It has been an unusually warm day. It looks like it’s going to rain later. I guess the weather guy will be right for a change. Oh, well. What do I care. I am lost. Utterly lost. I’ve been working on my mastery, cluelessly wandering around this college campus like an apocalypse zombie for almost two years and still haven’t got the faintest idea of what I’m going to do. I mean, I have a very faint idea, but certainly not enough to create a mastery masterpiece, something that will take me to higher levels of knowledge and acknowledgment. No. Certainly not that. I’ve been juggling a crap load of areas but simply cannot organize my thoughts. In fact, the academic variety has torn my initially coherent vision to pieces. Well, that’s not true either. I don’t think I ever had a coherent vision to begin with. I just knew I had to produce something. That’s all. Man, I think I’m depressed.
I go to dinner early so that I don’t have to talk to anyone. I need to dig deep into my thoughts. After all, this is my last semester and I’ve got to get my work sorted out, I’ve got to get something going here. My advisor is trying to keep her cool, but I know that deep down inside she’s feeling the heat. Deep down inside she’s afraid that I’ll fall apart and fail miserably. Well, dear advisor, have I got news for you. Your fears are about to be confirmed.
I guzzle down the usual kale ‘n’ pork hippie chow, try to cheer myself up with a hefty portion of berries and heavy cream (with no success) and leave the cafeteria just as everyone else is happily and chattily coming in. I grunt by the lively crowd, fill up my eco-conscious water bottle and exit through the help desk door. I guess all that’s left for me to do is go to my room and cry some.
It is late afternoon. The shining sun, now partially covered by wannabe-nimbus clouds coming from the West to spoil the party, is getting ready to once again give up its dominance to the spirits of the night. Who cares. I’m going to be in my room until hell freezes over anyway.
As I lazily walk across the patio and by the old clockhouse building, something to my left calls my attention. Ah, the green labyrinth. The leafy maze is looking especially beautiful this summer. Funny how I have been here for a while and have never really noticed it before. Funny, very funny. And now for some odd reason it is calling to me. I figure I still have a couple of hours before sunset. Why not take a walk through the maze. Who knows. I might even be able to take some nice pictures with my fancy smartphone.
I leave the cement path that leads to my dorm and walk toward the labyrinth. Behind it I can see the old (and sort of creepy) manor building. That’s where, among other things, my colleagues spill out their horror stories on nightly reading séances. It doesn’t look too creepy with that happy cow white fence and under the late afternoon partial grolux sunlight.
I walk across the maze and see myself in a small grassy yard, with a pond surrounded by carefully groomed flowerbeds. In the middle of the pond a statue of what appears to be a small child looking down at its own image in the still waters. The whole scenery looks peculiarly sad, yet strangely beautiful. (Here I go reflecting my inner workings yet again). Amazing. A whole new world I had never noticed. I only walked by here once before, but it was February and the entire area was under the usual 5 feet of snow. Now I’m kind of happy I decided to take this stroll.
Late afternoon mosquitoes are feasting on my skin. Enough. Guess its time to hide in my room behind the window screens. While treading across the labyrinth on my way to the dorm, I notice it actually has a main entrance to my right. Great. At the miserly cost of a few more mosquito bites, I can enjoy an alternative route to my dwelling. You know me (or maybe you don’t, but that’s not important): always on the look for new and exciting experiences.
I make a sharp right, meander along the curved walkways, and soon find myself standing under some sort of pavilion held up by rock pillars. A portal, I think to myself. A magic portal guarded by immense scary creatures. Actually they are just spiders, smart enough to make their homes in rain-free territory. But they could be fantastic creatures nevertheless, guarding the portal to another dimension. I look around. I’m not afraid. Spiders have been my friends for a while now. Onward, I say to myself.
Ahead, I notice a set of stairs. I wonder where it leads to. My depression can wait. I cross the portal and decide to climb the stone steps to get a panoramic view of the surroundings. The entire area has an eerie, albeit nostalgic feeling to it. I soon reach a landing where, to my sheer amazement, a row of five ram’s heads set on a stone wall spit out water into a shallow pool. Facing steps on each side of the fountain rise to a familiar, yet unknown landscape. I’m thrilled. Which way should I head, left or right. In an unusually spontaneous burst of decisiveness, I choose to go right.
I soon reach a plateau where a magnificent upper garden surrounded by dry shale walls and tall rose bushes hides in plain sight. A round pool is the center of gravity of two completely different environments. To my left, a stone pathway shielded by well-mowed areas of late summer dark green grass and fern bushes lead to a long, richly decorated arched cement bench. To my right, a Hellenic-style fountain protrudes out of the wall with its waters flowing through a narrow ground-level aqueduct to the central pool. Awesome. Behind the round pool stands a mildly disturbing structure: an empty Tudor-style house with a huge fireplace, curious stained-glass panels, and guarded by funny-looking gargoyles on all sides (I believe one of them is a squirrel).
The fact that it is almost nightfall and the rain clouds have started to set in by the flock, blocking what little light the Sun could still lend to the waning day, make the already-somewhat-macabre cottage look all the more gloomy. I turn around, walk to the edge of the garden and quickly glance at the college campus below me. The dorms seem pretty silent. The clockhouse building outline, with its church-like tower resembles a witch-hunt era icon (in fact, I see a few activist witches hurrying through the lower garden, no doubt late for their next “academic” gathering). No one seems to notice my inquisitive figure leaning against the limestone rail above the ram fountain. I am invisible. I am on my own.
Oh well, time to go brush my teeth. I turn back to the supernatural garden scene one more time before dragging myself back to my room. Just as I am about to walk down the stairs toward the ram fountain, a very peculiar sight suddenly grabs my attention. To my left, up in the faintly multicolored Eastern sky, I can distinguish a bizarre silhouette, which appears to be coming down in my direction. It looks like a man sitting on one of the branches of what I can only describe as a winged oak tree.
I rub my eyes and look again. The image is still there. And now the man is cheerfully waving at me. I am in awe. I am in shock. I watch in disbelief as the winged oak lands and swiftly sticks its roots into the soft ground, as if in need of temporary nourishment. The curious man jumps down from the tree. He exhibits a soft, unearthly glow. He appears to be in his late 50s. He is dressed in a very stereotypically ancient Greek white robe and worn-out leather sandals. His long grey hair and untrimmed beard kind of gross me out. He reminds me of one of these neo-hipster types, only without the lumberjack outfit. A hipster-hippie. But he has a strange likeability aura. I feel an instant connection.
He tells me in a soft velvety voice that his name is Pherecydes and that he comes from Syros, a faraway land many a mile from here. I reluctantly approach the guy and say hello. I notice that although he is speaking some unintelligible foreign language, I somehow am able to clearly make out what he says. Just like in the movies. I ask him to repeat his name. Phere-who. P-h-e-r-e-c-y-d-e-s, he patiently repeats. Ah, too complicated for me. I tell him I’ll just call him Cyd. Yes, Cyd. Syd. Sid. Whatever. He smiles.
Sid tells me he was taking a ride on his flying tree and heard my plea. Wait. What plea. Ah, he means all my whining. And since he had nothing better to do and his tree had to graze for a while anyway, he decided to come down and chat with me. He says he is here to help me sort out my confusing thoughts and come up with something meaningful for my mastery. That’s great. Just what I need. A hallucination to set my thoughts straight. There must have been something funny in that all-natural Vermont ginger ale I drank at dinner.
It is now completely dark (except for Sid’s calming and inexplicable glow, of course). I can barely see the gloomy rain clouds up in the sky. But I know they are there. Now that I’m all ears, I really hope it doesn’t rain. I don’t think I would be able to fit Sid and his winged oak tree in my dorm room.
We sit on the arched bench facing the upper garden. I start bitching. And bitching. And bitching. I tell Sid what he already knows. I tell him I am utterly lost. I tell him I don’t know what to do. I tell him I have studied hard. I tell him I have explored many different areas of human knowledge. I tell him my studies have led me nowhere. I am freaking out. No, really. I am FREAKING OUT.
Sid patiently lets me finish my victimized lament. When I run out of gas, he asks me to breathe. And again. And again. I feel a little better. He tells me not to worry. He says all I really need is a little inspiration to fuel my creative process. Yeah, right. How am I going to find inspiration if my mind is thoroughly flat-lined.
Sid explains that inspiration is a gift from divine grace, available to everyone all the time. All we have to do is allow ourselves to tune into the flow and let go.
I’m more confused than ever. Yeah, right. Easy. Abundant. No go. Inspiration is nowhere to be found. Sid smiles, asks me to sit straight, face the garden, close my eyes, breathe as deeply as I can, and hold my breath for a few seconds. I follow his instructions and immediately start to relax. I quickly feel a pleasant, warm feeling throughout my body. Then he asks me to open my eyes.
I can see his winged oak tree right in front of me. It too is glowing. I can see its inner processes, its inner arteries and veins exchanging some sort of iridescent fluid with the ground. I am hypnotized. I feel drawn to it. I instinctively get up and walk towards the tree. I touch it. I embrace it. I am one with that fantastic being. Our energies interpenetrate each other. Fire. Yes. That’s it. I am being consumed by holy fire. I start having visions of strange little salamanders swiftly crawling around my aura.
In the distance I see images on screens. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…I count twelve of them. Although they seem to be outside my personal energy field, I somehow know they are in my mind. I hear Sid (or was it one of the little lizards) telling me to float toward them. I move among deep-orange flames. I am spontaneous. I am strong. I am free.
By the time I get to the images they have disappeared. All I see are empty screens. I am bummed. They seemed interesting. Once again the sweet voice whispers to me. It tells me I can bring the images back by using the power of my intent. I think to myself, how the heck do I do that. The voice replies, wish for it, will it, want it.
The sky has cleared up for a few moments. There is a beautiful meteor shower tonight. The phenomenon is known to happen this time of year and even has a fancy name. Perseid or Percy or something. The shooting stars are beautiful. One after another, they burn across the sky and disappear. Some tread short paths, some insist on burning up in long trails, some are like skipping stones—kicking once, twice, three times before disappearing into the dark oblivion. I feel as if these meteors are neurons in my brain. I feel they are contained in my vast self. I feel gigantic synaptic exchanges. I feel explosions of lively electricity grow in intensity until they take up my entire field of vision. I feel a very strong burst of energy coming out of my belly (or at least the place where my belly used to be) and filling the previously empty screens with beautiful Technicolor images. I am irresistibly attracted to their content. They have interesting stories to tell. In each dynamic image, I see myself in different situations. For some unknown reason I know I must dive into these stories. As I completely let go I can hear a deep voice echoing throughout my entire being: imagination, imagination, imagination…
Something is trying to get into my nostrils. I quickly reach up with my right hand and grab it. It is some sort of glowing bug. A small firefly. As I release the harmless creature into the night, I realize that I am lying on the cement bench. I get up and see that Sid is right next to me. The oak tree stands tall in the darkness of the night. On the ground, a little steam rises up from a pile of paper. He tells me to pick it up. It is kind of hot.
How do you like that. Wow. I am amazed. As I glance at the loose pages, I see they contain twelve stories. The same twelve stories described in the images I dove into just moments ago. I remember. As I dove into each image I was taken through a succession of events, a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Cool. I look at Sid. He asks me how I feel. I feel great. He tells me I have just been in touch with the current of inspiration in a big way. He also says that I have been introduced to the archetypal world.
What the heck is the archetypal world. Sid grins and goes on to explain that many people believe the material world—the world we live in—is a reflection of an archetypal world. Say what. Yes, affirms Sid. He tells me that a few of his smarter successors noticed that there seemed to be a dynamic world of prototypes and blueprints, where all manifestations in this world were originated. I still don’t understand. Take a chair as an example, says Sid. Some say it exists because it was based on the idea of a chair, a prototype that lives in a world of its own, a model that has inspired and creates all the different chairs you can think of. Wow. That’s really far-fetched. But it kind of makes sense.
So how was I introduced to this archetypal world. Sid asks me what the overall theme of my experience was. Hum. No idea. Wait. Oh, I see. Imagination. The element fire. Apparently I surrendered to this archetype and it allowed me access to infinite inspiration. Hum. Fire. No wonder I feel kind of kinky. And what about the number twelve. I ask Sid why twelve, and not five thousand three hundred and eighty two images. Why twelve texts. I wonder if this is an archetypal thing too. Sid giggles and asks me to take it easy. Everything at its time.
I feel great. I feel spacious inside. I feel pleasantly empty. Well, I have indeed given birth to that pile of paper sitting next to me. Oh, I think I am starting to tune into something special here…
Sid explains that, in addition to imagination, there are other ways through which I can access the flow of inspiration. For example, inspiration can come to us is when we’re empty of excessive emotional content—things like unnecessary worry and confusion. Yeah. Easier said than done. Sid smiles and says all I really need to do is breathe (always breathe) and organize my thoughts.
He then asks me to tell him exactly what I have studied in the past two years. Wow. Really, Sid. Oh, whatever. I begin my spiel.
Once upon a time I was a scientist. Once upon a time I studied physics and mathematics and chemistry and biology…and I liked it. Once upon a time I wanted to know what went on inside the scientific mind. I played this game for a long time. I blissfully dove into endless pages of calculations. I philosophized to no end. I experimented and messed around with fancy equipment. I even taught the mind-bending magic to young souls.
The first semester of my mastery was a reflection of this phase. I spent quite some time reminiscing the good old days. I matured juvenile ideas. I expanded narrow pathways. And I blissfully dove into endless pages of calculations. I philosophized to no end. I experimented and messed around within the realms of my imagination. I taught myself many new mind-bending tricks. I was happy to know what went on inside the scientific mind.
I pause for a moment and look at Sid. He has got his eyes fixed on mine. He seems completely immersed in my story. It kind of pleases me. A sudden gust of unusually cool wind swirls around our bodies and whips through the garden, reminding us of the impending change in the weather. Sid slowly closes his eyes and sighs with a smile. We have been talking about the element air, and air has come to greet us.
Just as I hear his words, I feel a funny tingling in my head and hands. Sid says creativity wants to manifest. Again. Out of the blue, he whips out a peculiar feather pen and some paper (at least it looks like paper) and tells me to breathe. He tells me to let go. He tells me to start speaking. Whatever comes to mind. Just start babbling. I ask him why the heck he produced a pen and paper if he wants me to speak. Wouldn’t it be easier to produce a recorder. I can get my phone. It has a recording app. Sid tells me to shut my pie hole and do as he says.
Okay. At first, only gibberish comes out of my mouth. Then a few intelligible sounds. Words. Then whole sentences. Then entire lessons, speeches, stories. I can’t help myself. I am free-associating…and I am on a roll. Babbling and babbling and babbling. I seriously freak out when I notice from the corner of my eye that the feather pen has come to life and is automatically writing down every word I say. Like a scene from Fantasia or something. What is this.
But I have no time to analyze anything. The endless chatter is just pouring out of my mind. I soon lose touch with my surroundings and immerse myself in an infinite gust of words. I am now in an ancient temple. Wind rushes wildly through the four corners of the building, the four foundation pillars. Delicate dark green and blue hummingbirds lift me up into the air. I am the wind. I am pure movement. I am detached. I am light as a feather. I am light as a feather pen…
After what seems to be an eternity I am back at the garden. I am dizzy. Sid has the look of a naughty schoolboy. He nods and directs me to my left. Across the bench, I see twelve short stacks of paper. Again. Each seems to contain some sort of logical text. I pick them up and start reading. Each makes perfect sense. Funny how in a way they all talk about me. Again. Sid gently takes the pieces from me and says that we have no time to waste. That’s air for you.
Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. What about the significance of the number twelve. Sid is not going to get away with the “everything at its time” business. Not this time. He shrugs his shoulders. Okay. Listen up. He proceeds to tell me that the number twelve is very significant in the archetypal world. Of particular importance here are the twelve constellations of the zodiacal wheel, which represent the twelve formative powers of life. Oh, my. More crazy hipster-hippie talk.
Think of the seasons, he says. There are four seasons throughout the year, each illustrating a stage in the great archetypal cycle of birth, growth, and death. In addition, each season has its own periods of birth, growth, and death: that is, each season is born, grows to full manifestation, wanes, and eventually gives way to the next stage. Hum. I know where Sid’s going with this. Four seasons, three phases each…twelve stages. Yes, confirms Sid. This twelve-stage cycle reflects the birth-growth-death cycle in every organic whole.
There’s more. Luckily for us, each stage can be represented by a symbol, which provides clues as to what they represent in our own experience. Wow, I say. I have never thought of it that way. Sure, continues Sid. Silly uninformed people have named this system astrology and use it as a fortunetelling tool, but in reality it is much more than that. I’m deeply interested. I ask Sid if we can talk more about this cycle. Easy, easy. Everything at its time. Oh, Sid…
We get up and walk around a bit. We reach the edge of the shallow pool in the garden. Sid tells me to kneel. Then he splashes my face with refreshing cool water. Suddenly I feel rhythms. I feel the rhythm of the night. I feel the rhythm of the Earth. I hear music. Water hits the pool down below on the ram fountain. We walk towards the fountain. It is iridescent. Beautiful. Magical. Tiny creatures dance and bathe and celebrate. Ondines, whispers Sid. I weep softly in joyous bliss. I start moving slower and slower. Frame by frame. I am more and more present. I sit by the fountain and sing out my odes while Sid does me the favor of writing them down.
In a fluid moment, I flow with the waters. I am pure emotion. I conform to different realities. I fulfill my destiny. I dream of distant places. I take part in profound ceremonies. I swim among colors. I drink from a fountain of light. I live life fully…
I am startled by a drop of water on my forehead. Then another. Then another. Then another. Heavy clouds have finally caught up to us. It starts to rain harder. Still sitting by the fountain, I feel like crying some more. I close my eyes and pray. Water runs through my emotional body, cleansing my sinful soul. I feel a tap on my right shoulder. I open my eyes and face Sid. He hands me a third pile of paper. Yes, you guessed it. Twelve distinct literary pieces. Twelve very emotional pieces. Weird. The pages are laminated. Of course, winks Sid. What did you expect. It is raining. We wouldn’t want the water to render these beautiful texts unreadable, now would we.
Water. Water. And more water. Another archetype. I see. No wonder I’ve been crying nonstop. No wonder even the sky is weeping. I feel terribly fragile. I tell Sid I am exhausted. I tell him I am through. Almost there, he says. For now, why don’t we get inside, away from the rain, and dry ourselves up a bit. Sounds good. Sid grabs my hand, we slowly walk up the stairs, cross the garden, enter empty Tudor-style house, and close the door. Okay, better. But not for long.
I look around. Distant lightning rays occasionally creep into the tainted glass panels filling me with strange anxiety. I think to myself, this place looks haunted. Maybe if we get the fireplace going…I turn to Sid to ask him if he has matches, but the man is nowhere to be found. Oh crap. This doesn’t look good.
I’m all alone. I hear howling outside. I think I see the outline of a coyote moving along the gloomy outer periphery. I hear a distant laugh. Then a knock on the door. I reluctantly open it. It is Sid. I’m relieved. No. Hold on. Sid is not himself. Sid has changed. He looks darker, gloomy, ghoulish, shadowy. He asks if he can come in. I hesitate. Oh, what the heck. As soon as he enters the room a blast mixture of rainwater and earthy debris rushes in with him. Outside, Sid’s winged oak is glowing in a very, very strange way. It seems to be actively exchanging some sort of luminous bloodlike fluid with the earth.
I am scared. I close my eyes but can somehow still sort out my surroundings. Strange, somber shadows circle the inside walls of the manor house. Dark Sid is standing in a corner. He is chuckling softly. Then his laughter becomes stronger. I start to levitate, lifted by the shadow spirits. I am about to lose it. An inner voice tells me not to resist. Let go. Let go. The shadows turn into memories. My pitiful memories.
I can see myself in all kinds of past trouble. Mistakes. Wrong turns. Regrets. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. I can hear thunder in the background. It gets closer and closer. The memories are also closing in. They hurt me. They confuse me. I am buried in filth. I am doomed.
Then an extremely loud bang. What seems to be a bolt of lightning comes zooming into the chimney through the fireplace and explodes inside the manor house. The spell is broken and I fall to the ground, along with numerous sheets of paper. They are all over the place. I pick them up, one by one, and see that they are ordered into pieces. Twelve l-i-t-e-r-a-r-y p-i-e-c-e-s. Wow. Not really sure what took place here, but I instantly feel uplifted. It seems that my memories have left my system and materialized in some sort of bizarre healing ritual.
Shadowy Sid is gone. The oak tree still glows softly in the garden. It has stopped raining. I run outside and embrace the tree. I start to glow. Once again we merge together in communion. I feel good. Really good. Then on the corner of the patio I hear a faint voice calling my name. I turn around and look. It is Sid. Good old Sid. Phew. What the heck has just happened.
He explains to me that coyote has come by to teach me a lesson. He was here to teach me about the earth energies. He was here to teach me about complementarity. We walk back to the manor house. I pick up the sheets of paper and place them on a neat pile.
Fire, air, water, and earth. I see I now have four stacks. We’re all done, says Sid. Twelve stages, each viewed from four different perspectives. I take a closer look at the pieces. In some weird way the angles are equivalent. In some weird way they make up a cohesive whole.
Fine. Now what am I going to do with this stuff. Sid looks at me like I’m from Mars. Here’s what I had been hoping to accomplish. Here’s my mastery, duh. All finished and done in a fraction of a night. Unknowingly, I spent two years gathering content. All I needed was a structure. Of course.
I notice the first rays of sunshine coming up from the East. My gosh, it is morning already. Rebirth is truly at hand. I also smell bacon. Time to go.
I thank Sid and bid him farewell as he takes flight on his winged oak towards the rising sun. Final product in hand, I swiftly cross the garden and head toward my room. I pause for a second at the top of the stone stairs. I look around and greet the beautiful day about to begin. I can still see Sid and his flying oak as they disappear among the thin morning mist.
Hum. I wonder what to tell my advisor. Last night I was utterly empty-handed and now this. Should I tell her about my magical encounter. After all anything can happen around here. Well, better not. My production methods were not exactly academic. I’ll probably have to change my area of expertise to “abracadabra studies” or “hocus-pocus sciences.” Nah. I’ll just tell her my desperation scene was a personal marketing stunt.
Perfect. I have completed my mastery. I can now be considered an expert in my very own Consciousness Studies trip. And nobody will ever know what really happened. I am safe. Sid and his flying tree are gone. No trace of their visit. No evidence whatsoever. No witnesses. That is, no witnesses except for you, dear reader…Well, won’t you keep our little secret? Pretty please?