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Posts Tagged ‘Dreams’

Autumn People

Last night I had a bad dream that these people, who were called “the emergent church” in my dream but who were really a lot like the autumn people in Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes–still one of my favorite books of all time–were chasing my beautiful and sexy wife and me. We kept trying to get away from them by losing them in big stores or on busy streets, and at one point we had to get back my wife’s phone, which had some sort of important photo on it that I think our pursuers did not want us to have. We stashed the phone in a garbage bag and then had to go back and dig around for it.

Eventually we got away and lived on top of a snowy mountain in a cabin, and were worried they would find us. And then this man came along, acting like a friendly visitor, but we knew he was one of them and that since he had found us, the others would be coming. So I killed him with my bone-handled CRKT Natural and we started running again, back into the city, back through the same streets and stores, never stopping, always just barely keeping away.

I woke up cold and pretty scared.

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I had a dream when I was in high school, I guess fourteen or fifteen years ago, that I still remember more clearly than almost any other dream from that long ago.

I was walking home in the Knoxville neighborhood I grew up in–if you’ve ever been in a slightly run-down lower-middle/working class neighborhood in the South, you know exactly what it looks like. I was with my best friend at the time, and maybe with a few other people (my brother?), and we were walking around to the back of the house. I was aware that there was warning of an imminent nuclear attack. There might have been an audible siren, or it might have just been the impression of an audible siren.

But we walked around to the backyard, and there, laying in the back yard, just outside the window to my father’s studio, was an atomic bomb.

The bomb was made of wood, some light kind of wood like balsa or just a rotten log, and it looked like it had been roughly carved. It was about 15-20 feet long and 3-4 feet wide, roughly missile-shaped. A panel was open on the body of the bomb, with sort of a generic instrument array inside. Maybe flashing lights.

I remember the dread in the pit of my stomach–the world-shatteriing terror of coming dface to face with an armed atomic weapon. We all dove to the ground, aware for some reason that the only way we would survive this thing was to not look at the bomb, under any circumstances It was not clear or even important in the dream whether not looking at the bomb would actually prevent it from detonating, or if we would just survive the explosion. It was only crucuially important that we did not look.

Of course, I looked. I couldn’t help it. I looked, I peeked, I watched.

The whole world had gone still, but what I saw was a dog. A black dog. In fact, I saw a talking black dog, in the middle of a conversation, standing next to or maybe even on top of the armed atomic bomb. And I could not hear the conversation, but I knew the dog was talking about me.

Although I could not see dog’s conversation partner, I was also deeply andf unquestionably aware that the dog was talking to God.

Like I said, I couldn’t make out the conversation, and I could not hear God’s voice talking back to the dog. The only thing I caught was the dog saying, referring to me, “this one has his eyes open. This one can see.” It was not angry. The sense of it was more like a discussion about what should be done about me, because I was looking at the bomb when I was not supposed to, and I was seeing things that I was not supposed to see.

It was the kind of dream that you wake up from and feel changed by it, like it was profound and meaningful, even if you are not entirely sure what the dream meant. And I had the dream a long time ago, but I remember it as clearly as if I had it last night.

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Vision quests, psychonautics, Jim Morrison, Dionysus, mysticism, the gods, snakes.  Dreams and dream interpretation.  Active imagination.  Meditation.

The same stuff that’s always on my mind.

Trying to figure out how to integrate my mystical leanings into regular religious practice of some kind, without neglecting either.  Trying to figure out how to break out of the closed-circuit of endlessly thinking (or worse, endlessly looking on the internet for the thing that isn’t there) and into the open limitless beyond of actually doing.

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I was standing on a playground near Rock Creek Park, nestled up against the woods. It was mid-day, and the sun was bright, casting yellow light on bright green leaves everywhere. I slowly turned to my left, and standing nearby in a copse of leafy trees was an imposing horned figure, his face in shadow. His horns or antlers arched high above his head, and he was draped in a blood-red robe of come kind. Seeing him, there was a half-second of hang time, of total silence, and then his presence pushed so powerfully on me that it shoved me out of my dream and into wakefulness. It was like a psychic hand-grenade went off when I looked at him.

Who was he? Pan? Cernunnos? Herne? Some other horned god? What does he want from me? Why did he show himself to me?

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Note: This is another post for International Pagan Values Month.

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

I have been thinking about the post I wrote yesterday on sources for pagan values, and I have realized (partly because of a conversation that I had about the post with my brother) that there is at least one big gaping hole in my presentation. In a nutshell, my thesis was that as pagans we should be looking to nature and the pagan past–mythology in particular–for our values and not just taking western liberal values and looking for a pagan justification for them. While I do think that we should be looking for authentic sources for our values, and I do think that just adopting western liberal values and inventing a pagan justification for them creates a morally meaningless religion, I presented the two options as a false dichotomy. My assumption was that if pagans have values that do not come from nature or mythology, they must simply be spouting out liberal pop culture values. While I think that is in fact what Brendan Myers does in The Other Side Of Virtue, it is not fair to accuse all pagans of doing the same. The problem that dawned on my shortly after writing my post is that I left out a major and significant source for the majority of pagans: the Age of Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Okay, so the song is more than a little over the top. I kid because I love. But in all seriousness, when we talk about modern paganism, we’re including a lot of people who self-identify as pagans that are heavily (if not primarily) influenced by the 20th-century New Age movement. Whether or not it was that way from the beginning, Wicca has pretty much adopted New Ageism whole-cloth, and even though it makes the Reconstructionists’ heads asplode, Wiccans are by far the most numerous of the self-identifying pagans. In any case, the New Age movement has its own set of values, a utopian vision of a world of peace, free love, spiritual connectedness, and enlightenment (and probably also vegetarianism): the Age of Aquarius. And because so much of neopaganism draws on New Age sources, these Aquarian values are held by so many neopagans that they go virtually unquestioned outside of Reconstructionist circles.

I’m not really talking about whether Aquarian Utopianism should be a source for pagans to derive their moral values from; I’m saying that it is in fact such a source. Not for all pagans, no, but it is prominent enough that it deserves mention and a seat at the table. And when we are talking about “pagan values,” their prominence among pagans and New Ageism’s influence on neopaganism generally is such that it is not unreasonable to say that Aquarian values are pagan values.

Aquarian values are not ancient, the way our pagan heritage and our mythology are (and they’re definitely not ur-primoridal the way nature it elf is), but that does not make them somehow invalid. As John Michael Greer is usually quick to point out, the age of a spiritual tradition has nothing to do with its valididty; a functional, productive religion is functional and productive whether it is a billion years old or was invented last week. They have not yet stood the test of time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t. And for us, the only thing that matters really is whether they work.

The trick is that we as pagans need to be at once mindful that the New Age Aquarian vision is a major source of our collective values, and simultaneously mindful that it is not our only source of values. It is not the be-all end-all; there should not be an automatic presumption of Aquarianism. The easy mistake that I think a lot of pagans make is simply to buy into Aquarian values whole cloth without really thinking about what they are doing. The lessons we get from nature, from mythology, and from our pagan past may completely contradict what Aquarian New Ageism teaches us, and although I do think that a reasonable neopagan could conclude that in such a situation, Aquarianism trumps its opponents, I don’t think that’s the kind of decision one can make responsibly without thinking it thorugh and realizing what one is doing.

If we do add Aquarian ideals to the mix of mythology, heritage, and nature, then the result is a pretty diverse set of sources from which we can derive our values. This is a situation that invites careful thought, deliberate scrutiny, and difficult weighing. It also means that different pagans are going to come up with different answers. Paganism is pretty diverse, so that won’t really change anything–hells, look around at the pagan values blog carnival I linked to at the top and you’ll see evrything under the sun represented–but if we’re all going to come under the same umbrella, we need to have some kind of common ground, especially in critical areas like moral reasoning. If we can at least acknowledge the sources for our moral values, then we are in a much better position to think critically about them ourselves and discuss them with each other and with non-pagans in a principled and productive way. And if despite our differing conclusions, we actually do share a common set of moral sources, then we have more common ground than we otherwise might think we do.

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

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I had a dream a couple of nights ago, a complicated, long dream that was very dependent on this series of adjacent locations in the dream-landscape. Among these locations was a set of purple and lavender office buildings, the nondescript two story office-suite kind you find in the suburbs that is invariably three-quarters full of doctors, insurance salesmen, and after-school tutors, and is one-quarter full of empty space. But unlike the ones you find in real life, this one was purple, and although I remember no sign, I understood that somehow these offices belonged to the god Dionysus, or at the very least to some organization or corporation that represented him.

I do not remember clearly what I did while I was at this office, but I remember sitting in a reception area and possibly filling out some paperwork. I might have flipped through a coffee-table book in the waiting area. I interacted with a moderately friendly receptionist: businesslike but not unpleasant.

Somehow in the middle of this fairly mundane corporate bullshit, the presence of the god was unmistakable. Either his presence permeated the completely contradictory surroundings, or I have a major lacuna in my sense of the narrative: it is possible that something extremely significant happened, some direct contact with the god, and I remember the approaching sense of divinity and power leading up to the event and the power receding afterwards, but the event itself is like a lost period of time, something like what UFO abductees often report.

In the dream I think I knew what was going on, but now in the waking world, the details of what role Dionysus was playing, what benefit I got out of our meeting, and exactly what I was doing there is all kind of obscure and abstract. Something and nothing at the same time, and I’m not entirely sure how it related to the other elements of the dream landscape (a thick wilderness, a military installation that reminded me of Sand Hill at Fort Benning where I did basic training and infantry school, a police academy, a series of rural roads, a witches’ sabbat, the offices of a nameless law firm, and a cyborg super-soldier created by the Department of Transportation to defend roads under construction and he had this sweet gun that shot blue pulses of massively destructive kinetic energy), but at the conclusion of my business in the purple office building of Dionysus, I was told very clearly (by a representative or the receptionist maybe) that the office would henceforth be forever closed to me. I was never to return.

I’m not sure what this means. Am I no longer to worship Dionysus? Was his role in m life only as a gateway god, to lead me to more and fuller experiences with his Hellenic co-deities, but not to stay with me for the long run? Was it a message that formal worship of Dionysus is for some reason not appropriate for me? The dream was completely suffused with the trappings of formality: government, offices, law, military, law enforcement. And then I walked out of the office into the night and witnessed the witches’ sabbat I mentioned earlier. Is the message that I am to leave Dionysus alone now, or is it somehow specifically connected to the formality of the setting? As I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I have been a little worried for awhile that I have neglected Dionysus in my zeal to worship Aphrodite and the other gods and goddesses, and also because I can’t really figure out a way to worship him or even directly interact with him that makes sense to me. His presence in my life has been powerful, but it has never felt right to transform it into anything resembling the regular, formal worship of the other gods?

In myth, Dionysus was worshipped separately in Bacchic rites, out in the wilderness away from the demos and the religious/cultural/political structures that Greek religion otherwise revolved around. Is this dream somehow significant to that distinction? I’m just not sure. Shit, maybe it was just a weird dream.

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Last night I had a dream about Jim Morrison. It was long, vivid, and disconnected, so this might not make a lot of sense. I also don’t remember it perfectly (sometimes I remember dreams better than others), but here goes.

I was going for a run at night, maybe in New York City, and my plan was to listen to L.A. Woman while I ran one way, and then to turn around and listen to it the other way, but someone stopped me, some friends of mine stopped me for some reason and it interrupted my run. I had a tattoo of Jim Morrison’s face on my leg (in my dream, that is; in real life I have a rad tattoo of Odin riding on Sleipnir on my leg), but I don’t remember when that really came into the picture.

I went with these friends over to an apartment where a bunch of other friends of mine were hanging out, including Jim Morrison. I was really nervous because in this dream he was theoretically my friend, but I completely hero-worshipped him, and I wanted him to like me, but I knew it was chancy.

In short, he let me down. He ignored me. He was busy hanging out with my other friends, having fun with them. He didn’t even wave or say hi, he was so wrapped up with having a great time that he did not even notice I was there. Later on, I kept trying to hide the tattoo of him, because I did not want people to know how I felt about him and thus how hurt I probably was because he ignored me.

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I promised myself that I would stop going around and around with religion and getting nowhere with it, but it looks like it was a promise in vain. I went to see Amon Amarth and Ensiferum in concert last week, and it set me thinking about Ásátru again, catching me at a time when I was feeling frustrated with Christianity. So I’ve been thinking about O∂in, and reading a bit in the Eddas, and I’ve been thinking about the Nine Noble Virtues.

O∂in is a fascinating and complex deity. There’s a penetrating, haunting quality to him that I can’t easily set aside, and if I were to pick out a patron deity from world mythology, he would unquestionably be the one. I’ve even considered getting a tattoo of O∂in riding Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse, on my calf. I feel like it will make me run faster…

I’ve been reading the Prose Edda, and I have to say that Norse mythology is all very compelling stuff for me. On top of that, many aspects of modern Ásátru are extremely appealing, in particular the focus on kindred and community, and the Nine Noble Virtues. I think the Virtues compose a realistic and admirable ethical system. They are qualities that the world is generally in desperate need of, but at the same time they seem actually attainable (as opposed to Jesus’s moral teachings, which can be seen as setting an unrealistic and therefore impossible standard of perfection).

Ásátru’s norms also would fit well with my increasingly conservative (for want of a better word, but I most certainly don’t mean Republican) mindset.  The focus on kinship, oaths, property, and family ties is as appealing to me as is the focus on generosity and hospitality.  Or perhaps their appeal can’t be looked at separately: the whole package of Ásátru values is what I find appealing.  The fact that I have extended my enlistment in the National Guard, and am finally enjoying being in the military again, also plays a role.

Unfortunately, my reasons to not be an Ásátruar have not really changed since the last time I seriously gave it some thought. I’m not necessarily sure what to do with all of this. I like the idea of Ásátru, but realistically, I can’t see myself identifying as such. Maybe when I’m feeling particularly viking-y, but not the rest of the time. So really it comes down to this: I have to figure out what to do with these strong feelings I have about O∂in and Norse mythology, since actually converting to Ásátru is just probably not the direction I am going to go. That is, barring some sort of mystical experience or prophetic dream sending me that way.

For the record, Amon Amarth is kind of dorky-cartoon-viking but I like them and they put on an excellent show. Especially when they came out and did Cry Of The Black Birds as an encore. Ensiferum was absolutely amazing though, and I plan on procuring everything they have recorded (especially the stuff from when Jari Mäenpää was still with them–it will tide me over until Wintersun‘s new CD comes out). I bought Dragonheads, a short EP-style CD from Ensiferum, and it is fantastic. I also bought an Amon Amarth t-shirt, which I love.

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After I had a dream about the English Standard Version, I went out and bought a nice slimline copy with an embossed celtic cross on the cover, and I’ve decided to start reading the Bible in earnest, starting tonight.  I’ve “decided to start reading the Bible” a couple of times in the last few years, but i have a weird feeling about this time, like I’m going to make it stick.  I kind of feel, I don’t know.  Hungry for it.

For what it’s worth, I’ve read the King James Version a couple of times (well, the Old Testament once, and the New Testament maybe three times, the Gospels at least one time more than that), but it was a long time ago as a Mormon missionary, and the experience was filtered pretty heavily through the lens of my Mormon belief.  Nevertheless, grappling seriously with scripture for the first time resulted in some of the early seeds that eventually led me away from Mormonism.

I want to read the Bible again, as a Christian this time.

My wife and I have challenged each other to read the New Testament by the end of the year, in any version (sort of a Christian counterpart to the LDS Book of Mormon challenge).  I also think I’d like to read through the Gospels in several different versions (ESV, Message, NRSV, NIV, and the KJV again).  Ultimately I’d like to read the Old Testament again, but probably in an easier translation (NIV, Message, Good News, something like that).  I have no desire to labor through the KJV Old Testament again; not without a much better foundation biblical knowledge.

What am I expecting to get out of my reading?  Well, like I said, I’m feeling a bit of hunger for the Word (that seems lame when I write it out like that, but it’s pretty much true).  I want to get a better handle on who Jesus really is.  I want to feel closer to God.  I want to strengthen my relationship with my wife.  And I want to grow spiritually.  I’m having trouble figuring out where and how to do the latter, but I’m planning on writing another post on that soon.  Suffice it to say for the moment, that as a relatively new Christian, I’m lacking quite a bit in the guidance department.

Anyway, I’m really going to try to stick to reading this time.  I’m not going to starve when the food’s sitting in front of me.  I’ll keep the blog updated on any developments.

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