Friday, April 17, 2015

Mountain of the Dreamers

Today I go up to a very special mountain where I have led very special gatherings over twenty years. It is a place where the Deer energy is strong and where dragons are sometimes seen. Here I test-fly new techniques and lead group journeys to explore many interesting territories in the multidimensional universe
     Here is a poem I wrote about the experiences we have shared on this mountain. This is traditional Mohawk Indian country, so the first words are in Mohawk, addressing the ancestors of the land:

Aksotahi, Raksotahi,
Grandmothers, Grandfathers,
We remember you, we honor you here
we feed you with tobacco and laughter and tears
we ask your blessing and protection for all our journeys.

Spirit of the Fire, we give you our old skins
you turn our despair and anger into cracklings
you carry our heart’s desires to the high ones

Dreamer adrift in the shadows:
When you fall through a hole in your world
you can come here to dance a new world into being.
When the moon is eaten out of your sky
by the men with hungry caterpillars in their hair
you can come here to grow it back.

There'll be days when you have to struggle to get here,
climbing out of flooded subways, plowing through snowbanks.
There'll be times when you forget the way.
There'll be nights when you can't believe this place is real
and you let it fade from your heart like an exhausted dream.

You may lose the mountain, but the mountain will find you,
calling in the voice of the wind, in the color code of fall leaves,
in the taste of rain, in an old song on the radio, 
in a poem urgent to be born, in the dream you cannot slay.
Hawk may give you a feathered sign, and wings to follow it.

White wolf may call you here, into the light of the Peacemaker,
where your soul is healed in the garnet heart of this mountain,
and your inner compass is restored, and you rediscover yourself 
in the best of all families, a family stronger than blood,
and the extraordinary is easy because we allow it to come through.

The dream people are always here for you.

Photo of Robert opening fire ceremony on the mountain by Jeanne Cameron.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Poets of consciousness

Poets, it’s said, are shamans of words. True shamans are poets of consciousness. Journeying into a deeper reality with the aid of sung and spoken poetry, they bring back energy and healing through poetic acts, shapeshifting physical systems. When we dream, we tap directly into the same creative source from which poets and shamans derive their gifts. When we create from our dreams, and enter dreamlike flow, we become poets and artists. When we act to bring the energy and imagery of dreams into physical reality, we become poets of consciousness and infuse our world with magic.
     In Birth of a Poet, William Everson raised a clamorous appeal for poets to reawaken to their shamanic calling: "O Poets! Shamans of the word! When will you recover the trance-like rhythms, the subliminal imagery, the haunting sense of possession, the powerful inflection and enunciation to effect the vision? Shamanize! Shamanize!" 
     Across the centuries, many of our greatest poets have recognized their kinship with the shaman’s way of shifting awareness and shapeshifting reality. As his name in a spiritual order, Goethe chose the name of a legendary shaman of antiquity, Abaris, who came flying out of the Northern mists on an arrow from Apollo’s bow.
    Our earliest poets were shamans. 
    Today as in the earliest times, true shamans are poets of consciousness who know the power of song and story to teach and to heal. They understand that through the play of words, sung or spoken, the magic of the Real World comes dancing into the surface world. The right words open pathways between the worlds. The poetry of consciousness delights the spirits. It draws the gods and goddesses who wish to live through us closer.
    Shamans use poetry, sung or spoken, to achieve ends that go deeper than our consensual world. They create poetic songs of power to invoke spiritual help; to journey into nonordinary reality; to open and maintain a space between the worlds where interaction between humans and multidimensional beings can take place and to bring energy and healing through to the body and the physical world.
    The South American paye takes flight with the help of "wing songs". These flight songs help him to borrow the wings of the kumalak bird [a kind of kite] that is a main ally of shamans.
    Among the Inuit, the strongest shamans are also the most gifted poets. One of the reasons their spirit helpers flock around them is that they are charmed and exhilarated by the angakok’s poetic improvisations. Inuit shamans have a language of their own, which is often impenetrable to other Eskimos. It is a language that is never still. It bubbles and eddies, opening a whirlpool way to the deep bosom of the Sea-goddess, or a cavernous passage into the hidden fires of Earth.
     My favorite Inuit shaman-word is the one for "dream". It looks like this: kubsaitigisak. It is pronounced "koov-sigh-teegee-shakk", with a little click at the back of the throat when you come to the final consonant. It means "what makes me dive in headfirst." Savor that for a moment, and all that flows with it. A dream, in Inuit shaman-speech, is something that makes you dive in headfirst. Doesn’t this wondrously evoke the kinesthetic energy of dreaming, the sense of plunging into a deeper world? Doesn’t it also invite us to take the plunge, in the dream of life, and burst through the glass ceilings and paper barriers constructed by the daily trivial self?
     Shamans know further uses for dream poetry. They call the soul back home, into the bodies of those who have lost vital energy through pain or trauma or heartbreak. And from their journeys, they bring back poetic imagery that can help to shapeshift the body’s energy template in the direction of health. Mainstream Western physicians agree that the body believes in images and responds to them as if they are physical events. By bringing the right images through from the dreaming, the poets of consciousness explain dis-ease in ways that help the patient get well, and interact with the body and its immune system on multiple levels without invasive surgery.
     To heal and enrich our lives, and wrap the world around us as a magic robe, we want to grow our poetic health, and commit poetry every day, in every way.

Text adapted from Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

Art: Marc Chagall, "The Poet Reclining"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Men in suits

They are coming around again, in my dreams, those men in suits.
    Last week, I was fixing dinner in a beautiful cabana on a tropical island. I had purchased an impressive slab of beef and got it broiling on the grill. Then men in suits turned up, three of them, and I had to turn off the grill to go outside and talk to them about business stuff. I did not care for these people, and when I got back to the kitchen I found that my steak was only partly cooked.
   I was annoyed by the interruption, but recognized that I had an opportunity to make a better dinner than I had been preparing. I cut and trimmed the meat. It was now shaped like a perfect filet mignon, ready to be sliced after grilling.
   I came out of this dream still feeling some irritation over the way my cooking had been interrupted. I reflected on how in my dreams the state of food preparation often reflects the state of a creative project, especially writing a book. I noticed how the agendas of the "suits" - people and parts of myself heavily focused on business and commercial calculations - have sometimes interfered with my creative process.
    Yet, in the dream, I was only delayed, not deflected. I did not join the suits. I returned to my cooking and produced something better than what it might have been. I applied this immediately to a current project. I had been pushing myself to complete a certain assignment. I decided to take a little break and let my creative springs start flowing again in their own sweet time. This worked beautifully. A couple of days later, after cutting and trimming, I completed my assignment, feeling really good.
    Then the suits came back, in my dreams this week. I found myself with three men in suits, walking a path above a high cliff. There was a glorious vista of ocean below, the waves breaking over a rocks and sandy beach.
    The suits had an agenda and I had agreed to go with them. But the way they had chosen was not getting us anywhere interesting. In fact, the path we were on was falling away. It seemed that it had crumbled through erosion or rockfall. There was no safe way to go forward, and certainly not to get down to the beach, if that had been the intention.
   To go forward would require trying to swing myself over gaping holes - with a drop of hundreds of feet - by grabbing tree branches and vines that seemed flimsy and poorly rooted when I tested them. I decided the journey was not worth the risk. I went back to a luxury hotel where I had been staying, apparently in a Northern European city. I was recognized and greeted warmly at reception, in a vast modern lobby.
    Yes, I know. I could have jumped from the cliff and started flying and enjoyed time at the beach. That might have been a more interesting way to part company with the suits. I remembered, inside the scene, that in dreams we can fly. Yet I also remembered that the physics of other realities does not always permit jumping off cliffs without consequences. I wrote myself a one-liner: You should not jump off every cliff you come to just because you can.

     I used to live in the world of suits. As a young man in my twenties, I affected super-tailored power suits, calculating that people would be more likely to forget my age and take me seriously if I was "better dressed" than any other man in the room. This calculation generally proved correct, for what that was ever worth.
     Now you will hardly ever catch me wearing anything more formal than jeans or chinos. My divorce from suits - and the suits - began many, many years ago, when I moved to the country. Then I dreamed that I was in a fancy menswear store of the kind I used to frequent, looking at the kind of power suits I used to affect, and found myself drawn to something quite different - a garment made of skins and furs with strange metal fastenings and an inside label that read "shamanic".
    I dream of wearing suits, as well as of encounters with men in suits. Sometimes I recognize that putting on a suit in a dream may be a rehearsal for a situation in waking like, especially a wedding or a funeral. It may be a prompt for me to remember, as teacher and author, that it is necessary to reach people in all environments and that putting on appropriate coloration can help speed that process. Sometimes Dream Robert is in a suit because he is back in an earlier time, within my present life, or off in a parallel world where I made different choices.
    I shall continue to watch out for those men in suits, including the parallel selves who walk with them.

Drawing by RM

Three Words from Emerson in the House of Time

The other day, while 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. If you would like to go there, you’ll find detailed instructions in my book Dreamgates.
      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 Ralph Waldo 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. The following morning, 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. 


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 friend 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 the Massena that they were not themselves until the battle began to go against them.


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 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 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 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 wrote in an essay titled "Resources". "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 we are straight, and full, and ready.

Adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library. 

Painting: William James Stillman, "The Philosophers' Camp in the Adirondacks" (1858). Emerson is at the center of the scene.

Emerson portrait: Watercolor by Philadelphia artist Nile Livingston

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Soul recovery through the portal of an "old" dream

Soul loss, as shamans know, is at the root of many of our existential complaints - of chronic fatigue and depression, of addictions and autoimmune problems, of creative blockage and even "bad luck". If we are missing vital soul energy, how do we get it back?
     Our dreams will show us, if we are able to remember our dreams and willing not only to read them carefully but to take action to bring their guidance and energy into our lives. If we are suffering from a prolonged dream drought, that is almost certainly a very strong indication of serious soul loss because it suggests that we have lost contact with the part of ourselves that is the dreamer. If this is our situation, the essential first step towards soul healing is to find the ways to end the dream drought. I have offerered simple and practical advice on how to do that in my book Active Dreaming..
     In working with thousands of dreamers over several decades, I have noticed that there are five types of dreams that very frequently offer clues to where soul has gone, and invitations to bring it back:

Dreams of the old place
Again and again, you dream you are in the old place - back in the home you shared with your ex, or the office where you worked at the old job, or at grandma's house, or in the school yard. Maybe you'll want to ask yourself: did I leave part of myself behind when I left that old situation?

Dreams of a younger self as a separate person
You dream of a same-sex companion, notably younger than your present self. You may not recognize this person to begin with, or you may confuse him or her with a younger member of your family - with a child or a cousin, for example. Look again, to see whether that younger dream figure is actually a part of yourself who appears as a separate being because he or she is not currently a part of your life, having separated from you during a crucial life passage.

Dreams of animals
The state of animals in our dreams often represents the state of our vital energies, and can show us the natural path of our energies. Such dreams may also offer an invitation to connect or re-connect with our animal spirits. This is one of the quickest ways I know to restore and raise vital energy in our contemporary lives.

Dreams of shoes
Shoes, I've noticed, are often an analog for souls in our dreams. You can hear the homonym; shoes have "soles" which sounds like "souls". Whe you dream that you can't find your shoes, or that they are lost or missing, ask whether you are being given a message about soul loss - and perhaps a clue to where to go to locate what you lost. If you dream your shoes don't fit, ask where in your life your situation no longer serves the needs of your soul and your creative spirit.

Dreams of the unexpected visitor
The surprise caller at your door in your dreams may be a messenger from your Great Self. Maybe you resist that visitor, trying to bar your door. Of course, it is always important to discern the character of the visitor and make sure that you are not going to entertain an intruder.
      You'll want to remember that the little self, the ego self, is always terrified of being overwhelmed by the larger Self,  and that to claim a relationship with greater powers we are required to brave up. So when you are surprised or alarmed by that unexpected dream visitor, you'll want to look again, by getting your head back inside the dream and asking, Who are you?
     Here, as with all five types of dreams reviewed here, the royal road for turning a dream suggestive of soul loss into an exercise in soul recovery is to learn to re-enter the dream and  operate consciously within its space.

     You may find it extremely helpful to undertake this form of shamanic lucid dreaming with a partner who is willing to accompany and support you on your healing journey.

For much more on this subject, please read my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Dancing with the Bear" (c) Robert Moss

Monday, April 6, 2015

I want my new book in my arms

For me, the genesis of a creative work is both tactile and magical. It involves the urgent desire to touch and caress, and the sense of bringing something into manifestation from the imaginal plane where it already exists. I want to share the feelings, keen as the desire for a perfect lover, that helped to bring one of my most adventurous books (Dreamgates) into my hands, and then into the hands of its readers.

The feeling comes in strong. I want to touch it, stroke it, leaf back and forth through the pages, linger over details of typesetting, the pleasure of rereading an especially felicitous passage. Stroking my previous books, reading over drafts, letters, journal entries, won’t hack it. I want the real thing, the finished thing, bound and sewn.

     I know it’s there.
I have known for quite a time (well over a year) that my new book already exists. This is confirmed when I go through my journal and commonplace book. A paragraph here — and here, and here — a page or two there, are leaves from the finished product. Sure, I have recorded them out of sequence and need to figure out how to shuffle them to match the pagination of the actual book. There are big gaps where material had been left out in transmission. But these are not drafts, despite garbles, typos, and screwups by the filing clerk in my brain. They are the book — the actual, finished book — coming through. 
     I think of a bronze by Ipoustéguy in a sculpture garden in Washington, D.C., that shows a man moving through a solid door. An arm is coming through, up to the elbow. A leg is jutting through, up to the knee. A face bulges round as a moon, penetrating the membrane that only impersonates a solid barrier. My book has been coming through like that.
     Now I want its whole body in my hands.
     I could pause and give myself a lecture on the laws of manifestation, of bringing things into the surface world from the imaginal realm in which they are born. But I am not in the mood for a dissertation on Platonic forms or the Mundus Imaginalis of the Persian philosophers.
     My need lives in my body — in my loins, in my gut, in my nerve endings. I want to cradle and caress, to touch and be touched.
     Can I write from this?
     I can do better. I can deliver.
     My naysayer has nothing to say. My brakeman can’t stop the train. (The brakeman lives in the logical mind, as anyone knows who remembers his Greek; phren, “logic,” is related to phrenon, which means “brakes” — and “damper.”) Coming through!
     You could call my condition relaxed attention, or attentive relaxation, as my fingers trip and skirl across the keyboard. I don’t mind what you call it. As the screen fills and refills, as pages spill from the printer, I am simply bringing a book from my dream library into my physical space, to enjoy it with all of my physical senses.

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo at top: "Man Passing through Door" by Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Neither folk nor fairy

We did not have the term “near-death experience” (NDE) when I kept dying and coming back as a young boy. The first edition of Raymond Moody’s book Life after Life did not appear until 1975, twenty years after I left my body in St Andrew’s hospital in Melbourne and flew through the Moon Gate to live a life in another world while my body lay under the surgeon's knife.
     If the phenomenon now called NDE had been recognized earlier, it might have been easier for me to have been heard and understood by those around me. It would have been helpful to me to know that many others in Western society have reported profound experiences of leaving their bodies and that this is widely recognized as evidence that the soul can travel outside the body and that there is life after physical death.
    There is a statement in Life after Life that spoke to me deeply when I eventually got to read it: “Once the dying person reaches a certain depth in his experience, he does not want to come back, and he may even resist the return to the body.” This was certainly part of my story.
    Moody argues in Life after Life that “the similarity of so many of the accounts” is a reason for believing reports of NDEs.  But when I read the cases he assembled, and then hundreds of other reports from Near Deathers, I did not find many close “similarities” to what I experienced when I was nine, and seemed to live a whole life in another world. The stories that spoke to me were from ancient and indigenous cultures, from folklore, and from Eastern traditions.
    In Yeats’ song, I heard a voice that knew something of where I had been:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

      When I discovered George MacDonald’s tales of Highland seers and ghosts, I found a phrase that spoke very directly to my experience of trying to live in the ordinary world. In MacDonald’s wonderful little book The Portent: A Story of the Inner Vision of the Highlanders Commonly Called the Second Sight, the woman who nursed the narrator reveals details of his strange birth and his possible connection with a tragic drama played out in an earlier time. The nurse has the gift of second sight; she sees things happening at a distance, and moving between dimensions. She cautions Duncan that he will never be “either folk or fairy”. I did not remember quoting this phrase as a young boy. I doubt that it would have helped me communicate with those around me. But the notion that one may be “neither folk nor fairy” – but something of both” – helped me to explain things to myself.
     In MacDonald’s “faery romance,” Phantastes, the book C.S.Lewis said “baptized” his imagination, the room where the protagonist is sleeping turns into an enchanted forest overnight. Water spilling from a green basin becomes a little river. The floral patterns of the carpet become wildflowers and grasses along its bank. When he follows it into the woods, he is in Fairy Land. He is welcomed and fed by a friendly woman in a cottage of living trees, and knows she must be at least part human because she is awake during the day, when the fairies sleep. But she is something else as well. She must live close to fairies, and eat a little of their food, or else she will always be hungry.
      This became a pattern for me, since I went away. I found that the gates of the Otherworld opened from wherever I happened to be, and that I went hungry unless I stayed near its people and shared some of their food. I never had trouble staying awake in the night, or sleeping in the day.

- Excerpted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: Fairies by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)