‘Lest we forget…’
When Nan died she
became a mountain,
I don’t know why and
it seems churlish to ask.
She suffers terribly,
forcing her craggy cave
of a mouth into the shapes
that form words…
It took Gramps a year and a bit to die.
Not one to do things by half he died three times:
the first time he said, “You know I didn’t feel a thing,
it was just like I was floating.”
Somebody at the hospital brought him round;
the second time his eyes turned into the top of his head,
Mum went hysterical, and the ambulance men
asked her why Gramps was so grey…
He had started that grey thing the summer previous.
Mountain Ana made his left hand to swell,
so that he could no longer grip, and when holding
with his right, the cup, on his saucer, shook.
Nan’s way of saying, ‘Hello, I’m missing you,’ perhaps,
was to try and turn Gramps into a mountain too.
When Great Uncle Tom started shaking cups…
he lasted a month.
But for Gramps such mortality was an affront. “It’s come
on me in a week, all this,” he said with angry eyes.
And in time the swelling eased, his grip returned
and the tremors no longer troubled him.
“It’s the pain that turns you grey,” said Dad…
His face flush again and sitting up in bed Gramps
said, “The doctor wants to know why I’m in here.”
Mum thought she was going mad:
“Do people think I’m trying to kill him?”
That third time the morphine proved fatal.
“They’re going to give you something Dad, to rest you?”
A nod of the head.
When Gramps died,
the knot in Mum’s stomach dissolved,
and the weight fell off her.
She grew old in one day.
Now, she looks like Nan.
When she is offended she speaks like Gramps:
she raises her right hand,
and projects her voice above it,
directing her gaze upwards and beyond.
Her fingertips tremble in the air.
When Gramps died,
the crying god laughed.
He laughed from the top,
left-hand corner of the chapel of repose,
where he crouched on the upright coffin-lid.
His laugh gave me an inkling:
the divine comedy is real life,
and the world is a womb.
How small we are without
the animating principle
to make us big.
How dull and cold,
like overworked wax.
To look on the dead is to confirm,
that things could not have been
any other way…
In olden days it was the family’s place
to dress the dead for their curtain call.
Would we have turned Gramps out like
this – his ‘tash and ‘brows unthinned?
“He looks better,” says Uncle Jim’s Maeve.
I keep expecting his wink.
Too frail for our duties we can only complain:
“Did it look like him?” asks cousin Fran.
The strangled shake of a head,
“He isn’t there any more, is he?”
Here comes the coffin.
The lid is down but I back away as it wheels passed.
The crying god is in there just as surely as Gramps is not,
and if he starts to laugh again the congregation will panic:
our unreality manifest, the performance will have nowhere left to go…
From now until the wooden box enters the earth we follow the dead.
There is no laughter but Mum stands on the wrong side of the hall, and when the music starts up, over loud, I wish there was.
“What tunes did he like? Not these.”
The vicar’s summing up is formal and unfamiliar but we cry anyway.
The sense of futility feels immense yet not quite true.
“At least he got our names right,” says Uncle Jeff.
The young and the old handle things best.
Great Aunt Evelyne talks in the hearse like she is out to shop…
‘Show some respect,’ I shout in my head but say nothing.
Little Becky thinks the ceremony
a part of our Nathaniel’s birthday.
At last, the Cemetery makes sense:
a place where the dead are not.
My clutch of sand
bangs on the coffin lid.
An answer to the fear of laughter.
Three nights later,
and Gramps is standing
in a field full of light.
Mum is with him.
He seems quite calm but the rings under his eyes have darkened, “Not long now,” he says, as Mum tidies his clothes,
and touches his hair as if expecting company.
The beating of wings overhead dwarfs us all…
Mountain Ana is pleased:
her cavern mouth,
become a golden flower,
breathes out clouds of pollen.
THE INFINITE HIGHWAY
If one always returns to where one came from,
then one’s destination is halfway between where
one came from and where one is going to.
HALFWAY TO INFINITY
Every step along the infinite highway is simultaneously
an equal distance between an infinite future
and an infinite past, that is, it is halfway to and from infinity.
EQUAL PARTS OF INFINITY
To find the halfway point of any distance,
one first splits the distance into equal parts then,
when the number of equal parts remaining is equal
to those that have passed one has one’s halfway point.
The equal parts of infinity, however, are all infinite.
Infinity is the only thing that can be split into… infinities.
This is known as counting the for evers of forever.
Reflecting upon all this it appears…
‘The Ancient of Days’
Is a good poetic name for infinity.
THE INFINITE HOTEL
A Traveller approaches the Infinite Hotel and asks The Ancient of Days for a room.
Now, there are an infinite number of rooms in the Infinite Hotel, however, the Traveller is informed by the Ancient of Days that all the rooms in the Infinite Hotel are taken.
Q: How does the Traveller get a room in the Infinite Hotel ?
A: The Ancient of Days asks the occupants of Room 1 to move into Room 2 and the occupants of Room 2 to move into Room 3…and so on… and on… Infinitely, thus making room for the Traveller.
At any one time in the Infinite Hotel then, there will be any number of people on the corridors moving from one room to the next, and this number will be dependent on how many Travellers are seeking a room in the Infinite Hotel…
All the rooms in the Infinite Hotel have a name…
All the rooms in the Infinite Hotel have the same name…
The name of all the rooms in the Infinite Hotel is ‘After-Life’.
All the corridors in the Infinite Hotel have a name…
All the corridors in the Infinite Hotel have the same name…
The name of all the corridors in the Infinite Hotel is ‘Life’.
The occupants of each room in the Infinite Hotel have names…
The occupants in the room before yours are called ‘Parents’
The occupants in the room after yours are called ‘Children.’
The act of moving from room to corridor is called ‘Birth’.
The act of moving from corridor to room is called ‘Death’.
‘Life Duration’ in the Infinite Hotel can be defined as,
the amount of time spent in the corridor
before moving into the next room…
There are approximately one hundred billion stars in our galaxy.
There are approximately one hundred billion galaxies in our universe.
How many stars?
Too many to count…
Yet every one of the approximately eight billion people on one of the planets circling one of those stars…counts.
And they say life on earth is an accident.
…Left alone in my room for long enough I thought I might discover how they did it, how they worked it.
I thought I was being clever.
Initially, I had suspected the lights, either the lights or the heating, or perhaps both or maybe they sprayed something on the tiles?
But my room was just a room, cold and empty, ordinary, harmless.
The only thing that felt even remotely uncomfortable about it were my memories; the only ghosts in there were created by myself yet those feelings were real enough, too real…
They were more convincing than the six, blue, square edged pillars which ran down either side of the centre of my room, they were more convincing, than the old, piped central heating, and they were more convincing too than the fluorescent light fittings which droned overhead for that was how they worked it… they worked from inside your mind.
They turned the screws and tightened the bolts in there, and everything they did or said, or did not say, and did not do was designed to get in there and there was no way to prove it which suited them because they always needed proof, facts, solid objects, evidence…
And in that room, at that moment then, totally empty and bare and ordinary, there were only ghosts, phantoms which could be driven away, dispersed simply by looking at them and saying their name.
‘…all the great thinkers recognise the importance of rational thought and also the importance of getting beyond the rational and that’s where the myths and fairy stories come in…’ – The Heart of Albion
Ancient terms of measurement are fascinating not least because many of them successfully encompass the apparently yawning gulf between the microcosm of the human body and the macrocosm of the universal…
It is quite possible that the humble barley seed, or kush, whilst representative of one second in time was also the basis for the staple of our first civilisation.
They have the ‘ring’ of authenticity about them these terms which must once have stood at the pinnacle of the human endeavour to comprehend.
To ‘fathom’ means to measure but also to understand and is roughly equal to the length of a ‘grown man’s’ outstretched arms.
Finger tip to finger tip…
Something which is ‘fathomless’ then means something too big for you to get to grips with, quite literally.
It is also the preferred length measurement for sounding depths.
Perhaps, because the outstretched arms span the heart?
There is an inherent value judgement here which must be very old.
Depth is harder to understand than length and harder to measure.
So it must be worth more in terms of expended effort.
The vertical carries more weight than the horizontal.
A yard is not quite so hard to compass.
Finger tip to heart…
Because of the nature of league tables we had always assumed that leagues were a depth measurement but apparently not, they too refer to length.
But what of ‘Seven League Boots’?
Sensibly, they should allow a stride of twenty-one miles or perhaps a jump of forty-two but they do neither.
In the Folk Record they are used to keep pace with Giant’s who step from hill to hill or from site to site which map out the lay of the land.
In real time such sites appear to mark the natural thresholds of eye-sight, and the daily trek on foot…
In other words they make the step up from feet to miles.
The distance they cover then is far vaster and their ramifications even more so but not without possible compass for the finely tuned mind to consider.
‘…The Demon Lord Bali had overcome Indra, Lord of the Gods and was enjoying the Empire of the Three Worlds.
The assembly of the Gods, distressed with fear, went to the Hermitage of the Perfect where Vishnu was engaged in contemplation:
‘Bali, the son of Virocana,’ they said, ‘is performing a sacrifice, what benefit for the gods is there in this?’
Thus petitioned, Vishnu adopted a Dwarvish form approached the Demon Lord and begged from him the boon of three small paces which were granted him.
With the first step Vishnu re-assumed his normal aspect and occupied the Whole Earth, with the second step he broached the Eternal Atmosphere, and with the third, the Everlasting Sky… He made Bali, the son of Virocana a Dweller in the Underworld and gave the Empire of the Three Worlds back to Indra…’
If anyone does ever come across a pair of Seven League Boots, we’d be grateful were you to let us know!
‘…You may as well know now you are far more likely to see the spiritual than you are to read it. The spirit came first and we learned to see before we learned to read. It is nigh on impossible to alter the ramifications of all that and no one really wants to but it is easy to forget. You can look at something for years without seeing it…’ – The Initiate
In the West we are accustomed to regarding pictures as illustrations of the words used to tell stories. Our earliest reading is accompanied by pictures which frame, direct or manipulate the ideas contained within the words we have just read and our judgements about the skills of the illustrator are formed by and depend on just how closely the depicted image comes to how we have envisaged the related story in our minds eye…
But it was not always this way.
Many of the oldest stories, by which we mean the myths, are tales told to elucidate sacred icons and while it is undoubtedly the case that a picture paints a thousand words it may not be possible for a single word to paint a thousand pictures.
This means that many of our oldest stories are in fact no more than interpretations, which is as it should be and really can only ever be, but it also means that in the absence of the icon to which these interpretations refer there is something missing.
The picture itself!
But the picture itself is not the whole story either because even with the icon and the interpretative story or indeed a number of different interpretative stories and their attendant glosses… there is still something missing and that something is known as context and, what is more, that context can only come from individual lookers and listeners which means… you, but only if you do indeed take care to look and to listen.
To listen properly involves being silent.
To look properly involves using more than the eyes.
This ‘set up’ and its corresponding ‘state of affairs’ really is fundamental to most of what passes for our experience here on earth and one of the gravest errors it is possible to make is to let another person define our experience for us.
All the sacred texts teach this by leaving room for interpretation and by using icons or pictures as the sources of their inspiration.
After all one may spend a lifetime considering the arguments of a thousand and one savants on the likelihood or otherwise of, let’s say… reincarnation without ever being convinced one way or the other and yet, alternatively, one may also be lucky enough to catch the merest glimpse of a series of temple panels which taken together accurately depict the same concept… and instantly know it to be true.
But don’t take our word for it… go out and discover it for yourself!
“There are three worlds which we can seen while we are still in the body:
the earth-world, the mid-world and the sky-world.
The shining beings belong to the mid-world,
while the opalescent beings belong to the sky-world.
I cannot decide whether or not the life and state of these beings
is superior to the life and state of maknind.
They themselves are certainly more beautiful,
and their worlds seem to be more beautiful than our own world.
Among the shining beings there does not appear to be any individualised life.
If one of them raises a hand they all raise their hand.
If one drinks from a fire-fountain, they all do likewise.
They seem to move and have their existence in a being other than themselves
for which they act as a sort of body.
Theirs is a collective life and so calm
that we might have more varied thoughts
in five hours than they would have in five years,
yet one feels an extraordinary purity and exaltation about their existence.
Beauty of form has with them never been broken up by the passions
which arise in the developed egotism of human beings.
Some of the tribes of these shining beings
seem to be little more than one being
manifesting in many beautiful forms.
Among the opalescent beings in the sky-world,
there is an even closer spiritual unity,
but also a much greater individuality.”
– Seeing the Unseen
“There is a distinction between images seen in the ‘memory of nature’,
and the vision of actual beings now existent in the inner world.
Just as one may close one’s eyes and see a vivid picture memory
in the mind’s eye, or, one may look and see actual images with the physical eyes.
When seeing these inner beings the physical eyes may be open or shut
but if open these beings are not seen with the physical eyes.
It is comparatively easy to see while at ancient monuments
because such places are naturally charged with psychical forces
and were for that reason made use of long ago and deemed sacred.
The inner beings fall into two classes; those which shine,
and those which are opalescent and appear lit from within.
It is very difficult to intelligbly describe either class of being.
The first time I saw the shining beings I was lying on a hillside.
I was listening to the music of the air and to what seemed to be the sound of bells
and was trying to understand the aerial clashing in which each gust of wind seemed to
break upon another with an ever changing, silvery sound.
Then the space before me grew luminous
and I saw one beautiful shining being after another.
The first opalescent being I saw, there was initially just a dazzle of light,
and then I realised that this light came from the heart
of a tall figure seemingly made of air.
Throughout the transparent body ran a radiant, electrical fire
of which the heart seemed central.
Around the head and through the waving luminous hair
which was blown about the body like living strands of gold,
there appeared flaming wings like auras.
Light seemed to stream outwards from all directions
and the effect of this vision left an extraordinary lightness, and ecstatic joy, of being.”
– A Seer Speaks