Tuesday, January 30, 2024

When Your Dead Friend Brings You a Song That Sniffs You

Bob Weir, Grateful Dead singer and rhythm guitarist, told the Los Angeles Times that his long-time bandmate, Jerry Garcia, visited him in a dream 27 years after his death.

“He wanted to introduce me to a song,” Weir reported. “He invited the song into the room and it had the look and feel of an English sheepdog. It was about the size of the room. It was enormous, but you could see through it.
“The song came up and sniffed me. We got to know each other and be friends. Then, as it turns out, it was a jazz ballad that Jerry and I were going to sing, and it was a duet.”
The ballad, however, was incomplete, lacking a melody and chords. Weir said, "I’m going to have another installment on that dream, I think.” Time to learn the practice of dream reentry!
The form the song took in the dream is interesting. Many indigenous peoples believe that the best gift of a dream is the right song or story and that these have their own lives, whether or not they come introduced by a dead fiend.
The Aborigines of my native Australia say that the big stories are hunting the right people to tell them, like predators in the bush or a shark in the water. In South America, shamanic dreaming traditions speak of "word souls", special words of power - sung more than spoken - that have their own life and can be transferred by a dream practitioner to someone in need of an energy boost.

It's not only Jerry Garcia who can work this dream magic but he sets a great example.

Source for Bob Weir dream: interview with Joe Hagan in The Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2022.
Photo: American Kennel Club

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Into Manannan's Realm

I sing of a voyage, and a voyager, sails furled in the dusk, yet ready to spread before a favoring wind.
   The black goose sails before, into the fire below the sunset rim of the world. The way leads to the sunken lands, and to the earth beneath the sea that land-bound men will never touch.
Watch how the waters turn and swirl, opening a tunnel between the elements. Let yourself flow through the passage.
You are entering the realm of Manannan mac Lir, most unknowable of the Old Ones, one who escapes definite and conventional forms. Your kinsman. You are at home here. You breathe where others drown. Sea-born, sea-girt, salt blood in your veins, coral sprouts from your marrow. You surge with the horses of the sea, into a rare kingdom

Away, away come away my love
To fields of coral and pearl
Away, away come to me my love
To she who one was your girl

I heard the siren song, though I had long since turned my back on the sea and lived in a tamed country, in a gentle valley.
   She found me there, as surely as a kelpie finds a lone fisherman in a curragh on a lonely night with the whisky in him, or the fire of the stars.
   Something out of memory. But whose?
   The memory of the cell? A current in the blood? Something held in the mirror of dreams without bodily substance, yet alive in the silvered deep of the glass, in suspension between the middle world and the worlds that escape form?
Do all such visitations come from the past, from those beneath the earth or sea? Or do they come from the same time, but a parallel realm of being? Why not from the future?
Questions, questions, while her lilting song echoes in my inner ear.

Away, away, come away my love.

Put this down. Etch it on stone, mark it for memory:

There is one time, one art that encompasses all. Look through the hole in the stone. The Holy Man knows. See through his single eye the oneness of things. All created things, all that is past, or present, or to come, will and can be seen in this glass without a lens.

Note of Origins

These words came streaming through me on a night when I was writing some reflections on how more is available in dreaming than is understood by the daily trivial mind. I wrote these lines: 

Dreams are the doorway between the worlds. In modern Western society, we have a diminished understanding of the word “dream”, reflected in the common expression, “it’s only a dream”. Let us push deeper, beneath the surface clutter of day residue and “inferior thinking” and the smorgasbord of broken memories, to what Sri Aurobindo calls “the sleep of experiences".

I paused from writing these notes, because I felt a deep shift in the atmosphere, blowing like the wind off an unseen sea. I felt the power of a deeper source, moving with me and through me as wind and waves. I adjusted my inner senses and let braver words come, both fresh and ancient.

Photo: Bow Fiddle Rock near Portknockie on the north-eastern coast of Scotland. The natural quarttzite arch is thought to resemble the tip of a fiddle bow. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Stronger the Imagination, the Less Imaginary the Results


The greatest crisis of our lives is a crisis of imagination. We come to a dead stop because there is a barrier in front of us and we can’t imagine a way to get around or over it. Our work space feels like it is walled with cement blocks that are closing in tighter every day, but we can’t imagine where we would go if we quit. We can’t breathe in an airless relationship but can’t imagine how to take off.  We look in the mirror, when we dare, and see the age lines, the skin blemishes, maybe the thinning hair, not the beauty that we may carry inside.   

We go on repeating to ourselves the tired old stories, strapped on to us by family or past histories of defeat and disappointment. Or we cling to past memories of brighter days, or that win on the high school sports field, or that sweet summer romance, or that medal for valor or that early success that was never repeated. Either way, by nursing grief or guilt or nostalgia, we manage to go through life looking in the rear vision mirror, stuck in the past, never fully available to the present moment.

Or we miss the moment by carrying anxiety about the future, playing scenarios for what could go wrong. We give ourselves a hundred reasons not to take the risk of doing something new, something that would take us beyond the gated communities of the mind into the wilds of creative adventure.

Conscious of it or not, we go around playing our negative mantras. I’m too old. I’m not pretty enough. I don’t have the money. People always let you down. People don’t change. I’m so tired. You don’t think you do this? Pause for a moment. Take off the headphones. Listen to what’s playing on your inner soundtrack. It may be a song. Am I blue?

I confess there are days, especially between snowstorms in a Northeastern winter, when my mood can slump and go the color of the dirty grey ramparts of ice on the curb in my small gritty city. And more days like these in the shut-up times of pandemic I don’t want to get out of bed even to walk the dog, who is waiting for me patiently. I may be stirred back to life by a dream or a cheering message from a loved one or a plan for an ocean beach vacation or a foreign adventure. But when I find it is still hard to rise above a low, lethargic mood and dump those negative mantras – My legs hurt, I’m played out, I can’t walk on the ice – I call in one of the greatest life coaches I know.

I know him from his most famous book. Maybe you do too. His book is titled Man’s Search for Meaning. His name is Viktor Frankl. He was an Existentialist – which is to say, someone who believes that we must be authors of meaning for our own lives – and a successful psychiatrist in Vienna before Nazi Germany swallowed Austria in 1938. He was a Jew and a free-thinking intellectual, two reasons for the Nazis to send him to a concentration camp. For several years he was in Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.
      In the camp, every vestige of humanity was taken from him, except what he could sustain in his mind and his heart. He was in constant pain, reduced to a near-skeleton with a tattooed number on his arm, liable to be beaten or killed at any moment on the whim of a guard. He was there to be worked to death. He watched those around him shot or beaten or carted off to the gas chambers every day.
     He made an astonishing choice. He decided that, utterly deprived of freedom in the nightmare world around him, he would tend one precious candle of light within. He would exercise the freedom to choose his attitude. It sounds preposterous, if you don’t know the story of what unfolded. When people tell us we have a bad attitude in ordinary circumstances, we are usually not grateful. The suggestion that we can choose our attitude when the world around us seems cold and bleak, or we have suffered a major setback, even heartbreak, sounds cruel, and maybe preposterous. But let’s stay with Viktor Frankl.
     When the light went out in his world, he managed to light that inner candle of vision. Despite the pain in his body and the screams and groans around him, he made an inner movie, a film of a possible life in a world where the Nazis had been defeated and Hitler was a memory. It was an impossible vision of course, an escapist fantasy. There was no way he was going to survive Auschwitz.
     But he kept working on his inner movie, night after night, as director, scriptwriter, and star. He produced a scene in which he was giving a lecture in a well-filled auditorium.. His body had filled out, and he was wearing a good suit. The people in the audience were intelligent and enthusiastic. The theme of his lecture was “The Psychology of the Concentration Camps.” In his movie, not only were the death camps a thing of the past; he had retained the sanity and academic objectivity to speak about what went on during the Holocaust from a professional psychiatric perspective.
    This exercise in inner vision, conducted under almost unimaginably difficult circumstances, got Viktor Frankl through. One year after the war, in a good suit, he gave that lecture as he had seen himself doing in his inner movies.
     What do we take away from this?
     First, that however tough our situation may seem to be, we always have the freedom to choose our attitude, and this can change everything.  Let’s allow William James to chime in: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
     Second, that our problems, however bad, are unlikely to be quite as bad as the situation of someone who has been sent to a Nazi death camp. That thought may help us to gain perspective, and to stand back from a welter of grief and self-pity and rise to a place where we can start to dream up something better.
     Third, we can make inner movies, and if they are good enough it is possible that they will play in the theater of the world.
     Would you like to make your own life movies, in which you enjoy the satisfaction of your deepest desires? Are you willing to grow a vision of bright possibility so rich and alive that it wants to take root in the world?
      Here are some secrets of the imagination that will get you on your way.


Dreams Show You the Secret Wishes of Your Soul

Every night, if you make the effort to catch some of what is going on, you will find that your dreams take you beyond what you already know. You already have a personal film production company, behind the curtain of the world, that is making dreams exclusively for you. That comedy or horror flick, that romance or action adventure, may be screened in the night to help you see where you are and how you are, or to give you a glimpse of other life possibilities. In other dreams, you get out and about, you socialize, you make visits and receive visitations.
      Dreaming, you travel without leaving home and can be as social as you like. You are also a time traveler. You travel to past times, parallel times and into the possible future. You scout out challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Beyond seeing the future, it is possible that, dreaming, the observer effect noted in physics comes into play and you take part in the selection of events that will manifest from a quantum soup of possibilities.
     There is even more going on in your nights. Indigenous wisdom teaches that through dreams we learn the secret wishes of the soul.. There is even a word for this in the Huron/Iroquois language: ondinnonk. We are called to follow our heart’s desires, as opposed to the calculations of the ego and other people’s agendas and expectations. We are recalled to our deeper life purpose, and given sources and resources in a deeper reality that will help us to follow our path with heart.


Your Great Imagineer Is Your Magical Child

Don’t doubt for a moment that you have the imagination required to grow a vision of manifesting your heart’s desires that can carry you beyond the stuck places and the dark dreary times. Your inner child is a master of dreams and imagination. She knows the magic of making things up. She engages effortlessly in the deep play that generates creative ideas without regard for consequences. Maybe you lost contact with her as you started to grow up and the adult world trod on her dreams. Maybe there was a time when her world seemed so cold and cruel that she wanted to run away, and may actually have succeeded in running away, so a safe space in Granma’s house or a garden behind the Moon. Maybe this is why you have been in a dream drought for so long; when she went away, you lost the beautiful bright dreamer in you. In chapter 2, you are going to learn how to reclaim that Magical Child, how to convince her that you are safe and you are fun so that you can bring her energy and joy and imagination into your current life.

What Is in Your Way May Be Your Way


The philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius came to accept, as a rule for his own life, that the obstacle may be the way. When you find yourself blocked or challenged on your life road, that may be a prompt for you to look for a better way, or develop needed skill or the pluck and perseverance to see something through. you’ll want to look again at what you feel is blocking or opposing you on your life road. Sometimes a block is a pause button, indicating, Not right now. Try later. You may discover that a block has been placed in your way to induce you to find a better way. For every door that won’t open or slams shut in your face, look for one that maybe opening. For every setback, search for opportunity. Look for a gift in every wound or challenge though this can be hard and may require hindsight from some distance away. 


Your Big story is hunting you

Australian Aborigines say that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them, like predators stalking in the bush. The trick is to put ourselves in a place where the Big stories can find us. We do that when we attend to our dreams and the dreamlike play of symbols and synchronicity in the world around us. We want to learn to step out of the tired old stories we have inherited from family, from other people telling us who we are, from personal histories of failure and defeat. When we are seized by the Big story, we step beyond limiting definitions and beliefs. Great healing becomes available because we can now draw on the immense energy that is generated by the sense of serving a larger purpose and living a mythic life. The muse, or creative genius, and the intelligences of the world-behind-the-world come to support our life projects, because we are following a deeper call.

Your world is as rich or poor, as alluring or dull, as you can imagine. Listen to your dreams, let your inner child out to play, put yourself in a place where you bigger story can grab you. When you move in the energy field of a big dream of life, the world responds to you, because you are magnetic. You generate events and encounters that open new doors, and your days sparkle with a champagne fizz of magic. Your dreams speak louder and brighter and the extraordinary comes to meet you on any street corner.

On days when you feel down and defeated, remember Viktor Frankl, dreaming his way out of the nightmare of the death camps. On any day, you have the freedom to choose your attitude, and this is an exercise in creative imagination that can change everything.


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 (c) Robert Moss



Monday, January 22, 2024

Walking a Dream


Jung said that one of the things he liked to do with a dream was to “circumambulate” it, wander around it, considering it from many angles. He liked to do this while in physical motion, wandering around his house on the lake, through the garden, into the woods.

This is a grand way to get greater perspective on a dream. Walking with a dream for a while, you may find that more of the dream narrative returns to you. You are almost sure to get commentary of some kind from what you notice playing around you, wherever you happen to be going.

You may find that both inner and outer perceptions accomplish what a dreaming people of central Africa say we must do with a dream. Like other cultures that value dreaming, the Yansi of Zaire have special words for dreamwork practice. According to anthropologist Mubuy Mpier, the Yansi share dreams every morning, and the core of their approach to dream exploration is embodied in the term a bumi ndoey, which means to “turn a dream.” The teaching is that we need to turn a dream carefully, as we might lift a great rock, to see what is underneath, on the side that is not initially visible.

It’s not only a matter of letting the world illuminate the dream; it’s a case of letting the dream illumine the world. “We do not always have only to sit with closed eyes, moving around in our heads, to draw closer to an image. We can put it in our pocket and carry it with us throughout days and nights,” as Mary Watkins wrote in Waking Dreams, her passionate appeal for us to let images speak to us and through us. “You not only see different things, you see things differently” when you are seized by poetic imagery, poet and scholar Kathleen Raine observed.

One of the things we want to do when we are walking a dream is to notice when it starts to play out in the world around us. There might be a considerable time gap between the dream and its unfolding in the world, so patience and a decent memory — assisted by your journal! — may be required. When a dream does begin to manifest in external reality, let an alert flash on your inner control panel. In my mind, the default version is: Dream Playing Out Now.

When the dream starts playing out, you have several options. They are not mutually exclusive. If there is no sense of danger and the original dream left you feeling happy and confident, you may be content to let the dream play again and enjoy it with all of your senses. Maybe you’ll find that a sense of “rightness” comes with this: that you have made the right choice, that you are in the right place, that at last you have found the right friend or lover or teacher. If you had a darker sense of the dream — if it involved risk or danger — you will want to be poised to change the script, solve a problem, avoid that accident or that drama at the office.

As a dream plays out in exterior reality, you may notice that its symbolism is now alive in your world. This can become a whole education on how to refresh and renew our perspectives on what is a dream and what is real. We need to take dreams more literally and waking life symbolically.

A dream may be fairly literal in the sense that it reveals something that is happening or will happen in the future in the ordinary world. Yet when the dream is enacted, we see that there is symbolism in the physical event. So a literalistic dream can point to a symbolic play in the outer world. Let’s consider an example.

A man I will call Yves dreamed that his ring finger was cut off in an accident. There was blood and pain, and he saw the splintered bone, and woke with feelings of dread and fear. When he brought the dream to me, I asked very early, as is my practice, whether it was possible that he could lose a finger in a literal accident, maybe cutting or slicing something. Did his work involve such risks? Well, yes, it did. He worked part-time pruning vines on a hillside in southern France, where he lived. He agreed that he would need to be more watchful about how he handled the secateurs.

We proceeded to discuss the symbolic levels of the dream. Hard to miss the significance of losing the ring finger in terms of a relationship. He was not married, but he had a live-in partner and felt her interest had begun to stray. This brought in the Freudian bit. Did the loss of “tall man” — the middle finger — speak of a decline in sexual performance?

Yves walked with his dream. Within the week, it began to play out when he made a false move while working in the vineyard. He only narrowly managed to avoid cutting off his own finger with the pruning shears. It was the ring finger, as in the dream. The partial fulfillment of his terrible dream led him to confront the symbolic issues. He sat down with his partner. She told him, with the sexual candor for which the French can be notable, that she was dissatisfied with his sexual performance and had already taken another lover. They agreed to separate.

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

 Photo by RM

Pressfield’s War of Art, and the Muse


I was sent a copy of a little book on creativity by Steven Pressfield, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, and found it so delicious I devoured it in a single sitting. Some readers may have trouble with the military metaphor suggested by the title, The War of Art but no writer will fail to recognize those days when the forces resisting the creative process seem to have laid minefields and blown up bridges.

Pressfield divides his little book into three even smaller books.

Book One is devoted to what blocks and derails the creative process. Pressfield itemizes many ways of self-sabotage, from booze to procrastination, from giving in to family needs to confusing the urgent with the important (for which the remedy is always to do the important stuff first). These are all activities of what he calls Resistance. I rather wish he had picked a different name (Sabotage could work) since, with the great big capital R, the word Resistance brings up thoughts of the French Resistance and we surely do not want to go to war with anything like that. But let’s soldier on.. Pressfield offers a provocative list of the ambitions and endeavors that stir up the strongest Resistance from the little everyday self. These include any creative undertaking in any field, any action that requires moral courage, any entrepreneurial venture, and any effort to embark on new learning or clean out old habits and addictions.

Pressfield is absolutely correct when he says that for writers the problem is not writing but sitting down to write. He insists that the project we most resist is the one we most need to do. I suspect he is right about this too. Our deepest fears (to paraphrase Rilke) are the dragons guarding our deepest treasures.

If it’s really helpful to see the War of Art as a military campaign (Pressfield insists on this to the point of urging us to become Marines, with a calling to “miserable” conditions) let’s observe that frontal assault, as in war, can be self-defeating or suicidal. Flank attacks and diversionary tactics may work better, if there is indeed an enemy on the field of battle. Get around him, divide his forces, distract him, and then press your attack. In tackling a book project, I find I often do best by appearing to ride off in a completely different direction – for example, by devoting hours to seemingly unrelated research or posting at my online forums - only to change course and take the enemy from behind.

Book Two is devoted to becoming a pro, and contains much good stuff. Amateurs play for the game, pros play for keeps. Pressfield gives very practical counsel on bringing to the creative project some of the same habits that are required in workaday life: you turn up, you spend the necessary hours at the workplace, you don’t call in sick or depressed or with a family emergency or a need to bar crawl every day. You make a date with your muse and you keep it. He has a lovely quote from Somerset Maugham, who was asked whether he waited until he was inspired before he wrote, or wrote according to schedule. Maugham replied that he was fortunate to be inspired at precisely nine o’clock every morning.

Book Three is about how bringing through a creative project involves engaging the muse, the daimon, the genius. Pressfield describes how he borrowed from a friend the practice of saying aloud the opening words of Homer’s Odyssey. It’s a great idea, but there are better versions than the old T.E.Lawrence (yes, Lawrence of Arabia) translation that Pressfield quotes. I’m going to borrow his idea, but recast it with the aid of the 1961 Robert Fitzgerald translation (you may wish to compare the fine 1996 translation by Robert Fagles).

The poet begins the Odyssey by invoking the creative spirit: 

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story 

It is the story of a wanderer, a “man of many ways” (polytropos) who was “harried for years on end” after he plundered the sacred places of Troy. His homecoming was delayed, within sight of Ithaca, when his men killed and feasted on the sacred cattle of the sun. We read in this that we must do the work for a higher purpose than filling our bellies.The key thing is to engage a larger power.

Borrowing from the Fitzgerald version, Homer’s invocation of the Muse could be simplified as follows: 

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story.

Tell us in our time, lift the great song again. 

Note that the Muse here (mousa) is not yet job-specific; the early Greeks did not divide up musing functions between the nine nymphs familiar to the Renaissance. At the oldest level of the Muse cult, there appear to have been three, not nine, Muses and their names (as preserved in Pausanias) mean Voice, Practice, and Memory. Who would not want those allies in pursuit of a creative project? They are irresistible.

Art: Edmond Aman-Jean, "Hesiod Listening to the Muse", c.1890

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Dreams as Sunshine in the Night


The word dMamud, which signifies “Dream (deity)”, is listed in the divine genealogies as the daughter of the Sun God. Since dreams usually occur at night, the close genealogical connection between the god of dreams and the Sun God may seem puzzling. The riddle may be solved, however, by considering that dreamers see a world which is just as bright as the day. [1]

I am a wild cross-reader, forever with my nose in a dozen books in as many genres at the same time. One of the pleasures is to notice things that resemble each other over great distances. A recent example. I have long been strongly drawn to ancient Mesopotamia, so when a Sumerian goddess (Mamu) associated with dreams popped up in a scholarly essay by a German Assyriologist online I paid attention. Mamu [2] is depicted as the daughter of the sun god Utu. The author noted that the family connection between a dream goddess and a sun god may seem puzzling and suggested a plausible and rather charming explanation, that dreamers enter a world as bright as day.

I am often reading and dreaming into the world of the Victorian ghost hunters and psychic researchers. The question from Sumer jogged my memory of a passage I read in a wonderful little book by the Victorian radical reformer and Theosophist Anna Bonus Kingsford:

"The priceless insights and illuminations I have acquired by means of my dreams have gone far to elucidate for me many difficulties and enigmas of life which might have otherwise remained dark to me, and to throw upon the events and vicissitudes of a career filled with bewildering situations, a light which, like sunshine, has penetrated to the very causes and springs of circumstance." [3]

A solution from Victorian England to a Sumerian mystery: Dreams are sunshine in the night.

[1] Annette Zgoll, “Dreams as Gods and Gods in Dreams. Dream-Realities in Ancient Mesopotamia from the 3rd to the 1st Millennium B.C.” Leonhard Sassmannshausen (ed) He Has Opened Nisaba’s House of Learning Studies in Honor of Åke Waldemar Sjöberg (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014) p.305

[2] Mamu for short. Ancient Mesopotamia has many dream gods and goddesses. The Sumerian lady mentioned here is called dMamud by the scholarly translators. This means, “Dream (deity)”. Sumerian has two words for “dream”: ma-mu.d and maš-ĝi6.k. Only the first term, transcribed as ma-mu.d can be written with the divine determinative diĝir (d). A word tagged with this sign is the name of a deity. The word ma-mu.d also denotes a meaningful dream which has the power to influence the future. By contrast,  maš-ĝi6.k, refers to all types of dreams, including confused and deceptive ones. Thanks to all the spadework of cuneiformists in decoding the ancient texts, we see that a connection between dreams and the gods is built into what may be the earliest of all written languages. See S.A.L. Butler, Mesopotamian Conceptions of Dreams and Dream Rituals (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1998)  pp.73-77

[3] Anna Bonus Kingsford, Preface to Dreams and Dream-Stories (New York: Scribner & Welford ,1889).  Interesting that a reprint has been published by Nabu Press. Nabu was an ancient Mesopotamian god of writing and flow. I have a figurine of Nabu, a copy of a statue in the Oriental Institute (as it used to be called) in Chicago on my desk.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

How you know you're not in Kansas any more

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow."
- Dorothy, in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz

I am thinking about the moments, in the midst of a dream adventure, when we wake up to the fact that we are not in ordinary reality.
    You look in a bathroom mirror and you see a very different face.
    You are with people and suddenly remember that in the regular world they are dead.
     Fish start flying through the air.
     A horse jumps out of a painting on the wall and thunders across the room.
     Such moments are prompts to dream lucidity. You say to yourself, I'm dreaming. Sometimes this startles you into leaving the scene and dropping back into your body in the bed. With practice, you may learn to use these awakenings, inside the dream state, to carry on with the adventure, now fully aware that you have the power to navigate, making conscious choices - and powers you don't have when you are in physical reality.
    The prompt may not only help you to become a lucid dreamer; it may awaken you to the fact that you are in a different world. In one of the great Celtic voyage tales (immrama), known as the Voyage of Maeldun, the travelers in their skin boat awaken to the fact that they are no longer on the Irish Sea when they reach an island where the ants are as big as horses. A radical change in the apparent scale of things is a well-recognized indicator that we have gone beyond the bounds of the familiar everyday world.

    I found the following experience thrilling and instructive:

I am bouncing along in a yellow cab in a part of New York City I don't know well. It's run down. The road is potholed. Some of the stores are shuttered, some of the buildings look abandoned. The street seems very wide because there is little traffic.
     The driver is tearing along, much too fast, veering all over the road. I ask him to slow down. He either does not hear me, or has decided to ignore me. I lean forward to speak to him through the gap in the security screen. I notice for the first time that the taxi driver is a dead man. He is yoked to the steering column by a rope tied round his neck like a noose.
     I realize that I am not in any regular city. I must be dreaming. So now I am lucid, yes?
     Yes and no. As this thought rises, the driver slams on the brakes and the taxi stops so violently that I am bounced off the broken springs in the back seat towards the ceiling. I grab the door handle. As I move to get out, the kind of voice you hear in recordings in New York City cabs says, very distinctly,
    "This is not a dream. You are in the afterlife."
    This opens out into a grand adventure in which I entered several different afterlife locales, none of them especially elevated, and learned a good deal about lifestyle choices and dramas on the Other Side.
     At a certain point, I became concerned that I had gone so far and deep that I was uncertain how to get back. Since I was lucid, I was aware that I could simply will myself to go back to my body. Yet I was troubled by the thought that if I tried a quick exit - Back to the body! - I might leave some vital part of myself behind in the Underworld I had discovered.
    I could use a little help, I signaled.
    This inner cry produced an immediate response. An elegant figure, dressed in black and red as if for a costume ball, appeared, with a yellow car that was not a yellow cab, something more like a Mini Cooper. With a dashing gesture, he invited me to hop in and drove me back at amazing speed, up through many levels of the realm I had been in.
    What do I have to say about this? Thank you - for the experience, and the roadside assistance.

Art: "Fish Woman on the Paris Bridge" by Robert Moss. From a dream.

Monday, January 15, 2024

The Threat of the Mortar


Gervase of Tilbury preserved an account of a medieval knight who forbade his wife to remarry after his death. When she decided it was safe to forget her promise years later, a crowd of people, including local nobility, watched as a heavy kitchen mortar was raised in the air and brought down to crush her skull. Before she died, she told the horrified onlookers that she (but only she) could see her attacker - the angry ghost of her dead husband. The fact that the murderer wielding the mortar was invisible to all but his victim was not mysterious to the mind of the times. The dead (as the chronicler noted matter-of factly) appear confinibus et amicis – “to relatives and friends.” [1]

 “The threat of the mortar”, as French scholar Jean-Claude Schmitt comments, was a major factor in the minds of survivors in those times. Widows (and to a lesser extent widowers – since men usually died sooner and tended to be the controllers) were very conscious of the psychic presence of their dead spouses, and this greatly influenced their behavior, for better or worse. [2]

It’s worth pausing to consider whether such an "unseen hand" - working perhaps in less spectacular but no less effective ways – may be at work in some of our family dramas today, no less than in the thirteenth century.

1. Jean-Claude Schmitt. Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society. Trans. Teresa Lavender Fagan. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998) 186.
2. ibid, 188


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Slipping through the Hourglass

One of my favorite novels is The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, so elegant and profoundly moving. I reread it every few years. Here the Prince of Salina, having suffered a stroke, is in an armchair on the balcony of a grand hotel in Palermo, is dying:

"For a dozen years or so he had been feeling as if the vital fluid, the faculty of existing, life itself in fact and perhaps even the will to go on living, were ebbing out of him slowly but steadily, as grains of sand cluster and then line up one by one, unhurried, unceasing, before the narrow neck of an hour-glass...With the slightest effort of attention he used to notice at all other times' too, the rustling of the grains of sand as they slid lightly away, the instants of time escaping from his mind and leaving him for ever. But this sensation was not, at first, linked to any physical discomfort. On the contrary this imperceptible loss of vitality was itself the proof, the condition so to say, of a sense of living...Those tiny grains of sand were not lost; they were vanishing, but accumulating elsewhere...like the tiny particles of watery vapor exhaled from a narrow pond, mounting then into the sky to great clouds, light and free." (trans. Archibald Colquhoun)

 The scholarly, aristocratic author, eleventh Prince of Lampedusa and twelfth Duke of Palma. wrote from self-knowledge and family history. He died of cancer before this, his first novel, found a publisher; Feltrinelli published it the year after his death and it has been in publication in many languages ever since.

During my last reading, seized visually and kinesthetically by Lampedusa's image, I was inspired to make a drawing of a gentleman slipping through an hourglass. 

Drawing "Through the Hourglass" by Robert Moss

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Open Secrets of the Dreamtime


Here are the open secrets of the Dreamtime, insights shared by many dreaming traditions and indigenous peoples that challenge the ruling paradigms of a culture that confuses the real with the physical

1. Dreams are real experiences.

There are big dreams and little dreams. “Bottom-line it for me,” bulled a radio host over the phone from North Dakota. “Aren’t dreamed caused by spicy pizza?” Well, yes, some dreams are. But we will not expend much space here on the surface bubbles of the dozing brain and belly.

In big dreams - in what Sri Aurobindo called “the sleep of experiences" - we are dealing with events, encounters, and challenges that are entirely real on their own level of reality. Our dream memories may be garbled or muddy, but the dream is a real experience whose meaning lies within the dreamscape itself. The dream experience, fully remembered, is its own interpretation. But we must do more than interpret dreams; we must manifest their energy and insight in our waking lives.

Shamanic dreamers tend to be quite literal-minded about dreams. If you dreamed you fell off a rock-face, you’d better remember to check your safety harness if there is any chance you might go rock climbing. If you flew with the eagle, you discovered a powerful spiritual ally — and your own ability to transcend the limitations of your physical body. If you dreamed of your dead uncle, before you start asking yourself what part of you he might represent, you should consider the possibility that you had a visit with him. Is he bothering you — maybe trying to cadge a drink or a smoke — or offering you help? If you dreamed you received instruction at a mountain shrine, you should be open to twin possibilities: that you may go there someday, in physical reality; and that you may have been called in your dreams to one of the many “invisible schools” where training and initiation on the higher planes are conducted.


2. Dreams are flights of the soul.

During one of the final presentations at a hectic conference in Berkeley, I regretted that I had not taken that Saturday morning off to explore the Bay area. I closed my eyes, slipped free from my physical focus, and felt myself gliding over the Bay on the wings of an eagle. It was a wholly tactile sensation. I was drawn to a wild, lightly wooded area with intriguing stone formations that looked from the air like volcanic rock. As I dipped into a fold in the hills to examine the area more closely, I saw another interesting formation, shaped by human hands: a circular labyrinth, or spiral, at the edge of a pond.

At lunch, I casually described the scene I had explored. “It could be the Sibley Volcanic Preserve,” one of the local conferees piped up. “I can take you out there this afternoon if you have time.” She did not know about the spiral path, but we found it fairly easily, at the edge of a swampy pond.

From a shamanic perspective, there was nothing extraordinary about my experience. It was just a routine scout — a Middle World journey — in which I moved beyond the range of my physical senses to check out my environment. I was traveling beyond my body, but I kept a firm connection with it, maintaining awareness of the activity in the lecture room even as I flew across the Bay.

Shamanic dreamers say that in real dreams (waking or sleeping) one of two things is happening. Either you are journeying beyond your body, released from the limits of space-time and the physical senses; or you receive a visitation from a being — god, spirit, or fellow dreamer — who does not suffer from these limitations. In the language of the Makiritare, a dreaming people of Venezuela, the word for dream, adekato, means literally a “flight of the soul.”

The open secret is that consciousness if never confined to the body and brain. We discover this in spontaneous night dreams and intuitive flashes, when our left-brain inhibitions are down. As we become active dreamers, we can hone the ability to make intentional journeys beyond the body at any time of day or night.

3. You have a dreambody as well as a physical body.

I am leading one of my Active Dreaming circles. We are squatting around a centerspread with a white candle. Someone asks whether there is any way to prove that we are not dreaming. I pick up the candle and pour hot wax onto my hand. I feel a sting of pain as the wax sears the web of skin between my thumb and forefinger, and I tell the group, “I guess that proves I’m not dreaming.” Then I wake up.

What is this dream telling me? That I am a nitwit because I can’t tell whether I’m dreaming? If so, I will take solace from the fact that in most sleep dreams, most people are completely unaware that they are dreaming. Actually, I think this dream has a more interesting and specific message, related to the theme that dreams are real experiences. In my dreambody, I can know pleasure and pain just as vividly as in my physical body. I have more than one body, or vehicle of consciousness, and when I go into the dreamworld and other worlds, I go embodied. And so do you.


4. Dreams may be memories of the future.

I dreamed of a silly little dog decked out with fake antlers for some kind of Christmas pageant. The dog ran out on the road and was killed, but was magically revived by a dubious, utterly amoral character who seemed remote from the normal range of human emotions.

The dream had a movielike quality. I had no idea what was going on here, but because I had no particular feelings about it, I was content to record it in my journal before rushing off to the airport to catch a plane to Denver.

I missed my connection and later found myself on a different flight form the one schedules. Whenever my travel planes come unstuck, I am alert for the play of the Trickster. On the “wrong” plane, I found myself seated next to a woman who turned out to be best friends with a person in publishing to whom I had been introduced only the day before, and I was able to glean some useful insights. Our conversation was interrupted by the screening of the in-flight movie. I looked up to see a silly little dog decked out in fake antlers for a Christmas pageant. Later in the movie, the dog is killed on the road and magically revived — by a low-flying angel portrayed by John Travolta. The title of the movie is Michael, and I highly recommend it. What interested me most was that I seemed to have attended an advance screening in my dream the night before.

We dream things before they happen in waking life. If you work with your dreams and scan them for precognitive content, you can develop a superb personal radar system that will help you to navigate in waking life. You can also learn to fold time and travel into the possible future by the methods explained in this book. For even the most active dreamers, however, the meaning of many dreams of the future may be veiled until waking events catch up with the dream.

If dreams are memories of the future, is much of waking like the experiencing in the physical body what we have already lived in the dreambody? What would we become if we participated more consciously in this process? There is an Iroquois story of a great hunter who always scouted ahead, in conscious dream journeys, to locate the game and rehearse the kill. In one of his dream scouts, he located an elk and sought its permission to take its life to feed his extended family. He killed the elk in his dream and noted the red mark on its chest where the arrow had gone in. The following day, he walked to the place he had visited in dreaming and identified his elk by the red mark on its chest. He then replayed an event that had already taken place, by killing the elk again with a physical arrow.


5. Dreaming, we choose the events that will be manifested in our waking lives.

The fact that we dream things before they happen does not mean everything is predetermined. People who are not active dreamers can get quite confused about what is going on when they wake up to the fact that we are dreaming future events, both large and small, all the time. I think it’s like this. If you do not remember your dreams, you are condemned to live them. (If you don’t know where you’re going, you will likely end up where you are headed.) If you remember some of your dreams and screen them for messages about the future, you will find yourself able to make wiser choices. You will discover that by taking appropriate action you can often avoid the enactment of a “bad” dream or bring about the fulfillment of a happy one. As you become a conscious dreamer, you will find yourself increasingly able to choose inside the dreaming the events that will be manifested in your waking life.

It’s not about predestination. It’s about the spiritual secrets of manifestation — and your ability to become cocreator of your life.

Meister Eckhart tells us how it is the razor-sharp clarity of the practical mystic who has seen and experienced for himself: “When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters her own image.”

Indigenous peoples tell a recurring story of how the material world is spun from the dream of a deity. For the Guajiro, the physical universe is the product of conscious dreaming. The Guajiro say that the Creator-god made this world after the divine Dreamgiver, Apusanai, made him aware that he was dreaming and he began to experiment with molding and solidifying the fluid forms he perceived endlessly aborning and transforming on another plane of reality.

It is not merely that we dream things (maybe everything) before they happen; dreams make them happen.


6. The path of the soul after death is the path of the soul in dreams.

Your dreambody does not die when your physical body loses it vital signs. You will live on in your dreambody for a shorter or greater time, according to your ruling passions and personal evolution. You will find yourself, as you do each night in dreams, in a realm where thoughts are things, and imagination, the great faculty of soul, can create whole worlds.

You come from the Dreaming, and you are released into the Dreaming when you drop your sack of meat and bones.

In a dream, I found myself walking in a pleasant cemetery. A voice said, "You must prepare your Houses of Death". I looked and saw brightly painted cabins. I chose one - blue with yellow trim - and stepped through the door that opened for me. There was no wall on the far side. The view was of a lovely cove with a white sand beach, A beautiful dark-skinned woman in a sarong was in the water beckoning to me.

I waded out to join her. She handed me a conch shell. When I held it to my ear, I received instructions for making a crossing an island that now appeared shimmering on the horizon. I understood that I had been given a departure point for a voyage to the Other Side. I have returned to that scene often, in lucid dreaming. I would not be surprised to find myself there again when it is time to leave the body behind.

Dreaming with growing consciousness is excellent preparation, not only for the challenges that lie before you on the roads in this life, but for the challenges of the journey you will make after physical death. How do you know for sure? By doing it.

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library

Art by Robert Moss: "You Must Prepare Your Houses of Death"

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Dream Review One Year On: I'll Keep the Golden Robe


Quiet days with snow on the ground are perfect for one of my favorite pastimes: going back through old journals to see what I was dreaming and doing around this date in past years, what recurring themes pop up and what cold case files might be worth opening up again. I found three reports from one year ago that immediately seized my attention.

January 9, 2023 


People Trees 

Through the window of the train, I look out at the landscape as a wild pink wind picks up, sculpting the trees into different forms. There is a wood wizard in a hood, of course, and a female figure wagging a finger. I decide to call her The Schoolteacher. As I watch it seems that I am not merely indulging my fancy. These are People Trees, capable of communicating and showing themselves in more ways than I knew. 

I would normally call them tree people. There is something different going on here that made me call them People Trees. I feel that a scene from Ovid's Metamorphoses has come alive and is playing in reverse: as if people who were turned into trees, like Philemon and Baucis, are showing themselves as people again. 

Shall I get off the train and speak with them? Not right now; the train is moving fast and there are other adventures ahead. Perhaps I'll be able to meet them or their kind in a future journey.

Comment 1/9/24

Trains often feature in my dreams, though I rarely take them in ordinary life these days. I frequently make an association with training. Now, a year later, I am about to launch two new dream teacher trainings. We almost always start such programs by helping people connect or reconnect with a personal tree of vision that can become their ladder between worlds. I have learned a great deal from trees and have often found them to be wiser than humans. I have encountered and lived close to trees that also harbored human spirits, including that of a great Native American shaman. I do want to draw those trees, and that pink wind.

 January 9, 2023

lucid dream starting in hypnopompic state

My Dream Double Is in Danger in Russia

I am at the mouth of a tunnel. There are rails on the ground. I decide to go through. The walls of the tunnel are dirty and spattered with graffiti. When I come out it is at a train station somewhere deep in eastern Europe. There are crowds of men in fatigues or work clothes by a gunmetal train. Soldiers or convicts. Two big, brutal men look at me. I have given no thought to the form I am in. I am surprised they can see me. 

I feel this won’t end well if I remain visible, and ponder how to get out. I don’t think it’s safe to simply leave the scene. Some part of me is in that scene. Now observer as well as actor, I am amused by the idea of needing to arrange an extraction for one of my doubles or projections, while recognizing that this is actually a serious matter. I could try to go back through the tunnel but they might follow. Instead, I focus on lifting myself up so fast and so high I won’t be visible le any more and the men at the station will soon disbelieve what they saw. I’m out of there.

Comment 1/9/24

Here the train is a literal one, apparently a troop train for conscripts - many of them convicts - being sent by the Russians to the meat grinder at the front. Maybe in a parallel life, I am still engaged as a journalist in trying to monitor and report on such things. Or maybe I am simply being reminded of the state of the world we are in. I am also reminded that when we get around in our dreams, we are generally not just disembodied thought forms. We travel in a subtle body that can get into trouble.


January 10, 2023


The Golden Robe 

When the bagpipe starts playing I know it's time for the team to get out fast. I encourage them to climb through a back window. I am in no great hurry. It's as if I have stepped into a movie - in this case an exciting spy thriller with scenes in Cyprus and Turkey - and can leave or switch roles as I please. I stay in the room when the other team come in and pull it apart, searching for something. They make a great heap of clothing and bedding in the middle of the space. I want to be sure to retrieve my beautiful gold brocade robe.

Waking, the simple image of the robe is what I want to keep from my streaming dream movies. I will picture myself putting it on and see what swathing myself in golden silky energy does for my creative output. Simple is good.

Comment 1/9/24

I am in all kinds of adventures in my spontaneous sleep dreams, and the lucid dreams I simply allow to unfold from scenes and images that arise in liminal states between sleep and awake. Come morning, I can be quite travel worn! My dreams often give me wonderful research assignments involving scholarship or detective work, and glorious material for performance and storymaking and creative art. Sometimes, however, as I noted in my original journal report it is enough to bring back just one thing, and wrap myself in its energy. 


Monday, January 8, 2024

Borges, Broken Elevators and Spine Licking


in the category of: There Are Things That Like to Happen Together

This morning I read an article by an American journalist about a visit she made to Jorge Luis Borges at his Buenos Aires apartment two years before his death. The building elevator was broken, so she had to walk up six flights of stairs to his apartment.

Six floors is better than nine, I thought, as I left my ninth-floor apartment headed for the gym (which consists of one stationary bike I set up in the basement of the building). I got in the elevator and pushed the button marked B. The elevator's only response was to rock a little. None of the buttons worked. I thought I was trapped until I pushed 9 (my floor) and the door opened, letting me return to where I started. I could take another - working - elevator down to my gym.

I have noticed the play of coincidence around my literary encounters with Borges on numerous occasions. The most amazing example was facilitated by Lucy, my literary cat. I was reading Borges and Me, a delightful memoir by Jay Parini of his travels in Scotland as a minder for the blind Argentine writer. When I put the book down on the ottoman for a moment Lucy jumped up, sniffed it, and then licked the spine, which I took as a sign of approval. I have never seen her do that before or since. .

I returned to my reading. A few pages on in the book, Parini describes his visit with Borges to the rare book room of the Carnegie Library in Dumferline. Borges took a first edition of a novel by Sir Walter Scott off the shelves, sniffed it and - to the horror of the librarian - licked the spine.

Life rhymes. In experiences of lit sync, sometimes what is first seen on paper spills into the world. Sometimes it's the other way round.

Perhaps life is even more likely to rhyme when we are dealing with poets. I spent half an hour earlier in the day translating and reflecting on the oneiric delivery of a poem by Borges.
Where Did the White Doe Come From?
It's the question with which Jorge Luis Borges opens his poem "La Cierva Blanca" ("The White Doe"). He explained elsewhere that the poem came to him. fully formed, in a dream:

“I don’t feel that I wrote that poem...The poem was given to me, in a dream, some minutes before dawn. At times dreams are painful and tedious, and I object to their outrage and say, enough, this is only a dream, stop. But this time it was an oral picture that I saw and heard. I simply copied it, exactly as it was given to me.” [*]
from La Cierva Blanca
tal vez en un recodo del porvenir profundo
te encontraré de nuevo, cierva blanca de un sueño.
Yo también soy un sueño fugitivo que dura
unos días más que el sueño del prado y la blancura.

Perhaps in a corner of the far future
I will meet you again, white doe of my dream.
I, too, am a dream that will not last much longer
than the dream of whiteness in the meadow.

[*] Willis Barnstone, With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires (Champaign IL: University of Illinois Press, 1992) p. 30.