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explorations at the edge of self
By MICHELLE BELANGER
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2006 Michelle Belanger
All rights reserved.
THE STUFF OF DREAMS
Dreamwalking is the art of sending forth a part of the self in order to make contact with others through the medium of dreams. Anyone can learn how to dreamwalk, and, as we explore the concept throughout this book, you will find that most people probably already do. The trick, as with everything related to our internal, psychic worlds, is to bring this inborn talent into the realm of conscious control.
It's nearly impossible to find written material on dreamwalking. I maintain a library of several thousand books, and yet I do not own a single book on the subject. This is not for lack of trying; books on this topic simply do not exist. A survey of the Internet, moreover, is both flattering and frustrating: aside from references to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, just about every entry on dreamwalking led me back to my own work in the Codex. And yet, dreamwalking is not a technique that I invented. It existed before this book, and it existed before I ever described it in The Psychic Vampire Codex.
The lack of available information on dreamwalking exists in part because there is no consistent nomenclature for the technique. There are accounts of dreamwalking mixed in with experiments in astral projection, dream telepathy, and lucid dreaming, but they are rarely identified as such. Other experiences, such as deathbed visitations and even some instances of psychic attack, could be classified as dreamwalking. Once again, however, these are rarely placed in a category that is separate and distinct. Many occultists from the nineteenth century onward have written volumes on astral projection and out-of-body experience, but if they address the intersection of these techniques with dreamwalking at all, it is only in passing. Of everything that has come down to us from the occult explosion of the nineteenth century, only one writer tackled the idea of dreamwalking head-on. His name was Hugh Calloway. He is better remembered by his pen name of Oliver Fox.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Hugh Calloway was a science and engineering student when he first began his studies of dreaming and the occult. Writing under the pen name Oliver Fox, he published a number of articles in the Occult Review and other esoteric journals around the beginning of the twentieth century. One afternoon, in the early 1900s, Calloway proposed a curious experiment to two of his friends. He suggested that they attempt to arrange a meeting later that night—in their dreams. For their meeting place, he chose Southampton Commons, a park that was well-known to all three of them. The other two young men, recorded as Slade and Elkington, agreed to make the attempt. So began one of the few recorded intentional adventures in the history of dreamwalking.
That night, Calloway dreamed of meeting with Elkington at the park. The two stayed around and chatted for some time, waiting for their third companion. Slade, however, never made an appearance. As they lingered in the dream-aspect of Southampton Commons, both Calloway and Elkington commented on Slade's absence. After a while, they grew tired of waiting, and left.
Calloway felt the experiment had been a success, and recorded his experiences for future readers. He contacted Elkington, and learned that his friend not only remembered dreaming of the Commons, he also recalled greeting Calloway remembered the distinct absence of Slade and how they both had commented on this in the dream.
Slade, for his part, felt the experiment had been a failure. When Calloway contacted him, he asserted that he had not dreamed at all that night. As far as Elkington and Calloway were concerned, this explained his absence at the park. As tantalizing as this little dream rendezvous was, Calloway writes that he was never able to reproduce it.
The young man remembered as Oliver Fox remains one of the few occultists to experiment with dreamwalking alongside his betterknown work on astral projection. Most other occultists of his era preferred to explore the distant reaches of the astral plane, returning to tell vivid tales of their visits to the Akashic Records and the hallowed halls of the Ascended Masters. In many ways, it is easier to convince readers of extended forays into the astral realm than it is to convince them that one can travel to equally "real" places through dreams.
But this is the fundamental premise of dreamwalking: on some level, the dreamspace is real. It is not real in the sense that the physical world it real, but it is certainly as real as the astral planes described by writers like Madame Blavatsky and Dion Fortune. Like the astral planes, the dreamspace is a subjective reality. As much as it is a place we can go to, it is also a place that we shape with out hopes, desires, and fears. Not all dreams lead to this dreamspace, but the very act of dreaming opens up a gate that one can harness in order to enter this other realm of being. Because everyone dreams, even if they don't remember it, all of humanity can pass through the Gates of Dream and enter into the dreamspace. Skilled dreamwalkers do this intentionally, harnessing this twilight realm of shared imagery to communicate over long distances, reaching out to friends and family members in order to share an interaction that feels as real and immediate as anything carried out face-to-face in the waking world.
THE GOLDEN FLEECE
In the ancient world, it was believed that the realm of dreams connected the mortal world to the realm of the gods. Because of this, dreams were seen as the primary method by which the gods communicated with mortal men. In accordance with this belief, the kings of ancient Sumeria would ascend to the tops of their ziggurats and await a sacred dream that revealed the divine will. Some of the earliest known records of this kind of divine dreaming are clay cylinders that tell the story of King Gudea, ruler of Lagash, who sought the god Nin- Girsu in dreams. The Sumerian cylinders date to about 2200 B.C.E.
In Sumeria, contact with the gods through dreams was a privilege reserved for kings. By the time of the ancient Greeks, however, it was accepted that anyone could communicate with gods or daimons through the dreamspace. In a practice called "dream incubation," people would travel from all over to famous shrines and temples, seeking answers through dreams. These ancient dream-seekers would sleep in special dormitories, literally "sleeping houses," waiting for the gods to appear. In the most traditional method, the dreamer seeking counsel would lay out a sacred sheepskin, make the appropriate sacrifices, and then lay down on the sheepskin to go to sleep. A god, or a messenger of the gods, was then believed to appear to the dreamer in sleep. If the person was sick, the god would describe a cure for the illness. Others went to dream temples seeking advice on everything from career paths to marriage arrangements. As an interesting side note, the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece is directly related to this practice. The fleece that Jason was charged to recover was a sacred sheepskin believed to be especially potent for this type of divination.
Dream incubation was not limited only to temples or shrines. A number of tombs in the ancient world were also considered ideal places to incubate. These included the tombs of the heroes Podalirius and Calchas in Apulia and the tomb of Trojan War veteran Achilles in Asia Minor. In these places, it was the spirit of the dead hero that appeared in order to communicate with the sleeper.
Just as the realm of dreams was believed to be accessible from the realm of the gods, the ancient Greeks also believed that the spirits of the dead inhabited a realm that intersected with the dreamspace. This belief that the dead can travel through the realm of dreams is not limited purely to the ancient world. Tibetan Buddhists developed a system called Dream Yoga that utilizes the similarities between the dreamspace and the Bardo, or spirit realm, to help a practitioner learn how to navigate the afterlife. Here in the West, one of the most common psychic experiences recorded among modern men and women is the deathbed visitation—a dream in which a loved one who has just passed away shows up to say goodbye. All of these traditions suggest that the Gates of Death and the Gates of Dream can both lead to the same place.
DEAD BUT DREAMING
Deathbed visitations are normally lumped in with ghostly phenomenon or with cases of proof of survival after death. However, they abide by all the rules of dreamwalking, with the possible exception that the person initiating the contact is dead. There is a long-standing belief that, once we die, all the mysteries of the Universe are imparted to us. This belief is the foundation of medieval necromancy, where magicians would conjure the spirits of the dead to lead them to buried treasure or to teach them secret wisdom that such individuals could never have known in life. Anyone who has dealt with spirits knows that the human dead do not, as a general rule, immediately ascend upon disincarnation. Quite the contrary, most human spirits are, in death, exactly the way they were in life, with the singular exception that they are no longer tied to a body.
That one small detail—the release from the physical body—has inspired the belief that death reveals some secret store of amazing wisdom to people. Death certainly seems to open up a whole host of abilities and perceptions. Ghosts communicate through empathy and telepathy. When they travel, they do so purely by an act of will, going from one place to another with little more than a thought. They have an innate sense of energy and a potent ability to interact with it. With sufficient effort, they can sometimes move physical objects. Their mere presence can change the temperature in a room, and they can often achieve a variety of electromagnetic effects, causing lights to flicker, turning appliances on and off, and even influencing recording devices. And, of interest to ancient Greeks and everyone reading this book, ghosts can also use the dreamspace to appear and communicate with the living.
Ghosts can do all of these things because they are beings of spirit, and spirit is energy. The punch line to the joke is that we're all beings of energy. The apparent difference in powers is not because ghosts have something we don't. Rather, the difference arises because they're lacking something that we have—a physical body to distract them from their subtler, spiritual side.
The Greeks were close in seeing the dreamspace as a point of intersection between the living and the dead, but their perception was a little skewed. The dreamspace is a crossroads, but not because it is the only place where the dead can cross over into the world of the living. In that space, spirits are still just beings of energy, no more or less "real" to us than they are in any other space. However, it is one of the few spaces where the living are also on equal footing with the spirits, obliged to interact beyond the context of the physical world.
Every night, our physical bodies shut down, and we are free to roam the pathways of mind and spirit. Most dreamers never reach out beyond their own internal realms, content to watch the play of images that results as their minds process information and experiences from the previous day. But we are all connected, even on the level of dreams. Psychologist Carl Jung observed this and called it the "collective unconscious." His contemporary, Sigmund Freud, observed that the mind is more receptive to psychic phenomenon in dreams. This is not to say that each and every dream leads us outside of ourselves to the dreamspace, but the gate is there, should we choose to walk through it.
SONGS BEYOND THE GRAVE
My maternal grandfather was an arresting figure of six foot eight, with a huge barrel chest and long rangy limbs. He was a man of many talents: a boxing champion in World War II, he was also a gifted dancer and a musician. Although I did not meet him until I was in my twenties, when we met, music was one of the things we bonded over. He was delighted to learn that, like him, I sang and played piano. When he passed away in the summer of 2004, his keyboard was the most important thing that he left to me. I had sworn to him that I'd play it, but of course, life can get overwhelming at times. I do a lot of things, and although I love music, I don't always find the time that I should to play. So, eight months after grandfather's death, his keyboard was still languishing in a corner.
Music was a talent that grandfather and I shared. Magick was another. Although he didn't always know what to call it, he worked magick every day of his life. As in music, he had no formal training in magick. He was gifted with something like the magickal equivalent of perfect pitch. Once he decided he wanted to do something, that's all it took. There was no theory, no spells, and no fancy terms. He would simply work his "mind over matter" with the same ease and proficiency that he would reproduce a song on the piano after hearing it once. Knowing this, I should not have been surprised when he showed up in my dreams to have a talk about the neglected keyboard.
The dream started out as exactly that—just a dream. I remember that it was night, and I was walking through a park in the city. I had come from a meeting of some sort and I was going to meet with some other people as a kind of followup. Both my point of origin and my point of destination were hazy, although they held great significance within the context of the dream. I think it all had something to do with books at a university library, forbidden knowledge, and some shadowy group of people seeking to uncover "the truth." That part of the dream seems trite, and might have had a lot to do with having read Dan Brown's Angels and Demons not long before. These details are really irrelevant to the overall experience, beyond the fact that they show that it started out as an ordinary dream—symbolic, but hazy, a little disjointed, and filled with a profound sense of meaning that becomes trite or elusive once it's translated into the waking world.
The thing that I recall most clearly is walking along the concrete path in the park. The night sky overhead was covered with clouds, and there were no stars. It would have been very dark, but old-fashioned street lamps with frosted orbs lit the way. It had to have been late fall in the dream because I could see trees just beyond the reach of the light, their branches naked and black against the sky. Writing it out now, it sounds terribly ominous, but there was no sense of menace in the dream. I often walk alone at night, and I find such a scene relaxing.
Time seemed to jump, as it so often does in dreams, and I found myself still walking along the same path, only now there was a building off to one side in the trees. The building was huge, styled like an old cathedral, complete with stained glass windows. There was light pouring through the windows, and people were going in and out of two big double doors on the side of the building. I knew, with that strange logic we encounter in dreams, that this was where I was supposed to meet up with the people I was going to see. I pulled my long camel-colored coat around me (a coat that I last owned in second or third grade), and headed into the cathedral-like building.
The inside of the building was bustling with people. Most of the main floor seemed to be a restaurant. There were tables everywhere, with richly-dressed patrons dining and sipping wine. I believe there was a fireplace against one wall, and everything was lit with candles or gaslight. The interior of the place had that warm glow that only living flame can convey. From this perspective, I could see the huge rose window that dominated the front of the building. It was done in rich blues and deep purples which, since it was dark out, looked almost black against the night. As the plot of the dream went, there was someone here I was supposed to meet, apparently so we could discuss whatever mystery had been uncovered at the university over dinner. I had just located his table and he was introducing me to two of his associates when something else captured my attention. This was a detail I had not noticed before, but when I did, it was like every other aspect of the dream became two-dimensional and indistinct.
Excerpted from PSYCHIC DREAMWALKING by MICHELLE BELANGER. Copyright © 2006 Michelle Belanger. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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