Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Death calls Jung through the trees

In a cold snap after his wife Emma died, the vine over the front door of Jung’s tower at Bollingen oozed a strange red sap that ran down over his crest. He felt the vine was weeping tears of blood.
    Shortly before his death, Jung dreamed of the “other Bollingen”, the counterpart in another world of the sanctuary he had helped to build with his own hands. The place was suffused with sourceless light. The deep voice he had come to trust told him his new home had been completed and was now ready for him to move in. Far below the tower, he saw a mother wolverine teaching her child to dive and swim in shining water.
    Jung died at quarter to four in the afternoon on June 6, 1961.Two hours after his death, an old poplar in the garden where he had watched the changing moods of the lake was struck by lightning in a sudden storm. The tree survived, but it was completely skinned; great strips of bark covered the garden. Those who knew felt the strong play of synchronicity in the lightning-struck tree.
     Jung might have seen a deeper level of symbolism. In his last recorded dream, he saw a grove of trees “all fibrous roots, coming up from the ground and surrounding him”, with gold threads gleaming among the roots.  He had written that our true life is “invisible, hidden in the rhizome”; what we see in the leaf and bark and blossom passes. Beneath the flux of our surface lives, the rhizome remains. Lightning stripped the bark from the tree, and death stripped away Jung’s body;  life continued, rooted in an unseen world.


- Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

I am leading an adventure in "Dreaming with Jung" in Berkeley, California over the weekend of March 24-25

Photo by RM



Saturday, December 9, 2017

Perennial Jung: "God speaks, chiefly, through dreams and visions"


Near the end of his life, Jung finally managed to put his best and most original ideas in a form that was simple enough to reach a general audience, without diluting or dumbing anything down. He might not have done this except for a dream. After watching Jung's very human interviews with John Freeman for the BBC in 1959, the publisher of Aldus Books had a bright idea: why not ask Jung to write a book for a general audience? 
     Jung's answer, when approached by Freeman, was a flat No. He was now in his 80s, and did not want to take the time that remained to him for this. Then Jung dreamed that he was standing in a public place and lecturing to a multitude of people who were not only listening with rapt attention but understood what he was saying. The dream changed his mind. 
     Jung had said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, "All day long I have exciting ideas and thoughts. But I take up in my work only those to which my dreams direct me." Now he proved this, again, by embarking on the book that was published (after his death) as Man and His Symbols. He conceived it a collaborative effort and invited trusted colleagues like Marie-Louise von Franz to contribute chapters. 
     His personal contribution was a long essay titled "Approaching the Unconscious" . The essay is, first and last, about dreams. He completed it just ten days before the start of his final illness, so this work may be called his last testament. It testifies, above all, to the primary importance of dreams in Jung's psychology and in his vision of human nature and evolution. Jung makes this ringing statement: "It is an age-old fact that God speaks, chiefly, through dreams and visions." 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Where's the rest of me?

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

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

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

How about now?

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


-          Mosswood Hollow, December 7, 2017


      This could be called a community poem. I wove it from the dreams and memories that came from members of my Soul Recovery Training at Mosswood Hollow when I put the question to them.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

The price Jung paid

If you choose to venture into Jung's Red Book, I strongly advise you to do so more cautiously than I did.  When it was first published, I stayed with it for three days and nights, without much sleep, following Jung on his Underworld journey. There was one moment, in particular, when I became very angry with him.
    He recounts a vision in which he comes upon the mutilated corpse of a murdered girl, and this fills him with grief and rage. A veiled woman appears and tells him he must remove the child's liver and eat part of it, to atone for the crime. He must take on the guilt, because he is a man and a man was responsible. Jung writhes in resistance, disgusted and horrified, but finally complies.

I kneel down on the stone, cut off a piece of the liver and put it in my mouth.My gorge rises - tears burst from my eyes - cold sweat covers my brow - dull sweet taste of blood - I swallow with desperate efforts - it is impossible - once again and once again - I almost faint - it is done. The horror has been accomplished. [1]

I wanted to throw the book across the room, but stopped myself, reflecting that this tombstone of a tome would break the furniture. I read on. The woman who commanded this cannibal act throws back her veil, revealing a lovely face, and tells Jung, "I am your soul."
     You will need a strong stomach for some of this. And you will need to be ready to accompany Jung, quite literally, in and out of the madhouse. But persistence will be rewarded. The Red Book, never intended for public consumption, is essential and fascinating reading for those who want to understand the price Jung paid for his gifts. He went down into private hells and depths of madness and he got himself out. We see him struggling heroically to find a vocabulary and a model of understanding for his experiences, weaving for himself the ladders of words that will help to get him out of the pit. We see the seething cauldron from which his greatest work would eventually emerge.
     Jung culled the material for the Red Book - whose fine calligraphy and vivid illustrations and decorative features make it resemble a medieval illuminated manuscript - from the journals ('black books") he kept during the years of his "confrontation with the unconscious", when he walked the razor's edge between madness and genius. As he describes it, the "spirit of the depths" ripped him out of the comfortable, rational assumptions of the "spirit of our times" and dragged him, night after night, through the terrifying stages of Underworld initiation.
-    In a crater in a dark and terrifying world below, where black snakes threaten to destroy a red sun, he meets the prophet Elijah and his "daughter" Salome, the evil beauty responsible for the decapitation of John the Baptist in the Bible. Salome tells Jung - to his amazement and confusion- that they are brother and sister, the children of Mother Mary. Disbelieving and fearing for his sanity, Jung yells at her that she and the Elijah figure are only "symbols". Elijah reproves him, saying, "We are just as real as your fellow men. You solve nothing by calling us symbols." Jung's Elijah also instructs him that "your thoughts are just as much outside your self as trees or animals are outside the body." [2]
-   While he is trying to continue to lead a normal life, as a prominent psychoanalyst and the father of five children. Jung's sense of reality is being shaken by the raw power of his night visions, and by synchronistic phenomona during his days when he feels the forces of a deeper world pushing through. In December 1913, in a well-cut suit, he gives a polished lecture to the Zurich Psychoanalytical Society. Three nights later, he tells Elijah, "It seems to me as if I were more real here" - in the Underworld - "yet I do not like to be here." [3]
    As Jung confessed, anyone reading the last chapters of Liber Primus, the first part of the Red Book, out of context might conclude that the author was crazy. Brilliant and erudite, but crazy. Yet from such perilous adventures out there beyond the roped-in precinct of sanity, Jung derived his ideas about "psychological objectivity", one of the most stimulating elements in his later work. From his dialogues with his dream characters and his efforts to integrate and balance the powers that moved with them he developed his practice of active imagination.
    Jung told the Dutch artist Roland Horst that he developed his work Psychological Types from 30 pages of his Red Book [4], apparently the pages in which the encounters with Elijah and Salome take place and in which - after Jung has been squeezed by a giant black snake until the blood gushes out of him and his head has become that of a lion - Salome tells him, "You are Christ". [5]

-   Looking back on this passage in his inner and transpersonal life in 1925, from across the divide of the catastrophic Great War that some of his visions had foreshadowed, Jung told a seminar that "You cannot get conscious of these unconscious facts without giving yourself to them. If you can overcome your fear of the unconscious and can let yourself go down, then these facts take on a life of their own. You can be gripped by these ideas so much that you really go mad, or nearly so. These images...form part of the ancient mysteries; in fact, it is such fantasies that made the mysteries." [6]
    "I fell into the mystery," Jung states after he has been squeezed by the black snake and saluted by Salome [7]. Reading the Red Book, we see the enormity of the price Jung paid for his wisdom, and come to appreciate the extent of his courage and eventual self-mastery. This is a record of a thoroughly shamanic descent to the Underworld, and of long testing and initiation in houses of darkness from which lesser minds and feebler spirits might never have managed to find their way back.
-
REFERENCES
1. C.G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus edited by Sonu Shamdasani (New York: Norton, 2009) 290.
2. ibid, 249
3. ibid, 248
4. Stephan Hoeller, The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead (Wheaton, IL: Quest, 1985) 6.
5. Red Book 252.
6. Jung, Analytical Psychology: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1925 edited by William McGuire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991) 98-99.
7. Red Book 254.

Art from Jung's Red Book

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The case of the headless bear

I was leading a workshop at Maitrea in Prague, on a cobbled street just off Old Town Square, in February. Snow was falling outside. A thoughtful man named David told us he wanted to understand the illness of a family member. This was on his mind as he left our first evening session. I had suggested to everyone in our lively group that they should experiment with “putting a question to the world.” This meant formulating a theme on which they wanted guidance and carrying it with them, in the mind, as they went out into the external environment. The game would then be to receive the first unusual, unexpected thing that turned up in their field of perception in the world around them as a possible response from the oracle of the world.
David walked down the snowy street and turned left into Old Town Square. He saw an amazing scene unfolding in front of him. A headless bear was being pursued across the square by a pack of animals of various kinds. The headless bear was a man in a bear outfit, missing the head. As David tried to grasp the nature of this astonishing theater, he saw a fox being chased by a second pack of animals.
When he shared the episode with us in our morning session, we all felt that the world had staged a special production, a dream theater, just for him. There was a fine run of coincidence at work. On my first evening in Prague, I had taken a table at a restaurant in front of the astrological clock in the Old Town Hall, waiting for six o’clock to chime and the procession of sainted figures to emerge from behind their shutters. I heard these words in English wafting from a nearby table: “It was the time when the fox drank water with the bears.” Though tempted to get up and ask the speaker for the context, I was content to let the mystery words hover in the air. They had the quality of an enchanted children’s story, full of wonder, and also gave me a sense of confirmation the animal powers would be very active with my workshop group in Prague, in harmonious ways, as indeed proved to be the case.
During my first drumming on the first evening of the Prague workshop, I saw Bear and Fox standing on either side of a great tree, urging me to invite the group to enter the tree without delay, through a door among the roots, to seek consultation with the animal doctors in the way that had proved wonderfully successful in my workshop in Utrecht the previous weekend.
Now I proceeded to discuss what the theater of the headless bear and the running fox would mean to me if I were seeking guidance on someone’s illness and the way to healing. I suggested that our dreamer might want to help his sick relative find ways to connect with Bear and Fox, perhaps by growing a story for him that would carry the energy. We talked about the Bear as a great medicine animal and about the cleverness of Fox as an animal that must be able both to hunt and to hide and that has been — for me — an impeccable guide to ancestral matters, which can carry the code for contemporary complaints and also their cure. I have noticed that people who are attacking bears in their dreams, or running away from them, are often avoiding their personal medicine.
At night, in dreams, we sometimes feel that a company of players and scriptwriters are staging productions to dramatize certain themes in our lives. The case of the headless bear confirmed what Shakespeare taught us: that all the world’s a stage, as well.



Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and CameBack by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.


Photo of Old Town Prague by RM. February 2013.





Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Healer of all, come blessed one


Dream incubation has been a preferred way of seeking life direction in most human cultures as far back as we can trace. If you believe that, in seeking dream guidance, you are approaching a sacred source, then you will probably use some form of prayer or ritual as you seek help from that power. 
     In the Greek Magical Papyri we read this invocation:

Sender of true oracles
while I sleep send me your unerring skill
to read what is and and will be
.

     If we have a big request, it is important to ask nicely. Aelius Aristides, an ancient Greek orator who walked very close to his god – Asklepios, the patron of dream healing – used to phrase his requests as follows: “Lord, I ask for the guidance (or health, or resources) my body requires to serve the purposes of the soul.” A human who asks that way might hope to engage the support of a power behind the scenes.    
     The journey to a special place – the shrine of a saint, the tomb of an ancestor, a sacred mountain, an ancient tree – has often been part of a full-dress dream incubation. 
     But in our hurried everyday lives, we can make all of this simple. Are you in need of healing, life direction or a solution to a problem? Are you willing to turn to a source beyond the obvious ones? Then approach the night as a place of possible encounter with a power that can answer your questions and help to heal your life. 
     In the Active Dreaming circles I lead, we often invoke the sacred guide and healer by singing these words:

Healer of all, come blessed one

     This is a version of an ancient invocation used in the temples of Asklepios, the god of dream healing. But no personal name is mentioned. So in offering you these words I am not inviting you to sign up for an ancient religion (whether or not that might be a good idea) but to turn towards deeper sources of healing and counsel than are available in ordinary life. You can speak or sing these words in the privacy of your own space, on your way to dreaming.
     You may find it helpful to do something to make your sleeping area more of a sacred place; for example, by foregoing sugar and alcohol for a few hours before sleep, by lighting a candle, and/or by using a special fragrance or placing a little mugwort sachet under your pillow.
     Now you want to set your intention for the night. Make it as simple and clear as possible, and avoid composing a laundry-list of needs and wishes. You can make your request large and spacious:

I ask for guidance on my life path
I open myself to my creative source
I ask for healing

Or you can make it quite specific:

I would like guidance on my job interview.
I ask for healing for my friend in hospital.
I would like to see what will happen during my trip.
I want to prep for the exam.
Should I date the guy I met yesterday?

You will want to be ready to catch whatever your dreams give you whenever you wake. This may involve lingering in the half-dream state after you surface from deeper sleep; this in-between state is one in which important messages often come through.
     If you remember only a small piece from a dream, but your feelings are strong and your sense of direction is clear, you are in luck. Sometimes it is easier to read a plain answer from a short, uncomplicated dream vignette than from a rambling epic, and the energy that comes with a dream is often more important than the specific information it contains.
     If you can’t initially see any connection between the dream your record and the intention that preceded it, be patient and learn to use some detective skills. It’s possible that your dream producers decided to give you something they think you should see rather than what you asked for. All the same, it is always worth playing the game of trying to find a link between the dream and the intention.
     For example, I once sought dream guidance on a personal health issue. In my dream, I was racing a car at high speed up through one of those multi-tiered indoor parking lots, slowing to a stop at a fancy penthouse restaurant where a famous publisher was waiting to host me for lunch. I woke feeling marvelous. The dream might seem to have little or no obvious connection with my intention, but I could see a health advisory in my wild ride up through the vertical parking lot, and an Rx in my meeting with the publisher, since for me creative writing that results in publication has always been healing.
    Here is my account of a bigger personal experience, which came when I set the intention of opening myself to a source of sacred healing during the night.

A night of Asklepian dream healing

I set the clear and simple intention: “I wish to be healed.” I add a second statement: “I ask for the health of body and mind required to serve my spiritual purpose.”
-I stretch out of the bed. Immediately, I see an enormous serpent. It is gray-blue, and could be twenty feet long. I see the dark slits of its pupils, quite close to me, in a head larger than my own. I do not feel fear, but there is a strong sense of the uncanny, the presence of a transpersonal other. I feel this is the Asklepian serpent, a power mastered for healing. The form of the god appears less distinctly, like a living statue. Also the form of a large dog with tall pointy ears.
-     I resolve to let the snake enter my energy field and do anything required for healing. I begin to experience movements of the serpent energy through my chakras, starting at the root center and moving upwards. There are moments of gentle physical pressure or constriction as it passes through some of my energy centers – of slight pressure in the heart, of a little constriction at the throat. The movement ceases to flow smoothly at the vision center, where I had been experiencing pressure and blurring. An experimental probe, not pushing too hard.
     The movement loops down and back, returning to try again. I invoke Light as well, and feel the presence and blessing of a being of Light I know well. I feel a process of healing has been initiated, and will be played out over time, if I allow it to be.
-    All of this has been enacted in the liminal state of wake-dream the French used to call dorveille, which is where much of the work of Asklepian healing (I believe) took place, Now I let myself drift towards sleep, hoping for the gift of further healing in the dreamspace. That gift came in the form of an amazing and energizing sleep dream that connected my personal healing to new creative endeavors, writing new books and bringing them to the world.


-
However, you don’t want to ask for big messages, let alone big favors, every night. That becomes wearisome to everyone engaged, and can end by trivializing and cheapening the process. On the other hand, I see no objection to putting a simple request like the following one to the dream oracle fairly frequently:

Show me what I need to see 

If you try that, be ready for some shocks! Our dream producers see our needs and issues from a different angle than we do.

-

Please see chapter 4 of my book The Secret History of Dreaming for a full account of Asklepian dream incubation.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The dream that is a song that is a road



Dreams bring us images and energy for healing and revitalizing our lives. These gifts may be delivered through the vehicle of a song.
    My Celtic ancestors lay in tomb-like spaces in the dark, sometimes with heavy stones on their bellies, hoping for the gift of awen - poetic inspiration - to burst through in song.
    For the Temiar-Senoi people of the Malaysian rainforest, the greatest gift of a dream is the kind of song they call a norng. The word literally means a "roadway". The dream song can open a road between the worlds. It can also help to open a path through the thickets and obstacles of everyday life.
    In the Mohawk language, which my dreams required me to study, the word for song is karenna, which literally means "I am putting forth my power." In my book Dreamways of the Iroquois, I describe the experience of a Mohawk grandmother of the Turtle Clan who received a healing song in a dream and was able to transfer its energy to a whole circle. As she sang, the veils between the worlds thinned. The whole group became vividly aware of the presence of spirits of the land, including Great Turtle, a form of the teacher of the Deep in the Iroquoian tradition.
    I have been gifted with many songs in my dreams. Sometimes I have to reenter a dream in order to capture all of the words and elements. Once I awakened from a dream in which I was bouncing across lush grass towards an immense tree that resembled a beech. I knew, in the dream, that secrets of life were waiting for me in a world below the roots of that tree. And that there was an entry price. To enter the gate of this tree, I must bring a song. When I rose from my dream, I had the music of this song humming in my mind, but not the words.
    Urgent to move with the dream, I called a close friend who has traveled with me in the way of the shamans over many years. "Can you come over at once? I need you to drum for me." She jumped in her car and was with me in less than an hour.
    As she drummed, I traveled back into my dream. I enjoyed the springiness of the grass under my bare feet, the clean smell of woods and water. Over the drumming, through the drumming, I hummed the little hum that had stayed with me after the original dream. Now the words came too:


Praise and serve the Mother
and let her grace unfold
Praise and serve the Mother
and re-enchant the world. *

The way to the world of our Great Mother Earth now opened to me, through the roots of a world tree. I was healed and nourished in her generous embrace. I found specific guidance, for myself and others, in a kind of creative cave that opened to me, within her realm. This is a place to which I have returned, again and again, to restore my inner compass and replenish my energy.
     The dream song may be a wing song, a song that can help you journey beyond the body, into other worlds, at any time you choose. My dreams have given me many songs of this kind, some of which I share with the circles I lead to power our group shamanic adventures.
     One morning I woke with this song streaming in my mind:

We are sleeping till we're dreaming
We are dreaming till awakening
We're awakening for our homecoming
      into the Land

Anxious that I might lose the tune, I phoned two friends and sang it to them over the line. One made a recording; the other had her musician husband listen in and write down the notes. We have sung this song in many of the adventures I have led since the dream, including our shamanic gathering up on a mountain in the New York Adirondacks last weekend.
     In the Celtic way, we sing to call lost spirit home. In some of the old tales, a part of soul that has left the body is up in a tree, in the form or a bird, and must be charmed by the power of the right song into returning to the heart and the body of the person. In recent gatherings, I have encouraged participants to go to a special tree, with a special song, and call back whatever parts of their spirit may need to come into their bodies and their current lives - a child part lost when the world seemed very cruel, a counterpart personality from another time, an aspect of a greater Self, a bright shining winged soul.
     But what if you have no song?
     Sometimes it will be gifted to you. We have journeyed on wings borrowed from the old ones - songs of the Highland and Islands, and of W.B.Yeats, chants from Africa and Native America, through Baltic dainas and Romanian doinas, rhythms of the orishas. We also share the fresh songs that come through members of our dreaming family. On the way to a workshop on Celtic Dreaming that I was leading, my friend Wanda Burch shared a marvelous song for soul healing that had come to her.

I am calling my spirit back home

She readily agreed to invite the group to use this when they traveled to the special tree to call spirit back home. It worked like a charm then, and has been charming spirits ever since.


Picture: Path of magic at Mosswood Hollow, where I lead many of my retreats in North America.