Sometimes the atmosphere of a book is so strong, reading even just a few pages of it is enough to catapult a person into strange dreams. This was the case for me after I had read the first chapter of Michael Moorcock’s The Dreamthief’s Daughter. I turned off the light on my night stand, just before 11PM. In the hypnagogic zone I saw an image of myself standing in a room with my TV-B-Gone device and turning off a bunch of TVs mounted on the walls, before falling into a deeper sleep. Then at around 1AM I woke up mesmerized by the following dream.
I am in a bar at the library. A person is there who wants me to buy some drugs. I don’t want to, but I feel compelled by him to do so, but still don’t. Either way we leave the library together and go outside. Then he is gone and I see a library security guard driving a huge semi-truck. There is a hill, with a trench dug in it where a pipe is, but the pipe has been broken. I then realize, as I go into a dark room, that there is an aspect of myself -a shade or doppelganger- who is also at large, running around. This part of my self is a thief. I hear a voice in the dream. It is an older voice. It says “I have become worthless at my Art.” This doppelganger thief steals whatever it can because stealing is its very nature. Everything has been stolen from it and so it steals. I hear the voice “I steal because it is my soul and it is my soul to steal.” I realize I’m in the world of Moorcock, a hyper multiverse as I start to wake up.
Laying there in the darkness, tears start to well up in my eyes as I write scratchy lines in the dark in my notebook. Though I know I will not forget, they are an aid to remembrance. I have the immediate thought/feeling that this state of thievery is a form of collective soul loss. Words of a cryptic poem started to flood my mind:
Entrapped by a vicious circle of wolves
ensnared at a table
of poisonous soul food
I dine among thieves.
I dress as a turncoat
because my own pockets
have been picked.
I’m saddled to this rocking chair
and ridden by greed.
I’ve taken a sack of bones, without meat
and use them to clean my teeth
by a tongue who knows only lies.
I cannot see myself
for I have fused with the disguise.
The plight of the modern soul lay bare to me in that moment. I wrote “I must do something to protect the naked children.”
I went back to sleep and more scenes unfolded. The next day I continued to work with the dream and the sequences that followed, all the while delving deeper into the drama of Ulric von Bek, the central character in Moorcock’s drama. Riveted by the tale, I soon learned one of the central themes it explores is that of the doppelganger. Ulric is a double of Elric of Melnibone (and in a convoluted way also his progeny) the Eternal Champion whose heroic efforts and feats are aimed at maintaining balance between Law and Chaos. In the story the first person narrative shifts back and forth a few times from Ulric’s point of view to Elric’s with only the mildest confusion. It is like the type of dream where one suddenly finds oneself in a different body. I feel that reading this type of fiction can help a person prepare for the doppelganger experience.
While my own dream had pointed out to me causes of personal soul loss, like the use of drugs, stealing the identity of another person because portions of my own soul had been taken from me, in an endless revolving door of thievery, from one person to the next, the book I was reading delved into the trauma of collective soul loss that was World War II. Another layer of resonance between dream and reading material was unveiling itself. I started speculating along unusual lines. The warfare of The Great War (WWI) had ripped a hole in reality itself, allowing for even more sinister beings to come through, motivating and taking possession of men like Hitler. Indeed a pre-existing collective soul loss seems to have been a precondition allowing for the atrocities the Nazis perpetrated. The hole was torn more widely open in WWII and the world is still not healed from the psychic shell shock inflicted on humanity then.
Moorcock himself writes, “The rise of fascism had shocked and exhausted her. Mussolini’s successes were an abomination to her, and Hitler was inconceivably shallow and vicious in his political rhetoric, his ambitions and claims. But as she said when I last saw her, Germany’s soul had been stolen already. Hitler was merely addressing the corpse of German democracy. He had killed nothing. He had grown out of the grave, she said. Grown out of that corpse like an epidemic which had rapidly infected the entire country. ‘And where is Germany’s soul?’ I asked. ‘Who stole it?’”
And again, “It was as if some demonic force had been attracted by the stink of the Boer War’s carnage, by Leopold’s Congo, by the Armenian genocide, by the Great War, by the millions of corpses which filled the ditches, gutters, and tranches of the world from Paris to Peking. Greedily feasting, the force grew strong enough to prey upon the living.”
All these thoughts have made me want to dip back into Wilhelm Reich’s excellent study The Mass Psychology of Fascism which I read about ten years ago.
Outside of all the seriousness within the story it is also a wonderful and magical adventure tale. It kept me up late for several nights as each scene unfolded, until I was finished. For the dreamer and the magically inclined it offers a great deal of speculation for study and active experimentation.
Not only do the characters tread the moonbeam roads of the multiverse, they spend a good deal of time in Mu Ooria, a type of Hollow Earth deep in the subterranean caverns of Earth, where dwell the Off Moo. The twin/double/doppelganger motif is repeated here, as the Off Moo frequently give birth to twins. Dreaming is also practiced as an art among the Off Moo. Healing was also a very refined magical art among the Off Moo. “Their bone setters and muscle soothers work mostly in the ponds…They have pools of river water, to which they have added certain other properties. No matter what the ailment, be it a broken bone, or a cancerous organ, it can be healed in the curing ponds with the application of certain other processes specific to your complaint. Music, for instance. And color. Consequently, timeless as this place is, we are even less aware of the familiar action of time as we know it on the surface.”
The mind bending complexity of the multiverse is another overarching theme, especially as it relates to time, a common trope in science fiction. Time seems to be different depending on what level of reality one is on in the multiverse. “I was having difficulties with Mittlemarch notions of time. It seemed as if we were all fated to live identical lives in billions of counterrealities, rarely able to change our stories, yet constantly striving to do so.”
As an oneiromancer I believe we can change our story, and we can do so by tapping into the lives of our other selves taking place in different branches of the multiverse, or on different ‘branes of parallel realites that we can experience through dreams.
In Moorcock’s high concept literary fantasy the struggle taking place between overbearing Law and too lenient Chaos on Earth was mirrored on other orders of reality, by forces that had ever more awareness of the multiverse itself. In our struggles to create balance between Chaos and Order we can draw on the power of the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits who come to us in dreams.
In the last sequence of the dream I had on the night when I began the book I find myself standing across from a building where there are a group of workers who have climbed up several stories and smashed out the windows. I have a metal box on it with some buttons that make sounds in the building. I press the buttons. The workers don’t know where the music is coming from. I am frightened for them because they are being extremely careless for being up so high. I leave the scene and walk over to a door in a wall. As I step through the door, the whole wall smashes into pieces, I am in outer space and the debris from the wall is flying in every direction. I’m on to a new episode in the multiverse I realize, but then I wake up.
Justin Patrick Moore
Husband. Father/Grandfather. Writer. Green wizard. Ham radio operator (KE8COY). Electronic musician. Library cataloger.