Very often dreams are ignored or quickly forgotten as they can be quite bizarre. They can sometimes be pleasant and fantastic, others shocking, fragmented, and irrelevant. But oftentimes they can even be prophetic or healing moments with dead relatives or friends we have lost. How are we to interpret our dreams or recognize if they hold an important piece of information for us, our soul or personal well-being? This week SuperConsciousness was able to speak to dream explorer and expert, Robert Moss, author of Dreaming the Soul Back Home, Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole. Robert Moss is the creator of Active Dreaming, an original synthesis of modern dreamwork and shamanism. He was born in Australia and survived three near-death experiences in childhood. Robert insists that: “Dreams require action. We might think we’ve figured out what a dream means but if we’re not taking action to bring its energy and insight into our world we’re not doing enough.”
“If the dream seems to be surreal or fantastic, I still ask is it remotely possible any of this could manifest in the future, because one of the prime functions of dreams in terms of our survival as human beings is they give us glimpses of the future. It is not just through pre-cognition but through giving us a rehearsal for the future, a sketch, a glimpse, of what lies ahead. If you recognize the future elements in your dreams you can learn to change the future for the better. You can learn to move towards a bright future and avoid a bad future.”
Do not miss this exciting exclusive interview with Robert Moss about the shamanic art of dreaming made simple.
SC: Can you tell us about your early experiences with the aborigines in Australia and how you got interested in this topic of dreaming and working with dreams?
Robert Moss: Very simply, I am a boy who died and came back. We did not have the phrase near-death experience when I was a kid growing up in the 1950s in Australia. When I lost vital signs in hospital, the doctors said he’s a kid who died and came back, and it happened three times.
It happened most memorably when I was 9 years old and I had an experience under emergency appendectomy of leaving my body and going to what seemed to be a world inside this world. A world of very pale, beautiful, and very tall people who raised me as one of their own. I lived among them a whole lifetime and came back and remembered. It was very hard to talk about this to anyone in conservative white Australian society in that period.
The first person who could validate and confirm my experience was an aboriginal boy and I wasn’t supposed to hang out with aborigines. That was not the way in those days but he said to me very matter of factly without any awe, without any New Age nonsense, he said, “Yep, we do that. We die, we go and do that. We get sick, we go and live with the spirits and we come back.”
So since my childhood I’ve known two fundamental things about dreaming and other worlds, about life and healing. One is that there are worlds beyond the physical and we can go there through the imagination and that we can find healing and guidance. I’ve known every indigenous traditions that still preserve a knowledge of how important this is and how to do it, such as the Australian aborigines and other indigenous peoples. It is a knowledge that we need to get back because all of our ancestors know about this, but our western culture has largely forgotten it and it’s time to bring it back.
SC: You mentioned the aborigine kid that you weren’t supposed to hang out with and that your great-aunt was a psychic medium, so you did have some kind of framework for relating to these experiences it seems.
RM: I had a very minimal framework, not an ongoing framework in terms of people in the immediate environment who were mentors and counselors and protectors for all of this. It’s in my bloodlines, in my family. I witnessed that my great-aunt was a psychic medium as well as an opera singer who was in my environment in the sense that I was growing up in a country where indigenous people have a profound tradition of dreaming and of going into the dreamtime, which is not the bargain basement of the personal subconscious.
The dreamtime is where you have access to one’s ancestors. It’s where you come awake to the deeper meaning of life, and the aborigines understand that. I wasn’t able to study the aborigines as a kid. I had some contact with them later on but I guess by osmosis growing up in that country something of what they knew has always lived with me.
I read the Bible and I studied every form of religion available to me, which was basically Christian, because they didn’t have Buddhist or Hindu temples where I was living or anything like that. I was hungry for access to the sacred. In addition to my own experiences, I was constantly looking for ways that other people in other cultures had approached the sacred and in my dreams and vision I entered different traditions.
I had a profound experience of Kali from the Hindu tradition when I was 14 years old. I seemed to have spent the whole night with a horrible hag with bleeding skulls around her neck, who held me captive but then finally gave me a great blessing. I learned later that I might have had an encounter with Kali. So you know I’m a fellow who from the earliest times was interested in the sacred, just in direct access to the sacred, was looking for models and ways people approach this but eventually had to find my own way.
I believe that and as I live today I work with all religious traditions. I work with people of every faith and I honor them and their traditions as long as they don’t try to tell me how to run my life.
SC: The title of your book is Dreaming the Soul Back Home, but surely not everybody agrees about what is the soul? How would you define the soul?
RM: In the English language people used to be pretty hesitant and shy about talking about souls as they were shy about talking about sex, but today people talk about soul all the time. We don’t necessarily agree on what we’re talking about. When I talk about soul in the title of the book and in my practice, I’m talking about two things. They’re not contradictory but they’re two ways that the word is being used. The first is I talk about soul as a vital energy and to some extent our largest self, but not necessarily the big higher self, the greater self but a fundamental energy and something beyond the physical which lives with us. I talk about soul also as something that can be lost and found. This is the old shamanic understanding, that in a human life because you felt pain, abuse, trauma, fall into bad ways, or give up on your big dreams because you have to face a terrible choice which is hard for you, you lose a part of your energy and maybe your identity, which shamans call soul. Part of it goes away because the world is too cruel, because it doesn’t want to be with you.
I think every human being I have met has gone through this process. You are ashamed or abused in childhood or left isolated and lonely and part of you leaves your body because it doesn’t want to be with you. I think on a gut level, on a visceral level most people understand this. We may be missing something because that beautiful five year old, or that teen self, who is shamed or isolated or abused, went away. My new book is very much about bringing into the body, into life more about ourselves, including parts of soul, the younger self, of vital energy and our connection with nature and natural Spirits that may have gone missing.
These words are slippery. It’s hard to put a boundary around a word like soul. The ancient Philosopher Heraclitus said, “You can never find the limits to the soul no matter how far you travel.” So these are slippery terms but, in practical ways, we can understand that what we are talking about is precisely talking about the facts. There are parts of our self, of our energy, our identity, that can go missing in our life because we fall into bad ways, or bad things happen to us and part of us leaves as a sort of survival mechanism. It doesn’t want to be here so it goes somewhere else. A good therapist or friend who tries to help you get yourself together may have trouble because part of you has gone so far away and it’s hard to bring yourself back.
Let me give you an example. Every time that we wish ourselves dead, and some of us have done that, some of us have wished ourselves dead because life seemed so tough or because someone we loved had died, every time you wished yourself dead from the shaman’s point of view you might exile part of yourself. You might send a part of yourself to the land of the dead, from where it is very hard to bring it back. That’s what Shaman’s do; they find those missing parts and they bring them back. In this book I say that if we could just learn to support each other in life we can help each other to become the shaman of our own soul, the healer of our own life, and get more of ourselves back in the body where it belongs. In that sense I think that this is a profoundly empowering book.
SC: In the concept of soul loss that you develop in the book, you talk about addictions and that there are actually symptoms that can be recognized which tell us soul loss is going on. Can you describe those for us?
RM: Addiction is one of the signs. If you got a hole in yourself, a gap in you, something is missing and you try to fill it somehow or other, maybe you try to fill it with addiction. Maybe the addiction is supported by things, by entities that don’t even belong with you. You suffer soul loss and you’re vulnerable to the intrusion of other energies, other personalities that don’t even belong with you, starting with dead members of your family or your environment who might want to hang on to you in some way.
Addictive behaviors are one of the symptoms, lack of vital energy, chronic fatigue, depression, or your immune system is blown. There can be many medical explanations for these things but they’re often a symptom of soul loss. You don’t feel so much, don’t feel pain or joy fully, that might be a symptom, or you have constant mood swings for no apparent reason. Dreams are very relevant to this and it is interesting because there are dreams which will help you recognize where you’ve lost soul and help you get it back. You may dream of your younger self, of a place where you used to live, and those dreams can become a gateway for reaching back through your life to bring back parts of you that are missing.
There are parts of our self, of our energy, our identity, that can go missing in our life because we fall into bad ways, or bad things happen to us and part of us leaves as a sort of survival mechanism. It doesn’t want to be here so it goes somewhere else.
Probably one of the premier indicators of soul loss is that you’ve lost your connection with dreams. You don’t remember your night dreams and you might even say, “I don’t dream,” because you’ve lost the part of yourself that is the dreamer, that is the child with imagination who is at home in the dream world.
So when people are completely devoid from their dreams, I say as my friends of the Iroquois Native American traditions say, “If you’ve lost your connection with your dreams, it is because you are soul lost, the part of you that is the dreamer has gone missing.” And you need help in that condition because your dreams may be your best everyday connection with the realm of Spirit and the realm of soul.
SC: That’s really interesting because many people often say, “I don’t dream anything or I don’t remember dreaming anything.”
RM: That’s right and sometimes it’s not. Under certain circumstances it’s not true because we know that the sleep research guys in the white coats and the sleep laboratories can tell that everybody dreams to a certain extent every night in multiple cycles of dreams. They read that through your brain waves and the behaviors of the eyeball behind the eyelids. So we can say for sure that everybody dreams. Of course only a relatively few people in our culture remember their dreams and even fewer are willing to talk about them.
There are dreams which will help you recognize where you’ve lost soul and help you get it back.
So there’s the absence of dreaming and then there’s the absence of dream recall. They’re not the same thing. When your connection with dreams is seriously interrupted, maybe you do dream less and certainly remember less. I would say that’s because you’re missing a part of yourself, a part of your child self in particular, but it is the dreamer who’s completely at home in those realms that he or she is not in your house or your body right now.
SC: In your book you present a way for soul recovery through dreams. Can you tell us how we can use dreams for soul recovery?
RM: I explain in the book very clearly and very simply how we all have access to a fantastic way of healing for ourselves and for others if we’re willing to talk to each other in the right way and support each other. In relation to dreams, there are a couple of things to be said. The first is that certain dreams provide an opening for healing through soul recovery. A dream might be showing you where a part of yourself has gone missing.
Let us say for example that you keep dreaming of the old place, or grandma’s place, you used to go to as a kid and maybe it was a safe place when things were rough in the family. A dream like that could be a clue to the fact that a part of you, five years old, seven years old, whatever, checked out of your body and your life at that stage in your life. It can be found if you can go back through the doorway of that dream and go into that state and look for it.
Probably one of the premier indicators of soul loss is that you’ve lost your connection with dreams.
One of the things I teach is that a dream, in addition to all the other things it might be, could be a place. Where you’ve been in a dream is a place, but because you’ve gone there you can go again. You know where your supermarket is, where your friend lives, you’ve been to that place. You can go there again and presumably find it.
And why would you want to learn to do that, this technique called “dream reentry”? Because maybe in that place, back in grandma’s place, or in the apartment you shared with your former lover, you can find a part of yourself that checked out of your life at that stage in your life, and you can meet up with it and bring it back.
SC: What about recurrent dreams, when we seem to be locked in the same dream for days?
RM: If it really is the same dream, and often it’s not, I think of it as a friend who’s trying to get a message to you. Your friend means you well, but you’re not paying attention. The friend keeps calling you up or banging on your door, sending you emails or texts, or maybe doing it more dramatically through a window. It gives you really scary dreams because you’re not listening. If it really is the same dream, often it’s the same theme. It’s not actually exactly the same dream; it’s a shift with a common element. You’re being flooded, you’re being pursued. There’s a twister, there’s a tsunami, there’s an earthquake, you’re naked in public, and these scenes are repeated, but the circumstances might be different.
I always want to look at the specifics of the dreams and if it really is the same dream. If it is like that, I think something is after you and it’s on your side. What is after you is on your side, not on your case. It is trying to tell you to pay attention or if you think you are paying attention then do something about it because dreams require action. We might think we’ve figured out what a dream means but if we’re not taking action to bring its energy and insight into our world we’re not doing enough. I prefer the name, of all of my approaches, “active dreaming.” One of the meanings for that phrase is we want to learn to take action to bring guidance and magic and energy from the dream world into the regular life.
SC: How can we interpret our dreams? A lot of people just don’t have a clue how to interpret their dreams.
RM: A lot of people are clueless. I’ve written nine books about this now! I may say that they can start by getting some of my books. But the first things that I do whether I’m considering my own dream or listening to somebody else’s are the very things I do after a dream, after recording the dream. You want to get in the habit of recording your dreams, write them down or record them with a voice recorder or something. Record your dream and the first question is always this, what are your feelings around this? Feelings, feelings, feelings. Your feelings are your first guidance of where to go with the dreams. Is it urgent or not, is it negative or positive, is it literal or symbolic. Your first feelings give you immediate guidance. Do not neglect your feelings. Secondly, I run what I call a reality check, which means I ask what do I recognize from this dream and the rest of my life, including the way I’m behaving in my dream.
If I’m running from something in my dream where do I tend to run from something in waking life, for example. I also ask could this dream be about the future. If the dream seems to be surreal or fantastic, I still ask is it remotely possible any of this could manifest in the future, because one of the prime functions of dreams in terms of our survival as human beings is they give us glimpses of the future. It is not just through pre-cognition, which means seeing something before it happens, but through giving us a rehearsal for the future, a sketch, a glimpse, of what lies ahead. If you recognize the future elements in your dreams you can learn to change the future for the better. You can learn to move towards a bright future and avoid a bad future. I’ve done this all my life and I teach people how to do it as one of the ancient approaches to dreams. Look for what the dream is saying about the future and take the necessary action.
Dreams require action. We might think we’ve figured out what a dream means but if we’re not taking action to bring its energy and insight into our world we’re not doing enough.
There are all sorts of other games to play with dreams. You can ask what part of me is every element in the dream and that’s fine up to a point. Dreams are transpersonal as well as personal so your grandmother in your dream might be your dead grandmother or just an aspect of you and that dragon might be a dragon in another reality, not just a dragon that lives in your belly when you’ve had too much chili last night.
I teach all sorts of ways of working with dreams but one of the best things you can learn to do with dreams is to develop a way of sharing a dream with someone you can trust and talking about the dream in a right way and giving each other feedback and move, guiding each other, towards action.
SC: In a way, are we then the best interpreters of our own dreams?
RM: Ultimately, we are the experts on our own dreams. In practice we may be clueless, but all of this requires practice. To get good at anything, to get good at dreaming, to get good at interpreting or analyzing or working with dreams requires practice. But you know what, this is our birthright. We all have access to this material. Even that hard head that says I don’t dream, he is dreaming at night too and when things get really tough he might wake up to the fact that he’s got resources available here that he might want to call upon.
So we’re talking about stuff that belongs to everybody. I mean this is universal human material. We might be clueless about how to work with it initially but if we can learn and with relatively little practice — and it’s a fun practice — we can learn to do really exciting things with it.
SC: You touched upon prophetic dreams. You said there are dreams about the future, preparing us for what’s about to happen, maybe to change it. Are prophetic dreams about us in the future or can they be completely impersonal about some world event that is foreign to us?
RM: Let me just play with one of the phrases you used. We as humans are living on the planet and in a sense nothing that is human or affects the planet is really foreign to us. We might think it is but we’re all connected. Even if only by the fact that we’re going to see the news or be impacted by something that happens on the other side of the world, we are connected. Therefore it is not strange to think that we would dream or pickup through intuition or just in our gut instincts things, big events that are not immediately connected to us but they’re connected to our kind on the planet.
Before any mass events, I mean notorious new, mass disasters where there is a 9\11 or Hurricane Katrina, or the Japanese tsunami, lots of people report dreams which later on seem to have predicted or foreshadowed what came. Sometimes the dreams turn out to have foreshadowed the news of the event rather than the event itself. I remember after 9\11 somebody I knew asked me to look again at a dream report that he’d sent me two weeks before 9\11 in which he described something he’d written two weeks before 9\11. He described something resembling part of an airplane engine or propeller lying in rubble in a city street and he said he saw that scene on the TV, on 9\11, on the day.
If the dream seems to be surreal or fantastic, I still ask is it remotely possible any of this could manifest in the future, because one of the prime functions of dreams in terms of our survival as human beings is they give us glimpses of the future.
So he had previewed rather exactly something that he saw on the TV set on the news on the day of 9\11, not the event itself but the TV coverage which of course traumatized lots of people. So you know because we’re connected I think we do dream mass events. It can be rather hard to figure out how to work with that. There have been some notorious dreamers in history who have been good at it. Joseph, when asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and acting as interpreter, not only told him that it foreshadowed a condition in Egypt that would cause famine for the country but told Pharaoh How to avoid the famine.
That’s a story from the Bible of a dreamer or a dream interpreter, someone who did a lot of dreaming himself helping someone to take action to avoid a mass event which led to the starvation of a country. That’s a pretty huge thing when you think about it. So there are precedents to these things in literature and history and scripture to the idea that, yes, there are prophetic dreams.
If you recognize the future elements in your dreams you can learn to change the future for the better.
What are prophetic dreams? A prophetic dream is a dream relating to a mass event. A mass event that affects a large number of humans. If it’s a smaller event affecting a small number of humans we would call it pre-cognition. A pre-cognitive or a pre-monitoring dream, I reserve the word prophetic for huge events, the Asian tsunami or hurricane Katrina or 9\11 or the famine in Egypt. We do dream into those things. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what to do with the information because we’re connected and our antennae are waiting. Our intuition is open in the night more than it is sometimes in the day and we do dream into the collective future of humanity and of the planet itself.
SC: Have you had any such dreams yourself, Robert?
RM: Oh, I’ve had such dreams, yes, but my attitude towards the future and towards destiny is very fluid and flexible. If I can see any kind of future I might be able to change it for the better. If I don’t know where I’m going or where I’m headed but if I see any possible future I’m going to play with the idea that if I don’t like it I can change it. I’ve had dreams, intuitions and visions three centuries into the future of what our world might be like, but I’m not going to sit down and say that’s how it has to be. I will say that is a possible future I have seen.
The good thing that I’ve seen about our future is that I’ve seen the reemergence of the society that values dreaming and intuition and the things that I teach and use them in healthcare, in making decisions at the level of government and making community decisions and expanding our understanding of what the sources and resources we humans have to draw upon. It’s time for that. We’ve been blindsided again and again, our leaders have been misguided and misguided us because they haven’t been listening to the voice of conscience that speaks in dreams.
We as humans are living on the planet and in a sense nothing that is human or affects the planet is really foreign to us. We might think it is but we’re all connected.
One of the things about dreams is that in them we hear the voice of conscience and when our leaders lead us astray and steal our money and our wellbeing, jobs and so on, I sometimes think it’s because they’re not listening to that voice of dreams. It’s just the voice of conscience and humanity. So I dream a future society who will be open to that voice of conscience who will be open to dream with the spirits of nature and connecting with the earth itself and we will dream beyond all our divisions and prejudices as one people.
SC: That’s a wonderful vision and we are all looking forward to it. Do you place that in your perception 300 years into the future and not earlier than that?
RM: I’ll be as open about this as I can, which is somewhat but not fully. I dreamed into the situation of a woman who lives maybe seven generations beyond me. My math isn’t good, that might be 300 years, it might only be 200 years. She is a priestess and a scientist and she is part of an order of women, particularly women in the future, who are trying to rebuild our world after various catastrophes. One of the things they’re using for our wellbeing and to connect us with nature again and connect us with each other is they’re using all the arts and sciences of dreaming which we almost lost, and I feel that she’s real.
I feel that she exists in a possible future and I feel an obligation to help her and her kind come into existence. So that’s the nature of my relationship with the future that I want to support, people in a possible future who are approaching our world with a humanity and a compassion and a willingness to use the arts of dreaming which have been woefully lacking in our society.
SC: In terms of the predictions for 2012 that have been flooding us …
RM: I don’t believe in all of that. I don’t believe the Mayans did either.
SC: … many interviews we’ve had here for the magazine around this topic, most everybody agrees on the same thing. People are agreeing that everyone wants change. People at large in the world want things to change and move more in the direction you describe in your dream of the future. My question then is what can we do now to bring that future closer to us now?
RM: I’m offering an everyday practice by tuning into dreams of the night, tuning into the signs and symbols around us, reawakening to the voices of nature, learning to talk to each other in a way that helps us to unfold our dreams of night and our dreams of light and by reaching the tools of healing that make souls the central concern, that look at where soul is, because if we don’t, if we’re missing our essential self and are missing a connection of our greater self, we can and do harm to ourselves and others.
SC: That’s a wonderful message, Robert, thank you so much. Is there anything else you would like to add for our audience?
RB: There’s always something else but let me just give you my dreamer’s wish for you and everybody. The wish is, “May your best dreams come true and may you remember them.”