Dream Gates

Dream Gates

To converse with the stars

posted by Robert Moss

ptolemais_angel (1).JPGHe lives in a world lit mostly by fire. The Roman Empire has recently been split into two. Rome, the capital of the West, will soon fall to the Goths. The barbarians are inside the gates of Constantinople, the capital of the East. His home city of Cyrene, in what is now Libya, is under constant attack by marauding tribes; he is often up on the walls, standing sentinel, or training his neighbors and retainers to fight back.

He comes from a noble family that can trace its lineage back to the founders of Sparta. He has the best education of his day; he studied with Hypatia, the great woman philosopher and scientist of Alexandria. In brief seasons of peace, he enjoys riding around his estates, sampling the olive oil and the honey from his bees and the milk from his goats. His great loves are books – in an age where nearly everyone is illiterate – hunting and dreaming. His name is Synesius of Cyrene, and we should know it better, because around 404 he wrote a treatise On Dreams that is (in my opinion) the most helpful book on the practice of dreamwork to appear in the West until very recent times.
In an era when the great oracles of the ancient world are being overthrown, Synesius reminds us that dreams provide us with “a personal oracle” that goes with us everywhere. All we need do is pray for a dream, wash our hands, and set our heads on a pillow. Dreaming matters because it shows us the future, provides creative inspiration, reveals different aspects of who and what we are, offers guidance on all the business of life – and above all, because it “uplifts the soul”, raising us from our everyday confusion towards the level of Mind.
As a writer and orator, Synesius reports on how dreams corrected his literary style and gave him ideas for speeches that allowed him to catch the ear of an emperor. He observes, correctly, that recording and telling dreams is great preparation for public speaking, because it gives us training in telling our stories well. Some of that story material is of course extraordinary and challenges us to expand our ways of expression: “It is no mean achievement to pass on to another something of a strange nature that has stirred in one’s own soul.”
As everyday practice, Synesius urges us to practice dream incubation (asking our dreams for guidance), to study personal markers or “forerunners” in dreams that clue us in to whether those dreams may reveal future events, and above all to journal our experiences. He advises us to keep both a “book of the night” for dreams and a “book of the day” for our observations of signs and symbols in the world around us. By the universal law of sympatheia “all things are signs appearing through all things” and “the sage is one who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe.”
For active dreamers, the very best incitement to go dreaming that Synesius offers may be this soaring passage in which he encourages us to embark on an adventure that will take us far beyond the laws of our physical universe:
There is nothing that forbids the sleeper from rising from earth and soaring above eagles, to reach a point above the loftiest spheres themselves. He may look down on the earth from far above, and explore lands that are not visible even from the moon. It is in the power of the dreamer to converse with the stars and to meet the hidden powers of the universe. [my adaptation of the 1930 translation of On Dreams by Augustine Fitzgerald]
In 410, the formidable Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus, persuaded Synesius to become bishop of Ptolemais. He was allowed to continue to live openly with his wife, to pursue his love of the poets who celebrated the old gods, and to practice and write about philosophy in the way of Plotinus. In the Hymns he wrote in his last years, we see Synesius making a marriage between the Christian revelation and Neoplatoniist metaphysics, in verses that are sometimes very beautiful (but still await adequate translation). So we can call Synesius, at least retrospectively, the Bishop of Dreams. It is heartening to know that the early Church, in a time of violent contention, could make room for a philosopher who taught that we can become citizens of the deeper world by dreaming, and should allow no one to come between us and the sacred source that opens to us in dreams.
Mosaic angel in the museum at Ptolemais


Dreaming with inner city kids

posted by Robert Moss

ADELITA 184.jpgAdelita Chirino is an artist, video producer and jewelry designer who has taken my training for teachers of Active Dreaming. Over many years, she has volunteered to help inner city kids in Bridgeport and New Haven, Connecticut, through expressive art programs in which she has incorporated Active Dreaming techniques. I had the pleasure of participating with her in leading a program where I was delighted by the eagerness and creativity with which the kids joined in dream theater and in making spontaneous art and story from their dreams. Here’s Adelita’s account of some of her experiences

One of the great blessings I’ve enjoyed both as an educator and a video producer is the chance to work with many children from low economic and “minority” backgrounds. Being a dreamer for over three decades, I can’t resist taking every opportunity to teach children and teens about their connection to dreaming, and at every opportunity I’ve taken, I’ve seen children blossom with curiosity. 
The good fortune of learning Active Dreaming from Robert Moss in the 90’s added a very thrilling dimension to my work with young people. At the time, I was volunteering for a wonderful program in Bridgeport, CT developed by a very dedicated police officer and many volunteer artists; the program was the United Youth Arts Program, or UYAP.
Working with UYAP was truly rewarding; best of all are the experiences I had teaching the students to use their dreams for creative inspiration. I have many thrilling memories of dreams working their magic across age, race and culture; here’s an example.
I’ll call this student Lisa, 
All the students knew of my predilection for working with dreams and they would often seek me out first thing to tell me a dream. As I’ve found with inner-city kids, many times they are troubling dreams that, with any reality check, mirror difficult situations in their lives. 
Lisa’s dream was of being chased with two of her friends through a maze of back alleys, trying to escape a shadowy dark figure. Her feelings on waking were anxiety and fear. I sat with her and went through the Lightning Dreamwork steps she already knew from class work we’d done.
Through this wonderful dream-sharing guide, it became obvious to her what she was running from and how she really could face and deal with it. To honor the dream, Lisa wrote a fabulous poem. 
 But it didn’t stop there; she carried the dream with her into other art classes and created a dream chair. She painted an old chair bright and daring colors, then she applied lines from her poem, computer generated in various fonts, lacquering the strips of paper around the chair so the entire poem could be read following the rungs to the seat to the legs. Lisa’s Dream Chair won an award at the end of the program’s art exhibit held in the gallery of a local university. The journey from sharing her dream to winning her award was perhaps a month, during which she used the energy her dream gave her to express her true Self. 
I saw Lisa grow in personal power in this month’s time; she laughed more, was more social and displayed a dedication to her artistic creation that I hadn’t seen in her before. Winning the prize just sealed the deal; she was on top of her world.  I’m willing to bet that anyone who sees results like she did from connecting her dream life to her waking will probably go there again and maybe again. 
Adelita Chirino is co-producer of Way of the Dreamer: A Course in Active Dreaming with Robert Moss;this DVD set is available from Psyche Productions
Photo (c) copyright Psyche Productions, from video, “United Youth Arts Partnership”


Raven Eye

posted by Robert Moss

raven.jpgIn myth and legend, the raven is many things: trickster and creator, messenger and seer, personification of ravening greed, harbinger of death, companion or form of the Goddess. Here I want to speak about raven as an oracle bird, one that can lend us his or her sight.

Odin sees far with the help of twin ravens, named Huninn and Muninn, Thought and Memory. They fly all over this Middle World, returning with information. In the Prose Edda, Odin is called “raven god” because of his close association with these birds.
The raven has an equal role in the legends of Celtic seership. The raven is also the seeing-bird of Apollo, the owner of the most famous oracle of the ancient world, at Delphi. In the Greek story the raven was white until it brought the god the news of the infidelity of his mate Coronis (the Crow-Woman); his fury blasted it until it was black.
In dreams and journeys over many years, I have found the raven an impeccable ally when there is a need to see into dark places or see into the future. It has served as an ally in shamanic healing, plucking out the cells of disease. When I look into the raven’s eye, I see a screen like a television monitor on which images of things I need to know appear; sometimes I can also travel through the screen, to explore a scene beyond it.
In seership trainings in my Active Dreaming workshops, I suggest to participants – after they have done some foundation work – that they can borrow the keen sight of twin ravens named Thought and Memory to go scouting the possible future for a partner. They don’t have to rely on their own intuition or intelligence; they are to let the birds do the work. The quality of the information gathered by raven trackers in these exercises is often remarkable, even when the scouts have had no prior experience of doing anything remotely like this.
Despite their literary reputation, ravens aren’t solitary birds, unless forced to be; they mate for life. 
Here’s a poem I wrote to honor some of Raven’s gifts:
Sun Stealer 
They say you stole the sun.

This is inexact. 
You hid the light in darkness

where the light-killers could not find it

so the sun could shine brighter than before. 
They say you are black
because you are evil and unkind.

They do not say you swallowed
your own shadow and mastered it
at the price of wearing its colors.
Shivering, they call you death-knell,
Death-eater, bad omen, flying banshee 
because you feed on death that feeds on men. 
You strip what rots from what remains. 
You give us the purity of the bones. 
Trickster, they call you. 
Oh yes, you’ll do your wickedest
to ensure our way is never routine 
and we are forced to improvise and transform. 
You won’t let us swap our souls for a plan. 
At least they don’t accuse you
of minor crimes. 
I praise and claim your gifts 
of putting on darkness to come and go safely 
in the darkest places, jesting with Death.
Raven image via flickr


Dreaming parallel selves

posted by Robert Moss

ipousteguy2.jpgFor many years after my divorce from my first wife, I found myself still with her in dreams, in situations that might have unfolded had we stayed married. My dream self aged at exactly the same rate as my waking self, and the circumstances of these dreams were entirely realistic. 

Similarly, for years after leaving my second job, I would find myself, in dreams, working at the old place, dealing with new situations as they might have arisen had I stayed there. Slowly, my dream self began to understand that, “I don’t work here any more.” In a dream near the end of the long sequence, my dream self arrives at the old office building, briefcase in hand, to find that the company is no longer there. (In my waking reality, the company had moved its offices to another part of the city.) Foggily, my dream self gropes for the understanding that he doesn’t have to show up for work at either building. 

As I recently discussed on this blog, dreaming can give us experiential knowledge of the reality of parallel worlds in which we may be leading parallel lives. Such knowledge, I believe, is vital to our understanding of the nature of multidimensional reality and to self-healing and personal growth.
Soul-loss and/or soul-splitting may be at issue here. When we make a wrenching life choice, part of us – in disagreement with the choice we made – may split away and follow the path not taken. Becoming aware of that separated aspect of self and reaching to reclaim its energy and gifts can amount to vital soul healing. 

There’s also encouragement in dreams of this kind to get our heads out of old mindsets and look at the world with fresh eyes. Long after I parted from my big-league literary agent, for example, I dreamed I was still visiting him at his office. I grew to understand that I needed fully to renounce the approach and priorities he represented – which included ranking the commercial valuation of projects above their intrinsic value.

One of the gifts of dream glimpses of alternate life paths is that they sometimes confirm that we’ve done well to make the choices that put us where we are, rather than on a different track. A woman who had never married dreamed she was stuck in a boring marriage, punctuated by endless domestic spats, and woke glad that she had stayed single.

There is more than psychology and personal soul work involved here. While quantum physicists speculate about Many Worlds theory and other hypotheses about the nature of the multiverse, active dreamers have the ability to bring back first-hand data.
Jean Ipoustéguy sculpture at his tomb in the cemetery of Montparnasse
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