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Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Lucid dreaming and astral travel in the early Church

posted by Robert Moss

St.John of Lycopolis

Early fathers of the Christian church were in favor of active dreaming and astral travel. Tertullian, who famously observed that  “most people derive their knowledge of God from dreams” urged Christians who found themselves in captivity, perhaps on the way to martyrdom, to get out and about in their astral bodies:

Though the body is shut in, though the flesh is confined, all things are open to the spirit. In spirit, then, roam abroad; in spirit walk about, not setting before you shady paths or long colonnades, but the way which leads to God. As often as in spirit your footsteps are there, so often you will not be in bonds. The leg does not feel the chain when the mind is in the heavens. [Tertullian, Ad Maryras, 197 CE]

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Athanasius explained in Contra Gentes that “when the body is still, at rest and sleeping, a man is in inner movement – he contemplates what is outside himself, he traverses foreign lands, he meets friends and often through them [dreams] he divines and learns in advance his daily actions. What else could this be [that travels] but a rational soul [psyche logike]?”

St. Augustine described travels of the “phantom” who can visit another person in dreams.

John of Lycopolis (d. 394), one of the Desert Fathers, became famous for his ability to travel in his dream body. A saint of the Coptic church, John was well-known during his life as a hermit for his  austerities; he lived in a cave and ate only fruit consumed after sundown. He was believed to have great psychic gifts. Emperors and generals consulted him, as a seer, on the outcome of future battles and political conflicts. He was attributed “mighty works” of healing and prophecy.

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He was fully aware of the ways in which psychic energy can work outside – and on – the physical body, and of the reality of dream travel and dream visitations.

John was about ninety when a Roman tribune implored him to see his wife. She was anxious about a possibly dangerous journey by river and wanted the holy man’s blessing. John had not seen a woman in forty years, and refused to see this one. The tribune’s wife was persistent, swearing that she would not embark on her journey without John’s blessing. When the tribune reported this to John, the desert father said, “I shall appear tonight to her in a dream, and then she must not still be determined to see my face in the flesh.” The tribune reported this to his wife.

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That night, John came to her in a dream. He told her modestly, “I am a sinful man and of like passions with you.” He added “Nevertheless I have prayed for you and for your husband’s household,  that you may walk in peace according to your faith.” The tribune’s wife woke up and related the dream to her husband, who confirmed John’s appearance as she had perceived him. She sent her husband to thank him, convinced she had received a real blessing.

Wepwawet

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It is significant that this account of a dream visitation by an early Christian father involves a former cult center of one of the Egyptian deities most closely associated with astral travel. In Greek, Lycopolis means “City of the Wolf”. The “wolf” in question is the jackal- (or dog-) headed god Wepwawet, whose name means “Opener of the Ways”.

Wepwawet is similar to Anubis in both attributes and functions. Both are divine gatekeepers and psychomps – soul-guides – for both the living and the dead. In early times, Wepwawet was a god of Upper (or southern) Egypt while Anubis was worshipped in Lower (or northern) Egypt; later, they became syncretized. Special to Wepwawet is the function of serving as a scout and bodyguard for the pharaoh and his generals. His image appears on the shedshed, the battle standard of Upper Egypt, and he is often depicted in battle gear carrying a mace and a bow. So it is interesting that John of Lycopolis was valued by generals as a battle seer and is said to have provided accurate forecasts of the outcome of the Emperor Theodosius’ struggles with opposing armies and rebels.

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The primary source on John of Lycopolis and his dream visitation is The History of the Monks of Egypt, an anonymous account of a journey by a group of seven brothers from a monastery on the Mount of Olives to the desert fathers in Egypt in the 380s. The author does not expound on the past history of Lycopolis, whose former residents included the great experiential philosopher Plotinus as well as a jackal-headed god. But the world of the Monks of Egypt is a magical landscape where ascetic superheroes work miracles, do battle with evil spirits – and operate on the astral as well as the physical plane. The desert holy men live in a separate reality. “Some of them do not even know that another world exists on earth or that evil is found in cities.” Yet “it is clear to all who dwell there that through them, the world is kept in being.”

 

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Jumping off the high board with Jesus

posted by Robert Moss

Orthodox icon of the Resurrection

Kathy wrote to me just before Easter about what happened when she started practicing the exercises for meeting a spiritual guide in my book Dreamgates. Lying back in bed, fully conscious of her intention, she had the following experience:

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I  was able to visualize a stone stairway going up.   My visualizations are often hazy, but I was able to see these stairs clearly.  When I got to the top of the stairway, I was startled to see a man suddenly appear before me.  He was Jesus Christ! I was so surprised that I almost jumped right out of bed. 

It was a little unnerving and for a second I wondered what in the world I was messing with.  Jesus approached me, and I knew without a doubt that it was really Him.  He reached out and embraced me and held me for the longest time.  He didn’t speak to me at all.  He just held me the entire time.  I was so overwhelmed with the feeling of love and light coming from Him that it moved me to tears.  I didn’t want it to end.  What a great experience for my first time trying this!

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After this encounter, Kathy started reviewing in her mind a series of night dreams in which a benign and loving – and hitherto anonymous – male figure had appeared to her.

I began to think about the dreams where a mysterious man comes to me. He never speaks and I never see his face, but I know he’s smiling.  He  holds me through the night  and I  get that overwhelming feeling of love and light that I received in my vision of Jesus.  I now wonder if I’ve been dreaming about Jesus all these years. 

Kathy had questions for me. “I would love to cultivate a relationship with Jesus. I think he may be my personal teacher.  I can never predict when I’m going to dream about him. Are there any exercises or techniques that you recommend for this?”

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Here is part of my response:  “It is quite  wonderful to have a personal vision of Jesus and to know him as a personal guide. How do you live and work with that? Don’t be afraid to call on his name, and his help, when you truly need it. This is the right time of year to reflect on all that the Christ story means.

“The mysterious figure sounds like a loving presence. I would try to meet him in conscious dreaming or meditation and have a conversation, which might begin by asking him to identify himself and show me his face.

“And now you have found your spiritual guide at the top of the stone steps, remember you can walk those steps again. A dream or vision is also a place, and if we have been there once, we can go there again.”

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Our spiritual guides appear to us in the forms we are able to perceive. A woman, facing a difficult decision of whether to let go of a secure but boring job and apply for a more demanding and exciting job was hesitating out of fear.  She was on the verge of losing the opportunity.  Then she dreamed she was standing on a diving board, frozen in fear, which dramatized her situation in waking life. In the dream,  Jesus walked up behind her, took her by the hand and they dove from the high board together.  They plunged deep into the waters and came up laughing.  She had always loved water sports and was a competitive diver in college.  She took the dream to mean that Jesus was with her and she had nothing to fear, she would know what to do because she had good skills and she might even have fun!  She got that job and had no regrets.

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My friend Carol, a very experienced and sensitive spiritual counselor, works with many people who report personal encounters with Jesus.  She advises them that “we  can make ourselves available through dream incubation, asking for the guide to appear. We can call on the name. We can put ourselves inside a particular Gospel scene through active imagination.  Read it a couple of times and then let go….dream your way into it and let it unfold.  You can be at the well with Jesus, at the pool with Jesus, at the foot of the cross with Jesus, in the garden with Jesus, wherever your imagination takes you, in wide-awake dreaming.”

 

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Where Homeric singers appoint their successors in dreams

posted by Robert Moss

Kyrgyz manaschy singing the epic – photo by SiGarb

How you know a dream matters among the Kyrgyz

One of the markers of the dream that is also ayan, an omen, is that sensory impressions are unusually strong, including the sense of smell or taste, and that these impressions linger after waking. The great bardic storytellers of this culture are often called to their vocations in dream visions in which they are given the food of a legendary hero to eat, and wake with the taste – and the song – on their lips.

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I won’t flunk you if you can’t place Kyrgyzstan on a map without a little help. It is a poor, landlocked, Turkic-speaking country that was once part of the Soviet Union. Islam is the dominant religion today, but the contending influences of Soviet secularism and the old shamanic ways of a people of horsemen and sheep herders still run strong.

An epic known as the Manas is still central to the national identity of the Kyrgyz people. It runs to 500,000 lines. It recounts the story of a hero khan who fought off his people’s enemies and unified tribes to make a nation, and of his son and grandson. The epic is studded with dreams, which are often “omens” containing prophecies. The Manas is transmitted through oral narration, by a special type of master singer, known as the manaschy, who recites the verses and is sustained and reinforced by the lively responses of his audience. He is not simply performing an extraordinary feat of memory, though years of memorization are involved; each performance of the Manas will introduce fresh words, because this is a living entity, not something frozen in a canonical text.

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Taking on the obligations of a manaschy, a singer or teller of this longer-than-Homeric epic, is clearly only for a few. I was interested to learn that typically, the singers-t0-be are called to their vocation by dreams in which a great manaschy of the past, or a character from the epic, appears to them. Some of those who receive dream visitations of this kind are reluctant to take on the arduous apprenticeship and demanding duties of the role; they may receive successive visitations, developing into an offer they can’t refuse. For example, they may be told they will fall ill or lose the use of their limbs or their voice if they do not carry the immense and ancient song.

One of the most famous manaschys, Sayakbay Karalaev (1894-1971) received his calling in a big dream involving an encounter with the hero of the epic, Manas, and his wife and companions.  In his early twenties, traveling on the road to Orto-Tokay, he was stunned to see an old black boulder transformed into a great white yurt. He heard a loud noise coming from the sky and fainted with terror. When he woke – inside his dream vision – he entered the yurt, and was offered food by the wife of Manas.. When he left the yurt he was greeted by a man who told him, “We are happy to meet you.” The man introduced himself as another of the heroes of the epic: “”I am Bakai,who finds the way in the dark and words of wisdom when necessary.” He offered the singer-to-be the special food of Manas. As he swallowed the food, Sayakbay took into himself the gift of singing and of memory required to take up his new work.

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A manaschy in action: Sayakbay Karalaev (1894-1971),

Danish anthropologist Maria Elisabeth Louw interviewed contemporary Kyrgyz about their dreams and reports a continuing widespread belief that the ancestors appear to us in dreams and that dreams can provide foreknowledge of the future. She reports in an article in History and Anthropology that dreams are widely regarded – even in relatively secular Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan – as the main way God keeps in touch with people. “Certain dreams are seen as ayan, omens or direct signs sent by the ancestors, and ultimately by God, which can help people to make the right decisions and choices in life – if they know how to interpret the omens.”

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One of the markers of the dream that is ayan, an omen, is that sensory impressions are unusually strong, including the sense of smell or taste, and that these impressions linger after waking.

Dream visitations by an arbak –  the ghost” or “spirit” of  a deceased relative or ancestor – are commonplace, and may infleunce family decisions.  Thursdays and Fridays are regarded as favorite visiting days for the ancestors, who like to check on how the family is doing; in Muslim households, verses of the Koran are often recited on these evenings.

 

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In the dream kitchen

posted by Robert Moss

- kitchen RMIn my night dreams, the place of creation is often a kitchen. I don’t do a lot of cooking, but I love the image of the kitchen — where we are fed and nourished and we mix things together and cook things up — as the creative center.

I especially like to think of the creative process as being similar to baking. You get together your startup dough, then you knead it — you stretch it and pull it apart and bring it together again. Then you stand back and let it rise (if it will). Then you get hot, and expose your project to the fire. And finally comes the test: how does it taste?

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I know, from the state of my dream kitchen, how a creative project is coming (or not coming) along. Once, when working on a book, I dreamed that a splendid meal was being delivered, but that there was no place in the kitchen to set it down, since every surface was covered with papers or dishes. The dream gave me a clear message to eliminate clutter, push aside old drafts and research files, and make space for the main dish to be served up fresh and hot.

The state of the dream kitchen may reflect the family situation. A woman once came to me with a troubling dream in which her kitchen was so messy that she could not tell the difference between the groceries and the trash. She insisted that she was a tidy person who would never allow her kitchen to get into that state. Could the dream be played out in the future? She was reluctant to accept that idea. We briefly discussed whether the mess in the kitchen could be a metaphor for the state of her marriage and family relations. She allowed that there might be some “cleaning up” to do on that front. Two weeks later, she came home to find that the mess from her dream had spilled over into her literal kitchen. Her husband and teen boys had done such a number on the kitchen that she literally could not tell the difference between the groceries and the trash. This prompted her to have a tough sit-down conversation with her husband, at the end of which they agreed that the mess in their relationship couldn’t be cleaned up by anything less than a separation.

In that kitchen dream, be it noted, we see how a quite literal precognitive dream can point us to a situation in ordinary life that is richly symbolic. We need to take dreams more literally, and waking life more symbolically.

What’s going on in your dream kitchen?

 

photo (c) RobertMoss

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