Dream Gates

Dream Gates

13 levels of shamanic dreaming

Ruby Modesto grew up on the Martinez reservation in southern California. Her dreams called her to become a pul, or shaman, introducing her to the eagle that became her ally, giving her wings for flight. She did not need the medicine plants used by some shamans among her people, the Cahuilla, because she had her dreams.

The medicine plants were very strong. However, not all puls used power plants. That should be clear from the start. I am a pul myself but the “ally” as Castaneda calls it, the spiritual helper which distinguishes a pul from ordinary people, came to me through Dreaming not from the effects of a plant.


She learned that there are successive levels of dreaming, and that you achieve increasing clarity and get closer to the really good stuff when you go to level 3 or beyond. Her uncle was a dream shaman, and he taught her about “setting up dreaming” in order to get to those interesting levels. She explained the practice to anthropologist Guy Mount like this:

The way you do that is by remembering to tell yourself to go to sleep in your 1st level ordinary dream. You consciously tell yourself [inside the first dream] to lay down and go to sleep. Then you dream a second dream. This is the 2nd level and the prerequisite for real Dreaming. Uncle Charlie called this process “setting up dreaming:. You can tell yourself ahead of time where you want to go or what you want to see, or what you want to learn.


On the 3rd level you learn and see unusual things, not of this world. The hills and terrain are different. On both the 2nd and the 3rd dream levels you can talk to people and ask questions about what you want to know.

She adds that “during Dreaming the soul goes out of the body, so you have to be careful.” When she ws young, she dreamed to the 13th level but did not know how to come back. “I kept having different dreams and falling asleep [inside each level of dreaming] and going to another level.”  In the course of this immense, multi-tiered experience, she met her shamanic ally, Ahswit, the eagle. But her spirit was lost in the dreamlands. For days she was semi-comatose, in a sleep from which no one could rouse her. Her father tried to bring her back to her body, but couldn’t. Finally Uncle Charlie – a specialist in soul retrieval – was able to find her spirit and put it back in her body.


When I woke up they made me promise not to Dream like that again, not until I knew how to get back by myself.

To do that, you must learn “how to dream and think simultaneously” so that you don’t forget where you left your body and your remember, whatever level of dreaming you are on, to give yourself clear direction to go back.

Once again, we see that dreaming is a discipline. To get to the different levels, ad return with gifts for this world, requires practice and attention to flight safety and navigation. While we all dream and can all gain from doing far more in dreaming, dreaming to the 13th level is not for the “innocent” and not to be recommended as nightly practice for anyone!

Quotes are from Ruby Modesto and Guy Mount,  Not for Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions of a Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman. Arcata, CA: Sweetlight Books, 1980

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mark kaz

    …or as ancient Egyptian teachers used to say don’t forget where you parked the KA.

    • Robert Moss

      Mark – Hop over to the astral realm of Luna, and you can choose between many Used Ka dealers. Siriusly.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Katie

    really fascinating.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Karolyn McKinley

    Didn’t Hollywood make a blockbuster movie about such possibilities? (Inception) And yet Ruby’s real life experience, in my opinion, is much more riveting!! Leonardo DiCaprio could only make it to the 3rd level before getting lost. What a wimp! Ruby cranks it WAAAAAY up to level 13! Moley!! And as a young kid no less! Ruby rocks!

    • Robert Moss

      Hi Karolyn – Don’t get me going on “Inception”. You can read my review on this blog – it’s still atop the list of most popular posts here. May the day come soon when Hollywood will want to make a major movie in which dreamers bring healing and overcome the Dark Side – without need of potions brewed up in Mombasa or chess-pawn “totems”.

  • Azima

    Wow, this is such good stuff! I had the idea the other day (on my Sabbath day, Sunday, a day for journaling and playing with my dreams and walking and making music) to do a dream retreat of several days, just to incubate and immerse myself in dream practices and what comes out of them. This confirms me in that intention, and gives me a specific practice to work with. I will only go to about 3 levels, though, for a first attempt!

    Thanks so much for all this wonderful inspiration.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Heidi

    Just when I thought I was making good progress on active dreaming, this whole new idea (to me) of the multi-levels of dreaming has me paused. It’s freaky in a way…the idea of possibly getting trapped in my dream space, yet incredibly fascinating in a mind boggling way.

    • Robert Moss

      Heidi – Please note that I do NOT recommend that you (or anyone else except a master dream shaman with a strong and sufficient reason) should go trying to reach the 13th level of dreaming….You may want to revisit the counsel on flight security and navigational techniques for dream travelers in my book DREAMGATES.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Irene

    I have often had dreams of dreaming in which I am trying to wake up inside a dream or of trying to dream inside a dream. What is very new to me is the business of consciously getting back to my physical body. Less than a month ago, I was dreaming and remembered that I had an exceptionally early business meeting this day and so had to get back to my sleeping physical body sooner that initially expected. In the dream I was in an airport and so I stepped onto one of those long “moving carpets” that help you walk just a little faster than you normally would (which gives me a strange physical sensation). I like these rolling carpets in airports because I do feel my consciousness shifting on them as my body readjusts to the slightly accelerated mouvement. Anyway, this airport carpet took me to my garden gate that I walked through as I do several times every day in waking reality. I opened the door to my house, walked into my bedroom and saw my body sleeping. My dream self looked at the clock alongside my bed and saw 5:30 am. “Good” I thought. I sat down then layed down into my physical body and I remember my dream self thinking, “Now I’ll rest,” as if my dream self were going to sleep in my physical body! I woke up and saw that it was 5:31am. Since then, in about one out of five dreams, I find myself coming home in a similar way.

    Thanks for the post Robert, and for the Used Ka Dealer bit. That really made me laugh.

    • Robert Moss

      Irene – thank you for this highly entertaining and thought-provoking report. Indeed, we have spontaneous out-of-body experiences in dreams every night, though most of us either forget them or fail to notice what is going on. It would remove the need for people to have alarm clocks if they could follow the example of your dream self and return from their night flights in time to get back in the body and wake it up at the selected hour.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Melissa

    When I was around nine years old I began to become aware of the life dream we are in. I knew I had night dreams, and I would sometimes enter a trance-like state during the day, but it was around then that I had the strangest thought as I watched a butterfly fluttering just out of reach. I wondered to myself if I was a butterfly dreaming I was this girl of nine or was I dreaming I was a butterfly dreaming I was this girl, etc. How odd for me when as an adult I read Zhuangzi’s quote about the butterfly dreaming he was a man. I knew then that this dream within a dream we call life was nothing less or more than that.

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