Episode #12 Dreams of Divinity:
Rabbi Jill Hammer on mysticism & the meaning of life
Rabbi Jill Hammer is an author, midrashist, mystic, poet, essayist and Hebrew Priestess. Director of spiritual education at the academy of Jewish Religion in New York and co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.
She is committed to an earth based and a wildly mythic view of the world in which nature, ritual and story connect us to the body of the cosmos and to ourselves – she has been called ‘a Jewish Bard’.
In this episode, we explore some of her extraordinary life, and how her Jewish roots have led her to explore the gendered nature of Divinity, the Kabbalah, and how to interpret dreams in a way that is at once thoroughly modern and absolutely ancient.
You can read our full conversation below the player.
The question that we always ask people at the start is –
What is most alive for you in this moment?
What’s most alive for me in this moment, is that I’m getting some beautiful opportunities to connect people to their source to the world, to the all. And that’s really a great joy for me.
I’m really excited to be in community with people who are excited about being in connection in some of the ways that our ancestors knew that we often have lost.
As a rabbi doing ancestral work you have a direct lineage back for two thousand years or more – something that we in the West we often don’t have.
Could tell us a little bit about how you became a Rabbi in the first place? What drew you into where you are today?
Absolutely. I grew up in the Hudson Valley in New York State. My parents were not particularly religious Jews, but they were interested in gardening. And so I spent a lot of time out in the natural world. And as I got older and began to connect to the Jewish community and learn with teachers, I went to college, I took a lot of courses in Jewish studies. I really fell into this deep connection to Jewish text, which is a way that lots of Jews engage with the divine, with their people is through reading sacred sources and discovering what they mean and arguing about what they mean. So both of those really continued for me in a kind of parallel track. I was really interested in this process of interpretation and adding new voices to the ancestral tradition. And at the same time, I would go outside and I would feel a very powerful connection to the Earth. There’s a whole series of photographs of me praying on mountains. I love to go on the hike and get to the top of the mountain. And when we get to the top, I would take out my prayer book and I would pray there. So, that was a really important access point for me. That wasn’t necessarily what I associate with my tradition, but was really central place that I felt alive and I felt in connection to the cosmos.
And the other thing that was happening to me at that time was I was reading lots of feminist poetry and and writing. So there was a big piece for me around exploring how some voices had been marginalised in this whole ancestral conversation. And at a certain point, I was headed to school in social psychology and I did some work in that area. And I wasn’t very happy in that work, I was feeling a little bit too in the head for me and not enough in the spirit and in my heart. And one night I went to sleep and I had a dream.
And in my dream, I was in a bar and there was a guest of honour arriving at this cocktail party that was taking place in this bar, and the guest of honour was God. God was a massive, glowing pregnant woman. And I had this amazing encounter with this glowing pregnant woman who gave me a beautiful wrought iron lantern, and when I woke up I could not remember what I was supposed to do with his lantern. And I didn’t know what to do, and so I called a Rabbinical school and got an application. And that was how I got through a Rabbinical school.
I did not tell them about my dream because the Rabbinical school that I chose is well-known for its very intellectual, rational approach to Judaism. And I told them about my dream. They probably would not have admitted me. But I do now tell people about I dream a lot. I encourage people to look at their dreams as a source of information about their lives. But at that time, it was a wasn’t exactly a secret. But I knew who not to tell.
So, you’d gone to Rabbinical school with a dream – one that was known for its intellectual basis. How did you get on there? Because already I’m feeling that you’re someone quite radical and it doesn’t sound like you went to a radical place. Why did you pick somewhere so conventional?
I picked that particular school because it is known for its very high level text study. And what I really wanted was a very deep access to my ancestral traditions so that I could do with it what I wanted and needed to do with it. So I was interested in receiving as much information and as many skills as I could get and I knew pretty early on that I was going to do something unusual with them. I knew I was not going to be a conventional Rabbi, that I really wanted to open people up to their pre rational faculties and their connection with all life.
I knew I wanted to do that. I knew I wanted to include the voices of women and Jewish shamanic practitioners and magic workers. And I was excited about that. But I needed access to the text, I needed the language, I needed the history in order to be able to do that at a high level. So that was why I picked that particular place. And it was a little awkward for me there sometimes I had lots of arguments with my professors. But I also really gained a very deep understanding, I hope, of my tradition and I’m very, very grateful to that institution, even though some people there would probably never want to talk to me again.But there are other people who are really glad I was there and still reach out.
In your dream, God was a giant, glowing pregnant woman. I’m guessing that in your school, if they give the God a gender, it’s probably not that one? Was that something you were able to explore – the concept of deity as gendered or as multi gendered or as fluidly gendered in your training, or is that something that you’ve come back to afterwards?
This has been one of the great explorations and delights of my life and my career. There is a significant amount of gender diversity in the way that Jews have looked at data over time. But most people don’t know about it.
In the biblical sources, God is almost exclusively male. But you can see places where that’s not the case, where there didn’t used to be the case. And in fact, when we look at archaeology, we can see that the diversity of ways that Israelites talked about God was greater than we now think about. And later on, the Jewish mystical tradition is very comfortable speaking in terms of God, he and dad, she. And talking about the presence of the divine is a feminine presence and the transcendence of the divine often as a gender neutral or masculine presence. And then talking about the interactions between those different faces of the divine and often they’ll use terms like love relationships, you know, they’ll say, that the holy one is married to the divine presence. That’s language that the mystical tradition feels very comfortable with, you know, in the way that lots of mythic traditions speak about the sacred marriage or that the divine presence is like a mother to the world.
They use language like that. But it’s not in the prayer book. It’s not in the standard Jewish education, but it is there. And I was really lucky to be born in a generation when Jewish women and others were finding this language and saying, is this language we could maybe use? Is this an experience of the city that we could maybe have to? And so that’s part of the work that I do, is to teach about the history of the image of God as female, in the Jewish tradition, and how we might want to work with that image today. And it’s just very exciting, because when you repress an image of the divine, you are really repressing part of your experience or pressing a piece of your soul. And when you say, no, I’m not going to look at God that way because that’s not allowed. You know, sometimes there is a really important piece of that face of God that you needed that is then hidden from you and so un-repressing that divine face is like un-repressing a piece of ourselves.
Do you have a sense of why that repression occurred in the first place? Obviously it happened in Christianity and across the Caucasian cultures. I don’t know if it arose from Rome or it arose spontaneously in different places or whether it’s just the evolution of humanity for reasons that we completely don’t understand that required that the feminine be suppressed. But I wonder if, because of your deep insights into the ancient writings, whether you have some sense of why this happened?
There’s a lot of speculation about why this happened, and course they don’t tell us. So we don’t really know. But, one of the ways that people sometimes talk about this, is that as power became consolidated in centralised institutions that were mostly run by men, a divinity that had been relatively diverse became much less diverse.
So, this is kind of the challenge of monotheism. In one way, monotheism was very empowering for people because they can have relationship with, an be in dialogue with this deity instead of watching the divine drama unfold.
But it was also disempowering for certain people because as the Deity became more singular and more masculine, really, it was a reflection of monarchy and it was a reflection of empire – we have one king and one God who looks like a king.
So that actually shut out human beings. We can see that there was a kind of erasure of priest’s history at that time, and not only, as you say, in Israelite and Jewish traditions, but really all over the ancient Near East. You begin to see the erasure of women in Greece, in Rome, it’s very prevalent across culture.
And then there is a kind of an erasure of these faces of feminine divinity, except in relatively safe forms that kind of erupt because people still need them. Like the Virgin Mary, for example, was a face of the divine feminine that Christianity kept. And you see that in Judaism also, when they talk about the divine presence, you know, who went into exile with us and loved us and was with us and there is a kind of a desire for the loving mother.
But that face is always subordinated to the masculine king figure in these traditions. And it really is a reflection of what’s happening in the human world as power is centralised as the male genders takes power in in various societies. But they really miss it. They really miss the diversity. And so you see it re erupting, all these mystical traditions. That God becomes feminine in the in the minds and in the imaginations of many mystics. And the other thing that’s important to tease out here, is that this kind of co-occurs with the repression of the Earth. Which isn’t to say that the feminine is identical with the Earth, which I don’t think, I think all beings are connected equally to the Earth. But there is a kind of co-occurrence, that the divine feminine and the sacred earth get repressed at the same time. Because they get dominated at the same time.
And so as the feminine is being liberated and un-repressed now in the West, in this time period, you also see this very urgent desire to reclaim the Earth as a sacred place and as a sacred entity, which is also really powerful and moving for me and also really necessary at this time. Because when you see the earth as a sacred being that you are in relationship with, then you don’t know kind of abuse her.
My concept of deity is distinct from my concept of the All-That-Is.
So, for me, there is a sense of of the Divine, of the heart-mind of the universe, of something that is without time, without boundary, and that is made of raw, wild compassion, but in which I can become very lost. Whereas the gods feel more like entities in and of themselves and I can build relationship with them and through them to the All-That-Is in a way that I suppose makes it more accessible and easier for me to have a sense of relating. I still want to go home to the All That Is in my stillness.
But if I want a piece of advice, I find it easier to go to a god, and I’m using that as a neutral gender fluid term – gender doesn’t matter.
And it has always seemed to me that one of the things that happened at the point when the Abrahamic God arose, was that it morphs from being a god to being the All-That-Is. Whereas in platonic times, if you read Plato or any of the old philosophers, they knew that the gods were distinct from that.
But also, I wonder, do you, when you are connecting, see a distinction between the kind of the deity of history and the All-That-Is … that which is boundless and has no feelings about what people wear or who they sleep with or all of the things that can get clustered onto a traditional God. Does that question make sense to you?
It absolutely makes sense to me. I’m very excited to be having this conversation and I want to answer it in two ways.
The first thing I want to say is that the Kabbalah, which is the Jewish mystical tradition, is very aware of the question that you’re raising. And the way that it answers the question is like this:
For the Kabbalah, God is the All That Is. That is their definition of God. God is the All That Is. However, mortal beings cannot relate to the All That Is. And so what happens is the divine, who is the All That Is, puts forward a series of faces. Or a series of what are called emanations are kind of protrusions that are more relatable aspects of deity. And humans use these relatable extracts of deity to be able to take in the All That Ts and be in relationship to it.So just to give an example, the Kabbalah, which means the receiving, that’s the name of the Jewish mystical tradition, the Kabbalah talks about what’s called the ayin, which means the nothingness, which literally means that All That Is in its un-relatable form. Like it’s so big you can’t relate to it. And this ayin begins to put forward, almost like waves, or like the bubbles of being that are more distinct and more separate from All That Is. And they have gender, they have attributes and a series of these waves occur and the final one is called “Shekhinah”, which means presence. And that wave of All That Is is synonymous with the physical universe. That is, it is divinity in physical form. And that face of the divine is where I connect. You know, we often speak of her as she, “Shekhinah” is female.
And she is kind of entwined in the physical universe while being connected to the All That Is that is more of an abstract transcendence. And the Kabbalah understands that those two entities are sometimes out of sync and that our job is to maintain and try to strengthen the connection, between the everything, and the particular.
Oh, gosh. So you actually have in the Kabbalah, you have a reason for being, that humanity has a job. And that’s the job.
Yes, exactly. And everything we do in this tradition, either contributes to that connection, or takes away from that connection. So, everything we do is very, very important.
So my second answer is related to the elements, because one of the languages that the Kabbalah uses for these kind of concrete faces of the divine is it uses the language of elements. So the divine presence is connected to the Earth. And and there are other aspects that are connected to water and sky. And for me personally, that’s been a really exciting exploration that when I need to ground, when I need to connect spiritually, and I can’t jump into the cosmos, you know, immediately, that doesn’t you know, I can try, but it doesn’t always work. But I can connect to a concrete representation of the presence on Earth. So I can pick up a stone, and I can say there is the presence in this stone and I can be in the river and the presence is in my river and so that’s where I suspect that you and my experiences are similar.
Yes, because that is so shamanic. And you said earlier on that you had worked with shamanic Jewish teachers and that’s a whole thread I would really like to follow. But at the moment, so you have a framework within which to hold a connection to the Earth that has the sacred utterly woven through it. And I wonder to what extent, so two things.
First of all, it strikes me that this the Kabbalistic view where you have the All That Is and the ripples of emanations and the ultimate emanation is the physical world strikes me so much as the quantum physics that we read. And I get very wary of New-Age people quoting quantum physics that they don’t really understand. And it comes out quite quickly as pseudo-science, but I’m reading quite a lot of quantum physics written by people who are not New Age and this sounds like such an emanation and I wonder, are there people within the Kabbalistic tradition who are making those links?
I love that you’re bringing this up. A couple of years ago, I took a week -long course and I was taught by a Kabbalist and a physicist. It was amazing. And while being as careful as you were being right now about not kind of shading into pseudoscience, they were able to show these very beautiful parallels between what Kabbalistic text has to say about reality and what quantum physicists have to say about reality, including that reality precedes out of nothing, you know, that nothing is very pregnant with the real guests.
So, would they be in terms of the philosophy of consciousness, they would be pan-psychists. Would that fit with the Kabbalistic tradition?
I think so. I can’t speak for the whole tradition, but I think because they have the idea that all layers of being are alive. So people are alive and plants are alive and stones are alive in the way that stones are alive, you know, and they’re all part of this unfolding divine presence. So, I think that label makes sense.
This is really exciting, and so when you’re talking to shamanic Jewish practitioners, there seems to be so much crossover. What I don’t have in my practice is a written tradition relating to the Middle East because I didn’t grow up in the Middle East and we don’t have a written tradition that leads us back to who we were two thousand years ago. So I don’t have the kind of cultural connections to a particular way of looking at the divine. But this sounds like an extraordinarily shamanic practice, and I’m guessing that you have found that that there are Jewish shamanic practitioners suggesting that this is the case?
Yes. There are really two kinds of Jewish shamanic practitioners. And they overlap in all kinds of ways. But one kind is people who have gone very deeply into the Jewish tradition and said where can I find Jewish technologies for being in touch with all being? And so they read the sources, you know, where they study with teachers and then they are speaking in a contemporary language about how to do that.
And then there are other practitioners who have really gone to other traditions. Who studied in Ecuador or India and, you know, absorbed those traditions. And then sometimes end up reconnecting to their ancestral tradition. Once there, this portal is alive for them.
So those are two kinds of individuals that I know about, and when I’m using the word shamanic, I know that we’re both aware that this is a borrowed term, and each culture has its own words for that. But just to give a little historical context, I was told by a historian that in the 18th century, in little Jewish villages, in Russia, you would hire a Rabbi who would be there to tell you how to practice a d give good Jewish law on various topics. And then you would hire what was called a “Baal Shem”, which means a master of the name. Who would do the magic. Who would do the channeling. Who would tell you, you know, what problems you had in your past lives and how to fix them. You know, like that kind of thing.
I read recently that until Henry the Eighth destroyed Catholicism in Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury employed a geomancer. And I thought one day, if time allowed, I would like to find out the story of the last geomancer and write it because, my goodness, and then we lost all of that when Protestantism just kind of crushed everything.
And we lost all of that, too. You know, the Holocaust wiped out lots and lots of old tradition. Right. The text made it right. The books made it. But everything that wasn’t in the books, a lot of things were destroyed. And just beginning to piece back together what was lost and then there was a big exodus from North Africa in the last three generations, that was also a big loss of culture. And particularly when you have these big cataclysms or migrations, it particularly affects women because in the Jewish tradition, women’s stuff doesn’t get written down.
Yes and across the world, that has been in every Aboriginal First Peoples tradition. The anthropologists were men and they did not talk to the women or the women didn’t talk to them. So much has been lost.
And even in the transition to America, a lot of stuff got lost. And so now a lot of American Jews are like, why is our tradition boring? Like where did all the good stuff? And so there is this real a reclamation of all of this powerful stuff.
Right. Because it’s in villages in Russia. And you have to go back and find it. Or North Africa or wherever.
For my own curiosity, Accidental Gods is about the sense that we are on the brink of conscious evolution and that it is possible. And I wonder if there is anything it sounds like there’s so much of a movement within what you’re doing to reframe things, to look at things, to see how we might go forward. Is that anywhere alive in the works that you’re doing at the moment as a concept?
What I want to say about this, is that there is a Jewish view of redemption. What we would call the Messianic era or ‘Maschiach’. That’s the kind of mythical end-time. When things will be different. When we will have transcended death and we will have transcended evil, you know, and sort of this mythical time.
And I don’t know about all that, but, there is this idea that as we become more identified, not just with our own personal egos, but with the presence as a whole, that more things become possible. That there is more healing and there’s more what is called “Tikkun”, which means repair, there’s more repair of the things that are broken in the world. And, there is a way that I went away from that tradition because I felt like I didn’t want to allow people to project themselves into a coming world that would be perfect and not deal with the world that is.
And part of what has been so inspiring to me about encountering your work is a sort of re-approach of, well, what could this mean? You know, how could we become different? Because as you often speak about, you know, this is a time of such radical importance. We do not matter so much. And it does feel like there’s some unique portal that we are being invited into at this point in in our history and our evolution. And I’m really excited about connecting with other practitioners who want to be part of that.
Yeah, I have visions of a conference where we just get everyone together and get everybody talking to everybody else. I think it would be so exciting because I’m thinking about what you were saying about the Kabbalistic work – this sense of giving humanity a reason to exist.
Because that’s often, I was listening to, Yuval Noah Harari and and various others of the really deep thinkers of now, who are saying that before we can go forward, we have to know why we are here.
And that became part of my quest – working towards understanding why are we here…
So conscious evolution could be it, but it sounds like in the Kabbalah tradition, you’re already there. You have the understanding of why we are here and where we could go. So it feels like quite a small step to go from that to then this idea of the end times.
I’ve been reading Neale Donald Walsch, who has written something called “Conversations with God”, and it’s very 20th century American in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s all wrong. And one of the things is his sense of the awakening of humanity is that we understand that death is not an ending, and we understand that we are all one. And this has been said since Buddhist times, it’s not even 2000 years, it’s more like 5000 years, probably forever that, we do know this. The ancient Celts, one of the things that Caesar wrote was that they view death as putting down one shirt and putting on another. It wasn’t the big deal that we make it. And once death isn’t the big deal that we make it, then that sense of having to keep hold of stuff becomes less. The whole of the structures around which our economy and our culture arise begin to melt away. And I think that sounds very like your Messianic end-times. If we could achieve that, it would be very interesting.
So I wanted to say something about one of the important pieces of the work that I do, it is called the Kohenent Hebrew Priestess Institute, which is a training program that I co-founded with Taya Shere, who is my collaborator in this, and we’ve been training women and female identified folk for a number of years now, I guess 13 or 14 years now.
In a priestess model of Jewish sacred service that is based in a number of these sources that we’ve been talking about together, dreaming is a really important piece of that.
One thing that’s really common is the sense that the ancestors are very present for us. We don’t think of them as gone. You know, we think of them as allies in the spiritual work that we do. And it does really make life different to think about it that way, because there isn’t this sort of massive denial around death. If death is terrifying, then everything that is sacred has to not change. It has to never die.
When you have a cyclical view of life and death, then deity also goes through changes and rhythms and we go through them and the universe goes through them. That’s part of how things are and it’s a much more realistic view with which to face the world that we’re now living in.
Could you tell us more about whether awareness of the climate and ecological emergency is changing the way that people practice and the way that they approach the divine?
Absolutely. There is a real sense of the urgency of the work right now, that we need to transform the ways that we think about the world, that we pray, that we do activism, that we relate to one another. This is all of upmost importance. So I really see the way that the priestesses that I am training are so dedicated to their work and to their practice because they see how important it is and the change that they can be making.
But also, there is this sense that, when we talk about the ancient ways of entering the sacred in the Jewish and earlier the Israelite traditions, we talk a lot about portal. We talk a lot about the ways that people who work with the sacred are there to help people enter the connection, sort of the gateway between divine and human. And there is this sense that this is this time – a portal space for human beings, where we either figure this out and reconnect to our origin and our source and our life force in a massive way or we’re not going to make it.
So that needs spirit workers. Like just to be there with everybody because people need witness and they need support and they need a sense of meaning in order to face these times. We can do that in some ways better than traditional practitioners who are all about kind of passing on these traditions as if nothing’s going to change. We know that there are things that need to change right now.
Yes. And are they being heard? Because obviously you’re training people who work together and share ideas from an extraordinary fertile pot, (I suppose I’m thinking of a cauldron) and then they go out into the world. Are they being heard out in the world?
Yes. This has been remarkable for me. Because when I co-founded this institute, the deal that I made with myself, in my own consciousness, was if this is only fifteen women in the woods, that’s fine. That will be enough. We will support each other and that will be great. And what I’ve seen is that each of these audiences goes out into the world and does amazing stuff. Some of them are bringing a ritual called the climate ribbon all over the world where people do a ritual around what they want to save about our planet. Some of them are doing important interfaith work. A bunch of them were at Standing Rock. You know, some of them are in England, creating a processing community in in London. They are really, really making an impact. And I wouldn’t say that we’re mainstream. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. But we are definitely on the map of the Jewish world in a way that I did not think we would ever be. And that’s very special for me.
[00:38:10.92] Manda: Yes and for the world’s so amazing. I would love to hear more about the climate ribbon. That sounds extraordinary. I am aware they we’re moving out of time. I really want to talk about your book because I’ve had the privilege to read some of it and it’s a dreaming book. You’ve brought dreaming into the 21st century. You’ve gathered dreams and you’ve helped people to enhance their lives through dreaming. Do you want to tell us about it?
[00:38:38.94] Jill: I do. So I’m in the process of writing a few books now, and one of them is on mysticism. But the other one, as you mentioned, is on dreams. And for me and my personal priestess practice, dreams are the way that I continue to connect to a divine. There are a number of ways, but one of them is dreaming. I really believe that when we’re asleep, the all can speak to us in ways that it can’t necessarily speak to us when we’re awake. Because when we’re dreaming there are images that don’t make sense to us. That expand our view of what is. Right. That we can see something in a dream that we couldn’t really see in the waking world or some of us can can vision in the waking world. For most of us, you know, we’re walking around, you’re looking at mundane reality, but there’s always this spiritual connection operating. And in our dreams, we can actually see that, the connection is visible. I’ll just give one example of a recent dream that I had where I’m taking care of this turtle. And like this, turtle’s shown up in my house and I’m caring for this turtle. And then I take the turtle outside and the turtle goes into the stream, near my house, and begins to flow down the stream and goes over these little waterfalls. And I’m running after it. And, you know, wanting to sort of take care of it and make sure it’s OK. And then I see that I’m just not going to be able to catch the turtle. And it just goes over the falls and over the falls, and then it’s gone. And it’s like seeing the life force. Right, you know, in a physical way that I wouldn’t necessarily see in in waking life.
I really want to talk about your book because I’ve had the privilege to read some of it and it’s a dreaming book. You’ve brought dreaming into the 21st century. You’ve gathered dreams and you’ve helped people to enhance their lives through dreaming. Do you want to tell us about it?
So I’m in the process of writing a few books now, and one of them is on mysticism. But the other one, as you mentioned, is on dreams. And for me and my personal priestess practice, dreams are the way that I continue to connect to a divine.
There are a number of ways, but one of them is dreaming. I really believe that when we’re asleep, the all can speak to us in ways that it can’t necessarily speak to us when we’re awake. Because when we’re dreaming there are images that don’t make sense to us. That expand our view of what is. We can see something in a dream that we couldn’t really see in the waking world or some of us can can vision in the waking world.
For most of us, you know, we’re walking around, you’re looking at mundane reality, but there’s always this spiritual connection operating. And in our dreams, we can actually see that, the connection is visible.
I’ll just give one example of a recent dream that I had where I’m taking care of this turtle that showed up in my house. I take the turtle outside and the turtle goes into the stream, near my house, and begins to flow down the stream and goes over these little waterfalls. And I’m running after it. And, you know, wanting to sort of take care of it and make sure it’s OK. And then I see that I’m just not going to be able to catch the turtle. And it just goes over the falls and over the falls, and then it’s gone. And it’s like seeing the life force in a physical way that I wouldn’t necessarily see in in waking life.
And you live on Turtle Island?
Yes, I do. In fact, the turtle is kind of a kind of a totem for the Kohenet. I know that that’s not the right word. But, you know, the turtle shows up as an ally for the Kohenet community a lot.
So when you’re teaching, do you teach your students specific dreaming practices or simply to watch the dreams that arise?
The Kohenet community teachers dream practice as one of the core practices of our community. And the way that we practice streaming is, first of all, we have what’s called a “dream brooder“, which means a study partner, a dream partner that we shared our dreams with. When we invite people to find somebody to share dreams with.
And also, we have a collective dreaming practice, which is very similar to the dreaming practice of Robert Moss right. Where essentially we’re gathering in community and we are hearing a dream that someone feels is important to share and then each person shares their dream of that dream. Everyone who wants to, you know, has a sense of what the healing and the dream might be or what the dream might mean. And there is a way that each dream is only for the person who dreams it. But there’s another way that the dream is for the whole community.
So, one person might dream something and then the whole community is benefited by that dream is given a blessing from that dream. I’ll just give a really brief example, since we were talking about turtles, that early in the program, one of our students dreamed of a dead turtle’s head, but there was a seed inside the turtle’s mouth. And it was just the most extraordinary image of right here is this life that seems, you know, it seems not there. But the life is hidden inside it. And that was really a dream for the whole community. Once one of my students dreamed that she had come to talk with me because there was a blockage between the worlds. And I got out my Big maps and I looked at the world sort of in its abstract form and I said, yes, I can see it. You should go get it. And she went into that layer of reality and discovered that there was this person, who was sort of stuck, in the hole in the space between the worlds and kind of blocking everything, you know. And she set about trying to remove this blockage. And to me, it was such a concrete seeing of what we’re actually trying to do.
It seems that we both find that the more a community or a circle dreams together, the more the dreams begin to have resonance for everyone in the circle. You end up with a fractal effect where it is an individual’s dream, but it is also a dream for the greater whole.
I am very aware that you have a daughter who needs you and that we’ve probably kept you longer than you anticipated. I would really love to book a follow up, and perhaps I actually would like you to come to England and for us to run some courses. But that’s a way off. But, as we’re beginning to close, is there anything that I haven’t asked that I should have asked that you think would be pertinent to our conversation just now?
I would like to say two things. I would like to say something about dream practice that I want to invite into people’s lives. And I want to say something about my other book. Would those two things be OK?
So, one of my dream practices, which is the one that I bring to people that I work with privately, has to do with connecting to the earth and to the elements. So when I dream and when other people who are in my orbit dream, I invite them to look at the relationships that they see between people. But I also invite them to look at the relationships that they see between them and the Earth and the dream. So if there’s water in the dream, if there is a stone in the dream, if there’s fire in the dream, I’m watching, how is that entity affecting them?
So, sometimes people who come to me have dreamed about bears, even though they don’t actually have bears in their waking life. But, you know, they dream. But that bears you know, when we talk about bears as the the Earth spirit as a way that the Earth manifests its its presence to us.
Or if someone dreams of immersing in water, you know, we might talk about how might that direct you back into the world where you could create a spiritual relationship with water that would be nourishing and healing for you. So that’s an important piece of my dream work that I’d like to share, because it’s a little bit different than some of the ways that Jews have worked with dreams in the past. And I find it really fruitful because it takes the dream seriously as a landscape that’s offering itself to us and it directs us back into the world.
And it honours the elements. Which is so important and gives them gives them voice
And that’s a big part of your work too.
Yes. I was thinking for those in our membership program that will definitely resonate – that sense of giving agency to those things that touch us every day, but that we take for granted until we begin to really develop a relationship. Thank you.
So, a little bit about your other book? That sounds really exciting. I want to read it.
So this is also connected to the elemental work because, there is little known but very important Jewish book of mysticism, that’s written before the kind of classical Kabbalah. It’s really a pre-Kabbalistic work and it’s called The Book of Creation or Sefer Yetzirah.
It’s a very short book. Most Jewish books are very long. It’s a very short book. It’s a story or really it’s almost like a spell. It’s really written as a narrative that is spoken that describes the creation of the world. And each letter of the Hebrew alphabet brings a piece of the creation to life. And some of the letters represent elements. So the three letters, the “aleph”, the “Mem” and the “shin”, which and a aaa or a kind of silent sound, mmm sound or a sss sound, those letters are air, water and fire. And those letters are combined to create the basic structures of the world.
So part of the book is about how this particular version of Jewish mysticism, looks at creation as basically an incantation that God is constantly reciting and adding to and the elements as an important piece of our connection to the divine, via the physical world.
The book is a commentary and also a guide to practice using this ancient book, and it’s called Return to the Place, The Magic, Meditation and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah. And it’s at the publisher. It should be out within the year.
Yes. I was thinking for those in our membership program that will definitely resonate – that sense of giving agency to those things that touch us every day, but that we take for granted until we begin to really develop a relationship. Thank you.
So, a little bit about your other book? That sounds really exciting. I want to read it.
So this is also connected to the elemental work because, there is little known but very important Jewish book of mysticism, that happens before, that’s written before the kind of classical Kabbalah. It’s really a pre-Kabbalistic work and it’s called “The Book of Creation” or “Sefer Yetzirah”. It’s a very short book. Most Jewish books are very long. It’s a very short book. It’s a story or really it’s almost like a spell. It’s really written as a narrative that is spoken that describes the creation of the world. And each letter of the Hebrew alphabet brings a piece of the creation to life. And some of the letters represent elements. So the three letters, the “aleph”, the “Mem” and the “shin”, which and a aaa or a kind of silent sound, mmm sound or a sss sound, those letters are air, water and fire. And those letters are combined to create the basic structures of the world. So part of the book is about how this particular version of Jewish mysticism, looks at creation as basically an incantation that God is constantly reciting and adding to and the elements as an important piece of our connection to the divine, via the physical world. So the book is a commentary and also a guide to practice using this ancient book, and it’s called “Return to the Place, The Magic, Meditation and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah”. And it’s at the publisher. It should be out within the year.
So when it comes out with definitely have you back on again to talk about it. That would be fantastic.
Thank you, this has been amazing.
It really has. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so, so much for your time and your wisdom and on the joy of being in your company. I am really looking forward to having another talk with you, but also somehow to making sure that we can be in the same place at the same time somehow. So thank you very much indeed.
Thank you. It has been a delight talking to you. There are other people also who want me to come to England. So we’re going to make this happen. And I’m very, very grateful for your offering this conversation and for your work in the world. And I look forward to more.
You may also like these recent episodes
If we care about the world, how best can we act in ways that are true to ourselves, push our own boundaries, but don’t leave us burned out?
How do we re-democratise democracy? Understanding that our current system is broken is the first step, but then we need to find ways to gather voices and give agency to those with wisdom, so that we re-create our systems of governance from the ground up.
At a time when we need to be at our most imaginative, Rob Hopkins of the Transition Town movement, has explored the depths of our imagination and creativity. Our society is a dis-imagination machine. But we can reverse it.
STAY IN TOUCH
For a regular supply of ideas about humanity's next evolutionary step, insights into the thinking behind some of the podcasts, early updates on the guests we'll be having on the show - AND a free Water visualisation that will guide you through a deep immersion in water connection...sign up here.
(NB: This is a free newsletter - it's not joining up to the Membership! That's a nice, subtle pink button on the 'Join Us' page...)