher consciousness [ruh] is “veiled from considering the hidden world.”
I'm pretty sure all levels of me love perfect bread - and garlic.

R. Hayyim Vital's Book of Visions  is available in Jewish Mystical Autobiographies, trans. Maurice M. Faierstein, ed. Isaac Safrin (Mahwah N.J.: Paulist Press, 1999)
Translations of Suhrawardi are from H. Wilberforce (ed. and trans.) A Dervish Textbook ('Awariful-Ma'arif) (London: Octagon Press, 1990). For more on Suhrawardi, see my book The Secret History of Dreaming.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Maxims of the Hidden Poet

 You have a poet hidden inside you. In dreams, your poet makes worlds. Your poet is not hiding from you, but you may have been hiding from him or her. Let your inner poet walk with you in your world, and your world will change. You will smell colors. You will hear voices in stones. You will find a universe in a flower. You will meet a goddess at a traffic light.

Here is some of what I hear when I attend to my hidden poet.


Maxims of the Hidden Poet

Did you really say that your dreams have nothing to do with reality? Your real problems begin when your reality has nothing to do with dreams.                               

Dreaming, you can travel without leaving home.

You can meet your loved ones at any distance, including beyond the apparent barrier of death.

Dreaming, you are a time traveler. You visit past, future and parallel times

Your consciousness is never confined to your body and brain, except by your failures of courage and imagination.

Instead of trying to interpret dreams according to everyday assumptions, use dreams to interpret the confused messages of everyday life.

Coming events cast a shadow before them. You have felt this some mornings as you emerge from a dream you may or may not remember. The shadow of a mass event can fall like a mountain over many. Most days the shadow is softer and more intimate. As you rub sleep from your eyes, the shadow that falls over you may be cast by your roving dream self, returning to your time with a sun at its back that has not yet risen in your world.

Dreams can be the revenge of the imagination. In ordinary life your imagination may be bound to old stories and crushed by your efforts to fulfill schedules and fit in with other people’s expectations. You may have lost the power to visualize anything beyond the surface world and to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. You may have so lost contact with your great imagineer, your inner child, that you reject the magic of making things up.

Dreams can blow a hole in the hard carapace of your self-limiting assumptions through which the moreness of life comes shining through. That opening can be the portal to realms of true imagination where creators, shamans, and mystics have always wanted to go.

Everything is waiting for you to wake up. You thought you were dreaming in your sleep, but while your body slept your soul was awake. Right now, as you go about your day, your soul is dozing. Wake up and dream.


In the world you now inhabit, you need to chop wood, carry water, as dreamers do in their daily practice. Write in your journal every day. Wait like a trout fisherman in those waters between sleep and awake for the fish to arise. Light beacon fires by letting others know, at any distance, that you have dreams to share. Make a safe space to share your dreams with a friend or a circle. Help each other discern what your dreams reveal about the secret wishes of the soul, how they may show you ways to survive in the dark times and bring treasures back from darkness, and what action your dreams require of you. Let the beacon fires spread and lift up the dark.

You can heal your body and your life by dreaming a better story. Why not dream a better world? How about now?

Text adapted from Growing Big Dreams: Manifesting Your Heart’s Desires through Twelve Secrets of the Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: Writing desk in Yeats' tower, Thoor Ballylee, County Galway by RM

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Lady of Crossroads

As I drifted in the liminal state between sleep and awake, I imagned myself entering the great temple at Eleusis. I was received by a priestess wearing a gold bee with outspread wings at her throat.

I asked to meet the deity who would appear to me at the climax of the Mysteries. She was scary to begin with. There was something like an immense cobweb that parted, and snakes, and a dark bird rushed from her eyes. She seemed to have owl eyes in the lined and craggy face of a crone.

Then the old woman’s face rippled like muslin curtain, and I saw her three-formed, all three bodies and faces beautiful. The central one facing me was that of a mature woman, the ones on either side looked younger. They were conjoined, not stuck together, vibrating in constant movement, capable of taking other forms but content to present themselves in the most lovely shapes for now. A reward for the initiate who finds the courage to part the veil, to come and go from the Underworld at will. No doubt about it: This is Hekate time. 

I reflected on offerings made to Hekate in ancient times. Food for sure: raw eggs, olive oil, honey, bread and cakes, beer. Since juniper is one of her special trees (small figures of Hekate were often carved from juniper) gin would be a modern addition.Neo pagans offer food from the meal they prepare each month at the dark of the moon, before or after the mortals eat.     

Hekate is Lady of Crossroads. She is also called Apotropaia (The One Who Turns Away Evil) and Enodia (In the Road) and the Key Holder.She is not only the Lady of Crossroads to be invoked when you are traveling this world or between the worlds. She is threshold guardian. The Greeks put little statues or emblems of Hekate at their doors. In Miletus these were small stone cubes,or wreaths. Larger temples might have little shrines to Hekate just inside their gates. 

Pausanias in his Description of Greece (5th century bce) wrote that "Of the gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate, in whose honor every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alcamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hecate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of the Wingless Victory." [2.30.2] 

Her reputation was darkened and demonized especially after the Church took on the old gods. But the darkening is also the work of dark sorcerers who called on her for low goetic workings. Look in the Greek Magical Papyri for how she was invoked in spellcasting, especially spells of attraction and love charms. In one of the most powerful, she is coupled with Ereshkigal, the Sumerian underworld goddess (PGM LXX. 4-25)'

I think of the horrid bestial sculptures of Hekate I saw during a visit to the dusty old archaeology museum in Constanța on the Black Sea coast of Romania. Then known as Tomis, this was the place of exile of the Roman poet Ovid, the great scholar of shapeshifting.

Among Hekate's animals and avatars: 

Screech Owl (she sees better at night)

Raven and dark birds



Fox (I am sure though I do not see it in the references)

Black dog. One of her Greek titles is Black Bitch, something we would be prudent not to say in English. Cautious translators sometimes call her the autiously render this as Black She Dog. Since I have lived with black dogs most of my life, Hekate is no stranger.

Her role in the Persephone story: she is the one who hears Kore’s cry and helps Demeter in her search. In some of the ancient art, Hekate is with Hermes when he guides Persephone up from the Underworld, holding torches. 

Let us note that Hekate enters literature, around 700 bce in Hesiod's Theogony, as a Great Goddess who is not yet deparmentalized. Hesiod speaks of "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her.

She was worshipped in this way into much later times in Caria in what is now southwest Turkey.Around 125 bce the people of Lagina built a monumental temple for her where she was honored with lavish animal sacrifices. She was revered not only as a cthonic deity but as city protector, rather like Athena in Athens. The Carians put her image on their coins, just as Athenians put their goddess and her owl on their silver tetradrachmas. Rites of Hekate in Caria included the Procession of the Key. The daughter of the priest of Hekate carried the key from Lagina to the larger city of Stratonikeia,10 km away, where the goddess was honored with animal sacrifice. Then the key-bearer and her retinue traveled back to the temple. [*] 

* Amanda Herring, “Reconstructing the Sacred Experience at the Sanctuary of Hekate at Lagina”in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2020) 79 (3): 247–263.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Dream movies


Do you sometimes feel that your dreams are movies? I am sure we have personal film studios that produce some of our dreams, to educate or arouse, to shock or entertain. They deliver night movies in every genre. Sometimes we stay in the audience, sometimes we the stars or at least the supporting actors. If we grow our lucidity about all of this, we may be able to step into the role of director and screenwriter.

As one of my dream movies comes to an end. I may ask to look at the credits. I found that one of my dreams was the work of Hanuman Productions. I have identified other studios and actually toured some of them in conscious dream journeys.

I’m chuckling over the hint that was given to me last night that one of my dreams was produced as an entertainment. It was an exciting thriller in which I was seeking evidence that a high official was working for the Russians. By my side, as I watched him, was an interesting sidearm - not a gun, not a camera, but a TV remote. This clued me in to the fact that my recent binging on a streaming thriller series (Homeland) featuring double agents and Russian spies may have prompted my inner producers to order up a similar script from my dream writers.

A man who came to one of my early Active Dreaming workshops told the group, "I'm here because I've been missing the movies." He may have been saying more than we knew at that time.

Drawing: "Hanuman Productions" by Robert Moss

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Visits with an Ancient Philosopher-Shaman

 "I was visited last night in my sleep by one whom I presently recognized as the famous Adept and Mystic of the first century of our era, Apollonius of Tyana, called the 'Pagan Christ'.

"He was clad in a grey linen robe with a hood, like that of a monk, and had a smooth, beardless face, and seemed to be between forty and fifty years of age. He made himself known to me by asking if I had heard of his lion. He commenced by speaking of Metempsychosis."

This is the start of a dream report that Anna Kingsford entered in her journal in Paris on May 11, 1880. [1]Her visitor proceeded to give her a tutorial on reincarnation and the conditions under which humans might be reborn as animals. Apollonius explained, "There are two streams or currents, an upward and a downward one, by which souls are continually passing and repassing as on a ladder. The carnivorous animals are souls undergoing penance by being imprisoned for a time in such forms on account of their misdeeds." As a leading Victorian "platform lady" on behalf of  Vegetarianism, Anna was clearly pleased by the harsh description of carnivores.  

There is a tradition that the lion of Apollonius was the reincarnation of an Egyptian pharaoh named Amasis and that the lion wept when his past identity was recognized. Occultist Éliphas Lévi also saw Apollonius as a beardless man robed in a grey garment when he evoked him, although in this case the linen was a shroud. 

Those ancient philosopher-shamans know how to get around. Let me recall the story of Apollonius' visit to the Cave of Trophonius. Plutarch (who knew what he was talking about; his brother was a priest of Trophonius) describes a Mystery initiation at the Cave of Trophonius in ancient Boeotia in which the candidate, after lowering himself through a hole in the ground into total darkness, experienced a stunning shift in consciousness that released his soul from his body and set him sailing among the stars. Freed from the body, his soul expands and flows like a sail, among the “islands” of stars in the ocean of ether — each one presided over by a god except for the moon, which is inhabited by “Epichthonian daimons.”

He stays in the underworld two nights and a day. He receives much information from an invisible spirit about the afterworld and the beings who inhabit it. He is instructed on the relationship between higher and lower self — on how gross appetites pull people down, and how those few who listen carefully to their eudaimon (“good daimon”) may become daimons themselves, playing the role of guardian angels to others. [2]

The kathodos, or underworld descent, to the Cave of Trophonius was a true initiation ritual, requiring a literal experience of death and rebirth. Preparation normally involved sacrifice, purification and discipline. But the Trickster is always at play when authentic shamans appear, and at the Cave of Trophonius a shaman-philosopher flouted the rules.. Philostratus preserves the story of a visit to the sanctuary by Apollonius of Tyana, who told the priests, “I wish to descend into the cave in the interests of philosophy.” The priests refused to let him in, telling the people they would not allow a “wizard” to enter the sanctuary.

Apollonius went despite the priests. Under cover of dark, he and his companions pulled down part of the security wall. He went down the shaft in his regular clothes — his “philosopher’s mantle” instead of the prescribed shroud. He vanished for seven days, then reappeared miles away, at Aulis, with a book in which he had recorded the daimon’s responses to his questions. This book distilled the teaching of the “golden chain” of the Pythagorean shaman-philosophers. [3]

1. Anna Bonus Kingsford, Dreams and Dream-Stories (London: John M. Watkins, 1908) "The Metempsychosis" dream XVI. 
2. Plutarch's accounts of the Cave of Trophonius initiation are in two essays, "On the Demon of Socrates" and "On the Spirits Who Live in the Face of the Moon". Translations appear in Plutarch, Moralia (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Pres, 1994, 1995), vols 7 and 12 (respectively). For full discussion of the Trophonius initiation see my book Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death (Novato CA: New World Library, 2020) pp.143-146.
3. Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana ( trans. F.C. Conybeare (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press and William Heinemann, 1969) vol 2, pp.381-383

Illustration: Original drawing by Robert Moss with digital color effects.