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THE SHAMAN, THE POET, AND THE DREAM-TIME



The Only-Man-Alive stood and looked out across the horizon. The arc of the earth stretched out, gray and featureless, against a backdrop of black sky, in which \ stood a single star.
    Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world beyond this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world.'
    - Black Elk Speaks

Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world of the spirits. But how did he get there? Did he take a class and chant and drum? Did he ingest some psychotropic substance to propel him there? Did he pray and fast and sit alone under a hot sun without water? Did he choose to become one with the needs of his people and make himself an intermediary? Or did he have no choice; did the dream just come to him.
    Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.
    - Marianne Moore

A story: a man had been severely and repeatedly beaten by his father. Seeking healing, he relived these beatings in therapy, released much of the pain and fear, finding a way to make a productive life for himself, though economic issues troubled him. But later a new level of torment came to him. He began to remember what he had done after the beatings, going to a nearby pond, catching frogs, and pulling their legs off, perhaps hoping to release his own pain. The man had forgiven his father, but how could the frogs forgive him?

Using a deep-breathing technique to enter a trance, in the way he had learned to release his own pain, he returned to the pond and asked the frogs what he could do for forgiveness. Become one of us, he seemed to hear them suggesting. He asked to merge with one of the frogs he had tortured, volunteering to take on its pain as his own. As had happened with his earlier work, familiar spasms began to shake his body. But he was surprised to find them passing quickly. Unlike humans, the frog he was with did not cling to its individual existence, but sensing its fate, quickly seemed to go 'somewhere else'.

But where was that somewhere else? he wondered in his dream. The answer came back to him: the frog had returned to Great Frog, the Totem or Group Soul of the Frogs. Aren't you angry at me for abusing one of you? the man asked. Humans are strange to us, Great Frog replied. You drain frog ponds and build parking lots and buildings with laboratories and schools, where you keep us and then cut us apart to find out what's inside, which you call 'science'. But we aren't there. We live in the frog pond, not laboratories. Yet you are different. You come and talk to us. You ask us who we are and what we feel. You apologize, and offer to share our experience. You are our friend. And we will give you a gift. As we have green skins, and that thing you humans value and call money also has green skins, we tell you that you will always have frog skins from this time forward.

And, thirty years later, this man has never had prosperity issues since.

As the Only-Man watched the Only Star, it grew bigger in the sky. Then from the star, a beam of light came down, and entered the man\'d5s forehead. When it entered him, it pulled him into the beam of light, and then it took him up into the star.

    All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream.
    - Edgar Allen Poe

A woman had been trying for a number of years to become pregnant. She had been tested and her husband had been tested; there was no physical reason \ they should not conceive. But even fertility treatments had proved useless. The woman wondered what was preventing her pregnancy. She entered a dreaming \ state and asked for help. 'Call in front of you what you are afraid of', a voice told her. She asked to see her fear, and an image of an elevator came in front of her. 'Enter the elevator', said the voice. She did, and the dream elevator went out of control, rocking back and forth between floors, with people screaming and falling. Shaking, the woman came out of her dream-state. Calming herself, she \ returned to the dream. The elevator came back, and she stepped inside, and again the elevator went out of contol. But this time the woman mastered her fear and dreamed she was breathing with the elevator, then entered the controls. The elevator accepted her love and went where she wanted it to.

A week later, in the high-rise building where she worked, she entered the elevator. Not the 'dream' elevator, but the 'real' elevator in the 'real' building. Which immediately went out of control, getting stuck and jerking back and forth between floors. While others in the elevator cried out or attempted uselessly to access the controls, she quickly seated herself on the floor, practiced her breathing, and entered the dream-time with the elevator, merging with the controls. The elevator shuddered briefly, then ceased its dance, passed on to the next floor, and let everyone out. People asked her how she had been able to be so calm. 'Oh, I do this all the time,' she told them.

Two weeks later she was pregnant.

Inside the star, the Only-Man felt six lines of light passing through him, and exiting the star. Straight up and straight down, to the upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left. \'d4Choose!\'d5 a voice commanded him. He chose: lower left. He \ was back on earth, in a forest.

    The way in which the world is imagined determines at any particular moment what men will do.
    - Walter Lippman
    Slowly but surely, mankind realizes the dreams of the wise.
    - Anatole France

How is it that the events in a dream, a trance, a vision or a meditation influence the world? That in fact they do so is something which humans have believed for ages. Here is a story from an old Roman manuscript:

'Now in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, there were effigies of all those rulers whose country had become subject to the Empire, and each of these effigies had about its neck a bell. Scarcely had Agrippa returned to Rome than the bell around the neck of the king of Persia began to ring, and thus the Senate knew that he was about to rise against Rome. Therefore, the Senate besought Agrippa to go to Persia and crush the rebellion. - In the solitude of his room Agrippa sat pondering until sleep overcame him. Then, in a dream, a strange woman appeared to him and said, \'d4Thou art sorely troubled, Agrippa\'d5, and he made reply, \'d2Yes, Lady.\'d5 Then the apparition said: \'d2Be of good courage, for I will grant thee victory over the Persians if on thy return thou wilt build for me a temple such as I desire.' thou, Lady?' Agrippa asked in great amaze, and she answered: 'I am Cybele, Mother of the Gods.' So Agrippa went to Persia and put down the insurrection, and when he returned to Rome, he raised the Parthenon to the Goddess.' - Mirabilus Urbis Romae

'It's one thing to have a vision, to see through the veil, to obtain the advice and favor of Avatars, Divinities, Elementals or Totems. But who or what is it which makes the bell ring on the neck of the effigy of the Persian King, or puts the frogskins in my friend's pocket, or adjusts the circuits of the physical elevator?

Perhaps it is only the Shamans and the Poets who understand these things:

    The imagination may be compared to Adam' dream; he awoke and found it truth.
    - Keats

    Without this play with fantasy, no creative work has ever yet come to birth.
    - Jung

Those who would choose to know the Dream-Time must also learn to know their nightmares:


The Only-Man ran, his lungs screaming for air, through a jungle or forest of trees he did not recognize. A great hunting cat pursued him. He was tiring, the cat closing. He would not escape. He felt the cat gather itself for its leap . . . for his death . . .

In the dreaming tradition to which I belong, the nightmare is the Night Mare. Night is the darkness. Mare is a female horse. The feminine is the union with all things, and horse is a totem of power. When we have a nightmare, some part of ourselves has been separated from us, held apart by our conscious belief system, and only in the dark, the night, the dream-time, when the rules or our waking consciousness no longer hold sway, is that barrier breached, and the missing aspect of self returns. Often it returns like a flood breaching the dykes, for we fear the loss of our accustomed sense of self, and resist its death.

    I had a dream which was not all a dream;
    The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars;
    Did wander darkling in the eternal space;
    Rayless and pathless, and the icy earth;
    Swung blind and blacking in the motionless air.
    - Byron, Darkness


But when we surrender to that Darkness, and seek the light in the center of it, agree to accept what has been separated as part of ourself, then the nightmare has become the Night Mare, and we mount our dreams which have now become our power. Here another dream from an ancient manuscript:

 

'In Hades thou wilt find on the left a spring, and near the spring a white cypress. Go not nigh. Thou wilt find another spring, an icy spring, that hath its source in the Lake of Mnemosyne (Memory), and before it thou wilt behold guards. Then shalt thou say to these guards: \'d4I am a son of the earth and the starry sky, but I come of the race of the gods, as ye know; my lips are parched, I am dying of thirst - oh, hasten, give me to drink of the icy water of the Lake of Memory.' And they will allow thee to drink from the sacred source, and when thou has drained each drop, thou wilt reign with the other heroes - - .' - From the Golden Oracle of Trophius in Boetoia

 

The cat was in the air behind him, and in that moment he knew the name of the cat. And as he knew it's name, he was filled with power, and leaped into the air also, and he and the cat, claws out and jaws open, came together, as if to tear each other apart. And yet they did not, but passed through each other, and dropped to the ground, and began to run, and the cat took the Only-Man into other times and other worlds. And the Only-Man and the Cat dreamed together, and the Man was not alone anymore.


Three Mexican men who knew each other all had the same dream. They saw a place in the hills near their home village, and felt they were being told to go there. They went, and found a place where the ground was somehow different, and began to dig, discovering what seemed the entrance to a cave, but one filled with debris. They found traces of old cloth and pottery. But as it was nearing the time of year when they crossed the border to go to the United States to find seasonal work, they left their digging. But decided to ask a reader or brujo if they should return to the dig, if they would find fortune there.


The reader went into a trance and told them this story. A tribe had loved well and peacefully in those hills, but had begun to hear disturbing stories of another tribe of ruthless men who were sweeping south and destroying everything in their path. The peaceful tribe gathered to decide what they would do. Many of the younger men were in favor of fighting, even if there was little hope. While others believed the tribe should move away and try to find another home out of the path of the destroyers. But a third and smaller group believed that if they were to leave their \ sacred ground, it would be as death to them anyway. They chose to enter the sacred cave in which their ancestors had worshipped the earth mother for many generations, and to seal themselves in, returning to the womb from which they had come.

The brujo looked at the men. You will not find gold if you dig, he said. But you may find your souls.

Two of the men were angry. They did not believe the reader and did not wish to pay him. But the third was thoughtful, and gave the reader what he could. I will return to the digging, he said.

    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    - Thoreau


Dreams come to all of us. But it is up to us to listen to them, and to enter them more deeply, to see where they may take us. We may forget and choose to continue with the day-time dream that is what we call \'d4real life.\'d5 Or take that deeper step. Like the bear who has tasted all year his fate as a bear, then enters the cave of hibernation to dream a deeper dream of all bears, and become the High Bear Nation.

Or like the man who had a dream in which he was a butterfly, then awoke, not knowing if he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

    'He lay down in a deep sleep. And he was disturbed, and in his dream El descended. In his vision El the Father of Man. And El drew near while asking Kret 'Who is Kret that he should weep? Does he desire the kingdom of the Bull, his Father? Or sovereignty like the Father of Man?'
    - Kret the Hero, Ugarit Texts


So our dreams question our choices, and offer us new ones.

The Man-Who-Was-No-Longer-Alone decided to return to his dream. He entered the dream and made time go backward, until he was once again in the star, hearing the Voice which told him to choose his path. Who are you? he \ asked of the Voice. Who is speaking to me? - 'Cross,' came back the answer. The Only Man was puzzled. Who is Cross? he thought to himself. And then he knew the answer. Cross was his Cross, his Crossing. Not without suffering, it was his passage into the world of the Dream-Time.

 

As printed in Monthly Aspectarian, Jan 07: http://www.lightworks.com/MonthlyAspectarian/2007/January/feature2.htm



Copyright 2007 - 2017 by John Sacelli. All Rights Reserved.