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Pilgrimage:  Dreams and the Afterlife:  An Odyssey to Ancient Greece 
Class Number: 
October 28 to November 4, 2010
Faculty: Ray Moody and Bruce Silverman

To Register for this Class, either For Credit or For Audit: please click here.

For logistical information, please click here.


We are living at the time of the planetary tipping point, where how we think, dream, pray, and make ritual, profoundly impacts our ability to address the global emergency.   We “return” to ancient Greece to remember the core of our rational and mythic traditions.  The eastern Mediterranean, from 900-500 BCE, was in shock as the culture of The Great Goddess was supplanted by the invasions of patriarchal cultures and mythologies.  The Oracles and Mysteries addressed this transition, and offered myths and rituals that would maintain the balance of light (Apollonian) and dark (Dionysian) energies.  We will have times of isolation and purification; we will build altars, play drums, chant, dance and, like the Maenads—explore trance states—described as “entheos” (within is a God).

Major Destinations:

[Descriptions below paraphrase various internet and on-site sources - and may be subject to archeological debate.]

Our brief initiatory opening, just 20 km northwest of Athens, is at the ancient site of the Eleusinian Mysteries (alternative descriptions here and here).  Beginning c. 1600 BCE and lasting 2000 years, but with significant parallels to even older systems, these mysteries were held to be the most important of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, revolving around a belief that there was a hope for life after death for those who were initiated.  Perhaps these Mysteries were intended to elevate man above the human sphere into the divine and to assure his redemption by making him a god and so conferring immortality upon him.  Emerging midway in this 2000 year history (c. 6th c. BCE) the Orphic Mysteries also promised advantages in the afterlife - with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus who descended into Hades and returned.  Orpheus is said to have invented the Dionysian Mysteries (the most secretive of all) and is typical of the god of the epiphany, "the god that comes," said to be "man-womanish" and preside over communication between the living and the dead.  Orphism revered Persephone (who descended into Hades each winter and returned each spring) and Dionysus (or Bacchus) who also made the descent and returned.

This pilgrimage takes us to three major oracles on the Greek mainland - following in the path of pilgrims millennia before us:

1) The Asclepieion near Epidaurus (in modern Greek, Epidavros, in north-eastern Peloponnese), reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo's son Asclepius, the healer.  

This was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world.  To find out the right cure for their ailments, ancient Greeks spent a night in the enkoimitiria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health.  The supplicant would then spend the night in the holiest part of the sanctuary - the abaton (or adyton) - and reported their dreams to a priest the following day. He prescribed a cure, often a visit to the baths or a gymnasium.  

Since snakes were sacred to Asclepius, they were often used in healing rituals. Non-venomous snakes were left to crawl on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. In the sanctuary there was a guest house with 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity which may have been used in healing.  Even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, the sanctuary at Epidauros was still known as late as the mid 5th century, although as a Christian healing center.

2)  The region of Epirus (northwest Greece) was thought in ancient times to be the oldest home of the Greeks.  Aristotle considered the region to have been part of Hellas and the region where the Hellenes originated.  The Thesprotians settled in the area about 20th c. BCE.  It was famous for the two oracles, one at Dodona and one at Ephyra:

2a) In Dodona  (photos) was the oldest Hellenic oracle according to the 5th c. BCE "Father of History" Herodotus, and in fact dates to pre-Hellenic times, perhaps as early as the 2nd millennium BCE.  Herodotus suggests roots in Egyptian Thebes - from which a priestess (carried away by Phoenicians) founded divination in Hellas.  Here priestesses and priests in the sacred grove interpreted the rustling of the oak (or beech) leaves - and the flight of the wild pidgeons nesting among the trees - to determine the correct actions to be taken.  No buildings are mentioned, and the priests (called Selloi) slept on the ground with unwashed feet.  Odysseus tells a tale in Homer's Iliad of inquiring of the oracle at Dodona whether to return to Ithaca openly or in secret. The lord of Dodona could also be invoked from a distance (as did Achilles in the Iliad).  This oracle was devoted to a Mother Goddess identified at other sites with Rhea or Gaia, but here called Dione and later, in historical times also devoted to Zeus, lord of the living and celestial world. At Dodona, Zeus was worshipped as "Zeus Naios" or "Naos" (god of the spring) - there was a spring below the oak in the temenos or sanctuary. Elsewhere Dione was relegated to a minor role by Classical times, being made into an aspect of Zeus's more usual consort, Hera, but never at Dodona.  By the time Euripides and Herodotus mentioned Dodona priestesses had been restored.  Dodona gained a reputation far beyond Greece.  By 2nd c. CE, the sacred grove had been reduced to a single oak.  Pilgrims still consulted the oracle until CE 391, when Christians cut down the holy tree. Though the surviving town was insignificant, the long-hallowed pagan site must have retained significance, for a Christian Bishop of Dodona attended the First Council of Ephesus in CE 431. [Dodona is in a high valley of the Pindus Mountains, but we will be based 70 km southwest of Dodona on the sea near Ephyra and the Necromanteion.]

2b) The Necromanteion near ancient Ephyra (previously Kichyro, capital of ancient Thesprotia) was the only "Oracle of Death" in Greece - although other ancient temples are known to have housed nekyomanteia (priests/oracles of the dead).   Devoted to Pluto (or Hades or Aidoneus), lord of the underworld, and to his spouse Persephone, pilgrims could come into visual and verbal contact with the dead.  Ephyra's oracle was directly related to the topography of the area:  the stagnant waters of the Acherousian lake (where the Acheron River became swampy), the caves on the hill which could be considered as access points to the Underworld (and a source image for Plato's cave), the noises from the subsoil which gave a living sensation of some presence from underground, and the three rivers, Acheron, Cocytus, Pyriphlegethon (modern Vouvos or the torrent Kakavas), which were thought to flow through and water the kingdom of Hades.  The meaning of the names of the rivers has been interpreted to be 'joyless,' 'lament' and 'burning coals'  All of the above have been called "The Hell Places."  We shall be based where the waters open out into the beautiful Ionian Sea at the bay of Ammoudia (which contains fresh water springs).  In Homer's Odyssey (8th c. BCE, referring to events 13th c. BCE), the Nekromanteion (perhaps originally in a cave) was described as the entrance by which Odysseus made his nekyia (consulting the dead about the future) and got poison for his arrows before returning to Ithaca.  According to Herodotus' account (5th c BCE, "Father of History"), it was to the Nekromanteion that Periander, the 6th c. BCE tyrant of Corinth, had sent legates to ask questions of his dead wife, Melissa.  Ritual use of the Nekromanteion involved elaborate ceremonies wherein celebrants seeking to speak to the dead would start by gathering in the ziggurat-like temple and consuming a meal of broad beans, pork, barley bread, oysters, and a narcotic compound. Following a cleansing ceremony and the sacrifice of sheep, the faithful would descend through a chthonic series of meandric corridors leaving offerings as they passed through a number of iron gates. The nekyomanteia would pose a series of questions and chant prayers.  Dr. Raymond Moody suggests an underground reflective pool may have been the median of divination.   [We will be based on the sea 4 km west of the Necromanteion.]

3) The Oracle at Delphi

On the southwestern spur of Mount Parnassus, at the "Naval of the World" (i.e the center of the world), was the Delphic oracle - the most prestigious and authoritative oracle in the Greek world.   Thriving from the 8th c. BCE to 393 CE, the first account of the oracle was in the Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo, c. 580-570 BCE, and suggested its first priests were from Knossos on Crete.  According to Aeschylus in the prologue of the Eumenides, it had origins in prehistoric times and the worship of Gaia, the primal Greek goddess personifying the Earth.  Gaia is a primordial deity in the Ancient Greek pantheon and considered a Mother Goddess or Great Goddess.  The "Pythia" was the priestess at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and was widely credited for her prophecies inspired by Apollo, giving her a prominence unusual for a woman in male-dominated ancient Greece.  Some say Pythia delivered oracles in a frenzied state induced by vapors rising from a chasm in the rock - yet ancient sources uniformly represent the Pythia speaking intelligibly, and giving prophecies in her own voice.  Pythia shows many traits of shamanistic practices (from Central Asia?), the Pythia sitting in a cauldron on a tripod while making her prophecies in an ecstatic trance state.  Supplicants were interviewed in preparation of their presentation to the Oracle, by the priests in attendance. The genuine cases were sorted and the supplicant had to go through rituals involving the framing of their questions, the presentation of gifts to the Oracle and a procession along the Sacred Way carrying laurel leaves to visit the temple, symbolic of the journey they had made.  The supplicant would then be led into the temple to visit the adyton, put his question to the Pythia, receive his answer and depart. The degree of preparation already undergone would mean that the supplicant was already in a highly aroused and meditative state, similar to the shamanic journey.

Day-by-Day Itinerary:

We will mix our days with the wisdom of Raymond Moody's lifelong study of ancient Greece - and famed explorations into the interplay of the living and the dead - and Bruce Silverman's Orphic rituals of drumming, chant and movement to take us experientially into ancient Greece (more difficult to evoke in urban Athens).  Thus we will not tour Athens as a group but you are encouraged to visit it on your own (see Logistics Page  for ideas and assistance -  including a recommended neighborhood to be near key sites and, perhaps, near others from our group).   You might choose to arrive the prior weekend (October 23-24, 2010) and/or stay on to the following weekend (November 6-7, 2010).  

Day One - Thursday October 28, 2010 - see likely route (175 km or 109 mi)
We will rendezvous at the new Athens International Airport (El. Venizelos Airport or "ATH") no later than noon (see Logistics Page  for rendezvous place at the airport). If you arrive the night before please select an hotel near the airport.  If you arrive early to tour Athens we can also pick you up at 12:30 pm October 28 at the suburban Doukissis Plakendias metro station, which is also a Surburan Rail station].  Our route leaves the Athens airport, bypasses Athens and begins with a first day stop at Eleusis (site of the Eleusinian mysteries), passes the ancient city of Corinth (Korinthos) and comes to rest on the beautiful east coast of the Peloponese at Epidaurus.  You will be encouraged to catch up on sleep as you adjust to the local time zone.
Note:  Our arrival day is a major major Greek holiday (start of a 4 day weekend), marking the 1940 Greek rejection of an Italian ultimatum, leading to invasion by Italy and Greek entrance into WWII.
Evening rest:  First of two nights in the small coastal town of Epidaurus - southeast coast of Greek mainland - our accommodations face the seaside park and a small cove of the Saronic Gulf.   We will use one or more of the small hotels on the waterfront.

Day Two - Friday October 29, 2010 - see likely route (29 km or 18 mi roundtrip)
This day begins with an overview discussion of our pilgrimage topics, goals and intentions.  In the afternoon we travel 10 miles to the site of the Asclepieion at Epidaurus -  the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, where dreams taught how to regain health.  This evening we will share a Welcome Dinner together.
Evening rest:  Second night in the small coastal town of Epidaurus 

Day Three - Saturday October 30, 2010 - see likely route (451 km or 280 mi)
Our longest driving day: north to Corinth, then along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth, crossing the Gulf at Patra on a stunning bridge, angling northwest through a mountain valley, along the south coast of the Ambracian Gulf, then north along the Ionian see to Ammoundia. This is estimated as 8.5 hours of driving - with much time for reflection on the coach - but also will be enriched with presentations along the way - and pauses to refresh.
Evening rest:  First of three nights in the small coastal village of Ammoudia - northwest coast of Greek mainland.  Our accommodations make it very easy to stroll the Bay's waterfront parkland and Acheron River.

Day Four - Sunday October 31, 2010 - see likely route (9 km or 6 mi roundtrip)
This day is internationally known as Halloween, also known as All Hallow's Eve, with roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.  For us it is a day of ritual riverside preparation near the mouth of the Acheron River - and afternoon or evening visit to the nearby hilltop Necromanteion (3 miles inland).
Evening rest:  Second night in the small coastal village of Ammoudia.

Day Five - Monday November 1, 2010 - see likely route (153 km or 95 mi roundtrip)
The Day of the Dead in Latin America - also All Saint's Day.  Our day trip goes north east to to the north and west edge of snowcapped mountains to visit Dodona (the oldest Hellenic oracle) and Glyki (where the River Acheron spills out of the mountain at Acheron Springs) and then follow the River Acheron home to the Nicromanteion and Ammoundia.
Evening rest:  Third night in the small coastal village of Ammoudia.

Day Six - Tuesday November 2, 2010 - see likely route (306 km or 190 mi)
All Soul's Day.  A day for driving 306 km southeast to Delphi.   Initially we drive down the coast of the Ionian Sea (part of the Adriatic Sea that is directly across from the boot of Italy).  In the hills to our left are Zalongo, a mountain village where (in 1802) 63 Souli women suicidally danced over a cliff with their children to escape the Turk Ali Pasha - and, south of Zalongo,  Cassope, once a huge Hellenistic center built mid-300's BCE on a strategic sea-view height of 555 meters (considered the best preserved ancient Greek city today).  We may choose to stop at Nicopolis, the ruins of an ancient city established by Octavian in 30 BCE (in memory of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra) - where  Epictetus (55-135 CE) lived most of his life and founded a philosophical school with philosophy as a way of life.  After a lunch break (perhaps in the small modern city of Preveza, just south of Nicopolis) we drive along the south shore of the Ambracian Gulf, drop south to the Gulf of Corinth and begin the long beautiful drive along the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth.

Evening rest:  Our one night in the mountain side village of Delphi - in the heart of the small village with many views over the Gulf of Corinth below.

Day Seven - Wednesday November 3, 2010 - all walking distance during the day
Together we explore the Oracle of Delphi, on terraces of lower slopes of Mt. Parnassos (both the site of the oracle and the adjacent Archeological Museum).  This is also the day for our closing circle - and a celebratory Farewell Dinner together. NEW: after dinner we will continue our celebration on the bus ride into Athens, while traffic into Athens is light and spirits are high - see likely route (202 km or 126 mi).
Evening rest:  At the foot of the Acropolis in Athens (see Logistics webpage)

Day Eight - Thursday November 4, 2010 
Based on the time of your departure the group may divide into subgroups for subway, van or minibus transport to the Athens International Airport (El. Venizelos or "ATH").  You are advised to avoid early morning flight departures from Athens if possible - afternoon or evening would be ideal - or plan to linger in Athens for all or part of the weekend see hotel ideas on Logistics webpage.

Faculty Bios:

Dr. Raymond Moody is the best selling author of 11 books including Life After Life -- which has sold over 13 million copies world wide -- and Reunions, a bestseller, as well as numerous articles in academic and professional literature. Dr. Moody continues to capture enormous public interest and generate controversy with his ground breaking work on the near-death experience and what happens when we die. Dr. Moody is the leading authority on the near-death experience -- a phrase he coined in the late seventies. Dr. Moody's research into the phenomenon of near-death experience had its start in the 1960s.

He received his M.D. from the Medical College of Georgia, 1976; Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Virginia, 1969; M.A. in philosophy from the University of Virginia, 1967; and B.A. with Honors in philosophy from the University of Virginia, 1966.  Dr. Moody trains Hospice workers, clergy, psychologists, nurses, doctors and other medical professionals in all aspects of his work. Dr. Moody also works as a practitioner of philosophic counseling. He consults on a private individual basis in person, by phone, or at the bedside of the dying.

Dr Moody has appeared three times on Oprah, as well as on hundreds of other local and nationally syndicated programs such as, MSNBC:  Grief Recovery, NBC Today, ABC's Turning Point, Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael Show, Geraldo, and The Joan Rivers Show.

"Amazing! 40 years of preparation truly shows - and his humanity, given how such eminence might have played out, is so lovely and welcome. He is a consummate teacher who inspires curiosity into the profound and nonsensical." Leslie Reambeault

"Outstanding in every way." Anonymous

"I have thoroughly enjoyed Raymond and the way he teaches by telling stories, he is so gifted. I do appreciate through where he has taken us. The tone of the class was one of spirited engagement." Bruce McDaniel

"Raymond Moody's Joy and Passion, for the years of knowledge and layers of understanding that he imparted with such enthusiasm, was infectious, clear and grounding. His humbleness is to be admired." Anonymous

"As we usher in the wisdom of the integral era, it is important to engage in dialogue that creates energy for the quantum leap to the next level of evolution. For three decades Ray Moody has embodied the shared truth of mystical vision and scientific inquiry. He's a global treasure. I am making plans for the moveable feast to Greece." Will Taegel, Chairman of Academic Council and Co-Chair, Nature, Trauma, and the Soul

Bruce Silverman, Bruce Silverman has devoted most of his professional life to the practice of art as healing. He is a drummer, music therapist, counselor, teacher, and ritual-maker. In 1987 he founded, and continues to direct the Sons and Daughters of Orpheus, a community of artist-healers utilizing drum and chant, movement and dance, sacred circle work, and most of all ritual: the “art of arts. “ The Orpheus Community has presented throughout The Bay Area and California and was highlighted in a 1992 Newsweek feature article exploring the role of drumming as a healing modality for men. This work was the subject of his interview with Charlie Rose on CBS Television in 1993. He has worked with Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, Mimi Farina, Anna Halprin, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Caroline Casey, and is on the faculty at Wisdom University.

"Bruce has an uncanny ability to understand what people need when they need it and an innate sense of rhythm that touches the soul."  Jim Redmond.

"Bruce has very targeted intuition which allows him to guide the group where needed. He is able to start the day with appropriate music and beats, he hears stories in hiding that need to be told and he is sensitive to deep dreams that want  to come forth. He is attentive to even the quietest of voices. Working with him is always important and rewarding. Even with the passage of several months, the tones, rhythms and memories remain. What a great and talented teacher." Jeanne Creighton, PhD. candidate.

Required Reading

Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon--Survival of Bodily Death; by Raymond Moody and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Reunions: Visionary Encounters With Departed Loved Ones; by Raymond Moody and Paul Perry
Greek & Roman Necromancy; by Daniel Ogden

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Course Requirements

Please prepare a brief essay of one or two pages on your intentions for the pilgrimage. Why are you coming? What do you hope to learn? Is there any experience you have had or quality of being you possess that enhances your interest in the oracles of the dead? Given the gravity of what we will be contemplating, some focused thinking and writing in advance, we believe, will serve us all well. Please bring this pre-paper with you to Athens. We will assign the post-paper toward the end of the pilgrimage.

Site plan of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delphi (Wikipedia)

To Register for this Class, either For Credit or For Audit: please click here.

For logistical information, please click here.

If you need assistance with international airfare, etc. a travel agent familiar with the university is Litsa Monsell at 303-319-2729



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