May 28th, 2020

Your Dreams Aren’t What You Imagine

“According to Jorge Luis Borges the most astonishing things about dreams is not their psychic function, the biological mechanism that undergirds them, or even their nature. But the simple fact that they exist at all.” –J.F. Martel

Typical of dreams, I did not recognize the house I was in, nor the door, nor the man.

Three nights ago I dreamt that an African American entered through a door in a house that I occupied. There was no doorbell or knock. He simply walked in unannounced. Shocked — and again typical of a dream’s rhythm — I woke up.

What was recognizable about the dream was the feeling tenor of the unexpected appearance of a person entering a room uninvited. Layered through that feeling was the wonder that accompanies the beginning of a strange new relationship.

The dream had other components, none of which I recall — but it was the visitor, his presence and surprise entry, that stayed with me throughout the day. And the following day. And now, while writing this article.

Freudian dream analysis would have tethered this dream to some repressed happening in my past. And because I am caucasian, a Jungian dream interpretation might say that the dream figure was a component of my ‘shadow’ — an aspect of my unconscious converting into consciousness.

The psychologist James Hillman would say that as soon as I’d named and cataloged the contents of my dream (by analyzing or interpreting it) I would have destroyed not only the dream’s vitality — its impression — but also the denizen of the dream — my visitor. A figure from the underworld.

Too, Hillman would say that I’d lost an opportunity to better prepare for my death.


Hillman — a longtime scholar of both Freud and Jung‘s dream typographies — came to see, after decades of exploring his dreams and that of his patients, that a dream scenario, a dream figure (or dream animal) are happenings and entities that visit us from the underworld.

As Phil Ford and J.F. Martel write in their introduction to their Weird Studies podcast that takes on Hillman’s masterwork:

“In order for dreams to do their work on us, says Hillman, we must cease to regard them as hallucinations, mere metaphors, epiphenomena, or illusions, and instead see them as the imaginal other life we all must live. Every night, for Hillman, each of us descends into the underworld to encounter those forces that shape us and our surroundings. The way down is the way up.”

I’d read Hillman’s book The Dream and the Underworld years ago, but it wasn’t until the outbreak of COVID-19 that I began to understand, in a direct-knowing way, what exactly Hillman was positing.

The Buddhists have their concept of bardo, and Christians assert a purgatorial realm — waystations of sorts. But the mythological realm of the underworld is, to me, universal — not creed dependent — and this is what Hillman helps us understand in his book. He writes:

“The…transformative work in dreams constructs the House of Hades, one’s individual death. Each dream builds upon that house. Each dream is practice in entering the underworld, a preparation of the psyche for death.”

I mention COVID because the last three months have moved many of us closer, with unrelenting proximity, to the universal underworld — way more frequently than our usual six hours of nocturnal sleep provides.

The cessation of our maddeningly busy and self-important lives has allowed not only nature to reassert her might (I love all of those pictures of animals rewilding abandoned city streets) but also the underworld to shift its boundaries. Read more

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Filed Under: Dreams
February 23rd, 2020

Our Titanic Moment: The US Election of 2020

“The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a variety of morbid symptoms appears.”
–Antonio Gramsci

I had a dream about the 2020 Presidential election. It involved an iceberg, a ship, and a horoscope.

This article shows how I combined the divinatory art of horary astrology with my active imagination to gain insights and perhaps secrets regarding what is guaranteed to be the most crazy-making election in our lifetime.

But first some back story.

When I teach astrology I have my students learn the basics of horary astrology first.

Horary astrology (oy, I can’t stand that name) allows for a hands-on approach for learning the art. When every component of a horoscope corresponds to something literal in one’s life it’s much easier to grasp the applicability and practicality of astrology.

The thesis for horary astrology is this: You ask a question at a particular time and then draw up the horoscope for that exact moment to cull insights or answers by studying the chart.

Did you lose your keys yesterday? Where is Mercury in the horary chart? Should you hire a lawyer? What’s going on with Jupiter and where is the Moon in the chart? The specificity of horary astrology makes it both charming and effective.

My teacher Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson used to say that horary astrology worked because the old Biblical teaching, “Ask and you shall receive” was literal; more than just a platitude.

A question makes its way into our awareness when a corresponding answer accompanies the query. Questions and answers are a kind of polarity. As she noted, “The position of the planets at that moment will reveal the problem, its background, and also its final outcome or answer.”

I utilize horary astrology fairly often but sometimes, as I’ll detail here, I will break from tradition and study the horary horoscope as if it were a dream.

Here is the chart for the moment my question about the 2020 election first appeared: Read more

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Filed Under: Astrology and Dreams
March 03rd, 2014

Oscar’s Glamour and the New Slave State


The Oscars is never a one-day happening. 

There’s the day before, when all of the Xanax supply in Hollywood is emptied out to oblivion, sending Pfizer’s stock to the moon. And where the plebeians plan their evening and guest list around the event. Like the Pope coming to town, for the Catholics who like to tailgate.

And then there’s the day of — where, once again, the collective mindset has revealed to its bad self that — albeit unconsciously — Hollywood (well, Los Angeles really) is not just a city but an entire thought-form that has replaced the spiritual instinct for most Americans. “I’m headin’ West, gonna become a star!”

From the blue whales in the Ocean of Auteurs, to the krill that hanker each week for the kitsch of The Real Housewives of Orange County — no one escapes what occultist Alice Bailey deemed in her book (titled the same): Glamour — A World Problem.

Now, this of course is different on the East Coast, where it is DC that holds the lure. But DC’s a version of power and fame that skirts very close to a sort of primal/tribal evil — so it isn’t as sparkly and ‘fun’, but as a bloodsport we Americans do honor it, but not in the line of beauty, the way we do Los Angeles. As Clinton-Gore strategist Paul Begala once noted: “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.”

And then there is the day after the Oscars, which many of us have lived through today. It’s rare to hear someone announce and be proud of it, like in the old days, that they don’t own a television or “I never watch the Academy Awards.” Even when I do hear that, I sense lying and perhaps shame, in the same way I’m certain the parents of the Little Match Girl didn’t want that story leaked or linked to their family line. Read more

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Filed Under: Dreams and Ego
August 28th, 2013

As The Eagle Flies Crashes

So, say you have a dream. And it goes like this:

A large imbecilic Christian congregation releases a bald eagle into its enclosed amphitheater. Beleaguered eagle flies about in a circle as congregation chants “USA! USA!” Said eagle then crashes — “USA! USA!” — into a glass window and plummets to the ground.

Any unravelers wanna take this on?

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Filed Under: Dreams
October 11th, 2010

J.B. Priestley: The Tower and the Birds


“I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon the myriads of birds flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds.

But now, in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and the time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek and then, in a flash, bled and shriveled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless biological effort?

As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us at all, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy.

But now the gear was changed again, and time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But, along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket-burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of beings.

Birds, people or creatures not yet shaped and colored, all were of no account except so as this flame of life travelled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought of as tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never felt before such happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds.”

J.B. Priestley‘s dream as recounted in his book Man and Time

Photograph by Masahisa Fukase from The Solitude of Ravens published by Bedford Arts.

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Filed Under: Dreams