Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dreaming in the New Year

Whatever you do over the last weekend of 2017, write in your journal! Write your dreams from the night, and your dreams of life for the coming year. Write, in particular, whatever you receive from dreams, synchronicity and spontaneous revelation over the last night of the Old Year and the first day of the New Year.
    If you were up all night partying - or the effect of your New Year's Eve reveling knocked your dreams out of memory - then record and work with the first dream that comes the following night, and whatever dreamlike symbols the world around you may give you.
    In Japan they make a special effort to catch and work with the very first dream of the new year. Many Japanese people pay close attention to Hatsuyume, the first dream of the New Year. It may come in the night of December 31-January 1 but - since many may be up late partying or suffering the after-effects - it may come in the following day or on the night of January 1-2.     In Japanese tradition, it is very auspicious to dream of three things in Hatsuyume: Mount Fuji, a hawk, or eggplants (aubergines). We don't have to puzzle long over why the highest mountain in Japan or a hawk - the seer of the sky - would be seen as propitious.Aubergine is more mysterious until we consider the Japanese love of puns and homophones, which comes very much into play in reading dreams. The Japanese word for eggplant is similar to the word that means “to accomplish” or “to fulfill”; both are transliterated as nasu.
    In hopes of a lucky dream to kick off the New Year, some Japanese invoke the Shichifukujin or "Seven Lucky Gods" and may place a picture of them under the pillow. These may not be part of our belief system, but we have other sources of guidance and blessing available, and it is always appropriate to ask for help and blessing if we do it nicely!
     If you are ready to dream in the New Year, you could set the simple intention: Show me what the New Year will bring. Or give this a positive spin by couching your request to your dream makers the following way: Show me the best that life holds for me and those I love in the year ahead. Be as specific or as general as you like, but ask in a way that excites you and reflects your willingness to receive guidance and enter on new adventures.
     Don't forget that dreams require action! Your first action is to record anything you remember from your dreams and the drifty state of hypnagogia. Share it with a friend, if you can, using our Lightning Dreamwork process. Walk with your dream and see how what is going on around you may illuminate the dream and how your dream may illuminate your world.
    If you saw things in your dream you don't want to manifest in the year ahead, comb through the material with the eye of a detective, asking Who, What, When, Where, How? If you can clarify the details of the dream and identify where it may play out in coming events, you may be able to take appropriate action to avoid an event you don't want to live through in your physical life. You can also try to accomplish this by going back inside your dream, in a conscious reentry journey, to see whether you can change the script where it was playing. You may want to try writing the story of your dream so it comes to a happy ending. If those approaches feel artificial, however, that may be telling you that physical action is required to reshape the probable future for the better.
    If your first dream for the New Year is full of promise, then celebrate - but make it part of your celebration, once again, to take action to embody the energy and promise of the dream and to help it to take root in the world. Don't leave 2017 without your journal, and don't enter 2018 without your dreams. 
    May your New Year be filled with abounding joy, and may your best dreams come true!

My book Dreaming True is all about dreaming the future and changing the future for the better.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When a dream won't let you go

There are dreams that won't let you go. You leave a dream in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom - and as soon as you are back in bed and close your eyes, you are back in the same dream, and the action continues. You wake up again. This time you make a definite break. You might get a snack, read or watch television, or step outside and look at the moon. You go back to bed again, and as soon as you close your eyes, you are back in the same dream.
    This happened to me overnight. Though multiple awakenings, I found myself returning, again and again, to an adventure unfolding in Japan. I don't think I was my present self. At any rate, I was much younger. A Japanese magnate and his beautiful assistant were trying to recruit me for a certain project. The technology involved was beyond anything I know about, but perhaps quite plausible. they explained it to me as "making fire from water" and demonstrated by using a few drops of fluid to fuel a heavy vehicle that raced to the top of a mountain. One of the executives confided, over dinner, that the greatest resource of the company is "imagination" and that is why they were talking to me.
     Intrigued, I made no attempt to get away from the dream. Towards the end of the night, I lay in horizontal meditation, hoping that more of the plot would be revealed, since I might have the makings of a story here, of a kind that H.G,Wells might approve.
    In one of his most masterful short stories, Wells gives a darker version of a dream that won't let you go. In  “A Dream of Armageddon”, a white faced stranger on a train – a solicitor from Liverpool – strikes up a conversation with the narrator when he notices that he has a book about dreams. 

    "Isn't there something called consecutive dreaming - that goes on night after night?"
    "I believe there is. There are cases given in most books on mental trouble."

    The stranger says that the psychologists don’t know what they are talking about. He has lived and died many years into the future, and he knows this because of consecutive dreams more real than his current life.

I dreamed that I was another man, you know, living in a different part of the world and in a different time. Night after night I woke into that other life. Fresh scenes and fresh happenings - until I came upon the last 

    He begins his story by describing himself looking at the shoulder of a beautiful woman, and over her shoulder, at a beautiful view of Capri from a loggia. The white-faced man has never been to Capri in his current life, but his interlocutor has, and is amazed by the accuracy and vividness of his description of its landscapes, of Mount Solano, of I Faraglioni: "Just below us was a rock with an arch worn through it. The blue sea-water broke to green and foam all around the rock..."
    The clarity of detail he recalls is amazing.
    Then there is his sense that the action is constantly moving forward, whether he is conscious of his dreams or not. Four days pass when he does not remember dreams, then he is back on the island of Capri, in a future world, and everything has moved forward by four days.   

I dreamed often. For three weeks of nights that dream was my life. And the worst of it was there were nights when I could not dream, when I lay tossing on a bed in this accursed life; and there - somewhere lost to me - things were happening - momentous, terrible things...I lived at nights - my days, my waking days, this life I am living now, became a faded, far-away dream...

    In dream after dream, the solicitor finds himself immersed in the life drama of a powerful man who left government in the “north” to live with his lover on Capri. He is now being urged to go back, because a dangerous demagogue has replaced him and could start a world war. To return, he would have to give up his mistress and he refuses to do this even when she begs him to follow duty and save the world from war.
    We see the first warplanes (not yet flying in Wells’ time) over the pleasure island. Eventually we see the couple flee Capri and seek safety on the peninsula. They are killed at the ruined temples at Paestum (and again the narrator confirms the description of a man who hasn’t been there in his present life). The solicitor describes dying without pain, followed by blackness and then a desperate and apparently failed attempt to rejoin his love on the Other Side - and then the conversation ends as the train stops at Euston station.
    The story, written before Kitty Hawk and World War I and moving walkways (also part of the dream of the future), has been admired for its vision of coming technology and man-made catastrophe. It’s also an extraordinary depiction of how in dreams we may inhabit a second life – in this case an unwanted one, in a different body in a different time, in the future rather than the past.
   The consecutive dreams to which we are called again and again may be full of beauty or terror, mystery or adventure. We want to record them carefully, building memory in our present reality of what is playing in others and capable - with that knowledge - of being ready for the next installment, hopefully capable of making better choices in any world we find ourselves in.

Quotations are from "A Dream of Armageddon" by H.G. Wells, first published in Black and White Budget, May-June 1901.

Photo: I Faraglioni, Capri

Monday, December 25, 2017

The first Santa

In this holiday season, I received a cri de coeur from the mother of a young boy named James:

James just found out that his parents stuff his stockings each year instead of Santa Claus. He is crestfallen. I asked him if he remembered a story you told him about a real live, animal-loving "Santa" that lived long ago, and he did, but neither of us could conjure enough details to make a suitable retelling. Could you please give me a reference to find the story of this previous, real-life "Santa"? It just might save Christmas for a certain 5-year old boy who yearns to believe.

I remembered a conversation in which I suggested that the original Santa was a shaman of the Sami, a reindeer-herding people of Lapland, reputed to have the power to call up the winds and fly through the air, and that the reason his coat is red is that it was the flayed skin of a reindeer. I have seen Sami drums with images of a shaman flying through the three tiers of the shamanic cosmos on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
    But while there is a rich ethnography on Sami shamanism, I could think of no source that would be suitable for a young boy. 
I was not enthused by the idea of introducing a small boy to the theory of certain enthusiasts for entheogens that Santa’s outfit is red and white to match the colors of a magic mushroom, amanita muscaria, that got him flying out of his skull. 
So I took on the assignment of writing my own version of the first Santa, addressed to a boy in danger of losing his belief in Christmas magic.

Dear James

I heard you found out that it wasn’t Santa who put the presents in your stocking, but people who live with you every day.
     I know this is a shocking discovery, and it would not be surprising if you felt cheated and confused.This is also a very big moment on your journey of growing up. Actually, it’s not big, it’s ENORMOUS.
     You have come to a fork in your road. If you let your feelings of disappointment and betrayal take you down the wrong path, you could very easily end up in the world of the Meanies who don’t believe in any kind of magic at all, and therefore never have any. Go the other way and you’ll come to know that, even if Mommy and Daddy filled the stocking, Santa is REAL. Not only is he real; he is MORE real than you could understand before you found out about the presents. 
     Let me explain.
     When a story is as important as Santa’s, lots of people will try to tell it their own way. So you’ll hear that Santa was a saint who traveled the world producing marvels and good works many centuries ago. Or that he was a winter king in a great northern forest. Meanies might tell you he was dreamed up by slick advertising men so they can sell more stuff. It’s often said that Santa lives at the North Pole with his elves. Most children I know, and some grown-ups, picture him flying through the sky with a team of reindeer. They are more right than all the rest.

      I am going to tell you the true and original story of Santa. Accept no substitutes.

Long ago and far away, where the sun shines all night on Midsummer’s Eve and never shows its face at Midwinter, a boy they called Dreamer lived with his family among the Reindeer People. They were a simple folk who lived on fish and the fruits of the earth, on reindeer milk and sometimes, in the hungry depths of winter, on reindeer meat. They followed the reindeer through the cycle of the seasons, forever in search of something to eat. They made tools and toys and holy statues out of reindeer bone, and when they danced around their fires, men and women both wore crowns of reindeer antlers.
     Dreamer was an awkward boy. He couldn’t run or move as fast on snow shoes as the others. He wasn’t very lucky at fishing, and he couldn’t lift the great tree-trunks they used for their winter games of log-tossing. They called him Dreamer because his mind always seemed to be wandering somewhere else. He loved the reindeer, and sometimes his mother would find him dreaming among them, arms wrapped in sleep around the belly of a reindeer cow.
     Even the wild reindeer approached him without fear. That was why, one hungry winter, his father made him go out with the hunters, to call the wild reindeer from the shadows of the evergreens. As a magnificent bull reindeer trotted towards him, the boy's father muttered, “Take him. He’s yours.” The boy trembled, with his father’s long bow in his hands, looking into the deep steady eyes of the reindeer.
     Impatient, his father threw his spear. Blood spurted from the great heart of the stag over the boy's chest. He dropped to his knees by the body of the reindeer, asking forgiveness. “We do this so our people may live.”
     His father punished him for his failure to take the kill by forcing him to skin the reindeer with his own knife, and carry the hide back to the village on his shoulders. Staggering under the weight, he wore the reindeer hide bloody side out, so he seemed to be wrapped in a bright red coat.
     That night, while the boy’s father and mother were snoring under their sleeping skins, he woke and looked up through the smoke hole into a field of stars. Through the field, a reindeer was racing on flying hooves. It swooped down through the smoke hole and stood over the boy, so close the steam from its nostrils entered him. He understood, without human words, what he was to do. He was to make a drum, using the hide he had carried back from the woods, binding it to the frame he would carve from an evergreen. He would use a piece of antler as a beater. An old one who lived alone in the woods would show him things he needed to know to make the drum right.
     I don’t know how much you know about drums. This was not the kind of drum you see at a concert, or in a marching band, or in a toy shop. It was the kind of drum you can ride. The boy did not know that until he made it, and learned to tap-tap-tap with his bone hammer until the winds changed and the air was filled with the sound of drumming hooves.
     Another night came, at the darkest time of the year, when the reindeer looked down through the smoke hole and the wind whispered, Tomorrow. The boy walked alone in the gray absence of dawn to the tree that had provided the frame of his drum. He made himself a nest among soft needles the reindeer had not touched.

     As soon as he touched the drum, the stag appeared, different from before. Now his back was covered by a scarlet saddlecloth. The boy understood what he was meant to do. He swung himself up, as someone else might get up on a horse. There was no bit or bridle; he just held on to the reindeer’s neck as he took off at a terrific pace, heading ever north across frozen marshes and ice floes, into a world of white. Ahead, he saw a huge glowing disk very low on the horizon. It seemed he was flying into the face of the moon.

    The boy found himself in the presence of an immense being that blazed with light. It was like looking at the moon, caught in the bare branches of a giant oak. The boy’s vision changed and he saw a woman more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined, a White Lady crowned with great glowing antlers. He knelt before the Reindeer Queen. She smiled a moon-bright smile and raised him up and held him to her breast like a mother.
     She told him, “Darker times are coming. You will need to become a man quickly, and more than a man, to help bring back the light. When the time comes, I will call you and show you what to do.”
     When the ice broke up, monsters appeared in the inlets where the Reindeer People went to fish. The monsters reared from the waters with the heads of leering dragons, then disgorged terrible iron-clad men bent on killing and plunder.
     The Iron Men stormed over the land. The boy's father, now headman of his village, gathered the herders and the older boys to defend their women and their tame reindeer. Fearing for his son’s life and contemptuous of his fighting skills, he ordered Dreamer to stay with the herd.
     When the din of battle sounded across the hill, and the boy's mother armed herself with a bone knife, the boy took his drum and sat among the reindeer, in the long grass. He tapped with the bone hammer until he felt himself stretch and stretch. Then he was flying with the reindeer, through the arctic rainbow to the palace of the Reindeer Queen.

Bright as the full moon, she told him, it was time to meet Brother Bear. The great bear rose up before him like a shaggy mountain. Dreamer wasn’t afraid, well, not as much as he might have been if the Reindeer Queen had not made the introductions.
     When Brother Bear opened his arms, the boy stepped forward and hugged him hard, though his arms could cover only a tiny part of the bear’s tremendous girth. When Brother Bear hugged him back, closing his mighty arms, Dreamer fell through the heart of the mountain, into the world of battle.
     The Iron Men were baying victory. What landed before them, making thunder in the earth, silenced their cries. Sword-arms and spear-arms ceased hacking and cutting, frozen in mid-thrust. Brother Bear towered between the Iron Men and the herders. He reached down and plucked the invaders from the field like toy soldiers. He tossed them back towards their dragon boats. The remnants of the Iron Men broke and fled, throwing down weapons and plates of armor to speed their escape. Rejoicing, Dreamer's father ran to bring his wife and son the good news. He found the boy sleeping under his drum, among the reindeer. He poked the boy with the toe of his boot. “Dreaming again, eh? Rouse yourself, boy! Come and see how we won the good fight.”
     As the boy struggled to his feet, very wobbly, the form of the great bear began to wobble too, fading to a thin mist, then gone.
     When she called him again, the Reindeer Queen told the boy, “When you are grown, you will be wide and strong and big-bellied, like Brother Bear. And all who see you will smile and be jolly, except men of evil hearts, who will flee before you.”
      So the boy grew to be a man, wide-bellied and jolly, fond of stuffing himself with summer berries and tracking the bees to the best honeypots in the trees. When he tapped on his drum and the reindeer came to take him flying now, they came as a whole team and he road in a sleigh that they pulled through the sky, since he was now too broad to ride on the back of a single animal. Whistling for favorable winds, he traveled far beyond the lands of the Reindeer People.
     His biggest journey began when he was old, in the eyes of men, and the Reindeer Queen called him to tell him that there was new star in the sky, and its light was coming to the Northlands.
     He flew to a place where the wisest of the wise were waiting for this star. He stood with them on top of a mountain, He saw the night sky open like a smoke hole to reveal the new star. Light came down from it like a pillar, and inside the pillar he saw the face of a radiant child that melted his heart.
     He wanted to lay gifts before the child, but he had nothing except his beating heart.
     “Drum for me from your heart,” the star-child told him. “Drum for the hearts of men, to help them open to give and share in peace on this night of the turning year.”

Santa has been doing that ever since. When he drums, hearts open like the roofs of houses, and shining gifts come pouring down.
     Whoever gives in a spirit of love and joy on this special night has Santa inside him, or her.
When Mommy and Daddy were stuffing your stocking, Santa was there with them.
     Now, I know that when you have seen something with your eyes it can be hard to believe a different thing unless you can see that with your eyes too.
      So I want you to know this.
      In a great museum in Europe there is a drum made of reindeer skin. On it is an old, old painting of a man flying through the sky on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. I’m not saying this is Santa’s drum. I think his drum is too lively to ever get caught and stuck in a museum. I am saying that whoever painted and used that drum knew how you make flying reindeer, and how you get down chimneys.

Etching of Sami shaman with magic drum by O.H. von Rode (1767). 

(c) Robert Moss. All rights reserved. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Soul alchemy in the friendly silence of the Moon

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.
      There is great clarity on how this works in W.B.Yeats' essay Per Amica Silentia Lunae. The title means “The Friendly Silence of the Moon”. He borrowed it from Virgil's description of the Greeks approaching Troy by stealth. Under the poet's moon, Yeats explains how we  can develop a co-creative relationships with minds operating in other times and on other planes of reality. Let's notice that when he refers (in the first line) to "fellow-scholars" he is not thinking about people of his own time, but minds that are working and reaching out from beyond time and space:

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. 

As well as the "mingling with minds" from other times and dimensions, Yeats wrote, with poetic clarity, about relations with the creative spirit he 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 withdraws its presence when we choose against the grand passion and the Life Work, the soul's purpose. 
    The daimon loves us best, Yeats perceived, when we choose to attempt “the hardest thing among those not impossible.”

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

Art: "The Silver Apples of the Moon" by Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh (1865-1933)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

In the treasure cave

On the shortest day of the year, I am down in my creative Cave, once more engaged in reading, transcribing and harvesting from my journals over many decades. There are fantastic dramas here, mythic trouble (and delight) and tremendous trans-temporal adventures in which sometimes I enter the situation of my counterparts in other times, and sometimes they join me in mine. We bring each other gifts and challenges, allies and adversaries from other times and other worlds.
     When I read a report of a dream or vision recorded long ago, it comes alive and I am often able to reenter it fully, and make sense of its nature and context with the benefit of what I have learned. Thus I am able to track continuous lives, being lived by my parallel and counterpart selves in other realities, remembered and recorded as dreams. From the viewpoint of those parallel selves, my life in ordinary reality is the dream, or the ghost trail.
     I feel sympathy and compassion as I monitor how younger Roberts tried to make sense of all this while lacking any really helpful mentor in this reality, and how they struggled to keep body and soul together on the roads of this world. I wonder, as I consider how “past” and “future” aspects of myself looked in on each other and sent each other mental texts, whether my present acts of observation are changing things in, say, 1987-1988.
     That thought quickens my interest in those journals that aren’t really old. I am in a treasure cave. But as in the Indiana Jones type of adventure where the floor gives way and the roof starts to fall when you touch a precious object, there are rather strict limits to how long I can safely remain in the cave, and how much I can bring out, on each visit. So I move softly and slowly, tiptoeing around the floor in a kind of hopscotch rather than plodding up and down, taking a little from the chest over there, then something from the one on the other side. A raven’s feather, an ancient treatise on the imagining spirit, a Celtic cloak pin, a flying carpet.

Solstice blessings!

Photo of Deinkuyu from

A Poem for the Winter Solstice

Eyes of the Goddess

From a journey to Newgrange

The poet waits for me in his countryman’s cape
And shows me the map in the gateway stone:
Twin spirals to get you in, and out, of the place of bone;
Wave paths to swim you from shadow to dreamscape;
A stairway of stars for when you are done with earthing.
I am here to practice the art of rebirthing.

She calls me, into the belly of the land that is She.
But I play, like the poet, with the shapes of time:
I am a swimming swan on the River Boyne;
I am a salmon, full with the knowing of the hazel tree;
I wander with Angus, and know the girl I have visioned
in gold at the throat of a white swan, beating pinions.

Drawn by the old perfume of burned bones, I go down
and doze until solstice fire, bright and bountiful
quickens me for the return of the Lady, lithe and beautiful
In the form she has taken, flowing as liquid bronze.
Her face is veiled, so the man-boy called to her side
like the red deer in season will not die in her eyes.

I see beyond the veil, for I come from the Other.
Oh, I yearn for the smell of earth and the kiss of rain!
I leap with her on the hallowed bed, coming again.
She knows the deer-king, as I am child and lover
Her eyes are spiral paths; the gyre of creation whirls
And sends me in green beauty to marry the worlds.

This poem is included in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories. Published by Excelsior Editions/SUNY Press.

Photos: (above) Newgrange at the winter solstice; (below) kerbstone at Newgrange

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The birthday of the Sun of God

In my neighborhood, Hebe, cupbearer to the Olympian gods, is now decked out in Christmas trimmings on the porch of a townhouse.  Though she would probably prefer to be wearing vine leaves, she may be relaxed because she will remember that Christmas decorations - especially anything involving a tree - were borrowed from the followers of the old gods. Even the date of Christmas, which is almost certainly not the literal birthday of Jesus, is taken from the old religions
    Nobody knows for sure when Jesus was born, but it is rather unlikely that it was on December 25th. The famous early bishop, Clement of Alexandria, who died in 215, wrote that many Christians in his day believed that Jesus was born in April. December 25 was only recognized as the birthday of Jesus by the Church in Rome in the mid-fourth century, and it took centuries for the date to be adopted by Christian congregations elsewhere. The church in Jerusalem only adopted the date in the 7th century. It took England a century longer.
    On the other hand, the significance of December 25 in the pagan calendar had long been established. Under The Julian calendar, instituted by command of Julius Caesar in 45 BCE, December 25 was made the date of Bruma, the “shortest” day, meaning the winter solstice. Early European peoples honored the winter solstice as the day of the re-birth of the sun, personified as a god by some, a goddess by others.
     In 274, the soldier-emperor Aurelian proclaimed that December 25 was the birthday of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. This was a composite deity he hoped would be acceptable to believers of all persuasions, including the old worshippers of Helios-Apollo and the Roman legionaries who had adopted the cult of Mithras, a god from the East whose birth from a cave was already celebrated on December 25. So the day we now celebrate as Christmas became Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Day of the Unconquered Son.
     Against this backdrop, it seems more likely than not that intelligent leaders of the early Church were inspired to move Jesus’ birthday to December 25 to claim the glamor of the old winter solstice festivals and to match the religious calendar to the celestial calendar in the way that early peoples had always done, making the coming of the Christos coincide with the re-birth of the sun. This, at any rate, was the opinion of a learned Syriac scholiast, Jacob Bar-Salibi,  who wrote in the 12th century:

It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.

Syncretism – the bringing together of different strands of belief and custom – was characteristic of the old Roman religions; in the mid-4th century, when the Christian leaders chose to make December 25 the birthday of Jesus, it became an act of Church policy. In a ceiling mosaic in the tomb of the Julii, in the necropolis under St Peter’s, we have an arresting visual image of the convergence of the old solar cult with the new religion. It shows the figure of Sol-Helios, the sun god, riding his chariot. Around 250, his image was touched up, to make the rays around his head resemble a cross.
     When we look at the customs and symbols of Christmas that are most loved in our families today, we find that many of them are of pagan origin: the Christmas tree, for starters, but also the holy and the ivy, the mistletoe, the yule log, the giving of gifts, the reindeer that fly through the sky. An early Christian grinch in Britain, Polydor Virgil, thundered that “dancing, masques, mummeries, stageplays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them."
     The happy news is that the grinches will never win (though I’m not so sure about the retailers). The sun returns, and at Christmas all peoples of good heart will share gifts of light and love.

Joyous Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Natalis Invicti!

Top image: Sol Invictus in a mosaic in a necropolis under St Peter's in the Vatican. His aura has been touched up to resemble a cross, presumably by Christians who wished to claim his rays for Christ.

Bottom image: Christmas Hebe photo by RM

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.
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.