The Goddess as Active Listener (Parts 1-3)
When I was first introduced to my wife, I told her that I had always missed her but had never realized it until we finally met. She was present as a kind of pregnant absence. I was aware on some alternate level of the self of a kind of negative space, like the shape of a missing puzzle part, to which her image corresponded, and into which it would one day lock to complete the predetermined structure. We might certainly wish that this process were more foolproof than it is, that so many things could not potentially go wrong, and yet, in its own wonderfully slipshod way, this tendency of linked fragments to reassemble themselves into an image sometimes takes us where we need to go.
Are we meant to have certain experiences, or to connect with certain people rather than with others? At a multidimensional intersection—at a 19th Century train station as designed by Giorgio de Chirico, let’s say, where the newly arriving and newly departed search for their respective tracks—it is possible to see how precarious forces constellate, not always to our advantage. Habit is not harmony. Safety is an illusion of the microcosm.
Listen, and I will whisper in your ear. Perhaps earth-shattering events happen every day around you, more or less invisibly, as you brush past in your haste to buy a donut. A catastrophe that occurred in 9800 BC is only just now informing you of the whereabouts of your heart. After so much time it has decided to return, again to advocate for its role as the seat of true intelligence. If you do not “stop the world,” for just a moment, to talk to the stranger standing next to you at the Pan Am luggage-belt, it could be that you have thrown away your one and only chance to meet that significant Other. A mutual friend may demand to introduce you to a soul mate, or else he or she may turn suddenly around a corner at the Museum of Modern Art, with a puzzled expression, to ask a pregnant question about Kandinsky. But where was the music of the occluded sphere hiding, and why did love’s messengers take so long to appear? No doubt you are bad.
The more romantic among us are used to thinking that there may be one true soul-mate for each person. It is less common to imagine that friends or teachers may also play their parts in this apparent drama of predestination. Perhaps the meeting with the teacher had all along been programmed by a bird at the Institute of Interplanetary Symbols. Each student of a good teacher might well view the meeting as a one of a kind event. Such interventions by the avian programmer most often have about them a great sense of “uncanniness”; the world has changed, and it is not possible to return to your earlier and simpler view of existence. The experience of transformation can go so deep that it forces you to invent a mythological cause. A kind of right to left reversal then alters your mode of vision. This mythological cause then becomes the origin of all of the wrong turns and disjunctions that led you to the teacher. You might ask, let’s say, “How do you know when a bird has scheduled a key meeting?” And I would answer, “It is enough that you would know. You would know because such a meeting should never have occurred at all.”
Where you first exclaimed “Aha!” and breathed a sigh of relief, you later are forced to read through the person to the presence just beyond, to a presence that you suspect might see your every flaw, to a presence still sympathetic but also more demanding. The seers of the World Maritime Empire had once given you a thread, before their lines of transmission were disrupted by a comet. This presence demands to know if you have taken care to preserve it. “Speak!” she says. “Is your thread in working order? Have any of its three strands started to come unwound?” The person hands you a copy of Par Lagerkvist’s The Sybil. The presence reaches into the center of your skull, where the pineal gland is located, massaging it in such a way that it almost stops your heart. The person reassures, but the presence regrets to inform you that all your nightmares must hatch out, that your mind is an unopened oyster, that no one seems to have bothered to teach you how to breathe, and that there are valid reasons for your enemies to hate you. Oh, and by the way, some two-thirds of what you take to be your good habits are a joke. The seers of the World Maritime Empire shake their heads. They had hoped for more, and they are unsure which mishap or mutilation should come next.
Perhaps the soul’s alignments can be best explained as just an accident of geography, but so often such accidents would appear to erupt on schedule. Do those special people remind you of someone in your past, or do they remind you, much more strangely, of themselves? When you encounter a person who is meant to be important to you, it can expose a need that, until then, you did not consciously know to exist. The ache that you felt but did not know that you felt becomes somehow pleasurable in becoming more acute. There is nowhere left to hide. There is no need to avoid the pain that has tied a knot in your solar plexus, a knot that is as inscrutable as it is essential to your being.
Yes, “mistakes were made,” as the hoard of your nameless accusers has suggested, although not quite in those words. By accident, no doubt, you have killed those persons whom you loved, those causes for which you vowed to give your life. This has led to some degree of paranoia. You have learned to assume the worst about those who have come to teach you. Why else should you be so terrified of the chanting that now streams from the horizon?
Your error was not the atrocity itself but rather your refusal to see the action clearly. “What do we have here?” a kind but terrifying presence asks, a slight smile on her lips. As a finger points to a wound, there is no reason to be embarrassed. A touch sets the healing sap in motion. One simple look communicates the lost history of an era, reversing the great wheel of devolution, and freeing you from the crimes of the last 52,000 years. Green buds open on the derelict branch. Hallucinatory blossoms are not long in arriving. Messengers bring fruit from a tree already old when the first Earth had contracted from a dream.
Of whom does the inner teacher remind us? Perhaps the outer teacher is a key to unlock the inner teacher’s door, beyond which breathes the most luminous of shadows. Demanding that the code of silence be removed, each synchronistic meeting is like a knock that echoes through the Hall of Records, that hall that our Antediluvian betters once built from the skull of Akasha. “Who is there?” asks one of the bird-headed eunuchs who attend to its every need. We are usually too busy talking to respond. And if we do put aside our distractions and take a moment to respond, we will probably say something stupid like, “Who is asking?”
This may be one of the key functions that good friends perform for each other. Our first meeting with such friends can be a shock, a slap to the face of our common sense, which shows us how things can make sense without having to make any sense. We are called to develop talents that we thought belonged to others. And, just as easily, the magnetic force that attracts two friends can later push them apart. If there were no parting, we might never gain the distance necessary to come to terms with their influence.
A good teacher is not a friend, as such. Unlike a good friend, a good teacher is never more than partially accessible, a moon of which we can only see the cusp, and yet, being gone, he/she is still capable of answering a question. If the inner teacher can justly be called “good,” this goodness may depend on us. We have only to redefine the meaning of the term. We have only to find some way to invoke this teacher’s presence, in such a way that our question can be posed, in such a way that the absent can answer, in such a way that student and teacher are speaking the same language. In a strange land, our lips must form the words of a song that we learned in childhood; this time around, however, its effect will not be innocent. This song may sound like the howling of a ghost; like the gasping of a city’s population, buried while alive; like the banging of a door in the blood-drenched beer-hall of the gods; like the whisper of the rivers of mercury in the tomb of the first Chin emperor.
Let us posit that the inner teacher is led by the hand of the preexistent one, that teacher as demanding as he/she is omniscient, whose influence is most often not seen nor heard but rather felt in the peculiarities of external circumstance. Is there any moment at which the teacher behind the teacher is not present? Yes and No. There are those who say that no good teacher would throw away his student, that cruelty is not love, that she would not leave him, cold and naked, with only a few well-worn platitudes to chew on. How absurd! There is a grammar to such silence, which the teacher expects the student to remember how to parse.
If the bird-headed eunuchs subject us to surveillance, if their wide eyes do not blink, if there is no way to escape from the life-pattern that they guard, the teacher may yet serve as an articulate ambassador. In pushing the student to come to terms with this life-pattern, the teacher may leave him with no choice but to rebel. There are few actions that will lead in a straight line. Threads can be cut without warning. Whole cultures can be ripped from their coasts. As intimate as the breath, as well-positioned as the tongue behind the teeth, the teacher subtly supports. To the dead student, this type of support is a mixed blessing. It may not, at first, be of use.
Each of us starts life as a world center, indifferent to the laws of time and space, sure that our call will result in a response. At first, our solar plexuses have only a few shadows, like the cities on the sun. Our unconscious minds are as inhabited by symbols as an ocean is by fish. New sensory data float on the surface. We are everywhere, but in need of much.
Soon enough, we are shocked. We find, as we steadily expand the sphere of our discovery, that the world does not cooperate in affirming our self-image. Maddeningly, few recognize our age. There are theorists who dismiss our clearly audible demands as no more than mechanical reflexes. Q: “Does the young world center feel pain?” A: “No, of course not. He is only a pouch of biochemical intersections, whose random spurts of electricity cause him to make noise.” Donations from the maternal breast aside, perhaps there is something wrong here. It is not that others do not also come to kneel, or offer tribute, or express their joy and wonder. They do, but their actions are unpredictable. Colored toys revolve like intoxicated planets. When we dream of other lives, our hands no longer return with the objects that they clutch. It is necessary for light to fall on objects in order that we should see them, and it is more difficult to see at night than in the morning. Some whisper that we are “cute.” Doors open and close for no reason. A revolt is imminent, perhaps, and we note that, one by one, our caretakers have begun to disobey.
Earth is cold and wet. Life will kill you. It is probably better to keep the real story of your predestination hidden, even from yourself. Once consciousness was big. There was no fear. By sharing songs all species could communicate. Little art was needed to interpret the self-dramatizing image, the self-illuminating text. There was a mountain that rose from the bowels of the deep. To stand on it was to scan each period of history, like a landscape. The new body in which you find yourself is small. The mask that you wear cannot mediate between incompatible scales. After all, it is a mask. The bigger you get the less of your original face can be remembered.
As humans, we are not the puppets of the gods; no, we played a part in the creation of the world as well as all of the other bands of emanation. The human function goes as far back as the Bindu, as the primal point of origin, and then even possibly beyond. These bodies are the most recent version of an archetype. The human role remains the same; it is only its associated powers that may expand or contract.
You had come with a gift. It was not like any other gift, and there was no one else who could offer it to the world. It was not that you were special, as this word is normally understood; no, you were anonymous, and each person ever born had brought some particular gift, however much they may not have remembered what it was. This gift was not an object, at least not in the usual sense. It was an aboriginal totem on the move, a baroque feat of geometry, the fixation of one of the sub-powers of the zodiac, a kneeling of the wind before the wind, a monstrous prodigy of disinformation, the opening of a clean, well-lighted space, an offering from a child of the gods to the beyond; it was, in short, an individuated Uroboros, whose tale, from the first of days, was hidden in its mouth.
How strange that it took the form of a not-yet-spoken story. Already close to perfect, it went in search of a new audience. Such a gift could not be separated from your nature. It simply was, a matter of fact, beyond argument, and also was why you were here. There was a task to perform for which no one else was suitable. You should find some way to make a living, yes, but there were other, more complex obligations.
There was a task to perform for which no one else was suitable, or perhaps, for which no one else had been dumb enough to volunteer. Each year, the path back to the instructions in the seed would grow more and more circuitous. Not many of your goals would be achieved. That, too, is something that you would earlier have known. For obscure reasons, like the other 6 ½ billion people on the planet, you had picked this time and place. Leaps of imagination would be waiting to transport you, if and when they chose. This was not at all convenient. You could hear the ticking on an inner clock. This had led you to regard your more personal objectives as irrelevant, to the extent that you had the sanity to judge. It would have been so much easier not to care at all, not to sense the growing disturbance in your bones. There were many modern devices to which you could have turned.
To not have to see with your eyes: what a joy! To not have to hear with your ears: what a joy! You were broken, perhaps. There was some sort of a screw loose, or an extra piece or a piece that did not fit. Once, the spirits had collaborated in taking you apart. They had shown great skill. They were much less certain about putting you together. Was your vision accurate or was it not? That would be for good swimmers to say.
In the end, what luck was yours. What an influx from the dark side of the sun, where you had once, so pleasantly, had sex. You no longer had to depend upon your own imagination; there was no way to determine whose imagination it was. You could hear the ticking of an inner clock; the dead, with their long shadows, laughing; the Earth cracking along its geometric seams; the birds weeping; the plants of the Amazon shriveling up; the cities buzzing like white nuclear reactors; the gods getting drunk; the hedge fund managers jumping out of windows; the chiming of the eight-dimensional vimanas in the clouds; the zombies gnashing; the snails roaring; the oceans whispering as they plotted their long-delayed return. It would be useful to be able to figure out how to diagram a sentence. Some help would be offered, but not, of course, in a form that you were ready to accept.