Monday, November 6, 2017

Calling the Deer





Deepheart, mountain guardian
who harries the hunter
and knows what belongs to us
and what does not,
give us your speed,
your ability to read the land,
to see what is behind us and around us.
-
May we grow with the seasons
into your branching wisdom
putting up antlers as taproots into the sky
to draw down the power of heaven,
reaching into the wounded places
to heal and make whole,
walking as living candelabra,
crowned with light,
crowning each other with light.


I wrote this invocation many years ago, on a mountain in the Northeast where I lead advanced gatherings of shamanic dreamers. It is a very special place, where we draw on the deep fires of Earth, and the spirits of the land, and where the healing energy of the Deer is very strong.
     The symbolism of the antlers is vitally important in every tradition that knows the cervid family. The antlers represent spiritual connection; they rise above the physical body into the spirit realm. They also embody the power of regeneration; the bones die and fall away and grow back stronger and greater than before. 


Art: L'Arbre et la Brume by Annick Bougerolle

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We dream dreams of the child, and the child dreams of us


I often hear dreams from adults that sound like the products of a child's imagination. One dreamer is menaced by giants. She runs but can't get away - until Superman swoops down to rescue her. Another dreamer is entertained by a strange composite animal, a cross between a jolly pink pig and a hairless dog, with a strip of carpet instead of a tail.
     In such dreams, buildings and people around the dreamer often seem vastly larger than in regular life, as adults and cities might appear from the perspective of a young child. At the same time, the dreamer may find she has the ability to make herself greatly bigger or smaller, like Alice with the "Drink Me" bottles.
     I wonder whether such child-like dreams really are the dreams of the child within the dreamer. They may be returning memories of dreams in early life. They may also be a direct link to the inner child, providing a chance to bring more of her energy, joy and imagination into current life. They may even be a bridge to connect with the child in her Now time, which is past history for the adult except when released from the constraints of linear time, as in dreaming.
    I have given happy examples thus far, but the dreams of the child may of course be filled with challenge and drenched in fear. Those menacing giants may represent abusive adults and authority figures the child can't handle, and Superman is not always available. Yet when the bridge to the child in her own Now time is open, we can slip across it, to offer support and mentoring that may be desperately needed. We can help to provide the heroes our child selves want to be dreaming of.
 

    I know this: we can travel across time, and we can play mentor and counselor to a younger self, or receive help and guidance from a wiser older self. At the very least, when we reach to that younger self, we can offer the assurance that however much he is suffering, he or she will make it through.
    We dream dreams of the child, and the child dreams of us.

Art: "Jumping Rope" by A.E. (George Russell)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Immrama: Celtic voyages to the West


For the Celts, the road to the Land of the Living, the Islands of the Blessed, runs ever westward, across the sea. The immrama, or “voyage tales”, contain vital keys to the ancient European craft of dying. Despite flawed and faulty transcription, and gaping lacunae, and editing and censoring by pious monks, the Celtic voyage tales still hold the memory of shamanic explorations of the Other Side, and of a deep practice for rehearsing the dying and guiding the departed along the roads of the otherworld. As Caitlin Matthews says wisely in The Celtic Book of the Dead, “The function of the immram is to teach the craft of dying, to pilot the departing soul over a sea of perils and wonders.”
    The earliest of the immrama is the Voyage of Bran mac Febal, transcribed in seventh century. His journey begins when he is alone – unearthly music sends him into deep sleep. He wakes to find a silver branch beside him, blossoming with crystal flowers. A beautiful woman of the Otherworld appears to him in the locked house and sings of the glories of the land from which she has come. In one of the loveliest invitations to a journey in all of world literature, she urges Bran to cross the sea and seek the original Avalon, the Island of Apples:

The Invitation to Avalon

I bring a branch of the apple tree from Emain, from the far island ringed by the shining sea-horses of Manannan mac Lir. A joy to the eyes is the White Silver Plain where the hosts play their games, racing chariot against curragh….
    There is an ancient tree there in fruit and flower, and birds calling from it; every color is shining there, delight is common and the music sweet.

    There is no mourning or betrayal there...

    To be without grief, without sorrow, without death, without any sickness or weakness – this is the sign of Emain, and no common wonder this is.

    Its mists are magical, the sea caresses the shore, brightness falls from the air.

    There are treasures of every hue in the Gentle Land, the Bountiful Land, the sweetest music and the best of wine…
    Marigold horses on the strand, crimson horses, sky-blue horses.
    It is a land of constant weather. Silver is dropping on the land, a pure white cliff on the edge of the sea, warmed by the sand…
    There are three times fifty far islands in the ocean to the west, and every one of them twice or three times more than the land you know.
    It is not to all that I am speaking, though I have made these wonders known to all who hear me. Let you who are ready listen from the crowd of the world to the wisdom falling from my song.
    Do not fall upon a bed of sloth. Do not be overcome by drunkenness. Set out on your voyage over the clear sea, and you may chance to come to the Land of the Living, the Land of Women, the Island of Apples.[1]

Who could refuse such an invitation? Bran sets sail with three companies of nine men. They meet Manannan mac Lir – lord of the sea and the underworld. They reach the Land of Women but after a year they leave because one of the men is homesick. When they return to Ireland they find that centuries have passed and they are remembered only as figures of legend. When the homesick man stumbles ashore he crumbles into dust. Bran and his men cross the waters again and do not return – and yet, in another telling, the head of Bran, the man who went to the Otherworld and returned, becomes a true oracle from generation to generation.


1. Adapted from The Voyage of Bran Son of Febal translated by Kuno Meyer and Alfred Nutt (London: David Nutt, 1895).

Photo: Landing at Staffa (c) Robert Moss

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The night when the veil between the worlds thins

The hair salon on the corner advertises, "Halloween Makeup Done Here." There are spooks and scarecrows at the doors of the houses on my block. As we approach Halloween, I am thinking of the many meanings of the festival, from trick-or-treat to the turning of the year.
      This is the most magical, crazy, shivery night of the year. It is the topsy-turvy, inside-out, upside-down time, when the past lies ahead of you and the future walks behind you, breathing on your neck. It is a night when the doors between the worlds swing open, when the dead walk among the living and the living move among the dead.
     The last night of October is the start of Samhain (which is pronounced "sow-in"), the great Celtic festival when the dead walk among the living, the fires are extinguished and rekindled, the god and the goddess come together in sacred union, and as the year turns from light to dark, the seeded earth prepares to give birth again.
     It's a time, when the Celts knew what they were doing, to watch yourself and watch comings and goings from the barrows and mounds that are peopled by ghosts and faeries. It's a time to honor the friendly dead, and the lordly ones of the Sidhe, and to propitiate the restless dead and remember to send them off and to set or re-set very clear boundaries between the living and the hungry ghosts. It's a time to look into the future, if you dare, because linear time is stopped when the hollow hills are opened.
     As Celtic scholar Marie-Louise Sjoestedt wrote, "This night belongs neither to one year or the other and is, as it were, free from temporal restraint. It seems that the whole supernatural force is attracted by the seam thus left at the point where the two years join, and gathers to invade the world of men."
     If you have never learned to dream or see visions or to feel the presence of the spirits who are always about - if you have never traveled beyond the gates of death or looked into the many realms of the Otherworld - this is the time when you'll see beyond the veil all the same, because the Otherworld is going to break down the walls of the little box you call a world, and its residents are coming to call on you.
     It's a time for dressing up, especially if you are going out at night. You might want to put on a fright mask to scare away restless spirits before they scare you. You might want to carry a torch to light your way, and especially to guide the dead back to where they came from when the party is over. Before Europeans discovered pumpkins in America, they carried lit candles in hollowed-out niches in turnips.
     By tradition, Samhain is also a time for divination, since the departed can see across time and at this turning of the year we may share in their powers - and anyway, at New Year who doesn't think about what the year ahead may hold? 
     All of this was so important, and such wild, sexy, shiverish fun that the church had to do something about it. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided to steal the old magic by making November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows Day; so the night of Samhain became All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween for short. A century before, an earlier pope had borrowed the date of the old Roman festival to propitiate the dead - the Festival of the Lemures, or Lemuralia - and renamed that All Saints' Day. But since Roman paganism had been largely suppressed, the church fathers decided to grab the glamour of the Celts, among whom the old ways are forever smoldering, like fire under peat.
    Few people who celebrate or suffer Halloween today seem to know much about its history. For storekeepers and the greetings card business, it's a commercial opportunity. For TV programmers, it's a cue to schedule horror movie marathons. For kids, it's time to dress up as vampires or witches and extort candy from neighbors. My preferred way to spend Halloween is to rest quietly at home, with candles lit for my dead loved ones, and a basket of apples and hazelnuts beside them, tokens of the old festival that renews the world and cleanses the relations between the living and the dead.



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



It's perfect timing that the evening before Halloween this year, I am launching my online course Shamanic Approaches to Death, Dying and the Afterlife for The Shift Network. It runs for 13 weeks, the perfect number.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Keeping Waste Books is no waste of time

“Everyone is a genius at least once a year.  The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.

This choice aphorism is one of hundreds of snappers and astonishers to be found in the journals of the German polymath Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799). If you have any doubts about the long-term value of journaling, take a look at Lichtenberg’s lifelong practice. He journaled thoughts, observations and wittcisms, starting in his student years, in notebooks that he called his Waste Books (Sudelb cher). 
    He borrowed this term from the English accounting houses of his day. For English bookkeepers, a “waste book” was a temporary register of transactions, jotted down in rough form before being entered in meticulous copperplate in a formal account book.
    I like the throwaway quality of the term. It encourages us to get down the scraps and the rough sketches, without concern for form or structure or even spelling. 

Some more choice one-liners from Lichtenberg's Waste Books:

"A book is a mirror; if an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out."

"People who have no time usually do nothing."

“Don't judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him.” 

“A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.” 

“Where the frontier of science once was is now the center.” 

“The most dangerous of all falsehoods is a slightly distorted truth.” 

"One has to do something new in order to see something new."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The forgetful envoy

You are sent from your homeland on an important mission, to rescue something beyond price. You understand the enormous risks of this assignment, and you freely choose to fulfill it. On leaving your homeland, you are honored and mourned, because you are dying, for a time, to those who love you and know you best.
             The conditions of your assignment require you to put on the clothes and the habits of the country where you will operate. You must fit in with those around you and follow their ways. This is hard for you, to begin with, because the people here live as if there is nothing beyond their world of getting and spending. Their pleasures are tawdry and their drugs numb the mind, but you are required to pass for one of them, so you do as they do.
             In the miasmic conditions of this plane, you start to forget why you came here. Your memory of your homeland, of its achingly beautiful music and its true communion of souls, seems like a fantastic dream that is starting to fade away. You let those around you, in your new country, tell you what life is about and you act in accordance with their valuation of things.
             You join them in snickering at dreamers who rant of other worlds.
             Then one night there is a knock at your door. You open it, and feel a strange wind, like the beating of giant wings. The person framed in the doorway is strangely familiar. When he speaks, his words leap to your heart. I come from my Father’s house. He is here to remind you of the mission you forgot. You are weeping now, ashamed. He is not interested in your tears. Now you remember your contract, you are required to fulfill it.

This is my own version of a story I feel I am living. You’ll find versions in sources ranging from the Gnostic Hymn of the Pearl to Doris Lessing’s novel Shikasta. Perhaps it will speak to you too. I find it useful to believe (as Plato believed) that each of us agreed to a contract before we came into this world in our present bodies. The trick is to remember the terms of that sacred contract, and then to find the courage and constancy to fulfill them. I am grateful for the night, long ago, when I heard a knock on my door in the middle of the night and opened it to find a young man outside, his face shining like the moon. He said, I come from my father’s house. And the dream was more real than the life I had been living, in this sublunary world.



Text adapted from Active Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Libraty.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Gates of Horn and Ivory


In Homer’s
Odyssey, we first learn, with Penelope, about the two gates of dream: the Gate of Ivory and the Gate of Horn. Dreams that come through the Gate of Ivory are “dangerous” and may not be manifested; dreams that come through the Gate of Horn are clearer, and may be embodied in events. The difference seems to be a matter of clarity rather than deception. Carved ivory is totally opaque; polished horn is translucent.

Synesius of Cyrene wrote a marvelous treatise on dreams around 405 in which he asserted that it is the weakness of our understanding, not confusion or deception in dreams themselves, that makes some dreams seem false. "The Penelope of Homer assumes that there are two gates of dreams, and makes half of them deceptive dreams, only because she was not instructed in the matter. For if she had been versed in their science, she would have made them all pass out through the gate of horn." Penelope was "guilty of ignorance" about her own power of inner sight, distrusting her dreams without reason. Therefore "we should not confuse the weakness of the interpreter with the nature of the visions themselves". 

The Gates of Horn and Ivory reappear in the Aeneid but Virgil changes the characterization in his account of Aeneas’ descent to the underworld to visit his dead father Anchises. Now dreams that come through the Gate of Ivory are designated “false”, while those that come through the Gate of Horn are “true”. This becomes a standard distinction for centuries in the minds of Westerners raised on the classics.

However, there is a mind-trap in Virgil's story. Anchises sends his son back from the Underworld through the Gate of Ivory. Aeneas and the Sybil return to the regular world through the gate of empty dreams. Is the poet hinting that our ordinary experience of reality is the false dream?

Image: Aeneas and the Sybil return to the ordinary world through the Gate of Ivory. 
 Codex Vaticanus Folio 57r  



Saturday, September 30, 2017

"Call that a knife?" When the Gatekeeper is friendly

I arrived at my local airport at 5:30 am on a Sunday, checked my bag, and got in line for the security check. Before I produced my drivers license and boarding pass, the female TSA agent who was doing the documents scan greeted me by name, like an old friend, "Well, hello, Robert!"
     Her Southern accent was familiar and so was her warm smiling face. I recognized a woman who had been a member of one of my monthly evening circles more than a decade before. She had entertained us with wonderful stories of growing up in the rural South and of dream travels to ghost villages and other locations that are not on airline itineraries. "How come you're working here?" I asked her. "I was dreaming about airports so much I decided I might as well work at one."
      It felt like a very good start to the day, to meet a gatekeeper who is also a dreamer. The Gatekeeper is a very important figure in my imaginal life. In dreams, the Gatekeeper may appear as a generic figure familiar on the roads of regular life - the customs officer, the ticket collector, the security guard. Sometimes the Gatekeeper appears in more enigmatic or mythic guise. I have met the Gatekeeper, in my dreams, as a slick fellow beckoning me towards an open archway, leading to delightful vistas of life possibilities, while holding a door I was trying to force open shut. I have met the Gatekeeper in dreams - and on the dashboard of an Indian taxi driver, after riding on Air India - as elephant-headed Ganesha, and as a black dog who sometimes walks on two legs, as Anubis does.
     I am very much alive the play of the Gatekeeper (who can be a trickster, especially if we are too set in our ways) in the ordinary reality of airports, on the way to different planes. At Sea-Tac airport, some years ago, a cute dark-skinned TSA agent laughed in my face when she inspected my drivers license. "Why are you laughing?" I asked her. "It's because of your name. In my language, 'Moss' means 'Banana'." "What language would that be?" "Somali". The humorous side of the Gatekeeper was definitely in play that day. Just think about it. Being teased at an American airport because your name means something funny in Somali.
     At Boise airport, an older, balding TSA guy asked me if my rather abundant white hair was my own. "Absolutely." "Sonufabitch. I really want that hair." "Sorry, it's not available."
     After I sent my carry-ons through the X-ray machine at my home airport in upstate New York, I was stopped by the security guards. "You got a lampshade in here?" The guard indicated my drum-bag. "Actually, it's a drum." I willingly extracted the simple frame drum that has powered many, many group journeys in my workshops so they could see. "Will you play it for us?" the guard requested. "Excuse me?" "Go on, we'd like you to play." So there, just inside the security barrier, I was tapping out the heartbeat of the drum, surrounded by smiling faces. That felt like another good start to the day.
     I've saved the best story of brushes with the airport Gatekeeper for last. This was back before 9/11.I had been leading a shamanic gathering up on a very special mountain and had rushed to the airport without considering what tools and toys I had stuffed in my drum-bag. On the other side of the X-ray machine, a security guard asked me, "Is this yours?" To my horror, I saw he was holding up a ceremonial Lakota knife with an elk-bone handle that he had just removed from my drum-bag. He extracted the blade from the sheath and held it up. "Wait here. I have to get my supervisor."
     Wild thoughts are thrashing in my brain. They'll arrest me. They'll grill me. At least they'll give me a tongue-lashing for being such a fool as to leave that knife in a carry-on bag.
     The supervisor appears. His first words are, "What time is your flight?
     "Six-fifteen."

     "Good. We've got time to get this in your checked luggage so it can meet you at the other end. I'll walk you back to the ticket desk." With this, he hands me the knife, still out of its sheath.
      I wonder if I am dreaming as I accompany him, knife in hand, back through security.
     "Go on, do it," he says.
     "Do what?"
     "You're Australian, aren't you? Do the Crocodile Dundee thing."
     So I put on my best strine accent and snarl, brandishing the knife, "Call that a knife? This is a bloody knife, mate!"
     Gales of laughter. The ticket agent was delighted to put his long line of passengers on hold while he dashed to get my knife into my checked suitcase, saying "I know you Aussies can't go anywhere without a bloody knife." I guess the Gatekeeper was truly in laughing mood that day. And that he sometimes makes special rules for people from Down Under.





For more reflections on meeting the Gatekeeper and dancing with the Trickster, please see my book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life.

Choosing your future through Active Dreaming

By my observation and experience, consciousness is forever scouting ahead of the physical body and returning with memories of the future. It is important to understand that any future we foresee is a possible future. We can change the odds on the manifestation of a certain coming event by learning to read and clarify the information and then by taking appropriate action.   
     Shamans believe that in dreaming, we not only scout out the future but may actively choose between possible futures that are open to us. The more conscious we become, the greater our ability to choose. Physical events are born inside the dreaming, where it is possible to change them before they are manifested.
      Dream radar gives us fairly precise readouts on the probable outcome of our present actions and behavior, and the probable consequences of choices we might make in the future. Through dream reentry, we can check our messages and make sure we are working with all the pertinent information. By taking action based on the dream, we can steer toward or away from the dreamed event in waking life. Through conscious or lucid dreaming, we position ourselves to change the outcome inside the dream itself.
     The probability that a possible future event, perceived in a dream, will be enacted depends on a number of factors. These include:

Time lapse. Generally, the shorter the interval between the dream and the probable enactment of the event foreseen, the greater the chance that the event will be played out in waking life unless you are able to take deliberate action to avert the dream fulfillment.

Personal involvement. Is the dream about you or people connected with you whom you may be able to influence? If so, you may have latitude to act to change the dream result. But if the dream is about strangers, a remote situation, or a natural disaster, there is probably little or nothing you can do – except, say, call a friend in California to warn about the next earthquake and risk being regarded as a nut or (maybe worse) as merely stating the obvious.

Your willingness to act on a dream. Are you working actively with your dream source? Do you make a habit not only to read dream messages but to do something with them? If so, you may have more room to work around dream results you don’t relish.

Life burdens. The future events you dream may be the results of disease, old age, past actions, decades of bad habits, or the culmination of a whole lifetime. It might be difficult or impossible to get out from under a big accumulation of personal karma! But even if an unwanted event, perceived in the dream, now proves to be unavoidable in waking life, the lesson brought home by the dream may prepare you for the worst and lay the ground for a fresh start.





Text adapted from Robert Moss, Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life. Published by Three Rivers Press.


Friday, September 29, 2017

When dreams are passports

In traditions where the importance of dreaming is understood, the right dream may be your price of admission to the good stuff.
   It is common in Tibetan tradition for spiritual teachers to ask students to bring them a dream to determine if they are ready to receive important teachings. A student without a dream is regarded as blocked and possibly unclean. He is required to undergo purification and perform practices to reopen his connection with spiritual allies. He is not allowed to continue his studies until he can produce the right dream.

    Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche gives a personal example, from the time of his training with Lopon Rinpoche, in his book Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. The story is doubly interesting because it involves long-range dream precognition. At 13, as a student,Tenzin dreamed he was handing out slips of paper with the Tibetan syllable A written on them to people boarding a bus.  He brought this dream to his teacher, who did not comment, but allowed him to proceed to a further level of instruction. Fifteen years later, waking events caught up with the dream. Invited to travel to the West for the first time, Tenzin found himself assigned to hand out slips of paper with the Tibetan syllable A on them to people boarding a bus. These were to be used in a meditation exercise.
    I remember an occasion when a dream proved to be my admission ticket to the Dreaming of an Aboriginal people in my native Australia. I dreamed I was carried back to Australia by a sea eagle, to a reunion with my mother, and then guided into the hinterland of south Queensland, to the banks of a muddy creek. Something immense was thrashing and rising from the waters. Nearby were Aborigines painted for ceremony. An elder told me, “This is the first of all creatures. This is the beginning of our world.”
    When my mother died suddenly, three months later, I was grateful that the dream had prepared me for this event, through our loving exchange in the dream itself, and by how it inspired me to reach out to her and heal some misunderstandings. I flew back to my native country. After the funeral, I went “walkabout” for a few days, and found myself at an Aboriginal housing co-op in a dusty town in the hinterland called Beaudesert. When I started talking about dreams, I was told I needed to talk to Frank. Who was Frank? “Oh, he’s our spirit man.” Frank’s place proved to be three days bush walk away, so this lead seemed like a non-starter.
    But Frank walked in as I was getting ready to go; shamans are tricky. He invited me down to the pub to talk. He sipped orange juice and sniffed me, literally, checking if I was another white fella trying to rip off his people yet again. Then I told him the dream. His manner changed radically. He sat very still, his eyes blazing like fire opals.
   ”Oh, I guess you’ve come to me for a reason, mate. You’ve just told me the start of the creation story of my people, the Mununjali, as it is told to made men. That thing you saw in the water was the bull eel. We say it is the first of all creatures.”
    Not for the first, or the last, time in my life, it seemed that a dream had taken me deep inside the Dreaming of a Native people. Because of my dream, Frank volunteered to show me the place of the Bull Eel Dreaming. Skirting quicksand and snakes, after many hours I found myself on the bank of the muddy creek from my dream. No bull eel in evidence that day, which was fine with me.


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




Art: "Making Songlines" by Robert Moss

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tend to your poetic health

“The bottom of the mind is paved with crossroads,” wrote the French poet Paul Valéry. This marvelous, mysterious line stirs up the imagination. It encourages us to think about how on the surface of the mind we may have been shortchanging ourselves. We may have been snagging ourselves in limited, linear thinking, even trapping ourselves in mental boxes.
Life is full of crossroads. We often rush through them without noticing the choices that were open in a Kairos moment. Or else we see our choices in false absolutes, duty versus pleasure, good versus bad, black or white. In the deeper mind, we are ready to take a more spacious view and roam with more freedom in the garden of forking paths, even to see that Yogi Berra may have spoken truth when he said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Kairomancers take care of their poetic health by developing a tolerance for ambiguity and a readiness to see more angles and options than the surface mind perceives. They grow poetic health by cultivating that “talent for resemblances” that two wise Greeks, Aristotle and Artemidorus, both held to be the primary qualification for a dream interpreter — and that is no less a vital prerequisite for recognizing signs and symbols in waking life.
Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history rhymes. I don’t know whether he really said that or not. The words have not been found in the canonical texts of this wonderfully noncanonical humorist. I do know that life rhymes. We notice recurring themes and symbols in dreams: running late for the plane, not prepared for the test, trying to keep the bear out of the living room. In the same way, we notice that themes and situations recur in everyday life.
  Pay attention when the same theme, or symbol, or image comes up again and again, just as you might pay attention to recurring dreams. When a theme or situation comes at you again and again in dreams, that is often a signal that there is a message coming through that you need to read correctly — and that, beyond merely getting the message, you need to do something about it, to take action. It is the same with rhyming sequences and repeating symbols in waking life.
   When you begin to notice a repetition of a certain situation in life, you may say, “Okay, we’re going around the track again. Maybe I want to make sure that I’m not just going around and around in my life in circles of repetition, but that I am on a spiral path.” Which would mean that each time life loops around to where you think you were before, you’ve risen to a slightly higher level, so you can see things with greater awareness and, hopefully, make better choices
      There is a whole education in the art of poetic living in Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondances”:

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

Nature is a temple whose living pillars
Sometimes let slip mysterious messages;
We walk here through a forest of symbols
That watch us with knowing eyes.
[My free translation]

     Baudelaire, the urban dandy, has it exactly right: we are walking in a forest of living symbols that are looking at us. When we are in a state of poetic health, we understand that “the imagination is the most scientific of the faculties, because it is the only one to understand the universal analogy, or that which a mystical religion calls correspondence.”

Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.   
Perfumes, colors, and sounds correspond.

Yes they can.

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

Art: "Totem Tree" by Annick Bougerolle


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rescuing the magical child from the well of memory


In her dream, a woman comes to the edge of a deep well. She is horrified to discover that a beautiful but very sad young girl is drowning in the depths of the well. She wants to help. To do this, she must lower herself into the well. She loses her grip and falls. Now she is underwater. Her lungs are filling with water, her senses are swirling, she knows that she, too, is drowning.
    She remembers her intent to rescue the girl. As the will to do this revives in her, she discovers something amazing. She can breathe underwater. She swims to the drowning girl, grabs her, and carries her to the top.
   "First feelings after waking?" I asked the first question I ask, of any dream.
   "Relief."
   "Is there anything in the dream you recognize in the rest of your life?"
   "The sadness. I have often felt I am drowning in sadness."
   "What do you most want to know about this dream?"
   "I want to know about the well. Why is this happening inside a well?"
   "If it were my dream," I said, "I would think of the well of memory, and the well of emotions. This well takes me deep into life memories, and emotions that are powerful enough to drown me if I fail to set very clear intentions in taking the plunge. The well is also a portal, a doorway. In my dream of your dream, the young person who is drowning in the well is my own younger self. This dream has given me a way to reach to her, to connect with her and help both of us to move beyond that overwhelming grief and sadness. I feel that I can use this connection to support my younger self in her own time. I also feel that the connection between us will allow me to bring the vital energy, joy and imagination of my younger self into my present life."
    The dreamer was nodding vigorously. Her face had been creased with worry or anticipation earlier; now a lovely smile flowered in her features.
    "Such a dream requires action," I went on. "I would do two essential things to honor the dream and to use the doorway that has opened between me and my younger self. First, whenever I find myself thinking about sad things that may have happened early in life, I would consciously project thoughts of encouragement to my younger self in her own time. For example, I can tell her, You'll survive. You'll make it through. I promise you this. I believe that you really can reach your younger self, in this way, folding time. In doing it, though, you must remember not to succumb to the raw emotions of that earlier time. Your mission is to be the rescuer, as you were in your dream."
    More eager nods and smiles.
    "Next, if this were my dream, I would want to be sure to do things in my present life that my younger self would enjoy. Eat something she likes. Play a game she enjoys. Go to a place she loves. I would want to encourage the child part of me to see that I am fun and I am safe, so that we can enjoy a creative life together in the present time."
     The dreamer eagerly agreed to follow both these suggested plans. As her features continued to soften and brighten, I felt sure that she had drawn her beautiful girl self back into her energy field. This sense was confirmed by the brightness of spirit in her eyes.
      We found wellness in that well of memory.


Image: Ancient heliacal stepwell at Champaran, India

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mark Twain on the wrong page

Notice what's showing through the slip. This is one of my rules of kairomancy, the art of navigating by synchronicity. Consider what happened when Mark Twain found himself on the wrong page.
    Mark Twain was a great student of meaningful coincidence, and even published an essay on "Mental Telegraphy", citing his own experiences of mind reaching to mind across distance without need of instruments.
    However, he missed what was showing through a recurring slip that he made, and his inattention bankrupted him. We may smile over the story because it happened in another time and the victim revived. However, it has practical lessons for us in our current lives.
    Mark Twain always hoped to make a bundle doing something other than writing or speaking. He thought he saw his chance with the development of a new typesetting machine. Remembering his sweaty days, as young Sam Clemens, toiling with heavy trays of type in hick print shops, he dreamed of being present at the creation of a new technology that would make printing speedy and accurate, He was captivated by a man with a plan for a new typesetting machine, an indefatigable self-promoter named James Paige.

    As Mark Twain ruefully recalled later, Paige “could persuade a fish to come and take a walk with him.” Twain was soon convinced that Paige’s machine was going to be the biggest thing since Gutenberg, and he drained his bank accounts to become the biggest investor in the project. However, the enterprise was bedeviled by delay after delay, By the time Paige had completed a working prototype, his machine was obsolete, overtaken by new and superior typesetters. Mark Twain lost most of his money in this fiasco.
    Now for the word clue that was missed. Mark Twain never seemed to get the name of the inventor or the machine named after him right. I’ve gone through his correspondence and his journal entries on this theme. Again and again, he wrote “Page” instead of “Paige.” Mark Twain had decided to invest all his money in a machine that promised to make printing more accurate. Yet he could never spell the name of the machine or its inventor correctly.
     Doesn’t it seem that there was a cautionary message here? I’ll bet that with hindsight, Mark Twain would have agreed to the snapper: 
Notice what’s showing through the slip.
     He was very near broke when a “chance” encounter introduced him to the man who put him back on his feet. “We were strangers when we met and friends when we parted, half an hour afterward,” he recalled in his Autobiography. “The meeting was accidental and unforeseen but it had memorable and unforeseen consequences for me. He dragged me out of that difficulty and out of the next one.”
     The meeting took place in the lobby of the Murray Hill Hotel, where Sam’s friend Dr Rice recognized Henry Rogers of Standard Oil. Mark Twain and the forceful capitalist – sometimes called “Hell Hound” Rogers - hit it off. Rogers restructured his business affairs and sheltered him from his creditors until he was finally out of debt.


Further reading


For more on Mark Twain’s  wrong Paige and  his “rhyming life”, see chapter 10 of The Secret History of Dreaming. For more on the rules of kairomancy, and synchronicity games to play, see Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life.
   

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Speaking Land


Everything is speaking to you.
The tarot Fool is out of the deck
and walking up the drive

with the patterns of the world in his sack
to remind you (if you’ll listen)
that to be wise you may need to be crazy
in the eyes of others, but don’t confuse this
with behaving like a bloody fool.

The chickens in the yard can teach you
multiplication and what you need
to hatch that dragon's eggs you have inside.
Hawk will come over, more interested in you
than a chicken dinner. Are you ready
so soar on his wings, and claim his vision
and see your life roads from his sky?
Everything is conspiring to show you
what heaven and earth want to happen.
When you think your way is lost,
when there are mountains of glass
and concrete between you and your dreams,
the ones who move beyond the curtain
of our consensual hallucinations
and speak as the wind in the trees
as the call of a bird, as the bark of a fox
will open ways where you least expect them.
All you need are new ears and fresh eyes.

I used this poem as the prologue for my book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life, and you'll find much guidance there on how to grow your poetic health and walk consciously in the Speaking Land, in a forest of living symbols that are looking at you.

Art: Dorothy Englander, "Dream Path II"

Friday, September 15, 2017

Quantum dreaming


The findings of leading-edge physics have brought us scientific confirmation of the worldview of ancient shamans, mystics and dreamers, who have always known that there is a place beyond surface reality where all things are connected, a place beyond  time where all times are accessible, and that consciousness generates worlds. The new science suggests the following:

-        *  Mind is nonlocal. Consciousness is not confined to the brain or to space and  time.
-        * You  are living, right now, in one of Many Interactive Worlds. You have parallel selves moving through life in parallel worlds.
-        * Time travel  is possible.
-        * There is no firm separation between subject and object in the universe.
-        * At quantum  levels the act of observation plucks one event into manifestation out of a soup of potentialities. This may also be true on a human and  macro scale.
-       * Humans have an innate ability to communicate and influence people and objects across a distance.
-      * Any event that occurs in the universe is immediately available anywhere as information.
-      * Our experience of reality, like our experience of linear time, is a mental construct. Change the construct, and we change our world.

How do we bring all of this together with our lived experience, our human needs, and our hopes for world peace and a gentle upward evolution of our species?
     By mastering the skills of Active Dreaming. Bring these powerful techniques together with ancient wisdom and  new science, and you are ready to practice quantum dreaming, become a full citizen of the multidimensional universe and be present at the creation of your world.
    You will find that you hold the secret of time travel. You can travel into the possible future, scouting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. You can travel to the past and into parallel world. You will gain first-hand knowledge of the multidimensional universe that science is modeling – and you can use this to heal and  thrive in your everyday life.
     Active Dreaming is a discipline, like yoga, or archaeology, or painting with oils. It offers wild fun and great entertainment, but – like anything else worth doing really well – it requires practice, practice, practice. Active dreamers have an advantage over most people when it comes to putting in the hours required. We can do a lot of practice in our sleep! We are also doing deep practice when we learn to navigate by synchronicity are look at the everyday world around us as a set of dreamlike symbols. 
     The best place to look for the chance of a quantum leap in our contemporary lives is the place where many pioneers of the new science have found their inspiration: the secret laboratory of dreams and half-dream states.
      Wolfgang Pauli, the Nobel laureate who was one of the founders of quantum  physics, declared that dreams were his “secret laboratory”. He demonstrated  this by sharing 1,500 dreams with Carl Jung and his assistant over an 18 month period. Jung, the founder of depth psychology, wrote that all his important work was guided by dreams and that “dreams are the facts from which we must proceed.”
      The dreams you remember are your best portals for travel into the deeper reality, and your royal road to lucid dreaming. A dream is a journey; it is also a place. You went somewhere in your dream, near or far from the fields you know in your regular life. Because you have been to that place, you can find your way there again.
       In dreams, we are time travelers. Released from Newtonian physics and our consensual hallucinations, the dream self travels into past time, future time, and alternate realities. As quantum dreamers using the skills of shamanic journeying and lucid dreaming, we can travel consciously across time to scout the future for ourselves and others, and grow a better future. We draw confidence from the knowledge that the new physics confirms that in the limitless field of nonlocal mind the time is always Now. All probable event tracks – past, future or parallel - are accessible in this moment and may be revised for the better.
       Every night, your dream self goes ahead of your waking self, scouting out challenges and opportunities that lie on the roads ahead. This is part of our human survival kit. Once you wake up to the fact that you dream events before they happen in regular life, you can graduate to the good stuff, which is changing your possible future for the better and becoming co-creator of your reality.
      You are a natural psychic of a high order in your dreams, when you let down your left-brain inhibitions and just do it. You routinely practice precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy. Such powers are sometimes described as examples of ESP. Today scientists are reviving a better term invented by the great Victorian scientist of the unseen, Frederick Myers: supernormal. Scientists like Dean Radin maintain that quantum entanglement means that supernormal phenomena are inevitable. Laboratory research confirms that supernormal abilities are for real, and that the spectrum of possibility extends to retrocausation; reaching back across time to influence events in the past.
       Your dreams may also be glimpses of a continuous life your parallel self is leading in a parallel world, in which you made different choices. Physicist Brian Greene speculates that we all have "endless doppelgangers" leading parallel lives in parallel universes. When we develop the skills of Active Dreaming, you can explore this experientially - and learn how to bring gifts and lessons from a parallel world into this one. Through these excursions, you will grow a personal geography of the multiverse and accumulate first-hand data on the reality of parallel worlds
       Medical science confirms that thoughts are things and living cells respond to consciousness. It gets better, and stranger. Laboratory experiments demonstrate that the nervous system responds to physical events before they take place. If future events can influence the current state of the body, it follows that we may be able to reach back into the “past” to improve our body’s history and performance. This is one of many exciting avenues for quantum healing
       As a time traveler, you can journey to a younger self in her own Now time. As a voice in her mind, you can provide the encouragement and counsel she may need at a time of unbearable pain or challenge. You can be the friend and protector she lacked when her need was great. From this can flow tremendous healing for both of you, for you in your present time and for her in her own time
     The immense body of data on near-death experiences (NDEs) is scientific evidence of the survival of consciousness after the physical body has closed down. If you are now awakened to your own supernormal abilities to step outside time and space, you know that awareness is not confined to the body and brain, and therefore is able to survive death. You are ready to learn that healing and forgiveness are always available across the apparent barrier of death, and to develop your personal geography of the afterlife.
     What happens after death is far too important for us to rely on hand-me-down beliefs and second-hand accounts. We need first-hand knowledge. We get that by visiting places where the dead are alive, and by receiving visitations from those who have departed this world. Both ways of knowing are opened, easily and naturally, in dreams.
     Inner and outer, subjective and objective, interweave and move together at quantum levels, on a human scale, and no doubt everywhere in the universe. We live in an energy field where everything resonates — to a greater or lesser degree — with everything else. The world we inhabit mirrors our thoughts and feelings, and vice versa.
     The physicist and the dream shaman agree: we live in a conscious universe where everything is alive and connected, and mind and matter interweave. To live most fully in this universe, we must learn to navigate by synchronicity, poised to recognize and act in those special Kairos moments when the universe gets personal.
     A kairomancer is someone who is ready to recognize the special moments when synchronicity is at work – and to seize on the revelation or opportunity that is now available. To be a kairomancer, you must be open to new experience, willing to set aside plans, grateful for secret handshakes and surprises, and ready to honor your special moments of revelation by taking appropriate action.
     In the creation story of the Wayuu, the world begins when a god becomes conscious that he is dreaming and is made aware by a spirit of awareness that he can choose what to pluck from a matrix of potentialities to make an earth and the beings that will inhabit it. This is a mythic analog for the observer effect in quantum physics. As quantum dreamers, we can go consciously into the matrix, observe the pulse of possibility, and choose what we will bring into manifestation. 
    As a active dreamer, you can step outside time and move towards the source of the events and circumstances that will be played out in your lives. You can stir the quantum soup of possibilities, and select what will emerge into form and manifestation.


Graphic: Quantum entanglement may operate at human as well as microcosmic levels.