Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Robert Moss. Robert is a life-long dream explorer, shamanic teacher, a former professor of ancient history and philosophy, and a student of the Western mystery traditions. He teaches workshops in “active dreaming,” an original synthesis of contemporary dreamwork and various methods of journeying and healing, including shamanism. He’s the author of many books, as well as the Sounds True audio learning course Dream Gates: A Journey into Active Dreaming.
In this episode of Insights and the Edge, Robert Moss and I spoke about how to listen to our own and other people’s dreams, and a process he calls the Lightning Dreamwork Technique. We also talked about what it might mean to navigate our life through synchronicity and how to treat synchronicity like a practice. We talked about the multidimensional universe and our counterpart personalities. And finally, about the body we travel in during dreams, and how becoming familiar with this body might influence our experience at the time of our death. Here’s my conversation with Robert Moss.
Robert, to begin with, I’d love to talk about this term, “active dreaming.” Is that a phrase that you came up with yourself? Is that an original phrase?
Robert Moss: I believe it is. I think I’m the first person to use this phrase. And to me, it’s really a provocation, because when people think about dreams in our society at all and try to talk about them, they typically talk as if dreaming is a passive activity. You go to sleep and you have a dream or maybe a dream has you, and you talk about that.
But we can be active dreamers in a couple of very interesting and important senses. We can learn to be active about entering the dream state—that means learning to become lucid dreamers, but actually this approach goes beyond the more familiar version of lucid dreaming by teaching us how we can start out conscious or lucid and enter the dream state from that conscious level and stay conscious through the whole experience.
Some of this involves learning the shaman’s ways of journeying and applying that to dream work so that, for example, you remember a dream, something from a dream, it’s got some energy, it’s got some traction for you. You learn to reenter that dream consciously, go back and find the dream, talk to a character, resolve a problem, go beyond a terror—learn how to use your personal dreams as portals to places of healing and imagination and doorways into the multidimensional universe.
So active dreaming means, to begin with, that we can learn to go actively into the dreamtime and do things there. But it means more than that. It means we can learn to become quite active with our dreams in everyday life. We can learn that we want to take action from our dreams, to bring healing energy and guidance into life. We can learn to share dreams with other people in our society in ways that are mutually empowering, help each of us to learn to tell our stories really well, and derive the power that comes from that.
So it’s about getting active with dreams in community, and as you learn to do that, learning to grow dreams or visions of possibility for the community. And finally, active dreaming is also about the idea that we want to go about this world and everyday life with a symbolic sense, a poetic sense of the dreamer, looking at signs as symbols around us as a language of the soul, noticing that what happens around us in the form of coincidence or synchronicity is significant. And we can receive remarkable navigational guidance for life by learning what rhymes in a day by noticing the patterns of echo or resonance. So it’s about being active as a dreamer in the everyday world around you.
TS: Now, what is the relationship between active dreaming and the process of dreaming that most people associate when they hear the word “dreaming,” which is going to sleep and, as you said, a dream sort of takes you over or takes on the stage of your awareness while you’re sleeping? What’s the relationship between these two things?
RM: Well, I’m interested in every form of consciousness and every form of dream experience. And I greatly value the spontaneity and objectivity of the sleep dream that we don’t ask for, may not want, but chose as things that we need to see. So I’m in no way dissing the value of the spontaneous sleep dream, whether it’s just a little fragment, a little whisper in the night, or a whole narrative adventure—maybe a terrifying one.
So we learn, as active dreamers, to do more with those dreams of the night, those spontaneous sleep dream experiences. One of the things that we learn to do is this: We learn to understand that our memory of a dream is not the full experience of the dream. You remember something, maybe it’s quite detailed, but even if it’s quite detailed, your memory of the dream, your report of the dream is not to be confused with the fuller experience of the dream.
The way to understand the dream is to reclaim more of the full experience. So we learn way so do that. We learn, for example, to reenter the dream if it’s interesting or has energy or has challenge, to go back inside the dream consciously, and that’s not as difficult to do as people might think. Think of it this way: If you had a dream—and we’re talking now about those sleep dreams that are spontaneous and not programmed and not lucid—[it’s] quite likely that you’ve been in a certain space in that dream. It might seem like a landscape. It might seem like a more nebulous space, a more abstract space, maybe a more chaotic kind of space. But you’ve been somewhere.
A dream is also a place. And if you’ve been to a place in dreaming in the night, perhaps you can go there again. Just as, for example, I’ve been to the Sounds True studios in Boulder. They may have moved since I was last there, but I think I could find my way since I’ve been to Boulder. I could find my way to the studios again. So is it with a dream.
You can learn to go back into the space or the place of the dream and do something there, talk to a character inside that space, clarify whether that car accident is symbolic—something to do with your job or your marriage, maybe, or maybe a literal accident you have to watch out for, or maybe something happening in a separate order of reality. Now, you can get guidance on all those things by learning to talk to people in the proper way about dreams, and that’s a very important thing to do. But probably you’ll get the most satisfactory explanation of what was going on by learning to go back into the dream space.
So that’s one of the things we do with sleep dreams. But another thing that we do all the time is we learn to journal our dreams, to write everything down, even if it’s just a fragment or a wisp and play with that. And above all, perhaps, we learn to talk to each other in a really interesting, lively way that helps us to open a safe space to share dreams and other intimate material where we’re not going to be intruded upon or told what things mean. That way we can offer each other non-authoritarian feedback and guide each other to action.
This is called the Lightning Dreamwork Technique, and it’s possibly one of the most important contributions of this active dreaming approach to our culture, because it does, as I say, give us away to open that space between people, for us to hear each other’s stories deeply and offer each other helpful and mutually supportive feedback and, above all, guide each other to do something with the dream, to take action, to research the dream, to wear the color red if you dream the color red, to go back inside the dream, to take action. Dreams require action.
TS: You’re saying so many interesting things, but I’m going to tease a couple of them out. So how we talk to each other about our dreams—that seems to be something that’s really important to you. What would you say are the sort of dos and don’ts of how I talk to my partner or my friends about the dream I had last night, or about their dream?
RM: Well, the first great “do” is listen up. Create a space where you or your friend are going to tell the story and be heard. Make a space where you can tell a story to each other, and don’t interrupt. And help that person to tell the story better, because you know perfectly well as a great storyteller yourself, Tami, what power there is in learning to tell our stories and what joy and recognition and consummation there is in being heard as we tell our stories.
So you want to learn from each other in this process of sharing dreams—and we can apply it to things other than dreams as well—how to make that safe and deepening space where we can hear each other’s stories and attend to them. To “attend” is literally to stretch your attention. We want to hear the stories and we want to pay attention.
And then when you’ve heard the story, presumably your friend would like some kind of feedback. The key thing first is to ask a few questions around the dream. And the first question I always have about any dream—actually about any experience—is, “What are your feelings? What are your feelings when you come out of this? You’ve had a dream in the night, you’re eviscerated or dismembered by a saber-toothed tiger, how are you feeling now? You feel great?” Well, I’m going to go in a certain direction with the dream, different from where I would go if you said you were feeling rotten and were throwing up.
So the first question is always, “How do you feel about this?” Especially, “How do you feel upon waking? What is your energy like? What do you hold in your body from the dream?” The second question I always ask about a dream is the reality check question. That means, “What do you recognize from this experience in the rest of your life?” We want to see if there are links, context to the dream in your ordinary life. We also want to know whether the dream is part of a pattern or a series. Maybe you’ve had other dreams of the same scene or the same themes. Maybe the dream is like an installment of a long-running serial or something like that.
So, what do you recognize from this dream in the rest of your life—not only your ordinary life, but your imaginal life, your life in the realms of the imagination? And also, I want to ask of a dream, “Is it remotely possible that any of this could play out in the future?” Because, because, because indigenous, ancient people understand something that Western psychology still wrestles with. They understand that there’s a survival function to dreams. Dreams show us what lies ahead. They show us challenges and opportunities ahead. It often seems, to me, as if the dream self is forever travelling ahead of the waking self, checking out the roads ahead.
So I always want to ask, “Is it possible that something like this could happen, literally or symbolically, in the future? Do you like that idea? If so, let’s help you to figure out how to move decisively in the direction of fulfilling that happy dream. But if you do not like it, let’s figure out an action plan to help you avoid the possible fulfillment of a dream event you do not like.”
So those are the questions I will ask on the way to doing the next stage of the process—this process of dream sharing that I call Lightning Dreamwork. I call it Lightning Dreamwork because it’s meant to be quick, like a bolt of lightning, and it’s mean to focus energy in a very coherent and empowering way.
The next stage is to say to each other, to say to the dreamer, “If it were my dream, if it were my experience, if it were my life, I’d think about such and such.” Notice the way I’m talking. This is not just Miss Manners, sort of harrowed, empty, old-fashioned etiquette. It is a protocol to make it safe to tell each other what we think without making ourselves gurus, masters, or experts. I’m not the expert on anyone’s dream. I’m a frequent traveler, a frequent flier, who can offer comments based on his experience. But I will never tell you what your dream means.
But I will say to you, quite simply, “If it were my dream, I’d think about such and such.” That empowers you to be the authority over your own dreams, to be the author of meaning in your dreams, and as we expand the process in your life, to learn to talk to each other this way. It makes it possible to deal with all sorts of intimate and difficult things in ways that are mutually empowering and helpful.
And the last part of this everyday process, this Lightning Dreamwork game I teach people to play, is this: we want an action plan. So if you have told me a dream, I will ask you, as the last part of the process, “What action will you take now?” Now, you might be clueless, so I might need to make some suggestions. You might need to ask Auntie Google—go and research that funny name. Go and research that town you never visited. Go and research those words from a language you do not initially understand.
Or you might want to do some shamanic shopping. Go and get something that in its color or its texture or its fabric or its life resembles something you were wearing or drawn to in the dream. It might be a process of active dreaming like dream reentry—going back inside the dream to resolve something.
[There are] so many different things you can do with a dream. And of course, you can create from your dreams. You can turn them into stories, into music, into dance, into mime, into theater. In my workshops, we are doing theater performance, story swapping, instant art, instant crafting. We’re doing things as a creative way to honor the dream, and again, bring its energy through.
So those are the key steps in the process I teach people to take and to follow in everyday life. And although I took awhile to explain it, because I wanted to give a sense of its many manifold possibilities, you can actually learn to do this process in a few minutes. When I do it on my radio show, we sometimes do a really slick, quick version in one or two minutes, tops. Just get to the point as fast as possible.
Part of the point of this process of Lightning Dreamwork is to remove the alibi that we don’t have time to share things in this way in our busy lives. We do have time. And when you learn to share things this way, you’ll find it gives juice and joy and guidance for the day.
TS: Now, you made this interesting comment in our conversation a little earlier that dreams carry with them actions that need to be taken. And I’ve never thought about that before. I mean, sometimes, of course, a dream will be like, “Oh yes, I’ve got to do that.” But often I just think they’re interesting, but this idea that they carry action—can you say more about that?
RM: Well, let me make a personal comment, and I’ll paraphrase Jung for a moment. Jung said, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections near the end of his life, he said that all day long, he has interesting ideas, but he moves in his work and his research and his study only in the directions his dreams have given him. That is my life, Tami. That is the way that I live. Everything important that I research or work on is given to me by dreams or synchronicity. Monitoring coincidence and synchronicity is a dreamer’s way of operating 24/7 in waking life, absolutely everything.
This might lead me on paths of detailed research. For example, I changed my life, I transformed my life. It was a bumpy road, and it took awhile to get things together. When I started dreaming in an ancient form of the Mohawk language, a language I did not know, I was living on the edge of Mohawk Indian country in upstate New York. An ancient shaman, a woman of the Mohawk people, a mother of the wolf clan who lived 300 years ago called me, it seemed, in my dreams and insisted on speaking her own language. So it wasn’t that New Age soap bubble dream where you know everything at once. It required me, literally, to study Mohawk and also the Huron language, because she was born among the Huron, captured by the Mohawk, raised by them.
And that path led me to become what I now I am: a dream teacher, a path for which there’s no career track in our culture. We have different styles of dreaming. For me, often, words in a language I do not know or know very imperfectly have given me research assignments, and my action has been to take what tools of scholarship I have and what media and resources the culture gives me to follow those paths. I’ve done that with dreams in medieval French, I’ve done that with dreams in ancient Greek, I’ve done them with dreams in archaic Lithuanian, on and on.
That reflects my style of dreaming. I’m a former history professor. I’m a sort of professor non que in my life, but part of me likes the scholarship and likes to research. Now, in your life, the action plan might be completely different. Your dream might have showed you, for example, that you need to change your diet, that you need to give up or take up something in your diet that is not part of your regular regime. Your dream might show you that the action you need to take is in terms of relationship. It might show you what you need to do to rebuild a relationship, to get out of the wrong one, or to find Mr. Right or Ms. Right as the case may be.
Dreams show us possibilities. Dreams give us sketches of what is possible. One of the great functions of dreaming is it shows us possible or probable futures, and as I said earlier, if you like the possible future that you saw in your dream, then you want to take action to move towards it. If you don’t like the future, you want to avoid it.
Now, I like to teach by stories. Could I tell a story about that kind of thing? OK, so here’s a guy who comes to one of my workshops, now many years ago, and he has dreamed that he is at a beach house and it’s his boss’s beach house, he thinks. He’s not quite sure. He’s never been to this house in ordinary reality. But he wakes with a very bad feeling about the dream because he knows that he’s lost his job or he’s about to lose his job in the dream and he doesn’t understand why.
He shares the dream at one of my workshops. I say, “If this were my dream, I would like to go back inside the dream, go to that house, find out what the problem is and see what I need to do about it.” And I say, “OK, you can take someone with you.” You see, this is another thing about dreaming. We don’t have to do it alone. We can find partners. We can find playmates. We can find fellow travelers to go with us into the dream time.
He picks his wife for an exercise, which involves traveling back to the house from his dream to understand what the heck is going on and try and figure out what to do. I have some reservations about him traveling with his wife, because they might be invested in each others’ material and might not have the objectivity to support each other. But hey, why not? Let’s do it. It’s unusual to have a couple working with each other in this depth, and that’s a great thing to see.
So I’m drumming for the group. Everybody’s doing some version of the exercise, which I call a dream reentry and tracking. Dream reentry means you’re going back inside your own dream with a certain intention—a mystery to solve, a challenge to face, etc. Tracking in this context means you are journeying into someone else’s dream space with focused intention to get information on their behalf.
So I’m drumming. They’re traveling to the house from his dream, and they’re trying to get information, which they think could maybe help him with his job position. His job position is very important. He’s a top executive for one of the major TV networks. The drumming finishes, they come back, they share their report. It sounds as if they’ve been on a real estate tour together. They got to the house, they describe its layout, they go through it room by room. He’s a boy, she’s a girl. He spends more time on the deck in the rec room, and so on, and looking on the boats on the water. She spends more time in the kitchen and the bathroom, etc.
But they have definitely, as we listen to them, made a journey together, in the shaman’s way of dreaming: conscious dream travel. They made a journey together to a house neither of them has visited in reality, but which he had seen in his dream. They’ve gone through the house. The best thing is they know, at the end of this journey—and the wife is clearer as tracker than the dreamer—they know what the problem is. They know that a situation is boiling up which could cost him his job unless he makes moves in waking life.
Six months later—I like to keep in touch with people and know the follow up—the guy is called to an emergency meeting at his boss’s second home at the beach. At that meeting, a lot of important people are getting their pink slips. Two things are different for the dreamer because he did that dreamwork. The first thing is he doesn’t have to ask where the restroom is, because he’s already been to that house in his dream reentry. And secondly, he has made the moves, armed by the dream information, that have saved his job. So he’s in the unpleasant situation of being on the side of the table with the bosses who are handing out the pink slips. He doesn’t like that very much, but he prefers it to the situation he would have been in had he been one of those who was being sacked.
That’s a very practical example in which there’s a lot of teaching, when you think about it, as an example of how dreaming can help us keep body and soul together, how dreaming can get us through. He got information through his dream. It was unclear, it just left him worried and rather in a state of malaise, really. But by going back inside the dream resolutely with a technique that is coherent and quick and works, in a conscious dream, in the shaman’s way, with a tracker—in this case, his wife—he got the further information that enabled him to save his job.
And that’s an example of taking action from dreams. But the action on an everyday basis might be much simpler than that. It might be simply to write down your dream. Keep it in a journal and see what you want to do about it and how its meaning and context unfolds as you go along. It might be really as simple as that.
So many people in this culture do not keep journals, and the absolutely first thing you want to do if you want to have a more sustained conversation with yourself or your soul on a daily basis is to keep a journal, and dreams, whether they’re large or small, want to be part of that journal.
TS: Now, you mentioned that in your life, in addition to the messages that you get from your dreams, that you navigate your life by synchronicity. So help me understand a little bit more about how you do that, and how synchronicity, in your view, relates to the messages from dreams. What’s the connection there?
RM: Well, the relationship between dreaming and coincidence or synchronicity—Mr. Jung, who’s a classical scholar as well as a scientist, made up the word “synchronicity” because he was fed up trying to explain to people that coincidence is meaningful. I actually like the old word “coincidence” better, but synchronicity sounds more respectable, so I’m perfectly happy to use it as I’ve been doing already.
The relationship between dreaming and synchronicity is this: In dreams, we get out there. We travel beyond the body and brain. We get out there. We go into other orders of reality, we cross time, we go into places where a wiser source speaks to us, and we receive visitations. So in dreaming, we get out there.
Through synchronicity, the powers, the intelligences, the deeper universe come poking or prodding through the curtains of our consensual hallucinations to bring us awake. Coincidence is a way in which, to repeat, the powers of the deeper universe come and play with us. Coincidence feels personal. When it’s meaningful, it feels personal. You feel that someone has patted you on the back, some unseen hand, or some unseen hand has pushed you back or slammed the door in your face or pulled the rug from under you. That is one of things about synchronicity that people can agree on as an emotional thing. It feels personal.
My personal definition of synchronicity is: it’s when the universe gets personal. You know that these things that are happening for reasons that cannot be rationally or causally explained on the level of physics in ordinary perception, they’re happening for a reason.
Jung said that synchronicity is an acausal phenomenon. I actually disagree with that. I think there might be a process of causation, but it is a process working between the worlds. It’s a process by which the powers of other dimensions of reality operate in our 3D reality. We don’t see where it’s coming from, but it might be coming from something, some intelligence. It’s an old saying that synchronicity or coincidence is God or Goddess’s way of remaining anonymous. I rather like that description.
So I travel this world like a dreamer. I’m actually more of a symbolist about waking life than I am about dreams. I think we need to take dreams more literally and waking life much more symbolically. I like to live in a state of what the poet Baudelaire called, with a poet’s clarity, “poetic health,” which means recognizing echoes, resonances, rhymes in a day, rhymes in a week. A theme comes up again and again. It’s on your mind, it’s mirrored around you in the street, and then it’s repeated in certain ways.
For example—this, again, reflects my odd interest in history and mythology and iconography and all the rest—I’m in a park, which is a very clean park, I mean, there’s really no trash. And I’m talking on my cell phone to a friend about a moment in medieval history when the old symbol of the old God, the Antlered God, the Antlered One, is borrowed by the church and made [into] a symbol of the Christ. Then you start seeing churches like the famous Church of Saint-Eustache, or St. Eustace, in Paris. And there’s the stag with his antlers and in between is the Calvary cross.
And I’m talking about this moment when something central to the old religion of Europe was borrowed by the church and synchrotism took place. This is the kind of thing I talk about for fun all the time. I look down, [and] at my feet, in this very clean park, is a disk of cardboard [with] a stag, an antlered deer, with a cross between his horns, and I pick it up. It is impossible not to feel that something in the deeper universe said, right on, “Follow this theme.” I didn’t even understand at the time. It’s the sort of Jägermeister thing—this is the logo of the Jägermeister liquor. My college-kid daughter thought I was hopeless for not recognizing that it came from something that kids in college use to make what they call a Jäger Bomb. Well, that was mildly interesting and funny. What was very interesting to me was that sense of consummation from the universe around me.
So I do this, and anybody can do it too: If I have a question on my mind, I focus that theme or question as clearly as possible, usually by saying, “I would like guidance on this. I would like guidance on doing this podcast with Tami Simon.” I didn’t actually do that, Tami, but I might have done it under other circumstances.
And then I play this game: The first unusual or striking thing that enters my field of perception, the world around me, is going to be a symbolic response to my theme. The first thing that I see, the first thing that I notice will be a commentary on the theme or question that is on my mind. But even better than that game—a wonderful guidance and clarity comes from that game, sometimes from the vanity plate on the car in front of you. Sometimes from the behavior of that friendly black dog at the corner. Sometimes from the flight of a hawk, or from the sound of the wind in the trees.
But in addition to that game, of putting a question to the world, there’s a deeper game, the better game, the stronger game of letting the world put the theme or question to you. So even better for me than putting my question to the world is going out and attending to the first unusual, unexpected, striking thing that enters my field of perception and playing with the idea that whatever that may be, it is the message that the world has for me today, whether the message is coming from the powers of nature or from something more specific. And this, as I say, is the dreamer’s way of operating 24/7.
TS: Now, Robert, I have a question—it’s a little challenging—on this topic. I often find myself navigating by meaningful coincidence, by synchronicity, and a lot of times, it works out quite beautifully for me. But there are a lot of other times where I end up feeling kind of foolish, meaning something happens and I think, “OK, I have to hire this person or do this, because all of these signs pointed to it.” And it actually turns out not very positively in my favor, and I think, “God, you’ve taken this synchronicity thing to a level of magical thinking, that’s getting you into situations, Tami, that may not be so great. Maybe you should be a little more logical on these occasions.” What do you think about that?
RM: I think there’s a secret logic of events, and it takes practice, practice, practice to recognize it and work with it. You get really good at this through practice. And you understand that, your practice is deep in all the areas that interest you, and that’s why you’ve gotten so good at the things that you do.
Navigating by synchronicity and dreaming are also disciplines. They’re fun disciplines, but like yoga or like particle physics or like archeology, they’re disciplines with different levels of practice. So you play the games, you check yourself, you check the follow-up, and if it’s not working the way that you thought, you ask yourself again, “Well, why did I get that wrong? Why did I misread that, and what do I need to learn?” In my case, I am far more observant of the moments when I’ve failed to act on synchronicity than the ones where I followed synchronicity and things maybe didn’t work out all that well.
Let me give you an example affecting many, many people in our economy. Back in 2008, just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, I was on my way to lead a local dream group, and I was playing my game, the First Unusual Thing, and although I’m not very business-oriented, I’d turned on the NPR marketplace program. It was 6:30 Eastern time, and they said, “We’re going to do the numbers, we’re going to do the stock market numbers.”
And instead of doing the stock market numbers, inexplicably, they ran a skit about people mass producing zombies in the swamps of Louisiana to market a new product called Zombie Gone. And for 10 or 12 minutes, I’m listening to this rather unfunny, crazy skit about zombies being mass produced, and then the show reverts, and there’s no explanation as to why zombies took over NPR’s marketplace program, at least on my local station, for 10 or 12 minutes.
I arrive at my group, and I say, “Look, what is the message here? Does that mean that everybody involved with making stock market decisions—businesses in the United States, all of Wall Street—have been zombified? If so, should I call my broker and get out, tell him to sell all stocks and get out of pension funds and get everything right now?” Probably, if I were fanatical about my approach like that, that is what I would do. Well, you know what, Tami? Had I done that, I would have done much better with my pension funds than I did [laughs] after the stock market crash that followed.
So that’s a quite literal, very business, very pragmatic-oriented example of the cost of not following a signal. Of course, even I, crazy as I may be about these things, would probably not make a major decision based on one incident of that kind. I’d probably need several concerning incidents that might or might not have taken place. So it’s a matter of practice. Practice, practice, practice.
TS: So in those instances where synchronicity, I think, has led me astray, you’re saying I really need to study what happened, look back. The practice would be an examination, a reflection.
RM: Yes. Follow yourself. I’m thinking now about the evolution of great divinatory systems like the I Ching. Great readers of the I Ching across history—when you track its development through the Shang dynasty and all of that—were people who would not only do a reading; they would record very exactly what followed it. When you go back to the early records of the Shang diviners using tortoise shells, before they ran out of tortoise shells and started doing the I Ching a different way, they’re noting down what followed a particular reading. And if what followed a particular reading was not what the diviner had noticed in the patterns in the cracks in the tortoise shell, then the diviner would change his standard reading, or at least provide a series of alternative options seeking a better and clearer way of getting things right.
So you check yourself. Yes, you reflect on it. And as council and consolation for you or for any of us, when you’re thinking about those moments when you got the message wrong: Hey, we get the message wrong in many ways. Analytical minds get the message wrong in so many ways. The people responsible for our economy and our world and our war or peace get things wrong, having spent billions of dollars on the best analysis and the most gee-whiz technology. They still get things wrong.
So if we get things wrong occasionally by misreading a message in the world, that may be far less frequent than the way that we get things wrong by relying on the logical part of the brain or on other kinds of calculations. The world is trying to speak to us. In my native Australia, the Aborigines talk about the speaking land. Some of the deepest and strongest councilors in the way of synchronicity are natural phenomena, natural forces: the movements of birds and animals.
In the course of our human history, as a matter of fact, the second favorite way of getting messages, the second favorite way of divination across all of human life on the planet has been monitoring the flight and behavior of birds. Number one has been dreams. But for human cultures across history—and I’m a historian as well as everything else, and wrote a book called The Secret History of Dreaming—dreams have been the preferred way that people get knowledge of the future and what the larger powers in nature and in the universe want to tell us and want to do with us. And monitoring the flight and behavior of birds has been the second most important.
So I pay attention to birds. I don’t do it like a Roman auger, standing on a hill, dividing the sky into quadrants, noticing what’s going on in one quadrant, and counting everything. But if crows or ravens or hawks or cardinals or blue jays are active, I stop, I pause, I try to get a sense of what is going on here and what that means.
And in this way, as you go along, you can develop a set of personal omens, or if I want to be really provocative, I could call them personal superstitions, practical superstitions. I’m in favor of practical superstitions. I’m not in favor of being worried about black cats because that’s what the culture said, or this or that because somebody said it. I’m in favor of recognizing signs and omens that work for you.
So for me, for example, a red-tailed hawk in good shape, having its lunch or its dinner, or flying in my direction with the sunlight glinting off its silver-white belly feathers, that is always a good sign. Because I’ve been guided by the hawk in many important ways in my life. In fact, it was the hawk that brought me to the farm in the upper Hudson Valley of New York, where I started dreaming in an archaic form of Mohawk, and had the other experiences which eventually led me to turn my life inside out, go through a transformation, and try to find my way—with much struggle—to do what I now do. So follow the hawk. Follow the raven. Follow bird signs, whatever your birds happen to be.
TS: Now, Robert, in preparing for this conversation with you, I took a couple of minutes and I thought to myself, “What do I really want to ask Robert?” This may be the only time, you never know, when you’re talking to somebody, if you’re going to get another chance. And here’s the question I thought of that I really, really, in my heart, want to ask you, which is, I’m curious, in your experience—we’re living in this multidimensional world, what that’s like for you, what you see it as. Do you experience it as an infinite number of dimensions? A certain number of dimensions? Wrinkles in time? Parallel universes that you’re visiting when you talk about travelling? What is the multidimensional world for you?
RM: What a wonderful question! And if it were the only question you could ask, it would be the right one, Tami, although I hope we’ll get to talk much more often.
TS: I hope so, too!
RM: This is actually at the center of my life, the center of my concerns. It is what I’m thinking about all the time. It’s what the book I’m currently writing is about, so it’s absolutely the right question.
Yes, there possibly are infinite—from a human point of view—dimensions, parallel universes, all the rest. And I can contemplate that as a theory, as a concept. But I can’t really work with “infinite.” It’s not a number. I think I probably need something less than infinite to work with.
What I work with, pragmatically—as pragmatically as I can—is the probability that I and you and all of us, conscious or not, are living in the midst of the thriving life, the multidimensional life, of many parallel worlds that are relevant to us and become more relevant and more active and interweave more with our lives from time to time. I think, for example, that, as you and I are talking here, there are a Tami and a Robert who are not having this conversation, never will, and Goddess knows how many other versions on that.
So every choice we make, every action that we make spins off a parallel event track with different things happening. This is becoming the mainstream view of physics. So this is not some New Age fluff. You go and read what’s going on with physics, as you have done, and you’ll see that this is a popular idea, whether they call it Many Worlds Theory or something else.
How is this relevant? How do you get your head around it? How does it matter? How can you use it? Let’s just give a few more thoughts and examples before we go on. I have become convinced that we, in this multidimensional universe, in our multidimensional self, we are connected to many counterpart personalities living in other times, other probable realities, other dimensions. And according to the choices that we make and the dramas that we live, we sometimes come closer to them, and sometimes, in a sense, we step through a portal, we step through an opening between the worlds, we step through an interdimensional membrane, and our issues and our lives and our dramas and our gifts and our karma are joined.
So right now, for example, I’m thinking about the Mongolian warlord shaman-type who appeared in my dreams last night standing on a threshold. Behind him is a vast plain—a plain of battle, a plain of struggle. He operates like a shaman. He’s wearing a long, flared, heavy coat of skins and furs. His headdress is a helmet with furs. He’s got swords on his back. He’s got bronze shaman’s mirrors and metal charms all over him. And I’m looking at this man in my dream, standing in the threshold between his reality and mine, and I know that he’s living at least probably eight centuries ago, and yet it’s going on now. And I feel as I look at him, yes, I know you, and I remember dreams when I have found myself in a costume like that, in a scene like that. We know each other. There’s something that joins our lives. It’s not about reincarnation, it’s not that I was you or you are me. It’s that we are connected in a multidimensional drama.
So I spent part of today revisiting what I thought I had learned about Mongolian shamanism, about Genghis Khan, about other stuff. I’ve been looking at the poems I wrote in high school. I wrote a cycle of poems in high school about a warlord in ancient China. I’ve been looking at all of that because I had that moment, in the middle of the night, of looking at an opening between dimensions, between times, in which I see a figure who might be scary to some, but is actually thrilling to me. And I want to know more about our connection.
I’ve noticed that for me, when I make certain geographical moves, [when] I go to a certain place, entities, powers, personalities of that place become apparent to me. I’ve noticed that the land itself comes alive. I think that Jane Roberts’ version of this, both in the Seth books that she channeled and in her own trilogy of novels, the Oversoul Seven novels, is perhaps up to this point about the clearest and most coherent that I can recommend. I’m trying to write my own book about this, which will be narrative from my own life, as well as more theory or concept.
I think that the general depiction of us, each one of us, you, me, everybody living right now [is] connected to counterpart personalities—that’s my phrase, Seth called them “probable souls”—living in other times, other dimensions, other probable universes, all connected to us with gifts and challenges that sometimes become more relevant to us. Sometimes to the point where we have to stop and cope with things we are inheriting from them.
I think that that’s a good model, and the idea that this family of spiritual connection or counterpart souls is joined on a higher level by sort of hub personality, an “oversou,l, a higher self within a hierarchy of higher selves going up and up and up, that’s not a bad model. And then you can get your mind around the idea, as I say, that the choices that you make, the moves that you make, can attract or repel other parts of your larger self. Not to be confused with the reincarnational story, necessarily. That’s relevant; reincarnational stories are relevant. But the idea [is] that we are connected to these personalities with different dramas, different gifts, different karma, which sometimes become hugely relevant to us.
And [the idea is] that it’s all going on now. When we step outside the illusion that linear time is all the time that we have and enter a more spacious time, the time of a more spacious now, to recognize that maybe, within that spacious now, we can consciously interact with those personalities, learn from them. And it’s going on now. It’s not just a linear sequence. This becomes the portal to an immense adventure. Once you start operating this way, every day is charged with excitement and discovery.
So this is where I am. This is the way that I live it. I’m opening to learning more about this all the time. And it’s difficult to construct a satisfactory model for these things, but that’s what I’m working on now because I require models of understanding, too.
TS: Counterpart personalities. That’s a very intriguing phrase. How many might I have? How many counterpart personalities out there?
RM: Well, there was a point in my life, when a dream guided me, when I decided that I’d focus on 14 personalities in the past, the future. These 14, including my present self, were the ones to focus on, all gathered around a central personality. So that’s not the beginning or the end of the story. As I understand it, you know more about these traditions, I think, than I do. But a Bodhisattva, an enlightened master, is someone truly connected and able to remember all the lives without being overwhelmed by them.
I’m not a Bodhisattva. I’m not a candidate for becoming a Bodhisattva. I have a limited mind. I’m a personality operating in the early 21st century who knows he’s connected to that Druid in Scotland from 600, who knows he’s connected to that Anglo-Irishman in the Mohawk Valley in the 18th century, who knows he’s connected to a priestess scientist living 300 years into the future, who is trying to repair the damage done by human greed and ignorance and the wars of men in our world, to whom I feel a great responsibility. In fact, I got that shiver that you know is truth, as I said that to you.
Part of my sense of obligation in this life now is that I know that there’s a woman in the future who’s connected to me whose life, as a priestess scientist who uses dreaming at the center of her practice of spirituality, at the center of her practice of science, at the center of her efforts to practice Tikune and repair the world. My sense of obligation to her is one of the things that binds me and corrects me and keeps me on my course.
So as I operate, I feel the presence, the intelligences of these different personalities. And when I’m doing something right, and particularly when doing something right means taking greater creative risks, going the extra distance, doing something new, I feel the joy and the pleasure and the connection of some of them actively working with me.
I think that’s part of life, you know. Whether we stay with the model of the counterpart personalities, or whether we think about creative spirit and creative intelligences in other ways, because there are other ways that are equally important. I think that in life, as you take greater creative risk, as you dare to bring something new into the world—which is the essence of creativity—you draw into your life, into your energy field, into your mind, supportive powers and intelligences that are not otherwise available.
The Inuits say, the old Inuit saying is, “We must entertain the spirits.” So I think we learn more about this and have a more active engagement with these personalities and intelligences according to what we chose to do or not do. If we’re simply repeating ourselves, even if we think we’re terribly virtuous and spiritual people, if we just repeating things by rote—saying the old words, going through the old motions—the interesting spirits are not very interested in us because we’re rather boring.
TS: What I’m finding very motivating in what you’re describing here is, it’s one thing to say my actions will affect the next seven generations, and to think about things in terms of linear time and to know that everything I’m doing and whether or not I take a creative risk or not is going to have this impact on future generations. OK, that’s inspiring. But when I think of this multidimensional—my counterparts out there affecting me and me affecting them and their challenges and the worlds that they’re in, that is thrilling in a certain way when you described it that way.
RM: I think it is thrilling, Tami. This really turns me on, as I say. This is at the center of my consciousness, the center of my dreaming, the center of my way of being, and the center of what I most want to teach and explain to people now. It is exciting to know that it’s going on now, that these forces and connections are operating. It’s exciting to notice the trans-temporal dramas that are going on in our life. And again, not in a linear bound and bonded way. I’ve come to believe that there’s a great deal of good to be accomplished through past-life regression and other approaches like that.
But we’re talking about something far beyond that. This isn’t a case of being bound to the idea of linear karma and linear succession. That’s important to understand, too. That’s not irrelevant—although the most important karma to understand is what you incur in your present life and how to deal with that. I would sometimes say to people, “Hey, you want to really understand reincarnation? Look at your present life and notice how it might be possible for you to reincarnate or reinvent yourself within the present span of years.”
But that sense, that vivid sense, that practiced sense—it’s, again, a question of practice, —that you right now are at the center of all times, all universes. It doesn’t mean that you’re the master of any of this, but you’re at the center of them. And as a conscious creator, a conscious operator at the center of all times and all universes, you can draw to you and enter into all sorts of fields of action and understanding all over the place.
Just the idea of that, for example—you have that ancient Egyptian connection, let us say, or that connection in India in the time of Shankara. And you can go to that place and you can be with that person in their own time and learn from them and they can learn from you. I can be with that man in his raven cloak on the borders of Scotland, fighting a terrible war for his king. I can be with him and I can learn through his sight how to see with the raven and how to guide other people to travel and to track with the raven’s sight and its ability to go into dark places. And he can learn some things from me that he needs to about the future and about, hopefully, gentler times.
The idea that we are engaged in this trans-temporal drama, and that it gives us the possibility not to be bound to a certain kind of fate, but to change things. How about this? You can travel back in time to your own younger self and be the counselor, the mentor, the friend that younger self desperately needed. I was a very sick boy in Australia. I had double pneumonia 12 times between the ages of three and 11. I lost vital signs for the first time when I was three. A doctor said to my parents, “Oh, the boy died and he came back, didn’t he?” We didn’t talk about near-death experiences, we talked about that. I died again at the age of nine and seemed to live a whole life somewhere else.
Now, there’s a great gift in those experiences, a gift of familiarity with the multidimensional universe, a gift of being able to travel effortlessly beyond the body and the brain, which I’ve had all of this life. But there’s also loneliness, despair, the darkness of sick rooms. In that situation, I was buoyed up and sustained by a big man with white hair who would turn up in my room, in my imaginal sight, and would say to me things like, “Look here, kid, look here, Robert. I know it’s tough, but you will make it through. You will survive. I promise you. You’re lonely and you’re afraid, but you will live well, you’ll know the love of women, they’ll love you. It’s hard for you to talk about your dreams and visions, but the day will come when many people in the world will want to hear them.”
That big man with the white hair visiting little Robert in his sick room was my older self—younger than I am now. I took up the conscious practice of going back to him to be his counselor and mentor. So I remember from two earlier stages in my life, as a sick and lonely and frightened boy, and as an older man in his 40s or 50s going back to him to sustain him and cheer him up. I remember what it’s like to become a time traveler within your own life and do some good.
And as we do these things—and people will think of their own applications and the different ways that they could practice this, as well as think about it—then the idea of parallel universes, parallel event tracks comes into play. Because I agree with physics about this, and I agree with great explorers in consciousness long before me about this. We’re not bound to one event track. Anything we do can change the world. We might not even notice that, because if the world changes, as Ursula Le Guin brought out in her wonderful little novel The Lathe of Heaven, if everything changes in the world, probably nobody ever really remembers unless they’re a dreamer and notices in their dreams that sometimes things are different.
[Let’s] go back to dreaming for a moment, in relation to all of this. How do you get your head into the world of quantum mechanics, which is relevant to this? How do you get your head around the idea of maybe infinite probable or parallel universes? Well, go dreaming. One of the things you’ll notice in your dreams—even without becoming a lucid dreamer let alone a shamanic dream traveler—one of the things you’ll notice in your regular dreams, if you just write them down and look at them over time, is that you may notice that you are living a continuous life in another reality. Maybe many of them.
I know from my dreams that there are other Roberts. There’s one of them who’s still a bestselling thriller writer. There’s one of them who’s still living in England, doing completely different things from what I find important today. I notice these characters from my present life walking their own paths, their own ghost trails, and I notice that from time to time, we intersect and catch up with each other, and sometimes that casts shadows and sometimes it provides gifts and little aberrations.
There is so much power and possibility here, Tami, but here’s the simplest and most important thing: Practice these things, open to these things, try them out in your life and you’ll find that every day is charged with a fizz of possibility and excitement. Every day becomes part of walking a magical way.
TS: Well, the good news here, Robert, is I have time to ask you second most important question that I wanted to get to.
TS: So that’s great. [My question] is, you talk in the Dream Gate series about how we have a dream body as well as a physical body. And I wanted to understand more [about] your experience of the dream body. How it’s a body, what it feels like, that kind of thing.
RM: Well, that’s another excellent question. In the West, we lack a degreed anatomy for the subtle bodies, the vehicles of soul. The East gives us these anatomies. The ancient world gave them to us—the Greeks, the Neoplatonist Greeks’ knowledge was pretty good on this. There is a pedigree to efforts to explain and understand and describe the maybe many vehicles of soul.
But for working purposes, let’s focus on what you asked about: the dream body, sometimes called the astral body. We’re talking here about a subtle body. It is not entirely metaphysical. It carries some substance, some stuff. It is very subtle. Science will probably eventually be able to weigh it. There have been discussions about what the weight of the soul is, checking what a person weighs after they leave the body at death and before.
But we’re not talking about leaving the body at death. We’re talking about leaving the body in dreams and other out-of-body experiences. And let me just clarify that every night of your life, you’ll have an out-of-body experience in your dreams. People who get terribly worked up about techniques for out-of-body projection puzzle me because it’s such a natural thing. It goes on every night. Whether you believe it or not, you do it. You leave your body. You travel.
And you travel in the dream body or astral body. It is made of subtle stuff. I could interact with other people, they can perceive it, they can see you as a ghostly apparition. As a matter of fact, this isn’t confined to dreaming at all. You project a strong thought or emotion in relation to somebody else, and it may take on an energetic shape that others perceive. There are ghosts and apparitions of the living.
The thing to know for our health and survival is that when we go dreaming or when we do out-of-body projection, consciously or unconsciously, we’re often traveling in this subtle body, and what happens to it has impact on our physical bodies and sometimes on the physical bodies and circumstances of other people. For example, if you go traveling over water in your subtle body, over large bodies of water—flying across the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, for example—you may come back feeling thoroughly jetlagged. Because in some way, the water sucks some energy out of the subtle body, the dream body, [in] which you’re traveling.
And you’ll feel that [upon] coming back. I sometimes feel jetlagged after dreams like that. I have family connections all over the world [and] I visit them, and sometimes in the morning, or after the two hours of sleep, which is a typical sleep period for me, I think, “Gosh, I feel as if I’ve flown around the world and now I’m trying to adjust.” And guess what? There’s a reason for that. It’s because I or you, perhaps, were traveling. Not in a plane, exactly, but in the dream body or astral body, and it suffers certain effects.
t can also have certain pleasures and joys, and this is related to the body of kama in Indian perception, the body of desire, the body of joy, the body of experiences—all the pleasures and pains of the inner senses. So the subtle body, the dream body’s equipped with inner senses, and sometimes its experiences are as lively, for good or bad or more so, than those of the physical body.
As I talk to you, I’m remembering the joy of kissing a woman with raspberries in our mouths in a train station. It seemed to be in Paris at the start of World War II. But I’m remembering the taste of the raspberry juice dripping down the lips, down the chin. And there’s vivid joy and excitement [in] that moment. So our sense, our inner senses, our other senses are richly at play in the travels of the dream body or astral body. I think I talk about this a bit in those Dream Gate audio series.
TS: And then, Robert, this brings me to the final thing that I want to talk with you about, which is, knowing what we know, then, about this dream body that we can travel in, and with your understanding of the multidimensional universe that we’re in, what does this tell you about the experience of death? And what is your view of what death might be like for you, physical death, when it happens?
RM: Well, that’s an excellent question too, an absolutely excellent question. Dreaming, and any form of traveling beyond the body and brain, is absolutely the best preparation for death, because you’re already there. If you dream, or if you travel beyond the body in other techniques that work for you and are safe, you’re absolutely ready for what you’ll find after death because you’ve been there. You don’t have to go through the extremity of a near-death experience to know these things. I did that—or what is now called a near-death experience. I still think of it as dying and coming back.
You’ve been there. You know that the afterlife is an adjacent world, a world next door. You’ll know that it has a rich geography. You’ll know that there are many levels and places of transition, of learning, of choosing on the other side. And death need hold no terrors for you, except maybe the fear that you’ll check out before you’ve finished your business and completed your soul’s assignment in this world. That has always been my principle fear about death, that I might go while leaving my fundamental assignment here unfinished.
Apart from that, you’ll know that to go through death is like stepping through a doorway. You’ll know that going through death is actually less traumatic than being born. Far less traumatic than being born. It’s much more difficult, actually, for people to be born than to go through death.
Now, however, what you encounter on the other side is going to entirely depend on your courage and imagination, or lack thereof. I will say that again. What you experience after death with entirely depend on two things: your courage and your imagination. There’s probably a third, because I like things that go in threes, but I’m only going to talk about two for now, and I’ll think about the third one for another time.
Courage is central. I love the comedy Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks. I love it when we bring a sense of humor to these things, in which courage is the key requirement for getting to the good stuff after death. I think that is true. It’s true in life, it’s very true after death. Imagination—well, if you think that there’s nothing after death, that your body becomes soil as I once heard a rabbi say, or you think you’re supposed to sleep until the trumpet sounds of last judgment, as some fundamentalist Christians say, well, you’re probably in trouble. Because you’ll be trying to stay in the earth or trying to stay asleep for a long time. You’ll keep waking up and stirring and you won’t understand it.
If you belong to a collective belief system, you might find yourself, for a relatively long time in human terms, in the places that the collective belief system has created and constructed for your afterlife experiences. And they’re real places. They’re real enough, just as a church, a temple, a mosque is a real place and Aeolie is a real place in this world. You can be there for awhile. You’ll probably eventually decide that you’d like to have something more spontaneous and personal.
In relation to the afterlife, which is closely connected to what I call the imaginal realm, the realm of true imagination, the imagination is the builder. The imagination is the creator. You can have whatever afterlife you’re able to imagine if you have the imagination to build one and if you have the courage to follow your deepest wishes and desires. As in this world, your desires and your wishes, again, will guide you and drive you. There are people who think that a crack house is paradise in this world, and they will be horrified to think that they have to go to a place where they have to do some rehab or some education. So you’ll find yourself where you want to be, where you have the courage to be, and where you can imagine yourself being.
TS: Now, you said, Robert, that you’re here on an assignment, and you need to finish your assignment. That’s your biggest concern before physical death. What’s your assignment?
RM: As a matter of fact—that’s another excellent question, this is your fourth excellent question in a row, Tami, and each one could have been the desert island or last trump question.
I think I have, to some extent, fulfilled two large life assignments. I think the third one now is to go take my work and my interaction with people to a creative level beyond anything I’ve done before. I’ve published 22 books. The next one is my first collection of poems and stories, so the poet in me is now reasonably satisfied that finally I’m publishing my poems as well. I want to write and present and create and reach people in ways beyond what I’ve done before.
So I think my third great assignment is to be a creator and to bring new things into the world beyond anything I’ve done so far. They will build upon all of my life and all of the lives that I feel plugged into, and all of the connections that I feel that I have. But I will not be satisfied with myself or my work in this world unless I now bring through things that are beyond anything I’ve done in creative terms. So it’s a creative assignment.
TS: I’ve been speaking with Robert Moss. Robert, thank you so much! Fabulous conversation.
RM: What a pleasure to talk with you! And I trust this will not be the last time.
TS: I very much hope so.
RM: All right. May your best dreams come true, Tami.
TS: Thank you, Robert. I’ve been talking with Robert Moss. He has, with Sounds True, created a 12-session audio course called Dream Gates: A Journey into Active Dreaming, and it includes many dream inductions, guided practices, and ways for you to engage directly in the process of active dreaming.
SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.