The Urgency of Our Conversation
Across the Dreamtime Boundary
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My word for an ongoing relationship with the anima mundi is the mythopoetic realm. The mythopoetic realm is where the dream world and the more familiar world of waking state reality intersect across a permeable boundary that allows a conversation between both sides – between past and future, between inner and outer, between surface appearances and the ensouled depth of things.
The world needs this conversation now more than ever, since every day the willful disregard for the soul of the world trashes it, leaves us impoverished and future generations – of humans, and of other species – endangered. When the living intelligence at the heart of the world is denied, the world appears to us as soulless and dead. Its capacity to support life becomes diminished – not because it stops supporting life, but because we are no longer in relationship to its life-giving capacities.
Ultimately, I believe that the soul of the world is inviolable – and capable of regenerating a living planet, if given a fighting chance. In the short term, however, I also believe that we are capable as a species of cutting ourselves off, not just from the soul of the world, but from the Source of Life itself. With each forest that is clearcut; with each mountaintop that is removed; with each new toxic chemical we dump into our water supply; with each new war that we fight; with each new atrocity that we let slide by on the evening news; we are slowly losing our capacity to draw nourishment from the mythopoetic realm. As we lose this capacity, we starve the soul that keeps the body alive, and the body of the Earth capable of supporting our life as a people, a culture, and a civilization.
Yggdrasil is named for the World Tree – the living embodiment of the anima mundi, and a portal to the mythopoetic realm, where the living intelligences of all the worlds commune. In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is conceived as a central axis on which nine realms: two above, two below, one for each direction, and this world, called Midgard, or Middle Garden, are arranged. Midgard is our familiar waking state world of human, plants, animals, mountains, seas, and rivers, towns and cities – the only world acknowledged by the soulless culture that is destroying our capacity to live in it.
The other worlds are the dreamtime parsed into a metageography of the mythopoetic realm, akin to, but different than the Sufi mundus imaginalis, the Dreamtime of the Australian aborigines, or the intiatory dreamscapes of the Warao shamans discussed by Robert Moss. Yggdrasil is inhabited by its own denizens – sky gods and elves, ice beings and giants, sea-deities and fire spirits, dwarves and underworld creatures – each with its counterpart in Midgard, and in the psyche of the human and more-than-human denizens of this world. This mapping of the dreamworld and its relationship to Midgard was depicted by J. R. R. Tolkein’s immortal classic Lord of the Rings, and given new life by Peter Jackson’s film rendition. Long before that, this metageography was mapped in 13th century Iceland in a collection of poems and prose called the Edda, part of a larger body of work called the Codex Regius, extending back to an even more ancient oral tradition at the heart of Viking culture.
As is true of the writing down of each dream after the fact, each of these depictions of the dreamtime is only an approximation of something that can’t quite be fully grasped by the conscious mind. More important than these attempts to give the dreaming a form we can apprehend, if not fully comprehend, in our waking state, is the more fundamental idea that this world in which we appear to live is in relationship to these other world we cannot see, but which we occasionally encounter in our dreaming. Like these other metageographies, Yggdrasil, in other words, is an actual place in the dreamtime that we can explore, if we know how to get there.
For those of us who are called to any metageography of dreamtime, the beings who live there may well be dreaming of us, just as we are dreaming of them in their various guises. Ralph the Seedy Rug Merchant might be a dwarf in disguise; other characters other dreams yet to be identified may belong to one of the other nine worlds. An ongoing conversation is flowing through the limbs and branches of the World Tree that keeps the world soul alive.
To the extent that we listen to and partake of this conversation, we become more ensouled participants in a living world, enriched by awakening awareness of other dimensions above and below, to the east and west, north and south of this one. To become oriented to these other dimensions is to bring back a more nuanced diet of soul wisdom through which this world can become more deeply nourished, and encouraged to flourish to its full capacity.
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