Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Goddess at the Heart


She has a thousand faces.
She is virgin, mother and crone.
She is creator, preserver and destroyer.
She gives birth, endlessly. 
Her womb is the gateway of death and rebirth.
She is Queen of Earth and Heaven.

She fell through a hole in her world
and danced our world into being on turtle’s back.
She hid the sunlight from the world
when she was abused by men
and could only be lured back
when shown her radiant face in a mirror.

She is lover, warrior and shaman.
She is the one who repairs the broken soul.
She raises the god in man with her breath.
 

Men tried to confine her to limited roles,
to force her into wedlock with despotic gods.
Then the Church sought to bury her.
But the Goddess returned as Mary,
and now she is loose again,
asking us to honor and embody her
in the forms that please her.

I am only a man, but I serve the Goddess.
When I was still a virgin, she claimed me
in one of her most fearsome forms,
and I carry her mark in a secret place.

I have been taught by ancient priestesses
in a mountain temple in the sky
in a mandorla of amber light
in worlds that open through an oak door
and a bee hive and a sea mist.

I have met the Goddess in molten lava,
as Spider Woman and Reindeer Queen
and as Great Mother Bear.
Bees flew me to a place of her mysteries.
I feel her hair stream in the sea waves.
I love her in the deep loamy earth.
I see her robe swirl in the shifting stars. 


Drawing by RM

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mosswood dreaming


Here, if you tread very softly among the cedars,
you may hear the low midday snores
of the soft secret race of big-footed beings
who grow pink hibiscus in their dreams.


You can't miss the tree that is the portal
to the three worlds because it is more real
than the others. This is the One Tree
that knows you before you know it.


When hungry spiders skitter over your bed
you forget to be scared because you are hungrier
than they are. You gobble them up fast
and burp out webs of shining possibility.


With your toothbrush in front of the mirror
you see a giant boa rises to rhyme with you
wrapping itself around the tube of your body

squeezing the old dead stuff out.

You see that people have fire slumbering
in their bellies even when they are cold
and muddled and living on ashes.
You turn on the pilot lights in their souls.


You walk through wild orchards to a wild shore
where sea turtle resumes your lessons.
You'll wear armor on your back but leave your soft bits
 exposed, so you can't hide from life in a hard shell.


When you ask, "Where's the rest of me?",
you create a conga line where you are joined
by the belly dancer and the golden child,
the red horse, the Empress and the Fool.

Here, when you let love spill through your eyes
every blade of grass is in love with you.
You lie in the creek bed like a pebble
and the water rounds your sharp edges.


In pilgrim hands you are carried to a stony place
as an offering. You rest in a cairn for a thousand years
until you spread wings and fly to your truest lover
and let the Earth have you under the warm sun.


The fire has been built for you, and in you.
You become cloves and cinnamon.
Rising again, you spread yourself wide.
As aurora, you color the world.

Here myths spill into the day
like ripe fruit falling into your hand.
You dive into the pool of dreams
and meet the salmon that fed the first shaman.


Stuffed with hazelnuts, it gives itself to you
and explodes on your palate
and feeds the whole company with magic
in a new miracle of filberts and fishes.


Do you need a vampire chastity belt? (and other dreams of the undead)


Vampires are probably more popular today than at any other time in history. And they continue to get more glamorous and sexy, thanks to TV series like "True Blood" and the BBC's "Being Human", and of course the Twilight series of novels and movies. We are a long way from Nosferatu, and old horrors like the blood-sucking ghoul of south-eastern Europe the Greeks call the vrykolakas.
     
So it's not surprising that vampires feature in plenty of dreams, and not only the dreams of teen girls - especially when we remember that Stephanie Meyer's inspiration for Twilight came from a dream. As she recalls, the dream was so juicy she had to stay in and write it all out, though she was supposed to go somewhere with her kids, and later used her dream report as a first draft for a chapter in the first of her vampire books.
     I am reflecting on a report from a mature woman who dreamed she was back in school, where the teacher was reading a love story in which she was a leading character. In the story, she falls in love with a vampire. She kisses him, then runs away, then kisses him again, and takes off again. The teacher stops reading the story in the middle. The kids in the class moan, "Oh no, we want to hear the rest!"
     I commented that if this were my dream, the fact that I am back in school would suggest that I am being offered a life lesson, something I need to know now. I'd think back to the times when I was seduced by someone - or a series of someones - who turned out to be energy vampires. Rather than seeking to know the end of this kind of love story, I would want to avoid repeating it.
     Energy vampires are for real, and the transaction involved is far from glamorous. We can all think of people who tend to drain our batteries. Sometimes it's so obvious you can sense them trying to suck you dry, slurping away, as if with a straw.
     What do you do to stave off the energy vampires in life? Another woman dreamer I know came up with a fabulous solution. In her dream, she was being kissed on the neck by a vampire. She found this very seductive and sensual. But her dream protectors didn't let it go too far. They conjured up a "vampire chastity belt" that fitted her neck perfectly, frustrating the vampire's efforts to suck her blood. I think there might be quite a market for vampire chastity belts if some savvy entrepreneur wants to produce them!
    I have traveled in Transylvania and stood in the shadow of the statue of Vlad Tepes, "the Impaler", better known as Dracula, in his birth city of Sigisoara. I must tell you that the vampire isn't really a Romanian phenomenon; Bram Stoker located his Dracula story in Transylvania, where he had never been, because it was so remote he could get away with saying anything about it.        
    Due diligence, though: the werewolf is a bona fide Romanian production. Check out the wolf-headed dragons of the ancient Dacians, who terrified the Romans by going into battle as wolf-men.



Painting of vampire by Edvard Munch, who actually titled it "Love and Pain" (1883).

Photo: RM in the shadow of Vlad Tepes, the original Dracula, in his birthplace, Sigisoara.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Turning a dream into a song


Early Franciscan missionaries among the Caddo Hasinai of East Texas reported that dreams were valued highly among this people, and that it was common to recount a dream by turning it into a song. Stories sung or spoken with poetic rhythm are more likely to be implanted in memory that ones delivered in rambllng or halting prose.
    A dream may be turned into song. It may also deliver a song. In many other indigenous cultures, a  new song is considered to be one of the greatest gifts of dreaming. Power songs used for shamanic dreaming may come in this way. A song with the power to heal may come from a spiritual ally - the spirit of a plant or an animal, a river or a supernatural being - communicating in dreams. Among the Temiar Senoi of the Malayan rainforest, a dream song is called a norng, which literally means a "roadway". The dream song opens a path through the forest of life, and a path for souls on both sides of death to find their right place.

Source: On Franciscan reports of Caddo dreaming, see Carla Gerona, “Flying Like an Eagle: Franciscan and Caddo Dreams and Visions” in Anne Marie Plane and Leslie Tuttle (eds) Dreams, Dreamers and Visions: The Early Modern Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013) 125.

Painting of Hasinai village from Texas Historical Commission website.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Cave of the Dreaming God


I am drawn, again and again, to a mythic version of how physical events are generated in a subtler reality that we could call the Dreamtime, or the matrix, or nonlocal mind. The account comes from Plutarch, the ancient Greek historian, biographer, philosopher, priest of Apollo and initiate of the Mysteries. He was a principal source for Shakespeare's plays and for many generations he was the main source of accessible information on the Egyptian religion of Isis and Osiris. He died at Delphi in 120. He continued after his death to inspire later members of his Mystery tradition through trans-temporal encounters; the philosopher Proclus described his conversations with Plutarch across - or rather, outside - the centuries.
     With Plutarch, we are going to take a look at what can be seen, with inner sight, in the face of the Moon. The source is Plutarch's extraordinary essay titled (in the bilingual Loeb edition) De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet, “Concerning the Face which appears in the Orb of the Moon”.
     Plutarch very cutely presents his narrative as a third-hand traveler’s tale, giving the reader the go-ahead to shrug it off as just another tall tale. In fact, beneath the veils, his narrative of a strange sea voyage is probably a very exact relation of what Plutarch himself, and the fellow-members of his Mystery school had learned through their personal travels across the astral sea. The voyage he describes, to the strange island of a sleeping god, is no more an ordinary sea journey than the voyage of Odysseus or those of Bran and other heroes in the Celtic immrama. 
     Plutarch claims that his source is third-hand, a “foreigner” (ksenos) who told a tale to a Carthaginian of a voyage to a western island, five days sail beyond Britain, where the deposed god Kronos lies captive and dreaming in a cave. Kronos sleeps confined in a deep cave of rock that shines like gold. His sleep was cast on him by Zeus, who toppled him from his place as the high god and now keeps him bound. He is fed by birds that fly in over the summit of the rock, dropping ambrosia. His island is suffused with delicious, sleep-inducing fragrance that streams from the rock as from a fountain
    The sleeping god is served by spirits [daimones] who were his comrades when he was king. They derive prophecies from his dreams. “The prophecies that are greatest they come down and report as dreams of Kronos”
    The dreams of Kronos become thoughts in the mind of Zeus. From the mind of Zeus, what was conceived in the dreams of the sleeping god becomes events in the worlds of gods and humans. Those intrigued by what quantum physics suggests about the nature of reality - for example, that the act of observation plucks an event into manifestation from a soup of possibilities - may here find a mythic model for understanding. The ancient philosopher, weaving myth, has given us a vivid account of a matrix, a formative reality which inspires thoughts that eventually generate physical events.
   Plutarch's supposed source, the “foreigner” traveled across a “congealed sea”.at the time when the star of Kronos (the Night Watchman) entered the sign of the Bull.
    Quite as interesting as the account of the dreaming god is the stranger's statement that “among the visible gods we should especially honor the Moon." The Moon is "sovereign over life and death" and borders on the realms of Hades.He proceeds to give an account of the transits of the soul, in the precinct of Luna.


Photo of Ryugu Sea Cave by Batholith via Wikipedia Commons.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Future of Imaginal Healing


As we grow the skills of Active Dreaming and become a dreaming society again, imagery for healing will become central to our medicine. Advances in hard scientific research, especially in the fast-expanding field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) have helped to provide the mandate, because they supply overwhelming evidence that the body believes in images, and that our thoughts and feelings can make us sick or make us well.
     It’s interesting to note that research in the PNI field was guided by dreaming long before it was given the clunky name. The first person to isolate and identify a neurotransmitter was Otto Loewi, and he saw how to perform the necessary experiment in a dream. He got out of bed, cut open a frog, and applied vagal juice to its heart as he had done in the dream; the relaxant in the vagal stuff was identified as the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
     According to molecular biologist Candace Pert, there is a “psychosomatic communications network” that operates not only in the brain, but in all parts of the body. Our conscious or unconscious thoughts and feelings are constantly affecting our health by sending directives to a pharmaceuticals factory inside the body. In her passionate memoir, Molecules of Emotion, the late great Candace Pert describes how she was guided by dreams and synchronicity in her own scientific odyssey.
     The key thing to know, as we seek resources for self-healing, is that the body believes in images and responds to images as if they are physical events. This means we have the ability to shape the condition and behavior of our bodies, for good or ill, according to the images we entertain and the thoughts and feelings that we allow to claim our attention.
     Physician Larry Dossey, a leader in mind-body medicine since the 1980s, observes that “The body responds to mental input as if it were physically real. Images create bodily changes, just as if the experience were really happening. "  Brain scans show that when we imagine an event, our thoughts “light up” the same areas of the brain that are triggered during the actual event.
     We are often unaware of our shifting thoughts and feelings. We may be wholly unaware of memories and images, held in the body, that bring us down. The decision to bring unrecognized thoughts and feelings into consciousness is an essential step towards self-healing. Starting from here, we can develop the practice of investing the energy of our attention in images that make us well.
     We can make it our choice, for example, to increase blood flow to a certain part body part, giving it the strength to flush out toxins and the nutrients required to heal. Norman Cousins got over a broken elbow and back on the tennis court in record time because he spent twenty minutes a day focusing on his intention to increase blood flow through the injured joint, after his doctor explained that elbow injuries often healed slowly because of poor blood supply.
     When imagery is used as a clinical tool, it involves the deliberate focusing of attention on specific images to bring about desired changes. A 2007 study conducted for Blue Shield of California grabbed the attention of the health insurance industry by proving that imagery not only works but cuts costs. Insurance giant Blue Shield of California decided to test the effect of a guided imagery on 905 Health plan members scheduled for surgery were prepared by a simple guided imagery tape, designed to allay fears about the procedure and promote recovery. Most patients were able to receive the imagery, regardless of bias or upbringing, and for most it seemed to relieve anxiety and was held responsible for a notable reduction in the time required for recovery - and a saving of over $2,000 per patient due to reduced time in hospital.
      Guided imagery CDs, like the one used in the California study, are now widely available. Hospitals are giving CDs to patients to help them marshal inner forces to attack cancer cells or to establish and visit a healing place in the imagination. In future imaginal healing, our society will go further. We can do much better than offering prefabricated imagery. We can learn to help each other to develop our personal factories of healing imagery, which are working nightly in our dreams. And we can learn to grow healing dreams for each other.
Community-based imaginal healing may include the following:
  1. Pre-need dream clinics
In our clinics and healthcare centers, and other community centers, people will meet to share dreams by an agreed protocol and will help each other to recognize and act on what dreams are giving us, which can range from diagnosis of a developing problem in the body (before symptoms present or are named) to an invitation to soul recovery.
  1. Imagery harvesting
Dreams are a factory of images. Anything that comes to us in dream, including the scary or unwanted things, is ripe and ready for work in the cause of growth and healing. I have found that almost any dream can be a source of healing, if we are willing to go back inside it or carry the story onward to a desired outcome. In my dream of healing medicine, the understanding of basic treatments will be expanded to include sessions to help patients harvest positive imagery for self-healing from dreams and also from positive life memories.
  1. Vision transfer training
We can grow a dream - a healing image, a script for recovery, a vision of larger life possibility - for someone in need of a dream. I teach vision transfer as a core technique of Active Dreaming. In my dream of healing medicine, nurses, therapists and community guides will be trained in vision transfer techniques for producing fresh, customized images for healing that can be gifted to someone in need of the right imagery. An image that I often use, for myself and others, to promote regeneration of the body's tissue and vitality, is that of a nurse stump or nurse log. The old tree has been cut down, or fallen, but from its apparent death new life is burgeoning; a new tree may rise, tall and strong, from the old Or I might use the image of a giant redwood that has been cored  by fire but is still putting out fresh growth, high above.
  1. Story healing
We’ll come to grasp that finding meaning in any life passage may be at the heart of healing, and our healers – declared or undeclared – will help people to move beyond personal history into a bigger story that contains the juice and sense of purpose to get them through.
In all of this, we will be guided by Mark Twain’s insight that “The power which a man’s imagination has over his body to heal it or make it sick is a force which none of us is born without. The first man had it; the last one will possess it.”


For more on the vision of the coming dreaming society, please see my book Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom.


Image: Nurse stump, symbol of regeneration and rebirth. Photo by RM.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Honor the Gatekeeper, Dance with the Trickster


The Gatekeeper is one of the most important archetypes that is active in our lives. He or she is that power that opens and closes our doors and roads. The Gatekeeper is personified in many traditions: as the elephant-headed Ganesa in India; as Eshu/Eleggua in West Africa; as Anubis in ancient Egypt; as Hermes or Hecate in ancient Greece. I open my classes and gatherings by invoking the Gatekeeper in a universal way, with the request:

May our doors and gates and paths be open

They say in Spanish, “Tiene que pagar el derecho” (You have to pay for the right to enter). In many traditions, it is customary to make an offering to the Gatekeeper when embarking on a project or a journey. The offering required of us may simply be to check in and show a little respect.
There is a close affinity between the Gatekeeper and the Trickster. A being like Hermes or Eshu may play either role. One of Hermes’ appellatives, stropheos literally means “socket,” as in the socket of a hinge that enables the pin to turn, and the door to open and close. So we can think of him as a Hinge guy — as in “hinge of fate” — or a Pivot. As he swings, so do our fortunes. Hermes steps through the doors between worlds with a hard-on, as men often transit from the dream world to the waking world and as hanged men enter the afterlife. Hermes is penetrating, and this is the effect of synchronicity. It pushes through, it opens up, and it inseminates.
Trickster is the mode the Gatekeeper — that power that opens doors in your life — adopts when you need to change and adapt and recover your sense of humor. If you are set in your ways and wedded to a linear agenda, the Trickster can be your devil. If you are open to the unexpected, and willing to turn on a dime (or something smaller), the Trickster can be a very good friend.
The Trickster will find ways to correct unbalanced and overcontrolling or ego-driven agendas, just as spontaneous night dreams can explode waking fantasies and delusions. Our thoughts shape our realities, but sometimes they produce a boomerang effect. The Trickster wears animal guise in folklore and mythology, appearing as the fox or the squirrel, as spider or coyote or raven.
Anansi, a Trickster god of the Ashanti of Ghana, brilliantly and hilariously evoked in Neil Gaiman’s novel Anansi Boys, is a spider and also a man. “It is not hard to keep two things in your head at the same time. Even a child could do it.” He makes out that he is the owner of stories. Indeed, to make friends with the Trickster, we want to be ready to make a story out of whatever happens in life and to recognize the bigger, never-ending story that may be playing through our everyday dramas. If nothing goes wrong, it has been said, you do not have much of a story. The Trickster knows all about that.
We are most likely to meet the Trickster at liminal times and in liminal places, because his preferred realm is the borderlands between the tame and the wild. He invites us to live a little more on the wild side. He approves when we make a game or a story out of it when our plans get upset, our certainties scrambled.
He insists on a sense of humor.
The well-known psychic and paranormal investigator Alan Vaughan tells a great story against himself about the peril of taking signs too seriously. He read that Jung had noted a perfect correspondence between the number of his tram ticket, the number of a theater ticket he bought the same day, and a telephone number that someone gave him that evening.
Vaughan decided to make his own experiment with numbers that day in Freiburg, where he was taking a course. He boarded a tram and carefully noted the ticket number, 096960. The number of the tram car itself was 111. He noticed that if you turned the numbers upside down, they still read the same. He was now alert for the appearance of more reversible numbers. Still focused on his theme of upside-down numbers, he banged into a trash can during his walk home. He observed ruefully, “I nearly ended by being upside down myself.” When he inspected the trash can, he saw that it bore a painted name: JUNG.
It was impossible not to feel the Trickster in play. Alan felt he had been reminded — in an entirely personal way — that the further we go with this stuff, the more important it is to keep our sense of humor.
A title of Eshu, who is both Trickster and Gatekeeper in the Yoruba tradition of West Africa, is Enforcer of Sacrifice. He is the one who makes sure that the gods receive their offerings. The price of entry may be a story, told with humor.

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

Image: Hermes on the roof. Photographer unknown. What's on your rooftop?



Monday, August 15, 2016

Egyptian Gates to the Otherworld


What can we learn from ancient Egypt about soul travel and viable gates to the Otherworld? Among the dense menagerie of Egyptian deities and practices evolved over 3,000 years, so far as we can fathom them through scholarship and far memory, five distinctive themes emerge:

1.          1.  Shapeshifting is a preferred model for soul travel

The gods assume the forms of birds or animals. Humans, in assuming the god forms, take the shames of the same birds and animals. Shapeshifting is one of the shortest passages through the terrors of the Underworld to the heavens of the blessed. In facing down his adversaries, the journeying soul may assume successive forms including those of his most terrifying challengers, such as the crocodile god Sobek.
    This type of shapeshifting is not reserved for the deceased. It is a model for the living of how to journey most effectively in the subtle body. There is a clear continuum here with shamanic practice. Just as in Egypt the gods show themselves as birds or animals, the animal powers – in shamanic cultures – are not confined to animal forms but may display themselves as humans or gods.

  1. Feeding and Preserving the Energy Double
The Egyptian cult of the Ka was an incredibly elaborate magical industry devoted to escaping the “second death” and ensuring the survival of the dream body or astral double close to the realms of the living. It is clearly based on the recognition that different aspects of soul and spirit go to different places after physical death. The Ka has its own priests, responsible for its care and feeding. In the event of their death or dereliction, the Ka may be sustained by objects or images placed in the tomb that supply magical food and support. The Ka interacts with the living. It can travel from its house – the sarcophagus or a separate house or statue inside the tomb – through special doors, just as it sees through special eyes. It may influence the living for good or bad. It may be the source of prophetic dreams. It may stand guard over tomb and their treasures, as in the magical tale of Khaemewas and the Book of Thoth.

  1. Testing Alternate Routes to the Neterworlds
The Egyptians studied and tested various itineraries for traveling to heavens, star worlds and neterworlds. In several thousands of years of evolution, magic and experiment, they developed a rich geography of the afterlife, peopled by a host of gods and demons who set trials and obstacles in the path of the journeyer.
    The Book of Gates depicts the departed soul having to confront a series of terrifying gatekeepers who may all be personifications of the Great Goddess. In other funerary texts, the pilgrim soul has to evade the nets of an implacable Soultaker, brave up to the attacks of a series of monstrous beasts in a passage through utter darkness, or survive a dramatic life review in the hall of judgment where the heart is weighed against the feather of Ma’at, the divine embodiment of natural law. Go out with a heavy heart, and you are consigned to the ravening monster Ammit.
    The Egyptians believed that it helped to cast off from this earth with a good route map, and to know the names of those you will meet. A well-equipped traveler took a map and recognition codes with him into his grave.

  1. Knowing the Names
Knowing the names of the entities you’ll meet along the way was one of the best ways to prepare for these journeys. Egypt was a land of magicians, and the hekau (magic words) were thought to bring things into manifestation; Heka, the god who personified Magic, rides with Ra in the solar barque along with Sia (Intelligence). Knowing the secret names of the neteru and how to vibrate the hidden vowels was one of the highest magical arts. There is a thriller about hhow Isis gleaned the secret name of Ra by catching his spittle to make a scorpion that stung him. Because it was made from his own spit, it had the power to kill; Isis promised a cure at the price of learning his secret name. Now she can wield his power. On the roads of the neterworlds, the journeyer assumes the powers of his challengers – and sometimes their forms – by speaking their names.

  1. Way of the Heart
It is easy to get lost in the thickets of exotic names and directions, in which many pantheons and rescensions over millennia meet and merge and morph, in cohabitation with earth spirits and perhaps star travelers. Let’s notice that the Egyptian craft of death is also a plan for larger life, at home in multiple worlds from the Duat to the Akhet. Of special interest are the Way of Ra and the Way of Osiris (they merge in mystery texts and vignettes of Osiris transforming into Ra, or birthing him from within his mummified corpse). The Way of Ra is the story of the 12 Hours in the funerary texts, in which we see the Boat of Ra go through many levels of the Underworld and survive many challenges before it is reborn. It may also open into the Way of the Sun Behind the Sun, the opening of a stargate that may lead to the intelligences of the Sirius star system>
    The Way of Osiris requires the experience of death and rebirth within a Mystery or shamanic initiation. It becomes enfolded into the ethical teachings implicit in the scenes of the Weighing of the Heart and the 42 assessors.
    Let’s observe that throughout it is the heart that provides the operating center and purpose for the journeys. While the brain is discarded, the heart remains in the chest, sometimes protected by a heart scarab of carnelian.
    Approaching the place of inquisition and judgment, the traveler is reminded to call on his heart – the Ka of his heart – to speak and act for him.



My heart, my mother
My heart, my mother
My heart of my becoming


Photo: Hathor in the Louvre by RM

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Active Dreaming circles: spaces of belonging, models for enlightened community leadership


Community, as Peter Block defines it in a provocative  book, is about the experience of belonging. To belong is to feel at home, to know you are among family or friends. When something belongs to you, you are an owner; you have a stake in something. Playing with the word, Block notes that belonging evokes longing to be - to come fully alive, to embody fully a deeper purpose in life. 
     The model leader in this kind of community  is one who can bring the right people together in the right way, name the right questions for group exploration ("what can we create together?") and listen as others find their voice and their power. Such things are best done in small groups, which Block promotes as the best agents of transformation. 
      It strikes me that groups that share dreams the right way are now at the vanguard in developing the kind of social space that Block advocates. Dream groups are typically small (six to twelve people) and establish a different kind of space, and a deep sense of belonging to an intentional community. They are circles in which each member receives the gift of deep listening, the chance to play leader or teacher, and the opportunity to tell their life stories and re-vision those stories. 
     In Active Dreaming circles, we recognize the need for strong leadership to provide the structure and dynamic within which extraordinary group experiences can be shared. This includes selecting and defining a safe and protected physical space. It means gently insisting on time limits (dreamers can get things done on time), building and maintaining circle energy and keeping everything moving for the two or three hours of a typical session, and making sure that everyone feels at home and that everyone's voice is heard. Part of the leader's job in an Active Dreaming circle is to ensure that a lively alternation of discussion, movement and conscious group dream travel keeps everyone alert and engaged..
      Above all, the leader will enforce simple rules that ensure that no one present - least of all the leader herself - will try to claim authority over anyone else's dreams or life story. We are only permitted to comment on each other's material by saying "if it were my dream" or "if it were my life." In this way, we offer associations and suggestions while encouraging the dreamer to claim the power of her own dreams - and to take the necessary action to embody their energy and guidance in the world. Finally, the leader of an Active Dreaming will give her power away repeatedly by inviting others to take charge in leading the processes.
      In these ways, we fulfill Block's definition of the mode of leadership required to restore and re-story our communities: "Perhaps the real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom."
The quotes are from Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
For guidance on creating and maintaining an Active Dreaming circles, please see my book Active Dreaming, published by New World Library.

Photo: Dream sharing at Mosswood Hollow by RM

How Mircea Eliade delivered his Snake


I love learning about how other writers do their thing. It's fascinating to learn how the great Romanian scholar and fiction writer Mircea Eliade – prolific in so many genres – sustained and generated his creative production under almost all circumstances. He wrote stories in a secret police prison. He hammered out books under the shadow of his wife’s terminal illness and of the Red Army occupation of his country. He went on writing in conditions of penury and exile and raw terror (the terror of History, he called it again and again). He started early, publishing in a popular science magazine at fourteen (when he aspired to become an ichthyologist) and basically kept it up till the end of his life.
    Some of his larger projects he had to put down and take up again over many years  Ths was the case with his huge autobiographical novel Noaptea de Sanziene (pubiished in English as The Forbidden Forest) and with his pioneer study Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, an enduring inspiration to the neo-shamanic movement in the West since its first publication French in 1953.
     Then there are the books that Eliade wrote in a frenzy, abetted by both the demons of necessity and his greater creative daimon. I am thrilled by his account of how Șarpele (The Snake) streamed out of him over ten nights:.

I wrote the book in the course of ten nights, working between 11 and 3 or 4 a.m., in the spring of 1937.

He had to deliver the completed work on “Book Day”, otherwise the publisher would not pay him. But at the same time he was teaching at the university and proofreading a scholarly book that had to be ready by the same deadline.

I was overworked, exhausted, and in order to stay awake I drank coffee; then, so I could sleep in the mornings I took sleeping powders. Every morning Ciornei [his publisher] sent a boy to pick up the 15 or 20 pages I had written during the night and take them directly to the printer. I did not reread a single page of the two hundred which comprise the book; nevertheless, Șarpele is one of my most successful writings.

He had plenty of ethnographic and folklore material relevant to his theme. He did not consult it. “The writer in me refused any conscious collaboration with the scholar and interpreter of symbols.” He discovered in this way that “the free act of literary creation can…reveal certain theoretical meanings.”

Indeed, only after I read Șarpele in book form did I understand that in this book I had resolved, without knowing it, a problem which had preoccupied me for a long time.

Naturally, after reading this I was eager to read the novel that emerged from these nocturnal frenzies. There is no English translation, and my Romanian is hardly enough to order coffee, but I found an edition in French, titled. Andronic et le serpent and devoured it in one night. Strange, sexy, wild and feverish, a remarkable birth from those ten incandescent nights.
    The story of how Eliade produced this novel  deepens my conviction that for some of us the all-but-impossible deadline is a great prompt to commit the creative act. This has often worked for me.

Source: Mircea Eliade, “Autobiographical Fragment” in Norman J. Giradot and Mac Linscott Ricketts, Imagination & Meaning: The Scholarly and Literary Worlds of Mircea Eliade  (New York: The Seabury Press, 1982) 123


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

When the dead hold seances for the living


I find myself drawn, again and again, into the world of the Victorian spirit hunters, especially that great and eloquent pioneer of psychic research and psychology, Frederic (F.W.H.) Myers, and his famous American friend William James. They joined in a great quest to provide evidence acceptable to science that consciousness can operate outside the body and survives bodily death. They drew to their cause many of the greatest minds of their era, including scientists, physicians, literary giants and a British prime minister.
     There is an amazing moment in one of James's sessions with Leonora Piper, the Boston trance medium James studied and consulted over many years and came to call his "white crow".* She was supposedly communicating on behalf of Richard Hodgson, a great friend of James who had been secretary of the American Society of Psychical Research. Though "tremendously athletic", according to James, Dick Hodgson had died suddenly playing handball, leaving two book projects unfinished - and a half-joking promise that, if he died first, he would communicate from the Other Side and provide evidence of survival.
     James grilled the Hodgson personality over and over, seeking proof positive that it was the dead man talking, through the revelation of personal secrets and codes neither the medium nor the sitter could have known. The demands this approach imposed on Hodgson's memory (assuming it was Hodgson) became ridiculous. Assessing the notes from these long sessions (James conceded) bored him "almost to extinction". 
     But then something will come through that is thrilling even to a skeptical reader more than a century later. Here's what excites me, in the transcript of a "voice-sitting" on May 21, 1906.    Speaking through Mrs Piper, Hodgson tells James that Myers (who died in 1901) is with him:

"Myers and I are also interested in the Society over here. You understand that we have to have a medium on this side while you have a medium on your side, and through the two we communicate with you."

     The "Society" mentioned is the Society for Psychical Research, which was (and is) dedicated to producing evidence of "supernormal" (Myers' phrase) phenomena, including contact between the living and the deceased. Think about the statement made via Mrs. Piper's vocal chords.
     While there is a Society for Psychical Research on this side, there is a similar Society on the Other Side. They, too, hold seances or sittings with mediums. While James is listening to the voice of his dead friend through a speaker for the dead, Hodgson is apparently listening to the voice of his living friend through a speaker for the living. 
     Was this the ultimate folie de grandeur of a psychic charlatan, promoting her own profession - that of medium - to the status of indispensability on the Other Side? I have a notion that this part of the reading, at least, can be trusted. There are sensitives among us who are more able than others to pick up presences and messages from the Other Side. It's not such a stretch to suppose that in the same way, there are people on the Other Side who are better as inter-world communicators than others, and may even have the ability to call spirits of the living for a session with relatives or colleagues who are eager to talk with them.

*  Having concluded that Mrs Piper's communications were for real, even though the sources could not be determined beyond doubt, William James declared: "If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, it is enough if you prove that one crow is white. My white crow is Mrs. Piper." [William James on Psychical Research edited by Gardner Murphy and Robert O. Ballou. New YorK: The Viking Press, 1960, 41]

Image: Portrait of Leonora Piper by Eveleen Myers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The dream of the golden king


I dreamed again of the golden king.
    
He is amazingly beautiful. He seems to be in his early twenties, yet he is ancient. A golden light emanates from his body. He is naked, except for the circlet of gold around his brow. At first he seems beardless, because the hairs of his face are very fine and silky and soft, like threads of light.
     He is in the posture of sleep, but his eyes are wide open, fixed on something beyond ordinary sight.
     His bed is a marble slab, perhaps the lid of a sarcophagus, but in no way cold or hard.
    As always, I am awed by this golden king. I know he is the essence of the true king, the one who can repair the world.
    Perhaps a woman will dream of him, and transfer this dream to the man she chooses to embody him....


Note: This is a figure who has recurred in my dreams over decades. I came upon this version doing bibliomancy with an old (2005) journal. My feelings: awe, deep recognition, the kind of heart yearning the Portuguese call saudade.

Image: Greek, 3rd century bce.

Monday, August 8, 2016

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.In big dreams 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.

Shamans 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 is 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.

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 as a shamanic dream traveler.
    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.


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

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.
    Meister Eckhart tells us how it is, with 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 of Ecuador, 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 borning and transforming on another plane of reality.
    Dreaming, we pluck events that will manifest out of the quantum soup of possibilities. It is not merely that we dream things 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 its 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. You are born to fly, and in dreams you remember that the soul has wings.






Adapted from Dreamgates; Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Making Songlines" by Robert Moss

Sunday, August 7, 2016

In praise of dream fragments: Case of the Red Blob


Many of us in our society are undergoing a prolonged dream drought. Losing connection with night dreams is a serious malady of soul, in the eyes of indigenous elders. If you have lost your dreams, it may be because you have lost a vital part of your soul, the part that is the dreamer.
      Still, when I hear someone say, "I don't dream," I decline to despair. I remind them that all they are saying is, "I don't remember." If they insist that they have no dreams, I encourage them to consider carefully whether this is entirely correct. Maybe they recall a dream from many years ago, say from early childhood. This could be a portal for very rewarding exploration, It could even put someone who has lost their dreams back in contact with the child dreamer in their soul.
      Before you bind yourself to the statement that you don’t remember your dreams, think carefully about whether you are telling yourself and others the truth. Even the most dream-deprived among us often retain something from the night, a wisp, a fragment, a word, a sense of color, a snatch of song. I have found it can be remarkably productive to play with the tiniest leftover from an otherwise lost banquet. This can even break a dream drought.
      Take the case of the red blob. A woman who attended a week-long retreat with me that began with morning dream sharing and creative writing and storytelling from dreams became more and more frustrated as the week went along. She was in a very difficult life passage; she had recently lost her job and had a host of other worries. Here she was at a retreat where people were having fun with their dreams, and she had none to share.
     She had been suffering from a very protracted dream drought, she told us, and by day three, though attempting my homeplay assignments in dream incubation (asking for dreams) she still had none to share.
     “Are you sure?” I challenged her. “I bet, if you think about it, you have something from last night.”
      She shook her head.
      I encouraged her to think again. “Okay,” she almost spat, “I got a blob. Just a blob. How do you like that?”
     “A blob? I think that’s very interesting. What color was it?”
     “Red.”
     “Like a blob of red paint? Like house paint?”
     “Like oil paint.”
     “What comes to mind when you picture a blob of red oil paint?”
      She thought for a moment, then her mouth opened wide. “My mother’s palette.” Memory started streaming through. She was suddenly back in a scene from childhood. Her mother was a professional artist. The dreamer (as she was now becoming) was about nine years old, and something terrible had happened, and she was desperate for her mother’s love and attention. But when she burst through the door of her mother’s studio, weeping, her mother yelled at her to get out, reminding the little girl that she was under strict instructions never to disturb her mother when she was working.
      We were at a place of deep emotion, and potentially deep healing. From the vague memory of a blob, we had come to the place where the soul of the dreamer and the energy and imagination of a lovely young girl could be reclaimed, and a frightened nine-year-old could be supported and counseled in her own time of need, since as active dreamers we can reach across time.