Thursday, June 22, 2017

When we become a dreaming society



I have a dream: that we will again become a society of dreamers. In a dreaming culture, dreams are valued and celebrated. The first business of the day, for most people, is to share dreams – dreams from the night, and dreams of life - and seek to harvest their guidance. The community joins in manifesting the energy and insight of dreams in waking life. In a dreaming culture, nobody says, “It’s only a dream" or “In your dreams, mister.” It is understood that dreams are both wishes (“I have a dream”) and experiences of the soul.
    If dreams were honored throughout our society, our world would be different, and magical. Let me count the ways:

1. Dream Partners.
Personal relations will be richer, more intimate and creative. There will be less room for pretense and denial. Sharing dreams, we overcome the taboos that prevent us from expressing our real needs and feelings and open ourselves to those of others.

2. Family life and home entertainment.
“What did you dream?” is the first question asked around the table in a family of dreamers. In our dreaming culture, families everywhere will share dreams and harvest their gifts of story, mutual understanding and healing. Parents will listen to their children’s dreams and help them to confront and overcome nightmare terrors. Best of all, they will learn from their children, because kids are wonderful dreamers. This might be bad for TV ratings but it would bring back the precious arts of storytelling, helping us learn to tell our own story (a gift with almost limitless applications) and to recognize the larger story of our lives.

3. Dream Healing.
In our dreaming culture, dream groups will be a vital part of every clinic, hospital and treatment center and doctors will begin their patient interviews by asking about dreams as well as physical symptoms. Health costs will plummet, because when we listen to our dreams, we receive keys to self-healing. Dreams often alert us to possible health problems long before physical symptoms develop; by heeding those messages, we can sometimes avoid manifesting those symptoms. Dreams give us an impeccable nightly readout on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. When we do get ill, dreams are a factory of images that can help us to heal on every level.

4. The Care of Souls.
As a dreaming culture, we will remember that the causes of disease are spiritual as well as physical. We will use dreams to facilitate soul recovery. In dreams where we encounter a younger version of ourselves, or are drawn back to a scene from childhood, we are brought to recognize a deeper kind of energy loss, that shamans call soul loss. Through trauma or abuse, through addiction or great sadness, we can lose a part of our vital soul energy. So long as it is missing, we are not whole and the gap may be filled by sickness or addiction. Dreams show us what has become of our missing parts and when it is timely to call them home.

5. Dream Incubation.
In a dreaming culture, we will remember to “sleep on it,” asking dreams for creative guidance on school assignments, work projects, relationships and whatever challenges are looming in waking life. When we seek dream guidance, we must be ready for answers that go beyond our questions, because the dream source is infinitely deeper and wiser than what Yeats called the “daily trivial mind.”

6. Using Dream Radar.
Dreaming, we routinely fold time and space and scout far into the future. As a dreaming culture, we will work with dream precognition on a daily basis -- and develop strategies to revise the possible futures foreseen in dreams for the benefit of ourselves and others.

7. Building Communities.
When we share dreams with others, we recognize something of ourselves in their experiences. This helps us to move beyond prejudice and build heart-centered communities.

8. The Art of Dying.
The path of the soul after death, say the Plains Indians, is the same as the path of the soul in dreams -- except that after physical death, we won’t come back to the same body. Dreamwork is a vital tool in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of the afterlife.


9. Walking the Path of Soul.
The greatest gift of dreaming is that it facilitates an encounter between the little self and the big Self. Active dreaming is a vital form of soul remembering: of reclaiming knowledge that belonged to us, on the levels of soul and spirit, before we entered this life experience. So much of the harm we do to ourselves and others stems from the fact that we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to become. Dreaming, we remember, and encounter authentic spiritual guides who will help us on our paths.



The Dreamer's School of Soul

In the cause of assisting the rebirth of a dreaming society, I am launching a new online training called The Dreamer's School of SoulOver seven months, you'll be traveling in the company of spirited and creative dreamers from all over the world map who will support your soul odysseys. Take a look at what's waiting for you in the Dream Clinic, Flight School, the Faculties of Divination and Kairomancy, of Co-Creation and Dream Archaeology, the House of Healing and more

Photo: Active dreamers in a workshop in Romania led by dream teacher Ana Maria Stefanescu.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Mirror for the Sun Goddess


At the solstice, a story from Japan about the sun goddess. In Japan, as in many world cultures, the sun is feminine. The tale is a profound teaching story about soul loss and soul recovery comes from Japan. It is a mythic tale of Amaterasu Omikami, the Japanese sun goddess, and it offers a wonderful script for soul healing. Perhaps you can find yourself - and more of your soul - inside it.
     The beloved sun goddess Amaterasu is shamed and abused by a raging male, her stormy brother/consort Susanowo, who is a hero when is comes to fighting monsters but is no hero in the family home. They have had children together, born magically from gifts they have given each other – three girls from Susanowo’s sword and five boys from the jewels of Amaterasu.
     But Susanowo plays spoiler, smearing excrement where Amaterasu made fertile fields and crops, throwing a horse that is sacred to the goddess into the midst of her intimate weaving circle, and so on. The storm god’s violence reaches the point where Amaterasu takes refuge in a rock cave. And the light goes from the world.
      In her dark cavern the once radiant goddess sits brooding on the past, sinking deeper and deeper into feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe she starts telling herself that what has happened is somehow her fault, that she failed her consort in some important way, that she failed to give what was needed. In the depths, she has lost her inner light, while the world has lost her radiance. The myriad gods and goddesses are desperate to call the sun back.
     They try many ruses to lure Amaterasu out of the dark cave. They call on a wise god, whose name means Keeper of Thoughts, to advise them. He usually keeps his best ideas to himself, but the cold and darkness in the world have got him worried too. So he counsels the gods to gather all the roosters than can be relied to crow at dawn. He tells the gods to hang a mirror with strands of jewels on the branches of a Sakaki tree at the entrance of Amaterasu’s cave. The gods do this, decorating the tree with bright cloth banners, without fully understanding the plan. The cocks crow, the gods whoop and howl. And Amaterasu stays in her cave.
      Now one of her sister goddesses, Uzume, comes up with a plan of her own. Uzume is the goddess of mirth and revelry. She is also called the Great Persuader and the Heavenly Alarming Woman. Now we see why. Uzume overturns a tub near the mouth of the rock cave, strips off her clothes like a professional, and moves into a wild, sexy dance that has the gods laughing and bellowing with delight. Amaterasu is curious. Why is everyone having so much fun? She approaches the mouth of her cave and demands to know what is going on. Uzume calls back to her, “We’ve found you the perfect lover. Come and see.”
     Suspicious, Amaterasu peeks around the edge of the boulder she placed at the cave mouth to shut out the world. And she is awed and fascinated to see a figure of radiant beauty looking back at her. She is drawn, irresistibly, to this beauty, and comes up out of the darkness – to discover that the radiant being is her own beautiful self, reflected in the mirror the gods have hung in a tree near the cave. Now the god of Strength rushes out and holds Amaterasu, gently but firmly, to restrain her from going back into the dark. Another god places a magic rope across the entrance to the cave.
    Gods of passion and delight lead Amaterasu back into the assembly of the gods, and her light returns to the world. This is a marvelous collective dream of how soul recovery and soul healing become possible when we help each other to look in the mirror of the greater Self.
     Mirrors hang in the temples of Amaterasu today, to remind us to look for the goddess or god in ourselves. When we locate the drama of Amaterasu in our own lives, we begin to make a mirror for the radiance of the larger Self that can help to bring us, and those we love, up from the dark places.
     In some of my workshops, we have taken the story of Amaterasu's descent to the Underworld and turned it into a shamanic theater of soul recovery, with amazing results. However, the unfortunate cast as Susanowo must be depossessed of his role, and then welcomed back into the circle as a "new man", healed and enlightened. This can be profoundly healing too.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When reading changes the way we see

My in-flight reading on a trip to California included Dreaming by the Book by Elaine Scarry, a professor of aesthetics at Harvard. It’s an inquiry into the magic of narrative and poetry that draws the reader into a vivid multisensory experience through the agency of little black marks on a white page. For example, she analyzes how certain writers conjure belief in the solidity of a wall by streaming fleeting or filmy shapes across it. Locke says that in the everyday operations of perception, the notion of solidity “hinders our further sinking downward” – so we are confident of the floor or sidewalk we are walking on.
   Some kinds of reading alter the way we see. I looked out the window of my taxiing plane and saw the sun hammer the window of a control tower into a shaman's bronze mirror, flashing light. As the plane came down, its shadow ran beneath us on the tarmac far below, tiny at first but growing fast as we dropped. We flew into our shadow, like lovers rushing into each other's embrace. When we paused for breath, the shadow of our wing erased the yellow line on the landing strip. Beyond the shadow, there were no boundaries.
    On the edge of San Francisco Bay that Saturday morning, the legacy of the storm erased solid ground and constructed buildings in the sky. Great puddles of water, shallow but wide and silver-bright, lay on the cement of the Fort Mason docks. They opened windows into a mirror world. Brick by brick, the buildings were meticulously reconstructed, rising towards scudding clouds in a blue sky far below. I was walking at the edge of a limitless drop. One inch to the right, and I would be falling into the sky.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Stories are hunting us




I hear them at night, sometimes, east of the Well of Memory, west of the Mountains of Desire. They talk like herons after dark, like bears rousted from sleep, like wind tunnels, like alien phone sex, like broken gutters, but mostly like a storytelling of crows. When the Moon gets old, I send my shadow to listen.
    “Back off!” says a story that might be a griffin to one of the hungry ones. “He’s mine!”
    “But I’m starving.” The smaller, snaggle-toothed story is drooling.
    “Go snack on something your own size,” says the bigger story. “This is my ride.”
    There is pushing and scuffling, and bad talk from tall tales.
    Stories are hunting the people who will tell them. Do you hear them? If you are lucky, the one that gets you will have some real teeth.

Drawing by Robert Moss

The mingling of minds and the creative daimon


When we are passionately engaged in a creative venture - love, art or something else that is really worthwhile - we draw support from other minds and other beings, seen and unseen.
    According to the direction of our will and desire, and the depth of our work, those minds may include masters from other times and other beings
   We draw greater support the greater the challenges involved in our venture. Great spirits love great challenges.
   Whether we are aware of it or not, all our life choices are witnessed by the larger self that Yeats called the daimon. The daimon lends or withholds its immense energy from our lives according to whether we choose the big agenda or the little one. The daimon is bored by our everyday vacillations and compromises and detests us when we choose against the grand passion and the Life Work, the soul's purpose.
    The daimon loves us best, Yeats observed, when we choose to attempt “the hardest thing among those not impossible.” Jung put it even more bluntly in Memories, Dreams, Reflections“A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon.”
     In an important and difficult essay, Yeats suggests that we can develop a co-creative relationships with minds operating in other times or other dimensions. He gave this essay a Latin title borrowed from Virgil, Per Amica Silentia Lunae ("Through the Friendly Silence of the Moon"). Here he describes how, when he was passionately engaged in certain esoteric studies - of alchemy, of Kabbalah - previously unknown resources were given to him as if by hidden hands. When he speaks of "fellow-scholars" (in the first line of the excerpt) he is talking about minds he felt reaching to him across time, from other dimensions, called by mutual affinity.

I had fellow-scholars, and now it was I and now they who made some discovery. Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a Great Memory passing on from generation to generation.
   But that was not enough, for these images showed intention and choice. They had a relation to what one knew and yet were an extension of one’s knowledge. If no mind was there, why should I suddenly come upon salt and antimony, upon the liquefaction of gold, as they were understood by the alchemists, or upon some detail of cabbalistic symbolism verified at last by a learned scholar from his never-published manuscripts, and who can have put it together so ingeniously?...
   The thought was again and again before me that this study had created a contact or mingling with minds who had followed a like study in some other age, and that these minds still saw and thought and chose. 

– W.B.Yeats, Per Amica Silentia Lunae in Mythologies (New York: Macmillan, 1959) 345-6.


Picture: "Yeats in the Magic Cottage" by Robert Moss

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How to know when the god is present


I am explaining to a large group of students how to read the signs that announce the advent of the god Apollo at his oracle, and confirm that true messages will be delivered by his priestess.
    We are inside the scene. We feel the coming of the god right now. The sacrificial goat starts shaking from the hooves up when the holy water is poured over it. Everything in the environment begins to tremble as if stirred by an unseen wind.
    The priestess called Pythia, who has been drinking from the sacred spring, sees movement in the bowl of spring water she holds in her lap as she sits on the tripod among the fumes rising from the deep chasm.

Inside the dream, I feel educated pleasure. Some awe, but no fear. When I leave the dream, I have a deep sense of satisfaction. Also the strong feeling I have been in an entirely real situation, in another time and/or a separate reality.

Dreams set us assignments. It is agreeable for the ancient history professor in me to reopen books about the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. I am reminded that in preparing to become the oracle, the Pythia bathes in the sacred spring. She inhales pungent incense. She invokes all the deities associated with Delphi by name, starting with Themis and Phoebe, daughters of the Earth goddess Gaia, and continuing through Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus and Apollo, who she hopes will speak through her.
   She makes burned offering of laurel leaves and barley meal on an altar of the temple. She enters the adyton (sacred chamber) and mounts the golden tripod that serves as her throne. In one hand she holds a laurel branch, in the other a shallow bowl.
   She sits quietly until the laurel leaves start to quiver. The trembling seizes her hand, moves up her arm to her shoulders and chest. Her whole body starts shaking violently as if it has been seized by giant hands. This is confirmation that the god is present and that his speaker is in the necessary state of enthousiasmos to deliver true messages. 

    The philosopher-historian Plutarch, also a priest of Apollo, wrote that at Delphi the god makes his thoughts known “through the associated medium of a mortal body and a soul that is unable to keep quiet, or, as it yields itself to the One that moves it, to remain of itself unmoved and tranquil, but, as though tossed amid billows and enmeshed in the stirrings and emotions within itself, it makes itself more and more restless.” [Plutarch, de pythiae oraculis in Moralia V]

    So the saying that truth comes with goosebumps comes with a mythic pedigree. I may have forgotten that, but my dream self clearly did not. Once again, I find myself racing to catch up with him.

Art: John William Waterhouse

Six games to play with your journal


When you write in your journal, you are keeping a date with your Self. I'm giving "self" a big S because I'm talking about something bigger than the everyday mind, so often prone to distraction, or mixed-up agendas, so driven by routines and other people's requirements.

A date with the Self should be fun. Here are six everyday games to play with your journal:

1. Write Your Way Through

Whatever ails you of bugs you or blocks you, write about it. Getting it out is immediate therapy. If you keep your journal strictly private (which is essential, by the way) what you put down in these pages can be your everyday confessional, with the cleansing and release that can bring. It's funny how when you start by recording your woes, something else comes into play that brings you up instead of down and can actually restore your sense of humor.
   When you see and state things as they are, you already begin to change them. Keep your hand moving, and you may manifest the power to re-name and re-vision symptoms, challenges and difficult situations in the direction of resolution and healing.

2. Catch Your Dreams

Every time you remember a dream, record it. Date your entry and give the dream a title. By giving a name to a dream, you are recognizing that there's a story to be told, and you are now in process of becoming a storyteller. Also jot down your feelings around the dream; your first feelings on waking are the best guidance on what it is telling you.

3. Make a Book of Clues

The world is speaking to us through coincidence and chance encounters and symbolic pop-ups, giving us clues to the hidden logic of events. Once we start paying attention, we'll find that synchronicity is a fabulous source of navigational guidance. Write down in your journal anything unusual or unexpected that you notice during the day. Suggestion: note in your journal, what appears on the first vanity plate you spot each day..

4. Collect Pick-Me-Up Lines

No, I did not say "pick-up lines"! One of the things I treasure in my own journals, and in those of famous dead people that I read, is the collection of interesting and inspiring quotes that grows once we get into the habit of jotting down one-liners that catch our attention.
    The very best-one liners, of course, are ones you make up yourself. I make a practice of coming up with a personal “bumper sticker” – which may be what Mark Twain called a “snapper” and an “astonisher” – at the end of my dream reports. Others just bubble up from life, any day or any night. Recent entries include:

We must create meaning for our own lives.

You are most alive in the presence of your death.

Every day is a holiday when you do what you love.

5. Make Your Own Dictionary of Symbols

Your journal will become the best dictionary of symbols you will ever read. Most humans dream of snakes, or of being pursued, and this is part of our common humanity and our our connection with what Jung came to call the objective psyche. But the snake in your dreams is not necessarily the snake in my dreams, and what is pursuing you in the dreamspace may be very different from what is chasing me.
   As we journal dreams and symbolic pop-ups in the world,we'll notice that the symbols that appear to us take us beyond what we ordinarily know, and that they are never still, but constantly evolving. Thus the wild animal that scared you in one dream may become your ally when you brave up in a later dream. Or what seemed to be your childhood home turns out to have many more levels than you remember, opening a sense of expanding life possibilities.

6. Write until you're a writer

Sit down with your journal every day and keep your hand moving, and before you think about it, you'll find you have become a writer. Whether the world knows that, or whether you choose to share your writing with the world is secondary. You are writing for your Self, and without fear of the consequences. You are giving your writing muscles a workout, and you'll find that tones up your whole system.


Write in your journal every day, and you will eventually find that this is the most important book you will ever read. Make sure it is a secret book. Nobody should be allowed to read it without your explicit permission. As you keep your secret book, you'll discover more, and more will discover you. There are deeper games you'll now be able to play. You'll find yourself straying off the tame and settled territory of the everyday mind, into the wilder borders of imagination, where the Big story of your life can find you.



For more on the art of creative journaling, and deeper games to play, please read chapter 4, "Keeping Your Books of Night and Day" in my book Active Dreaming