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anifold are the relations of reality and art. Our human nature gently urges us To ethical maturity as communal persons. However the press of daily experience Trips us and we stray down unfortunate sidestreets That we may learn, by painful awareness, To advance the spiritual wealth of our community. Manifold too are the images that relate Each man as representative of mankind To the world around him, by word of mouth Or any creative act of the imagination. Male and female, eager to unite And so as to achieve lasting union Have most need of all of the art that is love. Our age, the last age, or really no age But that in which ages and stages culminate Might well be said to require a muse Who is resurrected to the task in hand. Space and time, no longer viable As separate entities, each exploitable And forced on the rack, yearn to be joined. To that end let fantasy do its work And the simple language of gifted affection. Even as the Muse rediscovers her own self After modern centuries of service to might, So must the one who hopes to be quickened by her Be ready and willing to be inwardly renewed Or be torn by the ancient demons of criticism. ***
The Shepherd and the Muse Book 1
In the Beginning 1
inging of times to come, to open the girdle of the Muse, She who reclines upon tragic centuries, tossing feverishly, in a sweat, Moist hair wrapped round neck and forehead, dreaming the plight of the tribes, Europe massacred, Asia subdued to the state no one would wish.
2 Hoping for a breath of air, she totters to the streaming window And nature herself weeps; storms Make passionate comment upon Humanity in travail – oh horrid time, When will these ill-begotten forces shrink back below earth’s crust?
3 Flings herself onto the messed coverlet, strangely alone, Welcomes delirium as absence of conscious terror only to fall into visions Of the south, steeped in fetid atmosphere, sickness taking its toll, The enamelled sky an excruciating memory of man and beast striving.
4 Always they looked to the past for the time when the gods walked the earth Transcendent, no need for belief apparently, beauty’s hand resting benign Upon the blesséd brow of humanity or so they imagined it, Present pain excuse for stark comparison, a little relief sipped from illusion.
5 Persistent banging on the door, rattle of the hinge, Straining of the bolt, the creaking timbers of the jamb, dust flying, Covering the room in filth – it is all one, None of this she notices, lying naked now, a steaming corpse, brains addled.
6 We who may tell this tale and hear it, heart wrenched with pity, Let us practice personation, for the times are such that Nothing great is expected, no, nothing of note; We have our hands full denying the peril, pretending no terror makes sense to us.
7 A short period of duration, a mere two thousand years, Separates us from the corpse on the bed, the gilded bedposts, garment-draped, The ancient female brain locked into time-encapsulate self-abuse, For the lack of some charitable interference, the merciful stroke on the cheek perhaps.
8 The room, mausoleum, deep within the building’s entrails, The entire edifice now talus of history, boulders, clay, cheap detritus Of a throw-away culture, root-mingled, worm-threaded, the parched seven-year toad A momentary hitchhiker, only the flesh of the Muse still preserved.
9 Cobwebs in pitch-dark corners, a total lack of oxygen, Radiation out of the earth’s crust refashioning present molecules, Ah, the disintegration of the seed, the flesh becoming our flesh, The vision inviolate simmering like essential blood in stiffened veins -
10 All this awaiting the patient spade, trowel and brush of the archaeologist, Whose own vision has a point to make, much like a craving for future benefit, Eager to let fact speak for itself, eye lashes, nail clippings, Braving curses from hell’s orifice, critical condemnation and acclaim.
11 It springs to mind that the real enemy, the arch enemy, is not death But this drastic unwillingness to interfere with our lazy, convenient psyche, Self-created, self-instructed, it rocks my boat so gently, Then bursts in upon me with a vehemence through all manner of reasoning.
12 So where was I at the time when Brutus decided he’d had enough And, like Cato before him, fell upon his sword, slave to an idea of liberty? Celebrate the vacuum of an age, bring memory to bear On the dream-ridden fragments; anticipate history’s exfoliation.
13 They have driven a shaft into the mound, dusted off every cornice, Laid hold of bones rejected by the robbers, future heroes, bearers of world sorrow. Eventually they arrived at the core, hammered upon the lintel, Rattled the hinge, forced the bolt, broke into the blushing quietude.
14 Mystery of mysteries, how past and present become interchanged! How we stand where we once stood, the inward gaze no longer averted, Extreme isolation a peccadillo now, no longer punishment for ill deeds, For the murder of the son of man committed, supposing oneself righteous.
15 It begins with the shadow of the Muse, now that a light beam enters, Pinpointing decomposition under the mask, flakes of armour splitting, Jigsaw puzzle never to be re-assembled, the brown bones, the death grimace, All the teeth intact, hair like snow spread over the velvet cushion.
16 We stand in awe, we wear surgical masks, fingers contracting into claws, Eyes gleaming red with disbelief, boots soled latex against radiation. Ours the search for some fortuitous future, our brains, limp from visual dereliction, Our brains not ours, our hearts, minds, not ours, we, the casually dispossessed.
17 Perhaps we expected a magical sensation or an explanation for our ignorance. Little were we prepared for this transfer of an ancient skill straight into our souls. Ah but we shall not be waylaid by appearances, by the cur barking at the entrance, Or should we stand here until we ourselves become attachments to the demonic machinery?
18 Son-of-man means sexual predisposition, means drive to copulate in the interest of a pardon. We run the risks of forfeiting our most valuable heritage if this point is not well taken; Then what use the resurrection of the Muse? In my own bosom Let me cherish the invisible germ in its shrine of marble and gold.
19 It continues with an irreverent reaction to the Muse and all she stood for. This we can see clearly in our time, pretending for a moment that this time is ours, The beheaded twins, for example, each strapped to a musical chair, Roars of applause from the audience when the magician enters, contemptuous.
20 Meanwhile imagine a series of drab days during which the papers lose readership. Rainwater gurgles in the drain, beads glisten on twigs, Starlings hustle from ridge tile to chimney pot and the steeple of Strean church Points into an overcrowded sky.
21 No longer shall form and content decide the growth factor. No longer shall ideas, and ideas of ideas, Lead the masses onto the butcher’s block or into the soul’s sanctum, That much may be taken as read when storm clouds gather.
22 Let us therefore, please, in silence observe the spiritual amenities, Paying due attention to the flesh, appreciative of matter, not as materialists, Careering down the crooked lane at high speed and then denying all responsibility, But as devotees of hands-on skills, humanity’s transfer.
23 Only once was the pyramid constructed by labour from the four corners of the earth. Not that the reason for it was known, let us get that straight, What mattered was the actual construction, block upon block in series, Bodies sweating under the whip, meanwhile the desert vulture soaring.
24 Not the reason given nor the reason feared really mattered in the short or the long run, During the entombment of all we had striven for. Somehow we dimly sensed That this was the seed and the seed must die. Millions, literally, of the faithful Were also enshrined. This was unnecessary, but as we look back it adds to the horror.
25 To one it was given to enter innocent. Not motivated by renown Nor addicted to the cash register; he fled across fields white with bones Into the grove where beneath a yew tree lay buried the casket with the key, Guarded by envy and hypocrisy, each searching within him for sympathy.
26 So let’s pay lip-service to the cult of celebrity. In each hand you must hold A flag or an empty flagon, then blow a quick tune on a pan pipe, Neither substance nor stature prerequisite, merely persistent cheek, a brass neck, Plenty of sponsorship and a total disregard for the fellow next door with the limp.
27 This is no way to behave, surely, when the golden future slumbers In primitive brain cells, awaiting the salvific kiss on ripe lips? Surely this is no way to behave when on the storm-tossed barque Salt-drenched eyes search for any horizon?
28 Let’s take ourselves off to the beaches, cheap flights available, nearly for the airport tax, Get in a stint of sun worship, recharge the batteries, The way we used to go to church so as to be able to continue With our trivial lives with renewed energy, hunting the Snark, or such-like.
29 So what, if meanwhile the scientific burden of god were to fall On a few isolated individuals who labour in vain in terms of traditional reward; Would this not hasten the demise of the tail-lashing dragon coiled upon Its burden of isometric proof: data buggering data without let-up?
30 Suspended in outer space now where no one can snip the thread, We orbit the moon – oh delightful! Can it be we have finally arrived? Look, who can hold us accountable, since all are equally in sin And therefore all blameless, forked radishes – featherless birds - ?
31 Therefore it comes with a thrill in the midst of despair, This realization of the power within us to live irrespective of pain And to behold a blessed future as present, here and now the creative impulse Nourished in the interest of our human inheritance, time and again, no need to wait.
32 Tell me, do you wish to be happy so that you can – one thing or another? Imagine the country owned by those who spill no blood except by accident. Imagine all pain sensible and constructive, dignity without aversion to its opposite. Here by the roadside a child leads a pony by a simple halter.
33 Fruits of the resurrected Muse will not force into extinction Cheap alibis for being other than human, however it would be silly to pretend That new beauty can appeal to old eyes, except after a period of blindness And annoyance with such blindness and blaming a cause for the annoyance.
34 We cannot but be tested by despair to prove our worth for the new life, Ganymede upon a bed of thistles, novel tropes shot through with Ancient metaphor, the modern vacuum’s entropy lying about on the street for dogs to sniff at, then to devour and then perhaps to vomit up again.
35 Cupid on silk, Venus in leotards, Apollo abstract on his motorbike And plenty of dollars unclaimed by the poor; hole-in-one mystery men Vying for popular attention on the tube, the sheer brilliance of an Olympic performance – All this rolled into one only gives the idea.
36 How to proceed from the idea to the image? It cannot be done. The cloudy sky On a summer’s day spreads its mantle over creation with loving attentiveness, While human beings think themselves to freedom, men, women and children At home where their feet take them, in keeping with the work of their hands.
37 A hopeless future is no future at all in spite of all the singing and dancing. I think it has to be peeled out of its invisible shell, this new future. A distinction must be made between what I want and what is good for me, So that the classic answers do not interfere with the radical questions.
38 Ask yourself what lies ahead for you or what might be removed without destroying you. Experiment with one or two scenarios. Once dead, will you regret having lived? Tomorrow is today an amusing spectacle or eternity telescoped into hellfire. No visitors, too many visitors – if you push you may clear your horizon of disappointments.
39 The Muse no longer lifts her skirts for every two-bit crank. If suddenly you get a buzz you should know whom to thank. The juices of the outside world are dripping on the hearth And cloudy skies will soon unite the nations of the earth.
40 We cannot do better than to identify the godly person within us, Whose human nature spills no blood, as above mentioned And then, mounting Pegasus, we ride into the turmoil, Tossing guilders and kisses and the odd knight errant off his charger.
41 The curtain parts, the horrid scene, anticipated since Christ the judge was invented, Has been cancelled for lack of backdrop. The children of Zion work the ropes. At first, in the audience, furious discontent alternates with lack of temperament. Someone cries: The weasel has escaped! Then all is once more night and silence.
42 Once again the curtain parts, only this time children, frankincense and myrrh, Full plates on the sideboard, castanets, adolescents proud and chaste, Kings and queens of no known origin, an eagle, in its claws a hare, (Some are convinced it’s a teddy bear) then instructions for piecing this together.
43 Touched by an image, you slide into home base, the crowd roars, then you think: What if this pain were to take my life over? What if love no longer found its way at least once a day into my in-tray? You learn, before each act, to stipulate Extent and degree of the eventual closure: private grief versus public exposure.
44 The new man, the new woman – look at them! They can wait For hours; some say they hibernate. The world, to them both grave and grail, Is not for sale. The light of day streams out from them. They package Their speech in tender hearts. They live in ways that cannot be described.
The Muse Appears 45
t comes as a shock to hear anyone spoken of as even vaguely familiar with good spirit. Personality anchored in individual soul readily projects through culture & civilization. Now this queenly Muse, freshly broken forth from her stone sepulchre, at first glances In every direction, shading her eyes as if against too much light, though soon she has adapted.
46 At once she questions the reasons for her rebirth, being driven by a great appetite for action. For those who wonder at the manner of her apparel, let them see for themselves, since sight of her Is indispensable if they seek recognition. Above all else let them train their inward eye. Scores of great men have laboured to that end, men in China, in Persia, in Europe.
47 Observe on that face how shame and affront mingle; how the eyes are lowered as if in apology For the long neglect of a household in ruins. Nowhere is human nature celebrated, Indeed it seems as if the squalor of the flesh along with death has been found most interesting; As if noble perception and the honourable attitude had not been heard of for several centuries.
48 Now the handsome head on that pliant neck, and those perfect shoulders speak for themselves. The pure sky reflected in those eyes, even the bright clouds shimmering There towards the west, where along the horizon mountains are ranged, their peaks in snow – As the first morning unfolds like a rose, she gathers the remnants of night up in her hair.
49 Look what happens now. A tumult of winged creatures appears as from nowhere, Seems to appeal to her, to offer service, to crave her attention, floating as a mass, Then alighting individually, like doves or cupids but ephemeral, changing shape, furtive, Strangely able to come into being and then, upon languishing a moment – extinguished.
50 Irritation upon her brow gives way to interest which is not surprising, considering the novelty. The entire world, after all, seems new to her and a challenge to her inward faculties, Especially to her soul, which is moved to participate, even anxiously, almost as if there were a risk Of unfortunate timing, or of missing entirely the appropriate opportunity for taking hold of life.
51 Is she not as one new born into a world that is old to her eyes, worn out, defeated By earthquake, war and pestilence, not to mention the half-hearted pursuit of happiness for its own sake? Eagerly her hand reaches out to capture the flighty being nearest to her face, However it dissolves in her examining grasp and with disgust she shakes off the remnant.
52 One on her shoulder whispers longingly of power over the affairs of people, Of such control as will afford the one who wields it an eternal certainty – Or if not that, at least the prim illusion of one right system which can be repeated Ad infinitum, like a button pushed and who knows but it might take off and fly.
53 Having nothing to lose, she assents to that order, sees it flash up before her inner eye Just one time with a vivid promptitude, and even as she makes one natural move Towards it, to commit herself withal, the image fades, is but mirage compared To her immediate, innate principle, the gift of birth, to herself still a mystery.
54 She takes one step, in dread of failure turns her fair visage to the southern zone, Where duny sands stretch out before the psyche like loss and isolation, petrified As lifeless shapes, sweetly arranged albeit, so that in her assent to this abstraction She gains the use of her first faculty, namely, the ruthless will to overcome.
55 Oh auburn locks, oh high, clear forehead, oh promise of a brain within which slumbers Instinct unique for human natural survival, bridging ill-spent youth if need be Or redefining adult probity along with all the furniture of the mind And bodily capacities fully fledged, never again to mimic carnality!
56 Now when she had plumbed the worth of these creatures, set upon as she was by their multitude And many were small, several were large, while a few, especially by the beating of their broad wings, Nearly blotted the sky at times and sorely tempted her to take issue with them, nevertheless She made no fuss and did not drive them away, whereupon they left her then of their own free will.
57 Turning her body now half round to the east, that body which would not be recognized by men Until much later, upon recognition of her works, she gazed with unblinking eyes into the sun – This celestial body had only just risen and seemed surprised by the strength and beauty Reflecting its light – and gazed, fascinated by how she was touched in her inmost soul.
58 Vision and dream coalesced, she felt uplifted, strangely projected out of herself, As if now indeed to contemplate, with a mixture of balm and gall, her own great stature, So out of proportion, though she lacked comparison; then a sick fear entered her bosom, A despair over how she might make herself accountable for the teeming forces that longed to be released in her.
59 Like we all do at such times when the world seems to threaten, although a correct diagnosis would reveal An inhibition by our nature not yet fully countenanced, she hankered after the protection of the law. Right away then her request was granted. Many were the promises that flooded her mind, That if only she would continue to mistake her nature for the world, these laws would place limitless forces at her command.
60 Such was her joy, her enthusiasm, her zeal, that with her right arm outstretched she indicated a forest And bid it transplant itself to the shadow side of a hill, which forthwith occurred, whereupon she decreed That hill should uproot itself and settle in the clouds, and this too came about, while pearls of perspiration Stood out on her face, her neck and shoulders, as her breathing laboured and her pulse raced.
61 This she noticed and she marvelled at the change, at the shocking alteration of her condition and state, Not at all pleased with the taste of the demonic, for indeed this pursuit had become to her distasteful, Although it had raised in her a mighty consciousness, of herself as all powerful, of the world as clay – And when she paused to assess her achievement, a sense of futility drove tears to her eyes.
62 So do the mighty works of men stretch out appealing hands from beneath The rubble of centuries, ancient Ephesus, the sculptured gods of Nimrod Dash, Hiatuses under Suppiluliumas the Hittite, where energy seeks for itself a monument To withstand the ravages of the marching years, until finally one came to make it possible.
63 He should be mentioned, who created the new body, almost anonymous because all too familiar, Blessed with achievement beyond previous humanity, precious companion, brother and friend, In whom we may marvel at the popular construction of vast empires and massive wonders, Leaving them to one side as we build in ourselves the eternal monument to original creation.
64 On this very day, as I write, the American president, lets face it, visits London, in his sarcophagous Cadillac. Seven million pounds it costs to protect him. Would it be wrong to mention the underlying terror? Tertullian brings Zenobia to Rome in golden chains. Let us above all continue to build colonnades, But then, like asbestos dust, the cloak of cynicism conceals the human body from our jaundiced eye.
65 Meanwhile the one who carries the weight of contemporary creativity on her capable shoulders, Though as yet she has little notion of the scope, of how far her desire will eventually lead her, Rejects the laws that would allow her to persevere in a wrong direction, where demonic forces Are harnessed to achieve a change of topography to alter the appearances of the temporal world.
66 Still in shock, down on one knee, shielding her brow with her right hand as from Too acute an illumination, her left hand to her ear against shrill noises mechanically repeated, She manages somehow to wring from the darkness and from the abstract silence an elemental knowledge, Perfect in itself, not at all calculated but the wise choice of a patient mind.
67 Standing at her full height again she perceives how the sun has relinquished its morning glory, So that now a sober light, which is clarity, distinguishes the beings of the earth in a fashion, Which lends them integrity of which they may partake, so that even within the lowly earthworm, Difficult as this may be to believe, there arises, buried underground, a grateful response.
68 This she will hold in her memory, that the light of day is a mysterious power, not quite The granular magic, more than the extinct notion of an energy governed by rules, Which entered the civilized convention of the last age, when none as yet dared to hold themselves responsible For the brazen division of space and time, almost as if we could bank our awareness. *
The Shepherd Appears 69
hus being endowed with the strength to overcome by token of her willingness to accept help from angels, Moreover knowing that in her pursuit of high satisfaction she might utilize ideas, While never calling on the one or the other to make her case or to break another person’s, She draws the attention of one who passes, who could not have seen her except that she identifies herself.
70 This is the moment of perfect identity, cushioned by her capacity for elemental knowledge, Such as in particular her perception, her appreciation of the light of day as formal effervescence, As the blessing hand upon every individual, though not to everyone is it granted to understand The mystery of illumination, but this is fair, since many shall benefit from the works of a few.
71 You there, she shouts, in a tone of voice perhaps unduly imperative, what is your reason for being here On this deserted height, where much more may be surmised than affirmed, in consideration of an uncommon exposure To the abysses of the unconventional, to much that smacks of self-wrought anxiety? You look to me like a shepherd. Forgive my clumsiness of speech, my over-eager manner, which testifies merely to a death that was long overdue.
72 You might have sworn that these were her first attempts at personal communication, she struck so many boulders With her spade, like a gardener who digs where years of neglect have tranquillized the growth of but one species With thorns and tangled roots. He whom she addressed was arrested in his tracks, as before some prodigy And indeed he pressed the palms of both his hands to his cheeks in case that might steady his vision.
73 Her shape, a shimmering magnitude in the haze, so much larger than life that the heart halted, Pressed for an explanation not forthcoming; with the best of wills she cannot limit herself But must appear like a sphinx, only half credible, driven by the inner potency of her female sex. He stands transfixed, this mortal, only half conscious of who he is and of what he should do next.
74 Come, she says, are you not familiar with these arduous rock walls that hem us in on both sides? Listen, beneath us I hear a gurgling stream of living water, very likely from that glacier Which hangs up there and feeds this moraine with debris when the winter’s snow accumulates. Now it recedes, these last hundred years, exposing a field of infertile grit and stone.
75 What is this, he thinks, and why do I feel that my presence here is less relevant Than this swaying phantom, this verbose mirage, which puts me in mind uncomfortably Of my mortality, as I live and breathe. Indeed I want to take flight but cannot, Being fascinated by that which is well beyond me, however it does me no harm.
76 In his turn he enquires now: “Tell me first what you are and whether I should approach you Like one of my own species in the flesh or rather as the content of hallucination.” “I am the one you are speaking to,” she replies, “not another. Forgive me, I have not yet realized The stature I shall have to adopt as I pass from this richer sphere into yours.”
77 The sheer awkwardness of the situation appeals to god’s sense of humour, I’m sure. We are faced here with a deadly serious plot, acted out as a ridiculous scenario, Or is that only my own impression as I set down the effusions of my brain, More than ever convinced by the need, nowadays, to speak to the world in that way.
78 What I mean is that it’s important for me to speak like that, let others do as they see fit. We come up with the inventions that stir our blessedness, bringing it out into the open. It wouldn’t be right for me to know ahead of time the meaning of what I receive But once I have it in my hand I expose it to the light of day for the duration.
79 Let it be known then that the wanderer on the summit is indeed a shepherd by calling. It would be wrong of me to introduce him as a lost tourist or as one of those Greek peasants Who now and again take to the mountains for a constitutional, stretching their legs And their lungs over a ten mile hike before a breakfast of dried bread, olive oil and goat’s cheese.
80 This shepherd, however, no longer has a flock. As he studies the apparition in front of him, Still trying to decide whether the thing is real or maybe his nerves are overwrought, He decides to risk a further question, though it does make him feel stupid, Addressing a semi-transparent woman whose eyes glitter like two stars.
81 “If you are not just a figment of my imagination brought on by a shortage of oxygen But a being with a right to exist on earth in some form mortals can recognize, Give me some explanation now for why you have chosen to appear in particular To me, an idle shepherd, who stands convicted by his comparative ignorance.”
82 “It’s not up to us to justify circumstances, merely to make the best of them,” she replies, As her outline becomes more dense, her surface less see-through, her height shrinks To the customary level, but only for a moment because then she overshoots the mark And solidifies massively, diminishing in size to approximately the height of a ewe.
83 Evidently she has over-identified with the shepherd who naturally gasps in astonishment. She stands there like Rima in ‘Green Mansions’, a fantasy by William Henry Hudson. Her voice pierces him like a dagger as she says: “Are you as ignorant as you appear and have you really not heard of your human privilege, being the crown of creation?”
84 Flooded by guilt, which in his judgment is unwarranted, he turns half away from her With clouded brow and a definite sense of shame for what, he knows not for the life of him, Except that this beautiful diminutive creature has touched a nerve in his psyche. What he does now surprises him, though later he understands what it was about.
85 If truth be told, he weeps bitter tears, his sense of self dissolves. The maiden observes him unmoved for a moment and then she is touched by his predicament. “This is a great blessing that comes over you,” she murmurs, stepping a little closer. “You are coming to terms with your essential insignificance, all the better to find out who you are.”
86 “This has never bothered me until now,” he says, “for I imagined I knew who I was. However this experience has stressed and unsettled me.” Whereupon he sits down on a stone. Many lay about there, segments of columns quarried from a rock face which looks down On the remnants of Petra, the Nabataean stronghold near lofty Oum el-Biyara.
87 “You must realize, whoever you are,” he said when his peace was restored, “That I am not the man I was in my youth. In those days these barren wastes, Where now nothing but rock and rubble give scant evidence of civilization, Were amply forested and the valley you see there was rich, nourishing pastureland.
88 “Do you suppose that then I questioned why I lived, such as I do now? My lord trusted me with his largest flock, which I took out and brought in. I rarely lost an animal to a lion or to a fall into a ravine, where in those days Streams poured down from the height in abundance; today, as you see, all is dry.
89 Here he paused, as if caught up in memory of a time when man was still ignorant of the need to husband his terrestrial environment, when rapacity and plunder held sway. Especially he recalled how, even in the face of diminishing resources, the political Will was lacking to remedy the situation and destruction was given full reign.
90 She who stood by his side had at last attained to her mortal height, This being the usual effect of compassion, that it allows us to assume gracefully The stature, great or small, of the one whose well-being lies close to our heart. When now she spoke, her voice no longer pierced him or overwrought him.
91 “You must not suppose that I have come here to judge you or to criticize your way of life. Already I have only a dim recollection of my place of origin Somewhere in those timeless zones predicated by the ancient philosophers, Which were then peopled in a modern fashion by those who came afterwards.
92 “So in that sense we are both in the same boat, in that we have left a place less than human, Hoping to exchange it for meaningful accommodation, and certainly I see that in you A hope still burns in spite of disappointment – only that in me a long tradition Of judicious thought seems to have petered out – one wonders what will rise out of its ashes.”
93 Quickly he leans forward and places his hand on her arm as if to reassure her Of his agreement with her words, especially since he would not like to be accused of hopelessness, Since for many years he has struggled against that evil in surroundings which he often suspected Of appearing in a false light due to his own unconfronted, abject misery.
94 She in her turn appreciates that gesture but feels at the same time that somehow It diminishes her in her own eyes, so that for a moment she is perplexed by emotion As if by too great a familiarity on his part, which he surely could not have justified, So inadvertently she draws back, her soul in chaos, as she longs for her previous abstraction.
95 “Now you must sit down beside me,” he says to her “and tell me what you hope to achieve.” He has changed completely, she notices, as if he were no longer not merely afraid Of all those transcendental phenomena she has accidentally trailed into his world But suddenly he has positively taken her for granted and she notices she cannot possibly cope with that.
96 It appears she will have to insist on who she is. “Much as it goes against my grain To encapsulate in a single concept my derivation, I must emphasize that nonetheless I am holy, Though I suspect the meaning of that word may no longer be entirely acceptable. You wound me by showing me too much of your self too soon, which causes me to conceal myself.”
97 No sooner has she said this than from his eyes fall the shadows of the modern centuries and he is shocked To see himself revealed as an incurable cynic whose only other choice is The popular matinees of a naive ignoramus in whom is deposited the sediment Of a thousand vulgar generations. This causes shame in him and humiliation.
98 “Please forgive me,” he stammers, “for my forwardness. Have I lost all sense of dignity? Has the healthy sense of distance between myself and my fellow man been obliterated by resentment and cowardice? This has come to me as an embarrassment, I apologize. Now I feel nothing but disgust. If I have forfeited your trust, please tell me how I can regain it.”
99 “We both find ourselves in unusual circumstances.” – this from her after a pause. “Tell me, have you a wife and children, a home to which you return After these marches through the mountains as in a dream? Or are you a solitary being, Content to nurse a grudge against the world while grasping at a few trivial pleasures?”
100 “If I could find a purpose again in life I would indeed marry and have children, For I am not yet at the age when a man seeks rest above all else, But my spirit is feeble, I lack enterprise. I see those who make their way in the world And despise them for their ruthless egotism. Then I see my self and despair.”
101 Where she stands now she casts a shadow that falls across the rocky terrain For a hundred feet or more, for the sun is not yet in its second quarter And towards the west a steep decline, nearly at the same slant as the sun’s rays, Carries a winding path down towards a land flat and empty.
102 “Tell me,” she says, pointing in that direction, and with her eyes strangely blazing, Almost as if they might shed light as well as see it, “what lies there in the distance, Where all that meets vision is a bluish mist? Can you describe the countryside Between here and there which looks as if weeks of travel would be sheer monotony?”
103 “You are looking at the progress of the western world when viewed under an eternal sky, And yet if your eye were accustomed to hell, which is no longer a recognized term, you would be amazed by the hustle and bustle, by powerful engines that drink a liquid drawn from the centre of the earth and by complicated networks of roads.
104 “You would see huge contraptions that fly, their bellies stuffed with people, Circling the globe in a matter of hours and endless masses of information Swirling in the ether, continually impressing brains not otherwise occupied, So that judgment should gradually become so effective that the sheep are separated from the goats.”
105 Now she is no longer entirely at sea as to why she has appeared to exist. That which before time knew her as an entity, unique in its own individuality, Enters her flesh now and announces itself as spirit. She does not immediately acknowledge The fire burning in her belly and in her breast, which is why an anxiety masters her.
106 She casts upon him a terrible look of outrage, of searing accusation, Not at all aware of how this affects him. She lifts her face to the sky Where a vulture in seeming unconcern glides in widening arcs. So it comes about that her soul is baptized by this incandescent energy.
107 He now rises from his seated position and turns towards the east where the sun Is no longer visible, except as reflected light. Normally what he would have seen Is now obscured by a bank of cloud which takes on shapes not usually Associated with natural phenomena, such as a dragon livid with fury.
108 Also he seems to be able to detect a massive tree or mushroom Looming fiery in the nebulous tumult and the charred ends of beams Project from collapsed high-rise buildings. He observes these tremendous apparitions But makes nothing of them, being unwilling to get involved in the death-throes of that world.
109 However “What do you see there?” enquires the woman now standing by his side. “Why do you blanch, why do you tremble as if a cold sweat plagued you? What are these grim forebodings surfacing from your soul as if faith had left you And you stand staring vaguely into a dilemma for which you cannot be responsible?”
110 His eyes seek hers as if hoping for an explanation that will help him surmount his predicament. “In that sphere from which you have entered our world” – this is how he finally answers her, “Were you not aware of the madness and the blood-letting which bedevils the population of this planet? Did you not know how every country is drawn into a maelstrom of one sort or another?”
111 “Much as I pretend,” he went on, “to ignore the self-caused misery of my fellow man As I walk on the straight path, minding my business, looking neither left nor right, Suddenly at such a time as this my eye depicts catastrophe And cold fingers clutch my heart with fearful memory.”
112 She cannot make out his reasoning or logic. Why, if he concentrates on himself At the exclusion of his fellow man, such as he described, is he surprised that at times A spiritual caution must enter his heart to shock his system, if only to Remind him that the law cannot allow an individual to sustain his happiness?
113 Or, equally incomprehensible for her, if his unhappiness is known to him, (As seems to be the case, since he describes it), why is he not exceedingly joyful, Since that would allow him to transcend his misery? She supposes his condition is morbidity And sets herself the task of teaching him by example how to suffer gladly.
114 Alas, little is she aware what it means to turn theory into painstaking practice. “You have had more than your fair share of loneliness,” she says, speaking in a voice which tries to conceal a lack of spontaneous compassion, not to mention sympathy. “There may be good reason why you and I have met in this unusual manner.”
115 Now a darkness sets in as at world’s end; masses of clouds shut the sun out While violent lightning flares and flashes. This was foretold in the book which Many have read but few understood. A time comes when the elements are in uproar And the heart of man is gripped by fear. Many die from sheer terror.
116 The volume of the thunder wreaks havoc with the atmosphere, great swarms of birds circle High in the heavens as if loath to remain in touch with the earth in its pain. Pity now those who have nothing to gain from turning inward, away from this riot. The woman and the man kneel side by side united in their hope for an end to it.
117 She is the first to speak when the soothing rain begins to fall, In great sheets at first but then more after the manner of a benediction. Neither of them thought for a moment to take shelter, so were they startled by the outburst But also as if fated to see the thing through in the flesh and in communion.
118 “Let us leave this height now and descend to where your people will no doubt be concerned for your safety. You may wish to make up a suitable story for the lack of any other explanation For your return in my company. You may call me a nomad, a gipsy without a tribe, a wandering Foreigner in search of her family or a lost seeker of asylum.”
119 Hand in hand they begin their perilous descent across rock falls, down scree slopes, Where sudden rivers have churned new channels and the path along the edge of the abyss Has been drastically undermined, like a man’s certainties when illness shakes up his constitution And teaches him that health is not a matter of caution but the renewed possibility of blessedness.
120 When they rest for a moment, looking out over a plateau, the western sky somewhat brightening, He lets her know that ‘his people’ are not as she imagines them, several individuals united by a Culture and a common language perhaps. No, he has long lived on the edge Of society, anonymous, patronizing no one, shunning organizations & institutions. *
The Thing 121
he is about to let him know how she deplores his attitude when a harsh voice hails them. At first they cannot make out its origin on account of the steep rock Which surrounds them but also because of the deep valley spread before them, From which the sound seemed to come, however they are given a second version of it.
122 This time what they hear is the following: “Travellers, why do you propose to leave Your secure home, where all is familiar, to court unknown dangers? Can it be you do not know that all who leave the rocky circle of peaks As established by tradition over many centuries put their lives and happiness at risk?”
123 The woman astutely diagnoses the landscape in search of the voice’s origin. Also the Shepherd, more accustomed to the terrain, strains his eyes to make out Whether perhaps at the mouth of some cave or on top of a promontory nearby The speaker with the petrifying voice might be visible. His search too is in vain.
124 However he is not content with the situation. “Identify yourself, you who suppose you have a right thus to address us as if we were not human beings At liberty to go where and when we wish or as if the world were not open To all in every part of its creation!” This he shouts, but not rudely.
125 Even his own voice carries into the distance, through empty, acoustic space And the limitless expanse of the plain stretching far to its horizon, even as the sea, When the barque is tossed with no hope of progress, beckons strangely to him who has For too long nurtured the bitter thoughts of loneliness and the twisted sentiments of despair.
126 Now they have spotted the one who accosted them, oh marvel of the post-modern age, There in mid air, trailing appendages like sea weed or like onto one of those Portuguese man-of-wars, but high up in the air and floating, descending towards them, Neither human nor animal nor plant, more like an expression of surrealist fantasy.
127 This is surely an illusion, thinks the Shepherd but the woman rises to her feet And addresses the apparition in the following words: “Your own jurisdiction is limited To those who have thrown off the yoke while qualifying as representatives of the latest fashion. For them you may publish your cautioning commentary. Ours is a time you cannot know.
128 “Therefore if we refuse to recognize you or to apply your advice to ourselves, Take it without rancour. Soon your consciousness will have faded like an ill-born dream, Specific to your own kind. Vulgarity gains the upper hand only for a short while, then thought And compassion must pass their various tests, no longer enamoured of themselves.”
129 For a short time still the thing hovered in front of them as if trying to make up its mind Whether to proceed with its previous line of argument. Then the woman commanded it: “Begone, you clutter our field of vision. Ours is an unenviable task, Albeit attended by ultimate reward such as few until now dared to grasp.”
130 Then the dread that attends every experience of the abnormal lifts and the monstrous Chunk of decayed matter, yellowish and oozing, evidently decides to turn its back on them, Although it must be futile to try to distinguish its back from its front, so obscure Are its similarities to anything that has previously existed, as if nature had dithered in this case.
131 “We shall never,” said the Shepherd, his voice trembling, “be given a better demonstration Of the importance of the clarity of the inner eye. When diverse pictures pollute The human mind, especially if introduced intentionally, perhaps in ignorance Of the dire effect, how can useful action proceed or be recognized?”
132 The very atmosphere, which stank from the presence, is refreshed now, the clean light Sealed, impediment to courageous progress removed by an act of chastity: Concentration of the will upon the sovereignty of good spirit. The Shepherd turns to his companion In gratitude and wonder: “You have a rare power, I feel privileged and honoured to be with you.”
133 As far as the eye can see, the world lies transfixed by the greed for money. This is surprising, since there is more money than ever but the instinct for gain is a healthy one. The benighted soul mistakes its true end, an abundance of eternal life, And betrays its inheritance by squandering trust on things and unnecessary commodities.
134 Along with the population of the earth has grown the demand for life as a right. This is a most peculiar notion since the one who has life in his gift Cannot with the best of wills accommodate such an outlandish contractual relationship And must therefore insist, if love is to work, upon carefully prepared individuality.
135 However such a view of the world should not paralyse the heart of the one who lives in it. Of course if he feels content with the status quo he has nothing to worry about, does he. If he belongs to ‘the miserable, useless gang of those who please neither God nor his enemies’ Why should we bother to acknowledge his existence on the planet he stupidly takes for granted?
136 If the one we have called the muse can make a difference, a beneficial one – perhaps that should be added – Then mankind must be broken down at last, on pain of death in futurity, Into shrapnel-size pieces of benevolent intention, each one endowed with a capacity For creative choice, for liberty towards freedom and the stiff neck is no excuse.
137 If the muse is to do more than thrill the ego on the path to vicarious destruction, So that the genocidal murderer can no longer listen to ‘Fidelio’ and continue with his work, Then the magic that placates the psyche will have to be sidelined for the duration, oh my brothers, While we immerse ourselves in thought and compassion, patiently holding out under stress.
138 As for the one who trusts the muse to reveal to him her life-giving secrets, Must he not equally overcome in himself the critical spirit before he can be Touched by the golden image without ruin? Rubbish, treachery, falsehood – How can it harm him, once he has put himself into the possession of unbribable humility?
139 There we have it then, criticism versus humility and grown-ups decide for themselves What is good for them and what harmful, each in his own light. The Pharisee stumbles in the dark Like the rest of us, the critic undermines with perplexity our healthy instinct for what is good for us And the Levite cannot know what moves contemporary men, women and children.
140 Out of the defile of Es-Siq the companions, joined by an especial fate, appear Like forlorn children, behind them façades, Khazneh Firaoun, with its missing pillar One day to be restored, splendid Ed-Deir, celebrity architecture, impressive shop-fronts To create envy and bring the money in, Clues to a mercantile mentality. *
At the Dead Sea 141
hey stand and gaze at the sun-lit spectacle of a delightful world – tourism, Terrorism – take your pick, the steaming Dead Sea glistens in the distance – thermal, Therapeutic – 400 metres below sea level: This is a must for our friends, Drawn to this holy land by the spirit of Jesus.
142 With giant steps they manage to traverse the sun-baked desert lands Until the shores of that peculiar sea bring them abruptly to a halt. They trust they have been brought for good reason to where choice would never have led them. Soon the black mud engulfs them, they are treated, they are cleansed of all past prodigality.
143 “Good Shepherd, now we see more clearly what lies in front of us. We shall not Fret to see the old world advertised as though it were paradise in truth Rather than … but why go into that … here what matters is rational perception And a charitable foreshadowing of future events for the sake of god’s new-born children.”
144 Thus the Muse, whose smile lit up her entire person, not just Her face while leaving the soul in darkness. To her words her companion hearkened In that spirit of total acceptance which marks the learning personality as it evolves From some closed system in which it slumbered, awaiting its time of trial.
145 “Good friend, if I may call you that without trespassing, have you considered How the people of the earth will view our alliance, accustomed as they are to their mirrors, Which flatter and leave the truth unchallenged? Even where society still lingers Upon the threshold, luminous, idolatrous – will they not crush us like vermin?”
146 Thus the Shepherd, whose eyes are feasting upon the splendours of an expensive display. Unaccustomed to luxury, his soul is divided between gratis sensuality and distrust. We begin to doubt the relevance of ourselves as persons with minds of our own And so we wonder what people will think and above all whether they will like us.
147 “Here you have touched on my favourite subject: humanity versus popularity. I cringe before judgment, like any mortal being, which is only natural, I suppose, Since much as we pay lip-service to theories of improvement, growth often hurts and pain Causes us to flinch, alerting us to the need for patient, intelligent suffering.”
148 Side by side on deckchairs they discuss the new philosophy, haltingly, Explorers stepping upon an unknown shore, where the natives may not be hospitable. Attractively tanned flesh parades for the appreciative onlooker, well-muscled Males, lithe females, each embedded in private individualism.
149 “On public show,” she says, “the people are not as dangerous as we think. This I gather from peering into their eyes where I may, if I choose, pity A psyche at loose ends, a lack of certainty and also a puzzling appeal To the gods that they might someday reveal to them why the shoe pinches, and where.
150 “Also , you see we would be silly to ignore our own inclination to popularity. While one of us strives to be human and the other condescends to it, we espouse mortality, With all its liabilities, so that we may with ease Sustain the life of blessedness, aided by our vulnerabilities and weaknesses.”
151 Although the Shepherd lets this sink in, his instinct for plain duality Upbraids him, brings him to his feet and he goes for a stroll on the western shore Of that salt lake which attracts so many visitors, whose aches and pains have become A scandal between themselves and their god, which surely is readily understandable.
ithin a short while he arrives near an outcrop of rock. A path snakes towards it, Ever uphill and as he attends in the heat he hears a clamour in the air High up, as of many outraged voices and lower down the brute clang Of metal and beamed wood against wood interspersed with shrill commands.
153 The very earth underfoot trembles with the violence as of a turmoil evil and clandestine, Bridging the gap between sense and nightmare and he is struck with a terror that unmans him. He can no longer stand but must down on his knees, forced as he seems to be to observe Impending catastrophe, for the walls of the fortress on that rock teem now with people.
154 In his heart he prays that peace should reign, however out there the world Collapses for a multitude as reason dies. Then he sees mother and child In frantic embrace leap into the abyss and a howl as of morbid celebration Rends the very air he breathes, leaving him gasping for his sanity.
155 A flimsy shadow like a cooling sentiment falls where his eye must perceive it And a ghostly legionary, stripped of his armour, appears at his side, saying: “This is where the ones with the stiffest necks of all clung to their ideology like madmen, Some attacking, some defending, understand me aright, for a salutary historic example.”
156 And in that sepulchral voice he continued, his breath rasping like a hearth stone: “You look in vain for gaping wounds where my flesh is not hidden by armour. Here grim death took its toll not because man strayed into wild regions But all on account of an over-protectiveness against the live spirit of truth.”
157 Reluctant to look into what he feared might be empty eye sockets, the Shepherd Recollected all his intelligence in his breast and looking ahead he asked: “When did this terrible event take place and who might you be, that you stand here Conversing with one just recently delivered from the jaws of the modern dilemma?”
158 “Flavius Silva, my name,” came the answer, “undead among the shades for a reason, That this generation might desist from fanaticism and take the first step in kindliness. Look you now through the walls of those casemates and observe the frenzy of self-slaughter, As brother to brother bears his throat to the knife as the calculated suicide runs apace.”
159 “But tell me, you whose tongue is preserved somehow from time’s ravages, Are those within not human beings, cheerfully murdering human beings, And are those without, who follow orders and inadvertently drive them to it, As they cannot stomach but the clean sweep of their power, not human beings too?”
160 “At this time the greatest fear imaginable descended upon the children of the earth, Which is the fear of persecution for no apparent reason. Then they project outward The assailing terror, the obscene horror, manufacturing shields of defence Against self-appointed enemies, others like themselves, and these commonly return the favour.”
161 His ascetic features drawn by shame, the Judean legate paused, Then, without apportioning blame, concluded: “If you were able to face me, Not being put off by this hollow countenance, your memory would harvest for your world An infinite boon, not easily squandered but with courage readily invested.”
162 Then the Shepherd, steadying himself, turned full face towards the spectre, Whereupon his knees trembled, so harrowing was the experience of the locking stare, The adjuration never to forget this moment, whatever the enticements of good fortune. Then the spirit faded and in its place rose a sweet perfume.
163 Oh gentle Jew, if your own countrymen were to extend the hand of friendship To those who labour in nearby fields, would your spirit not hover over them For anonymous protection, or if they should acknowledge… however I delude myself. Only the individual person can emerge, while nations must wither and die.
164 I make no effort to hide my disappointment with my own level of performance, Rarely loving when love would clear up the mess for which no one is responsible Except the one who might love but hesitates, arguing right and precedent And once again the opportunity is missed and the wheel rotates as before.
165 The Muse meanwhile has time to reflect which is not an easy task for her, At least not where she finds herself now, at sea among a thousand tourists, At the Dead Sea and also metaphorically at sea, for she wishes she could understand what motivates People to worry about their health when the emphasis must surely be put on spirituality.
166 Evidently she has not yet discovered the law of longevity in a state of grace, When we rush about all day to disport ourselves among the beastly inventions of our intellect Until the sky falls on us. That is then how we know that too much attention was paid To the clock, or to diet, or perhaps not enough, it seems one can never be quite sure.
167 Patiently she awaits the return of the Shepherd until she feels isolated, then the gorge Rises in her and she paces upon the crunching pebbles like a lioness, eager for the kill. This is a mood entirely new to her. If she were not able to reflect, This agitation would quite unsettle her mind. As it is she has a hard enough time.
168 A man who has observed her from a distance approaches her and politely inquires into her state, Whereupon she neatly bites his head off and dumps the trunk into a trash bin, In all probability without compunction. Where was the essential ingredient? Not one iota of genuine compassion had she noted in his tone of voice.
169 Some would say she had no call to do that, however we would do well to keep in mind That her concept of morality differs from ours. She was after all brought up Among elemental spirits, which abound in generosity on behalf of the children of the light, While they shun the others like so much dirt, as if falsehood drove them into a frenzy.
170 When the Shepherd eventually arrived he spoke to her as if she barely existed. This was due to his experience at Masada, which had so profoundly disturbed him That he could not take in the reality of his surroundings with his customary attention to detail. When the Muse missed her reflection in his eyes she broke down in a fit of tears.
171 We can only understand this if we reflect what it means to her to find herself dispossessed of her mortality, After such a short time, when the sweetness of humanity had only just begun to appeal to her. The Shepherd of course was shocked by her grief and clumsily he undertook to console her, Without in the least being aware of what caused it, since he took his humanity for granted.
172 Now she faces him with brimming eyes, her mouth from that casual encounter With the German tourist still somewhat bloody. “How can I explain how I feel, When the language I would need is no longer available to me but in truth I have no further wish To remain upon this planet other than in disguise, so deep runs the vein of my despair.”
The Birth of Love 173
aving spoken, she strikes him with force on the cheek. He reels from the blow and stares at her, Speechless in disbelief but unwilling to defend himself other than by studying in her eyes Her present nature, which he glimpses preternaturally as that of an animal at bay. Lo and behold, love is born, the erotic love of the sexes.
174 For some time they gaze into each other’s eyes, she with a willingness to be persuaded Of the rightness of her heart’s intimate speech, he for once in awe Of the intensity of his emotion as he strives to plumb the complex depth of this experience. As if by divine sanction their hands touch and in love they are united.
175 Suppose the images of dreams might be ingested while You wake and while your dreaming seems your life in graceful style. Then might you practice what it takes to live eternal life And fashion new the heart that breaks in spite of pain and strife.
176 After this aside I feel I have left our two lovers sufficiently To their own devices. This is no time to loiter, since the devil lurks Knowingly on the sidelines when two have pledged their secret commitment to each other. His task is to point with apt emphasis at areas of abuse and neglect.
177 “Verily something beneficial has happened to us,” the Muse, when she finds her voice, Announces in hushed tones as if she too needed to search for understanding. “What I feared I had lost has been returned to me a hundred-fold, though I behaved abominably And I do apologize. I can see clearly now how you and I might prosper.”
178 “How is it that we can stand here and talk,” said the Shepherd, whose heart was heavy, “When we feel so strongly that something must be done. I notice I speak also for you. Is this not true, that suddenly we feel impelled to act on behalf of others, As if our energies needed to surpass our individualities? I wonder, am I making any sense?”
179 The Muse knew quite well what was afoot, for she recognized in herself the ancient Desire to swallow her mate whole but this ran counter to the new System of thought she was beginning to espouse, based on feminine intuition, Which takes as its starting point the divine gift only dimly surmised as yet.
180 She senses in herself a peace at once and a turbulent nervous agitation. The latter is like a compulsion to take charge, to act out an imperative necessity Which overcomes opposition by force of argument. It is the mighty sensation of being right And he who would question a tittle or a jot must be judged as being sadly out of order.
181 Against this she acknowledges her ultimate responsibility for every word that issues from her mouth. This responsibility is not moral but physiological, in other words she will undermine her well-being To the extent that she expresses those mighty forces. “Now I must know your name,” she says, for I believe I need help, help which is personal. I can no longer decide within myself.”
182 “My name has long been on my lips, to convey to you the secret well-spring of my being.” There is more in a name than people can conceive, for the human being is attached, By means of his name, to the higher order whence traditionally all blessings flow, Although be careful when you say ‘tradition’ and reflect on what you mean.
183 “What is this secret well-spring?” she asks. “Are you not a Nabatean shepherd, Indifferent to metaphysics, to the abstract sciences? Is your special knowledge not Of the weather, the seasons, of birds and beasts which populate the landscape Where you spent your youth under sun and stars, only lately a victim of history?”
184 Now for the first time he eyes her with suspicion. How far can he trust her, to confide in her? Years of solitary contemplation have brought him to the verge of diverse insights All of which lack only this one dimension, namely to be communicated and shared. What of her capacity for betrayal, her inclination to labour on behalf of extinction?
185 Just as the poet with a gift for revelation will not at the beginning of a work Commit himself totally to all outer aspects but leave himself open to suggestion In every sense through which the creative spirit operates, so too Is he now unwilling to take for granted the good influence of the Muse.
186 It seems that love has opened their eyes to undercurrents of the individual nature Where primitive traits begin to stir, moods and distempers not rooted In one or the other, in you or me, but in us and therefore inaccessible Except to sceptical communion such as an active love facilitates.
187 It becomes much less important that our words are understood in isolation and often The music is crucial, so that rational meaning is a matter of heart and head Combined, of brain and groin unified, which is possible on behalf of another But not merely for my own benefit, as I struggle to meet my standards.
188 Also the power of communication is not magical, not a function of immediate sensation. The devoted listener is willing to wait for the strength due to comprehension, He is willing to dispense with immediate gratification in the interest, perhaps much later, Of profound insight, fundamental meaning, the instrument out of sight and mind.
The Monk 189
hen they had walked some distance along the beach in guarded conversation, Each reflecting on the mood which so recently had changed and was still changing, The tall figure of a man stepped up to them, clearly a monk or a priest And as he approached he called out: “Ah, Theandrios, what brings you to the Asphalt Sea?”
190 At this the Shepherd visibly shrinks into himself, like one who does not wish to be recognized. “You mistake me for another,” he mutters, under his breath. However the priest persists: “Were you not known to me in your youth in Petra? My father’s sheep were in your care. We worked side by side on the great canal That irrigated the eastern plateau.”
191 But the Shepherd will not be identified against his will. “I have many brothers in the valley. Now I am cast out among those we call the infidel.” “Then tell me, who is your companion?” “She is the one I travel with, none other.” “So it seems you will not give an inch. Perhaps you are on the road to self-discovery. Oh Theandrios, beware of swindlers.”
192 At this the Muse begins to take an interest. “Stranger, what right have you to accost us? Is it the custom in these parts to give unsolicited advice? Are you a member of that clergy who make it Their business to pry in other people’s business? Perhaps you need a lesson in courtesy Before you run more deeply into debt with the world and with your fellow man!”
193 Surely, thinks the Shepherd, this is somewhat over the top. I was not in need of protection. However he is not as sure of himself as if he had still been alone And so he thinks it best simply to turn his face away as a signal of his unwillingness to continue With talk that would resurrect his past life for him, when his spirit yearns for the future.
194 “Ah Theandrios, I see you have your reasons.” So the monk, if he was one. With the elegant bow of a man of the world he turns on his heels and departs, Leaving the companions with an unsolved puzzle: That one was not as he seemed. But the Muse searches the Shepherd’s face: Why will he not tell me his name?
195 Any relationship rooted in the elements, not merely cast before swine, Begins from the premise that love cannot be understood as such but remains To an appreciable degree shrouded in mystery. Therefore the location on earth Of those who love is not a matter of indifference to that love which reaches into us.
196 This can be explained. Genuine human beings are not accidents, flotsam On a sourceless stream in a cracked riverbed. How we are visited by love Depends on our terrestrial position at the time. We cannot be expected to foretell Where on this globe our optimal efficiency is destined to leave its mark.
197 Therefore it behoves us in those early days, when love makes its presence felt, To pay heed to how our feet may be guided, perhaps into distant lands Or only next door, and the tribe of the nomad or of the planter shall not constrain, But that particular bond must be broken in the interest of a productive blessedness.
198 Not that it suits our notion of convenience, the way we are whipped into shape. Many a cherished indulgence must be jettisoned as the sun of that love rises Within us, enlightening our immortal soul, as pain, and of course the fear of pain, Draws our attention to our human inheritance and away from the popular concerns.
199 No longer can we afford to calculate how best to be liked by those Whom we happen to like because their faults match ours and they happen to trot Down the same incline, driven or lured by unacknowledged demons Which feed on private vices or else they have captured the public imagination.
200 The Muse now looks at the Shepherd through different eyes. While her ambition is enormous Not, of course, comparable to the sack of Rome but she does hold out for a new Relation of man, the maker, to his god – while she sees herself as universal innovator, She cannot but wonder how this shepherd will fit into plans she has not yet worked out.
201 For example she cares for him now and her heart is divided between loyalty to her destiny And a sense that this man has his own reason for being where he is at this time. How can she make these two duties coincide, knowing that duty springs from That love which knows no worldly barrier, uniting person to person?
202 She decides to question him. “Since I may not know your name and since I have none of my own yet, Which circumstance would surely puzzle anyone who takes the least interest in our lot, Does it fall to me perhaps to seek an understanding of the nature of this relationship of ours? Your well-being, it seems, is tied to my own as mine, by the same token, is to yours.”
203 Her words are so cold, thinks the Shepherd, so distant, and yet I find myself uplifted Out of my former, objectionable self by her presence and by her every word. Even as she speaks in seeming abstraction is my mind cleared of dross, Of spite and resentment, of cynical mockery, as I trade in my ego for love.
204 “Dearest companion,” he replies to her, “ you have touched on the very question to which I too would apply myself before too much longer. I am almost afraid to admit How uncertain I am of myself at the moment, especially since you have respected My wish, for the present, to remain anonymous, which does not diminish my regard for you.
205 “However, in the absence of an external prompt, we are not to remain idle but to search For the common spirit that unites us, which also will divide us and leave us in despair Unless we do the very thing you suggest, which is: plumb the meaning that binds us, For this is truly not of our own choosing but it originates where wisdom is housed.”
206 Side by side, with bowed heads, joined in intimate conversation, They make their way over reclaimed grassland, where a hot-spring has deposited its minerals; Sparse shrubbery dots the landscape. Neither bird nor animal can be seen. It is late afternoon and the heat of the sun no longer beats down on their shoulders.
207 “Let’s assume we are one of nature’s experiments,” the Shepherd suggests, tongue in cheek. “If that were the case we would have to pay heed to every interruption of our friendship. When the time comes that we hate each other, which is bound to happen, especially If affection becomes a possibility for us, then let’s be mindful of our origin.”
208 “You have spoken wisely,” says the Muse. “In my opinion the enemy at the start is fear – In my case the fear of mortal conflict, dependence on food and shelter, Illness too, the frailty of the flesh to which I am not accustomed. How many times will I have to curse god before I finally give in to humanity!”
209 The Shepherd reflected especially on her last words. It made sense to him that she should be troubled On account of her high birth by what to him was matter of fact. At the same time He would not find it easy to escape from his many unfruitful habits of thought, Such as his reference, of all that happens to him, to the small circle of his past life.
210 Then he stopped and looked full into her face and asked the following question: “Who is this god you speak of, the one you say you may have to curse? Forgive me if this is too personal a question. Where I come from, people are Reluctant to use the word god if they sincerely believe in a god.”
211 She is visibly shocked to hear this, but on account of the love she bears him, Which as yet has not fully risen to her awareness, she decides to relate to him what to her Seems patently obvious. “I speak of the god who is merciful love and this is What defines his goodness, or his god-being, for those who are able to believe in him.
212 “Then tell me,” he rejoinders, when he has taken a deep breath, “have you heard of the one they call the son of god?” “And who are ‘they’” she wishes to know. “Simply those who do,” he replies, Somewhat impatient with her. “The son of man and the son of god are one in him, At least that is how I have heard the creed interpreted. Also it seems he has a name.”
213 “The god I mean has no name,” she states, quite categorically and as if A god worth his salt must by rights be nameless. “His reign in obscurity is like that of A king who will not be approached by his subjects and his power is absolute, not like That of a one who can be bribed or whose will may be guessed and forced or cajoled.”
214 “This would not be satisfactory for me,” says the Shepherd sadly, As he turns to walk away. She quickly follows, curious to know what he means by ‘Son of man’ and ‘son of god’. “A son,” she says, “issues from a father, Therefore explain to me how your god can be a father. Start with that, if you please.”
215 “When I speak of god,” he says, “I mean one whose interest in human beings is paramount. That is one reason for referring to him as a father, because he is spirit which nourishes and cares.” “That much I fully agree with,” she interrupts. “But you have not yet told me what you mean by His son. How can spirit have offspring?” He looks at her like one who is frightened.
216 “The answer to that has never been easy for me. I believe that a man can be inspired. There are many spirits, good and bad – good, bad and indifferent. Their tendency is to become embodied, I think. When a spirit inhabits a body – And only human beings have bodies – it is able to exist, on earth.”
217 She listens to this as if it were a tale told by a complete stranger. That is how the Shepherd at that moment appears to her, like someone on a visit from another planet And she holds herself in readiness for what else he will say. Her heart reaches out for a message Which she only dimly perceives as available, somewhere in the cosmos as she knows it.
218 “Tell me now,” she says, her eyes large and expectant, “is there anything we can do To facilitate the embodiment in ourselves of good spirit?” “That of course is the burning question, Since some teach one thing, others another. Many teach trivia they themselves live, And many teach truths, profound in the abstract, while their lives give doubtful testimony.”
219 Here he pauses, not sure should he go on or perhaps expose himself to ridicule. His own grasp on what he believes is not as secure as he would wish And he has not yet learned how the teacher who would succeed must couch his message in love, Although it happened to him once that those who listened to him tore him to pieces.
220 Now he looks deeply into the soul of this woman and finds himself encouraged to go on. “One is known whose soul has long since departed and his spirit lives with us. This, I suspect, is the essence in a nutshell, however I might be wrong. For me what matters is that he taught profoundly and lived a true testimony.”
221 “No one like that,” she says, “is known to us where I come from. We were all Ghostly representatives, allegorical entities, myths and precursors of magic And all these hold the world in thrall except myself, who was ousted From that questionable realm because I asked too many inconvenient questions.”
222 “This is indeed news to me,” he says. “It lets me know where I stand. All this time I had imagined that your ancestry could not be traced by the living But amounted in some way to a figment of your imagination. Now I can see more clearly How from the realm you describe so vividly music may reach our ear.”
223 “Music!” she cries. “She was our queen! No one can say what became of her. Some say that with a few retainers she has fled to reside beyond the stars, For great were the abuses of virtue in our land. Others too, who had stature, Departed, leaving only a rabble and a few who had learned to dream.”
224 “Such as yourself?” He looks at her intently. “Yes, such as myself. Even as a child, when the land around me went up in flames and then The values rising to the surface perplexed me, I drifted thankfully into solitude And felt a gentle hand upon me, urging me to peace and patience.”
225 “And were you then appalled when those around you, ephemeral phantoms, Looked in on you, pretending to know your self, making helpful suggestions as if Calculating to drive you under the earth rather than showing you the surface? Did you feel abused and bullied by those who called themselves parents and teachers?”
226 She looks at him as if he had depicted the inventions of a troubled mind And her heart goes out to him. He meanwhile knows he has unburdened himself And for once the pain was not flung back at him. We sense it when we are healed by genuine compassion, available at the right time, not punished for showing a weakness.
227 “My youth,” she says, “was really no youth at all. The days and weeks went by Like shadows that are cast by clouds. One lived but in a sense, Since all was system, method, technique imposed by a select few In aid of their particular brand of happiness and security.
228 “Imagine yourself as a cog in a machine with every move both of Flesh and spirit circumscribed, habitual beyond recognition, So that the living proof of god’s plan was carefully concealed By rite, ritual and observance, with spontaneity the heretic.”
229 “Again you mention god,” he says, but now as if you had knowledge of spirit which is careful for mankind. I see that you and I have begun to merge our gods, Something perhaps not to be wondered at when the aim is friendship sustained by love.”
230 At this she casts an irritable look, as if meaning to convey A fundamental disagreement. It seems that The idea of friendship is mixed up in her mind with a sexless compromise, So that the female in her feels slighted, which is perfectly understandable since we are born male or female.
231 They stand upon a height now from where they can gaze upon the Judean hills, Not far from Jerusalem to one side, on the other Jericho, oldest of cities And they look down on that lake into which the Jordan pours its water, Bahr Lut, Lot’s lake, in which all fish die, over legendary Sodom and Gomorrah.
232 As the evening draws in they sit down under palm trees, speechless before nature’s beauty. A peasant passing with a burdened mule offers them grapes and cheese, Which they accept as if it were their due, then wine is added to the menu. Charity is a consequence of genuine need, indistinguishable from courteous behaviour.
233 There in the fragrant evening air, well out of reach of the trade winds as the earth whirls towards the east, Muse and Shepherd plan their individual strategies, taking into account minute changes of disposition, then preparing readiness of speech in the interest of eventual conversation.
234 Some who have tried conversation call it the communal gift, value it far above talk, since the communal spirit, also known by another name, can be counted on to visit and make his home within us. Thus we bring delight to bear on one another’s flagging spirits.
235 When they had rested a while, with open eyes and ears and the peasant had departed, the Muse recalled what the Shepherd had said about the son of man and how much he had left unsaid, so it seemed to her. Now she decides to reopen that subject in the hope that he will have more to say.
236 “Tell me”, she says, “if you would, please, how this son of man you mentioned earlier may be apprehended by a person and how does he really exist in life, or perhaps in dream and how shall we profit from knowing him in reality? Is he a mythic entity, an invention of the creative spirit under duress?”
237 If truth be told, he is glad she asks, although he resents the challenge. However, being aware of both, He asks for help from the spirit of truth and then replies: “Our human nature resides latent in ourselves and must be raised in time and space for all to see and judge.”
238 Then he continues: “Our individuality is like a gift, ready for possession and we, in order to own it, may take the pain to forge from it an entire person, effective somehow in the outward world, whereupon either a crisis is averted or an intimate relation is transformed.”
239 Anyone who hears such words either takes an interest or else closes his ears and leaves. Now it so happens that the Muse had never consciously betrayed her sex, nor willingly behaved shamefully towards a man, and this stood her in good stead as she contemplated the erotic wisdom.
240 A pause ensued and the Shepherd felt he should make yet another attempt to explain what he meant by the son-of-man. “Surely”, he says, “you have sensed the urge within your self to rage against creation or at times to sport and mock where others place endearments and sweet sentiments.
241 “Such are the times when in our flesh we sanction what we should oppose and hinder what we might help, so that, caught up in ‘should’ and ‘might’, in ‘must’ and ‘may’, we cannot find an exit into being for the lack of a point of application. That is the son of man.”
242 “This point of application? Is that what you mean?” She does feel hedged in by so many unknowns. “Can I not just trust that within me I have a certain instinct for the norm, since that is what I have brought with me? This son of man is surely not my will, on which I can insist, like an ill-brought-up child nevertheless I seem to be responsible for it.”
243 “We shall have to compare notes off and on,” he says. “Evidently, being a woman, you can contribute in ways to this topic that are closed to me until I take the pains to understand you and I dare say it works the other way around. As I see it, within every human being a specific energy is available which, depending on our approach and attitude…”
244 “…either mars or mends us,” she completes. “Yes, this makes good sense to me. Sometimes, since I have made my appearance here as a woman in the human natural course of life, I can see neither rhyme nor reason in what I want and what I end up doing I regret afterwards. Also I might as well tell you something else since you are being so honest with me…”
245 Here she pauses, as if to ascertain that she will not step over the mark: the standard sometimes called ‘good taste’, which includes ordinary consideration for others. He assures her with a look that he is prepared for something of a revelation, whereupon she takes courage again and proceeds as follows:
246 “I have noticed,” she begins, “that my tongue is not entirely reliable. In those realms which now seem far off and where responsibility never seemed to be an issue, and where conscience was more or less a private affair, I could let myself prattle at will, seemingly safe from error and recrimination, as if incapable of doing harm.”
247 Gently he placed his hand on her arm to assure her of his understanding, in case it should suddenly occur to her to retract her trust and to forego what she had hoped to achieve by speaking. “In short,” she says then, “now in this present realm, where you and I matter, I have what it takes to destroy.”
248 For a time he considers what she has said and his brain teems with manifold reply, there being a rush of words for expression. However he has learned the painful way that this inner chaos must first be ordered, the eager mind clarified and stilled, before a sensible remark becomes possible, so that the inflicted wound is avoided.
249 Before he can speak she begins again, being more afraid of being misunderstood than willing to trust him sufficiently. In this way we justify our shortcomings, rather than praying for the patience to endure. “It’s not that I want to pass judgment on anyone or that my need for sympathy is all that great but I labour under the illusion … of a rapid decline …” 250 Yes, now he sees it clearly. “You are quite right”, he says, “when you suppose that your tongue might do damage but once you have acknowledged as much, you are more than halfway along the road to a full recovery of good judgment. Or perhaps we should call it awareness, since judgment may imply a lack of compassion.”
251 Now, since he has not pretended, like those addicted to an ineffectual sympathy, that there is no fault where he plainly sees one, a bond of trust is forged between them. Far from harbouring any conceit of superiority, he practices gratitude for having become capable in time of setting the appropriate example, rather than lecturing or appeasing.
252 They observe a string of geese overhead, effortlessly streaming into the sunset. In a purple haze the distant hills divide the earth from the sky but in such a way that the two may be joined by that achieved perception which is based on human faith and testifies to a marriage of body and mind.
253 Now that the night will soon be upon them with that vacant hour when all sounds die, when nature holds its breath and the moon admonishes the restless psyche, filling it with untold dreams of mysterious order, they draw together fragrant boughs and sprinkle over them many flowers and leaves, making a pleasant game of the preparation.
254 The Muse tests the softness of the bed and requires a quantity of moss where her head will rest as she contemplates the stars performing their nocturnes against the backcloth of the milky way. The Shepherd will rest nearby, similarly open in heart and soul to the rushing and swirling illumination of the cosmos.
255 Then they lie down and at first a great drowsiness overcomes them as after too much wine and their voices become barely audible such as when songbirds at nightfall whisper remnants of not quite forgettable melodies. She: “This I call the end of my first day.” He: “The ancient world has returned.”
Terrestrial Spirits 256
errestrial spirits, long since banned from the light of day by one who rules over both dominions, recreating darkness black and palpable and daylight as light of day, spring into action on impulse of dreaming prearranged in higher spheres where the dead slumber.
257 They tiptoe round the sentient pair, bent on mischief, they snip lock of hair, tug on lace, bring twig to bear on bare skin, in fine mettle, they wear the local garb wherever they appear, tweak nose, flick eyelid, pull ear, theirs the urge to make a stir, to excite to ware and tare (sic).
258 Where the Muse has left her conscious mind, now, like ivy, slender tendrils reach out for where the brain is housed, there to flirt with light electric which has not yet been to the world exposed, this being alpha time, under the sign of the ram, perpetrator of cold fact, slayer of sentiment and mood.
259 Her eyes flash open, in her loins restless energy seethes, she may not be the woman she remembers from before, as if the breezes brushing the hill were extensions of her nerves, baring all she had ever thought or felt to this cleansing universal wind, injecting an icy lucidity.
260 The man beside her shall not be left to his own devices, she decides, imperilled by a clanging bell within, its purpose to alert her to the task which must define why she exists; no prudent inhabitant of convenient space, she is to make renewal of human race the purpose she identifies and serves.
261 In line with this onslaught on her nerves there also hums and hisses in her brain the pre-established harmony of the spheres and a discordant noise that challenges it. Again she views the figure of the male as she questions the passion she controls, willing it to ripen to maturity before that which would be made or done.
262 Let’s not imagine the Shepherd as untouched meanwhile, by the ancient human curse, which taints the flesh and calls it evil. The moral sanctions of those times, together with the sins they invent plus modern liberty, subverting this and merely indicating the coin’s other side, have left the gate to idiocy gaping wide.
263 Instead imagine a healthy revolution in favour of young and old alike, physiologically determined, mind you, not theorized into existence in periodicals, by means of which the spirit that is life, for reasons unfathomable as to why now, inclines to bold adventure the individual man who dares the chaste experiment, if he can.
264 The vibrant hour brings him to his senses; the Shepherd in the nick of time translates the appetite for power in his loins in a way that classifies and sublimates, so that, as at a moment’s notice, these two are not considerable as alone but their downright function as unique involves live spirit, affection-prone.
265 And then this union is successful, including all the juicy bits. I’ll not waste time on newsstand rhetoric, where plentiful supply of bums and tits engages the fantasy of God’s people, so that the little-pleasure-weeds may thrive, since those who cannot be bothered to live must somehow be kept alive.
266 In upper heavens angels clap their wings like pigeons in courtship flight. This notwithstanding their partial envy of beings in possession of the human right to organize within communal limits the son-of-man-and-god conjunction. However, theirs to serve and to observe. Two-thousand years the law’s completion is rightly known, from which they dare not swerve.
267 We are the people and we get ideas to spur us on from victory to defeat. We have no time for so-called higher learning. The Sun, the Mirror is our meat. We like to glisten on far-off beaches, en masse we travel there and back. Our own society, on reflection, absorbs our needs and hands them back.
268 Beneath the star-sown sky, replete with roaring light, The moon in ample presence shedding liquid images – Beasts asleep on their feet, camel, sheep and cow, It is we who keep watch, all is translated now.
269 The lights of Jerusalem are distinguished on the horizon. At the Golden Gate the parked cars barely have room. Grenades explode where the Temple Mount might have been located. The losses incurred cannot be regained except mercifully.
270 The Shepherd is the first to wake. He has been instructed in dream. In the cool air he rises, He is not offended by what he sees: Beside the sleeping Muse, Its head upon her open hand, a snake lies curled – This is not what he had expected.
271 At first he wishes he might Quietly tiptoe away from this scene, utterly peaceful to the point Where sleep induces restful sleep, except for those whose souls Lie stretched beyond redemption beneath slabs of granite, Not to be coaxed into view.
272 Then he makes sense of the image deposited there by the moon. An awkward silence enters his breast, the charred remains of the night. He still cannot imagine how events have come to this turn. Injuries are now blessings, the hand of god no longer threatens.
273 The Muse, her night’s sleep frequently disturbed by disorderly fancies, comes alert with a shock, like someone who has overslept, forgetful of an important engagement. Her eyes torn wide, she springs to her feet, searches, finds herself alone and hard bitten by ire.
274 Catching sight of the Shepherd among the trees, she notes her temper is soothed but she cannot immediately forgive the scare, so she shouts across to him: “A cold friend you are, leaving the marriage bed and me to wake in fear of desertion!” This in a voice so strident with anxiety that the Shepherd’s heart turns to stone.
275 A novel experience for this man. Hitherto women’s voices have flattered or fed cynicism; no female anger has ever breached the immediate wall of contempt. The male, in the face of such accusation, ignores the opposite sex, opposite and unjustified; secures himself in hard individuality.
276 This time doubtless the breach has been effected. Like a man too soon deposited in his coffin, he would struggle, except for the constraint, the veritable binding of his limbs, while speech is knocked out of him. The change is so sudden, you see, from affection and fond indulgence to the whiplash chastisement of the gods.
277 The paralysis, this goes without saying, encompasses his understanding. In fact he stands rooted to the ground, in legend transformed into a tree, leafless branches expressing The frantic cry of the inconsolable creature. I dare say I make too much of this But wounds not yet healed sharpen recall.
278 What would be best in this case, he wonders. Of course his initial reaction is hatred, since he feels pain, so he must have been hurt, and hatred admits no own fault. Too proud to explain or justify his behaviour, what did it amount to, after all, he only walked off to contemplate the sunrise – he hides behind hardness of heart.
279 At this stage an army of helpers floods in from the heavenly spheres, or shall we say: The psyche in uproar sends signals to elementary nature: a dreadful situation is developing, all beings look to the human variety for guidance and leadership but here two are unravelling – help!
280 What we have for a short time therefore is an all out war between good and evil, both within him and within her; a painful, wretched experience, to be sure, while yet neither has chosen a side. Take what is human out of the equation and what you have left is this sad contest, this struggle for supremacy between equals.
281 All warfare, all hostility and clash demonstrates, in short, a lack of humanity. Slaughter through the ages, whether recounted in glowing terms in the history books or perpetrated by unfortunates in a dark corner, testifies to the fact that no human being is available to tip the scales in favour of some creative example, however remote.
282 During such times the gods weep, being incapable of direct interference, limited to upholding the perfected universal law, so that the modern evil cannot conquer, only insist on its right to stage that eternal showdown in case a human effort should be made – and harbour wrong expectations.
283 This time the Shepherd is the first, ‘exposed upon the summits of his heart’, to diagnose correctly this combat of spirits as futile self-destruction. Swayed equally to participate in pitched battle or to crouch behind the ramparts, he does neither but inwardly institutes a lowly disposition.
284 In this way he throws his weight behind the powers of good, which now have human input. The malevolent forces feel the rug pulled out from under them, the effect is of communal reach. The Muse is the first to perceive relief, feels naturally inclined to love
285 “That was no way to speak,” she says, softening her voice as befits a reconciling mood. She offers her face for him, to read the regret in her eyes and that must suffice for the moment; she secretly suspects when she raged she could not have done otherwise.
286 “If only it had occurred to me,” he says, “how important it would be for you to have me by your side when awakening. My only thought was to let you rest and not to disturb you. At the same time I admit I am frightened of this union, having known until now my separate self alone for long and nothing beyond.”
287 “Ah, you see how different we are, since I am sick and tired of myself, bored with the same old issues, the plaintive sentiments, the morbid conceits, really a mental morass. I long to mix my emotion with yours, to have joint possession of all liveliness and never again to be alone.”
288 Then they confirm their union with a kiss, each within satisfied that a victory has been won and that the forces of evil have been shown the door this time, while progress has been made. Progress towards what? Let’s not try to understand everything at once.
289 Oh how far they still have to travel before they realize they have arrived at the place where none were before them, except the one who in one year settled the hash of the devil, then weighted the wheel with his flesh, so as to be here for us now, luminous gate into bliss.
290 They sat down cross-legged to a meal of figs and drank from a spring, nearby conveniently, after they had washed. Out of the hollows of the earth came rodents and unusual birds and eyed them curiously, as if they had known that some such as these would arrive in time to correct the faulty vision of man, attached for so long to ghosts and dead matter.
291 “Here we shall begin our career,” said the Muse. “This is the moment, I can feel it in my bones, when the task of our lives will be firmly laid upon us. For me the problem is one of transcendence, since I grew up unwittingly among the walking dead. Their stench clings to me. Their habits are ingrained in the way I think and feel and I know it. Therefore with this I shall have to come to terms.”
292 “In a way you have drawn me down to you out of an ideal world, out of a bloodless sphere of influence, away from a delusory point of reference propounded by the wisest among us. Their best efforts ended again and again in insanity and bloodshed, as if the perfect sum never quite came out right.
293 “Bear with me for a time and half a time, my dear companion and friend, so that I may unburden my heart in preparation for the gift we have not yet accepted. I can at this moment taste the life to come. How shall we set our example? No one is born to exist solely for him- or herself and where two are joined they must aim beyond themselves.
294 “To that end I speculate now. Let one of us practice the bold communication so that those who are falling by the wayside, having been misled by their culture and now fatigue presses them close and the little pleasures appear to them unseemly – let those who are crushed by modern values be the first to benefit from what we can give.
295 “I hereby dedicate every effort I shall make in the interest of life on earth under the sun and under the moon and stars to those modest unfortunates, who unlike myself have not yet been buoyed by the hope and the glory of the truth incarnate, that they may question the necessity of their despair, of their bleak hours, brooding upon a soul too empty or too full.
296 “Tell me, what do you make of this. My spirit overflows, my flesh is less than a vain nothing. In your absence None of this would occur to me, and yet my instinct tells me that not I But you shall be the one to hear the voice, to see the vision and report it, While I through you realize my personality.”
297 At last he begins to make sense, both of what she means and of why she speaks to him in this expansive manner. He fancies he detects in her speech the seeds of privilege but also of admonishment. As if another also addressed him, even as if words and music were two, so he inclines and accommodates both in himself.
298 As yet he knows nothing of purport, senses nothing specific, nothing particular, could perhaps be described as slightly in shock, like someone who has weathered the unexpected but without accomplishment. So he holds out, in good faith, steadying himself against the rock of his primitive being.
299 This has long been known, that the great forward movers towards the end that is no-stage shall be of humble origin, probably residing in anonymity among those who mistake them, their inheritance within them an incalculable fortitude.
300 He makes no reply but she can tell her words have had some effect. If now she would know his mind and not overburden him with matter, she must hold her tongue for a time and during the pause she must wish him well, so to speak, rather than rambling in her own mind.
301 This is the habit of those with the gift of the gab, that they will not listen, afraid as they are of losing the thread of their argument. As a result there is no true exchange, no mutual fertilization and fruition, only self-expression on one side and resentment or tolerance on the other.
302 Then there are those who will not speak, being reluctant to tie themselves down to a judgment they may have to defend. Or what if they have nothing to say? Then it’s best to keep quiet meanwhile but to listen and learn, no matter what is proffered at the market stall, which we inspect, then buy or reject.
303 Now it seems to him that he sees an opening for the marriage of heart and head. I put it like that in order to distinguish his inward processes with precision. Surely his heart toys with rebellion, his head with mockery and apathy but this woman has laid a yoke upon him, or someone has done it by means of her.
304 His speech is deliberate, his meaning well thought out: “I imagine myself, as I contemplate the way forward, situated between two worlds, one which I must choose and the other in which I happen to find myself. Let me call the former a venture and a quest. Skill is involved, awareness and attentiveness and a willingness to take the measure of whatever presents itself, irrespective of whether it pleases or displeases.
305 “The other world would be the world of people, where rude awakenings and disappointing events alternate with high spirits and enthusiastic activity and where the world forever needs to be changed, while the self works discord, remaining out of sight. However this other, popular world, in which those live who know only it, will not be blamed or rejected by myself.
306 “Suffice it to say I will not choose it and if it so happens that I find myself entangled in it I will right away choose the other instead. What you said to me in no way touched on this matter but it facilitated a fine understanding for me and for that I am grateful. The horrid doubt that has plagued me all my life is lifting.
In your company I feel I have the right to hope.” 307 The Muse weighs those words carefully. In her opinion the Shepherd has told her not what he will do but what he would do if he were still on his own, ignorant of what influences and stimulates him. Up to her now to come to grips with this but in terms of her own lights as ‘the partner’ whose responses must be flexible and new.
308 “No one”, she finally says, “can live in two worlds at once, that has been proven and is daily being shown by those who try to combine those two pursuits: money and truth. They have to be satisfied with partial success. However that is not what you have in mind. You speak of choice and of a world you describe as venture and quest.”
309 Although she has merely repeated some of his words in addition to drawing on Gospel wisdom, which may or may not be to the point, he can see his position more clearly as a result. “Let’s walk down to that stream,” he suggests, pointing, “you can just make out a bend of it to the left of that grove of beech, where the sun reflects from that plough share, do you see?”
310 She takes him by the hand and leads on, without speaking. After only a few steps they both look back at the place where they spent the night. She squeezes his hand, he hers and they smile, as in conscious confirmation of good fortune. A few minutes later they come to a path, more of a goat trail, thistle blooms on both sides, a panorama of open country lies before them.
311 “Here,” says the Shepherd, “although no longer a boy or even a young man, I see before me stretched out the symbol of future activity. Is it possible that after years of pessimistic apathy, of feeling that mature manhood was evading me, I am finally being presented with an opportunity for action? It awakens cautiously in me, this new hope, for I suspect it may be shattered again, as in the past.
312 “But then I always trod an independent path. Like a miser I referred all happiness and unhappiness to myself alone, encircled in self-regard, vacillating between self-pity and self-assertion, jealously on the look-out for a panacea for that grief which was self-inflicted, so that I might gloat. Is that not a recipe for lasting immaturity?” “You may be right,” she said, smiling to herself.
313 Then she went on: “If now through my eyes you may see yourself more in relation to others, more in a lively interdependence, then the gifts which constitute your true human nature, will no longer seem to operate to your disadvantage. Through caring for me you will learn the delight of caring for a great variety of beings and the world will reveal itself to you as it is.”
314 “Yes,” he agrees, “and not as I distort it. With regret I admit that the main skill which I practiced in the past, with clever sophistication, was criticism. I know it now as a corrosive spirit. It hollows out the heart and orphans thought. Also it lends a false sense of superiority to a trivial mind, so that gradually we take ourselves for more than we are, becoming less than we might be.”
315 She listens to his words with a combination of approval and apprehensiveness. Whence this sudden flash of insight? Being unaccustomed to reflection herself, she views it sternly, as someone who stands outside a lit window at night and overhears shameful altercation in that room, of a sort that may call for intervention.
316 “As you have indicated yourself,” she suggests, “a world is out there that is not out there at all but a projection of our half-baked sympathies, of our ill-bred prejudices, our vain presumptions and conceits – don’t let me go on – .” “No, stop!” he shouts and they both laugh as we do when the truth veils its face behind intimations of the absurd.
317 “All the same,” he takes up the theme again, “once we have done our homework within, where our soul is frequently overshadowed by a psyche, is it not up to us then to make contact with other beings out there?” “Not out there, out here,” she corrects. “This I can vouch for from experience. Let all that is out there remain there.”
318 “What then, will it burn up on the last day?” he jokes. She looks at him strangely as if he had half revealed a secret which is a secret no longer. “You see, where I come from,” he explains, “realism has taken hold with a vengeance. Only two dimensions are fashionable: things and their quantities.
319 “The spirit of man must therefore produce some future catastrophe for itself.” “Of course,” she agrees. “Something ‘out there’, eh? For us that option is not available. Even in my flesh and blood I can sense the need for a created world, not a phantom product of fear.” “We shall have to get together on that,” he laughs.
320 “I foresee no great difficulties,” she proposes. “For example, do you see that herd of sheep milling around that pond in that field?” He looks, sees nothing and says so. “Please,” she encourages him. “Please, see it.” “Ah, very well, I see what you mean,” he says. “They have black faces. They have all been sheared.”
321 “I see no shepherd nearby,” she observes, “but now I see a wolf creeping up behind that hillock. He will surely make a meal of one of them. What we have to decide now is, should we interfere?” “What are you getting at?” he wants to know. “Why are you inventing an environment which is bound to cause me unease?”
322 “As to that, I should not be questioned,” she replies. “We are part of a story and we help to invent it, however such invention is original. It springs from where we cannot know, since it helps to make knowledge itself possible. Among my former circle of acquaintances no word existed for this originality and no one was allowed to use it.”
323 “Now there’s a conundrum for you,” he says to her. “What was it that made them reject what you yourself evidently prize highly?” “You may well ask,” she replies. “If I had not loved that word and what it stood for, which is really one and the same in its case, I would still be walking with my face to the front and my feet to the back.”
324 “Were you hated for knowing what you did?” he asks. Her face becomes dark and stern, two vertical folds appear between her eyes, as when someone is forced, perhaps by fascination or by an inward urge, to contemplate that which still angers the heart, while the wish to be done with it once and for all is just as lively, if not more so.
325 Eventually she comes out with: “If I speak of this now I may turn into a raging monster and you will ask yourself, should you perhaps leave me behind. So I take this opportunity to warn you, that somewhere within me a great reservoir of anger simmers and I have no access to it but when I become inattentive it spews forth its contents like a volcano lava.”
326 “Also I would like you to know,” she goes on “that I cannot apologize for this. It comes over me when it does, I cannot say better. I am like someone with two personalities, with a first and a second nature, try to understand. One day perhaps I too will understand. A great deal will depend on the help I get from someone who loves me for myself.”
327 I can see I have my work cut out for me, he thinks, at least in that direction. It will be a while before he makes use of the love that is detached from liking, cut off and separated from it by that sword which has worked incessantly, as we know, during twenty modern centuries so far and not all are happy with the result.
328 What is the result? A sound basis for those who want to live their lives. This implies freedom, not just liberty. Liberty without freedom, by comparison, is the modern dilemma and destroys peace. Therefore seek to be set free. You will then be at liberty to do as you like, a bonus of very little real consequence.
329 The Shepherd and the Muse make their way across country on foot and this is deliberate. They would like the present energy of Gaia to rise up through their feet and legs and this requires contact of the sole with the bosom of mother earth, also the use of both legs for walking, which is a measuring of that piecemeal energy.
330 Not that they have thought this out as I express it here. Their progress, in addition to being real, is gifted and dreamlike, a voyage of discovery, which involves the experience of wholeness, while at the same time amounting to a statement of fact. On reflection it will be obvious to many, they did what they did as much for themselves as for others, no difference detectable.
331 The terrain through which they march is as varied as the Western World itself, though not too much should be made of this limitation. Although nowadays we can imagine the globe as though it lay balanced in our hand, this in itself gives no power. On the contrary, the delusion of control displaces habitation within meaningful environment.
The Shepherd Long Ago 332
his is still difficult to grasp for the Shepherd who grew up in a small community in a spacious valley surrounded by mountains, like Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, only that the entrance to that fertile retreat was not closed by iron gates, which barred the mouth of a cave, being rather a narrow passage between rock walls.
333 In those days Aretas IV reigned supreme and his empire stretched from present day Saudi Arabia to Damascus in Syria. At that time was born in Judea a man who during one year of his life ushered in an empire of the spirit, which changed the very substance of history, so that we today are his contemporaries.
334 Since then, if you can grasp this, time has passed in a modern fashion, for those who either cannot or will not submit to that empire and it has stood still for the rest. This empire lays a heavy burden on its citizens, which is lifted when they turn for assistance to the emperor himself, who is eager to liberate them for performances of pleasurable tasks.
335 As the Shepherd grew to manly stature he heard of this spiritual emperor, but the tale was told in modern fashion, devoid of true perception. Also he heard of one who was winched over the wall of Nabataean Damascus, for his safety, in a basket, so that he might establish the vivifying power of Christendom.
336 As it turned out, only a minor portion of his vital message has survived. Modern man scratches his living from the earth, gold, corn and oil, and the sound substance of life he ignores. We are not much better off today if we travel unequipped into the future life, toying with pebbles and leaves.
337 We may however wish to imagine how the Shepherd, becoming daily more discontent in his ‘happy valley’, noticed how time was beginning to stand still for him and he grew daily more abject and miserable, and sad to say no one could help him, neither teacher nor friend, though a few showed him good will.
338 It must be impossible for someone who lacks the experience, to distinguish between those two times as I try to describe them here. Indeed I find I can barely come close myself, for in the one case the eye sweeps left and right encountering on a common level all that is memorable and imaginable even to the point of before-birth and after-death.
339 With eternal gaze, fixed by faith, a man, being under such circumstances entirely creative, becomes truly one with the world, which is not the world manufactured by those who create barriers between past, present and future, while reality only blinks through between the cracks.
340 The one accustomed to still time, as to a lake from which all may drink, I mean man, birds, beasts, all alike right down to the elements, which bathe in it, such a one has also an adequate insight into time chronic and historic. He plays in the one and always returns to the other. The reverse however is not true,
341 or he whose perception of time is circumscribed by yesterday, today and tomorrow, even though he strains with all his might, let us say: in pursuit of fame and prophesy or in search of the one mechanism of the moment which would deliver that world into his hands – with all that effort he only becomes an object of pity or ridicule.
342 However when I say that I am like one who conflates two spheres. Look how one moment, while we are as slaves to time, we smile knowingly at the antics of those ‘mystifiers’ and we pity them, hypocritically of course, for their ‘lack of realism’, only to find that suddenly the tables are turned – we are stretched on the rack of our own former abuse
343 In strict accordance with this universal law the Shepherd himself had to ‘live down’ a thing or two, although it would be quite wrong to ignore how in childhood his dreams had been gifted in ways most of us can only imagine and whenever he told of these peculiar lights, he was quickly ‘set right’ by those responsible for him. As a result these gifts were hidden.
344 I could speak at length about this interesting process, where one who is favoured by the gods must first be despised by men, so as not to perish due to conceit. The theory is well enough known however, while the practice, such as of humility and cheerful suffering in anticipation of true gain – alas, who can boast about that!
345 Are we not at risk of being captivated by a mighty drowsiness upon contemplation of concrete realities such as these? Is it any wonder that in the vicinity of the highest and best, as we stretch to reach it, those demons should also slumber, who quickly wake as if to make us pay for our audacity?
346 But of course they only teach us by default. Restraining ourselves in their presence, cleverly parrying their attacks and sometimes astutely ignoring the lot, artfully of course, since forgetful ignorance only plays into their hands, in this way we gain the requisite skill and strength for receiving and seeing in glory.
347 As the Shepherd grew into a youth the services of the herdsman were much in demand. He might have turned his hand at many a thing, indeed he knew how to belabour a sandstone block with skill and industry. However he was given too much to dreaming. Therefore he herded sheep. He also herded flocks of clouds in his brain.
348 Which brings me to an observation which, until now, I have not taken pains to make. We all suppose we have a brain but mainly because someone has told us. The Shepherd was made aware of his brain from within. Long before he knew what to call it or how to describe it, he observed certain haptic sensations in his skull.
349 Then he noticed that in line with peculiar visual intentions he was able to effect a harmony in his body by drawing on the substance of his brain. Since no one knew what he meant when he talked about this, he kept it to himself, perfecting something like a technique for achieving clarity in mind and body.
350 Leaning on his staff on the hillside, rarely neglectful of his flock, he did at times touch the seam of god’s garment, whereupon his desire grew. This desire was never specific. He wanted he knew not what and this, as we know, is the recipe for melancholy. He turned into a melancholy young man.
351 He felt singled out, estranged from his environment. There were those who predicted he would go mad. This was also the time when he was told he had been adopted. Who can say how an orphan feels when he perceives his state as a predicament? How often is he not better placed than he would have been with his natural parents?
352 Is it any wonder that he looked around early for a wisdom that would address his unusual predisposition? The light that shines in a youth is a foretaste of that perfect light which rewards the achievement of maturity. Therefore we see him now gnawed in his vitals by a deep dissatisfaction, yearning unconsciously for what eventually the Muse will bring.
353 Even though they themselves may not have had an easy time of it, rarely do grownups have insight into the turmoil of the youthful breast. Enough said, rarely do grownups achieve maturity, for they delimit the divine graces and apportion what has no size. The vital aspect of the young life is no longer an open secret for them.
354 We who have been arrested in our development, due to circumstances perhaps beyond our control, may pay close heed to what is being said here. Who knows but that we may learn from our children, from young men, like Job, who had forgotten, due to the acquisition of much property, how a god worth his salt will not be coerced but exists in perfect freedom.
355 So too was the Shepherd offered much matter of reason by those who had strayed into a wrong mansion and then leaned out the window to give advice. Their nerves had not held out before the test, therefore how could they be expected to know of that universal love in which we may take shelter?
356 In our youth we feel immortal without actually being so; oh temptation and opportunity! – that we may through the former realize the latter – : every true parent’s anguish. Indeed we can be said to be orphans, being cheated of the subtle graces at a time when our need for them is greatest.
357 The biopsy of modern man Reveals a drunkard and a cheat, Though none of this is plain to see Like face and hands and feet. The love of modern man Reveals a tranquil soul And generates a god Who plays a role.
358 Momentous events drew the Shepherd out of himself, invasion by foreign powers, the collapse of the salt trade, an uprising of the poor; he laid down his crook for short periods only, returning repeatedly to the verdant slopes, at night under the stars, mingling melancholy with profusion of thought, tempering impatient rages against the times like one who assumes his own ignorance.
359 The years passed, generations heaped things upon things And this generation held on for dear survival, its luminescence became the standard. The angels were organized, then trade, then labour. Time and again the goal was reinvented, always partially out of sight.
360 If anyone had told the Shepherd that eventually a visitation would break his spirit, he would not have thanked him, which is why the future remains veiled. Our tragedies are to get us over the hump. When the figure in white stood by his bedside announcing impending intrusion, his opinion of life in general changed somewhat.
361 Many have been visited by the figure in white But not all for the same purpose. This one stood for an age, as if to allow him Ample time to acquaint his senses with the light, streaming, washing his consciousness of self, Focusing so intensely upon the here and now that his fingers itched to take hold of it, However he had to be satisfied with the physical memory.
362 Something is happening to me, he reflected the following morning, which cannot be explained in the usual way. Where shall I look to be enlightened – or is this itself an enlightenment, so it might be best to hide it away? That’s what I shall do: keep quiet and lend an eye to the future. This future, indeed, seemed anything but inert. For the hungry man the ‘coming bread’ took on importance, one could even lean towards it and digest.
363 Little did he know he was merely reliving the original plan introduced to man’s intelligence prior to the modern heresy, when faith, thanks to money & political power interest became established faith, by rights the basis of all else to render it legitimate. What then should faith itself be based on? Oh, of course it became then this faith and that faith, splinters of ice on the lake’s surface.
364 He drove his sheep to higher ground and settled in solitude closer to sun and moon than he imagined would be healthy to those not infected by spirit, not addicted to love. However he was not someone else but himself, ultimately answerable for all his decisions in the primacy of his soul. Far down below, in the glimmering distance, the merchant caravans traversed the landscape, to glut the empire with novel commodities & luxury goods.
365 Time was for him one moment the old ‘a priori’, so that he stood by and counted the days. Then that vision of whiteness would smoothly take over and leave him gasping for breath. This is why we cannot come to grips with his substance by describing his thought and behaviour in a unified space-time continuum; and yet there was that too, now and again, when the fog cleared.
366 Make no mistake, out of this fog, out of this cloud came marvellous sequences of strong, new life, albeit like appetizers, the erotic come-hither looks of a goddess perhaps. He respected goddesses. Gaia lifting her veil, that was how he imagined it. He would not have cared, except that it caused him deep dissatisfaction and massive unrest. He allowed himself dark days when he slumbered on the bosom of Gaia.
367 This, he said to himself, is surely a time of testing, for that in myself which I cannot predict. So he allowed this nameless spirit of love to guide him in and out of the natural sphere and he became conversant little by little with love in a way that not many people know. Some who know do so only under duress while only a few are chosen to choose.
368 Of course the time would have to come when he could no longer perform his duties. We need to imagine here all those symptoms of love generally associated with romance, such as fretfulness alternating with drowsiness; temperamental outbursts, inexplicable grief; loneliness to the point of boredom, boredom itself a neighbour to rage, and then remorse intense enough to appear absurd.
369 Family and friends wished him well of course, however true understanding was at a premium, the cause must be found among things, things you could point at, therefore the purpose was missed. He perpetrated the social crime par excellence: demonstrating unhappiness. Those who knew him dropped him like a hot potato. He refused to betray his pain and therefore was guilty of highlighting a lack of compassion.
370 Parallel to the broad & standard mores of every century runs this trickle of live value which, due to the comparison, is then described as esoteric, along with the crack-brained, the cultic and the –isms, so that even this trickle judiciously chooses to run underground, not so much to play safe as to work all the more effectively, certainly with greater satisfaction for the workers, whose reward, after all, is not to be calibrated.
371 Woe to the one who sets out on this path and then turns back. For the Shepherd, problems did accumulate. His progress through life was that of a man walking over a minefield, except that whenever an arm or a leg was blown off, it rapidly grew back in better shape than before, loosely speaking. In fact he learned here for the first time to distinguish between those two mutually exclusive realms: form and shape.
372 ‘Mutually exclusive’ is not entirely accurate either. Certainly the dead can’t inform the living, while instinct philosophy knows the path is barred from form to shape, whatever the disciples of might decide upon hours and years and centuries of mechanic frustration, inventing engines that blur the distinction between lust and love. However the quick may inform themselves of the plight of the dead and knock them into shape.
373 I know that sounds terrible but it broke his heart to see so many victims of ignorance, himself among them. Merchants brought news of an elemental spirituality apparently making headway in the very heart of the Roman Empire, but reports were confused. As always, sober fact was adulterated with lavish exaggeration, magic and miracle. One fact was that nature was quietly being redefined but millennia would pass before this would bear fruit.
374 Now we see him where the heavy wagons roll towards the city’s precincts, laden with produce for the thriving market and he knows himself as outcast, fully conscious of no role to play, nothing to do, only to stand and be, after the manner of those who triumph inwardly, while presenting outwardly a shameful picture to a world proud in its progress & achievement.
Leaving Home 375
ike one who takes one last look at the home he leaves, his head turned, his heart irresolute, he promises himself the freedom from the city – . Dust is whipped up by horses’ hooves. With the smell of dung from camel, mule and goat in his nostrils, he steels himself for the task ahead, which is total obedience to that inward spirit that demands his attention right down to the next step he takes.
376 The loudest noise that strikes his ear Is trumpet blast from castle walls, Proclaiming force, instilling fear In soul which inconclusive crawls Between the matchless and the mute, And turning neither left nor right He proves himself not half astute By choosing random thought and flight.
377 Fear, too intense to countenance, Is overruled by active drive. His willingness to say good bye To habits of his former life Makes contact with that son of man Who generates the human hope, Given endurance in the face Of grief – plus intellectual probe.
378 On that night a cold wind, Like an unforgiving spirit, searches His flesh for sentimental moods, Leaves him weary, open-eyed, Lying on grassy hillock Beneath chestnut foliage, As the jets roar overhead, Time thoroughly out of joint.
379 Panic in the forsaken individual Concentrates the independent mind. Wait, wait! Make no move now, Leave all manner of thing in peace. Only you have no place of rest, Neither a meal guaranteed and certainly no choice, no plan, only this secret need.
380 In single individuals human nature attacks, at times with elemental fury, or like dread in a haunted house, the psyche of convenience and convention, so that a man’s or a woman’s soul becomes a battle ground. No battle hymn points to anything like victory. You fight your way through endless thorns.
381 I would like to make this point emphatically: Do not be overly alarmed when culture & civilization evolve, making of you a crucible. It won’t be a laugh a minute but there’s comfort to be had in it. I suggest you look for that, believing it’s there, or else run wild-eyed, with streaming hair.
382 I should like you to accept that the Shepherd enjoyed the ministrations of swarming angels, of which he was barely aware. Perhaps you might find it possible to compare some increment of your own experience, such as on that day, surely you recall, when the hornéd beast scratched on the door panel and your silent scream cleared the air.
383 Also this was the time when he noted there was nothing to be gained from magic. For Constantine the eagle and the cross only underlined who really was boss. The so-called Middle Ages stripped cold flesh from unsuspecting skeletons, whereupon the cognoscenti acted all surprised when the ‘Limited Liability’ capsized.
384 As for the fact that ‘Science’ was a hit, he didn’t know what to make of it. All the world wanted power – of course, what else, that makes good sense, but steam? electric? petrol? And then such eagerness to take to the air! And the democratic urge emerging everywhere! He would have liked to be able to join in.
385 However he wouldn’t have known where to begin. Even chaos was no longer predictable. He limited his mind to this single, useful thought: Here I am safe. Here I progress in spite of lethargy and stress. He clung to that through thick and thin. The day would come when he would call it faith. Meanwhile he put one foot in front of the other.
Among the graves of the Dead 386
e came to a gate through a wall built of stones. Upon entering he finds himself among the graves of his ancestors And it seems to him that each grave opens as he approaches it. Here is my chance, he thinks, to interrogate Those in the past who have made me what I am. Now I will discover insight into myself Since like animals we are made the sum-total of our past And much as we try we cannot escape from it.
387 “You there,” he shouted, “in your hole of clay, Confess what part you had in shaping my lineaments. Rise for an interval of speech, so that I may hear from your lips how you see me in consequence.” It seemed appropriate that the dead one sat bolt upright As if an electric charge had vitalized him. Those lips which part are not fresh as they were In youth but the voice is perfectly audible:
388 “By personal choice you walk among the dead And if you catch our disease you have no one to blame But yourself, while we gain nothing from your presence. Ours has never been an attitude of prayer And this reluctance we have passed on to you, Not because we hated you but we knew no better, Having spent our own so-called life-time among the dead, Willing death upon those of this generation.”
389 “Tell me one more thing,” the Shepherd required, Hoping to make the best of the situation: “This reluctance to pray, how does it affect me, And how would I be better off if I overcame it?” The enlivened corpse, as if faced by a dilemma, Displays the expression of one who is parched, Who licks his lips in the hope of preventing Those cracks that develop upon a shortage of moisture.
390 Then, as if nothing further were required, Gently the dead one leans back as if to say: You have your answer, I must seek rest. But the Shepherd turns this over in his mind And he resolves to fasten this image in his soul. Right away he makes his first effort to pray. His psyche is a stone encumbering his consciousness, However he perseveres, then the stone is rolled away.
391 A chuckling from the next grave draws his attention, A sound like mockery mixed with despair, Then a voice, toxic with too much sleep: “Have they not taught you to pray in your world? To mouth a jumble of good intentions? Look at me, did it do me any good? All too long I squatted in their pews And died all the same. Think about it!”
392 At first the Shepherd was affected by this And he felt like agreeing with ‘the poor soul buried there’. Indeed his previous success would be wasted If now his memory were not jogged by the thought That whatever the dead speak must be worse than useless. The very activity which the corpse has denigrated, A gentle stirring of the soul into operation, Allows him to counter that onslaught of cynicism.
393 A huge gravestone of black basalt, Polished until it resembled a mirror, Sat monumental at the head of the next pit. Imagine the moonlight reflecting from it Into the crypt teeming with bones, And most of these had been gnawed clean. One set however was still assembled With leathery brown skin stretched over them.
394 A squeaky voice, tenuous, almost sweet, Issued from between the emaciated jaws. It seems to the Shepherd that it comes from within him, From within himself, although he knows better: “Young man, why so shy? We like the looks of you. No shortage of comfort & convenience in here.” The Shepherd stares. He can barely make out The plush elegance of interior furnishings.
395 “Observe,” the voice, “our adequate condescension to a God of good taste, decent and polite. His elegance rarely fails to seduce. I would mention charisma, except that this term Has been hijacked by the populists of the faith. Ours, you see, is a powerful society, We have what it takes to pull strings.” And with that A tugged sinew actually makes his leg twitch.
396 What, wonders the Shepherd, am I supposed to learn here? We know that eventually the Muse is chosen for him; Meanwhile he struggles with individual enlightenment. He discovers the counterproductivity of the dead; Since he can do no other, he makes the best of it. “Tell me,” he says, “you splendid specimen Of a glittering world taken in by itself: How is it you have no sense of the thin ice you stand on?”
397 “How dare you!” comes the spluttering reply. “I dare,” says the Shepherd, “because life makes me bold, whereas you have only this pose to hide behind.” “You are wrong! We have absolute military supremacy! In peacetime, ours is the ethic of the philanthropist! The aristocracy of the flesh or of the spirit is what we uphold! We can crush you with contempt, with learning, with fire power!” “Aye, babble on,” says the Shepherd and walks away.
398 What has he learnt about himself so far? That a thousand words do not make a thought. That nowhere in himself is he guaranteed peace. That prayer is the worthwhile mode of behaviour Of which he is capable. However he moves on To the next hole in the ground in which A drunkard lies up to his neck in mud. He was buried that very same day, it seems.
399 “Have you anything to say to me, cousin?” the Shepherd asks. “This is the night when corpses give details Of the way they existed, and why, and what they learnt. Perhaps you too have a story to tell?” “This is uncommonly good of you,” says the dead one, As he wipes the mud out of his beard. “I only drank myself to death because no one loved me, and that’s the truth.”
400 Tears welled from his empty eye sockets And when he wiped them his face became unrecognizable. “Look how miserable I have been,” he croaks “And feast your eyes on one who has failed. Oh, I enjoyed the attention of women, They sought me out for sex and money And of course my official position lured them But none gave me what I really needed.”
401 “And what was that, cousin?” the Shepherd wants to know. “Why even as I told you. It was love I needed. It should have been obvious. I advertised my need.” The Shepherd wonders, should he say what he thinks? An enthusiastic impulse persuades him to say it: “Did you not know that god loves all creatures?” At that the corpse springs from the grave and launches himself like a thing possessed …
402 … at the Shepherd, who is soon covered in bruises And caked with mud and he feels like a fool For having said what he did to one who was trapped By self-willed ignorance and addicted to resentment. He learns to weigh his words carefully, Commensurate with the one standing in front of him. He picks himself up and decides to chalk it Up to experience, that swine are swine.
403 Curious, that the thought about love Came to the Shepherd as if out of the blue. He heard himself say those words and wondered Was it really true that all creatures were loved? And if that was so, what were the implications For himself and how could he take advantage Of a power that evidently irritated the dead?
404 This was a problem that would occupy him for many years Because loving did not come to him as readily as hating, Except for that fondness, when we like what we like And when we like it a lot we call it love But of course that sort of thing evaporates, Whereas love that is worthy of the name must be able To overcome hatred, to free us from hatred, Which is tricky enough – it’s a pleasure to hate.
405 On the other hand, those who have never hated Have never loved and so they are dead. This is what the Shepherd was finding out. His nocturnal stroll though the graveyard taught him How vast was the distance between those who espoused The doctrine of love and those who did not And he realized that whether they walked or not, The dead would always be a force to be reckoned with.
In the Chapel 406
e decides to take a look inside the chapel. The door is not locked, which is always a good sign. The subdued light inside from several candles Is reflected from icons and from gold-coloured paint. From the vaulted ceiling hangs a chandelier, Very ornate, electric light bulbs – He admires the clean, white-washed walls When behind the curtain a figure stirs.
407 “Have you come to worship or are you idly curious?” He admits, the voice grates on his nerves. “I have spoken to the corpses in their graves,” says the Shepherd. “I was not impressed but I learned a thing or two. I would like to know from you now, why do we need buildings On the top of hills like this to remind us who god is?” “Perhaps you don’t,” said the priest. “In that case Congratulations, may the force be with you.”
408 Strangely glib, thinks the Shepherd, whose spirit Has not exactly soared in sight of the priest. He decides to try again: “If you don’t mind my asking, How would you describe the function you perform?” The kindly eyes under the bushy eyebrows Twinkle and the ringed hand strokes the beard. “I see you are a young man, with many questions. Be on your way now. You have my blessing.
409 “I have your blessing? What should I do with it? All this paraphernalia is meaningless to me. Can you not help me out? I would like to know. The way you dismiss me – I confess I resent it. It does not come naturally to me to bend the knee, Not even to god – but I know nothing about him. Should you not be trying to inform the likes of us?” “The likes of you?” says the priest. “I wonder!”
410 The fellow shuts me out, thinks the Shepherd. That does make me feel subversive. Why is he so devoid of evangelical zeal? Shouldn’t he be trying to make me believe the way he believes? Besides, it’s warm in here and the night outside is cold. He sits down in a pew and grins.
411 This upsets the priest, understandably. If truth be told he was on his way home to his faithful Concubine who is wedded to him in all but morality. He stares at this upstart, then he trims his sails and implodes.
412 “Have you come here for prayer, my boy?” The Shepherd props his chin on the pew in front of him and makes no answer, only grins. He has decided to wait until something this man says motivates him inwardly to respond.
413 “Maybe you’ve come in here to warm yourself?” The priest walks up the left aisle, crosses in front, strides down on the right, his open cassock is flapping from the action. The Shepherd is a block of wood. In fact he does feel like drowsing off. “People come in here to worship!”
414 Outside the dead have laid their heads back down on their beds of clay. When is a believer not a believer? “Only taking a rest then, are we?” Shall I let this stupid fellow rant? This chapel is his pride and joy. I wonder, will he physically attack me? I think not.
415 Then he gets up and leaves. It’s as if a stick inside him had snapped. Lo, I am free to go, I have stood the test, those manacles have left red creases on my wrists. Outside the moon stands high above the poplars and the dead are chaunting in unison: “Oh that our ship might come in, oh that we might be blissful…”
416 The imprint of a culture on the mind may amount to a stupefaction. The affected individual is bombarded by doubts. The world as it stands is rarely appropriate while youth still imparts its illusions. Perhaps it only seems we are condemned when maturity first commands us.
417 I take an interest in this Shepherd entirely on your behalf, I should prefer you to come to terms with that. Possibly he will remind you of yourself, in which case you have nothing to worry about. You will keep mumbling to yourself: What does he mean by this? Am I supposed to make something else of this? I assure you: NO!
418 Nowadays it’s difficult to know what to believe and for the Shepherd ‘nowadays’ is what matters; besides, when have things been different? The desire to believe is strong in the Shepherd. He was born trailing that cloud of glory, which may end up raining on his parade. Some are born with certain faculties not only intact but officially sequestered.
419 This in itself would be an interesting study how the faculty of belief, for example, is held back so that not until the advent of mature insight can this faculty be discovered and put into practice. In other words misuse and abuse are impossible, the only options are inoperancy or employment. If we keep this in mind we will understand him better as he labours prior to the advent of the Muse.
420 Observe him now as he performs the duties of a mortgaged individual, whose primitive health allows him to be viewed as a low risk investment by that power of which we know very little or else a great deal, depending on our point of view. He has heard of ‘the Muse’, let’s not pretend otherwise, but always either as shrouded in incense or set in aspic, or like a fly in resin.
421 I’d like some help with what I’m trying to say. No doubt as a child he was undernourished in more ways than one, but then who isn’t. In his youth he was left to his own devices: a blessing, considering the customary constraints but a curse, for the lack of good examples. All in all it could not have been otherwise – unless we indulge in vain imaginings.
422 He was not ‘a nice person’, as we see him now. He is angry, he would prefer to be still with his flock instead of having this stillness undermined by – let’s not put too fine a point on it – the elements. The Nabatean empire no longer holds sway, the Roman empire does, so there! There is nothing you or I can do about it. The affairs of state are in the hands of fate.
423 A ‘yeasty chaos’ is what I would call it, this persistent gathering of psychic cloud. The individual learns he is no longer boss, forces within him operate independently – a sobering business, it concentrates the mind like the several muzzles of a firing squad. Not to forget, no discernible cause exists for the building rage, for the toxic apathy.
424 One wonders what it is that gets into a young fellow. Really the best he can do is disappear so as not to be a burden to those who misunderstand him. Actually what we prefer is prompt repression of all difference of opinion unless the expression of it is neutral or polite. What we don’t like is all that emotional upheaval to which there is neither rhyme nor reason.
425 One day followed the next and one place Replaced the next, it gradually palled on him, That the wicked world made no demands on him; in fact it seemed to have ignored him. He was not of the type who then picks a fight if only to assure himself that he’s still around. Even the idea of supporting a good cause left him cold, in spite of his vulnerable ego.
426 What are we looking for when we scour the intellectual landscape, is it not the means to what we desire? And there again how has this or that become desirable for us? One man’s happiness is another’s tedium vitae. No, we have to look in ourselves for what we deem useful and separate the false and the borrowed from the genuine according to the best lights at our disposal
427 The shining example – who can point it out to us? Is it not always a readiness within that precedes the discovery of the glaringly obvious? Surely you have noticed that when someone speaks to you with perfect candour your inward scenery evolves and you classify the useful goods. Thus in our youth we depend upon friendship and long lives the friend who speaks truthfully.
428 To be so entirely without friends, this caused the Shepherd grief. He strode, as in a vacuum, through marble halls, cold, antiseptic. Only once in a while it occurred to him that the panic gnawing at his heart might be faced courageously for no other reason than to encourage courage and this speaks volumes for what he would have called progress had he been able to look back at the time.
429 The backward glance, however, was forbidden. What people would have called reasonable was forbidden and so was any illegitimate pursuit, such as entry into blessedness through the back door, such as by way of stimulants or drugs, because such substances were not substantial and gave false rewards, which tipped the psyche in favour of evil.
430 What indeed had made the hypotheses of a living god live for him in the first place? Certainly it had not come from the outside, where the world was too afraid to be duped to act on any basis other than fear, while inside, the logic of the psyche held sway, mixing magic, mystery and superstition to allow for the certainty of blind drives.
431 What was it that tempted his will away from survival pursuits and channelled his energy, at the risk of being punished and shamed, into such affinities as offered his heart the eternal joy of what was purely enjoyable, shutting all doors to other successes and laying his spirit under moral obligation to vindicate the gods on behalf of man?
432 These are questions no one can answer except in reference to mystic experience after the fact, when belief has plumbed the consoling overtures of an iron necessity. Woe to those who at times such as these do not come up with the power of belief! Is it not true that the tragic consequences of the failure to believe what is live is death?
433 Belief, you see, is an active power through which we change the world in our favour, especially if by world we mean our surroundings, personal relationships, attitudes and moods. Visions of which we have no foreknowledge, dreams which capture our will unconsciously, these are the forces which prise modern man out of his self into the realm of liberty.
434 Modern is all that blanches in the face of the personal truth and then turns aside to analyse the experience of blanching. One question we might ask: What was the time in history when the truth first became personal and thus, in view of this inturned history, this rampant, self-analytical tradition, what is the start of the modern age?
435 It gradually became too difficult for the Shepherd, as he changed from being a youth to manhood, to face the world of his visions and dreams as a modern individual, affiliated to a group who pool their various individualities so as not to be reminded of that lack of personality, which is unavoidable while we insist on stopping halfway between illusion and reality.
436 Finally, of course, when you cannot be a Baptist or a social democrat, a feminist or a pragmatist, you may find yourself rather out on a limb, until you realize you’re a human being. Individuals are tribal, individualists the most so, as they pay attention chiefly to themselves, while the personal soul remains undeveloped, the classic symptom of our modern malaise.
437 However in addition to the classic symptom, the individual unwilling to become a person and therefore not really able to communicate, there is also the horror of the abstract personality, this monstrous creation of a legless torso, where the individual nature is flatly forsworn in favour of international or charismatic gibberish, private conveniences tricked out as laws.
438 Indeed we cannot hope to understand the Shepherd prior to his epochal meeting with the Muse until we have insight into what he was up against. The modern world, for nearly two-thousand years, is a fabrication, by modern man, of what he prefers instead of reality. The split between nature and human nature is a symptom of the modern schizoid psyche.
439 If someone comes along now with a talent for reality, you can imagine the bust-up, the flailing arms, the raised eyebrow and the bitten tongue. You can also imagine, if you try a little harder, that if someone came along with natural genius he would have one hell of a time trying to be human in the shadow of so much corporate temptation to lord it over the powers that be.
440 What he tried first was to ‘solve his problem’. What was his problem? An energetic physicality in a jaded environment. An urge for renewal while confronted by decadence as the standard. This made him furious and caused him nightmares, whereupon he looked to the female sex for clarification and harmonization. Some things you just can’t assess till you’ve tried them.
441 Down that road he walked with hesitation, frankly in search of the ‘eternally feminine’ and stumbling across the temporal female. Not that his own contribution to the task of mutual maturation was anything to write home about. The only alternative to murderous strength seemed to be irresponsible weakness, nowhere near as risky at the time as today.
442 Today this choice of irresponsible weakness teaches a lesson too blatant to ignore. Today, in the absence of creative ethicality, boy-meets-girl is fraught with danger, so that the morality has to be rethought, lest we fall back on caveman philosophies and end up unable to tell the difference between human beings and groups of people.
443 Not being able to solve his problem, continuing to swing from too much energy to too little strength, as if there were no connection between those two, as we know there is, the next thing he tried was to scrape together sufficient knowledge so as to be able to act with self-respect – a failure from the start. The times were such that what was required had to fit somehow into the status quo.
444 Would it not be possible to anger the gods sufficiently to make them show their hand? An accident of some sort? What people call luck, even in response to some downright foolishness? The pressure built up, the embarrassment grew until one day he flung himself off a cliff, metaphorically speaking, and discovered he could fly, which allowed him to experience tremendous liberation.
445 What I mean by this business of knowing how to fly will have to be explained in more legitimate terms; I feel the obligation, but feel even more strongly the need to hide behind a series of images. We don’t want this skill to get into the wrong hands. Eros and psyche, that ancient couple, have given the pattern. What remains is the example. Always and again it comes down to this.
446 Did he speak only when spoken to or did his mind and body become rooted in soul, so that the conflagration could not touch him? For this reason the world burns, that the tortoise may learn to withdraw into its shell, thus withstanding the great weight of the elephant. Meanwhile the eagle soars.
447 Does he prepare himself for the unknown and will the music of the spheres not sidetrack but perpetuate the flow of intelligence? Can he adopt the skill of the mask, so that history, inclining with its bright face, may be properly reckoned, not molested or ridiculed, while the prophet passes?
448 Then of course he would have to accept the inquisition into his heart. When he did, all hell broke loose, Which was to demonstrate, both to him and to those nearby the fragility of our western tradition; not that in this respect the East has anything to boast about.
449 What of his kinship with his fellow man? Is it sacrifice modern society preaches? Such as when another revolution is required, another reformation, to please the angels? He did, in a way I can only hint at, fly to the centre of the earth, there to perch for the interim.
450 Ostracism can strengthen the will; excommunication is merely another word for shooting your mouth off in public. You should see how he waltzes in the dark, not in the glare of the limelight: graceful steps, diligently choreographed – Oh lord, teach him the poise of the noble fashion!
451 We were all waiting on the outskirts, waiting for the occurrence of something special, when the youthful ones broke rank, Breathing rapidly, to amuse only themselves, with feather boa and drunken brawl, the effect was anything but intentional. Ezra insisted on his pound of flesh, if I may be so bold as to name names.
452 So it went for a spell. The Shepherd Suffered introduction to many a high-minded soul. Perhaps one should speak of the education of his spirit, of the tragic influence of the pre-Muse, tragic in the sense of an involvement with the goats, virtually counter-productive of a future inner resourcefulness, though at the time he was fettered, then self-blinded.
453 The thing to appreciate is that no end was in sight. Imagine yourself holding out indefinitely while around you they spear the pig, flatten its pelt against the pine bole, stretch it and manicure it, no one questioning the propriety of a handhold, least of all yourself.
454 His task was only to breathe in and out while something was being installed, instilled. With no meagre faith would he have outlasted the taste of death behind the shutters, the gleam of joy through the French window, like Christmas – oh, for a bit of warmth – human warmth – how he longed for it!
455 The austere disposition, the stern mood, seemed most appropriate for the occasion. The cities through which he passed were not so much cancerous growths as individual jungles, each harbouring a life of its own, separate from him, distinct and rich with a life withheld from him.
456 What we have here then is a clearing of the ground, for what is not yet known to anyone. Now and again in time a vessel is chosen to make the argument for progress in the commonwealth of spirit, which progress cannot be fathomable for those who turn a blind eye to spirit and insist on their right to die.
457 Not that all spirit is wise or good, we have ample indication of the opposite, such as modern history and the contents of our uninformed hearts. Look no further than your next enthusiastic reaction to a slight, a perceived injustice perpetrated against your precious person – oh how the demons rush in!
458 Discernment of the elements – an organ for that has to be developed at the start. Not all that glitters is gold. However a flight of lapwings over the foreshore cannot possibly lie. There you may take your standard of truthfulness, or call it a fidelity to universal creation and persevere in that knowledge.
459 Our human spirit has to be impoverished, stripped of self and care for self, If success is to be on the cards for us, success in terms of that organ I mentioned for human natural repose, for the dignity and ease in the face of that spirit whence we derive in the first place the earnest of our aristocracy.
460 In short, when he looked to his will and not to his feelings, he found to his surprise great tokens of spiritual co-operation, unmistakable, it should be added, as perfect and good. Even prior to the Muse, therefore, he made incontrovertible headway, questing within, discovering the traces of one who had ventured before him.
461 A momentous discovery, you may say, and you would be right. Let’s not rush into this as though we were dealing merely with an extension of traditional dogma or arbitrary convention. A paradox or two light up as we set ourselves the task of making sense of his insight into a set of peculiar circumstances which he cannot yet describe.
462 I would say the overriding consciousness at the time is: someone has been along here before. It’s an inward sense, as if of a journey into the unknown which someone has charted and made safe, so that progress is guaranteed, if only we demonstrate a willingness to surpass ourselves, every moment of the day and if necessary through the night.
463 That the Shepherd was capable of effort and discipline of that there was never a doubt. The competitive aspect of his spirit readily drove him into any sort of achievement and if endurance was required, all the better. Society had nothing to offer. No honourable antidote to fear was available, while fear was prevalent.
464 We know it begins with the fear of injury, of hunger, cold and heat, so that death means arrested existence. However once we experience immortality, our soul is the vital link between ourselves and life, while life is no longer the same as existence and death means soul-loss.
465 Fear for our soul and fear for our flesh are really two quite distinct fears, distinct and separate, I fear, and once we have familiarized ourselves with the former, the latter can no longer rule us. Meanwhile the thirst for immortality, for eternal life, becomes strong as a habit, so that our works are not fearful.
466 This question of ‘works’ is a study in itself. It can be work to get up in the morning in good time for a thorough look at yourself. Then it’s work to sort out your moods, your feelings, opinions and tempers. No one contributes to the community while he’s tangled up in some inward mess, off-loading his misery.
467 The same thing goes for a surfeit of high spirits, when we terrorize our peaceful environment and bully the members of our family. Our inner maintenance of the viable connection between personality and individuality, so that our action and passion is resourceful, not time and again shattered into fragments, this is a daily task.
468 As I sit here contemplating the Shepherd’s efforts, his early attempts to take flight, especially after one success, I am naturally reminded of my own failures and of the way each one points me to a deeper rootedness in the ground. The ‘ground of our being’ some have called it not a bad name for it.
469 All this is crucial and while we are young it should be our main concern, on one hand because we have the capacity for a thorough investigation of ourselves in the world, being endowed with immortal illusions, and on the other hand because this is the only way for achieving maturity, so that our works are not straw but useful.
470 I don’t mind lingering over the life of the Shepherd prior to the advent of the Muse, because during that time he really cannot speak for himself, being thoroughly, and sometimes exclusively, occupied with his own business, his inner life, so to speak, into which no one can have much insight until he gains hands-on knowledge.
471 Also, the knot tied during every generation by its young people has to be untangled with the help of contemporary ingenuity. Intellectuals notoriously refuse to stoop, except to tie their shoelaces. Chronic immaturity cannot offer guidance to the young and so they get stuck in pursuit of the buck.
472 Immortality now, by comparison, is an acquired taste. Those who are bitten by the bug make sense of it eventually but first a period of affliction. Not that it’s unavoidable, this sickness onto death, this trial by fire and water, this postulate of what we would all desire if we knew what was good and true for us.
473 The Shepherd was fortunate inasmuch as he had learned, while still young some of the prerequisites for coping with the thought of resurrection. Thought at the right time is nothing to be scoffed at. We know now that he was a dreamer and the distance between dream and thought is not as enormous as some would suppose, especially in the right environment.
474 Consequently when the thing he recognized as his soul began to pinch, he panicked, like anyone, but then he interpreted that panic and the ability to do that must be a gift when I see how few can do it or choose to do it (there’s a difference). Most of us run when the panic descends or we run, so it descends.
peaking of panic, picture him strolling through the narrow streets of Rheims, the French tongue barely familiar to him; tiny restaurants, grocers, bakeries, people preoccupied with the day, newspapers flutter beside beer glasses, children romp in the streets, a dog jumps when it hears a bicycle bell.
476 He is utterly alone, turns a corner and up in front of him roars this massive monster of a building; it blots the sky out, he has never seen the likes of it. Of course he can only make out a portion of the stone façade but the expression of raw, monumental desire pierces him to the quick.
477 What is he to make of it? He is utterly overwhelmed. No longer alone now but in the presence of this female energy: Notre Dame; he shies off, back into the alleyways, pretends he has other things to do but needs time to assimilate this shocking experience of the longing for immortality. He approaches from another angle.
478 Khazneh Firaoun, Ed-Deir et al were no preparation for this. Nothing about this cathedral is pretty, or sensual, for that matter; it possesses and is self-possessed at once. Over two centuries of labour, not by anyone driven by the lash, were absorbed as the essence of it.
479 He tries to understand how ‘Our Lady’ would be swayed in her capacity to bestow worldly favours; how an energetic populace would reap relief from the fear of eternal damnation and degrees of satisfaction & contentment by causing such an edifice to ‘prosper’ as loyalty, devotion – faith in stone and in the conquest of gravity.
480 He imagines how the first block is laid and then enthusiasm builds, the communal spirit takes over, strength abounds, even the gentry help to push the laden carts uphill, blessed fellowship breaks out now and again as the decades merge into centuries.
481 He imagines the French kings crowned here. He pictures the Germans signing their surrender and how does ‘Our Lady’ accumulate, in spite of the ravages of time, such influence, as the ‘son of man’ gradually merges with that notion of the Son of God? How can unlimited freedom be won by creatures of flesh and blood?
482 Not until we realize that the path to immortality begins from within can we take advantage of the divine forerunner whose symbols litter the path outside, each one pointing, in death, both to the mortal fallacy and then to the dire necessity underlying human natural conceit.
483 This divine forerunner is known by those who are willing to dedicate their existence to some singular loving pursuit. Beyond this they also have the highest regard for their fellow men and women, inasmuch as they want them to live and not just exist from one day to the next, like cattle or like common criminals.
484 Maybe instead of ‘criminals’ I should say hypocrites, because hypocrites dedicate their existence to that hateful pursuit described as the honouring of mere appearances, to the end that the truth should never break through. In fact they view the truth as their worst enemy and would therefore insist that it cannot exist to begin with.
485 All such people the Shepherd avoided and what he detested most in himself was any inclination to hypocrisy. Detestation of an evil is not enough however to save us from all indulgence in it or to safeguard us against it in others. Required is practical application to the opposite, which in this case means a search for the truth.
486 It would be silly to suggest that he knew, in the beginning, that the truth was the object of his search. How can we possibly give a name to that general fire which burns in a young man when he looks for what he cannot find and what he finds is of no use whatsoever to him? Is he not like someone who has lost his eyesight and must work out a new way of knowing?
487 Indeed he invented a new way of knowing. I shall try to describe it; however you mustn’t expect a novel theory, something that can be mentally grafted onto western or eastern tradition. If I understood it perfectly I would not be discussing it but practicing it.
488 The gist of it is that being and knowing and doing are one. Get involved in one of these and the other two will be part of your responsibility. Intention and belief are both part of it. The main difficulty arises when you try to work out what is going on.
489 He decided that his body was a body of knowledge and he described it as vision, feeling and passion. Emotion and all the senses were part of it. The main difficulty arose when he tried to explain to someone what he meant. The futility of the undertaking outweighed any possible gain.
490 – One activity, then, which mystified those who observed it from afar. For a time it directed his steps as he learned to observe it. Why am I turning left at this crossroads? Why do I stay here rather than moving on? Why can I give no reason for any of this?
491 In order to pass from extinct knowledge to this new knowledge, which is to say: from the knowledge which in comparison to this knowledge must be called extinct to the knowledge that cannot possibly be fathomed in terms of it, we must enter purgatory. We must be purged of all sense of self. We must be emptied of all self.
492 When this is forced upon anyone there is great consternation. Therefore try to understand what I mean here so that you may volunteer, before your time comes, to break rank and to stand alone, sorely inhibited, however with a lively sense of justice.
493 The human heart allows itself to be dedicated to a single spirit, and that is the best way to avoid arbitrary behaviour, of mind and body. That single spirit must be chosen carefully. Once we acknowledge it, can it do otherwise than rule our actions? All the great mass of doubt and criticism will be directed against it.
494 Then it must be said to all who would listen that only one spirit is both certain and worthy. All others imaginable or absorbed by experience do but point to this one, either in the way that the letter leads to the word, or else as pain, as failure and imperfection, all of which make us wish we were privy to a better option.
495 If I were authorized to name this spirit, which I am not, I hasten to add, I would only confuse my readers, because they are all too familiar with this name, while the one who makes it his own is unknown to them. This is as if we forever remained thirsty because the only being we knew as water was dust.
496 We can see now how it was that the Shepherd found himself in the directly opposite situation, since he had come to know this spirit intimately, both intellectually and from experience but no name for it was known to him. He felt what he wanted to feel and he married this to his thinking, as seemed right to him.
497 By this I mean to indicate that traditional dogma neither supported nor hindered him. He had very little access to books and those who were learnéd , when they heard him, cursed him in their hearts or mocked him in their heads, always in that sense of: Either he or I, either he or I. That is how his body of knowledge increased.
498 Just as I shape my poem outwardly to serve the understanding and appreciation of the particular theme or subject in hand, so did the Shepherd move through place, station and situation to facilitate his loving knowledge of this spirit, and this he too managed instinctively, not through calculation of comfort or convenience.
499 And just as I do not write this poem as a warning or as a description of past malevolence and misery but as a vehicle that more than presents a bright future, so the Shepherd darkened none of his surroundings nor found fault in his severely straitened circumstances but presented himself in minimal fashion to the world so that his purged soul might all the better welcome that spirit.
In the Pit 500
or example he entered a great pit, where demons laboured, all specialists, each entrusted with a repetitive task to which he devoted a small portion of his energy, while the main part seethed in his brain and bowels, uninvested and therefore like an agony to the agent. Politely the Shepherd approached one of these, saying? “If your intense preoccupation with your task permits, describe to me the end towards which you all labour.”
501 At first he was ignored, so busy was the demon adjusting precisely within some magnetic force-field the protons and neutrons that had elsewhere been isolated. Nature under extreme duress not only hides itself but throws up some token to divert the torturer. When the Shepherd then repeated his question courteously he was told in a mechanical tone of voice: “What I do is what I do and there is no explanation.”
502 This puzzled the Shepherd and he approached the second worker, whose head was thrown back as if in soundless laughter, while his fingers quickly performed complicated manoeuvres: “Tell me the name, please, of the overall project, which all of you strive so diligently to achieve.” Needless to say, the Shepherd was reminded of the monstrous cathedral he had seen some time earlier and he wondered, was something similar in the making.
503 “What you do, is it done in praise of god?” he asked. At this the demon ceased entirely from activity. He stared long and hard at the questioner and then said: “Are you a total fool, or perhaps from another planet? What has God to do with the economy of our nation? Do you suppose He takes an interest in the accumulation of riches? Once I was told what all this would add up to, now it has slipped my mind, it makes no difference.”
504 With that the demon threw himself back into his work with all the concentration of a servant threading a needle or scouring a copper pot, oblivious of the household. A third one, whose hair was white but cut short and whose bare arms were thin as scarecrow sticks handed the Shepherd one of those containers made of glass, in which chemists mix solutions and commanded him: “Fill this! Fill this quickly!”
505 I shall have to play along here if I am ever to discover the reason behind all this, he thought to himself, so he looked where the fellow was pointing and saw a vat, full to the brim and foaming. He returned with his vessel filled with the liquid And handed it over. “What are you all doing?” he asked. “You look to me like a knowledgeable person. Stop for a moment and enlighten me, if you would.”
506 “If you must know,” came the impatient voice, “all those you see on this shop floor, except myself, are genetically conceived and mechanically determined. You would be silly to ask them to explain what they do. Their life is the duration of their microchip. As for me, I too will soon be replaced. Now get out of my way so that I can carry on, I want that day to come later rather than sooner.”
507 The Shepherd had to be satisfied with that. He never did find out what was being produced in that pit, however he was appalled by the terrible condition of those bodies which seemed devoured from within by some wasting disease, as by an insane drive. Like that other voyager to the centre of the earth and back he was confronted by the notion of ‘a change of plan in heaven’ that alone could account for this sad aberration.
508 As he walked away from the pit there arose in him a mighty awareness of his soul, as if the lack there could not but emphasize the existence of it here, and so for an hour he walked as in a dream while all around him the world was magnified. How could he ignore this power within himself which seemed to invite him to active participation - ? Indeed he accepted a mandate then and there.
509 I am evidently being groomed, he reflected, for some particular contribution to the welfare of mankind and although I feel at the moment like a king who is waiting to be recognized, I suspect this feeling will pass to be replaced by a sense of responsibility. What I must remember is that I have a soul and that this soul wishes to be active and passive.
510 Not until many years later however did he learn how to be that soul, so that not only his environment was transfigured, phenomena revealing themselves, but he himself was empowered, to legislate for a great variety of circumstances as he no longer sat down with his soul but joined with it in the fullest co-operation.
511 For the moment, caught up in his soul’s aura, he could only think how distant his life had been from that other life, which an active soul promised and so he set himself the task of repentance. By this he understood a lively consciousness of the difference between what he was and what he might be plus a wish that the former should not obscure the latter. He was even able to regret some of the silliness of his youth.
A Modern Individual 512
or a few days he hired himself out as a gardener to one who cultivated the earth for profit, a kind man, with habits that could stand the test of scrutiny. “What you do seems admirable to me,” said the Shepherd, but why is there so little joy in your life? You seem to me like one who labours in vain.” “What you see here is not really myself,” came the reply, “but the shadow of some former, failed existence.”
513 But the Shepherd was overcome by sorrow and compassion for he could not understand how this should be required of anyone, no matter how mistaken was his past life, especially since he himself had such a lively appreciation of a superabundance of forgiveness. “Come, you must believe,” he said, “that life is not vengeful. No need to make correction item by item.” The gardener listened and then spoke as follows:
514 “You are young,” he said, “and devoid of understanding. My grief is such that I make use of it as a crutch. If I had the use of my legs like a healthy man I would skip across all the troubles that beset me.” “But what, proverbially, is wrong with your legs?” “Ah, now there you ask me, my young friend. Sure, if I knew that would I need to limp?” Little did he realize he was a ‘modern individual’.
515 For the shepherd this was another indication of how we can stop halfway in our search for a total solution to all our problems. Not that he himself had many problems but he carried within him the germ of reality and all his searching would centre upon viable communication of worship in reality, even as the truth in person had suggested. *
A Society 516
e happened upon a group who were seated around an elm tree and they were feasting but most of all they were enjoying each other’s gay company, there was singing and laughter and when they saw him, one held up his hand and the others fell silent, whereupon he said: “From the looks of you, you are not composed like one of us; you shine with a light independent of society.”
517 The Shepherd, who was not very often self-conscious, blushed a little, like someone who is flattered and at the same time apprehensive as to why this should be so. He even imagined that perhaps he was being mocked. Nevertheless, not wishing to seem impolite, he nodded by way of greeting, but remained speechless. The assembled company only smiled and then the one who had spoken previously said:
518 “If you would like to join us, please do so. Our gaiety is really not very spontaneous. We get together to woo high spirits so that when we part we may smile for a short while but then when each has to face his own company a terribly empty loneliness sets in, so that we flee from ourselves into one another’s company, where anything goes just so long as there is merriment.”
519 “If that is the purpose of your gathering,” said the Shepherd, who had found his voice, now that he recognized those present, “you won’t want my company, for today I am sorrowful and before long I would burden you with my melancholy, which, unlike your mood, is spontaneous and profound.” At this the others visibly shrank into themselves and furtively glanced at him, with dark suspicion. “We wish to be happy! We wish to have fun!” said a pretty young woman, expressing her dislike.
520 No one likes to be rejected and the Shepherd, concealing his pain as well as he could, proffered a friendly wave, a forced smile, and showed by his manner that he intended to leave. However the one who had welcomed him at the start came forward, took him by the hand and led him to his side of the table where he urged him to be seated. “At least,” he said, “will you join us for a drink? You look like someone in need of refreshment.”
521 What I need, thought the Shepherd, is a sense of direction. How long does a person wait to be shown how all this preparation eventually adds up? Take these people around this table – I have absolutely nothing in common with any of them. Nevertheless I shall behave as if I did because that’s the only way for me to behave. “Thank you,” he said., “I’ll join you for a few minutes.” How long, he reflected, before I will regret this?
522 A young man with red hair mentioned the weather, another commented on the forthcoming elections. “There is violence in the air,” said the Shepherd dolefully and those at the table stared at one another. “Are you out for a stroll, then?” asked a girl uncomfortably. “Thanks for the drink,” said the Shepherd. “I have to go now.” He looked at them all in turn and it seemed to him they existed in a world of their own, removed a million miles from the one he inhabited.
523 We should not suppose that his mind was unhinged but only that an all-embracing sorrow was upon him and this made him utterly unapproachable. He knew this himself but could do nothing about it. Communication with his fellow man had broken down and within him a dreadful energy drew attention to itself. Without further ado he knelt by the roadside and making sure no one saw him he wept bitter tears. Thereupon, truly refreshed, he carried on.
524 But one from the company he had left caught up with him and breathless from the effort of running, blurted out: “I want you to know, I am not like those others. I too, like you, carry a weight on my shoulders, a burden not to be shrugged off with impunity. Wherever you go, let me come along with you.” The Shepherd was puzzled by the young man’s behaviour. The trials that still lay ahead were unknown to him but he had no authority to interfere with anyone.
525 “I come from a long line of thinkers,” said the boy. He was eighteen or nineteen years old, perhaps. “My great-grandfather was a slave in Tennessee; with all my heart and soul I am devoted to black people, to their welfare and destiny.” The Shepherd walked on and listened attentively, always wondering how much of what was happening was specifically intended for him, as a direction. “Tell me,” he asked, “have you no home to go to?”
526 “I have to leave my home,” came the anxious reply. “They cannot understand what moves me, what motivates me. My very words are scandalous in their ears. My father curses me, my mother has given me up, I am looking for a guide, for someone to show me which way to turn. If only I could be certain. My name is Pascal. What is yours?” But the Shepherd smiled and showed by his manner that he would not divulge his name, though he could give no reason.
527 The sun neared the horizon. They entered the precincts of one of the largest cities of the western world, on the day when an earthquake had shattered many buildings and killed many people. So much destruction loomed all around them that anyone could see it would be many years before people would again exist at their ease. Here the Shepherd helped clear the rubble so that many who were merely buried were freed.
528 His black companion had meanwhile disappeared. Did he realize that this was a hard road, thought the Shepherd, or was he one of those young enthusiasts who are touched by the human spirit and for a time there stirs in them a right appreciation of that love which is turning our world inside out and jumbling our values until nothing remains clear, neither what is good, nor bad, nor beautiful, so that many look forward to a speedy death?
529 The callous observer, with his critical eye, Merely watches the time go by. Little does he care how things fall out; His tranquil mind rests in its self And puts an edge on its contempt. His knowledge would excite, it seems, While those who dwell in visions and dreams Must care – they could not, if they tried, Put their engaged spirit to one side.
530 The great visionaries and dreamers, as we know, Have always had to develop and grow. It would not do to see them in a mist, Abject before the evil eye Of those who manage and control, Contesting their immortal soul. While fiends may ravage and contend And follow every superficial trend, The one who knows his dreams stands fast.
531 The ancient superstitions still hold sway, We should not think they have passed away. Their outer garment has been altered. Angels and demons no longer have the right To instil in us their medieval plight, Wrestling for our wretched remains; A struggle, to be fair, where no one gains, But trapped beneath our ill will slumbers The ancient weakness for names & numbers.
532 Such was the thought and feeling of the Shepherd and also the contemplation of his authentic soul as he struggled along that supernumerary path, of numinous origin and destination. On one side, as he trudged, imagine the princes, who still held sway, prime ministers and presidents and all those who needed someone in the saddle to spur them out of lethargy and to curb their excesses; the laws, morality, the social conventions –
533 on the other side the so-called Defenders of the Faith, who sanction what is normal in the name of that Almighty Who could not cope without their servility – not to mention those consumers of the cultic & esoteric, the multitude of souls fishing in the dark, in murky waters, hoping to extract, by force, if need be, a flattering sign – anything to lend them the dignity of distinction but what is it in the end except spiritual conceit?
534 One other adventure let me mention, if you do not object to my using that word to describe what is much more inward than outward, for none who had seen the Shepherd in those days would have turned their head to look a second time, so normal and quiet like a shadow did he glide through city streets and village squares, forever alone and longing for that touch which would let him know he was a human being.
here was one who came to him as he sat on a bench And spoke to him as if he had known him all along. “Your efforts are wasted,” he said, “quite futile. Make the best of your narrow talents and concede that the world is nothing but struggle for survival among people whose interest you can never enlist.” “And who might you be, when you’re not at home?” said the Shepherd somewhat disrespectfully, “and why do you take it upon yourself to advise me?”
536 He peered to see if under that cowl a feature might reveal the man’s intention but there was no face, only a darkness and within that darkness the expanse of the universe, endless, open, a yawning night. “At the risk of seeming overly dramatic,” said the one in the robe that hung to his feet and revealed beneath it neither figure nor structure “I may tell you I am commonly referred to as death.”
537 “And who,” said the Shepherd, “calls you that nowadays?” “Why, those who fear me,” came the reply. “And are there any who honour you as of old?” The monk-like figure whirled as if in anger and made as if to strike the Shepherd, who felt a perfect calmness rise in him. He even leaned towards his would-be assailant as if to make himself more available for any attack that was coming his way.
538 The other one halted mid way and said: “It seems you are in luck, for I drew back.” But the Shepherd thought: “No, you were stopped,” for it seemed for all the world as if a hand had laid itself upon his raging opponent and calmly quietened him. And this, thought the Shepherd, is what it means to have faith when faith is a gift at the decisive moment, rather than the faculty that may be exercised as the basis for all our doing and behaving.
539 Never mind. Death, the “destroyer of worlds” was a pussycat in the hands of faith, that much had been experimentally ascertained. He was never to forget it. Years later he worked the equation of death into his theories of the finite world coupled with the infinite; Vishnu meanwhile banged mountains together, traipsed across fields electro-magnetic and toyed with quarks for sophistication.
540 Not to ignore that at an earlier time the impressionable young man had sweated in front of a mirror where behind his image the prong-horned figure had loomed as large as life – being death. At that time the magic had not yet been eroded, the trial by terror of the students of love was in full swing and the Shepherd narrowly missed his calling as he fed into the flames of his burning world his absurd calculations, hoping thereby to quieten his mind.
541 Against such a background, the entry of the Muse into his life was a stroke of luck which might be compared to a cloud descending. Vilifications, desecrations, organized mayhem, the usurpation of the realm of pain by a female with squatter’s rights – who could have guessed that in those days the Muse operated secretly behind the scenes, leaving no stone unturned to capture the guilt-ridden mind and the cruel heart.
542 We have met the Muse, we know her as rational. In those days she functioned in fantastic guise, which later she would not be able to recall, upon her entry into multi-dimension. Primitive Christianity, the Early Church, had cast its die and won the jackpot – and frittered the proceeds, so that now, in the depths of the subatomic world rumours began to circulate of the unified field, linking Christ with matter and rendering unto Caesar the residual caboodle.
543 It should be noted here how the shepherd’s memory worked. Throw out the concept of memory as a storehouse if you wish to remember what is worth remembering. Clutter your mind with ‘data’ and ‘information’ if you intend to excommunicate the truth from your system. As he observed one day how the past shifted to the front, his flesh crept. Now was the time to dove-tail matters that had been sectioned to prove their cleanliness. His memory had at last become physical.
544 Imagine his thinking and feeling at the time. Mind and body, in thorough distinction due to patient forbearance and suffering, the intelligent suffering of natural necessity, could then be married, the two made one. The resultant reality would be truly physical. Nature could not be understood in its true light except by a physical human being, who viewed it from the standpoint of human nature. That much occurred to him with crystal clarity.
545 Thereupon he was ‘forced’ to admit that forces could not occur in the universe but that man, who was capable of stupidity and evil and could behave towards nature not at all human naturally, like a child, disrespectfully towards his mother, that man, when he spoke of the forces of nature merely described his own reflection. He allowed himself to be ‘forced’ to admit this, accepting a portion of responsibility for the past, for man’s misbehaviour towards the natural universe.
546 Consider the reaction of an ill-tempered individual who kicks the root over which he tripped. The tree forced him to lose his balance? No, force is an ill-natured invention, at home neither in nature nor in human nature. This was a task the Shepherd set himself, to show, primarily by personal example, how humility was true but force false. The way nature performed when its particles were accelerated was merely a reflection of those interfering people.
547 Matter was not another ‘matter’ altogether but nature viewed under the auspices of time. If it happens naturally and takes its time we may call it a constituent of our material earth and thereafter its various resistant particles cheerfully testify to our presence here, giving us something to push against so that all our muscular energy and drive may complete our joy, since we are not ghosts but live beings of flesh and blood.
548 Like this he reasoned when walking on the beach, so that even at the height of a storm he saw appropriate behaviour of cliff and wave, not separate insistence or mutual animosity. At night the whirling galaxies impressed him and he imagined how the cosmos breathed, perhaps expanding for a few million years and then contracting, from location to location in a different phase, melting and mixing, allowing itself to be described as orderly.
549 Is that not finally the beauty of nature, that our human nature may see itself reflected in it? Subatomic particles, what are they except signs that matter is being disturbed at its root? Nature is not separate from human nature but we, demonic, ego-driven sadly pervert our human nature, call it faulty before we even start and then act surprised when we try to control the uncontrollable in an unclean spirit.
550 Force, precisely because he was so susceptible to it, intrigued this child of nature immensely. Whenever he found himself forcing an issue he laboured in advance to predict the unpredictable. The classical symptoms of a forced case were fear and the fear of fear, in that order. All that was born and had come into being organically, not produced mechanically, showed by the way it rested in itself that traumata could not affect it – except man.
551 In this, thought the Shepherd, we know both our privilege and the silent suffering that is required of us. In his dreams he lectured the angels and taught them respect for the many human alternatives. However when it came to bringing about a change in the world, if only for comfort’s sake, he discovered that force was unavoidable, so that therefore all change must commence from within and then what counted was the exemplary work in relation to every being’s individual liberty.
552 He knew that not far from where he was born a race of people had their origin whose sense of beauty was guaranteed. Beauty as the perfect fit of appearances had long ago rocked them in their cradle. That was their gift to mankind, you might say, the knowledge that the world of phenomena was dependable. However a poison coursed in their veins, inflicted – or rather, allowed to be inflicted – by the one explainer and predictor of life.
553 The Shepherd had spoken of this to a friend and now he recalls his words for us, lifted out of dream and shaped by memory: “The beauty of the world is such that it must be sustained at all times by the spirit of truth. Woe to those who know the world’s beauty but close their hearts to the spirit of truth! Can you imagine the tremendous pressure exerted due to this contradiction? Are they not bound to experience force?
554 “Forced from his homeland, the dweller in the desert looks to his Maker for comforting illusions, finds himself trapped in the ancient contradiction, carries the torch of his tribe in his blood; cannot but bring equal force to bear on those who despise the beauty of the world and therefore must repay force with force since truth within them finds no peace.” Thus the Shepherd, carefully unmasking the soul of mankind, in grief suspended.
555 Heraclitus knew about ‘gauge symmetry’. If the sun should step over the traces, he said, the Erynnies will force it back in line. This was his way of suggesting that ‘out there’ nothing was real, all was extinct. Only the flesh, or matter, decaying, was ‘out there’ and those who studied its properties ended with their noses in cottage cheese. (Quark) The Shepherd searched in the world of spirit for the single unit that underpinned all else.
In the Dark Forest 556
e found himself at this time in a forest so dark that only the eyes of animals that accompanied him were visible to him. This was tremendously exciting for a while, so long had he been out of touch with nature, and when he bumped into trees he made no fuss. Rivalries arose between his flesh and his self as will always happen when we walk in darkness. There are those who say that darkness can be seen and oh, how numerous their marvellous inventions!
557 The great diversity of nature and the world, the ‘thousand things’, as one man called it, was no longer there for him. He travelled at night. For some reason this was required of him and he never argued with his guiding spirit. At home among the dead he let it be known that he himself was no stranger to death and to the darkness of the soul. He travelled at night, for some reason this was required at that time, a time of seemingly endless repetition.
558 That his nature should submit to these meaningless cycles opened his eyes to a definition of nature which had not occurred to him during the days of the old order. As soon as he abjured the notion of force – and I should say he was gently persuaded to do so – what took its place was an experience of rest. It had always puzzled him why modern man only ever came close to what he had set out to achieve. The rest always remained on the other side of the wall. Did this not indicate the direction was wrong?
559 As he groped through the undergrowth, going by feel, stumbling so often that he developed a knack for it, he concerned himself only over minute advances, always aware of the immediate goal, which was inward consistency, knowable exclusively to himself, while those who questioned his behaviour could usually be satisfied with routine comments: “I am thinking things over. I have so much to learn. I will soon be alright. Can you spare a bit of cash?” Only twice did he ask for money – and he got some.
560 Money, he discovered, was not part of the rest. We see him now caught up in eschatology. What were the last things to which creation boiled down before human nature took over? What was the rest, the remainder, the residue which frightened the son of woman so much that he gave up the ghost and settled for misery, the prolonged search for happiness elsewhere, except within striking distance of the one who could be clearly seen in the dark?
561 The darkness was such that everything had to be quantified and only within quantifiable matter did objective reality reside, so they thought, those who spurned imagination, and their eyes accompanied the lone traveller in the wood, who developed his organ of intelligent feeling, of intentional feeling in the interest of mastery, though here he achieved no level of refinement prior to the advent of the Muse on his horizon, for she would provide the rational catalyst.
562 Indeed this so-called material reality was not the rest, of that he was convinced. Was the tiniest particle an electron? A hadron? A photon? A neutrino? A quark? Or a wave? Or was it perhaps a grain of sand and then one would finally be able to predict that building on sand was not so smart and who had invented this sand pile in the first place, with its promise of man being able to imitate that which had not been accomplished in the first place?
563 To explain the flesh and to be able to predict its behaviour, that was the dream of the cognoscenti. The Shepherd was certain that the flesh did not behave; it only reacted, in some measurable proportion, to popular intervention, to stimulus and irritant, so that one could read into a dead frog’s leg twitch or into the results of subatomic particle bombardment whatever one’s curiosity fancied and while curiosity itself should not be disparaged, in aid of the ego it kills the cat.
564 Very well then, let the cat find out the hard way. It is the nature of the ego to self-destruct and should it take a multiplicity of lifetimes. As yet the shepherd could not make out why he was learning what he was learning. Primarily he learned to cope with confusion. His interior furniture was being rearranged and not at all according to some predictable plan. The only category to which the new life responded was what he called human natural faith.
565 In the darkness this faith seemed indestructible. As he groped his way from improbable tree trunk to improbable tree trunk, not minding the repetition and perfectly aware of the metaphoric euphoria which sustained him against all evens and odds, he perceived himself as tunnelling into the future and his perception of the future itself was interesting because he knew all appearances connected with this future as illusions and not as reality at all, so he held them in front of him, each one like a lantern.
566 This helped somewhat with his passage through the dark. Many have lost their way, not recognizing the classic hallucination, the phantom romance. He stumbled over their bodies on the ground, sprawled in gesture of hopeless appeal, having sacrificed, for the sake of a social standard their creative integrity, the well-being of their soul. By the shimmering light of his careful illusions he peered expectantly into their faces, hoping to discover a hint for his progress.
567 Nothing so much disturbed his equilibrium as when one of those corpses lifted its head and spoke to him words in a silver tongue: “If you want to make progress through these woods as I did, before I was bitten by the bug of popular celebrity, tend to your heart, mind those enthusiastic effusions which seem to put you on a level with fools. Here you see one brought low by conceit. There, in the cleft of that rock, another.”
568 Testing each foothold, like one who approaches a cliff edge but his eyesight is not what it was, the Shepherd took a few steps to the left and imagined he saw, wedged into a crevice and not yet in a state of decomposition, the body of one he had known intimately. Tenderly he removed some debris from the face when the eyes opened and a startled look pierced him to the quick for he had not expected to recognize the bearded visage of his father.
The Shepherd’s Father 569
h my son,” came the voice, as from the bottom of a well, “pray do not judge me but leave that to another, for I would not have you make the mistake that brought me to this ignominious state. For myself I have nothing to fear any longer; in this darkness one hour is like the next, with ample leisure to review the past.” So shocked was the Shepherd by this revelation that for a long time he could not get himself to speak but he only stared into those doleful eyes.
570 Then, when he had regained his presence of mind and stilled the terrible commotion in his breast he leaned forward, as one does towards a patient on his sick-bed and whispered his concern into the ear of the corpse: “Why, oh my father, are you left here untended, exposed to the elements and to the wild beasts and wedged into this boulder so that you cannot move? How have you forfeited the rest that should be yours now?” As he spoke, thick drops rained from his eyes and he knew what some mean when they speak of heart break.
571 Then those eyelids, which suddenly reminded him of a reptile’s eyelids, closed for a moment as if the mind behind them were reflecting. He waited patiently, with his knees pressed into the moist turf in the crook of a root. Then, as from beneath an intolerable burden came the voice of the one who once was his father: “Final is the judgment of the one whose love we wilfully reject or promiscuously ignore. Ah, if I had known then what I know now!”
572 “Oh my father,” said the son, “why, after all these years, do you appear to me now to make my heart heavy? Is it because I have disappointed you in some way or do you find the sleep of death so intolerable, that tomorrow would be too late to make these accusations? Indeed your will has always been such that those who disagreed with you and stumbled were given full reparation, with nothing held back. Can it be that now you regret mercy, or that kindliness is equated with a lack of proper care?”
573 Then it happened that the old man bestirred himself and that the venerable head was uplifted from that cushion of cold rock which had sapped all brain energy. It came to pass in that absolute darkness in which illusion gives birth to a foreign light, that the corpse, no longer held captive by those powers which direct the thought of a materialistic world, stretched its limbs, not with energy but strength, informed by a brain with direct access to all the created cells of flesh.
574 This of course cannot be understood and certainly will not be accepted by those whose brain has not been opened to divinity, for which they certainly can not be blamed. Nevertheless the deeper wisdom will not be concealed in our time, when a few, as always, are prepared to imbibe that wisdom, the infusion of which, since their hearts are pure, engenders within them an emerging aptitude for seeing and doing the simple perfection.
575 He shook the sleep of death from his body like one who rises early, and joyfully he anticipates a day of pleasurable action. This was no longer an old man now who stepped forward to embrace his son and I am not the one to make an attempt to describe the joy in their hearts at that moment. It was one will only that united them now and: “Truly it was said that he who enters here, unless he looks back, gains riches,” said the Shepherd.
576 “If I knew what has brought you to this land of illusions,” said the old man, “I would not have to ask you these uncomfortable questions, which it pains me to put to you, especially in these absurd surroundings where one supposes one can see the world as it is, when in fact one only peers at the projections of one’s brain, perversely mistaking them. But how is it that you, who are evidently not duped, have succeeded in entering through the eye of the needle in such a fit state? Indeed if eyesight could operate here, you would be astonished by the state of things.”
577 The Shepherd, understandably, was not yet accustomed to having in front of him the father he had lost many years ago, when a fall from a horse had killed him. Years had passed while he had dwelled upon the memory of a man who had never fully become acquainted with any of the many possibilities offered by the life which is not an accident but a gift. Now the son was disturbed in his soul by this strange phenomenon, contrary to mere nature but not of course at odds with human nature.
578 We must keep in mind, he was still at a stage of life and had not entered upon his final existence, when the presence of the Muse in the light of day would alter his human perceptions to the good and allow him to come to a perfect understanding. These are all matters which must be taken on board with the help of patience and a distinct imagination, otherwise how can we avoid being trapped by those selfsame forces which destroyed his father before he could choose to take advantage of the promise?
579 Nonetheless, though the Muse had not yet been given, by that power than which nothing is greater, permission, or spur, to enter upon the blessed realm and inflict that injury which alone guarantees both insight and progress in terms of reality, there did emerge from that zone of influence, like cosmic rays, if you like this metaphor, a steady and helpful hint of perfection, as from secret passages in a cultural masterpiece and this is what kept the Shepherd on course.
580 So we must not imagine that he was entirely on his own as he searched, for the lack of a better word, for his fulfilment. Indeed, what alone distinguishes him from others, who perhaps are addicted to the little pleasures, is that those very ‘cosmic rays’ which I mentioned elicited in him a predisposition favourable to the teachings of the spirit of truth, to which he assented, whereupon he went forth on this most unusual journey I have described and I have not yet finished, as I bend to my task.
581 Tenderly the son took the father by the hand and led him forth from that arena of duplicity, where those who had insisted that they saw lay stretched out among the boulders or constricted in the undergrowth where they could not move, to all intents and purposes dead to that world which for them is created and this, of course, is the crux of the matter, that the children of the darkness forever search in the past for cause and reason for life while the here and now stands ready to receive them.
582 Happy indeed are those for whom the veil of convention is rent and the contemporary light streams in upon their souls, no longer a threat to what, in their misery, they called their tradition. Only the father of all knows the difference between the old and the new time, and those in whose hearts he has established that knowledge even from childhood. Therefore we are grateful for what they reveal to us and we suppress our all too clever objections to everything that challenges our self-satisfaction.
583 “My limbs are stiff,” said the father, “however no need to carry me away on your back like that ancient precursor of the Latin race. This stiffness will gradually give way to suppleness and the cold, which causes me extreme discomfort as if, I confess it, my blood were water, shall suddenly turn into human warmth. All I must do is intelligently feel it. You see, one learns a thing or two during the sleep of death, while sight is extinguished.”
584 Without looking back the son led on, not guided by what he knew were illusions but less inclined to hesitate or stumble. Would it be possible for you to sympathize with the horror he experienced when with his feet he trod on the limbs of corpses, half submerged in the mud of what was once a battleground? Indeed what part of the earth’s face has not been stained by the blood of men and women and children who succumbed to misery!
585 Now the Shepherd feels full of new purpose as he knows, behind him, his father in person and in front the eventual issue from darkness. “You walk too fast for me; please remember, these limbs are not yet reaccustomed to their task and besides, those grand illusions of my youth have all been forsaken, by a hasty will have been dealt the death blow during war and famine, when the only concern is survival of the fittest, so that now my blind eyes depend on yours.”
586 So speaks the old man, as, bent forward, with his hand clinging to his son’s hand, he nurses a new hope in his heart, inwardly beseeching the lord of life that this might not be an empty dream but a true reunion with his son in reality. Here we imagine the father of creation in care of the son, that essence of creation which never slumbers but daily renews the world for those who prepare a welcome.
587 “I see not what I would like to see,” says the son, “but what I must and it leaves me little peace, the darkness being such that these horrors are magnified by their own projected shadows and I would not linger over a single one. Nonetheless memory would take its fill for reasons my mind is not ready to comprehend.” They struggled on, through mud half frozen, tempted every now and again to stop, when fatigue gripped them, undermining their nerve.
588 At last, arriving where the air seems fresher and the ground beneath their feet less problematic, the Shepherd points to a light on the horizon and says to his father: “Now we have to part; you go to your world and I to mine. This is how it was decreed in the beginning, that the children of the light should plough their own furrow, unimpeded, unaided by those who cannot know the pain of creation but they have their own contribution to make.”
589 When he hears this, the father’s eyes are opened and for the first time in his life he really sees. This is when that crack in his soul appears which must be sustained by the children of darkness before they can enter upon the new disposition. Usually this is accompanied by floods of tears because we realize how wrong we have been, how long we have persisted in ignorance of the truth. Our falsehood splits like a shell and reveals the tender germ of universal love.
590 For some time the son sits beside the father and comforts him. Dawn appears newly over the earth, flashes of red and gold make the sky blaze with a supernatural glory and the Shepherd adjusts, so as not to be ravished. Meanwhile the father experiences within himself the same emotion, not outwardly stimulated and as he dries his eyes on the sleeves of his coat, his human nature is drawn to his attention, which he could not have appreciated except for his blindness.
591 Understand, good reader, what it means to capture the knowledge of the left and also of the right and how we must come up against the great impossibility, where nothing more is to be said or done and our spirits flag before the white canvas which holds all future enterprise in contempt. And yet at that moment the singular opportunity of the eternal relation is ours to behold and to hold in possession, though this cannot be managed except by sharing the fruits of that labour.
592 Father and son, according to appearance side by side in space and time and yet their reality is not one. What we have to appreciate is that the father’s nature is not connected with what goes on around him. This may not be the time for an explanation. Suffice it to say that he views his humanity entirely from within, as a product of consciousness. He sees it now but he does not live in it and that makes for much that could be called tragic.
593 The son, by comparison, lives his human nature. The very main-spring of his existence is human natural and eagerness for personality in the light of day. The father does well to look inward from now on and due to his blindness he will not be distracted. A question rises to the son’s lips and he hesitates before he comes out with it, but then: “Why was I given up for adoption? Why was my father a stranger to me while others busied themselves with my upbringing?”
594 A sob escapes from the father’s mouth straight from his heart, as he hears these words, which cannot but occur to him as an accusation. He knows now what he did not know then and cannot help but blame himself for wrong behaviour. “Your mother and I” – he speaks in hollow tones – “drifted from one selfishness into the next. We seemed to lack the power of forgiveness and nothing remained but a painful separation. You were in the way, one burden too many.”
595 With that the father rested his forehead on his knees and once more the bitter tears moistened the earth between his feet, while his soul at the same time was washed white. Thereupon the Shepherd quietly consoled him: “Surely you did what was best at the time. Those who cannot forgive are to be pitied, for the hell they create for themselves is horrendous. However you have that behind you now. Make a clean break with the past you regret.”
596 “And you?” says the father. “Have you no regrets?” The Shepherd cannot but wonder at this question. He decides to answer but begins to stammer: “Each day – I practice – a general repentance for I know that, being born, I must bear my mortality with dignity and restraint, mindful of error which slips into the everyday stream of my doing, especially false thinking and feeling – I do myself no favour by ignoring these – they inhibit my individual liberty and freedom.”
597 “And what does it gain you, this general repentance?” The Shepherd thought a moment, then replied: “It may not be possible for you to understand. What do you know of the spirit that dwells in us and lends itself, when we wish, to our intention? It is for this that our kind repents. In place of self-will, which is sidelined, we receive that human natural spirit which is also divine, universally true, and so grows within us the power to do good.”
598 The old man cannot make head or tail of this but he hopes that the young man, seated there beside him, will show him the sort of kindliness he craves. This is the attitude from which he most benefits, for it stops him from nursing a sense of righteousness based on an empty paternal seniority. The darkness within him is being illuminated very gradually and everything depends on how he interprets what is revealed by that light. With regard to patience and meekness he is a novice.
599 The comforting spirit is a new experience for the father who has always done his duty obediently in line with some higher authority. What he must learn now, at such a late date is that whatever he decides to do in that spirit, to think or to feel, including his behaviour, may be done in perfect comfort and freedom and no need to consult with external authority. This will mean breaking many a bad habit, though within that spirit all change is easy.
600 We may come to the conclusion that all our efforts fit in with some mysterious plan of a being greater than human and this makes us carry our heads a little higher, however it may also turn us into conceited idiots who have time exclusively for their own egotistic opinions, whatever the evidence to the contrary and also, contemptuous of the particular wishes of human beings, how soon do we not become hard-hearted and stiff-necked, blinded by our silly insistence that we can see!
601 For the Shepherd, this man beside him was a stranger. He tried to imagine what it would be like if a real conversation were possible with him, such as when two human beings in person are willing to participate in that finer reality which is rarely appreciated in modern society because so much depends on compassionate insight, on patient courage and willingness to learn. Memory more or less intervened, otherwise it might have mattered who had caused his birth.
602 All the same he decided to instruct himself in this matter of an old man who had come to his senses. “Tell me,” he said, “how did it come to pass that with all your neglect of soul and spirit, which you yourself now happily admit – otherwise my words would be presumption – that you nevertheless have been vouchsafed entrance into that domain where bliss is a fact?” This seemed to cause the old man distress for it sounded as if he were being judged.
603 Youth can be ruthless, and this has to do with the illusion of immortality possessed by the young. By the same token those who are in love can be selfish in the presence of their less fortunate friends but this by no means furthers their interests. The Shepherd was still a young man and his youth clung to him and somewhat hindered his maturity. “What I would like to understand,” he tried to backtrack, “is how you view your present state in comparison to your previous, old captivity.”
604 The ancient one heaved a mighty sigh and for the first time in his life he reflected. Reflection is an underrated activity and commonly confused with the repetition of thoughts. “What I know now I could not know then,” he said. “In that sense I am aware of a division between my former self and who I am now. The two are closely interwoven, nonetheless I can recall the one with regret – and am grateful to the gods for the other.”
605 “And how will you present yourself to the world?” asked the Shepherd. “I ask, because I hope no one will ask me.” “Do you mean: What role do I intend to play, having arrived, at my advanced age, at this vision of truth which really has nothing to do with the world? I suppose I shall have to wait and see. At the moment I merely float upon the surface of the earth like a weightless, mythic leaf. I dare say an impulse will come from somewhere as indeed it did when I was torn from sleep.”
606 This is a fine explanation, thought the young man, of a state of affairs unique in its nature, very much like my own, however it tells me nothing of the reason for that man’s existence from which I might take a lesson for myself. Has he gained from my unintended intervention? Should this be my purpose in life, to instil an awareness of soul, of conscience and consciousness, in those who have drifted through life impure? Or was this nothing more than an accident?
607 He came to the conclusion that although ‘his father’, who had never been his father except in name, would henceforth provide for himself a world of limitless possibility, inwardly constrained. The wish to exist meaningfully and richly could originate in old and young alike. Therefore once again the essential task would be personal communication, the liberal exchange of good will in substance, and not judgment, nor that curse of the age called criticism.
608 “I am of two minds now as to how to proceed,” he said, once again soliciting advice from one towards whom a secret anger still rankled in his breast, as if the question was intended to reveal the old one’s ignorance. “I believe I need guidance,” he pointedly repeated. Once again the one beside him heaved a sigh, as if a massive burden compressed his chest and he could barely speak, so much did guilt and shame oppress him.
609 Then he brought out the following words: “My advice may not be exactly what you are looking for but this is often the case when we hope for progress in a direction which would be wrong for us, in which case we usually must take a false step and suffer the pain before we rethink. As for you right now, your animosity is your enemy and I must labour under what I have deserved. However a better way exists for both of us. My wisdom may suggest it. Your strength must implement it.”
610 When the Shepherd heard this, he was able to detach his mind from the aggressive emotion he had harboured and he inclined his head, so as to listen carefully. This gave the old one courage to continue: “If you would build the bridge between us which alone can facilitate an exchange of views – and you, with the remnant of youth that still clings to you, are the one to accomplish this ambitious work so that you may wholly enter maturity – then you must overcome your generation’s resentment –
611 “and this can be managed with that certain love which ignores all else except its intention. Indeed no better time to provide it than when we feel least inclined. Besides, this love, if it came from you, would lift from me the consciousness of guilt which makes me so onerous and the shame which becomes such a scandal in your eyes. The son of man can forgive the sins, the consequences of which terrify the nations.” The Shepherd was shaken by this in his soul.
612 “What is this love you speak of,” he asks. “Who has invented this love you speak of? Corpses I interviewed knew nothing of it. You who have slept among the dead speak of a love that overcomes falsity and evil. Is this love in any way practical? Please elaborate. I have nothing to lose.”
613 The old man marvels at what he hears. “Can you not see what was done through you? Did you not find me stranded on that scrap-heap where those who sleep look like those whose flesh is torn from cursed bones? What, do you suppose, breathed life into me if not the love of which we speak?”
614 “The problem is,” the Shepherd interposes angrily, “I was not involved. My pride is hurt because I did not intend it. Of course I notice certain effects due to my presence, however, what of my will and intellect? I have no satisfaction until I act in self-awareness, fully responsible.”
615 “This does you credit,” the old one says. “I cannot imagine a more honourable ambition. Otherwise you feel like an accident, don’t you; a mere tool in the hands of a wiser fate. I quite agree that no human being should be obliged to feel content without his measure of personal authority.”
616 “Then teach me how to get this love you speak of into my hands, old one, for I crave the power to do good.” “Do you indeed?” the father questions, and he is a father now, for the first time in his life, in that he is willing to think on behalf of a young person, for whom he makes himself responsible.
617 “Do you indeed” he repeats, “or might it be political power? Differentiate well between those two. Political power excludes compassion, the feminine element. Ethical power excludes popularity, triumph over others.
618 “Would you like to be able to heal so as to be known as a healer or do you sorrow with those who sorrow and share the pain of the afflicted? What exactly does it mean to you, to do good and to help others? Have you thought about that?”
619 The young man thinks and then says: “You give me a hard nut to crack. I feel within me the desire to create a variety of worlds based on what I would call perfected human nature, more real than this modern calculus.”
620 “Ah, then surely you would benefit those who have become estranged and outcast from popular society. This would indeed be a good work and I ask myself how you might manage it.” Thus the old man, in irony.
621 Now the Shepherd experiences a productive shock to his system, for he catches the drift of the old man. Blessed indeed are the ignorant by an angel of dubious origin, for they know not what they do.
622 “Tell me,” he says, when the message has sunk in, “is today not the time of the final judgment, when a simple separation takes place between those who dedicate themselves to the spirit of truth and those who piss their lives away in pursuit of the little pleasures?”
623 “I know nothing about that,” he is told by the one who finds such a question presumptuous, especially after having only just emerged from his own ‘self-caused immaturity’, (Kant). “It’s not my job to make final judgments,” he says, and rises impatiently to his feet.
624 “Where will you go?” asks the Shepherd. “How can you navigate the world with nothing but an inner peace and a sense of gratitude for being allowed to exist on earth with a sense of conviction?”
625 The old man walks away and a sense of loss such as he has never experienced descends upon the Shepherd. While conversing with his ‘natural’ father he felt he belonged to the human race. Also anger welled up in him, and a sense of protest at having been deserted by all the ordinary feelings and thoughts, such as come to people who lead ordinary lives and behave normally. This anger would not leave him until the time of the Muse’s appearance on his horizon. Meanwhile he rubbed up against people and rubbed them up the wrong way. They could sense he was not one of them and therefore, being people, they chased him all the more from their midst, as we do with those who frighten us because they speak a new language. Certainly they did not want him beside them at the workbench or the conveyor belt. They resented his presence in the lecture hall because he asked embarrassing questions, pointing to hotbeds of hypocrisy.
Clearly there was something the matter with him and he chose to take this as a compliment. Perhaps this is the main difference between those who make it and those who fall by the wayside, that the former come up with the strength to differ while the latter buckle.
626 Once again on his own he set out resolutely, determined to put unpleasant memories where they belong and to trust that what he had learned would remain recorded, somehow, as his body of knowledge. Therefore it occurred to him to take a road to the right which gently wound up an incline to the top of a hill covered by dense forest, though the path was wide open to the sunlight. It was early morning as he approached an immense building set behind hedges and surrounded by an array of flowers and shrubbery all in beds carefully tended.
The City of Destruction 627
hen, during the interval between looking and looking again, a change had come over the front of the building. Where the smooth façade had shimmered in the sunlight now cracks appeared and the earth seemed to shake. He stood perfectly still to observe this phenomenon but terror gripped him when cracks ran along the surface of the earth now, towards him, from that building on which the towers swayed and then collapsed. There was a mighty crashing and a great deal of dust and people shrieking as they rushed outdoors to escape from collapsing walls and falling timbers; indeed the chaos was exemplary.
628 Exemplary too was the mood produced in him by the ensuing mayhem when his terror had subsided, for he could not believe this was really happening, so drained did he feel and abstracted from the scene. It was almost as if something was being enacted for him, for his personal benefit and he must steep himself in it without becoming the slightest bit involved; a bit like a visit at the local cinema. People who had escaped from the crumbling masonry came rushing towards him, mostly women and children and they surrounded him, a mass of grieving humanity, almost as if they were holding him responsible.
629 As the dust settled he began to wonder why he could see only women and children. Not a single man had emerged from the ruin. He inquired from a mother who stood grieving beside him: “What has happened to the male population? Where are the men, the young men and the mature, The husbands and fathers? Where are the elders who sustain the tribe during times of tribulation?” Then he tried to constrain her hands for she made as if to lacerate her face with her nails, which were manicured; however, when he touched her, she flew at him in a rage, like a fury, demented.
630 Answer to his question he had received none. With difficulty he managed to avoid being injured. The attack let him know that his help was not wanted, indeed he received many accusing looks. If only I could speak meaningfully to these people, he thought, as he wondered why he felt so paralyzed both within and without, like someone under anaesthetic, who is nonetheless aware of the progress of the operation. Two aftershocks caused more upheaval as the women clung to one another and to their children, evidently fearful of being swallowed by the earth – . The overriding emotion of the Shepherd was bathos.
631 He decided to walk towards the ruin of the building across the torn beds of the garden. It was only curiosity, for none of the women behaved as if anyone might have remained behind. How could they be sure that no one was trapped? No one was counting, in orderly fashion, those who wept, consoling others who were weeping. Was no one buried under all that rubble? He approached like someone who walks in his sleep, guided by some power outside himself. With growing apprehension he stepped into the circle across the imaginary line which separated
632 rational perception from raving insanity. Stand by me now, you celestial powers, if any such exist who care for my well-being – this is what passed through his soul like a prayer, for he knew not what mysterious energy urged him forward even while cautioning his heart to the utmost self-awareness, as if an excessive danger lay ahead. There are moments when fear is so intense upon us that it wipes out all consciousness of itself. Our eyes glaze over, we see only surfaces, the ability to love shrinks to needle point.
633 As the Shepherd advanced upon the ruin his heart began to beat violently, his throat constricted, beads of perspiration stood on his brow, yet he must submit to this, it is the next experience in line, an ordeal, or an agony –
634 We who sit safely upon cushions, sure of our next meal unless fortune has straitened our circumstances, and perhaps unfamiliar with the nameless trials of the human spirit – we wonder at this young man’s hesitation. It would seem his fantasy is “sicklied over”, perhaps turned against itself. In any case we cannot make out how he has got himself into such a state. Deep within that mood-conference which some today call the psyche, meaning the only other world they know, his memory digs down into a past endlessly prior to his birth
and excavates evidence of a life primitive beyond ordinary comprehension. Let us call it the pre-modern state and let us compare entrance there to the breaking into an ancient tomb sanctuary when not only the laws of men but universal constraints no longer apply, so that the perceiving mind is as much at sea as the world, as we face an iron necessity. Picture the smoke-stained walls festooned with amulet curses, stone axes, blood-stained, vessels for siphoning the liquid from pulsing arteries and veins and over it all these stupid superstitions layered to imply the politic holiness, the hieratic insistence upon magic as the only known source of renewal.
635 Who could possibly overcome man’s addiction to magic, because it sidelines so nicely the necessity to make up our mind! Coming up against the role magic plays in our life is a sobering experience indeed – who would have believed it! The materialist, in his eagerness to undermine fuzzy thinking, spins his web of eventual hopefulness across all creation. The spiritualist drives his coach and horses through common sense with the same sort of bravado, ultimately ‘perfectly insecure’. The realist guides and is guided by masses of everyday experience, down to earth with a typical hang-dog expression in the end. The idealist boils over at every mention of whatever name he presently honours and obeys and the divorce is never far off.
636 In the light of such reflections as these, Not calculated to let a body relax on his laurels, The Shepherd’s descent into the primordial Slime becomes much more understandable.
637 When a young man’s youthful illusion of immortality and eternal life begins to slip and slide sideways as on ice underfoot, is he not bound to pay heed to the ensuing panic, so that he may choose the right path and turn aside from the wrong path? However the signposts are missing, or someone has put wrong ones up, which get switched, so what do you do? Throw up your hands?
638 He has learned by now that pain, if we suffer it intelligently, cleanses, whereupon true signposts are revealed. This knowledge, which in his case has become instinctive, gives him the strength to take another step or two forward. Otherwise, let’s face it, he would take to his heels like any sensible person with a healthy instinct for survival.
here, upon her throne like a queen, sits Hysteria, decked out in splendour. He comes upon her suddenly, not in the forecourt, nor in the inner sanctum but she imposes her presence like so much fantasy suddenly become real and yet every fibre of that body is destructive, not flesh and blood at all but electric circuitry and a ghostly overshadowing.
640 If all else fails I can deny this is happening, he thinks. Outflanked by his desire for moral security, i.e. self-righteousness, he opts for ridicule, likening the prospect to one of those old-fashioned organs, rising from the proscenium in a nineteen-fifties cinema when aunt Millie pumped the pedals. However no sooner had he attempted this manoeuvre than both inward and outward havoc began to reign. Hysteria fizzed with incremental malice, the nails she spat clattered upon the concrete, there was no further question of taking this lightly.
He tries to focus on the facts, on what is really happening, losing all track of what might be done if courage were summoned, if wisdom were available, if emotion could be repaired. The image was not so dreadful but he was, full of dread, panic cascading up and down his spine. She only sat and scintillated, or let me instead say: she only sits and scintillates, barking abruptly at times as if to stress the point of her apparition. He sees no snakes instead of hair, no claws instead of nails, however, when perception fails, they are there, as so much else besides which the psyche in turmoil projects to undermine sound hearts and porous intellects.
641 Now he stands there transfixed, his emotions mixed, unwilling to participate in this riot of hate unleashed before his eyes. Stripped of all disguise, anger booming in his breast, he cannot do a thing until he has expressed his total lack of interest. The shrieking and the wailing continue unabated, complaint follows complaint, until she has ranted and rated her fill and his demise. He cannot deal with it otherwise than by letting his body die. Feeling grows cold, the capacity of his inward eye for vision diminishes. Before she finishes, she must deliver one stroke that comes from the heart and stabs the soul. The devil goes for broke. There the attack ends. The female in gold and white, seated upon bronze, melts into an ordinary chair, the tongue no longer wags.
642 In this way a fantasy prepares the eventual abode of the Muse. A single room remains untouched by the quake, he marvels at the splendour of the walls, the rich curtain fabric which hangs in sumptuous folds. He pretends not to notice that in place of the possessed female a stern woman occupies that seat and gazes upon his defeat.
643 She makes as if to speak while he, with both fists, stops his ears, unwilling to suffer more abuse. Then there is no way around it, he must hear her.
644 “Before you were born,” she commences, “and prior to the time of this age of which the future will know nothing, since not even history can save it from displacement by the here and now, I am your mother and ever will be. It does you no good to renounce me, though I understand why you would try. I am your mother,” she growls, then changes her tone of voice as if she could, by mere choice, play with his sensibility as she might.
645 “I have the right,” she goes on, “to insist on my way whatever you or any man may think. I am a law onto myself. You have come to see me because you could not do otherwise. I can make your earth shake when and how it suits me. Do not suppose that this law of which people speak, being written on the hearts of men, recognized and acknowledged by a very few, can bring me to my knees. Nothing can. You should know this, my son. You might like to try.”
646 He has managed to collect his senses, he questions the wisdom of speech. Then he decides to be reasonable: “The fact is, you have not brought me up, you left that to others, to chance. Nevertheless why should I not honour you, since that seems the best policy in the light of your ability to destroy. The ancient curses are hardest to lift. However I have a talent and a gift. It teaches me to cope with every circumstance. The romance of my youth is nearly over, for the moment I have mislaid the world, my human nature is my entire boon. I believe I shall soon know who I am. Your son I am only in name, but don’t let that concern you.”
647 She points at him with a long finger, says: “You will do as I say or I’ll put the fear of God in you!” “Then I’ll do my best to cope with that fear. Maybe that’s what it takes to build character. Besides, I have a feeling that this God of yours is a mere scarecrow. Is he the one who engineers this general debacle which costs lives? Does he like to produce masses of homeless and starving people who eventually prosper and kill one another? I think maybe that’s his métier: The master of strife and disease, not content until he has us all strapped into meaningless constraints, burdened by hypocrisy and superstition – I’ll have none of Him – or Her.”
648 “I killed Agamemnon and I’ll kill you,” she shrieks. “It’s too late for that, I’m past that,” he states. “I am called to the battlefront by a god who casts yours across the world like a shadow so that those who would will seek his light. My soul will never again be obscured by that shadow, in any case only for the shortest of spells, to smarten me up for the real struggle. That is how I see what happened here today. It momentarily upset my apple cart but now I’m richer for the experience.”
649 Her face, which could be one moment sweet and the next like a monstrous mask, clouded over with a terrifying perplexity as once more she undertook to express herself, though this time more seductive than vengeful: “What makes you think that you, still trapped in your body, can rely on a force greater than I, who am destined to flog and flail mortals of all ages, in my capacity as a disembodied spirit?”
650 “If you were to listen to your own words,” he answers, “which you cannot, being self entirely hedged round by the vain products of self, you would realize that your perception of me is faulty throughout. I, on the contrary, have been judged and will forever from now on know the benefit of that. Your kind flees the judgment, which is ignorance, since of ourselves we may well find the right path; however in order to walk upon it and meanwhile to do good, for that we need help. If I thought you might grasp it I would tell you that in graceful response to many requests both patient and imploring, my kind are given a body in which they are not encased and which will not be shrugged off on the last day, being composed of that sweet knowledge which love produces, like a bee honey.
651 “If you are pierced, do you not bleed?” she asks, with a smile more cynical than friendly. “Those who have this new body,” he explains, are flesh and blood, though not reluctantly and never forcefully but in a way which allows them to breathe with the assurance of immortality. So, for example, I thank the one who allows you to approach me so that I may refute your arguments and strengthen my resolve.” With that he turns and walks away, leaving her to fade into inconspicuous limelight.
652 So much for motherhood and fatherhood, then,” he thinks, as he sets out on his path again, away from that city of destruction which seemed about as natural as a headache, or as a demonstration of a psychotic state, in which he might have ended. We who have been blessed with an ordinary childhood, safe, secure and supported and then in our youth we lacked not for good examples of manhood and womanhood on which we were able to fashion our progress to maturity, we can only feel pity for this outcast from society and our heart goes out to him because a new humanity, of which we know next to nothing, beats strongly in his breast and gives him no rest, for he must, if he will not, abide.
653 This dichotomy, best expressed in terms of ‘I will’ and ‘I must’, identifies itself now at the centre of his being and behaving. He seems to be learning that a whole variety of burdens are lifted as soon as he intends, rather than waiting to be pushed, especially since the latter is not really a true waiting in any case but more one form or another of laziness. We do well to intend to wait at times.
654 He was encouraged to question his concept of nature by this experience of his so-called natural parentage. It would be wrong to think of his childhood as deprived. Those who took care of him had shown him many an act of kindness, had demonstrated character and integrity, in short, had helped to bring him up. At times even circumstances suffice to provide what is required to bring the child through youth to maturity.
655 One might as well assume, therefore, that all that could be done was done in his case and that the rest was up to him. This is important, not to forget this rest, this remainder that is up to the young human being and cannot be brought about, not with the best will, in terms of upbringing or education. Optimal conditions can of course be created and opinions will vary as to what they are but manhood and womanhood cannot be guaranteed.
656 We are fortunate to be able to observe, therefore, how the Shepherd deals with this specifically individual ‘problem’, shall we call it and of course we hope that he will in fact deal with it, for we wish him well, being mature adults ourselves and not trapped in that deplorable bad habit of standing back, merely curious to see what will happen, an attitude never entirely free from ill will or envy, however sincerely your scientific materialist will argue to the contrary.
657 In other words, only those who wish well know well. Blesséd are those who join their ranks. Woe to those who search for objective or subjective reality separate from themselves. Verily they fight a losing battle. Not until we enlist our sympathies and engage compassionately are our eyes opened, and when you think about it, any other arrangement would be fatal to community, wouldn’t it? Love the person next to you as though he were you.
658 The carnal umbilical cord has to be cut; this is the best description I can come up with for that final step which is up to the single individual human being if ever he is to come into his maturity. So much of our language is socially determined, so that we seem to lack the ready facility for coming to terms with this. We are compromised by that customary duality of objective and subjective, private and public, so that there is no room left for me.
659 Do you see what I am getting at? There is no such thing as the ‘I’, that is a thoroughly dishonest invention, and an ego, let’s face it, is regrettable. I can catalogue all that pertains to me, all my various parts and extensions, such as my mind, my body, my spirit, my soul and even my personality becomes questionable when I view it as other than an aspect of myself. Therefore, in the end, who and what am I?
660 This is the question the Shepherd asks himself, having come across ‘mother’ and ‘father’ in the flesh. The flesh, however, is not reality, entirely, so he needs to put that experience in perspective. Has it helped him to realize that he is someone? Perhaps so. Certainly the spectre of a half-demonic female, a totally unpredictable phenomenon, would tend to draw your attention to the elemental undertow of your nature, which has been likened, in literature, to an abyss or a maelstrom.
661 The question now is: Will he discover himself? Then, if so, what will he do with himself? It sounds trivial enough but rarely gets past the stage where we catch a glimpse of ourselves and that is so scary, because of all it implies, that we quickly put the lid on it and thereafter lead lives of disingenuousness and denial. The ‘I am that I am’ cannot be talked about, however ‘I am willing to continue with this work’ and ‘you are a member of my community’.
662 If the Shepherd renounces self and ego because they strike him as insubstantial and dangerous, he is left with himself as a nameless being for which he has no evidence except his behaviour. ‘I behave, therefore I am’ can mean either ‘I behave and as a consequence I am’ or ‘I behave, which proves that I am’. Language under analysis shows that it both reflects convention and gives rise to convention Scylla and Carybdis for some post-modern philosophers.
663 Sub-atomic particle physics, like hyper-logic particle philosophy, does in the end need to tire itself out because in that direction, of carnal resistance, there can be no end, no legitimate purpose, no sense – in other words: The flesh is not useful. In case we should be of two minds about that, extinct sciences ‘exist’ to help us to a degree of insight – counter-productively. Then we can go on extended holiday.
664 Genetics, the study of inheritance and genes, pulls us to bits like so much mince and then, reassembled, as inedible hamburgers, we blame our maker for endowing us with free will and once again we get tired of living. Our master is either the popular masses, for whom we perform, for the glittering prizes, or else we lie low and draw our pay cheque and do what we’re told, to please some despot. Or who knows, we might warm our blood altruistically.
665 In other words there is that about speech which allows me to grow old gracefully, you to discover your ability to love, him to dictate laws of nature, her to initiate a move in the direction of hyperbole, perhaps, for a joke, or for it to come up with its own language, and this is interesting since things in themselves are mute, made that way by our stubborn allegiance to material flesh, otherwise they would be.
666 This is an insight at which the Shepherd had arrived upon lengthy study of the world delivered into his hands by tradition. This world was a world of things. It had, so it seemed to him, been talked to death. There were no more beings left, only things and a thing, he decided, must once have been a being but western man, in his Luciferian drive to bring everything under a common denominator had frightened beings out of their wits, whereupon they withdrew – and looked like things.
667 When a being hides its face in shame, being ashamed of us who came initially to smile and bless and then displayed our wantonness, we may interpret this aright and blame our faculty of sight and rectify our soul within before we once again begin to look about us with a new approach to what before us grew and only stopped because we chose to blank the sun and blight the rose.
668 I do not suggest that the Shepherd spoke those words and he definitely did not write them down, for the Muse had not yet revealed herself to him. However we know from our own honourable tradition how often the very heart of man and that which each person must discover in him- or herself as his tap-root into original being or as the well-spring from which grows what sustains him is music, in the finest sense of the word and where knowledge is originally conceived as musical we progress remarkably in that salutary undertaking which defines the genuine human being, namely: the ardent wish to ‘make all things new’.
669 So what I have indicated in 667 is the Shepherd’s inward disposition at this stage and the way his new mind and body are beginning to work together, knowledgeably and in harmony with the world around him. These are glimmerings of a universal light of which he catches the reflection, or symphonic soundings resonating in his soul, producing changes of mood, of temper and sentiment. Until now he has been like one who has harboured a cosmic dream, distinct from himself, though he gladly knew himself as the caretaker who must behave himself, within limits, so as not to despoil or betray that trust.
670 Now the first connection is made. He begins to feel he might have something to say. Thought and feeling are coming together like hands during prayer, and, most unusual, he is able to tend to this novel consciousness of himself as under the gaze of divinity, soon to manifest, to give evidence, to testify. For the first time in his life he is aware of the truth of all that is and becomes and everything fits, nothing is out of place, himself included, as he perceives with astonishment.
671 He loves the freedom at his disposal. Whenever he wishes he can compare himself to one who must do this or that or die. He may go a whole day without food and the next day he eats enough for two. People like to be asked to help as long as the one who asks does so with self-respect and dignity and not like a puling thief down on his luck or like one who acts as if he had a right to demand. Individuals of that sort are shunned by society.
672 Also it occurred to him that soon now he must return to the place of his birth, to his adoptive family. I have no idea why that was so important. On the other hand, had I been in his position I would have tired myself out as a lorry driver or I would have gone back to school or learned a trade, so as not to become a burden on people around me, and I would have been a burden, I’m sure of it. However it would be silly of me to compare myself to the Shepherd, or to anyone else with genius, who is aware in himself of a choice spirit and knows himself to be bound and led by it.
673 It makes no sense when we judge someone like that – - and indeed no two can be said to be alike – according to popular social standards. You might as well put a racehorse in front of a plough. On second thought, that’s not an apt comparison and here I come to the limits of my description. I have to admit, he had no ‘amour propre’; he had no ambition to cut a fine figure in society or elsewhere. It was much more a case of wanting to serve, but specifically in the name of the good he had sensed in himself since childhood. It was not an idea of the good he had hugged to himself in order to identify with it but rather a profound instinct for the good; one might as well call it an instinct for god.
674 I write ‘god’, not ‘God’. Let me explain. This instinct for good was not for a being which needed to be flattered, or appeased, or bribed. At first he would not even have called it a being but plainly and simply an instinct, nothing more. No one was more surprised than he when one day this being announced itself, within him at first, as real and personal, in other words as ‘someone’, though of course he could not have pointed him out. He could not have said to anyone: “Look! There he goes! The holy one! That one with the beard!” I apologize if this sounds a bit too obvious but he lived at a time when cults were the fashion and people liked nothing better than to follow some clown who appointed himself as ‘the master’.
675 Indeed this experience of god within us should not even be called an experience, I suppose, and I’m afraid I cannot talk with authority on the subject. The Shepherd at first approached this as a mystery. Walking in Epping Forest one day he was literally overwhelmed by what we might call a total eclipse of his own identity and also of the world’s, so that not only was there no real difference between him and the world but this was strong and beautiful – experience? If on that occasion an angel had descended and announced his forthcoming victory over something he would have taken it in stride with perfect equanimity.
676 It should also be mentioned that he never took drugs and never heard voices ‘inside his head’, as those describe, sometimes, who have chosen that particular route out of misery into bliss, and while their misery was real, the bliss was not but a fleeting happiness, desirable in retrospect and therefore addictive – and therefore destructive. So what we have here, if I am not mistaken, is a genuine example of god-experience. Where that which is good suffuses all else and leaves an indelible imprint on the heart, so that in future whatever stems from that heart, cruelty, hypocrisy, envy, cowardice – is bound to undergo the most severe examination by the one whose soul has been vouchsafed that trust.
677 Once more let me try to capture in verse this singular consciousness, or awareness, of someone – of someone who knows that soon he will act, and then from motivation which itself lies beyond the capacity of mind or body to grasp: Even if these hands were to hold Their fill of silver and gold And if this face were to appear In celebration everywhere, In no way could that outweigh The peace and rest that come With true life lived to the full And in you a home. Learning from day to day The ins and outs of that love Which, though it attracts pain, Can but improve, Makes being around on earth A worthwhile exercise, Therefore do not strive To be happy but wise.
678 I suppose if his mind were made up to be wise rather than clever, he would have to shun poetry, for the poet’s task is to shock society into a recognition of itself, is that not so? I wonder. So much depends on the ‘culture milieu’, on whether society is young and vibrant or a mass of decay. Anyway, what is society except the congregation of the like-minded and those destined to be its darlings shall bleed for it, make no mistake and in old age, on the rare occasion when they make it past their thirtieth year, they will ask themselves, with long faces: Why have I bothered to entertain murderers, monsters and madmen, whose praise now causes me the most intense pain ever?
679 Surely that’s indecently harsh. The sun shines on us all, whether we make men or monkeys of ourselves. I would be delighted to earn a little praise for these lines of mine, in fact I would probably be quite beside myself. I would make foolish scenes, parade my ego on horseback, (more likely on the crupper of an ass!) Just give me half a chance.
680 At the time I describe, the Shepherd hadn’t a comic bone in his body. Read Plato’s account of Socrates’ description of Eros and you have him to a T. More and more, as the time drew near for him to return to his homeland, he looked like someone who suffers from haemorrhoids, pardon me for mentioning it.
681 Oh how his brows were drawn down in worrisome frown, understandably he had lost weight, his lank hair hung down to his shoulders except for when he gathered it in a pony tail, which made him look a bit more civilized, and I do think highly of civilization, it has gained us so many comforts.
682 Let me see if I can plot his course for you, it won’t take but a moment. From England, on a Tuesday morning, when the gulls screeched over Brighton harbour, he strolled towards Newhaven, there to stow away on a ferry for Dieppe, which took longer than he had imagined for he lay among bales of rubbish to which he added his stomach’s meagre contents. Time, as I say, did not fly.
Operation Jubilee 683
pon landing he could not help noticing Operation Jubilee in full progress. Canadians with fixed bayonets rushed past him, the Germans raked the beach with machine gun fire, very effectively, a thousand came to grief. Added to this, to the tanks, the landing craft, imagine mayhem in the air, dog fights – Major General J.H. Roberts, Military Force Commander, studying the butchery through field glasses, heard beside him, more in his head than in his ear: “Tell me, is this really necessary?” The Shepherd had seen nothing like it.
684 A conversation ensued: “Of course it’s necessary. What a stupid question! Do you think we do this for our entertainment?” “But why are these people killing one another?” “Because they can’t get along. And because they’ve been bloody well told to.” “What if they stopped and went home?” “They’d be shot for desertion. Say, where are you from?” “From the Middle East, initially. That’s why you can’t see me.” This made no sense to the General, so he reapplied himself to the task in hand.
685 We must excuse the Shepherd, he was not historically clued in. Also he behaved now like a child, away so long from his former self and imbued with a new body which was not yet accustomed to understanding. He understood very little at that time but he knew he had to head back, call it the migratory instinct.
ext, on a bicycle to Paris. On Montmartre he stretched his limbs. One came to sit beside him, a man of slight stature, with a hump and pointing to the Sacré Coeur, he said: “Some church, eh!” “Is that,” said the Shepherd, “what is meant by Christendom?” After a pause: “Are you one of those who look for happiness in the world or have you some other aim?”
687 As the lights come on in the city there below them the Shepherd overcomes his antipathy: “My aim is to be a human being and a man,” he says. “Ah!” comes the reply. “Then you must suffer.” “Oh? Why is that?” “Because the god who creates us comes to reclaim us.” “I see,” says the Shepherd. “So am I not at liberty to suffer if I choose?” “I dare say. If you choose to be a man. My name is Soeren, how do you do.” They shake hands and the Shepherd goes on his way.
ext by train to Heidelberg where the first rays of the sun gleam on the Neckar. From the castle he can make out the vineyards on the hillsides. Again one comes to sit beside him, saying: “I still live but like one who is dead, while you seem dead but I suspect you live. Forgive this intrusion. I am a scientist. This afternoon I speak to those who search for the smallest particle of the universe.” “At the university?” the Shepherd interrupts. “Of course. Who else would be interested?” “What leads you to believe,” the Shepherd wonders, “that there is such a thing as the smallest particle, given the symbolic nature of matter?” “It’s an interesting question,” comes the reply. At that moment a man in a wheelchair is pushed up an incline towards them by a woman who beats him with a whip. Look how sorrowfully his head hangs to one side, for he lacks the strength to maintain it poised where it belongs
689 “Murray!” shouts the nurse. “Looking forward to your talk! I’ve brought Stephen out for his constitutional.” She fastens her whip to the wheelchair and sits down on the bench opposite, lost in admiration of the lit up castle. The man beside the Shepherd, whom the nurse called Murray, leans towards him in confidence and says: “I look for the building blocks, he looks for the building.” “Does he really believe,” says the Shepherd, that there is such a thing as the building?” “He does indeed, and for that reason he cannot leave off guessing how it started.” “You two,” says the Shepherd, “really have nothing and everything in common.”
690 Once again Murray takes him aside, saying: “My memory is truly phenomenal. All my life I have wanted to categorize and classify. This urge is so strong in me that it explains my search for finality. However when I see how every crumb can be cut in half again as soon as a sharper knife is invented, I lose interest in the simple structures. Now I study complexity. It is like that game with glass beads, described by that German novelist. All must be brought under one common denominator, for then we shall be almighty. That’s the topic of my talk today. That man in the wheelchair has the same ambition. We physicists have the courage to sacrifice common sense to the materialist god. It so happens that nowadays we are well rewarded by the state & by private foundations. Who knows how long that will last.”
691 Then he shouts to the one in the wheelchair: “Stephen, is the universe still in pain?” And to the Shepherd: “It’s a joke between us.” The professor in the chair types his answer on his clever machine, because he cannot speak. Meanwhile the nurse gives him another good whipping. “Why does she do that?” the Shepherd wants to know. The answer: “I suspect they have arranged it between them.” The nurse then brings the piece of paper on which is written the following:
692 As my heart, so is the universe ever in turmoil. How we lead our lives, this does not affect it. In this I differ from St. Paul, whose vision was rooted in the inward man, where the dying and living again of Christ took shape. His ethic, dear Murray, embraced all the world, whereas you and I really have none to speak of. That is sad, but I console myself by patiently submitting to my fate.
693 Truly, thinks the Shepherd, one day science will be reinvented. Human understanding is not like this. Those who have banned the good from their minds will no longer be able to prosper. Another message comes from the wheelchair: “Have you heard? Today we found water on Mars!” The Shepherd inquires into the implications. “It means … it means …” the physicist stutters, “it means very probably there’s life out there. I am absolutely shattered by this news. The more life we find out there, the less we worry about its absence in here.” At this he beats his chest with his fist like one who means: mea culpa.
694 Much as the Shepherd is impressed by the evident kudos of these important people – you might even call it charisma – with the best of wills he cannot share their interests. Again, as in the case of the General in Dieppe, it seems to him that they go too far, that many degrees of specialization are to blame. Wrongly or rightly he feels that if he were to lend himself to such a field of study or activity he would probably make a thing out of it too and life through being would no longer be accessible. For him the natural appearances of the world would always have to rank as of primary importance, their manifold variety an ever present, ever changing source of enrichment, not merely a threat to the inspector.
695 He finds that what he has to combat in himself now as he searches for his own chosen field of activity – if indeed it should turn out to be a field, rather than a chamber, or exposure on some height – is criticism – more specifically the spirit of criticism, which tends to malign whatever is not to ‘my’ immediate liking. He identifies this spirit in himself as a hateful constraint of the soul and a deploring willingness to let the ego disport itself, at someone’s expense and therefore to one’s own detriment.
696 On the train journey to Davos in Switzerland he thought about this long and hard. Was it merely self-interest that he wished to cleanse his nature of all impediment? Was there perhaps a fundamental difference between self-interest and interest in oneself? Certainly this spirit of criticism did not yield to any self-critical onslaught – that only aggravated matters, as he had learned from painful experience. When he resisted evil he only became more intensely involved in it. So one has to step back from it, first inwardly, and to trust that the power of good as a consequence is able to step in effectively, and then one participates in that activity.
697 As usual, when some novel notion crossed his mind, he put it to the test right away, so as not to get carried away by empty enthusiasm, as it were on angels’ wings to Elysian fields, from there to utter pronouncements calculated to raise people’s eyebrows. Too many angels were envious of human beings and delighted in playing tricks on them, such as debasing them, toppling them from their rightful position above the angels down into the popular mode. As yet he was lacking in the discernment of spirits. Meekness for the time being struck him as the safest course between those twin vilenesses known so well as arrogance and pusillanimity.
698 Putting his new notion to the test, then, as the factory chimneys of Dijon outside parade past the train window, adding their pharmaceutical benefits to the atmosphere, he questions, is it even possible not to go too far out there if one is not rooted in here? And given this automatic spirit of criticism, which could almost be said to underpin civilization, would an inward rootedness not equally automatically result from a courageous confrontation of that spirit, or more, perhaps, a by-passing of it, by trusting instead in that ever-present, ever-active power of good which requires from us only that we lay aside our ego-cupidity, so that it may become powerful for us?
699 As he searches in himself for an apt example that would allow him to test his hypothesis, scientifically – as he understands – , it’s as if he were suddenly being told: What about this cough that has been annoying you for days now, of which you have been so critical, messing with it, manipulative, challenging it to one duel after the other, as it were, judging it to be evil and resisting it. Really its almost as if a finger were pointing that out to him for consideration.
700 So he spends about fifteen minutes looking past that aggravating irritation in his throat and honouring instead, with his fullest attention, what he has come to know as good spirit, which is willing, by definition, for all to be well. Now and again he renews his attention, when sidetracked by the rattle of the wheels across points or by the in-wagon loudspeaker announcing lunch. Soon he notices an appreciable improvement. Surely it’s not surprising, he thinks, that by trusting actively in the source of well-being we should make better progress than by combating illness. As luck would have it, his neighbour allows him to browse through a copy of Georges Canguilhem’s ‘Le normale et le pathologique’, whereupon he is reminded of a definite increase in his sense of well-being, beyond that previous to his exemplary practice. If the norm exists, it can always be elevated. Then he reflects on the concept of synchronicity, on how more and more, in his life, the outward world answers fittingly and responds immediately to his inward needs – and then is soothed to sleep by the swish of the wheels over the rails.
hy should we not be able to imagine him now alighting in that largest mountain resort of Europe where the rich and the not so rich congregate to live within or beyond their means, while delighting in the passionate sport of sliding down snowy hillsides on boards of various shapes and sizes. Davos in Switzerland, the frost glistening on the tarmac, youthful individuals, smartly dressed, chatting in languages from every corner of the world, laughing at jokes – You nearly fell! – Look, he was almost run over! – We must meet for lunch! – The carefree atmosphere of those without worries. He has never seen snow and his eyes are dazzled, or if he has seen it, it was so long ago that now in this new life he cannot recall it. Gondolas smoothly float to the various peaks, there the Carjol-Fuxagufer Sesselbahn, the silent ski lifts – Bolgen, Geissloch, even closer the Bramabuel-Jakobshorn-Bahn, what luxury! He stands and stares, breathes the air that bites fresh into his lungs, marvels at the town’s cheerful population as far as he can see but then must find a place to lodge for the night, which might be difficult, if not impossible. Why? Because so much else of note is happening in this town.
702 He marches toute suite in the first direction that presents itself to his enquiring mind, not concerned in the least over where he might end; a left into Tanzbuehlstrasse, across the Promenade, Anemonenweg, right and left again, as if to confuse him, the street snakes along until he finds himself turning right into Alexander Spengler Strasse, named after the famous physician who discovered the curative effects of this high valley climate against tuberculosis, and once again, how apt, for the Shepherd’s cough has not quite left him and here he is reminded of the healing power from without. He reflects on this as he allows himself to be guided, in search of a bed for the night. Is this, he wonders, the Magic Mountain of Thomas Mann, where the healing power from outside could not achieve the desired solution because inwardly all was decay and nowhere within was the healing spirit? Yes, he thought, perhaps through the profound experience of illness and death, man may be led to a greater sanity and health, if all goes well, however, in general mindful of our mortality, why not acquaint ourselves right away with merciful good spirit? Magic, morbidity and modernity from then on form in his mind the unholy trinity to which he owes no allegiance but he calls it tragedy, indeed the tragedy of modern man trapped inside himself and then exposed outside, then once more locked up inside and so on through twenty centuries of culture and civilization.
703 At the first house he comes to, which appeals to him on account of the warm interior shining through the window, he climbs up the steps, knocks on the door, never in doubt as to whether this might be appropriate. The lady who opens replies to his request for a bed for the night with: No, I am sorry, we have none, the town is with visitors full, full! Ah yes, he says, I understand. Because of the Meeting. I am only passing through. I quite understand. This is the loveliest town I have seen in my life. Now she takes off her apron and asks: Would you like all the same to come in for a coffee to warm you? What is your name? Hans Castorp, he lies. She smiles. She appreciates the joke. Perhaps he has reason to remain incognito. Who is she to interfere? Besides, it lends a certain air of mystery to the entertainment of a stranger if his character is fictional. In that case, she says, excuse me, but my name is Madame Chauchat. Willkommen. Please come in.
704 Over the fragrant coffee and the Apfelstrudel, still warm, with raisins, they exchange pleasantries. The door remains closed to other members of the household, if indeed there are any and so there develops an intimate scene with talk of life and literature, elegant, weaving back and forth between fiction and reality until ‘Madame Chauchat’ observes: Are you quite sure, young man, your name is not Felix Krull? Egal, you may have the spare room for the night. Meanwhile, I suggest, you acquaint yourself with some of the amenities of our lovely town. Make a Spaziergang around the Davoser See? Once again, thinks the Shepherd, I have fallen on my feet and his soul swells with gratitude to that being which creates our good fortune if we know how to share it and do so. This is of greater benefit than all the polite protestations in the world. She even lets him have his own latch key. Certainly the ‘real’ Hans Castorp would have envied him.
705 Hymn to Eros: Graceful spirit binding male and female, each nourishing within, where mood and temper sweetly mesh, desire to rise to man- and womanhood. Willingly stands aside to allow for many a mortal wish to develop, patient of course of our twofold humanity, ever urging, usually forgiving the sixth and seventh time, when once again we run aground on cupidity; choosing especially genuine conversation to probe the soul’s capacity for care, as she now listens for his particular pain and he anticipates her hidden grief, both mindful of the oh so enriching responsibility. When darkness descends and the frightened spirit clamours within itself for protection against the cold, more than liable to blame the frequently interfering elements and not always right away glad to suffer, that the path may be straight and vision remain untarnished, then Eros teaches the willing work of comfort, of acceptance nevertheless, of quiet examination in solitary confinement voluntarily chosen.
Meanwhile let neither disturb the other with anxious berating, for the scolding tongue or the mocking manner make matters worse. However from a distance well-wishing is useful and very appropriate. Some would say: Pray for me while I find my way through misery’s turmoil. We cannot seem likeable under this burden, when the male denies his self and prepares a masculine move, perhaps for the first time, and the female thwarts that superior strain by coming to terms with feminine inferiority. Eros teaches the young man. Meek and mild he achieves his ambition, requires no sacrifice. Often, as if by magic, the portcullis is raised by the touch of a fingertip, when force would have failed and in weakness strength is revealed to him. All this Eros brings to fruition for those who open their hearts and minds to his wise tutelage, especially when on the horizon the war of the sexes once again poses a threat.
706 A fortnight, no less, our hero remained with Madame Chauchat, Who called him in turns Hans and Felix as her humour moved her. Indeed she rose to the occasion of his visit with youthful exuberance, So that much conversation was had and many a light entertainment. Sometimes the Shepherd would lie in his bed until breakfast was served to him, Muesli with yoghurt, fine grained cheeses, home baked rye bread, Savoury salami encrusted with peppercorns, jams and juices, Pancakes flavoured with Mandelblut, all this served and displayed On carved mahogany, polished to that degree of sheen Which only careful use and the diligent Hausfrau produce. Meanwhile Madame Chauchat sat nearby and strummed her mandolin. Then, towards the end of his stay the roles were sometimes reversed And all the above mentioned delectables would serve as metaphors To describe the nocturnal ease taken and cares forsaken.
707 Now we are duty bound to describe how he spent his days during that fortnight. I would rather not bore the reader with too much detail at this stage. The slow and steady progress of our tale must culminate eventually in more than just basic approaches to the world by someone who knows he has succeeded. Success is composed of so many elements, some of them dreadful, some delightful, however, in the light of philosophy, whatever follows depends on whom we follow.
At the Kongresszentrum 708
resently the Shepherd takes himself to the Kongresszentrum, where two-thousand of the richest and most powerful people of the world gather to make speeches, to hobnob and ‘schmooze’. How he gets in there, past barrages of cameras and security agents with their blank stares, their wide-awake sleepiness, has to remain a matter of conjecture. A security agent, by the way, neatly symbolizes the cut, the section, the lobotomy which has to be performed whenever the ins and outs of humanity become vague. So for example in this case we have the amassed forces of the outside world ranged on behalf of world-betterment, which is difficult to say unironically. Heads of half the world’s biggest companies, presidents of thirty-one countries, leaders of the media, whose opinions shape and entertain, all come together here.
709 We have to be careful, because all this emphasis on improvement is liable to kill our enthusiasm. We may love the person we dislike next to us without realizing how little this amounts to in the light of Mr. Clinton’s opening speech: “You could tell us how to organize the world of our dreams.” This in such sonorous tones, amplified to support the charisma of a man who has done his best and continues to do so, for remuneration. The Shepherd looked into the hearts of those who listened to that speech after a lunch of no mean proportions and what he saw gave him cause for reflection.
710 The way language is used instructs us about those who use it. So for example this World Economic Forum, as it once was called, (now it’s the Annual Meeting) – here we have three expressions side by side, not interlinked, merely rubbing shoulders massively, lending themselves to propulsion like bullets: the Forum is not economic; let’s face it, a pedant could have a field day.
711 Words in limbo can be juggled to suit the occasion, which is what makes limbo so attractive, especially in an atmosphere of mutual self-congratulation. “No Prosperity without Security,” as a topic for a talk on Tuesday becomes: “No Security without Prosperity” on Wednesday. I am not being critical, please, merely observant, albeit through the Shepherd’s eyes. “Democracy as the key to fighting terrorism,” “Terrorism as the goad to democracy” – I’ve forgotten the point I was going to make.
712 He enters into dialogue with those who globalize and deglobalize, speculating what might be best for the poor, who will always be with us, according to one permanently absent delegate, who nevertheless sends best wishes. The poor are a threat, both to our refined liberal conscience and politically of course, especially once they get the vote which God forbid, or the opposite, depending. Terrorism is visited upon those who make light of serious matters such as jobs, education, infrastructure; such as improving the life of the poor, the promotion of human rights and deciding whether stock options are bad for business. One thing is certain, agreed by all present: Corporate reputation outranks financial performance as the measure of success. It’s no use being cynical about this. In hell a daisy is an orchid and one way of tackling the expanding problem of obesity is a tax on fatty foods, as witness the way people stop smoking when the price of cigarettes goes up. Ha! No democracy without political legitimacy. No legitimacy in the absence of democratic policy. No politics without legitimate democracy: – thought-provoking, contentious topics all.
713 Then on the fifth day, imagine his good fortune: a long conversation with the one ‘in charge’. No real need to mention names, here as elsewhere. I feel privileged, being able to give an account of this watershed, this climax, this knifeedge on which mankind rests – oh most unusual rest, upon a knife edge! It seems silly to have to mention how well aware the Shepherd was that he had no business whatsoever among all these world-enlightened spirits who might have laughed him to scorn had they realized who he was and what he amounted to. He had nonetheless stepped among them, the seamless fit of his life-like mask the potential envy of a nineteenth century artist. Both protean flair and Christian self-abnegation played into the consummate success of his performance like sickle moon & evening star.
714 “So what brings you to this most unusual gathering, my young friend, is it curiosity or have you promised a piece to the New York Review of Books?” He tears himself away from his fascinated observation of three wealthy businessmen in high dudgeon, to find himself addressed by the one ‘in charge’. “Excuse me, I was lost in abstraction. Hans Krull is my name, how do you do. Yes, you’ve put your finger on it, I dare say. More than three or four of us on the premises would probably have to confess to mixed motives for spending a fortnight in this setting.” He indicated the snow-bound mountain scenery just outside the all-glass wall, where tiny black figures were carving arabesques into virginal snow and where gondolas in mid air conquered immense altitudes with the ease of a spider on shimmering silk.
“We have our work cut out for us here,” said the man whose dark face commanded attentive respect. “To some it may appear that we fritter away precious hours with empty phrases, however I would emphasize the value of the symbol, of the symbolic content of the event itself, you see.” “How remarkable!” said the Shepherd, “That is exactly how I see it myself. I may only be like one who is passing through, the new millennium attracts me tremendously, however without this experience I would have counted myself much the poorer.” He paused, wondering what effect this would have.
715 “Our world today seems so small,” came the reply. “As a consequence we feel tempted to exercise powers, powers of manipulation, of intervention, far beyond our practical ability and means. Am I right not to take you for a journalist? In my nocturnal anxieties I feel bound to compare the hypertrophy of homo faber to the atrophy of homo sapiens in our time.”
716 The Shepherd’s heart skips a beat as he hears what he wishes he had said himself. “Surely it must occur to most people here that what can be done from outside the human being is rarely good or useful for very long. We can alter appearances and pretend that this amounts to an improvement but …” “Let me stop you there, young man,” he with the dark face and the wise eyes interrupts. “You have evidently thought about the world in depth but I deplore superficial judgments which usually amount to nothing more than impatience for an ideal perfection. One very welcome result of our gathering for example is the one across the street, in some ways opposing it. I refer to the Public Eye meetings in the Hugo Richter Saal. The rights of man are taken care of there.” “Oh good! Oh excellent! Well done!”
717 The Shepherd throws his hands up in the air. He feels like one whose air has been cut off. Upon him is the urge to criticize and scoff. This man, he fears, will take me to the fair. I have to watch it, for my mask is slipping. Before I know it, I’ll be out on my ear. It’s time to back-pedal when the demons appear. The balance is not in my favour tipping. I suddenly have nothing much to say. I feel a fool for shooting off my mouth. Perhaps by pleading ignorance and youth I’ll save my skin and safely get away. He bows deeply, backs away deferentially, pats his breast meaningfully, prays for enlightenment within, observes how all has gone sour, reminds himself of the virtue of persistence especially when under duress and manages to find the door, after tripping over a rug and spilling someone’s cocktail – the delegate from Ouagadougou. Outside he takes himself to task. What kind of a silly game am I playing? I deserve to be whipped for getting mixed up in what is not by business.
718 Now, of course, in the crisp air, strolling along the Dammweg, his head teems with what he should have said; with all those clever conversations he might have had. Alas, he played the fool, he allowed himself to feel superior, he must get that spirit under in future. Why not assume from the start that people know what they are talking about? Why not ask them questions, everyone has experience of some sort. There, that grand looking individual, the one with the coarse features and the … Oops, there you go again. Never mind his features, just let him know it matters to you whether or not he considers his time well spent. “Have you been to the talk on conciliation between the West and Islam?”
“There’s not, for me, much to choose between one religion and another, but perhaps the State might emphasize its solidarity with the paramount religion of the people and then demonstrate action within that, towards other states with other religions.” “Well, that does sound interesting. For example, if our Prime Minister demonstrated Christian values, quite openly, even pointedly in his attitude towards the Muslims, and if the Foreign Secretary followed suit, then that would be smarter than if the PM walked around with the Qran tucked under his arm in front of cameras. Is that what you mean, sir?” “That is exactly what I mean. I assume we agree that Christian values have something going for them, such as, let’s see, respect for the other chap whether you like him or not, or a willingness to suffer injustice gladly, that sort of thing.” “It warms my heart to hear you say that. Mind you, one would almost have to redefine the principles of Christendom.” “Oh? Why is that?”
“Looking at our history in the West, would you say Christianity is a safe bet? In all honesty, would you back it as a commodity for outsiders? If I may be quite candid for a moment, I have only just recently acquainted myself with the Gospels and with St. Paul’s letters and they don’t exactly put me in mind of the practices of even religious institutions, not to mention those of a secular stamp!” “Ah, but you see, there is no way of applying the content of the Gospels democratically.” “I agree. The sayings of this Jesus for instance, – put those in one drawer, I mean the likes of: Love your enemy, turn the other cheek, don’t ask for money back that you’ve lent: that’s all grist for the mill of the individual. Then, into another drawer, let’s file that ethic of St. Paul which mainly amounts to that most unusual dying and living again of Christ within us. Everything with the resurrection here and now rather than in never-never-land: not applicable as public morality, is it. In the third drawer we have what I would call traditional theological Christianity, which, let’s face it, has had its day; it has stamped our culture, our civilization; fine and dandy, not to be despised, but it goes into my third drawer. The historical Jesus, the contemporary spirit of Jesus and the Christian tradition: all in drawers, to be opened at will by anyone who wants to avail himself.”
“But there is nothing for the nation! Nothing for the country, the homeland, its institutions, its government. Nothing for the democratic process, for representative government. The last is the crucial one as I see it. How can you act on behalf of others but not necessarily in their self-interest?” “Precisely. That’s what we have to get around to. That’s what I meant by redefining the principles of Christendom. It would have to be fed into our precious education system.” “Name one such redefined principle. Come on now. Just one. Don’t look so horrified. We don’t want to spout hot air here.” “Very well. Thinking caps on. You asked for it. Imagine generosity being thoroughly redefined in terms of personal gratification. Our public figures are openly praised for behaving, on behalf of those who put their trust in them, in a generous fashion. The emphasis would not be on getting it right, always under a barrage of criticism but doing it generously, even magnanimously.” “In that a case then it couldn’t be wrong, could it.”
“Do you mean that? I believe that. It would not be an ideal, or an infallible recipe, or anything that can be justified. Think how much time is wasted on justification!” “On tinkering with policies!” “On bribing the electorate!” “On making promises you can’t keep and on keeping promises not worth keeping!” “But let’s think of another one. You have a go this time. Not out of the mouth of Jesus, not out of the mouth of the priest but in practical response to perceived need.” “What about a re-evaluation of the popular illusions and delusions. Take happiness for instance. That has to be brought down from its pedestal. Nothing on a pedestal serves us. Redefine what makes you happy as that which prepares you for thought and compassion. Those who want their head of state to make them happy, who look for a happy solution to the problems of society, have that in mind and keep it in mind. Happiness not as a final state of being but as a platform, a jumping-off place.” “Not that happiness is a prerequisite for thought and compassion, but let it become common knowledge that those are the only reasonable and sensible excuses for the search for happiness.”
719 Here we have a straightforward indication of the thoughts and sentiments by which the Shepherd was so to speak plagued and eventually he ended in the Mattawald, where the extreme darkness of the trees and the brightness of the snow helped him in his search for a rational settlement inwardly. Whenever we feel inadequate, on account of past performance or in anticipation of a task which, we suppose, must surely be beyond us, the fear in our heart brings uncertainty to our head, whereupon our good brain makes itself responsible for survival mechanisms, introducing a variety of illusions and sometimes, in extreme cases, even delusions, and this helps us to ride out the crisis. From my own point of view I can only suggest that we not take the Shepherd’s interior dialogue too seriously. On the surface, of course, it reads like pure foolishness, like wishful thinking of the most idyllic species and should therefore be ignored. At the same time it is this fear of appearing foolish in public that can turn into a betrayal of trust. Granted, he had allowed himself to be carried away by self-regard when the ‘man in charge’ calmly deigned to converse with him, at the Kongresszentrum. We should keep in mind however that a misplaced truth is not the same as a falsehood and that inexperience can rarely be ameliorated except through painful error. On that account let’s not be too hard on the young man as he stomps through the Mattawald, not looking left or right.
720 I was taken aback, I have to admit, when I heard that he had in the meantime informed himself about Christianity and that he had read those books and letters which are sometimes mistaken for the source or foundation of that religion, when in fact the essential formative contribution was surely philosophy and theology. Coming to it as an outsider, from a different cultural background and temperamentally more like a child than like an academic, or by way of upbringing, he felt personally addressed by certain deeper levels of meaning in the words of Jesus which could only ever have embarrassed a hierarchically organized state religion. Since he had no investment in the world to protect, it was easier for him to accept that encouragement to complete and utter trust in providence and since he had no one to please but himself (for the Muse had not yet put in her appearance) the advice not to resist evil seemed less absurd to him than it does to someone who has dependents to protect or an electorate to which he is politically accountable.
721 On the white flank of the Braemabueel he came to his senses and looked about him. The busy town lay below him, he could see as far as Wolfgang and the Davoser See lay shrouded in fog. People everywhere were being bundled into motorised vehicles and transported across town, into and out of town, up and down the mountain sides. He had come to the end of the road. Deer tracks in the snow indicated a much more interesting night life. He laboured along in the deep snow until it got too much for him. Then he lay down and pretended that his life was over and he had arrived in a state of permanent whiteness. Small birds flitted through the air and settled in trees further downhill. Rarely had he experienced such peace, Perfect, almost plastic – fulfilling. Late afternoon was upon him, he would head back down and return to the house on Alexander Spengler Strasse where Madame Chauchat would serve dinner and then they would talk until evening.
722 He lets her know how stupidly he behaved. “You must go back tomorrow and try again.” That is the advice of a mature woman, he decides.
723 “We Swiss take life less seriously,” she says. “It may have to do with the mixture of our race. Where else do you suppose you might enjoy such hospitality as a total stranger who happens to be very chary indeed with information about himself and his past? I would say you have me at a disadvantage, except that I have thoroughly entered into the game and I’m enjoying it. Your wine has stood untouched for ten minutes now.”
724 He drinks her health and lets her know How much he appreciates her hospitality. “My life is dedicated to the future,” he says. “Each day I become more certain of that. Forgive me for speaking of myself then. In a sense I have laid all that aside, for the time being, at least – I mean my cares about my individual existence. I have handed them over, so to speak.”
725 “There now you enter upon a topic which shall always remain a closed book to me, although I fully respect your perception of it. My husband died in an avalanche. We were married two years. He was a ski instructor, and oh, the plans we had made for our future! We had it all worked out. Five years of widowhood have hardened me. I no longer take lightly to the suggestion that an all-knowing providence guides us. Life is a series of accidents, some convenient, some not so convenient and we cannot know from one day to the next whether joy or grief is on the cards for us.”
726 He reflects for a moment, like someone who would hate to make a rash statement where sympathy might be more appropriate. Then he turns to her and reveals how full his heart is for those who are naturally cheerful and loving but a great disappointment dissuades them from trust in a more personal fate.
727 “Your kindness, to me, under the circumstances does you even more credit than I had imagined.” Obviously this is not the time for analysing motives. “What could be more disheartening than being crossed in one’s ambition for life at a time of the richest promise and yet you welcome the stranger. One might be forgiven for supposing you have thought it out and decided on behaviour that is certain to cure your grief.”
728 “I am glad to say my husband did not leave me destitute. There is the matter of an inheritance which will see me comfortably through life. Gracious, more than enough for one person.” Why should she not pause for a moment on that note? “I am perfectly resigned to permanent widowhood. In time I shall open my house to guests; not for the money, more for the company. Besides one must have an occupation, otherwise one develops a psyche and becomes self-centred.”
729 It occurs to the Shepherd that this is precisely what is happening to him as he sits in comfort amidst the benefits so generously bestowed by civilization and by this clever lady who knows how to put them to good advantage. Why not sit back from now on and observe the easy flow of events as they emerge from the mouth of that colourful cornucopia which some call the future and others fate? 730 As his glass is replenished he toys with the notion of the playful repetition of hours and days, of years – indeed of a life of leisure, at night in the arms of a beautiful woman, even work a predictable routine, everything finite, possible, in its place; at heart a calm superiority over those who suffer; after all they must be unfortunate, having drawn their lot perhaps less wisely – when the shrill tone of the telephone startles him!
731 Oh heaven-sent signal! Whither had he wandered in his mind, false to his calling! He literally blushed when he thought of it. The disturbance caused by his heart must not be allowed to waylay him. He was on his way back to his homeland, there to receive final instruction, though he could not have said what manner or shape such instruction would take. Those who are gifted in instinct and divinely influenced in dream perpetrate little that is intentional while the youthful spirit pulses in them but they read within themselves the messages and attend to the outward signs which successfully lead the one whose soul has not become promiscuous. Such a one knows of his manhood only that it shall follow upon his youth. Not until then does he make those creative spiritual adjustments that allow him to perform a task. Not until then does he lift his being into that higher sphere where he makes himself responsible for works.
732 She returns from the other room, has done something to her hair, perhaps the telephone was a mere pretext, and now she must take the initiative, play Madame Chauchat in reality, consign the Swiss widow to a realm out of sight, though if need be accessible at a moment’s notice. The female must assert her rights if only so as to be able to lay them down at the feet of a conqueror. “You know me now as I am,” she says, “and I shall no longer pretend I am another. I have been perfectly honest with you and I know you have appreciated it. We have exchanged so many ideas, perhaps we should think of exchanging that which is greater than any idea, namely our identity. I promise myself a useful step forward from this.” Now she looks at him with large eyes, ox-eyes, he observes, apprehensively.
733 Cannily he searches within himself for a masculine response to this challenge. He feels that what is expected of him is not at all what he wishes to supply, however it would be a shame to waste this splendid occasion and not supply something, for the sake of the contest. “Ah,” he says, “you have made me very much aware of my discourtesy, inasmuch as I have put myself forward in a singular light, therefore to a degree in a false light, forgive me. It would do violence to my character, of which, God knows, I have little enough, if I left you any longer in the dark as to my real purpose on this planet.”
734 “Oh, what peculiar language!” she cries. “You have a purpose on this planet? How droll!” Her merriment is not unfriendly. “Surely when it comes to that we all have a purpose on this planet. Why else be here? But don’t let me interrupt you, please. You suddenly looked like someone who guards his precious secret in a way so that someone will extract it. Not I. I’ll neither bribe nor tease you, you have my promise. If you wish to make a revelation about yourself please proceed at your own initiative. I refuse to be made responsible.” She leans towards him confidentially. “Perhaps you are a king’s son, eh, an illegitimate son, bent on claiming an inheritance, or a throne? Nothing is too absurd between friends, surely.”
735 Now the Shepherd has a notion that the ground is slipping from under him and this has always in the past been the sign of an energetic beginning. “Indeed,” he says, “you have placed your finger exactly on the sore point. You have no idea how much I have missed this feminine perspicacity which draws from the male consciousness a priceless self-awareness. The one you see sitting in front of you has long been known and disliked by me to the point of contempt. How often have I overruled the judgement of those who would flatter me, change my opinion of this outside self as quite impossible! Meanwhile a multitude of spirits bring an alien chaos to bear on me and even as you look at me now, with that intensity born of anger, I suddenly become hero and coward. Let me exercise the power of choosing.
736 “This will not do,” she flares up. “You really give me nothing to go on. Despise yourself, and right away you despise me and all others. Why would you talk to me in riddles? Have I not been sufficiently open with you? Please reconsider. Our talk has moved forward pleasantly enough but I would not have you hide behind a mask. If you insist nonetheless I shall accuse you of disingenuousness and withdraw my protection. Yes, my protection. Don’t smile. I protect you, so far, against my self.”
737 Now the Shepherd sees reason to harden his heart with indifference. He is about to make a terrible mistake. I wish I could think of a better way to describe this mistake than by calling it a cowardly betrayal of his maleness. Naturally whoever says to us: ‘I’ll be bad to you if you are not good to me’ must have an odd conception of human nature. However the one who finds himself singled out for such an approach is at liberty to call this tragic, while overcoming his hatred heroically. How very little it takes for us to accuse the other sex of injustice! On the other hand this little suffices to provide for us a golden opportunity for mature manhood or womanhood.
738 All the same, consider the feelings of the one who, in early marriage, has lost her husband and with him all hope of fruitful happiness; has managed to resign herself to, nay more, to make the best of a bad situation and then this stranger, not yet divested of the charms of youth, awakens in her heart again that joy which she had ‘sacrificed’. (Consider for a moment, if you would, the several-headed meaning of that word, applied as in the present instance.)
739 She knows of nothing that should prevent him now from falling in with her wishes. And what are her wishes? Why simply to begin again, to make up for lost ground, to recapture what vile circumstance has wrested from her. How often has she dreamt nightmarishly of the sudden avalanche whiteness blotting out joy, pleasure, happiness! Resentfully she hated the reminder, human nature’s way of offering restitution, and she repressed all feeling and thought of it. In this way we kill off not only the horror but the saving grace along with it.
740 Easy for us, at this remove, to understand. So insufficient, this intellectual understanding which undermines our sympathies and presents a cold heart – and therefore not understanding at all but mere heartlessness, merely what is left of the head when the heart is removed and therefore no better than the obverse: heart without head.
741 She cannot help noticing how her words have affected the Shepherd’s youthful spirit. Friendliness is replaced by politics. Communication gives way to persuasion. The aching heart makes its demands, the lazy mind courts isolation. “You see,” she says, repenting of her vehemence, “I know nothing about you. Perhaps we should not have had that night together, when far too much was taken for granted. Emotional intimacy without insight is a dangerous cocktail, and yet I refuse to regret what was beautiful. I must find out who you are, this is most important for me now. I am angry with myself, not with you. I need knowledge quickly. It won’t be forced.”
742 Her willingness to reflect leaves him room to feel. “I too want to know who I am,” he says. “Basically I want to know why I exist. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite confident that eventually I’ll find out. Meanwhile my confidence tends to upset people; they suspect I possess what I refuse to share. What’s the origin of my confidence? I don’t know. Why do so many people lack confidence? I don’t know that either. As for you, I can offer you that confidence, nothing more. Any day now I have to be on my way. I want to be honest with you. Yesterday I wavered. A spirit within me informs me one day at a time of the next item on the agenda. Rather than be false to that spirit I would let the world and everything in it go hang. If someone is hurt because I cannot behave normally, in standard fashion and according to the preconceptions of Society, I’m sorry, if I have the time. Sometimes circumstances change so quickly that I’m not even aware of any difference I’ve made to the lives of others, pleasant or unpleasant.”
743 “Ah, poor Hans,” she sighs, “or whatever your name is. I suppose a lot of what we feel is envy, we who try to make the best of an indifferent lot, when we find ourselves in the presence of someone with a mission.” She leaves that word suspended in the air like an angler the bait above the water, as if a fish might leave its element, leaping for it.
744 “A mission?” he wonders. “Yes, who knows. It’s certainly a bewildering experience at times. But what about you? Are you not here for a reason? Don’t you ask yourself periodically why you exist? Let’s face it, nobody else is you. Doesn’t your inexorable instinct for survival let you know you must have some unique contribution to make to your community, or to the commonwealth of man?”
745 She is not impressed by those high-flown words. ‘Contribution to community!’ What has that to do with our attempt to hold our heads up in society? ‘The commonwealth of man!’ That sounds too much like the kingdom of heaven on earth. She’s no communist. She wishes she could look inside him, to find out what he really means, what he really feels. It appears that the honeymoon of friendship is over. She senses that their relationship will become more interesting during the next few days, if she puts her mind to it. Then he will leave and hopefully she will have gained something to mitigate her grief in future.
very now and again I come to a point in this tale when nothing moves forward. I feel like taking a stab at the first thought that comes along, if only so as not to slip into a universal inertia. I certainly don’t trust that comfortable self-sufficiency, that inclination to indulge in whatever just comes along – the path is littered with too many corpses. On the other hand there is something to be said for waiting for the right season, for the fitting moment. Heavens, it happens that one has to imagine one’s very productivity, albeit clearly, with no time-limit to the completion of the task and that, surely, requires a novel kind of persistence. The closest we get to describing it is in terms of vegetation.
747 Certainly I would invite the reader to step back with me for a moment from the varied goings-on which comprise the body and soul of this composition. I would compare it to a period of fasting at a time when it seems that once again the flesh is becoming seductive and dictatorial. As to how to behave in the meantime, (and we do after all mean to behave rather than making a spectacle of ourselves) that, in my opinion, should be left to the so-called higher powers, and let’s face it, are they not ‘higher’ at such times precisely because of this need for taking stock?
748 I cannot help noticing how tenaciously the concept of time inserts itself at present. It could be that we have inadvertently arrived at the crux of the matter. I would compare carnal over-indulgence to a reprehensible disregard of time, not as we fear it but as we know it and respect it patiently. I dare say I am coming round to what I mean by leisure, by the leisurely approach to the future, to what is coming, to what is arriving on my doorstep, entirely unpredictable, I suppose, and therefore most successfully anticipated in leisurely fashion, which implies knowledge of time as not necessarily something which passes.
749 I wonder if this might not be a good time for me to comment on what I hope to achieve with all this inveterate thinking and scribbling. I get concerned when time passes, when I notice that once again it has passed, which I take to mean that it has passed me by like a train, for which I hold a paid ticket. In a sense therefore it comes down to paying attention. Before all else, that I hold to be important today. I have, over the years, acquired some skill in this and I gladly own to a definite predisposition to it and therefore, not always so gladly, to a tendency to the opposite, to self-indulgence on the one side and to extreme measures, such as force, on the other.
750 Alright, so part of my reason for paying attention is to guard against damage and waste, I mean in reality now, not just in the home and the workshop, but I wouldn’t call that my chief motive. Certainly when the ground is shifting, when I’m slipping and sliding and panic has set in, just plain paying attention must be the order of the day. However during periods of comparative calm, when circumstances don’t force us to pay attention, that’s when I set out to do it nevertheless and the headway I make then is especially valid. How to describe this in general terms, that is the task I want to set myself now; I intend to go about it leisurely and at ease.
751 The Shepherd, of course, has something to do with this. We go out for a walk, not looking for anything or anyone in particular, when someone comes towards us from the opposite direction and depending on whether we are wrapped up in ourselves at the time or communal, we either meet that person or else ignore him. I find the word ‘communal’ apt in this context. So here we have a certain way of paying attention; there is more to it than just a readiness for the unexpected. Communality, in my books, implies a willingness to communicate with other beings, especially with human beings, of course, but also with gods, animals, plants – with minerals – even with the elements. Communality, in that sense, presupposes a state of being awake, of being alert, attentive, fully conscious and not half drugged by a thousand things – but more than that it’s a form of address, and expressed courtesy towards that part of creation which just at that moment you happen to have near you. A degree of inward activity is involved, an activity which leads us out to other beings. We no longer wait to be motivated by the world but we bring a certain careful salutation to bear on what may for all the world at that moment appear quite dead to us in our environment. We may even be stuck in some unfortunate misalliance with things.
It must be good news that we’re always at liberty to be communal, whatever our circumstances or even – and this is even more important – however we are inwardly predisposed at the moment, so that our moods, our temper, our emotional state and above all the content of our will and intellect cannot, if we insist, prevent us from being communal. So the essence of communality is a voluntary inward predisposition to outward communication. Patience is crucial – oh! Buckets of patience! Communality is not the same as communication because the latter, after all, implies a response which we cannot cause, or force, or in any way manipulate into existence. The nature of beings is perfectly free and will always remain free. Let’s say you have ignored your surroundings for a while or maybe you abused them and caused them grief, you have bullied them, or wantonly played the victim do you really suppose you will suddenly get a response now just because it occurs to you to be congenial for once? You see what I’m getting at. What I want to emphasize is that no one and nothing can prevent us from doing the one thing which is really essential to do and once we begin to do that, one door after the other flies open, the world responds – in its own good time, of course, and not until we’re sufficiently practiced in communality.
752 At the risk of burdening my readers with too much detail, I will set forth now what to me seems like a worthwhile and judicious beginning to this communality, to this free choice of an inward activity through which we hope eventually to arrive at an outward capacity for behaviour beneficial both to ourselves and others. This by the way: We should never pretend that truly good action only benefits some object of our intention, leaving the doer out in the cold, so to speak, nor is it sensible to describe good action as selfish even though the good we intend cannot fail to benefit ourselves, quite independently of whether or not the intended beneficiary accepts the gift or imitates the example. This is what makes it so difficult to judge whether someone’s action was truly good. Outward success or failure is no criterion except as to whether our behaviour was appropriate, so judgment should really be limited to that.
It stands to reason that there is more to doing good than doing the right thing accurately, which of course is useful and many will refuse to go beyond that. Those who strive to go beyond it are frequently so misguided that their effects are actually bad. Much of the evil in the world is brought about not by good intentions, for that is impossible, but by bad intentions to do good. Alas, the difference may be too subtle for some. Progress is possible however, if on one hand we submit to a critique of such questionable objectives, always allowing for our tendency to err, and on the other hand we make ourselves responsible for a decent point of view from which to ascertain that our intention is truly good before we act. The latter is the more important of the two but it cannot dispense with the former, as a check. I know that what I blithely call ‘a decent point of view’ is not arrived at by lolling about, in front of a television set or psychedelically.
The ability to love, by which I mean the power of thought and compassion, is laid in our cradle at birth, we cannot get around that. As soon as we awaken to our youth we discover how much we have been misled, misbred or strayed from that original determination, at which time we have our work cut out for us. An initial leverage we can apply to the problem of how to achieve communality resides in the wish that we had not gone astray or been misguided. Such a general repentance is of the utmost value. Our vision is cleared, whereupon is revealed to us a tutelary spirit, peaceful and comfortable.
753 Now we are able to speak of communality as soon as we align ourselves with that spirit and take it as our principal source of information on matters that pertain to our individuality first and foremost, and then, gradually, our soul, in that co-operative sense, manages to become personal, as mind and body. Thus we may continue throughout our youth, always repentance as our primary tactic, chastity of mind and body our strategy and solidarity with the spirit of renewal our principal technique, as youth gradually and gracefully gives way to manhood and womanhood.
754 Now you may understand, reader of these words, why the fate of the Shepherd is so dear to me. If our youth is wasted it may take years before we can recover, if ever, that strength which is given to us for the sole purpose of battling our way out of all those constrictions which the sins of our forebears, and also of those whose duty it was to raise us to maturity, (but first and foremost our own stupidities), have placed in our way so that we might stumble. Indeed if our youthful strength is neglected, we grow up and our only claim to adulthood is adulterous habits and painful immaturity, although the pain is sometimes deferred and we stray all the more into those modes of existence which harden the heart and stiffen the neck. Entire cultures and civilizations are perhaps based on immature values and certainly wherever a society is deemed an end in itself, not opening into community, there it becomes well nigh impossible to grow out of our burdened youth and into the free enjoyment of manhood and womanhood.
755 One more time the young Shepherd ventured among those who held that world in their hands which is never changed and always changing, as if to confute the rampant materialist while encouraging the advocates of wise guidance. There I observed him among those who had on that day set their minds on the ever-present problem of poverty, which has a certain abstract appeal for those who struggle with affluence. I noticed that he kept his opinions astutely to himself. He asked questions and expressed admiration for the answers as he learned to deal with his prejudices by not judging the people around him.
So for example he heard the Director General of the WTO say: “The obituary of our demise is overrated” and he nodded and said: ‘I see’, although he felt like shrieking and this is surely a kind of virtue. Another leader of men suggested that “the high cost of corruption be funnelled among the poor,” certainly a politic move, otherwise the poor “become cannon fodder for extreme religious indoctrination.” Again I checked and noticed not a single twitch of the eyelash or of the corners of the mouth. Perhaps, I speculated, this betokens a healthy respect for that which must remain utterly incomprehensible.
756 That evening he returned to his accommodating hostess and informed her of his plans to resume his journey. She was not very happy about this and even shed a few tears, whereupon he consoled her by assuring her of his extreme reluctance to depart, so much had he learned during those few days of exposure to the virtual world. Why should the desire for life compromise our instinct for survival? On the contrary, a robust animal nature, if life is spiritually conceived, readily translates into robust human nature, so that he could only guess at that which was surely approaching out of the belly of the future.
757 Once again that peculiar panic set in which steels the nerves like an ice-cold shower thereby letting us know that fresh inward developments are on the way. His mind went blank, he became an atom in the universe, subject to laws he revered, though he could not have stated them for you or me. Milan, Verona, Venice passed him by like a film, he could make no contact, he was not a tourist. Nothing further from his mind than sightseeing, than museums, cathedrals, art galleries. As a hitchhiker he skirted the edges of our admirable civilization and I am afraid he was not overly impressed by the commercial uniformity of the West. Due to his unschooled eye he was unable to peer beneath the surface where a traditional continuum abides.
758 This helps to characterize his temperament, that neither the objective world nor subjective preoccupations could engross the personality beginning to develop in him. Neither nature nor spirit tolerated him. Any attempts he made to ensconce himself in either of these left him with troubles on his hands so that he could only guess at that which was surely approaching out of the belly of the future.
On a Ship 759
ship pressed into service for a cargo of arms to Lebanon is boarded by several questionable characters eager to leave the shore of Yugoslavia and the Shepherd finds himself among them; a company of adventurous cutthroats, on the lookout for a paymaster. The minute the vessel takes to the sea trouble breaks out among this company. A wine bottle is hurled and crashes against the companionway. Oh that the shouting and cursing should be stifled by the surge of the waves! The Shepherd withdraws into a corner. Not that the life of the migrant seabirds is interrupted by this inhuman mayhem. Eventually two corpses are thrown overboard and no one is any the wiser. A storm lashes the waves, the froth is pitched into all those unredeemed faces which bear one moment’s enforced reflection A grey morning, low cloud over the Adriatic, a perpetual sighing and groaning as the ship crouches before a wall of water, then hurls itself headlong into what can only be described as the elemental chaos, which smiles upon man’s ingenuity and tolerates infringement for the time being.
760 He lies in a corner so seasick that death must seem a sweet release. A coil of rope for his pillow, the salt spray in his face, the incessant pounding of the engine, the stench of oil paint, fish oil, rancid grease from the galley, the pitching, heaving, rolling and rocking caressing his brain to sleep, leaving the stomach without guardian – all this combines to make him wish he had taken a different course and why did he travel in winter! The island of Vis sneaks past on that side which faces Croatia, when suddenly a police boat is sighted, giving chase, whereupon a steel cable is let out, to trail like a snake behind the ship, to snag the pursuer’s propeller. Eventually those dutiful policemen bethink themselves and head home. The men return to their hideouts, like lemmings after a scare, or like puffins, emerging from their burrows when they hear a strange noise and then, after a growl or two, meekly they return to their underground nests.
761 The Shepherd stayed in his ‘nest’ throughout. His clothes are wet, his hands are blistered from helping to load the crates that contain he knows not what weapons of destruction. The sky overhead is black now from clouds ranged in profusion against all hope of a smooth passage. It occurs to him suddenly that if he chose he might think of his misery as a kind of conditioning for his personal journey. Thereupon it is given to him to see clearly the difference between himself and those horrid sensations which threaten to unbalance his mind and cause him to become resentful or plaintive. He is truly in pain in a way he has never experienced. Camels are called the ships of the desert, however as a child on the back of a camel he had only ever tasted exhilaration, not bile and gall and wormwood. The thought that struggles to life in him is born of his unwillingness to lie down under the pain. What if it were the pain of another, he speculates, would I be willing to share it with him, thereby removing its sting?
762 This line of thought has an unusual and beneficial affect inasmuch as his courage is restored and a degree of strength returns to his limbs, allowing him to rise and with controlled step to make a circuit of the deck, a tricky business under the circumstances. Snowflakes are whipped into his face, he clutches at the railing and rejects as ultimate ingratitude a leap into the depth which would gladly swallow him. Besides it would not be the end of him, only of his liberty and choice and for that he truly hasn’t the stomach. The one who steps to the railing beside him says nothing for a while, as if there were enough noise for the time being but then: “You look to me ill-suited for this game. My guess is you have ulterior motives. Do you pass yourself off as a journalist?” The words almost have to be shouted to be heard. “I pass myself off as the person you are talking to,” shouts the Shepherd, annoyed at so much familiarity from one who looks like he might abuse the least confession and make a nuisance of himself. The response is respected but only because it was uttered respectfully, not as an insult, although the irritation must have been obvious. Thereupon he is pleased to be left alone.
On Crete 763
he riotous weather decrees a forced landing on Crete, actually on the island of Dia, unpopulated except by wild goats. Anchor is dropped in a south-facing natural harbour during a night of comparative peace. The Shepherd decides he has enough of that particular company and secretly swims to shore where he hides in a cave, so silent that he only hears his teeth chatter. The goats flee from the cave and he benefits from their warmth. Sleep is no option. Am I still on the right road, doing the right thing, has my thinking not become slovenly, have I not begun to capitulate to superstition and magic?
Be careful for at night fear creeps in through the tiniest cracks of the psyche. Concentrate on the weather, the climate, the temperature, make your peace with the elements, they are not your enemies but happy to co-operate with you in terms of soul and spirit. No, if you close your eyes you will awaken into a freezing nightmare. Why not freeze on purpose? Do it voluntarily, before circumstances force you. If I freeze now, intentionally, my body will separate from the flesh, will not be compromised by the deadly habits of the flesh, which in animals produce hair, fur, a pelt, tough hide, all perfectly suitable to the environment. Fish scales are not fashionable. Why do human beings need clothes? Are we less adaptable than beasts?
764 I think he must be experimenting with the hypostatic union of body and mind, which allegedly isolates the flesh, turning it into a protective covering that continually renews itself by dying. As we believe, so it is onto us. This saying may apply especially in his present case, where ‘needs must’. With the stink of the goats acrid in his nostrils, he manages to stay alert, otherwise as he correctly surmises, he might have ‘caught his death of a cold’, more like pneumonia. It’s a pity he could not have kept the goats in with him; snuggled down beside them, he would have been warm and dry in no time and the goats wouldn’t have minded, which sets his mind off again: When will the human kingdom Embrace the animal kingdom, and so on.
765 In spite of his strenuous efforts to stay awake he nodded off eventually, the way we do when, although asleep, we suppose we are still awake and while our neck is rigid and our head lifted we ourselves have slipped away from consciousness. And there came into his presence a bright figure of which he could not distinctly make out the features but he heard these words which were spoken to him: “Continue to walk before me, for I am pleased to open all the appropriate doors for you.” Meanwhile he was immersed in a feeling of well-being which caused him to regret it when he subsequently awoke, although his comfort continued for a while as he contemplated those words in his innermost being.
766 Soon he dropped off once more, and again that same figure, as if borne upon a lovely effulgence of benevolence, was a source of speech: “Only continue, with increasing courage, for I follow and straighten all that is crooked.” Oh if only he might have lingered there, he certainly would not have abided by those words and this tale of his quest would not have come into being. However this ‘experience’, if I can call it that, which had singled him out for a nobler attention, withdrew itself once more from him, sufficiently for his wits to take in the reality of the cave.
767 And as he mused, to make those words his own, knowing they could not have been intended for another, he gently drifted into that same realm a third time, and now there was spread before him the likeness of a banquet, a large table sumptuously laden with every kind of food and although he could make nothing out in detail he knew he was impressed by the vast variety and by the great plenty, as if never again he, or anyone else for that matter, should go hungry or thirsty, this he understood and that was how he understood it, since the image was only the outward corroboration of that which had indelibly imprinted itself on his mind as it became visible and of course it helped that at the same time his appetite was more than satisfied.
768 Thereafter he remained awake until morning, at times humming to himself, so full of joy was he and his wet clothes felt almost hot on his skin. Once again, he thought, I have been given assurance that all this seemingly aimless wandering is according to a plan which, although I cannot know it, has bearing on both myself and the world. If ever it should happen that I lose courage or confidence, the memory of this night will leap into the breach.
769 When the first light entered the cave, indirectly because the mouth of that cave opens to the west, he drew himself up to his full stature and found to his surprise that his clothes had dried and that he felt so remarkably refreshed as if he had enjoyed a peaceful sleep in his bed. In astonishment his heart overflowed with gratitude.
770 At the entrance to the cave, in the pale light, he looked around him and noticed first of all, eyeing him from a distance of twenty metres, a dozen kri-kri, the wild goats of the island and then he saw that the harbour was empty. The sea in the bay was perfectly flat and it mirrored the rocky hillside opposite. Already the sun had begun to dry the herbs that grew there in abundance and their fragrance would soon be borne upon the scented breezes.
771 When he had thoroughly steeped himself in the light of day, the lively visions of that night once more played over his mind and he could not help but wonder what particular divinity he should associate with the messages that had so deeply impressed him. It wouldn’t have occurred to him that because of his state of physical weakness he had suffered hallucinations that should be ignored, like pain in general. The type of human being he was made him rather suppose that because of his weakness he had been especially receptive to the divinity. His primitive instincts were not corroded by that modern subjection to superstition and magic that makes it impossible for the divine to be countenanced except as a spurious irritation or aggravation.
772 His overall response, then, in the light of day, to that nocturnal illumination, was childlike gratitude. Did it bolster his ego, that he had been selected for that kind of attention? I would say: On the contrary. The notion that there was a spiritual sphere, a realm of benevolence which human beings might either welcome or reject – this thought he had imbibed as a child from his foster parents. It had taken root in him, as we can see. A particular theological interpretation had never been forced on him and that was good for it left him free, in an unbigotted fashion, to nourish in himself that sense of reverence for creation and creatures, indeed for the earth and all that pertains to it, which automatically also involves the awareness of a creative spirit. It says a lot for the importance of family, for that is where sound principles are established, given that it is not just a family in name.
773 A great deal passed through his mind as he sat there in the early light, contemplating the jagged rock formations surrounding the bay with its crystal clear water under an azure sky. How could he best take advantage of a spirit that seemed so ready to encourage and guide him? He had not much use for the idols of his childhood which had not been honoured that much by his parents, whose goal had not been the acquisition of wealth or the upholding of honour in a self-conscious society. Mostly they had revered the gentle Al Kutbay, known as the god of learning and commerce, of writing and divination, ‘Al Kutbay who is in Gaia’. For Al Qaum, the warrior god and Al Uzza, the powerful one, they cared much less, which placed them among the meek and lowly. Dushares they worshipped, lord of the mountain; made daily libations before an altar in the home, burnt incense with respect to the sun. Allat, goddess of spring and fertility stood for affection, the love of children and her the Shepherd was most reluctant to let go as he felt the need for a single image with which to embrace spiritual divinity.
774 Not all who feel this need succeed in finding what their nature needs. Some stray among the things of sense where understandably immense the problem of perfection looms, like Christian love in catacombs. Some nag away at self’s domain and drive their morbid mind insane, while others let charisma thrive and end up only half alive. Those who are fired by desire and find events will not transpire to let them exercise their will, be it to give birth or to kill, might contemplate that this is so for reasons just to let them know that in the wish and in the urge, which they examine and then purge, a rattling good device exists for lifting fogs and parting mists.
775 I thought I would slip that in for variety’s sake and also because the Shepherd at this moment needs time for quiet reflection by himself. Theology has laid no claim to him, no lawyer’s brain has given him a taste for righteousness and clever justification. Tertullian, Basil, Ambrose, Augustine have had no input into his conceits, at least not so directly that he feels he must be right or wrong lest hell freeze over. Nor would he be ashamed to think things out from scratch again, which now and then serves well to open heaven’s gates and harrow hell.
776 We shall never know what were the results of that reflection, I mean those particularly that he entertained while seated at the mouth of the cave on Dia, because of their extraordinary and unnatural character. The laws of emotion at times claim predominance and imagination is extremely overruled, to the point where only for a time, thankfully, our world collapses and a secret sorrow extinguishes us. I call this the universal sorrow in itself and as in the case of hope, its diametric opposite, there is no reason for it. I call it ‘being wasted by love.’
777 I think we might safely say that on that occasion the Shepherd was introduced to those areas in himself of deafness and blindness – let’s call it ignorance of the infinite world, of endless reality to which the attention of the blessed is drawn whenever the corner they have arranged for themselves becomes not only confined but also exclusive. As human beings we soon find out that the real world is devoid of borders and the best way to live is within those circles of ever diminishing familiarity, which may be extended by us to the limits of our strength. Knowledge of the world’s actual endlessness in terms of space, time and causality, is a gift, it cannot be attained through effort but would be received, immediately within, as by those few who are entrusted with that faculty, or through their agency, by those who trust them.
778 Distinct imagination is an activity of the brain to which we assent – or else we abort it. The artist knows of that activity, however he keeps such a tight control of it that it never gets a chance to unfold and demonstrate its vigour. Your philistine, on the other hand, knows nothing about it and so it gradually destroys him from within. Those who give rein to their distinct imagination (I call them art-workers, in comparison to artists) are always on the look-out for an extension of that power that delivers the goods to those less fortunate. Their effective attitude is ethical by definition. In other words they have what it takes to do good and they cannot but look with bemused pity on those do-gooders who lack distinct imagination.
779 As soon as the Shepherd has his fill of introspection he returns to the cave – his mind is quite empty – and picks up a yellow, flat stone, which he sets on a shelf-like projection from the wall of the cave and upon it he places a rectangular dark stone as a kind of marker, to commemorate his experience. Where he plucked that stone from the cave floor an object like a coin catches his attention. He takes it to the light and scratches the encrusted dirt from the shiny face of it with his pocket knife and reads the inscription: ‘Arabia adquista’. He tries not to make too much of the discovery but takes note that it does not say: ‘Arabia capta’ and this he interprets as a good omen for the future, although it probably refers to a time when his people had the wisdom not to challenge outright the philistine greed of the imperial Roman and to opt instead for a negotiated peace. It compares, I dare say, to when we opt for personality instead of insisting on our individual rights, even in the face of an extreme evil, which seems to leave us no choice, as individuals, except certain death or dishonourable capitulation. As soon as we elect to become personal however, the problem dissolves and we bask in our freedom.
780 On the island of Dia it was impossible for the Shepherd to be personal. Communication with the goats proved difficult. Nevertheless he decided it would be good for him to stay put for a few days and when a small fishing boat arrived from the mainland, in this case Crete, his request for food and for a box of matches was cheerfully granted. The fishermen inquired where was he from and the Shepherd answered: “I have fallen from the sky,” and they all laughed. They promised to return in a few days’ time.
781 What was he to make of his journey so far? It seemed to him that time was no longer passing and that he would quite happily be willing to exist anywhere on the surface of the earth, given his present confidence in himself as a human being. How odd! Had he no sense of belonging to a social group, to a tribe, to a race or at least to a country, to a nation or homeland? Did even the thought of family leave him cold? All this had been abstracted and strangely enough he did not feel isolated, or depressed, or lonely. An exultation of sorts buoyed him up. We can only speculate that this was possible on account of his heightened sense of reality within, where so much seemed actual and credible
782 This always amazes those who cannot imagine how the outside world can become an issue of secondary importance and how sensations such as fear, shame and guilt, which make up so much of our inside being and which account for that outside world, can lose their dictatorial effect, so that our behaviour, our action and passion, no longer springs from terror and horror but is rationally based on wisdom and love.
783 Even this, of course, is no explanation for the children of light and the children of the truth, since for them the meaning of wisdom and love is not what it is for the unregenerate, whatever religion they say they embrace and however they justify their desire to dominate. What I mean by the wisdom of children is something which can be easily observed with the unbiased eye; this also goes for that uncommon love (uncommon only because so few practice it) which can be described as both human and divine, since once again the germ of it slumbers in the child. We can feel a child’s human natural affection and we marvel how readily children forgive. It really takes years of mis-education and lack of upbringing before we can count on them to join us in superstition, prejudice & hypocrisy.
784 Wisdom and love on a rational foundation no longer manufacture a justifying world, which only serves to excuse the inventor for a time, until he is forced to rethink, but they do create favourable conditions for the created world to reveal itself, in its primal light, unexpurgated. (Not the world needs to be purged but the minds and hearts of those who perceive it.)
785 A rational foundation? That all beings, human or otherwise, share in that essence which we call humanity, and human beings doubly so. We have to rethink what we mean by humanity, if this new rationality is to rule our existence. It makes no sense to think of it as modern, since modernity is precisely a rationale of things and not of beings, which modern man mistakes.
786 Things are masks, some tragic, some comic – fearful, shameful and guilt-ridden masks. Their task is to inspire us with horror and terror, if we but knew it, so that we might relent and return to being, to beings and human beings and thus to a world which will celebrate our return as we joyfully step into our natural inheritance.
787 The outer covering, or husk, of the human being is flesh, that is well known, but consider now that the human being is not you or I but a mythic creation, as for example you cannot say with even a degree of sense: “I am the human being.” You have to be particular. As soon as you refer to yourself in person or to others, like myself, or the Shepherd, you move into a different dimension altogether and this dimension is the one which the Shepherd was discovering for himself on Dia during that one short week.
788 The use we make of mythic creation is not neither here nor there. Sometimes an outright myth takes hold and captivates the imagination of generations so that it becomes difficult to think originally. Falsehoods often choose mythic garments so as to establish themselves in the world. As myths they are more readily believed and whatever draws our faculty of belief away from the truth and attaches it more or less permanently to anything else is doing the power of evil a ‘power of good’.
789 Was it perhaps because bucolic surroundings lend themselves more readily to sweet contemplation, that he Shepherd’s soul was almost overfull with that sweet thought which can change our attitude to so many things but above all else it signals in us a conception of life which makes all our previous notions of what life is pale into insignificance?
790 He learned, for example, that this new life streams into us unsolicited and that it reforms everything about us, literally. You might say that he existed on the island in a permanent state of incomparable wonder. It was really not until years later, when the Muse had accompanied him and afforded him opportunity for benevolent exchange, that he appreciated the full significance of it. “I am undergoing a sea-change,” he said, “into something rich and strange”, and the goat nearest to him tilted its archaic head slightly to the side, as if willing to ponder these words of the intruder.
791 Really the goat was just wondering when was it going to get its cave back. I don’t believe for one moment that those goats really wanted to be sheep. It is we who want to be otherwise, until the light of humanity is turned on in us. This can happen to us because we desire it, in which case we gladly fall in with it, or to some it comes as a surprise and they are dragged along for a while until eventually they comply. The Shepherd had always desired it. All his life he had been unhappy with the image of himself as social, as popular, as one of the people. It hadn’t worked for him, that image, and at times he envied those who could conform to certain modes which refused to reveal themselves to him. At other times he despised them, for being content with second-rate ideals, although he could not have described the first-rate. We either sympathize with his predicament because we know how it feels to be reserved for a task unique and original or else we condemn him as a wastrel, an example of the times out of joint and in what way should that interest us?
792 Society is a concept nowadays like normality, with a million meanings, like love, truth, the world – Only the poet can afford to use them without explanation for he is the language he speaks. He has become a language and he speaks the way others breathe, the way they walk and hold their heads as if to question the gods as to what they mean by being.
793 Being is the essence of life. Once we know what it means to be, we hold the key in our hands, the key to the realm of life – I mean the realm that is life. Human being begins for us when we know what it means to be and then we accept the responsibility for it. Sometimes we cannot help how we behaved, ah, but we could have helped how we were. Therefore, as soon as I acknowledge that I can be as I wish to be, I actually begin to be human and those who are not yet human in a sense become my responsibility.
794 Human beings are those who have arrived at an ethical recognition both of one another and of those not yet human. Should we be proud of being human? Then let us be proud of being strong in our weakness and of being immortal in our mortality, for the lord of life has chosen us to represent him to those who do not know him – a privilege but also an obligation.
795 As for our devices, the tools we use, and the instruments – our art, in short, we keep in mind that we cannot do for others as they wish that we do onto them, but we give what we have to give and leave the accepting to them. Not ours to advertise, to persuade, to opine, to persuade again, as if ours were the better way, which it decidedly is not, only one of a myriad paths along the true way and each unique and singular path reflects the true way, purveying counsel.
796 Easy to imagine that after a week the Shepherd was fed up with the cave life, with swimming at daybreak and dusk in water which pretended to be the sky, with scrambles barefoot over the hot rocks since after all it was not winter but June very likely or July and with every step he felt closer to the earth elements, frequently thorny.
797 There he sat then on the beach, picture him, companionless, not like that intrepid adventurer Thor in his cave on Fatu-Hiva after a year of searching for paradise on earth, and why not, but no schooner would arrive for our friend, only that same fishing boat and the fishermen laughing, tipsy on raki and retsina – what! Would he like more olives and tinned meat and perhaps stay another week on Dia, to mate with the kri-kri and raise a kid or two, teach them to bleat in diverse tongues? They were quite willing to supply him with the necessary, perhaps he would turn into their own cherished holy man, the stuff of history.
798 He declined, kindly requested passage to the main island. This was granted. Under the circumstances he behaved like a gentleman even though these Greeks behaved a great deal more sensibly, resorting to charitable humour to help them over their shyness in front of this puzzling stranger with the habit of co-existing with goats. In spite of their state of partial inebriation they behaved with primitive politeness and native courtesy, not with anything they had learned out of books. They posed no intrusive questions, gave him all the room he needed for being himself, however they perceived his conduct, his behaviour, his appearance.
799 This taught him a lesson of sorts. Is it not remarkable under what circumstances we sometimes gain our most formative insights? The journey by boat from Dia to Crete takes approximately one hour and during that hour, perhaps because it came so immediately upon his state of a week-long voluntary solitary confinement in reflection, meditation and contemplation, he experienced the beauty of fundamental faith.
800 These were not Christians or Moslems or Buddhists but part time fishermen, some with families, who had kept their promise to return for him in a week. Their attitude to him was neither reverential nor contemptuous but gracious, the way animals, plants and stones are gracious. They demonstrated a yearning that he should join them in their joy, and that they should find favour in his eyes as he did in theirs To that end they took some pains to hide their worse nature and express their better nature, and this is perhaps the best compliment we can pay anyone; not so different from love!
801 What astonished him was that they should risk this. He could not help noticing an underlying shyness or vulnerability. He imagined that if he were to hurt them they would feel ashamed for him. Whence did they draw the strength for this ultimately human characteristic? Not all of them impressed him in this way, only those few who came forward to greet him and to chat with him, laughing all the while, sometimes a bit nervously. He had grown supersensitive on Dia, thin-skinned, if you like, and now this example of something important stood out for him, attuned him to a fundamental revelation about himself.
802 At the time he thought of it as an ability and willingness to trust. This, however, was trust which begets trust, not trust of that which is deemed trustworthy. In no way was it preceded or underpinned by judgment. Here we have, he felt more than he thought, the primary human action, which does not depend on a god but alone makes possible the approach to a god and therefore to all other beings.
803 I suppose we might say he understands now why he was created with ‘free will’ and why, in the past, when he exercised this faculty of unconditional trust, although he had no conception of it, things went so swimmingly. Is it possible, he said to himself during a quiet moment on that sea journey, that all who exist today are endowed, perhaps even for some comprehensible reason, with this faculty for substantial believing? My believing that ‘you’ exist, that a real world exists, indeed that a god exists – does all of this not perhaps really amount to the same? Has this always been possible? Perhaps not. However now it is possible.
804 Why it should be possible now, when at one time it was not possible, this he has to leave for another time. The boat finds its way into a harbour. The fishermen laugh: “Come again when you wish to visit your cousins on Dia!” He shakes their hands, thanks them, is moved by their hearty friendliness. What he does then is described in the next verse.
805 He walks up the beach, hands in pockets, looks around him harmlessly and is immediately accosted by a group of well-wishers who thank him for taking the time to visit Crete. With astonishment he listens to their chants of gratitude. Frantically he asks himself who they might think he is. They seem to be going through the well-rehearsed motions of people to whom celebrity is a common occurrence. He is startled by the effective separation of himself as a person, left to one side, from some image or idea these people possess of him as a public figure, of someone who by dint of his appearances on speakers’ platforms at popular gatherings has acquired a reputation and must be held to account if not lauded to the skies.
806 One question which intrigues him is: Do they not see how he is dressed? What about the straw in his hair after his residence in the cave? Why do his vocal remonstrations and gestures of non-acceptance only fuel their misplaced enthusiasm? Not to put too fine a point on it, they hoist him on their shoulders and carry him inland. Crete is a magical island still and for many far more than a retreat from mordant civilization but the Shepherd does not know this. He is naive to the nth degree. Besides he is stunned, stumped and stymied. Well, what do you expect? Should it not have occurred to these natives that inhibitions can not be overcome by a show of force nor by an imposed struggle, an agitated affront to the peace-loving nature of anonymity?
807 Perhaps we would get further more quickly if we referred to it as the anonymity of nature. They set him down in a Taverna, to the consternation of some local habitués and surrounded him with good will – all perfectly impersonal, ceremonial, as if his consent were neither here nor there. Delightfully good food is set in front of him and he digs in with a will, temporarily at least resigned to his fate. For the first time in his life he eats zucchini blossoms stuffed with savoury rice. It occurs to him that he might as well play the role that is being imposed on him and why not enjoy it at the same time? They take him for someone he is not, so he shall accept them for what they seem to be: happy people who are glad to see him and to have him entirely to themselves. Out come the musical instruments, plucked, blown and bladdered in fine style: artistic calculation in favour of heightened folk spirituality, the nervous complications of simple souls.
808 He loves it. He rises to the occasion. Secretly his hair stands on end when he pictures the aftermath, when he is ‘found out’. All the same his conscience is comparatively clear. He refuses to see himself as a charlatan. He wants to get back home eventually, he keeps that much in the back of his mind, but meanwhile his task is to deal with unforeseen events, accidents in a word. As is well enough known by most, temptations and trials come in pleasant or unpleasant guises and the master of ceremonies does not ‘reveal his hand’ until much, much later.
809 Little by little it dawns on him, he is being groomed for public consumption as the holy man from the island of Dia. The claim is that he has fallen out of the sky, that a huge bird has delivered him from God knows where and that now he must be fattened and fêted before time runs out. Ah well, he thinks, perhaps I can sneak away during the night. At the same time I don’t want to seem ungrateful. What if this crowd turns ugly when they realize they have made a dreadful mistake? He walks the tight-rope for several hours. Girls lay garlands at his feet, young men perform exorbitant Greek dances for him on table tops, then drink his health and fire their revolvers through the crumbling ceiling of the taverna. This surely is life as it may be!
810 It is required of him that he declare himself. Total silence all around. Smiling faces surround him, eyes are lit up with fond expectation: He will now say something that will satisfy the heart’s thirst for spiritual novelty. If this is not the queerest pressure being exerted on him now! He sits stock still. He bears with the pressure. He must not give in to the temptation to judge or criticize or condemn. They are waiting. They are in a good mood. The communal wish exerts itself. Now the words come. No need to weigh pros and cons, to choose the appropriate expression:
811 “None of us want to be left out in the cold. This goes for both young and old. A terrible lethargy lies upon the land. The cause for it is easy to understand. How to overcome the fear of meaningless pain! How to behave in the face of the corporate lie! How to recapture our childhood, how to regain the confidence that joy will not pass us by! The tyrant exists in here, not out there. Society is neither fair nor unfair. The next word you speak may be your last. The future is pregnant, not the past. Never let yourself drift off into the dark, help is available for those who ask. Human beings are bound to leave a mark, suffering injustice or performing a task.”
812 He has no idea what he has said. Something has used him to express itself. He has this most peculiar feeling of having been uplifted into a sphere of higher awareness. He looks at his audience steadfastly, in his heart perfect equanimity. Certainly he is conscious of having done something original for the first time. We, of course, could have told him that he has translated the need of his community into consumable substance. We weren’t there. Besides, how is it crucial that he should, at that time, understand, when the accent was so much on doing? Most definitely he would never forget what had happened and how it had come about. He would need to perform a similar action again, when he would not necessarily have to depend on pressure from without. One might say that: his essential desire had for once been satisfied, or: his fundamental needs had for once been met, or: he had been vouchsafed a practical demonstration of his personal creativity.
813 Once again that which had led up to a crucial experience could only be described as phenomenally trivial and silly, but there it was. Pray for him. He needs it.
814 As the creative spirit departs from him, he searches in himself for a source of discipline, for strange to say, the temptation is upon him to play the fool now. He sees that his ‘audience’ – not the right word, surely – has become quiet, pensive – introspective. One after the other turns to leave the taverna. In the end he is left in the company of a twelve-year-old girl with black hair and eyebrows that meet to form a continuous black M, or rather the silhouette of a raptor in flight and she says to him with certainty: “Tomorrow I shall show you our island.”
815 For the rest of that day he can be seen walking forlorn in the neighbourhood, where no one greets him but all seem preoccupied with thoughts which they cannot quite fathom. He in person is no longer important, only that they have been touched, or moved, in a way which attracts all their attention. Only one came up to him, a woman, saying: “I did not hear what you said but I had the loveliest sleep.” He nods approvingly.
816 The next day it is Panayota who meets him early as the sun just rises over the rose-coloured sea and she says: “Today we will visit the cave of Zeus, that will be a fine introduction for you to the history of our people.” He marvels at this young girl, who has taken it upon herself to guide this stranger as if it matters to her what he remembers. He is struck by her quiet seriousness, by her peaceful inwardness as she unabashedly takes him by the hand; Like a guardian angel, he thinks, and he becomes docile in her care, conscious of a power working through her. Her slim, graceful figure casts very little shadow as they set out on the long and winding path to Psyhro. Psyhro is a tiny village high in the mountains on the plain of Lasithi.
817 How can the visit to a cave possibly introduce anyone to the history of a people? So much depends on one’s point of view. Surprisingly season is late spring now and the countryside is riotous with the colour of wildflowers and fruit trees in bloom. At the pass they look down towards the plain which is surrounded by mountains. They descend to the fertile plateau. We cannot imagine the world around us until we have distanced ourselves from it both in time and space, so that our first experience of a new landscape is usually raw, however on this occasion the Shepherd could not help imagining the irrigated land of his youth, rock-bound Petra, to which he would soon return for the first time. Memory and immediate sensation therefore interpenetrated, his soul was in turmoil, along the circular path, anti-clockwise.
818 The climb to the cave is not arduous but thousands of tourist-pilgrims and the hooves of donkeys have polished the stones underfoot to a slippery perfection. “Why do we come here?” he asks his companion. She stands by his side and he notices that she trembles as she stares down into the earth that opens before them. “Explain to me, please,” he gently requests, “what it means to you, this not altogether unusual geological feature, in a way a hole in the ground caused, over the years, by water erosion, I suppose and also by…” “No!” she cries angrily and looks up at him with tears in her eyes. “Can you not see the many festivals enacted here in celebration of the human spirit? Are you blind to those who during the centuries have thirsted for salvation, for release from tribal hatred and vengeful impulses, from the terror before the foreign intruder?
How can you speak of a ‘hole in the ground’, of ‘geological features’, when this site is so obviously teeming with painful memories: mothers who bring their still-born babes – young men whose spirit refuses to serve and they look to the god for shelter, for the mountain to cover them, as their blood races incontinent – and the fathers, maimed in battle, their families left without support, always returning to the ancient beliefs: the spirits of the earth pacified by blood.”
819 “No,” he says, “you are quite right. I cannot see that. I am not familiar with it. I respect your feelings, however they remain strange to me. If it’s worship you mean, why do it in a cave, or for that matter on a mountain top, when everywhere reality is readily accessible? I suppose I am not one for churches.” And he thinks to himself: This is beyond me. How is it possible for a child to utter such sentiments! As for me, I must be a block of ice. People gathering in fellowship, yes, but yearning for the past, lamenting the present, in effect shunning the light of day, this precious gift of the gods
820 He turns to the girl and says: “Tell me this, when you’ve hurt yourself, where do you go to be comforted?” “To my mother,” she answers, perplexed. “And when you have a problem, where do you go?” She thinks and says: “To my father, very likely.” “And when you want to share your joy?” “I have many friends,” she says, smiling. He pauses, looks at her and then says: “Is your god not with you at such times?”
821 Perhaps she understands him a little, for she looks at him in that special way which girls have when they seem to be grateful. This makes him say quickly: “I will certainly think about what you have said, about your people and their customs. Not for the world would I do them an injustice. But the modern world is a puzzle to me. So many centuries of nothing but reaction, revolt and rebellion, this swinging back and forth of the pendulum! Nourishing food is available but people chew wood and grass. Meanwhile I’m not much help to anyone.”
822 Then he asks her: “Tell me, that strange outburst of yours a few minutes ago, that was not like a young girl talking. It sounded like a voice from another realm. Are you perhaps a young prophetess?” “You are right,” she says. “When the spirit moves me, I become like another person, a grown-up, but only if I have to speak angrily. Then my tongue commands me to speak. In no way could I then be silent.
They stroll through the fields to Tsermiadho, windmills, white-sailed, turn in the breeze, pumping up water from below the earth. “Where I was born was much like this,” he says. “We too were enclosed by mountains round about and all our fields depended on irrigation, but that was so many years ago that I today, as a young man, wonder how time can pass and also stand still. She looks at him with ever such large eyes.
824 Before entering the town they turn to the left, up a steep and rocky path. Spring has meanwhile given way to summer and the dust lies on the shrubbery leaves. A goat nibbles the head of a thistle, the desultory clang of a brass bell on its neck is stifled by the heat.
825 Soon they find themselves on the upper flank of Mount Karfi and still the path climbs and the goats eye them with suspicion. “This is where I lived many years ago,” says the girl. “I am about to show you the ruin of our house. Here, look, a pile of pot shards and there the enclosure where we trapped the soil, the terraces, to slow the sparse rain water.
826 “And did you in those days find time for worship?” he asks, with a smile, hoping to disarm her. However she will not return to that theme and he must be content with hearing her praise the earth, which takes care of those who care for it.
827 “Why are you showing me this courtesy?” he wants to know. “You have no idea who I am. I’m not a tourist. What do you stand to gain from all this?” She reflects seriously on his question and then says: “The friendship of human beings is invaluable. Does there really need to be another reason? The enclosures you see here, for the goats of my ancestors, remind me that life continues forever while we, the living, have only a day for weaving our pattern into God’s tapestry. These walls are over three-thousand years old. Here. Look. This piece of pottery was shaped and ornamented by the hand of one who claimed the same sun and moon and stars for his lifelong companions. I feel so close to him as if I could speak to him now, through you, on account of this lively community of spirit which seems to come easy to you – a rare gift. So why not believe that because of your companionship I become more secure within the fold of my people whose history stretches into time immemorial?”
828 “What, then,” he asks, “is your greatest fear? What makes you so reluctant to depart from folk memory and race consciousness? Why are you not content to be settled on your island, among your family and friends? Why this search into the dim past and by some into the far distance, as if the here and now were somehow deficient? Does the soul of every human individual not open inward into all that is necessary?”
829 Now this young girl is able to inform him in her own way of God’s secret democracy. Even through the experience of her proverbial existence she has plumbed the limits of individual liberty and recognized the need for personal communion. Later the Muse will introduce the Shepherd, not like a teacher but in participation, to the truthful relation among kindly persons, which manages to bridge even the gap between human beings and people, while here he is merely being told: “My greatest fear is helpless isolation in my self. Helpless and hopeless, so that perhaps I become no more than an individual, incapable of affection. This is what I fear: the lack of affection.”
830 Why is affection so much at risk, he wonders. What is it that causes hearts to grow cold so that anything, crime, sexual perversion, the crassest ideologies, the most suspect cults, must seem in the end less hazardous than this damning isolation of the ego in its prison? Is it an evil, or is it merely the good advancing upon us and we, by comparison, instead of extending the prepared welcome, make a cowardly retreat, self-condemned in shame and guilt, horror and terror?
831 From here he might have gone on to analyse the so-called ‘global war on terror’, an astonishingly self-contradictory concept. Once the enemy attacks from outside we can say he has attacked for some time from within and we took no notice but insisted all the more on happiness based on selfish security. Secure selfishness however is hell and hell is harrowed, that too is modern ever since the inception of God’s democracy. Individuals imprison themselves or are freed.
832 “Dear Panayota,” the Shepherd says, “I am beginning to think you have had much loneliness in your life. I find it amazing that someone at your age should speak with such insight about the risks of a lack of affection. Your nature must be blessed with beauty and intelligence. Please accept my admiration. Also the fact that right from the beginning you trusted me speaks for a singular courage.”
833 “I loved you from the first,” says the girl. “This came easy to me because I liked you too, the way you unconditionally honoured my people. My love was an inspiration of kindliness. From now on you are my friend. Perhaps we will never meet again but that makes less difference than if I had never been able to love you. Love is a permanent arrangement. When I think of you in the future it will be as of someone who has risen from the dead and forever lives.”
834 Oh marvellous, the effect of those words from chaste lips on the Shepherd’s soul! How often he would recall them! “Dearest Panayota,” he addresses her again, “you have given me so much to think about. If anyone else had spoken as you did, I wonder would I have been equally moved. You mentioned an inspiration of kindliness. I would like you to know that this had taken root in me too. As a consequence I look with better eyes at these hills and valleys, at Hersonissos by the sea, at that perfect sky and at you, my true friend. I dare say now we have sufficiently acknowledged this bond between us. Would you say this is the right time for descending to the Nissimos Plateau?” She laughs with pleasure because he has remembered the name from when she mentioned it earlier on the way up.
835 We know that there is a love which, upon its first becoming tangible, transcends right away any carnal barrier, so that we take no further notice of formality, custom or manner or perhaps it heeds all of these but adds a divine regard for sheer human being, so that we cannot understand at all the progress or effect of it because reason is trumped by it, nevertheless we are more than reasonable. Early and late youth are its seed-bed. Let me try to explain what I mean. A child enters that period we call youth and experiences a premonition of immortality, which is then combined with an unfailing sweetness. Such a longing we have then for sharing that sweetness with another and little does it matter whether male or female, nor is age an impediment and if parental guidance is not altogether missing, more is possible than a temporary ‘crush’. The adolescent may come into the possession of an intelligent inwardness from which to judge, in the next few years, worthwhile behaviour and valuable experience, deciding between good sense and nonsense, between nonsense and rubbish.
In the absence of parental guidance from adults with appropriate insight, many an opportunity is wasted, grief and misery are piled onto young shoulders and the depressed soul seeks out the next best shelter, while a psyche turns out promiscuous. Equally a young man or woman is about to leave adolescence to enter maturity, so that the sweetness above mentioned one last time surges, as the golden flush of sunset may be reminiscent of that blush of sunrise, which then seeps into the clear light of day. If all goes well, this evening sweetness, (imagining adolescence as a single day) is instrumental in awakening in the woman compassion and in the man thought, in both cases for another and for others. Wise responsibility is born and the loving attentiveness of the care taker. In both these cases, of early youth and early maturity, the sound mind distances itself from romantic delusions, also from morbid sentimentalities, by investing in that sweetness as in a down-to-earth guarantee of eternal life – gifted, meaningful and significant.
836 This love which rises so sweetly, Bearing before it truth As a gift to be treasured – Those who shame this love are guilty Of an evil mind. I speak as one who has noticed Kindliness first inspired By an act of faith in love – Better that man should sever His attachments here And pledge his love to a person, Otherwise how can love Overshadow the psyche? Wounded love brings many tortures, As I too well know. The best a man can delight in, Given that certain death Of his soul, so he conjures – Magic having brought him tension – Is a moment’s love.
Let none pretend to believe me, Meanwhile attached to self Or to empty illusions; Pain will seek them out to treat them To a feast of death. However you who believe, Swayed in yourself by love, Though perhaps understanding Only that a pleasure beckons – So much closer, you. The master keeps his disciple Better informed, alas, If he knows how this passion Must betray to light all darkness And deliver sense. I only mention this meanwhile, Hoping to demonstrate What would otherwise seem like Empty phrases, clipped of meaning, And not love at all.
837 Now, quickly, before we get too far away from our two friends who have just descended to the plane which served the ancient so-called Minoans for food and pasture while they held out on their rocky promontories from where the enemy could be seen advancing by land or sea, such as eventually the Dorians who established themselves later at nearby Lato – quickly the Shepherd and his friend descended hand in hand to the lower plateau, there to seek food and shelter for the night. The good woman who knew Panayota from previous visits welcomed the Shepherd and set out in front of her guests upon a table cloth hand stitched with embroidery tasty potatoes, lamb chops and green beans, freshly baked bread and butter, also a large beaker of clear spring water. Then she took time off from her labours and joined them at the table, cheerfully conversing, relating the adventures of her day.
838 “And tomorrow,” said the Shepherd, “after I have accompanied my guide back to her family, I shall have to continue my journey back to the place I once called home, although now I would call my home anywhere, especially where the stranger is welcome and the guest honoured. This is a wonderful island. Who knows but that one day I may be granted a longer stay. I should like to explore your many ancient sites, such as Knossos, where Keftui nobles were buried in splendour. “I don’t know about that,” said their hostess.
839 The parting of the Shepherd and Panayota was a genuine pleasure for both of them. How can that be explained, I wonder. What, after all, is this human natural affection if not supreme regard for the other one’s pleasure and welfare? Perhaps we forget sometimes in our naïve disrespect for lasting human values that we were created male and female for reasons other than sensual gratification. Oh dear, when you see how the official churches tip-toe around this topic like a cat around hot porridge! For the poor priest, as if he hadn’t enough going against him, celibacy is turned into a Church law, I suppose so that for anyone to benefit, he has to overcome that added constraint of having his liberty perverted through legality. Subsequently medals ought to be distributed for the nth degree of sneaky inventiveness.
840 “Did we not have a wonderful time for a day and a half!” the Shepherd said. “Surely I will treasure that lovely experience for the rest of my life. You have been so patient and perfectly understanding. I can only imagine that somehow in reality a perfect link is established between us, a link which had been foreshadowed in our individual natures and because our inclinations were chaste, we gained the boon of an eternal friendship, something impossible to fathom for idealists.”
841 Did he or did he not use those words? My guess is he simply said: “Panayota, I love you and therefore I wish you well,” Whereupon she sweetly returned the compliment – (or perhaps it would be more apt to speak of a complement). All the same what counts is that intimacy was ventured and then not wasted. “Now you have a long journey ahead of you.” “Not so long as the journey behind me but what will happen when I arrive?” “Your god will look out for you and after you even as mine takes care of me.” “How fine that we know we are in good hands!” “Meeting you has brought that home to me.” “Meeting you has strengthened it in me.”
842 Now is perhaps the appropriate time for words once again spoken in praise of that love to be tasted by those with the hearts of children, who are either not yet conscious of the grave challenges from within themselves or, being aware, they have learned how to behave under trial and temptation. From the same human heart issue those longings for purity, as for sweet-sounding melodies which enrapture our entire nerve system, merely through the portal of the ear, and also goads to invidiousness and betrayal, hot in the train of sensed pain, when our sense of self-justification is outraged because we think so well of ourselves.
This love, which that wholly good power cannot afford, because of its rarity, to reveal to each but rarely, since so much depends upon intrinsic worth – (I mean at that moment, not in general, given our inborn liberty to choose – ) this love, which springs, as the ancients knew, fully fledged out of that elemental grief over our mortal condition, given sufficient compassion and repentance, (I write for those with a capacity for messianic meals, not just for sound bites) this love bears within itself the very essence of human nature; I mean human nature as originally created, not as maligned by resentful devils who grasp the key but themselves will not enter; I mean human nature not yet despoiled, or perhaps rediscovered; in either case so far nobler than all other creatures, than all else born and earth-attached, as to be capable, with a will, of providential stewardships.
843 This was indeed the love the Shepherd had tasted during his companionship with this lovely girl who did not withhold her friendship from him, so that a chaste reciprocity of feminine and masculine overtures allowed this love to take root. Henceforth they would both be able to love in this manner and this sums up its real advantage. Learn, now, how it began as a pleasurable, bodily sensation, more like a taste than anything else, and then soon afterwards, in the absence of self-indulgence on account of integrity, sensation became intention; you might say: Taste became technique, experience habit.
844 In the hearts of these two, human natural affection was allowed to blossom and then it bore fruit. What, in particular, to call this love escapes me at the moment, but I do feel I ought to distinguish it from any love that is tied to an object or fixed to something that might, beyond or by means of it, be attained. This is not at all the case here. I have to report – no, I am glad to report – they were both so confident in the possession of this remarkable art of love, and also so grateful to each other, that they cheerfully parted company, neither of them clutching the image of the other.
845 Well, to be perfectly honest now, I noticed a slight pang in the heart of each as their eyes withdrew, not from the beloved object, but from the person each had learned to value, to value in paramount gratitude, let us say. Thereafter they also learned that personality is eternal.
846 Once we have acquired a new skill, we are naturally eager to practice it, so the Shepherd set himself the task of letting this love inform his approach to the world, his attitude to people and his behaviour towards human beings. As he made his way to Heraklion, where the monstrous ferries lay at anchor, it occurred to him for the first time that all human beings were capable of human natural affection and would readily exercise that love which thrived by gathering this affection into itself and that those who betrayed this affection by not crowning it with volitional love, therefore becoming less and less capable of it until they literally avoided and even hated it because they felt shamed by it – that they should more accurately be called people, which made even literal sense, since one at a time is not actually feasible.
He mulled this over in his mind as he picked up the end of a rope curled up there where men, women and children were bidding their farewells, some to return to their homes in the city, the others to haul their possessions on board and “Please, may I help you?” he asked, indicating a heavy case to the owner who gladly accepted, mistaking him for a naval employee, I suppose on account of the rope in his hand and as he passed through the gangway he was naturally taken for a passenger, for by then he had dropped the rope and picked up the suitcase, for the rest trusting to his usual good fortune.
847 Yes, he thought, paying not much heed to anything else, what if it were precisely this affection and love which made out our singular and unique individuality and personality afterwards, in that way enabling us to say: Here and now I am? It must be admitted, he imagined he had discovered the very substance of human being, which would allow him to cope successfully even with those who ignored and resisted it and he would think of them as people, although that would of course be his own personal definition, not conventionally acceptable.
848 Of course there have always been those who imagined they had the monopoly on human being but this did not necessarily increase their sense of responsibility. For the Shepherd it was simply a case of convenient definition. Besides, he really liked people but he was beginning to notice in himself the need for a definite fidelity to something in himself which people either could not understand or blatantly refused to countenance, which gave rise to the problem of perhaps liking people too much at times, getting carried away by bonhomie, the mateyness that feels so much like communality and then suddenly the bottom drops out of it and one stares into that dreadful abyss.
Or else he would knock himself out to help some fellow parishioner who suddenly grinned at him as if to say: Poor fool. Such experiences had puzzled him in the past but now it seemed to make sense that the same kind of behaviour was not appropriate towards all unfeathered bipeds indiscriminately. All the same it startled him at times, the sheer extent of the fundamental separation. Gradually he would have to learn how to make allowances for people, for the simple fact that their minds were closed and their bodies carnal. Judgment or criticism then did not come into it. However if someone showed the least interest, he did not hesitate with a measured response.
Index of Sections in Book 1 page Prelude In the Beginning The Muse Appears The Shepherd Appears The Thing At the Dead Sea Masada The Birth of Love The Monk Terrestrial Spirits The Shepherd Long Ago Leaving Home Among the Graves of the Dead In the Chapel Rheims In the Pit A Modern Individual A Society Death In the Dark Forest The Shepherd’s Father The City of Destruction Hysteria Operation Jubilee Soeren Heidelberg Davos At the Kongresszentrum Reflections On a Ship On Crete * * * 532