Dream Gates

Dream Gates

In praise of snappers

posted by Robert Moss

Mark Twain - from Dave Thomson, The Unabridged Mark Twain.jpg“Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company,” counseled Mark Twain. I’ve quoted this more than once in front of church audiences, when I have judged them genial enough to take it in good heart, or in need of genial-izing. It’s an example of the type of one-liner Mark Twain called a “snapper”, or sometimes an “astonisher”. It was his practice never to leave a lecture platform without committing one at the very end, and often it brought the house down.

When we are sharing dreams by my Lightning Dreamwork process, the last step is to come up with a snapper, a personal catch-phrase that captures the essence of the dream and the insights that have come through in discussion. This is a neat way to retain a message and it orients us to do something about it.
Once when I was leading a weekend Active Dreaming playshop at a ranch in the Texas hill country, a woman in the group approached me for guidance on her marriage. “Ask your dreams for guidance tonight,” I told her, “and bring me a dream in the morning.” This she did.
In her dream, as she told it before Sunday breakfast, she was in her favorite Mexican restaurant. She was waiting for takeout, and had already paid for her meal. People kept coming and going, picking up their orders, while she stood at the counter. A “cute guy” came in, collected his food, and winked at her as he left. Later, another “cute guy” – a musician – picked up his meal and paused to murmur in her ear, as he headed for the door, “You know, this place sucks.” At the end of the dream, the dreamer was still waiting.
We did our Lightning Dreamwork process. When I asked the dreamer how she felt on waking, she said, “hungry and frustrated.” Reality check? Well, it was unlikely that the people in her favorite restaurant would treat her like that, but the situation felt familiar in a more important sense. The heart of our conversation was to make the link between the dream and the intention, which she had recorded simply as: I would like guidance on my marriage.
If it were my dream, I suggested, I would notice that I’m in a place where things look good, but I’m not being fed. She thought about this and came up with the following snapper: I am in a place where I’ll never be fed or nourished, even though I’ve paid up front.

Dreams require action. Her action plan? “I’m going to call a divorce attorney on Monday.” The follow-up? A year later, the dreamer wrote to me to report that she was now happily remarried to a “cute musician” who strongly resembles the guy who spoke to her in the sad cafe.
Come up with the right snapper, and it may lead you to the right snap decision.
For the rules of the Lightning Dreamwork game, please read my book The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination (New World Library)
Illustration from The Unabridged Mark Twain, edited by Dave Thompson (Running Press)

The Books of Night and Day

posted by Robert Moss

Ptolemais_2.jpgWe have direct access to sacred knowledge, in our dreams. Our dreams are a personal oracle that reveals the future and helps us prepare for it. We must not let anyone tell us what our dreams mean or stand between us and the direct experience of the sacred that is available in dreaming. We want to pay attention to signs from the world around us in the knowledge that everything in the universe is interconnected and constantly interweaving. We need to journal both our dreams and our waking experiences in our Books of Night and Day.

These insights come from a fifth-century bishop of Ptolemais (in what is now Libya), Synesius of Cyrene. His treatise On Dreams is one of the wisest books ever written on how to work with dreams and synchronicity. He wrote that ”Dream divination is available to all, the good genius to everyone” and that is no wonder that dreams show us the future, because dreams are experiences of soul and “the soul holds the forms of things that come into being”.
Synesius used dreams for practical navigation; he describes how dreams alerted him to plots by his enemies, counseled him on his literary style and (as a young man) on the hunt, and helped him win the ear of a Roman emperor with the right oration. He also observed, correctly, that the energy derived from dreams can be more valuable than their content; through dreams God “makes us fruitful with his own courage.”
 “It is written, ‘Others even in their dreams He made fruitful with his courage.’ Do you see? One man learns while awake, another while asleep. But in the waking state man is the teacher, while it is God who makes the dreamer fruitful with His own courage, so that learning and attaining are one and the same. Now to make fruitful is even more than to teach.” 

He despised dream dictionaries, as popular in his time as in ours: “I laugh at all those books and think them of little use.” He strongly counseled that we must not assign the interpretation of dreams to “experts” other than the dreamer: “It would be shameful for those who have lived ten years beyond adolescence to stand in need of any other diviner.”
He wrote of how dreams carry us into higher worlds, and put us in direct contact with the God we can talk to. He hinted that the road of dreams is the road of the soul, on both sides of death, noting that “the soul’s way of life in another world is similar to the imaginings of the dream condition.”
The wisest of humans are those who navigate life by reading the sign language of the world. We should keep a “day book” for our observations of signs and synchronicities as well as a “night book” for dreams.

“All things are signs appearing through all things…they are brothers in a single living creature, the cosmos…they are written in characters of every kind”. 
The deepest scholarship lies in reading the sign language of the world; the true sage is a person “who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe”.
We can learn from Synesius how to practice dreamwork as real church, and track coincidence as “God’s way of remaining anonymous”. He deserves to be much better remembered, as a great dream teacher from the world of the early Church, one who spoke eloquently against those who seek to stand between people and the direct experience of the sacred. He wrote about dreams not on the authority of his excellent education (he studied under Hypatia in Alexandria), nor his contacts with the great, nor any high office that he held. Synesius speaks to us across the centuries with the authority of experience, understanding – as do all true dreamers – that the best guides to dreaming are frequent flyers who do a lot of it.
Ptolemais gate from the Polish Archeological Mission in Ptolemais

Emerson Before Dawn, or: Be Straight, Be Full, Be Ready

posted by Robert Moss

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I often read a page or two of Emerson before greeting the sun. For me, he is the wisest of American philosophers and the most practical, because his words create a stir in the spirit that is a wonderful incitement to action. He is the perennial enemy of hand-me-down systems of belief and self-limiting notions about what is possible in a life. When we are wandering lost in a fog of confusion in the low marshlands of group-think, he pipes the tune and shines the light that will get us back to the upward slopes of our life purpose.
The other day, leading a five-day adventure in Active Dreaming at the Omega Institute, I guided a group of brave and ready souls on a journey to a real place in the Imaginal Realm that I call the House of Time. It is the kind of locale that creators, shamans and mystics have always wanted to visit, a place where we may encounter an inner teacher who is the master of any field that compels our best attention and study, and where any book of secrets – even that Book of Life containing our sacred contract – may be accessible.
While drumming for the group to provide fuel and focus for the journey to the Library in the House of Time, I found myself in contact with intelligences who have guided and inspired my work in the past. It seemed that Emerson, in high collar and frock coat, had joined the group. I do not say this was the individual spirit of the great sage; I do not claim the privilege of a personal interview, and I am sure that wherever Emerson may now be, he has many things to do. I say only that for a few moments I seemed to be in the presence of a figure who embodied some essence of Emerson’s thought. I was eager to receive insights I could easily retain, while my consciousness was working on several levels, including that of drumming for the members of the group and watching over their own adventures.
My Emerson gave me three words: Rectitude. Plenitude. Attitude. Just now, in the twilight before dawn, as the first pink suffused the gray sky, I tracked these clues through Emerson’s essays and letters, and through the pedigrees of the terms themselves.
RECTITUDE
In its origin, rectitude is the virtue of being straight, or upright, in your conduct and condition. It derives from the Latin rectus or straight. It has nothing to do with a narrow moralism. As Emerson wields this word, it is the property and armor of the brave soul who dares to live by his own lights. In his famous 1838 address to Harvard Divinity School – a speech the faculty tried to suppress but the senior class insisted upon – Emerson defined “the grand strokes of rectitude” as “a bold benevolence”, and that independence of mind that enables us to ignore the counsel and caution of our friends when they seek to hold us back from pursuing our calling, and the readiness to follow that calling without concern for praise or profit. Those who can do this are “the Imperial Guard of Virtue” and “the heart and soul of nature.” They “rise refreshed on hearing a threat”; they come to a crisis “graceful and beloved as a bride”; they can say like Napoleon at Massena that they were not themselves until the battle began to go against them.
PLENITUDE
Plenitude is fullness or abundance, coming from the Latin plenus, or “full”. For Emerson, plenitude – abundance – is our natural condition, and we miss it only by failing to live from the fullness and integrity of our own spirit. When we develop self-trust, we gain “the plenitude of its energy and power to repair harms,” he instructs in his essay on Heroism. “There is no limit to the Resources of Man,” he adds in a letter on that theme. “The one fact that shines through all this plenitude of powers is…that the world belongs to the energetic, belongs to the wise.”
ATTITUDE
Attitude has an even more suggestive etymology. It first came into usage to describe the posture an actor playing a role strikes on the stage. Go further back, and we find it is kissing cousins with the word “aptitude” and both share a common root in the Latin aptus which means “fit” or “suited” – in short, ready for something. Our attitudes indeed determine what experiences we are apt to encounter on our roads of life. “The healthy attitude of human nature,” Emerson instructs us in his essay on Self-Reliance, is “the nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner” – in other words, the confidence that since we are at home in the universe, the universe will support us. In the face of hardship and challenge, we need to strike that posture of determination that “by [that] very attitude and…tone of voice, puts a stop to defeat,” Emerson adds in his letter on Resources.
We are now entering one of the great open secrets of life. “We are magnets in an iron globe,” as Emerson told the young men at Harvard. “We have keys to all doors….The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”  We choose which doors will open or remain closed. We decide what we will attract or repel in life according to whether or not we are straight, and full, and ready.

Seven generations, seven directions

posted by Robert Moss

Pinus_strobus_trees.jpgWhy seven? I’ve been asked this question about the ancient Iroquois precept that we must be mindful of the consequences of our actions down to the seventh generation beyond ourselves. I don’t recall ever hearing an explanation from my friends of the Six Nations, or seeing one amongst the earliest records of the traditions of the Confederacy.

But when I picture in my mind the Tree of Peace, the Great White Pine that stands at the center of all in the imagination of the Onkwehonwe (“the People”), the deep meaning of the number seven comes to clarity in my mind and my heart.
The roots of the great tree spread out in the four cardinal directions, inviting all peoples to find peace and shelter. They extend to east and west north and south. They go down deep, into the mystery of the Great Below. The tree rises skyward, towards the Great Above, and high in its canopy perches the eagle that can see many looks away. In the heartwood of the tree, we can find our center, our True North.
In the retreat I am leading this week, with joined hands, we sang to the seven directions. We turned first to the East, singing
Spirit of the Wind, carry me
Spiritt of the Wind carry me home
Spirit of the Wind, carry me home to my soul

Turning to the South, we sang
Spirit of the Fire, carry me
Turning to the West, we sang
Spirit of the Sea, carry me

Turning to the North, we sang
Spirit of the Earth, carry me

Then we faced the Great Below and sang
Spirit if the Deep, carry me

We turned our faces to the Great Above and sang with the sun in our eyes
Spirit of the Sky, carry me

Then we faced each other. The light of our heart intentions streamed towards the center of our circle. We were conscious of becoming a sphere of energy, a little world within the world. We sang
Spirit of the heart, carry me
Spirit of the heart, carry me home
Spirit of the heart, carry me home to my soul

These, for me, are the seven directions. The words of the song are not Iroquois. The first verse is borrowed from a grand old source, Anonymous. The other verses are my own. As another Native people of the Americas, the Inuit, instruct, we must come up with “fresh words” to entertain the spirits. But I think the spirit of our song is in harmony with the ancient ones of the Northeast. Certainly we sensed their benign presence. I will honor them again today with a pinch of tobacco, and by giving thanks for the gifts of life, which is the way of prayer of the First Peoples. And I will remember those who are coming, seven generations beyond me, and those, seven generations back, on whose shoulders I stand.
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