Today, Saturday the 11th, is National Dream Day.
We’ve all heard the mid-19th century nursery rhyme/song “Row Row Row Your Boat,” but most people do not know that “Life is but a dream” derives from “Life is a Dream,” a 17th-century play by Spaniard Pedro Calderon, itself derived from Rene Descartes’ philosophy of dreaming, which poses the question, “How can I be sure I’m not always dreaming?”
Everyone dreams whether we remember what we’ve dreamt or not. It’s almost as if our brain has another life, one that it tries to keep private by quickly erasing any memory of our dreams, because unless you make a conscious effort to remember or write down your dreams upon awakening, they are gone forever.
Older cultures treasured this second existence.
For instance, Navajo Native Americans believed dreaming is how humans connect to the spirit world. The Iroquois allowed their daily lives to be guided by dreams. (“The Iroquois have only a single Divinity,” wrote Jesuit Missionary Jacques Fremin in 1669. “The Dream. To it they render their submission and follow all its orders with the utmost exactness.”) The Crow took to the hills to invite dreams of significance and grow from them.
Anonymous Aztec poem: “That to come to this earth to live is untrue. We come but to sleep, to dream.”
A New Guinea tribe called Mekeo believes dreaming “allows men to access a realm of knowledge and power usually hidden from them,” said anthropologist Michele Stephen.
Indigenous cultures worldwide, without any contact with one another, perceived dreams as a sacred zone in which spirits, especially ancestors, contact the living. Tribe members would routinely sit around first thing in the morning and share their dreams with one another to derive meanings from them, especially with regard to how it would affect their future.
When the late great Winston Churchill was 73, he dictated a short book that he called “The Dream” about a visitation he experienced.
Armed with paintbrush and canvas, the British bulldog was copying a damaged portrait of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (who passed in 1895 at the age of 46), when Dad surreally appeared to ask his son questions about all that had taken place in the world since his departure up to 1947.
Winston obliged by taking his father’s spirit on an epic stroll through six decades — including two world wars — all the while omitting his own heroic role through half-a-century, perhaps the ultimate exercise in egoless humility.
Many stories abound about creatives who write songs, pen novels, discover new mathematical formulas and literally dream up new scientific inventions. Paul McCartney has said that the music and lyrics for “Yesterday,” one of the greatest songs of all time, came to him in a dream.
Many books have been published on the phenomenon of dreams and lucid dreaming, which is the ability to know you are dreaming and control whatever happens next.
To my way of thinking, the master of oneiromancy Is Robert Moss, who has written a slew of provocative books with titles such as “Conscious Dreaming,” “Growing Big Dreams” and “The Secret History of Dreaming” — and facilitates workshops around the country and abroad on conscious dreaming techniques.
Now 76, Mr. Moss was a somewhat famous journalist and novelist (spy thrillers such as “The Spike” and “Moscow Rules”) before becoming bored with success and venturing off in search of his true calling.
My hour-long interview with Mr. Moss is among the most fascinating I have ever conducted. I began by asking about the pivotal moment that set him on course to spread the word about the value of dreams and dreaming.
It was the mid-1980s and he ventured 100 miles from Manhattan (where he resided) to Hudson Valley and came upon a broken-down farmhouse. Egged on by a red-tailed hawk that squawked at him and dropped a feather between his knees under an old white oak tree behind the house, Robert bought the property and moved in to reconnect with his creative spirit. Then the dreams began along with a transcendental message that, as he puts it, “dreaming is central to human purpose.”
I first became acquainted with Mr. Moss soon after trekking to a geographical location that came to me as a message from my late father in a dream. Thereafter, I serendipitously discovered Robert’s book “Active Dreaming” (at Paradise Found in Santa Barbara) — and it has stuck with me ever since (or unstuck me).
When I learned the author would appear at Copperfield’s bookstore in Sebastopol near Napa, I felt compelled to drive up and attend. On that occasion Mr. Moss spoke about his then-newest work, “Sidewalk Oracles,” which deals with attuning one’s self to synchronicity and messages from the universe.
I wanted to speak with this wizard one-on-one, but so did many others in attendance, so I demurred — and that night I DREAMT of speaking with him one-on-one and got the answer I was hoping to hear.
Now, almost seven years later, I have my chance to speak with him for the purpose of researching this column for publication on National Dream Day.
“When I moved into my new house I felt close to the land and taken by the night air,” he told me. “I immediately began having lucid dreams of people who lived in the area before me, particularly an Irishman who came to the American colonies in the 1700s and the Mohawk he came to know very well.
“I was called by an arendiwanen, a woman of power of that tradition, and she spoke to me in a musical-cadenced language I did not initially understand but was called to study. I was called by the ancestors of the land to become a dreamer. In the language of the Mohawk, the word for shaman is ratetshents, which means ‘one who dreams.’ ”
Continues Mr. Moss, “Those who don’t pay attention” — meaning contemporary Western civilization — “are missing out. It became my calling to spread the news.”
VISITS FROM BEYOND
Mr. Moss believes that people who have transcended our earthly plane — especially our ancestors — are able to visit those who are still alive in their dreams. “In dreams we receive visitations, and we can make visits to the Other Side. You can journey to the realm of the dead,” he says.
“Moreover,” he adds, “dreaming is the best preparation for dying.”
My question to him was straightforward: “How are our dearly departed able to visit us in our dreams?”
His response was equally direct and unequivocal. “The soul survives death and has vehicles beyond the physical body. We have body and mind AND the subtle body, as the Platonists would say. It is otherwise known as the astral body,” Mr. Moss explains, “and it is quite natural. Some who have died are still around, lost or confused, not sure if they’re dead. They stay close and may need guidance from us.
“On the other hand, those who have transcended and are clear about their condition may become wonderful guides or family counselors. Let’s say you want to be visited by someone dearly departed. You can create a family altar (as a kind of astral antenna) in the corner of your family room. Or write a letter to the parent or grandparent or ancestor you wish to hear from. Or pour a glass of his or her favorite drink and initiate a conversation.”
But by what mechanism are they able to break through into dreams?
“Think of the barrier as a muslin curtain,” Mr. Moss coaches. “Think of the barrier through invitation. There is no impenetrable barrier between the living and dead.”
Are all dreams about people who are no longer among us the real thing or in some cases not, as in, as the saying goes, “just a dream?” How would a dreamer, upon awakening, distinguish the difference?
“All dreams are meaningful,” maintains Mr. Moss. “But you might ask, ‘Have I been visited by a mask — i.e. someone deceptively pretending to be the messenger?’ But content is what matters.”
TALISMANS, AMULETS AND CRYSTALS
Might crystals or talismans help put one in gear to dream vividly and to recall what was dreamt?
Mr. Moss pre-empted my question (as he continued to do throughout the interview) when, earlier, I cheekily asked, “What did you dream last night?”
He jovially replied, “An amulet as a pass key. It was a multi-faced gem, eight-sided, translucent with different bands of color.”
That said, Mr. Moss does not use stones or crystals in his dream process. He tells me he has never needed them, though he suggested bloodstone and quartz crystal or citrine as a transporter.
“Consciousness is never confined to the body and brain except by our lack of courage or imagination,” he says.
Later, Mr. Moss checked with his gemologist friend, a teacher of active dreaming, and she responded to my question about the special “transformative” power of moldavite as a dream enhancer.
Moldavite is green tektite glass derived from a meteorite that crashed into what is now the Czech Republic 14.8 million years ago. It’s known as “the emerald that fell from heaven.”
Some believe that the emerald green chalice (or Holy Grail) used by Jesus during his Last Supper was carved from a chunk of Moldavite. Due to an unusually high frequency, this cosmic gem is utilized for its transformative powers by mystics, wiccans and energy healers.
Says Mr. Moss’s friend, “It relates to dreaming because it’s quite cosmic and magical.”
In fact, two years ago after placing a chip of moldavite (also from Paradise Found) inside my pillowcase (as prescribed), I experienced a long night of wild and vivid dreaming, a riveting and fast-moving montage of imagery leaving me exhausted upon awakening and with a hypnagogic suggestion from somewhere that I should open a restaurant called The Upanishad Café that serves only superfoods.
THE YOGA SCHOOL OF TINKER BELL
As for supplements to enhance dreaming and dream recall, Mr. Moss sees value in the power of suggestion by taking galantamine or vitamin B12 before bedtime, but otherwise recommends for those serious about dreaming to seek counsel from a reputable, trustworthy guide. Nor does he see value in drugs such as cannabis, magic mushrooms or ayahuasca for the purposes of dreaming.
Having learned to pay special attention to the liminal hypnagogic state between sleep and awake — what the French call “dorveille,” meaning sleep-wake — on the basis that this is an ideal launchpad for lucid dreaming and contact with inner and transpersonal guides, I asked Mr. Moss if a process exists for prolonging this state.
He evoked what he calls “The Yoga School of Tinker Bell” and quoted from the movie “Hook,” based on Peter Pan, in which the fairy (or pixie) Tinker Bell says, “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
“But,” adds Mr. Moss, “you don’t have to go to sleep to dream. A dream is an awakening, the voice of consciousness. Listen to ALL of your dreams. The world is a dream.
“Look at the world around you with all senses open. As for liminality, take a gentle approach to entering the day. No alarm clock. Come back gently, slowly. Spend time lying in bed. Find the right posture. Stay attentive, a relaxed attention or attentive relaxation. And ALWAYS write down your dreams as soon as you remember them.”
My next question: “If you follow your dreams, are you going down a rabbit hole or coming out of it?”
“Good question!” Robert laughed. “The oldest understanding of dreams — or dream theory — is that dreaming is traveling, a journey of the soul and soul remembering. It is not confined to body and mind. Where would your higher self like to go? Dreaming is a magical road for reconnecting to the soul.
“I think people began to realize dreaming as a form of journeying during COVID when they were locked down and could not physically travel anywhere. But they could travel in their dreams! Maybe the COVID experience will provide a rebirth to a dreaming society, a reconnection to older, highly spiritual cultures that put great faith in the value of dreams.”
We can only hope our consumer-and-attention-deficit oriented culture will rediscover and tune into the magical journeys we take every night of our lives.
On this very special day, sweet dreams!
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.